Saturday, April 30, 2016

I'm easily distracted. Hooray!

Concentration a problem for creative types (Audio from Sci-Am).  Before reading the article, I wondered which was the horse and which the cart.  Were creative people more easily distracted or were distractable people more creative in distracting conditions?

The research points to the former:
...researchers asked volunteers to fill out a creative achievement questionnaire and take a test to assess creative cognition. Then, their brain activity was monitored while they listened to closely separated click sounds.

A typical brain responds to the first click a lot stronger than the second, identical click. It’s as if the brain acknowledges it processed something novel and doesn’t need to process the second click to the same extent. But for creative brains—
“They process the second click to the same degree so they don’t censor out information that is repetitive or irrelevant in some sense. “
The article goes on to describe Darwin, Kafka and a few others as famously distractable and suggests earplugs for those of us with this problem if we want to finish that book - whether that means writing or reading it.

Perhaps I need Chip Rommel's concentration Camp.

Friday, April 29, 2016

TWIC: war, Korean authors, adverbs, employment, sketching, apologizing and sarcasm

K.M. Weiland tells us that being creative is a difficult challenge and likens it to war.
Creativity Is for the Fighters
Every act of creativity is a challenge thrown out to our fellow human beings. It rocks the status quo. It doesn’t matter what is being created, the very act is a challenge to rise above mediocrity and do something.
That’s as exciting as it is frightening.
I am still learning the difference between art and craft and I feel this is a key element.  My wood carvings of animals are typically without motion; a heron standing tall with both feet down, an elephant with all four legs solidly under it and the trunk in a stereotyped U.  The cheetah I carved for my son had some motion in it, with legs outstretched in a leap.  So they could show my level of mastery of the craft, of gouging wood, but they don't have a spark, an emotion, a meaning beyond 'this is a cheetah'.  Art needs that meaning and Weiland's post reminds me of that.
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Koreabridge has audio of a talk by young Korean authors. The authors are speaking Korean in the background but the translation is clear and over the top.  The authors are; Chang Kangmyoung, author of Fired (알바생 자르기); Kim Min-jung, author of The World’s Most Expensive Novel (세상에서 가장 비싼 소설); and Kim Ae-ran, author of Where Would You Like to Go? (어디로 가고 싶으신가요).
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Adverbs, useful or a tool of the devil?
[Stephen] King quotes “‘Put it down!’ she shouted menacingly” as a particularly “dubious” example, asserting that it is “weaker” than the simple “she shouted”. “Shouted” does a fairly good job of expressing her method of speech delivery, as does the exclamation mark. And because you’re reading this line as part of a bigger piece, you know why she is shouting this, what she wants put down, and therefore, most likely, how she is shouting it—in other words, you have context which, King says, should make the modifier “redundant”
I'm not sure if I overuse adverbs but I definitely overuse special fonts - italics, and bold. I notice the author of this piece is using them in an paragraph devoted to reducing extraneous flourishes.

I like this discussion:
So what is a lazy adverb?
Gareth went quickly to the kitchen. 
“Quickly” is lazy because it only communicates one aspect of Gareth’s movement: speed. It doesn’t give us any hint of mood or purpose. It is important to note at this point, though, that “went” is also lazy. And this, in fact, is the heart of the problem—the poor verb choice begets the lazy adverb. Max Adams, in his Screenwriter’s Survival Guide, writes that “if you need to modify the verb…it’s because you’re using the wrong verb”. “Went” is so bland, so nondescript, that the only information it gives the reader is about motion: Gareth leaves one place and ends up in another. The adverb is then introduced to try to bring some life into the motion and spice up Gareth’s going. But—and this is essential for writers of flash fiction, where every word counts—there are now two words, and neither is doing an adequate job of telling the reader exactly what is going on with Gareth.
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I am employed and am just barely old enough to feel this is the way people earn money.  A person wanting to earn money through creative means needs to look at being their own boss.  I first read this Quora post as a sign of laziness. After a moment, and after reading the response, the opposite seems true: I want to make money but I don't want to work in a job. Do I have safe alternatives?
The take home lesson is this: it's absolutely possible to have reasonable financial security without having a job. In some ways, it's hard. I don't have a regular schedule, I work at the clients' availability, "quitting time" is a foreign concept, and it's common for me to work weekends and holidays. There's no career path. No one will tell you what to do, and you need to be constantly on the lookout for new opportunities.

