In addition to the Goldberg Variation I had a bit of Beethoven’s sonatas this month.
Most of Beethoven’s music is passionate, with great energy and strength, almost rebellious and often very loud… That can get a bit too much for my ears so now I don’t listen to Beethoven often. But when I do, that brings me back to my childhood summers. I had two cassettes with Beethoven’s music, his third piano concerto in C minor and the three most famous sonatas – “Moonlight” in C-sharp minor (No 14), “Apassionata” in F minor (No 23) and “Pathetique” in C minor (No 8).
I spent my summer holidays at my grandparents’ and there’s was a balcony, all mine, with windows facing the west. And I remember how I played my cassettes (many many times) in the warm rays of the setting sun and was totally overwhelmed by the music. So energetic, so powerful, like an avalanche! It’s now that I prefer Baroque music, calm and harmonious. In my childhood, I wanted something loud and passionate. I even imagined conducting an orchestra or myself playing with it.. =)
Now I don’t imagine such things but sometimes, when I’m listening to classical music, some images and sensations come to my mind on their own. Like with this 2nd movement of “Pathetique”:
…It is a summer evening after a hot day. I’m staying with some friends in a big country house. They got into some discussion and I decide to slip out in the garden. It is already dark and the first stars are appearing in the sky. The air is filled with the scents of flowers and herbs. The leaves rustle gently. The benches are still warm. I sit on one of them and the events of the day slowly flow in front of my eyes…
Well, it seems that when put into words these pictures become a bit boring and banal… but you get the idea.
I’ve heard that some people can get completely lost in such images (and emotions). I usually don’t because my mind’s busy following the development of the music. If it’s a piece I know well, then it’s also a lot about the anticipation of what’s coming next and waiting for my favourite bits. But maybe with practice I could learn to visualise music better and use it to remember where exactly the piece comes from (now it’s more like “oh, it’s the second movement of one of Beethoven’s most famous sonatas, but which number, which tempo and which key?..”)
A bit of Design
As I was continuing with my VK group, I started looking for ways to make it more visually attractive. Theoretically, I could find a person for it, but isn’t it more interesting to experiment with something new by yourself? =)
Well… it’s easier said than done. I’d already used photos from open stocks for my articles and I didn’t want to change them. But if want my group to look nice, isn’t it better to have everything in one style including the group cover, its avatar, icons for key highlights, pictures for services, and, ideally, new pictures for the articles? Many bloggers use their own photos from photoshoots, but I don’t like to see my face everywhere (and don’t have such photos). What would be my options then?
I remembered that free icons and some graphic images also can be found online (on Flaticon, for example). So if I could find the icons I liked and then create a cover to match them with Canva, and to use a word cloud for the avatar, and leave the current photos as they are… I gave it a try.
After many hours spent exploring how to make word clouds, creating multiple versions of the cover, adapting the colours of the icons, creating another group to see how it all looked, I discovered that, once uploaded to vk, my beautiful cover (see below) is somehow uglily compressed and loses a lot in quality and even colours – the picture becomes blurred and faded. How to remedy this I didn’t find and I suspected it would take a lot of trial and error to get it right.
Another problem was with the size. The one given in the documentation (and self-help articles) didn’t actually work on the website and my picture was cut. So if I can’t find the expected size of the picture and cannot understand how it’s compressed, what am I to do?..
A couple of days later I started having second thoughts about the style of the cover – isn’t it too bright? too childish? Does it really convey the message of my group? It soon became a snowball – what’s the point of writing if I don’t get feedback and my texts are lost somewhere in the feed? is it really worth the 80 hours I’d already spent on them? it is what I want?..
Initially, I thought that my TG channels and my VK group would be a means for attracting new students and a supplement to this blog, but they took so much time that I couldn’t find it for good long articles I wanted to see here… And no one came to study with me. Not many new subscribers either. Probably it takes much longer for such things to work and I was just getting tired (it was the ninth week of my involvement with the texts)…
Anyway, I got stuck and in the middle of April I decided to take a break from all this for a couple of weeks while I still had just a few readers, most of them my friends and acquaintances, and not much responsibility (or expectations from them). More than that I couldn’t find enough time to continue learning data analytics and my subscription with datacamp was expiring in just over a month…
I decided to do an experiment.
