Friday, October 30, 2015

Writer's Digest #2

From the November/December 2010 issue:

English: A Glass of iced tea.
English: A Glass of iced tea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The original lune created by Robert Kelly is a tercet (three-line poem) that has five syllables in the first line, three syllables in the second, and five syllables in the third.
A cup of green tea
Over ice
In a glass beer mug.

Refreshing! Now you try one!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Science of Happiness: The Voice: Sharing Beyond Words

10/22/15: The Voice: A Primal Way We Connect

Laryngoscopic view of interior of larynx.
Laryngoscopic view of interior of larynx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Another day, another video.  This one is about the non-verbal sounds our voices use to communicate. Basically, we're evolved for language -- not only out vocal chords and such, but even our ears are most finely tuned to human speech.  And we can communicate using "vocal bursts", which aren't words, but are pretty clear.  Let me type a few phonetically; I think you'll know exactly what each of them means.
  • Hmm.
  • Aww.
  • Pfft.
  • Ha!
  • Huh?
 Next is a series of trailers for some Happiness Cinema.  I might watch these movies eventually, but I'm so far behind on this course that it's not going to be any time soon.  And one of them is based on a book, so I just went and added that to my Goodreads list.

Next up is another problem set! We're making progress! And I think I did well.

Let's make some noise!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Prompts vs pics

A while back, I had no idea what to write about, so I posted to Facebook asking for prompts.

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...
Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Français : Logo de Facebook Tiếng Việt: Logo Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I got two suggestions (read what came of them here and here) and zero likes. Both suggestions were from men. None of this is particularity remarkable on its own.

Later that day, I changed my profile picture. Someone else posted a 6-year-old photo that I was in, and I cropped it to make a nice shot of me.

Not counting a comment I made myself about the context of the pic, I got six comments and 41 likes. Five of the comments were from women, as were 32 of the likes.

There's a lot of conclusions I could draw from this.  It's easier to like, or even compliment, a picture than it is to come up with a prompt.  Profile picture changes are more likely to show up in the newsfeed, especially if you have it set to top stories.  And if that is how your newsfeed is set up, then the extra likes is just going to make it more likely that more people will see it.  Algorithms, right?

I could also conclude that women care more about appearance than men do, or that women care more about appearance than content. Likewise, that men care more about content than women do, or that men care more about content than appearance.

None of these seem quite right.

I could conclude that people care more about how pretty I was six years ago than they do what I'm thinking right now.  This is probably somewhat true, but it also implies people care much about either, which most don't.

I could conclude that as a woman, my appearance matters more than my thoughts. On a societal level, maybe, but on a personal level? For the most part, looking at exactly who posted what? Probably not.  Though maybe a little, in some cases.

Being who I am, part of me is going to conclude that I'm ugly and stupid and no one cares what I think and they liked the picture because the previous one was hideous.

I guess the most charitable (to say nothing of the healthiest) conclusion I could draw is:

We all, myself included, should engage more with each other's thoughtful posts.

What conclusion did you draw?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Science of Happiness: The Importance of Touch

10/20/15: The Science of Touch

OK, let me open by saying that unless it's really obvious I'm amenable (like, extending my hand for a shake or doing "I need a hug" arms), I'd really rather you ask before touching me.  I know I'm not alone in hating being expected to kiss people I've met all of twice, right?
English: "Touch Me not" flower
English: "Touch Me not" flower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But, touch is important for happiness, so we watch a video to that effect.

...And the video points out yet another way in which I'm a freak who's pretty much designed to be unhappy. It discusses all the ways touch improves health: Alzheimer's patience who are touched suffer less depression (I don't know who you are or where I am, I certainly don't want you touching me!), students whose teachers pat them on the back are more likely to speak up in class (try the other way around; I was a total Hermione in school, but I would have freaked out if a teacher started touching me), kids who get pats on the back from librarians are more likely to check books out (not if I avoid the library from then on, I won't!).

Look, I believe the science. But it just seems like, over and over, the science is telling me I have a  choice: be unhappy, or get happier by doing things that make me unhappy. And if I'm going to be malcontent either way, shouldn't I at least save my effort and choose the easier path to malcontentedness?

What are your thoughts?

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Science of Happiness: How to Stop Attachment Insecurity from Ruining Your Happiness

10/15/2015: How to Stop Attachment Insecurity from Ruining Your Happiness

So here's another article you can read on the Greater Good website, this one by Meghan Laslocky from February of 2014.
Weather Fronts
Weather Fronts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I'm always skeptical when someone says the only option is therapy.  Yeah, if you're actually ill, you should see a doctor if possible, and that absolutely applies to mental illness as well. But just like you don't visit your GP every time you get a papercut, stub your toe, or suffer a headache when the weather fronts change, do you really see a therapist every time you have a sad? Maybe you do! I'd sure like to.  But not everyone has the money, time, or energy to find, visit, and pay for a good therapist.  So what else can you do?

Three Good Things:
My specifics have not been great today, so I'm just going to have to be grateful for trite generalities.  Still:
  1. Plenty to eat
  2.  Access to technology
  3. Clean, safe drinking water.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Mega-Review #58

OK, another round with two weeks' worth.
Mo sleeps under his bed.  Photo by me.

Frankly, last week was kind of aggravating.  Two weeks prior to today, nothing much happened. That Saturday, we ran a bunch of errands, including a dentist appointment.  That night, we checked out a place that had been on Bar Rescue, but between their Oktoberfest event and some major sporting events, it wasn't that much fun for me.  We ended the evening at a more reliable watering hole.

Two things about that weekend.  First, I was supposed to be volunteering for the church rummage sale, but the head of the event never got back to me, so I kept that weekend free for nothing.  That pisses me off.

Second, we dog-sat Mo, my in-laws' dog.  That was kind of fun, but he sulked the whole time.

Monday, we took him to the park.  He refused to go near the dog run; he almost killed a chipmunk; he did a mean bait-and-switch thing where he went up to be friendly with a guy, and then when the guy responded, got all mean and barky.

He was so happy when Chris's parents came to pick him up on Tuesday.

Tuesday night was book club, which was nice, as usual.

Thursday was a rough day for no good reason.  Just one of those bad days where no one thing is really a dealbreaker, but all the things added up just grind you down.

Still, I was prepared to Friday to be a better day.  Until I got up, walked barefoot into the bathroom, and opened the medicine cabinet, only for a bottle of cologne (of unknown origin, I might add) to fall off the shelf and onto my foot before shattering. Again: I was barefoot.

After one or two similarly aggravating events, I basically gave up and declared Friday over.  Which is why I did not post last week.

Saturday was better. Despite a late start and some bad traffic, we made it to the Oyster Bay Oyster Festival.  It's definitely a better time in nicer weather, but it was still fun. We ate some amazingly fresh raw oysters (plus creamy seafood soups -- clam chowder for him, lobster bisque for me -- and some steamed clams), wandered the arts tent, saw the alpacas and the World's Largest Rubber Duck, then, on the way back to the car, hit up the Oyster Bay Brewing Company for a beer. Afterwards, we stopped briefly at the mall, before meeting up with some of Chris's friends to watch the Mets and/or Islanders.

Sunday we got together to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday.

This week has been pretty unremarkable since then, except I made an awesome Chicken Parm casserole. Here's the recipe, and here's the jingle that's been stuck in my head ever since.  You're welcome.

In knitting, I've still been chipping away at the scarf for Chris.

In reading, I finished The Fifth Season and Civil War, and got about two-thirds of the way through Howl's Moving Castle.

Have your weeks been better than mine?

Updated 3/31/16 for assorted typos.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Science of Happiness: We're Built to Connect.

10/15/2015: The Biology of Social Connection

List of images in Gray's Anatomy: IX. Neurology
List of images in Gray's Anatomy: IX. Neurology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 So, a new section, beginning with a video about the biology of our social natures.  You know how there's some evidence that people with mild depression, ADHD, or Autism were vital members of hunter-gatherer societies? I wonder if the same can be said about introversion.  Because all I'm hearing so far is "All social! All the time! Be social to be happy!" and it makes me want to hide under the covers with a book.

So we look at the Vagus nerve, which is tied to social connection. It's actually pretty interesting; it ties to communication, to mood, to our immune systems, to our posture... I mean, you could argue that the brain or spine do the same thing, but still, it's pretty interesting, and I would explain it so badly, so go look at the Wikipedia page.

Next, we look at oxytocin (which my spellcheck insists should read Oxycontin.  Thanks, Chrome). Oxytocin makes us more generous, more trusting, more empathetic, and less stressed out.

Good stuff.  Next up is another article, so that'll wait til another day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Newsflash: I like comfort more than failure

I was kind of surprised, looking at my stats, how popular this post from a few weeks ago has remained. So while I'm not sure I want to bleed all over the screen again, let's look at another question from this post
English: Osram 4.5W LED light bulb
English: Osram 4.5W LED light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What kinds of projects and jobs at work and at home do you get excited about? What kinds do you dread?
Yep, nothing like dwelling on things you dread to put you in a good mood, am I right?

