Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Library Books

It's funny how I can go into a library intending to get just a couple of books and end up with a stack. I put two books on hold Sunday and picked them up yesterday after work. But first I had to see what was new in the Science section and then in Science Fiction and Fantasy, and my son had expressed interest in World War Two, so I picked up a couple of books for him. I wound up with eight books, six of them for me. When I was younger and had more free time, I could finish them all before they were due. These days, I'll probably end up renewing some of my books. I guess that's why I still have so many paper books I haven't read and thousands of samples in my Kindle library--as soon as I see a book that looks interesting, I grab it, no matter how many others I still have to read.

How many books do you check out on your typical library visit? Do you finish them before they're due, or do you have to renew (or let them become overdue)?

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World

In my opinion, the title "The Runaway Species" doesn't do its book justice. At least the subtitle "How Human Creativity Remakes the World" is a better fit.

The beginning of this book discusses two types of creativity (Picasso painting one of his masterpieces and NASA saving the crew of Apollo 13) that seem wildly different but aren't. Eagleman states there are three ways we can creatively alter something: by "bending" or distorting it, by "breaking" it into components, and by "blending" it with something else. (I can attest to the latter, as I tend to throw several different ideas into a single story.) He lists several examples of each type of change. We can adapt to new things very quickly (witness how much we're tied to our smartphones), so the pleasure we find in getting something new fades. On the other hand, something too different from the status quo will be rejected by society. (The example given in the book was Beethoven's Grosse Fugue, which was the finale of a quartet. Contemporaries hated it so much Beethoven had to remove the fugue from the quartet and publish it separately. Luckily, society caught up with Beethoven, and we are able to listen to the Grosse Fugue today.) One of the reasons we change things so much is to seek the sweet spot between familiarity and novelty. This is a constantly moving target, which is why companies must continue to innovate even when they're currently very successful.

The second part of the book discusses how to cultivate a creative mentality. Part of this requires coming up with many different options, working in a variety of fields, and being able to accept failure. The final section deals with creativity in schools, in companies, and in the future.

Anyone interested in creativity will find this an interesting book to read. The hard part, as always, is implementing its ideas in daily life.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Writer's Retreats

I had a chance to chat with some writers last night, and one of the topics was writer's retreats. One of the writers takes turns with other writers in her region to host a retreat every three months. Another writer talked about renting homes, in particular, Rudyard Kipling's home. It has ten bedrooms and rents for $700/night, which isn't bad if you split the cost among ten people.

I haven't done a writer's retreat yet; it can be difficult enough just taking a couple of hours to hang out in a coffee shop or the library. But I wouldn't mind the chance to go somewhere scenic for a few days and perhaps stay at a bed and breakfast.

Have you ever been on a writer's retreat? Did you go by yourself or with other writers? Was it productive? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

Monday, January 08, 2018


Ever since we watched The Last Jedi, our family has become obsessed with porg, the rotund birds who were apparently designed for cuteness, not aerodynamics. I have one (named Pascal) attached to my car window, and my son got one that came with a blanket. My son even created camouflage armor for his using duct tape:

Yes, we have Paratrooper Porg. He also has boots, which Alex created after this picture was taken.

As for me, thanks to this pattern created by The Geeky Hooker, I've started crocheting my own Porg Collective. See below for the picture. They're pretty easy to make (especially since they only require about half the rows of some of the other Star Wars characters I crochet); the hardest part is switching between three colors. The facial expressions could use some work too. I may wind up spending all my free time creating porg. Guess I'd better schedule some writing time in there too if I want to finish my next novel before Episode Nine premiers.

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