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Websites – My Thought Spot

Language Proficiency – What I “Can do”

After returning from a great trip to Peru a couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about my Spanish language proficiency. And, like many things, I think about stuff more often than I do anything about it. But a couple of days ago I finally did something about my thoughts and took an online assessment of my Spanish language skills.

Peru sign/logoI did a web search for getting started. There were several pages that popped up as possible places to do my assessment, but I chose the one from Lengalia to spend my time on. I chose this one because it looked like a more nicely designed website than many of the others I saw. Though not always an indicator of how careful they are about being accurate, it does seem to be that the better designed sites are also the ones with better information. I may go through tests at other sites later, but this is the only one I’ve taken so far.

Common European Framework of Reference

I scored a B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference scale that Lengalia uses. That puts me in the upper intermediate range on their scale. I don’t completely agree with their assessment because I don’t like the word intermediate, but I will accept it for the moment. I also choose to defend myself in that I was fighting Mr. Sandman when it came to reading some of the longer (i.e., boring) texts towards the end of the test.

To get into the C1 level I needed to have a better understanding of “implied” meaning. That is, I needed to be better at reading between the lines. (Like understanding the Mr. Sandman comment above). I know I did struggle with that a bit. Again, partially based on just trying to stay awake. Maybe I should take the test at 11 in the morning and not 11 at night next time.

Another area where I struggled was the fact that this was a European based test. That means they were testing on Iberian Spanish (mainland Spain) and not Latin American Spanish which is where my vocabulary has been built. There were some words here and there that were totally new to me. However, I resisted the urge to look anything up so that I could get a truer representation of my skills.

In their self-assessment chart I certainly fall into the C1 category on some things and B2 on others. So I guess I would be a B2+.

More Evaluation Options

Graphic of various Spanish dialect regions in PeruThere are many scales to rate your proficiency. Most of them are based on “can do” statements. These are self-assessment items that state at various levels you are able to communicate (or comprehend) certain types of information. These are based on functional proficiency as opposed to static, non-forgiving tests.

This language proficiency scale breaks things down into speaking, reading, and listening. On a speaking level with this scale I am solidly at an S3. Reading I feel like I am at R4+. Listening I am at an L4 level. So that puts me towards a more lower-advanced level as opposed to the dreaded intermediate.

I haven’t gone through the ATFL can do statements yet, but I look forward to seeing where I am on this one. It was a longer document than I wanted to read at the moment. I also want to go through some of the tests at the Language Testing International website. While I don’t know anything about their tests, they do provide a huge amount of information.

An Interesting Find

While looking for more proficiency level charts I found an interesting folder on the State Department’s website.

https://careers.state.gov/root/hidden-folders

I wonder if it is really supposed to be hidden since the name “Hidden Folders” is in the URL. The title of the page is “Hidden Documents.”

Really, I’m not a hacker! I just used Google to search for the State Department’s definitions of language proficiency.

I think I am between levels 3 and 4 in Spanish based on their self-assessment page.

Way Too Much Info (But Fun To Read)

And, as always, you can easily get lost in Wikipedia reading interesting articles about various Spanish dialects like this one on Peruvian Ribereño Spanish or Argentine Rioplatense Spanish. These are actually a great source of information and I wish now that I had taken the time to read the Peruvian article before I went there last month.

Maybe before my next trip I will remember to check out my friend Wikipedia.

Digital Calendar to the Rescue

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in my office actually getting work done. (That is quite an amazing accomplishment most days.) Suddenly I got a notification on my phone that said I had an appointment in 1 hour.

image of book coverThe last time I thought about that particular appointment was 3 or 4 days prior to the event. However, because my calendar sends me these types of notifications I was able to prepare for my monthly time at the assisted living home where I am reading a book to the group. We are reading a book about Eric Liddell the Olympic gold medalist and missionary to China.eric-liddellbook cover image

While I enjoy the convenience of a paper calendar, and thbook cover imagee ability to see large blocks of time easily, this is one time where the digital calendar saved me.

Each time I enter an event in my calendar I try to remember to set a notification early enough that if I totally forget about the event, the calendar will remind me in enough time to make it there. In one case I had completely forgotten about scheduling a meeting in a church on a Sunday night in Maryland. My calendar notification went off Friday night to remind me of the speaking engagement. That gave me plenty of time to be ready for the event and no one at the church had to know that I forgot about being there. I think that is the only time I have spaced out on a meeting like that. At least, if I’ve missed others no one called me and told me about it.

