Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Authors (and Readers!). REPRISE Reading to live... longer!

This is the cover of my most recent book. It has outstanding reviews. It's appropriate for readers from age 11-111. You can purchase it on Amazon. It's a great Christmas gift.
Keep reading, you'll see why!

I didn't change anything in this post. It "naturally" follows the previous Almanac from 11/14

The September 2017 issue of Reader’s Digest is titled “Genius Issue – Secrets to a Sharper Mind.”

The article “Why It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” on pages 66-73 begins with a question.

“How many hours did you spend reading books last week?”

In 2016, researchers at Yale School of Public Health began analyzing data collected from 20,000 people every other year since 1992. They narrowed the focus to the 3600 respondents over 50 years of age. Included in that data was an answer to the above question over almost one-quarter century.

“People who read books—fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose—for as little as 30 minutes a day over several years were living an average of two years longer than people who didn’t read anything at all [emphasis mine].”

Other research included suggests that
“[C]hildren as young as six months who read books with their parents several times a week show stronger literacy skills four years later, score higher on intelligence tests, and land better jobs than nonreaders.”

The article goes on to discuss the benefits of reading in adults.
Reading books is more beneficial for adults [maybe everyone] than reading newspapers and magazines.


First. Brains build many connections and pathways when keeping track of chapters and storylines. This doesn't happen when skimming headlines, as is common with newspapers and magazines.
Second. Empathy and emotional intelligence scores increase after reading even only a part of a chapter in a story.

Another concept discussed is “cognitive reserve”—your brain’s ability to damage. More reading, more ability over a wider range of damage types. Shocking to me was

“This [cognitive reserve built up by reading] could explain why, after death, many seemingly healthy elders turn out to harbor signs of advanced Alzheimer’s disease in their brains despites showing few signs in life.”

The article takes a turn in its story arc for the last part. Benefits of bilingualism are presented. That's another blog, someone else's blog.

Chances, if you are reading this post, you are you are a reader. There’s a different level of probability involved with you being an author—but you might be one of those, too.
  1. If you’re a reader, you should be fired up by the above content—especially if you read books.
  2. If you’re an author, I hope you’re inspired by how you are contributing to more than just the list of books in print.
  3. I suspect that writer’s brains have good-sized cognitive reserves.

I taught high school and college biology for 39 years. From what I know about brain function
  • An author’s brain must build at least connections while determining the plot, fleshing out characters, and developing a plausible setting—while writing.
  • The number of those connections must be at least as many as a reader builds while following those plots and characters in that setting—while reading.

Writing and editing are disciplines.
  1. Accept that discipline is required to write a good story.
  2. Don’t rush to finish a story.
  3. Do all that you need to do to produce a story that sucks readers in.
  4. Disciplined writing helps readers develop healthier brains.

Write on!

Next Author’s Blog: 

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor
My website is: www.crdowning.com

I'd appreciate your feedback as a comment on Blogger!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Almanac. Teachers Pay Teachers and more

Just before Black Friday, here are two sources of gifts you can’t miss!
I thought I’d lead with some serious hyperbole. Of course you can miss these sources. I hope you won’t.

If you need a gift for a teacher . . .
The title of this post includes Teachers Pay Teachers. That’s a web-based store where teachers offer ideas, lessons, activities, and other items they’ve developed for sale.
Here’s my “store page.” I’ve got 27 products listed. Some are FREE. Most cost between $1.00 and $6.00 and are iterations of things I’ve done in my classes. All my items include extensive teacher notes. You can download a free sample of them all.

Interestingly, my “best seller” is an idea I had for an Anatomy and Physiology class long after I stopped teaching that subject. I’ve never used “Human Body World,” but teachers who’ve left comments say their students love it.

My second biggest seller is a Powerpoint, “How to Graph Scientific Data.” That does not surprise me.

