Describe yourself in 3 words.

I recently asked my brother to describe me in three words.  He said…….

  1. candid (“sometimes, you’re too honest”)
  2. idealistic (“not everything is black and white, Shannon”)
  3. dramatic. ūüėÄ

I’m not sure if it anyone can be summed up in three words but it’s fun to try.  What would yours be?  And would you trust your close friends to describe you accurately?

Hope you’re having a great Easter week and have some fun things to look forward to.

Recent Reads

Here are some descriptions and books I’ve read recently.  Do you like to read?  I love reading, especially out in the sunshine or in bed on a rainy night.  I’m fairly picky, and as hard as I try to enjoy non-fiction, I definitely prefer fiction.  What are you reading these days?  Any good recommends?

The Light Between Oceans:

This is about a veteran who comes back to Australia from World War I, gets married, and becomes a lighthouse keeper.  His wife, Isabel, has many miscarriages before a boat mysteriously washes ashore with a dead man and a crying baby inside.  Isabel convinces her husband to take the baby in, and after many years of peacefully raising her, they run into the baby’s biological mother; things get very ugly and complicated. The writing in this book is beautiful; M.L Stedman has a knack for showing small-town gossip and the loyalty of children.  I remember waiting for a connection while reading this book, with a lot of tears flowing.  This book made me appreciate the work that goes into making a family. It’s a great read.

The Smartest Kids in the World:

If you have ever had a conversation with me, I’ve already told you that you *must* read this book.  I’ve also blogged about it, a lot.  Amanda Ripley follows three student exchanges in Poland, Finland, Korea, and America and learns about how different cultures address learning, and what makes their education systems tick.  She distills the problems we’re facing and articulates the best ideas for solutions,  all in an entertaining way.  If you care at all about education, this is a great read.

 The Girl on the Train:

This book is creepy!  It’s told from many different perspectives, but none of them are particularly trustworthy.  Rachel, the main storyteller, imagines the life of a couple whose house she sees while passing on the train each day, until one day, when the female goes missing, and Rachel gets tangled up in trying to find her. Coincidentally, Rachel’s addicted to the bottle, and passes out at *just* the right moments, so that you miss the critical details pointing  to the murderer.  Lots of affairs and jealousy (and f-bombs if I remember correctly). I especially loved piecing everything together at the end. This is hard to put down if you like a dirty mystery.

The Enchanted:

I found this book at Powell’s books in Portland, on a shelf of books that had won little-known awards.  It’s about a prison full of inmates waiting to die on death row and it follows the woman who is trying to find information that could save the inmates from execution. It is horrifying, violent, and full of many sad stories.  It’s not explicit, but there is a lot of rape and corruption.  Not surprisingly, the stories of the criminals are heart-wrenching, unfair, and disturbing, but the author ties magical elements and words throughout the storyline, making it compelling and even inspiring.  I don’t know how to explain it, but this book is absolutely wondrous. The author shows love, sadness, and human needs so deeply and intensely.  If you like a profound read about humanity, read this.

Where’d You Go Bernadette?

This book is funny, but it’s awkward humor.  It made a lot more sense to me once I realized that the author wrote for Arrested Development.   Bee is a 15 year old girl living in Seattle and her mother, Bernadette is on the verge of a mental breakdown, when she (the mother) disappears.  There are many highlights, but my favorite part is when Bee’s super awkward, fanny-pack-wearing, atheist dad tries to make  dorky,  encouraging conversation with Bee about the church group she’s recently started going to with a friend.  It is so painfully awkward, forced, disingenuously enthusiastic, familiar to me (not with my family, but practically every date I’ve been on), and hilarious.  Did your parents go through that phase in your teenage years?  Where they try so hard to understand you, and they say ridiculous things to try to win you over?  Anyway, this is funny.

The Kite Runner

This was popular a long time ago;  another heartbreaker and with shocking plot twists.  I just just finished it.  It’s about two boys growing up in Afghanistan and one of them is sweet and selfless and the other, Amir, is the exact opposite.  The writing is stellar; the plot twists are riveting.  It’s a story of redemption and it makes me want to hug and rescue every orphan and child born into poverty.   I recommend it if you like something meaningful and well-written.

100 More Things Designers Need to Know about People

This is a book of cool psychology hacks. And it comes in nice bite-sized packages so you can put it down and pick it  up and not keep track of any plot.  My favorite sections are the ones explaining the three parts of your brain that induce those blessed aha moments you live for: the executive action brain, the default brain, and the  salience network brain.  The salient network constantly monitors and stores everything that comes into your brain: information, sensory input, your executive action brain (problems you’re trying to solve) and the default network brain (doing whatever, without much focus).  Your salient brain is what thinks of ideas from years past and what integrates lots of ideas together to help come up with a solution, that aha moment. Cool, right? This book is chock full of fascinating things about people as well human technology interaction.

