Friday, December 10, 2010

BrainPort Balance Device Search

Brainport Balance Device Search

This site links to several studies re. the Brainport Balance Device which is being clinically tested for FDA approval.

The first link is to research using the device in helping adults with balance deficits due to stroke. Most of the research I have found for the device has focused on vestibular vertigo. This is the first research I have seen that focuses on cervical vertigo, brain/nerve damage rather than ENT complications.

This study focuses on the use of the BrainPort Balance Device on improving Bilateral Vestibular Hypofunction (BVD). Although the study has been terminated, there are no test results at this time.

In Washington, this device is being successfully used on patients with vestibular vertigo. It's exciting to finally see this becoming available in the United States.

Obviously, my personal research continues and whether I ever see the day where I am once again able to move without losing my balance, I at least have hope that someday there will be a cure for this condition.

Reiki Links

This short article is a good summary of Reiki and its benefits.
The Depth of Reiki | A Journey into Herbal & Natural Healing

Hira Reid, a Reiki Master and practitioner for 25 years, shares a story from her own life and explains why Reiki is a useful practice in daily life.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong is a book that is so practical and yet profound that I honestly feel speechless, unable to formulate an adequate way of singing its praises.  Every now and again I read a book that makes me ache for a reading buddy or reading group that would share and discuss the ideas presented with me.

This is one of those rare books, a book that encourages the reader to not merely read the words but become engaged with the ideas presented in order to build a more compassionate world.  If Gandhi is right and we need to be the change we wish to see in the world, Armstrong’s book is a clarion call to everyone.  The world is urgently in need of change; let it begin with each one of us.

Armstrong’s ecumenical approach to the idea (ideal) of compassion begins with brief survey of religious history, focusing on how six of the major religions emerged out of the changing needs of their societies.  Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism all are represented and appreciated on the pages of this book for what each has to offer.  From looking at the roots for these various religions, the author moves into looking at contemporary times, recognizing how history has informed our current circumstances.  Then she unsurprisingly invites the reader to begin exploring compassion by offering compassion to the self.

This is not merely a book of principle or ideals but a practical guide for how to understand the need for compassion, the various streams in which compassion is taught, and then how to grow in compassion in an increasingly larger circle of influence.  Early in the book she suggests that the reader go cover-to-cover, to know where the ideas are heading and then return to the beginning and this time around read each chapter with a commitment to put the ideas into practice.  At the end of the boo, there is a bibliography that lists a broad range of books affording the individual an opportunity to explore more deeply, more fully, the tenets presented throughout.  The recommended reading is as ecumenical as the book itself, offering disparate viewpoints that are bound to create dialogue.

How often does one come across a book that is both inspiring and practical?  Not as often as one would hope.  This is one of those rare treasures, a book I would eagerly and joyously recommend to everyone I know and love.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Destination Dinners | Recipe Kits From Around the Globe

Destination Dinners | Recipe Kits From Around the Globe

Pad ThaiOkay. So this is just too cool not to share.

At this website, you will find recipe kits inspired by different destinations (hence the name: Destination Dinners). Want pad thai? Order a kit and it comes with what you need, plus instructions.  And doesn't that just look yummy?  (Albeit, this image looks like there's some shrimp so if you allergic to sea food or prefer to go vegetarian, you can obviously just leave out the shrimp.)

Kyoto Gift Set

But it gets better because you can buy things by the "gift set" and not just by the kit.  Want some Kyoto inspired Saikyo Miso and a little something extra?  Order the gift set and you get, along with all the fixings for the soup, some bowls and eating utensils.  You can even add a bit of romance and order a gift set that includes world music, resulting in a more inclusive eating experience.

They even have something they call a Destination Dinner Passport, a sort of dinner of the month club where they send a different dinner kit, along with a little something extra.  It might be a cd of music or a cutting board or even something special for dessert.  For the vegan or fussy eater, this may not be such an exciting idea (from what I could see a lot of the kit offerings were omnivore friendly) but for those of you who like to cook and like to experiment with new flavors and taste experiences, this is a great idea.  But if you have an aspiring chef who loves all kinds of cuisine, can it really get much better than this?