WordCamp Nashville

Sitting here at WordCamp NashvilleWordCamp Nashville 2015 realizing that I haven’t updated this site in a while. I was in the middle of a series and got distracted. But at least I have something here.

I attended a talk on creating custom fields presented by @JoeHills. Though I’ve not build custom fields before, I have wanted to. This was great information for how to get started.

The next session I attended was on building themes more quickly by @AndyInTheWild. Good tips on how to ramp up theme-building production. Mostly I just modify themes, but I have built one theme from a basic framework. This is for Baptist International Outreach (the mission board where I spend my days).

Now I am sitting at the registration table holding down the fort during an hour where I couldn’t get excited about any of the topics. This worked out well since the lady running the table before me didn’t care about any session except the one during this hour.

Strange Dream About a Stolen Hard Drive

A few nights ago I had a strange dream, a nightmare really. It was that someone had broken into my house and stole a hard drive from one of my computers. The strange thing is that they did not touch my newer computers. They didn’t even go to the computers that had really important data on them. They went for the hard drive on my favorite computer.

The machine they targeted—which happens to be the one I am using to write this—is a 6 year old notebook computer on which I have recently wiped the drive and installed the latest version of Linux Mint. I have an almost empty drive with 220 GB of the 250 GB hard drive free. On top of that, I am using this computer as a cloud based system. All of my files on this machine are being saved to either Google Drive or Dropbox. There is nothing that lives exclusively on this machine. So if it were stolen or busted, I would lose nothing.

The Dream

I am not sure what kind of anxiety I was having with this computer that might have caused the targeted nature of this dream.

The bad guys broke into the house and broke open the computer. It was almost like they went in from the keyboard side of the notebook and ripped the hard drive out violently. There was a rectangular hole in the keyboard where the hard drive used to be. Strange dream.

The Result

But it affected me in an odd way. I immediately started thinking about by backup plan and password strategy. Over the next two days I ended up writing three articles at Missionary Geek about passwords and protecting them.

image of a lock and the word passwordsThe first is about how to build good unique passwords that you can remember but that are complicated enough to be secure. You have to avoid words that are found in a dictionary and you should not use the same password at multiple sites.

The second article was about using password managers. I use LastPass, but there are other good password managers. Since my wife and I share multiple accounts, we also share our LastPass vault. When my friend’s wife died suddenly last year, I thought much about the nightmare it would be for my wife to try and get into accounts to either take possession of them herself, or close them down. Because of sharing a LastPass vault, she is able to get into any of my 120+ accounts that are managed there. Besides that convenience, password managers help you generate unique passwords that are stronger than you would probably make on your own since there is no need to memorize 120+ passwords anymore.

The final article in the series is written for those who travel and have to use computers that they don’t completely control. In these situations you should always be leery of keylogging hardware or software. That article has a pretty solid strategy for avoiding having your passwords stolen by keystroke loggers.

I have not come up with a series of article about backing up your hard drives yet, but in the mean time you should do some reading and put a plan in place if you are not doing something already.

I hope my nightmare can be a help to you in building a better password strategy.

WordPress Dashboard Loses Formatting

View of broken WordPress Dashboard

I have had a problem when setting up WordPress in a test environment where the obvious issue was that the WordPress Dashboard (control panel area) loses its formatting. It looks like the CSS style sheet (is that redundant?) is not being read. I say this is the obvious issue, but there are other problems that I consistently had with this symptom that I hadn’t connected to the same problem.

Here is the other major issue that, if you experience it, would tell you that you are having the same problem as I: when trying to do various tasks on the site you end up with your domain being duplicated and receiving a 404 error. You can still get to just about any page you want, but you have to take out the duplicated URL. Let’s use example.com as the example URL. If you try to log in to the site at example.com/wp-admin you can pull up the page. But when you put in your username/password you will end up at a site like example.com/wp-admin/example.com/wp-login.etc.etc. You see that the example.com/wherever-you-were is duplicated in front of where the system takes you next. If you manually delete everything from the first example.com up to the next example.com and then reload the page, the site will load as expected until you submit more information and it needs to reload the site. It duplicates the URL in front of where it is trying to go.

This is caused by putting an incorrect address in your “WordPress Address URL” within the General tab of the Settings section of the WordPress Dashboard. I had been incorrectly identifying my domain name (in my case 192.168.10.122). Instead of the domain itself you must put in the http:// protocol handler. Or, at least that is true if you are using an IP address like I was. So by putting in http://192.168.10.122 everything now seems to be working correctly.

I am now able to do testing on my new internal server before I point DNS to the new site and make it go live.