Saturday, October 29, 2005

Math Whiz


You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

I recently wrote my university Math midterm. I was really proud of myself for not freaking out during the actual writing process, because I have been fearful of numbers ever since I dropped out of high school Math 31 (Calculus) three weeks before the final exam. Up until that point in my life, I did well in math, and even managed to get myself invited into the Math 10 AP class. However, my inability to grasp some of the higher-order concepts taught in Calculus resulted in some pretty abysmal grades (63%), and caused me to second-guess my mathematic abilities; by the time I withdrew from the course, my self-confidence was all but shot.

You can only imagine how much I panicked when I was informed that I had to take a math course in order to meet the academic requirements of my after-degree. This was quite a blow, since I had managed to successfully avoid completing *any* math courses during my first degree. I figured that I would be so lucky the second time around. I wasn't.

The first few math lessons this term weren't easy; not only was I uncertain about the material being covered, but I was also battling against my math phobia and shattered self-esteem. Many a night my hubby had to tutor me and explain (and re-explain) the concepts over and over again; many a night I shed tears. However, with every question and problem answered correctly, my self-confidence began to build, and by the time the mid-term rolled around, I was ready.

I am happy to report that I am no longer fearful of algebraic equations, and although I still don't remember anything about trigonometry, I know that when I am presented with new concepts, I will be able to work through them and figure them out (sometimes with the help of my hubby). In fact, I was feeling so good about my newfound math confidence that I took the Grade 8 math quiz (see above). My hubby (of course) got perfect marks on it, but several of his colleagues didn't fare so well (in spite of the fact that they all work with algorithms all day long). Imagine how great I felt when I passed it! =)

Anyway, just a little anedote to remind us all that sometimes when we're dealing with our phobias, our greatest obstacles aren't the objects themselves so much as our perceived inabilities to overcome or conquer them. Sometimes it takes a little bit of perseverance and hard work, but we can master the things that we thought had mastered us. May your November become the month when you overcome a challenge in your own life, and may you become a Grade 8 math whiz just like me ;)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Strategic Sleeping


Last night I slept 4.5 hours. I was up until 12:30 studying, and I woke up at 5:00 am to do a little more rote-cramming before my midterm. One would think that I would be a tired, cranky ol' hag by now (it's 10:45 pm), but I haven't even had a cup of coffee all day, and I feel great! I not only wrote my midterm, but also took a 1.5 hour nap, volunteered in a kindergarten class, worked out, made dinner, finished my computer assignment, and even managed to blog tonight. I still feel pretty peppy so I think I might not even go to bed until midnight this evening.

What's my secret to staying awake, you ask?

It's strategic sleeping. It's polyphasic, sleep cycle sleeping. According to an article by Glen Rhodes (my
hubby sent me the link, I have no idea who Glen is), we apparently feel tired after an 8-hour sleep (and sometimes, even a 10-hour sleep) because we are awakened before we can complete a sleep cycle (which, on average, lasts about 90 minutes depending on the person). When we wake up after sleeping through a complete cycle (or several cycles), then we will feel refreshed. This is why it is preferable to sleep 1.5, 3.0, 4.5, 6.0, 7.5, or 9.0 hours; these are multiples of 90-minutes and therefore represent complete sleep cycles.

Of course, this is only part of the solution. Part 2 involves having polyphasic sleep, meaning sleeping more than once per 24-hour day. The article details that humans are supposedly creatures of polyphasic sleep, rather than once-at-night-only sleepers. There are several health benefits to taking a mental "break" and having a nap, like refreshing the mind, generating more theta brain waves, and increasing our longevity (as well as being smarter, more productive people while we are awake).

Although I'm not convinced that this case study of Rhode's constitutes a proven theory, I am more that willing to give the approach a try. I mean, naps in the afternoon, great sleeps at night, alertness during the day, and more time to study! What could possibly be bad about that?! ;)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Newlyweds in Trouble!

No, I'm not referring to my hubby & I; we're doing great (thank you for asking). I'm actually referring to Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey, the Newlyweds that had a reality TV show for 3 seasons. For those of you who have no idea who these people are (good for you!), this is what they look like:

Anyway, every time I go to the grocery store these days, the check-out aisles are covered with magazines that feature Nick & Jessica on the cover. The story is that apparently, their marriage may or may not be in trouble and they may or may not be heading towards getting a divorce; the media is insisting that they've secretly separated already, and their reps are denying these reports.

Normally, I would feel very badly for anybody whose marriage is put under such scrutiny, and whose every move becomes fodder for more gossip and speculation. I mean, marriage is hard work at the best of times; you're dealing with two very different and independent people who must find ways to share their lives together and learn to live with each other's idiosyncracies. Placing additional pressure or stress on the relationship can't possibly be a good thing.

However, in this case, I don't feel sorry for them at all. The reason for this is that these two individuals essentially merchandized their marriage when they agreed to film a reality TV show and write a book about their relationship and their years as newlyweds. They capitalized on society's voyeuristic tendencies and the media's newfound love of reality TV, and then they cashed in. They went from being a B-listed celebrity couple (she was a singer with a handful of hit songs, he was the lead singer of a boy band that had one hit album) to being A-listers who are regularly featured in the tabloid magazines that now report on their alleged break-up. As a result of their rise in fame, she now gets offered movie roles and endorsements (plus she has enough fan support to launch several lines of products) and he gets guest spots on TV shows and offers to star on his own show. The price they paid for their popularity was the scrutiny of their relationship; they invited America into their home, and, well, America's not too keen on moving out!

What, then, is a couple to do, when they no longer want the spotlight to be shone on them anymore? Come clean! Tell the truth, behave consistently, and retreat from the limelight. Many a successful A-lister has avoided the problems plaguing Nick and Jessica (e.g. Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, Ashley Judd) by simply not putting their personal lives and relationships up for sale. These couples have learned how to succeed professionally as well as personally, by making very clear distinctions between the two.

Unfortunately, for these Newlyweds, their popularity may have already come at the cost of their marriage. Frankly, if they were willing to sell something as sacred and valuable as that, I would hardly be surprised that in the event that they divorced, we'd be seeing a few more books on the shelves, tabloid magazines in the check-out aisles with their faces still plastered on them, and *two* new reality TV shows: "Man on the Town: Nick Searches for Miss Right" and "The Bachelorette: A Jessica Simpson Special." =S

Monday, October 17, 2005

Testing......For What?


My midterms begin this week. As such, I have begun the unenviable task of reviewing my notes in preparation for the multiple choice and short answer questions soon to come my way. I keep wishing that my other profs would take a cue from my one senior level class; this Ed Psych class has neither midterms nor final exams, only assignments worth a grand total of 100 marks.

You see, I have long suspected that the only thing exams really test are rote memory and test-taking abilities; the scores produced by such measures really only reflect one's short-term memory and ability to perform under pressure, rather than their understanding (and application) of the broader concepts that have been presented. How many times have I written multiple choice exams that required me to regurgitate some fact or figure from the text or the lecture? Too many to count. As well, I can think of several occasions (including next Monday) when I have had to label a diagram to prove my understanding of the key ideas.

What about the application of these concepts? What about actually thinking about the subject at hand rather than robotically spitting out facts? My Ed Psych class has got the right idea. Instead of reproducing the same concepts in short answer form, we are being asked to integrate these concepts with our current understandings and figure out ways of applying the knowledge to the "real world." God bless my Ed Psych prof, who seems to be the only instructor with enough perspective to understand that tests are not good indicators of learning.

I hope that when I eventually become a teacher, my students will be able to demonstrate their understanding without filling out bubbles or circling A, B, C, or D. I hope that the classroom of the future will figure out new methods to measure how students have synthesized their learning in creative and relevant ways.

In the meantime, though, *I* will be testing my somewhat rusty rote memory (and my nerves!) when I sit down to write my midterms. As I head back to my books in an attempt to remember all the little facts and labels that I will need to retrieve from my mental storage over the next two weeks, won't you say a little prayer for me? It will be much appreciated, thanks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Good Times

When I was a kid, I never used to understand how people could just sit around all night and talk. Fun, as I understood it, involved a lot more action.

I have since revised my position on this, and tonight was one of those nights that reinforced my belief that sitting around and talking can be a great time. Tonight our "couples group" (as we fondly call it) met again for fellowship; we meet every Wednesday and study the Bible together. My hubby and I hosted the shin-dig for the night, and even though we were supposed to start on the "study" aspect of the evening promptly at 7:30, we didn't actually get around to starting until closer to 8:30. The reason? We were sitting around (or in some cases, standing around) talking!

We gabbed about our week, our families, and just our thoughts on a random selection of topics ranging from the deep to the truly mundane. When we finally got started on the study itself (we're currently using a set curriculum so there's actually a little mini-plan to follow), we found that our discussions always seemed to meander off track somewhere, and end up with someone cracking a joke that made everyone in the group, laugh.

After the "formal" part of the evening came to a close, we continued to just sit around and talk about theology, and grandparents, and death, and movies, and whatever else came up in conversation.

As the night drew to a close and everyone (with their jackets on and books in hand) stood at the doorway, we continued to converse about comics and childhood traumas and guest speakers. In fact, we were talking right up to the point when everyone got on the elevator and the doors closed. I'll bet that they continued talking even as they rode down the lift together.

Even though the night is over, I still have a big fat grin on my face, because the evening was thoroughly enjoyable. I had a great time exchanging ideas and stories and listening to the discourse that took place in front of me all night long. I appreciated being able to laugh with the others and be encouraged by their insights. I was thrilled to be in the company of our friends. For the last three hours and fifteen minutes, I had fun.

I hope I can remember the way that I feel tonight, the next time that my fatigue or my "to do" list gets me so stressed out that I want to cancel out on attending couples night, or going out with friends, period. In fact, I hope that I will always find time in my schedule to fit in a night of good times, and that I will always stay connected with a group of genuinely incredible people. I hope you also find that the next time you are gathered with your friends, that you'll be sitting around and talking and laughing, and that it will be good times indeed.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Thank God!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

As I sit here in the honeymoon suite at a hotel in Grande Prairie, looking at the amazing two-person hot tub in the room and awaiting the delivery of my room service breakfast, I can't help but be amazed at how much I have been blessed with. Thank God for being so gracious to me.

I spent my Sunday night laughing and eating with my husband, my parents, my husband's parents, my siblings and my grandparents. They are all healthy and happy and safe. Thank God for being so good to my loved ones.

I think about those who don't live with very much, or whose families aren't healthy, or who don't even have family anymore, and yet they are thankful today, too. Would I also be so able to thank God if I was in their shoes? And what of those who are so overwhelmed by hurt and by sorrow that they cannot find a reason to give thanks today? What does Thanksgiving mean to them?

May God give them reason to be thankful and to have hope. May God bless those today who are hurting and who are in need. May God give me the faith to be thankful in all circumstances, and the memory to recall every blessing and good thing that is already in my life. Thank God for listening to my prayer.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Slippery Slopes

My husband brought my attention to a somewhat disturbing article that was published today. It was reported by the Times Online that the Catholic Church no longer believes that the Bible is completely true. The article states that several European Catholic bishops have concluded that the Bible does not contain total accuracy;

"They say the Church must offer the gospel in ways “appropriate to changing times,
intelligible and attractive to our contemporaries”." (quoted from Ruth Gedhill, Times Online).

I am admittedly a bit perturbed by the article, although likely less incensed than some who have known me would guess me to be. I mean, I (and possibly a lot of my fellow evangelical believers) have always thought that certain accounts from Revelation are symbolic. For instance, not every Christian believes that exactly 144,000 Jewish people will be sealed for the tribulation; many believe the number 144,000 to be representative of the many faithful believers (Jew and Gentile alike) who will live during the end times. As well, not every Christian subscribes to the belief that the mark of the beast will be a literal "666" tattooed on the forehead, nor does everyone (does *anyone?*) think that the "beast" is a literal, bestial creature (although who knows? The beast may be a very hairy individual, indeed. I don't know).

However, just because something is said symbolically, does not make it untrue. Jesus Himself used symbolic language; He often considered evangelism to be a harvest field, and His followers to be workers. He also called Himself a Shepherd, and believers, sheep. He spoke about the resurrection of His body as the rebuilding of the temple. As a Christian, I know that although these are metaphors and not to be taken literally, the teachings themselves are still true because the ideas underlying these teachings come from One who is true.

If these bishops held to the belief that God is truth and that God inspired the writing of the Scriptures (which, according to the article, they do believe), then would it not make sense that even the figurative language that is used, would still be true? It seems rather presumptuous to leap from saying that the Bible contains symbolism, to saying that the Bible is inaccurate because of the symbolism.

Scarier still is the fact that if this is the conclusion that Catholic Church leaders are coming to right now, what sort of conclusions will they draw 50 years from now, when the goal to make the gospel "appropriate to changing times" and "attractive to our contemporaries" might require them to declare something even more extreme? It's a slippery slope indeed, and one that leads somewhere I dare not imagine. *shudder*

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Joining the Club

I've just welcomed myself to the wonderful world of blogging. I was prompted to join the blogging community (albeit as a late bloomer) as a result of two events that occured in the last few days.

Firstly, a friend of mine has lost his oomph to blog, the result of his receiving a rather unfriendly "warning" from some "powers that be" that felt that he had somehow posted inappropriate content on his personal blog. This really ticked me off, because the "powers that be" actually aren't in any way connected to him; that is, he is in no way associated with, or employed by, these "powers." I'm still not sure why my friend felt compelled to respond by re-moving his blog. All I know is that a huge injustice has been committed and I feel the need to vent. The blogging world is at risk of losing a very talented writer and a very interesting fellow whose intelligent posts have raised the bar on what good blogging is all about.

Secondly, my computing class tonight featured a lecturer whose interest in blogging is only rivalled by my husband's interest in Transformers. She actually did her Master's degree on the dissemination of information, and one of her areas of focus was blogging. Anyway, she really opened my eyes to the possibilities that exist for incorporating the weblog into the classroom, and when I finally enter the gloriously underpaid, overworked profession of teaching, this is something I will want to do. I was really inspired to get myself familiarized with the medium now, rather than two years from now. (Incidentally, did you know that, compared to the previous year, in 2004 there was a 58% increase in the number of people who were blogging?)

So, here I am, using Blogspot, and getting acquainted with the interface. I think I'm really going to enjoy giving everyone a piece of my mind. Feel free to offer me a piece of yours, too!