Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 20th, 2020

A look at Monet’s Water Lilies

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Written by Leisureguy

20 April 2020 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Art, Video

The White House Has Erected a Blockade Stopping States and Hospitals From Getting Coronavirus PPE

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David Wallace-Wells describes the US federal government’s war on the American public:

Whenever you start to think that the federal government under Donald Trump has hit a moral bottom, it finds a new way to shock and horrify.

Over the last few weeks, it has started to appear as though, in addition to abandoning the states to their own devices in a time of national emergency, the federal government has effectively erected a blockade — like that which the Union used to choke off the supply chains of the Confederacy during the Civil War — to prevent delivery of critical medical equipment to states desperately in need. At the very least, federal authorities have made governors and hospital executives all around the country operate in fear that shipments of necessary supplies will be seized along the way. In a time of pandemic, having evacuated federal responsibility, the White House is functionally waging a war against state leadership and the initiative of local hospitals to secure what they need to provide sufficient treatment.

Yesterday, a letter published by the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted the extraordinary measures that had to be taken to secure the delivery into Massachusetts of equipment that had been bought and paid for. The NEJM, which featured the letter in its COVID-19 Notes series, is far from a platform of partisan alarm or hysteria — it is among the most sober and high-minded professional journals in the country. It’s worth reading the correspondence, written by an executive running a small health system, at some length:

Our supply-chain group has worked around the clock to secure gowns, gloves, face masks, goggles, face shields, and N95 respirators. These employees have adapted to a new normal, exploring every lead, no matter how unusual. Deals, some bizarre and convoluted, and many involving large sums of money, have dissolved at the last minute when we were outbid or outmuscled, sometimes by the federal government. Then we got lucky, but getting the supplies was not easy.

A lead came from an acquaintance of a friend of a team member. After several hours of vetting, we grew confident of the broker’s professional pedigree and the potential to secure a large shipment of three-ply face masks and N95 respirators. The latter were KN95 respirators, N95s that were made in China. We received samples to confirm that they could be successfully fit-tested. Despite having cleared this hurdle, we remained concerned that the samples might not be representative of the bulk of the products that we would be buying. Having acquired the requisite funds — more than five times the amount we would normally pay for a similar shipment, but still less than what was being requested by other brokers — we set the plan in motion. Three members of the supply-chain team and a fit tester were flown to a small airport near an industrial warehouse in the mid-Atlantic region. I arrived by car to make the final call on whether to execute the deal. Two semi-trailer trucks, cleverly marked as food-service vehicles, met us at the warehouse. When fully loaded, the trucks would take two distinct routes back to Massachusetts to minimize the chances that their contents would be detained or redirected.

Hours before our planned departure, we were told to expect only a quarter of our original order. We went anyway, since we desperately needed any supplies we could get. Upon arrival, we were jubilant to see pallets of KN95 respirators and face masks being unloaded. We opened several boxes, examined their contents, and hoped that this random sample would be representative of the entire shipment. Before we could send the funds by wire transfer, two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrived, showed their badges, and started questioning me. No, this shipment was not headed for resale or the black market. The agents checked my credentials, and I tried to convince them that the shipment of PPE was bound for hospitals. After receiving my assurances and hearing about our health system’s urgent needs, the agents let the boxes of equipment be released and loaded into the trucks. But I was soon shocked to learn that the Department of Homeland Security was still considering redirecting our PPE. Only some quick calls leading to intervention by our congressional representative prevented its seizure. I remained nervous and worried on the long drive back, feelings that did not abate until midnight, when I received the call that the PPE shipment was secured at our warehouse.

In this instance, the executive managed to secure the supplies, but what is most horrifying about his account is that this experience was not all that surprising to him — he expected interference from federal officials, and did everything he could (including staging the shipment in food-service trucks to avoid detection) to get around that interference.

Those measures do not seem unusual, horrifyingly enough. Last month, 3 million masks ordered by the state of Massachusetts were seized by the federal government. Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, was arranging secret chartered flights of supplies as a way of outmaneuvering federal interference. “The governor has clearly outlined the challenges this administration has faced as we’ve worked around the clock to purchase PPE for our health-care workers and first responders,” a spokesperson for the governor told the paper. “The supply chain has been likened to the Wild West, and once you have purchased supplies, ensuring they get to the state is another Herculean feat,” he continued. “These flights are carrying millions of masks and gloves our workers need. They’re scheduled to land in Illinois in the coming weeks and the state is working to ensure these much-needed supplies are protected and ready for distribution around the state.” A source “knowledgeable about the flights” told the paper that the governor didn’t want to be more open about the shipments “because we’ve heard reports of Trump trying to take PPE in China and when it gets to the United States.”

This is not just the federal government telling states they are on their own, as it has done repeatedly over the last few weeks — a sign that the president, often thought to harbor authoritarian impulses, will invariably choose to unburden himself of responsibility even when seizing it would offer remarkable new powers — and itself a moral outrage demonstrating incredible political sadism, given that states lack the resources of the federal government to pay for this stuff. That’s in part because, in many cases, states are legally barred from deficit spending, which means in times of crisis, especially those producing huge budget shortfalls through collapsing tax revenue, they are functionally unable to respond at all. In such situations, the federal government is designed to serve as a backstop, but over and over again throughout this crisis, the White House has said states will get little to no help — that they are entirely on their own. (The federal medical stockpile isn’t meant for the states, as Jared Kushner has said, as though the country is anything more than its states.)

