07 stycznia 2012

Winter Torpor

As usual, I have lots of ideas for new posts, but when I sit down to write something in Polish, my motivation quickly drains away. I haven't done any serious Polish study in months now, and I really notice my skills wasting away. Lots of room for improvement in 2012! I have decided to write a post in English (I never promised this blog would be all Polish anyway) to help get the blogging motivation going again.

Not exactly 'winter torpor,' but I think it conveys the mood. Al. Zieleniecka, October.
Living in Canada, winter was always my favourite season. I don't just say that to be contrary. In my memory, Alberta winters were always snowy and cold. The snow sharpens things up and covers the lingering browns and yellows of fall in a bright blanket. I wear sunglasses more in the winter than any time of year. Also relatively dry (as in humidity), the cold is tolerable if you dress properly and keep moving. Nothing beats that deep creaky sound of packed snow under your boots. The bonus is that there seems a lot of sunshine. Crisp, sparkly winter sun draws you outdoors. I was last home a little over a year ago and could use a dose of Alberta snow and sun about now. The series of photos below was taken in and around Red Deer, Alberta in December 2010. We had a light snow fall that year.

No strings attached . . .

Sunglasses, please!

Fine ice crystals in the the air this cold day create this lovely effect.

Blue sky winter.

Canadian winter is not without its hazards. I have experienced serious frostbite (due more to stupidity than weather), treacherous driving conditions, and mountains of snow to be shovelled from the driveway. At least it provides good exercise!

In contrast, Polish winter for me feels much colder than home. I know its not. This winter in Poland is much milder than last. For me, Polish winter means dark, wet, and cold. This winter in Warsaw has so far been free of that disgusting, salty, dog shit and cigarette butt ridden slush that we work to keep off our boots all winter. I was never much a believer in the winter blues, but I understand the feeling better now. Sunshine, please!

There are lots of ways to get outside and enjoy the available sunlight. The days are getting longer! This winter I have not been as good at it as other years. My 'inside nights' have been totally unproductive either. This leads me back to language. . .

My students frequently seek more ways to engage with the English language in their daily lives, as do I. I already read widely, but my infantile understanding of Polish has driven me to explore other forms of mental stimulation in English. Over the past few months, I have discovered many useful podcasts I now listen to regularly. The great thing about being relatively isolated from what the North American mass media thinks I should listen to, is that I have pursued my own topics and interests. I'll share with you now what are, in no particular order, some of my favourite podcasts. I don't use an internet connected mobile device or 'i-Something,' so I usually listen to these around home from the computer. I'm sure all of them are available for subscription on Apple's proprietary service, but the links below should work with any audio program capable of streaming. Paste the url in parentheses directly into your audio player.

CBC The World at 6 (http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/includes/w6.xml)
  • The World at 6 gives me a good enough dose of world news from a Canadian perspective. Paradoxically, 'The World at 6' is published at 1900, 2000, and 2100 EST every day. The CBC website has many many other podcasts on different topics. Highly recommended. http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/
Freakonomics Radio (http://podcasts.nytimes.com/services/xml/rss/nyt/podcasts/freakonomicsradio.xml)
  • Freakonomics Radio is produced by economists Levitt and Dubner, who brought us the books 'Freakonomics' and 'Superfreakonomics.' Listen here for 'the hidden side of everything.' This is not your regular 'egghead' economics podcast. http://www.freakonomics.com/
The New Yorker: The Political Scene (http://feeds.newyorker.com/services/rss/feeds/campaign_trail.xml)
CFR: The World Next Week (http://feeds.cfr.org/publication/twnw)
  • This CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) production is top notch. CFR also have recordings of conference calls between top experts on world issues, but the audio quality is sometimes intolerable. If you like lots of old man lip-smacking and throat-clearing, however, you may enjoy the conference calls. http://www.cfr.org/thinktank/cgs/podcasts.html
Photography Tips from the Top Floor (http://www.tipsfromthetopfloor.com/wp-rss2.php)
  • There are loads of photography podcasts out there. I especially recommend this one because the host, is NOT a native English speaker. He enunciates with crystal clarity and at an understandable speed. You, too can learn to speak English this well. http://www.tipsfromthetopfloor.com/
This Week in Photo (http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThisWeekInPhoto)
The Two Hosers Photo Show (http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheTwoHosersPhotoShow)
  • I include this not not because it is an especially good photography podcast, but because it is an excellent example of a particular variety of Canadian English. More 'art' than the tech podcast above. See if you can catch all the jokes in the repartee between these two Canadian hosers. http://twohosers.com/
Slate's Negotiation Academy (http://feeds.feedburner.com/SlateNegotiationAcademy)
WTF with Marc Maron (http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/rss)
  • 'What The Fuck' with Marc Maron is a great comedy and general podcast. Marc seems a little harsh at first, but you'll certainly pick up some fantastic vocabulary. He's a good interviewer, and very funny. There is a lot more depth here than other 'light' comedy topics - it will grow on you. A friend begged me to listen to this one for a long time and I finally understand why. http://www.wtfpod.com/
So, what do you do to beat the winter blues? Have any podcasts of your own to recommend? There must be some good podcasts in Polish, but I haven't really researched them. Share your favourites in any language in the comments below. Comments welcome in Polish or English!

Choosing photos for this blog post has reminded me I have a significant backlog of photos from the year I'd like to share someplace. Choosing a list of favourites is the hardest thing and is a project I need to start and finish. Watch for them here or in a Google+ gallery coming soon. Also, BnP may have a special guest post in the coming weeks, so check back spoon for more.