Real academic work has resumed

2006-01-18

in Daily updates, Oxford

The Old Library at All Souls

Lectures

Unfortunately, I missed the first Philosophy of the Social Sciences lecture today, because I didn’t know when it was happening. I learned when Marga Lyall sent me an email: 3/4 of the way through the lecture and I was busily writing up presentation notes on neorealism. It seems that most of the other M.Phils missed it as well, so I am not overly worried. It’s also a supplemental, rather than examined, piece of coursework – though it is mandatory.

The first core seminar went extremely well. Both Jennifer Welsh and the talkative David Williams provided good direction for what proved to be a very interesting discussion. The seminar opened with a brief discussion of what theory is and should be. I think it would have benefitted significantly from the presence of a philosopher or two, especially when questions about the nature of knowledge and science arose.

Somewhat uncharacteristically, I volunteered to present, as I felt myself to have a fairly strong grasp of the topic. It’s always nice to get these things out of the way, even when they are not explicitly for marks. My general sense afterwards is that the presentation went quite well, though the importance of them doesn’t extend too far beyond offering some starting point for discussion.

Strategic Studies Group

Tonight, there was a presentation on Saudi Arabia being made to the Oxford Strategic Studies Group (OUSSG) at All Souls. I attended along with Claire and Madgdy. The speaker was Colonel (Ret) Brian Lees and he spoke for about an hour about the various characteristics of the Saudi Kingdom: geographic, political, strategic, etc. It was an interesting summary, not dissimilar in overall content from the survey recently printed in The Economist, though notably more favourable towards the Saudi Royal Family.

Apparently, three positions have opened up on the executive committee of the OUSSG. Since I don’t have any experience with the group, the sensible position to aim for would be that of secretary. Consider this a formal declaration of candidacy. Since it is basically a communication and paperwork position, it seems an intelligent starting point for an outsider: as well as something relatively unlikely to be hotly contested. I spent about an hour after the talk and subsequent questions talking in The Turf with the current President, Secretary, Webmaster, and a number of members. They seem an interesting group and this seems a good way to expand my range of Oxford activities, as I have expressed the intent to do in previous posts. At ten Pounds for membership, it’s enormously more reasonably priced than the Union.

Later in the year, there is also a highly subsidized expedition to Brussels to see the European Parliament and NATO headquarters. It’s happening during the next inter-term break and it seems entirely sensible to part with three days of revision time and one hundred Pounds or so for such an opportunity.

Miscellaneous

With Philosophy of the Social Sciences lectures from 10:00 to 11:00, the core seminar from 11:00 to 1:00, the Changing Character of War series from 1:00 to 2:30, and Professional Training in the Social Sciences from 5:30 until 7:30, Tuesdays this term look as though they will be fairly hectic and good for displacing meals to awkward times.

This afternoon, I made a second written request for the form I need in order to make a written request to opt out of all future meals in college. Along with having NatWest make another bank draft and finishing the ORS application, I am well stocked with paperwork. As I’ve said before, completing a scholarship application we’ve been told that we have virtually no chance of winning is frustrating.

After much urging from Jessica, I’ve abandoned the buggy Mac version of MSN Messenger for the open source client Adium. It looks as though it will take some tweaking before it is working the way I want it to, but the general wisdom of avoiding Microsoft products (especially where the internet is concerned) is enough to make me stick with it, at least for now. The existence of an optional Hobbes (the tiger, not the philosopher) Dock icon is also a selling point. The default duck icon is just hideous. There is something rather nice about being able to use one relatively elegant program to access a diverse range of IM services, though I am only using it for MSN and AIM at the moment.


  • Apple has responded to the many people who complained about a spyware feature in the new version of iTunes. You are now able to decline installation of the component in question: an iTunes ‘Ministore’ to which information about any song you clicked on was sent. This goes to show both that some companies listen to their customers and that it isn’t so hard to address customer complaints after the fact. Well done Apple.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

B January 18, 2006 at 1:18 am

Adium is nice. Definitely a huge improvement over MSN.

Adium with Hobbes icons… well, that’s just excellent. I love Bill Waterson.

Anonymous January 18, 2006 at 3:56 pm

With its All Souls lodgings and Eton educated membership, you might find the Strategic Studies Group a bit blue-blooded for your liking.

Meghan January 18, 2006 at 5:18 pm

I’m also a Calvin & Hobbes fan. I have the complete collection in three large hardcovers…a nice Christmas present. There are so many good comics in that strip.

Milan January 18, 2006 at 5:23 pm

I heard about that box set. I love Calvin and Hobbes and have ever since I bought “Something Under the Bed is Drooling” at a garage sale for 25 cents. Waterson really understands childhood, as well as being a really funny guy.

Meghan, you should get some kind of instant messenger program: MSN, AIM, Adium, Skype, whatever. I miss talking with you.

Meghan January 18, 2006 at 5:31 pm

I’ll think about it… does msn work on macs?

Milan January 18, 2006 at 5:35 pm

Yes, but I recommend Adium.

It’s free.

It is open source.

And it lets you use MSN, AIM, and other services all through one program at the same time.

Skype is also available for Macs and, for any Mac with a built in mic, it’s extremely convenient.

Anonymous March 20, 2006 at 12:57 am

Note:

At present, you can download the Hobbes icons for Adium from that site.

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