Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Longest Birthday?

I'm 27 today and it seems that I get an extra second to celebrate thanks to the addition of a leap second to the end of the year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Newcastle 1-5 Liverpool

It's not often that a goalkeeper can concede five goals and still be man of the match, but Shay Given really did deserve all the plaudits here as he spared his side (greater) embarrassment. Within the first half hour alone he seemed to pull off four or five great/world class saves to keep the scores level, before Gerrard finally breached the defence. Five minutes later and Hyypia's header made it look like a question simply of how many.

Some lax marking from a corner ourselves allowed Newcastle to pull one back on the stroke of half-time and go in just 2-1 up (it could have been 5-1 then). It didn't take long for Babel to restore our cushion - given two chances to poke home, despite there being four or five men on the line.

Gerrard scored another after a great through ball from Lucas (many called this his best game in a red shirt, though it may have helped that Newcastle had no midfield). Sadly, he was taken off for a rest before Ngog won a penalty, so it was left to Alonso to convert when Stevie could've had a hat trick. Oh well, I don't think anyone from the Liverpool camp will be complaining after a win like today, even if it could have been double figures... I think Newcastle need to pull out all the stops to keep Given.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back in Oxford

Today's journey was relatively uneventful. I knew that engineering works meant I'd be getting a coach from Ingatestone to London - there was some confusion when I was told differently at Colchester station, but that's how it worked out. I left Colchester at 1500 and didn't get into London until almost 1700, because of traffic on the M25 - but from there it was fairly straightforward.

Whereas last week I walked from Paddington to Liverpool St, this time I didn't have 6 hours to kill so got the bus part of the way (to Piccadilly), then stopped to look (very quickly) at the sales before walking the last bit to Paddington - 1950 train got me home by 2100. Didn't see much in the sales - I was hoping Zavvi would be having a real big clearout, but not yet at least... (Nor did I see any of this in Colchester's Woolworths).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Liverpool 3-0 Bolton

Last time we were top of the league so late into the season, our manager ended up in hospital with a major heart scare and our form fell away. This time, we were deprived of Rafa Benitez by kidney stones, which proved more troublesome than expected but he was back in the director's box today.

I'm not sure who I'd rather miss, him or some of our star players, but it's worth noting there was still no return for Torres (as some had predicted) and we're obviously very short of full-backs: with Arbeloa, Aurelio, Degen and Dossena all out, Carragher and Insua filled in (personally, I agree maybe two inexperienced full-backs would've been too risky, but I'm disappointed that Darby didn't get to at least make a substitute appearance on the right).

In any case, the game proved to be a fairly routine three points once Riera turned our dominance into a first goal (scoring from what was, I think, our eighth corner in the first half). Then Keane followed his goal against Arsenal with another brace - taking him to five now in the Premier League. We'd perhaps hoped for more, but it's worth remembering I think Crouch was still to score for us at this point in his debut season: at least Keane now seems to have found some form, which is making the return of Torres less urgent.

With the score at 3-0, both managers seemed content to settle for what they had - Megson's substitutions looked more like resting players for the next fixture than a serious attempt to get back into the game, while unsurprisingly Gerrard and Kuyt were withdrawn for a bit of a rest (though, as I say, I'm disappointed Darby didn't get a run out - we'll probably need him if Arbeloa's injury is serious: maybe against Preston though).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reply from Gowder

A while ago I was the respondent to a podcast on Public Reason, as I advertised here. Paul's post also led to another response from Andrew Sabl. Paul has now posted his replies to both of us.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

HT 09 Lecture Lists

Are available here.

May I draw your attention to (Philosophy, p.3):
Issues in Democratic Theory Dr B. Saunders M. 11 – 1 TBC (Corpus Christi College)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool

Another draw, although this one's not so disappointing - Arsenal have already beaten Manchester United and Chelsea don't forget, even if they have slipped up against 'lesser' opponents. What's more, the draw keeps us eight points ahead of them, even if it does hand Chelsea another opportunity to snatch top spot from us (when they play Everton tomorrow).

It was pleasing to see Keane score a good goal - latching onto Agger's long-ball on the half-volley to equalize van Persie's earlier strike. What was disappointing was that, even after Arsenal lost Fabregas (to injury) and Adebayor (to two yellow cards) we couldn't capitalise with a winner. Then again, we were missing a few players ourselves - Keane filling in for Torres, Lucas for Mascherano and Insua for Aurelio/Dossena.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

30 Songs: First Lines

If all goes well, I should be on a train to London when this post appears. Since blogging may be a bit sparse while I'm home, I thought I'd leave a little something to amuse you - I saw this meme on Facebook and thought I'd share:

Step 1: Put your music player on shuffle.
Step 2: Post the first line from the first 30 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing.
Step 3: Strike through the songs when someone guesses both artist and track correctly.
Step 4: For those who are guessing -- looking the lyrics up on a search engine is CHEATING!
Step 5: If you like the game post your own

1 Crucified millions go to mass every day

2 Weighing on your mind, like a ball and chain

[One skipped because it had no lyrics: Spahn Ranch ‘Commitation’]

3 I warned you, you didn’t believe me

4 You got your tongue pierced once

*5 [Song title] Sooner than much later, we’ll be there

6 Gonna let the lightning / Tuck me into my bed

7 Sister step love I torn equal Filter and refine my black holes

?8 So in love she says

*9 You need coolin’, baby, I’m not foolin’

10 Came in from a rainy Thursday on the avenue

11 One million light years from home

*12 Melinda was mine

13 We are here to make a choice between the quick and the dead

14 [Song title] Just a little more peace

15 Welcome to the edge of the world

16 Well you may think that this is it

17 I know that I want you

?18 Menage a trois

19 Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol

[Another without lyrics: Fluke ‘Amp’]

20 [Song title] you’re here again

21 You thrust the knife into my side with words you say you realize

22 Our domain, this kingdom come

[Instrumental: LCD Soundsystem ‘Yeah (Pretentious Version)’]

?23 A million beaches all laid out

*24 [Song title] You talk about things that nobody cares

25 She said words don’t matter

26 Don’t believe in anything

27 [Song title] Baby is this love for real?

28 Let's see a mortal type

?29 They found your body by a lake

30 The winds of fortune don't blow the same

* = cover

? = to be honest, I’m guessing somewhat at these

A few I had to guess at as I couldn't find the lyrics online. Also I've removed the song title from some that I think would be a giveaway.

Only two artists feature twice and I was somewhat surprised/disappointed that a number of my favourites are missing - though, at least, I don't think there was anything too embarrassing...

Homeward Bound

I'm heading home for Christmas this afternoon - my train's not leaving until 14:01, because that way I could get a ticket from Oxford to London for just £4! Having had some ticket trouble last time I used the trains (going to Manchester in September), I recommend the trainline.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Putting Your Foot In It

A surgeon in America, removing a tumour from a young infant's brain, found it contained the foot of what could have become his twin - sounds like one of those Greek myths with gods giving birth from their heads...

RAE Analysis

Results here.

Leiter thread - lots of comments. And his comments on law.

Thom Brooks on politics and philosophy.

John Gardner on law.

Brian Weatherson on ranking philosophy.

Christmas Dinners

I had my first two Christmas dinners in college back in 8th week (for the students' benefit). Last night was actually my fourth - a six-course, black-tie affair in college with copious amounts of wine.

The night before those of us from 10 Merton Street had a works outing to Loch Fyne - with slightly less wine but in between pints before and after.

I think I need to make new year's resolutions to eat and drink less and exercise more...

Then again, at least nothing like this happened - closest I came was a peck on the cheek after walking a colleague home!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


The THE analysis of the RAE is due out tomorrow.

Whatever replaces it will apparently be based on 'impact factor', i.e. citations. Sadly, Piled Higher & Deeper have already rumbled that, pointing us to one's real impact factor.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Voting Controversy

I won't pretend to understand the scoring system, but it seems that a number of people who voted by telephone in the recent Strictly Come Dancing contest were rather disgruntled to find that their votes were meaningless because the judges' votes had already settled the outcome.

