Monday, June 19, 2017

TWIC:random, gurkhas, lackey, the cure, travel writing, pacing,

I guess randomizing your life is a form of creativity. The results were interesting.
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And randomizing part of your travel plans.
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For my own reading. The origins of the terrifying Gurkhas.
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Mercedes Lackey is an incredibly prolific author and is getting tired of Quorans asking if she is a real person!
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Also, she is a plotter, not a pantser.
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And she is open to working with the dead.
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Snider has the cure! -jerk that I am, I removed it -and shrank the image. I now know the cure - you know where to find it.

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Quora and Writer's block: One. And Mercedes Lackey doesn't think Writer's Block is real.
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Tips for travel writing.
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Probably not purely travel related: hot keys for making PPTs.
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In some stories, you learn that every action has a reason or consequence. Virtually every choice is intended to drive the plot forward or teach us about characters. But for Miyazaki, of Ghibli Studios fame, it was important to have a pause, a rest in the action. I think I have embedded the tweet and quote; if it doesn't show up when I publish the post, I'll it later.

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Gary Gygax's FBI record.

Monday, June 12, 2017

TWIC: anatomy, money, schedules, self-loathing, secrets, note taking

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Emerging writers vs those who make $100,000 a year.
Finding #2: Indie Publishing is a Viable Pathway to Success
We wanted to know if there was any correlation between how an author was published and whether or not it got them to the 100k club. The results were pretty surprising to us. Of all 100kers none were purely traditionally published. To be fair, only about 5% of overall respondents were solely traditionally published (James Patterson did not take our survey), so traditionally published authors didn’t make up a big part of the surveyed audience, but none of them were in the 100K club.
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The New York Times tells us to schedule time to be creative.
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Internet headline writers hate themselves.
In many non-public industries, success is like hide-and-seek. Companies find an advantage—a secret sauce, like the Coca Cola formula or a Netflix algorithm—and guard its secrecy at all costs. But web journalism is a radically public business, where writers can see what headline tropes get retweets, which stories blow up on Facebook, and which companies finish the month with the most readers. This business isn't like hide-and-seek. It's like Sardines, the derivative game where one person hides (e.g., under the sink), everybody else tries to find and join them, and the last person who doesn't see the clump of people in the kitchen is the loser. That's web journalism. Ruthlessly maximizing audience means figuring out what's working—for you and for everybody like you—and doing it over and over.
Writers are caught between the commercial instinct to maximize attention to articles that they've spent lots of time writing and the aesthetic instinct to not hate every fiber of their very being after they write the headline and press the publish button.
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Hide secrets in your writing.

How to hide secrets in your story

The true aim of hiding secrets in your story is to give the reader autonomy – to give them reason and motivation to investigate your writing and engage with it on the deepest possible level; one where you’re no longer around to guide them. Because of this, there are actually a couple of ways to hide your secrets. 
Codes and ciphers
...Dan Brown’s Deception Point includes a series of letters and numbers on its last page, offering readers a code to solve. Using the book itself, the codes can be translated into individual letters, which can then be placed into a five-by-five square to reveal the message [redacted - follow the link if you really care] 
... 
References and clues
References and clues are a less direct way of engaging the reader, but can be incredibly satisfying in their own right. Books like The Eyre Affair and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen populate their stories with characters from famous works of literature.
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Context and hindsight
Context and hindsight are the most natural ways to seed secrets into your story. When, for example, the reader learns the true identity of Fight Club’s Tyler Durden, earlier scenes take on new meaning, and a second read-through renders familiar scenes in a different, transformational light.
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Secrets and lies
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The theory is a patchwork of throwaway moments, strange comments, and interlinked details, and it’s unclear whether it will ever be confirmed or denied in the books themselves. In a series built on myth and intrigue, it’s a tantalizing possibility – a treasure trail that invites fans to think back and interrogate scenes, even as they wonder how it could come to a head in the future. If the theory is true, it’s a masterclass in how to hide secrets in your story, and it never needs to be resolved to have value. There’s as much enjoyment in piecing together a behind-the-scenes story as there is in seeing a theory turn out to be right.
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Modern Busy Town.
Image shrunk greatly, to see full size, follow the link.
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One trait I kinda/sorta share with Gates and Branson. We take notes. At the link are five tips, from which I have removed the details from, leaving below only the titles:
1. Create your own system. ...
2. Write down your thoughts immediately.
3. Expound on your thoughts later.
4. Store your notebooks for future reference.
5. Review your archive regularly for patterns or associations. 
Semi-related: I have been rereading Kim and reading Bayonets to Lhasa as research for my steampunk novel set in Nepal. Mostly, I've been using my Kindle's highlight feature but I should be writing down my notes and remarking why I found them interesting.
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

TWIC: formatting and publishing, carving tool, ninjas, atmosphere, scientific writing, editing,