The Will Power Instinct

I started reading this book because I thoroughly enjoyed Kelly McGonigals’ TED talk about stress, and I secretly really want to sneak into her classes at Stanford, because she’s such a great speaker! My confession is that I haven’t finished this book, which perhaps says something about my own lack of will power. ūüôā  It’s full of fun psychology tidbits and studies, and the author is super entertaining, but I am sometimes skeptical of the psychology studies in general. They just don’t always seem accurate.  Still, there are some good hacks in here, about practicing and building will power; harnessing shame and pride to make better choices and how powerful dopamine triggers are.  Read this if you’re looking for some self-improvement hacks (or if you have more self-discipline than I do, evidently  ;D ).

Happy reading and happy hump day!

Abstract: the art of Design

Have you seen Abstract on Netflix?! I’m in love with it. So well done and inspiring.

So design is super trendy right now, partly because it‚Äôs so pervasive. It‚Äôs about function, clarity, practicality, and convenience‚Ķ‚Ķ..and art.  And elements of that are included in pretty much everything!  


-In the interior design episode (8),  Ilse Crawford  explains that when a room is designed right, with each element in the right way, there‚Äôs a feeling of relaxation that is invisible to the person enjoying it.

She is a genius.

-In the Christoph Niemann episode (1), when he gets in an argument with the cameraman about how they’re filming…. while they’re filming.

-the part with Michael Jordan in it.

I really loved episodes 1 (illustration), 6 (graphic design & type), 7 (photography), and 8 (interior design).

Hope you love it too!

Ps. Due credit to taza‚Äôs insta feed feed from many years ago, which inspired me to be bold and shamelessly love on anything pretty (or ugly, or just plain fascinating).

Practicando Espa√Īol

Necesito practicar mi espa√Īol escrito! Mis compa√Īeros de trabajo hablan en espa√Īol todos los d√≠as y es muy dificil comprenderles. Ellos hablan muy r√°pido! Y a veces, necesito decir algo sobre mis estudiantes que solo ellos (los maestros) pueden entender.¬† As√≠ que estoy practicando.

Estoy sentada en mi avi√≥n en direcci√≥n a la costa Este.¬† Es de noche y est√° oscuro afuera de mi ventana, a excepci√≥n de los peque√Īos de luz de las ciudades que estamos sobre volando. Estoy probablamente en alg√ļn lugar sobre Tennessee.¬† Me encanta el invierno en la costa Este. El invierno es un poco d√©bil y rid√≠culo en California, pero se siente tan rico y acogedor en la costa Este.¬† Me encantan las casa grandes y viejas, con grandes jardines y coronas de Navidad en las puertas, velas en las ventanas, fuego en las chimeneas y mantas. Me encanta como todo el mundo tiene miedo y las escuelas cieeran cada vez que hay nieve (solo en DC tal vez). Me encanta San Francisco por un mill√≥n razones, pero el invierno y la Navidad simplamente no se sientan tan aut√©nticas o tan encantadoras como cuando hay 50 grados afuera.¬† Me gusta el invierno autentico.

Por otro lado, hice algunos prop√≥sitos de A√Īo Nuevo para 2016 e hice progresos recientamente sobre lo que respeta a la television.¬† Ya s√© es ridiculo, pero normalmente no veo la tele.¬† Y la television es uno de esos puntos de conversacion que reune la gente, como lo es tambi√©n la comida.¬† No es super polarizante o deprimente como muchos eventos actuales ahora.¬† Asi que por muchos a√Īos, he hecho un prop√≥sito para el a√Īo nueve de ver una temporada completa de un programa de television, y cada a√Īo, siempre lo he dejado de lado (gracias por escribiendo esto phrase, Ana! jaja).¬† Quiero relajarme y ver la tele, pero cada vez que empiezo, solo pienso en todas las cosas que debo hacer, asi que no veo la tele.¬† Pero el otro d√≠a vi un programa que me encant√≥.¬† Tal vez, puedo hacer esto.

Gracias por leerme! Y muchas gracias a Ana por ayudarme!



Happy Father’s Day Weekend! Remembering my Grandpa

Happy Father’s Day! ¬†My Grandpa passed away recently and my brother edited some videos of him so we could watch and remember. ¬†This is the second half.

