Monday, December 31, 2007

Apoptygma Berzerk

As I said, the only actual present I got this year was APB's Welcome to Earth album. It was while compiling a Christmas list that I noticed all their old albums - including the otherwise impossible to get hold of Soli Deo Gloria - have been reissued with bonus tracks, and all are now available on Amazon for just £11.99. Too bad this now completes my collection of studio albums (well, I don't actually have the aforementioned SDG, but this compilation covers most of the band's early hits).

It's an interesting time to reflect on their progression, from the earlier more industrial/gothic songs like Deep Red to their current, far more commercial, synthpop incarnation, as revealed in In This Together and Unicorn (sadly, can't find the duet version). The change is even more evident when you look at their videos.

Welcome to Earth must count as 'mid-period' APB. While I'm sure that, like their other albums, it's a grower, it's currently my least favourite by some distance. Highlights, however, include Kathy's Song and the cover of Metallica's Fade to Black (which is a must see, just because it's so different from the original).


I'm 26 today. Sadly, being stuck in Colchester - because I'm unable to move into my college room until Thursday - means I haven't really got any plans for either my birthday or NYE. Thanks to all who sent cards, texts, emails, facebook messages, etc though.

I'm not sure which gets less exciting as you get older, Christmas or birthdays. While I did receive some money, literally the only present (to be opened straight from the Amazon packaging) was the reissue of Apoptygma Berzerk's Welcome to Earth.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Man City 0-0 Liverpool

With Manchester United's shock defeat this was a great opportunity to close the gap on the top while widening our lead over surely one of the favourites to break into the top four this season. It wasn't to be easy, however - only in their previous game had City lost their 100% home record in the league.

While a point was somewhat frustrating, given the way that we battered City's defence for most of the game, the failure to make a breakthrough illustrates our difficulties in finishing teams off and the question mark over who - other than Gerrard and Torres - looks a reliable goalscorer. Personally I'd be happy to see Kuyt and/or Voronin be replaced with someone who looks a more clinical finisher. The Van Nistelrooy-style goal-getter isn't really Benitez's style, but I think we want someone who's main job is putting the ball in the net.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The 19th Century Canon

My friend Rob is currently getting to grips with Plato.

I'm currently working on filling some more recent gaps in my knowledge. I hope I know Mill's Utiltiarianism and On Liberty pretty well, but I decided it was about time I read something else - so I've just finished Considerations on Representative Government. Just the Subjection of Women left now to finish my four essay set (which, btw, was only £2.99 when I bought it in 2000, and now apparently £6.99 cover price!).

I've followed that up by re-reading Marx's Communist Manifesto today. If I get time next term, I'd like to finally attend Jerry's Hegel and Marx class and learn a bit about this chap. I hear he may be important...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Extra Celebs

I've been pretty disappointed with this Christmas' TV to be honest, which at least reassures me that I'm not missing much in Oxford. I did quite enjoy tonights Extras Christmas special. It wasn't as good as the Office finale, but it was a nice exploration of celebrity with a bit of character depth. (I don't want to give away any details, like the ending, so can't say much more). Anyway, vaguely on topic this rant from Damon Albarn.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Derby 1-2 Liverpool

Well, they say that good teams are those that can play badly and snatch wins - it's certainly an art Man Utd have perfected and it never did them much harm.

Of course, needing a 90th minute winner to see off Derby is hardly encouraging, but this was never quite going to be a walkover - Derby would obviously be highly motivated to put up a better performance after losing 6-0 at Anfield earlier in the season, and buoyed by their performance against Newcastle (a game they probably should've won).

Even so, after Torres opened the scoring on twelve minutes, it looked like it would be a relatively routine win. Sadly, it wasn't to be and, although we battered them for most of the first half, our finishing just wasn't there. Things took a turn for the worse in the second half - first Hyypia forced off injured (leaving us playing John Arne Riise as a make-shift centre back) and then an equaliser conceded from a rather dubious free-kick.

Thankfully, blushes were spared by a late Gerrard surge. Having just come close by hitting the bar, he was on hand to knock in a rebound after Torres' first effort had been saved. No doubt pundits would be inclined to say 'Gerrard, who else?' but I think it's fair to say you can't call us a one man team with Torres up front. (Beyond that, I admit no one else in our squad is at their level - but where would United be without Ronaldo?)

Anyway, we made harder work of it than I'd have liked, but it's three points and that's all that matters come May. We'll need to be sharper for Man City next though.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Late Delivery

Apparently complaints about online shopping deliveries have risen in the run-up to Christmas.

The last of my Christmas presents (i.e. those I'd purchased for others) arrived this morning - just. My brother and I placed placed a joint Amazon order (my present for dad and his for mum) on the 19th. Both items were in stock and we were given an estimated despatch date of 20th, with super saver (free) delivery to reach us by the 24th.

On the 20th, I noticed that one of the items had come down a couple of quid in price, so cancelled the original order and ordered the same items again, this time with 1st class postage (which was still cheaper). Again Amazon estimated that they'd despatch on the 20th, but with the order now due to arrive on 21st or 22nd - and they continued to say this up until they did despatch in the early hours of the 22nd... Thankfully in the meantime they'd emailed to say they'd give top priority to all orders due by Christmas and, if need be, upgrade the postage for free. I think that's what they did, as the order arrived seemingly by Royal Mail special delivery.

While this isn't perhaps quite as smooth as the system is supposed to run, so close to Christmas I would regard it as perfectly satisfactory service. What I do find somewhat disturbing, however, is that I placed a Vine request (for the new Powderfinger album) on the 21st and received that on the 22nd...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blair's Conversion

So, Tony Blair has finally come out. No, sorry, not that news. I mean come out as a Roman Catholic.

Personally, I don't really see why this has dominated so much of the news over the weekend. Aside from not seemingly particularly significant it was also, as at least one reporter I saw admitted, not unexpected. Technically, it's being said he converted, but I think he was already effectively a closet Catholic, even if it's only now been made official (a view backed up in comments on that BBC story).

Blair's wife is Catholic and he's regularly attended mass. In fact, what I find slightly more disturbing is hearing it reported today that he'd never hidden his faith, despite this story just last month, which reports "Tony Blair avoided talking about his religious views while in office for fear of being labelled "a nutter""

Anyway, while I wouldn't be particularly happy to be governed by a Catholic PM, and even less so to be governed by a Catholic PM who lies about his faith in public, I'm baffled why it leads so many political commentators (again, see above news link) to question his voting record. Sure, the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is wrong, but does that mean it is wrong for the PM to uphold the legal right?

Something like what Rawls calls the 'liberal principle of legitimacy' - i.e. the idea that state coercion must be justifiable to all who live under it - is taken as axiomatic by many political philosophers. The state's purpose is not to enforce some controversial 'comprehensive' conception of the good (religious or otherwise), but uphold only principles of justice in our dealings with each other.

A reasonable Catholic, therefore, should not use political power to foist Catholic moral ideas on others, regardless of whether or not they accept them. If Blair thinks abortion is immoral, he is free to do all he can in his private life to prevent it (not having one himself, counselling his children, etc). You would not, however, expect him to legally ban others from having abortions, any more than banning contraception or other religions. That's simply a consequence of living in a liberal democracy.

(Of course, I'm leaving aside many potential problems, such as drawing the line between a reasonable view of justice and comprehensive good. If Catholics are right that the foetus is a person, then abortion is murder, and the pro-choice brigade seem little better than members of the KKK who'd kill blacks because they deny that they have a right to life. My point is simply that Blair isn't obviously a hypocrite for not imposing his own moral standards on the rest of us, because that isn't what politics is about).

p.s. See Chris Brooke's discussion of Blair on Catholicism and community.

Academia versus Offices

This CT post embeds an Office-style video about life in the Harvard Department of Government. It's no surprise to me that similar humour works. If anyone asked, for example, I'd describe PhD comics as 'Dilbert for grad students'.