A tutorial on formatting and publishing your e-book. THe tutorial uses screenshots and open and free software.
Resources:
Word Processor (MS Word, Open Office, Libre Office, etc...)
Google Docs
Calibre E-Book ManagerAn Epub Validator (There are many of these out there, but this one is free and was recommended by my original distributor)
Your Novel.
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My friend the Big Ho also offers some suggestions on e-publishing.
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Plotting, planning and cooking up, 24 ways. I tend to do something like the 'tentpole moments'
TENTPOLE MOMENTS
A story in your head may require certain keystone events to be part of the plot. “Betty-Sue must get sucked into the time portal outside Schenectady, because that’s why her ex-boyfriend Booboo begins to build a time machine in earnest which will accidentally unravel space-and-time.” You might have five, maybe ten of these. Write them down. These are the elements that, were they not included, the plot would fall down (like a tent without its poles). The narrative space between the tentpoles is uncharted territory.
BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END
Write three paragraphs, each detailing the rough three acts found in every story: the inciting incident and outcome of the beginning (Act I), the escalation and conflict in the middle (Act II), the climactic culmination of events and the ease-down denoument of the end (Act III). You can, if you want, choose the elemental changes-in-state you might find at the end of each act, too — the pivot point on which the story shifts. This document probably isn’t more than a page’s worth of wordsmithy. Simple and elegant.
A SERIES OF SEQUENCES
The saying goes that an average screenplay usually offers up eight or nine sequences (a sequence being a series of scenes that add together to form common narrative purpose, like, say, the Attack On The Death Star sequence from Star Wars or the Kevin James Makes Love To All The Animals In Order To Make The Audience Feel Shame sequence from Paul Blart, Zoo Abortion). So, chart the sequences that will go into your screenplay. If you’re writing prose, I don’t know how many sequences a novel should have — more than a film, probably (or alternately, each sequence is granted a greater conglomeration of scenes).
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Need a job? Have some unsavory skills that are somehow spectacular but discrete? Japan needs ninjas!
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Atmospheric Background Music. Many options: Vampire's Castle, Lonesome West, Weirder Things? They got it.
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I think I need a curved carving tool like this one.

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A few from Quora:
Scientific writing is hard, here are some guidelines. James Emmerson had great suggestions and explanations.
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Marketing or finding an audience for a storytelling blog.
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A confused question about editing and drafts, I think.
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Joe Rogan. I think he was on New Radio. Nowadays, I mostly know him as a moon-landing denier. Some people love his podcast. I am trying it out, listening to his interview with Dr Jordan Peterson.The same interview is on Youtube. Peterson is a U of T professor of psychology who also runs an online writing program where students write about their past, present and future. I haven't dug into any of this yet, but it looks interesting.
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Before you outline. Huh?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Incheon Animals: feral cats

I usually feel sorry for these cats but these three, bedraggled from the rain though they were, seemed to at least have friends. I found them on Gacheon University's Yeonsoo campus in Incheon so I suspect the students feed them well.
Feral cats Felis catus



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

TWIC: Malahat, education, copyright, productivity

I've added Canadian literary magazine Malahat to the sidebar.
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Brains and education. More ESL related but how to learn and teach better must involve creativity to some extent.
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How to copyright a book.
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Design and book covers.
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Productivity vs hours worked. I think my writing productivity would improve with fewer hours at the computer.
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10 tumblr blogs full of writing tips.
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Medieval fantasy map generator.
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Incheon Animals: visitors from Africa

I believe we are looking at Rothschild's giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), some African elephants (Loxodonta sp.) and a dromedary (Camelus dromedarius). More animals are in the background.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

TWIC: adverbs,stone work,maps

I have read many advice columns on writing; I suspect I have spent more time doing that than actually writing. That aside, one common piece of advice was to limit the amount of adverbs you use. Instead of "Ran quickly", say "Raced" or "sprinted". As I see it, the advice suggests adverbs are an oral device to fix a wrong word after the fact. You can't unsay something but you can modify it. You can however delete a word and replace it.
Is there any evidence or measurable reason to avoid adverbs? There is at least some research on who uses more and fewer adverbs. From Nabokov's favorite word is mauve, Tyler Cowan offers ly-adverb usage per ten thousand words:
Hemingway: 80
Twain: 81
Melville: 126
Austen: 128
J.K. Rowling: 140
E L James: 155
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In carving stone, you measure many, many times and cut carefully!

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Google Maps the best open-secret writing tool.
While writing and researching, I desperately wanted to visit Liverpool. To wander its streets. View its architecture. Feel its history. But what was a working mom of four kiddos in Texas supposed to do?
Enter Google Maps. The best writing tool that no one knows about. Well, of course, you know about Google Maps. But do you use it in your writing?
As a real estate agent, I used Google Maps all the time. For directions. For a sneak peek at a neighborhood. To see if a pool at a prospective house took up all of the yard when my client still wanted green space.
But as a writer? I had never heard of authors using it. And yet, it became the very best tool in my kit.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Incheon Animals: Red-eared Slider

WikipediaTrachemys scripta elegans


This may not be a native species and I saw a sign with one and warnings not to release pet turtles into the local stream.
They look similar but a tiny bit bigger than the painted turtles near my home.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

TWIC:Grant Snider, habits,

I'm a big fan of Grant Snider's comic and will probably buy his book, if I don't win it in a giveaway. Here he talks about creativity (podcast). Another podcast; this one includes a giveaway. - You can play the podcast on the website or click the last link "Embrace the joy with our latest podcast" and you can download it there.

