Last Week’s Links

The mind-bendy weirdness of the number zero, explained

Why zero is not at all a simple concept.

The computer you’re reading this article on right now runs on a binary — strings of zeros and ones. Without zero, modern electronics wouldn’t exist. Without zero, there’s no calculus, which means no modern engineering or automation. Without zero, much of our modern world literally falls apart.

Humanity’s discovery of zero was “a total game changer … equivalent to us learning language,” says Andreas Nieder, a cognitive scientist at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

How to Ask Great Questions

Much of an executive’s workday is spent asking others for information—requesting status updates from a team leader, for example, or questioning a counterpart in a tense negotiation. Yet unlike professionals such as litigators, journalists, and doctors, who are taught how to ask questions as an essential part of their training, few executives think of questioning as a skill that can be honed—or consider how their own answers to questions could make conversations more productive.

The fallacy of obviousness

A new interpretation of a classic psychology experiment will change your view of perception, judgment – even human nature

The deep roots of writing

Was writing invented for accounting and administration or did it evolve from religious movements, sorcery and dreams?


when it comes to a teacher’s referral of a student to educational programs, it’s not just learning abilities that play a role in the decision process. Recent research has found that


How to Conquer Writer’s Block

These days, writer’s block is often blamed on depression. Sometimes procrastination and perfectionism are considered the culprits. Whatever the cause, writer’s block has been around for a long time. Samuel Coleridge suffered from it, as did Joseph Conrad, Gustave Flaubert, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy, and Virginia Woolf. The big question is, regardless of where it came from, what can a writer do about it when it strikes?

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown


Last Week’s Links

Lots of good internet stuff last week.

“Find your passion” is bad advice, say Yale and Stanford psychologists

Instead of looking for a magic bullet, that one thing you must be meant to do even though you don’t know what it is yet, it can be more productive to perceive interests flexibly, as potentially endless. A growth mindset, rather than a fixed sense that there’s one interest you should pursue single-mindedly, improves the chances of finding your passion—and having the will to master it.

I Found My Birth Mother. It Didn’t Rock My Life — And That’s OK

NPR’s Ashley Westerman was born in the Philippines but raised by white Americans in rural Kentucky, with no one around who looked like her. This year, she tracked down the woman who gave her up for adoption three decades ago and writes about the hopes, trepidation and even disappointment of the journey and eventual meeting.

When It’s Good to Be Antisocial

Sociality is no pinnacle of evolution. It’s just another result of the process. Reclusive bees and other species are doing just fine—and sometimes, even better. Clearly social behavior has advantages, seeding the survival of species and communities. But being a good neighbor is not the only benefit to the hive. Sometimes everybody wins when you go it alone.

mHealth Brain Games Help Post-ICU Patients Recover Cognitive Skills

Vanderbilt University researchers said computer cognitive rehabilitation training using the BrainHQ online and mobile program helped patients discharged from an ICU improve cognitive function at home. The study, published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, involved 33 older patients who had been discharged from an ICU with post-intensive care syndrome.

Study: Sitting linked to increased death risk from 14 diseases

If you sit for six hours a day or more, your risk of dying early jumps 19 percent, compared with people who sit fewer than three hours, an American Cancer Society study suggests.


© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The Women Who Write: Michelle Dean’s Sharp

A review of Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean (Grove Atlantic).

This critical history is a rogues’ gallery of literary femaleness – even though most of the women in it rightly bristled at being defined as “woman writers.” Dean’s exemplars are, in chapter if not birth order, Dorothy Parker; Rebecca West; Hannah Arendt; Mary McCarthy; Susan Sontag; Pauline Kael; Joan Didion; Nora Ephron; Renata Adler; and Janet Malcolm. Most have at least a few things in common. While some doubled as novelists, all are distinguished for their non-fiction, with fully half reaching eminence via The New Yorker.

The Civility Debate Has Reached Peak Stupidity

The depth to which the level of political and social discourse has sunk in the U.S. has prompted both sides to call for a return to civility. Here’s one writer’s opinion on the topic.

Five Features of Better Arguments

Here are some suggestions on how to deal with the problem of civility in public discourse.

A former Clinton administration official studied how to facilitate more constructive arguments among Americans. These are his conclusions.

The Neuroscience of Pain

For scientists, pain has long presented an intractable problem: it is a physiological process, just like breathing or digestion, and yet it is inherently, stubbornly subjective—only you feel your pain. It is also a notoriously hard experience to convey accurately to others.

A report on scientists’ efforts to find “ways to capture the experience [of pain] in quantifiable, objective data.”

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here are the articles from around the internet that piqued my interest last week.

The Lifespan of a Lie

Some new information and new interpretations of one of psychology’s most infamous studies, the 1971 Stanford prison experiment.

When the self slips

A look at the frightening disorder “depersonalisation disorder (DPD) – a condition that typically manifests as a profound and distressing feeling of estrangement from one’s own self and body, including one’s experiences, memories and thoughts.”


There’s something wrong, on a visceral level, about the very idea of children murderers. It flips all the tropes and common beliefs about the world on their heads. Children are supposed to be innocent and pure, even though everyone who remembers their childhood and teenage years knows they can be anything but.

The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm

How the Brothers Grimm went hunting for fairytales and accidentally changed the course of historical linguistics and kickstarted a new field of scholarship in folklore.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – August 7, 2017

Thanks to Cee for another week’s challenge Share Your World – August 7, 2017.

What was the last URL that you bookmarked or saved?

Indescribable you: Can novelists or psychologists better capture the strange multitude of realities in every human self?

One of my major interests is the areas in which psychology and literature intersect, particularly what literature can teach us about human nature. This article was right up my alley. I consider myself a careful reader, but reading this article will make me even more careful in noticing how authors describe and exemplify fictional characters.

Do you believe in the afterlife? Reincarnation?

Yes, I do. I’ve had the experience of recognizing someone I was meeting for the first time. I like the idea that we belong to a primary cluster of souls that all tend to hang out together throughout time and space.

If you were or are a writer do you prefer writing short stories, poems or novels?

I am a writer, but not of these genres. I write strictly nonfiction, with special focus on book reviews of both novels and memoirs and on life story writing.

What inspired you this past week? Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

65th anniversary cake

Our friends Dolores and Joe celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary yesterday. Isn’t that remarkable? My husband and I have been married only 46 years, so Dolores and Joe are our role models. Oh, and they’re both really good people, too.

I hope everyone will have a good week. Here in the Pacific Northwest of the USA we are waiting for the smoke from the wild fires in British Columbia, Canada, to clear and wishing the best for everyone living and working near the fires.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – July 31, 2017

Thanks to Cee for prompting us for another edition of Share Your World – July 31, 2017.

If you had to have your vision corrected would you rather: glasses or contacts? Or what do you use if you need to have your vision corrected?

I had cataract surgery on both my eyes a couple of years ago. This surgery replaces the eye’s clouded lens with a new one that gives you 20/20 distance vision. I still need correction for reading and close work, but not as much of a correction as I needed before. Also, before the surgery my right and left eyes were quite different, so I had to have prescription glasses made. But now, because my eyes are the same, I can use much cheaper reading glasses from the drug store. Since my distance vision is now corrected, I don’t have to wear glasses to drive. I also find that I can function in the world very well without glasses as long as I carry a pair to put on when I need to read a menu in a restaurant or a label at the grocery store.

I’m very happy with my new eyes.

Are you more of a dog person or a cat person?

I’ve never had a dog. We always had cats when I was growing up, and we also had cats when our daughter was growing up. Part of the reason I always preferred cats over dogs was that cats are easier. You can leave a cat (or multiple cats) alone and go away for a weekend, something you can’t do with a dog.

Now that we’ve retired we are petless. We decided that we were going to travel in our early retirement, before we got too old to be able to get around pretty well. Since we now live in a retirement community, where we can just notify management, lock the door, and take off, we’re not eager to get any pets. That may change at some time, but for now I’m glad to not have to worry about caring for an animal.

If you were to buy a new house/apartment what is the top three items on your wish list?

Before we retired four years ago, we considered briefly buying a house in our new city rather than moving into a retirement community. But my husband nixed that idea: “I don’t want to have to mow the lawn and clean the gutters,” he said. So we moved into an independent-living unit and have never regretted it for one second. Every Tuesday I watch other people cut the grass. Four times a year I watch someone else clean the outside of my windows. If we have a problem with anything in the house, we just call maintenance and they come and fix it. The unit is all on one floor, so we don’t have to worry about being able to climb stairs later on.

The only drawback to our new home is that, in order to have a place to put up computers and bookshelves, we had to give up the dining room end of our large living/dining area. Since we haven’t hosted a dinner party in more than 40 years, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice.

What inspired you this past week? Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

I had a productive writing period this last week, and that has inspired me to keep working. I got six or seven weeks behind in the weekly writing challenge I’m participating in this year when we had a month-long vacation followed by a cross-country trip for a family wedding. At first I thought of just letting go of those weeks that I missed, but then I decided to write the posts I had missed. It’s taken me quite a while to catch up, but I finally have only one piece left to write this week. Of course, I also have to write this week’s post in order to avoid getting behind again, but it all seems manageable now.

My best wishes for a good week to everyone!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – July 24, 2017

Thanks to Cee, it’s time for this week’s Share Your World – July 24, 2017.

List some of your favorites types of teas.

  • Earl Grey
  • Earl Grey Lavender
  • Chocolate Mint (available at Trader Joe’s only at Christmas time)
  • White tea with pomegranate
  • Black tea with blueberry

If you had to describe your day as a traffic sign, what would it be?

I’ve been trying to slow down and appreciate the everyday events of my life more lately, so this would be it.

What are a couple of things could people do for you on a really bad day that would really help you?

I like hugs a lot. I also like cups of good coffee and tea.

Fortunately, I’m married to a really good guy who indulges my needs to sit and write or to sit and read.

Irregardless of your physical fitness, coordination or agility: If you could be an athlete what would do do? Remember this is SYW, dreaming is always allowed.

As a kid, I used to play baseball with the boys. There was no such thing as softball. If I could indulge my inner athlete now, as an adult, I’d probably like to be a good softball player, preferably in the outfield, and a fearsome hitter.

As a kid, I was always the fastest runner over short distances among both boys and girls. So I’d probably be a sprinter, which would also make me a better softball player by allowing me to cover the outfield quickly and to beat reach base safely after getting a hit.

I hope everyone has a good week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – July 17, 2017

Thanks to Cee for providing yet another week’s Share Your World – July 17, 2017.

What is your favorite cheese?

I like a lot of cheeses:

  • cottage
  • colby
  • monterey jack
  • brie, especially mushroom brie
  • camembert
  • mozzarella
  • parmesan
  • romano
  • asiago
  • swiss
  • provolone
  • cheddar

wine & cheese

There are a few kinds I don’t like:

  • blue
  • Stilton
  • Limburger
  • anything else with very strong taste and/or odor

A good cheese often complements a good wine, which I also like.

Are you left or right handed?

I’m right-handed. In fact, about the only thing my left hand does unassisted is type.

I used to have a friend who was ambidextrous. When we took tennis lessons, she didn’t mess around with forehand and backhand strokes. She just changed hands as necessary.

Do you prefer exercising your mind or your body? How frequently do you do either?

I much prefer exercising my mind, which I often do by reading and writing.

And thanks for reminding me (the universe is conspiring to remind me frequently) that I should also exercise my body. Really, there’s no excuse, especially since I can listen to an audiobook while walking if I want to.

I’ll start walking tomorrow…

Complete this sentence: Hot days are …

A thing of the past for me. We lived in St. Louis for 40+ years, and, let me tell you, summers there are hot and humid (which makes them feel even hotter). Since we’ve retired to the Pacific Northwest, most summer days register in the very pleasant mid–70s F. with low humidity.

And this is yet another reason why I really should get outside and exercise my body more often.


Enjoy your week, everybody!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – July 10, 2017

Thanks to Cee for this week’s Share Your World – July 10, 2017.

How do you like to spend a rainy day?

No question. This:

girl reading

List at least five favorite treats. (They do not have to be sugary).

  • ice cream
  • perfectly ripe pineapple
  • burnt cream
  • flourless almond cake
  • Rainier cherries
  • Butterfinger

Where’s your favorite place to take out-of-town guests?

  • Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
  • Ruston Way (along the waterfront)
  • Northwest Trek
  • Stanley & Seafort’s (restaurant with a panoramic view of the city)
  • Museum of Glass
  • Mount Rainier

You are trapped in an elevator, who would you want to be trapped with?

I’d hope to be trapped with a good storyteller. I’m just slightly claustrophobic. Normally this condition doesn’t cause me any problems, but I imagine that if we were in that stuck elevator for an extended period of time, I’d begin to feel cramped. I’d like a good storyteller to keep telling me stories so compelling that I wouldn’t even think about the situation.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – July 3, 2017

It’s time for another installment of Share Your World – July 3, 2017.


For your main meal do you prefer sweet and sour, hot and spicy, spicy and sweet, bitter, salty, bland or other?

I’ve always liked lots of salt, although that’s it for me in terms of spice. I don’t even use table pepper except for a very light sprinkle over fresh tomato slices. There are certain foods I never order in restaurants because I know they’ll be too spicy for me, particularly chili and just about anything Mexican.

I can’t take spicy hot foods at all. My mouth feels like it’s swelling up, even though my companions assure me it’s not, whenever I try something spicy. But I’m OK with being bland.

Where do you hide junk when people come over?

I just don’t have people come over. That way I don’t have to worry about finding quick hiding places for all my (beloved) stuff.

What daily habit would you like to introduce to your life?

I’d like a lot more time for serious book reading. It seems I spend so much time reading news, etc., on the computer that the day is just about over before I get to sit down with a good book.

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?

I’d like to be the announcer, if I could broadcast from a booth high above the action (like a baseball sportscaster) so that no one could see me—for the same reason why I like to be the one taking the photograph instead of having to be IN the photo.

I hope everyone has a good week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown