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J. Daniel Ashton

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Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, —Ecclesiastes 9:10a NIV
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands:
"See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God." —Micah 6:8, CEV
With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment.
Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. —Proverbs 3:5,6 CEV

see also — My Homepage

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Name: Daniel Ashton
Location: Germantown, Maryland, United States

Any links with a dashed underscore probably point to Amazon.com

Saturday, August 27, 2005

English for Russian Speakers

Troy asked me earlier where to find Pimsleur English for Russian Speakers, and the first answer, of course, is "try the library." I find that the most precise way to locate stuff in the Montgomery County Library on-line catalog is by ISBN. To that end, I visit Amazon.com to lookup the ISBN numbers. I'll list the ISBNs I find in hopes of helping you. If you can't dig any of these up in your local library system, check out Amazon's used prices.

I want to give a mention, also, to Rosetta Stone which, to my amazement, is available online through the Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Libraries. The interface is available in a handful of languages not including Russian, but some swift tutelage should be sufficient to enable anyone to use the system to learn English. (Here are my hints: Step 1: use the Guided Exercise then, Step 2: click on the blue/red ribbon to start taking tests.) If you live in Montgomery County, MD or can otherwise obtain a library card number, avail yourself of this excellent resource.
English for Russian Speakers - Basic - Cassette
English for Russian Speakers - Cassette
English for Russian Speakers - Quick & Simple - CDs
English as a Second Language for Russian - AudioChip

Also observe the links to Audible.com, which offers the first eight lessons, downloadable for ten bucks. Not bad.

It looks like the cassette version, ISBN 067158233X, is available in the Montgomery Co. libraries.

By the way, there are many websites selling Pimsleur materials. One of my favorite discoveries is that you can buy entire sets of 30 lessons on a tiny audio chip. That looks too cool!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Russian Study Aids

I've pretty much finished the eight-lesson Pimsleur Russian set, and I'm waiting on the full Russian I to arrive at our local library branch. I think I'm beginning to get a handle on what to expect as I listen to these lessons, but I think it will help if I also write-out some of these words and phrases. To that end I intend to create pages for each Russian lesson, giving the English words and the closest Russian translations I can find, if any of the translation sites provides words that look about right. I plan to add links to this post as I find them.

Long-Term Goals

Today I discovered two of my long-term goals, things more esoteric than "be a good citizen" or "provide for my family" or the more privately-held religous goals. Here they are:

  1. Perform the Brahms Violin Concerto
  2. Vacation on Mallorca

As I was driving home I heard a recording of Nigel Kennedy performing the third movement of the Brahms, and I realized that I'd never gotten well acquainted with the piece. I'd like to, and I'd like to have a reason to play it very well, and a venue.

Not too long after Vicki and I were married we joined the Southern College Symphony for a tour of Spain, which began on the island of Mallorca. Much of the remainder of the trip went downhill in various ways, but Mallorca was astonishing and beautiful, and I would like to take her back there for an extended stay someday.

One more dream reawoke today, although it's much less realistic and possible than these goals. I would like to have access to instruments in the New Violin Family, especially the contrabass violin, and tuned in fifths. However, I recognize that $25K is a lot to pay for an instrument that I might play once or twice a year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Happiness Is Minestrone

Today Vicki sent a microwavable bowl of Campbell's Select Minestrone soup (Recipe #7) in my lunch, and it's making my day. :-)

Monday, August 22, 2005

This may be my favorite picture of me

I was conducting, and my dear friends David and Jeremy (who's also my brother-in-law) were playing recorder. The piece was Vaughan William's Fantasia on Greensleeves. This shot was taken during the Sabbath afternoon reading session of CMW '05.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Google Gmail Reminder

Gmail is Google's e-mail service. Here's a descriptive quote from their help pages:

Gmail is a free, search-based webmail service that combines the best features of traditional email with Google's search technology. Gmail makes locating messages so easy that you'll never need to shuffle mail in your inbox again. Besides this entirely new way of reading and tracking messages, Gmail includes more than 2,000 megabytes of storage space - that's two whole gigabytes. And on top of that, we'll keep giving you more space as we're able. Best of all, it's free.

I have a Gmail account. One thing I really like about it is that it's not from your ISP. Even if you start getting your Internet connection from a different company, your Google Gmail address doesn't need to change. It also works with IMAP, so if you like getting your e-mail in Mozilla or Thunderbird or Netscape or Apple Mail or another IMAP-capable program, you can still do that. You can also access your e-mail through Google's web interface, which is pretty slick.

If you would like an account, and I know you, I'll be happy to send you an invitation.

Weekend Update

Just a few assorted thoughts, unsorted:

Friday afternoon I breezed through Russian lesson 3, and then train-wrecked in lesson 4. I'll be repeating it, possibly twice.

Sabbath morning a good friend gave me a chart of Cyrillic characters, РУССКИЙ АЛФАВИТ, and pointed me toward www.MasterRussian.com, which appears to be an excellent resource.

Another good friend recently expressed a feeling of intimidation that I'm starting to study Russian. It's been a little while since I've had to deal with that concept (that I intimidate somebody), and I'm still not sure what to do with it. I definitely find motivation to study and excel in an area where I will not be alone: all my life it's been easiest to find interest in that which interests others. I like to think that I handle it very non-competitively, gently, humbly, not crowing or gloating about how rapidly I learn or become skilled, trying to avoid comparisons with others who are learning along with me. I certainly want to be awesome with many skills, ranging from musical to lingual to mathematical and many more. But I also want those I'm with to also be awesomely skilled in the same things. Skills that will be inapplicable within my circle of friends will hold less interest for me than those that I can touch on and keep fresh with the people I know best and appreciate most.

