Links to Think: The Brain Edition

brain exerciseJust a few links to help you think about your brain:

Your brain doesn’t contain memories: it is memories

“Every sensory experience triggers changes in the molecules of your neurons, reshaping the way they connect to one another. That means your brain is literally made of memories, and memories constantly remake your brain.”


The flip side of memory is forgetting: the delete switch in your brain

“Have you ever felt like your brain is full? Maybe when starting a new job, or deep in a project. You’re not sleeping enough, even though you’re constantly taking in new information. Well, in a way, your brain actually is full.”


But we could be wrong about how our brain forms memories

“The researchers are hopeful their study can provide new insights into the fight against diseases that induce memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.”


We still have a lot to learn about the brain: like this giant neuron wrapped around the brain that we do not understand yet

“In any case, claustrum is clearly an unfathomably important region of the brain. The mysterious, newly identified crown of thorns only highlights the importance of finding out what on Earth its function actually is.”


Beyond pondering the brain itself, some wonder where the mind resides.

“No doubt, the brain plays an incredibly important role. But our mind cannot be confined to what’s inside our skull, or even our body, according to a definition first put forward by Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of a recently published book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human.”


Finally, here are 5 brain skills that will become more valuable in the future

“Indeed, as Swart points out, there’s a growing understanding that deeply human capabilities–the skills, including those rooted in emotional intelligence, that aren’t so easily automated–may be rising in value in the future job market.”

Lots to thick about in these links — I hope you enjoy them.

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My Dog, Squirrel

2 Boys & Their Dogs: me & Squirrel on the right and MacNaughton & Bonham on the left

2 Boys & Their Dogs: me & Squirrel on the right and MacNaughton & Bonham on the left

Squirrel Tooth Alice came right in the front door of college rent house, grinning and wiggling, Mike Eddy just behind her at the door. A sleek lab with so much black a dollop of it spilled out onto her tongue in a big black dot, tongue hanging happily out the side of her mouth. I don’t if he said where he’d found her, but you could tell from her wagging and wiggling that she figured finding a house full of 4 young guys seemed like stray dog heaven. I don’t think there was any question she was staying, and I guess we all figured her for a house dog.

Her name came from a Time-Life Books flyer we’d received in the mail that day, something about the Old West. Along the bottom of one of the pages, there were three old photos of ladies of the evening, and Squirrel Tooth Alice was one of them. Within a day or two, we kinda wanted to change her name, but it was too late, as she was already responding to “Squirrel.”

And she had already adopted us.

Knock knock knock.

It sounded serious, so we looked at each other before Mike Bull stood up to answer the door. A woman stood there, and she looked serious. “Do y’all own the big black dog?” She paused and added, “The one that knocks over the trash cans and eats the garbage?”

That would be Squirrel, so he answered, “Uh, yeah,” hesitantly.

“Well, you better tie that dog up or do something to keep it from knocking over our garbage again, or my husband’s gonna shoot it.”

MacNaughton spoke as he rose from the couch, “Yeah, we’ll get her under control. Sorry about that.”

Another pause before she added meaningfully, “Nobody gets my husband mad. He’s a cop.”

When I moved out to the boonies with my brother, naturally Squirrel came along. Romping the countryside and splashing in the little creek by the house suited her fine. Our next door neighbor, Jim, had a Toto-look-alike named Daisy who scaled the 50-foot limestone bluff beyond the creek like it had stairs. It was not unusual to look up see Daisy perched like some mountain goat on an impossibly narrow ledge 20 or 30 feet up.

Country life suited Squirrel well enough she went into heat. With another black lab, a male named Nat Turner, living nearby, we set up some purposeful match-making. That had to include trying to keep other dogs away, and I use the word trying because, of course, we failed. There was one persistent boxer we kept at bay for days and then found him still stuck together post-coitus.

The lab genes won out, though and we were rewarded with a litter o pups that Squirrel started delivering in the middle of the night in the middle of Scott’s bed. See, he was at this point, commuting down to Houston for days at a time to work a blue-collar job to bring in some money.

Anyway, I awaken to the sound of Squirrel giving birth and find her in the middle of the bed, which is already bloodied up the first couple of pups. I sleepiy grinned and joined her as she pushed out another one. Between pups, though, she would stand and circle a bit and then lay back down. By the time the count had reached 5, she’d lay back down on top of one of them whenever she did this. I pushed her off one of the poor little guys and she gave me a look along the lines of “Hey, this is hard enough without you pushing me around—cut it out!”

She kept up a pace of having another puppy about every 20 minutes or so, and I dozed off somewhere after about 6 of them were born. When I awoke, she was finishing out a litter of 11 back puppies — 9 male and 2 female.

That did making the pups away much easier, and in fact, two of them went back to 2 of the Mikes, Squirrel’s original “co-owners.”

I’ll save some other stories about Squirrel and those 2 pups for another time.

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Cade Massey’s First Love (part 2)

G.M.C. Massey

The conclusion of granddad’s story of his first love.

I thought that she was trying to high pressure me into Marrying her right then, But I soon realized that she was in dead earnest. So she wanted me to keep coming to see her and maybe that I would change my mind. So I did go back several times But she let Buddy Jackson keep coming too. And Buddy wanted to get married right away too. But there was nothing that I could do to stop except to marry her myself. And I had a deep conviction that I was going to go school as I had planned. For I did not want to start out to raise a family, and to depend upon farming Or working for the other man, by day, month, or year.

Well at this juncture, She and her Father came over to talk with my father, and me, and see if they could come to some kind of understanding so that we could get married, and go on from there; They seemed to think that the schooling was all that stood between us in the contract, and it really was; But he offered to let us live at his house, and he would bear all expenses, and let me have the same advantage; But I knew that he was a poor man himself, and was living on a rented farm, and that he could ill afford the responsibility. And there she Broke in and said that she was tired of the responsibility of the children, And then I was not as sorry as I had been for her, For I could see that was what was hurrying her up, And causing her to sell out so cheaply. And then I stopped trying to appease her.

I could see from her attitude in that, that it was as much for getting rid of the responsibility of the children, as well as getting married; Then, and only then did I see what fate had saved me from. So, I just told them that we would have to forget the whole business. So she and Buddy went on with their plans to get married, and she kept the time delayed as much as she could trying to wait on me.

Then when their time was drawing nigh to get married, she sent her brother to see me and get me to come to see her on Friday night before they were to get married on the next Sunday evening. I went and talked with her and her Father. But I had gone too far on my school work and I had too great an inspiration on going to school to go back on it at this stage of the game. And I promised her to be at the wedding. And put off going over there till I saw Buddy going by. And then she waited for me to get there before she would go on with her part of the contract. And as soon as she saw that I had arrived, she sent her brother to tell me to come there, she wanted to speak to me please. I went and told her that I wanted to wish her well and hoped that she would never have occasion to regret the step that she was taking that day; And I bid her farewell.

That was the last time I saw her till several years had passed, It must have been about six as best that I can guess, and I was married and my Family was started, And I had occasion to go to Winnsboro on business And I had left home after School was out at Gilbreath, and as I was at that time living 20 miles from the town; I had to spend the night away from home, And I went by her father’s home to spend the night. As he was a very good friend of mine; And soon I found out that she and her husband was living on the same place, but in a different house.

Then after Supper she and her three children came up to sit till bed-time, and of course we had an old time reunion so to speak. But her husband was not at home, as usual; And she began to cry, and try to tell me of her plight, And I stopped her, and told her that I knew all the time what is was going to be and tried to save her from it; But she wouldn’t let me then, and now it was too late, and I’d rather not hear of her story; And please make of it the best that she could. And I just had to tell her, “I told you all about that when you could have prevented it.”

She said that she had rather that I had not said that and bursted out in a cry. And her father told her that she was indebted to me for the advice that I gave her and the way that I had treated her through the years. I only commented that It was tragic And that I wished that I had never been concerned in the case. And so she said that I had given her all the pleasure that she had ever had. And I told her that back there when I was offering her the sympathy that I did; I could have helped her out of the suspense; But that was now impossible.

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Cade Massey’s First Love (part 1)

G.M.C. Massey

My granddad, G.M.C. “Cade” Massey, included the story of his first love in his memoir manuscript. Here is part 1 of that tale.

