Tuesday, June 30, 2020

I'm still here

Just noticed it's been 10 days since I last posted. What in the world?

I have been reading and studying. I'm in three books right now in fact, not including one I started and three chapters in decided it was not for me. 

I started the Harry Potter step three: Croatian audio/English reading, but I've put it on hold for a few days. I'm on chapter three I think. When I start back, I'll possibly start back at chapter one. In case you're wondering, yes, listening in an L2 and reading in my native language (L1) is still hard. 

The book I most recently finished is Warlock. (Spoilers follow; skip to next paragraph if you want.) This book, by Oakley Hall, is a retelling of the OK Corral. I don't know didley squat about the OK Corral. Never watched the Tombstone movie that everyone seems to like. Not really into westerns. But I gotta tell you: this is a good book. The only issue I have with the book is the same issue I had with a friend's novel when he asked me to critique it: too many characters with similar names. Maybe it's just me, but I get confused when an author uses names that are too close. Ned and Neil. Bob and Bud. That sort of thing. But that is the only issue I have with Warlock. And of course the NYRB version of it, the one I read, love those editions. Best fonts, most forgiving for the eyes. Two thumbs up. 

The book I started but bailed on is Ways of Knowing: A New History of Science, Technology and Medicine by John Pickstone. The description of the book sounded right up my alley, as I love the history of STEM. But the book, well, it's very philosophical. It is more an explanation of the author's new way of looking at STEM, not really a history of STEM. I tried. In the future I'll stick to specific histories of STEM subjects that I'm interested in.

Speaking of that, I replaced Ways of Knowing with a book I've had on the shelves for decades: The Medieval Machine, by Jean Gimpel. In fact, I've had two copies, a hb and pb. When I decided to not read the STEM book, I grabbed a handful of STEM-y books off my shelves and started into them. I got as far as the Gimpel book. Excellent already. Everything I love about history: STEM and medieval. Two areas I love above all. It amazes me how clever the people during the supposed dark ages were. I started with the paperback, but every turn of the page I heard a rip, and the pages started falling out, so I recycled that copy and moved over to the hardback. I'll write a more in-depth review when I finish it in a few days. 

Another book I'm "reading" via Audible is The Pursuit of Power. I've wanted to read this book since the 1990's. My wife had to read it for a military history class she took at Uni of Alaska. Again, talking about technology and history, and in this case, specifically about warfare. Right up my alley. I'll be done with this soon and will write a review. William McNeill also wrote Plagues and Peoples, an intelligent version (read: not politically correct or stupid) of Guns, Germs and Steel that I've wanted to read for a while. Unfortunately, it isn't available in Audible, so I may have to actually buy or borrow the books soon. (If our library ever opens back up, I'll look for this book.) I'm about 80% done, so I'll have to figure out what to read next. 

Maybe Zuby's book? Yes, I bought a book by the rapper Zuby. Love that guy. Follow him on Twitter. So very reasonable. He wrote a small (90-something pages) book called Strong Advice, a guide to fitness for everyone. It'll be a quick read. I love these workout books. I have a collection of some very old ones, I'm talking Sandow. They're so much fun to read through. 

I also just started You Are Your Own Gym. My wife suggested it; I'm looking out for body-weight workouts seeing how the gym is never going to open. Turns out the author of this book (Mark Lauren) is a Special Tactics guy (Aim High!), so I'm all in on reading this book. 

I guess I have to update my Goodreads, because the last two books I talked about...not listed in my "Currently Reading" section. 

As for studying, Coptic continues. So far my homework is errorless. My Croatian, as I explained above, has been on hold. Coptic is fun enough for now. 

Wow! I thought this would be a quick "Hey, I'm still here" post, and look at me, writing a lot!

Speaking of writing, I had a story of mine tentatively accepted by a magazine. They like my story but want me to do some revisions, and have offered me a quicker re-look (i.e. less than the normal 90 days) should I revise the story. I'll be revising it this week and if everything goes well, I may actually get my story published in a magazine! I'll keep you, dear reader(s), apprised! 


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Coptic, lesson 2

Coptic is progressing. It's slow; about one lesson per month. So I'll be at this for a while. But that's ok. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

In lesson 2 we're covering the indefinite article, and Coptic is one of those languages that has an indefinite for plurals. This feels odd to native English speakers (a books? Wha..?), but not so bad when you translate it as "some, certain." It's just important to think of plural indefinite as not the opposite of the definite (the in English), but as, well, just like it says, an indefinite quantity. 

Some boats are in the harbor.

