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The Cat Chronicles

Shakti wakes me up at first light, and that is very early this time of year. She's high energy and wants to play--which in effect means that she tears things up and crawls where she doesn't belong. For example, she will go into the refrigerator if I open it. I must be careful not to forget her. If I get rattle a plastic shopping bag, she goes wild. When I put one where she can get to it, she crawls straight inside and lays down. I pick her up and twirl her in it. She loves it. She fights and plays with the bag until her paws are sticking out of it. She plays with electrical cords until everything is unplugged. And she finds rapture when she hears the buzz of a hummingbird outside the window, and goes to catch it. So far she hasn't caught any hummingbirds, but she catches the other birds by hanging out under the bird bath table.

There is a plague of grasshoppers who have devoured half of my plants. The mint, which just a few weeks ago was blooming glorious purple outside my window, has been chowed down to a few brown sticks. The grasshoppers come in the window and lurk in my apartment. One time they found some flowers on my bedside table and ate the whole boquet while I was at work. I have become efficient at catching them and throwing them back out the window. I used to capture them under a glass but now I just grab them in my fist. They have strong legs. The kitten likes to play with them, and eats them, all but the legs.

My lavendar plant died in the heat before the monsoons started. I planted it three years ago outside my window, and it has survived the cold Flagstaff winters because the snow from the roof lands on it. But it could not withstand the dry heat.

All around the Dell, crews are working to thin and in some places clear the ponderosa forest. I thought it was for fire control, but my neighbor tells me that they are going to build more subdivisions. I am leaving just in time. I hate to see this place become surrounded by shitty development, but that is exactly what they intend to do. The Dell has been good for me because up until now it has been surrounded by wildlands. I like to wander in the woods where there are no trails.

I have a new library book and it is as interesting as the last one. It's called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. He's a psychologist, and the book is a review of all the science regarding happiness. Gilbert systematically debunks the common beliefs about it. The experience of happiness is so subjective that not much is known about it. But there's lots of evidence for what it is not. Gilbert starts with a review of the evolution of the brain, and specifically a look at the frontal lobe, which is what makes us different from chimpanzees.

The frontal lobe evolved really fast, and nobody knows why. Maybe because of the boredom of the ice ages--we needed to entertain ourselves while staying alive in hard circumstances. We can live without it, because the survival functions of our brains are much more deeply wired. What the frontal lobe seems to do is give us the capacity to think about the future. It gives us the ability to plan, anxiety, and prudence. I am pretty sure that Gilbert is going to conclude that it also gives us the ability to be depressed, because we get our frontal lobe stuck in negative predictions. But he hasn't said that yet.

He has said that when we can easily imagine an outcome, we tend to overestimate its probability. Of course, being a scientist, he doesn't mention the law of attraction. The law of attraction is completely unscientific and says that whatever we think about, we are encouraging that to come to pass, at an energetic level. While I cannot explain it, it seems true to me, and would explain Gilbert's observation that we overestimate the chances of things happening that we can imagine.

My grandmother turned 97 on Wednesday, and my dad called and had her leave a message on my answering machine. We're all surprised she has lived this long, because she is so bitter and negative. She complains that she has no control in her life, and says "they shoot horses, don't they?" In Gilbert's book he recounts a study about old folks in a home who are given houseplants. The "high control" group is told that they are responsible for the care and feeding of the plant. The "low control" group are told that someone else will take care of the plant for them. Six months later, 30% of the low control group had died, but only 15% of the high control group died.

Gilbert tells of another related study in which the some incarcerated elders were allowed to specify when a student worker would visit them, and for how long. These elders thrived, presumably because there was something they got to control. The study ended and the visits ended, and the death rate for the elders soared. This unintended consequence must haunt somebody.

Humans tend to have an illusion of control where it is not possible. For example, we'll bet higher on a game of dice if we know what numbers we want before we throw the dice. We'll also bet higher if we get to throw the dice ourselves. The interesting tidbit about this illusion is that depressed people lack it. When you are depressed, you have a more realistic evaluation of the chances of something specific happening.

I predict that the spider web on my window will continue to grow. This is because I have no intention of removing the spider or the web. The spider is helping me keep down the flies.

Last night I was studying anatomy, in preparation for an anatomy workshop I'll be attending this weekend at www.theyogaexperience.com. The text is Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain and it is excellent. The author is a dancer and physiotherapist, and in her book the muscles, bones and ligaments of the body are presented succinctly, with excellent sketches. The drawings show the body from the outside with the movements that each muscle group causes, and the bones and muscles on the inside complete with origins, attachments and actions. The order is such that I have read the text starting at the beginning, and each section builds on the last. The shoulder and rotator cuff were the subject of last night's study. The shoulder is a spectacularly free and versatile joint that integrates the movements not just of the humerus (arm bone) but also the clavicle (collarbone) and scapula (shoulderblade).

Whitewater kayaking is dangerous for shoulders because it stresses them at the edges of the shoulder's range of motion. I have injured mine several times. I was trying to figure out what the remaining damage is that causes my right shoulder to pop and complain. I wasn't able to sort it out, but I am beginning to understand the rotator cuff. It is only four muscles: the suprasinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. These four muscles surround the glenohumeral joint capsule on three sides, and it is on the fourth side that shoulder dislocations often occur--dislocations of the humerus from its normal spot in the glenoid cavity on the scapula.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
neptunia67
Jul. 13th, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC)
That is very early. At my house, it is the birds that wake me up. They all go nuts around 4:30am, singing their little hearts out. I'm not sure what it's all about, but they have a good ol' chatter for about an hour each morning. It is very entertaining.

I sent you another question about the kayak. Somebody wants to know if it is scratched. *forehead slap* D'oh!
marijkab
Jul. 13th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
Nice looking kitty you got there. When you figure out the shoulder, let me know.
aughraseye
Jul. 14th, 2007 08:21 am (UTC)
Incredible!!
Gilbert is who my friend worked with at Harvard, so it's so crazy to see you mention it here. I imagine the book is excellent and represents everything I love about psychology. I am right there with you, I kind of roll my eyes a little about science's inability to account for the law of attraction and similar connections between the events of our lives. But give it time, I know that we will be able to include it gracefully in our paradigm someday.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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