Tuesday, January 25

catch those rays

Winter in Illinois. The days are stark, leaving me to feel almost lucky that I'm stuck inside my office, where my officemate and I have secretly stashed a small spaceheater for extra toastiness.

Today, however, Mr. Sunshine has boldly popped out from gray skies and is flirting with me through the window. I think I'll play hard-to-get--as much as I want to welcome his brazen caresses, I'm no fool. Daylight minutes that have toddled along through my workday will suddenly skip and skitter past sunny, sunset, and dusk as soon as I reach for my mittens. Deep darkness, just in time for a cold commute home.

Thankfully, I ran across something that brightened my day without Mother Nature's assistance. It appears that "mind over matter" really is possible--from The Washington Post:

"Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have maintained for centuries: Mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow people to achieve different levels of awareness.

Those transformed states have traditionally been understood in transcendent terms, as something outside the world of physical measurement and objective evaluation. But over the past few years, researchers at the University of Wisconsin working with Tibetan monks have been able to translate those mental experiences into the scientific language of high-frequency gamma waves and brain synchrony, or coordination. And they have pinpointed the left prefrontal cortex, an area just behind the left forehead, as the place where brain activity associated with meditation is especially intense.

'What we found is that the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before,' said Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the university's new $10 million W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior. 'Their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance.' It demonstrates, he said, that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine.

Scientists used to believe the opposite -- that connections among brain nerve cells were fixed early in life and did not change in adulthood. But that assumption was disproved over the past decade with the help of advances in brain imaging and other techniques, and in its place, scientists have embraced the concept of ongoing brain development and 'neuroplasticity.'

Davidson says his newest results from the meditation study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November, take the concept of neuroplasticity a step further by showing that mental training through meditation (and presumably other disciplines) can itself change the inner workings and circuitry of the brain." View the whole article....

I'll take Gamma waves over UV rays any day of the week!

Wednesday, January 19

the kingdom of low carbdom

Let me ask you something. Specifically, let me direct my question at those still hanging out in the Kingdom of Low Carbdom. What is the point of the low carb diet? The experts have spoken; the verdict is in: you know damned well it’s not a permanent lifestyle choice. In fact, I’d render a guess that 97.5% of you following the craze will take a nose-dive off the bandwagon within the next 4 months.

I mean, come on--any nutritional choice that involves omitting whole sections of the food pyramid (barring allergies or other relevant excuses) seems to me an obviously short-term plan that is bound to fail. What it equates to for most involved parties is foul moods, clogged arteries, and a general feeling that a staple of all humanity is sadly/suddenly absent from their lives.

I know, nothing you haven’t already heard from bagel lovin’ fools like myself. But jump into my carb-happy shoes for a moment, have a seat next to me on the L (Chicago’s elevated train) tomorrow morning, and see it from my perspective:

One whiff of the bacon-y smells wafting from all the carbless souls sitting around you, and it’ll be all you can do not to run to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts for a 12-pack, just to cut through the meatiness of it all. You’ll be back to your carberrific self in no time!

Note to the Anti-carb: Please don’t take this as a poke or a prod at your attempt to pull your body into line—-any societal movement away from obesity is wonderfully welcome. Plus, I’ve got to admit, a bit of admiration is due for the sheer willpower it must take for anyone to turn down a crusty-edged, fluffy-centered, butter (or in my case, Brummel & Brown®)-slathered hunk off a fresh baguette.

Though I do suppose you can just double up on the butter….

Tuesday, January 18

first foray in blogopolis

a "shout-out" to those less resolute
I like to reverse-psychologize (new word?) myself out of breaking New Year's resolutions.

Why? Because, well... they're just so darned vociferous. Let's face it, anything that blatant is bound to crash and burn. Follow this example:

Bright idea! Let's shout to the entire stratosphere--or at least our officemates--that we've launched a plan to starve ourselves into that wonderfully perfect size 2 wool and cashmere blend pencil skirt that we splurged on over the holiday, but haven't yet been able to tug over our just-a-little-too-plump butt.

[Five minutes later.] Our "drive-by" past the office kitchen slows to a park. We find ourselves gazing longingly into the baby blues of... the blueberry french toast leftover from this morning's client meeting. Operation Starvation is now at a standstill... quickly conquered by extreme lack of willpower, formally known in this case as Sgt. Syrupy Sweet Indulgence.

Back to my attempts at reverse-psychologization (could this possibly count as another new word?):

I simply boycott (very vocally and possibly obnoxiously) all forms of resolutions/goals/dreams/ambitions/whathaveyou
that hover anywhere near the first of the new year. Then quietly, with a faint gleam in my eye, I lose those five nagging pounds, manicure the heck out of my nails, hit a nearby solar salon and have my hair cut and colored--all in the same week.

And then for the response... "What, I look great? Huh? New Year's resolution? No way!" (This said all while my brain is quietly shouting, "Touché!"). Sure, some years leave more room for celebration than others, but all-in-all I've found my approach much more successful than those of my peers.

hot, hot, hot
Have you heard the one about the bloke who boiled his lava lamp 'til implosion? I'm not kidding--he set it on his stove to cook, and a bit later his lab experiment ended rather unfortunately, with glass shards entering his chest cavity.

I'm curious to his initial motive. Perhaps the temp was as cold in the UK as it has been in the greater Chicagoland area? Because then I could almost start to grasp his vision... last cup of coffee didn't take the chill off? How about some liquid hot magma.