Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Language Progress

Today marks one month into my effort to learn German and relearn French. At the moment, I'm spending about half an hour a day on the two languages-- it's not a huge allotment, but I feel like anything more would result in me fizzling out a lot sooner. In German, I can say things like "The horse is eating a newspaper" and "I don't have any potatoes". Similarities to English are helping a lot.

French, a language I spent three years on in high school, is going much faster. I was able to play through the tutorial level of The Witcher 2 in French, but that may not the best measure because The Witcher 2 is decently confusing even in English. After a few more months of French, and several of German, I'm hoping to start reading childrens' books in the two languages and ideally escalate from there.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Fun With Packing

In my current stage of life, I move around from year to year and it may be a while before I have a long-term residence. My parents are moving soon as well, so there's no such thing as storing things at their house until after college. In order to travel light, I have a few thought experiments to go through whenever I need to pack:

How Bad Would I Feel If Everything In My House/Dorm Was Consumed By Flame?
It would be a big setback, to be sure. I'd have left whatever clothes I was wearing, my wallet, my phone, and maybe my computer and some books if I had my backpack with me. I'd probably need to go through a lot of red tape to replace official documents like my passports and birth certificate. I'd also lose the envelope of sentimental objects important enough to take along through every move. However, most of my digital files are in the cloud, and getting new clothes and other stuff would be pretty easy. I'd also have a good story to tell in the future.

How Bad Would It Be If The Suitcase I'm Packing Got Lost?
For the first few days of my year in England, this was the case, and by the time my suitcase finally did arrive, I was happy but didn't need it quite as much. In my carry-on backpack I had brought my documents, my computer etc, and a change of clothes; I had to buy cheap suit and some household items to get through the first few days, but was pretty much set from that point on.

With these thoughts in my mind, I feel more free to get rid of unimportant or easily replaceable items before I travel. I'm sure things will change once I get furniture and more permanent, expensive household items, but I like to think that the concept at the heart will remain the same: the destruction of my material possessions isn't as bad as it may seem.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Internet Language

Unless you take very deliberate steps to be anonymous on the internet, it seems that you count on your actions being recorded and used for advertising purposes. I recently started relearning French using an online program and today, while browsing, I was shown the first advertisement I've seen online in French.

I suppose it's one way of increasing immersion. A few years ago, I resolved that, unless my life plans changed significantly, I would never be fluent enough in a second language to be really comfortable in a conversation. Reading and writing, however, may be more accessible. There's a lot of French literature I may one day be able to access without having perfect pronunciation.

There's also the internet. Several years ago, I used to play Runescape on European servers so I could talk to people in broken French. Internet forums also have a fair diversity of language, the most popular 'French' phrases among many being "hon hon hon" and "omelette du fromage." Recently, many of my online encounters with French have been research papers from Francophone African countries where insects are eaten. In these cases, I can understand the titles and some key words, but usually end up just looking at the figures.

In any case, I suppose I am now resolved that, while I may never carry out a smooth conversation in French, learning how to read and write second languages may have plenty benefits of its own.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Walking in the Rain

As I've mention before, I like to wear raincoats in the rain so that I can experience the elements without getting my clothes wet. I like the sound and feel of rain, and also the mood it brings wherever it falls.

When it rains and I'm out in nature, I listen to the sound of rain on leaves and watch water dripping from the trees and running along the ground. Insects seem to go into hiding during the rain, which can be nice.

When it rains and I'm in a city, I like watching the streams that form on sidewalks and roads and (hopefully) show an efficient drainage system at work. Rain can have an isolating effect on pedestrians-- people are less likely to stop and talk to me when I'm walking in the rain. On the other hand, sheltering from the rain in a bus stop or something with other people seems to make folks more friendly.

Sometimes it seems a bit strange that water falls from the sky, but I suppose that's the world we live in.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Writing: the Boring and the Fun

In the paper I'm currently writing on insect farming, there are three main sections: how things have been done in the past, how they are done currently, and how they might be done in the future. I've spent most of the past two weeks slowly writing the first two sections and spent the past two days, the most productive I've had in a while, writing the last one, which ended up being longer than both the others.

Why were the first parts more of a drag to write? It was, in large part, reporting what is already known. The facts themselves are interesting and I would happily have a boring discussion explaining them to someone, but putting the facts into a coherent essay structure is not as exciting. Almost every sentence needs a source or two, so there's a lot of tabbing between what I'm writing and what I'm reading, which really slows things down.

Why was the last part more fun to write? I do enjoy thinking of possibilities, and it's also quite likely that the future of insect farming will be larger than the past of insect farming. In addition, I get to write more of my own thoughts as long as I use enough qualifiers and conditionals. In many ways, it's the part that feels most original, and for better or worse, being original is the real battle in these circles.