Art Deco in Berlin – The house of the Steel Workers Union (Haus des Deutschen Metallarbeiterverbandes)

The house of the German union of steel producers, in German: Haus des Deutschen Metallarbeiterverbandes, is one of the best examples of the German Art Deco style in Berlin. It was designed in the 1…

Source: Art Deco in Berlin – The house of the Steel Workers Union (Haus des Deutschen Metallarbeiterverbandes)

The woodpecker and the weevil

This is a wonderful blog post, the first I’m reblogging here. There are a dozen mulleins in our garden this year. We’ve been watching the ”Woodies“ have at the mulleins, and Linda found this post (h/t to her). Btw, although called weeds, that’s  a relative term. In Mexico, for example, Cattleya orchids (= those flowers in corsages) are considered weeds. So it’s all relative…mulleins will never, ever be weeds to us.


It’s unusual to see Downy Woodpeckers foraging on herbaceous plants in the middle of a prairie landscape, even if the flower stalks do reach 5-6 feet tall.  But the mature seed pods of Common…

Source: The woodpecker and the weevil

Solving the “Content Curation” problem: practical

Previously broached  here. In the interim I’ve chased links and tested apps, both ad infinitum and, especially, ad nauseam. So let’s plunge into my opinionated findings.

First, I rule out the various news apps and sites. I get my news just fine from the print version of The New York Times, and save items via my digital subscription. If there’s a breaking news story I want to follow, and elections  come to mind these days, I do visit online sites, in no particular order. I also subscribe to daily digests of news analysis from Vox dot com. What about the omnipresent ios News app? Takes forever to update with new items, and way too many of those. If you have a modicum of interest in any kind of content, you’ll lose it fast with this app. Too much pain, not enough gain. Frankly, I’d rather watch paint dry.

News is one kind of content. But what I’m really concerned with here is essays long and short. Analyses, discussions, reviews. What follows obviously reflects my interests and disinterests. By no means complete. De gustibus…etc.

ios Apps

Two stand out from am otherwise dreary lot. There was a third, which would have been a clear winner until it was taken over (infra). The two still standing would be Feedly and Nuzzel.

Feedly is a roll-your-own magazine(s) situation; you indicate some initial interests and start browsing and adding to those interests in groups called, gasp, magazines. You can make multiple magazines, and most users dodo. The interface is pretty and functional, and it’s always clear what you’re doing. There are two issues. The first is understanding how Feedly changes what the feed offers you. You can like items you’ve found, or specifically ask for more like it. Or none of the above. I’ve found no way to keep a balance using any of those methods. The second issue is that there’s just everything: tweets, drek from the far corners of the web jostling with first-rate articles. Things get better if you gain some friends and follow some as well, but how you gain them is a hit or miss proposition; very few from my Twitter feed are on Feedly. Feedly took over a wonderful app, Zite. Which I used exclusively until the takeover . Zite remedied all of the items I’ve just complained of. If Zite still existed, I wouldn’t touch Feedly. A pis-aller, but an okay one. Feedly has a web interface too, but it’s downright overwhelming. I literally never use it.

Nuzzel. Very useful if you’ve got a good Twitter feed. I have just under 2K followers and about 1.4K people I follow. It presents topics they’ve tweeted about. The interface is polished, it’s easy to browse; thus, a pleasure to use. They have a web site, sort off, but you really need to use the app to get the most.I don’t miss a day with Nuzzel, unlike Feedly which I sort of have to remember to use. Downside: without a substantial Twitter feed, I’m not sure how useful Nuzzel can be.

A very traditional alternative


Arts and Letters Daily, found here. It’s curated, but without any of the bells and whistles you might expect from ios. A wonderful and intimidating selection of articles. You have to save and share in the traditional way from whatever way your online…they have no app. Their RSS feed is pathetic. The only problem: you can spend a whole morning here. Thus, you may not need to roll your won via RSS (infra) if this is to your liking. They have a Twitter presence, which doesn’t list everything, but more than the RSS feed. I always find at least a dozen items of interest each time I visit. Cheap advice: make sure you’ve got a Pocket or Instapaper or Evernote account; you WILL find things you want to read and save. Bottom line: I love this site to pieces.

Rolling your own with RSS

Sounds good: in one place you can see what’s new of various web-only sites. Not so good: those feeds often do not contain all the new content, but only a selection. The sites that I like, I really like and want to see everything that’s new. Rock and hard place issue. You may not share my desire for comprehensive listings, in which case you’ll be fine.

My next post in this series will have more on RSS: readers, and links I like. Stay tuned.


