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!

Oak Trees, Dwarf Planets and such

I remember reading in English class - must have been GCSE I reckon - a short story called 'Winter Oak', by Yuri Nagibin, in which a class of school children are asked to give examples of nouns. The main character of the story volunteers the phrase 'winter oak' and is told this is wrong, because 'oak' is a noun and 'winter oak' is therefore just a kind of oak, as 'blue pen' is a kind of pen.

(Aside, but I don't recall anything being made of oak being just a kind of tree)

I don't really remember the story too exactly, and I couldn't find it online (though it must be a common English text, since there are plenty of sites offering essays tips, e.g. here and here) Anyway, the teacher escorted this pupil home through the woods, behald the beauty of a majestic oak tree in its winter majesty, and realised there seemed to be something profoundly different about the winter oak. The lesson our teacher drew was that a two word phrase could function as a noun.

Since then, I've been kind of interested in how a modifier can change the nature of what it modifies. I believe perhaps the best known example is W. D. Ross' 'prima facie duties', which he says aren't duties. I found it interesting to note, while browsing Wikipedia on the reclassification of Pluto, that a dwarf planet appears not to be a type of planet.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sex Strike

Browsing through our copy of the Sunday Times, I came across this story - that the girlfriends of Columbian gang members have gone on a 'cross-legged strike' until gang violence ends. I was struck how this is exactly the premise of Aristophanes' Lysistrata (see my review here), in which the Greek women go on a similar sex strike to stop their husbands fighting. I wonder if that could have been based on a (partly) true story?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Liverpool 3-0 Spurs

While we've only picked up one point from a possible nine on the road so far this season, our home form - three wins from three - is still impressive. Supposing we won all our home games, that would be 3 x 19 = 57 points over the season, which would be a healthy start with some more taken from away games (most of which will be easier than Chelsea and Everton).

I admit 3-0 flattered us a bit. There wasn't much in it for about an hour then, after Jenas' glaring miss, Bellamy hit the post when it seemed easier to score, but Gonzalez was able to finish the rebound from a ight angle (not too dissimilar to his first goal).

That seemed to open things up for us, and Kuyt when on to add a second before Riise scored one of his specials in the dying minutes. (Why are all his goals like that? And why do defenders still back off him?)

The match wasn't really as filled with controversial incidents as the Newcastle one, so there's not too much to say. Garcia - who came on as a sub - still looks in good form, so I hope he gets more games over the next few weeks. I also hope Crouch gets a few chances, but then Kuyt's playing well too. There are some matches (like Bolton) where I'd consider playing both of them - with Pennant and Gonzalez to supply width, crosses and speed.

Friday, September 22, 2006


I said previously that I was looking forward to meeting Colin Farrelly, who's on a year's sabbatical in Oxford. It seems he's here now, and more interestingly (in the immediate short term at least), his latest post also has some reflections on the publishing pressures facing young/aspiring academics.

Personally, I think I'll be aiming to get out on the market just after the 2008 RAE. As such, it seems perhaps it isn't worth losing too many good ideas/articles before that date, but on the other hand the best way to show I have potential to get things published is to have done it.

Ho hum.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Benefits of Blogging

Up until recently, I'd assumed blogging was little more than a way for me to rant my thoughts into cyber-space, and maybe post pieces of work with the chance of the odd comment offering feedback. That's not to say it's unrewarding, of course, I've always liked voicing my opinions, even if no one's listening, but in fact blogging has allowed me to meet - virtually or in real life (via blogger meets) - some interesting people.

Although a number of academics blog, and sometimes about academic matters, I never thought it would prove to help my career however. Yet, in response to a comment I left on an old post on CT, I was recently asked to write my first book review: on Cecile Fabre's Whose Body is it Anyway? for the Journal of Value Inquiry.

Obviously, I won't be able to post it here, but I'll let you know when it reaches print.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle

After two straight defeats against arch-rivals, the League table is already looking pretty bad, but the one note of optimism is that both came away - Liverpool's form at Anfield is still very good. Nonetheless, I did have some worries about facing Newcastle while in a slump of form, and though initially hearted to hear Given was out I feared Harper might put in an inspired performance to show he deserved the place (I remember Macho having what must have been the two best games of his life against us for Sunderland).

Unfortunately, the game wasn't televised, but judging by the radio commentary it sounds like we had a lot of possession and a lot of chances. I'm glad Garcia got a look in again - he's an intelligent player we need for his goal-scoring touch. It sounds like there were some true flashes of genius from the little Spaniard, which including hitting the post and putting the ball in the net only to be booked for handball.

Of course, the Spaniard everyone will be talking about is Xabi Alonso. Some have been calling for him to be dropped after an indifferent start to the season (by his standards). Personally, I think the idea he needs a rest is ridiculous - he needs games to get his form back and, as they say, class is permanent. I haven't seen the goal yet - though presumably it will be either on the news or youtube soon - but apparently it was from about 70 yards (well in our half), and bettered the one versus Luton last year, because he had the 'keeper to beat (even if Harper did slip).

In fact, the Luton goal was, I believe, Alonso's last - he's not someone we expect to be a terrific goal-scorer, except in the sense of scorer-of-terrific-goals - so I'd rather just seem him regain his all round form and passing. I was pleased that Kuyt finally notched his first though, after my concerns at the weekend. Hopefully, as happened last year, once our strikers start scoring they won't stop... (And if they don't start soon, it really is about time Crouch got more of a chance)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Honderich on Terrorism

Tipped off by Chris Bertram over on CT, I watched Ted Honderich's take on terrorism tonight on Channel 5. I haven't yet read Chris' after the broadcast piece, so this is very much my thoughts.

Basically, Honderich argued that the Jews had a right to the original borders of Israel (Zionism), but what he called neo-Zionism - trying ot take the remaining fifth of Palestine - is unjustified. Moreover, the Palestinians had a right to resist this occupation including, in a situation of asymmetric warfare, a right to terrorism. He went on to condemn Bush and Blair for fuelling terrorism, saying those who create its conditions hold a share of responsibility almost as great as the terrorists.

Sorry if that's a bit garbled, but so was the programme. I've often thought it's a shame that there aren't 'popular philosophy' programmes to rival, say, Schama's history or Winston's science programmes. I don't think Honderich did much to further the cause: There was no clear flow or line of argument, it largely consisted of interviews with a few peers and academics, documentary-style footage from Israel/Palestine and Honderich bland and repetitive 'I'm a philosophy' remarks.

The foundation for Honderich's judgements was what he called the 'principle of humanity' - though it wasn't Kantian, it seemed more like Finnis, in that it began by identifying six basic human goods (life, physical well-being, respect, community, etc) and argued that we had to take rational means to these. What this meant in practice was unclear, although he did condemn the 9/11 attacks as an irrational (by which he seemed to mean counter-productive) means to further a partly justified cause.

I was deeply dissatisfied by the lack of clear argument, but I did feel some of his conclusions were sound: if the Palestinians have some kind of right to their homeland, but have been deprived any means bar terrorism, it'd be almost hypocritical to censure them for using it - particularly when Bush and Blair have launched arguable illegal and immoral wars, killing far more civilians themselves.

Apparently there's a rival view being shown next week (7:15-8 Tuesday, on 5)

Monday, September 18, 2006

History of Political Thought Research Seminar

The full schedule for this term's seminar isn't on the lecture list, but I've just been emailed it:

5pm, Thursdays, Swire Seminar Room, University College

Convenors: Dr Ben Jackson and Dr Marc Stears

Week 1 12 Oct Dr Karma Nabulsi (Oxford)
Conspirators for Liberty: The Underground Struggle for Democracy in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Week 2 19 Oct Professor Robin Osborne (Cambridge)
Democracy and Religion in Classical Athens

