At first I had hoped to continue with da studies as it was in June, as much as possible, but then I understood my focus was getting worse and I needed a break. So I took it and caught up with some other things, like this blog and family reunions, one of which was on the occasion of my brother’s wedding in the beautiful Kuskovo park =)
A pause to catch up with things
In the second week of July, after 8 weeks of steady studies I found myself tired and with poorer focus again, which was somewhat unexpected. Or it wasn’t and I had miscalculated the overall workload again and missed the time where I needed to stop for a longer rest. Or maybe one day off, as I’d appointed it back in March wasn’t enough. Especially because this very day was often dedicated to languages and didn’t leave much time for doing nothing. But that’s no problem, I’ll add Sunday to my rest.
As for organising my studies and other things, I had an excellent idea to create a table with monthly goals or rather “focus” as I like to call it, but by categories. Before I used to note down what I want to do in a month just as a list, but that didn’t really show the bigger picture. So now I can see everything I wanted to do this year, what I’ve done and what I haven’t. Plus I decided to use colour codes: green for things completed, yellow for partly completed, red for completed later and blue for smth I hadn’t planned but did. It looks something like this:
Oh, this table also helped me to re-examine my “goals” and cross out those that had become irrelevant. The best thing about all this is that I don’t need to think of radically new “goals” for the upcoming autumn as I’ll probably be finishing the previous one. How I like different tables! =) They make things so organised and clear.
Probably it was naive to expect to wish to study hard in the middle of the summer, but I also think something didn’t work well in my studies because, again, I had accumulated quite a lot of unfinished things, like courses on Maths, and a book on Learning Python, and a project… So it was good to put all the da stuff aside for a while and let it sit so that I could later look for some patterns to correct.
Still, I can’t say I didn’t do anything useful. Two big themes were SQL Simulator by karpov.courses and statistical tests. I didn’t finish the SQL course but I absolutely loved the opportunity to do the problems in a non-linear mode, so if I got stuck with one, I could just skip it for a while. Honestly, with some other courses I find it very annoying when I can go to the next lessons only once the current one is done and accepted. I think it is a very unnatural mode of studying.
As for the stat tests, it all began with an article about data types which mentioned the tests used with each. That led me to an article about chi-square tests and then, as usual, I wanted to see the bigger picture of which tests are used where. I found quite a lot of interesting diagrams but in the end created my own ones, as restructuring the material I’m learning helps me to understand and memorise it better. The next step will be to perform them in practice, but that’s for later. I would probably benefit from a statistics book with simple problems, like for schoolchildren, but I don’t know if such one exists. I’ve checked apps and didn’t find a good equivalent.
There were also some smaller things. I read about behavioural analytics on Wikipedia, and overall it looks like a very interesting subject to which I can relate with my interest in psychology. (As a student I used to watch Criminal Minds where professionals from the Behavioural Analysis Unit at the FBI help to catch serial killers but at the time I couldn’t find accessible information on the science they used, so I still want to catch up on it.) In essence, behavioural analytics should be able to understand how users act and why in order to come up with the right offers to the right user segments at the right time. But, interestingly, it’s also used for authentication and security purposes, with an example being keystroke dynamics, or “the manner and rhythm in which an individual types characters on a keyboard or keypad” (Wiki).
Then I found a very interesting podcast called Naked Data Science. I listened to episodes about Cognitive biases and Systems thinking, both of which I liked a lot, and maybe it makes sense to go back to them. Three examples of biases will be the availability bias (or using what’s available), the pro-innovation bias (or overestimating the power of innovations) and the sunk-cost bias (or the inability to give up on something even if it’s not working because you’ve invested a lot in it). The last one is especially powerful and can lead to further costs and a failure in the end. As for systems thinking, as I listened it struck me that I tend to overlook other parts of a bigger system and only look for a “higher” system. Hm… interesting =)
Finally, I started updating my CV and LinkedIn profile and watched a couple of videos with technical interviews. Well, whatever was discussed there wasn’t all new to me, which made me rather happy =)
Right, now to my languages. I’m so-so happy to say that I managed to continue listening to English and French podcasts on a weekly basis, and now it’s firmly finding its way into my Habits. This is a big change if I compare it with all the previous years (and even with this year). It seems that something has changed and freed up resources for listening (and not becoming overloaded with information).
