Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas is past and what a blast ...

I took yesterday off from blogging, primarily due to the standard overeating of the day. It's hard to get motivated to blog when you're stuffed to the gills with food. Christmas dinner was one of those meals with way too much food - roast beef, ham, potatoes, yams, green beans, jello, rolls, ... and more. Then after the dishes were cleared and the fresh pot of coffee started, out came the varieties of fruit cakes. None of us are fans of fruit cake made with citron, but that just made it a challenge for Mom this year. So she had three different types of fruit cake she made with dried fruit and no citron this year. Couple that with some ice cream and you have the ultimate in heavy deserts. And of course you *have* to try all three kinds so that you can give an unbiased rating of different recipes. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Today was another example of adiabatic heating here on the plains. It was close to 50 degrees this afternoon as the cold front pressed in. About three the winds picked up and the temperature dropped as the front arrived. So tomorrow is supposed to be seasonably cool, but by Monday the winds will have reversed and combined to yield temperatures close to 60. At least if I believe the weather forecast. Nothing like living where the temperature can vary by 60-75 degrees in a few days.

It made it a nice day for L and I to take a walk in the park with Molly the wonder dog. The squirrels were out in force, driving Molly to distraction with their disappearing act in the trees every time she got close. One thing that has both L and I scratching our heads is the large numbers of robins still around. Normally by this time of year we are down to crows, sparrows, doves, and a few stragglers. This year there are still literally hundreds of robins in the trees and around the area. The question this brings up can be phrased as an or: Are we insane and this is normal and we just haven't noticed before, or is this something different that might have an interesting explanation?

Finally, it is time to consider the seasonal wonder of the research reported in a University of California San Diego press release. The title is evocative, but doesn't really convey the true oddity. In Eyes on the prize Brain-imaging research finds visual areas respond more to valuable objects , researchers from the Perception and Cognition Lab at UCSD reported on a study published in the Dec. 26 issue of Neuron. The main gist of the study is that if something has been associated with monetary value in the past, the visual system emphasized the object in the present. I.e. valuable things arouse more interest in the visual cortex and other areas of the brain. I think this explains a lot. Some of the speculation is that this brain processing oddity my be able to explain certain aspects of addiction. For example, the sight of drugs of food might be triggers to increased emphasis to the brain based on past rewards.

With that odd bit of research duly reported, I can now head off to the bed.

... and to all a Good Night!


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