Maria Holland

Archive for March, 2015|Monthly archive page


In Uncategorized on March 11, 2015 at 12:58 am

I don’t pay much attention to the stats for this journal, but when I open up the dashboard to make a post I see them.  In addition to the graph showing how many visitors I’ve had every day for the last few weeks, there’s a list of my top posts this week.

For as long as I can remember, the top post has been “The Top 10 Fruits in China (That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of)”.  1,267 views so far this year, and it’s only the beginning of March!

Ugh.  Do you know how annoying that is?  I wrote it back in 2011, before clickbait was even a thing.  Of course, now in hindsight that headline looks exactly like the sort of listicles I hate.  “You Won’t Believe How Many Headline Writers Think You Won’t Believe Things That Are, In Fact, Quite Believable”

Anyway, if you came for the article about the fruit, stick around and check out something else I’ve written.

Show Me the Data

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2015 at 2:32 pm

I’ve been reading books in other languages as a yearly project for a few years now, and I’ve been keeping data on the endeavor for the last three.  It’s been interesting!


This graph shows the number of words I underline, which means I don’t know them, in blue; the number of new flashcards I add to my Anki deck, in red; and the total number of cards in my Anki deck, in purple (on the secondary axis).  The x-axis is the page number; the graph starts with Vida de Pi, Corazon tan Blanco starts around page 400, and 三体 started a little before 700.

One thing that I notice from this is that I am much more selective about the Chinese words that I choose to add to my Anki deck – that’s the gap between the blue and red lines starting around page 700.

One new metric I’ve decided to track is my reading speed.  I time myself while reading to get an idea of how long it takes me to read a page.  It turns out that I can read a page in about 8 minutes, although there have been two more difficult patches, which took 15 minutes per page.  And yes, I definitely feel that increase in difficulty . . . There are times when the reading feels natural, and times when it feels like slogging through quicksand.

Take this weekend’s reading, for example.  I spent an hour fighting through four measly pages.  But oh, what difficult pages these were!  The chapter begins by setting the scene: “China, 1967.”  It’s full-fledge Cultural Revolution, so there’s vocabulary like “Red Guards” and “rebel factions” and “Bolshevik” and “reactionary” and “public criticism”.  The Red Guards are fighting, so in one paragraph I had to wade through a list of their weapons, including carbine rifles, machine guns, submachine guns, rifles, and spears.  And then the person being denounced was a physics professor, so there were a bunch of scientific terms like “osmosis”, “in series”, “parallel computing”, “concentration”, “theory of relativity”, and “the Big Bang Theory”.  At least I already knew Einstein’s name . . .