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Folding a Letter-size Sheet into 3 x 5 Inch Shape – Single Pocket January 31, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, filing, H-PDA, Hipster PDA, history, how to, index cards, information management, lifehack, Moleskine, Origami, Other, Wordpress.

I was chatting earlier this week with prairieflounder, and I mentioned that WordPress had upped the capacity for individual blogger accounts to three gigabytes. I noted that I had purchased some extra capacity from WordPress last year, because I was moving quickly up towards the limit. Pf pointed out that he hadn’t noticed a lot of pictures here. That’s because there are a couple of different types of people who visit this site. Most of the visitors I get are still people looking at folding diagrams, believe it or not. About 90 percent, on average. And the people who don’t visit for those pics, tend not to even notice them.

And that’s O.K., but here’s another post for the 90 percent.

My first funded year in graduate school I ended up grading papers for a brilliant-if-cranky professor who, despite being only 35ish, still took notes on 3 x 5 cards. I’ve noticed that a lot of the history professors who attended top-ten schools (which he did) do this, and I even know one attending a top-ten school right now, who uses 3 x 5 cards. The guy I worked for would often photocopy articles, however, and cut out the relevant sections, parts of a work that he might later cite or quote in his own work, for example, and tape them to a 3 x 5 card, folding them several times, if need be, so that they would fit in his 3 x 5 file.

Yeah, it didn’t look all that elegant. It was pretty messy, actually. But the guy wasn’t all that elegant himself; he was well-published and highly regarded, however.

It has troubled me for some time that there is no elegant way of folding a normal (in the US) 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper so that it stays nice and flat and can be filed away with the rest of your 3 x 5 cards.

Until now, that is. This method is so simple that I hesitated to post it. It is based on the simplest and most common letterfold. But I can’t seem to find any posts of it anywhere else, so here you go:

Start with an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper (all of the pix below expand into their own, larger, window when you click upon them with a mouse or similar rodent). This is especially nice paper made by Gold Fiber, which is not only a pleasing and frightfully absorbent texture, but has lines on one side and a grid on the other. Notebook paper doesn’t get much nicer than this, I’m afraid.


Put a 3 x 5 inch index card in the middle of it, roughly, and fold the top down so that it looks like this:


Then fold the top down, like this:


You want all of these folds to hug the index card as closely as you can. Next, fold the bottom up like this:


Then fold one side in over the card like this:


And then the other, like this:


Then take the card out and unfold the whole thing so that it looks like this:


Fold the top and bottom towards the center so that it forms a flattened tube eight and a half inches wide, and then tuck whichever side is smaller into the inside of the tube on the opposite side, which will, presumably, be larger and more accommodating. In this case, the right side was slightly larger. One side always is, for some reason.


Then, keep sliding it in until the whole thing is flat. If done perfectly, it will be only slightly larger than a 3 x 5 index card, so that not only will it hold index cards itself, it will still fit into files that hold index cards of that size, or even the cool little pocket in a moleskine notebook, like this one.


Not that this history professor could have been bothered to make things tidy like this. But you like to keep things neat.

Keep Your Passwords Safe December 6, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, how to, information management, lifehack, Memory, Other.

I just read this post on Lifehacker today and was a little surprised how few people keep passwords the same way that I do. Aggregated from an interview with Bruce Schneier at the Freakonomics blog (New York Times) it advises that you write down your passwords. He has some sort of password generating and encrypting program that he also uses, and I don’t have any idea what that’s all about, or why anyone would need such a thing. Over at Freakonomics they like the counterintuitive nature of the advice, I guess. But I agree with the idea in principle.

I have worn quite a few different hats at work in the last five years, and so, like many people, have literally dozens of passwords that I have to remember, and another couple of dozens that I use in blogging and my personal stuff. I write them down, but can usually remember them without referring to the written versions. And I have no fear that the written versions will be used by spies or snoops, because they are encrypted with my own system.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Come up with some sort of mnemonic trigger for your password. My Netflix password might be the title of my favorite movie, for example. Say, Casablanca (which is not my favorite, but has the advantage of . . . well . . . not being my favorite and being one word long.)
  2. Then come up with a two or three digit number that has no particular significance for you, but which you will remember to use in all of your passwords. How about 892? Commit to always putting the 8 after the first letter and the 92 just before the last, for example.
  3. Decide to use some odd, yet consistent method of capitalization. Commit, for example, to capitalizing the second-to-last letter of each password.
  4. Integrate all three of the above into a password: c8asablanc92A.

My Amazon.com password might be the name of a book that I bought from them and hated, which will become o8ddthoma92S.

Now, write down all of your passwords, but do not write down the algorithm that converts them into the actual passwords. On a slip of paper, or with a sharpie on your wall or desk, your forehead, write Netflix: Casablanca. Write Amazon: Odd Thomas (you’ll know that there should be no space in the actual password, of course.) Any luck and it will look more like a shopping list than a bunch of passwords.

Tri-fold Paper Wallet with 5 Pockets September 26, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, how to, index cards, lifehack, Origami, Other.

This is just a variation on the other five-pocket index card wallet I designed a few months ago.  I made one because I was traveling out west this hot southwest summer, and decided that I wanted something smaller than 3 x 5 inches to carry around, something that would fit in the pocket of a pair of shorts.  It just needed to be big enough to carry credit card, ID, a couple fo business cards, and some slips of paper to write on.  I find myself continuing with it because I have found that, given my lifestyle and profession, I am rarely far from a larger piece of paper.

Perhaps the best part of this one is that it folds neatly from a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper, the US standard.  For the most durable results, use vellum.  One of these lasted me all summer, touring the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Mesa Verde, and the harsh environs and lifestyles encountered visiting Casa Flounder in Colorado.  The example below uses Southworth 100% cotton, 32# paper, which has been printed on one side with design elements of Persian rugs.

Make some marks 1 3/16 inches in from the two short sides, with the side you want showing up.  Make two other marks 1 3/8 inches up from what will become the bottom of the wallet.  (Click pictures to enlarge.)


Fold the short sides at the 1 3/16 marks and crease.


Fold the long side at the 1 3/8 marks and crease.


Fold the other long side into the crease you made at the 1 3/8 marks and crease. Then tuck this part into the slot made by the short sides.


 Here’s a side-view of that.


And then fold into three more-or-less equal sides, et voila!


Business cards fit, with easy access.  Credit cards can go in the side you fold in, for maximum security.  And you can either cut 3 x 5 cards in half, for note-taking, or you can purchase them that way.  Somebody makes them now, and I’ve bought them at Office Max.

Sticky-note Page Corner Bookmark Redux September 8, 2007

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

Back in December of last year I posted instructions to making a sticky-note page corner, but somebody who calls himself DyNama, King of Post-its commented today about the sticky part touching the pages of the book, which is not something that I would want to happen to anybody.  So, naturally, I had to check it out.  Unfortunately, my original instructions were a little hard to follow.  It took me a while to reproduce what I did in December.  So I’m going to try to clarify a little.  Just doing my bit for Royalty.

Take a square sticky-note and put it face down with the sticky part down and on the side farthest away from you like this:


Fold the side closest to you so that it meets the side farthest away from you and crease it like this:


Then unfold, so it looks like this:


Then fold it in half left side to right, like this:


And unfold that, so it looks like this:


Now flip it over so the sticky part now faces up, but it is still on the side away from you, like this:


Then fold the Bottom Right corner to the top left like this:


And unfold that, so it looks like this:


And fold the bottom left corner to the upper right corner like this:


And unfold that. I have marked the folds that have sticky stuff on them with numbers 1-4, so that it looks like this:


If you fold corners one to corner two, and corner three to corner four, you will get a thing that looks like this:


Then you can fold the stuck together corners into an arrow-like thing like this:


Then put it in a book like this:


And there you go.  Is that any better, DyNama, King of Post-its?  Or is the sticky part still connecting with the book?  That didn’t happen when I tried this again, so I’m hoping that my instructions were so unclear the first time that they just misled you.  If so, I’m terribly sorry.

The Kitchen Sink July 9, 2007

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

I mentioned in a previous post that I was having trouble finding clips to install my new kitchen sink, so I thought I’d explain. The reason I don’t have clips to install the sink is because I didn’t actually purchase the sink. If I had bought it new I probably wouldn’t have this problem. Because I would just take it back to the place I got it. But I found it.

I was driving home from church or something one day about a year ago and was close to Route 3 in Bedford, Massachusetts. I saw, on the side of the road, put out for the garbage people a stainless steel sink. Normally, I would have just driven past, but our house was built in 2004, and it had really, really crappy sinks and fixtures (the faucets squeak when you turn the knobs). Our place was not custom-built, and it is really nice in many ways, but the kitchen and bathroom fixtures are where the builder cut corners. There are worse places to cut corners, but it has bothered me that the kitchen sink is shallow and small. I wash most of the dishes in the house, and most will not even fit in said sink. And this sink, the one by the side of the road, was really quite nice.

We had just purchased a new faucet, bouyed by optimism when my wife achieved tenure at the University, but I didn’t want to just install it in the crappy, shallow sink. So I grabbed the one by the side of the road (turns out somebody threw away a sink that retails at about $500, but I didn’t know that at the time). This sink, in perfect condition, otherwise, only had two clips attached, and one of them was broken. And these things are very specific to the manufacturer.

Suddenly, with my wife and son on a road trip, I found myself last week with the prospect of some additional time on my hands, and nobody to complain if I didn’t do dishes until I solved the sink problem, so I dove in. I tried to order the clips, but the suppliers online weren’t able to promise I’d even get the clips for three weeks or more, so I decided to just make them. Pretty much used up the whole weekend, plus part of Friday, doing that.

I bought a bunch of brass picture hooks, and routed out the hole where the nails go, widening it enough to accept a #6 sheet metal bolt, 3-inches long (see picture below-clicking to make it bigger).


Then I clipped these things to the bottom of the sink and threaded them through holes made in the aluminum bar, put a wing-nut on the bottom (see picture below, blah, blah).

And then the thing worked pretty well (click to enlarge). Turns out that the whole picture-hanging machine screw set-up is very similar to what Kohler sink clips, although I didn’t know that until after I made my first six.

I think it was, after all, worth the effort. I’m ordering some from the factory anyway, to make the whole thing even more secure. But in the mean time, there is no danger of it flying away.

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

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

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. 


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. 



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


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.


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).


Nice and warm, iznit?

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.

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:


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


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.


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.


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


Step 4: Cut the corners off and discard.


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


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


Step 7: Insert pen or pencil.


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.


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


So, there you go.

DIY 5-pocket Index Card Wallet for Hipster PDAs April 19, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, Hipster PDA, how to, index cards, lifehack, Other.

I just got a promotion of sorts at work and will be managing a few people in addition to doing research and writing and random other stuff now, so I found myself thinking about time management a little this morning.  I still use index cards to manage my own time and to take notes for writing projects and such.  And I’m always testing new ways of carrying them around an organizing them.  The last one of these I designed, the six-pocket version works pretty well, and I’ve been carrying note cards in it, and using it as my wallet, for weeks.  The only problem with it was that I had to do too much unfolding to get at my debit card, a suprisingly frequent occurance these days.  So I designed a five-pocket version that is much easier to use everyday, because the part of the folder that holds my bank card is always right there on the outside, and yet there is no danger of the card slipping out. 

Step 1: start with a piece of 13 x 13 inch paper.  This sounds more difficult than it is.  The most durable papers in the world are readily available in this size, if you know where to look.  You just need to find a large manila or Tyvek ™ envelope, cut the bottom and top out, slice out the middle, and unfold it. 

Step 2: mark the paper with a faint line 1 3/4 inches in from two opposing sides and then 2 3/4 inches in from another side, as depicted below (click picture to enlarge). 


Step 3: Flip the sheet over and fold the opposing sides in, creasing on the lines. 


Step 4: Fold the bottom up, creasing on the line.


Step 5: Insert the top into the slot made by the bottom folds and crease the whole thing again (this operation is shown in a side view in steps 4 and 5 of the instructions for this folder.


Step 6: Using an index card as a guide, fold in three roughly-equal parts and crease (I don’t know what that shadow is all about.)


That’s all.  See how the bank card fits and is accessible but totally safe?


I use the same pocket for a list of phone numbers.  And a pen with a clip can be used to make sure it doesn’t unfold, if you want. 


After a few days it will pretty much stay shut anyway.

Digital Signatures March 27, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, how to, lifehack, Memory, Other.

I took something to the post office a couple of weeks ago and when I paid for whatever it was with my debit card the postal employee asked me for my “digital signature.”  I was a little confused, but I picked up the weird stylus thing and prepared to sign something pressure-sensitive, assuming that she misunderstood and thought I was charging it as credit.  “No,” she said, “your digital signature.  Your pin number.”

“Oh,” I said.  “I’ve never heard them called that before.”

“That’s what the Postmaster wants us to call them,” she apologized.

Driving back to work I was thinking about the differences between handwritten signatures and these four-digit codes, which brought to mind all of the passwords we are plagued with these days, and by “we” I mean us people who are in the blogosphere. 

Pins are like signatures because they, in combination with the numbers on the physical card, are unique and identifiable.

Unlike signatures, however, they are so plain.  And in this age of personalized ringtones and the ability to choose to dress in combinations of clothes from any era, they seem so mass-produced.  When I was a senior in high school I changed my signature so that it didn’t really look all that much like my name anymore.  But it was interesting-looking and very distinctive. 

I lost my debit card last month and I called the bank and they issued me a new one, with a new pin.  They told me that I could change the pin whenever I want.  But I suspect that doing so would make it easier for other people to guess.  So I decided to keep it.  But I personalized it as an attempt to memorize it quickly, nonetheless.  Here’s how:

I associate all numbers with consonants according to the following, standard (yes, people all over the English-speaking world use this same one, and I don’t know where it came from) scheme:

  • 1=T or D
  • 2=N
  • 3=M
  • 4=R
  • 5=L
  • 6=Sh, J, Zh, or Ch
  • 7=K
  • 8=F or V
  • 9=B or P
  • 0=S or soft C

So that the new pin immediately formed a couple of distinctive, easy-to-remember words in my mind, because you can vary the consonants a little (Nos 1, 6, 8, 9, and 0) and you can vary the vowells considerably, leaving them out or putting them in to make words or names.  I chose the most distinctive and repeated it a couple of times and can never forget it.

So it is a little more like a signature to me.  But I realized that nobody else could ever marvel at my cool pin number, ’cause that would defeat the purpose of the thing. 

Oh, well.  Just as I was leaving the post office the postal worker told me that the postmaster wants them all to call pencils “graphite dispensers.”  I laughed, but I don’t think she was kidding.  That’s like calling a rifle a “hot lead dispenser.”  Doesn’t say much about the function of the object, does it?

DIY 6-pocket Index Card Wallet for Hipster PDAs-Side-opening Version March 5, 2007

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

People seldom comment on my paper-folding posts, although they still form the bulk of the traffic on this blog most days.  It still surprises me when someone comments.  This last weekend I got a comment from someone calling herself Charo that made me think a little.  Charo writes:

Hi there! I found your post while I was searching the web for an origami pocket briefcase. I must say, your idea is just what I was looking for! :)

I made the dimensions a bit wider, using a page from a size B4 sketch pad. I now use the outside pockets to keep addresses and blank sheets, organized with index card tabs. I use the inside pockets for my calendar and todo stuff. :)

I’m now thinking if there’s a way to turn this into a six-pocket holder :D

Six pockets, I thought to myself.  That’s a lot of pockets.  Maybe too many pockets.  But it is not for me to judge.  It is for me to give the people what they want.  This one is for Charo.

Like 95% of people in the world, Charo uses ISO-dimension paper.  I don’t have any, but I wish I did.  This design works much better with A3 paper.  Anyway, for those using the idiotic US-UK-Canadian dimensions, start with a piece of 11 x 17 inch paper. 

Step 1–Mark about two inches from each of the short sides.  Fold these toward the center and crease (N.B.: click images to enlarge).


Step 2–fold one of the long sides in slightly less than an inch toward the center and crease.


Step 3–Fold the other short side so that it meets the crease that you just made and crease that fold.  Here’s a side view of that:


Step 4–Step 5–Tuck the section you just made into the other one.


Step 5–Do it carefully to avoid tearing the paper and it will look like this when you are done.


Step 6–Then fold the short sides towards one another and crease in the middle and the unfold.


Step 7–Then fold each of the short sides towards the middle and crease. 


And step 8:


It opens up like this and has six pockets for index cards. 


And you can clip a pen to it, just like the other design:


Thanks for the idea, Charo!