September 30, 2004
More on Language Learning: Working ahead.
Tonight in class some of us students were talking about what it takes to learn a foreign language and it reminded me of something I did last semester that really helped me learn better in class. I would work ahead and memorize all of the vocabulary before the grammar lesson for that day so when we were practicing the examples I wouldn’t be hung up on the words and could concentration on the grammar and pronunciation and things like that.
Because of the great amount of homework I have I came to the conclusion that I would have to work ahead to be able to get it all done. So on Tuesday nights when we get our homework assignments I plan on being done with Thursday’s homework before it’s assigned. We have a class schedule with due dates so it should be doable.
Working ahead allows us to relax in class and get deeper into the language. At least knowing the vocabulary before the lesson is taught helps us practice and focus on the grammar being taught in class. This is also a technique I’ve used in Church many times in the past. During the quiet reflection time before the service began, I would look in the program for the bible verses being talked about and read them myself. Then when the sermon came along, I already had a familiarity with what was being talked about. It allowed me to absorb and understand more when I heard it.
When I go to software training classes I try to learn the software on my own before I go to the class. When I get there, I already know the basics and can ask deeper, more complex questions. I also understand better what the instructor is teaching and it sinks in better.
Working ahead is a very useful tool. It's also good for our confidence level and our motivation.
September 29, 2004
Our teacher is not a good teacher
Some classmates were expressing their unhappiness about our class, saying, “our teacher is not a good teacher.” Part of the problem is the work load and the speed that we are going through the material. Another part of the problem is a perceived expectation to remember everything we talk about in class and that we have learned in the past.
In the previous two semesters we had a different teacher and their teaching styles are very different. In this class we do have a lot more homework, and daily as opposed to weekly quizzes. This pace is much more demanding than last semester. So, it’s kind of natural to look at the teacher and blame the teacher for the troubles we are having.
Tonight in my other class I was talking with one of my classmates and she told me that she almost didn’t come to class tonight because she felt like it was way over her head and she was discouraged. She loves the teacher but feels like the class is too fast and she is struggling. She said that much of what we cover in class goes right by her. But then she told me why she came to class.
“I came to class tonight because I figured at least that way I’d learn something.” She knew that even if she wasn’t getting most of it, she was going to learn something. Something would sink in and she would advance her knowledge a little. I commended her on her attitude. She is not giving up and she is positive.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going
Instead of losing hope, this is the attitude we really need in times like this. When we feel like not coming to class, or that the teacher sucks. It happens, but mostly our experience is effected by our attitude. For instance, I believe when it comes to foreign languages, persistence really is the key. That and lots of exposure to the language: practicing, reading, writing, listening. The more we put into it the faster the pace of learning.
From this viewpoint, our Teacher is a good teacher. Hard work will actually help us in our goal to learn this language. The more practice we do, the better off we will be. Now, I still have to finish my homework, mainly because I know it’s due tomorrow and I don’t want to lose any more points because of a lack of hard work. I love this class!
The raw facts about this teacher so far are adding up to her being a good teacher. She is doing everything in her power to help us learn this language. Often in life how we perceive things makes a huge difference in our experience of it. I know I’m going to have the best semester ever.
September 28, 2004
Today's thought: Thankfulness
Today was a great day! After studying really hard over the weekend, I aced my quiz in Korean class! granted it was just a short list of about 23 vocabulary words, but these were hard to memorize for me so it was a great victory.
Then I rode my bike home from the U of M. After the trouble I've been having with the tires it felt really good!
I'm thankful that I can still learn and thankful that my physical well-being is improving enough to be able to ride my bike like I do.
I'm thankful for my friends who helped me with problems at work today.
Some days we cannot be too thankful.
September 27, 2004
A simple repair
Sometimes it seems that things just don’t go as well as planned. One simple repair turns into an hours-long ordeal. Tonight I was going to listen to some Korean audio material on the internet for class. I clicked on a file to play it, and a message popped up telling me that I had to update my Real Player to continue. So, I clicked on the Update button and that’s when the simple turned into the complex.
Half-way through the installation it locked up and I saw a warning message on my screen that told me I was running dangerously low on hard drive space. So, I clicked on the cleanup button and the Real Player installation disappeared. I got more hard drive space, but by then my Real Audio installation was messed up and I had to re-download and install the whole thing over. Finally after over an hour of messing around, I was able to hear the audio files.
Later I was trying to fix my bike tire and noticed that the repair job I did yesterday actually made the problem worse. I tried to fix it again but when I put air into it the tube ended up ripping along the valve stem and no patch would hold there. Total time spent messing around with the tire: 1.5 hours. A couple simple repairs ate up an entire evening.
When I think about the problems around the world, I think that it would be nice to do a simple repair and move on, but it’s not always that easy. Some people would like to just apply brute force, but when we do that, something is going to break. We may end up replacing what we broke, like buying a new bike tube. We have to search for real solutions to real problems. We cannot just treat the symptoms but have to get to the root of the causes. Often the solutions are more labor and time intensive than we had anticipated.
Sometimes we lose our patience when a simple repair turns into an ordeal. Isn’t’ that when we most need patience? Theoretically, the same things that bring us peace inside normally should also bring us peace inside under pressure or when things don’t go as planned. At times when it doesn’t work for me, I know something is out of balance and I need to see where my spirit is at.
Some things are not working in our country and around the world. These are times when we need to find the source and apply the best solutions. If we don’t understand the problem, that’s where we should start. Especially when our simple repairs turn into complex ordeals.
September 26, 2004
I wouild like to take this space and time to thank two special people in our society. These are the ones that are truly alive, living with love and compassion.
First, I say thank you to the nice woman on East River Road on a Tandem bike with a cute little girl on back who stopped to ask if I needed help. My bicycle had a flat tire and I was trying to fix it. Today you are blessed because you have a heart that will help others in need.