Speaking of which, via Scott Adams himself, this story of a worker fired for posting a comic at work implying his bosses were drunken lemurs. Careful what you say about your supervisor now...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Liverpool 4-1 Portsmouth

After three defeats from our last four (two in the Premiership) it was important to get back to winning ways. Portsmouth can be a pretty tough team, both at home and away (like us they have a better away record this season), but today they didn't put up too much opposition. Benitez seems to have more or less settled on a strongest line up (given current injuries) of Reina; Arbeloa, Carra, Hyypia, Riise; Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Kewell; Torres, Kuyt - and it's arguably paying dividends, though the return of Alonso (and, hopefully, soon Finnan, Agger and Pennant) may disrupt things.

Benayoun scored the first after about ten minutes and that was soon followed when Torres was dispossessed but the ball bounced off Distin and into the net for an unfortunate own goal. Thje 2-0 half-time lead looked fairly comfortable but, as ever, the next goal was important and it went to Portsmouth, Benjani pulling them back into the match just before the hour. Thankfully it didn't take too long for Torres to restore the two-goal cushion, after a bursting run from super-sub Babel resulted in a shot/cross James couldn't hold. A late fourth from Torres underlined both our superiority and his class.

Derby up next - no time to be complacent but, to be honest, I hope we rest a few key players (possibly benching Gerrard and/or Torres, with Alonso and Babel to take the places).

Friday, December 21, 2007

Interview Advice

Advice on how to cope with the American Historical Association interviews (via CT). The authior says "If you’re not a historian, I don’t know how useful this material will be, though I expect some of what I say is exportable to the AAG, the MLA, or most other three-letter waking nightmares" and I dare say that includes APSA too...

Chichele Professor

There's been some speculation for a while now about who will replace G A Cohen when he retires at the end of this (academic) year (a vacancy previously noted here). Since most of it is complete conjecture or wishful thinking, it's probably not worth reporting, but there are some interesting and possibly more informed suggestions over at Crooked Timber.

For the record, I haven't applied but would be open to offers!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool (League Cup)

So, another defeat to a top four rival, which makes a rather worrying three in four games now.

In fairness though, the League Cup is always the least important trophy each season, and I think this was to some extent revealed by our line up. Chelsea were without Terry and Drogba through injury and, though they rested a few others, fielded the strongest spine they could (cech, Carvalho, Lampard, Shevchenko). We were without Agger due to injury and Gerrard due to illness, but rested Reina, Mascherano, Kewell and Torres. We played three youngsters who are on the fringe of the first team (Babel, Lucas Leiva and Hobbs) and used another (El Zhar) as substitue.

If the result reveals anything, therefore, it's probably that we still don't have as much strength in depth as I'd like, despite vast improvements under Rafa. It's easy for Chelsea as they've been able to buy a huge squad and their reserves would, unsurprisingly, make a decent team in their own right. Arsenal, meanwhile, have discredited the 'men against boys' tag by continually bringing through more and more young prospects.

As for the game itself, we were well in it until Lampard scored with a deflected shot (how else?) and then, in a moment of madness, Crouch got sent off. I can't defend the tackle itself, though it was probably born of frustration. Sadly that three match suspension may prove to hurt us. Even with ten men, however, we didn't fare that badly - Shevchenko's late second didn't kill the tie off until the clock was almost up anyway.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winner Takes All

This post on Stumbling and Mumbling, about the recent X-Factor result, highlights problems with a Winner Takes All system. The problem also applies to politics, as noted in the comments there.

Lottery-voting is, in a sense, winner takes all because whoever has their vote drawn gets 100% their way. This is because although I believe compromise is often possible, I don't think it's normally easy to engineer through mechanical processes. Rather, I take the other route out, introducing some randomness. If everyone knows that they have a chance, then this should be incentive for them - both (in this case) to vote responsibly and engage in persuading others.

Anderson Again

First we hear that the beautiful should pay a tax to compensate the ugly, now we have academics (possibly) suggesting that the tall should pay more tax to compensate the short (via, via). Looks like I'm in for quite a tax bill then... ;-)

In fairness, this working paper is more of a thought experiment and how to interpret the results is unclear (see abstract and penultimate para on page 2). I think the lesson that a Utilitarian-optimal tax scheme need not be just won't come as much of a shock to many.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Liverpool 0-1 Man Utd

While in the past I often remember Liverpool beating other top teams, like United, yet losing to minnows (Barnsley, Bradford, etc) now their failure to beat their potential title rivals is becoming a serious threat to any realistic title bid. This season we've played the rest of the big four at home and emerged with only two points - although at least we led against Arsenal and Chelsea and were unlucky to lose at least the latter.

Although they can never tell the full story, if you look at the stats - a majority of shots, shots on target and possession - then it seems we were unlucky again to lose to United. Of course, in these games timing is crucial and the fact that we'd just returned from a must-win European match, while United had been able to rest their key players may have made a crucial difference. I suppose we can't moan too much, as we made the CL hard for ourselves and, given the choice, I'd have preferred to beat Marseille. Still our luck has to change soon...

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I'm back. I didn't get the job in Sheffield, but otherwise things went more or less as planned and it was good to catch up with a couple of old friends I hadn't seen in over a year.

I got to the hotel about 18:15 Tuesday night. Didn't want to eat out on my own so just got some sandwiches from nearby convenience store (annoyingly wasn't given receipt so couldn't claim them as expenses). We weren't allowed food in rooms, so I ate them outside the hotel, but was back in to watch the football (good job it was ITV 1 and I had a TV in my room).

Wednesday morning bumped into Kerstin, a recent PhD from Cardiff who I'd met at conferences, who was also applying for the job and staying in the same hotel. She got it in the end - I don't know who else applied, but if it wasn't to be me I'm glad it was someone I know.

The interview itself was ok, they seemed a friendly bunch. After that, I wondered back through Sheffield to the station. Unfortunately my housemate Bobby wasn't getting in until later, so I caught the 13:54 to Durham, which got me there just before 16:00 with some time to kill before my friend Genny left work.

Spent the evening with Genny and her husband, talking, (half) watching TV and playing guitar hero. Maybe we're all a bit old and sad now (plus she is pregnant...) but it was ncie to catch up. She had Thursday morning off, so had a bit of a lie in before lazing around the house and then going into Durham again for lunch at Wetherspoons. She had to be back at work by 13:00 so I just caught a 12:48 fast train that was running a couple of minutes late (have ot say I had pretty good luck on the trains all round, for once).

Got into Kings Cross around 15:44 so went over to Holborn and saw my old flatmate Mike - walked around for a while looking for somewhere to eat and wound up in LSE cafeteria, which was perfectly decent and cheaper than anywhere else in London (though I was slightly disturbed by serving lady flirting with me!) We hung around a while, but managed to get a 21:08 train home, which was pretty packed but got me back in one piece.

Too bad about the job I guess, but an enjoyable few days of travelling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Marseille 0-4 Liverpool

Watching this must-win game in my hotel room the night before my interview, it could have been a nervy affair. Thankfully early goals from Gerrard (a rebound after his initial penalty was saved) and a great piece of skill from Torres effectively settled the tie after 11 minutes. Kuyt's, soon after half-time, ended any hopes of a come back and super-sub Babel rounded the night off with a late fourth. Now, why couldn't we have come through this group the easy way?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Travel Plans

Tomorrow, Monday 10th, I'm going home for Christmas. That means my mum coming up in the car to collect me and all my stuff (being back in college means having to completely vacate my room).

Tuesday 11th I'm getting the train up from Colchester (via London and possibly another change) to Sheffield, where I'll be staying overnight in this hotel. Depending what time I get there, I'll probably be looking for a nearby pub to watch Liverpool's must-win game with Marseille.

Wednesday 12th, at 11:30, I have an interview in Sheffield. After that, I may meet up with my current housemate, Bobby, who did a year abroad in Sheffield and happens to be paying a visit at the same time as me. Then I'll get the train up to Durham to see my old school friend Genny and staying the night with her.

Thursday 13th Genny will have the morning off work, but we haven't really got anything planned - maybe sight-seeing? After lunch, I'll be getting the train home - hopefully meeting my old undergrad flatmate Mike in London (maybe for dinner).

