Author Archive

How to be a Hero

March 25th, 2011 No comments

In 1995, Psychology Today came up with a list of the characteristics of a hero. At the time, I found the article interesting, but I was in search of some inspiration. As usual. To that end, I thought I’d rephrase the characteristics in the imperative, to make them more of a set of affirmations. I printed up little cards with these imperatives, but only gave them to people who asked. Don’t want to be pushy, you know.

They’re rather lofty, but hey, aim for the stars and hit the moon.

  • Be courageous and strong
  • Be honest
  • Be kind, loving and generous
  • Use skill, expertise and intelligence
  • Take (reasonable) risks
  • Be charismatic

The risky part should be qualified, don’t you think? I wouldn’t advise anyone to risk harm to themselves or anyone else, but often we avoid risking damage to our self-image through embarrassment, for example. Naturally, there’s no need to be complete here, as a fine and honorable life can be lived through observance of only the first three of these. If the meaning of the list isn’t clear, do read the article.

By the way, this post came about because something popped into my head recently — another pearl of wisdom from Dr. Dave, who said “there can be no refinement without repetition”. Dave defined integrity as saying and doing the same thing. In other words, what you say and what you do match, they integrate, therefore you are integrated. You have integrity.

Hm. How about adding “thinking” to make it a trinity of enlightenment?


March 17th, 2011 No comments

I finally broke down and bought one of them newfangled iPad gadgets. Yes, make no mistake, it is a gadget, but I’ll have to admit, a rather useful one.

I had avoided one up until now because it wasn’t a computer. Sure, it probably has more processing power than anything that sent us to the moon, but it won’t run the apps i use to make a living, so to me, that diminishes its computer status. Also, I thought of it as just a big iPod, and a delivery mechanism for the stuff that really generates income for Apple: apps and tunes.

But … I finally broke down and bought one to show videos to clients in pitch situations where a laptop was too much and an iPod was too little. And it did that quite nicely, as long as we were all gathered around it.

So it’s a useful gadget. But then there are those app things. Basically, I’m finding that the iPad is a gadget, but it’s also a non-gadget. What does it really do on its own? Not much. It’s really a blank slate for the apps, which make up the useful part of the iPad. Sure, most of them look like incredible time-wasters (and we complain about having no time?), but there are two that are proving useful in my Psych class. The first one is called 3D brain (“braaaaiinnns!”) which shows a 3D model of the brain along with annotations and callouts for the weird little subcortical bits. It grossed out my Mom, but it’s useful in contrast to the textbook illustrations, which only show a sagittal (lengthwise cross-section) view of the brain. These views don’t show that there are two of a number of structures, on the left and right sides of the brain. Who knew?

The second app has proven most useful: a test of Psychological knowledge. It’s used to prep students in Britain for a PSY100-like test using questions, tips and flash cards. I ran through the tests before studying, then again after studying and was able to improve my score. They’re not 100% related to my course content, but they’re pretty close. I’d like to see more of these test apps, but once I get into higher-level courses, I don’t expect to see apps because of the more limited market compared to PSY 100.

Oh, yes … the headline. Well, I’ve recently gotten back on the Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation practice) wagon, so this thing helps me keep track of my practice through a “zen timer” app. The motivational part comes from a little statistic in the app that shows the number of consecutive days spent meditating. Not wanting to see it drop to zero, I keep going. So far so good, and my Zhan Zhuang is getting better as a result.

If you’re considering one of these iPad things, I recommend you see what kinds of apps are available that suit your needs — you may find a must-have app for you. But aside from that, it’s just a big iPod.

… for now, anyway.

Edit: Just to be clear, I own an iPod because I’m in graphics, and Apple’s Quicktime is important to my work. If it weren’t, I might consider another make of tablet — maybe one that supports Flash?

Categories: modern life, psychology Tags:

Longevity “R” us

March 8th, 2011 No comments

Loyal reader Paul alerted me to this article on one of our favorite subjects, this longevity thing. In a nutshell, it seems that it helps to be conscientious. Here’s how the study, The Longevity Project, defines it:

A conscientious person is responsible and organized and not very full of ego. They’re pragmatic and they think ahead.

The study has good credibility because it followed the same subjects from 1921 up to 1990, with some breaks in-between. Check it out.

