Category Archives: Education

Rules for Four-Way Stops?

Four-way stops, also called all-way stops, are when there are stop signs for traffic coming from all directions. No street’s traffic has priority, all must stop.

4-way stop

First to Stop, First to Go
Each car must stop before the stop line or the crosswalk. In general, the driver who was stopped first gets to go first. And this means stopped at the stop line first. If you were behind a couple of other cars at the stop sign and a car pulls up from another direction with no cars in front of it before you get up to the stop sign, they will get to go before you.

Confusion happens when two cars reach the stop sign at the same time. If they are across from each other (traveling parallel, but in opposite directions) and going straight, they can both go after making a complete stop. They can also both go if one or both are making right turns.

Straight Traffic Goes First
If both cars are taking a left turn, they may both go after making a complete stop. In this case and the ones above, neither car crosses the path of the other car, but, if one car is turning left while the other is going straight, that turning car would have to cross the path of the other car. In this case, the car going straight has the right-of-way and goes first. After that car goes, the car that needs to turn may go.

Farthest to the Right Goes First
If two cars reach the stop sign at the same time from perpendicular directions (the other car is on the road to the right or left of you), then the car to the right goes first. If the other car is to your left, woohoo, it’s your turn to go first. If there are more than two cars, the one that’s farthest to the right goes first, then it goes around in a clockwise direction, just like you’re dealing cards.

When you pull up to the stop sign, always try to make eye contact with the other driver. (This may not work in all countries. In some places, making eye contact is the same as ceding the right of way.) That way you know if the driver is paying attention and you will be quicker to notice if they decide to go out of turn. Going out of turn will make them an asshole, but your alertness may prevent you from hitting or being hit by them. That means they’re an asshole on their way to annoy other people instead of being an asshole that you, the police, and your insurance company have to deal with.

The Most Difficult Languages for English Speakers to Learn?

The five most difficult languages for English speakers to learn are:

(The estimated time required to become proficient in these languages is 88 weeks/2200 hours.)


Japanese is difficult to learn because you have to memorize thousands of characters to read it. There are three different writing systems: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. The first is adopted Chinese characters and you have to know what it is (and what it means in the context of the sentence) to know how to pronounce it. The other two are syllabaries where each character represents a syllable sound. Word choice is also important because there are different politeness levels depending on whom you are speaking with.


Compared to Germanic (Dutch, Norwegian) or Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian), there are not many words that are similar in Arabic and English and the ones we do have (alcohol, algebra, giraffe, sugar) were first adopted by other European languages and then came into English.

Arabic also has a different writing system from English. It has 28 symbols and you write from right to left. The letters may have different forms, depending on where they come in the word.

The “best” part of learning Arabic is that what you learn in the classroom is formal Arabic and no one talks like that. Different countries/regions have their own dialects. If you are talking to literate, educated people, you could probably make yourself understood, you’d just sound like a pompous outsider.


Korean also used a different writing system, hangul, but it’s fairly easy to learn to read. Some things may be written in Korean hanji (characters adopted from Chinese), but its use is more limited.

The language is difficult for English speakers to learn because of different sentence structure (the verb always comes last) and syntax. There are also levels of politeness that change the verb endings. It also has different counting systems. You use one to count the number of items or state your age and the other for dates, money, phone numbers, or addresses. The first system only goes to 99 so you have to use the other for larger numbers regardless of what you’re talking about.

Mandarin Chinese

First, the writing system uses thousands of characters. It’s hard for a native speaker to learn it all, and can take months or years for an English speaker to just learn the basics. Just like with the adopted Chinese characters in Japanese, you need to not only recognize the word, but understand which meaning it has in the context of the writing.

Spoken Chinese is a tonal language. The meaning of a word changes depending on the tone used to say it. “Ma” could mean “mother” or “horse”, “tang” could be “soup” or “candy”, “shuxue” could be “mathematics” or “blood transfusion”. English speakers naturally stress words that they want to emphasize but if they do that while speaking Chinese they totally change the meaning of the word.

Cantonese Chinese

All of what I said about Mandarin goes for Cantonese plus where Mandarin has four tones, Cantonese has six. Also, there is more variation among the dialects.



Things You Should Do If You’re In an Accident?

After an Accident

First, stay calm. Breathe in slowly. Breathe out. Are you hurt? If so, remain where you are and phone for help or ask someone to phone for you.

If you are not hurt and your car is drivable, move it out of the way of traffic. (This means onto the shoulder of the road, not home to your garage. Leaving the scene of an accident is a big no-no.) If you cannot move it, turn on your hazard lights.

Get out of your car if/when it is safe to do so. If someone is injured, do not move them. Wait for EMS.

If someone is injured, call 911. Otherwise just call your local police so that they can fill out an accident report for you. (Pause your reading for a moment look up your local police department’s phone number and program it into your phone.) Tell the police there was a car accident and give the location. Do not say, “I hit someone” or anything that admits fault.

When you approach the other driver you can ask if they’re okay but do not apologize for the accident or admit fault. I know, nice people want to apologize for their mistakes and an accident is definitely a mistake! But, that only works if the other person is also a nice person. You’re already having some bad luck and you don’t want to make that worse by admitting fault to someone who will use it against you later. Don’t start yelling at the other driver and accusing him of causing the accident, even if it’s true.

Exchange information with the other driver: their name (and the car owner’s name if the driver is not the owner, also ask their relationship to the owner), contact information, make and model of vehicle, driver’s license number, insurance carrier and policy number. If the other driver asks for your social security number, do not provide it. They do not need that to file an insurance claim. Don’t discuss what your insurance policy covers either. Just give them the number of your insurance company and let them handle it.

If there are witnesses (this doesn’t include people in either car), get their names and contact information. Look around to see if there are traffic cameras or if a nearby business has video surveillance cameras that may have recorded the accident.

Take photos of the vehicles and the accident scene. Note the time of day and the weather conditions.

Make a note of the officer’s name and badge number. Ask for a copy of the police report.

Report the accident to your insurance company.

Don’t post the details about the accident to Facebook or Twitter or Google+ or anywhere else on the internet.

Things to Keep in Your Car in Case of an Accident

You should always have your car’s registration and a copy of your insurance card in your glove compartment. If you or another frequent driver/passenger of the vehicle has any special medical conditions, it would be a good idea to keep a printout with the medical information with your other documents.

Other things that may be useful in an accident are flares or warning triangles, a first aid kit, a flashlight and work gloves. If you live somewhere that has cold weather, you may want to add hand warmers, emergency blankets (also called space blankets), a hat, and insulated gloves.

Make sure your cell phone has your local police department’s phone number and an emergency contact for you. Store the emergency contact in your phone under ICE (In Case of Emergency).

Skills I Can Learn in a Short Time?

What can you learn in a few weeks to a few months that would look good on resumes or college applications and maybe give you something interesting to talk about at parties?

Learn HTML and CSS – Okay, this may not make you the life of the party but it will look good on resumes. has a free online course that can teach you how. The estimated course time is about 7 hours.

Learn First Aid and CPR - The American Red Cross offers classes (the ones in my area are $90 to $110 each). Sometimes schools, businesses, churches or other organizations will pay someone to come teach CPR and first aid to interested members can learn for free, so it’s worth asking around.

Improve Your Public Speaking Skills - Join Toastmasters. They have 15,400 clubs in 135 countries. It’s a non-profit organization that helps members improve their communication and leadership skills.

Learn American Sign Language - Or the sign language appropriate to your country. You’re not going to be an expert within just a few months but you can learn some basic communication. Start ASL has some free online classes. ASLU has tutorials and lots of resources. ASL Pro has video tutorials along with resources for students and teachers.

Or, if you’re not good with your hands, learn a language from or Both are free.

Social Media Marketing - There’s more to this than being popular on Twitter or Tumblr, it’s about presenting an image and delivering a message. DS106 is an open online course on digital storytelling presented by the University of Mary Washington.

The University of Salford, Manchester offers an open online course covering search and social media marketing for international business.

ALISON offers an online course called Diploma in Social Media Marketing. The course if free but you will need to register to access the course resources.

Dinosaurs! - The University of Alberta offers Dino 101 – Dinosaur Paleobiology. It’s a 12-week free online course. It may not do anything for your resume, but it sounded interesting so I’m including it.

Free Books on the Internet?

If you love to read, the internet is like a gold mine. You can find lots of free ebooks on a wide variety of subjects.

Project Gutenberg is the oldest digital library and has over 50,000 public domain books. You can read them online or download them  to a Kindle or other device. They also allow contemporary authors to self-publish through

Some of Project Gutenberg’s most popular books are:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Vatsyayana
Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Minute Mysteries by Harold Austin Ripley
My Secret Life, Volumes I to III by Anonymous
The King James Bible
Simple Sabotage Field Manual by the US Office of Strategic Services

Open Library is a project by the Internet Archive that allows you to read public domain books online or download. If you sign up for a free account, you can also borrow some contemporary books – up to five titles for two weeks each. Some of the newer books include:

Appetizers by Sunset Books
Novels by James Lee Burke
Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene
Brainpuzzlers (Math games and activities)
Business Etiquette by Ann Marie Sabath
The Rugrats’ More Jokes by David Lewman
50 Common Birds of the Southwest by Richard L. Cunningham
Dr. Seuss books

For those of you who prefer to have the physical book to read, Open Library will also tell you what libraries near you have the book.

Feed Books has a section for public domain books that can be downloaded and read on your device. They also have original books available.

Smashwords is an indie ebook distributor that has a selection of free books.

Directory of Open Access Books offers an online catalog of academic books that may be downloaded in pdf form.

The UC Press E-books Collection has almost 2000 academic books published between 1982 and 2004. You can search or browse by subject. (Look for ones that say “public” to find the freebies.)

OpenCulture has a list of free online textbooks. No, you’re not going to find that $350 textbook your professor said you had to buy, but there are some great resources for the self-learner.

Loyal Books has free public domain ebooks and audiobooks. Most are gotten from Gutenberg or Librivox, but this site may be an easier way to browse.

For those that like to have their stories read to them (it makes commutes and road trips so much more enjoyable), there’s Librivox and Podiobooks.

Librivox has public domain books read by volunteers. You can browse the site by author, genre, title, or language.

Podiobooks has serialized audiobooks and lets you browse by genre. They’re free to download but since they are by current authors, you are encouraged to “tip” them if you enjoy their work.