Trying out LingQ

LingQIn an effort to help brush up on my Spanish in anticipation for the move to Argentina in a few weeks I signed up with LingQ last night. This is a language learning site that has at its core the idea of familiarity before rules. You are given passages to read and audio files to listen to. You are asked to tell what words are known to you and which are new words. I am not sure what all of that will mean in the end, but it does help build a nice list of unfamiliar words that you can specifically study.

There are also forums where you can discuss miscellaneous topics in your language of choice. Currently they boast 10 languages that you can learn on the site. Registration is free and there is quite a bit of study you can do without having to shell out bucks. But for paying customers you can get personalized tutoring based on your needs as represented in the reading and audio portions of the site.

You can also interact with real people. But what Internet junkie would want to do that? I will stick to the training sessions and forums where social interaction is limited.

Have I mentioned Evernote?

Evernote LogoI can’t believe that I have been an avid Evernote user for over a year and have never mentioned it here. Evernote is a note taking application that is web based. You can use the web client to log into your notes and do any manipulation on them that you need. But there are also desktop/phone clients that are native applications that you can use on your computer or phone and have all the info upload to the web storage.

My interest in Evernote started when I was looking for a good way to keep notes and tasks organized on my iPhone. The built in application for taking notes on the phone was awful. The fact that (at the time) the notes taken on the phone did not sync to the computer and therefore were not backed up in any way made it a useless app to me. Especially since I was having such a hard time keeping my phone running.

Evernote allowed me to keep notes on my phone and access them from the web, or from my computer. The notes are immediately sent to the mother ship and are available on my other platforms for viewing or manipulation.

I don’t use Evernote as much as I originally anticipated. Even when I had my beloved Palm based devices, may they rest in peace, I still relied on paper quite a bit to keep my tasks and notes for the day. However, I use Evernote on bigger projects. When I was doing research for a set of lectures I was doing concerning technology and mission work I kept all my notes and research in Evernote. Preparation for any large task where I know there will be a lot of information is a perfect task for Evernote. I also like to snap pictures of articles, not necessarily to read, but to be reminders of something that I want to look up and do further reading on.

You can buy this shirt for me if you want.The features of Evernote that I use most are tagging and text recognition.

I can take a note (which can be a photo, a sound recording, a saved web page, or a text note) and tag that note with key words that will help me find the note again. While I always have separate notebooks for certain projects, I can also use tags so that when I search for a keyword the notes from several notebooks will come up if they are relevant. I am not limited to just what is in one notebook (folder).

The text recognition that Evernote does is very clever. [This turns very geeky for a moment] If I take a picture that has text in it, then Evernote will search that text too when I do a search for a keyword. They don’t do formal OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on the text. They do intelligent guessing. Instead of trying to figure out exactly what the text is, which is very inaccurate, they make several guesses on each word and store their guesses. Then when you search for a term they pull up all the words that they think might fit. Doing it this way is more likely to return a word that you were looking for instead of ignoring anything that might have been one letter off. It is also possible that they would return results that are not what you were looking for, but almost guarantees that they will not miss a valid hit. [Mortals can start reading again] I can take pictures of pages of text and then do a search on something that I know was on that page and it will return that in the results. For a recent paper I submitted for a class I used this to keep track of all my research books and certain pages that I knew I would be referencing several times throughout my paper. It also works on hand-written notes; assuming your writing is readable by normal people.

I don’t use it for all my daily information tasks (partly because they don’t have a native Linux client) but I do rely heavily on it for larger projects. Recently I read a list of 100 ways you can use Evernote. Maybe you can get some ideas from this list as well. One of my favorite items on the list is #60 “Make a list of all of your girlfriends family members names. Use this list to study them before your next big visit.” My question is, is that supposed to be girlfriend’s, or girlfriends’? Since there is no apostrophe (and clearly should be) I have to imagine that the reason you need a tool like Evernote to keep track is you have too many girlfriends to keep the lists straight in your own head.

I don’t know if Evernote will fit your needs, but it certainly has been a help in research and larger projects for me. Otherwise, I just stick to my paper lists.

Latest Fortune Cookies

Here are the cookies from yesterday. These came from the same place that we got the “Oops… Wrong cookie” from last month. We don’t put much faith in the writers of such clever sayings, but these recent ones have been interesting food for thought.

Get Moving!My fortune: What are you waiting for? Start moving now.

I have been somewhat discouraged by my laziness in exercising and staying in shape. While I am doing much better than most, I definitely know I am not where I should be, nor where I want to be. My fortune yesterday was appropriate in that it gave me a little kick in the pants to get motivated and moving. The last 5 years I have harped on the fact that if you will simply get up and move a little bit more today than you did yesterday, you are taking a step in the right direction to get in shape and be healthier. While I still believe that, I have had trouble motivating myself to stay aggressive in my movement. Maybe this is just what I needed.

Fortune: Reduce the complicated to the simpleMy wife’s fortune: Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.

As an interpreter (of many things), I am constantly involved in the struggle of making sure something in one language (concept, culture, story) is completely understood in the other language with the same intent and feeling as it had originally. While I don’t know that it takes a genius to transmit information from one medium to another, it certainly is taxing on the mental capacities. When you can take something that is not understood by one person or group and interpret it in such a way that they “get it” then you are displaying an ability that many others do not have.

Money given to missionaries

This is something I was thinking about a few months ago. This has to do with missionaries raising money for needs other than immediate ministry needs. The example I use is a retirement account.

As a missionary, if you feel guilty about putting money into an account for retirement then you are showing you are dependent on the donor and not on God. As a donor, if you are angered by missionaries putting money into savings, then you are demonstrating that you are giving to the missionary and not to God.

Our giving and receiving should be vertical; from me to God, or from God to me. Giving should not be horizontal; from giver to receiver. As soon as the donor thinks that he is giving to the missionary as opposed to giving to God then he starts to feel like he should control how the money is used. When a missionary begins to think that the money he has comes from individuals and not from God, then he becomes dependent on people and not on God.

Keep your giving and receiving vertical and not horizontal. By doing this then you don’t allow bad attitudes to creep in.

I understand that, as a donor, I want to know that my money is properly used, but if I feel God wants me to give it, I should give. Then whatever happens to the money is no longer in my control. It is up to God to take care of His money. As a receiver I should be very careful of how I use the money given, but not because I am concerned about what people think of how I use the money. I should be careful to be accountable to God for how I use His money.

Book Review: They Smell Like Sheep

They Smell Like Sheep was a book recently recommended to a friend of mine. I did not hear the original recommendation that got my friend turned onto the book, but he asked if I could pick up the book when I was at a recent book sale. I grabbed the book for him and proceeded to read it myself.

The book’s premise is that a good spiritual leader will smell like his flock just as any shepherd would smell like the sheep he is pastoring. In fact, the sheep would probably just see the shepherd as one of their own who happens to be able to walk on two feet and protect them from danger.

It was a well outlined book and would make a great text to teach from for church leadership.

The book did not focus on just pastors either. It was about leadership in the church at any level. He even made the point that a church leader could possibly be someone who has not had any official authority appointed to him. If one will simply find an area in which to serve others he can be a spiritual leader.

My favorite quote from the book went something like this “We need to follow Jesus’ leadership style. He recruited 12, graduated 11 and focused on 3.” I really like that attitude. While some people may be able to effectively “pastor” 50 or 100 people, it is fine to put a greater effort into a few.

My one caveat about the book is the way he handles the last couple of chapters. He goes through some detailed word studies in the final pages. I loved his conclusions, but have great reservations about his process. He details how that some words in the Bible are interpreted wrongly by pastors and leaders, but in so doing questions the translation of God’s Word into our language. It would be easy for a reader to fall into the trap of wondering if we really do have the Word of God preserved for us today, or if every word in our translations have to be scrutinized for their accuracy.

I do not at all think that the author is claiming that we can’t know what God’s Word is, but I think he leads the reader down a dangerous path with the way he questions translations.

Though that is a strong warning, I really enjoyed the book and think it is spot on to where we need to be as church leaders. I also agree with his conclusions on how God’s Word has been interpreted incorrectly by many in the past.

They Smell Like Sheep: Spiritual Leadership for the 21st Century, Lynn Anderson, 248 pages, Howard Books, 2002.