Praesidium

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Liverpool 4-0 Toulouse (CL Qualifier)

I was saying to a friend the other day that it's not often we wrap games up. Against Aston Villa we almost paid the penalty, against Chelsea we did and even at Sunderland we left it late to make the game safe with a second. Well, this potential banana skin didn't cause me much worry once Crouch had added to our first-leg lead, but it wasn't until Hyypia's towering header just after half time that I was sure it was safe.

The two late goals from Kuyt added a gloss to the scoreline that was hardly undeserved, but the truth is that each of our strikers could've had 3 or 4 and - what's more worrying - they weren't denied by good goal-keeping, as at Sunderland, but an inability to hit the target from relatively clear chances. Neither Crouch nor Kuyt really create many chances for themselves - by which, I don't mean they score tap-ins with little left to do, but they do rely on others to deliver them the ball in the box - so I think their finishing ought to be better, although they do contribute to the team defensively too.

In general, however, I'm very happy with a team that was missing Gerrard and Carragher, but showed our strength in depth this season. Hyypia proved himself a very dependable stand-by. Not only is he still a great defender, but he was prepared to get forward and - at one point, just after the commentator mentioned his spriteliness - was seen running up the right flank. Truth be told, it was probably a good job he wasn't tested by a pacy attack, but the fact he was able to lose his marker not only for the second goal but also at the next corner suggests it was actually the French who had trouble catching him.

The other performer who stood out was, of course, Benayoun. Yet to figure in the Premiership this season, he was our main creative influence and suggested he could be key in unlocking tight defences with clever passing. A very different player to Pennant, I noticed he is willing to stay wide to receive the ball, but prefer to cut in with possession. With both of them playing well, Rafa has a tough selection problem on his hands - though for one I'd like to see both now, swapping flanks, against Derby at the weekend.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sunderland 0-2 Liverpool

After easing in most of the new signings, today saw Voronin and Babel given their first starts in the Premiership. On this evidence, Sunderland once again are a long way short on quality, however an away fixture is still a tricky one as Spurs have already found this season. Entering without Gerrard, I worried this is the kind of game that in past season's we'd have drawn or even lost.

As it was, Sunderland were surprisingly accommodating, almost gifting us a goal in the first minute with a poor back pass from former Colchester United player Greg Halford. After that, an inspired display from £9m 'keeper Gordon left me wondering whether this would be 'one of those days' but thankfully the opening goal - Liverpool's 7000th in the league - came from a most unexpected source - Momo Sissoko in his 75th game for the club (he has come close before, most memorably hitting the bar against Barcelona, but I've also seen his shots go for a throw...)

Despite dominating, we failed to make safe what should have been an easy 3- or 4-0, Voronin not scoring the second until the 87th minute. In fairness, Gordon should take credit for great saves from both our strikers, but I'm still not entirely convinced Torres will finish enough goals, even if he creates opportunities himself. The further bad news was the loss of Hyypia (probably broken nose) and Carragher (possibly broken rib) to injuries. While the makeshift defence were enough to repel Sunderland's ineffectual attack, we need at least one of these players fit to partner Agger. I was very glad we didn't get Heinze (£7m far too much for a 29 year old defender with dodgy knees and who looks nothing like the player he was three years ago) but I think we do need to bring in defensive cover - as Chelsea learned after getting caught short here last year.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Home

After spending most of August in temporary college accommodation, I returned home today. Despite leaving various Oxford things in my department locker, the car was absolutely packed and the journey - hit by bank holiday traffic and road works - a long one. Still, we made it in one piece - the only question now is how I'm going to fit all my stuff in my room. Unfortunately, this may require a long-term solution, as our accommodation officer informed me prospects of a room or flat for next year don't look good. Given a lack of income either, I may well decide to live at home.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Death Notices

Although this has probably reached most of those who care, I'm sad to pass on news of the recent deaths of two Oxford-related philosophers.

Michael Frede, expert in classical philosophy and former supervisor of my friend Pavel's girlfriend. I'd attended a graduate seminar of his on akrasia in Nicomachean Ethics VII and it was very thorough, though I recall a lot of time spent arguing with Ben Morison about Greek translation which was a bit lost on me.

