One Year of Duolingo

So, I have just reached a 1 year, 365 day streak, on Duolingo. Technically, it’s been a little longer than that I think, because I believe I broke some short, earlier streaks. I’ve also, occasionally, used a Streak Freeze item, which you can use to skip a day. Still, the point is, I have effectively used Duolingo, for 5-15+ minutes, each day, to learn a foreign language.

The vast majority of this time has been spent learning Spanish. I very briefly toyed with the idea of doing Japanese at the same time, but never bothered to get past the first set of challenges. I took 4 years of Japanese (maybe it was 3, I think it was 4), in High School. I still know the general idea of Japanese, but I am rusty enough that I couldn’t really understand it with any speed without some work. More recently, I have also started doing a little bit of the Norwegian tree, along side the Spanish.

Surprisingly, Norwegian is closer to English than Spanish. I guess if you look up some actual language relational trees, both English and Norwegian are on the same larger branch, and Spanish is on a seperate branch.

So the question is, do I feel like I’ve learned anything? I would say, yes. Early on I was doing a bit of research on what it means to “know” a language, and it’s essentially 4 parts. Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening. My weakest area would definitely be speaking. I seriously doubt I could speak Spanish well at all to anyone beyond some basic stuff. Part of this is because I don’t exactly have any way to really practice speaking Spanish to anyone.

“Always it’s sunny” versus
“It’s always sunny”

I would say listening is probably my second weakest area, but more because I’ve found that natural Spanish speakers, talk very quickly. I sometimes will run a Spanish TV channel or Spanish HBO in the background while doing other things and I can sort of pick out words I know, but they get jumbled among words I don’t know.

Writing is a little easier. My problem with writing is that I still get messed up on the tenses or whatever they are called for the verbs. Eating, eaten, will eat, he eats, I eat, that sort of thing. I still get kind of lost on which one to use where. I imagine I could get the idea across, but it would come off as broken Spanish.

Lastly is reading. I feel fairly confident in the reading department, at least if I know the vocabulary being used. Part of this is because I can get the idea of things like eating and eat and eats, using context clues. Como, Comer, comes, all just become “something to do with eating”.

The app itself overall, does an alright job, but it’s not perfect. It does a really good job of pushing memorization of the same handful of phrases, but it’s not so great at encouraging the free forming of sentences. I’m not sure that would even be possible though, since the App isn’t going ot be able to effectively evaluate open ended questions.

In a previous exercise, “Preferred food” was wrong, even though favorite and preferred are synonyms and obviously “Preferida” is the same root of “Preferred”.

I also wish there was a way to just do the matching mode with words learned so far. Especially with verbs. Like give me all the variations of “eat” and let me match them up, so maybe I can get a better handle on which is which. There is a separate app that sort of does this, but the format is a little different and it doesn’t directly sync to the main app.

It also gets a little less literal with it’s translations that I like. I have seen other people comment on this a bit on the Duolingo forums, and there are arguments for both ways. Some people will argue that making the translation more natural English is better, because it gets the point across more. I would argue it makes for poor learning, and encourages memorizing phrases instead of actually learning translations. One common one is with words like “Always” and “Never”. You may get the phrase, “He is always happy”, which in Spanish would be, “El siempre esta feliz.” Except it’s not, not directly, in English, “El siempre esta feliz”, is “He always is happy”. The placement of “always” in the English version is valid both ways, though it would be more common to say “is always” than “always is”. I feel like if Duolingo emphasized the “Always is” translation, it would better emphasize how the sentence structure works in Spanish. Since spanish is “siempre esta”.

Another synonym issue with plate and dish.

Another way more common example of this is the omission of “the”. A lot of the Spanish uses “la/el” in the sentence. “Me gusta la escuela”, which duo translates to “I like school”, even though it’s more literally, “I like the school”. Now, granted, I am learning Spanish, and it may in fact be perfectly valid to just say “Me gusta escuela”, except Duolingo, in the app, would mark that incorrect, for missing the “la”. These little inconsistencies drive me nuts and frankly, are probably one of the biggest reason I miss some of the questions. It also does make a difference int he long run, since “I like school” and “I like the school”, are arguably completely different phrases. One can like going to school and learning (I like school), or one can like a particular school (I like the school).

Anyway, I can deal with the little weirdness, but there are times when it’s annoying, it also feels a little inconsistent on it’s enforcement as well.

I plan to keep going on my learning expedition. I have been also doing a bit of LingoDeer Spanish, for a fresh perspective and methodology. I have a couple of Audiobooks for learning Spanish that I got in a Humble Bundle a while back I want to listen to. I hope to reach at least a mild level of competency in Spanish, and maybe eventually some other languages as well, eventually. I don’t have any particular reason for it, other than I have always liked the idea of learning other languages and, in general, I enjoy learning new things.

My Music Listening Habits for November 2019

Another month, another round of music. There’s not as much need for as much intro this round so I’m just going to jump right into it.

So, while Number 2, 3, 9 16, and 19 are all Sigrid albums, the top spot this month goes to Lusine with Sensorimotor. I’ve been enjoying the whole album, but I’ve had this particular video in rotation on Youtube for a bit.

It’s got a nice sort of ambient feel to it. Speaking of Ambient, While moving the Lusine album to my phone, I remebered I had the Overwatch based Lucio album downloaded. Which puts it at number 5. It’s alright, nothing super stellar, but it’s nice chill background beats. Number 7 also falls into this category a bit. The soundtrack for the anime film Armitage the Third has been a long term favorite of mine. It’s a CD I’ve owned and listened to for probably 20 years now.

Armitage isn’t the only older stuff I’ve thrown in this month. Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was definitely my most listened to album back in the 90s. Alanis was one of my first real musical obsessions. I’ve also been listening to more The Who recently as well.

Number 11 has a new comer to my rotations. I was browsing through Amazon’s sale albums and on a bit of a whim, picked up the album Rise by Molly Tuttle. She’s a Bluegrass artist and man she can pick and play a guitar. It also helps that she also has a nice pleasant voice to accompany the guitar.

Also new… ish, is number 8. Kristina Skyberg’s one and only album. It’s all in Norwegian, so I don’t really know what she is singing, but it’s very very good. I say Kristina is newish to the list because Kristina is Sigrid’s backup singer during live shows.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the Native American Flute Lullabies. You listen to one album with multiple artists, and it spams out and fills in three slots. List a little bit annoying. Basically though, it’s exactly what it says, and it’s nice music to sleep to.

Too Many eBooks and Keeping them Organized

The nice thing about digital books is that they are easily stored and accessible in very little space. The bad thing about digital books is that it can be hard to find things in a virtual shelf where you can’t easily see covers and authors and topics. There is something to be said for covers, when you can easily glance at a row of books and see the color combination that sticks out as “This is the book that I like”.

Tech books present a different problem, since it’s less easy to make notes or stick papers in important bits of code that you want to reference later. I usually resort to screen shots, but they become hard to sift through later the more screen shots there are. Especially since you usually can’t name files with useful names on a tablet or phone where you may be reading a tech book.

Despite a few tools out there to organize your files for you, probably most notable and easy to use is Calibre, I still prefer to sort things by a basic directory structure.

This is useful for a few reasons, one, if an organizing program ever breaks or I want to upgrade, things are still sorted at a base level. For the most part everything is sorted by base type, though in a few cases they are sorted by source. For example, the Packt eBooks are almost all tech books and almost all of them include zip files of code, so I’ve given them their own directory. Also a lot of them aren’t super great, so, while I like to have them around, I don’t need the clutter in my actual Tech books folders. Most were freebies from when Packt used to give away books daily.

Most of these folders have their own internal structure, For example, the image above is for Tech books. The comics folder has folders for series and publishers, the Foreign Language folder has folders for languages, the Fiction folder is sorted by series and genre. Etc. Etc. Etc.

This whole ball is the core archive. Most of the time I keep working folders with copies of these various books on my laptop or on a portable drive. The comics I am currently reading or the tech books that are actually useful, that sort of thing. All of the books in the archive are DRM free, so I can copy and read them as I want. I prefer to buy DRM Free books, Humble Bundle, O’Reilly, Packt, StoryBundle, Leanpub, Project Gutenberg, probably some others I’m forgetting are all pretty good for DRM free ebooks.

What complicates things are Nook and Kindle, which are both more proprietary. I had an early generation of the Nook for a while, but Amazon tends to have better deals on books, so I ultimately dropped buying from Nook. I hate having my library fractured across platforms. If I am going to buy DRM locked down books, it’s going to be one storefront, and Amazon has better sales. There are way to strip out the DRM but it’s a hassle to do regularly. Occasionally I update a backup archive of Nook and Kindle books to DRM free versions, in bulk, but it’s not worth bothering with on a single book by book case every time I buy a book.

My Music Listening Habits for October 2019

I did a sort of prototyped this sort of post briefly on but deleted it because I kind of want to keep that site just being a landing page and not a blog. I also originally considered doing it weekly but that feels too frequent so instead I’m thinking monthly. Anyway,, the music tracking app/service. I’ve been using this when I can, since 2005. It’s one of my favorite services out there because I love tracking my music listening habits. I have not been able to use it all the time. For a while I listened to music on devices that weren’t supported, or via apps that weren’t supported. I do always come back to it.

I want to start with last months’ top album Scrobbles.

Most of the bottom half are low number listens but the top half in the top ten or so are the real bulk of listens. Number 1, Number 5, Number 8, and Number 23 are all Sigrid. Sigrid has been my current music obsession. She has quickly risen to like number 3 or 4 in my overall by artist since I started listening to her a few months ago. As part of my music blogging, I want to explore individual artists some so I won’t go into a ton of detail. There actually would be more Sigrid scrobbles but some of my tracks don’t have proper Info attached so they don’t scrobble as anything.

Notable though with Sigrid, this month I went and saw her live, in St. Louis. And it was awesome. The opener at the live show was Number 2 on this list, Raffaella. I bought her 6 track EP, Ballerina, after the show and I’ve been listening to it quite a bit as well.

Number 3 and Number 14 are both Alice Merton. I’ve listened to Alive Merton longer than Sigrid, but I’ve been adding a few more tracks of hers ot my playlist recently. She’s put out a new extended version of her album Mint, so I expect her to continue to show up for a while. Another artists I really enjoy that I’ve been trying to add more of is Kiesza at Number 6 on this list. Kiesza has a pretty amazing voice that I really can’t get enough of.

Number 4 is a bit more mainstream, with Kesha, or is it still Ke$ha? I don’t know. I had been listeneing to the newer single Praying for a while and recently decided to give the rest of the album a listen. There’s some pretty good stuff in there. I particularly like the one about Godzilla.

Anyway, I’m sure I will have the chance to talk about more of these albums in more detail in the future. I want to switch a bit, since this is the first post in this (hopefully) series and touch a bit on my overall 5×5 listing. Mostly to give a bit more overview on my overall listening habits over the past, 14 years.

Like I said above, Sigrid has already jumped way up there, with Sucker Punch coming in at Number 2. The spread here also includes a lot of my other favorites. Taylor Swift gets three albums in this top 25, as does BT. Avril Lavigne and Katy Perry have several appearances, though Katy ranks quite a bit lower. Technically Daft Punk has 3 as well, since they did the two Tron sountracks.

Anyway, like I mentioned above, I kind of want to talk more about music I listen to, both more mainstream and not. Hopefully with some monthly summaries, but also with some intermixed spotlight moments along the way.

Sigrid @ The Ready Room feat Raffaella (10/08/2019)

I don’t go to a lot of concerts, and of the 7 total I’ve been to of any merit, 4 of them weren’t really anything I would have necesarilly chosen. Three of them were country music that my wife and daughter wanted to see (Toby Kieth & Kip Moore, Lee Brice, Travis Tritt). Though the shows were enjoyable, country music isn’t my first choice in music genre. The main issue honestly is most of the artists I would want to see tend to be at huge venues and cost a few hundred dollars a ticket, so it’s just not really affordable.

So when I was watching some Sigrid on Youtube and there was a little notice below about a show “nearby” in St Louis, I figured, why not let’s see what’s up. It turns out, it was super affordable, and it’s close enough that I could always drive there and back in one round trip, even if it meant a late night. I asked my wife if she wanted to go, and mentioned that it was cheap enough that even if she ended up not being able to, because of her various come and go health issues, the extra ticket wouldn’t be a huge bust or anything. Fortunately, she came along as well.

We opted to make a little mini vacation of it, and I took a couple of days off work. I joked that we were having a Scandinavian vacation, since we went to IKEA (Sweedish-ish) during the day before seeing Sigrid, who is Norwegian, that evening. The day after we also went to the St Louis Zoo.

The show itself was at a little club called The Ready Room. I couldn’t find a ton about the place online before the show so I wasn’t super sure what to expect. It wasn’t a particularly large venue, and the maximum capacity listed was 750 people, so at the very least, it was going to be a fairly small crowd. We arrived around an hour early, plenty of parking available ont he street too which was nice. The excitement of the show kind of got ramped up here as we walked past the tour bus parked on the side of the building. There were a dozen or so people lined up outside, so we walked next door to a sort of open space pizza spot called Pie Guy Pizza for a quick bite to eat.

Doors opened shortly after we had arrived, and the line hadn’t grown much, if any, so we headed on in. The stage area was a mostly black room, but it was also much wider than it was deep, so there was a lot of width to the stage. I ended up standing right up front next to the rail, though off to one side. After a bit more wait, it was time for the show.

So, in addition to Sigrid, there was also an opening act, Raffaella, as part of the show. I’d never heard anything from Raffaella, so in the weeks leading up to the show, I added some of her tracks to my Amazon playlist. Probably my favorite song of the half dozen songs she has out is Balaclava, though in general, I rather enjoy all of her tracks.

I didn’t take any video of Raffaella, so you’ll have to settle for this iteration from Youtube. Funny enough, I had listened to this track enough that I was able to sing along for quite a bit of it during the performance. Her show was decent as well, though due to the wide nature of the stage, it felt a little crowded, since her band was set up in front of Sigrid’s Band’s gear.

Unfortunately, I only ended up with one sort of OK photo from Raffaella’s set. I wasn’t super satisfied with a lot of my photos from this event. My camera’s phone sucks, and I had inquired before hand about the camera policy of the club and got a sort of boiler plate reply that suggested I would not be able to bring my DSLR to the show. I had brought my daughter’s fixed lens midrange Nikon, but in the end, left it int he car, because I didn’t want to deal with if I would be allowed to bring it in or not.

After Raffaella’s set, there was a short intermission while the crew broke down the extra instruments and cleaned up the stage before the main act. I’ve watched a lot of videos of Sigrid’s Sucker Punch tour, so I had a pretty good idea of how the set would go. But still, it was quite exciting to actually be there as Peder, Kristina, Sondre and Kasper came out in the dark to take positions on stage. Then the familiar sort of ambient build up to the opening of Sucker Punch as Sigrid rushes out and starts singing the song.

I just want to say, it’s really something else to go see an artist that you really like, and get to be “right there”. Later, after the show, I commented to my wife that the whole thing made me really want to go see more live shows, but I’m spoiled now because I’ll probably never end up with this perfect combo again.

Having listened to all of these tracks really helped the whole experience as well, there’s something really fun about a crowd of people all singing along with each other all just in the moment. Sigrid puts on a really great show as well. She is constantly moving and dancing around the stage. She makes little call outs to the crowd. Possibly the best one, at one point she jumped out onto the platform on the backside of the railing in front of the stage and someone int he audience totally lost it. Sigrid commented that she “Didn’t expect you to scream like that.”

The band is great too, and sometimes I feel like they don’t get enough credit. Kasper does some great drum riffs, I particularly love him in the track Go to War. Sondre does some pretty good guitar work on the few times he gets to do his small moments to shine. I’m less familiar with Peder, as he is new to the group after some sort of unknown drama involving the old keyboardist. I also really like Kristina as Sigrid’s backup vocals. I’ve been listening to her album “Revet vekk” some recently. It’s all in Norwegian and has a way different vibe than Sigrid, but I find it pretty relaxing to listen to.

Anyway, I also really enjoy how every track sort of feels different. Some of them are heavy bouncy fast paced songs. Then you get more relaxed moments like in Dynamite, where Sigrid plays solo on the Keyboard, or Level Up where it was just Sigrid, Kristina, and Sondre.

My only complaint, which personally, isn’t a huge one, and I have no idea what the actual “blame” would be for it. Holy shit the show was loud. Like, literally, overwhelmingly loud at times. There were many times when I could basically only hear drums. There was a moment, probably during the heavy drum beats of Go to War, that I had resigned myself that I’d possibly be deaf after the show was over. I don’t know if the sound was cranked up too much, or I just wasn’t expecting it, or (most likely) I was standing 2 feet in front of one of the speakers, but it was LOUD. It was a good thing I was already pretty familiar with the music. Also, I suspect it was where I was standing, because my wife, who was standing behind/beside me, just off tot he side of the speaker, didn’t really mention having the same problem, even when I mentioned it.

Whatever the case, I would definitely go to another Sigrid Show, and I definitely want to go to more concerts in the future, though I may try to stick to smaller venues like this one, even if it’s not a band I am super familiar with. I’m going to wrap up here with the one video I did take, of my favorite Sigrid track, Basic.