Creativity tools and some cool miscellany

I’ve been using Scoopit to compile accumulations of my more popular articles, essays (and some outright rants!) under topic headings, where people might skim and pick whatever interests them.

Collected-articles-brin-3dSee this master catalogue of categories – a handy guide to a wide range of compilations of Brin articles by general topic area: Collected Articles of David Brin.

My latest specific compilation is all about HISTORY… does it run in cycles? Are there patterns? Is nostalgia (e.g. for the 1950s or for the Neolithic) justified? How do Republicans and Democrats wage war? What was the “Miracle of 1947”?  Why was the flick “300” filled with outright historical lies? And is Class War inevitable?  Above all, can we learn enough from the past to alter and improve the future?

As Joe Miller said: “Those who ignore the mistakes of the future are bound to make them.”

See also: A scoopit collection of articles and speculations about Taxes, Economics and Markets…

== Snippets of/on or about Creativity! ==

Steve-jobs-dogmaCreativity and genius are commonly seen as attributes of an individual, but new research indicates the role played by the surrounding group may be just as important. This fascinating article — Social group may be key to fostering creativity — mentions Steve Jobs’ now-famous 2005 address to Stanford graduates in which he advised his audience: ‘Don’t be trapped by dogma – that is, living with the results of other people’s thinking’.

A 1-minute video shows the projected completion of Gaudí’s Barcelona cathedral-extravaganza the Sagrada Família, imagining what it will look like when it’s finished in 2026.

Yeah postmen! See this rival to Watts Tower: Postman’s self-built palace, created from stones collected along route for 33 years.

== Tools that hinder… and help creativity ==

microsoft-word-dieIn Why Microsoft WORD Must Die, my colleague Charles Stross channels my own hatred for Microsoft WORD, the  default word processing program which we are all forced to use, via by tricks of intentional proprietary format lockdown. Whose formalisms infest every competitor system because of habit-inertia. Clearly an instrument of medieval torture, designed specifically in order to impede an author’s productivity — using WORD is like having an evil imp on your shoulder, occasionally driving a spike into your temporal lobes.  How I miss Word Perfect for Mac 1997, which was near ideal, helped me to be creative, and when something unpleasant happened I could simply click Show Codes, find the nasty hidden formatting error and eliminate it! Refusing to let us do that simple thing proves what the goal is, for the giggling, hand-rubbing makers of WORD.  Sadism.

(Dig it… I do not hate all things Microsoft!  I use other products. But Charlie Stross is dead right about WORD.)

While on the subject of a writer’s tools… what I left out was my use of Quickeys … probably the most useful program of mine beyond a word processor and browser  People have heard about “macros,” but I know so few folks who actually use them as fantastic productivity aids. My big, expanded keyboard has every function key re-assigned and the command/control/shift and Alt versions too!  And some double combos.  In addition, you can do the same thing to the numeric keypad, since those numbers have different ASCII than the ones along the QWERTY top row.  Everything I do a lot, from copy or paste to select-all to typing my blog URL or gmail address to appending a short bio to an email I am sending… all of them pop in at one stab of a key… and believe me it adds up!

What I never understood is why Windows and MacOS and Linux don’t simply offer this as a service.  Heck I don’t use any of the advanced services offered by Quickeys and still it is my best pal.

Now Quickeys has a cheap/useful competitor. aText accelerates your typing by replacing abbreviations with frequently used phrases you define.  Someone try both and report back here!

== Miscellany! ==

Watch today’s births and deaths in (somewhat simulated) real time.

Scary… if true?  Launch code for US nukes was ‘00000000’ for 20 years. Eeep.  I suppose you needed a new generation of flag officers, trained in professionalism, for the meaning of “safeguard procedures” to sink home.

Amazing footage of the Army’s new mobile laser system shooting down drones and 60mm mortar shells.

Read a fascinating appraisal of the unexpected causes and surprising outcomes of Somali piracy, by Jean-Michel Valantin.

This is a great guide to a dozen grammatical quandaries that can mess up even experienced author-pundit-sages! (Well, a couple of them.)

An awesome new version of the electric (hybrid) bike.

Okay, Google deserves cred for this piece of lovely tear-jerking schmaltz that probably did good in the world while spreading Google’s message and winning it some biz.

RitualStreetCorner A town in Germany is doubling down on the same principle that I cited in the “Ritual of the Street Corner.”

A growing number of patients are finding their health care options governed by the church’s guidelines as Catholic hospitals, long major players in the health care market, have been on a merger streak, acquiring everything from local hospital systems to medical practices, nursing homes, and health insurance plans.

Doppelgangers!  See this photo series of unrelated “identical” faces.   Within ten years, the internet will automatically find your doppelgangers.  Like Andre Agassi and me!

Crazy Russian Hacker survival-prepped dudes show you some unusual survival tricks! Oh. Great hacks for college life!

How to open a can without a can-opener.

Ten LifeHacks every college student should know.

== Art & Music: more coolstuff ==

history-rock-musicAn incomplete but very on-target audio-visual guide graphic to 100 years of rock music. Stuningly appropriate illustrative musical riffs!

Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th century sketches indicate something between a harpsichord and a cello, where spinning wheels of horsehair run along the strings. He named it the “viola organista.” Da Vinci never did build the instrument. Others tried, with varied results. Now, after four years, Polish pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki has managed to bring the curious instrument to life. 

This artist mom is having way too much fun using her baby as a prop. It looks likely to be utterly charming, harmless and delightful. But you gotta wonder what the kid knows… or will someday make of this!

Amazing.  A monument of sadness and love, visible from high altitude.

Forced perspective…coool optical illusion car commercial.

And finally…CRACKED does it again, listing 5 Amazing Pieces of Good News Nobody Is Reporting. Well, most of YOU already knew all this.  Still, this site is a great way to start the new year by shoving it in front of your favorite cynics.

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