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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Just a Bite March 30th, 2010

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

Don’t let a man put anything over on you except an umbrella.
~ Mae West

Resources to bite into

1. Umbrella Month is ending; April showers are beginning!

As noted in the current Brain Aerobics Weekly, the Latin root for umbrella is “umbra” which means shade or shadow. Umbrellas have been fashionable for at least 4000 years, but they were originally intended only as protection from the sun in hot Mediterranean countries. The Chinese were the first to put a waterproof coating on them for rain protection, but that use didn’t catch on for another millennium or two in the western world.

2. It’s Cherry Blossom Festival time

If you are lucky enough to live in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Vancouver, Tokyo, or anywhere else where cherry blossoms bloom, you are entering one of the most beautiful times of the year. Washington, D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival began on March 27 and will run through April 11. In Japan, where the blossoming of the sakura trees is as much a part of the daily news as fall color reports are in New England, some cities have already passed their prime viewing, which happened a little early this year.

But its transience is exactly what makes the cherry blossom season worth treasuring. Gathering under the blossoms, a practice called hanami, is the reason for picnics, parties and visits to temples and shrines. Cherry blossoms are both a sign of the hope of spring – for good fortune and love – and a sign of mortality, because their loveliness is short lived. The Japanese phrase for this is mono no aware (each vowel is pronounced) which is sometimes translated as “the ahhh-ness of things.” For a moment, we are deeply aware of great beauty, and feel a bittersweet sadness that it will not last. Treasure the ahhh-ness in your life!

3. An artist who immortalized the moments
The current Brain Aerobics Weekly features a painting by Vincent Van Gogh who was born on this date in 1853. Like many artists in his time period, he was deeply influenced by Japanese art. The painting pictured below, called “Almond Blossom,” was created in celebration of the birth of his nephew and namesake, born on January 31, 1890.

One would think he had been to a cherry blossom festival!

Tips/ideas/insights to savor

Moving ahead to April and Physical Wellness Month, the current Brain Aerobics Weekly features a body part quiz inspired by Paul Dickson’s book, A Connoisseur’s Collection of Old and New, Weird and Wonderful, Useful and Outlandish Words. (To order, click here.) I would suspect you didn’t even know these body parts existed. Here’s a sampling:

1. Olecranon ___
2. Opisthenar ___
3. Oscitancy ___
4. Sciapodous ___
5. Tragus ___

a. the act of yawning
b. the back of your hand
c. the fleshy bump on your ear between the face and the ear cavity
d. the ‘funny” bone – the projecting bone of the elbow
e. having very large feet

For extra credit, try naming 10 common body parts with only three letters.

Answers to this quiz: 1. d; 2. b; 3.a; 4. e; 5. c

As for the extra credit, you’ll need to think harder or subscribe to Brain Aerobics Weekly!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just a Bite 3-16-10

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

Hope is a very unruly emotion.
~ Gloria Steinem (born March 25, 1935)

Resources to bite into

1. C’mon get happy; it’s spring!

As noted in the current Brain Aerobics Weekly, this is Spring Fever Week (fittingly the week spring begins) and Act Happy Week. Many of us have no problem acting happy when spring begins; some of us get downright goofy. But when one more snowstorm or bout of cold weather arrives, our hopes are thrown for a loop. Dale Anderson, M.D., says that we can become happy by acting happy. Just as smiling when you’re feeling low can lift your mood, acting as if you’re happy when you’re not can bring your body around to feeling happier. Dr. Anderson notes on his website (http://www.acthappy.com) that “Happiness is an infectious state that can have a beneficial impact on health,” making it an idea worth “germ”-inating. There’s never been a better time to exercise your funny bone than now. There never is.

2. Overcoming awkward moments

March 16th is Awkward Moments Day, a reminder to make light of your faux pas. After lunching at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel one day in the 1920s, the American humorist Robert Benchley and his companions walked through the lobby and out the front door. Still engaged in conversation with his friends, Mr. Benchley offhandedly said to the uniformed man standing by the front door, "My good man, would you please get me a taxi?" The man immediately took offense and replied indignantly, "I'm not a doorman. I happen to be a rear admiral in the United States Navy." Benchley instantly quipped: "All right then, get me a battleship." Have you ever had a clever comeback line to cover up an awkward moment? Share your story.

3. Imagining your loved ones as food

The current Brain Aerobics Weekly has an imaginative exercise based on a quote found in author Mardy Grothe’s book I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like. (To order, click here. His website, http://www.drmardy.com/, is also the source of the Robert Benchley story above.) The quote that inspired the exercise was Katherine Hepburn comparing herself with Spencer Tracy:
He was a baked potato – solid . . .
I was a fancy dessert – mocha chip ice cream.

Imagine yourself – and your family, friends and other celebrities as food. What kind would they be?

