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I’m looking over August 25, 2009

Posted by caveblogem in luck or time.
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I find maybe 50 or so four-leaf clovers a year.  A couple of years ago I tried giving them away as gifts, but I guess I don’t have enough friends to do that successfully, because I have a pretty big backlog

I started looking for them, in part, because I was intrigued by how you could actually get better at finding them (other reason was a puppy that took forever to do her business).  Once you know where and how to look, you see tons of them.

A couple of weeks ago I started taking pictures of them before I picked them, to look into the perceptual issues a little more formally.


The picture above, taken right next to the flower bed that encloses my mailbox, has two four-leaf clovers in it.  See if you can find ’em.

Shamrock Book Corner/Mark June 12, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Books, DIY, how to, luck or time, Origami, statistical analysis.

I find a lot of four-leaf clovers, which some people consider to be lucky (um, not the finding, I think, but the possession thereof).  The first couple I found I gave away as presents, after laminating them, but there was nothing particularly elegant about lamination.  And I have quite a few, now–I stopped counting at thirty. And laminating is boring and expensive. 

So I’ve been looking for some other way of presenting them to people.  Because what am I going to do with all these things?  It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that I could put them inside paper, onionskin or tracing paper, possibly translucent vellum, so that they could be used as bookmarks.  Problem was that unless you put some sort of tassel on them, they will stick out of the book and part of the mark will get mushed.  They might get knocked loose, which would also suck.  Anyway, yesterday I finally happened upon a solution, which is to make book corners out of them. 

The design for this is that of a letterfold, the K-Letterfold, which is diagrammed here, at my favorite letter and envelope folding site.  I don’t use the K-Letterfold much for actual letters, because it comes out too small to actually post through U.S. mail when you use paper of standard dimensions.  But it is perfect for this particular purpose (see below, click to enlarge).

Front View

Back View

The book is Nicholas Rescher’s Luck: The Brilliant Randomness of Everyday Life.  Much better, printable, concise, instructions and diagram are at this site (look under K-Letterfold on the side-bar), but I am putting step-by step instructions below so that you can see where the shamrock goes in the folding process.

Step 1: I started out with a 6 inch by 8 inch (15.24 cm x 20.32 cm) sheet of tracing paper.  The pictures below are for the same size white sheet, which shows the folds and the position of the shamrock.  It is best to fold the thing first, then unfold it and place the shamrock (or whatever flat keepsake or flower or whatever) inside and refold it.  It is less likely to damage the delicate dried plant if you wrestle with the paper and crease it first. 

Step 2: Fold one corner snug against the side.

Step 3: Fold the top side down to meet the edge of the paper.

Step 4: Fold paper in half and then unfold.  Then fold it in a quarter towards the crease in the middle.  Yeah, I know that’s two steps.  Second one is like 4 and 1/2.  O.K.?

Step 5: Fold the other quarter to meet the center crease.  Now comes the tricky part. 

Step 6: Tuck the pointy part at the bottom into the slot in the middle.

Step 7: Then slide it all the way to the top inside, so that the little crevasse (seen in the picture below in a not-quite-closed-but-almost-closed state) closes as completely as it can.

Step 8: Turn over and tuck the remaining untucked corner into the other inside slot . . . carefully.

Of all the letterfolds this is one of the most stable.  It simply does not open accidentally, even when sent through the mails without any adhesive devices to keep it closed.  And as you will see, it can be used vertically or horizontally, so that the side with the clover is always on the page that you are attempting to mark. 

Which words do you own?–Miami Rhapsody June 11, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, fiction, Haiku, libertarians, linguistics, luck or time, narrative, vocabulary.

[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. There is an interesting (to some) analysis of the most common words here.  And there is some discussion of method here and here.]

There is a potentially offensive word below.  You have been warned. 

I just finished reading Carl Hiaasen’s Lucky You, a novel about two people who play the same lottery numbers and win the same Florida Lottery jackpot worth $28m.  One is a black woman in her late twenties who is working as a veterinary assistant in a small town.  The other is a racist living in the Miami area who wants to use the money to finance a militia group, which he will use to fight the UN/Nato/Jewish/race-mixing invasion force he believes is preparing in the Bahamas.  So the guy steals the woman’s lottery ticket.  The story’s about how she gets it back. 

