Monday, March 18, 2013

A Great Way to Sharpen Your Concentration

Who knew that just looking at cute cat and puppy pictures for less than two minutes can help you to refocus your brain and go back to that work you need to do with a sharper view?

(sixonfive72 at

(Source Unknown)

Don't worry!  I'm a doctor.(Source Unknown)

All day! We've been good all day...honest!!


 A study done by Hiroshi Nittono, PhD, (Univeristy of Japan) indicates that fewer than 2 minutes of enjoying pictures of cute animals can help us sharpen our ability to focus later on difficult tasks. "When we see a cute thing, we're motivated to know its details, which narrows our focus." In fact, when compared to a group gazing at pictures with less 'cute' appeal, the puppy group outdid their peers by 44% in the follow-up activity of playing "Operation".  (Womens Health, March 2013, 32).

Will it work for you? It's worth a try and takes only 90 seconds out of your busy day-especially if you're tackling some really challenging tasks and need to refocus.

(Our thanks to Mary F. for leading us in this direction, to Bob A., as always for great pictures, and to Zack and Julia for sharing their pets with us. Also thanks to sixonfive72 at If you happen to know the original source for the sleepy dog and the little doctor, please tell us so that we can give credit for these great shots.)

Relax with Malbec, Photography and Music

Recently, we were introduced to a wine we had never tasted before.  If you're interested in red wine as a supplement for your health or just because you enjoy a glass in those rare relaxation times, here are some to try.
Three inexpensive malbecs tried and recommended are these:

Alamos Malbec, 2011
Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2011
Bodini Malbec 2012
Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012  and
Finca La Linda Malbec 2009

The location of these wineries is at the foot of the Andes in Mendoza, Argentina.  The ones listed have been sampled and found to be smooth, delicious, and worth the taste:

And even better, here's a great video taken in Fiji and Tonga for you to watch while you relax.  In Bob A.'s opinion: "Superb!!"

Taken in Fiji, and Tonga at Dakuwaqa's Garden.
Filmed  by Nick Hope (copyright 2011) with music by Stephen Richard Thomas Brown  "In the Meadow"

(Our thanks to Elaine for introducing us to a wine we had never tried and to Bob A. for sending us the great video.)

Is There Anything Good About Taxes?

With April 15th looming, it's really hard to see anything good about paying taxes.  But, of course, we know we need the resources provided by our firemen, our police officers, our social agencies, and other worthwhile, tax-funded services.

And  there's another way in which our tax contributions benefit all of us-one that might not readily come to mind.

According to the Library of Congress recap below, here's another way that our tax money helps everyone. Check out the list of interesting sites included.

"Treasures of the Library of Congress: Your Tax Dollars at Work for the Common Good"
(All derived from 2013)

"Just as one is wondering what good all of our combined taxes might be doing, consider this: According to James H. Billington, the 13th Librarian of Congress in 213 years, and a Pennsylvania boy, “The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. It has become the largest repository of recorded knowledge in the world and a symbol of the vital connection between knowledge and democracy. Its collections contain millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts.

The Library's mission is to support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.”

Today's Library of Congress is an unparalleled world resource. The collection of more than 151 million items includes more than 34.5 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 66.6 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world's largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.

The Library's collection building activities cover virtually every discipline and field of study and include the entire range of different forms of publication and media for recording and storing knowledge. The Library has worked to develop richly representative collections in all fields, except technical agriculture and clinical medicine, which are the collection responsibilities of the National Agricultural Library and the National Library of Medicine, respectively.

This is one place where there is virtually and really something for everyone. So once your returns are filed with Uncle Sam, take some time to enjoy some of the people’s treasures suggested below which have accrued to America’s Library."

The Collections

LOC Publications

LOC for Families

LOC Interactive Activities

Digital Collections

The Magna Carta

The Librarian of Congress

Library of Congress Home

Check out the Education/OnlineActivities site.  It has great activities for teachers or any adults andchildren. Those of us who have just read Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power will enjoy the featured activity on hidden secrets.

(Our thanks to Penny for sending us the Library of Congress information.  We all know about this national resource, but not many understand the vast holdings financed by out tax dollars.)
Library of Congress (ClipsOnline)

A New Symptom of Stroke: Recognize the Sign

We can all benefit from recognizing the 3 traditional symptoms and one newer indicator of a stroke. Younger people as well as seniors have been stricken.   A person you know or a stranger who exhibits these symptoms can be helped quickly if you call for help as soon as you notice.

One of our friends was in a restaurant with her husband when he began to have these symptoms.  She didn't recognize what was happening, but two nurses a few tables away noticed and immediately said, "He's having a stroke."  The stroke might have killed him if they hadn't immediately called 911 and rushed him to the hospital for treatment.  He's in physical therapy now with a long way to go to regain good health, but he and his wife have hope for the future.

"A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours, he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough."


"Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
S *Ask the individual to SMILE.

T *Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently)
R *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call emergency number immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

NEW SIGH OF A STROKE -------- Stick out Your Tongue       (Note: verifies that the first three signs are definite, and sticking out the tongue could also be an indicator, 
especially if one of the three indicators above is also apparent. 

 If the tongue is'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke. 

A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this...sends it to 10 people; you can bet that
at least one life will be saved."

(The quoted cardiologist comments and stroke indicators come from an online article that has appeared in several locations.) 

(Our thanks to Karen for forwarding this 
fourth and possible sign of stroke to us
and to Joan H. for telling us about her friend.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Thinking of a Vacation? Consider This...

  About this time of year in PA or New England, thoughts of a warm vacation might constantly interrupt your focus on getting through the cold weather.

You might be at home looking out at those 300 lb. icicles or hunting for your pickup in the New England blizzards.

The New England Challenge/  Finding the Pickup. 
It's somewhere in this driveway.  Right?

Looking out the window in NW PA.
That icicle grows longer and longer.

Florida is a great option for a getaway, or you might be dreaming of those islands in the Caribbean, but wait!  Here's an idea...consider spending time in Arizona

Since the state celebrated its 100 years of statehood, the Centennial Committee has provided lots of reasons to visit.  Personal preferences for a lounge chair near the pool, hiking to the vortexes in Sedona, setting up photo shots at the Grand Canyon, Montezuma's castle, or on mountaintops, and delving into history are just some of the ways to enjoy the state.

And let's make sure to include the fantastic juried art festivals (with wine tasting, of course) -very popular winter/spring events. Fishing, boating, hunting, tubing, riding the rapids, camping- the state is tailormade for ourdoor enjoyment. 

If you're a music fan, Phoenix offers first -class musicals, operas, and well-known musicians every week.  A horse fan?  The WestWorld Arabian Horse show is in Arizona.  And those car shows-wow-international buyers and sellers flock to AZ for these events.   And, think about the golf courses for those who hate looking out on snow-covered links..

Grand Canyon
Here are some of the 100 facts about AZ  as compiled by the Centennial Committee.
  •  Arizona has 3,928 mountain peaks and summits—more mountains than any one of the other Mountain States (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming).
  • All New England, plus the state of Pennsylvania would fit inside Arizona.
  • Arizona became the 48th state and last of the contiguous states on February 14, 1912
  • Arizona,s disparate climate can yield both the highest temperature across the nation and the lowest temperature across the nation in the same day. (Snowbowl, near Flagstaff can have 70 " of snow and might be open for winter sports through March.)
  • There are more wilderness areas in Arizona than in the entire Midwest. Arizona alone has 90 wilderness areas, while the Midwest has 50.
  • Arizona has the largest contiguous stand of ponderosa pines in the world stretching from near Flagstaff along the Mogollon Rim to the White Mountains region.
  • Arizona is the 6th largest state in the nation, covering 113,909 square miles.
  • The Five Cs of Arizonas economy are: Cattle, Copper, Citrus, Cotton, and Climate. 
  • The worlds largest solar telescope is located at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Sells, Arizona.
  • Lake Havasu
  • When England's famous London Bridge was replaced in the 1960s, the original was purchased, dismantled, shipped stone by stone and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where it still stands today.
  • Mount Lemmon, in the Santa Catalina Mountains, is the southernmost ski resort in the United States.
  • You could pile four 1,300-foot skyscrapers on top of each other and they still would not reach the rim of the Grand Canyon.
  • The westernmost battle of the Civil War was fought at Picacho Pass on April 15, 1862 near Picacho Peakin Pinal County.
  • There are 11.2 million acres of National Forest in Arizona, and one-fourth of the state forested.
  • The Sonoran Desert is the most biologically diverse desert in North America.
  • Bisbee is the nation's southernmost mile-high city.
  • The two largest manmade lakes in the U.S. are Lake Mead and Lake Powell—both located in Arizona.
  • The longest remaining intact section of Route 66 can be found in Arizona and runs from Seligman to Topock, a total of 157 unbroken miles.
  • The negotiations for Geronimos final surrender took place in Skeleton Canyon, near present day Douglas, Arizona, in 1886.
  • Prescott, Arizona is home to the worlds oldest rodeo, and Payson, Arizona is home to the worlds oldest continuous rodeo—both of which date back to the 1880s.
  • Kartchner Caverns, near Benson, Arizona, is a massive limestone cave with 13,000 feet of passages, two rooms as long as football fields, and one of the worlds longest soda straw stalactites: measuring 21 feet 3 inches.
And don't forget the great sunsets!

