Monday, September 26, 2011

I've got to scale back.

Not in the amount of content I produce but in the locations I place it.  I try to niche blog but find my interests to widely varied to fit in one blog.  Right now, I have nine blogs.  Five or six are classroom related - for communicating with students, two are general slice-of-Korean-life blogs and this one is about my attempts to learn about creativiti.

These days, I find myself writing only a few posts in a month.  Luckily, they tend to be long so I am producing some content, but I could do better.  Nanowrimo is coming and I have to get ready for that.

Boingboing has a post about setting a goal of 1000 words a day for your blog(s).  It is something I need to aim for.

This word count is not impossible. It’s about two pages of standard paper a day. At first, do not surpass this word count. This is an endurance race, not a sprint. The recommended dosage of 1,000 words a day is doable by the average writer, is a concrete number for you to strive toward, and is about as much as your audience can read in a day. Do not do less, either. This is a regimen. You need to get used to producing this much content quickly and without complaint. Consider using a speech recognition tool: you’ll be pounding out words without pounding on the keyboard. In fact, you’ll find that by speaking your posts you often write more than you originally intended.
This also brings up an important point: writing for blogs is conversational. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Missed my chance

I had a little accident in the bathroom at work and when I returned to the office, I tried to tell the story to maximum comedy effect.

After nearly a minute of opening my mouth, stopping and looking away, looking around, speaking the first word of a sentence... I just told my coworker.  Turns out, the story didn't need much build-up anyway.

"My glasses fell off in the bathroom.  The good news is, I was brushing my teeth at the sink so I only had to rinse and dry them before putting them back on."

My coworker just said, " At first, I was surprised that you were still wearing the glasses."

That would have been a good start to the story. " First, note that I am still wearing my glasses.  They fell off in the bathroom and got all wet and splattered..."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

links aplenty

Anger can encourage creativity, briefly.  You should probably calm down before you start ranting.  That doesn't help anyone.

...angry people produce a higher volume of ideas, as well as more creative ones than their non-angry counterparts. The study’s authors reason that anger is usually accompanied by a feeling of intense energy and a less-structured style of thinking, two factors that lead to creative forms of brainstorming.
More on the subject at Scientific American.

I've described in the past that teachers claim they like creativity but also that creative students can be annoying as heck.  Freakonomics has more in a similar vein.
The irony is that as a society, we’re constantly talking about how much we value creativity. And yet, the study implies that our minds are biased against it because of the very nature of its novelty. The authors point out that we often view novelty and practicality as inversely related. We generally value practical ideas because they’re familiar and proven, while the more novel an idea, the more uncertainty there exists about whether it’s practical, error-free, or even useful. 

At Boingboing, Doctorow discusses self-publishing.

Mainstream publishers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over decades learning and re-learning how to get people to care about the existence of books. They often do so very well, and sometimes they screw it up, but at least they’re methodically attempting to understand and improve the process by which large masses of people decide to read a book (even better, decide to buy and read a book).
I firmly believe that there are writers out there today who have valuable insights and native talent that would make them natural successes at marketing their own work. If you are one of those writers – if you have a firm theory that fits available evidence about how to get people to love your work – then by all means, experiment! Provided, of course, that you are pleased and challenged by doing this commercial stuff that has almost nothing in common with imagining stories and writing them down. Provided that you find it rewarding and satisfying.


scientific data collection and 14-year-olds
This active, hands-on approach to science is in keeping with Levi’s firm belief that "the most effective way to learn is through the apprenticeship model." "There’s no reason why you can’t get meaningful scientific data from 14-year-olds," he says. "Science is about hard work and endurance. It doesn’t matter what age you are."
The colors of good and evil in comics:
At colorlovers (via Boingboing) they have made an infographic that:
has a bunch of quirky facts about how certain colors can give more insight into their personalities and hero type. Another neat aspect that I think you'll like is how the infographic discusses the different color schemes for DC and Marvel and shows how they set the trend for future comics. 



hkjhhj

Friday, September 16, 2011

brainstorming at Dongseo U.

I like everything about this.  People have a place that is both open and private - passers-by don't interrupt the proceedings. But, if they take the effort, they can climb up and observe.  It all works and it is elegantly done.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Article for BusanHaps on Libel


Below is a somewhat lengthier version of an article I wrote for Busan Haps. One of the Haps' editors asked for it and told me I could also put it on my blog.  I handed it in just over a week ago and told him I would put it up on my blog on Sept 5.  Here we are but I don't see it there.

