I am studying for a Bachelor of Arts from Macquarie University online.

But for the last while, especially the last week or so, my internet connection has become extremely unreliable.

It is very difficult to be an online university student without the online.

The internet isn’t completely dead. It just dies at regular intervals, resurrects itself for 5, 10, 15 minutes and then dies again. So I’m rushing to polish off and publish this blog post before the internet dies again!

Even Batman understands...
Even Batman understands…

Not only does this state of affairs make it difficult to submit assignments on time but it becomes quite difficult research for those assignments or even spend enough time on the university website to become familiar with what my study load needs to look like.

As a result, I haven’t got much university work done this term.

I haven’t had any late submissions or anything. In fact, that is part of the problem. Both units have a very strange study load where most of the assignments are due at the end of term. In one sense that’s a good thing because it means I don’t face immediate pressure now with the internet nigh-dead, but with the internet nigh-dead, I haven’t a very clear idea of what exactly I’m supposed to be doing, especially since there aren’t any assignments due right now.

This is making me stressed.

Realising that the unproductivity and uncertainty was stressing me out gave me pause, because I don’t think I stress very often.

I do thrive on the pressure of a nearing deadline. But pressure and stress affect me very differently.

Pressure stimulates me. It sets my mind racing and gives me the drive to finally get around to achieving what I need to do.

Stress exhausts me. At times I feel like my heart is tense. I can’t detect any raise in heart-rate, so that’s probably just psychological. That tense feeling just sits there in the back of my chest and is tiring and unpleasant.

If it gets this bad, I'll let you know.
If it gets this bad, I’ll let you know.

I’m also now more easily exasperated by new demands on my time. So far it’s been nothing I couldn’t easily resolve internally by reminding myself to be more mature, but that initial reaction is still there. That’s a problem because I chose to study online largely so I can still contribute to family life. Family life is all about unscheduled interruptions. These are stressing me out because they are taking me away from this study problem which I probably wouldn’t be able to address even if I cut myself off from my family commitments, because the internet is dead.

I’ve also had to intentionally set about getting into a mental space suitable for spending time with other people. It wasn’t hard to do so, but I did have to intentionally think about it. That’s unusual.

Now, I am most certainly not on the verge of an emotional breakdown. I’m only a little stressed.

But I am stressed, and it has been a valuable exercise in recognising that I am stressed, why I am stressed and what stress looks like for me, even if it’s only a minor instance. It’s probably better to learn about stress through a minor experience than a big one anyway.

Now I know what is going on and why, I have to think up ways to fix it.




Can You Translate That?

This was the announcement of an anthropology lecture at Sydney University- can you understand it?

The violence that is poised between humanitas and inhumanitas speaks to the metaphysical ordering and phantasms of everyday political terror. Are practices of political aggression separable from the Western metaphysical divide between human and animal, and what are the ideological utilities of this divide? Does political animality point to an anthropological sovereignty that only acquires positivity, tangibility, and figuration through its displacement onto, and passage into, the extimacy that is animality? And why does subjugated or expelled animality perennially threaten anthropological plenitude as an uncontainable negativity?

 These questions imply that the many thresholds of language, labour and finitude that have repeatedly delimited, governed and consigned the animal and human in metaphysical thought and practice can be remapped as a properly political dominion: a wildlife reserve in which philosophical, ethological, and anthropological declaratives and descriptions encrypt zoopolitical relations of power and force, and where the animal predicate circumscribes a concentrated time and space of subjugation, exposure, disappearance and abandonment.

Maybe we could Google Translate it…

The simple translation is:  the lecture is suggesting that the definitions of human and animal are designed to justify the humans killing, expelling and dominating the animals because they’re not really human. I think.

But the announcement doesn’t say this very clearly. They used long or rare words nobody was familiar with. They used extremely complicated sentences that were hard to follow- that last paragraph is a single sentence! And they made up new words the audience didn’t know.

I think one of the most common reasons someone is obtuse is because the communicator wants to disguise the folly of their argument. Using really long words makes you sound smart, but it prevents your audience understanding why it is smart. This simultaneously gives you kudos and protects you from criticism.

The purpose of communication is to get others to understand you. You write a diary so that you can understand how you felt back then. You talk to someone to get them to understand what you think about whatever you are talking about. You write a speech or a lecture to convince your audience that you are right.

But communication is never about the person talking. It’s all about the audience. You want the audience to understand. You want the audience to agree with you.

Using really long words and complicated sentences makes you look smart, but it doesn’t help the audience. Therefore, it is bad communication. Everything you say needs to be designed to help the audience understand or agree with you.

  • Why don’t they think what I am thinking?
  • How can I answer those objections?
  • Are there certain words or ideas which they have an emotional reaction to?
  • Are there words or ideas that they really like that I can use instead?

It takes original thinking to tailor your communication to your audience, and it takes humility to focus on their needs to understand you, instead of on your brilliance at explaining things. I find it really hard.

But that’s what it takes to communicate. And this university lecture announcement failed to help others understand. It failed to communicate.

Patterned Notes

Patterned notes are something I tried once, and disliked.

I’m not entirely sure why. It may be simply the way I went about it the first time, and had a bad experience. It may be that I’m a linear, logical person and all these dashes of colour and circles didn’t work for me. A third option (quite plausible) is that I decided not to like dashes of colour and circles and all that artistic rot. An attitude problem? Who, me? Never!

Here are two examples of patterned notes- Monash University and Ecoles. The idea of patterned notes is instead of writing a linear outline, let your notes be more visual and graphical; to describe your brain’s thinking.

Musing about my ideas on notetaking and noting only the important facts, I’m suspecting I’ll have to give patterned notes another go. I won’t bother with artistic flourishes or coloured pens or anything like that. I’ll simply have a blank piece of scrap paper, ready to write ideas on scattered over the paper, drawing lines to connect them to each other.

The great thing about patterned notes is that it connects ideas and principles together visually. Our brains don’t exactly work like a straight outline. It works like splodges of paint, an idea over here and an idea over there, and we draw connections between these two ideas. That’s how your brain works, and that’s how patterned notes work.

But the really useful thing for me about patterned notes is that I’m not trying to write down every detail. I’m trying to catch the main principles, the major points that the speaker is making. When I hear an important fact, I write it down. At the end, I’m left with a collection of the major points that the speaker was making, not drowned out by all the little details.

An Illustration

Notice how free-flowing the ideas are

In my illustration here, in a hypothetical lecture about post-modernism; our hypothetical lecturer says that Post-modernism believes everything is relative, there are no absolutes. I scribble that somewhere on the page, and draw a line between it and Post-Modernism, to show that these ideas are connected to each other.

The lecturer goes on to say that therefore, post-modernism believes that science is overrated, because it pretends to be an absolute answer. So I write that down near the previous point, and draw a line between “science is overrated” and “believes everything relative”, to show that the ideas are related.

I drew this simple illustration up on OneNote on my computer; no doubt I will improve my patterned note-taking skills as I go on.  I certainly won’t be abandoning normal, linear notes, indeed, most of my notes will be in that style; it’s just another tool in the woodshed.