On top of that outrage, the Feds are bidding against states who are trying to buy their own supplies, and refusing to interfere in those auctions between states, which have driven prices up by ten times or more. But while you might think that was as bad as federal management of this crisis could be, it is not. This new outrage is deeper: Even those states that are trying to manage their own resources, buying equipment themselves with incredibly scarce resources to aid in a time of crisis, are being stopped, and those resources seized on the way to delivery.

You could call this  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 April 2020 at 3:41 pm

Three poets to help you understand ancient Chinese poetry.

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Lee Moore writes in SupChina:

This month, in which we are all locked indoors, happens to be National Poetry Month. Several people, getting tired of the same plot lines in pulpy fiction, have asked me, What should I be reading? My answer is always the same: Tang Dynasty poetry.

The Tang Dynasty (618-907) is the golden age of both China and its poetry. And not just that — there is probably no time and place in world history when poetry was more important. The imperial exam, a ticket into the social elite, required test-takers to be thoroughly familiar with poetry. Social life for elites was dominated by parties where people sat around drinking and writing poetry. To move up the social ladder, you had to be able to write poetry. And so, not surprisingly, the Tang produced an abundance of poets.

Because of the sheer number and diversity of works, Tang poetry can be intimidating if you do not know where to start. The Complete Tang Poems (全唐诗 quán tángshī), an 1705 anthology that attempted to gather all Tang poetry into a single collection, has 49,000 poems and 2,200 poets. Even that is really just a “Best Of” collection. How does one begin to break into them?

Luckily, during the Tang era and subsequent ones — the Chinese have never stopped reading Tang poetry — cream rose to the top. Three poets from that time distinguished themselves and remain celebrated to this day. They make for a fine entry point into Tang poetry — let’s take a look at who they are and a representative poem from each (all three poems translated by yours truly).

Dù Fǔ 杜甫

he first poet in the Tang Trinity is Du Fu. Textbooks and other official channels largely agree that he was the greatest of the Tang’s poets. Although it is a simplification, Du Fu represents the Confucian tradition, to the point where, during the Song Dynasty, he was sometimes called the “poet-historian.”

Like the two other poets you’ll be introduced to shortly, Du Fu lived during the Tang Dynasty’s most tragic period, and his poetry is redolent of the sadness at the breakdown in government institutions and the violence that that breakdown inflicted on the lives of the people. The Tang state was at the height of its power when a non-Han Chinese, Central Asian general named Ān Lùshān 安禄山 tried to overthrow the Tang emperor. Du Fu, along with the emperor, fled the capital and did not return until after An Lushan had sacked it.

Much of Du Fu’s best poetry focuses on  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 April 2020 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Writing

John Conway Solved Mathematical Problems With His Bare Hands

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Kevin Hartnett writes in Quanta:

n modern mathematics, many of the biggest advances are great elaborations of theory. Mathematicians move mountains, but their strength comes from tools, highly sophisticated abstractions that can act like a robotic glove, enhancing the wearer’s strength. John Conway was a throwback, a natural problem-solver whose unassisted feats often left his colleagues stunned.

“Every top mathematician was in awe of his strength. People said he was the only mathematician who could do things with his own bare hands,” said Stephen Miller, a mathematician at Rutgers University. “Mathematically, he was the strongest there was.”

On April 11, Conway died of COVID-19. The Liverpool, England, native was 82.

Conway’s contributions to mathematics were as varied as the stories people tell about him.

“Once he shook my hand and informed me that I was four handshakes away from Napoleon, the chain being: [me] — John Conway — Bertrand Russell — Lord John Russell – Napoleon,” said his Princeton University colleague David Gabai over email. Then there was the time Conway and one of his closest friends at Princeton, the mathematician Simon Kochen, decided to memorize the world capitals on a whim. “We decided to drop the mathematics for a while,” Kochen said, “and for a few weeks we’d go home and do, like, the western bulge of Africa or the Caribbean nations.”

Conway had the tendency — perhaps unparalleled among his peers — of jumping into an area of mathematics and completely changing it.

“A lot of the objects he studied are thought of by other mathematicians the way that he thought of them,” Miller said. “It’s as if his personality has been superimposed on them.”

Conway’s first big discovery was an act of self-preservation. In the mid-1960s he was a young mathematician looking to launch his career. On the recommendation of John McKay, he decided to try to prove something about the properties of a sprawling geometric object called the Leech lattice. It comes up in the study of the most efficient way to pack as many round objects in as little space as possible — an enterprise known as sphere packing.

To get a sense of what the Leech lattice is and why it’s important, first consider a simpler scenario. Imagine you wanted to fit as many circles as possible into a region of the standard Euclidean plane. You can do this by dividing the plane into one big hexagonal grid and circumscribing the largest possible circle inside each hexagon. The grid, called a hexagonal lattice, serves as an exact guide for the best way to pack circles in two-dimensional space.

