Saturday, February 28, 2009

Doodle, doodle -- do

Are you one of those who was always getting in trouble in school for doodling during those boring lectures?  Do you often find yourself with pen in hand, sketching, while attending an endless meeting at work? 

Well, a new study in LiveScience says that this habit is actually good for you, and helps you retain MORE information during boring exchanges.  The study, conducted in England, involved 40 test subjects in a boring phone call (with lots of names  and places) -- half who doodled, half who didn't.  Guess what? The doodlers had 29 percent better recall of the facts than the non-doodlers. 

Explanation?  Doodling may keep you from drifting off into a daydream, says University of Plymouth psychology professor Jackie Andrade:  "Daydreaming distracts one from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple task, like doodling, may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task."

So go ahead, doodle away!  


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Update: Duty called, I answered


After 4 days of schlepping up to the county courthouse and sitting through the detailed, lengthy  voir dire process to pick a 13-person jury for a criminal trial, I was dismissed Tuesday just before lunch, along with 24 others in the pool.  Not one question had been directed at me all morning -- meaning they'd either chosen me already or ruled me out altogther.  

I'm happy to say it was the latter.  Not that I would want to shirk my civic duty; I've already served on two jury panels after all, and was glad of the experience both times.  But this trial, as I hinted previously, is sure to be a tough one.  That's because one of the charges is murder in the first degree, and much of the voir dire questioning concerned our attitudes about the death penalty -- meaning the State is likely to seek it should the defendant be found guilty of that charge.  And I was dreading the prospect of possibly having a man's life in my hands that way ...  

So, once again: Phew!!  

Monday, February 23, 2009

I told ya so!

So, the Oscars are over for one more year.  I watched the 3.5-hour telecast at home with a few friends.  I thought the show was actually an improvement over past years in several ways.  First: It seemed to move more quickly with the presenters tackling several categories, instead of the constant parade of introducers and presenters.  I also rather liked the gathering of five past winners in all the acting categories to bestow those awards. 

Hugh Jackman was an OK host; nothing horrible, nothing fantastic.  But I didn't care for the song-and-dance routines, which added at least 15 minutes of unnecessary time to the proceedings.  

I found this year's categories very easy to predict.  (I picked 14 out of the17 categories on the ballot I put together).  Yay for Sean Penn, Heath Ledger, Penelope Cruz.  Good for Kate Winslet, who won as much for her body of work as for The Reader.  Of course, the big winner, with eight awards, was Slumdog Millionnaire -- a film whose praises I sang loudly in a past blog (The disappearing magic of movies, Jan. 19.)   If you still haven't seen it -- no more excuses!  I'm sure it will be in theaters for a while longer, riding this win for at least a month.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

The call of duty

So, that dreaded little notice arrived in the mail a couple of months ago: the JURY SUMMONS.

Because I had just served last spring, I thought I would be excused.  I filled out the form accordingly, sent it back, and considered the matter settled.  Not so: Even though I was on the hook for two weeks in April, dutifully calling every evening to see whether they needed me the next day,  I never had to show up at the courthouse. Thus, they didn't consider it actually serving jury duty.  So, the nice guy who phoned to inform me of this fact helped me pick a new date --Thursday (Feb. 19)  -- on the advice that Thursdays are usually a very light day for trial scheduling. 


Just my luck: I got called to be in a large pool for a serious criminal case.  Two days of voir dire later, and they still haven't finished questioning us or choosing the final panel.  I have to go back Monday for more scrutiny.  However, if past experience is any indication, I'll be impanelled.  (I've been called for jury duty twice before, and got put on a jury both times.  Those attorneys, they love me!) 

In some ways, I don't mind and actually feel good about participating in this crucial civic duty. But in other ways, I'm dreading it -- for it's sure to be a very tough trial to have to sit through, let alone determine! 

I'll write more about this as I am able ....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When splurging is worth it ...

I've always felt that I get much more pleasure out of spending money on activities that involve other people, as opposed to spending money on things.

Not that I don't occasionally succumb to the lure of the retail store -- what red-blooded gal doesn't love getting a new pair of shoes or cute top every now and then?!?  In general, however, I'd much prefer to spend my discretionary funds (slight though they may be these days!) on dinner/movie dates, going to the local theater or art museum, or on travel and vacations -- that sort of thing.  I rarely feel guilty over this kind of splurge. 

Well, according to a recent story in the L.A. Times, I'm on the right track, for a new study confirms that it's exactly this kind of expenditure that provides the most satisfaction.  "People report a sense of feeling invigorated or inspired," says Ryan Howell, a scientist for the study. 

So, go ahead -- have dinner out. It'll be good for you! 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Heartbreaking news for chocoholics

I'm in love, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. 

I've blogged previously about my addiction to Dove Dark Chocolate Promises.  And I've managed to justify the cost of this indulgence though a combination of using coupons, looking for sales, and grabbing lower-priced packages when I find them (such as at discount stores).  I have two bags in my freezer right now, as a matter of fact. 

But my sweet days of plentiful Promises may soon be coming to an end.  That's because prices for chocolate are heading up -- way up, according to a story in Newser.  Chocolate makers have been holding the line on prices in this recessionary climate. But,  squeezed by rising costs for ingredients (mainly cocoa),  they are likely to hike prices after the Valentine's Day rush is over.  

My suggestion: Run out after the holiday and scoop up as much as you can of your favorite treats -- they may even be on sale!  

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The little blue wonder drug

Ever since Viagra hit the market, men of a certain age have been singing its praises for "pumping up" their love lives. The medication works by aiding blood flow to the genitals, thus helping men maintain an erection.

But doctors apparently are exploring how the pill might be applied in other medical scenarios, and they're coming up with several promising alternatives, reports These other uses include helping prevent amputations, delivering more blood to developing fetuses, easing symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and even helping travelers deal with jet lag.

Viagra isn't the only medication with multiple uses. The ABC story also lists several others, including Botox, which apparently can help people who suffer from an overproduction of tears, and also those with chronic pain; and Latisse, used by glaucoma sufferers to aid vision, but also quite useful in growing long, thick lashes.

Friday, February 6, 2009

25 MORE reasons to fritter away time

If you haven't already, I'm sure you'll soon be getting nudged via an e-mail or tagged on Facebook to participate in the "25 Things About Me" chain.  It's become such an overnight craze that even The New York Times has written a recent article about it. 

I myself was tagged by a Facebook friend over the weekend; and I diligently sat down and wrote 25 things about myself (which, as everyone says, is harder than it looks!). But then, while trying to attach a photo, I lost the entire entry, and could not recover it ... so, in sheer frustration, I wrote a quick note entitled "I tried, it didn't save, so I'm not f---ing typing it again!" 

And I'm sticking to my word on that.  Not so hundreds of millions of other people, apparently: I just did a Google search on "25 things about me," and 73,100,000 results popped up!

So, my question is, what are all those people NOT doing that they should be doing while they're engrossed in this exercise of uber-navel-gazing? Just askin' .... 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wash those cares away -- literally!

Got the blues? Or just the blahs? There's a lot of that going around.

Maybe it's the seasonal doldrums for those housebound souls living in colder climes. Or maybe you're just worn down by all the bad news in headlines and newscasts these days. Or maybe, like me, you're searching, in vain, for a job -- even as company after company announces massive layoffs. (Then, maybe you're worried sick about keeping your job!)

So, what to do?

Grab a mop, a broom, a featherduster -- and get to work shining up your place! Or, so the folks at RealAge advise in their weekly newsletter. Apparently, just 20 minutes of physical activity can bolster your mood and perk you up. Granted, that can certainly entail other activities (such as walking); but the housecleaning strategy has extra bonuses: You'll have an added sense of accomplishment -- and a neater house!

Monday, February 2, 2009

A "Super" time

I'm not really a huge football fan, to tell the truth. My mom is from Green Bay, so that makes me a defacto Packers fan -- sure, I'l l watch their games sometimes during the season, but it's by no means "appointment" TV for me (not so for sis and Mom!).

So, after the Packers (and the Favre-led Jets) got knocked out, and then this year's Super Bowl matchup came down to Pittsburgh and Arizona, I was all "ehhhhh" about the whole thing.

Then my friend Larry offered to host a Super Bowl party, and I was a bit more interested, because it's always fun to see such a big event in a convivial group setting-- plus be able to socialize AND munch on great food at the same time.

I was kind of rooting for underdogs Arizona, but I was mostly just hoping it would be a good game, and a good party.

On all counts: SCORE!! From the party (great group of people, good eats, a great party house -- thanks, Larry!), to the game itself (the very definition of "nail-biter!), to the commercials (funny, funny, funny!), to the half-time concert (The Boss is back!) ... it was a "Super" night all around!

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