Friday, 25 February 2005

Now I know what it means...

... to be immersed in your work.

Thursday, 24 February 2005

My data

My data isn't doing what it should. It's telling me something I didn't expect, and it isn't telling me what I did expect. This is very disappointing and frustrating: it completely changes what I am able to say.

I guess this frustration is what we call science.

Friday, 18 February 2005

some pictures....

This is Colchester at night. Why do you want to look at Colchester at night? I don't know. Anyway, this is Colchester at night.

My student's essays have improved.


mean GTAs who laugh at their students' mistakes

Religion and the rise of capitalism

"Private property... may... encourage self-interest, causing rotting surplices."

Yeah, I gave up on Emile halfway through

"This is often the problem with Rousseau's work, it can be interrupted in many different ways."

Early Black Power theorist

"Public land still remains an interracial part of Locke's theory...."

Thursday, 17 February 2005

kind of awkward

I was dead against the war and still am. But an awful lot of Iraqi bloggers seem very happy about being rid of Saddam, and not many of them seem very keen on the insurgents/terrorists.

Still, it could be worse: at least I didn't come out in support of the "radical" iraqi insurgents, unlike one PhD student at Essex (and at least one newspaper columnist). That looked pretty bad when they started chopping people's heads off....

Notes for future GV201 (Political Theory) teachers

Some of these are just my way of doing things but they are worth considering: YMMV.

1. Right at the start, emphasize very clearly that they must read the primary text closely, and discourage them from reading too much secondary literature. In most courses, reading around is practically compulsory; for GV201, this will almost certainly confuse them. At first, they should just read the primary text and maybe a simple introduction (Past Masters or similar). Anything else is probably a mistake.

2. Teach them in class how to follow a sustained argument. This will encourage them to do the same in essays. Point out when people are going off-topic. (Of course, you shouldn't discourage people from having their own ideas. But when you've started one discussion, follow it through.)

3. Make sure they understand the texts. I think it is good practice to spend at least one lesson per primary text, solely on analysing the text itself (rather than on discussing "issues raised").

4. When you do talk about more general "issues", introduce them with specific modern examples, to awaken their interest. But then try to bring the discussion round to the issue involved, rather than details of the specific example.

Wednesday, 16 February 2005

"search experts"

MSN "search experts" fail in appointed task...

â??Our search wasnâ??t successful. We assume that the data is suppressed by the MSN website. On the other hand it is very difficult in general to get to this data. And sure, we know too that it wasnâ??t in the sense of microsoft to be here.â??

ok, some speedups

# dpkg-reconfigure

and say "yes" to prelinking

# apt-get install ooqstart-gnome

(or the kde equivalent)

# apt-get install prelink

and set prelink to "yes" in /etc/default/prelink

If you want to prelink firefox (which is a good idea), you will need to add:




to /etc/, and run ldconfig.

slow stuff that I don't like about desktop linux

1. applications take ages to start up. For example, openoffice takes about 45 seconds. (This is with openoffice-quickstart installed).

2. menus take ages to popup. This is only the first time. (But you often only click the File menu once per program.)

3. context menus, ditto.

4. The computer takes a long time to start up. (Red Hat and Ubuntu are trying to speed this up.) This isn't so bad because usually I just "suspend".

I really wish that someone more competent than me would

- fix the scheduler so that user-visible apps start up faster (higher priority to new processes?)

- preload basic applications (firefox, nautilus) on desktop startup

- preload menus on app startup

I have lost so many minutes waiting for simple things to happen!

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

Planet Iraq

Introducing Planet Iraq - a compendium of blogs from Iraq

long meeting with head of department yesterday.

I am trying

1) to persuade him that GTAs are overworked and underpaid. This is easy.

2) to get him to do something about it - or at least, what we want him to do. This is slightly harder.

Meanwhile I am also trying to solve the GTA collective action problem between departments. (A poli sci way of saying, I am trying to get us organized to lobby at university level as well as just departmental level. We are at the heart of undergraduate teaching and that should be recognized more than at present.)

Wednesday, 9 February 2005


that was kind of an emotional meeting.

if we could just translate that into action it would be awesome.

GTA meeting today.

I'm GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistant) rep for my department - ie, a unionist, not something I ever expected. The GTA survey I did a month ago says: we are extremely overworked. We need to fix this by getting paid more - or by working less.

Problem is, the University decides how much to pay us per hour, and how many nominal "effort hours"to pay us per real hour of teaching. So we need to get in touch with other departmental GTAs and lobby them together. And we encourage Dave Sanders to pressure the university.

Tuesday, 8 February 2005

essays in...

... now I'm just sitting here waiting for the latecomers.

I'm exhausted. I was trying to work at 9.30 last night. I'm so tired I can't stop.

This afternoon I'm going to go and lie in a chair.

Monday, 7 February 2005

Saturday, 5 February 2005

Insert columns in openoffice

1. Go to Format->Columns.

2. Select the number of columns you want

3. If you want control over what text goes in which column, uncheck the "distribute text freely amongst columns" box.

4. Hit OK.

5. Now the bit that took me five minutes to work out (Openoffice help sucks): if you want to put text in the second or subsequent column, you can't just click there - you have to go to Insert->Manual Break... and choose "Column break".

oh no

I've bought a £100 car in Hull. Was this wise? Now I might have to go and fetch it.

Thursday, 3 February 2005

Tuesday, 1 February 2005

CSV file of all initiatives

CSV file of initiatives 1904-2000, available from my essex website.

HOWTO download files from your Nokia 7250i using Linux

This is on my computer with an infrared connection: Debian Sarge on a Portege 7020CT.

Mostly stolen from here.

1) Download the gammu software. (There are packages for most distributions. The deb files worked for me.)

2) Get your infrared connection working:

turn the infrared on the phone on, put it next to your infrared port.

> irattach irda0 -s

You may need to do

> irattach /dev/ttyS1 -s

instead - see here for an explanation of the difference (also read "man irattach").

Now your lowlevel infrared connection is working. Check it with

> cat /proc/net/irda/discovery

look for the name of your phone, and something like Daddr: 0x00001234

and do

> irdaping 0x00001234

to see if you can connect (obviously, using the hex number you found in /proc/net/irda/discovery)

You now need to make the highlevel irda interface work. I had to manually create /dev/ircomm0 as root:

# cd /dev

# mknod ircomm0 c 161 0

Then "modprobe ircomm-tty" (you may need to "modprobe ircomm" manually too, not sure). There is probably a way to automate all this stuff.

3) Create a ~/.gammurc file. Mine looks like


port = /dev/ircomm0

connection = irda

4) Play with gammu:

> gammu --identify

should show you your phone (check it still has infrared on!)

> gammu --getfilesystem

should list your filesystem. But for me, it didn't work: I just got the first (root) folder of my phone, repeated ad infinitum. So a workaround is to do

>gammu --getfile

starting at 1,2,3; each time it should tell you the name of the folder. (It's complaining that you can't download a whole folder.) When you find the folder with your photos in (or whatever) just do

> gammu --getfilefolder X

where X is the relevant number.

5) Donate to the gammu team for being cool and providing you with a free way to do what Windows people charge £25 for.