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duolinguo

Dec. 24th, 2012 | 01:01 pm
mood: cheerfulcheerful
music: the vision bleak - the demon of the mire

One of my favorite websites out there is Duolingo, which is a language learning site that appears to teach you in a similar way to Rosetta Stone. Only it's free. And it has a cute owl mascot.

What's particularly cool about this website is that you learn a language, almost from the beginning, by helping translate articles written in whatever language you chose. This is perfect for me, because I'm an extremely visual learner when it comes to languages and can't learn anything by just hearing words. Before language tests, I stare at the page and essentially memorize it. Those "Learn Norwegian in your car" CDs don't do anything for me, and in the past I've actually pulled over to look the words up in the booklet. As soon as I SEE the word, I can remember it. When I first started learning German, I started by translating Rammstein lyrics, so by the time I actually took German in school it was a breeze.

Someone once told me that there are two types of people (possibly three): those who see the animal elephant when they hear the word, and those who see the word. (I'm assuming there are those who don't really "see" anything and just know what you're talking about.) I see the word, unless I'm given another reason to think of the animal.

Like when someone says panda. I love pandas so much I picture the animal because they're so freaking cute.

Anyway, I'm flying through the Spanish levels since I've taken two semesters. But what I'm really trying to do is just... not let the Spanish in my brain die. It will take a long time to get through all the Spanish levels, but I think I might continue with the other languages they offer as well.

I had previously been using lingq.com, because they have TONS of languages available (including Latin and Esperanto) but they recently set a limit to the number of lingqs you can have, and after 100 you have to pay a monthly fee. No thanks. I'd rather learn from a book than pay for it. Plus, I never really got the hang of that website and wasn't entirely sure what I was actually doing. The pages are disgustingly busy. Thankfully, Duolingo is perfect: simple, good web design, and parallels with how I learn almost perfectly. I can learn fine from books, provided I have the motivation, but the website certainly makes it more fun. I feel like I'm actually accomplishing something by translating REAL sentences rather than made up "just to learn" sentences. I think that's what I like about Latin, as well -- you start off translating Cicero because there isn't much else to translate, and no one speaks it so it never changes.

I might try to do a page or two of my Spanish textbook each day in addition to Duolingo.

So if any of you are interested in using the website, add me as a friend!

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Peloponnesian War and other things

Dec. 23rd, 2012 | 11:27 am
mood: tiredtired
music: witchery

I thought I would post a random school update, since that's all I really think about anymore that isn't depressing!

Here's my schedule, all on Tuesdays/Thursdays:

10:00 - 11:15
HIST 435C    Topics in European Cultural and Intellectual History: Society and Culture in Modern Ireland

1:00 - 2:15
HIST 460B     The Reformation

5:30 - 6:45
LAT 113        Elementary Latin I  (!!!!!!)

7:00 - 8:15
HIST 388        Great Personalities in History: World War II

Yeah, it's going to be a long day, but I'll have the rest of the week off and plenty of time to read between The Reformation and Latin. I GET TO TAKE LATIN.

I don't start school until the 22nd, which... has me a bit annoyed. I still have a month. I think I'm already feeling the cold grip of boredom.

I also started a new blog, which is going to be a lot more formal than the entries here and will include actual essays and might eventually include some creative writing and such. A few years back I wrote an "essay" covering the first book of Thucydides' Peloponnesian War (you'd think after how many years of studying Greek history I'd be able to spell Peloponnesian without looking it up)... except it was like a story, and the dialogue was pretty ridiculous. What I found so awesome about it was that it was all true, and kindof gives you an idea of the stupid things people start wars over.

But then Cocyra found out about it and was all, "Nuh-uh! We'll attack you both if you don't step down! Epidamnus is OURS and we have the right to say when and how they shall perish!"

"Pft," said the Epidamnians and Corinthians.

[...]

They said to Corinth, "Hey, let's settle this in court. Or we can ask the gods what they think. Just remember who you're dealing with! We'll declare war and look, we have Sparta!"

"Like hell you do. Get the barbarians off Epidamnus' back and we'll talk."

"You retreat first!"

"You!"

"NO, YOU!"

