Traveling shows the beauty of our land and people

Morning light shines bright.

Brilliant light shines across the land and ideas can also be shared. Traveling has shown that many caring people share time and energy to build a healthy and strong nation. We do have needs for shelter and food as many are left with insecurity. Dedicated groups and volunteers are working hard to help.  Awareness of need may also be necessary before those in positions of power shift policies to be more supportive of those who are living without houses or apartments or with too little food.

For those who are houseless but who do have a car a simple solution for slightly more comfortable sleeping is a platform in the backseat.

My backseat made into a sleep platform, it is important to keep everything below the level of the backseat head rests for best visiability of the road behind you.

Three plastic tote boxes, slightly taller than regular size totes, but with one narrower than the regular size, fit neatly across my backseat. Topping the storage bins with an 1/2 inch thick exercise mat and a camping mat made a slightly more comfortable cushion but I also needed to add a pillow on top of the narrow tote as it was slightly shorter than the two full size totes. A comforter on top of the exercise mats added a little more comfort and a warm, cold weather rated, sleeping bag allowed me to stay warm at night without needing the car to be running.

The larger size totebox and the green camp mat which is firm and the blue exercise mat which is softer. the edge of a pillow is in pink on top of the smaller totebox.
All the layers of the platform need to be able to tuck in securely at the edge in order to close the door. The camp and exercise mats are longer than the backseat and are curled up slightly on each side. Cutting them to fit the car would be an option and the extra pieces could be taped to the lid of the shorter totebox if desired. However leaving the mats alone leaves them available for use in a tent or on someone’s spare room floor. Buying one extra of the firmer camping mats and cutting that to fit the tops of the totes, one layer smaller to fit within the handle area and one larger layer to cover the entire surface would likely improve the comfort, Duct tape in classic gray or fashion colors could secure the layers to the totebox.

The sleep platform is not as comfortable as a bed but it is more comfortable than trying to lay on the backseat or sit in the front seat with the seat leaning as far back as it can go. The platform makes the top of the backseat a pillow and is level enough with the top of the front seats to stretch legs out and over them. It is not a solution for someone who is tall or large however as some flexibility is needed and the area is still compact. I’m about 5 feet 6 inches tall as a reference.

For someone living houseless – working and living out of their car it might be a solution to consider trying as the tote bins and exercise and camping mats were fairly inexpensive, less than ten dollars for the totes and around $15 for each of the roll up foam mats. The cold weather sleeping bag was around $30 and I wore a hat for additional warmth as the temperature did drop below freezing.

Areas where rapid employment occurred had problems with inadequate housing being available for all of the new employees and other areas are simply very expensive even with a reasonable paying job. Others may have lost employment that covered the expense of housing but still own a car. Innovation sometimes means looking at things in a new way. When I was young my family traveled with a larger vehicle that had a platform in the back and being shorter as a child I could stretch out on it and sleep during long car trips – seat belt laws at the time of my earlier youth didn’t require riders in the back of the vehicle to wear a seat-belt, only front seat riders. The platform I built out of tote bins can be used for storage and sleep when the car is stopped. It would not be legal at this time to ride without a seat-belt.

The area created by the platform would be unlikely to be large enough for two people but for a solo driver it could also be handy in case of emergency stops or for a brief nap on long journeys when a hotel is the planned destination. Drowsiness can be a danger especially with the busy and fast pace of the traffic that occurs in many areas. Adequate sleep is also important to support health and the immune system.

A few tips for staying awake and early warning signs for when it is time to pull over:

  1. Warning sign: Eyes starting to squint and droop more often and they may possibly be dry and itchy from the forced air of the car heater.
  2. Tip: Being overly warm can increase sleepiness, an additional tip to the previous list would be open the window for a blast of cold air if you’re in a cold area or turn up the air conditioner if you’re in a warm area.
  3. Tip: Pull over and take a brief nap, 15-20 minutes can help. https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-secret-and-surprising-power-of-naps#1
  4. Tip: Or pull over and switch drivers if that is possible.
  5. Tip: Get a snack that isn’t too sugary or overly rick with fat calories which can make too much work for the digestive system. Caffeine from coffee or other caffeinated beverages can help but are not enough to combat a real need for sleep. https://www.livescience.com/55101-caffeine-does-not-help-sleep-deprived-people.html Choosing a sugary snack may give an initial boost of energy but can wear off and leave you more sleepy. A protein rich snack such as a protein bar or trail mix with nuts or seeds may help with alertness for a longer time. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/myths-facts#1
  6. Tip: Get some exercise, pull over for a brief walk. Warning sign:  If the exercise worked for a while but then you notice yourself losing some physical coordination or are stiff and sore. You may notice yourself letting the car drift to close to the shoulder of the road and are hearing the rumble strips along the side more often.
  7. Warning Sign:  The snack worked for a while but then the eyes started to droop again and maybe blink shut a few times – pull over because a rollover accident would be horrifying for you and any other travelers in your car or on the roadway. I have fallen asleep at the wheel before and woke up to the sound of the rumble strips. I over corrected at the sound and ended up flipping the car instead of smoothly getting back in the lane – I walked away with only a few bruises but the car was basically totaled from necessary bodywork. I also learned that it is good to have luggage and loose items secured in zipped or covered bags as loose items will also whirl around in the rolling car – it felt like being in a blender maybe – not an experience to repeat.
  8. Tip: Know your own limits and have the strength and courage to speak up for yourself. I was driving in a convoy of sorts and the other driver wanted to press on. I tried the cold air method and the snack method and did recognize the droopy eyes and I should have just pulled over. This was in the days before cellphones existed but sorting out travel plans later would be better than falling asleep at the wheel.  Several books including this one helped me to improve my ability to recognize and speak up for my own needs: Butler G., and Hope T., Managing Your Mind: The Mental Fitness Guide, (Oxford University Press, 1995, Oxford or New York) [2007 edition, Amazon] It is written in sections, encyclopedia style, so a reader can choose from the Table of Contents the particular topics that sound most helpful to their own situation.

Thermal blankets are available that are very compact if a full-size sleeping bag wasn’t desired. More detail on warmth and a link for an emergency kit is included a little later in this post.

I’ve been traveling the last couple of days and got a new Garmin GPS device for the trip. Seeing more of the country has been a goal for a while and seeing if there is interest in my research has also been a goal. Update, while I didn’t find any direct support of my research work I did find that interest in the topics I write about seems to exist – and I got a better idea of what people are interested in the larger world than I had been inhabiting. seeing the country is beautiful and a little nerve wracking but the technology of the new GPS device is better than an early model I had used in the past.

Overall the GPS device helped me drive across the country quicker than I expected the trip to take but I also put my habit of not sleeping much to work by driving part of the night in addition to the daytime hours. The roads are less busy and I am not used to the fast pace of crowded multi lane highways. My own miniature hotel was my back seat with the soft platform. It allows me to stretch my legs out to be able to be slightly more comfortably than the width of the car allows laying directly on the backseat. The platform might look silly but it’s fairly comfortable. Never fear hotels, your business is likely safe because it’s not that comfortable either. But pulling over when tired is important, sleepy drivers can be a danger to self and others. The strategy was particularly useful though when an ice storm caused a highway closure, there are far more semi trucks on the road than I would have guessed when you see them all lining up as they also arrive at the blocked section of highway and have to pull over somewhere along the side of the highway or Truck Stop parking area.

Truck Stops have some convenient features I discovered while waiting during the second stop. One section of highway was closed during the night due to the stormy weather and ice rink like road surface and another section was closed the next morning due to the number of accidents that required towing before that section of highway could be reopened. While waiting during the middle of the night stop I wrote out a few ideas for making luggage carrier/platform units that could be handy for a business or other frequent traveler in case they too were stuck somewhere or just needed to pull over for a short nap. The platform is more comfortable than sitting upright in the front seat but it isn’t really comfortable enough for a regular night’s sleep – so again don’t worry about your industry’s business hotels and motels – even if my luggage platform idea got produced it would be for the occasional use of a frequent traveler, similar in a way to the home on wheels that semi-trucks contain for their driver’s comfort and convenience.

With the sleeper platform I already have a hotel on wheels just like the semi truckers but with limited comfort and you have to keep the engine running for warmth in cold weather. Even with a blanket along temperatures can drop dangerously low if someone fell asleep for long, the cold weather sleeping bag allows you to stay warm in more extreme temperatures. Sleeping bags have temperature ratings on the label and I choose the warmest available – 0-30’F. It is a good idea to bring along a few emergency items in case you get stuck or stopped somewhere. Thermal metallic blankets are available that fold very small but retain heat well if needed in an emergency. rei.com/ultimate-survival-technologies-featherlite-survival-kit

It is also important to shovel snow away from your exhaust pipe if you are stuck in a large pile of snow. The car exhaust can back up and cause poisonous levels of carbon dioxide to build up in the car. That might send a passenger to sleep forever.

