Thursday, July 26, 2007


The fledglings are beginning to overflow their little nest. At least two of them now open their eyes and are staring when I climb onto the bench to take a peek. Again, male and female adults v. annoyed with me. They fluttered and swooped and sat in a nearby tree and cheeped at me most disapprovingly. (hey, birds? Not a predator!) It’s amazing how fast the little ones are growing.

I did pretty well on the midterm – missed an A by one point! Argh! Oh, the teeth-gnashing! Ah, well. Mostly down to not having figured out what particular variety of professorial “gotcha” game we were playing: several questions had a somewhat outlandish but sort of true option as the correct answer. It’s given the class something to commiserate over, certainly. (Also a number of us did the math on number 17 correctly, thank you, unlike the teaching assistant who did the calculations for the answer key. Ahem.) (ya doesn’t wanna mess with a weasel over math) Pretty darn good, on the whole. There are some things (THREE OF THEM) I don’t know as well as I ought to, and that will be remedied as we hurtle toward the final.

Which approaches! Holy moly! The course only has six more lectures to go! Oh, no! What will I do without neurobiology?!?! Sob! The second half of the course is on systems and functionality, and is chock full o’ stuff, but not conceptually difficult in the way understanding membrane potential was. Is. Suzanne, I don’t think we’re really going to cover consciousness but it did get a mention for about ten minutes yesterday. I am biting my tongue and not posting on the class discussion board all about Hegel and Tolstoy and their philosophical structure for how consciousness comes about.

But I can post it here, can’t I? Mwahhaha!

Hegel and Tolstoy use the same basic framework. Yes, that Tolstoy. His version is easier to follow, because he decides to talk about two separate people, whereas Hegel keeps going on about the consciousness of the self-consciousness and about four layers deep, you kinda lose him. Imagine that I am waving my hands as I try to run through this, pantomiming a zig-zag. It will amuse you.
The Crazed Weasel Explains the Nature of Consciousness (or as much of it as she can remember) According to Tolstoy and Hegel
Step 1: Servant does thing. (Hegel’s first moment of dialectic) (each step is a Hegelian “moment”)
Step 2: Master tells servant to do thing (H’s 2nd)
Step 3: Servant notices that there is a separate person saying “do thing!” Hm!
Step 4: Master notices that servant is looking at him – hey, what’s he lookin’ at? Oh, yeah! It’s!!
Step 5: Servant realizes that master is seeing that servant is looking at master, that servant’s existence is acknowledged by the master, and ... hey, servant realizes he exists!
Now, isn’t that fun? Now you, too, can speak of the movement through the moments of the Hegelian dialectic. Be sure not to leave out the hand-waving. (Tolstoy rather sneakily makes the point that the servant is the one who achieves the highest level of awareness, and also that the master gets nowhere without the servant.) It can go on from here, but the fun has to stop somewhere.

Oh, I know you’re all thinking, “but, Liz, how is that relevant to neuroscience?” Well, I’ll tell you! (everything is relevant to neuroscience!) There are two basic sensory-motor systems: cortical and um... wait...oh, here it is! Cortical and reticular formation. “It is hypothesized that the mutual reflection between these two systems may give rise to consciousness,” my notes say. Now, wouldn’t you, too, be all “oh gee! That sounds so familiar”?? Of course you would.

Sometimes it gets a little crowded in my head.

Little teeny boo-boo, um, thing: I still have a hosed hard drive, because....I ordered the wrong size replacement hard drive. When I went to install it, I discovered the tragic wrongness. I was stunned, but am heartened by access to Harvard Tech Support, and will haul my trusty (hosed) laptop in and order a correct new drive with a university discount and everything and then will rapidly be depolarized—oops, no, that’s a neuron in the beginning of an action potential. I will be rapidly good to go. That’s what I meant. Fledged and ready to fly, even.

Which isn’t at all a bad thing.


Blogger berlinBat said...

Hi! I just found your blog trough Double Helix and I got so excited - there is someone else as well among knitters who is as interested in neuroscience as I am. (I got hooked in my first NS course, now I'm a graduate student in the subject..) so good luck with that :)

4:26 AM  
Anonymous Anna-Karin said...

Have those birds nested in a flowerpot?!

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Carla said...

I was nearly attacked by a bird a few days ago, when I went outside near my shady garden to take pics for my blog. Apparently the nest that the mourning doves abandoned has been adopted by a family of robins. That bird screeched and swooped at me, the whole time me yelling, "Hey.. Shush! This will just take a minute if you!"

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Lynne said...

now I'm really scared... there are at least two of you. LOL!

I know you may not be happy your class is over soon, but I am... we miss you on Wednesday night.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Lorena said...

So behind on blog reading!

I'm sorry you didn't get any yarn in England. And you were right near those sheep, too! You could have stuffed one in your luggage, at least. I mean. For me, right? Well. Maybe we can make off with one at Rhinebeck.

I'm loving watching those little birds grow. And loving hearing you talk about neuroscience, even though I know nothing about it (and find it a little intimidating).

I thought there was something else brilliant, or at least insightful, that I was going to say, but it's plumb gone out of my head. Gah.

Hope you have a lovely, wonderful weekend!

11:19 PM  

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