Tips/ideas/insights to savor

We couldn’t let the week go by without noting St. Patrick’s Day. The current Brain Aerobics Weekly celebrates with a word game inspired by the song from “Finian’s Rainbow” called “Something Sort of Grandish.” The lyrics by E.Y. Harburg include real and made up words ending in “ish”. For example:

My heart feels so sugar candish . . .
Why should I vanquish,
Relinquish, resish,
When I simply relish this swellish condish?

There are, in fact, hundreds of real words that end in “ish.” How many can you think of in the following categories? (Sample answers are given below)
• People of particular nationalities, such as Irish
• Colors, such as greenish
• Ages, such as thirtyish
• Human sizes and shapes, such as smallish and tallish
• Human character, such as impish
• Humans’ animalistic tendencies, such as coltish

A few answers:
• Nationalities: British, Danish, Moorish, Polish . . .
• Colors: blackish, bluish, grayish, purplish, reddish . . .
• Ages: oldish, youngish, fortyish, fiftyish . . .
• Human sizes/shapes: biggish, blimpish, frumpish, lumpish, plumpish, thinnish . . .
• Human character: babyish, boyish, brutish, childish, clownish, coquettish, devilish, girlish, knavish, nerdish, pixyish, scampish, tomboyish, vixenish, wimpish . . .
• Humans’ animalistic tendencies: mulish, hawkish, dovish, kittenish, piggish, sheepish, shrewish, sluggish, toadyish . . .

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Each week brings amazing and amusing mind stimulation!

Let us become the apple of your eye.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

The important thing is not to stop questioning. . .
Never lose a holy curiosity.
~ Albert Einstein (born March 14, 1879)

Resources to bite into

1. Celebrating Einstein

Albert Einstein’s birthday is Sunday, and as noted in the current Brain Aerobics Weekly, his is one of my favorite birthdays to celebrate, first, because while he was an undisputed genius, he was also endearingly absent-minded. He was notoriously forgetful, and incapable it seems of remembering birthdays and phone numbers, including his own (which he explained away, because he had no reason to call himself). He was a terrible speller, and although he loved playing the violin, he didn’t play it well. When he found that his big toe invariably made a hole in his socks, he stopped wearing socks, and he generally preferred the rumpled look, as the pictures of his wild white hair attest. The second reason Albert Einstein has long intrigued me is that he was wonderfully quotable and thought provoking. Here is an example: We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.

2. Celebrating Pi Day

It is an odd quirk of fate that mathematical genius Albert Einstein was born on March 14th also written as 3.14, or the first three numbers of pi, which stands for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. While Pi Day may not be your favorite holiday, it has been honored since 1988 by people who care about numbers or pie – pizza pie or the fruit variety. You can also celebrate with pineapple and pine nuts and drink pina coladas.

3. Your “second brain”

The discussion topic of the current Brain Aerobics Weekly, was inspired by an article in Scientific American that gives new meaning to “I knew it in my gut.” The article by Adam Hadhazy is titled “Think Twice: How the Gut's ‘Second Brain’ Influences Mood and Well-Being.” It highlights recent research that suggests the mass of neural tissue known as our “enteric nervous system,” (informally “our gut”) functions in many ways as a “second brain.” Scientists are discovering new ways the millions of neurons and neurotransmitters communicate with the brain in our head, affect our immune system, our sense of well-being and contribute to or prevent diseases. Learn more by subscribing to the 10 pages of fascinating food for your brain that could be arriving weekly in your email box as Brain Aerobics Weekly, or, in this particular case, by going to http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=gut-second-brain.

Tips/ideas/insights to savor

The current Brain Aerobics Weekly also highlights Celebrate Your Name Week in multiple ways. One is a word quiz which illustrates the funny results that could come from marriages between people dead or alive, real or fictional, male or female, if spouses took their mates’ names. For example:
If Lola Falana married Birch Bayh, Paul Anka and Ted Knight successively, her name would be Lola Bayh Anka Knight. Cute, no?

What would be the result if these people wed? (Besides disaster)

1. If Dolly Parton married Salvador Dali, she'd be _____________

2. If Julia Roberts had left Lyle Lovett for Bobby Orr and then married Mike Leavitt, she’d be ____________

3. If Sondra Locke married Elliott Ness, then divorced him to marry Herman Munster, she'd become ____________

4. If Bea Arthur married Sting, she'd be ___________

Find more in the book What’s in a Name? Reflections of an Irrepressible Name Collector by Paul Dickson (To order, click here) and at http://www.funny.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/Funny.woa/wa/funny?fn=C540M&Funny_Jokes=Celebrity_Name_Teases

1. Dolly Dali, 2. Julia Lovett Orr Leavitt, 3. Sondra Locke Ness Munster and 4. Bea Sting

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