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Which words do you own?–Second Effort May 31, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Haiku, linguistics, Other, vocabulary.
4 comments

[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a somewhat weekly basis.]

Today’s volunteer is the blog Second Effort, which is run by a man operating under the nom de blog The Curmudgeon.  Sad to say this but I actually had to look up curmudgeon in the dictionary to ensure that I knew what the word meant.  I had connotations aplenty involving Walter Matthau and Grandpa Simpson, but I wanted to be sure.  My dictionary wasn’t all that helpful, since it seemed to contradict the aforementioned pop-culture connotations, and itself.  “Dealer in corn”?  “Miser”?  “Churl”?  There’s another one to look up.  But I digress. Often. You know I do, because otherwise why so many parentheses?

At any rate, The Curmudgeon added quite a few words to the database, 717 of them to be exact, for which I am eternally thankful.  I took a sample of 28,931 words from his blog, which he posted between March 15 – May 14 (inclusive).  In that sample he used 4,490 different words, which may be some kind of record, actually.  It seems pretty far from the norm, but I would have to check the records to say for sure.  Suffice it to say at this time that the sample I took from my own eclectic and highly literate blog yielded only 3,100 unique words. 

Here is a word cloud comprised of the words that he used more than twice and was the only blogger, out of the 21 sampled thus far (by the way, goodthomas, I did not include your story about the dog in this) to use. 

curonlycloud.jpg

In case you are wondering about the biggest word, “sox,” I am pretty sure that like quite a few other words, it comes from geographical considerations.  I wondered why it wasn’t picked up as a mis-spelling, which is part of the process by which I delete names from the database.  Turns out that it is also a word.  According to the OED, sox are “A light and usually heelless covering for the foot, capable of being easily slipped on, and chiefly employed for indoor wear.”  I have no earthly idea how MS Word’s dictionary knew this, because I certainly did not add this one in. 

Anyway, here’s another copy of the same cloud, in a font called “Curlmudgeon.”  Whatever.

curmonly-fnt.jpg

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words.  The left lobe consists of words that were new in the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle lobe consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently The Curmudgeon used them in the sample.  And the right lobe consists of words which everyone else sampled thus far has used, but that The Curmudgeon did not, sized by frequency of use. 

curvenn.jpg

It seems fairly obvious to me that The Curmudgeon is an attorney (plaintiff, justices, consular, pleadings, etc.) living in Chicagoland (cubs, sox, tribune) and that the sample was taken during the spring (nappy-headed, cicadas). 

And finally, here is another effort by my Haiku-generating algorithm, which stumbled on only one word this time, one that simply had too many uses.  I fixed it by hand.

Dog-eared communicants,
boomers in parades for
skittish son’s gadgets.

I started reading Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things last week and was struck by how he got the inspiration for the title of his book.  He awakened from a dream and the phrase “fragile things,” was part of a larger phrase that came out of the dream and rambled around in his head.  His attempt to assign meaning to the seemingly meaningless phrase generated a narrative.  Simple as that.  So, start by explaining the dog-eared communicants.  Finish with the most talked-about movie of the summer. I leave the middle part out as an exercise for the reader.

As always, the vocabulary clouds and Haiku are the property of the volunteer, except that said volunteer may not have them taken off of my site and stuff but may otherwise do with them what he wishes.  Thanks for participating, Mr. Curmudgeon.

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Meme of Eight May 29, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in luck or time, memes, Other.
8 comments

Canterbury Soul tagged me with this meme, at an opportune time.  I had been thinking that I might do a couple of more personal posts this month.  I found it a difficult meme, though.  Every time I think of something to add to the list I want to save it and do a full post on it.  Eight random facts/habits would get me through two weeks of posts. Plus, randomness is simply not an option, I think (notwithstanding the Reimann-Zeta Function and Wolfram’s cellular automata and other methods.  I don’t believe that humans do randomness well, at least I don’t.

