Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hallowe'en scare

video

I'm proud of how the mannikin worked out.  The frame consisted of a hiking pole that reached from one ankle to the neck.  One bent coat-hanger gave support to the other leg and a fully straightened -but bent once around the hiking pole - coat-hanger worked as the two arms.  I used some of my son's Winter wear for the clothes.  His insulated pants were the perfect length and included suspenders that I was able to stretch over the arms, helping to tie the whole thing together.  Unfortunately, they were heavier than the pajamas I used last year.  To reduce the weight a little, I filled the clothes with inflated balloons rather than crumpled newspapers.  Still, the weight was a little excessive.  The paperclips I used as hooks needed frequent re-shaping.

The mannikin I used last year.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I think I can do better

Consider this a work in progress.  Perhaps an entry in the Bulwer-lytton contest for the worst sentence could be found here.

Flying above the boat, the bird resigned itself to re-signing the contract.  Then the dove dove to the bow where a man with a bow was bowing to a girl with bows in her hair...

My creative ambitions..crushed!

I took a silly online quiz titled, "What side of the brain are you?"
Here are my results:

You Are the Left Side of the Brain
You are a logical and orderly person. You have a system for almost everything in your life.
You like to stay busy, and it's important that you stay on task. You prefer to do one thing at a time.

You are rational and detail oriented. You love to analyze, and you have a head for numbers.  

You are also good with words. You love to read, and you've been known to write well. 
At least I have some skill with words.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My favorite day approaches

We are still working on the concept.  this 2 litre water bottle wrapped in paper and with toilet-paper-roll horns will become a carnotaurus...we hope.  We have made a green paper snout and head with teeth, but large portions will have to be redone.

The snout was going to be held on with straps and cover my son's mouth and nose, but I now like hanging it on the brim of a cap and having my son's face below.  That will be more practical for eating and talking, I think.  I wonder if we should go so far as to use face paint or makeup to help him match his costume.  incidentally, what is a good colour for a carnotaurus?  His toy is brown, but he liked green until he saw how much it resembled an alligator.

I figure this dinosaur will wear people-clothes, with appropriate lumps on the back - carnotaurus was a lumpy dinosaur.  This way, I need only make a head - already in progress, tail and perhaps hands and feet. I have reserved a few surplus coat hangers to be bent into whatever shapes are needed. I think I can anchor a tail on my son's belt... and run a strap between his legs?

I don't have experience working with fabric -or with paper, for that matter- but perhaps that would look better.  It would certain stand up to abuse better.

I think I could glue fabric to the water bottle but hadn't considered that for the paper ..hey, new idea!

It is hard to get too involved as Koreans don't really celebrate hallowe'en.  I will see if my co-workers with kids have hallowe'en plans and learn if there is a party somewhere.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Yorker Caption Contest

I tried using a New Yorker Caption Contest comic - a comic without any text- in class and it fell flat.  The image was possibly too weird for my students and we didn't get any interesting answers.  I still like the idea and have worked on a few captions for my own enjoyment.

Here is a short video (3:20 or so, and you could pay to see the full 20+ minute video) discussing the caption contest.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A few links, serious and not

Where Good Ideas Come From (Amazon, Barns & Noble, What The Book) sounds like a good book.

I recall that in the 'swinging ropes experiment' in which participants were shown two ropes and told to hold both at one time.  The ropes, however, were hanging from the ceiling and in holding one, you could not reach the other.  For the participants who had trouble, the researcher would step forward and encourage them, then walk away 'accidentally' hitting a rope and setting it swinging.  Participants quickly got the idea: swing one rope and go get the other, reach out, and catch the swinging rope.

Participants, however, did not know how the idea came to them.  To outsiders it was obvious, the researcher nudged a rope and set it swinging.  To the participant, it was simply a flash of genius.

Steven Johnson covers deeper ground in his book and looks at revolutionary ideas - from Darwin's Theory of Evolution to Berners-Lee's World Wide Web - and sees, not a genius flash of unknown origin, but a steady buildup of years and even decades that led to the epiphany.

I liked this quote from a Salon interview with the author:

You cite a study that observed science labs and found the breakthroughs happened more often during staff meetings than at the microscope. I hate meetings.
It's funny that you say that, because I hate meetings too. I love those stretches where I've just been a writer -- when I haven't been doing Internet start-ups -- where I pretty much eliminate meetings from my life. But there are different kinds of meetings. What the research found was that it was the weekly status update meeting that was so generative. It was when everybody would get together and tell stories about what they were working on and the problems they were having in their particular work. That's very different from the meeting where you're getting together to discuss the annual budget.


This book has been added to my wish-list.
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Just in time for Nanowrimo, is a 'female character flowchart' to create female characters for movies, TV and probably books.  The idea reminds me of various suggestions for generating D & D characters.

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I wrote earlier about a review of Agatha Christie's notebooks.  They were chaotic, with 'to-do' lists next to plot ideas, next to travel plans...
J.K Rowling, by contrast, seems like a writing machine.  I very much enjoyed the Harry Potter books and ordered the final three as soon as they became available (I started the series at about that time) and was impressed with how closely plotted they were.  Here is a page from her notebook of plans for HP and the order of the Phoenix.  This is supposed to be a larger image.

Hip Hip Hooray ESL textbook

I have used these books to teach English-as-a-Second-Language in Korea.  Looking at their website (Pearson Longman and the HHHooray dedicated site), I think I used the first edition, as the books displayed don't look exactly as I recall.  Anyway, each book uses a classic story as a theme through the book.  Book one uses (used?) Town Mouse, Country Mouse and others used The Shoemaker and the Elves and Swiss Family Robinson.  There are six books in all and I would like to offer a suggestion and defend that suggestion against the inevitable small-minded nay-sayers out there ( I sure hope you can click to embiggen):

The Road at WhatTheBook and Amazon.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nanowrimo is coming!

A reminder that NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth (NANOWRIMO) starts on November 1.  The goal for Nanowrimo is to encourage people to write.  The goal for adults is 50,000 words in November.

From the website:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

My bolding - my son is looking over my shoulder and loves the letter 'z'.  He is probably too young, but there is a young writers section.  Adults are expected to write 50,000 words in the month of November, but young writers can set their own word count goals.

1) Sign up for the event, and be sure to register as a "Young Writer."
2) Click on "My NaNoWriMo" and you'll see three edit options on the left-hand menu bar. Use each one to tell us about your writerly self. Add a photo and exciting info about you and your book-to-be. [I don't want to be a worry-troll; but be cautious with your personal info.]
3) Starting October 1, you can set your word-count goal! This is really important. You can do this by going to "My NaNoWriMo" and then "Edit Novel Info" located on the left-hand menu bar.
4) Set your time zone. This is just as important as setting your word-count goal. You can do this by going to "My NaNoWriMo," then to "Edit Profile Settings." If you don't know what your time zone is, ask your parent or teacher.
5) Use our Resources for Young Writers. This is where you’ll find news, updates, pep talks, and helpful links.

The various brainstorming exercises I have described and read about all describe the creative process as starting with an outpouring of ideas.  Corrections and cuts come later.  I suppose after the month is through, you can start quality control.  I like P.G. Wodehouse's method of revision.  He apparently wrote on loose pages, then tacked them to a wall -starting low on the wall.  After he corrected or proofed a page, he placed it higher on the wall. When all the pages were at a certain height, he was ready to go public.  I don't think I have room for more a very short story in my apartment.

But the corrections come later.  Get the quantity in, then worry about quality.

One local dedicated nanowrimo writer is Charles of Liminality.  I could only find a link to one of his entries, but I think he has entered a few times.  At one time, if I recall correctly, he wrote his novel, blogged about it and offered assistance to other writers.

Sean of Repatriate Me - here is your challenge - and mine, too!

At the nanowrimo website - linked at the top - you can set up an account.

My letter of intent

At the university, I was asked to give my employment intentions for 2011 this week.
Here is the request:

Your committee work record form and letter of intent are required for your 2010 evaluation. 
Thus, please submit them to the office by Monday, October 11 (6 o'clock)

1. Letter of intent (Re: renewing your contact)
- You can use your own wording (informal).

And here is my response, suitably redacted (click to bigify):

For the curious, my university has a policy of linking rookie teachers to veterans for assistance through the red tape.  They could probably cut the red tape and have less need of the buddy system, but deliberately giving a buddy to new teachers does make the place feel like they plan ahead.

Oh, and I don't actually know anyone who let their students out early, but the empty threat is a proud component of gossip, I believe.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What I think I've learned

In the presentation I gave a few weeks ago, I stated that creativity can be improved, there are techniques that can be taught.  I am not sure I went into enough detail about what those technique are.  We practiced one in class and I listed others, but didn't specifically point to them and explicitly say, "These are the techniques that you can use to improve your creativity."

I also ran into confusion -my own, in the middle of my presentation- about what Daniel Pink discussed in his book about loosening the focus of your concentration - allowing yourself to be somewhat distracted- and what John Cleese was saying in his video about cell-phone destroying creativity because they cause too much distraction.

I want to clear this up here and formalize my thinking on the subject so that I can speak more clearly on it in the future.

On the one side, we have Daniel Pink (TED video) telling us we need to deliberately tighten and loosen the focus of our concentration.  deBono (Amazon book), Michalko (Amazon book) and probably Hall (Amazon book) put some effort into telling how to do this.

Their core technique is the "Many Roads Lead to Rome" concept.  If there is a solution to a problem, you can probably get to it from a variety of starting points.  How do you determine a good starting point?  With a randomly selected word.  You focus on the problem and use the randomly determined word to open that focus up a little.

This is a very controlled way to broaden your thinking while not being 'distracted' per se.

Laptop.001
Cleese (video) is concerned about distractions, but about larger sorts of distractions where you need to totally disengage yourself from whatever problem you are working on, handle the distraction, then return to your problem.  He figured it takes around fifteen minutes, after being distracted, to be able to focus on the problem again.  He is talking about 'uncontrolled distractions' rather than the deliberate use of a random element described above and he is worried about cell-phones and laptop computers for providing these distractions.

Perhaps in the middle, we have obsessed inventors waking in the middle of the night to try something new or write something down in their idea journals.  Leaving a problem for a day and thinking about unrelated things can work, can help, but doesn't work on a deadline.