Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Some of my favorite things :-)

I find myself atm greatly needing to spend a little bit of time thinking about the things that make me happy and the things that I love...well...here they are (in part):

-Ghostbusters (movie - 1984)

-Viruses!! (Yeah, I know...it's weird...)
~Outbreak (movie - 1995) [go here for trailer]
~They even come stuffed!!! (I have 2 of these...[pictured below])
Photo Credit: GiantMicrobes.com

~Blade (movie - 1998)
~Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV show - 1997-2003)

-Anything King Arthur
~Mists of Avalon (movie - 2001)
That's all for now! I do feel better ;-)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

6 Short Stories - Interesting and quick literary fixes

After reading "The Harvest", which, as I mentioned previously, was quite long, I decided to get a few quick fixes and so read the following 6 short stories. I'm counting all 6 of them together as Book #20 of 2012.

This story was super short but quite interesting all the same. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that it includes a frightening twist on what Santa's punishment is for all the bad girls and boys - they don't receive a lump of coal...

Test Pilot by John H. Carroll (FREE atm for Kindle)

As you can tell from 4 out of 6 of the stories I read being written by John H. Carroll, I found that I really enjoy this author. All of his stories are incredibly different and, I think, really good. "Test Pilot" is about a man who works for The Company on the moon as a tester for all sorts of new gadgets and ships. As a Sci-Fi geek, I really enjoyed hearing about the crazy new technologies the author had come up with. The biggest problem I had was the main character's attitude toward how all of these technologies actually functioned, If it's really complicated then just don't explain it as I'm just here to test things and don't really care how they work. Curious me WANTED to know how everything worked, especially the weird suit he puts on at one point in which you can see the starry sky... It was a good story nonetheless.

This was SO cute :-) A loner falls in love with a girl from another world. The ending is bittersweet more than sad, which was a nice change from what I thought was going to end up happening. But the time spent between the alien and the main character was absolutely adorable.

Crazy! What a scary thought that what is written in your high school yearbook may actually come true... Be aware, there is a horror twist.

(FREE atm for Kindle)

As the name suggests, this story is ridiculous, but I really did love it. The way it poked fun at the emo attitude was hysterical, especially since I used to be one of those emo kids (haha!). This story takes a crazy turn in regards to how the Easter Bunny really does his thing, which was strange, but enjoyably inventive...if you can stomach the idea of an evil Easter Bunny that is...

The Day God Winked by Mark Jacobs (FREE atm for Kindle)

I would have liked to see this story fleshed out into a novella as the concept was quite interesting. I really don't want to give away what "The Event" was, so I'll just say that I wish the author had shown more than just the one character's interaction with "The Event." A really interesting concept regardless. There were 2 other short stories included with this one and I definitely thought the title short story was far better than the 2 freebies. The first one, "Incident at Walter's Creek," was creepy (think aliens and a secret whiskey distillery) and leaves one guessing as to the real truth behind the whole situation...What DID really happen?? Arrggghh. The second story, "Reckoning," was just completely confusing. With zero background information and thus zero explanation for the situation the characters found themselves in, I really could not follow the story. As far as I can tell, it's about an intelligent community of frogs preparing for the end of days...yeah I know...I'm really not sure..

Since all of these short stories are FREE for Kindle, I totally recommend downloading them all and checking them out...what can it hurt?? If you don't have a Kindle, you can download a FREE application for your computer that is itself a sort of Kindle reader (whether you have a Mac or PC ;-)

Happy reading!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

End of March Organizational Goals...Is it Possible??

I'll go ahead and warn you that what I have laid out below may be completely uninteresting to a number of people in regards to all the details. But in an organizational sense, maybe it'll help someone else, whether they are a pre-service teacher, graduate student, or just someone who absolutely cannot stand the thought of giving up all their old papers (I can't be the only one...can I?), with organizing the yearly accumulation of educational clutter :-P

1. Organize Biology content information and activities - I have folders of notes, labs, papers, and all sorts of other things from high school through grad school still tucked away in my house, so I have decided that before the end of March I am going to separate all of these pieces of paper out so that I can easily find and use them once I start teaching. By looking over the AL Course of Study (ALCOS) state standards for Biology I was able to simplify each of the 16 standards into a few words (don't shoot the messenger, I know some of these groupings do not make any sense...). When dealing with odd groupings I'll separate within the standard as well.
a. Scientific Method/Laboratories
b. Homeostasis/Macromolecules
c. Photosynthesis/Cellular Respiration
d. Organelles/Cell Theory (+microscopes)
e. Biological Organization (cells to ecosystems)
f. Mitosis/Meiosis/Reproduction
g. Heredity
h. DNA/RNA/Protein (+biotechnology)
i. Classification (Dichotomous keys, viruses)
j. Plant Differences
k. Animal Differences
l. Evolution
m. Energy Flow/Abiotic & Biotic Ecosystem Interactions
n. Biogeochemical Cycles/Human Impacts/ Ecological Succession
o. Biomes
p. Density-dependent and Density-independent Factors in Ecosystems/Biotic Interactions in Ecosystems

2. Organize Zoology content and activities - I'm going to separate some of the much more specific and detailed stuff I have laying around into the ALCOS standards for specific electives. I'm hoping this will simplify the retrieval process in the future! Plus, I'm really hoping that I'll end up teaching some of these electives in addition to Biology.
a. Anatomical Terminology
b. Body Plans
c. Body Symmetry
d. Invertebrates
e. Vertebrates
f. Species
g. Adaptation
h. Threatened/Endangered/Extinct Animals
i. Animal Behavior-Niche Field Study

3. Organize Anatomy and Physiology content and activities
a. Anatomical Terminology
b. Body Planes/Cavities/Abdominopelvic Regions
c. Cell Types
d. Tissue Types
e. Integumentary System
f. Skeletal System
g. Muscular System
h. Nervous System
i. Cardiovascular System
j. Digestive System
k. Respiratory System
l. Reproductive System
m. Urinary System
n. Endocrine System
o. Immune System

4. Organize Environmental Science content and activities - It is my ultimate hope and dream to end up teaching APES ;-)
a. Human Population/Industrial and Cultural Change/Technology
b. Fossil Fuels
c. Alternative Energy Sources
d. Pollution
e. H2O as the Universal Solvent
f. Freshwater Usage
g. Coastal H2O as a Resource/Marine vs. Inland Bodies of H2O/Marine Biodiversity
h. Water Pollution
i. Land-Use/Waste
j. Soil Classification and Formation (+climatic influence)
k. Erosion
l. + and - Human Impact on Biodiversity

5. Organize non-biological science content - I don't have too much of this, but depending on what the future brings me, I figure I better be prepared since I do have a lot of stuff laying around that could be helpful in a pinch.
a. Geology/Earth Science
b. Chemistry
c. Physics/Physical Science
d. Space Science

6. Graduation Stuff - Hopefully keeping all this stuff in one place will ensure I don't miss anything down the road...
a. Test results
b. Formal letters from the College of Education
c. Advising information

7. General Teaching Strategies - In addition to all of the content related papers lying around, I have also, since starting in the College of Education, begun to acquire a number of items that clarify and explain various teaching strategies and concepts such as lesson planning and Bloom's Taxonomy. This stuff should be separated out into it's own special pile.
a. Lesson planning/Objectives
b. Bell ringer ideas
c. Closure ideas
d. Assessment ideas
e. Special Needs strategies
f. Behavior management
g. Educational Theory
h. Graphic Organizers
i. Discussion strategies
j. Project/Problem-Based Learning examples (not Biology related)
k. Accommodations for different learning styles and multiple intelligences

Wish me LUCK!! I'm starting tonight... :-O

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Definition of LOVE

Oh how lovely is a day when the rain just doesn't stop falling and the sounds of nature are constantly in the background. And its as if the gray skies are giving one permission to just relax the mind, stop worrying, and just be. I have to admit that too many days in a row of bright blue skies gets to me after awhile and a good long day of rain really does lift my spirits :-) I find the occasional thunder and lightning in the midst of the storm to also be comforting, as they too are sounds from nature, reassuring me that this earth is bigger than us humans and that someone up above created us all and this beautiful planet that we inhabit.

With those thoughts on my mind today, I'd like to share what I did with the girls last Sunday morning. They seemed to be having some difficulties with understanding the kind of love I was talking about and saying that we as Christians should emulate. I had been telling them (in the context of overlooking) that if God forgave us and continues to forgive us for all of the mistakes we have and will make then we should be readily willing to forgive the mistakes that others make. This just wasn't cutting it so I decided to give them a multimedia picture of this incredible love that defines our God.

First, we read Isaiah 53 which prophesies the life of Jesus, giving a perfect description of the unremarkable man who was actually God. My favorite section includes verses 2b-3

2b. He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him,
and no beauty that we should desire Him.
3. He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

How vividly does this portray a human being? This passage truly declares that He was fully human (in the midst of being fully God). God knew that if He sent His Son in majestic form as a great and powerful ruler that we would never be able to connect to Jesus on a personal level. But by sending him in the form of a babe and as a man from Nazareth, a much looked down upon village, God sent His Son as a person we can all fully relate too in a human sense. That in itself is truly amazing and what makes Christianity so distinct from other religions.

Second, I played "By His Wounds" from Glory Revealed By His Wounds - WOW Hits 2008. This is an incredible song that puts Isaiah 53 to music. Several of the girls were familiar with it and were super excited to be able to listen to it during Sunday school.

Third came the intense part. We watched 2 clips from "The Passion of the Christ" that I found available on YouTube: Jesus' beating and His crucifixion. After watching these two clips while planning my lesson I realized that they really showed the kind of love that Jesus had/has for us. Most of the girls were definitely affected by the clips as they visually saw how much their Savior cares for them.

Finally, I ended the class by playing 3 more songs:
"For God So Loved" by Jaci Velasquez God So Loved - Jaci Velasquez,
"Nothing Without You" by Bebo Norman Nothing Without You - Try,
and "Praise You in this Storm" by Casting Crowns Praise You In This Storm - WOW Hits 2008,
in that order. "For God So Loved" was actually the song that finally got the power and love of Christ through to me a.k.a. I was saved by this song and so have a special connection to it that I wanted to share with my girls. "Nothing Without You" was to have the girls realize just how much of our lives we should give to Christ...all of them!! This definitely puts a different spin on how to deal with conflicts. "Praise You in this Storm" ended the class by re-emphasizing the importance of suffering in our lives and how we can always trust Him throughout our sufferings. Not to mention, this song connects quite well with the picture of Christ's suffering that we had watched earlier. Most of the girls were very familiar with this song and I think really enjoyed the time to reflect on its meaning.

I'd like to end with something I heard on the radio a couple of days ago that sums all of this up perfectly while adding the underlying element that made this kind of love necessary. Unfortunately I can't remember the man's name, but 93.7 WDJC DJs always preface his name with "Revolutionary Pastor." This quote was in the middle of a mash up between Casting Crown's "East to West" East to West - East to West - Single and one of this man's sermons. He said,
"Nails didn't hang Him on the cross.
Our names hung Him on the cross.
Our mistakes hung Him on the cross.
LOVE hung Him on the cross."
So simple and yet so powerful - the crucifixion was all about God's immense and unending love for us sinners. No message is more reassuring than that!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Amazing speculative fiction + Curricular ideas

Well, the break is over and it's back to the salt mines tomorrow. But it's all good because as I've already mentioned, THE THESIS IS FINALLY COMPLETE and out of my hair! I think I can say a hallelujah to that :-P I'm hoping to finally get back on track with some goal outlining and planning starting tomorrow - atm I've just been focusing on getting the random clutter picked up and put away that accumulated from my hyper-focusing on the test, paper, and thesis revisions I had to get in before spring break... So anyway, for tonight I wanted to go ahead and post a couple more book reviews since I finished reading both of these over a week ago and I've just been too lazy to give them their due (which they both deserve!).

