Wednesday, February 10, 2016

TWIC: book publishing, podcast publishing, success and bikes

Bikes first because they have the least to do with theme of this blog. Add more bike lanes instead of parking. In the country I live in, that would be 'add more bike lanes to be misused for parking'.
70 percent of US mayors support making roads more accessible to cyclists, even at the expense of driving lanes and parking, according to the 2015 Menino Survey of Mayors. The 89 mayors in favor represent a bipartisan majority of mayors, hailing from cities of all sizes, that recognizes the benefit of bike accessibility projects to a city’s traffic flow and budget.
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A few months ago, my son told me he wanted to be a 'bj'.  Uncertain where the conversation would go, I asked him what he meant.  Broadcast Jockey.
Independent broadcasters called Broadcasting Jockeys (BJs) deliver live broadcasts to viewers, who can add them to their list of favorite channels using an Afreeca Player tool. Some channels have tens of thousands of viewers at any given time. Paid services such as quick views or channel relays allow BJs additional sources of revenue.
He now records and broadcasts playthroughs of Minecraft.

In doing so, he has introduced me to various recording apps and programs.  I already have audacity and used Screenr (which is now obsolete.) but together we learned about OBS (open broadcaster software) and screencastify.  The latter has a fee but apparently is easier than OBS.  For any podcast friends out there, I just learned of Zencastr, a program or app that assists in 'double enders' - recording audio from mics on different computers, for example on Skype.
Record & Stream
The host starts the recording and each party's audio is automatically streamed to the host's dropbox account in separate high quality file
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I found a list of 'things successful people do'. I normally find them to mistake correlation with causation and feel I am reading something like, "Successful people drive German cars. You should drive a German car." Still, this list, especially #1, is exactly right in pointing out habits I need to change.
1. Productive, successful people don’t get sucked into social media.
Being on social media—checking notifications Facebook, scrolling through pictures on Instagram, reading quick updates on Twitter, whatever—it’s part of everyday life. But if you don’t control how much time you spend on it, the hours will fly by and you won’t have accomplished anything on your to-do list.
So either put a time limit on it—set an alarm for when you need to minimize it, close the app, do something else—or only get on after completing necessary work projects. Use social media as a reward.
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Speaking of success, how do you measure it?  Amazon tells us only 40 self-published authors are successful.  Here is the measurement:
“Making money” here means selling more than one million e-book copies in the last five years.
It's hard to be a success in self-publishing. This author sold 20,000 copies of her book in one week but (claims she) was snubbed by the New York Times bestselling list.

Part of being a success means being noticed.  How can you be noticed when you are one of a million on Amazon?  Maybe build your own platform as these science fictions authors did.
These are authors who seem to have had a lot of success on Amazon, so it’s interesting to see them trying to create their own channel for connecting with readers and selling books (via “price promotions,” etc.) to them
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Coursera has a 5 part creative writing program going on right now. Part one is 'plot'.
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Troy Blackford talks about writing and his NaNoWriMo experience:
Turns out, there was a story up there. And man, did it end being crazier than I could have predicted when I started. Once again, my writing skills weren't nearly up to the task of telling it, but that's the whole reason you have to keep writing: to get better. I didn't outline a damn thing--not at the beginning. I like to use outlines once I get a story well under way, to help me stay on track, and don't do any really intense outlining until the very end of a story so I can tie everything together and deliver a satisfying ending. I like the creative freedom of starting with a blank slate. And, as I dug in on this marathon writing experiment, I had only one guiding idea.
In the first incarnation of Under the Wall, I had explored the idea of a loving cat with telekinetic powers, abilities which prove to be the only thing that enables the tiny but valiant feline to save his family from an evil madman.
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 Uncanny Magazine is open to short story submissions.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Arts degrees get a bad rap

Alex Tabarrok looks at who is graduating with what at Marginal Revolution. I am quoting him and his quote - the section he quotes is in Italics:
In 2009 the U.S. graduated 89,140 students in the visual and performing arts, more than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined and more than double the number of visual and performing arts graduates in 1985.
So what has happened since 2009? The good news is that enrollment in STEM fields has increased dramatically. The number of graduates with computer science degrees, for example, has increased by 34%, chemical engineering degrees are up by a whopping 49.5% and math and statistics degrees have increased by 32%.
The bad news is that we are still graduating more students in the visual and performing arts than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined. As I said in Launching nothing wrong with the visual and performing arts but those are degrees which are unlikely to generate spillovers to society.
This is a blog devoted to creative endeavour but written by a person with a degree in Biology so I have some sympathy for Tabarrok's view that degrees in fine, visual and performing arts are of lesser value than those in science.  And yet, I have learned in the past year or so, a respect for design, which Wikipedia tells me is part of Visual Arts.

Tabarrok also looks at psychology:
In 2009 we graduated 94,271 students with psychology degrees at a time when there were just 98,330 jobs in clinical, counseling and school psychology in the entire nation. The latter figure isn’t new jobs — it’s total jobs!
And this is where his argument falters.  I think an engineer or a doctor needs a degree in those fields to do the job and be trusted to do the job safely.  However, in business, while a degree in Business Administration might be useful, it is not required.  A background in psychology would also be useful in a field that deals with negotiations. A friend of mine is a prison guard and his psych degree was looked upon with favour by the hiring committee.  It is also an important field for education.

