Nov 29, 2007

Million book collection

I once got to visit the library at Trinity College in Dublin. It houses manuscripts dating back to the 16th century, including some exquisite hand-written Celtic books. The library proper has bookshelves two stories high. I stood between the long rows of books, gazing at the hundreds and hundreds of leather spines, and found myself grinning like an idiot. I was happy with the thought that so much human knowledge is put forth in such a way that other humans can gain the same knowledge. I was grinning over the limitless possibilities.

For the digital age, The Universal Digital Library and its Million Book Collection is a good go. It is a work in progress, but you just may find the one gem you were looking for.

Nov 28, 2007

Germy

1,168,440How Many Germs Live On Your Keyboard?

That's my keyboard at work.

1,617,840How Many Germs Live On Your Keyboard?

And that's my keyboard at home. I guess I need to stop eating at the computer.

But before you get all grossed out, this is how germy I am:

See? That bar thingy doesn't go up all that high. See? (But they should compare it to kitchen sinks. Toilet seats are clean because butts never touch anything but toilet seats.

(Via Paula.)

Nov 26, 2007

Facebook: Crash and burn

"Please tell us why you are deactivating your account." I selected, "I don't find it useful". Facebook then informed me that if I connected with more friends I probably would.

No, Facebook. The few friends I had connected with were sending virtual drinks and teddy bears and graffiti and hugs and group messages all over and I was getting notified of almost everything because Facebook wants me to know what my friends are up to. And yes, you can opt out of the e-mail notifications. But what difference does that make? Next time you log in, a bunch of unread messages, another bunch of invites to be green or international or peace-loving or whatever, and virtual bouquets of flowers, martinis or gifts waiting to be collected - and it all means adding another app and with that, another icon. The picture shows my list of apps at quitting time.

Some of it was fun, yes, but it got too - messy. Too many messages, too many updates, too many tabs to click and places to check, and the invitations inevitably meant accepting yet another app (like the I Am Green and Happy Hour! and Friends Density apps) and then it didn't always work, which meant there was an invitation not yet accepted, waiting. The message discussions were between friends I already do e-mail discussions with and with a better interface.

I have indeed reconnected with a couple of friends from Usenet, back when. But Facebook does not replace Usenet or e-mail. I could not make practical use of it, nor did I see anyone else making practical use of it, so I bowed out. I already have a bunch of RSS feeds and daily web sites, a few Usenet groups, and e-mails to read, and can't always keep up with. Whew! I sound busy! Well, yes. Why Facebook doesn't fit for me is because it got bogged down in "cute" (I don't do cute, people). And I couldn't figure out how to find local events. I think Facebook is a cancer: Takes over the body's resources and feeds on sugar.

OK, maybe not a cancer. More like a loud cocktail party. I was just trying to explain to friends the difference between extroverts and introverts. This is what I wrote:

I'm pretty talkative and bubbly myself and because I share some of my pains with other people I'm not personal friends with, I thought for years that I was an extrovert even though after three days of constant interaction with other people, I have to be all by myself.

Turns out there are plenty of talkative and bubbly introverts. It's _what_ they talk about that sets them apart from the extroverts.

Extroverts need to work out their feelings and personal stuff together with other people, and so tend to share details that make most introverts question the extrovert's sense of decency. For the extrovert that's business as usual; being without other people for too long drains them.

The introvert prefers to share personal or intimate details with the few close and trusted in his/her life and often/usually works out emotional stuff by withdrawing, pondering, meditating. Being with other people for too long drains them.

Extrovert: I can't stand being all by myself. I love seeing other people! Let's party!
Introvert: I'd rather be home reading a good book than engaging in smalltalk.

(Which is true. I'd either better be having a good conversation with one or two people or on the floor dancing, or I'll just go home. I don't care how wonderful the party or that I paid to get in. I'll pay to leave, too. I've taken a cab home early more than once.)

Facebook suddenly appeared as noisy as a cocktail party to me, but far more chaotic. After all, at a cocktail party, you can slink off to a corner and nurse your drink in peace.

My name is so unusual, and this blog so old, that if anyone cares to find me, they will, without Facebook. And when you do find me, I would love to hear from you.

PS: I did just get a new book in the mail. I'm reading tonight!

Nov 23, 2007

The perfect gadget!

