Saturday, 15 December 2012

How To Study : Taking Notes

Good note taking is a key study skill that should not be neglected.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)

Note Taking as a Powerful Study Technique
Right at the outset one of the key skills that any student needs to develop, especially if you haven't been a student for a number of years, is how to take notes.
Taking notes is not just a way of keeping a memo - it is a powerful study technique in itself.
So, before we look into how to do it, let's just make something clear: note taking is essential for 99% of students if they want to achieve academic success.
You may hear of exceptional people and the odd genius who has no need for note-taking, revision or seemingly any study at all - but for most of us it is necessary to our learning.
Keeping your notes properly organized and 
filed is very important and should not be neglected.
Source: Austin Hackney
Now. Let's just dispel a myth: a lot of people shy away from good note taking because they think it is time-consuming and boring. Well, it doesn't have to be. It can be an integral, effective and enjoyable part of your study experience.
Why Take Notes?
So why take notes?
·         If you are note taking, you are engaging actively with the material you are studying, be that reading a book, listening to a lecture, watching a video or participating in a tutorial.
·         When you come to do your revision, your notes help you rapidly identify key points and what is most significant in your study module.
·         Reading back through notes that are written in your own voice and using your own style and vocabulary often makes learning easier than trawling back through a text book.
·         Making notes aids memory and recall.
So, I hope you are convinced that note taking is important. But you must also realise that just scribbling down anything or even worse, everything that you read or hear is not going to help.
There are certain 'secrets' or specialised techniques regarding how to take notes that you should understand. Let's take a look at them.
How to Take Notes
If it's a lecture or tutorial, either live or on video, then the lecturer will actually be giving you clues as to what are the salient points to take down in you notes.

For example:
·         Bullet points or quotations displayed on an OHP or whiteboard or powerpoint presentation.
·         Facts, figures etc. that are frequently repeated.
·         Listen out for the amount of time and emphasis that is given to a particular point or question.
·         Pay particular attention to any summing up and conclusion at the end of a lecture.
·         In reading, look for subheadings, info boxes, summaries and highlighted text.
Another important point in learning how to take notes effectively is to develop your own style and format.
Note Taking and Your Learning Style
When note taking, pay particular attention to formulae and diagrams.
Source: Austin Hackney
Everyone has their own learning style and you should trust yourself to discover how you can best interact with the material. That said, there are some general guidelines which apply to most students:
·         Keep your notes short and to the point.
·         If you develop a system of abbreviations and symbols ensure that you are consistent with their usage.
·         Use your own natural vocabulary as far as possible
·         Take special care to note formulae and specific definitions
·         Use layout - such as flow diagrams, bullet points etc. to help you quickly locate and follow your notes later.
·         Keep your notes in order and try to check back through them the same day that you take them.
Don't be deceived into thinking that because you immediately understand something you will easily remember it. That is simply not the case. Your notes will help you recall and reinforce everything you learn, even if you already understand it.
Use an ordered and logical system, write your notes up afterwards, use coloured pens, highlighters and other visual aids.
Make sure that you take your notes in proper notebooks and file them carefully, don't just use scraps of paper.
I hope these hints and tips will help you learn how to take notes effectively and aid your learning.
Check out Bud's Easy Note Taking System for a complete how-to guide to note taking, or another very useful guide is Study Skills: Tools for Active Learning (see My Picks below)
You can get some great tools (stationary, notebooks, coloured pens, organisers etc.) from your local store or just have them delivered to your door via Amazon.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed

                                                                       Rhode Island Red Rooster
The Rhode Island Red Rooster is the archetype of
 all roosters and the breed one of the most popular
 domestic birds in the world.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Rhode Island Reds: A Popular Chicken Breed
Rhode Island Reds are among the most well-known and popular of all the common chicken breeds.
There is good reason for their popularity. Not only are they easy to keep, breed well and serve as excellent layers and table birds but they can be kept as a reliable and family-friendly backyard bird as readily as on the larger scale of agricultural production.
In this article we will explore the origins, features and particular qualities of the Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed.
At the end of the article you'll find lots of helpful resources and further reading if you are interested in keeping these fine utility birds or simply want to find out more.
Rhode Island Reds are are so well-loved and highly regarded that they have attained the status of the official state bird of Rhode Island.
Sadly, for a time as fewer people managed small-holdings, their popularity and presence declined. Happily, they are beginning to make a come-back as more people return to small farming practices or simply backyard chicken keeping.
Rhode Island Reds are known as a utility bird. This means that they are good stock both as layers and for meat and that they are generally a hardy breed with a good, robust constitution. This makes them an ideal 'starter bird' for anyone new to chicken keeping.
Rhode Island
Rhode Island - 
Rhode Island, USA
The Rhode Island Red chicken breed is the mascot bird of Rhode Island itself!
Origins of The Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is a North American breed originally developed in 1850 in the village of Adamsville, Rhode Island, from a black-breasted red Malay cock which had been brought over from England for the purpose.
Malay Game Fowl -
 'Father' of The Rhode Island Red
The Malay game fowl was the base breed first used in developing 
the Rhode Island Red strain. It is known as 'the father of the breed.'
Source: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
The original bird has been preserved and can be seen displayed at the Smithsonian Institution. He is considered 'the father of the breed.'
Who Bred The First Rhode Island Red?
The first breeding experiments attempting to produce a bird with the particular qualities of the Rhode Island Red were undertaken by Captain William Tripp, a resident of Little Crompton and his colleague and fellow chicken fancier, John Macomber.
First they crossed Malay and Javacocks with Chinese Cochin hens. The resulting birds were then bred with Light BrahmasPlymouth Rocksand Brown Leghorns to produce the strain that was named the Rhode Island Red.
The breed was officially recognized in 1895 at the providence Poultry Show and has remained popular both with hobbyists and farmers ever since.
                                                                              Rhode Island Red Monument
This fine monument to the State bird of Rhode Island 
was raised by public subscription in 1925.
Source: Swampyank CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia Commons
There is a fine Rhode Island Red Monument that commemorates the state bird.
The sculpture was made by Henry L. Norton and erected on the outskirts of the village of Adamsville in 1925, commissioned by The Rhode Island Red Club of America. The club had been founded in 1898.
By the early twentieth century, the importance of the breed, which was to become the most readily recognized chicken breed not only in North America but possibly the world, had been fully appreciated.
The sculpture itself was honored in 2001 by its addition to the National Register of Historic Places.
Another monument was erected by the state itself a few miles the other side of Adamsville.
The Rhode Island Red Club of America is still going strong with a busy community, meetings, newsletter and website (details in the resource box at the end of the article)
Children and Roosters
It should always be remembered that any animal, especially a rooster, can be aggressive or dangerous when provoked, teased or threatened. So long as you treat your birds well and with respect and teach your children to do so, you should have no problems of that kind. Common sense and respect are always key in approaching any animal, wild or domestic.
Rhode Island reds are also very hardy birds. If the temperature is likely to drop much below zero then they will need some extra warmth but other than that, they will happily survive the winter. If there is a chance of freezing weather, then a heat lamp in the coop is an excellent idea and the application of a little Vaseline to the comb and wattles should keep them protected from sores, frostbite and splitting or just drying out.
These birds love to forage and scratch and will find a good portion of their own food if they have access to grassland and woodland floor.
They make excellent free-range birds, too, as they are generally gentle in nature and will form a good bond with their keepers - making them very unlikely to get lost.
By nature the flock instinct is very strong in the Rhode Island Red and this has certain negative and positive consequences in terms of their captive management. On the negative side, the rooster will defend his harem quite viciously if need be. They have been known to kill dogs or intruding foxes and even attack unknown humans that they felt were threatening the flock. However, this should not be over-stated. If family dogs are well-trained and slowly introduced to the birds in the company of the bird keeper, there should be no special problems.
On the positive side, they will regard the keeper as a part of the flock and come when called, walk with the keeper and permit themselves to be picked up and handled in a very trusting way.
                                    Rhode Island Reds Like to Forage
Rhode Island Reds have a strong flocking instinct and will spend hours foraging together. The rooster will defend his harem against any perceived threats.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)

The Rhode Island Red is aptly named although its exact coloration does vary quite considerably. Most birds are best described as rust colored although they can be much darker, almost maroon and some so dark as to seem nearly black.
Physical Characteristics of Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed

If you look closely at the feathers, they are tinged with a little black around the edges in many cases. These variations in plumage are insignificant if your primary interest is in eggs, meat or simply keeping the birds as pets. However, if you want to get involved in showing the birds, then there are very strict rules about the amount of black (known among fanciers as 'smuttiness') that is permissible. If you mean to show, I recommend that you get in touch with your local poultry society or club who will be able to advise you.
Rhode Island Reds have a squarish, well built body shape, with a good, proud pectoralis or breast and strong thighs. This is one of the factors that makes them good meat birds as well as good layers. They have bright yellow feet and their bills or beaks are a reddish-brown. Their eyes are orange.
The average rooster weighs in at about 8 1/2 lbs and hens generally a little lighter at 6 1/2 lbs.
                                                                                 Rhode Island Red Hen
The Rhode Island Red hen is smaller than the rooster
 and has a lower, less sharply serrated comb.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Rhode Island Reds Are Excellent Layers

The Rhode island Red is one of the finest egg layers ever bred.
Not only do they typically continue to lay throughout the winter months as a consequence of their strong constitution but they also produce more eggs on average than most other utility breeds.
Rhode islands will happily lay between 200 and 300 eggs a year. They generally go into lay early, too, often starting at six months or even less. They will continue to lay for many years.

Large brown eggs are typical of the breed.
The Rhode island Red is an excellent layer,
 producing hundreds of large, brown eggs every
 year, even continuing to lay throughout the winter.
Source: Public Domain vis Wikimedia Commons

As you can quickly calculate, even a small flock of say three or four birds will keep the average family in eggs without any difficulty and possibly with a number left over to gift or sell. Equally, anyone thinking of egg-production as a small business couldn't do better than to choose the Rhode Island Red as their primary breed.
The egg of the Rhode Island Red is a big, plump, brown affair, often too large to fit in a standard size egg box! It has a dark, rich, yolk and a delicious flavor.
The eggs are great for eating boiled, fired or poached or used in cakes, pasta and other dishes.
Rhode Island Red As A Table Bird
While all Rhode Island Reds make reasonable birds for their meat, if you want to take greatest advantage of this aspect of keeping them, then it is highly recommended that you go to the trouble to ensure that your birds are true 'Old Type' reds.
                                                                             A Delicious Chicken Stew
The richly flavored meat of The Rhode Island Red gives its best
 when cooked slowly in a stew.
Source: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
More recently, as interest in egg production has out-weighed interest in meat production, several strains of Rhode Island Reds have become popular which are lighter and less broody.
At one point it even seemed that the original strain would be bred out of existence entirely. However, with the help and support of various conservation societies and the recommendation of the American Slow Food movement, the stocks have started to recover.
The Old-Types produce a delicious, rich flavored meat that can be cooked roasted, broiled or pan-fried but demonstrates its finest culinary qualities when simmered very slowly in casseroles, soups and stews.
Keeping Rhode Island Reds
Keeping any animal requires an investment of time, money and other resources.
To keep any breed of chicken well you will need at least a minimum amount of space outdoors, a place to put a suitable coop, sufficient funds to buy food and pay for veterinary care as and when required.
The details of everything you need to know to start keeping chickens are beyond the scope of this article but I would strongly recommend that you do plenty of research in any case before taking the plunge.
Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Certainly keeping Rhode Island Reds can be very rewarding and, in time, even pay for itself.
I would recommend reading as much of the literature as you can find and joining your local poultry club to make contact with other chicken keepers who will be able to show you and advise you in more detail. The club will also be an excellent source of your first birds.
If you want to take chicken keeping further, or just learn more about the Rhode Island Red chicken breed, then check out the following resources, which should be of great help to you.
Resources For Chicken Keepers
·         The American Poultry Association
Lots of information, links and resources at the official site of the APA
·         Raising BackYard Chickens, Build a Chicken Coop, Pictures of Breeds
How To Raise Chickens, Build chicken coops, Hatch baby chicks. Everything you need to know about raising rural or city chickens in your own backyard.
The Official Site of The Rhode Island Red Club of America