I'm not really clear on how this happened. If the judges' votes had been revealed, then one could say it's at least partly the fault of the people concerned (though the BBC probably should've pointed out that there was no point voting). If the judges votes weren't revealed, then one could simply say people took that risk, knowing that their vote may prove meaningless, and it is no more reasonable to complain about the fact that their vote was meaningless because of the judges' votes than to complain that their vote was meaningless because most of the public disagreed with them...

In any case, it's good to see that people feel strongly about making their voices heard - if only they felt so strongly about electoral rules that effectively exclude most from a say in matters of government...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Liverpool 2-2 Hull

Another frustrating draw at home - and a run of supposedly easy games is only yielding one-third of the points that many predicted. I suppose I should be grateful for what we got; Hull took a shock lead against the run of play with their first attack and then a Carragher own goal left us 2-0 down.

Since we've already come back from such deficits a few times - such as against Man City and Wigan - I hadn't given up hope, and when Gerrard quickly pulled one back I still hoped that we could get at least a draw. As it was, he struck another to bring us level before half-time but that, perhaps surprisingly, was it - a game that looked as if it could have finished 4-3 ended up at 2-all.

I must say, I found it strange that Benitez didn't introduce Keane or even Ngog. Still, if there's any consolation (aside from briefly extending our lead over Chelsea, who play tomorrow) it's that we did play quite well and create plenty of chances, unlike in the frustrating draws against Stoke, Fulham and West Ham. Nor should it be forgotten that Hull have beaten Arsenal and only lost 4-3 at Old Trafford...

UPDATE: Steven Gerrard was voted Liverpool's man of the match by fans on the official website, receiving 80% of the vote.

Taking Up Smoking

It seems the PJMB is no more; they're now to be found at a new site: The Philosophy Smoker.

Now, what was it being said about smoking on the market?

UPDATE: Job-seekers may find some of this advice useful.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Arsenal fans on TMS

This, from the BBC's cricket commentary, almost made me laugh out loud:

1029 - WICKET! Tendulkar c & b Flintoff 37, India 102-5

Wicket falls
Erm, what the ballyhoo is going on? A loosener from Flintoff, presumably brought back to trouble Yuvraj, and Sachin Tendulkar spoons the simplest of return catches at him. The M.A.Chidambaram Stadium is quieter than the Emirates Stadium on a Champions League night all of a sudden.

"Just so you know, it's customary to enjoy poetry in motion in an awe inspired silence. Hence why Ashburton Grove can prove quiet when The Arsenal are playing."
Adam C via the TMS inbox

"As an Indian and Arsenal fan - you really know how to hit a man when he's down!!!"
Sonny Nanua via the TMS inbox

"As an Arsenal fan I resent your accusation that the Emirates Stadium is quiet. We're usually very vocally and aggressively barracking our own players these days."
Harry H, London via the TMS inbox

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Warwick Graduate Conference

Having attended the last three political theory graduate conferences in Warwick, I'd have to say it's a worthwhile day out and recommend it to any graduate students out there (advert here). Sadly, I won't be attending myself this year - not because it falls on Valentine's Day (which is, I guess, unfortunate), but because I'm no longer a graduate student...

Office Space

I just spent probably the best part of 30 minutes looking for something (mostly by shuffling around, rather than filing, lecture notes). Predictably I only found what I had been looking for when I started to look for something else instead - and I gave up on the something else, hoping that it's in my office.

Anyway, my room is tidy compared to these pictures. Predictably, some of them are academics. (These pictures follow this rather pointless column).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


It's rather a long time since I sat my 11+ exam, but the BBC give you the chance to try a 10-minute version here. I only got 14/15, but I gave up and guessed the last with over 2.5 minutes left on the clock...


We're now done with this year's round of PPE admissions interviews (I saw 21 candidates on Monday, attended a meeting that went on for almost 2.5 hours yesterday, then saw another couple of candidates today). I know who has a place and who doesn't, though the candidates themselves will have to wait a while to find out (all are notified at the same time).

I was pleased to see there was some role for lotteries, albeit only in selecting between colleges competing to offer second interviews to marginal candidates.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

PSV 1-3 Liverpool

PSV may not be the team they were back in 2005, but they're no minnows (like Cluj or Aaborg) and it's still pleasing to be able to rotate the side and win away. There was a slight scare when PSV went ahead, but Babel equalized on the stroke of half-time and then a rocket from Riera and nice finish by young Ngog wrapped up the points.

I'd still say Babel was somewhat frustrating - it's nice to see him take on defenders but too often he loses the ball and failed to pass to a better placed Keane. On the other hand, it was a good performance from Keane - not so much in terms of threatening himself, but it was a great pass from inside his own half to set Ngog clear (one of the assists of the season, perhaps) - and minutes later he set up Leiva, only to see the Brazilian fluff his chance.

New Books

Keeping an eye on developments in my field, there are two new books that I ought to get hold of (which I post here mainly as a reminder to myself):

Nancy Rosenblum's On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and Partisanship (this should be interesting; party faction has traditionally been attacked from Rousseau and Burke to the present day, though Goodin has a chapter in his latest book defending parties)

The other is a forthcoming release from Fabienne Peter, though details are sketchy: it has a different title here and here. It looks like it's coming out next week though, and that it will be prohibitively expensive (£70+).

The obvious solution would be to review them, particularly the latter, for a journal - and I'm open to offers/suggestions - but having written a couple of such reviews recently this warning (about being quoted out of context) is particularly apt...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Poor Brains

Tomorrow I'll be sitting through 21 PPE interviews - playing a role in deciding who gets admitted to Oxford and who doesn't. It's a tough process, but one that I think is far better than making the decisions based only on paper applications or by lottery from all applicants (though I think there may be a marginal role for lotteries).

One thing you can be almost certain of is intense media scrutiny. Just as, every year, record A-level results are greeted with accusations of dumbing down, so it seems that whatever happens Oxford (and Cambridge) will be accused of not letting in enough state school applicants.

In fact, I've long held the view that the problem lies earlier in the admissions process - with many state schools obviously failing gifted pupils (either in not allowing them to achieve their academic potential at the school or not encouraging aspirational university applications). Now research from the US suggests that there's a difference in brain activity between children from rich and poor backgrounds as young as age nine. Obviously, damage happens long before these children reach the stage of applying for university, and social imbalance in Oxbridge may be no more than a symptom of a broken system...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Blackburn 1-3 Liverpool

For a long time we struggled to break down Blackburn's defence, and I feared that this could become another frustrating 0-0 draw (but then, Man Utd needed an injury time strike to breach the Sunderland rearguard).

I think that recent stalemates against Fulham and West Ham may have affected our confidence because, still without Torres, we looked short of ideas in the final third - despite the introduction of Babel and Benayoun. Once the goal did come - Alonso slotting in from the edge of the area after a Kuyt knock-down - we looked to have more confidence and began to play better. Benayoun's individual effort looked to make things safe, although Santa Cruz's consolation ensured that the last 5 minutes would be nervy. I was worried when I heard there'd been another goal on Final Score, afraid that we'd thrown two points away, but it turned out Gerrard was able to put a gloss on the scoreline as Rovers pushed for an equalizer.

Overall, it was far from a fluent performance, but another three points (keeping us top of the table) and an end to our scoring duck. Insua got a full 90 minutes, and looks like he can challenge Dossena for the left-back slot, while El Zhar provided another lively cameo (indeed, he played a role in the third: forcing Robinson to slide out of his area but only to clear as far as Riera). Also, despite Torres' absence, we were able to 'rest' £20m worth of striker in Robbie Keane...

Friday, December 05, 2008


Thanks to Rob for pointing me to PhiLOLsophers - in particular, this one suggests I may have made the wrong career choice in choosing moral/political philosophy...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Liverpool 0-0 West Ham

Another frustrating failure to break down the other team's proverbial parked bus but, as much as the BBC called it an unconvincing performance, they also admitted that we controlled the game - with Green not only having to pull off several impressive saves, but also twice being saved by off the line clearances (though I only saw the second half). Ok, it's disappointing but I never would have expected Liverpool moving to the top of the table in December to be greeted with a chorus of boos in Anfield...

