The winter has been tough -- I lost my best study-spot and have been scouting out new places, but that has been difficult in the rain and the cold. My daily commute audio has been the four CDs of New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (review), and McGraw-Hill's "Streetwise Mandarin". The book to the latter is 6"x9", easy to carry. This winter I've also carried around Anthony Yu's 500-page abridgement of "Journey to the West", books on Yunnan culture/history, and every now and then a smaller language book. I've been getting well over 20 hours of exposure a week, but book-study time has dropped from ten hours to one.
Over the winter I've lost the sense of advancement in Mandarin study, but have definitely felt like I've been filling in the cracks in my knowledge, establishing things better. Sounds seasonal, but a dormant winter breaking into springtime exuberance.
One other resource I've been using often during the winter has been CCTV-9's "Travel In Chinese" series. This is the English-language channel for China state television, and the programs are fifteen-minute conversations with discussion of language points. I've seen their previous series "Communicate in Chinese" (introductory) and "Sports Chinese" (for Olympics 2008), but "Travel in Chinese" is one I've sat down and repeatedly studied. Partly it's fun because they visit in Beijing, Xi'an, Kunming and Lijiang, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and other wonderful places. I record two/three copies of each lesson, and only erase them after I feel significant progress. After this winter's work I'm confident recommending these resources to anyone seeking to improve their language skills.
Other exposure includes movies, TV news, flash cards, and dictionaries in the bathroom, by the desk and by the bed. I'm not making much speech at all (and therefore not learning as quickly as I might), but I'm understanding many snippets I happen to hear in San Francisco (mostly Chinatown, downtown, and Golden Gate Park).
Cane has been going great... a big subject I can't cover here tonight. This winter I started working with lighter canes, which prompted me to rethink everything. I'm also walking most often in a reverse grip now, with the hook pointing forward, and the main shaft coming out the bottom of the hand.
A light cane trades mass for speed, and makes it easy to explore types of motion which would be difficult to discover in a heavy stick. The reverse grip also prompts the bulk of the stick to stay behind my body center... natural postures are much more defensive. (For example, in a forward grip the cane tip has to rise in front of you to shift the hand from the hook to the shaft... could be seen as an offensive, escalating movement. But in a reverse grip you can shift to the shaft just by juggling the cane upwards eight inches, so that in the neutral de-escalation posture of "hey sorry no offense meant" the cane hook is at face level, the cane tip is at fist level, and the cane isn't pointing at anyone. Looks milder, but covers more, and chambers a wicked undercut.)
Juggling rope has been difficult during winter, because of the extra layers of clothing. Looking forward to resumption.
I've been working through the winter, without much to show for it. Now I'm ready to start making visible progress again.