Secondly, I thank the young man in the blue pickup truck who stopped to give me a ride when my tire went flat again on Highway 13. This time the stem broke and I had to call for a ride. I'm sorry I dissappointed you by telling you I already had a ride coming. I know you too have a good heart and will help others in need. You are blessed because of it.
Life without people like you would be a dismal place. You are proof that the spirit of God is at work and that love and compassion is not dead.
Thank you to both of you for a great bike ride! I really appreciate it!
September 25, 2004
Be bold or stick to the old?
Today was a good hard day. I was busy from the moment I started work until it was time to go home. Then almost as soon as I got in the door, I had to leave again to meet my language partner. It was a great evening with good food and conversation. And now it’s 10:50pm and I’m winding down.
The title of this post is “Be Bold or Stick to the Old?” This is one of the topics we discussed tonight. We used one of the topics from his TOEFL Exam study guide. Rephrased the question is, are we the type of people who stick to the familiar, who prefer to not try anything new? Or are we the type of person that loves to try new things?
One thing I have discovered is that I love to try new things and I’m not too afraid of it. My reasons are :
· The more we experience the broader our picture becomes.
· It’s an adventure.
· I love people and really enjoy meeting new people.
Tonight we made some Korean food together; Pan-Jon and Kimchi-Jon; Korean pancakes, one with onions, green onions, green peppers, and mixed seafood. The other one with Kimchi mixed in. Mix the ingredients into the special pancake mix, fry it in vegetable oil and serve hot. As we were sitting down to eat the neighbor brought over some Kim-Bap. It was a perfect addition to the meal.
One reason I love learning languages is because they are always new. I am always learning something I did not know before. I learn about cultures and attitudes and nuances of other people’s lives that I would not have known before. Learning languages is a challenge and helps me stretch my mind.
Usually the only thing that stops us from being bold and trying new things is fear. It makes sense then that finding a way to work through our fears can help us have more fulfilling lives..
September 24, 2004
The problem is the blessing
When we take a step back and look at things from a wider view we can see more than we did when we were closer. Sometimes when we are in the middle of a struggle it is easy to not see a bigger picture. But there usually is one.
In my Korean class many of the students were complaining at how hard it was and how much they dislike the teacher. And it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon because I can relate to that feeling. We have more homework this semester, more quizzes and the grading is tougher. But I also noticed that this teacher is putting in a lot of effort to analyze what each of us is doing and trying to come up with examples and homework to help us improve.
The large amount of homework and quizzes and the harsh grading could be viewed as a big problem, especially if we don’t do what’s asked of us. It can also be viewed as a blessing because the more practice and exposure we have to the Language, the more we learn. Our learning this semester will be greater than the last two combined. Learning the language is our goal, so the problem is the blessing.
Another example from my language learning came up tonight. I was talking with my language partner and he said something that I didn’t understand, then explained in English. However the way he explained what he said didn’t match what I had learned in class. He then taught me a different way to say, “I want to” in Korean, saying that most Koreans say it this way, not the way we learned in class.
Regardless, it can be a frustrating thing for language learners to learn one thing then be told to do it differently later. We can look at that as a problem or a blessing. It is frustrating that we learn it one way and then are told to relearn it another way. But it is a blessing that we are gaining a deeper knowledge of the language and that we are experiencing a process of discovery.
Some people complain about the struggles in life and pleadingly ask, “why does it have to be so difficult?” But taking a wider view of life, we can see that many of our struggles have made us stronger and wiser. It is a blessing that we went through them because they helped us change in some way. The problem becomes the blessing.
The trick then is to see the blessing in the problem while we are in the middle of it, without taking a step back. I can’t stop the amount of work in my class, but I can change my attitude while I’m doing it, knowing that it’s for my own good. Seeing our problems as blessings might take a little faith but from experience we know that somehow we will be changed by it. This awareness can help us live our daily lives with more peace and happiness.
September 23, 2004
Wisdom on the bus
Today was a rough day for me. I had a hard day at work and then a test in class tonight. By the time I was finished my head hurt. So, when I got on the bus to go home from the University I was relieved.
As I was sitting there a young girl came on and was talking to a young man about fights at her school. She seemed like she was in high school. She talked about why someone was trying to beat her up. It had something to do with what someone else said about her, that she said wasn’t true. She went on to explain some of her other fights, and made sure the young man was aware of how tough she was. She talked about someone who had just been released from prison, and the young man she was talking to said, “man he’s a dead man. They are gonna eat him up after what he did.” I heard some talk about guns and some beatings. This went on for about 15 minutes or so.
Then from the back seat of the bus a young, but slightly older looking woman spoke up. “I have an old brain,” she said. Everyone around her turned and looked at her, waiting to hear what else she had to say. “I May look young, but I have an old brain.” She said that the older people get, the less they worry about fighting. They don’t mess with it nor do they have the time for it. And, she said that the older we get the more it’s a waste of time. The other two said a few words in agreement, but then were silent for the rest of the bus ride.
I remember thinking, this is a very wise woman who spoke up at the right time.
September 22, 2004
Taking it to heart
President Bush offers “a brighter vision of a planet with less hunger, disease and oppression.” It’s ironic that it’s By Force!
UN secretary general Kofi Annan said the invasion of Iraq was an "illegal" act. President Bush was unapologetic and said that his decision “helped to deliver the Iraqi people from an outlaw dictator.” But many of his critics worldwide are asking who will deliver the world from an outlaw President?
There is also an old saying in Proverbs 16:32 that says “He who rules his spirit has won a greater victory than taking a city.”
Jesus tells us to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Luke 6:27 The Tao Te Ching, 63 tells us to “respond to anger with virtue.”
Speaking to the United Nations, the leaders of France and Brazil asked the international community to come up with ways to narrow the growing gap between rich and poor. They said there were more than one billion people living on less than $1 per day. This gap is also a problem in the United States where affordable housing is becoming scarce.
The quote I posted yesterday was written centuries ago, but is equally valid now. We still have the same problems and can’t seem to figure it out.
