Tag Archives: learning

The Internet – Helpful or Overwhelming?

When I was in school we often had to do reports on one thing or another. Book reports were easy, you only needed the book. Others were more involved, requiring visits to the library, encyclopedias and other books on the given topic. One year I had to do a report on a state, I chose North Carolina. I remember having to call and request from the chamber of something or another and get information sent to me so that I could get the information needed for my report. It was a big deal, and once I received the information I remember pouring through looking for the things that were required for my report.

I’ve often thought how much easier it would be today. Today you just hop on your computer, type in a few keywords and poof! you have your report information. Since I started doing the around the world blog, I am finding that this is not really the case. It really is not all that easy because when you type in your keywords there is no telling how many pages are going to come up that are irrelevant to what you are looking for. In fact you receive so much more information, some of it false, than you could find in two or three local libraries. But still somewhere in all the links what you need does eventually show itself.

So I have decided that what I think is this, the internet is overwhelmingly helpful. It has what we need, we just have to learn to weed out the false and irrelevant and have a lot of patience. Not much different from my library days.

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Organized? Um, well…

Something that I really struggle with is being organized. Trying to find a way to do what I need to do and what I want to do is not easy. I would say it is like being on a balance beam or tight wire, but it is really more like trying to cross the grand canyon on a spider’s web. So what tools have I tried successfully? What has been a dismal failure? Or does it matter, am I just doomed to live in chaos?

Here’s what I think.

Tools:

My favorite and most successful tool is a list. Having a list to refer to helps to keep me focused, and the wonderful feeling of scratching off some dreaded task increases my energy and makes me want to scratch some more! One trick I use too is to make lists as specific as possible. I don’t “clean the kitchen”, I “rinse dishes, load dishwasher, run dishwasher, wipe down counters…” You get the idea I am sure. I find that I personally like my list on the computer. There is an up and a down to that strategy.  The upside is that I get to sit down for a minute, maybe take a very short break to reward myself. The downside is that the short break can easily become a long break. Right now I am using a program called Astrid. Any word processing program would do the job, but I want color and fun and a list that is interesting!

Next is a good calendar. I find that I do better with two. I have one, a white board type that I see regularly because it hangs on my bedroom door. I keep track of appointments, pay days, time spent in service, when and how much certain automatic drafts from my account are going to be. Then I just bought a book type calendar with each month spread across two pages. I keep that one on my dining room table. It combines the two, part list so I can see how busy I am on those days and then a place to put appointments, etc. So why three list/calendars? Out of sight, out of mind. This gives me three rooms that have something in front of me to say, “get crackin’ lady!” All I need now is one that is easy to use, chock full of features, pretty and will post to Facebook when I need to do something, but I guess you can’t have everything.

The last tool I have not done, but I think I am going to do it very soon. Studies show that goals that are written down are more likely to get accomplished. My list and my calendars are a form of this, but I think it might be nice to have a contract of sorts with myself. You may have heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals, I think that is what I want to try to add to my tool box.

I started out saying what has been dismal failures. I think it really is unfair to call anything a dismal failure because, well the truth being, I would have to own up to being the one that has failed. I try and try and still I just get overwhelmed or bored and just give up. So if you are struggling just don’t give up. Eventually we are both likely to find the right combination of tools to help us get organized!

 

 

 

Creativity

So, here is what I know, I love all things creative.  The more things I try, the more I love being creative.  I have, in general, been self taught in all that I have done:  painting, drawing, polymer clay, pastels, beading, writing, needlepoint, origami, scrap-booking.  And, most of the time, I have felt fairly confident in the things I have taught myself, but I also realize that in some facets of each of my arts I am lacking.  A Jack of all trades, Master of none kind of thing.

So yesterday I signed up for a creative writing course.  I think my writing is fairly good as it is, but my ability to build a story and then follow it through is lacking.  So maybe I’ll learn something.  The course is one of those correspondence courses, Stratford Career Institute.  The syllabus sounds thorough, at least for what I want to learn and so I am hopeful.  But nervous too.

Some results of my creative streak:

Pastel and Acrylic on Canvas; Acrylic and polymer clay on wood.
Wire, Bead and Polymer Clay Key Chain
Polymer Clay on Glass
Beaded Hair Combs

Contagion…

There is a contagion out there that I really think everyone needs to be aware of. It can be spread by physical or visual contact. Also audibly in the right circumstances. This “bug” is in fact so contagious that it can spread literally in seconds and has an immediate effect on the brain, altering levels of vital chemicals.  You may be thinking right about now, “Why haven’t I heard anything about this? What should I do?”  Well, here’s what I think. Since I am talking about the incredible smile and it’s ability to change your life and the life of others around you (even complete strangers) I say get infected! Smiling has real health benefits and is something we all need to catch more often. Aside from the purely external benefit of making us more attractive to others, smiling has been proven to increase neuropeptides which fight stress. Let’s face it, who here couldn’t use a little help fighting that? … Yep, as I thought, no one. We all face stress every day and we all could use a little pick me up. A smile might just be the pick me up you need. Also released when we smile are the neurotransmitters: dopamine, and serotonin, as well as endorphins.  So a little run down on the effects of these little chemical gems. Dopamine motivates us. It allows us to see rewards and then go for them.  Serotonin works as an anti-depressant and mood lifter.  You’ve probably heard the word if you have any experience with depression.  Endorphins, now there is a chemical for you.  They work at blocking pain (I’m all for that) and increasing mood (I’m all for that too). Other benefits of these chemicals being released in the brain are a decrease in blood pressure, lower heart rate, and increased relaxation. Sounds pretty wonderful doesn’t it? But how true is it? Well I know I have benefited from it many times. Lousy day? Put on a smile and sure enough I perk up. I used to work in customer service. Actually I used to work in very fast paced, demanding customer service. My co-workers often thought I was off my rocker. Why? Because I kept the biggest smile plastered on my face all day long. Truth be known I didn’t particularly care for my job, but as long as I kept smiling I still managed to have fun. I got through every day feeling pretty good. So I have a challenge for you. If you really want to know if it works decide right now to spend one whole day smiling at everyone, including yourself. Sure, life might knock you down a little through the day, but smile anyway. And then at the end of the day you be the judge. You decide if the smile isn’t the best little “virus” you could ever catch!

Art Appreciation

I just finished watching a video at Khan University that discussed art and context. As an artist myself I generally am trying to accomplish one or more of a few things.

copyright 2011 Kendall Stewart

First is to accurately portray some object while at the same time catching the mood of the object in a way a photograph might not.

Copyright 2012 Kendall Stewart

In some instances I am simply trying to create something that brings beauty to the fore.

Copyright 1996 Kendall Stewart

Sometimes my paintings are absolute accidents, but once an accident starts to please me I try to build onto it and again draw out the beauty that is visible, at least to me.

When it comes to appreciating art I am always happy to share with people how my art came to be, what I think of a piece, what I was trying to do, etc. However the thing that I want from those who look at my art is to first and foremost determine how the piece makes them feel. The examples that were discussed in the video were Monet’s Cliff Walk at Pourville and Malevich’s White on White. In Monet’s piece it is easy to look at the piece and come to personal conclusions about what the painting represents, how it makes you feel personally, what you like or dislike about the painting. In the instance of Malevich’s painting it is much more difficult to come to those conclusions by just looking at it. Though you may easily decide if you like the piece, getting a feeling from it may be more difficult. So this is an instance where after looking at it, making some initial personal judgments, it is nice to get the history of the painting and the artist’s view on what it was they wanted to accomplish. Something that I would originally of viewed as, “Well I could do that!”, now offers more to think about. So here’s what I think:  while I still stand by the belief that foremost in appreciating art is how the work makes the viewer feel, it is obvious that we can grow in our estimation of a piece by learning what the artist felt and thought and experienced at the time of their work.

Khan Academy on the Diane Rehm Show

I was on the way home from the doctor’s office today and caught most of the second half of The Diane Rehm Show on NPR and I am so glad I did! As her guest she had Salman Khan who is the man behind The Khan Academy. I had never heard of it until today but by the time I got home I couldn’t wait to get home and visit it. Basically the Academy, found at khanacademy.org, is a free educational site crammed pack full of short lectures in a variety of subjects. There seems to be no limit to the people who may find this site of use. Subjects of learning include math, computer science, history, art history, finance and economics and they hope to continue to expand. So I visited the site and decided I would watch one video just to get an idea and share it here. I watched a short video, in this case more of a slide show with voice overs discussing why look at art. After watching the video I found questions submitted by people who had viewed the “lecture” followed by room to comment yourself. Also you can ask a question for discussion if you chose. In just a few minutes, probably less than 15, I had an opportunity to think about and join in on a discussion of the value of art.  I loved it! Next I want to work on my math skills…and science…ooh and more art…and history! If you’d like to listen to the interview of the founder, which I found fascinating, you can find it here: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2012-10-03/salman-khan-one-world-schoolhouse-education-reimagined . Anyhow, that’s what I think for today!