Dixie Darr

Archive for January, 2007|Monthly archive page

In Learning on January 31, 2007 at 12:22 pm

Constant Learning in Action

“Learning a little every day soon puts you far behind whoever’s learning a lot every day.” Ashleigh Brilliant

It’s snowing again, for the SEVENTH week in a row, and the high temperature today will be 20˚. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we are all sick of this nasty weather, yet we are becoming strangely acclimated. The cold and snow don’t keep us from doing what we want to do.

Yesterday, which was cold but sunny, I had my final birthday lunch of the year. My birthday was three weeks ago, but this was the first time my friend Sheila and I had been able to get together. We met at a Thai restaurant in south central Denver, and she gave me a bookstore gift card—a GREAT gift for a book junkie like me.

Last night I started teaching a writing class at the university. One of my students, Martin Kaufman, owns OrthoPets, a company that manufactures custom orthotic and prosthetic devices for pets. It’s been several months since I last had Martin in class and in that time he has moved the business out of his garage and hired his first employees. He used his UOP classes in a very smart way. In almost every class, he used his growing business as the subject of his class projects, learning how to apply his new knowledge directly to his business. Improving his writing skills will help him to write clear emails to his customers in other parts of the world.

Although he graduates next month, I’m sure he will continue to learn and grow throughout his life. For some people, lifelong learning is more than a nice concept; it’s a way of life.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity on January 30, 2007 at 7:51 am

Taking it to the Streets

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

After an unheard of six straight weeks of snow and cold weather, the news this morning features a man in East Denver who took matters into his own hands. Armed with an ice pick, he started breaking up and clearing his street of the thick ice that remains on all the residential streets in Denver. Neighbors followed his lead and soon they had clean pavement again.

The moral of this story—that we can’t rely on someone else to take care of everything, even (or especially) when that someone else is the government. My friend, Chris, sent the following message and link about a group of citizens who undertook a rescue that official agencies were unable to complete:

“You may have heard about the herd of horses that were trapped for 3 days on a tiny piece of land in wind and rain in the Netherlands a short while ago? They were trapped on a small piece of land, surrounded by water. Their natural instincts kept them from swimming to solid land, from their tiny perch. There were about 100 horses huddled together against the wind and water. The Nation was mesmerized watching this drama as 18 of the horses perished, while others were slowly weakening.
First the fire department, then the Dutch army, tried to rescue them – both efforts were unsuccessful. Then, with a break in the weather, the water level went down and four women hatched a plan to attempt a rescue by luring the horses into the water.
Here’s a video of the successful rescue. I was very touched as I watched the video of these magnificent animals being saved. I hope you enjoy this uplifting video.”

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, work on January 29, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

“I used to run with the wolves. Now I nap with the cats” saying on a button

Next to reading, napping is my favorite activity. That sentence should read that napping is my favorite inactivity. Whatever. I like to take naps and working at home allows me to do that whenever I want to. I nap in my recliner, on my bed and in an Adirondack chair on my patio, where on nice days I read in the sunshine after lunch. Science tells us that our natural biorhythms dip in the early afternoon, and anyone who has ever had to attend a meeting or class at 1 p.m. can corroborate the research.

Many famous people have been nappers, including John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison, Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Gene Autry.

A new book, Take a Nap! Change Your Life by Dr. Sara C. Mednick claims that a short nap can boost your productivity by 34 percent. According to Dr. Mednick, a complete sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. Therefore, the benefit derived from napping depends on how long you sleep. Twenty minutes takes you to Stage 2 sleep, which increases alertness and motor skills. Forty minutes, results in slow wave sleep, which improves memory. Sleep for a whole 90-minute cycle, and you will experience deep sleep and increase your creativity.

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2000 Poll, 67% of Americans are sleep-deprived. Sleeping too little can cause irritability, memory loss, depression, weight gain and even diabetes.

The lesson is simple. Stop reading and go take a nap. You’ll thank me for it later.
©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Learning, work on January 24, 2007 at 10:32 am

Honest Business: An Oxymoron?

The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.Socrates

I once had a business student plagiarize a paper about ethics. Think about it. When I confronted him, his excuse was, “I didn’t know what ethics was.” I thought that was pretty obvious. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised to read that MBA students were the most likely of all graduate students to cheat in class. The survey, conducted by the Academy of Management Learning & Education found that 56 percent of graduate business school students cheated last year, compared to a mere (?) 47 percent of other graduate school students. These are our leaders of tomorrow.

The result of this lack of integrity and, in some cases, common sense is apparent in the recent list of 101 Dumbest Moments from Business compiled by Business 2.0 magazine. My personal favorite is #11, the Starbucks email coupon fiasco.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity on January 23, 2007 at 12:43 pm

Creative Toolkit

“While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die — whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness.” Gilda Radner

I’m not a traveler. I’d rather read a book about a place than actually go there. I like to take care of my cats, sleep in my own bed and have my things around me, all things that are not possible (unless you’re in a motor home) when traveling.

It is odd, therefore, that an ebook called a Creative Toolkit for Travelers caught my eye. Written and sold by Cynthia Morris, a writing and creativity coach based in Boulder, CO. I’ve subscribed to her newsletter for several years and enjoyed her book, Create Your Writer’s Life, which is a visual delight as well as a source of information and inspiration. I figured I could benefit from using her tools for travelers right here in Denver as I wander the city.

The ebook didn’t disappoint me. The first tool I want to use is a postcards, in fact dozens of postcards. These days of email overload, everybody I know is thrilled to get an actual physical letter or card in the mail. You can make your own cards or use commercial cards.

Another tool she recommends is the Moleskin Japanese Accordion book. You can buy one for $9.95 at Amazon, but I think I’ll make my own. It’s all part of the creative process.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Learning on January 22, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Discovering Fun

“All I want to do is have some fun. I’ve got a feeling I’m not the only one.” Sheryl Crow

Stumbleupon.com is the best website I’ve run across in years. I learned about it at Barbara Sher’s message board for scanners. Scanners are people (like moi) who have too many interests to focus on just one. This website adds a tool to your browser. You enter a list of your interests, and when you click the button, it takes you to a website based on one of your interests. I just started using it over the weekend (our fifth weekend of snow and cold weather) and I’ve found sites of funny cat pictures, a site that recommends new books based on previous books I’ve liked and an online MP3 player. Very cool.

When I first started surfing the internet, I could spend hours exploring websites. Lately, though, I seem to go to the same old places day after day. StumbleUpon takes me back to the good old days when the internet was a source of constant wonder and entertainment. Great stuff.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, self-employment on January 19, 2007 at 9:13 am

A Little Help from my Friends

1. Be discoverers. 2. Be ready helpers. 3. Be friend makers.

The Brownie “B’s” (Girl Scouts)

I’ve been trying to get together with my friends Kathy and Jane for over a month, and the crappy weather or our weird schedules have kept us from meeting. Until yesterday. The sun was shining on the snow-covered mountains as I drove northwest to the Mimi’s Café at Flat Irons mall. I look forward to these meetings because they are always fun, the food is good and we swap information and ideas for our various businesses. Kathy is a trainer in conflict management and juggler; Jane is a software engineer and filmmaker; I’m a writer and teacher.

In addition to my buttermilk spice muffin, I got an idea from Jane for my next newspaper column. She was showing a short film last night at the Bug Theater Emerging Filmmakers Project and suggested that, since it is in my neighborhood, I could write about that. Great idea, Jane. I hope your viewing went well last night. Kathy was feeling overwhelmed by her book project and had realized that it would help to start at the end goal and work backwards. Jane and I told her about Barbara Sher’s backward planning flowchart from the book, Refuse to Choose. I made sure Jane knew about the new reality show, On the Lot, for filmmakers, created by Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg.

We left fortified by the friendship and inspiration and looking forward to our next time together.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, work on January 18, 2007 at 9:46 am

Fun With Work and Learning

“By being flexible, open, creative, and downright audacious, you may find that life has more to offer than you ever dreamed.” Susan Sully The Late Bloomer’s Guide to Success at Any Age

I just finished teaching my best class in a long time. This was the first time I had taught cultural diversity and I was dreading it for two reasons:

1. It is always a lot of work to prepare for and teach a new class, and this one straddled the Christmas season which added more stress.

2. I had talked to another teacher, whom I greatly admire, about the class and she warned me that it wasn’t a very good one.

I admit that it wasn’t much fun at first, but I had a remarkable group of students who pushed me to be creative. I dreamed up some classroom activities that everybody enjoyed and changed their final project from the typical paper and presentation into a game they would design and demonstrate to the class. We even had a potluck in the last class where everybody brought food from their culture. They brought tamales, homemade pizza, lefsa, and a wonderful Chinese stuffed chicken dish. For dessert we had a Black Forest torte, homemade macadamia nut ice cream (from a Hawaiian woman), chocolate chip cookies and a Puerto Rican ice treat.

The games they designed were patterned after Family Feud, Jeopardy, 1 vs. 100 and Go Fish. They were all fun learning experiences and provided me with great resources for the next time I teach this class.

I learned as much from my students as they did from me, and that’s what makes teaching a fun job. We all contributed something. The students pushed me by telling me when they thought something was boring, and I was flexible enough to change directions mid-stream. A good time was had by all.

When you do anything for as long as I have been teaching (20+ years) things can get stale and you need to shake it up a little. This class reminded me that my work is a creative outlet, not just a way to pay the bills. We should all be so lucky.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In work on January 17, 2007 at 7:17 am

Organization Woman

“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.”

Immanuel Kant

I switched to a computer calendar several years ago and it works great. The recurring appointment feature makes it very easy to schedule my classes and other regular activities, and the reminder feature comes in very handy. I don’t have to carry a big clunky paper calendar around with me, which lightens my purse or briefcase considerably.

For my contacts, though, I still use a good old-fashioned Rolodex. It is much faster to access a phone number or address on my (real) desktop than having to click through several options to reach them on my computer. I have a special little hole punch that lets me fit business cards into the rolodex and I also use it to record my usernames and passwords for various websites.

Periodically, I go through it and remove out-of-date or no longer needed cards. January is National Organization Month, so it may be time to do that again. It’s also time to buy a new package of blank cards for all the new contacts I will make this year.

In the spirit of getting organized, I am also cleaning out closets and getting rid of unused Christmas ornaments, old clothes and linens. The hardest thing for me to part with is books, although I have made great progress in using the library instead of buying every book I want to read. It’s been so long since I bought a book of fiction that my Amazon account no longer recommends them to me.

People tell me that being organized brings greater freedom, so I’m giving it a try. Wish me luck.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity on January 16, 2007 at 7:01 am

Just Call Me Crafty

“The best hope of success lies in having numerous projects percolating at once; this ups the odds of one of them boiling over.” Tom Peters, The Pursuit of Wow

I’ll bet you’ve been wondering what you can do with all those old floppy disks that no longer fit into your computer, right? WikiHow to the rescue. Turn a floppy disk into a starship with these directions. This site will also tell you how to turn a CD into a coaster, but that’s a no brainer. Simply glue felt or cork on one side and voilà, it’s a coaster. I prefer the projects at HGTV, where you can learn to turn a CD into a clock or, with higher level skills, a lapel pin.

These projects interest me because I have finally set up my long-neglected back bedroom as a craft room. The room isn’t finished yet, but I used it last night to start a handmade book. Collages are another big interest of mine and I have been collecting bits of ephemera to use in collages and handmade cards for years. Maybe now I will finally use some of that stuff.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved