Saturday, August 31, 2013

Human Brain-to-Brain Interface

Scientist controls colleague's hand in first human brain-to-brain interface

University of Washington researcher Rajesh Rao sends a brain signal to Andrea Stocco via the Internet, causing Stocco's right hand to move on a keyboard.

University of Washington researcher Rajesh Rao, left, plays a computer game with his mind, while across campus, researcher Andrea Stocco wears a magnetic stimulation coil over the left motor cortex region of his brain.
(Credit: University of Washington)
The telepathic cyborg lives, sort of. University of Washington scientists Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco claim that they are the first to demonstrate human brain-to-brain communication. Rao sent a signal into a Stocco's brain via the Internet that caused him to move his right hand. Brain-to-brain communication has previously been demonstrated between rats and from humans to rats.
"The experiment is a proof in concept. We have tech to reverse engineer the brain signal and transmit it from one brain to another via computer," said Chantel Prat, an assistant professor of psychology who worked on the project.
In a press release, the experiment was described as follows:
The team had a Skype connection set up so the two labs could coordinate, though neither Rao nor Stocco could see the Skype screens. Rao looked at a computer screen and played a simple video game with his mind. When he was supposed to fire a cannon at a target, he imagined moving his right hand (being careful not to actually move his hand), causing a cursor to hit the "fire" button. Almost instantaneously, Stocco, who wore noise-canceling earbuds and wasn't looking at a computer screen, involuntarily moved his right index finger to push the space bar on the keyboard in front of him, as if firing the cannon. Stocco compared the feeling of his hand moving involuntarily to that of a nervous tic.
The mind-meld between the researchers wasn't seamless. Rao spent time training his mind, with feedback from the computer, to emit the brainwave for moving the right hand so that it could be detected by the computer. "The intention can be as detectable as the movement itself," Prat said. "Brain-computer interfaces have been capturing this with increasing accuracy over the last decade."
When the software sees the right signal it is sent via the Internet to a computer connected to a transcranial magnetic stimulation device, which is positioned on the exact spot of the brain that controls the right hand. "It uses simple physics," Prat said. "When the magnetic field changes, it induces an electrical current, so a signal is sent through the cortex of the brain and excites the neurons, simulating what happens naturally."
Where does human brain-to-brain communication go from this simple experiment? "It's very much a first step, but it shows what is possible," Prat said.
"Right now the only way to transfer information from one brain to another is with words," she said. With advances in computer science and neuroscience, people could eventually perform complicated tasks, such as flying an airplane, and dancing the tango, by transferring information in a noninvasive way from one brain to another. "You can imagine all complex motor skills, which are difficult to verbalize, are just chains of procedures," Prat said.
More complex cognitive skills, such as understanding algebra and physics could also benefit from the technology. "Ultimately, it's important education and training, especially when knowledge cannot be easily translatable into words." she said.
Prat noted that some people might be nervous about this technology being used to control minds against their will. "The signal is being transmitted remotely through the Internet, but the humans are connected to physical equipment and must be trained to create the right signals. There is no way to control minds without their willingness," Prat said.
At least for now, your mind is safe, but who knows where technology leads.

3D Printing Van Goghs

Fuji is Using 3D Printing and Scanning to Create Near-Flawless Van Gogh Replicas

For those art enthusiasts who just don’t have the millions of dollars required to purchase their own original Van Gogh painting, Fujifilm has a solution for you. After seven years of development, the company’s “Reliefography” 3D scanning and printing technique is ready to create near-flawless replicas of great works of art, which will be available to the public for tens of thousands instead of tens of millions.

This new technique — a combination of 3D scanning, digital imaging and printing technologies — was created by Fujifilm Belgium. And now that it’s ready to be put to use, Fuji Europe has partnered up with the Van Gogh Museum to show just how amazing Reliefography is.
The process is so detailed that Fuji can only create 3 replicas per day, but the “Relievos” the technique spits out are accurate down to the brush strokes on the front and the torn labels, stamps and handwriting on the back. The copies won’t fool an art expert, but they’re still being called the “ultimate fine-art reproduction.”