Oh, two others point of note: I didn't think much of Keane's response to being substituted. Yes, he's been taken off a lot - only playing three full games apparently - but at least he's starting and until he starts justifying that summer price tag he can't have much complaint. On the other hand, Dossena apparently had his best game since arriving.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Scolari on Arsenal

28/11/08: "Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is refusing to rule Arsenal out of the title race - even if his side beat them at Stamford Bridge on Sunday."

Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal

30/11/08: "We lost because one goal was not a goal, and it was a goal which changed the result. If we won, Arsenal would have been 13 points behind us and their championship would have been finished."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Liverpool 1-0 Marseille

Last season a poor performance saw us lose at home to Marseille (even though we went on to beat them comfortably in the away tie). This was, apparently, another poor performance, but the difference is that the scoreline was reversed: a 1-0 win, thanks to Gerrard's first half header. (Five goals in five Champions League matches for him now).

It's enough to guarantee our progression, though it remains to be seen whether Benitez will go all out against PSV to top the group (which will require us to overhaul Atletico Madrid's goal difference) or whether he'll rotate to keep our stars fresh.

Vegetarianism and the Job Market

I've never been on the US Job Market, but if this comment on Leiter is to be believed maybe I should give it a go. Apparently there's a 'vegetarian mafia' out there excluding carnivores from jobs... (Maybe we should let these chaps know)

Then again, others are more sceptical (here and here).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Morison to Princeton

I learned this morning, from this comment on Leiter, that my former tutor Ben Morison is leaving Oxford for Princeton. I see that Leiter thinks the news is worthy of its own post.

I didn't know Princeton was the place for ancient philosophy, although I know several Oxford ancient philosophers trained there - including my colleague Ursula Coope (albeit only as a visiting student). I'd have thought that Oxford would rank fairly highly, with Terry Irwin, C. C. W. Taylor, Richard Sorabji, David Charles, Chris Shields, etc and its new M.St in Ancient Philosophy.

Public Reason Podcast Symposium

My new job hasn't allowed me much time to follow the Public Reason Podcast Symposium, but I provided a response for the latest contribution: Paul Gowder on democratic leadership.

London Forum (CFP)

Last year, this only seemed to reach as far as philosophers and not political theorists, so I hope that posting it here helps contribute to a wider audience.



27th March 2008


Supported by the Institute of Philosophy and UCL Philosophy Department

Following the success of the previous two years of the London Forum in Moral and Political Philosophy, graduate students working in any field within moral and political philosophy are invited to submit papers for the 2009 meeting. This will be held on 27th March at Stewart House, Bloomsbury, London.

The Forum aims to provide a friendly and supportive atmosphere in which graduate students can present their work and receive constructive feedback from their peers.

Submissions should be in the form of abstracts of 300-400 words, and should be sent to The deadline for submissions is 15th February 2009.

Paper selection will be by the Organisation Committee and Prof. Veronique Munoz-Darde.

This years keynote speaker is Dr. Thomas Pink (Kings College London)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Liverpool 0-0 Fulham

As it was with Stoke, much good work this season is undone by our failure to beat teams that we should be able to beat comfortably. We're starting on a run of supposedly easier games that I hoped would allow us to rack up lots of wins (and three points). Sadly, we failed to capitalize on the failure of Chelsea and Man Utd to win. Perhaps the only good point is that Fulham are, based on this season's table and recent form, a better team than Newcastle so Chelsea dropped points from an easier fixture.

Lecturer at Lampeter

Anyone currently close to finishing a PhD, preferably in Philosophy of Mind or Modern European History, and looking to finish a job asap should check out this post: starting this month!

Fixed Term Lecturer in Philosophy

Salary: £30,594 pro rata

Job Ref: PHIL/04 - Closing Date: 12 noon Friday 28th November 2008.

The Department seeks to appoint to a fixed term lectureship from November 2008 (or as soon as possible thereafter) - September 2009.

The person appointed will contribute to Philosophy teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and will be prepared to be research active in this field. Candidates able to offer expertise in any area of Philosophy will be considered, but we are particularly interested in applicants working in the area of Philosophy of Mind or/and Modern European Philosophy (broadly construed). The position will incorporate some thesis supervision, and usual non-teaching duties.

An application form, job description and person specification may be obtained by contacting the Personnel Office, University of Wales, Lampeter, SA48 7ED, telephone 01570 424700; fax 01570 424988; e-mail or

We are an equal opportunities employer and welcome applications from all sections of the community whilst affirming that appointment will be strictly on merit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

World Philosophy Day

Apparently, it's World Philosophy Day - the BBC has a simple introduction for anyone wondering what it's all about.

I'm giving a talk to the Balliol PPE Society this evening, so I guess I'm doing my bit!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lottery Voting on CT

In a recent post on education, over at Crooked Timber, Harry writes about budget cuts by committee: "each member brought in his or her own list of exactly what to cut, then they traded till the cuts worked out. It struck me at the time that nobody could seriously believe that the upshot was going to be superior in any way to a budget that the Superintendent would have recommended, and that the discussion was simply a waste of time; none of the board members is a fool, and I imagine that none of them thought their list was much better than anyone else’s, and that most of their lists were probably better than any compromise that they would forge; wouldn’t it have been better to pick a list out of the hat than to engage in endless detailed discussion?"

Death on Queen Street

As I was cycling down Queen Street last night (after the 10am-6pm no cycling restriction), I was forced to dismount as an area around BHS was cordoned off by police. Now I know why. Details are vague, but it seems an old woman was knocked over by two others having an argument (right?), and later died in hospital. Sad for all concerned.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bolton 0-2 Liverpool

We've still yet to comfortably thump anyone, in the way that we could have done today had not easy chances been missed (by Keane, Gerrard, Torres and Lucas), but it's pleasing to see that we can make away wins look relatively routine. I missed Match of the Day, so haven't seen the goals, but Kuyt's header was apparently very good, and then Torres - on as a sub - squared for Gerrard to just about wrap up the points. While 2-0 doesn't necessarily kill a game, Bolton rarely threatened - though Gardner spurned a couple of chances himself.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tottenham 4-2 Liverpool (League Cup)

What's disappointing is not so much our second string crashing out of the Cup, especially against the Redknapp-revived defending champions, but that - despite the recent successes of our reserves - we don't have the Arsenal-style team of talented youngsters who can play this competition (even though it was largely youngsters who took us as far as the semi-final in 2005 and Benitez has invested heavily in youth since).

Still, at least it's better to focus on the league - from which point of view, it's a shame that Chelsea also went out.

In other news, I was playing football myself at the University Club: making the regular philosophy game for only the second time this term...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lacuna Coil

Tonight I finally saw Lacuna Coil live in Oxford - having missed the chance to see them a few years back on what I didn't realize was their first UK tour (they played in October and had sold out by the time that I returned to Oxford). It was good to right that 'wrong', and I certainly enjoyed the gig, though I have to say I was somewhat disappointed that the setlist predictably focused on newer material and had only one song I think from In a Reverie (which remains my favourite album by far). That and the fact that they finished well before the 11 o'clock curfew - indeed I was home, via Tesco, by about five past...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Phil Grad Conf

The 12th Annual Oxford Philosophy Graduate Conference takes place the weekend after next (i.e. 22nd-23rd November). A full schedule can be found here.

Democracy Means All Things

One problem with working on democracy is that the term has become so widely used that it's descriptive meaning has been almost completely erased. In popular discourse, it is now used as little more than a term of commendation, so it is no wonder that almost all regimes claim to be democratic (properly understood).

Obviously, this is not a new trend. Last Monday I saw Bonnie Honig give a paper on mourning and membership in Sophocles' Antigone - which is certainly not my normal kind of political theory - but it raised interesting questions about the nature of Athenian democracy. Although Pericles celebrated Athens for permitting individuality and freedom - the very features Plato condemned - her claim was that Creon represented an equalizing and collectivizing democratic tradition going back to Solon.

Athenian democracy, of course, operated by lot rather than election - so it is important not to conflate democracy with elections. There are still some present writers who would advocate sortition; while deliberative democrats sometimes aspire to 'talk as a decision procedure', hoping that we can reach unanimous consensus and thereby avoid the need for voting.

This BBC article focuses on elections, and correspondingly seems to adopt a minimalist understanding of democracy as the power to 'throw the rascals out': Any election that can actually depose a government fulfils the minimum requirement of democracy, by which no oligarchy can count on maintaining itself in power because the electorate might decide otherwise... A government should be certain that it has been elected, but never certain that it will be elected again. All kinds of benefits flow from that uncertainty. (As Adam Przeworski notes, these benefits could actually be achieved by a lottery).

Interestingly, however, it then goes on to make a number of rather inflated claims about the connection between democracy and openness, freedom, equal opportunity and justice. For example: In 1995 a young right-wing zealot called Yigal Amir murdered [Israeli] Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin... In a non-democratic country he would have been quickly dealt with, but in democratic Israel he is still alive. If democracies cannot have the death penalty, then the US (despite widespread coverage of their recent election) is no democracy.

The article goes on to talk about how democracy allows men of colour - such as Martin Luther King Jr, Lewis Hamilton and Barack Obama, to come to prominence. I'm actually writing a response to a paper on citizen leadership for the Public Reason Podcast Symposium that touches on this - to which I'll link in due course.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Liverpool 3-0 West Brom

Given our recent record over West Brom, I'd hoped that this match would be about as straightforward a win as we can expect in the Premier League, and so it proved - even Keane scored (twice)! The opening exchanges were surprisingly open but our quality shone through: their strikers tended to mis-control at crucial moments, while Keane was able to dance past the last defender and chip-over the advancing Carson for two fairly similar goals (except that the second time Carson had over-committed by rushing out of his area).

I was hoping we'd be able to kill the game off in the second half, but it remained two until Arbeloa sneaked into the area and curled in a left-foot shot (that had me thinking it was Benayoun at first) to put a more satisfying gloss on the scoreline. The other welcome sight was the return of Torres as a sub - although he hardly did anything in his 15 minute cameo (I barely even saw him run), it will be some useful match minutes and help his return to fitness. Imagine having him and Keane both scoring...

Friday, November 07, 2008


There's an interesting article on the dissolution of civil partnerships (gay marriages) here. Interestingly, it says that adultery cannot be cited as grounds for dissolution.

The OED defines adultery as follows:
Violation of the marriage bed; the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with one of the opposite sex, whether unmarried, or married to another.

If we focus on the first part then, provided we are willing to describe civil partnerships as marriage, then adultery should be possible. If we take seriously the latter description, then adultery can only take place with one of the opposite sex. Even so, it would remain possible for there to be adultery in a gay relationship (e.g. one of the two men sleeping with a woman). Also, interestingly, if the husband in a heterosexual marriage sleeps with another man that wouldn't be adultery either.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Student Funding 'Lottery'

This BBC article quotes NUS President Wes Streeting as saying "All students have to pay £3,145 a year in top-up fees, but they face a postcode lottery when it comes to financial support... Richer universities in the Russell Group can offer poorer students an average annual bursary of £1,791, but those from the Million+ group can only offer £680.

I've pointed out before (e.g. here) that postcodes aren't allocated by lottery. The problem with distributing certain goods by postcode would be that the rich have more choice over where they live and can thus buy access to things like good schools or medical treatment via the back door.

This case is even worse as it's not as if the difference in funds is attributable to different LEAs or where one chooses to study (Oxford and Oxford Brookes, for example, may involve the same postcode). The problem is that traditional 'good' universities have more funds than modern ex-Polys. One would need a substantive debate to settle whether this was a fair meritocracy or whether competition for the best academic tuition should be of any relevance to funding, but it has nothing to do with postcodes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Liverpool 1-1 Atletico Madrid

All square again, although this time it was us that needed the late goal to level things. I only saw the second half, and gather that Liverpool had fallen behind to a counter attack, but in the second half alone Liverpool had enough chances to win (similar to the Spurs game).

I must say, one thing I found disappointing was that Stevie G looked determined to produce one of his performances of match-saving heroics and kept shooting from 20-30 yards and missing the target. It reminded me of having Riise back in the team. Then again, with Keane and Ngog leading the line, maybe Stevie can't be blamed much.

It was, at least, Stevie who won and converted a 94th minute penalty to give us a deserved point. It's true that the award was possibly soft, but only in the sense that Stevie didn't have full control of the ball and was heading away from goal, so there was no need for the defender to barge into him - it's not like Stevie threw himself down without contact; he made sure he got to the ball first and then let the defender take him out. In any case, we'd been denied a fairly clear handball shout around 50 minutes in, which if converted may well have led to us winning the way things were going.

Still, one point each means that Liverpool and Atletico are both well-placed (although not guaranteed) to go through. Interestingly, if both are still level on points after playing PSV and Marseille again, the group could go to goal difference to decide 1st and 2nd - which is a blow for any plans Benitez might have had to rotate the squad.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


I never knew but apparently the form abbreviation + -er suffix, as in rugger (rugby), soccer (Association Football) and various nicknames (Aggers, Tuffers, etc) has its origins in Oxford. Indeed, apparently Jesus College is known as Jaggers - although I'm not so sure about that myself. If it's not something I've heard in actual speech then I'm sceptical that it's really used (like minus one-th week).

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool

I was wondering a while ago how long Spurs could stay so bad for - and hoping that it would be until at least mid-November (to cover both this and our Carling Cup game). Sadly, it wasn't to be - Harry 'Houdini' Redknapp arrived at just the wrong time for us, and Arsenal. (Indeed, Spurs' dramatic fightback against their local rivals may have done wonders for their confidence).

Even so, it looked for long periods like we would retain our winning start. Kuyt put us ahead inside three minutes and then, with the score at 1-0, we went on to hit the woodwork three times. Oh what a difference some clinical finishing would have made... As it was, Benitez introduced Babel shortly after the hour to threaten the Spurs defence with pace - but sadly things went wrong when soon afterwards Carragher inadvertently deflected into his own net to level the scores, thereby nullifying our game plan.

From that point on, Spurs seemed to have more belief and we lost our shape a bit. The commentators had pointed out earlier that we hadn't lost a league game from a winning position (or scoring first) in around two years - and that curse struck, when Pavlyuchenko scored a late winner.

The BBC described it as the least deserved victory of the season, but one can't complain too much - after all, we've won several that we didn't really deserve to with late winners ourselves (such as Middlesbrough). I'm not saying luck evens out, but individual games don't always go the way that the 'ought' to. At the end of the day, we're still the last team in the Premiership to lose our undefeated record and level with Chelsea on points despite having played several of our trickiest fixtures (Man Utd, Chelsea away and Everton away).

In fact, if anything, this might prove a reality check on any unrealistic expectations (one idiot on the messageboards had already asked whether we could go the season undefeated...). The fact is that Liverpool are still working to catch Man Utd and Chelsea, and it's been far too long since they've really had to deal with the pressure of a title race. It's too soon to expect them to win anything this season; what I want is for them to challenge - to still be within reach of the leaders until at least March. Unfortunately, I remember the way that Arsenal made so much early running last year only to fall away, and the disasterous November we had in 2002 after leading the league. My concern is to see how we bounce back from this defeat...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Terrorist Attacks on Oxford

I remember, shortly after 9/11, receiving an email from our accommodation officer warning us to be on the look out for suspicious activity, packages, etc. I always thought it unlikely that we were next in line for Al-Qaeda attacks, but Oxford has more recently been targetted by animal rights activists. Most, in fairness, simply settle for making noise, but as this report reveals those that go further can indeed be considered terrorists.

I hope the 'War on Terror' (is that still going?) doesn't lead to Oxford being flooded with American troops - that would be even worse than the protestors...

Rise in Philosophy Applications

I don't know about Oxford, but the BBC reports record applications to Cambridge this year, with Philosophy one of the biggest growers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Liverpool 1-0 Portsmouth

Beating Chelsea put us top of the table but, unfortunately, Harry Redknapp's switch from Pompey to Spurs means that our next two opponents were unknown quantities with new managers. Perhaps unsurprisingly Tony Adams opted for a defensive formation with the intention of holding out for a point. It's an approach that we consistently struggled to deal with last season, and again against Stoke this season.

