Wednesday, May 26, 2010

School Without Pupils

There's a classic episode of Yes Minister that centres around a hospital without any patients. Reading about this school without pupils reminded me of it. In fairness, the debate here is between temporary and permanent closure: no one seems to be suggesting it remains open without pupils. Sometimes, however, I think that would be quite an attractive way to run a research university...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On What Matters

I notice on Amazon that Parfit's long-awaited On What Matters now has a release date. Strangely, if their current dates are to be believed, volume 2 is due July 2010, but we need to wait until January 2011 for volume 1. Most likely, I suspect that the former should be 2011 too. Each volume is a mere £19.99, but there's also a two volume set for £30 (with price guarantee for pre-orders). The two together amount to almost one thousand pages...

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Few Bits on Football...

I've just got home from my weekly philosophy football match and am feeling pretty good about it. I definitely feel fitter than I did at the start of term and even showed a few pieces of skill: a save at the striker's feet (though admittedly when the ball was behind him) and a couple of assists: including pulling the ball back from the by-line to the edge of the area for my colleague Gonzalo (also on Wikipedia) to stab into the net with the last kick of the game.

That's pretty notable in itself, but even more surprising was seeing Martin Keown turn up to play with the group of guys after us. I think I do recall reading something about him training the blues, but don't know if this was anything to do with that.

In other football-related bits, tomorrow sees a parade celebrating the return of Oxford United to league football (I don't think that I'm quite ready for that myself...)

Also, I received my copies of Soccer & Philosophy today - available in all good bookshops in time for the World Cup...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Overtime Increases Heart Risk

A study has (probably unsurprisingly) shown a link between working much overtime and risk of heart disease. It may be no more than a correlation, but it's unclear how risk of heart disease might lead to working longer hours, so it's fairly clear that there must be some causal influence working in the other direction, even if the exact mechanism is unclear and it may in fact be that one underlying condition (e.g. a driven personality) conduces to both working overtime and risk of heart disease.

Either way, this should be a warning for academics, most of whom (anecdotally) work around 50 hours a week. If the trend in academia is towards the erosion of the traditional non-monetary rewards (such as freedom of research) and towards increasing accountability, then someone might have to start paying us properly for this one day...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Idrizaj RIP

I was shocked to learn that former Liverpool reserve and current Swansea footballer Besian Idrizaj died last night of a suspected heart attack (source: BBC, LFC). Condolences to his family.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Close Election Indeed (And How to Resolve Ties by Lottery)

I missed this last week, so thanks to my old house mate Pavel for the pointer. While headlines were dominated by the fact that the general election produced a hung parliament, a pack of cards had to be used to decide between two candidates for a local council in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, after each received 1,034 votes.

This isn't a first. Similar examples can be found here and here.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I've seen a heron in the river out the back of the castle several times now on my way to work. It seems that it's been captured by keen Oxford photographer Percy here.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Student Loans

My dad forwarded me an email from MoneySavingExpert about student loans. They're suggesting that those of us with such loans may be facing a hike from 0% to 4.4% interest in the coming year and, therefore, that it might be beneficial for those with savings to make extra repayments.

I'm not a financial adviser, but this seems like scaremongering to me. Interest should be either 4.4% (based on price inflation back in March) or 1% above the Bank of England interest rate - which sets a cap at 1.5% (as they acknowledge).

It's true that it hasn't yet been confirmed what the interest will be, but I don't see why that should be taken as a sign that there will be a departure from previous arrangements. Given that a new election seems likely sooner rather than later, I doubt whatever parties form a government would want to risk a backlash from recent students by raising the interest on their debt.

Moreover, even if they are right that interest on student loans is set to rise, it's not obvious that repaying is the best option. Interest on any other loans, including mortgages, is likely to be higher, so those with other debts are better off paying those first, assuming no penalties for doing so. (That's something noted on MSE.) But also, once the student loan is repaid, we'll never be able to borrow again at such a favourable rate of interest. It may well be worth taking a loss over the coming year on the expectation of being able to profit in future.

Oxford Crimespot

A fatal stabbing occurred within a five minute walk of my house (and even closer to my office). Thankfully, I don't normally hang out around Que Pasa at 3am...

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Philosophers Football

Some of you may be aware that tomorrow sees a group of philosophers and celebrities re-creating the famous Monty Python philosophers football sketch in London.

Fans of both football and philosophy may also be interested to know of the new Open Court popular culture and philosophy title Soccer and Philosophy - to which I contributed a chapter on penalties and lotteries - which should hit the shelves in time for the World Cup.

You can pre-order it (at a 10% discount) from Amazon now:

Friday, May 07, 2010

Election (1) 2010

I was away overnight so not able to follow all the events of the election, but as expected it seems that we've got a hung parliament. (Cue jokes about hanging politicians...)

Here are some notable comments:
Thom Brooks on the moral right to govern.
Chris Brooke on the situation in Oxford (where the Labour incumbent in Oxford East increased his majority while the Lib Dems lost Oxford West & Abingdon to the Tories).
Thom Brooks on likely effects for higher education. As I comment there, this time parties were able to dodge the fees issue - next time, they'll have to be open about their policies.