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Archive for the ‘Lifestyle & Travel’ Category

The Trail of ‘Dog Days’ 

It’s early August, well into the ‘dog days of summer’, a period considered to start early in July and run through the first third of this month.

The expression comes from long roots in history, attributed to the ancient Romans.  They associated the hottest, most humid days of summer with Sirius, the ‘dog star’, leading to the adage of ‘dog days’.

As many world citizens can attest, we are collectively enduring records’ challenging levels of dog days reality this year.

Yours truly, in eastern Canada, cannot recall as oppressive a month of July as we have just concluded.  Of course, there are those on the public airwaves – often spouting comfortably in air-conditioned surroundings – who tut, tut any suggestion of complaining about the intense heat, as though it would be ingratitude for the temperature swing from the depths of winter.  However, even they, if pressed, will concede the extent of this weather extreme is more debilitating in the dog day weeks.

Which gives one pause to reflect on the legitimacy of continuing to put the weight of the seasonal weather on the backs of dogs.

Many are the reasons why, and circumstances where, the expression ‘dog is man’s best friend’ (of course, man equating to people) applies.  So, if that’s the case, perhaps it’s time to modernize the Romans’ context.  Considering how popular is fantasy-based entertainment, and its surrounding culture, with the rise in weather severity perhaps we could recognize ‘Jurassic days’ or ‘Medieval Knightly days’ of summer.  To someone unaware of the original catch-phrase, it might be easier to connect the sentiment.  Meanwhile, we could just leave ‘dog days’ to represent kindler, gentler times, such as longer, more leisurely evening walks with the family wet-nosed companion.

There don’t seem to be expressions coverings parts of other seasons which are as ingrained as summer’s ‘dog days’.  What could qualify as comparable descriptions applying to slices of spring, autumn, or winter?

If we keep to the theme of fauna, ‘bear days’ could apply to any of them: coming out of hibernation in the spring, going back to hibernation in the fall, and the ‘bear’ of cold, mid-winter weather.  Of course, only one season should adopt and bear this moniker.

Other candidates could include:

  • ‘bird’s nest days of spring’
  • ‘pigeon dropping days of spring’
  • ‘wild turkey times of fall’
  • ‘frog croaking days of autumn’
  • ‘white hare raising days of winter’
  • ‘wolf call nights of winter’

So, then, where does the crusading trail of ‘dog days’ take us?

Should we follow wherever the days go with a sense of destination, as in the times of pioneers?

Or, should we remove the leashes and collars, and look for new ways to express calendar milestones related to Mother Nature, replete with her increasingly dramatic, atmospheric powers?

If we have time to ponder optional expressions, we should look for other ways to engage our time.  Even if creativity wilts under the heat of the dog days of summer.

A la prochaine fois…

SLEEP ON IT

If the average person was asked what trace mineral in the body…

  • Is found in muscles, eyes, the brain, and other major parts of the body
  • Plus, helps regulate our body’s immune response, and is essential to brain development
  • Plus, helps promote sleep
  • And, is the second most common trace element in the human body

…probably not many would confidently answer, zinc.

An article in the current edition of Psychology Today discusses some of these various contributing factors, which make the presence of zinc in the body so vital, including normal growth development; but it is the mineral’s contribution to positive sleeping experience which dominates the commentary.

Perhaps most notably, while not the trigger for sleep, “…adequate levels of zinc in the blood shorten the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency), increase the amount of overall sleep, and assure sleep quality and efficiency”.  The conclusion of researchers is that “…once a certain blood level of zinc is reached, it crosses into the brain and activates signaling pathways to promote sleep”.

Zinc enters the body through supplements or certain foods.  The latter is a tricky issue of limited access and palate: the main sources of high levels of zinc include oysters, red meat, and wheat germ.  These are non-synergistic for many from a lifestyle perspective.

Perhaps it would be helpful to explore other, non-elemental options for inducing sleep, such as:

  • Acts of fellow citizens which can induce one’s desire to escape wakefulness; an example is a case this week in Ontario of a woman wanting to take a barber of nearly 50 years experience to a human rights tribunal over his refusal to cut her hair, something he has never felt comfortable with doing for a woman in his shop (note: many women strongly support his position)
  • Binge watching formulaic reality or crime shows
  • Counting the number of times the same commercial appears in the same episode
  • Waiting for politically motivated promises or assurances to actually take place
  • Recalling episodes, in real time, of filtering through political pontificating
  • Recalling episodes, in real time, of holding on the phone for customer service
  • Reliving the exasperation in trying to get what you wanted when you reach customer service

Certainly there are many more examples to be had.  All one has to do is to sleep on them.

Insightful(?) Dichotomies

A brief article in the August issue of Psychology Today looks at the current state of affairs of personality tests.

The inconsistency of some of their standards has given rise to doubting the value of results.  Indeed, popular ‘Temperament Sorter’ and ‘Type Indicator’ programs include undesirable features such as “ambiguous language and false dichotomies”.

For example, one question asks the test taker if it feels better to have one’s head in the clouds or to feel like one’s in a rut?  Such questions are likely to trigger uncertainty in how to respond, especially given the alternative meta-meanings of each; although in this particular case, the answer might be affected by whether one is looking up or looking down when considering it.

Many participants do feel that legitimate probing can be valuable; moreover, rating questions as having higher difficulty tends to connect them “with greater perceptions of depth”.

However, challenging does not equate with enlightening: a ‘type indicator’ can result in different personality categories each time such a test is taken.

Assessments which focus on major traits are likely to reveal that aspects such as agreeableness or extraversion come in degrees, not packable absolutes.  It’s the consistency of scores when participants retest which conveys more meaningful revelations.

Given some of the volatility in current societal relationships and expectations, there are no doubt many other paradoxical comparisons one could construct to generate insight…

  • Which is worse, driving on the wrong side of the road or yelling out one’s window in the middle of traffic?
  • Are politicians who lie as expected better than those who lie unexpectedly?
  • Is corruption involving safety worse than corruption involving the pubic purse?
  • Is refusing to help a long-time neighbour worse than refusing to give to charity?
  • Is it better to lead by example or follow with fortitude?
  • Which is worse, a broken fingernail or a broken toenail?
  • Is it easier to handle raining on your parade or dealing with a flat tire?
  • Is a salesperson who omits information to help close a deal worse than a developer who derails information which would stop a deal?
  • Is it better to come to aid a stranger in an emergency or to babysit for an in-law in distress?
  • Is it better to confront a bully at a beach or at a playground?
  • Should one feel right to leave no tip, or is it better to ask for additional free helpings?
  • Are there smarter rules for recycling or for obtaining a driver’s license?

What is More Fun than Hot & Humid Weather?

It’s early July, and the times (i.e. morning and night), they’re only limited respites from hot and humid.

What could be more fun?  According to some pundits in the media in Canada, we should be grateful for whatever we get, because it’s much better than the cold of mid-winter.  Indeed, they consider the extremely uncomfortable conditions in eastern Canada this past week, outside the protection of air-conditioning, are simply part of the price to pay. (more…)

Where Can I Get a GPS Tattoo?

We have become party to a panoply of leisure travel destinations, embellished by baby boomers entering the retirement lifestyle mode in ever-greater numbers.  With this comes the need to satisfy an ever-widening array of interests or concerns, while communicating with a range of cultures.

There is an abundance of information in both printed and on-line forms, not to mention anecdotal tips one may encounter.  Books in full size to pocket size offer flexibility and quick access for travelers on the move, who do not want to be dependent on connecting devices.  (Of course, many younger trip takers prefer the latter.) (more…)

Reserved Seating Not Needed Here

Our most recent taking in a movie, at our local cinema house, exposed a new wrinkle in the ticket buying experience.  Notwithstanding that my spouse and I were attending a less than half-filled show in the afternoon, we had to select our seats in advance, like choosing concert or airline tickets on a laptop screen.

Apparently, this has become de rigueur at least at some local screens in the last month or so.  One would have thought some warning or notification, if only for public relations sake, would have been justified. (more…)

Facing New Developments

Many of us have memories about tracts of land encountered over the years.  They looked natural, bucolic, perhaps even dreamy – largely because they were undeveloped.

Numerous city boundaries are examples of once-upon-a-time urban/rural landscape divides, where, subsequently, developments have caused diffusion of transition points; the ripple impact keeps expanding, so as to permanently blur any clear sense of dividing lines. (more…)