Marching onward

2006-03-02

in Daily updates, Oxford

Snowing near Nuffield

This has been an exceptionally good day. That’s surprising, given that last night was a mess of acute illness and insomnia (though speaking with Alison was excellent). All I could do, when I closed my eyes, was play the Falling Sand Game in my head. While there is no objective to it at all, it is nonetheless ridiculously addictive. Even so, it verges on the disturbing to be simply unable to not see such a thing presented behind your closed eyelids, denying you sleep for hours at a time. No wonder the experimental psychology people want to scan my brain. More on that in a moment.

This morning, I began the day by having coffee with Bryony, before her Mandarin class. Perhaps it’s western Canadian solidarity, but I find it exceedingly easy to relate to her – especially when the topic of discussion is the deliciousness of Asian cuisine. She has the good fortune to be taking a number of trips in the near future: first to Germany, where she is apparently visiting Alex Stummvoll, and then to Morocco with Emily and Sheena, during the next inter-term break. I look forward to the chance to swap stories at G & D’s subsequently.

On my way to supervision with Dr. Hurrell today, it began to really and properly snow: big, unambiguous flakes that caught you in the face as you tried to walk down the street. I spent a few minutes watching it descend in the Wadham gardens before making the short trek up Broad, Cornmarket, and Queen streets to Nuffield. The supervision itself went well, though he had a number of criticisms of my paper. The discussion had the same dynamic of energetically feeding off of one another’s ideas that has made them so invigorating in the past. As friends of mine here will be able to attest, I tend to leave supervisions in a very good mood.

After a few hours of reading, Claire and I walked through the light snow to Cowley Road and visited Oxford’s finest Jamaican pub. Along with a short stop at the Magdalen College bar – my first foray into that beautiful college – we had a good long conversation. The day may have done relatively little to advance either my mandatory or discretionary reading lists, but it has certainly reaffirmed the reasons for which I am here and provided some motive power to press on through the last week of term.

Tomorrow, before our qualitative methods lecture, I am going to the experimental psychology department to be quizzed and prepared. They are going to scan my brain, as part of some kind of mood experiment, and pay me £50, plus a £10 Blackwell’s gift certificate, for a few hours of work. It will become the nest egg of my “buy a bicycle fund.” Having one would let me explore the area around Oxford better, as well as reduce the amount of time it will take to get from the Church Walk flat to classes and the centre of town.

Anyhow, I am off to bed. Best wishes to everyone.

PS. Mike has a short history of Wadham on his blog. While I can’t vouch for its accuracy, it’s an interesting read. I especially like the bit about how the whole student body was expelled in the 1880s after a riot in which the Dean was defenestrated.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 2, 2006 at 11:30 am

What manner of brain scan are they giving you?

Milan March 2, 2006 at 12:04 pm

There are two brain scans. The first uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). It detects how much blood flow different areas of your brain are receiving, and therefore which parts are active. That scan is ninety minutes long and involves performing a series of tasks on a computer inside the bore of the scanner.

The second is a diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) scan, which looks at neural interconnections. You get to watch a DVD during that scan. Both of the scans involve the use of liquid nitrogen, superconductors, and extremely powerful electromagnets.

Aside from these, I have to wear an activity monitoring watch for a week, do a computerized pre-test, and provide saliva samples to check levels of cortisol. Today’s session was just a two hour interview about various psychological and mood issues.

Anonymous March 2, 2006 at 2:07 pm

Sixty quid? Blimey. Are they still looking for volunteers? Can anyone do it or are they looking for egregious brains only?

Milan March 2, 2006 at 3:58 pm

A year ago, when I was in the process of applying for my spot in the program, I filled out and online survey and checked a box saying I would be willing to participate in further research.

This is the further research.

PS. I don’t have an egregious brain, do I?

Meghan March 2, 2006 at 6:15 pm

No, you don’t have an egregious brain. But I would like to know what the study is about, and (when it is complete) what sort of results they gained from examining your mental faculties.

Anonymous March 2, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Yes! Yes!

Give us all the information on your brain!

B March 2, 2006 at 8:26 pm

Today’s photo:

Documentary value: 5/7
Artistic value: 4/7

Anonymous March 8, 2006 at 8:11 am

The First Defenestration of Prague involved the killing of seven members of the hostile city council by a crowd of radical Czech Hussites on July 30, 1419. A Hussite procession marched through the streets of Prague, led by the Priest Jan Zelivsky. They had gotten to the town square where there were Hussite members. The town council members had refused to exchange their Hussite prisoners and an anti-Hussite threw a rock at one of the protestors. Enraged, Jan Zizka, later to become the military leader of the Hussite movement, helped throw the members from the windows onto his supporters spears. The prolonged Hussite Wars broke out shortly afterward, lasting until 1436.

Anonymous March 8, 2006 at 8:21 am

The Second Defenestration of Prague was an event central to the initiation of the Thirty Years’ War in 1618.

Some members of the Bohemian aristocracy were effectively in revolt following the 1617 election of Ferdinand (Duke of Styria and a Catholic) as the King of Bohemia. In 1617, Roman Catholic officials ordered the cessation of construction of some Protestant chapels on land which the Catholic clergy claimed belonged to them. Protestants, who claimed that it was royal, not Catholic Church, land, and thus available for their own use, interpreted this as a violation of the right of freedom of religious expression as granted in the Letter of Majesty issued by Emperor Rudolf II in 1609. They feared that the fiercely Catholic Ferdinand would revoke the Protestant rights altogether once he came to the throne.

At Prague Castle on May 23, 1618, an assembly of Protestants (led by Count Thurn) tried two Imperial governors, Wilhelm Graf Slavata (1572 – 1652) and Jaroslav Borzita Graf von Martinicz (1582 – 1649), for violating the Letter of Majesty (Right of Freedom of Religion), found them guilty, and threw them, together with their scribe Philip Fabricius, out of the high castle windows, They fell some 15 m (50 ft), and they landed on a large pile of manure. They all survived.

Roman Catholic Imperial officials claimed that they survived due to the mercy of benevolent angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause. Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse manure in which they landed.

Edgar Allan Poe December 7, 2007 at 8:23 pm

Edgar Allan Poe

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”

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