In the 1960s, the mathematician John Leech came up with a different kind of lattice that he predicted would serve as a guide for the most efficient packing of 24-dimensional spheres in 24-dimensional space. (It later proved true.) This application to sphere packing made the Leech lattice interesting, but there were still many unknowns. Chief among them were the lattice’s symmetries, which can be collected into an object called a “group.”

In 1966, at McKay’s urging, Conway decided that he would discover the symmetry group of the Leech lattice, no matter how long it took.

“He sort of shut himself up in this room and said goodbye to his wife, and was [planning] to work all day every day for a year,” said Richard Borcherds, a mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former student of Conway’s.

But, as it turned out, the farewell was unnecessary. “He managed to calculate it in about 24 hours,” Borcherds said.

Rapid computation was one of Conway’s signature traits. It was a form of recreation for him. He devised an algorithm for quickly determining the day of the week for any date, past or future, and enjoyed inventing and playing games. He’s perhaps best known for creating the “Game of Life,” a mesmerizing computer program in which collections of cells evolve into new configurations based on a few simple rules.

After discovering the symmetries of the Leech lattice — a collection now known as the Conway group — Conway became interested in the properties of other similar groups. One of these was the aptly named “monster” group, a collection of symmetries that appear in 196,883-dimensional space.

In a 1979 paper called “Monstrous Moonshine,” Conway and Simon Norton conjectured a deep and surprising relationship between properties of the monster group and properties of a distant object in number theory called the j-function. They predicted that the dimensions in which the monster group operates match, almost exactly, the coefficients of the j-function. A decade later, Borcherds proved Conway and Norton’s “moonshine” conjecture, helping him win a Fields Medal in 1998.

Without Conway’s facility for computation and taste for grappling with examples, he and Norton might not even have thought to conjecture the moonshine relationship.

“In doing these examples they discovered this numerology,” Miller said. “[Conway] did it from the ground up; he didn’t come in with some magic wand. When he understood something, he understood it as well as anyone else did, and usually did it in his own unique way.”

Nine years before moonshine, Conway’s style of hands-on mathematics led him to a breakthrough in an entirely different area. In the field of topology, mathematicians study the properties of knots, which are like closed loops of string. Mathematicians are interested in classifying all types of knots. For example, if you attach the ends of an unknotted shoelace you get one type of knot. If you tie an overhand knot in the shoelace and then connect the ends, you get another.

But it’s not always that simple. If you take two closed loops and jumble each of them, the way a cat might play with a piece of string, you won’t necessarily be able to tell at a glance — even a long glance — whether or not they’re the same knot.

In the 19th century, a trio of British and American scientists — Thomas Kirkman, Charles Little and Peter Tait — labored to create a kind of periodic table of knots. Over the course of six years they classified the first 54 knots.

Conway, in a 1970 paper, came up with a more efficient way of doing the same job. His description — known as Conway notation — made it much easier to diagram the tangles and overlaps in a knot.

“What Little did in six years, it took him an afternoon,” said Marc Lackenby, a mathematician at the University of Oxford who studies knot theory.

And that wasn’t all. In the same paper, Conway made another major contribution to knot theory. Mathematicians studying knots have different types of tests they apply, which typically act as invariants, meaning that if the results come out as different for two knots, then the knots are different.

One of the most venerable tests in knot theory is the Alexander polynomial — a polynomial expression that’s based on the way a given knot crosses over itself. It’s a highly effective test, but it’s also slightly ambiguous. The same knot could yield multiple different (but very closely related) Alexander polynomials.

Conway managed to refine the Alexander polynomial, ironing out the ambiguity. The result was the invention of the Conway polynomial, which is now a basic tool learned by every knot theorist. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 April 2020 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Math

A word from “Speak Esperanto Like a Native™”

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One of my Anki cards:

fek!

shit! damn!

Related: feko – shit
feka – shitty

Sample: Fek! Mi forgesis mian ŝlosilon! – Damn! I forgot my key!

Related:

Update: That group is really good and new to me. The Wife pointed it out. Here’s another:

Written by Leisureguy

20 April 2020 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Esperanto, Video

On-line resources and links for learning Esperanto

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I’ve launched myself into learning Esperanto several times before. The first time I studied it intensely  I was a graduate student. Twice I attended a summer course held at San Francisco State (and now seems to be at UCSD).

Each effort persisted for a while, then life intervened, and I lost the thread. This time I have fewer distractions and more time, and it seems like an ideal project for these socially distant times. I don’t think my prior essays into Esperanto were by any means a waste: they were good practice. In learning anything, it’s good to view abortive early attempts as experiments and practice, not as failures. “Failure” carries the connotation that one could have avoided the error, but that is untrue: beginners inevitably will make errors, an unavoidable part of learning. I view those earlier attempts as practice to prepare me to go further this time. (In this connection, I strongly recommend reading the book Mindset, by Carol  Dweck, a Stanford psychologist — link is to inexpensive secondhand copies.)

