Jul 23

Hack Your Education – the launch of an uncommon guide to saving time, effort, and sanity with school, papers, research, and more

dinosaur-computer“Welcome to school – where the age of dinosaurs might be ahead of your technological expectations!”

That’s what I sometimes feel like sitting in class.  Well, folks, it’s time for things to change. Surely there’s a better way, right?  Just so happens there is… and that’s what HackYourEd is all about.  I want to help you “hack your education” to help you save time, effort, and money, so that you can focus on what matters: learning and content.

I refuse to date either Kate Turabian or the APA Manual, and since I’m entering a doctoral program (admittedly, for the second time), I’m determined to help my fellow sojourners join the 21st Century.

Mimicry is our goal.  We want it to “look just like” the sample paper your school gives you.  Identical output in every way.  It’s the input we’re changing, and that’s where we reap the most benefits.

To get us started, we’re going to look at a short list of programs & tools with thumbnail sketches – it’s my top five.  I’ll eventually identify more tools, and we’ll discuss quite a few others and why we’re not going to use them in upcoming weeks.  I’ll come back to each of these soon with some in depth posts on how to hack them and make them work better for us, but for now, this should get you started.  Note that most of these programs are either Open Source Software or their free versions are useful, which means they won’t cost you any money!

Top Five Tools to Use

Libreoffice_icon_mix1) Word Processor: LibreOffice – Think “free office suite.”  LibreOffice (LO) can do 99% of everything Microsoft Office (MSO) can do plus another 15% Microsoft only dreams about.  And let’s face it… Microsoft changes layout, buttons, and file format stuff more often than a white unicorn changes colors when flying through a rainbow.  It’s frustrating, to say the least.  A bonus is that LibreOffice will open and save .doc files (better than MSO in many cases) and it has some nifty features regarding formatting, better large file handling, one click export to PDF, and more.  I recommend the native file format (.odt) since it is an “open” format and not proprietary like .doc and .docx.  MSO will (finally) open .odt files, as well, even though it took some time for Microsoft to determine that opening a free, open standard format was a good idea. I have .odt files from 15 years ago that, when I open them today, still look the same.  Try that with a .doc file! (Good luck!) Relax, because if you can use MSO, you can use LO. LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice.org (OOo) – they are essentially the same, though LO continued development a few years back when OOo stalled.  OOo has recovered, but LO still has a few advantages, IMHO.  You risk nothing to download it and take it for a spin, so go for it!

2) Bibliographic Management: Zotero – If you’ve ever used RefWorks, EndNote, or ETurabian.com – welcome to your new best friend. Zotero is freedynamic biblio-manager (unlike many others that are either copy-paste static methods, or they cost money).  First, to enter books, use your web browser and gsticker,375x360.u1o to Google Books, Amazon, WorldCat, or any online database (e.g., EBSCO) and pull up your reference material.  Click the Zotero button to import all pertinent information (bonus: you’ll also get a backup, offline copy of any pdf articles you’re reading).  Boom! You’ve got it in your own database.  From within your word processor (LibreOffice or MS Word or OOo), just “insert” a Zotero citation.  Start typing the title and hit enter (you can specify page number here, suppress author, etc.).  WHAM! The footnote is automatically inserted.  When you reach the end, “Insert –> Bibliography” and BAM! You’re done. You read that right… it automatically inserts it ALL.  And if you ever correct something in the database, it can automatically update and correct every reference to that work.  Think on that for a bit. Stylesheets exist for everything from Turabian 8th to APA 6th to SBL 2nd and much, much more.

3) Note Taking: Evernote – Think “digital-filing-cabinet-and-admin-assistant-on-steroids.”  Use Evernote to “Remember Everything.”  This is the first apevernoteheaderp I install on any device, thereby syncing notes across my phone, tablet, pc, and the web.  I jot and tag notes on conversations, articles or books I’m working on, sermons and prayers, etc.  It has built in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) which means you can take a picture of text and later search, copy, paste, etc.  This is great for when you see a quote in a book or even on a projector screen presentation! Snap and go.  Business cards, receipts, people, things to remember, etc. – Evernote is your friend! The free version is awesome, but the $50/yr premium is unbelievably awesome and worth every penny to support development! NOTE: The link I’ve provided provides some extra kudos for both you and me.

4) File Security: Dropbox – There are two kinds of people in this world: a) those who backup, b) those who’ll wish they had!  Oh, and if your files are not in three locations (one of which is offsite and all of which are verified) they aren’t really backed up.  That said, Dropbox is really considered a syncing program Dropbox-Logo(and not a backup program). It uses the cloud and syncs files between all your devices.  Though not a “backup” program, the beautiful thing is that you can access earlier revisions of files, restore deleted files, share particular folders with others, annotate, and more!  Use it for all your critical files and never lose a paper again!  I love being able to pull things up on my phone when I have a quick question, too. I also use this in my publishing company to share files between dozens of authors and editors in 8 different countries. NOTE: The link I’ve provided gets you kudos – more free space!

5) Websites: These various websites will save you tons of time.  You likely already have databases to access through your school, but sometimes it’s easier to use a tool you know and love to speed up the initial search.

  • Google Scholar – If you have Google-fu (don’t worry, we’ll get you trained up on this if you don’t!), Google Scholar is one of the fastest ways to figoogle-scholar-logond articles related to what you’re searching.  You can search via author, title, subject, DOI, etc. and sometimes even access the article directly with no database login.  It’s a good way to comb through abstracts and get a feel for a topic before databasing specifics.


  • Google Books – I think the search giant is up to about 50 million scanned books (full content). In theory, you could read an entire book here, but the google-books-logobeauty is that you can easily pull up a direct range of pages from a reference or footnote in a paper you’re reading to see exactly what the original material contains (this is a goldmine for context).  Another feature is the ability to electronically search the hardcopy of many of the books sitting on your shelf.  You can usually access 10-15% of a book with no difficulty.  That said, log into another computer and access another 10-15%, etc.  To be fair, I don’t recommend abusing the system, but in a pinch, one could, say, accidentally forget a book at home they have to review, have a deadline, and read the entire thing to write said review while their spouse is driving down the road on the way to family vacation. Um, or so I’ve heard.


  • Amazon – Crazy, but true, Amazon isn’t just about buying books!  Don’t knock the “helpful” reviews people leave here, or my favorite – “people who amazonbought this also bought…” that shows up at the bottom.  Also, this is a great way to find your specific book by ISBN and “one-click import to Zotero.”  Oh, and as an author, I’m begging you… please leave reviews on books you buy.  They are more helpful than you know!


  • Online Writing Lab (OWL) – Faowl_logoster than a book to find examples of proper formatting, Purdue’s OWL also gives examples you might not find elsewhere.  Need a sample annotated bibliography? They’ve got you covered.  Need some obscure citation format for a reference you’ve only seen once? They’ve got you.


  • WorldCat.org – I’ll be honest: I normally only use WorldCat for Zotero imports when Amazon fails me!  That said, it allows you to find almost any book in WorldCat_Logo_V_Colorlibraries around the world!   You can enter your zip code to see if any are local, but if none are to be found, you can put in for an Interlibrary Loan (ILL).


  • Crossref.org – Another free search opticrossref-logo-150pxon with some easy filters. It’s also a straight up way to find articles via their DOI or find a DOI via it’s link. Helpful for synergizing together a bibliography.


That’s the short list!  Coming down the road, we’ll discuss other areas like books, mindmapping, outline management software, operating systems, and much, much more!

How about you? What tools do you find most useful?

Please let me know in the comments below!


Aug 03

A Working Definition of Worship

I do not take credit for this, but I do agree with it!
A working definition of “worship”:
Worship is communion with God in which believers, by grace, center their minds’ attention and their hearts’ affection on the Lord, humbly glorifying God in response to His greatness and His word.
1.         Worship is communion with God. (Genesis 3:8-9, Revelation 22:1-3)
2.         Worship is an enactment of faith. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
3.         Worship is an appropriation of grace. (Exodus 33:18-23)
4.         Worship is centering attention on God. (Romans 12:2)
5.         Worship is expressing love to God. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
6.         Worship is servant-ministry to God. (Romans 12:1)
7.         Worship is glorifying God. (Philippians 2:10-11)
8.         Worship is response to God. (Isaiah 6:1-8)

Jul 28


cursingCursing is an odd duck in human behavior.

Will Smith’s grandmother once caught him writing a rap song with cursing in it. Her disappointment was apparent, and she simply said, “Curse words are for people too ignorant to express themselves by any other means.”

Awesome quote. In fact, it’s why the Fresh Prince’s music was nearly void of any cursing.

But people – even smart people – do it anyway. Of course, there are also some really smart (and well-respected) people who don’t curse. So clearly, it’s optional.

It’s very common when I walk into a room for someone to “catch themselves” cursing – dropping and f-bomb or some other profanity (isn’t that an interesting descriptive word of what it is – why does society label it as profane?). They quickly recover and usually say, “Oh, sorry Chaps/Reverend/Sir… didn’t see you there.”

My response? “Oh don’t worry about me. I’m not offended in the least. I mean, if you don’t want to be a person of integrity, well, that’s completely your choice.”

That’s when it gets awkward. In fact, they always ask for an explanation. I mean, integrity – particularly in a public venue (even it’s just in front of their friends), is very important to most people.

“If I had my kids with me, would you curse? What if I had a reporter from Navy Times with me? What about if your grandmother was here?”
The answers are always no, no and maybe (hey, not everyone got Granny Smith!”

“Interesting,” and we ponder it together.

“Integrity, in a word, is consistency. Specifically, it is a consistency of actions, values, methods, measures and/or principles. It is related to the word (it’s base) integer, which means ‘to be whole and undivided.’ It means being who you are, wherever you are. (While we’re here – doing the right thing when no one is looking is not integrity. It simply requires discipline.)”

“So, if someone curses in one venue, but not in another, they are fractured in their behavior, which means they are not someone of integrity. So like I said, knock yourself out. I’m not upset… just disappointed because I think you’re smarter than that.” I finish with Granny Smith’s quote from so many years ago and call it a day.

So why do so many leaders (and, sad to say, Chaplains) do it? I wish I could say. Perhaps it’s a need to “fit in” – which equates to an unrecognized peer pressure. Perhaps it’s because they think they are above the need to “walk the walk.” Perhaps they just don’t care

Regardless of the reason, as someone who doesn’t curse, I frequently hear about others who do. It’s a conversation the person would never have with those other caregivers or leaders. But the message is clear – and it usually revolves around lack of respect and disappointment. Fun to hang out with? Sure. Someone to go to with serious problems? Usually not… because if they don’t walk the walk with the little things… what will they do with the big ones?

And for those who want to defend the opposing line – I’m not saying people won’t approach or trust them. I am, however, saying that people won’t approach or trust them… as much. And for every engagement, there are clearly many missed ones. Needlessly missed. But go ahead… knock yourself, Mr. or Mrs. Fractured.


Jul 28

Learn a New Language and Become Fluent in One Month

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by!  Think learning a new language is impossible?  If it takes 10-15 years to master 100% fluency, it must take 5-7 yrs to master 50%, right?


Besides… who wants to learn just 50%?  The key is to utilize the minimum necessary to acheive the desire results.  And WHAT you learn is far more valuable that HOW you learn… but we can combine both for maximum effect.

If you learn words in a foreign language by frequency, you can achieve:

15 words = 26% fluent
50 words = 33% fluent
100 words = 50% fluent
300 words = 65% fluent
1200 words = 85% fluent
2000 words = 95% fluent (this is truly “conversationally fluent”)

You can get to 95% in 3 month’s (Ferriss’ method) or 1 month (Moser’s method)

You can get to 98% in another ten years.  Don’t know about you, but I’m good with 95%!

Add a couple of hours for sentence structure, but you get the idea (Ferris covers this).


Timothy Ferriss Method – Read this for overview and understanding.

Timothy Ferriss, the author of “The Four Hour Workweek,” “The Four Hour Chef,” and “The Four Hour Body” (all NYT bestsellers for a reason) has some interesting things to say:

Learning Any Language in 3 Months – post (15 min)

Deconstructing a Language – video (10 min)

12 Rules to Learn Any Language in Record Time – post and/or video (1hr total)


Tim Moser Method – Read this to blow your mind

Go from zero to fluency in Spanish in one month (1hr per day).

It’s free. Sign up here.

One you learn the method, you can easily apply it to other languages.


Other Resources

101Languages.net – see word lists and pronunciation

Wikipedia – Word frequency lists

InvokeIt – More frequency lists



Jun 06


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