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.