After having coffee with Sheena, about which I shall not write, I read the second portion of Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost. The character whose account it is, Jack Prescott, is one of the least likable in fiction. He is a hot-headed bigot: a liar, rapist, and betrayer. That the story ends well for him is entirely as displeasing as the gruesome conclusion of the first part. Not, in any sense, a cheerful book. That said, the occasional foray into murder, treason, and intrigue is very much necessary for the committed reader of fiction. I quite enjoyed the discussions of cryptography in the third section, which I have not yet finished.
The book is set in the time shortly after Cromwell took over – not the nicest period in history. The violence, the bigotry, and the ignorance demonstrated in the book all reaffirm my belief that the world is generally improving. That’s not to say that these things are no longer present but, at the very least, that they must now generally be apologized for and defended, rather than be taken as automatically acceptable. It’s an unfashionable thing, these days, to believe in progress. First off, it involves the making of ontological claims that people no longer see as firmly based – which has some truth to it, but not enough to counter the evidence of overall improvement. Secondly, it requires the determination to judge the morals and practice of one place and time against another. While there are obviously difficulties in doing so – particularly insofar as the matter of individual and group identity is concerned – that doesn’t seem adequate to conclude that no such comparisons can be made with validity. I would suppose that people given the chance to choose between living in some past age or the present one would choose the latter, largely because of the enormous benefits of modern medicine and nutrition, but also due to imperfect but helpful systems of justice and notions of philosophy and morality.
That’s not to say there isn’t a long way to go: especially in areas like women’s rights, the environment, and the just distribution of goods: material, social, and political.
Summer job search:
This afternoon, I ran a mass of errands. Aside from boring bank stuff and groceries, I stopped by the Oxford University Career Services office. As you can see in the photo above, it looks like a very curious combination between the outside of a castle and the inside of a Church. It is up on Banbury Road, near the Computing Services offices and St. Antony’s College.
Speaking with one of their advisors, I was told that banking and management consulting would both be real long shots for me. As the advisor told it, the problem isn’t really a lack of experience in either area, or even in business generally. The first problem is the time span. Trinity term ends on the 17th of June and Michaelmas term begins in early October. Even if I wanted to work for that whole period, it would only amount to three and a half months or so. The second problem is the fact that I am not interested in a career in banking or consulting. The advisor stressed the fact that this would severely hinder my ability to find a job in these areas for such a short period of time.
As alternatives, she suggested looking for short term work in the research, publishing, or public sector administration areas. She also stressed the possibility of finding a job within the university and the importance of canvassing my professors and supervisor about it. I will ask Dr. Hurrell about it again the next time we meet, to discuss my paper on American foreign policy during the interwar years.
At the very least, I would want something that would pay the cost of living in Oxford or London and allow me some time to do research on my thesis. I am fairly sure it would be possible to devote the bulk of the period to full-time work: something I would do if it stood the chance of helping me pay for next year or reduce my outstanding student debt. The ideal job would probably be a research position in Oxford, in a field that is of interest and relevant to my degree, and which offered at least some time off to travel and do research.
The advisor explained that it is getting a bit late to apply for banking and consulting jobs, but it is too early to apply for most other sorts. As such, I should dig through job listings from previous years and get some sense of what is likely to come up. Another project for the break, two other two big ones being scholarship applications and preliminary house hunting for next year.
It is eleven days, now, until Sarah and I leave for Tallinn.
Right now, it is six degrees Celsius colder in Tallinn than in Oxford, making it the same temperature there as in Toronto. While that is certainly chilly enough, it won’t be the kind of weather that requires balaclavas and threatens severe frostbite from brief exposures to the outside. Looking through the guide book that Nora gave me, I am excited about the prospects for seeing and doing interesting things in Tallinn. Additionally, I am looking forward to seeing Helsinki. Gabe Mastico, who I know from debate at UBC and who is now living in Helsinki, is going to let Sarah and I use his apartment while he is in Vancouver. Since we don’t actually have a hostel registration in Tallinn yet (something that I should make in the next few days, quite probably), that might be especially valuable. Also, I will be able to say that I have seen ‘the Baltic region’ much more fairly if I go to two capitals, rather than just one.
- Here’s a question about encryption, to which I am seeking an answer. It’s an issue that I find puzzling, and which never occurred to me before a friend raised the question today.
- I am not feeling at all well. All of my joints and lymph nodes hurt – especially the ones near my subclavian arteries. I am going to get soup and vitamins tomorrow.