I am never the first one to jump on the gadget bandwagon. I was not the first to buy an iPod, the iPod I do have must be four years old by now and doesn't do color, photos or video, and I am not likely to buy an iPhone. But the Amazon Kindle e-Book Reader is definitely a gadget I want! I rarely fall for something the moment I see it but I did this time.

It's small. It holds 200 books or something. I can read all I want, where I want, and not clutter my nightstand, my purse or my bookshelves! It requires no computer and interfaces to download like a cell phone. I am so sold!

But should I buy it? Will it work in Norway? It's a bit pricy, but the dollar is at an all-time low compared to the Norwegian krone, so now's a good time to buy.

I think that first I need to finish reading all the information on the explanatory page. I've seen only the little introductory video so far. Oh, and I have to wipe the drool off my keyboard.

UPDATE: Time to let you guys know how I heard of the Kindle. It also addresses some of the criticism showing up in my comments.

Lady in red*

Paula, who prefers purple and who inspired me to do this blogtest, needs orange. Very well. What do I need?

You Need Some Red in Your Life

Red will make you feel energetic, passionate, and determined. And with a little red, you will project an aura of warmth. If you want to feel intensely, you've got to get some red in your life!

For extra punch: Combine red with orange or pink

The downside of red: Red can provoke anger or rage. Watch out!

The consequences of more red in your life:

  • You will feel more enthusiasm for life
  • You will have the confidence to go after what you want
  • You will have a lot more physical energy

How about that. Three days running I've been wearing something bright red, and I deliberately chose to. I hunted for red things to wear. And I have been feeling better these last couple of days in spite of not getting a full night's sleep for a couple of nights (darned perimenopause). Now, let's find some pink and orange and red candles. I still have stuff to do!

*) Never saw the movie and I'm not terribly fond of the title song. I do, however, look great in red.

Nov 22, 2007

I wrote a to-do list instead of a novel

That's it for NaNoWriMo for this year. I got stuck - partly because I didn't do an outline or anything, and partly because I, well, got bored with it. I don't write the way the writers I like write. Anyway, I've rather suspected that my strength is not in fiction, but in non-fiction. And while I was trying to write almost 2000 words a day, I found myself wanting to update both of my blogs.

I found inspiration for Budding Yogini but not the time or calm to hash it out. And that is partly because I am distracted by my stomach and my day job.

The advantage to an all-rice diet is that you do lose weight. When I gain weight, I lose my hourglass figure. My waistline is the first to go. Then my chin. Then the rest of me. Also, IBS means bloating. The brown rice was the first food I'd eaten in a very long time that did not give me gas once, which was wonderful. So I've lost a couple of pounds and my waistline is back, even when I relax my stomach. And my chin line's back. Can't stand losing my chin line. My digestion is currently not good, and of course it is the season for festivities and heavy meals. I am now enjoying a cup of ginger tea to help my stomach.

Tightness in my hips and back led to outright stiffness and pain. I thought to myself that this is no way to approach 47! So I've started doing more yoga and between that and standing while I work, my hips and back are back to normal. But for someone who doesn't usually have such problems, aches and pains are darned distracting.

And that made work harder than it needed to be. Between giving up coffee and the distraction from aches, I wasn't terribly focused at all last week. This week has gone far better, but there is a lot to do. Both the usual year-end crazies and a graphical profile project plus converting a number of complicated printed forms to equally complicated interactive PDF-forms. And I'm the one to do that last one without help. Whew... But this week, hectic as it has been so far, has been offering up several tunnels with lights at the ends of them (though new tunnels keep showing up). And it is nice to get positive feedback on my creativity.

At home there are a number of things to do, including the blog, exploring investments for my savings (inspired by a change in pension plans at work), and catching up on a bunch of paper work. I feel like the to-do list at home is as long as the one I have at work.

Man, am I glad it's almost the weekend!

Nov 19, 2007

Sweet hippo story

Granted, there are many cute animal stories around. Me, I don't often get as good a look at a hippo as in this video, and it was fascinating to watch her behavior around people and dogs. A very sweet story.

Replacing Usenet

Ooh, there's another group! What an interesting title! What are they talking about! Oh, I want to reply to that!

My meandering around on Facebook tonight has been reminiscent of when I first got a computer at home with a modem and the world wide web waiting for me to dial, 10 years ago. I tripped over a weirdness called Usenet and fell in love. I do my best thinking through my fingers. Poking around Facebook and looking at all the groups to join and noting the discussions reminded me very much of my first foray into Usenet.