My GPS device has been very helpful for navigating the complex highway and city streets.

My car did suffer some damage while traveling but I was not harmed. I do need to get more car repair work done and am retracing my travels to check in with family for the holiday season and save on hotel costs while the car repair work is completed, I can’t sleep in the car if it is in a repair shop after all – at least that’s the plan, I’ll keep trusting my GPS device to guide the way.

A lookout point somewhere in the mountains of California or Nevada or Utah- there are a lot of beautiful mountains across the region and sleepy driving is particularly dangerous on the tight S-curves.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

 

Definitions are worth discussing to help understand each other

Definitions are something I include in posts and discuss in more detail occasionally in order to help support clear understanding. Words have many meanings for different individuals in addition to a standard dictionary definition. The dictionary is a good place to start but even it can add confusion for some readers as the definition itself may use other unfamiliar terms or may simply use a slightly different form of the word as the main definition – which wouldn’t be helpful at all for the person who didn’t know anything about the word they were trying to look up.

I just updated a recent post with a lengthier discussion of the definition of racism as defined by a online dictionary and I added some supporting articles and statistics from other websites. See this article for the discussion of racism as part of national policies that discriminate: http://transcendingsquare.com/2017/10/21/what-is-racist-is-unfair-housing-and-food-policies/

The phrase transparency is used occasionally in relation to government agencies and politicians being clear and transparent about the goals and inner workings of policy and political agendas. Starting with definitions can help add clarity and possibly transparency to a discussion, as long as the underlying policy and political agenda truly is based on the stated definitions.

Saying one thing and meaning or believing another would not be an example of transparency but would instead be an example of outright lying or might be an example of someone who really didn’t understand themselves or their group’s true definitions or beliefs about a topic.

I recently looked into what was meant by the term “Developed Nation” and was very sad to find out that it is simply based on the average per capita income – how much the average salary is for a country. How many of the average people have healthy air, water, sanitation or actual health wasn’t included. Social development of access to schools also was not included. Number of people with access to good roads and safe infrastructure (physical development) also wasn’t included. The physical safety of citizens and freedom to speak openly about policy was not included in the definition. Instead a simple GDP financial number is used to suggest which countries are more “developed” than others. http://www.investopedia.com/updates/top-developing-countries/

The Social Progress Index is a different way to compare nations than only comparing the average income. The 2017 map shows the U.S. as being in the second tier: https://www.socialprogressindex.com/ . So by that criteria the U.S. is not as well developed of a nation in Social Progress factors, such as health and quality of life, as some other nations.

Definitions are important because they affect communication and how we discuss topics.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes

Books about thinking and non-verbal behavior patterns

Following a quotation from one book led me to an interesting book about creativity that was inspired by the author Arthur Koestler. He wrote fiction and non-fiction works. The book “Astride the Two Cultures, Arthur Koestler at 70,”(1976), is a collection of essays by a variety of authors. The title refers to the two cultures of art and science -or fiction and non-fiction. The various authors explore the theme of creativity and how both artists and scientists may share creative thought processes and the idea is also explored that creativity in science and art may frequently involve non-verbal insights which then need to be translated into words or chemical symbols, or notes in a musical score.

Some of the contributing authors also touch on the idea that great thinkers build on the thoughts of other great thinkers. One of Arthur Koestler’s books, The Sleepwalkers, (1968, 2nd ed.),  focused on the life and work of the early astrophysicist Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) but Arthur Koestler ended up including information about the work of some of the thinkers who had proceeded or followed Kepler in the early study of our solar system. Kepler had the revolutionary idea that the planets revolve around the sun instead of the sun revolving around Earth. That sort of thinking at the time could get you thrown in jail as Galileo Galilei  (1564-1642) found but Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726) may have been spared by keeping his ideas more private until after his death.  Ideas can lead to more ideas in the future – the tree of knowledge grows and blossoms over generations of thinkers.

  1. Editor: Harold Harris, Astride the Two Cultures, Arthur Koestler at 70, (Random House, 1976, New York)
  2. Thomas R. Blakeslee, Beyond the Conscious Mind: Unlocking the Secrets of the Self, (iUniverse, Inc. An Authors Guild BackinPrint.com Edition, 1996, 2004, Lincoln, NE) The section titled The Reptilian Brain, pages 212-215, quotes part of Paul MacLean’s list of 24 reptilian behavior patterns that was included in Astride the Two Cultures on page 196.
  3. Joseph Chilton Pearce, Magical Child Matures, (E. P. Dutton, Inc., 1985, New York) This book expands on his previous book, Magical Child, with the author’s interpretation of how our consciousness and thought processes might function within a triune brain of Paul MacLean’s theory. Chapter 3 of the book, titled: Bonding and Attachment, discusses how an infant’s birth and early breastfeeding experience may affect the newborn’s physical and mental development. Development of different stages of consciousness and behavior patterns throughout the lifespan are discussed in later chapters. Meditation and chakra energy centers are also discussed.
  4. Paul D. MacLean,  The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions, (Plenum Press, 1990, New York) National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland, “written by the author in his capacity as an employee of the United States Government and is thus considered a work of the United States Government.”
  5. David Eagleman, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, (Pantheon Books, 2011, New York) Paul MacLean’s theory is described in a brief paragraph in this book on page 110 with the summary that the details of the theory have “fallen out of favor among neuroanatomists, but the heart of the idea survives: brains are made of competing subsystems.”

David Eagleman suggests in his book Incognito [5] that a dual processing mechanism of emotional and rational thinking is the currently accepted approach in the field of neuroanatomy rather than the triune theory suggested by Paul MacLean. While the details of neuroanatomy may be out of date in his book, The Triune Brain in Evolution, [4], the observations of animal behavior presented in his work seems timeless – or priceless as animal species become extinct or lose their native habitats to encroaching civilization or other invasive species. Paul MacLean’s book with 579 pages of text and 55 pages of bibliography is not written for the average reader but it is a fascinating compilation of over a century of research and observations about animal and human behavior. Knowledge grows as it passes from one thinker to the next – Kepler probably didn’t get every detail of astrophysics right but Galileo and Newton were there to fill in more details and other thinkers have followed along since.

Non-verbal communication is my first language – English was my second language starting around age two and a half. Paul MacLean’s theory does include a basic premise that the brain includes a dual processing mechanism of non-verbal and verbal thinking and behavior patterns – and that the various areas of the brain aren’t always in good communication with each other. David Eagleman’s book Incognito mentioned research that has used the term zombie brain patterns and alien hand syndrome but the term software was also used. There are no aliens in alien hand syndrome. If the connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain is damaged than the person loses normal control of one hand. The left hemisphere controls the right hand and the right hemisphere controls the left hand – no aliens though. [5, page 131-132] I personally am more comfortable with the idea that my brain – or hardware – may come pre-loaded with some innate survival behavior patterns – or software -than that my brain has zombie or alien thought processes.

Hunger is a biological feeling rather than an emotion in the typical sense of the word. Foraging is a survival behavior pattern that is seen in many species including humans – think of gathering wild berries in season or of browsing all the stores during the holiday season looking for the best deals. Frogs will flick their tongues out to capture a fly when they sense rapid movement of a small object and they will leap away when they sense movement of a large object, [5]  – does that mean frogs have zombie brain patterns? – or does that mean they have survival behavior patterns which can occur more rapidly than verbal thinking typically requires?

Good athletes practice so much that their bodies respond to the fast pace of the sport faster than conscious thought – rational, verbal analysis of a play can inhibit the player.

If you would rather not think about zombies, aliens, or frogs, then Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a currently accepted strategy in the field of mental health care that was first developed by Marsha Linehan in 1993 (1997, 2001) to help individuals gain better understanding and acceptance of their non-verbal and verbal thoughts, motives, and behaviors; and to develop more effective strategies for coping  with strong emotions; and for improving communication with others and with oneself. It can be difficult to let others know what your concerns are if you aren’t able to put words to your feelings.

Workbooks are available based on the DBT techniques which can be used individually or with a trained clinician; one example is: “The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & Distress Tolerance,” by Matthew McKay, Ph.D, Jeffrey C. Wood, Psy. D, and Jeffrey Brantley, MD, (New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2007, Oakland, CA). [6]

If you like thinking about thinking or about squirrel monkeys, Komodo lizards and ethology then read on. We are told by Paul MacLean in The Triune Brain in Evolution that the word ethology became popularly known in the 1920s – I had to look it up, so it may not have remained popular. According to The New Oxford American Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 2001, New York) ethology is “the science of animal behavior,” or “the study of human behavior and social organization from a biological perspective.” There are peer reviewed journals for the topic such as the Journal of Ethology so the science of animal behavior is still of interest to some researchers.

To jump ahead to page 199 of The Triune Brain in Evolution the curious reader can learn that “Squirrel monkeys commonly roll food pellets or grapes on the tip of their tails.” Sadly we then learn that damaging a specific area of the brain will disrupt the ability. This bit of animal trivia is cute but not too relevant to humans off the basketball court. However many hours of watching Komodo lizards and other animals in their native habitats led to a list of behavior patterns that are seen in many species; the behavior patterns like the frog catching a fly or avoiding a predator may help support survival of the individual or the group. Our non-verbal brainstem and limbic areas of the brain may lead us into performing behavior patterns that our verbal mind may then try to rationalize in words – do we go to every store during the holiday rush in order to get the best deal or to enjoy the holiday spirit? – or because our non-verbal self is energized by the thrill of foraging for the best deal?

Non-verbal behavior patterns that may be based in activity from the brainstem area are listed on page 100, The Triune Brain in Evolution. (This area of the brain is rich in the neurotransmitter dopamine so conditions, substances, or stages of life that affect dopamine levels may also affect the likelihood of these behaviors occurring.) Table 6-1. Special Forms of Basic Behavior

  1. Selection and preparation of homesite
  2. Establishment of territory
  3. Use of home range
  4. Showing place preferences
  5. Trail making
  6. Marking of territory
  7. Patrolling territory
  8. Ritualistic display in defense of territory, commonly involving the use of coloration and adornments
  9. Formalized intraspecific fighting in defense of territory
  10. Triumphal display in successful defense
  11. Assumption of distinctive postures and coloration in signaling surrender
  12. Use of defecation posts (or areas away from sleeping areas and trails)
  13. Foraging
  14. Hunting
  15. Homing
  16. Hoarding
  17. Formation of social groups
  18. Establishment of social hierarchy by ritualistic display and other means
  19. Greeting
  20. Grooming
  21. Courtship, with displays using coloration and adornments
  22. Mating
  23. Breeding and, in isolated instances (in reptilian species), attending offspring
  24. Flocking
  25. Migration

[4]- Paul D. MacLean,  The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions, (Plenum Press, 1990, New York) National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

The limbic area of the brain is associated with several non-verbal behavior patterns having to do with bonding and caring for offspring.

Six types of general behaviors have also been observed in many species that may occur as part of the other behavior patterns.

  • From page 143, Table 10-1. General (“Interoperative”) Forms of Basic Behavior: 1) Routinizing, 2) Isopraxic, 3) Tropistic, 4) Repetitious, 5) Reenactment, 6) Deceptive.[4]- Paul D. MacLean,  The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions, (Plenum Press, 1990, New York) National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

There is a tendency to like following routines, 1) routinizing, and repeating usual behavior patterns, 4) repetitious. 2) Isopraxic behavior is the tendency to behave the same way as other members in a group. 3) Tropistic (from the Greek word tropos which means “a turning,” page 145) is used in biology to describe behaviors that seem to be elicited or “turned” on or off by an external signal such as the colorful pattern seen on another member of the species – the same bright color might elicit the response even if it seen on an inanimate object instead of another member of the species. 5) Reenactment is used to describe the repetition of a more complex series of behaviors than the typical routine. The more complex route might have been life saving once and it then may have became part of the daily routine even though the danger was no longer present. 6) Deceptive behavior has been observed by Komodo lizards when they hunt deer. The large lizards will hide along the trails used by deer and wait for the deer to happen along – no chasing necessary.

June 26, 2015 Additional Note: I was having trouble saving the draft a few days ago so I went ahead and published the post instead. The zombie behavior patterns described in frogs in an earlier paragraph and in the book Incognito  [5] might also be described as a tropistic behavior. [4, page 145] The frogs instinctively respond to a small rapid motion with a flick of their tongue to try to catch prey – turning towards the prey – and they respond to a large motion by hopping away to avoid a predator – turning away from danger. Having tropistic instincts seems like a more realistic and helpful description to me. I found all of the books that I listed helpful in different ways, as different perspectives, and I was disappointed to find only limited information available online about the triune brain theory – a brief overview of the basic theory is available in several places but I didn’t find the list of behavior patterns anywhere else online. The details of neuroanatomy is a rapidly changing field but basic animal behavior patterns may show repetition because our basic anatomy and DNA is very similar across many lifeforms.

/Disclosure: This information is presented for educational purposes within fair use and material provided within a publication of the U.S. government./