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Alternative Index Card Folder Design for Hipster PDAs December 29, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Hipster PDA, how to, lifehack, Origami, Other.

For those of you who want something slightly different from all of those paper folders for index cards that you have begun to see all over the place, thanks to this site, here is an alternative design that I just discovered.  It is simple to fold, and a little more rigid, but must be folded from paper that is a little larger than standard size.  For the model below I used a very nice, heavy, ivory sheet of 11 x 17 inch paper that I cut down to 9 x 14 inches.

Lay the sheet flat like this.


Then fold the longer sides together, but only crease the left half.  Then open back up so it looks like this.


Then fold the two left corners even with the crease, like this.


Next, fold the bottom half up evenly.  The bottom fold should be slightly more than three inches deep, to accomodate the index cards, like this.


Then fold the top part down, so that it meets the crease at the bottom, being particularly careful to ensure that the right side is not taller than the left (because you will soon stuff the left side into the right, which is nearly impossible to do if the right side is smaller than the left).  Like this.


Then fold the right side toward the left and crease it.  You want to make sure that the left part is wider than five inches, so it will be wider than the green index card.  You want the right, folded, side to be somewhat smaller than that, which is why the blue index card is wider than the folded part.


Now fold the pointy part on the left over so that it is even with the crease on the right, like this.


Crease that and then unfold.  Put the pointy left part inside the slot in the right part and slide it in all the way.


The picture below shows the above model turned 90 degrees to the right, with index cards slipped into it and a sharpie parked there as well. 


Pretty nice, huh?

Books–What Would MacGyver Do? December 27, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, how to, lifehack, Other.

My wife got me several books for Christmas, ’cause she’s nice and knows what I like.  I’m sort of in the middle of one of them right now–What Would MacGyver Do?: True Stories of Improvised Genius in Everyday Life, by Brendan Vaughan–having already finished another one.  She says that she picked it up as sort of a joke, because she calls me MacGyver (I am usually able to fix stuff), but it is actually a pretty interesting read, pretty good light entertainment.  I confess I’m a little disappointed by the stories in it, though.  This is not due to my own record of saving the day with a paper clip.  It actually comes more from my memories of my brother. 

So here’s one such story. 

My Brother, my Mom and I are trying to get to (if I remember correctly) the Berkeley Yacht Club to pick my father up from a race of some sort.  Mom is driving a grey Volkswagen Squareback, and I am 12 years old.  My Brother is 13.   We are probably lost.  We are traveling over Highway 880, approximately the section that came down and killed all of those people during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but it is 1976, so the main source of danger is the same as other California freeways–other drivers.  Suddenly, the car loses power (theoretically it had some to begin with, like 40 horsepower).  We drift to a halt off the left side of the road. 

We sit there for a while hoping that someone will stop and help us.  There were no cell phones in 1976, and nobody was desperate enough to try to find one of those widely separated emergency phones yet.  So this guy stops and he offers to take a look at the engine, which is in the rear end of the car.  He opens it up to look and Mom tries to start it up while he examines it.  He points out that fuel leaks from the side of a tube when she steps on the gas.  Upon further examination, the tube is old and cracked on one side.  He tries some masking tape on it as a patch, but nothing will stick to the gasoline-soaked tube.  He offers to go get a tow truck or something and takes off. 

After he leaves, my brother pulls out a bic pen.  He pulls the tube out of one side and notices that the bic fits nicely into the tube, with a little work.  Then, after asking Mom if it is O.K., “doesn’t seem like it could hurt,” he takes a pocket knife and cuts out the cracked section, inserting the pen into the middle, crammed into the tubes on either end. 

Mom fires up the engine and we continue on our way, still lost, but moving.

So far I haven’t read any stories in this book (I’m on page 50) that come close to this, and he was 13 at the time.  And it’s just the one I happened to remember first, there are dozens of others.  The book is still a good read, well-written and has some interesting tales in it.  My favorite thing about it has to be the memories it unearthed, though.

New Name Now December 24, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Other.