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Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest “working” hours.
Mason Currey wrote a book on the daily lives and routines of artists (Amazon) that I think covered similar territory. A Harvard Business review of the book:
As I read, I became convinced that for these geniuses, a routine was more than a luxury — it was essential to their work. As Currey puts it, “A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.” And although the book itself is a delightful hodgepodge of trivia, not a how-to manual, I began to notice several common elements in the lives of the healthier geniuses (the ones who relied more on discipline than on, say, booze and Benzedrine) that allowed them to pursue the luxury of a productivity-enhancing routine:
A workspace with minimal distractions. Jane Austen asked that a certain squeaky hinge never be oiled, so that she always had a warning when someone was approaching the room where she wrote. William Faulkner, lacking a lock on his study door, just detached the doorknob and brought it into the room with him — something of which today’s cubicle worker can only dream. Mark Twain’s family knew better than to breach his study door — if they needed him, they’d blow a horn to draw him out. Graham Greene went even further, renting a secret office; only his wife knew the address or telephone number. Distracted more by the view out his window than interruptions, if N.C. Wyeth was having trouble focusing, he’d tape a piece of cardboard to his glasses as a sort of blinders.
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A different version of ghost-written. Trish Vickers is blind and was working on a novel.  Her pen ran out of ink but she didn't know and 'wrote' another 26 pages before her son noticed the problem. Luckily forensic experts at a local police station volunteered their time and were able to recover the text. Above is the Boingboing summary link: here is the link to the original.
Not knowing what else to do, she and Simon called the police. To the Vickers’s surprise, officers at Dorset HQ volunteered to work during their breaks and free time, hoping to use their forensic tools to help. And, five months later, the police reported back with success: they recovered the never-written words. Vickers told a local newspaper that the pen she used to write the pages — even though there was no ink left in it — left behind a series of indentations: “I think they used a combination of various lights at different angles to see if they could get the impression made by my pen.”
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Incheon Animals: Barn Swallow

The Korean Barn Swallow. Hirundo rustica.


I heard the chicks and looked around until I saw an adult. It was flying out of an electric meter box. My hand is covering the apartment number.




Eight chicks seems like a lot.

Bird details here.

Click Baitin': Met an accident

Josh Huang on Quora offered a prompt for a story and asked if people could complete one. My response (the prompt is in bold):

I remember I met an accident, but this morning I wake up in my own bed without any pain. You don’t meet many accidents these days. Now that contraception is legally required, it is hard to get pregnant unexpectedly. 
I think back to seeing her yesterday and how she hit me with that club. As if a human powered club would hurt a citizen in in today’s most fashionable garment, the titanium suit. I wonder where she is now.

Monday, May 15, 2017

TWIC: Sykes' advice, writing platform, writing,

Sykes on Writing
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I have some suspicions about this product. Everywriter. It was described to me as a Chinese version of Scrivener but free. Friends who pointed it out admired the Chinglish: stories on everywriter don't have a climax, they have an orgasm. Or so I have been told. I guess I'm an everywriter virgin.

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Canadian Embassy in Seoul Blog is promoting a young writers fiction contest. Entries must use '150' in some way - this is Canada's 150 anniversary! I believe this is an international contest so be sure to find the local embassy's information.
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non-writers a work. Wait staff don't write the menu, but they might be asked to document how their job works. Here are five tips to help them make intelligible documents.
  1. Create a documentation standard. This will be vital. Without a standard, you’ve failed before you begin.
  2. [This is actually #5. I snipped the intervening ones. Follow the link for the others] Get users to review the documents. Ask them if they can quickly find and understand the information they need. Modify the documents based on their feedback.
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Microsoft Paint is more powerful than you thought.
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7 Easy Art Tutorials.
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Incheon Animals: Pretty Good Cormorant

I am not certain it is the Great cormorant so I didn't want to exaggerate (wikipedia). Phalacrocorax carbo




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

TWIC:drawing, generators, formatting, words

Just when I'd promised to keep away from TWICs and Quora, I've found something cool for TWIC and wrote a Quora answer I am proud of.  Hmm.  Well, I didn't spend much time surfing on Quora so that's something.

The cool thing is auto draw. That's the description of a new Google tool, My drawing and the suggestion.


Here is the direct link to the tool.
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I've written about various online idea generators, ones that offer a list of names or possible book titles, or fantasy maps. You can probably find them here. Here are two more: Fantasy name generators and Seventh Sanctum. From the latter, a list of names for 'dark rituals'!
Accursed Communion of the Ever-living Avatar of Winds
Conjuration of Ensnaring Spectres
Demonic Ceremony of Misery
Dreadful Demigods' Ritual of Wickedness
Ever-changing Invocation of Foul Demigods
Fiendish Ghosts' Working of Chambers
Foul Demigod's Ritual of Omens
Incantation of Flesh
Incantation of the One-Hundred Gods of Death
Invocation of the Decree of Unholiness
Legendary Sacrifice of Crystaline KnivesLurking Beasts' Evocation of Agony
And Anime Powers generator:
Cable Blaster
Crushing Enlightenment
Exploding Harpoon
Fist Inhumation
Future Knuckle
Gleaming Blast
Green Club
Heaven Persuer
Hot Kill
Keen Program
Paramour Battl
er
Ripping Ward
My son always wanted me to play Pokemon with him - not the card or video games, but us acting out our own fights and such.  We had to plan our special attacks and abilities. I tormented him so much by choosing "Good dancing" or 'sense of rhythm' as my ability. Eventually he stopped asking me to play. Hmm. Now I feel bad.

