Sunday, December 31, 2006

25 Today

Happy birthday me!

To be honest, a birthday on NYE sucks - I was always feel like I don't really get a proper party for either reason, and too many friends are otherwise booked. (Something that was less of a problem at home, when my party would generally give everyone something to do for NYE, but is worse at Oxford when most people aren't in town)

Maybe it's also still in the post-Xmas hangover. Personally, I think a person's birthday (when they're young) ought to be a bigger deal than Xmas, since it's just about them. If I had kids, I think I'd probably spend more on birthdays than Xmas. Is that unusual? Maybe; I got £25 from my mum today, compared to £100, some CDs and a bunch of minor presents for Christmas.

No definite plans for tonight, but I'll probably update tomorrow with what I got up to.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Spurs 0-1 Liverpool

It was important to bounce back to winning ways, and to do so at White Hart Lane with our poor away record and Spurs' good home form was particularly satisfying - especially as I'd have expected this game to be a 6-pointer at the start of the season, even if it is now looking more like Liverpool, Arsenal, Bolton and Portsmouth competing for the CL spots.

Spurs fans may well have felt they deserved a point, it has to be said we've played better without winning, and the goal was a rather messy afair - Gerrard miscuing and Garcia showing his knack of popping up in the right place at the right time to poke it away. The only bad news is Bellamy;s injury.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Blackburn 1-0 Liverpool

And so our run ends. It's a shame, because in many ways it's a match we dominated - 14 shots on target, unfortunately finding Friedel in fine form. (Look at him, James, Kirkland - and how desperate we've been for a decent 'keeper for as long as I can remember)

Sadly, I'd said recently that the lack of a clinical might cost us. Then again, I can remember several of our players (Carra, Cisse, Baros) sustaining serious injuries at Ewood Park and every time saying 'I'd rather we lost the match with no injuries'.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gender Tests

My attention was just drawn to this case of an Indian athlete failing a gender test (via Scott Adams) The nature of the test is unclear, though I like Scott's guess. The article reports she (I'll say she) had passed one before. On the assumption that her gender hasn't changed, this suggests to me that the tests aren't the most reliable.

Oh, and I'd have thought sex was the more relevant thing to be testing anyway...

Liverpool 2-0 Watford

Again, poor finishing could have costing us, but thankfully Bellamy's good form (4 goals in 4 games I believe) continues. Still, three points is the main thing. I expect with a busy Christmas period, we'll see some rotation coming up.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Despite dense fog, the trip home today wasn't too bad. I brought a stack of books home to read, but hopefully I'll be a bit more active online now - computer use in Oxford was curtailed for the last week by a broken mouse...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Charlton 0-3 Liverpool

You might think I'd be pretty happy after a 3-0 away win, but on reflection it wasn't actually that pleasing. Admittedly, I was a bit worried that after last week's 5-1 humiliation by Spurs Charlton - and sub goalkeeper Myhre (ex-Evertonian and all) would be out to prove a point, and maybe hold us. So I'm glad that didn't happen - but that was unlikely from the time Alonso's early penalty put us in charge.

What I was unhappy about was how long it took to put the game to bed. Time and again we carved Charlton open - mainly due to their poor defence - but chances kept going begging. Granted, Myhre did pull out a few good saves, and both Young and Traore made good clearances off the line; but too often Bellamy and Kuyt missed quite presentable chances. When we're creating so many, it's not a problem, but a sequence of flattering wins (4-0, 4-0, 3-0) in our last three games masks the fact that our strikers just aren't the clinical finishers we might need in games where we're only likely to get one or two chances.

Still, with the two teams above us, Arsenal and Pompey, due to play later today - with one of them bound to drop points - this was just the result we needed to keep a hand in the top four. With our next league game against Watford, fixtures should have evened out, so I'm glad to see us finally up there.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Maybe I'm beginning to dislike random draws after all... Though, in fact, the CL draw is satratified by various restrictions (1st versus 2nd, you can't play teams from the same country or group) Given these factors, it was always likely we'd end up against someone like Barca, Real or Inter.

Still, 2005 champions against the holders throws up a number of interesting subplots: Rafa Benitez back in Spain, Garcia and Reina against their former clubs. As a Liverpool fan, I was hoping for an easier draw, but it should be a cracking couple of matches, and no disrespect to whoever loses - may they go on and win!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's Only Words...

I just looked through the scattered pieces of writing I have on my harddrive at my latest drafts, and this is what I find:

Introduction 4,621 words
Chapter 1 12,473
Chapter 2 17,986
Chapter 3 8,227
Chapter 4 17,210
Chapter 5 19,396
Chapter 6 9,557

Total 89,470 words

Now, some of this stuff is very rough - indeed some of it may not even be coherent, lifted straight from my MPhil thesis or duplicated between different chapters - but it's a stunning reminder that I really need to be focusing on redrafting and revising, the time has come for quality not quantity!

Monday, December 11, 2006

BBC Weather

I often find BBC weather online a bit unrealiable. No better example than today, where I noticed tomorrow's max temperature will be 9 degrees C and minimum 11!

In fairness, this is a daytime max and nightime min, but I find it hard to believe the night will be at least two degrees warmer than the day.

The Value of a Vote

Some random links concerning voting values, mostly from Make My Vote Count:

Iain McLean reports that voters in safe seats are marginalised.

His interesting looking working paper review doesn't yet seem to be in the BJPS, but looks worth watching out for. (Memo to self, I also need to read this piece on malapportionment and this on deliberative democracy and social choice - with comment and response (from page 23))

Animals Count face difficulties because, like the Greens, their votes are dispersed.

John Cruddas blames our FPTP system for BNP protest votes.

The boundary commission may need more thought, though I agree with the sensible commentary, particularly about the Isle of Wright (which, if I remember my class on voting apportionment right, really should have two seats anyway)

Why the Tories should care about Electoral Reform.

David Cameron has apparently gone on record saying:

WH: Ok and if we do all these things, is it statistically possible for us to win at the next General Election given the bias in the electoral system? That we got more votes than Labour in England even in this last election but we are way behind in the number of seats - Can it be done?

DC: You are right. It's a mountain to climb, but it can be done. Blair’s majority was made in one election it could be unmade in one election. Particularly now its smaller than it was and we made progress at the last election. You're right about the bias. One of the thing I think we ought to campaign for is for every seat in this country to be the same size, I think your vote should have the same value whether you are in Yorkshire or Oxfordshire or wherever. I think a UK wide boundary commission with all seats the same size should be a pledge from the Conservative Party - There's another clear policy.

(News of the World, about 2/3rds down)

I picked this up from a comment on MMVC, but unfortunately the relevant page in the Radio 4 archive no longer seems accessible. (A cover up?) Further reliable sources appreciated.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Xmas Dinner 3

Today was the appointed day for our flat Xmas dinner. Ed and I did the cooking (him doing all the meat), which went fairly well apart from some disagreement over how to do roast potatoes. We were delayed slightly by Fiona being late back from London, but it was a nice meal (I had the traditional bean burger, rather than stir fry) and good to all eat together for once - probably the first time since we moved in. I also quite enjoyed listening to my Barenaked Ladies Christmas album. Afterwards, we vegged on the sofa watching Life of Brian, in true Christmas style.

Another EoT Dinner Pic

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Liverpool 4-0 Fulham

Another convincing 4-0 win. Admittedly, we had to wait until the second half - and even then a penalty rebound - to open the scoring, but it just shows how much difference getting that first goal can make in a game we dominated. Carragher's first goal since January 1999 was worth mentioning - he snuck in at the far post like a professional poacher - but for me Garcia's 15 yard header (again, assisted by Agger) was the pick of the bunch.

This puts us 4th, and hopefully with games to come against Charlton and Watford we can maintain that top four position - though Charlton may be fired up after their humiliation.

EoT Dinner (Xmas Dinner 2)

Last night was our traditional End of Term dinner.

We had a Scottish Ceilidh/whisky theme. Unfortunately, I left after the meal, so missed the dancing and visit to Baby Love - my friend Steve was having leaving drinks in the KA before departing for New Zealand, while at the same time Iwao was back from Harvard for some job interviews. I ended up in Jonas' room drinking whisky until almost 3am anyway.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I've never been to a funeral before, so I don't know how today's 'celebration of the life of Majorie Chisnall, 19/04/22-19/11/06' compares. Thankfully the service was reasonably short, even if I did think the prayers went on a bit and I don't think I'd ever heard either of the hymns before (I certainly didn't seem alone in not knowing the tunes).

Although not the best occasion, it was quite nice to see several family members again, even if the later 'do' was a bit awkward given the need to make conversation with many old people I didn't know.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


So, in the end I did 6 interviews at Jesus (Philosophy and Theology) and 4 at St Hilda's (Classics). I won't divulge anything here - though I think I know who's in and out - but I will say it's surprisingly difficult and stressful for interviewers as well as interviewees. I'm glad I only had such a small number, but next year it could be more.

Galatasaray 3-2 Liverpool

Alas, our unbeaten Champions League record (this season) is gone, but with first place in the group guaranteed I fully expected Rafa to rest some senior players and simultaneously blood a few of our younger reserve players. With this in mind, it was a shame that Anderson didn't get his chance, but Pennant also needed a confidence boost and had a good game - providing a good cross for Fowler's second goal.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Impartiality Conference

Today and yesterday I was at the second Partiality and Impartiality Conference in Reading. Last year, my brother kindly walked me from the station to the uni (Whiteknights campus). This year I had to find my way myself, which took me 45 mins the first day and 30 the second. Streets really aren't well signposted in Reading.

I missed Sabina Lovibond's paper, because 9:30am was just slightly too early - I managed to catch the 9:15 train, which coincidentally had Simon on it, but we were held up and took about 50 mins to reach Reading. The two papers I did see on the second day were my favourites though, tending to the more political focus.

It was particularly good to meet David Estlund, though I only got to speak to him about his paper and not unfortunately democratic issues. If I'd known he was who Andrew Williams was talking to the day before, maybe I'd have introduced myself then! I also got to meet Martha Klein - who I knew from Oxford, but who didn't know me (having only lectured me) - but mostly hung out with several Reading students, including Julia (who I met at the Oxford Philosophy Graduate Conference), Anna and Fiona (who'd I'd previously met at the Moral Philosophy Seminar). The latter pointed me to another novel I should read.

Wigan 0-4 Liverpool

Being at the conference in Reading, I wasn't able to follow this game, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find the result afterwards. (It was probably better that way - otherwise I'd probably have been disappointed not to add to a 4-0 halftime lead)

Bellamy, court troubles now behind him, had a great game, scoring the first two and then setting up the third for Kuyt. I've been thinking his pace could be what our strikeforce lack, when it comes to breaking down massed defences. It seems he likes playing on the counter attack too, which suits us when ahead.

More generally, we played a 3-2-3-2 wingbacks formation, which has served us well in the past and many have long sought best suits our players - with both Riise and Finnan happy to operate in midfield as well as defence, and accommodationg Sissoko, Alonso and Gerrard as well as Hyypia and Agger at the back. Of course, with Sissoko out anyway, and us having just bought two wingers (Pennant and Gonzalez), it hardly looks like it will become our first choice formation, but it's nice to have the option.

And, finally, an away win.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Xmas Dinner 1

Today I was on High Table for Christmas dinner. I thought Tuesday was a bit unusual, because we got roast and sprouts due to the undergrad Xmas dinner in hall while I had mushroom and pepper stir fry. Today, however, it was the same veg-wise but I had a cashew nut stir fry...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Meme Machine

In the interests of (pseudo-)science, or simple blogosphere curioisty, read on...

What is the speed of meme? People write in general (typically truimphant) terms about how swiftly a single voice can travel from one side of the internet to the other and back again, but how often does that actually happen? Of those instances, how often is it organic?

Most memes, I'd wager, are only superficially organic: beginning small, they acquire minor prominence among low-traffic blogs before being picked up by a high-traffic one, from which many more low-traffic blogs snatch them. Contra blog-triumphal models of memetic bootstrapping, I believe most memes are—to borrow a term from Daniel Dennett's rebuttal of punctuated equilibrium—"skyhooked" into prominence by high-traffic blogs.

Here's what I need you to do:
1. Write a post linking to this one in which you explain the experiment. (All blogs count, be they TypePad, Blogger, MySpace, Facebook, &c.)
2. Ask your readers to do the same. Beg them. Relate sob stories about poor graduate students in desperate circumstances. Imply I'm one of them. (Do whatever you have to. If that fails, try whatever it takes.)
Ping Technorati.

Experiment from Acephalous, via CT.

I have my reservations about how scientific or reliable these results will be, given the obvious begging nature of the request. It seems rather like trying to gauge (spontaneous) charitable contributions by measuring donations to Comic Relief. But never mind...

Incidentally, I didn't really know what the term meme meant, but apparently it was coined by Dawkins and means "A cultural element or behavioural trait whose transmission and consequent persistence in a population, although occurring by non-genetic means (esp. imitation), is considered as analogous to the inheritance of a gene." (OED)

Liverpool 0-0 Portsmouth

Unfortunately, Liverpool were once again unable to break down a massed defence - a perennial problem for about as long as I've followed them. Despite dominating possession and having almost all the chances, they couldn't score a goal or even put Pompey under real sustained pressure.

Of course, the lack of midfielders didn't help. As predicted, it was a defender - Carragher in fact - who stepped into the defensive role, alongside Gerrard. The BBC report concentrates more on Pompey's own injury crisis, but it's too bad Pennant wasn't capable of exploiting their patched-up leftback. I'd have liked to have seen Paul Anderson given a chance from the bench.

As it happened, two youngsters - Guthrie and El Zhar - did get to make what I think were their Premiership debuts (not entirely surprising, given they were respectively pulled out of and substituted in last night's reserve match). Unfortunately, when I say youngsters they're older than the likes of 'established' stars like Rooney and Ronaldo, so hardly the greatest prospects. Still, at least it seems we're still searching for young talent, despite the fact we no longer hear so much about last year's Youth Cup-winning team. Neither our reserves nor youth teams seem to be doing so well this year either...

Anyway, with our own shortages, then one can't be entirely disappointed with a point from a game we dominated. But we do now need a first win away against Wigan on Saturday...


"The issue of moral responsibility is at the heart of the dispute between hard determinists and compatibilists. Hard determinists are forced to accept that individuals often have "free will" in the compatibilist sense, but they deny that this sense of free will can ground moral responsibility. The fact that an agent's choices are unforced, hard determinists claim, does not change the fact that determinism robs the agent of responsibility.
Compatibilists argue, on the contrary, that determinism is a prerequisite for moral responsibility. Society cannot hold someone responsible unless his actions were determined by something."


"Compatibilists, on the other hand, argue that determinism is a prerequisite for moral responsibility, and that society cannot hold an individual responsible for their actions unless those actions were determined by something – in particular something other than say some random action caused spontaneously by the individual’s nervous system...
The issue of moral responsibility would thus seem to be at the heart of the dispute between hard determinists and compatibilists: whilst hard determinists might be forced to accept that individuals often have free will in the compatibilst sense, they deny that this sense of free will can ground moral responsibility. Hard determinists claim that the fact that an individual’s choices are unforced does not change the fact that determinism robs the individual of responsibility."

One of my undergraduate students...

Not the first time I've seen signs of plagiarism.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We Have No Midfield...

