Thinking & Learning Activities – September 9, 2020

Grammar 📖

From homework 1 to Leonard Peikoff’s Grammar Course:

Identify any errors in the use of modifiers.
1. The bell sounded loudly and clearly,

Peikoff says (my own transcription):

Sounded is one of those words we mentioned that is like “was”. It does not indicate an action but a state of the thing. It’s really how you perceive the thing. But the thing itself is not active. And after a verb “to be”, a verb indicating state, you always take adjectives not adverbs.

I disagree. I don’t think Peikoff is totally wrong to read the clause the way he does, but I think the question is ambiguous. For example, “sounded” here could be used in the sense of “To make or give forth a sound: The siren sounded.” (American Heritage Fourth Edition). Peikoff’s reading is still connected to actual sound waves but seems more in the spirit of “To present a particular impression: That argument sounds reasonable.”

I actually read it as meaning the first definition initially, so I’m not just looking for something to be pedantic about. However, I had a mental model of Peikoff that indicated he thought there was supposed to be an error in this part of the sentence, and I tried to puzzle it out for a while and wound up just listening to what Peikoff’s argument was. I am respectfully not persuaded. With the dictionary definition I used, I think loudly and clearly are appropriate here as adverbs.

and still waters run deeply,

My initial guess is that “still waters run deep” is some kind of idiomatic phrase/special exception, making this “wrong” idiomatically even though it’s more consistent with normal rules of English.

Oh lol Peikoff actually says that because still waters don’t run, “run” merely indicates that they “are”, and so consistent with what he said earlier you want an adjective after such a verb.

but even so I feel real well.
“real” should be “really”. “Well” is an adjective describing how the person feels. “Really” modifies that adjective and so is an adverb and so should get an -ly.

Peikoff adds, consistent with his theme, that that since “feel” indicates state, it should be followed by an adjective – in particular, “good”.

  1. Where vacation dissatisfaction existed, advance recreation planning had been insignificant—a problem particularly acute among mathematics students who forget basic philosophy principles.

Hmm. Initial thought is this just seems really wordy. Both “advance” and “recreation” can be adjectives so I don’t think that’s the issue.

OK Peikoff says there’s an error repeated four times in this sentence hmm 🤔
Oh is it the passive voice? A dissatisfaction existed… a planning had been insignificant … a problem [was] acute … and the students don’t actually connect directly with “forget” cuz the “forget” is in the “who” clause.

That’s not quite passive voice consistently though. Peikoff says what he has in mind … juxtaposition of nouns. I had some inkling that might be his complaint but didn’t pursue it for some reason. I think I was grouping the words Peikoff might be complaining about incorrectly in my head. Here are his actual complaints:

vacation dissatisfaction
recreation planning
mathematics students
philosophy principles

He wants people to say e.g. “students of philosophy” not philosophy students. I’m not sure I agree but maybe I’m just used to modern/worse writing? 🤔

  1. Newspaper headline: Macmillan refuses bank rate rise leak probe.

This is actually unclear. The meaning would be clear to me if it was “Macmillan refuses bank rate rise probe.” I’d read that as “Macmillian refuses a probe into a bank rate rise.” But I’m not sure what to do with the “leak”.

So Peikoff says that the facts are: there’a a rise in the interest rate at the bank, there’s a leak of the rise in the rate at the bank, then there’s a probe into rise in the rate arising out of the leak.

Thinking About Problems 🤔 💬

👨🏻‍💻Law Software

I’ve been playing around with a software service called Documate for a while. It lets you make interviews and use web forms to gather data that you can input into Word Docs and PDF. One application relevant to me is filling in legal documents. It’s cool, but I’m not keen on having ongoing fairly expensive (for me) software-as-a-service type costs and not having the interviews I’m making be data fully under my control. Portability is a big thing. I changed web providers not that long ago. That wasn’t too hard to do, because all the software stuff I was for my websites is standard stuff that can run on any commodity web server. But when you are using a proprietary software service, your stuff isn’t really portable. This is an issue people talk about in the context of law practice management software as well … once you enter all your client and case data into one of these proprietary systems, it can be a pain to get it out, so you’re either hooked into paying an ongoing expense or dealing with an aggravating data migration process.

