Tag Archives: Twitch

Labor Day

No, even though my Mom kept saying this was the truth, today doesn’t have anything to do with how long our various mothers labored to bring us into this world.

Instead, Labor Day is a day set aside to allow us to labor over a grilling fire one last time before summer ends, to give us one more day at the lake, one more time out in the heat of the backyard with the sprinklers flashing rainbows into the sunny sky.

Or, you know, not.

It could be that Labor Day originally was founded to celebrate the working man (and he was, for the most part, a man back then), who sweated his day away on the assembly line, or out in the hot streets, laying down the roadway the white-collar workers used to drive in to their cushy jobs in the city with their fancypants air conditioning.

Labor Day was designed to honor those who actually produced an actual thing, instead of giving us a service. The people honored by Labor Day were singled out for a number of reasons: 1) to say thanks for helping build this country on their metaphorical, economic backs and 2) labor unions used to have a lot more members, a lot more money and a lot more pull so they could get something like this put on the national calendar with relative ease.

What? It’s true.

Since it’s founding, many folks have tried to usurp Labor Day’s reasons for celebrating. (Hello, Mom, wherever you are!) A lot of folks these days think it’s a celebration of the dwindling few who actually are able to find, get and keep a job for longer than a quarter or two. And a job with bennies? Dude! That’s something to celebrate.

Regardless of the reasoning behind Labor Day, I do enjoy one last fling at summer. I’ll be using the day off to relax in the backyard, crawl under some shade and spray an appalling amount of bug spray at anything that so much as twitches a blood-thirsty proboscis in my general direction.

We all have our own ways of celebrating. That’s mine.

Enjoy yours.

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Congratulations, Dude! And More From The Expo

Congratulations go out to our new favorite dude, Aaron C. He’s the lucky dude who won that fantastic WebMD baby prize pack.

You had to be at it to win it, but he was there and he did win. At the Baby Shower & Toddler Expo, Barry and I set up a nice little bowl (actually a former container for trail mix from Tarzhay) so people could drop their contact information and possibly win the great stuff.

WebMD is a very nice outfit, quite generous.

So, Aaron C.? We’re trying to reach you by e-mail so we can find a way to get you the prize package. If you know Aaron C., and, really, why wouldn’t you?, give him a pat on the back and a hearty smile, one that just barely hides the jealousy seething within as you contemplate the raw, appalling emotional wound festering inside you all because you decided to sit home last weekend.

And now for something. . . not so completely different.

Here’s a little something I wrote during the Expo. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. All events are fictional, and any resemblance to any person or group, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Barry is dancing again.

He’s dancing to Hell’s House Band. I’ll have nightmares about this for years to come. Those appalling puppet things, with their blank, dead eyes, moving in hitching, jerking spasms that only vaguely resemble human musculature. And Barry. His face contorted in some rictus, rather than a smile.

And he’s . . . moving. I can’t call it dancing, I just can’t. There’s something missing in this, some essential joy that has been driven out in his all-consuming desire to please his puppety masters.

This Expo has been so long. I’ve forgotten the warmth of the sun, and the feel of clean rain swirling down from storm-tossed clouds. The music just won’t stop and. . .

Oh.

Oh, no.

My foot. It’s. . . It’s twitching. In rhythm. And Hell’s House Band is still playing.

I think it’s too late for me.

Run! Run! Save yourselves!

Ah, good times. Good times.

Wait, I hear you asking. You said the names were changed to protect the innocent and yet there’s Barry’s name up there, bold as brass. To which I answer, “Yes. And?”

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Who Needs A Psychiatrist When You’ve Got An iPhone?

Okay, sure the headline might have been a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s a (somewhat) serious question.

Here’s why.

Despite how amazingly complex is our brain function, it can be easily fooled and made to go along with the plans of others. For instance, if you smile at someone, odds are that that person will smile back. If you smile, you will feel better.

It should be the other way around. That is, if you feel good, you smile. And that’s true. You do. But it seems as if the mere physical act of twitching a few facial muscles is enough to fool the brain into thinking that, “If I’m smiling, I must be happy so I’d better start the happy time now.”

Which is the thinking behind MoodTune. According to the developer, Harvard psychiatrist Diego Pizzagalli, if you turn on MoodTune for about 15 minutes a day, play some games in the app, it’s possible you can lift yourself out of depression. It’s possible, Pizzagalli said, this app could be all the treatment a depressed person needs. No meds. No talk therapy. Just an iPhone app.

Pizzagalli started working on depression in 1999 and released some of his most important papers in 2001. The papers focused on “biomarkers,” signals of response in the brain to antidepressants and psychotherapy. Take a peek inside the brain, and you can see areas light up–or fail to light up–in response to treatments. Whether an area lights up or not predicts, with considerable accuracy, whether a treatment works, he says.

So, the thinking goes, what we if we illuminate those regions another way? The brain could readjust appropriately without the need for a pill. The anterior cingulate cortex is associated with depression and also works when snap decisions need to be made, Pizzagalli says, so perhaps having someone make snap decisions would help treat depression. He developed desktop software in his lab to test it out and was happy enough with the results to delve deeper into the technology.

And there’s the whole thing with the physical act of smiling making us feel happy. The thinking here is that it doesn’t matter what causes these specific areas of the brain to light up. If they light up, you feel less depressed.

I don’t know about you dudes, but I find that idea rather fascinating. It speaks to a sort of hacker mentality, but working in neurons instead of silicon chips. I think it’s sort of like an extension of behaviorist approaches to therapy. Behaviorists don’t care why you do something if the thing is what you want to stop. They just work on stopping the behavior and feel like that will take care of the underlying problem as well. In a nutshell. Generally speaking.

This is some really strange, but very cool stuff, very next-level thinking. My concern, though, arises from an analogy. If you’ve got a car tire that keeps going flat, you go out and get a new tire. Problem solved. You don’t care why it went flat because you’ve got a new tire and all is good. But what if the reason your tire kept going flat was because you kept parking next to a sharp bit of curb and it would scrape against the tire, causing it to gradually lose air. Pretty soon, you’re going to need another new tire because the underlying problem is still there.

Think of that like the brain. You’re seriously depressed. You treat this by tricking your brain into lighting up some key anti-depression areas by playing some games. You feel better. But the root cause still is there, yeah? Won’t the depression come back? Keep coming back?

I guess that’s why they research these things. We keep asking questions and they keep trying to find the answers.

I picked this information up from an interesting article at Popular Science. You might want to go over there and read the whole thing. It’s really absorbing. I know I learned some things, and that’s always good.

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