I’ve been thinking about the story a little for a number of reasons, but the most pertinent of them is that the racist character in Lucky You can’t utter the most prominent word in the vocabulary cloud below.  When he was in his early teens he spoke this word at home, once.  Then his father, who never used corporal punishment, but for this one exception, beat him with a razor strop.  After dad was done with him, his mother took him inside the house and washed his mouth out with a well know abrasive tub and tile cleaner containing bleach.  Consequently, he has this gagging reflex whenever he even thinks this word.  The only other member of his militia, his accomplice, teases him about this. 

Carl Hiaasen uses this word in the book a number if times, which seemed daring to me, in a weird way.  Hiaasen makes this word come from the mouths of racist bad guys, and some of the story attempts to explore racism and bigotry (but not so much that it disrupts the comedy).  Nevertheless, it seemed daring to me because I don’t think I have ever spoken this word, though I often curse like a sailor.  My parents never beat me for anything, much less using this word.  But I grew up in a family of Libertarians who pretty much ignored skin color.  And I was sheltered enough in white suburban California that racial issues were never prominent in my experience.  Racism in the news always seemed somewhat unreal (well, a lot of the news did).  It was only later, studying history in college, that I began to see racism as a real and contemporary problem.  Well, that’s how sheltered I was.

Say the word as an insult and it brands you a stupid bigot.  Say it ironically, or even analytically (as a commentary on language, for example) and it is too easy to be misunderstood, or come off as a priveledged white intellectual (which is what I am, basically, but I try not to flaunt it).  It was an easy word to avoid, until this post.

Anyway, the blog under the microscope today is Miami Rhapsody, a truly fascinating read published by Yvette.  I recommend subscribing.  She won’t fill your inbox as often as many others, and seems to write only when she has something interesting to say.  Her word sample runs from July 28, 2006 to June 1, 2007–every word she posted up to that point.  There were only 20,000 words in the sample, so the numbers will look a little low in comparison to other blogs examined recently (where the samples tend towards 30,000)  Yvette added 510 words.  There were 3,608 different words in her sample, a little above the norm, I think.

Here is a word cloud comprised of the words used more than twice by Yvette but not at all by any of the other 23 blogs sampled thus far.

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

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 Yvette used them in the sample.  And the right lobe consists of only two words that everyone else sampled thus far has used, but that Yvette did not.  She doesn’t seem to care about money or looks.  Refreshing, isn’t it?

Here is another effort by my Haiku-generating algorithm.

You professor’s racists!
The louder nuns not potted
are the nuns you mow.

“Professor’s racists.”  I kinda like that, although I’m not sure what it would mean.  A group of brown-shirted nerdy bigots?  Something in the phrasing seems like a badly-translated Maoist slogan of some sort.  And “mowing the louder nuns” also puts me in mind of those jokes we told as a kid: What’s black and white and red all over? 

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, Yvette!

Next up: two more Floridian blogs, A Mom, A Blog, and the Life In-Between, then “Klotz,” as in “Blood,” then Silverneurotic, who is not from Florida, if I remember correctly.

Meme of Eight May 29, 2007

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

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.


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.

Name that Blog December 21, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter VIII gets a start November 16, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, luck or time, NaNoWriMo 2006, national novel writing month 2006, Other, writing.
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A weird experience tonight updating my progress on the NaNoWriMo website.  I typed in the number of words I had written tonight, 1,888, and I though about how many, or how few that is. 

When I was in graduate school I lived in this really small town in the Pacific Northwest called Palouse.  There was a hotel there, well the building had at one time been a hotel, even though there were less than a thousand people in the town and it was 15 miles of wheat between it and any other town at all.  The hotel, St. Elmo’s, had been built in 1888.  So it made me think about how I had written, in a couple of hours, a word for ever year since the birth of Christ (for that is how I was brought up to think about years, of course.) 

I just amazed me to think that there are so few years and that things have changed so much.  Because a year doesn’t seem very long to me any more.  And they just seem to roll by. 

I must be awfully tired, I suppose.

Books–Left Behind October 20, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, luck or time, Other.

Boy, do I feel stupid.  I am a member of Paperbackswap.com and bookmooch.com because I read a lot.  Anyway, I ordered this book, thinking that it was fiction.  Apparently there is more than one book about the end of the world called Left Behind.  (Apparently I wanted the one by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, the first in a series of fictional works that has been very popular.  It may also suck, but at this point I do not know that for sure.)  The one I ordered is called Left Behind, by Peter and Patti LaLonde.  I’ll review it to spare anyone else the torture of this book.

Imagine a book about biblical events like rapture and the time of tribulations written in the second person in a style that begins as a story, but almost immediately becomes a sort of FAQ.  Now imagine that it was written by people with a loose grasp of how the different tenses of Standard Written English may be used.  Yes, it makes some difficult reading.  Not that they had an easy task before them. 

The book starts out as a sort of extended letter from a couple who was swept up in the rapture to all those unfortunates who remained behind.  But as an evangelical work, its main goal is to convince the reader to accept Jesus as their personal savior before it is too late.  Thematically it is grounded in the here-and-now.  In terms of plotting, it takes place in the future.  But since it was written in the early 1990s, much of its “future” is actually our past, or possibly our present.  Much of the book’s “support” comes from biblical sources and biblical “scholars” like Hal Lindsey (who I always confuse with TV’s Barney Miller, Hal Linden).  So you have to add at least two temporal modes and you have to be really careful with the originals.  The writers did not take such care. 

And the chapter titles and subheads often take you out of the action entirely and are sometimes simply pointless.  Consider my personal favorite subheading of all time: “We Say All That To Say This” (37).  I’m going to modify that one and use it in my correspondence from now until the end times as a replacement for my frequent ellipses. 

Another problem is the writer-based prose.  The title of chapter five is a good case in point for this.  Chapter five is called “What Are Some Of The Excuses You Will Hear For The Vanishing?”  Now if this were really intended to be a FAQ-style document, the title should be “What are some of the excuses I will hear for the vanishing?”  But that shouldn’t side-track us from the fact that this simply is not one of the questions I would ask anybody.  There are chapters devoted to Star Trek and Whitley Strieber as well.  Not really what I’d be thinking about w/r/t the end times.  But I say all that to say this: Do not buy this book, even if you believe in this stuff.  I’m sure that there are books that are much more accessible and less confusing. 

Books–The Last Continent October 11, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, luck or time, Other.
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I had a lot of trouble with this one, despite the fact that Pratchett writes really well and I have actually read this one before.  In fact, I read all of the Discword books during a 6-month period of 2005, just after Jon Carroll mentioned them in his daily (more or less) column for the San Francisco Chronicle.  Thus, I may have not internalized them as much as I would like to have done. 

Anyway, this one features Rincewind, the wizard who cannot actually do magic.   (Other wizards living on Discworld do not do magic, mostly, but could, if they really had to.)  For some reason that I cannot immediately recall, Rincewind is on Fourecks (XXXX) which is like Australia.  The other wizards of unseen University are attempting to find him, but they are searching in the wrong time. 

Mainly, unfortunately, the book’s humor centers to a large extent, upon knowledge of Australia that I simply do not possess.  I know this because I just looked up the book on Lspace.  Perhaps it would be funnier if I had such knowledge.  But when you have to have the jokes explained to you it kind-of kills the humor. 

And the Rincewind novels have never been my favorites.   I much prefer the novels centered on Sam Vimes, or on the Witches of Lancre, or on Death and his adopted family. 

So, if I ever read this again, I’ll be sure to visit Lspace for a basic primer a few weeks before.

Four-leaf clover October 5, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in luck or time, Other.
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I finally found my first four-leaf clover of the year on Sunday, while I was outside with the dog.  And today I found the second, just three days later.  They’re both nice looking, too, not mower-chewed like so many were last year.  I haven’t mowed the lawn in at least six or seven week, so that helps.

Luck, II September 3, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in luck or time, Other.
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This quote from Douglas Coupland’s latest book, JPod:

<<Kaitlin said, “What a weird coincidence.  I should go out and buy a lottery ticket.”

“How come?”

“Any time you have a coincidence happen to you, it means you’ve entered a luck warp–for the next short while everything you do will be touched by it.”>>  (253)

The narrator’s character then decides to stop looking for a good flight to China and just show up at the airport hoping for something to turn up.  It does, another character booked him a first-class ticket.

So I’m not alone in thinking about this streak-of-luck business, I suppose.