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The Fifth

5 Nov

Remember, remember the fifth of November. The gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.

Remember that you have the power to change the world, if only you fight for what you believe is good and right.


Lifelong Learning

11 Aug

Because education shoudn’t just be found in a classroom. Eighteen ways to educate yourself every day. See the original post here.

1. Watch a TED talk every day.

“Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” These are the kind of bright ideas that I would like to fill my head with.

2. Read a random article of interest from every day.

They are quick, easy, informative, and give you a glimpse of a subject that you may decide to do more research on later!

A lovely reader recommended the podcasts “Stuff you should know” and “Stuff mom never told you” which can be found on the website.

3. Read for half an hour every day before bed.

This is such a monumental suggestion. The habit of reading for 30 minutes every day can really kick start your goal of “getting back into reading” and of course educating yourself as well. 30 minutes is not too hard to set aside at the end of the day. Just get yourself into bed 30 minutes earlier if you have to. If you read for 30 minutes every night you should be able to get through at least one book every two weeks. That’s 26 books a year (approximately). With this kind of reading rapport you are bound to make a sizable dent into your reading list.

4. Learn more about your job.

Focus more at work. Take the time to really understand why you do the things you do at work, instead of simply going through the motions. Even if this is a job you have been at for years, there is more to discover. Do some research on the company you work for, where did they come from? And what do they really do? There are great opportunities for growth and learning even in our sometimes boring 9-5 desk jobs. Although it may seem that you are just on the other end of a desk, your clients see you as an expert in your field. So make sure you are one!

5. Make learning something you do for “fun”.

Well, it should already be fun that you are taking the time to invest in yourself and learning more about your world – but you know how you could make it more fun? By getting other people involved (yay for them ;) ). You could watch documentaries with your partner or work on puzzles with your children, play trivial pursuit with your family, or discuss new and fresh topics with your friends.

6. Work on a puzzle every day.

This could be jigsaw puzzles, riddles, math puzzles etc. Anything that requires you to practice your mental acrobatics. You can buy simple “Train your brain” books from your local bookstore, that have a puzzle a day to make things really easy for you!

7. Read classics.

Something I try to force myself to do is to read books that are actually a little bit challenging – for the purpose of not only being “well read” but also having an opportunity to expand my vocabulary. Classics epitomize english language at it’s finest. I’m not saying they are always a joy to read, but boy do I feel proud of myself when I finish one.

8. Play for a few minutes every day.

Work on your vocabulary whilst simultaneously feeding the hungry! You may pass GO. You may collect $200. The great thing about playing this every day is that they tend to repeat words, so you really start getting used to remembering new words that you were not initially used to.

9. Learn a new word every day.

Most of the online dictionaries have a “Word a day” feature that you can subscribe to by e-mail, or simply check online. Learn a new word every day, and make it your intention to use that word 3 times in your day.

10. Watch Documentaries.

Watching documentaries has never been easier! You can watch them on TV, and even on youtube. Sometimes I just type in a subject I am interested in and then “part 1″ and see what I can find. It’s also fun to watch documentaries on things you have no prior knowledge or real interest in.

One of my commenters has recommended BBC documentaries (I agree), in particular Planet Earth, and Wild China. National geographic has some pretty spectacular documentaries too.

I recommend Zeitgeist (you can also watch it on youtube). My boyfriend showed me this documentary and I seriously watched the whole thing with my eyes wide and my mouth open. It was truly life enhancing.

11. Follow some interesting blogs.

Find some bloggers that inspire you and fill your mind with bright ideas and thoughts, and follow them. Another option is to subscribe to a magazine that really fascinates you.

12. Take a class.

What better way to affirm to yourself that you are educating yourself – than to take an actual class? Find a topic that you wouldn’t mind learning more about, and register!

13. Learn a new language.

Are there any languages that you have been interested in learning? Well, why not start now! Take a class, get private lessons, watch videos online – whatever it is, find time in your life to immerse yourself in this new pursuit!

14. Take up a new hobby / put more effort into your current hobby.

I think everybody should have a hobby. Something that you can really throw yourself into. That you do just for fun, that makes you happy, that improves some aspect of yourself, and something you can commit to. If you can’t think of one – create one. There are plenty of hobbies out there. Pick one. Picking them is easy. Staying committed is hard. And even though hobbies are “Fun”, a degree of commitment is required if you ever plan to see some kind of result. Create a schedule in your week to really commit to your new hobby – a certain number of times a week, a  couple of hours a day – it really is up to you. Learn all about your new hobby, both the theory and the application.

15. Try new recipes.

You could buy a new cook book, subscribe to a cookery magazine, or even browse the miracle that is the internet. To make this fun, you could have themes and goals each week, like “eating healthy”, raw food, desserts, smoothies, appetizers, main courses, salads, fruits etc.

