internet personal

Life, the Internet, and me

Still figuring this one out

windows shutdown

Interestingly, I started writing this almost two years ago. It’s been sitting in the draft folder ever since.

Earlier this year, I stopped using Facebook. This week, I pruned my email and RSS subscriptions, deleting some of the more active lists. Today, I chose not to respond to an angry person on Twitter.

I feel like my relationship with the Internet (internet?) is evolving, sometimes in the right direction.

Well, that was then and this is now, and my improved relationship with the internet didn’t last.

Last week I again felt the need to cut back on Facebook, after starting to use it again last year. For me, Facebook is something that slowly increases over time, taking more and more of my attention.

Last time I got rid of it I deleted all my friends. This time, thanks to its expanded features, I just unfollowed them.

What that means is that I don’t see anyone else’s posts, but they can see mine. I can see their comments on my posts, but nothing else.

It’s a way of turning Facebook into a broadcast rather than a source of new content. Another way of looking at it would be in terms of being a free rider. I get to share my stuff with the world but never see what anyone else writes 🙂

In some ways it’s similar to browsing the web with an ad blocker.

Either way, it seems to be working. I check Facebook less now, and when I do there is no new content to see so I just close the browser tab again. I’m hoping over time the urge to check will also go down.

Why this sudden desire to regain my time? I have some projects I want to finish.

expectations new year personal

2015 in Review, 2016 Preview


Last year was pretty good overall. Lots of progress on ongoing projects and some good foundations built for 2016. Here are some highlights:

  1. Received two important prizes from Tohoku University for my work on the extensive reading program.
  2. Really improved the extensive reading and discussion classes at Tohoku University. This was surprising, as I had considered them ‘finished’ and perfectly functional, but the upgrades just suggested themselves.
  3. Helped write the PDR Handbook, a guide to using discussion in classes with high school and university students (expect to hear a lot more about this as we get closer to publication date in March).
  4. Set up the Cambridge Academy and developed it.
  5. Gave my first workshops on personal finance. Much more on this on my website RetireJapan.
  6. Got my finances really sorted out.
  7. Took a family trip to Koh Samui (probably the last chance for us to get everyone together in one place).

My main goal for 2016 is to regain some work/life balance. I want to establish healthy sleeping, eating, and exercise habits. I want to schedule leisure and family time as well as work. I want to turn down most opportunities (even the ones I would have said yes to six months ago). I am mainly going to focus on:

  1. Developing my classes at Tohoku University. We have some new ‘advanced’ classes that are going to be interesting to experiment with. Most exciting for me is that I am going to run some classes for second years teaching personal finance in English.
  2. Write the 2nd edition of the ER@TU Handbook. Hoping to have this done by March. It is very overdue.
  3. Launch and develop a new website for teachers and learners of English called PELLT (Practical English Language Learning and Teaching). More on that once we have something to share.
  4. Learn how to use Camtasia and produce short videos for teachers and learners.
  5. Continue to develop the Cambridge Academy. I’ll have a post on the first year soon.
  6. Continue to develop RetireJapan. I am hoping to write some ebooks for the site this year.

With some luck and help from my friends (Dan E. in particular) I hope to get at least one of those done this year 😉

What does your 2016 look like?

expectations personal presentations

Too comfortable? The need for challenge and stress.

hamster sleepy

Happy New Year! Yesterday someone told me that it’s okay to say that in English until the end of January, and I’ve been here too long to be able to tell if that is true or not.

I did a public lecture yesterday in Sendai about language learning. It was a fairly new topic for me, an unknown audience, a lot of time (90 minutes), and just to round things off, it was all in Japanese.

For the first time in quite a while (I think that last time was when I did a plenary in Vietnam) I was stressed to the point of discomfort. I procrastinated horribly, only really starting to get ready in a concrete form on Thursday and being unpleasant to everyone around me as the deadline ticked closer.

Then of course, the lecture went really well, people seemed happy, and I felt great (as well as very tired).

This made me think a bit. It seems to confirm that the best opportunities for growth are the things that are scary or put you under stress. Yesterday’s talk allowed me to take a bunch of concepts I had been thinking about and put them together into a (hopefully) coherent presentation.

Perhaps my life is becoming a bit too comfortable, and this may be one reason why I feel I am hurtling into a mid-life zone of mediocrity. Perhaps I need to seek out more of these slightly challenging experiences in order to keep growing. Something to think about.

Writing this post also reminded me that I haven’t done my usual roundup of goals and achievements for last year and this year. I will post that sometime next week. Maybe.


evaluation personal

Looking back on 2014

2014 end

Well, this year went by fast! In a lot of ways 2014 was a good one for me.

I was able to do a fair bit of travelling and presenting, things went well at both the university and Cambridge, and I learned a lot.

Unfortunately I neglected this blog, and haven’t posted as frequently as I would have liked to.

Here are my highlights of 2014:

  1. ER@TU
    The Extensive Reading at Tohoku University project went incredibly well this year. Not only did we receive special funding of 5 million yen to buy more books, but we were also noticed by the university administration. We’re working on rolling extensive reading classes out to more teachers and were selected to receive a prize for the project.
  2. International Textbook
    I was really pleased to be able to contribute to Oxford University Press’ new textbook series Stretch. I wrote the presenting skills curriculum.
  3. Presenting
    I was able to present at a number of international and domestic events this year, including delivering my first plenary at VUS TESOL in Vietnam, presentations in Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand, and a number of events in Japan.
  4. Guest Lectures
    I really enjoyed giving guest lectures at Miyagi University of Education, Nika Junior and Senior High School, Sendai Second High School, and Tago Elementary School. It was a great experience to present on new topics to new audiences.

I will be working on my annual review and plans for 2015 over the next week or so, and will post some of my educational goals here in the new year.

Hope you are all enjoying a bit of a break. Happy holidays!

greeting personal

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good holiday

I’m about to embark on my annual cooking adventure.

christmas dinner

(it won’t look like that)

As well as cooking, I’ll be doing a special extensive reading workshop for Tohoku University staff on Thursday, so hopefully we’ll have a video of that up by the end of the week.

I’ll also be doing my annual review at some point over the weekend. Very much recommend this exercise if you don’t do it already.

Enjoy the holidays and keep checking back here: I’m planning to keep to my Tuesday-Friday posting schedule and you wouldn’t want to miss any of my pearls of wisdom 😉