I loved my Grandpa so much and I really hope he knew how much I loved him. ¬†I remember when I decided to move to California, I flew across the country, rented a car and drove to his house. My grandpa had ‘vitamin o’ (donuts) and a jolly smile waiting for me. He was actually giddy to see me! ¬†Like a little kid. ¬†My grandpa always had faith in me. ¬†He never hesitated to tell me how much he loved me or how proud he was of me. ¬†We spent summer of 2013 together and boy did we ever have fun! ¬†I was running around like crazy, applying for jobs, and he was busy reading and watching golf and even going to the gym. ¬†We talked about life, about work, about food, about his experiences. ¬†He took me to restaurants and on the scenic backroads to Oakland. ¬†And of course, we went to the gym together! I was so, so proud to go to the gym with my 89 year old grandpa. ¬†He has never been ashamed of his love of work. ¬†He was very in love with life in general.

My grandpa grew up during the Great Depression and always knew he’d never go to college because¬†there was no way his family could afford¬†it. So when it was time for him to graduate, he went and asked the principal if he could stay for a fifth year and take more classes. ¬†They said yes and he stayed and studied a fifth year. ¬†Knowing how ¬†much my grandpa hated high school, I always thought that was a bold move.

Later he was drafted to fight in World War II. He passed an aptitude test so he could be a war engineer, although towards the end of the war he was put in infantry with everyone else. ¬†My grandpa wrote about his experiences in the war in his life story, but he refused to talk about it otherwise (unless a sweet second grader needed to do a report on a veteran). I know the war took a toll on him and I don’t think it is a coincidence that he died on Victory in Europe day. ¬†I am very¬†proud of his service to the United States.

After World War II, my grandpa was able to attend college through the GI bill.  My grandpa worked forty hours a week while attending college, graduated with an accounting degree in three years, and never got less than an A. If you knew my grandpa, this would not surprise you at all.  As long as I knew him, my grandpa was completely, hopelessly addicted to work.

My grandpa always talked about how grateful he was for his education, how lucky he felt to have the chance to study and learn in college from good teachers. Whenever I was feeling down about my job, he would remind me of the power and importance of education. My grandpa was an inspirer and he was passionate about  education.

My grandpa was a Catholic in Utah (a rare demographic), and he sort of tried to hide that from my grandma while they were dating, but she knew the whole time and it didn’t bother her. ¬†They got married and the missionaries started coming over. As I understand it, my grandpa gave them a fairly hard time for about six years and then he finally decided to get baptized. ¬†He was still very skeptical of many things, but he jumped right into Mormonism and when he¬†died he was certainly without any shame or doubt in his faith and the sacrifices he made for it. ¬†He was Bishop of the Laotian branch and he was a sealer in the temple for 23 years. ¬†He loved being able to give service.

My memories of my grandpa are mostly of his sense of humor, generosity, and his obsession with work. ¬†I remember when he and Grandma would come visit he would wake up early and make everyone breakfast (turtle pancakes) and then clean the kitchen and weed the backyard empty and then¬†mow the entire lawn. ¬†And my mom and dad would beg him to just sit and relax, but he was incapable of relaxing. ¬†The only thing that was relaxing for him was work. At my grandpa’s funeral we found out ¬†that he¬†had turned in his home teaching report (checking in on about 20 – 30 home teachers to make sure they had visited each of ¬†their assigned families) on the Tuesday before he died. ¬†He had 100% completion. He was incapable of eating or getting up off of his lazy boy, but gosh damnit he was going to call people and harass them about their service and home teaching¬†for the month!¬†¬†My grandpa¬†loved¬†work.

My Grandpa loved delicious¬†food and I think it was partly because he had gone a good deal of his early life without being able to have much food at all. After my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary we started having family reunions in Carpinteria, California and I sincerely think Grandpa’s entire reasoning for this week of the year was to get everyone as fat as possible. ¬† ¬†The whole trip was always on his dollar and he would always shoo us off to Robataille’s to get more candy and then after he’d force-feed us cookies and donuts and ice cream. ¬†Etched on his gravestone are the words:¬† “Are you hungry? Can I get you anything to eat?” because you couldn’t go ten minutes without him asking you that. ¬†OK so they’re not really etched on his gravestone, but we should at least check to see if there’s any space left for that. My grandpa loved food and he loved talking about food. ¬†And as a survivor of the Depression and World War II, he shamelessly saved food, for years. ¬†Oh how I love my grandpa.

My grandpa loved laughing. He had some famous jokes and he loved messing with little kids. ¬†When they were little he tried to convince my twin brothers that the reason their hair was curly was because they had eaten too much soy sauce and they needed to cut back. ¬†Hahaha. ¬†There’s a clip in the video where he’s trying to convince me that he’s holding up the cannon. ¬†He had a pretty big inventory of jokes and he loved being a wisecrack.

My grandpa never,¬†ever¬†complained. ¬†I honestly don’t think I have ever heard my grandpa voice a complaint in my life. ¬†When my grandma died, he pulled out pictures of her all over the house, but he never complained about missing her. ¬†If I understand correctly, my grandpa died because his kidneys quit working and his body filled with toxins. ¬†So it was a slow and miserable process. This¬†last year was really brutal to watch, but he was such a champion about it. ¬†When someone would ask, “How are you today Grandpa?” he would always say he was doing well, even though it was fairly obvious that he wanted to pass on.

Thank you for loving me and for being so great Grandpa! I love and admire you deeply and I am so grateful to have you for a grandpa.

Happy Father’s Day and thank you to both of¬†my grandpas (I’m spoiled; my dad’s dad is actually equally¬†wonderful and hilarious), to my dad, to my brothers and cousins, and to all the honest men making their contributions to our human family. ¬†Your goodness makes a difference.




Me when I was little


Here is a video my brother compiled of me when I was little! ¬†Wasn’t I cute? ¬†Although I apparently had some misconceptions about the game Duck, Duck, Goose….

I love my family.

Also, yesterday I found this article¬†which references my brother’s research in¬†the seventh paragraph!

Hope you are having a great week!

Thanks for reading.



Schools in Korea

Chapters three and nine of The Smartest Kids in the World talk about schools in Korea.  I think we have some things to learn from them.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Korean students do not use calculators in their math classes.  At all. In fact, they hardly have any technology in their classes.
  • Korean schools rank their students and everyone knows everyone else’s scores and standing.  As a side note here, I think we concern ourselves too much with self-esteem here in the U.S. We overanalyze it a bit too much.  I’m not a big fan of making a huge stink over ranking students, or permanently labeling anyone ‘smart’ or ‘stupid’ but posting scores is a necessary evil sometimes, and it creates accountability, especially when the effort is acknowledged as the deciding factor in success. I think this should be explicitly addressed in the classroom.  In a healthy classroom, students should feel they can improve their outcome, based on their efforts.  We don’t need to coddle anyone and protect them from the reality of consequences.
  • Korean students clean their own schools.  They mop the floors, take out the trash, clean the chalkboards and for a punishment, clean the bathrooms.
  •  Korean students have school until four, then cleaning, then test prep after cleaning time, then dinner at school, and then a study hall, before they go to hagwons which are private tutoring academies.  Hagwon curfew is at 11 pm.
  • In other words, Korean students study from the wee hours of dawn, until about 11 or 12 at night.  Koreans study their lives away.
  • Korean students sleep through most of their morning classes.

Why is Korea this way?

After the Korean War, Korean government re-evaluated their priorities.  Korea didn’t have any resources, so they poured their efforts into the human capital, education.  In so doing, they created an extreme meritocracy.  They attracted the best and brightest to the classroom and created their  version of the SAT after high school.  In Korea, it is a test that determines their lives.  Students with the top scores go to top universities, go on to successful careers with lucrative salaries.  So it creates a brutal system– a pressure cooker.

I like how pure of a meritocracy Korea seems.  A poor person can rise to enjoy a much higher status in society, solely based on their studies.  I wish that happened in America.  But Korean students waste their entire lives (and an enormous amount of money) studying for this test– no hobbies, no travels, no fun. I don’t like that.

I’d be interested to see how this translates to their workforce and economy.  My brother mentions how technologically savvy and advanced the Koreans are in his recap of his trip there, but they’re certainly not ahead of America.  I’m not sure where to find the best evaluation for comparing the two.

Anyway, that’s my Korea recap, at least until I get to chapter nine.

In other news, I found this list of words every high school graduate should know.  I’m embarrassed to admit I need to look up a few!

I also devoured this article  about East Palo Alto (where I used to live).  I loved learning the local history, but in all honesty, it was a little upsetting.   Now it looks like the long time minorities are about to be forced out of EPA, because all the tech companies are vying for the property.  I hope that is not the case.  Real estate in Palo Alto is insanely expensive, and it’s affecting the culture in bizarre ways.

I also googled how much money exists in the entire world , because why not?  And because I get annoyed with people trying to impress and control each other with money. Somehow this bit of information alleviates that annoyance for me.  It can’t be particularly accurate, because internet, but the good people from this website seem to have taken a decent stab at it.

Next week I head to Boston for a conference about ed tech at Harvard.  I’m excited but I get cold just thinking about it!

Thanks for reading.