There are a lot more generators there and some writing ones. From Plot Twists:
A string of numbers turns out to refer to a medical formula.
Because of a solar flare, the lead suddenly reveals a hateful side - which makes things much easier
Due to torture a character has to be hospitalized.
It's revealed that everything that is happening is all a dream. That's when everything becomes stranger
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Publisher in the proper format for Amazon and Kindle is now easier. Amazon offers new software for formatting:
If you've prepared a book in Microsoft Word, Kindle Create (Beta) helps you convert it so it's ready to publish to Kindle devices and apps. Kindle Create (Beta) makes it easier to go through the file conversion process, preventing the kinds of errors that can slow down publishing.
Kindle Create (Beta) helps you

  • Preview and edit your book as it will appear in Kindle format--before you publish
  • Create and edit your table of contents while styling your book. Add professionally-designed themes to make your eBook better-looking and easier to read
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The lessons Wendig has learned in writing 20 books in 5 years. There are 25; here are 3.

3. THE MUSE DOESN’T HUNT YOU, YOU HUNT THE MUSE
Waiting for inspiration is a fool’s game. You hunt it. You summon it. Writing is an act of laying traps for the Muse. Writing does not follow inspiration. It goes the other direction. You become inspired through the act of writing, of telling stories. Just sitting down and doing the work lays bait. It’s an alluring trail Reese’s Pieces meant to draw the extraterrestrial Muse into your house. 
4. IDEAS ARE EASY
For a long time I thought ideas were everything. I thought them precious pearls, when the reality is, they’re just driveway gravel. I got a hundred ideas whipping around my head every day, and the majority of them are sounds and noises — grunts in the dark, a gibber, a wail. I used to write them all down. I’d hoard them like a crow hiding colorful strips of ribbon in its nest. Now, I let them go. I shove them back out the door with not a moment’s interest. Then I wait. If those little bastards come back, if they sneak in through the vents like John McClane, if they creep in through the boltholes like a mouse — well, okay then. That’s an idea that wants to haunt me. That’s an idea whose grunts and gibbers might turn into a song. They’re all still driveway gravel, but maybe once in a while one of those pieces of flinty limestone has some quartz buried in there — something crystalline, with depth, with shine, something worth looking at. At the end of the day, though, no idea is worth anything but the work you give it. You still gotta polish that stone. You still gotta write it all down and make it shine. 
5. FIND YOUR DAMN PROCESS — THEN CHALLENGE IT
I often tell a story about how it took me five years to write — or rather, figure out how to write — Blackbirds, and that journey involves me learning I needed to outline my books before I write them. Some folks take that lesson as me telling them: “You have to outline.” But that’s not it. I have to outline. I don’t know what the fuck you need to do; you have to figure that out. You have a process. So go find it. Maybe that means writing 2k every day, reliably. Maybe it means writing 15,000 words every other weekend. Maybe it means you write in coffee shops, or in the crawlspace under your house. Maybe it means you eat a handful of bees before you begin. I dunno. That’s on you to figure it out, and while it’s important to figure out what you write and why you write, it’s also incredibly necessary to figure out how you write. You may think how you write is the way others have told you it must be, but that doesn’t make it true. Also important: when your process isn’t working, you need to evolve it. Your process isn’t one thing forever just as you aren’t one person forever. Challenge it. Change it. See the river and go with it.
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Sergei Prokudin Gorskii was a remarkable photographer a hundred years ago. That link goes to an image search in his name. Here he is on Wikipedia and at the Library of Congress. From the Google Search:

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The drawfee channel on Youtube.
Welcome to Drawfee, where we turn dumb ideas into even dumber drawings!
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Words with prefixes but not without.  You can be 'disgruntled' but never 'gruntled'.
It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate. I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way. I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I'd have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito.
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TWIC: Holy ... It's already Sunday, the danger of social media

It's already Sunday and I haven't prepared a This Week In Creativity yet!

This stroller looks satisfactory but also homemade. I am not complaining about the amateur design but rather impressed with the reasoning and logic behind all the design features. and also that I might be capable of building something similar if I needed to.


