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Allow me to introduce you to the concept of structure. This is where if your essay aims to discuss a single main point, going off on huge tangents mostly unrelated to the main topic and endless anecdotes that belabor the point are not good strategies for getting said point across. I shouldn't need to check back every couple of pages because I've forgotten what exactly you were trying to argue. You are a shining example of how not to write essays.

Lots of frustrated glares,

Bah, I say

Nov. 28th, 2008 11:53 am
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I now present to you the saga of the dealings between me and one of my lecturers this semester, who just happened to be the lecturer in charge for two of my three subjects.

Day One of Semester: I miss the first lecture of my class due to being at the hospital. I then head to uni so as to try to attend my first tutorial for the same subject, arrive 15 minutes late, and then about half an hour later get a call from my mother telling me to get my ass back to said hospital. I don't attempt to talk to the lecturer due to not wanting to break down in front of him.

Day Two of Semester: I email the lecturer explaining my circumstances and basically just asking in advance for leniency about possibly missing classes.

Days Three to about Two Weeks Later: No reply from lecturer. I conclude that he's an asshole and I'm on my own, but screw him, I'm gonna pass his subjects despite his bastardry.

The Next Day: He replies, and he's all warm and understanding in the email, and apologetic for not reading the email sooner. I take back my above conclusion.

Some Weeks Later: I talk to him about lodging a Special Consideration Form in regards to death certificates and so forth, he says to lodge it and then at the end if my marks are dodgy he'll see about offering me some kind of supplementary or something.

Rest of Semester: I never actually get around to lodging those forms. I also never get around to writing my final essay for the harder of his two subjects, because it's wanky philosophy of language stuff which would be hard to get motivated for even under the best of circumstances. Which these are certainly not.

A Week after Semester end, during the middle of the Exam Period: I get a call on my mobile from the lecturer. He verifies with me that I didn't hand in a final essay and then offers me an alternate essay, where I do the same exercise but analysing a different paper instead. I gratefully accept and he tells me to email him and he'll send the paper back as an attachment.

I email him the next day, and then again about a week later. No reply. I know by now that he's bad with email but it seems like a cruel joke of sorts to offer me an alternate assessment and then not actually give me a way to complete it.

Two or Three Weeks Later: Course marks are out. In desperation I email him one final time, being careful not to be accusatory but basically asking what the hell is going on and can I do the alternate assessment or not. He replies the very next day with the promised attachment.

I think I've learnt a valuable lesson about not taking any other courses given by this guy. I really do appreciate that he gave me a second chance, but it's uni policy that communication should be able to happen via email. It just drove me nuts that he's so damn unreliable at it, and in several ways I would have preferred to just fail the subject and be done with it rather than having this hanging over me.
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This exam being Perception and Cognition.

* If you have brain damage, and especially if you have amnesia, you'll spend your days having neuroscientists performing all kinds of experiments on you. Then again, if you had amnesia it would be a lot less tiresome being prodded by sciencey people all day.

* The consolidation theory of memory states that new memory traces are fragile and can be easily interfered with by subsequent memory formation. Therefore, the best thing you can do if you really want to retain a memory is to either go to sleep or get absolutely blind drunk right after you learn, since either way you won't be forming any new memories during the consolidation period. That's right, students now have an excuse to go get drunk after class.

* If you're a psychologist you get to do all kinds of really wacky things in the name of science. Like the context-sensitive memory retrieval experiment, where one group learnt the word lists while scuba diving 20 metres underwater, and the others learnt in a regular classroom. Also by this theory, my own recall will be best if I do the exam either a) sitting on a moving bus, or b) playing a ps2 game (I was listening to lecture recordings)

* "superior colliculus" sounds funny when pronounced with a foreign (read: non-English) accent. On the plus side, it's not a word I'm likely to forget in the exam. Apparently it does multi-sensory integration and directs attention to new information and stuff.
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Because there's a couple of random Asian dudes sharing a computer next to me, and the second guy is sitting way too close to me. I can't concentrate on my assignment because of this guy sitting partly in my personal space. Grr
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I'm meant to be doing a take-home exam that's due tomorrow and studying for an exam the day after that, so this seems like as good a time as any for a recap of the uni semester :P
After enrolling in nothing but linguistics at the beginning of the semester, I maanged at the last minute to swap half of them out for cogsci electives, one of them AI! I was quite impressed at my ability to shoehorn in another comp subject after I'd supposedly finished all my compsci electives. So I ended up with AI, psycholinguistics, contemporary grammar and the core cogsci course "Computers, brains, and minds"

AI was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be. I've learnt a bunch about different AI methods, although I was disappointed that our assignments only used as hill climbing/A* algorithms, rather than a wider range of techniques. The coding was a complete bitch that took up ridiculous amounts of my time, but that's just comp :) And I'm still annoyed that my laptop hard drive died the day our first assignment was due, causing me to lose a very productive two hours' worth of code. It could well have translated into a difference in the mark I got, but who knows.

Contemporary English Grammar was a subject I have really mixed feelings about. I took it mostly because I like the lecturer's teaching style. But the material feels like it switches between stupidly easy and obvious, and relatively hard but only due to the completely arbtrary rules that we use to partition phrases. I still have no idea what the difference is between a relative clause and a peripheral dependent, and nor do I really care. Basically, I found it both boring and hard because of the arbitrariness of it. Having said that, now that we've gotten through the boring bits and are doing text analysis for the last assignment and the exam, I can see the usefulness of some of this stuff. I'm a lot more conscious of how sentences are constructed and why certain constructions feel more 'right' to me than others. So it seems like a useful tool to improve my writing and my understanding of other people's writing at the end of it, and kind of useful after all.

