Oxford being progressively abandoned


in Daily updates, Oxford

Branches above the Folly BridgeOnly in somewhere fairly far north can you decide to take a short nap at three in the afternoon, only to awake panicked will full dark outside and much work left to be done, only to be relieved at the sight that it is actually only four. Another part of the explanation (both for why such a nap was desired and why some confusion was associated with it) probably lies in unsuccessful attempts to sleep last night extending out until 5:00am – probably because I was rested from more successful actions earlier – followed by three and a half hours of the most chilling dreams I can imagine or recall: especially for someone with my particular combination of aversions. I shudder to think of them.

Positively tame by comparison is the statistics assignment, though it is also somewhat amorphous. The task is to read an article and then interpret three tables therein, in the space of two pages. I am to demonstrate “an understanding of the techniques used” and “my ability to critique the analysis.” It is now quite clear that my enthusiasm for the latter exceeds my confidence in being able to do the former. Still, I press on.

Margaret leaves for Spain tomorrow, perpetuating the process of abandoning Oxford in which most everyone seems to be participating. It may be a gravitational phenomenon. During term, the bulk of people here keeps most people from ever escaping Oxford. If they get away, it is only to London, and briefly. (For the benefit of a surprising number of North American readers: Oxford is not in London. It is a town of about 150,000, located some 75km from London.) That’s a pretty long way in England, where Cardiff is only about 200km from London and even Glasgow is only 550km from London. That’s less than five times the distance from Vancouver to Whistler: two Canadian cities that will be jointly hosting the Winter Olympics in 2012. Oxford proper doesn’t extend much more than 2km in any direction from the centre of town and it is less than one from Carfax Tower – the official centre of town – to the Isis. Farther south, the Isis is called the Thames. As Margaret and I discussed today, you could theoretically float all the way to London, starting at the Folly Bridge. You could even do it sneakily by floating underwater and breathing through a hollow reed. Anyone considering that should invest in a wetsuit.

Prior to my escape on Thursday, there is a great deal to be done. Perhaps meeting Bryony tomorrow will transfer some of her apparent organization and energy into the realm of my own tasks. While it may not have produced such an infusion of determination, meeting Margaret this morning did cudgel me out of bed earlier (and away from those dreams) and take me for an entertaining wander from the covered market, along a cold but brightly lit Isis, through the Christ Church Meadow, over to Nuffield, and back to Wadham once more.

Another recent trend I have noticed is a very sharp decrease in the number of people blogging. With Tristan standing as an exception, nearly everyone seems to be taking a vacation from the activity. Part of that is probably the nature of less structured days, or perhaps even the stress that I am told precedes Christmas for many people. Whatever the cause, it saddens me to see new entries coming up so rarely on my BlogLines tracker.

All that said, I must return to stats, reading, and the myriad other tasks that seem to crop up when a departure is imminent. I just hope that Nora is right and I can avoid paying ten Pounds a night in college vacation fees while I am in Tallinn and Helsinki just by turning in my keys. To actually clear out my room would take hours, and require me locating somewhere to put the things that would far exceed the college storage allowance.

Today’s diverting fact:

  • In the 10th century Oxford became an important military frontier town between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and was on several occasions raided by Danes. Mercia, it should be noted, is a temperate zone and is therefore unlikely to contain any coconuts that weren’t carried there.
  • I leave for Tallinn in five days. Excitement!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 11, 2005 at 5:23 pm

For the benefit of the bewildered:

Arthur: So? We have ridden since the snows of winter covered this land, through the kingdom of Mercia, through–
Soldier #1: Where’d you get the coconuts?
Arthur: We found them.
Soldier #1: Found them? In Mercia? The coconut’s tropical!
Arthur: What do you mean?
Soldier #1: Well, this is a temperate zone.
Arthur: The swallow may fly south with the sun or the house martin or the plover may seek warmer climes in winter, yet these are not strangers to our land?
Soldier #1: Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?
Arthur: Not at all. They could be carried.

Tristan Laing December 11, 2005 at 7:06 pm

Good Photo, although it appears to be of the sort that would be better if the 510 went wider on the zoom setting. I am unsure as to why so few small-sensor digicams go as wide as 28 or 24 mm equivalents, although I do know that those that do are very expensive and have complex, visible, uncorrectable distortion. The good news is, 1.6x multiplier sensors are becoming cheap (a 9megapixel can be had for 90$!), which hopefully should mean more bigger sensor digicams with cheaper wider better lenses. Even a true 35 mm instead of 38 would be a significan improvement.

Milan December 11, 2005 at 7:13 pm

Neat. I need to remember to clean my lens before I go to Tallinn.

Regrettably, I don’t think it will work for me to bring my real SLR. The cost of film, developing, printing, and scanning I cannot justify.

