Last Week’s Links

These are pieces from across the web that caught my eye this week.

How language is processed by your brain

An overview of how our brain processes language, with an emphasis on how learning a new language can help the brain grow.

Four Things To Do Outside The Office To Boost Your Creativity

Aimed at business professionals, this article explains why these four activities may boost creativity:

(1) taking a bath
(2) observing the details of the world around us
(3) working at a coffee shop (or in other surroundings with moderate background noise)
(4) walking

Syllabus: Using Poetry and Fiction to Encourage Experiments in Nonfiction

Writer Chelsea Hodson explains how books that blend or cross genre lines can help writers be more creative and experimental in their own writing. She discusses five books here.

The System I Used to Write 5 Books and Over 1,000 Blog Posts

journal_writingWell known writer Jeff Goins explains his three-step system for discovering ideas and developing them in writing:

(1) collect ideas
(2) write and save
(3) edit and publish

Experienced writers probably have their own ways of following these three steps, but Goins’s system may help beginning writers get a handle on the process.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – 2016 Week 33

Share Your World – 2016 Week 33


Would you travel into outer space?

If the opportunity were offered to me right now, I’d probably decline because the technology is not yet perfected and I’d feel the undertaking would be too big a risk. However, if I lived at a time when traveling into space was commonplace, I’d definitely go if had a reason.

This hypothetical situation is really no different than the advent of traveling by airplane originally was. At first, people were afraid to go because of the novelty. But eventually airplanes became commonplace, and now most people don’t hesitate to board if a plane when they need to get somewhere in a short time.

Which country/city in the world (that you have never been to) would you most like to visit and why?

I’ve been to England, but I did not get to see the #1 place on my bucket list, Stonehenge. So that’s where I’d like to go.

However, if I have to choose a city or country I’ve never been to, I’d pick Paris. Someday I will get to see the Eiffel Tower and experience the romance of Paris in real life instead of just on the silver screen.

What could you do to breathe more deeply today?

Exercise. Even though my head knows the benefits of exercise, I still have trouble dragging my body along to actually do it. My husband and I have recently purchased electric bikes, so I need to get outside and learn how to ride it. However, we’ve been having a true heat wave here, and it’s just much too hot outside…

Complete this sentence: This creamy peanut butter sandwich could really use some …

Jam or jelly. My first choice would be orange marmalade, although grape jelly would work well, too.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

We’ve had record-breaking heat over the past week. I’m hoping for more seasonal temperatures this week so I can get outside and learn how to ride that electric bike.

I hope everyone has a good week.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Falling for sleep

Sleep has been transformed from a deeply personal experience to a physiological process; from the mythical to the medical; and from the romantic to the marketable. Our misconstrued sense of sleep and consequent obsession with managing it are the most critical overlooked factors in the contemporary epidemic of sleep loss.

A look at the results of chronic sleep deprivation, which can lead to heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, autoimmune illnesses, and depression.

sleeping baby

Rubin Naiman argues that wakism, our devotion to what we experience while awake, prevents us from appreciating the positive aspects of sleep.


Here’s a fascinating article on the concept of eudaemonic happiness, defined by Aristitle about 2,500 years ago:

In his Nicomachean Ethics, he described the idea of eudaemonic happiness, which said, essentially, that happiness was not merely a feeling, or a golden promise, but a practice. “It’s living in a way that fulfills our purpose,” Helen Morales, a classicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told me. “It’s flourishing. Aristotle was saying, ‘Stop hoping for happiness tomorrow. Happiness is being engaged in the process.’ ” Now, thousands of years later, evidence that Aristotle may have been onto something has been detected in the most surprising of places: the human genome.

Psychologists continue to look for explanations and examples of this higher-order form of happiness, which differs from (but does not preclude) sensual pleasures such as a good pizza or a glass of good wine.

Study uncovers how exposure to social news videos affects behavior

Research into how internet-based delivery of social news produced some perhaps not surprising results:

in the positive social news condition, kindness and providing help are the most salient contents–these prime conventional norms mean more altruistic behaviors as well as a greater tolerance for opponents defecting during the prisoner’s dilemma game. In the negative social news condition, harm towards innocent people and unethical behavior are signs of rule violations and lower moral levels. This leads to a greater propensity to break the rules and cheat.

