Monday, September 25, 2006

Happy Neuron Exercises Your Brain

Our team at QUIXIT, Inc. has been busy with the first phase of our plan--adapting Happy Neuron to the US market. Please check out what we have accomplished so far and look for continued changes and additions in the coming weeks and months. Happy Neuron offers workouts for your brain based on scientific research on how to increase your probabilities of being sharp and fit for life. Top European neuroscientists developed these workouts, which cross train an array of key thinking skills, such as memory, concentration, visual and spatial skills, language, and reasoning. There are currently almost 40 tiered exercises.

We at Quixit are determined to get the word out to everyone, and especially to Boomers, that there are very concrete ways to keep our brains healthy and our minds lively. Many of us have watched our parents "retire" both physically and mentally. And we just don't want to go there--and we don't have to. We now accept that physical exercise is crucial for overall fitness; it's time to embrace regular, consistent workouts for our brains, too. Do I sound passionate about what I'm doing? I really am.

We welcome your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions as we move forward on this journey.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Women Play Games to Exercise Their Brains

According to a market research study financed by PopCap, the game developer, most of the people who play casual online games (those are the quick games that are not violent or competitive, for the men in the audience) are mostly educated Boomer women. They found: (l) that women play to de-stress by moving their minds beyond fatigue or chronic tension or pain; and (2) for mental exercise. How could we possibly be surprised by that? We have the most educated, affluent, and stressed generation ever in history constantly looking for ways to keep sharp and manage stress at the same time. And 25 million of them are women, the health care gatekeepers for their families.

The next step is getting our families to follow our lead, as usual.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Fearless Women

I just finished Ariana Huffington's new book, On Becoming Fearless in Love, Work, and Life. It was a fast read, very honest, interesting and breezy. I hope it will reach the huge numbers of women who are trying to figure out if they should proceed with whatever they are fearful about-- public speaking, ending a bad relationship or marriage, letting go of their children, starting a business or a movement, traveling alone, disease, death, lonliness, whatever takes real boldness to push through the wall of fear. There were times when I was reminded of 70s self-help books on being an independent woman but then I considered my own fears, not so unlike Ms. Huffington's. I need to be reminded, too.

I heard Ms. Huffington speak at the BlogHer conference where she offered attendees her book if they asked via email. I was impressed with her intelligence, wit, and humility.

Speaking of fearless women, I have to mention my sadness at the deaths this past week of Ann Richards and Oriana Fallachi, both intelligent, passionate, bold, and couragous women. Ann Richards, at 73, was an American icon--witty, articulate, honest, and dedicated to sticking to her beliefs. She opened the door for women and minorities in Texas and was a vocal and strong supporter everywhere, as she always said she would be. Molly Ivins and Bill Clinton shared some especially hilarious and poignant moments with Ann Richards.

We will all remember her for the quotes that have become part of our vernacular: Ginger Rogers who had to dance backwards and in high heels, George Bush born with a silver foot in his mouth, etc. I heard Ann Richards speak several times and talked to her a couple of times. I remember her remarks when asked how to achieve work-family balance. She said very straightforwardly (my memory of her words): "I don't own anything that I have to water, feed, or polish! That gives me more time for what really matters."

Oriana Fallaci, who died at 76 this week, was a woman who cared intensely about righting wrongs, big ones against humanity. She interviewed and wrote about the biggest personalities of the last 40 years, with intelligence, passion, and wit. She was fearless about asking questions that no one else would ask, voicing unpopular but heartfelt opinions, and pushing, always pushing, for a better world.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Exercise Prevents Fraility

The scientific evidence is so clear--keep exercising regularly throughout life to prevent fraility, among other commonly accepted conditions previously thought to be a natural part of aging. Guess what? These conditions appear not to be the consequence of years going by. A regiment of aerobic exercise and weight training is highly likely to prevent fraility and has been shown to be able to reverse it in several studies funded by the National Institute on Aging at NIH. The NIA wants to figure out why some people become frail as they age and to understand ways to prevent this vitality-zapping condition. In an article in today's San Francisco Chronicle, writer Alice Dembner of the Boston Globe, points out that, according to this NIH research, we "can throw out another convention of old age. Researchers are finding that fraility may not be the inevitable result of aging but rather is a preventable and perhaps treatable condition."

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How to Be a Working Artist--and Stay Sharp

Instead of declining into retirement with age-appropriate activities like cruises, golf, and watching the world go by, move to a community of like-minded souls focused on active lives of creativity and participation. Add in some professional experts for advice and guidance and you have a shot at a spectacular new career. You'll also start reversing general decline of the body, mind, and spirit and preventing future health issues. And you may very well be paid handsomely for your work as playwright, radio personality, artist, composer, or musician.

