Tag Archives: Science

[Nature is Nurture] The Fundamentals of Foraging for Fungi

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Moving to a new city, let alone a brand new state, can be a harrowing task to say the least.  A move of any magnitude is a great time to spring clean the mind, but when you’re adjusting to an entirely different location I think it’s important that you take up some hobbies, both new and old, to ease yourself into your new environment while it becomes your new home.  Your old hobbies will get you back to basics, back to the core of you – it’ll remind you that home is and always will be in the sacrament of the mind and the spirit of the soul; while your new hobbies will transform your mental state into being present, letting go of the past and who you used to be in order to become who you need to be, who you desire to be.   My hobbies back in Los Angeles which are currently filed as ‘something old‘ include writing, sketching, photography, and beadwork; essentially home-based creative activities I could file under “things to do with my hands when bored”.

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Post-move, I’ve realized I’m not in Kansas anymore…er…rather, California anymore; I’ve gone from enjoying a keen understanding of the geography, topography and landscape of world around me to having a childlike sense of wonder and amazement about this new natural world around me, and suffice it to say – there’s simply so much to learn about, from nature photography on any of the hundreds of local hikes, to hunting for rare minerals, geocaching and my newest favorite – foraging for fungi.

As you learn to leave and let go of unnecessary mental connections to where you were,  you begin to forge new networks, shedding pieces of the life you once had to create yourself anew – mushrooms are very similar; with growth as their only form of mobility, fungi straddle the perpetual edge of life and death, not to mention animal and plant, all the while communicating as one in the  mycelial network.  Ranging from neutrally colored and more natural, to delightfully vibrant and oddly formed, Fungi are the primary decomposers of earth’s ecosystem, and a wild menagerie of them at that!

Many have medicinal qualities, which indigenous tribes historically as well as presently still use for a variety of treatments. Some boost the immune system, while others increase levels of antioxidants, or destroy abnormal cells; some stimulate the libido or assist in nerve regeneration, while others open the mind and aid in treating depression and anxiety. Some have magical qualities, featuring various doses of psychedelic psilocybin, boasting immense psychological benefits which are finally being taken seriously by the FDA

False Turkey Tail
Photo by Daniel Leist

These types of mushrooms are championed by the likes of Terence McKenna, infamously quotable ethnobotanist who gave us the ‘Stoned Ape Theory‘, internationally renowned mycologist Paul Stamets and the indelible Joe Rogan. 

For anyone that’s watched the latest Star Trek Discovery series, you might note that their chief medical engineer shares the same name as well as the same mycelial ideologies of the earthborn Paul Stamets, and follows his book Mycelium Running very closely; anyways – the trekkie in me digresses. Last but certainly not least – a small handful are incredibly toxic, deadly toxic if you will, with several mimicking their benign cousins.  This makes it  incredibly important that you do your due diligence when researching, and save snagging them for your meals until you have a keen understanding of harmful versus helpful mushrooms. 

Turkey Tail


“Mushrooms are a natural source of energy, immunity, and longevity that’s been studied for centuries. They are so great, that they’ve even earned the title of ‘superfood’.”  


Terence McKenna

They’re not animals and they’re not vegetation – so what exactly are fungi?  Fungi can then be separated into three distinct groups based on how they get their nutrients.  Mycorrhizal Fungi, which are symbiotic fungi, live in harmony with the plants around them.  On the other hand, Saprophytic Fungi live on dead organic matter instead of assisting in its decay. Finally, Parasitic Fungi are the cause of vegetative decay, as well as the recipients of all the nutrients. Mushrooms are considered the fruiting body of a variety of fungi, other types of fruits are algae and molds – but for the most part, fungi exists at a microscopic level that goes unseen to the human eye.  Fungi are used as antibiotics, to ferment food and alcohol, and even as detergent; you might be surprised at how many everyday items you use that have been treated with some form of fungus.

“Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom.”


