Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How many pages did you read?

Amazon will pay some authors based on how many pages were read.
In the new scheme, authors will be paid for each page that remains on the screen long enough to be parsed, the first time a customer reads the book.
This applies to self-published books that are routed directly from the author to Amazon to customers, rather author to publisher to Amazon....

As a wannabe writer, I don't like this.  Perhaps this means I am too insecure in the quality of books I might one day bring to market. If I sell books I should expect them to be read to the end.

Hmm. I don't expect the readers to pay less if they read less - that would be a remarkable development and one hard to argue against.  That would cost Amazon money.  Their proposal only harms the authors.

What arguments do I have against this new policy?
Privacy: the Kindle needs to record not merely my bookmarks and progress but also how long I spent per page.  Will it record what page I paused at? I don't read porn specifically but I have lingered on the sexy parts of books in the past.
One set of book I didn't linger on the sexy parts was the ASOIAF, GRR Martin's famous series full of incest and pedophilia.  Now, I'm grateful I didn't.

Amazon's greed.  Again, if Amazon is keeping money from the readers, it is not fair.  If Amazon refunds readers, then this is cool development, although I don't understand how it would work.  That is, I sometimes buy a stack of books at once - my birthday is coming and I will treat myself to five or six books and read them eventually.  How does Amazon decide how long to wait?  Do readers have to turn the book in?  Then they would expect a discount.

  Shuck at the discussion forum on Boingboing asks about re-reads:
"the first time a customer reads the book."
They're not paying for re-reads? So if a book is so terrible that no one reads more than a few pages, the author doesn't get paid, but if the book is so great/ such a useful reference that it gets read over and over the author also doesn't get paid? Sounds like a good deal for Amazon...

An interesting idea.  The pendulum swings back to established publishers as useful for authors.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Slides from yesterday's presentation

I have embedded these slides in the 'small player' format.  Click on full-screen if you need to examine something more closely.

My wife and son have made some great plans for today so I am again going to be away from the computer.  Soon, maybe tonight, I will add to this post with notes about my trip to Jeju and the regional conference.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

scientists, artists and drawing

In Scientific American, the need for scientists to be able to draw is discussed.
I have always found it easy to make the case that all artists are scientists. ...
Yet, it seems a longer stretch, somehow, to argue that all scientists are artists. At the very least, in my experience, scientists seem less willing to claim this alternate title. In fact, almost anyone who does not see her or himself as artistically inclined tends to be a little too quick to proclaim, “Oh, I’m not an artist. I can’t even draw a straight line!” With a sigh, I’ll avoid the temptation to digress into the utter irrelevance of straight lines and one’s ability to draw them. Instead, I’d like to posit the idea that, while we may not all identify as artists, scientists, of all people, really should be artists.
Slightly off-topic, I love the remark about drawing straight lines.  These days I am listening to Surviving Creativity, a podcast by web comics artists who also find this remark common and frustrating.  They would say, "use a ruler."

One of the toughest things for me to learn about science was the need to not merely see and understand a phenomenon but to describe it to others.  I was, and am, simply happy to see and enjoy the moment.  For such enjoyment, degrees are not given!

Computers basically allowed me to graduate with a science degree.  My handwriting was, and is, terrible and the ability to type and print easily meant that in 1990, I could graduate while in 1980, I would not have graduated.  For illegible scrawling, degrees are not given!