Throughout all of this, my internet access is likely to be virtually zero... If you get bored without me, feel free to read my latest thesis draft.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Reading 3-1 Liverpool

I had a horrible feeling our run of form was going to crunch to a halt with key games against Marseille and Man Utd coming up this week. I thought we might have got through this game, but Bentiez' team selection was bizarre to say the least - looking like it might be a 4-3-3 on paper but lacking any width whatsoever while the likes of Kewell and Babel (perfect as wide forward players) were left on the bench.

I don't think the selections alone cost us though. Reading went ahead from what the BBC commentators described as an outrageous penalty decision (in the sense 'yes, it was a foul, but it was outside the box'). Sadly we were denied two probably better shouts for fouls in the box on Torres - the latter of which worringly left him in a heap and saw him soon withdrawn (after he'd been praised for standing up to much Reading kicking in the October cup game).

At the end of the day, we were forced to chase the game and, even so, things could have been very different - aside from the penalty decisions, we hit their woodwork twice (Gerrard and Crouch). I guess you can't win them all, so I only hope we can bounce back for our next two more important games.


Last night's End of Term Dinner was the usual highlight of the GCR's social calendar. Didn't see many people near me taking pictures, so probably won't be able to get any to post.

The removing of hall tables for dancing has now become quite a tradition - this time with salsa dancers. I think I quite like this, because it seems guys have it easy - basically shuffle around and make sure you don't drop your partner, while spinning her round or bending her over. Strictly Come Dancing here I come...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Estlund Reading Group

As previously announced here, Public Reason is hosting a reading group dedicated to David Estlund's new book. I now have a library copy and, after a quick glance, it looks very interesting. That's what I'll be reading over Christmas!

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I've just finished playing a small part in admissions interviews. I won't say much about it because some of the information is sensitive, but thought I'd flag up this CT post - which was supposed to be about Oxbridge not sponsoring school academies, but the discussion got sidetracked by interviews. I was pleased to see my college advisor supporting some of my statements and Chris Bertram coming out in favour of lotteries too (after these).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Reading through XKCD again, I thought I'd link a few of their raptor comics together, for no particular reason:

Check your house
Substitute teacher
Search history

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beauty Egalitarianism

In Argentina, campaigner Gonzalo Otalora is lobbying for the kind of luck egalitarianism that Elizabeth Anderson condemns: "It's not fair, he said. The beautiful people get all the breaks. Beauty is a natural advantage and he wants the good-lookers to be taxed to finance compensation for the ugly people."

Another 'Postcode Lottery' Claim

This time it's the greater availability of muscular dystrophy care for those who happen to live near specialist treatment centres. The constant association of the term 'lottery' with such supposedly unfair geographical discrimination gives actual lotteries a bad name in public discourse.

EDIT (italics above): Thanks for the comment pointing out that I'd actually got the details of the geography the wrong way round. It isn't actually a north south issue, and the particular example cited here is of a treatment centre in Newcastle, as opposed to the absence of such in the south west (I'm sure there must be one near London).

My basic point still stands though: this isn't a lottery - it's not like these treatment centres fall randomly out of the sky; postcodes are distributed geographically and people - if they have the money - can move where they like.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Philosophy Journals

I have an interview next week for a (temporary teaching) job in a Philosophy Department, which is itself very welcome - although Oxford's political theory contingent are funded by the AHRC rather than ESRC, it seems we sometimes have trouble getting taken seriously as philosophers.

Anyway, I'm still getting to grips with journal hierarchies in both political science and philosophy, not to mention trying to deal with the added complexity of a potential career spanning the two. This thread over at the Leiter Report was very helpful - summarising, Mind and Phil Review seem quite bad places to send stuff (in terms of turnaround times and feedback), while Analysis is widely considered a very good model (even if most decisions are made by an editor without referees or reports), and Ratio, Philosophy and Journal of Moral Philosophy are among those getting honorable mentions. (What little comment there is on Ethics and P&PA isn't particularly positive)

After a while of good and bad anecdotes, the thread starts to degenerate into analysis of the problem and potential solutions - e.g. Do we have too many grad students sending mediocre papers to over-worked reviewers? Should we abolish peer review or charge authors a small sum, to either pay referees or at least discourage frivilous submissions? The idea of boycotting bad journals also came up at Pea Soup, though nothing there isn't on Leiter.

It's too long for me to find the comment again, but one suggested that a potential problem was students sending work off for 'free feedback' rather than bothering their over-worked supervisors. I wonder if one solution might be to adopt the multi-author approach of science? If my supervisor (or other senior academics I know) basically got co-authorship out of detailed comments on my paper, I wonder if they'd be more willing to offer such help? (And would it be worth the cost for a student like me?)

Also, on the subject, this wiki offers some statistical evidence of review speeds and acceptance rates in philosophy journals. Many are still unaccounted for and of those that are numbers are surely not representative, but it's easy to see why Analysis is rated so highly.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Liverpool 4-0 Bolton

While Bolton may have been coming off the back of a surprise win over Man Utd, they've been poor this season and, after losing a midfield trio of Nolan, Davies (both suspended) and Guthrie (Liverpool loanee) I hoped they wouldn't put up too much resistance. Even I was surprised at the ease with which they were brushed aside, however - although, despite the odd frustration, I don't think many teams should be expecting to take points away from Anfield this season.

A relatively early Hyypia goal scuppered Bolton's game plan and, after Anelka contrived to miss a gilt-edged opportunity, Torres pretty much wrapped things up before half-time. Gerrard's second successive penalty means he's now scored in eight of his last nine matches I believe, and Ryan Babel put a late gloss on the scoreline tapping in Kuyt's rebound. While Arsenal are getting all the plaudits, we now match their goal difference and have had more shots than any other team in the division. In fact, it was only somewhat wasteful finishing that stopped this being a much bigger thrashing...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Estlund Book

David Estlund's new book, Democratic Authority (contents), is out today. There are several copies in Blackwells (in the political philosophy section) or you can currently pick it up with 34% off at Amazon.

Personally, I was hoping that I might be able to pick up a review copy (any offers?) but I'm very much looking forward to reading it over Christmas - even if it may be too late to engage with the arguments in my thesis.

Readers may also be interested to know that an online reading group has been mooted and is planned for Public Reason.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Liverpool 4-1 Porto

Fingers crossed our Champions League form is showing signs of getting back on track. Like the 8-0 demolition of Besiktas, this was perhaps a bit flattering, but once again I felt that over the two legs we got about what we should've.

We looked in control for the first half-hour and, after Torres scored from a poorly-marked corner, it looked like it could be relatively comfortable. Porto got back into the game after a good header wrong-footed Reina - though perhaps we could've had free-kicks for fouls on Mascherano or Arbeloa in the build-up - and that seemed to knock our confidence. Indeed, Porto came back into the game and, after scoring with their first real chance, missed a great opportunity for another before the break.

Things were more even in the second half, but we still struggled to reassert our authority. The introduction of Kewell, who's looked good on his latest return, and then Crouch helped but it was Torres who put us ahead again, now notching up ten goals in sixteen games apparently. Soon after that Gerrard's penalty made it 3-1 with ten minutes to go and the game was pretty safe - which made the decision to throw Kuyt on alongside Torres and Crouch somewhat baffling. Still, the attacking approach paid dividends as Crouch got a late header to put a real gloss on the scoreline.

Too bad the twelve goals scored in the last two games don't really count for anything - we're level on points with Marseille but ties go to head-to-head (which I've always thought a bit weird in the league format - maybe there's an IIA paper in there somewhere...) so only a win in France will do.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Free Speech

I didn't get a ticket to hear Griffin and Irving at the Union. It may have been interesting or it may have been a pile of ****. I did, however, vote to support their invitation. I take Dworkin's line that we need to engage with and defeat abhorrent views rather than suppress them.

Interview Prep

While preparing for an interview this afternoon, I came across the following useful internet resources:

Questions one should be prepared to answer.

Advice for PhD students applying for academic jobs.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rawls Test

After sounding off (again) about ideal theory, over on a previously mentioned Crooked Timber post, Colin Farrelly now offers a 'are you a fully fledged Rawlsian?' test.

I think there's some ambiguity - even equivocation - about what it means to be a Rawlsian. In one sense, for example, Jerry Cohen is a Rawlsian - he works closely on Rawls and similar substantive concerns, though he disagrees very much with Rawls' conclusions.

