Posted by: blogone | May 13, 2006

Social Opportunity Produces Brain Changes in Fish

Friday Night:

Semi-interesting night at that restaurant. Andrea and I went down to Starbucks for a coffee beforehand. I appear to have settled my internal debate over which Frappuccino I like better, Double Chocolate Chip or Strawberry, because I always order the Double Chocolate Chip.

I was shocked to hear myself say "I'm going for a Starbucks", and not "I'm going for a coffee". Naomi Klein spoke about this in 'No Logo', the idea that Starbucks puts huge effort into making the 'Starbucks' the standard word for a coffee, instead of 'coffee'.

Arrived at work about 6pm and it was fairly busy. I came in, prepared some cheese because they were running dangerously low. Nothing more dangerous than an Italian restaurant without cheese. Imagine the consequences!

Not much was happening after 8pm. Noe asked me if I was okay with Juan going home at 9pm, because he had a sore knee. I was due to leave first because I'd worked the morning, but I didn't have any problem with it. We got a late rush with about 4 groups coming in after 9pm and some phone orders for Pizza.

What's interesting about that you're probably thinking? Well I only said 'semi-interesting'.

I was talking with Elder, the ironically named young guy, who works alongside Primo washing dishes. He seemed a bit perplexed when I told him that we had a new guy start during the day. "Are you interested in working during the day doing prep?", I asked. "Hella yeah", said Elder. He told me that he had asked about working with food before and was told he couldn't because his height was a problem dealing with the oven.

We didn't talk about it but there is a certain atmosphere between Noe and Elder. They don't talk to each other at all in the restaurant. Noe is the Alpha male of the kitchen. Its interesting to watch the interactions or lack of them. I decided that I'd mention to Noe that he should consider Elder for the kitchen role when I leave, even just as a cover. Elder has been in the restaurant a long time and probably knows more about how things work than most people.

The new guy is Jani or Giani, I'm not quite sure. He's in his mid-40's. I don't know if he'll work out. He started on Thursday and I inquired during the day, 'will you come back tomorrow?', he told me that he didn't know yet, he'd see. Gotta love his work ethic! He did come back on Friday. I was showing him the prep work we do, and the Hobart slicer. I had to tell him more than once to turn off the slicer BEFORE putting his hand near the blade.

All joking aside, there could be a very serious accident. I've mentioned to Noe and asked him to tell the new guy in Spanish not to go near a spinning 12" blade that rotates at about 100 times a second. Like you should need to be told!

Finished up at about 11pm, I called Andrea to see if she wanted to meet for a beer, but she was tired from exam / study sessions etc. I decided to give the beer a miss and head home.

Saturday Morning

Now this is interesting. I promise. Sort of.

I woke up early. The alarm clock had kicked in and KBPS was on broadcasting with NPR and and interview with Tom Wolfe was starting. Tom Wolfe wrote 'The Bonfire of the Vanities', 'A Man In Full', and 'I am Charlotte Simmons', and I've read none of these books. However I might.

Tom was delivering the National Endowment for the Humanities' annual Jefferson Lecture in Washington, D.C. The title of the lecture is 'The Human Beast' and its a very interesting speech. You can read it by clicking here or you can listen to the same interview I did by clicking here.

The point of his lecture was that, "evolution came to an end when the human beast developed speech!" He covers Darwin, Freud, and talks about the Kyle Zirpolo and the McMartin Day Care Center scandal of 1984 and this:


Cichlid fish:

(taken directly from Tom's lecture). …the behavior of the fish in a laboratory tank. In the tank was an obviously dominant male and his subjects, male and female. The others were gray in color but the dominant male had swelled up within a skin of lurid stripes and was the only male who had access to the females. They then removed the dominant male in the dark of night. When light returned, another male, just as gray as before, noticed the absence of the ruler, whereupon he swelled up with a skin of lurid colors, and his gonads immediately grew to eight times their previous size, and now he had exclusive access to the females. The three neurobiologists determined that a purely social situation, a status situation, had caused changes in the brain of the newly-dominant male at the cellular and molecular level, set off by a gene, known as egr-1.

You can read the full research article by clicking here. I then had a funny thought. What if I were the last man on Earth? Would my gonads grow to eight times their size? Next time someone comments "I wouldn't talk to you if you were the last man on Earth!", I'll laugh and think about my unfeasibly large 'buster gonads'. LOL.

Okay, I'm off to Balboa Park for a walk.

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