Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pictures of the High Rocks at Ralph Stover Park

Here's a link to the
Pictures of the Rocks I climbed

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The God of small things: 7-11 signs

I have just started to notice that 7-11 signs are not flat painted 7-11 on a white background but are actually colored shapes that make up the 7-11..That the orange and red are actually shapes that rest on a white background and the the "ELEVEN" letters are raised plastic above the white.

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My Eyes are Changing-- Maybe I am No Longer Farsighted

SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 15:  A woman tries on ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
I think my eyes are changing.  I was trying to read my Kindle this morning and I noticed that there is only a two inch difference in the distance that I hold the Kindle when I am wearing my glasses as opposed to when I am not.  There used to be about a good six to eight inch difference between wearing glasses and not.

Let me back up and tell you the history of my eyes.  I got diagnosed with near sightedness with astigmatism in my right eye at the age of seven during one of the standard eye screenings of elementary school.  I was quite mortified at the thought of being less than physically whole and cried and cried.  My parents took me off to the optometrist and outfitted me with a pair of cats-eye, tortoise rimmed glasses that really didn't add to my physical attractiveness ( I was a blond).  

Like many things in life, I got used to them and, for most of my life, never thought more of it.  I tried contacts for a while but stopped using them when I went to visit India.  Trying to clean contacts in less than sanitary water and putting that water in eyes that weren't accustomed to the microbes in that water did not seem like a good practice to me. So I returned to eyeglasses and have remained spectacled ever since. I did ditch the tortoise-rimed eyeglasses for a more fashionable pair.

Until I got married.  Like most spectacled brides, I didn't want my wedding pictures taken with me wearing glasses.  So, at the very last minute,  and I do mean last minute, as in the afternoon before the wedding, I ran off to Sears for a cheap pair of contacts.  Got a quick check from the optometrist on duty and he told me that I was getting far-sighted as well.  I thought, "Wrong-O! I'm not far sighted.  This is just what happens when you try to do things quick and cheap."  He didn't have the contacts that would work for someone who was nearsighted, farsighted and astigmatic... But he did give me an emergency pair to use for the wedding.    They worked just enough for me to see without squinting but they definitely weren't the right prescription.  So, after the wedding, I stuck with glasses.

My curiosity was piqued and I went to the Scheie Eye Clinic, which is supposed to be a good eye hospital, and got my eyes re-examined.  The optometrist a Scheie verified the Sears optometrist's diagnoses and told me that over the next two years my eyes would get progressively more far-sighted and then would level off.  Which is seemingly what happened.  I got stronger and stronger bifocals.  They don't show up as bifocals because like many Baby Boomers, I am a little vain, and use progressive lenses.

Fast Forward.

I go to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and get the non-verbal learning diagnosis.  Googling the diagnosis on the web, I saw that there are a lot of sensory processing issues that go along with the diagnosis.  Some of the sensory processing issues include vision problems.  I went to see Dr. Herzberg and got the vision therapy that I've been blogging about.  She thinks that my far-sightedness is really due to eye teaming and accommodation problems -- i.e. my eye muscles aren't working together the way they should.  We have been doing some exercises to correct this and I think these exercises are helping my vision.

One of the eye exercises  has involved looking at a pencil as it moves closer and farther to you.  Other exercises involve working on things close up while wearing special lenses.  There was another exercise that I did which involved searching for letters in order while using a set of special lenses that I flipped back and forth as I found each letter.  The eye therapist did tell me that my eye accomodation would probably never come back to 100% as I am an older patient.   The eye muscles do get tired with age.  Still, whatever God once gave to me, I am determined to get back.
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Xmas Gifts for Visual Skills

Here are just some things that I have been using in vision therapy that might be useful for folks with eye problems.

