Friday, August 21, 2009

Learning Japanese

I started attempting Japanese this summer. It's been a long-standing whim of mine to learn a non-Europe writing system, and there is plenty of available Japanese text available, so I decided, why not? Beth thinks I've made a lot of progress, even though I only can recognize the kana and a couple dozen kanji.

The kana are easy--just sounds associated with symbols. They all look alike at first, and I still struggle with katakana shi and tsu, so and n, since the difference in those pairs is so small. But I am getting better. Eventually, I hope to recognize them right off and not have to sound them out to make a word, just like I've been doing since childhood with Roman characters. The kanji are easy since I decided to put off associating sounds with them until later. They can be learned just associating concepts, regardless of native language. Writing them is tricky, though. My magic slate is getting a workout. (I really don't know why Deaf students aren't first taught a written language like this, one based on symbols. It would make more sense than teaching a phonetic language. If there is anyone Deaf who has some insight into this, please, tell me! Maybe I am missing something?)

I listen to Japanese music on the way to work and back, and watch a half hour or so of Japanese television shows in the evening, and spend a couple hours looking at Japanese blogs, running them through Google Translate and then picking out interesting looking sentences (the ones Google Translate especially botches :D ) for me to work on myself. Can I translate better than a machine? I have to make heavy use of an online dictionary, but I am getting there! And then, of course, I spend some time every night just working on learning kanji and refreshing the kana.

But, yanub, you ask, how do you find time to do all that? And is that really the best way to learn a language? Answer: Once I get home, I don't do much that doesn't involve sitting. This is interesting, and also doesn't strain my joints. And, you may have gathered, I tend to hyperfocus on things that interest me until I am completely bored of them. Is this the best way to learn a language? Oh, I don't know. It's a way. If I spent time worrying about the best way, then I'd never get around to trying any way.

Hmmm, I guess that's my summer report. Now I should go find some crayons and notebook paper to illustrate it. I wonder if my mom will put it on her fridge?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New shoes!

I had the afternoon off so I took advantage of the time to get myself to the orthopedic shoe store where I could get a pedorthist to help me find a new pair. After all, it has been a year since my last pair of shoes. This time, I had high hopes of at least getting something all one color.

I could tell that the pedorthists were skeptical that I needed any assistance from them. The senior one initially tried to get me to get help from one of the regular sales clerks, but I insisted it was pointless to look for shoes without specialized help because of my joint instability. When the junior, RC, came available, I explained again the general instability problem I have and showed the orthotics I had gotten along with the shoes last year, and mentioned that the pedorthist last year believed that my left leg had lost length. So, RC whipped out his trusty level and, sure enough, my left hip is sitting about 3/4 of an inch lower than my right. That's worse than last year, and I knew right away might be why I have been having so much pain throughout my leg. (You know, I told this same information to my regular GP and my orthopedist, who both promptly ignored it and thought I should have an MRI. I really do hate doctors.)

RC went off in search of shoes for me, coming back with, of course, New Balance, and, this time, a box of Drew mary janes. Oh, joy! Mary janes! Is it even a possibility? And also, of course, new orthotics--arch supports and a heel lift. Because, no matter what else, the old ones always turn out to be Not the Right Thing. Ka-ching! Oh well. When you have floppy feet, you get used to paying for the bones to be on the outside.

We started with the New Balance, with had the virtue of being all black, a definite improvement over last year's white and purple. And with the new orthotics, it was almost like walking normally. My heart sunk because I knew the Drews weren't likely to be as good. And they weren't. But they were almost as good! It was really tempting.

The drawback to the Drews was that they didn't stop my left ankle from pronating. Which then led to my knee buckling. Which drags my hip and spine down, too. Oh, one big house of cards, that leg is! I don't think RC had ever seen such instability, because he made a comment about me moving my knee around. I again pointed out to him that I all my joints are unstable, and that the only moving I was doing of my knee was trying to keep it from collapsing.

And that led to his suggestion that I need a build-up on the arch support. We discussed the shoes a bit more, because my vanity was pulling me toward the Drew. But I decided to get the NB. Sigh. They really are more supportive. If uglier. But the good part is that the build-up is on the orthotic, not the shoe, so if the opportunity presents itself to get the Drews (a second pair of shoes? for me? ones I could wear and stand in at nice events, not just sit? ooooh, I shouldn't get so crazy greedy!), I can just switch out the orthotics.

So, $235 later, at least, my shoes are all black and not driving me to my knees. Worth every penny.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On pain and piety

Frida wrote a thought-provoking post on the significance of crucifixion in regards to understanding pain.

Speaking as an atheist, I don't really know of any other atheists who mock crucifixion. "The" crucifixion, maybe, but that is because the one single event is teased out of the tens of thousands and held up as something special, while all the others who died horrible deaths, alone and in pain, bodies disposed of like refuse--nothing and nobody so who cares? But taking Jesus as a representative case--as Frida does--rather than a special case is a healthy approach, I think. It acknowledges all the others, elevates the worth of all the other individuals who are largely nameless, recognizes the shock against humanity inherent in torture and murder. And in that way, the example is edifying.

The trouble with pain is that it can't be seen by others. People who are comfortable like to flatter themselves that they have somehow done something to deserve their comfort, that those who experience misfortune are maybe pitiable but still deserving of their hardship. And I wonder if, in this age when human sacrifice and mass execution is no longer in vogue, if the refusal to honor the pain of others, to respect and allow the alleviation of pain, isn't some sort of vestige of the past, a sacrifice that pain sufferers are supposed to nobly endure for the sake of the larger community? I remember reading a short story years ago in which a society had developed without any want, deprivation or pain--except for one child, who was kept locked away and tormented, whose suffering was considered essential to the well-being of the rest of the society. I think there is an extent to which poverty, pain, and disability treated that same way now, so to the extent that a lot of people allow themselves to think about those problems, they are seen as sacrifices. And in that way, the usual story of Jesus is again reflected, making a widespread social and political problem that could be resolved with human will into disparate special acts of sacrifice that should not be tampered with and that bear no relation to each other. After all, the lesson of the crucifixion as I was taught it as a church-going child included stress that Jesus wasn't like those he was crucified with. Those others, they deserved it, but Jesus was pure. I reject that. No one deserves pain.