Author Archives: aje

My Guide to Travel


I make a solo trip around once a month and have created a set of routines that serve me well. I find travelling to be an important component of being an academic because it provides time and space to concentrate and reflect (i.e. travelling helps me to be a secular hermit). Some of the advice below is a little haphazard, but it’s a work in progress.

(1) Packing

For very short trips I’ll use a hold all but for anything more than 3 nights I’ll take my Rimowa Topas. This has the benefit of holding everything I need (i’ve used it for 2 week beach holidays) but small enough to fit as carry on if necessary. This can be handy if there’s a queue for bag drop but I prefer to check it. I’ve only ever had my suitcase go missing once and so I wouldn’t keep critical documents in it, but they are hassle to carry around with you (especially if you like to spend time at the airport). I very rarely clear customs before the bags are at reclaim so I don’t feel that checked baggage slows me down. And for connecting flights it makes things significantly easier.

(2) The airport

Yes, I know Tyler Cowen’s advice that if you’ve never missed a plane it means you’ve spent too much of your life at airports. But I do not understand this because time at an airport is highly constructive. As Craig Mod says,

You are hacking the airport by arriving early, knowing that all the work you could have done at home — the emails or writing or photo editing — can be done at the airport.

I plan to arrive 2 hours before my flight, even if I’ve check in, having my boarding card, and taking carry on luggage. For most people 30 minutes at home is better than 30 minutes at an airport, but once you pass security anxiety drops. Those extra 30 minutes you could have spent at home are fraught because you need to remember to remember your passport; consider traffic; wonder about queues, etc. Once you’ve cleared security you can relax. I don’t use lounges and am perfectly happy to just buy a coffee, find a seat, put on earphones, and read a good book.

(3) The airplane

Try to stick to one airline. The benefits of a loyalty programme are worth being loyal for.

I need an aisle seat. Not just so that I can get to the toilet easily (which incentivises me to drink more water, which is good) but it also means that I can go for a walk to stretch my legs.

Obviously if you are in an aisle seat you should be sympathetic to letting people get out. I will sometimes try to sleep and have no problem at all with being woken. The problem I have is people who are constantly getting things from their bags.

What to wear on a flight:

  • A hoody is cosy and protects your head against unhygienic seats, but if you won’t wear it at your destination it is too cumbersome.
  • A gilet is a clever way to have small items like mints and a mobile phone close to hand whilst being seated.
  • Avoid a cold/sore throat from the poor quality cabin air by wearing a lightweight neck warmer.

Embrace no wifi and read:

  • I like something light for takeoff and landing – The Economist, The Week, The Spectator, or New Statesman. Not a newspaper. Do not want newsprint on hands. In flight magazine usually worthwhile backup.
  • Then a book. If you like kindle fine but I don’t get it. Who reads so much that they can’t carry hard copies? I often read “big” books. But I won’t get through more than 2 on a trip, so they are not prohibitively cumbersome. Even on a 2 week holiday pre kids I would get through 3 or 4 books, but someone else would have one I wanted to read. Books are portable. Durable. Enchanting.
  • Or, I may be reading some academic articles. I can see the point of an e reader then because a stack of papers is heavy. But I like to take notes, and I enjoy the process of throwing away articles once I’ve read them. So even if your hand luggage is a burden on the outbound journey, it will be much lighter on the return.

(4) Hotels

Try to stick to one hotel chain. The benefits of a loyalty programme are worth being loyal for.

The mark of a good hotel room:

  • Electrical socket on the desk and on the bedside table
  • Black out curtains

(5) Hospitality

I have a reputation for being demanding when I am a visiting lecturer but I am nothing compared to the amazing set of instructions that Richard Stallman sends his hosts. I have simple preferences (e.g. a working shower, mineral water) but put great weight on them being satisfied. One of my preferences is alone time. As Stallman says,

Many people assume that because I am traveling, I am having a vacation–that I have no other work to do, so I can spend the whole day speaking or meeting with people. Some hosts even feel that they ought to try to fill up my time as a matter of good hospitality. Alas, it’s not that way for me.

