You’ve Just Woken Up; Where are you?

I discovered this really fun toy today. collects randomized Google Street view images and asks you to identify the location where the photos were taken on a world map. You end up having to do a lot of detective work to determine where you are: looking at signs for what language is being used, examining the flora to get an idea of what the climate is like, noting the flavor of the architecture, what kind of cars people are driving, the design of gas stations, ect. Sometimes it gives you almost nothing to go on, just a flat open prairie with no reference points at all. Or, worse yet, you’ll find yourself on stretch of highway like in the image above and you know it’s in Latin America but it’s impossible to know where because it looks like everywhere in Latin America and so nowhere in particular.

The way the game works is that it gives you five different images and then scores you based on how distant you are from the correct point. I think you’re rated slightly better if you are able to make your selection within the correct country and continent. So far my best score is about 11600. Give it a try for yourself. It’s a new and challenging way to do daydream roadtrips.

Gentle Whispering

Some nights, before I go to sleep, I listen to ASMR videos on Youtube. It helps me empty my head of thoughts, or at least slow my thinking and unfocus it. Typical ASMR videos include soft whispering or tactile stimuli, which are intended to trigger a pleasurable response in the brain. When mine triggers, I feel a tingling sensation in my scalp and I lapse into a relaxed and relieved state. I seem to receive stronger reactions watching women perform the triggering stimuli than men, and certain women seem to resonate more with me than others. My favorite is Russian woman named Maria Viktorovna who has a channel called GentleWhispering. She posts one or two videos every week. Usually they involve her whispering softly into a 3d microphone or tapping on different surfaces with her nails. This last week, however, she posted this really astonishing 20 minute video in which she tells the story of her life: about her growing up in Russia, coming to the United States, and her life here. The story has some very disturbing, very heart-breaking moments. Here, take a look.

It’s really disarming is to hear her describe these nightmarish things that have happened to her in her gentle ASMR voice. The empathy I feel towards her when she’s telling this story is overwhelming. If you go to the video page and look at the comments, you’ll see thousands of people completely crestfallen about what they’ve just heard. Some have been talking about starting charities for her and to try to help her out.

I wonder if people who are impervious to ASMR stimulation–and most are–react to this story in the same way? And as for those of us who are experiencing the sensation, are we reacting more compassionately than we otherwise would? It is believed, though it’s yet to be proven, that the ASMR reaction is a result of intense empathic connection and probably caused by a surge of serotonine in the brain provoked by a sense of intimacy. Maria Viktorovna’s videos only simulate this intimacy, but it seems to fool the thalamus just fine. Are the feelings we undergo when watching them something like simulated love?

Sharp Shooting

Between Toledo and Sandusky, Ohio, along the Lake Erie shore, is the century old Army training facility Camp Perry, named after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the American naval commander who won the Battle of Put-in-Bay during the War of 1812. The fort is notable for containing the world’s largest outdoor rifle range. Every year since Camp Perry was commissioned in 1906 it has hosted the National Matches, America’s national shooting championship. Today, the base primarily serves as a training facility for the Ohio National Guard and Army Reserve. During the World Wars, however, it was a training post for Army officers, who were drilled extensively on marksmanship in those days.

One can drive for two and a half hours to the southeast of Camp Perry and come to the birthplace of Annie Oakley. Her family’s log cabin no longer stands on the site, but a plaque and marker were erected on the spot by a local organization devoted to Oakley’s memory. The site is landscaped and maintained by volunteers interested in its history. That the Oakley home did not survive through history is not surprising. When she was only six, Oakley’s father died of pneumonia and over-exposure, leaving the family destitute. Unable to feed her children, Phoebe Oakley bounded out Annie to a local family to help care for their infant son. This family was supposed to provide her with a stipend of 50 cents a week and an education. Instead, they kept her in a state of near slavery for two years, subjecting her to mental and physical abuse. Later, in her autobiography, Oakley would refer to this family as “the wolves,” but always refrained from referencing them by name. Oakley received little education and could not spell her own name properly. On contractual documents, she signed with the name “Oaklee.” Being fed little by her foster family and given no money to live on, Annie Oakley hunted small game at a very early age for food and pelts. She developed her skill for shooting quickly. When she was 15, a Cincinnati businessman contracted her for a shooting competition with renowned marksman Francis Butler. Oakley defeated Butler, shooting 25 out of 25 targets to Butler’s 24. A year later, the two married and began touring as a shooting act.

Besides its shooting range, Camp Perry is also believed to contain a ground to air missile battery that is a part of the nuclear missile defense network. During the Cold War, the fort was used as a Project Nike site. In the event of a nuclear attack against North America, an unknown number of Ajax missiles could be launched from Camp Perry to intercept enemy warheads in the earth’s upper atmosphere and effect detonation at a safe distance from the country’s populated areas. Project Nike was decommissioned in the 1970s. Information about what anti-missile defense operations still persist at Camp Perry is not available to the public, but we do know that the 372d Missile Maintenance Company, along with the 213th Ordinance Company missile support corps are stationed there, suggesting that some form of missile defense is still practiced on the base.