GETTING MEDIEVAL

Wow. While doing my research this morning I just happened  (if you believe in that kinda thing) to run across Jeri Westerson’s Literary blog.

I have read several of her books, and as a matter of fact Shadow of the Alchemist was the last I read. I consider her one of the very best historical fiction authors (male or female) working today. I highly recommend her works, and her works have also influenced my own writings. So she is my Highmoot post for the day.

Here is the blog address: Getting Medieval

Here is her latest blog entry:

 

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THE DARK ARTS

THE DARK ARTS – definitely worth the read and the reblog

Having worked a couple of corporate espionage cases myself, from the counter-espionage/defensive side of things, a couple of these articles were useful and fascinating.

THE FLOW OF IMAGINATION AND REALITY

And yet because the brain is a collaborative interconnected network both imagination and reality must both either originate from the same point or at some point pass each other to get where they are going.

Knowing this one should be able to both improve the quality of your observations of the Real World and beneficially intensify the quality of your imaginative and fictional productions.

In other words from the senses (perception) to the mind (for comprehension) goes Reality, and from the mind (projection) to the senses (through comparison) goes Imagination.

 

Imagination, reality flow in opposite directions in the brain

by Scott Gordon
Imagination, reality flow in opposite directions in the brain
Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in …more
As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality.Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.”A really important problem in research is understanding how different parts of the brain are functionally connected. What areas are interacting? What is the direction of communication?” says Barry Van Veen, a UW-Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We know that the brain does not function as a set of independent areas, but as a network of specialized areas that collaborate.”

Van Veen, along with Giulio Tononi, a UW-Madison psychiatry professor and neuroscientist, and collaborators from the University of Liege in Belgium, published results recently in the journal NeuroImage. Their work could lead to the development of new tools to help Tononi untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming, while Van Veen hopes to apply the study’s new methods to understand how the brain uses networks to encode short-term memory.

During imagination, the researchers found an increase in the flow of information from the of the brain to the occipital lobe—from a higher-order region that combines inputs from several of the senses out to a lower-order region.

In contrast, visual information taken in by the eyes tends to flow from the occipital lobe—which makes up much of the brain’s visual cortex—”up” to the parietal lobe.

“There seems to be a lot in our brains and animal brains that is directional, that neural signals move in a particular direction, then stop, and start somewhere else,” says. “I think this is really a new theme that had not been explored.”

The researchers approached the study as an opportunity to test the power of electroencephalography (EEG)—which uses sensors on the scalp to measure underlying electrical activity—to discriminate between different parts of the brain’s network.

Brains are rarely quiet, though, and EEG tends to record plenty of activity not necessarily related to a particular process researchers want to study.

To zero in on a set of target circuits, the researchers asked their subjects to watch short video clips before trying to replay the action from memory in their heads. Others were asked to imagine traveling on a magic bicycle—focusing on the details of shapes, colors and textures—before watching a short video of silent nature scenes.

Using an algorithm Van Veen developed to parse the detailed EEG data, the researchers were able to compile strong evidence of the directional flow of information.

“We were very interested in seeing if our signal-processing methods were sensitive enough to discriminate between these conditions,” says Van Veen, whose work is supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. “These types of demonstrations are important for gaining confidence in new tools.”

THE MASTER OF HIS BETTER CRAFT (A LOOKING GLASS WILL DO)

I used to practice all the time before I learned to do it
Then I practiced even more to help myself accrue it
I wrote and wrestled, scribed and scored
A thousand lines a day,
I exercised with great accord
If even I do say,
By practice trained I forged my mind
Repetition’s Child,
Drill and Duty, Craftsman’s Kiln
A Master will beguile;
The modern man thinks everything
Is only thin technique, but
Training born and bred in blood
Into the Real Man seeps
If you would be the Great Maestro
Then you must toil long
The road is hard, the trail discards
Those who don’t belong;
And who does not, you might ask
Not deserve to be
The Master of his Better Craft,
The Lord of High Degree?
You need not track with Spying Glass
A Looking Glass will do,
That man who will not sharpen skills
Will soon be bid “adieu.”

(the same, of course, applies to the mastery of all things…)

 

What New Research on the Brain Says Every Writer Should Do

German brain researchers studied the brain activity of people who were actively writing, and they discovered one thing that every person should do to become a better writer. Ellen Hendriksen, the Savvy Psychologist, explains how the study worked and reveals the secret.

By

Mignon Fogarty,

Grammar Girl

August 22, 2014

Page 1 of 2

[Note: If you’re listening along with the audio in the player on this page, you can follow along with the text of the first segment by opening the Money, Monies, and Moneys page in a new window.]

Sponsor: Thanks to Audible for supporting our channel.  Get a free audiobook of your choice at AudiblePodcast.com/GG.

 

Ellen Hendriksen is the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast, and she recently sent me an article about researchers in Germany who studied people’s brains while they were actively writing. They looked at both professional writers and novices, and they found differences. The professional writers showed brain activity similar to what researchers see in people who are good at music and sports.

Mignon: Before we get into the findings, they used something called an fMRI scanner. What does that actually measure?

Ellen: This is a great question—there are so many fMRI studies in the news these days, but much like “gluten” or “Obamacare,” most of us don’t know what fMRI really is, even though the term gets thrown around a lot.  So this is a perfect opportunity for a quick primer!

fMRI stands for functional magnetic resonance imaging.  When an area of the brain is used to think thoughts or perform a task, it requires more oxygen, so blood flow to that area increases to meet the demand.

The fMRI scanner uses a strong magnetic field combined with radio waves to create images of this contrast in blood flow—the oxygen-enhanced blood in the active part of the brain reacts differently to the magnetic field and therefore stands out against the less oxygenated blood in the quieter parts of the brain.

