The Universe as Pizza Hut

September 2nd, 2015
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In yoga, my teacher made the funniest comment. She suggested that one way to manifest your dreams is to think of the Universe as Pizza Hut.

People want things, and sometimes those wants are complicated, which means there are emotional blockages that sabotage them from coming true.

But, she pondered, what if you treated your wish order the way you'd place a pizza order? State your request clearly, specifically, and just send it out to the powers that be to grant it.

Then wait, patiently, with the expectation that it will come. Don't doubt.

When the doorbell rings, don't pause to get a glass of water or dally in any other way. Just go answer the door and receive your order with gratitude.

It's a fun idea to mull over. I just hope I don't get confused when I order my pizza and accidentally ask the delivery guy to help me win the lottery.

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The Day of 48 Hands

August 31st, 2015
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In the cat's historic timeline, this shall be recorded as The Day of 48 Hands. Those hands belonged to 24 very eager third graders excited to meet Ocho.

Ocho, so peaceful in the morning before the event. No idea what's coming.

Ocho, so peaceful in the morning before the event. No idea what's coming.

Show & Tell time came around for Olivia, and she asked to bring the cat again. Every year the cat gets trotted out for a couple dozen children and every year, surprisingly, she hates it.

I figure it's her contribution to the family since everyone performs a function, and 364 other days a year her function is to look pretty and get fur and paw prints on our cars.

In the morning, Olivia fed the cat and confined her to a small space where I could find her when I got home from work. I felt a little guilty because the cat was happy to see me; purring, rubbing on my leg, and flopping around back and forth the way content felines will.

"You're such a good kitty," I cooed. "You're about to go to school to be shown and told about!" She can't say she wasn't warned.

I picked her up, put her in the crate and hauled her off to my car. If this were a war, this would be the part considered as troops massing on the border. Severe protesting from the backseat.

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In class, the children sat nicely while Olivia proudly talked about the cat and answered questions. She did a good job.

Then, the children went up to pet her one at a time with Gentle Hands. Of course, as with anything involving children, the rules were forgotten in the commotion and many hands covered all parts of the cat. Any furry part will do.

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Ocho tolerated it politely and realized it was futile to protest. She ended up sitting there with an uncomfortable look on her face but with no meowing coming out.

"I hate this."

"I hate this."

Oh, the kids were cute. They wanted to come up and tell me about their pets, or how much they love cats, or how they've never pet one before. A couple hugged me for bringing Ocho in.

When we came home, Ocho ran directly under the car to make herself invisible. That was the most stimulation she'll have or want for the next year.

Until it's time for fourth grade.

Maui Author and Environmentalist's New Books Recall Defining Era

August 28th, 2015
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You've likely seen the storefront for Snorkel Bob, Hawaii's largest reef outfitter, owned by Maui resident Robert Wintner, who lives in Kihei with family Anita, Cookie and Larry. You may not realize he's a Pulitzer-nominated author who recently produced two books: 1969 & Then Some, a Post 60s Grand Tour in Life-Defining Parable for Those Who Remember & Those Who Can't and Brainstorm.

Refreshing and original, Wintner recalls a defining era and personal evolution with 1969 & Then Some (Yucca Publishing, NY). While the 60s are often discounted as ephemeral or a social aberration, this recollection demonstrates lingering values guiding a most significant population group, the baby boomers- many of whom still hold sway in social and cultural evolution. The 60s marked history, for the first time challenging war as a concept.

Brainstorm is a first-person narrative of the author's navigation through cerebral aneurysm and hemorrhage. The riveting action includes the onslaught of trauma center protocol and denial of the patient and the medical industry. It's an interesting journey to see how he emerges from sudden collapse of physical, mental and emotional stability.

His 15 books include a Pulitzer nomination (In a Sweet Magnolia Time, Permanent Press, NY, 2005) and two movie options (The Modern Outlaws and Whirlaway—a Maui County Library Hot Pick for years).

For more information, visit http://www.robertwintner.com/books/

What Can Animals Teach Us About Kindness And Empathy?

August 26th, 2015
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While humans are capable of acts of cruelty, greed and deception, they also possess plenty of positive characteristics such as kindness, compassion, friendliness and empathy. But why? Are those better angels of our nature something nurtured in us by our parents, or do we arrive on the planet genetically predisposed for them?

