Hi there! My name is Aurora. I was brought me to BHS because my landlord was going to evict my owner if she kept me. Can you imagine? A sweet little thing like me?! I’ve been here since May 2011, and I’m the dog that’s been here the longest now. I guess it’s because I like to take my time to get to know people. I’m a bit scared of men — especially loud men — and I may growl a little until I learn to trust you; please don’t take it personally! I’m looking to be the queen canine of the castle, so if you already have a dog, your home may not be the best fit for me. However, cats don’t bother me unless they start to swat or hiss.
Did we mention Valentine’s Day is coming? Not the cynical, “what a bogus, trumped-up, retail event” Valentine’s Day, but the “she makes me so happy” day that acknowledges the scientific truth that gifts are important factors in every relationship. Flowers and chocolate are always wonderful, but maybe this year you want to try something different, something easy, something you can find, buy and send, say…from work. In that case, here are some last minute, online ideas for your best girl, or girls.
Green Girl – Here’s a really nice idea for that rare woman who “has enough stuff.” Lease her a share in a farm. From Rent Mother Nature, she can rent part of a dairy farm, an orchard, or a bee hive. She’ll receive a deed, farm updates, photos, and at a pre-appointed time, receive the appropriate form of produce, from cheese to honey, to nuts, eggs and more. $$
Sexy Girl – if you or your sweetheart would enjoy a $220 body suspender (and who wouldn’t?), this is the place. Agent Provocateur is a steamy pleasure palace of high-end lingerie. It might be the most fun you’ve ever had with your clothes on, and no worries, she’ll get the message.
Silly Girl – Seattle-based shop Archie McPhee is world-renowned for having the very best funny, crazy, kitschy stuff online. Shop toys and joke items in categories like Bacon, Weird, Mustaches, and naturally, Underpants. Which would she like more, the rubber octopus arm, the finger sporks or the squirrel underpants? You’ll laugh out loud trying to decide. $
Material Girl – Not into fashion, but wouldn’t turn up her nose at a pair of antique English club chairs? A 1960’s Hobie surfboard? A 300-year-old baroque Italian mirror? 1st Dibs has stupendous pieces of estate jewelry, antique furniture, and glamorous “objets” at the very high end of the price scale. Well, they are “the most beautiful things on earth”…$$$$$
Garden Girl – if your girl has dirt under her fingernails, Digging Dog Nursery is one of the greats, especially for native plants and trees. Digging Dog offers gift certificates with a $30 dollar minimum. For free, you get an enclosed message, and the low key, hand-illustrated, lovingly detailed newsprint catalog that only a gardener could love. $
Arty Girl – Unless she’s like my friend Mimi, who bought a 4’ x 6’ canvas and some house paint, mixed herself a pitcher a margaritas and called it a color field painting, a gift of art might seriously impress. UGallery has a high quality selection of original art — oil paintings and more — that will nicely fill that blank spot on the wall. But unless you’re an art dealer, choosing a painting without consulting her is probably a bad idea. Search this one together. $$$
Glam Girl – Do men know about Net-A-Porter? For a guy who’s at all interested in fashion, it’s a gold mine of potential gift ideas. A beautifully wrapped and hand delivered gift from Net can demonstrate how much you’ve noticed about her own (expensive designer) style, or give her a nudge in the (expensive designer) direction you’d like her to go. Careful with that last one, though. $$$$
Little Girl – for daughters, granddaughters and young friends, there are some proven winners, like the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, the Popcorn Factory, and of course, Archie McPhee (see above). But after a certain age, maybe ten, there’s really nothing like a box of flowers to make her feel like a woman. $ www.kabloom.com
“Love is not a psychiatric disorder, but people that are in love are kind of crazy,” says Dr. Sandra Langeslag, an expert in biological psychology at the University of Maryland. And while the creative among us rhapsodize about love in poems and paintings, more rational types, like Langeslag, prefer to look at love through MRIs and EEGs. “I want to understand how the brain works when humans are attracted to one another,” Langeslag says, presumably beyond vague formulations like “Oh, you just know.” Langeslag’s research tries to bridge the gap between research on emotion (which depends on present circumstances) and cognition (which depends on thought and experience). Langeslag and her colleague, Luiz Pessoa, don’t believe that the two brain processes are as separate as they’re often portrayed. Langeslag’s research has shown that the brains of people in love show a specific pattern of what she calls “motivated attention” when shown images of their beloved. In other words, normal human propensity for distraction (a TV show in the background? an attractive stranger walking by?) is minimized when a person is gazing at the one they love. Isn’t that sweet?
If you want to know what the U.S. Air Force is up to these days, forget about watching Top Gun. Instead, consider the butterfly. No, not because they’re pretty, but because they’re able to fly through complex environments despite obstacles, wind, and narrow spaces. To that end, the Air Force is funding research at Johns Hopkins to help develop insect-sized robots for reconnaissance, search-and-rescue, and environmental monitoring missions — all without risking human life. To help develop the robots’ maneuverability, Johns Hopkins undergrad (!) Tiras Lin is taking high-speed video of butterflies and other flying insects. Designing successful, agile micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) requires an intimate understanding of the mass distribution of insects’ flapping wings, and how their bodies shift and distort as a response to the requirements of flight. So far, Lin and his fellow researchers have collected approximately 6,000 images — and used 600 frames to capture as little as one-fifth of one second of flight. “Butterflies flap their wings about 25 times per second,” Lin points out. “That’s why we had to take so many pictures.”
If you want to say I love you in a new and different way, say “I Heart Your Guts” with a stuffed intestine from I Heart Guts. The unusual plush toys will be on sale at Trohv on The Avenue in Hampden and 10 percent of the sales of the toys will go to the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute.
Give the “When Urine Love” kidney shirt, or proffer an “I Lung You” lapel pin to your beloved. Instead of roses and chocolate, how about a stuffed testicle (“Having a Ball”) or ovary (“Ova Achiever”) to let your honey know you’re in the mood for love?
I Heart Guts founder Wendy Bryan is the anatomically-obsessed illustrator who makes plush internal organs. Black Book magazine said of the guts, “These furry toys can transplant love back into any tired relationship, while Time Out New York says, “The deliriously happy bunch is sure to put any get-well card to shame.”
It’s not often that science tackles subjects like love, or good intentions — for one, they’re fuzzy and hard to fit on a spreadsheet. But according to a recent study by Kurt Gray of the University of Maryland, good intentions matter. According to Gray’s research, a shot given by a caring nurse hurts patients less than one given by an indifferent nurse. Food given with a message of love tastes better than the exact same food with an indifferent message (the one used in the study: “Whatever. I just don’t care. I just picked it randomly”). For a medical setting, Gray’s results show that bedside manner matters. For the rest of us, the message is a simple one — be nice. But Gray, head of the Maryland Mind Perception and Morality Lab, takes it one step further: “To the extent that we view others as benevolent instead of malicious, the harms they inflict upon us should hurt less, and the good things they do for us should cause more pleasure,” the paper concludes. “Stolen parking places cut less deep and home-cooked meals taste better when we think well of others.” So assuming that other people are nice (instead of jerks) will end up helping you in the long run.
From love to cadavers. We’re a culture infatuated with the possibilities of technology, something that gets reflected in our crime TV shows. On CSI, the impossibly good-looking medical examiners are always using fancy high-tech “virtopsy” (that is, virtual autopsy) technology to scan and view video images of murder victims insides. Sounds great (and less messy), right? Well, according to experts at Johns Hopkins, these technologies are helpful in some cases, but the traditional autopsy is still “the gold standard for determining why and how people really died,” says pathologist Elizabeth Burton. When a virtopsy is used, common diagnoses get missed; the study blames medical overconfidence in imaging technologies. Furthermore, families and loved ones often find the traditional autopsy distasteful. Which isn’t to say that these technologies are useless. But, according to the experts, it should best be used in addition to — not instead of — the traditional method.