Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Tag: calvin & hobbes


My PhD dissertation is growing increasingly cervellotic and I find it very hard to explain people what I am actually working on. Which brings me to a great truth by the eternal Bill Watterson.

calvin - complicated

17/2 edit: I am re-reading a nicely written paper by Jan Erk to lift my morale up. If you are also a Ph.D. student, you might want to have a look.

The growing tendency towards academic specialisation together with increasingly insistent expectations of competent research designs and clear empirical evidence are the motors of scientific growth. But the downside of high academic expectations is that Ph.D. candidates tend to avoid big and difficult questions and instead seek safety in narrow and focused empirical puzzles. Supervisors themselves encourage such research questions that – admittedly – form an important part of graduate training. One should know the debates in the literature and have something new to add to these debates, but what matters at the end of the day is whether you can reasonably demonstrate that your idea is supported by empirical evidence. This naturally requires a narrow and focused empirical puzzle, and most doctoral theses follow this pattern. This should not prevent one from exploring big questions however. As the old Latin dictum goes: ‘sailing on the high seas, however risky, is necessary’ (navigare necesse est). If people with Ph.D.s in political science cannot deal with big and difficult political questions who can?

Even My Lucky Rocket Ship Underpants Don’t Help



From Calvin and Hobbes.

Time for books

In the last month I read many books. Several were presents from friends. I postponed the reading for a long time, now finally I have the chance to get back to this pleasure.

Let me start from Nick Hornby’s Shakespeare wrote for money, that I stole from my sister’s library. This book collects the last of Hornby’s columns, in which he discussed the list of books he’d read in the previous month as well as those he’s bought. This is a soft and enjoyable reading from one of the brightest contemporary writers. But that is also an idea of how to structure this post.

March 2012: Books I’ve read

Tiziano Terzani, La fine é il mio inizio: letto velocemente, gradevole, diverso da quello che mi aspettavo: meno filosofico, molto biografico. A me le biografie piacciono.

Paolo Rumiz, La leggenda dei monti naviganti: devo ammettere che avevo aspettative piuttosto basse, anche perche il precedente libro di Rumiz che avevo letto (Tre uomini in bicicletta) non mi aveva entusiasmato. Invece si é rivelata una lettura coinvolgente e piena d’atmosfera, soprattutto per quanto riguarda la parte relativa alle “mie” montagne dell’Alto Adige. Un diario. Anche i diari mi piacciono, quando fatti con passione e senza un filo troppo definito.

Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes – One day the wind will change: Calvin and Hobbes are definitely in my comics top three and I believe they got to be a must reading for everyone. This one book was brilliant, as well as Something under the bed is drooling that I also read this month.

Hugo Pratt, Corto Maltese: Nel nome di Allah misericordioso e compassionevole: anche Corto Maltese siede senza dubbi nella mia top three. Quest’albo mi interessava meno delle Celtiche e delle Elvetiche, ma vale senza dubbio la lettura (peraltro molto rapida).

Attilio Micheluzzi, Siberia: questo é un altro fumetto che ho letto in due tranche, prima e dopo la mia laurea. La storia é molto elaborata psicologicamente e ben contestualizzata dal punto di vista storico nella Russia rivoluzionaria tra la fine dell’Ottocento e il 1917. Una lettura che consiglierei soprattutto a Luca Facchini.

Joseph Roth, The Emperor’s Tomb: this is a good book from one of the authors who is probably going to define my 2012. Loved the atmosphere of decayand nihilism.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby: another classic, another atmosphere. Some parts were unessential, but the description of the jazz culture, as well as the sense of the story, made the book a worth reading. To be completely honest, perhaps I was expecting something more.