Jayel Gibson - Tales Touched by Magick

Archive for April, 2009

04 - 1 09

Into the Bonding Pit

Phase One: Putting on the Pouch

Just what does it take to truly bond with a sugar glider? Regardless of how much research we do, or how many bonding articles we read, we are never really prepared for the reality. Sugar gliders can be scary! It is a matter of survival instinct. A small, sweet faced creature, usually weighing in at less than five ounces, the sugar glider has had to develop extreme methods of survival in the wild. A colony of crabbing sugar gliders will frighten off a predator that might otherwise make a meal out of them. The lunge of a cornered glider may also serve as a deterrent against an animal in search of a meal, and it is a well known fact that even the bite of an adorable joey has sent many a potential owner in search of a more “domestic” pet.

If you want a sugar glider to trust you, you must be willing to put in a great deal of time. Bonding does not always come easy, and for every story of the glider who bonded to its owner overnight there are twenty stories where it took a year. Throughout this article you will notice a mantra of three words: Time, patience, consistency.

Sugar gliders tend to bring certain human emotions to the surface.

  • Love - our hearts are filled with this, often at the very first sight of a sugar glider
  • Pain - our hearts are usually broken within a day or two, as soon as we realize our love is not returned. In fact, just the opposite seems true. The adorable creature appears to hate the sight of us.
  • Frustration - we are trying so hard to “bond,” but don’t seem to be getting much cooperation from our glider(s).
  • Fear - What if he bites me and it hurts? What if he never bonds with me?
  • Joy - Today he let me feed him, he didn’t crab, lunge or bite. Today I was allowed to pet him for the first time.

You may; in fact, you probably will experience all of these at some time during the bonding process.

As much as you want to get your little glider out of the cage and hold him just as soon as you get him home - don’t. When you get home place your glider in the cage where he will be living and let him rest. Moving from one place to another is stressful. Whether a young joey, or older glider, he has been taken from the home he knows. Suddenly all of the scents and sights are unfamiliar and frightening. Your glider may be very shy about coming out of his pouch for a night or two, and may flee back to it if you enter the room or turn on a light. Give him a few days before you start the bonding process in earnest. Do sit by the cage each night during those first days. Talk softly as you clean or feed. Try not to make loud noises or quick movements that will startle your glider. Even during these first few days you will be earning, or losing, your glider’s trust.

After a few days, remove your glider’s pouch from the cage during the day while he is sleeping. He will most likely crab at the motion, and almost certainly will crab if you show him your face. This is fine. Don’t take it personally. It is the only way he knows to get rid of you, and YOU aren’t going to let it work because YOU have patience and are consistent. I found that sliding the pouch inside my shirt worked best in the beginning. Here I would like to point out that, a pouch is a pouch is a pouch. There are all kinds of pouches. Thin bonding pouches, thin sleeping pouches, thick bonding pouches, thick sleeping pouches, and thin and thick traveling pouches…which one you use doesn’t matter. It will be easiest if you use the same pouch your glider sleeps in as the bonding pouch. That way all you do is reach in the cage, take out the pouch with the glider already in it, and slide it inside your shirt. It is also helpful if you keep the pouch hanging on, or near, the main door of the cage where you have easy access to it.

In the beginning you will want to keep your glider on you as much as possible. As you go about your daily routine the glider will become accustomed to your motion and voice, as well as your all-important scent. You smell special and you want your glider to know it. Remember when your mother complained about the smell of your dirty clothes? Well suddenly they have a purpose. Each day give your glider an article of clothing, or a piece of fleece that you have worn long enough that it carries your scent. I wore a piece of fleece in my bra each day and gave it to my gliders each night. It also helps to rub the fleece or clothing over your face and neck where your skin is most oily. I know, your mother would be horrified, but we are bonding here, and willing to do whatever it takes.