"Fuck this, WE DECLARE WAR, YO," exclaimed Corinth.

[...]

So Athens voted for war because they figured it was going to happen anyway, why not get it over with? Corinth attacked again, blood spilled and ships wrecked and no one was really getting anywhere, so both sides decided they had won. Because we're all winners at life, you know.


I thought it would be fun to do the whole book like that... but with less cursing. (I called the Corcyrans douchebags at some point.) It would also give me an excuse to re-read Thucydides and better understand wtf happened during that war. I mostly remember a lot of speeches and writing "lol" in the margins.

Anyway, I've noticed a pattern over the years. I already knew I loved war stories, whether real or fiction, but they seem to be my favorite in general. Like, more than 3/4 of my favorite books are war novels (All Quiet on the Western Front, The Red Badge of Courage, the Iliad... if you really want to stretch it, even Ender's Game). I'm not really sure why, since it's all so horrific and I would never want to be caught in the middle of one. Perhaps that's why it's so fascinating. The planet has been in some kind of state of war for as long as we can remember, and is often the driving force for change, whether intended or not.

I'm looking forward to studying WWII next semester, but at the same time I'm kinda over it. I've been researching the Holocaust since middle school (because "my people" were thrown in the camps, and because I don't think I could even admit it even happened, I was so shocked) and I think I overloaded my brain with it all. But the class will be more geared toward the generals and FDR themselves than the war, so I expect it to be really cool. My professor has gotten tons of great reviews, also, and I expect to like him.

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Websites and such

Dec. 7th, 2012 | 01:11 pm

I've had a few ideas for websites for a while. But the most recent one has me thinking a bit more...

Usually my inspiration is from pop-science and -history books that are nevertheless brilliant and focus on specific topics, such as Scales' Poseidon's Steed: The Story of Seahorses, From Myth to Reality and Sobel's Longitude. Things that you take for granted or don't even think about... what else could I possibly need to know about seahorses? It's always surprising how much you just don't know about the history and culture behind things so simple.

Reading some articles on LinkedIn, I realized I've never seen a book about princesses in all the libraries and bookstores I've been to. That's not to say they aren't there... I'm sure there are several excellent, well written accounts of princesses throughout history. There are plenty of accounts on specific princesses, but haven't seen anything about the overall princess experience. I thought it would be cool to read one, but I'm having a hell of a time finding anything. As soon as you search "princess" on Amazon, you get a staggering amount of Disney merchandise, dolls and costumes.

When you finally weed everything out and find only books, everything is very speicific. And true, you can write multiple books on specific people, considering the massive amount of royalty across the globe and the ages.

But what about just a fun, light account of what it was like to be a princess? Who was the "first" princess? (At least as far as we can tell.) I thought it would be cool to have an interactive website where you can explore that. Maybe have different sections for each part of the world, profiles, links to expanded content (for those who want more than just a short profile). How accurate is our pop culture vision of what it's like to be a princess? Obviously it's different in each part of the world, but where did we even get the idea that it's glamorous? Can it essentially be tied to the modern view of high school popularity? It looks fun and easy, but then you watch Mean Girls and realize you probably don't want to be in their shoes.

In terms of websites, I think what also tends to bother me is that I grew up on Diaryland, where the only HTML limitation was a link to credit the site. So I was playing around with site design for years... still do sometimes. But then I go to sites such as this one where the content is magnificent but the site design is horrid. I understand that the people who study this stuff and actually HAVE the content to display simply don't care about how the site looks. They just care about giving people access to the stuff. But I have a very difficult time reading anything when all I can think about is how I could make the website far better and more readable.

Since the entire world is on the internet, I really want to get my own, "real" space -- not just a journal. I'd have to start with my own site to toy around with everything, but eventually I really want to work on a massive research project that might be fun and helpful to people.

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(no subject)

Dec. 5th, 2012 | 10:36 pm
music: melechesh

Gosh. I kinda hate this. Getting excited about things. Because I make these grand plans and delude myself into thinking it'll actually happen.