Oh, and they even have pretty things on clearance!

Miso Bowls: Etched Lacquer Soup BowlsTea Set (pot and four cups)

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a reread, of sorts.  I read this novel in my adolescence but, apparently, back then the American version was missing the last chapter of the novel so, in fact, I never read the entire novel.  Now the controversial, or so the cover calls it, final chapter is back where it belongs and I have read the entire novel, all 21 chapters of it.

Because I wasn’t expecting a huge surprise as a result of one added chapter, I read the introduction and was turned off by the author’s tone.  He comes off as arrogant and condescending, perhaps deservedly so because this novel is so supremely good.  I read a lot of dystopian novels as a teenager and this one I remembered most clearly.  Chapter for chapter, only small details slipped my memory.  The brutality of the narrator’s voice and action were not more vulgar than I had remembered but, had I read this introduction then, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read the novel at all.  He just comes off as so angry and hateful, not much unlike Alex, the anti-hero of the novel.

The novel, itself, is painfully brilliant and Burgess’ use of slang sets a tone that allows the reader some emotional distance from the events as Alex is describing them.  The acts he describes are loathsome, so extremely vicious that it is impossible to like the narrator.  The delicate balance of creating an utterly unsympathetic character while inviting the reader to continue reading is simply remarkable.  Without establishing Alex as a hateful and hate-filled character, there is no reader response to the second part of the novel, which focuses on his reeducation using aversion therapy.  Forced into civilized behavior, the reader finally feels some sympathy for Alex, disturbed by how he is manipulated into goodness.

Therein lies the novel’s brilliance.  To first compel the reader to keep reading while creating a horrific character and then shift the story in such a way as to inspire the reader to not only keep reading but to tacitly sympathize with Alex is where the power of this novel lies.

By replacing the final chapter to its rightful position, little about the novel itself is changed.  It supposedly does change things significantly but perhaps I am too jaded to take its content at face value.  I appreciate the underlying themes of free will and redemption but I find it hard to believe that anyone as clearly psychopathic, lacking any sense of social responsibility, would ever be anything more than a pawn of his society’s amorality as well as his own.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Five More Caldecott Medal Books for Further Exploration

Where the Wild Things Are

What can I say about a children’s book that is well and truly and deservedly a classic?  The illustrations are glorious.  The story is perfectly dark and yet reassuring, after all there’s his dinner waiting for him.  I also love the movie although I’m not sure that a younger child would enjoy it.  I could be wrong.  What children love often surprises me.  Case in point, this book was released to unfavorable reviews and some parents challenged the book in libraries because they felt it inappropriate for children.  But children loved and continue to love the book.

For Further Exploration

  • Have your child create a new “wild thing” to live on the island.  
  • Listen to different kinds of world music.  The public library may be a good place to find a broad variety.  Choose a song that sounds like it would be good for a wild rumpus.  Now dance!  
  • Write a story in which a large part of the story is told through images, with no words.  Bind your story into a book and share it with friends and family when they visit.  Or . . .
  • Have your child write a story in which he/she goes to the where the wild things are and what adventures they have while there.
  • When your child has outgrown this book, return to it from a more mature direction.  Talk about how some books are “challenged” to be removed from the library.  This book is one that was targeted.  Discuss why this book would cause anyone to want it banned and then discuss why it should not be removed from the library.  This could begin a longer exploration on censorship and book banning.

May I Bring a Friend?

I vaguely recall this book.  Perhaps someone read it to me.  I don’t know.  It’s a cute story, utterly ridiculous.  The kind of silliness that typically inspires many giggles.  The illustrations are vivid and fun to look at.  A good complement to the story!

For Further Exploration

  • Using a calendar, or simply seven sheets of paper, draw a picture of the “friend” that was invited on each day of the week.  (Reinforce the different days of the week.)
  • Look up each of the animal friends and see where they can be found, the many different countries from which these many animals originate.
  • Make an invitation of your own, either creating one that the king and queen sent to the little boy or create an invitation you will send to a nearby friend or family.  And tell them to bring a friend! 
  • Write a sequel.  Pretend that the your child has received an invitation.  Look at the stuffed animals in your child’s collection or even find some new animals in books.  Have fun with the illustrations!  (What if your child brought a “wild thing” friend?)
  • Using clay, make models of the friends that the boy brought with him.  (You could do this with the “wild thing” the two of you create as well.)

The Snowy Day

I remember this one from my childhood and as an adult I find it to be an absolutely charming book, a pleasure to read and to look at.  There is such a perfect marriage between the simple illustrations and the simple story that is told.  I remember snowy days like this when the snow was pristine and begging for me to come outside to play.

For Further Exploration

  • Write a story about “The Rainy Day” or “The Foggy Day” or rewrite this story but make it your own “Snowy Day.”  What would your child do on a snowy or rainy or foggy or windy day?
  • Study snow and snowflakes and other types of weather.
  • Cut out paper snowflakes and make some hot chocolate (from scratch!).
  • Make a list of words that describe snow (cold, wet, white, etc.).  Put each word on a piece of paper and try to think of other things that are cold.  On another page, other things that are white.  Now make a list of opposites and do the same thing.  Snow is cold not hot.  What are some things that are hot?
  • If you live in a climate where there is no snow, make a snowperson from pompoms or cupcakes.  (When I was a little girl, I made snow penguins.)
  • Write your own childhood memory about weather and share it with your child.  (Make a second copy to file away for a future grandchild.)

Once a Mouse

Using beautiful woodcut illustrations, Brown tells a traditional story about a shaman who changes a mouse from one creature into another and then back into a mouse.  The colors are not vivid, which is quite effective for this simple story.

For Further Exploration

  • Rewrite the story, using a different series of animals.  Have fun choosing first a small animal–perhaps a squirrel, a rabbit, or even a butterfly–and then a larger and larger one until the animal is once again returned to its smaller size.
  • Compare this story with the story of Puss in Boots or with the Aesop fable The Lion and the Mouse.  Each has a lesson to teach and include felines (tiger/cat/lion) and mice.  Have your child look for the similarities and differences for themselves.
  • I’ve recommended this before but use potatoes to make stamps or, for an older child, use linoleum squares to create a design.  (The subtle layering of colors that Brown achieves in this book are best appreciated once you’ve tried to do the same yourself.)
  • For the older child, talk about predators and prey and research different species of animals, perhaps creating a chart to diagram the way one species feeds off another.

Always Room for One More

In our highly graphic, visual age, I wonder if the simplicity of this book, from story to imagery, wouldn’t go overlooked altogether.  I can’t say I was especially thrilled with either.  I think if I had loved the story more, I would have found the illustrations quite interesting, different from any others.  As it is, I was bored reading the book and the images are nice but not nice enough to make me oooh and ahhh over the book.

For Further Exploration

  • This story is based on a folk song and,, at the end of the book, there is the score for the song.  If you or your child is musically inclined, learn the song and share it with guests the next time you have some.
  • Look for Scotland on a map and learn a few things about the country from which this folk song originated.
  • Learn a folk song from your own heritage, whatever that may be.  Perhaps write and illustrated your own book.  

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans is a sentimental novella meant to be poignant more than provocative.  A young couple move into an older woman’s large home with their three year old daughter.  There, the father learns a lesson in love and the importance of priorities.  The narrator’s tone is dispassionate and occasionally comes off as slightly pretentious and, at times, the author breaks the narrative integrity by inserting scenes and exposition that the narrator of a first-person speaker simply could not know.  I guess it was more imperative in Evans’ mind to present these things in spite of their disingenuous presence within the text.

This is the first novel by a writer who has since been published several times.  I can see why.  I didn’t loathe this novel.  I didn’t love it either.  I didn’t tear up or even offer a sigh as the story unfolded. I would have hoped to get a bit sentimental but I suppose I didn’t think the characters were sympathetic enough for me to offer them a single tear.

But for all I know, this may be as good as it gets when it comes to Christmas novels.  I don’t know.  I’ll know soon enough.  I have borrowed a few others from the library, to see what, if anything, I’ve been missing out on.  It’s probably an exercise in futility, hoping to find a Christmas novel (or novella) I love, but I really hope I do.  I love Christmas.  I love reading.  I’d like to believe I can find a new textual treasure to share with those I love.  I'd like to believe but, thanks to the Christmas books I've read lately, I'm beginning to lose hope.  Stick around!  There may be a surprise on the horizon.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Fifteen in 2011

Back in 2000, I decided to devote myself to reading literature written only by women.  That's the year Rob bought me Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K Rowling, the thickest book he could find by a woman.  He didn't know it was the fourth book in a then unfinished series.

And so I dedicated 2001 to reading only literature written by women.

It was an interesting challenge I gave to myself, one I enjoyed more than I could have anticipated.  I didn't realize how hard it would be to find interesting books on the bargain shelves.  Most of the bargain books I found written by women were fluffy romances or about how I, too, could be thin and youthful forever.  These would be sitting side-by-side with books like collected works of Nietzsche or the essential Carl Jung and you can see why I found the dearth of quality literature disheartening.

Thank goodness for libraries!

So here I am, ten years later, and this past year (2010) I read fifteen books that had been sitting on my shelf as part of a different challenge:  The Read-It-Or-Get-Rid-Of-It-Challenge.  Okay.  So I didn't read all of the books.  I still have a few weeks before the end of the year but I can already tell you that a couple of the books will go unread.  Or unfinished anyway.

This year, I am doing both challenges.  Not only will I be reading only books by women but I am also going to read or get rid of fifteen books I've had on my bookshelves for a while.  Below is a list of the Fifteen in 2011.  I'll also be reading (or rereading, as the case may be) Jane Austen.  Ooooh . . . ahhhh . . .

And stick around for Lent.  I have already decided what I will be giving up for the Lenten season.

 Be Your Own Life Coach by Diane Scholten

I picked this up years ago after my mother and I went to a presentation by a life coach who works out of upstate NY.  Needless to say, in a one hour presentation there's only so much a life coach can teach.  I bought this book on a whim and loved it immediately and then . . . misplaced it.  I think I put it on the wrong shelf or it ended up buried in a pile of other books or something.  Whatever happened, the book remained unread and this seems like as good a year as any to commit to reading it and applying the teachings to my own life.

The Temple Bombing by Melisssa Fay Greene

This is an autographed copy I picked up while still in college after hearing her speak about her then latest book.  This one had already been published and popular, addressing issues of anti-semitism in the south.

I've avoided reading this book not because I don't find the subject of great interest (and even urgency) but because I know it will distress me at some level.  It is not a topic one approaches lightly and, therefore, the poor book has been sitting on my bookshelf, neglected, for over a decade.

Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene

Again, it isn't that I didn't want to read this book.  After all, I bought it for a reason.  But I didn't know if I could face a nonfiction account of racism in rural Georgia.  Especially not one that took place in the 1970s rather than the distant past of racism.  I think distance may have been easier for me.

Nevertheless, this is the year when  I will bit the bullet and face the stories of Georiga's not too distant past.  I am prepared to do so and that is truly a part of the battle where such stories are concerned.

Desperanto by Marilyn Hacker

I honestly can't tell you a thing about this book.  I can't recall buying it or how I acquired it.  Did someone give it to me?  It is possible.  Did I see it on a bargain bookshelf and grab it?  Also possible.

I know this much, the author's name is completely unknown to me so I can safely say that I didn't read a poem or story or other writing by Hacker and want to read more.  I simply have no idea where, how, or why this book came to be on my bookshelf.

All the more reason for me to commit to reading it this year, don't you think?

The Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath (ed Ted Hughes)

I tried to read this but felt such a deep sadness when I began that I had to set it aside. Then the Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath was released.  Hmph!

What I plan on doing is borrowing the unabridged version and reading the two side-by-side, to see what has been edited out.  Of course, I'll have to (once again) mentally prepare myself to read these journals because I already know that they will leave me feeling sad.

