I think it is in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ where someone says something about believing six impossible things before breakfast. It seems I am believing improbable things rather. As The Firesign Theatre says: “Everything you know is wrong”.

I am reading rawhter rancorous research about the brain that isn’t reassuring.  Our ability to accurately remember things is not even close to what we think it is. Rather than being a like a CD to replay when we want it,  our long term memory is composed of past and present elements; the mind puts it all together each time in a slightly altered memory, making objective memory nearly impossible.  It is kind of like making the same dish that never comes out exactly the same way. There is bad news for attention too; we are deluding ourselves how good we are at being minding traffic, hearing something important while in a noisy room. Worst of all are cellphones which basically destroy any other cognitive endeavors while we operate them. Even hands-off cellphones diminish our ability to attend to traffic.

Some curious research suggests when we try to talk to people who are set in their beliefs (ex: trying to talk reason to an anti-vaccination parent, a Trump supporter, or a non-believer in evolution/global warming etc.)  their brains light up in the same areas and in the same way as being physically attacked. This means attempts at dialogue/reason have about the same chance as telling a person to thinks sensibly when they are being lunged at by a lion.

Cognitive bias is so strong and subtle it sheds doubt on our abilities to see anything objectively.

The cerebral cortex has conned itself into thinking its in charge and make all the decisions. Meanwhile the emotional parts of the brain run amok making up rubbish and basically running the show.

Oh the pain. Oh the discouragement.

My science training tells me to be open to changing my beliefs when the facts say otherwise, even when I want to hold onto cherished dogmas and comforts. This stings, but even more  when you feel you’ve been conned.  Enough says my hummingbird brain for all this ‘everything is relative” nonsense. Give me some simple black or white convictions. Alas, more research says when facing ambiguities or pointlessness we create ersatz solids and make meaning out of nothing.   Oh well.  I can take comfort in some simple Truths like tea is lovely and I can refrain from going on to prove black is white and perish in the next zebra crossing.

Last year I visited blogger buddies Will and Laurent who live on a faraway enchanted island, which, in the native tongue, translates as Prince Edward. It is ruled by Her Austere Majesty The Childlike Empress Anne. The dreamy and fanastical island has many lovely things, but one of its best is their lobster. I had a marvelous lobster feast there one evening.

I try to get souvenir fabric wherever I travel and PEI was no exception.

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This  whimsical shirt (just finished!) reminds me of my trip. I usually don’t hesitate to wear my wares in public, but I worry I will be mistaken for a waiter in a seafood restaurant and people will ask me for buns and things. On the other hand mio camsio es muy bonito for future PEI lobster dinners. I won’t have to wear a bib.

GoldfishCrackers_EmbeddedIn my grandmother’s kitchen was a glass container not with cookies but crackers, and not just any rubbishy type. They were Goldfish crackers. Most of the time they were pale white (lightly salted) but sometimes they were orange (cheddar). Once in a while they were pretzels. No matter what incarnation they exhibited they were always goldfish shaped. I was dazzled. I’ve always had a taste for starches rather than sweets. Later in life I discovered Grandmother Spo did not make them herself but they originated  from a marvelous faraway place called Pepperidge Farms. I didn’t know where lay this dreamy and enchanted place but I was most grateful for their industry – and I could buy them at the supermarket. I would eat by the handful if left unsupervised.

Brother #2 and I had in our bedroom a little metal lamp which had a grill top which would get quite hot. We discovered we could place Goldfish crackers on top and hey presto! we soon had a hot tasty crunchy treat. We thought ourselves clever.

Later in life I discovered PF made even more delicious delights: cookies and bread. bread.jpgPepperidge Farms Very Thin Bread is Urs Truly’s official bread for toast.* PF makes an array of cookies I still find most delightful for tea. It is hard to pinpoint down a favorite. I am curious to hear from Spo-fans which one is theirs. The Milano cookie is good but my favorite is The Geneva. Geneva cookies with lapsang tea is tea time worthy of the gods.

Alas, alas Goldfish crackers rank up there with nasty chips. I shudder to think of the glycemic index of that self-indulgence. They are official off the menu. I suppose once in awhile I could treat myself to a bag but there is no stopping me from eating the whole bag in one sitting.

Next weekend Someone is away all weekend at the comic convention and I will be home alone for three days. I will be very busy and industrial. I just may treat myself to toast in the morning, tea and cookies in the afternoon, and a bag of Goldfish in the evening. A large one. Cheddar. No rubbish.