There are many advantages, however. There's enormous freedom in not having a boss. I don't have to worry about being exploited by a company or resent having to pick up the slack for coworkers. I can take a day off if I want to or need to, as long as I make up the work at another time. Most of all, I don't have all my eggs in one basket
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I've never been interested in sketching in a museum, but it has always seemed a reasonable thing to do.  At least one museum is trying to ban it.
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As an ESL teacher, one weakness I see in students learning English is their ability to write proper apologies, compliments and complaints.  One third of these issues is covered by: How to: Apologise.
These six factors -- regret, explanation, taking responsibility, repenting, offering repair and asking for forgiveness -- were strongly correlated with effective apology, but two of those factors -- taking responsibility and offering to make things better -- swamped the other four factors.
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I try so hard to not be sarcastic with my students and family.  It is just so ingrained.  My friends and I at high school and university barely took a breath unless it was to display our cutting wit.  Well, we thought it was. Sci-Am shares its costs and benefits.
Communication experts and marriage counselors alike typically advise us to stay away from this particular form of expression. The reason is simple: sarcasm carries the poisonous sting of contempt, which can hurt others and harm relationships.
...
It is the most common form of verbal irony—that is, allowing people to say exactly what they do not mean. Often we use it to humorously convey disapproval or scorn. “Pat, don't work so hard!” a boss might say, for example, on catching his assistant surfing the Web.
Describing a study of the effects of sarcasm:
Not surprisingly, the participants exposed to sarcasm reported more interpersonal conflict than those in other groups. More interestingly, those pairs who had engaged in a sarcastic conversation fared better on the creativity tasks. This effect emerged for both the deliverer and recipient in the simulated conversation but only when the recipient had picked up on the sarcasm in the script.
Why might verbal irony enhance creativity? Sarcasm's challenge is that the message sounds serious but should not be taken literally. One way to overcome this is through tone—as when exaggerated speech indicates the facetiousness of a message. We need to think outside the box to generate and decipher ironic comments. That means sarcasm may lead to clearer, more creative thinking.

Monday, April 25, 2016

TWIC: science poetry, serials, advice, imaginative books, TV genre breakdown and Rowling on revision and planning

Shelly Terrell discusses her week of teaching science and poetry. Terrell encourages students to be active and creative in a variety of ways and this scratches two itches of mine.  Too bad I don't have that much control of my curriculum, for now, anyway.
Everyone should be a budding scientist. Our students should be curious, experiment, explore, and conduct research in their everyday lives. One reason why many students feel science is beyond them or overwhelming is because they don’t make an emotional connection to the science. In celebration of National Poetry month, I have created a visual science poetry calendar to inspire students to write science poems. I did this with Google Calendar and Thinglink.
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Even Puschtak discusses the history of serialization, from Dickens to soap operas and Star Wars. The link is to Kottke and he links and quotes others on the subject.
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From Quora, tips for aspiring writers. A part of Sheri Fresonke Harper's response:
The job of being a writer is actually many jobs including: finance whiz, accountant, business owner, advertising rep, editor, salesman, journalist, book reviewer, memoirist, poet, social media expert, computer maintainer, Web site builder, photographer,artist. Start with the easiest skills and build you resume.
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Many giving advice above mentioned the importance of reading.  Another Quora question was for a list of the most imaginative fiction books.  They'd probably be good to read.  I have read many and the list seems to fit my criteria for highly imaginative.
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Finally a throwaway image describing standard TV show genres. It's good but there isn't much else to the link so I feel bad pasting any part of it.
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How can you be a better writer.  Rowling advice is always do more and better planning. The website is named, 'Write like Rowling' but I think it is not affiliated with her.  I'm not sure how click-baity it is.
Outlining: “You Have to Plan”
Even when Rowling was nearly finished with the Potter series, she still extensively planned out her work. While writing the sixth book, Goblet of Fire, Rowling said:
I have a large and complicated chart propped on the desk in front of me to remind me what happens where, how, to whom and which bits of crucial information need to be slipped into which innocent-looking chapters.
Rowling later added in an interview:
I plan; I really plan quite meticulously. I know it is sometimes quite boring because when people say to me, “I write stories at school and what advice would you give me to make my stories better?” And I always say (and people’s faces often fall when I say),­­ “You have to plan,” and they say, “Oh, I prefer just writing and seeing where it takes me.” Sometimes writing and seeing where it takes you will lead you to some really good ideas, but I would say nearly always it won’t be as good as if you sat down first and thought, Where do I want to go, what end am I working towards, what would be good—a good start?
Included at the link are images of Rowling's outlines for Order of the Phoenix.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

TWIC: Some weird and fun stuff

Tired of making your own poetry?  Let the acrostic poem generator take up that burden.
Korea becomes A shopping Mall Somewhere in America.

