Two Interesting Lectures on Thursday the 10th

The first thing I will attend at Oxford directly related to environmental politics is tomorrow. Professor Patricia Birnie will give a presentation entitled “Exploiting the ambiguities of Article 65 of the Law of the Sea Convention: current practice of the International Whaling Convention” at 12:30pm. It is taking place in lecture room 6 of New College and I encourage anyone interested in the law of the sea to come. Free sandwiches will be provided.

Also tomorrow, at 5:00pm, there will be a lecture at St. Antony’s on the topic: “Marxism: The greatest fantasy of the twentieth century?” Professor Leszek Kolakowski and Professor John Gray will be speaking.

On an entirely unrelated note, several people have asked me to change the font for the blog back to Garamond. This I would be happy to do, since it is a lovely typeface, but for the following problem. When I set the blog up so that Garamond is appropriately legible at 1024×768, the screen resolution used by 67% of readers, anyone viewing the blog on a computer without Garamond, and therefore seeing it in the fallback typeface, sees all the text as ridiculously huge. At present, my knowledge of CSS doesn’t permit me to overcome this, so I will need to stick to fonts that both Windows (83% of readers) and Mac OS (12% of readers) come with by default.

Some perspective

I read something tonight – something Astrid sent me from Ecuador – that makes me feel ashamed about how trivial all the thoughts and concerns represented on this site are. How is it that we can legitimately complain about this or that aspect of life in Oxford when the whole experience of it is incomparably safer and richer than that of a huge tranche of humanity? A vignette of some of the more shocking products of that inequality lends incredible poignancy to the question. A more important question that follows is: what must we do?

To be exposed to the enormity of poverty and injustice is to be charged with an overwhelming ethical sense that something must be done; and yet, the content of that something is unclear. The experience is reminiscent of that of reading an article my aunt wrote: one of an astonished powerlessness. All that I feel as though I can do now is not to forget about it, just because it is usually concealed and peripheral to my thinking. If we are go get anywhere, as a world of people. we need to deal with this.

Perhaps, on the basis of her experiences in South America, Astrid will be able to understand – and help many more of us understand – the complexities and the imperatives involved.

NASCA v.1-0 submitted to the group: rejoice!

Based on my preliminary read, this week’s Economist, which I read at Blenz while awaiting Sarah P, is excellent. Two articles relate directly to the report that it was today’s purpose to complete the first semi-public draft of. Other articles are also very thought provoking. Those interested but without access to the premium content to The Economist should send me an email, so that we can work out some means of sharing the information.

Spending last night with Sarah, drinking beer and talking, was enjoyable, informative, and helpful. I am still often slightly stunned by the incredibly direct and matter-of-fact way she tends to declare her positions. It’s an approach that I find difficult to respond to and am often genuinely flabbergasted by. Still, her ideas about relationships and societal reproductive norms from what might be termed a political/economic game theory perspective have a lot to them. Before I left in the morning, she lent me a copy of the highly interesting history of four critical American thinkers in the years surrounding the civil war: Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club. Along with The Great Fire, it now makes up my fiction reading list for the period until my departure on the 21st. Once again, let me take the chance to remind people about my continental departure party on the evening of Saturday, September 17th.

Today’s task, partly completed at the Capilano Library, was the revision of the conclusion of NASCA v.0-95 and the relatively modest editing of the remainder. As pf this afternoon, a semi-definitive version 1.0 has finally be distributed to the rest of the team for input.

In one piece of excellent news, I learned this afternoon that my father’s medical insurance from work will continue to cover me at Oxford for as long as I am a full-time student. I was quite fearful that I would need to spend thousands of dollars on private insurance. Learning that your finances are in better shape than you feared is always welcome, especially when you are taking on more than $10,000 in debt.

[Entry modified, 23 December 2005]