As of July, here is the regimen I’m following. Look also at the posts on this page under the heading “Language learning with Esperanto.” Those posts include various discoveries I made along the way.

Initially, I decided to study Esperanto intensively for two months, but at two months, though I had definitely made progress, I decided to continue intensive study to reach the six-month mark (i.e., four more months). I’m now reaching that, and I have decided to give it a full year. At around four months, I had a tough couple of weeks, but because I was definitely going for six months I pushed myself through it, studying daily though it felt very uphill. Then suddenly that passed and I found the work again enjoyable and — oddly — my listening comprehension was much improved. My guess is that the difficult period was a by-product of some rewiring going on in my brain.

I’m now almost at the six-month mark, and I’m at the end of the Duolingo course. My intention then is to finish the Lernu.net course and the Jen Nia Mondo course, and also start some of the post-Duolingo reading suggests listed below.

I’m intrigued to find the great amount of high-quality instruction and learning materials now available on-line. Information is presented below under these subheadings:

• Old textbooks: a warning
• Anki: an advanced flashcard app for computer, tablet, or smartphone
Jen Nia Mondo: Audio course (with supporting texts)
• Lernu.net: introductory course and resources for students and teachers
• Duolingo Esperanto course
• Esperanto and the keyboard
• Online Esperanto grammars
• Online Esperanto dictionaries and encyclopedia
• Esperanto sites
• Esperanto media
• Esperanto organizations
• Some post-Duolingo suggestions

Old textbooks: a warning

There are a number of Esperanto instructional materials that are reprints of out-of-copyright Esperanto texts from very early in the 20th century. Lee Miller, in the Duolingo Facebook group, commented on Ivy Kellerman’s “A Complete Grammar of Esperanto” from 1910:

It’s a historical document, it presents Esperanto in a strange, convoluted way, and it has numerous errors throughout.

I sometimes say that it’s the right textbook if you want to be able to say “Please ask the liverymen to ready the coach to make our weekly trip to the village to buy pears for tea.”

Otherwise it’s not worth your time.

Her book, and other textbooks for English speakers from the decade 1900-1910, are of value only to historians of Esperanto teaching methods. They are not useful for people learning the language in 2020 or 2021.

The people who wrote English language textbooks in that decade were pioneers. Kellerman, Cox, Fryer, even Privat (who wrote “Esperanto in 50 Lessons”).

But the language was in its infancy, there was no established literature to draw from, points of grammar and style hadn’t been completely worked out, language references to consult were few . . . and many of these early authors were “enthusiasts” who had just learned the language and said “I shall write a textbook”.

Many of these early authors just lifted material from Zamenhof’s “Ekzercaro”, and presented it as if it were their own.

They got the word out about Esperanto, but they introduced lots of errors and misconceptions.

Add to that the totally different world we live in today. Stories of happy children playing in the meadow with the cows don’t exactly resonate with people in 2020.

Anki: an advanced flashcard app for computer, tablet, or smartphone

I start each day by quickly going the Anki flashcard decks I currently am using.  In Anki, a first-rate free flashcard app, I describe the program. Anki offers an enormous collection of shared decks, so while it is good to construct your own deck (from, say, a textbook that you’re studying), it’s also good to avail yourself of the shared decks created and shared by other users. The post at the link lists just a handful; if you’re studying anything, Anki is a resource worth investigating. See Anki’s shared-deck collection for Esperanto. For important installation notes if you do decide to use Anki, read How Anki works.

The quality of shared decks varies. For example, one deck on Esperanto verbs began with the prompt being “ami” and the answer being “to ami.” (“Ami” means “to love.”) However, you can edit and revise any deck you download, and also add and remove cards, so you can take a deck and customize it. Editing a card is particularly helpful because often the definition on the card is simplified. As you learn the nuanced meaning of the word, you can revise and extend the definition. Example: a card for “miri” offered the definition “to wonder,” and I easily edited the card to define it as “to marvel at, to marvel, to wonder.” And occasionally you’l encounter a typo or even an incorrect definition, and those are easily corrected with the Edit function.

You can also clarify the definition — for example, in one deck “kuraĝi” (to have the courage, to dare) is marked “(tr)” (transitive), but in fact kuraĝi is followed by an infinitive, so I replaced “(tr)” with “(+ inf).”

Renaming the deck is useful. I have a handful of downloaded decks, and I renamed them (a) to clarify content (e.g., “Words suggested by Kontakto editors”) and (b) to put them in order by starting the name with a numeral (e.g., “1 Words suggested by Kontakto editors”). Anki automatically sorts the list of decks, so this lets you set your own order of study.

My morning routine consists of going through the current cards from several shared decks plus my ow deck (which I call “1 Daily Words”), to which I continually add new words as I come across them in reading. The deck “Esperanto Affixes,” which clarified several affixes for me. Another deck that I’ve found useful is “Esperanto to English Ordered by Wikipedia Usage.” Also good is “Esperanto 101,” which contains all must-have basic Esperanto root words as suggested by the editorial team of the magazine Kontakto. But over time “Daily Words” contains more and more of the words I personally encounter and find useful to learn.

