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Tackle School Like a Pro

February 27, 2008

So, you may or may not know this, but I’m a bit of a ‘self-help’ junky. It’s not a healthy habit, and certainly not an flattering one, but I guess it’s better than an addiction to, say, crack or food. At least, that’s what I tell myself (don’t all addicts?).

Anyway, every once in a while, I come across a site that actually brings some of the airy-fairy principles of ‘human development’ down into the realm of pragmatism. I found one of those sites the other day. And it’s really really good!

The site is called Study Hacks. I don’t know most of the background about it, and I’m sure if you’d like to know it, you could check that out. What I’m most interested is the ideas at the site. I feel like the author, Cal Newport, has basically taken all of the half-baked ideas I’ve ever had about how to study, plan out my school day, etc, and put them in the oven until they come out as delicious, delicious cake! Smart cake!

The idea behind the site can be summed up in one statement: work smart, not hard. Which has basically been my school philosophy since my freshman year of high school. It always confused me when people would say they ‘studied all day’ for a test. What does that even mean? And why were those people also always the ones that ended up doing poorly on the test.

At this point it was obvious that what they were doing wasn’t ‘studying’ how I define it. They didn’t spend a given amount of time with a large amount of concentrated focus on the topic at hand. They might have ‘studied’ while talking on AIM, or watching TV, or chatting on the phone. Yeah, no wonder it took so long!

Anyway, enough about me. I wanted to share some of the articles from this site that I’ve found most thought-provoking / useful. So here we go!

Start from the main index of skills of ‘Straight-A’ students. From there, you can learn how to block out your time, or perhaps learn the benefits of a fixed schedule and how to plan your day optimally. If that’s not enough OCD for you, consider setting up a task tracking system a la GTD. Then find out how to efficiently tackle any problem set or write any paper. Then, if that’s not enough, learn the art of ‘studying without studying.’

Even if you think that your study skills have gotten you pretty far as is, I advise checking out this site / these articles. I’ve already mined a bunch of ideas that have eliminated a lot of stress from my life. Maybe you can find something useful for yourself.

Happy schooling!

Wayback iPod

February 25, 2008

Friend,
I am with you when you cry
closer to your face
than the water in your eyes

Cry
Those tears become my own
I know that you are homesick
even though you’re home

I whisper in your ear
“you are already free”
Soon you will laugh
and remember that you’re me
You were never lost
the heart was always full
The heart is all there is
Invincible

Friend
I am with you when you weep
when both your eyes are closed
and you don’t know you’re asleep

Dream
at night you dream of harm
You dream that you are lost
But you’re sleeping in my arms

I whisper in your ear
“you are already free”
Soon you will wake up
and remember that you’re me
You were never lost
the heart was always full
The heart is all there is
Invincible

Invincible by Stuart Davis

Woah boy, iPod. You’re treading on thin ice bringing this song back to me!

Stuart Davis will always be associated with such a melodramatic time in my life.

I suppose there’s nothing wrong with revisiting that place every once in a while.

I just wouldn’t want to live there!

In the meantime, I’m savoring samsara.

Speaking of improving nature, check out this little gem on rewiring the brains of those with neurological difficulties.

The main highlight: a blind man that develops the ability to see with his tongue! Sound like crap? Then you don’t know Ingenuity!

If you don’t have the time to watch the video, the basic idea is this: the tongue is one of the most underutilized parts of the human body in terms of touch. It’s super sensitive, but all it gets to touch is your food (well, amongst other, erm, ‘things’). So they set up a morse-code-esque device on the man’s tongue that projects a black and white image of his surroundings into a contour map. Which just sounds incredibly inconvenient. But according to the guy, it ends up feeling like seeing. And they find that the parts of the brain used for seeing start to fire when he uses his tongue to see! Weird stuff.

Again, just goes to show you that you just have to put your mind (or tongue!) to a task to make it happen.

Thank you, science!

So, other than recently realizing that I probably should have gone to an engineering school (though if I did that, I’d probably think I should have gone to a liberal arts school… moral of this story? You won’t be happy wherever you are!), life has been going pretty well lately. You wouldn’t guess that by the fact that I haven’t written anything lately! But I’ve been uber lazy. Maybe that will change. Maybe it won’t. But for right now, the tide has shifted!

Anyway, I just wanted to share this video with ya’all. The speaker is Robert Full, from the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. Now, I don’t tend to like biology (well, it’s cool… but what can you do with it?!), but this stuff is really cool. And the best thing, you can do something with it!

Dr. Full talks about designing the best robotic leg by going out into nature and looking around a little bit. It turns out the the insects and lizards have some of the sexiest legs of all the kingdom. Spiderman Cheetah robot? Give them a few more years!

One of the important principles here: don’t mimic nature, learn from nature and then make it better in the only way that humans know how! There’s no limit to what we can do (heck, even the physical ‘constants’ ain’t constant) if you put your mind to it!

I may have drunk too much of the Kool Aid. But you’ll have to excuse this information-induced high.

Who Needs ‘Experience’?

February 23, 2008

If on-the-job experience helped a president, we would expect past presidents to have far more successful second terms than first. I don’t know how you factor in the lame duck effect, but is there historic evidence that presidents get more effective the longer they are on the job?

If you look at the great achievements in history, they are usually accomplished by younger people. Those people continue to acquire relevant experience throughout their careers but their successes do not continue at the same rate. For anything important, experience probably has a strong negative correlation with success. If that weren’t true, all the hit songs, hot startups, and new inventions would be coming from geezers.

Obama is often minimized by his opponents as being little but a smart guy who is a great talker. Realistically, is there any other type of experience that is more important for the job of president than learning how to be a great talker?

– From Dilbert.Blog

February 22, 2008

Why are all our heroes so imperfect
Why do they always bring me down
Why are all our heroes so imperfect
The statue in the park has lost his crown

William Faulkner drunk and depressed
Dorothy Parker mean, drunk and depressed
And that guy in Seven Years in Tibet turned out to be a nazi
The founding fathers all had slaves, the explorers slaughtered the braves,
The Old Testament God can be so petty

Paul McCartney jealous of John, even more so now that hes gone
Dylan was so mean to Donovan in that movie
Pablo Picasso cruel to his wives
My favorite poets took their own lives
Orson Welles peaked at 25, ballooned before our eyes
and he sold bad wine

Heard Babe Ruth was full of malice
Lewis Carroll Im sure did Alice
Plato in the cave with those very young boys
TS Elliott hated Jews, FDR didnt save the Jews
All the French joined the resistance after the war
Raymond Chandler drunk and depressed
Tennessee Williams drunk and depressed
Think I’ll just get drunk and depressed.

Heroes by Jill Sobule

You decide.

Who’s to know if your soul will fade at all?
The one you sold to fool the world
You lost your self esteem along the way, yeah

Good god, you’re coming up with reasons
Good god, you’re dragging it out
Good god, it’s the changing of the seasons
I feel so raped, so follow me down

Just fake it if you’re out of direction
Fake it if you don’t belong here
Fake it if you feel like infection
Whoa, you’re such a fucking hypocrite

You used to know that the lies won’t hide your flaws
No sense in hiding all of yours
You gave up on your dreams along the way, yeah

Good god, you’re coming up with reasons
Good god, you’re dragging it out
Good god, it’s the changing of the seasons
I feel so raped, so follow me down

Just fake it if your out of direction
Fake it if you don’t belong here
Fake it if you feel like infection
Whoa, you’re such a fucking hypocrite

Whoa, whoa, whoa

I can fake with the best of anyone
I can fake with the best of them all
I can fake with the best of anyone
I can fake it all

Who’s to know if your soul will fade at all
The one you sold to fool the world
You lost your self esteem along the way

Good god, you’re coming up with reasons
Good god, you’re dragging it out
Good god, it’s the changing of the seasons
I feel so raped, man, follow me down

Just fake it if you’re out of direction
Fake it if you don’t belong here
Fake it if you feel like infection
Whoa, you’re such a fucking hypocrite

Fake it if you’re out of direction
Fake it if you don’t belong here
Fake it if you feel like infection
Whoa, you’re such a fucking hypocrite

Fake It by Seether

February 21, 2008

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster;
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

No You Can’t

February 17, 2008

A funny parody of the ‘Yes We Can’ music video made by will.i.am [haha, that’s William with punctuation… man, I’m slow sometimes!].

A reminder of the neocon legacy.

Luckily, none of the remaining candidates seem to hold this belief system. Thank the Universe!

Oh, full disclosure, I’m now registered, gasp, Democrat! Mainly because I want to vote in the primary and make sure that Obama gets the nomination. Then, it’s back to Independent for me!

Oh, closed primaries, how you smite me!