Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Från biblioteket

I got an email reminder from my local library here in Göteborg saying that some books were two in two days. It's not hard technology, but my old library in Santa Fe didn't do that. Then again, my old library didn't charge overdue fees.

Monday, September 24, 2007

school suxs

Today was a depressing day. I went to school. I didn't like it. I left. And I've had a big headache.

The school was an adult education class run by the city, "Svenska som andrat språk" - "Swedish as a second language". There were 32 people in the class, including me. But let me back up a bit. Last week was orientation for the new people. I didn't remember until late so I got there about 15 minutes after it was supposed to have started. I went to the room I was told to go to, and it was another class. I was very confused, as I often am when I'm doing things in Swedish, but eventually figured out that the teacher who was supposed to be doing the orientation for us was sick that day. It didn't matter that I was late.

I got a copy of the class assignments. The class itself started about 2 months ago so it's 1/2 way through. I then didn't know where to get the book, but the orientation staff (it was orientation for other classes) helped me out there. I got it, and over the last couple of days read through the text for today's lesson.

I showed up today. A bit late because I again had the wrong room, but that's okay as the teacher was also late. There were 32 people in the class, which is 90 minutes long. You can do that math yourself - about 3 minutes individual time per person. It's not worth my time to go to such thing. The Folkuniversitet classes aren't free, but the intensive courses meet every day for 3 hours and there's about 10 people in the class. Much more teacher time, much easier to ask questions.

It also seems that people are in the class in order to get the equivalent of a high school degree. There's worry about the number of points possible in the class - the points are needed for grade advancement, perhaps? Compare to the Folkuniversitetet course where 4 or 5 of the students were trained as doctors and wanted the knowledge to be able to do work in this country.

Once of the differences in pedagogy is that there are actual tests in the course I went to today. That, and the class environment, brought back some horrible memories of high school. I had forgotten just how much I did not like my English classes, and this felt like that. The Folkuniversitet course had at times worksheets to practice on, but that was all self-evaluated. So when I didn't like the problem set at least I could end it with "I didn't like it" and move on.

In ninth grade English class we learned about "diagramming sentences". I remember to this day, and continue to complain, about an assignment that started "have you every seen a pilot fish?". (another time I complained). I thought it was about pilots who fished, and I diagrammed it that way. Of course the other sentences were about "pilot fish" and sharks, but I thought they were just a bunch of random sentences and couldn't figure it out very well. I didn't do well with that assignment.

A few weeks ago in my Folkuniversitetet course we worked on an exercise to convert between passive and active. The text started with some sentences about how the Aztecs used cocoa and how it came to Europe. Swedish recipes are written in the passive voice so I interpreted the first few sentences to translate as a recipe. Which made the last three lines rather harder to interpret.

In class, on a different exercise we had to use "nog", "väl", and a few other words. Those are "probably", "well", and so on. In some cases it was hard to figure out which word to use, and indeed the teacher used a different word than the answer book used. With only 8 of us we could ask about different variations, and get feedback. With 32? No way.

Why the headache? I'm trying again to wean myself off of the juice of the Coke. Now I've caffeine withdrawl headache. Usually it only hits me about 24 hours after I stop, but this one came on a few days later. I tried earlier last year to stop drinking it and managed for a few months. But when I started teaching in South Africa I picked it up again. It's a sort of security blanket - more of a psychological addiction than the physical one. I started drinking Pepsi when I was in elementary school and it's pretty well associated with, say, late night hacking sessions. Though "energy drinks" appear to be taking over that niche.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

apartments, Swedish and pies

The party turned out well. About 20 people (including me) were there. And the pies? I don't see what all the hullabaloo is about making pie crusts. They turned out well. Yes, I've made flakier, and I've got ideas on what to do for next time, but that's at best a minor niggle. Helene looked at it and said "it's an American apple pie." I think because of the top crust. Swedes tend not to do that.

Good news. (And in Swedish you can say "good new" - "news" can be singular). I've found a short-term apartment. It's a 2 room-and-kitchen ('r.o.k'). In reading more about Swedish history, they weren't broken up as "bedroom" and "living room" because they weren't that distinguishable. For example, the entire family might live in a 1 rok, so the 1 room was for living and sleeping. And the bathroom was in the courtyard.

But this is a 2 rok, at about 44 sq. meters, or about 480 sq. feet. My house in Santa Fe was about 1,100 sq. ft. or 102 sq. m. And Sara and I managed pretty easily there. After all, it was meant as a post-war home for young families so should handle parents + 2 or 3 kids. By the way, Sara's back home! Her unit's out of Iraq and she's in Santa Fe again. Though obviously not in my old house.

Anyway, I don't need that much space. It comes furnished, and the price includes the water, power, internet, and heat, as well as access to the laundry room. Unlike US ones where the machines are all coin-op, use of these is included in the rent.

I started with my Swedish course at Folkuniversitetet. It's been annoying and frustrating, for reasons I haven't figured out yet. Still, I am learning. Now that I have a Swedish id I went to the library and got a card for there. I've checked out Swedish versions of Calvin and Hobbes, and of Heinlein's "Have Space Suit, Will Travel." Heinlein is one of my favorite authors and that book, along with "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" are at the top of my list of favorite books.

This means I'm learning how to say "transmogrify" in Swedish, and "spacesuit" and many other essential words. Calvin and Hobbes has been pretty slow reading, and I figured that perhaps I wouldn't read the Heinlein because it's a novel rather than a cartoon. But I took it out and started reading it. And it was good. I've read the story so many times in English I nearly have it memorized, even now after I don't know how long. So I can figure out what's going on from the context, and that helps a lot. Plus, I don't have to worry that I'm missing something subtle. I know the subtle parts. I'm wanting to learn the obvious ones.

So I'm very excited about that too. One things to note though is that the book was written in the late 50s, and translated within a decade afterwords, I'm assuming. That means it has some older vocabulary. As one example, it used "gebit", which isn't in my otherwise extremely good 'Prisma's Abridged English-Swedish and Swedish-English Dictionary.' It's in the online one as 'domain'. The context was "top man in a specialized domain" and I've been looking for a good word to say that I work in a "specialized field".

I was wary because it wasn't in Prisma. At salsa I asked someone there (a Swede) if she had seen that word. I even had the book with me, so I showed it in context. Nope, had never seen it. Later I asked Jacob. It's a German loan-word, with the original meaning of 'career', that in Swedish became more specialized. It's not common these days because English has taken over a lot of the "lets's be cool and use foreign word" parts in Swedish.

I know a Swedish word that a good number of Swedes don't know! (perhaps. a sample size of 2 isn't much).