Friday, December 24, 2004

Greetings from jet-lag central (for "blogger idol: travel")

I don't take drugs to alter my consciousness.

Except alcohol, caffeine, over-the-counter pain killers and the occasional large dose of legal theory. This may not be so much a matter of personal morality as naivete. I wouldn't know where to score anything else in Cambridge anyway. Despite doing a lot of amateur theatre with thespy undergrads.

Anyway, I digress ...

I write from an increasingly familiar space to yours truly, jet-lag central. I arrived back Chez the Folks, near Canberra, today after a 22 hour flight from London and an involuntary stop-over in Sydney due to a certain lack of foresight on my part in co-ordinating a connecting flight far enough ahead of time.

This is the third time in three months I've done a 22 hour plane trip. Weirdly, I'm getting used to it - especially weird as I can't sleep on planes. Jet lag has become my most expensive form of altered consciousness.

The main thing I notice is that time becomes a marathon race: I'm always counting off the hours to the end of the flight, the time the next good movie starts on the in-flight entertainment, or on arrival the hours until I can reasonably go to bed and (hopefully) sleep.

Also the small stuff stops mattering at all. I just shrug and go: "Huh, I've lost a travel padlock."

"What do you know, despite being up for 30 hours, I just can't sleep. Let's go downstairs and pester the desk clerk for the right time, then."

"Hurm, just dropped the boxers I was planning to sleep in on a wet shower floor."

Everything happens in slow motion, quite some distance away. I can converse, using stock phrases, and listen with polite intensity (because it requires a weird intensity of concentration to get through simple actions like wrapping a Christmas gift) but am relatively useless for any activity which is not closely supervised.

Other weird side effects include making unguarded personal comments to strangers and crying at movies (neither usual pass times). Both I guess indicate that the emotional filters are down, and the world while oddly distant becomes peculiarly heightened, too.

Still, my biggest achievement in all of this has been (other than not losing any luggage) reading and possibly understanding about 150 pages worth of a book on the history of theoretical approaches to international law.

No honestly, it's considerably more interesting than you'd imagine.

Okay, yes I am still jet-lagged as I write this.

PS Blogger idol 'travel' entries that made me think:
A Dervish's Du`a'
Cliff between the lines

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New Naylor

Right, I'm off home for Christmas. Looking forward to an improbably long 40+ hour trip door-to-door, including 22 hours flying insomniac air.

("Drink gin," suggested one friend, as if that's usually a problem.)

Meanwhile, go play with Elliot Naylor. Things are getting worse, you know.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

King's Chapel on a perfect winter afternoon Posted by Hello
Australia’s “terror exclusion zone” and reading past the headlines

Much as I am forever cringing at the present Australian government’s general shoot-from-the-lip approach to international law, you’d have thought they’d have learned something from the fiasco over our announcing a policy on pre-emptive strikes against terrorist within neighbouring State’s territory. Of course, Indonesia, Malaysia and others were not best pleased about this, resulting in some furious back-pedalling.

So, it was with some surprise that I read in the The Independent the headline “Australia to impose 1,000-mile 'terror exclusion zone'”:
In a controversial and possibly illegal step, Australia plans to intercept and board ships on the high seas if it believes them to be a terrorist threat.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday announced the creation of a 1,000-nautical mile security ring around the coastline, extending south of New Zealand and north of Indonesia, far beyond Australian territorial waters.

All vessels that pass through the zone en route to Australia will be monitored, and required to give details of their crew, location, speed, cargo and destination port. Defence and customs officials will be given powers to intercept those suspected of being a threat.

Legal experts suggested yesterday that intercepting ships in international waters would contravene maritime law and provoke an outcry.

Don Rothwell, a professor of international law at Sydney University, said Australia was entitled to monitor ships beyond the 200-nautical mile limit of its territorial waters.

But he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "With the exception of pirate ships and ships that are not flying flags, and one or two very minor exceptions, there is no real basis upon which any country can just stop any ship at all on the highs seas because it does infringe this fundamental freedom of high seas navigational freedom.

"If they are proposing to enforce this zone within the maritime zones of our adjacent neighbouring states, that would really be seen as quite a hostile act."

The Independent’s “security ring” looks like it might have been inspired by The Australian’s “security zone”:
AUSTRALIA is casting a 1000-nautical mile security zone around the coastline as part of a new maritime plan to counter terrorism and protect shipping, ports and oil rigs from attack.

Under the new offshore protection command, the Howard Government will monitor thousands of ships approaching some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and intercept suspicious vessels.

Existing navy and Customs ships and resources will be used, but much more will be demanded from international shipping in Australian waters.

The $4 million revamp of maritime security arises from a taskforce that identified threats from the sea as fears increase around the world of terrorist attacks through less secure ports and on vulnerable oil tankers.