Geo Blocks and Legos:  3d modeling.  I don't have stereoscopic (3D) vision.  So these blocks are good to practice  looking at the world in 3d

Modeling Clay:  Good practice with 3D objects.  Also good for fine motor skills

Brain Safari:  Software  game where you go on a safari with animals  Pattern recognition for visual memory problems, visual spatial orientation, In 20 exercises, BrainWare Safari targets 41 cognitive skills consideredmost critical for learning including multiple attention, memory, auditory processing, visual processing, sensorimotor coordination (for example, hand/eye coordination), and thinking skills.   Brain Safari was conceptualized on the basis of a theory that dates back to 1949 called the "learning hierarchy," in which basic skills fan out to more advanced skills.  It  has been the object of research studies and I am using it in my vision therapy.You can read a research study about it at this link:

To order go to:

Labyrinth:  We play this game at A Total Approach with my occupational therapists.  Labyrinth is a board game designed to create a series of ever-changing mazes that one to four players must move through. The object of the game is for each player to collect as quickly as possible all seven treasures depicted on their individual treasure cards. To add to the challenge, players know what the next treasure is only after they find the one before it.  Good for ages 8-adult.

At home, we play this game with my 89 Mother-in-Law who enjoys sharpening her visual spatial skills.   My husband, who is visually spatially gifted, was annoyed the first time we played because I beat him on his own turf.  He ran out and bought the game and then proceeded to trounce me the next few times until I beat him.  I have to play a revenge match against Melissa my therapist.  She was winning way too many times during therapy.

Putting a wiffle ball on a string and batting it around.  Good for eye tracking... Keep your eye on the seams of the ball.

Bean Bags.  Tossing bean bags and tracking them with your eyes are good.  Also, drills where you are tossing it from hand to hand and crossing the midline of the body.

And, of course, puzzles and sudoku are good for visual skills as well.
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Ideas for XMAS Gifts to Enhance Gross Motor Skills

Suffering from motor apraxia, I am revisiting my childhood, trying to acquire skills that I always avoided and my parents never emphasized.  (Not blaming you, Mom and Dad... we just didn't know!)

You don't NEED any of these toys  to get your Gross Motor Skills better... but if you're tossing around for some gift ideas, my occupational therapists  at A Total Approach recommend the following:

Mini-trampoline.  Sold with exercise equipment for adults.  The ones for children with a handle aren't as bouncy.  The ones with the black elastic-type fabric seem to work better.  Sports Authority trampoline ($35) is better than Walmart's ($30)Huffy Cranbrook 24-Inch Cruiser BikeSchwinn Prelude Men's Road Bike (700c Wheels)

Zoom Ball - oval ball with hole in the middle that 2 ropes go through, handle on all 4 ends.  Two people stand 10 feet apart and hold handles, pulling hands apart to send ball to partner, putting hands together to receive ball (only one manufacturer in 2000: Prime Time Toys LTD, Kwun Tung Hong Kong)

Soft, big ball to practice catching (basketballs are too hard... It hurts if you're hit by one.  Believe me, I remember this from my childhood.  Kids will shy away from a hard big ball.  I know I did.).  Bench balls work well with a partner but don't bounce well enough for  a kid to play by himself.  Get a size that your kid can sometimes catch using only his hands, not trapping it against a chest or body.  If big balls are easy to catch, then use a smaller ball:  12", 10", 8" diameter or tennis ball.

Big Exercise Ball.  Sold with other exercise equipment for adults, was $12 including foot pump to blow it up.  Sold at Walmart

Tricycle/Bicycle  Be sure it's not too large... My parents got me a too big bike when I was a kid ... It's hard when you don't have a great sense  of balance if the bike doesn't fit you properly.   If you want to be sure,  go to a bike store and get measured properly.   Or look up how to fit a bike on the Internet and take some measurements.

Scooter Board.  Two that hook together if your kid is tall so that the trunk will be supported when lying on the stomach.  Also two or more to use with friends/siblings/parents.  You can custom make one that is the length of the kid's trunk from his underarms to the top of his thighs and the width of his body.  Use wood covered with padding, half casters that rotate probably work best).  It's a good project for those of you in the NorthEast who will be snow bound this weekend.   If you're not handy, or don't have the time for this, one place to get a scooter board is Sonic Scooter by Pull Buoy, Inc. Sterling Heights, MI.

6" Stilts  -- Can purchase or make a pair using big coffee cans with holes punched in the side.  Pass ropes through the side.  The child can stand on the coffee cans and hold the ropes in each hand.  He can walk while pulling the coffee cans to his feet  with the rope.  Another good project,  less involved than the Scooter Board for the handy or the snowbound.  Monster FeetMedium StiltsGeospace Walkaroo Stilts by Air Kicks - Light Weight

Wheely Walker.  It's 2 platforms (each 4" x 10") that are connected by 2 axles with a 3" rise in between the 2 platforms (so one platform is up while the other is down).  Each connected to 4 wheels.  The Child puts one foot  i  n  each platform and then shifts his/her weight so it moves forward.  This takes a fair amount of balance and coordination to do by yourself, so some assistance may be needed at the beginning.

Pogo Stick.  Takes good balance and coordination so maybe not a good toy to start with.  I know.  I was never good with a pogo stick when I was little.  So maybe give this to an older child.  Look at the Pogo Sticks made by Sport Fun Inc, California, CO

Body Blade.  Flexible rod that can be used to make some exercises more fun by having a child shake it to make the ends move while they are maintaining a position such as hands and knees or on the stomach holding the head and arms up, standing on one leg.  Go to  Body Blade

Set of Large Cardboard Blocks.   You can assemble them by folding the cardboard several times so that they are amazingly study.  Largest one is 12'x6'3'.  Kids can step up onto them, jump over them, stand on them or jump down.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Textures Come Alive

MacDonalds sign in Times Square, New YorkImage via Wikipedia
My eyes are starting to focus much better and I am starting to see all kinds of textures where previously I had seen a flat screen of color.

Like, I never knew that the Golden Arches of McDonald's had notches.  Or the red and black trim of Taco Bell.

Trunks of trees fascinate me... The Rhytidome, the outer bark, with its gnarled ridges of cork.  Each species of tree has its own particular reticulation with rhythm and rhyme of ridge, depth, rise and color.  Parasite vines girdle the trees -- fuzzy with overgrowth from mosses and lichens.

Gnarling leads me to knurling... from a distance, I can see the knurls of metal objects meant to grip... knurls of pins, knobs, screws and nuts where before I had to hold these objects close up.

While driving, I can see the plastic coated knurls of a tailight's lens.

There are a lot of old Pennsylvania farmhouses dating back to the 1600's and 1700's near me.  Houses built of fieldstone, bluestone patios and cobbled driveways and walks.  Now, I can see where the edges of fieldstone strike white mortar.   Reeds of natural cleft bluestone reveal the layers of quarried stone fused together.  Homes here were built like fortresses -- truly each man's home was his castle.  Homes are roofed in cedar or slate shingles, or metal.  There are a few copper roofs that glisten in the sun.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Neural Pathways of the Nose and Autism and Sociability

The neural pathways of smell are the shortest pathways of all the senses into the brain.  They also terminate in the most primitive part of the brain, the amygdala.

Many individuals with autism have sensory problems involving smell.  They are often either hypersensitive to smells or have very low registration with smell.

There has been a study involving aromatherapy that tested the use of the following scents:  neroli, eucalyptics, chamolile, sandalwood, and peppermint

The amygdala is implicated in autistic people who were known to have social deficits.  The study was a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study involving judging from the expressions of another person's eyes what that other person might be thinking or feeling. In this study, patients with autism or Aspergers did not activate the amygdala when making mentalistic inferences from the eyes, whilst people without autism did show amygdala activity. The amygdala is therefore proposed to be one of several neural regions that are abnormal in autism.

Additionally, the amygdala is implicated in anxiety and depression.  There is increased blood flow to the
amygdala in social phobics.  Children with autism have been found to have an increased chance at suffering from anxiety especially in situations involving obsessive compulsive disorder and separation anxiety.  However, this is not true across the board.  There is a lot of differences across the autistic spectrum.  There are active but odd subtype that have extreme reactions to social situations and there are the aloof subtypes who have no reaction.

