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Piano After 21 Lessons


People often ask if I intend to stop taking piano lessons this fall because on top of other projects, I hope to enter graduate school, while working—No, I don’t want to quit. Will I practice less? Perhaps, but quit? No.

Despite currently working full time, studying Korean, volunteering, &c. I’ve have approximately 21 lessons and kept up with piano for over five months. Regrettably, I’ve gone several days in a row without practicing, but never an entire week. I’d love to raise my length of study to six months, my lesson count to 22, 23, 24 and then … but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.

I’m not willing to dwell on whether I sound good, bad, or whatever else for someone who’s had almost half a year of classes. As far as the piano goes, half a year is nothing. The instrument requires a diabolically insane amount of time. While learning quickly is nice and while others are often impressed by those who learn quickly, it doesn’t matter. It’s not a race and the piano can’t be learnt quickly, anyway. I’m ecstatic to be learning and just don’t want to quit.

If anyone knows of interesting books on music theory or pianists or violinists ♥, let me know. Also, pieces—I’m curious about what you like.

The obligatory this-is-how-I-sound clip is below. It’s Sarah Mclachlan’s “I Will Remember You.”

For the curious, the books I’m currently using in my lessons:
A Dozen a Day Book 1, Accelerated Piano Adventures for the Older Beginner Lesson Book 2, Accelerated Piano Adventures for the Older Beginner Popular Repertoire Book 2, Piano Literature Book 1 Developing Artist Original Keyboard Classics, Teaching Little Fingers to Play More Classics, and China: Suite for Piano.

Normally, I do 1-2 from each book, except I’m doing a dozen from A Dozen a Day (they’re very short).


Elaborate Spreadsheet for Studying Korean Courtesy of Excel V2

On and off, for the last few years, I’ve been using Microsoft’s Excel to track how I study Korean.

My motto/tagline for studying the language: “one hasn’t a why or because or although.” People like to ask me why?! as in why do I study Korean? It’s a fair question and there is a story, but it’s a convoluted, extraordinarily long, and doesn’t-make-a-lot-of-sense kind of story. The simple truth of the matter is that I like it. I don’t have a reason. Some people feel as if they were born to write, read, paint or … Me? I study languages, play instruments, read, write, and volunteer because if I don’t do those things, all of them (which is a lot, trust me) life feels wrong. I’m not the person I want to be.

Why I Made the Charts &c. Below (My Justification for Using Excel to Track my Progress in Korean)

  • I majored in history → I love records. Korean has also been a lot of work and I want to record that. I want to be able to say that I learned Korean in a very simply way: I put hours into it. I don’t have any special talent for languages. Still, I haven’t done that much. I spend a lot of my “study” time watching TV and reading comic books. Doing those things at a leisurely pace hasn’t made me progress quickly, but they are enough for progress.
  • Math is my BFF → I like pretty charts and statistics, but more than that, I like analyzing statistics, seeing things as numbers, and seeing those numbers grow.
  • It’s motivational → I made the spreadsheet to record things. If I have nothing to record, the spreadsheet goes to waste and I’m annoyed.
  • It keeps me realistic → I’m ambitious. At times, I can be too much of a perfectionist. I get frustrated easily and there’s something magical and sobering about seeing numbers. If X requires approximately 100 hours of study, I can’t get mad at myself for not being there when I only put in 20—I’m not broken; I’m not stupid; I just didn’t put in the time. If I put in the time, I’ll get there.

How I Use Excel to Keep Track (2013 Version)


The first two boxes, “Days Studied (Chain),” is of how many days I’ve studied in a row. The more the number grows, the more annoying I think it’ll be to see it suddenly drop to zero. Average time per day comes after that. If that drops too low, I think I’ll feel the same annoyance I’d feel at seeing the other number fall to zero.

I prefer keeping track of most things in minutes as opposed to hours. I can get something worthwhile finished in 1 minute. Minutes also grow 60 times quicker than hours.

Thanks to Excel, all the statistics in the chart above are automated and I don’t have to manually do a thing. The numbers on the Y-axis track time in minutes.

I divided my studying into five categories because it’s important for me to engage Korean in different ways.

  • Purple → novels (and perhaps non-fiction and probably other books; I haven’t decided yet)
  • Blue → textbooks, books made for people learning Korean (these are for native speakers and non-native speakers)
  • Teal → news (articles on the Internet written in Korean)
  • Olive Green → TV (TV shows, movies, dramas, &c.)
  • Orange → review (recently, I haven’t spent any time reviewing anything, but I still think reviewing is important, so I threw it up there to remind myself: reviewing is important, maybe)
  • Red → misc. (random stuff like classes, workshops, language exchanges, manga, &c.)


This second chart is similar to the first. It’s just easier for me to see the categories this way.

My Korean spreadsheet is public. It’s a work in progress. I may change some categories. I may delete other parts of it. I may add things. I want to keep track of as much as I can without letting the task of tracking become a burden. If you have any suggestions, let me know. Thanks!

If not, you can still stalk my studies by viewing the sheet. It’ll change whenever I update it. For the curious, here’s my 2011 version.


A Foray into Korean Literature


During the beginning of this month, I went to a store and bought a book. The book turned out to be Weathered Blossom (마른 꽃), one of Park Wan-suh’s novellas, but at the time I didn’t know that. I only wanted a thin and pretty book with depth, so that’s what I picked. I didn’t read any descriptions or reviews or anything else besides the title. My concern didn’t extend that far.

I told myself that if it were thin, I would read it. Even if the plot and characters were horrid, the work, as a whole, was bound to be fascinating because it represented a genre I’d never experienced: Korean literature in Korean. An English translation even came with it, which meant that I would keep dictionaries far away from me.

Weathered Blossom is told from an often ignored perspective. Its protagonist is a grandmother. Teenagers saving the world, 20 year olds coming into their own, Prince Charmings marrying poor young girls–none of that overdone stuff has anything to do with this.

Still, when I was about 27 percent into Weathered Blossom, I decided that it was going to be a “love story.” I confirmed my suspicions by finally reading the description on the back cover: this was a “love story.”

Mere moments before I finished the “love story,” all of my conviction about it being a “love story” disappeared. I didn’t even know what conviction was. I only had my blank reaction that had been caused by confusion and a buffering brain trying to find sense in the scanty information the protagonist gave me. Basically, I had no idea about what it was that I had just read and I didn’t like that I didn’t get it because I get stories—I don’t blank out in confusion—but this one had been different from beginning to end and it insisted on being difficult too.

Determined to get something, I read the analysis of the story and even a translation, but the translation didn’t have any meaning. It contained words, of course, but their arrangement was so awkward and foreign that despite them being in English and grammatically correct—in the context of the story, it was hopeless. Phrases like “sensible politeness,” “charming facade,” and “sentimentality” were too vague. They meant nothing.

But then I saw this:

Even with careful thought while reading, it’s difficult to know what’s truly going on inside the elderly woman’s mind.

(작물을 읽는 동안 내내 눈치를 살펴도 그 진정한 속마음을 읽어낼 수는 없었던 것 같다.)

I had been trolled. Ironically, what I didn’t get was that there wasn’t something to get. People are complicated. They have baseless fears and strange motivations. Sometimes, things end reasonlessly, abruptly.

At any rate, reading about Korean characters in Korean is fun because Korean characters have a tendency to dwell on things that Americans have trouble simply conceptualizing and it turns into an awkward bloody mess when translators go after them (family terms, I’m looking at you).

I already picked up another book. I went with the same method, except I switched “pretty” for “interesting.”

Ambitions, Whimsical

Keeping Delusions of Grandeur to a Minimum

Last week, I got a piano teacher and a piano. The piano is digital because the ability to play in the wee hours of the morning without disturbing anyone was far too good to pass up—it increases the likelihood of my practicing by about 100%.

After fewer than a dozen hours of practice and fewer than five days of owning a piano, this is where I am.

I’ve got a long, so terribly long, journey ahead of me and I’m only where I am today because I played the violin for six years. Even though I stopped playing it eleven years ago, I don’t have much trouble reading music. Still, this is going to take years. I hope I stay the course.

As far as improving goes, I don’t intend to measure my progress in pieces or levels, but in hours. More than talent, I think the piano is an instrument that takes time. After so many hundreds of hours of sensible practice, it’s only possible to suck so much, right? :) Obviously, there are other factors involved when it comes to things like becoming the next Mozart, but I’m not trying to do that. I just want to play a song that sounds like a song and not like half a song or a dumbed down version of a song.

Wish me good luck by telling me to play or in other words to practice.


A Project From Now Until Whenever

Project #2005.001: Explore Seoul

Instead of coming up with goals or resolutions for the New Year, in November (or perhaps December) I created projects on which to focus. One of them is exploring Seoul. I bought a map for this.

map of seoul

But I haven’t figured out how to go about the whole thing. All I know for sure is that I’d like to explore.

Considered Methods for Exploration: throwing things at maps and going where the improvised projectiles land; using my guidebook (서울에 취하다 Mad for Seoul) to guide me; pointing to a location on a digital/subway/random Google/Naver map after spinning in circles; using a generator to select random geographic coordinate points in Seoul

A mixture of all methods sounds impractical, but fun (so I’ll probably go with that while leaning heavily towards guides).

Things to Focus on: museums, galleries, tourist attractions, festivals

Again, a mixture looks appealing.
And perhaps I’ll keep track of everything in a digital notebook courtesy of Microsoft’s OneNote.