Archive for May, 2010

Brain rat pack

This article in Nature profiles the rodent cognition researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Working in Tony Zador’s laboratory was my first real exposure to neuroscience, and Zach Mainen‘s group, including postdoc Naoshige Uchida, was in the same building at the time. This page has a little more about rat behavioral experiments. My contributions to the behavioral experiments there were little to none, but I still find the attention to it exciting.

Everybody knows that research into cognition involves mice and rats running around in mazes. In that settings, the research is more part of a tradition than a new venture. The combination of physiology with the kinds of tasks the rats do is remarkable, though. Recording neural activity while an animal performs a task can yield terrific insights, and the ability to experiment with rats affords much more freedom than with primates.

One of the underlying biases against the approach seems to be that rats are not smart enough to be subjects in interesting experiments, such as making subtle discriminations about stimuli. Although my time there was brief, it was long enough to know better. Rats are little furry scientists. They explore their environments. They try new approaches to the problems they encounter, and they learn from their experiments very fast. I expect that using them in experiments will let us learn fast.

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Michael M. on May 23rd 2010 in General

Country blues with Leroy Pierson

Although I am stretched for time, I decided not to miss Leroy Pierson‘s Acoustic Blues Fingerpicking class at the beloved Folk School. I took Tom Hall‘s class a few years back, and it was the key for the lock I had failed to open myself. Leroy’s has been excellent. The plan is to cover a different key each week and to spend a couple of weeks on open tunings.

This interview on STLBlues gives a good background on him. He went all over the place seeking great players and their records. His playing reflects his broad exposure. Many different styles from past players go into his music. One classmate said the class would be worth taking for the history alone. I am happy to get it and some teaching on picking.

He plays regularly at BB’s Jazz Blues and Soups. He has a standing gig for the early spot of Fridays. Check the calendar. H and I tried to go this past Friday, but parking nearby was not possible with the baseball game. Next time, maybe this next Friday, we will make sure there is a chance of parking and consider MetroLink.

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Michael M. on May 23rd 2010 in General, Live, Music

Ocho de Mayo

This post on the Ecology of Absence blog and this one on the Riverfront Times have pictures from Cinco de Mayo on Cherokee Street. H and I joined friends there for a fun day. We biked down, and it was an ideal day for it. We arrived early enough this year to watch the parade. I got to go last year also. It is a great festival with plentiful people, food and drink. Highlights included watching people fall off the mechanical bull. I hope my schedule works for next year.


Michael M. on May 23rd 2010 in General

Central Fields by permit only

As mentioned in my recent post lamenting the closure of the Forest Park Central Fields to open play, I wrote Mayor Francis Slay, my alderman Terry Kennedy and the Parks Department. After receiving acknowledgments without real replies, I wrote again. I received a letter from parks commissioner David Skillman. I scanned it for sharing (PDF). To summarize, groups that rent the fields complained about their condition, and the department restricted access. Gary Bess the the Director of Parks. Jeff Rainford is the mayor’s chief of staff. Patrick Brown also works for the mayor.

H called to see how hard it is to reserve the fields. The price is $8 per hour. Reservations must be made at least 7 days in advance. The price poses some hindrance to pick up sports. The need to reserve a week or more in advance kills the opportunity for games on short notice.

I do not know the best way to go from here. A friend suggested contacting Forest Park Forever. The group’s goal is “was founded in 1986 to restore, maintain and sustain Forest Park as one of America’s great urban public parks, for the enjoyment of all ~ now and forever.” I will email the organization and see.


Michael M. on May 17th 2010 in General

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