Recommended reads:

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Understanding Stress And Anxiety

What is Stress?

Stress can be a very serious matter.
Source: AustinHackney

'Stress' is arguably one of the buzz words of the twenty-first century lifestyle. Typically, it has pretty negative connotations. However, in some situations it is actually considered a positive thing, a motivator. So what exactly does the word 'stress' mean?

Origins of Stress

The word itself comes from a Latin verb, stringere, which means 'to tighten.' It's the same in modern Italian.
The literal definition then, gives us a clue to what the word might be used to mean but only a vague idea of how it is commonly used in the modern day.
Part of the problem is that psychologists and psychiatrists themselves are still not wholly in agreement about how stress should be defined.
Some are of the opinion that it should be defined in purely subjective terms - really it's just about how a person self-reports their experience of how they are feeling.
Others favor an objective definition that relies on factors such as saliva measures, blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate and so on.
Some psychological researchers wish to create a single, catch-all definition defining stress universally as a single phenomenon. Others suggest that stress should be an umbrella term that signifies different things to different people at different times.
So what sense can we make of it? A good starting point may well be to look at the history of the concept and see where that takes us.

All aspects of life can cause stress.
Source: AustinHackney

The History of Stress

The precise origins of the term's use are not clear. However we do know that up until the eighteenth century, the word stress was widely used to indicate a state of actual hardship, affliction or adversity. If someone was said to be in a state of stress it meant that they were ill or homeless or out of work and hungry.

The Timeline of Stress

·         pre 1800s a condition of poverty or destitution
·         1800s onwards a term in physics to express force applied
·         1900s onwards any challenge to biological homeostasis
·         1946 Han Seyle's first attempt to define stress
·         1964 Link established between stress and heart disease
·         1980 The idea of 'burnout' is accepted
·         1990 Research into post-traumatic stress disorder
·         2000 onwards Stress at work a cause of litigation

In the eighteenth century the term was adopted by the early physicists to describe the exertion of a force upon a physical substance such as metal or wood. Any distortions of the object thus stressed where termed strains, That is the origin of the phrases 'the stresses and strain.' So the stress was the force applied and the strain was the resulting change in form.
In the nineteenth century there was a popular semi-philosophical, semi-scientific notion stating that 'a constant internal state is the essence of free and independent life.' This internal equilibrium was named homeostasis after the Greek, meaning 'same state.' In that context, stress was considered to be any factor or eventuality which led to an upsetting of this internal harmony. The principle of homeostasis is still applied in modern biology.
By the 1950s, with the advent of modern psychology, a broader, more inclusive sense had been given to the word stress, as meaning any non-specific reaction of the body to demands made upon it.
Subsequently, a distinction has been made between 'physical stress' and 'mental stress' although many are at pains to point out the the boundary between these two may not be clear or even real.
The definition of stress is still debated and used in different ways by different people at different times, making a single explanation of what it is a little difficult to pin down. that said, sometime a degree of ambiguity is useful.
Let's take a look at the latest thinking on the subject of stress, its causes, effects and strategies for coping with it at work and in daily life.

