Thinking about procrastination

2006-01-09

in Daily updates, Oxford

Flag and rainy windows

Today has been a decidedly downpourish day in Oxford, trickling with rain when it wasn’t dumping it in vast quantities. Aside from a brief period spent in a cafe with a couple of friends, it was a pretty resolutely work focused period, with progress made on the neorealism and statistics fronts. I also finished a preliminary read of the first issue of The Economist for 2006. More members of Library Court are back (including Nora, who has returned from visiting Bilyana’s family), so the overall impression of marching towards term time is well established. For a while, I really was labouring under the illusion that school would never resume.

I think the reason why I spend so much time at Starbucks here (reading, not buying their mediocre Christmas Blend) is because it’s the best kitchen substitute I have. Reading in libraries is difficult because of just how acute the desire not to be there becomes. Likewise, reading in my room is difficult due to the presence of ample material for the most entertaining use of time than course related reading. As such, a hybrid of the two is quite helpful. In North Vancouver, that was the dining room table, either in the afternoon or late at night. As long as I had my iPod playing, people could use the living room and kitchen without bothering me at all. The other, oft-mentioned, example is the Fairview kitchens where I recall reading quite happily in the presence of Meghan, Tristan, and Christina at various times. Since the Library Court kitchen is just a kitchen, with no tables at which to sit, there is no such intermediate space in college. The Middle Common Room (MCR) really doesn’t fit the bill for me. The closest approximation, then, is the Cornmarket Street Starbucks: my kitchen by proxy.

As a graduate student, I don’t feel that any kind of reading is entirely irrelevant, especially when in a field as diverse as international relations. Everything from non-fiction books in other fields to contemporary novels has some applicability. Also, I am much more likely to remember and be affected by your average really good novel than I am by this or that piece of historical or theoretical reading in my subject area. Non-course readings therefore falls into a category of quasi-procrastinatory activities, like blogging. It serves a non-trivial purpose, but should not be allocated large amounts of time when there are important, urgent things to be done. That said, it’s better than wasting away hours on things with no redeeming academic, social, or financial value.

When it rains here, it doesn’t seem to become all that much warmer as a result, unlike most of my experience in Vancouver. As such, it was through a miserable combination of cold and wet that I trudged to and from G & D’s, where I spent a productive few hours reading with Margaret. I hope her pair of papers with deadlines looming and upcoming exam all go well. Sheltering in Wadham, I feel sincerest pity for anyone who has to spend a long time out and about tonight.


  • It should be noted that while the Very Short Introduction to Cryptography was tolerable but fairly basic, the one on David Hume is incredibly boring, and the one on Emotion incredibly speculative, frustrating, and poorly written. I am now firmly resolved to buy no more of them, despite the appeal of the concept.
  • Many thanks to Alex Stummvoll for the postcard from New Zealand. I hope he had a wonderful time there.
  • My veteran Columbia shoes have begun to literally fall apart: ripping along seams and falling apart around the sole. As I recall, I bought these shoes with my father more than a year and a half ago. They have served well over that time, and I do not relish the idea of buying shoes here. Shoe shopping is an activity I dread quite enough in Canada, where a pair of solid shoes can cost as little as twenty Pounds, and fear that I will despise on this side of the Atlantic. In the end, I think it’s the little things like that that force most people to return home.
  • The more miscellaneous living stuff I acquire, the more obvious it becomes that moving to London for a summer job would be a very difficult matter indeed. It would take many expensive, time consuming train or bus journeys. While I might be able to find some kind of storage in Oxford, it would certainly be a pain. Living here would be better for thesis research, anyhow. Hopefully some scholarship will come through and take a bit of the heat off.
  • This week’s Economist features both a link to a gang-run website (including photos taken in Canada) and a reference to the Dan Savage definition of Santorum, which they cite as being “something indescribable in a family newspaper.”

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

B January 8, 2006 at 6:56 pm

This week’s issue also has a fish article that covers similar ground to your recent post.

Anonymous January 8, 2006 at 10:23 pm

Regarding the cold rain: we should all feel sympathy for the Oxford homeless tonight.

B January 9, 2006 at 11:40 am

Calculating the true cost of the Iraq war. As estimated in this paper: between 1.0 and 1.9 trillion American dollars for America alone, perhaps ten times that amount if you include damage to Iraq and Iraqi deaths.

“Half that sum would have put social security on a firm grounding for the next seventy-five years. If we spent even a small fraction of the remainder on education and research, it is likely our economy would be in a far stronger position. If some of the money spent on research were devoted to alternative energy technologies, or to providing further incentives for conservation, we would be less dependent on oil, and thereby more secure; and the lower prices of oil that would result would have obvious implications for the financing of some of the current threats to America’s security. While we may not know what causes terrorism, clearly the desperation and despair that comes from the poverty that is rife in so much of the Third world has the potential of providing a fertile feeding ground. For sums less than the direct expenditures on the war, we could have fulfilled our commitment to provide .7% of our GDP to help developing countries—money that could have made an enormous difference, for the better, to the well being of billions today living in poverty. We could have had a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, or the developing countries, that might actually have succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of those in the Middle East.”

Anonymous January 9, 2006 at 3:02 pm

On this – admittedly poorly calibrated – monitor, the above image looks just terrible.

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