So anyways I’d made a couple of interviews to test drive the software, see what it was like. I recently discovered that it’s actually powered on the back end by open source software called Docassemble, and that it’s quite easy to install an Amazon instance of Docassemble and get started…so easy that I did the initial set up steps in under an hour! 🙂 So I think I may cancel Documate and build my interviews in Docassemble. This will require some learning since Documate is basically a customized GUI front-end for Docassemble. I like watching videos and reading about technical stuff though and it’s not very technical anyways, so I should be fine.


I talked in the previous post about considering getting a rowing machine. I’m still considering that, and have added price alerts for some on CamelCamelCamel. One thing I realized I should try for my knee issues though is KT tape. I actually got some quite a while ago but never really tried using it, and some people say it can help.

🥘Spice Rack and Spices Expiring

I recently took an inventory of my spice rack and cooking oils. Most of them are expired! 😓 I’m not sure how much it matters though.

I’ve googled and there are various opinions on how long it’s okay to keep stuff. I also don’t like the idea of having “expired” stuff. People say that for spices the general issue is that they lose potency. So they don’t actually go bad in a way that can make you sick, but they become ineffective. Still, that’s not good. OTOH oil can actually go rancid, but supposedly it’s easy to tell when that’s happened.

Spices are pretty cheap to replace and I’m cleaning out my kitchen, so I’m considering purging a bunch of the old stuff. My intuition is that if something is just a bit out of date I won’t worry about it, but if it’s well out of date it should get tossed.

🗣 Practicing Explaining Something Simple: Softening Butter in a Microwave 🧈

If you want to bake cookies or easily spread butter on bread, you’ll want to have some softened butter. One way to soften butter is to just leave it out. That can take a while, though. A faster way is to use your microwave.

Using a microwave at full power is likely to get you melted butter, not softened butter. To consistently get softened butter out of a microwave, you want to use your microwave’s power settings. How you adjust the power varies from microwave to microwave, so if you’re not sure, you may want to check the manual for your model. You should start with a low power setting and check in on the butter every 10-15 seconds until you get a sense of how fast your microwave softens the butter. Once you have some practice, you can use more power to soften the butter faster.

One issue you may encounter is uneven heating of the butter. If you put a whole stick in, even at low power, you may find that the edges soften while the center remains hard, and that the edges melt as the center softens. There are different ways to handle this. One way is to withdraw the softened portions of butter as they soften (to a bowl or whatever) and just leave the harder butter of the butter inside the microwave for further softening. Another thing you can do is cube the butter some and put it evenly around the edge of the plate you are microwaving it on. That should lead to a more uniform result.

🧠 🌩 Brainstorming: Exercises to Get the Heart Rate Up With Low Impact on Knees 🏃🏻‍♂️

(more interested in stuff that doesn’t require a gym but just trying to consider all options at the moment)

Rowing machine
Elliptical Machine
Cycling (though that can cause knee issues too…maybe a recumbent stationary bike would be good though)
This thingamajigger
Ran out of ideas…suggest more in comments!

Peikoff Grammar Trees Lesson 1

I tried making some trees for some of the exercises for Homework 1 of Leonard Peikoff’s Grammar Course. I’ve embedded a preview of the PDF below, but I think the embedded preview is not very good, so it is probably best to view/download the PDF by using this link. I think the embedded feature may work better for stuff that is more one-sentence-at-a-time rather than huge things with multiple sentences together.

Peikoff HW 1 trees

I’ve gone through Lesson 1 of this course before. I looked at my notes a bit to refresh myself on some details but mostly focused on using the course content to practice making trees.

