So my birthday just passed this weekend, and to treat myself I bought some books!  Haha, pretty lame, I know.  Well, I wanted to get this book called Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, because my AP government teacher recommended it to me so very long ago.  And of course I didn’t bother to read it till now.

Needless to say, this book is really interesting.  Thinking without thinking.  Malcolm Gladwell explores unconscious thinking, how snap judgments play a crucial role in our decision making.  He doesn’t really bother with HOW we think unconsciously, instead treating our unconscious as a black box and focusing on WHAT we are thinking about unconsciously and how those thoughts affect our lives.  For example, one phenomenon that affects our ability to make objective judgments is priming.  If you are fed certain words, such as “gun” or “emotional,” in association with a particular image, such as “black man” or “woman,” you will unconsciously associate those words with the image even if you don’t do so consciously.  These unconscious associations then shape your first impressions and expectations of people.

Gladwell provides an anecdote to illustrate how serious priming can be.  In the classical music world, men were always considered to be naturally better than women.  Women just didn’t possess the “strength” and virtuosity required to be professional musicians.  In fact, up until a few decades ago, very few women played in orchestras.  That was, until screens were put up to prevent the judges from seeing those who were auditioning.  This way auditions could not be judged on the basis of someone’s gender, color, personality, etc.  Now the ratio of women to men in orchestras is almost 50:50.  Are men really better than women at playing musical instruments?  No, but priming someone to associate “woman” with concepts such as “inferior” or “weak” can lead anyone to believe so.

If you thought this was interesting, then I encourage you to read this book.

I don’t know if I’ve told you – probably not – but I started a tomato plant several months ago.  I was inspired to do so by the Anastasia book, and also because I didn’t want to spend tons of money on commercially grown produce when I can eat wholesome and organic from my own backyard for basically free.   Well, this tomato plant, which I started inside, grew and grew and grew. It even bore cute little yellow flowers that evolved into little green tomato fruit.  Once the weather started warming up, I decided to move my tomato outside, but much to my dismay the plant fell seriously ill.  The leaves, which were a rich green and emitted a strong tomato smell, withered, lost their aroma and turned white.  Of course, being a complete novice at these kinds of things, I had no idea I had to harden the tomato before I permanently moved it outside.  I had almost lost hope, until yesterday.

Yesterday, it bore the first ripe tomato.  I was so excited, I took pictures of it (with my brothers camera that I secretly “borrowed”).  This was the most delicious, flavorful tomato I have ever tasted.  Tomatoes from grocery stores tend to be bland, but this tomato had a sharp, tart taste; really tomatoey.  Next time, I think I’ll go for an heirloom variety.

Okay I know its been only two days since I started this book club thing, but I really wanted to share this with you.  I’ve started reading a book by Hakim Chishti entitled The Traditional Healer’s Handbook: A Classic Guide to the Medicine of Avicenna.  This book specifically describes a type of medical healing tradition called Unani Tibb, which is just Persian for Greek medicine.  I’ve always been interested in traditional healing and the medical practice of the ancients, and I’m excited to finally come across a book which explains traditional medicine from a modern point of view. Although I haven’t finished reading it yet, I think this is the book for anyone who wants an introduction into the world of medieval or traditional medicine.  Now I understand what all this black bile, yellow bile stuff means, where it comes from, and how to apply it to my own understanding of health.

Human health, especially nutrition, is really complex, and I think its wrong for anyone to disregard the centuries (maybe even millennia) old medical knowledge in favor of an incomplete biomedical science.  I believe its best to take an integrative approach, complementing and affirming what our ancestors already knew with new scientific discoveries.  Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“A medical pathologist, in searching for the cause of a disease, will often try to find which enzymes are functioning improperly.  The pathologist can identify about twenty-eight enzymes present in the liver cell, although these same enzymes sometimes travel to far points in the body and are involved in complex processes not directly related to liver function or stomach digestion of foods. This approach might have validity if there were only twenty-eight enzymes in the cells, but there are not.  In fact, a pathologist knows that more than one thousand individual enzymes have been “identified” in each liver cell, yet only about twenty-eight of these are understood definately in terms of their functions.  What the other enzymes do is not known at all.

“If the one thousand enzymes were the outer limit, there might be hope.  But no one knows if there are one thousand enzymes in each liver cell: there may be many thousands, or millions, or billions, or an uncountable number.  The fact is, no one knows.  Not at all.

“Even if we assume that the one thousand enzymes are the limit, this means that with knowledge and consideration of only twenty-eight of them, Western medicine makes decisions based upon somewhat less than 3 percent of the total number of affecting enzymatic agents in just the liver! Of course, there are thousands more biochemical components that also affect sex, digestion, thinking, breathing, and every other human activity.  The number of biochemical interactions are virtually limitless, and new discoveries are being announced almost daily – leading to the discarding of prior theories and treatments.  In fact, not even one medicine that is in today’s pharmacy was on the shelf as short a time as ten years ago.” (page 42)

Interesting stuff, eh?

