Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fun Website # 4576


I found a fun website today while I was looking for ways to make interesting scripture mastery clues for seminary. It's a license plate generator; you can choose a state and plate design, and then you can customize it with your own words. In this case, I'm putting in scripture keywords and then putting them on a worksheet for the students to do at home. But I'm sure there a million and one other uses for a fun website like this. Use them to customize your e-mails or websites, delight your children with customized license plate images from their own states, use them to make states-and-capitals worksheets...

The site is http://license.plates.txt2pic.com/ . Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kiss Your Brain!


I spent most of today helping students in kindergarten and first grade. While those little darlings were busily trying to learn how to write 2's correctly (and it can be pretty tough if you've never done it before), I learned a new phrase from the teacher. When they'd done a good job, she told them, "Kiss your brain!"

Now I don't know about you, but I don't think my lips will stretch up that far. Still, you can complete the image just fine by kissing your fingers and then touching your forehead.

So, everyone out there who's done a good job today, whether you've learned to write 2's, or written 3000 (or 500) words today, or managed to prevent kindergarteners from rioting on the playground, or designed a supercomputer and negotiated a pay raise with your boss, way to go! And go kiss your brain! It's been working hard and it deserves it!

And so do you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Making Progress



If you scroll down my sidebar a ways, you'll see my "stats" for a Book-in-a-Month I'm participating in. (See Tristi Pinkston's blog for details, this particular BIAM is her baby. And she's doing a great job, by the way.) The idea behind a BIAM is that the participants set aside some time every day for writing, and they write as much as they can without going back to edit. This is key; for a lot of writers, that internal editor will keep them from ever finishing anything because they keep going back and changing what they've written. After you've finished your book and your story has sufficiently evolved, you can go back and fix things.

During the BIAM, participants are held accountable for what they produce. Every day, they report back to the others how many words they've written. They might discuss their writing adventures and cheer each other on. And the BIAM ringleader (in this case, Tristi Pinkston) often shares words of motivation to keep people going.

Now, to be honest, I've participated in BIAM's before. And I really like the original idea behind them, where you actually begin and complete a whole book in a month's time. (See the NaNoWriMo site for more information on this adventure.) That requires a lot of writing, as well as time-juggling if you're not used to putting in that many hours at the keyboard. If you write 3000 words a day for 30 days, you'll have a 90,000 word book to show for it at the end. Pretty cool, huh?

But if it takes you half an hour to write 500 words, it's gonna take you six hours a day to write 3000 words. That's nearly the equivalent of the time spent on a full-time job. For many people, setting that kind of goal isn't practical. Much as we'd love to churn out a whole book that quickly, many of us don't have that kind of time. And besides, many of us can't think of that much to say in one sitting.

Well, back to my point. In the past, I've set higher word-count goals for myself. I've wanted to approach that finishing-a-book-in-a-month thing, and I've set higher word count goals than perhaps I should have. And I've also ended up missing many days because I simply couldn't spend the time writing that much.

So this time I've set what I consider to be a modest goal: 500 words a day. And it's amazing how much easier it's been to stick with it this time. Sure, I'm not going to have 90,000 words written by the end of the month. But check my stats--so far I have over 6000 words written and the number's only going higher. It's progress!

You can apply this lesson to your own lives in terms of realistic goal setting, sticking with things,
or whatever else you can dream up. As for me, put a star on my forehead because I'm actually moving forward! Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Typhoons vs. Hurricanes

No, it's not a football match-up. But in light of the typhoon that is currently pummeling China, the question has come up: What's the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane?

The basic answer is, they're the same kind of storm. The difference is that hurricanes occur in the Atlantic and the north Pacific east of the International Date Line. Typhoons occur in the north Pacific west of the Date Line. That's why we're always getting hurricanes in North America, but in China they're getting a typhoon. But it's the same principle. If you know what a hurricane is like, you can picture what's going on in China now. Let's hope and pray that all goes well for them.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Visiting Teaching Message: Unity

"Unity" is one of those words we throw around without perhaps fully registering its true meaning. We know we need to be unified in our homes, in our families, in our wards, and in our places of employment. Our governments need to be unified in order to accomplish anything. We need to be unified, "of one heart and one mind," in order to build the city of Zion.

And on it goes. Families, couples, and organizations that aren't unified can quickly find themselves in trouble. One vivid example comes from Bill Nye the Science Guy. In one of the episodes of his TV show, he showed a two-headed snake. Yeah, they're pretty rare, but he managed to come up with a film of one. The background sound featured some tiny voices saying, "I wanna go this way!" "No, I wanna go this way!" "No, this way!"

Bill Nye's objective wasn't to teach viewers the importance of unity, but the example of the two-headed snake still works pretty well. With two heads controlling it, and each trying to take it in different directions, the poor snake couldn't make any progress anywhere. The same happens in our families, our wards, and in our governments. When people in a group are not united, and they're each pulling in different directions, the net result is that the group stays still...or falls apart.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have to admit that sometimes I hear the admonition to be as one, and I start thinking, "Yeah, unity's very important. Everyone else should figure that out and come support my agenda so we can be unified!" Understanding the importance of unity doesn't get us very far unless we are willing to truly live the principle. And that means being willing to bend our own wills and work together towards righteous goals--not necessarily our personal agendas.

(Let's hope my husband doesn't read this post, or he's going to think I'm going to try listening to him more, or something...;-)

This month's visiting teaching message can be found at http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,2044-1-4227-1,00.html

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Marvelous James Dashner


I first heard about the Jimmy Fincher series by James Dashner a couple of years ago, about the time my book came out. I knew it was by an LDS author, and published by an LDS publisher, but the books weren't specifically LDS. I didn't know much else about them, except that kids liked them and some of my fellow authors thought they were really great.

So I bought the first book at our local LDS bookstore, and read the first chapter or so. It seemed to be some kind of scary dangerous fantasy adventure story. Except the tone of the narrator was so engaging lighthearted that as you read, you were tempted to both laugh and scream at the same time. It seemed like it might have possibilities.

My fourth-grader son liked fantasy-type stories, except for the fact that he refused to actually read any. I don't remember specifically what I did to get him to read this one, but I do remember he flat-out refused. He would not, would not, WOULD NOT read this book or any other book. But somehow he ended up seated on the couch, glaring, and reading the dreaded thing. A timer was set, and Junior had to read for half an hour before he was allowed to put the book down and leave the couch.

Two hours later, he was still reading.

Now, I could tell you how a few days later he was begging for all the books in the series (and they weren't all out at that point, so that was tough to deliver). I could tell you about how we then had to read them all aloud together at bedtime. I could tell you about how the stories kept us simultaneously on the edge of our seats and on the brink of giggles, and how Dashner's imagination thrust us into all kinds of wild and seemingly impossible situations, and how his characters never once had things made easy on them.

But I think my son's reaction speaks for itself. And I expect that Dashner's new series, The 13th Reality, which debuts in the spring, will be at least as thrilling and exciting and charming as the Jimmy Fincher series. If not more so.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

If We Could Talk to the Animals...

I'm always fascinated with stories of animals who learn to communicate with humans. There are apes who speak sign language (such as the famous Koko and her kitten All Ball) . Parrots are fun because they actually learn to mimic human language. News was just released regarding the early death of one parrot who could identify fifty objects, said "I love you," and could even express his frustration when the research on him became too repetitive.

There is some disagreement over how much these animals are really communicating the thoughts of their hearts, and how much they are simply performing to please the humans.

Still, I wonder what my dog would say if he could speak. He'd probably talk of food and chasing rabbits and squirrels all day long. Maybe it's just as well that he can't.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Tragic Mistake


A story has been in the news lately about an Ohio woman who forgot her two-year old was asleep in the back of her car, and left her in there as she went to work. Here's a link to one of the more recent updates to their story. You can read earlier chapters in the saga through links on this page:

http://www.wlwt.com/news/14040944/detail.html

There's also a haunting video of the mother's grief that was broadcast on NBC Nightly News last night, and the Today show this morning. To view this, go to www.msnbc.com and scroll down to "Videos." You'll have to do this fast, though; this location will likely change. But the title of it is "Ohio Mom: I Want to Die."

Even if you aren't able to see the video here, the title should give you some indication of how the mom feels. Let's face it--how would any of us feel if a dumb mistake on our part caused injury or death to another person? Particularly our own child?

Sometimes dumb mistakes have small consequences--paper cuts, for example. Or spilled milk. Sometimes things happen that we didn't want to happen, but they are easily taken care of and forgotten.

And other times dumb mistakes have disastrous consequences. We're all capable of making dumb mistakes. In fact, we all make them. Period. Some of us just have the dubious distinction of creating consequences that make national headlines.

I really feel sorry for this mom. We all know we're not supposed to, but it is so, so, easy to leave those kids alone for a minute while we attend to other responsibilities. And (we hate to admit this part) our other responsibilities often run much more smoothly when we don't have a kid in tow. This could have happened to any of us.

This particular mom was an assistant principal at an elementary school. She had a million things on her plate, and left home early that morning to run some errands. Her daughter fell asleep in her car seat, and Mom left her there as she bought doughnuts for the teachers and then went to school to drop them off for a faculty meeting. Exactly what happened next is not clear from the news stories, but one can assume that she was bombarded with work responsibilities once she walked into the door at school. And, at some point, the mental note that she'd made to herself that her daughter was in the car and she needed to take her to the babysitter just disappeared.

And yet...how often do we ignore our kids, our spouses, or other important people in our lives "just for a minute" while we attend to other responsibilities or pastimes, only to have that "minute" away grow longer and longer?

Read some of the other news releases regarding this incident, and you'll see that this was not the first time this mom had left her daughter unattended in the car. There was another occasion reported only a couple of days earlier, and just how many other times she'd done it is something only she knows. (And God, too, of course...) How many times do we do things we know we shouldn't, but when they work out okay we do them again?

This family's heartwrenching story serves as a chilling reminder for all of us. Yes, sometimes doing things we shouldn't still works out okay, or at least seems to. And sometimes there are disastrous consequences.

...And the Latest on Harry Potter

Well, we finished it. A long time ago. We downed the book in a series of late-night reading sessions. I was reading aloud to everyone else, and when I became so sleepy that my speech slurred and I was reading other words besides those on the page, it was time to sleep.

The book was great. I wasn't sure how Rowling would pull off the ending to the whole series; it had to be something really good that would make sense within the world she had created, without alienating all the readers. I think she did a fabulous job.

And, of course, the memories of those late-night reading sessions together are priceless. If only there were more to the series.

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