Sunday, December 27, 2015

TYIC: eclectic dump of links that barely relate to creativity research

This Year in Creativity: I normally do a This Week... feature but this post was so long, I felt it needed a broader title.

The fantasy I typically read is based on European mythology.  I have lived in South Korea for more than a decade so so I also read fantasy with Asian themes.  Can or does science fiction have a similar regional flavour?  Gord Sellar wrote a short story about the effects of climate change on African protagonists that showed to me it can. I think the story is Dhuluma No More. And an interview with Sellar that I now want to read.  Boingboing has a link to ten of the best African fantasy and Sci Fi stories.
Mnemonics is a crossover subject for me: it fits here in creative expression and also as something useful for my teaching career.  Here are two links from Boingboing: memorizing a deck of playing cards and how a pissing wolf can help your memory.  As a layperson in mnemonics, I gotta say you need to put a whole lot of work into the basics of the craft before it all becomes useful.
How have bicycles changed?  What will a future bike look like?  Kottke has an answer to the first question.
Science fiction authors Randy Rucker and Bruce Sterling discuss their work.
Guidelines for design of London Tube Stations.
1. Achieve balance across the network.

2. Look beyond the Bostwick gates.  
3. Consider wholeness.

4. Prioritise comfort for staff and customers.

5. Delight and surprise. Every Underground station should include at least one moment of delight and surprise, to improve customers' journeys and the working environment for staff. Such moments help put the network on the map, as a world-class leader of design. 
6. Use materials to create atmosphere.

7. Create ambience with lighting.  
8. Integrate products and services.

9. Prepare for the future.
How should we work in the future?  Industrial jobs are vanishing.  Flex time is increasing as is tele-commuting. What should the new dogmas be?
I mentioned Sellar earlier. He has a discussion on gamifying education.
Giving up a technology.  What would you give up?  Almost entirely unrelated, I wonder about giving up technologically obsolete phrases.  We should find new phrases for "Roll up/down a car's window" and "Rewind" when discussing digital video, "hang up" when ending a phone call...
A review of ways to Go gradeless in a traditionally graded school:
How does she [Starr Sackstein] and each of her students negotiate the final grade for the course?
How does she resolve any differences in opinion between her and a student when negotiating the final grade for the course?
Are individual assignments, products, projects, etc. negotiated as well? Do they receive a grade for each of these or just a final grade at the end of the course?
Is she really going gradeless if students are giving themselves a grade?
Computer generated novels. At least one of the 'novels' is a computer generated list of pixel colours on the cover of an edition of "The Sun Also Rises". ""Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Drab. Drab. University of California Gold. Brass. Brass. Dark tan. Dark tan. Dark tan. Brass. Raw umber. Raw umber. Coffee. Dark brown. Olive Drab #7."

Another story consists of parts of D&D adventure templates.
The Dragon of Nuria
A generated gamebook.
By Mark Rickerby for NaNoGenMo2015.
Throughout your journey in these lands, you’ve heard subtle tales of a spreading shadow that grow more and more threatening as you get closer to the village of Nuria.
The stories tell of Ir, a horrifying green dragon whose foul magic is spreading throughout the air and water and poisoning the countryside. The villagers beseech you to help fight this menace before the darkness takes its toll.
Somewhere near Nuria is the entrance to Ir’s dungeon. Others have found riches in treasure there, though many are never seen again.
To search for the entrance and ENTER the dungeon, turn to §1.
You step into a shrine. There is a monster here: GHOUL (STRENGTH: 10, STAMINA: 12). You must FIGHT. You gain initiative. You find a bag of exquisite diamonds here. If you defeat the monster, you can take the treasure.
To go SOUTH turn to §2
To go EAST turn to §17
You step into a wrecked armory. You find a bag of precious emeralds here.
To go NORTH turn to §1
To go SOUTH turn to §3
To go EAST turn to §18
The rules of the computer generated novel contest require posted the code, so others with similar skills can see how you did it. Look here for Dragon of Nuria.
Cory Doctorow on Neil Gaiman's speech on how to maintain long-haul creativity.
It's easy to be creative in short bursts, but sustained (and sustainable) creative endeavor is hard and often tedious, and requires a bunch of habits that are damned hard to get into and easy to slip out of. In my own writing life, the transition from someone who could only write under inspiration to someone who wrote even when having "writers' block" (which just means that you don't like the words you're writing, and the answer is to write them anyway) was the most important thing that ever happened to me, professionally speaking.
I cannot get this drum machine to work.  Help, anyone?
I think it is a problem for a person to write on a subject they don't know well.  On the other hand, I have written a novel set in Nepal and another set in Italy.  I did spend a few weeks in Nepal but none in Italy. Anyway, I would like to set a story in historic Central America so this Sci Am article is interesting.  It is even interesting if I don't write such a story.
Archaeologists believe the elite sent their fine merchandise with a “middle-man”, in order to do business with the people. “If Cerén’s citizens believed the objects were too expensive, [the merchants] were not compelled to stay, and were free to take their merchandise to the next market, to try and get a better deal,” Gallardo says.
The information found at Cerén contradicts the hypothesis that the Mayan elites controlled every single aspect of society, including the economy, politics, religion, arts and sciences, during the Classic Period, which is considered one of the most productive stages of the Pre-Hispanic Era, between 250 and 900 AD.
The shed where Andy Rooney wrote.
I spent some time in Rensselaerville, New York, this fall, where Andy Rooney used to pass his summers. Not far from his home, he had a five-sided shed in which he did his writing. It had an AC unit stuck to the side of it and triangle-shaped windows on its roof. He called it the Pentagon.
Conductive ink spread with a standard ballpoint pen.
The ink, made of silver salt and adhesive rubber, sticks to various surfaces, and the resulting circuits stay conductive despite repeated bending. If the wiring breaks, retracing the lines would fix it. “It’s a very simple method to make hand-drawn stretchable circuits,” says Jun Yang, a professor of mechanical and materials engineering at the University of Western Ontario. “You can easily make wearable electronics,” he says. “Just hand draw a circuit to make a personalized T-shirt.”
Help learn about Shakespeare's time by transcribing period writings.
Citizen scientists can learn about the period by transcribing letters and ‘receipt’ (recipe) books in the first phase of the project. Later project organizers will add miscellanies, family papers, legal and literary documents. Along the way volunteers will find words that have yet to be recorded in—and will eventually be added to—the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary.
npr: Jane Golden: Making Art with each other, for each other. Autoplay audio.
public art: statues, murals, even graffiti
public art is not a thrill nor an extravagance

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Korea Herald on the University Entrance Exam

Word Count
Tues, Dec 22: 490
Tomorrow, my son and I fly to Canada for Christmas, while my wife has to stay and work.  Is it coincidence that in the words I wrote today, a man is literally pulled away from his wife?
The Herald's news isn't all that new.  The article's title is Multiple Choice Testing Can Smother Creativity.
Lee Won-key, the vice president of Seoul National University of Education, said the exam papers comprised of multiple-choice questions represents what is wrong with the English education in Korea. The multiple-choice questions restrict the students’ thinking to prearranged options, depriving them of a chance to think creatively.
“The problem is students are trained to think in a box for 12 years (from elementary to high school). By having them choose from five options, (the educators) are virtually injecting a perception that there can only be one answer to problems in the world,” he said.

Multiple choice questions, properly prepared, can test everything but creativity.

As a Canadian, I was taught a few things about the War of 1812.  We won it.  But, really, the British maintained their land claims and didn't lose any.  They burned the White House down but did not gain any new land or retake US territory.  As a nation, we Canadians didn't win anything as Canada didn't exist until 55 years later.

I wanted to point out this problem with Canadian historical education before suggesting that Korean historical claims regarding Japan, North Korea, China and the US seem wrong to me, obviously biased toward Korea's national interests.  It is easy to make a MC question regarding the claim "Dokdo belongs to Korea".  Asking for an essay on the subject would be far more interesting... and require the individual attention of a trained educator for several minutes.  In that same time, a Scantron (surely they are not still used, so imagine I wrote the name of whatever the modern equivalent is) could mark many full MC question exams.  Grading creative work is not easy, nor will everyone agree.  The longer the creative work, the better the agreement and the longer it takes to grade.
Added Later:
This isn't the other side of the coin.  It is the, ...other half of the same side?

The Korea Times - the English language competitor of the Herald, discusses how the American education system, and (North) American culture in general, encourages creativity.
Having students simply memorize facts may produce an erudite population, but it will hardly benefit society unless something is created with that knowledge. It is this act of using knowledge to create that has made America one of the most entrepreneurial and technologically advanced societies in the world.
For many American children growing up in affluent neighborhoods, the focus on engendering confidence, creativity and collaboration starts early by having children participate in fun group activities.
From Show and Tell in preschool, in which children do a presentation on their favorite toy, to book discussions in kindergarten where children can agree to disagree with each other’s opinions, children are encouraged to speak up.
In 2nd grade, children pair up and work collaboratively to analyze the books they have just read and to dissect them critically. In 7th and 8th grade science class, they work in a virtual ecosystem to solve a mystery as to why fish are dying in that habitat. In a 12th grade writing class, students critique and help each other to become better writers.
Even outside school, proactive involvement is highly encouraged in American kids.
Young children are awarded medals just for participating in sports or programs so that each child can value his or her role on the team.
Parents encourage their children to participate in sports because they build camaraderie, teamwork and a competitive spirit in a safe environment. Sports also teach children resilience after failure (because everyone has experienced losing in sports).

Monday, December 21, 2015

Content for content's sake

I don't like it.

I hope to get back to writing -my novel that is- soon.  My fairly good excuse is that I'm taking a lot of (prescription) drugs right now.  I recently had an endoscope done - a tube and camera down my throat to check out my guts - as part of a routine health check up. That is, I didn't have stomach pain or the like that drove me to have the procedure done.  There were a few polyps but they are likely benign and the pathologist took some samples for testing.  Having caused bleeding, she gave me a prescription for ...stuff.  At the same time, my sinusitis is acting up and giving me vicious headaches.  When the two sets of meds kick in, I feel a little woolly.

Anyway, in this post, I will touch on one challenge of maintaining the public's eye, extending your fifteen minutes, keeping consumers aware, and staying relevant.

I think Ani Alexander provides good content and I follow her on Twitter.  I read her posts carefully enough to note that she recycles content.  So, the good news is that she is doing enough stuff right that I read her work.  The bad news is, she has recycled stuff so often that I am discussing that instead of her writing work. Her website.

I understand her plight.  At Tom Morkes said in the Writer 2.0 podcast, you need to start promoting your brand and content six months to a year before you publish a book.

But, as discussed on We Have Concerns
Songwriter and youtube song-a-day artist Jonathan Mann has a new video online advocating for abolishing the term "Content Creator" for people who release things on the web. His position is that the term diminishes things designed to be distributed on the online, making them disposable. As individuals who have been described as "content creators" themselves, Anthony and Jeff discuss what this semantic change might mean, and why the desire to make quality creative endeavors on the web can be challenging.
I'm linking a lot without saying a lot.  I'm sick.  Or at least, uncomfortable.  so what; I've got content for the day!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

TWIC: goodriter, Sci Am and old illustrations available online.

Word count
Saturday, Dec 19: 0
- but it's early still.
A friend on Facebook linked to Goodriter, a site with lots of gifts for people who share their email address.  As he said, you might be opening up yourself to lots of spam, but there is definitely a lot of stuff to be collected. Click on the image to better see some of the names and titles available.  I took screenshots of only the first titles in each category so there are many more books, classes and audio files.
The first course I clicked on had a sign up deadline of Dec 21.  I don't know if that is three days from time of registration or a hard deadline.  Nor can I recommend for or against the courses.

Indeed, as ML for Busan region, South Korea in Nanowrimo, I was given many ebooks on writing - "how to write fight scenes" and "How to write horses" and more.  I have no idea if any of them are useful.  Do(es) my reader(s) have any opinion on the subject?  Once I have finally finished a first draft, I think they will be of greater value as I turn my imagination into something believable enough.

I am posting the link here and now because of the quickly approaching deadline.  Hurry and decide if the books and more are of value!
Sci Am has excerpts from a book on how to cultivate your creativity:
Openness to experience—the drive for cognitive exploration of one's inner and outer worlds—is the single strongest and most consistent personality trait that predicts creative achievement.
Among the “big five” personality traits (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism), openness to experience is absolutely essential to creativity.
Openness as a personality trait hinges on engagement and exploration, but it is also more complex and multifaceted than that. Openness to experience comes in many forms, from a love of solving complex problems in math, science and technology, to a voracious love of learning, to an inclination to ask the big questions and seek a deeper meaning in life, to exhibiting intense emotional reactions to music and art. Visionary tech entrepreneurs, world travelers, spiritual seekers and original thinkers of all types tend to have highly open personalities.
Mental processes on the schizotypy spectrum may interact with protective mental qualities such as greater intellectual curiosity, improved working memory and cognitive flexibility. Indeed, in 2011 neuroscientist Hikaru Takeuchi of Tohoku University in Japan and his colleagues studied people with no history of neurological or psychiatric illness and found that the most creative thinkers among them were those who were able tosimultaneously engage their executive attention in an effortful memory task and keep the imagination network in the brain active.
You never know—some of the most seemingly irrelevant or “crazy” ideas at one point may be just the ingredients for a brilliant insight or connection in a different context. It bears repeating: creativity is all about making new connections.
I don't have the technical skills, but if you can get this code to work - please explain how - you should be able to remix some dance music.
Some cool old book illustrations are available online for downloading. I found this in searching for Canada.

Via Boingboing

Friday, December 18, 2015

Remix and medicine

Word count
Thursday, Dec 17: 210
Friday, Dec 18: 0
I typed myself into a bit of corner yesterday and will either have to throw away some words or adjust the next part of the story.  I think I will stick with this turn of events because it occurred naturally and maybe the course I had plotted would be more artificial.
As for today, I had an endoscope and I don't feel like doing much of anything.  There was no special reason for the 'scope, I hadn't felt any unusual pain or anything.  In Korea, everyone my age gets an 'scope every other year.  We'll see what the results are in a week.
Boingboing, in two separate posts, looks at Star Wars without Star Wars -an examination of how movie influence each other.  Many SW (Episode IV) fight scenes resemble Kurosawa's work and other scenes seem to be more expensive remakes of older films.  And, many newer films use SW icons and settings.

I have (partially) written an steampunk story and a paranormal teen (no major romance theme) story and the latter was heavily influenced by Alexander Key's Witch Mountain and The Case of the Vanishing Boy books.  In the former, many secret societies in 1800's Europe are undergoing schisms and fragmenting into competing groups. This is a direct homage to Michael Flynn's In the Country of the Blind.  As Cory Doctorow quotes someone who quotes someone earlier, bad artists copy, great artists steal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The relentless demands of advent

Word Count
Wednesday, Dec 16: 601
A few years ago, my mother gave me a fabric Advent calendar for any year.
One of the many things I like about this calendar is that I am not giving my son chocolate every day.  But finding novel stuff to put in it is a challenge.  My son got a  triceratops head carving today and will get this owl tomorrow.

