Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A WHIFF OF THIS – Sniffing Out Phantosmia

In the past few years, this celebrant of small wonders has come to notice a new sensation. Well, it’s actually an old sensation, but in an entirely new context. It’s smells, smells like none I’ve ever experienced. Because I’m pretty sure they’re all in my head.

I first noticed these phantom smells—distinct odors with no actual odor-emitting source—while I was getting ready to meditate. I sat in my favorite chair. I draped my favorite hoodie over the back of the chair and pulled down the hood over my eyes to block out most of the light. Then I focused on my breathing.

At least I tried to. Because that’s when I noticed it. A complex blend of pleasant, non-food, non-floral smells: smoke, grass, wood, leather.

PHOTO: CandleScience

At first I thought the aroma came from the hoodie, perhaps an accumulation of oils from my skin and hair. But I discovered that’s not the case because it’s the same even after I’ve washed the garment. And there’s no other specific odor source in the house—say from cooking, cleaning solutions or pets.

The mysterious smell comes and goes and might vary a bit from day to day. It seems to occur only when I turn off the other sensory stimuli that usually vie for my attention. Like while I meditate or nap—but, strangely, not when I go to bed
at night.

I don’t mind the smell at all; in fact, it’s become quite an agreeable addition to my down time, not unlike those relaxing essential oils diffused by masseuses.

        Thank God my smells are both agreeable
        and intermittent.


So, if this oddity isn’t caused, like other fragrances, by molecules of something odoriferous stimulating the smell receptors in my head, then what does cause it?

Turns out it’s a fairly uncommon* condition called olfactory hallucinations or phantosmia. The most common triggers include head injury, upper respiratory infection, temporal lobe brain seizure, migraine, sinus infection, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, nasal polyps, dental disease and COVID-19.**

I’ve thought a lot about the phenomenon. Is it like phantom pain—the kind you’d swear is coming from your left shoulder, but really stems from that ruptured C6-7 disk in your neck? If the odor doesn’t come from airborne molecules emitted by some object or substance, where does it come from? And how does it fool those olfactory nerves?

ILLUSTRATION: Neuroscience News

Research suggests that the smells are caused by rogue olfactory neurons transmitting bogus signals to the brain,*** perhaps assigning definition to the sham smells based on memory of real smells.

Some poor folks have to live with phantosmia that palms off really awful smells like rotten eggs, burning hair or chemicals like ammonia. And, though most articles say it's short-lived, for some the assault persists, nonstop, for years.

Treatments vary widely, depending on the cause of one's phantosmia. Common home remedies include nasal irrigation—like Neti Pot—or nasal sprays to relieve congestion.

        I hope you find it agreeable, intermittent
        and worthy of wonder.

The funny thing is that my real sense of smell has faded quite drastically over the years. Most of the fragrances I’ve so often written about here now fall on the olfactory equivalent of deaf ears. Assuming my aging smell receptors are just wearing out, what a lovely small wonder that my phantosmia manages to simply bypass that inept apparatus and go straight to my brain! Right?

Do you think the same thing might happen with our other senses? If so, that might explain such anomalies as “seeing things” and “hearing things.” And what does that say about the validity of “eyewitness”—or perhaps "nose-witness"—testimony?

PHOTO: Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Getty Images

I truly hope you don’t have to deal with phantosmia, but if you do, I can only hope you’re as lucky as I am to find it agreeable, intermittent and worthy of wonder. We'd love to hear your story!

* Phantosmia affects somewhere between one and 25 percent of people, depending on the threshhold used to diagnose the condition. (National Institutes of Health)
** WebMD
*** Wikipedia

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

I SEE, SAID THE BLIND MAN – An A.I. Cautionary Tale

For those of you still not terrified of artificial intelligence (AI), I offer this perspective.

One of AI’s up and coming players, C3 ai, is advertising on National Public Radio using the slogan, “Turns the invisible into the obvious.”

Does anyone else, in a world where the very notion of truth is being challenged, find this overt statement of purpose just chilling? It’s brazen; it’s warped; it’s nothing less than an admission of guilt.

  One minute there’s no smoking gun; the next,
  oh duh, there it is.

Yes, folks, here’s what we do at our company. We take stuff that’s not there and make even those not gullible enough to buy a conventional hard sell believe it is. What could possibly go wrong with that mission?

It’s worse than the sleaziest shyster lawyer. He can do a lot with a shred of evidence. But with AI, no evidence? No problem; we just let a computer make it up. One minute there’s no smoking gun; the next, oh duh, there it is.

Now I know AI’s being harnessed to do some real good. Stuff a real human brain might perhaps come up with…if it were just a bit smarter. In medicine, science, finance and many other fields it does seem these capabilities are being channeled to help people.

One inspiring example: Country music legend Randy Travis, effectively silenced by a stroke, is using AI to reclaim his own voice and make new recordings.

PHOTO: Larry McCormack, The Tennessean

But it’s when the technology is used to fool people that my blood pressure starts rising. Photographic sleights of hand, fake sound bites, cribbed term papers, facts disguised as “alternative facts.” *

The technology will soon be convincing enough
to sway just about anyone—even if there’s evidence to the contrary!


One of the great truisms of life, I’ve discovered, is that we see pretty much what we want to see, what we expect to see. So it’s really not that much of a stretch to get someone who believes in you to buy your lies, even if there’s not a shred of evidence.

In politics—not just in the U.S. but in other vulnerable democracies around the world—the perpetrators of AI deception are hard at work trying to get their oligarch and despot bosses elected, even if it means putting damning words into their opponents’ mouths.

PHOTO: TMZ / Getty

If it isn’t already, the technology will soon be convincing enough to sway just about anyone—incredibly, even if there’s evidence to the contrary! (Witness the staggering con job a certain orange-tainted charlatan has foisted on roughly 40 percent of our fellow Americans.)

PHOTO: Mikhail Svetlov

The fake news AI engenders doesn’t just feed the mass delusion of these rank and vile MAGA dimwits, it’s being weaponized by our country’s worst enemies, whose despotic rulers use it to exploit our every cyber—and, I would suggest, moral—weakness and influence our elections.

    It’s when artificial
    intelligence ends up in the hands of genuine
    ignorance that we begin to see its perils.

In my retired-life’s work noticing and celebrating Nature’s small wonders, I’m particularly aware of the impact of AI on my “realm.”

On Facebook, where the algorithm’s clearly typed me as a tree hugger and animal lover, it’s feeding me more and more posts depicting creatures or landscapes that are clearly manipulated—from simply pumping up the colors or sharpening the focus to totally making up some bird or butterfly that has never existed.

Hey fakers, if you want to create such an unnatural depiction of Nature, at least have the integrity to call it art. Nature didn’t make it; you did. And quit dumping it in my feed—even if you do so under the guise of a David Attenborough fan group—saying “look at this amazing thing.” It’s not a thing; it’s a fraud.

PHOTO: Foto IG:@axellmg

I should know better than to waste my time responding to such deceits. But I can’t help myself. On a recent post featuring a highly retouched, flashily color-enhanced “photo” of Guanajuato, Mexico, I commented “I love Guanajuato, and it’s beautiful enough without your garish AI ‘enhancement.’ Please don’t make visitors disappointed when they see its real, perfectly adequate colors.”

  We should all begin
  vetting our art as
  we vet our food.


And don’t get me going on AI’s wholesale theft and exploitation of artists’ work. A mendacity mafia is stealing everything from movie stars’ likenesses, to singers’ voices, to artists’ paintings, to designers’ and inventors’ ideas, and using them for their own profit.


Students can now easily plagiarize their term papers and theses; ad agencies replace their human copy writers with ad bots; conventional fine art is appropriated to create NFTs (non-fungible tokens).


No matter how sophisticated the technology gets, I suggest it can never capture the true soul of human-created art.

We should all begin vetting our art as we vet our food: with a concern for its origin, its unnatural modifications, and fair compensation for its original producers.

          Ultimately, we’re going to have to
          reign in this beast.

It’s when artificial intelligence ends up in the hands of genuine ignorance that we begin to see its perils. At its worst it can be far more than an affront to the truth; it poses a dire threat to our nation, nay all of humanity.

So far, the furthest top scientists have been willing to go in predicting AI’s potential harm is to say that the likelihood of the technology’s leading to the extinction of the human race is “unknown.” Good God, if you don’t know, who does?

So let’s not get sweet-talked into embracing a technology whose proponents swear is all soft and fuzzy when we know its potential for evil. I want to compare it with the NRA’s claiming the utter innocence of high-powered assault rifles and bump stocks. You’ve heard it: Oh, it’s not the guns killing those innocent school children; it’s bad people.

But, while blood on classroom floors is horrifying, a weapon that threatens the survival of every human being on earth makes that look pretty innocent.

 If we fail to control AI before it learns how to be sentient and wrest control from its creators, we should all redirect our “thoughts and prayers” from the grieving families of murdered young students toward ourselves.

CAPTURE: from the Twentieth Century Fox film iRobot

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”


* "Alternative facts" was a phrase used by U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's false statement about the attendance numbers of Donald Trump's inauguration as President of the United States. ~ WIKIPEDIA

Wednesday, July 3, 2024


Last night, after another of my vertigo-like episodes had me recliner-bound
and dodging nausea all day, it was a great relief going to bed and getting fully horizontal.

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

Compared with most days this one hadn’t been fun. And yet, when I began my nightly prayer—typically one of mostly gratitude—instead of that misery blunting my thanks, I found it only sharpened its clarity.

As my tally of the day’s blessings unfurled, I realized it included just about every one I’d listed the night before when I was feeling fine. And when I got to part where I acknowledge my relatively good health, instead of that item migrating over to the unspoken list of negatives, there it was, still right there on the plus side.

  I appreciate...the smallest, most essential wonders:
  each precious heartbeat, every precious breath. 

Maybe it’s a product of one’s aging, but don’t we find ourselves doing this more and more? Being grateful, even for some unpleasant things, that they weren’t worse? For the reminder that one cannot take all the good stuff for granted?


After all, I’d still gotten up and gone to bed a free man, living in peace, and owning a few modest talents and ways of sharing them. What more does a person need to be happy and fulfilled?

With this new awareness of adversity’s inability to taint such blessings, I appreciate as never before not just those the big, broad wonders of life, but its smallest, most essential ones: each precious heartbeat, every precious breath.  

Thank you, Great Spirit, despite—or maybe I should say because of—the occasional pain, for another precious day of living, breathing, sensing, feeling….and, above all, of loving.

Friday, June 21, 2024

FILLED WITH EMPTINESS – The Power of Presence

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing...not healing, not curing...that is a friend who cares.” 
HENRI NOUWEN                      
                                                   ~            ~     

It’s taken me a very long time to realize that just sitting, with no task, no agenda, no expectation, is not a waste of time.

“Just being” is something infants and old folks do very well. I suppose you could say that’s because they can’t walk and their hands don’t work very well. But more important than how they might have come to be so acutely in the present moment is the fact that only the most cynical observer would ever conclude from their lack of “productiveness” that they’re squandering their potential.

What a shame that the art of just being is so lost on the rest of us! For it’s in that state, devoid of ambition and guile, liberated from presumption, that we’re best able to experience what I’d argue are the human pursuits of the highest order: curiosity, compassion and wonder.

            There are some worthwhile goals
            that don’t fall within the reach
            of anyone who’s reaching.


By the time we’re in grade school, most of us have already been indoctrinated with the familiar mantras: keep your nose to the grindstone; idle hands make for the devil’s work; work hard enough and everything will be fine. You know, the good old American dream. Trouble is, there are some worthwhile goals that don’t fall within the reach of anyone who’s reaching.

We’re all conditioned to place enormous value on the past and the future. We think the past, the sum total of all our life experiences to date, defines who we are. We think the future is where all our hopes and dreams—and fears—will play out.

In fact, we tend to focus so much of our mental and emotional energy on the “then” and the “when” that we fail to fully experience the “now.” And, as much as we’d like to think we can do it, no one can be in two places at the same time.

I learned a lot about just being during my parents’ last days in this life. These lessons come naturally when you’re with someone who can no longer communicate with words. You sit there. Maybe you talk a little, hoping the person understands you at some level. But mostly, you just sit.

I continue to refine this art in my work as a hospice volunteer, in which capacity I’ve witnessed at least 30 people’s ultimate lettings-go.

Sitting with someone—or, for that matter, sitting with Nature—may seem like an old-fashioned idea, like visiting or courting. These are things no one used to think much about; there were fewer options, fewer distractions, so they just did them. 

      It’s in precisely such moments of “emptiness”
   that we are most apt to be fulfilled.

Now that most of us are on call wherever we go, connected 24/7 to each other and to all the information that ever was, it’s gotten harder and harder not to feel we should be productive to some degree nearly all the time.