After the prompt, I use the space bar to display the answer. Then if I had any difficulty at all in providing the answer — getting it wrong or struggling or even hesitating — I click the “<10 min” button; otherwise I press the spacebar to go to the next card. I have found through experience that (a) this is the most efficient way to get through the deck; and (b) that this ensures I master the material. The result of the procedure is that you will see easy words less and less frequently and difficult words quite frequently (with the result that they quickly become easy words).

UPDATE: For my personal (unshared) deck, 1 Daily Words, I have lately begun using Lernu.net’s onlin Esperanto-English dictionary. I enter just the root of the word and press “Enter,” and Lernu presents a list of related words. For example, in reading I came across a sentence with the verb “paneas.” I enter “pane” and get this list:

  • panei (pane·i ← pane·o)
    • to malfunction, to break down
  • paneo (pane·o)
    • breakdown
  • panea (pane·a ← pane·o)
    • broken down, on the blink
  • panejo (pan·ej·o ← pan·o)
    • bakery
  • panelo (panel·o)
    • dash-board, panel, wainscot

The dictionary clearly identifies the root and affixes (in parentheses). Using the list, I then made a new card in 1 Daily Words, ignoring any unrelated words — in this case “panejo” (derived from “pano” = bread) and “panelo” (a basic root word). So the new card I made is like this:

Front:
paneo
panea
panei

Back:
breakdown
broken down, on the blink
to malfunction to break down

Having related words together on the same card  is helpful. I always put the basic root word (“paneo” in this case) first, followed by the words derived from it. Sometimes the list of words is lengthy, all derived from the same root. For example, another card has these on the front:

sonori
sonoro
sonora
sonorado
sonorigi
sonorilo

And on the back:

to peal, to ring (intr)
clang, peal, ringing
sonorous
tolling
to ring (tr)
a bell

For me, seeing a cluster of related words helps cement words and concept, even though the words in general are easily derivable — but seeing the actual words (rather than thinking of unseen possibilities) brings ideas and words together.

UPDATE: See this post on the four decks I now use and how I modified them (renaming and for one deck making a template fix). The deck I call “3 Esperanto 1010 from Kontakto” does include some related words, but they are not shown on the prompt, only on the answer (under “Related words”). I moved all those to the prompt and added other words derived from the root so that I am prompted by an entire cluster of related words just as I now am with my own deck.

Lernu Esperanto course, English answers” is a deck I’m building (and using) as I work through Lernu.net’s course. I have uploaded the deck so far (lessons 1 through 12) and will update it as I add more.

Since Anki runs on computers, tablets, and smartphones, which makes it handy to use if you’re studying any area.

Jen Nia Mondo: Audio course (with supporting texts)

Jen Nia Mondo is an excellent course, offered free of charge by Esperanto Association of Britain. This set (audio files and two books) is a superb way to learn the language.

You can download the set of 50 audio files (MP3 format) and the two supporting books at no cost. You  learn directly from listening to the MP3 files and repeating phrases, which will develop listening and speaking skills. The book states that it’s best to listen to the audio version of the lesson first, reading the lesson in the book only after you’ve heard it. Specifically, the recommendation is to listen to the audio repeatedly, until you know it by heart, before reading the lesson in the book.

Lernu.net: introductory course and resources for students and teachers

Lernu.net, beyond its excellent intoductory course of 26 lessons, also has a great collection of teaching/learning materials. This post has a basic user’s guide to Lernu.net.

This introduction to Lernu.net’s teach materials is worth reading.

The Multilingualism Accelerator is a curriculum which enables children to learn foreign languages faster and to become more confident in their language-learning abilities. It was based on the propedeutical idea, i.e. that learning a model language, in this case basic Esperanto, if it is limited to the 300 most frequently-used morphemes, can boost children’s language learning skills. Several studies have shown that learning the model language Esperanto for one year may increase the speed of subsequent language learning by up to 30%. The reason is that such a model language is very easy, has no exceptions and functions logically. It enables children to easily understand the underlying linguistic principles by taking apart and rebuilding words and sentences. It is thus far more effective than other languages, burdened by many exceptions to rules, in motivating students. They learn by autonomously constructing their own sentences.

Through this course, children playfully learn the basics of an analytical language, and this gives them clear ideas about how languages are organized. Children understand grammatical terms such as plural, the basic two cases (nominative and accusative), how to create sentences, and acquire the ability to create many new words from the basic roots and affixes present in every language. This gives learners a clear view of the structure of languages in general, known as meta-linguistic knowledge.

All materials are developed for language teachers who have no previous knowledge of Esperanto and the didactic material thus contains grammar sections and detailed guidelines to help teachers prepare for class.

The materials were developed as a part of the project co-financed by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission.

Lernu.net also a forum, useful for (among other things) asking questions and getting guidance.

Duolingo Esperanto course

Duolingo’s Esperanto course (free), which I’m also working through, has quite a few transcription exercises — listen to someone speaking and then type what they said — that train the ear. I can already tell it’s easier to hear the words: as my understanding increases, the words become more distinct. It provides a good sense of progress because the lessons are short. See this post for how I’m using it.

