Monday, February 28, 2011

West Rock Ridge State Park, Hamden/New Haven CT - part 1

Yesterday was our first time hiking at West Rock Ridge Park. It was challenging sloshing uphill through the snow, even though there was much less of it there than there was here in Central Connecticut. At the South Overlook, we were treated to a grand view of New Haven and Long Island Sound! On the way down, we raced the setting sun, leaving much of the ridge for another day. That was a real shame.

I've been doing some online research for a magazine article.  I'm trying to tie it to high school concepts. I am mindful that the educational, entertaining presentation I created will get rusty if I let it sit too long. Nothing is easy in this business. Nothing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I noticed yesterday that my article, From Copper Town to Ghost Town, has been published by Viatouch. It's a history article about a ghost town in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska.

There are plenty of interesting articles on the Scientific American website. Here's an article about misinformation on the web, but this time it's not climate related, it's medical information. I have always thought there needed to be controls on self-published nonfiction. Right now, any writer can self-publish any crock and claim that it's true. Web content is far different though. It's more like an octopus and difficult to monitor the facts.

Here's another article that I found really interesting. It's about why Americans are misinformed about climate change. It reminded me of that very stupid greeting card I opened one day. Outside it said, something about global warming and inside it pointed to reducing the candles on your birthday cake. I should have bought it to get it off the shelf. It was supposed to be funny, but I thought of it more as mocking science and the facts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

McLean Game Refuge - Simsbury/Granby

Last Friday, I went cross-country skiing at McLean Game Refuge. I've been there twice and I still haven't seen the whole place. The woodsman road was wide and gently sloping, perfect for skiing even if the messy pines left their needles and pinecones all over the snow. Someone in the parking lot mentioned seeing what they thought was a bear. It was an exceptionally warm day and there are bears in the area, but I just read they den from late November until mid-March, so who knows. That tall box on a pole was a bat condominium.

Today, I should finish improvements to the end of the presentation. I made some minor modifications to a Halloween costume and found some dazzling glitter foam. I LOVE this foam. It's so kid-friendly. Once that is done, my next conquest will be finding a new venue.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

As part of holiday decorating, Walt had woven the lights in and around the bamboo. I took this photograph of the deck and moon last night after a strange mix of winter thunder and lightning. The moon and wet reflection caught my eye. I'm not sure we'll ever untangle these lights, but maybe that's not a bad thing.

We've scrapped plans to head to the D.C. area to look at colleges. I'm disappointed I won't get to a science conference, but I think Julia is more disappointed. We'll do it another time, but unfortunately there will be no conference then.

Today, I polished up the 500-word statement that I'm required to write. I've FINALLY come up with a great idea for the ending of the presentation. YEAH! It led to a better presentation name. Now, I need to make it happen with a few more props.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mansfield Hollow State Park - Mansfield

Tuesday, I drove up to Mansfield Hollow State Park with the intention of cross-country skiing. It was a shivery morning and the snow was iced over. Wind chill sunk the temperatures down to the teens and single digits. Thankfully, I brought my snowshoes and used them instead of trying to maneuver in slippery conditions. I had difficulty finding my location on the park map and wondered if I'd still be wandering around the woods in the morning. It would have been nice if they had put that school on the map! A couple of times the frosty forest opened up to breathtaking vistas of the frozen lake. At another point, the trail divided in two directions.  The left route was flat.  Straight ahead was a steep, slick hill. Naturally, I had to take the more challenging route. The top photograph was the view at the top.

I want to keep the momentum going with this presentation. It occurred to me after speaking with the librarian that the programs there have more to do with the arts or live animals than science. She mentioned the possibility of presenting during the summer. I can't let this sit until the summer. It is fresh in my head and too important to bottle up and stick on a shelf. My focus now is trying to find a place to present it so it becomes more ingrained in my memory.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Last week, I went to the Hill-stead Museum in Farmington CT. The grounds were so nice, set high on a hill. I was quite impressed with the artwork hanging on their walls, especially the pastel speckled Monets. Who knew?

Later this year, when the weather warms I plan to explore the trails. Maybe I'll return for another poetry reading in the garden, hopefully with a violinist like last time. It is such a pleasant relaxing thing to do.

This past weekend I received a check for Chautauqua and mailed that in. YIPPEE! That was a nice cheery piece of mail that I thoroughly enjoyed ripping into. This week, I've been working on the 500-word statement, part of my end of the bargain. Tomorrow, I hope to get a firm commitment on a presentation date. I'm not sure why I find this getting dates stuff hard to do.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I've been revising the presentation, taking suggestions that were offered. It's much better now. This required moving some slides around. Now instead of me talking about a scientist, I'm going to get a student volunteer to BE the scientist and act out the part with a few simple props. I made a collection of short cue cards for the student and the audience to read. The audience will also assist by making noises that correspond to the action taking place. I also added a new attention-getter first slide that is a whole lot more impressive than what I was using. I must say I truly enjoyed smothering an old hat with glue and sticking things to it. It came out great! I know the kids will enjoy the participatory parts of the presentation, but I'm still trying to come up with a better ending. Hm.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Last night, I demoed my presentation in front of eight adults at Toastmasters, a record crowd. This time, I wasn't nervous, I was raring to go. It was GREAT to have a forum with all kinds of comments and suggestions before going live with this. One of the big suggestions was to get the kids more involved in the parts of the presentation where I was droning on too long. Someone suggested I have them act out a story or stories. I can do this easily at the beginning, but the end will require more thought. Someone else suggested having the kids do an action that I did. That would be very easy to do. Another person suggested having notes in front of me versus reading the Powerpoint screens. I took notes as they commented around the room:
"extremely knowledgeable"
"passionate about the subject"
"kids would absolutely love the hands-on part of the presentation"
Now I've got to think about the best way to make it better.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Here's a picture of the iced Hinoki cypress tree we have out front. The poor thing looks frozen to the stem.

Today, I had some fun on the trail cross-country skiing. Conditions were excellent for fast moving. In the sparkling woods, I met an elderly gentleman and talked to him for quite a while. He was an expedition leader for the AMC for a long time and he's hiked many of the trails in CT. His efforts were incorporated in two CT Forest and Parks Association books, Connecticut Walk Book East and Connecticut Walk Book West. He told me the state purchased a chunk of land in town that may become a state forest. He also mentioned the little red barn at Valley Falls Park, where we were skiing, was slated to become a nature education center, a place to occupy camp kids on rainy days with things like slide shows. That's when my ears perked right up. "Slide shows you say?" So, I told him what I was up to and he asked me my name. It occurred to me at the time that bringing the program to camp kids would certainly be a good way to spread the knowledge.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ice was glistening on the trees as the morning sun cast long shadows across the backyard. Unfortunately, the photograph doesn't capture the sparkling branches the way I saw them, but I tried.

Today, I shipped out what I consider the best article I've ever written. I have high hopes for this one. Since I'm demoing the presentation Thursday night, I've devoted the rest of the week to making sure it runs smoothly and it's interesting throughout.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Talcott Mountain State Park, Bloomfield - part 2

I posted two more photographs from Talcott Mountain State Park. The tower wasn't open.  If it was, binoculars would have been a great idea. The top photograph was a very peculiar tree I spotted right at the end of the road where you park the car. It was the only tree with stripped bark. My first thought was that maybe it was a scratching post for black bears. Plenty of black bears have been sighted in this area of Connecticut. What do you think?

Yesterday, I practiced my presentation a few times. At one point, I was interrupted when one of the cats knocked over two vases and sent water trickling onto the floor. Then one cat tried to hop in the bag and play with my hands-on goodies. After a few practice runs, I decided it's more manageable to divide the whole presentation into three equal pieces (15-20min each) : beginning, hands-on middle, and inquiry based ending. Now, I'm eager to share what I know.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Talcott Mountain State Park, Bloomfield - part 1

I snowshoed at Talcott Mountain State Park on this well-packed trail. It  reminded me of a luge run. The journey was short and fast up to the ridge and the winter view. On the way up, I stopped to talk with a woman carrying a large backpack.  I wondered why she needed such a hefty backpack for a hike that was a cakewalk. Well, she was no wuss.  She was preparing for a winter hike up Mount Washington, a trek that would likely require crampons. Although I've hiked that mountain many times and many ways, I've never done it in winter.

I met my friends today and we hashed over our work. I spent the day revising this article. I'm now..... gulp.....committed to speaking at the next Toastmasters meeting and not just for the 5–7 minute time frame. Oh no, that would be far too easy. I've got a 45 to 55 minute time slot.  If I hear any snoring, I'll call on people to answer questions. Good lord, what have I done?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Today, I created a Facebook fan page called "Linda Zajac." I had always thought when I hit my 5,000 maximum of Facebook friends, I'd get a fan page going. Although, I am pretty close, I'm not there yet. I developed the fan page primarily as a means of interacting with kids who may have questions or comments that I don't have time to answer during presentations.

Aside from that, I'm pretty much gearing up for the presentation by putting together talking points, nit picking at slides, and getting presenting questions answered. I prefer to talk to myself (i.e. practice) when no one is home and with school cancellations every other day, well, I'm still waiting for that opportunity. I did finish the Toastmaster's book and noted a few things to mention, like quotations if I have any good ones. Crit group is now set for Thursday, so I'm still awaiting comments about my article, but I wish I could change it and email them a new copy!