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This thinking putty looks like it would be a lot of fun.... for ten minutes.  Well, that's my average for Silly Putty and the like. Still, magnetic, transparent, UV sensitive and more; at least eleven minutes.
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Kinda, sorta related to creativiti: The international art market is a money laundry.  Creative works of art and creative accounting!
If you've got $50M you need to hide, and want to be able to move around invisibly, what better way than to buy a painting through a secret, numbered offshore account, stick it in a vault in Basel, whence you can liquidate it, retrieve it, and move it on a moment's notice.

This need for liquidity explains the economic paradox of the giant markets in the work of Picasso (who was insanely prolific) rather than artists who are held in equal regard but produced much less material. If you're interested in a painting as a store of value instead of a work of art, it won't do to invest in something that isn't being continuously bought and sold.
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I'm listening to some epic music while I type this.  24 hours a day of epic music.  Much better than the 15 minute clip I used to listen to. Both are fine as background music, probably better for exercise or more physical artforms rather than writing.
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The British Library has posted around a million copyright free images from pre-1900 books.
Image taken from page 111 of 'Corea, the hermit nation. I. Ancient and mediæval history. II. Political and social Corea. III. Modern and recent history':
If you know me then you know that after a quick, guilty search for 'nude' the next search would be Charles D. Here is one result: The Beagle

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I wrote recently about wanting to be obsessed with writing.  These days I do more writing about creativiti than actual story writing.  If only I could dream and talk in my sleep describing my dreams so the story could be recorded that way.
McGregor’s tapes offer hundreds of hours of one man’s slumbers narrated in astonishing detail. The stories are full of eccentric characters like Edwina; they occupy a sinister place where a simple Lazy Susan can suddenly inspire a dangerous game of Russian roulette.
“It’s such a treasure trove of recordings – unlike anything that existed before,” says Deirdre Barrett at Harvard Medical School.
Several audio clips can be found at that link.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

TWIC: Sci-am, Quora, videos and a job with Feedly

Simon Makin at Scientific American suggests that there are some benefits to a troubled childhood.

The results show that when participants felt uncertain, those who had experienced unpredictable but not harsh childhoods performed worse at inhibition but better at shifting than those whose childhoods were not unpredictable. The finding makes sense: inhibition is important for pursuing long-term goals and is thus most useful in stable environments, whereas the ability to shift rapidly among different demands would presumably be most useful in changeable environments. The implication is that kids who grow up in adverse environments are not impaired so much as shaped.
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Also from Sci-am, Scott Kaufman tells us that the 10,000 hour rule probably does not apply to creative pursuits. I think this is one of the meatiest articles I have read at Sci-Am and strongly recommend it.
[T]he techniques of deliberate practice are most applicable to "highly developed fields" such as chess, sports, and musical performance in which the rules of the domain are well established and passed on from generation to generation. The principles of deliberate practice do not work nearly as well for professions in which there is "little or no direct competition, such as gardening and other hobbies", and "many of the jobs in today's workplace-- business manager, teacher, electrician, engineer, consultant, and so on."
And may I also add: almost any creative domain!
and
While creativity often draws on a deep knowledge base, creative products, by definition, are much more than expert products. This is because creativity must be original, meaningful, and surprising. Original in the sense that the creator is rewarded for transcending expertise, and going beyond the standard repertoire. Meaningful in the sense that the creator must satisfy some utility function, or provide a new interpretation. This constantly raises the bar of what is considered useful, and puts immense pressure on creators to find new meanings. Finally, creative products must be surprising in that the original and meaningful creative product must be surprising not only to oneself, but to everyone.
and
Creative people often have messy processes. While expertise is characterized by consistency and reliability, creativity is characterized by many false starts and lots and lots of trial-and-error. There are many examples of a creative genius producing a masterpiece, only to be followed by a hugely unpopular product. For instance, Shakespeare's most popular plays were created when he was about 38 years old. Around this time, he produced Hamlet, which is surely a treasure. However, soon after Hamlet, he wrote Troilus and Cressida, which is not nearly as popular. If creativity was merely a function of deliberate practice, you would expect that with increasing deliberate practice would come increasing creativity. But that's not what you find when you look at the career trajectories of creators. Instead, you see a lot of trial-and-error, and peaks around mid-career, not towards the end of their careers when they presumably have acquired the most expertise.
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There is no answer yet at Quora, but this is one of the scariest questions I've seen there. How does castration affect creativity? I always expect to see #askingforafriend after this type of question.
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6 talks on writing. Kurt Vonnegut, JJ Abrams, Stephen King and JK Rowling and more.  Good stuff.
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Feedly is hiring
Become a content creator for feedly!
We are looking to hire strong writers, illustrators, and videographers on a freelance basis to help create concise content that helps others get the most out of feedly.
Ideally, you are passionate about your craft and feedly.
I must admit I don't understand.  I use Feedly to collect the blog feeds so I can read them all in one place but I never thought of them as creating content.
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Feedly linked to Belle Beth Cooper, who is apparently something of a legend in online content creation.  She describes her current process in: How I cut my writing time from two days to four hours.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I want to be obsessed

