Quiero mejorar mi español.

In addition to my lifelong, ongoing quest to learn how to play the guitar well, I have been nursing my Spanish along for a the last 30 years.  In both cases, though, it just takes practice – which I never seem to be able to sustain for long periods of time.  My Spanish is ok, but I would really like to become fluent.   And that means broadening my vocabulary and hardening my grammar.  And practicing.

I have two Spanish novels on my bookshelf that I have started to read several times over the years, and with my spanish-english dictionary in hand, have made my way through a couple chapters.  It is hard work.  Not just for my brain, but for the manual back-and-forth effort of putting the book down to pick up the dictionary, then putting it down to pick up where I left off in the book.

So, for the umpteenth time, I picked up one of them again last week, a novel called Nada by Carmen Laforet.  I started at the beginning again.  After about 2 pages I paused and experienced a moment of inspiration:  wouldn’t it be great if I could read this book on an e-reader that would look up a word for me on the fly with the mere touch of a finger?  What a great idea, maybe someone has thought of that already!  😉

I have a five year old 1st generation Kindle Fire with a kindle e-reader built in.  So I downloaded a sample of the e-book version of Nada for free from Amazon and tried it out.  But, alas, the device only has an English dictionary built in.  I found a helpful document that explained that, unlike later Kindles, the 1st generation Fire does not support changing the default dictionary.   Strike one.

I also have a Kindle e-reader app on my Mac.  So I tried the same thing with it.  But switching dictionaries was also not possible in that scenario.  Strike two.

I understand the kindle e-reader for iPhone and iPad may support what I want to do, but I’m really not interested in reading a book on my phone – too small.  Nor buying an iPad – too expensive.

So, then I began to research whether what I wanted to do would even be possible with a new e-reader device, like the Kindle Paperwhite.  And it appeared to be.  There were two ways I could do it.  One requires being connected to wifi to look up each word, by using the built-in “translate” feature, but that was not what I wanted.  I don’t want to have to be online to lookup words.  The other method requires downloading a Spanish-English translation dictionary to the device, and then making it the default dictionary for spanish e-books.   Bingo.  Sounded like a plan.


I am typically slow to embrace new technology and gadgets.  But when I find a use for them that is important to me, I don’t waste time!  So, I splurged and ordered the Kindle Paperwhite, which arrived yesterday.  And in a matter of minutes I was in business.   As of this morning, I am 10% of the way through the book.  And I can almost feel my brain expanding.  🙂  Home run!

By the way, this is the Spanish-English translation dictionary I’m using.  Seems to work great for what I want to do.  Even better, I downloaded it for free by using the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library perk that comes with my Amazon Prime membership.

I also found a great free app for my iPhone called Duolingo, which seems to be a very decent tool for practicing and learning.  I’ve even started trying to learn French and Irish with that app.   Now THAT’S going to take a looooong time, but what the heck.   Anyway, if you have any interest in learning or polishing your foreign language skills, check it out.


Amazon overload.

I am addicted to Amazon Prime.   I use it for purchasing nearly everything other than groceries.   And I’ve been placing so many orders lately, the UPS man is wearing out the front walkway.  I guess it’s time I took a break, though.

The clutter (virtual and physical) in my life is reaching a new peak.   We have, admittedly, been processing a spike in household paperwork / accounting that requires more of my attention, what with the monthly household bill paying, insurance paperwork for the Audi, buying the new boat, insuring the new boat, registering the boat, processing Monte’s retirement paperwork, converting 401Ks to IRAs, moving the new retiree to my insurance, etc etc etc.  We somehow misplaced one of the new ATM cards for our accounts that arrived a few weeks ago.   I also have this nagging feeling that I need to double check our estimated fed income tax payments.  I’m about 2 months behind on niece & nephew birthday cards (!).  Work-work is piling up too, and traveling a week or so every month is not helping either on the household-organizational front.

The Amazon “stuff” just went on top of that pile.

I have been trying to get the return authorizations processed for 2 boat-related items that I ordered from Amazon recently that I wanted to return.  Today I realized that I returned the wrong item to Amazon, using one of Amazon’s return authorizations.  And I have the Amazon item here in my office with the return authorization for a 3rd party vendor. The nice UPS man came by and picked up the first item before I realized the mistake.


Luckily the nice-man at 1-800-please-help-me-Amazon said he’d figure it out for me.

I hereby impose a 2 week moratorium on ordering anything from Amazon.  And I resolve to reduce the huge pile of paperwork piled up on my home office desk on one of the days I hope to take off around labor day.



I realize there are people struggling with real problems out there.   This is definitely not one of them.  But it just turns out to be something to feed my blog for today. 🙂   Enjoy the rest of the week!

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