Anyway, here I go:

1) I take my dog, Maggie, outside at least three or four times a day.  In the spring and summer I wander around the yard with her (we don’t have a fenced-in yard) and look for four-leafed clover.  I have found nine of them this year so far.  There is a trick to it, by the way.  Maybe a couple of them.  I found this article linked the other day on Boing-Boing, and it contains some hints.  I’ll post some more later this week, maybe.

2) You know how some people say they were simply born that way, like some people say they are a man living in a woman’s body or vice-versa?  I’m like that with glasses.  I’m a nearsighted person in the body of someone who has almost perfect 20-20 vision.  I went to the optometrist today and practically had to beg him to prescribe glasses for me.  You see, at night sometimes distant lights look a little blurry, which I find irritating while I’m driving.  He said that only a person used to perfect vision would be irritated by what I was seeing.  So be it.  I just feel like a glasses-wearing person and I always have.

3) I don’t have many habits, really.  I seem to be able to stop doing anything I habitually do very easily.  This is a good thing and a bad thing.  I don’t have any intractable bad habits.  But I don’t have any permanent good ones either.  Everything seems to take an effort of will–every time.

4) Pretty much every day I send a letter or a postcard to my spouse, through the regular mail.  (Not a habit, actually–see above–as I have proven by slacking off miserably in the last two months because of mounting job pressures and other external things.  But now I have restarted this.)  I do this because I am not the most romantic person in the world.  Having a thing that I do that seems romantic and thoughtful (well, it is thoughtful) helps our relationship. 

5) I read a lot.  And I read fast, averaging maybe 500 words per minute.  I have a little widget on the right side of this blog that I set up to let people like my Mom know what I am currently reading.  It is too much trouble to update it most of the time.  Over the last two months I have read all of Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher” novels (except for the latest one published last week), most of them in a couple of days, so what’s the point of updating something that will only get one day of exposure?  I like to read pretty much anything except fiction written before the Second World War.  I make exceptions from time to time, but these things really slow me down.  And I find that I just cant identify with the main characters, or maybe I just read them too fast and my comprehension suffers accordingly.

6) I married the valedictorian of my high school class.  We didn’t date, really, until after she graduated from college, although we were friends (the kind of friends that nerdy high school guys do not want to be with attractive young women but are often told by these attractive women that that is what they [the women] want them [the nerd] to be, in relation to themselves. . . . Anyway, it was worth the wait. 

7) I was really skinny when I graduated from high school–six-foot three, maybe 160 lbs.  Then I got a job moving furniture while I was in college, heavy hardwood furniture.  After a summer of that I could bench-press 200 lbs, which was a sort of fad at my high school the year before.  Guys went around wearing shirts (sometimes half-shirts . . . the early 1980s) that said “200 Club” on them.  I never got one, because I had already graduated, and I would have looked stupid wearing such a thing after having left high school.  Anyway, I’m a no-longer emaciated-looking six-foot six, 200 lbs, with muscles, if you know where to look, and the light is right. 

8) In graduate school I learned to paint.  I’m a little out of practice now, but the guy who taught me was a well-known landscape painter and art teacher, shown in New York, Baltimore, and Ketchum, probably other places too.  He taught me to paint while we painted a dining hall at the University.  I can’t paint landscapes or anything, but I can paint perfectly straight lines and absolutely even walls and trim.

I’m supposed to tag eight others with this.  Most of the people on my blogroll don’t seem interested in memes.  Regardless, I’m tagging A Bronte Kind of Day, Anxious Mofo, and then what?, Eclectic Garden, Susan, The Abused Book Liberation Project, Questioning Reality, and maryjunebrown.  I tried to makes sure that you haven’t done this meme already, but it is beginning to seem like most have.  I didn’t make these active links because they are already on my roll, and because I’ll tell them on their comment threads, sometime tomorrow.  I’m out of time today.

Rules:

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.

2. People who are tagged write their own blog post about their 8 things and post these rules.

3. At the end choose 8 people to get tagged and list their names.

4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and to read your blog.

