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Ha! What I have long suspected of metro-weenies has been given scientific legs! City life makes you crazy:

Between the crowds and the noise and the pressure, city life often seems to set one’s brain on edge. Turns out that could literally be true.

A study of German college students suggests that urbanite brains are more susceptible to stress, particularly social stress, than those of country dwellers. The findings don’t indicate which aspects of city life had changed the students’ brains, but provide a framework for future investigations.

“Whether people are exposed to noise, live near a park, have a big group of friends or not — you can do those experiments, and tease apart which parts of urban living are associated with these changes,” said Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, a psychiatrist at German’s Central Institute of Mental Health.

One possible cause is the Fishbowl Effect:

Compared to their rural counterparts, city dwellers have higher levels of anxiety and mood disorders. The schizophrenia risk of people raised in cities is almost double. Literature on the effect is so thorough that researchers say it’s not just correlation, as might be expected if anxious people preferred to live in cities. Neither is it a result of heredity. It’s a cause-and-effect relationship between environment and mind.

What those causes are is unknown, but many researchers have speculated that urban social environments are partly responsible. After all, cities are hyper-social places, in which residents must be constantly on guard, and have mathematically more opportunity to experience stressful interaction. Too much stress may ultimately alter the brain, leaving it ill-equipped to handle further stress and prone to mental illness.

I am a product of the exurbs and now live in suburbia, and while I can hold my nose and work in the big city, the idea of living in it has always given me the screaming heebie-jeebies.  The only time in my life I ever did was the year I spent in London, during which I routinely had nightmares about being trapped in a toy house.

I’ve been dwelling a bit on bad books over the past day or two.

Perhaps sensing this, the devil’s website just now flipped me an email about a book that looks like it might be just the antidote:  Confederate Alamo: Bloodbath at Petersburg’s Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865, by John J. Fox.

On April 2, 1865, after many months of siege warfare, the Union Army finally punched through the Confederate defenses at Petersburg.  The fighting at Fort Gregg was part of the (literally) last ditch effort of the Confederates to stop Grant’s army from exploiting the breach, an effort that ultimately failed.  Richmond fell the next day and Lee was forced to make a run for it, only to be caught by Grant at Appomattox a week or so later.

Of all the major battles of the Civil War, I am perhaps the least familiar with the Siege of Petersburg at the tactical level.  Everybody’s heard of “The Crater”, of course, but individual fights like Fort Gregg or the earlier Confederate breakout attempt at Fort Stedman are somewhat more obscure to me, even though I’ve read about them on a general level many times.  This book appears to be exactly the kind of minute study that will help fill the gaps in ol’ Robbo’s knowledge, thus making him even more of a scourge at drinks parties.

I don’t know anything about the author, but his devil’s website bio page says he’s a fellow Dubyanell man, so that’s definitely another argument in favor of giving in and digging out the ol’ credit card.  (How does the Prince of Dark Booksellers know these things?)  Any of my fellow port-swillers read him before?

In which Robbo demonstrates that even when he has absolutely nothing to say, he still feels the need to say it.

•  This need to post biznay (this is my 1501st port-swilling post) is really kind of funny, given how in real life I am a fairly quiet and reserved fellah.  Let the trick-cyclists make of that what they will.

•  Actually, I was not very quiet and reserved last evening and received some criticism for hooting at the teevee in the wee hours.  But if your beloved team were to claw back from a 5-run deficit in the 7th to win the game with a two out, three run, walk off homer, well, you’d cheer pretty hard, too.  People who claim baseball is boring are morons.

•  Speaking of such, my office is going en mass to catch the afternoon game tomorrow.  (One of those summer associate bonding things.  The entire Family Robbo will be turning out for it, too.)  This means that I will be commuting into town in the morning tricked out in my team gear and shorts.  I already know that I’m going to feel like a complete moron riding the metro dressed like that.

•  And speaking of Robbo Family ball, I got a note yesterday that the coach of the youngest gel’s Miracle on Dirt team is thinking of taking them all together up to AAA level for the fall season.  The middle gel, who has expressed a desire to give softball a try, will be playing at that level, too.  I asked her if she’d be interested in maybe playing on her sistah’s team  (thereby reducing my time commitment), to which she gave an immediate and forceful reply of, “NO!!”  It occurs to me that there is at least an element of bagging some Private Daddy Time mixed in her sudden interest in the sport.

•  Speaking of time commitments, in a comment to my post about the so-so WWII book I’m currently reading, regular port-swiller the Gripping Hand notes that life is too short to read bad books.  This is true, but I still feel guilty putting a book down once I’ve started it, and it’s got to be really bad before I can summon the willpower to abandon it.

• I am not nor have I ever been a smoker.  Nonetheless, the guv’mint’s latest adventure in passive-aggressive anti-smoking gutlessness fills me with such contempt that I’m almost inclined to start.   As far as I’m concerned, Uncle should either ban smoking altogether or else shut the hell up.

•  Speaking of smoking, I introduced the gels to the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup the other evening (Groucho and cigars, d’you see).  They’ve run it off about half a dozen times since then.  I’ve often remarked that the youngest gel is just like Harpo (only with volume), and it occurred to me afterwards that I might actually be flinging fuel on the fire.  Too late now.  Animal Crackers is coming down the pike soon.  Hooray for Captain Spalding!


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June 2011