How to make this amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl, for great justice

Note 1: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, to be self-published every Monday. The first, today’s, is a day late, but you get the idea. :)

Note 2: Until now, I haven’t experimented with this new WordPress “Bebo” version and its Gutenberg block-editor, so there may be formatting / appearance / ux issues at the start of this 2020 series. Please bear with. :)

Note 3: I don’t receive any compensation whatsoever from the ingredients peeps or from the restaurants, stores, etc. that I’m linking. They’re here as examples, and I use all of them myself and recommend them except where otherwise specified.

Good news is everywhere. The anarchist daughter of the GOP’s gerrymandering mastermind just dumped all his maps and files online for public use (Vice, NPR, tweet and tweet by her). Correctly losing trust in sociopathic institutions and replacing it with trust in each other as a result of such inspirational stories, more and more folks involved in the peer support movement or on their own are refusing (conventional) psychiatry, slowly and successfully withdrawing off psychotropic pills after decades of Big Pharma occupation, then telling everyone about it, including last week in the Washington Post. There are even opportunities for celebrating and bonding in these new freedoms: after prison time in Russia a few years back for anti-Putin protest, Moscow-based anarchists Pussy Riot recently released their awesome new song “Hangerz” and announced dates for their first US & Canada tour, in March April May, benefiting Planned Parenthood. Especially with the Internet connecting individuals worldwide like never before, it feels as if there’s never been a better time to create networks and supports for prosocial, expansive lives.

Bad news is everywhere. In the words of multiple Holocaust and/or Auschwitz survivors in 2019 (Rene Lichtman, Ruth Bloch, Bernard Marks), ICE is equivalent to the Gestapo, their current ‘detention centers’ are really concentration camps where genocidaires crush minorities, and those at risk should leave the United States or stay to die. Exiting might not be so easy, however, as an example of the challenge from the past weekend shows: according to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, more than sixty US residents, many of them US citizens, attempting to return home from foreign travel (a portion of them after attending a pop concert in British Columbia), were, while entering Washington state, interrogated for hours and hours by border patrol regarding their political views and loyalties; some were denied entry, and one activist says a migra source explains that this is a countrywide directive from above. Though exploring outside The Wall remains absolutely advisable for US residents, the threats are truly global, as a firsthand account Friday from Australia’s fire apocalypse indicates as one example of zillions, reporting that in Sydney and Canberra and elsewhere, people are dead, homeless, burned, frightened, suffocated with smoke, and sleeping in gas masks as their prime minister who’s fighting to criminalize protest against climate change vacations in Hawaii and scientists warn the disaster marks an irreversible tipping point. Finally, Iran just launched ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq, and in response the bulbous TrumPharma monster (see below), aka the Cheeto in Chief, is bragging about having “the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world,” which like Obomber’s “finest fighting force in the history of the world,” is far beyond idiotic, especially since the US doesn’t control ‘its’ military or spy agencies anyway (private corporations do). From all those loser presidents there are no plans for peace ever, disarmament is an unheard term, and especially with the Internet increasingly clutched by corporations that silo users and capture control redirect and sell their lives like never before, many ‘adults’ seem to feel there’s never been a better time to hide under the bed, escape into corporate TV cartoons and scrolling, and slowly or quickly fade away as ex-humans.

Don’t you want to join Team Good News instead of Team Bad News? Upgrading your life, even to the degree of migrating to another country to avoid let’s say lockups and more tactically defeat them from afar, is not “unrealistic” or “you care too much,” but it is a major challenge, and cooking is a great way to begin replacing weakness with the strength required. Based on conversations and my own experience, those only partially stuck in the mindtrap of conformist, complicit lesser evilism often feel that practical routes to a fully authentic, stick-up-for-yourself-and-others life are nonexistent or nearly so, and thus the only choice is to remain in the comfort zone inert, blah blah blah. Thus, folks probably need straightforward suggestions for goals and the steps to achieve them, plus encouragement to figure out their own goals and steps autonomously.