Thomas Carlyle

So, how about mushrooms? As the spore bearing, fruiting fungus body – mushrooms occur in technicolor and can take a menagerie of different shapes.  Young mushrooms, often referred to as buttons, are primarily a cap and a preformed stalk under a universal veil.  Over time, the cap will expand in an umbrella like fashion with either spores, gills, teeth or veins to show for its work while the stalk simultaneously gets longer. Some mushrooms have a cup at the base of the stalk which is often deep in the dirt – so when foraging, remember: dig, don’t pick!

Morphological characteristics of the caps of mushrooms

If you weren’t already sold on mushrooms, here’s a few facts that make them even more amazing to me.

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Foraging for Fungi

So, now that you’re more up on your mushroom game – let’s talk about the best tips and tricks for finding those fungi and hunting down some of the coolest creatures on our planet.  The best thing about this type of hunt? No weapons necessary – just some keenly attuned eyes and your roaming feet. 

  • Location, location, location
    • If you notice one visible mushroom, the fruiting body of the fungi, take a step back and see if you can notice any others.  Mushrooms populate in a line, or rather, a circle stemming from a fungal epicenter.
  • Timing is everything
    • The rain brings good things, including the proper climate for mushroom hunting.  Depending on where you live, California and Oregon see their season at the beginning of Fall and Winter (but really, it’s pretty year round in Oregon), while the East Coast has its best seasons around early Spring. A rule of thumb is to wait two weeks after two inches of rain have accumulated. 
    • As a side note, time of day is equally important as many fungi will only fruit once the temperature starts to drop
  • Let a little sunshine in
    • Though fungi notably prefers dimly lit or dark atmospheres, light will inspire fungi to produce mushrooms 
  • Check the soil
    • As natural decomposers, mushrooms enjoy disturbed dirt – so make note of the floor of whatever forest you’re lurking in
  • Learn the Flora and Fauna
    • Most mushrooms have affinities towards specific weather conditions, as well as specific types of trees.
    •  For example, king boletes enjoy spruce, pine, oak and birch treeschantrelles prefer conifers  and oyster mushrooms will defer to aspens.

Things to Bring

  • A picnic basket or a few paper bags to put your keep in
    • For those wanting to ID a variety of fungi, snag a small tackle box to keep each kind separate
    • For those going the picnic basket method, leave the bottom open for the mushrooms to spore as you travel so the next explorer can enjoy them as well!
  • A small hand shovel so you can get the whole mushroom
  • GPS kit or rope / yarn to mark you path so you don’t get lost
    • You don’t even want to know how many people get lost in the woods every year searching for mushrooms, so please don’t be part of the statistic.
    • The Gaia GPS app is an excellent resource if you’re willing to get the Pro version!
  • Put the fun in fungi and remember to enjoy yourself!

When you find your magical, mystical mushrooms – document that sucker! Take a few photos that accentuate the colors of the top, the bottom of the cap – to see what types of gill or pore the fungi boasts, and the stalk of the mushroom – then step back and get a photo of the scenery; if your phone doesn’t geocache your location for each image, or you don’t want it to – trust me I get it,  drop a pin in your map application with a note about what you found so you can come back and see how it’s grown. 

I can’t stress this point enough: even though many fungi are fun to spore on paper and there are a good amount that are both edible and tasty, like I mentioned earlier –  be very wary! Collect what you will and document it all, but not just are some fatally toxic, but others will give you awful indigestion and a good amount simply taste downright awful and you won’t want anything to do with them post-pick or post-pic.  

Resources for Mushroom Lovers

General Books

Redwood Coast / Oregon Specific Books

Apps

As this is the modern age and it’s a bit untoward to carry around dozens of nuanced encyclopedias – I’m accumulated a list of amazing smart phone apps to try while on the go.  Most seem to be bi-phonal, but I’ll make a note when certain ones are unavailable to either vertical.

Mycelial Networks

One things for sure, if foraging for fungi is fun alone – imagine how great it could be with the right company! From Facebook groups devoted to the Pacific Northwest to National groups, here’s some of my personal favorites.

What are some of the best tips and tricks you’ve learned for fungi foraging? Let me know in the comments below!

Mushroom, Fungi, Oregon, Nature
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[Write On] Adventures in Literature: My 2015 Reading Challenge

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Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
[Mark Twain]

First things first, let me just drop this knowledge on you – Reading is Sexy; and don’t let a person tell you anything differently!  I don’t mean reading articles from HuffPo, Lost at E Minor, Mother Jones or Science Daily on your smart phone or tablet. I’m talking tangible, hold’em in your hand and smell the page; wafting in wanderlust and adventure, syllable after syllable; ending up in a world you couldn’t have imagined in your wildest dreams while you’ve stayed static, stuck on the couch with your head in the clouds. When I was younger, my appetite for literature was almost insufferable for my family – every meal, every car ride, every turn – there I was, ears billowing out hushed musical tones while my mind wandered feverishly through the chapters. 

As I grew older, I realized that my penchant for reading was only matched by my aptitude for math.  Over the course of several family reunions in Washington I was taught how to use long division and counted by powers of two to fall asleep. Nature and nurture seemed to have a field day when it came to determining my true passion in life – on one hand, I could eat, sleep and breathe data, numbers and patterns – there’s something so simple, so logical, so straightforward about the output of data. In a similar but opposite context, I love extrapolating on the English Language, enamoring my work with poetic justice and jubilant prose while challenging the definition of sentence structure and simile.  And let’s not forget, the joys of reading – of traveling infinitely inwards, shooting through the future and somersaulting through the past while staying firmly, yet delicately, in place.

It only makes sense through both nature and nurture.  As the granddaughter of one of the creators of the ENIAC and great granddaughter of one of the only female writer of the Harlem Renaissance, it makes all too much sense that I’d find a unique penchant for both and be able to put it to work. But that’s not to say that I don’t find myself getting writer’s block every now and again. In my last few years as music journalist for The DJ List, I’ve had the wonderfully unique opportunity to ask music professionals how they get over an uncreative slump –  they all tell me that fully immersing themselves in art has always worked the trick – and by in large, I absolutely agree. Both literature and music have a therapeutic, cathartic way of affecting my daily outlook, and my daily output.   Fully immersing myself in another persons passionate creative endeavor more than fuels my fire to foster new ideas, or simply push through and finish what I’ve started.  As far as my writing, personal, music blogging, gonzo journalism and the like are concerned – reading is by far the best way to expand my horizons on what I’m capable of, and the literature that already exists within the world.  Through proper perusal of passionate creations, I see ways that I can make my own more harmonic, melodic, whimsical and descriptive.

Last year, my best friend challenged me to find my Top Ten Works of Literary NonFiction and that was a wonderful blast from the past but truth be told, my reading has waned in the last decade. Since College has ended, I’ve been on a perpetual mission to educate myself – in any way possible, and books have done just that for me. To out myself now – Book Clubs don’t do much for me, except potentially give me a room of disappointed faces when I announce that I’ve read three different books that definitely were not assigned while I’ve definitely avoided what we were all told to read. I get reading inspiration from across the board and I have to admit that for the last few years, with the influx of all sorts of social media, my reading offline had fallen by the wayside – but I’ve taken a bold stand to that and say no more.

Amazon has a wonderful book buy-back (well, technically – it’s an “anything” buy-back program, but whatever) where you can get books for as little as 1¢ (plus Shipping, so 5 bucks total – which is still awesome!) that I’ve been (ab)using since college.  Like rare wildflowers, there’ve been an influx of lending libraries popping up around Los Angeles, as well as Corvallis where my family lives – and there’s a corner of my heart that’s infinitely happier for that. Beautiful bookstores, though few and far between, are havens of literature and apparently, actual Libraries still exist – and now you can rent CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays, Video Games and so much more than just books! On the flip side, if you’re looking to catalog your library or expand your literary horizons – I’m a huge fan of GoodReads, it’s basically the Facebook of reading; you can find your friends, explore authors and use your cell phone to barcode scan your bookshelves.  It’s a book nerds dream – and if you go on it, you should definitely add me!

