Neurologists speak of "plasticity"; they're describing keeping mentally fit. Dr. D'Adamo treats of this in his book on aging and elsewhere: Ways for midlifers and seniors to keep their neurons firing. Everyone recommends "mixing it up", doing things differently from time to time. Some rut-bound types have to force themselves to follow that advice. I seem naturally to be of the intellectual-calisthenics persuasion.
Recently, I began plotting the genealogy of a friend whose pedigree is particularly illustrious. Talk about mental gymnastics! There's a lot of detangling to do. It's challenging and interesting. I recommend it highly. It also helps one develop computer skills, both web-surfing and all sorts of downloading, scanning, and editing.
Here are ideas for keeping those brain cells limber and lithe:
Plot a complex genealogical map.
Learn a new language and speak it frequently (go to the appropriate foreign country or neighborhood).
Learn to READ in a new (or dead) language. Read a new sentence, then paragraph, then page, each week, then each day.
Teach yourself a new alphabet: Cyrillic, sanskrit, greek, arabic, hebrew...
Dr. D. recommends crossword puzzles. If you're a whiz at these, start timing yourself. Write starting and finishing times. Then set goals, such as "weekday NY Times: 20 mins.", "Sunday Times: 45 mins." Even if you don't finish, your speed will increase naturally, and you've put a new spin on the whole activity. Also: If you've always done crosswords, switch to acrostics, or London Times, or a foreign language.
Do brain twisters. Mensa puts out books of these. You can even take a Mensa-proctored and -graded IQ test, available in many cities. It's actually fun!
Study something new, in depth. Choose a historic era, location, subject -- The reign of Amenhotep, the NASA Apollo program, diamond mining in South Africa, national healthcare programs around the world - whatever matters to or intrigues you. Go to a library or bookstore and browse for a few HOURS. See what develops. (My brother made it a point to study one course, from his kids' high school programs, right along with them, each semester.)
Take up a new hobby: Scrapbooking. Rock-collecting/gemology/jewelry-making. Photography (the real kind: with film). Drawing. Gardening. Crocheting. Needlepointing. Home decor and/or crafts projects. Carpentry. Furniture salvaging/refinishing. Ceramics. Weaving. Cookery in a new style. Wine-tasting. Start small; collect ideas first. Be on the lookout.
Take up a new sport: Go to a putting green or a driving range. Smack some tennis balls from a Ball Boy. Start swimming. Learn archery. Play ping-pong or pool. Take dance lessons, T'ai chi, yoga. Ride a bike. Pump iron. Go sailing. Row a boat. Go fishing.
Listen to all different styles of music: Classical, Gregorian chant, gospel, country, bossa nova, raga, rai, celtic, swing, motown: Dance to all of them.
Educate your ear: Take an audio course in music history/appreciation. Subscribe to an orchestral season. Take up an instrument, perhaps one that you dropped in grade school. If you're talented, start a chamber group in your town. Join a chorus: Most cities have at least one of these...or start one!
Help someone. Identify a neighbor or acquaintance who might benefit from a skill or from time of yours. Make a commitment.
Enroll your dog in an obedience, agility, herding or coursing program.
Play scrabble or Boggle or Trivial Pursuit.
Learn bridge, mah-jongg, or canasta.
Go on an adventure trip: Cruise Antarctica, Galapagos, Alaska. Ride a camel in Jordan. Go to a dude ranch. Participate in an archeological dig.
Go on a mercy trip: Build a house in New Orleans. Bring medicine to Gaza.
Diversify your investment portfolio and educate yourself about a particular market or sector. Track it. Subscribe to a relevant journal. Attend a conference on it.
Get involved with a new charitable organization. Sit on the board of one that matters particularly to you.
Befriend younger people. Get to know them. Find out what interests them, how they view the world. Invite them over for coffee.
Read the encyclopedia (I kid you not) and talk about what you discover therein (I had a fascinating cousin whose conversational topics started with the same letter for months at a time; she had a complete set of Britannica in her bathroom).
Read the Bible, cover to cover, according to a feasible plan: Plot it out.
A chapter (or so) a day? Uplifting!
Study an atlas. Teach yourself state/country capitals, names of shires, states, provinces départements/cantons of favorite countries. Play Geography with friends and family.
Participate in an online forum about something new to you.
And, of course, "Come up with stuff to blog about!"
[posted by Dr. D'Adamo for Sante J]
Modernity -- industrialization, technologizing, virtualizing, pharmacologizing -- has perpetrated a divorce between our biological state and our lifeviews. I deal with this gap as a standard part of my work with first-time postpartum careerwomen in a major American city. And we all manifest it insofar as we are ignorant of our deep genetic ancestry. Medicine's established ignorance of the central role of such genetic markers as ABO bloodgroup has been but one example of this phenomenon. We are embedded in biological realities, yet the cultures and individuals we deem successful are those most alienated from those very realities.
For my clients, successful transition to motherhood usually entails a period of disorientation, as years of competent breadwinning and progeny-free sexuality are suddenly completely replaced by the sheer physicality of childbirth, breastfeeding, and the waste products of a tiny bundle of pure need. It comes as a shock to the modern woman, whose past contact with such matters has usually been limited to the mediation of movies, photos and jokes. Pregnancy, with its out-of-control body expansions, its nausea, olfactory sensitivities and gustatory cravings, is but a mild foretaste of the utter immersion of the puerperium and "fourth trimester", especially as pregnancy is usually loaded with such distractions as outfitting the nursery, buying the layette, finding obstetrician and then pediatrician, arranging for maternity leave, etc. Suddenly and starkly, it's all about Biology.
Similarly, we who study bloodtype anthropology and/or who take an interest in our DNA geneology, find ourselves confronting our long lost biological identities. And we wonder, "How could I have lived so long without knowing this? How can we as a society have ignored this?" much as new moms often feel anger toward a zeitgeist that had heretofore duped, or anesthetized, them.
My work with new mothers involves, among other things, facilitating an optimal psychological and physical passage to a state of acceptance of, and joy in, their new identity, an identity which ushers them to a level of reality upon which society has always been based, depsite their former lifestyle's blindness to it: Good Morning!
I see Dr. D'Adamo's having publicized blood type medicine and anthropology as quite similar: Assisting the public's transition from biogenetic ignorance to our understanding of ourselves within the vast and ever-present human story. People of all ABO bloodgroups are changed in profound ways when their psychological features and medical histories are perceived as genetic imperatives, sourced in the adaptations of their hitherto unrecognized ancestors. Just as the new mom thrills to discover her community of mothers, the bloodtype-anthro student is often excited to profoundly understand his lifelong fascination with, say, Plains Indians, Mongolian horsemen, Gypsies, or things Japanese, which he now studies with more personal urgency. He furthermore connects his high-acid stomach with all Os and their hunting prehistory; she understands the link between her vulnerability to stress and all As, with their community-building/maintaining forebears.
The Physical has immediacy. It appears to reign in this life and is in fact ignored at our medical and social peril. There is, however, that which trumps the Physical -- in the spiritual realm. Understanding what we are raises the question of what we, mere humans, aren't. Coming to terms with the lesser reality, ephemeral and limited as it is, leads some to seek the Greater and eternal one. Good morning indeed.
I've just seen a warm 'n fuzzy pharmaceutical TV commercial, whose voice-over begins, "If you could have fewer periods, life could be a whole lot nicer".
It happens that there is one perfectly natural way for reproductive-age women to have fewer periods and still remain both alive and female: Pregnancy/lactation. That's in fact the very opposite of what, apparently, some reproductive-age women desire.
Romans 1:26 is apropos: "...even their females changed the natural use to that contrary to nature".
I'm baffled by women -and men- who submit to drugs and procedures they'd loudly protest if perpetrated upon pets or wildlife. "Learn how life can get a whole lot nicer", ends the ad/says the serpent. If a woman's "life get[s] a whole lot nicer" by chemical defeminization (of unknown long-term consequences), then what is meant by "Life"? If by "Life" is meant that which increases in quality ("niceness") in proportion to its involving assaults against nature, then what is Death? What is Nature? What is Health?
I'm here writing for the website of a brilliant Doctor of Naturopathy, representing one of two philosophies of medicine: The one pursuing natural health, preventative measures, and "holistic" lifestyle views. As for the other philosophy, it gets wackier and wackier. And the more vehemently consumers demand and accept its "innovations", the more stridently they lobby for kindness to desert rats, protection of wildlife habitats, and anti-vivisection legislation. Sure: Why experiment on guinea pigs when you can BE one?
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My Restaurant Ordering Guide for B's is not finished. God willing, I'll be back with more...
Over the summer, I caught episodes of a horrible network TV "reality" cooking show called "Hell's Kitchen". The contestants weren't truly professionals, the contests were usually ridiculous, the host violent and the prize grandiose and inappropriate. Gross, freaky and cruel stunts in the name of cuisine? Pass the remote!
The other night I tuned in to BRAVO's "Top Chef". Talented, creative cooks of some proficiency compete for the Grand Prize of a professionally-outfitted kitchen, $100,000, and other big benefits, as well as for sub-prizes along the way, including a very-limited-edition knife and the placement of one's dish on the menu of a big national chain. As a former chef, I found myself wondering what I'd do, for each contest.
One challenge was a team effort toward presenting specific ethnic cuisines (Team Vietnam vs. Team Korea) at a big trade event in LA. Others were individual: Inventing and executing 3 quarts of an original ice cream flavor for mobs of children at the seashore; creating and serving a comfort food lunch at a stationhouse full of hungry firemen; creating a sushi dish to be judged by one of LA's top Japanese sushi masters --- all under tight time constraints and on budget. Very inspired ideas, I thought.
I don't yet know who won the Grand Prize. But a 44 year old caterer named Betty won two of the subprizes (the knife and the menu spot), and an executive chef named Cliff won two rounds as well. Personality-wise, Betty reminded me somewhat of myself: Personably interacting with diners and competitors as well as, good-humoredly, judges.
The challenges a chef faces, I was reminded, are complex and rigorous, demanding a very well integrated, supple p-e-r-s-o-n-a-l-i-t-y. Chefs with massive egos abound and are legendary, but they fail, in the clutch, without staffs willing to cover - often thanklessly - for the wide gaps in their inflated psyches. Cooking may itself be an art, but chef'ing is much moreso: The curtain goes up, hungry and demanding customers order and wait, staff rallies (or not), and the show must go on. During every shift, things "go wrong": Accidents happen, equipment breaks down, a baker doesn't show up, a waiter quits, the soup boils over, pasta sticks, plates get cold, tempers flare, and/or the weak crack. All the while, the front of the house must remain serene, receiving no overflow of kitchen mayhem.
"Top Chef"s contestant, Betty, reprimands a whining competitor who is not rising to the challenge of his brief time remaining, "OK! Forget the broken deep-fryer!" Move on! Fix your problem!": Good advice she was forced to implement herself when her griddle failed as she was preparing grilled cheese sandwiches; she quickly hauled out several frying pans and lit the stove (and won the round!).
I was reminded of the circumstances of my own promotion to full Dinner Chef. I was working under a volatile chef named Arthur when, on a Saturday night, a vegetable special ran out very early due to Arthur's miscalculation/misapportionment. He had no backup, and was ranting and panicking while plates were backing up and customers waiting. I'd quietly told the manager I could be ready to present a new vegetable in 5 to 8 minutes. Arthur didn't like our whispering and hurled a cleaver past me into a wall. The manager glared at me: "Can you do it? Do it". There was no time to emote about the heavy cleaver that had just audibly whizzed by my head. Asking a dishwasher to fill a prep sink with cold water, I ran out to our walk-in, lugged in a couple of flats of zucchini and fired up the sauté pans, dumping surplus chopped onion and celery in with the butter while my trusty dishwasher friend wiped down those zucchies for me. I sliced, lightly sautéed, herbed, seasoned, and co-presented the new vegetable with fresh rounds of main course special, and they flew out the swinging door -- No applause; just unsuspecting and contented customers, and just another night in the kitchen.
This type of scenario (sans knife-throwing) is acutally typical. Ingenuity, teamwork and technical know-how must be constantly and often unexpectedly summoned toward fixing, repairing, covering, reconnoitering, compensating, assisting, and - yes - pleasing - all with a smile (and, in my case, always a song in my head). The setting, varying from restaurant to restaurant, can be one of extremely high pressure and hazard. It takes a very strong individual and streamlined team-dynamics (and excellent hiring choices!) to pull it off night after night after night.
It was, indeed, to character flaws that some of "Top Chef"s disqualified contestants succumbed. One blew it during the Shopping phase, compromising his entire team's performance by effectively stealing a flat of lichee nuts from the market. Another sent out plates full of oversalted dishes, because she didn't want to send out NOTHING, and thus insulted the diners. Neither of these two was thinking clearly under time constraints. When their judgment snapped, their underlying ignorance of crucial aspects of the job was revealed, along with the lack of a solid professionalism undergirding whatever technical wizardry or artistry they might exhibit. (Pure and simple creativity are fine in one's own home setting: Honey and Junior won't walk out and give you bad press if the potatoes are too dry, nor will the place close down if the service is consistently slow.)
Betty, like me, understood and deftly navigated the energetics and dynamics of chef'ing, from concept through shopping, prepping, and executing, to presentation, flowing like a river over the rocks.
As for me, I was told by the manager, at the end of the Night of the Flying Cleaver, "I'm authorized to give you your own kitchen. Start tomorrow?"
I have a blind neighbor, Vicki, with whom I shared coffee the other day at a local café. Vicki is a remarkable woman who has her own radio show and is between guide dogs (they retire after 4-6 years, I think). I've known Vicki through 3 of them now.
The subject of diet came up, and I asked her her blood type. "O", she said, as she munched her scone, one hand on her "latte". It turns out that this woman, age 53, is yet another Californian intuiting the BTD in many ways.
1. She knows she needs to eat plenty of red meat and fish/seafood, and enjoys these regularly and heartily; poultry, too.
2. She knows she needs to "get pumped" every day, and already does, on her Nordic Track at home. But -- get this -- she also cross country skis for real. And she's already well aware of the anger and mood connection to aerobic fitness (cf. 8/10/06: "Two Screechin' O Cabbies") and has it under control.
3. She loves her leafy greens and berries, and avoids orange juice.
4. She's aware that wheat is problematic for her (though she hasn't yet given it up).
She still drinks coffee with cow's milk. Doesn't like soy milk at all.
I got her very jazzed about our way of life, and she plans to visit dadamo on line, via her fancy equipment/software-for-the-blind so she can fine-tune her diet (Are D'Adamo's books available in audio format?).
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Oh, and I asked her (cf. my 3/24/06 Blog: "Infantile-Americans") what she thinks of the term "visually-challenged" (or "sight-challenged") as the politically-correct replacement (euphemism?) for "blind". Suffice it to say, there was howling laughter at our table.
I just love it when she says, "Great to see you!" and "See ya later!"
Ah, the human spirit.
And, if you're reading this, Hi Vicki!