The amygdala is known to have a more selective role in detecting threats in the environment.  However, the amygdala is not the sole cause  of problems of social interaction in autism.  Its dysfunction may play a role in the fear and anxiety which is often part of autism.

In the conference, Autism+, Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg has proposed that one of the key issues in autism is the integration between the amygdala and the frontal lobes.

I haven't found a connection yet between smell, social problems, and autism...but there are a lot of dots out there that look like they should be connected.
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Noosphere and the map of the Internet

Here is a map of the Noosphere and the global connections of the Internet.  Maybe technology and the nose will bring all closer together.  Just an idle thought!
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Sense of Smell and Turbinates

Sosei Lab

I also have enlarged Turbinates which may have something to do with a decreased sense of smell.  As you can see from the picture above, there are three bones involved:  inferior, middle, and superior.
I also have a  slightly deviated septum.  So that doesn't help either
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Nobody Knows the Nose -- And, Why They Should

Nobody knows the nose. I really shouldn't say that. Nobody cares about the nose. I really shouldn't say that, either. The nose really doesn't have a function in a capitalistic society. Unlike the hands that actually make things, the nose doesn't make any thing. The ears are necessary for communication in the workplace; the nose doesn't communicate much to other people in a visible sense. The eyes are essential to travel to and from the workplace, they are part of the pathway that facilitates visual motor coordination and, thus, help the hands make things to that can be bought and sold. Unless you work in a perfume factory as a tester, the nose really can't be monetized.

So, when you tell the average doctor that you really don't have much of a sense of smell, he's really not that interested. So, my complaints about not having much of a sense of smell have been pretty much ignored.

Frankly, it hasn't bothered me that much and I've tended to ignore it. Yes, I have ignored roommates complaints about not removing food that has gone off in the refrigerator in a timely fashion. At best, I told them that I really don't have much of a sense of smell and that they would have to tell me when my food went off. I do try to periodically clean my refrigerator; however, sometimes the bacteria get ahead of me and go to work faster than I can detect the smell. My roommates have never realized that I really can't smell things. Most people can't bring themselves to tell someone when something smells bad. It is just one of those social things that you are supposed to be aware of, even anticipate, and manage properly. When people finally managed to broach the subject, they are often at the point of being quite annoyed.

I wonder sometimes if I should simply walk around with a clothespin on my nose -- you know, a symbolic crutch for the nose. Something to designate the handicap, like a cane does for the crippled.

I am not a dirty person. I bathe at least one time a day, sometimes, two or three times a day in hot weather or after exercise.

I just don't smell things like other people. I found an interesting letter to a doctor from a woman named Penny who also had a diminished sense of  smell. She describes her journey to the colorful world of smell and I hope to make a similar journey as well. For her, it involved using some prednisone and going to a special clinic that concentrates on the disorders of smell.

"I can taste food, smell flowers and distinguish between socks that have been laundered and those that have not. I can smell dinner burning and the additive put into natural gas. I can enjoy being put off by the unpleasant odors of sewer gases and cap poop...

You can still see, hear and feel the glory of the world around you—even the flowers and plants. Feel the textures, absorb the splendor of the colors and shapes, listen to the leaves rustle in the wind.

Learn to taste in food in new ways: savor texture, colors and what you can sense with your tongue: sweet, sour, salt and bitter. (My favorite dinner was refried beans into which I mixed chopped farmer’s market tomatoes and thinly sliced serrano chilies. I topped this with a couple of tablespoons of low-fat sour cream. Great texture with sweetness, bite, and a distinctive flavor. If you don’t like refried beans, you can mash or puree canned white beans or kidney beans or pinto beans and mix them with tomatoes, chilies, sweet fresh corn taken off the cob or other things your tongue can taste.) Most herbs and spices won’t register. Mint might, and cumin. Dr. Davidson advised me to use curry powder (which usually contains cumin) the way other people use salt. Experiment and never let yourself be disappointed if you can’t taste something—but always let yourself be delighted when you can (even if you wouldn’t choose to taste whatever it was again)."  Letter to Otolaryngologist from Penny

I have started on my journey through my nose. A nutritionist has found that I have a vitamin D deficiency. Lack of vitamin D or zinc can cause decreased sense of smell. So now I am taking more vitamin D and that has helped somewhat. I can smell garlic when I cut it and food cooking downstairs in my kitchen. On a side note, vitamin D has seemed to even out some of the moodiness I have felt with the change in weather. Cloudy days don't get to me as much.
I have started to see an ENT. Apparently I have a deviated septum and enlarged turbinates (bones in the nose). I am using Flomax to help keep the nasal passages open. I am not sure how much Flomax is really helping. I have another appointment in a week and we shall see what's next.
So why so much attention to the nose? Well, there is a whole sensual world that I am missing. The scent of flowers -- I don't really walk up to flowers and poke my nose and inhale deeply. I want to inhale. That's the point. The aroma of food -- I do have some sense of smell because I can taste food. Indeed, I have had religious moments with food. There is a master chef from France in my town. There are only 250 master chefs in the world and he is one of them. Fortunately, I am not so far gone that I cannot smell and taste his superb creations with the appropriate reverence that they deserve. It would be nice to smell the woods as I walk through them. Or, smell my husband when I bury my nose in his chest.

This brings me to my next thought. You know, the nose is very important in terms of detecting the pheromones that play an important part in sociability and attraction. Pheromones such as androstenol have been clinically proven to enhance sociability and help create a sense of trust. Androsterone creates an aura of protection and reliability. Another pheromone, Androstadienone, is also called the "love pheromone" because of the emotions it elicits. So, I have a weird suspicion that maybe, I am also missing out on the whole social undercurrent that everyone else is unconsciously aware of.
There is the concept that is gaining currency in many spiritual and ecological circles of the noosphere. The noosphere, to put it simply, is the idea that we are all connected as human beings to each other. I will talk about this more in future posts. But for now, I'd like to simply throw out the notion that maybe the nose will have something to do with the bonding that needs to go on between human beings that will establish these global connections.

I've never thought of nominating the nose for a Nobel Peace Prize, or, maybe a Nosebel (sorry, I couldn't resist a bad pun).   But, maybe the nose deserves more recognition-- more people knowing about the nose.
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Alpha Beta Theta Delta Brain Waves

Here's a nice little picture of the brain waves.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Starting up Tomatis loop three

Starting up loop three with Tomatis....

Back again with Melissa.  Melissa, if you're reading... here's a shout out to you.

So, what did we do today?  I walked on the balance beam tossing bean bags and tracking them up and down with my eyes as I tossed them.  I did a self portrait of myself and had a chat with Melissa about all the doctors I've been seeing and all the eye therapy I've been doing.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brain Entrainment and Music

A number of musicians are experimenting with brain entrainment and music. Brain Entrainment is  any practice that aims to cause brainwave frequency to fall into step with a periodic stimulus.  Steve Halpern has been experimenting with ancient sound healing traditions with quantum biology and energy medicine to produce recordings that support relaxation, stress management, yoga, meditation, massage, sleep, accelerated learning and pure listening pleasure.  There is something about trying to achieve a binaural beat and brain entrainment.

You can manipulate your brain waves to achieve altered states of consciousness.

States Of Consciousness:

Beta (14 - 30 hertz) - Dominant rhythm when awake, alert or anxious, with eyes open.

Alpha (8 - 14 hertz) - Relaxed alertness; normally is induced by closing the eyes and relaxing.

Theta (4 - 8 hertz) - Drowsiness, first stage of sleep; not common in awake adults, but common in daydreaming children.

Delta (below 5 hertz) - Deep sleep.

Meditation can stimulate these states. Sounds can as well.
The latter is the principle behind brain wave entrainment technologies.
FOR MORE Information, Go To ...

Halpern has recorded music inside the Kings Chamber of the Great's available by request.
He weds Tibetan and Egyptian music tradition and chanting along with modulating pitches at precise frequencies to achieve a very relaxing effect.

I put together a playlist on Youtube.  It's great when you need to relax.  Enjoy!

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