Basic Needs May 25, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, coffee, Dogs, memes, Other.
2 comments

I was over at The Moon Topples this morning, checking up on Maht, and I found him doing this old meme that interested me (he got it from Good Thomas, but it has been bouncing around the intertubes for some time, apparently).  You take your first name and query Google with it thusly (including the quotation marks): “Firstname needs” and then hit “return.”  So I decided to do this thing.

My first name is Dane, which narrowed the scope of the answers somewhat.  Most of the sites used the word “Great” before my name, which is nice, flattering.  But I am modest.  The reason I got a Ph.D. was so that the word “Doctor” could be used before my name, thus keeping people from saying “great” all the time.  It was that or find a way to get knighted.  Anyway, there were still 2,500 or so hits.  What do I need?  What do all humans need?

First of all, I need shelter.  Something like half the answers had to do with shelter of some kind:

  • home
  • a New Home!
  • foster or forever home!
  • temp foster or perm home!
  • to Go Home
  • a home by this Friday

 Some were more specific than others, of course, with regard to location or type:

  • a large house with a big yard with a fence at least six feet high
  • home or transport in Missouri
  • home in SC
  • a good home
  • warm sleeping quarters
  • furnished room ASAP

And a few suggested that shelter was not as important an issue as location, which is one of the things that realtors say, too.  But I’m going to have to go with the overwhelming majority on this and disagree.  I may need “placing in Calif Bay Area,” or “to come to Indy,” but I assure you that it still gets cold there at night and during the winter.  And although I might need, after all, “to cum play in hammond, LA,” the playing would end at some point and it would be time to sleep.  The sites that claimed that I need “a place to stay while I am away” are absolutely correct.  At any rate, I have a house, and it is clear to me that I cannot do without it.  And I am thankful for the reminder to count my blessings. 

Next on my list of needs is food and exercise.  There is some disagreement about how much food, though, and how much exercise.

  • 3300 calories, not 6600
  • only a moderate amount of exercise
  • plenty of exercise, at the very least a long daily walk
  • more exercise

For some, the food and exercise weren’t enough, and they would have you believe that I need “a great deal of food and exercise,” plus “careful training when young.”  Well, it’s too late for that now, if so.  But some weren’t specific about exactly when the training had to be done but had something to say regarding how.

  • daily exercise and a persistent trainer
  • firm yet gentle training

Health care is important, too.  And many sites mentioned this need, some more specifically than others.

  • little coat care
  • a lot of preventive care
  • to be scared into going to doctors and the dentist
  • urgent hip surgery
  • special medical care
  • to be registered through OFA-Orthopedic Foundation for Animals

Everyone needs family, too, and some sites hit this theme, even suggesting particular requirements.

  • new family
  • to be treated as part of the family and introduced to as many normal daily occurrences as possible
  • a family who is willing to coach him in developing skills with his peers

Well, new family is always nice.  May I suggest a niece or nephew?  As to the other two, I think my family satisfies those requirements.  Finally, there were those needs that I found more difficult to classify:

  • ID tags and registration
  • to find a cheap car
  • a lift
  • a friend
  • time and patience with someone who already has experiences with dogs
  • to start his Dream
  • TO SING MORE
  • to jump-start his movie career
  • help
  • rescue
  • a Job
  • a Second Miracle
  • to break into Chuck’s lab and pee in his coffee
  • sites to photo odes
  • a wii
  • action
  • Your Help!
  • to do his time to pay for his crime
  • volunteers to help work at our information booth at the Juneteenth Festival this Saturday, June 17 in Penn Park
  • volunteers to help table and hand out literature for 1-hour or 2-hour shifts between noon and 5 p.m. on Sunday
  • to prove his innocence of a charge of sexual assault before he will propose a real marriage to his beloved

Some of these seem like needs and some seem like wants.  It is always hard for Americans to tell the difference, I suppose.  All I know is that Chuck better brew his own for a while.

Which words do you own?–Dayngrous Discourse May 24, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Haiku, linguistics, Other, vocabulary.
16 comments

[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a somewhat weekly basis.]

