Monthly Archives: January 2014

Does Your Dog Love You?

All you dog owners know the answer to this question without having scientific proof, right? You love your pet unconditionally and you just “know” they feel the same. Or are we just projecting our human emotions like love and empathy onto our pets? Are they really just instinctual creatures that care only about food and survival?

One researcher set out to answer this question and came to the conclusion that yes, dogs do feel emotions like love.

by Noel Zia Lee, Wikimedia

by Noel Zia Lee, Wikimedia

Dr. Gregory Berns, Professor of Neuroeconomics at Emory University trained a dozen dogs to sit still in an MRI machine. These first-ever brain scans of non-sedated dogs allowed us to see what actually happened in the dogs brain when they were given scents of their humans. What they saw was the activity in the dog’s caudate brain region increased.

So, what exactly is the caudate region (shown above)?

Well, it’s a region that’s responsible for learning and memory deep in the brain, below conscious awareness. In humans, it lights up in anticipation of things we enjoy, such as food, love and money.

Obviously human brains are much more complex than dog brains with a more complicated network of parts, chemicals and reactions. And we have many different types of love that affect different parts of our brain: maternal love, romantic love, companion love, passionate love.

So which type of love makes the caudate light up in humans? Researchers found the caudate was especially active in people who scored highly on a questionnaire measuring passionate love.

Also, along with other parts of the brain, the caudate lights up in response to photos of their beloved in people who are “intensely in love.”

So, can we conclude that dogs are feeling intense, passionate love?

I don’t know, but I think it’s safe to assume that they are feeling something. Maybe not in the same way, with the same chemical cocktail, but they obviously do have feelings. Whether we call them love, passion, devotion, empathy… those are just labels. What’s important is that they are feeling something.

No, they don’t have the brain capacity to write us love poems. But, they do have the brain capacity to to be happy when we walk in the room, to stay near us when we’re sad or sick, and to give us affection.

Isn’t this the behavior of love?

Fine Dining, Mashup Style

During these long winter months, a lot of folks enjoy getting together for meals and entertainment.  So let’s take a look at the subject of:

 Fine Dining

And this isn’t just your ordinary survey of tips and recipes, oh no.  Today we have two mavens of fine dining, together in a way only possible through the wonders of the internet.

The first is Mrs. Isabella Beeton, famous 19th century domestic expert and author of The Book of Household Management (1868).  According to Mrs. B:

“Man, it has been said, is a dining animal.  Creatures of the inferior races eat and drink: only man dines.”

We’re also lucky to have none other than the ultimate domestic diva of our day and age, Martha Stewart.  What does Martha have to say about dining?


martha stewart2

 

 

“It appears on that mental list from childhood of ‘things grown-ups do’: Throw a dinner party.”




Since we all want to be both civilized (Mrs. Beeton) and grown-ups (Martha Stewart), we’ll benefit from consulting both ladies.

That means…it’s mashup time!  Isabella vs. Martha.  I’ve volunteered to moderate.  (Wish me luck.)

 

KBO: So, ladies, thanks for joining me today, to help our readers understand the important elements of fine dining.

IB: I’ve been here already, dear.  Remember last year?  My advice about the nursery?

MS: *sniffs* Your readers should skip this malarkey and just read my blog.  It’s far superior.

IB: What’s a blog?

KBO: But you’ve never had Mrs. Beeton on your blog, have you, Martha?  You weren’t even a gleam in your daddy’s eye when she was giving her household tips.  Have you given pointers on how to truss a fowl or make butter?

MS: Yes, I have.

KBO: Oh, right, I forgot. *blush* Well, you don’t know how to slaughter an ox, do you?  Tell her, Mrs. B.

IB:

 

MS: …stop right there, lady.  I’m having filet mignon tonight.  You’ve made your point.

KBO: Now, on to those dining tips.  Which do you think is more important, the menu or the setting/decor?

IB: We have sighed over many a dinner where the offerings were irreproachable, and might have been enjoyable, but turned out to be quite the contrary.  One must have all of the elements in place, including congenial company.

MS: I so agree with you, Isabella.  Decor, food, music, timing, the conduct of the hostess – all my “good things.”

KBO: Glad to see we have a consensus.  Let’s start with table decorations.  What sort of table setting would you recommend?

IB: We can imagine no household duty more attractive to the ladies of the house than that of making their tables beautiful with the exquisite floral produce of the different seasons.  Here’s an illustration from my book:

 

KBO: Hmm…looks like a ceremonial ring in a tiki village.  Not sure that works for me.  What do you think, Martha?

MS: Guests should be able to see each other, Isabella.  Now, my recent creation doesn’t have that problem: this ring of blossoms seems to float in the air, with globes of tea lights dangling in airy whimsicality. It’s sure to impart a cheerful radiance to any party.

Image by Kristen Ausk, via Flickr (in other words, not Martha).

Image by Kristen Ausk, via Flickr (in other words, not Martha).

KBO: Martha, how do you get that thing to stay up? It certainly looks pretty, though swaying tea lights at my house are sure to cause trouble…as in lighting people’s hair on fire.

MS: The instructions are on my website. Of course, you’ll need a blow torch and welder’s face mask, but what serious crafter doesn’t already possess these basic tools?

KBO:  And what is that shadow I see in the background? Looks like a mushroom cloud.

MS:  Merely an unfortunate photographic angle. I have taken the camera person in question under my wing.

KBO:  Mrs. Beeton, you’ve been rather quiet.

IB: *pouts* You didn’t say we could use colour.

KBO: Not to worry, yours is lovely, even in black and white.

IB: Thank you, dear.

Food

KBO: Okay, it’s time for round two: the food.  But first, some ground rules: no descriptions of how to slaughter an ox, and no complaints about black-and-white vs. color.

IB: But that’s not fair – she’s wearing a fetching onyx-and-gold blouse, and you can’t even tell what colour I have on.

KBO: Find me a color picture, and I’ll put it up.

MS: Was there even color in the 19th century?

IB: What an absurd question!  And it’s colour, dear, not color.

MS: Sounds the same to me.  You British don’t know how to spell anything properly. Like gaol, for instance.

KBO: I think we’re getting a bit off-topic here.  Readers have better things to do than to listen to you two sniping at each other.  Like getting a tooth drilled.  Let’s get back to the menu.  Mrs. Beeton?

 IB: It’s all in my book:

KBO: Hmm.  If we’re going by that rule in my house, that leaves out everything but Easy Mac and Cheerios.  Martha, you’re both the cook and hostess for your dinner parties.  What would you recommend?

MS and IB: What’s Easy Mac ?

KBO: Well, it’s sort of like pasta…

MS: Never mind; I don’t want to know.  You can do better.  With all of our modern conveniences, we 21st century women can do it all!

Image by Michael Bennett, via wikimedia. Not really Martha's.

Image by Michael Bennett, via wikimedia. Not really Martha’s.

KBO: …but, Easy Mac is a modern convenience…

MS: You know what I mean.  Now, here’s something you can cook:

KBO: Looks yummy.

MS: Roasting chicken atop a layer of shallots infuses the meat with their flavor; further, the shallots carmelize as they cook. Baby new potatoes and fresh broccoli from one’s summer garden are lightly steamed, and a demi-glace is drizzled on top for an artful presentation.

KBO: If I could serve it with a side of your verbs and adjectives, I just might be able to pull it off.  I suspect, though, that my house would be “infused” with the smell of burnt onions instead.

MS: Well, we only have so much to work with, don’t we?

IB: Poultry is an excellent suggestion, Martha.  Ooh, wait!  I have a colour picture of my poultry dish and other meat suggestions:

KBO: Mrs. B, how could you?  You killed Thumper. My guests would run screaming from that.  We don’t serve meat dishes with head and feet still attached anymore, unless it’s a luau.

IB: Who’s Thumper?

KBO: *sigh* Well, ladies, that’s all we have time for today! Thank you for sharing your expertise with us.  I know I’ve learned a lot today.  Good luck with your future endeavors.

MS: Can I go back to my real life now?

IB: That’s a little hard for me to do, dear – remember?  I’m dead.

KBO: Oh, yes, how silly of me.

So, as we part ways with Isabella and Martha, why not share your dinner party successes and failures? (I really did have a *small* fire at one – well, maybe two – of my celebrations). How elaborate do your centerpieces get when you host a party? How recognizable should our meat sources be when we serve them?  I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,
Kathy

 

cover art by Melinda VanLone

cover art by Melinda VanLone

P.S. – join me on my blog tour (starting next week) to launch my new mystery, Unseemly Pursuits!  The book is the second in the Concordia Wells series.

Click here for the schedule, along with details on the giveaways!

 

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature, and the author of the Concordia Wells mysteries. She is currently raising three boys and working on Books 3 and 4 in the series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Happiness is an Inside Job

Happy New Year 2014

(photo by Sridhar Gutam, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)

The beginning of a new year is a time to look at where we’ve been over the last twelve months, and where we’re going during the next twelve. Was 2013 a good year? Were we happy? If not, what will we do differently in 2014?

Because happiness is the bottom line!

During my career as a psychotherapist I saw far too many people who were waiting to live, waiting to be happy, until they had achieved a certain goal. “Once I make X amount of money/become vice president of my company/raise brilliant, well-adjusted kids, etc. then I can be happy.” But life is not just about the final destination when we’ve achieved our goals; it’s also about the journey.

Those years of helping others figure out why they were unhappy and what they needed to do about it taught me that happiness is an inside job. Don’t get me wrong. Achieving our goals, obtaining a certain level of success–in whatever way we define it–is important too. But that alone will not make one happy.

The happiness or unhappiness caused by external things is fleeting. Ongoing happiness comes from within and is strongly influenced by two things. One is self-esteem–whether or not we feel worthy of being happy. This is a big topic that I plan to talk about more on this blog during the coming year.

But today I want to focus on the other factor–taking responsibility for our own happiness and making a point of  doing what we want to be doing on a daily basis. This is the one that was out of kilter in my life in 2013

pciture of a happy man

(photo by Geo Pradeep–self-portrait of a happy man)

I used to be really good about stopping every few hours and asking myself what I really wanted to be doing at that point in time. Note: I am not advocating shirking one’s responsibilities. What I ‘had’ to do was always factored in there, but I would try to balance it with periods of time each day when I was doing what I really wanted to be doing, i.e., what made me happy in that moment.

Another way of putting all this is that while we need to plan for and work toward our future goals, we also need to live in the present. But in 2013, I got caught up in living for the future. I kept thinking that if I could just work really hard today, I’d get enough of the pesky ‘haftas’ out of the way that I could have fun tomorrow. Sadly, the next day would have it’s own list of pesky ‘haftas’ and I’d find myself working long and hard again that day, and the next day and the next.

As 2013 was winding down and I finally got a major goal accomplished, it dawned on me that I’d spent an entire year of my life waiting to be happy. I know better!

Last year, I made a New Year’s resolution that I’d do a better job of time management, so I would have adequate time to write and edit–the parts of my job as an author that I really enjoy. I was fairly successful at doing that. I finished a novel and a short story, got both polished and published, and wrote the first draft of a novella. However, I worked 12 to15-hour days, 6 to 7 days a week to do it. I was so focused on the goals I’d set for myself in my writing career that I stopped focusing on being happy.

So this year I’m going to back off a bit on those goals. They’re still important and I’ll get them done. But I’m not going to be able to hustle for a few days or weeks or even months and get them all done and then I can relax and be happy. There will always be a new list of ‘haftas’ related to those goals, so I need to take some time to be happy, to stop and smell the roses more often along the way.

This year’s resolution: focus on one goal at a time, spend a reasonable amount of time each week working toward that goal, and every day spend some time doing exactly what I want to do that will make me happy that day.

picute of a rose

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES!!

There’s a reason why sayings like “today is the first day of the rest of your life” and “stop and smell the roses” have become clichés.There’s truth in them.

How about you? What are you going to do this next year of the rest of your life to make yourself happy? What’s your favorite way to ‘stop and smell the roses’ along the way?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)