Some boats in the above example would have Coptic's indefinite article. In Coptic, the articles are prefixed directly onto the noun: 
ϫⲟⲓ: boat
ⲡϫⲟⲓ: the boat
ⲟⲩϫⲟⲓ: a boat
ⲉϫⲏⲩ: boats
ⲛⲉϫⲏⲩ: the boats
ϩⲉⲛⲉϫⲏⲩ: some boats

Also covered in this chapter is the genitive, or possession. Coptic deals with this simply: thing being possessed * preposition * possessor
ⲡⲏⲓ ⲙ̅ ⲡⲣⲱⲙⲉ: the house of the man, the man's house

There are other considerations, however. If the first noun (thing being possessed) is indefinite, then the preposition is changed to ⲛ̅ⲧⲉ. 

Also included in lesson 2 is some mention of negatives and required words for sentences with adverbial predicates, but that'll just get too complicated to go over in a blog entry. 

We're spending five weeks on this lesson. First week was just reading the lesson and learning vocab. Tomorrow is the end of week two; I just submitted the first of four homeworks. 

Step 3: Croatian listening, English reading, round one

Only about 10 pages into Harry Potter i kamen mudraca (again) and yikes. Much harder following along in a language that I used to know well but don't know well now.

Dear reader(s) will remember that I'm doing L-R in Croatian. This third step is where I Listen in Croatian while Reading in English. Thankfully there are anchors in the text. What I mean by that is there are enough words or names every sentence that I know in Croatian that help me keep on track. When I L-R'd Russian it was much easier. Granted, my Russian is much better!

Step three is supposed to be done three times. The point being that as one goes through this step repeatedly, the vocabulary will become ingrained and it'll be easier to move along in the text, not needing as many anchors as I need now. We'll see if I stick with it that long. Maybe twice? No matter, when I tire of HP 1 in Croatian I'll have two options: continue the L-R with HP 2, or retake the proficiency tests. Who knows.

The experiment I'd really like to do is this full L-R and see if my Listening proficiency increases more than my Reading. After all, I'm now at the stage of only seeing English. Step 2 (Croatian reading and listening) only happens once in L-R. Therefore as I'm hearing Croatian and seeing the English meanings, seems to me that my brain is learning Croatian listening more so than reading. I expect my listening will have improved at a higher level than my reading. 

If that happens, then I might do a second experiment. Follow L-R steps 1 and 2 the same, but when I get to step 3, I'll read in the L2 and listen in English. Shouldn't that then improve my reading proficiency more than my listening? I wonder if for this experiment, let's call it R-L, I'll have to pick a different language? 

Hmmm...the possibilities!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus

My wife raves of 1493. When I was looking for a new Audible book, I saw that we had both 1491 and 1493. I couldn't remember which one she preferred, so of course I started with 1491. I was an hour or so into the book before I learned that she liked 1493 better. By then I was already committed, so I continued with 1491. I liked it! 



In general, when talking history, I tend toward earlier rather than later. For example, I'd rather read about classical and medieval history than anything after around 1500 AD. Something about people eeking out an existence without the benefit of modern technology just interests the hell outta me. 

All the civilizations of the Americas, and there were many, interest me. This book describes the intellectual challenges of figuring out what was going on in this hemisphere before Europeans arrived. Archaeological advancements have improved over the years and from those we manage to learn more. 

Now, I'm on to watching Apocalypto. I watched it years ago when it was released. I must admit the languages used in the movie is what had attracted me to the movie originally; having just finished this book is bringing me back to the movie. I'll let you know how it goes!

This Audible credit ($11.50) has brought my 2020 book expenses up to $280.29. For the Dewey Decimal challenge, this is another 900-series book, 970.011 specifically. FWIW, this is the 40th book I've read this year so far.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Harry Potter i kamen mudraca

A couple weeks ago I wrote about L-R, a method of increasing listening and reading proficiency in foreign languages. One part of L-R is to read a book you know well in the foreign language (L2) while listening to it also in the L2. 


I just finished the L2-L2 (Croatian) round of Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone. I gotta say, this was difficult. My Croatian is quite rusty and there were times when I was completely lost. Thankfully, I remember enough of the vocab and cognates with Russian that those times only lasted a few paragraphs. Also helps that I just read the book in English right before starting this.

Next step: reading it in English while listening in Croatian. I think I'll wait till this weekend to start that though!

