Archive for August 10th, 2008

August 10, 2008

Log 2

Again I’m not thinking. At the beginning of the previous log I say how it’s a bad idea to put deadlines on book-reading, and then at the end of the same log I put a new deadline, which is again a big overestimate.

So, let’s try a different solution. Instead of page count, I’ll determine how many hours I should spend with the books, and stick to that schedule.

Going through about a third of Jim Scrivener’s “Learning teaching” so far hasn’t given me any particularly edifying moments. However, it’s not Scrivener’s fault – he seems very knowledgeable and experienced in language teaching and the book is also targeted at people who never really held a lecture. It gives lots of tips on practically every aspect of language teaching, and a number of them are applicable to teaching in general (observing group dynamics, finding out an individual’s motivation etc.). However, with books like these, I am amazed that the vast majority of teachers still aren’t changing their obviously ineffective grammar-heavy teaching method to a better (and more fun!) one.

Finding a recipe which doesn’t have ten million ingredients wasn’t too hard, but the thing I made wasn’t that tasty, because the amount of ingredients was very vague. Then I remembered that I found the recipe on the internet and that there’s this thing called Google which can help you look for things. Again, I’m not sitting down and thinking.

So, for tomorrow I’ll try the hour per book approach and some other stuff:

1 hour for Scrivener, more if it becomes interesting

2 hours for the philosophies

1 hour for the book on healthy food.

150 kanji in Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji (I have a better feel with this book, so I’ll venture a number estimate)

5 km run (I’m excited about this one – the muscles today felt almost as if I didn’t do anything last night)

August 10, 2008

Log 1 – philosophy and running

Setting a deadline for reading is not a good idea, especially when the book is on philosophy. I expected to have an easy read today, and of course, it went much slower; apart from reaching for the dictionary every now and then, I don’t consider reading just going over the text – I must understand what is being said. I want to, as often as necessary, push myself out of my comfort zone at least a bit, but going way beyond my capabilities (such as reading philosophy at high speed) isn’t gonna give me too much valuable experience.

The 100 pages or so I’ve read are very interesting so far. Early Indian philosophy was cool, but a little hard to go through because of the frequent use of lots of Indian terms  (even though I already knew some of the main ones, such as brahman, atman, moksha, karma, nirvana etc.).  I’ll have to go again through some parts, but I think I’m forming a general impression.

The chapter on early Chinese philosophy was much more inspiring. Although I thought I had a good grasp on the basics of Confucianism and Taoism and the way they are perceived in China, this book has showed me how little I know.

I like the way latter Confucians such as Tung Chung-Shu try to elegantly reconcile the very opposite views of two big Confucians, Mencius and Hsun Tzu; Hsun Tzu’s “man is evil” outlook; a deeper look at Confucius’ views made me think about the way we perceive historically important people in general. So many smart people have left so many thoughts for us to pick up, apply and incorporate into ourselves, and yet how many of us are listening to them? How many people know what Genghis Khan was really like and what is it about him which made him so extraordinary in the times and circumstances he lived in? Or Confucius? Or Miyamoto Musashi? Or Morihei Ueshiba? Or Churchill? Or Lincoln?

As for running, a strange thing happened. I don’t know if it’s the drop of temperature, my losing a few pounds, not eating anything 6 hours before the run or something else, but I ran the whole 5 km almost without breaking a sweat. There was practically no muscle pain during the run – at one point there was some discomfort in the upper part of my pecks, but that disappeared after a few minutes. Probably the most interesting thing is that my breading was constantly relaxed, through my nose, with around 6-7 inhales through the mouth during the whole run, at moments when I thought I was getting tired.

This is strange. Usually I run for 1 km and then slow down to a walking pace for one more lap, and then I run again. After some 3 km the usual sharp pain somewhere in the sides would prevent me from going further, but now that pain was mysteriously absent. The whole run went so easily, even though I haven’t ran for 2 weeks. After the last lap I did another one (250m), and I was confused by how relaxed I felt – as if I just started running.

Right now I’m still feeling relaxed. Tomorrow I’ll see what the muscles will be like and do some longer walks, and I’ll try the same intensive run on Monday.

That elated feeling after a tough physical activity is great; haven’t felt it in a while.

Today’s activities sparked some ideas, which I’ll elaborate on tomorrow:

The plan for tomorrow is:

– at least 200 pages of Scrivener’s Learning Teaching

– at least 100 pages of World philosophies

– at least 100 pages on healthy eating, learn and try out a recipe

good night

August 10, 2008

Beating Tolstoy

Are you consciously and constantly becoming a better person?

And I mean better in every way – smarter, healthier, more skilful, more moral (whatever “more moral” is for you)… Are you on an upward curve towards the goals you’ve set? If not, what’s stopping you?

Although through the things I’ve done I’ve brought myself in a situation significantly better than that of most young people in Serbia, I was still unsatisfied. I simply wasn’t mustering the will to live the way thought I should live. Yesterday I quietly decided to change that.

This blog is a place where I’ll write about my path to becoming a person who not only knows where he’s headed, but is also unfalteringly heading there. I believe that an essential part of that is being proactive.

I like the way Wikipedia sums it up:

The word proactive was originally coined by the psychiatrist Victor Frankl in his 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning to describe a person who took responsibility for his or her life, rather than looking for causes in outside circumstances or other people. Much of this theory was formed in Nazi concentration camps where Frankl lost his wife, mother, father and family, but decided that even under the worst circumstances, people can make and find meaning.

This is what being proactive truly means: finding meaning and making a decision, no matter the circumstances, and sticking to it; changing when you decide that change should happen; accepting the chaos of everyday life and the myriad random experiences both good and ugly which you can learn from.

It’s amazing to me how little the vast majority of people is proactive in the way I described. I’ve read that the “We only use 1/10 of our brain” claim is not true. I beg to differ; looking at humanity today, it seems to me that most of us are using even less. I am amazed to what levels of lethargy so many have sunk, but are constantly failing to get out of their status quo, even though the solutions are so obvious. But no; it takes effort to change, and we’re afraid of effort. Only when we completely break down and we can’t take it anymore do we decide to change ourselves.

I paraphrased Tolstoy, who observed this perfectly:

It seldom happens that a man changes his life through his habitual reasoning. No matter how fully he may sense the new plans and aims revealed to him by reason, he continues to plod along in old paths until his life becomes frustrating and unbearable – he finally makes the change only when his usual life can no longer be tolerated.

Well, I think that we humans can do better than that. This blog is the place where I’ll try to prove that.