Today was the day for pineapple on pizza. It’s Freschetta and it was Sena’s idea. I want to make that perfectly clear. She said if George Dawson can put figs on pizza, I can at least try pizza desecrated by pineapple.
This is the first time we’ve ever had a pineapple pizza. Sena decorated it with extras, of course, as she always does. She added prosciutto and gouda, sliced grape tomatoes, pepper flakes, and mozzarella—and butter.
I wanted to find out who was the perpetrator, excuse me, inventor, of pineapple pizza. According to one recent story on the web, it was Sam Panoupolos, a criminal, I mean a cook, born in Greece who moved to Canada. He started this travesty, I mean recipe variation, in 1962.
The history is confusing because it has been called the Hawaiian Pizza, but it was created in Canada. It’s controversial, of course.
In fact, the President of Iceland touched off an international incident in 2017 by remarking that he would ban pineapple pizza. But when extraterrestrials abducted him and threatened him with a good old-fashioned probing unless he officially named pineapple pizza Iceland’s national food, he relented.
You won’t find the part about extraterrestrials in any history on the web because I just made it up.
Anyway, Sena bought the Freschetta because the other pizza we usually prefer, the Lotzza Motzza, was not available at the preferred price.
We weren’t that impressed. I didn’t really notice the pineapple, probably because there wasn’t that much on it. Neither one of us thought it had much flavor, despite Sena loading it with other ingredients. We’ll probably get the Lotzza Motzza pineapple pizza next time because the picture on the package looks like it has a lot more pineapple on it.
When I think of Sena learning to juggle and find her juggling balls on the floor where she drops them after a 2- or 3-minute practice, I now think of her gardening.
I wondered if gardening could be a form of meditation and did a web search like I did yesterday for juggling. It turns out many people think of gardening as a kind of mindfulness meditation. It’s another one of those moving meditations, kind of like the walking dead meditation as I and some of my peers described it at a mindfulness retreat 9 years ago.
Sena has been gardening for a long time. I remember she turned our back yard into a park many years ago.
She is always on the lookout for something new to plant. I don’t always remember the exact names of them, but they’re very pretty. And the Amaryllis house plant stem is 22 inches tall!
I found one article on Headspace, “How to practice mindful gardening” which laid it all out about the subject. The key takeaways about mindful gardening:
Being fully present in the garden can help improve mood
In this setting, we might also become more aware and accepting of change
Check in with your senses before getting your hands dirty
Sena can work in the garden all day, sometimes in 100 degree plus heat—which I don’t recommend. On the other hand, she really gets a charge out of digging holes in the yard, pulling up turn to make room for more flowers and shrubs, and tilling the soil. She has kept the Amaryllis stalk thriving; it’s 22 inches tall! She’s not sure what to do yet with the Easter Lily plant, but she’ll figure something out.
I still do sitting meditation, which is what I learned from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class. And I now have begun to think of juggling as a kind of moving mindfulness meditation.
On the other hand, I’m not keen on gardening in any sense, including mindfulness. Partly, it’s because a fair amount of dirt is involved.
I think it would be difficult for me to do gardening all day like Sena does. I could stick it out for about as long as she practices juggling—about two or three minutes. I would put my tools away, though.
I’m beginning to think of juggling practice as a kind of meditation, especially since I started to learn the shower juggling pattern. Doing that for more than 15-20 minutes at a time usually doesn’t result in much improvement—at the time. But I think I sprout more brain connections as I’m doing it because I notice gradually smoother timing and coordination.
In sitting meditation, counting your breaths is generally frowned upon. On the other hand, counting my throws (especially out loud) during juggling actually helps me focus my attention. I see each throw as sort of like a single breath. I still have to consciously adjust my posture so that the “horizontal” pass doesn’t end up being more like an underhand throw. And when I modify the throws so they stay in the so-called jugglespace (not so close the balls bounce off my head, not so far out front I have to lunge for them), and space the balls out just right, I find it’s easier to get more throws in.
