Thursday, May 28, 2009

I've got a new candy crush!

I'm always on the look-out for new antidotes for my chocolate cravings, especially ones that keep me from diving face first into a bag of Guittard couverture wafers.
My latest cocoa paramour is a bar of Chocolate Santander's 53% semi-dark. It's got a solid chocolate head-rush with a faint sensation of mint. Even a small 1/2 ounce dose has me satisfied. Being the fickle Chocolate tramp that I am though, I might try a darker version next time I decide to treat myself. It's surprising how dark you can go with some brands before reaching the bitter-as-bad-coffee-beans stage. I wonder what their 70% cacao will taste like?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Foxes, Flowers and the Will to Live.

I’m sort of a sucker for a good underdog story. It’s hard to pass up a gritty tale of determination and tenacity, especially if the hero survives against overwhelming adversity and defies the odds without losing their sense of identity. I chanced upon two such heroes this week.
The first was on Marblehead Neck, a 320 acre island of affluent suburbia that’s connected to the main land by a quarter mile of road built upon a sand bar. My wife spotted him first as he skulked between a hedge row and a house. A fox. He looked like he was jogging on eggshells, wary of being seen, painfully aware of how much his reddish coat stood out from the green of grass, bushes and trees.
He’s often seen in tales of old playing either a prince without a throne or a trickster. I suspect he has to be a little of both to melt into the background of an island populated by over-indulged homes, carefully coiffured yards, and a couple of yacht clubs. He can only travel a block or two before coming to a road. Here his unnatural enemies- cars, contractor’s vans, and landscaper’s trucks, roam. Even more dangerous is the homeowner, fearful of all untamed mammals, who calls the animal control officer. How do creatures accustom to forests and woodlands manage to make a life in such an alien world?
That question was still on my mind during our next walk. My wife and I were strolling along the paved trails of a state forest. Twice the size of Marblehead Neck, the reservation is encapsulated in suburban sprawl, the entrance only a half mile from a highway lined with shopping plazas.
I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a fox here. But a different kind of survivor was waiting by the roadside. As silent and solitary as the fox, the lady slipper doesn’t seem bothered by it’s showy, pink bloom. These lonely beauties can live for a hundred years. That’s a good thing, because they’re rather fussy about the moisture content of the soil. And they won’t grow at all if the ground isn’t infested with a particular type of fungus. Add to that a low pollination rate, a lengthy germination period, and a preference for vegetative growth. It’s no wonder they’re considered a rare orchid that’s illegal to pick or transplant in many states.
So how do foxes and fungus needy flora survive in an alien land? They’re seen as interlopers- either dangerous or superficial. How many people notice they’re here? Who would miss them if they should disappear? Their existence proofs one thing- Life doesn’t care. Creatures, great and small, will use their strengths, the greatest one being the instinct to adapt and evolve.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pop Quiz- When does brain damage stop being fun?

Got ya thinkin’ caps on? Which of these;

a. Frontal lobotomy,
b. Smoking marijuana,
c. Alzheimer's disease,

Have these symptoms:

  • Loss of memory
  • Impaired judgment
  • Abstract thinking difficulties
  • Mood or behavioral problems
  • Personality changes
  • Paranoia
  • Loss of drive and initiative

If you answered a, b, or c, your correct! I came across this while flipping through magazines in an emergency room waiting area. There were three separate articles- one on a new, experimental lobotomy procedure, one on the effects of marijuana use, and one one the latest research concerning Alzheimer’s. Each article had a list of symptoms. Each list was the same. Thinking about it, I shouldn’t have been surprised. A frontal lobotomy manually destroys brain cells. Marijuana clogs up brain cell receptors. Alzheimer’s is caused by amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles gunking-up brain cells. Each, in its own way, prevents brain cells from functioning.

The symptoms have to be pretty severe before anyone takes them seriously. Mild Alzheimer’s is seen as just a part of growing old. Marijuana is considered (at least by those who smoke it) as a harmless recreation. The befuddled old-foggy and the clueless stoner are still fodder for laughs in TV shows and movies. Society accepts the mild deterioration of the mind as a natural, common-place thing. Only when the problems are magnified, as with a lobotomy or severe, advanced staged Alzheimer’s, does the tragic implications become obvious.
But at what point does that happen? Where do we draw the line? How bad does a person’s behavior have to be before it stops being seen as harmless? When does brain damage stop being fun?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Begrudging the Grudge - How not to let the joys of resentment ruin a relationship.

A snide little aside sandwiched between two hearty slabs of cold shoulder, the grudge withholds meaningful communication as a punishment. Feeling offended, we either talk about it to everyone but the person who offended us, or worse, the only person we talk to is ourselves, reliving the offence over and over in our mind. Each time we get to pick at the wound, constantly reminding ourselves how we got it. Eventually, the idea of healing it instead of preserving it frightens us. It becomes part of who we are and how we define our relationship with the grudgee. As comfortable as wallowing in indignation can be, I don’t believe that deep down it’s who we want to be.
Retreating from the fight can be the only way to win the battle though. But how will that make us look? What if it comes across like we’re admitting defeat? What if it makes the other person look like they’re right? What will it say about us? It doesn’t say your giving in, giving up, or even forgive. It means you see the importance of resolving your differences- that you’re willing to listen and you expect to be heard as well.
Of course there will always be people better at holding a grudge than you. It may take a long time before they’ll talk to you. They may never talk to you. You lose nothing though by letting them know that you’re always willing to listen. You will not look weak, only patient. You will not seem as desperate as you will diplomatic. You are not saying that you approve of what they’ve done, but you are willing to agree to disagree. All it takes is the slightest gesture to get the ball rolling. This is true whether it’s a text-message to a friend or a president shaking hands with a political spoil-sport. Good intentions pave the road to Hell. Good communication pave the way to redemption.