Stanford campus photo from above


Thoughts - useful or not

So attending a lecture today on the Neural Mechanisms of Attentional Control prompted the following thoughts. I feel that a lot of research that goes on at this university is very immediately useful and much of the research that goes on is perhaps practically useful 10, 20, 30 years down the line. I wonder first of all what the percentage of each type of research is. Second of all, and more importantly, I wonder what division is optimal for society. I don't think it would be all one or the other. Immediate use research is obviously beneficial and perhaps 5, 10, 20 years down the line, informational only research (such as that on neural mechanisms of attentional control) probably makes it easier to breakthroughs to happen down the line. But is anyone looking at what percentage of the research that goes on should fall under each category? Is it socially optimal to have 50% of the research that goes on be for immediate purposes, 10% for 5 years down the line and 40% for 10 years down the line . . . and who's to say what is what? This would be a massive project to sort out.

How often do I have these types of thoughts that are perhaps interesting, but which I'm going to do nothing at all about?




On the way home today I realized one of the things I like about doing research. It gives me something to do with that constant internal monologue. The internal monologue has always fascinated me. Perhaps that's one reason I wanted to create a major around consciousness. It's this thing that's half voluntary and half involuntary that's the most intimate part of us and which there are infinite things to do with. It's almost overwhelming. I remember when I was younger being so fascinated by what other people did with their internal monologue and how they couldn't hear mine. It's almost like I didn't know how to organize it, should it be two people, one taking each side of an issue, should it be memory or commentary, or planning?

Driving home from work today I found myself using it to think about one of the studies that I am working on. I didn't even intend to, it just started to happen since I have been thinking about this particular study a lot recently. I like how the internal monologue can just think about a problem almost in the background and then when an interesting solution or idea comes out of it, then at times it can just be forced to the front, like it was in the car today.

I think this same issue is my draw to meditation. Meditation says, ok, here is exactly what you should do internally with your mind, moreover, this is the best possible thing you could be doing. As much as I like the idea of setting aside a time to condition your mind to act in a more positive way, I've been skeptical of meditation techniques that advise a mantra or something to concentrate on during the rest of the day. I just feel like the capabilities of the inner monologue are so rich, that they shouldn't be limited during the bulk of the day to repetitive tasks. I think this dulls the mind.


Derrida Documentary

i just went to Duke and watched a documentary on Jacques Derrida

oh cool, i think my friend is going to her him speak soon (same derrida? i think)

he might still be alive

i just know the last name - literary/philosophy guy

yeah, that's him. they asked him what he would like to see in a documentary on other philosophers . . .

i thinkhe's sick - has cancer but he's still kicking

and he said, "I would want to know about their sex lives."

one of my prof's was good friends with him. how was the docu?

oh yeah? the documentary was pretty good. it was more about his personal life than about his philosophy. Makes sense though, he made a big fuss that philosophers biographies should include their personal lives. That he was against classical philosophy which would say that aristotles life was, 'he was born, he thought, and he died.'


Tribal Culture

Besides having a good article profiling Dick Cheney, the Oct. 13th U.S. News & World Report which I happened to find in the newspaper bin as I was leaving work at the Hospital yesterday has a great article entitled Tribal Culture. It's subtitle is, "Single but not alone, these urbanites are redefining the 'adultescent' years." It talks about how 20-somethings are banding together in groups of close-nit friends, aided by internet services like (which I've been getting a lot of use out of recently) and

It's a good article if you can get your hands on it.


Duke Homecoming

Check out the new pics from Duke's homecoming this weekend.

No, Chuck's weblog hasn't turned to porn.

I'm just in favor of turning vegetarian!vegetarian! I must have gotten distracted with the picture and forgot to include a link to why it exists.

I also really liked this picture of a sadhu walking next to some troops. While in Rishikesh, India I would often see these sadhus or wandering holy men. Usually they would be offering to sell me some hash. I guess that's one way to enlightenment . . .


Zimbardo continued

A while back I wrote about how my TIP class from this summer is obsessed w/ Philip Zimbardo . . . the saga continues . . .

"speaking of our beloved zimbardo, i totally met someone who knows him personally! im working on sending him the picture of our class. let you guys know if i do.

----- Original Message -----
From: jane hu
Sent: Monday, August 25, 2003 4:22 PM
Subject: <333

so. i am innocently sitting in ap psych class, talking about famous psychologists. mr taylor (hes awesome-hes as close to tip as a class can possibly be) says, hey, time for a fun video.
while he's pulling it out he starts talking about zimbardo. score.
as he puts in the video, the infamous random beginning of my favorite pbs series makes me smile and i'm superexcited. i tell taylor about going mental, of course, and he thinks it's awesome and we are watching 7 or 8 zimbardo movies. i don't think my class at school enjoys them quite as much as we did, but i hope that will change. i pretty much, for lack of better word, shat.
my textbook quoted daniel dennett. and tomasello, the writer of our beloved human cognition book.
can someone tell me if the addiction video with the crackpipe and all that? somehow i think i remember that it's not, but i'm not sure.

love and miss you guys




Nov. 17, 18, 19th I get to fly to Miami with work and stay at this hotel while we train people how to do neurocognitive testing for this study sponsored by a drug company.