I don’t think Sena counts the number of dirt clods she tosses aside.
I read this article about mindfulness today and it got me thinking about how juggling might be two different aspects of the same activity.
I think they both help focus the attention. There a number of articles on the web which essentially say that juggling can be a sort of meditation.
I know hardly anything about the default mode network (DMN) in the brain, but from what little I know, I suspect that both juggling and mindfulness meditation could disrupt the DMN. There’s a published study showing that meditation tends to reduce DMN activity. That would be a good thing. The DMN has been described as a brain network which may tend to lead to mind wandering and self-related thinking. That may not be the healthiest way to use your time.
I’ve been doing mindfulness meditation for about 9 years now. I still sometimes wonder whether I’m “doing it right.” On the other hand, when I miss more than a day or two of mindfulness practice, I notice that I feel more edgy and out of sorts. When I return to mindfulness practice daily, I notice less of that scattered and nervous mental state.
I took up juggling last October and I notice that it does something similar to mindfulness. I have to pay close attention to what I’m doing while I’m juggling. Otherwise, I just drop balls constantly.
Just searching the web with the question “Is there a juggling meditation?” turns up quite a lot of articles. Some suggest that juggling is a kind of “moving meditation.” That reminds me of the walking meditation, which I’ve referred to as the “walking dead meditation,” based on my Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course in 2014. At the retreat toward the close of the course, we did this walking meditation thing, which for all the world seemed to more than a few learners as resembling the way zombies walk.
I think I’d have a tough time trying to juggle like a zombie walks. You can’t be herky-jerky when you juggle, you know. I guess that’s why you never see a zombie juggle. Zombies don’t meditate either, probably because they’re too busy looking for brains to munch on.
Now I get the urge to juggle when I feel the need to clear my head. It’s reinforcing for learning new juggling tricks. Sena is learning juggling now and her efforts remind me of the challenges I had. One of them is learning how to let go of the damn ball in a pattern like the three-ball cascade. You get stuck at certain stages. I hit several walls learning the cascade. And then there came a day when I just started doing the pattern right, often because I just let go.
That reminds me of a quote by Juggleman about juggling, “Doing it wrong makes you an artist.”
I’m probably doing mindfulness the way I ought to be “doing” it. Nowadays, the way I judge that is by noticing I feel better when I stick to it.
Today, I spent a lot of time practicing the shower juggling pattern. I didn’t know it at the time, but I invented a new variation of the shower: the hula. I made a video of it and about a minute and a half into it, I noticed I was doing the pattern wrong.
It looked like I was doing the hula! I was trying to get the horizontal pass across at first and was doing OK—until I wasn’t.
I think part of the reason was that I was tired of making only a couple of throws at a time. Doing the hula seemed to raise my average.
I’ve been practicing the shower juggling pattern. I’m combining at least a couple of different methods, which may or may not be helping me improve.
I’m using JuggleMan’s advice about trying to get some extra space in between the balls so I feel less rushed. I’m also trying to use Taylor Glenn’s method of combining the vertical and horizontal tosses.
Using both looks pretty ugly. So, what else is new? My horizontal transfers look snappier but are lopsided according to some experts. I consciously try to hold my dominant slapping hand up higher to avoid the gradual sloping up to a half shower flip up. That up slope often causes mid-air collisions between balls on one side. And I’m getting a little extra space in between the throws, so I’m starting to get one or two extra throws.
I’ve been learning to juggle since last October. It’s fun but definitely not easy. All the stuff about machine learning and artificial intelligence in the news lately got me wondering whether AI can learn to juggle.
It turns out that people have been working on this for years. I gather it takes a while to teach a robot how to juggle. Making a robot able to teach juggling would probably take a very long time. I don’t think it’s as fun to watch a robot juggle as it is watching a person juggle.
Juggling isn’t a very practical skill, although if you’re a really talented juggler you can make a little spare change busking with juggling. A machine doesn’t need spare change and doesn’t appreciate admiration.
