Monday, January 18, 2010

A meme of one's own

Memes have to start somewhere, so I though I'd have a go at one. The image above is a tag cloud of the song titles in my iTunes library. Of course a meme only works if other people follow suit, so here's how I did it:

1. Fire up your iTunes (or equivalent) and select all your songs and hit Ctrl+C.
2. Open up Excel (or equivalent) and hit Ctrl+V. On most OS's this should just paste your library in text form, with separate columns for song title, artist etc.
3. Select just the song title column and hit Ctrl+C.
4. Point your browser at Tag Crowd and paste into the "Paste text to be visualized" box.
5. Click "Visualize!"
6. Screenshot the results and post them to your blog.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Stuff I'm totally going to do in 2010

I'm not much into New Years resolutions, but there are a few things I hope to do this year, apart from the usual publishing papers and writing grants. In essence these are about digitisation and downsizing.

1) Digitising my DVD collection
Towards the end of last year I purchased a nifty 1-terabyte external hard disk and I've since been ripping my DVD collection onto it using the excellent Handbrake. Most other rippers are actually two programs, but this is really easy to use and does the whole thing for you (with plenty of options for customising the output). I've even set up a separate iTunes library just for this purpose so I can have all the nice DVD covers and everything, but my music remains on my laptop. (There is a trick on the Mac when you load iTunes by holding down alt first that allows you to pick which library you load.) Currently I'm about half way through the ripping, but there are still lots of covers to scan.

2) The great paper reduction
My second, much bigger project, is to try and digitise my entire academic library so that I can take more stuff with me on my (fingers crossed) next post-doc. Being a macroevolutionary type my library is quite large and runs to several feet of books and tens of boxfiles. Again, I have already started this, purchasing a nice Epson multi-purpose device that includes a paper feed scanner allowing automated scanning of multiple pages, so less work in creating the initial digital files for the ones I can't just download a PDF for. I then tend to clean these up in Photoshop, usually by ramping up the contrast so OCR is easier, as well as rotating them so the text is nice and straight and cropping any black edges. Initially each file (usually one or two pages) is saved as it's actual page number(s) in the paper (so I can quickly see if any are missing) and each paper is a separate folder. I then combine them into a nice PDF using Acrobat Pro, OCR it for text recognition and then optimise it for a smaller file size. I have PDFs for several boxfiles already, but what I really want to do is link these up to my Endnote library before discarding the original, in a recycling bin of course. Not sure I'll complete this in a year, but hopefully I will be able to clear some space from under my desk where I keep the boxfiles that I have no shelf space for.

3) Selling stuff
During my years at Bristol I managed to acquire far too much stuff - I took one carload to Bristol and two van loads out. I have had to downsize to some degree already in my move to London, but there is still a lot of superfluous stuff in my room that I really need to get rid of, either by selling or giving it away. I haven't been ruthless enough in my life so far in getting rid of things I don't use anymore, but hopefully I can finish 2010 with just the things I really need or love.

4) Getting back into running
Just before my PhD I ran the Bristol half marathon and enjoyed it. Since then I haven't really done any running at all, but I now really need the exercise and for a while now I have been thinking of doing the New York marathon, although this will likely have to wait until 2011 due to a clash with this year's GSA. The only way I'm going to get back into it though is if I sign up for another half marathon as I need the incentive to get training again and it looks like I might be going in for the Budapest half marathon in September.

5) Bookmark liberation
In my end of year review I mentioned that I am now getting into reading in a big way, but there are still several books on my shelves that I started reading, but for whatever reason stopped. It is my hope that I can finish these off over the space of the next 12 months, and indeed more generally reach a point where I have actually read all the books I own (with the exception of things like reference books and the like).

About Me

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Currently I am founding member, president elect and entire membership of SWEMP (the Society of Wonky-Eyed Macroevolutionary Palaeobiologists). In my spare time I get paid to do research on very dead organisms and think about the really big questions in life, such as: What is the ultimate nature of reality? Why is there no room for free will in science? and What are the implications of having a wardrobe that consists entirely of hotpants?