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John Cleese: Create a Tortoise Enclosure for Your Mind

"I want to be as well-informed as I can possibly be before I die" -John Cleese, in a speech on creativity, sleeping on problems, rewrites, and creating "tortoise enclosures" for your mind by creating boundaries of space and time. This is a brilliant little ten-minute talk for anyone who's interested in writing or any other creative pursuit. I wish it went on longer, as this man really does have a lot to say about his subject.

Here's a sample quote:

"When I suddenly discovered that I could sit down with a blank sheet of paper and two hours later I could have written something that then made people laugh -- this was an extraordinary moment for me, and I thought, 'My goodness, I am creative.' So, because I had been brought up as a scientist -- I got into Cambridge on Science -- I started observing what was going on when I was creating.

"... The first thing that I noticed was that when I was trying to write a sketch at night and I got stuck or I couldn't think of an ending, or I couldn't see how to continue the sketch, I would go to bed. And when I woke up in the morning and made myself a cup of coffee and went back to my desk and looked at the problem, not only was the solution to this problem immediately apparent to me, but I couldn't even remember what the problem had been the previous night. ... I began to believe that this business of 'sleeping on the problem' ... was absolutely extraordinary."

Another choice Cleese nugget after the jump.

"To know how good you are at something requires the same skills that it does to be good at that thing. Which means, if you're absolutely hopeless at something, you lack exactly the skills that you need to know that you're absolutely hopeless at it. And this is a profound discovery. That most people who have absolutely no idea what they're doing, have absolutely no idea that they have no idea what they're doing. It explains a great deal of life. It explains, particularly, Hollywood."

(Via Kung Fu Grippe, the awesome blog of Merlin Mann; he got it from Tape Noise Diary who got it from Broadcasting Brain, update: who got it from Ewan McIntosh, who got it from Tessy, who got it from Benjamin Ellis.)

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Food
Learn to Spot the Sneaky Psychological Tricks Restaurants Use
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While dining out, you may have noticed (but perhaps didn’t question) some unusual features—like prices missing dollar signs, or burgers served on plates that could accommodate a baby cow.

These aren’t just arbitrary culinary decisions, as the SciShow’s Hank Green explains in the video below. Restaurants use all kinds of psychological tricks to make you spend more money, ranging from eliminating currency symbols (this makes you think less about how much things cost) to plating meals on oversize dinnerware (it makes you eat more). As for the mouthwatering language used to describe food—that burger listed as a "delectable chargrilled extravagance," for example—studies show that these types of write-ups can increase sales by up to 27 percent.

Learn more psychological tricks used by restaurants (and how to avoid falling for them) by watching the video below. (Or, read our additional coverage on the subject.)

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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