By the way; John Henry was a steel-driving man. He beat the steam powered drill, a machine—and sacrificed his own life doing it. Machines don’t understand sacrifice.
I saw an interesting article published in Nature about the homunculus being outdated because of a new brain MRI study indicating that there’s a mind-body connection between the motor cortex and neural networks controlling planning and thought. There’s a mouthful for you.
It makes me wonder about a few things. For example, can I improve my juggling skills simply by thinking about it? Actually, I spend quite a bit of time both practicing juggling and thinking about it.
Sena has recently started thinking about and practicing juggling. And I made a little video about the cascade practice in an effort to help her get unstuck from the 3-ball toss and catch at the 1-2-3 and catch stage. It’s a slow-motion video of me demonstrating the 1-2-3-4 and catch stage. It’s intended to help her visualize how to let go of that pesky ball in her non-dominant hand after the third toss.
The implications of the new brain study for helping patients recover from the effects of stroke are fascinating.
It reminded me of the game foosball. What do you mean you never heard of foosball? It’s a table football game which was enormously popular in the 1970s. You could probably find one in any bar, along with pong, a sort of electronic table tennis game that was also popular in the ‘70s.
The foosball table was usually located at the back of the bar, across the mandatory squishy carpet and kitty corner from the bathroom.
You could never get on the foosball table at one of the local bars in my hometown. It was always monopolized by a gang of local tough guys who would slam the ball so hard into the goal slot you’d swear it would burst through the end of the table.
In a way, it was a good thing foosball occupied those guys. It distracted them from what they liked to do most of the time, which was to bash anyone who got in their way. I think foosball might have cut down on the number of bar fights in small towns.
There was this guy I used to work with who told me stories about bar fights, some of which he enthusiastically got involved in—when he was younger, of course. Somebody named Stumpy (or maybe Stubby?) was a friend of his who had a wooden leg and never missed a chance to mix it up despite his prosthesis. When a fight broke out in a bar, Stumpy would just back into a corner, brace the wooden leg against a wall and whale away at anyone dumb enough to throw a punch at him.
But when foosball tables got installed, the tough guys tended to take out their aggression by slamming balls. You could always spot a foosball gang. They braced themselves, one leg back and one knee sort of braced against the table. They could twirl the little men with great skill and could fake, pass, and finally kick the ball like a rocket into the goal. It was often sort of a grim spectacle. They didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves so much as making believe they were tearing people apart limb from limb.
I’m not sure where the foosball neural network is in the brain, but I’m pretty sure it’s on the hands of the homunculus in the motor cortex.
That’s also probably where the juggling network is.
I’ve been practicing the shower juggling pattern and progress has been slow. Part of the problem is that it’s a difficult pattern and very fast. I have trouble getting elements of it solid.
For example, I tend to make the horizontal transfer from my non-dominant hand more of a toss-up. That makes it look more like a shallow half-shower.
I tried to compensate today by trying to hold my left hand a little higher. That helps a little. But then I have to toss the balls higher, which is difficult to get just right. I drop a lot of balls. But then I usually do. I’ll have to work pretty hard to get more than just a couple of throws in.
It’s pretty ugly, but that’s the name of my YouTube section—Ugly Juggling.
Happy Earth Day! Yesterday, Sena worked pretty hard out in the garden spaces. She has planted ten river birch trees. I did my usual spring lawn edging, which followed the first mow of the season a couple of days before by the lawn mowing service.
The vinca is coming up in the garden circle in our back yard. It reminds me of a time many years ago when I chopped a bunch of vinca out of a substantial portion of the back yard of a previous house. This became Sena’s first big garden. We’ve moved several times since then and there have been a number of other gardens.
True, vinca is invasive and I think it’s also called creeping myrtle or periwinkle. I found out later after I chopped out a few bushels of it that the plant has organic compounds called alkaloids which inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Vincristine and vinblastine are approved for use in the United States.
