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9 Famous Authors’ Favorite Workday Snacks

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getty images / istock

Writers are famously ritualistic. Some have favorite desk decorations or can only work during particular hours of the day. And some, like these nine, have specific food requirements.

1. Agatha Christie

Christie's favorite mug may have read, "Don’t be greedy," but according to her grandson, that was “an injunction she never showed any sign of obeying.” She used it to drink heavy cream—no coffee. For a snack, she had scones and Devonshire cream ... minus the scones.

2. Victor Hugo

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Hugo began his mornings with a cup of coffee, just like most people. But he dropped two raw eggs in before chugging it down.

3. Honore de Balzac

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Balzac was also fond of coffee, by which I mean he was addicted to the stuff on a level that probably needed treatment. The author reportedly drank as many as 50 cups of coffee per day, and even ate whole beans between mugs if he needed a little extra kick. (He would often go on milk-only diets to alleviate his chronic stomach pains, but always came back to coffee.)

4. John Steinbeck

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Steinbeck wasn’t married to a specific diet—he tended to follow the crowd at chow time while traveling—but when left to his own devices, he frequently made posole from his very simple recipe: “a can of beans and a can of hominy.”

5. Michael Crichton

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Crichton revealed in a 60 Minutes interview that while he was working on a novel he ate a ham and cheese sandwich every day, which he had pre-made and waiting in the refrigerator alongside cans of Coke.

6. Daniel Handler

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Handler, more unfortunately known as Lemony Snicket, has somewhat healthier worktime munchies: "I write longhand on legal pads, about half at home and half in cafés. I drink a lot of water and eat a lot of raw carrots."

7. Stephen King

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King began drinking tea each morning sometime in the ‘70s, which he’s mentioned many times over the years. He also told Bon Appetit that he likes to have cheesecake before he sits down to work, and that he married his wife, novelist Tabitha King, because she made good fish. But not all seafood is fair game: “I don’t eat oysters. It’s horrible, the way they slither down your throat alive,” he said.

8. Emily Dickinson

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Dickinson's love of baking is nearly as well documented as her poetry. She baked bread each day, and sometimes lowered baskets of baked goods through the window to the neighborhood children. While in the kitchen, she scrawled poems on the backs of packaging and scrap papers.

9. H. P. Lovecraft

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Lovecraft was a fan of spaghetti, but what he really seemed to love was the mountain of cheese he piled on top. And he didn’t limit his dairy intake to dinnertime; each day, he had a doughnut and a hunk of cheese for breakfast.

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An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
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Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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Vivid Imagery Makes Poetry More Pleasurable, According to Psychologists
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Contrary to what English teachers led us to believe, most readers don’t judge poetry based on factors like alliteration and rhyme. In fact, a new study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts suggests that vivid imagery (i.e. sense-evoking description) is what makes a poem compelling, according to Smithsonian.

To determine why some poetic works are aesthetically pleasing while others are less so, researchers from New York University and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany, had more than 400 online volunteers read and rate 111 haikus and 16 sonnets. Participants answered questions about each one, including how vivid its imagery was, whether it was relaxing or stimulating, how aesthetically pleasing they found it, and whether its content was positive or negative.

Not surprisingly, taste varied among subjects. But researchers did find, overall, that poems containing colorful imagery were typically perceived as more pleasurable. (For example, one favorite work among subjects described flowers as blooming and spreading like fire.) Emotional valence—a poem's emotional impact—also played a smaller role, with readers ranking positive poems as more appealing than negative ones. Poems that received low rankings were typically negative, and lacked vivid imagery.

Researchers think that vivid poems might also be more interesting ones, which could explain their popularity in this particular study. In the future, they hope to use similar methodology to investigate factors that might influence our enjoyment of music, literature, and movies.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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