Digital nirvana devices: later pally

An unexpected “aha moment”. Today was day two of installing a zone-based central a/c system here. Power needed to be cut for awhile, so our iPhones and iPads were fully charged. Only the iPhones have cellular connectivity in addition to wifi = online work meant iPhone work.

pen and iphone

I needed to do some online fiddling with an online subscription I have to a journal coming from Cambridge University Press.

[Aside: since I’m an Oxford M.A., I and others of my ilk refer to Cambridge as “The Other Place.” Less charitably, since UK-speak refers to them as “the two ancient universities”, Cambridge becomes “the ancient redbrick” {also UK-speak, redbrick being anything not Oxbridge}]

Up in came on my iPhone 6+. But where was the dropdown for adding a journal subscription? Nowhere. To make the long story short, back and forth on the iPhone, twenty minutes wasted, no joy. Power came back, up came Big Iron (the iMac], and in seconds I got everything done.

So yes, I could get work done, sort of, on the iPhone. But not the kind of work I needed to do today. And it reminded me of a column I’d read in The New York Times by Nick Bilton about the death of the pen. You can see the whole piece here, but here’s what aroused my ire:

“Until recently, financial transactions were among the last holdouts for the pen. But these days I pay my utility bills by opening an app and signing a screen. When I go to my local coffee shop, I sign an iPad with my finger. Theory, Apple and dozens of businesses I interact with have all eliminated pens (and styluses) in lieu of a finger and a screen. And, a couple of months ago when I bought a new home, I signed every document but one (which needed a notary public) using my iPhone. Think about that: I bought an entire house on my smartphone.”

Er, Nick, I’d rather not. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it. How much longer did it take? How many false starts and frustrations? I know I’m at least as comfy with my iPhone as you are. You did it, but at what cost?

That’s the point about tek boosters. A glorious future, death to the old, in with the new. Sometimes new is better. Sometimes new is worse. Should I be impressed you did that whole purchase on the iPhone. I’ve done house purchases the pen and paper way, and I know it’s a damnfool thing you did. For that job, the iPhone is not the best tool. Period.

While digital is an important part of life, is totally impractical to make it  all of life. Tek boosters and millenials, you’ll learn.

I’ve been ages 17-35. You’ve not been 66. So listen up.

Practical memory redux: what is practical?

The smart-ass answer: in the eye of the beholder.

The wise-ass answer: practical, like love, is where you find it.

But enough  homo ludens. As I’ve learned more about the various memory techniques from some excellent online resources and not-so-online books (does Kindle count?), for me at least, this is a a live issue.

If you’ve read Josh Foer’s book, or any of the links posted in the previous post, you’ve seen that it can be a sport, even a blood sport since boys far outnumber women, unfortunately here. Aside: I’ve seen no evidence of misogyny in anything so far, but if I do, expect a shout out, here and wherever I’ve seen it. Think competitions (the boys again).

How fast can you memorize a deck of cards? Or several decks? How many digits of Pi can you learn in a given amount of time? These are some of the competition chestnuts. But here’s a random sampling from non-competitors: Dante’s Inferno, That Speech from Hamlet, a book of Paradise Lost, the bones in the human body, collections of organic chemical formulae, British prime ministers.

I cannot imagine the practical value of learning all those Pi digits or decks of cards. Is very much along the lines of climbing Everest “because it is there.” Still, not everything in life has to be utilitarian. Even though I’ve no raging desire to learn all those digits, e.g. , providing something isn’t illegal, immoral or fattening, I’m for it. The science ones are totally utilitarian. As for the others. No one except an historian of the UK or a super-jingo UK resident needs to know all those PMs. I love Dante and Milton, but I’ve never thought about memorizing such big chunks. In my own line, I know the Greek and Latin epics in the original more than just very well. Yes, I can quote from them, yes, I know what they’re all about. But having a book of, say, Vergil’s Aeneid in memory…so what?

For me, it’s been a combination of what’s practical  with the Everest factor. Practical is my having the labors of Hercules and the seven wonders of the world at my fingertips. Those were easy…not many items, none new to me, just getting total recall of them. In the Everest category: the fifty US states and the 44 US presidents. Fun, but no more.

In short, one person’s practical is another person’s Everest. The trick is to keep a balance. For example, from 509 BC until AD 476 the Romans had pairs of consuls, and those lists are preserved. But I doubt I’ll be learning them. The times I need to access lots of them at once are few; I learn what I need for the work at hand. But for fun…there’s always Pi, although for me, Phi (aka The Golden Ratio) would be more fun. Of course, you can go to town with the historical: here’s an example of such a memory palace:

memory palace

For more on memory than anyone could imagine, or remember, go here. People of all levels, beginners encouraged, a near-total absence of trolls. What’s not to like?