November 29th, 2009

active imagination

From wikipedia:

Carl Jung developed this technique as one of several that would define his distinctive contribution to the practice of psychotherapy. Active imagination is a method for visualizing unconscious issues by letting them act themselves out. Active imagination can be done by visualization (which is how Jung himself did it), which can be considered similar in technique at least to shamanic journeying. Active imagination can also be done by automatic writing, or by artistic activities such as dance, music, painting, sculpting, ceramics, crafts, etc. Doing Active imagination permits the thoughtforms of the unconscious, or inner ‘self’, and of the totality of the psyche, to act out whatever messages they are trying to communicate to the conscious mind.

Following this line of thought, one should surely deem it not only healthy but essential to engage in some sort of creative pursuit from time to time. Read more at Wikipedia.

See also: Jung’s mandala.

November 29th, 2009



From Just Hungry:

Ochazuke is rice, tea and a lot of very Japanese stuff.

Ochazuke combines two quintessentially Japanese ingredients, plain white rice and green tea. Ochazuke is commonly served at the very end of an elaborate Japanese full course meal. It’s also favored as a midnight snack, a hangover cure, or just when you want something hot and filling. It’s commonly made with leftover rice, though ideally the rice should be heated up if it’s cold.

The stuff that goes on top makes it flavorful. Nowadays most people use ready-made ochazuke packets, from companies like Yamamotoyama. These come in flavors such as pickled plum, salmon, wasabi and sea urchin. If you can’t get a hold of such packets, here is a recipe of sorts. It’s basically about rice, tea and “stuff” on top. Despite the fact that this is a make-in-a-minute kind of thing, the very Japanese-ness of the “stuff” that goes on top makes authentic ochazuke a rather difficult dish to assemble outside of Japan, unless you have a Japanese food store nearby.

Great — another excuse to consume tea! There’s a recipe for Ochazuke at Just Hungry.

Similarly of interest: Brown rice and green tea porridge or ‘genmai chagayu‘.

November 29th, 2009

a ham sandwich? how irresponsible

The Times:

Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, said that a successful deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases.

He predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable. “I think it’s important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating,” he said. “I am 61 now and attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed radically since I was a student. People change their notion of what is responsible. They will increasingly ask about the carbon content of their food.”

The UN believes that meat consumption will double by the middle of the 21st century. Read more.

Related: Our outdated beliefs.

November 29th, 2009

(good) ideas for cities

Above: Kids and vegetables living in harmony?
Photo: L.C. Harmon, 1940. Nebraska, USA.

GOOD has a neat brainstorming series at the moment called “Ideas for Cities”. They’re ideas designed to make communities more efficient and progressive.

We’ll post a new idea each day until we run out, at which point we’re counting on you to come up with something smart.

I haven’t read all of the ideas posted so far, but two that I find very appealing/interesting already are Edible Schoolyard:

Cities should provide service opportunities and training for all ages to instill confidence, self-reliance, and pride. One of these programs could be an Edible Schoolyard that is cared for by students and led by professional farmers and volunteers. It would provide 100 percent of the school meals to the student body, and excess food would be delivered to the ill and elderly. In addition, schools would produce zero waste by composting all bio matter. The school could also compost neighborhood bio matter to fund its agricultural efforts.

and Google Analytics for Cities:

Cities could make the success of governance measurable and known. Rather than waiting for the next election to recognize and promote results (or lack thereof), cities could do it transparently. City stats, charts, and powerful infographics would provide a call-to-action for citizens.

See more at Ideas for Cities.

November 28th, 2009

chemical bonding

The mammalian hormone and neurotransmitter Oxytocin has an interesting role in trust and bonding. From Wikipedia:

Recent studies have begun to investigate oxytocin’s role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, trust, love, and maternal behaviors.

The wikipedia page for Oxytocin has a list of its known reactions on mammalian brains. Here’s a couple:

  • Maternal behavior. Rat females given oxytocin antagonists after giving birth do not exhibit typical maternal behavior. By contrast, virgin female sheep show maternal behavior towards foreign lambs upon cerebrospinal fluid infusion of oxytocin, which they would not do otherwise.
  • Increasing trust and reducing fear. In a risky investment game, experimental subjects given nasally administered oxytocin displayed “the highest level of trust” twice as often as the control group. Subjects who were told that they were interacting with a computer showed no such reaction, leading to the conclusion that oxytocin was not merely affecting risk-aversion.[24] Nasally administered oxytocin has also been reported to reduce fear, possibly by inhibiting the amygdala (which is thought to be responsible for fear responses). There is no conclusive evidence for access of oxytocin to the brain through intranasal administration, however.
  • Read more @ Wikipedia.

    Posted in Biology | No Comments »
    November 28th, 2009

    101 cookbooks

    Above: Heidi’s Giant Black Bean Salad

    Heidi Swanson’s recipe blog 101 Cookbooks is glorious: All adventurous, healthy and yet covetable food, described intelligently and photographed beautifully.

    The premise this site was built on is best summed up in two sentences: When you own over 100 cookbooks, it is time to stop buying, and start cooking. This site chronicles a cookbook collection, one recipe at a time.

    Meticulously organized, lovingly maintained: what a resource this site is!

    November 27th, 2009

    why are whales so big?

    Photo: LIFE

    And for that matter, what’s to stop them being bigger? I like seemingly simple questions like these that we take for granted, because they often give way to a beautiful cascade of information by way of explanation. Discover magazine has a nice article called “The Origin of Big”, that plots the course of the whale’s evolution.

    Simply put: In order to harvest enough microscopic krill from the sea to provide their energy, they have to eat a LOT. In order to take big enough sifting gulps, they need a big mouth. In order to have a big mouth, they need a big body. In order to power a big body, they need… more krill! So they just kept growing until they had reached the optimum level (if they got to require too much energy, they would become too vulnerable if food supplies should wane even temporarily).

    In growing so large they face certain logistical problems. They are taking on enough water in each gulp to make their body weight twice as much (sometimes more) as usual. How do they cope? Discover on a recent report:

    If a whale simply let the water come rushing in, there would be a tremendous collision–more than a whale could handle. Instead, the scientists argue, the whales actively cradle their titanic gulp. As the water rushes in, the whales contract muscles in their lower jaw. The water slows down and then reverses direction, so that it’s moving with the whale. (It just so happens that fin whales do have sheets of muscle and pressure-sensinging nerve endings in their lower jaw. Before now, nobody quite knew before what they were for.) Once the water is moving forward inside the whale it can then close its mouth and give an extra squeeze to filter the water through its baleen.

    As their body increases in size, the energy their bodies demand rises faster than the extra energy they can get from their food.

    This scaling may explain some of the weird diving patterns found in lunge-feeding whales. Blue whales are twice as big as humpback whales, for example, but both species dive for the same period of time (about eight minutes) and to the same depth (148 meters). All things being equal, you’d expect that blue whales would be able to dive deeper and longer, because they could store more oxygen in their bigger bodies. Blue whales also make fewer lunges than humpback whales (6 versus 15). It’s possible that the gigantic blue whales are hard up against a size limit. They need so much energy for their lunges that they can’t afford to hold their breath longer, and they can only manage to make a few lunges before they run out of reserves and have to head for the surface.

    (Read More @Discover, via Neatorama)

    November 27th, 2009

    creativity is a skittish tortoise

    I enjoyed this video, in which John Cleese recounts how he discovered his creativity and explains his understanding of how it works.

    He describes creativity as being like a tortoise, for whom — if you wish to entice him out of his hiding place — you must create a safe enclosure. To do this, Cleese tells us, you must create boundaries of time and space; set aside a certain amount of time, and find yourself somewhere where you will not be distracted or disturbed.

    Cleese also has some ideas about the role, in creativity, of the unconscious mind (that I find sometimes dubious but nevertheless interesting), and some very weak jokes injected into his presentation seemingly with the intention of endearing himself to his Flemish audience (instead he comes off as patronizing, but I think he’s just too self-conscious).

    (via FreshCreation)

    November 27th, 2009

    press on

    “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge

    November 27th, 2009

    why does thinking require effort?

    Someone on reddit has posed this interesting question, and many people have chimed in to offer their ideas. The question is: Why is it so easy to drift through thoughts, daydreaming, whereas to actually plough new ground — to challenge what you know — takes effort? Surely there’d be a great evolutionary benefit in not having to try hard to think?

    One person suggests that it’s a way to conserve energy; The brain’s fuel is glucose and it must be used sparingly lest one’s reserves be depleted.

    Another user, medical student ‘Burlap6’, thinks this logic is faulty as, according to him, glucose levels are regulated by the body and only run out when there are no more bodily tissues left to convert into glucose (i.e., practically never). He continues:

    I believe the ‘difficulty’ in thinking stems from one main point: Memory of any concept, fact, or sensory input requires the formation of sensitisations and desensitisations of neuron receptors and neurotransmitter release in specific ways, places, and amounts (INCREDIBLY complex). These sensitisations and desensitisations only take a real foothold in our neural pathways after repeated use of the neurons which act when processing a certain input or thought. It is not fully understood yet, but in the most simple terms, its hard because memory takes time to develop.

    Read the thread at reddit.

    November 26th, 2009

    Emergency Power

    Photo: J. R. Eyerman, LIFE.

    If my joy is depleted —
    from wondering if I ought to be wondering,
    and getting ready to wait again —
    there is still a backup,
    like in A&E.

    Eyes, ears, dusty solar panels to collect:
    The music released from a cabbage,
    when split with a large kitchen knife;
    Sunset light shone low through a cock’s comb,
    radiating at x lumens per wattle;
    And glassy, blue light,
    exploded by the chaff of suspended dust particles in my room,
    where the telephone won’t ring.

    November 25th, 2009

    a tissue, a tissue!


    Is a tissue all you see above?

    This page reveals the significance that the above image has for some, and serves as a fun reminder of how our brain is wired as a problem-solving machine with masses of information stored for quick-access and association. (via kottke)

    November 24th, 2009

    Night Flight

    Actress Sue Lyon & actor Richard Burton floating on their backs during filming
    of motion picture “The Night of the Iguana.” Photo: Gjon Mili, LIFE.

    In this poem George Bilgere describes a sensation I find very comforting: the feeling of being insulated — separated — from time, which one experiences when suspended in water, or when in the fuselage of an aeroplane surrounded by miles of sky .

    I am doing laps at night, alone
    In the indoor pool. Outside
    It is snowing, but I am warm
    And weightless, suspended and out
    Of time like a fly in amber.

    She is thousands of miles
    From here, and miles above me,
    Ghosting the stratosphere,
    Heading from New York to London.
    Though it is late, even
    At that height, I know her light
    Is on, her window a square
    Of gold as she reads mysteries
    Above the Atlantic. I watch

    The line of black tile on the pool’s
    Floor, leading me down the lane.
    If she looks down by moonlight,
    Under a clear sky, she will see
    Black water. She will see me
    Swimming distantly, moving far
    From shore, suspended with her
    In flight through the wide gulf
    As we swim toward land together.

    The poem is called Night Flight and I found it via American poet Ted Kooser‘s blog, American life in poetry.

    November 22nd, 2009

    we gotta eat (in an organized manner)


    I thought it would be nice to make a list — almost like a restaurant menu — of the items in my culinary repertoire, so as to make it easy to plan meals and keep track of new recipes I find/create.

    Then it occurred to me that somebody must have already devised a system expressly for this purpose. It turns out they did, and one more advanced than the one I had in mind. The most promising, free recipe organizer that I’ve found so far online is we gotta eat.

    There are three things that make it highly attractive for my purposes:

  • You don’t have to fill in all information in order to make an entry. For me this means I can quickly establish an archive of just recipe titles and descriptions, so that I can quickly build an archive of my repertoire, even including recipes that are committed to my memory and therefore would be a waste of time (at the moment) to type up in detail.
  • You can choose on an individual recipe basis whether or not to share your recipes with the wegottaeat community.
  • You can (optionally) add an enormous amount (see below) of categorical information to help you search your database later.
  • gottaeat
    Above: categorization of ‘pasta e fagioli’ soup.