Susan Hurley I'd only seen in moral philosophy seminars, though I know someone taught by her in Warwick. Though I don't know anything about her philosophy of mind/neuroscience stuff, I have read some of both Natural Reasons and Luck, Justice, and Knowledge - both very good, if dense - and also agree with Jo Wolff's recommendation of her paper in this book (previously mentioned here).

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Self-Defence Lotteries

Another interesting story on the BBC website, about the legal implications of intervening in a fight. It seems that while the legal category of 'self-defence' includes protecting your family and property*, if you try to help a stranger, you could be considered guilty of assault.

*I thought this was slightly amusing, but surely abuse of the term in any ordinary sense: "You can act in self-defence of another in Scots law"

Intuitively, I think you should be morally permitted to intervene, however of course it may not be prudentially wise and also there's the cost that such a moral rule may lead to more violence than necessary, if people took it upon themselves to intervene whenever they felt like it or were unsure which of two people engaged in a fight was actually guilty of initiating it. It raises interesting moral issues about whether our aims should be to minimize wrongs, in a consequentialist sense, or whether we should regard aggressors as having waived their rights to that practically 'anything goes' (by which I mean they become a legitimate target for anyone; I'm not waiving requirements to only use proportionate force, etc).

Returning to a regular theme of this blog, there's a caution at the end: "And even if you don't get hurt as a result, the police are going to get involved, as are lawyers who are smart enough to make the whole thing a lottery." I think this refers to the idea that you could be morally right to intervene, but whether or not you get prosecuted (successfully?) seems arbitrary or random. This seems like a failure of the principle of generic consistency (treat like cases alike), but then one way of achieving deterrence without inflicting too much punishment might be to have high penalties inflicted on a random sample of convicted wrong-doers. This does treat like cases alike at one level, in that all are (alike) entered into the lottery.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Random Primaries

I don't really understand the ridiculously complicated system of nominations and primaries that operates in the US, but one thing I do know is that people are often complaining about it. Thanks to Rob, whose comment led me to this post, in which Matthew Yglesias protests that "It would make more sense to enter the names of every registered Democrat in a hat, pick at random, and then let that guy choose." Well-said, even if he does wait on line...

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea

We were absolutely robbed. Seemingly fairly comfortable after Torres' sublime opener - beating Ben Haim on his wrong side and then beating Cech from a tight angle - we were denied a win over one of our main rivals when Chelsea were awarded a most dubious penalty after Malouda jumped into/over Finnan off the ball. In fairness to Chelsea, I don't think it was an intended dive and no one appealed - only the ref (and linesman) seemed to think it was a penalty (UPDATE: he was later dropped). Sadly, Lampard's equalizer took the sting out the game, as it became clear the blues would settle for a draw (we brought on Crouch to play three strikers and they responded with defender Alex). I suppose, on reflection, I should be happy that after winning for several years running at Anfield Chelsea were happy to escape with a draw. As with last year's CL final, the result wasn't what I wanted, but I take heart in comfortably matching our opponents on the pitch.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Another No It's Not a Lottery... (A Level Results)

Well done to anyone getting A level results today. Apparently my cousin James got 5 As and a B, which must mean they are gettign easier!

Of course, aside from questioning standards, this brings up the annual fuss about university places. This story from the BBC seems typical:

Twin sisters Tania and Mahua Bhaduri from West Malling, Kent, both got five grade As. But unlike her sister, Tania has not got a university place. Their father, Dr Bim Bhaduri, said his daughter Tania - who got the As in biology, chemistry, French, maths and psychology - had been rejected from universities including Oxford, Bristol and Sheffield. But Mahua, who studied almost the same A-levels as her sister at state foundation school Tonbridge Grammar for Girls - but took geography instead of psychology, has earned a place at Imperial College, London. Dr Bhaduri added: "The system really is a lottery, they can't differentiate between bright and brighter and this is a problem. The two girls both did very well but only one of them got a place to go to university."

