Saturday, May 31, 2014

Buzz Off

That admonition is for me.  Wondering where I will land.  The picture below is from the Albuquerque Botanical Garden, which is certainly worth a visit.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Wedding

Yes, the couple is now happily married.  This is where the wedding was supposed to be, but wind and rain put an end to the outdoor hopes and sent everyone scurrying indoors.  No problem.  Everything worked out fine anyway.  Too bad I don't put relatives' pictures up on my blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 review

Greekpod101 is a product of Innovative Language Learning.  From the following review, it should be obvious that I have no affiliation to this company!  In fact I am not peddling any product on this blog that can be bought or sold.

My current language interests are driven by seminary requirements to learn Greek and Hebrew.  Normally pastor students do the minimum they need to check these requirements off, and then forget the languages.  My goal has been to familiarize myself with the modern versions in order to better appreciate the Biblical text as living languages.  Since I am also much interested in classical writings in both Greek and Hebrew, there is an additional incentive to learn.  Finally, unlike many other western languages, much of the vocabulary and grammar of Greek and Hebrew is shared with their ancient versions, thus, this there is a practical angle to this.  Then there is the fact that Hebrew and Greek represent the fifth and sixth languages that I have invested considerable time trying to learn.

What attracted me to this product was the vocabulary learning program.  But before commenting on the vocabulary tools, I will comment on the rest.  And before that, I will note that my favorite tool for language learning so far has been the Pimsleur method.  The Pimsleur system provides a lot of drill on pronunciation and grammar, while slowly introducing vocabulary.  In the case of Greek, however, they only have two of their 30 lesson modules available, so it is really limited, far beyond Pimsleur's usual level of limited.

The language lessons in GreekPod101 really provide no drill that I can see so far.  You simple hear, and repeat.  Thus, the key aspects of language, conjugating verbs, adjectives nouns along with choosing articles, etc., are really not possible in this system.  You will need to get that drill somewhere else, but language drill is one of the most important aspects.  Questions and answers are key.  A plus is that they can automatically send you the current lesson to look at.  I have been ignoring these recently, however, since they really aren't that helpful without the drill.  A separate aspect that bugs me with all the language learning products I have worked with recently is the boiler plate at the beginning and ending of each lecture.  This just wastes time.

Another annoying aspect to this system is the way they bombard you with spam, offering various discounts, which really just means that the original price is puffed up all the more.  This is irritating.  Then add to this that some of the early introductory lessons wasted time with too much silliness. There is a series of additional quick propaganda tapes about learning languages that added more annoyance by offering up sales rhetoric under the guise of study advice. 

Anyway, if they didn't have something good, I wouldn't have wasted the time to find out the above.  So far I have been pleased with the vocabulary program.  It does a good job of drilling you on whether you recognize the spoken Greek, the written Greek, or can correctly translate back into Greek from English.  a heavy emphasis on native Greek speakers gives me some confidence that my pronunciation is in the ballpark.  This I have use diligently to the point that I have about 600 vocabulary words I have committed to memory, out of a rumored 2,000 that are stored in the system for Greek.  The time spacing formula is quite effective at reminding you of the words you are weak at while not wasting a lot of time on those that you are familiar with.  If I can keep this going, I should know well over 1,000 words before my Greek semester formally starts.  Hopefully I can get the entire 2,000 words down by the end of the first semester, in addition to what is required by the class.

As much as I like this system, it still has some issues.  For example, the nouns don't quiz gender, which is a very big thing in Greek.  Then there are a few quality check things where the audio for a word is completely different from the printed.  In one case, the audio was left out altogether.  Most of the native Greek readers were using good quality recording equipment, but one did not, making a lot of the audio a bit tricky.  Ideally, the 3 or 4 readers would each do all the vocabulary, so that we could hear different speakers say the same word at random.  A male voice in the mix would be nice.