The US has also introduced restrictions on movement and more exact information about cargo and passengers within its nautical zone and is demanding similar action from its trading partners.

The US has dramatically lifted its demands on shipping within its national waters amid fears of a cataclysmic explosion of a ship carrying chemicals or oil in a crowded port.

The Australian Maritime Information Zone, which will extend to 1000 nautical miles, will demand that ships passing through provide details of their journey and what they are carrying.

When ships come within 200 nautical miles they will be required to give even more detail of cargoes, ports visited, ship owners, registration and destination.

Under the new arrangements, due to begin in March next year, a Joint Offshore Protection Command will take responsibility for all offshore security and co-ordinate civilian and military operations.

It will be able to independently order the interception of ships within the information zone, rather than waiting for a specific report, as is the case now.

Then I went to the PM’s website, for the original press release:
Based on cooperative international arrangements, including with neighbouring countries, the Australian Government also intends to establish a Maritime Identification Zone. This will extend up to 1,000 nautical miles from Australia’s coastline. On entering this Zone vessels proposing to enter Australian ports will be required to provide comprehensive information such as ship identity, crew, cargo, location, course, speed and intended port of arrival. Within Australia’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, the aim will be to identify all vessels, other than day recreational boats. The collection and coordination of this maritime information will improve the effectiveness of civil and military maritime surveillance in support of key tasks such as border and fisheries protection, as well as counter-terrorism response and interdiction. The Zone will be managed by the Joint Offshore Protection Command at an additional cost of $4m over four years. The protection of Australia’s oil and gas facilities is a key focus of the Australian Government’s priorities to enhance offshore maritime security.

The critical words here are “[b]ased on cooperative … arrangements … with neighbouring countries” if that’s done the proposal is much less likely to be seen as “hostile”. (Though as Don Rothwell points out, some shipping states might still see these procedures as infringing upon the freedom of the high seas.)

Okay, it’s ambiguous as to whether counter-terrorism interdictions would be limited to the exclusive economic zone (which I think would still exceed Australia’s powers as a coastal state, except to protect oil platforms) or would range out to 1,000 miles – taking in Indonesian and New Zealand territorial waters.

But nothing in the document directly talks about interdictions inside this 1,000 mile zone. That’s pure media hype and shabby research.

So, naturally, you’d expect that our neighbours would’ve been briefed, right? That it would have been explained that this really about gathering information, not asserting a right to land the SAS on ships in their waters in violation of their sovereignty, right?

However, the word on “international law street” is that the Australian announcement took New Zealand by surprise, the Kiwis not previously being aware that their waters were subject to Australian security enforcement. Though it seems they have no problem provided it is only a plan to ask ships for information out to 1,000 miles as they already do that themselves.

Others are less sanguine. Malaysia has already criticised the plan and Defence Minister Robert Hill has had to calm the predictable Indonesian reaction, saying that this is just about protecting offshore oil rigs.

Still, as for diplomacy and selling the message: nice one John, nice one Alexander.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

New Naylor

Yep, four days ago after a hiatus of months, I posted a new instalment of Naylor's Canberra. Points to quantum meruit for picking up on the fact unprompted. The concept that there are people dropping by occassionally to see if I've managed to write anything on the novel is faintly terrifying.

But it's that terror I always expected to force me into finishing it. And it's almost finished now, well a scruffy first draft.

I had hoped to have had it done by now, but commencing PhD research sort of ate my head.

I could summarise the plot (again) but will content myself with simply re-hashing the last plot re-hash from October (sorry, it has indeed been a while ... ):
"... for a little over a year, I've been completing a crime novel by installment at a sister site, "Naylor's Canberra", at a rate of about 1,000 words per bite-size installment. Some bits are more polished than others. The first episode is over here.

The story so far? Elliot Naylor, a law graduate, has been refused admission to legal practice for reasons to do with a fatal car accident, and works an under-employed part-time law librarian. A former girlfriend of his is missing, Marina - a highflying political staffer to Milton Dawes, Minister for Justice and Customs. Her father, David Carmichael, a prominent local barrister, hires Elliot to find her before he has to report it to the police in an attempt to keep it quiet and close to the family and avoid scandal.

It seems easy enough, until Elliot begins to dig into David's shady business dealings and close ties to the Minister. Further, Elliot is the first to discover the dead body of someone connected to Marina and, while having an alibi, is the only obvious suspect in the murder inquiry.

On top of that, he decides to investigate the background of one Jeremy Ryder, who has business ties to David Carmichael as well as Canberra's legalised prostitution and pornography industries. Marina and Jenny were both involved in a Ministerial task force investigating sexual slavery - is Ryder somehow connected to the disappearance of one and the murder of the other?