The article was supposed to be around 800 words but, after vigorous cutting  came out at about a thousand.  One thing I did not include in the article was my opinion of what should or could be done.  I don't like Korea's libel laws - or the UKs, etc- but the article was mostly a review of problems without any solutions offered.

Let me discuss my conclusions first for people who came here from the Busan Haps article  Below that is the article itself.

Blacklists: Blogger McPherson tried to warn ESL job seekers about the school he worked at and was sued for his trouble.  I follow McPherson's blog and have met the man; I trust what he says and if he told me to stay away from a position, I would do it.  I can't say that for everyone though.  Blacklists can become a way for crappy teachers to get back at their schools.  Also, a way for crappy schools to punish teachers.
I think Dave's ESL Cafe (does anyone still go there) had a blacklist but can't find one now. I did find this exchange:
[Cazador 83 asked:] Is there a thread on this website or is there another website that lists all the hagwons that are blacklisted? I tried searching but the search function on that site isn't so great. 
[And Provence replied:] The main problem with creating a thread that blacklist hagwons in Korea is that it is illegal. I would love to warn everyone about my hagwon but I am worried they will find out it is me since I am the only foreign this school has had in 3 years. It wouldn’t be hard for them to figure out who blacklisted them. Basically they can blacklist you but you can't blacklist them, welcome to Korea.
The Marmot discusses blacklists by hagwons of teachers here:
Marmot’s Note: One wonders how long this is going to last before it runs into legal problems. I mean, I know teachers run their own blacklists of hagwons, so what’s fair is fair, but my understanding is that in Korea, printing names like that could be problematic even if the accusations are true. The other thing is that the list is being composed by hagwon recruiters based on claims made by hagwon owners, two groups not known for their business ethics....
UPDATE 2: In our comments section, a real live lawyer says:
The blacklist is quite unlawful. Not only is it a criminal defamation violation under the Criminal Code, but the Labor Standards Act forbids employers to share blacklists. These teachers ought to complain to the prosecution.
Chris Backe in South Korea also warns against starting a blacklist here.

I'm on the fence.  A single blog post or newspaper article on a company or product, explaining why it is bad, a post with supporting evidence offered, seems appropriate. A wide-open list of products or companies that a similarly wide-open variety of authors dislike, for whatever reason offers less valuable information.  In short, blacklists are as useful as your knowledge of the person writing the information - caveat lectorem.

Another concern I have is with people charged-but-not-yet-convicted of various crimes.  At the Asian Correspondent, Nathan Schwartzman translated an article  about a (Korean) teacher molesting students.  At first, I wanted to know the name of the teacher especially as the parents wanted the teacher transferred.  If he is transferred, I really want to know his name.  Then, aware that even the suspicion of such a crime is poison, I realized that no one wants the name published until after a trial - at which point I hope they do publish it and not merely transfer the teacher.
I guess that although I do not like Korea's libel laws, they certainly are defensible.  Play differently, lose differently.

--------Busan Haps article on Libel, by Surprises Aplenty-------

If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. -Thumper’s Mom

commenter at KoreaBridge wrote: "if you have an understanding of the American Constitution, you will have heard of freedom of speech. He is quite free to write whatever he wants..."

Thinking you have the legal rights and freedoms here you would have if you were elsewhere is a good way get in trouble.  Indeed those legal freedoms, as relate to libel, aren’t so broad as you may think, in Korea or elsewhere.A friend who has recently returned to Canada after more than a decade here adapted quickly to local libel laws by taking a toy store to task.  It appears he has since taken his post down (I think this was routine, he typically removes personal content after a week or so) but in it, he named the store and its specific location -just outside of Toronto with the recommendation that people not shop there.

I believe his post contained useful information, was honest, the facts were correct and specific and was written to help other shoppers.  If he posted it here in Korea, he could have faced a fine and possible deportation.
Generally, a written work is libellous if it defames someone identifiable and living, is given to people other than the victim and the victim reputation or income suffers. (Libel defined.  And here.)

Usually, if the material is true, it is protected.  Results of court cases can be described, for example. Satire can be protected...if it is blunt or obvious enough.  Pubic figures, like politicians are less protected so discussions about them can be as free as possible, but media personnel and celebrities are also in this group.  Opinions are protected, but as with satire, it had better be clear that you are stating an opinion.

To avoid libeling someone you could use a pseudonym or avoid using a name altogether. This is NOT a free pass, however.  If the person can be identified by your description, you could still be charged with libel.

Why did I begin to care so much about libel that BusanHaps mistook me for an expert?  Because of one apparent difference in the way libel works here: truth is not a defence in Korea.  Well, that point plus the strangeness of the exceptions or loopholes that the media seems to follow.

As a moderator for KoreaBridge, I needed to judge a post about a recruiter that a new poster disliked.  “beware of [Korean city][district of that city][English nickname], aged XX.  ...doesn’t care about the teacher...JOBS SUCK!!"   This post, with the raging ALL-CAPS ending, is clearly an opinion but far too descriptive of the recruiter.  The owner of KoreaBridge confirmed we couldn’t accept the post as it was too specific.

Joe McPherson is a blogging acquaintance of mine who had some trouble with a hagwon he worked at.  After considerable time and effort, he won a court case against them.  To assist others, he blogged about his experiences and named the hagwon.  Back to court for him, this time as the defendant. Read The Libel Trap at the Joongang for details.

These examples demonstrate the problem I have with Korean Libel laws.  Although the first example is a little overwrought, the first two are attempts at public service announcements.  These people are trying to help others avoid their mistakes.  Apparently, you can't do that here.  No blacklists.  Also, be careful with satire:

Michael Breen was recently sued for libel by an organization that is too big and scary for me to name.  Let me throw The Marmot under the bus. Breen was also interviewed here at the Haps in April.

Professional media sources know this and tailor their articles accordingly.  Investigative journalism is toothless here.

Consider the 'Babyrose' scandal.  Babyrose, a Korean 'power blogger' raved about an air sterilizer  and many purchased the product.  Turns out, the sterilizer had some unhealthy flaws and Babyrose pocketed money from every sale.  Korean news outlets had a field day.  Hats off to the Korea Herald which alone of the three papers I read  included the blogger’s real name, but none of the papers named the unsafe sterilizer.  That would have been a good thing to know.

In June, I read a news article about three 'bad' universities.  Again, no names were given. The Joongang attempted good investigative journalism but the attempt is useless without the names.
So we know that at least one kind of sterilizer is unsafe and there are at least three bad universities in Korea.  One is in Gangwondo and another in Jeju.  The malfeasant institutions are relatively unharmed, but all in their niche are suspect.

To further confuse the issue, or maybe out of fear, newspapers have at least once hidden the identity of a person I don’t feel was protected.

Back in 2007, during the problems with US beef being imported, a man, presumably a Korean cattle farmer,threw cow manure over American beef at a Lotte Mart (original here).  In the photo, you can see many photographers on hand: clearly this was a PR event and journalists had been invited.  Look at the man throwing the manure.  If he planned this event and invited the media, why is his face - and those of the other sash-wearers- pixellated?

Another complication is described by Chris Backe.  He wants to know why the Anti-English Spectrum group has not been charged with libel. The AES has stated in the past that “that foreigners engage in “sexual molestation,” and that they “target children.””  Backe wonders who and how to sue:
Who is the guilty party, though? The AES as a whole? Naver, for not shutting down a website that is against the law / their own principles? The person / people whose posts are allowed to promote a racist / xenophobic agenda? The lawmakers who go on record with the same racist / xenophobic agenda? And how has a foreigner’s reputation been damaged? Both of those things would have to be figured out before a libel case could go forward.
In politics and crime stories, everyone knows what is happening in the US - often better than they do in their own countries or in Korea.  I started this article with a comment from a person who seemed to think American freedoms are defended here.  That commenter should also be careful in other countries.

In the UK, the reporter Simon Singh let slip the word ‘bogus’ in an article about chiropractic.  He lost his first court case but eventually won.
  “Simon is likely to be out of pocket by about £20,000. This – and two years of lost earnings, which he can never recover, is the price he has paid for writing an article criticising the BCA for making claims the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled can no longer be made. In the game of libel, even winning is costly and stressful.”


Indeed, the UK is known for libel tourism. “one of the favored venues for restrictive and chilling judgments is England, where libel laws are heavily weighted toward the plaintiff, placing on the defendant the entire burden of proving that a statement was not false and injurious.”

In Canada, Dr Jeffery Shallit from the University of Waterloo, describes ‘libel chill’ in this article.  “...if the court finds you told the truth but your intent was malicious, you might lose anyway.”

At The New Republic, libel in China and Singapore is mentioned, mostly as a tool used by the government to control dissent.

In the US, it does seem you are well protected from libel; at least senators are.  Jon Kyl seems to be fine after claiming 90% of Planned Parenthood’s business comes from abortions.  The correct number is 3%.  The Colbert Report had fun with this one.
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www.surprisesaplenty.wordpress.com, www.creativitiproject.blogspot.com