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Guilted into blogging once again March 18, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Other, web 2.0.
2 comments

Raincoaster has guilted me into posting, I’m afraid. On the post below, which was about how I was being very good and exercising three times a week, she comments:

Yes, but what kind of BLOGGING equipment do you use? And do you use it three times a week??????????????

Well, no. One glance at the dates on my last few posts and you will quickly find yourself reading about things that happened in October.

Raincoaster is right, of course, as usual. I fooled myself into believing that I was keeping in good blogging form because my job requires me to use a similar skill-set. I write for a living and analyze things and am called upon to have opinions about things, and I thought that would be enough. But my blogging muscles are now flabby and atrophied. I will try to do better, Raincoaster, honestly, I will.

If anyone is responsible for keeping this blogging and social networking stuff alive in the coming years, it will be people like raincoaster. Yeah, it’s scary, but that’s one of the reasons you like her, isn’t it?

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Motivation February 22, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, DIY, Other, web 2.0.
4 comments

You know those motivational posters that some people (people people, obviously) have in their offices? I don’t really want to post a picture of one of them because people are still trying to make money selling them, and they make me wince, somewhat involuntarily and think uncharitable thoughts, but click here if you really don’t know what I am talking about.

Anyway, I work in a fundraising office, so I used to see these things everywhere. For a while, mine was the only office (not including cubes, just the ones with doors) on the floor of my building that didn’t sport one of those posters. I remember wanting to ask my boss whether they were purchased with state funds, since we were on a mailing list for a company that made them.

I was thinking about them for the last couple of mornings because when I take the dog out I am confronted every morning with the vision below. It is a little hard to see with the crappy quality of my cellphone camera. This morning’s unexpected snow obscures the fact that the leaf had fallen on about two inches of solid ice about a week ago. As the leaf absorbed the sunlight it melted its way through about 3/4 of an inch of that ice. It’s a metaphor for something, I kept thinking.

motivator4050126-450.jpg

But I don’t really have any idea what it is a metaphor for. The slogan above is a hipshot [My lovely wife asked me last night when I was going to post again. She has started a blog and has more excitement about the whole thing than I have had in quite a while. For some odd reason I told her I would post today. So you have her to thank.] Here’s another one:

Erosion: An unintentional benefit of being opaque.

Please feel free to suggest better ones in the comments.

Thinking about that leaf led me to think about those motivational posters, so I looked them up, and there’s a site that lets you make your own, of course. I must have missed out when this thing got Boing Boinged.

It also got me to wondering what it is that people get from these things. Do people really draw motivation from this stuff? I have been reading Darren Brown’s Tricks of the Mind, or at least re-reading sections of it, this week. He points out that motivation is a strange sort of reification. People only talk about motivation in a negative way, he says. They only use the word if motivation is lacking. All that “being motivated” means is that you are working. It doesn’t really mean anything, as such. I’m still thinking about that.

What I am certain of is that I get stuff done when I can keep my sense of humor. So whether these posters are funny in an ironic or sarcastic way, or whether the posters are sarcastic and, thus, funny in a straightforward way, I draw motivation (however fictitious the concept itself is) from them. Sort of a paradoxical sort of thing, iznit?

I am a Bad Blogger October 18, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Other.
7 comments

Lately I haven’t been posting much, again, or responding faithfully to comments, or commenting on the sites of friends and those on my blogroll. 

I could blame it partially on the job, I suppose.  I took a position in May that is really quite taxing, mentally, but that’s not the main issue with the job thing.  I think that the main issue is that it absorbs a lot of attention and thought, and yet I cannot blog about it.  There are a few people who know who I am, and would, therefore know who I am writing about, if I posted about my job. 

It’s not that I don’t have things to write about, either, or that I don’t visit your blog.  I do, and then I intend to comment, going so far as to click on the little window.  And then I stop.  Whatever I was going to write seems suddenly trite.  Not a good way to be entering NaNoWriMo, two weeks hence.  I need to break out of this. 

Life outside of work has been really busy, too.  School has started again, so this means my son is on a travel soccer team, and has cello lessons, which means there is slack to pick up even when I don’t have a kid to pick up or drop off.  He is attending private school in the far-off land of Andover, MA, and the commute is killing us (but not him, really; he does his homework while we do the driving).

I’ve started lifting weights–for strength, not appearance.  This is quite taxing as well, I find, mentally as well as physically.  There was a time when I was living at home and attending the local university and I ran three times per week.  I rode my bicycle to the track at the high school and then locked it up with a combination lock.  I did this because when I exercise I get dangerously stupid.  I’d pull out into traffic, jump curbs, race trains, whatever.  Best to cool down first.  Usually took me 15 – 20 minutes before I’d remember the three-digit combination.

Unfortunately, the effect this has on weight training (with free-weights, at least) is problematic.  This morning I put 10 lbs too many on the bar when doing the bench press and squats.  The blood apparently leaves my head after the first set of exercises and I can’t add (in the mathematical sense of the word).  But the beginning weight training program I am undertaking stresses gradual buildup of weight to build axial strength.  So, wild and unpredictable fluctuations of 10 or 20 pounds are a pretty bad thing, particularly for a beginner like me who really needs to pay attention to correct form.

Anyway, apologies to anyone out there who still checks this blog, periodically.

Creative Blogger Award #1 September 7, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogger, blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Other.
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As a distinguished receipient of the Creative Blogger Award, I have to give out five of them myself, but I am going to space them out a little bit.  I never seem to have a big block of time to post stuff. 

The first Creative Blogger Award goes to Sky Fishing, the brainchild of Prairie Flounder.  According to its originator, the Creative Blogger is for

those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo’s, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd.

PF is inventive, artsy, and a rebel.  But his site, Sky Fishing, has some other things that keep me coming back.  There are lots of creative and interesting blogs out there.  But I lose interest in most of them fairly quickly.  It is only the blogs that are constantly changing and growing, the ones that take on a variety of different subject areas, that are responsive and playful, and that seem to have a real person behind the scenes, only these sorts can really hold my interest for long.  These, like Sky Fishing, are the sorts of blogs that are going to get this award from me in the next few days.

So, here is your award, PF:

 cbablack.jpg

Wear it proudly.  Now you have to spread the wealth to five other blogs, following the tedious instructions here, or at least I have to ask you to.

Creative Blogger Award September 5, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, memes, Other, Wordpress.
2 comments

A few weeks ago, when I was feeling particularly despondent about this blog, MoonTopples tagged me with the award below.

cbablack.jpg

It is always nice to receive such honors, even in that garish pink color.  So thank you Mr. Topples.  I have opened up a widget on my sidebar for this and other awards. 

The Creative Blogger Award is

For those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo’s, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd.

I am supposed to pick five people to which I then award this thing.  I’ll get to that in the coming week, I think, because last night, WordPress fixed the technical issues I was having.  I can now comment on other WordPress sites without being placed into the spam queue. 

I never realized how much of this blogging thing was contingent upon the interactions with other bloggers.  I suspected it, but until I was shut out of that world I just didn’t realize the full extent.  Hope this never happens to any of you, this Web 2.0 Shunning, dear blogger.

Benchmarks August 23, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, Other, Wordpress.
8 comments

I came back from vacation and forgot to note that this blog passed its one-year anniversary earlier this month.  So there’s that.  And the day before yesterday it passed its 20,000 page-view mark, which is nice.  WordPress put together some neat new charts that allowed me to look back at the number of page-views weekly and monthly for the year, which showed exactly what I thought: As soon as I stopped actively commenting on other sites traffic on this site declined dramatically. 

Unfortunately, my comments on other wordpress sites are captured as spam.  Indeed, my own responses to comments on this site are treated as spam.  Don’t know what to do about this, but it is discouraging.  Commenting seems fairly pointless when you know your words are going into the Viagra bin.  Anyone else having this problem?

Vacation July 30, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging.
6 comments

This blog will be in hiatus until about mid-August, because I am vacationing in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.  This means I won’t be responding to your comments or, in all probability, visiting your blog either.  When I get back, though, I will either be back to blogging and visiting more frequently, or I will stop entirely.  This once-a-week blogging and infrequent visiting of other blogs that I have been doing lately has been a little unsatisfying.

I may post a little on my mobile blog, hackmobile.blogspot.com, while I am away.  But I walked into the pool with my cell phone in my pocket this morning, so that might not happen either.