Taking each question in turn:

(1) Do you believe that liberty should have absolute priority over everything else?
This seems to equivocate the distinction between priority of liberty (in general) and the priority of enumerated basic liberties. The idea that we may sacrifice liberty for material gain ignores the fact that circumstances of justice are those where we're not so badly off, and so liberty becoems more important than material gain. Finally Colin's example of restricting pornographers and racists to protect women and minorities is something Rawls could accept because he'd interpret it as limiting liberty to protect lbierty.

(2) Do you believe that justice requires institutions to be arranged so that any two persons with the same native talent and the same ambition should have the same prospects of success in the competition for positions of advantage that distribute primary social goods? Furthermore, do you think this aspiration should be given priority over the aspiration to improve the situation of the least advantaged?
I'm not sure how Rawls would respond to this. One point I think he would make is that his priority rules are not in fact absolutely lexical - he's clear that's a simplifying approximation. Further I might say that equal opportunity should be preferred as a matter of justice, though all things considered we might not worry too much about these cases.

(3) Do you believe that justice requires socio-economic inequalities to be arranged so that they are to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged?
Again, Rawls' priority rules are not absolute and, moreover, since the difference principle only comes into play after equal basic liberties and equal opportunity it doesn't require such great sacrifices.

(4) Do you think the least advantaged members of your society are:
..."persons whose family and class origins are more disadvantaged than others, whose natural endowments (as realized) permit them to fare less well, and whose fortune and luck in the course of life turn out to be less happy, all within the normal range and with the relevant measures based on social primary goods"?

Rawls is ignoring the sick or disabled in assuming that all are full participants in a fair scheme of co-operation for mutual benefit. Perhaps this is one area where he can be criticized for unrealistic abstractions from reality, but I'm not convinced he can't say his basic principles still hold where his assumptions are good, and those lacking natural primary goods (such as health) can be tackled by adding in something else, like a Dworkinian hypothetical insurance market.

(5) Do you think invoking the hypothetical original position helps enhance your deliberations concerning which principles should regulate the basic structure of your society?
As stated, noting that it refers to rules of regulation, this is something even Jerry Cohen could accept. Maybe that's deliberate, as he's also the kind of ideal theorist that Farrelly's attacking. I do, however, think that the original position is a useful heuristic device when trying to think of reasonable principles. Perhaps Farrelly's attack on it depends more on the original understanding of rational choice behind the veil of ignorance, that Rawls increasingly seemed to distance himself from in his later work.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Newcastle 0-3 Liverpool

It's always nice to play a team off the park, especially away from home. While Newcastle were poor, the fact is this could easily have been a much heavier defeat for them had Torres brought his shooting boots - or Given been sent off for blocking a shot outside his area just before half-time (possibly with his arm). Still this was the kind of game where a few missed chances didn't matter and hopefully it'll be good preparation for the much more important match against Porto on Wednesday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

CT Links

Two posts over at Crooked Timber that are worth a look:

1) A discussion Jerry Cohen's paper The Truth in Conservatism (my comment).

2) A discussion of Michael Sandel's book The Case Against Perfection, the subject of his recent talk in Oxford (my comment).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Not an MCR Meeting

Last term the GCR president at Jesus proposed changing our name from GCR (Graduate Common Room) to MCR (Middle Common Room), in keeping with most other colleges.

I notice, in an example of Wiki-politics, that (as I type) the Wikipedia entry given above says: "Alternative names are sometimes used for college MCRs. Brasenose College has the "Hulme Common Room" (HCR) and University College has the "Weir Common Room", named in honour of college alumni. At Christ Church and Templeton the representative bodies for postgraduate students are called "Graduate Common Rooms" or "GCRs"." (i.e. Jesus is conspicuously absent from these exceptions)

The motion was voted on in the first meeting of last term and thought to pass at the time. After some later re-reading of the Constitution, which somewhat ambiguously said something like 'two thirds of the votes of those present' were needed for constitutional amendment it was decided that the legitimacy of this change was disputable and so there was a re-vote in the second meeting (interestingly, no minutes on the website...) where the change won a majority but clearly not two-thirds.

This motion was re-introduced tonight, in the second meeting of Michaelmas. In some respects, it makes far more sense to make such a decision now, given that many of the people in the last vote were actually about to leave the college and not be affected by it.

As it happened, tonight's meeting failed to achieve a quorum so no business was possible, but I suspect that we'll see the motion again next term.

1.) Constitutional Amendment: Name Change

This GCR notes:

1. Changes in the GCR constitution over the past year have extended GCR membership to all 4th and 5th year undergraduates (rather than only some), mature students (defined as those over the age of 22 years old) and postdoctoral students. This year, there are 46 undergraduate and 5 postdoctoral members of the GCR.
2. In the case of undergraduates, these members of the GCR are nottechnically “Graduates”.
3. In the case of postdoctoral students, these members of the GCR are technically “Graduates” in that they have taken degrees, but are not properly graduate students in the traditional sense of seeking D.Phils or other post-BA degrees.
4. Of all the “Graduate” common rooms in Oxford, only Jesus, Christ-Church and St Anne’s call their common rooms GCR rather than MCR. Those colleges with other non-conforming names (e.g. Brasenose’s HGR or University’s WCR) are not comparable, as they are named for distinguished alumni, and “Hulme” or “Weir” do not imply a given level of study in the manner of “Graduate”.

This GCR therefore resolves to:
1. Change the name of the GCR (“Graduate Common Room”) to MCR (“Middle Common

I'm not sure what point 4 is doing. Part of the motivation is seemingly standardization with other colleges, in which case it seems quite relevant to point out that many other colleges don't have MCRs. Given the exceptions listed, and the fact that graduate colleges only have JCRs, it seems plausible that around half of Oxford graduates probably aren't members of something called an MCR. If it isn't relevant, why bring it up?

Presumably, what's doing the work is the idea that there's something objectionable about the term GCR and that's why most other colleges don't use it. I have to say I don't really buy that. I don't see a problem in people who aren't graduates still being members of something called a Graduate Common Room. Moreover, I'd object that MCR makes no more sense. 'Middle' suggests an in-between status, but it's not as if the other two are the Upper and Lower Common Rooms and, more importantly, graduates are members of the JCR (but not the SCR) so it seems implausible to claim that the GCR is somehow between the two, when it is in fact a subset of one of them... Since one current issue of concern in Jesus is access of graduates to JCR facilities, it seems unwise to make a move seemingly distancing ourselves from them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Food and Football

The search for free food is a recurring theme of Piled Higher and Deeper comics, as here. Now living on nothing but meagre savings, it's an attraction I've come to appreciate, so the fact that tonight's GPTW was supplied with leftover sandwcihes was particularly welcome - I was able to gorge myself with cheesy goodness (well, badness, but nourishment) without having to eat in the pub later.

Sadly, Rob, Clare, Kieran and I went to the Jesus GCR to watch England lose humiliatingly to Croatia. None of the England players played well, but I thought Bridge was the worst. The first goal was a bad mistake from Carson, but I think it's ridiculous to give him a competitive debut in such a match and fault McClaren for not giving the likes of him, Foster, Green and Kirkland a chance in friendlies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Italian Lottery

I am reliably informed that:

There is an article in the news today in Italy about 22 positions in the regional offices of the region of Molise being assigned by lottery, because there was a longlist of 2000 candidates and there was no way of whittling it down other than pulling names out of an urn (they picked out 44 and then chose properly from that). People were not impressed.

(Thanks Rachele)

Unfortunately I can't find a news story on Google yet (at least, not in English) but maybe worth looking out for.

This does sound very similar to the use of lotteries in Renaissance Italy, sortition being used in Venice and Florence. Maybe it's also how the present job market operates - though it makes 95 applications for one job appear not so bad!

UPDATE: Here it is, in original and as translated by Google.