Although we thankfully managed to keep Crouch quiet, it looked like we'd be frustrated by another Anfield old boy at the other end - David James pulling off several good saves, notably tipping a Kuyt effort onto the post, and not showing any of the rashness that made him a liability for us and England. Thankfully, the moment of madness was to come from someone else: Hyypia escaped his marker from a corner and, in a moment of panic, Papa Dioup punched the ball away from the Finn's head. It was as clear a penalty as you will ever see, and Gerrard duly did the honours.

Three points today, but we need to be more clinical if we're to keep winning. Torres' return to fitness can't come soon enough...

Credit Crunch Inflation

Despite continued gloomy news stories, no one in my household is feeling much effects from the credit crunch. In fact, I'm due to receive my first salary cheque this week and we're all keen for house prices to fall. Nonetheless, I have noticed some knock-on effects. Last week, I bought some Sainsbury's Basics curry sauce and this week I find that the price has doubled. It may only be from 4p to 8p, but it's a 100% increase - almost like living in Zimbabwe...

UPDATE (06/11/08): It now seems to have reached 23p. While I was somewhat worried as to how they could possibly produce it and sell it for four pence, this is almost a 500% price increase it about a month...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool

The last time we won at Stamford Bridge it was thanks to a goal from Bruno Cheyrou (about all he contributed in his time here). Since then, the only side to take 3 points back from the Bridge have been Arsenal, back in February 2004. Chelsea's unbeaten league record ran for 86 games, over four years.

A lot of people had been saying, in the build-up to the game, that we could do it. I wouldn't have disputed for a minute that we could, but I wasn't expecting us to actually do so: I'd gladly have settled for a point before the game. Even though it must be pointed out that Chelsea were missing Drogba, Essien, Joe Cole and Ballack, we were without Skrtel and Torres ourselves, while several others had been rated doubtful (I think it was known in advance that Keane wouldn't play for more than an hour or so).

We had a bit of luck scoring first, when Alonso's shot took a deflection, and I was worried that we wouldn't be able to hang on - but with a lead to protect we defended like lions (or something more renowned for defensive abilities: maybe like a team of Jamie Carraghers?). In fact, I felt sorry for Agger being the only one of our back five not to make Garth Crooks' team of the week on the BBC website. So good was our defence that Reina hardly had a save to make - though he did claim a few crosses.

Chelsea will no doubt point to their loss of attacking options, but they were reduced to pumping hopeful long balls into the box - in a way that might have proved more effective had Drogba, rather than Anelka, been leading the line. Later on, John Terry started to venture forward, but was effectively neutralized by the introduction of Hyypia.

In fact, it was Liverpool that looked more like scoring another. Substitute Babel redeemed himself for some indifferent performances with a lively half-hour (including a near miss), while Alonso struck the post from a free kick.

Nothing's won in October, but hopefully this hugely satisfying performance and result will give us confidence for the coming months. I don't want to get carried away though - I remember being top of the table in November 2002 only for it all to fall apart. We need to consolidate this result by beating Portsmouth and Spurs - which will be all the more difficult following their recent changes in management.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Liverpool

In a reversal of recent trends, Liverpool dominated the first half, scored first, and then conceded late. I guess I can't complain - particularly since, if anything, we had the better of some questionable off-side decisions (Benayoun's strike was ruled out, but so was Maniche's). It was good to see Keane net another goal, and a score draw away to our main group rivals has to be regarded as satisfactory. More worrying is fitness doubts over Keane, Gerrard and Alonso ahead of another table-topping clash back home...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Veale and Urmson

I didn't know until I actually turned up to dinner, but tonight's dinner in college was a special meal by bequest of composer Douglas Veale and philosopher Jim Urmson - a fellow of the college for 40 years. The main attraction was the choice of lobster or oysters for starter but, since I had soup, it made little difference to me. It did mean a total attendance of over 20, compared to last week's meagre six.

It's actually been quite a run of dinners for me, as on Saturday my housemates and I had a special dinner to which we each contributed a course and then on Sunday my former housemate and his girlfriend invited me for a Greek-themed 'Symposium'.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Liverpool 3-2 Wigan

Stop me if this is getting repetitive... Liverpool fall behind (twice this time), only for their opponents to have a man sent off for fouling Alonso (again!) and then the reds to snatch victory - with Riera scoring another equalizer and then Kuyt scoring his second of the match.

Certainly Kuyt scoring in the Premiership isn't something we've seen too much of. Last season he scored only three: two penalties against Everton and a rebound off his knee against Newcastle). Having only just scored his first league goal in 11 months, he's already equalled that tally for this season.

Moreover, it's nice to see Benitez is willing to take risks to win games - sacrificing both fullbacks in favour of El Zhar and Benayoun - meaning we were playing with four wingers towards the end. It'd be nice, of course, if we had a striker of Crouch's quality to bring on in these situations, but there's no point throwing on strikers without any service and, as it turned out, the wingers did the business: El Zhar creating space for Riera and then Pennant crossing for Kuyt's winner.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Censoring Music

Plato on purifying musical modes:

Ban lamentations and music fit for drinking parties. "[L]eave me, then, these two modes [Dorian and Phrygian], which will best imitate the violent or voluntary tones of voice of those who are moderate and courageous, whether in good fortune or in bad... [W]e won't need the craftsmen who make triangular lutes, harps, and all other such multistrigned and polyharmonic instruments" (Rep 399a-d)

'Ultra-Orthodox' Rabbi Luft:

Rabbi Luft has drawn up a black-list of musicians and bands - music that he says that is not kosher and cannot be played at ultra-orthodox weddings or public events because of its decadent nature... "The main part of the music should be the melody. Percussion should be secondary. They should not bend notes electronically and should not use instruments like electric guitars, bass guitars or saxophones in Jewish music," he says... [T]he "purpose of modern music - its influences - is to distract young people and change good characters into bad"... such music, even Jewish rock music, "where the dangerous beat plays more of a part than the melody, has no place in a society where people are trying to keep their moral standards high.

Is Plato "really totally in another league as far as insanely illiberal policy preferences go"? If he is, it certainly isn't a league of his own...

Japanese Banks

I was just sent this and thought it was mildly amusing. Really I'm just filling a post as I've been too busy with freshers' week to write anything proper:

Following the problems in the sub-prime lending market in America and the run on HBOS in the UK uncertainty has now hit Japan:

In the last 7 days Origami Bank has folded, Sumo Bank has gone belly up and Bonsai Bank announced plans to cut some of its branches.

Yesterday, it was announced that Karaoke Bank is up for sale and will likely go for a song, while today shares in Kamikaze Bank were suspended after they nose-dived.

While Samurai Bank is soldiering on following sharp cutbacks, Ninja Bank is reported to have taken a hit, but they remain in the black.

Furthermore, 500 staff at Karate Bank got the chop and analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank where it is feared that staff may get a raw deal.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Man City 2-3 Liverpool

What a game. Rafa Benitez has instilled Liverpool with a certain 'bouncebackability', which has actually seen them win every game this season in which their opponents scored first - but that must rank as one of the greatest comebacks.

Liverpool apparently dominated the early exchanges, only to fall apart and concede a couple of goals - leaving them trailing 2-0 at half-time. Coming back from two down was a tall order, especially against a team like City, but the trick is to score the next - which Torres did, to put us back in the game.

This gave me hope but then Zabaleta decided to follow Cahill's example - earning a straight red for a sliding tackle on Alonso. (It was worse than Cahill's - I haven't heard any neutral argue with the sending off). I worried that, reduced to ten men, City would close ranks and defend for a 2-1 win but, soon after, Torres scored another - all five of his goals this season have come away from home; if only he could score at Anfield!

As is often the case, momentum was in our favour, but it looked like we might have to settle for a draw that we'd have gladly taken at half-time. As it was, after Torres had missed a glorious chance for his hat-trick, Kuyt was able to stick away his deflected shot for a winner late into injury time. Unfortunately, we only had the extra 6-7 minutes due to a serious injury to Skrtel: I'd have preferred to have taken the draw, or even defeat. Still, at least it gives Daniel Agger his chance to re-establish himself...

Stats fans: Kuyt's goal was his first in the league for almost a year. Torres' first was Liverpool's 1000th in the Premier League and his brace takes him ahead of Patrik Berger as Liverpool's highest scoring foreigner (which I take to mean non-Brit).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Liverpool 3-1 PSV

PSV look like being the whipping boys of the group and this was a fairly comfortable win - with an early goal from European goal machine Kuyt (if only he could do it in the Premier League...), the 100th club goal from Steven Gerrard and the first from Robbie Keane. Job done, thank you very much...


I was at part of the Introduction to Academic Practice for new staff yesterday. Can't really say I learned much, but I suppose it was good to show my face for at least some of it.

One thing I disagree with though is the glossary of Oxford terms given out in the info pack, which says the week before 0th (nought-th) is -1th (minus one-th week). I think I might have heard that term but, in my experience, -1st (minus first) is more common as well as more natural.

Certainly -1st is what you currently see displayed on the DPIR website, although that shouldn't be taken as definitive since their IT bods either a) can't make the calendar update on Sunday or b) think the week starts on Monday.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Everton 0-2 Liverpool

It's hard to say whether we played well or Everton badly - I suspect it was at least in large part down to the latter - but for a derby this was a surprisingly comfortable game. True, Everton probably had the better chances of the first half - a Cahill air-kick from a corner and Carragher clearing off the line after Reina missed a cross - but they were isolated moments: the attacking play was almost all Liverpool, albeit without end product (just after half-time, my mate Tom predicted a 0-0 draw).

Thankfully, all changed in a five minute period. First Keane got on to a long pass and - doing well to keep it in - lobbed a rather hopeful looking cross into the box, over Kuyt (who'd dragged Lescott to the near post) only to fall invitingly for Torres to run onto and shoot into the net. Soon after, a second followed - this time, Kuyt was briefly given space in the box only for two defenders to slide in, the ball falling to Torres unmarked to slot home a second. I'm not sure whether it will last, but the Liverpool website is currently showing clips of both goals free.

Things could have got much worse for Everton as, over the next five or so minutes, we twice more had the ball in the net only to be ruled out. Kuyt's I think rightly, because the ball had clearly gone out of play and the defenders seemed to have stopped, but Torres was denied a hat-trick because Kuyt was adjudged to have fouled a defender, which I thought was rather harsh.

Still, things arguably even out when Cahill received straight red for a foul on Alonso after 79 minutes. It wasn't has bad as Pogatetz on Possebon, but somewhat similar in style - initially sliding with one foot, but also connecting with the trailing leg - so not too surprising to see it given red. Opinions are divided on whether it was harsh or deserved - personally, I'm sitting on the fence and saying that it was 'between red and yellow' (so couldn't complain much either way), but only a deluded fool would claim it affected the result: Reina didn't have to save a single goal-bound shot all match.

Overall, any derby win is good, but it was pleasing to see the 4-4-2 work better than against Stoke. Gerrard pulled some strings from deeper in midfield, while Kuyt and Keane got in the box - the latter showing some promise in creating the first goal - and, best of all, Torres is back to scoring form after his injury. In the first half, he looked a little petulant - even picking up an unnecessary booking - but as soon as he scored his body language changed. That's the way to answer critics. And I believe he already has more Premiership goals away from Anfield this season (3) than last (2).


Last night, I went to the Royal Oak to celebrate a friend's viva (well done Rachele). Totally unplanned, I bumped into my old flatmate Ed (celebrating his last day 'in the lab'), my good friend Nick (no longer based in Oxford, but celebrating a friend's submission or viva) and another former Jesubite Rhydian (also no longer based on Oxford), all there totally independently. It is indeed a small world, and one of the nice things about Oxford that it's so easy to run into people you know (when you've been here 8 years...)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Censorship in Society

I've recently been having an exchange with my friend Rob, on this older post of mine about censorship in education. As he quite rightly points out, the example I use in that post is of a particular poem being removed from a GCSE anthology because of its bad influence, and this restriction of context is quite different in kind from a total ban on the poem itself.

Nonetheless, the point that I wanted to make is that we do care what we expose children to - controversy over 'Gollywogs' in Enid Blyton being another example - and, if this is our general concern, then there has to be a worry that context restriction will never be enough. (Of course, there's a balancing that goes on here: we may think that context restriction sufficiently limits harm with minimal loss of liberty, while a total ban - as Plato proposes - would be too great a price to pay to prevent undesirable influences).

Here, it seems, is an example where concern goes beyond mere context restriction. The controversy surrounds whether it is ok to use the term 'retard' in satire. That could be a matter of context, because there are some things that we think it ok to discuss but not make fun of; but as I read it, the suggestion is that the term - like, perhaps, 'nigger' (with the possible exception of between blacks) - should be taboo and not to be used at all, even in comedy (which is sometimes exempt from certain restrictions).

Note, in particular, the BBC headline: The path from cinema to playground. The concern is, in particular, the effect on the young, but the proposal is censorship far wider than school textbooks or even the school context. As Myles Burnyeat puts it, in his Tanner Lectures, "Plato’s insight is that if you are concerned about the souls of the young, it is no good simply laying down rules for parents and teachers, or agreeing to keep sex and violence off the TV screen until after 9:00 P.M. His conclusion: for the sake of the young, the entire culture must be purged" (p.47).

Problems Solved

Whoever wins the American election (a matter discussed here) will face some tricky problems given that the country seems to be leading the world into recession. Luckily, Colin Farrelly has hit on the solution: magic fairies. (His post links to a report that 55% of Americans believe they have been protected by a Guardian Angel, which concludes "Americans live in an enchanted world"!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Liverpool 2-1 Crewe

Too bad our young reserves aren't like Arsenal's; still, this was an opportunity for Benitez to name a completely(?) changed side, with only Babel really having a claim to be a first team regular (even if the 'fringe' players now include Pennant, Hyypia, etc). To be honest, I wonder whether the mix of players has something to do with the performance: maybe a full reserve side would have a better understanding from playing together.

Nonetheless, it apparently helps the likes of Insua, Plessis, El Zhar and Ngog to play alongside more established players and, while Crewe made them work for the win, they came through the test. Agger's opener was cancelled out, but Leiva restored the lead and - though we couldn't make the game safe, despite the introduction of Torres (who created several chances) - it was avaoiding a major scare or 'cupset' that mattered.

The main downside was finding that our new right back, Degen, is officially made of glass. I was surprised that Benitez named such a strong bench actually: surely a few senior players, in case the game needed 'rescuing', would have been caution enough, and he could've had some more youngsters in case we were coasting. Had he not named Carragher and Skrtel, for example, then not only could one of them have had a night off, but Darby could've got a chance too.

Anyway, let's hope to avoid Premiership opposition in the next round, and see what our second string can do there.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Today was the snappily-titled In Town Without My Car (ITWMC) day. I'm not quite sure what the scope of this initiative was, but the university provided a free breakfast and cycle check to members of staff at the University Club.

The breakfast was nothing special (one slice of toast, scrambled egg and orange juice), but the cycle doctor did fix my loose rear mudguard (too bad he couldn't do the front) - and getting there for 8:30 and having to wait until 11:30 meant I was able to get a solid couple of hours of reading done in the SSL.

Today is actually the first time I've cycled since my return to Oxford and, despite the large number of cyclists, I was struck by how the city isn't actually that cycle-friendly: I encountered unhelpful road signs/markings (places where I think something like 'no right turn, except cyclists' would be useful), broken glass, buses, pot-holes and one pedestrian who stepped out right in front of me without looking - in hindsight, perhaps I should have hit (or at least shouted at) her, to remind her not to do it again...

Toss For It

The BBC warns of a possible 'nightmare scenario' in the US election. They describe seven states as a "toss-up", but don't know what to do if the Electoral College vote is tied...

More seriously, the article does a good job of explaining some points about the electoral system and the fact that "The founding fathers centred the idea [of the state 'unit vote'] on the fact that the nation was a confederation of states rather than a pure democracy of individual voters".

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Alumni Weekend

On Friday, I took part in an open day at Corpus Christi College - my first official work for my new employer (even though my contract doesn't technically start until 1st Oct). Also this weekend, as a member of staff, I got a free invite to selected activities in the Oxford Alumni Weekend, so I went to talks on 'Universities and Globalization', 'The International Student Experience' and 'Undergraduate Admissions', hoping that they might be useful to my new role.

I guess they were, as one thing that I learned this morning was that a separate application form and additional payment is no longer necessary for those applying to Oxford. Also, on Friday, I found that PPE candidates no longer have to submit written schoolwork (thanks, Scot). I still don't see why they can't have a lottery. I actually asked a related question in the admissions talk this morning, but I'm not sure the guy really got it: he simply stated the obvious, that we'd still need to make choices. I suppose I'd better get back to reading Gataker (annoyingly, cheaper on Amazon than the publisher's own site, or even their conference stand)...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke

And so from a great win over United to a frustrating draw against the newly-promoted relegation favourites. This was never likely to be a stroll in the park but when it looked like Gerrard had put us in the lead after just two minutes I thought it could be comfortable. Unfortunately, so much depends on an early goal, and even the BBC commentators didn't really agree with the offside decision. Still, it certainly wasn't the worst decision of the day, and shouldn't have mattered, because we should have been able to score plenty more goals but - despite dominance (27 shots and 20 corners, compared to 3 and 3).

Sometimes matches like this happen, and not only to us: remember already this season we've season Arsenal lose to Fulham, Chelsea held by an out-of-sorts Spurs side and Man Utd get off to a poor start. The key is to remember it's a marathon, not a sprint, and make sure that these days don't happen too often. It's too bad we don't have some players like Crouch and Barry (or, as I predicted, Hyypia) then some of those corners may have been more dangerous. As it is, despite naming an attacking line-up, I don't think 4-4-2 really suits our players: Kuyt is not a wide midfielder and neither he nor Keane even looked like scoring.

Crewe next and hopefully we'll see a few young reserves (Ngog, El Zhar, Insua, Spearing), plus perhaps a chance for the likes of Degen and Agger to stake their claim for a place. Though I wouldn't be too surprised if Keane and/or Kuyt play, in the hope of scoring...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Marseille 1-2 Liverpool

Not quite last season's demolition but, despite the loss of Nasri and Cisse, it had been widely reported that Marseille had strengthened this year. On the subject of the latter, I must point out how Babel reminds me very much of Cisse, and I saw many of the worse points tonight. Ok, maybe he has more trickery once he's on the ball, but his game is based around pace and power and he lacks intelligence. Several times I saw him fail to close down or make runs, even when we were in possession. To his credit, it was a good bit of skill that won the penalty, and he had two good chances to score a third (the first blasted at the 'keeper, the second hit the post), but with the arrival of Riera he'll have to buck his ideas up. Too bad he doesn't have Benayoun's intelligence to match his natural ability.

Anyway, back to the game, it was a surprisingly open match, with plenty of end to end action (if not necessarily clear cut chances). By the time Marseille's pacy attack finally sprung our offside trap to open the scoring, it could already have been 2-2. Thankfully, it took just minutes for Torres and Kuyt to combine to set up Gerrard for an audacious equalizer. (I've seen numerous videos remvoed from YouTube but it's currently here. Worth watching if still available).

Not long after, Babel's trickery in the box drew a foul and won a penalty - which Gerrard did well to score twice, after having to re-take for encroachment. After that, the game continued to produce chances at both ends - with Marseille probably enjoying the better share - but there were no more goals. Credit in particular to Carragher and Reina, who pulled off two great saves just in injury time. At the end of the day though, we all know Liverpool couldn't possibly win without Gerrard...

Stoke next, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more rotation, possibly with Hyypia starting.

p.s. I wouldn't be so sure that this puts us in a 'commanding position' in the group. We're second, after Atletico Madrid made a mockery of their 4th seeding with a 3-0 away win over PSV. This could well be the 'group of death'.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oxford Panoramic Photos

I've been quite enjoying daily photos of Oxford on this blog - which nicely illustrates the Perch before (Jan 2007) and after (May 2007) a fire, and now (Sept 2008) restored.

For those looking for something a little more permanent, my friend Seth is a keen photographer and sells wonderful Panoramic photos of the dreaming spires and has a new website: Oxford Panoramas. I must admit that I haven't bought one myself, but largely because I'm unsure which to get.

The Scourge

Over dinner in Manchester last week, conversation turned briefly to the morality of abortion and I was reminded of a paper by my friend Toby Ord in which he highlights the problem of spontaneous abortion. I see it's now been published:

Ord, T. 2008. The scourge: moral implications of natural embryo loss. American Journal of Bioethics 7(8): 12–19.

It's a 'target article', featuring no less than seven responses. Well done Toby! (via Colin).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Another Attempt at Journal Ranking

Having just had my latest knock-back (though with some helpful comments), I'm still giving thought to where to send articles. Thom Brooks helpfully lists the results of another ranking here.

Personally, I'm somewhat surprised to see some that are ranked A* and to see the likes of JPP and ETMP in the same category (A). Thom does point out a few problems with the methodology, so perhaps - like all of these calculations - it's worth taking it with a pinch of salt, but hopefully triangulation will lead to some reliable results (and it's always worth knowing people's perceptions, even if there is an independent truth).

RIP Mr Bayes

I just, somewhat belatedly, heard about the death of my old English teacher, Roger Bayes. A personal obituary - covering his three main passions: English, cricket and alcohol - can be found here.

For my own part, I'd like to add that I was taught by Mr Bayes in year 7 (1993-4) and again in Sixth Form (1998-2000), where my memories of his passion for Remains of the Day will stay with me - even if I did once catch him out on a textual point. That and him literally hopping around, even redder than usual, during a particularly animated portrayal of Norman from Ayckbourn's Norman Conquests. Sadly, I haven't had as much time as I'd like for literature since leaving CRGS, but his enthusiasm was an inspiration. RIP.

[From the school website] There will be a service in the school hall in memory of Roger Bayes on Friday, 26 September at 4.30 pm. Former colleagues, students and parents are most welcome to attend but we would be most grateful if you would e-mail JHowlett [at] (or telephone 01206 509103) if you are coming along, so that we may make adequate seating arrangements.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Liverpool 2-1 Man Utd

Last season, we took just four out of a possible 18 points against the other three top four clubs. Draws home and away to Arsenal and Chelsea meant that we didn't lose any ground against them but, had we won instead of losing our two games against Man Utd (a big IF, admittedly), we'd have finished ahead of them.

Although we beat Utd in the FA Cup, Benitez had yet to register a league win over them, even if most of the games had been very tight - with Utd sneaking a few that they didn't deserve to. As a Liverpool fan, I tend to think that every year will be different, only to be disappointed yet again. When Berbatov pulled back for Tevez to open the scoring after only 3 minutes, I feared that those hopes would be dashed yet again.

Although there was some fortune about our equalizer - when Van der Sar punched the ball into Brown, only to see it rebound into the net - there's no denying that we were dominating possession and chances, even with Gerrard and Torres confined to the bench. Although there were unsurprisingly some scary moments, such as a Giggs shot that Reina was forced to tip over, had we a striker more clinical than Kuyt or Keane we may have put the match to bed earlier. (Not that I'm faulting them - both worked tirelessly to close down from the front and harry Utd into mistakes).

Better was to come when Mascherano beat Giggs, the ball fell for Kuyt in the box and he squared for Babel to score. There were a few nervous moments after that, but Vidic's dismissal for two yellow cards - either of which could have been red - helped ease the pressure in the final moments. Having ground out victories over Sunderland and Middlesbrough without playing well, it was pleasing to produce our best performance of the season and have even Ferguson admitting that the best team won.

Last year, Benitez was criticized several times when he rested Gerrard and/or Torres against 'weaker' opposition, resulting in drawing games that we should have won - it was nice to see the rest of the team step up this time. Mascherano and Alonso won plenty of plaudits in midfield, while Riera looks a useful signing - even if he did cut inside quite often. Certainly, after the first five minutes, his debut out-shone Berbatov's.

