Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Yes, I did title this post in the cheesiest possible way.

I finally installed my Rosetta Stone Totale Spanish (Latin America) Christmas gift -- over two hours to install all 5 language levels!  -- and have worked through Unit 1, Lesson 4 - Core lesson. 

It's awesome.

Best part: there is zero translation.  It's all image-and-audio based.  You look at pictures, you hear words, you say words (or sounds).  If you're typing anything, it's in the new language.  This is, of course, brilliant, from a business model perspective because they can use the same Spanish (Latin America) software to teach anyone who wants to learn, regardless of their native language.  But it's also brilliant from a language acquisition perspective, a topic I know quite a bit about thanks to the state-mandated SEI training I needed for my teaching certificate.

The games (for review) are fun and range from simple (the one where you click on the picture matching the phrase you just heard) to maddening (the one where you try to get Bingo by clicking on words on a Bingo card that you hear in the native speaker's story.)  The native speakers do not speak with exaggerated slowness, and great deal of time is spent on ear training, as in  Wait, what did I just hear?  Fortunately you can (almost) always click on a button to hear a phrase repeated.

The voice recognition software is awesome, too.  It kept dinging me for saying "nosostros" when I should have been saying "nosotros" with no "s" before the "t".  It's a very subtle difference, but it wouldn't let me continue until I figured it out and got it right.  There is a really good balance of just repeating what the native speaker said and having to generate your own responses, too.

So far so good.  The program spirals back periodically to review older, already mastered material so it doesn't fall out of your brain, the same way you would, in real life, continue to use those first simple words and phrases day to day. 

High point so far: I managed to roll an "r" once yesterday. I hope if I keep practicing, I'll really be able to speak Spanish properly, not just comprehensibly.

Lord of the Flies

I started it on the flight out and finished it today. It's a little thing, but it does not go quickly. Golding's prose demands thinking about.

Somehow I managed to get through all my formal schooling without ever having read it. I knew of it, and knew the plot outline as well. And now having read it, I can see why it's on reading lists.

In contrast, DH and I saw Prometheus last weekend, and it was a crashing (literally) pretentious bore.  Its attempts to tackle primal questions (Who are we?  Why are we here?) were so awkward and obvious and predictable.  Lord of the Flies asks many of the same questions but with elegance and power.  Both works have scenes of terror, suspense, and violence, and both deal with isolated populations coming to grips with human nature, but that's where the similarities end.

100 years from now, we'll still be reading Golding, and no one will even remember Prometheus.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

"I have a knife."

On the last day of school, I brought eight huge seedless watermelons to share with all my students and co-workers. How does that work? This:

is how you slice watermelon on a school campus. It's plastic, and you would have to try very, very hard to injure a person with it. I didn't let anyone else even touch it and kept it in closely guarded custody.

I didn't know whether to be amused or exasperated by the 7th-grader who insisted that I could not slice watermelon with a plastic knife, notwithstanding that I had already sliced up four or five that day before having that conversation with her. A lot of junior high kids struggle with the intersection of reality and their concept of it.

coasting, now

School is out!  Thursday was my last day with students, and it drifted by with endless streams of students in my bare classroom, come to have watermelon and listen to music and hang out.  Friday I spent less than two hours finishing up, packing my desk and labeling my furniture -- and then spent another couple of hours wrestling with slow computers and OpenOffice, running some simple analysis of my students' AIMS scores.  (Short answer: better than last year [yay!] and reasonably well correlated to my benchmark test [yay!].)

It took a while for it to really sink in, but by yesterday evening I was practically giddy.

Today? Planning this last week at home, cramming as many home cleanup and improvement projects as possible into these few shorts days, working around the already-scheduled appointments. 

Monday I'm going for the CA-125 blood test, which is screening for ovarian cancer.  It's not definitive in and of itself, but it will provide some information as to what's going on with me.  I've already scheduled a follow-up ultrasound on that cyst for July, and I will do my best not to think about it until then.