I also made a spreadsheet of some of the terminology in Lesson 1 order to test the import feature of an iOS flashcard app I had. The spreadsheet contents are below

Grammar is the study of what?How to put words together to form meaningful sentences.
InflectionChange in form of word in order to express a change in the use or meaning or role of a word.
E.g. "I" and "me" are the subject and object forms of "I".
SentenceGroup of words expressing complete thought or feeling.
4 types of sentencesdeclarative (says a fact), interrogative (question), imperative (gives an order), exclamatory ("whew!" or "aha!" which is why feelings are mentioned in definition of "sentence")
Meaning of the perioddemarcates the end of a unit
Expletivesempty word for getting a sentence started, which isn't in subject or predicate.
E.g. there in "There are three dogs on the corner."
PhraseThere are three dogs on the corner.
Prepositionsgovern spatial or temporal relationships for some bigger word that comes after them.
Adverbmodifies a verb, adjective, adverb. or modifies whole clause or sentence. (adverb often ends with "ly" like "ran quickly")
Conjunctioncombining word like "and" or "but"
Nounscan be objects but also e.g. "running" or "love" or "space". anything you could say "is" about.
Verbstalk about action (walking, hitting, thinking) or state of being (is healthy, smells good) of some subject.
Verbalsword derived from verb, but not a verb. like "running". there are 3 types of verbals:
- gerund: noun verbal ("running is fun")
- participle: adjective verbal ("running water")
- “Running quickly, he soon tired.” — “running” is a participle describing “he.”
- infinitive: typically "to [verb]", variety of uses including noun
Adjectives modifies a noun
Adverbsmodifies a verb, adjective, adverb. or modifies whole clause or sentence. (adverb often ends with "ly" like "ran quickly")
Complementcompletes a sentence. adds what's missing to e.g. "I hit" (what?) or "I met" (who?) or "I am" (what?)
Objecta complement that designates action rather than state. in "he hit the ball", the ball is the object of the action. but with "He is happy" then "happy" is a complement but not an object.
Main Clausemain part of complex multi-clause sentence, essence of thought. for good writing, your main idea should be in the main clause.

Question about possessive words

I have a question about possessive words.

Consider the following examples:

  1. Sarah has a hat.
  2. This is Sarah’s hat.
  3. This is her hat. (“her” referring to Sarah)
  4. This is hers. (“hers” referring to the hat being Sarah’s hat)

My question is how to think about stuff like “Sarah’s” in example
2 and “her” in example 3. Here are my numbered comments on the above

  1. “Sarah” is clearly a noun in the first example.
  2. “Sarah’s” is the possessive form of “Sarah.” So by adding
    the apostrophe + s to “Sarah”, have we changed the part of speech of
    the word “Sarah”? Is “Sarah’s” a modifier now? Or is it kind
    of like a verbal, where Sarah is derived from a noun and can still be
    thought of as being a noun, but can take on roles other than strictly
    noun roles? (A noun-al?) I think talking about the possessive form of a
    noun as still basically being a noun is standard.
  3. “her” seems to be modifying “hat.” But if “Sarah’s” is
    a “noun”, then “her” seems like a pronoun. In school, I learned
    words like “her” in example 3 as being “possessive adjectives”,
    and they are typically treated as adjectives in contexts like example 3.
    But I found a page saying possessive adjectives are technically pronouns
    cuz they replace a noun, and that made some sense to me.
    It seems like if a word is replacing another word that we’re calling a
    noun, then the word being used as the replacement is a pronoun. And if a
    word is replacing another word that we’re calling an adjective, then
    the word being used as a replacement is a pro-adjective or something.
    And maybe nouns can do the adjective job sometimes, and maybe so can
    pronouns, but saying that nouns can do adjective jobs sometimes seems
    different than saying a particular word is actually just an adjective.
    So I am wondering if there is a contradiction between viewing
    “Sarah’s” as a noun in example 2 and “her” as an adjective in
    example 3 based on the argument that “her” is a pronoun, not an

  4. I think “hers” stands for something like “her hat.” So maybe
    it’s really like a pro-noun-phrase. I’m okay with calling it a
    pronoun though. It is in fact standing for a noun, I think. It just
    might be standing for other stuff too.

BTW it’s possible that I’m paying too much attention to categories
and labels and that there is a better way to think about all this stuff.
That would not surprise me in the least. But if that’s the case then
there is a better way to understand this topic that I don’t quite
understand yet, so it still seems worth asking the question!