Friday, August 31, 2012

Picture Day Friday

Hey, there's the precursor to the twentieth century telephone booth. Jokes aside, that's a medieval sentry box from the ancient Etruscan necropolis of Populonia in Livorno, Tuscany, Italy.

Image copyrighted by ShadowRave at

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

IASPR 2012 Conference

The International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) is hosting its fourth annual conference in York, United Kingdom in September 27–29, 2012. Titled The Pleasures of Romance, the conference showcases presentations by professors and scholars from all over the world.

"This conference asks one large question: What is the place of pleasure in popular romance? Popular romance—whether romance novels, romantic films, soap operas, fan fiction, advertisements, etc.—has long been both consumed and derided because of the pleasures they impart: pleasures of sentiment, pathos, comfort, arousal, satisfaction, [and] identification.

This conference will consider 'pleasure' in popular romance texts and popular romance studies and [by asking] the following questions:

1.What is pleasure?

2.How is pleasure represented in popular romance?

3.What are the pleasures of the 'text,' whether visual, cinematic, [or] literary?

4.What are the pleasures of consuming a romantic text?

5.How do we theorize the pleasure of viewing and being viewed?

6.Who are the producers of the pleasurable romantic text?"

The detailed conference schedule is available, listing seventeen sessions and panels.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Picture Day Friday

Medieval castle towers come in various shapes and sizes. Here are a couple examples from the ancient Etruscan necropolis of Populonia in Livorno, Tuscany, Italy.

A round medieval tower and wooden gate:

Image copyrighted by ShadowRave at

A square tower:

Image copyrighted by ShadowRave at

Monday, August 20, 2012

Focus the Mind on One Task

Has this ever happened to you? You're reading a document, when it suddenly reminds you of the email your friend sent to you yesterday that you hadn't replied to, so you open your email program, only to find two high priority emails from your boss that you start answering, only to be interrupted by your co-worker calling you for lunch. And so your mid-morning goes, by the end of which, all you've achieved is a meal.

In his post Monk Mind: How to Increase Your Focus, blogger Leo Babauta explodes the myth that multitaskers are getting more work done and are getting more satisfaction from that work, in terms of quality and sense of achievement. Focusing on single tasks is the way to go in order to achieve success. Leo writes, "My ability to focus on a single task has dramatically improved, and that one habit has changed my life."

So how do you go about focusing the mind on a single task? Take the case of writing an article for a magazine.

Clear Away Distractions

Close all email systems, browsers, and social media programs.

Turn off all notifications.

Disconect your computer from the Internet.

Clear your desk of all pieces of paper except for those necessary for your selected task. As in the case of writing the article, you'll need your folder of research material, interview transcripts, and notes.

Leave only the programs open that are necessary for achieving your selected task. So for the article, perhaps you'll need the folder where you've saved your research and nascent article files and your word processing program.

Plug in headphones, whether you play music or not is up to you. Headphones cut out ambient sound and also signal to other people that Serious Work Is In Progress.

Now, do nothing but that one task.

Practice Doing One Thing

If you can't focus on one task for more than a few minutes, start out with small goals in the begining. Say, you'll work on your task for five minutes, then reward yourself by taking a one-minute break to read email. Slowly build up to ten minutes on, one minute off; and so on. Be sure to have a timer set so that you can accurately build this up. In his article, Leo writes, "Set up a positive feedback cycle for single-tasking focus, and you’ll reverse the years of training your mind has gotten to switch tasks."

Sounds overly simplistic? Give it a try. The mind is flexible and can be retrained.

In conclusion, Leo writes, "While a few years ago I couldn’t sit down to work on something without quickly switching to email or one of my favorite Internet forums or sites, today I can sit down and write. I can clear away distractions, when I set my mind to it, and do one thing. And that changes everything: you lose yourself in that task, become so immersed that you pour everything you have into the work, and it becomes a meditative, transformative experience. Your happiness increases, stress goes down, and [quality of] work improves."

Monday, August 13, 2012

That Frog In Your Throat

Image copyright by socyo at Returning to blogging after a hiatus of three months makes this post about procrastination even more relevant. I've been reading about ways to get more efficient in how I use my time. The end of the year and then again in August before the school year begins have traditionally been the times when I re-evaluate my goals and priorities for the upcoming months.

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy refers to the Mark Twain mantra: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."

According to Tracy: "Your frog is your biggest, most important task of the day, the one you're most likely to procrastinate on. It is also the one task that can have the greatest possible impact on your life and results at the moment. [So] tackle your major task first thing each morning before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it. If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important things."

The way I interpret this is that I should plan my day in advance (say, the night before or at the start of the day) by creating a prioritized list of tasks I want to get done that day. Then the first thing I tackle is either the most important task on that list and/or the most 'procrastinable' task. The latter is the task that I'm most reluctant to get done—it might be something I have been putting off for days. So getting that done and out of the way in the morning itself will take the pressure off from the rest of my day.

"Whenever you complete a task of any size or importance, you feel a surge of energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem," says Brain Tracy. "The more important the completed task, the happier, more confident, and more powerful you feel about yourself and your world. The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well, and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life."

Who wouldn't want these feel-good endorphins first thing in the morning? Especially when, I don't have to have burning pain in my legs or heaving sides to get it? Frog legs for the win! Bon Appétit!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Resuming Posting

The domain is still down. I own the domain, but finding a reliable host has taken a much more arduous route that I'd first imagined. In the meantime, this blog has been languishing, so I shall be returning to my weekly blog posts starting Monday, August 13. Thank you for your patience.