I came to datacamp in the spring of 2018 in search of basic courses on analytics delivered in simple language. I did a couple of them and soon signed up for a Data Scientist Career Track which consisted of 20+ courses.
At one point I stopped understanding new material and couldn’t put together all the previous knowledge. Then I understood that the format wasn’t a good match for my way of thinking. I was lost with all these small exercises and unable to get a bigger picture.
But I don’t like to abandon things half done so I continued doing the courses of the track on and off for the next two years.
Then, in April, I suddenly realised that only 7 weeks are left till my subscription was to be renewed but that wouldn’t be possible because my payment wouldn’t go through. That meant that I had to do the remaining 10 courses and 2 projects of the track in a relatively short period of time. Also there a dozen of other interesting topics (=courses) I wanted to learn about.
On the one hand, with most courses estimated to be completed in 4 hours my plans didn’t seem too ambitious if I could spent at least 15 hours a week on my studies. On the other hand, I’d already learnt that I overestimate my ability to work/ study (and my energy levels were far from being outstanding) and I probably would not be able to study that much.
So I decided to give it a try and go slowly, with breaks, but ideally spent some time every day. I hope to at least finish the track. For this I need to finish minimum 2 courses a week together with notes on them so that later I could come back to this material, revise it and add more practice.
I’m happy to say that so far my plan has worked and in April I did 5 courses and 1 project (with an average time of 9 hours per week and I don’t think I could’ve spent more).
That’s a huge progress compared to my previous two years on datacamp (with approximately 2 courses a month and sometimes several months without anything). However, I soon realised that, as my brain gets more and more involved with analytics, I find it much harder to write texts and think “linguistically”. So I’m not sure I’ll come back to my channels after three weeks as I’d thought.
But it’s weird I can’t combine studying analytics with writing about language. What’s so difficult about it? And how realistic is it to think that at one point I’ll be able to do both? Because I want to try myself as a data analyst but I don’t want to give up on languages or writing for this blog..
Anyway, first I’d better finish my experiment. There are three more week ahead of me and a block on Machine Learning algorithms which I haven’t studied much yet.
Books, Films and Podcasts
Because I was busy with my VK group and then my experiment, I didn’t read much. But I did finish The Two Towers. It used to be my favourite volume but I don’t remember why. I also used to think that the part with ents was a bit boring, but this time I thoroughly enjoyed it =)
Also there was a long monologue from Gimli as he praised the Glittering Caves of Aglarond, which is literally the only place in the whole trilogy where he speaks at length and reveals his passion for and deep understanding of the beauty of caves. I think I should listen to this extract in the audiobook I have)
I also watched some Behind the Scenes videos (like this one) and some of the deleted scenes. It was so interesting to listen to the actors talking about their characters and their life during the shooting of the films! And their accents! Somehow it hadn’t come to my attention before. Pity, I hadn’t looked for such videos back in the days when I was so passionate about the trilogy. In a way, it’s even more interesting than the films themselves.
Then I was looking for some series to watch and settled on Knightfall (season 1), a historic drama series focusing on the rise and fall of the Templar Knights and their fictional leader Landry de Lauzon with the first season centered around the search for the Holy Grail. I watched it in a week and by the end the characters’ actions seemed more and more primitive and unbelievable. The reviews also say that the series is far from being historically accurate.
I can’t say I liked the main character either, however handsome he seems. Having been elected as the new leader of the Paris Temple, he is portrayed as a man of enormous courage and strong will but forever entangled in his inner conflicts and doubts, lost and seemingly unable to think straight or take weighted decisions (with most of his lines like “I dont’ know what to do, I’m not worthy to be a leader…” or “To the fight!!! We don’t give up the Grail!!!” or “We do it whatever it takes!!” or “I’ve lost my way and my faith…”). That looked somewhat funny to me.
