Category Archives: Daniella Lee

Zap In Your Memories

By Daniella Lee

We hold our memories near and dear to our heart, but what if those same memories are just an episode from Full House? Earlier this week, we talked about the theory of prosthetic memory. This theory states that humans substitute memories or ideas they have seen in media entertainment in place of memories from their own reality. Now before you freak out and cause an early mid-life crisis because your whole life as you remember it is a lie, the concept of prosthetic memories provides an opportunity to re-examine the development of your personality. If you still think you were raised by three men and blurted out phrases like “how rude” when you didn’t get your way, then you might need an intervention (possibly with corny music in the background).

Prosthetic memories may force some harsh realizations about your childhood, but the media doesn’t have total control of your brain, yet. Scientists are discovering new ways to make memories, ones that don’t involve the media. Researcher Jan Born and colleagues from the University of Lubeck in Germany studied the different stages of sleep. The deepest stage of sleep, known as slow-wave, plays an important role in memory consolidation. This is the stage when information, or memories, get stored into the brain. In his study, Born set out to improve these memories by electrically stimulating the brain.

During the study, a group of medical students were given a list of words to memorize. On one of the several nights they would receive an electric shock. Born attached electrodes to the students’ heads. delivering a low-frequency, low-voltage electric shock while they slept. The stimulation that occurred forced the brain into slow-wave sleep. The following night, the students were given another list of words to memorize and put to bed without getting zapped.

The students remembered more words from the list the night they received the electrode shock. Born concluded that inducing slow-wave sleep could help to consolidate memories. In a typical night, humans only spend 20 minutes in this stage of sleep. Slow-wave sleep plays a vital role in strengthening our bones, muscles, immune systems and memories. Obviously falling into this deep sleep is important for the body, yet it’s so difficult to reach this stage. Born’s electric brain stimulation might not only help our memorization, but being able to reach slow-wave sleep can provide benefit to a healthy, longer life.

Born’s findings open the door to more research on slow-wave sleep and memory retention. If we start zapping ourselves into a deep sleep we can keep our real memories and stop using the media’s storyline for our life. If you still think you’re related Uncle Jesse, then we might need to up the voltage on that electric current and keep you dreaming for a while… possibly forever.

“Restoring Slow Wave Sleep Shown To Enhance Health and Increase Lifespan”
by: Jim English
Nutrition Review, 2010

“Boosting Slow Oscillations During Sleep Potentiates Memory”
by: Jan Born, Lisa Marshall, Halla Helgadóttir and Matthias Mölle
Nature 444, 610-613


Interview: An Insider’s Take On Tanning

By Daniella Lee

Vitamin D is the secret steroid that provides benefits such as a longer, healthier life and overall happiness. But when the sun sets and the winter cold creeps up, the recommended intake for Vitamin D might be a little difficult to reach. A possible solution: tanning salons. Now, we’re not suggesting you turn into Snooki, but she may be onto something. This week, we sat down with Melina Vincent, an employee at Halsted Tan and Spa to find out if tanning salons can provide you with that extra vitamin D you need to get through the winter.

Occam’s Taser: What tanning services are offered at Halsted Tan and Spa?
Melina Vincent: We offer UVA tanning (helps eliminate burning), UVB and UVA, and our spray tan which is called Versa.  All the UV beds we have include base level, mid level and high level and both stand ups and lay downs in each.

OT: Tell us about the different levels of tanning?
MV: Base level is equivalent to a level 3 or level 4, it will give you a good base color tan without making you too dark.  Mid-level is the next up and includes more intense face and shoulder tanners.  It’s a stronger voltage and has more bulbs in the bed so you get a deeper tan and after a few visits you look like you came back from vacation.  Our high-level beds are a good way to get color right away that stays for a few days without doing the versa spa.  It’s a higher voltage than both the base level and mid level and has more beds than all of them.  We have two beds imported from Italy that are Strictly UVA so if someone who is fairer complected and wanted to go in a high level bed they can go in one of these beds and still receive all the benefits of the high level bed without burning.

OT: How does your salon offer Vitamin D?
MV: Because each bed is the newest technology it makes sure to give you a safe tan with your daily amount of Vitamin D.  We also offer deals like $2 tan coupons, $5 tans every Tuesday, and $10 on any bed (including our $32 high level bed) after 9pm Tues-Thurs. to promote UV tanning and Vitamin D Nutrition.

OT: What are the major side effects of tanning?
MV: To much exposure or burning is something we see very often, people will come in and want to do a strong bed for the full time and they haven’t been in the sun so their melanin is still “sleeping” and although we warn them they still tend to burn.  Also, a side effect could be wrinkles at an early age ONLY if you abuse your tanning privileges and have been doing it for many many years.

OT: What are the benefits of tanning?
MV: Vitamin D is the biggest benefit because studies have shown that people who have the required amount of vitamin D daily and or weekly are healthier than those who are not.  Also, you get a nice color and look healthy.

OT: What do you recommend at your salon?
MV: I recommend trying the UVA bed because it’s very uncommon for a salon to have it. If you have an upcoming special event, try the Versa Spa Spray because it is the newest spray tan technology. It’s a sugar based solution, not an iodine base,  so it won’t turn your skin orange.

OT: How does Halsted Tan and Spa promote tanning?
MV: We promote tanning in the safest way possible, we make sure every client goes into the room with eye-wear and we encourage them to have lotion to moisturize their skin. We also have many many options, so between packages and specials and beds a customer can really come in and customize exactly what they want to do. We advertise a healthy glow during the winter and promote Vitamin D benefits.

Tanning salons can be your resource for that healthy glow and your vitamin D fix. Now, we aren’t recommending that you turn into an Oompa-Loompa, but the occasional drop-in won’t hurt. Before you head into any salon, get to know all the facts. Melina and the tanning world like to look at the benefits of the tanning bed, but there is a dark side. UVA rays go deep into the skin creating that nice golden brown tan, but provide no Vitamin D production. UVB rays are the ones that stimulate the vitamin D production, but also burns your skin easily. And we all know that tanning increases your risk for skin cancer. Halsted Tan and Spa does offers great deals, if the tanning bed is suddenly calling your name, so you can glow even in the winter snow.

Keep In Touch With Your Emotions And Keep Your Job

By: Daniella Lee

In today’s job market, it’s hard to find work and even harder to keep it. The workplace can be so cut-throat that getting stabbed in the back happens as often as running out of post-its. Okay, so this may be a little far fetched but I’m sure there is an Omarosa near your cubicle. So what can you do to make sure you stand out from the other employees, like that crazy bitch in accounting? Make sure to pay attention to your emotions, and don’t let anyone mess with your paperwork.

Staying smart with your emotions has become a hot topic between your boss, management and the HR department. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to control your emotions and utilize them when working in groups toward a universal goal. Employers see this as a crucial skill. This interest comes from research stating that EI is a predictor in job performance, negotiations, leadership, trust, work-family conflict and stress (pretty much everything you need to survive a typical 9-to-5 job). A study conducted by Ernest H. Boyle, Ronald H. Humphrey and associates at the Virgina Commonwealth University specifically looked into the relationship between emotional intelligence and job performance.

What does it mean to be emotionally intelligent? Boyle and Humphrey pull from previous research to operationalize their definition of EI.

“The sets of abilities (verbal and nonverbal) that enable a person to generate, recognize, express, understand, and evaluate their own, and others, emotions in order to guide thinking and action that successfully cope with environmental demands and pressures.” (Rooy and Viswesvaran)

Boyle and Humphrey gathered data from 43 studies and performed a 3-part test to classify their findings. These series of tests, known as EI streams, measured EI and its effect on job performance. The first stream was a four-branch ability test which categorizes that EI into different branches. They were perception and expression of emotion, emotional facilitation of thinking, understanding and analyzing emotions and employing emotional knowledge. The second stream used a self-report measure to capture the emotions that employees were feeling the workplace. The final stream used to measure the data was a traditional test to measure social skills. These guys are thorough.

The EI streams measured the main concepts behind EI. Boyle and Humphrey’s main hypothesis in this study was to prove that all three EI streams are correlated with job performance. Each section of the test confirmed Boyle and Humphrey’s main hypothesis. “The three streams of EI research, ability measures, self- and peer-report measures, and mixed models, all predict job performance equally.”

The ability to control your emotions and understand those of your co-workers tends to result in better job performance and, more importantly, can help you dominate in the workplace. EI helps with group tasks, customer service, and those with a high level of EI can persuade the moods of others. (Boyle and Humphrey, 2010: 77). The next time you talk to that sucky co-worker with a bad attitude you can flip her mood if you’re an EI jedi.

Coping with the stress and pressure of a fast-paced career can make us or break us. The workforce is becoming more competitive and being able to stand out means brushing up on your EI. Employers are looking for people who can control their emotions and influence the emotions of others around them. EI can up your job performance and the next time you have to work on a project with that lady from accounting (she really is a total bitch) you’ll be able to get her to play nice.

The Relation Between Emotional Intelligence And Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis
By: Ernest H. O’Boyle Jr., Ronald H. Humphrey, Jeffrey M. Pollack, Thomas H. Hawver and Paul A. Story
Virginia Commonwealth University. Richmond, VA
Journal of Organizational Behavior 2010

A Word With The Wise

By: Daniella Lee

in the Parlor

Words: We combine them to form sentences, paragraphs and papers in order to convey meaning and emotion. Some of the best word nerds, authors, poets and the staff at Occam’s create stories with words. Would writings be as memorable if they were written using “textism”? We’ll never know. But if Shakespeare wrote “2b er naw 2b tht iz da ?” we doubt anyone would take him seriously. Patricia Harkin’s interest in the power of language led her to pursue Ph.Ds in English and Communication. Currently a Dean and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Patty took time out to sit down with Occam’s Taser to discuss the importance of formal writing skills and language in the classroom.

Occam’s Taser: How did you know you wanted to study English?
PH: I was a teenager when John Kennedy was inaugurated, and his best speeches–or, as we now know, Ted Sorensen’s, were profoundly moving to me. “Ask not what your country can do for you; rather ask what you can do for your country” and phrases like it were a rallying call for my generation. Those stirring phrases gave way to more pithy ones:  “make love not war,” for example. Such political uses of language really did change things for me. Witty, apt, use of language can have political effects. They prompted people to join the peace corps and/or to protest the (Vietnam) war. I became an English teacher and a writer because I wanted to be part of that. Even today, when people quote me in print, it’s a thrill.  Language is an instrument for moving people. That’s why I keep doing what I’m doing.


OT: What do you think is the primary difference between formal and informal writing?
PH: The situationally appropriate use of formal language makes it likely that the discourse will achieve its purpose.  But not every piece of writing tends ALWAYS to be perfectly “correct” and “formal.” “Hell, no, we won’t go” was pretty effective as anti-war rhetoric, too.  It’s important to me that when and if a piece of writing DOES break convention, it does so self-consciously, rather than simply through carelessness.

OT: What kind of changes have you seen in writing practices?
PH: I noticed after email became prevalent was a tendency to condense messages, especially by omitting context.  For example, a traditional business letter might say “In response to your inquiry of November 1”; an email might just answer the question, e.g., “yes, go ahead.”  Such practices might cause confusion.  But people got used to them pretty quickly.

OT: Have you noticed changes in writing skills due to the growing popularity of texting?
PH: The absence of punctuation. Students have pretty much always chosen not to bother with (say) semicolon/comma conventions, but until recently, they’ve pretty much always ended sentences with periods. Not any more. So, since context might already be missing, the lack of punctuation can really cause confusion. And that confusion calls for more email messages, to correct the misapprehension of the first message.

Now, what bothers me most in emails from students is an absence of context–why is this message being sent?  What’s the problem it’s intended to solve? My sense is that the immediacy of electronic communication tends to encourage people to write or text BEFORE they think a problem or a question through. We’ll all probably get used to sentences that don’t have terminal punctuation.  But the absence of context is a question of writing ABILITY.  If you’re gong to be clear, you need to establish a context.

OT: Do you think this will affect how we communicate with one another?
PH: It may be that our fast changing world will soon make “context” dispensable as well.  If the context is likely to change in seconds, it may not be necessary to establish one.  But I think it will be a while before that happens, because there are economic and political consequences of misunderstanding.

OT: “A recent study found that more texting can  have negative impacts on formal writing skills. Have you noticed a change in our generation’s formal writing skills?”
PH: Yes, but not so much BECAUSE of electronic communication practices as because of the desire for speed that these practices reflect.  And speed almost certainly leads to what Fredric Jameson calls “depthlessness.” In other words, I don’t mind at all if somebody says that she thinks a situation is gr8t.  But I am bothered if she doesn’t think about whether it’s great for everybody or just gr8t for her, at the moment.

OT: The researchers suggest because of the findings, a new form of writing in the English Language will form. What do you think about this statement?
PH: I think they are absolutely right. We’ve seen these changes before.  It used to be considered inappropriate (if not “wrong”) to use contractions.   And we used to be much more particular about pronouns (who/whom, for example) than we are now.  I truly believe the the age of the semicolon is basically over.  Language changes.  There’s no point in trying to stop those changes.  First, we can’t.  Next, we shouldn’t.  Language needs to change.

