Maps = Adventure

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Humankind can be divided into two camps: Map people and GPS people. Some of them are even married to each other! Steven Kurutz takes a humorous look at this in his NYT article, “Real Adventurers Read Maps.” Here’s how he begins:

Call me a fossil, but when I take a road trip I like to get around by using printed maps. I’ve been licensed to drive for 20 years, and every car I’ve owned has contained a Rand McNally Road Atlas, with the maps of the Northeastern states dog-eared and loosened from their staples. Navigating by map carries over to foreign roads, too. In May my wife and I went to France, where we drove around Provence and dipped a wheel into Italy.

Before we left, I amassed the blanket topographical coverage I imagine the Allied generals had when they stormed the Continent. Collecting the maps was an interminable process. Bookstores have scaled back their selection in recent years. Or stopped selling maps altogether. Apparently, a good number of people think printed maps are pointless nowadays.

Read more here

 

Teaching Writing

Writing Techniques

Can good – or even effective – writing be taught? Or is it a gift only the lucky few possess? In this Bookends piece, the New York Times asked well-known writers Rivka Galchen and Zoe Heller what they thought. A few points:

From Rivka

I wonder if we can really teach someone to be a biologist. I mean, sure, we can say, This is what a cell is, and here’s this thing called RNA, and here’s this thing called DNA, and here’s this technique called agarose gel electrophoresis that will separate your DNA and RNA fragments by size — but will teaching really produce the next Charles Darwin or Rachel Carson or Francis Crick? A real scientist follows her own visionary gleam. Penicillin was discovered when Alexander Fleming returned to his messy lab after a long vacation and made sense of a moldy petri dish most people would have thrown out as contaminated. The structure of the benzene ring came to the chemist Friedrich August Kekule after a daydream about a snake biting its own tail. You can’t teach that kind of dreaming.

From Zoe

The other night I took a look at my daughter’s English essay and suggested that she try excising the words “extremely,” “totally” and “incredibly” wherever they appeared in her prose. She did this and was surprised to discover that not only were the intensifiers superfluous, but that her sentences were stronger without them.

The question of whether writing can be taught is often framed as a “great” or “perennial” debate, when in fact it is neither. No one seriously disputes that good writing has certain demonstrable rules, principles and techniques. (All writers, insofar as they are readers, have been “taught” by the example of other writers.) What passes for controversy on this issue turns out, in most cases, to be some smaller and more specific disagreement — usually having to do with the efficacy of creative writing courses and whether they foster false hope in students without literary promise.

Read the entire article here.

What Does the Future Hold?

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What does the future hold? We all want to know.

We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures. But the future is not set in stone, it is malleable, the result of an interplay among megatrends, game-changers and, above all, human agency. In their hard-hitting report, Global Trends 2030, The National Intelligence Council encourage decision makers – whether in government or outside – to think and plan for the long term so that negative futures do not occur and positive ones have a better chance of unfolding.

In a sentence, there is no more comprehensive analysis of future trends available anywhere, at any price. It’s not an overstatement to say this 160-page document represents the definitive look at the future

Read more here on the Defense Media Network website:

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/global-trends-2030what-does-the-future-hold/

Happiness!

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We all want to be happy. But how do we do it? Arthur Brooks offers some amazing advice in his lead NYT article, “Love People, Not Pleasure.” Here’s how he begins:

ABD AL-RAHMAN III was an emir and caliph of Córdoba in 10th-century Spain. He was an absolute ruler who lived in complete luxury. Here’s how he assessed his life:

I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity.”

Fame, riches and pleasure beyond imagination. Sound great? He went on to write:

I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14.”

But there is more – MUCH MORE – in this astoundingly-useful article full of practical advice we all can use. Some highlights:

This is one of the cruelest ironies in life. I work in Washington, right in the middle of intensely public political battles. Bar none, the unhappiest people I have ever met are those most dedicated to their own self-aggrandizement — the pundits, the TV loudmouths, the media know-it-alls. They build themselves up and promote their images, but feel awful most of the time.

That’s the paradox of fame. Just like drugs and alcohol, once you become addicted, you can’t live without it. But you can’t live with it, either. Celebrities have described fame like being “an animal in a cage; a toy in a shop window; a Barbie doll; a public facade; a clay figure; or, that guy on TV,” according to research by the psychologist Donna Rockwell. Yet they can’t give it up.

Read the entire article here:

The Lone Genius?

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The idea of the “lone genius” has become something of an urban legend especially as it involves innovation. But Joshua Wolf Shenk challenges that in his new book, Powers of Two. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times review of his book.

The pair is a precious unit — private, generative, even holy. We can explore a couple’s inner workings if we have an invitation to do so. Otherwise, we must use any available external means: letters in archives, revealing anecdotes, loose-lipped quips in interviews. In order to understand creativity, we must learn from couples, Joshua Wolf Shenk argues in his new book, “Powers of Two.” Defying the myth of the lone genius, he makes the case that the chemistry of creative pairs — of people, of groups — forms the primary (albeit frequently hidden) structural basis of innovation.

