Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Googling giggling

After doing a bit of googling on weight loss and laughter I found the following: 

Can a few minutes of hearty laughter replace your treadmill time? No, but getting the giggles does burn some calories, and the more you laugh, the more you burn, say experts at Vanderbilt University. 

Their study recruited 45 pairs of friends (we're more likely to laugh with others in the room than when we're alone) to watch comedy video clips, including episodes of 
Saturday Night Live and the movies There's Something About Mary and Austin Powers

The volunteers viewed the scenes in a room equipped with a device that measures the number of calories burned, and each person was hooked up to a heart rate monitor. At the end of the session, researchers determined that laughing increased heart rate by 10 to 20 percent and burned about 1.3 calories per minute. That's similar to the so-called workout you'd get typing, filing, or playing cards. Jogging, on the other hand, burns about 10 calories per minute. "Pay attention to small things. Every calorie counts," says lead study author Maciej S. Buchowski, PhD. Chuckle for 15 minutes every day for a year and you could drop up to four pounds -- and that's nothing to laugh at. 

The Laugh It Off Diet

This cartoon by Mr. Leighton published in the New Yorker cracked me up. Why isn't there a cartoon diet book for kids?. Would this be a good way to get nutrition information "down the gullet" of those in most need.  The LAUGH IT OFF diet. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Meme Contribution

Lest my few readers think I've gone over the edge to total self absorption, I was invited to create a meme - which in this case is a list of 7 things people may not know about you.

  • Some of my worst, most embarrassing moments happened while attempting to dance - even worse when under the influence. There was that "native dance" in Tahiti after a quart of Mai Tai, a similar dance in Greece after copious amounts of ouzo consumed with my friend, stumbling around in an attempted foxtrot with my ex and his size 15's, watching my friend (same one with the ouzo) remove her blouse and attempt a watusi, being thrown twirled tangoed mamboed spun jived swooped and stomped on by various well-meaning and happy, but hopelessly clumsy husbands, co-workers, brothers-in-law and dates over the decades. Without a doubt, the best dance partner I ever had was my sister - we could execute an almost flawless polka together. 
  • My happiest times have involved a suitcase. Needs no explanation. 
  • Procrastination is my worst enemy. If there's a deadline, I organize my time so I'm bumping up against it.
  • I've learned to avoid routine. Although my mother was slavish to it - we'd eat at 5:00 on the dot, I learned that I was more creative, thought faster and better outside of the familiar. In college, I studied in a public library in the seat nearest the door so that noise was unexpected and unpredictable. My brain works best when patterns are disturbed and it is moderately agitated. A little adrenaline thrown into the mix helps when an idea is wanting. 
  • I like assembling things - lamps, Ikea bookcases, BBQ's and reading instruction books. 
  • I like diversity in people and enjoy the company of many people who could barely stand to be in the same room with each other. 
  • Making a buck lights me up. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Chesterfield

In Canada, you flop down on the "Chesterfield" to watch TV. I learned today that this term, Chesterfield, as a generic designation for couch, is used this way only in Canada.

A real Chesterfield  is a unique piece of furniture. Often leather, with a tufted back and with arms the same height as the back, it can be a thing of beauty, when the fabric is right. First seen at the beginning of the 20th century it was gorgeous then and still a knock-out. Restoration Hardware has them on display mixed with natural wood pieces and very chic industrial look tables. Nice for some kind of urban loft or studio...not great in Fallbrook on a farm.
Restoration Hardware version

Yes, I'm still shopping for a sofa, couch, settee, Chesterfield or whatever you call it. I've learned more than I want to know about how they're made - what's good and what's bad. As a budget item, they are really not a major consideration. You can get a decent couch today for less than they were 15 years ago, the last time I went shopping. It's not money holding me back, but a lack of vision about what to use that will please both Richard and me and look good in our small space.

I have a piece of material that I'm carrying around and trying to match. Today at a custom couch maker the girl who was helping me said "Do yourself a favor and throw that scrap away. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to match it."  Good advice. She was wise beyond her 25 years.

After the couch agony, I stopped at the huge Consignment store in Encinitas. They have lots of things there - tons of framed prints and art - I couldn't see anything much that I liked though. It takes a special eye to see the possibilities in these stores - they invariably smell like mothballs, dust, mildew, dento-fix and mustiness. Stuff is piled up without rhyme or reason. Not my kind of place - I don't have the sufficient imagination.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hitlers favorite test pilot

George, our test pilot friend visited last night on his way up to LA for another test pilot convention. He tells great stories and last night we heard about the time he checked in at the Hyatt for a convention and Wernher Von Brahn and Hanna Reitsch were in the same line. Wernher von Brahn needs no explanation, but Hanna is not exactly well known.