Well, straight-A students get rejected from Oxford all the time, Laura Spence being the most famous example. I suppose it may be somewhat surprising that Tania didn't get in elsewhere, particularly given other universities can no longer discriminate agaisnt Oxbridge applicants, but then it's not clear where else she applied or what for.

Even if the two girls performed equally well in their A-levels, and all other selection criteria, the fact they were applying for different coruses at different universities means they'll be up against different competition. Consider, if I was to sprint 100m in 14 seconds in one race and you were to do so in another, I might win and you might be last, although in a sense we're equally deserving because we did the same thing.

If anything, it seems to me that the exams are more of a lottery, because one person's performances could be very different depending on whether they had a good day or a bad day or what questions come up. University admissions aren't, although of course it has been proposed that they should be - see Alan Ryan's comments in 2000 and 2007. To quote the latter: "at this time of year it always occurs to me that we would be better off behaving like the Dutch and the Irish and allocating some - I'd say a third - of our places by lottery. When critics say that Oxbridge admissions - really, admissions in any of the dozen most competitive universities - are a lottery, they mean it as a complaint; but if it is true that a third of the students admitted could without injustice have been selected at random from a pool from which the shoo-ins at one end and the no-hopers at the other had been eliminated, a lottery would be quicker and fairer. And speaking personally, I'd much rather that the unsuccessful candidates, along with their schools and their parents, spent January yelling at the computer than complaining to me about my colleagues' judgment."

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Research Summary

I spent most of yesterday trying to condense my present research and future aims into a punchy 1,000 word summary. I'm not sure this has enough on the interest, importance and originality of my work, but in case anyone out there doesn't know what I'm doing it does nicely summarise my thesis:

My doctoral thesis, Democracy-as-Fairness: Justice, Equal Chances and Lotteries, challenges the assumption that democracy requires majority-rule. I begin by arguing that democracy is a matter of citizen sovereignty and political equality, and thus majority-rule is not naturally-privileged, but is justified only if truly egalitarian. Therefore an argument is needed for majority-rule, and the next two chapters explore what seem the most prominent defences of such, appeal to utilitarian outcomes and procedural fairness.

My second chapter argues that majority-rule, although sometimes associated with the ‘greatest happiness of the greatest number’, cannot guarantee utilitarian outcomes, since it ignores intensity of preferences or interests that are not reflected in votes. Further, if everyone votes to promote their own interests, this may be unfair because a permanent majority can always have their way at the expense of a minority. A more promising approach may be to assume each voter tries to identify and vote for ideal outcomes regardless of their personal interests. I reject this argument, partly because it places great epistemic and moral demands on the voters, but mostly because I think the idea of an ‘impartially best’ outcome is indeterminate – there will often be one pattern of coordination that benefits some and another that benefits others, so what matters is fairness to all involved.

Chapter three explores the idea of fairness, and the claim that majority-rule gives each person equal chances satisfaction. I argue this is only so when the composition of majorities and minorities is fluid, so it’s effectively random who is on the winning side. In cases of permanent majority/minority divides, however, it is predictable in advance who will win and who will lose, so the minority do not enjoy even prospective equality. I suggest using lotteries to adjudicate between competing interests. While giving equal chances to each group gives everyone equal chances of satisfaction, it is blind to numbers and faces practical implementation problems, e.g. deciding what constitutes an option. Instead I propose a proportionately-weighted lottery, which means while majorities have greater chances of victory, each person’s vote contributes equally to chances of success.

Chapters four and five address how proportional chances can be implemented in democratic practice, developing a procedure called ‘lottery-voting’, in which a single, randomly-selected vote determines the outcome. This means every vote has an equal chance of being decisive, and each option’s chance of victory is proportional to its number of votes. Also, since victory is never guaranteed (short of unanimity), all have incentives to turnout and to persuade others.

My final two chapters assess lottery-voting against normative conditions imposed on decision rules in the formal social choice literature, such as anonymity, neutrality, positive responsiveness, Pareto-optimality and rationality. I argue lottery-voting respects those that are important constituents of equality, such as anonymity and neutrality (respectively, requirements that no voter or option be favoured), while violating Arrow’s Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives and Collective Rationality simply because I conceive the purpose of democracy differently – as fairly-adjudicating between competing interests, rather than producing ‘socially preferred’ or best outcomes.

While lottery-voting could actually be used for making decisions, at least in small groups (I do not consider representative democracy), the importance of the thesis is primarily theoretical. Often defences of democracy and majority-rule are conflated; but showing political equality can be satisfied by a lottery shows they are not the same and means those who would defend majority-rule need to offer reasons why it is a better procedure.

Since few discussions of democracy engage with lotteries, beyond perhaps a passing reference to Athenian practice, I think this possibility highlights shortcomings in a number of contemporary arguments. For instance, in recent books both Richard Vernon and Anthony McGann claim that majority-rule maximizes the need for persuasion. In fact, however, a majority group do not need to persuade anyone of their case in order to ensure victory. Lottery-voting, while it does not require persuasion – because a small minority may be content to take their small chance – means all groups always have incentive to try to persuade others of their case, in order to increase their chances of victory.

Further, my work is original because, though I draw inspiration from a 1984 article proposing lottery-voting for representatives, I develop this for direct decision-making. This is a contrast to most work on political use of lotteries, which focuses on representative samples. Moreover, because it combines randomness with voting, lottery-voting ensures that reason also plays a role in selecting outcomes.

I currently have a complete, though unfinished, draft and aim to submit my thesis early in 2008. Taking up your Research Fellowship would allow me time to publish this material, either re-writing it for a monograph and/or working sections into journal articles. I envisage being able to make contributions in a number of areas, including the nature and normative theory of democracy, the fairness of lotteries and engaging with the formal analysis of social choice.

While I believe there is considerable scope for this further development, I am also keen to move on to pastures new. Alongside publishing my existing research, I would like to begin exploring the philosophy of education – an area I feel is of particular importance to those engaged in university teaching, and an interest that has been stimulated both by educational studies courses, including writing a teaching portfolio on problems of authority, and teaching two visiting students interested in political/philosophical issues around education.

Though the goals of this research will doubtless develop as I investigate the subject, I'm particularly interested in what goes on within schools and universities, rather than their interaction with wider society. I’d like to explore issues such as authority and democracy in the classroom and whether the syllabus can be neutral on the good life (e.g. should we be cultivating appreciation of ‘higher pleasures’ such as Shakespeare and Mozart or are we simply inflicting children with ‘expensive tastes’ that they will find harder to satisfy?).

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Toulouse 0-1 Liverpool (CL qualifer)

Thankfully I managed to get my internet working in time to be pleasantly surprised BBC audio commentary of this match was available online (CL wasn't last season, but maybe that's only the competition-proper). Sadly, I wasn't able to see it, but by all reports I didn't miss much from a pedestrian game played in a mid-afternoon 30 degree heat.

The good news is that Rafa was able to make six changes - starting Hyypia, Mascherano, Benayoun, Babel, Voronin and Crouch - without obviously fielding a weakened team. It wasn't so surprising to see some new signings bedded-in in Europe, to help them acclimatize to the team before being thrown into the Premiership.

Though defences enjoyed the best of the game, we seemed fairly comfortable. Voronin's cracking goal under-scored what excellent value for money he was. While it's still early days, it looks like he'll offer our first-team far more than Robbie did (I hate to say it) and - much as I like Crouch - I'm even starting to wonder what a Torres-Voronin partnership would look like for first-choice.

The bad side, however, is that the away goal counts for nothing (it would only come in to play if they score at least one at Anfield), and our recent qualifying history has been to win 2-0 away then lose at Anfield and squeak through - it looks like we'll need a full-strength team in two weeks' time. Also Gerrard picked up a minor knock before his substitution and Carragher showed signs of what was hopefully just cramp - we'd better hope both are fit for Chelsea's up-coming visit.

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Further Technical Hitches

I thought my computer troubles had been fixed but, after much fiddling with my computer and a temporary spell of working, what started as a minor inconvenience - not being able to access my network files - has escalated to the point where I can now no longer even access internet from my room. I suppose at least living in college means the IT room and libraries are close by.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Another 400 words in print...

