Category: Literature

AgingalumniCarroll ReflectionsCarroll University USACurious David

Can my old brain be (re)trained?

There are buildings on campus whose cornerstone bears a date before my birth. My father-in-law walked in some of these very buildings in 1936. Voorhees Hall was a women’s dorm when Walt walked this campus.

So many memories. Some converge; some change. Some researchers argue that memories change every time that they are retrieved.

With age comes my increased interest in the inevitable aging process. At one time or another I have written over 80 blog pieces (or drafts) about relationships between aging and memory.

Here are a few: (Clicking on all the links in each and viewing their contents might be a valuable brain fitness exercise!):)

  1. Thanks for the memories!
  2. I’m not sure that you will remember me but…
  3. Brain fitness training (Part 1)
  4. Brain fitness training (Part 2)

After consulting with my four student research assistants, I’ve decided to focus my Fall semester research seminar on the topic of “brain fitness”—fact and fad.  I am particularly intrigued by the promises of the program “BrainHQ.” Time to don my skeptical thinking cap:

 

BooksCurious DavidLiteratureReading

Preparing for Bloomsday: Reasons for Reading James Joyce

Abloom with Ideas of What to Read

Abloom with Ideas of What to Read

I recently purchased a five-year journal and I’m using it, as a planning tool for things I want to accomplish in the next five years. Inspired by my sister-in-law who a year ago told me that she might attempt to read my late father-in-law’s copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, I’ve begun identifying “great books” which I’d like to have read in the next few years. Ulysses is on my short-list at the moment, though I vacillate on whether I should invest the time in READING it. If so, I want to finish reading it by next Bloomsday.

I just finished reading Kevin Birmingham’s excellent The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses and gained a fuller understanding of the importance of the book. I learned a lot from listening to James A. W. Heffernan’s  Great Courses lectures on Ulysses.  I have explored the James Joyce resources on Openculture.com including a recording of his reading from the book. I’ve read The Odyssey (but almost 50 years ago—perhaps I should read the critically acclaimed Fagles translation). My interest has been piqued by the virtual reality project to create an educational video game of Ulysses, and I have discovered Frank Delaney’s audio podcasts reading of the work.  I passed by the twitter edition! Perhaps I’ll attend Milwaukee’s Irishfest. I’ll definitely add in my five-year journal Ireland as one of the countries I wish to visit.

The question, now, is should I commit myself to reading Ulysses—or instead curl up with Robin the Newf and study my dog-eared copy of  Berke Breathed‘s Classics of Western Literature: Bloom County 1986-1989.

 

Curious DavidHigher EducationLiteratureReadingUniversity teaching

It’s about Time…

enjoypic

It is about time to discard my invisibility cloak and return to campus. TIME is the campus -wide theme 2014-2015 for Carroll University (Waukesha, WI, USA) where I teach. Across the course of my 36 years of teaching, I have enjoyed creating special courses (‘Why War?” “Happiness” “Pioneering Web 2.0 Technology Tools”) when I have been allowed total control over the course. Were I to offer a course on this year’s theme, I would include the following required reading and videos:

Carroll ReflectionsCurious DavidLiteratureMemoryscience fiction

I’ve been Doing a Lot of Time Traveling Lately

Family 19554Blog

I’ve been doing a lot of time traveling lately partly due to my bed time reading of the marvelous 900+ page paperback The Time Traveler’s Almanac.  I’m tempted to try out Mr. Peabody’s Wayback machine.

This is also the time of year where I am flooded with memories of my time at Carroll (and my (in)formative years at Oberlin College and Ohio State). And I whistle a lot while walking across campus as I process this flood of memories. Once I get the semester successfully put to bed (with fond farewells to graduates at Commencement on Sunday),  I need to turn my attention to sorting through photos, thoughts and memories in preparation for Mom’s memorial service on May 17.

Little Brother Bruce and Big Sister Connie Sue kindly sent me all the photos from Mom’s Sun City Residence. Can you pick out Connie, David, and Bruce as they looked in 1955? I wonder what we were thinking then? I think that I had gotten over my desire to run away from home because of the birth of Bruce and was trying to teach him how to read. I hadn’t yet started teasing Sis, though I may already have inadvertently locked her in the bathroom.  Here are some of the events shaping our thinking then.

I can vaguely remember some of the radio show and TV shows.  What do you remember from 1955? What would you like to remember when you are 65? 90?


computer dictationControlling TechnologyCurious DavidDystopiaslanguage

Nuanced monologue: I’ve been talking to my computer a lot lately—and sometimes it talks back.

I’ve been talking a lot to my computer lately since I installed on my Mac the Mavericks Operating system.  I have been quite impressed by the dictation accuracy of Nuance’s Dragon Dictate and the degree to which I can use voice commands to control the machine.  Over the past 40 some years I have followed with interest developments in “communication” between humans and computers.  In the 60’s I interacted with Eliza, the Rogerian therapist and in the 70’s the Talking Moose resided on my early Macs—useful toys. But the capabilities of software to “read” text, translate simple conversations, and follow voice commands has dramatically improved since then and become useful in my work. What was once fiction (e.g. The Circle, 2312, Lexicon) is much closer to (dystopian) reality.  The challenge remains how to let technology be a tool controlled by (rather than controlling) me. It is easy to be seduced by the WOW factor.  

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So far I have not QUITE formed a “singular” “SIRIous”  emotional relationship with “her” nor discussed serious religious beliefs . Now, my relationship with books is another matter! 


Boosting Brain PowerCarroll University USACritical Thinking in PsychologyDementiaLiterature

Thanks for the Memories…

Memories of North Lake, WI

Perhaps because I just recently read that the CEO of Evernote wants me to be able to remember everything, I’ve been thinking a lot about elephants lately and about  Jorge Luis BorgesFunes Memorius and about those Seven Sins of Memory outlined by Psychologist Daniel Schacter. One of the downsides  joys of being liberally educated is that one sees interconnections among seemingly disparate things.

Based upon my thinking about the links above, I’m convinced that I don’t want a perfect memory—nor do I want technological tools for remembering everything. Still, as I grow older I am increasingly sensitive to issues of memory loss. I am haunted by the descriptions of  dementia so graphically and accurately described in Walter Mosely’s  novel The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.

Here is an interview with the author.

There is so much hype interest today in using technology to improve one’s brain power,  health and well-being. Try, for example, doing an online search on “brain power.” You’ll  be overwhelmed with the results though (hopefully) be underwhelmed by the validity of the claims. The challenge is to know how to decide  which claims are “snake oil,” which represent vaporware, and which are  science-based.  Consider these three Internet “tools” (none of which I am endorsing but each of which I am investigating with my students)  … and their promises and claims of success at improving one’s life

  1. lumosity.com
  2. happify.com
  3. learningrx.com

Which (if any) in your informed judgment is based upon valid psychological science? Which is merely entertainment? Which make false or unverifiable claims? Which is patently wrong?

Here is a video of some evidence-based things we can do to improve our health and psychological well-being. The first presenter, Dr. Michelle Braun, is a Carroll graduate who recently returned to campus to receive the Joseph E. Runkel Excellence in Psychology award. She is also the first speaker in the accompanying video. Her message is uplifting, well-presented, and data based. Thank you, Michelle, for your advocacy and for serving as a touchstone for my learning. You continue to enrich my life and those of my students.