Today’s wordclouds and diagrams and Haiku are from Dayngrous Discourse.  Dayngr was the first B-list blogger to volunteer for this study, conducted on my “T-list” blog.  So I was very excited and nervous about the results.  And she has my hearty thanks.  I hadn’t read her blog before, but I can highly recommend it.  Reading her post of May 21 I felt bad that I have (repeatedly, wilfully, inadvisedly) broken at least two of her rules for good blogging.  So let it be said that I will be doing a post about myself later this week, partially as a response to being tagged with the Meme of Eight earlier this week by Canterbury Soul.  And I will try to comment on your blog more often, dear reader.  I really will.  There is no excuse, I know this.

So having got that off my chest, I took a sample of 28,000 words from Dayngr’s blog, February 1, 2007 – May 13, 2007.  Of these words 3,907 were unique, meaning that she used 3,907 different words in the sample, well above the average of about 3,500.

Here’s the resulting cloud composed of words that did not yet show up in any of the seventeen blogs sampled (click to enlarge).  The word “dished” comes from the attribution blurb at the bottom of each post, which says “Dished out by Dayngr.”

dngronlycloud1.jpg

And here’s the same cloud in a font called “Beware.”  I couldn’t find a font with the word “danger” in it. 

dngronlycloud2.jpg

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words.  The left lobe consists of words that were new in the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle lobe consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently Dayngr used them in the sample.  And the right lobe consists of words which everyone else sampled thus far has used, but that Dayngr did not, sized by freqeuency of use.

 dngrvenn.jpg

The words on the left are ideosyncratic, of course, and tied to her choice of topics over the sampling period more than anything else (and that of the others already included in the study).  The words in the middle seem to show a high level of joie de vivre, of zest for life.  And yet, the right lobe speaks of seriousness, earnestness–this is no game.  Life, the most dangerous game.  Life: Deadly Serious Fun.  Choose your slogan.

And finally, here is the Haiku generated from the words Dayngr added to the database by my evolving Haiku-generating algorithm(s):

Aunts and dads gaping
Toddlers of sweets at my spa
Right’s seizures shady.

I’m not really pleased with this one.  Not Dayngr’s fault, but not really something I can trace to the algorithms either.  It is enigmatic enough, but I can’t come up with any way to interpret “Right’s” non-politically.  I don’t think Haiku should be overtly political.  Let me know if there is some way out of this, would you?  That would save me having to think about it any more.

Oh, and I should have noted this long ago:  I retain no rights to any of the pictures, analysis, or even the Haiku in these vocabulary posts.  I consider them the property of the volunteer subject(s), and ask only a link to the post so that potential volunteers can find me.

Next Up: Second Effort and then 2Dolphins.

Visible Dog May 23, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Dogs, Maggie, Other.
3 comments

Maggie she went to the hospital this weekend, which was traumatic for the whole family, of course.  We knew that she has a thing about chewing, but we didn’t realize the danger.  She has destroyed a bunch of her toys, and we usually take them away from her after they start to fall to pieces, except for the rope toys.  These wouldn’t last a minute if we took them away from her just because she was ripping them to shreds.  She swallows a ton of the rope, of course.  But we didn’t realize that it could get all balled up in her system, create a dangerous intestinal blockage.  But now we do.  No more rope toys. 

Anyway, she’s fine.  Here’s a picture of her just before we took her to the hospital. This is her sad face (click to enlarge).

meg05-19-07.jpg

And here’s a picture of her insides (click to enlarge). 

visibledog1.jpg

Nice that the veterinary clinic provides you with copies of these things.  Otherwise the $1,300 vet bill would seem excessive. 

I’ll post another picture of her when her hair grows out a little more.  Currently, she has no hair on her front forelegs where the IV was attached.  They did both legs because they did the right first but didn’t find a vein there.  So then they did the left. I hesitate to post a picture until she looks less like a french poodle.  Not that there is anything wrong with that. . . .

Don’t Like the Color of that Pen? Change It. May 21, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, how to, lifehack, Other.
6 comments

O.K.  I know you are going to think this is a little strange, like “why would anyone want to do this?”  So I’m going to rationalize it a little bit for you . . . so you can be certain that I am strange. 

I started writing in a journal on a daily basis back in the summer of 2002.  My first one was a Moleskine, one of the small pocket-sized journals, and I stuck with these for a couple of years.  Then I used three of the larger kind, then some people gave me journals as presents a couple of times, and so I used these.  I’ve filled up sixteen during the last five years.  They are full of all kinds of stuff, which I use to remember ideas, to record for later reference what I was doing at a particular time, to try to find connections between things, you know, the things people use journals for. 

Recently I was at a Barnes and Noble store and found a refillable journal that I liked.  I needed one and it was inexpensive, and I decided I was going to attempt to make the refills myself, later, because they looked pretty easy to make, and I have a bunch of discarded letterhead that has the wrong logo on it and a high cotton content.  Chop off the logo and fold and bind the paper and it should work really well.  I’ll let you know how that goes. 

The paper that came with the journal was really rough, which I liked.  It has different color threads in it and it is not a bright white.  Lovely.  But the roughness of the paper is a problem for fountain pens, which I love to use in journals because you don’t have to press hard and wear out your hands.  The ink won’t flow, like writing on sandpaper.  I tried a couple of other pens, too, but the only thing that seemed to work well was porous-point pens, like sharpies and markers.  What worked particularly well is one of my favorite marking pens, the Bravo!, by Pilot.  Only problem was that the color looked wrong.  They make them with a lovely blue ink and a dark black, and a beautiful green and a bright red.  None of the colors seemed right on the page, because the paper has this natural look to it, warm muted tones, and all that. 

So naturally I wondered if I could put different ink in one of them.  Turns out it is not all that hard.  You just need a drill with an 1/8 inch bit, some plumber’s putty, and some good water-based ink (I can recommend either Waterman’s fountain pen ink or Higgins Sepia Calligraphy.  Probably others work just as well.  I like the Waterman’s Havana color, which is very close to sepia in tone, but it is not waterproof at all.  It is also very expensive.  The Higgins stuff is very warm and nice, less than half the price, and won’t smear so easily after it dries. 

Step 1: Start with one of these Pilot Bravo! pens.  Take the end cap off the back end, like shown in the picture below (click to enlarge.)  I suppose this might be difficult for some to do by hand.  If you use pliers, take care not to change the shape of the cap, because that will ruin the seal, and the pen will get ink all over everything. 

bravo01.jpg

Step 2: Drill through the back end plug into the ink reservoir.  Obviously this would be best performed after the pen has already run dry.  Since these pens run through a lot of ink very quickly, this has not been an issue for me.  I go through one every couple of days.

Step 3: Fill the reservoir with the ink you want to use.  The tricky part here is that the ink must sometimes be coaxed into the reservoir.  I use a thin nail to ensure that the hole stays open and, thus, lets the ink into the reservoir.  It will take a lot more ink in it than the pen contained when you bought it.  More than twice as much.  Stop filling when you get about a third of an inch from the back end (you need room to reinsert the plug.)

Step4: Make a worm out of a small chunk of plumber’s putty, rolling it in your hand until it is pliable and warm. 

bravo02.jpg

bravo03.jpg

Step 5: Wrap the worm around the lip of the plug as tightly as you can.

bravo05.jpg

Step 6: Put the plug, as slowly as you can, back into the pen.  The putty will squish out.  That’s O.K.  Keep pushing the plug back in until it is difficult to tell whether there is any putty left in the seam.

bravo06.jpg

That’s it.  It will take a little writing for the new ink to show up.  Some of the ink will be forced into the buffer zone between the tip and the ink reservoir.  But that will gradually drain out.  I’ve never had one leak yet.  And I have refilled one of these things five times now.  The tip is starting to get a little too worn, partially because the paper I use it on is so rough. 

Here’s a picture of the journal, with some incomprehensible notes on normalizing databases (click to enlarge).

bravo07.jpg

Nice and warm, iznit?

Which words do you own?–Doors Left Open May 19, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Haiku, linguistics, Other, statistical analysis, vocabulary.
7 comments

[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a somewhat weekly basis.]

This week’s volunteer is Canterbury Soul, a Singaporean, whose blog is called Doors Left Open.  His took a little longer than others I have done because it is such a new blog that I feared the sample would be too small.  I like to take at least 25,000, normally, and I wanted to make sure that the sample was big enough to yield some new words.  As it turned out, that wasn’t a significant problem.  I took a sample of slightly more than 20,000 (a census, really) and got rid of all of the proper names, like I normally do, and ended up with about 19,000 (including the pages of the blog that don’t run chronologically, actually).  But Canterbury Soul still added a hefty 682 new words to the database.

Here’s the resulting cloud composed of words that did not yet show up in any of the seventeen blogs sampled (click to enlarge).

wordcloudonlytnr.jpg

And here’s the same cloud in a font called “Open Mind.”  I couldn’t find any fonts related to doors. . . .

wordcloudonlyopdr.jpg

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words.  The left lobe consists of words that were new in the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle lobe consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently Canterbury Soul used them in the sample.  And the right lobe consists of words which everyone else sampled thus far has used, but that Canterbury Soul did not, sized by freqeuency of use.

cantvenn.jpg

And finally, here is the Haiku generated by my Haiku-generating algorithm, which is improving rapidly, I think.  The words are those of Canterbury Soul, of course.  The arrangement is now almost purely mechanical.

Woeful on the oak,
germs of a paroxysm
recover midfield.

Next Up: Dayngrous Discourse, then Second Effort

What Would Reacher Do? May 17, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in bookmooch, Books, fiction, information management, Management, Other.
6 comments

I haven’t been posting regularly or visiting anyone’s blog because work has been a mad scramble, lately.  It’s the first time I’ve ever had a staff to manage, and I’m finding the whole thing pretty difficult and draining.  I don’t really get energy from talking with people.  But apparently managers have to do that a lot, so I’m exhausted at the end of the day.  And forget about posting during working hours. 

It is so much easier to get things done if you can mimic somebody’s style.  When I taught, I had a tremendous list of teachers I could imitate.  But not so as a manager.  I have never had a really good manager to look up to as a role model, nobody I can think about that and ask myself, “what would so-and-so do?”  My last boss, the one just before the current one (who I will not be talking about at all in this post, of course), was a great guy.  He is a genius, and I respect him a great deal and like him personally (though he’s not without his faults).  He didn’t like managing, and he wasn’t good at it.  He told me so, and he was right.  I’ve had a couple of other bosses who I liked, but most of them were disorganized, emotional, egotistical trainwrecks.  

So, by default, I am aping the style of the protagonist, Jack Reacher, of Lee Child’s series of deservedly popular thrillers.  I started reading these books about three weeks ago because they were recommended to me by someone who has never steered me wrong.  They are amazingly well-written, engaging, funny, and apparently addictive.  I have now read all but two or three, I think.  I have read One Shot, The Enemy, The Hard Way, Pursuader, Killing Floor, Die Trying, Running Blind, and am currently reading Without Fail.  I have two others on order (bookmooch).

Reacher grew on military bases all over the world and went to West Point.  Then he was a military policeman for 13 years before the Great RIF of the early 1990s, when he was honorably discharged at the rank of Major.  He becomes a drifter of sorts, and runs into trouble of various sorts.  Most of Child’s novels seem to take place during this time of drift, after Reacher left the military. 

There are similarities between Jack Reacher and myself. 

