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?