Brain gym

This Google Talk is presented by Dr. Michael Merzenich. It is about the plasticity of the brain, brain development and aging. Training programs for adults, strategies, exercises, etc. Training programs for children, and Merzenich’s blog about the subject. The presentation itself is 60min long, but followed by 30min of interesting questions and explanations, so stick around to the end (in fact the last 30min are probably worth the most). Some of the advices given are about broad engagement and exercising the brain on multiple levels and in various ways. Stress and focus on everyday activities that may engage brain and multiple cognitive and sensual aspects, re-connect to the real-world and pay much more attention to details and try to avoid abstractions and generalisations. Pick up a musical instrument classes, or learn a new language. Be more attentive, and aware of the surroundings and details of the reality around. Reconnect to the immediacy of life around.
The activities can be new, and can be old and already mastered, but in that case the work needs to be done on the cutting edge, must engage new areas and force thinking and new ways of rewarding. Any activity that can be done on auto-pilot mode, even if really advanced and done above average, will have little impact on the learning abilities of the barin.

This leading edge research in many ways relates back to the “beginners” concept of Zen, and to the “no generalisations” rule, and “immersing in reality” or being constantly real. Seems as if humanity knew most if not all of it on certain level before, and expressed it all through a system of rules and guidance and behavioural patterns that maximised the quality of life that the research and the scientific learning programs are trying to re-establish.

In-flight films.

I have loved you so long (2008) – France/Germany. A superb film about two sisters. They meet and start living together after the older one finishes her 15 years long prison sentence for killing her 6 year old son. Beautifully shot, a psychological study of a personal tragedy and recovery, social links, family life, and the importance of love and understanding and close personal relationships that exist between people – whether they realise it or not.

Black book (2006) – Dutch production. A story about Dutch resistance group during WWII. Good portrait of good and evil on both sides of the front lines. The difficulty in distinguishing and judging heroes from people abusing their position for greed and power. Really good film, with personal stories and tragedies accompanying the big ones of the war.

Cafe Isobe (2008) – japanese production. A story of divorced father and his daughter, setting up a cafe place in a Japanese city. The cafe does not prosper well and attracts weird visitors. New waitress, Motoko, introduces a new dimension and the father falls in love. The love story does not have a typical sad or happy ending. A rather existential portrait of a typical life with ups and down, desire to be loved and difficulty with normal daily routines.

Hotel Rwanda (2004) – based on true story, about hotel owner trying to save as many Tutsi refugees as possibly, while maintaining himself and his own family alive.

Christchurch – Singapore – Frankfurt – Berlin

Started the trip early Monday morning. Ula and Celina helped to get me there ready and on time. Not having much sleep few days before the trip was not helping with the concentration but managed to sort out everything for the trip (with the exception of getting cash – will need to live off credit card throughout the trip). Christchurch, quick, jumping into the plane and off to Singapore. Boeing 747-400, well equipped. Not many people travelling, 3 seats all for myself. Reading a bit, sleeping a bit, and watching movies. I’ll write about movies on another post. The vegetarian (well, vegan in fact) meals in Singapore airlines are superb. Singapore – hot. My not-reliable-thermometer was showing above +30C throughout. The turist board of Singapore (partially funded by the government) setup a network of free bus rides to town – excellent. Fatching a ride to newly opened, largest in the world Flyer (a giant wheel with viewing cubicles attached). 25 Singapore dollars per 30min ride. It looks extremely ugly, and I’m not sure why exactly I’m taking part in this scam. They are building a giant casino complex next to it – another ugliness that will mold into the landscape. Joining in into this madness. The views from the glassy room pretty nice – the highest point over 150m high – quite ok views over the city and harbours – getting dark. Although not much of a sunset, due to clouds and smog I guess. The city looks much busier and more dense the last time we were there with Ula. Lots of traffic, multi-level highways, and all that. Giant shopping malls – the biggest has over 400 shops. Fetching the free bus back to the Changi airport. The travel guides are nice throughout and chat easily. Meeting a businessman from Christchurch, travelling to Korea for holidays. Charging the laptop in the laptop point on the airport. Wired internet rocks there. Going to board. 747-400 again, this time pretty packed. Traveling with Portuguese couple from Sydney. Sleeping most of the flight – there is no entertainment and two meals just after take off and before landing are divide by a long stretch of darken lights and enforced sleeping time – Lufthansa knows that sleep is essential (and cheapest) form of filling passengers the long 13hours of flight. Frankfurt – everyone smokes here. Need to rush – I have only 1 hour between the flight to Berlin. Took wrong exit and need to go through security checks again. Need to drink up the water from the bottle. No drinking stations anywhere in sight. Flight to Berlin full of business people, and some Poles.Berlin – cathing the bus to the hotel, checkin but not able to go to the room – must go cruising in town.