It’s something scientists have puzzled over, and many of them may be finding answers not with human research but by concentrating on animals. “The idea that we could learn about kindness or compassion by studying animals might seem strange,” says Peter Schattner, a scientist and author of the book Sex, Love and DNA: What Molecular Biology Teaches Us About Being Human (www.peterschattner.com). “But since similar genes are often found in animals and people, what we learn from animals may well be relevant to understanding human behavior as well.”

Dogs are especially good species to study to learn about kindness, devotion and other pro-social traits because they have been genetically bred to display those traits, Schattner says. “Look at it this way,” he says. “Dogs are the result of an extended genetic ‘experiment’ carried out by humans to artificially select the very personality traits that we value in them.”

Another reason geneticists like to study dogs is that, as species go, they are relatively young. “Most scientists estimate people began breeding wolves for gentleness and tameness 15,000 to 30,000 years ago,” Schattner says. “Compare that to humans. We are believed to have diverged from chimpanzees, our closest living evolutionary relatives, about four million to nine million years ago.”

The time span is important because fewer DNA changes between dogs and wolves have had time to develop. That makes it easier – though not necessarily simple – to track genetic changes to determine what genes affect behaviors, Schattner says. Dogs aren’t the only animals scientists study that could help unlock clues about human traits and their genetic origins, Schattner says. Other examples include:

• Mice and friendliness. Scientists studying the biological origins of Williams Beuren syndrome are making progress with mice. The syndrome is a medical condition that has several traits, but one of the most striking is that people with this syndrome are unusually friendly, even toward strangers.

Scientists can engineer mice to have a similar chromosomal makeup as people with Williams Beuren syndrome. One result of this research so far is that, at least in mice, the friendliness associated with the syndrome appears to be linked to a single gene.

• Siberian silver foxes, gentleness and friendliness. Research on Siberian silver foxes began in what was then the Soviet Union in the 1950s in an area where local farmers raised the foxes for their fur. A Soviet geneticist began trying to breed a tamer fox that was easier for the farmers to handle. He did this by mating the tamest males with the tamest females.

Within four generations – and a silver fox generation is only about three to four years – the animals were showing signs of domestication. Over time, the researchers showed that gentleness and friendliness were genetic. “One result of all this is the foxes became so tame and adorable that allowing them to be killed for fur became difficult for the scientists,” Schattner says. “They began selling them as pets.”

• Rats and empathy. Perhaps one of the more surprising experiments involved rats. University of Chicago researchers placed two rats in a large cage. One rat was free to wander, but the other was trapped in a smaller cage within the cage. The trapped rat would cry out in alarm and, remarkably, the free rat would try to open the other rat’s cage, which was no easy task.

Even with no reward, three-fourths of the free rats in the experiment chose to open the trapped rat’s cage. “The results of these experiments were disturbing to people who believe that only we humans are capable of empathy and compassion,” Schattner says. Some scientists were still skeptical, saying the rats’ may have been pro-social, but didn’t necessarily demonstrate empathy or compassion.

Free Admission for National Park Service's 99th Birthday

August 25th, 2015
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Today is the National Park Service's 99th birthday, which also marks a free day of admission, so you and your family can visit any national park for free!

Parks are so much more than the majestic landscapes you might think of; they also protect and preserve our culture and history in urban areas and offer endless ways for families to get involved.

Here are 20 great ways to enjoy the national parks- what's on your list?

1                     Go climbing

2                     Write poetry

3                     Be an urban hiker

4                     Visit a National Heritage Area

5                     Dance

6                     Learn about climate change

7                     Discover a culture new to you

8                     Experience silence

9                     Walk through a doorway of a historic house

10                 Find inspiration in the story of a civil rights leader

11                 Go on a ranger-led tour #rangerspointingatthings

12                 Hug a tree

13                 Make a memory

14                 Earn a Jr. Ranger badge

15                 Relax on the banks of a scenic river

16                 Celebrate innovation

17                 Find life in a desert

18                 Get inspired by a First Lady

19                 Stand on a mountaintop

20                 Bring a kid to a park