There are a few cities that I travel to frequently and will often try to spend time with friends. But there is an odd tendency from some cultures to feel obliged to “entertain” you, or to treat your whole schedule as theirs. If I’ve been in a classroom all day I may need the evenings to respond to emails and do other work. Learning that a mysterious person will be at my hotel room at 9pm to take me for dinner isn’t always appreciated.


Game practice

We think that games have an important place in cultivating good strategists, and that now more than ever games can give executives an edge over their competition.
Reeves and Wittenburg, Harvard Business Review

In addition to my online (and offline) course on Game Theory, I also offer students the opportunity to enjoy some “Game Practice”. Get in touch if you would like me to organise sessions of any of the following:

  • Carcassonne
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Dominion
  • Hive
  • Biblios
  • Risk

I also recommend Eleusis, which is a great game to understand inductive reasoning. And Tic-Tac-Toe is just fun!


rene magritte - empire of light_2

This is a complete list of the posts that appear on this website (drafts in bold). 


I don’t define a lifehack as a shortcut or “good idea”, but as when you productively use a tool for a task that it wasn’t intended to perform.

For example:

  • When you are at a picnic or the beach use a shoe as a drink holder
  • Use a latte spoon to dispense and spread mayonnaise from the jar
  • Use an empty complementary shampoo bottle from a hotel as a razor holder in the shower
  • Use a boot bag in the car boot to organise your emergency rain coats
  • Depending on your type of car, Vegemite jars can make excellent change holders for parking (use a Sharpie to write the currency on the lid)

in addition to the above, there are a few lifehacks that I’ve seen elsewhere and believe should be more widely known:

  • Use the USB slot of the TV in a hotel room to charge your phone, and avoid having to pack a cumbersome plug adaptor

A Short Introduction to Macroeconomic Policy



This short course provides an overview of the ways in which governments try to influence the economy. It will provide an explanation of what monetary and fiscal policy are, and why they are used. We will assess the ECB’s response to the financial crisis and the 2009 Obama stimulus bill. Emphasis will be on providing a framework for participants to refine their own opinions.


The course does not rely on any previous study of economics. However, a familiarity with economic terms (such as “inflation”, “GDP”, “balance sheet”), and an awareness of contemporary policy debates (such as zero lower bound monetary policy), will be useful. The course is aimed at people who watch Newsnight but don’t quite feel they understand the economic foundations of what’s being said.

Teaching methods

  • Lectures (2 sessions)
  • Case discussion (1 session)
  • Workshop (1 session)


The only mandatory readings are provided in the schedule below. However the course is designed to tie into the following (amazing) textbook:

The website for the book contains an array of other resources:

An additional reading list is available here:

An edited list of highly recommended articles from The Economist is here:


9:00am  Breakfast

9:15am  Welcome address

9:30am Session 1: Monetary policy: A Beginner’s Guide to Central Banking*

Video: “An introduction to the Dynamic AD-AS model

11:15am Break

11:30am Session 2: The Euro in crisis

“The Euro in Crisis: Decision Time at the European Central Bank” Harvard Business School case no. 9-711-049 (£)


1. How does the ECB conduct monetary policy?

2. What actions were taken after the BNP Paribas freeze?

3. How do these actions compare to the Federal Reserve?

1:00pm Lunch

2:00pm Session 3: Fiscal policy: The Confidence Multiplier*

3:30pm Break

3:45pm Session 4: Workshop

Market for Managers Problem Set

Questions: 7.1, 7.2, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 8.6, 8.7, 8.8, 8.9, 9.1, 9.2, 9.4

4:45pm Debrief

5:00pm Finish

Note: Sessions marked with an asterix (*) have a lecture handout available in advance. Cases marked with a pound sign (£) will be distributed in advance.


The course does not cover the following: international economics, business cycle theory, growth theory, supply-side economics.