A lot of psychology is biology and I know a fair bit in that field.  One course I took, Animal behavior, was  a strong introduction to the subject.  In this post, I will write about what I think of as obsession. I think I follow the basic definition Google offered at the top of its search window:
an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind.
plural noun: obsessions
"he was in the grip of an obsession he was powerless to resist"
synonyms: fixation, ruling/consuming passion, passion, mania, idée fixe, compulsion, preoccupation, infatuation, addiction, fetish, craze, hobbyhorse;
but I want it clear I make no claim to the psychological definition of the word and that I find the casual use of 'OCD' to be annoying.

I recently wrote to a friend about our obsessions.  He put himself on a strict diet for two weeks to see what would happen and one result was he dreamed and lusted for the wondrous food he would eat after the two weeks had passed.  In 2015, I gave myself the goal of running 183 times in the year. I, uh, like talking about the thing I was obsessed with; that can't be a surprise, but it really isn't a subject relevant to this blog.  I'm still going to write about it, but I posted it in the 'read more' or 'under the fold' area.  If you want, you can find it there.

The point of the longish story below is that I set goals and stuck to them pretty well, even though I didn't really enjoy them. Or I enjoyed them but also found them exhausting and irritating.  My friend, struggled through his labour and doubtless enjoyed seeing his weight drop and feeling physically better even though it presented a physical struggle.

I have a blog post from Asana open. It is called Working from home? Here’s how to stay on task.  I really should read it. I'm good at finding such articles, and I read many of them.  Reading is good.
It would be much freakin' better if I convinced myself to follow such articles!

In the eighties and early nineties, I watched Prisoner of Gravity, as TVO show about science fiction and fantasy books and movies. In season four and five, there were episodes with advice for writers.  One point I remember from those episodes was the advice, 'If you can find something else to do, then do that instead'.  You needed to be obsessive and driven to write for it to work.

I have a job.  I'm an ESL teacher and I work to make the subject interesting to my students, many of whom are there chiefly because they have to be.  I have large periods of time off and I always plan to revamp my teaching and try new ways.  And I do, I still think I am a good teacher, but not nearly as much as I could.

I started this blog to document my research into creativity and to understand how to do and how to teach it.  I definitely know enough that I should be a creative person now. And when I have a problem, I use creative methods to find a solution. But I am not producing much, if any, more than I did when I began at Creativiti Project.

So, here are more than fifteen hundred words about writing that aren't directed at the story I have been trying to write for the past few months. It seems that I need to trick myself to write.

I am creative.  I need to be obsessive.

I love Grant Snider's comics and this one seems a relevant.  I have shrunk it here, follow the link for the full size version or ways to buy it. I added the red circle:
I either need no other work or I need other work I want to avoid.  Actually, I would probably avoid both.



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Will limits improve science fairs?

