Hilary term (unofficially) begins


in Daily updates, Oxford, Politics

I know Kung Fu

Today was a microcosm of the whole Oxford experience. I saw Louise off in the morning, then spent a few hours preparing for a statistics exam that was much harder than I anticipated. It included a lot of the kind of math that would be fine with a few practice homework assignments but is daunting to see for the first time during an examination. Likewise, the analysis portion expected an awful lot: given that the marks balance indicates you should spend 45 minutes on it. That said, it’s behind me now and I am reasonably sure I got the 53.8% that I need to pass the course.

Afterwards, a whole swarm of IR M.Phil students descended on The Turf. Spending an hour or so with them reminded me about all the best thing Oxford offers: namely the company of excellent peers. I know I’ve praised the cooperative spirit of this group before, but it’s a make-or-break issue for me. Along with my name on some distant piece of paper, I am working for the respect of these people, and partly because I feel like I am engaged in a cooperative enterprise with them. I am honoured to be part of such a group.

In my pigeon hole today were letters to Mr. Ilaycky (from the Wadham Hall Manager) and Mr. Iinyckyi (from the Graduate Studies Office).1 The first was about my ongoing attempt to opt out of all college meals. The second was my first term official evaluation from Dr. Hurrell. In the spirit of transparency, I reproduce it below:

Milan appears to be settling in very well both to Oxford and to the course. We have had four substantive meetings this term and he has written papers on US foreign policy, WWI, the Middle East, and China. The papers have been very well prepared and based on a good range of reading. We have discussed some of the ways in which he might revise his essay-writing. But, overall, he is a very strong student and this has been an excellent start to the M.Phil.

Nothing too colourful, but it’s good to know that I am working at approximately the right level. The real test comes once I need to start producing original research. Claire, Alex, and I discussed thesis titles while at The Turf tonight. My idea: “Overspecialize and you Breed in Weakness: Fostering Communication Between Epistemic Communities Related to World Fisheries.” It’s a work in progress.

While it feels more than a bit audacious, perhaps I should record my impressions of Dr. Hurrell, just to balance out the record. My conversations with him have been engaging – so much so that I frequently walk out of them feeling really energized and convinced that important and original things can be done here. I appreciate the way our dialogue seems to allow each to feed off the other: a process of conceptual exploration that uses the essay I wrote as a starting point, rather than the singular focus of discussion. Again, the real test will come with the more personal work next year.

Tonight, there is an MCR welcome back party in Wadham. I’ve also been invited to meet up with a group of the M.Phil people. It’s an invitation I feel inclined to accept. Ultimately, the people are a lot more important than having finished an extra couple of hours of reading. Indeed, it is largely my relationships with people in the program that constitute the motivation to do as well as I can.

No end of post errata tonight.

[1] It’s spelled Ilnyckyj. Nobody would ever try to spell it from memory, so all my problems arise from people who try to correct the spelling because it looks overly insane to them. Fair enough, but that’s how it’s spelled.Oh, one thing: walking to the exam today, I saw that a really serious, almost Israeli-security-barrier class wall has been erected around the construction site for the animal lab. While I won’t get into the ethics and politics of animal testing right now, I think the protesters are really missing the point.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

M.Phil in Another Field January 13, 2006 at 7:53 pm

Have you noticed how the ‘Report on the Term’ form for you is a ‘Claim for Supervision Fees’ form for your supervisor? Look at the bottom of the page.

Not that I’m a cynic or anything.

Milan January 13, 2006 at 8:09 pm

So it is. I am glad my tuition fees are going towards something I value.

Anonymous January 13, 2006 at 8:40 pm

Did you know that Canon (makers of both your cheap digicam, your cheap SLR, and your fancy and gorgeous Elan 7N) used to be called Kwanon, after the Buddhist goddess of mercy?

I love posting crazy random stuff on your blog. Everyone else seems to.

Milan January 13, 2006 at 8:44 pm

Ah, yes.

My Rebel G is 90% as good as the Elan 7N and both 90% and 200% as good as my A510.

You give up a lot for digital, but you get a lot of cost saving and convenience in return, especially if it’s all finding its way online anyhow.

That said, I love everything about my Elan 7N. The way it feels in my hand, the controls, the experience of using it…

Give me it and a few processing included rolls of t-max or HD400 and I can produce some really nice prints, no doubt.

Photoblogger (nicknames are fun) January 13, 2006 at 9:13 pm

One day, you will probably be rich, rich, rich and off shooting medium format art portraits.

At least, you should hope so.

Milan January 13, 2006 at 9:53 pm

How different is it, in the end?

Art is about technical ability and ideas, not how much gear you can afford.

Tristan January 13, 2006 at 10:42 pm

There is certainly an advantage to medium format, it is simply much easier to make large enlargements, whereas with 35mm to make 18 by 30 inch prints requires one to get everything perfect, with medium format it’s no big deal. I woudn’t say so much it’s the cost of your gear which makes you a better photographer, but rather when your a better photographer, the cost of your gear begins to seem relativly uninhibiting.

Milan January 14, 2006 at 12:10 am


This is true but, until t-max and HD400 become accessible again, medium format is entirely out of the question for me.

B January 14, 2006 at 12:40 am

HELMS: If you’re A Bush man, aren’t you raging for The machine?

Yes. Quite possibly.

Milan January 14, 2006 at 12:50 am


I want an Irish Wolf Hound.

Anonymous January 14, 2006 at 2:01 am

Apparently, some areas of North Vancouver are threatened by possible landslides.

I hope your family’s not in them.

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