Just in time for Christmas.  Thanks to everyone who submitted suggestions.  I figured this covered most of the things I do on this blog and intend to do in the future.  Covers paper folding and books and writing and all of that.  Plus, it seems to leave room for other stuff. 

And it is certainly more descriptive than the previous name.  Frankly, the other name was a little troubling.  Periodically people would click on the site after searching phrases like “what should I do if my vomit is purple” in Google.  These are not people whose search for information I wish to impede.

Name that Blog December 21, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, bookmooch, Books, Constructivism, Education, Hipster PDA, how to, librarything, lifehack, Lowell, luck or time, Market Research, Massachusetts Drivers, Origami, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0, writing.

Davidbdale brought to my attention yesterday, late at night, when I had already had a particularly difficult day, the fact that there is a blog called “as a blog returns to its vomit” which is run by a pastor, somewhere in the Midwest, probably.  Why did this bring me even lower?  Well, david saw this blog, which does not even have an open comment thread, in WordPress’s list of fast-growing blogs and thought that it was mine.  (No, david, mine’s the blog that’s hardly growing at all.)  And it bothered me because I really should have thought about the name a little more before I started this thing, and I should have checked for others using the name, or variants thereof.

In an earlier post I said that I was thinking about making some changes to this thing, more drastic ones than the accretive ones and annoying changes of backgrounds and themes that I normally make.  Well, let’s add a name change to the list.  The name of this blog doesn’t really reflect the content of the site, or the community that reads it, or really anything important.  And pastor whatever-his-name-is seems to have gotten the name first anyway (in March, I think.)

So I am changing the name temporarily to Pro Tempore (another nod to davidbdale, who needles me about my use of Latin).  This will not affect any links that you have made to this blog.  They will still appear as the original name and will still link here, because I am not changing the URL.  But as the name implies, this is a temporary measure.  I would really like some suggestions as to what to call this thing going forward (accordingly, I have tagged it with most of the tag categories I normally use, so that people who read this tag-surfing will get a chance to chime in here.)

So, tell me what to call this blog.  The prize will be, I don’t know yet.  Suggest something for that too.  I’d like to hear from everybody who reads it.  That means you too, Mom, Dad.  And I’d particularly like to hear from those of you with descriptive names that seem to work so well for your blogs.  That would be davidbdale, whose blog name describes exactly the content of his site, as does strugglingwriter’s, prairie flounder’s and some of the others on my blogroll.

No jacket required? December 20, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in bookmooch, Books, Other.

I just got my first negative feedback from somebody who mooched a book from me through bookmooch.  Yeah, it bothers me a little, I guess.  Everybody looks for different things in a book, and I guess the jacket was pretty important to this person, who said that I should have noted that it had no jacket when posting it in my inventory.  Perhaps I should have told him that bookmoochers are able to place requirements on books that they mooch.  I have often refused transactions from people who say that they will accept no books that smell of cigarette smoke, for example.  I don’t smoke, but I don’t have that great a sense of smell, so I won’t vouch for a book’s smell.  And I won’t ask my wife to smell books for me.

Anyway, this morning I quickly went to my inventory on bookmooch and amended all of the hardcover book listings I have to note the following:

“This book probably doesn’t have a dust jacket.  I say “probably” because I usually throw them away before I even read the book.  If a book is on a shelf, the jacket will not protect it from dust, unless you are sitting on the couch flinging dust at the book’s spine.  If you want the book so that it looks nice on your coffee table and your house is dusty and you fear that this dust will have harmful effects upon the solid cardboard cover of the book then you should probably get it from someone else.”

But maybe that’s a little unsympathetic to this person’s point of view.  I realize that there are all kinds of people out there.  I’m just one of those people who flings these things in the garbage because they are so annoying.  When you are reading a book they often slip and the book slowly slides out of your hands.  I find this distracting.  And I guess I never really cared whether other people could tell what book I was reading.  If they want to know, I am happy to tell them.

I have noticed that many people keep their book jackets.  I never really figured out why, though.  I guess I always assumed that it had more to do with the fact that people don’t think about these things, or that most people are somewhat neater than I am. 

Do you keep them?  Do you toss them?  Why?  I really do want to know.  Leave a comment, please.

Fold Legal Paper into CD/DVD Folder December 18, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in how to, lifehack, Origami, Other.
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I hate those crystal cases that come with CDs, partially because they take up space, oddly shaped space.  But I do like the little envelopes that some CDs come in, and those little sleeve things that Netflix uses for DVDs.  So I was looking for a better way to make my own sleeves.

I have seen a few CD/DVD patterns out there on the web, but they all seem unnecessarily complicated (non-standard paper sizes, etc.)  Here is a way to fold a legal-sized piece of paper into a CD/DVD folder that is almost too easy.  I have adapted it from an envelope design I saw somewhere on the web but have, as yet, been unable to re-locate.  Luckily it was easy enough to remember.  If somebody out there knows where it came from, let me know.  I’d like to credit the site.

Anyway, take a piece of regular 8.5 x 14 inch paper (the one I use here I have printed on one side a map of oil wells in Los Angeles, to make it easier to see the folds) and fold one corner flush with the other side like this (click on the thumbnail to see a larger picture):


Then unfold it and repeat that fold with the opposite corner, like this:


Then take both of them and create a squash fold in the middle, like this:

31.jpgThis part can be a little tricky for those who haven’t done a squash fold before.  Start with the bottom corner, then hold it down while you crease upward, making sure that the previous folds line up in the middle.

Then fold the top-right corner down, tucking it into the bottom corner, like this:


At this point you could put a CD or a DVD in it, like this:


And then take the top-left corner and tuck it into the bottom corner.


And that’s it.  There is enough extra room for more than one CD, plus different compartments, so that they don’t rub against one another. 

New Header Again December 14, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Lowell, Massachusetts Drivers, Other.

That’s a new header picture up above.  I took it on the way to work the other day.  I know it’s not the only street like this in the world, or even in Massachusetts, but it just completely mindsplats me every time I drive by it.  Both of the signs, the one reading “Grosvenor” and the one reading “Broulette” are for the same street.  The street perpendicular to this oddity is called “Middlesex Avenue.”


Some maps I have seen call this street Grosvenor.  Yahoo Maps just calls it Broulette.  The picture above is from the folks at Google, who are covering all the bases (notice how the lower street in yellow has three different names in that small frame).  You can’t tell from the map, of course, but the street is only about fifty meters long, tops.  It’s unclear where exactly the street changes its name.  Perhaps the residents know.  I wonder if it causes them problems with their mail service. 

When I first moved to Massachusetts I lived on First Street Blvd.  Yeah, it is a boulevard called “First Street.”  It is also called, along a three mile stretch the following names:

  • Merrimack Avenue
  • Highway 110
  • The VFW Highway
  • Pawtucket Boulevard

None of this seems to bother anybody else out here. 

Once when I was much younger a man named Bono sang a song about a place where “the streets have no names.”  I’d settle for a place where streets just have one name, but I think I know how he was feeling.

But that’s not how I feel right now.  Right now I feel conflicted about this blog and about my career.  Thus the new header.

Books and LibraryThing IV December 13, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, librarything, Market Research, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0.
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A little addendum to the last post.  Apparently Mr. Tim Spaulding is the Founder of LibraryThing.  Crikey!

Books and LibraryThing III December 13, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, librarything, Market Research, My other blog, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0.
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Tim Spaulding of LibraryThing writes:

“Well, why not just have LT add a field for putting that sort of data in, so that it can come up with percentages for personality types, signs and so forth. *Tagging* should be about the book, not the tagger. The tagger’s metadata resides one level up, right?”

I am deeply flattered that Tim, who apparently works at LibraryThing, would comment on my post.  I’m not at all sure what that bit about residing “one level up” means, because I am primarily a user of other peoples’ data.  This means that most of my databases are something I create by stringing together data from a wide variety of different sources, splicing them with available key variables and demographic data.  But Tim does pose an interesting question in the rest of it, to which I’d like to respond.