On the subject of former Spurs strikers, a lot seems to have been made of the fact that Keane hasn't hit the net yet, but last season apparently it took him a while to get off the mark before going on to hit 23 goals (in all competitions). I think he was probably over-priced, and we've had a struggle to fit him into our system, but I would rather have him than Berbatov.

CFP: Stirling Grad Conference

Stirling 2nd Graduate Conference
Thursday 11 - Friday 12th December 2008
Department of Philosophy, University of Stirling, Scotland

Keynote Speakers:
Prof. John Horton (Keele University)
Prof. Leif Wenar (King's College)

Submission deadline: 10th October 2008
Following the success of last year's event, the Department of Philosophy at Stirling University is holding the 2nd Postgraduate Conference Law and Philosophy. This event aims at bringing together postgraduate students working on any area of Political and Legal Philosophy. The focus of this year's Conference will be particularly, but not exclusively, on issues of Political Obligation and Global Justice (e.g. State Legitimacy, Anarchism, Civil Disobedience, Distributive Justice, Nationalism/ Cosmopolitanism, Legal Positivism, Natural Law, etc.).

Contributions are invited from graduate students working on any topic in political and/or legal philosophy. Each postgraduate presentation should be max 30 minutes, and will be followed by a 10-minute reply, and by an open discussion. Each session will last 90 minutes. Abstract of max. 500 words should be sent via email to by 10th October 2008. Selected participants will be required to send a full draft of their paper by 3rd November. Thanks to generous support from the Department of Philosophy of Stirling University, The Roberts Funds and The Scots Philosophical Club, there will be bursaries available for participant postgraduates. Inquiries should be sent to Ambrose Lee or Piero Moraro

(via Megan)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Back in Oxford

This week's conference in Manchester was great fun. There weren't too many senior professors - it was mostly PhD students and junior faculty - but that seemed to facilitate egalitarian discussion, academic and social. It was partcularly pleasing for me to give a paper in the sortition panel, allowing me to meet several members of the kleroterian email list (run by Conall Boyle) which coincided with the launch of a new series of books from Imprint Academic.

I must in particular thank my friend Becca, who kindly hosted me in her flat (rather than halls). I'm back in Oxford now - and starting to prepare for the coming term.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Travel Plans

I'm returning to Oxford tomorrow, although it will only be a brief stop as on Tuesday I'm off to Manchester for this conference - will be back on Friday.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Censorship in Education

Plato is often criticized as totalitarian for his willingness to censor vast tracts of Greek poetry, including Homer, in his ideal city. Of course, it is important that he proposed total censorship, rather than merely restriction of context. Nonetheless, when it comes to educational contexts, his proposals seem to differ from modern practice only in degree rather than kind.

I previously has other examples, such as fuss over Gollywogs in Enid Blighton, but this BBC story brought my attention to the recent removal of a Carol Ann Duffy poem about knife violence, 'An Education in Leisure' from GCSE anthologies. The Guardian's report reproduces the poem, while there's an analysis of it here.

The Guardian report quotes Michael Rosen, the children's laureate [not the ex-Oxford philosopher], as saying: "By this same logic we would be banning Romeo and Juliet. That's about a group of sexually attractive males strutting round the streets, getting off with girls and stabbing each other."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Aston Villa 0-0 Liverpool

Well, we may have lost our 100% winning record, but Villa Park is never an easy place to go, particularly missing Gerrard and then losing Torres to a hamstring injury within half an hour. Although it'd be nice if some of our other players could chip in with goals at moments like this - it was, after all, presumably part of why we paid £20m for Keane - I'd have settled for a draw without our two main match-winners.

It was notable that Mascherano and Lucas came straight back into the side and, as I expected, we reverted to a 4-2-3-1 (although I would have expected Keane to play centrally, in place of Lucas, with Babel or Benayoun on the left). Hopefully there will be a signing or two tomorrow to boost the squad: Riera is apparently still 'close' but, after hearing that Newcastle may sell Owen for £2m due to his refusal to sign a new contract, I wouldn't mind a cheeky bid to bring 'St Michael' back, even if some supporters haven't forgiven him for the way he left.

Anyway, for now the good news is that we have an international break - so hopefully Gerrard and Torres will be back for our next match, against Man Utd (though it's touch and go). And, also, we're not the Liverpool Ladies, who've lost their first three matches to Chelsea (5-0), Arsenal (11-2) and Bristol (6-0)!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Our Survey Said

I didn't really learn much myself, but I was quite impressed at this attempt at public education by the BBC, teaching people to deal with damned lies and statistics. It's part of a series, the most recent of which explains why most people earn less than average. (Sadly, I can't find a way to link to the series as a whole - it doesn't appear to have its own page).

In a world where numbers are thrown around to make sensational headlines, and their meanign rarely scrutinized, this is a welcome development. Ironically, it comes at the same time as the BBC report this regional happiness survey, glossing over the admission "researchers stress that the variations between different places in Britain are not statistically significant".

Worse, they an attempt to infer causation from correlation, and probably get it back to front. "Another important factor in determining happiness was the length of time that a person spent living in a place. Staying in an area for five years or longer was an important indicator of well being, said the scientists." The scientists point out only that length of time is an indicator of well-being, which to me makes it sound more like the dependent variable (i.e. people stay because they're happy), rather than - as the BBC report - a 'factor determining happiness'.

While I repeat my admiration of their attempt at public education, this not the only recent example of shoddy reporting - I pointed out a contradiction in this other piece before (and I have seen errors in their football reporting too, even if they didn't actually do this). I'm certainly less impressed by and more critical of BBC reporting than I used to be.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Liverpool 1-0 Standard Liege (AET)

Well, I think we knew after the first leg that this wouldn't be easy. I expected it would either go one of two ways - either they'd be over-awed, concede an early goal and fall apart (losing something like 3-0) or, more likely, it would go all the way, in which case I feared that - particularly with an away goal, they might nick it.

As it turned out, there was only a single goal in it (1-0, not 2-1: the mistake is's as the BBC site has it right) and it took 117 minutes on the night. We'd again had Reina to thank for a couple of good saves as, while we managed to dominate possession it was probably Liege who enjoyed most of the clearer chances.

Tonight we seemed devoid of shape and ideas, which has been something of a problem all season (not that that's very long). As the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, I was reminded that we have yet to score in the first 80 minutes of any of our four competitive fixtures this season (though we have now scored four goals after that point!) In this game, things were a bit different because, although we pressed, the risk of an away goal made it too dangerous to throw everything forward: extra-time seemed safer.

Again, the commentators go on about our lack of width. It seems we're closing in on signing Riera, who at least should provide some natural width - I only hope he proves more effective than Nunez or Gonzales (and let's not forget we have another winger denied a work permit). I do think the return of Mascherano will help as well, giving us more balance in centre midfield and allowing the full-backs more licence to get forward.

Anyway, the goal when it finally game tonight involve Babel running at his full-back and then I thought the chance had gone as he had to cut back to cross with his right foot - nonetheless he was able to sent the ball over to the far post for Kuyt, playing his 100th game for the club, to slot home (when the full-back really should have cleared). It was no doubt a cruel blow for Liege, but whatever one might think was deserved over the previous 207 minutes of the tie, it's worth pointing out that we were denied what seemed a fairly clear penalty just moments before when El Zhar was felled in the box.

At the end of the day, we haven't always been convincing during CL qualifying (even in 2004-05 we only scraped through, beating Graz AK 3-2 on aggregate, before going on to win in Istanbul), but what matters is being in tomorrow's draw. Credit to Liege though - they're a side with plenty of good young players, and I'm sure bigger clubs will be after several of them after these two matches.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How Not to do How To

Phil Anon directs us to the so bad it's good WikiHow.

The entry 'How to Agree With a Majority' is particularly amusing.

Step 3 clearly provides a sufficient but not necessary condition: "If there are two thirds or more people siding with one topic, choose that one." It seems that the author may have been mislead by considering only one, six-person, example: "Make sure you do your math correctly. Three out of six is not a two thirds majority, four out of six is. Five out of six is also a majority."