The English wine industry

thealefoundersreserve2004In 2007 a Theale Vineyard Sparkling Chardonnay 2003 was in the top ten of the Effervescents du Monde (sparkling wines of the world). The English wine industry is getting better all the time.

Here’s some recent coverage:

Whether English wine wins awards or not isn’t really the point. I’m an anti-wine snob:

  • We believe that expensive wine tastes better than cheaper wine but only if we know that it’s more expensive. And if we don’t know the price, cheaper ones taste better (see this video).
  • Even professional wine tasters will often fail a Triangle Test.

Be a productive drunk!

Numeracy Skills Bootcamp

In 2008 I was asked to provide a short, intensive bootcamp for incoming students. This page is a collection of the resources that I used for that course. It contains some slides that define and explain key concepts, and also provides some examples of numeracy tests. In addition, I noticed that many students – particularly females – felt that they “weren’t math people”. I’ve done a video to discuss these fears. I hope you find these resources helpful.

I also recommend the following page, which is full of links:

Part 1. Fundamentals of Mathematics




 Download the handouts here.

Additional topics:

Some fascinating ideas:fermat


Part 2. Practice Tests




Download the handouts here.

Additional resources:

Part 3. Gender Differences & Mathematics

Download the handouts here.

And remember:


This is part of my online course on Analytics.

An Introduction to Game Theory

“Game Theory”, or the science of strategy, is a big topic that leads in many fascinating directions. This post will provide a basic understanding of what Game Theory is, and how it can be utilised in management situations. In addition to providing my own course material, I have also attempted to tie into some of the amazing resources that already exist.

My advice for you is to watch this video, and then choose one (or more) of the additional readings.

The handouts for my lecture slides are here (note there is some additional content compared to the version in the video). If you are an instructor then email and I’ll send you the raw powerpoint file (containing surprises and solutions). I like to follow a lecture on Game Theory with the following classroom exercise:

  • Beckman, S. R., “Cournot and Bertrand games” Journal of Economic Education, Vol.34, No.1, pp.27-35 (see here for the handouts, email me for a Teaching Note).
  • I also utilise the following at the start and end of the Game Theory lecture: Oligopoly Game 42 and “Cheating for a $20” (email me for the Teaching Note)

Additional readings

Here are some recommendations, depending on your level of interest and time constraints:

But the Game Theorist’s “bible” is Thinking Strategically” by Dixit, A., and Nalebuff, B (Norton, 1993). This is the one book you need to read, re-read, and master.


Finally, it is great fun to apply Game Theory to popular culture. See Michael Statsny’s discussion of game theory in movies, and a collection of popular cultural references. Here are some of my favourite discussion questions:

I also like these two classic clips from Goldenballs:

This is part of my online course on Analytics.

Missing Puddy

IMG_0019_4On Saturday 7th February, 2015, we noticed that Puddy hadn’t appeared for his breakfast. It was common for him to be out overnight, but come 7am he’d almost always be waiting in the lounge. And he never missed his breakfast. We soon began to fear the worst, and considered him missing. As the days passed our concerns grew and we made concerted efforts to find him. This was the first time we’d had a missing pet, and we learnt a lot about what to do. This is my attempt to summarise what we should have done.


– Get a collar with a contact tag. Our cats are constantly losing their collars, and so we gave up trying to keep them with a contact tag. But I do wonder if someone who suspects he might be lost would be more likely to phone the owner, than take him to a vet to be scanned for a chip.

– Get him microchipped. This makes it highly likely that if someone finds him, and knows that he’s missing, you’ll find out. We use PetLog.

– It is really tempting to use GPS as this would solve the mystery element of working out where he is. Ethically, I’m not sure it’s a good idea. But I’d be very tempted to hook up some surveillance just to get an idea of how far your cats roam and where they like to go.

Rescue plan

Once you’re confident that something is amiss, it is worth considering if there’s been any changes that might explain the absence. On Friday 6th February we’d been out to a few pubs in the local village and walked past the house. We did wonder whether Puddy had found our scent, and tried to follow us. But otherwise we couldn’t think of any reason that would cause him to leave, or to not want to return. We tried to consider the various scenarios, and what our response should be:

  • Trapped in a garage, shed, wheelie bin or car – likely to be local, possibly within a few doors either side of our house
  • Lost and unable to find home – could be quite far from home, and people may have noticed him
  • Injured – likely to be by the side of a main road, taken to a vets, or possibly discarded into a wheelie bin
  • Stolen – if thieves are intending to sell him on then at least they have an incentive to feed him, and a potential new owner is likely to take him to a vet

Rather than consider which of the above was most likely, we wanted to cover them all. But some of the possible situations were less urgent than others. This would be my advice:

  1. Notify the microchipping company. They can send out an alert to their database and will notify you if anyone finds him. Make sure your contact numbers are all up to date. This covers the possibility that he’s taken to a vet, or dumped in a wheelie bin. It could be bad news, but that would end the uncertainty.
  2. Hit neighbours early. Don’t let them say “we’ve not had the shed open so he can’t be in there” – ask them to look anywhere they can think of. Remind them that if he’s scared he won’t bolt out, and could be trying to hide.
  3. Create posters. These should contain several recent photos (including a side on shot which is how people are likely to observe him), and a contact number. It is a good idea to use a number that people could call anonymously. The Cats Protection League may help. Don’t offer a reward. Put posters up around the local area and be especially conscious of places with high foot traffic such as newsagents, supermarkets, pubs, community noticeboards, school gates.
  4. Call for him. He may be close to home but discoordinated. Make sure you call every morning and evening, and leave items with his scent on in the garden (such as cushions, clothing or the contents of the vacuum cleaner).
  5. Look for him. Go out for a walk and shout for him. Take a leaflet and show it to people that may have seen something – especially dog walkers and people on building sites. Take a torch to be able to see in alleyways and woodland. Make sure you wear high visibility clothing and be considerate to people who may think you’re acting suspiciously.
  6. Use social media and local newspapers. Friends may offer to help, and if so get them to. Ask them to take a leaflet and show it to their social groups (e.g. schools, church, community classes). Ask them to share your social media appeals.

If you are reading this having lost your own pet, feel free to use our poster as a template: MISSING Puddy.pdf

Anecdotally it appears that these situations often end with the cat returning of their own accord, possibly several weeks later, and you never find out what had happened. Making overly concerted efforts to find a cat can alienate people close to you and drive you up the wall with anguish. We received several possible sightings and spent a lot of time surveying those areas. I’m not sure how likely it is that you will ever “find” a cat that gets lost. They are robust creatures that can survive by themselves for a long time. I also believe that strangers will treat animals with kindness. However I do think the six points above can increase the chances of being reunited, and it is important to feel that you are doing something. But try not to conflate activity with accomplishment. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do.

Update (Saturday Feb 14): It’s now been a week. The lowest point was on Sunday night, walking around the village. It was very cold, dark, and I had visions of him trapped somewhere, very hungry, and scared. Now, I feel that if he’s alive then he’s worked out how to stay alive. And hopefully someone will see our posters, social media will come to the fore, and we’ll see him again soon.
Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 17.55.47
Update (Sunday Feb 15): We made a map of potential sightings, and tried to focus our efforts on those areas (our house is at the bottom of the map in the middle). However these seemed contradictory. Someone thought they’d seen him in Combe St within a few hours of a sighting in St Nicholas Mt. I raced over to Combe St, which is near the Watergardens, and spent an hour or so walking around, calling. I noticed some geese and ducks by the river bank and wondered if he might have been tempted to try to catch one. I used my torch to look under the bridges but couldn’t see him. It was right next to a curry house called “Bengal Spice”. Later that evening Faith went for another look and found a duck with an open wound. Given that I hadn’t noticed it the injury seemed fresh. She shouted for Puddy, and we speculated that he was in the area. However she followed a trail of blood back to the main road, and surmised that it’d been hit by a car. When she got home I wondered if it was my car.