I am not as proud of the triceratops carving but was still fun to work on.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Slow going on my book and poor financial prospects for artists

Word count
Tues, Dec 15: 635
If any reader comes here out of the blue and is not familiar with the blog, Thanks!  And, I finished Nanowrimo on November 30 and am trying to keep writing.  The number above, and at the top of all my posts for this month, is of the words added to my Nanowrimo story.
I am glad I have continued writing but this relaxed pace of less than a third of the Nanowrio requirement has its problems.  In the bit I wrote today, the heroes traveled a total of two hundred meters and the plot has not really advanced much.  There might be fireworks tomorrow, or maybe it will be Thursday.  The problem then, is that things are happening so slowly at 500+ words a day.  As my story has more than five POV characters and the majority are not involved in this week's action, I am at risk of forgetting plot and character details.  I think I need a slower pace after Nano's demands, but I will need to increase my numbers in the new year.
AC Fuller of Writer 2.0 uses the number 5,000 words a week as a reasonable goal - or maybe only as number picked out of thin air, I don't know.  It would be 220 more words a day for me so that makes a good goal.
Iggy Pop can't live off his art, so what chance do Youtubers have?
Just Between Us personality Gaby Dunn (this link is to youtube, so naturally video autoplay) says:
[We] make money from ads that play before our videos, freelance writing and acting gigs, and brand deals on YouTube and Instagram. But it’s not enough to live, and its influx is unpredictable. Our channel exists in that YouTube no-man’s-land: Brands think we’re too small to sponsor, but fans think we’re too big for donations. I’ve never had more than a couple thousand dollars in my bank account at once. My Instagram account has 340,000 followers, but I’ve never made $340,000 in my life collectively.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Write for your audience -and more

Word Count:
Monday, Dec 14: 420 
Ruben Bolling recently discussed Sandak's famous claim about his audience:
“I don’t write for children. I write – and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’”
This confused Bolling until he heard Jules Feiffer say he wrote for both adults and children. "Both.  I write for the kid in me."

I hugely love Bolling's Tom the Dancing Bug comic and read it every week. He describes his work thus:
In addition, I realize now that when I write “Tom the Dancing Bug,” I’m not really writing for some abstract, whole “me.” I’m writing for the adult in me – that part of me that is interested in sketch comedy, absurdist humor and political and social satire.
But, speaking of plot twists, here’s the M. Night Shyamalan-type kicker at the end of the story: It turns out that even as I wrote my very grownup comic strip for 25 years, I’ve been also writing for the kid in me the whole time!
When I want to write about income inequality, I use “funny animal” Carl Barks-like comic book characters....
When I want to write about religion, I use a brightly colored, caped superhero.
Khiatons offers a round up of science news that seems perfect to power Sci-Fi stories. A few examples:
Carbon Farming Gets A Nod At Paris Climate Conference 
Computer learns like a human and (sort of) beat the Turing Test 
Engineers build biologically powered chip 
Google Teams Up With Scientists To Track STD Outbreaks 
Diagnosing malaria with a cell phone
This appears to be a weekly thing.  I don't think the links carried through so follow my link to Khiatons page for them.
Backstory: You're doing it wrong Lisa Cron explains a common problem with backstory - it stops the 'now' story and is mostly an info-dump.  Here is her suggestion:
...the protagonist’s backstory must be layered into the current action. Rather than learning about it “objectively,” readers want to experience it through the affect it has on the protagonist now, in the moment.
Here’s the secret: Backstory becomes present – and therefore active – when it’s influencing what your protagonist is doing, thinking, considering. That is the wavelength your reader is wired to respond to, because that’s where your protagonist’s motive lives. We don’t simply want to know what your protagonist does, we want to know why.
Jon Winokur collects quotes about writing.  For some reason, I am giving only a fragment of a quote he has collected from someone else.  Anti-plagiarism habits die hard:
It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, ...
I don't want this blog to be only about writing. I recently watched a woodcarving video by Dennis Stallings and finally see how the eyes should be done. I have always made googly eyes or bulging eyes.  Here I see how to inset them a little.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Are women perceived as less creative?

Word Count
Sun, Dec 13: 582
Before getting into the article, let me say here that the double tab bar on the Sci Am website makes reading there a chore.  I copied the pasted the article into a Wordpad document to be able to read it comfortably.  As seen above, there is a 'Scientific American' bar in White and a 'Now reading' bar in black.  They took up valuable real estate on my notebook's screen.

An article at Scientific American suggests that the answer is yes.
Daisy Grewal looked at a variety of studies and found that when the gender of an architect was known, the perceived creativity of their work declined.
The participants then answered questions about how creative they thought the images were. When it came to architecture, the participants rated the images as more creative when they thought the work had been done by a man. With fashion design, there was no difference in the creativity ratings

In this and other studies, the definition of creativity was discussed:
The data that the researchers were most interested in was the percentage of viewers that applied the adjective “ingenious” to a talk, since it was the adjective most closely aligned with creativity.

...found that people’s general beliefs about what it takes to “think creatively” show substantial overlap with traits we more closely associate with men, such as competitiveness, self-reliance, and risk-taking.
Workers in design fields showed less bias but people getting their MBA clearly faced bias
Proudfoot and colleagues found one-hundred and thirty-four senior-level executives enrolled in an MBA program. As part of the curriculum, each executive was anonymously evaluated by their supervisors and direct reports on several dimensions, including perceived innovativeness. Looking at the evaluations in terms of gender revealed that the female executives were judged by their supervisors as less innovative in their thinking compared to the male executives

Neoverse writing contest

Saturday, Dec 12: 1290 words

Neoverse short story writing contest. I don't have anything ready to enter but it looks great.  To me, as a cynical middle-aged man, it looks almost too good.  Big prizes and no entry fee. Caveat scriptor.
The stories need to be between 1,000 and 5,000 and the deadline is Dec 20.

via freedomwithwriting.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Maintaining momentum after Nanowrimo

Word count
Sat Dec 5: 544 words
Sunday, 0
Monday, Dec 7: 960 words
Tuesday, Dec 8: 730 words
Wednesday, Dec 9: 438 words*
Thursday, Dec 10: 591 words

Some Nano authors in Korea are posting their website and blogs on the Nanowrimo in Korea Facebook page and I thought I would mention them here.

Evydraws - and also writes, i presume
Simon writes, too.
Marcus Medina is nearly done and ready to publish his book.  I think it is a sequel to Yscariot: Neo-Alpha.
I'm a fan of AC Fuller's Writer 2.0 podcast and he recently had Helen Sedgwick, an author and lawyer, on his show to talk about various legal issues.  Among other things, she offers a free set of instructions for asking music companies for permission to use lyrics in a book.  This information is specific to the US but probably broadly applicable elsewhere.
My understanding of genre writing versus literature is that literature is more character-driven while genre writing is more plot-driven.  I'm not big on divisions myself, but that's a fair starting point to understand the differences.  If you are worried about plot, Angela Meadon has a post on planning and organizing your plot.

The story is set in a world similar to ancient north west Africa and the plot is loosely based on the fall of the Wagadu Empire. I realised, about 37,000 words in, that I was quickly loosing track of my characters and their goals were getting fuzzy. I didn’t know where the novel was going.
I wasn’t prepared to throw out the whole thing and start again, because I think I have some good work in there and I’m not prepared to give up those words. Not yet.
What did I do? I read.
Step One
I started with a revision of the Heroes Journey, the 12-step structure of mythical stories that just about every novel I can name adheres to. The official definition, from the link above, is:

[-deleted - follow the link for it]
I got out some colorful pencils and sketched it out for myself:
[-deleted image - follow the link for it]
Step Two
The next thing I did was to write out my plot according to the three act structure.
This is very important, I wanted my story to have a tight, compelling and satisfying structure. I want readers to be drawn in by the flow of the story as the characters move through the world. I needed to make sure that I had my three acts properly laid out from the beginning.
Seriously, there is good stuff at that link - at all of them, really, so click on over once you have finished reading my drivel.
*438 words is not only less than my intended minimum but I also threw out a few hundred words of yesterday's output as well.  In addition, I had typed more in Ommwriter and accidentally hit CTRL V instead of CTRL C.  Ommwriter doesn't have an 'undo' button.  After cursing to myself, I rewrote that bit.

Friday, December 4, 2015

writing and blogging

Word count:
Thurs, Dec 3: 554 words
Fri, Dec 4: 574 words
How do you describe a blog? This is almost the entire post - something I am uncomfortable pasting - but the author did ask for input, so I guess or hope that gives me the leeway to share the content.  For crying out loud, answer the question with me, so it is clear I am sharing and not taking!

But there is more too it [a blog and blogging] than that. A blog is not just about a place for the author to broadcast, it is also a place for conversation. To be a blogger is to be a part of a community of the bloggers. Different types of blogs have different cultures. The blog-o-sphere isn’t one thing. It is not something that can simply be identified.
We could think of a blog as a living thing. Something that is fed – primarily by the blog author – but also by those who choose to comment. Those who engage in conversation also feed the blog, encouraging the author to continue.
I have a challenge ahead of me. I want to blog as dissertation. I want to blog as data collection. But before I can do that, I need to define what a blog is. I need to define it for the lay person who is note familiar with technology. I also need to define it for my community. I need to define it for an external examiner. I need to someone make static the dynamic and living thing that is a blog.
And so, I ask my readers, how do you define a blog? What are the ‘things’ that make a blog a blog, rather than a website or a personal public journal? What makes a blog a unique digital media?
I don't think a blog can fully be described as " a journal or log that is online" even if that is the origin of the name - weB  + LOG = 'blog'.  It is used as a journal but for so much more.  I personally have six or seven currently in use and I use most simply as a simple form of content storage online.

"Six or seven blogs!", you say incredulously.  "What the heck?"

Well, three of them contain content for classes I teach.  I am uncertain how easy it would be for you to find them as I originally set them as private.  Privacy settings change all the time.  Anyway, I am not offering links. The blogs are filled with Powerpoint and Google Slides that I can use in class with the link but without signing in.  I don't like to use my password on university computers for fear of keyloggers or other password gathering malware.

So those three were in roughly chronological order but exist now only as storage.

I infrequently post content on my evolution proponent page where I argue against creationist talking points. I focus on easily rebutted creationist claims in the hope that creationists would see my simple responses and move on to new or less outdated arguments.  That's a lot to expect from a fourth rate blog by a third rate biologist. Still, I enjoy writing there.  It is not topical in the way I expect a 'proper blog' to be.

My blog Gangwon Notes was my original blog and it was my signature effort.  I was one of only a few English speakers in the rural province of Gangwondo, South Korea, so I had the niche to myself.  It was a mix of wildlife and nature posts, ESL discussion and local news and events.

This blog is focused on my efforts to be creative and also be a place for me to store research and inspiration from other creative people.

So, I have now described my blogs as places for: storage, PPT and educational resources, daily events, news, a space for argument and persuasion, and as a scrapbook.  I feel a 'real blog' should consist only of daily events and news, scrap-booking and persuasion.  It shouldn't primarily be a place for online storage.  Why I feel this way, I cannot fully say, but it feels to me like using a screwdriver as a bottle opener -it works but isn't designed for it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

reader immersion

Words typed:
Tuesday Dec 2: 532

There are strange things, inconsequential really, that knock you out of a story.  Often, they are so trivial that you are given the name 'Grammar Nazi' or 'Grammar Police' for pointing them out. Well, often I am.
I know that my own grammar is not what it should be and that is especially true on this blog.  I feel my blogs are a place for nearly-first drafts, for stream of consciousness writing. I do return to older posts and make corrections but they don't bother me too much here -despite my understanding that such errors will drive my reader(s?) crazy.

In works that I prepare for a specific audience - articles for the campus magazine or the like, I do reread and spell check them more carefully.  I hope I don't have too many errors of the sort listed here: 51 things that break reader immersion.  The author reads an indie book while in her/his treadmill and notes if s/he got through 40 minutes of reading or not.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Nanowrimo is finished. Am I?

 Today's total: 553 words
This is the third time I have completed Nanowrimo and the first time I was a Municipal Liaison.  I am tired of it.

The writing wasn't bad or difficult.  There were a few days where I really had to think about what to write next but mostly it spilled out with satisfying smoothness.  The 'Word-wars' and 'Word-sprints' were the toughest part.  A war or sprint occurs when a group decides to do nothing but write for the next twenty minutes (typically 20, it could be any length).  After that time, we compare word counts.  My best was 511 words in twenty minutes and others managed as high as 900 words.

This was a great way to encourage focused typing, but after each sprint or war, people would chat for ten minutes - or get coffee or do other things -and as ML, I was expected to be sociable.  And I enjoyed being sociable.  On the other hand, this meant that twenty minutes of every hour was lost to typing.  You have to type an awful in forty minutes to make up a good hour's word count in that time.

Nanowrimo is an attempt to make the solitary act of typing a social event and it succeeds.  I don't write nearly as much as I want to in the other eleven months so for me it is hugely useful and valuable.  Still, it was the unrelenting social aspect that wore me down this time.
 I had trouble with my iMac's photo-booth application.  The green screen effect wasn't as good as it should have been.

I was really swept into the literary circles of Busan and there are more writers and wannabes like myself here than I had realized.  This was encouraging and in seeing how they manage to write for more than one twelfth of the year, I see that I need to not stop.

I will not try to maintain the seventeen hundred words a day pace of Nano but will try to stay above 500 a day. 
This count does not include anything except my story.  The words of this post are not included.

In Korea, there is a strange Konglish word, "Fighting" which means keep going, or good luck.  Among my Nano friends, we said, "Writing."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Plotting your story

Openculture has a hand-drawn spreadsheet of JK Rowling's plans for part of Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix.  The page only shows the plot for part of the book and my image below has been cropped so if you want to see the whole thing, follow the link

Nanowrimo is ongoing and I can see the end...of the month, but not the story.  I will reach 50,000 words but I don't know when the story will end.

If I have a plan or technique for writing a novel -and I can't say I have as I haven't finished one -I guess it is to read 2-3 books on appropriate research topics, then write a first draft. Then, once I know what I need to know, do more research.  I need a big piece of paper to get organized on and Scrivener's bulletin board feature isn't tactile enough for me.  I prefer real paper and inks of varied colours.


Friday, November 20, 2015

TWIC: 2 quick notes

Alan Moore has advice for writers.  I'm too busy procrastinating on the writing i need to be doing tonight to watch it now, but I will.

Via Boingboing.
Yeah, that sounds like really useful research. Sarcasm makes you more creative.  Are teenage boys the most creative people in the world?
This is not the first set of studies showing that creativity can be boosted by things that would commonly be considered creativity killers. In one series of studies, for example, researchers found that moderate noise can be an untapped source of creativity, providing a welcome distraction that helps the brain make disparate associations. In addition, alcohol is believed to aid creativity, up to a point, by reducing focus and relaxing the mind.
Sarcasm can be interpreted negatively, and thus cause relationship costs. So, how do we harness its creative benefits without creating the type of conflict that can damage a relationship? It comes down to trust. Our studies show that, given the same content and tone, sarcasm expressed toward or received from someone we trust is less conflict provoking than sarcasm expressed toward or received from someone we distrust.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

For Busan area Nanowrimo people

Hello Writers!
Back up your novel! And think about doing the same for all your important data!
I was once an athlete, a competitive swimmer, and the third quarter of any event was always the toughest. I, and most swimmers, would dive in at the start and struggle to hold back a little in the first quarter. By halfway, we would feel tired and the fun aspect would fade. Once we were in the final quarter, the end was in sight; our competitors -who were often good friends - were beside us and we would go fast.
Too obvious a metaphor? Over-stretched? At least I didn't use the phrase "Dig down and give it 110%". Oh. sorry.
This is a strange competition. Even more than when I raced the two hundred freestyle, this race is against ourselves. Your race is against yourself. I had to complete two hundred meters. You have to complete what feels good for you. That's it.
I hope most of us are on pace or close to it for 50,000 words. I am but when I look at some other word-counts, I feel inadequate. Some people have managed 50,000 already! But my story is mine. Those fast writing people deserve credit and admiration but so does anyone who, uh, digs down and gives it the best effort they can.
I must admit that though I have completed the 50,000 words twice before, I have not gone beyond that. To my embarrassment, I have stopped typing on November 30, at perhaps 55,000 words, and walked away from my story. Next week I'll write about what I need to do in December and beyond.
For this week, let me keep the focus on finishing the month and thinking about what I, and hopefully you, are learning about writing. I am learning that despite the many terribly constructed sentences, I am also writing a few beautiful ones. I am a capable writer. I have learned I am not ready to be a full-time author but I am an author and this is something I can and should continue with. More trivially, I have re-learned the grammar of writing dialog and how to write fight scenes.
I don't know if I am the Motivational Leader type of ML. I'll end that part of the letter here.
Next, the final events for Busan Nanowrimo:
On Sunday, November 22, I will be at BEXCO from 1:30 to 4:30. There is a design exhibition going on and the Busan Art Museum is across the street if you need inspiration. See photos for details. For family reasons I cannot stay longer than that. I will try to arrive early enough to visit the museum or the expo - fee unknown - before I write.