The images allow neuroscientists to pinpoint what parts of the brain are in use during a given task, plus there’s no exposure to radiation like in an X-ray or CT scan.

Mignon: What did you think was most interesting about this study? Is it ground-breaking or does it build on things researchers already knew?  

Ellen: I’d say both.  It is groundbreaking because this is the first time neuroscientists have looked at the brains of experienced writers writing fiction in real time.  Two previous studies have had participants make up stories in their heads while in the scanner, but this is the first time we’ve been able to catch the brain in the act of writing.

What’s the useful takeaway message for writers? Practice.

Logistically, this was hard to pull off.  You can’t have a computer in the same room as the scanner because of the magnetic field, so the researchers asked writers to write longhand.  But, you have to lie down in the scanner, so they couldn’t have the writers sit normally to write.  Finally, you have to be absolutely still in the scanner—just like with a regular camera.  If your subject moves, you end up with a blurry picture.  So the researchers had the triple whammy of figuring out how to get people to lie down with their heads perfectly still, but still write longhand.  So through a set of double mirrors and a custom-built writing desk, they jury-rigged a system.  You’ll find a picture on the QDT website.

This study was also important because the next frontier of creativity research is identifying neural mechanisms—in other words, this is the first study to nail down how the semi-mystical qualities of creativity and expertise in professional writers manifest as neurons and blood flow.  It’s a little bit like pulling back the curtain on the wizard to reveal his gears and levers.

It’s also important to say that creativity and expertise are very difficult to study.  There’s so much that goes into it: originality, intelligence, talent, practice effects, motivation, culture.  So while this study is a nice shovelful towards the excavation of creativity, there’s a lot more to uncover before we can get a definite picture of what we’re even unearthing.

– See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/what-new-research-on-the-brain-says-every-writer-should-do#sthash.knnnXVbB.dpuf

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

No, but I am always looking for great names for my historical fiction and even my other fictional works. So there ya go…


Ten Great Anglo-Saxon Girls’ Names

Elisabeth Okasha’s book Women’s Names in Old English details close to 300 female names from Anglo-Saxon England. Most names were chosen from two words, such as bregu (ruler), wif (woman) and cynn (family).We’ve come up with our ten favourite girls’ names – if you are considering a different type of baby name, perhaps you will pick one of these!

SEE NAMES HERE

PAY ME NOW OR PAIN ME LATER

I am a writer and an inventor and a businessman as well. I love being those things; each one is a part of my nature. I love reading, I love researching, I love conducting scientific experiments, I love inventing, and I even love writing. But all of those things share one over-riding and pathetic defect. They are primarily sedentary pursuits. And I detest sedentary pursuits and our modern sedentary society.

That is to say that reading, researching, putting together business-projects, experimenting, writing, and even inventing to some greater or lesser degree (at least when you are writing up your invention) requires you to be bound to a particular spot, either sitting or standing in place while you conduct and execute your work.

I despise that necessity.

By nature I am a man who likes to be moving. I’m built that way, it is my nature. I much prefer to be in motion. If I could research and read and experiment and especially write and invent (I can create most easily while in motion – it’s the writing everything up I hate) then believe me I would do so. And believe me on this as well, I am working on inventing devices that allow one to do whatever work one desires while on the move. But that is for a future day, for now the sedentary requirements of what I do – well, let’s just say again, I detest those aspects of my work. Entirely detest.

Now if I had my druthers, and could get away with it, I’d spend all of my time and every day walking through the woods, running cross country, chopping wood and clearing land, hiking, riding horseback, and exploring the countryside. I wouldn’t get any real work done that way but it’s what I’d like to spend most all of my time doing, and the way I’d like to do it. I’ve often thought as I age that if I had to do my life over again I’d probably very much like to be a farmer, rancher, or maybe even a cowboy. Physically I’m cut that way.

Mentally, however, and probably psychologically as well, there are deep impulses in me to create, invent, to study, and to write. I just absolutely hate the sedentary parts of all of that.

My only real solutions to this dilemma are to dream of the day when I can transfer my thoughts straight to some device so that I can write a novel as I chop wood and clear land, or invent as I explore, or simply to endure the pain (and sometimes it is real agony due to the various injuries I’ve received over the course of my life by not being sedentary) of sitting in a chair or standing around in one spot while I disgustedly screw with some modern input method, like a keyboard or microphone set. Sitting in one spot is a real pain in my ass, no pun intended, and standing in one spot is a pain in my back and neck. One way or another it hurts to be still. So I’m still looking for a real solution.

Well, actually, there is one more solution. I go out and exercise and train for about an hour to two hours each day. Engage in really strenuous exercise, not only to recover from the strain of sedentary work, but just because I can’t really stomach being sedentary. Not physically, not mentally, not emotionally, not psychologically, not spiritually. And yes such strenuous almost daily exercise does hurt me, and often greatly so (sometimes because of my prior injuries), but if I don’t do it then I suffer both physically and mentally from that lack of exercise and motion.

When I am not active or allow work to consume all of my time I wake each morning stiff and my back is killing me (where I once broke it), my knees ache and overall I feel terrible. When I do exercise strenuously, and I have recently started experimenting with doing so about 4:00 in the afternoon right before dinner, then I hurt during that time and while eating dinner and while recuperating, but by the next morning I awake feeling fluid and loose and warm. I rise and move easily, and generally I just feel great. So, it’s pay me now or pain me later. Or pay me in pain so I get paid later. Take your pick.

Yet, either way, I still wish that I could do what I want without all the sitting around. I absolutely hate all the sitting around.