  • Reacher prefers to use his head to solve the mysteries with which he is confronted.  So do I. 
  • Reacher is about six and one-half feet tall.  I am exactly six and one-half feet tall.  He outweighs me by twenty to fifty pounds (depending on the book), but only because he is clearly more muscular.
  • Reacher does not carry a gun.  Neither do I.
  • We are both blonde.
  • People often find Reacher intimidating and scary.  Same here.  Perhaps I should smile more, but Reacher says he tried that when he was younger, and that people became even more terrified of him.  So maybe there’s no reason to work on that.
  • Reacher is a fictional character created by Lee Child.  I don’t know who created me, but I have been called a character.  I could be fictional, too.  How would I know?

There are a lot of differences, too.  But most of them are surprisingly unimportant, in the scheme of things.  Reacher can be extremely violent.  For example, in Pursuader, Reacher is attempting to save an FBI agent and find a guy he thought had killed one of his subordinates from his MP days.  All of these people are holed up in a house in Maine.  Reacher sneaks up to the guard house in front of the compound.  He has been in there before, so he knows where the guard is sitting, and sneaks to a position right under a nearby window and taps on the glass with a fingernail a few times, then a few more.  The guy gets up and presses his face against the glass, trying to see down, thinking it is mouse or something.  Reacher, who has wrapped his hand in a shirt, punches the guy through the glass, breaking his nose, then steps in and disarms him.  Then he asks the guy whether he will attempt to get his gun and shoot him.  The guy says he won’t.  Then,

I paused for a moment and thought about asking him some more questions.  He might be reluctant.  But I figured I could slap him around some and get all the answers he had to give.  But in the end I figured those answers didn’t matter very much. . . . I just stepped away and was trying to decide what to do when he made up my mind for me by reneging on his promise.  He came up off the floor and made a dive for the handgun on the sofa.  I caught him with a wild left to the throat.  It was a solid punch, and a lucky one.  But not for him.  It crushed his larynx.  He went down on the floor again and suffocated.  It was reasonably quick.  About a minute and a half.  There was nothing I could do for him.  I’m not a doctor.

I am a doctor (but not of medicine) and I’m not violent.  So that’s two differences.  But I’m not violent because I try to tackle problems that don’t require violence to solve.  Reacher was an MP, which, as portrayed in these novels, requires violence as part of the basic problem-solving toolkit.  That’s one of the reasons they carry guns.  Reacher doesn’t go looking for violence (except when it is important to exact revenge, or accomplish an important task.)  He just works doggedly to accomplish his goals and doesn’t shy away from use of force.  It’s just that the problems he tackles (kidnapping, murder, counterfeiting, gun-running, etc.) often require a partially violent solution.

So I’m starting another occasional series here which I will tentatively call What Would Reacher Do?  First tip for the new manager is the following:  You have nothing to fear

Reacher has nothing to fear.  He is huge and well-trained and wicked smart.  He has sources he can rely upon for information.  And he is a fictional character.  He can’t be killed, because there wouldn’t be a next book. 

So you could say that being unafraid is easy for him.  Regardless, there is a great deal to be gained by not fearing anything in the workplace.  I used to be afraid of losing my job, for example.  That fear didn’t get me anything.  The summer before last I was trying to get a promotion and wanted to put pressure on my boss to either promote me or let me relocate to another part of the University (it’s a much longer story than you could imagine, and much of it is strikingly uninteresting.)  So I sent him a written resignation, and took three weeks off.  I traveled to Idaho, Washington, and California.  When I came back I sent our human resources office a letter un-resigning.  He had to take me back, partially because I was very candid about why I was quitting.  He decided that he was in enough trouble that people wouldn’t even support a decision not to accept such a strange request. He’s gone now, although I don’t know how much I had to do with that fact.

I still find that although I am extremely engaged in my work, I am not at all afraid of losing my job or being demoted.  Very freeing, that.  It helps you make the right decisions, because you don’t have to think about making safe ones.  And if you make the right decisions, you can often go on to find ways of limiting your risks.

To be continued . . .

DIY Sticky-Note Pen-Loop Bookmark May 8, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, DIY, how to, lifehack, literature, Origami, Other, writing.
4 comments

I conceived this design to enter it in the contest over at Kimbooktoo, which closes on June 1, 2007.  I’m sending Kim a note this morning with all of this stuff attached, but I couldn’t tell from her instructions whether cross-posting our inventions was O.K.  I hope so.