    There are other fun (what?) gadgets too, like a shopping list manager. Check it out: wegottaeat.

    November 22nd, 2009

    rules and restrictions yield potential and creativity

    Ben Schott of Schott’s Vocab has a feature on BBC Radio 4 about the Oulipo:

    Founded in France in the 1960s, Oulipo – Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (“The Workshop of Potential Literature”) – is a literary movement dedicated to exploring new possibilities in writing through the use of playful (but strict) rules, for example: avoiding the use of a vowel, or replacing every noun with the seventh noun following it in a dictionary. These rules are designed both to test the mettle of the writers and to demonstrate that creativity can be inspired by constraint.

    To learn more, listen to the feature online here. It’s a fascinating group even if its president sounds like a pretentious burke!

    November 22nd, 2009

    there’s no ice cream on the moon

    Alan Bean, of Apollo 12, on returning to Earth:

    Since that time I have not complained about the weather one single time. I’m glad there is weather. I’ve not complained about traffic. I’m glad there’s people around. One of the things I did when I got home, I went down to shopping centres, and I’d just go around there, get an ice cream cone or something and just watch the people go by, and think “Boy, we’re lucky to be here, why do people complain about the Earth?”. We are living in the garden of Eden!

    I just saw the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon (2007) on TV. In my experience it’s rare to see the Apollo astronauts’ stories so personally and compellingly told as in this film. They, as talking heads, tell you the little details that in other contexts are crowded out in favour of cliché and sensationalism (ironically lessening the excitement), but whose inclusion here make the movie special.

    The documentary also makes use of materials and footage that was unreleased for 30 years. There’s some cracking imagery.

    The movie seems to be online in its entirety on YouTube.

    November 21st, 2009

    making a life mask


    I decided to make my own life mask (above) after recently becoming intrigued by the concept of death masks. Wikipedia:

    In Western cultures a death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a person’s face following death. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. It is sometimes possible to identify portraits that have been painted from death masks, because of the characteristic slight distortions of the features caused by the weight of the plaster during the making of the mold. In other cultures a death mask may be a clay or other artifact placed on the face of the deceased before burial rites. The best known of these are the masks used by ancient Egyptians as part of the mummification process, such as Tutankhamon’s burial mask.

    In the seventeenth century in some European countries, it was common for death masks to be used as part of the effigy of the deceased, displayed at state funerals. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they were also used to permanently record the features of unknown corpses for purposes of identification. This function was later replaced by photography.


    Shorpy has this grisly image of a death mask being made in New York circa 1908.

    Wikipedia has photos of some interesting masks including a life mask of Abraham Lincoln and a death mask of Blaise Pascal.

    When looking for instructions on how to proceed with making my mask, I found these two articles handy (I followed the second one in the event):

  • how to make a life mask instructions
  • Mask Making (.doc filetype)
  • Check out the extended post below for more photographs of my attempt to make a life mask.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    November 20th, 2009

    lego gets crafty with help from muji


    I love the simple design philosophy of muji, and I think I shall always be a fan of the infinite fun and possibility that lego offers. These two wonderful entities have come together and produced something compoudedly wonderful. High snobiety has the story and some pictures:

    Together they’re encouraging us to think outside the blocks (horrible, I know) by punching LEGO-sized holes in paper. The rest then becomes obvious – but wow – how innovative is that?

    Perfect really. Available November 27th at MUJI Japan – just in time for the Holiday season. US and European MUJI locations have yet to confirm stock.

    The creative and mechanical possibilities opened up by this simple development are, I would imagine, many. You could make your own paper pieces, of course, or — if the hole-puncher is strong enough –( you could even make pieces out of other materials like plastics and fabrics.

    More (lovely) pictures at highsnobiety (via notcot)

    Update: Even more pictures at the original source, the blog of Yoshikage Kajiwara.

    Posted in Design, Ha! | No Comments »

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