Archive for February, 2009

Hearing the color green

Monday, February 9th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I vividly remember one of my high school friends telling me he had “heard” the color green. Now, I’ve seen red a time or two, accompanied by a sort of whooshing sound in my ears, but I could safely attribute that to strong emotion.

Hearing a color, primary or otherwise, was not something with which I could relate. And given my friend’s penchant for recreational drug use at that time in his life, I felt it safe to assume he’d been dabbling with hallucinogenics.

Now, nearly 15 years later, I have cause to reconsider my assumption. After reading an article on cnn.com, I realized I might have been wrong all those years ago. (Yes, folks. You might want to note the date, it doesn’t happen often.)

Apparently, there is actually a condition called synesthesia in which the senses overlap or mix in such a way that people link sounds with color or shapes, even attributing colors to particular letters or numbers.

Researchers in the UK are studying genetic causes of this phenomenon, according to the article, and one of the scientists heading up the project is synesthetic himself. He describes seeing the music of different musical instruments as flowing colors.

It actually sounded pretty cool, you know, as genetic conditions go.

Unlike color blindness, where your perception of the world is blander than that of the rest of the world, this one actually has you experiencing more. It’s almost like a super power. Where mere mortals simply hear music, you could see it as well. And no word search would ever stand a chance.

There is, no doubt, a secret government agency dedicated to exploring all the potential applications of synesthesia. Just think of the possibilities in terms of clandestine communications, code breaking and other spy stuff. Maybe that’s what they are doing at Area 51.

Synesthetic effect aren’t just linked to genetics, I learned as I delved deeper into the subject. They can be attributed to temporal lobe seizures, strokes, blindness and, yes, psychedelic drugs. So, my initial assessment may not have been off base after all.

It’s something of a relief, really. Now there is not need to reset my “number of days without being wrong” clock back to zero.

Blast(s) from the past

Friday, February 6th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

A few months ago, I got strong armed into joining Facebook by one of my best friends. I’d always resisted setting up a profile on MySpace and all of those other social interaction sites, but Liz was very persuasive. (And not above resorting to bullying when it looked like she might not get her way.)

It didn’t take long for me to set up a quick profile, upload a suitably vague photo and fill in the required blanks with (what I thought were extraordinarily) witty responses. Before long I was flooded with “friend” requests and comments from long lost co-workers, distant family members, high school classmates and oh-so many college friends I’ve done a horrible job keeping in touch with. It’s been one blast from the past after another.

I have a notoriously poor track record when it comes to corresponding with even those most near and dear to me, but now I really have no excuse. I don’t even really have to take an active role in the process. I can just post my status (“Melissa is…trying to think of something interesting to blog about, unsuccessfully I might add.”) and then scroll through what everyone else is doing. All from the comfort of my very own profile page.

It’s what you make of it, of course. You can upload thousands of pictures and then “tag” your friends in them. (Liz likes to pick the most unattractive pictures she can possibly find, just to get a rise out of me), write on each other’s “wall,” send messages, etc.

Silly little forwards make the rounds, like the ones where you are forced to write 25 random things about yourself that no one really wants to know. You can join in on Mob Wars or poke people, all in good fun of course.

While I don’t spend nearly as much time on the site as some people I know, who get constant updates on their “Crack”berries as Liz calls hers, I can understand why it is more than a little addicting.

It’s all that catching up and thinking about “the good old days” for me.  It’s almost like little bits of our personal history get lost when we don’t talk to those people that played such a big part in our lives at one time or another. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed them, or those parts of me, until we got in touch again.

Watching the weather

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

When you work for a newspaper, people expect you to know everything about anything that is going on. For the most part I do my best to stay up to date on happenings, whether they be here in our little corner of the world or on a more global scale. With one glaring exception: the weather.

Every day, my mother asks me what the forecast is. Every day, I tell her I don’t know. A good daughter might start paying more attention so she could provide that pertinent bit of information, but not me. But not me. I categorically refuse. Not because I enjoy depriving her of the daily forecast, but because, for my own mental health, I just can’t go there.

I have found that paying attention to the weather forecast can be detrimental to my already fragile psyche. I just can’t take the disappointment when a much anticipated storm or rare sunny day fails to materialize.

I choose instead to keep myself in the dark, and be as prepared as possible for any turn Mother Nature might take. An umbrella, a change of footwear, an extra pair of gloves, sunscreen…why else do you think I carry such a big bag?

This time of year, I don’t pay attention to talk of the next big snow. I just go under the assumption that it will snow every day. I’m going to be driving the same country roads to and from work, so what does it really matter. Without an expectation of anything else, I’m never disappointed. And when a brilliant beam of sunshine, or bright blue sky, does break through the perpetual gray gloom, it always appears miraculous.

I know that to some, this may seem like a defeatist attitude. I assure you, it’s not. I consider it a more realistic approach to meteorology. Because lets be honest, it’s going to snow whether I or some TV weather man wants it to or not, the same with scattered showers and partial sun.

In general, I don’t mind any of the above inclement weather. In fact, when I lived in Western Colorado, the land of 300 days of full sun a year, I longed for a bit of precipitation and cloud cover.

Oh, I wasn’t always this way. I used to be a veritable Weather Channel junkie thanks to my dad the pilot. I would watch religiously for the latest Doppler radar updates just so I would be prepared for the slightest change in weather.

But after one too many times of freezing my tail off when the 70 degree day I’d been promised never rose above 50, or sweltering in the wool sweater donned in anticipation of sub zero temperatures on a unseasonable balmy day, I became a little jaded. (And maybe a touch bitter.)

So I quit cold turkey. Now, I just sit back and take what Mother Nature sends my way. While some people I know feverishly track the path of whatever storm might have us in its sights, I go about my day knowing I’m prepared for any eventuality.

What is my response to the question of whether it will it snow today? Of course it will, I say. It snows every day.