Jesus was against violence, even at his own defense when they came to take him away. Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) Jesus said, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) And when he talks about love, we are told to love our enemies and to love others AS ourselves. (Matthew 22:35-40)
Many people in this world speak the words and claim their goodness, offering a brighter vision of a planet with less hunger, disease and oppression, yet they don’t take the words to heart and apply it in their thoughts and actions. Maybe politicians don’t have to live it, they just have to say what people want to hear and we will vote for them. Maybe we don't have to live it either. We can just mouth the words and call it good.
In Mark 7:6 Jesus says, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocries, as it is written,
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men."
In Matthew 23:14 Jesus says, "Alas for you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for as pretext for your piety you pray long prayers, yet cheat widows out of their houses."
And for good reading on today and yesterday's topic, try Luke 16:13-15. And Matthew 6:21, and finally, for President Bush, Luke 9:25
I'm still looking for a good man of Tao to vote for.
September 21, 2004
The Tao of Elections
In the Tao Te Ching, 77, Lao Tzu said, “The Tao of heaven is to take from those who have too much and give to those who do not have enough. Man’s way is different. He takes from those who do not have enough and gives to those who already have too much. What man has more than enough and gives it to the world? Only the man of Tao.”
I vote for the Tao of heaven. Is there a man of Tao running for Election in November?
September 20, 2004
Agreeing to disagree
With a lot of talk about elections and politics right now, It’s hard not to cross paths with someone who disagrees with us. With politics people can become very heated and we can find out quickly that arguments really don’t solve any problems, but often create more division between people. You’ve probably heard people say that it’s not a good idea to talk about Politics in a group of people who may have differing views. But that’s not very conducive to solving the problems of our society. Interaction and dialog about issues and candidates can be a great thing. It opens our minds and makes us more aware of views we might not have thought about, and helps us to formulate more ideas.
Here I’m defining an argument as one of those conversations where someone has to be crowned ‘right’ and the other person ‘wrong’ in order for it to end. Since arguing is not really helpful, what is a better way to handle someone who is obstinate and belittling towards people with differing views. Many people just like to be opinionated and argumentative also. Staying calm is one good suggestion. Don’t let them get to you. Don’t take it personally. Their arguments are not really meant to hurt you, but to try to convince you into changing your mind.
This can be frustrating to the point that whenever a topic like politics comes up we just shut up because we know how heated it can become. People can be very opinionated. Along with that, some people are well armed with facts as they see them and information to support their views and often it seems like we know too little. It’s hard to discuss something rationally when we know nothing about it. So another good way of handling people who love to argue politics is to know some facts yourself At least knowing why we feel or think a certain way and being able to articulate that is a good way to keep things civil.
It’s not easy knowing the true facts though, because the political arena tends to get muddied. Lies are used to discredit the opponents and facts are twisted to make one candidate look better at the expense of the other. Generalizations are made and stated as facts. Another problem seems to be time. Who has the time to get to the bottom of it and wade through the muck to discover the truth? We all have lives and activities and responsibilities to take care of and cannot all devote a significant amount of time to politics. But ignorance of the issues is not helpful either. So we have to find a way to balance our local views with an understanding of the world around us. Reading or watching the news on a regular basis can help with at least having a rudimentary knowledge of things. Basically we have to care about what is going on and invest a little time into understanding it.
I’ve discovered throughout the years that political subjects are not always night and day. It’s not always a matter of one political party or one candidate being absolutely right and the other one wrong. Sometimes I’ve found myself agreeing with a different point of view on some subjects than what the person I’m supporting does. It’s because of how I feel about the issues. Sometimes I believe there are better solutions to our problems than the ones being offered. To someone who looks at things as polar opposites this idea may be infuriating. A good way to deal with that is to stick to the issues and how you feel about them. This also makes for a better discussion. Sticking to the issues doesn’t usually allow for broad generalizations or going off on tangents.
Keep a sense of humor. Having a discussion is different than having a heated argument. When someone takes themselves too seriously they can easily get heated up over a topic. Interjecting some humor helps us and others keep things in perspective. We usually are not solving the worlds problems with the arguments. That typically requires action. The debates will go on until someone does something about an issue.
Sometimes a person arguing does not intend to be hurtful towards others, but just wants to be heard. Listing to their views and asking questions can help them be heard. That does not always have to turn into an argument. If we have differing views, we may or may not have the need to counteract what they are saying. We can acknowledge that the other person has their opinions and it’s ok. We can agree to disagree. We can differ in opinions and still treat others with dignity and respect and love.
September 19, 2004
Picking up Jesus by the side of the road
Today as I was driving home from work I saw a man sitting by the side of the road with a backpack and a duffle bag, holding a sign that said, “Need a ride.” His beard was long and white. After he got into the car I asked him where he was going and what he was up to. We had a nice conversation.
I ended up driving him from the southern side of the Twin-Cities to the eastern side of the Twin-Cities, on his way to Milwaukee. It was out of my way, but I did it because I wanted to give him the best chance of catching another ride that could take him to his destination. Also, partly because I wanted to chat longer with him and was interested in what he had to say.
One of the things we talked about was the opening up of the words in the bible to reveal the truth inside. The words and phrases in the bible could be misinterpreted and misused. And they frequently are. One possible reason is self-justification. We try to justify our thoughts, actions and beliefs and utilize what we can as evidence that we are right.
But, the truth is really found in the Application of the teachings, not in the knowledge of them. This is what it means to ‘open up’ the words to reveal the truth. Without taking them to heart, they are just random words and trivia that we learn to recite when needed.
When I got home tonight I was talking to my wife about my experience, and she asked me, “Don’t you think that’s a little dangerous?” I said, “Maybe, I suppose it could be. I didn’t feel like it was at the time though.” I know my wife was just concerned about my safety and doesn’t want to see anything happen to me. I guess I don’t want any thing bad to happen either, but at the same time, I’m happy that I picked him up and got him further along his way to Milwaukee. I am also happy to have been able to talk with him. It was an interesting conversation and very meaningful.
To some he might have appeared to be a homeless man begging for a ride. His appearance along might have turned many motorists away. I don’t know how long he was sitting there waiting for a ride, but I felt compelled to stop and give him a ride. Jesus tells us, “Whatever you have done for the least of one of these, you have also done it to me.” Then just to make sure we were understanding what he was saying, Jesus added, “Whoever isn’t doing something for the least of one of these, is also not doing it to me.”
Even though I did not get my passenger’s name, I’ll call him Jesus, because Jesus was definitely in my car and I gave him a ride. We had a wonderful conversation and he got further along his journey. As he got out of my car he said thank you, but I can’t help but to feel that I am the lucky one and the one who should be thankful.
September 18, 2004
The Great Spirit
Tonight I revisited a book called, Native American Wisdom, which is a compilation of quotes organized into topics. I will start and end with quotes from the book, and fill in with the Great Spirit.
“I have been among the French at Quebec and at Three Rivers; they taught me the foundation of their doctrine. But the more I examined their mysteries, the less clearly I saw the light. They are tales invented to inspire us with true beliefs of an imaginary fire and under the false hope of a good which never will come to us, to engage us in inevitable unhappiness.” Agouachimagan, Algonquian
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do people light a candle, and put it under a basket, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before other people, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Jesus
“When I was in the other world with the Old Man, I saw all the people who have died. But they were not sad.... It was a pleasant land, level, without rocks or mountains, green all the time, and rich with an abundance of game and fish. Everyone was forever young.
After showing me all of heaven, God told me to go back to earth and tell his people you must be good and love one another, have no quarreling, and live in peace....” Wovoka, Paiute.
“It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace, and live in peace.” Shenandoah proverb
September 17, 2004
Highlights of my day:
1. A very fast bike ride into work. I turned a 15 minute ride into 10.
2. I learned more about library cataloging today: How to understand and generate Cutter Numbers. I saw a very old 3 character Cutter-Sanborn book that one of our Librarians keeps around because it’s old and nostalgic.
3. I finished creating a list of the books I have labeled and cataloged so far. My ‘organized’ collection is now at 39 books and counting.
4. I overcame a great mental block in one of my programming projects by outlining and identifying the scope of the project fully.
5. I met with my language partner and ate with him at a good Chinese restaurant in Dinky Town. I had this really great tasting Tomato Shrimp dish. Then we went to a coffee shop and listened to some live folk music and talked. It was fun and I learned a few new things and we both practiced our language skills.
I was thinking today about the motivation behind many of our activities in life. Sometimes people see them as ‘escapes.’ Many people read a lot of books and it could be viewed as an escape. When people cycle a lot of miles it could be considered an escape. Anything could be an escape from our daily lives. When I looked at the programming problem I was having at work, which I had been stalling on for a while, I realized that some of the other tasks I was doing were escapes from that project. It wasn’t until today that I saw that. When I finally broke through the mental blocks I was having I came up with a good plan. Having a good plan I was able to focus and keep on task with this project today. I wasn’t looking for an escape from it.
It’s very difficult to know when we are playing escape games with ourselves because it’s not always easy to see. Understanding our underlying motivations behind our thoughts and actions can help us. However, I am in no way saying that all escape is ‘bad.’ Our underlying motives determine the consequences of our actions. If I continued to ‘escape’ from my programming tasks, I would not have a happy boss. If I escape from work and stress by writing, reading a book, cycling or seeing a movie, I’m not avoiding work, I’m resting from it. We all need rest and the escape is refreshing. An escape that is ‘avoidance’ has different consequences.
September 16, 2004
I have talked about faith a few times before. On September 5th I said that true faith comes from experience, and is not “Blind Faith.”
On June 2nd I talked about restoring our faith in humanity.
Yesterday I talked about faith being a ‘knowing’ that God always answers us. Faith is something that grows in us through experiencing God.
Tonight I had faith that all of the homework we are getting in my language class is going to make me know the language better. I know from experience with learning languages that the more effort I put in, the more I’ll learn. Sure it’s going to be difficult, but I have faith that it will make me more fluent.
Tonight I am going to add to the topic of faith with a story I remember reading in the Qur’an. Sura II. 2:158
This verse is really rich in meaning: In Mecca there are 2 symbolic monuments of the Virtue of Patient Perseverance in Faith; The two hills of Safa and Marwa. Hajar, mother of Ismail, prayed for water in the dry desert. God led her to the Zam-zam Spring as she eagerly looked for the answer while circling the obstacle of the hills. It is a reminder to all pilgrims who travel to Mecca, how she patiently persevered her trials and had faith in God to guide her and provide her with life. Not only did she know, she eagerly looked for the answer!
Hajar was not sitting back in the parched desert waiting for it to rain. She knew God had already provided water for them. So she was actively looking for it.
September 15, 2004
Last night I found the book I was looking for. It’s now properly cataloged and located in my collection at Z693.A52 1976. I searched high and low for it. I looked through every book on my shelf, one at a time. I knew it was there, so it was a matter of actively looking for it with the intention of finding it. When I found it I was delighted. I was thrilled that I found it and that it was finally going to get put to use. Without looking, the book was lost and the opportune time to use it would have been gone. When I eventually did find it I would have missed the benefit of it during the process of cataloging my books. Even though the missing book is old and outdated, it’s very informative to me and gives me background knowledge on libraries and cataloging that I wouldn’t have had.
Looking for my book is like what God wants us to do. Look for our answers like we know they are there and don’t dismiss it until we find it. God always answers us.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you: for every one that asks, receives; and whoever seeks, finds; and to whoever knocks, it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
Asking, seeking and knocking are active participation. When we were children and wanted something we went to our parents and asked for it. When we lost something we searched high and low for it like it was something of great value. When we went to our friends house, we knocked on the door and expected to go in.
This is a promise that gives us peace and hope. We have to actively participate in this promise and we will be shown the way. Think about the reverse of this; if we don’t really want it, are we actively trying to get it? If I lost my book and wanted to find it, was I willing to look through every book on the shelf to find it? If we are talking about more than just physical things, what does that mean for our souls? What is it we really want in life? Love? Peace? Happiness? Ask like a child asks a parent, seek like it’s something valuable we have lost, and knock like we expect to go in.
Bonus question for you library savvy people: What book did I find buried in my shelves of unorganized books? You’ll be happy to know It is no longer lost between the shelves and resides in a place I can easily retrieve it: Z693.A52 1976 ;-) See my September 9th blog entry LIBRARY CATALOGING FOR DUMMIES. http://blog.lib.umn.edu/carl1236/dailyspirit/2004_09.html#005145
September 14, 2004
“This is why we have 3 weeks of review,” my Korean teacher said. I could tell by looking around the class that most of the people were lost. We were doing a listening comprehension exercise and it was like we had never learned the language. To make matters worse the teacher said, “This is basic stuff that you learned in the first Semester. You should know this.”
Maybe we should know it but first semester was a year ago, and second semester was before the summer break. And now at the beginning of the third semester we feel like we didn’t learn a thing. At least during this exercise we did. The problem isn’t that we didn’t learn the vocabulary and grammar during the first two semesters, but that we learned it and promptly forgot it. Use it or lose it. Lacking any reinforcement over the summer, it would be difficult to remember what we had learned previously.
But the language is coming back to me faster than the first time and I know that I’m reinforcing what I do know.
Sometimes we need a review on why we are here on this earth. We often get too wrapped up in life’s daily grind that we forget who we are and why we are here. Maybe we haven’t learned that yet, but it’s something that we should have learned in the first part of our lives. The funny thing is, that if we don’t really know that, then we struggle through life, just like we struggle through language class when we can’t remember our vocabulary and grammar lessons.
Sometimes I need a spiritual review session, just to see where I am at and to refocus on the present. With all the distractions in life it’s understandable. So I make time for spiritual review. In my heart I know I will be stronger, clearer and healthier when I make the time for it. Reading devotionals, books, our holy scriptures, listening to speeches and sermons and getting together with a group of people who believe the same things are all ways to refresh our memories. It’s like riding a bicycle, it comes back to us quickly with a little review.
September 13, 2004
Inspiration comes in many ways
We can be inspired by many things, but sometimes it comes from unexpected sources. Tonight as I sat down to write, I was staring at the white screen, reflecting on what kind of a day I had. Then my daughter came into the room and started bouncing off the walls. She went through more subjects in a matter of minutes than I could keep up with.
First she asked me if I was having trouble writing, then without pausing, she said, “hey, write about music!” She ran off to her room shouting back, “Wait right there!” When she returned she was carrying her portable CD player with an Atomship CD going. She said I have to listen to this one song, which is her favorite by that group, Pencil fight.
The song Pencil fight is interesting and musically they are good. I enjoyed listening to it. I had to ask my daughter what it meant though, because by listening to the song I could only get a vague idea. Evidently a pencil fight is something kids play in elementary school or junior high where two people use pencils as little weapons that they battle with. The objective is not poking at each other, but to flick them with their fingers, whacking the other persons pencil (or hand) in order to try to break the other persons pencil.
That reminded me of other games we played when we were kids, for example, bloody knuckles or chicken fights on the monkey bars. So my daughter and I talked about those too.
She informed me that she’s feeling better now, maybe that’s why she’s bouncing off the walls. Except her back is still aching. My back is getting better I told her. I feel much better now than I did a few days ago. It’s liberating. Tonight I was able to ride 26 miles without pain.
Among the many other things we talked about, she started describing each of our cat’s meows and how they are different. Then like a tornado sweeps through an open field, she was gone, and I was left staring at the white screen wondering at what just happened.
Sometimes our daily activities seem kind of mundane, like they don’t seem that important. But tonight I was left with the feeling that there was nothing mundane about my conversation with my daughter. For one thing it was a blessing to share a half hour with her, regardless of the topic. I am very thankful for these moments. She’s a bright, funny person and I enjoy talking with her, and I never fail to learn something new.
Do you remember that old phrase, “Can’t see the forest for the trees?” Too often in life we are focused on the trees and can’t see what a great thing we have in the forest. We overlook the beauty of sharing a half hour with our daughters because we are so focused on what we were doing. Tonight I did not have that problem. Inspiration came not so much in the words she said, but in the time we spent together. That is part of the beauty of life.
September 12, 2004
Finding our voice
Sometimes I read something and think, “yes, that was right on the mark.” Or, "That was really good!" Today I read another good blog entry by Stacie that was thought provoking and well written. See also my comments from yesterday.
One thing I’ve noticed about writing is that we do much better at it when we are honest and speak from the heart. The technical aspects of writing are not as forced. We tend to speak eloquently about things that we care about. This is our true voice, what we have to share with others. Finding our voice is then easier when we are not trying to create a voice that is not our own. Stacie’s blog today is her own voice in a way that is uniquely hers.
Today at work one of the Down’s Syndrome guys I work with stayed in his room all day playing with an electronic keyboard. He was playing the demo songs and switching between the different sounds. This is unusual for him since he spends most of his time in the living room upstairs with everyone else. I couldn’t understand why he was isolating himself all weekend. Then he spoke with his voice. He can’t speak verbally and only knows a few signs, but I think I got the message. Late this afternoon he came upstairs and stood between one of his housemates and the television. We asked him to move and he gestured with his hand quickly, in a sort of sweeping motion, like we would motion for someone to move out of the way. I understood finally why he was doing that, bless his heart. Instead of causing a conflict before, he chose to just go to his room and play with his keyboard. His housemate was sitting in his spot. Rather than trying to get his housemate to move he chose to just go off by himself, until he could no longer stand it I suppose and then he made his voice known. He wanted to sit in his normal spot.