Berlin. Autumn, Lots of leaves everywhere. Smog and cigarette smokes levels noticably higher than I got used to. But my body seems to remember the usual “european city smells” and as always, a giant rush of happiness goes through – feeling home (as weird as it may be). Going to all the famous places – on foot – covering probably over 20km in few hours. The Brandenburgen Tor makes quite an impression. With the russian tanks near by – reminds me of the tanks in my hometown too. Seems it was a common theme for Soviets to leave behind those relicts and monuments. Raum der Stille – my ears hum the noise of city for several minutes before I can settle for really quite contemplation. Enjoying my time with this city. With its history and tragedies.

Back early afternoon. Tried to do shopping in nearby Lidl, but they do not accept VISA. A major setback. Hotel is nice, with free internet – what else I may need? ;o) Working and being quite productive. After the walk I’m surprised how much I can still my mind. The week of the detox diet was pretty harsh on concentration – but now it seems all be back to normal again, or even, I can see quite an improvement in fact.

On religions and rituals

All religions similarily to mythologies are ultimately like fairy tales: completely fake, but containing a message, or theme. Fairy tailes for adults. Created by the brightest minds of their times, not to deceive, but rather to educate and to reinforce certain behaviours and certain rituals, that help humans to achieve the higher state of mind. The balance in life and a deep sense of well-being. Buddhism writings state that most of the stories told are in fact not true – they are told only to demonstrate a certain message hidden in a parable or to inflict a particular perspective or approach to certain situations. Perhaps those bright minds that created the worlds most celebrated religions used the same metaphors and parables for their own understanding too. There is many factors that must have contributed to this.

People on both side, those atheists who actively fight religious believes and those religious fundamentalists that argue existance of gods are all completely missing the point. The whole point is not about gods, or heaven/hell, or fairy tales, or even individual believes. The whole thing is ultimately about human behaviour. No matter what one believes in, no matter what drives people, ultimately, what counts is one’s behaviour. Day to day activities. The routines, decisions, choices. The rituals.

Did other cults and rituals existed throughout the centuries that competed with those currently known, in a giant evolutionary-like struggle, and only the most successful and most valuable rituals survived? Or were all the main religions rather a product of a single bright mind, that could overlook into the future and propose a set of rules that ultimately leads people to the state of happiness? It would require a thorough study, which I hope someone has already done.

Coming back to rituals – One of such rituals is fasting. It exists in various forms but consistently re-appears in all religions. The process of going back to the very basic and simple diatery schedule, for certain amount of time, to re-adjust the body back to the initial state. The process of cleansing and resetting the habits.

Same as the periods of growth in economy are separated by sharp depressions and market re-adjustments, the same rule apply to our bodies and our needs and desires. After a period of “up”, we need the re-adjustment, so that we can continue the “up” curve. Without the re-adjustment, the curve will eventually flatten out, leading to major problems.

Pierwszy raz na basenie

Bylam dzis po raz pierwszy na basenie! Bylo super, bardzo mi sie podobalo, choc basen, dzieci i woda troszke mnie oszolomily. Tato i mama bawili sie ze mna, i na zmiane opiekowali sie mna albo Emilka. Rozne szybko – co prawda nie potrafie jeszcze sama siedziec, ale jestem bardzo ciekawska, duzo gaworze i uwielbiam bawic sie z moja starsza siostra.