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.

How to Do Anything at All in Life

The Urban Ninja

Note: I originally wrote this in July 2010, 5 years ago, but never posted it. Five years! That’s crazy. Obviously a lot has changed since then, and I wish that I’d posted this waaay back then. But the point I was trying to make still holds true, even more now, since it’s like I was writing for myself. My future self. It’s like a time machine, but in reverse. Crazy, man.

Last weekend at American Rendezvous 2k10, I met another participant named Ozzi Quintero from Hawaii (originally from Venezuela). This guy was probably the most hardcore guy at the event, is responsible for Hawaii Parkour (aka HIpk), and has some videos on youtube. I was quite impressed with Ozzi’s abilities, (one of which includes a handstand initiated from a standing position without kicking himself up). He’s also got a well-built physique.

In short, Ozzi is awesome. But he wasn’t born awesome, he had to work for it. He had to work his ass off to develop the stability, balance, physique, etc. that makes him a great traceur. He has been in the proverbial trenches, spending time in the weight room, performing exercises to develop balance, quadrupedal movement, etc., and the awesomeness shows through as a result.

I’d like to be like Ozzi, but I wasn’t born with his genetics, so I can’t. It’s too bad.

Oh, wait — yes, I too can be awesome. And I will.

You Can Do It

One thing I hate is to hear someone say “man I wish I were… (thinner, richer, whatever..er)”, or “I want _____ more than anything in the world”, and then do nothing at all about it, nothing to improve his/her situation.

That person is lying to everyone, and probably most importantly, lying to (him|her)self. The fact is, if you really want something, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

Want to be thinner? Change your damn diet and start exercising. For me, becoming a vegan, getting serious about lifting weights and starting Parkour all at about the same time have completely changed my life. I’m not saying anyone should follow any particular diet or lifestyle, but eating McDonald’s, Sonic and even Subway (gasp!) ain’t gonna cut it if you’re fat and want to lose weight. In fact, you’ll probably have to stop eating out. Also, if you consume a lot of beer on weekends, that will have to go as well. It may seem like a drastic change, and indeed it is, but…

“No one will ever change until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change.”
— Jack Daniels

Want to be richer? Start researching how to be richer. Google it, click on some links. Follow links on those pages to other pages. Read the right books.

Wanna learn to play the guitar? Go to a music store, buy a basic guitar, and inquire about lessons. Even if the store doesn’t give lessons, they can point you to someone who can.

Or maybe you’d like to learn a new language? Take a look at Benny, he’s learned 7 and he’s still not finished. Go buy a book on your language of choice. Take classes at school/college/university. Ask a friend to help (nicely!). Check out the (free) resources on the net: check out livemocha.com or ielanguages.com.

But know that whatever it is you want to do, it’s not going to fall into your lap. Because…

“Nothing in this life that’s worth having comes easy.”
— Dr. Kelso

Make It Happen – Today

Much like Ozzi in the example above, you’ve got to put in the effort if you want to reach your goals. But if you really want to do it, you will. I promise. 😉

With the power of the internet, pretty much the entire knowledge of the world is at our fingertips. The old excuse “I don’t know how” is no longer valid.

So please, stop lying to me, everyone else, and above all, yourself. If you really want to do something, just go do it.

All the good things you want to do in your life have to be started in the next few hours, days or weeks. — Tom DeMarco

If you get nothing else out of this, please, take action on something today — whatever it is you want to do, no matter how big it is. Because if you don’t, you may never get around to it.

Stop merely living, start surviving. Go. Be. Do epic shit.

Photo by Tyson Cecka

Take Action. Now.

The Karma Machine
The Karma Machine

Note: This workshop in Wellington has been canceled by the school due to the low number of participants enrolled.

I just enrolled in a one-day Krav Maga workshop which will take place a month from now when I’m in Wellington, New Zealand.

Krav Maga has been on my life list for several months now, but it’s only been in the “some day” category. And after reading a bit about true-life stories of guys getting mugged (and after traveling in foreign counties quite a bit lately), I’ve come to realize that I might also get mugged, jumped, whatever. And when that happens, I’m not going to be able to say “Oh, wait… can we postpone this, I haven’t had my self-defense training yet. So… let’s take a rain-check and then you can mug me once I’m more prepared”. This is something I’ve needed to do for a while, but kept making excuses and putting it off.

But, the truth is… if you really want to do something, you will find a way to get it done.

No matter what it is, if you really, passionately want to do a thing, your every thought will be focused on attaining that goal.

I’ve put off the self-defense aspect of my life for too long.

Thus, I decided to look for a Krav Maga course in Wellington, New Zealand, which will be my home for the next year.

Instead of thinking I’ll do it “some day” when I get settled in, I added it to my short-term life list (it’s not public, I’m referring to my private mind map for my personal development).

But even that is just “some day”-type thinking. So within 10 minutes of adding it to the above list, I found a workshop in Wellington on a Saturday in March (today is February 20th, the workshop will take place in exactly one month). And then I went ahead and booked the class online. It’s already paid for now! Not gonna be as easy to put this off now that it’s already been paid for.

What are you putting off that you know you need to do? It might be sending an email. It could be registering for a course.

I don’t know what that specific action is for you, because I don’t know you. But I think you do know what it is you need to do. Stop making excuses and do something, no matter how small, to get you closer to where you need to be. What can you do today to get closer to that goal?

Take action.

All the good things you want to do in your life have to be started in the next few hours, days or weeks. — Tom DeMarco

photo credit

Change is Good

Ok, I’m lazy as hell. That’s a good quality for a programmer, but not so good for other things. This was originally supposed to be published on 25 Oct 2010, exactly. So that’s when I’m going to set the publish date, even though it’s now 6 Nov 2010. Screw it.

Change is inevitable. Nothing ever stays the same. Change can either be for good or for bad, but it will always be.
— paraphrased from Coach Gothard (i think)

That photo is me 1 year ago at Mornington Crescent Tube Station.
the author, one year ago

This is me 3 weeks ago.
the author 3 week ago

I don’t even look like the same person. Lost 60 lbs since a year ago. Most of it within the last 6 months.

I could go on about non-tangible things like “belief” and “persistence” which have allowed me to change my life, but the truth is, it’s not that complicated:

1. I went vegan late March of this year (2010) – this is probably 80% of the change.
2. I also started working out consistently – this is another 15%.
3. I started Parkour – this is about 4.8%.
4. New sweet specs – this accounts for the final 0.2%.

Now, a word about Parkour: it rocks hard. Harder than rocks themselves, actually, which is pretty hard by any standard of measurement. It’s a physical activity that’s difficult to categorize. It’s not simply an activity, but a lifestyle (sort of how veganism isn’t just a diet, but also a lifestyle). But Parkour is a hardcore warrior lifestyle. An all-around physical and (more importantly) mental fitness. It’s not about flips and tricks (that’s called Freerunning), but efficiency. Efficiency of movement, of purpose. Always maintain the flow. Don’t stop the flow.

I don’t really know where I was going with this.

I’m in Quebec City, Canada right now. Which is a change from Bentonville, Arkansas, which is where I was one month ago. Anyway, the end.

Also, a happy birthday to my nephew James who turns 16 today. He won’t read this, probably ever, but that’s ok.

added a life list

A Moleskine Notebook
A Moleskine Notebook

I was inspired by yearlyglot‘s bucket list, so I decided to create one of my own. It’s not the first time I’ve had one, nor is it the first time I’ve published a life list on my blog. However, it is considerably shorter than my previous life list.

Check it out if you care to do so (also you can click the link in the nav bar at the top of this site):

Captain NaMar’s Life List

photo credit

How to be Physically Healthy

I don’t usually like list posts. I know, everyone adds that nowadays just before writing one. I just wrote it here because I’m really trying to like to be like everyone else. Anyway, here is the list:

  1. Stop eating animals. No meat, no dairy, no honey.
  2. Don’t eat out. This is probably quite difficult for most Americans, because we’ve styled our lives around being dependent on restaurants. Also, this means you’ll have to learn to cook.
  3. Eat healthy foods. Purchase & cook quinoa. Look up quinoa. (No, seriously, click the wikipedia link & check it out.) Eat raw brazil nuts (one daily is fine) and learn to cook steel cut oats. Look up steel cut oats so you know what they are. Also, buy & eat Ezekiel 4:9 cereal. It’s like Grape Nuts but better. (I know it’s like $6 a box, but your health is worth it. And you’re saving a ton of money by not eating out anyway.) These things can be purchased from Whole Foods or any good health food store.
  4. Daily physical activity. Also, you need to be doing stuff that makes you sweat at least 3-4 days a week, for at least 30 minutes each session.
  5. Get enough sleep.

Notice that the majority of these revolve around your diet, and most likely changing it if you’re not already hardcore. I am firmly convinced that nutrition, not physical activity, is the most important factor in being healthy and fit. If you don’t agree with this then you’re wrong.

photo credit

American Rendezvous 2k10

I just returned home yesterday afternoon from 3 days of intense Parkour training event in Columbus, Ohio. The event was American Rendezvous 2010, presented by the Parkour Horizons group.

The instructors came from both Parkour Generations and three of the Yamakasi, also current members of Majestic Force.

Just a side note, as a result, my DCI tracker will be missing entries for a few days, due to the fact that it was a bit difficult to get them in during the event.

Honestly, this is some of the best training one could possibly receive and I highly recommend to anyone interested in Parkour that they train with members of Parkour Generations and Majestic Force if possible.

More than just physical training, I feel like I now know how to train myself and understand much more about Parkour as an art form and a lifestyle as opposed to simply a sport.

currently listening to: El Corazón del Guerrero por Tierra Santa