Saturday, February 24, 2018

TWIC: Moved, terrible at PPTs

I now live in a rural village on the outskirts of Kimhae in southern South Korea. The temperature here is at least five degrees warmer than Incheon and I like that. This Canadian is getting thin-skinned.
This is also my explanation for a late post.
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The Military Industrial PPT Complex is not state-of-the-art, unless the slides are meant as a form of torture. Archive dot org. Motherboard. If i use these examples in class in South Korea, I won't be guilty of espionage, right?
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Incheon Animals: Trachemys scripta

I am not sure why I am including my photos with this one. I only had my phone with me and, well, I recognize the turtle in the picture but if you do not even see it, even with the red circle, I understand.

So why post it? I can't say why I am posting a picture except for the modern 'pics or it didn't happen' complaint. Mostly, I saw this turtle on Feb 1 and the air temp was 1 Celsius. A few years ago, I was surprised to see turtles in Ontario Canada swimming early, but that was late April I think, not the beginning of February.

Some information on Slider turtles, spread around the world via the pet trade.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

TWIC: Gender imbalance in science writing, Salvatore

Ed Yong discusses what he did, and why, to interview 50% women in his stories. That link is to his Twitter feed. Here is his article in the Atlantic.
To find more female sources, I just spend a little more time on all of the above—ending the search only when I have a list that includes several women.
Crucially, I tracked how I was doing in a simple spreadsheet. I can’t overstate the importance of that: It is a vaccine against self-delusion. It prevents me from wrongly believing that all is well. I’ve been doing this for two years now. Four months after I started, the proportion of women who have a voice in my stories hit 50 percent, and has stayed roughly there ever since, varying between 42 and 61 percent from month to month.
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Another popular critique is that I should simply focus on finding the most qualified people for any given story, regardless of gender. This point seems superficially sound, but falls apart at the gentlest scrutiny. How exactly does one judge “most qualified”? Am I to list all the scientists in a given field and arrange them by number of publications, awards, or h-index, and then work my way down the list in descending order? Am I to assume that these metrics somehow exist in a social vacuum and are not themselves also influenced by the very gender biases that I am trying to resist? It would be crushingly naïve to do so.
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It is getting increasingly easy to find such people. The journalist Christina Selby, writing at the Open Notebook, compiled a list of tips for diversifying sources. The journalist Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato created Diverse Sources, a searchable database of underrepresented experts in science. 500 Women Scientists, a nonprofit, created Request a Woman Scientist, a similar (and larger) database. Both can be filtered by country, specialty, and more. Several scientists have compiled lists of women in microbiology, astronomy, physics, evolution, political science, neuroscience, and more.
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As a youth I chose not to read RA Salvatore. I considered him a fanfic writer like whoever wrote Shades of Grey or Twilight. And it is true his writings were basically Dungeons And dragons games transcribed. In those days, I couldn't see what creativity he added to the stories. To me, without having read them, mind, they seemed to be merely deep dives into Monster Manual and the DM handbook and such.
I have read a few of his books now and they passed the time well. I cheered for Drizzt and enjoyed the stories. I don't know if they are high art but at the same time, I typically avoid serious literature so I am not a knowledgeable judge. I would read another of his books, although I would not put much effort into hunting one down. Ah, here is my clear position. I would read one of his books before I would read another da Vinci Code sequel.
Anyway, this story, entirely unrelated to my rambling here, of a young reader who wrote to Salvatore and received responses made me like Salvatore even more. In a time of typewriters and no copy-paste, this letter shows individualized attention.
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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Gangwon Animals: Pteromys volans

I never understood how people could miss a squirrel if it were in the area. I mean, they are at least as big as a rat, right?
Nope. The siberian flying squirrel is mouse sized. The tree below is around 30 cm left to right so the squirrel on it is much smaller than that, even with the tail

The main reason we know they were around was finding their scat. Warning, poop photo below!
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The label was added to the pic by students using it for their presentation.


TWIC: comedy, Iceland, writer-fight, my civilization

Rowan Atkinson has a one hour documentary on how to do comedy. Informative and funny.
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Why are Icelanders so creative?
Iceland made a concerted effort to introduce innovation education, or IE, into their curriculums more than 20 years ago and researchers and Icelanders alike agree it is key to their booming creativity.

