December 9, 2012

No kidding.

We like much of what the folks at the Flying Dog Brewery come up with, but we cannot recommend their Double Dog "Double Pale Ale," because 11.5 % alcohol by volume is just too high for us.

Lensbaby (2.0) Loves Bucky (cont'd).

(Bucky, after the rain; click image for full-screen view.)

Oh yeah.

December 8, 2012

Late-autumn backyard flower-blogging.

Fall-blooming camellia (click image for full-screen view).

December 6, 2012

Are you a methodologist or an ASS?

In the article "Primary study authors of significant studies are more likely to believe that a strong association exists in a heterogeneous meta-analysis compared with methodologists" in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, Orestis A. Panagiotou and John P.A. Ioannidis report that "authors of significant studies" (a group indicated by the acronym "ASS" in the paper's Tables; for example Table 2 has a column labeled "ASS vs. methodologists") are "influenced by their own investment in the field" and so are "more likely to believe that a strong association exists."

December 3, 2012

Lensbaby (2.0) Loves Bucky!

I don't use it much, but when I do, I enjoy my Lensbaby (2.0).

In fact, I admit that, sometimes, playing with the Scheimpflug principle can be irresistible.

I enjoy my Lensbaby, and my Lensbaby loves Bucky:

(click image for full-screen view)

November 12, 2012

Another succinct alternative to another dualism.

If you liked our succinct alternatives to Cartesian dualism, then you might like this sentence – the text of a slide –  from Prof. Luiz Pessoa's compelling presentation at today's stimulating Maryland Neuroimaging Retreat, hosted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine:
"There are no cognitive or emotional brain regions, per se."

November 11, 2012

Proofreading is important, part 0.695

Cannondale claims to make a bicycle with a frame weighing 0.695 grams, which is about the weight of one grain of (uncooked) rice:

(screenshot from

November 4, 2012

Is abuse of the null hypothesis a felony or a misdemeanor?

Just one sentence from "Activity Metabolism Measurements Made Easy in Metabolic Phenotyping" by Dr. J.R.B. Lighton:
"Thus the null hypothesis is not only falsified, it is smashed into smithereens that daintily and prettily drift down to the floor like dandelion seeds, except that they sparkle in the moonlight."

October 30, 2012

October 29, 2012

In what sense is it true that, had the past been in some way different, an aspect of the present would be more substantial?

Counterfactual history is a literary genre, not a mode of scientific argument, so it was a (pleasant) surprise to come upon the following in a thoughtful and provocative article entitled "Default positions: how neuroscience's historical legacy has hampered investigation of the resting mind" by F. Callard, J. Smallwood, and D.S. Margulies, which appears in Frontiers in Psychology:
"... a compelling body of literature – largely unknown or disregarded ... – ... documents various methods to investigate the processes characterizing activities pursued during so-called “idle time” ... what we now refer to as self-generated mental activity including daydreaming, fantasy, mind-wandering, and dissociation. It is not difficult to see that if these research domains had flourished ... rather than been neglected, our vocabulary for describing self-generated thought would have been richer; our methods to investigate such thought more creative; and hence our capacities to interpret the psychological meaning of different forms of spontaneous neural activity in different systems, including the mental life and associated neural systems of the [Default Mode Network], more substantial."

October 28, 2012

Proofreading Is Important, Part XHYXHYXHYX

An article on Andras Schiff's Bach Project appears in today's Washington Post, starting on the front page of the Arts section; here is the headline on the jump page:

October 27, 2012

"Then the machine turned on and began to let out a very annoying array of loud, high-pitched tones that then repeated, like a car alarm cycle."

At a recent conference in Sonoma, California, I met the novelist Reif Larsen.

Most of the conference attendees were architects and designers, but the speakers were from very varied fields. I showed how magnetic resonance imaging can reveal the functional organization of our brains, even when we are simply resting; he read from his amazing debut novel, "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet."

I thought I saw a twinkle in his eye when Reif told me that he had learned about functional MRI for his novel. And, a few days later, I read this in Chapter 14, wherein the novel's 12 year old protagonist undergoes an MRI scan, the sounds of which remind him of a car alarm:
Then she told me to just lie there and think of nothing, although I of course thought of car alarms. I hope this did not screw up her data sets: she would unknowingly show an MRI of "Boy Contemplating Nothing" to her colleagues at a big conference when in fact it was actually an MRI of "Boy Contemplating the Terrible Nature of Car Alarms."

October 15, 2012

"Back out of all this now too much for us ..."

At a recent conference in Sonoma, California, I met the poet Jill McDonough. 

Most of the conference attendees were architects and designers. I'd flown in from Maryland to show how magnetic resonance imaging can reveal the functional organization of the human brain; she'd flown in from Boston to read poetry at the closing dinner.

Please may I suggest, dear NeuroCooking friends, that you read this poem, then wipe your tears, and buy this book?

[Note regarding post title: The opening of Robert Frost's Directive is repurposed as a line in "Blackwater" from the book "Where You Live."]

October 14, 2012

October 5, 2012

"Ideas flee the prison of the mind ..."

Escapism? I think escapism is healthy. Every time you cast a thought forward or look to the sky, you're escaping. I don't think of escapism as something outside of yourself; it's something natural and fundamental, like breathing. Everything we have was "escaped" into creation, right? Ideas flee the prison of the mind, become real. I believe in it as much as I believe in riding my bike or lying in the grass or digging in the dirt or eating bread or drinking water or skinning your knee. It's key.
- from the interview with Brian Chippendale in the July/August 2012 issue of the Believer.

October 1, 2012


What little we have ever understood
is like an offering we make beside the sea.
It is pure worship when pursued
as its own end, to find out. Mystery,
the undiminishable silent flood,
stretches on out from where we pray
round the clear altar flame. The god
accepts the sacrifice and turns away.

"Science" by Ursula K. Le Guin, from Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems 1960-2010.

h/t: The Writer's Almanac

September 25, 2012

"Unknown engines underneath the city..."

You can hear "Transcendental Youth," the new album from the Mountain Goats that is due out next week, streaming live (and free) at this link, and you can see Mr. John Darnielle introduce and perform "Harlem Roulette" (from the new album) right here:

September 18, 2012

Acknowledgement of the Month!

In the special issue of NeuroImage on "20 years of fMRI," there is a fascinating and enlightening article by Dr. Rainer Goebel entitled "BrainVoyager — Past, present, future" that closes with this acknowledgement:

"Finally I want to thank Claudia for her beautiful brain that is still a mystery to me after hundreds of fMRI scans."

September 17, 2012

Expanding internal collet.

Are you buying a new bicycle – or maybe just replacing some handlebars – in order to be able to use the new "Reverse Lever" from Paul Component Engineering, "a bar end lever designed for use at the ends of bullhorn or porteur style handlebars," which attaches by means of a three-piece "expanding internal collet?"

Expanding internal collet.

Expanding internal collet.

Expanding internal collet.

(When you mount the levers on your bike, no one will be able to see the expanding internal collets, because the expanding internal collets are, well, internal.)

Made in USA. Available in black and silver. To go on that bike – you know the one! – that really needs a pair of these new levers. With expanding internal collets.

September 16, 2012

"How many do you have?"

In "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity," playing through the end of the month at the Woolly Mammoth Theater in Washington, D.C., Chad Deity says:

"Chad Deity has four crispers in his fridge, and he doesn't even use a crisper."

I've never seen a better or more topical wrestling drama. If you're in the area, go! Tickets available.

September 14, 2012

Mid-September Garden-Grown Veggie-Blogging!

(click image for full-screen)

A special opportunity to get something for yourself, or ...

I've written here before about Adorama's offerings of "refurbished" Nikon cameras and lenses, but this week's bounty appears unrivaled, both in sheer numbers, and in variety — they've got wide lenses and long lenses, prime lenses and zoom lenses, SLR cameras and mirrorless cameras...

(some of the 145 refurbished Nikon items currently offered by Adorama)

If you already have a full-frame Nikon camera and you're looking for a lens, I recommend, once again, the lovely little 35 mm f/2.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for a gift for your favorite NeuroCooking correspondent, I'd recommend a perspective control lens (either 24 mm or 45 mm) for me, or a V1 camera kit for Thaler. Though I wouldn't turn down a 200 mm f/4 macro lens.

September 13, 2012

Title of the week!

"'Doctor' or 'darling'? Decoding the communication partner from ECoG* of the anterior temporal lobe during non-experimental, real-life social interaction" appears in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

*"ECoG" (pronounced "ee-cog" = Electrocorticography or intracranial EEG)

August 18, 2012

August 14, 2012

Got a two-headed little mouse (on each arm)?

The full (Latin) name of the human biceps is "musculus biceps brachii" which means "two-headed little mouse of the arm."

"Two-headed" because the biceps is made up of two bundles, each with its own attachment point, or "head."