The reason I’m mentioning vinca is that way back early in my career as a consultation-liaison (C-L) psychiatrist at The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, I dimly recall giving a short acceptance speech for winning a Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine award from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 2006. I was nominated for it by one of the psychiatry residents and another faculty member.
In my speech I mentioned cutting out all of the vinca (which I thought was a weed) in the back yard. I was pretty proud of getting that job done—until Sena got home and found out. She was less than thrilled about my accomplishment and explained that vinca was not a weed. In fact, she wanted it to grow.
I still have the speech and one of the points I made was, “…we water what we want to grow.” The speech is below:
Good morning distinguished guests including graduating medical students, Dean______.
Today we gather to reward a sort of irony. We reward this quality of humanism by giving special recognition to those who might wonder why we make this special effort. Those we honor in this fashion are often abashed and puzzled. They often don’t appear to be making any special effort at being compassionate, respectful, honest, and empathic. And rewards in society are frequently reserved for those who appear to be intensely competitive, even driven.
There is an irony inherent in giving special recognition to those who are not seeking self-aggrandizement. For these, altruism is its own reward. This is often learned only after many years—but our honorees are young. They learned the reward of giving, of service, of sacrifice. The irony is that after one has given up the self in order to give back to others (family, patients, society), after all the ultimate reward—some duty for one to accept thanks in a tangible way remains.
One may ask, why do this? One answer might be that we water what we want to grow. We say to the honorees that we know that what we cherish and respect here today—was not natural for you. You are always giving up something to gain and regain this measure of equanimity, altruism, trust. You mourn the loss privately and no one can deny that to grieve is to suffer.
But what others see is how well you choose.
I didn’t write down the anecdote about the vinca. I think I was also trying to make the point that vinca can be thought of as an invasive “weed” as well as a pretty garden plant. Furthermore, while the vinca alkaloid (for example, vinblastine) can be an effective treatment for some cancers, it can also cause neuropsychiatric side effects, which can mimic depression. That’s where a C-L psychiatrist could be helpful, showing how medicine and psychiatry can integrate to move humanism in medicine forward.
Anyway, ever since then, vinca has often been a part of Sena’s garden, including the one where we live now. And, whenever we walk on any of the trails in Iowa City or Coralville, we always notice it carpeting the woods.
We can probably apply the little law “we water what we want to grow” to many things in life. We can choose to apply it to the world in which we live by creating a safe home to shelter a happy family, doing useful work in the garden while practicing kindness, gratitude, and patience.
We got a few new items lately. One of them is an AIKE Touch-Free Automatic Soap Dispenser. It’s rechargeable and has 5 settings for how much soap to dispense. The two setting is plenty good, especially for a sudsy dishwashing liquid like Dawn.
I don’t think AIKE is an acronym. I looked up AIKE and it has a number of meanings. One of them is “a hooked or crooked person” derived from the Viking settlers of ancient Scotland. One way to pronounce it (British) rhymes with the word “ache.” It can also mean “sword.” If you’re looking for a good first name for a baby boy, I suggest you look for something other than AIKE. Maybe Jim.
You should avoid waving anything other than a sponge or your hand under AIKE. It’s not fussy about who or what it squirts on.
We got a couple of new mouse pads. The old ones were looking ancient. These are snazzy and have bright colors. They’re made by Insten. Their website doesn’t say much about the company other than it has been around since 2014 and they make “top-of-the-line accessories for the hottest electronic devices.”
Their mouse pads are pretty hot. They are quite psychedelic, and you could get dizzy if you look at them too long.
We also got a hand soap pump dispenser which one reviewer said reminded her of a penguin. It only sort of reminds me of a penguin. You can buy a hand soap dispenser that more realistically resembles a penguin, but I’m not sure why you would do that. Penguins are filthy creatures, even when they are babies. The parents regurgitate fish into their mouths and that’s sort of what the dispensers mimic.