Molise, the lottery of public places Duemila concorrenti per 22 contratti Two thousand competitors for 22 contracts
Molise, the lottery of public places Two thousand competitors for 22 contracts "

CAMPOBASSO -Il posto pubblico adesso si estrae a sorte. CAMPOBASSO - The public place now extract lots. Da un'urna come per il lotto. From an urn for the lot. Accade nel palazzo della Regione Molise, dove per scegliere 22 lavoratori per un contratto a termine, la commissione giudicante è ricorsa ad una estrazione tra duemila nominativi in gara. It happens in the building of the Molise Region, where to choose 22 workers for a contract term, the Board is hearing recourse to a mining between two thousand names in the race. I sorteggiati per la verità, alla fine, sono stati almeno 44, poi tra questi, si è passati dal giudizio della sorte a quello del merito comparando i vari profili dei "baciati dalla fortuna". The sorteggiati for truth, in the end, were at least 44, then between them, it was passed by the Board's fate to that of about comparing the different profiles "kissed by luck." E così si è arrivati alla scelta finale. And so did we come to the final choice. La Regione Molise, guidata dal governatore forzista Michele Iorio, assicura che il sorteggio si è reso necessario in quanto l'analisi di duemila curricula avrebbe richiesto troppo tempo rispetto alle scadenze del progetto in questione. The Molise Region, headed by Governor forzista Michele Iorio, ensures that the draw was made necessary because the analysis of two thousand curriculum would take too long compared with deadlines of the project in question. Ma l'opposizione di centrosinistra, chiede la revoca dell'aggiudicazione della gara e una nuova selezione su "criteri di trasparenza e merito". But the opposition center-sought revocation of the award of the bid and a new selection on the "criteria of transparency and merit." A denunciare l'accaduto un consigliere regionale ds, Danilo Leva, che ha presentato una interrogazione su quello che ha definito "l'assurdo criterio di selezione" di 22 posti di lavoro all'interno del progetto culturale "Molise Live" con contratti relativi per lo più, a qualifiche amministrative e legali. To denounce the incident a regional adviser ds, Danilo Lever, which has submitted a question on what he called the "absurd criterion for selection of 22 jobs in the cultural project" Molise Live "with contracts for mostly, administrative and legal qualifications. Il sorteggio, è stato effettuato tra duemila nominativi appartenenti ad uno speciale albo di collaboratori (long list), predisposto in precedenza, proprio dall'ente regionale. The draw was made between two thousand names belonging to a special list of collaborators (long list), prepared earlier by their regional. Ma veniamo all'incarico in questione. But come the engagement in question. I prescelti si dovranno occupare, si legge nella disposizione dirigenziale dell'ente "del costante monitoraggio di tutte le fasi del progetto, con lo scopo di enucleare possibili elementi di criticità organizzativa o burocratica, e di verificare la correttezza e la celerità delle richieste di procedure di ordinazione e di pagamento di spesa". The chosen one will occupy, we read in the provision of management "of constant monitoring of all phases of the project, in order to single out possible elements of critical organizational or bureaucratic, and verify the correctness and the speed of requests for procedures ordering and paying spending. " Il contratto di lavoro per i fortunati prescelti del progetto "Molise Live" ha una durata triennale. The employment contract for the project lucky chosen "Molise Live" has a duration of three years. "Sono francamente senza parole - sottolinea il consigliere regionale Danilo Leva - L'accesso alle procedure comparative è un diritto di tutti coloro che hanno legittimamente partecipato alla gara. Trovo stucchevole che la creazione di uno staff di professionisti sia stata affidata alla sorte e non alla valutazione delle professionalità richieste". "I am frankly speechless," emphasized the regional councilor Danilo lever-Access to comparative procedures is a right of everyone who legitimately participated in the race. Sickly find that the creation of a team of professionals has been entrusted to fate and not the evaluation of professionalism required.

Il presidente della commissione (composta per altro da funzionari della Regione), Claudio Iocca (dirigente del settore cultura), che ha estratto a sorte i 44 nominativi, difende le scelte dell'ente. The chairman of the committee (made up of officials from other Region), Claudio Iocca (director of the culture sector), which has a draw the 44 names, defends the decisions of the entity. "Ci siamo limitati a recepire una disposizione dirigenziale che imponeva un percorso, quello del sorteggio, e solo dopo della comparazione, e lo abbiamo eseguito, senza analizzare la questione giuridica, non di nostra competenza. La selezione si è svolta circa un mese fa, in commissione. Abbiamo stampato i nominativi dei duemila iscritti all'albo regionale dei collaboratori esterni, ritagliati e inseriti in un'urna. Al momento dell'estrazione erano presenti solo i tre commissari. Non era previsto che il sorteggio fosse pubblico. La metodologia? Inusuale, ma credo dettata dai tempi stretti del progetto". "We limited to incorporate a provision imposing a management path, the draw, and only after the comparison, and we executed, without analyzing the legal question, not within our competence. Selection took place about a month ago, in committee. we printed the names of the two thousandth registered regional staff, cut and placed in an urn. Al being raised were only three commissioners. was not envisaged that the draw was public. methodology? The unusual, but I think dictated by the tight project.

The Bright Side

In having a brief moan recently about the amount of funding scientists get (which wasn't my real frustration), I wasn't implying I'd prefer their lot all things considered. I dropped sciences after GCSE, despite getting three of my four A*s in maths, physics and biology, because I found them boring. It's true science PhDs are generally poorly paid lab assistants for their supervisors and have little if any control over their research. It's unsurprising they have to be paid a bit more for that - even though they also have better prospects afterwards.

Vaguely on topic, I recently read - in my friend Patrick's Guardian column - that 75% of AHRC funded graduates go on to permanent academic positions. As he points out, it's less encouraging to think about the other one in four, but perhaps they're the ones who don't want academic jobs. Maybe even they're the lucky ones who get JRFs or post-docs - I'd need to know more about how those figures are compiled...

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Life Is A Series of Frustrations...

I knew scientists were better funded than us mere arts students, but it's only this term I've realized just how much. A couple of weeks ago I found that one girl in college gets £14k for her Masters (and complains she can't afford to eat!) and tonight, while at a buffet dinner for final year DPhils with the Principal, I found that most scientists seem to get 3.5 years - if not 4 - of funding. Adding the fact that, because they do undergraduate masters, they remain eligible for the college writing up grant and some of my peers are much better off...

None of that's really what annoyed me though. The first thing was that, after dinner, even though it was 8:30 and raining (slightly) I planned to pop into the old PPE Reading Room to check a reference in a stack request, only to find it was a wasted trip as it now closes at 7pm! That's ridiculous.

At least when I got home, I was able to complete my undergraduate reports (though I still owe some more detailed ones on my visiting students). I was further annoyed to find that, despite me sending him two emails today pointing out it was the deadline for the Churchill/Fitzwilliam/New/Trinity joint application JRFs at Cambridge one of my referees failed to get his reference in. So that's four more I won't get...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Commentator's Curse

Strikes again here:

1846: Christian Panucci is so, so close to winning it for Italy but his header from a free-kick skims wide. Maybe the fates are smiling on Scotland?

1848: GOAL Scotland 1-2 ItalyHeartbreak. Absolute heartbreak. Alan Hutton is shoulder-barged off the ball by Giorgio Chiellini but the free-kick goes to Italy. Christian Panucci heads in the free-kick.

The Ongoing Search...

I've been told several times that the first post-qualification job is the hardest to find. I suppose that applies even more so when, like me, you're actually applying pre-qualification for a job you hope to hold post-qualification.

Perhaps more pressing than the doctorate itself is the need to publish, as impressed on my in my annual Principal's progress report on Thursday, but even this is difficult for those confined by the time-pressures of grad-school, which just about gives you chance to finish a thesis but not much else. (Maybe if I'd done less teaching... but that's also necessary for any non-JRF job). Even if you have something ready, the the peer review process can take months and you're only allowed to send things to one journal at a time. I currently have a paper that's been at Philosophy now for almost three months. Even offered a revise and resubmit (which would be a good result) it won't be much help to the job search.

At the moment, I'm applying for pretty much anything in my field, but here are two that are perhaps a bit beyond me:

Chichele Professorship of Social and Political Theory

Head of the Social Sciences Division

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Student Deaths RIP

I noticed the door to Exeter being closed today, but only just found out why - the recent deaths of two students in their first term is a terrible tragedy, particularly in a community as small as an Oxford college.