We did notice that two sightings had occurred near Shrub Hill Common. However not since the previous Tuesday. Then, on Saturday evening, I received a message from someone at Valleyside. We both felt that he was there. The previous evenings of aimless wandering now felt as though they were useful. I had a much better understanding of our local areas, and when people mentioned roads I knew where they were, and why it was plausible that Puddy might find himself there. Then, on Sunday morning we got a voicemail from someone at Ridge Lea. He’d seen Puddy at 9am. Now it seemed like too many independent sightings to be a coincidence. And given that he’s a such a distinctive cat, and that they’d all reported a red collar, we went to the Common. I took the kids on the swings whilst Faith searched the woodland. We then drove around the estates backing onto it, and went door to door along Ridge Lea. We met the gentleman who’d phoned us earlier, and thanked him. Faith put up a “Missing Puddy” poster on a lamppost.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 19.21.24

We returned home, and I switched off the engine. I immediately heard that my phone was ringing. It was the same man. He had *just* seen Puddy. We raced off and drove up Northridge Way. I turned left towards Ridge Lea and we were trying to see if the poster was still up: “There he is!” said Faith. Not the poster! Actually him!

He looked skinny and scared, and was walking along the main road. Faith jumped out, picked him up, and we had him in the car. He was meowing louder than we’d ever heard him, and was clearly disoriented. But we brought him home. He’d lost 10% of his body weight but seemed unscathed. It was a mighty big adventure. We are so grateful to the people who phoned us with sightings. Leaflets and social media built up a map, and we managed to locate him. Who needs GPS!


Faculty audits and performance review

Professional educators understand the limitations of student evaluations, and yet the culture of external assessment is attempting to incorporate a similar thirst for trivial feedback on our peer-review. As someone who enjoys sharing a classroom with colleagues, and is genuinely keen to share ideas on effective pedagogy, I wanted to outline a possible way to conduct teaching feedback. I will write it from the perspective of the instructor conducting the audit.

  1. Acquire the course outline and read it as closely as you expect students to read your outline.
  2. Meet with your colleague to discuss the audit. Get a good understanding of where the session you will be observing fits into the course as a whole. Make sure you’re aware of any specific areas that they would like feedback on.
  3. Attend the whole class. Arrive early and leave at the end. Alternate roles between being a student and an observer. It might be a good idea to talk to students about any specific questions you have, but even if you think this would be a good idea ensure that the person you are observing is ok with that.
  4. Write a letter to the person you observed, thanking them, and providing your reflections. If there are specific areas of weakness that you believe you’ve identified keep this document private. By all means copy in Programme Management but address it to your colleague.
  5. Take your colleague out to lunch, go over the feedback, and give them an opportunity to respond. Agree on what parts you should share with other colleagues, and external examiners.

In terms of the written feedback it should be tailored to the specific course objectives that you’ve ascertained from step 1 and 2. Here are some examples of feedback forms that could be used as a basis or template:

Here is a copy of the feedback form I routinely give to students to assess my own performance:

The underlying problem is that all performance reviews (especially corporate ones) tend to be costly and arbitrary. Deloitte have a new approach that intends to simplify the process by asking 4 binary questions:

  1. Given what I know of this person’s performance, and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus.
  2. Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team.
  3. This person is at risk for low performance.
  4. This person is ready for promotion today.

I like the idea but not the questions chosen (they are too hierarchical). Mine would be something along the following lines:

  1. Does this person excel at their job?
    • i.e. is there documented evidence of other people attempting to learn from them?
  2. Is this person a pleasure to work with?
    • i.e. would you look forward to travelling to the US with them?

I recently became aware of the concept of a Personal Boardroom. I think it is a good way to recognise whether you have an effective support network, and to identify why your career may be stalling. The idea is that you should have people in your life (with whom you are in regular contact) that perform each of the following roles:

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