Too often in life we lose our own voice because we are too afraid to speak up or we don’t want to cause a conflict. Sometimes we are afraid our voice isn’t worth sharing. But really just the opposite is true. Our voice is worth sharing if it’s real, from the heart and something we care about.
September 11, 2004
Nothing Mediocre about it
I just popped over to another blog page to check it out and discovered that Librarians are like action heroes in movies and not meek at all. ;-) Oh, wait, the meek Librarians LIKE action heroes in movies! I see now. Just kidding Stacie!
Check out Stacie's blog, Shades of Mediocrity, assorted thoughts on life, work, and culture. It's anything BUT Mediocre. Good thoughts and stories about life and movies and our culture.
Tonight I'm off to the Old Man River Cafe on Smith Avenue to see Jeff Ray play again. (7-9pm) Right before my vacation last week I ran over to Dunn Brothers on Grand Avenue to buy his new CD, June Generation, which he had just released. I enjoyed it during my entire vacation. Once when I was listening to it, my sister-in-law commented on it. She said, "Who is that John? Very cool music! I like it!" I replied, "It's Jeff Ray, a local guy. I think he's really good too" And even better...I get to hear him play live frequently. See my June 25th Post, SAMADHI.
Life is really good when you share it with others. That is one thing I like about live music in small settings, and blogs. Both are a way of sharing life with others. I guess they could both be called a medium to bring people together.
September 10, 2004
Tonight my daughter was using my computer to scan some photos, so I had to wait While standing there talking to her one of my plethora of books on the shelf caught my eye, (see yesterday’s post ;-), so I picked it up. These are great quotes and stories in this book! Chicken Soup for the Soul. I’ve never read the book but acquired it from my wife, (who was trying to sell it at our garage sale last month).
I turned to a page that had a nice hand-drawn bookmark in it to find a quote by Danielle Kennedy that says, “Passionate people embrace what they love and never give up.” I think I could describe much of my life like this. I think I am a passionate person. When I love someone, I really love them, and when I take on a project I go all out on it and enjoy it. I don’t think I was always like this though. But I like being passionate about things. It is like adding spices to our food, or colorfast bleach to our laundry, life seems a little more spicy and a little more brighter. What is the alternative?
Today at work I looked up, cataloged and labeled 5 of my programming books using the proper Library of Congress (LC) classification. I also had a good long discussion with one of our Librarians, who gave me some great tips on searching Library databases.
Tonight I rode with Dan (AKA Lance Armstrong) I ended up riding 33 miles tonight! He is passionate about riding and I think it rubbed off on me.
This week was my first week of Korean Language class this semester and I loved it! I have a good feeling about this. I am enthused about it and I know the learning will be much greater this semester.
When we look at the things we do, it’s not always about whether we win or whether we achieve our goal even. The Joy and the Passion are found in the PROCESS of doing what we do. What is the alternative?
We can all be passionate people by embracing and loving what we are doing and how we are doing it.
September 9, 2004
Library Cataloging for Dummies
Today I started delving into the world of Libraries. At work I’m part of the library team by default because I have a collection of about 800 volumes of engineering documents that I maintain. That will be expected to grow by about 10 times in the next few years. But I don’t catalog my materials like a librarian so we have our own database, separate from the library’s.
To understand Libraries and cataloging better I’m going to start to organize and catalog my entire book collection at home using the Library of Congress (LC) Authorities as a guide. So I started researching the LC. Now I’m even more confused than when I started! haha.
I think I have a book on that in my collection though. Let’s see, where did I put it? Be right back...
...an hour passes...
No luck. I know I have it somewhere because a long time ago I discovered I like books and have a large number of them in my house. I thought it might be nice to organize them someday and I found a handy little book on how to do that at some book sale. But now it’s lost between the shelves or something. It was sure fun browsing through the books though as I looked for that one. I was sidetracked a few times I think.
Today at work I tried to look up a book I had on my shelf called, XML for dummies, using a web tool. I found the book listing online, so I can see how it is supposed to be cataloged and marked using the LC format. So I think I’m on my way.
This is really a new area for me, and I’m still searching for a simplified set of directions to help me understand what I’m doing quickly. But even so, there is not a ‘for dummies’ book for everything in life. Sometimes it’s very difficult and complicated knowing how to do or handle things that come up. How about a book called, “Purpose in Life for Dummies.” or “Making a difference in life for dummies” or “How to live your life for dummies.” Well, if we actually had one of those books, we probably wouldn’t like it or even open it. Sometimes we have to learn things the hard way. Why do we do that to ourselves?
P.S. If anyone knows of any good basic reading material online on how to think like a librarian, please post the links here. Thank you!
September 8, 2004
Connecting with others, Making Friends
I have updated “THE MOTIVATION LIST” – see the added number 18 – follow the link near the bottom of this entry.
Last night in my Korean class we went around the room introducing ourselves in Korean then we had tell everyone what we hope to get out of this course. I found it interesting that a couple of students didn’t answer with a standard answer of, “to improve my language skills.” Instead they said they were there to make new friends. Yeah, in my opinion, that’s a great idea since most people I’ve met taking Korean are really great people who I wouldn’t mind having as friends.
After they gave their answer, the teacher prompted them for more, and the students added, “and to improve my language skills.” Then there were a few chuckles. This reminded me of the movie, “Miss Congeniality” where beauty contestants in the competition were obligated to say something about ‘world peace’ in their speech. When Gracie Lou Freebush (Sandra Bullok) gave her speech she said she wanted ‘harsher punishments for parole violators.’ Everyone in the room went silent, so she added, “And world peace.” Then everyone applauded. The original answer wasn’t what people expected but it’s closer to the heart.
Why are we here anyway? What motivates us? For some of my classmates it’s to meet new friends who share the same interests. It’s a great reason! Connecting with other human beings who share our interests can be a great motivator. It’s why many people get married. If our motivation is at a low, connecting with other people who share a similar interest can boost our enthusiasm and rekindle our motivation.
I think this is closely related to numbers 16 and 17 in THE MOTIVATION LIST, but meeting friends and friendship I think goes beyond one class and is deeper than self interest because true friendship also has the dimension of giving and of caring about the other person. Making friends is a great motivator for life.
September 7, 2004
Today I went to a health screening at work where they were checking our blood pressure. Mine was 121/63. More interesting than that however, was some information laying on a table by the health display. It was titled, why manage stress when you can prevent it? In it there were 26 ideas to help prevent stress.
One tip they left off the list was: “Put a positive spin on it.” In other words, try to see things in a positive light. Today when I was looking at my syllabus for class I started to get a little nervous. It made it sound like the class was going to be really hard and they were going to be very strict. But from past experience I knew that it would not be as bad as difficult as it sounded. I told myself that for sure I would learn something during this class if they lived up to what they said in the syllabus. So thinking about it that way, I could relax and know that I was making a good choice about this class. When we look at the situation, sometimes it looks overwhelming. But putting a positive spin on it often helps us reduce our stress.
September 6, 2004
Getting off to a good start
MY VACATION PLOG (PAPER-LOG) ENTRIES
As promised, here are the PLOG (PAPER-LOG) entries from when I was on vacation this last week. My notebook is way too messy to read so I typed it all into the computer to post here. I hope you enjoy my notes on my vacation. I decided to list the highlights of each day also, because it seemed like a good way for me to recap what happened that day that made it such a great vacation. (good for my memory later) ;-)
I’m posting these and then changing the dates back to the day I wrote each one so it accurately reflects when I wrote them. Here is an index to each post:
Getting off to a good start
Tomorrow classes start again and I wish all college students a great semester! I’m really looking forward to my classes too! Tonight I was talking with a good friend who is a teacher. She was excited to be starting to teach again tomorrow after a summer’s break. I feel the same way. And I know there will be high levels of energy tomorrow in the classrooms as everyone starts something new.
This is a time when each person, student and teacher can start fresh, take advantage of the high levels of energy and enthusiasm and get off to a good start. We can each re-create ourselves in the way we wish to be and during times like this, starting something new, we have that opportunity. We just have to make up our minds and do it. Then at Midterms or finals we might not be feeling as much pressure!
September 5, 2004
Finding purpose and direction in life
Sunday, September 5, 2004 PLOG Entry Seven.
Highlights of the day:
27 mile bike ride after the rain stopped. Today I saw the camel outside. I also saw many deer and enjoyed waving to people who were out driving around or walking by the roads. I was also splashed by a big sport utility vehicle, which was kind of a weird sensation. I got drenched and it actually felt kind of good because I was pedaling hard and going at a fast pace.
Reading and Napping. - I’ve had a lot of naps this week! It felt good!
Dog-sitting. I enjoyed watching the dogs greet people as they came back to the cottage.
A quiet lunch with my wife and daughter. My daughter commented on how nice it was to be eating lunch together.
Typing my PLOG entries into my laptop computer in preparation of tomorrow’s return home.
Roasting hotdogs for dinner in the fireplace (it was raining outside)
Finding purpose and direction in life
Reading the book Going Home, by Thich Nhat Hanh, I was thrilled to see the topics of Love and Faith so eloquently talked about. He makes a distinction between True Love, True Faith and the kinds of love and faith that lead to further suffering. True Love and Faith are living and are grown in us when nurtured. They give us energy and purpose and direction so we are not wandering aimlessly.
It is not possessive love or blind faith. Thich Nhat Hanh said, “True Love is made of understanding…Out of understanding there will be kindness, there will be compassion, there will be an offering of Joy.” He said that the same can be said of true Faith. “There is a kind of Faith that sustains us and continues to give us strength and Joy.” True Faith comes from experiencing the object of our faith. For many that is experiencing or touching God. Sometimes we are not making God a part of our lives and it shows in our lives by our suffering. He said, “True Faith comes from how the path you are taking can bring you life and love and happiness every day.”
When my wife, daughter and I were eating lunch together we were talking about what kind of career or work my daughter would like to do after she goes through college. She was thinking about what things she would be happy doing and what things she wouldn’t like doing.
My oldest daughter, the loving, good hearted young woman who I adopted as my own in India, graduated from college this year but still has no direction or purpose. My thoughts turned to her and I asked my wife and daughter what more I could give to her to help her find her purpose and Joy in life. True love looks deeply and understands what she needs. In these thoughts I found my purpose and joy in helping her to discover her direction, and in being there for her as she grows and learns. Isn’t that what a father loving a daughter is about?
September 4, 2004
When they look at me, Lord let them see you
Saturday, September 4, 2004 PLOG Entry Six.
Highlights of the day:
31 mile bike ride in the early morning. I had all the roads almost to myself. But I had the fortune of seeing a fox run across the road in front of me on the SW corner of the island.
When I was finished with my ride, I saw that my wife’s car was gone so I hurried the 1.2 miles into town and met them at the local coffee shop. There I met my wife, daughter, sister-in-law and her daughter. That was fun sitting outside the café talking.
Napping on the couch after riding home.
Eating leftover cheese and bread and talking with my wife and her father.
Napping again! On the couch and doing some reading. Little Jerry woke me up to go outside by jumping on my chest and giving me kisses.
Listening to music.
When they look at me, Lord let them see you
I have often prayed this, “When they look at me, Lord let them see you.” No matter what our spiritual practice is, there is a difference between ‘walking the talk’ and ‘talking the walk.’ Really my prayer reaches deeply into the practice of living with God every moment. I wrote before that God is available to us every moment but do we reach into God and live every moment in the energy and spirit of God? My prayer is that I do.
When we look at others can we see God in them? God says that we are all created equal. When we look at the beautiful trees, flowers rocks and animals, can we see God in them? If we look closely enough we can.
Today before lunch we were just sitting around the deck talking about random subjects. Out of frustration over a controversial situation facing our city these days, my father-in-law expressed a political view that I happen to disagree with. I started going off on an argument that I have rehearsed in my mind. At that point I didn’t care about who they saw in me. I just wanted to make my point.
But my father-in-law didn’t argue with me. I was alone on my soapbox and when I looked down, they were all looking at me. My father-in-law gracefully acknowledged my passion and concern and said he didn’t intend to start an argument. Though we did not agree on the topic of discussion, he offered me a symbol of peace.
I looked deeply and saw God in him today. It is because he put into practice something that I believe. Some things are more important than being right. God is Love. God is Peace.
September 3, 2004
God is always available to us
Friday, September 3, 2004 PLOG Entry Five.
Highlights of the day:
Riding all available pavement on the island. While riding I saw a Llama! I stopped to take a picture and he came over to the fence to say hello.
Doing our annual hike through the Big Bay State Park and jumping off the rocks into Lake Superior! Cooooooold! It takes my breath away.
Cheese and bread for lunch in the sun on the rocks by Lake Superior.
Taking an afternoon nap in the shade outside on the lawn.
Reading outside on the grass.
God is always available to us
I was reading a book called Going Home, by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s inspiring in several ways. For one, the wisdom in his writing transcends much of our current dogma used for excuses to hate each other.
One of the themes in the book is that God is always available to us. We just have to be willing to touch God, to have intention and determination to do so. God is Love, Peace, Stability and Freedom. All of that is available to us right now, 14 hours per day. (see page 38, page 8 – Andre’ Gide)
But the question is, are we always touching God, 24 hours per day? God is the base of all being. The absolute, unchanging all in all. The beginning, the end, and the eternal. We can touch God by looking deeply and touching the phenomenal world deeply. In the Creation we see the Creator who sustains and makes life possible. We see the ground of all being.
September 2, 2004
Seeing the commonalities verses the differences
Thursday, September 2, 2004 PLOG Entry Four.
Highlights of the day:
Sleeping in, eating a slow breakfast and talking with my family around the breakfast island.
Bike ride around the island and persisting through the gravel and sand for a total of 28 miles. I discovered that the whole northern half of the island is unpaved and very difficult to ride with a racing bike who’s tire’s sink into the road! According to the local paper they will pave all the roads in the year 2008.
Playing mini golf with my wife, her father, my daughter and Molly. Molly doesn’t have opposable thumbs to hold a club, but played anyway by trying take my ball when I hit it!
Playing on the beach with Molly. She really likes the waves and tries to bite the white caps as they are rolling in. She also loves to make water splash and to race us along the beach. When we get tired and stop she’ll start chasing us back the other way.
My wife’s sister and her daughter arriving at the cottage with their dog, Jerry Rice. He’s such a cute little Pomeranian.
Eating dinner together as a family.
Having a quiet peaceful time to write and listen to music while the rest of the family went back to the beach.
Cleaning the bathroom. I did a good job. It was cleaner than when we arrived. Shortly after arriving the toilet backed up and they called a plumber in to fix the problem. But the plumber didn’t do any cleanup. So I did it.
Doing laundry at the local laundry-mat in the town of LaPointe. It reminded me of the old days when we first got married and was fun to talk with my wife while doing it.
My sister-in-law commenting on the Jeff Ray CD I was playing, “I like your music John! Who is this?”
Jerry sitting on the couch with me. He loves to be scratched.
Seeing the commonalities verses the differences
My father-in-law has some political views that are different than mine. It’s not night and day, but there are a few things we don’t agree on. But that’s ok. He is a very generous, kind man who loves his family. There is no difference between his need for love and mine. In this life we tend to focus on the differences and then wonder why life can be so messed up. If I focused on our differences I would not be able to spend a week in the same place with him, but instead I find myself loving this man more. He is the father of my wife, and the grandfather of my children, who loves his family like I do. We could learn to treat our fellow human beings this way also, by focusing on the commonalities instead of the differences.
September 1, 2004
Two Vacations in One!
Wednesday, September 1, 2004 PLOG Entry Three.
Highlights of the day:
Bike Ride to McKinley and back to Gilbert in the early morning when everyone was asleep.
Managing to get everything to fit back into the trailer and Jeep after camping! We did have to unpack and reload the trailer once because we forgot a camping box.
The drive to Bayfield, Wisconsin with my wife and daughter. Talking in the car.
Molly on the Ferry ride to Madeline Island, looking through the drain holes at the waves.
Checking into a nice place.
Molly claiming her own bed.
Making dinner myself. Each of us are taking a turn at it throughout the week.
Having dinner with my daughter, wife and her father.
My daughter, wife and her father playing cards while I sat by the fire in the fireplace writing and drinking tea.
Two Vacations in One!
This morning I went for a bike ride to McKinley and back, ate breakfast and then started to pack up the camping gear. This is the first time we have tried mixing two types of vacation; Camping and spending time in a cottage with our family. We camped for two nights and now we are staying in a very nice cottage with showers and soft, poofy beds.
As I write these words, the fire in the fireplace slowly fades into the memories of another vacation before this one.
It made me think of how many transitions we go through in life: As children in school, college life, military duty, having children and family life, career changes, becoming empty nesters, retirement, old age and passing on. Each phase in life requires a different set of tools and attitudes.
I discovered it’s a pain to carry all of the things necessary along for each other phase. Even camping for two days requires all the necessary camping gear; tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, cooler, etc. When we grow up and make the transition to adulthood we need to put away some of our childish ways and learn responsibility and other skills necessary for the smooth operation of life.
As we look back it’s nice to remember previous phases in our life. And we have many phases in our lives. Each has it’s unique memories and joys. But like vacations they fade into the fire as a new phase begins. What is our next phase? Rebirth? Change? Continuation? No matter what it is we have to let go of the previous phase and move on to be fully present in the current one. Sometimes we have to let go of our previous notions and beliefs as we mature and our understanding of life becomes more complete.