Red, Green, Or Rainbow Coffee Cups?

The current brougha over the color of coffee cups is interesting commentary today. Starbuckl’s chose a red cup with their logo in green for the “holiday season”, which set off a few ultra-christian commentators. Apparently, those folks don’t have much to do, maybe too much time on their hands. Their claim that red and green colors belong only to the Christian holiday of Christmas is pretty weak, as so far as I can determine, no one owns those colors.

A little research on Wikipedia gives interesting info on the celebration we call Christmas. It is a conglomeration of various seasonal celebrations going back long before Christianity was formed, and practiced as a pagan ritual for western Europe for many centuries. The green tree was prominent in Germany in celebration of the renewal of life at the winter solstice. As was the burning of candles to celebrate the return of day light.

Gift giving was a major part, but only a part, of the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, held about the end of December, including toasts and drunken revelery. We adopted those traditions in our celebrations. We also adopted the tradition of Father Christmas, Santa Clause, or one of his other monikers. The early Catholic Church wanted to include, sometimes by force, those pagans who worshiped trees and nature, so including the Winter Solstice celebrations made sense.  Converting them was a lot easier if they could keep their most treasured holiday celebrations.

Our favorite present day traditions actually come from the mid 1800’s.  Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, and it after the publication of that story that our present day Christmas traditions came into favor. Most of the things we treasure today about the Christmas holidays were created by Dickens.

So it is with amusement, and some irritation that a few so-called “Christians” are outraged by the use of the colors red and green for decorations on a disposable coffee cup. Seems a bit silly when you know the origins of the holiday. I guess some are always looking for something to be angered about.  Just think what they would cry if Starbuck’s had chosen a rainbow for the season.  Whooee. That would be awesome.

Anyway, Happy Holidays, folks.


Studies Of Magnetic Brain Stimulation

A recent lecture by a prominent medical researcher in brain science discussed the use of MRI scans to study differences in the brains of identical twins. The study was directed toward discovery of what might show up in comparison between a sober brain, and one that is addicted, in those identical twins.

The use of MRI allowed the researchers to explore the structures and functions of the comparative brain operations in order to identify possible changes in structures that may indicate a tendency to addiction in one twin as compared to the non-addicted sibling.

MRI technology uses very strong magnetic energy fields, thousands of time stronger that any magnet you have ever known, to align molecules in the brain tissues, which are then sent a radio frequency signal that causes the molecules to change, giving off a small bit of energy. The sensors receive that energy and the computers manage them into an image for study. The MRI gives us a very clear and deep view of the soft brain tissue. The study is on-going.

Other researchers have used magnetic stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation, to treat severe depression, ADHD, and some other mental illnesses, with notable success. The twenty minute input of magnetic energy in specific portions of the brain, primarily the pre-frontal cortex,  altered the brain functions for up five days.  A remarkable result of non-invasive procedure using low energy magnetism.

Which made me wonder:  If transcranial stimulation with low energy magnetic stimulus alters the brain function that effectively, how does the high energy magnetism of an MRI affect the brain?  Is the brain altered by the MRI magnetism? If so, in what way, and for how long?  What about the low energy magnetic waves from ear phones over long periods of time?

Following that line of questioning, can high energy magnetic stimulus be used to “brain wash” individuals? Can MRI stimulation be used to alter brain activity? If that is possible, then perhaps we could use MRI stimulation to change brain functions of criminals to become model citizens. Cheaper than prisons.

Or maybe the “China Syndrome” is a reality after all.


PBS Series On The Brain

The current series on PBS about the brain is so interesting. I hope you have had a chance to view it. I manage to catch a few shows, and those have been enlightening.

For instance, the brain processes every nerve stimulus we receive from each of our senses through the “clearing house” portion, then recalls similar sensations stored in memory, makes a comparison to those stored memories, and alters the signals as through a filter before we perceive the sensation.  What we hear, for instance, passes through several layers of filters before we “hear” the sound. As the signal passes through the filters, it is adjusted, altered, matched with prior sounds already stored in memory, and analyzed.  Only then do we perceive the signal as sound.   The same process happens with sight, taste, touch, and smell.  My hearing is so “adjusted” that I sometimes hear MR say thing that make no sense. Until she repeats it several times. My brain is slowing down a bit, I think.

In addition, every time the filters pass through a signal, the filters are also changed, to adjust for the new information. Memories are adjusted, and new information is stored for future reference. While that is happening, our responses to the input signals return through those filters, so that the output is also adjusted and causes the filters to alter again. The changes occur continuously.

This happens in minute fractions of a second, but there is a measurable time delay between the stimulus, and our perception of that stimulus. Which means we are always behind the curve by a fraction, always sensing reality in the past.  The past is stored in memory, which is constantly being adjusted, updated, modified, and changed. Does that mean what we “remember” reflect reality, or is it something we made up?  Does our personal history really exist?

As one pundit posed, we may actually not exist except as a projection of someone’s intellect. We may be a holographic projection from another universe. Or, what you see int he mirror may not be you at all.


Back On Line

Absent for many days, and no updates to post, because of “Face Book Addiction”.  Instead of posting good thoughts and sharing ideas here, I’ve been chained to the FB pages to witness the circus of clowns posting their opinions, including mine.

I pledge to stay sober for awhile, and put my comments on here instead of that monster black hole (FB) which seems to take all my energy and attention. Somehow, I have to break the habit and keep clean, away from all the silliness and ranting that FB seems to engender. (I confess that it has wooed me into living at the FB screen while important tasks don’t get done, jobs are delayed, causing eye strain, and a serious elevation in irritation.  Time to get away for awhile. )


Another Life Code To Consider

One of my father’s life codes is his now almost famous triad “Seek the truth, Appreciate beauty, Strive for perfection”. As deep as those few words go, and as broad as their meaning, I have sought to add a few of my own, maybe one or two that may have value or impact others is some small way. This evening, the following words sprang into my mind as I was about to slip into slumber. Perhaps they will have value and meaning to others, that will enlighten, as they have me. The words are simple, with clear meaning, and can be applied with ease. Or with difficulty.

In Curiosity, Question, then Explore, enter into that Experience to Learn, and Understand, Apply that knowledge, Grow in that understanding, and Share.

CURIOSITY Seek the whys and wherefores.
QUESTION Ask the reason
EXPLORE Seek the facts
EXPERIENCE Journey to reality
LEARN Expand the mind
UDERSTAND See the uncovered truths
APPLY Use the knowledge
GROW Expand your view
SHARE Teach by example

Can you expand on this?

The Law Of Coincidence

Among the many obscure laws we experience every day, the most interesting for me is the Law of Coincidence. It is a strange and curious occurrence when the Law operates to confound, to amuse, and to awe.

Consider how often something happens that is completely coincidental to you, that happens only because you were there at that moment.

For instance, Dad related a story to me that he and Mom were driving the MG/TD out in the Virginia rural countryside, long and far away from population centers, and definitely far from any auto service garage, when the heater hose burst. The hose ruptured in a way that no repair could be made to it, even if they had brought the materials with them, which they had not done.

The engine coolant was pumped out on the road before Dad could shut the engine off. He pulled over to the side of the road, lifted the bonnet (hood in American) and stood there wondering how he was going to fix the car, and get back home. This was long before cell phones, boys and girls, so no calls to AAA for a tow.

After a few minutes of staring at the problem, and man pulled up behind them, stopped and got out. “Got a problem’ he asked. “Yes,: Dad replied. He explained the situation, and showed the man the ruptured hose.

The man looked at the pipe where the hose had been attached, then said “Wait just a moment.” He went back to his car, opened the trunk and pulled out paper bag.

Out of the bag he took out a cork and a roll of electrician’s tape. The cork fit the pipe exactly, and the tape held it in place. That fixed the leaf. He went back to his car and brought a jug of antifreeze and a funnel, and filled the radiator.

“You’re good to go now,” he said.

After Dad had thanked him, he asked the man how he happened to be on that rural back road. The man replied that he was travelling to Tennessee, and had taken a side road as a shortcut, but got lost.

“How did you happened to have a bag of corks with you?” Dad asked. He replied that he had stopped at a general store a few miles back for directions, and bought the corks, the antifreeze, and the tape on impulse. He owned a MG at home, and had experienced the same ruptured hose himself.

Dad gave him directions back to the highway, and he drove away. His car had New York plates. It was a mere coincidence that he was travelling that back road, and that he also owned a MG/TD.

The Law of Coincidence at work.

The Coincidence I notice regularly is that when I approach an intersection where I have to make a stop before turning, no matter how long that road has been vacant of any vehicles, no matter the time of day, before I can make the turn, I have to wait on the only car for miles around to pass by, and to turn into the road I’m leaving. It happens almost every time. Coincidence?

Another example: Waiting on the train back to Rome in the Naples station, another couple approached us and asked about the train. They introduced themselves, as Americans from Connecticut. We responded that we were from Roanoke.

Their eyes lit up. “Our neighbors just moved to Roanoke about a year ago.” Names were exchanged, and we learned that their neighbors were members of the same church, and were Jennifer’s Sunday School teachers. Coincidence.

Want to share your experiences of the Law of Coincidence here?

Standing On Their Shoulders

Reunions are useful events. Attending a class reunion helps one accept growing older along with all those others who are showing their age. Fifty five years ago, MR graduated from James Madison College, now JMU, a full bore university. This weekend we attended a reunion in Harrisonburg to rub shoulders with those who survive. About 35 members of the class of 1960 came to remember their years at JMU, and to refresh their friendships formed all those years ago, and marvel at the changes wrought.

Touring Bluestone Quad and viewing the astounding growth of the school meant walking around the green, wondering about the changes, and still not daring to walk on the grass. A bus ride around the campus, oohing and aahing over the changes, we took in the new age of education. A fabulous sight of new-age education, mores, and adaptations. Looking at those scattering young people striding along to their appointments, backpacks on their shoulder, I-Pad plugged in ears, we marveled at their intensity. And their youth. Were we ever that young?

These young people are the future of our world, upon whose shoulders our/their future depends. It is those striders who will make decisions and changes, who will forge the events that will create the reality of 2050. They are the new age of creativity, the new performers, the artists of tomorrow, the movers and shakers. They are the future. They are getting ready to step up, to take their place in the world. And as they learn to think, to create, to grow and build from what they experience here, the future will be in good hands.

Which means we have done well to provide the shoulders on which they can stand. Our legacy is their foundation.

So, my grandchildren, step up, stretch your minds, seek the vision, and stand on our shoulders, as we have done with our ancestors, and reach for the stars. We are here just for that purpose. Become that same foundation for your progeny. Forge the future.