Since I’ve been reading a lot of random books lately, I’v’e decided, why not share my fav picks with you?  So I am now announcing the Kogepannyanko’s Book Club.  Whenever I come across any interesting books, I’ll let you guys in on the scoop.  I don’t get any endorsements from publishing companies, nor do I plan on getting anything from anyone just for giving my honest opinion (about books).  So this is really more of a suggested reading list.  If you have any suggestions for me, please post a comment!  For each book there will also be a poll, so everyone who reads the book can vote on whether they liked the book or not.

The first book to be featured in my book club is Anastasia, the first volume of an amazing series titles The Ringing Cedars of Russia.  This book really changed my perspective towards the world.  The author, Vladmir Megre, sets out on a commercial expedition to Siberia only to come across an amazing woman named Anastasia (well, first he meets her grandfathers).  In this chance encounter, Anastasia reveals her dream for the future of the world, as well as freaking out poor Vladmir with her amazing powers of intellect and her otherworldly talents.  If you want to find out what freaked Vladmir out, and what Anastasia’s dream is all about, you should really read the book!  It will change your life!  In fact, Anastasia is so popular, it is the most frequently stolen book in Europe!

Okay, this is starting to sound like an advertisement (sorry folks), but I really like this book (actually, the whole series) and I want everyone to read it.  It’s funny and insightful; this book gives off a lot of positive, creative energy.  In fact, after I read Anastasia, I was motivated to plant some tomato seeds and start living closer to nature.  Who knows, maybe this book will make your thumbs greener too!  Although I have to warn you, some of the things in this book may seem really far out and not make any sense, but that’s what open minds are for.  So keep an open mind when you read this book.

Ahh… So I’m not very good at this blog thing, or anything really that requires consistency.  Heck, I’m not even consistent when it comes to washing my face.  But anyways, I’m stuck on what my blog should be all about.  There is so much I want to blog about, and yet I can’t even come up with a good title for my blog.  I’ve changed it to “My Journey to Health,” but I don’t quite like that title.  I was thinking of “Simple Life” but I think there’s a website with that name, and plus I don’t think that title gets the idea behind my blog across very well.  I don’t know; when I come up with something better I’ll change it.  Or you can comment me your ideas.

Man, I’m so lost on this blog I haven’t even done anything with the About page.  I don’t know what to put in it!  Any ideas people?

Since I keep complaining about how I can’t take any pictures, I’ve decided to post some old ones to make myself happy.  These are pictures I took three years ago at the College of William and Mary.

Yesterday, I coaxed my sister to come with me for a walk.  I told her we would go to McDonald’s on the way, otherwise she would never have come.   I don’t know what it is with people today.  Why doesn’t anybody like walking anymore?  Or being outside?  Maybe it has something to do with overprotective parents never letting their children play outside for fear that they may get kidnapped.  (My parents are of the overprotective variety).

This is really frustrating.  Part of human nature is to be outside, to interact with the natural environment.  Yet everywhere I look around me, forests are being chopped down to make way for new developments – ugly, clustered houses that only lead to more pollution and environmental damage.  I really don’t understand why all this construction is going in my hometown, especially since its a small suburb and it can’t take any more growth.  The major road, Route 1, isn’t big enough to handle all the incoming traffic, especially when the county decided to zone a huge stretch of forest into new housing about 4 years ago, causing such a massive onslaught of traffic that it took 30 minutes to drive down a road that before only took 2.  (This is because our transportation department doesn’t keep up with housing, so the roads weren’t expanded in time to accommodate the population growth).  At the time that community was built, I was angry, not about the potential traffic that it would (and did)  cause, but because the havoc it wreaked on the environment.  Not only was Route 1 stripped of its beauty, but trees serve kinda like water reservoirs.  They hold the moisture in the ground.  On top of that, Route 1 used to be a river, so there are underground water veins all along the road.  So, once the trees were cut down, Route 1 began experiencing major flooding along where the new housing project was being constructed.  This is a sign!  Nature is telling us to stop destroying her! (Sorry, I had to get this out of my system).

Anyways, on the way back home, my sister and I spotted a man-made pond with two bridges in a scenic community called Tackett’s Mill.  Since we rarely, if ever, go on walks, and we’ve hardly been in that community, it was our first time seeing that pond.  It’s amazing what you find down the street if you ever bother to walk down there.  Again, I wish I had a functional camera.  It was really pretty there.  Lots of ducks and geese.  I could only take crappy pictures with my camera phone, and there’s no way for me to upload them onto my comp.  Once I get my hands on a nice digital camera, I’ll upload some pictures.

Another thing I noticed at Tackett’s Mill is how pretty everything looks when there’s no cars.  There’s a section of office buildings and stores that’s designed kind of like a European town with a colonial American look.  No roads or parking lots.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  Then there’s another section that’s designed just like a regular shopping center, with a large parking lot in the center surrounded by shops, and of course it looks ugly.  If I had studied city planning, I would come up with some sort of plan so that shopping centers and malls aren’t designed with huge, ugly parking lots.  Actually, I think it would be cool if the parking lots were underground, that way above ground there would be more places for people to walk!