This time around it's grad school at Central European University in Budapest. Oh man. I've wanted to go to Budapest forever. It's accredited in the US, classes are in English, and it's... surprisingly cheap. I'd have to live in Hungary for two years, though, obviously. I don't know how that would work out financially. Maybe I'd get a stipend? Trying not to think about it. Maybe I'll apply and see what happens.

But. BUDAPEST. Where the castles are real! And the Huns and Ostrogoths settled there! Attila (and Etelka for girls) is still a common name! How awesome is that!

This reminds me that I really, really want to go Europe sometime soon. The idea of having a degree focusing on medieval Europe and ancient civilizations in a country that didn't exist during those times is a little depressing. Greece is calling. So is Germany. I've always thought about possibly settling in Germany, but it's always seemed so distant in the future that I couldn't really promise myself anything. I desperately want to learn more German, too. I took two semesters several years ago, and I swear I know more of it than I do Spanish, even though I'm taking Spanish right now. Sometimes when I try to say something in Spanish, all I can think about is the German.

Today between classes I wound up in the library reading half of a biography about Hitler. I just couldn't bring myself up to study anything.

It occurred to me last night that if I want to go to grad school, I need to take the GRE next fall. Which means I'd be applying to grad schools around the same time. So I have one more semester before grad school applications happen. Holy crap. I'd better have good recommendations from instructors next semester, though I have one already from CSN (her recommendation letter had me on the verge of tears when I applied to Westminster).

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Make it perfect!

Oct. 30th, 2012 | 09:03 pm
music: devin townsend - hyperdrive

It's officially crunch-time for calculus -- my test is Thursday evening and my stomach is growing ever more burny as it gets closer. My chocolate intake has also increased dramatically, though that could just be Halloween's creeping chocolatey tendrils wrapping around my subconscious.

Hm, that sentence was... creepier than I wanted it to be.

Anyhow, things are better. Getting there, anyway. I'm way behind on my math study schedule, and I have other annoying school crap to deal with before then. I could theoretically put off my C++ assignment until after the test, but I'm not sure how wise that would be. I work well under pressure, but I'm tired of doing everything the last minute.

I've been reading The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, which timeprojectile has mentioned a few times and that I've wanted to read for a while, and I'm recognizing a lot of myself in the examples, particularly in the "self-handicapping" category -- they put things off to the last minute or otherwise make things difficult to get everything done so that they have an external source to blame for poor performance. Didn't study for a test until the night before and failed? Well, "if I had just studied more... didn't have enough time." Suddenly it's not "my" problem. Suddenly it's not because I'm not intelligent, it's because I didn't have time to study. Didn't study but did well? I must be REALLY smart! Everything turns out great in terms of self-confidence either way it goes. They even used writing papers as an example, which I had to laugh at, because it was EXACTLY what I did as a history major. You delude yourself into thinking you "work better" under pressure, when really, it's just an anxiety management technique (which may or may not work for each situation). I'm certainly not going to be able to put off scientific papers or lab reports when I get deeper into my field, so I need to start breeding good habits now and... avoid the avoidance, really.

So I'm trying not to do that anymore. It's irresponsible and I'm just lying to myself. I'm really trying to consider the fact that I can do well if I put enough effort into it. And if I put in plenty of effort but don't do well anyway, then I should switch fields.

But damned if I'm not going to try and succeed, somehow. We made electrolytic cells in lab today, and it was awesome. SCIENCE!!!

That's what I should do whenever I'm discouraged. Throw up my arms and yell "SCIENCE!!!" Because it's So. Freaking. Awesome.

I've been listening obsessively to Strapping Young Lad lately. Every now and then I get into a Devin Townsend kick where I listen to nothing but his (many) bands, and this might be one of those kicks. It all started when he put out Ziltoid the Omniscient, which is a metal album about an alien seeking our universe's ultimate cup of coffee, complete with "pew-pew-pew" laser sounds. When he hates our coffee, he decides to use his Six-Dimensional Planet Smasher on us. God, I love Devin. "I am so omniscient, that if there was to be two omnisciences, I would be BOTH!" It's so ridiculously stupid, it circles around to amazing. But the music is good, too.

Anyway. I should do some calculus before I get too tired.

