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Hearts and other red things July 30, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Other, parenthood.
3 comments

I see by that old clock on the wall that it is getting late. I have not yet posted in the month of July. I keep meaning to post, honestly. There is so much to post about, lately: career changes, new things I’ve learned, other stuff. But I’ve been busy, see. . . .

Anyway, while my lovely wife was out of the country, my Son convinced my Mom to visit us for a week. I hadn’t seen her for a whole year, and although I was extremely distracted with a number of things that seemed important at the time, it was wonderful having her here. She is one of those people that brightens up whatever room she happens to be in, and some of our rooms needed a little brightening at the time.

We had some short chats about books and work and life and things, but my life is in limbo here for a little while longer [I’ll post more about this later].  And that limbo is not terribly interesting to explore, especially to me.  Mainly, I just wanted her to have some time with my Son, which she did.  It is such a gift to both of them, to spend time with such a wonderful person, how could I not want that?

Other than that, what I really wanted was for her to see a cardinal while she was out here. There are lots of cool birds where she lives, in the foothills of the Sacramento Valley in California, but since I’m used to those birds, northeastern birds still seem so exotic to me. Cardinals stand out so vividly against the green forest and conservation land that backdrops our house. Seeing one is like those scenes in Schindler’s List where you see a flash of red–breath-taking, and leaving you wondering if it means something, if it portends.

But despite the combined efforts of my Son, who took her on endless jaunts into the forest, and myself, the weather didn’t cooperate very well.  We had a thundershower on most of the days she was here.

Recently I noticed a cardinal on a tree, high above our house, and listened to him sing.  I recorded it with my phone and checked the song on Youtube.  Yep, that was a cardinal.  Now I hear them all of the time, and know that those flashes of color, of life and meaning, are there somewhere, even if I cannot see them directly.  And it keeps me looking out of the corners of my eyes.

Sorry that you didn’t see one while you were here, Nana.  But I think that it’s like that old saying about poker:  If you can’t spot the cardinal in the room, it’s you.

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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?

100 Books Meme – Summary Statistics September 13, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Books, COMBS, literature, memes, Other.
3 comments

The 100Books meme has made the rounds of the blogosphere for some time now, and I have examined the responses of 200 blogs, but haven’t yet decided what it all means.  Partially, this has to do with the eccentricity of the list itself.  Respondents are predominently within a demographic that I can only describe as “literate knitters.”  Hard to generalize from it, is what I mean to say.  I’ve got a plan to remedy that, which I’ll get to later.  First, here are the boring summary statistics as a pdf

The blogger in the sample who read the fewest read only four of these books.  One blogger claimed to have read 90 of them. And the average blogger claimed to have read 39 of them.  [I would have read 39 of them, too, if I had read all of the books I was supposed to read in school.  But I charted my own course, which explains my disappointing grades.]

I haven’t had much chance to look at the cross-tabulations yet, but I did notice a couple of oddities:

  1. Eleven people read Tolkien’s Return of the King without having read The Fellowship of the Ring.  What, if any, is the deal with that?
  2. Ten people read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but did not read Harry Potter and the Sourceror’s Stone (AKA HP and the Philosopher’s Stone).  Similarly, WTF?

More to come.

100 Books Meme–my list September 11, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, memes, Other.
12 comments

This is a book meme that bounced around the blogosphere for a while.  I compiled statistics from a sample of 200 bloggers who have done it.  I’ll be posting some of the results later this week, but I thought I’d do the meme myself first.  It’s only fair.  It’s easy.  Just copy the list, bold the ones you have read, and post the results.  Don’t feel bad if you didn’t read a lot of them.  It is an odd list.

My results are kinda pathetic, in some spots, and I only read 35 percent of them (assuming I counted correctly.)  Found myself thinking that I am not reall all that well-read after all.  Some of the stuff in the list I don’t even recognize.  Some of it is trash, of course.  But there are a few that I really meant to get to.  Some of the ones I meant to read are also trash, I suspect.  Anyway, here’s my list.