The 9 Biggest Myths About Creativity You Should Never Believe

Some of the most common adages are not true at all. Here are nine aspects of traditional knowledge about creativity that are wrong, at least in the business setting:

  1. Innovation = creativity
  2. Innovation = entrepreneurship and startups
  3. You were either born creative or not
  4. There is nothing you can do to increase innovation organically in your company
  5. You need to drive innovation
  6. You need to build an innovation space and allocate time for creativity
  7. Financial incentives increase creativity
  8. Innovation requires significant resources and funding
  9. Innovation initiatives need to be implemented throughout the entire organization


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown




What is your earliest memory?

This is a question I’ve thought about a lot, since I periodically teach life-writing classes. I really don’t have a memory that I know is the earliest. In fact, I have very few memories from before the age of 12. Perhaps my strongest childhood memory is from the age of 6, but some others are probably from a younger age. Since I didn’t have an ideal childhood, I don’t like thinking about those memories.

What was the last photo you took with your phone?

A photo a plaque on a building that says, “On this site in 1897 nothing happened.”

Have you ever danced in the rain?

I probably twirled around in a puddle when I was a young child, but I don’t remember it.

What is the longest you have gone without sleep?

I remember pulling an all-nighter in college to study for a final exam. I don’t remember how I did on the exam, but I definitely remember feeling absolutely AWFUL the next day and vowing never to do that again.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week we took a trip to Tillicum Village, a Native American attraction on Blake Island off the coast of Washington State. I’ve been wanting to go there for about 20 years, so I was glad of the opportunity. In the upcoming week, I look forward to more time to read and write.

I hope everyone has a good week.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

What I’ve Been Reading About Thinking & Knowing

Personality Can Change Over A Lifetime, And Usually For The Better

A good introduction to the concept of personality traits:

The world’s languages include many thousands of words for describing personality, but most of these can be organized in terms of the “Big Five” trait dimensions: extraversion (characterized by adjectives like outgoing, assertive and energetic vs. quiet and reserved); agreeableness (compassionate, respectful and trusting vs. uncaring and argumentative); conscientiousness (orderly, hard-working and responsible vs. disorganized and distractible); negative emotionality (prone to worry, sadness and mood swings vs. calm and emotionally resilient); and open-mindedness (intellectually curious, artistic and imaginative vs. disinterested in art, beauty and abstract ideas).

Christopher Soto, associate professor of psychology at Colby College and a member of the executive board of the Association for Research in Personality, reports on research suggesting that “personality traits are relatively stable over time, they can and often do gradually change across the life span. What’s more, those changes are usually for the better.”

Consciousness: The Mind Messing With the Mind

brain02If you’re ready for some heady reading, George Johnson looks at one of humankind’s age-old questions: How does the brain, a physical structure, give rise to consciousness, the sense of self that arises from our thoughts?

Monkeys know what they don’t know

Rhesus monkeys are aware of the limits of their knowledge, new research shows. According to scientists at Harvard and Yale, the monkeys realized when they didn’t know something and needed outside expertise.

An interesting look at metacognition, the ability to think about thinking.


Crowds aren’t as smart as we thought, since some people know more than others. A simple trick can find the ones you want.

George Musser writes, “In the 1990s, crowd wisdom became a pop-culture obsession, providing a rationale for wikis, crowdsourcing, prediction markets and popularity-based search algorithms.”

However, not every in a crowd has the same level of knowledge about a given subject. To find which of the individuals to rely on, Musser advocates applying metaknowledge, which he calls “a powerful bullshit detector”:

Metaknowledge means you are aware of what you know or don’t know, and of where your level of knowledge stands in relation to other people’s. That’s a useful measure of your value to the crowd, because knowledge and metaknowledge usually go together.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Articles That Caught My Eye Last Week

The Black Dog: 6 Books to Understand Depression

Jennie Yabroff acknowledges that “‘Depression’ remains a catch-all phrase to describe a variety of conditions ranging from the occasional bad day to paralyzing inertia”:

To truly understand the disease, and not just the treatment, you need to look to writers with sensitivity and compassion about the real nature of the self in despair, be they novelists or doctors, contemporary writers or playwrights dead for hundreds of years.

bell-jarShe recommends these books for help in understanding depression, a state commonly known as the black dog:

  • Ordinarily Well by Peter Kramer
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • Darkness Visible by William Styron
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
  • An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
These Instagrammers’ Bullet Journals are organizational masterpieces

The newest craze for keeping oneself organized is the Bullet Journal. Check out this article for examples of bullet journals as well as some links about how the system works.

Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age

Despite our current dependence on keyboards, there are some definite cognitive benefits to learning cursive writing.

‘Pronoia’ and other emotions you never knew you had

Here’s an article about Tiffany Watt Smith, a research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London:

[It’s] the subjective experience of emotions — that Smith explores in her charming new book, The Book of Human Emotions. It’s a roundup of 154 words from around the world that you could call an exploration of “emotional granularity,” as it provides language for some very specific emotions you likely never knew you had. “It’s a long-held idea that if you put a name to a feeling, it can help that feeling become less overwhelming,” she said. “All sorts of stuff that’s swirling around and feeling painful can start to feel a bit more manageable,” once you’ve pinned the feeling down and named it.

Doctors Say Your Word Choice Can Hugely Change Your Brain

Every word counts:

Be careful because the next word you say could determine how your day is, or the rest of your life might pan out. Doctors at Thomas Jefferson University explained that the choice of our words could actually have more impact on our lives than we actually think.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown


Thanks to Cee for the latest edition of her weekly challenge, SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2016 WEEK 26.


What’s your most memorable (good or bad) airplane flight?

I don’t remember where I was flying to or exactly when, but I remember the first time I took off on a rainy day and had the glorious experience of breaking through the clouds into brilliant sunlight.

How many bones, if any, have you broken?

Fortunately, I’ve made it through my life so far without breaking any bones. (And I’m now knocking on wood and hoping I haven’t seriously jinxed myself.)

If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be? (guest can be dead, alive, famous or someone you just know)

(1) my father, (2) my maternal grandmother, and (3) my paternal grandmother, all of whom died many years ago, long before I got to know them well and ask them about their own lives. Realizing way too late that we should have spent more time talking to the people in our lives before they died seems to be a nearly universal experience.

Make a Currently List: What are you reading, watching, listening to, eating, needing, wanting, and missing right now?

I just finished Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. Up next: Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.

We recently finished streaming the first two seasons of Bloodline on Netflix. We’re watching two TNT summer series, Major Crimes and Rizzoli & Isles. This is the final season for R & I, so it’s kind of bittersweet. And we’ve begun watching the series Thirteen on BBC America, about a kidnapped woman who has just escaped after being held captive for 13 years. We’ve only watched the opening episode so far (#2 waits on the DVR), so I can’t judge how this one is going to be, except to say that the first episode left me anticipating the second.

Listening to:
I’m not much of a music listener usually, but I have just finished the unabridged audiobook of Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling). This is a good mystery series with a couple of well developed main characters. Up next: End of Watch, the final volume of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes trilogy.

Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables from the farmers market. We’re bringing Guinness brats and potato salad to our community cookout on Monday, July 4th.

Lots more hours in the day. Doesn’t everyone?

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week we attended a home game of the Tacoma Rainiers (Triple A farm team of the Seattle Mariners), which we always enjoy. We also had our monthly Lunch Bunch excursion yesterday, another activity we almost always enjoy. For next week I’m hoping to get more writing done. (I think I many say this just about every week.) And we’re looking forward to celebrating the July 4th birthday of the U.S. with an outdoor cookout and gathering on Monday.

Have a good week, everyone.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown


Thanks to Cee for this week’s questions for the challenge SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2016 WEEK 25.


How many languages do you you speak?

Alas, I speak only English fluently. I still remember a few words and phrases from two years of high school French—enough to ask where the bathroom is.

I did my B.A. and M.A. in Latin and got so that I could read—as opposed to translate—it fluently, so I claim some credit for that. Knowing Latin also means that often I can look at a newspaper written in a Romance language and get the general idea of what a story is about.

