Playing Secretary

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3, 4, ESV)

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me to transcribe his handwritten copy of a graduation speech for a phlebotomy certificate at a nearby community college.  We both agreed to have him deliver the message orally (as opposed to copying the speech from a print form).  As a primarily visual learner, this took me out of my comfort zone, yet the work was fantastic.

As he recited the words, I copied them down in Microsoft Word, and being a native English speaker (as opposed to him), I was persistent, and observed grammatical rules that would be best understood by one (in this case, me) whose top language is English.  His thick West African (Ghana) accent was another obstacle, but I still tenaciously continued to “break the barrier.”

To polish it off, I double-spaced and printed it.  He did the proofreading, which (slightly embarrassingly) led to awareness some of my own grammatical errors.  But they were minor, and I corrected them, printed the typed speech, and presto!  It was complete.

As they say, no man is an island.  This was one exercise of me going out of my comfort zone.  Whether we like it or not, this can be necessary.  And auditory input, I assume, might have been sharpened.  But I would check with a psychiatrist or psychologist on that.

April Showers Bring…

Not just May flowers, but many awesome milestones.  I will name a few.

  1.  Watching the “Met” on PBS
    Notice I didn’t say “Mets,” as in the baseball team.  This is the opera company (namely, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City).  This time it was (I think) in Italian, but it was derived from the work of one of the Anglosphere’s greatest playwrights, the one and only Shakespeare.  The opera itself, supplied with subtitles, was Romeo and Juliet.  Subtitles can drive you crazy, but my mom, a fan of opera, she thinks the musical component of an opera takes precedence over the mere dramatic component.
  2. Potential college admission
    I hope to transfer from 2 community colleges (and some other places) and the credits earned therefrom, to West Chester U in, (you guessed it), West Chester, PA!  A rather distant suburb of Philadelphia, West Chester proper is a quaint town, with a variety of homes.  I will definitely study Biology, with a potential minor or double major (still disputed).  If they don’t accept me, I’ll just keep on testing certain options.
  3. Reading novels
    Until recently, they were (or at least from my perspective) for taking, without use (if so, not thoroughly.)  Yet, believe it or not, “pleasurable” non-fiction, including the Web, layman books, encyclopedias, and in my case, textbooks, tended to offer no better stamina than fiction.  Fiction, however, has a storyline and plot, which is a whole different dimension from nonfiction.  In the final analysis, many (if not most) nonfictional books that I have designated for enjoyment weren’t really that enjoyable.
  4. Watching (fictional) movies and long TV shows
    Like novels, they have a plot, etc.  Thus, see #3

Bottom line:  My apparent weakness has nothing to do with a learning disability (e.g., dyslexia) that you may think is the case, for I’m not learning disabled (unless you count dysgraphia).  I’m not even sure if it is from high-functioning autism spectrum disorder(which is my core diagnosis).  So,  what is this weakness?  It’s attention span issues.  I’m not going to “play psychiatrist” and decide what it is.  I leave that up to the actual doc in this case.  And while doctors may know more than you do about such issues, they are not you.  But no worries, I’m still got quite a life ahead of me, and I should do the best that I can.

Yet as a Christian, I believe anything is possible with God (Matt. 19:26)

Another Nifty College/Career Idea

As interesting (and awesome) certain areas of biology can get, few jobs directly requiring a bachelor’s in biology are appealing.  I don’t imagine myself in a white lab coat or in environmental work.  It just isn’t “me.”

And that is true for many majors.  Thank God, however, I am quite a good writer.  If I ever feel a good use for my writing as a career, I will likely get a minor as well.  And if so, I would perhaps accompany my biology major with, yes, a physics minor.

Wait, physics?  Everything that is in the physical world is governed by physical laws.  But you may still be wondering why that could be useful.

So, where does writing come into play?  Well, my dream is to write different materials; whether books, articles, a website, or even blog posts like this; concerning how nature has preceded our best scientific and technological feats (wait, is it our feat, or other creatures’?)

Remember, however, as we all work without necessarily achieving great status (click here, also check Eccl 2:17-26), don’t expect a comprehensive work covering every life form out there!  I’ll  just take it one written piece at a time.

So, if this is appropriate, wish me God’s blessings, both in work and the necessary study prior to then.

Improving Inner-Cities: What You Can Do and What You Can’t

Ok, we shall take this title in reverse.

We will first discuss what must be accepted in inner-city neighborhoods.  One person said that trees keep neighborhoods out of “the ghetto.”  But trees are not an absolute concern to the quality of a urban block, and I will prove this with some botany.

Remember, the diameter of tree trunk depends on its age.  Wood, properly, is solely the xylem of the plant, the central structure which is dead at maturity. Xylem is responsible for transpiration, the gravity-defying, gradient-based water transport from the roots and into the air. The rest of the trunk, that is, its peripheral structure, is collectively called the bark, which includes the phloem (which carries sugars, etc.) and the dead external cork.

In a tree trunk, a tissue called the cambium divides cells both ways, phloem to the outside and xylem towards the center. This is secondary growth, a horizontal process which generates tree trunks, as opposed to primary growth, which is vertical.

Much more xylem is produced than phloem.  Now here it gets interesting. In spring and early summer, secondary xylem cells have a wide diameter, thanks to water from the recent snow melt and the minerals it contains. However, as it continues to absorb minerals and water, they are depleted, and much water is lost throughout the summer. Also, come fall, the days progressively shorten and temperatures drop. Therefore, cells are much narrower in the radial (i.e., toward the center) dimension when generated later in the season.  No growth occurs in winter, and thus the tree acquires a new growth ring.

Tree cross-section.  (Koning)

Since some older houses were built in a environment without trees, it is not always a matter of the presence or absence of such, but the actual condition of the homes play a role as well.  Of course, I am not saying that trees are not a beautiful addition to a block.  They sure are!  But it would not be practical to add trees when non-existent.  In fact, another beauty can fill in:  an open and sunny look that trees would intercept.

If houses are run-down, unless they are totally uninhabitable (thus doomed to demolition), they should be repaired, both inside and out.  This includes things such as painting chipped structures, pointing bricks, and other tasks.

So whether choosing houses or fixing them up, as for the trees on the block, just take it or leave it.

Koning, Ross E. 1994. Secondary Growth. Plant Physiology Information Website. (3-4-2017).

Late-20s Health Consciousness

(Disclaimer:  This is not medical advice.  Check with your doctor for that.)

In less than a year and a half, I leave my twenties and enter the decade that is the bridge between youth and middle age.  Yep, none other than the thirties.

Among the issues in the 30s are the onset of graying/balding hair, wrinkles, bone density loss, and possibly some modest eye and ear changes.  Thankfully, most eye issues don’t become common in the 40s and beyond.  Also, potential arthritis in certain region(s) of the body might be on the horizon.  I’m already obese, and do have a receding hairline.  Plus hypertension and high cholesterol.  And pesky senior moments.

Yet before then, I resolve (two months early, LOL) to improve my diet, and when possible, get more exercise.  In the way, this is like “beating the clock.”

Today, I went grocery shopping, based on information from WebMD, and was able to wisely judge what foods I’ll take and what foods I’ll skip.  These decisions took into consideration about sugary foods like honey and maple syrup, and transitioning from margarine to certain oils, like olive or canola.  Fruits should also be consumed in moderation (due to their sugars).  Fortunately, I seldom drink alcohol, though I have a characteristic “beer belly” as such.

I could go on and on about the different annoyances of aging, but to put it in a nutshell, keeping youthful as possible is just another core duty of adulthood, except it strikes later on.  You can join Facebook at 13; drive at 16 or 17; vote, marry, and smoke at 18; drink and gamble at casinos at 21; but 30 is more ominous.  (It’s strange that age 20 means virtually nothing, LOL).  At one time age 30 was more truly middle-aged, but that nowadays that nucleus probably stands around 40 or so.

Here’s the good news.  While your body crumbles down the decades, we are freed from it at death.  And believers, according to God’s Word, will eternally enjoy a heavenly world without pain, sorrow, tears, etc. (cf. Rev 21:4).  Plus, your body will be resurrected (cf. 1 Cor 15), and analogously the created order (cf. 8:18-23).  While God did not provided many details, he gives enough information for the sake of hope (Rom 8:24, 25).  But God already has an ultimate retirement plan (namely, heaven) that trumps all earthly ills.  (Whether you get a good retirement plan is between you, your financial planner, and God)

So whether you are 18 or 88, count your blessings, keep disciplined in all realms (physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, etc.) and trust in the Lord.  Amen.

A Better Idea

For those very things I was to use a “standard” website for, I may just put them on, yes, this blog!

The same principle applies:  no site or source is an island.  This is true of both the Internet and libraries.  And since everyone has different goals of research, claiming that “one site does it all” is quite cavalier.

However, this very blog is a perfect way to communicate information I have learned recently, or not-so-recently.  Whether it’s an issue that may warrant comment, or if I am simply sharing a neat topic I have learned (whether voluntarily or not), this is a great place to discuss it.  And of course, as I progress though my academic endeavors, I become more and more qualified to write about more and more things.  My community college library (and possibly, the one of the university I attend), public libraries (especially the Philadelphia “Central” Library), books I own, and of course, the internet; are all great potential sources that I have access to.  Perhaps the best blog posts concern how academic facts impact daily life.

Well, everything should be back to normal now!

Never Mind About the Proposed Website

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.  But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.  For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.  We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.  “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Cor 10:12-18, ESV)

For quite a while I was analyzing the same topics from different angles in order to see what they have in common.  Here’s the catch, though:  I was doing it in an over-extensive way, to determine, say, that if one source had all its details elsewhere on the Internet and often other sources (no matter how widespread).  And deep down, it turns out that all you ought to do is focus on your territory.

Honestly, the real joy in learning comes from understanding that all of it is centered on God, and from there, Wisdom Incarnate, that is, Christ.  And it need not be duplicated.  Everyone’s knowledge base is a library filled with varying repertoires of facts.  And that’s great!  We’re not robots, and your knowledge, gifts, and talents are your personal property.  You can share it, or not, at your discretion.

Also, whether a deceased person that discovered a given principle of knowledge was a Christian or not is irrelevant.  They have been eternally judged by God, and in any case have left behind their contribution for us (cf. 1 Cor 10:25, 27).  And as always, the handy-dandy principles of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes can be useful (as long as they, being OT books, are lined up in context with the NT as well as to society today.)

So, now to the meat and potatoes.  why an endeavor as proposed earlier is not appropriate?Each person must obtain his/her knowledge the way they need– and want– it.  Foolish comparison, and even worse, oppressive distribution of material (like junk mail, your ration of 4-letter words today) is unfruitful and inappropriate.

Note the word “oppressive.”  It’s absolutely fine to distribute information (oral, written, etc.) toward person(s) who are interested.  But don’t get nuts over it; rather, usually, keep it in a nutshell.

So, can we now put barbed wire fences around that university library down the road?

Teach What You’ve Just Learned

At CCP, I am doing a public speaking class.  While I am near flunking this course, I have learned some valuable tips and tricks to use to present facts, for the good of both speaker and listener.

When I endeavor to learn material with substantial, if not overwhelming, detail (for example, stuff from Cronodon), a few reads and especially a pleasant “lecture” with a friend, can power learning.

  1.  Read the material until you have a “working” comprehension of the material.
  2. Copy various ideas, whether small details or major facts, onto index cards.
  3. Practice a little by speaking, first in your own mind, then to your listener(s)

It is also good to test yourself on your newly-acquired knowledge.  So by teaching others and testing yourself on this material, you’ll get a grasp on whatever information that is second to none!