Last time I moved I threw out my back repositioning Grandma’s china cabinet for the 10th time. My latest (and hopefully last) moving experience was a dream because of the Lay-It-Out furniture templates. These unique life-sized paper furniture templates are the shape of your bed, sofa, tables, chairs, rugs, billiard table. After trimming them to the appropriate size (measurements are in inches and centimeters), we placed them on the floor and – as I was directed to the appropriate…


Olive sizes

Mark Hurst at Good Experience wonders today about the words used to classify olive oil — pure, virgin, and extra virgin: “I mean, what’s the difference between ‘virgin’ and ‘extra virgin’ in any other context?” Mark’s conclusion: “Olive oil suffers from name inflation.”

Which reminded me of the strange array of words used to size olives, something I first learned about (and still vaguely recall) from a Marshall Efron skit on The Great American Dream Machine.

You can find the…

Olive sizes

Dick on Kipple

There’s the First Law of Kipple… ‘Kipple drives out nonkipple.’

…Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you to go bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up there is twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.

No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot.
- Do…

Dick on Kipple

The H.O.F. Holiday Gift Goad (Or, Pay Attention, You Cheap Bastards)

At a loss for a gift this holiday season? Screwing over friends and family and buying crap just for yourself? Bad with your money in general and need to splurge on something pointless to help bloat your credit card bills? Dirt poor and reckless?

We could care less what your situation is, really. We just want to point out that a lot of our comics-related junk is still available from SLG Publishing and you could still spend your goddam money on it if you had half a brain. And maybe you’d get…

The H.O.F. Holiday Gift Goad (Or, Pay Attention, You Cheap Bastards)

Is Led Zeppelin Still Going Strong? (Soundcheck: Monday, 10 December 2007)

The much-anticipated Led Zeppelin reunion concert takes place tonight in London. While it’s been a long time since they rock & rolled, they remain the backbone of classic-rock radio and influential on ever hard-rock band around. Today we debate how important their legacy is with music critic David Browne and take your calls.

Weigh in: What do you think of Led Zeppelin’s music, legacy and tonight’s reunion?

Is Led Zeppelin Still Going Strong? (Soundcheck: Monday, 10 December 2007)

End o' the semester cleanup

After the Spring 2007 semester, I asked Marilyn what she did with all of her notes, drafts of papers and presentations, and so on. She said that she used to keep everything, but now she kept only the final copies and threw the rest away.That struck me as a sensible way to go. When I was a reporter, one piece of advice I got was to destroy my reporter notebooks when I was done with them. If the story had been printed, it was part of the public record and that's where people should go for the information. So here's what I'm planning to do as I wrap up the end of a very busy Fall 2007:

  • Online: Delete all the Google Docs stuff that supported my papers.
  • PC: I keep separate subfolders for each class by its number. Go through each one, delete the drafts and supporting research material; keep the final version of papers I handed in. The papers have the citation references if I need to pull up the original articles again. Move this folder to my INLS folder, which sits in my Archives folder.
  • Zotero: I used this to capture pages for a paper and spit out the citations. Delete everything. Update: Well, maybe that was too hasty. I've read of heavy-duty Zotero users who use it to keep lots of stuff; some heavy RefWorks users do the same thing to track their citations and readings. Up to now, I really haven't needed that kind of tracking power, so I'll wait to deploy that weaponry at a later time.
  • Hard copy: I think I'll start a binder for papers that have my professors' handwritten comments. There actually haven't been that many papers in my school career so far; this was my writing semester, with about 12 one-page critiques, two 15-page papers, and lots of writing on a grant proposal. I like the idea of keeping them all in a binder, tab-separated. Update: What I actually did was label two manila envelopes with the class number, put my hardcopy papers in them, and file them under "I" for INLS. I fell back to asking myself, "What's the simplest thing that could possibly work?" Binders require just those few extra steps that I didn't want to go through; much easier to put everything in an envelope (including the syllabus and reading lists) and be done with it.
  • Printed articles: I really can't read journal articles on-screen--I need hard-copy. I've kept them all through the semester in separate pouches for each class. I'll look at each one and probably just recycle. Any articles that have to do with my work project I'll put aside and keep in a binder at work.

