Substitute Topics

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This may be my last post for a while…at least until I get a working computer at home. Before I can do that, though I need to find a part time job. Why part time? The rest of the time this summer is going to be taken up by my internship.

You’d think that I’d have a really awesome topic ready for this post, since it may be the last one I get to post for a while. Unfortunately, while several ideas came to me between waking up this morning and arriving at the school computer lab, none of them seem to have stuck around. I’m left with a brief roster check. If you’re looking for a substantive post, this may not be it. On the other hand, you never know when substance will come out of chaos.

School. This is finals week. I had the first half of one of my finals last week (and it took the class an average of 2 hours 15 minutes to finish it). The second half of that final is on Thursday. I also have three other finals and three practicals to survive. Grueling, yes. Difficult? Could be harder, not that I’m complaining. If I approach it just as I approach other challenges, it could even be kind of fun.

I just received an email from one of my instructors concerning the internship. I need to have CPR/First Aid certification cards. My cards were in the car that got totaled. I need to have them within two weeks. Quickest way to get the new cards is to just take the course again. Fortunately it’s not that much more expensive to just get recertified. Did I mention I got certified in February? Oh well.

Social. A week after school ends, a bunch of us are going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at one of the theaters here in town. Why? Because we need to have fun as a group outside of school. I’m really looking forward to it. They’ll get to see a side of me most of them never dreamed existed. I hope I don’t shock some of my class mates TOO badly. (Though a little shock will be a good thing.)

Other than that, I’m not looking forward to the last class day of social dance. There are a few people there I’d like to keep up with, but I doubt it’ll happen. Why? Because I have very little to connect with them over. We might see each other in dance halls or something, but I doubt for anything substantive beyond that.

I find it ironic that it took until last week (i.e. the penultimate class) in my conditioning class for one of the other participants to come out of her shell. We actually seem to have much in common, at least in terms of interests. I guess we’ll have to meet outside of class. (Oh, darn.) I anticipate friendship, possibly a very close friendship, but little else. Her plans include an advanced degree in international law and becoming a negotiator. Although I enjoy traveling, my own career requires me to stay put (unless I end up as personal trainer to an ambassador or something). I’d probably feel like I was holding her back. So. Friends it is.

Work. As I mentioned earlier, I need to find a part time job. Are there part-time jobs available? Yes. Unfortunately, most of them seem to be flipping burgers. Ideally I’d like to be in the fitness industry (No. GNC doesn’t count.), but my options are dwindling rapidly. I tried at a few places last week, but they’d just finished a hiring cycle. Oh well. The search goes on.

Dreams. Believe what you want about dreams: random firings of the brain, “someone” trying to tell you “something”, or your mind working things out, I’ve had a couple dreams recently that make it difficult not to draw connections. The first could easily have been a nightmare. It involved a series of tidal waves, or possibly an invading army. Most of the people around me were running around screaming. The difference between this dream and nightmare was instead of fear being the dominant emotion, I was excited. I spent most of the dream dragging a group of four or five people around, trying to convince them this could be fun. The other one involved some random woman at a theater snuggling up to me for no apparent reason. (Yes, guys, that’s as far as it went.)

I hope to be able to continue blogging regularly, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the access necessary to do it on a schedule. I may take to putting my blogs in a notebook, then transcribing them as I have the opportunity. Goodness knows I keep a notebook handy for my stories (short or otherwise). Maybe I’ll grab one of those multi-subject notebooks and reserve one section for blogs. In any case, if you don’t hear from me for a while, never fear, I haven’t forgotten and will get back at some point. Until then, be safe, be well, and enjoy life as much as you can.

Reductio ad Absurdum: A Stress Relief Tool

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Two weeks left, a brief respite, then my internship begins. I’m looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it is not a paid internship, so I have to also find a part time job. I’d like to find one in my industry, but I’m not sure that’s a viable alternative at this point. I’ll have to do some searching…in between classes, labs, studying, car issues, etc. First, though, I need to find my way through four tests and three practicals. Here’s the rundown:

Physiology: Test on kidneys (including acid/base homeostasis), digestion, endocrine, and reproductive. Cumulative lab exam on everything from membrane physiology through reproductive systems.

Performance Enhancement for Athletics: This is the NSCA class. We only have 1 test, and it’s cumulative. The lab exam is also cumulative, though not comprehensive. First is video and picture analysis. Then we randomly draw exercises, have about a minute to set them up before the test subject comes in. We then explain, demonstrate, cue, and correct the subject.

Program Theory and Instructional Design: This is the ACSM class. We have one more non-cumulative test. The lab practical involves doing a series of assessments on a friend we bring in.

Dance: Yes. Apparently dance has a final exam. Technically there’s also a practical, but it’s more of a review. Given this is only a 1 hour credit course, I’m not worrying about it too much.

Oh, and we have final assessments for our faculty clients this week.

Why did I list all this out? It’s one of my “get a grip” tools. By listing what I have to do, I make it easier to figure out how to go about doing it. It’s more than defining hoops to jump through. Not only do I have the hoops defined, I also have clues as to the best approach for each hoop. For instance, the physiology test is probably the most involved; however, the lowest grade I’ve made in that class thus far is in the mid-90s. I have a very significant buffer. The NSCA class, however, has had no tests thus far. Thus this one exam carries more weight than any exam in any other class. That’s my priority. I’ll review and talk with my physiology lab- and classmates, but I’ll spend most of my time getting ready for the NSCA class.

The ACSM class, though in my area of study, has had a couple of tests and several quizzes. Based on my previous history, I’ll spend a little extra time preparing for the assessments in lab, but the test probably won’t be that much trouble. Certainly the dance class won’t get much of my attention. The majority of the grade comes from participation. The test goes over time signatures, cadences, styles, terminology, etc. Given my attendance and participation, even if I make a 0 on the test, I’ll still pass the class with a 75. I’ll do a skim-through but not really worry about it after that.

I’m not saying that none of these tests will be challenging. On the contrary, I know that at least two of them will be VERY challenging. All I’m saying is that with this list and this approach outlined, I now have a reasonable hope of putting my study time in the areas that are of most use to me. Explicitly stated, the order of my efforts are: NSCA, physiology, ACSM, dance. Having determined this, my stress levels are now well within manageable limits. In fact, if I help some of my classmates, I’ll not only be making sure I’ve learned the material, but I’ll be sure I can explain it in multiple ways. When I can explain something in multiple ways, I cease to have doubts about whether I actually know the material.

Topic Shotgun!

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The semester is coming to an end. I know this, not because of the date, but because of all the projects that are coming due. I find myself a little melancholy at the prospect of the semester ending. With the exception of one class, which I thought was badly planned and badly executed, I’ve truly enjoyed my classes. However, it is time to think about the summer. This summer, I have an internship. There are two possible sites. I had an interview at one of them this morning. It looks like a great place, but I know I need to keep an open mind. I also need a part time job. Hmmm. Too bad I’m not allowed to combine the two.

I have four tests coming up, plus 3 lab practicals. Fortunately, the class I don’t particularly like has no final. Is it strange that I’m looking forward to the tests and practicals? Most of the other students don’t seem to share the attitude, so I try to keep it to myself.

While waiting for my interview this morning, I started a quasi-stream of consciousness piece. Depending on the quality of the final piece, I may post it here, or I may even try to send it in…somewhere. Not sure what genre it will be. So far it looks promising, but I may just be hyped up for the interview. At this point, it is first person narrative, so I’ll post a “this post is fiction” notice if I post it here.

Speaking of writing, I’ve come to the realization that my writing, specifically my fiction writing, is fairly minimalist in terms of descriptions of the environments. Obviously, since I’ve recently realized it, it’s been an unconscious decision. Now I wonder if I need to do two passes in order to come up with a first draft: one to write the story, and a second to fill in the description. Or should I make a conscious decision to leave things minimal. I think of van Gough using only three lines to draw a cat (I think it was van Gough). It’s possible that having the reader fill in details from their own memories and experiences, it’ll make them more invested in the story. “Here I am. In a hospital bed. No idea of how I got here.” Another way of doing it is description by effect on the character. “She had the kind of beauty that made me think of Kali: mother and destroyer.” Any ideas?

Slipping into Banality

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I sometimes wonder about me. I’m overloaded in school. I have little to no time outside of school because I’m preparing for school. And what do I do? I download and listen to lecture series on my commute that have nothing to do with what I’m learning in school. This semester, I’m drowning in physiology, struggling to keep up in performance enhancement, and relying almost completely on recall from class in program design. So I grab lecture series on Chaucer, the history of the English language, and reclaiming Europe’s lost literary tradition. I listen to these while traveling from one campus to another.

Why do I do this? I don’t know. Maybe I’m addicted to learning. I know that some of my other recent choice in audiobooks are: Slights of Mind (a book on the neuroscience of perception and stage magic), Freakonomics (a book which uses the statistical and analysis tools of economics on non-traditional subjects), and The Invisible Gorilla (a book which explores our often mistaken assumptions on how we perceive and recall the world around us).

Somebody described my activities to me as “creating a bigger net”. The analogy is the bigger the net, the easier it is to catch fish. Unfortunately, I may be heading towards an information overload. I fully expect, at some point this semester, to be found curled up in the corner of the library, giggling, and saying, “Here fishy, fishy, fishy.”

Blogging Will Recommence!

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Now that school has started, I have consistent access to a computer and the internet. Blogging will recommence.

This semester looks a bit tough: lots of labs, research, etc. In an attempt to consolidate time and effort, I will probably use my “Maunderings” blog as a study session. Looking ahead at possible topic categories in physiology, exercise program design, exercise prescription, and fitness in general, plus my usual potpourri of topics.

Despite the challenging course I’ve plotted, I’m looking forward to the semester. My high school self would be shocked to hear me say this, but I really enjoy school. I love learning. I love making connections. It’s a wonderful world of mental Legos. I can build random constructs that look beautiful but fall apart at a tap. I can build strong frameworks on which I can base entire libraries of ideas. I can build modules that themselves become building blocks for other structures. It’s an infinite Louvre of possibilities, of art, of design, of growth, of hope.

UIL Basics

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For those who are new to the UIL system of judging and ranking, here’s a brief primer. The University Interscholastic League (UIL) is an organization whose purpose is to pit middle and high schools in Texas against each other in various arenas, ranging from sports to academics to fine arts. Each type of event has its own methods of judging. For fine arts (band, choir, theater, etc.) there is a panel of three judges. For the group music contests (as opposed to Solo & Ensemble) there is a concert component and a sight reading component (sometimes called “sight singing” for choirs). Each component has three judges.

The concert component consists of three rehearsed pieces, selected by the director of that particular group. One of the pieces must demonstrate the players’/singers’ control, and is usually a slow piece. One piece must demonstrate the group’s technical ability, and is usually fast. The third piece must demonstrate a style of music not yet demonstrated. For example, a choir may sing “The Old Carrion Crow” by Goetze (a piece with varying tempi and requiring very precise diction), “Widmung” by Schumann (a piece requiring precise and extended breath control), and “How Beautiful is Night” by Eddleman (an a capella piece, i.e. no instrumental backing). The judges make notes to provide feedback on the individual pieces and grade the performance as a whole. The grades range from 1 to 5 with 1 being the highest rating.

The sight reading component consists of being given music none of the students or their director have seen. The rules include: no singing/playing while looking through it, no talking (except for the director), and the director only has five minutes to review the piece and give instructions to the musicians. At time, the director is no longer allowed to talk, and the group sings or plays the music for the first and only time. For those without a music background, this is roughly akin to being handed a script, given five minutes of instruction from the director, and being expected to read it perfectly with voice inflections, rhythms, and appropriate foreign or regional accents. The three judges grade the results on a 1 to 5 scale as in the concert component.

Why is all this important? Aside from (hopefully) providing a boost to the director’s tenure (depending on results), new programs begin at sub-non-varsity. If the pieces are sufficiently difficult and every judge in both components awards them a 1 rating (called “sweepstakes”), that school’s program may choose to become classified in the next higher level (up to varsity). As the music program rises, the music becomes more difficult, but the musicians’ technical skills are also much better.

Keep in mind, this is a VERY brief overview of UIL. There are nuances and rules and opportunities I haven’t gone into. I’m sure I’ve probably got a couple details wrong as is, but the general idea is true.