But I am interested in this bit of history and I did like the costumes, views of Paris, interiors of the palaces, the Temple and all the other settings and decorations. Have a look at some of them!
I then looked up some information about the Templars, King Philipp the Fair and Queen Joan and Princess Isabella, and I think I’d like to learn more about this period, or even read a book about the Templars (and their hidden treasures). Interestingly, they “organised one of the first banking system in Europe as well as a network or roads and managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom.” (from Wikipedia). Did you know that? Definitely worth exploring further.
Then I read about the second season and found that the topic of the Grail is suddenly abandoned and the reviews are not better.
So I decided to try Suits for a change.
I’m not very familiar with legal topics so at times it was difficult to understand “the brilliance of their closure schemes”. But in general it’s interesting to observe this highly aggressive, I’d say, corporate culture and how people survive there. And I can’t help wondering how real lawyers live. Do they really work 80 hours a week? Is it worth it? What does it feel to be a grad student at Harvard Law School, then work in Manhattan, become a partner and earn millions? Is it like feeling very smart, very special, on top of the world and enjoying the best money can offer?
But they I look at the main characters and they don’t seem happy. They spend all day in the office environment under high pressure. They don’t go on holiday or to travel and explore the world. They can’t even talk to each other in a calm way. They are constantly arguing, shouting, humiliating, criticising, threatening, manipulating, playing cruel jokes… It seems one can’t be oneself in such an environment. One has to constantly prove something to others… but what for? Money, career prospects and social status? And then what?
They don’t have families but they demand attention, loyalty and trust from each other all the time. Clearly, they are trying to use working relationships are a substitute for family ones, but does it work? It doesn’t seem so to me. But then there’s a question – what’s in it for me to keep watching the series? For now I’m using it to have a rest from my analytics studies (and as some listening practice for my English), but maybe it’s not a very good idea… I’ll watch for a little while and then decide.
Finally, I’ve discovered a wonderful fantasy audio drama on BBC Radio Wales – Mabinogi: Lost Legends and Dark Magic. As with the previous dramas, the episodes are only 15 minutes long (there are 15 of them), so it’s easy to listen to a couple of them during a walk.
I really enjoyed the plot, the many accents of the characters and the atmosphere. Here, unlike with the series, I don’t have any picture to help me imagine the world. But the sound effects and music help enormously, and I can feel the world much better.
The drama is based on the ancient myths of Wales (from the Red Book of Hergest) but adapted to sound more modern. One of the characters, Brigid, is performed by Aimee Ffion Edwards who played Esme in Peaky Blinders, and I adore her accent =) I’m not sure what her accent is but it sounds very melodious and original to me.
I’d like to find more adaptations like this, but where? I think it’s an excellent way to learn about myths and legends in an entertaining and pleasant-to-hear way. Because otherwise they may be difficult to read.
I didn’t do much for my French, but I kept listening to the podcasts about cities as I did in March (this time about Birmingham, Damas and Palerme) and explored France 24 a bit. It’s an excellent source for improving one’s reading and listening comprehension – lots of programmes, articles, videos etc.
Here’s a video I’d like to share about Notre-Dame – Trois ans de chantier à Notre-Dame-de-Paris : de la sécurisation à la restauration. It’s about 17 minutes long and it shows what a fundamental restoration work is in progress. There’s even a special forest with century-old oaks that are being cut down and dried in a delicate manner to be later used for the spire. I’d never thought they are so huge!
I remember how I couldn’t go away from the cathedral when I was in France more than 10 years ago – I just wanted to be next to her and and take in her beauty and the atmosphere of the history and human ingenuity. Just to think that the cathedral is almost as old as Moscow! And then 3 years ago I watched in horror and disbelief how it burned… It won’t be the same but I’d like to see hew again. Or maybe spend the whole day in the vicinity =)
I also started my French diary for taking short notes about the day. I think it’s one of the best practices to remember a language relatively quickly and learn the words you need for your daily life. I should admit: I’ve used Google Translate not once, but on the other hand I can still express my thoughts in French even if the last time I spoke it was in November.
That’s it! Would you like to check any of the things I shared here?