Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Benefits and Lure of Flow Experience with My Bachelors Project

Did you know that when you're engrossed in an activity that you enjoy, your brain can enter a near-meditative state, beneficial to body, mind and soul?

- Humana Financial Protection Products brochure
I got this quote from a brochure I received with the policy kit for my Critical Illness insurance policy. It hits upon how I feel about my writing and the type of experiences we should look for in life (as long the behavior, itself, isn't immoral and hurts others).

In full disclosure for those who don't know me: I am licensed as a personal lines, life, health and accident insurance agent in the State of Illinois. It's not my first choice, but I am finding myself enjoying working with people to put together a personal plan of financial protection.

These days I'm working most often with health, dental, vision, critical illness and hospital indemnity plans. I agree that these things can be so intimidating that consumers may grow frustrated, but I feel a good agent can provide access and craft a personal plan to provide great peace of mind. Don't hesitate to e-mail me if you live in Illinois and want to see what peace of
mind could be available to you.

Enough self promotion for my day job.

I've randomly encountered the concept of Flow for the last thirteen years or so. A friend wrote about it in a college paper. I've experienced it here and there. Personalities on TV, generally sports stars, have discussed it. I've tried to mine it for material to write my project.

An insurance company putting it into a brochure legitimizes Flow as something worth looking into and trying to work into life.

I've incorporated it in my life already with my research and writing activities. Throughout the years I've likened my bachelors project as an abusive relationship. The frustration becomes so exhausting sometimes that I feel like it has beat me up.

I can't quit it, though. Reaching the point when I just want to throw it down and move on with life, it sucks me back in. I can't stop thinking about it. I have had great times with it. I've learned a lot while working on it. What does it say about me if I quit it? Will any activities be just a backtrack to look at the project with a new perspective or will it be something independent that I really want to do for its own merits? And think of all the great times I've had with this bachelors project. I've come so far with it, how can I just stop here?

There is an academic paper available for purchase online called The Role of Flow Experience in Cyber-Game Addiction. I haven't read it. Nonetheless, having it come up in a Google search using "flow" and "addiction" illustrates that Flow can have some part in the addiction process.

I don't know. The jury is still out. But Sunday night, I did some intense researching that will hopefully bear some fruit. I wasn't the most pleasant person to be around, and I procrastinated on some of my duties (one which didn't need doing because of fortuitous events the next day, anyway).

I dreamt that night, though. I can't remember having any dreams in a long awhile. I made up for my Sunday night sociopathy on Monday night with the wife. I felt great at work during the day Monday when I would have rather been at home doing some more research or writing about the research I had done. I even had the ability to think about and discuss other things. I'm often obsessed about the project when not in the midst of getting my "fix."

So, who knows? Getting into the Flow greatly improves life, but it has the possibility of addiction? An insurance company, almost inherently a conservative entity, states that the Flow experience (using more words than that) has benefits.

As with all things in life, striking the balance between Flow and everyday life, even joyful parts in life, becomes a challenge. Challenge isn't bad, even when it becomes difficult. What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger, they say.

In my adult life, though, I often feel that it's those Flow experiences that make life worth living. I'll keep pursuing them for now.

Links of interest: Humana Financial Protection Products brochure, Flow, The Role of Flow Experience in Cyber-Game Addiction

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Administrative Post: E-Mail Form Seems to Work

E-mail form to the right hadn't been working for awhile. I apologize if you tried to use it and received nothing in return. It works now. Please feel free to send me an e-mail using it.

Thank you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review of a Guide to Writing History

Thrashing about to find a workable thesis for my current paper on Brook Farm and utopianism, I found Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students by Patrick Rael, Bowdoin College. Looks like they put it in the writing guide section of their Website.

Rael has targeted this guide to students, most likely undergrads. People looking to teach themselves history writing skills or others looking for a refresher, however, will find this Webpage useful.

The guide has provided my autodidactic self a lot of good tips, most especially how to come up with questions and use them to drill down to a workable thesis and a structure for my paper. I haven't experiemented with the tips yet, but I feel more confident just reading them. I plan on developing questions after finishing my praise of the guide.

Coming up with questions and theses plays an important part in history paper writing. History essay writing has plenty of other aspects, too, that need attention. Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students introduces and covers them. They include.

  • Reading secondary and primary sources like a fierce, effective predator
  • Developing and analyzing arguments (including generating questions & theses)
  • Research techniques
  • Structuring the paper, from the thesis to conclusion to facts to rhetoric
  • Presenting and citing sources in the paper
  • Editing and revising the essay after first draft
  • Even a model to provide inspiration
The layout comes across simple and easy to use. On top find the title and author. To the left, a table of contents with links to different chapters. The main body awaits your reading eyes to the right. Each chapter only takes up a few screens; nothing to worry about.

The Guide has PDF versions available for each chapter and one for the entire work. Just save it to your hard drive or print it out. No need for Internet access!

Rael adopts a great tone. Acknowledging that students often find the discipline of history intimidating, he goes out of his way to make the reader feel comfortable.

The academy talks down to the student. Rael wants to speak with the student as a person. History becomes cold, useless and meaningless to the general student because they can't connect to it. It takes the rare student who already has the history bug to make it through a course and do something with their knowledge. Rael admits this fault with the academy.

He made this guide as a remedy. He writes in everyday language, provides examples and encourages students of history to ask questions of others and of history.

My schooling didn't discourage asking questions. It just didn't teach how to ask questions. From what I remember about writing essays, I remember learning structure for the 5-paragraph essay:
  1. Introduce thesis in first paragaph
  2. First argument supporting thesis in second paragraph with 3-4 sentences supporting argument
  3. Second argument supporting thesis in third paragraph with 3-4 sentences supporting argument
  4. Third argument supporting thesis in forth paragraph with 3-4 sentences supporting argument
  5. Tie things up in fifth paragraph with conclusion and a couple wrapping up comments
I don't remember spending much time on developing that thesis and argument. We were supposed to just come up with a thesis, arguments and all the support.

Suffice to say, I did fine with this structure on high school tests and even on short essays in college. I can't really say how I did fine, though. It just all worked out.

How much fault can students take if facts just get passively poured into them then receive skeleton instructions to use all that random information to make some kind of argument? Where does their motivation come from if they don't learn the significance of those facts and how to feel that significance? How can we expect them to just throw down historical arguments when they don't learn how to develop historical ideas, questions and arguments?

Teaching them to develop ideas can help to teach them passion for the topic.

Just from the introduction page of Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students, Rael shows his hope of transferring his love of history to his students and readers. Readers willing to take the journey will find an inspiring guide for developing questions that will make history more significant, meaningful and, dare I say it, exciting.

Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students makes for a great read. It could easily become a go to resource for any student from high school level to the decline of your mental facilities.

In fact, curriculum's should make this guide a must read. It would probably have one drawback, though: too many students will want to become historians, taking away workers from other industries. Oh well, I think our future selves will know how to handle that problem better than we do now. Let's deal with it then.

Links of interest: Brook Farm, utopianism, Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students