Category Archives: Learning

The joys of learning languages

Somewhere I recently saw a shared post on FB talking about moments of understanding what others are saying in other languages when they clearly think you don’t understand them — I even saw something talking about how it is rude to be that person without letting people know.

For those who don’t know, I’ve some background in Spanish, French, Greek, and Latin.  I’m not actually fluent in any of them, although I can keep up best in Spanish.  My first Greek class was taught at Whatcom Community College to help students and the faculty member who were going to be going on a trip to Greece (I wasn’t going to go on the trip, but couldn’t turn away a chance to learn Greek).  The dialect of Greek being taught was demotic, meaning the kind of Greek spoken in Greece by native speakers today, as opposed to older dialects like Koine (virtually identical to New Testament Greek), Attic or Homeric.  Or the phony constructed Erasmian, put together by a German theologian who never ever heard Greek spoken by someone fluent.  There are major wars fought among Helenophiles as to which dialect Greek should be taught in, particularly which pronunciation should be used for the letters in the alphabet.  Just so you know.

During the class, I memorized a handful of phrases that I thought could be useful going forward.  A major one transliterates to “Den katalabayno,” which means “I don’t underestand.”  The utility of that should be obvious.  Some years later, while I was still cashiering at Target, the customer I was ringing up was a mother, who was chewing out her son in Greek.   I couldn’t begin to follow what she was saying, but her last sentence ended with “Katalabayne?”  Which I repeated, because I recognized it.  And then I remembered and said “Den katalabayno,” as I tried to figure out what it meant.  It took me about two more sentences to get to the point where I understood that she had finished her scolding of her son with “Do you understand?!”  At which point she realized I knew what she had said and stopped talking to him in Greek, and I talked about how I understood that which got us to the end of the transaction, and she left.

Lately, my Greek exposure is pretty much limited to postings from my FB friend Konstantia Makre.  She posts pretty pictures most days with a caption of “????????”  which transcribes to something similar to “Kally-merra” if you don’t try to roll the “r,” and which means “Good day,” or “Good Morning.”  She’ll post other things in Greek, and I feel pretty good if I can sound it out and recognize a word or two, which I often can’t.

Pants Day is Coming!

I was not, originally, a fan of Pants Day last year.  I was thinking “Oh, those wacky Mormon feminists (that I love — let’s be clear) are just picking a fight they don’t need to pick, and this is a bad idea.”  But I love Mormon feminists, so I paid attention to what they were saying, and I found they weren’t being as wacky as I originally thought.  Things I learned by listening:

  • This wasn’t a protest.
  • This wasn’t violating policy — pants have been approved for women to wear to Church for decades.
  • The point was to help Mormon feminists (and fellow travelers, like me) to identify each other, and to provide a time when those who haven’t had as much contact with the Church of late could come and find people who might be able to help them find a place within the Church.
  • Wearing of pants wasn’t required to participate.  Wearing purple would do.

So, nobody was being disobedient or rebellious, and people were coming to Church who hadn’t in a long time.  Looked like all up-side to me.

And then I went to the Salt Lake Tribune’s website, and looked at the discussion on an article about the event, and was, frankly, disgusted.  Not by the rebellious, garment-burning feminists, but by the out-of-control reaction of their opponents.  Threats of violence and death — this is not an exaggeration.  Ugliness and verbal abuse all over the place by people who clearly prided themselves on being “good” Mormons, but who clearly had a shaky grip on the notion of how a Christian is supposed to behave.

That was when I decided I was going to participate and support this.  Not because I think women wearing pants to Church is very important — I don’t.  But because I wanted to do what I could to show that the hateful and disgusting rhetoric of those idiots on the discussion board do not represent all Mormons.

I wore a purple shirt and a tie with purple in it that day.  I didn’t see any women in my ward in pants, but I did see a sister wearing purple and her husband said to me “Oh, yeah.  We were supposed to wear purple today!”  He was wearing a white shirt, which he usually didn’t.  But the mission was accomplished — I had identified myself as a participant to those in the know, and had connected with folks who were open to things on the less-than-orthodox side of Mormonism, like me.

I’m going to do the same thing this year.  I’m no more feminist than I was last year (and no less, either).  I don’t think I’m going to be any more “out” because of it.  But I want to join with my feminist friends in making a space within the Church where those who feel like they don’t fit in can feel welcome.  The Church needs Mormons of all kinds, with all kinds of labels and perspectives and relationships with the institutional Church, until we all come in the unity of faith.  Not unity of opinion — unity of faith.  Those who are more drawn to notions of social justice, equality, and voting for Democrats are necessary to the Church reaching its potential, just as those drawn to notions of traditional values, hard work and voting for Republicans are.  Like 1 Cor 12 says, all kinds are needed — a body needs eyes, feet, hands, and a spleen. Even a butt-hole (try running a body without one for a while and see how that works for you), so there’s room for me.

I invite others to join me in this.  Be you eye, hand, or NOM or ex-Mo or non-Mo.  Put on some pants or trousers or purple and show up and you may find yourself in the presence of brothers and sisters you never knew you had.  I am surrounded by brothers and sisters that I see as such, who don’t see anything like that in me.  15 Dec. can help you find a meetinghouse close to you, or the congregation that you live within.

Letting Go Some More

Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I can not change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

We all need all of those things every day, even on good days. When the days aren’t so good, we need them more. Letting go of our desires and wishes and wants and needs and letting God drive the bus is hard. I remember days when it felt like the sun would not rise if I forgot to get out there and push to make it happen. Realizing that making my knuckles white was accomplishing little to nothing, and might actually be working against what was best was very hard. The best thing about hitting yourself in the face with a hammer over and over is that it feels so good when you stop.

My contribution to the world is small — a very small drop in a very large ocean. It will not accomplish what I want it to accomplish. It will not earn the gratitude and attention I would like to receive from it in my neediness. But it is mine to contribute, and enough drops in the ocean can make things different. If I do what God wants with it, then it will be made best use of. If I can let go of those wants, desires, expectations and even needs (hardest to justify, but not the hardest to let go of), and allow God to direct me, my needs are taken care of, and things work out for the best.

I just wish it wasn’t so hard.

Report on Batch 3 of Crockpot Applesauce

The parameters

This batch was different from previous batches in that I did no coring of the apples of any kind — just cut them into quarters and dropped them in the crock.  I used a cheap, small Walmart bag of Granny Smiths and Golden Deliciouses, along with a small paper bag of whatever was closest to the door in Haggen.  I added no water, but did add seasoning and lumps of cane sugar for the cooking phase.  And, then, I used a screen colander to squeeze the stuff through.

The Results

The screen colander did a much better job of getting stuff through than my plastic colander that only has holes on the bottom of it (nothing up the sides),  However, I have a bunch more stuff left in the colander, and I think I’m going to move it to the plastic colander so it can let through more of the pulp without letting through the seeds, skins, and the like. I’ve had two bowls of the stuff that got through the screen, and it was very liquidy, but very tasty.  And there was no problem from not adding water — it cooked down to a pulpy paste with a little stirring after just a couple of hours in the crock pot.

For Next Time

I’m considering not doing all the seasoning in the cooking phase.  I’m not sure.  I’m also thinking about taking some of the pulpy stuff I get out, after I’ve done the liquidy stuff out, for apple butter.  And I’m told we have the Foley food mill around here someplace, and that would make this a lot easier.  If I can find it.

From “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt

Morality binds and blinds. This is not just something that happens to people on the other side. We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We circle around sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science and common sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects.

If you want to understand another group, follow the sacredness. As a first step, think about the moral foundations, and try to figure out which one or two are carrying the most weight in a particular controversy. And if you really want to open your mind, open your heart first. If you can have at least one friendly interaction with a member of the “other” group, you’ll find it far easier to listen to what they’re saying, and maybe even see a controversial issue in a new light. You may not agree, but you’ll probably shift from Manichaean disagreement to a more respectful and constructive yin-yang disagreement.

These are the final two paragraphs of the non-summary part of the book, and they capture quite well the reasons why this book and author have really resonated with me.  I really recommend this book to everyone, because it gives an excellent explanation of why it is that we see moral issues the way we do, and why we see those who don’t share our personal morality as harshly as we do.

I particularly endorse the process laid out in the second paragraph.  The recently-deceased Stephen Covey referred to this as Habit Five: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  A little intellectual humility can really go a long way in the transition from being somebody who is always right, to somebody who is learning and right more frequently.

Disagreement: The path to real learning. (Life is tough, brother. Get a helmet.)

Another comment from another blog that I wanted to keep where I could find it.

Many years ago I bought a new computer — a 386SX-16running MS-Dos5, with a user interface called GeoWorks that had client software for this upstart on-line service that thought some day it could challenge the big-boys (Compuserve and GEnie) called America On-line.  It had a free trial number of hours, and I looked around and around (it was a long-distance call to the only access number in my area, and things didn’t move fast on my 2400 baud modem), and, at the very end, I found a listing for Hatrack River Town Meeting, which rung bells from a book I had just bought by Orson Scott Card — there was a little blurb at the end of the book.  So I went there, and met Scott and a bunch of people.  After a while I was invited to come to a private area called Nauvoo, and there I met Robert Woolley.  He was one of the more insightful folks in that space, but it was pretty low-key and happy for the most part.   Continue reading Disagreement: The path to real learning. (Life is tough, brother. Get a helmet.)

There are a lot of countries in the world.

I just did a flashcard set with my good friend, Teach2000.8 which claimed to be the capitals of all the countries in the world.  I had to hand-add Kosovo, and it didn’t have St. Helena, but it was pretty thorough.  It took me about three hours to go through it on a training mode.  At the end, I have a passing familiarity with the names of all of those capitals, but it’s really hard to keep track of N’djamena, Sanaa, Yaounde, Mbabane, and a few of the other ones that I have little idea of how to pronounce.

Although I’m doing pretty good with Kinshasa, Dodoma, and, well, Mbabane is starting to grow on me (kinda focusing on Africa right now — it’s got the most countries of any continent). 

Now I’m doing an Africa-only flashcard set, and then I’m going to try the Sporcle game about African capitals again (I got 21 out of 49 last time).  I think my brain is smoking.  I’ve got a Millionaire going in the background — looking kinda easy right now.  Can’t believe it took a lifeline and a leap of faith to figure out that BYU was rated the most “stone cold sober” college campus nine years running, but it was college week.  Let’s see if she’s going to get that Dido was in the Aenied.  She might get it with a guess (she thinks it might be in the Antigone).  She’s lurching toward it.  She got it.  $50k for that?  That’s what drives me crazy about that show.  She’s from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, which happens to be the campus that Dr. Pamela Gay teaches at (she’s one of the hosts of Astronomycast).  And she just made 100k on an astronomy question with a mostly guess.  And she walks at the 250k question — I would have gotten the last two wrong. 

Back to capitals.

Got the Veeps.

I did the Vice Presidents “game” on Sporcle, getting all the vice presidents correct (not in the same order) for the first time.  It took me just under four minutes (out of 10 allotted).  This one took a while to get.  Now I need to get Presidents and their Vice Presidents by number — I have a flashcard set that does those that I started working on a week or so ago. 

I’m getting one or more additional answers right on each Jeopardy now that I can attribute to the training I’ve been doing.  I still need to get a handle on the arts categories, and I’m finding a fair number of categories about chemistry and physicists that are biting me.  Part of what’s biting me in those categories is guessing at high-valued answers and getting them wrong. 

I get to go to the Teacher Learner Academy Awards thing tonight.  Mostly I’m going because I really like the teacher, and to see what it was that I did to get nominated for this award.  Emily is going with me. 

All 118

I just got all 118 elements on the periodic table.  I don’t have them quite all in strict order, but it’s pretty close.  I can get up into the 40s without a problem, and I can get the actinide series in order and about half the lanthanide series in order, and I’m good with everything that comes after the actinide series including the ununs.  Now /. today had an article about unbibium being found in nature (the first transuranic found in nature), and I don’t even know if there are elements 119-121 that have been discovered yet to fill in the table up to then.

I also got all the NFL teams today.  This is good.  And I’ve seen utility to these things (not all of them) in the Millionaires I’ve been watching.  Nothing that I didn’t already know, but the answers come more quickly thus far.

Oh, and it looks like I will get a response from OSC — he asked for the uri to the entry.  Not sure how that’ll come.

Sporcle is cool.

StumbleUpon has brought me to a wonderful site that’s helped me with my Jeopardy training called  It’s got a growing list of “games” that are quite useful in memorizing the things the games are about.  Thus far, I’ve solidified US Presidents, States, State Capitals, European Countries and European Capitals, and I’m coming along with the elements of the periodic table (I’m getting over 100 of them now).  Also working on NFL Teams by conference and division, and plan to start working on US Vice Presidents (much tougher than presidents).

The Rick Astley game was quite cute.

And it’s helping.  I picked up a Final Jeopardy in seconds that I wouldn’t have gotten had I not been working on State Capitals recently.

Last week I got my best score on a single show and my best weekly average since I started.  Progress is good.