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Did You Bring Bottles?

Groceteria.net: “a site on the subject of supermarket history and architecture, roughly covering the period from the 1920s to the 1970s. It is not a site about current supermarket issues and locations, except in historical perspective, and it is not connected with nor owned by any supermarket chain, past or present.”

My friend Duncan used to theorize that the price of a can of tuna could be used as the basic measure of any given city’s cost of living. He was right. You can learn an awful lot about a place by visiting its supermarkets.


Supermarkets are one of the most important and overlooked elements of American life. I’m fascinated by them, and my road trips always include visits to the local chains, from Winn-Dixie in the south to Giant in Baltimore, from Cub Foods and Rainbow in Minneapolis to Kohl’s in Wisconsin. Harris Teeter, Alpha Beta, Piggly Wiggly, and the “holy trinity” of Safeway, Kroger, and A&P: I’ve done more than my share…


I’m really picky about my supermarkets. By this, I don’t mean that I shop in the newest, sleekest stores with the most fabulous produce departments. On the contrary, I’m more drawn to smaller and older stores which are perpetually in danger of being either closed or “upgraded”.

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Designing robot?

Designing a robot that can sense human emotion

Forget the robot child in the movie “AI.” Vanderbilt researchers Nilanjan Sarkar and Craig Smith have a less romantic but more practical idea in mind.

“We are not trying to give a robot emotions. We are trying to make robots that are sensitive to our emotions,” says Smith, associate professor of psychology and human development.

Their vision, which is to create a kind of robot Friday, a personal assistant who can accurately sense the moods of its human bosses and respond appropriately, is described in the article, “Online Stress Detection using Psychophysiological Signals for Implicit Human-Robot Cooperation.” The article, which appears in the Dec. issue of the journal Robotica, also reports the initial steps that they have taken to make their vision a reality. EurekAlert!

The abstract is here:

Robots are expected to be pervasive in the society in a not too distant future where they will work extensively as assistants of humans in various activities. With this in view, a novel affect-sensitive architecture for human-robot cooperation is presented in this paper where the robot is expected to recognize human psychological states. As a demonstration, an online heart rate variability analysis to infer the mental stress of a human engaged in a task is presented. This technique involves real-time heart rate monitoring, signal processing using both Fourier Transforrn and Wavelet Transform, and inferring the stress condition based on the level of activation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems using fuzzy logic. Results from human subject trials are presented to validate the presented methodology. This stress detection technique is expected to be useful in the future human-robot cooperation activities, where the robot will recognize human stress and respond appropriately.

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A survey on body awareness and the self:

“You are asked to participate in a voluntary research study conducted by Daniel M.T. Fessler, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, from the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. You are a possible participant in this study if you are at least 18 years of age.


The purpose of the study is to explore the roles played by different parts of the body in people’s conceptions of themselves.


If you volunteer to participate in this study, we would ask you to complete a survey. You would be asked to indicate a) how important various parts of your body are for your identity or sense of self, and b) how much you are aware of , or sense, various parts of your body. The total length of time for completion of the survey is approximately 3 minutes.”

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War and Peace is 165:

“Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don’t tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist- I really believe he is Antichrist- I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my ‘faithful slave,’ as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you- sit down and tell me all the news.”


It was in July, 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honor and favorite of the Empress Marya Fedorovna. With these words she greeted Prince Vasili Kuragin, a man of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her reception. Anna Pavlovna had had a cough for some days. She was, as she said, suffering from la grippe; grippe being then a new word in St. Petersburg, used only by the elite.


All her invitations without exception, written in French, and delivered by a scarlet-liveried footman that morning, ran as follows:


“If you have nothing better to do, Count [or Prince], and if the prospect of spending an evening with a poor invalid is not too terrible, I shall be very charmed to see you tonight between 7 and 10- Annette Scherer.”

So starts Tolstoy’s agony and ecstasy, which is available on the web here. It debuted 165 years ago today.

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RIP Zal Yanovsky:

Guitarist With Lovin’ Spoonful Dies at 57: “Zal Yanovsky, whose distinctive guitar playing and ebullient personality helped make the Lovin’ Spoonful one of the most popular rock groups of the late 1960’s, died on Friday at his home outside Kingston, Ontario. He was 57.” NY Times Only the Youngbloods could hold a candle to them for good-timey infectivity. Time to get out my Best of the Spoonful CD…