Tag Archives: Psychology

Zippy The Changing Man

I’ve seen him laughing, crying and howling. I’ve even seen him dead.

Fortunately, he was only playing dead as part of a film project while away at University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Today is the day we celebrate every single aspect of the young man known to one and probably that’s all (known to me, of course) as Zippy the Travelin’ Boy.

Yep. It’s another birthday. This time, my middle not-so-little dude is leaving the teens behind and venturing into his 20s. It’s a bit of a shock to see the literal little handful, who had the most amazing head of thick, black hair when he was born, now grown into a young man who towers over his dad.

Zippy the Monkey BoyZippy the Travelin’ Boy has always been the most mutable of our sons. He’s gone through fashion statements (I’ll never forget the violent 180˚ turn he made from surfer punk to cowboy), loves, hates, political perspectives and just about everything else in his life as if he were in a fire sale at a department store and he needed to try on the clothing before it disappeared.

He’s been a bit of a chameleon, is what I’m trying to say. Oddly, considering he took so long to actually speak both understandably and out loud as a child, he’s probably the most verbally accomplished of the three dudes.

By which I mean that he’s always been the type to try out different accents and verbal tics and patterns, sort of like me. I started out early as well. As a young kid, I lived in England and got teased for being an American. So I developed a deep Southern accent, which came in handy when we moved back to Texas. However, as I grew older and started playing football, my teachers assumed I was an idiot because of the accent and the football so they expected nothing from me.

I didn’t like that. So I decided to drop the Southern accent and did, beginning to speak in a bland, newscaster-ish accent. To me, it was easy, but I learned that other people have a hard time doing that. I thought I was unique.

Until Zippy the Travelin’ Boy came into his own. He began copying the various accents I used when I read aloud to the boys and then doing better at them. He started mimicking the unusual voices he heard on television and in the movies, doing a stunningly accurate Bane voice that always cracks me up.

His latest chameleon turn came when he hit college. Since he was 2 and able to mispronounce it relatively consistently, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy (then known as Zippy the Monkey Boy both for his climbing skill and love of animals) wanted to become a marine biologist. Until he hit campus and discovered he would actually have to work and learn to earn that degree.

At which point, he discovered acting and fell in love. Since he wanted to make a living once he graduated, he decided to major in psychology while minoring in both Spanish and theater performance. It’s been fascinating to watch his ambition and skill flower in this new environment.

Whenever we talk about it, his mother and I are smiling like fools.

Which hasn’t always been the case. As he was growing up, I would only have given Zippy the Travelin’ Boy break-even odds that I would let him live to adulthood. He was the most stubborn kid I’d ever met and almost never used those powers for good.

Fortunately for us all, I was able to restrain those homicidal urges and even filled in the suspiciously shallow grave I dug on the sly in the back yard. He’s still stubborn and more than a little of a know-it-all, but he’s learning to actually listen to people with different opinions and has actually been known to listen to the advice from others without disdain.

All of which makes for a great opponent when I want to have an argument or refine my own opinion by seeing how it holds up in combat. His quick wit and merciless attack posture are the ultimate test of survivability.

As much as I enjoyed snuggling with the little dude when he was, in fact, little, I’m finding that I’m enjoying even more being around the young man he’s becoming.

Happy birthday, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy. We love you!

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Happy Happy Joy Joy

Life’s too short to be depressing all the time, dudes.

With that in mind, let’s talk some astonishingly odd science instead of contemplating the onrushing death awaiting every dude at the end of his life. There, I went and got all depressing again. Sorry.

Anyway.

Back to science. Every year, we hear about the Nobel Prizes, which honor the most groundbreaking, amazing scientific achievements that come to the attention of the Nobel committee. These are the ones we hear about: quantum reality abnegation, new theories for rational prediction of stock market action, finding a way to avert a way. You know, the usual.

But I’m almost certain you dudes didn’t know there is a sister/brother/ugly cousin award to the Nobel Prize. It’s called the Ig Nobel Prize and it honors the year’s strangest–but also very good!–scientific research, in 10 different categories. Past recipients have honored research on remote-controlled whale snot harvesting and why you don’t spill your coffee. Thanks to Popular Science for the write up since my comp ticket to the event must have become lost in the mail.

The Psychology Prize was given for confirming, by experimentation, that people who are drunk believe themselves to be better looking than they, in reality, are. The folks behind this also should receive a special award for best use of a bad pun in a scientific paper.

“‘Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder’: People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive,” Laurent Bègue, Brad J. Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, Medhi Ourabah, British Journal of Psychology, epub May 15, 2012.

Eye of the beer holder, get it? Beer holder. Beholder. Yeah. It’s just that bad.

The Physics Prize went to a study that determined that a person could run across the surface of a lake unassisted. If, and I believe this to be an important caveat, that person and that lake both were situated on the moon. I’m guessing some hypothetical atmosphere and a heating element would be involved.

Humans Running in Place on Water at Simulated Reduced Gravity,” Alberto E. Minetti, Yuri P. Ivanenko, Germana Cappellini, Nadia Dominici, Francesco Lacquaniti, PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 7, 2012, e37300.

So, that’s the sort of good scientific work, albeit a bit on the esoteric side, that gets honored at the Ig Noble Prizes. However, to my mind, the best part of the entire event is the description that precedes each of the prizes. These are works of genius.

Take, for instance, the Peace Prize: (To the president of Belarus) For: “making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.”

The Probability Prize brings back memories of far too late-night idiocapades in college: For: “making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.”

To my mind, however, the capstone of the Ig Nobel awards and the description that might make it into the all-time list of best descriptions, comes out of the Archeology Prize. Which was given for, well, I can’t do this justice. I think I’ll let the organizers tell you what it was given For: “parboiling a dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then carefully examining everything excreted during subsequent days — all so they could see which bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system, and which bones would not.”

Dudes and dudettes, I give you science!

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Freaky Friday: Stay Awake And Get Fat

How’s that for a sweeps-month, scare-the-snot-out-of-you type of headline? Yeah, it’s something that’s almost guaranteed to get your eyeballs glued to the page, wanting to see more about this.

All I’d need to do is throw in the words free and sex and maybe iPhone and I’ve got a pageview magnet. Still, it’s not all about the pageviews. This here is a real thing.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, losing sleep over the fact that you’re overweight (or, really, for any reason at all) is a pretty sure way to actually make yourself gain more weight.

Losing sleep tends to make people eat more and gain weight, and now a new study suggests that one reason may be the impact that sleep deprivation has on the brain.

The research showed that depriving people of sleep for one night created pronounced changes in the way their brains responded to high-calorie junk foods. On days when the subjects had not had proper sleep, fattening foods like potato chips and sweets stimulated stronger responses in a part of the brain that helps govern the motivation to eat. But at the same time, the subjects experienced a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex, a higher-level part of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made.

In other words, your brain is hitting you with a double whammy. Your body is craving a hit of that sweet, salty, fat load of goodness we call junk food. And, just when your body most needs to have your brain in control and exercising a little restraint, the part of the brain that’s in charge of restraint goes out for a well-deserved vacation, leaving instant gratification in charge for a while.

Not a good combination.

Of course, it was possible that we, the sleep-deprived masses, simply craved more food because our bodies had to make up for the calories expended when we stayed awake instead of sleeping soundly. It was possible to believe it until this new study came out, that is.

“Their hunger was no different when they were sleep deprived and when they had a normal night of sleep,” (said Matthew P. Walker, an author of the study and a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley). “That’s important because it suggests that the changes we’re seeing are caused by sleep deprivation itself, rather than simply being perhaps more metabolically impaired when you’re sleep deprived.”

Least you think this is all made up, let me assure you that the link between lack of sleep and weight gain is one that has been well established by a number of studies throughout the year. It’s real. Sleep less, weigh more. Not only that, but sleep deprivation can inflict a whole host of other potentially deleterious effects on your body. This new study, though, really focused in on what happened in the brain when the subjects skipped sleep and then started drooling over different food pictures.

The research showed that when the subjects were bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, they strongly preferred the food choices that were highest in calories, like desserts, chocolate and potato chips. The sleepier they felt, the more they wanted the calorie-rich foods. In fact, the foods they requested when they were sleep deprived added up to about 600 calories more than the foods that they wanted when they were well rested.

At the same time, brain scans showed that on the morning after the subjects’ sleepless night, the heavily caloric foods produced intense activity in an almond-shaped structure called the amygdala, which helps regulate basic emotions as well as our desires for things like food and experiences. That was accompanied by sharply reduced responses in cortical areas of the frontal lobe that regulate decision-making, providing top down control of the amygdala and other primitive brain structures.

All of which goes a long way toward explaining why dudes make such bad choices the day after an all-nighter. And when I say dudes, I mean, of course, mostly me. Who hasn’t woken bleary-eyed from a night of tossing and turning only to find themselves making a direct line from bathroom to cupboard, searching for that one last donut?

Bit takeaway health tip here, dudes. Make sure you get enough sleep, even if only to avoid eating more donuts. Save ’em for me.

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