Week 3 26 Oct Dr Annabel Brett (Cambridge)
Rights and Freedom of Movement in Sixteenth-Century Spain: The Debate Over Poor Law Reform

Week 4 2 Nov Dr James Thompson (Bristol)
Recasting Modern Liberty? Writing the History of British Liberalism After Mill

Week 5 9 Nov Dr Richard Whatmore (Sussex)
Republican Reform in the Late Eighteenth Century

Week 6 16 Nov Dr Duncan Kelly (Sheffield)
The Propriety of Liberty

Week 7 23 Nov Professor David Wootton (York)
Representation Before Democracy

Week 8 30 Nov Professor Jon Mee (Oxford)
The Trial of Thomas Paine 1792: 'Electrick Communication Everywhere'

I think I'm going to try to attend even weeks, plus week 7.


One of the books I finally got round to reading over the summer was Orwell's 1984. With Newspeak in mind, here's a chilling example of political misdirection. (via CT)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday Night

Already not too happy from watching Chelsea's win, I was further disappointed to hear I hadn't been invited to interview for the St Peter's Lectureship. Given I had made the shortlist for two better posts (more hours, more money) I was a bit surprised - I'd have thought I'd be about as qualified as anyone they'd get for such a post. (Granted, less teaching experience than some, but they weren't likely to get people with PhDs and at least I know the Oxford system well).

I was in college to greet new freshers. Since some courses start well before freshers' week, our GCR pres decided it'd be a good idea if two committee members spent a couple of hours in the GCR on Sunday nights with an informal tea and biscuits drop-in meet thingy. For the third Sunday running, no one showed up*, so Steve, Vicki and I ate the biscuits... I think there are a few people around now, but I'm not sure these nights were well (at all?) advertised: Neil the porter said he'd have told new arrivals about it if he'd known.

*That's not quite true. One girl came in, but only to fetch something from the kitchen. She did introduce herself, but that was it.

I did get to see a couple of old people, and flick through the newspaper, but that was about it. Afterwards, however, I went to Alex C's birthday in Quod, where Rob and I spent a while trying to explain how Oxford's undergrad system works to Tiziana.

Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool

Often, the neutral would say that games between Liverpool and Chelsea don't live up to the pre-match hype. Well, I'll grant that there are rarely many goals in it, but for a non-neutral they're always tense, close games. I'd only meant to listen on the radio this week, but after being directed to an internet link screening the match, I ended up watching it all...

Liverpool were undone by a great goal from Drogba. I remember how frightening he was playing for Marseille - he destroyed us in Europe - and this was a glimpse back to form. Normally for Chelsea he's just been a big, clumsy target man, who goes down remarkably easily - rather like a £24m Emily Heskey in fact. Today, however, his turn and volley goal was the difference between the two sides and, while we also saw his falling over, there were some other nice touches.

The sending off of Ballack gave Liverpool a chance to get back into the game, and though ten men are often able to shut up shop and protect a lead, it became a surprisingly open game. On the red card, I have to admit Ballack may have been unlucky. His foot certainly landed on Momo's leg while he was on the ground - thankfully no damage done - but it wasn't obviously a malicious stamp. Further, Momo may have been lucky to have still been on the pitch - Chelsea fans were calling for him to go after he rashly caught Lampard with a late tackle right after being booked. (In his defence, he didn't have too bad a day, and the booking was maybe harsh - it was simply foolhardy not to be more careful so soon after the yellow).

I'd have liked to have seen Garcia and/or Gonzalez involved but, for the most part, I think Rafa's tactics were good. While I heard wildly varying estimates of possession, I don't think either team really dominated the other. Nonetheless, we got plenty of joy out of Pennant on the right - who was clearly knackered by the end - and created more chances than we might have expected. The best two were Kuyt's shot that hit the bar, and Gerrard's straight at Cech. At the other end, it took a special shot to beat Liverpool's defence which, other than a goal-line clearance by Agger after the whistle had already gone, was rarely troubled.

Sadly, performances alone don't bring any points and, with Arsenal's win over Man Utd already putting them above us, it looks like we will face serious difficulty even getting into the top four unless we learn to (i) shut up shop at the back and (ii) put the ball in the net - something we spent £16m on new strikers to do this season. Kuyt's all-action performances have certainly made him a popular figure, but I was wondering when we signed him if the money might have been better spent on a proven English goal-scorer like Andy Johnson.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Well, despite today being pretty grey Pavel and I did have another game of tennis today - I lost again, but held it to 6-4, and he never had the lead until 4-all (despite serving first), which I guess backs up my theory that I'm not fit enough...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Open Day

Running around college all day, giving the same repetitive talk to Sixth Former after Sixth Former (or parent) is pretty tiring. Still, it's something I find pretty rewarding, aside from the £25 and free lunch for the day. (Even if a 9am start made it one of what I'm sure won't be many days when I was first to leave the flat).

You forget just how much you didn't understand about Oxford 7 years ago too.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Votes and Gigs

Tonight was an example of what I love about Oxford.

First I went to the launch event for the second in the Hansard Society’s democracy series of pamphlets, in which Chris Ballinger challenges the IPPR’s recent recommendation of compulsory voting (see here). He argued that, while we want to raise turnout, this measure would only tackle the symptoms and not the root problems (lack of engagement in politics).

(UPDATE: See a summary of the IPPR report here)

A lot of his case, however, rested on the claim – made by someone from the IPPR – that it would be absurd to force people to vote if their votes didn’t matter. He therefore argued we needed electoral reform first, and compulsory voting should only be a last resort.

Personally, I’m not in favour of compulsory voting: I think it’s enough people have opportunities, I don’t think they should be forced to either turnout or vote, particularly when, as Chris pointed out, many votes in safe/non-marginal seats effectively don’t matter. However, I put it to him that one reason to favour compulsory voting might be that it could lend impetus to electoral reform. I bet if people had to vote, then many of them would want to make sure those votes counted for something…

After the talks, sandwiches were served and I was able to have a quick word with a Hansard Director Phil Parvin, who I knew as Clare Chambers’ partner, and a guy from the City Council, before leaving. (Noting, on my way out of Brasenose, the large lighting crane in Radcliffe Square – apparently filming Lewis).

As I was cycling home, I passed Rob on the High Street, and dismounted to walk with him up St Clements. I’d been planning on going to Port Mahon, to check out the Sunnyvale Noise Sub-Element gig, though I was unsure about going on my own. Anyway, Rob had to be off, but I did go in the pub, only to bump into the City Council worker – Jonathan – who was there because one of his friends was actually promoting the gig. Oxford is indeed a very small world.

The show itself was almost a testament to that: it brought together several local bands who’d recently been involved in remixing another local band, The Evenings, for a remix album out that night. Obviously, therefore, this was the incestuous hub of the local indie scene. There were probably no more than thirty people in the upstairs room at any point, and I’m sure most of them were band members, other halves, and various other not-having-to-pay types…

First up were Lind Optical, performing a two piece acoustic set because their drummer had injured himself. Maybe it was this forced change, but I was far from impressed. Lame jokes about goldfish in tanks were accompanied by equally uninspiring music, with even the rare event of a Daft Punk cover played on acoustic guitar failing to add excitement.

The second ‘band’, nervous_testpilot, turned out to be a Gabba DJ, in the vein of Nailbomb Cults (who I've previously seen a couple of times around Oxford), rather than a conventional act. Taking the piss out of his laptop set-up, he leaves a pre-recorded message to do the introduction, and then sits down to read a magazine. Though not used to inter-acting with crowds, who are normally too busy dancing, he comes across as a funny and charismatic guy, though the self-deprecating comments about his music were perhaps too frequent.