But my trip to Europe a year ago made me realize that most Europeans speak at least one language other than their native tongue, and many speak two or more. I wish we here in the U.S. would start teaching languages to children in elementary school so that they could grow up speaking more than just English.

What are some words that just make you smile?

knees: for some reason knees just make me laugh, they’re so funny looking.

apprised of: people who say “I keep myself apprised of…” make me smile because they’re trying to sound SO important and authoritative.

Play ball!: I love baseball.

If you were the original architect of one existing building, which building would you select?

I have no idea. Architecture is just something I’m not apprised of. I’m usually more interested in what’s inside a building, such as a museum, a library, or a friend.

Well, OK, here’s one I might want to take credit for: the cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

Cologne cathedral

(Click to see a larger version.)

Would you rather have telepathy or telekinesis? (Telepathy is the communication using your brain waves, telekinesis is channeling the energy onto physical objects to cause substantial, observable physical changes.)

Definitely telepathy. Telekinesis might make for interesting party games, but telepathy would help me better understand other people. Of course there’s always the possibility that I might not like to learn what other people are thinking about me…

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week was a quiet one, without many meetings or activities. As a result, I got quite a bit of reading done. However, I like to change things up occasionally, and this week allows for that with a trip to Mount Saint Helens, a minor league baseball game, and a Lunch Bunch excursion.


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Sleep, Memory, Learning, Brain Function, and Mind Wandering

Examining Sleep’s Roles in Memory and Learning

Go ahead and take that nap. New research suggests that sleep can improve both memory and creativity.

Getting smarter

Brain-training games won’t boost your IQ, but a host of strategies can improve your cognitive abilities one piece at a time

brain02Psychologist Jeffrey M. Zacks of Washington University in St. Louis looks at various popular methods advertised to improve cognitive functioning, including brain-training games, drugs, subliminal training programs, electrical stimulation

His conclusion: “Sadly, most of the rapid cognitive enhancers currently being peddled are not very effective.” However, he adds, there are a few approaches that can make us better at performing specific functions, such as remembering people’s names: “we can all think better in specific domains if we engage in focused practice, and be smarter, happier and healthier if we take care of ourselves.”

Jerome S. Bruner, Who Shaped Understanding of the Young Mind, Dies at 100

Jerome S. Bruner, whose theories about perception, child development and learning informed education policy for generations and helped launch the modern study of creative problem solving, known as the cognitive revolution, died on Sunday [June 5, 2016] at his home in Manhattan. He was 100.

In his later work, Bruner applied ideas about thinking, culture, and storytelling to understanding legal and cultural issues.

Why Do Our Minds Wander?

sometimes, even without going to sleep, we turn away from the world. We turn inward. We are contemplative or detached. We decouple ourselves from the environment and we are set free, as it were, to let our minds play themselves.

Philosopher Alva Noë of the University of California, Berkeley, discusses the problems of studying when, why, and how our minds sometimes wander.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown




What is the most fun thing you did in school?

In elementary school, I thought everything was fun. Since going to school was an escape from an unhappy home life, I was always glad to be there and loved everything that happened there. In high school, chorus was my favorite extracurricular activity, although I still liked everything because I was just happy to be there.

What is your favorite type of dog? (can be anything from a specific breed, a stuffed animal or character in a movie)

Somebody else’s. I’ve never had a dog of my own. I’ve always been a cat person. I don’t really dislike dogs, and if you have one and allow me to, I’ll even pet it and scratch behind its ears. But then I’ll be glad to let you and your dog walk on. I just don’t want the responsibility of having to walk the dog two or three times a day and of having to board the dog when I want to travel.

You are invited to a party that will be attended by many fascinating people you never met. Would you attend this party if you were to go by yourself?

Almost certainly no. It’s not the being alone part that would prevent me. But I’m an introvert, and I don’t enjoy crowds. So unless you’re throwing a small party attended by people I already know and enjoy spending time with, I probably will gratefully decline the invitation.

Complete this sentence: Never In My Life Have I….

Been to Hawaii. However, that omission will be corrected within the next couple of years, I hope. In the meantime, I’ll continue to watch Hawaii Five-O, for the scenery more than the stories.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Happy Father’s Day:

Fathers Day 2016


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown