Scientists are discovering that lifelong learning is good for human health - it keeps the synapses firing and the left brain talking to the right brain. And unlike your parents, the brain doesn't care if you get a degree or not; novelty's the thing.
Squeeze in a workshop or a short course here and there, and it's all good. You can count on the availability of courses like Beginning Conversational Spanish and Do-It-Yourself Home Wiring. But did you know about these?
Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll: Addiction, Compulsion and Craving. This day-long, University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Education course covers the biological basis of addictive behaviors, from drugs to shopaholism and even Internet addiction. No word on how to treat those perennial students who can't seem to stop taking classes. It's May 19, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.; $125. To register: 608-262-2451 or www.dcs.wisc.edu/register.
Unfortunately, you already missed Beet Poetry, a combination of poetry writing and a celebration of local food, with snacking between stanzas. But look for it to come around again as a Wisconsin Union Mini-Course, maybe when the vegetable gardens are full of more inspiration - and produce. In the meantime, learn Kung Fu for Fitness and Self-Defense (six sessions beginning March 31, $35) or Create a Frame (five sessions beginning March 31, $99). The latter is a carpentry/craft crash course in making wooden frames for your, or someone else's, artwork. For a listing of all Union Mini Courses, see www.union. wisc.edu/minicourses or check your public library for a printed catalog. Call 262-3156 or 262-5771 for more information. (You must be a Union member to take a class, but you can get an intro membership for $30.)
Dance in all forms is a popular exercise. Madison School & Community Recreation has two upcoming courses in Irish Dance that'll have you dancing a jig, literally, whether your last name is O'Shaunnessy or O'Gorzalkowsi. April 7-May 19, 7-8 p.m. ($28), and April 10-May 29, 6-7 p.m. ($32), both at Shorewood Elementary. See mscr.org or call 204-3000.
If you're looking for an activity for your kids that's also fun for you, what about Parent/Child Pottery? MSCR offers multiple sections of this class, which centers on such handbuilding techniques as pinching, coiling and slab work, all easier than the wheel but also tremendously satisfying. You can set the kids to making lumpy pasta bowls, while you can create...a slightly less lumpy pasta bowl. Sessions begin throughout the spring, $44; see mscr.org or call 204-3000.
So, now that you're an adult, do you wish you could spend more quality time with your mom? Artists Together: Mother and Adult Daughter Morning of Creation is a class through Meriter Hospital meant to structure some time for you to do just that. Silk scarf painting, collage note cards and glass painting are some of the art options that you two can share. Remember, it's not a competition, and as usual, no wagering. The class meets May 17, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ($30). Register through matcmadison.edu/matc or call the Commercial Avenue education Center at 608-246-5202.
Olbrich Gardens is offering a series of educational talks and walks paired with food this spring. After all, does anything go better with invasive species than root beer? Best combo since cheese and crackers were paired with the Packers! Spring bulbs and root beer (April 23, 5:30-7 p.m., $10); fine chocolates and the best foliage for a colorful garden (May 21, 5:30-7 p.m., $10); the aforementioned invasive species talk about ways to remove garlic mustard and buckthorn, 5:30-7 p.m., $7); a crash course in roses along with ice cream (June 12, 6-7:30 p.m., $10); and garden design with more ice cream, June 24, 5:30-7 p.m., $10). Mmmm... invasive species.