For the weekend of November 28, 29, I am set on the teahouse in Seomyeon. This blog post has the details. No one has made suggestions for a day or time, so I will go with Sunday the 29th, from 1:00 pm until 5:00. If someone is there and not quite finished, I will stay longer, cheering gently from across the table. good luck writing through that! From the blog post:
                     "Just come up from the Someyeon Subway station Exit 11. As you come up from the underground do not U-turn,
                        do not cross any streets : Just walk 2 doors straight around the curvy corner and you'll see..."
                       "Straight ahead the green red and black sign and there, on the ground floor Hyung-Cha !
                        There's lots of seats and a great place to meet! Best Wishes and Stay Steeped! --M.W.T."
Seoul has a Thank God It's Over event planned for December 5. I will not be traveling to it. So I think we need a local event. We started in Gwangalli, perhaps we should finish there as well. I'm thinking a coffee shop and maybe dinner in the area as we see fit. Provisionally, Dec 5 at 4:00pm at the same Starbucks we started at, the one at the west end of the beach, near Geumnyeonsan stn.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nov 21 Mnemonic presentation for Busan KOTESOL Meeting

Updated with material from the presentations!

This is mostly a placeholder for my November 21 presentation at HQ in Gwangalli. Embedded is the presentation slide deck that I will use, but it is likely to change before that time.

I will also add photos from the event here.  My presentation is titled:

Mnemonics and Synonyms in ESL settings

and the participants will make their own number-shape mnemonics which I will post pictures of here  are posted below.

I am posting this early so I can offer attendees a link and QR code at the event.
And now the photos!

One thing I did not do well was explain how to build on these mnemonics for repeated use.  A participant at the talk asked how he, or a student, could prepare more than one mnemonic.  In our case, have a group of twelve words describing tastes (sweet, sour crunchy, smooth, ...) and another group of twelve words offering synonyms for see (look, watch, glance, leer, ... - you may note my definition of 'synonym' is is pretty broad) and maybe another list of historic dates and another list of chemical principals.

I had, in fact, described how, but had not linked the two as clearly as I should have.  Indeed, it is only in hindsight that I see that I had offered an answer.  This number-shape mnemonic can be seen as a specialized form of the Method of Loci mnemonic.  In MoL, you think about a walking route you know very well and connect various points on the route to the thing you want to remember.

This was described in my presentation but the slides only offer a few points for emphasis or clarity - my talk was a 'talk' not a video where you only needed to read the info and ignore the speaker.

So the Number-Shape mnemonic is a form of Method of Loci, with a route everyone knows - from '1' to '12', more or less. We are linking each number to an idea that really has little to do with first or one or math.

It would be interesting to look at a Letter- Shape mnemonic with the western alphabet and with the Korean one.  Koreans don't seem to put the same emphasis on alphabetical order, or they do but very differently than English speakers do.
It's interesting having our meetings in a bar.  In practical terms, the lighting is weird and best next to the window. It was nice to have a beer with friends while watching a talk (I presented first and K Kelley, the chapter president, presented second.  The final picture is of one of her slides).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nov 17
Most spelling errors will be fixed but I will leave any instance of 'teh' as a reminder to myself of what I need to fight.  BOO to teh OK plateau! (Damn it.  Already I have one.)
East West U's classes cancelled today so high school students can visit, and I think take another entrance test- this one specific to our university.
I am at a coffee shop and have some goals.  I hope to follow this schedule:
20 minutes Nanowrimo
15 Minutes class prep
5 minutes to look for birds
15 minutes KOTESOL mnemonics presentation
5 minutes to walk and look for birds
repeat.  Hopefully, in the second runthrough, teh non-Nano tasks will be completed.

I am at the Amisan lookout or 아미산정만대, which has great views of the Nakdong River delta.  It is a cloudy day and teh swans I saw the last time I was here are absent.  Lots of magpies, common as dirt but so beautiful, fly nearby and it is always fun to watch them from above.

My presentation is on using mnemonics to help students remember and understand some differences between synonyms. We will be looking at synonyms for 'see' (look, watch, view, study, observe, stare, glare, glance and etc up to maybe 13 examples) and tastes.  Tastes are not synonyms (bitter vs sweet, etc) but they are presented as a group to our students, so some effort in grouping them in the students' minds and also differentiating them is important. We might look at pedal travel: walk, limps, run, jog... and talk: say, ask, reply, assert, report, ...

In this presentation, I will use a number-picture-sentence menemonic but will also touch on Loci-of-place and others...

Hmm a crow just passed below - it had the 'finger-feathers' at teh end of its wings that, well, do something and look distinctive.
image from The Telegraph

Anyway, In his book, Moonwalking with Einstein, Foer discusses the OK Plateau, where most people feel they are good enough.  I can type pretty quickly even including the time it takes to back up and fi xthe spacing and transpose letters, but I could do better.  I want to be more than OK.

Friday, November 13, 2015

science communication

Natalie Sopinka at Canadian Science Publishing looks at how creativity fits into science communication.

I measure hormones in the blood of baby salmon. I use computer software to graph and analyze data. I write structured articles that describe my research. I present my scientific findings on PowerPoint slides at conferences.
Would someone describe my profession as creative? Probably not.

I’m a scientist after all, not an artist and artists are synonymous with creativity. Scientists are rigid and analytical. They lack the passion and spirit that artists possess.

The truth is, scientists are creative. Megan Fork sums it up as “good science relies on creativity.” To be creative is to create. Scientists are constantly creating. They generate new knowledge to explain natural phenomena. They discover new ways to solve problems. In the 1950’s, Dr. Archie Carr attached radio transmitters to weather balloons, the balloons to a float, and tied the float to sea turtles. This was one of the earliest examples of aquatic telemetry - the tracking of animals in water remotely. Creativity is also evident in conservation initiatives. The International Crane Foundation prevented crane chicks from imprinting on their human caregivers by feeding the chicks with a hand puppet resembling an adult crane. Scientists are also creating new platforms to communicate their research – platforms that incorporate the tools of an artist.

via science communication on Facebook.

Words typed but not spoken

At Poynter, there is a crowd-sourced list of words people, especially journalists, use in print but that people seldom say. Here are the top five, follow the link for more.

  • Lambaste
  • Foray
  • Ballyhoo
  • Tout
  • Oust
Here in Korea, I see the word 'mull' in the English newspapers frequently.  I have seen it in Canadian writings but not as often as here.  I have used the word, but only literally -as in mulling wine - or ironically because the frequency rate is so skewed.  Few people get that sarcasm - it's an in-joke for one.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


 As they say, I should be writing - my story rather than this blog post.  However, I have three brief notes about my Nanowrimo work and thought I would share them.

First, on the 22nd of November, I will have a Write In for Busan Nanowrimos - and others who are in the area. The photos with maps in the previous post.  I will also have a Write In on Tuesday the 17th and there is a photo showing the my favored location as well.

Second, I chose to write my current novel to see how last year's novel should end.  I frequently choose to jump ahead and organize a scene then see what needed to happen previously.  I have more professional company as my internet friend, Gord Seller, is using the same technique.
The first novel (set in 1720) is about 90% finished, and the second (set in 1736) is about 60% done. I’m trying to finish the second book first, which will make it easier for me to go back and finish the 1720 book, since one of the “characters” knows a lot about how things will unfold in the future so it’s helpful if I do, too.
Third, even in writing this short post, I have misspelled the word "the" three times.  Wehn will I get the muscle memory to write it properly?  I really feel I am seeing regression in my typign skill.  In this paragraph, I have chosen not to correct my errors.  So far, I have not hit the space bar too early, resulting in "I lik eapples" phrases.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Image for Nanowrimo Write Ins

I need to put some images -maps and locations, mostly - online for a Nanowrimo message to others in Busan.  I think I can post them when I have a URL.

 I'm currently in a hurry before work so that;s all the explanation you're getting until later.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Good Taste as a demotivator

Everyone can write.  Okay, my handwriting is terrible, but I can type.  And, I know the conventions and rules of grammar, the intended flow patterns of sentences and paragraphs and chapters.  I know the fine details like noun-verb agreement and the larger scale details of ...well, ... uh, maybe I don't know those so well.

But I do have experience with them.  In my twelve years of public schooling and *cough* years at university, I was steadily taught increasingly subtle and complex rules for writing.

I did not get that training in wood carving or photography or video producing.

I should add that my schooling included some creative writing but that dried up around grade ten.  After that, it was all persuasive or technical writing.  I have recently discovered how little I remember about writing dialog.  Does the comma go inside the quotes or outside?

Ah, anyway, although I am relatively new to creative writing, I have had a lot of training on the subject and I have read literally thousands of books so I have seen examples, both good and bad, of how to write.  I have my own preferences and taste.  And that is a problem now as I try to create my own content as Zen Pencils explains.

Click on the image to expand it and/or follow the link to see the whole comic.  But if you don't follow the link, you will never see even the above at the intended full size as I have deliberately shrunk it a little.

Nanowrimo is going well.  It is too early to make predictions, but I feel confident that I will complete the challenge of 50,000 words this month.  50,000 words of relatively poor quality. But all mine.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

TWIC: even quicker links than usual

I am preparing for Nanowrimo and am an ML (Municipal Liaison) this year.  It is taking a lot of my time.  My posts have usually been of the overview sort rather than in depth analysis.  Expect me to hew even closer to the norm for the next month.

Here are the links that I hope help you make it through the month of light blogging.

The essence of Miyazaki.

Christine Frazier at the Better Novel Project works to understand novels at the numbers or statistics level.  She fills index cards with quantifiable details.  Recently, she noted that many top rated YA novels have 20 characters introduced in the first chapter.  Her work reminds me of  Jessica Hagy's work with numbers and details on index cards.
Stephen King has ten tips for writing.
There are two articles up about young people being involved in Nanowrimo.  Both are audio that I haven't yet listened to.  Sadie Nastor is nine. The others are eleven.