Happy Birthday Lindi Cassel


in Daily updates, Oxford

Oxford sunset

Personal narrative:

So ends a chilly fall day in Oxford: the last few days and nights here have heavily involved sweaters and jackets. The air has that particular crispness that, in Vancouver, would make you wonder if one of the next few days just might be the one day of snowfall we will get that year.

Today brought a new issue of The Economist, though no stats-related declaration. Apparently, it is to be worked on more over the weekend. I also received an email from Dr. MacFarlane in response to my letter today, in which he counsels me to cooperate with other students in making a proposal: “If there are others who feel similarly, it might be useful to make representations collectively to those in charge of the curriculum in question.” Having official sanction takes some of the fun out of it, but increases the chances they will listen to us.

Tomorrow, I am making my second attempt at finding Cowley Road. The first was with Nora last night and, partly owing to our very vague sense of where this fabled street is located, we ended up in the grassy expanse of Oxford’s South Park instead. It’s a place I had been to once before, in the summer after twelfth grade, when I attended a Radiohead concert there along with a young woman who I met in London. By night, and after the close quarters that embody Oxford, it seemed massive.

Tomorrow’s attempt at finding Cowley Road is taking place in the morning, with Margaret, and will include a determined effort to find the Tesco’s located there. Having purchased all my food so far at Sainsbury’s, it’s time to have a look at the competition. Hopefully, they will have Kimchi Noodle Bowls and Dave’s Insanity Sauce – both of which are tragically absent from even the large Sainsbury’s near Nuffield. Cowley Road, for those unfamiliar with the place, is the core of the more ethnic part of Oxford: the place I am told you should go for good Indian food or unusual groceries. It might be fairly accurate to describe it as Oxford’s Commercial Drive (Sarah, please comment on the comparison) and I am therefore understandably keen on finding it. I would rather like to make the acquaintance of at least one resident of Oxford who is not attending the university.

Academic commentary: 

During Dr. Welsh’s lecture yesterday, I pondered why the kind of ‘scientific’ approach to international relations much loved by neo-realists strikes me as so inappropriate. Partly, I think, it has to do with what science is good at. Science is good at formulating theories on the basis of things that are either simple enough to be directly testable or that can be broken down into bits that are. So far, at least, it is much less capable of dealing with complex dynamic systems: whether climatic patters, ecosystems, stock market interactions, or human thought processes. For the kind of things that you just cannot understand by breaking down into testable bits, the scientific process as it has been generally applied cannot offer a great deal of understanding. This is not to say that science isn’t mounting an increasingly determined and effective effort to deal with these kinds of phenomena, but merely that it is a long way from achieving it. Consisting of complex interactions between individuals, institutions (national and international), states, and non-state actors, international relations falls much more into the category of interdependent complexity. Like picking one strain of conversation out of the general hubbub of a busy pub or recognizing complex patterns, understanding IR is something that the brain has an intuitive ability to comprehend that tends to exceed our mathematical ability to model.

On Monday evening, I am meeting with Dr. Hurrell to discuss the second paper I have written for him. The present enjoyable lull in schoolwork is destined to be short-lived. Doubtless, he will assign me another paper to write during the following ten to fourteen days. The next statistics assignment is due on Wednesday (does anyone want to get together to work on it?) and the next core seminar paper is due on the 22nd of November: six days before my birthday and in the middle of the period during which Nick Sayeg will be in the United Kingdom. At least it is extremely unlikely that I will be called upon to present in the core seminar on Tuesday.

Miscellaneous bits:

  • More distressing news on the present level of respect being shown for human rights by the American government. (Link to NY Times) Sometimes, it is positively scary to have such a neighbour as Canada does.
  • Anyone who has always wanted to buy one of Napoleon’s teeth now has the opportunity.
  • It looks as though Canada has another federal election upcoming: the last one having taken place when I was in Europe the summer before last. For someone in the riding where I will vote (North Vancouver Capilano), the two candidates with any hope of being elected are the Liberal and the Tory. Given that choice, sleaze or no sleaze, I am going with the Liberals. They certainly have their failings, but they tend to be moderate in the right places and progressive where they should (though often more slowly than could be justified). Paul Martin has definitely been something of a disappointment as a leader – especially in terms of repairing Canada’s international position – but he has not been all that bad, in the end. Additionally, I feel fairly positively towards Don Bell – our present MP and former mayor of the District of North Vancouver.
  • For some reason, there was a lengthy period of fireworks tonight. They seem to be coming from at least three locations: the closest being New College. For some reason, when I am not actually watching them, fireworks always make me nervous. They make me think of artillery bombardment, which is odd given that I’ve never actually heard it. The persistent sirens, coming from all over the city, don’t help matters.
  • Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes Night, in which the British burn in effigy a man who famously tried to blow up Parliament in 1605 (five years before Wadham College was founded). I would be interested in seeing this tradition played out, so if anyone in Oxford knows where a bonfire will be taking place, I would appreciate the information.
  • This evening, I made a big spreadsheet outlining all my Oxford costs. Once you add up battels, college fees, vacation residence fees, and university fees, it comes to $10,849.19 a term, for three terms a year. That’s 28% higher than the estimate that I was sent back on the 4th of April, after the cost of dinners has been credited back to me, but before you incorporate the cost of food and everything aside from university and college fees. It was only when I broke the whole thing down that I realized that Wadham is charging me $62.75 a term for bed linen cleaning. I shall have to buy some sheets and opt out of that in future periods. Fingers now tightly crossed, once again, for a good scholarship next year. I will find out about the Commonwealth application in December.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate November 4, 2005 at 9:00 pm

A map roughly showing you where Cowley Road is (Holywell Street is at the very top of it). Cowley Road is between St Clements and Iffley Road.

Say hello to Nora for me (if she can’t remember, I was the drunk female blogger who talked at her)!

And I think there’s going to be a big fire works display in South Parks tomorrow if you can find it again.

Anonymous November 4, 2005 at 11:02 pm

Canada’s got a ways to go on protecting human rights, as this UN Human Rights committee report indicates:


Milan November 4, 2005 at 11:10 pm

As I explained to Nora earlier, it should be understood that the reason for which I am often critical of the United States is because I care very much about it. There are so many things about that nation that I admire – especially the fundamental principles it espouses. It’s because of that that I feel so strongly when I see those principles being betrayed. They are, with minor differences, the principles that Canada is based upon as well – and there is no way Canada could hope to be a just and prosperous country unless our gargantuan neighbour is as well.

Ben November 4, 2005 at 11:46 pm

Cowley Road’s quite easy to find if you go over Magdalen Bridge to the big roundabout (The Plain) it’s the middle of the three facing you (St Clements, Cowley, Iffley). The Tesco is recommended, compared to Sainsburys.

I believe there’s a bonfire, certainly fireworks, in South Parks tomorrow night – but I think it’s about £5 admission.

Anonymous November 5, 2005 at 2:25 am

Though I would guess you have seen it already, I am sure you would be interested in this thesis about espionage in the American Navy.

Milan November 5, 2005 at 1:18 pm

Thanks a lot Anonymous. I am about half way through the 100 page thesis and it is quite fascinating.

meaghan November 5, 2005 at 3:17 pm

Sorry Milan, nothing to do with your blog really,….Just wanted to say Hi. :) *bisous*

Milan November 5, 2005 at 3:22 pm


It must be five in the morning over there… I will try giving you a call at a more reasonable hour.

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