It goes without saying that all should be wary of Meningitis symptoms.

Monday, November 12, 2007

SGN discussion reaches Blogosphere

Scott Adams asks how many foreigners are worth one co-national? That in itself may be relevant to those interested in nationalism/cosmopolitanism. What caught my attention was this response:
I wouldn't choose... Tossing a coin would be more appropriate in a situation like this...
And if the number of killings was asymmetrical, like you propose, I'd choose to kill the least number of people (in this case, one from my own country).

Clearly someone already convinced of the fairness of lotteries, but who needs to read Taurek.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Liverpool 2-0 Fulham

At last, another home win. It seems an 8-0 win is enough for Rafa to keep faith with the same team (even though this meant excluding two goal Babel). Unfortunately, this somewhat back-fired, as the players were obviously tired.

As one-sided as it was (YouTube highlights), for 80 minutes this looked like it could turn into another frustrating shut-out. Thankfully this time the introduction of Torres - who I assume was on the bench because of concerns over his fitness rather than for the sake of rotation - was enough to change the game with a well-taken goal. While the assist from Reina will hardly silence those who say we're a long ball team (sometimes), I'd happily see more of them, and Torres still had plenty to do and did it well. That's what we bought him for!

The penalty made the game safe and, I have to say, it was harsh on Fulham for the foul - while cynical - was just outside the area. Thankfully by then the breakthrough had been made and it didn't change the result.

One post-match interview I read with Sanchez suggested limiting the worth of substitutes (Torres + Babel + Lucas = nearly £40m), but I think it's clear that would be relatively pointless and unworkable...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Liverpool 8-0 Besiktas

I'd like to think whatever Arsenal can do we can do one better. For instance, Arsenal beat Derby 5-0 and we did 6-0 (my review). Arsenal thrashed Slavia Prague 7-0 (YouTube) and now we've done 8-0 in the Champions League.

The annoying thing is that, after disappointing defeats to Marseille and Besiktas (how?), we're still struggling to qualify. Rafa was recently pointing out that the chances will soon start going in and he was right. Apparently we had twenty shots *on target* and scored enough to win several games over (if only we'd been able to redistribute these goals, e.g. to the Blackburn match).

It could be said we were lucky. Three came from as rebounds off the 'keeper, the second from Riise's quick throw-in which probably shouldn't have been ours and was taken too far forward (even though that's normal), and Babel's second was simply an attempted clearance that deflected off him. Then again, you create your own luck - we had one shot (Riise?) cleared off the line and Babel hit the bar, and no one's going to begrudge us the win I take it.

Too bad this is still only three points, but it should do the confidence of some players - particularly Benayoun, Crouch and Babel - a world of good. I just hope we can keep this up.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Two Pieces of Welcome News

This morning I heard that I'd made the first cut in the Magdalen Fellowship by Examination competition. That means that, on the basis of my application form and proposal, they asked for my written work. I don't know how many make this stage, but apparently they'll further narrow the field after reading such, before inviting some to interview for the one or two positions. So still a long way to go, but more encouraging than a flat rejection.

The work I sent was my chapters 3 and 4, which I submitted for Confirmation in April, and the other piece of good news is that my supervisor says he's finally received the official report and it looks like they're fine - only a few minor comments to incorporate.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Debating School Lotteries

Thanks to Nick for showing the Brighton case (old posts) is still in the news.

Interesting, tonight at the Union freshers debate the motion was 'This House would ban all private education'. First prop had defended geographical constituencies; my extension as 3rd prop was to say this wasn't enough and propose lotteries. I thought it was my job to support the motion (i.e. banning private education) while showing we had better reasons than the 'government', but did get criticized for 'knifing' 1st prop by the judge. Ho hum.

Anyway, if you want a defence of lotteries with particular reference to education, I'm presenting a paper on such (currently under review at Philosophy) in the 6th week Applied Ethics seminar. (The other paper is apparently 'Libertarianism and Luck', so should be political theory-friendly).

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Blackburn 0-0 Liverpool

Blackburn's a difficult place to go and they're a team that have already drawn with Arsenal and Chelsea this season. Nonetheless, I can't help feeling that - though undefeated - we're drawing too many games now. I wouldn't say our set-up was too defensive, but we didn't seem to press for a goal until the last 15 minutes or so and it's surely no coincidence that we looked more dangerous with Crouch on. I can't understand why Kuyt's being preferred.


Rob's recent post calls for more political protest songs. Reading about Cheney's latest gaffe reminded of one of the shortest and simplest, by Brakes. Youtube performance here. Lyrics here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I Heard it on the 'Vine

Amazon has launched a new consumer review service called Amazon Vine. It's not the kind of thing I'd usually listen to, or consequently my best review, but my first contribution can be found here. Long live free CDs...

It seems plenty of these reviews have attracted unhelpful feedback, I wonder if others are jealous?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Liverpool 2-1 Cardiff

While 2-1 may look like a potential banana skin just avoided, I think (hope) it's a sign of continued recovery. We were able to play a few fringe players, most notably Hobbs, and still win. Perhaps the only downside is needing to play both Carra and Gerrard, largely due to injuries. Thankfully we have, as far as I'm aware, avoided further injuries and can now look forward to the quarter final draw. Things are all Premiership now, but I'm not too bothered who we get. I don't think Chelsea or Arsenal would really be any harder than Everton, Blackburn or Man City if they continue to play their youth/reserve sides.

Oxford Union

It seems the OU is generating a fair amount of controversy - BNP and free speech aside. Maybe I should be attending more of their events...

For what it's worth, I think it's wrong to say the OU has such an impact on how British parliament runs. In fact, they refer to the style of debating as 'British Parliamentary', carrying on as they do because it's how parliament runs and for many the Union is training for a later career in politics.

As for whether this is the best way to decide policy, no, probably not; but the Union isn't actually a policy-making body (at least, not at national level). Debating is an intellectual skill and those who take part in competitions are assigned both a motion and a position (proposition or opposition) over which they have no control. Their task is to construct an argument based on limited research and to engage with and refute their opponents.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal

If you'd asked me before this game, I'd probably have taken a draw. Although there have been some signs of us returning to form, we'd just come back from a defeat in Turkey while Arsenal had had an extra day's rest after an impressive 7-0 win at home. As it was, a draw was almost certainly the right result, but I can't help feeling a little disappointed having led for most of the match.

Sure Arsenal probably dominated possession and played nice football, as they usually do, but if you look at clean cut chances we had just as many and, while they hit the bar, Almunia was the busiest 'keeper. As it was, injuries to Torres, Alonso and Mascherano also played a part in allowing Arsenal back into the game - I hope they're not out long as we've already seen how much we miss the former two.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What Chance?

Malcolm Clark, over at MMVC, asks:
How about enshrining the right for my vote to stand a reasonable chance of affecting the outcome of an election?

I suggest a 1/n chance as being about right to serve political equality.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Besiktas 2-1 Liverpool

I don't know what has happened to Liverpool's Champions League form all of a sudden. Maybe it's a case of Alternate Season Syndrome (the more general phenomenon behind Second Season Syndrome, I guess) but this is a pretty drastic turnaround, as we've seen in several other aspects of our play (including home and away form).

Though members of the (now Facebook-enabled) GPTW were having drinks in the University club after my talk, I wasn't close enough to a Liverpool screen to see anything of the match really, but knew when the first goal went in. It seems Sami's having a tough time lately and couldn't really be held at fault, but we need Agger back as soon as possible. Him and Alonso are two of our most comfortable in possession and passing so losing both together has understandably had an effect, while Hyypia's lack of pace is stretching the whole defence (at least, I hope that has something to do with the apparent loss of form afflicting the others).

In truth, it wasn't a dreadful performance and we probably deserved at least a draw; although I don't know how so many of the team managed to count 28 shots at goal - the BBC makes it a more modest 18 (11 on target). Too bad Gerrard's goal couldn't inspire another memorable three goal comeback (as in a previous visit to Istanbul), but hopefully it may be a sign/help in his regaining form - and that's somethign we badly need...