And now photography is similarly so much easier.  Do scientists need to draw now?
As biomedical imaging techniques continue to advance, those of us who specialize in the visualization of scientific information are often compelled to question the significance of our role. After all, if we can acquire fantastically thin slices of brain tissue, scan them with an electron beam, import the visual data into a computer, and use it to reconstruct a perfectly accurate three-dimensional digital model of brain cells and their connections, then why on earth would we bother with such a tedious and antiquated pursuit as drawing?
And the answer:
No matter how clearly we can see an object, there is something about the physical act of reproducing and interpreting it visually: in making marks, we infuse meaning into each element of the structure before us. Recently, I was asked to draw an animal cell in cross-section as part of an illustration series I was working on. It’s the sort of image any biologist has seen a thousand times in various renditions: a roughly spherical blob with a 90-degree wedge cut out reveals a sampling of organelles floating in cytoplasm.
While I count myself among those to whom this image is almost tediously familiar, I was shocked at how much difficulty I had in trying to draw the large organelle known as the endoplasmic reticulum (or the “ER,” to those in the know). Admittedly, it’s a complex structure composed of membranes folded into repeated convolutions. But still, I’m a fairly seasoned draftsperson with, I thought, a reasonably solid grasp of cell biology. Yet as I struggled through my pencil sketch, I realized that I had never really understood the physical structure of the ER.
In wood carving a heron, I finally understood the shape and proportions of the typical heron.  My first preparatory drawing gave the heron a horizontally framed body, similar to an ostrich while after further study, I saw that it is more diagonal.  I deeply understood similar detail about cheetahs after carving one for my son.

I've quoted a lot and don't want to paste more here, but do read the original.  As a counter argument to his point, the author looked at Ramon y Cajal and Camilo Golgi's contrasting drawings and conclusions.  The ways they emphasized what they thought was important resulted in different images.

Oh, and to the long-suffering Dr Cam Lewis, who worked so hard to teach me histology, Coral Reef ecology and Vertebrate and Invertebrate Zoology,  thank you.  I now see the value of drawing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


It always seems so easy to make or design a logo for an event.  Recently at Creativiti Project, we offered a link to a video on how poorly designed city flags are.  Now, at ELT Rants, Reviews and Reflections, a friend of the blog author looks into TESOL conference logos. Ah, TESOL is an abbreviation of several forms of "Teaching English as a Second Language".

The open box logo for KOTESOL's International Conference was used as one (of several) example of 'the bad'.
I tend to look uncritically at such things but, once pointed out, I do wonder.  What does the box mean?  Are we outside the box or building one? Are the lines offering descriptions of each side?  The word 'Transition' - what does it mean?

I am speaking at the Jeju Regional KOTESOL Conference this Saturday.  I don't see a logo at the link.  Jeju KOTESOL does have a nice logo emphasizing the island and its tropical allure.  It has no obvious symbol of English or teaching.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Doctoral dissertation in and about graphic novels

See the Boingboing post here.Below is a tightly cropped image.  To see more, follow the link.

A quote:
The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making?
and in the next paragraph:
While its vibrant, constantly morphing images occasionally serve as illustrations of text, they more often connect in nonlinear fashion to other visual references throughout the book. They become allusions, allegories, and motifs, pitting realism against abstraction and making us aware that more meets the eye than is presented on the page.
I want to agree.  The images in the linked article are great and I think that I am missing some of the awe others might feel because of my small notebook screen.  Somewhere in the text, the idea that we can absorb graphic details in a glance is stated and this might be true on paper or on a larger screen but on my screen, the chunks of the image, devoid of the full context, were more distracting than illuminating.

Even without the caveat above, I only saw at most a page or two of the full document.  What I saw did not support the claim that image and text are "equal partners in meaning-making".  A picture may be worth a thousand words but a lot of these words were about scenery.

Maybe Stephen Donaldson has the right response to my 'scenery' point:

"It's nice but we can live without it."
"Live without beauty? Ah, my friend! How do resist despair?"

In short, I definitely feel images can improve the flow of information.  and that sometimes, image heavy content is what I want.  But for more formal work, text is not equal but more valuable than images.