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Why haven't I been keeping up with events for my blog? I guess beautiful weather has something to do with it. At my surprisesaplenty blog I share some photos of a recent cycling trip in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.
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Amateurs and Professionals.
I dream about being a professional writer. I really should buckle down and just write.
I used to write a few hours on a random Saturday every third week of the month. I never got better, and I couldn’t understand why. Then I started writing 500 words a day for as little as twenty to thirty minutes per day. Within a year, I had found my voice. 
Frequency trumps quantity. It’s better to work a little toward mastering your craft every day than a lot once in a while. John Grisham knew this, too: he wrote his first novel in small pieces, during the only free hour he had before work every morning. By the time he was done, three years later, he’d created a new genre: the legal thriller.
What if he’d decided it was too painful to get up to write at 5:00am every day? What if he’d given into the overwhelming feeling of writing a novel on top of 70-hour work weeks? What if you decide the same?
I like a lot about this article but I wonder what "the overwhelming feeling of writing a novel" is.
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The BBC tells us that idle moments are crucial for creativity. The article starts by noting that passengers on flights from some countries to the US cannot access electronic devices and how galling those 11 hours will be without being plugged in. Then,
“My most creative moments come when my brain is allowed to rest,” says Megan King, a graphic designer for the architecture and engineering firm exp Global Inc. As a designer, King is expected to come up with new, compelling ideas all the time. “Sometimes I’ll spend all day working on a project and I’ll feel that I never quite created something that I’m really happy with,” King says. “I’ll get a good night’s sleep and [the next day], get something done in 15 minutes that is more innovative.”
But “I’m addicted to my smartphone,” she says.
A few years ago, when I really got into running, I needed, desperately needed, some audio to distract me from the monotony of running. As I got more into it, I adjusted my playlists, even deliberately adding a few mp3 files of 5 minutes of silence.

The BBC article discusses being taking breaks from screen time but with my hand writing I don't care to use notebooks for more than organizing notes. I can fill a few pages with text in a pinch but there are often real problems with rereading them later -even for me, the author! Still, I think it is time for me to set some limits for social media. I like blogging and feel this is a sort of creative outlet or place to organize my thoughts. I need to put more time into actually writing blog posts rather than these TWICs, which are mostly cut-and-paste. And yet sometimes they are all the content I produce here.

My friends and family are scattered across the globe so if I stopped using Facebook some friends would wonder if the North Koreans had started to attack. Still, I can definitely cut down on time there.

Feedly will be the toughest thing to cut back on. It is the source for much of my TWIC material and a place where I choose what news I want to read.

I shouldn't leave this for later. I might change this plan but as of now, I will be on Facebook for ten minutes morning and evening and on Feedly for the same period (another ten minutes, not the same ten). Quora will get ten minutes every other day. On rainy days and weekends, I can spend more time on social media but only when I set a limit before starting.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

TWIC: ukulele music.plotting, ESL writing, cliches, canoes


Covers of his songs here.
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Writer's block? One solution.
Slightly larger image at the link.
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Planning your plot. And keeping track of it all as you go. I love the idea of using wall space like this:A manuscript of Henry Miller's outline of 'Tropic of Capricorn' (Image is shrunk -see full size at the link)


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Protect yourself from copyright infringement. one of three suggestions:
One of the oldest tricks for proving that a work belongs to you is to print off your writing and send it to yourself in a sealed envelope. This sounds weird but, legally, it functions the same way as a copyright. All mail is stamped with the date by a government employee. And if an envelope is properly sealed, it implies that its contents haven’t been tampered with. Therefore the contents contained within the envelope are recognized by the government as having been written on or before the stamped date.
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Plot twists: too light on foreshadowing and they don't make sense. Too much foreshadowing and they aren't twists anymore.
These understated, almost unimportant titbits are what make for a good plot twist, but you need to get the balance right. If you give the reader too few clues the twist will seem as though it’s come from nowhere, and your story will feel tacky and thrown together. If you give them too many clues as to the impending twist, it won’t be a twist at all, because of its predictability and lack of surprise. Therefore, a successful plot twist needs to be both something that comes from beyond the audience’s viewpoint, and yet, once the dust has settled, feels somewhat satisfyingly inevitable.
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What writers really do.
I carried that image around for the next 20-odd years, too scared to try something that seemed so profound, and then finally, in 2012, noticing that I wasn’t getting any younger, not wanting to be the guy whose own gravestone would read “Afraid to Embark on Scary Artistic Project He Desperately Longed to Attempt”, decided to take a run at it, in exploratory fashion, no commitments. My novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is the result of that attempt, and now I find myself in the familiar writerly fix of trying to talk about that process as if I were in control of it.
We often discuss art this way: the artist had something he “wanted to express”, and then he just, you know … expressed it. We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same.
The actual process, in my experience, is much more mysterious and more of a pain in the ass to discuss truthfully.
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I am learning how to write creative science fiction and fantasy. My own students are learning how to write in English. They also need to be creative. My friend Rob Whyte has a blog focused on ESL writing and here are a few posts that caught my eye.

Basic writing
New Lesson
This week students will complete a first draft for writing assignment #4. It’s a story about a boy who meets an alien space ship. The purpose of this assignment is to practice and improve good writing skills like idea, organisation, the first sentence, word choice, and conventions.
In particular, please pay attention to articles and verb tenses.
The exercise has a second purpose. I want students to learn and practice writing complex sentences.
Here is the picture prompt for this exercise.
This is the middle part of the lesson - follow the link for the preview and review and etc.
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My own ESL students in writing and speaking are generally vague.

