Reading to achieve fluency.

Reading and reading alone is enough to achieve fluency in a language if you’re living in the environment. But when you read, you must do two things. You must understand what you read. And you must read a lot.

I just read up on this case study about a man who read for at least an hour a day for about 6 months and significantly improved his TOEIC score.  He had a 220 point gain. If you don’t know much about the TOEIC test. That’s actually very significant.

As for myself, I have been reading off and on in small spurts. It’s really just pleasure reading with the added benefit of acquiring Japanese.

Right now, I’m at the last chapter of my first chapter book in Japanese. It’s called “Sayonara Aruma.” It’s about a young boy and his sister who raise a dog to train for the war. Their father is a away at war while the children help their mother and raise the dog.

I’ve read a lot and I’ve learned a lot so far. I’ve also gotten tangled up in some sports mangas too. I normally think that sports channels and sports are generally boring to watch (fun to play, of course.) But I really love these sports manga. It’s so much more interesting with a story attached. Sports Manga and Japanese Chapter Book

So, I’m going to have to track my reading here.

I’ll track tonight’s reading later. I usually get very good results when I track myself.


Sewing up a d20

Last night I thought I’d try my hand at sewing up a d20. I had seen a pattern for making a paper d20. So, I decided to make one on my own with cloth. The last time I used a needle and thread to make something was back in 7th grade home economics class making hacky sacks.

So, I got myself some fabric and cutting tools off of Amazon. I cut out 20 equilateral triangles. Those are the ones with 60 degrees for each angle.

cutting out the pieces

I really love using the ruler and compass to measure angles and cut. I feel like a real Loui Vuitton.

After cutting out the  triangles, I looked up on Youtube how to hand sew with a simple video.

Sewing up the first triangles

I decided to do the simple running stitch shown in the video. I didn’t need anything fancy here. What I did need was a pattern. You can’t just cut out a bunch of triangles and magically sew them all together. The 2D angles of the triangles are all the same, but the 3D angles are not. After some fancy googling, I found this instructables article which was exactly what I needed.

The sewing is coming alongThere were parts that were confusing and I had to undo the stitches a few times. I didn’t quite see how it all came together, until I looked at one of my plastic d20’s as a reference. Each point should connect 5 triangles. After I played with it for a bit, I saw how to put it all together. Getting the pattern rightI stayed up till 1:30 AM setting up the pattern. After a good night’s sleep, I sewed up the rest after breakfast. I got a lot more comfortable cutting out new thread and handling the needle. After I placed the last triangle, I sewed it up halfway, and turned the whole pattern inside out. That put the bright floral pattern on the outside. It was looking good!

Floral pattern on the outside.

Then I stuffed the d20 and sewed up the last seam. I had to do this two or three times. It was hard to get the right amount of stuffing, and  some of the seams tore. I had to fix some of them, and undo some stitches. I felt like a brain surgeon trying to put this thing back together.

I finally finished it up to look like this:

The finished D20Here you can see the seems nicely hidden. Not all of the sides are so clean, though. I took a simple black marker and marked off the numbers. Then, I tried out a few rolls.

Not bad!

The first few rolls were random enough.

This little guy is far from perfect. But, it’s the first d20 I made. And,  I’m darn proud of it.

There are a few things that I learned while making the d20.

First, I didn’t cut out the squares as beautifully as I could have. I was definitely rushing it at that part because I was so excited just to make something.

Second, the fabric is really thin, and I stitched too close to the edge. This caused some of the stitches to tear, and some of the stitches show here and there. Also, my stitch wasn’t the most consistent as far as spacing goes. But, I’m still learning. I can get better at stitching with practice.

Third, there’s no frame for the plushy die, so it doesn’t work as  nicely as a plastic one. Depending how the stuffing is arranged in the die, it will likely fall on one number rather than another. And sometimes, the number can be ambiguous, because it has no internal structure to keep it up straight. Now, it rolls around like a ball. 🙂

For my next d20, I’ll have to use some sort of frame. Pipe cleaners will work well. Also, I’ll need some thicker fabric. And if I’m making something  nicer, I’ll want to sew on some numbers. Maybe I’ll write them using Chinese characters.

All of this takes a lot of time. But it’s good fun knowing that you’ve made something neat like this.

Have you ever made anything like this for yourself?

I met a guy in Busan who made a small abacus to count his life total for MTG. He made it out of wire, plastic and beads with some nice artwork inserted underneath a plastic cover.

Share your story in the comments below!