Which words do you own?–Tales from the Reading Room July 14, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Books, COMBS, Haiku, linguistics, literature, Other, statistical analysis, vocabulary.
7 comments

Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Other posts, whether analyzing particular blogs within the study or detailing the methodology of this thing or whatever, can be found at the Center for Occasional Meme and Blog-O-Sphere Studies [COMBS].  Go there by clicking here or the Center’s logo, which should be on the right (starboard) side-bar over there —->

About two months ago I took a sample of words from Litlove’s blog Tales from the Reading Room.  I added them to the vocabulary database, but I was reluctant to just do a normal post on them.  I wanted to do something a little special because Litlove had started this whole project, in a way, with one of her posts.  So I procrastinated, a favorite strategy of mine, until I could think of something more interesting.  I think I hit upon something, so without further ado . . .

Litlove’s word sample runs from March 31 – May 9, 2007.  Sample size was 25,741 words.  She added 905 words.   She used a wide variety of words–4,535 different words within the sample, pretty good, since her sample had 5,000 fewer words than most of the others.

Here is a word cloud comprised of the words used more than twice by Litlove but not at all by any of the other 18 blogs that went before her:

onlycloud.jpg

And here’s those words in a font called Love Letters:

onlycloud-loveletters.jpg

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words:

llvenn.jpg

The left lobe consists of words that were new to the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle part consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently Litlove used them in the sample than others did.  And the right lobe consists of words that everyone else sampled before her used, but that she did not. 

Here is another effort by my Haiku-generating algorithm, which crashed six times before yielding a Haiku made from only the most common words and the words Litlove added to the database (all of the crashes all had to do with a shortage of monosyllabic words of various types in Litlove’s pool of words.)

In boy’s forthright sneer
she adheres perilously
to the politeness.

Puzzling, like all good machine-generated poetry. 

And here is the new thing.  It’s an additional wordcloud that is a little more complicated than the others I have generated thus far.  This is the first time I have tried to explain it, so bear with me.  I calculated the average number of times each word in the database is used (per subject).  Then I subtracted the number of times each words was used in Litlove’s sample.  The postive numbers represent words that Litlove used more frequently than average.  Then I scaled these words by frequency of use in her sample.  But then I deleted the 65 most frequently used words in the database (see here for a partial list of these).  This yields a list of at least 100 words showing something new about the speech patterns/word choices of the blogger, Litlove, in this case.  I’m not at all sure what it shows, though.  So here’s Litlove’s cloud:

mtacloud.jpg

And for purposes of comparison, here’s one from last week’s subject, silverneurotic:

sn-mtacloud.jpg

I find these a little more interesting than the other visuals, at this point.  And since their appearance is not so firmly tied to the size of the samples, I can generate them with a much smaller sample from someone’s blog.  So I may just keep doing this, if I keep getting volunteers.

As always, the vocabulary clouds and Haiku are the property of the volunteers, except that said volunteer may not have them taken off of my site but may otherwise do with them what they wish.  Thanks for participating, Litlove, and sorry about the long wait.

Which words do you own?–Searching for Normalcy July 5, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, COMBS, Haiku, linguistics, Other, statistical analysis, vocabulary.
3 comments

Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Other posts, whether analyzing particular blogs within the study or detailing the methodology of this thing or whatever, can be found at the Center for Occasional Meme and Blog-O-Sphere Studies [COMBS].  Go there by clicking here or the Center’s logo, which should be on the right (starboard) side-bar over there —->

Anyway, the blog under the microscope today is Searching for Normalcy, published by Balou.  Her word sample runs from November 22, 2006 – June 27, 2007.  Sample size was 32,214 words.  She added 502 words, which is  more than what I would expect to see at this point in the experiment.   She used a wide variety of words–4,552 different words within the sample. 

Here is a word cloud comprised of the words used more than twice by Balou but not at all by any of the other 26 blogs sampled thus far:

balouonlycloudpic.jpg

Never ceases to amaze when words that seem so ubiquitous, words like maternity and crafts, pop up for the first time.  I mean, I’ve processed more than half a million words.  How did these not appear until now?  Words like “corals,” “ornament,” “starfish,” these I can understand, but “breakup?”  Go figure.  Please.

And here’s those words in a font called Lou:

onlycloudloupic.jpg

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words:

balouvennpic.jpg

The left lobe consists of words that were new to the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle part consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently Balou used them in the sample than others did.  And the right lobe consists of only two words that everyone else sampled thus far has used, but that she did not. Of these there are none, again.  The list of words that everyone uses is, I think, getting down to the bare essentials, sine quibus non of writing.

Here is another effort by my Haiku-generating algorithm, which crashed four times.  All of the crashes all had to do with a lack of monosyllabic adjectives in Balou’s pool of words.  So the algorithm is not to blame this time.  (I have a pretty good store of words now for this algorithm, by the way.  When I run it with all of the words (the ones I have coded as to number of syllables and part of speech, it rarely trips.)

Crabs, snails, big-eyed pairs,
dogma cleans the halo of
the tolerant brat.

The second and third lines are pretty straightforward, although it is difficult to imagine dogma doing something like that. The first line can be interpreted as apostrophe, I think (with an anthropomorphic bent).  “Big-eyed pairs” is evocative of a scene from an anime treatment of the biblical story of Noah, or perhaps even “Evan Almighty” (don’t know, haven’t seen it, but I’m judging by the commercials).  I’d be interested in any other theories, of course. 

As always, the vocabulary clouds and Haiku are the property of the volunteers, except that said volunteer may not have them taken off of my site but may otherwise do with them what they wish.  Thanks for participating, Balou!

Next up (early next week, prob’ly): litlove, ’cause I promised.

Wither Question #98? June 29, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, COMBS, memes, Other, statistical analysis, tagging.
2 comments

This is fourth in a series of posts about my study of responses to the dreaded 150 Things meme.  All of which will end up on the COMBS page of this site, eventually.

Zandperl,* of Strange Musings writes:

One thing I noticed in your “study” is that many people left out the #98, about naming a constellation. I believe that I deliberately omitted it from mine since I’m an astronomer and know that in reality you can’t name your own constellation (the International Astronomical Union, of anti-Pluto fame, actually names them), but I’m curious if you know why all the other people omitted it and who started it.

Ah, well, I was curious about that, too.  Many people omitted this question before you deleted it from you list.  Difficult to say why, at least without more research (Oh, Boy!), but it may have been because there were at least two different questions numbered 98 by then.  Most people who answered the question (meaning that they included it in their list) put it in as “created and named your own constellation.”  But a few answered a different question #98: “passed out cold.” 

Perhaps a short paragraph regarding method is in order.  This “study” sampled blogs that responded to this meme by going to Technorati and typing in the first line of the meme as a search term.  Then I scrolled through 50 pages (500 blogs) until I got to the 50th, and worked backwards.  (I figured that with some blogs being deleted and some being offline for other reasons, I would be able to get a sample of 300 or so with which I could do this “study.”)** 

The earliest blog in the sample (um, the earliest for which I have a date) was Purple Valley, written by val, published on October 19, 2006.  If one wanted, one could trace the meme back, starting with the people that tagged her (which can be found on her post, here) and probably, perhaps, find the origin of the meme. 

What a discovery that would be!  Like Burton and Speke searching for the origin of the Nile. It would take you to the wilds of the Internet Archive, I suppose. If nobody wants to do that, I would understand.  But I am otherwise engaged at the moment. If sombody does want this job, I’d be happy to put them on the list of advisors at COMBS (which would mean putting up a page for that sort of thing, of course).  Such a research affiliate could choose their own title and role there, we’re not stuffy about that sort of thing.

Finally, my sincerest apologies for not responding to comments in the last two weeks.  There have been many, and I have responded to many of them on other peoples’ blogs, because my blog, this blog, perhaps for very good reasons, treats my own comments as spam and filters them out.  Yes.  It does.  And then yesterday when I discovered what Akismet was doing I attempted to “unspam” these comments.  It ignored my efforts as efficiently as only a computer algorithm can ignore things.  It did.

*Does one capitalize the lower case name of a nom-de-blog when it starts a sentence?  I couldn’t find anything in Strunk and White to cover this.

**zandperl put the word “study” in quotation marks, which I’m going to adopt here.  As soon as I have the time I’m going to change it throughout the blog, even going so far as to change it within the logo for COMBS.  Although I am making a serious attempt to get all of this stuff right, I’m not fooling myself into lending my findings more scientific weight or import than they can bear.  Having done some serious polling, public opinion, and marketing research, I know how to do a serious study.  Most of the questions in this particular meme have multiple interpretations, which would be inadmissible as a study.  Take question #98, for example.  I interpreted it to mean something like what the fictional ogre Shrek did in his first movie, pointing at the sky and telling Donkey that there was a constellation called “Gabby” named after a talkative donkey.   What I am doing here is not a series of studies; these are “studies.”