Friday, August 28, 2015

What would you build? Where would you go?

Ever Blocks are the fullsize version of LEGO.

From Wired (via Boingboing):
EverBlocks assemble more or less like any other modular building blocks, but on a larger scale. But as the blocks get bigger, building with them gets more complicated. “When we first started, I envisioned that people would know instinctively how to build with them,” Rosan says.
That wasn’t the case. In miniature scale, it’s easy to gain perspective on how blocks fit together. At life-size scale, it gets more challenging. “People start to worry about stability,” he says. It’s no big deal if your 3-inch wall topples, but it is a problem if your 15-foot wall does. The key is to take lessons from Lego, and stack the blocks like bricks, staggering them so a brick covers the seam of the two below it. Each block also has at least one channel that allows power cables, reinforcing wooden dowels, or LED strips to snake through as a means of illuminating or stabilizing larger structures.
It is neat that the blocks come with channels for cables and the like.  I had imagined leaving a gap between blocks as communication points but they are already there.

I also like the idea of spaces for re-rod.  When I think about building with such materials (which happens surprisingly often), I plan buttresses as well.  Maybe they aren't necessary.

The limited variety of blocks appeals to this old-school LEGO architect.  The incredible number of options available with modern LEGO mostly confuses me.  I would have trouble designing something like this, for instance (but I do plan to buy it, at almost any cost, when it comes out).

(A beautiful combination of my two obsessions!)
But what would I build?

Well, with the regular, small bricks, I made a house for my guinea pig that was sufficiently roomy and stylish for it.  Otherwise, I mostly made animals and other decorative pieces.

At the EverBlock website - topmost link - they have examples of shelves, walls and furniture. My favorite is the wall to hide behind in a waterfight - the brilliant color and gaps make it outdoorsy and fun.  The pure-white wall, very transportable, for use as a projection screen is nice.  But none jump out at me as LEGO-whimsical.

I guess I would build a castle-bed or-testing those wooden dowels for strength - an elephant bed with a large open space under the sleeping area.  EverBlock comes with a 3D building application but I found it challenging to use.  I tried to make my elephant bed but became frustrated in ways I don't remember getting with the actual blocks in my hands.

Anyway, I would like to make a colorful bookshelf or a desk system that fits my idiosyncrasies.  For example, I would like an 'L' or even 'U' shape.  I like the ones I see here with one side built into shelving.  With blocks, I should be easily able to convert to standing height and back as desired.

If it came with enough blocks, playing Creationary might be fun.

What would you build?
Now, if you built a subway - out of LEGO or Everblock, if you wish - where would it go?  Subway Adventure is a game by Increpare that offers its own answers to this questions.

The game is free to download, but, again, what would your subway connect you to?  The various places I've called home are obvious stops.  There are some temples here in Korea that the addition of a subway stop of this sort would not seem too out of place.

Would I want a line that jumped from Earth (possibly from a wardrobe) to Narnia, Fillory, The Land, Middle Earth and Leigh Brackett's Mars?  What would the tolls be? Or trolls?  I was never a fan of the Shannara books as they were too derivative of Tolkien although I hear they have grown in their own ways since. Fianovar might be another good stopping point.

Ah, I'd have to play the game; linking any location to another seems to easy without constraints.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Salvador Dali and Scientific American and some sad sad-puppies.

I'd love to know know more about why Dali loved duplicity and illusion but Sci Am only offers a teaser.  Maybe my university library has a copy of the magazine.  I did learn though that Dali read Sci Am and one of his paintings has an homage to an article from the magazine.  The article described how little information is needed for our brains to interpret faces. A portrait of Abraham Lincoln was used; it was divided into 16 X 16 squares and each square was 'color averaged' so as to be a block of solid color. The result is not as flowing as a Dali painting but similarly surreal.

Ah, what do I know about Dali?  He painted 'persistence of memory' and lots of spider-legged elephants and lots of weirdly placed boobs.  These works adorned many university students' dorm wall - including my own.  He had an aardvark or anteater as a pet.  He had a cool mustache. Yeah, I know more about his style than his work - and not that much about his style.

I do like butterflies and sailboats though (from):

The Khan academy is here to teach me about some of Dali's work (6:27 for Persistence Of Memory).
"He was the first person to essentially do dreamscapes and, as you mentioned, attack on the rational."
"I think this is that moment when all those safe ideas about objectivity are being blown out of the water."
 Metamorphosis of Narcissus (4:08)
Dr Zucker:"Paranoiac-critical activity...they loved the fact that it was scary and dangerous"
Dr Harris"Something more authentic, that lacked the control of the conscious mind. Dr Zucker: "For them, that was the engine of creativity."
Zucker: "He [Dali] wants the perfection of the academic style to render the inspiration of the unconscious"

And now for something completely different. The Hugo awards.  The politics of this years nominees is a mess with different groups trying to vote as blocs on various slates of contestants.  Below is a tiny taste of an explainer.  Hunt around if you want more.

The leader of one such group, the Sad Puppies, is Brad Torgerson.  Here is what he is concerned about:
“A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women.
[Now,] the book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation?... A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop: Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women. Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.”
 Yes, he is concerned that he will not be able to judge a book by its cover. He is also the lesser jerk in the story.  The awards have been given out and the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies didn't do well.  Boingboing and Nielson Hayden have details with the latter offering this pdf of the winners.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Political edits: kinda sorta about creativity

Canada's most famous author, Margaret Attwood, recently wrote an editorial for the National Post.  It disappeared from the online edition and according to the Toronto Star, she wondered if she had been censored.  In the strictest meaning of the word, I would have to say she was not as only government can 'censor' people in the legal sense.  It's been a while since I lived in Canada but I believe the National Post is strongly right-leaning paper and the current government is conservative so there is likely to be an exchange of favours now and then.

The article reappeared but with several edits, edits and Jonathan Goldsbie has noted them:

According to the Toronto Star:
“The column was taken down because the necessary fact checking had not been completed,” said the Post’s senior vice-president Gerry Nott in an email. “Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers.”

The vanished Post column, minus three sentences, was posted later Friday night on the website of The Walrus magazine. Soon after the lightly trimmed Walrus version appeared on the Post website as well.

“The column was taken down because the necessary fact checking had not been completed,” said the Post’s senior vice-president Gerry Nott in an email. “Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers.”

It seems strange to me that a satirical piece, mocking the conservatives attacks on the liberal leader's hair, would need to be fact-checked.  One of the sentences includes, “. . . rumour is that the Hair piece is being ‘evaluated’ by ‘leadership.’ ”  How can one fact-check that?

Editing is often looked at as cleaning up a work in second and later drafts. Here, we may see an effort to change the meaning; an effort made by a second party without the first party's consent or awareness.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

interfering ideas and promoting your book

Nanowrimo has its own jargon, mostly designed to promote in-jokes.  One such Nano phrase is the 'travelling shovel of death' and I used it in my 2014 Nano entry.  One that is more serious is 'plot bunny'.  From the Nano Wiki:

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." --John Steinbeck
The plot bunny as illustrated on a NaNoWriMo trading card.
A plot bunny is a story idea that refuses to go away until it is written. The term's origin is unknown but is known to predate NaNoWriMo. Because plot bunnies tend to multiply quickly, the term is thought to be related to the oft-quoted John Steinbeck quote about ideas and rabbits.
I get the idea that too many ideas will ruin a book, at least if poorly handled.  To travel in too many directions is to circle...the drain.  What can be done with insistent new ideas while working on a specific subject?

Somewhere, William Goldman wrote about being under contract for a book but having an idea for another book that burned inside him and after consulting with friends, allowed himself one weekend to work on the new idea as much and as hard as he wanted before ignoring it to concentrate on his obligations.

K.M Weiland looks at the problem at Helping Writers Become Authors.
In this instance [of staring into a campfire], I walked away from that hour-long campfire with ideas for three new books. (And for those of you who have been asking for it, there is now officially a Dreamlander sequel in the works!)
This is not, of course, actually bad in any sense of the word. In fact, it’s totally awesomesauce.
But new story ideas can also be overwhelming–and seductive. When a new story is singing siren songs in our ears, beckoning us to new and exciting playgrounds, it can be downright difficult not to look a little bit distastefully at the trenches of our current work-in-progress.
My advice, when faced with sterling new story ideas, is to be patient. Nine times out of ten, the wisest and most productive choice is going to be staying the course on your current story.
Starting stories is easy. Frankly, as valuable as good ideas are, they’re also a dime a dozen. My having enough story ideas to last me thirty years is the writerly equivalent of my winning $3,000,000. Baby, I’m set.
It’s finishing stories that’s hard. Never be hasty in abandoning the work you’ve already put into an existing story. And never take for granted how important it is to instill in yourself the priceless habit of learning how to see a story through to the arduous end.
Weiland then offers suggestions on how to keep your ideas for later and improve them.  Personally, I Coggle them and work out some plans there.  I'm a lazy guy who has at least some ideas and mostly struggle with the finishing.  In this case, it means that spending thirty minutes to an hour to write down my ideas scratches that itch pretty well and it doesn't bother me for a while.  I also carry my commonplace book (it's a school-style notebook) most of the time or use the free version of Evernote on my phone to remember for me.  If my handwriting were better and I could be sure of reading my notes after a few months, I would stick to my comm... OK, notebook as I can fill a page any way I want with stick figures and drawings or text.  I haven't found software that is as comfortable for me.
This author promotes her book with enthusiasm whether she is speaking to three people or a crowd of 9.
"I have to remember that even if just one person shows up, he deserves the same passion and enthusiasm I would give to a big group of seven people or eight people," said Massey, watching as a bookstore employee began setting up rows of folding chairs. "You just have to remind yourself that you're not going to be able to pack the room with half a dozen fans every time."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

TWIC: hone your creativity, British Library photo offerings,

Manage your day to day routines to hone your creativity.

...there is something to be said for the value of a well-engineered daily routine to anchor the creative process. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (public library), edited by Behance’s 99U editor-in-chief Jocelyn Glei and featuring contributions from a twenty of today’s most celebrated thinkers and doers, delves into the secrets of this holy grail of creativity.
I have trouble typing and editing a quote within a quote so here is an image of it:

From the British Library come a million public domain images.  I like this set of sad girls, without ever having made a meme image, I think these would do nicely.
A cropped and shrunk image of the sad girls:

My first attempt:

Yeah, I should read up and learn more before offering more meme photos.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Growth in my painting skill?

I am currently working at an ESL camp that has a ceramics class.  Well, going from clay to drying to painting to firing in the kiln would take a few weeks, so the class is simply painting or applying a glaze to a prepared coffee mug.
Before we get to my two cups, I want to look at the glaze.  I knew that glazes changed colour in the kiln and that they were based on metals but it was interesting to see that for myself.  Here, a student has smeared glaze over the entire surface of his mug.  I should have taken an after shot because the brown became blue and the finished appearance is great.

Below are some samples of the glazes.  The one with stars is labelled 'Cobalt" and we can see the percentages used.

 I thought about what a mug for my son should look like and prepared a draft on the white board before the class started.

Here is the mug before firing.

 And below are two mugs.  One I made in the first week (Ocean Dreams) and one from the second week (Savanna Dreams).  Although the artwork or craftsmanship in both cases in not noteworthy, the improvement I think is.

Science writers, don't use these words or phrases

Frontiers in Psychology has a list of 50 words and phrases that are often used incorrectly.

Here are a few:
(1) A gene for. The news media is awash in reports of identifying “genes for” a myriad of phenotypes, including personality traits, mental illnesses, homosexuality, and political attitudes (Sapolsky, 1997). For example, in 2010, The Telegraph (2010) trumpeted the headline, “‘Liberal gene’ discovered by scientists.” Nevertheless, because genes code for proteins, there are no “genes for” phenotypes per se, including behavioral phenotypes (Falk, 2014).
(4) Brain region X lights up. Many authors in the popular and academic literatures use such phrases as “brain area X lit up following manipulation Y” (e.g., Morin, 2011). This phrase is unfortunate for several reasons. First, the bright red and orange colors seen on functional brain imaging scans are superimposed by researchers to reflect regions of higher brain activation. Nevertheless, they may engender a perception of “illumination” in viewers. 
(26) Steep learning curve. Scores of authors use the phrase “steep learning curve” or “sharp learning curve” in reference to a skill that is difficult to master. ... Nevertheless, from the standpoint of learning theory, these and other authors have it backward, because a steep learning curve, i.e., a curve with a large positive slope, is associated with a skill that is acquired easily and rapidly (Hopper et al., 2007). 
(45) Scientific proof. The concepts of “proof” and “confirmation” are incompatible with science, which by its very nature is provisional and self-correcting (McComas, 1996). Hence, it is understandable whyPopper (1959) preferred the term “corroboration” to “confirmation,” as all theories can in principle be overturned by new evidence. Nor is the evidence for scientific theories dichotomous; theories virtually always vary in their degree of corroboration. As a consequence, no theory in science, including psychological science, should be regarded as strictly proven. Proofs should be confined to the pages of mathematics textbooks and journals (Kanazawa, 2008).

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Crossposting: mind body dualism research

I recently blogged about new research on consciousness at CreationEvolutionBusan, my ranting blog for arguments about evolution.

One part of the research article fits on this blog.  A big part of why I began to research creativity was to learn how new ideas suddenly appear in my (or anyone's) head.  I still don't know and it appears no one does.  The closest people come to an understanding is to offer tips on how to have these flashes of inspiration, how to prepare our minds for them.  But not how they occur.

From the article (my bolding):
Compare consciousness to the Internet, Morsella suggested. The Internet can be used to buy books, reserve a hotel room and complete thousands of other tasks. Taken at face value, it would seem incredibly powerful. But, in actuality, a person in front of a laptop or clicking away on a smartphone is running the show -- the Internet is just being made to perform the same basic process, without any free will of its own.
The Passive Frame Theory also defies the intuitive belief that one conscious thought leads to another. "One thought doesn't know about the other, they just often have access to and are acting upon the same, unconscious information," Morsella said. "You have one thought and then another, and you think that one thought leads to the next, but this doesn't seem to be the way the process actually works."
I may be making too much of this sentence fragment.  It certainly doesn't answer questions.  I can only hope it points where we need to look.

Many researchers have noted the connection between creativity and mental illness (here is one example from this blog) so Morsella's thoughts in that direction may be of interest:
The theory has major implications for the study of mental disorders, Morsella said. "Why do you have an urge or thought that you shouldn't be having? Because, in a sense, the consciousness system doesn't know that you shouldn't be thinking about something," Morsella said. "An urge generator doesn't know that an urge is irrelevant to other thoughts or ongoing action."