MLK Day 2011

The University’s administrative offices are closed today, so I went
on a long walk through the woods near my house. Gulf Run Nature
Preserve is one of Arlington’s gems, extending from just south of our
house to the Potomac River following the course of an old stream
along the “gone wild” ruins of an old estate that, in the 1920’s
belonged to a movie starlet. Mid-afternoon on a January day, with a
gray sky and the promise of some sort of wintery-mix this evening,
one might expect to find it empty. But no. As part of the National
Day of Service, in honor of Dr. King, the woods was filled with
volunteers, removing invasive plants to protect the local ecosystem.
It was inspiring.
Myself, I was on the look-out for some small splash of color against
the winter browns and grays. It came, finally, in the form of a thorn-
bush, evergreen, it’s pale greet skin and thorn, accented by an
electric tinge of scarlet at the business end of the thorn itself. It
made for a beautiful digital photo.
Washington’s deciduous winter will no doubt sequence into the lush
explosion of color that starts here in March and culminates in May.
But for now, the life of the mind is relatively undisturbed by nature.

Meanwhile, I thinking about Irene Pepperberg’s recent short post at John
Brockman’s Edge site on fixed action patterns and humans. These are
of course the behaviors associated with neuroethology–one’s that
supposedly involve little to no cognition. She wonders to what extent
complex human behaviors (and their social neuroscience emergents)
are potentially driven by human “fixed action patterns”.

Certainly, the behavioral economic discount curve, with all its
weirdness, might be driven by human fixed action patterns.

Happy MLK Day 2011!