Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Moving Beyond Gathering

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

With the Fall season upon us, I can’t help but think about the idea of harvesting, gathering up the crops…and somehow connect it all back to my own research projects. In such a way the fields of grains become transformed into field of ideas, waiting to be taken up and used.

Harvest Time.

While other students have reaped the benefits of well-sown thoughts and research, I am still waiting with sickle in hand. The fact is, the harvest does not just happen if you are sitting down and looking at the potential for your crops. It takes one going out into the fields and collecting what has already grown so bountifully. I link this idea more to concepts and thoughts than I do to building a bibliography or even writing out the paper. Ideas, unlike bibliographies, grow naturally and freely. They do not require but a little bit of care.
Wheat head above field

However we don’t have a usable product, it takes some manipulation and energy to convert the wheat into flour, the flour into bread. We act on it as creators ourselves and build something more. Yet, notice that although the products we create are truly amazing, they do not touch the natural beauty of ideas in their purest forms.

The fine, usable product at the end of the road does not come easily. As I have looked out on my field of ideas, I have forgotten just why I could fail, looking at the field is not enough.Like in the very first picture, I need to go down and collect the ideas and then begin the process of grinding them down and digging deeper.
Best Grinding Machine in the World ;)

It takes force, effort, and strength to make the project happen. Doing the work can require meticulous effort. I spent tonight building spreadsheets of my readings and realized that I need to do such long ago. I not only started the harvest late, but now my production is late too. As I built the spreadsheet and saw just how much I had to do, I was baffled at the workload but relieved that now I could see the field of ideas shifting to actions, readings, notes, papers. The ideas have done their part and grown strong, won’t I at the very least get out of my seat and do something?  I am not relying on the grocery store to feed me, I am a lone man on these fields, and as such I need to bear the burden and see the seeds I planted to their full fruition. From farm to plate I must give a full effort–everyday, little by little.

The Bread Pt 1: Le Panier, Macrina, Dahlia Bakery

Beginning Semester (1/2)

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

At first beginning as a stream of conscious writing for tonight, I scrapped what little I rambled and considered, in a list, what I really wanted to say. I happened to steal that method from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in order to break whatever I want to say down to a simple level, a welcome to a new semester and a series of questions about projects and moving forward. Today at the University of Mary Washington we had our first day of classes, a rather stressful and hectic time for both students and professors. Unfortunately, this has been the worse (or at least roughest) start I have yet to encounter since starting here in Fall of 2007. As a history major, it has been next to impossible to find classes that will move me closer to completing my degree in a timely fashion. I did at least sit in on many other classes that I might not otherwise have seen had I settled all of my classes. I cannot blame anyone for the frustrations I am experiencing, we have an increasingly large number of history majors as compared to our current staff of history professors, who are already overworked as it is. Despite a number of setbacks, I am following a recommendation from one professor to keep trying for what I want, which will of course be worth all of the trouble and headaches.

I’ve already hit the main issues with this semester, overfilled classes and no wiggle room for students. There is no need to rehash any other issues, because matters such as being overworked or overwhelmed really don’t start on day 1, much more of a day 2 problem. It’s safe to say that this semester, from an administrative standpoint has already been painful.

But rather than dwell on an issue that I have no control over, I would rather like to focus on more interesting questions, namely how to schedule my side work and projects, absorb materials and gain understanding of foundational skills. I list side work, because I have opted to take less than a full load of credits to pursue my own interests that the school is not able to accommodate at this time.

My workload this semester falls into the category of coursework, stand-alone language training and club work. The main focus of course should be the actual coursework for the semester, yet it is hard for me to set aside my language training for normal classes. As I have been reading through other language blogs, I am no longer convinced of language being akin to riding a bike. Especially in the case of Chinese, use it or lose it. Yet I have noticed, as it is already nearing quarter past eleven, the day only has so many hours. Unlike last year, I am no longer actively leading clubs, and instead use that time to make clubs a relating hobby or find a way, like with the radio station, to link it to my language studies.

Thinking Goals

Over the summer, I read Adler Mortimer’s How to Read a Book. I am still in the process of self-training but feel I have come a long way in understanding how to further develop reading skills. The author makes an interesting observation in the differences between reading to absorb information and reading for the explicit purpose of enhancing knowledge. Now according to him, and I find his list quite narrow, very few books honestly qualify for the reading to enrich understanding. Yet the distinctions set forth in the book caused me to realize I have set the bar far too low for my classes. It seems as if the class is a place to finish the work and call it a day without the material really grasping your mind or your heart.

With that in mind, I want to truly engage material in a way that I just haven’t done prior to this semester. Honestly, dig into the materials and follow what I am reading closely. This of course is a well-recommended goal but would be easily dropped at the first sign of overloaded work in the semester. You have to back it up with something a little more solid. So why not say keep an active reading journal and throw your thoughts online. If I have to write a paper on the material I am reading anyway, why not just start writing now on every bit I read. Perhaps take a bit of time and set up a nice form for articles, who is the person, what are the themes of his/her argument, how is the argument crafted? and also write out a thumbnail sketch of the article with some reflections. It sounds like an overall good, although time consuming plan. Yet it doesn’t have to be, a few paragraphs would suffice. Goal number 1 start writing out reading journal more thoroughly.

Goal 2: Dealing with side projects

I tend to be a lover of all the things that you want to do but is not quite related to your main line of work. I think that working on the projects you really love is far more beneficial and perhaps even a great break from the mundane work of a class that you are unfortunately stuck taking. For me my main side work involves continuing Chinese language studies. This unfortunately is a rather big and not so easy to pin down. Good language study takes up more time than most people would expect, but in terms of a big picture I need excellent Chinese for potential grad school, and with competition supposedly being more fierce due to bad economy, I need to be at the top of my game which means great language skills and a solid handle on proper academic writing. In my mind the coursework itself will take care of the latter. It is up to me, however, to formulate a plan to handle my Chinese. Of course that needs to be further broken down to define what sort of training is appropriate and how to approach it. Where do I find time and people to work with on my material? Frankly, I need to man up and accept that as a sideproject my training will be considered “treading water” unless I find some other method to make the training more intensive. I just won’t see the level of progress that I managed in Harbin.

The side project gets more complicated if there is more than one, yet I am trying to make projects either similar in theme or somehow weave together so I am working on two things at once. Case in point, I am putting together a radio show for the campus that is focus on Chinese music, podcasts, language and culture. It fits with everything else I am doing so why not? How can you draw your experiences together and not kill yourself with lack of sleep? This is always the big question, how do I get sleep?

A Break

This subject can be continued on for quite a while, but for now it is good to leave it here and practice the art of patience. I can always write more tomorrow.

Projects Galore

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

This week’s projects have had no really progress of which to speak, but at the very least I felt an update appropriate. My main goals for this week have been moving into my apartment with roommate Matt Keaton and getting myself further orientated with a range of technologies. So here is the general overview of the week:

  1. The apartment is getting more and more unpacked but still in rough shape
  2. Still clueless in HTML
  3. Working with audacity is now a breeze (with some kinks).
  4. Doing some research on recording and Skype
  5. What in the World is all this CMS whats it and how are they different?

The HTML has been a huge challenge for me, not because it is particularly to learntags but rather knowing what I need to know in order to get what I want done. As I debated over this past week on how to proceed with learning some basic coding languages, Professor Whalen mentioned that it is best to have a “real” project and build skills as you progress or hit barriers in your work. For me, learning in this fashion is a bit undirected, and I need a foundation or framework to know what I am looking at and have a sense of what I need. It seems that the skills I need involve HTML、PHP and MySQL. With those three I ought be able to dig around into WordPress and Drupal with only the normal setbacks and swearing at the computer screen when code explodes. As umwblogs is going to get hooked up with the awesomeness of WordPress 3 I want to be prepared to take part in as Jim Groomwould say “re-imagining the framework of the system.” Or something like this? Either way, the point is to get myself well equipped as an active member and not just using WYSIWYG! What I really need is some guidance on how I should be learning all of this material. Right now I cannot even quite imagine how my projects could shape on a widespread publishing platform. Submit thoughts!

This week (granted this week isn’t over yet!)I have devoted the majority of my time working with Dr. Kennedy’s students on their final communication projects. I mostly just keep an eye on equipment or help look at some of their editing work, but like most small projects, my student aid skills had some severe holes. I was entirely uneducated on how to use audacity. Frankly, it’s silly because audacity is awesome and easy to use. I found that a little bit of research and just playing with the program was enough to get acquainted with the program and how the program could meet the students’ needs. Since starting at DTLT I have not had a lot of opportunities to work directly with students on recording projects, but I hope to have some more of that type of work, especially with librivox’s project still in progress.

Helping other students record has recently sparked my interest in creating an audio blog for Chinese recordings, I am still not sure how to accomplish that task. I would need a place to store the files for my blog to grab. As I started fiddling with audacity, I realized that even using something like garageband would suit me well enough. What I really need is a solid microphone, because just using the built-in/headset-mic combo does not cut it for my tastes. For the purposes of language training, conversations with native speakers should be an important aspect of the journey to language mastery (but in all reality that is a cover word for competency). Thus, I started research recording my skype conversations with previous Chinese roommates and friends. I found that the crew for the amazing program headed by Dan Cohen,Digital Campus, had some great suggestions for at least getting started with this project. I downloaded a demo copy of a skype call recorder for the mac. I’ve done a conversation or two with the program, but it won’t be until tomorrow that I can start really cranking out some good work with New Media specialist Andy Rush.

Finally, I have a meeting with Jim Groom tomorrow on WordPress 3 and hopefully gain a fundamental understanding of how to start screwing around with wordpress templates, plug-ins and making the whole thing more customizable. But, Drupal is still out there waiting for me to make use of it. Your selection of CMS (if WordPress can qualify as one) really depends on what sort of content you are trying to connect together. So, who knows maybe a good brainstorm on projects is the next course of action. How do you internet literati work all this out?

Week 3

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Has this become the blair witch project? You catch these snippets of me running around with short breath and snot dripping out of my nose? It’s quite possible, but that is just fine. This weekend went absolutely awesome in terms of training. A few of my new Taiwanese friends sat me down and forced me to make sounds and read outloud as they corrected me. I can finally ask questions of how you would say a specific word, which the word in question is the only time I am allowed to speak English with them. After last week’s successive defeats the weekends minor victories in communication have been glorious! I keep thinking about what it will take to break into a level of somewhat fluency. Chinese doesn’t have the same learning curve of European languages that we pick up in college. The problem with Chinese basics is that there is a lot of reprogramming that needs to take place in an English speaker’s brain before you can even hope to get anywhere. I don’t even sit at the point of being reprogrammed and ready to speak Chinese, which is exactly why I stumble. Dr. Campbell gave me some interesting book recommendations concerning second language acquisition and neural patterns that should be good reads when I get back home. I have basically nixed full hard core reading of books until I get home. I tend to read for hours at a time, and unfortunately I don’t have those stretches of hours…although with two independent studies next semester, will I even have the time then? Anyway! Today’s assignment is to go to a restaurant, order in Chinese and write about the experience. Superstoked since pictures also count as part of the assignment. Ooof I’d kill to have someone teach me photography, get me a nice camera, and (due to heavy bookbags) give me a shoulder massage : D! Don’t mind me I’ve just gone a little bonkers. As a side note, fourth of July when abroad is pretty lame, especially if you are the only American around. I got up and did a little dance for America, since I’m not exactly sure if people can set off fireworks in Taipei without some sort of authorization. The last thing I need is to be thrown into jail while abroad. Alright let’s get this week rolling. 3….2….1 BING!

Weekend’s Work

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

So the site has fallen into slight disrepair, the classes at ICLP can keep you so busy that your head spins right off. Regardless, you have to attack things with a plan. Random moves and work won’t get you anywhere. The workload is simply too large to not have a plan. So with that in mind! It’s the weekend which means it’s prime time for review. I’ll be doing a review of all the grammar patterns and vocabulary acquired thus far in these past two weeks…if I really have gotten a handle on it then the review should be a very fast process. The next thing is writing in my Chinese Journal (sometimes a very long process) and then crashing into the current lessons that I’m working on. Sounds pretty jam packed, but I took last night off from working on anything and am seeing another film for Taipei’s film festival. I can’t complain too badly : D

Lots of Vocab

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I have been meaning to update but been a bit busy watching my brains splatter on the computer lab’s screens as I work at ICLP. I will be sure to throw everything up here asap. The big theme recently has been restaurants…which has actually come in handy as well as some words like “borrow” which I’ve been managing to get a lot of mileage out of. Today was a backwards day for me as I took a few steps back and lost some ground in my training. I’ve cooled off now and am working to build a medium between ultra confident and knowing I don’t know a bit of the language. It’s going to take some thought, but will do me a lot of benefit down the road, I’m sure of it.


Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I checked one of my homework assignments only to find that it has marking all over it. I often strive to make my sentences more complex so the markings are always welcomed. I want to find out what I did wrong and how to fix it, improve it. Lucky me they don’t mark in red…just green. Eh, green the life giving color. It reminds me of how I felt when I got a writing assignment in one of my history classes back. It literally had more ink on it then I originally handed it in with. I felt bad and a little miserable, but then realized each mistake was a great learning experience. If you take it that way you can loosen up a bit and dissect it. If you sit and only see markings and failure, you’ll never be able to make any progress or look at your own work with the proper form of critical analysis.

六月 三十號

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Picked up a quick meal at Vegetarian Paradise and am now ready to roll for another night of work. I have two sets of vocabulary to prepare for as well as some grammar aspects. I’ll be posting up the lists of both later on tonight. The big thing is a new assignment consisting of crafting well thoughtout journal entries in Chinese…funny how laoshi pegged me as the type to journal. It’s a fairly hand tailored assignment, and I am digging a challenge. Just for my own sanity writing out my schedule: 1)FEEC Dialog/Vocab(listen/write)/Grammar 2)PAVC Same set up, create flashcards. Speaking of flashcards, I still need to get more use out of that Anki program, that’s probably best done another day though. Alright Let’s do this!

A quick post

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I need to find a way to really beef up my training. The classes are intense, but as of yet I am not rising to the occasion for these classes and need to find another tool or method to get myself up to that next level. Maybe a quick talk with my Laoshi will handle it. I just need to find other ways to improve my training methods, because right now I just sort of do “whatever” until I feel like my brain is going to explode. The problem with this is that it is an unguided workout. That’s not a good way to train. Imagine if you went to the gym and did some different exercise every single day. Yeah sure you are exercising, but what are you really accomplishing? It takes a good regiment of exercises that are strategically planned and then thorougly executed nigh daily to have solid and more importantly lasting improvement. I’ll be thinking about these training methods and let you know what I come up with!

Week 2

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Today marks week 2 of ICLP classes. Everything went by real smooth like, which is awesome, but it tells me something. I am not pushing myself hard enough in terms of what I expect out of the course. If my expectations are too low, my work ethic will also take a fairly severe nose dive. The large goal, overarching is a better phrase, should be to internalize grammatical structures as well as develop a mouth for tones. This should be on top of all other homework assignments.

Tonight’s homework is pretty light given that I am a little ahead of the curve with my vocabulary. Lin Laoshi gave the students a roleplaying assignment where we create a dialog based on a situation given to us, via random selection, at the end of this morning’s class. My assignment “Ask the staff for the postage and time-spent of a postbard, a regular letter, and a registered letter. ” It sounds really straightforward, but it took me a little while to put together. The problem isn’t that I don’t recognize vocabulary, only that my familiarity is more than a little weak. It simply isn’t flexible enough to create a new situation other than a mirror of what is given in the book Far East Everyday Chinese. This is the same exact problem I experienced with Integrated. Part of my problem with integrated was just straight up the book doesn’t encourage you to think outside the dialog. Here, I am dealing with the effects of that mindset. (While I am writing this I am working on another assignment which is to listen to myself from my one on one class. I sound retarded…) : P Maybe a post about the records could be helpful.

So, now that the main piece of homework is out of the way, I have a mission: type out the different grammar pieces, blow them up on a piece of paper and print those suckers out. Also, I have been having serious issues with the sound represented in pinyin as “c” which is said like “ts” of students. I either make it sound like a z or too aspirated and therefore a “t” I need to hang out with a linguistics person focusing on how sounds are made. It would probably be helpful. Alright, let’s put up those grammar sheets! And then silly sounds ahoy : D