OT: What aspect of writing papers do students struggle the most with?
PH: Sentence structure–absolutely!  But, to be honest, I wouldn’t call what my students do “struggling”; I’d call it not bothering. Here, too, texting conventions probably do play a part. Linguists make a distinction between written (formal) language and spoken language.   For example, when you’re waiting at a bus stop, you can say”coming” and most of your audience (the other folks at the bus stop) will grasp your meaning.  But if you’re writing to an absent audience, a one-word message like that will not get the job done.  Texting, I think, collapses the distinction between spoken and written messages.  It’s a written message that acts like a spoken one. Hence, students who are used to texting have a diminished awareness of context.  They now tend to write more run-on sentences and produce more misplaced and dangling modifiers.  These constructions are not a problem, usually, in spoken language, but they really can hide or change meaning in important written messages for multiple, absent and varying audiences.

Whatever your career, the context in your writing needs to be clear for your reader. Texting has changed the way we communicate with each other and we tend to lose substance because of it. Next time when you’re sending an e-mail make sure you use your periods and your words to get the message across. Text lingo may be great with your friends, but never in professional settings. Wuld any1 tke u sriusly if u wrte lyk dis?

Put Some Happy Back In Your Holiday: Your Gifts Are Just A Click Away

by Daniella Lee

With the holiday season approaching, the smell of crisp cold air, ice skating in the park, cute mittens, and delicious Starbucks gingerbread lattes can fill anyone up with joy. Come December, you’re freezing your ass off, sitting in a snowstorm and every driver has turned into your Grandpa Earl who walks faster than he drives. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” turns into over-eating, over-spending and simply just being over-it. This week our research focused on the correlation between shopping and unhappiness. This makes sense especially during the holiday season: who likes to go out and spend money on their loved ones when the scene from The Day After Tomorrow is live in color? The solution to your winter blues is online shopping.

A simple enough concept and one that we are all probably pros at, online shopping provides 24/7 access to the things you need, want, and love. There are no ridiculously long check-out lines, over excited sale associates and parking wars to endure. But on infamous days like Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving where stores offer special promotions, the crazies come out and we all become victims to their 3-day stake out for the new PlayStation. provided a safe haven and restored some sanity to the holiday season when they coined the term “Cyber Monday” in 2005. The term stems from research in which retailers recorded a 77% increase in online shopping the Monday after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday is the unofficial kickoff for online holiday shopping with retailers offering coupons and special offers only available online. So grab your credit card and work out that index finger because the faster you click, the better the deals get.

Last year, Cyber Monday deals ranged from cheap airfare, hotels, gaming consoles, digital cameras, toys, bedding, you name it. Retailers like Walmart and Target had Cyber Week where they offered a new deal everyday. According to data from Experian Hitwise, among the top online retailers Amazon was the top visited site for Cyber Monday 2009 with 15.53% hits. Amazon has a cool wish list feature so if you don’t get all of the 300 things you wanted for the holidays, they will be saved online for when your birthday rolls around. Trailing close behind were Walmart, Target, Best Buy and JC Penny. 2010 brings new deals and offers to the table, and sites like Cyber Monday Central, Best Cyber Monday Sales, and Offers.Com are keeping customers up-to-date with the latest Cyber Monday news.

The success of Cyber Monday can be seen in the statistics. According to comScore, online shoppers spent $887 million dollars on Cyber Monday in 2009 compared to $834 million dollars the year before. Data from comScore also shows an increase of dollars spent on Cyber Monday since the term was coined in 2005. The originator of Cyber Monday,, has created their own online mall centered around offering exclusive deals from retailers throughout the holidays. Over 700 retailers are featured on the site which offers a complete variety of holiday gift ideas. Our personal favorite tab on this site, the free shipping offers allows you to get the best deals without having to pay to get them. Cyber Monday falls on November 27th this year, so be prepared for a more relaxed Chrismahanukwanzakah shopping season and don’t forget to show your love to Occam, we’ll send you our wish list if you don’t know what to get us!

For The Days The Treadmill Just Won’t Cut It

by Daniella Lee

Working out can be a task, even if in the back of your mind you know its good for you. Our research find this week focused on the importance of exercise and how it increases brain activity, even for us old farts. Some-days running is as appetizing as liver and eggs, my grandpa’s favorite. So today we offer an alternative to running, an alternative to actually working out. These weird work-out machines might not get you the same results as actual cardio but man, are they ridiculous!

The Shake Weight

We’ve seen the infomerical a dozen times during those late night Lifetime movie-thons, but what the hell is this thing. The Shake Weight claims to tone and shape your arms, shoulders and chest in just 6 minutes a day! Doubt it. This device allegedly use new work-out technology called Dynamic Inertia, which after some research, no one really knows what it mean.. Anything that claims incredible results without having you move your ass probably doesn’t work, but that’s up to your discretion. What’s worse than The Shake Weight… The Shake Weight for Men.

The Stud Master

Hugh Hefner may use Viagra to keep his three girlfriends happy, but Joe Shmoe might not be able to afford the miracle drug, none the less three girlfriends. So what’s the answer? The Stud Master! Designed by Dr. Weener, seriously this guy’s last name is Weener, The Stud Master… well what the hell do you think it does? Just and f.y.i. guys, it is a one-size-fits-all machine, so you don’t have to measure before you go out and grab it.

Mechanical Horse

Ride um cowboy! This mechanical horse is similar to riding your personal Italian Stallion. We’re not really sure how it works, since it is all in Japanese, but I’m sure it’ll hit big once it comes to the States. The lady in the picture looks like she is getting a work-out and like they say, don’t knock it till you try it.

The Hobart I-Cool Chair

Technology is making it easier to literally sit on your ass and burn fat. Impossible if you know the first thing about working out, but that won’t stop these nerds. We’re not really sure how they claim to do it, so I’m letting the geniuses explain it. “I-Cool, the first ever Exercise-Free, Calorie Burning seat designed to deliver significantly increased sedentary calorie burn rates. This proprietary system, which induces accelerated calorie outtake via temperature regulation, creates a revolutionary personalized micro-environment, by allowing individual users to set their preferred temperature within the comfort of their own personal space, regardless of the climate around them.” [From link above].

Whatever you chose, treadmill, elliptical, or the stud master, working out is a necessity to live a healthy, long life. We all know that the strange machines that are shown late at night are probably a hoax but they provide a good laugh.. and maybe more (the stud master).

An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away – Or At Least Your Headaches

by Daniella Lee


There are never enough hours in a day, days in a week, or weeks in a month to get everything done. Whether it’s classes, internships, or work that consumes our 9-5, to do lists continue to grow and stress begins to creep.  Add boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, and children into our dramatic daily lives and that’s when it hits: that piercing pain in the middle of your brain.  Lights, sounds, even standing up can suddenly become unbearable.  This pain is not a fluke, it comes back and stays for longer than the last time. Migraines (just the word is painful) are a chronic type of headache that may occur with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light.  For many people, the throbbing pain is only on one side of their head.

Migraines can be set off by anything and people have a variety of ways of dealing with them.  Hot tea, sitting in the dark, self-medication, simply waiting it out (or my personal favorite: taking NyQuil and passing out), all help with the pain. Unfortunately, not everyone can take hours out of their day to sit around and be in pain, and that’s where our awesome research find comes in this week.  Doctor Alan Hirsch is the founder and neurological director of The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.  He specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of smell and taste-related disorders and has completed over 200 studies on sensory functions.

Dr. Hirsch is the guru for sense and taste, having conducted a variety of studies on smell and weight loss, aromas and male sexual response, and odor and kissing.  In one of his recent studies, Dr. Hirsch focused on the reduction of migraine pains by inhaling a green apple scent.  In a previous study by researchers Blau and Solomon, 50 migraine patients were interviewed and reported that certain odors trigger their migraines.  Dr. Hirsch, being the smelly guy he is, theorized that maybe certain smells could reduce migraine symptoms. Using green apple as his control fragrance since previous studies concluded that it reduces anxiety, Dr. Hirsch designed an in-study use inhaler filled with a green apple odor.  The volunteers would record three migraine attacks and would rate the severity on a given scale.  During the second attack, volunteers would use the inhaler and record the severity of their migraine.

This study found that those who liked the green apple fragrance recorded that the severity of the headache decreased.  For those who did not like the fragrance, there was no significant improvement in the severity of their migraine.  So what does this all mean?  Odors can possibly help reduce migraines if the scent is pleasurable to the migraine sufferer.  For people on the go and who can’t afford to spend their day in a dark room recovering, green apples might be a home-made remedy for curing that aching head pain.  And lucky for us, October is here and so are plenty of apple picking fests and farms.  If you can’t make it out to the boondocks, you can go to your local grocer and pick up some Granny Smith apples for your migraine.  Not to mention, apples are delicious and super nutritious!  Just make sure you like the scent of green apples, otherwise your migraine won’t go away and you’ll be pissed you read this!  Enjoy, and let us know if it worked for you.

The Effect of Inhaling Green Apple Fragrance to Reduce Migraine“
by: Alan Hirsch and Chil Kang
The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation