Thursday, July 26, 2007

On the Martin Luther King Steps, at the Lincoln Memorial

Having a dream.

(why) these are a few of my favorite things..

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens....

Really? Really truly? Kettles and mittens? How strange.

Taking the last two weeks as fodder, my favorite things would be....

Huge pummeling waterfalls and exploding steam pipes,
Lightening &`thunder and the Bloomberg-offices-in-Mid-town...

My father, brother and brother's girlfriend have been visiting. We took a tour to Niagara Falls, the huge pummeling waterfall. It doesn't seem quite so impressive from the top, where the cheesy fairground rides and casinos vie for attention.

But from the drenched decks of the Maid of the Mist the air throbs, the boat tips to and fro and the 'mist' comes fast and sleet-like, sideways as much as from above. The churn of water is white and deep and furious, as if giants have formed a drum circle of washing machines. Through the mist the walls of water come down....and it seems impossible that it won't run out, there is just SO MUCH. Wonderful.

Secondly, there is something wonderful and exciting about a steam pipe that blows up a main road in Manhattan. I walked past on my way to dinner an hour and a half after the first explosion and still the muck and gunk from underneath Lexington Avenue erupted into the street, reminding me of Pohutu back home. And smelling a damn sight better.

Of course I am not excited that someone had a heart attack running away from it. Of course I'd be upset if someone I knew got hurt. But there's something about the uncontrollable power of the steam in the ancient pipes that appeals, something in its flagrant disregard for the 6pm rush hour and people's busy schedules.

In New York, the dog-scented summer air is occasionally blasted by sudden thunder storms. A bright blue sky can turn dark grey in minutes. The rain falls, the winds whip up, and the lightening comes in both forks and sheets, glimpsed through and reflecting off the tall glass buildings. How to not love New York? How would it be possible?

Finally, the Bloomberg building. This one's ultra coolness is hard to describe. from the outside it doesn't look particularly amazing . But from inside, everything from the extensive use of glass to the open, help yourself food and drink bars, to the little rooms with banks of Apple computers, screens and modern, yet comfortable's all designed for movement and light and interaction. All lifts go to the sixth floor, (where the food is). From there, escalators snake down and up - some curving - to other floors. The meeting rooms are open and comfortable and decked out with the latest equipment. If you ask nicely enough, you can be 'beamed up' (okay, that's a big fat lie). I was happy just to take some Soy Crisps and a banana. And my first coffee in more than 28 days. And luckily for me, it was bitter and made me jibbery, so no more of that for a while.

My favorite things seem to have something in common. Snapping my mind from its current thoughts, focusing them on the now. Some people have this natural ability, some of us need to work at it. Buddhist thought and meditation is related, and there is evidence that shows that those who live in the moment tend to be more satisfied with their lives.

So there is the potential to practice so that each moment becomes a marvel. I'm practising, but it's not my natural state. So until then, I'll be glad the natural world, and Mayor Bloomberg provide the odd offerings of wonderful things.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sitting here at the end of Harry

So this weekend I did something quite unusual and stayed in. Both Friday and Saturday, only venturing out at get waxed, do some laundry and grocery shopping, buy some new shoes and a skirt, do some DJ practice and go to the gym. Anywhere outside of New York that would take some time. Here, it's all within ..I don't know....200 square meters. Or 500, max.

I stayed in this weekend to spend my last moments with Mr Potter, Hermione and Ron. Friday night I started book six, (again - the details of Horcruxes having faded in the past year or so), and by Saturday was half way through. Given that I'm not the fastest reader, and I DID have all this other stuff to do, I only finished it this morning, Sunday.

Tonight instead of embarking on the final journey (Book 7), I called my Kiwi friends and we had a Flight of the Conchords night of takeaways (delivery) and cocktails. It was fun, but am I really just putting off the inevitable? That whether or not Harry dies (and I don't know and will not guess) either way, it is over between us. All these years, and this is the last. At the same time I HAVE to read it soon, otherwise someone will spill and I'll be forced to defenestrate them.

The book 'Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows' sits beside me as I procrastinate further, writing a blog post that I haven't thought about in terms of positive psychology, but which I'm devoting time to anyway. Done the dishes. Mucked about on Facebook. Updated my Ipod.

It's not only the end of the series, it's the end of the guessing and the extrapolation. It's the end of passionate discourses with friends on the other sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.

What's pretty interesting is that this is the first book I've come across that has no text on with the back cover or the side flaps, except to say, on the front side flap that 'WE NOW PRESENT THE SEVENTH AND FINAL INSTALLMENT IN THE EPIC TALE OF HARRY POTTER'.

How incredible is the human mind...the mind of J.K Rowling that conjured the magical series, and the minds that have developed such an emotional and mental tie to a work we know is entirely of fiction. So much so that - well, in my case - I would forgoe a weekend of real world activities in honor of this large piece of cut up tree + ink.

Don't know what I'm getting at here, really. Think maybe I'm just putting it off.

Righto, then, Harry...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Article - How Depression Weakens the Brain

An article in today's Wall Street Journal notes that a term of depression in a person's elder years may raise the risks of developing dementia later in life. Which made me think...what influence do I have on the happiness of my parents?

Here's a short excerpt...paraphrased...:

People who have experienced a major depression even once in the previous 10 years in late middle age are twice as likely as those who haven't to develop problems in concentration, memory or problem-solving ability after the age of 65, according to several large, studies.

Depression is associated with shrinkage of the part of the brain
related to memory, and while problems with concentration, decision making and memory can be common for people going through depression, studies show a significant portion of older people won't recover their mental sharpness even if their mood recovers.

Also, studies show that people with more days of depression untreated
by antidepressants, at any point in their lives, exhibit an average 10%
reduction in volume in the hippocampus, -- a part of the brain related to memory which may result in subtle changes to their memory capabilities, according to Yvette Sheline, author of the research, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. There is no such effect from days of treated depression.

There is evidence that treating depression, either with medication or
certain types of psychotherapy, not only benefits a patient's psychological well being, but also reduces the frequency or severity of future depression, and seems to spare the brain from injury from the load of chronic stress, say experts. Treatment is particularly important in the long term for people who get depressed young and have repeated episodes throughout their life, psychiatrists say.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Curiosity at work

Given that my key signature strength is Curiosity, I am going to implement it at work, thus, in order to increase my level of happiness while working. That's the theory....:
  • I will try and learn something new about each of my clients' businesses everyday.
Got to admit, at this point that doesn't sound too wildly entertaining...but hey, this is an experiment. And it can only help me in my work-life. As I don't speak much to other people at work, and another of my key skills is Social Intelligence, I'll add in another:
  • I will try and find out one new (and interesting) thing about one person at work, everyday.

The key factor being that I have to find it interesting. So not about babies/decorating/weekend drinking debauchery. Well, the latter could be interesting....but generally isn't!

My I'm in a cynical mood today....

Sunday, July 01, 2007

little tips and still no coffee...

For the last week or so I've been trying out this little positive psychology tip. So far it's going pretty well ;)

Every night before I go to sleep I list five good things that happened today, and five things that I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Okay, so I admit that in the last week there were a fair few entries of "breakfast", "lunch" and "facebook" (yeah, I know, I'll get over the last one soon I promise), but there were also a fair decent number of more substantial items.

One thing I've found that this practice switches the mind away from the little things that went wrong, which can daddle around long after they happened. At one point this last week, something went mildly awry and it was hankering in my brain...yet after this little exercise it dissipated. And given that I can't even remember what the heck it was, I figure something must be working. Either that or I just have a bad memory. The other noticeable difference is that the next morning, on my daily walk to work (dodging yappy dogs and drips from air conditioning units) is that I remember what I have to look forward to.....mmmm, breakfast....

It's been 15 days since my last coffee. I'm aiming for 28 days, like the Sandra Bullock film....