Jan 5th I get to fly to LA for another one, however that one is funded by NIH and will probably be in a slightly less fancy place.

If anyone wants to come visit me in either place, that would be great.

Mind over matter

I went to a lecture by this guy last year and was amazed at what he's doing . . . and the millions he's getting from the Defense Dept. for doing it. I tried to get a job as a research assistant in his lab last summer. His webpage is pretty cool. But he told me he didn't have any openings at the time.

Cool, cool stuff.

Arnold and Enron



Pilot Mountain

Hanging rock was all full on campsites, so Virginia and I ended up going to Pilot Mountain Sat. night which was great.

At Hanging Rock we came across a sad example of homophobia. We were asking this old guy who managed the camp site if there were any open spots. He said there was one at site 20 but that the couple at site 21 was 'fornicating' and that there was nothing he could do about it. We drove by . . . two guys.


Hanging Rock

Plans are to go camping at Hanging Rock this weekend. Hopefully it won't be too rainy.

Unfortunately I won't be able to make it to the Reunion with Rush of our '98 high school class in Columbus, OH. I know it would be a blast!


Sun Dance in the news again

It's a great story, that one about Sun Dance, law student Bradley Zimmer said.

No, not Sundance, the film festival. Sun Dance, the first undergraduate team to win the Duke Start-Up Challenge, an entrepreneurship competition whose presence has blossomed on national and international levels since its inception in 1999.

The idea behind Sun Dance, devised by markets and management students and a biology professor, was a new strain of corn that would, during times of drought or lack of fertilizer, double the cropfield that other strains of corn would normally produce under similar circumstances. It's the kind of corn that reassures farmers across America, the kind that could provide some degree of relief for third world countries around the globe. And it's the kind of idea that, when taken far enough, could win competitions like the Duke Start-Up Challenge.

The Challenge provides an education in entrepreneurship by utilizing resources in Research Triangle Park and bringing together various members of the Duke community to collaborate on business development. The Challenge offers more than $125,000 in start-up capital to the top concepts.

Zimmer helped to coordinate the third annual Challenge.

"[It is] certainly a very time consuming role," he admitted. But what proved to be personally rewarding for him was seeing companies become successes on the market. Sun Dance, for example, went on to work with the United Nations to fight starvation in Africa.


Speech by the President of Duke, Nan Keohane

So many good speeches on campus this week. This one is definitely worth a read. Well, if you're a Dukie anyway.

Keohane's Founder's day address.

"The passion for knowledge is as deep and hungry as any other human passion, and it shows itself in comparable ways. Athletes are driven by a passion to excel, to know the thrill of victory or the deep reward of the "personal best." They know that getting there means pushing your body beyond its limits, and that the rewards make all the long hours of practice, the punishing physical demands, the soreness and the tiredness worthwhile. Artists are driven by a passion to create, and may undergo enormous deprivations to succeed at this, living in the proverbial garrets, abandoning home and family, exploring bizarre regimens and undergoing rigorous training, to find the perfect way to express their passion through paint or music or poetry or sculpture. Scholarship, when you love it and give yourself to its demands, is like that. It offers moments of exhilarating discovery when you finally hit on the evidence to confirm an insight you knew had to be true, or you come across something that you could not possibly have known that all of a sudden transforms your world. To describe that experience, the only helpful analogies are to other powerful human passions. Scholarship in those moments is like the pure sharp love of parents for the newborn child, or the thrill of an explorer finding a new continent or planet. It was Keats who reminded us that intellectual discovery can be like contemplating the Pacific after a long and arduous journey, "Silent, upon a peak in Darien."

This passionate spirit is captured in the best rhetoric of the strongest leaders of higher education. It inspired William Preston Few to celebrate the "full, untrammeled pursuit of the truth" through "excellence that dwells high among the rocks and service that goes out to the lowliest." It led one of Wellesley's early presidents, Alice Freeman Palmer, to say, when someone asked, "Why go to college?": "We go to college to know, assured that knowledge is sweet and powerful, that it emancipates the mind and makes us citizens of the world."


Thomas Friedman

I went and saw Thomas Friedman, NY Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner speak last night. It was a really good speech. Despite my disagreement with his conclusion, he had a lot of good points and really put things into a much better and bigger context for me.

Here's the article on it.

Men's brains