A front-page NY Times article today by Patricia Leigh Brown, "At New Rentals, the Aim Is to Age with Creativity" highlights a study jointly sponsored by George Washington University and The National Endowment for the Arts called "The Creativity and Aging Study." As Dr. Gene Cohen, one of the directors of the study, says in a summary of the results of this first two-year research of its kind, "Awareness that there is no age limit to tapping human potential affects not only how we view and prepare for our own future development, but it also influences how society nurtures and benefits from its older human resources." Also interesting is that many of the participants had already lived "normal" lifespans and were in their 80s and 90s at the time of the study. So what will happen when Boomers, the first of whom are now reaching 60, demand to be heard--creatively, politically, and as wage-earners? I think we're in for some exciting times.

Dr. Cohen adds in the NY Times article, “We’re thinking beyond the problems of aging to its potential. . . . What’s emerging is a very talented group of people who are an under-recognized national resource.”

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

At 81, Oscar Peterson, You Rock!

Last night, I saw (and listened joyfully to) the piano jazz virtuoso, Oscar Peterson or OP as he refers to himself, perform at Yoshi's, one of the great jazz venues of the world. How many other 81-year-olds are going on international tours? Mr. Peterson, I think you understand the brain's need for novelty, change, and challenge. OP disclosed that he went to high school with Maynard Ferguson, one of the all-time great trumpeters, and his sadness at his recent death. He dedicated his amazing composition, "Requiem," to Ferguson, Joe Pass, and other greats that he's known who have "passed." OP himself experienced a debilitating stroke in 1993 after having had TB as a child, which made being a great horn-player an impossibilitiy. Lucky for us, he turned to piano. He rebounded again after his stroke through therapy. Although he now relies much more heavily on the upper register, he has relearned playing with his left hand, too. The result is nothing less than genius. At Yoshi's, it's possible to sit very close to performers, no more than 8-10 feet away. OP smiled at me. We had eye contact. That's it! I love him. But then I did before I made eye contact. OP, while he was playing, had a look of pure joy on his face. Music does that to us as listeners, too. Imagine what it must be like to be OP. I feel lucky to have caught him on this tour.

More on music and the brain later. A fascinating topic.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Naguib Mahfouz: I'll Miss You!

Naguib Mafouz, one of my favorite authors, died this past week. I am sad. An Egyptian writer, he closely observed his friends, family, neighborhood, and country along multiple dimensions. Mahfouz had an eye for detail that included but went beyond simple sensual description to make his readers feel the universality of life and along the way, empathy, humanity, and acceptance. But even better, he wrote page turners. The three books of The Cairo Trilogy are among the most absorbing books I've ever read. I thought about the people he described after I finished each of them. I wondered what they would do in certain situations. I visualized their comings and goings to and from the houses, cafes, markets, stores, and the Souks of their world. I have these images still settled in my mind to pull up at a moment's notice, as I do for so many really great books I've read. I became a part of these books and they became a part of me.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in an Arab country in the late 60s. I discovered amazing warmth and generosity among the people I met and knew. Those experiences made me love his books even more. I knew, from my own insights, that he was telling the truth. And the truth was sensuous, alluring, mysterious, challenging, and an invitation, generously extended, to learn and understand. He never brushed aside differences or weaknesses or for that matter, strengths.

George Bush said, "Mahfouz was a cultural light. . . who brought Arab literature to the world. . . and expressed values of enlightenment and tolerance." I can only dare to hope, and pray, that Mr. Bush has read or is now reading Mahfouz' works.

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How to Laugh Out Loud

Start reading Nora Ephron's latest book of essays. But don't finish it in one sitting. Decide to take it with you to jury duty. For breaks. To distract yourself from the serious nature of what's at hand. To give your brain a little tickle, something light and amusing. Stick the shiny, new hardback in your gigantic purse, along with your bottle of water, your iPod, your sunglasses, your distance glasses, your TREO, your cosmetics, your old, torn, grimy tissues, money, business cards, extras from your tear-out Sudoku calendar in case you have three minutes somewhere, pencils, pens, receipts from last year's purchases, and vitamins that spilled from their case eons ago and are now in zillions of little crumbs along the bottom and in the built-in pockets on the side. Pull the slim volume out, amongst the throngs waiting to be called into service as jurors, or dismissed. Dust the vitamin crumbs and tissue pieces from the sides. Ignore the fidgeters, the sleepers, the annoyed, the frightened, the horribly bored. Begin reading. Giggle, clear your throat, and then burst into uncontrollable, inappropriate laughter that will just not stay put inside your mind. Ignore the bailiff pointing at you. Ignore the prospective jurors around you, looking wistfully because they'd give anything to have brought along something fun and funny to read. The essay is called, "I Hate My Purse." Ms. Ephron describes her purse and it's just exactly the mess mine is in. Except that mine is pathetic. Hers is hilarious.

If you're a woman over the age of 35 and certainly if you're over 50 (and hey, I think men would love this one, too), you should read Nora Ephron's latest collection of wry, sometimes hilarious and sometimes poignant (and sometimes both simultaneously), always honest, and usually universally applicable group of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.

Ephron says she doesn't like getting older. It's not as advertised. I say any big life change, and getting older qualifies, is a great reason to trot out your sense of humor. And Ephron does, with sparkling style. Delightful, all the way through.

Even though I recognized some of these essays as the same ones I read when they were first published in The New Yorker, who cares? They were even better the second time around.

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