For 2015, I’ve decided to inspire my creative side with a reading challenge and figured 25 books over the course of the year was doable.  Sure, I have to basically billow through a book biweekly – but with all the absent minded things I tend to do around my house, not to mention the bouts of latent lackadaisical laziness and semi-permanent procrastination due to writer’s block, and I could easily reach my goal; if not surpass it!  We’re just past

The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture, Matt RidleyThe Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture

In my personal opinion, science is one of the most beautiful subjects to write about – taking a process, breaking it down with language and reinforcing connection through poetic prose, symbolic symbolism and delicate diction.  In a sea of science authors, Matt Ridley stands out with other greats of our generation like Richard Dawkins, Oliver Sacks, Simon Singh and Brian Greene.  A personal fangirl of his writing since I was graduating High School in 2003, as a budding young biochemist at one point in my life I was enamored by books like Genome, The Red Queen Theory and The Origins of Virtue.  ‘The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns On Nurture’ is a wonderful encounter with ideals we’ve been familiar with grade school – except instead of pitting them against each other, Matt Ridley makes an excellent argument for how nature and nurture work in tandem to produce the genetic world in which we thrive.

The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness

The Joyous Cosmology, Alan Watts

I’ve been recommended various Alan Watts books over the years, but it took until the past month to finally get through one.  Taking into account how in love I was with Huxley‘s Doors of Perception and Pinchbeck‘s Breaking Open The Head, The Joyous Cosmology was a no-brainer first choice.

A lyrically written journey into the mind, Alan Watts impeccably conveys his journey into human consciousness, the ego and the psyche. A must read for anyone intent on exploring the bounds of the mind. Watts does poetic justice to moments where words typically won’t suffice, on a journey through the internal, mental and emotional manifestdestiny of the human race in the 21st century. And speaking of Watts and Huxley, while doing some research I found a wonderful interview from 1968 of Alan Watts and Laura Huxley, Aldous‘ late wife.

Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras: With Light, Color, Sound, Crystals, and Aromatherapy

Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras Joy Gardner

After experiencing a menagerie of types of healing and transformational moments at festivals along the West Coast, from Lightning in a Bottle to Shambhala Music Festival, I’ve been eager to learn some myself. During my first LIB, I watched as festies relaxed under billowing trees while a plethora of instruments were tuned around them and this past year, I watched as a sonic soundbath featuring tuning forks alleviated stress and relaxed my entire campsite.  In Canada, I had my chakras read and realigned by a happy camper, explaining beforehand that last year he set a personal record by reading the palms of 50 people – last year, he wanted to break 100.

It’s purported through ancient scripture that the universe is held together with vibration and sound, and the more I read into vibrational healing the more I truly understand what this means.

The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science

The Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe, Michael Schenider 

This is my latest, and it’s a goodie. Mathematics is the language of the universe, and this wonderfully engaging and hands on approach from Michael Schenider is one of the best explanations of how math plays into the world as we currently know it.  From the formation of gems and minerals to hexagonal shape of beehives and formation of historic sculptures and art from sacred geometry, this is a must read for math people, and non-math people, alike.  Every chapter contains a section on how to construct various shapes like the platonic solids, promoting a beautiful discussion while delving into the history of our current numeric system.

My bookshelf is literally toppling over with reads, which makes me incredibly indecisive on what to pick up next.  I’ve been reading The Alchemist outloud with Danny and it’s brings a whole new element to the read, and on my own I’ve been itching to get through some Alan Watts books, as well as an Alex Grey book on The Mission of Art. What are your recommendations for my next read? What’s on your bookshelf that you just can’t wait to dive in to? Let me know in the comments below!

[Oh, Snap!] A Morning at The Griffith Park Observatory and Planetarium

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There’s nothing quite as wonderful as when parents come cruising into town – work and reality take a back seat to family time, heart conversation and big laughs; the world slows to an even keel and all seems relatively right with the world. After spending last Saturday roaming around The Huntington Gardens, it was only fitting that we continue our conquest of Los Angeles – one beautiful park at a time. Danny and I’ve been to Griffith Park several times before – to hike on the trails both above and below the observatory, as well as adventure through the surrounding woods but last time was our first adventure inside the observatory itself.

Science buffs, technophiles and camera lovers be warned – it’s all sorts of amazing in there! From the elemental building blocks of science
(highlighted: are all the elements in the human body), to amazing telescopes and celestial discoveries, there really is something for every level of scientist.

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[Wednesday Watercooler]

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Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.
– 
Lao Tzu 

Hello, hello! It’s been an awful long time since I’ve done my little cliff notes round-up of the latest and greatest in breaking news, poignant stories, wacky tales and viral media that I love to call the ‘Wednesday Watercooler.’  When I started this segment, I was still frequenting the Disney Studios in Burbank.  As time’s gone on, people have ebbed and flowed from their positions and I’ve moved up in rank within my team; I rarely ever step foot in an office, let alone anywhere near a watercooler.  They don’t come frequently – especially given the vast amounts of freedom in time, wardrobe and scenery I have at home – but I have these fleeting moments where I solemnly wish I was a bigger part of my company’s ‘Corporate Culture.’

Part of it is the camaraderie that comes with a shared pursuit, the other part is that work is typically somewhat miserable – and misery loves company.  At home, there’s no one to coffee break with while I lament about current projects – or anyone in the cubicle next to mine as I plod through spreadsheet after spreadsheet, late into the night.  Instead, I can tan on the job while I work on spreadsheets in the front yard, lug my laptop into bed if I’ve decided it’s to early to put clothes on or get a few last e-mails out before I walk out the door to Coachella.  Some say the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but I think it’s greener where you choose to water it – so, you know…perspective helps.  But, if I were to be in the office today – these are definitely the stories that I’d be talking about; enjoy!

Mink: Fifth Element, Move Over – The Future of MakeUp Is Here

In the Fifth Element, Lilu picks up a futuristic Chanel makeup contraption, holds it to her face and voila – instabeauty, right at the tips of her fingers.  The movie was made back in ’97 – and now, 14 years later, it seems like we’re finally getting to the tip of the iceberg of how this technology is actually possible.  Right now, we’re living in the very exciting (sometimes, maybe too exciting) world of 3D printing, where almost everything can be created at the snap of our fingers. They’re developing technology to 3D print food, companies like Space-X custom 3D print their pieces internally so, why not 3D printed make-up? That’s exactly what Mink founder Grace Choi pondered.  This past weekend she debuted Mink at TechCrunch’s famed DisruptNY Hackathon.  Even though she wasn’t a winner at the event (those awards go to Vrban, Indulge and Mixtape – 1,2 and 3 respectively), she definitely get’s my vote.

Image: Business Insider

 

 

Some Food for Thought: Look Up, Spoken Word Piece

I’m not sure whether this qualifies as a ‘Viral Video’ yet, but I really hope it becomes one.  The message is loud and clear – social media is making us less social.  If you unplug from your electronics and interact with the physical world around you, you’ll finally be able to appreciate the richness that already exists in the world around you.

Seawater x25

Ever wondered what Seawater really looked like? Well, after taking a gander at the picture below you might want to eat your words.  Low and behold, that murky water is host to loads of diatoms, cyanobacteria, crab larva, marine worms, copepods and much, much more…

Daymaker: 100 Days of Dance, Project One Life

I don’t know about you, but music and dancing are a surefire way to boost my mood. Enter ‘Project One Life’ .  This kid’s taken to the internet to document his Bucket List  (which as an only child I love, because it’s asking your community to hold you accountable) and this is line item #117: 100 Days of Dance.  For 100 days, this kid performed the same dance move, in the same room, with different outfits – the result is a mashup meant to move you; enjoy!

