Recommendations: Learning Apps

1. Duolingo: A great app if you are interested in languages. It offers quite a few languages. I used it briefly to learn Spanish and liked it very much. I intend to finish that course some day!

Link: https://www.duolingo.com/

2. Memrise: Memrise is a website/app for shared flashcards on many different topics, including languages. Users can also make their own flashcard decks/courses. I am currently using it to expand my vocabulary in English and Arabic.

Link: https://www.memrise.com/

3. Anki: Great flashcards tool. It is less game-like in that there are no rewards in it. It also gives more control to the users, which makes it a lot more technical than duo lingo and memrise. You can make your own flashcard sets as well as download from the publicly shared ones on the website. I used it to master the material in my more information-heavy classes, although I could have used it for other classes as well. I am also using it for vocab expansion in English and Arabic.

Link: https://apps.ankiweb.net/

4. Quizlet: This is also another great flashcards tool. I use both Anki and Quizlet for my shool courses. The main difference between the two is that Anki is designed to facilitate long-term retention, while Quizlet does not have any such algorithm. The great features of Quizlet are that it is very user-friendly and offers different ways of reviewing the cards, including two flashcard games: match and gravity.

Link: https://quizlet.com/

 

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Self-Help Gems

This was originally a whatsapp text to a friend, but the content is general and beneficial enough that it is suitable for sharing here:

1. myhours.com : This website, and the app that goes with it, will help you keep track of your projects, whether they are personal or work-related. Hopefully, it will also help you become more productive. Since logging helps us give up bad habits as well as develop good ones, and since time wasting is the perennial problem humanity is faced with, logging productive hours should make us more productive.

2. Habitbull.com : Speaking of developing and giving up good and bad habits, habitbull is a habit tracker, which lets you track a given number of habits in the free version and an unlimited number of habits with the paid one. I would recommend starting with a small number of a mix of good and bad habits. In the genre of habit tracking apps, I have heard good things about an app called 7weeks as well, but I personally use habitbull and have found it very useful.

3. http://www.deconstructingexcellence.com/about/ : I know this website as a reource to get summaries of self-help books that I can’t find the time to read. I found it during my online search for summaries of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “7 Effective Habits of Highly Successful People”. But this website may be more than just a resource for book summaries based on its “about” section. Until recently I did not know that there is an option on the website to sign up to get email updates on new content. I think I am going to sign up!

BONUS:
4. http://www.bakadesuyo.com/about/ : Speaking of weekly newsletters, this guy writes neuroscience-related articles on “how to be awesome at life.” I am already signed up to receive his newsletters, which I often like very much. He posts one article per week, mostly on Sundays. The great thing is the sum-up section at the end which summarizes the article in 4-5 bullet points. If I am not interested in the topic of an article, I can at least get a gist of it by reading the sum-up.

On Simplicity

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One of the definitions of “simplicity” is “the quality or condition of being plain or natural.” If we think a little about the word, we will find that, ironic as it is, it is not a simple word: the idea that it signifies has the ability to change lives.

Simplicity

We live in a fast paced era which places an enormous focus on collecting things, i.e., consumerism. Rarely, however, do we think about what collecting things looks like: clutter. Admittedly, I am drawing a very simplistic image of consumerism here. But I would like the readers to think about the idea of “collecting” things. The things we collect go somewhere, either in our homes or, when our homes are too cluttered, storage facilities. At the end of the day, those things, when put together in one place, form a clutter. Physical clutter, though, is not the only thing to be worried about. In our age, there is information overload as well as communication overload, which translates into mental clutter.

Just as physical clutter is heavy and cumbersome, and just as the physical labor of dealing with these heavy things is taxing on us physically, constantly dealing with mental clutter takes a toll on us mentally and spiritually. Just as there is a high possibility of us stubbing our toes and tripping and injuring ourselves in a room full of things cluttered around, the probability of being mentally and spiritually harmed is high when there is a lot of mental clutter to deal with. And I would argue that in our era of internet, the average person is knee-deep in clutter, as it were. But there is hope!

We can make simplicity our philosophy in life. Here, I will leave the intelligent reader to make his own action plan, as I make mine, on how to de-clutter and live simpler lives. But I will say two things: One, time management seems to be the key to de-clutter our mental existence, since the less distractedly we “consume” information, the likelier it is for us to have “organized” thoughts. Two, the old adage which claims that “a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind” seems closer to the truth to me than Einstein thought it to be when he famously quipped, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

In a nutshell, then, we live in an era in which consumerism has turned us into collectors of clutter of both the physical and the mental types. This has an adverse effect on us. To correct this state of affairs, I propose that we bring simplicity in our lives. Two simple principles that may help us to achieve simplicity are time management and an effort to keep our physical spaces emptier.

Note: Keeping to the idea of simplicity, I have tried to write simply. The aim here is to convey the idea. As a student, I write essays year long, but this blog is for my reflections, as simple and underdeveloped as they might be.

I am back

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Just as I started this blog because I was motivated to after reading a friend’s blog posts, today another friend’s posts have brought me back here, after three years.

A lot has changed in the last three years: I stopped writing reflection pieces, until very recently, switched my school and major and started from scratch on a bachelor’s degree, and some other changes which I wish I could write about here, but this space is too public for that information.

This being a post dedicated just for this announcement (to the one committed reader of the blog, which is moi, and other possible readers, if any such people do exist), I shall stop typing away. Oh yes, typing reminds me, I have learned to touch-type, and now every time I type I feel like the coolest kid in town for being able to touch-type. Also, I felt like batman while considering returning to the blogging world. OK. Now I’m done.

About Sign Language

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I work at a restaurant. Like they say, its the same sh*t different day everyday, but yesterday I had a middle-aged couple walk into the restaurant. They were Caucasian, and the guy had a shaved head and a nicely trimmed goatee. I greeted them as they walk in like I greet every customer, but neither of them said anything. Caucasian, not saying anything in reply to the greeting, along with the appearance of the guy definitely made me put them in a stereotypical box right away. However, just moments later, I was ashamed of being too quick to judge when they started signing to each other in American Sign Language.

I took a course in ASL in community college and just know enough of the language to let most Deaf people know that I took a class. I started signing to them in my broken ASL. When they were about to leave, I asked them how to sign “order” and the first half of “have a good day.” Then, the guy asked me, with a smile, where I learned ASL. I replied with Community College, and then he asked me which one. The fact that I could sign seemed to have made them genuinely happy. That, in turn, made me realize that a B in ASL was worth it after all.

I really feel this is a language that everyone should know at least the basics of. We can all learn the alphabets and things like “Hi, how are you,” “have a good day,” “thank you,” etc. There are amazing resources if one wants to learn it online. Websites like this, for example, are phenomenal, and we even used this website for our class. At the end of the day, really it’s the only language the Deaf community uses, and the rest of the community’s unfamiliarity with the sign language segregates them. On a final note, ALWAYS refer to the Deaf community as Deaf with a capital D. It’s an issue of identity.

A Story about Time-Management

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I made this blog a couple months ago, but the motivation literally just sparked a few minutes ago after reading a friend’s blog. And having the extremely random mind that I have, I was sure I would be able to write SOMETHING as I lay on my bed with my smartphone in my hand and with the standing fan throwing air at me (yep, that’s the level of my English). Ok alright, I’ll get to the point here.

So, my parents are visiting our homeland. I’m not gonna tell which country I’m from. I don’t wanna lose readership (like I have any hah), but I’ll let the readers know that it’s a brown desi country. That leaves them with two choices; India or Pakistan. My parents are visiting Pakistan, but that doesn’t mean we are from there. We, as in me and any other human, are from Jannah (heaven). Ok keep those eggs and tomatoes with you. Don’t throw them at me just yet. I really do have some good reflections which I’ll finally get to.

Like I said, the parents are in Pakistan. So our neighbors, an elderly couple, invited us to have dinner with them, which we (my brother and I) gladly accepted cuz we’re running out of food. After we had dinner, this conversation about the husband’s struggles here in America, when he first came here, came up. And it was interesting to say the least. The guy told us that he only had a hundred and fifty dollars, and with that money he had to go to college and make living arrangements for himself in San Francisco. Let’s now skip to when he was able to go to school and work. He told us that he was getting FIVE paychecks as a student. He did janitorial work ON CAMPUS (yep, he cleaned the same restrooms he and his classmates went to), was a grader for two professors, he was working at an Italian restaurant, and he was the trash boy, also in the campus area. With all that, he managed to complete his degree in electrical engineering. He would go to college, clean restrooms, and then take his clothes from the janitorial supplies closet that he would wear to classes. He would go to class, go to work, and back and forth all day. Then he would do his homework at night. And then get TWO TO THREE hrs of sleep until it was time to clean the restrooms again.

He was only able to manage all of this because the guy had motivation, not financial aid, to get education. Today, we have it so easy, but most of us college students still complain. I think most of us, and most importantly I, need to work on time management and our priorities. A friend once told me his very busy everyday schedule and I asked how he’s able to do so much in a day. His answer was simple, “We have twenty four hours in a day, and we need eight hours of sleep out of those twenty four hours. The rest of sixteen hours are our time to either use well or waste.”