“We are very excited to work together with the Van Gogh Museum on this fascinating project,” said Richard Tackx, Fujifilm Belgium’s Director of Sales and Marketing. “The result of our joined efforts is a very high quality reproduction and we hope the market will respond very positively to this unique product.”

So far five of Van Gogh’s paintings have been re-created using this technique, but Fujifilm has an exclusive three-year deal with the museum, so many more should be on their way.
For now, the plan is to test release the project in the Hong Kong market and gauge interest in these sorts of products. Each copy will be limited to a print run of 260, and if these Relievos make it stateside, getting one of your own will cost you about $34,000.

That’s not exactly “cheap,” but considering the fact that Van Gogh’s Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers last sold for $39.7 million in 1987 (adjusted for inflation, that would be about $82.4 million today), $34,000 seems like chump change.

Micro-Location iBeacons

Why Micro-Location iBeacons May Be Apple's Biggest New Feature For iOS 7

With all of the “color commentary” about the next iPhones, and the equally off-color criticisms of the design of iOS 7, we may have missed a really important new feature. Thanks to a really detailed discussion by Daniel Eran Dilger atAppleInsider, we can now see the full implications of the iBeacons ranging and micro-location capabilities included in iOS 7.
iBeacons is an implementation of the Bluetooth LowEnergy (BLE) profile which enables very precise micro-location triggers for events in iOS 7 apps. Already an industry is mobilizing to create hardware and software services to take advantage of these new geofencing capabilities. Estimote, a Polish company with an outpost in Mountain View, California, that just graduated from Y Combinator is about to ship it’s first beacons (3 for $99). It’s co-founder, Jakub Krzych, talks about creating “an OS for the physical world.” And Roximity iBeacons has a $10 a month service for retail locations, while Adomaly claims to be the, “1st Mobile Ad Network to Reach Consumers In-Store @ Shelf,” and sells bundles of 10 beacons for $210.
BLE is already in iPhone 4S and 5 as well as iPads, Mac computers and many high-end Androids. The way iBeacons works is that the mobile device is both a sensor and a signal. A BLE enabled iPhone running iOS 7 will be able to receive location-specific messages based on its proximity to a local network of iBeacons. And that phone can act as an iBeacon itself, transmitting messages to others.
iBeacon builds on top of last year’s Passbook feature in iOS and now means that you might see a sale offer on your lock screen as you crossed the threshold of a store and then have checkout information appear as you approach the cashier. Making sure the messages are relevant and appealing will be especially important lest users just turn the feature off (or jailbreak their phones if they can’t.) The flooring ad below from Adomaly is an example of how delivering relevant, useful content will be an especially important best practice in this emerging medium.
BLE is especially useful in places (like inside a shopping mall) where GPS location data my not be reliably available. The sensitivity is also greater than either GPS or WiFi triangulation. BLE allows for interactions as far away as 160 feet, but doesn’t require the surface contact of Google GOOG -1.03%‘s preferred NFC standard. Google’s Wallet and Android Beam BEAM +0.38%implementations require contact proximity to work and so far have not taken off. Apple AAPL -0.91%‘s Craig Federighi introduced WiFi-based wireless AirDrop sharing in iOS 7 at WWDC, and teased the Android Beamers that AirDrop would not require you “to wander around the room bumping your phone with one another.” In a similar vein, iBeacons enable much more seamless, casual transactions based on close—but not intimate—ranges.
The dual nature of the iBeacons is really interesting as well. We can receive content from the beacons, but we can be them as well. It is possible that between businesses and municipalities constructing networks of low-cost BLE beacons and us all acting as defacto mobile beacons, the addressable micro-location network could become vast and incredibly powerul—and valuable.
It is worth noting that two of Apple’s recent acquisitions, the indoor mapping company WiFiSLAM and mass transit mapper Embark, both potentially relate to this technology. Navigating real-world commerce and public transportation are just the kind of everyday ordeals that we hope our iPhones can help relieve for us. And don’t forget how important little micro-location cues will be for navigational, transactional and health-related iWatch apps. Not only can a wearable receive this kind of information through a paired smartphone, but the iWatch may be an iBeacon itself. Think of the app possibilities with all that!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Randa Salutes Bow Tie Day

