Category Archives: Weak-End Wisdom

Weak-End Wisdom #4: Updating your country profiling jargon

Earlier this year, or perhaps last year, I found out that the terms “first world” and “third world” for describing countries were very passé, perhaps even border-line un-PC.

Rather, the terms to use for describing a country’s economic status are “developing” and “developed” .

  • Developed countries are countries like the US or South Korea; relatively wealthy, industrialized, technologically advanced, better infrastructure.  The criteria isn’t set in stone, but the general gist of the term is pretty clear.
  • Developing country is the term that has been increasingly preferred to the term “Third-World Country” (according to the OED) to describe countries that are more impoverished and economically underdeveloped.

It was pretty interesting delving into the etymology of “First World”, “Second World”, and “Third World” since until I did so, I always assumed that a rich country = First World, a poor country = Third World, and anything in between was Second.  Yet actually, this “Three-Worlds” theory (which came from Mao Zedong? (I’m a bit skeptical about using the Chinese government website as my main source)) categorizes countries based on economic and political status.  In fact, Second World doesn’t really mean a country that’s somewhere in the middle of First and Third, but refers to countries that used to be communist-socialist.  So interesting!

Anyway, to summarize, Developed and Developing are the words to use when describing rich and poor countries, respectively.  I guess that makes logical sense, doesn’t it?

Yet honestly, in my opinion, people should stop pouncing on words and jargon (and of course, they should stop feeling offended for others’ sakes when the wrong terms are used), and just get to work  on practical means of assisting in development.

Lastly, to put things in perspective for us, developed-country citizens, check out the Global Rich List to see how you compare.

Even with my meager part-time income, I still show up in the whopping top 14% richest person in the world category!

Weak-End Wisdom #3: Smart Vocabulary Cards Work Too!

I have a few friends who love to discuss efficiency and studying tactics.  Through them, I came across a few useful blogs and resources, but my favorite one by far is Anki – “friendly, intelligent flashcards”!

When I was teaching in Taipei, I realized that I wanted to attend grad school, but had difficult finding the time to study my GRE vocab (for the upcoming GRE in Thailand … yes, I had to go on a whirlwind trip to Thailand to take my GREs).

Anki to the rescue!  In its own words,

“Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it is a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn.”

Basically, these flashcards work by displaying each card based on your personal assessment of whether the information was Easy, Good, Hard, or Again.  Depending on your choice, the card will pop back up after a certain amount of days or at the end of your stack (depending on your options).  You study for 15-20 minutes a day (although you can adjust it for longer) and at the end of each session, Anki provides you with a nice summary of various stats that could be useful.

Furthermore, popular flashcard topics (like GRE Verbal Vocabulary) already exist, so all you have to do is download one that a previous user created!  So much better than writing in 2,500 words by yourself, right?

Lastly, Anki also works with many smartphone platforms and it’s free!

Personally, I never got past the first couple hundred words and wasn’t very diligent with studying.  I tried out Anki and I tried (another memory device, which I felt was useful, but was definitely slower since there were mandatory games and such).  Both were helpful in different ways but I love Anki because I think it is both effective and encouraging in its design.

To learn more / download, go to!

Weak-End Wisdom #2: Memorize sentences not definitions!

While teaching in Taiwan, I was perplexed by how adept students were at memorizing vocabulary and and spitting them right back out at me.  And yet, in their written compositions, they continued to use “good”, “nice”, and “bad” and n o t h i n g else!  It was frustrating.

During that time I also was trying to expand my mandarin vocabulary and as I was chatting with my pastor in Taipei (who was also learning), he shared with me the idea he learned of memorizing sentences rather than simply memorizing words.

This way, not only do you know the definition, but you get a flavor for how it’s used and a brief glimpse of its connotation!  Furthermore, by doing this, you should (ideally) be able to actually use the word in your papers!

As a result, most of my vocabulary instruction consists of “use X in a sentence in a way that demonstrates that you know the definition.” Or, if I want to be especially difficult (and want them to recall concepts from other readings we covered), I have students “use X in a sentence to explain Romeo’s feelings about Juliet.”  You get the gist right?

Although for some people, grading may be more tedious, I actually enjoy skimming through each sentence, putting a check or an ex on the underlined word depending on if it’s used properly or not (or occasionally an “ok…”).  From the following examples, you can probably see why.

Ah the jumble of emotions, the bodily paradox of a cringe-smile reflecting the simultaneous experience of of entertainment and failure.   To be fair, this student didn’t study and recently moved to the USA….

  • I profess that Junia is mean.
  • As a right of propensity, get out of here.
  • I got elucidate by drug.
  • I garble to wash my mouth.

Final aside: It’s also interesting how so many words sound like they ought to mean one thing, but they actually mean something else.  (Like the word “restive” or “embarasado”).

Weak-End Wisdom #1: Go for the undergrad gold

The beginning of my weekend tidbit-of-wisdom-or-tip-or-story series to make your life that much better.

[Scene/Setting:  Getting snacks after Bible study the Thursday before my UCLA interview, having a light conversation with my pastor (semi-doctored since I don’t remember it verbatim).]

Me: I’ll be going down for my UCLA interview this weekend!

PJ: Good for you!

Me: Thanks, but it’s actually mandatory for all applicants so it’s not that special.  I did get an interview for Cal though, and I wasn’t expecting that.

PJ: Well, you’re a smart cookie.  I’m sure you can do it.

Me: Uh PJ, I believed you when you said ‘Cs get degrees.’  I totally went by that!

[awkward chuckles all around, fade to black]

The point? My GPA stinks.  Yeah yeah, there’s all that stuff about it’s not just your GPA and scores, which is true, but honestly, what do you think a liberal arts degree report card of all borderline grades says?  It says… slacker.  And yes, Cs do get you degrees, and because I went into college planning to never pursue further education, I did fulfill my goal of graduating and cramming in as many (fun) experiences as I could.

Would it have been difficult to get a higher GPA though and still have a fun time?  No! And that’s what kills me.  I could have been a bit wiser about this.  So even if you think your GPA doesn’t matter, go for the undergrad gold– get to know your professors, work with your classmates, use your college resources.

Let me close with a little anecdote. My friend came into college pre-med.  She kept her grades up, did applicable extra-curriculars, and later chose not to pursue pre-med.  Did her grades go to waste?  Should she regret all those hours she put into her lab internships and jobs? No!  Despite graduating a semester early, in this horrendous economy, while other graduates have been job searching for months, my friend scored a full-time job at the location she wanted.  See?  In this era, that extra oom-pa-pa is almost mandatory!

And lastly, it’s biblical! “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” Colossians 3:23.