Saturday, 29 January 2011

twenty nine: books on the go

Read classic books by email. One page at a time.

Came across the onesmallpage app on Sebastian Marshall's blog today. The creator advertised it as a way of reading more if you find it hard to find time to read (although he worded more eloquently than that!)

I subscribed to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and have just received and read the first ten pages. Seems like a great idea to me, especially as the email is readable on my phone's screen.

Yet to see whether five pages a day works as an amount, but I see no reasons why it wouldn't.

The selection of books available is impressive also.

Friday, 28 January 2011

twenty eight: second post about French

This morning's post was about various aspects of the immersion technique for language learning.

This evening's post is about the more 'traditional' textbook and audio technique, which I am also using.

The following is what I'm able to write after completing chapter one of this book:

bonjour, je m'appelle Chris. et vous? j'ai vingt ans. vous avez quel age? quelle est votre profession?

un deux trois quatre cinq six sept huit neuf dix onze douze treize quatorze quinze seize dix-sept dix huit dix neuf vingt, trente, quarante, cinquante, soixante.

j'habite á Leeds, en Angleterre. oú habitez vous? je suis anglais / britannique. je suis né á Maidstone, en Angleterre / Britain. quelle est vous nationalité?

Ça va? bien. Tres bien. Je suis bien. Pas trés bien. comme ci comme ca.
hello, my name is Chris. and you? I am twenty years. How old are you? what is your profession?

one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen seventeen eighteen nineteen twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty.

I live in Leeds, England. Where do you live? I'm English / British. I was born in Maidstone, England / Britain. What is your nationality?

Okay? well. Very good. I'm fine. Not very well. so-so

twenty eight: first post about French

I'm listening to some French radio on my Blackberry. A technique I've read a lot about with language learning is immersion: AJATT is a blog/website encouraging total immersion in Japanese language through using only items with Japanese packaging, watching only Japanese television, conversing only in Japanese and so on. Obviously this approach, while potentially hugely valuable, isn't compatible with all lifestyles. Nonetheless, aspects of it interested me enough to consider methods of learning a language I may not have used otherwise.

One of these methods being the use of foreign radio.

Despite understanding <90% of what is being said, it's interesting to hear what sounds are prominent in the language. There aren't many strong consonant sounds, for example. Some words I've picked up sound different when spoken by French natives. Others I've seen written sound different to how I'd expect them to. It's also good to hear where emphasis is used and trying to identify where words begin and end. (This is native conversational French rather than textbook-accompanying-CD dumbed down French, remember.)

Another benefit of this technique is the music. The programme I just listened to was a presenter talking to a youngish sounding guy, their conversation being occasionally punctuated by live music by, as far as I could tell, aforementioned youngish man. The format worked really well, and the songs were good. (Although unfortunately I didn't get the guy's name..)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

eighteen: zodiac overhaul

So, there's a new zodiac sign. According to some sources. I'm not sure if it's official yet. I'm not sure who has the authority to make it official, either. Or what they plan to do considering some cultures (one example being Hindus) already have a zodiac that differs from the possibly-former Western 12 sign system.

Regardless, it makes you think. If the zodiacal tenets of astrology are true, and personality characteristics can be attributed to the position of the Sun at your birth, some people, whose birthdays fall into different zodiac signs under the new system, will be expected to overhaul their personality to conform.

I imagine this isn't such an easy thing to do..?

Also, I realise that other things have parts to play in astrology. Houses, angles and the zodiac are all consulted to determine a person's horoscope, so perhaps only a third of one's personality will need to be changed?

Who knows. This is entirely speculative, I just wanted to write something.

Monday, 10 January 2011

ten: this weekend

My watch's little loop-strap that holds the main strap in place broke, and the general consensus seems to be that little loop-straps are quite hard to fix. What a mare.

On a more interesting and prose-worthy note, we moved house on eight. Step dad enlisted the help of one of his employees and their son, Mum enlisted the help of her neice and her son (me), and with the combined efforts of everyone mentioned we moved the contents of our old house into two transit vans to be transported to our new house. (Three loads per transit were required (three return trips.))

A motivational fish and chip lunch was provided, or saveloy and chips / battered sausage and chips if preferred. The petrol garage had one litre bottles of Pepsi Max for a mere sixty five pence, so we bought three of those, along with two smaller yet more expensive bottles of Fanta, and a milkshake for cousin (Mum's neice).