[A Higher State of Consciousness]

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There’s a running joke within my circle of friends that our cats actually own us; when I consider the amount of time, money and effort spent curating those relationships, cuddling and cleaning up after them – it instantly becomes harder to argue the contrary.  What, if any, is the difference between a pet animal and their human counterpart? At its most basic level,  two lives are coming together to coexist in harmony; conversely, at it’s most complex, there are two differing levels of consciousness that are forced to somehow reconcile their innate differences.   Once the qualifications and implications for ‘ownership’ are considered within this seemingly symbiotic relationship, in it’s most simplistic form it all comes down to consciousness.  Is Sake my pet or am I his? To answer this question, you’d have to take a long hard look at our relative levels of consciousness and through that, infer which one of us has the ability to assert their consciousness upon another individual.   Regardless of if you’re inspecting the relationship between humans, animals, plants or even minerals – each and every relationship between two separate entities – is dictated by an individual understanding of consciousness.  In turn, this opens the door for even more questions.  What is ‘consciousness’, how do we as humans define ‘consciousness’ and last but certainly not least – who are we as humanity to ascribe or limit levels of consciousness?

Consciousness is defined two-fold as both being awake and aware of one’s environment through one’s thoughts, feelings and existence as well as the innate distinction in recognizing yourself within the world.  For an incredible amount of time, the definition of consciousness was limited to the human psyche; after all, can you ask a rock if it’s aware that of it’s mineral state or can you have a philosophical discussion with your dog about his motives for hiding every tennis ball in the depths of your backyard?   After a brief life as a stem cell, each cell within the human body has a distinct function, making it markedly different from other cells; does this mean that within each cell is a level of consciousness an self-awareness? A school of thought led by philosopher Ned Block proposed that there are actually two forms of consciousness, phenomenal and access; the former being the sensory reception of true, raw experience and the later being of the mind and available for analysis and introspection.  Overtime and through plenty of scientific research, it’s been proven that animals of all shapes and sizes – from Orangutans,  Elephants and Dolphins down to the Cephalopods like the Octopus and the Squid, African Grey Parrots, Dogs and Cats – all exhibit forms of what we now recognize as consciousness.   Whether it’s the ability to paint with their trunks, observe themselves in the mirror, or open cans with their tentacles – there have been ample examples of empathetic animals who are aware of the world around them as well as their place within it.  So, as I posited before – beside being at the top of the food chain, who are we to exert our opposable thumbs driven brand of control over the world?

There are ‘isms’ we choose to hie behind and  they each attribute and apply arbitrary levels of consciousness to forms far beyond our human understanding. At a larger, umbrella level – many people make their dietary choices based on what feels good for their body; like the 40-40-20, Atkins or Paleo diet.  And I fully believe that we should all pay close attention to the minutiae of nutritional needs and wants.  But if you look beyond those diets, you find people that ascribe to an ‘ism’ – like Veganism or Vegetarianism; each on the idea that animals retain a level of consciousness that doesn’t exist in plants.  Quite to the contrary – like humans, plants are born out of reproduction between a male and female, live, grow, undergo photosynthesis which produces energy and oxygen, reproduce and die;  blow by blow, a parallel life to any animal or human.   Humans, plants and animals alike all contain trace amounts of the hallucinogenic chemical dimethyltryptamine and to boot, plant systems – especially trees – have been shown to communicate with each other through a type of fungi called mychorrhizae.  If plants are able to communicate, this means they’re able to process and analyze their external world, and wouldn’t that make them conscious beings?

As a society, we’ve grown comfortable ascribing qualities, assigning traits and categorically grouping objects together because it’s the easiest way to deal with the unfathomable amount of chaos, clutter and disorganization within the world.  However, as we push for a greater understanding of our external surroundings, we’re left with the realization that not only do we not completely get it, but most likely we never will.  For years, because there’s been an assumption that animals don’t or won’t operate within parallel plane of consciousness we can exploit them for entertainment purposes like a circus, or Sea World, or as of recently – the Sochi Olympics .    As our definition of consciousness evolves, we should concurrently update our definition of entertainment as well.   The more we study animals like orcas, pigs and elephants within their natural environment, the more we learn about their high aptitude for learning and their incredible levels of both community and intelligence.  After all is said and done, can we still truly call it entertainment when we see our aquatic counterparts reduced to jumping through hoops, or when we limit a four legged friend to the limitations,isolation and dimensions of a cage?  If we acknowledge our own human need for a safe community where we can cultivate relationships, we can’t simply dismiss the needs and freedoms of other animals simply to satiate our necessity for control and amusement. Documentaries like Blackfish and The Cove have been more than influential in bringing these truths to light for me, and I highly recommend watching both of them.

