5 Apps to Increase Your Digital Reading Habits

To say that I enjoy books and reading is an understatement. To those that know me well, it is no surprise to hear me squealing in excitement over a book, or raving about an intriguing article. Although I will always have a soft spot for physical reading material, I’ve been looking for ways to simplify my reading habits by going digital. The following is a list of apps I currently use on my iPad Mini, with most also available on Android.

  1. Flipboard – Easily one of the best reading apps. Add your favourite blogs, RSS feeds, or connect your Google Reader. It creates a simple mosaic of your subscriptions, perfect for distraction-free reading.
  2. Pocket – Paired perfectly with the previous app. Pocket instantly downloads articles, images, and videos that you send to it. I don’t have time to read through all my subscriptions, and will usually browse through Flipboard for interesting articles, send it to Pocket by tapping ‘Read Later’, and easily enjoy them on the bus or skytrain. Ahh, simplicity.
  3. Zinio – Ten years ago, if you had told me I could carry hundreds of magazines in my purse, I’d think you were insane. With this app, I have all my favourites to read. A bonus tip for other starving students like me: check your city or university library for free access! I had put off on using this app, as I knew I wouldn’t want to spend money on magazine subscriptions. Browsing my local library’s website the other day, and they were offering free access to the magazines. This adds to the many reasons why I love the library.
  4. OverDrive Media Console – My local library uses this app to issue their eBooks and audiobooks. Borrowing reading material from them has become even simpler.
  5. OneClickDigital – Another resource provided by my local library. What differs this app from the one above, is that there is no waiting time for the eBook or audiobook to be ‘returned’ by other readers. Instant download. My initial impression was that their collection didn’t have many books I was interested in, but browsing through it this morning, it seems that it is growing.

There are three things these apps have in common which are important to me: simple – minimalistic user interface and no ads, accessible – offline reading, affordable – most apps and reading materials mentioned are free. Otherwise, use your resources, and find out if your city or university provides free or subsidized access.

I’m still discovering other digital tools. What are some of your favourite reading apps? 

(Sidenote – This is my first blog post in nineteen months! Currently working on the direction of my blog. Personal or professional? Broad in topics or specific? We’ll soon find out. )

5 Public Speaking Tips for the Sweaty-Palmed Student

Last week, I had the opportunity to host AIESEC SFU‘s General Assembly, where I gave a presentation on Public Speaking. Here are the five main points from the presentation.

1. Your body speaks to your audience, even before you open your mouth. Every twitch, scratch, and crack of a knuckle sends a message to your audience. These little things lets them know how self-assured you are. Even when you feel confident in yourself, your body may signal otherwise. You’ve worked hard in preparing your speech, and want to show this. Convey your confidence by standing straight, centering your weight and facing your audience. Also, avoid crossing your arms, leaning on objects and putting hands in pockets, as this can be mistaken for disinterest.

2. Don’t let visual aids, tools and others steal your spotlight. People came to hear you speak, and shouldn’t be reading off a Powerpoint slide. Encourage your audience to listen to you by only including the main points on your slide. This way, they will have to pay attention to you and your words, instead of the screen. Doing a group presentation? Don’t stand behind your co-presenters when it’s your turn to speak.

3. Speak about your interests. Zero interest in your topic? Speak like you do. When you are passionate about a topic, your tone, volume and pitch naturally changes. Enthusiasm is contagious, and others become drawn to you. I once had a professor who taught Management Information Systems (MIS) which I had no interest in. However, he had great passion for his work and this showed in his voice. Though he spoke about databases and systems, which normally would have been synonymous for a sleeping pill, his interest and love for MIS kept me awake for a whole semester.

4. Rehearse, without being rehearsed. Practice your speech to familiarize yourself with your content, flow and transitions. However, do not memorize a speech or read it line by line.

5. Grab every opportunity to speak in front of an audience. Make a speech at a family reunion. Videotape yourself speaking. Ask someone to listen and analyze your delivery. Join an organization, such as AIESEC, which provides you the opportunity to improve your public speaking skills. Look up your closest Toastmasters chapter, and start practicing. Toastmasters gave me my first taste of public speaking, and has helped me improve.

I’m still guilty of fidgety hands. However, the first step to making a change is self-awareness. Become aware of your body, volume, tone and eye contact. With these tips in mind, I know you and I can both become better communicators.

How do you prepare yourself for a speech?