Duolingo also has an Esperanto forum, and one post offers guidance on what to do after you complete the Duolingo course. Moreover, on Facebook you can find the group “Duolingo Esperanto Learners,” well worth joining. In the group you can post a query with the heading #KOR and receive answers from knowledgeable sources (i.e., not from beginners). Moreover, the top-line menu of the group provides other resources, and I draw your attention especially to “Files.”

As I’ve continued working on the Duolingo course, I’ve discovered various features and tactics that have helped me a lot. You might want to browse my Duolingo posts to see whether they might help you.

RodrigoCem posted in the Duolingo discussion group this useful collection of links:

There are courses in Duolingo, lernu.net and also in https://learn.esperanto.com/en/ . There is a WhatsApp group to help people from your country learn and improve their Esperanto: telegramo.org . Game: https://babadum.com/play/?lang=24&game=1 . You can listen to the Esperanto words in forvo.com . You can read and listen to easy texts in https://uea.facila.org and in https://esperantaretradio.blogspot.com/?m=1 . You can also find people who speak Esperanto near to you in the app Amikumu. . In this site you can see a lot of Esperanto events in a lot of countries: https://eventaservo.org/ and events.duolingo.com . Books in Esperanto: https://i-espero.info/files/elibroj/ and lingq.com or app Lingq . It’s also a website to talk and received tips from good esperantists: edukado.net/ekparolu . If you can read: https://whistlinginthewind.org/2019/09/01/how-to-immerse-yourself-in-esperanto/ . You can practice Esperanto for free all day in https://eventaservo.org/Reta

You can improve your reading using uea.facila.org and this dictionary: kono.be/vivo

In addition to these, see the resources listed in AfterDuolingo.com. That post has an extensive list of links to resources, and more can be found in the comments.

YouTube resources

Exploring Esperanto is a useful channel — a collection of short videos on aspects of Esperanto presented in a way useful to beginners, with many useful mnemonics.

Evildea has a direct-method course now being rolled out.

And there are many other Esperanto videos, in and about Esperanto.

Esperanto and the keyboard

The Esperanto letters ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ, ŭ (and the upper-case forms Ĉ, Ĝ, Ĵ, Ĥ, Ŝ, Ŭ) are not found on the keyboard. There are a couple of workarounds.

The x-system. One approach is to use the letter x (not found in the Esperanto alphabet) immediately after a letter that should a diacritic, with the understanding the the “x” is to be read as indicating the presence of a diacritic — thus, for example, “ĉirkaŭ” is typed as “cxirkaux.” I personally do not like that approach at all.

X-system with add-on to convert. You can install some keyboard apps that will convert x-system letters to Esperanto letters: for example, you type “cx” and it is converted to “ĉ” by the memory-resident app. I have such an app on my MacBook (and for Windows there’s Tajpi). My Mac app is not all that good — it doesn’t work in some programs (e.g., here in this browser — cx remains cx) — and when it does work, the letter must be typed by itself — that is, to get “ĉirkaŭ” I must type “cx irka ux” and then remove the spaces. OTOH, Tajpi seems to work well in Windows and on Linux.

X-system with automatic conversion as you go. The ideal is to type “cxirkaux” with no pauses and continuing to type, with the software automatically and instantly converting that to “ĉirkaŭ.” This is what is done in the text boxes in the Duolingo Esperanto courses and on the Lernu site. But what if you want to write a letter or a journal entry? (I do free-writing in Esperanto in my journal as practice.)

Here’s the workaround I use: Go to this page and type your Esperanto passage using the x-system. X-system letters are immediately and automatically converted to their Esperanto equivalents. As a bonus, in the top menu bar you have a drop-down Esperanto-English and English-Esperanto dictionary (so you can refer to it in the same browser tab). When you’re done, highlight what you’ve typed, copy it, and paste into the word-processor document or email or Facebook entry or whatever.

Perhaps someday word-processors and/or operating systems will have an Esperanto setting that will activate such automatic letter conversions. Until then, this workaround serves pretty well.

For OS X, the ABC-Extended keyboard option works. It’s not so easy as simply typing “x” after a character to get automatic conversion, but with practice it goes well. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Input source. Click “+” under the list of keyboards activated and you’ll see a list of possible keyboards (Esperanto not included). Click “English” and a list will appear at the right of variations of English keyboards (e.g., Dvorak). Click ABC Extended, explained here. Once that keyboard is active, Option+6 with type ^ and the next character typed will appear under that: the sequence “Option+6 c” produces ĉ. “Option+6 S” produces Ŝ. For ŭ, type Option+b u.

Online Esperanto grammars

There are many on-line resources, such as Plena manlibro de Esperanta gramatiko (PMEG), whichis discussed in this thread (mostly in English) on the Lernu forum. One user, Metsis, notes that PMEG “is the ultimate grammar reference in practice. Very thorough… and completely in Esperanto, which makes it very hard for komencantoj. But once you master enough, it is the must source for the grammar.” For komencantoj, though, the Lernu grammar linked above is a good start.