Oh, and I think Crouch should've started both today and Sunday.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Paul Raven RIP

Paul Raven, bassist from Killing Joke and various other side projects, including work with Ministry and The Damage Manual, has died of a suspected heart attack.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Everton 1-2 Liverpool

Though anyone inclined towards luck egalitarianism may disagree, we tend to think luck evens itself out. Well, I guess Liverpool had their share of good fortune today. The two penalties were fairly clear - particularly the second, as Phil Neville apparently dived to get a hand on the ball on the line. On the other hand, however, Everton were denied what could have been one or two of their own, and another ref could've red-carded Kuyt for a two footed lunge at Neville (he claims he was sliding in to block the ball and deliberately didn't touch Neville). Hopefully this win will help instill a bit of confidence.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oceansize Gig 3

Tonight I went to see Oceansize at the re-opened Zodiac. (People are still debating whether to call in 'Cardiac', 'Zodamy' or something else...). To be honest, I probably didn't enjoy it as much as last time - they played a lot of new material from Frames, which I still haven't heard yet. The new stuff did sound good though, so I'm now even more eagerly awaiting that amazon delivery (apparently posted Sunday!) and also I did run into a former student in the crowd, which was quite nice.

Department Desk

About half an hour ago I received an email from the Department saying they wanted to repossess my desk. I think they like sending these things around last thing on a Friday, so nothing can be done over the weekend. Anyway, it appears I was supposed to reapply by 5th October, a fact they claimed had been advertised by email - so the reason I didn't may be to do with not getting any emails.

I admit I don't actually work at my desk that often, since I don't have a computer there and I'm teaching at least three days a week in college anyway, but I do need the space it offers. My room is about 10 sq. m, mostly taken up by my bed and desk, and has no bookshelves, so I've been relying on keeping work-related stuff in my filing cabinet, even if it isn't so convenient.

In a further example of departmental administration, I today received the names of the two 'children' I'm supposed to mentor. Probably a bit late to help them settle in now or even meet them, having missed the welcome party. They said they'd try to match people up by subjects and both work vaguely on democracy I think but neither are theorists.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Student Representation

I'm not sure that the new 'minister for students' will do much more to represent students. After all, students already have votes, and if more of them used them they should be adequately represented as it is. Another good alternative would be to bring back the days when Oxford University had its own MPs...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Online First

Those with online access to the Journal of Value Inquiry (via Springerlink) can see my Fabre review online.

Ethical Selections

A test of how your moral beliefs fit those of various philosophers (via).

I have to admit some of the choices are rather artificial/limited, and I may come out differently if I re-took this test. Nonetheless, my results are below, and I was very surprised by the top two:

1. Aquinas (100%) Information link
2. Jean-Paul Sartre (93%) Information link
3. John Stuart Mill (88%) Information link
4. Jeremy Bentham (85%) Information link
5. Epicureans (78%) Information link
6. Aristotle (73%) Information link
7. St. Augustine (73%) Information link
8. Nel Noddings (71%) Information link
9. Ockham (65%) Information link
10. Kant (63%) Information link
11. Spinoza (60%) Information link
12. Plato (55%) Information link
13. Nietzsche (50%) Information link
14. Prescriptivism (40%) Information link
15. Ayn Rand (35%) Information link
16. Stoics (32%) Information link
17. David Hume (29%) Information link
18. Cynics (23%) Information link
19. Thomas Hobbes (16%) Information link

Friday, October 12, 2007

Department Emails

Earlier this week, I received an email from the History Faculty asking what lectures/seminars I intended to give next term. I think they must have confused me with this guy (despite different first names, initials, departments and colleges).

On the other hand, I also found I - and a few other people - had mysteriously dropped off the department's email list. (This may be because they optimistically assumed I'd finish in 2+2 years). If you're a grad student at DPIR and haven't received the usual deluge of emails from Jessica Begon (who's temporarily filling Andrew Melling's job) then you may a) not know what's going on in the South East Asia seminar and b like to know about this:

"[T]he Politics Department 'Welcome Party', will take place at 5-7pm on Monday (15th October) in the Common Room of the Manor Road building. Wine (and soft drinks) will be provided, if the opportunity of socialising with your fellow Department members is not inducement enough to attend!"

More seriously, email Jessica to get back on the list, in case anything important happens (and for Graduate Political Theory Workshop abstracts).

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Why did the chicken cross the A80 road?

Maybe there should be a prize for anyone who can come up with an answer better than 'for somewhere to crash'...


A lot of students take a part-time job to make ends meet. In my case, it's teaching, though apparently Avon are trying to attract Oxford students, while 'tabs turn to prostitution.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Liverpool 2-2 Spurs

And suddenly we're conceding goals all over the place... When we lost to Marseille, one of my friends claimed that was like losing to Wigan, based on their respective league positions, and I said that it was really more like losing to Spurs (or Bolton) - who are better than their current position suggests. Even so, at home, we need to be able to win games like this - while our away form is immeasurably better than last year, we've dropped six points at home through inability to win.

For the first 40 minutes, I was actually quite hopeful. After Voronin scored the first, we created several other chances - Gerrard (still not on form) denied only by the wood-work and a late block/tackle. Unfortunately, some uncharacteristic defensive lapses allowed Keane to score either side of half-time, and from then on we struggled. I suppose I should take some comfort from the never-say-die attitude that allowed Torres to score the equalizer well into injury time; I'd certainly have settled for a draw for most of the second half, but we need to improve and soon. Thankfully this international break (unlike the last) may not have come at a bad time - I just hope key players come back fit and it doesn't disrupt our preparation for Everton and Arsenal too badly.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Houses by Lottery

If demand for new flatpack homes is high, they may be allocated by lottery, which seems an obvious way to ensure that "everyone who qualifies will get an equal opportunity to purchase a BoKlok home".

Printing and Post

I've just printed off my application for the Gonville and Caius Research Fellowship. 6 page application form and 6 pages of research summary, both 12(!) copies, and two copies of a 28,000 words writing sample - I must've spent £5 printing it all and now I'm faced with the problem of how to get it there by next Friday, given postal workers are striking. I've just been to the Post Office and am told Special Delivery is not guaranteed while Parcel Force would cost £15+. If I had the time, it'd be cheaper to go to Cambridge myself...

In print

Book note on Andrew Rehfeld The Concept of Constituency: Political Representation, Democratic Legitimacy, and Institutional Design in Political Studies Review vol. 5, issue 3 [Sept 2007] p.408 (c.300 words)

Book note on David van Mill Deliberation, Social Choice and Absolutist Democracy for Political Studies Review vol. 5, issue 3 [Sept 2007] p.411 (c.400 words)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Liverpool 0-1 Marseille

I can't really say too much about this match as I didn't get to see it, but by all accounts we were well out of sorts. After we beat Toulouse comfortably, and even Rangers beat Lyon, Marseille shouldn't have been too much opposition. As it is, a disappointing performance leaves us something of an uphill struggle now to qualify for the CL knock-out stages - so we'd better rediscover our form before the trip to Besiktas.

Nagel Readings

Core Reading:
T. Nagel (2005) 'The Problem of Global Justice' Philosophy and Public Affairs 33:2 113-47 (here)
A. J. Julius (2006) ‘Nagel’s Atlas’ Philosophy & Public Affairs 34:2 176–192 (here)
J. Cohen & C. Sabel (2006) ‘Extra Rempublicam Nulla Justitia?’ Philosophy & Public Affairs 34:2 147–175 (here)

S. Meckled-Garcia. ‘On the Very Idea of Cosmopolitan Justice: Constructivism and International Agency’ Journal of Political Philosophy (forthcoming) 1-27 (here)
M. Pendlebury (2007) ‘Global Justice and the Specter of Leviathan’ The Philosophical Forum 38:1 43–56 (here)
M. Moore (2006) ‘Globalization and Democratization: Institutional Design for Global Institutions’ Journal of Social Philosophy 37:1 21–43 (here)
M. W. Doyle (2006) ‘One World, Many Peoples: International Justice in John Rawls’s The Law of Peoples’ Perspectives on Politics 4:1 109ff. (here)
S. Chambers (2006) ‘The Politics of Equality: Rawls on the Barricades’ Perspectives on Politics 4:1 81ff. (here)
H. V. Milner (2005) ‘Globalization, Development, and International Institutions: Normative and Positive Perspectives’ Perspectives on Politics 3:4 833ff. (here)

Dispute Over Leg Ownership

Normally debates about the trade in and commodification of body parts focus on paying for parts to be detached, e.g. buying someone's kidney for transplant. This case is somewhat unusual as someone's already-severed leg was auctioned off in a barbecue smoker.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Back in Oxford

I made it back around 2pm today, without too much hold up due to traffic. Still getting my room sorted, and I find a mound of paperwork (some of which should have been forwarded to me while I was away, but wasn't).