Knowing that certain friends are learning Russian makes me eager to learn Russian, not so I can learn more Russian or be more fluent, but so that we will have that much more in common. But if my interest is going to repel a friend and cause them to loose interest, especially in something necessary for a graduate degree, then it may be important for me to back off, or at least wait a while.

Sabbath morning I conducted and Vicki played double bass with a small string ensemble for both services at the Sligo SDA church. We performed Velvet Morning by Sean O'Loughlin, Pavane by Ravel, and Deep River by another composer whose name I forget at the moment. Most of the players were friends or former students of Evonne Baasch, a well-known string teacher here. The performance went very well, and it was a joy to get to conduct again. Perhaps some of the same players would be interested in a longer-term ensemble: we'll see.

This evening my family and a couple of close friends will be visiting the Rainforest Cafe in Tyson's Corner. This will be a family first, and our friends are going along to help, er, interpret the experience. <smile> I'll let you know how it goes.

** UPDATE **

We liked it. We may not go back frequently, but we're happy to have gone this time. The food was, as predicted, not exceptional, but quite enjoyable. And there's enough variety for vegetarians to be content. Aside from all the décor, (huge fishtanks, jungle trees, gorillas, enormous parrots, cockatoos and toucans and even elephants) their pride and joy is a brownies, ice cream and whipped cream desert called the Volcano, which is their closest connection to Farrell's, as it comes with a lit sparkler stuck in the top and one or more staff calling "Vo_o_o_o_o_o_o_o_o_o_lcano!" as they carry it to your table.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Я не понимаю

Yesterday I went through Pimsleur's Russian I lessons 1 and 2 two times each, and I repeated them both on my way to work this morning. It is taking me some extra time to grasp the sounds made by these speakers, although I can't fault them for being indistinct: these recordings are rather clear, if somewhat, um, nasal? pinched?

Part of it, I'm sure, is my visual learning style. (It's funny that I see driving as a time to learn anything, because my memory certainly responds better to written input than to aural.) With German words I had two years of college study to provide a foundation, which made it easy to imagine how any given word might be spelled. Similarly, as I was listening to Italian I and II I could imagine possible spellings based on the international pronunciation of letters in the German and Spanish alphabets. (I took two years of Spanish in academy.) Although merely imagining these spellings might leave me with inaccurate writing, if not further trained, the visual/analytical process at least gave me something solid to hang on to, a picture for each word describing at least how I thought it sounded, visually.

This has not been easy to accomplish with Russian, since the sounds are significantly different. But after three times through each lesson, I'm starting to make connections.

The words in the title above are what I get from the Bablefish when I ask it to translate "I don't understand." The phrase I hear sounds something like this:

Yah nye panyemaio

[Why is there no schwa symbol in HTML?]

Not having learned how to pronounce Cyrillic characters, I can only guess that AltaVista offered a fair translation this time. Someone please leave a comment to let me know how close this is. <grin>

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Language Update: Something Completely Different

Yesterday I finished German III. Vicki spent some time looking at two library branches for either the German Plus (IV) set or Italian III, but came up empty-handed. Instead, she brought me the first eight lessons of Russian. So this morning I started that, featuring the usual introductory phrases "Excuse me," "Do you understand?" and "I understand a little."

Monday, August 15, 2005

Language Update

I finished Pimsleur Italian II several weeks ago and picked up German III. I've been covering 4 lessons a day, since the German lessons are closer to 25 minutes each, and I can squeeze in two lessons on each leg of my commute to and from work.

In contrast to the Italian lessons, I'm not (often) rewinding or feeling the need to repeat these German lessons, since I took two years of German as part of my college education in the late '80s. These lessons are not introducing too many unfamiliar words or grammatical constructs.

This evening I finished lesson 24.

I've been using the German III 2nd Edition CDs borrowed from the Montgomery County Library system. However, if you can get the revised, Euro edition, I believe it will be better. This particular edition has not had the excellent audio quality of the others I've used.

What I'd really like to get is the Audiofy Bookchip version of the Pimsleur courses. Part of it, of course, is the niftiness of carrying 16 CDs worth of audio around on a tiny memory card. The other thing that appeals to me is getting a single edition across all three courses: Although the courses obviously build on each other, I sometimes feel that the older editions may assume slightly different vocabulary than I learned in the German I and II Euro edition courses I used earlier.

But these are minor nits: I'm delighted with the way I'm learning and remembering with the Pimsleur method.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I'm happy today!

Well, it's been a good day. Verizon came by and installed FiOS service for me, and now I'm connecting at speeds approaching 15Mb/2Mb. Within a day or two I plan to move our web server over.

If I could find Verizon's wishlist, I'd add these two items:
  1. I want a static IP address.
  2. I'd be willing to pay the same amount for less than 15Mb download if I could thereby get more than 2Mb uploads.
One of the frustrations of the day is discovering that not all my WiFi equipment is capable of doing WPA-PSK. I guess we'll add some more hardware to our wishlist. <sigh> Oh well.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Vicki Publishes Popular Puzzles

Hey everyone, I just need to crow over my wife's exploits. She presently has half of the six most popular Multi Griddlers, and five puzzles in the most popular Multi Griddlers of all time list. Look!

It takes 10 votes to get on the first list. You know a puzzle is pretty good when the first 10 people to vote on it all give it 100%.