Now, keeping track of all this mess during the semester is another challenge I haven't conquered yet. I like the intellectual tidiness of keeping everything online, but it's not always practical. For one class, I kept my graded critiques in a binder; for the other, I stuffed the graded paper into a pouch that held all my readings for the semester.


Designer name to come

I’m no vegan, but is using colors that remind one (or me, at least) of straw and mold the best way to spread the gospel of vegan deliciousness? I don’t think so.


Coffee Better Than Napping for the Sleepy Driver [Driving]

coffee-v-nap.pngThe New York Times looks into which option is better to help sleepy drivers stay alert: a nap or a cup of joe. In a study conducted by French researches to determine which better helped drivers avoid crossing the center line, it looks like coffee wins out, but how well it works depends on your age.

For middle-aged drivers, aged 40 to 50, coffee was a far better choice. Caffeinated coffee lowered risk for these drivers by 89 percent, while the nap only reduced line crossings by 23…

Coffee Better Than Napping for the Sleepy Driver [Driving]

Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution

Cover art by Martha Rosler

Not sure that I’ve ever featured an exhibit catalogue on the BDR before. If I haven’t, this is a heck of a way to start.

Check out the page maintained by LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art for a spirited discussion of this cover (or tell us what you think here). About the art on the cover itself, someone on the MOCA site quotes the catalogue:

“In one series of thirty-one works, ‘Body Beautiful’, or ‘Beauty Knows No Pain’, Rosler interrupted magazine…
Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution

Apparently atheists aren't American

“Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government.” Mitt Romney, 12/6/2007

Does this mean I get to stop paying taxes?  Since my citizenship has just been revoked….

“Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.”

So you can only believe in religious freedom if you have “knelt in prayer” to his god?  Otherwise you’re an enemy?  How can someone smart enough (theoretically) to be where he…
Apparently atheists aren’t American

Done, done, and done

For the last month, just as I thought I was nearing the finish line or reaching a milestone where I could catch my breath, another deadline or commitment loomed, both at work and at school. I spent last weekend binge-grading grant projects submitted by other teams in my Digital Preservation and Archiving class, reading an article, drafting a critique of said article, and drafting a research proposal. The grant info was due Monday, the critique due Wednesday, the proposal due Friday. Ho ho, thought I, can I turn in the proposal on Wednesday and avoid a commute to campus on Friday?

Well, no. The grant stuff and critique got done, but the proposal was a disaster. I just finished it tonight, printed it out, and after tomorrow morning, Christmas shopping can finally begin.

But here are lessons learned on the proposal:

  • Start early. Crucial to me, since I had to junk my entire first draft and start over from scratch.
  • Get a fellow student to read your paper and critique it for you. I’d read about this idea in other blogs, but this was the first time I’d done it. She was supportive but put her finger on a key weakness that I couldn’t write or think around. She also knew what he liked to see in papers and student work and provided good advice. Hence, my need to scrap it and start over.
  • Go back and read the professor’s directions. The weakness she pointed out was clearly delineated in his instructions for the proposal, had I but re-read them. Be a lawyer and read the fine print.
  • Don’t research forever–timebox it. The danger here is that I had left myself so little time that I barely skimmed the articles I found. No time for fancy research techniques; scan, skim, ingest. But the earlier you can do this, the more facts you can feed your brain so it can go to work in the background.
  • I started to feel panic a second time as I started over on the writing. Classic fear response. I relaxed and fell back on my ol’ NaNoWriMo skills and tips: Write a vomit draft. Don’t edit. Lower my standards. Think quantity, not quality. The more you write, the more you can write. Just keep your fingers flying. If you just don’t know what to write, the trick here is to write about your inability to write. Describe the frustration. Describe what you want to be able to say. Lo and behold, this always seems to unjam the blockage for me. (It’s all going to be deleted anyway, no one’s going to see it, so go crazy.)
  • I used InstantBoss (freeware), set for the standard 10 + 2 * 5 routine. By focusing for just that 10 minutes on writing and not diverting myself with editing, I got a good two pages done my first night. Tonight, I worked about 45 minutes total to finish it.
  • The key is not to finish the paper; the key is to keep starting. Eventually, you’ll reach the end.
  • I also decided that it’s OK to relax and do B-level work on this proposal. My class participation and other work have been more than up to the mark. No need to torque myself into a perfectionist knot.
  • It’s OK to feel like the slow kid in class. Three of my fellow students had finished their proposals early and I was disappointed that I couldn’t be a member of their club. Oh well–next time.

Links for 6-Dec-07

Get Productive to Groove Salad [Music]

GrooveSaladBox.jpg Just in time for finals week, the HackCollege blog recommends studying to a continuous ambient music stream from SomaFM called Groove Salad. If you can’t stand the drop-dead silence of the library but also can’t concentrate with lyrics, ambient music’s the ticket. Groove Salad, “a nicely chilled plate of ambient beats and grooves,” will stream directly to your music player for free. Been tapping keys to it myself as I rewrite the Lifehacker book. Here are more good study music…

Get Productive to Groove Salad [Music]

infosthetics shopping guide for the data-addicted

“confess. if you read this blog, you are addicted to data. this means you do not like Christmas presents. in fact, you hate those information-less presents your friends buy you each year. even after patiently telling them ‘any present should self-update at least each 30 seconds’, last year’s Christmas was still a disaster, despite that wireless weather station from your wife that is now measuring the temperature & humidity of those boxes on your attic.

starting from $15, here are infosthetics’…

infosthetics shopping guide for the data-addicted

Gods in color

Archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann makes color reconstructions of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. His work is on display at Harvard University’s Sackler Museum. From the Wall Street Journal:

The fashion for white antiquities dates back to the early 16th century, when the Renaissance began excavating works that had lain buried in the earth for centuries. Color traces still visible to the naked eye, deep in the folds of draped clothing, for instance, went unnoticed. Following what they…

Gods in color



Reader-diners know the pain of trying to balance a thick book and a meal without losing your page or spilling food. As a regular lunchtime reader, I went searching online for a tool that would allow for comfortable hands-free reading – and eureka! Cleverly designed, this diminutive device is replete with intelligent features: a little pull-out stand supports the book, two sturdy clips hold the pages in place, a pair of pull-out legs holds the book upright on a table. Best of all,…


Kleinert's dress shields

Free Image Hosting at

I found this advertisement in a manila folder while decluttering a bit in my office today. If an accompanying magazine cover is to be believed, this ad appeared the April 29, 1940 issue of Life.

If Arthur Murray were still living, he’d be 112 years old, and he would no doubt still, in a whisper, insist on Kleinert dress shields, even if the “the positions of the dance” nowadays are likely to reveal much more than underarms.

And lo — Kleinert’s is still making dress shields in Elba,…
Kleinert's dress shields

Soundcheck's Picks of the Week (Soundcheck: Wednesday, 05 December 2007)

Four stand-out new albums, as chosen by the Soundcheck staff.

Glenn Gould: “The Young Maverick” (CBC Records)

This new six-CD box set is drawn from radio broadcasts of the legendary Canadian pianist from the early ‘50s. Gould was a fearless performer, and the medium of live radio only heightens the sense of risk-taking here. –Brian Wise

“The Young Maverick” is available for purchase at

Doveman, “With My Left Hand I Raise the Dead” (Brassland)

This has been a…

Soundcheck’s Picks of the Week (Soundcheck: Wednesday, 05 December 2007)