A New Year: Progress Report

by Bernard Brandt

Those six or seven of you who have been following this wretched little weblog, especially during the month and a half gaps between entries in it, will probably recall that I have been making attempts at a Remedial Education. Briefly, I’ve been attempting to construct a modern Trivium of Grammar (Linguistics, Language Acquisition, and Philology), Dialectic (Deductive and Inductive Logic, Algorithmic, and Heuristic), and Rhetoric (Classical and Modern Rhetoric and Poetics).

I have also been attempting to construct, at least for myself, a modern Quadrivium of Arithmetic/Algebra/Number Theory, Geometry/Topology, Astronomy/Physics, and Music/Theory/Voice/Composition.

On the other hand, I have been afflicted by several impediments, including but not limited to what appears to be a case of C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) secondary to witnessing the death of my first wife, Carolyn, 23 years ago, and nursing my second late wife, Elizabeth, at her sick bed and then her death bed just two years ago. Oh, that, and losing a liter and a half of blood because the ER was too busy and/or incompetent to stop a bad case of abdominal bleeding for TWELVE HOURS after check in, back in late April.

In consequence, it has taken me nearly four months to recover from the blood loss. During most of that time, I was unable to pursue ANY of my studies. I have only now begun to resume them.

And, on what Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle would call the Gripping hand, according to the weird little religious cult I belong to (Eastern Byzantine Christianity), September 1st is the beginning of our liturgical year. So, at least for me, now is the time to make New Year’s resolutions. As it is also a time of harvest, it is also time to review what accomplishments I have actually made. So, here goes…


While I have been making strides in the studies which will enable me, down the road, to make treatises on my new Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric, the area in which I have made the most success has been language acquisition. I owe most of this success to Duolingo. As a result of working with the language courses there, I have achieved a 50% fluency in Spanish and French (at Levels 16 and 14 respectively). I had also achieved good results in German, Italian, Russian, and Portuguese (at Levels 13, 10, 7, and 6), before my little wobble back in late April. I believe that had I not been interrupted by the incompetence of the fifth rate quack factory that so amusingly calls itself an ER and Hospital, I would have achieved the same fluency by now in all six languages.

As it is now, I can read Spanish and French now, having to look up only one new word per sentence. Thus, I am now reading voraciously in French and Spanish, and listening to music and vids in both, and increasing my fluency thereby as well.

My current plan for the next year is to reclaim the gains I made in German, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian, working a month each on them, until I can start reading them as well. After those four months are done, well, I have a little list. 

We’ll just have to see how many languages I can learn by this time next year. Watch this space.


At present, I am holding back on Physics until I have completed Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus. Before my little bobble in late April, four months ago, thanks to Khan Academy, I was up to the following:

100% mastery of K-7th Grade, Early Math, Arithmetic, and Pre-Algebra;

87% mastery of 8th Grade Math;

37% mastery of Algebra 1;

59% mastery of Geometry;

6% mastery of Algebra 2;

32% mastery of Trigonometry;

10% mastery of PreCalculus.

Not bad for someone who, more than a year ago, was a total innumerate. A pity that I had to cool my heels for nearly four months because of a bogus illness, but hey, we’ve all got our problems.

So, my plans for the next year are to see how many of the above marginal subjects I can bring to 100% mastery by September 1, 2018. And then, on to Physics, Calculus (Integral, Differential, Multi-Variable), Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. Again, Watch This Space.

Which ends us up with Music. Last year, I have been working on Musicianship and Voice.

As to voice, I can now sing in a combination of chest and head voice, with good chest and head resonance, in a range from two octaves below middle C to the C an octave above middle C. In short, I now have the full range from Bass II to Tenor I, and can sing from C to shining C (and did you think that I could, or even would, resist that obvious pun?)

As to musicianship, I have been working on fixed pitch solfege and writing music. As a result, I have been able to set to music the following little ditty, which are the Stichera of the Orthodox Service of the Environment, in less than an hour. Enjoy.


For the next year, I intend on completing a mastery of solfege and dictation, so that I can go on to harmony, counterpoint, instrumentation, orchestration, form, and composition. One more time: Watch this Space.

Oh, and finally, I have come to recognize that until I address the emotional and psychological deficits which I have which are secondary to my C-PTSD, in short, until I manage to heal myself of those, I will continue to have difficulties in achieving my goals. And so, I must take steps to face and resolve my inner problems, both psychological and spiritual. In this regard, too, and finally, Watch This Space.