Summer Reading Surprises

July 26, 2014

tennessee williams beachIt is such a lovely summer here in Pennsylvania. Jelly Bean and I are enjoying some long, lovely summer days.  Her favorite way to spend the day is lolling in the grass, playing in the lawn sprinklers. When evening comes, the fireflies mesmerize her.  Because of her chronic medical condition, we dedicate a lot of our playtime to these pursuits as well as lounging in the shade and reading.  There is nothing like relaxing in the garden with Jelly Bean and a good book.  My summer reading list is quite interesting, perhaps even eclectic, and a bit surprising. Read the rest of this entry »


Colours of the Prism

July 11, 2014

Rainbow coming out bookOne of the things that makes literature beautiful is its ability to bring out our multifaceted humanity. It functions like a prism that reflects the many colours of the rainbow when a beam of white light passes through it.

However, this ‘rainbow’ is not all about beauty; neither is it infallible. It has its vulnerabilities, the little pockmarks that blemish an otherwise beautiful face. And I think that it is not only at its most vulnerable, but also at its most interesting stage, when the intricacies of human relationships and of humanity surface.

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Staying productive over summer with ‘Understanding Research Methods’, a UoL MOOC on Coursera

July 4, 2014

Keep calm its summer timeIn an attempt to make the summer vacations productive, I got a chance to enroll for the Understanding Research Methods course offered by University of London via Coursera. In case you have not heard of it, Coursera is a very famous website that offers massive open online courses or MOOCs for short, from universities around the world. The world’s best courses are offered free all year round which include topics and subjects ranging from computing and information technology, health and medicine, to social sciences, development, and even music and film.

Being a global leader in distance learning and flexible study, the University of London also offers courses designed and taught by professors of its lead colleges and institutes through Coursera. Some of them include Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps, English Common Law: Structure and Principles, The Camera Never Lies, What future for education?, Enhance Your Career and Employability Skills, and more.

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Waiting….

June 15, 2014

 

Waiting is a challenging thing to do, as I am sure it is for all of us, especially when it is waiting for information we really want. To while away the hours, as the examiners are working hard reading essays and writing reports, Jelly Bean and I have embarked on a furniture rearranging strategy that touches every room in the house, and even reaches to outdoor living areas. For me, it is absolutely wonderful. Jelly Bean is a little more cautious about the process and the outcomes, just like me in exams. She keeps a careful eye on her toy box and favourite blankets while the rearranging is in progress.

This is the first summer in a long time that I do not have a course to prepare for the next semester. Not having to read for a new course leaves a lot of free time. Having so much free time makes the wait for results seem even longer. I have several great things planned for this summer, but the real sense of anticipation comes from wanting to get on with my next academic step. It is hard to think about anything else.

By all means rearrange the furniture, you know how that thrills me.Today, while shoving and tugging furniture from one room to another, I tried to think carefully and realistically about my results. I am anxious for the results not just because they show the effectiveness of my efforts, but because they will help me plan my next academic and professional steps. The need to delay making or executing a plan is quite frustrating to a Myers Briggs ETNJ like me. The furniture rearranging, along with several writing workshops, helps redirect my planning needs and tendencies, but I still cannot wait to apply to my next program.

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A Year of Literary Walk

June 4, 2014

Books give you a better perspectiveThis is my first entry in the blog; and I am supposed to say something about myself ― that should not be too difficult, right? Not quite!

Most people would generally think that students of English, by virtue of their studies, should be able to write about anything and everything. It, therefore, comes as no surprise when we get requests from friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours, neighbours’ friends, colleagues, etc (and the list goes on), who want us to write a letter to the Town Council, or draft a business proposal, or even edit a wedding speech, dash off an irate email to their children’s school complaining about the dirty toilets, and there is no imaginable end to such bizarre requests.

When I was, however, given the chance to write for the student blog, I confess, I was diffident about whether I was equal to the task. For the past two days, I have been ruminating on how I should begin: I have been anxious about how I should sound; what tone I should adopt. It is after all, my very first entry; I have been concerned about the first impression. I had a sneaking suspicion that it was the perfectionist at work again. (To all the perfectionists out there, take note that oftentimes, the flawless perfectionist is also the vile procrastinator in all of us.)

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The big takeaway to fit study into the busiest times

November 12, 2013

Picture of decaf espresso

Just because you’ve given up caffeine, does not mean you have to give up coffee!

A few months ago, I gave up caffeine. My addiction was come by honestly, as I remember nipping espresso from the unguarded cups of grown-ups since I was able to hold a cup.  Now that it’s time to ‘fall back’ in most of America, it occurred to me I have never faced a time change without caffeine to power through. I will save the humorous details of the week for another time and focus on how to get through the busiest time with study, work, and the coming holidays.

The end of daylight savings time marks the beginning of the holiday season, my busiest professional time of year, and a few weeks away from registering for exams.  Instead of gaining an hour of sleep on at least one night I seem to have lost two or more every night this last week. I started to wonder if, perhaps, holding onto my espresso until May, or at least January, might have been a better plan. I am coming to you a bit sleep deprived and without caffeine but quite contemplative and very realistic about getting it all done, and making sure there is time for effective study. Jelly Bean and I put our heads together, assessed our options, and came up with a plan.

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Inspired by Louisa May Alcott

November 5, 2013

Louisa May Alcott quote: ‘Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think anyone will deny us.’Do you recognize the butterflies in the stomach that come with realizing exam time will be here sooner than you think? Maybe it is really a cold panic. Instead of feeling like a far off five and a half months away, the month of May, darling buds and all, instead feels more like it is about five weeks away.  Moreover, exam registration time is a mere sixty days or so away.  Glancing between the growing stacks of books on my study desk and the mountain of work on the desk in my home office intensifies the feeling. There is positively no time for procrastination.  Here are some words of wisdom from an author I am reading this week, Louisa May Alcott: ‘Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think anyone will deny us.’

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Palate cleansing for the brain

October 29, 2013

Lemon and Lavender Intermezzo

A study ‘intermezzo’ could be just what you need to move from task to task

We do a lot of cooking and entertaining at our house, mainly because I just cannot help myself. Cooking is fun and relaxing for me and always has been.  I went to culinary school to help manage that particular problem, though the experience and all the years as a restaurateur only reinforced my habit.  There is a lot to learn from the daily challenge that comes with facing one hundred or so people all wanting something different to eat at just about the same time.  Let’s sum it up by saying it is an intense and quickly changing few hours that demand concentration. Besides the sybaritic pleasure intermezzos offer, you quickly learn to appreciate how a little intermezzo can go a long way for the chef as well as the diners.  Once a foodie always a foodie I think, so, for me, it is quite natural to think of my daily tasks in the metaphor of a multicourse meal.  As my responsibilities and academic work become more demanding, I started looking for an ‘intermezzo’ to help me move from task to task.

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Start Studying From Scratch With These Study Resources

October 21, 2013

308px-Ellen_Terry_as_Lady_Macbeth‘Screw your courage to the sticking place, and we’ll not fail’ might be the most famous piece of advice given to someone with chilly feet in the face of an overwhelming task. While Lady Macbeth might not be everyone’s first choice for a motivational speaker or life coach her famous line is a great rallying cry for digging into our studies, even if you are not an English major.

It is a little daunting to start our new courses from scratch. The big questions on everybody’s mind right now in our VLE and social forums are how to begin the study process, how to locate answers to the questions in the study guides’ learning outcomes, how to find the balance between working with primary and secondary texts, and how to apply critical theory to primary material we read. Studying at degree level is not as easy as looking up answers. We need some special skills to read and analyze the material we are studying and to begin developing our responses. While none of those big questions has a simple answer, for me, it comes down to focus on study methods and resources. We have to start where we are and make the most of our unique perspective, experience, and the tools at our command. Read the rest of this entry »


Creative Writing – Creative Studying

October 15, 2013

Does study sometimes become boring? It is a long process from the beginning of the term until exams. It sometimes feels like running a marathon. In both preparation and running the actual race we come face to face with the intellectual boredom of repetitive activity. Sometimes the intensity of the activity and sense of accomplishment will balance the need to just keep putting one foot in front of the other no matter how tired or distracted you feel. When I am feeling tired finding a refreshing way to effectively engage with so much material is very necessary.

To me an ‘effective’ studying means mastering targeted learning outcomes, using the material in flexible and articulate ways, and engaging in a way that helps me internalize content and remember it. After all, I must be at my command eight months from now. Those points can be stumpers individually or taken all together. A few weeks ago mustering my resources for a study session after a long day filled with other demands presented a challenge. I decided to apply creative writing techniques to study. My hope was to overcome the sense of exhaustion from a busy schedule and the tedium of habit in my day in and day out reading and research. Using creative writing exercises and techniques helped me remember details about authors and literary periods, work out arguments, and perform text analysis.

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