But it’s in precisely such moments of “emptiness” that we are most apt to be fulfilled. That’s when we let go of any notion that, somehow, we’re in control, that there’s something we should be doing or thinking, or that anything but our presence matters.

It’s only by clearing the decks of this preoccupation with stuff from the past and future that we can be truly open to a communion with the present, whether with our own true spirit, the soul of a loved one, or the astounding beauty of Nature’s gifts that surround and fill us.

            We tend to focus so much of our
            mental and emotional energy on the
            “then” and the “when” that we fail
            to fully experience the “now.”


To be truly in the moment is a difficult concept for some people to grasp. After all, how can you achieve something that’s accessibly only to those who don’t try to achieve it? Is it really possible to notice the absence of everything? Can you really hear silence, feel emptiness?

You can if you’re ready. Just as a sponge can’t absorb a spill until it’s wrung out, you can’t understand these things without first wringing from your consciousness the concerns and constructs that saturate your mind.

Perhaps the one mental construct that clashes most with just being is our notion of time. We imagine our lives as linear paths; we move along a time line. Each day, each experience we have becomes another part of our past, that which defines who we are.

And the line extending in front of us, the future, holds all the experiences we will have from now on, illuminated by our hopes and dreams.

       Outside of the present moment, nothing—
       literally, nothing—exists.

Curiously, we even see the spatial aspect of our existence as linear, imagining, again, that only those places where we’ve been and where we’re to go delineate the sphere of our existence. Imagine walking through a Costa Rican rain forest, touring the Musee D’Orsay or even riding the bus home from work, looking nowhere else but straight ahead or straight behind you. Would anyone consider this a whole experience?

As Eckhart Tolle says in his wonderful book, The Power of Now, these linear paradigms are just illusions we’ve invented to help us deal with the incomprehensible reality of the infinite.

If you're looking to the past, the future or a change of scene for the secret of happiness, you're looking in the wrong place. If fact, it makes no sense to be looking at all, since you already possess it; it’s already inside of you, part of you.

This is why just being is such a compelling, articulate force. Notwithstanding its utter simplicity—or, perhaps, because of it—it is a most eloquent expression of a reality few of us are ready to grasp, that, outside of the present moment, nothing—literally, nothing—exists.

Even the most defining moments of your past exist only as you interpret and apply their lessons now. Even your fondest wish, your most compelling goal, exists only in the work you begin now to realize it.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

RIVERINE PERFECTION – A Memorable Day On the St. Croix

I’ve been a river rat since I was nine. That’s when I fell in love with the beautiful St. Croix River, a Natural Scenic River forming the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota for most of its 169-mile length.

I can’t simply run down to the St. Croix and hop in our boat or canoe as I did most summer days as a kid. Nowadays it takes a bit more effort, including a 50-minute drive. But I still manage to tote my gear up there to my put-in spot at Franconia five or six times during the summer.
These river outings in my little 13-foot Mansfield/Stowe Osprey have always been good for my soul, a close connection with Nature and a cherished expression of
my independence. But today’s paddle is extraordinary, on as close to a perfect afternoon as I can remember.

          By about 6:30, the sun’s slipping on
          its golden-hour filter, bathing everything
          in honey light.

First, the weather’s ideal: upper 70s, sunny with scattered cotton-ball clouds and light breezes. The water level is a bit high. That means very little of the landing’s sand beach is exposed, making embarking and disembarking a bit challenging. And it usually means poor fishing.

But high water also means I can access my favorite slough, a flowing backwater that meanders through the woods on the Wisconsin side for several miles, and which becomes accessible only by portaging once the river drops to its usual summer level.

Going on a weekday, there are fewer people out; I see just a few small groups kayaking and a couple of polite power boats in the main channel.

As usual, I head out at about 2:30, since those five or six remaining hours of daylight are always magical, coaxing out all kinds of wildlife, from orioles to ospreys, muskrats to muskellunge. And by about 6:30, the sun’s slipping on its golden-hour filter, bathing everything in honey light.

So that’s the setting. Perfect enough, right? But today several other factors contribute to the magic.

One measure of my joy during my river paddles is how much wildlife I get to see. Today, here in the slough, the sense of oneness with Nature is just extraordinary. An eagle soars past at the treetops thirty yards away, a great blue heron flies close enough so I can hear the whisper of the wind on its wings.

Muskrats crisscross the stream, busily tending to their lodges. I don’t see deer this time, but I can hear them in the woods.

I’m far from a bird expert, but I love seeing them, listening to them, trying to imitate them. Today I hear unfamiliar birdsong coming from a dense grove of big trees along the bank. Sifting through memory, I rule out a few bird calls I know well, and come up with a guess: must be orioles. Now I haven’t spotted an oriole for years and have forgotten what they sound like.

PHOTO: Tony Castro

I start replying, and within a minute a dart of orange emerges from the shadows, coming toward me…and then two…and finally a couple more pipe in from deeper in the woods. What a privilege not just to see these spectacular birds, but to communicate with them (saying who knows what)!

Later, I try for another conversation. Nearly always on these evening paddles, I start hearing barred owls’ evocative eight-note incantation in the woods about an hour before dark; most often there are two or more trading calls.

This evening, emboldened by my success with the orioles, I try reaching out to any barred owls who might be within earshot. It’s not perfect, but my low-pitched coo-like whistles do the trick. One of them replies…and then another. I have chills.

I enjoy fishing. I like catching too, but that’s not essential to the mystical connection with Nature fishing evokes. Most days on the St. Croix the effects of current and wind make bait casting from a canoe quite challenging; I get one, maybe two, quick casts before I’m either turned completely around or barreling toward the rocky shore.

Today, though, the light breeze and moderate current are in near-perfect balance, managing to hold me in place or even move me gradually upstream—a perfect pace for covering a new spot along the shore with each cast.

        This spiny, mauve, shark-skinned beauty
        is thought to have appeared in the biota
        some 100 million years ago.

Usually, my fishing time on the river is punctuated with little, under-my-breath curses when I’m struggling with stronger winds or when my little Mepps Spinner snags on a stone or log, or, worse, catches an overhanging tree limb. Today, incredibly, I do all the usual target practice on submerged structure all afternoon, and without a single snag.

Now here’s the most amazing part. My average day fishing on the St. Croix might produce a few small fish, usually pike or smallmouth bass. Today, despite the high water, I catch seven fish, each a different species. Exactly one each of sunfish, crappie, yellow perch, rock bass, smallie, northern pike and sturgeon. Do you know how extraordinary that is?

Of those, the perch is one I seldom see on the river. (I worry that, since they love aquatic weeds, maybe that means the St. Croix’s waters are warming.)

But the most exotic by far is the sturgeon. This spiny, mauve, shark-skinned beauty is like a living fossil, thought to have appeared in the biota some 100 million years ago. Catching one—even a 20-inch youngster like this—always leaves me in awe. 

Finally, I can’t recount a summer evening on the St. Croix without mentioning our Minnesota “state bird,” the mosquito. We’ve had plenty of rain lately and temperatures are ideal for mosquito procreation. And, with little wind, I’d expected to be mobbed by the little assassins.

VIDEO: LaiTimes

But not today. Whatever this magical spell that seems to envelop me, it’s working better than 100 percent DEET. Nearly all afternoon I’m surrounded with a squadron of dapper dragonflies using me as bait and gobbling up the skeeters before they can land. I ask you, is that not a perfect example of synergy?  

          I allowed myself the lightness of being
          that allows wonder.

Serendipity is, by definition, elusive, impossible to replicate. We’d love, wouldn’t we, to be able to catch it, bottle it and open it another time. Alas, we can’t make it happen.

Like so many of Nature’s small wonders, it’s not all about what you actually see or do or even what happens to you. A big part of serendipity is about how and where your spirit is when you’re there. As I'm wont to say in these jottings, you see pretty much what you expect to see.

The spirits of some folks I know are like magnets for wonder. They seem always to be in a place that’s wide open to curiosity and awe…and, yes, serendipity. For me, it can be a little harder. Too often I get stuck in my routines; I impose limits on myself when I needn’t; I’m too serious.

So today, this magical, near-perfect day on the St. Croix River, only happened because Nature and I happened to be on the same page. My worries were few; my filters were turned off; my senses were tuned in; and I allowed myself the lightness of being that allows wonder.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024









Ebon bud swells, unfurls
Cannot contain
A passion of purple

Whose sinuous curves
Trace forbidden desire
Wild, yet discreet.

Eager tongues of it
Savor luscious hues
Of eggplant, plum and wine

As gossamer skin
Its cool, velvet sheen
Seduces eyes and touch.

Like a midnight tryst
This stolen moment
Sates a yearning soul

Then, etched in mind’s eye
Yields to memory
Wilts and falls

Friday, May 17, 2024

QUICK, PULL MY FINGER! – A Sure Cure For the Hiccups

I don’t think there’s another of the human body’s many quirks that’s quite as quirky as hiccups. I dare say we’ve all experienced them, from the momentary one that feels a little like a burp, to a continuous, hour-long assault. From a gentle “hic” to a full-throated, chest-clutching, inhaled honk.

Singultus (the medical term for hiccups) starts with the diaphragm, a thin, dome-shaped muscle below your lungs and heart. Attached to the sternum, the bottom of the rib cage and the spine, it acts like a bellows to power respiration, expanding and contracting when you breathe.

Hiccups happen when the diaphragm spasms in response to air getting trapped in your throat. That forces your vocal cords to contract and produce that distinct “hic,” followed by the lesser sound of them relaxing. (This makes “hiccup” an onomatopoeia. )

The condition, while usually benign and short-lived, can be a symptom of more serious illness—pneumonia, uremia, alcoholism, disorders of the stomach, diaphragm or esophagus, or even some bowel diseases. Certain psychological or emotional conditions can also contribute to its occurrence.

Most mammals—all those with diaphragms—hiccup. Some scientists have postulated that the action may be an evolutionary relic from amphibian respiration.
             Among the strange cures: having
             someone pull on your ring finger.

Hiccups are classified as transient (occasional episodes lasting seconds or minutes), persistent (occasional episodes longer than 48 hours), recurrent (repetitive bouts lasting longer than transient hiccups), and intractable (essentially nonstop occurrence) Long bouts can be treated with medication, but there is still no definitive cure. *

Charles Osborne

Some people have endured non-stop hiccups for as long as decades. The official record is held by American Charles Osborne who lived with them for 68 years, from 1922 to 1990. **

In some cultures, folks believe they get the hiccups when someone not present is talking about them or missing them. In others, they’re said to be the work of elves. The notion that a sudden scare will drive out the affliction has been thoroughly debunked.

As many types and causes of hiccups as there are, there are even more remedies. Among the strangest are:
     • Saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards
     • Drinking water from a glass covered with a paper towel
     • Drinking lemon juice
     • Having someone pull on your ring finger
     • Massaging the roof of your mouth with your tongue ***

Some of these strange cures are based on superstition or spiritual beliefs; some are believed to be psychosomatic; but there are also many that actually physically affect the underlying cause of the diaphragm’s spasms.

        I’ve offered this sweet miracle to
        dozens of people…and it’s never failed.

I have one simple go-to cure and one that’s more exotic. At least for me, they’re both foolproof. Next time you get an episode, give them a try.

The first involves simply cutting my lungs’ intake of oxygen. Most proponents suggest a long, gradual drink of water or breathing into a bag for a while. My mother swore by a cure that involved a bit more discipline: simply holding one’s breath while swallowing one’s own saliva ten times as quickly as possible. I use this method all the time, since it’s perfectly self-contained and you can do it nearly anywhere.

If you’re suffering an especially strong attack, the spasms might break through your efforts to swallow them. But keep at and it eventually works.

Most of these tricks work by increasing carbon dioxide levels in the lungs, which is believed to relax the diaphragm, which stops the spasms. (I think the swallowing part also helps by interrupting the hiccup reflex.)


The sexier hiccup remedy I use just blows people’s minds—it makes a fabulous party trick. I’m so confident in it that I challenge folks: If my treatment doesn’t stop so-and-so’s hiccups in their tracks, each of you coughs up a buck, okay?

Once we’ve confirmed the intransigence of the victim’s singultus—and my suckers’ commitment—I ask for some sugar and a spoon. Regular old white, granulated sugar. I pour a rounded teaspoon of it, hand it to the patient and instruct them to pop it in their mouth and simply swallow it as quickly as they can.

It’s hard to swallow dry sugar. Maybe that’s part of the remedy; it completely distracts a person from the hiccups. Whatever it is, once that sugar’s down, there will be no more hiccups. Not one.

I’ve offered this sweet miracle to dozens of people—and done it for myself many times—and it’s never failed.

I’m sure we’d all love to hear of your especially memorable hiccups attacks, and any cures you’ve found effective—the quirkier, the better.

onomatopoeia: a word formed to sound like the thing it describes

** Guinness Book of World Records
*** Farmers Almanac