Zenden ruled out with knee injury. Bugger.

Predicted team vs. Pompey:

Finnan Carragher Hyypia Agger Riise
Kuyt Fowler Crouch Garcia

5-1-4, look who's in the middle...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Poverty of Ideas?

Given we seem to have ended up with a Tory Labour government, I'd welcome a shift the other way from Cameron. And it seems that's what he's planning, though it was pointed out to me that the message seems somewhat confused.

"The current approach cannot succeed in substantially reducing relative poverty without unaffordable spending increases," Mr Cameron said.
(From FT)

"In the past we used to think of poverty in absolute terms - meaning straightforward material deprivation. That's not enough. We need to think of poverty in relative terms - the fact that some people lack those things which others in society take for granted. So I want this message to go out loud and clear - the Conservative Party recognises, will measure and will act on relative poverty."
(From ePolitix)

It sounds rather like a pledge to eradicate relative poverty. Aside from perfect equality, that seems impossible - if there's any difference in income/wealth, there'll always be some who have less and are therefore relatively poor.

In fairness, when they speak of relative poverty, politicians often have some measure in mind, like those below 60% of median income. Of course, statistics are no good for everything (as shown in a football context here), but at least that's a coherent goal.

I'd suggest it isn't necessarily the best one though. Personally I think (absolute) poverty is obviously far more urgent than mere inequality. To use the classic sufficientarian example, we're not bothered by inequalities between millionaires and billionaires. If any government could make sure everyone in the country had enough for a decent life, it would already be a big achievement.

Yes, of course poverty is to some extent relative to the needs or standards of society, but I think that variation can be dealt with by something like Amartya Sen's capabilities approach.

Free Will

What part of the weekend wasn't spent out partying (here and here), or sleeping in, has been mostly spent brushing up on free will, determinism and responsibility. Free will is actually a recurring theme for Scott Adams, but this post is particularly good. Although he does seem to assume incompatibilism when it comes to ultimate responsibility, simply justifying our practice by saying we're pre-determined to punish others (not that that should shield us from equally pre-determined criticism).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Milan's Birthday

Last night was Milan's birthday party - though the actual day isn't until Tuesday, it seemed wise to have the party on a Saturday night, even if it was my third night running...

Thinking 9:30 - an hour after the advertised start time - might be fashionably late enough, given I didn't intend to stay too long, I was actually first to arrive. That meant I had a chance to hear Milan tell us some interesting stories about the Afternoon Tea Society from UBC, amongst other things.

More people dropped by - some briefly, others for longer - as the night went on. No one I already knew was there, but it was nice to meet some other people from IR and elsewhere. In particular, a guy called Richard (law at LMH) seemed quite interested in my thesis and insisted - at least twice - that if I ever published anything I should let him know. Also I met a guy called Yassan (sp?) who's in IR but actually working with my college advisor Stuart White on global justice.

Typical student-y house parties, with their mix of new people, food and drink, seem too infrequent so it was a nice change. I also discovered some interesting Canadian music, Radio Free Vestibule's 'I Don't Want To Go To Toronto' and Three Dead Trolls In A Baggie's 'The War Of 1812', courtesy of Milan's iPod, and found out that Albert Einstein has been trademarked by the makers of an action figure. (Weird present)

As much as I enjoyed it, part of me still wishes I'd been able to pull myself away before 2am, but at least I didn't get soaked on the way home this time. (I'd succeeded in drying my coat in the airing cupboard, but my gloves and shoes were still wet from last night!)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Liverpool 1-0 Man City

Despite Liverpool's midfield being decimated, this was a professional performance and a satisfying win against a team that - given their poor away record - were surprisingly difficult to break down.

From what I gather, we switched from playing three centre back with Finnan and Risie operating as wingbacks - a formation I actually think particularly suits our players, at least when we're devoid of wingers - to deploying Carragher as full back during the course of the game, switching Finnan back and Riise forward. At least we have some quite flexible players, I wouldn't have been surprised had Agger been used as a LB or even defensive midfielder.

Thankfully Gerrard stepped up to show he can still boss the centre of midfield and score crucial goals. It's something we'll need over the next week or two, until we get some of our others back.

Hansard Society

Having recently mentioned the previous event I went to in Oxford, I just thought I should plug the Hansard Society are launching the third installment of their Democracy Series in Manchester this coming Thursday. Sadly, I can't make it, but worth a look for anyone interested.

Catz Nite

Last night was the famous Catz Nite - a formal dinner involving all the tutors and most of the students of college (as many as they can accommodate in their hall, at any rate), followed by a bop going on until 2am, which just about the whole college attend.

I have to say I've attended plenty of black die dinner/party type events, and didn't think this really stood out, but then perhaps that comes of not knowing many people. I did get to sit next to, and so finally meet, Edward Kanterian at dinner, as well as a couple of Catz graduates and a 1st year. I also got to chat to a few more students, including one of my current tutees, afterwards, before Rob and his housemates came along.

Still, with drinks at Catz bar apparently just 80p a pint (paid on card), for an almost free party it was certainly good value. The only downside is that after walking Rachele home I got caught in college by torrential rain and, after trying to wait it out, ended up getting absolutely drenched on my way home.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks for Short Meetings

That today was Thanksgiving (US) was not particularly important to me - I'd already had a Canadian thanksgiving this term anyway - but it was our second GCR meeting of the term, and we asked the college to tweak the menu accordingly (though they wouldn't do turkey with two days of Christmas dinners next week - not that it really affects me...)

The meeting itself was a breeze - no motions were submitted, so it was over in about 20 minutes. Here are my minutes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Liverpool 2-0 PSV Eindhoven

With both teams already qualified for the group stages, this win ensured Liverpool take first place - not that that's a great comfort, when we could still draw Barcelona, Real Madrid or Roma for our troubles...

It looked for a while as if it might be a repeated of the weekend's match against Boro, with us creating all the chances but not being able to finish them. Thankfully Gerrard scored - a few goals should do his confidence and form some good, which is vital now he's playing in the middle. A late Crouch header made it 2-0 and a professional win.

The bad side is losing three more players to injury, with Alonso, Gonzalez and Pennant all stretchered off. It sounds like Pennant's is the least serious and Gonzalez the worst, although thankfully we have options on the left even without Harry (any of Riise, Warnock and Aurelio can play LB or LM). I've heard mixed things about Alonso though, which is a worry with Sissoko also out long term.

That's five of our 'first team' midfielders out, with Gerrard the only top choice fit. Looks like we may have to play something like: Garcia, Gerrard, Zenden and Aurelio (or Riise) over the next few weeks. Though I wouldn't mind if one or two of our youngsters got a chance - indeed, with top of the CL group sewn up, it would be nice to blood some youngsters against Galatasaray...

IPPR on Compulsory Voting

A while ago, I reported on the Hansard Society discussion about compulsory voting that I attended. At the time, I couldn't find the IPPR report, but now I've tracked it down online here. The author, Ben Rogers, also recommends Citizen Assemblies here (via OpenDemocracy)

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Political Profile

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 15% Conservative, 85% Liberal
Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I just heard that my gran passed away this afternoon. She'd been deteriorating for a while, so it wasn't really unexpected. She'd been housebound for some time too, with carers having to get her up, take her to the toilet and bring her meals. I know she didn't like it, so I'm not even sure it's bad for her. I'm just glad that the last time I saw her was when I took her into town. In the circumstances, not a bad last memory, even if it wasn't a proper goodbye.

Fabre Follow Up

The long-running Fabre review (Whose Body Is It Anyway?) was finally submitted about a week and a half ago now. Nonetheless, two quick related points:

1) Milan seizes on an Economist report about organ sales.

2) The paper for Monday's Moral Philosophy Seminar describes the case of Zell Kravinsky (p.16), who donated his kidney to a complete stranger. More on this:

here (would he give away the other one? - with a suggestion he'd pay a third party to donate!)
here (CNN transcript: "I think in terms of maximum human utility, not in terms of my own life")
here (he specified the kidney had to go to a low income black. "I had to convince them why I was doing it: because it is logically and morally compelling to save someone's life if you can")
here (records initial opposition to any transplants, on the grounds they seemed to harm the healthy to save the sick. "Raised in a Jewish family committed to socialism and left wing politics [remind you of anyone?]... when he read an article in the Wall Street Journal explaining that a kidney donor had only a one-in-four-thousand chance of dying from giving up an organ, Kravinsky understood that this was like buying a U.S. government bond. The risk involved was almost zero. But unlike government bonds, the dividend or pay-out in this case was fabulous. Some lucky person would get a whole new life" - also talks about Peter Singer)
here (a general story, with annoying music)

Take Care

After last week's mass student newspaper links, I thought I'd best get round to linking to another, kindly supplied by my friend Nick L, via this blog.

The story concerns the fact that abolishing traffic lights actually decreases road accidents because - although the road is inherently more dangerous - drivers now take better care. Here's the original story from The Telegraph on 4/11/06.

What I found particularly interesting, however, was their comment - published on the same day - under the head 'Labour will never treat us like adults'. Here they say "A deeper lesson is one that was obvious to everyone until the 20th century: that, given responsibility for their actions, people tend to make better decisions – on behalf of themselves and society."

This is something I'd like to build on, briefly, in my thesis. Some people worry that if we let a random voter decide social outcomes, they may be a crackpot. I think if voters knew there was a real chance that their vote might determine the outcome, they'd be more responsible in casting it. At present, they have little reason to consider it too carefully, since there's little chance of making a difference anyway.

Schumpeter also says something similar, about how our feelings of reality and responsibility are diminished in public affairs (Quinton, p.164).

This also connects to something I remember from a Political Sociology lecture, in which someone argued most of the French far right votes were actually anti-system protest votes rather than positive support for Le Pen and the right. But I'll have to look up who said this.

Going back to newspapers, unfortunately I only found the story a couple of days late and wasn't able to track down a hard copy of the Telegraph, despite looking through the old papers in the GCR and JCR. I've just found that one can order papers up to 9 months old from W H Smiths - though prices start from £4.99, which is a bit steep.

Anyone know if the Bod stocks recent papers? I think they do, but don't really know where...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Middlesbrough 0-0 Liverpool

Another frustrating away day, at least we doubled the number of points we've collected on the road this season - to two from seven games. It's frustrating, however, because - like last season - this was a game we really should have won, after battering Boro for most of 90 minutes without ever putting the ball in the net.

I don't know how far finishing was to blame - despite playing two wingers, I heard the crosses were woeful, often failing to beat the first man. Mind you, it must be said Schwarzer and Woodgate played well (I'd forgotten how good the latter could be, when not injured). Still, it was somewhat reassuring to see not just a clean sheet but us clearly set out to attack and dominating play away from home. If we keep creating chances, soon they will start going in - again, like last season.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Simpsons, Again

Continuing the theme that The Simpsons is philosophical, or at least educational, tonight Channel 4 showed a rather interesting episode that told the stories of Odysseus, Joan of Arc and Hamlet.

Unfortunately, aside from obviously rather truncating events, they did get some key details wrong. We saw Homer - as Odysseus - leave Troy, but the only adventures we see on the way home are Circe and the Sirens - no Cyclops or Scylla.

What's more, they get some of these parts horrendously wrong - in the actual epic, Odysseus orders his men to plug their ears, while he is tied to the mast to listen to the Sirens' song (hence the title of Elster's book on bounded rationality). In this version, the crew row happily toward the rocks, only to be repelled by the Sirens' hideousness (they're Patty and Selma). And when Odysseus finally gets home, he simply skewers Penelope's suitors on a spear, rather than going through all the trouble of disguising himself and stringing a bow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Newspaper Links 4: Postgraduate Tutorials

Today being my teaching day - three tutorials - what really caught my eye was The Cherwell's article on postgraduate teaching (which, incidentally, quotes my friend Nick). Indeed, I was particular caught by their focus on students turning up only to find a note telling them the tutorial had been cancelled - I did that a couple of weeks ago, though not at 8:30 in the morning!

Tutorials are such a personal interaction between students and tutor that it's obvious some will be better than others, and indeed a tutor who's great for one student might be bad for another. There's no intrinsic reasons why a graduate student should be worse than an older professor. Of course, they may be very different - the professor probably has years of experience, but the grad student may have better knowledge of recent debates and have been through the reading and even exams and lectures recently him/her-self. Also the much more relaxed atmosphere you may get with a younger teacher may make the tutorial not only more pleasant but perhaps more relevant - like today, The Simpsons came up in my tute.

It's understandable that some students will want to be taught by leading figures in their fields, and they usually have the opportunity in lectures. Tutorial teaching, however, is very intensive. We'd be loath to lose it - see here, here and here - so we have to accept the reality: either it will be more graduates teaching or fewer tutorials.

Finally, they're quite right to point out grad students are often inexperienced teachers. I wish I'd been given more training - and I'm one of the lucky ones that has at least been through the system from the other side. But I simply don't see how having a DPhil - a research qualification - is supposed to instill teaching competence. If grad students weren't allowed to teach, we'd have a number of freshly-qualified doctors who'd be similarly inexperienced. At least while we're still pursuing the DPhil we have more time to devote to the teaching - indeed, it's often a welcome distraction from the dreaded thesis, rather than the burden it is for many fellows.

Newspaper Links 3: No Point Working

Apparently (some) university courses that involve more work - measured in (contact and independent study) hours - give fewer students (in % terms) or 1sts. The message is perhaps why do 38 hours a week in Oxford for a 2.i when you could do 25 hours elsewhere, and maybe even get a First?

I'm particularly interested - predictably - that some mainstream media have labelled these findings a 'lottery'. This allegation was actually made in last week's Cherwell and in The Telegraph.

Newspaper Links 2: Depression

I was shocked to read that as many as one in three Oxford students suffer depression - and that 36% of girls admit eating disorders. Mind you, aside from the issues addressed in this Cherwell article, the OxStu also highlights a number of contributory pressures - unfortunately not online - but basically the result of no longer being 'top of the class', having to work hard, the need to have it all and the swing between busy 8-week terms and quiet vacs.

Newspaper Links 1: FaceBook

On the day where two long-standing refuseniks (Nick W and Miriam) finally joined FaceBook - or, at least, came to my attention - The Cherwell reports how dangerous it can be. Mind you, the main danger is the possibility of hoax accounts - not unlike this one for Thomas Hobbes. With that in mind, it seems sensible to make sure you register now to prevent abuse. And you can spy on undergraduates...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

High Table

It seems Milan has really been making the most of his High Table meals at Wadham. Up until tonight, I was viewing them as little more than free food and the chance to practice making small talk with academics.

I'd spoken to Gustaf Arrhenius several times while he's Senior Research Fellow in Jesus. I already knew him, via Krister, and I knew he was working on moral and political philosophy, and population policy in particular.

Tonight, however, I found that he also has interests in democracy. In fact, my friend Toby even gave him my contact details while he was in Sweden - and Gustaf had been meant to look me up but lost them. Thankfully, in this small world we live in, our paths crossed on High Table tonight.

Gustaf kindly asked to read my MPhil thesis, and has sent me one of his working papers (an updated version of this) - I think I got the better end of both deals! I hope we can have many more discussions in the remaining month that Gustaf is here, and hope it proves profitable collaboration.