At fiveish, Step dad, employee, employee's son and cousin left. Cousin had a party to go to, employee's son had to be home, and Step dad and employee decided to move some furniture from somewhere else that evening rather than postponing it 'til a new day. This left me, Mum and bro (who had recently returned from Mama's) in the new house.

The evening consisted of a Mediterranean supper (smoked salmon, olives, stuffed peppers, bread, and crisps), unpacking, moving and sorting contents of boxes, bro trying on an assortment of fancy dress items, and once bro had gone to bed, several games of Boggle. (I love Boggle.) Step dad returned around midnight, then I went to bed because I was knackered.

Nine was fairly uneventful: Grandma came down to help tidy, we chatted briefly, then she, mum and bro dropped me off at the station for my journey back to Leeds. In Leeds there was pizza, Planet of the Apes, banter, and Scrabble.

This blog post marks the start of a busy week. I have three pieces of coursework due in on fourteen, only one of which has been started. (Not out of laziness; the software required to complete the coursework is only available on a handful of computers. All of which are in one computer lab in a building which was locked over the holidays.)

That being said, please excuse any delays that may occur in ma bloggin'.

Friday, 7 January 2011

seven: kanji (七: 漢字)

Tomorrow (day eight) I'm going to resume my self-study of kanji, with the help of flashcard program 'Anki'. Ten new kanji per day with a one-day-per-fortnight slackness-buffer and seven days already passed gives me time to encounter three thousand, three hundred and twenty new kanji this year.

Not such a shoddy amount.

バイバイ for now!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

six: twice in one day

The title doesn't refer to the fact that this is my second blog post today, although that's a nice touch I thought.

What it does refer to is something my Mum and I have noticed: sometimes the number of things that happen twice in a short time period increases by such an amount that it's hard to chalk it up to coincidence. These aren't things like seeing a bus by the way, if that happens twice in one day we're quite capable of understanding why - an example of something that would be considered odd is waking up and remembering a TV show you used to watch but haven't seen for ages, then throughout the course of the day either a) seeing it on TV b) overhearing a stranger's conversation where the show is mentioned or c) something similar.

There probably is a logical explanation for such occurrences. Perhaps the program was mentioned on the news or on the radio the previous day and you don't remember hearing it outside of your subconscious? This could also explain why strangers are talking about it; they saw / heard the previous day's mention too.

Still, it's odd. Especially because, as I said, the number of such 'twice in one days' seems to periodically increase by a large amount in a short time. I've had two over the last week, for example. On January 2nd I was curious about Gerry Rafferty - the singer/songwriter most famous for 'Baker Street - and so read his Wikipedia page, then, on January 5th, I saw in the newspaper that he'd passed away on the 4th. Before January 2nd I hadn't given him a second thought for a long time.

There's a second incident I'd like to write about but unfortunately, and perhaps anticlimactically, I've forgotten what it is..


six: mostly three

Three was a good day. Aaron, his friend Y and I went to London with the primary objective of acquiring tickets to Bill Bailey's 'sellout' Dandelion Mind tour, with the secondary objective of 'have fun' leading us to the Science Museum's interactive Launchpad exhibit.

We'd tried previously to order tickets via several agencies but as 'sellout' implies, all seats for all shows were sold out. We decided there were definitely still tickets available if we asked nicely though, and so went to the theatre in question in the early afternoon to ask nicely.

"13 standing tickets will go on sale at 7pm for £12.50 each"

Taking into account queueing time for buying tickets, we had around 3 hours to tackle our secondary objective; acquisition of sustanence was first on the schedule, in the form of a footlong sub of the day with salad and チポト dressing.

After redecorating part of the tube carriage with チポト and olives, we quasi-surfaced at South Kensington. 'Quasi' because a tunnel runs underground from the station to the Science Museum's entrance so you hardly have to go above ground.

We started with a quick look around a new (and possibly temporary) Psychoanalysis exhibit, featuring a sculpture made out of penises and a cabinet full of everyday objects with a sound recording explaining common Psychoanalytical assocations with these objects. Items in question included high heeled shoes, diazepam, razorblades and a model Lamborghini. (Maybe not 'everday', in retrospect.)

The Launchpad was our main destination though, and we arrived there with just over an hour to play (/learn). We learned about the properties of liquids of varying viscosity. We learned about electrolysis via a simulated rocket launch. We learned about polarized lenses by watching water freeze (and I asked a question which the Explainer hadn't been asked before!). We learned about the use of kinetic energy as a means of generating electricity. And of course, the Big Machine (formerly the Grain Machine) taught us about pulleys, levers and various other mechanisms. We then gave an Explainer, Pete, an ear bashing about the nature of pulleys and conservation of energy before going to watch the Rocket Show.

The Rocket Show's intended demographic is KS1 aged children, but adults are encouraged to participate as well. We sat at the back for fear of blocking kids' views, then made immature comments and ate custard creams while hydrogen filled balloons were set on fire and kids pushed each other around on chairs to demonstrate Newton's laws. Interesting stuff.

We then returned to the theatre, got our tickets for Bill Bailey (woo!) and had a quick snack at an unnecessarily far away Caffe Nero before returning once more to the theatre for the show.

And what a show it was.

Despite ~20 minutes of below-Bill-Bailey-standard jokes around stock topics (politics, current affairs etc), he quickly gained form and kept the audience laughing consistently throughout. Topics covered included Australian slang, advert jingles, Christian art, French interpretations of 80s classic rock, German interpretations of pop music, and much more. (I won't go into too much detail because a) it's effort and b) you can buy the show on DVD which I heartily recommend!)

Mum, bro and I had lunch at home then went shopping on four. We spoke about their recent cruise; it sounds incredible. There was a climbing wall, a surfing simulator, a theater, a shopping mall and a mini-golf course aboard the boat. We listened to Foo Fighters' Greatest Hits in the car to the shops, then I spent £22 on underwear.

I spent half of five travelling, half at work, and the other half watching TV with Emily and Tom; the only 2 house mates currently back in the house.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

two: food

I made pancakes yesterday.

Aaron came over, we were both hungry, and so decided upon pancakes as a cheap, easy, fun and delicious food option. 110g of flour, 2 eggs, 200ml of milk, 50g butter and a pinch of salt later, the mixture was ready for frying. (I'm not sure if you actually 'fry' pancake mix - there's probably a special technical term for the method of heating which pancakes enjoy, although considering the combination of adding the mix to hot oil and me not knowing this special term, 'frying' will suffice.)

You may have heard the adage 'the first pancake is always shit!', or perhaps you may not. It may be a family thing. Either way though, it's usually accurate: inexplicably, the first pancake turns into an overcooked yet somehow still soggy lump of gelatinous browny-beige gloop, fit only for consumption for a household pet or, failing that, a bin.

You can imagine the feeling of pride I experienced then, when yesterday's first pancake emerged from it's brief fling with heated vegetable oil as a nicely rounded, well adjusted sheet of batter, more than fit for human consumption. (It was a surprisingly good batch throughout, actually: Aaron and I made a few pancakes each and there were no lost causes.)

I discovered a good new savoury pancake filling too: cheddar, chorizo and chopped chillies.

My granddad also delivered a cache of leftover party food from his new year's celebration yesterday afternoon, consisting of most of a chicken, a tray of prawn vol-au-vents, some sausages, some chorizo, a selection of Asian themed nibbles, french loaf, half a Christmas pudding, most of a raspberry meringue, and a box of Thornton's chocolates. This was obviously way too much for one person to eat, so some friends came over to help me through it (while also watching a Bill Bailey DVD, playing Xbox, and generally socialising.)

'twas a good evening! :)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

one: reflections

Sometimes it's all too easy to get wrapped up fretting about the things you're supposed to be doing that you forget to celebrate the things you have already done.

When this happens you deny yourself a morale boost which, while small, would have had several benefits: a sense of achievement; a brief distraction from upcoming goals; a feeling that you're on track. It goes back to Skinner's ideas of reinforcement from behavioural psychology: to increase the likelihood of a behaviour, that behaviour should be rewarded, i.e. to increase the likelihood of achieving what you want to achieve, you should reward yourself for the things you've already done.

I spent a lot of time in Autumn worrying about various things. Worrying about not hitting it off with people on my course, about keeping up with my friends abroad who are too far away to see often, about other such things that aren't interesting and so I shalln't mention, but basically, I neglected to take into account that I'd just moved into a house with a friend I met abroad and his existing friends from uni, all of whom are awesome people and all of whom I'd say I hit it off with. And that I'd transferred to the uni in question after some pretty big decisions on my part, and had been accepted despite not originally getting the grades because they deemed my application worthy.

I'm not trying to be smug here, by the way. Sorry if it sounds like it. I'm just trying to reiterate that it's definitely worth remembering to give yourself a pat on the back for the things you do. Think about how you achieved your goals, and the further implications of the achievements also.

It has a bigger impact than you may imagine.

All the best for 2011, y'all!