Well, I’m sure how to describe the month… Contrasts maybe? At the beginning of July I had a really good time with movies like it used to be in university years and put me into an excellent mood. Then I got stuck and upset with not being able to go back to my TG channel/ VK group. Something felt wrong and “meaningless” about it. To top it up, I caught a nasty virus of the kind I hadn’t had for years, or maybe covid finally caught up with me.
But I recovered relatively soon and hit up on an idea to run an experiment and focus on learning my languages for 12 days in a row (3 for each). That cheered my up considerably and the last days of July were spent taking great pleasure in working with French and writing about my love for it =) This turned out to be the way back to posting on my channel / group as I decided to write about the rationale for what I was going to do and why, and I was happy I got “unstuck” with it.
Somewhere in between the above I updated this blog – I changed the theme, created the About page and a new menu. So yes, the month wasn’t bad at all. Now some more details.
The topic of being productive is comes up pretty regularly in my updates as I’m learning to manage my energy and resources better. In May, for example, I miscalculated my ability to take in new information and failed to certify as a data scientist after having completed the track on datacamp. In June I didn’t do much as I was just enjoying the beginning of the summer, which is something quite unproductive.
In July, however, I decided to reread my updates and collect all the useful links and ideas in a table on Notion with tags and comments. For one, I like to share something I enjoyed and having it all in one place is convenient. For another, I like to have an overview of what I do some time later. That usually helps to uncover some patterns of thinking / doing things that I don’t notice in the moment.
What did I discover then? About 40 different topics I’ve looked into in the last nine month (since the first October’21 update)! 40! Spanish legends, behavioural psychology, chess, projects on renovation, learning to play the cello, speed reading principles, mathematical thinking, perfumes, Middle Easy cities…. Podcasts, videos, books, ideas… What a mess =)
You may think that 4.5 of something new per month is probably not that much. And I would agree if they were something I touched upon, enjoyed and forgot. But no, they happily stuck in my memory as unfinished business because I liked them and wanted to explore more, and, I’m sure, negatively affected my productivity. How can one focus when there are so many distracting thoughts at the back of one mind?
The question is then: why didn’t I take one topic and stick to it for some time? Why did I keep changing them? So this is exactly the kind of patterns I mentioned above. And the scale of this was quite a revelation for me. The only answer I could come up with is that this “thirst for novelty” must be somehow related to the desire to get an adrenaline/ dopamine boost, much like with watching series in the past, meaning I need to find a way to regulate it. For a while, though, I decided to slow down and possibly refrain from looking into something radically new.
In the second week of July I found a folder with Pride and Prejudice (the old one, with Colin Firth) on my computer and, almost accidentally, started the first episode. The book and the miniseries were my absolute favourites when I was at school. I read the book 3 times (in Russian) and was totally charmed by the film. Of course, I identified myself with witty Lizzie, even though my best friend kept telling me I was much more like Jane. And the love story… very possibly it had become a dream…
Anyway, needless to say, this time I finished all six episodes in 2 days. Such tension, such looks, love against all odds, and all against the most exquisite backdrop fo the period costumes and interiors, to say nothing of English! But I couldn’t stop thinking that Lizzy is about 20 and Darcy is 26, and being myself in my early thirties I found it difficult to take all this as seriously as I used to =)
The same week on Saturday when a thunderstorm outside was creating the best atmosphere possible for enjoying a good movie I watched The King’s Speech. Amazing! I’m still under the impression of Colin Firth’s acting and his portrayal of the King suffering from stammer. I liked everything about the movie and especially the use of the second movements Beethoven’s 7th symphony. So dramatic and so deep, especially with the accompaniment of the thunderstorm outside.
Then I went on Wiki to read about King George VI and found out that he’s also portrayed in the Crown series (and it was interesting to compare two actors, so different!). So I started watching it that very same evening and well into the night, just like it was at university when I had often watched series will the dawn at 4. Ah… those times! I sometimes miss sitting at night till the first light, and especially the quiet and fresh of the early hours. So that Saturday definitely filled me with nostalgia and the best mood possible =)
And I’ll stick with the Crown for a while. I think it’s a wonderful alternative to detective series. I’m quite keen to find out more about the Queen and the period, and I find Claire Foy utterly brilliant in her role. What a pleasure to watch her!
Of the books, I started and finished Making Sense by David Crystal and liked it very much. The book is about English grammar, why it’s important and how it has been been taught (or not) throughout centuries. I liked everything about it – the structure, the contents, the style, the tone and the main message. On the one hand, very many things were familiar to me as I like grammar in general. On the other, it is so entertainingly written, with a story of a couple of little girls acquiring their first language and numerous interludes with some interesting facts, that I, in a way, rediscovered English grammar to myself.
For example, I didn’t know that since the first known attempt to write an English grammar in 1586, which was based on the Latin approach with all the necessary conjugations and declensions, the approach stuck well into the twentieth century even though it obviously didn’t work well for English and as early as in the 1660s there was an appeal for a non-Latin approach (see the picture below). So, even though nouns don’t change their forms, students had to learn noun cases, such as
- the nominative case: My friend visited me
- the vocative case: Lovely to see you, my friend!
- the accusative case: I visited my friend.. and so on.
It was also really surprising to learn and very difficult to believe that a whole generation in the UK wasn’t taught grammar at all at school, so they didn’t even know what a preposition or a noun were. On the contrast, at school all we did with Russian was learning its grammar and spelling rules, it seems, year after year. So not only did I know the names for parts of speech, but also tons of other terminology, like types of pronouns or types of clauses, which I tried to use later when teaching English and was surprised that not all students remembered it well, such basic things these terms seemed to me.
I think I’ll definitely come back to the book to take notes about the structure and some peculiar facts. If I ever decided to write a book, I’d like it to be somewhat similar to Making Sense =)
(I actually did return to the book in September, took notes of every chapter and later published a couple of posts based on the book with lengthy citations – “A good good example” and On one of the stages of language acquisition in children.)
The other two books I started in July were Why we sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I found the first quite an interesting read but later got stuck with it because I was reading it on my phone and it wasn’t very convenient. With paper non-fiction books, I heavily use underlining and bookmarking to move between different chapters more easily, but with ebooks it’s a different experience and I haven’t found a way to make it work well yet.
Luckily, I have Thinking, Fast and Slow in paper. It doesn’t seem to be hard to understand, as I’ve read some people complain, but it’s definitely not one of those bestsellers that one can read in a couple of days.
Finally, by the end of the month I found time to sit with French and enjoy it as I hadn’t for a while. I started my experiment of “learning a language every day for the next 21 days” and French was the first to take.
As I didn’t have anything particular in mind, I started with a YouTube video by a French blogger and ended up by exploring ski resorts and one of the regions where they are common. It was such a pleasure =) I’m not a fan of mountain skiing and have never even tried it, but that’s the things with languages – there are so many areas to explore and you never know what you can come across and incidentally like.
I summarised my “findings” in Faire du Ski à Tignes et explorer La Savoie (en français). Maybe I’ll publish more in French here, that would be fun.
That’s it for July!