As you are “wearing” your glider each day you may begin to shamelessly bribe him with “licky” treats. These can be baby food fruits, applesauce, a bit of yogurt, an occasional piece of grape or apple, something that you discover your glider really loves. Each time you reach into the pouch have something to offer. Yes, the glider may still crab and lunge, but for the largest percentage of gliders the “licky” treat seems to work. As soon as the glider lunges with the intent of biting, he receives a wonderful taste. Before long his hands, instead than his teeth, will reach for your finger. While you may be bitten, I found my gliders to be very intelligent about it. It only took a few offerings before they decided I was the “snack fairy.” This takes a great deal of consistency. It is an ongoing process and should never end. You won’t always offer a treat every time you pet your glider, but be prepared to do it occasionally for the rest of his life.

Now that your glider is busy holding your finger and licking off his special treat, use your other hand to very gently stroke his head and back. Do not make sudden movements that might startle your new friend and undo the good that has been done so far. The more time you spend with him at this early phase of bonding, the more quickly your glider will learn to trust you. I tried to spend at least two to four hours a day with my gliders during the first month of daytime bonding. Now, on to phase two…the tent.

Phase Two: Out of the Pouch and into the Tent

A tent? Did she say a tent? Indeed she did. When I first read about the use of a tent for bonding and playtime I thought surely I had misunderstood. I do not know where this idea originated, but I DO know it works wonders. The tent is usually a small dome tent, the type that can be purchased for under $20.00 at Walmart or Target. These are easy to set up and take down, and store in very small travel cases making them easy to take with you on road trips. They have small rings attached to four corners of the interior ceiling, perfect for hanging glider toys such as ropes and swings. Hopefully you will be able to leave your tent up permanently for convenience, but even if you are unable to, set up and breakdown take only minutes. Once the tent is up, STOP, before you grab your glider pouch and jump inside there is a bit of preparation that will help keep your gliders comfortable. Place a sheet on the floor of the tent. The plastic flooring tends to make loud crackling noises as you move about on it, and the sheet serves to deaden that sound. Now choose a few hanging toys that your glider has already used in his cage, and place them on the rings. A paper plate with a snack is also something your glider will welcome. It is in the tent that I feed moths. Watching the gliders catch them is true entertainment. The tent also provides endless photo opportunities.

I found that taking my gliders in for tent time about an hour before they normally wake up works best. They are still drowsy, but it only takes a short time before they are out of the pouch and investigating. I offer licky treats and pet my gliders, talking softly as they wake up. REMEMBER the first thing your glider will do when it wakes up and leaves the pouch is urinate and defecate. If you do not want this to be done on your lap cover it with a paper towel or cloth.

How do you play with a glider? Most gliders LOVE feathers, so a cat feather teaser is a lot of fun. There are also items made by many members of the glider community that can serve as enrichment for tent time. Your job, as tent master, is to sit quietly and observe. The tent provides a safe, secure environment for your glider, and the confined space means that while they play they will constantly be crossing over you, jumping on and off, or resting on your shoulder or lap. This wonderful microcosm provides the gliders with a perfume of your co-mingled scents. Before long you just become one of the colony.

Tent time, like daytime bonding, needs to be done on a consistent basis. One to two hours nightly, at least five nights out of the week when you begin. Even now, long after the bond with my gliders is strong, I find that on occasions where I must be away from them for a few days or a week I become a creature to be reinvestigated before I am fully accepted again. Gliders require your presence on a very regular basis if you want them to include you as one of their own.

While my gliders now have their own room, I still begin each evening with tent time before they are released into the larger space. It has kept the bond tight, and provided me some of the sweetest moments with my gliders. They come to rest in my lap. Each time I look down into their sweet faces I thank those many people who took their time to share bonding methods with me. There is nothing that can replace the time you spend with your gliders for sealing the bond. Unless you are consistent and patient your glider will simply be a caged stranger in your home, never a companion. While the investment is great, the reward is even greater.

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04 - 1 09

Smooth Moves: Eight Tips for Interview Success

Did you finally land the interview you’ve been waiting for all your life? You think you’re ready for your big day, but now that it’s almost here, your nerves are getting the best of you? There’s no way you’ll be able to rock it as well as you always dreamed you would, right? WRONG! You can do it, by applying some tried and true dating tips to your interview preparation.

  1. Be confident. In your head, you can be super distracted by everything from the bright lights, to the cute cameraman, to a little dust ball in the corner. But don’t let it show. Take deep breaths, and focus on what your interviewer is saying so that you can give an intelligent response. Sure, maybe you could mess up and do something embarrassing that the audience will think is cute, but the likelihood of that happening is incredibly small. It’s best to be sure of yourself, and they will remember and like you for what you said and how well you carried yourself.
  2. Have a plan. You need to practice for this interview as much as possible. Have a friend (or your publicist) stage interviews with you. Make sure they ask you all the obvious questions, as well as the most off-the-wall questions they can think of. The more you practice, the more prepared you will be when the big day comes. And if the interviewer steers the topic away from something you want to talk about, it’s okay to take control. But it’s essential that you are comfortable in the situation before you will be able to do that.
  3. Dress to impress. You want to look like the best version of yourself. Keep your style, but make sure it’s television appropriate and dressy enough for the interview setting. Some things you want to avoid for television interviews are whites and crazy patterns. And while your audience may not see you on a radio interview, you still need to dress well enough so that your interviewer doesn’t think you’re being disrespectful. When in doubt, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  4. Have good hygiene. Even if your audience won’t be able to smell you, they will be able to tell if you haven’t taken a shower in a week. So clean up! Don’t overdo it, though, because besides running the risk of looking goofy to everyone watching, if you put gel in your hair for the first time in your life right before your interview, it will make you really self-conscious and less confident.
  5. Be creative. Do not try to impress your audience by spouting off factual information that even your mother doesn’t want to hear. Instead, be resourceful. If you’re interviewing about your new fitness book, take some equipment with you and teach the audience some moves. If your book is about dating, get a volunteer from the audience and practice some scenarios. Don’t just stand there expecting the perfect interview to fall into your lap. Show you’ve put some thought into it, and if a chance for improving some creativity comes up in the middle of the interview, take it!
  6. Be interested. If you sit there waiting for your interviewer to ask you the right question and twiddle your thumbs with boredom until that happens, you are really going to turn off the audience’s interest in your book. It’s crucial that you engage in an interesting conversation with your interviewer. Really listen to what he or she says to you, and give thoughtful responses that captivate your audience. Eventually, you will be asked the questions you’ve been waiting to be asked.
  7. Show your interviewer chivalry is not dead. When you do your pre-interview, open doors, pull out chairs and act polite. If he or she likes you, it will really show in the interview, and the audience will like you too.
  8. Call the interviewer. If the interview goes well, by the time it’s over you and the interviewer will be more like old friends. So give them a friendly follow-up call to ask how they’re doing, and ask about any responses the station may have gotten from viewers about your interview. This will keep the relationship strong between you and the station, so when your next book comes out, hopefully they will invite you back.
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04 - 1 09

Video Games: Friend or Foe?

Video games. While they may seem like the bane of every parent’s existence, they don’t have to be—many of them offer unique learning features. And with increased requirements in schools placing unprecedented demands on children, parents and even grandparents, it may be time to start thinking about video games as teaching tools. The learning component of gaming can be optimized with parent involvement. That means understanding what makes a game both fun and educational.

What makes a game fun?

  • Challenge and strategy - this is the core of the game. It includes the objective, the play and the scoring. The game should provide a challenge for its players and allow them to use different strategies to gain a level or win. This is what determines the age group or skill level.
  • Element of surprise - this is the variation of the game. The element of surprise must be built into the game to provide laughter, excitement, regret or risk.
  • Replay ability - this is the ability to play the game over and over with different outcomes each time. This is measured by the ‘boring’ factor. If the child gets bored fast, the game lacks replay ability.

What makes a game educational?

  • New information - this is the educational information provided. It may be text or graphics, and is normally unknown by the age group or skill level for which the game is made.
  • Memorization - this is the part of the game that rewards good memory. If players are able to remember the new information, they can advance in the game.
  • Context and Cognition - this is the part of the game that puts the new information to use. Players win or score points by matching pairs, answering questions or problem solving.
  • Gender and Ethnic Balance - the game addresses equity issues through cooperative group play, language diversity, and character gender options.

Armed with that information, let’s take a look at what the PC and console video gaming industry has to offer. Several game development companies are devoted to designing video games that help kids learn.

  • Big Fish Games. These games teach about animal habitats and the solar system, like “Wild Thornberry’s Australian Wildlife Rescue” and “Chicken Invaders 2.” They also make mind bending puzzle games and challenging word group associations, such as “BeTrapped” and “WordSearch Deluxe.”
  • Broderbund. These games allow elementary students to explore spooky museums and learn about bugs with “Scooby-Doo in The Glowing Bug-Man,” or follow the real life journey of the Oregon Trail. Middle and high school students can explore the features of shapes and solids and the relationship between length, perimeter, area and volume with “Mighty Math’s Cosmic Geometry.”
  • Educational Insights - This company makes games that focus on mathematics, acting as tutors in basic skills from addition and subtraction, to decimals and percentages.

But learning doesn’t just come from the video games that are designed specifically for education; there are some great learning experiences among popular entertainment video games, too. The most effective teaching video game genres are management, role-playing, and strategy. Each of these types of games offers opportunities to develop new learning strategies, problem solving, and real life skills, with built-in skill leveling and good gender balance options.

  • Management games are based on creating a business in a simulated environment. The Zoo, Railroad and Amusement Park Tycoon series involve players in activities to raise funds for daily repairs and to pay workers. This requires the use of critical thinking and math skills. Management games have elements that help teach science, social studies and language arts. Most management games are rated “E” for everyone.
  • Role-playing games are based on exploration and the completion of quests. Role-play games such as “Tomb Raider” and “Half Life” require reading dialogue and directions, inventory and maps. There may be elements of fighting, but in many instances the player must decide whether fighting, or avoiding the fight, is the best choice. Online versions of role-playing games include the extremely popular “World of Warcraft,” and long running “EverQuest” series. This genre is suitable for teens.
  • Strategy games feature an array of activities, from building historical vehicles to creating the history of new worlds or replaying the history of our own. These include games like “Model Trains 3D”, Microsoft’s “Flight Simulator X,” “Empire Earth,” and “Age of Empires.” Players experiment and discover how things work, or don’t work, as they set goals and labor to achieve them. Strategy games involve many of the same skills used in today’s science exploration. They are suitable for most children 10 and older.

For parents and grandparents who are wary of just handing over the console carte-blanch, there are ways you can get involved to make sure your child is getting the most out of the learning game experience.

  • Play games with your child. Be available during game time. Today’s online game play offers the chance to create and play as a family clan, regardless of where family members are physically located.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. Be aware of Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings found on the front of video game boxes. Movie ratings and ESRB ratings are quite similar. If your child is allowed to view only “G” rated movies then an ESRB rating of “E” will be appropriate. An ESRB “T” game rating is the equivalent of “PG-13″ movie ratings, and an “M” video game rating indicates an audience level of 17 years and older.
  • Allow your child to show and tell about their gaming experience. Character journaling is also a good way to improve creative writing skills. Have your older child keep a journal from the game character’s perspective.
  • Ask questions about the gaming experience, especially when using entertainment video games. Questions can be generic or game specific. For example: Do any of the characters in this game remind you of any real life heroes? What are your favorite Zoo Tycoon animals, and what do you think they need to survive in real life?
  • Avoid the pitfall of the video game becoming a babysitter by locating the gaming PC or console system in a family room, rather than in the isolation of a child’s room.

Whether card game, board game, PC or console video game, the key ingredient for success is parent involvement, and regardless of the delivery method, the main focus of learning games is that they should be both fun and educational. Incorporate fun into daily learning activities by using games, and you will be surprised at how much kids learn!

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