Anyway, I am always looking around for pens and pencils when I need them, and it is usually when I have my journal or a book open and don’t want to put it down to get something with which to write in the margins, etc.  I have often thought that books should come with pen-loops, but many people hate to see books defaced.  That’s O.K., because you can also use the sticky note pen loop as a piece of note paper.  It unfolds quite easily to accomodate note-taking, then closes up again for later. 

Kim’s contest requires people to think of a name for their inventions, so I’m calling this the Bookloopenote.  It looks like this:

bookpenloopnote11.jpg

Or, when you use a purple sticky, looks like this:

bookpenloopnote08.jpg

Easy step-by-step instructions:

Step 1:  Start with a large sticky note (this one is 4″ X 6″)  Stick it to a flat surface.

bookpenloopnote01.jpg

Step 2: Fold it in half, bringing the long sides together, but only crease the fold about 1/3 of the way, starting on the non-sticky side.

bookpenloopnote02.jpg

Step 3: Fold the two non-sticky corners down so that they meet the crease, like you are going to make a paper airplane.

bookpenloopnote03.jpg

Step 4: Cut the corners off and discard.

bookpenloopnote04.jpg

Step5: Fold the pointy part up about 2 centimeters past the sticky side, fold and crease.

bookpenloopnote05.jpg

Step 6: Flip it over and fold the pointy part so that it sticks to the sticky side.

bookpenloopnote06.jpg

Step 7: Insert pen or pencil.

bookpenloopnote07.jpg

Step 8: Holding the thing by the pencil part, stick to the page you wish to mark, either on the top or the side of the book.

bookpenloopnote075.jpg

And this is a slightly better picture of the yellow-sticky version:

bookpenloopnote12.jpg

So, there you go.

Which words do you own?–Are We There Yet? May 7, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Haiku, Other, vocabulary.
5 comments

[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a somewhat weekly basis.]

Are We There Yet?, is the interesting and exciting blog of this week’s volunteer, Linda.  Linda added 630 new words to the vocabulary database, quite a lot of new words after seventeen blogs and a total of more than a quarter of a million words (I was expecting maybe 450).  What makes her blog so distinctive in the word sample is that it is written by a dispatcher of ambulances (see the vocabulary cloud below–clicking for a larger picture).

awtyonlycloudpic.jpg

I toyed briefly with the idea of putting together a word cloud that you would have to read through a mirror, like the front end of an ambulance, but work is taking a lot of my time and attention, lately.  Might be a simple trick in photoshop to do that, but I don’t have time to find it.  Anyway, I settled on a font called Flame for the bonus vocabulary cloud, because I remember reading in her blog about a fire (click to enlarge).

awtyonlycloudflamepic.jpg

There were only three words that all the other bloggers used but which Linda did not (the right lobe of the diagram below).  I don’t know what to make of them.  Some of the words in common with other blogs (the middle part of the Venn diagram below) that Linda used more frequently also seem related to her vocation, like call, for example (click to enlarge).

awtyvennpicb.jpg

And, finally, a new Haiku.  I haven’t had much time to think about my Haiku-generating algorithms.  But I lucked out again and it didn’t crash this time.  Other than words that everybody uses, like of, the, a, an, etc., the words in this Haiku appeared only in Linda’s blog, but some of them only appeared once or twice, and are thus not in the clouds above (although daisy, barb, pond and perhaps others were there.) 

The mull of a pond,
barb barb of formal sayings,
heartfelt daisy freed.

The mull of a pond makes me think about Aldo Leopold, of course.  And barb was put in by the Haiku machine because it is a monosyllabic singular noun, but could be understood as a name, I suppose (I don’t remember the context in which it appeared in Linda’s blog.)  Same with daisy. 

Not bad for a machine.

No volunteers yet for next week.  If anyone is interested, all it takes is a comment and linking from your blog to the post.  Let me know.