September 30, 2011

She brews 'em, I shoot 'em.

Our first year of home-brewing (each bottle represents a batch of five gallons).

I shoot 'em, she stews 'em.

[Selections from this week's bounty from Sandy Spring CSA.]

September 27, 2011

The irresistible epistemology of the visual false negative.

This is one photograph of a spore print, taken of mushroom specimens left for hours on a sheet of black paper and a sheet of white paper:

See the haze of white spores on the black paper? If you think about it, you know that there must be similar patterns of spores on the white paper, too, even though you can't see them. And really, even though you know they must be there, you can clearly see that there's nothing there.

September 26, 2011

Persuasive Communication

I was recently interviewed for a magazine article on persuasion. Unfortunately, I just found out that the not-to-be-named magazine folded before the interview could run. Here are some excerpts from my unpublished Q&A with the journalist:

Q: Can learning the right ways to approach people with requests help people become more assertive? How so? We all hate rocking the boat, but why is it important to stand up for yourself and ask for what you want?

A: We all want to be heard. We don’t even necessarily want to “win” or get our way; we crave being heard and understood. The Earl of Chesterfield is quoted as saying, "Many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request." Being able to voice our authentic feelings and desires while at the same time showing respect and empathy for our listeners is incredibly powerful. Continually tamping down on one’s own passion is eventually exhausting and demoralizing.

Q: What are the keys to being a persuasive person - and how is this different from being manipulative?
A: We need to understand that we are primarily communicating because there’s something we want our audience to do. It may be that we want our listener to undertake a different approach to solving a problem, or we want our partner or roommate to take out the garbage, or we want to help a friend feel better – there is an end goal to our communication. Persuasion is not coercion, or manipulation; it’s about moving toward action.

Persuasion is about helping change people’s minds about changing their minds. It’s not about telling people what to do, but facilitating their own discovery of the action and the rewards of taking such action. It’s about engagement, and helping people find meaning, and requires two-way communication. Being effectively persuasive is about respecting how other people see the world.

Q: When trying to get someone to see your side, are there tactics that work across the board, or do you have to know your audience and adjust?

A: I recommend a 3-step process, based on history, experience, and an understanding of the science behind cognition, emotion, and memory. I've trademarked it Heart, Head & Hand™. Heart, Head & Hand™ recommends first establishing a relevant and emotional context for communication, then delivering facts and data, and then asking the audience to take action. The order is crucial.

Q: So how can you read your audience – what should you look for?

A: Start with a clear understanding of what you want your listener to do as a result of your communication. Consider how your listener may need to feel in order to take the desired action. Might you have a story you can share about a time when you felt similarly?

Think, too, about where your work and concerns overlap with your audience’s work and concerns. Draw a Venn diagram and map it out. Seeing it visually can provide insight, and thus confidence.

Q: How important is confidence in being persuasive? How can you exude confidence without seeming cocky or arrogant?
A: Too often, we fail to show up, to show emotion, to show passion and desire. Showing passion is crucial to successfully moving listeners to action, and to making change happen. In a professional setting, passion and emotion need not translate as emotional. Emotion, in a professional setting, means delivering your information, and your request for change, with passion and confidence, and within a context that the audience finds meaningful.

September 24, 2011

Fallen Soldier

Last night, as my Delta flight began its descent, a flight attendant made an announcement that the plane was transporting a fallen soldier, and that Delta asked all passengers to remain in their seats upon landing, so that the family of the soldier, and their military escorts, could exit first. We were then asked to observe a minute of silence in honor of the soldier who had given his life for our nation and the independence we enjoy.

The family and escorts exited the plane, and the passengers followed, silently. And although it was midnight, and the plane had been delayed for two hours, most of us then gathered at the windows of the terminal, observing the military ceremony on the wet tarmac below.
We watched in silence as soldiers stood patiently in formation and at attention for what seemed like 10 minutes, with the American and military flags. The coffin was carried off the plane by six soldiers, the soldiers on either side of the procession saluted, the coffin passed the family, and the soldier was placed into a hearse. Passengers surrounding me quietly wept.

Silently, we left the terminal. Upon descending to baggage claim, some passengers were met by a family hugging a soldier in fatigues, accompanied by signs reading, "Welcome back home to our brave soldier." This soldier had been on another flight.

Until the flight attendant's announcement, I hadn't yet thought yesterday about the wars American is fighting. I am honored and humbled to have witnessed the ceremony for this fallen soldier, and to do so with my fellow passengers on that fight. We are all interconnected.

September 20, 2011

"Hearts and kidneys are tinker toys! I am talking about the central nervous system!"

This morning we attended the dedication ceremony for the new Maryland Neuroimaging Center in College Park. The University of Maryland's Vice President for Research began his remarks by saying: "Everything I know about the brain, I learned from the movie [...pause...] Young Frankenstein."


Congratulations to Prof. William Seeley on becoming a MacArthur Fellow!

In the last ten years, few scientific papers have made as much of an impact on me as this beautiful and important contribution: Seeley WW, Crawford RK, Zhou J, Miller BL, Greicius MD. Neurodegenerative diseases target large-scale human brain networks. Neuron. 2009 Apr 16;62(1):1-3.

September 17, 2011

"I saw my father with his eyes closed, basking in the early sun, sipping a cup of strong black coffee."

"A place is both itself
and what we make of it, as we are ourselves
and what a place makes of us."
- from "Pecans" by
Connie Wanek in her book "On Speaking Terms" (2010) from Copper Canyon Press.

September 14, 2011


A Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC) is the same thing as an Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens (EVIL) camera.

September 13, 2011


"In vivo" means in a living organism; "in vitro" means "in glass" (e.g., a test tube). And now, because electronic computers use silicon chips, "in silico" has become a fancy way to refer to computer simulations. A recent google search on the phrase "In vivo, in vitro, and in silico" yielded over 35,000 results.

September 12, 2011

"People have minds."

"In sum, bodies have brains. People have minds."
- from "Please Mind the Gap: How To Podcast Your Brain" by Karen Spaceinvaders on Continent ("Please click to listen to the mp3 files of deep brain recordings of individual brain cells, the smallest unit of the brain, in a whole, intact living brain.").

September 11, 2011

Zip Code 10048.

[Photo by Jon Thaler; Nikon 35mm f/2 on D700.]

"Where are the words when it's my turn to ask an honest question of the president?"

"I need a t to give me time–
a p and I'd have help.
It's the story of my life,
rearranging assets and coming up shor."
- from "Scrabble" by Connie Wanek in her book "On Speaking Terms" (2010) from Copper Canyon Press.

September 10, 2011

Back-to-School Dog-Blogging (cont'd)!

We're grateful to Frasier for visiting & posing for our "new" AF Nikkor 28-105.

"Let hot be hot and cold be cold, let the stone be hard and heavy."

"People grew bored waiting for Moses, too—
some never liked him anyway,
another Mr. Know-It-All,
and why so assured after forty years
of wrong turns? And what made so many women
look at him that way?"
- from "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Connie Wanek in her book "On Speaking Terms" (2010) from Copper Canyon Press.

How would you design a brain?

"Oscillatory Synchrony Is Energetically Cheap"
- A section heading from (page 168 of the 2011 paperback edition of) Prof. György Buzsáki's 2006 book "Rhythms of the Brain".

September 9, 2011

"We've paid our bills and the President's been elected."

"We'd tried the music first, so it seemed only reasonable to start things roundabout, putting the dance first. Later, when thinking-caps were used, it became evident that underneath both music and dance was a common suport: time. This partial truth would have been hard to come by for a choreographer, due partly to the multiplicity of elements in the theatrical dance and due for the rest to the fact that analytical thought in the field of the dance was centered formerly on the problem of notation. Music, on the other hand, was, in those days, a relatively simple art: a succession of pitches in a measured space of time. ... All one had to do was establish a time-structure. Neither music or dance would be first: both would go along in the same boat. Circumstances – a time, a place – would bring them together. We've paid our bills and the President's been elected. Now we get down to business. ... The time-structures we made fell apart: our need faded, so that aesthetic terms have totally disappeared from our language. Balance, harmony, counterpoint, form."
- from John Cage's 1963 essay "Where do we go from here?" in "A Year from Monday: New Lectures and Writings by John Cage", 1969.

Back-to-School Dog-Blogging!

Our new* AF Nikkor
28-105mm f/3.5-4.5D
is a small light affordable joy.

*Ordered online from Adorama, the lens arrived yesterday (this is one of our first test shots); it is used, and the model was discontinued in 2006.

September 4, 2011

"AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D"

Nikon doesn't want to sell you our favorite lens.

Photo: Nikon.
The lens that's on our camera most of the time, the one with which we take most of our photos, is the little AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D. Why, just this July, for our Four Cities Tour of the Upper Midwest (T.U.M.), the 35mm f/2 was the only lens we took.

Here are four snaps, one from each of the Four Cities of the T.U.M.:

Frogwater onstage at Milwaukee Brewing.

On our favorite feedlot.

Sharing dessert with Mark Mitton at the Duluth Grill.

Atop the Foshay Tower.

We love this lens. If you want a fast prime that is at least normal, but you don't want to go any wider than necessary (and if you're not willing to lug around a boat-anchor), this is it. And, as such things go, it's actually inexpensive. However, Nikon doesn't really want you to buy one.

When you go to the Nikon USA website, and select "lenses", you get a lens splashpage asking you to choose between lens categories. It appears that these optical devices now come in categories, called "Travel and Landscape Lenses", "People and Events Lenses", & "Sports and Action Lenses":

But here's the thing – No matter which category you choose, you will not find the 35mm f/2! It's not under any of the categories. You can find it only if you click on the small "Show all lenses" link on the lens splashpage.

To be sure, Nikon makes this lens, and sells this lens. But do they really want to? Or, would they rather that you buy something else – something more expensive?

"... on the other hand ..."

"Doris Dennison had been born Doris Suckling. That was why she changed her name. Her step-brother, Peter, on the other hand, took the name she discarded. Peter Suckling had been born Peter Perfect."
- from page 88 of "A Year from Monday: New Lectures and Writings by John Cage", 1969

September 3, 2011

"Luxury itself..."

"Though my debts are heavy
honey would pay them all.
Honey heals, honey mends.
A spoon takes more than it can hold
without reproach. A knife plunges deep,
but does no injury."
- from "Honey" by Connie Wanek in her book "On Speaking Terms" (2010) from Copper Canyon Press.

Holiday-Weekend Dog-Blogging!

[Bucky on the back porch, yesterday.]

"... like looking out a window ..."

Just one sentence from John Cage's 1962 lecture/essay "Rhythm Etc." in "A Year from Monday: New Lectures and Writings by John Cage", 1969:
"The Indians long ago knew that Music was going on permanently and that hearing it was like looking out a window at a landscape which didn't stop when one turned away."

September 2, 2011

A thought for the Labor Day weekend.

"Our Western education teaches us caution. And so we hesitate before crossing the great waters. We wouldn't want, would we, to throw ourselves away? Realizing we might have been elected President of the United States, we want somehow to settle for a life not too ignoble. Well, there's always Madison Avenue. And it needs us to keep itself going."
- from John Cage's 1961 "Lecture on Commitment" in "A Year from Monday: New Lectures and Writings by John Cage", 1969.

Fresh & stochastic.

Last night in the kitchen, after cooking & canning peach jam, the sounds of lids popping combined with the rumble of the dishwasher to form what John Cage would certainly have called music.

September 1, 2011

Inhibition is key.

Two sentences* from the third chapter of Prof. György Buzsáki's 2006 book "Rhythms of the Brain":
"In the absence of inhibition, any external input, weak or strong, would generate more or less the same one-way pattern, an avalanche of excitation involving the whole population."

"Without inhibition and dedicated interneurons, excitatory circuits cannot accomplish anything useful."

*from pages 61 & 78, respectively, of the 2011 paperback edition.

Seeing without reading. Or, visualization without (local) comprehension.

Last week I received via email a movie file in .avi format that would not play on any of our Macs, until I uploaded it to YouTube; now I can watch it just fine from any device – further proof that "the cloud" has (to some degree) eliminated the old requirement that a file's format be locally readable in order for the data in that file to be visualized.


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