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May’22 – Successful Experiment, Music from Childhood, Kuprin and Santiago de Compostella

I’d say that May was relatively productive with its first part being almost exclusively dedicated to learning data analytics. Afterwards I mostly rested, read and explored interesting things.

The Experiment

In April I started an experiment: finish all the remaining courses of the Data Scientist Career Track before my subscription expires on the 22nd of May. Now I can gladly say that I managed to do it (and a little bit more).

It wasn’t easy. In the second week of May I started feeling that there was too much new information and my brain struggled to process it. I took notes to make sense of the new material and went for a walk. That helped but mostly temporarily.

A week before the 22nd all the courses and projects of the track were done and I also had a quick look at Building Chatbots in Python. Finally I decided to check out what the certification was like. It wasn’t in my plan but if I could get certified it would be very helpful if I decided to look for a job.

There are two certifications available – for a Data Analyst and a Data Scientist. The track for the first one is only 9 courses and 8 of them are from the Data Scientist track. So I thought I could attempt at both if I had enough time and mental power. And then…

Probably, I should have checked the requirements for the certifications beforehand, back in April, but I didn’t realise that they were available before the track was done. Suddenly the Data Scientist track (20+ courses and projects) that I completed wasn’t enough. Both certifications had a theory assessment. That I could do try to do. But then there was a SQL challenge and a data visualisation task… And then I saw in the FAQ that

For the Data Scientist certification, we recommend that you first complete:

When I saw it, I was a bit at a loss. I had done some SQL before but more than a year ago. What to do then? Try to apply my current rusty knowledge which didn’t seem enough for the task? Rush to do available courses on SQL while already being overloaded with new information? Search solutions on the internet?

Then I pulled myself together and sat to analyse “the SQL challenge”. Actually, I don’t like SQL. The queries quickly become too cumbersome and I have to keep in mind the results of all subqueries… So here’s a trick) It may not work “in a real job environment” where there is a lot of data, but with study projects it may. If you work in Jupyter, you can create a connection with the database, download it all, save to a dataframe and then manipulate the result using pandas. I like this approach much more because I can have many small steps and see the output of my queries.

So I did the task using pandas first and understood the steps I needed to implement with SQL. I also realised there was some function, namely putting together the results of several queries, for which I didn’t know the syntax. I went searching on the net and suddenly found a guy asking to check his solution for this very SQL challenge on Stack Overflow.

So I had my ideas and a ready solution with the syntax I lacked. I adjusted my query and got the right answer. I spent the whole day in the flow and I was pretty proud of myself =)

That was on Tuesday 17th. I still had five days. For a visualisation task I needed to do a short course, then analyse some data and prepare a PowerPoint presentation with a short talk. But it didn’t look too technical so it should be fine, I thought. For the final task they recommended to allocate about 4 hours so I hoped I’d be able do it in five days and to certify.

And on Wednesday my head stopped working… I started doing the visualisation project. I downloaded the data and did some exploratory analysis. I made some graphs. I got some preliminary results. But the general feeling was that of a fog and deconcentration. The whole day. Nothing worked – neither tea or coffee, nor walks or rest… I just couldn’t think straight and approach the data to answer the questions in the task (I suspect there were quite simple). All my attempts fell apart like a house of cards…

On Thursday I didn’t feel better. I did the course on visualisation and liked it, but, again, it was like in a fog. And on Friday I understood that I wouldn’t be able to do even the basic analysis or choose the right graphs to put together a presentation. So I gave up. Pity.

But I wasn’t upset. I think that was to be expected and I needed rest. It’s funny to think that I thought I should be able to do ‘a course a day’ if I got very interested in them. They only take 4 hours, why not?) Now I know.

I also know that with my full focus and good motivation I managed to spend only 13 hours on average a week without being able to write new texts to maintain my channels (and got really tired by the end). I’ve seen that some other DS programmes that need 15-25 hours a week for several months! (by Avito, for example). Will I ever be able to reach that learning capacity? Or am I just past that age? It’s an interesting question =)


From my music experience, I’d like to share Alfred Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style.

I don’t know Schnittke music much. I tried listening to some of his film scores but it didn’t stick. This Suite, on the other hand, reminds me of Baroque music to which I’m much more accustomed. I especially enjoyed an incredibly tender Menuet (below) and a dramatic Fugue from it.

