Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Picking, or looking for, fights as procrastination

Austin Kleon's wife is right:

I have a book on how Young Earth Creationists could improve their game in the works and follow the Twitter account TakeThatDarwin.  It's bad for my health because there are always, on any side of an argument, idiots out there.  TTD finds them all and trying to craft a response in 140 characters to a person who doesn't really care what I think is a waste of time.  And yet, I have trouble not responding. What?  Just let the person be an idiot out there?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How Weiland uses Scrivener.

She discusses how it helps her outline and plan her novels here.  As she points out, Scrivener has so many features that it is a difficult program to use well enough to make it worth while.  But when you do learn how to use it, it is very worthwhile indeed.  Part two is here.
Ah, she discussed how it helps her.  Her post is from 2015 - Though I am interested this time, I normally find automatic reposting of content annoying. If you want to annoy me, I think Hootsuite is the way to go - it doesn't have to be annoying, BTW.  Hootsuite manages various social media pages for you, allowing you to strategically write a blog post and promote it on your own Facebook or group and Twitter and, etc....  I think it can be used to repost older material if you have no new material coming out.

She offered a live webinar around that time. You can view it for $79 at Writer's Digest.

TWIC: Reading, wRiting and Rworking

If there is a theme in today's This Week in Creativity, the title captures it.  Oh, also a travel musing.

The International Teacher Development Institute has a class on creative writing - or two classes that you  can take together.  The themes are poetry and prose.
In The ELT Creative Writers' Retreat, short poems will lead us into the writing of personal memoir as we work together to develop as writers and explore the depths of our lives while learning how to use a Writer's Workshop Approach in our English classes. In Poetry in ELT we'll explore the many ways poetry can be used in the English Language Classroom.
The fee is US$89 for one and US$125 for both.
Dave Moldawer at Boingboing tells us what publishers should do.
For me, this is what publishers should do, whether they are publishing books, websites, conferences, or, well, operating systems: “Look at this. I'll put a frame around it, because the creator cannot truly frame the work. Here is what you need to know to appreciate this. Here is how you should think about this. Consider.”
A good publisher is that amazing, life-changing professor from sophomore year at scale.
The need for this work—publishing—is more desperate than ever, and most book publishers don’t even bother to pay lip service to this essential role of their business.
Typing slowly (or hand writing) results in better, uh, writing.  It's weird when writing refers to the motion of your hand and to the content.
“Typing can be too fluent or too fast, and can actually impair the writing process,” Srdan Medimorec, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Arts at Waterloo said in a statement. “It seems that what we write is a product of the interactions between our thoughts and the tools we use to express them.”
The study, which was published in the British Journal of Psychology, asked some participants to type essays with both hands and others to type with one. According to Medimorec's team, participants who used one hand took more time to come up with words and even used a larger vocabulary. People who typed fast, the study notes, probably went with the first word that came to mind.
How do novelists and writers get inspired?  A question with a variety of answers at Quora. Jeremy Scheurer wrote:
One thing that stuck out to me, was that many authors and novelists had a common trait. Many of them have a small book, a legal pad, a practical app or something like that where they write down anything important to THEM, that happens in their life. 'Overhearing an interesting conversation in the train'. 'Meeting somebody exceptional'. 'Having felt a special feeling in a specific situation'. 'Seeing somebody with a unique appearance'. All this little things get written down. This way they will be able to feel back to that specific situation and they won't forget about important or subtil things that might inspire them for more.
I was a beta reader in Dec 2015 for the first time and wasn't sure what was expected of me.  On the NaNoWriMo blog, the general details are described although I would have liked more examples.  In my case, I pointed out a few big-picture questions - in this fantasy world, families and death didn't mean the same things they mean here but the differences were not clear enough for me. I also noted several adverbs I found strange. The author thanked me and I hope to hear further in a few months. Note to self: contact that author in March to see how the book is progressing.

Outline your novel in eleven 'easy' steps I put 'easy' in quotes because the steps are fairly detailed. They might be easy but are also meaty.
Constructing a Timeline
1.1 Technique: Write a List
1.2 Technique: Map the Events on a Line
1.3 Technique: Master the Mind-Map
2 Explore Your Character Arcs
3 Establish Your Settings
4 Choose the Shape and Style of Narration
5 Assess Your Plot-in-Progress
6 Identify the Core Message
7 Segment Your Outline Into Chapters
8 Essential Components of Your Story's Beginning
8.1 Character
8.2 Setting
8.3 Plot
8.4 First Chapter
9 Essential Components Of Your Story's Middle
9.1 Midpoint
9.2 The Black Moment and Plot Point 2
10 Essential Components of Your Story's End
10.1 Climax
10.2 Final Chapter
11 Reassess and Reorder Your Scenes
11.1 ***
How to read a scientific paper.
A friend and fellow competitive swimmer back in the 80's now has a work-coaching company and she was recently interviewed on How to Create a More Focused Workplace. Perhaps being a swimmer and so a slave to the second hand of a clock has made her acutely aware of the passage of time because her suggestions mostly focus on the subject.
Ten Habits of Highly Creative People.  I've covered the subject often and it dates back at least to Cziksentmihalyi (I can't be the first guy to misspell his name).  I think that I need to reread these points though and particularly work on #6: Openness to Experience.
Research has found that the desire to learn and discover seems to have significantly more bearing on the quality of creative work than intellect alone. So, if you want to boost your creativity, try out a new creative outlet or a totally different medium of expression, or take a new route home from work, or seek out a new group of people with different interests or values that you might learn from. Openness to new experiences can help increase your integrative complexity—the capacity to recognize new patterns and find links among seemingly unrelated pieces of information.
Back to the teaching theme: Seven Ways to help High Schoolers Find Purpose.

As an ESL teacher who simply needs students to talk, here is the area I focus on most:
Foster collaboration
Consider how different high school would feel if students were working in collaboration with their peers instead of competing against them all the time? What if high school grading was based on how well you worked with other people and how well you mentored and advised your peers? This would much more accurately mimic most workplaces, where teamwork and collaboration are some of themain skills desired by today’s employers.
As a bit of motivation, remember that hobbies make us happier.  Go ahead and carve that chunk of wood or scribble endlessly at that story.
Finally, I did a bit of flying last week and, as always, noted the huge variety of vehicles on display at airports.  Airports are where creativity in purely land vehicles has raged wild.

Image from geminijets.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Bowie's process

Word count
Jan 11: -- 
my God, how have I left it so long?

First, the iron would be mixed with nickel and heated to.... Okay, not Bowie the knife maker, although such ideas led me to this (Note, as always, and so also with other images in this post, I have shrank it somewhat.  For a full-size image, follow the link.  For a somewhat larger image, click the image):

I don't mean to make light of David Bowie's passing, but honestly, I never owned an album or CD of his.  Of course, I know Major Tom and his, "We can be heroes" song - that was him, right?

Still, I naturally have respect for the man and his work.  How did he remain relevant for 50 years? What was his process? From Stephen Collins.
Good to know.
Many science fiction authors of days of yore believed the future would be one of ease for the everyday man.  Okay, at least one author did.  It seemed so obvious that I just accepted it.  Boingboing looks at why this probably won't be the case.  See also Humans need not apply (Youtube link).

The future is difficult to imagine. I am at home in Ontario.  Well, I am at my mother's home, which feels like home when I am in Canada.  I looked at and threw away a lot of old papers, including my elementary school report cards.  I didn't want my son to see how terrible a student I was.  One thing that caught my eye was the low marks I received and commentary on my terrible spelling.

Nowadays, does spelling matter?  For important documents, I use spell check.  For informal docs, notes and chats, bad spelling is a sign of comfort with the other party - "I'm so relaxed in your company that I don't have to overthink my conversation."

Still, I somehow am more relaxed in theory about spelling but spelling errors still leap out at me when I read a book, so it has some value.  A more notable and common group of errors involve grammar and word choice.  They're, their, and there. "My family aren't..."  Spelling seems to be an easy problem for computers to solve; grammar less so.  How will education change to address this?  Will people simply change in their tolerances?  In teaching ESL, I simultaneously note every absent 'a' and 'the' and find I have no trouble understanding the text.  If it doesn't degrade understanding, perhaps the new frontier of tolerance will be grammar variance.

Does my reader(s?) have any predictions for the future?  Actionable ones we can make money on or even include in art so we look like prophets in ten or twenty years (or five)?
Periodic Table Battleship. Via Boredpanda.
Traveling as I am, I find it difficult to listen to podcasts.  This discussion with David Ben looks like it would be interesting.  Ben's personal website is here.
ESL teaching time savers.  Gotta say, this link is the least related to my blog's topic.

Friday, January 8, 2016

symbols to last 10,000 years

Word Count
Jan 6: 0
Jan 7: 0
Jan 8: 740 words
Nuclear waste, whether from medical equipment, power generation or bomb-making materials, can remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.  Where can you put it?  How can you keep people away from it?  From 99% invisible:
Storing something safely forever is a huge design problem; in fact, the jury’s still out on whether WIPP has solved the basics of the storage problem at all. In February 2014, a leak was detected that exposed several workers to radiation, and WIPP has been closed since. The Department of Energy now predicts that it could be up to three years before WIPP is fully operational again.

We know these facts because we can look them up and read the news in a shared language. The problem that the aforementioned panel was convened to address was how to communicate information to people 10,000 years in the future.

This WIPP site is going to be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years, though this panel was only responsible for keeping this place sufficiently marked for humans for the next 10,000 years—thinking beyond that timeframe was presumed to be impossible.
From the similar Human Interference Task Force:
    Three parts of any communication about nuclear waste must be conveyed to posterity:
  • that it is a message at all 
  • that dangerous material is stored in a given location
  • information about the type of dangerous substance
Hmm.  This figure is apparently around 30,000 years old.

Wikipedia has more on stone fertility goddesses.

If this figure is recognizable after such a length of time, then making a symbol meant to last 10,000 years doesn't seem impossible.  From one of the above links, Carl Sagan suggested a skull-and-crossbones type of symbol; maybe a sickly figure would be as recognizable as the above is of womanhood.

I am not convinced that, now that we have written language, we will lose it again or lose the ability to read ancient scripts.  Still, 'maybe' is not good enough regarding the poisonous power of nuclear waste.  It would be better to be sure.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

TWIC: self-diagnosis of epilepsy and whole lot more!

This summer, I noted the absence of two medical complaints that had appeared and disappeared mysteriously.
This condition started, I think, during a bout of food poisoning. between races to the toilet, I would relax and fall asleep. The dream would get weird and very realistic and I felt strong dejavu. Then my stomach would tighten and I would awaken trying to remember the dream.
But trying to remember also seemed like a trigger. For the next few years, I would be daydreaming and sometimes my train of thought would take me to a buried memory and as I tried to recall it, suddenly my stomach would cramp, I would feel weak and have trouble standing – just too tired. Then it would go away. I would get maybe five episodes over a day or a day and half and those episodes would start very intense but fade. I distinctly remember two things. 1) being afraid to remember something for fear it would trigger another attack and 2) trying to remember the scene or event that tantalized just before the attack.
I still don't know why they started or stopped but a writer being interviewed at A.C. Fuller's excellent Writer 2.0 podcast described having similar symptoms.  Turns out, deja vu can be caused by epilepsy!  At, Mikey4 writes:
...tip me off to possible temporal lobe epilepsy after searching around a bit. They generally last about 10-20 seconds and are not accompanied by the same dread, or stomach discomfort, or fear, or happiness that seems to be common with many TLE patients, but they're also momentarily quite strong (and frustrating!) for me.
Kristin Seaborg, a doctor and the author interviewed by Fuller described similar sensations in her interview.  I don't know what this means for me. Seaborg was free of symptoms for many years so my current period without episodes doesn't mean that much.  Well, if I have another episode, I will know what to suggest to the doctor.
There are a lot of books and more that claim to improve a person's creativity.  I still don't know if any of them work but many of them have been handy and useful in my ESL classes if lacking in other value.  Working to link disparate words in the Central Word activity requires the creation of new sentences and, well, might improve creativity.
Luminosity's Brain Training games are now known not to cause cognitive improvement and the company has been fined millions for making such claims.
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich said in a statement. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
Again, I think lateral thinking puzzles and such can work as homework and improve fluency, so I'm happy to link to these examples.
This link might be the same as I recently gave regarding mnemonics, but it is via another source.  Joshua Foer via Kottke.
It’s a great myth that creative geniuses consistently produce great works.
They don’t. In fact, systematic analyses of the career trajectories of people labeled geniuses show that their output tends to be highly uneven, with a few good ideas mixed in with many more false starts. While consistency may be the key to expertise, the secret to creative greatness appears to be doing things differently—even when that means failing.
So how are creative masterminds so successful, if they don’t really know what they’re doing? Simonton’s extensive analysis of geniuses found two major factors to be critical in explaining the creative process of geniuses. First, creative geniuses simultaneously immerse themselves in many diverse ideas and projects. Second, and perhaps even more important, they also have extraordinary productivity. Creators create. Again and again and again. In fact, Simonton has found that the quality of creative ideas is a positive function of quantity: The more ideas creators generate (regardless of the quality of each idea), the greater the chances they would produce an eventual masterpiece.
Last year, I took a free creativity class online from Stanford University.  Going into it, I decided to adopt a 'student's mind'; that is, I worked to be positive and open to new ideas and to restrain my  sarcasm.  I was wise to do that and should keep working on the practice
Giving others the benefit of the doubt, then, may not invite deception; it instead seems to pay off—literally, Stavrova says: “So in most places in the U.S. and western Europe, being less cynical might be a better way to go.”
During the course, the professor lauded open offices.  I was skeptical at the time but they sure look nice.  Turns out, open offices are mostly terrible.
Maria went to a school with an open design. "Distracting at best and frustrating at worst," she writes, "wide-open classrooms went, for the most part, the way of other ill-considered architectural fads of the time, like concrete domes. The biggest problem with an open design, she writes, is noise. I agree with that. Wired magazine had an open plan and the constant noise and interruptions made it impossible to do actual work there
The lies described here were such that people feared to question them.  When a young woman in front of the Winnipeg bus station told me she needed money to go home, I was suspicious and didn't give her any.  If she had claimed sexual assault, I would have felt terrible if I were to ask questions or ask for proof.
Mark Frauenfelder has a course available on Skillshare.  I am sure it is a good one but I am more interested in the proliferation of online classes.  I have taken classes through Coursera and others that offer them from universities even though the classes don't always include university credit.  Skillshare doesn't seem to have any connection to universities.
Skillshare is a terrific online learning community for creative people. It teaches you new skills through well-made videos with great production values. I've been using Skillshare to teach myself Adobe After Effects. All the videos feature people who are professionals in their field. I love this site.
I found a cheap set of classes -also from Boingboing (Frauenfelder writes there) on public relations and the like.  I also registered for classes from 'goodriter' which were briefly free.  I'll be sure to describe what i think of their value once I find time to take them. I don't feel online classes have to be from a university to be valuable but I do trust the content more -even after describing my concerns with the creativity class I took. Does my reader (is it too much to hope for readers?) have any opinion on such classes?
Added Later: The Boingboing-promoted courses were with Stack Social and the goodriter classes were with Udemy.
Justin Green was a comic, uh, maker?  Author?  He made comics. They didn't pay the bills.  He went on to make signs in the final days of hand-lettering and hand-painting such things.  Then he wrote comics on the subject.  His comics are here.
The early strips tell how Green found his footing; including the one-thousand hours required to brush a perfect “O.” In later strips he requested techniques and stories from veteran brushmen. They offered priceless knowledge like how to mix your paint so it stays put under the hot sun or how much arm-twisting to apply when a client lets an invoice sit for too long. Some of these sign painters became recurring characters in “Sign Game,” and a few died during its run leaving these strips – and a few fading signs – as their final memorial.
Escape rooms are the new thing.  Earlier, I wrote about Altered Reality Games, a presentation I enjoyed from the 2015 International KOTESOL Conference.  They seem to have a few things in common.
...we met the six other players we were going to be locked in a room with. After a staff member explained the rules (no phones, no bathroom breaks, no brute force attacks on combination locks) we were led into a small room with a long table and a wall of old books. The door was locked behind us. We had one hour to figure out how to unlock the door and get out.
This is the smallest escape room yet, I thought. Were we going to spend an hour cramped together in here? I put the thought out of my head as I joined the others in going over the clues that would lead to the solving of the various puzzles. It didn't take long for us to crack the first puzzle. As soon as we did, one of the walls slid away to reveal a much larger room: the mysterious laboratory of of the Alchemist, an unseen evil being who was in the final stages of concocting a Philosopher's Stone to take over the world. It was our job to foil the Alchemist by solving a series of puzzles that would unite the elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water and let us escape from the room before our time ran out.
I am still working on my steampunk book set in 1830's Italy (and elsewhere) and secret societies play a big part.  Boingboing describes a book of Secret Society art.
What is made most apparent is how deeply these societies are entangled with folk elements. Images of death and resurrection abound, as do beehives, goats, and of course the all-seeing eye. There is esoteric lore and mystery layered with mystery. As David Byrne says in his foreword to the book, “The obscuring layers are the content.” And yet, the humble often outsider nature of the examples in this book reveal the most startling truth about Freemasons and others secret societies: these are the homegrown fellowships of our ancestors, people looking for fraternity and the warmth of a lodge, often during our country’s most difficult times. These were simple men and women, not the secret rulers of the universe.
What is the next frontier for science fiction and fantasy?  Tyler Cowan, at Marginal Revolution, looks at an Economist article.  Briefly, the answers are caves and forest canopies.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Create an entire culture

Word Count
Jan 5, 2016: 589 words
I am mostly healed up, but still suffering  from sinus headaches.  Merry Christmas and all that!  Time to get into writing!
We Imagine a People.  Alexander Jaffe threw a birthday party for an entire (imaginary) culture.  The party went all day and in the morning, neolithic art was conceived and technology was added throughout the day.