  • SA: What did you do yesterday?
  • STU: I saw a movie.

It would be so easy for them to tell me the name but they naturally relax to the simplest information. Sometimes I worry about prying. If a student told me in class he went to an 'ero'[tic] movie, I would be pleased with the detail but concerned about TMI. It's a fine line.  Anyway, Rob also tackles weak details, in creative writing rather than personal events.
Focus student attention on pictures 3 and 4. They lack detail. This is where students need to add detail by asking questions. These questions might include:
  • What does the outside look like?
  • How big is the spaceship?
  • Why did the boy go inside?
  • What does the interior look like and smell like? 
  • Who or what is inside the UFO?
Here are panels 3 and 4 - the others, as always, are at the link.
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cliches in comics.
Via Bizarro, I learned of Bob Mankoff's discussion of cliches in comics. Further searching led me to this list that John Freeman made. I copied the whole list here, then deleted maybe 80%. If it interests you, you know what to do.  Added after saving and returning later -Wow! When I first placed them here, there were in a tidy list, not jumbled together.
Abominable Snowmen Airport security lines
Banana peels Beached whales Beds of nails Bedtime stories
Bowling pins versus bowling balls
Cannibals Cats versus mice Cavemen – and women Cave paintings Centaurs
Cinderella Clowns in a tiny car Cloudwatching and identifying Comedy and tragedy masks
Couples caught cheating in bed Couples on a house during a flood Crash-test dummies
Customs agents Damsels on railroad tracks Damsels and dragons
Eskimos Evolution Funeral-parlour viewings Firing squads Galley slaves Gallows The Garden of Eden Gates of Hell
Groom carrying his bride over the threshold Guillotine
Humpty Dumpty Husband behind newspaper at Breakfast Igloos In Out Boxes Invention of fire Invention of the wheel Ice Hole Fishing Jesus on Cross
Marriage counselors
Nudists Operating Theatre Patent Office Pinocchio Pirate’s Lineup Political Stump Speech Robots Rubik’s cube Sandcastles
Snails Snow WhitSong lyrics as captions 
This Side Up box Thinking Outside the Box Tombstones Traffic cop pulling over speeding motorist Trojan Horse
Turtle and Hare TV Weather Forecasts Two Guys in a Horse Costume Umpires
Woman trying on hat You-are-here map Zen Zeus throwing lightning bolts Zorro
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Via Kottke comes this video of a master woodworker building a dugout canoe.

The Birth Of A Dugout Canoe by Northmen from Northmen on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hokusai

I think that my appreciation of paintings is similar to that of music.  I tend to enjoy novelty more than objective classics.  In music this means I listen to a lot of Weird Al Yankovic, but also TMBG, Roy Zimmerman, and Jonathan Coulton.  I do like classical music but the one I listen to most, Leoš Janáček's - Sinfonietta I like most for the eldritch, unusual theme.

In paintings, I do like van Gogh's work - Starry Night graces my Kindle case - but works that better demonstrate my character are novelty ones. Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights is the best example.

Hokusai's paintings are among the best known in the world, and stand out as unconventional to western eyes.  Here are some of my favorites:



Actually, I don't care so much for this dragonfly image. I think I might be able to draw or paint a better dragonfly.





A website devoted to him.

Wikipedia article on the man here.
BBC article here.  Their podcast In Our Time devoted 40 minutes to him. I think their episodes are only available as MP3s for a few weeks but it appears you can stream from their site for an extended period.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

TWIC: VPNs, carving, marketing, motivation,

I can't think of any way this relates to creativity but as an important public service, here is an article on how to secure your web browser and set up a VPN. Incredibly important!
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How to sharpen wood carving tools.
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Bizarre Japanese Nurse stock photos. Find information about them at that link. The photos can be found here. And #savedyouaclick: there are no tentacle porn or naked nurse photos. I, uh, didn't search for them...Well, I didn't specifically search for them.
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Videos of Traditional ways of making from South Korea.
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Working from anywhere: a laptop lifestyle.
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Quora and Medium posts to attract readers.
and
Podcasting to attract readers.
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What is stopping you from writing?
and
What's holding you back?
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A poisonous grudge with another writer.
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Camp Nano is going on right now!
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Live like Kings and Work like Artisans.
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Beautiful Bookstore
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Bored scribes told a story in the margins of their illuminated manuscripts in days of yore. Why so many snails? The answer is in that video but it leaves out the possibility of a warning against Uzumaki!


