April 30, 2011

The Smithsonian's TrailBike.

We rarely see bikes of any kind in museums, let alone trendy artisanal bikes featuring custom steelwork and wooden accessories. Today though, in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, we came upon this twin-forked Ho Chi Minh Trail bike:

Apparently though, these bikes were not ridden, but pushed:

"Ho Chi Minh Trail
The North Vietnamese dispatched troops and tons of supplies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a series of rough roadways and footpaths that led through the highland jungles of Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam. Civilian porters pushing overloaded bicycles transported everything from boxes of ammunition to bags of rice."

April 28, 2011

First in a Series of Unfortunate, Overheard Conversations

Setting: crowded Port Authority, NYC, bus platform

20-something man at the edge of crowded platform and escalator sees 2 women walking up moving escalator; rather than move the crowd forward and make space on the platform, he hits the emergency button to turn off the escalator. Women stumble and fall forward.

Woman: "It would have been helpful if you had told us you were going to shut off the escalator."

Man: "It would be nice if you thanked me for shutting off the escalator!"

Title of the week!


As a courtesy to our readers, we wish to notify you that NeuroCooking will not be providing any coverage of tomorrow's Royal Wedding.

April 26, 2011

"... friction and vibration and resonance ..."

There's a form of neuroessentialism that holds that because the brain is made of cells, we should study cellular neuroscience, and not psychology, if our goal is to understand the mind. To us, that's a bit like saying that to better appreciate the beauty of a sonata performed by a string quartet, you should just study friction and vibration and resonance, and not bother with the theory or history of music.

April 25, 2011

The Ethics of Working with Story

When working with story and building a narrative organization, it is imperative that one maintain high ethical standards. I recently explored the ethical use of story in a lecture delivered at Kent State University’s Graduate Program in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management. You can watch the full 16-minute lecture here, and you can read written excerpts at PhilanTopic.

My colleague and mentor Cynthia Kurtz responded to my essays with smart and practical advice on her blog.

Benefits of Building a Narrative Organization

Increasingly, I am working with both for- and non-profit organizations to build narrative organizations. In a narrative organization, brand identity is clear and appealing; audiences are quickly and sustainably engaged; leaders appreciate and strategically share stories; and knowledge is easily gathered and shared. The Stanford Social Innovation Review just published my essay on the benefits of building a narrative organization.

April 22, 2011

Yes, it's a bike-related post for Earth Day.

We love most bikes, but we wonder whether riding this one might make us safer in traffic.

"Nikon 400mm f/2.8G ED AF-S VR(II)"

Because Nikon sells a lot of stuff, they get some returns, in many cases of cameras and lenses that are perfectly good, and essentially brand new, but just not what the customer wanted. Too complex, too heavy, who knows?

Nikon can't sell these items as "new", so they check them out, clean them up, repackage them as "refurbished", and sell them through Adorama, Inc., in New York City.

We've bought one camera and one lens this way, at real savings, and have never had a problem with either. So, we have Adorama's offerings of refurbished Nikon products bookmarked, and we check it from time to time.

For quite some time now, a super-duper telephoto lens has been at the top of that list, and we wonder how long it will stay there. Now, we'd be interested in the lens ourself, except for just three things: First, we more often shoot wide, rather than long, so it's not clear how much we'd actually use it. Second, we'd want someone to carry that ten-pounder around for us. And third, well, the price is $8,699.95.

[Vendor & product names appear via fair use; no endorsement or sponsorship is implied.]

April 21, 2011

"Accessible" & "acceptance".

The wonderful poetry of Billy Collins is often called "accessible", but Mr. Collins prefers the term "hospitable", because "accessible" sounds like it involves ramps & handrails.

Similarly, in the context of embracing the diversity of our communities, I've wondered whether we could use a more positive word than "tolerance", because "tolerance" sounds like it means putting up with people who smell funny. Today, I discovered that the word I've been looking for just might be "acceptance".

Hmm... I wonder what else I have to learn from professional rugby players...

Half-Off Hitchcock, Today!

National Capital Area readers, today you may purchase tickets for the AFI Silver's Alfred Hitchcock retrospective, part II, at half-price. Those not familiar with the AFI Silver may be interested to learn that their café offers fine adult beverages, which you may take to your seat in the theater...

April 19, 2011

Half-Off Hitchcock, Again!

National Capital Area readers: If you use this link to the program for the AFI Silver's Hitchcock Retrospective, part II, and then click on any of those "buy tickets" buttons, you will be able to buy tickets for $5.50, which is half the usual price, this Thursday (4/21) only.


April 13, 2011

A modest proposal...

Now that it has been reported that "... greater liberalism [is] associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism [is] associated with increased volume of the right amygdala", we have no doubt that candidates for high political office in the USA will soon be expected to disclose not just their tax returns and medical evaluations, but also their brain scans.