There a few things I don't like about Facebook, but it may be because I don't know enough. I don't like the look of the main page. It's called "Profile" and is full of widgets, pictures and comments from friends. It very quickly gets cluttered-looking and I can't think straight with so much visual "noise". The other thing is Facebook's networks by region. All of Norway is lumped as one, and I'm trying to figure out how I can search just for Bergen without getting everyone who has Bergen in their name.

UPDATE: "Profile" is not the main page, I accidentally discovered just now. I'm such a n00b.

UPDATE 2: Hah! There's an RSS feed! Woohoo!

As I type this, I am eating one of the tastiest meals I have had in a long time: Steamed broccoli and cauliflower with a side of beans. The veggies are seasoned with herb salt and Provence spice blend and olive oil. After a week of eating only brown rice, this tastes divine!

In case you are wondering why I'm eating funny, well, some of it is inspired by re-reading a book and constipation that started during my summer vacation and has refused to let up. I have always had that trouble, but this summer it was just like when I was a kid. I was getting miserable. The brown rice has completely agreed with me and my IBS, so now I have to find what else I can eat without trouble. Raisins are out, unfortunately (I tried some this past weekend). I've given up coffee as a daily habit.

Nov 18, 2007

A different horoscope

The above is sun sign astrology, but it uses keywords and phrases I haven't come across before, and is breaks with the stereotype. The above fits me, with a few exceptions: "Nice to everyone" is a goal not a fact (I'm still too irritable), and I am definitely not soft-spoken. Also, I'm not sure about being romantic (though I am a sucker for a happy ending, in both movies and real life). As for being rare and wonderful if found, let me know about that one if you find me, 'K?

(Via Paula.)

Nov 16, 2007

Facebook, part 2

Facebook is rather obscure. It could have answered my questions "why" and "why register" itself, if it had bothered to put this bit of text from its privacy policy on its main page somewhere:

Facebook is about sharing information with others — friends and people in your networks — while providing you with privacy settings that restrict other users from accessing your information. We allow you to choose the information you provide to friends and networks through Facebook. Our network architecture and your privacy settings allow you to make informed choices about who has access to your information.

Yes, I finally signed up. No, it's not obvious to me that registering equals being able to set privacy settings, or what "privacy settings" are. Registering on Facebook itself means giving private info (like full name and birthdate) to something public. OK, so my neurons travel in crazy wormholes. Point is, Alice's mention that she finds out about local events via Facebook was the clincher: over 140,000 400,000 Norwegians (out of a population of 4.5 million) have signed up, so that means that someone must know what's going on in Bergen.

And who knows... Maybe there's another old friend waiting for me out there?

Nov 15, 2007

Facebook. I just don't get it.

I already turned down one friend who invited me to befriend her on Facebook, and now here comes another.

So why don't I sign up so I can see what they're up to?

Because, honestly, after years of web use, there are so many places I'm registered with and ditto number of passwords to remember. I have Yahoo, Google/Blogger, NaNoWriMo, Flickr and LiveJournal (that last only to avoid commenting anonymously). I had Frappr and Orkut.

I gave up Frappr because some men were trolling for women, and when I went to log in to turn the latest offer of friendship down, I couldn't remember what I'd signed up with. Took me two days to work that one out, so I closed the account. I obviously had no use for it. One attempt at joining something (Orkut?) stranded because I had to fill out all this stuff, like name and age and gender and sun sign and favorite quote (I don't have one) just to sign up, so I gave up.

I don't even bother with Web 2.0 stuff like Backpack. Everything requires a user name and a password and I'm tired of making those up and then remembering (what the heck did I sign up to iMDB with? I wanna read the discussions!). No, I'm not so stupid that I use the same username and password with every account.

Maybe it's time to give up Blogger and go Facebook all the way.

No, it's not. Facebook requires registration which makes it exclusive. I love the web (and Usenet) because it is open to everyone.

So why do other people sign up for stuff like Facebook? Do they really use it? Do they like that it requires registration? Do they want the community? My photos are published via my own home pages. Am I hopelessly old-fashioned? And yes, I would like to hear your opinion.

Nov 11, 2007

Snowdays

I ran into a former neighbor yesterday, picking up my new LaCie D2 Quadra, and we stood in the snow talking for a good while about the weather.

It is just about zero Celsius and snow is coming down. The first snow of the season is usually wet and fleeting, but it looks like this one is taking hold. The somewhat melted stuff of yesterday has been covered by a fresh blanket, and has turned the naked trees into models for Christmas cards. It won't stay, though. There's no freezing temperature reported for the coming days, so it'll all turn to mush and be a nuisance.

But I am happy to see it. Last year's winter wasn't. We had no freezing temperatures and no snow and no days of clear, crisp weather. For three months straight, we had rain. It is so normal to have a first snow in November that doesn't stay. So it's nice to have.

The new LaCie 500 GB external hard drive is so I can move some stuff off my tiny (umpteen songs and photos will do that) 80 GB internal hard drive. My older LaCie 160 GB d2 will find other use, I'm sure.

And I was stuck again on my novel. But instead of writing out what happens in the years in between, I decided to just fast forward and have my heroine already beaten up. Saves having to actually beat her up. Do you know how much typing that takes? Me, neither, and I don't feel like finding out. So let's see if I can get anywhere near to catching up.

Nov 8, 2007

The Roman Empire still exists

Disclaimer thingy: I am writing about this because of something I learned during our last class, something relevant to today's political and cultural maps. If you want an actual history lesson with dates and stuff, try Wikipedia.

The rise and fall of the Roman empire did not happen with any single event. The fall was actually a combination of reorganization, erosion and invasion that took about a millenium to complete and yet the Roman empire lives on, its spirit divided into three.

Sometime in the 5th century CE, emperor Constantine, who simply didn't like the city of Rome, set up shop in Byzantion, and renamed it Constantinople. The empire then basically split into a western and an eastern part. Rome was already being abandoned by its population for various reasons, so when someone asked, "Shouldn't we elect an emperor of Rome?" the answer was basically a shrug. The Roman Empire, as a military power, continued in the east, while the Goths finally seized Rome in the west.

In the west (west of Greece), the population had been going through a shift in organization and attitudes. For one, the increase in Christianity led to the freeing of the slaves, and a movement away from a purely urban lifestyle. Christianity was actually an urban religion, so this development was new for the Christians, too. In lieu of political leadership, the church stepped in as the unifying factor. In fact, as the empire crumbled in the west and local peoples took back self-rule, there was still a continuity and stability thanks to the church and its use of Latin. For centuries, anyone in Europe had access to all the knowledge ever written in the empire, simply by learning Latin. This plus its status with the common people, made the church an umbrella organization even trumping all the kings of Europe. The Roman Catholic church even today has rituals that come directly from Roman Empire military ceremonies.

In the east, the Roman Empire with its succession of emperors and local senate, abandoned Latin and opted for Greek. In this area, basically today's eastern Europe, the church had a different status with the pope being second in command to the emperor. Eventually, this evolved into today's Orthodox church and the east-west divide also came to influence the choice of alphabet.

To this day, the divide between the eastern and western administrative divide of the Roman Empire can still be clearly seen: Just make a note of which countries are or were Roman Catholic (like Poland). These countries seek west and after the fall of the Sovjet Union (which thought it could be a new Roman Empire) and the Warsaw pact, they have made a point of joining the European Union. Our laws, our system of justice, and even many main highway routes, are also from Roman times.

So we know where the intellectual and political aspects of the empire went (west and east, respectively). What about the third aspect, the empire idea, where did that end up? With the Moslems, that's where. They also kept the urban focus of the Romans, but not their language or administration.

I shall now return to my novel. Speaking of which, The Happiness Project has some writing advice.

Nov 7, 2007

Instead of writing

on my novel, I've let myself be distracted by Google sets (via Paula. The trick is to do as Paula did, and ignore Google's example of a set.

I entered "cat" and "angels" and got a list of things that fly, including "cars" (must be the DeLorean) and "Buddha". (I'm sure cat + angel = Buddha, anyway.

Entering "Norway" and "striptease" gives a surprisingly mundane list. "Dragons" and "striptease" was far more amusing, offering underwear and Disney (heh).

Your turn!

Nov 6, 2007

Now, what did I come in here for?

I know there was something I wanted to say, but darned if I can remember...

What follows is blogpost padding. Read at your own peril.

