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Plasticity

Sunday, November 16th, 2008 Leave a comment

Norman Doidge in The Brain That Changes Itself has amazing stories of how the brain can adapt to challenges, refuting the “hard-wired” theory of brain functioning and explaining how with dedicated training habitual ways of thinking can be reprogrammed.  Providing scientific justification for the theories of creation through thought and the power of positve thinking, the author cites sources showing how this occurs physiologically.  As an example in one study, one group did body strengthening exercises.  The second group went through visualizations of doing the exercises, without actually moving.  Strength increase with exercise: 30%.  With visualization: 23%.  This theory also encourages caregivers of stroke and other brain damage victims to provide intense rehab, which can result in dramatic recoveries as the brain grows new pathways.  He asserts that the brain challenged at any age will not only remain more alert, it will grow more interconnections.

Categories: Books, Healing, Learning

Exercising: a program that worked

Friday, December 7th, 2007 3 comments

Triceps ExtensionTriceps ExtensionLike everybody, I know that physical exercise is good for me.  And like many, I’ve tried jogging (shin splints), the gym (too much time), walking (hard on the knees and not complete enough), Tai Chi (too mild), Yoga (not vigorous enough), and lots of other stuff.

In July though I started  working out with an exercise ball.  I’d tried the ball before, but hadn’t stuck to it.  What was different this time was a program in a book called, “Weights on the Ball Workbook” by Steven Stiefel (Ulysses Press), and I’ve stuck with it.  Here’s why I think I’ve persisted:

  • Time: I can do it at home, no travel time
  • Equipment: cheap: set of freeweights and an exercise ball.  You only need a couple of weight sets to start.  By Christmas I’ll have 3, 5, 8, 12 and 15 lb weights.
  • Variety: there are close to 60 different exercises listed, each with 3 or 4 variants
  • Programs: There are 9 different programs, with suggested exercises, schedule, number of reps/sets, etc.
  • Presentation: In the program listing for each exercise a pretty little picture of the starting stance serves as an easy reminder.  No flipping to page 78 to figure out what a triceps extension is.  And if you want more detail the page number is listed for each exercise.
  • Scope: since most exercises are done balancing on the ball, I’m working a lot more than the targetted muscle group, stabilizers and core muscles aplenty are getting worked.

So for the program I’m doing, I work out 4 times per week (MTThF) for 30-40 minutes.  Add to that a simple aerobic warm-up (fast 10 minute walk).  Each day has a different set of exercises, so I end up  with 25 different exercises per week.  Nice variety.  Other programs repeat exercises more, this one has a long rest period as it works the muscles hard and recovery time is needed.  So I look as scrawny, er wiry, as ever.  But I feel better after working out, and that scrawn is all muscle. ;)

Categories: Books, Learning

New guide to Peru

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007 Leave a comment

Children of OllantaytamboA friend of mine, Rick Segreda, along with a colleague has published a new guide to Peru.  If you’re headed down that way, pick it up!

Children of Ollantaytambo

Categories: Books, Learning, Travel

Boy Crazy

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006 Leave a comment

I’m only part way through this book, but what a great resource if you’re parenting a girl going through early adolescence! Going well beyond the usual hormonal changes, the authors explain the phases of romance, and what they mean to a young girl. They explain how in their view the adolescent experience has changed since that of their parents, and some of the implications. There’s useful advice on when and when not to involve yourself in your daughter’s life.
The authors assume for some reason that the reader is a mother, but the book works fine for Dads. It’ll be easier for Moms to connect to their daughters through their own experiences, which the authors encourage.

A couple of traps (in my opinion!) to watch out for: the book is inconsistent in differentiating between behaviour and the individual, sometimes unfortunately lapsing into labelling. And the authors seem to have a Chicken Little approach to life: that society has become more toxic and damaging. In my opinion, despite the obvious drawbacks of increased drug use and other areas of decay, society has improved for children in leaps and bounds. I would much rather be bringing up a child now than in the suppressed world of the fifties, or even the eighties.
So, like any book, if I pick and choose what works for me, there’s lots of good stuff here. It’s easy to read, and well-organized. Available at Amazon.com. Authors: Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese.

Categories: Books

This Book Will Save Your Life

Friday, March 17th, 2006 Leave a comment

Despite the New-Agey title of this book, I found it to be a playful, silly, profound exploration of the modern techno/stock player/businessman emotionally-numb archetype. Rather than a juicy, gratifying/shocking/resolving ending, the book provides its charms one per page throughout.

Highly recommended. Available April 20, 2006 at Amazon.com

Categories: Books

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Friday, February 10th, 2006 9 comments

I was introduced to Science Fiction by a friend when I was 12, and gobbled it up as best I could considering that there were no SciFi sections in the bookstores at that time. Mail-order was our only source. And in one order I snuck in a little “science fact,” a book by George Gamow (who was also the author of one of my University physics books in later years) called “1,2,3 … Infinity”. The descriptions of relativity and assorted physics, explained for the layman, blew me away, and 40 years later I still remember my astonishment and delight as I inhaled its magic.

For Christmas my wife gave me a similar book, but written in 2003, so somewhat more current, “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. Since my university science training was complete in the 70s a lot has been learned about physics, astronomy and geology, so I’m getting a bit of an update. Written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the scientifc updates are interwoven with fascinating historical snippets about the men and women who discovered, researched and theorized.

It’s a must-read for anyone with an interest in science, and shows too that politicians are not alone in their egocentric silly sniping. It’s amazing the lengths that so-called “scientists” will go to to refute theories contrary to their own. Sure, their research funding may be at risk, but it’s hardly scientific to ridicule, shame, sabotage and undermine colleagues with differing opinions. On the other hand, such silly, immature behaviour may goad researchers to dig deeper and seek further.

As an example, at the same time in 1963 that plate tectonics theory was first being proposed by researcher Drummond Matthews and his student Fred Vine, Canadian Lawrence Morely apparently submitted a paper proposing the same theory to the Journal of Geophysical Research. The editor is quoted as replying, “Such speculations make interesting talk at cocktail parties, but it is not the sort of thing that ought to be published under serious scientific aegis.” Apparently by 1980 one in eight geologists still did not believe in the theory.

The book abounds with such anecdotes and stats, and I’m not looking forward to finishing it … it’s much too fun.

Categories: Books, Learning

Inspiration or …

Sunday, January 8th, 2006 Leave a comment

I’m reading Bob Dylan’s autobiographical “Chronicles”. His writing seems honest (the occaisonal misused or misspelt word is a clue perhaps) and surprisingly articulate. Why did I think he was a doped-up pothead? At times he says he behaved strangely just to hide the mis-applied mantle of hippie evangelist. Maybe that’s what I remember. What’s most interesting to me is his descriptions of his creative process, which varied from time to time. I liked that his view that trying or pushing to create didn’t produce a good result, but connecting somehow to a flow did; whether inspired by hearing another artist, discussion with a friend, or just a realization apparently out of the blue. He describes the sessions for a number of later songs; it’d be very interesting to listen to those.

Categories: Books
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