Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Living Languages Are Hard

Much to the disappointment of my mother, in high school I took Latin and Ancient Greek. She wanted me to learn Spanish, which makes sense because my dad and his side of the family speaks Spanish. I wanted to learn Latin, because I liked the idea of learning a foundational language. Theoretically, learning Latin would help me learn any Romance language, including Spanish, more efficiently.

But now I'm taking Spanish (my mom has forgotten most of hers), and I'm starting to have some difficulty. I tested into Spanish 201 by using the Duolingo app, so I don't have as much of a grounding in the basics of some verb forms as I'd like. And I've never taken a college level Spanish class before so I don't know if my class is typical or not. We don't use the (expensive, online only) textbook very much at all, and though the class is supposed to be conducted solely in Spanish, the instructor breaks down multiple times a class into English either because she doesn't know the Spanish or the class is looking at her with baffled incomprehension on our faces.

Also, and I write this knowing I have a history of being annoyed by the verbal tics of instructors, she uses the English word, "kay" a lot (short for okay), which confuses the heck out of me because it sounds just like the Spanish word, "que."

I do well enough on the tests and homework assignments, but I cannot seem to have a conversation with anyone in Spanish without stammering, hesitating, and losing track of what we're talking about. I hear one unfamiliar word and lose everything after. Or I can't understand someone's accent, or I just don't know the words that I want to use, or how to express what I want to express.

I have to translate what I'm saying before I say it. I have to translate what others are saying before I understand it. And I don't know how to get past that.

The present subjunctive wasn't too hard to learn, but the imperfect subjunctive is formed using the third person plural of the preterite. And I've never, ever learned the preterite. I've barely even heard of it.

So I'm simultaneously frustrated and excited by class at this point. There's so much that I don't know and it bothers me. But as I continue to work with Duolingo, I can see what I've learned by rote using the app starting to make sense with what I learned in class. If all I had to do was translate, like with Latin, then I'd be doing fine.

But Spanish is a living language, and I'm being evaluated not only on how well I can write or read it, but also on how well I can speak and listen to it. I'm trying to find that switch in my brain to start myself thinking in Spanish, but I don't know where it is or how to flip it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Writing Begins in Earnest

I've finally finished writing up the Chamberlain Basin trip that I took with my husband. I'm still picking away at that story that I didn't finish over the summer, but I'm going to continue poking along with the fiction and put my mind to writing up my solo trip for my next book.

Of course, I'm also studying Spanish, and quickly feeling like I'm losing all confidence that I gained from the Duolingo app. The app was good to get me to a point of being able to understand and converse, but in class we're starting to learn the imperfect subjunctive, which depends on knowing the preterite to form and knowing both imperfect and preterite to use in a complete sentence.

On the plus side, I'm continuing to grasp what I see on Duolingo better when I do daily practice sessions. But I still don't feel like I have a solid grasp on preterite or imperfect. And when I don't feel like I know what I'm doing, then I get frustrated.

And I've also started a nutrition challenge through my cross fit gym. 30 days of going low carb. The mere thought is terrifying. I like carbs. I like bread. A lot. But I'm going to try and see what I can do in those 30 days. I've got a starting weight, a goal, and, most importantly, I've got my husband on board. He won't be going as strict as I will, but he will be cooking meals that fit into my challenge and supporting me through the inevitable sugar withdrawal.

I'll just use the solo hike write up to distract me from how frustrated I am in Spanish class, studying Spanish to distract me from my sugar withdrawal and my withdrawal symptoms to distract me from how late I am in starting the solo hike write up.

It's all going to work out...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Soliciting Rejection

I've taken a bit longer than I wanted to in turning the work I completed over the summer around and either into submission or publishing it myself. I have excuses, of course. I've got a class that needs time and attention. I have work. I've been sick it seems every other week since the start of September.

But excuses are easy to come by. It's work that is the difficult part. So I started that work over the weekend, sending out two short stories. I should get a quick rejection for one and a slower rejection for the other at which point I'll figure out another place to send each of them. Eventually, I'll put them up either on this blog or for sale, depending on how I feel about them at the time.

One of them is a story that I really like. I feel like it was a level up kind of story for me, but that doesn't mean it will sell. And I have to accept that it not selling does not mean that I did not write a better story. It just means I haven't reached the level that I want to reach yet. Or I haven't gotten my story to the right market. Maybe a little of both.

I was hoping to have finished my write up of the Chamberlain Basin trip before October started, but I fell ill again at the tail end of September and did not reach that goal. I'm looking forward to starting work on my next Hike with Me book. I have some ideas about what I can do to make it better than the Hike with Me books I've written already.

One of those ideas is to think of what the theme of each day of the trip is before writing the account of it. I may or may not use this theme as a chapter title, but I think having something like that will allow my writing to be more cohesive and tell a better story about that journey. I'm having fun thinking about what each day should be called if it were a song or what the title of that "episode" should be. I've got 4 different sets of titles for each of the 5 days so far. Maybe I'll use more than one of them and subdivide the days into multiple chapters each.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 Just Doesn't Learn

A new hockey season is nigh.

And you know what that means...

More shenanigans with the launching of the latest update of the NHL app!

I will give them some credit. The NHL decided to allow live streaming of select pre-season games. Now, the pre-season in itself is not, in and of itself, all that exciting, except for the fact that it's hockey and it means regular season starts soon. But this was a wise move, in that it allowed all the hockey dorks to start screaming about the bugs well before the regular season began.

And, of course, there are bugs.

As the owner of a 3rd gen AppleTV, I had a very special time the last few days trying to figure out how to view the pre-season games that were a part of my  paid subscription package. First disappointment: although the pre-season started on the 25th, the special streamed games didn't start until the 30th. Second disappointment: my NHL app refused to allow me to access the "Today's Games/Scores" section. You know, the part where you actually get to select games for streaming. Third disappointment: the Teams section of the app gave me an actual error message rather than any information about the teams.

To be fair, though who wants to be fair, I was able to stream games on my phone. Sure, the screen is a fraction of the size of my television and the sound quality leaves something to be desired, but I could, technically, get what I had paid for.

And, on Friday, just to be extra special, the vaunted new Support Forum went directly to an error page. So much for reporting my issues there.

So I spent several days exchanging half a dozen emails with NHL Support. The essence of the conversation always came down to them telling me to re-install my NHL app and me telling them that the 3rd gen AppleTV does not have that option, to which they responded, why don't you just download the latest version from the app store? When I got fed up enough to reply with "There is no app store." I got some weird instructions to change my Audio/Video settings from Auto to Standard, which makes almost no sense.

So I decided to check and see if the Support Forum was up and running.

Turns out, there are a lot of people experiencing the exact issue that I was, and getting the exact same runaround from NHL Support.

The difference was, some of them had figured out that if you log out of your account, then you can select a game to watch, which prompts you to sign in. So you can view one game, but if you'd like to switch, then you have to log out again. A workaround, but not a solution.

Still, it was better than what I had and I'm happy to have found it. Sure would have been nice if the NHL Support people were aware of that workaround and told me about it in one of those myriad emails.