Grillo Center Labyrinth

Grillo Center Labyrinth
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Saturday Morning Walkers - January 20, 2008

Hi everyone,

It was my turn to lead our walk this morning but due to the freezing temperatures and icy sidewalks, I made the executive decision for us to have a nice leisurely breakfast at Maries instead of walking. Jan, Barb, Mary, Christie, Laila and I stayed warm, cozy and well-fed.

Book Report:

Jeff told us about a book that he just read and really liked - Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet - Here's what Jeff had to say, "Tammet is an autistic savant with Asperger's syndrome who was featured on a Discovery Channel program called "Brainman". Anyhow it is his autobiography and is fascinating. It looks at how he struggled growing up and how his condition affects how he sees the world. I could not put it down and finished the relatively short book within two days. Check it out."

From Publishers Weekly
This unique first-person account offers a window into the mind of a high-functioning, 27-year-old British autistic savant with Asperger's syndrome. Tammet's ability to think abstractly, deviate from routine, and empathize, interact and communicate with others is impaired, yet he's capable of incredible feats of memorization and mental calculation. Besides being able to effortlessly multiply and divide huge sums in his head with the speed and accuracy of a computer, Tammet, the subject of the 2005 documentary Brainman, learned Icelandic in a single week and recited the number pi up to the 22,514th digit, breaking the European record. He also experiences synesthesia, an unusual neurological syndrome that enables him to experience numbers and words as "shapes, colors, textures and motions." Tammet traces his life from a frustrating, withdrawn childhood and adolescence to his adult achievements, which include teaching in Lithuania, achieving financial independence with an educational Web site and sustaining a long-term romantic relationship. As one of only about 50 people living today with synesthesia and autism, Tammet's condition is intriguing to researchers; his ability to express himself clearly and with a surprisingly engaging tone (given his symptoms) makes for an account that will intrigue others as well.

Barb's book group is reading The Tender Bar, a memoir by J.R. Moehringer
"Long before it legally served me, the bar saved me," asserts J.R. Moehringer, and his compelling memoir The Tender Bar is the story of how and why. A Pulitzer-Prize winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, Moehringer grew up fatherless in pub-heavy Manhasset, New York, in a ramshackle house crammed with cousins and ruled by an eccentric, unkind grandfather. Desperate for a paternal figure, he turns first to his father, a DJ whom he can only access via the radio (Moehringer calls him The Voice and pictures him as "talking smoke"). When The Voice suddenly disappears from the airwaves, Moehringer turns to his hairless Uncle Charlie, and subsequently, Uncle Charlie's place of employment--a bar called Dickens that soon takes center stage. While Moehringer may occasionally resort to an overwrought metaphor (the footsteps of his family sound like "storm troopers on stilts"), his writing moves at a quick clip and his tale of a dysfunctional but tightly knit community is warmly told. "While I fear that we're drawn to what abandons us, and to what seems most likely to abandon us, in the end I believe we're defined by what embraces us," Moehringer says, and his story makes us believe it.

Two suggestions from Jan - She is working her way through Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.
About the Author
Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the huge international phenomenon, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and The Sunday Philosophy Club series. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana and at Edinburgh University. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

She is also reading Avoid Boring People, a memoir by scientist James D. Watson - I believe that Jan recommended avoiding this book!

From Booklist
In this memoir, Watson shows by example how to get to the top and stay there. Spanning his boyhood interest in birds to his resignation from Harvard University in 1976 to his leadership of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Watson's reminiscences encompass his claim to fame—cocredit for deducing DNA's structure in 1953––but focus on his ambition and his conduct of academic politics. He exhibits candor and indulges in gossip, qualities that contributed to the controversy surrounding his account of the DNA breakthrough (The Double Helix,1968) and that enliven this example of the academic memoir, not a genre renowned for excitement. Through arch character sketches, light self-deprecation, and a comic penchant for appraising the behavior and physique of the human female, Watson swings between his scientific aims and the resistance he perceived in Harvard's biology department to molecular genetics. Following each chapter, he appends "manners" derived from his experiences, which in the aggregate amount to making one's mark early and demanding commensurate perks thereafter. In angular and opinionated prose, Watson proves as engaging as ever. Taylor, Gilbert

Laila recommends Ganga: A Journey Down the Ganges River by Julian Crandall Hall.
Book Description
The Ganges has always been more than just an ordinary river. For millions of Indians, she is also a goddess. According to popular belief, bathing in “Mother Ganga” dissolves all sins, drinking her waters cures illness, and dying on her banks ensures freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth.
Yet there remains a paradox: while Ganga is worshipped devotedly, she is also exploited without remorse. Much of her water has been siphoned off for irrigation, toxic chemicals are dumped into her, and dams and barrages have been built on her course, causing immense damage. Ganga is in danger of dying—but if the river dies, will the goddess die too?

Website of the Week: - Bookmooch is another book swap site like the Paperback Swap site I mentioned a while back. You earn points for books you give away and use them to "buy" books from other members. They also give you the opportunity to donate your points to different charities who need books - that is totally optional but a nice feature.

Podcast of the Week: NPR: It's All Politics - -

Vocabulary Word of the Week - kerfuffle

From World Wide Words:
A commotion or fuss.

You will most commonly come across this wonderfully expressive word in Britain and the British Commonwealth countries (though the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer used it in January this year). It is rather informal, though it often appears in newspapers. One of the odder things about it is that it changed its first letter in quite recent times. Up to the 1960s, it was written in all sorts of ways — curfuffle, carfuffle, cafuffle, cafoufle, even gefuffle (a clear indication that its main means of transmission was in speech, being too rarely written down to have established a standard spelling). But in that decade it suddenly became much more popular and settled on the current kerfuffle. Lexicographers suspect the change came in response to the way that a number of imitative words were spelled, like kerplop and kerplunk.

In those cases, the initial ker– adds emphasis, as it does in other words, perhaps onomatopoeic but perhaps also borrowing the first syllable of crash. But we know kerfuffle was originally Scots and it’s thought that its first part came from Scots Gaelic car, to twist or bend. The second bit is more of a puzzle: there is a Scots verb fuffle (now known only in local dialect), to throw into disorder, dishevel, or ruffle. No obvious origin for it is known and experts suspect it was an imitative word. It is probably linked with Scots fuff, to emit puffs of smoke or steam, definitely imitative, which in the late eighteenth century also had a sense of going off in a huff or flying into a temper.

Some specialists think kerfuffle is also related to the Irish cior thual, confusion or disorder. It seems to be a minority opinion, though.

New this week: DVD recommendation - Jan saw Wit, an HBO adaptation of a very powerful and moving story starring Emma Thompson as a woman facing terminal cancer. You can check out the review and details at

Cooking and Dining Report:
Some good cooking going on in North Boulder this past week - Monday night we had book group at Janet's house and she made her delicious Spicy Shrimp in Coconut Milk - - even someone like me who doesn't generally like coconut really loves this dish.

I helped out with the appetizers and made Butternut-Squash Brushcetta, a recipe from 'Imo Restaurant in New York City which appeared in New York Magazine - - it was very interesting and I would make it again but next time I would splurge and get the already peeled and diced butternut squash you can get at Whole Foods.

I also made some very fun bite-size Crabmeat-Avocado Quesadillas with Mango Salsa (you could certanly use regular salsa) I also served them with sour cream - these were from Fine Cooking Magazine -

For dinner one night this week, we had Michael Chiarello's Italian Meatloaf - Jack loved it! -,1977,FOOD_9936_35425,00.html - it is just chocked full of some wonderful ingredients.

A great quick and casual recipe for lunch or a light dinner - FontinPanino di Prosciutto e a from Giada de Laurentiis -,,FOOD_9936_25162,00.html

A hearty soup hits the spot for a winter Sunday dinner - this is a recipe from the classic Silver Palate Cookbook - Minnestrone with Sweet Sausage and Tortellini - - I used turkey Italian sausage instead of the pork.

Health Alert - Here's a tip that Rae forwarded to me regarding recognizing strokes:

RECOGNIZING A STROKE Thank God for the sense to remember the "3" steps, STR . Read and Learn!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke .

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simp le questions:
S * Ask the individual to SMILE.
T * Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently)
(i.e. It is sunny out today)
R * Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE o f these tasks, call 999/911 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher

That's all for now - have a great week ahead! Jack and I are looking forward to the Tattered Cover Writers Respond to Readers event next Saturday - I'll have a full report.



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