Happy Birthday Vivian Chan
Today I read, spoke with my parents, drank coffee, and generally had a relaxing time. Particular since I haven’t spoken with them in a while, speaking with my parents was pleasant. Likewise, to receive a birthday email from my brother Mica. My mother and father spent the past three days in San Diego for some kind of Miller Thomson partners’ conference. I was glad to hear that they enjoyed themselves. It seems that the lot of them are now planning to go to North Carolina to visit my aunt, uncle, grandmother, and cousins there. I wish them the best for their journey.
This morning, I also opened an elegant card from Sarah Johnston, as well as some gift certificates for Blackwell’s. I used them towards my excellent map, which is still inspiring fantasies of all manner of exotic journeys.
Over the course of the day, I finished some more of An Instance of the Fingerpost and should note that it is an extremely grim book. I’ve always had a particular anxiousness about all things medical – those ominous reminders of the ephemeral quality of life. It is therefore particularly troubling for me to read of hangings and dreadfully ineffective medical practices. I used to have anxiety attacks just walking into hospitals, so visceral the reminder of mortality could be. It reminds me of one of the most haunting passages from one of my favourite plays:
Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one. A moment. In childhood. When it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. It must have been shattering, stamped into one’s memory. And yet, I can’t remember it. What does one make of that? We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the words for it, out we come with the knowledge that for all the compasses in the world, there’s only one direction, and time its only measure.Â
Anyhow, I finished the first part of the book this evening, which ended bloodily and unhappily (the plot, not my reading of it).
Margaret stopped by this afternoon and very kindly gave me two bowls, a plate, spoons, and a mug. I am now enormously better equipped to eat off dishes not temporarily borrowed from the MCR. She also gave me an artful and odd looking book: Taschen’s 1000 Extra/Ordinary Objects. The collection was even in a box wrapped in pages from The Economist. Many thanks.
In the evening, I went for a walk with a very ebullient Emily. We had hot chocolate, which was nice, and it snowed for a while, which was very welcome. If we are to be subjected to cold, it’s nice to be given the beauty and novelty of a bit of snow as well. This is only the second time ever when I have seen it snow on my birthday. Emily’s enthusiasm is always appreciated and contrasts with the grizzled, embittered image of graduate students I have developed as a kind of semi-believed caricature.
Canadian electoral politics:
This Wednesday, at 8:00pm, the Canadian Club is hosting an electoral debate, based on the upcoming Canadian national election. It is taking place in the Margaret Thatcher Centre of Sumerville College. I recommend following it up with drinks in the Ho Chi Minh Quad at Wadham, if only for the sake of balance. With a Canadian confidence vote, which the government will likely fail, looking imminent, it looks like we have an election ahead of us. It will lead to me lamenting the fact that there isn’t a credible opposition in Canada. Can anyone really imagine the Tories or the NDP forming a government? I think the defection of someone like Ujjal Dosanjh from the provincial NDP to the federal Liberals says a lot about which parties have the people and organization it takes to govern.
Initially, I had hoped that the Martin minority government with the NDP would be one that advanced progressive policies. As it happens, it seems to have been mired in this corruption scandal, coupled with weak leadership and a lack of vision. The revitalization of Canada’s role in the world that we were hoping for from Martin really doesn’t seem to have happened. That said, I will almost certainly vote for the Liberal candidate in North Vancouver Capilano, since the possibility that the Tories will retake the seat is not outlandish.
- For that retro charm, Bytonic Software has released a version of Quake II, ported into Java. It works fine in OS X. And here I thought Java was buggy and slow; the photo upload applet on Facebook certainly is.
- Apparently, the statistics instructors are trying to foist an additional assignment upon us, in contravention of the notes of guidance. Seeing as to how they haven’t made any substantial changes on the basis of our criticisms, despite their early apparent willingness to do so, I think we should hold them to the letter of the original notes: “Five/six short assignments done throughout Michaelmas Term, to be assessed during the term.” (Emphasis in the original.) Given that they are making us write the test, despite how shoddy the teaching has been, I don’t think we should put up with them further expanding the course work: none of which really increases our ability to use quantitative methods in international relations, due to the failings described at length here previously. Other, competing programs at different schools should be making hay from how lacking the quantitative portion of the Oxford M.Phil is.
- Another BBC article on human rights in the age of the ‘war on terror.’ Specifically, on CIA secret prisons.
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