February 16th, 2008

Before Sunrise

Random: Julie Celebrating SUNY Stony Brook and a NYT Article from a Stony Brook Researcher

Julie came over last night in a fit of spontaneity to celebrate her getting into her #1 school – SUNY Stony Brook – for their Ph.D. program in experimental psychology, where she will join their unusually large pool of researchers who specialize in studying human cognition. Among other topics that she's researched, though, is marriage/sexuality, and so I couldn't help but notice this New York Times article which is based on a Stony Brook professor's research and which I'll pass on to her. And it's interesting in its own right. New evidence for old folk wisdom? You decide....

Reinventing Date Night for Long-Married Couples
By TARA PARKER-POPE for The New York Times
Published: February 12, 2008

Long-married couples often schedule a weekly “date night” — a regular evening out with friends or at a favorite restaurant to strengthen their marital bond.

But brain and behavior researchers say many couples are going about date night all wrong. Simply spending quality time together is probably not enough to prevent a relationship from getting stale.

Using laboratory studies, real-world experiments and even brain-scan data, scientists can now offer long-married couples a simple prescription for rekindling the romantic love that brought them together in the first place. The solution? Reinventing date night.

Rather than visiting the same familiar haunts and dining with the same old friends, couples need to tailor their date nights around new and different activities that they both enjoy, says Arthur Aron, a professor of social psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The goal is to find ways to keep injecting novelty into the relationship. The activity can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or something a little more unusual or thrilling — like taking an art class or going to an amusement park.

The theory is based on brain science. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner. (They are also the brain chemicals involved in drug addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.)

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I See You!

Personal: Friday's Social Night, Guest-Starring Markus

Markus returned to Marquette this week for his period in the States as part of his double professorships. In 2005 he graduated with a collection of essays and books as Dr. habil. in Frankfurt and became appointed professor in 2006. Since 2007 he's been both professor of Historical Theology/Church History at Goethe University Frankfurt/Main and at Marquette. It had crossed my mind when I was downtown on Monday that he ought to be back soon, and indeed it turned out that he arrived that night. He leaned in my door during my office hours on Wednesday and surprised me and we talked excitedly for a few minutes after a big hug of welcome. I mentioned Friday being the night I regularly gathered with the Lloyds and Harrises and he let me know that he was free this Friday, which was good to know as his social calendar fills up quickly while he is in America. So we made sure things looked good and reserved his company.

And so we had a great night of friendship around the table. When Dan, Mike, Markus and I got in from the University, I saw that Amy and Donna had put together a great set of hors d'oeuvres: shrimp, mussels, and lots of supporting vegetables, with dinner being postponed, I was told, until the kids were down at 8:30pm. That turned out to be a feast of chicken breasts in a kippers and lemon sauce, mashed potatoes, asparagus and broccoli, and lots of wine, with Dan breaking out the sherry toward the end, and Amy's insistence that she wasn't pushing it on me and that she ought not be further immortalized in this journal as someone who goes out of her way to get me drunk. (So there that is in print.) Everything went according to plan, playing lots with the wildly-wired kids – the 1 1/2 year-old Owen was hysterical, finding Markus to be very funny but was also nervous about being picked up by the stranger, yet kept coming back for more, like a horror-movie junkie insisting on terrifying himself – and then getting them calm and in bed so that we could tuck in and just enjoy one another without distraction. We remained a close, laughing circle around the table until 11:30, when Markus and Donna both confessed tiredness and we agreed that it was time to call it a night.

The conversation really took us in some new directions, tending to stay away from theology other than an occasional gloss on spirituality or living a Christian life, and a few notes on German university life. Mostly it was about family life: "Table Talk" of a Martin Luther kind, you might say, of our vision as applied to all the mundane and glorious moments of what's called "real life." We heard a lot more of Markus and Suzanne's story, of the long and solid friendship that lead to their getting married, and lots of conversation on child-rearing, with Markus' observations from further down the road than the Harrises and Lloyds. Childhood nightmares of the sorts the kids occasionally were now dealing with turned into an interesting psychological digression, and we spent quite a bit of time talking about German economics, what it takes to make life work over there in contrast to here with their particular social system and what struggles it faces. Normally economics puts me into a coma, but with the talk of American politics that popped up on occasion, it became a comparison/contrast sort of portrait that really kept us talking about our cultural differences. There was a long conversation on the remembrance of the Nazi past in German culture today, and how that had figured in German grade- and high-school education after the war (not at all, starting so far back in history that you never got up to it) and then after the 1968 cultural revolutions (very prominently, dominating the bulk of young teachers' agendas). The phenomenon of everyone's Nazi pasts being re-written as "Oh, I was a resistance fighter from within the system" was explained to us, and we found ourselves comparing that to the Northern and Southern remembrances of the American Civil War as it exists today. And lots more....
Rich Mullins Songs/Hiding Face

AP Stories on NIU Shootings

Edited/Updated 2/20.

Gunman's Friendly Exterior Masked Past
NIU Shootings Stir Sense of Helplessness
Terrifying Final Moments in NIU Hall
Police Investigate NIU Shooter's 2 Sides
Gunman Called Girlfriend to Say Goodbye
City Takes College Attack Personally
Chicago's Suburbs Grieve NIU Victims
NIU Community Wonders: Why Cole Hall?

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