Of particular interest is the licence to occupy my room which is a) addressed to Benjamin Saunders (my 8th year and the college still don't know my name...) and b) apparently signed by the Accommodation Officer on 29/08/07 - although I was left in limbo until mid-September before being given confirmation of my room.

Anyway, it's good to be back - I've already met a few of the freshers I'll be living with and bumped into a few friends, hope I'll catch up with everyone else over the next few weeks.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wigan 0-1 Liverpool

Not a great score but, after some disappointing draws, I'd have settled for any kind of win. Hopefully finishing a few more chances will allow is to put games to bed.

Benayoun is proving useful, however, scoring another good goal. Add to that another clean sheet (we still haven't conceded other than from the penalty spot!) and you can't complain.

Further good news is that not only were Chelsea held by Fulham but they lost Terry to injury and Drogba to red card (although I beleive it will only be a one game suspension). If their results don't improve soon they could drop out of the top two; though I don't see them finishing lower than 4th or 5th at absolute worst (if Man City can keep their results up).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Seminar Schedules

I'd already remarked on Chris Brooke's seminar on Rawls' lectures. He was kind enough to send me the following provisional schedule:

WEEK ONE: Editor's Foreword; Introductory Remarks; Introduction
WEEK THREE: Hobbes IV; Locke, I, II
WEEK FOUR: Locke III; Hume, I, II
WEEK FIVE: Rousseau I, II, III
WEEK EIGHT: Marx III; Concluding Discussion.

Also today I received the schedule for Marc Stears and Ben Jackson's History of Political Thought seminar:

(11th Oct , 17:00) - Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh (Balliol, Oxford), ‘Myths in Modern French Political Culture’
(18th Oct , 17:00) - Dr Duncan Bell (Cambridge), ‘Republican Imperialism in a Liberal Age: J. A. Froude and the Victorian Empire’
(25th Oct , 17:00) - Dr Christopher Brooke (Balliol, Oxford), ‘Grotius, Stoicism and Oikeiosis’
(1st Nov , 17:00) - Dr Richard Bourke (Queen Mary and Westfield College, London), ‘Enlightenment, Revolution and Democracy’
(8th Nov , 17:00) - Dr Valentina Arena (University College, London), ‘Was Liberty in Rome Democratic?’
(15th Nov , 17:00) - Professor Gregory Claeys (Royal Holloway, London), ‘Passion and Order in 18th- and 19th-century British Utopianism’
(22nd Nov , 17:00) - Dr Ben Jackson (University College, Oxford), ‘At the Origins of Neoliberalism: The Debate About Capitalism and Freedom in the 1930s and 40s’
(29th Nov , 17:00) - Dr Marc Stears (University College, Oxford), ‘Democracy’s Demands: Deliberation, Agonism, and the American Democratic Tradition’

I only went to one last year I believe, but was pleasantly surprised it was over by about 6:15-30. If that's the pattern this year, I'll be more inclined to attend - the trouble with living in college is that I miss dinner if seminars go any later...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Getting Classes to Speak

Since I'm normally only faced with one-two students at once and, even in my limited experience of larger classes, getting Oxford students to speak isn't usually hard, I haven't really faced this problem, but there's an interesting thread on CT about getting students to speak that should interest any teacher.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reading 2-4 Liverpool (Carling Cup)

Masterstroke from Rafa! After resting Torres for our last two Premiership matches - Portsmouth and Birmingham - he was nice and fresh for this (obviously far more important) match, and laid down a claim for his place with a fine hat-trick (all goals here). It'll be harder for Benitez to leave him out now (but not impossible).

Actually, in all seriousness, I don't mind too much about rotation of strikers. We have four, all of whom should be good enough, though Torres is clearly number one - it's a question of who plays with him and Crouch hasn't done his chances any harm.

On the performance as a whole, Reading pegged us back twice, making things a bit uncomfortable, but we were never behind - and, aside from being denied a possible penalty, several of their players were offside for their first goal.

We were never going to field a whole youth/reserve side away to another Premiership team, but we were able to give some fringe players some match experience. Hopefully we'll get an easier tie in the next round and be able to continue this policy. In three season, and six cup runs (twice reaching finals), I think it's still true that Benitez has yet to face opposition from below the first two tiers of English football.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Carling Academy Oxford

Following up from my last post, Oceansize are indeed playing Oxford - Fri 19th October, £8.50+.

Full listing here. While there didn't seem to be much on offer when I left, I see that this week alone I'm missing Madina Lake, Reuben, iLiKETRAiNS (with Her Name Is Calla) and Soho Dolls (only £4 with Transformation, highly recommended).

There's a reasonable selection of gigs but prices are a bit steep for my liking. Other gigs that may be of interest include:
26th Oct: Super Furry Animals
5th No: 65DaysOfStatic
8th Nov: Porcupine Tree + Anathema (sounds good, but £17.50!)
14th No: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (£15)

The listings don't include prices (which you only get if you follow the 'buy' link) and it seems you either have to pay £2.25 p&p or £1.50 to collect on the door if you want to order tickets online (unclear whether this is per ticket or booking). Presumably you can still buy in person from the box office, but at the old Zodiac they'd simply email you something you could use as a ticket - less expensive and no chance of being lost in the post.

New Oceansize Album

For once, Amazon's recommendations prove useful - I just learned that a new Oceansize album is due out next Monday (also the day I return to Oxford). It's available on Amazon for a fairly reasonable £9 - there's also a £12 version but no product details (and presumably an incorrect picture). The lead track (radio edit, I assume) is on YouTube.

Amazon also stock their last album for £7 and a few old singles at reasonable prices. I'm wearing an Oceansize t-shirt from their last tour in this photo; hopefully they'll be coming to the new Carling Academy Oxford soon... (too bad I'll no longer be living so near)

Anyone unfamiliar with one of the best British bands around at the moment really should check out former singles New Pin, Heaven Alive and One Day All This Could Be Yours.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Liverpool 0-0 Birmingham

While draws away to Portsmouth and Porto may be fairly respectable results, today's frustrating blank shows we still haven't got the knack of breaking down a ten man defence or fluking a 1-0 win while playing badly, which we'd need to be serious title contenders. Actually though, in the interests of balance, it should be pointed out that: a) Birmingham have always been a bogey team for us (this apart), with only 2 points to show from our previous four Premiership meetings, and even when we beat them in the 2001 League Cup final (when they were first division) it took penalties, b) we've had a better start than last season, and c) we're above both Man Utd and Chelsea, one of whom will drop points tomorrow.

I'm not going to complain about the team really. Aside from leaving out Torres, it was probably our strongest, given the absence of Agger and Alonso (who might have been able to create something). The team should have been good enough to beat Birmingham and had enough shots/chances - the problem being too few on target. Personally, I'd have brought Torres on at half-time, and would also like to have seen Benayoun get a chance, but otherwise wouldn't have done much differently.

The problem isn't really the team but that, since the international break, they've looked a bit flat. It's hard to say what the problem is - one possibility could be the loss of Pako Ayesteran (something the Liverpool website seems to have been suspiciously quiet on, but see here and here). On the other hand, it's easy to forget it takes new players - such as Torres and Babel - time to settle in and, even if they show glimpses of their quality straight away, consistency and fluency can't be expected for a while. It's still early days and hopefully this team can improve as the season goes on.

This week's Carling Cup game with Reading won't be easy, but I'd like to see a few youngsters given a chance - in particular, Lucas Leiva, Leto and Jack Hobbs (who may be required during Aggers' six week lay-off).