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Despite having multiple goals and tasks my hummingbird brain decided to flit about more than usual this week. As a consequence I’ve been less focused than usual, which is saying something.  Little has been accomplished. Today I am determined to ‘stay on task’ and get things done – although I am taking time off to write this entry.

“Can I make a suggestion?” Someone says whenever I am not too well organized or am doing something half-baked. His expurgated expression always makes me smile, for he is advice is always sensible and I always take it. I’ve told him many times he needn’t be some polite and roundabout – just tell me what to do. He doesn’t want to sound too bossy so he never does.

Whenever I have too many bats in my belfry it helps me to make a list. I find this ritual quite beneficial viz. extract all the tasks from my mind and get them down on paper. There they become more clear and manageable. Sometimes I lose the list which is both ironical and feckless. Today’s eutrepismus is as long as a winter’s night in Moscow and no prettier. I don’t think today there are any evening concerts or tickets to the theatre, so I should tackle most of my list if I stay focused. There is nothing so satisfactory as drawing a line through a task and marking it complete.*

I’ve often wondered how people go through Saturdays just sitting still or doing leisure activities. I suppose I am unique having charts to do but don’t the mere mortals have (as I do) laundry and ironing and household projects etc.?

All this task-doing is counterpointed by Harper, who spends her Saturdays between sleeping on the bed or in her house. It’s a dog’s life. Sometimes if I am tired I lie down next to her around 2PM for a half-hour reboot. ** There is nothing so sublime as choosing to relegate virtuous industry for indolence.  When in doubt, get horizontal, even if the dord still needs cleaning.

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*Someone made the suggestion I make these lists on my phone as I am less likely to lose them this way. For once I will decline his sensible idea. A fluorescent marker (pink, preferably) painted across “Clean the dord” is far more satisfactory than merely deleting it. And it’s jolly good fun!

 

**On the bed, not in her house.

Someone wants to go out tomorrow night after work with his coworker to a near-by pub called Bitter and Twisted, a precise and amusing name for a local watering hole. There’s just one problem with this plan: the place doesn’t exist.  In the past we’ve tried several times to locate it (after hearing tales of fabulous potations). After a few feckless attempts we found it located in a rather empty-looking apartment building. Through the windows and the closed door we saw chairs turned upside down on tables. It looked quite unused . I think we’ve tried three or four different times at different of the day to find it open – all to no avail.  My conclusion: the front is a façade and the place is not open – ever.

Lounging in imaginary restaurants and fantastical bars is a hobby of mine viz. I continually hear of good eats and drinks only to find nothing there. The places has either moved or have closed. Perhaps I missed in the review you need a port-key or time-hole to get there, sort of like that off-number train station in the Harry Potter series.

Yelp is particularly good at locating non-existent bars and restaurants. I search for a local Chinese diner;  it tells me The Shrangri-la (oh the writing on the wall!) is only a mile away and I go there and lo! it’s a laundromat.

If Someone et. al. meet at the designated Bitter and Twisted only to find it closed or transformed into a SUBWAY it will be a disappointment but no surprise. We can go down the street to The Prancing Pony, The Boar’s Head, or (my favorite) The Admiral Benbow Inn.

 

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iTunes sent notice I’ve been blocked from further attempts to log in as I have exhausted the number of allotted password attempts. In its flaunting of power Apple tells me it will send me some sort of ‘next step’ – in a few days. Meanwhile I stand out in the snow like Henry IV waiting for Gregory’s pardon. Oh the embarrassment.

Long time ago I took the advice of some great expert who said not to have a simple or ubiquitous password for on-line activities. I see his point. While “Urspo1234” was a memorable passe-partout, it got a ’10 for looks and a ‘0’ for security.  I went to using different passwords (each more complicated than the other) for every on-line activity. Now I can’t remember which one goes with Facebook vs. Create a Cookbook vs. Merrill Lynch etc. Some of these pass codes change regularly, which further complicates the matter. I suppose I should write all of them down on a piece of paper but I fear I will lose that too and be in desperate straits.*

Speaking of passwords I recently sent a terse email to my bosses remonstrating if they don’t do something about the office passcode I will do so myself. Cassandra-like I’ve lamented for years the clinic’s password is the worst:

  1. it is the same code unaltered for years.
  2. everyone uses the same code.
  3. It consists of a simple word; one could crack it quick as a quarter-note.

I hope the latest malware matter coming out of Europe is enough to get them to see sense. So far there is no response. Oh the pain.

Meanwhile I am at the mercy of Apple and its moods to give me a temporary code so I can establish a new one. According to ‘How safe is my password?’ my modest proposal of  Applscks&fu2  is good for 30,000 years and it is quite memorable.

 

* I’ve heard tell you can put all register all your passcodes at one website that works as  an on-line safety deposit box. What happens though when that gets hacked or (in an ironical moment) I can’t remember the password to enter it?

Spo-fans know Urs Truly is working on a cookbook. The tome is not exquisite nor original but pragmatic. It is to be a collection of my favorite recipes, which are presently scattered throughout a my cookbook collection. Some examples: Mother’s gingerbread is located in her church’s women’s cookbook. When Someone makes a pot pie, that recipe is in a  Betty Crocker cookbook. James Beard American cooking Cookbook has my recipe for Jam cake. You get the gist.  It would be nice to have them all in one book for easy reference.

Every year since I was a little boy Mother’s side gathers on the same summer weekend for a family reunion. Everyone brings food of course, and someone always makes a layer salad. This same dish, timeless and unaltered, has graced the buffet table for over 50 years. I want that recipe in my book, although I have never made it myself. “To the research” as my colleague says.

I soon became overwhelmed by the myriad of variations of this recipe. There are 5, 7, and even 9 layer versions. Throw in the recipes titled ‘Layered salad’ and there are enough to make one every night for years without a repeat. Oh the pain. Which one was is closest to the one in my memory? I’ve had it many times but never stopped to consider the ingredients.  Stinko.

Then I came to my senses. Nearly all my Facebook ‘friends’ are relations, so I posted the question which relation on Mother’s side makes this or who has the recipe.[1] It finally got around my mother’s cousin’s wife, Aunt Gail who is the maker of the dish. [2] She sent me the recipe, which I duplicated without editing :

Layered Salad:

1 head chopped lettuce 

3-4 stalks of celery finely chopped

2-3 carrots finely chopped

1 can drained sliced water chestnuts
1 small onion finely chopped
1 small bag frozen peas
(layer these items in pan, then spread top with mixture)
2 cups mayo
2 Tbs. sugar
(cover and let set in refrig. overnight…then add)
3-4 large tomatoes sliced thin
4-5 boiled eggs sliced thin
1 jar bacon bits
shake on Parmesan Cheese

This lovely dish captures the urtext of Midwestern cuisine. I plan to make it as soon as I am off my diet and I plan to eat it all myself. [3]

Meanwhile, other female relations on both side of my family tree sent me their versions of this mercurial entree.  Cousin/Aunt Joy sent me this one:

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What I adore most about this is the nostalgia of the typewrite on an index card, which is stained no doubt from use. I particularly find charming it the dropped letters.  The typist got to the end, made a typewriter boo-boo, and decided it was good enough and not worth typing the card over again.  The typist (probably her mother, my father’s cousin) had to compact the directions for the sake of space, hoping one would intuit the directions. I plan on making this one too; I am curious to see which better floats my boat, as it were. I suspect both will be enjoyable. [4] After all, there is nothing as comforting as food with family history as its main ingredient. It may not be haute cuisine but it made with love. [5]

Spo fans who have fabulous layer salads (7 or otherwise) are invited to share their recipe in the comment section.  I would be blithe to have them. 

 

layered salad

 

[1] A clever-dick Spo-fan from Canada, noticed for his good looks and wit, left the comment in his house 7-layer salad is called lasagna.

[2] I knew this but I had forgotten. Mother keeps in touch with all her cousins of which she has plenty. I used to know them all but now I get them confused. Just hate that.

[3] I will have to eat it all myself for Someone is highly adverse to mayonnaise and I don’t think using sour cream or yogurt will do the dish justice.

[4] I am already conjuring up my own Urspo-layer salad, using the best bits of each and with possible add-ons and higher quality ingredients – no rubbish.

[5] And maybe made with a slightly altered version that has a secret ingredient one keeps to oneself so the others can never make  it quite as good as you. 🙂

I got a request from a Spo-fan (who is well over four feet) to write about bipolar depression. Here are some basics.

Clinical depression comes in various types. “Unipolar” depression is the mood condition in which people go between states of depression and feeling OK/normal (rather than feeling happy). “Bipolar depression” as the name suggests means sometimes the moods go up and beyond ‘OK” into what is sometimes referred to as mania. In a manic mood state the person often feels euphoric with high energy; they sometimes feel they can do anything. They often do reckless activities such as driving too fast, spending money, or sexually act out – all in ways they would not do in a calmer mood. In a bipolar depression there is often irritable and labile mood swings, talking too loud a/or too fast, and little or no sleep.

The old term for bipolar depression is manic-depression. Either term is used by patients but clinicians tend to use the former.

Discriminating unipolar from bipolar depression is quite challenging, for the mood conditions fall on a spectrum rather than in clear either/or categories. I spend a lot of my job trying to figure out a patient’s depression type. Sometimes it takes years before someone is properly diagnosed with a bipolar depression, having had first a long time of being diagnosed and treated as unipolar. It makes a crucial difference to get the right diagnosis, for the treatments  are different. If I give a person with bipolar depression the wrong type of medicine, the prescription could actually make them worse or manic.

Alas, people don’t fall cleanly into clean either/or categories; bipolar depression is seldom clear cut. When I was trained only thems with ‘classic’ manic periods – followed by depressive states – were diagnosed ‘bipolar’. Now we know the majority of bipolar patients do not fit into this classic definition.

Sometimes a patient tells me once upon at time they took an antidepressant and it made them worse. This is a sign for me to sit up and consider the possibility of a bipolar type depression.

Lithium used to be the one and only Rx for bipolar depression. There are many others now, although lithium remains the ‘gold standard’. It’s a tough medication to take, and thems with ‘atypical’ or ‘mixed states’  or ‘rapid cycling’ types of bipolar depression don’t respond to lithium as well as ‘garden-variety manic depression” viz. clear and clean manic episodes.

It used to be people with bipolar depression were missed and underdosed. Now the pendulum has swung the other way and too many moody/irritable unipolar depressed folks are being diagnosed with bipolar type depression. Ironically, thems with true bipolar depression are still not being identified and treated.

There are no good physical exam findings or brain scans or blood work tests to make the diagnosis easy (at least not yet). There are some relatively good screening tests a doctor can do to help screen for such. In the end it is the history and timeline – and an expert like Urs Truly (hohoho) – to make the diagnosis. Even then I have to be mindful do I have the proper diagnosis or not.

I recently made a couple of shirts with giraffes for a couple of Spo-fans who adore them so.  Giraffes do not personally float my boat but I see the attraction. Any zoo or wildlife fund knows what gets people to open their wallets like nothing else is a charismatic megafauna A.K.A a cute animal. People go gaga over these critters with their big eyes and furry pelts. One just wants to hug them to bits.  If a nasty-looking reptile or insect is in danger of extinction no one cares, but if a panda-bear is in jeopardy than that’s a different story.  Urs Truly is no exception. I too have my favorites:

 

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Aardvark 

They are odd-looking creatures with an odd-sounding name. Merely saying the word makes me smile.  What’s not to love?

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Walrus

Fascinating!  Large blubbery sea-slugs with tusks of seemingly no use or sense. Someone was having a good time putting this one together.  They are almost as good as a Baku. You walrus hurt the one you love.

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Macaque

The dears! They seem to spend their entire lives sitting in hot tubs lost in a dwam and not bothered to do anything. They have a pained Jack Benny look to them as if  they have a deep thought or a sick headache.

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Kinkajou

It’s the eyes, and the sense they want to cuddle you to bits. Please don’t feed them buns and things.

 

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Bear

They are my favorite charismatic megafauna.

manpool  Aaron the pool man is a genius. The cement pond has gone from a semi-swamp to limpid blue. It is clean, cool, and refreshing, like my men. What a joy to come home after a hot day, strip of one’s trousers etc. and dive right in. I am actually enjoying the pool rather than seeing it as a problem. The pool light went out due to seepage. Aaron P. says he will have us a new light by week’s end. The new one will have chatoyant disco colors for swimming in red, purple, or green brilliance – guaranteed to keep away the evil things that lurk below in the dark wanting to drag me down as I can’t see them.

donald_trump_clown_anti_trump_2016_postcard-r85028c006e144aed9ba4d45d5d9f5c40_vgbaq_8byvr_324I am not one to write about politics but it’s quite painful watching the naufragous news coming out of the White House. I wonder if the GOP politicians will connect the dots if they continue to support such shenanigans spewing out you-know-who their political futures will go down the swanny.  Oh the pain.

This evening I ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I was pleased to read the menu and realize I understood most of it. My lessons must be working.  I recently found a Spanish lessons podcast quite fascinating. For one thing they teach Spanish as spoken in Spain. Words likes “thank you” are pronounced not like ‘grass-see-us’ but as ‘grathhhh-e-ess”. It makes me wonder if everyone in Madrid has a lisp. I tried some of these diphthongs and rolling Rs at work with thems who speak Spanish who learned their versions in Mexico and Cuba. They looked at me like I had had a stroke.  The two teachers, a man and a woman, are from Scotland. Their Scottish accents are sometimes harder for me to understand than their Spanish (which they speak well). If I keep this up I will be fluent in a Highlands-style Spanish no one will understand.

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