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School to-do list

Sep. 14th, 2012 | 11:48 am
music: triarii - heaven & hell

This entry is mostly just for my own reference, because I made this list at home in Notepad, but I can't access it here at school. I might start putting these kinds of things here from now on.

Things I need to do this weekend (which starts today for me):

Spanish:
Finish my online homework, due on Tuesday
Study and master Chapter 7... may need a tutor, but he's only available on Mondays and Wednesdays
Composition due (150 words on what I would do on a deserted island), due Wednesday

Math:
Sections 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, and 2.1 homework due Sunday at midnight
Study all of Chapter 1 for first test on Thursday
Brush up on my trig

Chemistry:
Problems in chapters 14 and 15
At least look at chapter 16
Study for test on Tuesday (14 & 15)
Lab report

CS:
Cramer's Rule algorithm due on Monday
Actual program due on Wednesday

Overall I'd say I'm doing well in my classes. Spanish worries me the most, just because there are some things I wasn't getting at all, and I never learned past-tense, since we skipped chapter 6 in my last class. Math is going really well, and more importantly, I'm enjoying it (until they throw trig I've forgotten at me, then it's frustrating).

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(no subject)

Aug. 10th, 2012 | 04:19 pm

I'm stealing this from vivaciousmuse just because. ;)

Daily meme thing. First one is...

1. Post pictures of your favorite movies.Collapse )


1. Post pictures of your favorite movies.
2. Post pictures of your favorite celebrities/ celeb crushes (men and women)
3. Post pictures of your favorite places to visit (places you've been)
4. Post pictures of your favorite musical artists.
5. Post pictures of your favorite art work.
6. Post pictures of your favorite animals.
7. Post pictures of your favorite things in nature.
8. Post pictures of your favorite possessions.
9. Post pictures of your favorite pictures.
10. Post pictures of your favorite books.

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(no subject)

Jul. 21st, 2012 | 06:13 pm

About a month ago I applied to volunteer at the Springs Preserve, which has botanical gardens, history exhibits and desert animals. Since I never heard from them, I kind of wrote them off and figured I wasn't getting any volunteer work in over the summer like I had hoped. (And, honestly, I could've been more proactive about it, but I wanted to accomplish other things, and the last two months have gone by super fast.)

I got a call today with an invitation to a volunteer workshop/meeting on August 2nd. School starts three weeks later, so I'll have to make sure that I can do it on the weekends if they require a certain amount of weeks (the library requires at least 16 weeks, 4 hours per week). I suppose Fridays would work, as well, but I don't know what time we'll be meeting for my astronomy project.

Hopefully I can do it! I think it would be interesting experience, and I might get to work with animals(!!!) or work in the garden (which would suck through September).

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(no subject)

Jul. 10th, 2012 | 04:46 pm

Somehow, Poetry of the Stars has been getting a lot of hits lately. I linked it on one community in a comment, and apparently that was enough. I'm even getting search engine hits. Pretty good for 3 fairly lame entries, but whatever. I'm having trouble writing anything for it these days mostly because I don't feel like I have anything of interest to even say. I'm hoping I'll be able to post more as soon as I start actually doing astronomy projects next semester, but I don't want to lose my motivation and let it to die in the meantime.

Lately I've been wanting to write a lot of fiction. Ideas have been swirling, but I haven't been able to sit down and actually write anything, I suppose because I'm afraid to. I have such a love-hate relationship with writing that I'm not sure how to approach anything. I feel like if I were to work at it, I could be (and am) a good writer, but I suppose it just hasn't been much of a priority recently.

Aaaand, now I'm distracted because I just found something to post about on PotS. Now it has four entries. :p

Anyway, I have an idea for a short blurb. But have I written it yet? Nope. Is there a reason I haven't? Not really. I don't know what's going on with my motivation lately -- there are tons of little things I want to do. There's a particular song I want to learn on guitar, which should be fairly easy. But all I want to do with my time is, well, play Skyrim. And read. Which I suppose isn't all bad. I'm going to be very, very busy starting the end of August, so I should give myself some relaxation time.

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A bunch of book surveys

Jul. 3rd, 2012 | 12:22 am

I found these book surveys, and since I haven't done one in a while (and never in this journal), I thought I'd go for it.

BooksCollapse )

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