Archives For March 2014

ACHOO ACHOO

March 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

I have a fickle nose, I was telling one of my coworkers the other day, which is a blessing and a curse. There was some slight sour smell when I walked into my office and she said she didn’t notice it. Turned out one of our tiny plants was starting to rot and emitting that sourness. Which got our conversation going on smells and then finally sneezing. I told her how, curiously, I sneeze almost routinely, during the first instance of exposure to bright sunlight and how I actually heard on some feature on npr that it was perhaps genetic. She looked skeptical, so I did a quick online search and shared with her my findings on the subject better known as reflexive sneezing induced by light, AKA, photic sneeze reflex (PSR) or the ACHOO, autosomal dominant compulsive helio-ophthalmic outbursts of sneezing syndrome.

According to an article published in Scientific American, Why does bright light cause some people to sneeze? PSR occurs in 18 – 35% of the population and its genetic nature has been known for at least the last 25 years. (I noticed this happens to my mother, too.) “Observations that emerging from dim light into sunlight or turning to face directly into the sun commonly triggers the reflex prompted early inquiries into the trait. The number of induced sneezes–which seems to be genetically mediated and can be predicted within a family–is constant from episode to episode and typically numbers two or three.” And there are consequences to drivers and pilots in the military it seems. Unfortunately, exactly how sunlight causes people to sneeze remains unknown.

What do you and I really know about sneezing? Let’s see, shall we?

Achoo

We know sneezing helps keep our bodies safe, clearing the nose of bacteria and viruses. According to WebMD, when something enters our nose or we encounter a trigger that sets off our “sneeze center” in our brain, located in the lower brain stem, signals are rapidly sent to tightly close our throat, eyes, and mouth. Next, our chest muscles vigorously contract, and then our throat muscles quickly relax. As result, air — along with saliva and mucus — is forced out of our mouth and nose. And sneezes travel 100mph. That stuff, I pretty much knew. But the other facts were surprising.

  • We don’t sneeze in our sleep because our sleeping nerves are dormant
  • Plucking our eyebrows may set off a nerve in our face that supplies our nasal passages that cause us to sneeze
  • Exercise can make us sneeze. We hyperventilate when we’re over-exerted, and as a result, our nose and mouth start to dry up. So our nose reacts by starting to drip, making us sneeze
  • The longest sneezing spree is 978 days! a record set by Donna Griffiths of Worcestershire, England, according to the Library of Congress

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. And my searching led me to How to Sneeze Properly, an article published earlier this month in Business Insider. Read the full article. It’s telling and good. I pulled my favorites.

Holding it in vs. Letting it out (this one’s a pet peeve): The most common mistake people make when sneezing is just that — trying to hold it in. According to Jonathan Moss, Ear Nose and Throat specialist, “Don’t! The process of sneezing is a defensive reflex. The body has to expel foreign particles, such as dust or pollen, that enter our upper airway.” Because a sneeze causes high pressures in your internal airways, holding it in can be harmful. But it causes problems only in rare situations. “These complications can include hearing loss, forcing air into the eye or brain, rupture or clotting of blood vessels, or breaking a rib,” Moss said. (I came across this article–a tragic story that happened two days ago, a 17-year old boy died of a brain haemhorrage after a sneezing fit.)

Can you keep your eyes open when you sneeze? It’s possible. According to Moss, once the “sneeze center of the brainstem” has been stimulated, it sends multiple muscle contraction signals to your body. One of them tells your eyes to close. “While it may not be impossible to keep from closing your eyes, it would take a conscious effort to keep them open,” Moss said.

The best sneeze inceptor: open-hand catch? Wait-was-that-a-cough closed fist? Or the quick-quick grab a tissue?

So, is it the open-hand catch?

open hand sneeze 1.gif

From “Qualitative Real-Time Schlieren and Shadowgraph

Or the wait is that a cough closed fist?

fist sneeze.gif

From “Qualitative Real-Time Schlieren and Shadowgraph Imaging of Human Exhaled Airflows: An Aid to Aerosol Infection Control,” By Julian Tang, et al

Or the quick-quick-grab-a-tissue?

tissue sneeze 1.gif

From “Qualitative Real-Time Schlieren and Shadowgraph Imaging of Human Exhaled Airflows: An Aid to Aerosol Infection Control,” By Julian Tang, et al

The winner: “Lots of tissues,” says Dr. Julian W. Tang of the Alberta Provincial Laboratory for Public Health, who’s conducted several studies on the proper way to catch your sneeze. Tang said, and wash your hands after. No matter the sneeze catcher, the amount of snot stopped has a lot “to do with how fast you can cover your sneeze.”

And last… I came across this free online game, SNEEZE. So mindless and absolutely hilarious and fun. Pretty twisted too.
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So remember: Let it fly–into a tissue please. Happy Spring!

 

 

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The Kiss

March 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

I stayed in bed this morning, staring up at the blue sky, letting myself wake up slowly, a luxury so scarce in my life these past months. My thoughts drifted to my freshman dorm room, the white cinderblock wall on which I mounted (as did countless other freshman girls) a poster of Gustav Klimpt’s The Kiss.

Gustav_Klimt_016

And then my mind wandered to my first kiss. I was six maybe seven years old. Berjan (he was Armenian) is how to pronounce his name, though I don’t think I’ve seen it spelled out. He was a mean boy, bossed me around. That day of the kiss we were playing Fort, using the sheets on his bed as a tent structure. At some point he rammed his head forward and plunged his lips onto mine. I don’t think I even knew that it was “a kiss” just that it was uneventful, part of playing. It lasted all of a millisecond and we continued on with whatever it was we were doing.

There’s an argument for that incident not being the first time I was kissed, that it was more like the first time a boy’s lips touched mine. Could be I’m getting old and my memory’s failing or I just don’t hold onto those kinds of first memories, but looking back, I can’t remember the first time I kissed someone for real.

Which got me to thinking.

Actors kissing on screen. They’re kissing, portraying kissing, but are they kissing kissing?

Cecinestpasunkiss

I did a search for kissing and came across this Eadweard Muybridge gif, a pioneering late 19th century photographer who used film to study the ways that humans and other animals move.

This kiss, between two female models, might just be the first “kiss” ever filmed.

Muybridge used photography to prove that horses take all four hooves off the ground during a gallop, and used sequential photographs that show various animals engaged in various activities. He photographed humans naked so that viewers could see how the body moved as his models walked, played sports, and kissed. American social conventions of the time prevented Muybridge from filming naked men in the same frames with naked women, and so when he photographed pairs of people, they were same-sex pairs.

Philip Glass, by the way, composed an opera about Muybridge, “The Photographer” which I’m listening to now…

So, kissing kissing. Do actors kiss for real? Were Muybridge’s two female models kissing kissing? Seems my Sunday morning mind has lead me to my lifelong curiosity about intention, perception, and communication–the big three at the heart of a story. Life’s story. Any story. I’m going to end. About time I step outside and enjoy the day. But I’ll leave you with a line from Sylvia Plath’s journals, my favorite about kissing:

“Kiss me, and you will see how important I am.”


There was a deal on organic strawberries at my local market — this relatively new market that opened up in my neighborhood that had everyone in my building giddy. “So convenient!” “It’s changed my route!” All kinds of funny statements. All true. There’s nothing special about the market. A perfect example of strategic marketing. It’s a Key Foods renamed “Urban Market” that has fancy black bags and nice font to satisfy the “creative” “food savvy” people who live here. But it *is* convenient. Clean. Average prices for the most part. Three blocks away. And open on Friday nights and Saturdays…when the other market nearby, managed by Hassidic Jews, shuts down for Sabbath.

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The strawberries. They’re not in season (peak season here is April – June), so I wasn’t expecting much. They were mediocre at best, pretty bland. What struck me, though, was how oddly shaped they all were. And well, I did something I was forbidden to do as a kid and played with my food.Strawberryman

I understand the “respect your food” “people are starving” angle that my parents pounded into me. And even though I’m not part of the “war generation” I remain very conscious of my food and where it comes from and how lucky I am to even contemplate these things. But it got me to thinking that there must be some benefit to the playing process. And, oh, yeah. There is. Well, according to this article I found, Messy Kids Who Play with Their Food May Be Faster Learners, there may be. Seems young children were more likely to learn words for certain non-solid objects like oatmeal and glue when they were allowed to explore the substances by using their hands and making a mess: “context and behavior are both important factors in the acquisition of a child’s early vocabulary. This sort of early learning may be linked to improved cognitive development later in the child’s life.”

Not exactly creating sculptures that I envisioned but if I were allowed a guess or a bet, after the squeezing of oatmeal and making a mess, in time, the playing might just evolve into something more structured. That’s the hope, at least. Have this perennial favorite ready when that happens:

play with your food

I wonder if any of this applies to adults. Just projecting probably. Wish the University of Iowa folks would do a follow-up study on adults. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

Fun and Games

March 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

I went to a friend’s art opening last Thursday, Todd James. It was at Sandra Gering’s new space in the UES. See the show! I want the ‘warrior woman’ piece — the Nordic one — don’t recall the title. You’ll know it when you see it.

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I went with one of my best friends, who also works at a publishing house. We stayed long enough for a glass of wine and a chitchat with Todd and his wife and a few people. One of my first authors, Steve Powers, made a short appearance, a graffiti artist, now super successful and reaping the benefits of his hustle. He even has a workshop in Park Slope: First and Fifteenth.

firstandfifteenth

Steve and Todd have known each other for over a decade. Todd’s wife is one of my friend’s oldest friends. I was Todd’s wife’s intern way back when. Dizzyingly connected small world we live in.

After the show, my friend and I grabbed a bite to eat at Quality Meats. We sat at the bar and ate sashimi-style scallops, an eggplant dish, which resembled meatballs in texture and appearance, and butter soaked bread served in the cast-iron pan it was baked in. All deliciously divine. Perfect with the house red wine (Cab blend from Napa Valley) I drank, and the Jamison on the rocks my friend sipped.

At some point, my friend remembered she had to check a book contest she was running. I mentioned some book sweepstakes, giveaways, and contests I had been running for the past few months, involving coding, language, staging sites — all new to me. I had royal screwups. (The most recent one involved Facebook and resulted in a stern reprimand from our lawyers for not following proper language and protocol. I learned a good lesson though. I asked one lawyer if there was anything we could do — change the language, take the contest down — and the lawyer said, No. Best to let it run its course and take our chances.) 

I wanted to brainstorm and get my friend’s opinion on a contest I was considering for a book that involves a female protagonist with mind-reading abilities. I had been researching simple online mind games and told her about one game I stumbled upon, which, now that I think about it, is far too complicated to incorporate into the book’s marketing plan.

EYEWIRE: Play a Game to Map the Brain

“EyeWire is a game to map the brain from Seung Lab at MIT. Anyone can play and you need no scientific background. Over 100,000 people from 130 countries already do. Together we are mapping the 3D structure of neurons; advancing our quest to understand ourselves.”

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I’ve played Eyewire for hours now and I’m terrible at it. Addictive as hell. There’s a 3-D image of an unfinished neuron alongside a 2-D rendered image and the player is tasked with mapping the neuron — to fill in the spaces the computer has missed. There’s a live chat that runs while you’re playing. Here’s Sebastian Seung’s TEDTalk on it.

My friend reminded me about her college days when she almost flunked a class because she was so obsessed with Tetris.

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And today, one of my neighbors came over with his 11 year old daughter and we played GO, which I had recently started playing just a month ago. Got my a** whooped that first time (evidenced by this board). In my defense, we had been playing the game completely wrong that first time. Admittedly, today we were playing ‘the right way’ and still, if we’d been able to finish the game, likely my losing streak would’ve continued.

GO

Anyhow, despite how bad I am at boardgames, fun and games have been on my mind… maybe making up for the recent Olympics that I wasn’t able to really enjoy. Which reminds me of what my brilliant nephew once said to me. Tita, M. You’re not so good with that. He said it using a bewildered tone while demonstrating how to transform Bumblebee back into a car, and noticing my failure at doing the same with Optimus Prime.

No, Liam, darling, I’m not so good with any of that, but I’m sure having a blast trying to figure it all out!

optimus prime

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