META: Pavlovian meals (was:RE: RACCies: 2011 Results)

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sat Jan 19 14:58:40 PST 2013

On Mon 7/Jan/2013 Rob Rogers (robrogers72 at wrote:
> On Jan 3, 6:37 am, Andrew Perron <pwer... at> wrote:
>>     Saxon Brenton
> If he could, my son would nominate Saxon for this award in 2011.
> He managed to keep my son calm during dinner by fashioning little
> stars out of bread rolls.  That kind of talent should be rewarded!
After musing on that comment for a few days, I think I'll use 
that as a lead-in line for another True Story From RACC-Con.
The first day I arrived at Benecia was a Thurday, so the Rogers 
family invited me to the weekly farmers markets for dinner.  
Afterwards we returned to their place and discussed stuff.  
Not all of which was nerd stuff, just a lot of it.
And lest it be thought that just because Rob hasn't roped Nam 
into writing something for the LNH that she was excluded from 
this discusson: no.  After hearing the story of how they met in 
a writing class, and talking with Nam on SF and fantasy writing, 
and pop culture in general, I will happily vouch for her nerd 
cred.  (Not that she *needs* my support for anything...
Rob described how his 18 month old son Perry (who'd by now 
be a whopping 2 year old - my, how the grow so fast...) had 
recently started noticing and fixating on objects in the 
sky: the moon, and stars.  As a result Rob had gotten Perry 
a toy Captain America sheild decorated in the Captain's 
stylised star-and-stripes pattern, obviously planning on using   
Perry's star fixation as a gateway drug into comic books.
Anyway, the Rogers mentioned that they had also been 
thinking of using Perry's shape fixation to get Perry to 
eat his dinner by including those star fruit thingies 
- the ones that are star-shaped in cross section when you 
cut them up.  Which prompted me to wonder, well, perhaps 
they should pick up a star-shaped cookie cutter from the 
supermarket, and use it to arrange foods like mashed 
potatoes, mashed pumpkin, or peas into an apporopriate 
shape on Perry' plate.  Just to test how far Perry's shape 
fixation could be constructively used at meal times.
A few days later when everyone had arrived for RACC-Con we 
all went and had dinner at a quite nice seafood restraunt 
overlooking Benecia bay.  And as Rob has said, I decided to 
try an experiment by taking some of the pre-meal complimentary 
bread and carefully carving it into a star shape.  I had a 
bit of trouble because what I thought was a particularly 
thick piece of bread was in fact two pieces stuck together 
(careless, unobservant Saxon...) but that simply meant I 
ended up with two pices of star-shaped bread, which Rob 
passed on to Perry.  He duly scoffed down the first, but 
IIRC he was less interested in the second.
On a somewhat related note, the Independece Day weekend of 
2012 featured a full moon.  And I mean a really magnificent 
harvest moon that loomed up over the horizon at sunset, like 
some sort of huge orange pumkin shaped thing that any randomly 
passing Halloween themed entity of villainous intent would 
be happy to use in an ill-defined plot to try and hijack 
the Indepence Day holiday for nefarious purposes.  Which in 
practical terms meant that I spent a lot of time when we 
were walking back up the hill on various days glancing or 
even outright staring at it.  One evening when we were 
walking back up the hill Rob was at the rear of the group 
talking with Arthur and Scott, while Nam was slightly ahead 
talking with me, and she mentioned that it was still the 
same moon.  To which I replied, yes, for the most part, but 
it looked upsidedown from my usual experience.

I knew that the explanation was simple enough, and reeled it 
off, IIRC because I was showing off.  The moon's orbital path 
is around the Earth's equator more-or-less confined to the 
tropics, which meant that looking at it from a few thousand 
kilometres/miles on either side of the equator - whether that 
be in Sydney or San Francisco - meant you are effectively 
looking at it from either the 'bottom' looking 'up' or the 
'top' looking down.  This changes the apparent orientation of 
the thing you're looking at, whether that be the moon or the 
constellations.  Usually I see the moon with the darker maria 
clustered down towards the bottom.  So while I was in Benecia 
not only was I continully throwing glances at the impressive 
harvest moon, by I kept getting the feeling that having all 
the maria clusterd around the top made the moon look 
strangely top heavy...
But circling back to the main point: Rob, how is Perry going, 
and what are the results of your Pavlovian meal time experiments?
Saxon Brenton
Currently reading: Sphereland, A Fantasy About Curved Space 
and an Expanding Universe, by Dionys Burger [sequent to 
Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimension, by Edwin Abbott]


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