Here’s a good-news goal for upgrading your life: make and eat this vegan, glutenfree salad bowl of mine by following the instructions in this post. Sounds simple and almost a Rembrandt comic book error: too much effort spent on a subpar theme. But, to take a single example discussed and hyperlinked below, the CDC thinks close to half of US adults alive today will at some point in their lives develop type 2 diabetes, so it’s the standard US diet that’s the real subpar error. Eating trash (not the good dumpster-dived kind!) day in and day out is far more culpable in our failure to address injustices than many of us like to admit.

This post is a guide to a kickass vegan/glutenfree salad bowl you can make regularly, quickly, and easily clean up, for an over 9000 power level. As English speakers have said for almost two centuries, you are what you eat. I find when I apply consistent discipline to diet and exercise and gratitude journaling, a lot of ‘mental problems’ thrown on me by The System simply evaporate.

Look at it this way. Here’s a picture of the amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl. If you’re eating this and similar every damn day, rather than alcohol sugar caffeine nicotine gluten dairy carcasses etc, you’re obviously well on your way toward firing on all cylinders:

This, my salad bowl, is the objective

Versus if you’re eating like this waste of space, this TrumPharma thing pictured here last January offering White House guests McDonald’s and Burger King, pretty soon you’ll be swarming with invading thoughts telling you you’re no good, life is all about predators and prey, might as well win the victory over yourself and love the war of all against all, can’t beat ’em join ’em, that kind of crap:

Eat like Trump, die by Trump

A quick note regading upgrading your diet: if you’re now eating trash — alcohol sugar caffeine nicotine gluten dairy carcasses — and you tweak it in just one way for just one week — alcohol sugar caffeine nicotine gluten dairy carcasses — and don’t see much improvement, please know that firing on all cylinders really requires a whole bunch of bugfixes over a great deal of time; realize developing healthy strength isn’t a ten-second thing but a lifelong journey.

For the Jedi it is time to eat as well

While Star Trek surely outmatches Star Wars, the endearing movie line quoted above from Yoyo (or Yoda or whatever) shows that the supposedly mundane matters more than we often give it credit for. Allegedly inspirational youtube videos featuring bodybuilders grunting, retired professional assassins screaming at troubled audiences about making their beds, and embarrassing synthesized symphonies shaking your speakers frame becoming healthy and strong as a miserable toilsome struggle of straining and ex nihilio willpower, rather than as what would be accurate: a daily, almost pastoral problem of diligently reading up to select suitable dressings, remembering the courage to value going to the grocery store/market over the muddled angst regarding the frenemy crush who rarely texts first, and simply getting organized and planning ahead, not to join the grandiose lemmings at some lesser evilism corporate shoutfest, but to instantiate your real authentic values, one step at a time. In short, keep your (not their) objectives in front and take care of the necessary little things to accomplish them, exhilirating piece by exhilirating piece.

One of the tiny tasks for establishing the capability to make this salad regularly was finding bowls to actually put the salad in. I found these gray concave half-spheres with lids at Tarjay for cheap. They hold about eight imperial cups (roughly 2.3 liters), if you don’t go above the rim with overflowing kale or other nutrition-packed ingredients. They are the perfect size for a giant salad bowl giving you genuine, not grandiose fantasy, health and strength.

Unfortunately, the bowls strike me as rather suspect. Probably they’re bad for the environment and health, just on the general premise that if some commodity seems too good to be true, it likely is. What are these rubbery-ish bowls made out of, anyway? If you understand with specificity why these bowls are problematic, please explain in the comments. I will say these bowls are easy to clean, quite convenient, and their noncolor helps keep the visual focus on the food. So yeah, have some bowls…no not the Black Sabbath kind, not like that, I mean food bowls to put salad in:

Suspect but convenient bowls from Tarjay, plural

Suspect but convenient bowl from Tarjay, singular

My salad bowl is based on the Bliss Bowl from Seattle’s excellent Chaco Canyon Cafe. Sadly, this new year, they just stopped making and selling their Bliss Bowl, and possibly their orange turmeric dressing that goes with it, but thankfully we have my and soon your versions. Mine uses all the same ingredients as theirs, except I replace their brown rice ingredient with the healthier, less carb-y and more protein-y quinoa, which I cook in coconut milk with the super-beneficial spice turmeric added (and celtic salt). Oh, and unlike me, Chaco Canyon Cafe knows how to present a visually stunning arrangement of their ingredients. How can the following not look empowering?

Bliss Bowl from Chaco Canyon Cafe

Another shot of the Bliss Bowl from Chaco Canyon Cafe

Here are the nine ingredients to give yourself every advantage possible. Kale, spinach, red cabbage, cucumber, avocado, sesame seeds, dressing, edamame, and either brown rice (in Chaco Canyon Cafe’s Bliss Bowl) or quinoa cooked in coconut milk with turmeric spice added (in my version). Those links are to individual ingredient pages on the fantastic, you-need-it-now website The World’s Healthiest Foods, run by a not-for-profit foundation and George Mateljan. Not only does The World’s Healthiest Foods disseminate quality knowledge on the nutritional benefits of each ingredient, but the webpages advise how to select those ingredients at the grocery store/market, how to store them (refrigerator? countertop?), how to prepare them, recipes, nutritional data, basically everything you need to know. All the webpages list at the bottom references including peer-reviewed scientific studies. (Science! — for those too stuck on those faraway journals and just now learning that peer review is, lol, ghostwritten by contractors, that even the editor in chief of The Lancet worries half of scientific literature is simply false, and that instead of dismissing your and your loved ones’ lives as mere anecdotal evidence, it’s actually great to undo problematic filters and understand your own experience and that of those around you as worthy sources of knowledge.)

Now the rad dressing. Previously I bought the orange turmeric dressing weekly from Chaco Canyon Cafe, but it seems they’ve stopped making it. The ingredients in their orange turmeric dressing were: extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, orange juice, garlic, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, sesame seeds, salt, mustard powder, agave syrup, and sesame oil. I don’t know the proportions of those ingredients or anything else about their preparation of their dressing. I’ve switched to Lemon Turmeric Vinaigrette & Marinade with Avocado Oil, available at Seattle’s PCC and made by the goofily named Primal Kitchen. Both contain(ed) turmeric and work well with this salad bowl, fuck yeah. Someday I’ll make my own dressing and post here to tell you about it.

Orange turmeric dressing from Chaco Canyon Cafe, nevermore?

PRIMAL SCREAM DRESSING

Let’s get into this

Each salad bowl serves one really hungry person. It’s a good meal to eat early in the day, and then you can go without eating much the rest of the day besides little things like an orange, a bunch of pumpkin seeds, maybe a small dish of lentils and veggies, etc.

When making this salad, in the interest of saving time, begin by initiating the prep for the two ingredients that take the longest: the edamame and the quinoa. Throw a saucepan on the stovetop and heat enough water in it to cover eight ounces of shelled edamame that you can pour out of a frozen bag into the saucepan once the water is at a roiling boil. You’ll then turn down the boil to a simmer and keep the heating edamame in there for, oh I don’t know, five or ten minutes or something, turning the temperature up a bit as necessary. The linked edamame is non-gmo soy. Probably not the best food in the world, but not bad at all either as far as I know, and an easy way to put a bunch of good protein into the salad bowl. For the quinoa, similarly throw another saucepan on the stovetop, and fill it with the appropriate amount of coconut milk. 3/4 cup of dry uncooked quinoa, a good amount for one of these salad bowls, needs a little more than twice that amount of coconut milk, say 1.75 or just under 2 cups. You want to bring this coconut milk in the heating saucepan to a roiling boil, then turn down the temperature so it’s simmering rather than making weird boiling evaporating coconut milk. The coconut milk will supply some cream-like taste and, unlike water, some protein. Pour the dry uncooked quinoa in, as well as some celtic salt (more trace minerals than regular salt) and a ton of turmeric spice. Stir, and keep stirring as you work on the other ingredients (below). Adjust temperature as necessary. Quinoa is challenging to make correctly; it takes practice; it requires the right temperature and proportions to get as much fluff/volume as possible without burning or otherwise messing up stuffz. All the turmeric-y, celtic salt-y coconut milk will eventually absorb into the quinoa, or otherwise vanish, leaving you with a basically liquidless saucepan full of yummy fluffy warm quinoa. The chief point of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), a very high quality grain-like seed, is that it’s super high in protein (among other nutrients). Keep calm, plants have protein.