At first, the music is simply hardcore d&b/techno, lacking the obvious hooks of the aforementioned Nailbomb Cults, but if you listen closely samples such as Fatboy Slim and Snoop Dogg are there, albeit generally under the music rather than over it (if that makes sense). Plus the bangin’ dance tunes are mixed with some relatively gentler, Aphex Twin-style, numbers that he claims to have knocked up in minutes. Personally I find a lot of it (gabba/dance stuff generally) sounds much the same, and is probably more for dancing to than listening, but the Oxford scene seems healthy and certainly this was a good show, even if it didn’t persuade me to spend £5 on the EP.

Supposedly a special treat, another remixer Twizz Twangle - a veteran of the lcoal scene, though known for polarising opinion* - has been persuaded to perform an extra quick set before the headliners. This seems a popular occurrence, but I think there must be some joke I’m missing. One man with an acoustic guitar, whose first song features almost choirboy Christmas carol vocals (albeit slightly deeper), but who then switches to a playing some kind of Celtic folk-jig with a rustic farmers’ voice, only to stop when he forgets the words. The same problems mars an attempt at Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’, before the set is brought to a swift close with a collaboration with the night’s announcer Lee, that ends in some kind of ad-lib. It’s the best performance, but that isn’t saying much in my opinion, even if I have missed some kind of joke. (Apparently, everyone should see Twizz Twangle once. Maybe I’ll try to avoid a second time then…)

*Disclaimer: There was certainly no unusual climbing/bouncing around tonight, nor trumpets. Maybe this was what was missing...

Headlining the rather small event were the Sunnyvale Noise Sub-Element, who I’ve now seen three times over the course of almost five years. Lately, it seems they’ve only been performing as a two-piece – I don’t know if this is a permanent personnel change, or merely a performance thing – but it doesn’t hold them back.

With a box of electronics providing various bleeps, noises and samples, the two guitarists thrash there way through half-a-dozen low-slung walls of noise, moments of atonality and post-rock , including ‘How Spiderman Was Tricked By His Wife’, ‘Techno Self-Harm’ and ‘Journalist vs Jay Kay’.

Though not all the bands were to my taste, I enjoyed another venture into Oxford’s local underground music scene, not to mention the sheer randomness of going straight from a lecture to such a gig, only to bump into someone else I’d just met. I decided to take a chance on buying the Evenings remix album too. Maybe I’ll let you know what I think.

(I don't seem to be able to add pictures at the moment, but ones of the gig can be seen here and here)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

PSV Eindhoven 0-0 Liverpool

It's hard to say whether a draw from this game is enough, but PSV are probably our toughest rivals in the group so for an away leg it's not too bad. Generally if you can win at home and draw away it's good enough.

I didn't actually watch the game because I was going out - and though I recorded it, on hearing it was a boring 0-0 draw decided I probably wouldn't watch it. While it was disappointing not to score, especially given that we twice more hit the post, it's reassuring that - despite further changes in the back four - we finally kept our first clean sheet of the season.

With Chelsea coming up at the weekend too, it's nice that we were able to rest some players, such as Gerrard, Alonso, Crouch and Hyypia. On the back of a heavy derby defeat, that has to go down as satisfactory.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Virtual Stoa

Just to let everyone know that, coinciding with Chris Brooke's move from Magdalen to Balliol, his blog - The Virtual Stoa - has also moved. Former location here, new location here (that's the one you want). There's a snazzy new design too.

My blogroll has been updated accordingly.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

One Year

Well, happy birthday Praesidium.

Yes, it's been a year since my first tentative post stepping cautiously into the world of blogging. In that year, I've amazingly written 300 posts (this being the 301st) - admittedly mostly covering football, political theory, music and my daily life.

