Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Five sounds I love ~
Monday, October 22, 2007
Yesterday evening, I saw 4 or 5 racing around, sipping what must be the very last bit of nectar just as autumn starts giving way to winter. They must be getting cold, and they must certainly be planning their southern get aways. Now's the time, little birds. Get while the getting is good!
Here's something I know about hummingbirds. You can almost tame them. And you can train them. And they aren't all that shy or timid at all.
The house that I grew up in is an old house. It has a huge kitchen, which is accessed by a windowed-in porch. My dad has always hung out bird feeders for as long as I can remember. Winter had peanut butter and seeds for the birds staying behind, and summer saw bright red sugar water to attract the hummingbirds. We could sit at our kitchen window and watch the little birds whip around in frenzied activity. Sometimes up to 10 or more would be hovering around our feeder, waiting for their opportunity. Sparring and showing off.
My dad decided one day to try an experiment. He would slowly move the feeder through the porch window until it was hanging from the inside kitchen window. Success! After a day or two, the hummingbirds would fly through the open porch window, through the porch and feed at the second, interior window.
Embolden by this success, dad decided to put the feeder on the kitchen table itself. It was snugged up against the window, so it wasn't too much further for them to go. We could sit (very still) at the table and have the hummingbirds feed while we sat there. Amazing!
Not one too let an opportunity like this to pass him by, my dad decided to step the experiment up a notch. Let's have the hummingbirds fly through the two sets of open windows; through the porch across the kitchen to the stove where the new spot for dinner was...wait for it! The FRYING PAN!
Yes, that's right. Placed on the stove, in a frying pan, sat the feeder. And wouldn't you know it, within an hour of the new placement, the little blighters were cheerfully sipping the sweetness from the feeder in the frying pan. They even used the rim as their perch to let dinner settle between sips.
My dad. He's got a lot of time on his hands.
I must then follow this up by saying that, as clever as the little birds are, they would occasionally get lost trying to get back outside. This meant we had to catch them and usher them out. I remember a hummingbird stabbing away at the living room ceiling looking for escape. I've held many hummingbirds now. So small and furiously fluttering.
My Dad would sometimes mark them (with a safe non-toxic food dye, of course) on their chest to see which ones came back.
They all did. Despite the ignominy of the frying pan.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Me, Blackcrag and Spider Girl on a beautiful beach in front of a roaring bonfire just a few short weeks ago.
And Pol, me and Spider Girl...squished together in a booth on a lunch time romp.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
A book I read (I wish I could remember what it was called. I remember what the cover looked like. It was a very thick book, black with a drawn picture of synapses firing in reds, blues and yellows. I think it was simply called "The Brain". But that was a looong time ago!) at the age of 12 was instrumental in establishing a life long interest in the research, study, history and bizarre occurrences that happen within the hard casing of our skulls.
What really struck me at that age was how strange it was; such a contradiction/complication of the brain having written a book about itself in an effort to understand it's own workings. It seemed as peculiar to me as the liver involving itself in a conversation about it's functionality. And yet it's somehow enchanting.
Over the years, I've read many books about congenital brain problems (autism, savants) and about the difficulties that can arise after the brain suffers a traumatic incident (strokes, blows to the head). The most fascinating incidences, to me, are the ones that people can suffer after a serious accident or injury.
My own brain stumbles in trying to understand how cherished memories become non-existent, or how a man could forget how to read, yet still be able to write.
A book I've been reading recently (Jay Ingram's "The Burning House: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Brain") looks at a variety of brain injuries, and one of the most interesting/disturbing ones is the damage some people suffer after strokes.
One chapter explores an issue called 'neglect'.
The premise being that some people who suffer a stroke become unable to 'sense' the left side of the world. They 'neglect' it. A clock as viewed by a neglect patient may only have numbers from 12 to 6, the others are either simply don't exist or are all squished onto the right side of the clock face. When asked to pinpoint a dot on the centre of a horizontal line, inevitably it's placed far to right side.
The most dramatic examples are of those who are unable to even identify their own left body parts. When asked to identify their left leg, they are unable. When shown their own left hand they sometimes react with confusion, wondering whose hand it is. They are sometimes unwilling to believe it truly is theirs, even when told so.
This in itself is interesting, but what REALLY gets my neurons firing is the fact that these patients, while 'fine' in every other way, also don't seem to recognize that they even have this problem.
In fact, one of the 'symptoms' of this particular disorder seems to be a complete disinterest in it. Pointing out to some patients that they used to be aware of the left side brings about no reaction. Just doesn't seem to matter.
Now. Why would that be? When you have a broken leg, you understand that at one point your leg was whole.
Other head injuries causing blurred vision or memory loss is understood to (generally) be temporary and is worked towards recovery by the patient. Not so neglect patients. Interestingly, this issue doesn't really seemed to be explored in anything I've read, or if it is, it is seen only as a cursory problem to the 'larger' issue of the stroke/neglect itself.
Something else that draws me to this is type of 'medicine' is that so much brain knowledge is gained from patients who are awake and alert while their brains are literally being picked.
The brain itself doesn't have pain receptors, so once the skull is breached (using, what I hope is a powerful local anaesthetic), a patient is able to answer questions put to them by the surgeon and, I suppose, anyone else who's standing around wanting to know what's going on 'in there'.
So much of what we 'know' about the brain comes from those whose injuries have taken so much from them.
We certainly owe them our thanks.
And, while I'm on the topic, I think I'd like to recommend Oliver Sacks as a great author, if this subject interests you.
He, of "Awakenings" fame, has written many many books on neurology and brain science. I've found that he writes very clearly and allows for the average layperson to enjoy his books without dumbing them down.
So that's what gets my brain going!
I can feel new neural pathways being forged by the second.