Dealing With Stress : What it is and How to Cope

Models and Theories of Stress

If there is still a debate about the meaning of stress it centers around a single question: is stress objective or subjective?
Is stress best defined as a series of measurable stressors outside the individual or as an experience of anxiety in response to a threat or perceived threat (whether real or not)?
After all, two people can respond to the same situation very differently. One may experience the situation as very stressful and another may feel in her element. Is it that one is stressed and the other isn't or is it that both are stressed and one is coping or responding better to the stress than the other?

Demand/Control Theory of Stress

This is arguably the simplest of the several theories that have been put forward as models of stress.
This theory concentrates on the idea of a dynamic tension between the physical and psychological demands placed upon a person in a given situation and their corresponding ability to take control of the circumstances and guide outcomes according to their own freedom to make choices and decisions.
So, according to this model high demand situation combined with low control capabilities equals a stressful situation. Low to medium demand combined with a high level of self-directed control would not be stressful. Even high demand situations might not be experienced as stressful if there is a correspondingly high level of autonomy and control available to the person who must respond.

Three Components Theory of Stress

This theory proposes that stress is best viewed as arising from the relative balance of a constellation of three main factors.

These factors are:

1.    The personality, abilities and life story of the individual.
2.    Environmental pressures from family, work and location.
3.    The strategies employed to respond to pressure.

According to this theory a primary way to resolve stress related problems is through education, through learning new and more effective strategies to cope with the environmental pressures. Either that, or where desirable and possible, removing oneself from the stress causing environment (changing job, leaving a relationship, moving to a different climate etc.)

This theory is the foundation of many therapeutic practices and counselling techniques.

Individual Capacity Theory of Stress

The individual capacity theory of stress divides people up into three distinct personality types. To each of these types it ascribes particular traits which determine that person's experience of stress and anxiety.

The types are:

·         The anxious worrier or neurotic personality
·         The fatalist personality
·         The competitive personality

Let's look at each in turn:

·         The person with a neurotic personality can be said to suffer from negative affectivity meaning that their default setting, so to speak, is to view circumstances in a negative light, assume the worst will happen, feel generally anxious about even minor changes, lack self-worth and imagine that others are out to undermine them at every turn. these people tend to blame others, be unproductive and dissatisfied. They are a little like little frightened mice in a state of constant high-anxiety.
·         The person with the fatalistic personality tends to perceive circumstances as beyond their personal control - events and outcomes are ordained by fate, gods, social superiors or simply random chance. They tend to feel powerless and often subscribe readily to conspiracy theories and religious practices or fanatically consult 'psychics,' astrologers, tarot readers and such. They are generally ill-equipped at coping positively with stressful situations.
·         The competitive personality is highly driven and very motivated by the need not only to achieve well but to achieve more than others. They tend to be impatient and keen to get ahead and occupied with a keen sense of urgency about their ambitions. They tend to work hard to improve their skills and abilities. They respond to stress as a challenge and a motivator but at the same time they can easily over-stretch themselves and burn out.

It may well be that this list of 'personality types' is neither wholly accurate or exhaustive but it may have some use in helping us to recognize our own tendencies and the tendencies of others when experiencing potentially stressful situations.

Work Related Stress

It is perhaps obvious to state that certain kinds of work or jobs are more stressful than others.
Certain factors have been identified as making for a more stressful working situation:
·         a heavy burden of responsibility
·         the need to make important decisions that effect the lives of others
·         work which requires you to be constantly 'on top of the situation' or 'ahead of your game.'
·         unpleasant, noisy or dangerous working conditions
·         a job involving unstructured tasks where little information is given
·         not knowing why you are being asked to do something
Another potential stressor in the workplace is the experience of role ambiguity which can occur with people who work across departments or have several different jobs or are the 'middlemen' between the bosses and the workers. Juggling a variety of different roles can be stressful as it can upset a person's sense of their identity.
Being socially isolated at work, feeling that you don't 'fit in' or that your thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions don't really count can also be a considerable source of stress.