Well, let's look at my to-do list.  What am I excited about?
  • Buy asparagus. There's a really good sale and I like asparagus, OK?
  •  Photograph my knitting.  I finished a few things and I'd like to show them off.
  • Read my book club book.  It's a good book.
  • Get winter clothes from the garage. As much as I hate to put the summer clothes away, I'm starting to want more sweaters to choose from than the small pile I held out.
None of that is especially exciting, and I don't see much of a common theme.  Maybe... coziness? Eat a nice dinner, then snuggle up in a warm sweater and knit and read?  Yeah, that sounds nice.

So what do I dread?
  • Exercise. Yes, it's a chore.
  • Poke at my resume. I'm aware that the entire point is to brag, OK? I'm just not comfortable doing so.
  • Deal with the basement light bulbs. That's just going to be a hassle.  I'll have to drag the stepladder down to the basement, then get up on it (fearing falling the whole time) and pull out an old bulb, then research the LED equivalent, then hunt down the gift card to the big-box hardware store, then go to the hardware store, find the light bulb aisle, find the appropriate bulbs, drag them home, get back up on the stepladder (worrying about falling again), and replace the bulbs.  I am looking forward to the basement being properly lit, though, I have to say.
  • Format my murder mystery.  I'm just befuddled as to where to start.
 Common theme? Ha.  "Stuff I'm bad at", I guess.

So, I'm excited about things that make me comfortable, and I dread things I suck at.

Sounds pretty unremarkable.

How about you?

Three good things, 10/21/15
  1. It's the future! OK, I'm not a huge Back to the Future Fan -- and I really do think the second one is the weakest of the trilogy -- but I can just sit here and name things that prove it's the future: the smartphone in my pocket. The big flatscreen TV on my wall, hooked up to a DVR and multiple video game consoles. The crowdfunded omnibus edition of the Hugo-winning webcomic on my bookshelf. The fact that I don't want to go to the hardware store, mentioned above, in part because I could just order the light bulbs online and have them sent to me. And that's just off the top of my head.
    1. An I'm a little surprise hipsters haven't adopted the "future" fashion in the movie, to be honest. But I guess it's hard to flip out the pockets of skinny jeans.
  2. Like I said above, asparagus is on sale! 
  3. It's going to get warm today. I love autumn, but I sure hate that it turns into winter.  Warm October days hit the sweet spot.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Science of Happiness: Early Life Experience and Social Connection

10/8/15: Early Life Experience and Social Connection

So next up there's a video about how our earliest childhood experiences affect us psychologically, and as a result, how they affect our happiness.

Authors considering attachment in non-western ...
Authors considering attachment in non-western cultures have noted the connection of attachment theory with Western family and child care patterns characteristic of Bowlby's time. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Basically, and these are apparently based on early childhood experiences, there are three attachment styles: secure, anxious, and avoidant, which are pretty much what they sound like. And, of course, secure attachment leads to happier relationships, and in return, happier people having those relationships.

No word on whether those styles are on a spectrum, or what you're supposed to do about it if you're not "secure", though.

Another video now, this one about how these attachment styles affect how our brains work.

In short, anxiously attached people take frowny faces too deeply to heart (hmm...) while avoidantly attached people don't take as much pleasure from smiley faces.

Still no word on what to do about it.

But finally! A mention of some studies on how insecurely attached adults can learn!

Insecurely attached individuals do better with a "Secure base" -- usually a securely attached and very patient romantic partner.  Anxious adults need nurturing and soothing; avoidant adults need more practical caregiving.

And we come to an article, which we'll read another day.

Three Good Things: 10/8/15
  1. Got some good sleep. That always feels better.  I don't know why, but my sleep just hasn't been great lately.  Not entirely sure why it was good last night, either, but there we are.
  2. It's really nice out. I had to walk to Staples and buy some toner, and I could have stayed out longer.  It was lovely.
  3. Alpaca yarn.  I'm working on a scarf for Chris, and he had picked out some nice yarn -- we actually saw the alpacas some of it came from. It's really nice to work with.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Science of Happiness: Scratch a Happy Adult, Find a Socially Connected Childhood

10/1/15: The Importance of Childhood Social Connections

Kids playing in a lake at a church camp
Kids playing in a lake at a church camp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So this course reading was originally posted to Greater Good  by Lauren Klein in December 2013. Go ahead and read it and we'll talk in a moment.

Ah, happier adults are the ones who had more friends in school, not better grades.  OK, sp please stop lying to the nerds when you tell them that someday they'll be better off than the popular kids; science has disproven it.

Basically, all the kids I never fit in with are the ones who are happier than me now, just like they were then.  Well, that's just wonderful.  Thank you for teaching me how to avoid screwing up my hypothetical future children.

Now what do I do about it for myself?  Or is it too late?