October 2007

The HackYourLife.org That Wasn’t

HackYourLife.org is now my blog. I've been slow to join the blog revolution but I'm glad to have finally taken the leap. I've got so many opinions on so many things and I can now express myself without ranting endlessly to my friends!

But when I originally purchased the domain name, I had something totally different in mind. It was going to be its own blog software and community site, like Blogger or LiveJournal, but with a little twist...

It would support not only diary entries but also arbitrary user-created trackers that would allow the user to record data about anything they wanted either to do or not to do. For example, someone who wants to cut down on their smoking habits, could create a "smoking" tracker and record how many cigarettes they have per day. Or it could integrate into other services (mash-up!) and record things like number of Memorati™ cards done per day.

(Aside: I kept a paper record like this for years, writing in the little squares on picture calenders.)

Getting Functional!

I've been thinking a lot about functional programming languages recently. This started for a number of reasons:

  1. At work we recently hired a new programmer who's preferred programming language is Lisp.
  2. F# (a functional programming language for .NET) just came out and so a certain .NET obsessed co-worker got me to listen to this podcast.
  3. I've always been very fond of the functional constructs in my two favorite programming languages: Python and Javascript.

In the works…

I've had a number of language learning software projects in the works for a long time. Unfortunately, given my limited time, I've been struggling to get them "out of the works" in into a place where other people can use them. But until that time, I'd just like to describe what they are - or really what they will be!


Memorati™ is my main focus right now. It is an online flash card system based on spaced-repetition. It is designed to be rich and flexible using modern Web 2.0 techniques and easily embeddable inside of other applications. In fact, when you go to www.Memorati.org, you are actually seeing Memorati (the application) embedded into Memorati (the website).

There are still many features missing from Memorati and at this point should be considered Beta. In the future, I plan to include:

  • Plugins for domain specific cards, ie. geography cards could include maps.
  • Media! With a player for audio and video files.
  • Offline support, so you don't always need an internet connection.

Knowledge Ain’t Nothing

I've been studying Russian and Polish language for about four years now. It has been a great experience for me. I discovered that not only do I love learning languages, but I seem to be pretty OK at it. During that time, my thoughts on how one should learn a foreign language have been constantly evolving.

In the beginning, I was largely focused on grammar. This was primarily because the class I was taking focused on grammar. This agrees with a general trend in modern American education, which emphasizes understanding the ideas rather than memorizing the facts. In general, this is good thing. Language courses of the past focused on memorizing vocabulary. Now understanding grammar is the main focus.

Also grammar was easily interesting to me in its own right. Its like math with words. My programmer brain liked it. And it was comfortable. I didn't have to go out on a limb and risk personal embarrassment like with speaking.

Morning Rain

As I biked into work today at the usual 6.30am, I was listening to this wonderful pod-post on my iRiver. I know, biking and listening to head phones might not be the safest thing, not to mention, in the rain!

But inspired by the blog and book by Steve Kaufmann of The Linguist, I decided that I need to fill every spare moment with Polish language input if I ever hoped to become truly fluent. And I spend a TON of time biking from place to place.

I just came accross Steve's work yesterday, and I plan to discuss some of his ideas in later posts, but let me just say now that what he says strongly reflects my experience of language learning and the evolution of my thoughts about it.


What up, yo!

I'm David Snopek, a software developer and language learning enthusiast living in Milwaukee, WI, USA.

I have a full-time day job developing software in Perl and Javascript with the occasional projects in Python, Java or C. By night I contribute to Open Source/Free Software, including (but not limited to!):

I am obsessed with foreign languages and cultures. I love to travel and see the world. I've been studying Russian and Polish language for a long time and am always trying to improve my proficiency in both. I am interested in the process of language learning and how that process can be improved through the use of computers and the internet.