Happy birthday Jennifer Ellan
Anyone who has been walking in the central part of Oxford lately will understand why my fallback idea of a summer job in the tourist industry is probably a sound one. The digital camera wielding masses increase in numbers and density with every passing weekend. Quite probably, the spectacle presented by my classmates and I walking around in the whole outrageous sub fusc outfit will provide them with the kind of experience they came here in search of. Working as a tour guide is a position that appeals to me. It would involve being outside, as well as really getting to know Oxford. Once the QT is over, I will investigate what is involved in getting such a job, and when one would have to begin. Naturally, my preference would be for something more academic, if it were available.
QT preparation carries on respectably. Based on my conversations with a great many people, it has become plain that your argumentative style is of absolutely critical importance on an Oxford examination. Questions at UBC were generally just a vessel, into which you were expected to pour factual information, within an argumentative context that was not always terribly important. Check marks would appear beside things like references to particular treaties, authors, or battles. Here, such references are still required, but will only get you anywhere within an argument that is quite tightly directed, as well as in keeping with certain rhetorical guidelines.
The first strategy suggested by that kind of test is to ‘can’ responses – in the way that people prepare cases to use at debate tournaments before they leave. Most people with whom I have spoken are doing something along these lines. They are choosing theoretical positions or historical topics and preparing specifically for them, in anticipation of the fact that some combination of questions they have prepared will be on the test.
This strategy does not appeal to me very much. Perhaps I flatter myself in thinking that I can come up with a more interesting answer on the spot, but I don’t think my hopes with regards to the value of spontaneity are entirely misplaced. They do tend to ask questions about standard issues (such as appeasement or the causes of the first world war), but they tend to include a bit of a twist in the question that requires your response to be written along a somewhat unfamiliar grain. Perhaps those who have extensively prepared on specific topics will be less capable of paying appropriate attention to the adaptation that questioning style requires. Given how much my supervisor and others have stressed the importance of both answering and interrogating the particular question, that would be problematic.
In the three days of revision I have left, I will finish reading the papers that I have traded with classmates. I will also give my boiled down notes another going-over or two, try to memorize a few specific ideas from particular theorists and historians, and possibly re-read things I have written here about readings that particularly caught my interest. It is those things – the ones that I felt some passion for at the time I learned about them – that I have by far the best hope of remembering and of writing something convincing about.
- Alex, Kai, and I are throwing a housewarming party on Thursday night, after the QT. It is unofficially Flying Spaghetti Monster themed. Those who have not yet been touched by his noodly appendage can read the Wikipedia article or the open letter that began the movement.
- A valuable discovery made today: a quadruple Starbucks espresso on ice only costs 10% more here than in Vancouver. Surprisingly, it only has about 360mg of caffeine in it, compared to more than 400 for a Venti-sized drip coffee. (Based on figures provided by Starbucks spokesperson Lara Wyss.) For my part, I enjoy eating the ice at the end.
- With a wrench and all the torque I could muster, I tightened every possible bolt on my bike. Hopefully, this will put a stop to the spontaneous mid-ride disassembly that was making my trips more anxious than they might otherwise have been.
- The latest additions to my (ever longer) discretionary reading list are Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. I saw them side by side in Blackwell’s and could hardly resist buying one or the other. Perhaps a job there would be a good idea.