Karen’s vlog #1

Hi, my name’s Karen Rider; I’m thirty-six; I’m a neurobiologist. I run a research lab with several colleagues, some post-docs and some grad students. It’s called Ganglionics; it’s in a suburban Palo Alto biotech corridor. Folks in the lab are working on a whole range of vision things: early mammalian vision, machine vision, analog VLSI, optical flow and lots more… myself, I’m really interested in visual consciousness… visual awareness… neuronal activity… a.k.a. … the mind-body problem…

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to actually “see?” You just open your eyes and it’s there… like taking a lens cap off a camera… no! People who’ve had lifelong cataracts removed generally never learn to see – their brain never learned – now can’t learn – to make sense of the chaotic firings of a hundred million rods and cones… it drives them crazy… most of them wish they’d never had the surgery; some of them commit suicide. The simple truth is that taking that mess and finding edges… shapes… objects… meaning… the simple truth is that taking that mess and finding your mother’s face… is a staggeringly more complex task than beating Deep Blue or winning the Nobel Prize in Economics.

My daughter Laura started playing volleyball last year. She’s twelve now. She’s a big twelve. It’s funny, Katie down the street is also twelve, and she’s so small… I can’t imagine anyone’d ever guess they’re the same age.
I went to Laura’s first match a couple of weeks ago. Actually they played three matches in one day! At first the other parents weren’t quite sure what to make of me. Laura’s dad; um… he’s not the coach of her team… but he does coach older girls for the same club – anyway, finally, half joking, but maybe in a way not, Laura’s coach asked him if it was okay to be nice to me.

It’s Laura’s birthday on Sunday. We talked about a sleepover with her girlfriends. But then some of the boys wanted to invite themselves too. Laura’s definitely noticed boys recently. I vetoed all coed slumber parties. Her school – her Catholic school, can you believe this – is organizing “movie dates!”
Anyway, my dad’s in the hospital again. So we’re putting off the slumber party for a while… and having a hospital birthday party on Sunday.

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