Time for all the works and days of hands

2006-01-22

in Daily updates, Photography, Travel

Tree in the Lamb and Flag Passage, Oxford

Spending time with Wadham MCR people last night was good fun. In particular, talking with Briana Short – both during the Burns Night festivities and during subsequent wanderings – was really interesting. I didn’t know, for instance, that she lived in Ecuador when she was much younger, or that she is hoping to go to medical school at NYU. Having lived in New York previously, she could also have helped me when I was searching for cheap, nutritious foodstuffs there in the summer of 2003. (Photos from that trip)

Likewise, I enjoyed talking with Dave Patrikarakos about photography, IR, and the Oxford experience. The level of variation that exists between the different M.Phil programs (even within the social sciences) seems to be quite high. Likewise, I get the sense from comments made by instructors that the IR M.Phil has varied considerably over the years. Interesting how so many people are walking around with the same qualification, having done rather different work to get it.

Getting back to Dave and photography: at some point, I am meant to give him some tips on digital photography and the use of Photoshop. I’m not really sure how to teach photography for circumstances where you don’t have the option of manually controlling shutter speeds and apertures (as his Kodak digital P&S doesn’t seem to allow you to do) and where you don’t have even a proxy for a light meter. For people learning photography, with an aim to making artistic photos, I definitely recommend a bottom-of-the-line film-based Nikon or Canon SLR and a 50mm prime lens. Additionally, my knowledge of Photoshop is entirely constrained to what Neal taught me and what I learned through tinkering. Still, I will come up with something. Anyone interested in reading something that is available online, stands a good chance of improving your photography, and is neither overly long nor complex should have a look at Making Photographs, by Philip Greenspun. Perhaps Tristan can also suggest some good introductory resources.

Another familial Christmas gift

I got a Christmas gift from Mica in the mail today: a DVD of the film Bullet Down Under which was apparently also released under the title Signal One. The catch phrase on the cover: “A new location… A new life… A fresh start, or is it?” While it was clearly meant as a joke, it remains that it is now the only DVD I have in England, aside from Fog of War.

He also gave me a copy of the new Strokes CD: “First Impressions of Earth.” This is the first actual CD I have come to own new in several years. Certainly, it’s the first CD I have owned and seen advertised in music store windows at the same time. The choice of band is definitely reflective of my brother: he has made at least one video based on their music.

Turning the case over, I saw that it is a product of Sony BMG. Thankfully, after checking the lists online, it’s not one of the discs that includes their illegal and damaging copy protection software: the existence of which is the reason for my personal boycott of their products. None of that is meant to be unappreciative, indeed I am very glad to have received the gift from my brother, but is meant more to serve as a warning to other people considering buying Sony CDs. There is a real chance they will intentionally break your computer. More than a bit ironic, isn’t it, that the safest way to get movies and music is increasingly to download it illegally? While I don’t do so myself, it’s still painful to watch the entertainment industry continuously failing to grasp the realities of an increasingly digital world.

Coffee, errands, and chores

After meeting for coffee and discussing life, the M.Phil program, and everything, I went to Sainsbury’s with Bryony in search of vegetarian food. The tofu shelf, bereft of the single brand available for about a week, had been generously restocked. As a consequence, I now have 750g of organic tofu chilling in my fridge. As always, conversing with Bryony was a pleasant and rewarding experience. She seems to have a particularly strong understanding of the nature of the program. I suppose we also have a lot in common, as fellow Canadians, vegetarians, and the like.

Aside from buying groceries, I replenished my stock of clean clothes today. As long as I can keep myself from spending the time reading blogs or talking on MSN, time I spend doing laundry has the potential to be highly productive. There’s something about the definite lengths of washing and drying cycles that can help you to focus on reading. It’s the same phenomenon that leads you to push on when you are tired but close to home: the knowledge of a comfortable pause at a defined distance.

Decent progress on academic fronts

Short term priorities: reading, first paper for Dr. Hurrell
Longer term priorities (I): find a job for the summer and somewhere to live for next year
Longer term priorities (II): progress on the thesis plan, deciding what to do after the M.Phil

Not having a scholarship application in the works right now contributes significantly to my quality of life. No matter how much reading I may have to do for this or that course, not having to prove myself over again from scratch for the benefit of a committee that almost certainly won’t give me any money anyhow is very pleasant indeed. I do have a Merifield application to complete for Monday, but that is a minimal task. I’d much rather live with some friends in a house near Cowley Road of Jericho, anyhow, though no such group has come together yet involving me.

Along with the standard level of progress on course readings, I finished my preliminary read of this week’s Economist today. It has been suggested to me that I apply for a job with them over the summer. Given that I’ve read every issue since 1997 from cover to cover, perhaps it would be a particularly appropriate occupation for me. That said, my window of employability only runs from mid-June until the beginning of October, assuming I work for the entire period. Three and a half months is a fairly short time to work in an environment where learning to deal with unfamiliar and complex problems is a necessary component of the work. More likely, perhaps, is finding a job as a research assistant. More intriguing, but not entirely unrelated, is the prospect of working for a travel guidebook company as a roving contributor, as Briana recommended yesterday. This is a possibility with enormous appeal, and one that I will definitely keep an eye on.

For Tuesday, I need to rework my presentation on classical v. neorealism into a paper for Dr. Hurrell. Finishing a draft tonight would be ideal, but would depend upon the emergence of a blast of inspiration of the sort that usually manifests itself closer to the due date. Otherwise, I have plenty of core seminar and qualitative methods reading I could do, once I track down some of the books and articles.


  • I created a new website for my brother Mica, so people can comment on his videos. If you enjoy them or simply have something to say about them, I recommend you have a look and leave a comment.
  • Mica has a new video online. They are also all now available for download to PC, Mac, video iPod, or PSP.
  • Louise is coming back to Oxford for a weekend on February 10th. The timing looks quite good, right after the first qualitative methods take home exam. I am excited about seeing her.
  • Since I started counting in mid-November, the blog has been accessed more than 7000 times by people other than me. Thanks for reading.
  • Election day in less than 48 hours!
  • While I cannot vouch for it’s accuracy, the idea behind this strategic vote calculator is a cool one.
  • Seth has proposed another Oxford bloggers’ gathering. What do people in this corner of the blogosphere think? Personally, I am up for it.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

B January 21, 2006 at 7:51 pm

Dollars to donuts – that photo has been artificially sharpened.

Milan January 21, 2006 at 8:01 pm

Perceptive. It shows in the spaces of sky between the tips of the branches. All the same, it makes the bark look more interesting.

Also, Canon cameras tend to sharpen less than other brands: just to give you the option of sharpening further if you care to or not doing so.

This is only the second photo I’ve ever posted on the blog that has had an unsharp mask applied.

R.K.p January 21, 2006 at 9:17 pm

Judging by how you measure the volume of ingredients you use in cubic centimetres, this cooking site may be ideal for you.

Anonymous January 22, 2006 at 2:09 am

Shorter entries, man! Are you trying to suffocate us?

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