Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Greetings LIFEers! We were joined this week by Ronnie Nespeca, professor of Kinesiology, who gave us a tour of the key constellations in the sky and retold stories of ancient mythology. The class reminisced on our most dramatic celestial event. Ronnie’s was a fabulous meteor shower in La Paz, 10,000 feet above sea level. Did you know that the sides of the Big Dipper point to the North Star, that light pollution keeps big city stargazers in the dark, and a nebula is a cluster of stars? We had a drawing for two prizes: one reflector and one refractor telescope. Congratulations to Joy and Caroline who won!

Go to for more constellation info, and if you are ever in the mood for a day of space-oriented fun, be sure to visit the Johnson Space Center.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beyond Calcium

Greetings LIFEers. Although the class started off bone-idle due to our speaker, Dr. Chase Hayden, running late, we soon got going and had a crash course in bone health. We all know that calcium and vitamin D are crucial for good bone health, but what else can we do? Dr. Hayden returned today to give us some insights and answers.

Our health is as unique to us as our fingerprints, so no one answer works for everyone, but some things you can do to improve your bone health overall are:

1) Eat 5-6 small meals a day. Why? It starts with stress. When you are stressed your body produces cortisol and slows down delivering nutrients to your bones and other organs. So reducing stress is key to bone health (and health in general). Hunger is a form of stress on the body, so eating small meals and snacks regularly prevents hunger. On the other end of the scale, insulin surges (from eating big meals or eating infrequently)cause cortisol levels to increase. So eating several small meals throughout the day prevents hunger and insulin surges, which can lead to bone nutrient depletion.

2) Go to sleep earlier and regularly at the same time. Sleep is another method the body has to combat stress. When your melatonin levels rise, your cortisol levels decline, so get your 8 hours, get them early and get them regularly.

3) Eat your Omega 3 fatty acids and have a diet balanced in lean meats, healthy fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil, seeds, etc) and low carbs. Diet plays a large role in our bodies' mineral absorption, so eating healthy will greatly help your bones.

Check out Dr. Hayden's slide show below, and don't be a lazy bones anymore. Beat stress through meditation (yoga, prayer), fun (social times, play) and exercise. And keep your bones healthy and strong for years to come.

Dr. Hayden's website

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Literature of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Greetings LIFEers,

We were joined this week by local author (local, by way of India) Chitra Divakaruni, who read passages from and discussed her latest book One Amazing Thing. Chitra was inspired to write One Amazing Thing after reflecting upon her experiences evacuating from hurricane Rita. While stuck on I-10, she observed how catastrophes can bring out the best and worst in some people. Why do some people loose it and others have grace under pressure? Chitra decided to explore this question in her book. She created 9 characters who were trapped in the basement of a visa office after an earthquake hit. Water was rising. They had minimal supplies. What would they do?

While writing, Chitra said she kept two challenges in mind. First, make sure the readers don't feel "trapped" in the story the way the characters are. Second, since the story is about a forced community, each character needed a point-of-view so the story wouldn't get confusing. While Chitra wouldn't reveal the ending, several LIFEers and Cy-Fair librarians praised the book and her other writings, some of which have been made into films. Please check out Chitra's web page and her publisher's site below, and visit the library to check out your copy of One Amazing Thing.

Chitra's Website -
Gulfcoast Reads -
One Amazing Thing @ Cy-Fair Library - htttp://!horizon&view=subscriptionsummary&uri=full=3100042~!1350063~!0&ri=6&aspect=subtab80&menu=search&ipp=20&spp=20&staffonly=&term=one+amazing+thing&index=.TW&uindex=&aspect=subtab80&menu=search&ri=6&limitbox_3=LO01+=+cyf#focus

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Greetings LIFEers!

Today we learned how to sketch a portrait by our resident artist and husband of LIFEer Lorraine, Tony Afkram. According to Tony, sketching a portrait is as easy as sketching an apple. Instead of trying to accurately reproduce what you see, try to draw the shapes that you see in the person's face. Break the person down into shapes first, then put in your details and shadows.

To get the general shape down, try the following:

  1. Lightly draw an oval. Make the oval fairly large since it will contain all the facial details. Do all the next steps lightly since this is building a frame that you will later erase as you sharpen your details. The top of the oval is the crown of the head, and the bottom is the chin.

  2. Draw a line through the center of the oval vertically and horizontally. The horizontal line is called the eye-line, and is where you will draw the eyes.

  3. Halfway between the eye-line and the chin, draw another horizontal line. This is the underside of the nose.

  4. About a third of the way between the bottom of the nose and the chin, draw another horizontal line; this is the mouth line.

  5. Draw a small square box to fit in the bottom of the oval to be the chin highlight.

  6. Draw a small isosceles trapezoid (I looked up the term, how often do we say "trapezoid") on the line making the base of the nose. This trapezoid (I used it twice) will become the tip of the nose.

  7. From the inner/top corners of the trapezoid (three times!) draw two vertical lines upward to the eye line. This shape becomes the bridge of the nose. From the outer/bottom corners of the trapezoid, draw two vertical lines upward to the eye-line. These become the sides of the nose.

  8. From the the two spots where the nose-bridge lines hit the eye-line, draw two hexagons that extend not-quite to the edge of the circle, making sure the eye-line bisects the hexagons across the middle. These hexagons become the eye sockets. The eyebrows will eventually go on the top of the hexagons. Under-eye shadows and wrinkles will go toward the bottom. The eyes (horizontal ovals) will sit comfortably in the middle.

  9. Draw a line connecting the tops of the two trapezoids. You've just made another isosceles trapezoids which will become the highlighted space between the eyes and eyebrows.

  10. Draw three arches to mark the forehead area. One arch above each hexagon and one above the trapezoid marking the space between them. These areas will later be used for highlighting and shading.

  11. Extend the upper/outermost line of both hexagons down a little, maybe halfway the distance from the bottom of the hexagon. Connect this line with the upper corners of the chin box. This line marks the bottom of the cheek bones and shows where you will do cheek shading later. It also marks the outer edges of the mouth now, on the mouth line.

  12. Extend the lines making the tops of the hexagons out of the oval on both sides. Extend the line marking the bottom of the nose out of the oval on both side. This marks where the ears go. Ears are usually very thin and look like skinny ovals on the side of the head, but some peoples' ears stick out!

  13. Now you have the general face in proportion, with lines showing roughly where to highlight and where to shadow. Now start adjusting these shapes to your actual subject. Maybe your subject's face is wider than an oval. Maybe their chin is more rectangular than square. Maybe their eye-line isn't exactly in the middle of their face. Maybe their nostrils are wider. We drew all of the preliminary shapes lightly so we can edit/erase some of that work and put in better details later.

  14. Consider where your light source is coming from and start shading.

We hope you enjoyed our class today. Portraiture is much easier when you think of faces as a jumble of connected shapes. The next time you are bored (not LIFE class) whip out a pencil and start sketching the people around you. You'll see how easy and fun it is.