The lady on the audio was interesting. She'd take breathing breaks in the middle of a paragraph/idea. Also, not one of the clips was a whole chapter. Every. Single. Chapter started in the middle or end of a cut. What that means for me is that in the middle of Harry getting saved by the Centaur in the forbidden forest, a new clip started, and she'd say "Harry Potter i kamen mudraca..." It also meant that I had to keep an eye on the cut I was on and the time when I finished a chapter so I could find it the next day, if my app didn't save it.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Mediterranean

Been "reading" via Audible Charles Freeman's book Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Mediterranean. Dear reader(s) know that I love ancient Egypt. And I've been reading some books on ancient Greece and Rome lately. I've had this book in physical form on my shelves for some years now, but never started it. It's thick, heavy and small-fonted. I'm not saying I was scared, but...




But Audible is a great way to get through long books; see my mention on Goodreads about the 35-hour long Sexual Personae (which was great). This book is 33-odd hours long, and should have been titled Rome, then some Greece, and just a touch of Egypt. The Egypt section was maybe 10% of the entire book, and of course highlighted bad boy of Egypt Akhenaten and the Amarna period. Then Greece, making up maybe the next 30%. Then it was all about Rome. Sure, Greece and Rome make up the major party of Classics. But there are other civilizations in the Mediterranean. And Egypt stuck around throughout the time when Greece was the big boy in the Med. In fact, Egypt's history lasted about 5-6 times longer than Greece in its heyday. 

But I should have known going in with that title and the author being a Classicist. And that's okay. I need to learn more about ancient Greece and Rome. I did feel pretty great "knowing" everything the author wrote about Egypt in this book from previous reading and studying. Hurray Mike! But I think my next history read will be solely on Egypt. I love its history.

Do I recommend this book? Yes. If you can get it cheaply in physical form, do it as the pictures are great. But they're not necessary if you'd rather read it via Audible. 

For my book budget tracking, I used a credit for this and one monthly credit is $11.50, so my 2020 book expenses after this one is: $268.79. 

And for my Dewey Decimal challenge, this book is 909.09. 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Brideshead Revisited




A week or so ago was the 75th anniversary of the publishing of Brideshead Revisited. I "attended" a virtual seminar from Castle Howard, the apparent exemplar for Brideshead Castle. 

I first read this book in 2005, my pick in our family book club, and it was my first experience with Evelyn Waugh, and the reason I fell in love with his writing. I've read everything else he's written, fiction-wise. Many more than once.

Some say it is a Catholic book, and Waugh is a known Catholic. But I don't see it as a religious book. Religion does play a role, but is not the main theme of the book. The main theme is a family, the Flytes, and one Charles Ryder's experience with the family. 

There have been movies made of the book, but I've seen none. After the Castle Howard seminar, I will probably seek out and watch the Grenada mini-series production from the early '80s. Jeremy Irons plays Ryder. It looks good.

Now, the latest movie, with Emma Thompson, not so much. I've seen reviews of it from readers of the book, and I'm not sure I want to see it. Maybe if I didn't have to pay for it, perhaps from the library?

If you haven't read Waugh, I must tell you that this is his most serious book. Most others are black humor. Of those, I can highly recommend Scoop and Decline and Fall. For semi-serious and humorous, try the Sword of Honor trilogy. After you read the trilogy, watch Daniel Craig in the short mini-series for the book. 

As this book was set in the 1920s, it qualifies for #JazzAgeJune

For my book budget tracking, I got this one on Kindle for $2.99. That makes 2020 book expenses so far: $257.29.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Harry Potter

I'm about one third done with Croatian Harry Potter and so far so good. I'm getting more and more of the vocab. I've also added in a basic text of Croatian to review my grammar: I'm decided between Teach Yourself, Colloquial, and Magner's Intro. 

I've got audio for Magner and Colloquial is free online. I've found the Teach Yourself online, but it is "Complete Croatian" and my actual book is "Teach Yourself Croatian." I'll check tomorrow if the audio syncs up. The Colloquial is pretty close; my book is "Colloquial Croatian & Serbian" while online it is "Colloquial Croatian." So far in Lesson 1, one dialogue that is marked in the book as being on the cassette tape isn't on the online audio. And some words are different, but not enough to worry about. 

Magner is pretty good. Used it during Turbo-Serbo at DLI. Good text if you can find it cheap. Two thumbs up.

In Coptic news, we're on the fourth week for lesson 1. Most of us have already submitted our homework, due this coming Sunday. All next week we'll be reading lesson 2. All three pages. Yes, it's slow, but that's ok. Lesson 2 is covering indefinite articles, plural and singular, which are weird in Coptic, surely. And genitive. Then we'll have 4 weeks (yes, FOUR) to complete the exercises. Wow. 

The Double, by Jose Saramago

 This is my first Saramago that I've read. My wife loved  Blindness . I couldn't get into it years ago when I attempted it. But this...