Food for Thought

 

 A few months ago I made the decision to get a personal trainer to help with my healthy lifestyle goals.  As is typical, we had a discussion about nutrition and exercise at our first meeting.  One thing we discussed that I wasn’t familiar with was learning my ‘Calorie Maintenance Level’.


It didn’t sound that important at first (just more diet and nutrition stuff) but for some reason I was paying attention, made note and decided to investigate further when I got home.   Thanks, Google!  You can read more about it at:  www.acaloriecounter.com.  


But if you’re not into the research thing like I am – here is a (very) brief summary:

In order to reach your goal; whether the goal is weight loss, fat loss or muscle building it’s important to know where you are starting from.   Your calorie maintenance level will tell you that.  Once you know this number it will be much easier to calculate and successfully reach your goal –and in the most efficient manner possible.


Think about it this way.  If you were about to embark on a road trip, you wouldn’t just jump in the car, start driving and hope to get there.  Yes, you might end up at your destination but it might also take you a really long time to get there.  Enough said!    


The key take-away point to all of this is: whenever we’re trying to eat healthy, or get into better shape there is a tendency to WAY over estimate the value of our efforts assuming that EVERY effort is a MAJOR one on our part; when in fact, this is (usually) never the case.   And, as expected, this will only lead to disappointment and disillusionment when our goals are not immediately met.   


So, if you’re really serious about achieving a new healthy lifestyle goal – do yourself a favor and find out what your ‘calorie maintenance level’ is – trust me, it will be an eye-opener  – and will save you a lot of angst in the long run!

Now, believe it or not this blog post really isn’t about how to lose weight or gain muscle…it’s really about how this information can be applied elsewhere – with any goal.


It’s really easy to set goals.  We get a great idea in our head about how wonderful it would be to accomplish A, B or C. We get excited and we plan.  We’re confident we can achieve anything at this point. 


And then reality hits.  


But I don’t think it’s so much a problem of not following through as it is improper planning.  


I think we set ourselves up for defeat from the beginning because we’re not honest about our starting point. 


We tend to do the opposite of sandbagging – we exaggerate our credentials.  Just like when we’re ‘calculating’ how many calories that Turkey-Melt sandwich has.


I think being honest with who we are and what we want to achieve in a reasonable time frame would help us more in the long run.  No matter what the goal is. 


Just something to think about.

 

Now Appearing in East Texas

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I’ve been REmaking images lately.

It’s my new favorite thing. I’m kind of obsessed actually.

What I like to do is search thru images in my camera roll – particularly images that seem very ‘lacking’ – photographically. You know, those images you take because you see something unusual or something you feel you just need to record – but not something necessarily frame-worthy.

I have a LOT of those images. It’s impossible NOT to have a lot especially when you’re a photographer and you have a camera in your hands almost every minute of the day!

I like to take THOSE images and see if I can turn them into something completely different as simply and as quickly as possible.

It’s a challenge. And it’s really satisfying when every now and then you strike gold.

Here’s the before image.

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A left-handed-rest-against-the-window-use-the-volume-controls-as-a-shutter-button-and-hope-you-get-the-image image…into a Rocky-Mountain-National-Park-now-appearing-on I-20-somewhere-in-EastTexas-abstract image.

My kind of fun.

Damsel in Distress

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I’ve been spending a LOT of time playing with images and apps lately. There are so many options it’s almost overwhelming. I’ve decided to try and limit myself to working with just a few so I can focus on the process more and not worry so much about what ‘else’ I might could do with the image. It’s just like picking out wallpaper (to use an outdated example)– too many patterns and books of patterns to choose from and you never decide on anything for fear you’ll like something better in the next pattern book. It’s a vicious cycle.
So, after experimenting with a texture app called Grunge HD, I came up with this version of an image I made while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park last Fall. I liked the image as it was shot but am really drawn to the distressed and rustic feel it now has. I call it Mountain Plaid.

a real vacation

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Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain
By DANIEL J. LEVITIN AUG. 9, 2014

THIS month, many Americans will take time off from work to go on vacation, catch up on household projects and simply be with family and friends. And many of us will feel guilty for doing so. We will worry about all of the emails piling up at work, and in many cases continue to compulsively check email during our precious time off.

But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.

Every day we’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, news feeds and jibber-jabber, coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. As the world’s 21,274 television stations produce some 85,000 hours of original programming every day (by 2003 figures), we watch an average of five hours of television per day. For every hour of YouTube video you watch, there are 5,999 hours of new video just posted!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.

This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness.

But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears. This is the mind-wandering mode, making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected.

A third component of the attentional system, the attentional filter, helps to orient our attention, to tell us what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore. This undoubtedly evolved to alert us to predators and other dangerous situations. The constant flow of information from Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, text messages and the like engages that system, and we find ourselves not sustaining attention on any one thing for very long — the curse of the information age.

My collaborator Vinod Menon, a professor of neuroscience at Stanford, and I showed that the switch between daydreaming and attention is controlled in a part of the brain called the insula, an important structure about an inch or so beneath the surface of the top of your skull. Switching between two external objects involves the temporal-parietal junction. If the relationship between the central executive system and the mind-wandering system is like a seesaw, then the insula — the attentional switch — is like an adult holding one side down so that the other stays up in the air. The efficacy of this switch varies from person to person, in some functioning smoothly, in others rather rusty. But switch it does, and if it is called upon to switch too often, we feel tired and a bit dizzy, as though we were seesawing too rapidly.

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Email, too, should be done at designated times. An email that you know is sitting there, unread, may sap attentional resources as your brain keeps thinking about it, distracting you from what you’re doing. What might be in it? Who’s it from? Is it good news or bad news? It’s better to leave your email program off than to hear that constant ping and know that you’re ignoring messages.

Increasing creativity will happen naturally as we tame the multitasking and immerse ourselves in a single task for sustained periods of, say, 30 to 50 minutes. Several studies have shown that a walk in nature or listening to music can trigger the mind-wandering mode. This acts as a neural reset button, and provides much needed perspective on what you’re doing.

Daydreaming leads to creativity, and creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, to mold it to our liking, to have a positive effect on our environment. Music, for example, turns out to be an effective method for improving attention, building up self-confidence, social skills and a sense of engagement.

This radical idea — that problem solving might take some time and doesn’t always have to be accomplished immediately — could have profound effects on decision making and even on our economy. Consider this: By some estimates, preventable medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. You want your diagnostician to give the right answer, not always the quickest one. Zoning out is not always bad. You don’t want your airline pilot or air traffic controller to do it while they’re on the job, but you do want them to have opportunities to reset — this is why air traffic control and other high-attention jobs typically require frequent breaks. Several studies have shown that people who work overtime reach a point of diminishing returns.

Taking breaks is biologically restorative. Naps are even better. In several studies, a nap of even 10 minutes improved cognitive function and vigor, and decreased sleepiness and fatigue. If we can train ourselves to take regular vacations — true vacations without work — and to set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems. And to be happier and well rested while we’re doing it.

Daniel J. Levitin is the director of the Laboratory for Music, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University and the author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.”

I subscribe to AustinKleon.com (Austin Kleon is the author of ‘Show Your Work’ and ‘Steal Like an Artist’) – this article was included in his newsletter this week.

And how perfect to arrive home from a real vacation to find an article singing the praises of the importance of taking a ‘real vacation’; no work emails, no computer, no cell service at all, just a chance to enjoy the away-from-it-ness of it all.

Vacations like this used to be the norm but now are considered luxuries – and this needs to change.

If you haven’t had the chance to experience this type of vacation in awhile – do yourself a favor and plan one soon.

The attached is an iPhone image I feel describes that vacation state of mind perfectly – rural Vermont.

Just beautiful!

The mountains are calling

and I must go.

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Another iPhone (only) composite where I’ve combined two of my favorite things…winter landscape photography and bees!  (not necessarily in that order!)

And here is the original image of the honey extractor (from the beekeeping booth at our local Ag Expo this weekend) to give you an idea of how layering affected the outcome of the image.

honey

Hot off the Press

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Encaustic art is one of the oldest forms of painting.  It originated in ancient Greece over three thousand years ago but has only recently begun to receive the acknowledgement it deserves.  But thankfully, due to the dedication of a handful of individuals, the word is slowly, but surely (finally) getting out.

And I received two new encaustic books just today!

Encaustic Art by Jennifer Margell and a book of Betsy Eby’s encaustic works entitled, Betsy Eby.

Both are beautiful, hardback books that you will enjoy having in your studio or library.

The cover art on Jennifer Margell’s book is by Lorraine Glessner, who I was fortunate enough to spend 3 days with in a workshop she taught (just this past weekend at the Encaustic Center in Richardson, Texas).  The book is filled with the beautiful art of many artists while covering lessons on technique, interviews discussing ambitions, inspirations and painting techniques and also featuring a gallery collection of other contemporary encaustic artists working today.  It is beautifully done and a must-have for your collection.

Betsy Eby’s over-sized book is 150 pages long.  Open to any page and you will be rewarded.  But this should come as no surprise if you are at all familiar with her work.  The book includes more than seventy-five full-color plates of Eby’s evocative paintings; the book is a significant survey of major work from the past decade.

Viewing all of this beautiful work is inspiring and intimidating at the same time.

But I like what Jennifer Margell says in the introduction to her book when she talks about encaustics being like no other form of painting, in that there are endless techniques and fleeting seconds before your medium solidifies.  It is a medium where you have to trust your instincts and paint in the moment.  You have to take leaps of faith.  In the beginning there are many frustrations, but over time you learn how to work with the beautiful accidents which incur.

“The best way to learn the art of painting encaustics, she says, is not to create beautiful paintings.  The best way to work with the medium is to create painting after painting, focusing on a different technique each time.  Even a technique you do not plan to use will later be another option added to your repertoire.”

This is so true and I came to that very conclusion myself this past weekend while learning even more encaustic techniques.

Encaustic art truly is a melting pot of possibilities!

Happenstance

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So……

I’ve been playing around with apps lately.

This image is the same image from yesterday’s post (can you believe it?) – amazing what you can do with apps these days, isn’t it.

I would share the technique I used, if only I could remember what it was!  I’ve been going back and forth between two books; Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible, by Daniela Bowker and The Art of iPhoneography, by Stephanie C. Roberts (ironic, considering I’m using an Android at the moment), and I’m not sure which app I ended up using for this image.

But both of the books are great and full of inspiration.

Its a lot of fun to play with apps; to select an image already in your gallery,  and just see what happens.

I mean, look at the difference between these two photos!!  And this was from (literally) about 3 minutes of experimenting time.