Pen + Paper = Planning Power!

TGIF, y’all! I don’t know about all of you, but work has been pretty busy ever since I got back from the new year. Even though we are down in the factory, I’m catching up on all the things I had been ignoring while on shift! Lots of protocols, data pulls, reports, and staring at the computer for extended amount of hours ._.

I’ve been sooo caught up, I totally didn’t realize that it has been a year since I first visited this part of Virginia to interview for my job! It blows my mind it’s already been 1 year since I started my final quarter in college. WHOOSH.

Anyways, as you can tell by today’s blog post title, I prefer using the old fashioned way when it comes to planning. Whether it be a day planner or my notebook I use at work, I prefer writing on paper first. I am  suuuuuch a lover of lists. It can be so daunting filling up a page so easily with a huge list of tasks or due dates, but once you start accomplishing what you need to, it can be addicting to cross off those items!

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Figure. Here is my planner for 2014! A pretty standard planner setup from Barnes and Nobles, but I like to cross out bills and due dates as I pass them.

Plus, what I love most about using pen and paper is that you are not restricted how you want to make your lists. I think it’s more fun and engaging. Electronic means sometimes limit my creativity because there is usuallya template that can only be manipulated so much. Or if it’s a portable device, you need to use a touch screen to type >_< I am way faster at scribbling notes with a pen than using a confounded touch screen (ask my cell phone).

Also, I am a very visual person. When I list tasks initially, I will associate a items on my to do list with sketches to jog my memory. Also, sometimes it helps me to organize my tasks in a chart. Then, I can put them into buckets that help me figure out how high it ranks on my priorities and how long it will take to accomplish. I also like to make up my own icons 😛

I take about a half hour to an hour every Monday making my lovely lists. Here is what I do:

  1. Brainstorm Cloud or List – Throw everything and anything on here! Just make sure to capture what you want to get done that week or near future so you don’t forget about it. Sometimes I’ll start clumping tasks if they are related to the same report or area (so I don’t run back and forth too much across the site, wasting time).
  2. Leave No  Man  Task Behind – Turn back and search! I look through old lists of yester-week to see what I have not addressed or crossed out. If old tasks are still being relevant or important to do, it makes it to the new week’s list so it doesn’t get forgotten.
  3. List for the Week – I write down all tasks I want to do and throw due dates on them: either Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.
  4. List for the Day – As each day rolls around, I make daily lists every morning very quickly, pulling from tasks from List for the Week section. I usually dedicate a page per day. It also has my notes and thoughts from the day.

One downside I have with my notebook system is that it’s hard to recall past information, even if I the dates on all my lists.

One notebook system that is similar to my own, but quite a bit more organized and systematic is the THE BULLET JOURNAL. It would solve my recalling issue since it’s designed with an index. I stumbled upon this video on someone’s Facebook earlier this week:

I think electronics are great at saving us paper, carrying less heavy books, or hey eliminating paper diaries and allowing us to blog on the web! But at the very least, I think I will stick to toting around a notebook with me everywhere for my daily thoughts.

Want more reasons to like paper and pen? Go here for an article for “Why pen and paper is still the best productivity tool”

So what’s your stance on the paper versus screen debate?


Variations on a Word: The Synonym

I was writing up my investigation report  today at work, when I decided to pop onto to look for synonyms. It featured this cool article on the evolution of two synonyms: gifts vs. presents.

It got me thinking about a technical writing workshop I attended before Thanksgiving. It was a great course overall, but it emphasized an important point:

  • The great (and sometimes complicated) thing about the English language is that we have multiple words that can mean the same thing, but with slight variations that can change the overall tone of a sentence.

Choosing the appropriate word for a document or situation reminds me of finding the right shaped piece to fit into an empty puzzle spot. It takes some trial and error, but when you find the right one, it can really help you communicate your message in a cohesive and logical way.

Another plus of careful word choice is that you can say a lot without using a ton of words. People like compact and concise sentences that still somehow leave a lot of impact on the reader. Contrary to what we have been taught in school, it is a lot harder to write shorter documents that still drive the same message versus filling up our writing with “fluff” to reach a specific page count.


Figure.  A cute Language Arts poster I found from that displays the power of synonyms.

So next time you have to write a memo or write your resume, think about your word choices and how you can consolidate your document to be more reader friendly.

I’ll leave you with a quote (also shared from the writing workshop):

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”

— credited to Mark Twain at the end of a 10 page letter to a friend, though the origin of this quote is disputed.

The Empty Cup: A Learning Philosophy

The movie “Forbidden Kingdom” was on really late last night Sunday night, I think. It’s not a fantastic movie, but I really love Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and the whole kung fu movie genre.

One scene really caught my eye however:

In this scene, Jackie Chan’s character reference’s the metaphor of “emptying your cup.” What exactly does that mean?It refers to the way you approach something new. If you want to learn something new, you need to look at it with an open mind. You need to disregard all previous notions and preconceptions and focus on learning this something new. If your cup is “filled” with previous knowledge, there is no room to grow and learn. Your cup will “overflow” with knowledge instead of being contained.

I first learned about this concept during a religion class in school called “Body, Mind, and Spirit.” In fact, I think I would more so call it an early philosophy class than a religion class. My teacher wrote this quote by the master Bruce Lee himself in large, cursive letters on the board.

“Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.”

I think sometimes it can be difficult to pin point when something really impacts a person to mature. While big events can shape a person, like a family member being in the hospital or making the decision to change career and study paths while in school, some times more subtle moments can help, too. In he last 15-20 mins of this lecture, I was enlightened on how to better myself, and it open my eyes to how arrogant I can be as a 16 year old kid.


Figure. And a picture version of this quote because I really like it.

I now live and breathe this “empty your cup” philosophy. I have used it in school and in the jobs I have had. Other people probably think I am dumb when I say “I don’t know” or “It’s okay, explain it to me again as if I don’t know anything.”

While I value the previous experiences and things I have learned, the best way to embrace a new experience is to treat it like it is indeed brand new and special, with a mind ready to absorb like a sponge. If you are going to act like you know everything, then why bother asking to learn more?

Something to think about the next time you have a few moments over tea or om nomming some ice cream.

Quote about lovely memories

“I will remember your small room, the feel of you, the light in the window, your records, your books, our morning coffee, our noons, our nights, our bodies spilled together, sleeping, the tiny flowing currents, immediate and forever. Your leg, my leg, your arm, my arm, your smile and the warmth of you who made me laugh again.”

—- Quote by Charles Bukowski (found via Tumblr)

I simply love the way this is written.

Right in the feels, Mr. Emerson.

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”


“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely…”


“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

Eloquent words of a great American poet > my own ramblings

The Poisoner’s Handbook

I am taking the second segment of the Toxicology courses available at my university because I really enjoyed doing the Tox I concepts, term project, and the flexibility of having an online class in my schedule.

Last term I read “Slow Death by Rubber Duck” by Deborah Blum, which talked about the potential negative impact of constantly being surrounded by chemicals in our daily lives. This term I am reading “Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.”  I am from New York, and I had taken forensics courses both in high school in college, so I immediately knew this book was going to be interesting to me. So far I have only ready the first few chapters, but I am really liking the blend of science and history.


Figure: Cover of “The Poisoner’s Handbook” by Deborah Blum

The book emphasizes how forensics and toxicology develop as scientific fields as a product of trying to detect evidence against murderers. There were few tools to detect toxic substances in corpses until the 1900, making chemical an easy killing method. Also, in the 1800s, the chemical revolution made it accessible to get such poisons. I think that this relationship between murderers and scientific detectives is what drives new and innovative methods of killing to arise. For example, when the detection of metal chemicals was possible, murders stop using things like arsenic and turned to find untraceable chemicals like from plant sources.

In terms of style, “Poisoner’s Handbook” contrasts with “Rubber Duck” in that it is told as a story in a certain time setting. “Poisoner’s Handbook” is divided into chapters based on a specific chemical and the year of the case or cases it will cover.  “Rubber Duck” is a more humorous account of experiments and facts. What they both have in common is that they show that the culture and society play a large role in how chemical issues are resolved.

Here is a good review of “Poisoner’s Handbook,” where I learned that the book actually had a trailer (seen below in the YouTube vid)

My Love Letter to Philadelphia

Note: This love letter was inspired by my Criminal Justice class about Cities and Crime. While that doesn’t sound like a positive inspiration, it’s really insightful about what defines a city and what makes one work well and be enjoyable for its public.

Dear Philadelphia,

To my darling ‘illy Philly, “Filthadelphia,” named ironically the “City of Brotherly Love.” We have been together for about 5 years now, and wow what a journey it has been. When I left the big and glamorous New York City after high school, I thought I was down-grading to a smaller sized, wanna-be NYC, nothing super spectacular Philadelphia. But I was wrong to judge you. I was wrong to underestimate how amazing the setting you would paint for me to have my college years in. In you, I grew from a naive and cocky teenager to a humbled adult with a more open mind to possibilities. You have truly shown me what it means to look beyond the tip of the iceberg.

Tip of the Iceberg

Firstly, you made me appreciate my beloved New York City. NYC will always have a great place in my heart because it is my home. It is the place that I grew up, immersed in a plethora of cultures. Here I gained a certain confidence that only NYers can carry just right. However, I never truly appreciated how great NY was until I left it. For then, I became a tourist in my own home city. I shared my bustling world of intricate subway systems, glorious museums, and street foods and fairs with people from the outside world. I realized that the mentality I have: fast and furious, efficient,and intolerant of bullshit was a NYer thang. Being a New Yorker is one of the many flavors that makes up who I am, and Philly if it wasn’t for you I would have never fully realized what that meant.


But you Philly, you give me true balls. When I moved to you, I learned that NYC may be the greatest city in the world, but it is not the only place to live. There is greatness beyond the Big Apple, even if people refuse to believe it. Philly you taught me to slow down (just a tad bit), enough to not be caught up the in craziness of things constantly happening. I get to choose city events to go to, not feel forced to go because that’s what everyone else is doing. Because of this I learned to cook, clean, bake, sew, truly explore these beloved hobbies of mine to another level. I was able to find opportunities to find new hobbies, volunteer at places, like a city hospital or natural museum, that would have been impossible or too competitive to get in NY.

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Photo from my phone of a 76ers vs. Celts game!

And for the times I did want to go out, as a broke-ass college student I had options. Watching professional NBA games can cause just $20 instead of $80 for nose bleed seats.It’s never too crowded to watch a tree lighting ceremony in between classes. The city is so small, it doesn’t take very long (or much money) to get from Penn’s Landing by the water all the way to my old apartment at the edge of West Philly. Cost of living wasn’t so bad that I didn’t have to work more than a 2 jobs at a time 😉

And the people. Oh dear God the people. The range of people is huge in NY, but in Philly it’s a whole different type of range. Though there are a many shady characters and questionable lurkers of Philly (mostly yelling at odd hours of the night for no reason as I studied in my room), I have also had to chance to engage with some amazing and brilliant people. There is also a never ending spring of future talent in this city that never ceases to amaze me as I meet younger students. Most importantly Philly, you gave me the chance to meet some of the greatest friends I could have ever had. I don’t even think I could have possibly dreamed of better friends who love me more.

Philly you gave me the inspiration to take risks. To walk in the streets with a certain walk, kind of like that gangster walk Jax does from the show “Sons of Anarchy.”

sons of anarchy

No matter how tiny I am, I refuse to look intimated in any situation.  I truly grew street smart in since events like muggings, robberies, and gunshots are very real here (as evident by my own almost-mugged situation). I used to dismiss and dislike the rap and the hip hop cultures, but how can you not give it a chance when you hear it blasting in the streets, young kids dancing around in the parks and hanging out to it. The list goes on how you changed me, how you made me realize see that I was truly unaware of even my own close-mindedness.

So Philly, I guess I’m saying thank you. Thank you for everything you have provided me. Thank you for changing and impacting the way I view things in my life. I will  never forget coming back from a 76ers game and seeing a tee-shirt saying “Yea, Philly stinks! It’s because we are the shit!” It’s true blue Philly fashion right there. You are the absolute shit in your own cool way Philadelphia, don’t ever let other cities bully you into thinking otherwise.

And to you specifically University City, Philadelphia where Drexel campus sits: I know that when I leave and come back one day you will be virtually unrecognizable. But I am glad I was here during such a progressive time where the campus is being reconstructed for a better campus life in the future (though man is it annoying to walk around to get to classes). Although this new sleek, shiny, modern design of glass and towering buildings will probably dominate the area after I leave, I hope you continue to inspire your students to go beyond the barriers of comfort.


I wish I never had to go elsewhere some days, Christal