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author’s voice

Steven J. Paley, A77, E77

We all know that invention is 99 percent perspiration, but it’s that pesky 1 percent of inspiration that’s harder to pin down. Steven J. Paley, an inventor, entrepreneur, and teacher with more than twenty-five years of experience in business and technology, provides an inventor’s-eye view of the creative process. Although the book is geared toward would-be inventors and product designers, it will resonate with anyone who’s ever wrestled with a seemingly intractable problem.

A lot of inventing is about trusting your instincts. It’s not linear, rational, step-by-step thinking. It’s about being able to imagine something, immerse yourself in it, play with an idea, then let it go and trust that it will come back to you in a new form. This goes far beyond inventing products—it can be applied to solving any kind of problem.

Inventing is a science in the sense that you have to have an understanding of your subject matter and approach it in a disciplined way. But it’s an art in that there’s no cookbook formula for coming up with this stuff. It involves a complicated interplay of the subconscious and life experiences. Like an artist, you have to work with what’s underneath the surface and be sensitive enough so that when it comes out, you can grab it.

Naiveté is one of the greatest traits of an inventor. I look back at most of the things I’ve invented and say, “I must have been crazy or extremely naive to think I could do this.” One of the problems with education is that we tear away at that naiveté. Somebody who is an expert in a field knows too much and won’t take the risks. We invent things because we’re too dumb to know we can’t.

The solutions to complex problems are often right in front of us. It’s the idea of the hidden obvious. One of the best examples of this is the invention of Velcro. George de Mestral, a Swiss mountaineer and electrical engineer, came back from a hike and noticed that his clothes and his dog’s fur were covered with cockleburs. Most of us would see this as merely an annoyance. He looked at one of the burrs under the microscope and noticed that it was covered with tiny hooks. He wondered if he could use the same mechanism to design a new type of fastener.

Invention is something that sprouts from between the cracks of diverse areas of knowledge. My father was an inventor, and as a child, I used to travel with him to trade shows. This was his way of getting new ideas. The trade shows could be about anything from dental equipment to automobiles. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but he was building up an inventory of ideas in his mind. Eventually, he would make connections between completely unrelated things to develop a new invention or product.”

Summer Book Bonanza

Theories of International Politics and Zombies (Princeton)

The usual answer to “What do we do if zombies attack?” is “Run like hell.” But
Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School, puts his considerable braaaaiiiinnns to expanding the question. He asks, “What would different theories of international politics predict would happen if the dead began to rise from the grave and feast upon the living?” A brief survey of zombie films and novels ushers in an informative primer on the various schools of political scientific thought. We learn how a plague of the undead would be managed by foreign policy realists, liberals, neoconservatives, and constructivists. Liberals, for instance, would call for a World Zombie Organization to regulate the brain munchers, while realists would advocate a “live-and-let-live” strategy. All these approaches ultimately fall short, writes Drezner, because they’re “state-centric” and zombies are “non-state actors.” In other words, they present challenges similar to those posed by the real monsters threatening the global order: terrorism, climate change, and financial collapse. Now that’s food for brains.

Passing the Music Down (Candlewick)

Most nine-year-old boys who dream of meeting their idols envision rock stars or sports heroes, but Jake Krack had other ideas. In 1995, he traveled from Indiana to Clifftop, West Virginia, to meet Melvin Wine, an eighty-six-year-old folk fiddle player and recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA. Sarah Sullivan, J75, weaves a winsome children’s tale from the unlikely friendship that developed between the two musicians. In lyrical free verse, enhanced by Barry Root’s lush illustrations of the Appalachian countryside, she relates the unfolding of a tender mentor-apprentice relationship. As the young boy masters the old man’s unique bowing techniques, he promises to teach future generations the secrets of the haunting mountain music that captured his heart.

Ireland Unhinged: Encounters with a Wildly Changing Country (Council Oak)

In 2000, David Monagan, A74, moved his family from Connecticut to Ireland with visions of stone cottages, quaint pubs, and communities of warm, quirky locals jigging in his head. Instead, at the height of the “Celtic Tiger” boom, he encountered outsize SUVs and emerald fields plowed under for luxury housing developments. In this funny, clear-eyed memoir, Monagan traverses his adopted country in search of the authenticity he craves.

Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

The Pulitzer-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop published most of her work in The New Yorker. Her relationship with the magazine began in 1933 and continued until her death, in 1979. Joelle Biele, J91, has collected hundreds of letters that passed between Bishop and her famous editors, Katherine White (the wife of E.B. White, of Charlotte’s Web fame), Charles Pearce, and Howard Moss. The collection offers fascinating glimpses of both Bishop’s meticulous style of composition and the magazine’s painstaking editorial process. The patience that distinguishes their collaboration—it took more than five years to bring Bishop’s poem “Crusoe In England” to fruition—evoke wistful nostalgia for a time when print mattered, no matter how long it took to get right.

Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein (Penguin)

Wendy Wasserstein may have been her own best character. The first woman playwright to win a Tony award, she radiated the warm accessibility of the everywomen who populated plays such as The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweig. This authorized biography by Julie Salamon, J75, pulls back the curtain on a more complex performance. Wasserstein was born into a hyperachieving Polish immigrant family and early on learned that withholding the whole truth was essential to getting ahead. As the irreverent voice of a generation of women living through an era of dizzying change, she was at the center of New York’s theater elite. Yet almost no one knew she was pregnant when, at age forty-eight, she gave birth to a daughter, and fewer still were aware that she was ill when she died of lymphoma less than six years later.

Sweet Like Sugar (Kensington)

Benji Steiner is a confused gay twenty-something searching for love but too cynical to believe that a meaningful relationship is within his grasp. When Jacob Zuckerman, a grief-stricken elderly Orthodox rabbi, stumbles into Benji’s office one day, an unlikely friendship blossoms. Wayne Hoffman, A91, manages to fuse themes of sexual identity, tolerance, and religious reawakening into a sweet, surprising story about the transformative power of faith and acceptance.


Three Jumbo-made documentaries are hitting film festivals and PBS stations this spring. Looking for Lenny, coproduced by Carla Polkinhorn, J97, uses the life and work of the comedian Lenny Bruce to explore freedom of expression. In Our Summer in Tehran, Justine Shapiro, J85, takes her six-year-old son, Mateo, to the Iranian capital, where they summer in three different households—those of a religious family with ties to the government, a cosmopolitan, secular family, and an actress who is a single mother. Nancy Glass, J77, produced Race to the Bottom of the Earth (PBS), which follows Todd Carmichael as he attempts to become the first American to trek solo across Antarctica.


The Edna Project

Liz Queler, J81, and her husband, the Broadway pianist and conductor Seth Farber, have released this CD of twenty-one poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay that they have set to music. The marriage of modern folk and bluegrass and the words of the lyric poet is an inspired one. The duo’s sweet vocal harmonies and acoustic accompaniment highlight but never upstage the romance, candor, and bittersweet emotion of Millay’s verse.

Mysterious Power

Ezra Furman and the Harpoons—aka Adam Abrutyn, Ezra Furman, Job Mukkada (all A08), and Andrew Langer—recently released their third studio album. The group has been playing together since their first days at Tufts, and success—including a national tour, a record deal, and glowing press—came quickly. Here, Furman’s signature wail sets off first-rate storytelling in songs like “I Killed Myself But I Didn’t Die” and “Hard Time in a Terrible Land,” while the Harpoons’ exuberant folk punk lends the album a joyful ferocity.

Sides, Colors

Roberta Piket, J88, has earned a reputation as a virtuoso pianist and world-class jazz artist. Her seventh and newest CD brings bold experimentation and creative surprises. At its core is a trio consisting of Piket, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller, and drummer Billy Mintz, but strings, woodwinds, percussion, and organ add color and texture to a blend of original compositions and playful reinterpretations of standards. The CD includes Piket’s lilting take on Jule Styne’s “Make Someone Happy,” as well as a gorgeous arrangement of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “If I Loved You,” featuring voice, winds, and horn. Her own compositions draw from the modern jazz tradition and contemporary classical music.

Dagomba Drumming and Dance

David Locke, associate professor of music, has put his passion for African drumming online. Using materials he created with his teacher and research collaborator, Alhaji Abubakari Lunna, Locke compiled this comprehensive Web repository for research on the dance drumming tradition of the Dagomba people of northern Ghana. Locke worked with Tufts Digital Collections and Archives and University Information Technology on the interactive site, which features audio files, musical notations, and histories and interpretive texts. It’s at dagomba.uit.tufts.edu.



A painting by David Schor, A64, was recently featured on the cover of the international Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery. Schor’s portrait of Jeremiah, a yellow-naped Amazon parrot, was originally commissioned by the bird’s owners, a couple from Maine. This isn’t the first time one of Schor’s subjects has achieved fifteen minutes of fame. His painting of Skipper graced the cover of Dalmatian Quarterly, and Judo the Siamese cat has been reproduced on various articles of clothing. More at www.davidschor.com.

other books of note

MARK ANNER, A85, looks at how Latin American labor unions are weathering globalization in Solidarity Transformed (ILR/Cornell). Vortex of Conflict (Stanford Security Studies), by DAN CALDWELL, F71, analyzes U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. A pampered girl’s world is turned upside down when her corporate tycoon father is downsized in Everything I Was (Carolrhoda Lab), by CORINNE DEMAS, J68. Addressing nutrition, genetics, hormones, and stress, JAMES GREENBLATT, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the medical school and a pioneer in integrative medicine, lays out a whole-body approach to beating depression in The Breakthrough Depression Solution (Sunrise River). In Sunburnt Cities (Routledge), an examination of urban decline in the Sun and Rust belts, JUSTIN B. HOLLANDER, assistant professor of urban and environmental policy and planning, challenges the assumption that growth is the only way to sustain vibrant cities. In Stambeli (University of Chicago), RICHARD C. JANKOWSKY, assistant professor of music, presents an ethnographic account of the healing trance music of Tunisia, which originated with sub-Saharan slaves. JOSELIN LINDER, J98, tokes a beloved classic to new highs in her satire The Stoned Family Robinson (F&W Media), in which the titular family seeks out an island paradise to grow free-range marijuana. King Philip’s War (Johns Hopkins), by DANIEL R. MANDELL, G89, a historian at Missouri’s Truman State University, is an incisive account of the bloody conflict between European settlers and Native Americans in the 1600s. ROBERT MONACO, V90, shares his two passions—running and caring for animals—in ER to PR: Veterinary Medicine on the Run. In Changing Homelands (Harvard), NEETI NAIR, G05, refutes the traditional view that Muslims, not Hindus, were responsible for the partition of India in 1947. Death Troupe, by VINCENT O’NEIL, F96, concerns an annual murder mystery play that turns deadly. Loosely based on the Manson murders, Family (Egmont), by MICOL OSTOW, J98, uses episodic verse to tell the story of a vulnerable girl ensnared by a cult. DAVID PEISNER, A95, co-wrote Stephen “Steve-O” Glover’s memoir, Professional Idiot (Hyperion), relating the outrageous Jackass star’s shenanigans, addictions, and recovery. BRUCE SKLAREW, A54, and MYRA WEISBERG SKLAREW, J56, edited The Journey of Child Development: Selected Papers of Joseph D. Noshpitz (Routledge). Noshpitz was a leader in psychodynamics. Differentiated Assessment (Jossey-Bass), by EVANGELINE HARRIS STEFANAKIS, G95, helps educators adopt holistic methods of measuring student achievement. Three Americans crisscross Paris with their respective French tutors in the romantic novel French Lessons (Random House), by ELLEN SUSSMAN, J76. A vintage gown transports the twelve-year-old heroine of the Time-Traveling Fashionista (Little Brown), by BIANCA TURETSKY, J01, back to 1912, where she lands aboard the Titanic. A career interviewing high-fliers for CNN and CNBC gave DONALD VAN de MARK, A81, unique insight into the traits that spell not only success but self-actualization. He lays out the formula in The Good Among the Great (Columbia Island). ASHREF ZAHEDI, G80, co-edited Land of the Unconquerable (University of California), a collection of essays that paints a humane, three-dimensional portrait of Afghan women.

  © 2011 Tufts University Tufts Publications, 80 George St., Medford, MA 02155