1.   The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2.   Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3.   To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4.   Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5.   The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6.   The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7.   The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8.   Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9.   Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10.  A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12.  Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14.  A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15.  Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
17.  Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18   The Stand (Stephen King)
19.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20.  Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21.  The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22.  The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23.  Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24.  The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25.  Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27.  Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29.  East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30.  Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31.  Dune (Frank Herbert)
32.  The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33.  Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34.  1984 (Orwell)
35.  The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36.  The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37.  The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38.  I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39.  The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40.  The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41.  The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42.  The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43.  Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44.  The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45.  The Bible
46.  Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47.  The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48.  Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49.  The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50.  She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51.  The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52.  A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53.  Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54.  Great Expectations (Dickens)
55.  The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56.  The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58.  The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59.  The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60.  The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61.  Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62.  The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63.  War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64.  Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65.  Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66.  One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67.  The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68.  Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69.  Les Miserables (Hugo)
70.  The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71.  Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72.  Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73.  Shogun (James Clavell)
74.  The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75.  The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76.  The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78.  The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79.  The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80.  Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81.  Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82.  Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83.  Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84.  Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85.  Emma (Jane Austen)
86.  Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87.  Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88.  The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89.  Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90.  Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91.  In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92.  Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93.  The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94.  The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95.  The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96.  The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97.  White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98.  A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99.  The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Let me know if you want to participate in the study, and I’ll be sure to get your list in.

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.

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.”

The Impulsively Generous June 26, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, COMBS, memes, Other, philanthropy, statistical analysis, tagging.
1 comment so far

One of the fun parts of statistical research is connecting data that seemlingly have nothing to do with one another.  For example, does one’s propensity to give too much money to charity have anything to do with the probablility that one has touched a cockroach? 

As it turns out, within the statistical sample I took of bloggers who responded to the 150 things meme, the answer is yes.  People who had at some point given more money than they had to charity were much more likely to have touched a cockroach. 

I intend to do a few more crosstabulations of the implications of my study of the 150 things meme and would be delighted to have this research directed by readers.  Just let me know about your pet theories (as they pertain to data in the 150 things meme) and I’ll run the numbers.  Obviously I need some sort of direction because there are more than 12,000 possible crosstabulations in this dataset. 

Anyway, I started with an analysis of question #24, (have you ever given more than you could afford to charity) because responses were almost evenly split, which gave me two samples of more than 100 to compare.  But the question also caught my eye because I work in fundraising.  So I’m always looking to shed more light on philanthropy, when I can.  What else does an extensive crosstabulation of question #24 tell us?  Those who had given more than they could afford to charity were significantly more likely to have

  • Bought everyone in the bar a drink,
  • Held a tarantula,
  • Taken a candlelit bath with someone,
  • Hugged a tree,
  • Watched a meteor shower,
  • Gotten drunk on champagne,
  • Had a food fight,
  • Asked out a stranger,
  • Held a lamb,
  • Seen a total eclipse,
  • Taken a midnight walk on the beach,
  • Milked a cow,
  • Pretended to be a superhero,
  • Started a business,
  • Fallen in love and not had their heart broken,
  • Crashed a party,
  • Recorded music,
  • Picked up and moved to another city just to start over,
  • Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild,
  • Changed someone’s mind about something they care deeply about,
  • Eaten fried green tomatos, and
  • Selected one “important” author they missed in school and read (them)

As they say, correlation does not imply causality, except when it does, of course.  Just because these people were more likely, as a group, to have eaten fried green tomatos than the non-impulsively generous group doesn’t mean that people who are careful and/or stingy have an aversion to that food.  But it sorta makes you think, duznit?  And if nothing else, these crosstabulations point in the same direction as every other bit of research that COMBS has produced and will ever produce: 

Needs more research.