Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lie to me...

Lie to Me was a television series (2009-2011) about Dr. Cal Lightman and his colleagues assisting in investigations, reaching the truth through applied psychology: interpreting microexpressions, through the Facial Action Coding System, and body language.

Facial action coding system is a system to taxonomize human facial movements. These movements are encoded by FACS from slight different instant changes in facial appearance. It's a common standard to categorize the physical expression of emotions. It seems that it is REALLY difficult to control these reactions, so if one understand FACS, it's hard to lie to one.
This skill is useful, not only for psychologists and animators, but for con-men and stage mediums and magicians, as it is the base of cold reading.

To learn FACS you need to study the muscles of face and head, and see how their movements show on face.

The Mentalist was a television series (2008-2015) following former "psychic" Patrick Jane, who is a consultant to the California Bureau of Investigation. He admits to faking the supernatural aspects of his skills, often asserting that "there's no such thing as psychics." yet he has finely honed skills in cold reading, hypnosis, and picking pockets, as well as powerful observational skill and a deep insight into the human psyche and behavior.
"Without prior knowledge, a practiced cold-reader can quickly obtain a great deal of information by analyzing the person's body language, age, clothing or fashion, hairstyle, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, level of education, manner of speech, place of origin, etc."
- Cold Reading, Wikipedia
Derren Brown is an English illusionist, mentalist, trickster, hypnotist, painter, writer, and sceptic. He is known for his appearances in television. Brown claims his performances of mind-reading and other feats of mentalism are not the result of psychic or paranormal practices, but a combination of "magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection, and showmanship."

Leverage is a television series (2008-2012) that follows a five-person team: a thief, a grifter, a hacker, and a retrieval specialist, led by former insurance investigator Nathan Ford, who use their skills to fight corporate and governmental injustices inflicted on ordinary citizens. The team's grifter is Sophie Devereaux, with a taste for art theft and a desire to become a legitimate actress. Multi-lingual and particularly adept at the use of accents, Sophie is seen to portray many characters in various cons, usually making direct contact with marks to draw them into the con. Her skills include grifting, pickpocketing, counterfeiting and neuro-linguistic programming.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy. It is based on the idea that there is a connection between the neurological processes ("neuro"), language ("linguistic") and behavioral patterns learned through experience ("programming") and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life.
It doesn't "work".
Nevertheless, it is based on the methods of persuasion, that all advertising, cons, manipulation etc. are based on, and that works.

Scientists who study anomalistic psychology consider mediumship to be the result of fraud and psychological factors. Research from psychology for over a hundred years has revealed that where there is not fraud, mediumship and Spiritualist practices can be explained by hypnotism, magical thinking and suggestion.
"The hypnotic atmosphere of the darkened séance room and the suggestive effect of the experimenters’ social and scientific prestige could be used to explain why seemingly rational people vouchsafed occult phenomena."
Basically, if you are told that a table moved, you "remember" it moving. Even sceptics are influenced by this, as they are human beings, and all human beings react the same way.
We WILL see "evidence" of that our "beliefs" are "true", what ever our beliefs are. We WILL interpret ANYTHING to support our ideas and theories, and dismiss anything that cannot be interpreted as supporting. This is why people believing in paranormal and supernatural things will have more such experiences, and why sceptics will not.
Also, human beings are born with "magical thinking". We are aware of that sometimes things happen that don't seem to have any logical, rational, physical cause, and we like to attribute these phenomenon to "magic" or "gods" or something else like that. Supernatural and paranormal... We like that kind of things.
The medium may obtain information about their sitters by secretly eavesdropping on sitter's conversations or searching telephone directories, the internet and newspapers before the sittings. Mediums are known for employing a technique called cold reading. When put in a blind test and they can't see, hear or touch the person they are mediating for, and they don't know who this person is, they suddenly lack all the medial abilities.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Grow an abundant herb garden

1) Plan your garden.
Which herbs do you wish to include to your herb garden? 

2) Find out the specific demands of the herbs you chose. 
Some like rich soil, some don't. That information is readily available on-line, all you need to do is to find it.

3) You need to get some land. 
The "land" doesn't need to be on the ground, it can be in pots and containers. One can have a "herb garden" on the windowsill.
See that you prepare the soil for each plant, as you found out in the previous step.

4) You need to get the plants. 
You can grow them from seeds, or buy them as plants. Both ways are good. You can even plant the herbs you buy from a food store.
There are several seed companies on-line, where you can buy your seeds. You can also support a local garden store, and buy the seeds and/or plants from there. (Yes, you can buy some seeds, and some ready-rooted plants. And you don't even need to get everything you want from the same place. You might have friends with a garden who can give you some seeds or plants.)

5) Plant the herbs
Herbs are a good way to start gardening, because most of them are very tolerant.
If you have a pot garden and start with seeds, you can plant the seeds straight into the pot, but it might be better to start the seeds in specific seed pots. You can make them out of egg shells or TP rolls or newspaper, if you don't have any starting pots. Just remember that newspaper dries very, very quickly, so you need to check your pots at least twice a day, as they shouldn't get dry.
You also need to label your plants, so that you know what is in the seed pots. One can make plant labels from ice cream sticks... or from bamboo skewers with a flag. Now, most plant labels become slightly unreadable with time, so it might be a good idea to dye or paint the wood. If you start with some 4-5 plants, you can easily dye the skewers to five clearly different colors, like red, yellow, green, blue and purple. 

6) Take care of your plants.
Water them, fertilize them, take care of them, as they want to be taken care. Which you learned by step 2. 

Et voilà! You have a herb garden.

This is The Herbgarden.

Now, how abundant it is depends on how much you planted, and what you need. Your "abundant" might not be the same as my "abundant".

Also, it's a good idea to start slowly. Have 1-5 pots to begin with. Not a pot or two for every herb there is in the world. That's a bit of "överkurs" as they say in Sweden. ("supplementary studies", but that doesn't carry the understanding. Doing more than can be expected. Way more...)

Another thing, if this is the absolute very first time you do anything that resembles growing plants, you need to start with learning the basics of gardening. Even though one do that (like most other things) by doing, you need to know what a pot is, what a seed is, what a rooted plant is and how to plant seeds. Herbs are a good way of starting gardening, as I already said, because most of them are very tolerant, hardy, and can take some abuse, like the common mistakes an absolute beginner makes.

Also, plants are a bit like pets, except that you can't really take them with you when you travel. So if you plan on traveling during the summer (or while you have living plants), you need to get a "plant sitter", who can come and water your plants. If you have some specific plants that cannot just be watered together with the rest, you need to have special information.


Here's a printable garden notebook
free printable seed starting log and pest and disease log
 - I have never had any problems with pest and disease, perhaps because I don't think garden should be free of insects, even aphids, and my plants don't need to be perfect... but maybe you'll have. Who knows. Read the Findhorn Gardens, and apply their methods to your garden. It really helps to speak with God and nature spirits. [Whether they exist or not... ;-)]
Free gardening planner printables

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Understand spices, their flavours, compliments and quantities

1) Write a list of 10 spices you'd like to understand better.

2) Buy a sample of each spice.

3) Learn to recognize the spices by their scent.
Sprinkle a little of the spice on your clean hand. Rub the spice with a finger or thumb to release the aroma. Smell it carefully as not to draw any spice into your nose, just the smell. Try to describe the smell by comparing it to other smells you have experienced in your life. Write down your thoughts and experiences.

4) Taste each spice and learn to recognize the taste.
Put a little of the spice on your tongue and let the taste fill your whole mouth (as different parts of your tongue/mouth react to different parts of the flavor, and your nose is involved in the experience of taste as well). Again, try to describe the taste by comparing it with other things you have tasted. Again, write down your notions.

5) Cook with the spices. 
Make at least 4 dishes with each spice and notice how the spice acts in the food.
Vary the amount of spices in a favorite dish and notice how the character of a dish changes.
Try different combinations of spices, and notice how the dish tastes and smells.
Make an unspiced version of the food and add spices, one at a time, let the food cook with the spice some 10 minutes and taste it again. Compare the taste with the spice to the taste without the spice.
Write down your experience.

Also, try with different parts and different preparing methods.
For example, dried garlic tastes different from fresh garlic. Garlic leaves taste different. Roasted garlic tastes different from boiled. Coriander seeds taste different from coriander leaves (cilantro).
How does a spice/herb work in a marinade?
Try roasting the spices before grinding them. Some spices should not be roasted, like paprika. Why? What's the difference in flavor? 
Some spices, like curry powder, are better if roasted or fried first, before other ingredients are added. (And "curry powder" is really not a spice but a spice mix, and you should be able to make your own spice mixes. Find out the ingredients of your curry powder and what these different compounds add to the finished product, and what would happen if you replace some of them with something else, or if you change the quantities...)
Taste the difference of "top spicing" and "bottom spicing". ("top spicing" being adding spices in cooked food, "bottom spicing" being starting with frying/roasting the spices and building the food on top of it.)
Some spices change character as they get heated up. Taste the food straight after adding the spice, 10 minutes later, half an hour later...
How does a spice/herb work as sprinkled on top of the finished dish? (It's usually fresh herbs; salt and freshly ground black pepper, paprika or cinnamon that's sprinkled on top of dishes, but why these and what else could you do?)

Also, learn to know the difference the amount makes. 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper might make the food inedible, 1/4 tsp quite enjoyable... With some spices and herbs a little takes you a long way, others one needs to be generous with.

Also, the age of the spice. Some spices take storing well, and can be used to give flavor to food a long time after their expiration date. Some spices are barely useful to their expiration date. Generally it's good to store spices in as complete form as possible and grind them into powder only when you use them. Experiment with this. Some spices get a nasty bi-flavor
Freshly ground black pepper has some extra tones the ready ground pepper doesn't have. They disappear rather quickly, I think, so in everyday cooking it doesn't make much difference. Again, that is my personal opinion, and I am not a spice expert. Perhaps I will change my mind after having experimented with spices and learned "to understand the spices, their flavors, compliments and quantities".

This is a flavor wheel, created to help with wine tasting, but works somewhat with spices as well. Go through the different things described on the wheel, by smelling and tasting them.
Yes, I really want you to take wood chips and cut grass in your mouth and taste them, and chew them to get more flavor out of them. Do the same with tobacco, leather and earth and stones (don't chew those, though), but don't taste petrol. :-D

Now, to say cinnamon tastes cinnamon, pepper pepper, vanilla vanilla and mint mint is useless. Try to describe the flavors differently. You might want to describe mint with words like toothpaste, but most toothpastes are flavored with mint (or peppermint), so you are basically still saying mint tastes like mint.

The thing with this is as with every other form of tasting, wine, cheese, tea... the more you taste and describe what you are tasting and smelling, the easier it gets to describe and understand what you are tasting. So don't give up just because it feels difficult to describe anything. It gets easier as you go on. :-)

Another thing you could do, is to learn by heart the spice and herbs guides or primers, you know those lists of how to use which spice, or which spices to use in what food. Those lists are very cautious, giving only the most basic, common uses of the spices, but it's a good ground to start with.

After you are familiar with your chosen ten, choose another ten and get familiar with them.

If you want, you can learn the botanical names of these spices and herbs; the different medicinal uses of the spices; which parts of the plant are being used, and other such information that really doesn't have much to do with understanding spices in cooking. :-)

Here's more information about the subject:
How to use spices in cookery

Sell my original artwork to a stranger

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Pet a big cat

A lot of people want to pet wild animals, have an unusual pet, feed wild animals, hold wild animals, and all kind of things like that.


Read this: Pet a Tiger Cub?

Do not want to own an ocelot, fox or owl.
Want to adopt a shelter cat or dog, and train it.

I mean... I get so envious watching these people petting tigers and lions, but I'd rather have plenty of tigers and lions living a normal big cat life in the wilderness than knowing that people wanting "unusual pets" causes thousands of animals being abused, by breeders who just want money, by people catching wild animals just to get something valuable to sell, by owners who don't know enough about the animal and its lifestyle to give it proper and adequate care, by vets who do horrible things because they get paid...

You can, of course, get animal tender / zoo keeper / veterinarian education, and get a work at a zoo or a wildlife sanctuary, and that way be able to say you have petted a wild animal.