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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

By the Swimming Pool

I was going to write a play called "By the Swimming Pool." It would feature characters talking next to a pool, in several acts, perhaps the same characters talking by the pool at different points in time. I'm not sure if this was really a dream at all, or simply an idea I had lying in bed before I got up.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Real Estate

By real estate I mean the amount of available attention. It could be conceived of as time, space, or energy, too, but for now let's use the idea of attention, what the mind can attend to at any given time, or on any given day.  

A big project you are working on occupies a lot of it, and it does so even if you are not working on it very much. A course you are teaching occupies a certain amount of real estate, even during the hours one is not teaching it or preparing it. We talk about a teaching "load" as though we are trucks and have a burden to carry on our backs.

Other parts of life occupy real estate as well, relationships, hobbies...  If you imagine a 13-year old boy and 80% of the real estate is give over to sexual desire. A seriously ill person will have most of their real estate occupied by their illness.

With meditation, which I am getting more serious about, you realize you have more real estate than you thought: the mind frees up space by sorting out things that aren't quite as significant and assigning them their proper amount of weight and attention. It doesn't resolve problems, in itself, but shrinks them to their proper size. It is wonderfully freeing.  

We don't want to have a lot of extra real estate unassigned to things. It might make us feel lazy or uncommitted. That is why we might want to take extra things on, even when we don't need to. It is fine to have the attention occupied by something meaningful, and freeing the mind from unnecessary shit helps us to refocus on things we actually might care about.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


I found this nice translation of one of my favorite haiku by Basho, by the Portuguese poet Herberto Helder:

Ervas do estío:
lugar onde os guerreiros


I've probably already written this post in the past, but here goes:

What reading in a foreign language does is to cement the basics. You will see the 5,000 most frequent words over and over again. You need to read long 19th century realist novels that have a lot of words, both in terms of the number of words in the novel (300,000 say) and in terms of the number of lexical items. You will also be memorizing frequently found clusters and combinations of words.

You will be seeing all the words in the closed category of lexical items: prepositions, articles, pronouns, over and over again.  In the open category, verbs, nouns, etc... you will see the most common ones over and over.

You obviously can't start until you have some grasp of some very common words, because the idea is to read fast without looking up words in the dictionary.

Then you will also acquire numerous words that aren't in the first thousand most common. You will be building vocabulary. Reading is much more effective than memorizing words off lists, because reading reinforces the vocabulary as you go along.

You will get an intuitive sense of other things: grammatical structures, rhythms, etc...

I remember as a student reading a lot trying to figure out grammatical structure that hadn't been explained to me.  For example:  "lo buenas que son esas tortas."  The word lo, invariant, plus the declined form of the adjective. It is strange and advanced, but I learned if from reading.

How about conversing? That is very good to, in order to converse better.  A few things, though: it is hard to get those millions of words of input as fast from conversing as it is from reading.

Millions of words is not an exaggeration. Works like Fortunata y Jacinta are 1,500 pages. I read almost all of Galdós's novels of the 1880s as an undergraduate, and he wrote one almost every year.

The rather extravagant idea is to be a literate person in another language. Literate at a fairly high level, like that of a college student.

There is another benefit, perhaps, is that the brain is creating new pathways, it is working hard at creating new pathways, conscious and unconscious inferences.

Monday, April 16, 2018


Usually, the person I will coach or mentor is not doing something that I would do. Often, the ideology or critical method is different, or it is not my own field. Mentoring is not the creation of disciples, but allowing the person to do his or her own work in the best possible way. Having someone who is too close to one's own interest is not ideal, because then one's personal opinions interfere.

At the local Italian restaurant

As you can see, the idea here is that Italian plurals follow the Spanish model of adding ess to the end. But that is not the case. The plural of signora is signore, and the plural of signor is signori.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


I've decided to put more effort into mentoring and helping others. My goal is to be in the acknowledgments of everyone's book, if that makes sense. I am very good at being a mentor, editor, and academic coach. Part of what I've realized is that the excessive emphasis on self-development, however necessary, is not the answer. You can be perfectly put together, but if you can't help other people, then you will always be limited. People who are generous to others are beloved figures, and rightfully so. People who aren't generous, well, they aren't beloved.

I can't say I haven't been helpful to others in the past in a kind of routine way, saying yes to people who ask mostly, and I *am* in several acknowledgments. There are people I can point to and say that I've had a role in their professional development. The point, of course, is not to be on that page, but what your name there represents.

Generosity is also the best way to network. It is beneficial from a selfish point of view as well.  It will make you happier precisely because it will bring you out of your self a bit.  What I'm advocating is also a way around resentment at others doing well, or better than you. A better approach is to want people to do well in general.

[Also, I have been a gatekeeper, saying no to bad articles and yes to better ones, with revise and resubmits.  Unfortunately, not letting bad articles get published is also a useful function. The best thing, though, is the pride I can take when an article gets published and is better because of my input.  Here, your name is not known, since the process is anonymous.]

It depends, too, on a highly developed sense of knowing how to do it yourself.  I wouldn't trust a mentor who hadn't cultivated her own garden as well. So if all your work is for other people, and your own work is languishing, then that would be unfortunate.