One Hundred and One

A few weeks ago, I shot a gun for the very first time. The seconds that lead to the moment I pulled the trigger was nerve-wracking. In my head, I was thinking about the different ways shooting a gun, or even just being at a shooting range, can go horribly wrong. There was obviously no backing out now. I closed my eyes, imagined I was playing Counter Strike, and pulled the trigger. BANG! That first shot I fired at the target was amazing. The exhilarating feeling of power that rushes through your body. All that tension escaping with the fired bullet. Just amazing.

The Day Zero Project

My intention is not to promote violence. In my head, I carry a mental checklist of things and experiences to do before life ends. I can finally cross off firing a gun from that list! Unfortunately, I am a forgetful person and usually need lists to help me keep track of things. I recently stumbled upon a challenge called the Day Zero Project. Simply said, it is a website that allows you to create a list of 101 things you want to do in the next 1001 days. The project’s creator, Michael Green expands on the Day Zero Project a little bit more:

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on your part).

Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple challenges such as New Year’s resolutions or a ‘Bucket List‘. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips, study semesters, or outdoor activities.

Last night, I created my own Day Zero Project. Here are a few of the things I want to do before July 31st, 2013.

  • Study abroad
  • Get my driver’s license
  • Cook a three course meal
  • Improve my Bahasa Indonesia
  • Buy my own domain
  • Complete 3 pull-ups
  • …and the list goes on

One additional rule that I am setting for myself is that once I have completed my list (I am currently at 50 goals), I will not allow myself to edit or delete any of the entries. The lesson from this challenge will be to see how many of my goals I have accomplished, or failed.

Join me with this challenge. Create your own list at Day Zero Project, and then share your list.

False Needs

I recently wrote an essay about commodity fetishism and false needs. A point that stood out was “people in all societies produce useful goods—but not all these goods are commodities.” This statement raised a few questions in my mind. If there are all these useful goods being produced, why aren’t they all becoming commodities? Which ones become more in-demand, and why? Why does one product, which may be virtually the same thing as another product, sell for a higher price? These questions can be answered from many different point of views, depending if you are an economist, a businessman, a sociologist, a psychologist, and the list goes on.

During my research, I began a self-reflection. Which three factors made me decide to purchase the pair of jeans that I am wearing today? What differentiates my Uniqlo jeggings from all other pairs?

  1. “This is the only Uniqlo store location in North America. I must buy something from here, or else I will miss the opportunity!”: Ironically, I had never heard of this store before arriving in New York City. My cousin had been telling us about his favourite store and brought us to Uniqlo. What had convinced me to spend my money in a store I had never heard of? Did Uniqlo purposely establish only one location in North America to create a demand for their products? Looks like it was the exclusivity that attracted me to those jeggings.
  2. “These jeans are less than $50. What a steal!”: The inner cheapskate in me does not make very frequent appearances, but I squealed upon seeing the price tag. Nothing can compare to discovering cheap finds.
  3. “The chick over there looks amazing in her jeggings…”: You simply cannot argue with looking good… or can you? Who do I plan to impress when I get dressed? Leaning more towards those Sociologists, how are the social norms in terms of style created?

My self-reflection is far from over, and hardly answers any of the questions I raised in the first paragraph. Will I be spending less money on branded goods and services? Probably not, but I am slightly more aware of my false needs. I would like to encourage you to spend a little bit of time reflecting on your own habits as well. What factors influence your choices? Is it status? Do you relate to a brand’s identity more? Does it affect your lifestyle?

For further reading on false needs in our lives, take a look at this article by Leo Babauta, “Letting go of fake needs”

This ends my quick little blurb. Hope to return to this topic at a later time, but for now, I am off to write another paper. Good night.

New York Withdrawal

Here I am in Toronto, and all I can think about is going back to New York. I won’t deny it… I love the chaos, extreme weather, and even the huge lines at tourist attractions. I miss New York.

Central Park

From the Empire State Building

Paddling a boat at Central Park's pond

Fire Island, NY

Statue of Liberty

Mouth-watering

I could write about what I have been doing this summer, but I will let these food pictures do some of the talking.

1. Two-year anniversary 2. At my first tweetup, #yvrsoulfood at Miku 3. First time trying hotpot at Posh 4. My first time trying Japadog 5. Seafood bake at SNS Lounge 6. My family feasting at House of Wings 7. My first time trying a cheeseburger during my first time camping 8. Studying at school and trying to stay awake with an Iced Mocha from Tim Hortons

How is your summer?