Thursday, July 2, 2015

Am I creative?

I recently gave a talk on creativity and how to encourage it in the classroom.  I'm not all that satisfied with the talk I gave; I think I tried to, no point in weasel words.   I know I tried to fit in too much information and content into 45 minutes.  My biggest fault was first explaining how some research shows brainstorming doesn't increase the creation of new ideas, then spending time explaining how to brainstorm.

Ah, I've had a beer and didn't have lunch.  I hope I'm making sense.

The talk was satisfactory and one person in the audience had a lot of fun with my activities and really made me feel good about them.  Good work, dude whose name I never got.

Early in the talk, I stated that after ten years of studying and blogging about creativity, I didn't think I was creative.  I told the audience I would explain that at the end of my talk.

But the end of talk was rushed and I didn't explain it.

What I planned to discuss was my creative output; the total amount of creative work I have produced.  And I planned to say I hadn't made all that much.

In thinking it over, I believe I undersold myself.  Or, um, I would have undersold myself to the audience if I had explained the point.  Instead I left them curious and unsatisfied.

I have written two 'books' with Nanowrimo and have been working on a third.  None are close to being published.  I have ideas for three short stories.  The main points are fleshed out but have not been written.  I have two or three plans and even drawings for wood carvings but haven't touched my gouges and chisels in months.  I have plenty of ideas but I have a low production rate.

Is this true?

In the past two years, I have prepared 40 Google Slideshow presentations for the science camp I teach at, and at least a similar number of slideshows for my university students.  I lectured my son's classmates on my work at the Wye Marsh in Ontario,Canada and on water safety.  I have prepared and led many activities at Dongseo University's English Cafe...

Student needed to put these pictures in order and tell a  story.

I have created a lot of content but for work rather than for my own unfettered desire.  And yet, it has not been exclusively work.  I enjoy teaching and have managed to insert fun and games and joy into my classes.

I've created a lot of content.  I am creative.  I don't want to turn into Stuart Smalley for this post, but I do want to admit to myself that though my creative output has been less-publicized, it is still real and useful.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Crossposting: Summer plans

I have too many blogs.  Here I write about creativity and writing.  At creationevolutionbusan, I write about evolution and science. And at, I write about other subjects, mostly family life, teaching and travel.

At the Surprisesaplenty site, I wrote this:

This summer I appear to have a lot of free time.  I hope to work an ESL camp in August and have a few other commitments but essentially I have time to work on my own projects.  Most of these projects deal with writing.

Writing Plans and Goals:

  • 13 blogposts for 6,500 words.  Why 13?  I can't recall why I chose this number.  Somewhat more than two a week, I guess.
  • 3 short stories: Working titles are 1) Ants, 2) Vampire on a boat and 3) Hyperbaric Chamber.  I'm figuring 2,000 words each
  • Push forward one or all three of the books I have started and let sit.  30,000 words is the goal and I don't mind jumping from book to book as seems fit. Working titles are 1) Return of the Haloed Hunter, 2) the Distancing Engine and 3) Creationism's worst arguments
  • 2 letters per week to friends.  Around ten letters and 2,000 words.
  • Perform research and planning for future "Crowded Sky" story. As much as 5,000 words.
To keep the writing interesting, I have made further goals.
  • I want to write over the course of a full day.  That is, at least once in the month write from 12:00 to 1:00 AM, once from 1:00 to 2:00AM ...
  • I want to write in a variety of locations.  The local mountaintop has a good table. There are some nice libraries to write in.  I'll talk about coffee shops in a moment.  Eulsookdo Eco Centre might be a nice place to work in for an afternoon.
  • Soundtrack: I may use Ommwriter which has its own soundtrack but otherwise it will be autoplayed classical music starting with some Janecek and letting Youtube suggest from there. Away from Internet connections, Doug and the Slugs and other 80's music would work; the tunes are so familiar that they can be white noise or a fun background as needed.
Snacks: I bought snacks for my Nanowrimo writing and I will definitely eat in front of the computer but I need to show restraint here.  My weight is slowly dropping and I want to keep it going in that direction.  Controlling my weight is my greatest concern this summer.


  • 18 runs with an average of 7.0 km.  I hope to attempt a solo half-marathon this summer late one evening and have been working out the course and where to place energy drinks along the way.  I am currently at 96 runs over the past six months so only the weather could prevent reaching this goal.
  • Run faster than a subway train.  The local subway stations Seo-dae-shin and Dong-dae-shin are about 500 meters apart and the train takes 2:35 seconds from doors open at Seo- to doors closed at Dong-.  Further, this route is slightly downhill.  I can easily run this fast on a level surface but Seo-dae-shin is deep underground. I have no qualms or conscience problems about using the escalators but even with that assistance, there is a big climb at the start of the run.
  • Swim 2km at a time. Korean pools are crowded with conversationalists and it is hard to get an unbroken swim in.  I am likely to need to stop a the end of a lane a few times.  Today, I did 1250m, with breaks and could have gone farther.
  • Find 3 snorkeling places in and near Busan
  • For at least 6 days, eat three meals, plus one snack plus one sweet drink.  I snack a lot and plan to spend a lot of time in front of a computer so this will be a challenge.

Education:  I am enrolled in 3 MOOCS.

  • The Bilingual Brain
  • Modern Korean History
  • Archaeology of Portus


  • Teach my son to swim.
  • Go on a weekend trip with the family. I would prefer a swimming site but that is negotiable.
  • Read two books with my son.  I don't want this to be a purely teaching experience but one we both enjoy.  Tintin is a good contender here.
  • Work on the farm.

How many pages did you read?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Slides from yesterday's presentation

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

scientists, artists and drawing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


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

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

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Doctoral dissertation in and about graphic novels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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