Today’s Learnings 03.15.10

This being the Ides of March, I won’t be joining in any online forums.

Today’s struggles will include refreshing Greek, which I left off several days ago for some reason now lost; continuing HTML/CSS; and start reading a new general philosophy book which arrived a few days ago.

Today’s extracurricular events include re-starting The Plague, as part of the Existentialism video course, which I have neglected.

Included in today’s goals will be the use of my modified Pomodoro technique, that is to say, Pomodoro without the paperwork, said paperwork essentially designed for people who have busy lives in the real world, which I do not.

Results will be posted here later as an update to this post. That will be my regular practice, unless I discover something better. Will I be shamed, or will I be proud? Only the shadows of my mind know.



Greek     2 Pomodoros

Philosophy  1 Pomodoro

HTML     0 Pomodoros [not there yet]

Herewith, a discussion of some of the tools, or parts of tools, that I’m using.

Greek: The thing about Greek is that the alphabet is not the Roman one my mind Greek Lessons 007and eye are used to processing. Notice the character that looks like an ‘n’. The brain wants to say ‘en’ when it sees that, but the sound in Greek is ‘a’ as in ‘hay’. It takes  a while to get the brain realigned.

This 3 x 5 card gives the endings of the first declension, which is feminine, hence the two Fs and the pink marker. The colors for each case are not arbitrary, but an attempt to give the brain more to work with so that it’s easier to remember.

For example, the genitive case (GEN) is green, for the G. The memory key I use for the genitive is ‘genie’, as in giant genie popping out of a bottle. The blue for the DATive case reminds me of blue sky, under with DATe palms grow. Yeah, it’s a stretch. But the date palms are the image. And the ACCusative case gets orange, which is a sort of violent color, which fits the memory key of ACCident, an image of a big automobile accident on the freeway. The NOMinative case is red because red is such a prime, or first, color. As yet I don’t need an image for the nominative case, but it will likely be something like a name, spread huge like the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.

Greek Lessons 008

The other side of the card contains a little mind map. The colors match. The four numeral ones remind that it’s first declension, and the pink central color reminds that it’s feminine. On each branch the singular case ending is on top, the plural on the bottom. All this color and form make the brain happy and playful, involving the visual cortex as well as other parts.

Greek Lessons 009

This would be a two-sided vocabulary card, manually created with exquisite care and craftsmanship. Right. Okay, again with color. In this case, the word, epi, is a preposition, indicated by the purple color, and this purple preposition takes the orange accusative case. Other prepositions would have the purple bar, and either green, blue, or orange, depending on the case they take.

That’s the fundamentals of the flash card system I’ve set up for myself, and to which I can apply memory techniques.

Greek Lessons 004

Similarly, this card has the purple for preposition and green for genitive case, but here’s the memory trick. Memory is about associating things, the thing you want to remember with something you already know. In this case we have a big green genie (the genitive case) and a Greek word that sounds like ‘hoop’, and is pronounced roughly as ‘hoopo’. The mark over the first letter, a vowel named upsilon, is a breathing, in this case with the convex side facing right, a rough breathing, which is to say it represents an ‘h’ sound, hence ‘hoopo’. Facing to the left, the breathing would be a smooth breathing and the word would be pronounced ‘oopo’. (The second mark is an acute accent, or stress, and accents are the downfall of many a student of Classical Greek. I have stumbled badly on them in previous learning incarnations.)

The memory trick in this case involves associating that big green genie (genitive case) with a hoop and with the meaning of the Greek word, which in this case would be ‘from under’. I picture a huge green genie trying to balance on a giant pile of thousands of purple (preposition) hoops, like hula hoops, and the hoops are sliding out from under him. That’s all. Quick and dirty, but to create it I had to focus on all the elements for a second, making a clear image of a ridiculous or exaggerated situation. For an instant, I had one hundred percent focus on it, and so it sticks in memory. It takes way longer to say it than to do it.

The memory images can be as simple or as complex as needed, as long as they are big in some way. Silly is good. Sexy works. Think millions of hoops, for instance. Think of a giant genie stretching way up into the sky. Something simple might be the Greek word for ‘rock’, which transliterates as ‘petra’, and that’s easy enough to think of a pet rock, that fad from whenever it was. And the pet rock can be pink, and it can be the size of a horse, and can jump around and knock you down and slurp your face with its rocky tongue.