Also I spent a bit a time learning Prelude in C# Major from Bach’s WTC Book 1. I learned the text of the first 30 bars but it will take a looot of practice to start sounding decent and in the right tempo. Now I can play the beginning very slowly and with occasional mistakes. Still, I’m happy I started =) I think it’s a heavenly piece of music. Just listen to it (and the fugue):

For my final exams in music school (some 19 years ago…), I played Prelude and Fugue in C Minor which come right before it. The Fugue was especially difficult to learn and to keep track of the three different voices in it. But my fingers still can get these pieces almost right after some practice. The prelude seems a bit too loud and intense to me now. The Fugue is not among my favourites. So I’d like to expand my repertoire =)

And another piece of music to share is my favourite La Campanella by Paganini/Liszt (see below performed by Evgeny Kissin). My dad used to play it when I was a child and I always asked him to play it again and again. I so dreamt to play myself one day that I even learnt the very beginning =)

But I’m more curious about this: what do you imagine when listening to it? Spring? Birds? Bells? A bit of rain on a sunny day? Children playing games and laughing mischievously? How would you describe the music?


The Return of the King

I finished The Return of the King. Again, there were many details that caught my attention and arose my curiosity. I’d forgotten that King Theoden is helped by the Púkel-men, or the Wild Men of the Woods. Or how much emphasis is put on the willpower of Aragorn and his exceptional ability to lead men. Or how vast Gondor is… I really enjoyed the slow pace of my reading and all those details.

Of the Appendices I read only The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen. I don’t know why but I was mostly concerned with their ages and timeline as I read =) So

  • when they first meet, Aragorn is about 20 years old, Arwen is over 2700 (although this may be an equivalent to 31¾ of “mortal men” years – found here);
  • when they meet next time in Lothlorien, it’s only 30 years later. Arwen returns Aragorn’s love, they “plight[ed] their troth” (become engaged) and Elrond says that his daughter “shall not be the bride of any Man less than the King of both Gondor and Arnor” (or, as it’s said, give a man the right motivation);
  • when they finally get married, Aragorn is 88 years old. Can you imagine waiting to marry the love of your life for 68 years?
  • then they happily live for 122 years together;
  • finally, when Aragorn dies (or rather “falls into sleep”), he is 210 having lived “a span thrice that of Men of Middle-Earth”, and a year later Arwen dies of a broken heart in Lothlorien.

Such details! I’m looking forward to reading the other appendices and finding more things like this. But maybe later. Maybe it’s best done during winter evenings with a cup of hot chocolate.

And, I should note that the smell, the colour and the rustling pages of my paper LOTR books added immensely to my experience of reading them. Time excellently spent!

The River of Life by Alexandr I. Kuprin

Then I decided to take a break from English and read Russian classics. My choice fell on The River of Life by Alexandr I. Kuprin (a small selection of short stories).

In case the name seems unfamiliar, Alexandr I. Kuprin (1870-1938) was a prominent Russian writer best know for his novels The Duel (about the life in the army, usually studied in school) and Yama: The Pit (portraying the life of prostitutes), and his short stories Olesya, Emerald and The Garnet Bracelet (part of school curriculum). His full collection of works comprises nine volumes. He was friends with Anton Chekhov and Ivan Bunin, influenced by Maxim Gorky and praised by Leo Tolstoy (Wiki). I liked his style back in the schooltime and decided to read more.

My book has these stories:

  • The Wonderful Doctor
  • The Ballroom Pianist (or Taper)
  • The Horse-Thieves (here in English)
  • Swamp
  • At rest
  • The Backwoods
  • The Coward
  • The Wedding
  • The River of Life (here in English)
  • Junior Captain Rybnikov (here in English)
  • Gambrinus
  • Emerald
  • Listrigons

First of all, reading Russian classics is what always reminds me how precious it is to be a native Russian speaker and feel the poetry of our rich, expressive and intricate mother tongue. It’s such a pleasure! Also, I really liked the diversity of plots and characters. For example, The Ballroom Pianist is set in Moscow in a house of a noble family on Christmas Eve. Listrigons is about the daily life, joys and sorrows of Greek fishermen in Balaclava on the Crimean Peninsula. Gambrinus is a story of a pub as the meeting point of sailors of all kings and the power of a musician over them. And Emerald is written from the perspective of a horse (and based on a true story).

Kuprin changed many jobs and professions in his lifetime (an officer in the army, a journalist, hunter, fisherman, actor, and circus worker, but also dental care, land surveying and others), travelled extensively across Russia. So the rich details and descriptions of the characters, the slang and argot were not a fixture of imagination but came from the writer’s rich life experience and sharp observations.

At the same, Kuprin’s style is very natural and unadorned. When I read Konstantin Paustovsky, another Russian-Soviet author who lived a bit later and wrote a lot of short stories including about the World Wars, I had a feeling that he wanted to highlight the good, the beautiful and the noble in a person or a situation. But Kuprin showed life as it was, no matter how hard, unfair, cruel, shocking, depressing or purposeless it was (as, for example, in Swamp, The Horse-Thieves or At rest). I realise full well that we cannot ignore that side of life, but sometimes I’d prefer not to look there.

Best of all, I liked The Wonderful Doctor (about a famous Russian doctor and with a happy end) and Listrigons (with a lot of admiration for the craftsmanship of fishermen). A bit of Balaclava for you below. I’ve been there. Maybe that was another reason to like the story.

And I definitely want the whole set of Krupin’s works for my home library.

Series and Videos

I continued to lazily watch Suits, but I’m having more and more doubts whether it’s worth my time. On the one hand, I’ve got used to the characters and it’s interesting to see them develop. There’s some intrigue, some relationships to see unfold. I get excellent listening practice.

But on the other hand, to watch all those fights and conflicts… Maybe I’m learning some language to use in arguments but it’s not my style of communication. Is it just the addictive nature of the series as a genre then? Or a habit? I’ve used series as a way to switch off for years so it’s one of the first things that come to mind when I want to rest. But it seems that I get more overloaded by those emotions than rested. Time to move on, I think.

Santiago de Compostella

A much more enjoyable video was that of a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago by Lisa and Josh. Beautiful scenery, interesting remarks about their experience and the decisions they made on the way… But also the main question – would I like to try it? And I don’t think so =)

I understand why people might undertake such a journey or keep walking twenty kilometres a day for many weeks. It is a quest where people search for answers and reflect on their life. It may be a good metaphor for our life as well: even if we have clear goals in mind, it’s still about the journey towards them. And the reaction of the guys when they got to Santiago de Compostella was very indicative of this.

The last day they didn’t take any breaks and “the anticipation was pretty high” – what would it be like to reach the final destination? But also there was a feeling of hesitation: as they said they had just got into the rhythm of the journey and “figured out how to make it really enjoyable”, so they didn’t really want it to end. As they were approaching the cathedral they started to feel that they, the “pelegrinos” were probably “a nuisance and annoyance” to the locals, “getting in their ways”, or, maybe “just blending into the landscape”.

And, once in the square in front of the cathedral, they felt “confused, shocked and uncertain”, like, what’s next? and this is it? As they say, “It felt a little emptyWe were excited to arrive at Santiago, but it seems that nobody else was excited that we had arrived… we were feeling disconnected… why did we walk the Camino again?”

For me, this is very much about one’s approach to life. As my favourite psychologist says, the meaning of life is not about goals, money or achievements. It’s about being in the moment and feeling good in it. And I think the Camino shows just that.

Also, one of my husband’s acquaintances has recently started her own journey on the Camino (the French way, 680 km) and is documenting her walk on her Instagram. I read all her available posts in one evening and I became convinced that in the foreseeable future the Camino in the format of pilgrimage won’t be on my bucket list =)

I liked the idea that there’s a series of small villages and towns connected by one way with infrastructure for tourists. But to walk every day 15-25 km under the sun with a heavy backpack and without proper diet till the body hurts all over… There should be a very solid reason for such rigorous exercise. Me, I’d just prefer a leisurely walk in the countryside without any destination points.

But have a look at the video above! The guys are nice and genuine, I liked them a lot.

Statement Analysis (SA) and Conversation Analysis (CA)

I’ve discovered these concepts by chance after we talked about body language with one of my students. I went on YouTube to find a couple of videos for her and saw this one in my recommendations – Analyzing the Extreme Differences Between Meghan & Harry and William & Kate in Engagement Interviews.

I like reading about the Royals. I deeply admire the Dutchess of Cambridge and I’ve been watching Suits with Meghan Markle, so of course the title seemed intriguing.

I know that I can feel a lot of things about a person by just hearing how they speak. But I don’t know how I do it. With SA and CA, as I understand, there are a lot of clues in the speech and non-verbal behaviour (choice of words, pauses, interruptions, turn-taking, and other phenomena) that show how accurate is what the person is saying (SA) or how they interact with other interlocutors (CA). This is so interesting! I’ve got to explore it further.

And… here comes the summer! I think June is the most “summer” month. Finally, it’s warm. Flowers all around and trees in blossom. Birds. There’s so much time ahead. There are so many plans and vibes for the summer and inspiration from them… Is it something similar with you? I hope June will be an excellent month =)

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