I’ve worked with a former student and now a dynamite 2nd grade teacher, Dawn Jenkins Himaka on a product for elementary students. Called “The Very Best Animal,” the activity combines English/Language Arts with Ecology concepts where each student develops a campaign for “the best animal” in a given biome.

Of course, my activities are science oriented and target middle-high school students. If the teacher you’re buying for doesn’t match that profile, there are hundreds of thousands of items on the site.

Make two teachers happy and buy a gift for the teacher in your life from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Fiction and Non-Fiction I've written

I’ve put together a sampler from all my books. It’s a 77-page PDF file with about 2500 words from each of my books. 
I've included samples from three as yet unpublished books--the bottom row of covers in the photo above. 

I hope you’ll read through it. When you find a sample that piques your interest, follow the link in the PDF and snag a copy from Amazon.

If you do, I’ll be your best friend.

Here’s a list of all my books with links, if you don’t want/need a sample to hook you.
Books by C. R. Downing

Traveler’s HOT L - The Time Traveler’s Resort
©2014 Koehler Books
The first eight award-winning accounts of time travel and its results

Traveler’s HOT L Volume Two - 2nd Edition
New Tales from the Time Traveler’s Resort
©2014 Time After Time Publishing
Six more accounts of time travel and its sometimes-unexpected results.

Insecticide - A Science Fiction Thriller
©2017 Clurn Publishing
An epic tale of alien intrigue and invasion. In the end, the reader must decide is the title of the book a description or a prediction.

The Observers - A Science Fiction Odyssey
©2014 Koehler Books
Follow two bumbling operatives on four hilariously unforgettable missions

The Mixer Murder - A Mamba Mystery Volume 1
©2015 Mamba Mystery Press
Four cases of private investigator Phil Mamba. The last case is a “you solve it” story with evidence-including fingerprints!

egamI esreveR - A Timeless Tale from The Traveler’s HOT L Vol 3
©2015 Time After Time Press
Life in an antiparallel universe is more than simply reversed.

Patterns on PagesSecrets of the Sequenced Symbols – Traveler’s HOT L Vol. 4
@2017 Time after Time Press
Can two illiterates from the distant future save humanity from extinction?

Sir Isaac’s Car – 9 Tales of Daring and Disaster
©2017 CRD Publishing
Follow the (mis)adventures of Henry Langdon his best friend Aaron Freemont

Tune Up Your Teaching and Turn On Student Learning
Move from Common to Transformed Teaching
and Learning in Your Classroom
©2015 Morgan James Publishing
Strategies and examples for changing the way learning takes place. For Teachers, Parents, and Administrators

NICUAn Insider’s Guide
©2017 CRD Press
The story of Hadley Marie Downing’s 60 days in NICU intermixed with commentary from one and two years later. Also included are lessons learned, advice for helping others in this situation, and a glossary of NICU terms.

Idea FarmingA Science Guy’s Read on Writing – Volume 1
©2015 CRD Publishing
A discussion of the best ways to grow a bumper crop of short stories, novellas, anthologies, and novels grown in an analogy of writing as farming.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Almanac. REPRISE Oh, how I love to read [select one option] (A BOOK ON PAPER) (AN EBOOK)!

This is the book that young authors from Moutain Valley Academy produced over the course of two years. I've chronicled their experience on this blog. I put the cover here to encourage you to buy a copy -- print or ebook --as a gift for someone on your Christmas list. 

I came across this on Twitter in early 2015 and ended up posting the original then. In two weeks, I'll follow-up with the reprise of another article related to this topic.

Looks like the real deal, right?

I decided to see how research actually supported this claim.

So I followed the link:

What I found was a listing of pseudoscience claims with no link to the actual study referred to throughout the article.

So, I followed this link to see if I could get actual data.

Again, there was no link to the study mentioned. I did find the basic study design:
The study, presented in Italy at a conference last month and set to be published as a paper, gave 50 readers the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback, with readers then tested on aspects of the story including objects, characters, and settings.
The study is small, and the author of this post did use this as a tagline of the title: Research suggests that recall of plot after using an e-reader is poorer than with traditional books
Since I like the use of “suggests” rather than proves, I followed yet another link to a website listing one of the researchers cited—turns out the researcher has published lots of articles. (More since 2015, too)

After rummaging through the papers listed, and I think I found the one referenced in the article… Here’s the abstract of the article:
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of reading medium and a paratext manipulation on aspects of narrative engagement. In a 2 (medium: booklet vs. iPad) by 2 (paratext: fiction vs. nonfiction) between-subjects factorial design, the study combined state oriented measures of narrative engagement and a newly developed measure of interface interference. Results indicated that, independently of prior experience with reading on electronic media, readers in the iPad condition reported dislocation within the text and awkwardness in handling their medium. Also, iPad readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were less likely to report narrative coherence and transportation, while booklet readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were, if anything, more likely to report narrative coherence. Finally, booklet (but not iPad) readers were more likely to report a close association between transportation and empathy. Implications of these findings for cognitive and emotional engagement with textual narratives on paper and tablet are discussed.

It turns out that the actual study document wasn’t’ available as of 1/19/15. It's not at the URL above on 11/6/17, either. This author has other studies listed on tangential topics. This one, Mangen, A. & Kuiken, D. (2014). Lost in the iPad: Narrative engagement on paper and tablet has some intriguing information on one such topic.  
Warning! The vocabulary is academic.
I gave up my quest at that point in 2015 and again today.

It appears that from this study of 50 Scandinavian school children that some aspects of reading comprehension and cognition.

Two “takeaways” from my experience:
1.             Just because a posting implies (or even states) that something is supported by science, that doesn’t mean it is. While there might be support for the premise/claim, there might only be a vague reference to some undescribed “research.”
2.            Beware of claims that “science has proven” anything. Legitimate researchers will never claim proof of n hypothesis. Data supports or refutes ideasProof is a word that strikes fear into the heart of a researcher—all it takes is one experiment that does not support a hypothesis to disprove it.

Overall, the claim in the tweet was loosely based on data. However, after spending over 40 years working with high school and college students, I can say that anecdotal evidence supports that, 
  • “back in the day,” a classroom of students working from printed books were more focused, more often, than in later years. 

More such observational data implies to me that 
  • the most noticeable difference in students of today than in yesteryear is that today’s students exhibit a decrease in desire to interact with other students directly as their predecessors.
I cannot provide empirical data in support of either of the above comments. However, I do know that, for a fact, my teaching style changed over time in response to changes I noticed in students.

Bottom line: 
Reading is an excellent way to embed linear thinking patterns into a brain. 

So, read. 
Print or ebook, reading is a good thing!

Next blog: Authors. Reading to Live… longer!

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

My website is: www.crdowning.com

Monday, November 6, 2017

Almanac. Why I’m Not A Professional Athlete

Many people fantasize careers.
  • Some see themselves as great singers or actors.
  • Others picture themselves in positions of influence in boardrooms or governmental agencies.
  • There are those who see service their country through the military, police, or fire departments as their fantasy career.
  • For a significant number of individuals, becoming the next single name soccer star, flamboyant football player, baseball phenomenon, or golf legend is the goal.

I was a member of the final list.

Throughout elementary school, I was either the biggest or second biggest child in my class. By the time I was in 5th grade, I was not only tall . . . Suffice it to say that I wore “husky” Penny’s blue jeans. I was neither quick nor fast.

My dad was the Umpire in Chief of my Little League. I was 11-years-old during the 1961 Little League season. Most of my at-bats ended in groundouts or strikeouts. I was an average fielder.
After the season, my dad minced no words.
“You’re too slow. You need to run more.”
I began running around the fence that enclosed our 0.4-acre yard several times every day. The running, combined with a growth spurt, took me into my final Little League season as a leaner, faster, stronger player.
I had a good year. I made the All-Star team. I was chosen to pitch the first game of our All-Star season.
I'm the third from the right in the back row.
We had a one-game All-Star season. The opposing pitcher was over six-feet tall. 
I threw hard. He threw heat.

Flash forward to 1964.

I’m in Pony League now. The Pony League script was a re-write of my final two-years in Little League.

As a 13-year-old, I was the second biggest kid on the team. I struck out 31 times. I was an average fielder.

My dad said this to me after that season.
“If you’re going to play baseball next year, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t hit .400.”

As a 14-year-old, I hit .440, smashed five home runs, pitched a no-hitter and a perfect game. I made the All-Star team. 
Because the All-Star format in Pony League wasn’t “play until you lose your first game,” the all-star team finished second in our opening round and lost in the Regionals.

As described in an earlier blog—A History of Injury https://goo.gl/VzwtCT, I’ve suffered a number of major muscle and bone damage in my soon to be 68 years. 

Although I didn’t know it then, my 14th year was the apex of my athletic career.

My high school athletic career is best described in medical terms.
Severe blistering on my heels—scars were visible for years afterward. Football.
Broken shoulder. Football.
Dislocated thumb. Basketball.
Torn quadriceps muscle followed by an attempt to repair it surgically. Football.
Sophomore pre-season photo. Notice that I was so tough
that I knocked one corner off the photo. ;-)
Torn groin muscle. Baseball.
Staged photo. There was a lot of that back when most cameras couldn't capture movement without blurring the photo. Another way I know this is staged is that my left foot never landed with the toes pointing toward home plate like this shows. The lack of pitching form is the primary cause of my torn rotator cuff.
“Stinger” in my neck. Football.
Damaged lumbar disk. All of the above.

College started where high school ended.
Ruptured L5-sacral disk—Fusion of L5 to the sacrum. Football.

Partial tear of my right rotator cuff. Baseball.
My shoulder took about five minutes to loosen up by swinging a weighted bat before each practice. That should have been a clue.

I left the Aztec baseball team before league-play started because of my biology lab schedule. That was the end of my collegiate athletic career.

Things didn’t improve after I got married.

Playing “recreational league baseball/softball” or coaching
Complete tear of my right shoulder rotator cuff. Baseball.
Torn hamstring-three total—one before my 30th birthday. Softball.
Broken left ankle-twice. Coaching. Softball.

  • I was a serious competitor when I played high school and college sports.
  • My muscles have a tendency to tear under stress.
  • My ligaments are less stretchy than many other people’s ligaments.

Combining the three statements above is a recipe for physical disaster.

The bottom line reason most non-professional athletes are not professional athletes is the lack of talent, motivation, or both.
I was motivated in my athletic career and probably had enough talent to earn a tryout in baseball or football . . .
. . . if only . . .

I’m not a professional athlete partly because I was “physically damaged goods” before there was a chance to give it a shot.

I described myself as a “serious competitor” in high school--see the sophomore football photo above--and college. 
What’s more accurate is that I was emotionally undisciplined. 
Not all the time. 
Enough of the time to do stupid things.

My solution to being in a jamb while playing was to do something harder. I know I tore my groin muscle and my rotator cuff because of that mentality. I know the pitch that I threw when each one ripped. I was trying to throw a fastball through the catcher's mitt both times.

Playing football in college was a blessing.

After rupturing my disk, the college insurance paid for all but a couple hundred dollars of the cost for two hospitalizations, surgery, and the follow-up urinary tract infection. 
During the spinal fusion surgery, my surgeon found that the vertebra was malformed. 
“One day you’d have stepped off a curb or something like that and the disk would have ruptured,” 
is how he put it.

Would I have been a successful professional athlete?
I doubt it.

It doesn’t matter. I love teaching.

I cannot imagine a better career plot line in my life story.

Next Almanac: Some reprised post because of the holiday season.

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor
My website is: www.crdowning.com

I'd appreciate your feedback as a comment on Blogger!

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