(If it weren't another Year of Women Writers for me, I would juxtapose reading Plath's journals with Terry Pratchett.  Oh well.)

A.D. by Kate Millett

I picked this up on a whim, a bargain book that had an interesting cover.  I thought it was a science fiction novel about a dystopian future.  Imagine my surprise when I realized that it is actually a memoir.  And about growing up gay in the 50's.  And about family relationships and love.

Really, this is why I have to occasionally commit to going through my shelves and reading those books that have been neglected because this one ranks very high as one that I clearly have neglected for far too long.  I expect this is one I'll enjoy to the utmost.

Some Personal Papers by JoAllen Bradham

Have you ever heard that story about the medical professor who asked his students to tell him the name of one of the cleaning staff for the university building in which these students had been studying pre-med for a number of years?  None of the students could name one.

When I went to college I knew the names of many of the facility employees and befriended more than a few.  One of them, upon my graduating, gave this book to me as a gift.  The author was a professor at Kennesaw State University at the time.  I didn't read it for before because it stirred up much sadness in me.  But now I'm ready and eager to read this book and remember some good times.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

I tend to avoid some books because I know that they will stir up certain feelings or ideas I already hold.  I mean, do I really need to fan my feminist flames into an inferno?  Probably not.  And yet, I bought this book so it is time for me to buckle down and read it.

Not sure what to expect but no doubt, when I do read this, you'll know because I'll be thinking along more strongly feminist lines.  Or maybe you won't be able to tell.  Maybe it will all just sound as feminist as it does already and it will merely be more of the same.  Your guess is as good as mine.

The Dance of Anger / The Dance of Intimacy / The Dance of Deception by Harriet Lerner

I bought this book when I gave a copy of the first book, The Dance of Anger, as a gift to my friend Jorin Burr.  I don't know if she ever read it.  I don't even know if she ever received it but, at the time, I thought it would be interesting for both of us to read it together and discuss it.

So now I have this three-in-one volume that's been on my shelf waiting for someone else to read along with me and I give up.  I'm going to read it and the other two books in this volume.  I actually will be rereading the first book, which I read while I was in college and working with a really wonderful counselor.  If the other two books are even close to being as interesting as the first then this will be a wonderful read.

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong

This is the second time Karen Armstrong has been on my "Fifteen" list.  I keep buying her books and then setting them aside.  But not anymore!  This year I am going to read this book.

Originally, my intention was to read this book while I was reading the Qur'an (or The Koran) but I had mis-shelved this book and couldn't find it.  So when I came across it while reorganizing my books, I was so excited to add it to this year's list.  I am sure I'll learn more and appreciate it more fully than reading a poor translation of a sacred text.  At least, I hope so, anyway.

Healing the Soul of America by Marianne Williamson

The last few books by Williamson I've read have left me underwhelmed.  I bought this book shortly after 9/11 because I was so distraught by the vitriolic rhetoric that surrounded me.  It was hard to tune out and I wanted to read something that would, I hoped, be a breath of fresh air to me.  I didn't read it at the time but that doesn't mean I don't still need a breath of fresh air.  I hope that this book doesn't disappoint.

And I bought it at a time when a lot of people were either recommending Williamson to me or giving me her books.  It was weird.  Now I have a lot of her books, unread.

Finding Water by Julia Cameron

I actually haven't had this book a very long time, only a few years, but I bought it with the intention of reading it along with my mother and step-sister.  I don't really know what happened to that plan but I suppose I can go ahead (and even should go ahead) and read it without waiting for anyone else to join me for the ride.

Of course you, dear reader, are welcome to join me if you happen to have a copy.  Or can borrow one.

The Future of Love by Daphne Rose Kingma

I read another book by Kingma and loooooved it so, when I saw this book, I wanted to see what she had to say about love. I don't really know why I didn't read it sooner. I guess I already had some love in my life, in the form of my children and Rob, and I didn't really wonder about the future of love.

I don't even now.  It's there.  It ebbs.  It flows.  It evolves.  I guess I just didn't see an imperative to read this book but I remember loving that other book when I read it so I am sure I'll find some lovely quotes in this one, no pun intended.

Emotional Freedom by Judith Orloff

This arrived in my inbox by mistake.  Oops.  Damn book of the month club.  But I paid for  it anyway and then let it sit on my shelf for a long time.

I am still not eager to read it but this is the reason why I do these read it or get rid of it challenges and it makes sense to add this book to the list.  It's been on my shelf long enough.  Time for it to move on or become a permanent part of my life.

Three guesses which of the two it will be.  Obviously, with only two choices, you won't need three guesses.  Oh well.

Jean Rhys:  The Complete Novels by Jean Rhys 

This book was a gift from Gina Allison.  I never read it.  I would pick it up and move it into my pile of read sooner rather than later . . . and then find something else to read.

I really want to read this book and either love it or find it a new more loving home.  Can I count this five-in-one volume as five books?  I won't.  I'm counting it as a single book.

Mostly because this one book makes the fifteenth book on my list of Fifteen for 2011.

Not too shabby a list.  I think it's interesting, indicative of my usual range of reading choices.  And last year I fell in love with a couple of the books I had been avoiding on my own bookshelves.  For all I know, I will fall in love with all of the above or maybe most of the above.  (I honestly think my heart would break if I got to the end of one of these read them or get rid of them challenges with nothing new to keep on my shelf.)

Now if only I could stop buying new books . . .

Medium Tree

This is a tree we have in the great room that I used to have in my cubicle.  I actually bought several boxes of small ornaments of different colors with the intention of changing the look from one week to the next but we used the ornaments for other things.  Like one of the tiny trees and parting gifts for holiday visitors (assuming we have any this year!) so this year my little white tree looks rather odd with its grey and silver ornaments and this random ribbon I found and decided to just throw onto the tree.

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg is a novel full of wonderful characters who live in the south and are simply trying to make it from one day to the next.  Except for Maggie, who has decided to commit suicide.  Unfortunately, her plans often go awry as one coincidence after another keeps her from following through with her plans.  As she adds another layer of white out to the date of her suicide note, Maggie’s friends and coworkers, Brenda and Ethel, face their own challenges while dealing with the loss of a dearly appreciated employer.

Flagg does have a way with creating interesting people.  Even when you may not be able to personally identify with their circumstances, you can like them well enough to care about their story.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much story here.  The coincidences that keep Maggie from killing herself quickly become contrived and by a quarter of the way through the book most readers will know how this one is going to end.

The ending itself is so neatly tied up that it leaves little satisfaction.  And although Flagg’s characters are usually deeply layered, most of the characters in this novel are not so much inspired as they are predictable.  Where oh where are Evelyn Couch and Idgy Threadgood of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café or even Neighbor Dorothy of Welcome to the World, Baby Girl?  They aren’t here.  And because they aren’t here, the novel really isn’t up to Flagg’s typically comic level.  This is a nice enough book but nice is easy to find, interesting, apparently, is not quite so easy.

Quotation from Karen Armstrong

I came across the following in Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps for a Compassionate Life and found it interesting enough to share.

Christians in Europe were taught to interpret every sentence of the Bible in four ways: literally, morally, allegorically, and mystically.  (56-57)

From my experience in American churches, this is not how Biblical study is taught.  Although there is some nod to applying Biblical teachings "morally," I don't know that I've seen many churches that encourage allegorical interpretations, although those few still vastly outnumber the teachings that encourage mystical experiences.

Having said that, my experience is that all of the churches I've encountered would adamantly say that they do support all four interpretations with a literal interpretation over-riding all other interpretation.  In other words, mostly lip service is given in the liturgical service to morality--except that morality that agrees with their literal interpretation of the Bible--and even shorter shrift to allegory and mysticism.

My experience, however, is very limited.  But if I were to begin reading and interpreting the Bible again, I think it would be fun to layer my reading through these four filters.  Perhaps it would help me appreciate the text in a new way.

But not next year.  Next year, only books by women authors.