Thursday, September 30, 2010
P.S. Also, marshmallows!
Read her full story here.
(Photos by Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day)
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Today's giveaway is from Chicago letterpress studio Snow & Graham. They're giving away their beautiful 2011 wall calendar, which has gorgeous flower illustrations each month. Wouldn't it look lovely above a desk? (It would also make a great gift.)
For a chance to win, please visit Snow & Graham's shop and leave a comment below. A winner will be chosen at random tomorrow. Good luck! xoUpdate: Mrs. Dontje is our lucky winner. Thanks for playing.
They were the guys who believed that, not only were there modules, but that you could tell how big they were by measuring the shape of someone's skull, and so learn about their personality.
Phrenology made modules unfashionable for a while, but today they're back, and most of fMRI consists in trying to find areas of the brain that do different stuff, but in a new paper Wilson et al argue against taking modularism too far: Functional localization within the prefrontal cortex: missing the forest for the trees?
Their focus is the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a large chunk of the front of the brain which is bigger in humans than in any other species. The PFC is routinely subdivided into segments, each with (presumably) a different function. So we have the "emotional" vmPFC, the "memory" dlPFC, the "pleasure" OFC, etc.
Wilson et al don't dispute that there are some variations in function between different bits of the PFC, but they say that in all the excitement over localization, we may have overlooked the role of the PFC as a whole.
They discuss evidence from monkeys with PFC damage (or lesions which disconnect it from the rest of the brain). Damage to the entire PFC, they say, leaves monkeys completely unable to perform tasks which require storing concepts over time. For example, they can't learn that whenever they see, say, a red button, they ought to press it to get food. But if part of the PFC is intact, and it doesn't matter which part, monkeys can do this with only minor problems.
However, the PFC isn't required for all tasks. If the task only involves information which is all presented at once, the lesioned monkeys are OK. So they could learn, given a big panel covered in red buttons, to push the buttons to get food, because the buttons are all there simultaneously.
Hence the data from these tasks are congruent with the notion that [the PFC] is only crucial in memory during tasks requiring the processing of temporally complex events. This can be defined as an event to be learned about, in which information that is crucial to that learning is presented at more than one point in time, or that can only be interpreted with respect to a preceding event.They say that evidence from human neuroimaging studies supports this view.
A meta-analysis has shown consistent recruitment of the same network of regions in the PFC across a range of cognitive demands. The authors argue that this supports specialization of function within the PFC, but of an unexpected nature, namely ‘a specific frontal-lobe network that is consistently recruited for solution of diverse cognitive problems’. The idea that large and different regions of the PFC are recruited by any task at hand supports our argument that the function of the PFC as a whole exceeds the sum of the functions of its subcomponents.This all has echoes of Karl Lashley, an early neuroscientist (died 1958) who proposed the theory of "mass action" - that the whole cortex contributes to behaviour, rather than each part doing different things ("modularism").
Jerry Fodor, whose classic book The Modularity of Mind (1983) helped to rehabilitate modularism from its reputation as "phrenological", was also an advocate of this view - within limits.
Fodor argued that some brain systems, like vision, hearing and language, were cortical modules, but that above this, there was a non-modular system which was the basis for thought, intelligence and decision making. If I remember correctly, he didn't explicitly say that the prefrontal cortex was this system, but I'm sure he'd have no objections to Wilson et al's account.
Wilson CR, Gaffan D, Browning PG, & Baxter MG (2010). Functional localization within the prefrontal cortex: missing the forest for the trees? Trends in neurosciences PMID: 20864190
Even though it rained almost the whole time, the trip was one of the best I've ever taken. So I was psyched to discover this Maine perfume. Wouldn't you love to smell its sea, air, sun, pine and grassy scent?
(Photos by 3191 Miles Apart and Between the Bread)
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Strolling down the main drag in Pattaya, Thailand, the local clocks ticking toward 11 p.m., I am reminded of the golf destinations we North Americans regard as desirable.
Front and center is the golf component, of course. Normally it’s the primary factor in determining quality or desirability. But there’s no denying that packs of (primarily) male golfers generally prize golfing locales for their nightlife, too. Any gaggle of 8-12 golfing buddies will include a few lads determined to rip it up each night, though their desires are often offset by a few compatriots who’d just as soon play poker in the condo. And so there is equilibrium. However, still, it seems the destination must offer some degree of lascivious attraction — if only to get the hard-partying faction on the plane. Think Myrtle Beach and its strip of nightclubs and bars. Think Vegas and its many diversions.