I was updating my CV today, and happened to look at the latest issue of Political Studies Review, where I found to my surprise one of my book notes had been published (p.267) without my knowledge back in May (I wasn't expecting it until September).

I have further book notes in the pipeline, having just received an acknowledgement that my latest is scheduled for May 2008, so may well feature in the next three PSRs. Guess I really should be writing that ol' thesis though...

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Protest Voting Gone Wrong

A common objection to lottery-voting is that even those nasty right-wing BNP types get some votes, and if we give them a proportional chance of victory then we face the prospect that they will actually get their way sometimes. I have a number of responses, which may briefly be summed up by saying:

i) That's democracy - people vote for bad outcomes and you might get them...
ii) We can prevent the worst injustices by taking constitutionally protected rights off the democratic agenda.
iii) We might also exclude small, and potentially extreme, minorities by imposing some kind of electoral threshold needed before an alternative gets any chance. Many PR schemes require a party to have something like 5% of the vote to get any seats, so we could similarly say you need 5% of the vote to get any chance.

Most important, I think, is:

iv) Voting is an endogeneous consequence of the political system.

In Britain's FPTP system most people vote Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem because they don't really have much choice. Votes for the others are often seen as 'wasted' because - except in a few cases - they have no chance of winning a seat. The flip-side of this, however, is that if your vote doesn't matter, you can cast it as you like (this expressive view is proposed by Brennan and Lomasky), and therefore it is easy to cast a protest vote - e.g. you can cross the BNP box to register dissatisfaction knowing they won't win anyway.

Sometimes, however, this may go wrong. I knew I'd kept a newspaper cutting of this and, after rummaging round through my unorganized collection of newspaper cuttings, was able to find it to cite in my thesis. (I prefer to be able to give the page number, rather than just citing an online link - this was page 5, by the way).

Following Hamas' surprise electoral victory, caused by mass protest voting, one Fatah supporter is quoted as saying “I voted Hamas so that my own Fatah Party would be shocked and change its ways… I thought Hamas would come second. But this is a game that went too far. Nobody thought Hamas would win – even them. I know lots of people who voted Hamas, who regret it now. If I could vote again, I would vote for Fatah”.

Lottery-voting means that every vote counts, whether you are in a majority or minority you bestow a chance of victory upon whatever option you vote for. This has at least four advantages:

i) There really is an incentive for each person to turn-out - your side could win, and your vote will increase their chances.
ii) Relatedly, since more votes always increase your chances, there is an incentive to persuade as many opponents as possible to join your cause, thus fostering deliberation.
iii) You should always vote sincerely - there's no point increasing the chances of your second choice rather than your first (the one qualification, of course, is if your first might not pass the threshold suggested above - but that could be avoided if the ballot paper includes second preferences to be redistributed).
iv) Since your vote matters, you'd better not cast it irresponsibly - and thus lottery-voting better realizes the educative effects expected of voting by the likes of J S Mill and Carole Pateman.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

IVF 'Lottery'

The media seem to enjoy giving lotteries a bad name, and even the BBC are in on it. Interestingly, having just scanned through the article, I don't see anyone actually mention lotteries in the text, it's simply a gratuitous title.

The Facts: Guidelines say all eligible women aged 23-39 should get one free cycle of IVF. But some areas have introduced restrictions such as age limits, with some saying a woman over 35 is too old, with others saying that is too young. Other PCTs, like North Staffordshire, are so cash-strapped they have put a freeze on all forms of fertility treatment. Half of the 114 PCTs offered couples free IVF even if either partner already had a child. In other words, local decisions on health spending lead to local inequalities (though presumably areas spending less on IVF spend more on something else, like cancer drugs, so perhaps I should simply say differences)

Comments: Mr Shapps, whose own three children were conceived through IVF, said that PCTs were, to some extent, "playing God" - deciding who had the right to a child and who did not, based largely on the state of the PCTs' annual budgets and deficits. He explained: "Couples are effectively being told that they cannot have a baby while their friends on the other side of the street, who might have a similar set of circumstances, are able to obtain three cycles of IVF provided for them by the NHS."
Dr Mike Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance which represents PCTs, said: "For the individual, it might seem an unfair system. But looking at it nationally, I think it's better that there should be local determination of provision."
However Infertility Network UK said: "We urge the government to consult with all those involved, including patient representatives and clinicians, with a view to implementing the full NICE guideline and to setting centrally agreed criteria to overcome these inequalities once and for all."


