Tuesday, February 12, 2013

twic (7) Happy Darwin Day!

I follow Boingboing and nearly daily read Cory Doctorow opine on copyright issues.  Some time ago, Freakenomics got into the discussion with Who Owns the Words that Come Out of Your Mouth.  I hope I can quote this section:

DUBNER: Coming up on Freakonomics Radio: What is the going rate for a word once written or spoken aloud by Winston Churchill?
SINGER: I used 3,872 words of Winston Churchill’s in the book. And that cost me £950, which is roughly 40 cents a word.DUBNER: Hello, British copyright law! And, it turns out, Barry Singer is not the only one who doesn’t like it:
Rohan SILVA: We were having a coffee a few years ago with Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and they said to us that they’d been looking at the intellectual property regime in the U.K., and they thought that they actually couldn’t have started Google in the U.K.

The whole post -or listen to it as a podcast here - is interesting and Winston Churchill was a remarkable man, but the content is important to anyone who includes realgia in their writings.

Daniel Fincke discusses writer's block at Camels with Hammers.  He also has been so busy that it has interfered with his blogging.  I know how he feels and want to get back to blogging daily.  Soon.  From a Fincke post on his schedule:
I’ve missed blogging a ton. I suffer something analogous to withdrawal when I don’t write every day. Tonight, soon as I get minimally settled at the new place, it will be time to make Camels With Hammers a daily blog again. Thanks to countless of you for your patience, loyal readership, and personal support these last few months. Please come by every day this week. It encourages me to write more!
See Darwin's creative process in action.
These two drawings, separated by 22 years, are a perfect illustration of the creative process in scientific thought. On the left is the first ever evolutionary tree, and on the right is Darwin’s final tree from On the Origin of Species.When he sketched out this first tree, Darwin had already spent years coming up with and expanding on his idea of transmutation (what we call evolution). I think about this drawing as a proof, a way to visually evaluate what he had been mulling over for so many years. He used this figure to take a bunch of independent thoughts and pull them together to address one big question: how do the species we see today relate to species that existed in the distant past?
The author goes onto further detail, emphasizing Darwin's "I think" written at the top of his first drawing.  The man had the idea, the flash of genius, but needed time to test and adjust it before considering it complete.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

twic (6) Surprises is not settled yet

  I am currently in Penetang, Ontario, at my mother's home and the place I will call home for the next year.  I am here with my son so that he can attend a Canadian school and improve his English.  I am also looking for work: I am not sure what I should be doing here.  On the one hand, I don't want to overwhelm my mother so I should be home outside of school hours and so need a part time job.  On the other, if I find satisfying work that offers a sufficient salary, we will stay and my wife will emigrate and join us.

I am looking at getting a new computer while I am in Canada and am interested in Acer computers.  By happy coincidence, my mother has one and I am typing on it now.  I like a lot about it but all Acer notebooks seem to have tiny left-side shift keys.  \i have learned to compensate somewhat but \i frequently type "\" then "i" instead of "I".  The weird thing is that this computer has two "\" keys, one next to the left-side shift key and forcing it to be the same size as any normal letter key.

Anyway, this is not my computer and I am not eager to spend too much time searching or researching.

Two contests for you:

The Toronto Star's short story is in progress!  This story won last year.  The contest started in early January and finishes on February 24.  I just learned of it but will attempt something for it.

For K-bloggers, write about your weirdest travel experience.
The rules are simple: write a story (in English) about your most unusual or bizarre travel experience in Korea. No more than 500 words. A photograph from the incident, or of some of the aftermath, is recommended (but optional). Preference will be shown to positive stores or those that encourage travel. Send your stories to me – chrisinsouthkorea AT gmail DOT com. Deadline: 11:59pm Korean time on February 20th, 2013. The top three stories will be chosen by Groove’s editor Matt Lamers, myself, and the founders of Travel Pants Korea, Angel Moreno and Daniel Kim. The three stories will be read dramatically for a YouTube video, and the winner voted on by you. Voting will be from the 25th to the 3rd (one week), with the winner being declared on March 4th.
At Boing-Boing are two posts on patent-trolls.
Games Network claims to have patented the phrase "Space Marine".  Apparently, they plan on going back in time to charge Doc EE Smith for his use of Space Marines in his Lensmen series -which I think finished in 1954.
If you are a podcaster and have suffered from patent trolls, these people want to hear from you.

Author Rudy Rucker discusses Bogosity Generators.  Science fiction writers need a scientific sounding explanation for futuristic tech.  Faster-Than-Light travel?  Warp Speed.  A way to generate enough power? Dilithium crystals.  Instantaneous communication across interstellar distances? Try the Ansible.

These tools demonstrate the difference between fantasy and science fiction.  With fantasy, the explanation can be as simple as 'by magic', while some, possibly bullshit (Rucker's word), technology should be cited in science fiction.

The Bogosity Generator is NOT bullshit however.  The limits the author forces upon the invented tech often drive the story.

An excerpt:

When you’re thinking about the explanation, it’s like you’re reading an instruction manual for some cool new device. Admittedly, you yourself are writing the instruction manual at the same time that you’re reading it, but the manual is not a complete fabrication—it’s constrained by having to be logical, concise, intellectually appealing, internally consistent and, to a certain degree, externally consistent with some cherry-picked facts of science.

When you get a really fine explanation for your bogosity generator, it’s no longer the case that your story tells a lie . If the explanation is really cooking, the lie tells your story. Yeah, baby. That’s where you want to be. It’s a variation on a carnie grifter saying: “Don’t run the con. Let the con run you.”

It sometimes happens that an author invents the bogosity generator before deciding what it’s supposed to do. You might dream one up early in a novel simply because you know you’ll be needing some explanatory device sooner or later, even if you haven’t quite yet decided what kind of weirdness you’ll be needing to explain. Or you’ll have a nice mental image for a funky bogosity generator, and you go ahead and describe it without even knowing what it does or how it “works.”