At the more gruesome end of the “Columbian Exchange” of concepts, people, animals, vegetables and minerals between Old World and New stands the exchange of diseases. European explorers and settlers gave the American Indians, mostly free of charge: yellow fever, scarlet fever, typhus, typhoid, chickenpox, smallpox, measles, cholera, influenza, malaria, bubonic plague and leprosy, among others. In return, we got syphilis. And people cry about unbalanced trade now! Those natives were making a killing off us.
Or, as Hovercraft put it: “Huge net profit for them, but the currency is DEATH.”
Essay looming, due Friday; first “proper” work (I don’t really count presentations or reading.) Spent an entire weekend failing to do it. I thought I was clear on what I had to do. I thought I had decent prep down and done. Yet when I looked at the essay all I could put down was random scatters of thought that made no sense the minute after I typed them. Every piece of help I tried to find just made the essay seem less and less possible. The overall whole seemed further and further away every time I looked at it. I took breaks for meals and games, returned to essay, stared blankly at essay, wallowed in misery feeling depressed and useless and incapable of anything. One essay, a mere 2,000 words on a doddle of a topic, one essay that doesn’t even count for my degree. I couldn’t put down more than a straight sentence without a minute later realising it was worthless and tearing it apart. After two days, I had 500 words of useless unsuitable nonsense.
Siz appeared and offered sober counsel and told me not to fret, and how, simply, to do university essays, and sent me one of hers so I could see how it was done. So I spent most of today either at lectures or in the library taking notes. I’m still not particularly optimistic, but I think I can at least do something resembling an essay and I no longer feel that I should drop out of university through being mentally incapable of doing any proper work. And at least I was punctual and made a concerted attempt on Saturday rather than finding this out at 3am on Friday morning.
General feeling of uselessness and crappiness prevails though. Not just in me. War, Armed Forces & Society lecture on 2nd-3rd century Roman strategy was awful. Lecture began by attempting to big itself up as the foundation of all strategy ever in an insecure kind of way, followed by lecturer spending ages on repeated, redundant explanations (we are doing War Studies, we do actually understand what defence in depth is the first time, we do not need it explained condescendingly under three names and in four different ways including one involving some unrelated jabber about Hannibal), completely failing to substantiate what struck me as rather important claims (why, exactly, did having legions stationed across the empire’s borders mean that Rome was incapable of fighting a war on two fronts? Surely dispersal of forces under devolved command, especially in the classical world where even a forced march on straight roads was agonisingly slow, is better disposed to deal with multiple threats than a central reserve which would then be divided…) and contradicting himself. (Open with “Man for man, the legions were no better fighting forces than the barbarians. It was in strategy that the Roman defence was superior.” Five minutes later: “The Romans knew that the tactical ability of their legions would guarantee victory in direct battle.” Ten minutes later: “Legions became increasingly redundant and reduced in quality.” Two minutes later: “Disregard, cocks.”) How can you say that the late 3rd-century auxiliary-based forces were no better than the disorganised rabble of barbarians they fought with, and in the same breath say that they were crack specialists capable of taking on anything? I don’t know much about classical warfare. This was true before the lecture and is completely unchanged after it. The most enlightening part was post-lecture discussion with James and John on the way to Room 101 for Practising History, and that mostly concerned stirrups.
Room 101. The fantastically named Marios Hadjianastasis told us about various student help things and his helpful studenty blog “The Student Cycle”, and then the lecturer enthused about an account of the Colchester Oyster Feast.
Now, I did make a genuine effort to enjoy and understand the reading. I downloaded it as soon as I got the email to, set apart an hour from my essay misery on the weekend to read and analyse it. That the account was incredibly dry, scattered to the point of incomprehensibility, 40% footnotes and making mountains out of centuries of whimsical petty-bourgeoisie barnacles did not deter me at first. I tried, I really did. It was the way that the lecture was so incredibly, unendingly enthusiastic about this impenetrable, futile text from which I had gleaned nothing. There was some genuinely useful stuff about analysing books in there, but it was pretty well buried under the oysters. Worried that the inability to make head, tail or shell from the Oyster Feast was confined to me; this worry evaporated quickly. One guy got gigged for listening to his MP3 player in the lecture; the shuffle of embarrassment afterwards seemed to indicate that everyone else wished they had come similarly equipped. I felt somewhat sorry for the lecturer, who was doing her best.
John left for his medieval lecture, James and I stayed in our seats, and it was up to our Making of the Modern World lecture on the pre-Reformation church, third and last lecture of the block, to salvage the day. It opened with pocket biographies of two drinking, whoring, profiteering, warmongering popes and a Lutheran propaganda woodcut featuring, among many many other things, an evil Catholic friar with a tiny demon standing on his shoulder sticking a set of bellows in his ear and pumping his head full of evil thoughts. It really only got better from there and was immensely cheering, though the slides don’t seem to have gone up on WebCT for me to revise and enjoy.
Last week’s expenditures: £33.90
Also. Nick played 20% of all TF2 played by all COGS members in the last two weeks. He’s averaging forty hours per week. This just isn’t healthy.