Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Spanish is Easy...ier #2

This is just a boring update to my efforts to learn Spanish because all I've done in the past week is to try to learn Spanish.

The Rosetta Stone and Anki have been going great, but that's not even half the battle.  I'm still looking for the right source to "teach me" the grammar.  One interesting source is a guy who teaches what he calls Gringo Espanol.

He has an interesting approach.  For example, in English, you wouldn't say, "I eated the apple."  That's because "Eat" is an irregular verb.  But the thing is, if you did say, "I eated the apple," you would be understood %100 of the time.  He says that's pretty much true in Spanish as well.  So learning irregular verbs should be your very last step.  Learn enough Spanish to start speaking it poorly, then worry about not sounding like an idiot. 

Do you see why he calls his channel Gringo Espanol?  He talks about children, and says they're not better at the skills it takes to learn a language, or the memorization involved.  They're great at learning languages because they jump right in, and aren't afraid to make mistakes.

He has also explained what he calls the Puzzle Method.  That's where you look at a something written in Spanish; something you might be interested in.  Then start translating each word manually.  This part is easy, anyone can do it.  The hard part is the grammar.  The interesting part is, if you know the words, and understand the subject, you can usually figure out what they are trying to say.  That way you are figuring out the grammar, and learning how it works as you do.

He's a weirdo, but so am I, and he has some good videos on Youtube.  He has some more stuff behind a pay wall, and I am thinking about it.  I'm sure I'm describing his thoughts poorly.  If you're a native English speaker trying to learn Spanish, I definitely recommend checking him out.

Friday, July 20, 2018

I Can Hear you Now

"What, I'm sorry … what did you say?"

Ellie, my sweetheart and the love of my life, and I spend a lot of time in our den. We are perched, each of us, on a lift chair, controlled by pushing buttons on a wired remote control. Pushing the right button for long enough will practically stand the occupant up and push him/her out of the seat. Similarly, pushing a different button long enough will lay the chair flat, perhaps even making the head slightly lower than the feet, inviting the occupant to nap.

Ellie's arthritis had bothered her enough that the simple act of getting out of a chair became difficult. This persuaded us to look for a lift chair to ease the difficulty. When we found one, I, of course, became jealous, so we got two of them. We now have His and Hers chairs, as I, noticeably taller than she, need a bigger chair.

Pretty independent of one another, we read, watch TV and use our smartphones. We play competitive games on the phones ( against each other, against others ), games of skill against the phone, and almost always at least several brain games at the same time ( these pit us against the material, but we do them at the same time ). There's plenty of interaction and there's plenty of quiet time as well. 

Ellie would commonly punctuate this time my going to the kitchen to perform some cat-spoiling activity. It was during these times that the issue began rearing its head.

"Honey, did I leave my water bottle in the den?" she'd ask, as she was spooning some ocean whitefish from the can to the dish of one of the cats.

"Yes, it's here; do you want it?" I'd respond.

"No, just making sure I know where it is."

Every now and then, as she was running water to rinse the dinner plate belonging to one of the cats, she'd ask, "Honey, did I leave my coffee in the den?"

Having heard her voice but utterly failing to understand, I'd call back, consciously making myself heard above the running water, "What? Could you turn the water off and repeat the question, please?" Which of course, she did, and everything was cool.

Until it wasn't.

She'd frequently forget that running water drowned out her voice
( enjoying the pun ) and she began suggesting I wasn't hearing her adequately. It didn't help that, when we were both in the den, both enveloped in our individual activity, she'd ask something with no intro. "You know that play we were talking about? How did the homicidal maniac get into the bedroom without anyone noticing?"

I would not realize she was talking to me until about, "into the bedroom," by which time it was way too late to know the totality of what she had said. "What, I'm sorry … what did you say?"

It didn't help that I would frequently say something to her and she didn't hear it, either. She accused me of mumbling. ( And, truth be told, I do that more often that I'd like to admit. Perhaps way. ) And I noticed I heard things and asked her about them and she didn't hear them at all … like her shoes making odd squeaking noises on her desk-chair mat. I was sure I could hear better than she, she was sure I suffered from at least some hearing loss, and I was afraid that that was true.

"FREE HEARING SCREENING," the coupon said. "Let's go do this, both you and I," Ellie said.

We did. Guess what?

I do hear better than Ellie does, I do have some non-trivial hearing loss, and so does she. Our hearing loss is compatible with people our age, and I am now the proud owner of a set of hearing aids. As is Ellie. What a pair we make!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Spanish is Easy...ier

“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Is there anything superhero movies can't teach us?  When I returned from vacation I was ready to be productive again, so I dove into Spanish.  And I was ready to apply what I learned studying Japanese.  No, not what I learned about conjugating verbs.  I'm talking about what I learned about learning.

For starters, I'm back on Anki.  Anki is an amazing tool for simple memorization.  But this time I'm memorizing words, instead of alphabets.  I'm starting with a list of the 5,000 most used Spanish words, as compiled from movie subtitles.  Most of these are prepositions, conjunctions, and such.  In a few weeks I plan to add in common phrases.

Then there's Rosetta Stone.  I gave my Japanese subscription to my cousin, and got a Spanish subscription.  Last time I studied what it was teaching me, and that was all wrong.  I was doing one lesson a day, if that.  The benefit of the program is to make you practice it as often as you can.  It kind of simulates immersion, or as least the best you can without other people.  This time around I'm spending less time thinking it through, and more time doing it, and getting that practice in.

Most speaking is done subconsciously, and these two methods are great at that angle of a new language.  But I am 36, and it's too late to just absorb a language like a child would.  The third method I'm using is old fashion studying.  I'm watching youtube videos explaining how the grammar works, and taking notes.

I have some other ideas for the future, but this is a great start.  There is some commitment involved, but it's not pulling teeth.  It feels good to learn, and I'm still very enthusiastic.  Plus I am bundling my enthusiasm for my upcoming vacation with that studying.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Convergence 2018 Wrap-up

I'm going to start with "the ugly."  Yeah.  It was not my best vacation.

The Ugly
As predicted, attendance was definitely down, and it was definitely the party crowd that sat this one out.  Many party rooms didn't happen.  The ones that did closed pretty early.

I don't really have an explanation for this next part, but even though more people paid than attended (because no refunds were given), they seemed to be very strapped for cash this year.  No snacks in the movie rooms, and instead of soup, they had packets of ramen.  The opening "comedy" production was something you would expect any random high school class might through together in a half hour.  And it turned out to be just a thinly veiled lecture on how men should not take advantage of women.  The punchline was literally that harassment is something men do to women.

The Bad
Speaking of which, they wasted quite a bit of my time going over how to not harass women, what our preferred pronouns are, and things like that.  A panel on meditation and mindfulness turned out to be a panel on how you can use meditation to overcome extremely stressful situations, like when the candidate you would prefer become president doesn't win.

The Good
Well...  Lower attendance meant they had the AC situation under control.  And it was easier to get into panels.  The Skeptchick people stayed away, so that was a plus.  And I really enjoyed a panel where two of the creators of Gargoyles talk about making it, and hopes to make more.

Plus, this new crowd was less drunk, less wild, and wearing more clothes.  Which is bad for me, but kids and parents seemed to take advantage of that.

I am very over the excitement of Convergence.  It once seemed like a chance to hang out with people who are like me, and share my interests.  I know now the average person there does share some interests, but they are nothing like me.

And this sounds a little silly, but being next to the Mall might be a factor too.  I think get a lot of my fill of people watching and the unique items for sale from there on a weekly basis.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Volunteer's Lament II

Advanced Math with love
I as volunteer, three boys

Summer comes, I go home.
copyright Walter R. Jost

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

New Watch

When smart watches first started showing up, I thought they were pretty cool.  I love new gadgets.  I just didn't see a need for one.  Then the other day my bank account equaled my credit card debt.  So, I paid off one of the cards, and purchased an Apple Watch.

The Good
It is fantastic at being a watch.  You can have many faces to switch between depending on what you are up to.  For example, I use the Mickey Mouse face when I'm in bed.  It lets me clearly display when I have an alarm set for, without any other clutter.  And Mickey reads the time if I tap it, without having to open my eyes.

Plus Siri is really good at setting alarms and timers.  That is very handy in a watch.  And just in general, more features than I've ever had in a watch.

Another important function of a watch is to look good.  I specifically got this because I had a really flashy watch band that needed a flashy watch.  My grandmother had a men's gold watch band that she found more comfortable because her wrists were a little swollen in later in life.   I got it when she died.  I do think they look good together.

The Bad
It is not super functional as a cell phone peripheral.  I had hoped it could control my phone some, and it's really not good at that.  I can't start music or podcasts.  It doesn't display the artwork of the music that's playing, although it does say the track info.  I can play and pause the music, but I could do that already with my headphones.  And there have been several times I have asked Siri to do something, and she did understand me, but told me I'd need to ask again on my phone.

I have some hope that functionality will increase.  Google certainly could make an app for it that lets me control my music more, for example.  Or Apple could.  Also, Apple teased a lot more powerful Siri automation that is supposed to be coming in the next few months.  So, we'll see.

The Ugly
The most disappointing feature of this watch has been the charging situation.  I have charged it every day for a few minutes since I got it, and it seems like I needed that.  I think it would be dead if I ever let it go 48 hours without a charge.

And the charging cable is... odd.  It connects magnetically, but not super firmly, so I have unplugged it by bumping it.  I could get peripherals that would help with that.  But my thoughts were to find a different kind of cable, so I would have a couple of options, and a spare.  It turns out these cables are start at $20.  That's a lot for a cable.

 I did have to buy the watch at full price, because I couldn't find any good clearance or refurbished deals on it.  Knowing what I know now, I would not have payed $350 for the watch.  In a way, not knowing a good thing, because I'm really glad I have it, and it does make me happy.