Academic Tempo Rising Once More…


in Daily updates, Oxford

rinks with the Dean in the Old Library

…no more time for wistful diversions.

As with all prior Tuesdays – and all those coming soon – today was a long run of academic stuff. This is the kind of day best started with about a litre of coffee, served black. In the morning, I read about appeasement for a while before attending the core seminar. Charitably, Dr. Wright has assigned the topics for the next three weeks to particular people: freeing those who have not yet presented from the anxiety of not knowing when they shall. Likewise, in the cases where people will be called upon to give a second presentation, volunteers have been recruited. I am not among them.

As with last week, I decided to eat lunch instead of attending the Changing Character of War lecture nestled between our two blocks of classes. In the afternoon, I attended the quantitative methods lecture, and then worked with Claire and Alex on stats until it was time to wander over to the event with the Dean. Thankfully, this week’s assignment is rather more clear and comprehensible than its forebears. I am not overly apprehensive about completing it tomorrow morning.

As the photo shows, I was correct to speculate earlier that the event with the Dean would be informal. The event was fairly large and impersonal: with a short, generic speech delivered by the Dean and rather a lot of good finger-food. The tiny vegetarian pizzas alone probably accounted for more calories that I had consumed in the previous week, and the task of processing the lipids they contained is still far outstripping the task of contemplating tomorrow’s statistics assignment, in terms of what percentage of my energy I can assign to it.

As a group, the M.Phils managed to submit a signed statement about the statistics course to the department today: endorsed by 27 of the 28 people in the program. The final text looked much like this (link to RTF), and the document had an impressive air of solidarity, with all our signatures laid out in two columns. Let us hope that it induces some change, as well as a widespread knowledge that much is rotten in the state of STATA. While the head of the program told me, today, that “constitutionally [he is] not empowered to conduct high level intervention,” I am hoping very much that someone shall.

On the social front, Madjdy has kindly invited several other members of the M.Phil and I to the guest dinner at New College on Friday. Just a ways up Hollywell Street, New College is among the closest of the other colleges. It is also a rather larger and more substantial seeming place than Wadham. Included within it are a massive Aztec-style pyramid in honour of Oxford’s plague victims and the remaining portion of the Oxford city walls. Margaret tells me that the mayor of Oxford is charged with walking atop them once a year, to ensure that they are in good order. I am looking forward quite a bit to taking up Madjdy on his kind invitation.

Also to be looked forward to: Alexander Stummvoll, another of the IR M.Phil students, has invited me to the screening of an Italian film at St. Antony’s on Wednesday the 16th. Title T.B.A. (It’s an odd, but not unpleasant, fact that I seem to do more college events outside Wadham than within it.)

Also balancing out school a bit is the prospect of becoming involved with a club. Bryony has suggested that I join the Oxford University Walking Club. It costs much less than the Oxford Union and offers the chance to do something I would be rather keen on, namely explore the U.K. outside of Oxford. Any Oxfordians interested in more information can join the club’s mailing list by sending a blank email to this address.

PS. Tomorrow, it is crucial that I secure some research materials from the SSL, as well as completing my third stats assignment. The following papers are upcoming, and must be kept in mind:

  • 17 Nov: (Dr. Hurrell) To what extent was the victory of the Chinese Communists influenced by external powers?
  • 22 Nov: (Core Seminar) How far were the war aims of the Big Three influenced by the ‘lessons’ of the inter-war period?

PPS. I also need to do something urgently about my increasingly overdue battels and fees. In a development that has me literally pulling out my newly-shortened hair, I got this message from the Bank of Montreal tonight:

Unfortunately, your funds could not credit to your account in UK because the International said wrong account number is XXXXXXXX. Please make sure that your account number right. your funds have been credited to your BMO account. 

Words just cannot express the frustration of getting a response like this after a month of mailing this and that piece of paperwork. Especially since, as far as I can tell, the blocked out number is correct. Oh, and they charged me $60 for the failed transfer anyways.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

B November 8, 2005 at 11:00 pm

$60 for a barely cogent message from the bank’s customer support? The Bank of Montreal definitely seems to have this international fund transfer thing down.

B November 9, 2005 at 12:22 am

Reading back over that, I should comment more usefully.

One thing that is undoubtedly true about you is that you don’t handle stress particularly well. You are easily overpowered by it and it makes you either combative (as with your stats course) or resigned. Neither is a productive response and both should be averted. I recommend parcelling your work better between the days, rather than having boom and bust periods of relaxation and extreme buckling down.

Additionally, I suggest that you work harder to maintain perspective. You are incredibly lucky to be where you are and you should be appreciating it and taking the utmost advantage of it. I realize that writing is an outlet for you – and you have precious few at the moment – and we therefore tend to see the bits that are troubling you more than the ones that are going well. The trick is, remember that both exist.

Don’t panic.

Take a deep breath and keep your balance.

Milan November 9, 2005 at 12:30 am

Arthur turned it over nervously in his hands.

“I like the cover,” he said. “Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.”

Ben November 9, 2005 at 11:27 am

I don’t think research methods will ever change significantly. Some form of such training has to be there, so we just have to live with it. You could try taking your protest to the GJCC, or the new student led body…

Milan November 9, 2005 at 11:33 am

If I was in charge of an eight week, introductory statistics course for IR students, I would devote the first four to statistical theory – taught with nothing fancier than a scientific calculator. After properly covering things like distributions, modelling, and regressions, I would spend the next four weeks going through actual journal articles that make use of quantitative methods, learning how to critique them.

For evaluation, I would have people write some kind of short evaluation of the use of statistics in a piece of social science work.

Anonymous November 9, 2005 at 1:56 pm

First off, there ain’t nothing wrong with being a bit combative from time to time, B. Especially when you’re dropping fifty grand on a degree. You can expect the coursework to be excellent.

Second, regarding your general criticism, remember that he _is_ at Oxford. Where are you?

Michelle B. November 9, 2005 at 4:14 pm

Milan, BMO sucks you should open an account at CIBC.

Milan November 9, 2005 at 4:28 pm


Opening one new bank account, in a country where I am physically present, has been difficult enough. I don’t think I will make an attempt to open another in a country where I am not, and will not be for two years.

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