Nora December 11, 2005 at 7:47 pm

I am right about the room thing! Postgrads are not required to empty out their rooms; whether or not you’re in residence will be known by the key registry. Just make sure you turn in your room key at the lodge before you leave so that they can note when you were out of college.

Milan December 11, 2005 at 7:54 pm


Excellent. Thank you.

Anonymous December 12, 2005 at 12:46 am

Milan, having taught here for over ten years, I feel it incumbent upon myself to say that you are clearly an extraordinarily unintelligent man; your woeful similes are surpassed only by your dreadful metaphors. This blog is, without exception, poorly written, hoplessly egotistical and, what is perhaps the cardinal sin, unrelentingly tedious.

Furthermore, you have nothing positive to say about anything. If I had come from somewhere like Canada and been fortunate enough to be given a room in a beautiful 17th century castle, I would have at least found something good to say. But instead we are subjected to an almost incessent barrage of whining about your tedious, inconsequential, miserable existence and your god-awful course.

I accept that some oversight in the admissions process must have meant that you ended up here in error. This is something we shall attempt to rectify with next year’s intake.

Milan December 12, 2005 at 1:07 am

Sir or Madam,

While I regret that the blog is lacking in the sorts of metaphors, similes, and observations you enjoy, I am pleased to be able to present you with an ideal alternative to suffering the tedium of reading it. There are surely tens of thousands of web pages out there that will prove more to your liking and, beyond that, all manner of other entertainments.

I won’t deny that I have complained: particularly about statistics and the food here. That said, I don’t think anyone experiencing either from my position would think those things very positive, though they may be more restrained in their critiques. In any event, the blog also contains many positive comments about Oxford, my course, Wadham College, and the general experience of life I am having. Regarding the quality of writing, there should be some recognition given that I don’t have as much experience with the area as I have enthusiasm for improving. The blog is part of that process. Naturally, valid and considered criticism is an important part of that.

As to your project of “rectifying the admissions process” in order to exclude those like me: if you have the power to do so or the skill to convince others of the wisdom of your position, I wish you the best of luck with it. All the same, it seems a bit brash to render such a judgment without having seen any of my academic work. I daresay that if most Oxford students took it upon themselves to post their reflections daily and publicly, you would find the mean result to be rather less satisfactory, according to your various measures.

Finally, while I respect the greater length of time you have spent here, as well as the fact that you are an instructor, I’ve always preferred to converse with people who identify themselves in some substantial way.

B December 12, 2005 at 1:29 am

Oh, my.

Milan, I would have attacked the obvious flaws of logic. He says that you are an “extraordinarily unintelligent man” then, by reason of justification, cites that you complain too much and write poorly.

In the first case, I don’t think there is any restriction on intelligent people complaining as much as they care to. In my experience, they do so all the time. (Just look at the example of our erstwhile Don here, who could have just as easily stopped reading, rather than taking the time to chew you out.) Without spending more than ten minutes, I could come up with dozens of examples from literature and scholarship or brilliant complainers. Whether you are ungrateful or not (and you sometimes can be) is beside the point.

With regards to the second point: for a blogger, you write bloody well. That’s not to say that it’s page after page of crisp and brilliant prose, but you do write in sentences and cogent arguments about things and people you care about. With some notable exceptions, that is several steps above the blogging norm.

While I don’t believe that this person really is an Oxford Don – they’ve given no indication of it – I really don’t think you should let yourself be as bothered by this as I know you are liable to become.

alison beta December 12, 2005 at 1:40 am

What a curious display of internet drama. Obviously this person isn’t a don. If they had half a testicle (or ovary), they wouldn’t be posting this anonymously: it takes a lot of gall to attack the character of a young student, who lives half way around the world from his home. Their tone is awfully bitter. Perhaps they’re upset their blog isn’t up to par with yours? You’re as eloquent in words as you are in person, and your response was tasteful and reasonable.


Shane December 12, 2005 at 2:57 am

Let’s start that list of smart people who winge.
1) Schopenhauer.

Anonymous December 12, 2005 at 3:04 am

Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth (and Lady)
Churchill, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Whitman

V.A.K December 12, 2005 at 7:14 am

I don’t understand. My experience with Milan has taught me that he is a very-self confident person. Obviously, if he is willing to post criticisms, he must not be affected by them (much). Why all this fluffing of the ego from B and Allison Beta?

B December 12, 2005 at 1:04 pm

Alison Beta and I have a lot more experience with Milan than you do. It’s also less coloured by own own needs and desires. Just look at the descriptions on your blog: you see Milan in the way that you personally need to see him, in order to affirm some truth about yourself and the world that you want to cling to.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: