June 17, 2018

Larry J. Kolb learns why 'I don't know' is not only the best but also the correct answer


I loved his book "Overworld: The Life and Times of a Reluctant Spy."

It's staggeringly good, completely absorbing, and the best part is that it's all true.


The even better part is that 99% of the story didn't even make it into the book because it's classified: can you imagine what's in that material?

Anyway, the following is from pages 404-405, in which Kolb's crackerjack attorney, Frank Morris, prepares him for testimony in federal court in a case in which the government of India attempted to have him extradited to stand trial there for alleged misdeeds involving an election to determine the Prime Minister.



"You'll be sworn," Frank went on, "and you'll answer truthfully. But by that I mean truthfully according to the standards of the law, which means pursuant to the rules of evidence." This was the point at which Frank started smiling reassuringly.

"In everyday life," Frank said, "we accept things as true which aren't necessarily true," and just then, Paul Morse, Jr., Frank's blond six-year-old nephew... stuck his head against one of the panes of the closed glass door of the study Frank and I were in and made some faces at us. Frank waved at Paul, I made some faces back at him, and Frank said, "If you were his father, and he asked you if he could eat a chocolate bar that was sitting here on the desk, and you said No, and then you left the room, and when you came back ten minutes later the chocolate wrapper was on the floor, and there was chocolate all over his lips and cheeks, you'd spank his ass. Even if he said he didn't eat the chocolate, you'd spank him. Because, by the standards of everyday life, you'd know he did eat the chocolate. But, according to the standard of the law, you'd only suspect he ate the chocolate, and that is meaningless. For all you'd know, he could've fallen and smashed his mouth on the chocolate bar, knocking the wrapper onto the floor. You weren't a percipient witness to Paul eating the chocolate bar. So, if you were asked in court if Paul ate the chocolate, the only truthful answer you could give would be I don't know."

Damn if Frank wasn't right. And that was a good thing, I was just beginning to realize. I'd testified a few times before under oath, in unrelated matters and under the advice and protection of expensive and what I thought was highly competent counsel. But in light of the new standards of truth, knowledge, beauty, and human frailty Frank was imparting to me now, it was quickly coming clear to me that my previous counsel had let me ramble and speculate shamelessly about things I didn't actually know.

"For example," Frank said to me now, "if you were asked, 'Why did Adnan Khashoggi ask you to help him with this matter?', your answer would be 'I don't know.' Because you don't know. Most of us have enough trouble figuring out why we do things ourselves. There's no way we're competent to know why anybody else does anything. While testifying, don't ever let yourself be tricked into speculating about someone else's state of mind.

"If you happened to be asked, 'Why did Mr. Gandhi go to the restaurant?', your answer could not be 'Because he was hungry' or 'To eat.' Your only truthful answer would be, 'I don't know.' Because, even if Rajiv told you he was hungry, that's just hearsay, and you don't know what went on in his mind that made him go into the restaurant. But, if you were asked, 'Did Mr. Gandhi eat in the restaurant?,' ands you were in the restaurant when he was, and you saw him eat there, your answer would be?"

Finally a part for me. I said, "My answer would be 'Yes.'"

"Correct," said Frank. "Your answer would be 'Yes' and it would not be 'Yes, I saw him eating apple pie in the restaurant.' Because they didn't ask that, and it's not up to you to volunteer anything."

"So, do you understand? Don't speculate about events to which you were not a percipient witness. Don't speculate about another person's state of mind. Don't volunteer anything. Don't ramble. Answer the questions, and only the questions, truthfully. And the only truthful answer you can give to a lot more questions than it might first seem is 'I don't know.'"



The above is as perfect a summary of how to conduct yourself in court as you will ever encounter.

I might note, however, that answering "I don't know" over and over again results in all manner of head-shaking and doubtful expressions on the part of the examining attorney, so much so that you're tempted to try to make yourself look better in her or his eyes by offering more than the above-styled truth.

Oftimes there will be derisory, sarcastic remarks such as "You don't know much, do you?"

Don't take the bait.

Because those looks don't translate to paper and those remarks make the questioning attorney look small when read in context.

Trust me — in the deposition transcript "I don't know" makes perfect sense and is completely appropriate in the context of the ongoing questioning.


One last comment about "Overworld."

The cast of characters is larger than life: Muhammad Ali, Adnan Khashoggi, Presidents Bush 41 and 43, Ronald Reagan, Daniel Ortega, Dan Jenkins, Miles Copeland, William J. Casey, Jan Stephenson (Kolb's first wife), J. Edgar Hoover, Bill Talbert, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Ben Crenshaw, Rajiv Gandhi, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Swamiji aka Chandraswami, V.P. Singh, boldface names on and on.

Eye-opening, jaw-droppingly amazing tales of life in a world you and I will most likely never visit.

Just as well — me, I'm fine just reading about it.

I can't speak for you.


But your attorney could.

June 17, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.


Hint: not made in the U.S.A.


Another: edible.

June 17, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

bookofjoe's Favorite Thing: Bungee Cords


Buy these, put them in your trunk*, and forget about them until one day, while you're on the road, something unexpected happens that threatens to mess up your trip.

As you dig through your trunk, you find these, all dusty back in the corner.

All of a sudden, a solution for your problem occurs to you and Bob's** your uncle.

From websites:


• Ease of use — reverse hook design provides more room for fastening adjustable bungee; rounded hook end helps prevent scratching

• Durable design — two wire hooks offers more strength than traditional bungees

• Assortment of 24 infinitely adjustable cords with lengths ranging from 6" to 40"

40" x 2

32" x 2

24" x 4

18" x 6

10" x 6

6" x 4




*If you keep them in your trunk, you'll have them for around your home; if you keep them in your home, you won't have them in your car.

**OK, you can call me Joe if you like (just don't call me late for dinner).


June 17, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 16, 2018

CORONA Digital Atlas of the Middle East

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From Wikipedia:


The Corona program was a series of American strategic reconnaissance satellites produced and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency Directorate of Science & Technology with substantial assistance from the U.S. Air Force.

The Corona satellites were used for photographic surveillance of the Soviet Union (USSR), the People's Republic of China, and other areas beginning in June 1959 and ending in May 1972.

The name of this program is sometimes seen as "CORONA", but its actual name "Corona" was a codeword, not an acronym.

The Corona program was officially classified top secret until 1992. 

On February 22, 1995, the photos taken by the Corona satellites... were declassified under an Executive Order signed by President Bill Clinton.

The further review by photo experts of the "obsolete broad-area film-return systems other than Corona" mandated by President Clinton's order led to the declassification in 2002 of the photos taken from the KH7 and KH-9 low-resolution cameras.

The declassified imagery has since been used by a team of scientists from the Australian National University to locate and explore ancient habitation sites, pottery factories, megalithic tombs, and Paleolithic archaeological remains in northern Syria.

Similarly, scientists at Harvard have used the imagery to identify prehistoric traveling routes in Mesopotamia.

The CORONA Digital Atlas of the Middle East Project hosts a large amount KH-4B imagery where users can view and download spatially corrected images [exemplar up top].


Fair warning: there goes the day.

June 16, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hair Ice


From Wikipedia:



Hair ice (also known as ice wool or frost beard) is a type of ice that forms on dead wood and takes the shape of fine, silky hair.


It is somewhat uncommon, and has been reported mostly at latitudes between 45–55 °N in broadleaf forests.


The meteorologist and discoverer of continental drift, Alfred Wegener, described hair ice on wet dead wood in 1918, assuming some specific fungi as the catalyst, a theory mostly confirmed by Gerhart Wagner and Christian Mätzler in 2005.

IJshaar _in_Austerlitz _Utrecht_(Netherlands)

In 2015, the fungus Exidiopsis effusa was identified as key to the formation of hair ice.

June 16, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alarm Clock Rug



From the Wall Street Journal:


This battery-powered rug ensures that you actually get out of bed.

The Ruggie wakes you with blasts of sound between 90 and 120 decibels, comparable to the volume of a blender — to turn it off, you must stand with your full weight on its soft fleece surface for a preset time of up to 30 seconds.

Once you're up, it obligingly streams tunes from your smartphone to overcome your resentment and ingratiate itself with you again. 


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Blue, Gray, or White.


June 16, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 15, 2018

The Art of Pie


Karin Pfeiff-Boschek of Antrifttal, Germany, made her first arty pie in September of 2016.

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She now creates three per week, which she gives to friends after posting pictures of them on Instagram.

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Martha Stewart wrote that she had "turned pie-crust decorating into an art form."

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I won't argue.


[via the Washington Post]

June 15, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

BehindTheMedspeak: Misophonia

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Long paper (published in the August 18, 2015 issue of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment) short: "Misophonia is characterized by a negative reaction to a sound with a specific pattern and meaning to a given individual."

Misophonia is also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome and sound-rage.

According to WebMD, the trigger is "often an oral sound — the sound someone makes when they eat, breathe, chew, yawn, or whistle."

"Misophonia may cause a reaction to sounds such as dripping water, snapping gum, or repetitive noises such as pencil tapping."

"People with misophonia can become irritated, enraged, or even panicked when they hear their trigger sounds."

The abstract of the scientific paper follows.


Misophonia is characterized by a negative reaction to a sound with a specific pattern and meaning to a given individual. In this paper, we review the clinical features of this relatively common yet underinvestigated condition, with focus on co-occurring neurodevelopmental disorders. Currently available data on the putative pathophysiology of the condition can inform our understanding and guide the diagnostic process and treatment approach. Tinnitus retraining therapy and cognitive behavior therapy have been proposed as the most effective treatment strategies for reducing symptoms; however, current treatment algorithms should be validated in large population studies. At the present stage, competing paradigms see misophonia as a physiological state potentially inducible in any subject, an idiopathic condition (which can present with comorbid psychiatric disorders), or a symptomatic manifestation of an underlying psychiatric disorder. Agreement on the use of standardized diagnostic criteria would be an important step forward in terms of both clinical practice and scientific inquiry. Areas for future research include phenomenology, epidemiology, modulating factors, neurophysiological underpinnings, and treatment trials.

June 15, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Crayola Makeup

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What took so long?

From Fortune:


The iconic crayon company has launched Crayola Beauty, a line of eyeshadows, blushes, mascaras, and more, in conjunction with beauty and fashion brand ASOS.

The products will be sold exclusively at the retailer's website.

Available in 95 shades, all of which are vegan, the 58 products range from $15 to $40.

The lip, cheek, and face "crayons" are likely to be the standout product, as they let people show off their creative nature on a living canvas.

Crayola's not straying too far from its core brand, using the same names for shades on the face crayons as it does with the crayons kids (and some adults) use when drawing, including Mauvelous, Dandelion (a color it actually retired last year), and Outer Space.

With the new line Crayola is both meeting a demand and bowing to the inevitable.

The internet already features videos with people using Crayola products as eyeliner and other forms of makeup.

While the company has urged people not to do this in its Frequently Asked Questions, that hasn't stopped people from using the colored pencils and crayons as cosmetics.

June 15, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 14, 2018

Life imitates art: Rothko in Podunkville

The other day I was out running when I happened to notice what looked like a Rothko (exemplar below)


painted on a power/utility box alongside Barracks Road.


The next day I came back with my phone and took a few pix


(above and below)




made a video (top).

June 14, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Holloways of Dorset


These ancient sunken lanes were naturally tunneled into the soft ground by countless footsteps over the centuries.


They are 300 to 3,000 years old, dating to Roman times and even earlier.


In some places the holloways (from the Old English "hola weg," meaning sunken road) are as much as 20 feet lower than the land on either side.


Want more?


There's even a book.


[via Atlas Obscura]

June 14, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sriracha-2-Go Keychain




plastic bottle.


$8 (Sriracha sauce not included).

June 14, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 13, 2018

"The Case of ESP"

Remote viewing development at Stanford Research Institute.

Declassified CIA archive here.

June 13, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The word people hate most

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From the New York Times :


Moist. Luggage. Crevice. Stroke. Slacks. Phlegm.

How did those words make you feel?

Certain everyday words drive some people crazy, a phenomenon experts call "word aversion." But one word appears to rise above all others: "moist." For that reason, a recent paper in the journal PLOS One used the word as a stand-in to explore why people find some terms repellent.

"It doesn’t really fit into a lot of existing categories for how people think about the psychology of language," the study's author, Paul Thibodeau, a professor of psychology at Oberlin College, said of moist. "It's not a taboo word, it's not profanity, but it elicits this very visceral disgust reaction."

A little less than a quarter of the approximately 2,500 unique subjects tested in Mr. Thibodeau's five experiments over four years had trouble dealing with any appearance of the word.

When asked to react to moist in a free-association task, about one-third of those people responded with "an expression of disgust," Mr. Thibodeau said. Almost two-thirds of those who later reported an aversion were so bothered by "moist" that they could recall its inclusion among a set of 63 other words — an unusually high rate.

The peer-reviewed study attempted to explain why moist had become the linguistic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard for some people.

Words that sound similar — including hoist, foist and rejoiced — did not put off participants in the same way, suggesting that aversion to the word was not based on the way it sounds. But people who were bothered by moist also found that words for bodily fluids — vomit, puke and phlegm — largely struck a nerve. That led Mr. Thibodeau to conclude that for those people moist had taken on the connotations of a bodily function.

It has long been acknowledged that many people are cursed with moist phobia. In 2007, a linguistics professor from the University of Pennsylvania, Mark Liberman, wrote about moist in exploring the concept of word aversion. In 2012, the word came up again, after The New Yorker asked readers which ones they would eliminate from the English language. Mr. Thibodeau's study cites People magazine’s 2013 attempt to have some of its "sexiest men" make "the worst word sound hot!"

But Jason Riggle, a linguistics professor at the University of Chicago, said the excessive focus on moist might have made a broader understanding of word aversion more difficult.

"Moist has become such a flagship word for this, and the fact that so many people talk about it now makes it harder to get a handle on" word aversion more generally, he said.

That may help explain why other recent studies on word aversion, unlike Mr. Thibodeau's, found a close link between a word's phonological properties — its combination of sounds — and people’s reactions.

David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine whose lab has conducted its own experiments into word aversion over the past year, found that an unusual combination of sounds in a group of made-up words was more likely to put people off than several other factors. A study at Colby College last year also suggested that a word's phonological properties could repel people.

Dr. Eagleman suspects that word aversion is similar to synesthesia, the blending of senses in which an aural phenomenon, such as a musical note, can trigger a visual or even an emotional response. He suggested that the process through which a specific combination of sounds evokes disgust might be similar.

"There appears to be this relationship between phonological probability and aversion," he said. "In other words, something that is improbable, something that doesn't sound like it should belong in your language, has this emotional reaction that goes along with it."

June 13, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Caution — Hot Drink! Mug

You know how you burned your tongue again this morning taking that first sip of coffee?

Never again.


• Ceramic

• 10 oz.

• 4.7"H


June 13, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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