Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Plan for 2010

I looked at my intentions for 2009 to see how faithful I was.  I know most people make resolutions and don't keep them.  Amazingly, I adhered to most of my pledges.

I meditate almost every day for twenty to thirty minutes.  I use a couple of methods for my meditation.  I pop in Yoga Zone--Meditation and follow Alan Finger's instructions.  He has two foci to help facilitate meditation; alternative nostril breathing and chakra guided imagery.  I always feel refreshed and centered after completing my session with Finger.

Another meditation aid that I found was by Max Highstein.  He has a guided imagery selection for meditation and I downloaded Healing Waterfall.  It has a soothing female voice that leads the listener through a series of natural settings.  I highly recommend it if you need rejuvenation or are battling an illness.

As for my resolution to relax,  I have been entertaining myself more now that I have time off from school.  I wasn't always as faithful in taking breaks from homework.  My physics class took up a lot of my personal timeI did read a lot of books this fall.  My favorites were:  Sag Harbor:  A Novel,  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie,  Zeitoun, and  Juliet, Naked.

I was successful at reducing my portion sizes for meals.  By Michael purchasing luncheon plates and small bowls,  I did reach my goal weight.  It was tough learning not to snack between meals and cut out second helpings.  My typical meal consists of half a plate of vegetables with one quarter protein and one quarter starch.  If I am exceptionally hungry, I will take seconds on vegetables only.

I pledge to change the following behaviors for 2010:  continue the new behaviors I acquired in 2009,  read more to my children, and increase my volunteering at school or church.  I will let you know how those resolutions stick at the end of 2010.

I hope that your year has been fruitful and enjoyable.  I wish you peace, health and happiness for the new year.  May you aspire for change and be successful in 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Got a Second Life?

As the year 2009 draws to a close, I have a few passing thoughts for the International Year of Astronomy.  I am an astronomy devotee.  This year I found some really sophisticated toys to enhance the viewing of stars.

For iPod touch or iPhone users, I ardently encourage you to purchase the Star Walk application.  Vito Technology has done a wonderful job with the star viewer.  The App has a night viewing function (the screen turns black and red), time machine function, and a Digital Compass for the 3Gs phones.  I used this App continuously while taking Astronomy this past Spring.  Star Walk even sends photos of the day to your device, which are spectacular.

The next gadget I got this year was a Galileoscope.  Volunteers for the International Year of Astronomy have been packaging and sending these replica telescopes to stargazers around the world.  It is a $20 kit that has 20X to 50X refractor lenses similar to what Galileo used to view the surface of the moon.  After using this telescope one frigid night with Michael, the experience made me appreciate Galileo's feat.  We were unable to view Jupiter clearly but Galileo saw four of Jupiter's moons with this type of device.  If you are just the least bit curious, order one of these telescopes.

The last plaything that I found this year was actually an avatar (a digital alter ego).  I listen to Astronomy Cast on my way to and from school.   In of the podcasts, Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay mentioned Second Life.   They were talking about how to enhance knowledge of astronomy with the internet.  Second Life is a virtual world started in 2003 by Linden Lab.  Each user over 18 gets to create an avatar which represents a vision of him or herself.  I'll tell you, it is a time waster.  You can spend many hours perfecting everything from your physical features to your clothing.  However, if you like simulation games, you'll love Second Life.

How does this tie into astronomy?  Once a user designs his or her digital body, he or she can teleport.  There are slurl's (Second Life links) that aid in travel to locations within Second Life.  The International Year of Astronomy has locations on Explorer Island that share astronomy facts with the public.  It is a futuristic looking world (see photo at the top).

The well designed part of Explorer Island has avatars participating in real world launches and presentation at places like NASA or the Adler Planetarium.  This is way cool.  I hope to have more time to experience these events.

Well, I hope I opened your eyes and minds toward the final days of the International Year of Astronomy.    Now that the nights are clearer and full of stars, think about looking to the heavens.  If your night is not so clear, consider checking in with Explorer Island.  It might be time to get a Second Life.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let the Games Begin

Winter brings the gamer out in me.  I can't help it.  I love puzzles, strategy and competition.  I wanted to find new amusements to keep Michael and I busy these cold and winter nights.  A person can only watch so much television or read a certain number of books.  The mind needs a different type of stimulation every once in a while.  However, most of the games I have played in the past are old standbys like Scrabble, Monopoly and Uno.  It was time for an different diversion.

I currently have a subscription to Games magazine.  It's my favorite magazine because it includes crosswords, logic puzzles and most of all, game reviews.   Games has a year end evaluation of card, board and video entertainment.  Their reviews are a great source for finding new products from single player to party games.  I wanted to find a card game that I could play with Mike.

After browsing through the lists of card games, I found one that intrigued me.  It's a two-player game called Lost Cities.  The adventure game requires the players to start of expeditions through the rain forest, desert and mountains while looking for abandoned cities.  The challenge is that each player has a limited number of movements to make.  Each expedition must be made sequentially and any uncompleted explorations are penalized.  The player with the most points wins.  The game's strategy involves a balance between aggressive exploration and conservative expansion.  I admit, I haven't won against Michael yet.  He is a very good strategist.

Michael requested the game, Carcassonne, which I thought was because he is a Francophile.  I found out that the tile-laying, two-player game is engaging and I can win against him.  Carcassonne is based on the medieval city in France.  Players get the chance to build cities, roads, cloisters and farms.  The key to the game is that each person has a limited number of pawns to deploy.  The pawns represent thieves, monks, knights and farmers.  Each playing piece when positioned properly adds points to the developer.  Once all the tiles have been played,  each player's score it tallied.  The winner has the most points.  Winning the game does demand some luck but also requires foresight in how the land  can be developed.

The last card game I discovered was a fluke.  I was on the website ordering Lost Cities and Carcassonne.  I found a inexpensive card game, Solo for one dollar.  What a deal!  The only catch was that the cards were written in Scandinavian (hunh?).  They included instructions in English so I thought, 'what the hey!'  It was a fun, diverting card game.  Way better than the American pasttime, Uno.  Solo is based on the Crazy Eights format but has special action cards.  Along with the change direction and color cards is a swap hands or change all hands action card.  Plus, it's fun to remember what the cards mean since they are in Scandinavian.  Ben had the best time playing Solo with Michael and I.  I highly recommend it for your next family gathering.

I hope I have motivated you to consider playing with your loved ones tonight while it's cold and dark outside.  If you don't own a favorite card or board game, it might be time to look for one of the games I have listed.   Turn the TV off, close that book and let the games begin!