I'm not really sure why these decisions are decentralized. Healthcare priorities aren't obviously local issues, and you might well think that if a life-saving cancer drug is a better use of NHS resources than IVF fertility treatment then that holds true everywhere. But (and I'm sure this won't be the last time I have to say this) regional variation isn't a lottery!

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool

It's been a while since we had a first-day win, but after last season's terrible start - where we only got one point from something like the first seven away games - this was a particularly welcome one, that also allows us to enjoy being 3 points ahead of Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal, at least briefly (start as you mean to go on, eh?).

Focusing on our performance, however, I can't be entirely happy. While Torres looked suited to the English game, and showed some good touch and movement - even if one shot from an angle actually did go for a throw - and Babel's cameo was also promising, the same flaws remained - we struggled to finish this one off. It took an own goal just to give us the lead and then, when we should have been about 3-0 up, we end up conceding a silly equalizer from the penalty spot that could have cost us dear.

Of course, first game of the season players aren't at their sharpest, but we have to be more clinical in taking our chances. It reminded me too much of the frustrating 0-0 draw with 'Boro on the opening day of the season before last. What was welcome, however, was the response to conceding. I'd recently read someone say that if Man Utd or Chelsea need a goal in the last 5-10 minutes you always fancy them to get it. Well, today I didn't really expect us to - or, at least, not from a Gerrard free-kick (I'd just said to Rob I'd swap him for Danny Murphy come deadball situations). In fact, Stevie's Beckham-like free-kick (UPDATE: video clip) curled over the wall and into the top corner. If he can keep doing that, then there's really no need for England to worry about old 'Goldenballs' any more...

(I couldn't find a video yet, but these two - a long-range screamer and near-post corner - suggest Villa fans must really be hating Stevie by now...)

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AOCs

Since OUCS are doing some kind of servicing that includes Herald email being down for most of the day, I haven't yet had my weekly jobs.ac.uk email. Vaguely on the topic, however, I saw this discussion on Brian Leiter's blog (via) about Areas Of Competence listed on one's CV.

I generally subscribe to the view that AOS = primary research area (thesis topic) and that AOC = other areas in which you have a sound knowledge base and could teach an undergraduate course with relatively little preparation. For what it's worth, this is what I've generally put on my recent CVs:

Area of Specialisation:
Political Philosophy (distributive justice, democracy, political obligation, liberty)

Areas of Competence:
Normative Ethics (first-order moral theories and applied ethics)
Moral and Political Thought of Plato (especially Republic)
Democratic Theory (electoral systems, voting behaviour, social choice)

Though I suppose there's actually a case for putting democratic theory as an AOS and dividing political philosophy so that justice and democracy are under AOS and other areas under AOC. I think this is all a matter of specification, and whether one should go with general labels or something more specific, which is something discussed in the comments on Leiter, e.g. here and here. (I'm quite happy with my 'general label: specific detail' format).

Also interesting is the proposal of listing 'areas of teaching interest'. I think this is a good idea, as it allows you to distinguish where you could currently teach a course with little preparation (=AOC) and what you would be willing (and able) to teach in the medium-longer term, but not without a decent amount of time to prepare. I sometimes think about this, because there are a lot of Oxford courses that, given sufficient time, I could see myself being able to teach. Thus, if I was applying for a long-term job here I might sell myself by saying something like:

AOS/AOC
Theory of Politics
Prelims Politics (Theory)
Ethics
Prelims Philosophy (Mill)
Plato's Republic

Areas of Teaching Interest/'future AOCs'
Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics
Classical Political Thought
Philosophy of Religion
Aesthetics
Jurisprudence

And maybe even (if demanded)
History of Philosophy
Prelims Philosophy (General)
Political Sociology

Not, of course, that I'd list all that on my CV.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

First Complete Draft

Having finally written chapter 7 and a conclusion, I now for the first time have a complete thesis draft. It's 81,868 words and 145 pages (single-spaced). Some of it still needs a lot of work, and I'm still waiting for feedback on my two Confirmation chapters (which I submitted in April!); but this is the first time I've had something that reads like a thesis, without any of it being scrappy notes or such, and I wanted to stick it all in one document to make me feel good about all that slaving away...

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Online Comics

Since I've packed so much of my stuff, it's the perfect excuse to miss work and procrastinate. And how better than to convince myself everyone else is doing so too, by browsing PhD comics... Favourites:

165 dating
182 Who wants a Merc?
197 comic survey
213 one that suggests distributing doctoral degrees by lottery...
248 summer break

Also, today I found a new one, Basic Instructions (via Scott Adams). I like the format, though they take a while to load (probably the server problems mentioned on the site). Favourites: How to listen to other people's problems and How to master your fear (which ties in to my recent bears link)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Book Launch

Not an official launch, more a celebratory drink in fact. Still, tonight we marked the publication of a book of essays on Wittgenstein, edited by my friends Edward (lecturer at Jesus) and Guy (CV - which lists the book as late 2006; oh well). The book itself includes contributions from Hilary Putnam, P. M. S. Hacker and A. W. Moore.

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Computer Woes

Today, I spent over two and a half hours - between morning and afternoon - sat in the IT officer's office trying to work out why my computer couldn't connect to the college network (a problem since I moved, coinciding with network maintenance). In the end, the verdict was that there had been multiple problems with both my computer and the server, an network settings and IP addresses were adjusted. Needless to say, not a productive day.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Puntastic

Since summer's finally arrived - after a brief spell in April, which saw my only previous punting action of the year - we decided to go punting today. It's the first time this year I've used the Jesus college punts (after one previous plan was rained off), now at the Cherwell boathouse. After that, there were strawberries and biscuits in the GCR, provided by the welfare rep for those of us still around - which seemed to be only 6 or 7. It was a nice afternoon for lying in the quad, doing nothing. Now the weekend's over, I suppose I'd better think about getting back to work though...

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bears Aren't the Bravest

Today, while out with my dad and great aunt, for some reason the conversation reminded me of this story about a cat chasing a bear up a tree (in fact, two trees). I meant to search the BBC website for it, but had no need as there was a handy link on this recent story about Deep Purple/Whitesnake rock star David Coverdale scaring bears away from his property. While bears may be intruding more on urban spaces, it appears saying 'boo' may be an adequate defence mechanism...

UPDATE: Advice on mastering fear, of bears included.

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London, Baby

Today I went to London, to meet up with my dad and visit my great aunt Hilda. It gave me a brief chance to look down Oxford St - though the CD clearance in Borders didn't seem as interesting as the one in Oxford - and to pick up my mini-fridge off my dad, which has made my new room slightly more convenient.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Moving Saga

Well, I spent most of yesterday packing and cleaning the flat. Ed had said he'd give me a lift down to Ship Street (college-owned houses just next to Jesus), but it wouldn't be until after work. Since he also had himself and his two new housemates to take, it turned out we didn't leave until 8:30. I had to go to a tiny room on the 3rd floor, and it took me 45 mins just to carry all my stuff up there from the hall - then I had to go to Tesco... Add to this the room hadn't even been cleaned since the last occupant, wasn't big enough for all my stuff and the curtains didn't cover the window (guaranteeing an early wake up) and things weren't looking good.

Thankfully, first thing this morning I went to see the accommodation officer and she said I could move into room 3 - the one I had in the first year of my M.Phil - first floor, much larger. It meant another hour moving, and I almost put my back out again shifting boxes and furniture, but at least it's a much nicer place to be for the next three weeks or so. Room aside, the shower and kitchen are pretty filthy, so have stocked up as much as I can on food I can eat with only a sandwich toaster and a kettle (lots of cous cous...) At least I'm near the libraries; guess I should try to make the most of that, not that I'm going to do anything more today.

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