One-Week Arabic Challenge

Arabic text. I have no idea what this says.
Arabic text. I have no idea what this says.

I’ve decided to learn Arabic in a week. The entire language. Plus the alphabet. Not really.

But it’s no secret that I’m a language nut. I want to be able to speak 17 languages.

Why Arabic?

Most Saturdays my wife and I make the drive from Bentonville to Fayetteville to buy fresh produce at the farmer’s market. That’s in Arkansas, for any non-local readers. We love the Fayetteville market. Fresh local veggies sold by the farmers themselves, live music from local musicians. Good people. It’s just a great vibe overall.

One of Fayetteville’s maybe not-so-well-kept secrets is the Petra Café. The proprietor is from Jordan, an Arab country, and just a couple days ago we had some fun discussing Jordan and the Arabic language.

The Challenge

I decided to challenge myself to learn as much as I could in one week and to come back next week and see how much we would be able to communicate, just in Arabic. I know almost nothing of Arabic, or any semitic language, so it’s all pretty new to me.

I’m posting this publicly so that I’ll have to go through with it. Next week I’ll be posting a video or audio file of my attempt to speak Arabic with a native speaker this coming Saturday. Sink or swim, succeed or fail, something will be posted. I’m not going to tell my Jordanian friend about the project, until after it’s done. My wife has agreed to secretly record our conversation.

It’s pretty exciting to think that I will be able to communicate in Arabic. My first conversation in any language is always exciting. Not long, but fun anyway. They’re usually no longer than a few polite exchanges.

It might seem difficult, learning to even communicate in a language that I don’t know at all within a week. But I have a secret weapon for quickly getting up to speed on most any major language… .

My Secret Weapon

Anytime someone asks me about language resources, I always point them to the Pimsleur Method audio courses, because they’re so good. It’s actually the best thing to use if you want to start speaking immediately and be understood in your target language. I’ve used it with success when learning both French and Dutch.

This week I will be investing around 30 minutes per day listening to the Pimsleur Eastern Arabic course. That’s mostly all I’ll be doing, maybe going over each lesson twice a day if I feel that I need the practice. I’ve picked up a couple books on how to write the Arabic alphabet, so I may go over those a little.

The Result?

To Be Continued…

The results are in! Check out the results of my Arabic challenge if you’re interested.

Photo by “Dr. Case”

How to Start Every Day Awesomely

Sunrise Over Lake

Another 5-year-old post, but I believe the principle still applies. Routines like this also build discipline, one of my most important virtues.

The last 3 days have started awesomely for me because I follow the steps outlined below.

This is a modified version of “How You Should Start Every Day For The Rest Of Your Life!” by Gary Halbert.

I don’t recommend his steps for a couple of reasons. First, he recommends consuming dairy products, which are poisonous to humans. It’s just that most of us don’t know it yet. Second, he tells us to “scarf” down food a couple of times, and I don’t think “scarfing” is an appropriate way to eat anything unless you’re a dog.

How to start every day awesomely:

1. Set your alarm clock to go off 10 minutes earlier than usual.
2. The first thing, after you get up, is to immediately remake your bed.
3. Go to the kitchen, pour yourself a glass of water and drink it all.
4. Go to the bathroom, take care of “business,” brush your teeth, wash the sleep out of your face and eyes and brush and comb your hair.
5. Next, put on some exercise clothes, but no shoes.
6. Leave the house immediately and take a 20-minute barefoot walk.
7. As soon as you get back, start cooking some steel-cut oats (1/4 cup uncooked). Eat them with 1/4 cup raw almonds, 2 TBSP ground flax seeds and 1/2 cup raisins.
8. Take a shower.
9. Dress in fresh, crisp clothes and go about your day.

10 Ideas to improve your site’s SEO

SEO
SEO

I wrote these ideas for a local photographer that I know, who was asking on Facebook about SEO for her website. But since I think they’re pretty generic, these could apply to just about anyone with a local business. So I’ll just share them on here for everyone, and point her to this post.

SEO is basically broken into 2 things:

1. How relevant is your site’s content to the people searching for it?

You improve this by optimizing your site – content and meta information (e.g. meta tags, internal links to other pages on your site, etc.)

2. How popular is your site? (Sites with the same relevance, but more popular = higher in Google results.) This means how many “backlinks” your site has, which is other people/websites linking back to yours.

You improve this by what’s called “link building”.


Anyway, without further ado, here’s a list of ideas that might help improve any site’s SE rankings.

  1. Ensure your keywords/phrases that you want to rank for are somewhere on your site. Bonus points if in your meta description and in an h1 tag on the page. Keyword phrases are what you type in to google when you want to find your site, e.g. "Northwest Arkansas Photographer", or "Portland Wedding Photography", or whatever. If you know your keywords, you can run a free report here for your site: https://juxseo.zoomshift.com/. But this report will only analyze your page content, not your ranking in the SERPs.

  2. Get lots of (legitimate) links from other sites back to your site. In the SEO industry, we call these "backlinks". The link text should be your keyword phrases mentioned in #1 above.

  3. Have profiles for your business on all social media sites and somehow integrate those with your site, or at least link back to your site.

  4. Make sure you have a responsive theme. This just means that your site is easy to read on a desktop and on a phone, iPad, tablets, etc. Google has started giving preference to sites which have responsive themes, and people viewing your site on mobile devices will appreciate it too.

  5. Make sure your site loads fast. (Google has indicated site loading speed is one of the signals that it uses to rank pages.) Large images/files can be hosted on a CDN. You can see https://moz.com/learn/seo/page-speed for more info.

  6. Make sure your business is registered w/Google business. This will help ensure you’re on the "map" that shows up in the results, and lets Google know you’re around.

  7. Add your site to Google webmaster tools.

  8. Make sure your robots.txt allows indexing (this is easy and can be done from Google webmaster tools).

  9. Create a sitemap for search engines if you don’t already have one.

  10. Are you publishing content to your site on a regular basis? If so, this would result in more frequent search engine visits.

  11. Another suggestion – submit articles to high-profile sites like medium.com & link back to your site

  12. Along the same lines, guest posting to other people’s sites (e.g. other photographers who get a lot of readers) helps, as you get a link back to your site (this is part of link building). All links back to your site are good as long as they’re genuine and not spammy.

Most SEO consultants/services will offer some suggestions like the above, they might do it for you, and they’ll probably deliver ranking and content reports as well. They’re probably just buying these white-label from moz.com, which is the de-facto authority (besides Google themselves) on SEO.

Of course, I’m probably forgetting some things, but this should cover the basics.

Ok, bye.

Photo by Steve Rotman

DIY hand-roasted coffee

Or… “that one time I hand-roasted coffee on the stove…”.

A couple of weeks ago, I was inspired by Jeff Goins’ post on how he basically “created” a coffee company in 48 hours. Since his site and email list are kinda aggressive on the marketing side, I’m not going to link to it. You can find it via Google if you want. (Jeff, if you’re reading this, no offense intended. And don’t hesitate to get in touch for ideas on how your marketing could be improved.)

Anyway, this is the video that he linked to, and I watched it myself. You can see that it’s so simple to roast your own green coffee by hand on the stove, if you happen to have some green coffee beans on hand. Which I did. 😉

Since I don’t have a copper pan, I used a wok instead, which transfers heat really well. Here are some images from the roasting process:

A couple minutes after starting
A couple minutes after starting
Getting yellow/brown
Getting yellow/brown
Now we're between light brown and dark brown
Now we’re between light brown and dark brown
About midway
About midway
Mostly dark
Mostly dark
Finished - Roasted!
Finished – Roasted!
Green vs Brown Coffee Beans
Green vs Brown Coffee Beans

Since we don’t have a coffee/spice grinder, I just used the Vitamix to grind it. It worked perfectly. The texture of the grind is about the same as the Gevalia ground coffee that you can purchase at many grocery stores.

It seems like so many things that we think are “complicated” or just “too hard” really aren’t. Not that anyone really thinks much about roasting coffee themselves.

I know what I used to think. Spending thousands of dollars on equipment. Probably a small building to house the roaster. Spending hundreds of dollars just having green coffee shipped in 100 LB bags. All that, just to be able to play at roasting coffee.

But that’s not the case at all. You can probably buy green coffee at your local coffee roastery, for the price of roasted coffee and some strange looks when you ask for it green.

As for the taste… it’s surprisingly good! It’s actually similar in taste to the Gevalia coffee that I mentioned earlier, as well. If you’re into trying new things, I recommend at least giving it a try.