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  • Seriously, who can think in this heat?

  • Every so often, we find ourselves lost at a decisive intersection, waiting for the light to change and send us on our way.
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  • Every so often, we find ourselves lost at a decisive intersection, waiting for the light to change and send us on our way.
    Such a moment came my way last week. The intersection in question was Fourth and Central in Medford, as I broiled in the minimal available shade and waited to cross without jaywalking. A younger man approached and directed my attention to something on the sidewalk I'd often noticed, but hadn't thought enough about.
    Before we go any further, whatever you do, don't look at the pink elephant in the corner.
    Anyway, the fellow traveler approached and "» this elephant you just pictured, was it wearing a tutu?
    Is it now?
    This is our brain. This is our brain under the influence — a egg frying on the sidewalk in the depth of summer heat — where, despite the potential for claustrophobia, going down under like the denizens of Coober Pedy sounds like it wouldn't take that much convincing.
    Still, while your fried egg has started to scramble on the concrete of life, we take a moment to think about how little we consider our ability to control our own thoughts.
    Oh, we're far from the realm of the experts of influencing others — leave that to the neurotelepathists and the hypnotists and the radio political screechists — what we're considering here is that rare human state known as being alone with our thoughts.
    If you saw the story last week in the paper — or even if you read it — you know that in yet another of those scientific studies from which some underground conspiracy is plotting to take over the world, it was discovered that many plain, old, regular folks like you and me (well, I don't know how old you are, that's true) would rather give themselves a series of small electrical shocks than spend 15 minutes alone in contemplation.
    Imagine, if that is indeed the case, what you'd be willing to do to yourself to avoid spending 15 minutes alone with my thoughts.
    It seems that we can no longer think for ourselves without the reassurance of having our technotoys within reach — ready and able to willingly force-feed us apps and bits and bytes and tweets and pics and texts and ever-increasingly small terms for what used to pass for information to process.
    Say, where'd that elephant get the top hat?
    Cyber reality, for all the glory it has bestowed upon us through the ability to provide photos of angry cats, has long since passed the point where it anticipates what site we'll want to visit next.
    Amazon, for instance, is developing a service that tracks your cyber demographic profile to such a degree that it will send you items before you know you want to buy them. This Place, a London-based company that specializes in user-interfaces and experiences, has taken this symbiotic dependency further.
    It has developed (and I have to copy this directly from the story in the Los Angeles Times, because I tried to paraphrase it and wound up discussing an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation") "a software called MindRDR that allows Google Glass to connect with the Neurosky MindWave Mobile EEG bionsensor, a head-mounted device that can detect a person's brain waves."
    In short, you can control the computer you've placed on your head just by thinking. Eventually, of course, the computer probably will be able to return the favor.
    I don't know about you, but I need a drink.
    Perhaps that's why we don't want to be left to our own devices, or our thoughts "» look what we do with them.
    I thought about this the other day (rather, at least I thought I was doing the thinking) when the solitude study was released at about the same time as we learned of the plight of a poor cat from Arizona that was stuck in a storage container for a month before being rescued in White City.
    That's a lot of time to be lost in thought, especially without a handy electro-shock control switch or radio talk show screamer nearby. Unable to access either to turn her brain into kibble, Sweet Tea strained her voice meowing for help before likely putting Descartes before the hoarse and realizing she could think, therefore she was in a pickle.
    If the tortie was like others of its species, however, we know through previous studies that cat-thoughts center around wanting to be left alone and wanting something to eat — though maybe not pickles — so maybe Sweet Tea didn't mind the time alone to gather her own thoughts, as would be the case with a human.
    Well, except for that lack of food thing. We can only exercise our brain so much before we start thinking of pink elephants wearing top hats and tutus munching on a piece of pepperoni pizza.
    "They say 3 percent of the people use 5 to 6 percent of their brain," statistician Todd Snider reminds us, before adding that "97 percent use just 3 percent and the rest goes down the drain."
    Snider's wrong, of course (Seriously, how can you trust a guy who thinks "beer run" is one word?), because no less an authority than Dr. Morgan Freeman has been telling us in TV commercials for weeks that most of us use 10 percent of our brains.
    Freeman is a co-star in the new movie "Lucy," which tells the realistic story of what happens when Scarlett Johansson — even as a blonde — suddenly gains the power to utilize 100 percent or more of her neuro pathways. From what the trailers show us, she takes this opportunity to master martial arts and shoot everyone who gets in her way.
    Others among us might have other priorities, such as wondering why these things always happen in movies to people who look like Scarlett Johansson. And while I would like to avenge my wife's displeasure and have Lucy take out her anger issues on those behind the decision to allow voting on "So You Think You Can Dance" through Facebook or an app (soon, we'll be voting through a chip in our heads), my immediate priority was to cross the street to get to the other side.
    Which brings us back to 4th and Central and the young man who motioned to me and pointed to the metal plate that bore the word "SIGNAL" and was screwed into the sidewalk.
    "If you step on this, the light will change," he said.
    I'd always been a little chicken about those things since the first time I saw one that read "STORM,' but I took his advice and "» whodathunkit? "» I don't want to get all Little Engine Who Could here, but I think I can I think I can I know I can make the light had change and — presto! — I was freed from the intersection.
    Now, whether he was telling the truth or just had a keen sense of timing, I don't know; but as he walked off in a different direction, I noticed he was wearing some sort of electronic gizmo on his head, which I took as a sign that he had assimilated to these times.
    Me? I was thinking of a pink elephant in a top hat and a tutu, eating a piece of pepperoni pizza and performing a little soft-shoe to "Pennies From Heaven."
    Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com
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