Category Archives: neuronerd adventuretime

An Ode to Arm Muscle Contractions

So a girl asked for an intensive arms/core workout, and I thought building up to a forearm stand was a perfect sequence. Check this article out for more advice on building up to a forearm stand.

On a separate note, I made an effort to really understand the different kinds of contractions, and what yoga poses/physio moves were great for building arm strength in particular. Check it:

For more explanations for the types of arm stretches (ekabuhjaswastiakasjdflkwhuuuuuut?), check the article page as well.

I attended the Clover All-Team Member meeting this past Sunday at the HUB. I thought it was such an awesome concept, as all employees got free beer (Allgash White, to be precise), samples of the new 3pm special – blueberries and whipped cream, and a delicious chocolate cupcake. Again, somehow the chefs nail it with the mild sweetness but fresh taste of the cupcakes, with a light frosting that wasn’t overpowering, meeting its match with freshly picked peppermint leaves. Something about fresh mint in anything kills me.

Ayr gave a brief download on the environmental impact and growth Clover was having. My favorite part was the “tasting” game (where 12 unknown ingredients were provided and we had to guess what they were) and a food education presentation given by Chef Rolando. Both were powerful and so interesting (for me, oh the food obsessed). Interesting things:

1) Their parsnip sandwich, a combination of parsnip, cheddar, spinach (in the earlier versions), and caramelized spring onions that were caramelized with cider vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, mustard seeds, and fresh horseradish. The idea of cooking things that weren’t sweet with cinnamon intrigued me and I did a brief search and came up with these ideas:

  • cauliflower
  • parsnips
  • garlic cloves
  • sweet potatoes
  • carrots
  • zucchini
  • BBQ Brisket
  • Squash
  • Pizza
  • Orzo salad
  • Curried red lentil soup
  • Grapefruit

2) Wheat gluten (things to make your tempeh with) looks and smells like flour (even whole wheat), but once you taste it your saliva gets everything super gooey.

3) Determining the difference between cilantro and parsley for me is….difficult. I went to the Harvard Community Garden yesterday and tried both. The cilantro tasted more ocean-y to me, while the Italian parsley taste more clovery, sprouty, and sunny to me. Let’s see if I can remember that at all…

4) Belgian Wheat Beer can be flavored with coriander, who knew?

RESEARCH MOVES FORWARD, ALBEIT SLOWLY!

Finally, finally, finally the brain data was successfully converted into a format we could use and I could start doing the reconstructing and skull stripping. Alas, I was letting the program run over night and it only got through…3/15 sessions. Derp. Oh well still letting it run.

Meanwhile, I take over the world. Or in other words, find myself amused/fascinated by some of the figural responses on the TTCT as I grade them.

 

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Daily Nutrition Facts

Made myself a salad with red cabbage, kale, cucumbers, smokey tofu, and a mix of vegannaise and BBQ spice.

Also tried green gooseberries for the first time! They are possibly one of the most interesting fruits I’ve had. Fuzzy on the outside, filled with a grape texture inside, but also with seeds that are not unlike chia seeds. Kind of an adventure in the mouth. Tart and sweet like a green grape, but with slightly more complexity and hollowness to the palette. Apparently a recipe suggestion: “Stew gooseberries with coconut milk, Indian spices and vegetables, then serve as a curry over rice.” Omnomnom. I had the pleasure of trying red currents for the first time as well. I don’t have the patience right now to try a pie, but they were deliciously fresh and tart.

I got to adopt a Patty Pan Squash and harvest rainbow chard + kale in return for teaching yoga at the Harvard Community Garden (every Tuesday from 6 – 7 pm). So. Much. Love.

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Filed under adventures, anatomy, Clover, creativity, creativity research, food, neuronerd adventuretime, science, yoga

Kiting Kale

Research Update: 

Totally killing it. Or not. So far we’re still having issues with downloading the data and using FreeSurfer to adjust the images, so for now I play with sticky notes and read the amusing answers our small sample size (8?) have written for the TTCT.

Brief explanation: TTCT (Torrance Test’s of Creative Thinking) was a test created about 30 years ago by Ellis P. Torrance. There are figural and verbal components, where the figural requires the subject to draw some sort of picture with a foundational doodle/pattern provided and the verbal requires the subject to practice divergent thinking, which is essentially a form of brainstorming. I’m administering these tests pre- and post- the Mindfulness Meditation program (MBSR) and checking out what neurological correlations there might be between meditation and creativity (a long shot, I know. It’s just silly and fun).

Check out this article from Newsweek for a more thorough explanation of the figural component of the TTCT and to see how it’s graded: “How Creative Are You?”

I had a few favorites from categorizing the verbal components of the tests today. My favorite responses to the question “Just suppose everyone had 6 fingers instead of 5, what would happen?” were: “A reassuring pat on the butt would feel that much larger” “People who used to be able to put their fist in their mouths might not be able to do it anymore”. One person wrote a passionate essay on environmental issues, a couple senators, and the destruction created by supporting small businesses (“That’s great guys. It’s fine. Really.”)

Ah, science.

To be a little more serious (wait, this wasn’t serious enough?), I came across a study published recently in Frontiers of Psychology called “Meditate to Create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking”.

The study addressed the idea that different types of meditation can lead to different brain states. This is an extremely good approach as everyone likes to ask 1) can you be good at meditation? 2) what is it? Well, there is no short answer to either, as there are hundreds of types of meditation. To quote Patanjali from the yoga sutras (aka sort of yoga bible?): “I.39 Or [the steadiness of the mind is attained] from meditation upon anything of one’s inclination”. He states this after listing about 10 types of possible meditations.

In the study, they predict that focused attention meditation (inhalation to a specific body part, exhalation from there) leads to higher abilities to perform tasks related to convergent thinking (one correct answer, i.e. remote association task – three words are given like time, hair, and stretch, and participants are asked to come up with one answer – long). For divergent thinking (they use the verbal part of the TTCT), the authors predicted that open monitoring meditation (breath is used to “set the mind free” and allow any thoughts or emotions to arise naturally and be nonjudgementally observed, very similar to mindfulness meditation).

The results (in short summary mode) by conducting the experiment on a group of 16 people with a lot of OM and FA experience:

1. There was no difference in performance on the RAT in either group.

2. OM meditators significantly outperformed FA meditators in the TTCT verbal tests.

3. Both types of meditation elevated mood

4. Potential self-selection and demand characteristics may have biased the results somewhat

5. Check out other types of meditation in other religions? Oooh fun future project?

Anyways, glad I came across this as it is a good article to go off of for my thesis. And there’s a great chunk of it that I really appreciate in the intro:

However, the methodological diversity across these studies with regard to sample characteristics and type of meditation is considerable, which renders it question- able whether they were actually assessing the same construct and processes. Moreover, there is still no mechanistic model explaining how creative processes operate and how different type of medita- tions might affect these operations, which in view of the lack of conceptual clarity may not be surprising. To address this issue, we tried to avoid addressing meditation and creativity as a whole but, rather, focused on particular, relatively well-defined meditation techniques and specific subcomponents of creative performance. 

Daily Nutritional Facts

During my first week at Clover I tried a couple of the coffees – Stumptown (Indo) and Terroir (Colombia). Ayr had us trial taste and see if we could match the hot coffees to the cold. I guessed correctly, but when I tried to explain the flavor differences, I ended up describing these shapes instead (doodle time!):

The way Ayr described it was that the George Howell Coffee was that it was more acidic and fruity, while the Stumptown (the local coffee) was more well-rounded, dirty, earthy and complex. The Terroir was easily identifiable when hot because it still had a fruity, stringy taste and texture, while the Stumptown transformed from a complex, leveled cold to a buttery, smooth hot.

Last Friday was my friend’s fundraiser for her non-profit in Guatemala, Unmarked Streets. They seek to create a network of women who go through an entrepreneurial program, as well as distribute technologies that increase public health, protect the environment, and further education. Asides from teaching a class with the theme “Gratitude” (I referred to Roy Horan’s speech on how the key to creativity is gratitude), I made a random assortment of desserts ranging from vegan, gluten-free peanut butter cookies to the raw cacao cookies and a terrible attempt at the brownie bites (that ended up being the flattest thing ever because I made such a small portion).

Also created the love of my life – raw kale salad with miso ginger dressing. For some reason I felt like calling this dish Kale Kites. I have no idea what it means, but I felt like going with it. I didn’t realize after up to 5 days of storing kale, it largely becomes inedible because it starts going really bitter. (also there was an interesting study done by the owner of Harvest Coop that when kale is shipped across the country, the 2 week shipment – though the kale looks fresh – makes kale lose up to 70% of it’s nutrients, especially the vitamin C)

So what you need…

  • kale of choice
  • cooked quinoa (preferably chilled, unless it’s a cold day) – for regular, cook 1 cup of quinoa with 11/4 cups of water
  • tempeh 
  • soy sauce
  • black sesame seeds
  • any additional veggies you want (in this salad I had tomatoes)
  • sauce: miso ginger dressing and vegannaise

1) Tear up the kale, leaving the stalks behind (munch on it like celery sticks!)

2) Meanwhile, you should be sauteeing the tempeh on medium heat with some olive/coconut oil and soy sauce on it. It depends how much you want to use. I like mind to be cooked fairly crisp and moderately soy sauced up.

3) When finished, cut tempeh into pieces and toss into the salad. Add a cup or two of cooked quinoa. Sprinkle lots of black sesame seeds onto it (be more risky and sprinkle poppy seeds if they’re around!)

4) Add any more veggies you’d like to the mix, then make the sauce – I like to have a ratio of one tablespoon of vegannaise to an equal amount of miso ginger. Alter the ratio to your preference. For kicks, I tend to throw in Frank’s Finest Spirulina Gomasio, a delicious spice blend of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, Incan Spirulina, Himalayan Crystal Salt, and Onion Granules. It’s like sea in a basket. If this isn’t accessible to you, I’d go for something with umami/savory tastes like seaweed.

5) Mix, mix, mix by really massaging the kale with everything else to soften it and bring out more peppery flavors –> done!

Random last note – this isn’t so much a recipe as something I just randomly came up with. My mom introduced me to eating avocados with lemon and salt, which is absolutely delicious and I could probably consume for all three meals. Alas, I found myself the other night with no lemon in sight, but found a jar of poppyseeds instead (it took me a while to figure out that poppyseeds DO NOT equal lemon, they’re usually just paired)…so with a dollop of vegannaise, a generous handful of poppyseeds, and a sprinkle of salt, my avocado dinner was served.

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Filed under creativity, meditation, neuronerd adventuretime, science

Basked in Basics (of cookies, neuroimages, and vampires?)

Day 2 & 3 of Research: So I entered the lair of the meditation lab expecting another flurry of Linux. I was not disappointed. Sara and I sat side-by-side at my “new computer” (aka: lugged a desktop from one side of the building to another), and she showed me how to Indiana Jones through files and folders using code. Amazingly, I think I can admit I’m finally starting to get the hang of it (CS people, yes roll your eyes).

Because we were having issues with the data downloaded from our first 11 subjects, I ended up mainly talking to my researcher about how much I enjoyed watching Abraham Lincoln the Vampire Hunter (no seriously, it’s epic, ridiculous, and impressively logical at the same time) and what the benefits of waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out were.

I did get a sneak peak into what I was going to be playing with over the next few weeks. The programming I’m learning (called FreeSurfer) adjusts multiple brain scans so that researchers can do reliable comparisons. Everyone has different sized brains and locations of our major gyri and sulci (gyri – protusions, sulci – the valleys between the protrusions. I like to think of “sulking sulci” and how they hide from view), so major readjusting is required before any analysis can be done.

To do this, the program covers motion correction, skull stripping, and also enlarges the brain so it looks like a funky rugby ball. Check it out:


This past weekend I got the chance to go kayaking on the Charles River and bouldering/rock climbing (miserably failed at the second one). Both were awesome, but I developed some seriously immobile forearms, upper back, biceps, and chest. I think at one point I texted my friend asking for some help to be lifted off the floor of my room. So I did a little brainstorm on the best ways to stretch those muscles:

–       Thread the needle

–       L-shaped chest stretch/extended arm chest stretch on ground

–       Wrist stretches

–       Eagle (garudasana) arms

–       Cow face arms (gomukasana)

–       Starting seated with legs extended in front (dandasana) then reaching for a foot with opposite arm

–       Generally interlace fingers behind body and open up chest

–       Reverse prayer position

[check for updated images and descriptions/links of these in the yoga section]

Also made a batch of super simple, sweet peanut butter cookies for my lovely yoga teachers from my YTT. Gluten-free, vegan, and all natural. Basked in Basics:

2 cups fresh peanut butter

½ cup honey

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ cup flaxseeds

¼ cup sucanat (or any type of natural sugar)

Mix all the ingredients together, then scoop onto wax sheets. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25. They harden a lot once out of the oven. Crunchy texture, nutty invitations, and awesomely healthy.

 

 

 

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Filed under food, ingredients, neuronerd adventuretime, recipes, science

Herbing Out P3 & Loving Linux

 SHARK FINNING IS BANNED IN TAIWAN. Sweet yo. Check out more info on it at VegNews or whatever news thing your heart desires. Taiwan is the 4th largest shark-meat industry in the world after Spain (??!!! what do they eat it in? Update: okay I just checked it out, and a lot of sources are saying over 90% of Spaniards don’t realize traditional dishes have shark meet? That’s impossible. I’m not sure how much to believe but check it out here), India, and Indonesia.

Note that the fishing of sharks still happens, but the cutting of fins and throwing the bodies back into the ocean is banned. The key issue with Taiwan is whether or not bribes, weak government enforcement, or loopholes will still allow fishermen to make as much profit as possible. This is something that has always bothered me back at home (Hong Kong). Hopefully HK will learn to get rid of this stuff from Disneyland and other restaurants. I mean, chicken soup tastes the same.

Day One of Summer Lab: I love my PI (“Principal Investigator”) Sara Lazar. She made an analogy with brain scanning analysis and food today, so I automatically fell in love.

“Brains. Brains, brains, brains. Hmm where do I even begin? Gah. Well I love analogies. So yeah, brains are like cooking. We have to start with chopping the stuff up, then digest the recipe, then putting it together, then adjusting, then running it through heat, and then finally arrive with some final products.”

So that’s what I did today. I learned to pick ingredients. And by that I mean UNIX. Or even more specifically, LINUX.

This is something I never thought I would touch. Alas, the day found me.

All this computer jargon where “lp” apparently stands for print and “rm” is remove (okay, a tad more intuitive) and “mv” is replace (or delete if you’re not careful. Results in –> #)@(#$*#@)%&(#@*$ ). I sat stretching on PI’s office floor (classy lady, yes) while reading 125 pages of this book:

Afterwards, I stared stone-faced at a screen trying to figure out terminal code. I give myself a B- on how successful I was. For some reason I still couldn’t handle files when using the path name (i.e. home/kelly/creativity/research/omgaflyingalpacawantsalmondbutter)

THINGS YOU FIND @ HERBSTALK [PART THREE]

6. Ghee! Glee? Ghee!

Huh what? Murr? That’s Ghee, which is fortified butter and is infamous in the yoga world. I had always wanted to try it. The short ghee prep download is to melt the butter, get rid of the fats (the residue solids), and take what’s left behind (and run like the wind). When cooled, the filtered ghee becomes solid and fragrant. It can be used just like butter, but it’s seen as a purifying/clearifying agent and is used in detoxes. One version would be to have a week where before any food is consumed, a tablespoon of ghee is consumed and fully digested first (then increase by one spoon each day). I don’t think I’d do it anytime soon, but apparently ghee helps increase secretion of biliary lipids which reduces LDL cholesterol? Not sure how legit the studies are. 

7. Meet Awesome Superfood Chefs

Well harro. This is Frank. He owns Frank’s Finesta herb/spice company. That bowl you see a person reaching into is spirulina popcorn.

I love, love, loved talking to him and hearing about his experiences as a chef who turned into a vegan, super-food chef. He’s stopped working at restaurants and now does private cooking or focuses on promoting his spices while writing weekly recipes. Basically, his life is still consumed by food. I got to hear about how he went to Cambridge Culinary School for the basics, and then his experiences working in the kitchen. I asked him how long I should stage (work for free) in a specific kitchen (“3 months. Don’t give up too quickly.”) and also how to best make use of my time in there.

“Ask high mileage questions.” adored that response because it’s applicable to everything, really. It was what I learned in my yoga training to – to always questions your sources and ask “Why am I doing this? How does this serve my class? How was this study conducted?” In food and in the kitchen, he was referring to asking the chef: “Why are you putting the salt and pepper in first? How does dicing the onions this way make a difference? Why do you work with the dough this way?”

I bought the Spirulina Gomasio (Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, Incan Spirulina^, Himalayan Crystal Salt*, Onion Granules^), BBQ Spice Blend (Paprika^, Himalayan Crystal Salt*, Onion^, Garlic^, Thyme^, Long Pepper^, Sassafras^, Chipotle Powder^, Bay Leaf^), and Spicy Chocolate Mix (okay yes, I live up to being a chocolate addict. What’s new?)

My favorite part at the bottom: *Wildcrafted, ^Certified Organic.

Hah, yesss.

[[[still to be continued. Sorry folks]] 

DAILY NUTRITION FACTS

Made myself a beautiful Golden Beet Salad with Blackberry-Mint Dressing

CLICK HERE FOR NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION ON BEETS. OMNOMNOM

Ingredients: 4 medium sized golden beets, half a small box of blackberries, about 10-15 mint leaves, olive oil, basalmic vinegar

0) [Taken from How to Break an Egg. I am not this experienced. Bow down to me anyways?] Buy beets with smooth skins and tails that aren’t too shaggy. If they’re too light for their size, they probably weren’t stored properly. If they still have their greens, trim them off before storing and don’t was them, since moisture = 😦

1) I was personally worried that the beets would go bad (actually they last up to 12 days!), but apparently just cutting off the awkward sprouts solved the deal. So I threw these kids into a pot of boiling water and lowered the heat down to a simmer and waited about an hour and a half. The skins slipped off nice and sleak. It’s hard to overcook beets apparently.

2) Then you go chop-chop-chop. I made mine look like little sunrises. Sun salutations anyone?

3) Cut up the berries and tear up the mint. Place gracefully into a blender if possible. Then add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a few dashes of balsamic vinaigrette. Or you can change the ratio however you want. Blend it up.

4) Stir together, create weird mosaic designs, or just throw it into a bowl, and enjoy!

YOGA BY THE RIVER:

At 7:30 – 8:30 AM Thursday: moderate intensity Vinyasa flow

RESOURCE UPDATES:

Food – linked more recipes from my old blog

Yoga – added some acupressure and mudra resources, as well as resources for people who are prone to “shin splints” (HAH ME!)

Creativity – started linking blogposts on Shelley Carson’s 7 Neuromodes of Creativity, added a few AWESOME TedTalks, and added Roy Horan’s “Neuropsychological Connection Between Creativity and Meditation”

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