Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Português não é para qualquer um

"Oleiros de Bisalhães visitaram Tondela onde contactaram com novas técnicas de produção para a valorização e preservar desta actividade ancestral..."

Não se deicidiram que forma gramatical haviam de usar... Fica aqui sem autor para não criar mal entendidos.

Há vida na aldeia da Pena

Abandoned vehicle

I spotted this old Ford transit in the middle of the fields in a mountain village, it must be standing there for a looong time, as no track where it could have come from was visible... Sometimes old cars are used as chicken sheds, sometimes to store wood, but what might be the function of this one is intriguing...

Monday, 29 December 2008

In hospital

I almost forgot the sadness of phoning up all sorts of people connected to the land and to rural livelihoods here in the interior of Portugal and receiving the answer: "they are in hospital and don't work anymore". Sometimes they are even dead already. Once I even tried to phone someone who was 8 years dead, but still regsitered as a farmer... From my long list of potential interviewees only a few are still alive and well, because most people with land-based livelihoods are elderly.

Social constructionism

How the hell...? Is it possible to study a social construct that does exist in the head of the researcher but not in the head of the researched?
Of course it is, but it makes research even more complicated.

If I'd measure the leaf size of Portuguese cabbage I could build the construct, define it my way and for the purposes of my research and measure leaves according to it. It would be very consistent.

But now I'm studying different types of farming and different types of livelihoods and people's opinion about them. But if everyone has different definitions, for "family farming" for example, I somehow loose the ground beneath my feet if I compare people's opinions about different constructs as if they were about the same construct. Of course it is in itself an interesting study to find out about the existing constructs, but will I be able to conclude anything about the consequences of those constructs on the sustainability of agriculture?

I would probably have to present my construct to the interviewees and ask their opinion about it...

I'm writing these relfexions because I find the implications of (a mild form of) social constructionism fascinating...

Chão Sobral

Em honra do João Gonçalves, uma imagem da sua terra na Serra do Açor, para onde fiz a primeira saída de campo desta temporada. :-)

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The god damn 2nd year

This is to tell the world, and specially propsective PhD students, that the second year of PhD is hell. A little warning for friends.

Because all the illusions and optimism of the first year are gone. You have to reckon that you won't change the world in 3 years. You realize how much hard work and perspiration it takes to write 500 original and meaningful words. You feel bound by conventions, whose reason to be only slowly dawn to you. You have no vision of how the thesis could look like and what it might be good for. Your colleagues are doing fieldwork in all parts of the world and you find yourself left alone with a pile of interviews (to be conducted).

This is pure pain and suffering. In the second year of PhD you join a church if you haven't done so before. You stop believing in Positivism; we call it "enlarging the horizon", becoming more open-minded by force of circumstances. You realize that the world is far more complex than you thought before. You realize how limited science is to understand the world. When your supervisor doesn't help, you call on Nossa Senhora de Fátima.

That's the learning outcomes of the second year. As the second year comes to a close you hopefully realize that you have reached almost 25% of your work in 2/3 of the study time. That makes you very happy indeed, because you thought you had achieved even less.

Full of a new enthusiasm you draw plans for the remaining research, inlcuding a completely new literature review, learning new methods and approaching the whole problem from a new angle. It is worth a couple of years of work, but that doesn't matter. The good thing is that you finally know what to research, and accept that no one cares about your Why.

Of course it's a bit scary to see the mountains of work for the 3rd year, but nevermind. Promise to go to Fátima and be faithful.

Mezi horami - Entre as montanhas (Čechomor)

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Gerhard Polt - St. Nikolaus 1979

This is absolutely hillarious. On the 6th of December St. Nikolaus descends to earth and visits the children, offering them nuts and sweets if they have been god during the year. St. Nikolaus has nothing to do with Christmas - that's when Christ was born. It is possible to hire students to visit children in Nikolaus disguise. That's what happens in this sketch, where the family is watching TV and no one takes a second of attention to welcome the "saint". Hillarious.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Serious handicap

A very serious handicap is self-righteousness. People who think they are always right and see correcting one's opinion as a weakness, have, in fact, a very serious learning difficulty. They are blocking off all opportunities to learn, because they are, uch, so enlightened.