Coping With Stress

When it comes to coping with stressful situations, be they at home, at work or elsewhere, two broad categories of coping styles have been identified, They are:
·         problem-focused coping
·         emotion-focused coping
The first of these seeks to change the circumstances or gain control over the factors that are the causes of the stress. It tends to focus on a problem-solving approach based on an assessment of the situation, identifying why the stress is occurring and taking control of those factors to alleviate the stressful situation or dynamic.
The second tends to focus on managing the psycho-emotional consequences of stress rather than attempting to eradicate the causes. This can mean anything from simple denial, through to changing attitudes or beliefs or 'letting off steam' through sporting or other physical activities or 'letting go' through meditation or relaxation techniques.
Another good way of coping with stress is to get things in perspective and talk through the experience with someone else. very often friendship and social networks are the most useful ports of call for dealing with stressful situations.
Feeling stressed and alone can lead to a severe worsening of the consequences of stress both on ohysical health and emotionally.
Stress Management Techniques

The Consequences of Stress

The consequences of prolonged or unmanaged stress can be anything from simple forgetfulness to suicidal depression.
Typical physical signs and symptoms of unmanaged stress are:
·         poor self-care and physical appearance
·         always feeling tired
·         unable to sleep at night, unable to get up in the morning
·         frequents colds and infections
·         constant aches and pains
·         panic attacks
·         irritable bowel syndrome
·         headaches and dizziness
·         weight loss  
·         over-eating or anorexia
The emotional toll can be high, too, leading to:
·         a sense of apathy and boredom, a lack of motivation
·         short-temper, snappy and reactive
·         cynicism
·         tearfulness, crying without provocation
·         a constant sense of anxiety
·         depression and suicidal fantasies
Stress that is not effectively dealt with can also manifest in behavioral factors such as:
·         absenteeism from work, constantly missing deadlines
·         accidents due to distraction and thoughtlessness
·         smoking, alcohol abuse and drug dependency
·         lack of concentration
·         periods of excess followed by regret
Clearly the consequences of stress are not to be underestimated.
Luckily, if you are feeling that you cannot cope well with the stress that you are under, there is a lot you can do.

The Advantages of Optimism

A positive attitude can reduce stress.
Source: AustinHackney

Optimists are not necessarily always cheerful but they do tend to assume that things will turn out right in the end and believe that there is no point wasting energy on feeling down when things go wrong. they tend to think that the energy is better spent in starting to find solutions to the problems they face.
Optimism can be a great help in times of stress so long as it is realistic (there is no point in being so overly optimistic that you are blind to the fact that there is a problem needs solving!) It can keep you focus and your energy high to engage in a positive, problem-solving approach and enable you to keep working at it until the stressful situation is turned around.

Positive Stress: Facing a Challenge

Some people actively seek stressful situations (think of world class athletes or people who scale mountains or other extremes of human endeavour) but they tend to regard these activities as challenges rather than threats.

Such people will tend to subscribe to the philosophy 'what does not kill us makes us stronger.' They enjoy stress, find it motivating and a source of purpose in life.
they tend to perceive obstacles as learning opportunities and change as a chance to grow and develop.

Dealing With Stress

There are several strategies that you can use to make a start on de-stressing yourself.
First and foremost is to not be afraid to accept that you are not coping. That is always the first step towards actually coping!
Then seek to identify the stressors in your life, the causes of your anxiety. This can be made easier by talking to a close friend, family member or a professional counsellor.
Learn and practice a good relaxation technique. You might like to join a meditation class or take up Yoga or Tai Chi. That way you will also have social contact.
Above all, if you are not coping with the stress factors in your life - don't go it alone. Seek help.

Help With Stress

Powerful strategies for managing stress and bringing your life into balance.

·         Zen Centers -- USA

Zen Meditation Centers in the USA - learn the practice of mindfulness for inner peace.