Elliot recieves a good deal of practical and emotional assistance from his flatmate Eva, and his (rather new) girlfriend Danielle. This still does not stop him doing things that are just plain stupid.

Visiting one of Ryder's brothels, Elliot recieves a beating from which he is still suffering. Indeed, his symptoms appear to be getting worse rather than better.

Recently, he has learnt something quite surprising (but definately foreshadowed, I promise) about one of Marina's flatmates' involvement with the murder victim.

He has now also finally heard back on an important piece of research he entrusted to his grandfather regarding Milton Dawes' mother, who lives at the same retirement community as Mr Naylor senior. Read on ..."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Cambridge centre for mathematical sciences Posted by Hello
Doctor Doug, indahouse
(or “a prequel of sorts”)

So, I’ve been teaching this winter school. Four hour-and-a-half classes with five late high-school students from Singapore and Malaysia, in which I planned to cover an introduction to the idea of rules and then international law, the UN Security Council, the International Criminal Court and the World Trade Organisation.

Most lawyers I spoke to said: “Wow, that’s ambitious.”

Most other grad students I spoke to said: “Wow, that sounds interesting. Can I come?”

Both have made jokes about this being the first appearence of "Doctor" Doug, my future lecturer-self.

Four classes over three days has been tiring (and the preparation was very time consuming), but it's been amazingly rewarding. I prepared about 35 pages of notes and materials in two bundles. The kids sat at a horseshoe of desks while I paced around in the middle.

I just had so much fun. They were switched on, engaged, asking great questions. (They stumbled on things like the criminal law defence of duress or the economics/trade law principle of the “free rider effect” from first principles.) They spontaneously started debating among themselves whether WMD was – just as an idea – a good justification for self-defence, and even got into a debate with each other over whether an example of a real case (the 1959 Italian Tractors dispute under GATT law) was “protectionist” or not.

Other than being lucrative, it’s been really reaffirming that what I want to do is teach.

A friend came to sit in on my WTO session (the one I thought would be hardest to teach), and just came up afterwards and said: “You’re going to be a great lecturer.”

It was the kindest thing anyone could have said at that moment.

Now I just have to supervise their “exam” tomorrow morning … it’s printing as I blog.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Christmas dinner (note paper crown and carol sheet) Posted by Hello

Death by eating

I’ve become a binge eater. The Christmas end of Michaelmas term is simply lethal.

Monday last week was the new PhD students self-organised dinner. Tapas at the restaurant upstairs at Bun Shop, the food was not bad and the quantities were unconquerable. Had a pint at the pub downstairs both before and after the meal, and half a bottle of white with it. Then wound up in my kitchen with a course mate talking, demolishing another two bottles, and instructing one of the Californians how to write her media, government regulation and civil society paper.

As the Americans say: “good times.”

Wednesday was the graduate Christmas dinner, photos above, and over here. Carols, great food, wonderful flatmates and friends. Well worth crawling out of bed a week earlier to trudge into the college and manually sign up a dozen nearest and dearest under the baleful eye of a Manciple deeply peeved that people were having the temerity to sign up friends.

Friday did not involve excessive eating, but I did go to the ADC Theatre to catch the Christmas panto (a very, very loose, extremely funny adaptation of “Great Expectation”) and the late show (Harold Pinter’s rather creepy “The Lover”).

Saturday I was the only graduate student at Dr Eden’s commemorative supper. Dr Eden, 21st master of our college, left money by will in 1645 for an annual chapel service, an oration and a dinner in his memory for the fellows and scholars. He left an income in excess of 50 pounds a year, secured by around 80 acres of land in 1645. Allow for inflation, it’s a pretty amazing dinner.

New scholars (ie, me) get invited once only to the supper, and if they attend the chapel service receive the traditional allowance afterwards in the master’s study before dinner.

That allowance is four shillings. Which is exactly what you get. I have four shillings of imperial coinage in a little commemorative velvet drawstring bag with a printed label.

I should mention the Chapel oration. Dr Eden’s will stipulates that the oration be an hour long, in Latin, delivered from memory, on the virtues of civil and cannon law. It is now 20 minutes and in English on a topic of the speaker’s choosing, following a ruling of governing body in the 1960s that had a lot to do with convenience and little to do with estate law.

Dinner was four or five courses (starting with mussels and roast Norfolk pheasant), depending on how you want to count, and involved adjourning for a digestive break before the port and petit fours and fruit course.

I could, apparently, have stayed to drink whiskey until 2 am, but slid off to a birthday party a bit after 11. (I was actually too full of food to drink anything much.)

Tonight I just had the blind wine tasting society’s Christmas dinner. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

This coming week I only have dinner parties Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

I think I need to break out the bigger pants.