University degrees, especially in the US, are so expensive that it makes little sense to get a degree in one field and work in another.  Still, most degrees do not look your brain into only one set of jobs.  I do not know the value of an arts degree and still look down on them somewhat (this from an ESL teacher with a Biology degree) but I feel they have more worth and Tabarrok suggests.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Books I should read: cultivation and geography

Sci Am has an excerpt from How to Cultivate your Creativity.

The key to this excerpt is "Openness to Experience" and it is one I have struggled with. An example:
A friend and I had hiked on a mountain in the city I lived in but not close to my home.  Once we reached street level, we walked toward the subway.  We passed a store and something about it caught me eye so I translated the sign for my friend.  It was "Milk, honey, Ginseng and a third product (it might have been "ma" or hemp) for 5,000 won ($5 CAN).  This was the first time I had seen such an offering and I had money in my pocket but for some reason I said, "I think I'll try that the next time I'm around."  My friend snorted and said, "How about now?" It was great stuff, better than beer after a hike.  I can't explain why I chose to walk past but I am glad my friend convinced me otherwise.
Okay, back to Sci Am:
The downside of this quality is that it might make creative people more prone to distraction than others. Researcher Darya Zabelina of Northwestern University found that people with a “leaky” sensory filter—meaning that their brain does not efficiently filter out irrelevant information from the environment—tend to be more creative than those with stronger sensory gating. Zabelina also observed that highly creative people are more sensitive tonoises in their environment—a clock ticking, a conversation in the distance—than less creative people. “Sensory information is leaking in,” Zabelina has explained. “The brain is processing more information than it is in a typical person.”
This brain quirk was a known characteristic of many eminent creators, including Charles Darwin, Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust, who each expressed a hypersensitivity to sound. Proust kept his blinds drawn and lined his bedroom with cork to filter out unwanted light and noise and wore earplugs while he wrote, whereas Kafka said that he needed the solitude not of a hermit but of a “dead man” to write.
And although it may sometimes be a hindrance to creative work, this distractibility also seems to be distinctly beneficial to creative thinking. Sensory hypersensitivity most likely contributes to creativity by wideningthe brain's scope of attention and allowing individuals to take note of more subtleties in their environment. Taking in a greater volume of information increases your chances of making new and unusual connections between distantly related pieces of information.
This last part confuses me but is somewhat explained in the article.  "Taking in a greater volume of information" is not something you can choose to do although expertise in a field does permit it.  That is, an experienced quarterback in football can observe more action around him than a rookie.  Or, he knows what to tone-out.  A book I read years ago, Sleights of Mind, discussed awareness of your surroundings and how people were fooled into thinking they did know their surroundings when they actually ignored a lot (see: white-black ball passers on Youtube).
And yet, the excerpt specifically notes that the trivia noticed by these creative people was not irrelevant but hindsight would show it to be useful, that remarkable intuition had occurred.  I can see that this is interesting but not how to learn from it.

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The Current, a new show on CBC, has an interview with Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Genius.
Some trivia from the interview:
One of the common threads for geography and genius in Weiner's findings is walking. Charles Dickens walked through London at night working on plots, Mark Twain was known as a constant pacer.Research out of Standford University found people on treadmills produced more creative ideas. Many walked to the Agora, into life and chaos, which fed the imagination
The book sounds interesting but the excerpts in text - there is also a twenty-four minute interview I have not yet listened to - are pretty random and do not lead to much in the way of conclusions.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Step away from that child!

Word count:
Feb 1: 600! 
I'm back, baby!
The New York Times discusses how to raise a creative child.  Step one, step back. ( NY Times has a copy-blocker so I typed the quote by hand.  What is this? 1994?):
"Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society. When you look at the evidence, though, this explanation doesn't suffice: Less than a quarter of gifted children suffer from social and emotional problems. A vast majority are well adjusted - as winning at a cocktail party as in the spelling bee.
What holds them back is that they don't learn to be original. They strive to eearn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens; practice makes perfect, but it doesn't make new."
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The gifted learn to play magnificent Mozart melodies, but rarely compose their own original scores. They focus their energy on consuming existing scientific knowledge, not producing new insights. They conform to codified rules, rather than inventing their own.  Research suggests that the most creative children are the least likely to become the teacher's pet, and in response, many learn to keep their original ideas to themselves.  In the language of the critic William Deresiewicz, they become the excellent sheep.
The final excerpt as a screen shot (click to embiggen):

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I get the feeling that this is a necessary but insufficient step to create a creative child.  My parents allowed me to follow my heart so far as sports and hobbies were concerned and I mostly became lazy.  On the other hand, when I finally chose competitive swimming, I really chose the sport and dug in and excelled.  My love of human-powered travel began in childhood and continues to this day.  The baseball and hockey they pushed on me are still sports I have trouble even watching.


Thursday, January 28, 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?

Wednesday, January 27, 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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 ***
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How to read a scientific paper.
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A friend and fellow competitive swimmer back in the 80's how 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.