What we're reading—"Gather," a food-centric journal of culture


Gather Journal, Spring/Summer 2013 issue.

About their wonderful publication launched just about a year ago, Michele Outland and Fiorella Valdesolo say: "We started Gather because of a shared love of food and cooking, and a desire to create a magazine with staying power on your bookshelf; one that you could return to again and again for inspiration. If we can, with our recipes, words, and images, inspire a great meal and maybe a smile, then we are satisfied."


Janet Leigh's legendary shower scene in "Psycho," inspiration for the pie above.

I'm satisfied. After seeing a mention in the Instagram feed of a favorite LA chef, I picked up the latest issue: a film-inspired “Rough Cut” edition.

The cover photo is a pie recipe tableau inspired by the shower scene in Hitchcock's "Psycho."

Read the rest

An epidemiology alphabet

The only alphabet guaranteed to make you want to wash your hands. Made by one, Jennifer Gardy.

In related news, this video taught me that the parasite giardia is sometimes called "beaver fever". Why? Because one of its major reservoirs — species that can comfortably host a parasite and pass it on to others — is, yes, the beaver.

Now here's the part you probably don't want to hear. Giardia is transmitted via what's known as the "fecal-oral route".

Now, nobody intentionally goes out and eats beaver shit. (One hopes. But this is the internet.) But beavers do shit in the woods. Near woodland streams. Which means that unwary hikers and backpackers can end up ingesting giardia when they drink from what appears to be crystal-clear waters.

Via the Worms and Germs blog

Nine books I think you should read (plus a couple more that I need to read, myself)

The New York Times Magazine's 6th Floor Blog interviewed me about the books I'm reading now (including a climate scientist's account of dealing with evidence and uncertainty in the treatment of cancer), the science books I love (where you'll learn why it's impossible to remove the risk from risky technologies), and the books I generally recommend to everybody (try my favorite boozy novel of jazz-age New York). Overall, it's definitely a list I think the Happy Mutants will dig.

Words on the Water

Avast, mateys! If you’re a literature lover and a seafaring type, you might be surprised to find that you can satisfy both your passions at a public library. With libraries and librarians across the country finding ways to be more embedded in their communities (hello, Radical Reference, Street Books, and Little Free Libraries!), Kitsap Regional Library is taking to the water.

Our county relies on Washington State Ferries for easy access to most of the area’s population centers, especially Seattle. (Yes, you may now be jealous that our daily commute often involves a leisurely sail across Puget Sound.) Because a large number of our residents are gathered on these boats each morning and evening – often passing the time with a good book - we realized this would be the perfect place to build some community around reading.

Read the rest

Little Free Library can help put a library on your corner

I happened upon this mini-library in my neighborhood and am so impressed with the movement that Little Free Library has started that I am getting one together for our street. The concept is simple: put a charming box full of books in a public place, encourage people to share them and to contribute their own.

From their FAQ:

If this were just about providing free books on a shelf, the whole idea might disappear after a few months. There is something about the Little Library itself that people seem to know carries a lot more meaning. Maybe they know that this isn't just a matter of advertising or distributing products. The unique, personal touch seems to matter, as does the understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books. Leaving notes or bookmarks, having one-of-a-kind artwork on the Library or constantly re-stocking it with different and interesting books can make all the difference.

Little Free Library sells pre-made mini-libraries or will show you how to build your own.

Check out a couple of my favorites from around the country:

Here's a Google Map with many of the libraries on it. Support Little Free Library if you can!

What the voices in your head sound like

When we read something silently we are, essentially, saying it to ourselves in our internal monologue. Psychology researchers at Britain's University of Nottingham wanted to know whether the voice that reads in our heads matches the voice that we read aloud in. In other words, does your internal monologue have an accent?

It's an interesting question. Although you might think it's a given, previous studies have suggested that the voice you speak with and the voice you think with might not be pronouncing words quite the same. This newer study, published in PLOS last fall, found the opposite—that there is at least some level of match between audible and silent pronunciation.

What I really like, though, is how they constructed the study. After all, you can't just ask people how they pronounce words in their heads. Like the question of whether you say "soda" or "pop" or "coke", once you start thinking about it hard enough to answer, you suddenly lose all ability to know what you do when you aren't paying attention. (Note: That soda/pop thing hasn't actually been scientifically demonstrated. It's just a bit of personal anecdata that I thought was relevant here.) In order to get around that problem, the Nottingham researchers had subjects read limericks while carefully monitoring their eye movements. The subjects were chosen based on their accents—one group pronounced their "a" sounds so that "path" would rhyme with "Kath". To the other group, that rhyme wouldn't rhyme at all. Instead, for them, "path" rhymed with "Garth".

The subjects read the limericks silently to themselves. But when they got to rhymes that didn't make sense with their spoken accent, there was a distinct disruption in eye movement. Basically, the physiological equivalent of the subjects having to stop and think, "Wait. That doesn't rhyme."

The other really cool thing I found in this paper: The fact that what we know about he author of the piece can influence how we read it.

... some previous studies have presented evidence to suggest that ‘person-particular’ knowledge of the author of a piece of text can influence reading of that piece of text. For example, it has been demonstrated that knowledge of the presumed author's speaking speed can influence how quickly people read aloud a passage of text [32]. This finding has also been replicated, and extended to silent reading [33]. Findings from other studies examining auditory imagery during reading have suggested that readers simulate aspects of the voices of the characters featured in the text (see [34], and also [35], for related findings). The current research supports, and extends these findings, by demonstrating that in the absence of information about the writer's voice, or that of characters involved in the text, inner speech during silent reading resembles the reader's own voice.

Henceforth, I shall refer to this as "The Just-Read-Trainspotting Effect", in honor of the three weeks during college when I couldn't get my inner monologue to stop drifting into an approximation of a heavy Scottish accent.

Via Stan Carey

Image: Eight-Minute Mouth Move, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from bruce-asher's photostream

Announcing Library Boing Boing at the American Library Association

Folks from the American Library Association are launching a member interest group called Library Boing Boing, and we're delighted to give our blessing. From Jenny Levine's announcement, at the ALA's Marginalia site:

On the one hand, Library Boing Boing is a collaboration between ALA and the fabulously amazing Boing Boing folks to highlight all of the great new things libraries are doing. The most visible result will be regular posts about those great new things on the Boing Boing site itself.

On the other hand, Library Boing Boing: The Group has its own goals to help happy mutants in local communities connect with their happy mutant librarians to do good, work together on our shared interests, and make the world more better.

Once they're up and running, we'll be publishing regular updates on the group's activities and plans, as well as any events and programs that you can attend or support. For ALA members. the first step would be to sign the ALA member petition to formally establish the Library Boing Boing Member Interest Group; everyone else, watch this space.

ALA Happy Mutants rejoice – Library Boing Boing is coming! [ALA Marginalia]

Wanted: your books in Brooklyn, today, to rebuild a new "People's Library"

Image: Cory Doctorow. The OWS library on Nov. 14, one day before NYPD destroyed it.

Brooklynites, do you have books to contribute to a new "People's Library"? Maria Popova [you should follow her on Twitter] writes,

Hey Xeni, thanks to your BoingBoing piece on the #OWS library, my friend Liz Danzico (@bobulate) and I are doing an impromptu #OWS Bookmobile tour to help rebuild the library. We're starting with our own book from our piles of press copies and making several stops across Brooklyn starting at 1pm today to pick up other donations, then dropping all the books off at the #OWS library.

Here's more from Maria, and here is the map, with pickup times, today.

Take a stand against bibliocide, Brooklyn!