Some Thoughts On My Experience Taking Leonard Peikoff’s Grammar Course

I have completed Leonard Peikoff’s Grammar Course. Some thoughts below.

Grammar Improvements & Weaknesses

This first section is about improvements in my grammar ability and a weakness that I realized.

  • I got a more thorough understanding of grammar, including some fine details like when to use the perfect infinitive. I like grammar πŸ™‚
  • I am paying more attention, on an automated basis, to various issues like parallelism, subject-verb agreement, and the use of appropriate clauses/phrases when writing.
  • I’m catching more errors than I used to in my own writing and in other people’s writing.
  • In terms of subject-specific weaknesses, my ability to readily connect the name of a tense and mood to a specific verb form is not good. Not a huge priority for me because I think it’s more of a naming-the-thing issue than an issue of screwing up what verb form to actually use, but it seems worth identifying the issue.

Value of Course for Getting Better at Learning

This section is about the value that I got from the course in terms of my overall learning ability/skill, as well as in terms of my motivation & confidence.

  • I got some practice with the idea of honestly self-evaluating my understanding and my errors, and doing so in public.
  • I improved my ability to take notes. At some point I realized my note-taking skills were below par and that was causing a problem. As a result, I consciously increased the level of detail in my notes, and that helped a bunch.
  • I had the positive experience of coming back to something that I had struggled with previously (the Peikoff course) and managing to succeed
  • I got some experience with moving through a large, complex body of material at a quick pace without getting stuck, which is something I haven’t done much of recently.
  • I wrote more than I’ve written in quite a long time (even though a lot of it was notes, it was still my attempt to organize some information + had my thoughts and comments).

Learning-Related Areas for Further Improvement

This section discusses areas for further improvement regarding future learning efforts.

  • I can still do better in terms of organizing things like notes and answers.
    • One specific thing I noticed is that sometimes I talk about something kind of generally – in a disorganized and wishy-washy way – rather than presenting bulleted points, giving yes/no answers, offering specific edits that I would make, and that sort of thing. This makes my material more difficult for others to read and more difficult for me to evaluate. So working on the skill of thinking about the most sensible way to organize what I’m writing seems important, as does making sure that I offer a clear final evaluation.
      • To that end, spending even a few minutes consciously thinking about the issue of writing organization before I write a bunch of stuff will probably help a lot. I’ve noticed myself having to spend time cleaning up organization issues later, so if I had a policy of thinking consciously about how to organize things at the beginning of writing, rather than just jumping right in, I’d probably save lots of time.
  • I can make better use of existing resources. For example, Anne B went through the course not that long ago, but I only thought to look at what she said and compare her answers to mine pretty late in the course.

Thinking, Learning & Doing – October 7, 2020

πŸ€” πŸ’¬ Thinking About Problems

Dictation Software

I want to do dictation on macOS. I find it useful for getting ideas down without doing lots of unconscious filtering. After getting the unfiltered ideas down, I can edit the result and get something more coherent and readable.

The standard macOS dictation feature has a 30 second limit, which IMHO is bad. You also can’t do commands like “new paragraph” and stuff like that. They used to have a different option called Enhanced Dictation that didn’t have the 30 second restriction. Unfortunately for me, Apple replaced the Enhanced Dictation feature with something called Voice Control. When I try to use Voice Control, my entire computer lags constantly and is basically unusable. My computer is a bit old now (2015 iMac) but pretty powerful, so I don’t think it should be performing like this. I think something is wrong. I looked online and found many complaints about the performance of the Voice Control feature.

Dragon stopped making dictation software for the Mac. The other thing people typically recommend is Google Docs voice typing, but I hate Google Docs and don’t want to use it. I also have tried it before and don’t recall being particularly impressed with its audio performance.

One thing I considered was recording an audio file and then having it transcribed, but that seemed like it’d be a bit ridiculous/slow/heavyweight for what I want. I want to be able to quickly jot down thoughts with minimal turnaround time.

One idea I came up with in the course of writing this post was to try Otter. Otter is a web service that I already use for various transcription purposes. My normal workflow is to import some audio or video file or whatever that’s already already been pre recorded into Otter in order to generate a transcript of that file. But they also let you record speech directly in the app. And this works through their web interface and their iOS app. And it’s a bit limited, and that I don’t know that you can do the commands like new paragraph and that sort of stuff. And you can’t do it in any arbitrary app, you have to do it through their web browser app or through their iOS app. You also have to export to get plain text, as opposed to what I’d prefer, which is the transcription working directly in the app I’m using to write. OTOH it does seem to work okay. It displays the transcription of your speech on screen instantly, but it takes a bit to for stuff to process so that you can actually export a text file. Otter is also service I’m already paying for. And it doesn’t lag my computer. So it may be good enough for my purposes right now. I’ll try it and see how it goes.

πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€πŸ’» Activities

docassemble

I worked through some ofΒ this tutorial and have been working on a small docassemble project that I intend to actually use. I’ve been making steady progress/mostly not getting stuck, so I’m pretty happy with how things are going so far. I did spend more time on some DNS/SSL configuration related stuff than I would have liked, but I ultimately got everything working after reading a bit about how Docker works. As an overall comment, I’m finding that frequently switching activities and taking regular breaks helps prevent me from spending lots of time grinding away at the same problem ineffectively.

Reporting Bugs

I’ve been aggressively reporting software bugs lately. Ulysses has gotten a few reports from me lately, including a couple of video demonstrations of the bug. Their response time and seriousness level about bugs seems solid.

Grammar

I’ve been spending time on grammar. I made a list of posts that are all about grammar or have significant grammar content. I’m not sure how I’ll integrate that list into my site yet.