Heating up frozen, shelled edamame

Turmeric-y quinoa heating and fluffing up in coconut milk

Turmeric, a colorful yellow spice used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and others, will make you STRONG if you consume it daily, enabling you to defeat enemies within and without. Although the nutritionist Dr. Michael Greger is a pro-gluten guy, whereas for me gluten (including the vegan staple seitan) causes GI problems (and the sources I trust say gluten causes problems for pretty much everybody, just in varying degrees), Greger’s videos/transcripts at NutritionFacts.org on turmeric have plenty of Science!-compliant information about the benefits of the spice. Greger recommends daily consumption, as do other experts. Turmeric improves exercise performance, seems promising for fighting Alzheimer’s and risk of Alzheimer’s, aids with anxiety and depression, and provides many more boons that really all you have to do to comprehend is read and experiment and turn off the blaring alarm bells we all (ok, almost all of us) seemingly have programmed in by TrumPharma-style propaganda insisting food is irrelevant, futility is maturity, curl up and die. Don’t listen to that nonsense, move forward with gobbling turmeric daily, and since it has doubled as a dye for centuries, if you get it everywhere like accident-prone me, try baking soda to remove the stains.

Next, with your ever mightier hands, seize the spinach and kale and tear off little pieces of each glorious green leafy vegetable. Then tear those little pieces into even littler pieces, because that’s quite like chewing your food before even putting it in your mouth. Hurried, we tend not to chew enough, which stresses our digestion as this great Seattle webpage on stress and nutrition explains. Put the tiny pieces of spinach and kale into the bowls. When I took the pictures included throughout this post, I was not yet hip to the idea of tearing ingredients into super small pieces, so my images here don’t reflect that kickass strategy…next time!

Spinach and kale are some of the most empowering vegetables you can eat. As the World’s Healthiest Foods website explains (see links above), both are very anti-inflammatory, and of all plant sources, kale is the firstmost, and spinach the secondmost, rich in the nutrient lutein, which protects eye health, a concern for computer types staring at glowing screens for epic stretches. Eating green leafy vegetables, i.e. kale and spinach, slows cognitive decline and is linked to sharper memory. And holy shit, according to the CDC in 2014, close to half of today’s adults in the United States will eventually develop type 2 diabetes; but, a systematic review and meta-analysis from 2010 suggests “increasing daily intake of green leafy vegetables could significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.” Do you want be conquered, sublated into Team Bad News, victimized by TrumPharma ideology, stuck staring at the wall and mumbling Guess that was my life, or do you want to resist exuberantly by equipping yourself with kale and spinach? Eat kale and spinach, and you’ll turn into a rocket like Popeye. Boom.

Tell ’em, Popeye

Spinach, meet bowl

Spinach and bowl, meet kale

Moving right along, we have hulled sesame seeds. Often these can be easily purchased in bulk, poured from the bin into a cute container you can keep in the fridge for several weeks at least, before they start smelling rancid and need to be tossed. Sesame seeds provide iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and other needed nutrients, which human bodies are often depleted of and begging for, in little convenient seeds you can spread atop meals fast, no sweat. I want to tell you more about sesame seeds, but though it’s rainy and dark and cold here, I gotta get to the gym, not to brag but, if you need it, if you’re bleary-eyed on the couch watching forgettable Family Guy-type animated cartoons screech at you with piercing volume, to impart to you that it’s so thrilling, and endows you with such confidence and productivity, to actually build health and strength by doing fun stuff like going to the gym and eating this salad. Beating yourself up or briefly soaring in your skull using scam inspirational videos ain’t gonna help; pursue the little practical details one step at a time — maybe you need to find that old, unused pair of running shoes in the closet? That could be it for today. Accomplish that, then more tomorrow.

Sesame seeds from PCC

Sesame seeds snowing on kale and spinach

Time to rock and roll — no more pathetic Domino’s, engage the red cabbage and cucumber. Of all types of cabbage, World’s Healthiest Foods (see link above) recommends red cabbage (sometimes appearing purple in color) as the most nutritious. In the grocery store’s produce section, it’s a big sphere, purple-ish in my local place, hard and solid, doubles as a projectile weapon to hurl at opponents. Upping intake of red cabbage improves blood levels of beta-carotene, lutein, and total blood antioxidant capacity, while decreasing total cholesterol, total LDL cholesterol, and total oxidized LDL. Red cabbage’s anthocyanins make the vegetable a standout anti-inflammatory food. Domino’s doesn’t do any of that. Prepping the red cabbage is straightforward. Cut the head in half, and then just tear pieces off the halves with your badass bare hands (not so much the outermost layer, which can be inferior and touched by random environmental dirt grime etc). Smaller and smaller pieces, and then put the pieces in the bowl. And, cucumber. Scientific studies suggest cucumber is anti-diabetes food, according to the World’s Healthiest Website, which you totally would enjoy reading and reading and reading. Wash the cucumber off, put it on your cutting board, slice it up and put the slices in the bowl. You want to be on Team Bad News with the TrumPharma thing? Eat McDonald’s Quarter Pounders. Else, eat cucumber. Simple as that. You are what you eat.

Adding in red cabbage (added more later)

Get in there, cucumber

The above ingredients and the following one, avocado, you can add to the bowl in pretty much any order, but don’t forget to keep an eye on the edamame and quinoa on the stovetop burners. I don’t yet have proportions figured out for the kale, spinach, red cabbage, cucumber, sesame seeds, and dressing. Just put a bunch of each in to fill the bowl, gauging by what seems right. Eventually I’ll figure out nutritional information for the entire salad bowl, such as total number of calories and carbs, macronutrient ratios, etc.

My friend the avocado. You want to put a whole avocado in the salad bowl. And you might consider eating a whole avocado a day. They bring the cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, phytonutrient, and other benefits. Plus they taste awesome. They’re messy as hell when I try to prep them, though. I attempt the “nick and peel” method, but I still get avocado all over my fingers and hands, and little flakes of avocado skin end up all over the floor and everywhere else. Here’s the nick and peel method, from the page on avocado from World’s Healthiest Foods (see link above), a method World’s Healthiest Foods gets from the California Avocado Commission:

Use a stainless steel knife to cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Gently twist the two halves in opposite direction if you find the flesh clinging to the pit. Remove the pit, either with a spoon or by spearing with the tip of a knife. Next, take each of the avocado halves and slice lengthwise to produce four avocado quarters. The use the California Avocado Commission’s “nick and peel” method to peel the avocado. Just take your thumb and index finger to grip an edge of the avocado skin and peel it away from the flesh, in exactly the same way that you would peel a banana.

Avocado added; blurry photo, dizzy with salubrius joy

Almost finished. Once Operation Quinoa has restored peace to the galaxy by allowing you to starve the TrumPharma types around the planet of their power, i.e., starve them of you, because you’re no longer getting drained by their vampirism and making them grow like giant bulbous monsters, but instead, you’re off doing cool things with all this sacred energy from this vegan, glutenfree, salad bowl — in other words, once the quinoa has finished cooking — scoop the quinoa out of the saucepan and onto some paper towels. Pat it dry with more paper towels. Dump it into the salad bowl. As for the edamame, which I don’t have any additional pictures of, once that’s finished, pour it out into a strainer sitting in the sink, shake the strainer to remove excess water, pat extra dry the strained edamame with paper towels, and then into the salad bowl it goes. Add dressing to taste. Stir the whole thing. Your mission is complete.

Who can disapprove of bold yellow quinoa?

My finished salad bowl from directly above, plus a gutter of kitchen tile on left

Now that you and I have made and chowed down on this amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl, for great justice, we’re on Team Good News and ready to keep charging. I’m off the gym. One last thing. Since I can’t call my salad bowl a Bliss Bowl, as that’s Chaco Canyon Cafe’s version and not mine, I need some clever new name for my version. If — while you help me and others abolish states and corporations and more importantly replace them with prosocial structures — you come up with a name suggestion, please put it in the comments!

Creative Commons License

This blog post, How to make this amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl, for great justice, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: www.douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/01/06/how-to-make-this-amazing-but-so-far-nameless-salad-bowl-for-great-justice. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

My Knee Looks Cool (under the Eye of MRI)

Sometime in October or November 2011 I underwent an MRI to better determine the extent of the damage my right knee took after a fall and the incident surrounding the fall, which I can’t really discuss due to a temporary court injunction. Nevertheless I can show you how cool my knee looks under a big magnet’s gaze.

Whoa, it’s, like, all knee and stuff!

Almost a decade ago I suffered a grade three (i.e. full) ACL tear in the same knee, and had surgery to build a new ligament thingy. So that explains the two titanium screws visible in the pics. Two orthopods told me this 2011 scan is not too terribly conclusive, and for now I’ll have to leave it at that.

Here’re my 27 knee MRI pics as a Flickr set. And here’s a post of mine about the MRI pictures of my brain! If I had an MRI in my backyard, I’d MRI everything.

OMG KNEE!

The skin on this knee bears a big scar from the surgery. I also have a hardcore scar on my other knee from walking into the edge of a truck’s front license plate (don’t do that). My third and final scar is on my chin, just below my mouth. I was bench-pressing and as the spotter happened to look away my suddenly puny pectorals failed and the bar slammed into my chin. Good thing it didn’t fall right in my face! The spotter was really apologetic (after I, cursing, returned from running laps around the gym to lighten the pain). Then I went hom; with blood all over me, I wasn’t Schwarzenegger enough to finish the set. Why not just stick to push-ups, folks?

Tonight a genius idea struck me: my brain MRI pics would look great on a T-shirt. Like so:

T-shirt’s Front

T-shirt’s Back

Except for consciousness, granular things, abstractions, etc., let’s digitize the world!

Creative Commons License

My Knee Looks Cool (under the Eye of MRI) by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@douglaslucas.com.

Intro to Ear Training, Fear Training, Ear Straining

Too many drastically overestimate their skill at discerning details of audio such as music. Listen to this basic A major guitar chord:

Can your ears “reach into” the chord and pick out all three notes? (Test yourself by singing or humming each one individually.) Or do you just hear the chord as a composite? It’s easier when someone plays the notes together and then separately, as above. If you want a real challenge, go mash down a bunch of random piano keys (a “tone cluster”); then, without releasing the keys, try to sing or hum each note separately.

Do you hear a few huge, blocky piano chords, or do you hear hundreds of individual notes also? Serious music students have a hard time distinguishing all the different notes, too, so much so that they sometimes refer to ear-training courses as “fear-training” or “ear-straining.”

My understanding — and this might be wrong — is that, with chords, the mind (on some level at least) hears both composite sounds and individual tones at once, always. So maybe in your subconscious you’re hearing it all. I’m still leaving out overtones and features such as vibrato.

This is my brain. Not joking; the MRI people copied me a DVD.