February Sunset in New River, AZ
(Our thanks to Karen for directing us to the website for 100 Facts About AZ ; to Mary Jane and Eric for the
chilly snow photos; and to Dick and Peggy for the AZ shots)

People Go to Interesting Places

So many of us have gone one interesting places, but  how many have had this option in their tour offerings?

Barbara  tells us about her trip in the early 90's to a country that we might be hesitant about visiting in 2013.

Unforgettable Trip
                                  Camel Ride

In the early 1990's I traveled with a faculty exchange group from a Pennsylvania college. We visited libraries in Karachi, Pakistan.

After conducting a workshop, colleagues and I had an opportunity to travel throughout the country with our host librarians. We were able to visit Rawalpindi, located near the country's capital city of Islamabad, reminders of our childhood reading of Kipling.

Beyond the splendor of ancient ruins and famous mosques, we had a brief time along the Arabian seacoast. Someone suggested we ride the "Ships of the Desert," "by the sea, by the sea."  My memory of what would be my only camel ride is both beautiful and also amusing.

Recently I found photos of this once-in-a- lifetime event. The camels were trained tobend and kneel, to allow the rider to step onto a special seat that was strapped atop this gentle, quiet animal of transport. Unlike the biblical Wise Men, I felt shaky and unsettled. I could imagine the Magi traveling on their camels while I sat rigid, unsure of my balance upon this lofty perch.

I tried not to think of tipping, then falling into oblivion on a basket seat. I could see the outline of the shore stretching for miles, like a lazy seaside landscape. It was a lovely experience, warm, sunny, seemingly calm, without worry.

This memory is far from what we view today when network news videos depict bloody conflicts, casualities, car bombings in parts of present day Pakistan.

On November 22, 2012, a Taliban suicide bomber killed 23 people in Rawalpindi

Barbara Reese
(Barbara has several other memoirs in a compilation she's in the midst  of writing.  Thanks for sharing this one, Barb.)

To Our Health: iPads and Tablets, Feeling on the Edge, Shaping Up Before a Hike

Evidence on this blog shows that we love to read.  We're always suggesting books that we've enjoyed and that others might like.  Most recently, Joan H. suggested The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer, as one that she couldn't put down once she began to read.

So, that's good.  But what could be the downside?  Many of us are using our electronics to access our reading material or using our iphones to read the news and catch up on texts or emails.  That's still good. 

1.  The downside is that the dreaded short-wave blue light emitted from our electronics can be a problem if we're reading in the 2-hour span before bed.  According to a study in Applied Ergonomics, using a tablet during that time can reduce the body's production of melatonin by 23%.  As reported in Women's Health, (March, 2013, 36) melatonin is "a hormone necessary for sleep."  Women's Health suggests some ways to combat the downside of bedtime reading:
    • Limit reading to 1/2 the time; then make sure all lights are off;
    • Purchase a "filter that blocks shortwave blue-light emissions";  (or my personal favorite):
    • Alter the settings on the tablet so that you're seeing white words on a black background.


2.  Feeling On the Edge  Some of the best advice in print comes from Self, (February, 2012, 134). "We...fear falling off imaginary edges, too often thinking there's only so far we can stretch,
so hard we can push.  The most dangerous limits are those
 in our own head.  When you feel you're at your edge,
 look again.  You can go farther."


(Our thanks to Joan H. for her book recommendation.)

3.  A Hiking Hint  For the hikers among us, a useful bit of info
might relate to building up stamina on the treadmill.  A 3% incline appears to best approximate hiking outdoors. (Journal of
Strength and Conditioning Research as reported in
Women's Health (March, 2013, 36).