Blog of Sara Jakša

Plant Based Food Better For A Planet Than Meat Based One

Right now, the second biggest producer of the warming gases is animal production. Bigger than transportation, but still smaller than energy production. The animal industry releases into the air 14% of all greenhouse gasses, where methane is the most frequent one.

Methane is also having a stronger effect on the global warming than the CO2.

But while energy production goes to greener and greener processes, the same can not be said for the animal industry. After all, it is hard, for the animals to stop farting or belching.

For example, a single cow can produce more than 100 liters of greenhouse gasses in a day.

Farting and belching is connected to food ingestions. The cows eat the plant food, which is then digested by bacteria. The by-product of this process is methane, but it also gives nutrition to cows, as they digest the mass of the bacteria.

If we gave cows their natural food, there might be a chance, that the production of the methane would lower. But this day, the cows are mostly feed the soy, cord and similar food, instead of the grass. A little over a decade ago, they were feed themselves, what lead to the diseased cows.

But feeding more than 1.5 billion cows with a grass would be problematic. The land, that would have to be used to feed all these cows would have put a too big of a dent into our living spaces and space for food.

But the number of animal industry will not go down, as long as people eat meat.

An average american eats a little more than 120 kg of meat per year. An Europeans aren’t a lot better, since one European country actually beats USA. Luksemburg is the country with biggest meat consumption per person with a little more than 135 kg of meat per year. But most of the EU countries consume around 70 kg of meat per person per year, which is almost half at that of America or Luksemburg.

The supply is always depended on the demand. If the demand is smaller, less suppliers are willing to go to the market and vice versa. So, as long as we, as people are going to be eating so much meat, that long we will have that much animals as part of the animal industry and get a global warming from animal as a side product, we can’t refuse.

So I think, the plant based food could save our planet. The problem here is, will it?

Learning Techniques - Interweaving practice

Did you ever did any sports? Here I am more talking about training sports, even if it was just for fun, than doing sports as a way to meet people.

If you are anything like me, than you have some experience with that. In my case, I spended 8 years training dance, and now I am in my 6 year of training Karate. I am going to explaining this learning technique on a Karate example, but it is a technique, that is not only used in sports, but in any learning.

There is a difference in types of training. There is a interweaving practice and block practice.

Block types of training are the ones, where the concentration is on a specific detail. For example, if I want to have a better punch, than I will do 100 hundred punches every day. Then I will go to the next element, for example the upper block, or kick or anything. Single element in repeated numerous times, before changing the element of training.

But we also do the interweaving practice. That is, where we are bringing every element together. Like when we are training in katas or have a free sparring session.

Interweaving practice means practicing more than one element in the same time. For language learning that means having a conversation, for tennis, having a practice match, for public speaking, giving a presentation. Instead of doing it one element after another. Like studying grammar rule for language learning, practicing serves for tennis or learning how to use a vocal variety with exercises for public speaking.

The magic of interweaved practice is, that while the advancement is less seen, since it happens in more than one area at the same time, the net advancement is still bigger than doing blocked practice. For example, making punches will make my punches better than doing interweaved practice, but the learning of all disciplines, like licks, blocks, timing and so on will be bigger in the same amount of time.

In order to use the interweaving practice, two strategies can be used. One is to use knowledge in the real world. Like programing an application instead of learning functions. Or writing a story in foreign language instead of studying that grammar rule. Or having a fight, instead of practicing punches.

The other strategy is to combine the learning material. In one school, instead of learning how to calculate the volume of one body and then the next, they combined all the volume lessons into one.

That does not mean, that blocked practice have no place. Blocked practice is a great way, if there is a single place or lack of knowledge, that is holding everything back. But interweaved practice is a great norm in learning new things, before the problem areas are identified.

Learning tactics - Underlining

Underlining is another of learning techniques. Here I am grouping underlining, coloring text and all the other similar techniques, that mark the important parts of the text.

Underlining is another of frequently used learning methods. The school book underlined with different colors is a frequent sign is our university and in the movies.

Underlining work on the principle of difference. So, if some part of text is different from another, then that text jumps into our eyes. That makes text easier to remember.

But underlining is still just deciding what information is important, no learning it. That is why it is referred as a shallow learning technique - the ones that do not need a lot of energy, but the return is also not the best.

Even taking this into account, there are still at least 2 pitfalls, that the learner can fall into when underlining.

But there are still two pitfalls, that a learner can fall in.

The first one is underlining too much. The more text is underlined, the less deferential it is. That makes him harder to remember. Or if there is more underlined as not underlined, than the not underlined text appears more important, so it will be easier to remember.

Even in experiments, the most successful people were the ones, that underlined the least. Since they had to think critically, what to underline. They also found out, that most people underline too much, if not given restrictions.

The second pitfall is underlining not important things. Since underlining makes underlined information easier to remember, that can make the learner remember less.

So, to practice underlining, choose a piece of text. Then restrict the number of words or sentences allowed to underline. That is going to be the technique, that will make the most of underlining.

And do not forget. Underlining only makes important parts easier to remember, but the learning does not take place while underlining. There still have to be a learning phase as well.

Recipe: Cooked Potato a la Rozali - Take 1

Recently I have seen my flatmate from France making potatoes with onions and chicken. I am vegetarian, so I wasn't really interesting in the chicken. But the smell was divine. It was so strong, that it got me from writing and I had to eat something as well.

She made the potatoes and onions in the pan with salt and pepper, making it slowly.

I don't have a pan, I so far only acquired a pot, but I thought, I could try to replicate her results.

I started by dicing a small onion (it was a young one) and two potatoes (one was middle and one was big sized).

So I put the oil in the pan and started to fry the diced onion on it, adding the potato, also diced on small cubes.

But my pot was getting burned, so in order to preserve, I added about a liter of water, to start cooking.

I waited for the water to boil and then ended up cooking, until I could easily used the spatula to divide the cube of potato in two parts.

I used the strainer to get rid of the water (that looked horrible) and washed the pot.

Then I added oil to the pot, waiting until it become hot.

I added the potato onion mix in it and started to mix. I also added the Provansal spices to it (I think it contains rosemary, basil, timian and a couple of other ones).

After a short while, I put it on the plate.

I have to say, that I tasted better, than I feared. It was really tasty, but I missed the stronger taste of onion. I could barely taste it.

For the next time, I am going to dice the onion in smaller pieces and only put the half on it to cook. I will started with boiling and the with frying (with no frying on the beginning).

I will add the second half of onion to frying phase, to make the taste stronger.

Learning Tactics - Summarising

I don't know about you, but in mine school, we did a lot of summaries. Summaries of todays reading. Summaries of todays chapter. Summaries of the book. Summaries of the results of the test.

Summarising means saying the same thing with different phrases. All the while, trying to express the ideas in as little space as possible. Trying to express the same ideas and concepts in a shorter text. Making the whole text concise and dense.

But summary is not as effective, when a person uses paraphrasing, as it is when explaining with your own words. That means, that in order for summaries to be in any way effective, the concepts have to be understood, so the words used came from inside the head, not from the book, lecture,... Saying the same with different words, but not understanding is still parroting, not learning.

They seems to be more effective when used as a way to understanding than as a mean to the end.

What I am trying to say with it is, that summarizing can help with getting the big picture of the text, but they are not really helpful with remembering details of the text or making high level connections.

Also summaries are only effective for information, that was summarised. It doesn't help with remembering any other facts.

Now, if you want to practice summarizing.

Pick a text and read it.

Find the concepts from it, that you want to remember.

Write about these concepts in your own words.

I usually don’t advise to use this tactics, but that it because it doesn’t help me. If it helps you, that stick with it.

The good examples of summarizing are found on wikipedia. Just go on the wikipedia site of any series and look for the list of episodes. There are usually summaries inside (example for The Person of Interest or Sherlock).

Learning Tactics - Rereading

Rereading seems to be the favorite learning method for a lot of my college associates. At least as I was talking with them about our learning habits.

Rereading simply means reading a text more than once. It can mean reading the whole text again or just parts of it.

But rereading by itself (talking here about mass reading the whole text) in not really effective use of time.

First of all, rereading the whole thing, without having a specific goal will make a reader much less excited about it (even rereaders of mysteries have reasons for rereading - fron fun, seeing how all the clues came together,...). But for studying doesn't count. There is almost no motivation in it.

It does count, if the reason is like misunderstanding the concept or looking for applications of the concepts.

Second of all, rereading the same text immediately can actually harm on the long run (exception is, not understanding on the first reading). Since the second reading brings the feeling, that material is easier or better remembered than it really is. Making the learner to overconfident in his knowledge.

That happens, because the material is still fresh in the brain, meaning the retrieval of it cames from the short term memory. But having a material in the short term memory, does not equal long term understanding (but gives us the same feeling).

If the text was not understood the first time, the rereading might help. Also, if there is a concept, that need better understanding, the rereading might also helped.

But using the spacing effect, rereading is helpful, since longer intervals bring less overconfidence. The reason is, that the text is no longer in short term memory, but has to be retrieved from a long term memory.

So to try rereading, read a text.

Reread any parts you didn't understand.

Then schedule rereading if that text for some time in the future - longer than 1 week at least.

You can read more on the spacing effect here.

Learning Tactics - Elaborative Integration

Elaborative integration is a learning technique, where a learner asks himself about the reason in facts, systems, paragraphs,...

To use the techniques, the learner simply asks himself 'why?'. That gives the learner the wider picture, that helps him remember facts.

It works better when the learner have higher prior knowledge, the question is precise and the answer is self-generated (not given in advance).

So it is better, to make precise question. So in example of the supply and demand theory in economics. The better question would be, 'why do more people provide at the higher prices?'. The example of the worse question would be, 'why is supply and demand like that?'.

The reason for the differences in knowledge base is, that a person with higher knowledge better understands the situation, which produces better questions. The question of somebody like that are usually precise and important, while somebody with lower prior knowledge would, on average, have asked a less important or precise question. They are also more likely to understand the real reason behind it, which would have worked against interferences.

The reason behind the self-generated and given answers is in deepness of the processing. The reading or listening or even seeing the answer is shallow level of processing, since not a lot of mental activity is involved. But when a person is self-generating the answers, they have to think about the fact and what is behind it.

So here is an example, how the technique is used in practice, based on this article:

  1. paragraph: Why is learner asking himself about the facts? -Because it enables him to learn better

  2. paragraph: Why the question 'why' gives the learner the bigger picture? -Because he has more data

And so on. Make sure to ask the questions about the facts, that you want to remember more.

So, now try the technique for yourself.

  1. Take any book, that you have recently read. Or a blog post or really anything you want to remember.

  2. Read paragraph. Ask yourself, the why questions for the subject of that paragraph (if paragraphs are short, then use more than one at the same time).

  3. Answer the question.

  4. Repeat steps 2-4 until the end of a text.

The only way to know, if the learning techniques is going to suit you is to try it, so try it and then decide, if it is worth keeping.

Learning Tactics - Spacing

More than a learning method, spacing deals with how to structure learning and when to learned it.

In order to remember better, the information should be repeated. But the mass repetition, meaning repeating right after another is less useful than repeating in the intervals.

The reason for this is in our brain. When we do mass repetition, we are recalling information from our short time memory. But if we let an interval pass, then we have to recall our information from long term memory.

At the same time, it stops the forgetting curve to keep falling, making the rise to the knowing status again.

For example, remembering the word in a foreign language. In order to remember the word, we could have read it 100 times today, along with the translation. Or we could read it once every day for 100 days. After 100 days, what word would be better remembered (if we take into account, that the 2 words were not encountered by random chance)?

The time of the interval is usually referenced as 10%-20% of the interval the information will be remembered.

For example, if trying to remember for a year, then the intervals would be about a month. If for a week, the interval would be 1 day.

There is also a concept if increasing the repetition. Since on the beggining, the information is new, it is repeated in shorter intervals. But with every correct retrieval, the interval gets longer.

