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writing

Bringing order to semantic chaos

Because my brain stays scattered, my use of tags, categories, or other methods of classifying items in a manageable taxonomy is haphazard at best. The idea of successfully using tags has intrigued me for years. Just try to imagine what I was thinking of when I produced something, type in a few key words to narrow it down, and find exactly what I was looking for along with other closely related files that may be helpful.
The concept of semantic organization by something like tags first struck me when I began to use DEVONthink ((for serious research I am also a fan of DEVONagent Pro)) after reading how Stephen Johnson uses the software (a meta-article about his essay Tool for Thought published Jan. 30, 2005, in the New York Times). Building a hierarchy of tags has been possible on a Mac since at least Mac OS X 10.5 as OpenMeta and Apple is bringing tags to the forefront as a key new feature of Mac OS X 10.9 (codename Mavericks, expected to ship fall 2013).
The thing is, I never committed to using tags. I would use them for a while, then forget about them, then remember them and begin tagging again, then forget again. This vicious cycle leads into a useless and confusing void. One of the challenges

Categories and tags on CaSt

This website is a steaming example of such nonsense and I hope to prune back the problems starting here, even backtracking for a bit as time allows. With my recent migration to WordPress, I have both categories and tags at my disposal and plan to use both. ((I plan to use a category at the least to be refined with tags.))
One reason tagging gets out of hand is the unintentional replication of tags. Huh? Consider these examples:

  • operating system
  • operating_systems
  • os
  • mac os x
  • macosx
  • osx

Yeah, it can get crazymaking pretty fast. My plan moving forward is to create broad categories refined with descriptive tags, enabling CaSt readers to trim their diet to suit their interests. Think of it as a two-level hierarchy with categories as the folders and tags as the files in those folders; something like this:

  • tech
    • ios
    • macosx
  • writing
    • quotes
    • authors
    • blogs

In my head, and therefore on this site, categories will be singular (like sections of a library or book store) and tags will be plural (because a ‘writing’ category full of of ‘quote’ doesn’t make sense).
Now, if I can just stick with it.

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Site Update!

You’re still here? This place is old news. Visit my new website at CarryingStones.com to see my latest updates. This place is closed, a vestigial blog that only remains as an archive.

Update your bookmarks and RSS feeds. It’s a new day.

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Simplify

Simplify

My website has gone through many iterations over the years.

Hand-coded HTML. Template-based sites uploaded in chunks via FTP. Blogger. WordPress.

Not only that, but it’s divided and come back together like amoeba or a healing wound. At one point, I thought I would create a blog for each topic that interested me. Macs and producitivity, design, and several others. I felt like I had to write in a different voice for each audience. It was maddening and mentally exhausting so I narrowed it down to the two that exist today, which is this Carrying Stones site you are reading now and a Tumblr blog cleverly named Terrazzo.

Terrazzo: a mosaic flooring consisting of small pieces of marble or granite set in mortar and given a high polish

My idea was to publish my original writing on this site and post links to things I find interesting on the Tumblr blog. Get it? Small stones? My I am clever. Anyway…

With a few days off work I have been writing and thinking about how I want this site to function. I have decided there can be only one! I’ll leave Terrazzo hanging out there like a vestigial tail, but all posts are going to land here at Carrying Stones.

Thanks for reading!

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Taking a deep breath

My family and some friends recently spent our week of spring break in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Julie and I led a group six kids to a cabin in the mountains. Jordan, Meg, and Kat each invited a friend with parents crazy enough to let us bring one of their kids. All told, there were eight of us sharing a three-story cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Pool. Hot tub. The whole deal.

We left a knot of anxiety and work tension behind and were able to relax. After my GPS announced we arrived at our destination I sighed a deep breath. Then I took another. And another. Huge lungfuls of simple, relaxing breathing made me realize that I had been suffocating and it felt good.

This week off with nothing to do gave all of us time to breath. I relaxed on the veranda. I relaxed while we cooked S’Mores over a campfire. I relaxed in the hot tub. I relaxed while we grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. I listened to lots of music. We hit the tourist traps and drove around the countryside watching to properties blur from trailer to horse farm to shanty to mansion and round and round she goes. We had a blast.

Two promised amenities were missing: WiFi access and the heated pool. Julie and I were more upset than the kids. This limited our access to our respective office networks to a weak 3G signal. This blessing in disguise meant less work and more time on our hands than we expected.

Here’s the secret sauce though. The most therapeutic and cathartic aspect of this vacation for me was carving out a large amount of time to write.

Breathing again

I can’t remember a more concentrated writing session than this week of reflection. With a day remaining I had written more than 10,000 words. It wasn’t Shakespeare, but a found a few pearls in the sand alongside a few themes:

  • Work – yeah, the wheels kept turning the first day or two and I cranked out some writing for work
  • Vacation diary – a journal of what we did during vacation
  • Fiction – just the tiniest little smidgen
  • Blog – revisioning my blog

This blog is dead, long live this blog

That last bullet, the one about my blog, that’s the one that should have your attention because it absorbed most of mine. Carrying Stones has been festering online in one form or another for eons, all the way back when modems cranked out a noisy 28.8k. My blog has been a dumping ground for whatever was most immediately on my mind. That isn’t always a bad thing, but most of the time it’s not a great idea. There is a reason writers talk about first drafts, and editing, and (ugh!) revisions.

This is a revision of my blog, and my goal is to share something valuable with you. Everything you read here is provided gratis. I hope to provide content of the same high-quality craftsmanship that discerning readers such as yourself would expect from the books and magazines you buy.

I’ve invested my time designing a useful site for you and welcome your suggestions or requests to help me improve it for you.