I re-read the book "You Are All Sanpaku" which has made me somewhat paranoid, and very curious about other people's eyes. I'm also eating a lot of brown rice. The nice thing about that is that figuring out what to have for dinner has become very easy. It's also very confusing. I mean, the macrobiotic diet is antithetic to low-carb diets. Or vice-versa. So who to listen to?

There's an attempt at leaving some white stuff on the ground today. Those crazy weather gods. They do like to tease.

I discovered where the magpie sleeps during the night: In the tree next to its nest. Exposed to whatever those crazy weather gods think of. I'm rather glad I'm not a magpie (though I think it would be fun to be a crazy weather god).

I wrote nothing yesterday. Well, I did, but it wasn't my novel. I finished up my course in the rise and petering out (because it didn't exactly fall) of the Roman Empire. A very interesting last evening in the lecture series. The end of the empire wasn't, really, because everything we westerners do today is rooted in the way of the Romans. But that's another blogpost (OK, I'd write about it now, but I don't have my notes with me).

Java mocca coffee is tasty. Totally incompatible with macrobiotics, but tasty.

OK, you can leave now.

Nov 4, 2007

Ack, trivial pursuit!

I'm supposed to be writing a novel. So what happens? My curiosity, as usual, gets the better of me and I end up delightedly poking around in this map and blogpost. So Rivendell was in Norway... That puts an interesting slant on things.

And in other news: The Indians almost had a state. I didn't know that about Oklahoma's history.

I tripped over the above thanks to a friend's (hi, Max!) linkage to this illustrative painting of Norway, Europe, and Norway's relationship with water.

Do read the comments to the above blogposts. Very informative.

Now, could somebody please come and tear me loose from strange maps? I really must write my novel. Thanks.

Nov 3, 2007

Word counter

Shamelessly stolen from Paula (who, I admit, is my mentor in all this. Bet you didn't know that, Paula!). Now to get that percentage into the double digits (like Paula).

The Whale and the Hockey Stick

The title of this blogpost happens to be the title of my work-in-progress (WIP) at NaNoWriMo (see widget to the left). It's actually the whimsical title of a couple of galaxies, which was the Astronomy Picture of the Day on October 12. For lack of a better title for a WIP, I stole this.

I have no clue how to write a novel, in spite of having taken a few writing classes and having read a few books on writing (including Stephen King's "On Writing"). My cluelessness may be due to the fact that I have never written any fiction longer than a short-story. But the idea behind the National Novel Writing Month is to just put the words down - 50,000 in all - by midnight November 30.

Still, that leaves the challenge of having words to put down. I submitted over 1300 words (daily target should be closer to 1700) on Nov. 1. I got bogged down in some goings on between two characters that I didn't know the end of, and one of them I had given such a trendy name to, that I got irritated every time I typed it. (My apologies to those of you who really are named Shawna.) It's rather amusing that ideas that spring out of one's own brain can be as annoying as a real-life situation. So, yesterday I had to start over.

I butchered my 2005 Pema Chödrön calendar, ditching all the gorgeous photographs except one, but saving every monthly quote about the journey of the bodhisattva - the spiritual warrior. Because they say to write what you know, and all I really know is about spiritual quest, trying to work out the hows and whys of not only my life, but the whole planet's, and what exactly is this god thingy. Because I like there to be a reason, a purpose to all of this and dessert afterwards. So I hung up a cork board (with apologies to Grandma's painting that was hanging there), decorated it with some beads, tacked the monthly quotes to it, and started over last night. I typed in the first quote, and inspired by it, made it to over 1900 words, which is good for one day, but I'm still behind. No matter. That's what weekends are for.

Here's where the fun begins, and which many writers have mentioned before: The characters in your head start to take on their own lives, and go in directions you hadn't thought of. I thought my protagonist was going to be the teacher, but the teacher turned out to be my intended rape victim who wasn't raped after all (and here I was thinking that the writers of soap operas must be loopy...). I went to bed last night, actually looking forward to what these two would do next. Which is exactly how it should be. I also hope that by writing a (short) book based on these buddhistic quotes, I may actually understand what they mean.

In case you're wondering, here is the quote:

The dharma - the Buddha's teaching - is about letting go of the story line and opening to what is to people in our life, to the situations we're in, to our thoughts, to our emotions. We have a certain life, and whatever life we're in is a vehicle for waking up.