The program that I am using and takes advantage of this fact is Anki. It uses SuperMemo algorithm number 2, and the parameters, like % of facts wanting to remember, can be adjusted.

If you want to control the system yourself, then you can simply schedule the learning, so there are intervals between learning time. Or try one of the systems like Anki or Mnemosyne? Or checking out the Leitner system, if not fan of the computers.

My Morning Tea Ritual

I have discovered, people don’t tend to have a lot of time in the morning.

Just like I used to, a lot of people wake up at the latest possible moment, and then try to get ready as quick as possible. Forgetting the things, they should bring with them. Starting the day nervous. Speeding from the first moment of the day.

As I said, I used to be like that. I woke up 10 minutes, before the bus came, witch give me 5 minutes to get ready, if I walked to the station, and 8 minutes if I runned. I become the master of doing all the washing and dressing up in as little as 2 minutes. But at the same time, I usually forgot some things, that would have been helpful latter, if I just had them with me.

Then the last summer, I decided (after reading a lot about the effects on the productivity), that I am going to become an early riser. I woke up at 5 o’clock every day.

It didn’t have the expected effect on my productivity (possibly because the vacations made me lazy), but I did get into the habit of walking every morning, after waking up.

Walking around in the morning, when everybody is still sleeping is really peaceful. Even if some of the effect was because of the scenery, since the see is beautiful in the morning, that was not all. I had the time to think and to structure my thought, before doing anything.

I immediately saw the contrast, and I started to realize, that I would like to have morning like that all the time. Instead of the hurried ones from before.

But the 3 months long summer vacation had passed. I returned back home, and back to my previous lifestyle.

Being awake sometimes until 5 o’clock in the morning, I could wake up that early. But I realized, that I only needed the mindset, not the time.

Here comes the tea. I am usually calm, when I drink the time. It takes the time to prepare tea: to boil water, steep the tea and drink it. Drinking is slow, because nobody liked burned throat.

I modified it a little, and it became my morning ritual.

When I am preparing tea, I am not allowed to worry or be nervous. I can collect my thought and ideas and note them down, but not act on them, until I finish the tea. I try to forget everything, as I slowly drink my tea.

Writing down, and then forgetting it for a little while did make me more productive. Even idea for this column came at that time (and the first draft was written on paper as soon as I finished). I tend to do more, when I take the time for tea in the morning, as opposed to when I don’t. And I almost never leave the apartment forgetting things anymore.

Now I only need to make it an everyday habit.

Mental Blocks in Language Learning

I have encountered (seen or experienced) a lot of mental blocks, that stop people from learning languages. For some people, this block are temporary, but for some people, this block makes them stop learning languages all together.

The most common block that I have encountered is the 'I am bad at languages'. Normally that came from school experience, where getting a good grade ment knowing the vocabulary and grammar that the teacher wanted and making all the correct answers.

I used to be there. Declared unable to learn english in primary school. I wasn't supposed to have any talent in languages. But I am learning my fourth language right now, and even if I am not perfect in none, I can get the meaning across just fine.

There is no reason, that the predispositions can stop you from learning languages. There are millions and millions at least be-linguar people. Some of them are even more-linguar. In some country (like mine), there is exception, that at least 90% of people speak at least 2 languages. More than 50% speak at least three (but that is probably because we are really small).

But while it is possible for people to speak more than one language, that doesn't mean it is easy. Language learning is hard work. Just like learning to play a instrument, or learning to paint or learning any skill really. There is first a phase, where people suck. Not being able to get meaning across. Not understanding the word on the page. But slowly and slowly, the things improve. Until you are fluent in all four components in the language.

But the marketing of different programs make language learning seems easy, and that leads to people having high expectation. If a person things, that something is going to be easy and quick, but then is hard and takes a long time, the person quits. Simply from being discouraged.

There is also a lack of motivation. Learning languages is just like learning any other skills. If you have no reason to learn them, why do? If the language is not interesting or if there is no strong reason for using the language, then the motivation is going to be low as well. And with no motivation, the journey of the language learning will just seems too long.