Arsenal 3-0 Liverpool

Once again a game that could make or break Liverpool's season, and again we lose. The game doesn't seem as one-sided as the scoreline suggests - Wenger admitted we played well, and actually managed more shots and corners (allbeit fewer on target), as well as having two goals disallowed. It seems it just wasn't to be our day. Sissoko was a big loss, but we need to improve our away form if we're even to qualify for the CL this season. And the scary thing is we face Arsenal again in the Carling Cup...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Books and Journals

Crooked Timber has a recent post ranking Political Theory journals, with political scientists in mind. (This older one on where grad students might may also be worth reading)

Also, my old college tutor Stuart White has a new textbook on Equality. I get a mention in the acknowledgements, alongside the illustrious company of Karl Widerquist and Steve Winter. (I'm not sure it's really deserved - though I did ask if I could see drafts during my MPhil)

While on books, I picked up a hardback copy of Deliberation Day in Blackwells this morning, reduced from £20 to £1.50!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

PhD Comics

Thanks to Rachele for directing me to these.

Favourites so far: 26, 31, 40, 41, 47 (so like freshers' week), 51, 61, 83, 91, 107, 113, 116, 124.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Birmingham 0-1 Liverpool (Carling Cup)

It was never going to be a repeat of last season's 7-0 demolition job, but a professional performance by a mostly reserve side was enough to reach the quarter finals. The injury to Sissoko, however, could be massively detrimental to our season. His injury last year corresponded with a massive slump in form, including our CL exit against Benfica.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Phil Grad Conf

Next weekend is the 10th annual Philosophy Graduate Conference. The provisional schedule is already online, and you can register now.

Sadly none of the papers I refereed made it, but several of those that are there look interesting. (I'd have liked to have refereed this one too).

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Watching The Simpsons Friday night (I said it could be educational), Bart thrust his book of short stories into the dog's mouth. The camera closed in on what was left of a page reading "All in all, it had been a very strange lottery. The End" I was wondering if anyone could tell me where this came from?

Googling has so far proved ineffective. All I've found is it was used in a signature by someone posting on deviantART. The only other lead I got was to Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, but that's not the last line of her story.

Liverpool 2-0 Reading

Some had been suggesting Kuyt was very much like Crouch - a good all round player who works hard for the team, but not an out and out goal-scorer. They may well be right - he certainly missed a couple of good chances - but two more goals today go some way to suggesting he can still chip in where needed. The continuing blossoming of the partnership with Crouch (who got both assists) is also welcome.

Overall, Liverpool were quite dominant, and could easily have won by more than two goals - although for a long time we failed to put the game safe, and I was worried we might concede an equaliser (which we almost did, a Reading goal being disallowed jsut before our second). With some other results going our way, we're now only 3 points from Bolton in 3rd.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Saving the Greater Number

Here's my reading list with links (Oxford only)

J. Taurek (1977) ‘Should the Numbers Count?Philosophy and Public Affairs 6:4 293-316

F. M. Kamm (1985) ‘Equal Treatment and Equal ChancesPhilosophy & Public Affairs 14:2 177-194


D. Parfit (1978) ‘Innumerate EthicsPhilosophy and Public Affairs 7:4 285-301

C. Fried and D. Parfit (1979) ‘CorrespondencePhilosophy and Public Affairs 8:4 393-397

G. Kavka (1979) ‘The Numbers Should CountPhilosophical Studies 36

J. Broome (1984) ‘Selecting People RandomlyEthics 95:1 38-55

J. Sanders (1988) ‘Why the Numbers Should Sometimes CountPhilosophy and Public Affairs 17:1 3-14

I. Hirose (2004) ‘Aggregation and NumbersUtilitas 16:1 62-79

M. Otsuka (2000) ‘Scanlon and the claims of the many versus the oneAnalysis 60:3 288-293

D. Wasserman and A. Strudler (2003) ‘Can a Nonconsequentialist Count Lives?Philosophy and Public Affairs 31:1 71-94

F. M. Kamm (2005) ‘Aggregation and Two Moral MethodsUtilitas 17:1 1-23

R. Kumar (2001) ‘Contractualism on Saving the ManyAnalysis 61:2 165-170

F. M. Kamm (2002) ‘Owing, Justifying and RejectingMind 111

D. Parfit (2003) ‘Justifiability to each personRatio 16

J. Raz (2003) ‘Numbers, with and without ContractualismRatio 16:4 346-367

J. Timmermann (2004) ‘The Individualist Lottery: How People Count, but not their NumbersAnalysis 64:2 106-112

G. Lang (2005) ‘Fairness in Life and Death CasesErkenntis 62 321-51

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blogger Meet

Just passing on the reminder that OxBloggers are meeting in Far From the Madding Crowd tomorrow night. (The invite is also on FaceBook)

I'm afraid I'm unlikely to show, as it clashes with our Political Theory Reading Group - we're meeting in the Old School on Gloucester Green to discuss Rawls on Civil Disobedience. Sadly, I can't find my notes on such, though I know I read it last term...

Liverpool 3-0 Bordeaux

Shockingly, Benitez named an unchanged side for the first time in 100 games and as against Villa they did the job. Maybe this is our strongest line up?!

It was particularly pleasing to see Gerrard finally score his first of the season, soon after skying another chance. Apparently this puts him just one behind Rush's European Cup record of 14 for the reds, though Garcia's two goals tonight take him to three this season. He got at least 5 in 2004-5 so he must be quite high up there...

The game wasn't all so easy. There were some nervy moments at the start of the second half, but Reina and Finnan made good saves/blocks. When Bordeaux got reduced to ten, the match was pretty much over - though it was pleasing that we created many more chances against the ten, and could have had two or three more in the final ten minutes. Sissoko hit a decent shot from a clever Kuyt pass, Fowler had a few half-chances and the commentator mistook Hyypia for Kuyt as he put a header over the bar.

Qualification done; I know there's still top of the group to play for, but I'd rather we followed Man Utd's example and blooded some younger players at this level of competition. Maybe give these players a rest now...

Coin Tossing

I know this has happened in Liverpool's history (1965 vs Cologne - the win set Liverpool up for a semi-final against Inter Milan), but the BBC currently has an article about when Celtic beat Benfica in the 1969 CL quarter final by tossing a coin.

The sides could not be separated after extra-time and the dreaded toss of a coin was used to determine who would progress to the semi-finals of the European Cup.
Lisbon Lion Billy McNeill said it was a terrible way to decide the game, but he felt Celtic deserved to progress at the expense of their Portuguese opponents.
The Celtic captain said none of the players involved that night wanted the game to be decided in such a manner.
"The toss of a coin was a farcical way of deciding a quarter final - irrespective of who won," said McNeill, who was part of Celtic's delegation.

"I'll be hoping Celtic produce a better performance against Benfica in Lisbon than we did."
Whatever happens in Lisbon, the only certainty is that heads or tails will not decide Celtic's fate.

Let those who disapprove of penalties consider a real lottery...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Liverpool 3-1 Aston Villa

I wasn't particularly optimistic about the arrival of the unbeaten Villa, but in the first half Liverpool made it look easy. I said before I'd like to see Kuyt and Crouch paired, and here they each produced a goal. It does seem to lack the variety Bellamy's pace provides, but then that never stopped Benitez pairing Mori and Crouch rather than Cisse.

We know nothing's ever settled at half-time - even with a 3-0 lead - but it was predictable that we'd take our foot off the gas a bit and Villa would mount something of a fightback. We conceded one, and it could have been two, but the damage - and the job - was done. I wouldn't say we played our best football, but certainly a step above most of this season's performances. More of the same and our season can really kick into gear.


It seems there's another moral/political philosophy vacancy, this time in my 'home university', of Essex (though they do like continental stuff).

Closer to home, defined as Oxford, Keble are advertising a stipendiary lectureship in philosophy for next term. Strangely, given it's only eight hours a week, they seem to expect an awful lot to be covered ("The Lecturer will be required to teach the General Philosophy, Mill and (preferably) Logic components of the Prelims paper, and the Ethics and History of Philosophy papers for Schools.") It looks like another one that would go to someone more senior than me, and I suspect that if they were willing to narrow that range of papers they'd prefer someone to teach the non-ethics parts, since their current tutor Ed Harcourt specialises in those areas.

It's also time to consider JRFs - such as in Oxford or Cambridge - but that's something else I won't consider until next year.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Law and the State

John Gardner's BCL seminar on Law and the State Friday evenings is usually very good. I haven't been yet this year, as the first two sessions always cover Rawls and Hayek and are much the same each time. Having sat through a rather boring seminar this afternoon, however, I'm disappointed I didn't know that the schedule was to cover Mill on justice - if so, I'd definitely have gone. As it is, I plan to attend most of the rest, even though I've been to seminars on Wolff and Nozick in previous years.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Liverpool 4-3 Reading (Carling Cup)

Finally the goals are going in. Nice to see Fowler back, for the first time since Everton, and it was a great finish for his goal.

Slightly worrying might be the way we almost threw away the lead, but with a very inexperienced back four of Peltier, Paletta, Agger and Warnock being denied the midfield protection of Sissoko at the end it was hardly surprising. The kids need to learn to keep their concentration until the end, and maybe this experience will help their development.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Human 2.0

I just watched a pretty interesting episode of Horizon, on the future of humanity and technology. It seems you can currently watch the whole programme here (until 31st Oct).

There was some very interesting stuff about possibilities of what we may be able to do in the future. Back in the 1960s they'd been able to stop a charging bull with a device connected to its brain, and now they have remote control rats - apparently they can turn the rat by stimulating its whiskers and, while it still has a choice, they reward it following their suggestions by hitting the pleasure button.

Animals aside, it's predicted that we'll understand the human brain, and produce as powerful computers, around the year 2029, which creates the possibility of 'uploads', although they didn't go into this so much. They did describe how a computer had been able to read a monkey's brainwaves, and move a robotic arm exactly as the monkey moved its own arm while playing a computer game. Even more amazingly, the monkey realised what was going on and stopped moving its own arm - realising it could play the game just by thinking! Such technology is already being tested on humans, because they had an example of a paralysed boy who by thinking sounds could speak via computer reading his brain.

It's all very exciting - and potentially scary - stuff. That was the one area I felt was a bit of a let down. They had people both for and against these advances, but didn't really present any ethical arguments - it just seemed like irrational optimists versus irrational pessimists. That's the kind of stuff for the likes of Nick Bostrum and the Future of Humanities Institute.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Man Utd 2-0 Liverpool

Thankfully I missed this match due to my flatmate Ed having a birthday lunch, but that hurt - not as bad as Everton, but still bad.

The Everton match was I thought fairly even, at least given the flattering 3-0 scoreline. By all accounts, we deserved to lose today however, with everyone pretty poor - especially Garcia and Pennant. Of those with some (relative) credit to their names, apparently Gonzalez showed a bit more promise and Reina wasn't at fault - which is welcome after some dodgy displays in the season (particularly since we're soon to be without Dudek and third choice youngster Martin is injured)

I was never too confident as soon as I saw the line up. I thought we needed to attack more, preferably with Kuyt and Crouch. At least our next match is a home cup tie to Reading - I can only hope they focus on Premiership survival and bring a weakened team. Mind you, I wouldn't be particularly upset if we gave some reserve players (Paletta, Anderson, Lindfield, Hammill) chances - they could hardly do worse!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

How America Could Rule the World

Scott Adams should go into politics. But what I really want to know is, is it true about American girls and British accents?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Clarendon Law Lecture

I wanted to attend the history of political thought seminar yesterday, but was sadly unable due to illness - consequently I had to cancel the afternoon's tutorials and spend the time in bed. Even if I had been well, I would therefore (with regret) have missed the chance to hear Justice Breyer talk about the US's democratic constitution. Thankfully, Colin Farrelly summarises the first lecture here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Finally, a use for five years of studying equality and justice, particularly under Jerry Cohen...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bordeaux 0-1 Liverpool

By all accounts, this was hardly a vintage display - which at least allowed for plenty of such puns. Nonetheless, at this stage it's results that count, and an away win in Europe is always welcome - particularly with it being our first away win of the season, no one playing that well, and the likes of Gerrard, Agger and Fowler ruled out by injury. Hopefully they'll be back alongside Sissoko and Kuyt for the big Man Utd match Sunday.


I gave my presentation in Jerry Cohen's graduate research workshop this afternoon. It was the first one of term, and drew a packed crowd - about 25-30 I estimate - probably due to all the new people turning up to see him rather than me, but never mind.

A lot of questions went over fairly familiar problems - that I've either thought of myself or been asked before - so I had fairly standard answers, though I don't know if they were convincing. I did get plenty of discussion though - I took almost two sides of notes just on questions and comments (though sadly didn't attribute all).

There were also some questions that gave me real new food for thought, and which are therefore particularly welcome (even if in some ways slightly annoying).

Sadly, I was persuaded to join people in the KA afterwards (a common problem it seems: here, here, here). The result was I missed dinner, the football (I don't know anyone showing Liverpool with Chelsea vs Barcelona on anyway - a sad lack of proportionality) and ended up with late night essay-marking to do...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Workshop Abstract

This Wednesday, I'll be presenting a plan of chapter 6 of my thesis - the one I intended to write over the summer - in Jerry Cohen's graduate workshop in All Souls. Here's the abstract:

The Rationality of Random Decision-Making
My thesis argues for a partly random decision mechanism called lottery-voting, in which elections are determined by a randomly-selected vote. The present chapter examines the rationality of this procedure, focusing on maximising and consistency as desiderata of rationality. I argue we do not need to maximise anything, so long as we do not select clearly worse (i.e. dominated) alternatives. I also argue the need for consistency has been exaggerated by those who claim we need a complete, transitive ordering of options. Instead, I argue we simply need some fair way of resolving disagreement, like tossing a coin. While no decision procedure is inherently rational or irrational, what it is rational to adopt in a given circumstance depends on what we want from the procedure. I argue (in conjunction with previous chapters of my thesis)that it may be rational to adopt lottery-voting to make collective decisions.

Reading Group: Thursday

The first meeting of Michaelmas will be on **Thursday of 2nd week**. (I anticipate Wednesday being a better night for much of term - since the graduate workshop is 4-6 we can get dinner and reconvene c.8:30. This avoids clashes with the Jurisprudence Discussion Group and Ockham Society)

We'll be at **The Angel & Greyhound** [On St Clements, on your left as youcome from town and just before Subway] from 8:30 and discussing **Devlin's The Enforcement of Morals chapter 6 (on Mill)** [Can be found SSL K487.DEV or Merton Street L.b.10 - and college libraries].

Those of us that aren't new please try to be there in good time, to make it easier for those of you that are to find us. If anyone wants to RSVP we can make arrangements to meet up. If anyone finds this here, and wants to join the email list, let me know.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Species Survival

I was send this question my a friend studying Social Policy, who in turn had been asked it by someone at LSE.

I'm trying out an idea, and I wondered if you could possibly answer the following hypothetical question for me.

Imagine that you are a policy maker in charge of environmental protection. You are considering two policies, policy A and policy B, that can be summarised as follows:
Policy A has a 84% chance of saving 1 species of animals and a 16% chance of saving 40 species of animals.
Policy B has a 55% chance of saving 5 species of animals and a 45% chance of saving 10 species of animals.

You are not sure which species policies A and B will save - therefore you can assume that you would value all species that can be saved equally. Policies A and B are assumed to have no negative 'side effects' (i.e. the policies can only 'do good').

You have a budget of $1million to promote these policies to your legislature. Policies have a better chance of being enacted if their 'promotion' budget is large. How much of the $1 million would you allocate towards promoting policy A, and how much would you allocate towards promoting policy B, and why?

There's plenty more I could say - an awful lot of it quibbling with things under-defined by the question (when it says policies have a better chance of being enacted with more money, does that mean allocating $250,000 might in fact go to a policy that isn't even enacted and achieve nothing? What are these chances? Are the probabilities we're given the chances of success given enactment?)

My response was as follows:

As an actuarial matter, there's hardly any difference. The expected outcomesare 7.24 and 7.25 respectively. Not that numbers mean much.

I don't think you can make an informed choice from such abstract data. Much would depend on which species were involved - what the knock on effects would be for others in the ecosystem and such.

It's also possible framing effects may be involved. People respond differently to losses rather than benefits, tending to favour risks (which I presume meanspolicy A)

I'm not sure what the background assumption is. Since policy A can save up to 40 species, presumably at least that many are endangered. Let's say in fact 50 species are going to die out if we do nothing. Now we can rephrase these policies as:
A - 84% chance 49 species extinct, 16% chance only 10 extinct
B - 55% chance 45 species extinct, 45% chance only 40 extinct

I wonder how many people's intuitions would change put that way.

Personally, in light of the actuarial similarity and lack of any other relevant information I'd be pretty indifferent. On a policy level, I'd be happy to adopt whichever was democratically favoured. (I think it's fruitless to search for 'best policies' - better establish a list of acceptable options, and then leave matters to public deliberation/vote)

I'm interested to know what others think - both answers to the question and what it's actually getting at.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Liverpool 1-1 Blackburn

And now our 100% home record has gone too... It wasn't a good international break with, aside from the fact players were away and preparation disrupted, Kuyt returned home with an ankle injury and Agger with a broken hand.

Again, we didn't look wholly convincing at the back, but it was up front where we had one of those frustrating days which - despite spending £17m on new strikers over the summer, not to mention adding Fowler on a free last January - seem to be too frequent. We had nine shots on target (and nine more off) but couldn't put the ball in the net.

Crouch had one cleared off the line, but I wouldn't blame him for beign a bit rusty - after being left on the bench several games, and then played when hardly fit off the back of two internationals. At least Bellamy got his first league goal for us. Unfortunately the only likely goal-threat off the bench was Garcia - though I'd have liked to have seen Gonzalez given ten minutes to run at tiring defenders...


On a day where Liverpool just couldn't convert chances into goals having two strikers (Kuyt and Fowler - three if you add Cisse's broken leg from a World Cup warm-up match) out injured is frustrating. But it's always easy to bemoan your own bad luck, and assume the grass is greener elsewhere. I can't help but think that - after having not one but two goalkeepers stretchered off today, just before facing Barcelona - Chelsea are f***ed.

Obviously I wish the players concerned a full recovery. I'm somewhat less bothered about their club...


Given that it requires MA supervision/examining, this job is a couple of years too early for me, but at least it's good to see more cross-posted jobs in moral philosophy/political theory.

This follows the similar one year post I applied for at Lincoln college this summer. Incidentally, I met the guy who got the job at Monday's moral philosophy seminar.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Blair Left, Cameron Right

Do you know your left from your right any more?

To the strain of 'Won't Get Fooled Again':
There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right...
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution...
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Watch this.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Political Theory

Colin Farrelly has an interesting post on what political theory is and, more importantly, what makes for good political theory. (Incidentally, I haven't yet read his paper, but hope to see him in action here tomorrow)

Since I was rudely awakened by a fire drill about an hour ago, I still think it's a bit too early in the morning to formulate my own thoughts, but what he says seems to make much sense. Now I just need to adapt it to questions of moral theory - including the one Rob asks.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Freshers' Week

Ok, it's been a hectic week, but in summary:

Friday -1st:
Aside from spending all day in a conference on welfare rights, the evening was our bunker party - with a theme that changed from school uniform to charity shop too late for me to do anything else. It was a good night, even if the ride home at 3:30am was dodgy.

Saturday -1st:
My mum came to visit. We didn't really do too much, except have lunch and go to big Tesco.

Sunday 0th:
Officially 'freshers week'. Went to brunch in college, met most of the kids I'm 'parenting' (though I'd already spoken to a few on facebook)

Monday 0th:
Pub crawl - Royal Oak, Eagle & Child, Kings Arms. Sadly got separated from people on the way home, but then bumped into my friend Rob before being caught by other Jesus people - so all worked out well.

Tuesday 0th:
Went to watch greyhound racing down Blackbird Leys. Only placed one bet, but won £3 (on £2 stake) which covered my entrance fee...

Wednesday 0th:
Met two students I think I'm teaching this term - though things at Trinity seem rather uncertain. Dinner followed by wine and cheese in GCR. Then college bar, and I made a brief foray into the Purple Turtle, but came home pretty early.

Thursday 0th:
Had to be in college by 10am for part of a BBC feature on Jesus college. We'd been told this would probably be shown on Friday - it wasn't, but I have no idea if it is to be another time, or not at all.

Supposed to be a joint JCR-GCR pub crawl in the evening. Only five grads turned up, and the groups got rather split up. We ended up in The Bear, then Crown (via Turf, though we didn't drink there) and finally playing table football in the college bar.

Friday 0th:
Invigilated an exam in the morning, then met two more students - that's a personal best-equalling four I'm teaching this term - then came home and did shopping for tomorrow's parenting dinner.

South Today

Anyone in the Oxford area, watch South Today (local news) BBC 1 6:30. There's a chance I might be in a feature about Jesus College.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Random Links

Too busy with freshers' week to write anything involved, so here's some quick and lazy linking:

New Oxford blog from Jesus grad fresher Oscar. (More from Milan here). Don't forget the blogger meet.

National novel writing month here. Not that I intend to participate, but if only knocking off 50,000 thesis words was as easy... Maybe the same 'just write' approach should be applied!

An amusing deconstruction of a piece from the Daily Telegraph about women and nature.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Blogger Meet

It had occurred to me that we are overdue another blogger meet. Indeed, it was due in August!

I assumed nothing would happen until after the start of the new year and integration of freshers was complete. Now indeed, it has been proposed (via Milan) that we meet Wednesday of 4th week (1st Nov). 8pm at Far From the Madding Crowd.

This may also be an opportune time to mention a blog started by my friend Steve from college . He's a pretty interesting and opinionated person in conversation, so hopefully his blog will be likewise. At the moment, I think he's a bit distracted with job applications, so there's some risk it might die an early death - but it seems he's an old hand at a collaborative blog. See his notice here.

So, let word be spread about the meeting - particularly to any freshers.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


See this.

I'll give my thoughts when I've seen more it myself. For now, I don't want to prejudice your opinions.

Bolton 2-0 Liverpool

Another early away game, another defeat.

I only listened to the first half, as my mum came to visit. It sounded like we dominated - without being too threatening admittedly - only to go behind to a controversial free kick. It wasn't just the Liverpool website that said it was wrong, the BBC concurred:

Sam Allardyce's team went ahead with a disputed goal after Jose Reina was wrongfully penalised for handball... Reina was penalised for handling outside of his area, though television replays showed the Spaniard released the ball when he was clearly inside in his box. Reina was made to pay for linesman Andy Halliday's mistake as Speed's low left-footed shot flew into the corner of the net... Speed's strike was Bolton's only direct shot at goal in the first half.

(emphasis added)

At the end of the day though, that's little consolation. I usually take the view these things cancel out over the season, and at the end of the day Bolton took the chance gifted to them while we couldn't take ours.

On paper, the team has been much strengthened this year, but there's something clearly wrong with the away results. Maybe the team still need time to gel, but I thought Crouch should have played with Kuyt against Bolton's notoriously physical approach. Admittedly, Bellamy seemed to cause real problems, but Crouch got a lot of credit for our improved away form last season, so I think he should be brought back in an attempt to recreate such form this year.

Friday (Conference + Party)

I'm glad I got to the conference early enough, before the downpour. It was certainly an interesting event, bringing together political theorists, lawyers, philosophers and the odd social policy person (not that Fran's that odd). Sadly it's an inevitable risk that some papers, no doubt very interesting to some, weren't to me.

Plus sides were that I did get to put Cecile Fabre's ideas to David Miller, since he'd said something about how people can't have rights to kidneys as it would violate the rights of others to bodily integrity. I did meet Colin Farrelly, who seems a nice guy. I also met one new student at the department (Hugh) and caught up with several old friends. I also ate pretty much all I needed free...

It was just as well, as freshers' week kicked off with the traditional bunker party. The theme had (perhaps inadvisedly) changed from back to school to 'charity shop dash' at the last minute, but since I'd been at the conference I hadn't had chance to get anything other than my blazer - which proved a bit of a talking point. (Anyone would think people had never seen a purple one before)

Again, I got to catch up with several old friends - in particular, I'm glad to learn Gemma has got funding and is staying - and meet several new people, whose names I've probably forgotten. My 'son' Sam seems a fairly cool guy - at least, he admits maths is boring and he likes the Killers. I also met a Dutch girl Ketja who's doing the MJur but has a background in philosophy and is looking forward to jurisprudence.

There were plenty of others I met, albeit fairly briefly, including some interlopers from Linacre. The freshers almost all seemed to disappear pretty early though, so by 2am it was mostly us old cool people... And after that it was a decidedly dodgy cycle ride home; but me bringing up the rear with constant shouts of 'keep left Clea' we made it!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Colin Farrelly has an interesting post on what we should do about risk management. (Incidentally, I still hope to meet him, and maybe tomorrow's CSSJ rights conference will be my chance)

I bring it up, because it reminded me of something said by Cecile Fabre. The very last line of the final chapter to her latest book (which was recently plugged over at CT, and which I'm reviewing) says:

"[W]e cannot and will not ever be able to live in a risk-free society, particularly one free of the emotional risk of parenthood. Nor, in fact, should we aspire to do so"

Whose Body is it Anyway? p.218

Farrelly's post nicely bring out the 'damned if you do, damned if you don't dilemma of a government simultaneously charged with running an overbearing nanny state (where flower baskets are reputedly banned because of risk of injury) and with not doing enough to protect their citizens from risks (particularly terrorism and the latest SARS/bird flu/MRSA/whatever epidemic)

He suggests four criteria that should govern responsible risk-management:

1. How probable is the risk of harm? The greater the probability of harm (all else being equal) the greater the case for intervention.
2. How severe and pervasive is the disadvantage in question? The greater the harm (all else being equal) the greater the case for intervention.
3. What is the likelihood that intervention will have the desirable effect (i.e. prevent or reduce the risk of harm)? The greater the likelihood that intervention will make a difference (all else being equal) the greater the case for intervention.
4. What is the cost of intervention? The cheaper the cost of intervention (all else being equal) the greater the case for intervention.

All seem sensible enough, and I wouldn't argue with any, but I would like to add one.

In so far as the focus is on government intervention to manage/reduce risks (and it isn't clear this is the exclusive focus of Farrelly's post), I think another important consideration is the control individuals have over their exposure to risk.

Risks of extreme sports, say, are ones that individuals need not expose themselves to. If they choose to, they bear the costs (a standard luck egalitarian claim - in deference to Anderson, it can be supplemented by a minimal safety net). Interference in one's self-regarding activity smacks of paternalism, which is why J. S. Mill thought no one should be forbidden from doing anything on the grounds it was harmful to them.

There are other risks that individuals can't do much about - including say the risk of nuclear reactor meltdowns or pollution more generally. Many of these risks are externalities or 'public bads'. Here it seems the government can play a co-ordinating role, ensuring we are not exposed to more risks than we would rationally want (though in a democracy this may be some 'average risk' - some may prefer more or less of course)

Then there are the more problematic middle cases - e.g. smoking. In so far as the main risk-bearer is the smoker, they choose whether or not to accept the risk. But what about those around them? Again, smokers impose health risks on others. Perhaps if we simply avoided smokers (as Milan suggests, didn't have sex with them), the problem would be mitigated. But, to what extent should we have to go to avoid these risks? Not entering pubs?

I think it's obvious that the extent to which individuals can, if they wish, freely avoid risks on their own (by taking adequate precautions) should have a significant bearing on government interference. It's a position that suggests danger signs may be more appropriate than fences. (Though I am, of course, talking about in a world of free and equal rational citizens; obviously with children and even animals to consider, there's a case for fences, even though the greater protection from danger means greater reduction in liberty)

Of course, part of my original point is that we can't avoid all risk. Even when the smoking ban comes in, I could get run over on my way to the pub (or, more likely, back from). But, on the other hand, sat at home I could be caught in a fire, a kitchen accident, etc, etc.

Back to Fabre - she makes the (quite obvious, I'd have thought) point that, in order to rescue someone in trouble, you can be required to risk a cost you are not required to pay. For example, I am not required to die to save a drowning swimmer, but I can be required to jump in and help them when there is a small chance I will be killed in the process. She suggests:

"[A] reasonable risk, as incurred in the course of a rescue, is one no greater than the risks most individuals routinely incur, and impose on others, in their everyday life, when driving, cycling, and so on."

Whose Body is it Anyway? p.46

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


[This post represents quick thoughts - which I may or not get round to expanding later]

Sepp Blatter has suggested future World Cup finals shouldn't be decided by penalties. (Reaction here)

Personally, I think his alternative is ridiculous, and that penalties definitely are the best way to settle things.

One thing people who know me will probably know is that I hate penalties being referred to as 'a lottery'. Penalties depend on, if not skill, then at least nerve, at least as much as luck (which plays a role in all football)

If you wanted a real lottery, you could toss a coin. It's decided football matches before...

Liverpool 3-2 Galatasaray

Wow, what a start! I was glad to see Crouch given another start, and paired with Kuyt, and Garcia in the team as he's in great form. In fact, these were both things I pointed to in my last football post and it was the two of them (Crouch and Garcia) that put us two goals up inside 15 minutes.

While, obviously, I'd rather start like that than not scoring two goals, as a Liverpool fan I know not even a 3-0 half-time lead is safe. Naturally Galatasary came back into the game after the early shock - whether they were spurred on or we took our foot off the gas is hard to say.

In fact, it was just after half time that a great goal from Crouch looked to have put us back in charge and wrapped things up. It was then, however, that the commentator's curse struck, as mentions of 'it's all over now' and comparisons to our CL triumph in Istanbul inevitably came up - only for Galatasaray sub Umit Karan to score two quick goals around the hour.

I have to say, 3-0 had made the exciting end-to-end game seem rather more one-sided than it actually was. We'd had other good chances, including Kuyt hitting the post, that could really have settled things, but we'd also had moments of danger at the back, with Reina looking dodgy again, so one could hardly deny the Turks had deserved to pull a few back. It did make things awfully more nerve-wracking though...

(How typical that this great end-to-end, high-scoring match wasn't on TV, while the 0-0 bore draw a fortnight ago was)

Things could have been slightly more comfortable if the ref had sent off our former defender Song for elbowing Crouch in the face, or if he hadn't allowed a handball that thankfully only led to a Galatasaray corner. Perhaps it was Reina's form that contributed most to panicky moments, but then we can't under estimate the opposition - Galatasaray are a good team, who didn't deserve to lose 3-0. If you'd asked me before the game, I'd have certainly settled for 3-2 (or any win) - I just wish I'd been able to watch it!