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January 24, 2010

Helvetica - PERIOD [nanoblog]

Just watched Helvetica again tonight via Netflix and found my favorite clip (Michael Bierut) on YouTube.

January 13, 2010

First Hop Harvest

[Thanks to the economy, I had to lay off the entire editorial staff of mere cat, interns and all, hence the long gap in posting. Although I have a backlog of blog drafts that I hope to turn into actual posts, it’s just me doing everything from now on, so I think posting will continue to be light.

A few drafts were devoted to hops. Here’s the first. It should have been posted in October. Confound those insolent, indolent interns.]


Harvesting Glacier hops

Anne picking the driest Glacier hops off the bines in the first picking session in early October.

Besides our regular crop of tomatoes (a record 350-odd this year), we (meaning my wife) usually grow other random crops in a corner of our little quarter-acre lot. Some brewing experiments led us to try growing our own hops.

We picked up five hop rhizomes from Keystone Homebrew in early 2008. None did well the first year, but this year our Glacier plant really took off, covering an entire wall. We started harvesting the hops while they were still on the bine, picking the driest ones at first. As novice hop growers, it was difficult to determine when to harvest them. We may have harvested them a little late, but most still seemed green and moist and only just beginning to dry out. We air-dried them briefly and bagged them for the freezer. Below is a picture of about half our harvest. Hops weigh almost nothing, but I think we came close to a pound.

Glacier hops


That is so cool that you are growing hops on the side of your house!

Also, I'm jealous about all of your wonderful tomatoes!

When do I get to sample the Glacier Hop brew?


seadragon, Full disclosure on the tomatoes: We have a community garden plot where most of the plants were; that's how we got so many. Our yard is too shady for more than a few tomato plants.

Robin, No one gets to sample the Glacier Hop brew, which is a pale ale—it was a disappointment (post coming soon explaining why). We plan to use those hops in a style that doesn't depend on strong hop flavor. Hope to share some of that. :-)

Looking forward to seeing the brew that these are used for. :)

I love hoppy beer. I'm about to crack a Hop Wallop and take Judy out for a walk.

January 9, 2010

Mirror Neurons, or Why I Can’t Dance

The other day I was watching a TED Talk by neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran describing the function of “mirror neurons” in the human brain. These neurons are like the motor neurons (which fire when you move), but mirror neurons fire when you merely watch someone else moving. Amazing; that’s empathy at the physiological level. As Ramachandran said, “They must be involved in things like imitation and emulation, because to imitate a complex act requires my brain to adopt the other person’s point of view.”

Fine, but I don’t think I was born with any mirror neurons. Let me illustrate.

Over the last week, I’ve been trying desperately to imitate a “complex act,” viz., a video of the great drummer Peter Erskine playing brushes. He explains every stroke and sweep, all the while moving in slow motion, and I still had a remarkably difficult time imitating it. The experience reminded me of my ballroom dancing days where learning each step was a painful process that took months. I can’t believe it’s this hard for everyone. I should distinguish between the first stage of learning a movement and the subsequent practicing of it until it becomes “natural” (or in the case of my dancing, merely less grotesque). I expect practicing to take lots of time; my frustration is only with the first stage.

Admittedly, Ramachandran doesn’t say that mirror neurons make imitation easy, just possible, so maybe my expectations are just too high. On the other hand, I can imitate things by ear pretty easily, so I imagine others can pick up things by eye just as easily. What I do seem to have, at least, is the perseverance to keep trying until I get it. I guess we are each blessed with an unevenly distributed set of gifts—weakness in one area is compensated by strength in another.


Great post on an idea I never heard of before. You might want to also check out readiness potential, where thinking about an action fires up the motor cortex with a "Ready... set" group of signals. It's what puts us on our toes before doing something, so to speak. Audiation, the idea of thinking and hearing sounds in your mind, relates to this and mental rehearsing, which is a subject of significant music research interest. Brush work is like Tai C hi for drummers, a great way to keep the neurons (mirror or otherwise) polished and primed. Good luck with your practice of the light touch.