Random Images 30: arid aral @algore #ClimateChange #Random #RandomImages

aral_sea

featured image By NordNordWest – Own work using:NASA imagesUnited States National Imagery and Mapping Agency datawww.unimaps.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3971789

 

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How I Became a Star Trek Fan @startrekcbs #startrekdiscovery

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In this post, I wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.

Ever since I heard that a new Star Trek series (Star Trek: Discovery) was definitely for real actually happening, to be released this year, I’ve been super hyped and also a bit scared — what if it doesn’t live up to my hopes?

As you can tell, I’m a massive Trekkie… Or Trekker… whatever, I don’t care, but that’s for another post. In this post, wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.

I was born in 1984. When I was a kid, back in the dark days when the UK only had four channels and we heard mythical stories about how in America they had FORTY, the replays of the original Trek were always on the telly at weekends. But I never paid attention. It was just another rubbishy show from the ’60s. It barely registered in my consciousness. I much preferred Land of the Giants(!)

Fast forward to age nine-ish. Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Trek reboot, had been running for several years and still I didn’t  notice. And then one day, a season five episode came on: Cause and Effect. It involves the Starship Enterprise being stuck in a timeloop; the same catastrophe-tainted day keeps repeating itself. Think sci-fi horror version of Groundhog Day, or the film Triangle, but in space, and with dodgier make-up and production values.

I won’t ruin the episode for you. Check it out on Netflix! But it marks the sort of intelligent, mind-bending stories that were par for the course in Trek. Every time a new mindbender or time-travel flick comes out, like Looper, I love it. But I always refer people to Trek.

If you’re new to Star Trek, here’s a few more episodes you might want to take a look at (all currently available on Netflix):

  • The Visitor (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 2): another great time-travel episode.
  • Hard Time (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 18): the psychology of guilt and suffering.
  • In The Pale Moonlight (Deep Space Nine, series 6 episode 19): the hardship of keeping your principles in war.
  • Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine, series 5 episode 6): a good example of the lighter-hearted side of Trek, which pays homage to the original series with some neat special effects.

Sadly, no matter how I wax lyrical about the virtues of Trek, nobody’s buying it. The rubber ears, the dodgy acting, the huge number of episodes where, yes, nothing really happens. Sadly, TV has moved on. There is no Trek that fits modern conventions. For example,  series are now limited to around ten episodes a season, there are no “one-off” episodes, and it’s all about moving the plot forward. The closest Trek came to this, and arguably it was instrumental in pre-empting the current trend, was the Dominion War story arc from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favourite incarnation of Trek, for what it’s worth).

But now with Star Trek: Discovery, I hope a new Trek for a new televisual era will be born, a Trek that captures the imagination of the young as much as the new Star Wars films have, as much as that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation captured mine some twenty plus years ago.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://i.ytimg.com/vi/QGsuM31IC-Q/hqdefault.jpg

SMART Goals

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As you can see in my posts (for example: 1, 2, 3, 4), I have mixed success in achieving my goals. Pretty much like everyone else. And over the course of 2016, I came to two insights. Two things that I have actually always known but which I have come to appreciate with a greater clarity and keenness.

  1. You have to START AT THE END. Determine what your ultimate goal really is, and then work backwards from it to work out what steps will get you there.
  2. You have to MAKE YOUR GOAL “SMART”. This means goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

So don’t just say, “I wanna get into shape and be fit”. Rather, figure out exactly what “into shape and fit” means. Be specific and measureable, e.g., run X miles in Y time, get down to a BMI of 22. The goal has to be attainable: so running 100 metres in 10 seconds or less might not happen. It has to be relevant to what you want generally. And it has to be time-bound: so work out how long those goals realistically will take, and work to that timeline, with various short, middle, and long-term deadlines.

Here’s a great bit of an article from Tim Ferriss and Benny Lewis about using SMART Goals to learn a foreign language. Enjoy!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://plantbaseddietitian.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SMART-Goals.jpg

12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time — The Only Post You’ll Ever Need

#9 – Create SMART goals.

Another failing of most learning approaches is a poorly defined end-goal.

We tend to have New Year’s Resolutions along the lines of “Learn Spanish,” but how do you know when you’ve succeeded? If this is your goal, how can you know when you’ve reached it?

Vague end goals like this are endless pits (e.g. “I’m not ready yet, because I haven’t learned the entire language”).

S.M.A.R.T. goals on the other hand are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

To start developing your SMART goal in a language, I highly recommend you become somewhat familiar with the European Common Framework that defines language levels. This framework provides you with a way of setting specific language goals and measuring your own progress.

In brief, A means beginner, B means intermediate, and C means advanced, and each level is broken up into lower (1) and upper (2) categories. So an upper beginner speaker is A2, and a lower advanced speaker is C1. As well as being Specific, these levels are absolutely Measurable because officially recognized institutions can test you on them and provide diplomas (no course enrollment necessary) in German, French, Spanish, Irish, and each other official European language. While the same scale is not used, you can also get tested in a similar way in Chinese and Japanese.

So what do you aim for? And what do words like “fluency” and “mastery” mean on a practical level?

I’ve talked to many people to try to pinpoint the never-agreed-upon understanding of “fluency,” and I’ve found that it tends to average out around the B2 level (upper intermediate). This effectively means that you have “social equivalency” with your native language, which means that you can live in your target language in social situations in much the same way that you would in your native language, such as casual chats with friends in a bar, asking what people did over the weekend, sharing your aspirations and relating to people.

Since we are being specific, it’s also important to point out that this does not require that you can work professionally in a language (in my case, as an engineer or public speaker, for instance). That would be mastery level (generally C2).

Though I’ve reached the C2 stage myself in French, Spanish and am close to it in other languages, realistically I only really need to be socially equivalent in a language I want to communicate in. I don’t need to work in other languages. It’s essential that you keep your priorities clear to avoid frustration. Most of the time, just target B2.

To make your specific goal Attainable, you can break it down further. For example, I’ve found that the fluency (B2) level can be achieved in a matter of months, as long as you are focused on the spoken aspect.

In phonetic languages (like most European ones), you can actually learn to read along with speaking, so you get this effectively for free. But realistically, we tend to write emails and text messages—not essays—on a day-to-day basis (unless you are a writer by trade, and you may not have those goals with your L2). Focusing on speaking and listening (and maybe reading) makes fluency in a few months much more realistic.

Finally, to make your project Time-bound, I highly recommend a short end-point of a few months.

Keeping it a year or more away is far too distant, and your plans may as well be unbound at that point. Three months has worked great for me, but 6 weeks or 4 months could be your ideal point. Pick a definite point in the not too distant future (summer vacation, your birthday, when a family member will visit), aim to reach your target by this time, and work your ass off to make it happen.

To help you be smarter with your goals, make sure to track your progress and use an app like Lift to track completing daily essential tasks.

You can join the Lift plan for language learning that I wrote for their users here.

 

Next Step in Blogging? #newyearsresolution @resolutions #SMART

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Me: I’ve got a blog
Other Person: Ooh! What do you blog about?
Me: Err, y’know, I’unno: stuff I’m interested in. Language, politics, atheism and religion, healthy living, films, err, sport…
Other Person: Err, okay?
Other Person’s eyes glaze over and they look bored and disappointed

I’ve had the above exchange loads of times.* Apparently blogs need one overriding, dominant theme. Yet I’ve always thought of this blog as being like a (admittedly crappy) newspaper or magazine: of course plenty of different topics will be dealt with.

But apparently I’ve misunderstood how blogs are supposed to work. Therefore, I’m guessing this blog needs to focus on one topic. It can bring other random stuff in it, but it’s got to be 90% one thing. After all, my YouTube channel — which I kind of view this blog as the written version thereof — is probably 75% atheism/religion, 25% everything else, and my subscriber base bears that out.

The problem: I’m interested in too many things. I don’t want to limit this blog’s content!

So maybe I need to keep this blog as my kind of “core” or “hub” blog, but spin off various other blogs which solely focus on my topics of choice.

But this approach has a problem, too.

