Narrative update


in Daily updates

Statue in Bath, II

Aside from continued housing headaches and a 7am fire drill in the rain, today went quite well. I spent a very enjoyable hour or so talking with Bilyana, of whom I’ve seen rather less in the past few months than I would like. I also attended an interesting seminar on some of the research D.Phil students in IR are doing.

There are still concerns on the housing front. It seems that we will not get the Church Walk flat for next year after all, though we will have it for the summer. Even that, however, has not been solidly established. It’s enough to make one rather nervous. I’ve joked often enough about living under the Folly Bridge but, despite the convenient access to St. Aldates Street and the Christ Church Meadows, I don’t think it would be a very productive place to reside. As such, the pressure is on to sort out accommodations.

Easter break two days away

Over the course of the break, my highest priority is preparing for our qualifying test. We have the choice between writing two papers on history and one on theory or the opposite. We will also have five or six possible options within each of the two disciplines. In preparation, I mean to go back and read at greater length things I was only able to skim during these last two terms. I will also need to do an extensive general review of the first term, given that it will not be as fresh in my mind as the theory material.

Also to be worked on over the break is thesis planning, the location of guaranteed accommodation for the remainder of the program, and the continued search for funding. It shouldn’t be enormously long now before I hear back from the Chevening Scholarship and Overseas Research Scholarship committees. These are the two big awards about which I am the most hopeful. Either would really simplify the task of funding the second year of the M.Phil.

Of course, the two most dramatic events planned for the break are Sarah Johnston’s wedding and the Maltese expedition. Getting a few emails from an account under Sarah’s new name (Sarah Webster) today was a reminder of just how urgent the whole matter is. A few days after the wedding, for which I’ve just sorted out a place near Chichester to stay, I will be going to Malta with my mother. Some preparations remain for both expeditions; dealing with that should be a good task for the opening few days of the break.

Also worth mentioning are all the generic resolutions I make during breaks in school: to advance my discretionary reading, to get a lot more exercise (hopefully with a bike), to write letters to friends, to cook more and eat better, and to resuscitate the social parts of life that often suffer during term time.

PS. Another task for the break: producing more batches of high quality photographs to use as part of blog entries.

PPS. I must remember to do something with Bethan between the completion of her exams and her departure for China.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 8, 2006 at 10:57 pm

Any chance of seeing Louise over the break?

Milan March 8, 2006 at 11:28 pm

No specific plans exist, though I would be happy to see her if the chance arose.

Anonymous March 9, 2006 at 1:28 am

How to Hunt Elephants

Mathematicians hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing
out everything that is not an elephant, and catching one of
whatever is left. Professors of mathematics prove the
existence of at least one elephant and leave the capture of
an actual elephant as an exercise for one of their graduate

Computer scientists hunt elephants using algorithm A:

1. Go to Africa
2. Start at the Cape of Good Hope
3. Work northward in an orderly manner, traversing the
continent alternately East and West.
4. During each traverse
a. Catch each animal seen
b. Compare each animal caught to a known elephant
c. Stop when a match is detected.

Experienced computer programmers modify Algorithm A by
placing a known elephant in Cairo to ensure that the
algorithm will terminate.

Engineers hunt elephants by going to Africa, catching gray
animals at random, and stopping when any one of them weighs
within plus or minus 15 percent of any previously observed

Economists don’t hunt elephants, but they believe that if
elephants are paid enough they will hunt themselves.

Statisticians hunt the first animal they see N times and
call it an elephant.

Consultants don’t hunt elephants, but they can be hired by
the hour to advise those who do.

Operations research consultants can measure the correlation
of hat size and bullet color to the efficiency of elephant
hunting strategies, if someone else will identify the elephants.

Politicians don’t hunt elephants, but they will share the
elephants you catch with the people who voted for them.

Lawyers don’t hunt elephants, but they do follow the herds
around arguing about who owns the droppings. Software
lawyers will claim that they own an entire herd based on the
look and feel of one dropping.

When the Vice President of R&D tries to hunt elephants, his
staff will try to ensure that all elephants are completely
prehunted before he sees them. If the VP sees a
nonprehunted elephant, the staff will (1) Compliment the
vice president’s keen eyesight and (2) enlarge itself to
prevent any recurrence.

Senior managers set broad elephant hunting policy based on
the assumption that elephants are just like field mice, but
with deeper voices.

Quality assurance inspectors ignore the elephants and look
for mistakes the other hunters made when they were packing
the jeep.

Salespeople don’t hunt elephants but spend their time
selling elephants they haven’t caught, for delivery two
days before the season opens. Software salespeople ship the
first thing they catch and write up an invoice for an
elephant. Hardware salespeople catch rabbits, paint them
gray and sell them as “desktop elephants.”

source: “Pachydermic Personnel Prediction” by Peter Olsen in the
September 1989 edition of BYTE.

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