Randa Salutes August 28th National Bow Tie Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE New York, NY (August 28, 2013) – The neckwear business has been on the rise, according to MRketplace, the website that covers the menswear fashion industry, up to about $800 million this year from $677 million in 2008. Bloomberg Magazine puts the market at $850 million for 2013. Conservatively that is an increase of nearly 20 percent, and if Bloomberg is right, perhaps upwards of 25 percent in five years; healthy growth to say the least.

If neckwear is the star in the menswear business, then the bow tie is the same in the neckwear business. Representing 7 percent of total neckwear sales, up from 4 percent last year, the bow tie is a rising star.  Brooks Brothers, a natural at selling bow ties, reported a 60 percent sales increase in 2012, amounting to what a divisional merchandise manager for men’s furnishings said was 10 percent of total neckwear unit sales. Bow ties, says MRketplace, are one of the four elements driving the new neckwear market in terms of style and design.

Randa Accessories, the global leader in men’s accessories, is the dominant player in the marketplace today, producing by far, the majority of bow ties at retail.  In 2013, Randa expects to ship nearly 2 million bow tie shipments, more bow ties than all the bow ties shipped in the company’s 102 year history, combined. The number of retail stores carrying Randa bow ties will have increased 40 times over what was in store four years ago.

A driving factor, Randa is the leader in trend direction, scouring the global marketplace twice-yearly to bring back ideas and inspiration on everything from product to design, display to packaging.  Success comes too, from an ongoing influx of patterns, colors and shapes at retail that are constantly refreshed.
As the leader in presentation, Randa’s uniquely created fixtures and packaging design help their retailers to maximize sales. “Where some retailers dabbled in bow ties previously,” says John Kammeier, Randa’s SVP Neckwear, “this year they’re making a statement with a large assortment and this strategy is proving successful.” Constantly updated merchandise keeps customers engaged and stores filled with the right trends, which for 2013 Kammeier says, are, “reversible, seasonal, conversational, novelty, and formal and special occasion.”

This illustrates what may be surprising to some, the popularity of the bow tie, but to those who make and sell and wear them, bow ties are hot and becoming hotter. For bow tie aficionados, bow tie day is every day.

The reasons for this are manifold. One is the dressing down of the bow tie; the trend to wear it with more casual attire. This has allowed for creative, individual dressing and expanded merchandising, in the sport shirt department, alongside vests and in warm weather, with short sleeve polos. Seasonal fabrics, color and pattern, and pattern and fabric mixing are also playing roles, providing a look that is unique and personal sought by both “millennial and older” shoppers.

“There is also a cultural trend,” says David J. Katz, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer at Randa, “with a couple of things attracting attention to bow ties. First there is what is coming from the media, and the television and film worlds. And second, the psychology of counter-generational dressing.” Television series such as “Downton Abbey” and “Boardwalk Empire,” films like “Gatsby,” bring the art of dressing center stage where the finest accessory and the smallest of details play a leading role as much as the actors. Every brace, every cuff link, every bow tie made ever more alluring by the actors wearing them.

The notion of counter-generational dressing is a universal phenomenon. Each generation often rejects what the generation immediately prior embraced as a uniform and looks to even older generations for inspiration. The millennial rejects his baby boomer father’s business casual as the baby boomer casts off the bow ties and fedoras of his father’s generation. The key difference today is choice. While in fact the millennial may embrace his own version of well-appointed dressing as inspired by his grandfather let’s say, and the baby boomer may welcome business casual as a reaction to the suit and tie uniform of his father, the 21st century has brought with it freedom of choice and the personal statement’s appeal for all stylish men. This creates a perfect arena in which accessories thrive; where a few chosen accessories can add just the right distinctive flourishes to a man’s look. Enter the bow tie, the ultimate personal statement accessory.

“The accessory becomes a statement of personality,” says Tom Julian, Director of Strategic Business Development at The Doneger Group, a merchandising and retail consulting firm. “…Rather than the demographic it’s the psychographic. He can be a prepster, a hipster, a geek, a surfer, a rocker. (It’s) a way to stand out; to look distinct.”

Advantages of the Bow Tie

1.     It’s easy. There are theoretically 85 different types of knots for a necktie, there’s only one knot for the bow tie. It doesn’t get simpler than that. If you can tie your shoes you can tie a bow tie. Perfect is not required, in fact a little imperfect is preferred as a sure sign that you tied it yourself. And pre-tied is acceptable, making the how-to-tie-a-tie question moot; although not for a purist. The same is definitely not true for a necktie.

2.     Variety. There are many shapes and styles to reflect your taste and personality. Small with square ends, butterfly, diamond-pointed, narrow, large and floppy, reversible, plaid, conversationals in quirky patterns such as vespas.

3.     It’s convenient. It won’t get in the way while you’re working or cooking or get caught in the shredder for that matter. It won’t fall into your soup, and the soup won’t fall onto it.

4.     Wearing a bow tie puts you in great company. In history, from geniuses to world leaders to entertainers all favored them. Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain; Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and FDR; Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Houdini, and Charlie Chaplin. Today’s list includes superstars such as Justin Timberlake, Jon Hamm, NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, Outkast’s Andre 3000, and Psy of “Gangnam Style” fame.

5.     You’ll get noticed.

Did You Know?

1.     The number of Google searches for bow ties outpaces that of neckties and is trending up while in fact the number for necktie is trending down. Just today bow tie comes up at nearly 31.4 million in Goggle Search and the necktie a mere 12.3 million.

2.     The fastest time to tie on a bow tie is 13.59 seconds. The record is held by Dhani Jones, NFL player who retired in 2011 with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was first inspired to wear them when a friend since high school, who always wore them, was diagnosed with Lymphoma. The friend’s illness is now years in full remission and in 2010 Jones launched the philanthropic initiative Bow Tie Cause.

3.     The birth of the bow tie and the birth of the necktie are rooted in the lengthy history of the cravat, whose manner of tying could evoke either a necktie or a bow tie depending, and credited to Croatian mercenaries in the 1600s. Interestingly, evidence of neckwear worn in a similar manner exists from almost 1600 years prior. The “terracotta army,” found in the underground tomb of Shih Huang Ti, 259 - 210 BC, contained figures each bedecked in a kind of “necktie.” Neckwear can also be seen, in three different styles, on soldiers depicted on Trajan’s column of the second century AD, the only known depiction of legionnaires with neckwear. But it is the Croatians, who fought in support of other 
European nations throughout most of the 17th century as well as for France, and their picturesque scarves distinctively knotted to keep the top of the shirt closed at the neck and in varying fabrics to indicate military rank, that were the seminal influences. Because when the “Sun King,” France’s King Louis XIV saw these scarves, he abandoned the heretofore starched, high-lace collar, donning instead the Croatian mercenary’s more practical and beautiful “cravat.” And subsequently launched this bow tie predecessor into a fashionable rage throughout Europe that remained for centuries.

4.     Over the 18th and 19th centuries from country to country and century to century, the cravat went through quite an evolution, using different kinds of knots and a wide range of styles: from stiff and formal with complicated knots to the more casual look and a floppy bow style, especially popular in the later 19th century when collars became lower.

5.     They were even taken up by women, the “Merveilleuses,” during the French Revolution.  

6.     It has been reported that cravats could be wrapped so tightly that they stopped a sword thrust.

7.     At one point the cravat grew so high that a man had to turn his body in order to turn his head. Dickens describes the absurdity in his 1848 book “Dombey and Son,” saying “…Mr Dombey, slightly turning his head in his cravat, as if it were a socket.”

8.     George “Beau” Brummel, the Regency England arbiter of men’s fashion, credited with introducing and making fashionable the modern men's suit worn with a necktie, added starch back to the cravat in the late 18th century. In the process Beau Brummel turned his daily dressing and cravat tying into an art and a career. Brummel, the first progenitor of dressing as personal expression, claimed to take five hours to dress, changing three times per day, accumulating a pile of discarded cravats not tied to his standard of perfection, much to the consternation of his maid.

9.     According to the now defunct Neckwear Association of America, it was prohibited to touch another man’s cravat in the 19th century and such an act could, provoke a duel.

10.  Later in the 19th century, cravats shrank into smaller bows especially with the turned down collar that had developed, a style that can be seen in Civil War photographs. In fact, there were so many different ways of tying that by 1840 usage of the word “tie” had replaced “cravat” on a mass scale.

11.  The bow tie as we know it today made its appearance in the 1920s, favored by boys in short pants. But it seems related to the mid-19th century Stock, an alternative to the cravat, which manifested as a collar with a bow rather than a cloth wrapped and tied.

12.  No matter its form or style or name, the cravat remained popular in all its variations until the late nineteenth century when it was replaced by the necktie, perfect for the time’s industrial age and clerical workforce because it was inexpensive and quick and easy to knot.

13.  The first mass-produced readymade tie was patented in 1864 becoming popular in Germany and the United States and by the early twentieth century, American made neckwear began to rival that of Europe. 

14.  Cravat is cited most often as a corrupt French pronunciation of the word Croat. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “croat” and “cravat” are etymologically linked.  Encyclopedia Britannica dates it to 1656.

15.  In Croatia, October 18th is Cravat Day commemorating Croatia’s part in the history of this men’s accessory.

16.  In the US, August 28th is National Bow Tie Day.


About Randa Accessories
Randa Accessories is the global leader in lifestyle accessories and the world’s largest men’s accessories company. Collaborating with 75 leading brands, Randa designs, reinvents, manufactures, and markets men’s belts, wallets, neckwear, small leather goods, luggage, backpacks, business cases, seasonal footwear, jewelry, and gifts. From its origins as a neckwear company over a century ago, Randa today sells more bow ties than the rest of the industry combined and now provides fashion, lifestyle, luxury, and private branded products through retailers in all channels of distribution, worldwide.  More information is available at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pan Am Economy Class

Late 1960s:

Economy Class Seating on a Pan-Am 747

Makeup Kiosks

Benefit Is Launching Makeup Kiosks…
In Airports

benefit makeup airport kiosk
These days, airport security can get pretty intense, so if you’re smart you probably arrive much, much earlier than your flight, “just in case.” As wise as that is, the extra hour or so you have to spend waiting for your flight can get pretty boring, especially if you’ve already all your September issues. Shopping would be a great way to kill time, but most airport stores consist primarily of touristy knick-knacks and overpriced scarves. Now, though, makeup brand Benefit (who already made headlines this week with their raunchy video ad) is launching a line of airport kiosks, so you can while away the hours buying things you’ll actually use.
The “Glam Up and Away” carts will sell Benefit’s 30 most popular products (like their mascara, pore-minimizing primer, and travel kits) in adorable vintage pink bus shaped stands and will also have touchscreen where users can browse beauty tips and tricks. We think the whole concept is pretty genius, especially given how often we forget to put eyeliner in our carry-on for our always necessary post-flight touch up.
The first kiosk is already set up at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas, and by the end of 2013, you’ll also be able to find them in New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

75 Best Dressed Men of All Time


Monday, August 19, 2013

Catalyst to Innovation

"Space around me where my soul can breathe"
Great line from the song Solitude is Bliss.  a 2010 hit from Aussi psychedelic rock band Tame Impala.  This song slowly entered my head as I started reading the below NY Times article.  I had to turn the volume down so I could finish reading, this is a serious topic after all.
and now I'm thinking maybe reading is a catalyst to music?  
In this Opinions post, Please fill the comments section.