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

TWIC: More Sci Am, lectures, making stuff up, motivation

Dreaming and Daydreaming and more in March's issue - nothing free online though.
Update? At least one of the Daydreaming articles is available free online at their site.
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Being creatively dishonest is somehow more acceptable.
We are much harsher on people who rob banks than on people who achieve the same objective but through creative methods like those employed by Abagnale. This is important as it introduces a bias in the way we judge dishonesty and punish it, thus reducing the likelihood of seeing more of the same behavior in the future. But there is another reason why our research is potentially interesting: creative forms of unethical behavior are more likely to be imitated than other forms of unethical behavior because people admire the behavior’s creativity, we discovered. It seems that people view creativity as a positive, valuable trait that provides creative cheaters with a halo that makes their transgressions more palatable and more socially contagious.
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Meditation as a means of studying the brain.
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Ass-on-chair. "There is no trick to writing"
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College course lectures saved. They should be available here in April.
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Use a real-world setting or a made-up setting in your writing?
6 Advantages and Disadvantages of a Real-Life Setting
1. A Real-Life Setting Is Instantly Recognizable
2. A Real-Life Setting Offers Built-In Verisimilitude
3. A Real-Life Setting Requires Less Brainstorming4. Real-Life Settings Require More Research
...
2 Advantages and Disadvantages of a Made-Up Setting
1. A Made-Up Setting Frees You From the Burden of the Facts
2. A Made-Up Setting Demands Active Creativity
 Reader(s) familiar with this blog will know of my habit of removing all the details from the list above. To read them, follow the link.
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Jack Dorsey's Dos and Don'ts.
That Do list is as follows:
Stay present
Be vulnerable
Drink only lemon water and red wine
Six sets of 20 squats and push-ups every day
Run for 3 miles
Meditate on this list
Stand up straight
Spend 10 minutes with a heavy bag
Say hello to everyone
Get 7 hours of sleep
And the “Don’ts”:
Don’t avoid eye contact
Don’t be late
Don’t set expectations that you can’t meet
Don’t eat sugar 
Don’t drink hard liquor or beer during the weekday
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Forget the career ladder, organize your creative assets.
The strugglers live from project to project, gig to gig. Each new project feels like starting afresh, from scratch. Each new client needs to be pitched and sold from scratch. They are always too busy or too skint to do the work they really want to do. It’s exhausting and demoralising.
The ones who prosper take a longer term approach. As well as living day-to-day, they carve out time to create assets that will make everything easier, more enjoyable, and more profitable in the future. As time goes by, they have more and more assets, and the effects start to multiply – to the point where they achieve exponentially more with their efforts than they had ever thought possible.
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Our Gutenberg moment. It's easier to publish and that means it's easier to publish crap.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Motivation


So I got word of this course on Twitter, followed the link and blogged it here. Maybe tomorrow, if I feel like it, I'll actually sign up for the course. Motivation level 0.5
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Still looking for the magic pill or device that allows me to sit work on my own book rather than prepare for classes - which I am not doing either, seeing as I am adding content to my blog. Truth Telling by Sykes 94.7
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How writing fiction can get you out of poverty.
This may be me soon. Terror gives a +5 to motivation (=5.5)!
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Tracking a novel's progress to help you get to completion.
“I knew I needed help to avoid it being just a stack of paper that sat in my bedside drawer. I know too many people who have written half a novel,” he says.
A cool graphic or GIF showing the author's highs and lows. It also shows he took around a year and a half longer than he theoretically needed to. Terror eased by 3.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

TWIC: maps, Agatha Christie, writing sex scenes, Jen Lee interviewed, Purpose, libraries,

It might be time to make this a cartography blog. I've certainly offered a number of map generators, and design tools. Here's another.
So a few weeks ago, I discovered that you can use Google Maps to draw on existing cities and make custom maps of your fictional locations. Needless to say, I was EXTREMELY EXCITED. Being an author practically guarantees you will struggle with real life details like travel distance at some point in your book. If you're writing about a real city, the bar is even higher. Even if you're writing about your own city, a map can be a life saver just for keeping everything straight in your head.
For years now, I've had to draw those maps by hand, and let me just say: a cartographer I am not. Enter Google Maps. Let's say you're writing a story set in London. Going to Google Maps to look up a street map is obvious, but Google has given us tools to take that even further, allowing authors to draw new boundaries, set landmarks, and make notes right on a custom map that you can save! And best of all, it's free!! (Well, okay, there is a paid version that has more features, but for our purposes, the free version works perfectly well).
All that said, the Google Maps customization interface isn't exactly user friendly. Most people don't even know it exists (I found it by accident). This a crime! Something this useful should be known by all! Lots of people on Twitter agreed with me. So, by popular request, here is my guide to using Google Maps for world building.
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Agatha Christie's secrets.
1. Christie introduced ROMANCE into the murder mystery.


2. Christie was very good at hiding the identity of the murderer. And she usually did this cleverly and fairly.



Today I’m only going to concentrate on (2), above. (If you would like to read more about including romance in a story, see: The Structure of a Romance Story.)

How to Make Readers Think the Murderer Couldn't Have Done It.


There’s no other way to say it: Agatha Christie deceived her readers! And we loved it. How did she do this?

7 Ways to Disguise a Murderer:


1. Agatha Christie made readers think the murderer was a victim
. (Peril at End House.)


Examples: Peril at End House, The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor, And Then There Were None.
In PERIL AT END HOUSE Nick—the eventual murderer—convinces Poirot that someone is trying to kill her. She is subtle and drops clues she knows the great detective (who loves clues!) will pick up on.
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Jen Lee draws comics documenting her life here in South Korea. Here is an interview.
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Rob Beshizza shows us his writing space.
I'm one of those people who has trouble writing at length on my main machine, because of all the distractions it offers. Email and messaging and social networking: they all combine to form the "ludic loop" that Mark recently blogged about.
I've tried various things over the years to help keep me focused, from simple full-screen word processors such as WriteRoom and FocusWriter to gadgets like the Alphasmart and Freewrite. But apps are a tab away from fun, and glorified typewriters tend to expose their limitations in odd and frustrating ways.
Full-sized image at the link.

