Of course my keys are in the laundry basket. Of course my wallet fell out of the pouch I forgot to zip. My middle-aged brain forgets the name I looked up only two minutes ago, how to fix that thing that WordPress always does, and what you just said. Last week, my wife came out of the garage with a piece of paper. “Honey, did you need this list of CDs?” Such relief! “I was frothing at the mouth looking for that! Where did you find it!” On top of the frozen bagels.
At middle-age, we lose episodic memory. More on that later, if I make myself a note not to forget to write that part. As we age, we do lose cognitive function, and we incur an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. But our Over-40 brains also have a lot going for them, as I learned from Barbara Strauch’s fascinating book, The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind.
Debunking the Brain Myths: Smarter than a 25-year-old
Believe it or not, we are smarter than we were and, in some ways, demonstrably smarter than a 25-year-old. Strauch cites a number of studies that have had me crowing with pride for the last week. For example, psychologist Sherry Willis of Pennsylvania State University ran a forty-year longitudinal study on the mental prowess of 6,000 participants. This Seattle Study, which covered people of multiple genders, ages, and occupations, found that they performed better on cognitive tests between age forty and sixty than at any other time in their life. Continue reading “Middle-Aged Brains are Smarter Even Though We Tend to Put our Keys in the Refrigerator”
Make a joyful noise for today, oh happy day, is Pi Day, 3/14. As you surely know by now, either because you remember some maths or because you don’t live in in the wild, 3.14 are the first few digits of π. And, as we know, Pi are squared. Although, as my 8th grade math teacher Louise Blanchfield told us with a mischievous old-lady I’ve-been-telling-this-joke-for-forty-years grin, “Pi are not squared, Pi are round.” Meanwhile, I am proud to say that the establishment of this august day of celebration first occurred in my neck of woods, a day recognized by Larry Shaw at the San Francisco Exploratorium back in 1988. The rest is a lot of fun history.
Achtung Lieber! It’s a Miracle!
One particularly curious fact about Pi Day is that it also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday. He didn’t have anything to say about pi, pier se (see what I did there? that’s not the last pun I am about to inflict on you either)… anyway, Einstein wasn’t a geometer, but he was a brainy guy and did a lot of math. Actually he failed math, which is always used as an example of how you could buckle down and make something of yourself even if you start a failure.
However, I always thought it was a better example of how to successfully buck the establishment, since it’s likely that Einstein failed math because he kept telling the teachers they were wrong. And they were. It’s more like Stephen Hawking crumpling up his physics homework and throwing it in the trash because he didn’t think his proofs were elegant enough. Other students would get them out of the trash so they could understand how to do physics.
RIP Stephen Hawking–who coincidentally passed away yesterday–or maybe it was today since it’s 12 hours ahead in Cambridge. (And you know those smart people always want to be ahead of everybody else.) Stephen and Albert can now argue about the exact shape of the curvature of space-time until infinity or until the end of pi. Maybe they can borrow some of Newton’s apples to use for examples. Continue reading “Any Old Pi Will Do”
Last week, as I was trudging through the quicksand of changing my website theme, constantly sinking into the swamp of contradictory code and grasping at branches of CSS held out by travelers before me, I wondered if something positive could be pulled out of the mess. Aha! I could share what I learned with the blogosphere. Thus, in the spirit of passing on some recently, painfully-earned wisdom, I will share the most dominant lessons.
Have you ever forgotten to save your writing after a long stretch of creativity, only to have your computer crash and lose hours of your genius? In the old pre-computer days, this was known as “the teacher lost my paper.” Two weeks of my best creativity disappeared because I was too cheap to make a copy of my seminal work on the religious imagery in e.e. cummings’ poetry. It still bothers me, decades later! Back up your work. Here’s what that means when you are creating or making changes to a blog site.
1. Write down the changes you make–preferably as you go
Most writers know how and why to keep track of changes as they go, either by using a Track Changes feature or the primitive “print it out and make edits by hand” method. Version control becomes an issue when you don’t keep track. Also, what if you change something and you decide you don’t like it? You might want that original brilliant phrase back which only sounded mundane after a night reading Seamus Haney. The same logic applies to changes to technology. Continue reading “5 Primo Coding Secrets for English Majors”
I don’t know when we decided to give ourselves to the Nano-overlords, but I suspect it was a gradual process. There was no light switch I flipped saying, “Sure, I want to be digitally monitored all the time.” As I child, I adhered to the idea of “Don’t put foreign objects in your body” which now seems to have become “Honk! if you got chipped!” The Right to Privacy now has morphed into “Alexa, can you buy me some hemorrhoid cream?”
How We Got Ourselves Here
A NY Times article this week described a digital pill that will alert doctors whether their patients have swallowed the medication (based on its interaction with stomach fluid). The FDA has approved it, even though the drug companies’ clinical trials hadn’t yet shown that the monitoring improved compliance. In theory, the monitoring would only be done with the patient’s consent, but since this particular pill is aimed at patients with mental health issues, how would consent be obtained? Suppose a schizophrenic pleads not guilty by reason of insanity to a crime and their plea bargain requires them to take their meds — requires them to agree to swallow this pill that alerts security when they don’t take it? Society might be better off, but at the price of civil liberty. Continue reading “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
Naira Gasparyan really wants to connect with me on LinkedIn. My email inbox has a second reminder about Naira’s urgent plea of last week, reminding me that Naira, from the Central Bank of Armenia, could help me grow my network. Meanwhile, three Facebook posts this week start with “I am tired of seeing all these posts that…” Also, my bank has started a blog with tips to help people save for retirement, but they have somehow inadvertently mapped my blog’s personal bio into their author set, so that when you google my name, it shows up under the bank. They no longer accept customer support emails, though, so I had to add them to Facebook and then Messenger their support team to get this fixed. Coincidence? Hardly.
Welcome to our messy new society of app-based relationships. We have waded into the sea of people available through these icon buttons, and now the surf of voices is tumbling us merrily about. All the foibles and follies humanity has to offer are right at our fingertips, and, like everything else at our fingertips, it’s making us more divided and confused instead of tightly connected.