Greek is a little tougher for vocabulary memory tricks because of the alphabet. Take the French for ‘grapefruit’ – pamplemousse. Imagine a moose with pimples the size and color of grapefruits all over its body. Betcha won’t forget that real soon. But in Greek there’s the alphabet (and the accents) to consider, so your mind does a little two-step, transliterating while keeping the image of the Greek letters in mind. But the system works. As Harry Lorayne says, “It has to work even if it doesn’t work.” To create the images and associations, you have to focus, you have to put one hundred percent of your concentration on the task, and that creates a true memory. Hell, he’s even got suggestions for memorizing Chinese characters. You know, like Charlie Chan and Jet Li. Yeah, yeah, okay – not sorry about that. 

But that’s the idea. Today’s session went pretty well. I refreshed myself on the chapter where I left off a few days ago, and it went well. I made up some cards for today’s vocabulary.

The good thing about the book I’m using is that the lessons are short, to the point, and don’t encompass more than I can take in during an hour of study. They don’t overwhelm, and everything in the lessons is applicable to reading Homeric Greek and the stated goal of reading passages in the original Greek from the Odyssey. It’s an approach I like, and the transition to Classical Greek should be smooth.

Philosophy: Here I’m starting in a book called, well, ‘Philosophy’, edited by David Papineau, a professor of philosophy at King’s College, University of Greek Lessons 005 London. It’s a history of philosophy and its ideas. I’ve delved into specifics over the past few years, but it’s been hit or miss. I want a bigger picture, an overview, and this book would appear to provide a pretty fair look. And it has pictures! Even one of a naked Eve messing with an apple and the snake. Who said philosophy was for fuddie-duddies?

The first section is about the World and Reality. The latter is a concept I have always had a problem with, preferring my own to  what all the other humans seem to like. That did cost me some time in detention back when.

But it’s an adventure. It’s not climbing Everest, or even Parnassus, but nonetheless an adventure.



Filed under Dailies

8 responses to “Today’s Learnings 03.15.10

  1. Phibun Mike

    Interesting ideas… I am just starting this now. To remember some of the words, I use the modern derivatives. For example, your “hoopo” (which I think has the shorter version of upsilon, so is “hippo” or “hypo”) gives us “hypodermic”. Similarly with the other “epi” (epidermis), “en” (encircle, envelope), etc.
    I hope you have kept it up!
    Cheers, Mike

  2. Ric

    Hi Mike,

    Unfortunately I haven’t, though I have of late been considering getting back to it. What’s your interest, etcetera?


  3. Phibun Mike

    It’s something I have thought of for a few years, but never did. Like you, perhaps, intrigued to be able to read that stuff. Also I have been learning Thai (I live in Thailand), which is very hard, but Greek has the advantages of the alphabet being familiar (from science, mathematics, etc.) and many English words being derived from Greek. I like reading Homer as well as more recent Greek writers (Plato, Aristotle, etc.). It would be cool to read them in the original (yes, I have some Loeb volumes).
    Good luck ig you do get back to it!

  4. Ric

    It might help to get someone to study with, or use a resource like Perseus ( What are using for a textbook (if you are)?

  5. Phibun Mike

    I can’t imagine finding anyone here to study with, but I will have a look at Perseus. I am using Schoder and Horrigan “Reading Course in Homeric Greek”. I am still trying to learn the grammar terms which we did not do at school – I never studied Latin and we seemed to skip formal English grammar.

  6. Phibun Mike

    I’ve made four sentances/phrases to help me remember the different cases of declension.
    1) The *nomination* was announced. (NOM)
    2) The hair *of the genitals* (GEN)
    3) It arrived *on the appointed date*. (DAT)
    4) He summoned *the accused*. (ACC)
    (This course deals with vocative later on).

  7. Ric

    I took a shot at Schoder/Horrigan but got stuck on the dative. My problem, not theirs. I’ve tried several texts, but the one I found most useful was Athenaze by Balme. If I can get off my ancient butt and get going on Greek again I’ll use Athenaze. Oxford publishes it, along with a separate workbook and a teacher’s guide.

    On memory, are you familiar with Harry Lorayne? He wrote ‘The Memory Book’, and his systems, which are simple, date back to Greek and medieval times, updated and modernized. They’re easy to understand and apply to virtually anything. Remember ‘pamplemousse’?

  8. Phibun Mike

    Dative is hard for me too. Schoder/Horrigan also has a teacher’s book, which I have, but unfortunately it has not been revised yet – the other books are 3rd edition. I have read about mind maps, Tony Buzan comes to mind? I don’t use them, but I do associate images with things I want to remember.
    As a general overview of philosophy I like Bertrand Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy”, with some gaps filled by Kupperman’s “Classic Asian Philosophy”.

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