Whatever One Sows, That Will He Also Reap

The month of August was a dreadful failure. I practiced only five hours, and made no discernible progress. That’s really about all there is to say.

Now I’m Ready for Anything!

French Street

Je parle et comprends un peu le français, et j’écris un peu le français. Mais pas très bien.

Translation: I speak and understand a little French, and I write a little French. But not very well.

My phone drowned in a puddle while camping at Flite Fest in July and I lost all of my time-tracking data, so I’m not quite sure exactly how much I practiced, but I’m fairly sure it was 12–13 hours—not quite the 20 hours, but it is nice to be back in the double-digits again. After self-control, travel is the greatest bane to rapid skill acquisition.

Learning French has been a lot of fun! I have the ability to do some very basic communication, have decent pronunciation and accent, and can sort of figure out how a word is spelled, just from hearing it. Duolingo says that I know 134 words, and there are even more that I learned with Pimsleur, so I probably have a semi-working vocabulary of over 150 words! This source says that the 300 most common French words are enough for everyday life, and just 600 words make up 90% of French texts. If the word/time learning curve is linear,  just fifty hours of practice would give you command of 600 words, and make you a somewhat capable member of French society! A diligent and motivated learner would be quite ready to live in France with just 2-3 months of language preparation.

Like any other skill, it seems that language is quite readily grasped with 20 hours of practice, and is really quite enjoyable. If you’ve ever wished to learn a language, go ahead and make a goal of practicing 20 hours, and go for it! You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you can learn, and how enjoyable it really is.

Josiah wrote a clickbait title. You won’t believe what happened next!

Handstand

This post is the most touching thing I’ve read in my entire life. It’s almost as touching as what my hands did with the ground while doing handstands. You just have to read to the end. Seriously though, clickbait needs to die. Slowly, horribly, in a bath of molten lava and hot sauce.

In June I made decent progress, but nothing spectacular. Then again, I did only practice gymnastics for 4½ hours. It’s the muscular endurance that did me in—I never hitting the 30 minute mark for one day, though I was getting close by the end.

An observer won’t begin to cry after seeing my cartwheels anymore (unless they were watching while cutting onions), but they also shan’t cheer in the least. I still don’t really feel like I’m doing cartwheels quite right, which would lend to them the poor appearance that I tend to evoke. I really can’t quite figure out what I’m doing wrong though. Perhaps assistance from someone who can actually do them could have been of great benefit.

Handstands are another story completely. The difficulty here was nothing about form, and everything about balance (and a dash of tenacity). Hands are only a tiny bit shorter than feet, but oddly are much more difficult to balance on, although to be honest, I do have to say that I don’t remember how hard it was to learn to stand on my feet. Despite the unusuality of standing with your feet above your head, I did make excellent progress! I can do an “almost handstand” just about every attempt, and have made several handstands lasting 5-10 seconds. This doesn’t seem like such a great stretch of time, but when you consider that skydiving from 10,000 feet has a freefall lasting only about 30 seconds, it’s really quite a lot.  I made a few small attempts at walking with my hands, both to provide potential future transportation, and as a means to correct an imbalance of balance, but this very nearly fell flat, even if I didn’t.

If June has taught me anything, it’s that the circus will have to be patient.

A little unicycle goes a long way

Unicycle Fencing

For the month of May, I only unicycled for a paltry 5 hours (precisely), making May very nearly a vacation from skill acquisition. And a sort of vacation from everything else, too, as I was out of state for 12 days in May on three different trips, and on another 8 days was gone from home part or most of the day. However! Despite this failure of practice quantity, I still very nearly met all of my lofty (because I’m up a little higher on a unicycle) goals!

☑ Texting while unicycling
☑ Juggling while unicycling
☑ Unicycling backwards
☐ Juggling while texting while unicycling backwards

The first, and easiest goal, that of mounting the unicycle without touching anything with a 95% success rate was met within the first day or two. Unicycling in tight circles was also met quite satisfactorily: I can often do a very nearly 180° turn! On the last day I tried juggling while unicycling, and was surprised to find that it was barely any more difficult than either juggling or unicycling on their own. With just a few minutes of attempting it, I was able to do four consecutive catches multiple times, and while standing on solid ground was only able to do 14 once, with most being in the range of seven or eight catches.

I only put a small portion of my five hours into attempting to unicycle in reverse, and despite this fact, was beginning to make very solid progress. On multiple attempts I was able to unicycle 1½ complete revolutions—or three peddlings—in reverse. The great difficulty comes in the transition from forward movement, to a brief standstill, and then backward movement. Keeping one’s balance at this point is exceedingly tricky, but I feel that a few more hours of practice would allow me to unicycle in reverse for great lengths of time, free from any difficulty of balance.

My approximate ability is shown in this video:

I am very pleased with the improvement I’ve made, almost hitting my goals in just ¼ of the desired time. Now I want to play Unicycle Hockeyand I posses the skills!

Easier Success

Singing In The Rain

April was both good & bad for rapid skill acquisition. On the one hand, I missed a great many days, and only tap danced for a little over 15 hours. On the other hand, the skill of rapid, complicated footwork came without too much difficulty! Becoming really good at tap dancing obviously takes a immense amount of time, as evidenced by the fact that there have only been a handful of tap dancing virtuosos over the past century, but in under 20 hours I learned all of the basic steps, and developed them to a functional (albeit not especially quick) speed.

In my learning I just followed the video lessons linked to in my introductory post, and while the music used and the teacher’s clothing weren’t in the traditional style (or even very nice at all), it didn’t hinder the learning process. Because of the fact of following the lessons, I would learn a new short routine each day or two, but not well enough to actually recall many days hence. This wasn’t an issue though, as the continuous learning helped me to become familiar with the individual steps and tie them together as instructed, rather than just knowing one routine. There was one simple routine that I practiced all through the month:

I also was fooling around and did a fun spin. Yay!