Now to go read Tintin and some of the (checks the favorites folder) 16 webcomics I visit everyday.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Creativity research and elitism

The Creativity Guru has a point:
We’ve failed to study some of the most creative people, and I think it’s because they don’t have high social status. Four times, I’m going to name a creative profession that’s associated with the elite and that’s also studied by creativity researchers. Then, I’ll compare it to an even more creative profession that creativity researchers have never studied. I think we haven’t studied them because they’re not elite professions.
  • Stage actors: compared with children’s party clowns. I’d be the first to agree that actors are highly skilled. But they’re basically reading from a script, and following director’s instructions. Compare that to a person who hires herself out every weekend as a clown, for children’s birthday parties. That person has to create their own facial makeup and costume; their own name and persona. They have to decide on a set of interactive and fun activities that correspond to the ages of the children at that particular event; they have to interact and respond, in the moment, to unexpected developments and children’s personalities. Lots of creativity researchers have studied Broadway stage actors. But has anyone studied party clowns? No.
Well, the head of Recreation and Leisure Studies at my Alma Mata studied clowning on her own time, but not with university funds as they refused to fund the research.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

TWIC: Writing, teaching and mental illness

Shelly Terrell has long been a Computer-Assisted Learning advocate and I've followed her for years.  Relevant to this blog, she finds and organizes tools and Apps that help students create.  These tools are often useful to teachers and other creatives as well.
15 Ideas and Resources for e-book creation.
During one of my teaching internships, my mentor had us create books we read to children from the Boys and Girls Club. I still have my construction paper book with my poor drawings. My artistic abilities didn’t matter to the kids who were just excited to have someone spend time with them. Our learners have the power to greatly impact others with their creations. This holiday season we can get them to create digital books that help others. Fortunately, several free web tools and apps help students quickly and easily create and publish digital books. Keep scrolling to access my bookmarks of free web tools and apps for creating digital books on any device. I’ve included some ideas below and a slide presentation with tips and resources to get students creating digital books that help those around them while learning.
Additional Tips and Ideas
Have students map out their books and create outlines
Students will need to conduct research and curate their research
I recommend these tools and apps for students of all ages: Little Bird Tales,
Storybird, Toondoo, StoryKit, and Book Creator. Find more in the book marks below.
Get students to help you create a digital textbook. You can use tools like Google Docs or iBooks Author. Find examples of student created textbooks in the presentation above. Some impressive examples are these iBooks by 5th grade special education students (http://bit.ly/1eiMdLq), the interactive field guide of created by 7th graders (http://bit.ly/1eiMnCu), these German student iBooks (Ischulbuch.wordpress.com), Google Doc books created by English language learners in Argentina (Datenglish.blogspot.com.ar), the WordPress Living Textbook by middle school students (Livingtextbook.aaja.org), the history book created on a Wiki (Dgh.wikispaces.com) and the geography and science textbooks created by 3rd graders using Livebinders (Livebinders.com/play/play?id=203663).
Terrell on Inspiring Writing.
Jeff Bullas has a list similar to Terrell's.
Write or Die looks interesting.
 So does bubbl.us, although I am a big fan of Coggle for mind-mapping.
Lessons from Pratchett:
* You can always come home again, but that doesn’t mean you’re moving backwards.
* There is never a bad time for a pun.
* There’s also never really a good time for a pun.
* You might as well just stay braced for a pun at all times, and ride them when they come with as much grace as you can manage.
* The fact that you can replace ‘pun’ with ‘disaster’ in the last three rules says a lot about the human race.
There's no such thing as writer's block.
Peter Orullian discusses, briefly, his thoughts on writer's block. The link is to a video -and podcast available for download - and he mentions writer's block from 8:00 to 12:00. and 20:00
Just as GRRM is not your bitch, Scalzi doesn't have to be outraged by the things you are.
Is there a connection between creativity and schizophrenia and autism?  Scientific American investigates
The paper shows a link between artistic engagement and the genes underlying schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. To be sure, the effects are really small (the genes explain less than 1% of the variation in artistic engagement), and the results do notmean that if one has a mental illness they are destined for creativity (or that creative people are destined for mental illness). Nevertheless, the results are consistent with other solid studies showing there is a real and meaningful link between the schizophrenia spectrum and artistic creativity (see here, here, here, and here).

The CBC on Munsch

The CBC looks at Robert Munsch on his 70th birthday.

Via @cbcbooks at.Twitter

and How to Tell a Story Like Robert Munsch:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

We're making games

I assist at an elementary school English program and had trouble connecting with the older students.  I offered a variety of projects to the students; making a movie or play, making games or PSA-style posters for the younger grades.  The choose games.  I will use the next class to offer some examples then allow them to make some decisions.

This post mostly consists of my notes and beginning research on the subject.

Here are my thoughts:

Rock-Paper-Scissors and building on that.  Image from here.
Sploder allows you to make your free games online.  Don't know much about it.
Wiki-how suggests ways to make your own board game and trading card game.  MIT Game Lab offers a 50 minute video on how to make a card game.
I offered a quick-and-dirty version of a Role-playing game:
The Cat Kingdom of Sam-hwan Apartment Complex

I lived in Sam-hwan Apartment Complex for a few years when my family moved to Busan and the map is from Daum - Korea's main Internet Portal - with some green and brown bushes added by me.  The half-formed idea is that cats must travel the complex looking for wild prey and garbage. Cuter cats get fewer stones thrown at them by humans while smelly cats have a different defense...  How to win or gain experience points wasn't decided.  Well, a lot wasn't decided but this was enough to wing a few rounds exclusively using a six-sided die.

A colleague has ideas for making board games as well.

TWIC: City Flags, overwork and Camp Nano

Roman Mars of the 99% Invisible Podcast has also done a TED talk on City Flags and how poorly designed they are.  I have yet to see the video but I am not surprised; people often overestimate their skills in unfamiliar fields.  I can say the 99% Invisible podcast is informative and well-done.
Scientific American tells us that the exhausted brain is a creative one.
...it turns out that mental exhaustion from overwork can itself unleash creativity. When we are tired, our mind can be too weary to control our thoughts, and eccentric ideas that might normally be filtered out as non-relevant can bubble up, suggests a recent study by Rémi Radel at the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis, France. This means that perhaps creative ideas can be hatched at the workplace, right when we feel drained from a mental overload.
I don't want to quote too much from the article; you should read it yourself.  In brief, though, 'exhausted' is a relative term.  Research subjects were given challenges with greater or lesser distractions and those that had to struggle to focus more were more creative in tests afterwards.

The technical term is 'inhibition'.  Rested minds inhibited their mental digressions while tired ones were uninhibited and brought new ideas to combine with the project at hand.

As for the tests:
First, they asked the students to enlist multiple, innovative uses for common objects, such as paperclip, newspaper, shoe. Next, they tested the students’ ability to connect unrelated words. They presented the students with a “priming word” followed by “target word” – for example, they flashed the word tiger followed by the word loni, jumbled from lion – and asked the students to vote whether the target word was a real or a non-existent word.
Being creative is not just about achieving a state of low inhibition, which is probably what we get from alcohol or drugs, but about tweaking inhibition for brief stints without losing control.
I don't think it is a microscopically small camp, but it is a Nanowrimo Camp and it runs through July.  I don't know if I will formally enter it but I have prepared some writing goals myself and will share them here soon.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Authors: grow a thick skin (part 2)

First example to be found here.

As a wannabe writer, I sympathize with a published author who finds a bad review.  My own stories, which still have not escaped my computer, are precious things and if/when I decide to show them to the world,well, a bad review of my book is nearly a bad review of me.

Well, nearly.  I identify as a writer but also as a father, husband, teacher, .... and I do pretty well at most of those things most of the time.  A bad review would hurt but not destroy me.  I hope.

I may name the book, the author and the reviewer and there is enough information below to Google the identifying details but for now, let me avoid names.  Ah, how do I quote people if I don't link to them.  Links possibly coming soon.  I have ordered a sample of the book for my Kindle and will post more after I read it.

The review:
This was just...so unnecessarily wordy and pretentious. I just did not enjoy it at all. .... So how did I loathe this so entirely from page one? I don't know.
The author's response:
This review is not good for my business, so unless your desire is to ruin my dreams, it would mean a great deal if you could remove this review from my work and forget about it. But if it’s your desire to hurt me financially and ruin my business, then it’s understandable why you would post such a harmful review.
The book might describe a conspiracy theory judging from further comments.  Here is an excerpt from one:
But you left a 1 Star review on someone’s life’s work, someone who is trying to warn people what’s going on in this world so that they can protect themselves and help others, and think that is a moral action. 400,000 children go missing each year in the US alone.

To be continued.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

One Seventh of Shark Week

Presented for your enjoyment.  Some elementary school students will have the pleasure of deciding the order of these pictures.  However you slice it, it seems a long day for the intrepid but soft-hearted fisherman.

This represents the current limit of my drawing ability.  I wanted to add more detail but didn't think I could successfully.

Next time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Awkward Author Photo Contest

I'll just let Chuck Wendig describe it:

In fact, you can check out last year’s entire submission photoset here. I mean, holy shit. Lady with a chicken! Dude in a wolf hat! A lion eating dinosaurs! What the fuck is happening!
I loved the contest so much, it’s time to do it again.
SO, here’s the rules:
Submit to me the most awkward author photo you can conjure of yourself.
This must be a photo of you. Not someone else. You must also own the rights to the photo.
Send this photo to me at terribleminds at gmail dot com with subject header:
And send it to me by 6/16, at noon EST (meaning, you get two weeks).

Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer plans - or their lack

I'm not sure what I'm doing this summer.  I normally work at an ESL camp for a few weeks and that option exists but I haven't seen  any local ones yet.

I love swimming and need to get some serious ocean time in. Beaches are okay but I need some rock to snorkel over and explore.  And I need to teach my son more swimming and some snorkeling as well.

In related news, my fitness goals and plans are just about perfect.  In late May, I reached an average of one run every two days.  That is, 75 (in fact, 78) runs in 150 days. I need to keep pushing to build a cushion for the rainy season and winter's cold.  Just last week, I added ten pushups and 15 situps a day with the plan of adding 5 to each every Sunday.  It's a modest start, but clearly will grow to significance then cripple my shoulders.

As for writing. I like Beth Moore's plans and need to adapt them to my own circumstances.

Follow the link to see the whole image.
Ommwriter is promoted in this blog post, as are several other sites, apps and add-ons.  I am using Scrivener for my current project but my two Nanowrimo successes are partially due to Ommwriter's great product.

Sellar matter-of-factly among the big names in speculative fiction

I've never actually met Gord Sellar but we both live in South Korea and know the same people.  If and when we cross paths, I'll probably end up starstruck.  I knew he was a skilled writer and have enjoyed the few stories of his that I've read but, well, I guess because I almost know him I didn't expect him to be in the writing big leagues.  Clearly, that means I've been thinking small and need to pump up my ambitions and goals.

Anyway, a blog post at Back Gate discusses fantasy cliches and how competent authors tear them apart and rebuild them in unique ways.  My favorite author ever, Tim Powers, offers his wisdom as does Sellar.
Well, there’s the “mysterious magical artifact,” which has variously been a sword, a ring, a model ship, an ornament broken from a railing in an alien world — and of course it proves to be much more significant than it initially appears to be.
James Branch Cabell turned this idea on its head in his novel The Cream of the Jest (1917),...
In the past half-year or so I’ve just sort of discovered the brilliant Paul Meloy’s work, especially in the short stories collected in Islington Crocodiles (2008) and the follow-up novella Dogs with Their Eyes Shut (2013). It’s work that crosses countless genre and subgenre boundaries: it’s not exactly fantasy or horror or SF, just brilliant speculative fiction, and there are plenty of familiar fantasy tropes, if you look under the surface, but Meloy consistently does amazingly fresh, stunning things with them.