When I get to writing, so many things pop up that sometimes I get confused about whatever I am writing about. But right now, I am reminded of my first love affair, a little foolishness If that is what you want to call it. Maybe Puppy-love, maybe something else But it was not foolishness to me at the time. And you may call it silly. Or crazy pr whatever you care to. It was serious to me, and if I had not put on the brakes, I’m sure that we would have married.

I was beginning my first of two years schooling that my father was giving me and I had seen my father have to work so hard that it wore on me to that extent that I did not want to be caught in the same circumstances, and father did not want me to; And he was putting forth such an effort to get us children Educated, And I was sold on the Ideas too. And that is what caused me to let her go and marry a boy that I knew most surely would wreck her life.

Ada Harris was her name. And she was a pretty girl, a sweet girl and a girl that every body loved. Her mother had died the year before, and she had to quit School, and see after the housekeeping and the care for the smaller children. She was the oldest of the family of children, and she was just 16 when her mother died. And our infatuation seemed to be mutual, As it progressed; It seemed to get beyond our control.

She was 17 and I was 18 at the time of our Infatuation. And it was my first Love affair, and it was so real and so important too. I would go there at any time and stay with her and help her with the baby and we would spend our time really enjoying ourselves. I began to feel as It was impossible to go on without having her to help me, and It seemed that way with her; And we talked of that every time that we were together.

But when we got to talking about marrying, That was right down her alley, and was no trouble to get her consent. But when we got to discussing the time for the wedding we seemed to be unable to agree. She wanted to get married at once. And I was going to school at the time and that year and the next year was the two years that my father had promised me to let go throughout; and by that time I would be able to get a teachers certificate and go on out there and get a school, and get away from the Farm. So I wanted to wait for about 18 months and she wanted to get married then.

Finally, She said to me one day when I had gone to quiet her lonesomeness, & and mine for I was not satisfied anywhere else; And she seemed to think that we ought to be together all the time, And she asked when we could arranged to get married?

Well I told her that I was going to school, and that my father was going to see to it that I got two years of schooling unmolested by the Farm work; and if I got that, I could go teaching School; And would have a better chance in this life than her Father as well as mine had had; And that I wanted that advantage, Before we married, and that I could not get that without I stayed single till it was a reality; But she argued that was too long to wait: whereupon I recounted that it would be only about 18 months; and that we could continue seeing each other regularly; And soon it could be passed, and then we could be together the rest of the time; But she protested that it was too far fetched for her.

There it had to rest till I could come up with something better, or she could change her mind: But the very next time that we were together; She announced to me that she was going to get married. Then I said, “To whom, and when my fair Lady?” And she said, that she did not know exactly. Then she told me that were more than one she could get, But she had been talking to Buddy Jackson and one or two other boys about it and she thought that she could get either one that she wanted. Well I told her that I was afraid that she would drive her ducks to a bad market. She said she thought that I thought that No one but me was fit for her. And I told her that was about right too.

And I told her that if that was all she thought of herself that I was sorry for her. I told her that if that was as high as she was looking, that she was thinking of selling out too cheap to think about, And I went on to picture to her what her LIFE would be like with such a person as the one that she had mentioned. I tried awful hard to get her to see that she was jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

He was a drunkard; as well as a gambler; and I told her that in less than two years that she would be sitting at home with little to eat, and with a baby or two to see after, and her husband off probably drunk in a gutter somewhere or in a gambling den. I really tried to get to see the worst that could happen to her.

It seemed that there was nothing that I could do to save her from such fate as I had pictured to her; Without I would go ahead and marry her at that particular time, and I just could not afford to take the risk of losing the opportunity to go to school at that time, For as I saw it “It was then or never.”

To be continued…

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Top of the World, Tom

RIP Tom Petty, October 20, 1950 – October 2, 2017…

"I got a room at the top of the world tonight I can see everything tonight I got a room where everyone Can have a drink and forget those things That went wrong in their life... I got a room at the top of the world tonight and I aint coming down." Tom Petty

I got a room at the top of the world tonight.
I can see everything tonight.
I got a room where everyone
Can have a drink and forget those things
That went wrong in their life…
I got a room at the top of the world tonight —
and I aint coming down.

Thanks for all the music.

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Help Yourself to Some Self-Care Links

Happiness is an inside job.After I’d been presenting my teamwork session at the Brown Schools Ranch for awhile, I was asked to develop a follow-up class, “Team-Building 2,” as it were.

I’d start off by asking everyone to write down their top 3 priorities at work. After a couple of minutes, I would ask who had listed themselves as one of their priorities.

No one ever did.

“Go ahead and rip up that piece of paper, people,” I’d explain. “If you don’t make yourself a priority, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you aren’t even going to be here to be part of the team. We want you at your best, we need at your best — so please make yourself a top priority.”

The same applies to all of us. We need to do what we can to help ourselves. So here’s a set of some links for a Saturday self-care session.


We all suffer setbacks, disappointments, and pain. This is unavoidable. It takes resilience to rebound from emotional pain more quickly. Here are 5 strategies you can practice to build up resilience to deal with in inevitable difficulties.


Of course, “it’s all in your head” — everything you sense or think is. Understanding more about your head — and your brain — can help you figure out to help yourself. Serotonin is the chemical within our brains that improves our moods, reduces depression, and can ease anxiety. When your serotonin levels dip, you can become unhappy quickly. The good news: you can boost your serotonin levels yourself!

Vagus nerve

Mind you, the brain only works when connected to the rest of your body, and one critical nerve — the vagus nerve — plays a huge role in just that. The longest nerve of your autonomic nervous system, it connects all major bodily organs (except adrenal glands) through the parasympathetic nervous system, known as the ‘rest and digest’ part (as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system, the ‘fight of flight’ part).” Here are 6 simple ways to stimulate the vagus nerve and improve your vagal tone.

Vagus nerve dysfunction can result in a whole host of problems, so here’s another set of suggestions to help you get the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation. Improved vagal tone has been shown to help with anxiety, heart disease, obesity, migraines, as well as improve your blood circulation.


Music therapy offers intriguing possibilities for all of us, even people severely impacted by traumas of various sorts. This author, a musician, shares his experience with music therapy from a personal viewpoint.

Finally, a song to relax you: researchers found this one song can produce an amazing reduction in overall anxiety, as well as marked reduction in physiological resting rates among participants. Give it a listen — but not if you’re driving.

Plenty of links there for you to follow today — so help yourself. And I mean that!


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Brownsville Raid of Sept. 28, 1859

The people of Brownsville, Texas awakened hours before the dawn of September 28, 1859 to the sound of gunshots, thundering hooves, and shouts of “Viva Cheno Cortina! Viva la República Mexicana! Viva Mexico! Mueran los gringos!”

Juan Nepomuceno "Cheno" Cortina

Juan Nepomuceno “Cheno” Cortina

A band of over 70 Mexicans following Juan Nepomuceno “Cheno” Cortina had crossed the Rio Grande on a well-planned raid to rid themselves of several specific enemies. The Cortinistas, as they came to be known, hunted a few specific individuals, Anglos who had committed acts of violence and thievery against Mexicans and Texans of Mexican descent. Topping the list were two men Cortina had tangled with perviously: the sheriff, Robert Shears, and a distant relative of Cortina’s by marriage and nemesis, Adolphus Glavecke.

Brownsville itself wasn’t yet 13 years old, but was booming, having sprung up around a fort on the north side of the river built at the start of the Mexican-American War. A part of the Kingdom of Spain until Mexico won independence in 1821, this area changed “ownership” again when Texas won independence in 1836. Mexico never recognized the Rio Grande as the border, though, so the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845 inevitably led to the Mexican-American War — including the Siege of Fort Texas in May 1846, making one of the earliest casualties of the war the fort’s commander Major Jacob Brown. General Zachary Taylor renamed the fort Ft. Brown in his memory.

As soon as Texas had won its independence back in 1836, Anglos streamed in from the United States, eager to take advantage of this newly won land. After the Mexican-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the floodgates burst open and a wave of new arrivals swept over the inhabitants, Anglos and Mexicans alike. Tensions quickly rose despite the deep roots of many families in both Mexico and Texas.