April 12, 2011

"Yesterday, in the early evening, we went out to shoot..."

Yesterday, in the early evening, we went out to shoot the big cherry...

...and our friend came by with a dog and stopped to chat...

...during which we heard a noise from the creek, which turned out to be a beaver...

...so we went back in briefly to change lenses:

April 11, 2011

In Minnesota, the opposite of "vanity sizing"?

Have you heard of "vanity sizing", or "size inflation"? That's when articles of clothing are (sometimes much!) larger than the nominal sizes indicated on their labels. In most of the USA, clothes are bigger than the labels say. But, not everywhere. In some places, it appears, nominal sizes are ambitious, rather than modest: If you've got a head, a firm named for (but not actually located in) one of the Twin Ports (Duluth, Minnesota & Superior, Wisconsin) wants to sell you a size "XL/2XL" hat, with the caveat that:
Do these headwear purveyors think their size-M customers will leave their "XL/2XL" hats out, labels visible, so that their friends will think they're smart people with big heads?

April 10, 2011

Brains, Behavior & Communication

This article, on changing consumer energy behavior based on simple persuasive concepts of social proof and reward, deserves posting at NeuroCooking.

Understanding is good.

Just one sentence from the paper "Blackawton bees", which appeared in Biology Letters, a journal of the Royal Society:
"If bees are like us in some way, then understanding them could help us understand ourselves better."

April 9, 2011

I like to watch the pretty bikes go by...

I often bike in Rock Creek on the weekends with a friend who is kind and clever and fun but who does have the (possibly testosterone-fueled) proclivity to take any cyclist passing us as a personal challenge, to be met with robust acceleration and chasing-down.

In contrast, I'm generally happy when passed by a serious cyclist on a serious bicycle, because, well, for them to spend big money on their fancy "racing" bike and stuff, and then to not be going faster than me – that would be a little sad, wouldn't it?

April 7, 2011

"Music is ... "

Listening to a collection of recordings by the late Mr. Buddy Holly, arranged in chronological order, we noticed that an important element in the later work, which was lacking in some of the early recordings, was silence – the quiet between the notes that lets the notes stand out. And this reminded us of Claude Debussy's maxim:
"Music is the space between the notes."

What a relief!

April 6, 2011

Heart, Head, Hand & Complexity

I’ve just started collaborating with Peace Over Violence and saw this fundraising video they did at the end of last year.

It was highly successful: 50% increase from the previous year's annual appeal; doubled the number of donors; and brought in 30% new donors, which they attribute to the viral nature of the video.

It’s a great example of applying my Heart, Head & Hand(TM) framework to video. Emotional connection followed by data (presented graphically, not to diminish or compete with the emotional resonance of the speakers), closing with a strong and compelling ask.

One aspect that I imagine contributed to the success of the video is the acknowledgment of complexity. Note Leona, from 1:03 to 1:26:
A lot of times, and particularly with this case, yes, it had a very great outcome: the person who harmed is now going to go to jail. But the family has to deal with this concept of, 'Okay, but now we have this family member that has to go to jail.' And there's the complexity that's around - particularly in families where the abuse is within the families - separating out what that person did, and that person also being a family member.
Increasingly, I am finding that audiences are deeply appreciating organizations that acknowledge the complexity of their work; they can relate to life not being black and white, and they are happy that someone is stepping up to work in complex spaces.

I've seen this frequently with National Advocates for Pregnant Women, when audience members thank Executive Director Lynn Paltrow after a speech, for "finally, perfectly, capturing the complexity of what I am feeling." And, certainly, some (if not most) great literature presents complex characters in complicated situations.

Chances are, if you are a nonprofit organization, the solutions you are offering to seemingly intractable problems are fairly complex. That's good, and as it should be. Talk about that complexity, because people will, indeed, understand.

I worked with Enterprise Community Partners in engaging wealthy, altruistic, potential donors with the following
Think of when you bought your home. Or think of when you may have built a home, or done a renovation. Think of all the institutions and vendors that were involved. Think of the brokers you may have hired, or the general contractors, to get things done that you didn’t know how to do. Now, imagine if you were attempting to purchase land or property, renovate it or build on it, and wanted to make that property available to scores of families, while making sure those families would be safe, have access to schools and parks, and could afford their homes forever.

...Enterprise is the leader in navigating the financial, political, and social complexities of creating and preserving safe, healthy, and affordable homes. Please join Enterprise in finding big-picture, long-term solutions to some of our nation’s most difficult problems.
The truth is in the grey zone. Acknowledge complexity. Don't ask your donors to work as hard as you, however; make their ability to contribute to your solution easy.


Blog Archive