Overall, I’d say the month was difficult, even though it started quite nicely with a trip to my grandparents. But there I had an incident of food poisoning and got a headache. Back home I didn’t sleep well almost half the month because my cat was hysterical and woke us up at night and early in the morning. And, to top it up, my hair started falling out, something I hadn’t had for years. Well, it never rains…
On the other hand I found the inspiration to do back to my group and channel, which is good because it had been bothering me since August that I’d done nothing for them for three months. Also, I managed to maintain the regular practice of maths, French, reading and played the piano again, which is good and shows I’m more productive.
Autumn in the countryside
It had been my big wish for a while, to spend some time in the countryside during the golden days of autumn. Ideally, I’d like to have gone there for a week provided there was peace and quiet and good weather. But, unfortunately, my grandparents are very keen on watching TV, each their own, so it’s difficult with the quiet. Still I was happy to visit them for three days.
The weather was good, clear and warm. I went there with my dad, and it was also great – I don’t see him that often. The brightest memories of the trip would be foraging in the house to find materials for scrapbooking, walking in the fields and collecting plants and flowers to dry them and use later, and a nice evening in front of the TV with a couple of old films, one Russian and one American. In such films time flows differently, and I find it very calming to watch them.
But I woke up with a headache on the second day, which wouldn’t go away, and ended it with a stomachache, which had me lying on the sofa all evening. First time I’d had something like this and it was pretty surprising. And it took me another four days to recover from it at home. Really strange.
DA and maths
On the same week, as I was recovering, I was actively solving maths problems and even spent one day with data analytics – I remembered how to load and clean data. It seems like a drop in the ocean, but I hope it’s the beginning of another comeback to da and one day I’ll have it firmly in my daily routine.
As for maths, in October I revised rounding numbers; problems with percentages; a comparison of values; powers; roots; logarithms; trigonometry; rational, irrational, exponential and logarithmic equations; inequations (inequalities?) and systems of inequalities; exponential and logarithmic inequalities; text-based problems; functions and derivatives. Wow that’s a lot! Yes, all of them were the mere basics, problems that took 1-2 minutes to solve on average, but still. That makes me feel very good.
I finished Doctor Faustus and it turned out to be one of those rare books that I choose intuitively and then regret the time I spent on them. Too wordy, too intellectual, too much going off-topic into philosophising… The main character, Andrian Leverkühn, is somehow hidden from view, at least his inner world, and his deal with the devil mostly too. There are a lot of descriptions of Leverkühn’s music, which doesn’t really refer to any real music out there, I understand, so I was soon lost in those passages. I wonder how much my dad appreciated them (he’s a professional musician), I couldn’t.
Well, I like German authors like Goethe, Hesse and Hoffmann, but it seems that Mann is not going to join them. Not that the book was too bad, but it was not very good either. Very heavy-going and overloaded by unnecessary stuff (or the stuff accessible only to highly intellectual people with academic education in literature – read about it in other reviews). At one point I gave up and started to skip discussions and descriptions irrelevant to the main storyline. And I didn’t feel guilty about it (usually I’m a very diligent reader and never do things like this with classics).
Also the book got me thinking on how much one should know and think so that it’s not too much. What’s the purpose of so much knowledge? When it’s so far from practical things? I myself is a thinker and I think a lot. But it’s not for the sake of thinking per se. I have a goal – I want to find the patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour that make my life difficult and get rid of them. Writing helps me note them down and later identify them. But once I’m done, I’d rather focus on more subject specific things like data analytics, linguistics and languages. In case of the book, it thinking for the sake of thinking and reevaluating thinking and I don’t know what. I got so tired of it by the end of the book. However, I’m glad I didn’t give it up halfway through, because the last pages contributed the most to the main storyline.
So, once I finished the book, I wanted to pour out my disappointment and indignation at the style of writing, and plot, and its delivery, and wrote quite a review in Russian. It won’t be easy to write it again in English, so I decided to publish it on my Russian blog. If I decide to practise translating myself, it’s there and not lost somewhere. The essence of it is in the above two paragraphs.
The best thing about those 16 hours of reading the book was sitting on the sofa, touching paper and smelling the pages. It was good rest. And I found out that I can now read fiction for 3 hours without getting a headache. That’s some progress.
Then I went back to Thinking, Fast and Slow that I had started in July. There’s something about the structure of the book that confuses me again and again and slows down my reading, but I can’t understand what it is. On the other hand, in general the content is not difficult at all, there are plenty of concepts that I’ve read about in two other books on the same subject – Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and Intuition, its Power and Perils by David Mayers, and I remember many things about cognitive psychology from university.
So I decided to take notes on this book too. I want to know and remember more about this topic, about heuristics and cognitive biases – it may be very useful for developing my statistical thinking and applying it later to data analytics. So far it’s been good but taken a lot of time. I’m afraid if I continue the same way, it may take me 30 or more hours to finish the book.
Back to writing
I finally found a way back to my group and channel: I decided just to tell how I had spent the three months and continue with some ideas that I had had in August (Language Practice While on Holiday). But also this time I took two weeks to prepare texts in advance (to avoid stress later). And I published the first one on the 31st of October.
I like it so much when I’m ready beforehand and I don’t need to make myself write something only because it’s time I published another post (like it was in the spring). I definitely need to figure out how to make it work. The only problem here is that it’s easy to prepare a content plan, but it’s more difficult to follow it – sometimes I suddenly want to share something else and sometimes I get stuck with the topics on the plan. Well, I guess it’s practice and after 100 texts things should be better =)
Oh, and on the last week of October I added a page inviting people to study English with me and describing my approach. Somehow it took a lot of time to describe it: I have long given up on the idea of promising results, I’m not so keen on organising the process around achieving a certain level, like B2 or C1, I don’t prepare for exams and I don’t have any ready courses like English for… or beautifully created boards like Miro. For now I focus on what a particular person wants to do and what they can do realistically within their goals. So I mostly listen to my students talk to them and make suggestions as to what can be done and how to do it more effectively. But I’m afraid it sounds a bit too vague. So I decided to go into detail and ended up with a whole page =)
Music and piano
In September it was Beethoven, in October is was Bach again. I just added the Brandenburg concertos to the WTK and the Goldberg Variations. Can’t help myself. Maybe it seems strange that I keep listening to the same music and the same performers, but for me it comes so naturally. There are three reasons, actually: 1) certain music puts me in a certain state, so I listen to it when I am in or need the state, 2) I want to learn how the piece sounds or 3) I try to hear different shades of the piece by listening to different performers.
With Bach it’s mostly the first reason. The Brandenburg concertos are for a joyous, cheerful, happy mood. I perceive them as light music, perfect for autumn walks when they sky is blue and the trees are golden. The Goldberg variations are a bit similar in the sense that I perceive them as less complex than the WTK. And they are variations on the same base line and chord progression after all, so one piece clings to the next one and it’s impossible not to listen to all of them at once. They are also for a good mood, but for the quieter and less energetic one.
The WTK sounds to me as the essence of wisdom and harmony not belonging to any particular time or place. The preludes and fugues are quite different one from another – it’s like touching upon many topics and feelings and setting them right. So it is for the time when I need to calm down and bring my thoughts and feelings in order. But as I’m listening to this contrapuntal complexity (the first volume for now), I can’t do anything else, only walk or sit. Or follow the music sheets. I’ll leave here the third prelude and fugue in cis major by Andras Schiff. I’m learning the prelude (and I continued with it this month), which is usually played much faster, and I’m really happy to hear this performance without any hurry. How can one not listen to it many-many times I wonder? =)
Actually I played only three hours in total this month, but for me it’s good progress. For one, because I hadn’t played since May and for now I can’t add it to my regular routine. For another, my music practice has a long, very sad history of abuse, pressure, devaluation and bad habits, so I’m clearing if of all this and relearning the whole approach to practising. It’s not an easy or quick process, so I’m moving step by step.
In October I got all the orders I had made on AliExpress and quite enjoyed making my pages. I even put the most good-looking on Pinterest (one and two). That’s how much materials matter. No wonder proficient scrapbookers have tons of them and so keen on ordering something new. Here are some of creations of mine that I like the most:
This month I continued with the news (and discussing it with my study buddy). It was interesting to read how Paris is preparing for the Olympic Games 2024. They unveiled the route for the marathon, which will also be available for “grand public”.
And I found two interesting podcasts – about two women who made three trips to northern Africa in the mid 20th century and about Mauritania, one of the countries they visited. The programmes were a nice complement to my walk in the local wood and inspired one of the posts. I’ll publish it in November.
(upd here it is – A train in the desert)
Well, I hope next month I’ll be feeling better and sleeping better. And I’m curious what I’ll do for my channel and group.