Thursday, November 28, 2013

Baker's Dozen Thanksgiving Playlist

I've been very disappointed with the lack of Thanksgiving songs in the universe. I can think of about a billion Christmas songs off the top of my head, but not one Thanksgiving song! Songwriters of America, please remedy this. Preferably by next year, so I can sing new holiday songs as I'm stuffing myself with stuffing (and turkey, and cheesy potatoes, and corn, and green bean casserole, and pumpki... Ok, I'll stop.)

Here's my not-so-Thanksgiving playlist for this year:

Yes, starting the set with Gobbledigook was intentional. Hilarious? I thought so, too. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Learning To Be Thankful

Thanksgiving is a happy time of year. Have you ever thought about why? Sure, food is awesome and turkey boosts your brain's feel-good sensors, but that's not the only reason this time of year induces warm fuzzies. I think it's because we, as Americans, typically tend to spend more time in November focusing on the things we're thankful for. And that makes us happy.

It's easy to get bogged down by the one little thing that isn't going right when we have so much to be thankful for. It's because humans have this thing called a negativity bias. The negative parts of our lives tend to stand out to us; they're generally more memorable to us than positive experiences. (Some psychologists say we, as humans, need to have as many as 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction.) They consume more of our attention, and we spend more time and mental energy focusing on the negatives rather than the things we have to be grateful for.

Here's the good news: with a little mental energy, this can be remedied. Psychologists have found that consciously practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. If you're bummin' about that one little thing, or if you feel like you don't have much to be thankful for, reevaluate. Start small. Say thanks. Be happy.

Above is a small list of things I'm thankful for, in no particular order. I intentionally left my friends off this list because I wouldn't have enough space on the internet to list all the friendships I'm blessed by. And my mom. Love you, Mom!

1. Ink on paper
2. Travel
3. Home
4. Sunsets
5. Music
6. Fitz
7. Saturdays
8. Family
9. Blue Skies

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Truth About Fortune Cookies

The city I live in is on the map for about three reasons, one of which being the invention of cashew chicken. Springfieldians are pretty serious about their cashew. Like, if you publicly admit in the city of Springfield, MO that you do not enjoy the taste of cashew chicken, you may be tarred and feathered. I think that's written somewhere in the city bylaws.

Anyway, this post isn't about cashew chicken. It's about fortune cookies. As you know, fortune cookies are commonly served in Chinese restaurants. (By the way, Springfield has at least 72 of these. Holy fried rice, that is a lot.) This is what I learned about fortune cookies: They aren't even Chinese!

There is lots of hot debate on the origin of the fortune cookie, but the most common belief is that it originated in San Francisco in the early 1900's. Ironically enough, a Japanese-American is credited with the invention of the fortune cookie. At least that's what the Court of Historical Review ruled in San Francisco in 1983. (See, I told you it was a big deal.) That being said, fortune cookies are considered by the Chinese and the Japanese to be an American delicacy, like Twinkies or McDonald's apple pies. Who would have thought?!

Historically, fortune cookies were stuffed with proverbs or general statements; sayings by Confucius were often used. Since then, fortune cookie-makers have expanded their database of quotes. You never know what "fate" you're going to receive. In fact, this guy--Josh Madison--has kept a record of all the fortunes he's received in cookies since 2008. He certainly eats more Chinese food than I do. 

When I was in middle school, one of my friends told me there are three levels of fortune cookies.

Level 1: A general statement (e.g. "The weather is wonderful.")
Level 2: A general, yet predictive statement (e.g. "If your desires are not extravagant, they will be granted.")
The "you" in level 2 cookies is a general "you," not specific to the cookie consumer.
Level 3: A personal, predictive statement (e.g. "You have an active mind and a keen imagination.")
A statement that would not necessarily be true to any reader.

I haven't found any evidence for "levels of fortune cookies" to be true, but it seems right, so I'll believe it anyway. Plus, when you get a level 3 fortune cookie and classify it as such, it feels like you just beat a Chinese-food video game or something awesome like that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

TiK ToK: Circadian Rhythm and Winter Time

So, Daylight Savings Time happened a week ago, and I'm still trying to get used to it. Read: I totally understand why bears hibernate during the winter because when it's dark all the time, I want to sleep all the time. I already learned that increased exposure to sunlight can affect happiness, so whyyyy are we turnin' off the sky lights so early?!

It turns out, Daylight Savings Time usually creates more problems in the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep. However, changing the clocks in either season can significantly affect your circadian rhythm, and it can take some people up to 3 weeks to fully adjust to the measly 1-hour time change! Here's what I learned about circadian rhythm:

In humans, circadian rhythm is basically a natural biological process where the body repeats behavior on a daily basis. These natural processes (the sleep cycle, for example) can be adjusted to different zeitgebers. "Zeitgeber" is an angry-sounding German word for environmental cues that affect your biological clock. The most common and influential example is daylight, but temperature, exercise, and eating patterns can also be zeitgebers, too. 

Thus, it makes sense that people naturally are more sleepy in the winter at 5 pm when it becomes dark outside. The zeitgeber is pretty much telling your body "it's nighttime, so you should cuddle up in some cozy socks and fall asleep." However, indoor lighting does affect circadian rhythm. Good news! We can (somewhat) control it. So this winter, we'll all just have to leave the bright lights on so we don't spend our evenings snoozing off

But maybe I'll just close my eyes for 5 minutes... Zzz...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Illustrator Wendy Macnaughton

Recently, I stumbled upon the work of Wendy Macnaughton, an illustrator and graphic journalist based in San Francisco. She has an interesting body of work--some of her pieces make you laugh, some make you think. A few make you laugh first and think later, and a couple make you think first and laugh later.

Hierarchy of Needs, New York Times

Office Hours, Dell Tech Page One

Should I Check Email, Dell & Forbes

Things Happen, 20x200

Her illustrations have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, "and stuff like that."

Check out her website and her tumblr to see more of her work.