The discovery of the month is definitely the History of English podcast, which really goes to the basics of the basics, namely the Indo European language. (The podcast itself dates back to 2012 and is still living on, now with a community of fans and admirers.) At first I thought “why do I need Indo European? isn’t it boring?” But in the way it’s narrated, it’s not! What is even more surprising is that the host is not a linguist or a language teacher. He’s an attorney! With a minor in English (if I’m not mistaken), but still. On the website he writes that he researched the topic for a year before he issued his first episode, can you imagine? Absolutely fascinating…
So I listened to the first four podcasts ending with how one of the Grimm brothers came up with the rule that later helped modern linguists to reconstruct Indo European. I also took some notes but maybe I’ll need to add more details to them later. Thankfully, you can find and download the full transcript of each episode on the website. What generosity and what enthusiasm! But even if I don’t add anything to my notes, this shouldn’t be a problem as the host goes at a slow pace and makes lots of references to the previous episodes to remind of the main facts. It really does help the memory. So, highly recommended!
For French I continued with the Easy French podcast, and I really like the ambiance of it, the atmosphere the girls create with all their banter and laughter. I listened to 5 podcasts in total, but didn’t retain anything specific from them, even though there were some cultural curiosities. That’s no problem, though, as my main aim is just to have some language immersion into French and with Easy French I really stop noticing what’s around and can’t stop smiling =)
Back in June I created a table (oh.. those tables everywhere…) to track activities that I find inspiring. Listening to podcasts is, surely, among them, as is buying something nice for myself or discovering a piece of music. Well, another item in the table is to explore some travel destinations, even if only with YouTube. In July I “travelled” to Lyon in France, both with videos and Google streets. The most interesting fact I leant is that Lyon used to be the esoteric capital of France, especially because it was built at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône, which represent masculinity and femininity respectively, and was an important city for the Temple order.
Then, there are so called “les arêtes de poisson” in the heart of the city, or a series of underground passages under one of the hills, that remind a fish by the looks, hence the name. As I understood without going too much into detail, no-one really knows the purpose for these passages as, for example, they would have been too humid to store food or precious documents there, and each passage ends with a dead-end. More about them on Wiki and in the video below (both in French).
Another of my travel destination was real and was to visit my grandparents. Last year I went with my best friend and enjoyed riding a bike in the fields. This year I went with my younger brother and we enjoyed some talks by Russian scientists about anthropology, science and religion. I don’t usually watch videos like this as I’m afraid to be overloaded by factual information, but this time it was really good and led to some interesting discussions with my brother…
…Here, for example, is a popular Russian anthropologist, Stanislav Drobyshevski, known for his creative use of language and a peculiar sense of humour, and, by the way, he taught the anatomy of the nervous system to us when I was at university. So, once I was close to a celebrity =)
And here’s one video with a well-known Russian scientist (with double specialisation, in linguistics and in neuroscience) and a science populariser, Tatyana Chernigovskaya. That’s one of the videos we watched with my brother and it says we don’t really have to juxtapose science and religion, especially because not everything can be measured and quantified by human beings due to the limitations of our sensory systems. Have a look!
I’ve finally finished The Pickwick Papers! It took me almost 4,5 months and 33 hours in total. True, it was lazy reading and I mainly used it to wind down before sleep. But as such, the book was perfect – slow-paced, with some entertaining stories but also with the main storyline and the characters you grow to like as a reader. I’d like to reread the book one day, as it’s the epiphany of slow living, I think, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy the language even more =)
Then I took a break from English and read a Russian book called Russian Romanticist Novellas (Русская романтическая новелла) – 13 (what a number!) short stories by different authors (the 1820s-1840s). This is the sort of literature I like a lot – memorable plots, usually with an unhappy love story, and an unimaginably beautiful language to convey all the nuances of the circumstances, the characters’ personalities, looks, feelings and emotional experiences.
Another ingredient of such stories is the constant presence of the supernatural forces – usually as the scheming of the devil and his servants. But what I really appreciate about this side of romanticism is that it’s presented from a very clear perspective, the Orthodox (in case with Russian literature) religion, which was deeply ingrained in everyday life of those times, so the religion, the characters’ faith and trust in God protect them from the evil forces. I compare this perspective with other literature that touches on paranormal phenomena, like Steven King’s or Lovecraft’s books for example, and there I’m, along with the characters, faced with evil but there’s no clear “system of coordinates” as to how to oppose it, so I’m left in horror, defenceless, vulnerable and lost. I can’t read King and Lovecraft and I’d happily get rid of those books but for my husband’s love for them.
Finally, music. There weren’t really any music discoveries this month, I just continued with my weekly piano practice (3-4 hours on average). I finished practising Hanon Part 1 in the sharp scales, though, and found out that the most “inconvenient” scales for me were those with either one (G major) or six sharps (Fis major). Now I’m planning to move on to Part 2 which I’ll play in the flat scales for a change.
I also started learning Serenade by Schubert. The text doesn’t look too difficult, but I need to figure out how to play it rhythmically – three notes in the right hand and two in the left. Here’s a wonderful rendering of the piece by Khatia Buniatishvili.
Enjoy the videos =)