My offhand response, formulated while in the shower this morning, was going to be “well, Tim, companies, in my experience, just don’t move quickly enough to make that sort of change.  It would take quite a while, I imagine, to get LibraryThing to take note of the advantages of doing anything different.”  That obviously doesn’t make any sense, in this case, because this is clearly a company that moves quickly and thinks deeply about things, too.  And to add a field for this sort of thing might be a good way for LibraryThing to go about this sort of tagging.  I’d be happy to remove my tags and place them in the profile section, I guess, if LibraryThing would rather do it that way. 

But I disagree that tagging should be about the book and not the tagger.  One of the advantages of tagging is that it says as much about the perspectives of the tagger as it does about the book.  Tagging is about both, and more.  For example, I just finished reading Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series of books.  I could tag the books as science fiction, but that information is already coded in their LC and Dewey numbers, which LibraryThing makes available to us (and thank you, LibraryThing, for doing that.)  But later today I will tag them with some other tags that reflect my use of these books.  I am interested in these books because they show how libertarian science fiction novelists dealt with racial tension during the 1960s and 1970s.  In that respect they are similar to Robert Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold.  They also play with the idea of free will and predestination, possible absorption of the soul into a godhead, that sort of stuff.  So I’ll tag them with something about some Hindu ideas, like Samsara, or Atman and Brahman.  I’m currently reading Greg Bear’s Blood Music, which somebody told me is about nanotechnology.  It is not, but Bear’s vision of absorption into a larger community and the loss of individuality forms one of the recurring themes of Farmer’s book.  If I tag Bear’s book with the tag “Riverworld,” is this information about Bear’s book, my perception of Bear’s book, my perception of Farmer’s book, or Farmer’s book? 

When I was in graduate school I read Carlo Ginsburg’s marvelous The Cheese and the Worms.  Ginzburg studied the court proceedings of a trial of the Italian (if I remember correctly) Inquisition.  Now the court records recounted trial proceedings and the responses of the accused heretic.  But Ginzburg managed to pull from these records a story about how a 15th Century miller viewed cosmology–that’s what the records were about to him.  But to their writers they were about proper procedure.  Ginzburg’s book, to me, is about historical method, cultural studies, reader-response criticism, and that sort of thing.  If I tag the book this way, I am intruding sharply into your book-centered vision for tagging, aren’t I?

It seems to me that tags reflect information about a book, but also invariably reflect the reader’s ideas about what the book is about, which is a slightly more distant relationship, logically and grammatically, but often even more useful.

Take an example from Flickr, to simplify the discussion a little.  People assign tags to pictures based on what they think is important in a picture.  Maybe you take a picture of a bridge, but other people tag it “purple” because that’s what they are interested in.  If a lot of people use that tag, then more and more of the information stored in that tag represents a weird societal interest in the color purple, rather than the fact that the picture has purple in it.  The more people fixate on that, the more of the tag’s information reflect’s taggers’ interests.  Perhaps this weird societal interest in purple will go away in a little while; maybe it is just a fad.  If the information about people’s interest in purple is only in their profile, it is not stored with the date information about when they were interested in purple.  Placing it in a profile fixes it in time and space.  Well, I guess I didn’t simplify anything with that example.  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that tags contain both information about users and about the thing they are using, whether a book, a picture, a website, or whatever. 

But there is something else I am trying to get across, and that is that while LibraryThing is very responsive, clearly, to its user community, other companies aren’t necessarily.  Why not go into my Flickr account and tag pictures I like with my personality as well?  Why not do the same in my del.icio.us account for websites I like?  If users have to have companies create a database field every time they want to record personal information, it makes signing up for new accounts a little onerous, doesn’t it (warning, possible startup company idea)?

And unless LT allows people to include what might be termed “profile tags” in their profile (eg.: Capricorn, Masochist, Chocolate Lover) and search these tags right along with the tags these users applied to books, it would be pretty limiting.  Will LT Do that?  It would be really, really cool. 

Books and LibraryThing II December 12, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, librarything, Other, web 2.0.