My greatest problem throughout April was my dance floor. I was using a very small (3′ 9″x18.5″) ancient scrap board through most of the month, which was constraining for movement, and didn’t produce the clearest sound. Close to the end of the month I did get a magnificent 4’x4′ sheet of 4-ply pine board, which felt wonderfully expansive, and was a great deal louder & clearer. If only I’d been able to acquire it earlier on, everything about tap dancing would have been even better! But no great loss.

All in all, I would call April a success. I’ve sort of met my ambiguous target performance level, and I think am much more comfortable and fluid with the skill than I had anticipated I would be at this point.

On the contrary, my writing is uncommonly slow!

The above was written in 8 minutes and 24 seconds

Who would’ve thought it could take so long to learn one’s alphabet? March is over, but the handwriting must remain. Somehow. After 20 hours of practice with the Palmer Method of Business Handwriting, I definitely made significant progress, but I’m not yet to the point where it is particularly quick or attractive. At all. I think it would take a total of 30–40 hours to get to the point where I can write quickly, and not have to try and think of how each letter is formed, while simultaneously having the letters consistent & nice. To improve my handwriting at this point I need to shift my focus from handwriting to just writing. My individual letters are reasonable, but words are not. I must simply write a large volume of words, to train my mind to write with quick & beautiful penmanship.

The first six hours or so were spent just making circles and groups of lines, which would at first appear a monumental waste of time and paper, but in doing so, I trained myself to write using my entire arm, instead of just the wrist. Because of this practice employed by the Palmer Method, I was able to easily practice for an hour at a time without tiring in the slightest.

At the beginning of the month it took me 3 minutes 19 seconds to write the upper & lower case alphabet, ten numerals, and “A specimen of my best writing before I began to practice muscular movement writing from the lessons in The Palmer Method of Business Writing.” After 21 hours of practice with Palmer, it took me 8 minutes and 24 seconds—about three times as long! But even just practicing the letters and that phrase a few times at the end, I could tell that I was speeding up each time. The biggest problem is, as I mentioned, that good handwriting takes a little longer to learn. After 20 hours of practice, I was still mostly doing drills, writing “mine”, “uses”, “sell”, and my lower-case alphabet. I had not yet gotten into writing much of your general words, and as writing actual words with a new script takes some mental effort, it slowed things down considerably. I do believe though that I could hit my original goal of 20 words per minute after another 20 hours (40 total) of focused practice.

After these three months, it is beginning to appear to me that 20 of practice on most skills is not enough to be truly proficient, or to have an actually impressive skill level (although this may be different for things like unicycling & handstands). Instead it appears to be just enough skill to enable one to continue in that skill without frustration, and to enjoy it a bit.

I would say that The Palmer Method of Business Writing is definitely an excellent handwriting method, both for legibility, speed, and physical ease. With that said, I completely understand why handwriting is typically taught over years of school, instead of one month.

Just when it was getting fun…

Sailboat

Ukulele seems to be a bit of a repeat of piano (albeit a less fun . Right as I got to the last hour or two, it finally started getting more fun, and my ability seemed significantly higher than ever before. My ability to smoothly & quickly switch between chords is hugely improved over where I was when I began, and even where I was at my last post. Different rhythms, strumming patterns, and picking methods have allowed much more fun & interesting playing as well! All told, I’ve played for 20½ hours.

During the last six hours of playing, I went beyond just playing the seven pieces I had chosen to learn, and tried my hand at playing along with recordings of various songs. I’ve got the keys of C, G, and F covered fairly well, and can play the 4-chord pop song progression (I, V, vi, IV) in all three. I can play all of the songs I’d chosen, but memorization is weak at best, and none are performance-worthy.

To demonstrate my progress (to some degree), I recorded JJ Heller’s Boat Song:

Getting to the point where ukulele is kind of fun to play was excellent. But with that said, I’m ready to move on to a new month, and a new skill.

The world is my oyster! But it’s a hard nut to crack

Success, Baby!
Yesterday I finished up practicing with exactly 20 hours! At around 18½-19 hours, I felt as if my skills had gone up to Level 2! Which is awesome, but also really makes me want to keep playing. Instead of learning 12 skills in 12 months, maybe I should learn them in 12 years… I had planned from the beginning to continue playing piano by ear throughout the year, as I learn my other skills, because it’s something I’d really like to do well. It will likely be a little harder to keep up though, because it won’t be as high of a priority.

So, progress! In the ~6⅓ hours since my last update, I’ve played ‘Throw Another Log On The Fire’ a good many more times, making it sound much smoother & nicer. My primary area of focus was working on ‘A Dreamers Holiday’, as sung by Richard Diamond (again, of course). The recording is really very poor, and working out the accompaniment is very trying. I’ve made some small progress, but nothing substantial. Another couple of hours would get it mostly figured out though, I think. For some reason, getting the melody figured out took a painfully long time. I’m sure the recording had something to do with it, and the fact that I didn’t know the song very well at first. But now I’ve got that down pat!

My one main grief is that I mostly wasted the first seven hours, in not working directly toward my goal. If I had followed the correct path from the beginning, I may have made around 50% more progress. Or for a similar result, I can review where I’m at after seven more hours of practice, which I’ll likely do. At that point I’ll also try and get to a place where I can make a good recording of the songs I’ve learned. And in addition, I shall test to see if I’ve attained my end goal of being able to play a song reasonably well, after 20 tries!

I have doubts that I really hit my target performance level, but I am very satisfied with the progress I’ve made, enjoy the activity, and will certainly continue to play more in the future!

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