Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lovecrafts 'commonplace' book

Apparently 'commonplace book' is another name for notebook, used by authors to store their writing ideas. 15 months ago, I wrote about Agatha's Christie's Notebooks.  I guess they were notebooks because she used them for everything - recipe's shopping lists, story ideas and more.  I have read a few Christie novels and enjoyed them but I have never gotten the feeling that she was a literary writer as perhaps Lovecraft was (was considered -by me- to be literary).

Anyway, Via Boinboing, I have learned a little about Lovecraft's commonplace book.

From Wired:

This book consists of ideas, images, & quotations hastily jotted down for possible future use in weird fiction. Very few are actually developed plots—for the most part they are merely suggestions or random impressions designed to set the memory or imagination working. Their sources are various—dreams, things read, casual incidents, idle conceptions, & so on.
—H. P. Lovecraft
Presented to R. H. Barlow, Esq., on May 7, 1934—in exchange for an admirably neat typed copy from his skilled hand.

1 Demophon shivered when the sun shone upon him. (Lover of darkness = ignorance.)
2 Inhabitants of Zinge, over whom the star Canopus rises every night, are always gay and without sorrow. [x]
3 The shores of Attica respond in song to the waves of the Aegean. [x]

Note the "May 7, 1934".  The list of ideas, which totals over 200, also includes dates and 1935 is listed.  Now, that is spooky.
Not really related: Rudy Rucker has published his notes and ideas for Mathematicians in Love (PDF).  These notes were collected, I presume, after he published the book and clearly collected after he had the main ideas for this book.  It is not a commonplace book as I understand (poorly) the term as the notes comprise the time after 'the light turned on'.  Still, it is interesting to see how he put the book together.
I have not read the book, but some people (I forget who) at Boingboing love him.  I suspect the PDF has spoilers so it might be wise to read the actual book first. Mathematicians in Love at Amazon (published in 2008 with no Kindle edition available for me -I'm listed as Canadian - but perhaps for Americans?)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Two from Boing Boing

Most authors disapprove of fan-fic - fiction written by fans in the universes created by established authors.  J.K. Rowling probably doesn't want you to make your own Harry Potter stories.

Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, thinks otherwise.  He approves of fan-fic.
Fan-fiction writers aren’t guys who live in their parents’ basements. They aren’t even all guys. If anything, anecdotal evidence suggests that most fan fiction is written by women. (They’re also not all writers. They draw and paint and make videos and stage musicals. Darren Criss, currently a regular on Glee, made his mark in the fan production A Very Potter Musical, which is findable, and quite watchable, on YouTube.) It’s also an intensely social, communal activity.
The buildings in Bolivia are an eye-full:
This photo is from Boing-boing, and they found it on MLandivar's flickr page.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Petals around the rose

Via A Geek In Korea, I learned of a lateral thinking game for students, called Petals around the Rose.  Further details at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lego Creators '3-in-1' boxes. We can do better

Tyler Nelson bought a box of 50 lego pieces and challenged himself to make 50 designs with it.

Here is his public Google+ page of photos of his fifty creations.  Via Kottke.

Hmmm. The pieces look familiar to me.  I gave my son a set with similar pieces.  The three 'official' designs were for a fighter jet, a prop-driven plane like a WWII corsair or the like other.

I played with lego from whatever age my parents first bought them into my teens and learned to make many different designs or items.  Around 90% of my blocks were, well, blocky.  They were square or rectangular and of uniform height.  Oh, there were a few wedges, to make roofs properly.

Although I do like all the new parts and sets that are available, they feel very single-purpose.  I still enjoy making the stuff with my son but it feels more like following a recipe than actual invention.  A related question here is 'how much do I encourage my son to play with Legos?" I want him to have fun and play, not explicitly study and learn while using them.  For this reason, I've been a little hands off.  We make the origin designs together, then I leave them to him.

I've read that one serious blocker for creativity is too blank a page, too many options.  Perhaps in my case the limits of square and rectangular blocks encouraged me to work around them and treasure the few pieces that were non-standard.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jack and the B......

Click to Embiggin.

I am proud of the idea for these pictures.  In the first, we learn about "Jack and the Beans Talk."  They are talking about Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea and Three Cups of Deceit.  I think Fedarko was the ghost-writer for Stones Into Schools, which I have on my Kindle but find unable to read now I more of the story.  The author of Three cups of Deceit defends Fedarko and suggests he was given too short a deadline to both write the story and research it.

Jack: It's say how Mortenson has actually damaged relations with Pakistan.
Bean 1: The CAI has a lot to answer for.
Bean 2: Yes, but do you think Fedarko also deserves blame?

In the second picture Jack and the Bean Stalk a rhino!  They are busy with hand signs as they walk through the tall grass.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Time waits...

Click to embiggen.

Pamplona in the Off-season

Click to embiggen.

If anyone reads this, is it clear that they are running with the scissors because they can't run with the bulls?
I'm uninhibited enough to post this but not confident enough to leave it without this explanation.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Evolution bumper Sticker Contest

Greg Laden supplies the details.  Here are two of the rules:

  • Be original. Run a Google search and make sure your slogan hasn't been used or overused.
  • Size constraints. Your basic bumper sticker is about 2.75" high and about 15" wide. That's enough room for up to two lines of text, approximately 22 characters across (including spaces) per line. Remember: shorter is better.

The deadline is September 5.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Am I really positive about talent shows?

I think I am.  Well, one.  Okay, the one I just read about but have never watched.

Superstar K is a Talent Search show on Korean channel Mnet.  I don't know that I have ever even glimpsed programming of theirs.

The Chosun Ilbo has an article describing how 1.9 million people are auditioning for the show this year.

I can definitely see the negative side of such enthusiasm.  As the Chosun says:
The deluge of audition programs has raised concerns about their side effects, as many of the students who turn up to compete do so at the expense of their studies. ...
There are even signs that people may be jeopardizing their professional lives in order to compete, as they jump from one audition to another with little regard for their employers in their bid to find a shortcut to stardom.  
Yes, there are serious risks, but this seems more benign than lotteries, where -despite public works being sponsored by such - the participants mostly lose money.  Here, even the one not selected gain some experience, some individualism and some self-actualization from the process.  I see this as something I would not choose to do but also as a great incubator for creativity.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

science education and novelty

Is science education a matter of teaching scientific history or following a recipe book or an encouragement to attempt to learn new things?

I taught a one month course in evolution and another in ecology for high-level ESL students and my classes were mostly a review of modern ideas and their history so of the three options I offered above, my classes fit only the first.  And yet it felt to me like a proper science class.  No student appeared surprised by my teaching techniques or asked for ways to test my claims experimentally.
To be clear, I am not blaming my students for any lack of interest implied by my description.
How can we teach students about how to do science?  Boingboing has  recent article on one of their favorite subjects, Makers.
PBS on Makers Faire

Not really related: I enjoyed hearing about how a design firm challenged themselves to make 30 different coffee cups in 30 days.