Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Thinking Projects

I'm thinking projects, which has not been how I usually think. I usually think systems, and that's usually the way I want to think. Get the systems right and the results come of their own accord. I'm not able to read in several languages because I ever made a project out of them. I just studied some and read some every day, and now I know them. I'm in good physical shape, not because I ever set goals for my fitness, but because I walk and exercise every day. It's the right emphasis. But it's not the only emphasis. And some things just hit a holding pattern, or stall out, without milestones and end goals.

So I want to back off from the daily-routine approach, for a moment, and think in a project-oriented way. I've got three projects going:
  • learning Spanish
  • writing my diet book
  • maintaining my massage business
All three are either stalled out (diet book and massage biz) or in a holding pattern (learning Spanish.)

Spanish. Okay, the issue here is that I've been doing this for many years -- reading maybe half an hour per day, learning a couple words per day and adding them to Anki flashcard decks -- and while my Spanish does gradually get better, that's actually a ton of time to have invested to still not be at the level I'd like to be. (Which is, to be able to translate written Spanish into written English, skillfully and rapidly enough to make it possibly a paying side-gig.) I think I must be just *barely* over the break-even point. If I double, or even increase by half-again, the time I put in -- and if I do some writing as well as reading -- I might be able to get where I want to be in a year or two. But right now, it's absorbing a lot of my disposable time and not yielding any rewards beyond its own pleasure. (Which is considerable, mind you. I like doing it.) I may be in the position of someone saving for retirement at the rate of ten dollars a month. It's the right way to do it -- put some aside every month -- but if  it won't yield the desired result within the span of human lifetime, the scale is wrong. It's not enough of an increment over steady-state. So what I need is:
  • an alteration of the daily system, obviously, to step it up,
  • a timeline with milestones
  • a way to evaluate my progress
The timeline I can just make up: a year and a half. And the end milestone is also easy: I can take a qualifying test at one of the online translating companies, and just see how I do. Intermediate milestones are a little harder. I'll have to ponder that. Also I should investigate subject-matter expertise: what's wanted that's hard to get?

So: I will take one of those exams in July 2020.

As far as the daily routine goes: I'll double the time reading. Right now I mostly read on the train to and from work, which probably amounts to about half an hour of reading per day; and I learn two words per day. So I'll add forty minutes of reading in the morning, and make it four words per day. In addition I should start doing some translation exercises, with some kind of checking in with a reliable literate native speaker. (I have a hazy memory of a website that provides that sort of exchange... with an "eight" in its name? Duolingo had a translation component, but it didn't have any checking worth a damn.)


I wrote the foregoing two or three days ago, and it's been surprising to me how deeply I've responded to having an intellectual project again: I hadn't realized how much I've missed feeling that I was building a skill.


I decided, by the way, that there is no salt problem. I don't actually eat as much as most Americans and I don't think it makes much difference anyway.


I bought a little 8-inch cast iron skillet, and have been using it nightly. It brings me great joy. So suited to its work, so reassuringly solid and real and durable. The cheap light nonstick pans I've been using wound my spirit. I'm not sure why it's taken so long for me to finally try cast iron: I think I had exaggerated ideas of how difficult and elaborate seasoning them would be. In the event, the skillet I bought was supposedly preseasoned, and I just started using it, with plenty of oil, oiling it up again after I cleaned it: within a couple days it has become more nonstick than my ailing, supposedly nonstick, lightweight chemist's confections. Sometimes I make things more complicated than they have to be.


Nimble said...

Glad the cast iron is working for you. I love my steel and iron cookware the best. I have a banged up Le Creuset pot; when I bought it at a yard sale it had burned spaghetti and fork marks on the bottom. It responded to soaking and scouring and I love it so much.

Jo said...

Hi, Dale,
I use an English grammar site, run by a teacher, who recommends www.italki.com for language exchange, or if you prefer, affordable paid lessons - but I'm pretty sure there'll be hundreds of people who will be happy to gain some English in return for Spanish practice.

I'd be happy to hook you up with one of our Spanish students, but I'm not teaching higher levels at the moment so I'm not sure who we've got who'd suit. I'm on facebook with one ex-student who's very nice, but she barely talked at all in class, so I'm not sure how that would go.

I need to get me a good cast iron pan, or at the very least learn to use my cheapy one properly.

Joanne Noragon said...

You will never regret cast iron of Creuset. Remember, you can bake bread and cake in your cast iron, too. Pineapple upsidedown cake. YumYum. Corn bread.

Dale said...

Thanks Jo. I'll look at italki! Yes, I'm scouting for someone with pretty sophisticated skills in their own language, able to discuss register & context as well as grammatical structures, & hopefully with some sense of historical development... who also has time and inclination to waste their time on me. Might take a while :-)

Joanne, tempt me not! When I make bread, I eat it. All of it, at one sitting.

Dale said...

... Nimble: it's kind of magic. The way it radiates heat is amazing. My aluminum pans scorch the outsides of things, but the iron cooks things all the way through. (Emissive heat, is that what it's called? And why? Isn't heat just heat? Apparently not.)