Lights, Camera, (industrial) Action!

So, the industrial action has meant the unrunning of the unlecture. Which leaves a slight hole to fill in terms of content for this blog.

“But no!” I can almost hear Adrian yelling. This is less about the contents of the lectures and the tutorials, and more about the self production of content and sharing of knowledge. So what do I have to say that I didn’t last week?


I now know that my breaststroke is in fact much worse than I ever had imagined. It’s to the point that it’s a joke at the swimming club how bad it actually is, but I had always thought, if push came to shove, that I could pull out a decent time, even if it wasn’t particularly pretty. I know now that not to be true.

I had three swimming competitions over the weekend. One on Friday night, the final night of a five week relay tournament that finished with us dead last or second last. I’m not too sure, but I don’t really care either way. I did some reasonable times there; 25.54 for 50m free (off a flying start) and 28.99 for 50m fly (without a flying start). As far as I can remember, I’ve never gone as fast as that in the fly, which is strange considering how little I’ve been training lately.

The second competition was on Saturday afternoon, where I swam 100m free, 100m IM, and 50m free, fly and back. The free was quicker than I’ve gone in a year with a 26.14 (no flying start slows things down). But the 100m IM was the most alarming event. All IM events are divided equally between the strokes, so 100m IM is 25m of each stroke and 400m IM is 100m of each stroke. In the IM this Saturday, my split at the 50m mark (fly and back) was 30.58, where I was in second position in the race. As you may know, breaststroke is the third leg, usually the slowest leg compared to the rest, but still done faster than your average doggy paddler. My 25m breast took 23.21 seconds, by which time I was dead last by about 10m. At that point I gave up slightly, coming home in a 16.47 for the free leg.

I wasn’t quite sure how to react to this time, considering how dismally slow it was, except to laugh at it and vow never to do a breaststroke or IM race ever again. Which so far I’ve kept…

The last competition of the weekend was on Sunday night, another tournament, but this one a mix of relays and individual races. This year the club requested to be put down to B grade, so we won all of our event’s fairly comfortably. I raced the individual open 100m free, and just out touched a guy from Eltham swim club, which restored some of the faith I had lost in my swimming from the previous day.

As far as I can tell from my slow decline in swimming ability, is that you never really lose your ability to sprint. Anything to do with your lactic acid energy system (100m, 200m, 400m events) will suffer significantly if you don’t train. But the 50m events don’t slow down all that much, they just hurt a lot more.


I also met some of the guys on the RMIT Australian University Games cycling team for the first time. I’m managing the team this year, which has proven to be occasionally more difficult than I had anticipated, but I hadn’t actually met any of the people who had signed up before Sunday morning. The team has four guys (myself included) and a girl, which is significantly better than last year, when there was just the two of us. The two Dylan’s and myself met in Port Melbourne at 8am for a ride with a bunch that one of the Dylan’s usually rides with. Frustratingly enough, due to the wind, they had decided against Beach Road as a route, and instead, we would ride the Yarra Boulevard, which is slightly more protected by trees. This was frustrating as I had ridden 40mins to Port Melbourne to meet them, and the Yarra Boulevard was 5mins from my doorstep, which meant riding another 40mins back to the Boulevard.

The ride itself was good, and both Dylan’s are seem like really nice guys. Dylan Eeles does triathlons as his main sport, just as I do, which provided good topic for conversation. The other Dylan, Dylan Benson, I didn’t get much of a chance to speak to, but he proved himself as probably the strongest rider of the three of us. I wouldn’t want to call it too early, as I haven’t yet ridden with the fourth male member of the team, Richard, but I suspect that we will be riding for Benson in the road race and the criterium at AUG’s.

I was meant to meet Eeles for a ride with a group this morning (a similarly painful experience, as the meeting place was the corner of the Nepean Highway and North Road at 6am, which is another 40min ride from my house. It was an early start to the day, thus the reason that I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop drinking my third cup for the day), but he was slightly late, and missed the group rolling out. If you miss the group, you miss the group. There is no way of catching them once they get started. So there I was, in a bunch of riders that I had never laid eyes on, trying desperately not to get dropped. I managed to stay with the group for 40 mins, before taking a long turn on the front into a headwind, and I went lactic and consequently got dropped. For those 40mins, I checked afterwards, my heartrate averaged 165bpm, which is pretty high considering that no one else around me seemed to be struggling as much as me. But it’s good to train with people who are stronger than you, as they inevitably push you to become better. It would be nice to stay with them for the whole ride next time though.


So, those are the things that I’ve done and learned since last week (aside from writing that essay which was the last thing I posted).

Unlecture No. 4: The First Symposium

The lecture yesterday was without a doubt the most interesting lecture of the year, probably of university so far.

