Category Archives: Learning

Ask Somebody!

For a number of years I’ve been conducting dictionary presentations with third graders. There’s a point at which I ask the kids, “What do we do if we come to a word we don’t know?”

Historically, the kids have pretty much unanimously replied, “Look it up!” (The pile of dictionaries behind me is probably a clue that helps them with the answer.)

Well, this year I was a bit surprised to hear a few kids say, “Ask somebody!” This in spite of the prominent pile of dictionaries.

And then today I learn about a project whereby Amazon.com has hired some folks from Quorus–a service that is adding a “social dimension” to online shopping. Say you are shopping for a gift and are having trouble deciding. The Quorus program would allow you to “discuss” the purchase (online) with other members of the family both in real time (chat) and offline.

Imagine being able to ask all of your friends online, “Will these pants make my butt look big?”

As if to reaffirm this trend, when I was getting instruction regarding my newly aquired SmartPhone, the representative pointed out that “the best thing to do when you are looking at an ‘ap’ is to see what the reviews (other people) have said about it.” Yep, that sounds like “ask somebody” to me! Instead of researching the developer and the features of the ap, I’m supposed to count stars I guess. (Actually, I do read reviews–but that’s only one component of the research.)

Surely we could spend days discussing the ramifications of this trend.  I’ll bet if we involved Madam DeFarge she’d opine, “It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times.”

My relationship with technology is at times tenuous, although I confess I have personified my GPS and will occasionally argue with her, but often rely on her. “Greta says that I’ll be arriving in 45 minutes…” In practice, I’ve asked Greta (her last name is Garmin) how long the trip will take. So far, I remain convinced I’m still smarter than she is.

Let’s set aside the question of whether or not this is all good stuff. (Personally, I like seeing kids looking up things in the dictionary instead of asking somebody. I also still have arguments with Greta when she tries to make me take a turn that doesn’t make sense. Suffice it to say, asking somebody is not a substitute for using our brains.)

One of the questions this does raise… Where are we going to learn the social (media) graces? To wit, if I bump into you at the bank in Dover Foxcroft, I’m probably not going to show you a picture of what I had for breakfast. For that matter, if you invite me to lunch, I’m probably not going to whip out my (yet unnamed) SmartPhone to ask people what looks good on the menu.

Whaddya think?

Don’t say, “I’m not sure, let me ask somebody.”

2012 — Keep going!

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

We have Winston Churchill to thank for that pearl of wisdom. There’s also a Yiddish Proverb that suggests “Bygone troubles are good to tell.” Good stuff to think about as we prepare to end one year and begin another.

Many people will attempt to wax eloquent on occasions such as this–odd, in a way because all we’re really doing is changing one digit at the end of the dates on our calendars. But it is an opportunity to reflect on the past, present, and future. I can’t resist some attempted eloquence myself.

Shall I enjoy sharing some bygone troubles? (Did I just hear a collective groan?) Let’s understand the wisdom is not in sharing the troubles. The wisdom (and joy) is that those troubles are past! I’m typing this on a new laptop with the latest software versions.  I could, I’m sure, share a number of troubles I was having prior to this–some were amusing, all were frustrating. There were days when I was sure I was experiencing hell.

“You can’t do that unless you have the current version of Internet Explorer.”

“You can’t install the latest version of Internet Explorer unless you have Windows 7”

“You can’t install Windows 7 on your current machine because…”

Perhaps someday hell will be defined as having obsolete technology. I’m happy to report, however, that those troubles are “bygone,” at least for a few months until newer and better starts arriving. I’m told that three years is now about the maximum life expectancy of most technology.

For some reason, all this reminded me of the black-capped chickadees I enjoy watching at the feeder. Science tells us that these little wonders store (cache) food, but only remember the locations for about 28 days. And you thought you were having long-term memory problems? As I recall (I encountered this bit of information some years ago), the chickadees are constantly growing new brain cells and, of course, creating new memories.

It might be tempting to wish for the chickadee’s ability–imagine starting over with new memories every month or so? Talk about bygone troubles! “Hey, I’m going through hell right now but in 28 days I won’t remember it!”

The obvious problem is that you won’t remember the good times, either. But where would we be without the memories of our adversities? Perhaps it is time to remove some of the value judgements we quickly place on things that have happened, are happening, or may happen. There was one task I faced with the upgrades that I truly dreaded–partly because it had caused me great pain during past upgrades. I put it off until the last possible moment. My fingers shook a bit on the keys and mouse… but I did it without a hitch.

“Keep going…” is a great slogan for a new year. I think I’ll make it mine. So I suppose I can offer the traditional “Happy New Year” greeting… but my real wish for you is that you’ll keep going!

Course and Class Schedules Posted!

You can use the tabs at the top or the page listing in the side bar at the right… to review at least three categories of courses I’ll be offering in 2012. Of course there’s the usual real estate licensing courses–a section unto themselves. Courses offered through PVAEC tend to overlap, but there’s plenty of excitement and opportunities. The “You Can” series developed as a collabaration between UMaine Extension and PVAEC includes plenty of “self-sufficiency” skills from backyard poultry to food preservation. Of course I’ve already announced my “Cash as a Crop” course

We’re also starting a “Solopreneur” Series… courses geared for folks who are or want to work alone and run their business single-handed. Of special interest may be a short course that will get you started with your own free WordPress Blog–much like this one!

All of the courses could also fall under the heading of “Personal Growth” — why not take on a new challenge in 2012?! If you have a special interest that’s not covered, let me know… we’ll see what we can do!

Grab Some Tissues…

And watch this video. Please.

http://www.flickspire.com/m/HPP/MakeADifference

All the way to the end. I’m not going to do a spoiler, but I will tell you that part-way through I found myself thinking how hard I wished people could realize that it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in a child’s life. But in the end, that wasn’t the point.

Origins of the Specious

I recently finished the book “Origins of the Specious” by Patricia O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman (Random House 2010). Subtitled “Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language,” it was truly a fun read.  Unless you think etymology is about the study of eyties, you might enjoy it as well. (Etymology is the study of the history of words.) I also happen to enjoy a good word play–and this book starts with one right in the title.

It did take me a while to finish, because I chose to digest it in small bites. Not only was it informative, the writing is great. Watch this.

In the chapter “Snow job” the authors dispel the notion that there are dozens (or hundreds, depending on your version) of words for snow in the Eskimo language. Some dependable sources list four, one got to seven in 1940. (Wait for it!) The authors point out, “In the decades since then, the number or words has snowballed with each retelling…”  Another paragraph notes there has been an “avalanche of snow stories.”

So while I’m recommending the book, I’m also willing to concede that not everyone will fully enjoy or appreciate the topic or the writing… but if you’ll visit http://www.grammarphobia.com/ you can learn more about several books they’ve written… and visit their blog for some “tastes” of etymology that will impress your friends at dinner parties.