Later On

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

Archive for October 11th, 2020

Tempeh incubator is working

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Above you can see that the tempeh is doing well at 29 hours. The temperature stays within 1ºF of my 88ºF target, so the temperature control is good. I would say that by Tuesday evening or midday Wednesday at the latest this batch will be ready.

I’m so pleased to have licked this problem.

Update: I spoke too soon. It was another failure, but I finally did figure out the reason. See this post.

Written by Leisureguy

11 October 2020 at 6:56 pm

Esperanto frustration, followed by advance

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The triggering event

Yesterday I was struggling intensely with Esperanto, feeling angry, frustrated, and depressed and came close — very close —  to quitting altogether. The triggering incident was my effort to grasp a distinction that Esperanto makes and English does not.

I find it relatively easy to accept the reverse situation, when English makes a distinction that Esperanto does not. For example, English distinguishes between “that” (restrictive subordinate conjunction) and “which” (nonrestrictive coordinate conjunction). Esperanto seems to lack such a distinction, though (for me) it’s a useful convention, helpful to the reader.

But when Esperanto makes a distinction that English does not, I find it much more difficult because I can’t “grasp” it in some internal way. I felt like a Flatlander struggling to understand the nature of the visiting Sphere (which the Flatlander sees only as a circle that mysteriously changes size). The (two-dimensional) Flatlander cannot get his head around an entity that exists in three dimensions.

I struggled to understand the distinction between “dum” (meaning, in the specific instance, “during” — “dum” can also mean “while”) and “en” (meaning, in the specific instance, “in” — “en” can also mean (for example) “into” when its object is in the accusative).

I had done a translation exercise with the prompt “In June my expenses were too high.” The obvious translation is “En junio miaj elspezoj estis tro altaj,” which I imagine you can readily understand since it’s a word-for-word substitution. But I didn’t want the obvious translation, so I wrote “Dum junio miaj elspezoj estis tro altaj.”

Duolingo marked it wrong (as I thought it might), and in the item-discussion forum I asked whether my formulation was not also correct, since “During June my expenses were too high” seemed to me equivalent to “In June” etc.

After considerable discussion and reading of references and struggling with answers that I didn’t understand and mulling it over, both consciously and not, for several hours, I finally grasped that, in Esperanto, “in” June means strictly at various times during the month, whereas “during” June means continuously (or at least continually) during the month.

“Mi ludis ŝakon en junio” means I played chess at some time(s) during the month of June, and “Mi ludis ŝakon dum junio” means I played continually for the entire month. Here’s a continuous example: “Mi restis ĉe mia onklo dum junio” (I stayed with my uncle (continuously) during June).

In English, the distinction can be glimpsed, but the distinction seems muted and visible only in some instances. I do see that “In June I stayed with my uncle” does not mean the same as “During June I stayed with my uncle,” but “During June I overate several times” seems perfectly fine (as a sentence, not as a practice). But while I may be perfectly fine in English, it’s unacceptable in Esperanto, which is much more careful than English in distinguishing continuous vs. intermittent actions over a given time period. In Esperanto, one can say “En junio mi tromanĝis kelkfoje” but to say “Dum junio mi tromanĝis kelkfore” is incorrect — and now that I’ve internalized the Esperanto distinction, the second version feels wrong, where the English “During June I overate several times” feels fine.

The frustration

I was so frustrated and depressed by my inability to understand what was wrong with my proposed wording that I was ready (and gearing up) to quit. I would have walked out on the spot (as it were) except that I have only 5 skills left in the Duolingo course (all but one partially completed) and just 5 days from completing a six-month (180-day) streak. I thought I should at least persist until then to wrap it up, but I was ready to quit altogether.

This particular event was the culmination of a frustrating period. For the previous two or three days I had constantly been making errors in my Duolingo sessions — stupid errors like getting the tense wrong, or using a singular where a plural was needed (or vice versa), or using the accusative when it was wrong and failing to use it when it was right. I was even making frequent typos. I felt I couldn’t get anything right, and struggling to understand what was wrong in my proposed answer brought my frustration to a head.

I was obsessing about it so much that I woke up around 3:00am and posted in the Duolingo item discussion a lengthy note about my frustration and my inability to grasp why my answer was wrong. Then I returned to bed and went to sleep.

The advance

I slept late, and when I awakened I lay quietly in bed and lazily thinking about a scene, describing the scene to myself Esperante, and I was surprised to find that I could go on at some length fairly easily. It felt like (say) skateboarding along smooth pavement and seeing obstacles ahead in plenty of time to alter my direction and avoid the obstacles — no running into things and even no last-minute hasty moves to avoid things.

Specifically: mi pensis pri aŭtuna tago, kiam la arboj estas buntaj, kaj mi promenis laŭ pado sur kio flavaj folioj kuŝas dise. — that’s one part of what I was thinking. (“I thought about an autumn day, when the trees were multicolored, and I walked along a path on which yellow leaves lay scattered.”)

Another analogy: I as though I were skiing downhill, gliding along with little effort, not going anyplace in particular, enjoying the motion and smoothly and easily avoiding trees and rocks without having to think about it.

This sequence — frustration, sleep, new skill — strikes me as similar to how an infant, old enough to get around easily and quickly on hands and knees, shows great frustration and anger just prior to learning how to stand up and walk. It seems that, just before achieving a new level of skill, one hits an emotional low point. “It’s darkest just before the dawn” comes to mind.

This morning the anger and frustration that last night filled me to bursting have drained away, and I’ve been enjoying my increased ease in expressing myself in written Esperanto.

Moral: Persist. When you’re feeling frustrated, depressed, and angry, recognize that as a promising sign. Those feelings augur a breakthrough to a new level of understanding and skill. Feel good about feeling bad.

Written by Leisureguy

11 October 2020 at 12:29 pm

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