The Land with two Brains

As I was perusing through my last few blogs, I noticed that the last 5 or so were categorized under “personal.”  I definitely like blogging about different subject matters and my life and relationships are certainly part of that, yet it is about time to get back to something a bit more academic and exercise that other half of the brain –the half that is not quite so touchy feely and does not care much for singing bowls or drum circles.

This upcoming Friday, Crafton Hills College will be hosting the Southern California Speech Educators Forum. As the Director of this forum, I, among other duties, will be discussing with Speech Geeks like myself, issues in the field of teaching Communication Studies in the college context.

Thus, I come to you, my blog readers, and to the educators this Friday with an issue that is so vastly important, pervasive and transformative in our culture right now that most of us are utterly blind to it as that which encompasses becomes our norm and thus becomes invisible.

So, if you are not into technology and the brain, go to the “personal” tab above and read all about my emotional and psychological shortcomings as I whine like a little bitch. For today, I am an academic; whiny-bitchthough still a little bitch to be sure. I have blogged about this before though then the focus was comparing digital natives (my kids) with digital immigrants (me); I believe this distinction is not so great as I once believed.

We are all currently in the process of getting our brains completely rewired through technologies not thought possible just a couple of decades ago.  The hyperlink world is creating hyperlink brains.  Our brains are turning more “status update” than detailed diary, more snapchat than manifesto, more Wikipedia and less encyclopedia.

Gary Small UCLA professor of psychiatry tells us that “…the current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains (the daily use of computers, smartphones, search engines and other such tools) stimulates brain cell alteration and neurotransmitter release, gradually strengthening new neural pathways in our brains and weakening old ones.

technology-addictI am not a brain scientist and at the risk of monumental oversimplification, I have read enough literature to know that those parts of the brain we do not use shrink and get adopted by other parts of the brain we are using. For example, if one were suddenly struck with blindness the part of the brain responsible for vision would lend a hand to the auditory function of the brain. If we lose one of our senses, our brain becomes more acute in the other unaffected senses as a form of brain compensation.

In a famous study of London taxicab drivers detailed brain autopsies as well as brain scans reveal that the part of the brain responsible for memorizing streets and having a sense of direction, the posterior hippocampus, was significantly larger than the general population and, depending on how many years on the job, the more experienced drivers had a larger posterior hippocampus. Interestingly, neural-plasticitythe anterior hippocampus was smaller –meaning the part of the brain overused was yoked- though it was at the expense of another unused part.

Kind of like my bulky biceps grow at the expense of my little tiny schoolboy calves. Yeah, just like that.

Nicholas Carr suggests “with the exception of alphabet and number systems, the Internet may well be the single most powerful mind altering technology that has ever come into general use, At the very least, it’s the most powerful that has come along since the book.”

So, what does this mean? It means all of our brains are changing in some very humungous ways that researchers are still trying to figure out. This is an extremely important period of history in our biological neural evolution.

We are certainly seeing a lot of evidence that our collective brains are becoming much more acute in the area of multi-tasking and much less acute in focusing while finishing what we start.  We are losing many abilities related to memory as we no longer need to memorize numbers, addresses, or, for that matter, nearly all information as we simply pull it up on Google.focus-and-concentration

The GPS is completely retarding our collective senses of direction; yet, ask me to find 10 addresses and I can provide them all in under 30 seconds.

I am neither a technological dystopian (our brains and the world are going to hell) nor utopian (technology will save us) and I am quite open to nearly all googleglasspossibilities.  I do believe “Google Glasses” (you must check that link out people, seriously, check it right now and come back) and the concept of singularity -where biological brain and technology become as one- are very real possibilities and, most likely, probabilities.

So blog readers, how do we Speech educators teach effectively to multi-tasking, hyperlinked, multi-tabbed brains?

So blog readers AND Speech educators, do we realize this is taking place? Do we want it to take place? Are we losing control of our own brains?

I don’t have any answers though I know for certain we need to be asking the questions.  If not, we lemmings may just follow that technological pied piper over the cliff. Or not.

Just stuff worth thinking about….told you I would still whine like a little bitch. Sorry Jesus.


All My (disappearing) Children

We have all heard of absentee fathers.

I was just the opposite; perhaps I was even an overly “presentee” father.

I was usually the coach, quite often the classroom helper and nearly always the ride to and from school.

If the investment in my children was like investing in mutual funds I would be retired right now.  For a couple of decades-or more- I didn’t do much outside my children. Never golfed or went to the bar after work; perhaps the furthest I distanced myself from my kids was when they went to bed and I sat out on the driveway with wine glass in hand…deservedly earned, I must say. I was about as physically and emotionally present as a poppa could be, or, at least, as this poppa could be.

Please know I am not bragging nor looking for any father of the year trophies. The fact is from a young age I could not wait to be a dad. As a 10 year-old I would look at Rose and Tessa dadandSteve other dads and tell myself, “I wanna be one of those!” It is just who I am; no pat on the back necessary. We don’t reward a dog for barking.

Yet it was this morning that my oldest son moved (again) this time to southern Mexico some 3000 miles away, my oldest daughter left Monday to go back to her love and home in London, some 6000 miles away, while my youngest daughter is comparably in our backyard in Orange, CA a mere 60 miles away. My youngest son leaves to live in Las Vegas via UNLV in just a few months.

I became a father at 25 and now, at 50, 4 adult children later, I sit alone tonight in a house comfortably and custom-designed for at least 5 more inhabitants.

What the hell happened?

I guess unlike financial investments in which one personally gains profit for self –spent by self– investing in your children yields profit for others, namely the children themselves. Certainly the inner contentment of their well-being is fundamental to our survival as parents of adult children and is the greatest yield of all; yet ironically, I find myself alone tonight in 2200 square feet of treasured memories and an equal amount of square footage constituting lonely empty space.

I love it…and I hate it.  My tears are a cacophony of both tears of joy and tears of sadness.  My heart simultaneously feels absolute contentment, knowing of their solid paths and resolute character, yet absolute loneliness as the quietness allows me to hear the constant buzz of the refrigerator motor and the slight hum of all things electronic in a still house. I would rather hear human generated noise…even if it is the obnoxious accordion, the loud Skype conversations or the overly dramatic script of “The L Word” blasting from Netflix.

RosieNot tonight.

Please do not get me wrong…even if I could, I would not change a thing…not one damn thing. This is the design, this is the plan realized; it is the perfectly executed investment strategy gone terribly RIGHT.Jordan

Is it coincidence that 4 of the 5 people on the planet I like the most happen to be my own offspring? It feels like I did not raise 4 children, rather I cloned 4 friends.  This all would be so much easier if I did not like them or appreciate who they are (it happens!) –au contraire, these 4 are unique, genuine, wildly different, strong-minded adults scratching at the door of self-actualization.

So file this blog as a glass of reflection, with dashes of both whiny and sad herbs, mixed in with a small dose of self-pity, containing a large heaping  of perspective then permeated with cubes of absolute joy and contentment. Quite a blog cocktail I must say…like drinking in both sweet and sour and bland and salty all in the same swallow.

And now as I begin the end of the third, start of the fourth quarter of life, perhaps investing in those mutual funds is not such a bad idea…I mean I have the time now.

Unless…soon you will be calling me grandpa? Get busy my children…I earned it. I wanna be the presentee granddad .


Singing Bowls

Tuesday evening the Urbanovich clan will be hosting a “Tibetan Singing Bowl Gathering.”

WTF you ask? Good question.

For those of you NON-hippie, primal screaming, left leaning, Eastern thinking, free loving folk (you know who you are) according to Wikipedia Tibetan Singing Bowls:

(also known as rin gongs, Himalayan bowls or suzu gongs) are a type of bell, specifically classified event_20279745as a standing bell. Rather than hanging inverted or attached to a handle, singing bowls sit with the bottom surface resting. The sides and rim of singing bowls vibrate to produce sound characterized by a fundamental frequency (first harmonic) and usually two audible harmonic overtones (second and third harmonic).

And why would we hippie, primal screaming, left leaning, Eastern thinking, free loving folk want to do this? Well, according to Wikipedia:

Singing bowls are used worldwide for meditation, music, relaxation, and personal well-being. They are used by a wide range of professionals, including health professionals, school teachers, musicians and spiritual teachers. Singing bowls are used in health care by sound healers, psychotherapists, article-new_ehow_images_a07_e2_vv_play-tibetan-singing-bowl-800x800massage therapists, cancer specialists, stress and meditation specialists. They are used to help treat cancer patients and also for post traumatic stress disorder. They are popular in classrooms to help facilitate group activities and focus students’ attention.

So all are invited to attend, 7:00pm at Case de la Urb to learn how to focus.

Though, as usual, hosting such a gathering has me thinking. I was raised in conservative environment (and by raised I mean until I was 40) where activities of this type were considered the bastion of crazy people. Weirdos. Freaks.

I mean we will be sitting around in a circle trying to create sound and vibrations in an attempt to bring inner peace and healing…and focus.

This is an acoustic round of “Kumbaya My Lord” on an anabolic, HGH, testosterone, steroid cocktail.

So, as much as I am freeing myself up to engage and feel the power of this evening, that conservative “in-the-box” blood runs deep. I mean what is next?…a clothing optional acid tripping singing bowl drum circle? Hmmmm.

Am I a crazy, weirdo, freak?  Of course I am. I am just not sure that hosting this event is what makes me one.kumbaya-1 I realize my angst has nothing to do with singing bowls; it has to do with the larger issues of opening ourselves up to seeing life differently, accepting things we may not understand and stretching our life paradigms in constant search of finding more depth and understanding. This may happen any number of ways, though, for today, it comes by way of created vibrations from a singing bowl; tomorrow it may be something entirely different.

I realize human beings have a fantastic way of vilifying all things we do not understand or that is different from the way we do life. I have dedicated myself to resist this very human impulse. If I do not “get” you, or what you do, or what you think, I vow not vilify or think less of you. In this case, I refuse to vilify myself -which is difficult to do after years of vilifying all those not like me.

There are issues I believe in very strongly. Yet for those who might disagree I give the benefit of the doubt. They are not villains with bad intentions, they simply have a different thought process…a process I might have something to learn from.  When we vilify we build walls, fear and mistrust. When we question and assume good intentions by our philosophical foes, we create a culture of good will, vibes and energy.

So come sing a bowl with us,  feel the good energy and stretch yourself in ways never before considered.


Success Story from a Closet Quasi-Buddhist

I probably define success differently than most.  And, apparently, I am somewhat Buddhist and I didn’t even know it.  Funny what a blog and a little research will reveal. Dayum.laughing_buddha_statue

The beauty of success is that we are all free to define it as we choose…and since this is my blog, well…

Woody Allen quipped that 90% of success is showing up.

I would counter that 100% of success depends what you are showing up to.

On a recent flight home from Reno, Nevada I sat next to a woman named Charlotte who was originally from Denmark.  She was very talkative and, nearly back to our destined tarmac in Burbank, revealed that she just sold her business for 250 million dollars as she was on her way to their Laguna Beach house via the Pickwick horse stables where she rides on occasion. She claimed if she and her husband had waited another 7 years they could have sold the business for closer to 500 million. Though she wanted out. She realized that was not what she wanted to be doing in her life for the next 7 years.

So I asked her what she wanted to do.

“Well, I say I want to do this or that, though I know I really don’t- because if I did know, I would be doing it. I just knew I did not want to be doing that any longer.” (yes, I paraphrase, just in case you are reading this Charlotte).

She could have her 250 million and be successful or strive after the 500 million and be a failure. She got it.

If you are doing what you want to be doing in life you are successful. Success or failure is not a destination it is a realization -a realization that even if you had the power to change anything you would like in your life, you would not –such is success.

I am guessing most people are not “successful” when viewing it in this way.

How then do we achieve success? My formula for success is fairly simple. We find our genuine and heartfelt interests, pursue them with hard work and intensity, loving and appreciating the process, and voila, you would think next stop success -though, wait, like the dish soap of yore, you were already soaking in it (google it kids).

And then I find this little gem from Siddhartha Buddha,  “To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.”

I like this Buddha guy.

In my life I have been a successful paperboy, cookie delivery boy, clothing inventory keeper, Hollywood day parade valet, auto parts salesman, geology soil tester, medical equipment mover just to name a few, as all of these things were leading to this point in my life. I wanted to be doing those things at the time for a variety of reasons. Did I want to die doing those things? No. I just knew they part of a larger process.

“It is better to travel well than to arrive.”

Jeez Buddha you are awesome.

This does not imply that successful people do not get occasionally inflicted with the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” virus nor do not experience days when they would prefer not to get out of bed –everyone is human.   Sometimes this is just enough of a dose of angst to provide sufficient motivation to change our course. Yet the general trait of the successful is they are content in their own skin because success is not found, or achieved, or taken over by conquest; it is not finally getting that big something– be it a bonus or big break; it is found within.

Gawdamn Buddha couldn’t a said it any better than that yo. Well, maybe…

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

It is the feeling of warmly and contentedly wading in the cozy and soothing pools of a life realized.

Often we do not find our career, our career finds us; we do not find our lifestyle, it finds us; we do not find success, it finds us; and, apparently, we do not find our philosophical outlook, it finds us. tumblr_m527zd3qYo1rtczrmo1_500Successful people do not hunt for success, they receive it as the result of passionate lifestyle in pursuit of doing what they are…success is sure to follow.  Success always finds it’s intended targets, we just have to be willing to recognize it.

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.”

That Buddha cannot butt out of this blog.

It is sad that most of us define success by measuring certain levels of notoriety, fame or economic status –Yet even if we attain all these things in abundance though do not love each moment of our life as we pursue what we are passionate about, under such misguided precepts, we are failures.

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”

Case in point…I am a practicing quasi-Buddhist and I didn’t even know it. Stay true to who you are and you may find it interesting to discover who and what you really are.