Separately, I purchased the Innovative Language Learning WordPower Hebrew program for my iPhone.  This is also a vocabulary drill program, but very different from the online version.  There seems to be a large amount of helpful vocabulary built in that is divided up into various categories to ease studying.  What is lacking is the three modes of drill that the online version has along with the spaced repetition.  The only drill I see is from the written to the audio and translation.  This greatly limits the usefulness of the iPhone programs compared to the full subscriptions.  A quality problem jumped out at me on the second usage, since the Hebrew verb "to go" was given audio in a participle form, rather than the usual 3rd masculine singular perfect, which is what the written text used.  

All this leaves me a little hesitant as to whether to recommend or not.  What I really would like is a vocabulary drill bundle for a couple languages, but not at the prices they are currently charging.  If they could provide some specific koine and classical word bundles for Greek, I would be in heaven.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Feel The Heat

The temperature wasn't that bad for a Friday Mission Peak event, but it seemed like I would pass out from heatstroke after the cold water swimming.  For those who are wondering, I am still exercising at least 10 hours per week, and I work a full time job, so blogging will continue to be light.

My weight dropped another 4 pounds this week, which is encouraging.  Losing weight will be harder over the next three weeks due to the wedding, and other interruptions.  There is now some awkwardness with pants and belts, so clearly something tangible is happening.  Thinking of Bible verses to help with this, we have Philippians 4:4 - "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice".  This should be the proper reaction to the disruptions.  Others might want to point me to the next verse, Philippians 4:5 - "Let your reasonableness be known to everyone".  Then we can discuss whether doing three hour workouts on an empty stomach while fasting is reasonable.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Somewhere Under The Rainbow

Yesterday's swim finished with a 1/2 mile leg into the wind, which meant waves slapping in the face the whole way back.  I still can't understand why "water boarding" is considered torture.  The finish point was framed with a beautiful rainbow, as the rain was stopping and the sun rising.  My partner said that was the first time in 19 years he had seen a rainbow marking the finish.

I swam 2.6 miles each morning before work from Monday through Friday.  Tuesday we were treated to the sight of a bald eagle trying to steal a baby gosling while the Canadian goose family was swimming in the lake.  It is good to see someone willing to take action against all the illegal immigrants.

Wednesday and Thursday featured winds coming from the south west, which created diagonal waves across the lake that reflected off the shore into other diagonal waves moving in an opposite direction.  This creates the most annoying effect as the waves splash irregularly on the head and the body is bounced around in a strange manner.  Today we had a three hour swim in the morning, which covered 9,300 yards, or 5.3 miles.  The total for the week is 18.3 miles of swimming.  The Tahoe swim - if I choose to do it - is still a few months off.  The 5.3 mile swim today is close to a quarter of the Tahoe crossing distance.  This left me pretty tired.

Regarding the diet, I am down three more pounds.  This isn't as much as I like, but considering that my mother-in-law was here for the week, that is extraordinarily good.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Revenge of the Buddha Belly

As always, the first 20 pounds are easy to lose, but then something happens.  Part of the problem was the increased swimming caused me to have some elbow problems, so I had to back off from 4,600 yards per morning to 3,000 yards.  Then I usually let the diet go during the weekend.  The net result was that I only lost one pound last week.  Part of the fast weight loss earlier was also undoubtedly due to rapidly increasing my swim distance, which put a lot of stress on my body.  Of course the body adjusts, both to the increased effort and the lessened eating.

So the next step is to reduce food intake a bit more, and increase exercise to get things back on track.  Since I am limited on the amount of time I am permitted to swim by the park opening hours and my work schedule, the solution is to add in some trail.  Thus, Saturday I did the Mission Peak climb which I haven't done in a long time.  That means I am good and sore today.  It's all part of the fun.  For those who are into the counting, about 3.5 hours of hard exercise consumes roughly the same calories as a pound of fat.  The Mission Peak effort took 2.5 hours, which followed a 1.5 hour 4,600 yard swim.  If only I didn't have to work.