Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How Animals Talk

I met some very cuddly horses this week, and it got me thinking about their body language. Check out this TED video on Animal Communication.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What You Really Want to Know About Acupuncture

Who came up with the idea of acupuncture? Were they nuts or what?
It was conceived by intuition and refined over a couple thousand years. "Ha!" you might be thinking, "That is a total non-answer." Maybe not, though, because a lot of great things have come about that way (and I'm sure some really bad things, too). Sometimes you just get an urge to do something stupid and it all works out for the best. Imagine the first person to ski, or to eat lobster, or to bring a wolf pup home as a pet.
Or maybe Grandma tumbled out of the family cave and landed on a cactus, and to save her pride she insisted that she had done it on purpose. Maybe after her grandchildren pulled all the prickers out of her backside she thought, "That's funny, I feel young again." You never know.

Does it hurt?
No, it feels like a mild sunburn.

Why does it help?
They say it's about redirecting energy although it's possible that it's a placebo. If so, it still works, though, so there's really no downside.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Sense of Being Stared At

Everybody knows that staring is rude, but we sometimes do it anyway when someone truly fascinates us. But why is staring rude? Why are we unsettled when someone focuses too much attention on us? And why do our hackles raise ever so slightly when we feel a stranger staring at us, particularly in a seedy neighborhood?
And when we do surreptitiously stare at someone, why is it that so often they turn and look around as though they can sense it?
Biologist Rupert Sheldrake conducted scientific studies proving that we can all sense when we're being stared at. Not all the time, but often. Our bodies know it: our skin crawls.
That is because silent, focused attention is what a predator gives to its prey, before the attack.
The sense of being stared at is the sense of being hunted.
If you have spent time in the wild with animals, you may have noticed that if you focus breathlessly on them, the herd scatters, the bear rears up on its hind legs, the bird flits away.
But if you can make the proximity of that creature less important for you, if you can avert your eyes and let its presence be at the periphery of your attention rather than the focus, the animal settles and may accept your presence with equanimity.
Less focus means less threat.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How to Work Magic

"Look at me," the neighbor's golden retriever wags. "Aren't I wonderful?"
Yes, you are.
The dog has charm to spare. Beautiful and glossy and upbeat, he prances around wagging at people, other dogs, even squirrels. He's not particular. Confident in their admiration, he grins and waves around a conversation starter: a pull-toy or a gutter downspout.
This is how he casts his spell.
I know a charming man, too. He is almost as good-looking as the dog, and twice as smart.  People are drawn to his twinkly eyes and ready smile. He always says the right thing. He is famous for daring deeds and strength and skill. He is kind to everyone, even when they make asses of themselves trying to impress him. He makes them feel like sucking up is the right thing to do. Honorable, even.
The dog and the man have a lot in common: good looks and confidence in their appeal, and they give you something interesting to talk about. They are charming.
Charm draws people to you. It also makes them want to give you things like hugs and cookies and big money sponsorship deals.
Charm works on more than just people. It works on everything in the universe. Things could go one way or another, but they just seem to go your way. You don't have to beg. You don't have to threaten. You just smile and wag and nobody even gets mad about the chewed-up gutter downspout.
The term "charm" seems to imply trickery, but that's not how it works. Charm's true power is in its innocence. You just happen to be in love with yourself, and who could resist that?


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Bot Fly Larva

You know how sometimes you have a pimple or a boil or a bug bite (you're not sure what it is), but you know that it's no big deal and it will go away because you bathe regularly and live in a place like Colorado, an arid place where the bugs are pretty tame? We don't even have that many mosquitoes. It's not like Africa or Panama, where worms burrow into your skin and start eating you from the inside-out. Or so you thought.
Because it could be a bot fly larva. It turns out they live in Colorado, too. Apparently, this is not a new thing.
Knowing what a bot fly looks like won't save you. They have other insects infest you for them while they fly around looking innocent. Bot flies stash their eggs under the armpits of ordinary house flies. I'm not sure whether they do this by force or by trickery. Maybe it's like when a stranger at the airport asks to stash their socks in your carry-on.
Then the house fly circles over and lands on somebody nice and warm. Usually it's a deer or a rabbit. In my case it was a poodle. But it could be you.
Immediately, the bot fly egg hatches and drops off. It's called a larva now, and it has teeth! It chews its way under your skin, where it feeds on your fat and pus (yes, pus. After all, it is uncomfortable, but you thought it was just a regular bug bite).
So the larva grows up cradled in the warmth of your skin, munching on you and getting fat, and every once in a while it shifts position, sending electric shocks through you, and...what the hell??
So you go to the doctor, who squeezes your (now enormous) pimple/boil/bug bite, and out, out, not pus. It is a fat, inch-long, fanged bot fly larva.
Remember that movie Dune? It's like that, but smaller and in your skin.
Not that you should be paranoid or anything.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Yes, I am a Superhero

In the open space where I walk the dogs daily, a Rubbermaid bin is hidden in the tall grass behind a tree. I am sure it is meth lab waste, because what else would it be? Geez, it's not like I'm leaping to conclusions.
Surely it is a sign that our neighborhood is falling into ruin. Evil forces are at work. Somebody must take action. Should I call the police?
Weeks pass. Sun and rain and wildlife do their work. Pieces of bin scatter along the path.
I picture dangerous chemicals leeching into the creek. Children poisoned. Something must be done, but that will require planning. And safety goggles, probably. More weeks pass. I do nothing, and am racked with guilt.
Until one day like any other I decide that I can't take it any more. Tying up the dogs, I step off the path. I creep toward the shattered box. The forest holds its breath. I put thoughts of nerve damage out of mind. Will there be needles? Broken glass?
I am willing to face danger to do good. Like a superhero, except that my wardrobe is more T.J. Maxx than Cirque du Soleil. I really build myself up.
And when I part the branches I find the remnants of the bin and...wait a minute...a bird house? Splintered walls, gingerbread trim, tiny shingles smashed into the grass. And an empty bird seed bag.
So much for heroics.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How to Prove You're a Scaredy-Cat

It's hip to be scared these days, and I don't blame you for wanting to get in on the trend, so I've got some suggestions. If you want to look weak and terrified, there are several things you can do:
1. Harden your heart. Remember, you are too weak to help others. Instead, sneer at their misfortunes. This will make the superiority of your position obvious.
2. Control, control, control. It is important to control everyone around you, because if you can't be happy, they shouldn't either.
3. You've got to pack heat. Nothing says, "I'm about to pee my pants" like a gun in your hip holster at the grocery store.
4. Shoot at shadows in the dark. Most likely they are your family members, but you've got a reputation to uphold and that is more important.
5. Be as rude as you can in hopes that strangers will go away. They are probably scary and mean, and that should make you tremble.
6. Put up a big fence and signs that say "Keep Out". This makes your home easier to identify.
7. Paranoia is a must-have, but you should know that already. Start looking for threats! Especially beware of anyone who laughs. They are probably laughing at you.
If all of this seems too exhausting, maybe you're not as fearful as you thought. Maybe you are actually powerful.
Bummer for you, because you're never going to fit in.