Cogsci was taught by a philosophy lecturer and it showed in the sheer amount of readings we were expected to do each week and the artsiness of the discussions. Cogsci is a really interesting field since it combines AI, linguistics and philosophy, although in some ways it just meant that we spent a lot of time learning in a small amount of detail stuff that I already knew a lot about from doing the courses the concepts originally came from. I enjoyed this subject mostly because it gave me an incentive to read and access to a whole lot of the more famous papers in all the three fields. Also we learnt about Turing machines!

Psycholinguistics is one of the best courses I've done, period. The lecturer is awesome, the material is fascinating, and the assessments were simple tests of understanding, and therefore easy. The other people doing the course were also interesting and drawn from all sorts of backgrounds, leading to all sorts of debates and expert knowledge of what goes on between language and the brain.
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I have decided what I'll be studying, and in what order for the next year and a half, barring major changes in perspective or whatever. I'm getting more and more excited about going back to uni this year. I guess this means that I made the right choice in transferring programs :)

My new program is... *drumroll*.. Computer Science combined with Arts, majoring in Linguistics and Cognitive Science! and even though I've technically finished all my CS electives I managed to arrange AI for this coming semester under the guise of Cognitive Science (seriously, how many Arts people are going to have the programming background for this? I'm glad for the loophole but all the same it's a bit ridiculous)
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After a year and a half or so of taking Linguistics courses I've noticed that Linguistics lecturers are the only ones who uniformly seem to be having fun during their lectures.
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It would be just my luck that 5 minutes before my one and only lecture for the day was about to end, everyone and their dog decided that they needed to talk to me at exactly the same time. 6 calls in the space of a few minutes O_o

And then afterwards when I called Hein back he was like "I think there's something wrong with your phone, it kept hanging up after a single ring"

So yeh, uni is back on. Not much to say yet as I've only had the one lecture and it was about Signed Language, which I already had a single lecture about last semester, so I was already familiar with the lecturer and what kind of subject matter would be covered. Having said that, I got some amusement today out of the sign used these days for Jews - the motion of wrapping tefillin around the forearms.

Last night I caught up with my old high school buddy. It's funny how it's possible to be friends with someone who you have so little in common with purely by virtue of having gone through the same hell together. Although we only see eachother at most 3 or 4 times a year, we're realistic enough to know we wouldn't have much to talk about if we met up more often.
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So I just go to check my Unimail to see if the provisional exam results were out (they weren't), and the blurb thingy on the Firefox tab caught my attention:

UniMail :: UNSW E-Mail Via the Web.

Which leads me to wonder how one is meant to check one's email without using the web.
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I hate politics. Really I do.

In an ideal world the people voted in would be the best for the job, period. And all decisions within the elected body would be decided by the equivalent of a conscience vote, ie everyone votes what they think is the best choice, none of this partisan crap.

Now I understand why this isn't the case for large-scale politics. No wait, that's a lie. I read at one point about why the partisanship in politics but the knowledge seems to have seeped out my ears in the meantime. I used to understand why large-scale politics doesn't function like this.

There's been a few elections at uni within the last month that I've been somewhat involved in. In one, one of the candidates put together a party while all the other candidates ran independently. There was open animosity between the leader of the party and most of the other candidates. The results of the election involved the entire party being elected. Is this a good thing? I don't think so. For one, this election saw much more campaigning (including smear campaigns) than usually goes on in student politics, and I don't think it's a good thing that this year's election might become the precedent for future years and lead to bitter rivalries between candidates. Up until this point I would have said that everyone in my faculty gets on fairly well. Well not anymore.. the leader of the group seems to be the George Bush of CSE politics in that everyone either loves him or hates him, with very few fence-sitters. It doesn't help that he ran a completely dishonest smear campaign against one of the groups who don't mind admitting they hate him. Yay for divisiveness. The other point about the entire party getting in is that by running a platform that filled every position they exclude the society from receiving any new blood. It's all very well that they're all good friends with eachother and so forth but it seems like they would have benefited more by deliberately leaving a couple of positions open for other people.

Then there's the other election, for a society made up of people who are all nice and friendly but with a whole lot of politicking going on under the surface. I know several people who have sent around emails or expressed out loud their hopes to be appointed to position X by the new exec next year, and people running for positions in the exec who have talked to as many voters as possible to try to influence their voting. Now this society is quite a large one which has a large operating budget every year, so it makes sense that this is a big deal and it's important to the people who care that the society be run with the 'right' people. But wherefore trying to make people's minds up for them? Talking about how a certain vote is going to be people S versus people T, and implying the existence of bloc voting? Sending emails to candidates for a position (not even voted in yet, just the candidates) to make sure you're the first to express interest in a certain position? That's just not cool.

I don't know precisely where I'm going with this; only it seems a shame that these societies, which both started out as a bunch of students just trying to help other students out and have a good time in the process have turned into this painful morass of hidden meanings and partisanship. Uni politics aren't supposed to be this deadly serious thing where you can make friends and enemies for life. Save that for the real world, if you care so much. I'm kinda glad I'm not part of either society at the moment, I'm too blunt and honest for all this politicking. Maybe I'll apply again next year and hope it's all settled down a bit by then. In the meantime, I want my innocence back :(


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