Many Mexican families and Texan families of Mexican descent owned their ranches and farms through old Spanish land grants, including the Espiritu Santo land grant, including relatives of Cortina’s mother. As Anglos swarmed in, they would file specious claims on property, forcing the landowners into the new Anglo courts to assert their property rights. Invariably, the family would have to hire an Anglo lawyer to represent them, and, should they win, pay said lawyer with a chunk of the family land.

Most Mexicans and Texans of Mexican descent were poor and watching what little they had slipping away to the greedy newcomers, unable to resist without violent retaliation. Ill feelings and bad dealings seemed to climax the previous July when Cortina saw Sheriff Shears pistol-whipping 59-year old Tomas Cabrera in the streets. Cortina told the sheriff he knew the man, and asked him to stop, saying he would gladly take the troublesome fellow home. The sheriff responded with a racist retort, and Cortina fired a warning shot. When Shears continued to beat Cabrera,  Cortina shot him in the shoulder and fled with Cabrera.

The next time he appeared in Brownsville was the night of the raid.

Sheriff Shears topped the list of intended targets, as well as Adolphus Glavecke, who had sworn our warrants for Cortina’s arrest for alleged cattle thievery. Others accused Glavecke of trading in stolen cattle as well, and in fact, the whole Brownsville area was known as a center for buying and selling stolen livestock. Cortina considered Glavecke an enemy out to destroy him and intended instead to kill him that night.

Breaking the band of men into smaller groups to hunt down his targets, Cortina kept strict discipline and there was no pillage or looting nor indiscriminate shootings. When he demanded guns and ammunition from storekeeper Alexander Werbiski, he paid for them before leaving the store and family unmolested, telling the weeping Mexican wife it was “no night for Mexican tears.”

The Cortinistas took over the recently abandoned Ft. Brown, but failed to blow it up when they could not batter down the magazine door to reach the powder kegs. Nor were they able to raise the Mexican flag at dawn as they had hoped — due to a lack of enough rope.

They did kill three Anglos and one Mexican, a jail guard, who tried but failed to save the Anglo jailer, his friend, as the invaders freed several prisoners. Another Mexican was accidentally shot in the confusion. Neither Shears nor Glavecke were killed, though it seems Cortina might have found them but refrained from attacking the homes of others who had hidden them. He commented later, “They concealed themselves and we were loath to attack them within the dwelling of others.”

In the morning, General Jose Maria de Jesús Carvajal and Colonel Miguel Tijerina of the Mexican forces in Matamoros rode into town to ask Cortina to leave. Citing the unfortunate killing of the Mexican jail guard, Cortina agreed to leave and the last occupation of an American city by a foreign army came to an end just hours after it started — at the behest of another foreign military officer!

Though Cortina retreated, he warned he was not through pursuing his enemies and defending the rights of Mexicans in Texas.

I stumbled across this hidden bit of Texas history years ago while reading famed Texas historian Walter Prescott Webb’s The Texas Rangers (1935). Intrigued, I read more about Cortina through the years and it has been interesting to read other versions of this event, including the more recent book by Carlos Larralde and Jose Rodolfo Jacobo, Juan N. Cortina and the Struggle for Justice in Texas (2000), as well as Jerry Thompson’s biography, Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas (2007).

The split in views of Cortina between the cultures is striking. History is written by the victors, they say, and the earlier accounts, written primarily by white American historians referenced Cortina with such derogatory nicknames as the “Rogue of the Rio Grande” and “The Red Robber,” (in reference to his red hair and beard). But, to Mexicans, he remains a folk hero, a defender of the Mexican people in their struggle for justice. Corridos such as this one celebrate his resistance to the Anglos.

Over there, across the Rio Bravo,
gringoes verus Mexicans:
laws and treaties only serve the Americans.
Cortina is from Tamaulpais
and he pays back offenses with a bullet in the gut.
The whites don’t like his fame any more!
They huddle together;
they just look at him and become frightened.

Juan Nepomuceno Cortina
Knows very well what’s going on.
He’s a man among men for defending his people.

The Brownsville Raid served as the opening salvo in the Cortina War — but that’s a whole other story. Juan Cortina, folk hero/rogue, would go on to bedevil Texas Rangers and armies on both sides of the river for years to come before eventually becoming the Governor of Tamaulpais.

Juan “Cheno” Cortina: rogue or folk hero? or both?



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