I decided to mark this anniversary with a new word cloud:

(See my previous one here)

I've also been playing with some other new features for the site: I just signed up to Google Analytics to keep track of visitors (yes, both of you!) and I'm now audio scrobbling via, so you can now view what I've been listening to lately on the right-hand scrollbar.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Everton 3-0 Liverpool

My favourite post in the build up to the derby:

The fact of the matter is this:-Everton fans are going to say they are going to win,us Liverpool supporters are going to say Liverpool are going to demolish them and the Neutrals (Most of em anyway) say that its going to be a tough game and will probably end in a hard fought draw. On a personal standpoint though I still think its going to be 4-1 to the Reds.

The thread contained a lot of argument about who from the Everton side would get into Liverpool's side. Many reds said no one, while the blues generally picked out Cahill, Arteta and Andy Johnson, plus sometimes Yobo and/or Lescott. For the record, I think such debates are complicated by the fact that Liverpool now have much more of a squad rather than a settled eleven. I'd certainly say any of those players could be in that squad - I'd welcome them ahead of the likes of Zenden and Diao at any rate.

That we clearly have a stronger squad on paper matters little when the match starts, however; and while last season we were able to record two 3-1 victories today was to be disappointing all round. We dominated the early play, but never created clear chances, with the result Everton were able to establish a 2-0 lead against the run of play - indeed I think well into the second half they'd only had those two shots on target.

Though we had many more opportunities, very few were clear openings. Gerrard did hit the post - and I think we probably should have had a penalty as someone (Hibbert? Carsley?) handled the rebound on the ground.

Sadly our squad was lacking pace (no Bellamy or Gonzales), which left us a bit short of options when we were looking to come back. The loss of Riise to what looked like another serious ankle injury just after we'd made our third substitution was a big blow - hopefully he won't be out more than a month, but if it's aggravated the injury he was just coming back from, then I fear worse.

With ten men, and not long to go, we were never likely to claw our way back; but the third goal - in which Reina tried to palm a shot over from a good way out, then had to scamper back to stop it crossing the line, and succeeded only in pushing it onto Johnson's forehead - was both comical and cruel.

As last year, we've got off to a pretty slow start, but this time I think it's been partly due to the disruption of internationals and injuries. I'm hoping we can pull ourselves together, not so much for Chelsea next weekend as the commencement of the Champions League - a group we have to come through.

Friday, September 08, 2006


I found this very interesting piece about preparing for doctoral studies in the Guardian (via). Getting to the end, I found the author is about to start a DPhil in Political Theory at Oxford. Maybe I'll be able to keep a closer eye on his progress!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Are Voters Rational? (4)

Following parts one, two and three, here's the final installment of this essay.

IV. Rationality, Plurality and Permission

Though there have been some, like Plato, who have supposed rationality lays down a fully determinate life plan for everyone, liberals have generally recognised it is best to leave everyone to live their own life by their own lights (limited by something like the harm principle). They recognise the limits of reason, in at least one of the ways identified by Swift (above).

Rationality, understood in a more modest sense, very rarely requires us to do (or not do) any particular thing. Though there may be a rational requirement not to believe both Q and not-Q, it is generally open to us to believe either. If J and K entail L, we are not rationally required to believe L – merely to accept it or abandon either J or K. Rationality frequently permits options. I can have either toast or cereal for breakfast, without threat to my rationality. If I decide to go for a walk, it is no more rational to go left than right. Plenty of matters involve areas of rational indifference, where one has discretion to just choose.

The examples given above concern relatively trivial matters, but there are more significant choices that cannot be resolved rationally. Many values are incommensurable, such that it is neither true that X is better than Y, nor that Y is better than X, nor yet that the two are equally good (consider being an academic or a management consultant). In these cases, it may be that X is better in one respect (say, it is more intrinsically satisfying) but Y better in another (say, more financially lucrative), and there may be no possible trade off between these different values. In such circumstances, we are rationally permitted to choose X or Y, but not rationally required to choose either one.

When we choose between, say, becoming an academic and a management consultant, our choice can be at best partially reasoned. We can have rational justification for either option, but since neither is rationally compelled, we cannot be judged irrational for not taking one (though we may be irrational for not taking either, and instead becoming a road-sweeper or something else clearly dominated by either). Sometimes two choices may have very different outcomes for us – for instance, given a choice between saving my own leg or a stranger’s life, I may be rationally permitted to choose either option.

If rationality allows us a wide range of discretion, then it appears there is nothing I am rationally required to do between, say, 4 and 5pm this afternoon. There may be some options ruled out – e.g. if I was to spend the time counting blades of grass on my lawn – but I could spent the time reading, going for a walk, writing a letter, organising my finances, watching a movie, tackling some households chores, relaxing in the garden or engaged in any one of countless other activities. Choosing any one of these pursuits would not count against my rationality, they would all be permissible uses of my time. If it happened to be an election day, then taking a stroll down to the polling booth and exercising my democratic right to a say in the nation’s government would seem to be another possibility figuring in such a list. It is something I can do if I feel like it, but needn’t if I feel I have something I’d rather do. Whether or not I do it says nothing about my rationality. It is quite possible – judging from overall observation of my behaviour – that I could be found irrational, even insane, but it is also possible that I am a perfectly rational and reasonable person, who happens to have a penchant for voicing my opinion and voting in elections, though I know my vote alone will make no difference to the outcome.

While I do not think RCT adequately explains people’s voting behaviour – since this is also influenced by the non-rational desires, socialisation and morality, as well as rational factors such as costs, benefits and probability (which all seem to have some role in comparative statistics predictions) – this does not mean that people aren’t rational, merely that rationality doesn’t explain or determine everything. The limits of RCT do not tell against the assumption that people are rational and, while this consistency doesn’t validate the assumption, we have no reason to doubt that voters are rational

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Farrelly Visit

I'm pleased to learn that Colin Farrelly will be visiting Oxford for the coming year. To be honest, I don't know his work well, but it looks interesting so I anticipate enjoying the opportunity to see more at close hand.

Monday, September 04, 2006


My old friend/flatmate Mike came to visit Oxford before departing for another two years in Taiwan today. He wanted to try a walk from his Timeout guidebook, that took us north from the train station, round Port Meadow - past the Perch and the Trout - stopping at a more out of the way (but very nice) pub called The Plough for lunch.

Then it was back over into Woodstock Rd, and through St Giles' Fair on our way back into college. Although I did end up covered in mud after we stumbled into a boggy patch in a field (annoyingly just before lunch), it was a good walk - about three hours, not including lunch.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Just to let everyone know, I did indeed get back to Oxford yesterday.

Unfortunately I have no internet connection in my flat just yet, until my new computer is registered on the college network. (Apparently I'll be able to do this online from mid-July!)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Transfer Window

So, despite talks of a late £2m bid for Blackburn's Lucas Neill, there were no last minute arrivals at Anfield - though Kromkamp did return home to PSV.

Personally, I wasn't too enthused about the move for Neill, but he would have been cheap and experienced cover, able to play right back or central defence. As it is, having already sold youngsters Barragan (to Deportivo La Coruna) and Raven (to Carlisle), we don't really have any cover for Finnan any more. Carragher can play there, but we need him in central defence - Hyypia and Agger are both good players, but left-sided really. I suppose we could play Carra, Hyypia and Agger in a back three, as Finnan and Riise/Aurelio (or even Warnock) would make good wing-backs, but it still leaves us short down the right side - I'm not sure Pennant could fill that role, and Gerrard would be wasted. Maybe we'll have to hope for Alves, or some other cover, in January.

The big stories of the day were Cole finally moving to Chelsea. Personally, I think Arsenal should have got much more than £5m on top of Gallas. Cole was reportedly rated at £20-25m, and Gallas isn't worth more than £10m tops in my opinion.

Anyway, while that's hardly a surprise, the arrival of two of the biggest young talents in South American football - courted by the likes of Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea - at West Ham certainly was a shock. I'd like to know how much they cost, and what the behind the scene financial deals are (it now looks like WHU could be bought out).