She was "Hitler's favorite test pilot", says George and the first woman pilot to accomplish many aviation feats.  She tested the first buzz bomb and survived  - even though it was extremely difficult, almost impossible, for the pilot to get out of the thing. It was a kamikaze-like design. Aimed at a target, loaded up with bombs,  the pilot would eject at the last minute while the plane went on to crash into the target.  Hitler's Luftwaffe didn't like the idea (duh) as the pilot would likely die or at best, be captured; they managed to kill the concept before it killed them.

Not surprisingly, Hanna was a zealous Nazi as was her family. Her big regret was not being able to remain in the bunker with Der Feurher at the end. Conveniently, her father killed the whole family - his wife, children and grandchildren. Hanna was captured by us and interred for some time. She led an interesting life post war; not guilty of any war crimes, she moved around the world readily and was welcomed in many countries. Happily the gene pool is rid of her and the whole family because she never married or had children.   

George said that Werner, who had been living in the US for some time, reverted to type upon facing Hanna and greeted her with heels clicking, a low bow and a kiss on the hand. That must have been something to see. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Last night the noise in the restaurant was very "live" and sharp. When something dropped on the floor the sharp whack felt almost physical, like you were being hit. We all shuddered. 

The place wasn't full - about 1/3 capacity. Suddenly Barbara noticed the large party of about 10 were signing to each other. They were deaf!! We couldn't imagine how unbearable the noise would be if the place was full of actual speaking people. Maybe the deaf folks selected the place because noise is not relevant to them. Should you avoid restaurants frequented by deaf people because they might be too loud? or seek them out because they'd be quiet?  

When we tried to get the waiter's attention, he didn't notice us because almost everyone was wagging their fingers and making gestures. It felt like a "Curb your enthusiasm" episode.  LOL! 

For my non-texting friends, LOL which I, like a dinosaur,  was still interpreting as "lots of love" until recently, apparently means "laugh out loud" in "text" language. Just like "awesome" which formerly packed a conversational wallop and now describes such earth- shaking events as finding a good parking space, another perfectly good phrase BTD (bites the dust). Was not "laughing out loud" reserved for something really funny? Now I think it's used as a symbol for hyperbole and texts are loaded with them (LWT). See - we can do this too. After all idnt-day our eneration-gay use and enjoy Pig Latin? 

Below is the very useful sign language gesture for loud. Not LOL, but just plain LOUD. When we walk into a clanging, clattering restaurant, my husband and I can use this to each other to signal we should hit the road (HTR). 

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Animation:  LOUD

American Sign Language University ™ ASL resources by © Dr. William Vicars
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fun with Macy's

The people at Macy's are so nice. They've delivered a nightstand three times and have scheduled a fourth. The night stands, made in Indonesia, have obviously been constructed out of poorly dried wood and the veneer cracks. Three night stands - three kinds of cracking. The delivery guys tell me they've taken almost every one back. 

The first delivery was a sofa and chair - it was the wrong color and a nightstand veneer was crackled and peeling. We accepted a bed and one nightstand. Second delivery - right couch and chair, but the replacement nightstand was worse than the one we had. Third delivery - a couch, a chair and an ottoman - wrong color and of course, we had already received the couch and chair we wanted. Third nightstand, just as bad as the others.

Indefatigable, they are trying again. I offered to accept the last one delivered and just touch it up myself, but they tell me if you "fix" it yourself, the warranty is voided. So why should I bother? What will we get this time? I hope it's something we can use and we've decided we'll keep it and let Macy's sort it out. 

They have marvelous friendly people at customer service. Great congenial people who keep trying and trying, but why can't somebody open up the box and check the thing out before they drive from LA to Fallbrook - two guys and a big truck?  

We have another delivery scheduled at the end of September. 


Higinio, our favorite (and only) welder talked us into a fireplace screen and some window deco. He's a pretty good salesman and gave us an excellent price because, like most of us,  he has little work and expects only to make his wages on a job. No profit. Welcome to the club.

Yesterday he made a template of our beehive fireplace opening. It's torqued just like my back.  Some fancy iron bending is needed to make doors that cover the opening and look OK. Wish the same could be done for my back. 

His shop (he calls it his studio) is in his back yard. I guess the neighbors don't complain - even though he has screaming saws, roaring forges and blacksmith sounds - hammers pounding metal - going on day and night.

A nice guy - I like him even though I think he doesn't like me very much - I seem to be the one who does the nit picking. He has a great work ethic, is pretty creative and in these tough times, I admire the way he "sold" us some work. There's no grass growing under his feet.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

French Canadian multiplication

Have you ever met a French Canadian? At the rate they were multiplying before 1730, I'm surprised the globe isn't crawling with them. The following comes from a recently received genealogical document on the French immigration to Canada. 

"The typical emigrant was a 37-1/2 year old illiterate bachelor from the Seigneury or Canton of Tourouvre who was a laborer or carpenter and who signed a 36 month engagement to work in New France. The Perche pioneers were also prolific. L’Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques of the University of Montreal published “Naissance d’une Population” in 1987 which provided a lot of demographics concerning the Quebec pioneers prior to 1730. Among other lists the publication presented the ranking of the pioneers by the number of descendants they had prior to 1730, roughly three generations after their arrival in Quebec. In the top ten in Quebec there were: first  Jean GUYON & Mathurine ROBIN with 2,150 descendants; second Zacharie CLOUTIER & Sainte DUPONT  2,090; fourth  Marin BOUCHER with Julienne BARIL & Perrine MALLET 1,454; fifth Noel LANGLOIS & Francoise GRENIER  with 1,388 and tenth Nicolas PELLETIER & Jeanne de VOUZY with 939."

My family is descended from Jean Guyon, a very fecund guy; there are also Cloutiers in the original mix. My own grandmother had 9 children (only 4 lived beyond childhood) and according to my mother this size family wasn't unusual in the area. For farmers, the more hands the better.

Guyon bloodlines stretch far and wide - Celine Dion's family and Madonna share my Guyon ancestor. Apparently a celebrity in the wood pile increases sales of these geneology materials. Pardon my cynicism.

All my life I heard it whispered that we had Swampy Cree Indian genes in the family. From these records, I doubt it  - unless some of the women were Indian with French names - not likely as the lineage for everyone traces back to Perche, France. The births are all recorded and family members accounted for - no adoptions based on the census records.  Also, adios to the poor "hard scrabble" family tales...looks like most of my folks did well from the minute they set foot on Canadian soil. The original French Canadians left France looking for the land grants, adventure or for challenge and had trades or valuable skills - they were sought out by the seigneurs who were building communities. They were not escaping persecution or starvation, in fact the Percheron area they left behind is gorgeous and most were reasonably comfortable, the records indicating they had sufficient work and were on the record as lending out money. Makes for a different kind of immigrant. 

On the other side of the family, there's a story of an uncle that was tarred and feathered and run out of a town in Saskatchewan. He sold patent medicine and had a sales pitch:" It cures cough and colds and sore ass-holes, spots on the belly and spinal decay". As a child when I had to take medicine, my father would pour it on a spoon and serve it to me, reciting this little saying. The "T and F" Uncle may be another myth. 

Accuracy has a  short shelf life when facts are passed verbally from generation to generation, each adding a little spin.  Thankfully official records are kept which are hopefully more reliable - even though they are also screwed up - transposed numbers, names mis-spelled, births recorded twice. I'm not complaining though. My brother-in-law pointed out to me, many of these old records were written with quill pens on home-made paper by candle light....what do you expect? 

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Capgras Delusion

Oliver Sachs wrote a thought provoking article in the New Yorker about prosopagnosia - the inability to recognize faces, a problem with which he has personally suffered his whole life. Up to 2% of people it is speculated may be afflicted this to some degree. Acute cases don't even recognize the faces of their loved ones; or the face of someone they were with 5 minutes ago.

I got interested in neurological oddities when I met a synesthetic in the course of my flavor work. He experienced flavor in terms of color. When he tasted something he would say, "This is purple" or "blue green". He had to learn to correlate his color perceptions of flavor with the "normal" person's taste perception. I was fascinated having always felt that we live in our own separate sensory worlds. Do you experience the same sensations as me when we listen to music or taste a peppermint? 

Now that my own brain is handicapped in several ways, I'm more conscious (pardon the pun) of it's function - it's success and failure. I have to jolt it frequently when it goes on strike, abandoning me in the middle of a sentence, leaving me alone, mouth open with no word to say.  

But imagine how you would cope if you couldn't recognize faces? Oliver Sacks says he will recognize a caricature more readily than a face because a facial feature may be exaggerated - "large nose", "big teeth", "curly hair" and he associates that feature with a voice. This problems extends to some degree to "mapping" locations and he is frequently lost because of the same inability to recognize the "face" of a certain location.

And while I'm being thankful I don't have prosopagnosia and only minor neurological misfirings, how about the bizarre Capgras Delusion? It's described in wikipedia as:
"the reverse of prosopagnosia. In this condition people report conscious recognition of people from faces, but show no emotional response, perhaps leading to the delusional belief that their relative or spouse has been replaced by an impostor."
A 2006  National Book Award winner for fiction, titled The Echo Maker, by Richard Power uses the Capgras Delusion as a central theme. I've added it to my reading list.