16. Practice memory games.

It’s one thing to stuff your head with all this information, its something completely different to access this information again when you really want it. No genius is considered a genius if he can’t remember what it is that he knows. By working with your memory, you can work on your ability to keep your new knowledge available for you to retrieve it.

17. Read the headlines.

My parents read the headlines every day. My mom says that I shouldn’t leave the house without having some clue of what’s going on in the world. I haven’t really implemented this much in my life yet – sometimes I just feel like the news is just so overwhelming – I don’t even know where to start (Does anyone else feel like this?!). I guess that’s why she suggested to “READ THE HEADLINES”.

I don’t think there can be anything wrong with knowing a little bit about what’s going on in the world.

18. Whenever you are making a trip somewhere, or doing something new – take the time to learn a little bit about it.

If you are ever stuck for new things to learn, this is a great way to give you some ideas. Use your life as an inspiration. If you are planning on going to a new city for the long weekend – learn about it. If you meet a new friend who is a wine merchant, learn all about being a wine merchant.

At first, I sometimes felt like I was stuck for new things to learn – which to me now feels totally ridiculous because is there really anything I couldn’t learn more about? But over time, after implementing many of these techniques, I find that my brain automatically gives me new topics to learn about. It is just INTERESTING!

And one day you are going to be able to talk about these things in discussions, and in your own mind you are going to be thinking “Wow.”

I remember a couple of years ago I had read a LOT of information about blue-whale attacks, their anatomy, their physiology, and how they ingest and digest their prey. A few months later, lo and behold – a girl in my class randomly said “Hmm I wonder what happens if you got eaten by a blue whale…”

Ah, yes. My time had come.

And for further education:

19. Discover what you may stumble upon when you StumbleUpon!

I don’t know how I could forget this little goldmine. I use it all the time and I love it!

20. Wikipedia

You can browse random articles on wikipedia, or you could use it as a great starting point for your own private nerdy research in an area of your choice! Awesome.

21. Play

I have not used this yet. It was a suggestion from a reader, but it looks fun!

Old Glory

4 Jul

Happy 4th of July to everyone! Normally I think the American flag is pretty ostentatious, but it does make a pretty clever cake, don’t you think?

July 4th Cake

Conspiracy Theory

30 Jun

It’s geeky to think about conspiracy theories, right? Well, today’s Plinky prompt inspires me to think so: What conspiracy theory do you believe in?

If you’ve read Angels and Demons or The Da Vinci Code, you know about the wild theories and codes solved by Robert Langdon, put down by some of the greatest religious, philosophical, scientific, and artistic minds in history. While I wouldn’t necessarily say I believe that Jesus was married and has a legitimate bloodline, I do subscribe to the theory that history is full of twists and turns that are stranger than fiction. We’ll never know the answers to these crazy quesitons, but I do think it’s possible that ancient relics and facts have been buried throughout history, making it impossible for us to discover them. So I guess I’m taking a cop-out here. I’m not saying I believe these kinds of conspiracy theories. I’m saying that I’m open to the idea that history is complicated, that the world is full of questions without an answer, and that there are secrets that were never meant to be uncovered.

We aren’t meant to know or understand everything. There are mysteries in the world that will never be solved. And we shouldn’t limit our imaginations to thinking that we’re capable of figuring it all out. It’s possible that there are buried treasures out there, both tangible and theoretical, and it’s fascinating to think about what history has done to them. But we won’t ever know the truth.

Round Robin

12 May

Plinky prompt of the day: You’re gathering signatures for a petition. What’s your cause?

I’m starting a petition to repeal those terrible No Child Left Behind policies, completely overhaul our education system to one that actually benefits kids and encourages teachers, directing the blame for failing schools away from teachers and demanding accountability from parents, and a serious investigation of the effectiveness of all those standardized tests.

I don’t know exactly what this form would look like – it sounds complicated, I know. It’s a lot to fit onto one form. But something has to be done around here – kids are growing up dumber than ever, allowed to slide by because of terrible policies in the education system. Teachers are blamed for every shortcoming of kids who just aren’t going to be college-bound. Parents let their kids do anything they want, except homework. It’s just awful, the state of our public education system. I believe it can work for the good of those involved, but not in its current condition. We have lawmakers who barely remember being students, and have never once set foot inside a classroom to teach. Are these the people we really want making laws about the future of the country? Not me. I’m starting a petition right now to change all this. Who’s with me?

Ten Things Tuesday – May 10

10 May

Ten things that would make the world a better place:

1. If kids actually respected and obeyed their parents. But before that can happen, parents need to take charge of their kids’ behavior, discipline them, and care about what happens to them. If they did these things, and oh, I don’t know, acted like an actual parent, their kids would actually listen to them. I’m more than worried for the youth of this country, and I blame parents, mostly.

2. Secondly I blame video games. I think kids should quit playing so many video games and get outside more often. I have a big problem with really young kids who play violent video games. It does nothing but encourage rage, laziness, and easy distraction while completely ruining problem-solving skills.

3. An education system that actually serves kids. Lawmakers and politicians have gotten their hands far too deep into the education system, and it doesn’t really work anymore. No wonder so many kids and schools are failing – they rely on data and completely unrealistic expectations and evaluation systems. We forget that it’s people who need to benefit from education, and people that it affects. We’re not a number, or a textbook, or a test score. We are people who benefit from quality education.

4. An attitude of servitude and a willingness to volunteer. If people actually served each other, instead of their own interests, I think we’d be much more cooperative as a society. I realize that this is totally unrealistic, but I would love to see some kind of instituted service for everyone. Sure, sure, not everyone would appreciate it or enjoy it, but I think it would be highly beneficial. When you graduate high school, spend one year of your life dedicated to service learning, then go on to pursue an education or a career. See how your perspective changes then.

5. Being able to eat as much ice cream as you want, without getting sick or fat. Ice cream just makes you feel better, hands down. And how could that possibly make the world worse?

6. Handwritten letters. I do see the irony of this, as I type this sentence on my computer. We’ve forgotten the art of letter-writing, and conversing with others just because it makes us feel good to have someone to talk to and listen to. Now, we don’t even have enough time to write out a complete word in a text message – we have to abbreviate it into this nonsensical shorthand. We have all these forms of instant mass communication at our hands, and still we feel more disconnected than ever. Along those lines, we need to quit texting each other and actually have a conversation with a real, live person. Especially when you’re in the company of others, and all you can do is type away on your phone to people you’re not even with. As previously stated, we don’t even know how to talk to each other anymore.

7. Show respect for so-called “blue collar” jobs. You don’t want to pick up trash for a living? Fine, you don’t have to. You don’t know how to fix a car? That’s OK. But just because you’re highly educated, don’t undervalue or underestimate the value and importance of people able and willing to do these things. Someone has to get their hands dirty. While it probably won’t be me, I have a great respect for the people who do. I admire people who happily work in labor jobs that bring a sense of self-satisfaction and accomplishment. These people are some of the happiest around. They do an honest day’s work at a job that truly needs doing. If we don’t have people to repair our roads, build houses, clean clogged pipes, and recycle garbage, our country’s infrastructure will collapse. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see what that looks like.

8. The three R’s. No, I’m not talking abour Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic (although we have forgotten the value of these things), but Recycling, Reducing, and Reusing. We’re terribly self-centered as a species; we think everything is here just for our exclusive benefit. We don’t often stop to consider the environmental consequences of our actions. While it’s nearly impossible to be environmentally-friendly in every single thing we do, there are some major things we can do to help out our dear old planet. Recycling things that can be used multiple times, reducing the amount we waste, and reusing things that can get a second life are all great ideas for positive impact on the environment.

9. Quit arguing about things that don’t matter and start to love people. Politicians, I’m looking at you. We’ve forgotten that we should love others, and treat them kindly, rather than looking for everything we don’t like or everything we want to change. Why can’t we all just get along?

10. Be thankful. Truly thankful. Not just going around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and saying one thing you’re thankful for that year, but really practicing thankfulness on a daily basis. Appreciating the things you have – material and intangible – helps us all to remember the less fortunate and ultimately makes us happier people. I think we tend to want less when we’re really thankful for what we already have. Let’s focus on that, rather than the have-nots.

The Wedding of the Century

18 Apr

I’m sure everyone is tired of hearing about the royal wedding next week, but secretly I’m quite excited about it. Of course we’ve been seeing lots of news specials about the royal family, the romance of William and Kate, and speculation about how she will compare to Diana. I don’t know much about Kate Middleton, besides what I’ve learned in the past few weeks from TV, but I do like her very much. She’s beautiful and stylish and classy – everything you think a princess should be. And doesn’t William, who suffered such heartbreak as a young man, deserve love and happiness? I think so.

Although I am torn, though – there’s a large part of me that wants to watch the wedding, while another part says that way too much attention and pressure are being given to this couple who, given the choice, would probably want to have a small, private affair among their closest friends and family. They both seem to handle the attention well, though. Being royal is different from just being famous – it’s something you’re born into, rather than a career or a choice. And it’s not as though your star will fade messily into oblivion – it’s a lifetime gig.

I’m rooting for William and Kate, though. I really hope they work, because they seem so in love and so determined to keep their private lives just that – private. They might be in the public eye and the future king and queen of England, but they are still a young couple in love. They deserve a normal life of happiness, too. Even though they will never, compared to everyday standards, have a normal life. Stripped down of tiaras and sceptres, they are just people, wanting to love and be loved. Kings and commoners alike can agree: we all want just that.

Who am I kidding, though. I’ll probably be awake at 4 in the morning to watch the whole spectacle.