I’m also unsure of whether the conscious mind, hearing chordal music, rapidly switches its focus from one individual note to another (and the composite waveform) or if it’s truly capable of hearing multiple tracks at once. (If I had to guess, I don’t think the conscious mind attends to much of anything with perfect simultaneity, when you drill down to individual instants, simply due to latency limitations of the physical nervous system.) For whatever it’s worth, computers can only complete one task at a time — they just switch between them so quickly we imagine they’re “multi-tasking.”

Even when people don’t have good ears for music (by which I don’t mean they’re literally tone-deaf, just that they aren’t highly skilled at perceiving details of audio), we typically say they can identify for themselves whether a piece of music is “good” or not. Of course it’s really their subjective experience of the music that they’re labeling as good or bad.

We don’t extend the same leeway to people evaluating visual art, however. We don’t expect someone with bad vision (and no corrective lenses) to make astute judgments about a painting they can’t see well. (A good way to train the eyes, by the way, is field-guiding.)

Who?

Why the double standard? I think because most of us are more familiar with sight; most of us live our entire lives without wondering about our ability to discern pitches in the audio we take in.

Once, a long time ago, my friend Bryan told me he only heard heavy metal as a kind of static-y noise. He couldn’t identify its pitches; later, after repeated listening, he could hear them. Try it yourself: here’s an instrumental Metallica song, Orion, as originally recorded. Skip ahead to :56 if you want to cut to the chase and get past the quiet intro.

Do you hear the bass guitar and the multiple notes of the multiple guitars? Or is it just one moving block of sound with drums banging away? People do in fact hear it quite differently. Now try the same (well, practically the same) music played on piano (by the fantastic Vika Yermolyeva). Generally people hear pianos more clearly than other instruments.

I think current research says babies are pretty much always born with perfect pitch, also known as absolute pitch — the ability to distinguish and name notes. To someone with perfect pitch (who has also learned the Western musical alphabet), a guitar string vibrating at 440 hertz produces an A, not just a sound. (Perfect pitch doesn’t mean singing in tune; it might help someone sing in tune, but perfect pitch is a perceptual skill, not a skill involving the voice box, diaphragm, tongue, etc.) Growing up, children aren’t taught to associate the notes they hear with a musical alphabet, and so their perfect pitch fades away. Some adults can indeed learn it, though.

Basic ear-training makes music more enjoyable even for non-musicians. Now, go smush down some piano keys.

Creative Commons LicenseIntro to Ear Training, Fear Training, Ear Straining by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.douglaslucas.com.

This is your (my) MRI’ed brain on Babel Krieg

I’m a smart guy, but am I human? To transform the question into something more suspectible to an objective answer: Do I actually have a brain? Due to happy circumstances that I shouldn’t entirely disclose, recently I discovered — free of charge! — that I do indeed have a brain. Actually, I underwent brainy MRIs twice before, but it’s always a celebration to be reminded I have cerebration.

I can haz a brain!

To cerebrate or not to cerebrate, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to improve your kinesthetic sense, or perhaps field-guide to improve your mind’s eye instead? Those ways of thinking aren’t valued enough on too many of today’s life-altering tests. Ultimately, the best approach: develop what you could call good metacognition (cognition about one’s own cognition), or what you could call good intrapersonal skills (like social skills, except these govern the warring factions of your psyche). Then your brain might be as big as mine obviously is in these pictures.

More Machine than Man

To tell the truth, I’m no neuroscientist. (Although that was my first declared major at TCU.) Maybe my brain isn’t impressively sized. I remember once arguing with another kid — maybe I was five or six — about IQ tests. His thesis? IQ tests tell you ‘how smart you are.’ My retort? ‘I’m smart — and no damn test can convince otherwise!’ Apparently that means I’m stupid, since some study or other showed convincingly that most stupid people think they’re smart; or, were the tests stupid? Does it matter, for individuals guiding their lives? Just go learn! Now!

NES Contra Final Boss