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Published for the First Time: a 1959 Essay by Isaac Asimov on Creativity | MIT Technology Review

24 Oct

Here is the origin of the essay:

“When I first became involved in the project, I suggested that Isaac Asimov, who was a good friend of mine, would be an appropriate person to participate. He expressed his willingness and came to a few meetings. He eventually decided not to continue, because he did not want to have access to any secret classified information; it would limit his freedom of expression. Before he left, however, he wrote this essay on creativity as his single formal input. This essay was never published or used beyond our small group. When I recently rediscovered it while cleaning out some old files, I recognized that its contents are as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity.”

Read the whole thing.

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Letters of Note: The Heinlein Maneuver

10 Apr

Comments by Theodore on a letter from Robert Heinlein:

“I went into a horrible dry spell one time. It was a desperate dry spell and an awful lot depended on me getting writing again. Finally, I wrote to Bob Heinlein. I told him my troubles; that I couldn’t write—perhaps it was that I had no ideas in my head that would strike a story. By return airmail—I don’t know how he did it—I got back 26 story ideas. Some of them ran for a page and a half; one or two of them were a line or two. I mean, there were story ideas that some writers would give their left ear for. 

Read the whole thing here. And the letter!

Watching the couples go by.

28 Jan

Nicely said by Howard Stein, an economist:

But to the man whose hand or arm she is holding, she is not “average.” She is the whole world to him. They may argue occasionally, or even frequently. He may have an eye for the cute intern in his office. But that is superficial. Fundamentally, she is the most valuable thing in his life.Genesis says, “And the Lord God said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.’ ” And so, “made He a woman.” It doesn’t say that He made a prettywoman, or a witty woman, or an any-kind-of-adjective woman. He made the basic woman.Why is this basic woman so valuable to the man whose hand or arm she is holding as I see them making their way up to the Kennedy Center? I think there are three simple things…

WSJ: How Waiters Read Your Table

27 Dec

Important information for a writer: How Waiters Read a Table

Called “having eyes” for a table, or “feeling” or “reading” the table by restaurant workers, it’s how the best waiters know what type of service you prefer before you tell them. From fine dining to inexpensive chains, restaurants are working to make service more individualized as the standard script (‘I’m so-and-so and I will be your server tonight”) is sounding dated.

Cereal Killers

13 Dec

Trailer in search of a movie. Enjoy. 🙂

Amazing tale of a desperate WWII pilot’s encounter with a German flying ace

9 Dec

Great story:

Brown thought he was hallucinating. He did that thing you see people do in movies: He closed his eyes and shook his head no. He looked, again, out the co-pilot’s window. Again, the lone German was still there, and now it was worse. He’d flown over to Brown’s left and was frantic: pointing, mouthing things that Brown couldn’t begin to comprehend, making these wild gestures, exaggerating his expressions like a cartoon character.Brown, already in shock, was freshly shot through with fear. What was this guy up to? He craned his neck and yelled back for his top gunner, screamed at him to get up in his turret and shoot this guy out of the sky. Before Brown’s gunner could squeeze off his first round, the German did something even weirder: He looked Brown in the eye and gave him a salute. Then he peeled away.

Duolingo: Free Language Learning Software & Crowdsourced Translation Service

6 Dec

Learn a language for free & your homework is sold as a service:

“Most language-learning software providers have no incentive for you to learn,” he says. “Once [they] get your $500, they’re happy. We’ll do a lot to get you to come back, because it really matters.” His hoped-for translation business depends on it.
That’s why the company’s 20 employees in Pittsburgh spend most of their time getting the software to teach better. Von Ahn says that so far about 30 percent of people who start learning a language will still be visiting the site a week later. That figure may sound low, but it’s impressive for any Web service, he says. Duolingo users are drilled on new words using both written exercises and audio (the software can detect and assess their pronunciation). As they progress, their performance is used to decide what lessons they get next.It adds up to a free course several hundred hours long that can take a student from zero knowledge of a second tongue to what von Ahn describes as “intermediate level” ability—the kind you’d need to get by on a foreign vacation or grasp the gist of a newspaper article.
The other side of the business comes in when students are asked to practice by translating single sentences from one language to another. Those sentences are currently taken from sites von Ahn thinks should be translated anyway, such as English Wikipedia articles without equivalents in Spanish