Pairs don’t often let us pry them apart, looking to see who contributed what. John Lennon wrote what would become “Strawberry Fields Forever” and Paul McCartney came up with “Penny Lane” as a rejoinder, yet their music is credited to both of them, written “eyeball to eyeball,” as Lennon put it, or “like mirrors” in McCartney’s view. Neal Brennan and Dave Chappelle have long agreed to keep private who wrote what in their comic sketches. “People always ask Ulay and me the same questions,” the artist Marina Abramovic told Shenk about her former partner. “ ‘Whose idea was it?’ or ‘How was this done?’ . . . But we never specify. Everything was interrelated and interdependent.” The daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie said that her parents’ work was a fused endeavor. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish their contributions by looking at their laboratory notebooks, where handwriting by each covers the pages. Shenk’s “Powers of Two” is a rare glimpse into the private realms of such duos. He writes with his face “pressed up against the glass” of paired figures from the present and the past — adding the likes of Steve Jobs and Steve ­Wozniak, ­Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. ­Tolkien to the pairs mentioned above.

Read more of this review here:

 

And, read more about his provocative theory here in his article: “The End of Genius.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-genius.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A5%22%7D

Who Rules the Tech Economy?

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Where will technology flourish tomorrow? Michael Malone tells us where in his hard-hitting WSJ piece: “Why Silicon Valley Will Continue to Rule the Tech Economy.”

Silicon Valley, especially its San Francisco wing, is richer and more powerful than ever. Yet there are growing murmurs—underscored by plateauing new-jobs numbers and housing prices, street protests in San Francisco over the new ‘plutocrats,’ the lack of exciting new products and a decline of early-stage new investments—that Silicon Valley has finally peaked and begun the downhill slide to irrelevance.

Slide? Perhaps. The Valley has always been characterized by a four-year boom-bust cycle, and the electronics industry is overdue for such a downturn. Yet there is very good reason to believe that not only will the Valley return bigger and stronger than ever, but that it will further consolidate its position against all comers as the World’s High Tech Capital.

Read more here on why:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/michael-malone-why-silicon-valley-will-continue-to-rule-the-tech-economy-1408747795?KEYWORDS=Michael+S+Malone

Promoting Your Writing – Gently

Writing Techniques

With the explosion of e-publishing and the need for writers to help promote their own work, all writers – first-timers and best-selling pros face the ongoing dilemma of promoting their work without being shrill about it. But much self-promotion on social media seems less about utility and effective advertising and more about ego sustenance. How do you avoid this pitfall?

In April, Rebecca Makkai, a fiction writer, published a satirical piece on the blog for the literary magazine Ploughshares titled “Writers You Want to Punch in the Face(book).” In it, she depicted the Facebook posts of a fictional writer, Todd Manly-Krauss, who is “the world’s most irritating writer.” Teddy Wayne offers some useful tips for all of us in his “Of Myself I Sing” NYT piece.

Read more here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/fashion/of-myself-i-sing.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A5%22%7D&_r=0

Hitting the Gym

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Who hasn’t heard – or doesn’t suffer from the lament “No time to hit the gym?” No worries: Recent studies have found that when it comes to exercise, intensity matters more than duration. Even if you have just 15 minutes to spare, you can still squeeze in an effective workout pretty much anywhere that’s convenient—the office, the airport or your kitchen.

This Wall Street Journal article walks you through the process of finding the right time and the right place to get your exercise in:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/fitness-apps-for-exercising-in-15-minutes-or-less-1409353121?KEYWORDS=workouts+for+the+overworked

ISIS and the New Caliphate

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CNA Strategic Studies press just released Reviving the Caliphate: Fad, or the Future? < http://www.cna.org/research/2014/reviving-caliphate by Julia McQuaid.

This paper examines the concept of restoring the caliphate in modern times, a notion that some extremist groups have supported in recent years. It focuses on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria in June 2014 and discusses the potential ramifications of this action on the region, the global jihadi movement, and U.S. interests in the broader Muslim world.

When we created the high Concept for Out of the Ashes several years ago we knew we wanted the focus of the story to be in the Middle East – the Greater Levant. This CNA study confirms the churn we anticipated would persist as the book hit the streets in May of this year.

The Wired World

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The Internet as we know it has only been around for a generation.  Pretty much everyone in the industrialized world takes the Web for granted by now, as it has become a ubiquitous component of business, government, and our social lives.  Yet, most of us probably don’t give much thought to the 77 undersea fiber optic cables spanning nearly a million kilometers that carry 99% of the world’s communications and data. Fortunately, one website has done the service of providing not only an amazing visualization of this vital, yet vulnerable infrastructure, but tied its importance to naval history and military operations.  Even the Air Force’s UAV operations rely on undersea cables to reduce the latency inherent in satellite networks. Built Visible’s Messages in the Deep page serves as a reminder that our daily lives remain inextricably linked to the oceans. (for even more details, see Submarine Cable Map). This overlooked aspect of sea power facilitates global commerce today much as surface shipping has done for centuries.