The Rise of the New Groupthink

SOLITUDE is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in. 
Andy Rementer
Andy Rementer
Andy Rementer

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But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature.
One explanation for these findings is that introverts are comfortable working alone — and solitude is a catalyst to innovation. As the influential psychologist Hans Eysenck observed, introversion fosters creativity by “concentrating the mind on the tasks in hand, and preventing the dissipation of energy on social and sexual matters unrelated to work.” In other words, a person sitting quietly under a tree in the backyard, while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, is more likely to have an apple land on his head. (Newton was one of the world’s great introverts: William Wordsworth described him as “A mind for ever/ Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.”)
Solitude has long been associated with creativity and transcendence. “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible,” Picasso said. A central narrative of many religions is the seeker — Moses, Jesus, Buddha — who goes off by himself and brings profound insights back to the community.
Culturally, we’re often so dazzled by charisma that we overlook the quiet part of the creative process. Consider Apple. In the wake of Steve Jobs’s death, we’ve seen a profusion of myths about the company’s success. Most focus on Mr. Jobs’s supernatural magnetism and tend to ignore the other crucial figure in Apple’s creation: a kindly, introverted engineering wizard, Steve Wozniak, who toiled alone on a beloved invention, the personal computer.
Rewind to March 1975: Mr. Wozniak believes the world would be a better place if everyone had a user-friendly computer. This seems a distant dream — most computers are still the size of minivans, and many times as pricey. But Mr. Wozniak meets a simpatico band of engineers that call themselves the Homebrew Computer Club. The Homebrewers are excited about a primitive new machine called the Altair 8800. Mr. Wozniak is inspired, and immediately begins work on his own magical version of a computer. Three months later, he unveils his amazing creation for his friend, Steve Jobs. Mr. Wozniak wants to give his invention away free, but Mr. Jobs persuades him to co-found Apple Computer.
The story of Apple’s origin speaks to the power of collaboration. Mr. Wozniak wouldn’t have been catalyzed by the Altair but for the kindred spirits of Homebrew. And he’d never have started Apple without Mr. Jobs.
But it’s also a story of solo spirit. If you look at how Mr. Wozniak got the work done — the sheer hard work of creating something from nothing — he did it alone. Late at night, all by himself.
Intentionally so. In his memoir, Mr. Wozniak offers this guidance to aspiring inventors:
“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me ... they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone .... I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone... Not on a committee. Not on a team.”
And yet. The New Groupthink has overtaken our workplaces, our schools and our religious institutions. Anyone who has ever needed noise-canceling headphones in her own office or marked an online calendar with a fake meeting in order to escape yet another real one knows what I’m talking about. Virtually all American workers now spend time on teams and some 70 percent inhabit open-plan offices, in which no one has “a room of one’s own.” During the last decades, the average amount of space allotted to each employee shrank 300 square feet, from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.
Our schools have also been transformed by the New Groupthink. Today, elementary school classrooms are commonly arranged in pods of desks, the better to foster group learning. Even subjects like math and creative writing are often taught as committee projects. In one fourth-grade classroom I visited in New York City, students engaged in group work were forbidden to ask a question unless every member of the group had the very same question.
The New Groupthink also shapes some of our most influential religious institutions. Many mega-churches feature extracurricular groups organized around every conceivable activity, from parenting to skateboarding to real estate, and expect worshipers to join in. They also emphasize a theatrical style of worship — loving Jesus out loud, for all the congregation to see. “Often the role of a pastor seems closer to that of church cruise director than to the traditional roles of spiritual friend and counselor,” said Adam McHugh, an evangelical pastor and author of “Introverts in the Church.”
SOME teamwork is fine and offers a fun, stimulating, useful way to exchange ideas, manage information and build trust.
