Friday, March 29, 2013

CUT THE C#$%: Myths of Italia

Ciao from Italia! Since I have been in Italy for 5 weeks now and I feel that it was appropriate to acknowledge the myths/stereotypes I had stuck in my head before living here. Studying in another country forces you to learn quickly---your view of a culture can change entirely in days. So here are some common stereotypes about Italian culture that I would like to acknowledge based on my own experiences here in Bologna.
Stereotype #1: Italians just eat pizza and have the metabolisms of cross-country runners

-Finding a fat person in Italy is like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s both incredible and depressing. At first it is easy to hate them and ponder whether or not they are actually from planet earth. But upon living with Italians and learning about their culture, it all makes sense.

To them, food is an experience. It’s actually a huge aspect of their lives. Because food is an experience, it should be enjoyed and appreciated by all senses. They savor food, they eat more slowly, and therefore, they eat less. They don’t eat to live, they live to eat. They don’t rush through meals, and they don’t take shortcuts. 

Stereotype #2: All Italians look ready to be on the cover of GQ or Vogue magazine.

-Men in Italy make the majority of American men look like hillbillies. Nobody ever walks around in sweats. In fact, even their dogs are well dressed. I have been upstaged more than once by a small dog while walking down the street.
Stereotype #3: Romance is everywhere

-If romance is equal to PDA, then yes. It is not uncommon to see couples making out in restaurants or in the street.
Stereotype #4: All food tastes like it had been made by Jesus.

Yes, even the most casual, fast food pizza restaurant has better pizza than in the United States.
Stereotype #5: They talk with their hands.

Yes, and it’s freaking awesome. However, I might change my mind when certain negative gestures are directed at me.
It is natural that movies and pop culture implant certain ideas in our heads about other cultures. That being said, it is a wonderful experience to seek out a culture on your own. It’s incredibly rewarding. Although you may not find your Italian lover riding on a Vespa (thanks Lizzie McGuire!), if you forget these expectations, you’ll surely find something even better.

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 The "Is This Real Life?" Column, Samantha Salis:

Sam is a Psychology Major and Political Economy Minor at UC Berkeley. She is a dedicated young woman, ambitious and sharp as a whip. Our dear Samantha tutors high schoolers and works at a Psychology lab at UC Berkeley. Even with this busy schedule, Ms. Salis creates the time to divulge to us her insider perspective on the world around us, backed with thorough researc. Enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2013

WORDS OF WISDOM: Who (Should) We See?


John Steinbeck once wrote that what we “see” in life at any given moment is determined in part by how we are feeling.1
“….. I discovered long ago in collecting and classifying marine animals that what I found was closely intermeshed with how I felt at the moment.  External reality has a way of being not so external after all.  …  This monster of a land, …, turns out to be the macrocosm of microcosm me.”
            What Steinbeck discovered about himself in a scientific endeavor is true for every one of us, and influences many aspects of our lives.  We co-occupy this planet with about 7 billion people, yet we see and interact with only a small fraction of them every day. So who do we see, and why?  Who do we connect with, and why?  Who you see and connect with is, for the most part, up to you. But this also means that you have to make choices.
            Don’t get me wrong; there is randomness in life. We don’t control whom we see and the extent to which we connect with them. You can’t predict who will be standing in front of you in the lunch line tomorrow or who will be sitting next to you on the bus. But what you can control is how you choose to “see” the people that are around you every day, and more so, how you choose to interact and connect with them.
Most people are in your life by choice or design – not necessarily completely by your choice or design, but they are in your life for a reason. This does not mean that you have no control of your connections with people in your life. You greatly influence the outcomes of every relationship in your life – even if it began by chance. Let me provide a few suggestions of what you might aim for and why...!
understand that how you feel influences whom you see and how connect with people, and that the same is true for everybody else.  If you’re in a good mood, you’re likely to be friendlier and more open to connection, and if not, quite the opposite. It is important to keep this in mind always, because the responses you get from others are also highly a result of their present state of being. Once you understand this, you can begin to be aware of this and, more importantly, learn to manage it so that you meet the people you'd like to meet, or keep relationships you'd like to keep.
enhance your ability to see and to connect with people. You can do this by simply changing the way to go about “seeing” others. As in work and sport and school, you can create a “game plan” to improve or change the outcome of something. So here’s a “game plan” to try: next time you’re about to step outside your dorm room or apartment door, stop for a second and think about who you might encounter, and think of them not as objects impeding on your progress to the coffee shop, but as individuals with whom you share this planet. These are people to meet, to interact with, to talk to, to smile at, to help, and to love – don’t give up the chance to choose to do any of these options.
know that making a conscious effort to really see and connect with people in your life may pay off greatly, not only in your life, but in theirs as well. Seeing and interacting reminds us that we are not alone, and this reminds us to be sensitive to the problems and to the good fortunes of others, and to share both.  A little inspiration can go a long way, even if it’s just a smile or pausing for a moment to hold the door open for a stranger.
remember that time and energy are limited resources. You cannot possibly see and connect with every single person you encounter every single day. So be strategic. Have you heard of the strategy to get the largest number of different-sized stones into a container? Well, it goes like this. You start with the large stones and work your way down to the smallest stones. And, BAM! You now have the largest number of different-sized stones in the same jar. You can do this in your life! This strategy works for any and every overwhelming situation in life; and it works especially well when considering valuable relationships in your life. Make a plan on how to manage the relationships in your life by allocating your “seeing” resources, that is your time and energy. Begin with the really important people in your life and plan to see and connect with them, and then continue with other people, ending with acquaintances with whom you simply exchange a smile and “hi”. All of these relationships provide something to you, and to the recipients, even if it is just a friendly passing “hello”. You are who and where you are at this very moment.  But you are not alone and you have a job to do – be part of the whole.  

So, open your eyes, and look at who of those seven billion people are in your life today.  And don’t forget to smile :)

1Travels With Charlie, 1961

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The Words of Wisdom Column, Lia Vosti:

Lia Vosti is an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, majoring in Bioengineering. Growing up together, her words always made the most obscure situations crisp and clear. She is the up and coming Renaissance woman, able to give homely advise after a day in the lab, and wise beyond her years.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

THE MED BEAT: You Gotta Yoga


Opinions on yoga are about as diverse and interesting as the multitude of creative poses (or asanas) that comprise the practice itself. Some people write yoga off as a bunch of goofy contortions guaranteed to embarrass you in front of the opposite sex, and possibly rip your pants open from stretching too far. But, the majority of educated opinions on the topic agree that yoga possesses both real and significant physiological, psychological, biochemical, and spiritual benefits to those who engage in the practice.

Although it is tough to study precise, objective indicators of just how good yoga is for you, there is a plethora of scientific research taking place to figure out the many ways that yoga can enhance your quality of life. There are certain obvious benefits to the practice of yoga that can be observed at the surface level: increased flexibility, core strength, muscle toning, etc. But there are also many deeper benefits associated with the practice of yoga that are often overlooked or that are simply unknown to the general public.

The very act of bending, folding, and stretching one’s body has a wonderful massage affect on the internal organs, which subsequently translates to increased functionality and regularity in many of our vital organs, including regulating our digestive systems and cardiovascular activities. Breath control, which is a pivotal aspect of any yoga practice, forms the base for meditation, concentration, and relaxation, all of which are integral elements of doing yoga. Resulting effects on the respiratory and circulatory systems of the body, including: decreased heart rate and blood pressure, increased lung capacity and ability to hold one’s breath, and increased physical endurance levels. It has also been reported that people who practice yoga on a regular basis have demonstrated increases in immune system performance and endocrine function.

From a biochemical perspective, yoga has been found to have detectable, positive effects on many key constituents of our bodies. Some examples of this include: lowering blood sugar and sodium, lowering LDL cholesterol (the kind of cholesterol you don’t want too much of), increasing HDL cholesterol (the kind of cholesterol you DO want more of), decreasing triglycerides, increasing hemoglobin, white blood cells, and much, much more.

Certain aspects of the many challenging asanas can also help to improve hand-eye coordination, balance, dexterity, reaction time, energy levels, and depth perception.

Yoga entails the linking of body and mind, control of your thoughts, your body, and most importantly, your breath, all of which can encourage habits of mind capable of noticeable increases in mood and ability to concentrate as well as memory retention and mental energy. Routine yoga has even been recommended for woman who are currently going through menopause as it has been found to have regulatory effects on many hormones, leading to decreases in hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms associated with menopause.

The Sanskrit word for health is swAsthyam, which is composed of the words for ‘me’ and the word for ‘established’, so health just means being established in oneself. Bearing this in mind, when was the last time you felt like your mind and body were properly grounded in one-another? Health is and will always be a very relative state of being, as one’s health is generally tracked in comparison to the greater population, but is most importantly measured by it’s variation within one individual. It is changes in your own personal health that make you go see a doctor, and yoga has been found to regulate the degree of such changes, leaving you with a far more balanced and stable state of life.

 But before everyone rushes out to their local, warm, hard-wooded yoga studio, it is important to remember that yoga is a practice; a continually engaging and growing experience that requires both patience and dedication for best results. You can get hurt doing yoga, so be careful when starting out. Make sure to get to class early and check in with yourself, see what injuries or ailments might restrict your practice that day, and also be honest with yourself in terms of how far you want to push your body on any given day. And don't forget to drink lots of water after practice to rehydrate yourself! A yoga studio isn’t like the gym where people are out to see who’s there to be seen, or which guy can do the heaviest bicep curls... Yoga is about the self. It is about focus, control, and self-empowerment. It is about you.

So get a yoga mat, get out to your local yoga studio, and get sweaty!

There’s a new life (and body) awaiting you on the other side of that first yoga practice, and I will even go so far as to promise that first-timers will walk out of their first yoga class with a new outlook on their body and their approach to exercise. To the veterans of the practice, keep doing what you are doing, you know its good for you because you can feel it, and your body thanks you every time you pretzel it up in lotus pose, or stretch it into bridge... Keep up the good work!

Here are some more in-depth looks at the benefits of yoga:


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Medical Section Columnist, Kurtis Morrish:

My name is Kurtis Morrish. I graduated from Cal last year as an Integrative Biology major. I am now in the process of applying to medical school in the hopes of one day serving people as a family doctor. By no means do I write to you as an M.D., but I have extensive experience doing all kinds of scientific research; boiling-down long, dry, mumbo-jumbo-dense medical journals into a reduction that is a little sweeter, useful, and hopefully informative for you. I hope to learn as much from my writing as you do, so please hit me up with further questions, concerns, or comments!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

CARTOON SUNDAY!!! Keep in Touch

Feel free to send in your cartoons and art! We might just publish it. 

Cartoonist, Lesa Martin:
Lesa Martin, after retiring from a career of professional ballet and graduating from UCLA, has sparked a wonderful career as a multi-media artist. She has shown her work in the SF MOMA Rental Gallery, and has many ambitious plans concerning enticing new paintings people are itching to see! Her subtle humor leaves us thinking about life. Enjoy!