When we sent the Mars Rover to explore the great red planet, there was an assumption that without a carbon based biosignature of life – like humans, plants or animals – that life literally ceased to exist.  But the big picture is anything but: because we’re limited to what we know about the building blocks of life on Earth, our view on life elsewhere is also limited; if we are allowed to expand our definition of life beyond a basic chemical building block, evolving our definition of consciousness shouldn’t be far behind.

[Wednesday Watercooler]

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Well, here we are again – it’s the week’s halftime, the 7th inning stretch or its official 2:30 feeling; however you slice and dice it, it always feels amazing to stroll into the office on a Wednesday knowing the battle is more or less half over.

Summer has officially gone and Autumn has officially swept  over Los Angeles – which, besides a few blustery days and pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, means about jack shit.  After five years in this city, I’ve come to the conclusion that we either have perpetual spring (which causes allergies to act out at the strangest times) or we have the ability to experience all of them in a single day.  One thing’s for sure though: when Summer ends the work load definitely picks up.  If you work in an incredibly corporate climate, Q4 earnings are all the rage; for a company like Disney that’s been around for 90 years as of today, doubly so.  I’ve caught myself working odd hours and well into the night because I’m committed to delivering the best final product – but man, does it take some life out of me!  The last thing I want to do after sitting on a computer for twelve hours is keep sitting on the computer – I need sunshine, fresh air and human contact; I need balance.

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of holding on and letting go.
Havelock Ellis

By balance – I mean life outside of html codes, Access databases and vlookups in Excel; life outside of monitors, dragging, dropping and double clicking.  Back before Facebook, AIM and ICQ – we actually had to be social in order to cultivate camaraderie; but now – in 2013 – we silently sit in our self imposed solitary confinement, sending invitations to play “online games” with people halfway across the world when we don’t even know the names of our physical neighbors.  There’s a fine line between where the internet brings us together as social adhesive and where it separates us like the polarity of a magnet.   I bring this up because I continually walk this line within both my personal and professional lives – and I know I’m not the only one.  When you telecommute for work four days a week, you lose the corporate climate and constant interaction; you can’t read the reaction on someones face, you can only infer it through the syntax of their emails.  The same can be said for your personal relationships – how many of us have overlooked calling a friend to congratulate them or catch up simply because we’ve seen their posts on –Insert-Social-Media-Site-Here– and think “Why bother? Looks like they’re enjoying themselves!”  Sure, they probably are – but life is more enjoyable with the people you love by your side so next time you see an awesome update, rad picture or funny quote: reach out and touch them! Text, call or send a picture – hell, even write them a handwritten letter; it’s so easy to press a button and “acknowledge” someones actions online but true real world communication is what cultivates closeness and builds relationships.  So do your due diligence today and tell someone how much you appreciate them – call you parents, your kid sister or even compliment a total stranger.  Bet your bottom dollar you’ll walk away with a bounce in your step! Now, enough banter from the back of my brain – onto the Watercooler!

Oreos Are Equally Addictive As Cocaine or Morphine

I have first hand experience with this one – my boyfriend and I just discovered the Mint Oreos and the package is basically empty. So next time your friends tell you they’re addicted to Oreos, you might want to give them the benefit of the doubt!  According to Joseph Schroeder, a neuroscientist at the Connecticut College, and a group of students – these sweet little morsels of heaven are just as addictive as cocaine or morphine (and a lot cheaper, too!).  The study, conducted to determine the correlation between high-sugar / high-fat food and addiction, proves that foods high in sugar target the pleasure center of the brain the same way that drugs do.  What does this mean for science? Because high sugar foods use the same neurological mechanism as morphine and cocaine, we should be able approach obesity and drug addiction in the same manner.

NASA Wants to Know If You’re Good In Bed

You might think you’re excellent in the bedroom – but can you stay cooped up lying down for 70 days?  If your answer is an emphatic YES – this new NASA study might just be for you!  Known as the ‘Bed Rest Study‘, subjects will spend approximately ten weeks on their back in an exercise program being built for astronauts.  The goal of the study is to minimize the bone loss, muscle loss and cardiovascular function of astronauts through daily weightless aerobic training and exercise.  The program pays $170 a day, or $18,000 for ten weeks in a perpetual horizontal state and five more being studied.  If you’re not attached to standing or sitting, this is definitely the job for you – head on over and apply here!

Drunk Dial Congress

Now, call it juvenile but there’s nothing like having a strong drink and a good yelling match – even if it’s at a pet (or wall, or any other inanimate object of choice); so when I stumbled across this website I thought “Winner, winner – chicken dinner!”.  Congress is currently full of people who can’t get their head of out each others asses long enough to do something positive for the collective good of this nation – so nothing sounds quite as sweet as calling them after a cold one and letting them have it.

Crazy Cat Ladies Rejoice – Wine for Cats Means You’ll Never Drink Alone

Yeah; you read that correctly.  In this beautiful, wonderful, batshit crazy world we live in someone’s taken their sweet time to develop – you guessed it – kitty wine.  Now, I think this is hilarious because Sake – my main cat – is named after the rice wine, so it’s only fitting that I can now give him a bottle of himself!  The wine is called Nyan Nyan Nouveau and is a concoction of catnip, cabernet grape juice and some vitamin c – what’s that mean? That your cat is about to get TURNT. There’s a limited supply in production – only about a thousand bottles – so if this piques your fancy, you best act on it fast!

The end of drinking alone? Wine for cats is a thing

Friday Fun: Made You Laugh!

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Every now and again (okay, maybe more now than again), I could use a good laugh. Scratch that.  I could always use a good laugh! Not one of those ‘laugh inside to yourself’, nor one of those contagious laughs that can wash over a room like a wave – but a good hearty from the belly, squealing and almost crying  laugh.

I spend a lot of time in my head, circling the days events and looking to the past for clues on how to handle myself in the present.  I love the keen introspection and perspective I gain on myself and the world.  The sheer notion of self discovery is amazing and I wouldn’t trade the mini-epiphanies I get on the daily for anything.  Now, don’t get it twisted – those moments of self discovery are hard earned and most of us have the emotional battle wounds to prove it. There are some crazy fucked up things that happen in this world; but without those moments, would we honestly be able to speak to the amount if pure beauty we see around us?

And shared laughter, even if that person you’re sharing that ‘howling like a five year old who got a unicorn that shits candy for their  birthday’-laugh just with yourself – is one of the most beautiful things in the world.

So, without further ado – I bring you the things that have put a smile on my face this week!

First things first, it’s that time of the season again – election time!  One thing that I can mostly promise is that I will not try and argue politics with anyone; I like facts, and from what I can tell – political opinion has little to nothing to do with facts 😉

Photo: It's that time of year again. Voter "alienation"?

 

Secondly, I love cats.  I have two furry faces that run around my apartment and they’re the lights of my life.  They also are what comprise roughly 40% of my Instagram feed and 60% of the pictures on my phone.  I love my cats so much that I talk about them to random strangers and my friends; and my friends sometimes like to fuel my cat loving fire.

Third, being the nerd that I am – I have an admiration for scientists and a love for discovery.  And this bottom image sums up pretty nicely how I feel about movies based on science but not based on fact.

And last, but certainly not least -this might be one of the best videos of the whole summer and I’m still not sure how I managed to avoid it for as long as I did; so if you’ve been hiding under an equally fun rock or just didn’t get the memo – check out PSY – GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) M/V.  It does not disappoint.