But it’s one thing to associate with a group in which each member works autonomously on his piece of the puzzle; it’s another to be corralled into endless meetings or conference calls conducted in offices that afford no respite from the noise and gaze of co-workers. Studies show that open-plan offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted. They’re also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, stress, the flu and exhaustion. And people whose work is interrupted make 50 percent more mistakes and take twice as long to finish it.
Many introverts seem to know this instinctively, and resist being herded together. Backbone Entertainment, a video game development company in Emeryville, Calif., initially used an open-plan office, but found that its game developers, many of whom were introverts, were unhappy. “It was one big warehouse space, with just tables, no walls, and everyone could see each other,” recalled Mike Mika, the former creative director. “We switched over to cubicles and were worried about it — you’d think in a creative environment that people would hate that. But it turns out they prefer having nooks and crannies they can hide away in and just be away from everybody.”
Privacy also makes us productive. In a fascinating study known as the Coding War Games, consultants Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister compared the work of more than 600 computer programmers at 92 companies. They found that people from the same companies performed at roughly the same level — but that there was an enormous performance gap between organizations. What distinguished programmers at the top-performing companies wasn’t greater experience or better pay. It was how much privacy, personal workspace and freedom from interruption they enjoyed. Sixty-two percent of the best performers said their workspace was sufficiently private compared with only 19 percent of the worst performers. Seventy-six percent of the worst programmers but only 38 percent of the best said that they were often interrupted needlessly.
Solitude can even help us learn. According to research on expert performance by the psychologist Anders Ericsson, the best way to master a field is to work on the task that’s most demanding for you personally. And often the best way to do this is alone. Only then, Mr. Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”
Conversely, brainstorming sessions are one of the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity. The brainchild of a charismatic advertising executive named Alex Osborn who believed that groups produced better ideas than individuals, workplace brainstorming sessions came into vogue in the 1950s. “The quantitative results of group brainstorming are beyond question,” Mr. Osborn wrote. “One group produced 45 suggestions for a home-appliance promotion, 56 ideas for a money-raising campaign, 124 ideas on how to sell more blankets.”
But decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases. The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”
The reasons brainstorming fails are instructive for other forms of group work, too. People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure. The Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that when we take a stance different from the group’s, we activate the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the fear of rejection. Professor Berns calls this “the pain of independence.”
The one important exception to this dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.
MY point is not that man is an island. Life is meaningless without love, trust and friendship.
And I’m not suggesting that we abolish teamwork. Indeed, recent studies suggest that influential academic work is increasingly conducted by teams rather than by individuals. (Although teams whose members collaborate remotely, from separate universities, appear to be the most influential of all.) The problems we face in science, economics and many other fields are more complex than ever before, and we’ll need to stand on one another’s shoulders if we can possibly hope to solve them.
But even if the problems are different, human nature remains the same. And most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.
To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time. And we must recognize that introverts like Steve Wozniak need extra quiet and privacy to do their best work.
Before Mr. Wozniak started Apple, he designed calculators at Hewlett-Packard, a job he loved partly because HP made it easy to chat with his colleagues. Every day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., management wheeled in doughnuts and coffee, and people could socialize and swap ideas. What distinguished these interactions was how low-key they were. For Mr. Wozniak, collaboration meant the ability to share a doughnut and a brainwave with his laid-back, poorly dressed colleagues — who minded not a whit when he disappeared into his cubicle to get the real work done.
Susan Cain is the author of the forthcoming book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

Along with Picasso and Newton, Moses Jesus and Budda where unable to vouch for this article. 

Alright now I can turn the music back up...
Tame Impala - Solitude is Bliss
and now we learned its a catalyst

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Good Writing vs. Talented Writing

Good Writing vs. Talented Writing

“Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”
The secrets of good writing have been debated again and again and again. But “good writing” might, after all, be the wrong ideal to aim for. In About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews (public library), celebrated author and literary critic Samuel Delany — who, for a fascinating fact let, penned the controversial 1972 “women’s liberation” issue of Wonder Woman — synthesizes his most valuable insights from thirty-five years of teaching creative writing, a fine addition to beloved writers’ advice on writing. One of his key observations is the crucial difference between “good writing” and “talented writing,” the former being largely the product of technique (and we know from H.P. Lovecraft that “no aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules”), the other a matter of linguistic and aesthetic sensitivity:
Though they have things in common, good writing and talented writing are not the same.
If you start with a confused, unclear, and badly written story, and apply the rules of good writing to it, you can probably turn it into a simple, logical, clearly written story. It will still not be a good one. The major fault of eighty-five to ninety-five percent of all fiction is that it is banal and dull.
Now old stories can always be told with new language. You can even add new characters to them; you can use them to dramatize new ideas. But eventually even the new language, characters, and ideas lose their ability to invigorate.
Either in content or in style, in subject matter or in rhetorical approach, fiction that is too much like other fiction is bad by definition. However paradoxical it sounds, good writing as a set of strictures (that is, when the writing is good and nothing more) produces most bad fiction. On one level or another, the realization of this is finally what turns most writers away from writing.
Talented writing is, however, something else. You need talent to write fiction.
Good writing is clear. Talented writing is energetic. Good writing avoids errors. Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.
Virginia Wolf knew subtlety was the key to craftsmanship when she counseled that “we have to allow the sunken meanings to remain sunken, suggested, not stated.” “All bad writers are in love with the epic,” Hemingway admonished. The talented writer, Delany reminds us, is a master of induction, suggesting the general through the deft deployment of the specific, and in the process producing an even greater dramatic effect than the bombast of sweeping statements ever could:
The talented writer often uses specifics and avoids generalities — generalities that his or her specifics suggest. Because they are suggested, rather than stated, they may register with the reader far more forcefully than if they were articulated. Using specifics to imply generalities — whether they are general emotions we all know or ideas we have all vaguely sensed —is dramatic writing. A trickier proposition that takes just as much talent requires the writer carefully to arrange generalities for a page or five pages, followed by a specific that makes the generalities open up and take on new resonance. … Indeed, it might be called the opposite of “dramatic” writing, but it can be just as strong — if not, sometimes, stronger.
“Words have their own firmness,” Susan Sontag reflected in her diary“Use the right word, not its second cousin,” Mark Twain famously advised, but great writing isn’t just a mere matter of concision. As E.B. White reminded us,“Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound.” Delany bisociates this dual requirement for precision and eloquence, with precision and eloquence:
The talented writer often uses rhetorically interesting, musical, or lyrical phrases that are briefer than the pedestrian way of saying “the same thing.”
The talented writer can explode, as with a verbal microscope, some fleeting sensation or action, tease out insights, and describe sub-sensations that we all recognize, even if we have rarely considered them before; that is, he or she describes them at greater length and tells more about them than other writers.
In complex sentences with multiple clauses that relate in complex ways, the talented writer will organize those clauses in the chronological order in which the referents occur, despite the logical relation grammar imposes.
In fact, the true potency of “talented writing,” Delany suggests, lies in its ability to compress subtle yet all-consuming sensation into an enormously efficient information packet. In many ways, the talented writer possesses the same qualities Wordsworth ascribed to the poet when he described him as someone“endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind.” Delany concludes:
Talented writing tends to contain more information, sentence for sentence, clause for clause, than merely good writing. … It also employs rhetorical parallels and differences. . . . It pays attention to the sounds and rhythms of its sentences. . . . Much of the information it proffers is implied. … These are among the things that indicate talent.