From an earlier period, the first serious and complete grammar of Esperanto, Plena Analiza Gramatiko, by Kálmán Kalocsay (a notable Esperanto poet) and G. Waringhen (responsible for Plena Ilustrita Vortaro — see below), is available as a PDF. The PDF is of the “kvina korektita eldono” (fifth corrected edition).

And here’s a useful grammar in outline form by Jirka Hanna.

Though not specifically a grammar, Tekstaro de Esperanto is a searchable database of canonical Esperanto texts that allow you to see in context how a word or phrase is actually used (and to what extent it is used). Very useful site.

Transitive/intransitive verbs. Esperanto uses the suffix “-iĝi” to “turn on” intransitivity — e.g., an adult’s statement “Mi rompis bovlon” (I broke a cup) can be made into a child’s statement “Bovlo rompiĝis” (A cup was broken) — and “igi” to “turn on” transitivity” — e.g., “boili” is intransitive, so a man standing at a stove might call out “La lakto boilas!” (The milk is boiling); “Li boiligas la lakto” (He is boiling the milk) makes the verb transitive. J.C. Wells has a very nice one-page summary (PDF) that clarifies the transitive/intransitive issue.

A very small number of verbs in Esperanto are both transitive and intransitive. These arose very early in the development/evolution of Esperanto, and all other verbs are either transitive or intransitive but not both. An example is “bati” (to beat): “Mia koro batas” (my heart beats) and “Mi batas la tamburon” (I beat the drum). Those verbs are listed here.

Online Esperanto dictionaries and encyclopedia

La Simpla Vortaro is a very nice implementation and offers many examples of usage in Esperanto for the word being defined as well as giving the best approximation in a variety of national languages. I use it often.

Plena Ilustrita Vortaro (PIV or NPVI — the “N” for Nova, an updated version, which is what is on-line) is the authoritative Esperanto dictionary. The link is to an on-line searchable edition. UPDATE: The newest version, PVI 2020, is now available on-line. This is worth using. Word definitions are accompanied by examples of the word in use.

Reta Vortaro (ReVo) is a good companion to PIV, with ReVo being more current though less extensive. For example, PIV definitions will not include any references to (say) the internet, web sites, and the like.

Glosbe English->Esperanto dictionary is one of many dictionaries at that site, including quite a few from English to other languages. The definitions, however, are not always reliable. Treat it with caution.

English->Esperanto Annotated Dictionary can also be downloaded as a free PDF, though the on-line version is considerably easier to use if you have a good internet connection.

Being colloquial in Esperanto: a reference guide – Revised edition, by David Jordan, is available online. The link is to the Table of Contents. From the introduction:

It consists of more complete descriptions of Esperanto than would be appropriate in an introductory work, but it is also characterized by very many examples, always fully translated. In addition, it tries to use the most familiar vocabulary possible to discuss Esperanto grammar, eschewing innovative analyses in favor of sometimes less precise terms already known to most readers.

Like many another reference work, Being Colloquial in Esperanto is likely to be more useful in electronic format than in paper.

English Expressions and Phrases in Esperanto, by  Felix Woolf, is somewhat dated but still quite useful, particularly when the English expression is an idiom that, if literally translated, would make no sense to a non-English speaker. The link is to a downloadable PDF of the book on Facebook. Quite a few of the expressions/phrases are specifically English in the sense of being common in the UK, not so common in the US. Still, a useful reference. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of how frequently we use idioms without realizing that they are idioms.

Lernu.net includes English->Esperanto and Esperanto->English dictionaries, but they seem more limited in scope. The link to them is in the top menu bar once you log in to Lernu.

Context is important for understanding nuance in word meaning and usage, and thus La Simpla Vortaro and NPIV include examples. A more comprehensive source if context is Tekstaro de Esperanto, a collection of Esperanto texts: enter a word and retrieve examples of its use in context. This page provides background and explains how to use it.

Vikepedio is one of the Wikipedia, and it’s a Wikipedium that’s Esperanto only. It’ seems to be quite active: 281,469 artikoloj en Esperanto, 356 aktivaj redaktantoj 117,366 unikaj vizitantoj monate (plus 33,572 per poŝtelefono. That’s as of right now on 16 June 2020.

Esperanto Sites

Esperanto Scrabble tiles. Also, sign language (Australian, British, and US) and Aurekesh.

Edukado.net is a site (in Esperanto) for students of Esperanto.

UEA.facila.org (also mentioned above) is a site specifically create for easy (“facila”) materials for novices in Esperanto.

Esperanto Language Blog is a blog (in English) for students of Esperanto. It contains many clarifying brief articles, and you can subscribe to see new posts.

Eventa Servo provides a list of Esperanto events, physical and online, and thus provides opportunities to practice your speaking/listening skills as well as enjoying the events.

Ekparolu.net is a good site for using and improving your speaking (and listening) command of Esperanto. Speaking and listening skills are independent of each other and of reading and writing skills, and so speaking and listening must be practiced on their own. Ekparolu helps with that.

