John Cleese on Creativity

A classic speech worthwhile of revisiting.  Comedian John Cleese on creativity, psychology, and the conditions necessary for expansive thinking.


Recharging when getting away is not an option

sign at swap meet indicating facilities closed till October

“Swap Meet” image cc license from Flickr user LukeJNovak:

I remember when I used to look forward to summer — warmer weather, longer days, no homework, family vacations and time with friends. Even when I started working during the summer breaks, there seemed to still remain ample time to read and relax after work was done in those long months between school terms. Even when I had summer school, it would last only a fraction of the whole holiday period, leaving weeks to relax and recharge.

Now, I look forward to summer for some of the same reasons — the warmer weather and longer days — and some new ones — travel takes a bit less time without the traffic of parents driving children to school and fewer colleagues in the office means a slightly lighter load of internal requests.

Although I miss the family vacations, the biggest loss in the transition from school to work was the chance to decompress and relax that those summer months offered.  That time was fairly sacred and it was unlikely it would be scheduled over or co-opted by classes or meetings; one would dread catching a summer cold that seemed to suck up those valuable days of summer holidays, but never thought about a time in the future when unexpected work events or deadlines would force retraction of vacation days and a premature return to work.

As I cannot take off the several months I dream of to rest and relax during the summer, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the “Five Ways to Recharge During the Summer” recommended by Jamie Corcoran in her June post at Gradhacker.   Read the rest of this entry »

Escape from the Library Echo Chamber

sculpture by Jeff Koons outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao

Image cc license from Flickr user Nicolas Nedialko Nojarof, some rights reserved:

It has fewer explosions and fight scenes than Escape from New YorkSadly, it does not feature Steve McQueen, James Coburn, or James Garner. But the argument could be made that this escape is no less important than the adventures described in either film.

Sally Pewhairangi’s post “20 Everyday Ways to Escape the Library Echo Chamber” at Finding Heroes has some great ideas about how to escape the library echo chamber.  As had been discussed in a previous post here are Research Salad, there are dangers to being stuck inside an echo chamber, sharing ideas only with individuals of similar opinions and experiences. Instead of talking only to other librarians and information specialists about issues facing us and how they might be addressed, Ms. Pewhairangi suggests that much can be gained by looking outside our domain. The first step to escaping the library echo chamber, she asserts, is to take an interest in what is happening outside libraries.

The list’s recommendations are diverse and intriguing: watching TED talks on subjects with which you have little to no familiarity and examining interactions in retail settings, checking out signage in supermarkets and conversing with “the weirdest person” you know about what he or she is working on. Using what is learned and the responses received, policies can be better devised or revised and practices for serving library patrons improved.

One supplement to this list which I would recommend is to travel.  While leaving the region or country may not be a practical or everyday activity, adventuring outside the city in which you and your library are located is easy enough and can give you new and additional insights. As the list already includes going to a park and talking to fellow plane passengers about their library experiences, travel farther afield simply takes things one step further.  To illustrate this point, I will present three travel destinations to which I escaped from the library and a few insights I gained while there.

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Regaining Momentum

To compliment the “Distractions” posting by KRED, I thought it would important to mention not only distraction management, but the regaining of momentum following the holiday.  As I am sure many people feel, you rush, rush, rush to get to the holidays, make sure that all gifts are bought and social events attended, you collapse in a heap after New Year’s and then it’s just… January.  Some of us enjoy a month-long break.  Others take the few days off for the holiday and get right back into it.  I returned back to work on January 3rd, ready to tackle what I hope to be a productive Spring semester.  Thus far, it has been exactly that.  Unfortunately, it has meant that I have been not up to too much blogging and I’ve been a bit swamped.  So, in honor of the crazy thus far, I wanted to get a little post up so I could help regain momentum. First, a video! And then I will explain my reasoning for including this:

Human-Based Percussion and Self-Similarity Detection in Electroacoustic Music from Anderson Mills on Vimeo.

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Grey and white cat in lap, with paws on laptop

Image cc license from Flickr user pjmorse:

My distractions at this moment:

  • Cars passing and the fact that, though the streets are dry, it sounds like the roads are wet
  • Someone playing video games in the other room
  • The cats, one trying to sleep on my lap between me and the laptop perched at my knees, the other staring at me from the floor by my feet
  • The plethora of other things I’m supposed to accomplish today
  • The Internet

The cat in my lap has now moved to sleep on my wrists. Obviously, she doesn’t see this as a distraction;  in her mind, it’s the computer and whatever I’m typing that must be distracting me from what I should be doing, namely, paying attention to her. When she gets really irritated, she puts her paws across my hand and flexes her claws, then turns to stare at my over her shoulder with that look that cats have perfected, a cross between boredom, disdain, and eye-rolling irritation. This post, ladies and gentlemen, is apparently less important than this furball.

In the book The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook, on the topic of distractions and handling them, the responses from two different authors express very well the delicate balance in dealing with distractions.

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Happy Holidays from Research Salad!

From all of us here at Research Salad, we wish you and your family all the best this holiday season.  From Kwanzaa to Chanukah to Christmas to Winter Solstice: no matter what you are celebrating, we hope that it is joyous.  Thank you for reading our blog and we hope to keep posting interesting things for you to read in 2012.  Here’s to a prosperous and happy new year to you all!

Thinking Big Thoughts: Blogs to Watch

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Infidelic

While I get mired in the details of qualitative research and the intense focus of a dissertation, it has occurred to me that I need to find ways to keep current with the world at large.  I’m a voracious consumer of information, so this is not anything new to me.  But I was thinking about how you can so easily get lost in the details and forget the big picture.  Why am I doing this research?  What do I want to accomplish?  How does this fit in to the world around me?

For me, the purpose of my research is hopefully to find new ways and refine traditional ways of engaging students in the learning process.  I hope from what they would learn from my courses or curriculum is not what to think, but how to think.  By developing a critical eye, engaging in the world around them, and practicing 21st Century Skills, they are poised to tackle the critical problems and opportunities that face our world today. From this base, they can go anywhere, and can see that they are truly an influencer as a global citizen.  While discipline-specific knowledge is essential and will be the crux of innovation, there is something to be said for keeping an eye on the big picture, seeing the opportunities when they arise, and being open to interdisciplinary collaboration.  So, in short, the purpose of this blog post is to talk a bit about those resources that help you to think beyond your discipline-focus and shake off the tunnel vision that sometimes comes when working on a project like a dissertation.

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