Chris Gammell's Analog Life

Analog electronics and everything else between 1 and 0

Page 2 of 61

Language Barriers

Despite my love of words, I have never actually picked up another language. I have “studied” both French and Japanese in school for multiple years, but neither of those stuck past a few phrases and vague recognition. While the courses are often emphasized in education, actual long term proficiency (or really long term practice) is never a priority. Thus, American kids don’t normally speak two languages unless a second one is learned at home.

I’m currently in Germany and headed to Serbia soon. I have been in both of these countries once before and rather enjoy the sounds of both languages (obviously I glean a couple of “freebie” words in German, so I’m a bit more partial to that). For both languages/places, I feel super awkward about my linguistic cluelessness. Something I pride myself on is my proficiency of communicating with other humans (ie. explaining an engineering concept to a non-engineer); but in other languages, that skill is completely worthless. It’s like I’ve lost a portion of my brain. It’s like I’m helpless.

I have friends who have started picking up languages by daily practice with tools like Duolingo (a really great app in it’s own right); but the successful ones are those who are immersing themselves in some way. It seems that the key piece is not just grammar or vocabulary, but being ok with working on your skills. Perhaps the most key skill is dealing with the imminent awkwardness of learning a new tongue.

I’m not sure when I will have time to pick up a new language, but I might try to put myself into a situation where I don’t have a choice.

Thanks to Laura for the awkward photo

Modes Of Communication

I have been working on a new mode of connecting with others in the engineering community. It’s been a slog to get people to try it out and use it regularly, but I totally get it. I have so many modes of communication these days:

  • Email (multiple email addresses)
  • Text (multiple phone numbers)
  • gChat (tied to multiple email addresses)
  • Slack (multiple “rooms”)
  • Twitter DM (multiple Twitter accounts)
  • Facebook messenger
  • Skype
  • LinkedIn messages
  • IRC
  • Forums (I run one of my own, though I hardly have time to visit it)
  • SupplyFX (the new site I’m working on)

It really feels like a popularity contest. Any platform is only as good as the one with all the important people on it. This is called a “network effect“. Getting to that point is the hard part. Convincing enough people that it is worthwhile to spend time in one platform vs another.

Aside from thinking about how to get more people to adopt another platform, I feel quite a bit of stress about the range of platforms that I’m already on. What if I’m missing a message? What if someone I’m trying to get ahold of missed my message? Do I try other channels? What if it’s a conscious act (ignoring me)? What if there’s a platform I should be on that I’m not?

It feels like a set of social groups that you can bounce between; sometimes it’s just talking to an individual…sometimes it’s talking to a group. There is definitely a FOMO feeling in there as well (without the accompanying torschlusspanik).

The worst part is also the best solution. Picking one or two methods and sticking to them. In theory, this makes a lot of sense. Our brains can only handle so much stimulation and input, and we really should spend time talking to others in person or working on interesting things. A lot of these modes of communication can be used as escapes instead of connection platforms (people on forums all day arguing about making something instead of making things, posting random nonsense to IRC channels, etc). The downside to this is the assumption that if someone really needs to get ahold of you, they will jump to the platform you have chosen, even if just to grab your attention for a bit. That’s depressing if no one actually jumps over. Sure, it’s ego, but limiting myself to one platform could throw into sharp relief that I’m not really needed for much.

I’m going to keep trying a variety of these platforms and will probably even try out new ones as they pop up. As I have written about recently, I’m most interested in increasing my in-person connections, because those will be the most meaningful (even if the cost is highest for those). I’m planning to reduce communication platforms in the future, but for now….I’m pretty easy to find.

I’m selling my drums

I’ve been playing drums since I was 8 years old; sooner than that if you count pots and pans. But if I look at reality, I haven’t been playing drums for a couple years now and finally decided it’s time to pass them on to another person. Well. Sell them.

The drumset itself was nice enough and I played the hell out of it many times. I even used it to record a few songs with my college band and played some fun gigs. I’m not really sad about getting rid of this set of drums. It’s that I know I’m not going to buy another set for a long time. Maybe ever. So it ultimately feels like an identity issue. I used to be a drummer. Now I’m a former drummer. It’s interesting to think about when that transition actually happens.

I’ve already written a bit about the changes in my work priorities, but there have been changes in my personal life as well. It may seem like a silly example, but switching instruments seems indicative of these changes. I play piano (and sing) instead of drums now. What does this mean?

  • There are no restrictions on sound or when I can play (I can use headphones with my piano).
  • I am making melodic music and singing along.
  • I am the lead player, not a backup player.
  • I don’t require other people to make fully formed songs (experimental drums-only songs aren’t my thing).

The third one is probably the biggest. I don’t want to be the background music anymore. Plus I have always loved singing and that is a very unlikely proposition as a drummer.

As I wrote in my last post, I’m evaluating what got me to the point where I’m living in the isolated suburbs; but since I’m here, I’ve optimized for not having other people around. Finding bandmates requires that they are on the same schedule as me, like the same music as me and are interested in playing music with me. That’s a pretty narrow set of people. I like playing music too much to wait on others to decide they’re ready to play.

So I will celebrate this next step in my life. It’s really a part of a larger trend, I think. I know the general thing makes me happy (music), but I need to find my place in it so I can continue on (piano). Since I have already moved moved on and I still have music in my life, it makes the transition easier. But maybe I’ll go bang on those drums one last time…

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