I think finally, after the first few weeks of talking about it, and waiting for Brian to return from wherever he was (holiday?), the dialogic structure has fallen into place. It needed to happen this week, as people were getting slightly miffed at the fact we were being told about a revolutionary method of teaching that treats us (students) like capable human beings (as opposed to blank but vaguely keen slates that need to be written on in order to make us appear employable), but the ‘unlectures’ had a distinctly lecture-like feel to them. We were still listening to one person speak for at least half an hour (though we were allowed the enormous privilege of asking one question at the start that may or may not have been answered in that half hour).

(forgive the parentheses)

Things I loved about how this unlecture/symposium was run:

  • More that one person spoke. Not only this, but there was less of a sense of hierarchy among the tutors. Brian seems to have balanced the numbers to achieve zen.
  • Students in the audience asked questions when they weren’t necessarily asked to (“So, does anyone have any questions about that…?” *crickets chirp and a dust ball rolls across the front of the room*). This, I think, will give other students the confidence to engage more openly, with less fear of being made seem like an idiot in front of the rest of the cohort.
  • The content was very interesting. Not to say that the last few weeks have been dull, or that what Adrian was saying was things I already knew, but I think having the other tutors to bounce off made what he had to say a lot more fresh, and much less rehearsed. As the tutors have different ideas about the subject, and the material within the subject, they challenged each other when they spoke. Everyone was thinking, rather than reciting.
  • We rehashed over things that we had already talked about from previous weeks. I think this is important in university subjects more generally, as the content that is covered is usually so massive. My friend studying Nursing at La Trobe said they covered the entire content of year 12 psychology in one week. I understand that you are expected to do much of your learning out of university hours, it is still helpful to go over things, just to make sure they were understood, or even to elaborate on them as a segue to the next topic, rather than segmenting each week as a different section of information.

For me, the most interesting part was the last example used by Adrian, about how you intend to get paid in this industry and what you have to do to achieve that. His example was that of a wedding photographer (a past student’s plan for a business).

Why on earth would anyone in their right mind (even if they had cash t throw around) spend $10,000 on hiring a photographer for their wedding when they can just ask Uncle Clive with his digital SLR and iMovie to make it for you. Clive would be keen to do it; then we wouldn’t have to buy a wedding present.

His answer? You must sell the experience, not the product. You must sell the fact that you can film an entire wedding, ceremony and reception, without being noticed by anyone so they feel they are being filmed. You sell your discretion, not your hour of footage. You sell that you will archive the footage of their wedding forever, for free (in case of housefire, flood, loss of the dvd, etc…). That you will send them uncut, additional footage every anniversary to remind them of their special day. You have to do the things that Uncle Clive won’t do.

The industry must not be about selling a thing. Because now, everyone can make these things with software that everyone gets for free on their computers. It must be about selling the experience of the thing. Which I personally, hadn’t thought enough about. It is not enough to just produce great videos, because there are thousands of teenagers with their webcams, with millions of followers, who are able to do the exact same thing, to a much greater audience.

It tied nicely into my conversation this morning with a friend who wants to start up a coffee shop. He was telling me about his connections in the industry and how he would be able to get discounts on the beans, how he has friends who would be willing to invest money into the business to get it started. And while you need these things (a coffee shop without premises or beans wouldn’t be a great coffee shop), you need customers. And you need a reason for customers to come back to your shop, as opposed to the one a block from their house that serves the exact same coffee, for the exact same price.

My answer (thank you Adrian), was the feel of the place. Everything from the decor, to the music playing, the staff that work there, the cups that people will drink from, and the sugar they will stir into their drinks. A customer must feel comfortable and at ease using a product (or buying a cup of coffee) or they won’t use it, because if they are willing to sacrifice comfort, they will find a very cheap solution to whatever the problem they face, or service they need.

The Moat, under the Wheelers Center, is where I go for coffee when I’m at uni. Why? The one on campus is cheaper. Druid’s Cafe is much closer. Mr Tulk serves the exact same stuff. And if I do a quick google search; “coffee shops swanston st”, this is what Google maps tells me.


My answer? The feel of it. I like the place. I feel comfortable there. At home even. I’d be quite happy to spend the day there, just reading or writing. I like that they play quite classical or jazz over the speakers. I like that there is a different kind of spoon with each jar of sugar. I like that I know one of the waiters is called Stewart, and that he plays golf and used to own his own restaurant. I like that he knows I teach children to swim and do triathlons. I like that I don’t even have to talk to them anymore, I just sit down, and within a few minutes, a flat white will appear in front of me. I like them enough that I have brought at least a dozen people there since the beginning of the year, who had never heard of it, and some of them have become regulars too. It is comfortable, and easy, and I will probably keep going there till I finish my degree, spending hundreds of dollars on coffees and snacks, and probably even go there if I get an office job in the city after I finish uni.

Why? Because as Adrian said, I’m not paying for the coffee, I’m paying for the experience.