Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 30th, 2019

Another new-to-me food: Miyeok Julgi Bokkeum

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You probably have it all the time. 🙂 As I’ve commented before, I enjoy buying at the supermarket some food I’ve never and bringing it home to research, prepare, and eat. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it goes great, and rarely does it disappoint (though I admit there have been some). The hits then become a part of regular rotation, like tong ho, greens of the chrysanthemum family: extremely tasty.

So when I saw Salted Brown Seaweed Stem in a handy pack, I couldn’t resist. When I first opened the pack, though, I sort of wished I had: a tangled mass of tough seaweed bristling with large salt crystals. But I hit the internet and found this explanation and recipe, and now I’m about to cook it.

Rinsing it well in three bowls of cold water and then soakiing it for forty minutes in another bowl of cold water removed the salt and also tenderized it. It was still a tangle, but I just put it in a heap and chopped it.

I will update this after I eat some. I’m following the recipe except I won’t add salt (low-salt diet) and won’t use cooking mirin but regular mirin, which is sweet so I won’t use sugar.

Update: Not bad. A little coarser than the (cold) seaweed salad I used to get at the sushi place, but the same line of country. Doubtless a good source of iodine. Will repeat with the other brand they had.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2019 at 5:59 pm

Music as a meme

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Music is something that resides in human knowledge, and one person teaches another, in the way that memes reproduce. Sounds are not taught — sounds are physical phenomena — but music must be learned and resides within human culture, not in the world outside human understanding (the world in which sounds exist). Music emerged from cultural evolution and is a cultural construct, which is why the music of different cultures sounds so strange to those who have no learned that music (cf. Japanese music, Navajo music, African music, and Beethoven). People learn to make certain kinds of sounds, and learn to apprehend those as music, just as people learn to make certain sounds with their mouth — the sounds being real phenomena — and learn to apprehend those as language, for language (like music) resides totally within human understanding and has no reall physical existence.

Elena Renken writes in Quanta:

In the lowlands of Bolivia, the most isolated of the Tsimané people live in communities without electricity; they don’t own televisions, computers or phones, and even battery-powered radios are rare. Their minimal exposure to Western culture happens mostly during occasional trips to nearby towns. To the researchers who make their way into Tsimané villages by truck and canoe each summer, that isolation makes the Tsimané an almost uniquely valuable source of insights into the human brain and its processing of music.

Most studies about music perception examine people accustomed to Western music, so only a few enclaves like these remote Tsimané villages allow scientists to make comparisons across cultures. There they can try to tease apart the effects of exposure to music from the brain’s innate comprehension of it — or at least start dissecting the relationship between the two. “We need to understand that interplay between our genes and our experience,” said Josh McDermott, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the senior author of a recent paper involving the Tsimané in the journal Current Biology which suggests that a feature of music most of us might consider to be intrinsic — the perceived organization of musical pitches into octaves — is a cultural artifact.

Musical systems around the world and across historical eras have been diverse, but octaves are commonly a feature of them. The acoustic structure of octaves is always the same: The frequency of a note in one octave is half the frequency of the same note in the octave above. For example, middle C, or C4, is 261.63 hertz, while C5, one octave up, is 523.25 hertz. These physical qualities of sound in the ear have routinely led to assumptions that octave equivalence — the perception of pitches in different octaves as variations on the same note — is universal, according to Elizabeth Margulis, a professor of music at Princeton University.

McDermott and an international team of colleagues have now tested that assumption with their experiments, in which they asked Tsimané volunteers to listen and sing. A machine played two notes, one after the other, and the subject would sing them back into a microphone. The researchers played pairs of notes different distances apart on the scale and in different pitch ranges.

Computer analyses that compared the Tsimané participants with those in the United States found that both groups generally preserved the pitch intervals between the notes played to them — for example, maintaining the difference between a middle C and middle A. Both groups could also discriminate well between pitches only up to about 4,000 hertz, near the highest key on a piano, C8. For pairs of notes higher than that, everyone seemed to have trouble characterizing the differences.

A curious difference emerged, however, in how they sang the notes back. When the notes played were very high or low, U.S. participants accurately shifted the notes into an octave within their vocal range. The Tsimané didn’t. To them, it seemingly wasn’t clear what notes in their range best corresponded to the ones they heard. Their responses didn’t seem to reflect a perception of octave structure at all.

The researchers went so far as to coach the Tsimané to switch octaves. They gave feedback, like “excellent!” (Anic jäm’ in Tsimané) or “OK” (Dam’ jäm’), depending on how close their responses were to the notes of the prompt. The villagers did not get closer, however. It appeared that the same notes in different octaves, like high C and middle C, didn’t sound alike to the Tsimané as they did to people in the U.S.

The researchers acknowledged in the study that the results might reflect differences in how people sing, and not in how people perceive pitch. But they argued that the totality of collected data, including some more direct measures of octave perception, put the weight of evidence on the side of a perceptual explanation. The Tsimané have shown perceptual differences before: In an earlier study by McDermott and his colleagues, the Tsimané rated dissonant combinations of pitches, which Western listeners find grating, to be just as pleasant as more consonant chords.

Moreover, if the Tsimané’s performance in the tests has more to do with singing ability than their perceptual experience, then it would mean that all people have absolute pitch — an idea that is not well supported experimentally, according to McDermott and his colleagues. Instead, the researchers speculate that the brain’s default approach to identifying pitch is based on relative differences between notes, while absolute pitch, which can help with recognizing notes scattered across octaves, is something learned through experience. They suggest that Tsimané have generally not had those experiences. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2019 at 3:09 pm

Independent evolution of life (like the independent of evolution of the eye)

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Being able to see provides such a survival advantage, particularly among terrestrial animals, that any light-sensing cell will, through natural section, tend to develop into an eye. Eyes have evolved totally independently in different species of animals at least 40 times and probably as many as 65 times. Obviously the eyes don’t look alike—the eyes of an octopus, a spider, a snake, and a human all look very different from one another, but they all fulfill the same function: seeing things at a distance.

And, it turns out, the same is true (in a way) of life. Even given very different starting conditions and different substances available, evolution seems to move toward the emergence of living things, life obviously being a survival advantage for conglomerations of chemicals, molecules, and membranes. I was rereading this post from a couple of years ago in which I blogged an article about an independent evolution of life itself, not just of an eye: an animal whose basic makeup shows a totally different starting point but for which evolution resulted in similarity of functions—similar to the independent evolution of eyes.

It almost seems that life, given reasonable conditions, will inevitably arise because it lies in the path of least effort.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2019 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

Batch 6 after 48 hours

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I have to take it out of the oven to roast some food for dinner, but that should be okay. The instructions that came with the starter culture in fact advises that after 24 hours the mold is generating enough of its own heat that it can be at room temperature. I think I’ll give it another 24 hours at room temperature and see what happens. As you can see, there are some places where more mold seems desirable.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2019 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Plant-based diet

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Language, generalized

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I was reading this passage from The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture, by Frank R. Wilson:

While I was in San Diego in 1973 I ran into Ursula Bellugi, a psycholinguist whom I had met before. She took me to her lab, where there were some deaf people signing. While I watched, she translated into English what they were saying. It took me some time to absorb what she had shown me; Ursula explained that sign language is not a code on English—she said, “It seems to be a language. There are rules for making up words and rules for making sentences out of the words, but the rules have to do with space and shape—it’s an entirely different way of doing language.” I was really stunned. It was like being told there’s another ocean that you had never heard of. After a few days of looking into it and digesting it, I began to realize that this meant that language was not about speaking and hearing, which had always been my assumption. It meant that the brain had the capacity for language, and if you can’t put it out through the mouth, you put it out through the hands.

It struck me that language is simple one example of how the brain engages the body to communicate. Take, for example, fencing. Initially one must learn positions, basic movements, simple attacks, just as one in learning language must initially learn to make the right sounds, and to form words, and to string words together into sentences that communicate.

But once the basics are internalized, a conversation can ensue. Two fencers are not thinking in words but are directly expressing their brain activity (“thoughts” in the most general sense) into movement: attacks, parries, sequences of exchanges. They are doing something that each can follow and to which each responds, just as with a conversation in language. The same holds for the play of two experts in Go or chess: they no longer are thinking so much of individual moves as of the flow of the game and the ideas — the specific Go or chess ideas — being expressed in the game. They are playing the game as a language.

And the same in many other fields: in jazz one first must master the instrument and the scale and the way to respond to others, but then there is a kind of conversation of music ideas and conversation. They play as a language is spoken, though the ideas are music not words.

And the same with fashion, and with cooking, and with dance: first learn the basics, and then you no longer think of those but use them to express ideas that inhabit that particular sphere (of fashion or cooking or dance).

The brain has evolved this ability to create a communicative structure within any medium, and use that medium as we use (say) words and language. This is the power of memes: once the meme is taught, it becomes fodder for the brain’s ability to use memes to make new patterns that communicate. All memes can perhaps be used like this: once a person has been taught how to use a hammer and chisel, the possibility of creating sculpture arises.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2019 at 10:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Memes

A Vie-Long from a defunct forum and the wonderful Yaqi DOC

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This little brush issued by is a Vie-Long horsehair. This morning I seem not to have fully loaded it—I quit loading just when I should have added a little water and continued—but I still got a reasonably good lather and I love the fragrance (espresso and vanilla) of Stubble Trubble’s Up & Adam.

The Yaqi double-open-comb head is remarkably good and Yaqi razors are well worth considering, IMO. Three passes, perfect result, no damage.

A good splash of Phoenix Artisan’s Spring-Heeled Jack to carry the coffee fragrance forward, and the day begins. Today I’m making fondant potatoes to try for a possible Thanksgiving dish.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2019 at 9:00 am

Posted in Recipes, Shaving

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