O.K., I’m still thinking about books and LibraryThing. There was a lot of noise about LibraryThing last week, which mostly seemed to come from the slashdotting of its new feature “the unsuggester.” A neat gimmick, and I hope it steered a lot of people to the LibraryThing site.  I think that for people who love books and are always looking for books that they will like, and aren’t willing to slog though bad reading suggestions, LibraryThing is something to take very seriously. Today a short speculative post on metatags, folksonomies, and LibraryThing.

Tagging, as I’m sure you know, is a great way for individuals to organize their books. But it is also an important new research tool that, with the advent of LibraryThing, allows everybody to see how other people organize their books, and what they think about them. This is the beauty of tagging in any environment, whether using del.icio.us to organize websites or tagging on your own blog to make things easier to find in technorati. But there’s another possibility that I’d like to consider, and that is a sort of hybrid combining cataloging systems, which I call user-created, community standardized demographic metadata. Adam Mathes calls traditional cataloging, like Library of Congress or the Dewey Decimal System, expert-assigned systems of categorization—professional- and author-created metadata. He calls tagging a user-assigned system of categorization—user-created metadataUser-created, community-standardized demographic metadata (just rolls off the tongue, don’t it?) is like tagging with a personal twist.  Since we are all experts about ourselves (and sometimes experts on other stuff as well) we can easily apply an additional system of categorization that makes even more information available to others who might share our interests.This is a system whereby we attach personal data as tags. There might be a number of relevant tags that, with some small degree of standardization, would provide interesting tools not only for analysis and research, but for identifying, say, books we might like to read. This method will, in some form, be a large part of the semantic web, like it or not, so this here’s just a first step.  Since I like books, and LibraryThing is relatively new, it is a good place to start with it. Here’s what I suggest:

Those of you who know something about your personality type, use this as a tag on the books you really like. I will tag all of my books with MBTI-INTJ. INTJ is my personality type based on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. I will tag all of my books with the year I was born, b1964, so that people will know that the person who said he liked that book (based on the number of stars I assigned it) was born in 1964.  I will also use the tag r2006 for books I read in 2006. That way I can tag a book that I read when I was a teenager with that date, say r1978, and people will know that it was a book that somebody with my basic personality liked at that age. Finally, I will tag my books with the geographical location where I read the book (on the off-hand chance that southerners, for example, have different reading interests than those from, say, Massachusetts. I don’t know my GPS location, which I imagine this will have to be translated into eventually, but my country and zipcode should be good enough for now.

So, a minimal tagging taxonomy would look like this:

  • MBTI-XXXX (Personality-type as defined by the MBTI)
  • bXXXX (Birthdate of reader)
  • rXXXX (Date at which book was read)
  • US01854 (Geographic position of person who read the book at the time they read it—Country abbreviation followed by zipcode.)

If you have any interest at all in this, just look at my library in LibraryThing and look at the tags I have set up there for my books.

One of the nice things about such a system is that when you are looking at the tags of your own library, or of another individual’s library, these do not affect the appearance of a “tag cloud” because they should be the same on every book in either. However, they will affect the appearance of tag clouds for certain books, because certain personality types might like them better, or people of a certain age might.

I’m sure that some people might object to this sort of personal disclosure, and of course it is entirely voluntary, so go ahead, object.  But the thing to remember here is that companies are making a lot of money already from knowing all of this stuff about you. I think that one of the important advantages of the internet, blogging, and Web 2.0 is that they allow people to take some small measure of control over information that has heretofore been owned by large conglomerates. The more we little people know about the world and each other, the more open the sources of our data become, the more power we will have. Not fomenting revolution, here, and I am trying to be realistic.

Oh, and the LibraryThing FAQ answers the question: Is LibraryThing a dating service?  Well, with people tagging their books with their personality type, it will be easy to use LibraryThing as a dating service.  So, I’m sorry about that. . .

Anyway, I’m interested in hearing peoples’ thoughts on this.  Is  anybody already attempting this sort of cataloging, or attempting to start some naming conventions for tagging in some other site or medium?   Please leave a comment so that I can at least clarify the muddy points of the above.