GRR Martin does something similar. He uses an old word processor that does 'all the things he needs and none of the things he doesn't'. Autoplay video and GRRM interview here. Specifically, he uses Wordstar.
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What is the purpose of creativity? This is a question at Quora that I answered. I think Velikovsky's answers is excellent and contains links to interesting articles on creativity and evolution. His blog is here.
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Gaiman on reading and libraries
I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
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R.L. Stine's Writing Program

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Songwriting at Literature suggestions An ESL instructor colleague asked for suggestions for a Songwriting as Literature course. Here are some of the suggestions
Bob Dylan - Nobel Prize winner
The Road Goes on Forever - Robert Earl Keen
Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay"
Rappers, sorted by the size of their vocabulary
 The Logical Song - Supertramp
Simon and Garfunkel
They Might Be Giants
Wesley Willis
American Pie
American Songwriter.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads

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Pixar Story Telling class - Did I offer this link before?
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Starting writing late in life. The writer started writing novels at age 47 and says that's old. I guess at 49, I am in trouble.
So what about those thirty years I wasted in self-doubt?
I don’t think they were wasted, actually. In fact, I’d argue that the best thing a writer can do is delay publishing for as long as possible.
This isn’t an attractive argument; it’s not sexy. Nobody’s going to make any Top Thirty Under Thirty lists that way. And dammit, writing is difficult. It takes so much hard work and dedication. How long can a person go on working with nothing to show for it?
As long as you can.
Those thirty years didn’t just make me a writer. They made me a good writer. That paralyzing self-doubt morphed into a keen sense for quality in my own work. When I write something that stinks, I can usually smell it. I’ve been reading for more than forty years, so I have thousands of great books and stories banked for information and inspiration. And best of all, I have a lifetime’s worth of unplumbed material to draw on—I’ve seen the world in all its glory and ugliness.
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Monday, March 13, 2017

TWIC: busy,diy coffin, music, motivation, maps

It seems like even easy posts like This Week In Creativiti are shrinking.  I normally start a new TWIC around the same day I post the finished one. Then I add to it all week.

Big news! I have a job! Last year we moved to a new city in South Korea and I took on various short contracts while looking for more full time work. I am fully employed again!

It is a new position and I need to plan new lessons and organize homework and such so posting here has been infrequent.

Indeed, it is now Sunday and TWIC normally goes up on Monday evening or Tuesday. I gotta find some stuff.
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Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. The book doesn't come out for another six or seven weeks (May 2) but it looks interesting for a variety of reasons.
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Theft. A history of music. The link goes to a site to buy the book or download a PDF free.
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shortlist for Sony's world photography awards.
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Unintended consequences  What would you want if you could any one thing, real or imaginary? How difficult would it be to keep it?
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Tremendously wealthy and still working on Sundays. Why? The article is about ambition and motivation. Things I need.
Consider the journalist Ryan Avent, who recently wrote a piece titled Why do we work so hard? He confesses to an internal struggle about the pros and cons of his self-described workaholic life. But he ends up optimistic about his tradeoffs. For his grandparents, he says, work was a means to an end. “Work” was the thing you did during the week to make money in order to enjoy “life” on the weekends. For our grandparents, in a different economy, work was duller and more physically taxing. Today, for the educated among us, work can be intellectually invigorating as never before. It’s easier to love your work, as he says he loves journalism. When his parents worry about his job and its long hours, Avent observes the disconnect: They are asking him about his “work,” he says, but “I am thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.”
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The Components of Happy Ambition: Tweaks to Prioritize Happiness As You Quest for Meaning
Become mindful of status triggers with mindfulness meditation
Set fewer goals. Love the craft itself: be process-driven, not goal-driven
Choose work and set goals where relative status is harder to compare or measure
The people around you shape the nature of your ambition, so pick your peer group carefully
Diversify your identity by operating a portfolio
Operate a dashboard, not a leaderboard. Play against yourself, not an opponent
Physically move and be a big fish in a small pond
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Designing the graphics for Harry Potter movies. I am a 'get the function right and don't worry about the design' guy. I make some useful things but I seldom go the extra mile to work on the presentation.  My PPTs of lesson materials carry the details I want and I value simplicity but they could be better organized. One thing I know I should fix is consistency - A constant style in how I display information so students know where to look. On one slide I might have nouns in blue but on the next slide I have circled the nouns. Ah, enough about me. I like the depth of planning that went into basically all movies and this example shines.
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A fantasy map generator. Kottke does a good job of summarizing how this generator works and why it is special. There are some small scale generators too play with but the completed work is posted to Twitter @unchartedatlas.

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Need to add whale song to your life? Here is a whale synthesizer. It sounds awfully like a theremin to me.
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