Esperanto Panorama has links to a wide variety of Esperanto sites and resources, including courses, chat rooms and forums, music, text materials (books, magazines, etc.), radio programs, and more.

You can also find sites that offer free works downloadable as PDFs, like this compilation.

Pasporta Servo is a site to find holiday and vacation lodging with those who speak Esperanto. If you travel to another country, being able to stay with Esperanto speakers (assuming you speak Esperanto) can be advantageous.

Esperanto media

A good collection of original Esperanto short stories (“noveloj” — the Esperanto word for “novels” is “romanoj”) is worth using as you gain Esperanto knowledge (including vocabulary) and experience. Reading literature lets you see words in context, which illuminates meaning and nuance. If you have an ebook reader, you can use the (free) program Calibre to convert PDF files to a format the works with your reader and easily load the book (or short story) — see this post for details.

For Esperanto pronunciation, John Wells offers excellent guidance in this brief video. He also has a series on Esperanto phonetics that begins with this video. It’s important to pay close attention to pronunciation to avoid an national accent, and it’s best to practice good pronunciation at the beginning since bad habits are difficult to correct once they’re established.

There are several podcasts in Esperanto, and Studio provides on-line “Radio-Televido en Esperanto.”

See also Facila and Kontakto for articles and more.

KantarViki is a wiki of Esperanto songs and related material.

And, of course, YouTube offers a plethora of Esperanto videos, in and about Esperanto. Note in particular this Direct Method course now rolling out.

The publisher Mondial, in New York, is making available without cost several volumes of the literature of the Belartaj Konkursoj of UEA. Each of the following is a PDF that can be downloaded from the link.

Belarta Rikolto 2014
Belarta Rikolto 2015
Belarta Rikolto 2016
Belarta Rikolto 2017
Belarta Rikolto 2018

Esperanto organizations

Esperanto organizations can be helpful. Here are three:

It’s a good time to take up Esperanto: more materials are readily available than ever before.

Some post-Duolingo suggestions

I started with Lernu.net and after sampling Duolingo’s approach, I decided to focus solely on Duolingo (along with the Anki flashcards) until I finished it, then return to Lernu.net and finish that course, and then go through Jen Nia Mondo.

I did post a question about ideas for a post-Duolingo textbook/course. The advice I received was that, rather than read a textbook, start reading actual Esperanto writings. The specific suggestions were:

  1. This collection of 25 classic Esperanto short stories.
  2. This virtual Esperanto library from Wikisource.
  3. This list of suggestions from the Duolingo forum itself.
  4. Easy Esperanto Reader: Short stories with translations in English and Spanish, an inexpensive Kindle book. (Note: the book Short Stories in Esperanto by the same author is the same book at a higher price.)

Written by Leisureguy

20 April 2020 at 12:01 pm

Another soft-skin shave, and I think it was La Toja

with 2 comments

First, I want to thank again Chris R who in a comment pointed out the use of the timed release to avoid camera shake. This morning was overcast, plus I had to be at the supermarket by 7:00am, so I was taking this photo around 6:15am (not much daylight), and the lighting in the apartment is not bright. But the 2-second timed release delivered a crisp focus and without the glare lighting of a flash.

I’ve been noting shaves that result in my skin feeling particuarly soft and supple and trying to guess at the cause — The Dead Sea shaving soap was one, and the Declaration Grooming + Chatillon Lux was another. I recaled that La Toja boasts wonderful skin-conditioning properties (see this earlier post), so I brought out my La Toja shave stick (and aftershave, though I suspect any magic resides in the soap).

Good prep and took my time with lathering. Since it’s a two-day stubble on Mondays, the shave already is set to be pretty good, and I went with the excellent Fine slant — totally wonderful if you keep the handle away from your face.

Three passes — a little resistance, so it gets a new blade now — and the result is again a totally smooth, soft, and supple skin. La Toja aftershave may also have helped — it’s quite a nice aftershave — but I credit the soap (for reasons found at the link above).

I really enjoy starting the week on such a positive note, and the local supermarket is getting their routine polished. One thing that has greatly improved service, and something I hope they will maintain, is using a single queue for multiple servers. This drastically cuts average wait time — plus it is fairer (first come, first served). See, for example, this post. I’ve observed that most post offices seem to have adopted the single-queue/multiple-servers model, as have banks and airlines. For some reasons, though, supermarkets have, until now, resisted. I hope that they continue it post-pandemic.

Queuing theory is fascinating and counter-intuitive. In this post, I quote a brief piece on queuing theory. From that:

Suppose a small bank has only one teller. Customers take an average of 10 minutes to serve and they arrive at the rate of 5.8 per hour. What will the expected waiting time be? What happens if you add another teller?

We assume customer arrivals and customer service times are random (details later). With only one teller, customers will have to wait nearly five hours on average before they are served. But if you add a second teller, the average waiting time is not just cut in half; it goes down to about 3 minutes. The waiting time is reduced by a factor of 93x.

Why was the wait so long with one teller? There’s . . .

There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

20 April 2020 at 8:55 am

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