Author: Cornish, Rick

Last Fathers Day my youngest son, Peter, presented me with a big, neatly gift wrapped box, bow on top, chalk full of East Indian cooking supplies. He knows I enjoy cooking Indian food and knows there are no Indian grocery stores up here in the hinterland, so young Pete did my shopping for me. Curry and masala simmer sauces, tandori sauce, lime and garlic chutney and my favorite in the box of goodies, a big jar of seasoned rice. We loved that stuff. Just boil some water, add the rice mix, simmer and you’ve got something that tastes very much like that which you’d find in a good Indian restaurant. Ummm.

So this past Sunday morning, having decided that dinner that night would be Indian, and then remembering that for a couple months now I’d been out of the wonderful Fathers Day rice I received, I called my son. I ask him if he recalled the rice he’d given me. He had. I told him how much Lynn and I enjoyed it. He was glad. I asked him if he remembered where he’d purchased it. He said he did.

“Well,” I asked, “do you think you could buy three or four jars for me and bring it up when you come for Thanksgiving next week?”

“Ah, do you mean three or four more jars of the Indian rice you like so much? You do remember, don’t you, that we had this exact conversation a month ago, that you asked me the same, exact questions and that I said I’d do it. And I have. Four jars, already packed in the car to bring along Saturday.”

Now, it would be bad enough if I’d just forgotten and if, the moment he reminded me I remembered our prior conversation. But the truth is, there wasn’t even a stirring of recollection. Nothing, and I admitted so to Peter.

“Well, dad, you are going to turn sixty in two months.”

It’s true, I am, and it’s also true that my memory is not as good as it used to be. You’ve read, or been told, of course, that brain cells are the only cells in the body that do not regenerate. These are called neurons and they’re defined as any of the impulse-conducting cells that constitute the brain, spinal column, and nerves, consisting of a nucleated cell body with one or more dendrites and a single axon. For over a hundred years now medical science has known that animals cannot reproduce neurons—what you get at birth is what you’ve got. Period.

Well, guess what. WRONG. It took an MIT ornithologist studying how parakeets process new songs in their little brains to learn, after a hundred years of myth, that, in fact, animals can and do generate new brain cells. This was just two years ago, and since then, other scientists have proven the same to be true in rats, then chimps, AND NOW HUMANS! My dear friends, all those billions of precious little neurons we squandered in our youth can be reclaimed. How parakeets do it is by learning new songs, that is, during increased mental activity. Learning new stuff is how to replenish brain cells, and that can only help in the battle to hang on to one’s memory. So here goes. Prepare to learn.

Did you know that, in order to gain the immense weight (fat) they must have for their sport, sumo wrestlers are not allowed to eat breakfast? It’s true, by not eating breakfast our metabolism rate is slowed, which means that the calories we take in from the rest of our daily meals are burned less efficiently and create more fat. Have you had your breakfast this morning?

Did you know that listening to bluegrass and other types of music engages nearly three times as much of our brain function than engaging in conversation? In his recent book, Musicophilia , Oliver Sacks, preeminent neurologist, writes that processing music….pitch, rhythm, harmony, etc… the most complicated task that the human brain is put to. I just finished reading this book and it’s a good one. Sachs describes dozens of cases in which music has been used to bring people’s memory back, help them gain control of their bodies after strokes, reignite entire sections of the brain. He writes of people with "amusia," to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans, to a man whose memory spans only seven seconds--for everything but music. During the Grass Menagerie’s regular gigs at the San Mateo General and Stanford psych wards I saw over and over the power of music in bringing people out of their shells. (Always wondered why the only gigs Bread and Roses ever booked us for was psych wards.)

Are you starting to feel those brain cells multiply?

Did you know that the slowest midnight to six a.m. day of the week on is Monday’s (and average of 600 to eight 800 hits) and the most active is Tuesday’s (this morning at six a.m. we’d already had 3,800 hits). Now why do you figure that is. Think about it. Ponder it. It can only help.

Okay, I’ve got to go. Continuing with my new rock wall today, but I’ll leave you with these brain expanding gems.

In the weightlessness of space a frozen pea will explode if it comes in contact with Pepsi.

The increased electricity used by modern appliances is causing a shift in the Earth's magnetic field. By the year 2327, the North Pole will be located in mid-Kansas, while the South Pole will be just off the coast of East Africa.

The idea for "tribbles" in "Star Trek" came from gerbils, since some gerbils are actually born pregnant.

Male rhesus monkeys often hang from tree branches by their amazing prehensile penises.

Johnny Plessey batted .331 for the Cleveland Spiders in 1891, even though he spent the entire season batting with a rolled-up, lacquered copy of the Toledo Post-Dispatch.

Smearing a small amount of dog feces on an insect bite will relieve the itching and swelling.

The Boeing 747 is capable of flying upside-down if it weren't for the fact that the wings would shear off when trying to roll it over.

The trucking company Elvis Presley worked at as a young man was owned by Frank Sinatra.

The only golf course on the island of Tonga has 15 holes, and there's no penalty if a monkey steals your golf ball.

Legislation passed during WWI making it illegal to say "gesundheit" to a sneezer was never repealed.

Manatees possess vocal chords which give them the ability to speak like humans, but don't do so because they have no ears with which to hear the sound.

SCUBA divers cannot pass gas at depths of 33 feet or below.

Catfish are the only animals that naturally have an ODD number of whiskers.

Replying more than 100 times to the same piece of spam e-mail will overwhelm the sender's system and interfere with their ability to send any more spam.
Posted:  11/20/2007

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