The Harvest by John David Krygelski (Book #18 of 2012)
One word: AMAZING!! Be aware that this is strongly speculative fiction and should not be taken literally in regards to Christian doctrine. But if you keep this in mind, you are in for some creative ride. This novel is about 440 pages long and you are left wanting to know even more! I don't mean know more about the characters, but more about the way God made the world and how the world functions - it is some trip. The vast majority of the story is dialogue (or rather monologues from primarily Elohim and Dr. Reese Johnson), but the topics discussed were so fascinating that the lack of action scenes throughout the majority of the novel was actually what made this book so incredibly intriguing. The only downside I saw in this novel were actually the action scenes, which seemed to be a little too drawn out when they did take place lol. If you don't have a conservative bent, I would warn against reading this one as it points out very strongly the harm that atheism has done to the world at large; something I strongly agree with (I was cheering on pretty much everything stated by Dr. Johnson), but that others may take issue with. Elohim (God as a guest in the FBI building - I know, crazy right? Trust me, it REALLY works!) describes the real functioning of physics, evolution, our souls, and more, to a point that the reader really has to be careful not to take these creative and believable explanations to heart! Read THIS BOOK, you will not regret it ;-)

I borrowed this curricula book from my advisor because at a quick glance it looked like it had a lot of interesting ideas to offer as well as some great simplified explanations of ecological concepts. Not to mention it was a trip down memory lane since I used Janice VanCleave books back in middle school to help give me ideas for science fair projects. While I realize this book was for more of an elementary or middle school level, I found some activities that could be used as fantastic demonstrations in the high school classroom. Think a transparent earthworm home to demonstrate niches, or an ant farm to clearly show how division of labor works in a colony, or 3 different plants with 3 different watering treatments to show the effects of acid rain. All such simple activities, but the way she puts these activities in the context of ecological concepts made reading this book SO worth while!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fantastic Blog Posts for a Happier Life :-)

So I know it's been awhile...I stayed up till 4am Friday night finishing up my Biology M.S. thesis revisions...it was a college flash back!! Well, it's done and now I can focus on my Secondary Biology Education M.A. - woohoo! I have been so relieved and so relaxed since Friday (plus it happens to be Spring Break) that I have just been utterly bumming it since. Finally a break where I do not have to worry about collecting or analyzing data - it's so weird... Anyway, I wanted to share several fantastic blog posts about a number of different topics, all pertaining to improving your outlook on life in some form or another...it's truly amazing how these sorts of insights from others really can help you live a happier life :-)

This is actually an e-book that is available for free if you sign up for email updates from the Stretching Into Blue blog. I've only scanned through the first several pages, but I'm really excited about this "motivotional." Sarah Mae has created a devotional with a strongly biblical perspective to help women get dressed in the morning. As someone who has difficulties taking a shower every day...don't judge! - I KNOW I'm not the only female with this problem...I think this book will be extremely helpful in getting ready every morning to conquer the day. The book is separated into 20 days of devotionals, each with a set of challenges and some very well-chosen and very uplifting verses from the bible. I love it when I can get my hands on super relevant biblical perspectives on every day life :-) Oh and a word I noticed in scanning through the book was "frumpflower!" How fantastic is that? Reminds me of the days when I throw on sweats, a long sleeve shirt, flip flops, and messily pull my hair up in a pony tail...hmmm.

This short post from R@H provides some great tips for using items you would otherwise throw away to help organize your mess! Upcycling for organization is always a great thing. Tips include using check book boxes as drawer dividers, a tissue-box as a grocery bag dispenser (this might actually be a way to better compact the grocery bags I now have just stored inside other grocery bags under the sink...), and more. All 5 tips aren't necessarily useful for me (I've recycled every shoe box I've ever owned), but I'll take what I can get!

Oh those extra few minutes of sleep...how lovely they are...unless they turn into a couple of hours and your morning schedule becomes a frenzied attempt to be somewhere on time!! This scenario happens way too much in my life, so I find these tips from Michael Hyatt worth considering. One of his consistent tips across many of his posts is to do some sort of devotional or reading of the Bible in the morning. I think this is definitely a great way to start the day and would help me get my thoughts into focus so that I can be more productive and aware. He also mentions going to bed early enough to get a full night's sleep, something that I have finally gotten good at (although every time I visit my parents they throw me off by staying up insanely late...ughhh...I recently visited them and am already way off my normal schedule). Prepping the night before...hmmm...well, maybe it's a female thing, but I never really know what I want to wear until in the morning (maybe I'm too emotionally driven with what I wear lol). Also, I tend to do a good bit of work in the morning as well, so packing my bag the night before could be counter-productive. It's a good thought at least and I guess I could go ahead and make sure that my purse has everything in it before I go to bed... His overall premise that every minute of the first hour of the day should be used productively and wisely is inspiring regardless.

You know, it is kinda funny that a number of blogs and such that I look too for inspiration and helpful tips are mom blogs...me definitely not being a mom nor even close to that whole marriage thing...haha...oh well, they are still very helpful. Anyway, this is a wonderful post! I frequently find myself in a slump where I feel bored, unproductive, lonely, and essentially dejected. My usual remedy for this feeling is just to take a nap...even when I'm not sleepy (not the most useful thing that I could do...). Crystal provides some great insight on how to get out of such a slump including getting up and doing something (So true! 10 mins of organizing or doing the 5-Things Rule not only gets your body moving, but also produces a lovely result), exercise (yeah, I really need to work on this one - the motivation just is not there), having a morning routine (she also includes reading the Bible in the morning - I really should start doing this), and remembering that "His grace is sufficient" (so simple yet so powerful and so easily forgotten - I love it).

Another great post from MH. Since I've already rambled on enough, I just want to relay a really neat idea that he presented in the last few sentences of this post. He sees his car as a rolling "prayer closet." How great is that? I usually enjoy listening to loud music and singing along while driving, but those times when I'm in a super hurry and am really all too intent on getting to my destination, I think I could make the effort to slow down my thoughts and pray to put my day back on the right track :-)

Enjoy! And for those on Spring Break...RELAX :-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

3ish Book Reviews - Education Trade, Thriller, How-To, and Inspirational

So I've read 4 more books already including an education trade book, a thriller, a how-to book on speed reading, and a quick inspirational Christian read. This is CRAZY!!! It's totally my kindlefire's fault as well as the prevalence of FREE books for kindle available on Amazon.com in droves. But is being addicted to free books and devouring them insatiably really a bad thing? I'm leaning on the side of this being a positive addiction...

This education trade book, written by a former school board member and teacher, provides great insights into several of the current problems in our educational system. I love the way this book is set up in having chapters that each specifically focus on one issue in a sort of anecdotal form with citations of support where necessary. This guy is funny and extremely enjoyable to read! Chapters include discussions of arbitrary rules and regulations in getting students out of and into tracked classes, the administrative rewarding of snitching, the lack of meaningful civics education in schools, what makes being a teacher so difficult, and the mind-numbing realities of school boards. While I may not have agreed with absolutely everything Good presented, I really appreciated his personal experiences and thoughts on specific educational problems. This book is not dry in the least and is quite entertaining as he details his daughters "adventures" in school. I absolutely recommend this book for educators and non-educators! I'm also super excited about the references listed at the end of each chapter - looks like some great future reading... 5/5 stars

Still Coming by Joseph Flynn (Book #16 of 2012) [NOTE: Atm, this book is FREE for the kindle]
Wow, what a crazy and unique concept. A super-selective small liberal arts college receives a variety of threats from a group of students who were not accepted. Are these students already on campus? What did the school president do that was so bad? What will the big finale be? These questions and more were all running through my mind throughout most of the novel and while some were answered just over a third of the way into the book, others were not answered until the very end. I was really impressed with Flynn's ability to carry out a thriller in which the main characters were truly fleshed out people the reader actually cared about...or in Dula's case, really hated! Despite the book's frightening cover art, this novel is mostly quite light hearted in a sense, although the emotions felt by the rejected students are certainly palpable. There is a sub-plot that threw me off for a while, but as the book progressed, I saw why it was a necessary part of the story. The only criticism I have is that the chapters are WAY too long at times, but maybe that's just me. When chapters are shorter I find it much easier to get hooked into a book thinking, "Oh I'll just read one more chapter." But with some of these chapters being some 30 or more pages long, that wasn't really possible. Regardless though, it still managed to be quite a page turner most of the time. I think in the end I have to give this book 4.5/5 stars because while all of the mysteries/questions were explained eventually, one of them was not really explained in much detail and I was left a little confused as to the logistics of it, but then I'm always hungry for the whys and hows of pretty much everything, so others may not have the same issue. Essentially, I loved it!

Since the following 2 books were both quite short (one was really short), I've combined them into Book #17 of 2012.

Visual Reading and The Snowball of Understanding by Hyo Sang Shin [Note: Atm, this is free for kindle IF you are an Amazon Prime member]
Hmm...this one was a bit strange. It's basically a book about speed reading, but from a more New-Agey perspective. At least I thought it was quite New-Agey. The concept was pretty far out there to say the least. I bought this book because it was free at the time for kindle and I thought it might be an informative read, which it certainly was, I just don't really think the method is for me. Shin seems to be a super legitimate person in regards to this technique so I guess I shouldn't be so skeptical. The book presents 2 case studies of students who have gone through his 10-week program and consequently went from 120 words per minute to 600+ words per minute - wait...600+ wpm! I'd like to see that... Essentially, visual reading is a method where you see the connections between all the words and see sentences as structured 3d objects. When you achieve this, words seem to flow together, and as place receptors in your brain are turned on (the cells that allow us to create memories of experiences) you begin to see the words on the page as a movie in your mind. As you get into the rhythm of reading in this way, you increase your speed immensely and a snowball of understanding occurs where all the connections are automatically formed in your brain and you can remember far more of what you are reading. Shin's argument is that people who sub-vocally or vocally read are only using their working memory to understand the words on a page and since this part of our memory is so short and limited in capacity, these readers quickly forget what they have previously read. I have never found this to be a problem though and I am definitely a sub-vocal reader. If I get confused about something I'm reading I just flip back and see what I'm missing to make the proper connections with what I'm currently reading. And when I'm reading academic material, I like to take notes in the margin and highlight important passages so that I can consciously make connections to my own experiences, personal thoughts, and previously learned information. Shin's reason for promoting this type of reading which apparently can yield up to 1200 words per minute (CRAZY!!) is that if people can read this fast with the supposed enhanced understanding that comes with it, then more people can be exposed to all the great ideas people have presented in the past on how to fix the ills of the world. A noble goal, but I guess I'm too set in my reading habits to consider the training required to master this method of reading worth my time...

Faith Notes (101 God Notes) by Pauline Creeden [NOTE: Atm, this book is FREE for kindle]
Okay, so this was actually only 18 pages long (I guess it's more of a pamphlet lol). Very short, very uplifting. It's just a list of 101 Bible verses and biblical thoughts from the author. I think having this book handy could be quite useful when I get down on myself or upset with others. Definitely some great insights into paralleling your life more closely with that of Christ's. 5/5 stars

That's all for now :-) Happy reading!

February goals update...woops!

Well, it looks like my February goals are going to have to carry over to the month of March, because...it just so happens to be March 4th already!! Ack...time is going by SO fast. But it's all good because I did fully complete my web and computer folders goal and now have a much more organized computer to deal with which happens to make life way easier...so yayay!!! :-P
For now I think I'll just keep the 3 remaining goals in mind and not add anything else until they are close to completion as I have a feeling that overwhelming myself will not yield any progress at all...

1. Web and Computer folders - COMPLETE...1 out of 4 is still something to be proud of...:-)
a. Make appropriate sub-folders within bookmark folders - CHECK
b. Sort all websites into their proper folders - CHECK
c. Move downloaded documents, etc. to my Documents folder - CHECK
d. Make sure all sub-folders in Documents make sense - CHECK
e. Put desktop folders where they should go - CHECK

2. Education "Stuff"
a. Locate all test results and legal documents and put in one folder
b. Put all past teaching materials in one folder that is BIG enough
c. Figure out the best way to deal with all of my loose newspaper clippings
d. Separate out materials from previous courses and put each of these stacks together
e. Put all graduation requirement items in one folder

3. Dresser
a. Top drawer
b. Second drawer
c. Third drawer
d. Fourth drawer - still very close...
e. Bottom drawer - CHECK

4. My BUGS!!!
a. Throw out not so well preserved bugs
b. Find a better way to store my spider collection
c. Figure out what to do with my ridiculous number of M.S. thesis vials
d. Reorganize collections from college