Thursday, March 22, 2012

One Little Word: Shine for February and March

First of all, I just have to say that the A-Team (Amanda and Adie) had another amazing idea for a mini-writing project. We asked for permission from Ali Edwards to use some components from her One Little Word scrapbook project, and we designed a poster project for our 2nd year students. This was really exciting because first of all, I got to personally email Ali and explain the project to her and then she replied with her blessings! Second, we incorporated several fun components into the project so that students could really be creative with it. The project itself took 3 lesson hours - one for brainstorming and writing the first short essay; one for writing the second short essay and then getting started on the poster design; one for designing and printing the posters. Our plan was to hang all the posters up in the hallway where the 3rd year students will pass by every day on their way to their required IT class. We thought these OWL posters would inspire everyone to work hard during the next school year and make their last year here the best ever!

Now, an update to my OWL for the year. In February, our assignment was to take a series of literal and figurative photos which express our word in some way. Here is my layout. I asked my colleague Chris to take some of the photos for me because he's got a nice camera. I am not sure if any of these photos are literal, but the photo of my car's tail lights will tell you that I get home from work after dark on a daily basis. I keep telling myself it's only for the next year that I have to keep this crazy schedule!

The March layout was just a written assignment, and if I were not doing this album digitally, I could have been more creative. However, I don't mind handwriting these assignments and just sticking them into my album. Basically, we had to write up a list of goals for the year and then choose one to actually take action on within the month of March. Then, write up kind of a schedule for March, the ONE goal for the month, and a report of how our word has manifested itself in the last three months. I had a lot to write about!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What's on my iPhone now?

I thought it would be fun to review some of the apps I use on my iPhone because they have become kind of essential to me. I cannot imagine life without a smart phone now...

Most Used by Me
Day One
For daily journal writing. You can write as much or as little as you want as many times a day as you like. It is kept private, and I find it most useful for transferring over to my scrapbooking of Project Life. It is so easy to forget the little moments and random thoughts, but they are stored right in one place now. One advantage of using this app is that I am much less likely to randomly post elusive status updates on Facebook.

Home Routine
This is a to-do list and cleaning check list all rolled into one. There is a basic template which you can edit according to your lifestyle. The to-do list is divided into three parts: today, this week and later. There are Focus Zones as well for deep cleaning of certain areas of your home and it keeps you on a schedule - one week per zone. There is no pressure really except that you it fills in a part of a star every time you complete a task, and it counts up your accomplished tasks each day. When you open the app, the first thing you see are these partially filled in stars and a note that says something like, "You've completed 6 tasks today!" Like a child, this really motivates me to want to do more.

Addicting. I downloaded the app the day of the earthquake (3/11) because it was the only way to contact people for a first few hours. I have been addicted to it every since.

While driving in the car, this is a useful app for when you hear a song but don't know who the artist is. It listens to the song for 10 seconds, sends the data to Shazam, Shazam sends back everything you have ever wanted to know about the song. Does not work with live human voices. I tried it. But, this is my way of finding out about new music to add to my iTune collection.

Just started this today but I can already see it will be addicting. It is a way for friends to share images of just about anything with each other. Each person maintains their own "bulletin boards" of whatever topics they like, and if you see something on another person's board, you can repin it.

On a Needs Basis Only
I use dropbox with my work/grad school laptop and my home desktop. Can't live without the syncing of my files and the knowledge that my most important files are safe. It makes things so much more efficient too. I use it on my iPhone only once in a while.

When studying at a noisy cafe, this certainly comes in handy. Not only does it have white noise, but it's also got a variety of color noises, nature noises, and whatever else your heart would desire.

Also downloaded right after 3/11. Almost everyone in Japan has it now, so when there is an earthquake (a bigger one), everyone's smart phones start going off. This happens on trains, in offices, in classrooms, in stores, everywhere. It shows you some basic info about the earthquake along with a map pinpointing the location of the epicenter. It sometimes goes off BEFORE the earthquake arrives to your area and sometimes after or right at the same time. It is not always consistent, but then again, neither are earthquakes!

If you want to text with friends who live abroad and also have iPhones, this is the way to do it. You can also call and talk for free, but I have to admit there is a bit of lag time. The texting works well though!

When I am truly bored, I check out this app to find out what the latest flicks are. You can watch the trailers, and if I were in the USA, I would find the movie theater location and price information very useful.

Tunein Radio
This gives you access to radio stations from around the world. When I first downloaded it, I listened to Q106 (Madison's Country Station), but it kept cutting out, so I gave up. I am sure that there are some radio stations which never cut out ... still looking though.

When lost or in an unfamiliar place, I find this app useful for finding coffee shops, gas stations, restaurants, banks, etc. in the immediate area where I am at that moment. This even works in Japan!

Used by the Kids
Mr Thorne
My friend Gayle recommended this one. It's a British guy who teaches the alphabet and phonics via these video feeds. You can watch him on You Tube as well, but if you download the app (it's 4.99), you can access everything right there on your iPhone anytime your kids are bored. Ailin watches it all the time and she really catches on to it. He is a unique and memorable person, so I think kids like him.

Both of the kids enjoy these sets of quizzes that were actually designed by a guy who wanted his kids to be able to play games on his iPhone. The quizzes range from easy to difficult and are accompanied with sound, so they hear the words/letters and have to choose the answer. After getting a certain number correct, they get to choose a sticker and place the sticker on an outdoor scene.

Friday, March 16, 2012


My 6th grad school class (Second Language Acquisition) just finished and we are at the end of the school year, so I am on a little studying break this week. That's about to end though because my 7th class (Grammar) will start on Monday. Before that, I want to write a couple of posts. One thing I really miss while focusing on the degree is writing on my blog.

Recently, because of certain events that have happened, which I cannot get into here, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It gives me great relief and even more motivation to finish the degree and move ahead with my life. Every day, my kids remind of me of why I am doing this, and as we get closer to Ailin's impending "graduation" from daycare/kindergarten in one year, I know that by the time my courses finish, I will be able to be around more for them.

What I want to focus on for this post is my Project Life.

Project Life is now in it's 3rd month, and since it is a work in progress, I am going to discuss the process/design for the last two months. Basically, in trying two different approaches, I'm attempting to see which one works better or if I need to go a different route for the next month. I am not completely happy with either January or February's layouts, but since the purpose of Project Life is to capture real life, I think I have managed to do that in both months. So, it's not all bad.

January 2012 Project Life
My basic approach for January was to collect information for Journaling, tidbits such as Ailin's drawings, and photos of everyday life. I was able to use photos taken on my iPhone as well, so it was easy to do. On the 15th and on the 31st of the month, I scanned tidbits I had collected thus far, and once a week, I went through my iPhoto files and chose representative photos for PL. I kept everything in folders (one for scans, one for photos, one Day One app for iPhones, and one for journaling. Ailin helped a lot by choosing and even taking some of the photos, and she helped to remind me of information I need for journaling. I tried to keep lists of things such as Luka's new words, funny moments, dinner menus, etc. Ailin helped with this part too.

Click on the images to enlarge.

At the end of January, I quickly put together all the lay outs using the Becky Higgins templates and papers. It was quite simple once I got comfortable using these particular templates. I admit that they are not very pretty or interesting, but they serve their purpose for Project Life.

February 2012 Project Life
I tried a different approach for February, which was a busy and stressful month, especially at work. I ended up using my Day One app to document daily life, particularly feelings I was having concerning my job or my progress with my grad school course. In fact, I forgot to keep lists of Luka's new words, which are now actual sentences and a little harder to keep track of. The Day One app is useful except that the entries cannot be exported to a word processing program, and so I had to retype all of the entries into Word later. I have read that Day One will soon add the ability to export entries, but that has not materialized yet. I did the same process of collecting memorabilia and scanning it and collecting photos. I had more layouts this time because I had used Day One for the entire month and had more journaling to spread across the layouts, and there were a few major events to feature, including Ailin's 5th birthday.

Click on the images to enlarge.


Because I was so busy in February, I couldn't finish February's layouts so quickly, and it wasn't until March 15th or so that I finally finished. This is an important issue. For one thing, it puts me behind in March, and I was less motivated to take photos or collect memorabilia for March knowing that I am already falling behind. For another thing, it is not as much fun. I actually would prefer to do random layouts instead of a Project Life type album, BUT this is what I have chosen to do this year and it is really all I have time for.

That said, Ailin and (maybe Luka too) love these Project Life pages! She really enjoys helping me choose photos and she loves to see her scanned drawings (and other stuff) on these pages. One small problem though. Yusuke doesn't make many appearances in this album and I guess that is a reflection of how much time he spends with us. I should ask him to take a few photos at work or on his way to work...

Now, notice the blank spots where journaling would normally go. Some things I just cannot put on my blog because they are too personal and work-related rants might get me in trouble; however, work-related rants are part of life and I don't mind documenting some of them in the PL album. So please excuse the big orange spaces.

Some people might be wondering what I will do with all these pages that PL produces. I am planning to just have a digital album printed at the end of the year. It will produce a thinner album that will fit on a bookshelf easily, because as you can imagine, I am running out of space for my albums! Well, we'll see how it goes. I think 6 layouts a month is quite enough so February was a little overboard (We can thank my job for that...)