I consider the different buddy trips I’ve experienced, in these very locales, and I laugh to myself as another sultry Thai evening obliges me to wipe the beads from my perspiring brow. The Walking Street in Pattaya, ground zero for the city’s famously over-the-top nightlife, frankly makes an evening in Vegas look like a night in Amish Country.
Blocked to vehicular traffic (save a series of small open-air trucks that continuously circle the downtown area, picking up patrons and dropping them off, for a dollar), Pattaya’s Walking Street stretches several kilometers along the beachfront. Either side of this thoroughfare is fairly well riddled with some of the craziest nightclub scenes you can possibly imagine. If you’ve never been to Thailand, you will have to imagine it — because you’ve surely never seen anything like it.
This is the primary take-away from my 10 days golfing across Thailand: There is such a breadth of experiences to be had that, after a point, all comparisons tend to pale.
For starters, it’s a big country — from Chiang Mai in the north to Phuket in the south it’s some 750 miles, or about the distance from Boston to Myrtle Beach. In other words, it’s too big to be climatically or culturally monolithic. This explains the striking contrast between the cool-highlands of mountainous Chiang Rai, hard by the Burmese and Lao borders, and the utterly tropical environs of Koh Samui, an island off the east coast of Thailand’s tendril-like southern reach, in the Gulf of Siam. Chiang Mai feels loose and slightly bohemian, like an overgrown backpacker haven, while Bangkok is the picture of a glittering, modern, bustling, gargantuan metropolis; Hua Hin is a quiet, gracious, retiring, seaside retreat while Pattaya… isn’t.
You’ll never rake a bunker in Thailand. In the Kingdom, that’s a caddie’s job and it’s but one benefit of the country’s utter reliance on 80- to 115-pound loopers. Yes, they’re all female and they’re a constant at every course in Thailand. Take a cart? They’ll drive it. Feel like driving? They’ll ride on the back. Walking? They’ll pull the trolley. All of this is done with unfailing courtesy and a solid understanding of the course. Club selection? I’d handle that yourself — but that’s my feeling toward all caddies.
In a place like Thailand, with its walking streets and massage parlors, the whole caddie phenomenon tends to elicit raised eyebrows from the uninitiated, but trust me: There is absolutely nothing sexual about the Thai caddie experience. For starters, despite the heat, they are completely swathed in clothing from head to toe, complete with long sleeves and gloves. Such is the standard of female beauty in Thailand: Tans are not fashionable for women, at all, and caddies go to great lengths to avoid them. Second, they are all business. In most cases they are far too busy fixing ball marks, putting sand in divots and raking bunkers to flirt with you.
Some of the best caddies we experienced were served up back in Bangkok at the sporty Muang Kaew Golf Club, where conditions included near-100 degree temperatures and not a breath of wind. Our caddies never wavered — until we did. My two playing partners and I ditched the back nine, paid full caddie fees, and made three friends for life. Then we went for a massage in the clubhouse, a typically sterling facility in a country where they hew to a very high standard.
Asian clubhouses in general make their American counterparts look downright dowdy. Yet because Thai clubhouses cater to so many Asian golfing tourists, they are borderline palatial — how else to impress the Japanese or Korean who is used to merely opulent clubhouses back home? Massage rooms are standard fare in Thai clubhouses. Locker rooms are cavernous, as each golfer is assigned a locker at no charge, as a matter of course. After the round one is expected to shower, don a change of clothes, and kick back for several hours in the bar or restaurant. It’s a damned fine ethic, if you ask me.It’s the organic quality of the golf culture here that resonates, we decide. Unlike some Asian nations where golf is nothing but a modern development gambit, or others where a colonial overlord foisted golf on the culture, Thailand came to the game on its own. The Thais really do love their golf. We decide they have every right to feel that way: We love it, too.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Our girl Lena just curated a new book, Brooklyn Diary, which takes a look at the daily lives of 21 Brooklyn artists, documented by 10 Brooklyn photographers. They reveal their favorite neighborhood spots and offer peeks inside their quirky homes. Part-coffeetable book and part-travel guide, Brooklyn Diary will be released on October 11th. I'm really excited for it. Congrats, Lena!
(These photos show Anna and Tim Harrington and their sons Benji and Casper. As lead singer of the punk band Les Savy Fav, Tim is known for his crazy theatrics--he must be such a fun dad. Anna and Tim also run the textile company Deadly Squire. Their photos make me want to pickle vegetables and buy a pool.)
(Photos by Jessica Antola)