"Little mouse" because the muscle resembles the back of a mouse!  Indeed, the biceps appears to have given all muscles their name.

(And yes, the triceps has three "heads," and the quadriceps has four.)

August 12, 2012

August 6, 2012

"... so well, ... so, well, ..."

"And as Mr. Jobs knew so well, one thing that makes magic so, well, magical, is that you don’t know how it works."

- from the article "Disruptions: At Its Trial, Apple Spills Some Secrets" by Nick Bilton in today's New York Times.

August 5, 2012

"If new-laid eggs wore wooden legs I should not laugh or cry."

I would like to tell you how beautifully Corinne Winters sang the role of Anne Trulove at today's matinee of The Rake's Progress at the Barns of Wolf Trap. And I'd like to tell you that Eric Barry inhabited the title role of Tom Rakewell so perfectly that it could have been written for him! And I'd like to tell you that Margaret Gawrysiak's portrayals of Mother Goose and Baba the Turk demonstrated virtuosity and great humor.

But I can't.

I can't. Not because any of that isn't true, but because my ticket says that by attending the performance, I agreed that I "will not transmit ... any description [or] account ... of the event."


"... by your use of this ticket you agree, that you will not transmit ... any description [or] account ... of the event ..."

August 4, 2012

"Art is the big yes."

"Much of our lives involves the word 'no.' In school we are mostly told, 'Don't do it this way. Do it that way.' But art is the big yes. In art, you get a chance to make something where there was nothing."

- Marvin Bell

h/t: The Writer's Almanac

July 17, 2012

"How strange is the lot of us mortals!"

"Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving." 

- Albert Einstein.

h/t: Andrew Sullivan

July 12, 2012

How to Gather Stories

How to Gather Stories, a piece inspired by my recent work with philanthropic foundation program officers, has just been published at the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog.

Here's an excerpt:
Ask: “Tell me about a time…” By asking about a discrete moment in time, you encourage the sharing of experience and the details and emotion that accompany the recollection.

Ask for superlatives....

We tend to remember the superlative moments in our lives. Probe for those experiences. Ask for heightened emotional moments. Emotion is often referred to as the “glue” of memory. Ask people about moments when they have felt connected, surprised, or touched. Ask for “Aha!” moments of epiphany and for turning points.

You can also share a story of your own—and then be quiet. Sit back, and transfer all your attention to the person with whom you just shared your story. Most likely, you will hear one in return. If necessary, ask: “Does that story remind you of anything?”

You can read the entire short piece here.

July 7, 2012

Ouch! The drink is sweet, but the vessels are prickly.

Pottery by Sabina Diehr, M.D. (click image for larger version, or see zoom below).

July 3, 2012


At the Barns of Wolf Trap tonight, when Leporello sang the aria "Madamina, il catalogo è questo'" (also known as "The Catalogue Aria"), listing Don Giovanni's conquests ("In Italy, 640 / In Germany, 231 / 100 in France; in Turkey, 91 / But in Spain, already 1003"), he read not from a book, but from an iPad — while the data were digitally projected onto tall scrim panels.

Don Giovanni's iPad can be seen at the 0:30" mark in this video.

And here's a video of the aria (from a different production) with English subtitles.

July 1, 2012

Some good advice from Karen Amstrong.

"There are times when you have to speak out against injustice or cruelty. But if you speak — and this is what Gandhi said — in order to punish or wound, you will do more harm than good. The Dalai Lama said that to condemn injustice with hatred in your voice will make the injustice worse. ... So it does no good to attack viciously. The thing to do is not to rise to the bait."
-from an interview with Karen Armstrong in the June issue of the Believer magazine.

June 21, 2012

June 18, 2012

June 17, 2012

Mid-June Dog-Blogging! (or, "SG-31R"), Part II.

 my SG-31R (click image for larger version)!

Bucky in repose on the porch, Friday night (6/15/2012).

[No comment.]

Just one more photo from last month's trip Down Under (click image for larger version):

(At the opening reception for ISMRM'12, Melbourne).

June 14, 2012

Mid-June Dog-Blogging! (or, "SG-31R")

Bucky (June 11, 2012). 

This photograph of Bucky was taken indoors, at an aperture of f/16, using a camera, a lens (with a hood), a Nikon "SG-31R Infrared Panel for Built-In Flash" (that looks silly but costs little and works great), and a pair of ceiling-bounced SpeedLights.

Note: No lurchers were harmed making this photograph. Use of brand and product names is by fair use; no endorsement (not even of the splendid affordable SG-31R!) is implied. NeuroCooking is not sponsored by Nikon (or by General Motors, makers of Cadillac cars, which combine legendary luxury with state-of-the-art performance).

June 3, 2012

"To be a successful soldier you must know history."

Today is the 75th anniversary of George S. Patton's anticipation of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On June 3, 1937, Patton filed a report that foresaw the attack that would take place on December 7, 1941.

May 30, 2012

Proofreading is important, part 3.

Apropos of this morning's post on the existence of an intelligent proofreader, as well as our earlier posts on the importance of proofreading in baseball and near school buses, it now appears that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney may be running for President of Amercia [sic].

Could the Washington Natinals [sic] be Amercia's [sic] team?

A proof of the existence of an intelligent proofreader? [NeuroCooking FlashBack]

Just one sentence was deleted, the last sentence of an appendix-of-sorts at the end of a brief (three-page) article. And that deletion appeared to me to be a proof of the existence of an intelligent (if not loving) proofreader.

A few years ago I was invited to contribute a brief introductory article to a special issue of a magazine. So I did.

The professional society that publishes this magazine (and many journals) requests (insists) that every author supply a brief professional biographical sketch (the usual stuff: training, appointments, research interests), to appear at the end of the article. So I did.

Only, when I got the page proofs back (in PDF form), I found that the final sentence of my biographical sketch was gone!

I didn't mind. I certainly wasn't offended, nor did I think that this editing reflected poorly on the journal or its publisher. Indeed, I took the deletion of the final sentence of my draft biosketch to be a sign of the existence of an intelligent proofreader. As in "hey, someone is really reading this stuff!"

And that sentence? It was:
A son of the Garden State, Dr. Pekar is especially grateful to have worked with so many international scientists, who tend to lack the irrational prejudice against New Jersey so prevalent among his own countrymen.

This post first appeared in August, 2009

May 29, 2012

Привет, Россия!

Many NeuroCooking pageviews are coming from Russia, and we would be delighted to hear from our Russian readers.

Please, consider saying hello using the blog comments, or via twitter at @thaler or @jimpekar.

May 23, 2012

Adam Gopnik on Stories & Science

Good science is more like Proust than Mr. Popper’s Penguins; its stories startle us with their strangeness, but they intrigue us by their originality, and end by rewarding us with the truth, after an effort. It is the shock good stories offer to our expectations, not some sop they offer to our pieties, that makes tales tally, and makes comtes count. The story that tells us only that we like all kinds of stories lacks that excitement, that exclusionary power, which is the only thing that makes us want to hear stories at all.

May 21, 2012

The sun & the moon (heard on my morning commute...)

This morning on the Writer's Almanac I heard Garrison Keillor read from Alexander Pope's 1734 "An Essay on Man:"
"All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;
That, changed through all, and yet in all the same,
Great in the earth, as in th' ethereal frame,
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees..."
And then a few minutes later I heard Mr. John Darnielle sing the first lines of the opening and title track of the Mountain Goats 2002 album "Tallahassee:"
"Window facing an ill-kept front yard
Plums on the tree heavy with nectar
Prayers to summon the destroying angel
Moon stuttering in the sky like film stuck in a projector..."
Were you wondering, about Pope's trees, about just what kind of trees were they?

Turns out, they're plum trees...

Best. Coffee. Ever.

Following my attendance at the 20th annual meeting of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, I am pleased to present, for NeuroCooking readers in the National Capital Area, these six simple steps to get the best coffee in the world:

1. Take the Washington D.C. Metro to National Airport (DCA).
2. Fly from DCA to Los Angeles (LAX).
3. Fly from LAX to Sydney (SYD).
4. Fly from SYD to Melbourne (MEL).
5. Take a bus or taxi downtown.
6. Go to Naked Espresso at 390 Little Bourke Street, and order an espresso.

May 20, 2012

May 18, 2012

Seeing Is Believing.

Last week I was in Melbourne, Australia, for the 20th annual meeting of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, which took place in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. There, I made a remarkable discovery. The toilets bear warning labels:

These labels, clearly, compel a startling conclusion: In Australia, dogs can read.

May 17, 2012

On going wide (& tall) without schlepping.

When I travelled Down Under this month, I did not bring a "real camera," but I was able to shoot wide

The Cove, Sydney, Australia. May 13, 2012.

and tall

Town Hall, Sydney, Australia. May 14, 2012.

using the iPhone "Pano" app (click photos for larger versions).


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