Thinking, Learning & Activities – October 1, 2020

Trying Out Flashcard Software

In my last post I described my criteria for a good flashcard app as follows:

  • Has an elegant and easy macOS app for making the cards.
  • Has a companion iOS app for reviewing the cards.
  • Does spaced repetition.
  • Makes it easy to add pictures.
  • (Optional) imports from and exports to standard formats like CSV, MS Excel spreadsheets etc.

What looks to be the number one flashcard app on the Mac App Store, Flashcard Hero, has a free version, so I tried that out. There’s no iPhone syncing on the free version though. Alas!
In the course of analyzing Flashcard Hero, I thought of another criterion: Markdown support. I found a Mac app that has that called Mochi. So I’ll be looking at both apps. I first look at and give my general impressions of the respective Mac apps and then proceed quickly through my specific criteria before reaching a conclusion.

Flashcard Hero

macOS App

App interface looks straightforward.

You enter the stimulus/question of the flashcard in the top field and the answer in the bottom.

There are some formatting options and a thing to insert images. Also a multiple choice thing which I’ll show more of later.



In addition to separate decks, you can organize things into topics within decks. If you only want to study some topics, it looks like you can command-click on the topics you want to study and only study those.


When you go into Study Mode, the default is that the app “hides” the answer on the bottom of the card by covering it up with a blank blue card. That’s a bit too skeumorphic for my taste but not a big deal. You can hit command-+ to make the card pretty big.


You can indicate how hard the card was.

Some study mode configuration options. Switching question and answer is a paid version feature, apparently. Incidentally, I much prefer time-limited but uncrippled full versions of software over crippled free versions.

What multiple choice studying looks like.

The “Type” study mode is kinda cool. It blurs out the answer but slowly reveals it as you type. Could be particularly useful for learning languages. The Quizlet app has a study mode that asks you questions first in multiple choice and then makes you type them out, which I found quite effective for learning vocabulary.

“Type” study mode configuration options. Note especially the Letter by letter versus Word by word setting. Letter by letter reveals each word as you go, whereas Word by word doesn’t reveal words until you finish typing them.

There is a thing for tracking your progress. I’m not too interested in that feature so I’m not gonna go over it in detail.

iOS Companion App

Syncing to the companion app is possible outside the scope of the free version.

Spaced Repetition

They support it.

Adding Pictures

Another thing that exists but that I can’t evaluate cuz it’s a paid app feature.

Import and Export Formats


Okay import options.

Some export options but pretty limited.

Pricing

Flashcard Hero is $12.99 for the macOS app and $2.99 for the iOS app.

Mochi

macOS App

Mochi initially wants you to login but you can tell it that you wanna do guest mode and make an account later, which is a feature I appreciate.

The interface immediately strikes me as cleaner and more elegant in some way than Flashcard Hero.

They have some default cards to help show you how the interface works. The first view, Notebook view, tries to integrate note-taking and flashcard-building. See this Twitter videoΒ for an explanation and this Tweet for some feature explanation. (Note: one downside of Mochi is the documentation is kinda weak, I think because the software is being worked on by just one too-busy guy).

There is a “show all sides” button to make reviewing cards easier.

List view.

Grid view.
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They’re big on promoting the use of keyboard shortcuts, which I appreciate.

Even their markdown formatting guide has a keyboard shortcut.



{{brackets}} appears to be formatting they use to hide individual words on a flash card.


You can cross-reference things! “Antiarrhythmic” on the flashcard, with the little document icon next to it, is a clickable link that takes you to the note depicted above.


I’m guessing this menu option is what you use to generate internal links/references.

Three dashes --- are what you use to divide a card into different sides. So the above card has two sides.

The finished card with the “back” initially hidden. This is a minor aesthetic point, but I like this style way more than the skeumorphic approach in Flashcard Hero.

You indicate whether you forgot or remembered a card with the x or β˜‘οΈ at the bottom of the flashcard and that determines the next time you’ll review it.

The review timing is configurable.

iOS Companion App

They have one, I haven’t tried it yet.

Spaced Repetition

They support it and market on it heavily.

Adding Pictures

Very easy, can just paste stuff into the Markdown editor.

Import and Export Formats

Pretty limited. This is it for import:

And export is only in the Mochi format.

Pricing

Pretty expensive for a flashcard app if you want to use the mobile version. Price just for desktop is okay though πŸ™‚

Additional Comment

One thing I noticed Mochi doesn’t have is tags but it looks like they’re adding that soon according to the website.

Conclusion on Flashcard Software

Both apps seem like they would do the job, but I liked Mochi’s support of Markdown and visual style more. OTOH it’s way more expensive if I want the iPhone app, but I think that probably isn’t a dealbreaker for me. Currently leaning towards using Mochi.

πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€πŸ’» Activities

docassemble

I signed up for the free tier of the Mailjet email API service. Their free tier seems pretty robust (6000 emails a month!) and I just need something to connect to docassemble for the purpose of having my docassemble server mail me PDFs. Using Mailjet, I successfully mailed a PDF from a test interview, so I accomplished my goal. My understanding is that docassemble and Mailjet are using TLS, which means that the emails are being sent in an encrypted and secure matter. That is very relevant/important to me.

I like the docassemble slack channel. There are a couple of people in particular who are really responsive and take ownership over replying to questions, which is important when you are trying to figure out a new thing that is pretty complex.

Miscellaneous

Knees

I mentioned in my previous post that my knee situation has improved. One thing I didn’t mention was that I’ve been experimenting with ankle weights while doing some exercises. I definitely think they can be worth trying and are fairly cheap. In particular, I find them helpful for adding resistance to things like side leg raises.