I simply do not have enough time to post, say, four blog entries a week, one for each of my prospective blogs (e.g. the Health and Lifestyle Blog, the Religion & Philosophy blog, the Languages Blog, the Film Review Blog). I’m barely finding time to do one blog entry a week. But that’s the sad and frustrating thing:

I have so much waffle to say and not enough time to say it. Gah!

So one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 has to be to massively increase my time spent blogging. It would help if I could get some residual income from my articles! That would give justification (to my wife!) for me to devote such extravagant amounts of time to the endeavour.

Let’s see if I can crack on with this in the new year.

*I was going to say “cottrels of times”, but apparently “cottrels” is a dialectal word that nobody’s ever heard of. Who woulda thought that an insular and undiscovered dialects existed in West London, eh!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

SMART GOALS: New Year’s Resolutions 2017 part 1 #newyearsresolution @resolutions #SMART

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GOALS

I have a bunch of stuff I want to do in life. I believe in “To Do” lists as a way of getting things done. I note my daily errands as “A”, “B”, and “C” — in order of declining importance. But what about goals that last more than a day? Like most people, I make New Year’s Resolutions. And like most people, I declare these goals in front of people in the hope that social pressure and the fear of looking a fool will drive me on. Sometimes I even write them down and stick ’em on the fridge. Yet like most people, I find my enthusiasm and direction peters out as the year gradually grinds to a halt, ready to start again with the next set of New Year’s Resolutions.

SMART GOALS

The main issue is that, like most people, my goals tend to be general, not SMART. An example:

In 2017 I will learn Spanish well enough to speak with people.

A noble goal. But very vague. Firstly, I don’t define my success very well. After all, “speak with people” is vague, and can cover anything from basic beginner level A1 up to advanced C2, and anything in between. Indeed, I find that body language, gurning, and smiling tend to do a lot of work when trying to talk to people who speak a different language.

Not only is success therefore hard to gauge, and therefore by definition hard to achieve and feel like you have achieved it — so you never get the satisfaction you are looking for. Worse luck: if you have no clearly defined end goal, you have no clearly defined path of getting there — wherever “there” is. After all, say you are taking a road trip to St. Ives. But you don’t look at a map, or SatNav, or ask anyone, or anything, and you just get into your car and hope the wind will somehow take you there. Guess what? You ain’t getting to St. Ives in time. It’s so obvious, yet often overlooked: (DISCLAIMER: SNIDEY POLITICAL ASIDE COMING) just look at those politicians who took us into Iraq(!) So you need to define your END GOAL, and then WORK BACKWARDS to figure out the steps needed to get you there.

SETTING SMART GOALS

SMART stands for:

  • SPECIFIC
  • MEASURABLE
  • ATTAINABLE
  • REALISTIC
  • TIME-BOUND

So we could break down my earlier vague goal into a SMART one like this:

  • I want to achieve the C1 (“Advanced”/university entry level) level of Spanish (=SPECIFIC) and get the DELE qualification to prove it (=MEASURABLE);
  • the study guides recommend around 200-300 hours to go up a level, and I am currently B1;
  • therefore, I need around 500 hours to get to C1; this is around 16 months if I do one hour a day, around 11-12 months if I do 1.5 hours a day;
  • I can realistically only fit 1.5 hours a day into my schedule (=REALISTIC/RELEVANT);
  • so I’ll give myself 12 months to do it (=TIME-BOUND);
  • and this is ATTAINABLE if I have a fully rounded program of study covering all bases, including reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar, vocabulary, real world use of the language, and use of various media including books, TV, radio, and music. ((I’ll save you the specifics on this point!!))

Therefore, you can see that I have done my homework, as it were, and know exactly what will get me where and how long it’ll take. I will even break this goal down into step one: move from level B1 to B2, and step two: move from B2 to C1. I’ll give myself six months for each. So I therefore have a mid-to-long-term goal (12 months: get to C1 in Spanish and do a DELE qualification) and two mid-term goals (move up one level, then move up another level). I can, do, and have given myself short term goals, too, such as X number of words a day and Y each month.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS 2017

In my next post, I will share some of my main goals for 2017. I’ll make a SMART plan for them. You can use the further examples in my plan to help you get a grip of SMART planning. And you can also see how I get on!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.inspiremefit.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Smart-Goals-500×500.jpg