Feb 152014

How To Be Interesting - Weirdness I just finished “How to Be Interesting” by Jessica Hagy. Could have easily finished it in day but hoped the brief pages would sink in more if I did not rush it. Instead I read a chapter a day and after 10 days I don’t believe I am any more interesting.

The drawings are cute and the sayings are what you would expect from a motivational speaker. Maybe I just need more work to become interesting than these. If they were posted individually on Facebook or Pinterest I am sure they would get lots of likes & shares but a book full of them is like 1 too many cat videos.

The only way I can imagine using these “web comics” would be to post one a day or so internally at the office to encourage dialog and outside the box thinking. Pretty sure that is not a ‘legal’ use of the book.

If you would like to see some of the images from the book, here is a google search for How to Be Interesting by Jessica Hagy

Book Posts

  • How to Be Interesting by Jessica Hagy
  • How to Be Interesting – Could have been more interesting

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    Feb 152014

    The Power of Reading.
    Stephen D. Krashen.
    Google Books

    While researching on Extensive Reading for foreign language acquisition I saw a number of references to articles by Stephen Krashen and this book in particular. Was pleased that my local library had this book on its shelves.

    Book Posts

  • The Power of Reading by Stephen Krashen
  • Reading is the only way
  • Reading in 2nd Language as a Primary Learning Tool

  • Book Info

    The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research
    by Stephen D. Krashen
    Publisher: Libraries Unlimited
    Published: 08/19/2004
    ISBN-10: 1591581699
    ISBN-13: 978-1591581697
    Started: 02/14/2014
    Source: Mid-Columbia Library
    Format: paperback

    Publisher Synopsis

    Continuing the case for free voluntary reading set out in the book’s 1993 first edition, this new, updated, and much-looked-for second edition explores new research done on the topic in the last ten years as well as looking anew at some of the original research reviewed. Krashen also explores research surrounding the role of school and public libraries and the research indicating the necessity of a print-rich environment that provides light reading (comics, teen romances, magazines) as well as the best in literature to assist in educating children to read with understanding and in second language acquisition. He looks at the research surrounding reading incentive/rewards programs and specifically at the research on AR (Accelerated Reader) and other electronic reading products.

    Author Info
    Dr. Krashen has published more than 350 papers and books, contributing to the fields of second-language acquisition, bilingual education, and reading. He is credited with introducing various influential concepts and terms in the study of second-language acquisition, including the acquisition-learning hypothesis, the input hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, the affective filter, and the natural order hypothesis. Most recently, Krashen promotes the use of free voluntary reading during second-language acquisition, which he says "is the most powerful tool we have in language education, first and second."

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    Feb 142014

    image Geek Valentines Day with my sweetie. Thoroughly enjoyed “Safety Not Guaranteed” at the Batelle Film Club.

    Seattle-based magazine reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson) and interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) are sent to investigate a personal advertisement placed in the newspaper: guy seeking partner for time travel. “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.” So says the classified ad. They venture to the coast and set up a haphazard surveillance. Darius is recruited as the shill; her dry wit and cynical nature are perfectly suited to trap this enigmatic oddball, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), and get a good story. But it is she who first sees past the paranoid loner facade to the compelling person inside. The drawback? This still doesn’t rule out the possibility that he just might be crazy. Director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly have woven an ingenious tale: a modern version of the classic madcap romantic comedy. Clever dialogue and outlandish antics, peppered with misfit characters, each one charming yet flawed, are wrapped in a love story tingling with the tantalizing possibility of time travel. In a world where moments are fleeting and soul mates are scarce, it seems that even the simple act of falling in love is never safe. Shot on location in Washington, Safety Not Guaranteed is a quirky and hilarious treat that delivers a most unexpected mix of comedy, romance and science fiction.
    Feb 142014

    Lone Survivor.
    Marcus Luttrell.
    Google Books

    I did not realize the audiobook was abridged. I probably would have read the book and not listened to it had I realized it before. But not going to go back and read it.


    • Seems more like a ‘hagiography’ than an actual firsthand account.
    • His unwavering flag-waving patriotism is what you expect from the dedicated navy seal.
    • His language is not what you will hear on network TV but is probably restrained compared to reality.
    • His Christian faith is the standard belief system of someone born an American, “born Christian”.

    Book Info

    Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
    by Marcus Luttrell
    Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
    Published: 05/01/2008
    ISBN-10: 031632406X
    ISBN-13: 978-0316324069
    Started: 02/09/2014
    Finished: 02/14/2014
    Source: Overdrive
    Format: audiobook

    Publisher Synopsis

    Four US Navy SEALS departed one clear night in early July, 2005 for the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a reconnaissance mission. Their task was to document the activity of an al Qaeda leader rumored to have a small army in a Taliban stronghold. Five days later, only one of those Navy SEALS made it out alive. This is the story of the only survivor of Operation Redwing, SEAL team leader Marcus Luttrell, and the extraordinary firefight that led to the largest loss of life in American Navy SEAL history. His squad mates fought valiantly beside him until he was the only one left alive, blasted by an RPG into a place where his pursuers could not find him. Over the next four days, terribly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell crawled for miles through the mountains and was taken in by sympathetic villagers who risked their lives to keep him safe from surrounding Taliban warriors.

    A born and raised Texan, Marcus Luttrell takes us from the rigors of SEAL training, where he and his fellow SEALs discovered what it took to join the most elite of the American special forces, to a fight in the desolate hills of Afghanistan for which they never could have been prepared. His account of his squadmates’ heroism and mutual support renders an experience for which two of his squadmates were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism that is both heartrending and life-affirming. In this rich chronicle of courage and sacrifice, honor and patriotism, Marcus Luttrell delivers a powerful narrative of modern war.

    Author Info
    Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell was born in Huntsville, Texas in 1975. He oined the US Navy in 1999 and became a combat-trained SEAL in 2002. He was awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism in 2006.

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    Feb 142014

    The victorious circle of the good reader In my past attempts at learning Spanish I have tried ‘reading’ Spanish but without success. I would get Level 1 Spanish readers from my local library but would struggle though them because the vocabulary was too advanced. It was not until I ran across the idea of “Extensive Reading” to learn a foreign language that I realized the problem.

    The “Easy Readers” written for kids in their native language are designed for kids who are learning to read, not for kids who are learning the vocabulary of the language. By the time children are learning to read they already have a large vocabulary. They just don’t know how to decode the letters into the words they already know. It is more like a spy learning to use a magic decoder ring.

    A language learner usually already has a good idea of how to decode the target language (unless they are learning Japanese or Russian) but the words they read have no meaning to them. If someone read the book aloud to them it would do them about as much good as reading it themselves, just the opposite as it would for kids in their native language.

    The key is to use your ability to read to immerse yourself into a language. Just like in your native language, and as shown in the graphic above, reading leads to understanding which leads to enjoyment and on to more reading. Not a vicious circle but a victorious circle.

    If you cannot live in the culture of the language you are trying to learn then you must immerse yourself in the culture’s language through reading and listening. It seems that the key to finding appropriate material. My current criteria is that for a book to be at my current reading level, then there should be no more than 1 unknown word per paragraph. If there are too many unknown words then you will be struggling with the reading rather than enjoying it. You want to be comfortable and enjoy the reading, not feeling like it is work.

    I have started looking for Spanish reading materials that are appropriate for a beginning language learner. I will write a follow-up post with my findings.

    Below are some links I have found regarding Extensive Reading. I plan to start a page just with Extensive Reading reference material for future reference.

    The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Using Graded Readers
    – by Rob Waring
    Great summary of Extensive Reading. Here are some quotes from the material:

    Teaching does not cause learning. Teachers can only create the environment to develop independent learners.

    What is the ideal difficulty level for Extensive Reading?
    Since the aim is to build automatic recognition of words, and to get the learner to the reading-with-ideas level, she needs to be reading at or below her current reading ability. Learners can only build automatic recognition of words if the text is easy for them.

    Here are some good ‘rules of thumb’ for students to find their reading level:

    • There should be no more than 2 or 3 unknown words per page [1 for childrens books]
    • The learner is reading 8-10 lines or more per minute (80-100 words per minute or better)
    • The learner understands almost all of what she is reading with few pauses

    Some learners want to read more difficult texts than their current ability level in the belief that they will learn more if they meet more new language. This is true, but it is unlikely these learners will easily develop into fluent readers. It is important to stress to these learners that they need fluency practice, too.

    Extensive Reading: Why? and How?
    – by Timothy Bell on The Internet TESL Journal

    4. It can increase knowledge of vocabulary Nagy & Herman (1987) claimed that children between grades three and twelve (US grade levels) learn up to 3000 words a year. It is thought that only a small percentage of such learning is due to direct vocabulary instruction, the remainder being due to acquisition of words from reading. This suggests that traditional approaches to the teaching of vocabulary, in which the number of new words taught in each class was carefully controlled (words often being presented in related sets), is much less effective in promoting vocabulary growth than simply getting students to spend time on silent reading of interesting books.

    Rob Waring’s Extensive Reading Pages
    Even more links!

    Can learners use ‘authentic’ books?
    – Rob Waring on Graded Readers

    ’Authentic’ reading materials (for native speakers of English) are usually NOT the best books to teach foreign language learners to read. These are usually written for English-speaking children who already know thousands of words and most of the grammar of English before they start to read. English language learners don’t have this knowledge and usually find authentic books very difficult. Certainly until quite advanced English language learners should use Graded readers.

    Feb 132014

    Just started reading “How to be Interesting” by Jessica Hagy. This is one of the 14 books recommended by Seth Godin to read this year. About this book he says:

    If you’ve ever read my About page, you know that I found life after college to be impossibly boring. Probably because I was impossibly boring. I saw this book on the shelf several times before I picked it up and when I finally did, it became one of my favorite books of the year. Just like Steal Like an Artist, it’s a collection of thought-provoking illustrations. I’ll be coming back to this again and again.

    Book Posts

  • How to Be Interesting by Jessica Hagy
  • How to Be Interesting – Could have been more interesting

  • Book Info

    How to Be Interesting: An Instruction Manual
    by Jessica Hagy
    Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
    Published: 03/19/2013
    ISBN-10: 0761174702
    ISBN-13: 978-0761174707
    Started: 02/06/2014
    Finished: 02/15/2014
    Source: Mid-Columbia Library
    Format: paperback

    Publisher Synopsis

    You want to leave a mark, not a blemish. Be a hero, not a spectator. You want to be interesting. (Who doesn’t?) But sometimes it takes a nudge, a wake-up call, an intervention!—and a little help. This is where Jessica Hagy comes in. A writer and illustrator of great economy, charm, and insight, she’s created How to Be Interesting, a uniquely inspirational how-to that combines fresh and pithy lessons with deceptively simple diagrams and charts.

    Author Info
    Jessica Hagy is known for her Webby Award–winning blog Indexed. Her cartoons regularly appear in the New York Times, and she writes an online column for Forbes. Ms. Hagy lives with her family in Seattle.

    My Social Media Links: Facebook; Google+; Twitter; Pinterest;
    Feb 122014

    Immerse Yourself Lately have had some conversations which left me wondering why I had dropped my attempt to learn Spanish. Well, maybe not “why”, it was because of time constraints and priorities. But I did wonder if I made the right decision.

    Plugging new information into my old brain and keeping it there is a challenge. It was while reading up on Anki, the automated flashcard program I use, that I ran across an article at AllJapaneseAllTheTime that led me to another article then to another and ended up getting me excited about learning Spanish again.

    To summarize the ideas that I pulled together was to attempt to do an “Immersion Program” right here at home. The AllJapaneseAllTheTime site has quite a bit about immersing yourself in your target language. The key is to live in the target language. Hard to do when you are surrounded by English all day but what are you doing with the time that is yours to control?

    Here is the three pronged approach I plan to follow. The summary will give you an idea and I will be writing more on each of these three areas as I flesh them out and come across material I will be using.

    • Extensive Reading
      Read and then read more. But the key is to read at or below your current vocabulary level. You want your reading material to flow through your mind just like it was in your native language, not having to translate words or thoughts but just ‘knowing’ what it means as your read it.
      You might think this means reading ‘kids’ books. It does not. Kids are learning to read a language they know. When learning Spanish, you can already ‘read’ it. It is the understanding that you must work on.
    • Extensive Listening
      Here too it is best to listen to material is on a level that you can understand and follow along. Finding this material is difficult. Sure you can find Spanish vocabulary and Spanish lessons but those are not very interesting after a bit. I have found a few books that come with CDs but that gets spendy.
      Here, I will fall back to how kids learn. They are surrounded by language they don’t understand but they slowly start picking up words as they listen to the world around them. Turn your world into Spanish. Listen to Spanish Radio on the radio or the internet. Just immerse yourself in it and see how many words your can start picking up.
      Also, don’t forget about your TV stations (Telemundo & Univision) and YouTube.
    • Spaced Repetition Flash Cards
      When you read you will come across vocabulary and grammar that you need to learn. The most efficient way to learn is using a spaced repetition system (SRS). Anki is my SRS software of choice for learning new material. It works on Windows, Mac, Web, Android, and iPhone, syncing your material across the various devices so you can create ‘cards’ on your computer and review them on your phone.

    ¡Buena Suerte!

    Feb 062014

    Make things happen Mystie’s post, Education is a Life: Fortiter fideliter forsan feliciter, or Repentance, got me thinking about goals and getting things done. She makes the point that results are not in our control. We obey, God rewards (in His own way). This is just as true in all areas of life. We do; stuff happens. If our focus is on goals rather than just being faithful (in all of life) then we will be disappointed.

    Then I ran into this article, Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. which emphasizes systems (faithfulness) over goals.

    What’s the difference between goals and systems?

    • If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
    • If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
    • If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.
    • If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

    Now for the really interesting question:
    If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

    He even appears to discourage goals with his points:

    1. Goals reduce your current happiness.
    When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”

    3. Goals suggest that you can control things that you have no control over.
    You can’t predict the future. (I know, shocking.)

    But he does concede that goals have a place. Just not 1st place.

    Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.

    Are you focused on goals rather than on being faithful in the little things?

    Feb 042014

    All Japanese All The Time Following a rabbit trail from another blog, I came across an interesting article at the slightly irreverent “All Japanese All The Time” blog. The post, “Probability Over Certainty, Or: Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Immersion, I Learned from the Miller-Rabin Primality Test“, rambles a bit till he gets to his point that much of our procrastination is due to focusing on accomplishing the end product rather than the intermediate steps that lead you there.

    In the GTD (Getting Things Done) universe this is seen as breaking your goals and projects into action items that can be done, that are ‘accomplishable’ (my term). As everyday distractions pop up, you get closer to finishing your project or meeting your goal by working on bite-sized chunks that will, in the end, complete your projects and goals.

    Don’t try to get things done. That’s too hard. Too painful. Too annoying. Too prone to failure.

    Don’t try to get things done.


    Do try to increase the probability that they will get done.

    Don’t try to get things done. Do try to increase the probability that they will get done.
    Don’t ask if you’re doing the right thing.
    Do ask if what you’re doing increases the probability of having what you want to happen, happen.
    Do ask if what you’re doing increases the probability of you getting what you want.

    Don’t work with the certainties; it hurts too much; it’s too painful. Work on pushing up those probabilities.

    Next time you feel so overwhelmed in your quest to become fluent in Japanese, that you just sit there and do nothing, sit there and watch English-language shows on Hulu to try to drown out the guilt you’re tripping on (just like Maddie used to), stop yourself, wake up and smell the probabilistic coffee.

    Watching a Japanese anime instead of running off to Hulu may not be as “perfect” as doing your SRS reps, but it demm </SouthAfricanAccent> well increases the probability of your actually learning Japanese, more than some English escapism ever could.

    The post concludes with ““Nothing” is the only too little; “Not Now” is the only too late.” Rather than plopping down on the couch after a long day at the office, what little thing can I do to move myself along towards my goals?

    Source: Probability Over Certainty, Or: Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Immersion, I Learned from the Miller-Rabin Primality Test
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