Monday, January 6 2020

dutch grammar, projects, work, and bowling



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re doing well today. I’d like to share a small victory with you this morning. After finally completing the “Numbers” section in Dutch Duolingo, I moved onto “Conjunctions 1”, and for the past few days I have been wrestling with a new grammar rule that affects word order. For the most part, I think Duolingo does a really good job preventing you from overthinking things. You learn purely from examples, and when you need to read about why you got something wrong, you can click a button that takes you to an open comment forum tied to the question. Usually, somebody takes the time to outline a rule that’s confusing everyone. This new rule has really been a thorn in my side, and I was starting to get discouraged. Last night, I sat at the dining room table in front of my cold leftovers mauling it over while Rodney played with his Nerf gun in the living room and Marissa continued painting the windows. After wading through comments and google results, it finally clicked.

The rule had to do with subordinate clauses, or the way I like to think of them, combinations of words that could make a sentence if it didn’t start with a word like “because” or “if”. For example take the sentence:

I don’t know if he eats vegetables.

The subordinate clause would be if he heats vegatables. It has a subject, a verb, and it’s even a complete thought. But because of the if, it cannot stand alone as a sentence. If you walked up to somebody and whispered into their ear If he eats vegetables, you might confuse or frustrate someone with the incomplete thought.

In Dutch, the verb within a subordinate clause moves to the end of the clause. So literally translated, the above would read

I don’t know if he vegetables eats.

Can you see why I was feeling hopeless? That’s a very nuanced rule to pull out of comments. And to add to it, this was the first section where the comments seemed a little different. Normally they’re flooded with poorly written questions revolving something covered in the first few sections, but I can tell that I’ve gotten to a point where fewer people have made it. The comments are more articulate, and even a little angry.

Last night, as I was cleaning the kitchen, I started to space out and stare at a plaque on my wall. It’s a silly little saying written in Dutch delft that translates

Beer, beer, I will drink you, even if I have to crawl on all fours.

As I was staring at the sentence, something jumped out at me. The even if I have to crawl on all fours - that was a subordinate clause! As dictated by the new rule I learned that evening, the verb came at the very end. So it literally translated to

…even If I have to on all fours crawl.

Or in Dutch, al moel ik op handen voeten kruipen. Isn’t that ironic? I had been wrestling with this grammar rule, and suddenly after getting it down, I realize that a perfect example sentence has been hanging on my wall.

So Dutch is going great. And to change speeds a bit, we had a great weekend. My wife kicked butt on the living room and managed to get all the windows in our living room painted this weekend. Last night before going to bed, we gathered around the project whiteboard and triumphantly tossed the completed cards into the garbage. It felt good to get all of our thoughts and ideas down onto cards, but it feels even better watching the deck of cards shrink. Last night, the empowering reality that we can get real work done in only a week started to settle in. “This is a good system,” Marissa said before we turned in for the night. “I feel encouraged.”

So between Dutch grammar and house projects, victories abound. Well, they abound for everyone but the New Orleans Saints. They were swiftly eliminated from playoff contention by the Vikings yesterday, who inexplicably played like a real contending team. There’s this joke about how the Vikings play great against everyone except the Bears, and watching the game, I couldn’t help but dwell on that superstition. The Saints kept it interesting and forced an overtime, but it only took one drive and an easy lob to end it all. “Now who am I going to root for in the playoffs,” I griped. “Maybe I should cheer for Greenbay so they also get eliminated.”

For dinner, I made chicken breast, mashed sweet potatoes, and a mushroom sausage wine pan sauce. It turned out great, but I didn’t make enough sweet potatoes, which was unexpected. I boil russet potatoes for our family all the time, and four russets seemingly last us a week. I suppose sweet potatoes do the opposite. Maybe they get smaller when they cook. Maybe they’re filled with water - who knows!

All in all, we had a great, restful weekend. This work week is going to get a little dicey. We are starting the hiring rounds for our summer internship program, and I have a lot of code screens coming my way. This week, Marissa and I area also attacking a corner of our basement. I have a feeling it’s going to be an exhausting week, but I also know that we’re probably going to close things off at the bowling alley. The bowling alley is a magical place. There’s nothing to do - no expectations or obligations. No deadlines bearing down. Just a relaxing little corner of our universe that comforts me, knowing it’s waiting for us at the end of this busy week.

I hope you all have a wonderful week. Stick to your commitments and resolutions, and take time to celebrate when you complete them. Have a great Monday, everyone!