“Creative kids here in the United States tend to be looked at as a problem.”

All children in schools devote time to learning to use tools, how to build and create all manner of products, and more. Such practices are on the decline in the United States, where more and more attention goes to testing. Icelanders test little, do not have IQ tests in school, and focus instead on learning and applying skills in all areas of the curriculum.
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Science Fiction writing award likely were never apolitical. but a few years ago, the political bent of the writers became more important than the writing. At least for some writers who made two groups the Sad Puppies and Rapid Puppies. I think the main excitement was two years ago, but there is still fallout. One such writer has had his membership for Worldcon revoked. Link is to a discussion of why his membership was revoked.
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If you felt the need to broadcast the value of our civilization to the universe, how would you do it?
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Advice from writer Heather O'Neill's father. A few of the tips:
  1. Make friends with Jewish kids.
  2. Accept that you're ugly and move on.
  3. Never tell anyone what you do for a living.
  4. Know something about history.
  5. No matter what anyone tells you, crime certainly pays.
  6. All sophisticated people have dinner parties.
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Rupi Kaur; the Instagram poet
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Writing, well or poorly, is good for you
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Sketching Science




Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Gangwon Animals: Dictyoploca japonica


Bah! I am certain I have better photos of this cocoon but this is the best ten minutes of searching my files offers!


TWIC: overthinking, AIs get creative, writing is messy, science writing, ethics, Argon

CBC offers daily short inspirational messages to help you write. This one also had a link to their creative non-fiction contest with entries due February 28

Don't overthink your first draft: just write

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AIs must learn the rules before they can break them in creative ways.
Still, getting machines to accurately mimic human style—whether Rembrandt’s or J. K. Rowling’s—is perhaps a good place to start when developing creative AI, Riedl says. After all, human creators often start off imitating the skills and processes of accomplished artists. The next step, for both people and machines, is to use those skills as part of a strategy to create something original.
A lot of how the artificial intelligences learn seems similar to how we learn. First ingest a great deal of sample material to absorb the rules, then break those rules in specific ways.
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Writing is messy
Writing is messy. In fact, “messy” doesn’t really cover it. Writing is messy, bloody, outrageous, impossible to predict, crazy-making, and soul-sucking. It’s also deeply fulfilling, joyful, sexy, exciting, and soul-nourishing. It is all of these things and nothing that can be contained on a schedule or within an outline.
When I first started out as a writer, I assumed that good writers were the master and writing itself was the servant. Now, after ten years of hard experience, I know that it’s the other way around.
So, if you’re working with a manuscript and you’re confused, frustrated, or in despair about it, know that you’re on the right track.
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Advice for explaining science from Sci Am. An excerpt:
The first step is to connect the research you are doing or pursuing to a bigger theme. Is it the environment? Climate change? Public health? As an example, my research on beneficial soil microbes ties into several major themes including climate change, food security and soil health.
Secondly, it is important to find the story and storyline in your research. How do the results of your research creatively link and connect to the global challenges facing humanity? Once you have this lined up, it is time to write the piece.
Op-eds are centered around an argument: essentially you are arguing for or against something. So, you must decide on this before you can write the rest of your piece. The core argument should only be a sentence long and stated in a way that is convincing to your readers.
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Some research exists to connect creativity to unethical action. One hypothesis explaining it is that creative people can more easily rationalize or explain away their bad actions.
As an example of this, some professors in Korea deliberately add the names of their children as authors on their research to give them a boost in recognition.

Professors at 29 universities named their children as co-authors in dissertations over the past decade as a deceitful means to help boost their academic profiles ahead of the university admissions, the government said Friday. The Ministry of Education said it reviewed dissertations published between February 2007 and last October and found 82 such instances nationwide. Most of the children were high school juniors or high school seniors.
I learned of this on a Facebook group and only thought to add it to this week's roundup because of this comment (name redacted):
XXXNAMEXX Every time I thought "well, that's it, can't possibly get any more creative" ... Indeed most creative country in the world!!
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I have just learned of The Eye of Argon, a much derided fantasy story that is so bad it is good and also so bad it wonderfully displays what errors to avoid. Wikipedia. Discussion.  Full textThe original paper scanned with its illustrations and more. And a man successfully reading the first chapter. I hope I am never kicked between the testicles. That sounds...unsettling.