Categories: psychology, secrets of youth Tags:

Happy mind, happy body

March 3rd, 2011 No comments

Here’s an article that says that positivity helps longevity.

I think this is the secret, simplistic though it may be: if we want to be healthy, we should take care of the body and take care of the mind as well. The dualists thought that the two were separate, which I interpret as seeing the mind as the driver and the body as the car, but now I hope we see that the two are intertwined — we are the driver and the car. Hey, if thoughts can lead to stress, pain and ulcers, then happiness and calmness can lead to health … and this has been found.

Mind and body. Body and mind.

But here’s the weird thing, on which I shall opine further in the future: we spend so much time trying to protect the self, we forget about protecting the mind, the brain and thus the body. Do chew on that, if you will.

Hand stand?

February 24th, 2011 No comments

I haven’t done Zhan Zhuang in a couple of months. As far as I can tell, these are the consequences I’ve noticed so far:

  • reduced body sensitivity
  • reduced level of energy
  • reduced ability to do Zhan Zhuang (well, that’s a no-brainer)

The first one became manifest in a small way at Mr. Rosenfeld’s Tai Chi workshop. During an exercise, he corrected my hands, saying that they were too tense and needed to be softened. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had forgotten the feedback mechanisms that I had developed (to some small extent) because of Zhan Zhuang. In other words, it was hard for me to tell whether my hands were soft or not. (This processing delay may explain the dumb look I gave Mr. Rosenfeld at the time.) I then attempted to implement the correction, but it felt very manual, deliberate and clunky. In contrast, a few months ago, if I had been given the correction at all, I probably would have recalled immediately what soft hands felt like and been able to return to that state by recalling the slightly tingling, open, “un-anchored” sensation of soft hands … as I’ve experienced it, anyway.

Guess I’ve got some work to do. More standing? More standing.

Categories: chi (qi), Tai Chi, Yiquan Tags:

Now that was a workshop.

February 22nd, 2011 No comments

I’ve just returned from a terrific weekend Tai Chi workshop with Arthur Rosenfeld, oft-quoted author, Chen Tai Chi master and really funny guy. In future posts I’ll relate my experiences from the workshop, how I was challenged, as well as what I think I learned and what I now know I don’t know.

… y’know.

Thanks to my good friend Sally Rich for arranging the whole thing.

Categories: Tai Chi Tags:

How to clean your desk

February 3rd, 2011 No comments

The title of this clip is Bet you’ll clean your desk after watching this video.

Start watching the video. Then see how long it takes before you start to clean your desk.

It still works on subsequent viewings, but I turn off the sound. Sorry. PJ.

Categories: interdisciplinary, modern life Tags:

Miss non-congealiality?

January 31st, 2011 No comments

(Boy, that headline’s a stretch.) Anyway, Rebecca, a Chinese friend of mine says that if we drink cold drinks after or during a meal, it’s more likely that the fat in the meal will congeal in our stomach. This is one of the reasons why Chinese drink tea at meals — to prevent the congealing. (I thought it was because the water in China was so unhealthy it had to be boiled … go figure) So Rebecca says “drink more tea. Hot, but not too hot.”. If you know Rebecca, you know Rebecca knows.

It also works for me because I have a low body temperature, and cold drinks tend to make my hands and feet cold. So I drink more hot tea, and feel great, Pu Erh being my tea of choice, but I’m cool with a lot of them, including Earl Grey. Pu Erh takes a bit of getting used to, but it seems to be smoother if not oversteeped. I just had some nice smooth stuff at Crown Princess restaurant in Toronto. Nice place.

So there you go. More tea for thee?

Categories: nutrition, secrets of youth, weight loss Tags:

a) we’re alone b) we’re not c) neither

January 24th, 2011 No comments

A recent study found, or supposed, that either we’re alone in this universe, or the other guys are just as bad as us. It’s quite possible that the other guys are jerks, using up resources, mistrustful of others, not very enlightened indeed. Maybe so …

… but aside from that, I take issue with the binary “alone or not” choice, or at least I take issue with some interpretations of the “alone” side of the coin. Implicit in such a point of view is the idea that we have always been alone, will always be alone, and that when we’re gone, pfft. No more us, no more intelligent life … such as it is. We are God’s only children.

“Not so”, I say. What if … we’re not the only intelligent life, but we’re just the first. Hey, someone has to be the first! Why not us? Imagine that there are some amino acid noobs out there, doing their best to struggle onto the universal stage and play their parts. “But that may take millions of years”, you say, and “if we snuff it, there’ll be nothing out there for millions of years”.

So what?

We often need to look at some of our paradigms and see how human-centered they are, as if our pitiful nanoseconds of universal existence meant anything in the grand scheme. Maybe we’re alone now, or maybe there was life before us, or maybe there will be life after us. Maybe it’s all one big continuum of life in various stages, maybe like us, maybe not.


So. What’s for lunch?

Categories: a little clarity, off-topic Tags:

How to approach 2001: A Space Odyssey

December 28th, 2010 No comments

“I don’t really get it, but I can tell it’s a movie for grown-ups”.

That’s what I thought of 2001 back in 1968 at the Glendale Cinerama. Sure, along with most young boys of the era I was into the space hardware, but there was something else about the movie that I’ve found eerily compelling to this day. Maybe it was the silence, the emptiness of the sets, the stark art direction or just the sheer deliberateness of it all. As a result, it has become one of my favorite films, so I thought I’d share with you some ideas that can help the average filmgoer to appreciate a movie that at first two-and-a-half-hour glance, appears quite boring and indulgent.

  1. Approach it as an essay, not a movie. Think. If you want to go to a movie without thinking that night (don’t we all), avoid this one.
  2. Kubrick and Clarke wanted to make a film about humanity’s first contact with extra-terrestrials. That’s what this movie is all about. It turns out that it’s actually about humanity’s first and second contact with extra-terrestrials, I suppose.
  3. Imagine how real adults (or your parents) would react to these situations. They wouldn’t react like Superman, Bruce Willis or Captain Kirk. They’d react like your colleagues, your teachers, your managers or University Professors. This explains why the dialogue isn’t dramatic, or actiony. If you’ve been in the corporate world, it might make more sense. As for Bowman and Poole, Doug Trumbull stated that the characters were supposed to be very cool under pressure, not suppressing wild emotions but simply being naturally calm. It would take a lot for these guys to get emotional. Though killing one of your best friends (or seeing the other one killed) might do it.
  4. Just about all other portrayals of extra-terrestrial life have been anthropomorphized, grounded in our reality or extrapolated on previous fictional incarnations. Now when we recall the big black monolith with the accompanying Ligeti music, we might think “what the hell?” This is exactly the point, and Kubrick was not being random and indulgent. Any serious portrayal of an extra-terrestrial life-form, millennia beyond us, is quite likely to be so beyond us that we have no frame of reference with which to apprehend it. In other words, Kubrick’s portrayal is just as valid as any other portrayal that doesn’t elicit a “what the hell?” response.
  5. Place this movie in context with the science fiction movies of the sixties.
  6. Sure, there are some things in the stargate sequence that might not work. But reconsider points #3 and #4 in this context.
  7. See it on Blu-Ray or 70mm in a theatre.
  8. A lot of things that would be played up are underplayed in this movie. For example, note that Dr. Floyd is alone on two undoubtedly expensive charter space flights. Why? How would an action movie play this up? Would it be realistic? Grown-up?
  9. SPOILER: The story is very simple: Early humans live hard life. Alien artifact appears, teaches them how to use tools, sets early humans on path to civilization, for better or worse. Jump cut – ancient weapon to modern weapon. Future guy involved in a bit of hush-hush. Turns out we’ve found another monolith on the moon. It sends out a signal when the sun hits it, like a burglar alarm, and we’re the burglar. Dave and Frank follow the signal to Jupiter, wacky mixups ensue. Dave goes it alone, gets taken on wacky alien ride and ends up in alien zoo. Aliens speed up his life and remake him into a new life form.
  10. Look at the weird parts of the story with point #1 in mind. What might really happen if we met extraterrestrials …? Now try to imagine it again, without thinking of every other way that such an encounter has been portrayed in science fiction.

Two friends of mine aren’t into jazz: one said she “hates jazz” and the other just said he “doesn’t get it”. It’s the same for 2001: A Space Odyssey: I’d take the latter opinion over the former. In the end, if someone just doesn’t get it, that’s fine.

But I had to try.

(Here’s Roger Ebert’s review, if You’re interested.)

Categories: off-topic Tags: