Thursday, January 31, 2013

Times of Dreams

Jean Purcell

I dream about Lucie and me when I will be wearing cotton and sandals, and she will not be wearing her turtleneck sweater with the knit balls on it, with little pink stripes. She will not need her lined blue coat with the hood that swallows her endearing, yet small, Chihuahua head. 

Yes, it is spring-time in this dream when Lucie and I walk out the front door and pass by the dogwood tree in full bloom. We have made no preparation for this foray, beyond turning off the house alarm. It's early.

Lucie hurries along the stone patio, her expressive long tail wagging, which shows how relieved she is to be outside again in warm, not icy cold. We saunter as we like, over to the large azalea bush, the crop of day lilies, and the always-growing hosta plantings, where she can find her favorite relief, or "duty," places.

Uh oh. What has happened? The sky is grey with dark rain clouds. I'm awake now, no doubt about that, so I interrupt Lucie's sleep in her warm blanket. We need to go outside, in spite of below-40-degree weather. Lucie despises her new snow-boots. I'll layer myself into jeans, sweater, boots, heavy coat, gloves, and a knit cap that reminds me of Sean Connery's cohorts on a snowy plain outside Moscow in John le Carre's The Russia House.  

More snow has been predicted for tomorrow. Waking up into the real world my first thought, seeing Lucie under her warm, heated blanket, head hidden, little nose barely showing... had been that she and I must get going... into the cold morning wind for her first, very brief walk of another cold day.   

Later outside, as I stand in snow, I will remember my dream about spring really, finally its time. 

Hope you are keeping well.  

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Writers, surely you have fun and more...

English: One of the three balloonist jumps fro...
English: One of the three balloonist jumps from the capsule as it crashed into the Pacific ocean during a failed attempt to circle the globe. The adventurers were stalled by the weather north of Oahu on Christmas Eve. They landed the balloon the next morning 12,500 miles into their 25,000 mile journey. The three were British billionaire Richard Branson, American millionaire Steve Fossett and Per Lindstrand of Sweden. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LinkedIn published Richard Branson's straightforward comments for entrepreneurs ("Five top tips to starting a successful business"); tip #4 was "Have fun, success will follow." 

I had to think about this for a minute, for my questioning self (qs) asked:

Am I having fun? What is fun, anyway? 

And common sense (cs) replied: 

That's nuts. You have fun every day!  

qs doubted: Do I? I have not recently gone dancing with hubby, or sat in a ticketed-seat at a college basketball game, ridden a horse, or taken photos of whales ... 

cs replied: Remember the Washington-Dallas game last week-end? You were waving your arms at the television, "talking" to the coach, and yelling "RG, RG, RG!"

qs warned: Don't overdo it...but yes, that was fun. However, let's talk now about work fun, which is where this started. Branson says: "If you aren’t having fun, you are doing it (JP note: business/work) wrong. If you feel like getting up in the morning to work on your business is a chore, then it's time to try something else. If you are having a good time, there is a far greater chance a positive, innovative atmosphere will be nurtured and your business will fluorish (sic). A smile and a joke can go a long way, so be quick to see the lighter side of life."

cs counseled: You may not have thought of writing as "fun" or "a good time." Not like trying to circle the globe in a balloon! However, I note that for you it is fun, and sometimes even adventurous. Why do you find most days unfinished until you've been writing or making notes for writing?

qs argued: OK, but who's reading it? 

cs warned: 'But' is negative in this case. People you do or, usually, don't know are reading. But if you knew of no readers, you would still write! That's even part of the adventure for you! Isn't that enough?

qs: Enough. Quite. Not too much; just right. Common sense, be happy.

Fun I love, but too much fun is 
of all things the most loathsome. 
Mirth is better than fun, and 
happiness is better than mirth.

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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Mother of Neuroscience: a life that inspires discovery

Rita Levi Montalcini, 20 april 2009
Rita Levi Montalcini, 20 april 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rita Levi Montalcini "began her seminal research on cell development while dodging bombs..." (Emily Langer/Washington Post).

A Washington Post obituary on 12/30/12 impelled me to shine a light on the life and work of Rita Levi-Montalcini. Her nerve growth discovery under-girds today's neuroscience experimentation. Her life touches difficult endeavors beyond science.
     Rita Levi-Montalcini (link video) died in Rome at age 103. I found a report that as late as 2009, aged 98 years, she lectured on her areas of work.  
     Rita  Levi-Montalcini "began her seminal research on cell development while dodging bombs...." wrote Emily Langer in the Washington Post. She was fleeing Nazi Germany's efforts to gather up select groups for persecution and, ultimately, death.  
     Rita Levi-Montalcini's discovery of "the nerve growth factor" led to a Nobel Prize. The nerve growth factor is "a naturally occurring protein that helps spark the growth of nerve cells.
    Significantly, her ground-breaking discovery grew from her research "in a makeshift bedroom laboratory during the war." It extended, after the war, to Washington University in St. Louis, USA.
     If there is something you or I wish to discover this year, I doubt that it has as much as, or more than, a challenge as the discovery of the nerve growth factor, which influences experiments to help people with nerve diseases or injuries. 
    I think the key to what kept her going was her drive toward discovery, no matter what context her work had to make do...a hiding place, a small location not at all obviously conducive to scientific discovery. 
    Yes, she had to have been brilliant. However, how often has brilliance not been enough. So much comes from the personality and grit of human beings. I think also of Maria Callas, whose voice coach once said she willed herself to take control of notes completely, otherwise, outside her range or abilities. 
    What the facts remind me is one of my favorite credos: We must know what we want to do and do it. (Didn't Nike come to the same conclusion?) It must also be something worth doing, something big enough to drive us to continue. It must not be something independent of money, status, or "the right conditions." It must include a huge hope or dream. It may be a secret aspiration that might last beyond ourselves to benefit the lives of loved ones or beyond. It usually does not come from disconnected impulse. 
     The summary of Rita Levi-Montalcini's life inspires me. Her discovery continues to matter and to guide nerve research. I think it mean far more to her than perfection of place or conditions.   

"...there is no great a thrill as the moment of discovery."
Rita Levi-Montalicini (Nobel Prize/Medicine, "mother of neuroscience")*

*"mother of neuroscience" appears in photo description uploaded to Flickr by audrey.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Relief for Citizen Newshounds

A new globe icon in the Ambox style
A new globe icon in the Ambox style (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
January 1, 2013

If we do not need to follow news and analysis for professional reasons we can drastically change the landscape of our thinking for the better in 2013. 
     The scope of frustration, even anger, experienced by regular people that zealously follow news makes the point. 
     Having lived under the influence of the nation's capital city for a long time, I have received most news from The Washington Post. Now it has become...well, an odd kind of challenge: the enjoyment has gone. In recent months I have realized that I find even the top section, A, to contain less news and more editorializing within news items. That's a significant drift; yet, I've continued to read the paper daily... almost religiously. 

Even a favorite WashPost book reviewer recently disappointed, barely questioning the reasoning behind a new book about the personal life of Charles Dickens that makes wild claims of exceptionally bad fathering and other personal weaknesses or differences. The question of why his children loved him and most did well in their lives, on their own, was not raised.         
     There are TV news programs to do without as well, unless one enjoys hearing what is spoken only for the benefit of those who agree.

What if we newshounds take a break from our unnecessary over-attention to reading or watching news reports for a while? We might take many deep breaths of relief. I have a deep suspicion that the life our our minds would improve under influence of increased meditative, appreciative, enjoyable, and peaceful thoughts ...rarely found in the news.
    Dear Reader, I hope you are having a good new year's beginning. Special thoughts to all who are in hospital. This includes, in our family, a loved one in Florida. Hoping for a good recovery soon. We continue to follow updates from family and friends.  

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