This past week, the age old discussion of what science fairs actually accomplish was revived by some noted science communicators.
Let me start the discussion here with some images:
From the Huff Po:

From Iconic Displays:

And a Bizarro comic via Super Science Project:


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Now, to the meat: Carl Zimmer's report of his daughter's science fair project:
The experience turned out well, but it also left me queasy. The only reason Veronica was able to carry out her experiment was that I had the flexibility to spend hours struggling through paperwork, and because I had a social network of scientists I’ve developed as a science writer. This was an exercise in privilege.
If Veronica had been the daughter of a single parent with a couple jobs and no connections to the world of science — if she had been like a lot of American kids, in other words — her idea would have gone up in smoke. She might not have even bothered thinking about the science fair at all.
Patrick Skerrett discussed Zimmer's article:
Meghan Shea [a competitor in several fairs]:
There’s no question that many students don’t have the resources I had, making it difficult or impossible for them to participate in science fairs. But the idea of science fairs is good, even though their execution may be flawed.
...
While I idolized scientists throughout high school, my biggest role models were science fair winners. I would never have heard about their work if it hadn’t been rewarded. Having science competitions and events like the White House Science Fair places a higher value on student science research, which I believe has encouraged schools to include more accessible science projects and inquiry into their curricula.
And PZ Myers, a judge in several fairs:
You’d go through the exhibits with a partner and a checklist, and, for instance, you’d see some kid who’d put together something with duct tape and string and a couple of sad looking plants next to a kid who’d had connections at UPenn and had used a sequencer, a confocal microscope, and a battery of fluorescent probes to put together a gigantic shiny display of images so bright they glistened. Guess who’d win? And it was sad because sometimes the kid with the simple experiment done with homemade gadgets had been more creative and curious and true to the spirit of the science than the kid who’d been fed some high-tech gadgetry and pooped out an answer
A solution from Myers:
I would also assemble some measurement devices: rulers, thermometers, light meters, pH paper, protractors, hand lenses.
I’d have a list of basic supplies: simple chemicals, magnets, 9v batteries, small invertebrates (fruit flies, for instance), seeds, etc.
I would give the students a list of all of these things, and tell them to design an experiment within the limitations of their supplies. Note that electron microscopes and NMR spectrometers are not available. They’d be allowed to purchase some additional special purpose supplies, but with a limit of $10 (too much? OK, $5) — so, for instance, if they wanted to measure the diameter of soap bubbles produced by commercial dishwashing detergents, they’d be allowed to buy a couple of bottles. The whole point would be to keep everything simple and on a level playing field.
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I included the Which candle burns longer, white or coloured? image to show an example of what could be tested.  The funny thing about infinity is that when you set a limit on it, you still have infinity.  Out of all the scientific experiments that could be done, limiting them to ones that fit within Myers's limits still allows you a lot of options.  It might further encourage/require students to focus more on the book learning part: the research, conclusions and applications discussion.  As a youth, I had a model rocket on a bike wheel fixed horizontally on a stick.  I put in an engine - rocket fuel from a hobby store - and won a prize.  I don't recall what I wrote or what I thought I was accomplishing.  It sure looked cool when we went outside as a class and I lit the rocket.  It spun about and eventually stopped and that was the end.  I. uh, hope I've grown since then.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

TWIC: Einstein, Jeet Heer and writing help

The link doesn't work for me so if it Rick Rolls, sorry.  Psychology Today (apparently) discusses Einstein, creativity and music. If anyone sees this and it looks valuable, please send me a copy and paste.
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Jeet Heer often attempts longform journalism on Twitter.  Here is a set of 20 Tweets discussing Talese's problematic intrusion into the subjects he studies.

I think Talese faces extra scrutiny after this tale of a motel owner who spied on clients for thirty and shared his 'data' with Talese.
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Need help writing a novel?  This guy claims to be able to help.  I opened the browser window this morning and can't remember its provenance.  Beware if you need to join a mailing list.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

TWIC: Sci-Am, Quora and Boingboing

In the previous post, I introduced my growing addiction to Quora a well-done Q&A site.  Here are some of the things that caught my eye there:
POV in Fantasy novels.
HOW CAN I MASTER POV? (Head hopping included)
There are a lot of facets to improving one's understanding of POV:
1. Syntax - the grammar and language rules of POV
This is the type of book learnin' foreign to many non-schooled writers.
2. Mode - the choices you're free to make WITHIN the rules
These are the different POVs, and different modes have different impacts.
I think 'head hopping' is changing the Point of View too often in a scene.
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A link to the Creative Writing feed.
There are currently questions about routines, writing classes, cliches and flaw and one person looking for help in telling his/her 15 year old daughter she is a bad writer.  For this latter request, I was impressed with the sympathy in the answer:
You want what's best for your daughter.
The writing students who go on to publication and success often aren't the ones you expect. Talent by itself doesn't mean much (although it helps).
Teachability is what's important -- it doesn't matter how bad you are in the beginning if you keep on learning and improving, if you develop a strong feel for your audience. You don't have to be gifted to achieve a clean, workable prose style. What's more important is an ability to understand the elements of story and how to construct a good one. (There are many amazing prose stylists who are lousy, boring, incompetent storytellers. Writing and storytelling inform each other, but are not the same thing.)
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Sympathetic is my keyword for describing the writing at Quora.  People do give thoughtless responses but it feels they are less common there.  My writing has improved in trying to honestly and clearly answer questions there.  Of course, as a white, middle-aged English speaker, I figure I have all the answers anyway so the site is perfect for me to educate the world.
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From Sci Am, does creativity decline with age?
 First, the precise relation between age and creativity depends on the domain. Some creative types—such as lyrical poets and mathematicians—tend to have early peaks and relatively rapid declines, whereas others—among them, historians and philosophers—are prone to later peaks and gradual, even negligible declines.
The article seems to look at when people have their creative peak, which is different from when their maximum creative ability is.  I took up wood carving in my forties and my peak is likely to be in my fifties but that doesn't seem to equal when my biological peak should be.  To put it coarsely, if a man or woman is celibate until they are sixty, his/her actual sexual peak will be in his/her sixties but his/her biological peak would be long past.
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Sci-am on designing buttons and options on websites:
Step count matters. One click is always easier to learn and remember than several.
A classic example: If there are only two or three choices—say, Sleep, Restart and Shut Down—don't put them in a pop-up menu. Lay them all out on the screen; you have the room. Pop-up menus in general should be a last resort because nobody knows what options are in one until someone thinks to click it. And that's another step.
At a university I worked at, to enter each grade score for each student required four mouse-clicks. I understand that some operations - Delete All - need an extra warning step, but most operations do not.  I had hundreds of students and four or five scores to enter for each one.  It was better than handwriting the details, but not much and so much better was possible.
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Moving to Boingboing on Design Discipline. They link to medium.com and rules for design.
8. Feedback mechanisms.
It is hard to negotiate with algorithms, and most platforms do not have HR departments for handling everyday issues workers encounter, from late payment to unfair reviews. Platforms need to establish feedback mechanisms and equivalents of customer support services for those working on them. “If I were starting an Internet company or designing an app for something,” one of our respondents commented, “I would say that we must have phone customer service 24/7.” As platforms come to dominate more sectors of the economy, customers and workers alike will come to expect effective means for providing feedback.
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B'Boing also tells us how to make Escher-style tiles.
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B'boing also has news of unusual sources for research.  A motel owner spied on his renters for 30 years! - and kept meticulous notes.
True to his word, Foos had taken meticulous notes, filling reams of paper with his observations of cheaters; closeted gay people; swingers; forbidden interracial couples; gigolos; feuding holiday makers; fetishists, and more, across a wide swathe of human sexuality. Foos's notebooks -- which he began to send to Talese -- were full of self-serving and increasingly cynical and detached observations in a mock-clinical style that chronicled Foos's slide into a kind of obsessive misanthropy that left him hating the people he couldn't look away from.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Quora Man! and TWIC: design, infographics, simple text editors and writing about women

I've been spending way too much time on Quora these days, but I think my writing has improved as a result.  I'm sure Quora has an official description but I think of it as a thoughtful Yahoo Answers! or the like.  In my writing there, I have tried to explain things clearly and sympathetically to the person asking the question and those with similar questions.

I wrote 'sympathetically' because I spent most of my time answering questions about evolution and i try to imagine the (entirely anonymous) questioner as seriously asking and willing to learn.  That is not always the case away from Quora and admit with embarrassment that my responses have gotten hot and sometimes even rude.
I am one of the top ten answerers, as voted by readers, in Evolution (process) and am quite proud of the fact. Many times, I see the problems with my writing but here is an example of positive reviews of my writing.  I'm posting it here so I can remind myself that I can write well, damnit!   Here is my top essay there:


Again, please stay on topic without mentioning theistic arguments or involving God in the discussion. Please answer scientifically or logically... Many failed to do so in previous similar questions...


Brian Dean, science enthusiast and evolution proponent
35.6k Views • Brian is a Most Viewed Writer in Evolution (process) with 30+ answers.


There are two major or popular ways to falsify the theory of evolution. First, the famous 'rabbit in the Precambrian' fossil and second, far less famous and more recently proposed, finding two but not three or four species with a common ancestor containing the same viral DNA at the same location. I will give more detail on these points, but first I want to offer sympathy with your question.

The Theory of Evolution has changed and adapted and itself evolved over the past 160 odd years that it sure seems that nothing can falsify or disprove it. Lack of fossil evidence? ... Well, uh, Punctuated Equilibrium. Natural Selection isn't enough on its own to allow evolution of all the diversity we see? ... Well, uh, Sexual selection, Genetic Drift and Founder Effect can be used to patch over the flaw. 
More specifically, the theory of evolution somehow explains the human reproduction strategy of having few offspring and caring for them nearly forever and the salmon strategy of having thousands of eggs and not caring for them at all. (Note these are termed K- and r- selected strategies are are well explained here: K and r reproductive strategies ) 
Here I will say remind readers that I am an evolution proponent and described the above difficulties with acceptance of the theory as examples. Punc Eek does explain the fossil record pretty well, for example. 
The problem for evolution is that there are so many different strategies for success. Just as the US Navy does not use aircraft carriers exclusively, but rather a wide variety of craft suited to different purposes, small, simple living things succeed in situations where larger, more complex living things do not, and vice versa. 
Further, the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs and made room for mammals to grow and diversify has no place in the theory. The diversity of life is a complex mess and further confusion is added by inorganic events. 
All that said, back to my two claims on how the theory of evolution could be falsified or proven wrong. 
The "Fossil rabbits in Precambrian deposits" suggestion was an offhand one made by J.B. Haldane (Wikipedia tells me this may be untrue: Precambrian rabbit ) and can be expanded to mean any mammalian fossil found in rock over 250 million years old. From that same link are some reasons why such fossils might not disprove evolution:
" The first question raised by the assertion of such a discovery would be whether thealleged "Precambrian rabbits" really were fossilized rabbits. Alternative interpretations might include incorrect identification of the "fossils", incorrect dating of the rocks, and a hoax such as the Piltdown Man was shown to be."
Still, something of this sort would cause great problems for the theory. 
The discovery that viruses can and do insert occasionally their own genetic material into Eukaryote chromosomes is relatively new. The image below is slide 17 of this lecture PPT set: Bio%201130 c%203 19%20lecture
If Chimps and Bonobos shared the same bit of viral DNA and we did not, that would be no problem for the theory but if Gorillas and chimps carried the same viral DNA and we did not, this would be a serious problem for the theory. Or, if humans and gorillas carried the viral DNA but chimps or bonobos or both did not, we would have the same problem. There is evidence -somewhere and I cannot find the link or citation - for gorillas and orangutans that share the DNA of a specific virus that we humans do not have. Further study (again, going from memory only) showed the viral DNA was on different chromosomes and although from the same type of virus were different segments (gorillas had section A of the viral DNA and orangutans has section G, while the shared ancestor DNA should be of the same section), implying that there were two separate viral DNA insertion events. 
I would suggest a third thing that would prove evolution false would be eyeless vertebrates.... wait, there's a catch. There exist eyeless fish but these cave-dwellers actually have eyes that are covered by flesh. If a mammalian species were found to have no eyes and no vestiges of ancestors with eyes or genes for eye development, this would be a huge problem for evolution. 
Finally, and I am brushing against your limit against mentioning religion here, if we ever found the creatures that some creationists think evolutionists need, that would disprove evolution hard! I am writing about the 'croco-duck' the 'Bird-dog' and the 'bull-frog' that were championed by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. And also the 'frunkey', that one creationist felt should exist between frogs and monkeys. 
As a test to the asker:
"Please answer scientifically or logically... Many failed to do so in previous similar questions."
Can you link to such an example?

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135 design facts - in slideshow form, but still interesting.  There is a lot about fonts which isn't my favorite, but other subjects are also covered.

via Kottke.
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At Nik's Learning Technology Blog, Nik looks at software to make interactive infographics.  I want to do this now.
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Randall Munroe makes the XKCD comic and also has written a few books explaining various scientific ideas. A recent book described many concepts and technologies using only the 1000 most common words. I like the challenge of the idea but my understanding is that many circumlocutions were required to work around the limitation.  Such tricks do not always make the subject matter clearer.  Again, I like the idea but I probably won't use it with my ESL students who are themselves limited to a similar vocabulary.  If I wanted to, I could:  There is now a text editor that restricts you to those most common words.
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Iggy Pop explains American Valhalla.
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How to write about scientists who are women. Tip: Don't ask about clothes or cooking.