Monthly Archives: October 2014

Want an expensive wedding?

calligraphyA couple of things I’ve noticed about marriage just came to mind recently (after reading about a study from Emory University).

One is that marriage, in our time, is presented as (a bungled attempt at) guaranteeing something no one can do. It’s making you swear you’ll continue feeling a certain way (in love) for the rest of your life, when it’d be better to swear to go on being worth loving.

And the second thing is that if parachutes failed to open at the same rate that marriages fail, no one would parachute out of a plane, unless they had to.

This is what I read about. Do you want an expensive engagement ring and wedding? If you do, consider the findings from a couple of researchers at Emory University who claim:

” In this paper, we evaluate the association between wedding spending and marriage duration using data from a survey of over 3,000 never-married persons in the United States. Controlling for a number of demographic and relationship characteristics, we find evidence that marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony.”

Wow! Be careful what you wish for. Or be artful about why you’re wishing for it.


Better eating

greensHow can you easily:

cut back on sugar,

reduce the collateral antibiotics you’re consuming,

mostly eliminate GMOs from your diet,

lighten your carbon footprint,

reduce your chances of becoming ill as a result of your diet,

save money,

all while cutting back on unnecessary, potentially harmful nonfood additives?

Here’s a two-step easy, powerful personal eating plan from foodie Mark Bittman:

1. Stop eating hyper-processed industrialized food. This eliminates probably 80 percent of the stuff that is being sold as “food.”

2. Eat more plants than you did yesterday, or last year.

Add “Cook your own food.” to this list, and it’s even more powerful.

How clever was Vermeer?

pearl selfieEven if you’re not keen on art from hundreds of years ago, you’ve likely seen some of Johannes Vermeer’s work.

Here’s a take off of a Vermeer painting called “The girl with the pearl earring.” Maybe you saw the movie with Scarlett Johansson playing the girl with the pearl earring.

No other artists were making paintings like Vermeer’s in the mid 1600’s. His captured quality of light and details make his painting seem like they’re captured frames from a video recording.

How clever was Vermeer? Instead of standing and painting freehand, did he use some secret mechanical or optical aids? Unfortunately, there’s very little about Vermeer the person, and his methods written while he was alive.

Tim Jenison, a successful, wealthy American tech inventor (and non-painter) became intrigued with Vermeer’s uncanny ability to get detail and light just right that make his paintings similar to photographs.

Based on ideas from artists fascinated by Vermeer’s technique and investigations of his own, Tim concocted a painting technique using a mirror that allows someone to match, with paint, any still life scene.

His attempt at replicating one of Vermeer’s work became the basis of a fascinating documentary titled “Tim’s Vermeer.”

The documentary tracks Tim’s investigation of possible techniques that Vermeer might have used. After some digging Tim comes up with a technique that allows him, a non-painter, to paint in the Vermeer style. Then the film follows him building an exact replica of Vermeer’s Amsterdam studio, in San Antonio! After recreating the studio, Tim attempts an exact copy of Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson” made in 1665. Tim also decides to use only materials Vermeer would have had access to. No easy feat.

That’s probably enough about the “Tim’s Vermeer” story. It’s gotten good reviews all ’round. It was made and produced by Penn and Teller who’re skeptics and add interesting narration and interviews. David Hockney, the painter, pops up a couple of times, adding authenticity and his insights too.

Watch it, “Tim’s Vermeer” is worth your time.

Spanish makes sense

baby lucheIn Spanish you read and pronounce words as they’re written, it’s very clear. So clear that there’re no spelling bees in Spanish because words are spelled like they sound.

In English on the other hand, we have 26 letters but can make 50 possible sounds when speaking. And, there aren’t always easy rules to follow when trying to read out loud.

These are things native English speakers don’t know about, because they don’t need to. We grew up surrounded by English, like fish that aren’t aware they’re surrounded by water. We just picked up English from listening to the people around us.

An example of how tricky English can be. When there’s a “t” is between two vowels Americans will say it as a soft “d,”  water is “wa-der,” computer is “com-pu-der,” or butter becomes “bud-er.” It happens between words too -“get up” sounds like “ged up.” It’s tough to constantly remember what’s happening in English, but it’s easy to listen for.

The rules for the sounds in spoken English would give most students headaches and really slow their speaking while they tried to sort through rules, if they could even remember them.

Lately I’ve been working with a Mexican woman who speaks English pretty well. But for her work, she wants to improve her pronunciation.

So I try to get her to be aware of the patterns in English she hears and why words often sounds different than the way it’s spelled.

Most students can’t recall every rule that needs to be evaluated, it’d slow down any speaking they might do. By using a smaller list of concepts, rather than checking a large number of rules there’s much less to consider. Just keep an awareness of the concept in mind and let the speaking move along. 

We have a limited amount of decision making we can do in a day. That’s why President Obama has his suits and meals arranged for him. He has so many decisions to make daily that he doesn’t want to waste his allocated amount of decisions on mundane choices.

Stressing some concepts about what’s happening in spoken English, gives the student a flashlight to shine an explanatory light on sometimes confusing sounding pronunciations. That usually helps in recognizing and explaining situations they run into when they hear native English speakers talking.

The concept is this: Here’s why it is that way, but don’t sweat it, just be aware that there’re reasons English is often  spoken differently than the way it’s written. Instead of pronouncing English the way you imagine it to be, try to pick up English pronunciation by listening the way we did as kids.

How’s your mobility?

inverted archerMost people don’t have the mobility they had as children.

Our movement patterns become less varied as we get older. Think about how much time we sit. All that sitting displaces the time we might be jumping or rolling around.

Who knows what’s the optimal way to age well? I think getting old has a lot to do with our decreasing level of mobility, along with an inevitable slowing down in our cellular activities.

We’re designed to be mobile. We should be able to walk, run fast, crawl around, throw stuff, jump and land easily, and even fight if needed.

Today, you’re the youngest you’ll ever be, and you just might be letting yourself go, piece by piece creating a bottleneck in your performance of  normal movement patterns.

Our bodies are efficient, they quickly adapt to frequently encountered positions or movement patterns. You can measure the impact of your body’s efficiency by seeing what you can’t do anymore. Fully squatting down and rising back up with your feet flat on the floor, or feeling comfortable sprinting down the block to return a friend’s cellphone who’s driving off without it are things a kid wouldn’t think twice about being able to do.

Even Plato said, “Life should be lived as play.” Play movements are healthy and easy, but not as easy as not doing anything. It’s a choice to keep moving, in simple and varied ways to stay younger longer.

Who are the non-drinkers?

gass of waterThe Washing Post ran an article about how much alcohol people consume in a week.

Thirty percent of adults don’t drink at all. Then the number of drinks per week rises very slowly every ten percent after that until the last 10 percent.

The last 10 percent of drinkers hit it hard, consuming almost 74 drinks a week, or around 10 drinks a day!

That’s scary, but here’s what I’m wondering, “How many of the non-drinkers are former problem drinkers?”

Most of the adults I know fall into the moderate drinking range.

The only non-drinkers I know are former heavy drinkers who chose to stop drinking to improve their lives.

I assume some non-drinkers don’t drink for religious reasons. Since I don’t  really associate with  religious people who’re strict, my non-drinker friends come from a pool of non-religious people. That’s what makes me wonder about the stories and reasons behind why some people don’t drink at all if they aren’t religious.

The alcoholic beverage industry would benefit by encouraging people to drink moderately because their market base could be much larger. Consider that the top 10 percent of drinkers are buying about 60 percent of the alcohol. That’s a lot of eggs in one basket. Not to mention a very unhealthy basket.