Thursday, December 31, 2009

Plans for 2010

2010-01-01 00.00.28.jpg

What a year!

I can't believe all the awesome stuff I was able to participate in this year. I think it is due in small part to blogging the list of stuff I wanted to do at the beginning of the year and then checking in on the list periodically.

More important than the list itself was the conscious effort I made to change how I approach projects and activities. The best way I can describe it is I made the decision to say "yes" to things. Instead of being scared and nervous about new projects and responsibilities I decided to Just Do It. I recognized that there was a very clearly defined emotion that would make me chicken out from doing the things I wanted to do and being the type of person I wanted to be. So I decided that whenever I have that feeling, I should do the opposite of what it tells me to do. As a result I've been involved in many exciting projects that I definitely do not regret.

I'm also a believer in putting your goals down in front of you and tracking your progress. I think making things concrete that way makes it easier to actually make progress. That ranges from putting numbers on things and making graphs to just writing out your thoughts a the end of the day. It's easy to lose focus. When some free time comes along and you're not sure how to spend your time it's easy to get distracted and waste your time away doing stuff you don't really care about.

At the beginning of the year last year I made this list of stuff I wanted to try to do. It wasn't so much a list of new year's resolutions, but more of a bunch of things I didn't want to forget about. I checked in again on my list in March and July.

Cooking, Bread, Beer, Cheese, Kombucha - I learned a lot about food ways this year but haven't turned any of it into a regular practice. I am happy with all I've learned and may get back into some of the recipes. I also started packing my lunch on a somewhat regular basis which I'm pretty happy about. I'd like to keep that up.

Local Food, CSA, Farmer's Markets - I did a lot of thinking about this and shopped at a few farmers markets. I need to work a farmers market into my weekly routine. I'm proud of this big table I created about CSA's in the Cincinnati area; I'd like to update that for the new year. I may sign up for weekly service from this company in 2010.

Gardening, Composting - Never did get a garden started, but I did grow some sprouts so that must count for something. I also didn't do as much composting as I wanted to, but I did build an outdoor compost bin so I'd have a place to get rid of collected kitchen waste. I plan on increasing my usage of the compost bin in 2010 and use the compost for a garden. I also want to get a rain barrel. Another idea I had was to make a big window hydroponic garden system at the hackerspace.

Paper Making, Crafting/Upcycling, Knitting/Weaving - I made another big batch of paper for Christmas cards and they turned out pretty alright I think. My next goals are to try and get smoother sheets and to try putting seeds in the mix.

Rapid Prototyping, MakerBot - This is an enormous success for this year. Getting a MakerBot is one of the most awesome things that happened to me this year. It ranks up there as one of the most awesome things I've ever done. Every time I make something new with it I get excited. I've even contributed some objects to Thingiverse and they were featured as a "Thing of the Week" on the Thingiverse blog. My goals for rapid protoyping are to basically build more rapid prototypers. I already have firm plans to build a Mendel and a CNC router. I also started a regional group for reprappers and makerbotters in the SW Ohio area that I should spend some more time on. I think rapid prototyping / distributed manufacturing / fab labs is a big and important phenomenon and I love being a tiny part of it.

Online Projects - All of the projects I was working on around the beginning of the year of somewhat stagnated, but I still believe in some of them. The biggest thing I hope to do in the first months of 2010 is to get skilled at using Drupal and hopefully that will allow me to flesh out some of the ideas I've had for websites. I've got a good Drupal book and an idea for a basic site I plan on building ASAP.

Local Currency - This has been on the back burner, but the local currency conversation has been heating up online and there are a lot more resources online now than there were at the begininng of the year.

Hackerspace - This is probably the biggest thing that has happened with me this year and I still can't believe it sometimes. Literally a month or two after I was thinking about starting a hackerspace, some other folks and I managed to create one. It's called Hive13. It is really cool and deserves a post of its own. My goals for 2010 with the hackerspace are to have more classes and build up our tools / fab lab. I also hope I get a chance to visit some other similar groups in Cincinnati and other hackerspaces in other cities.

Libraries - This seemed like a life-threatening year for libraries but we managed to come out of it ok. I'd like to continue to explore the ideas I was having about the future of online / decentralized libraries. I'd like to experiment by setting up a personal library online and a library for the hackerspace. I'd also like to make a tool library for the hackerspace.

Screen-Printing - I got some screen-printing gear for my birthday, but I am really sad that I didn't get around to printing anything. I have everything I need. I think first up I will screen-print something cool onto an old sweatshirt. I also have an idea of screen printing designs onto the homemade paper to make gift cards.

Android Apps - I stopped about midway through the tutorials and I don't know if everything I did is out of date now or what, but I'd still like to find time to play with this more.

Clothes Audit - In addition to moving forward on all the projects above, I had an idea for a project that I want to do some time when I have some time. I want to basically inventory all my clothes. I feel like I have way too much clothes and I only wear a small fraction of it. I also want to be able to look at all my clothes in terms of how many days I can go between doing laundry. For example, do my numbers of white socks sync up with my numbers of white undershirts? How many towels do I really need? Just to basically analyse it as a system and then cut out the waste.

In terms of doing stuff instead of just thinking about doing stuff I couldn't be much happier with how 2009 went. It was a very good year. I think 2010 will be even better!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

MakerBot Awesomeness

2009-09-09 03.02.37.jpg

Last night, after the Hive13 meeting Craig presented a quick tutorial on the basics of Blender and showed us how to make simple objects. This was incredibly useful because it got a number of us over that initial hump of not knowing anything at all about Blender. Blender can be tricky to understand, but I definitely felt like I was ready to start making useful models after tonight's short lesson.

In the class we made these hexagonal coin / keyring shapes. After class we started trying to print them out. With this result:

2009-09-08 22.45.59.jpg

After we played around with the MakerBot for a while, everyone left and I decided to learn how to create text in Blender and I added the "Hive 13" to the coin. I only was able to print it one time since it was getting really, really late, and I found some errors in the design, but I think I know how to fix them. Soon I will have an "official" Hive13 coin / keyring to give out. Be the first in your city to get one!

(Did I mention having a MakerBot is awesome?)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Growing Sprouts

Growing sprouts is hands down the easiest way to grow your own food. I had no idea until I saw a recent post on The Cheap Vegetable Gardener (which is an awesome blog, btw). Basically all you need is a mason jar. Growing sprouts is good for someone who is not home a lot and may not have time to tend to other plants. I recently grew a batch of fenugreek sprouts and they were delicious. I found a lot of helpful information on too.

The basic procedure goes like this:

1. Soak the seeds 6-12 hours
2. Rinse and Drain the seeds/sprouts every 8-12 hours for a few days
3. Eat

2009-08-24 02.08.12.jpg

I got a bunch of seeds that were sold especially for sprouting from Clifton Natural Foods. I don't know exactly if there is anything special about "sprouting" seeds versus any other seeds, but I'm pretty sure you can sprout just about anything.

I tossed about a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds in my jar and covered the top with a piece of cheesecloth. For the initial soak I filled the jar about halfway up and added a couple drops of liquid fertilizer, but I don't think the fertilizer is strictly necessary. Then after I left it over night I drained it. After that I just rinsed and drained the seeds every now and then whenever it occurred to me - like before work, after work, and right before going to to bed. After a couple days, bam I had sprouts.

2009-08-24 02.08.24.jpg

I ate half of them on a sandwich and ate the other half straight up. I kind of tossed them a little bit first to get some of the seed hulls off, but still had a lot of hulls mixed in. I just ate them.

If you like sprouts (which I know is not everyone), I highly recommend giving this a try. It really could not be easier.

Friday, August 14, 2009

MakerBot Construction - Day 1

Here's how far I got:

2009-08-13 23.45.21

The body and z-stage are constructed. I posted some more pictures of the construction on Flickr. Next up, I will build the x and y platforms. After that, electronics!

Owning a MakerBot is totally awesome.

2009-08-13 13.03.39

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


This is a MakerBot:

MakerBots are awesome open source 3D printers.

A MakerBot - in kit form - is on its way to me right now via UPS. :) !!!!

Said MakerBot will live at Hive13, the hackerspace in Cincinnati.

The MakerBot is a project I've been super excited about for a long time. It's a big reason why I wanted to start a hackerspace in the first place. I'd love to meet up with anyone else in the area that has a MakerBot or who is interested in them. We have several members in Hive13 who are into CNC machines in general and it would be a good venue to share ideas and help each other out with projects.

Once the MakerBot is built I'll be looking for interesting projects to work on using it. I have a few ideas right now, but I want to get cool ideas from other people too. If you have something you'd like to print, or something you'd like to design using the MakerBot let me know. Meanwhile, get some ideas from Thingiverse and watch this video:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Personal Stats

The recent popular trend in keeping stats on yourself seems to be peaking with a recent issue of Wired magazine focused on the topic.

Whether it be the Hawthorne effect or the Prius effect, I believe that using feedback in the form of personal stats can have a positive effect on your ability to control and understand your own behavior.

To me Buster Benson appears to be right on the leading edge of this whole field, with stats (and lovely charts) tracking many, many aspects of his life. I'm using his google spreadsheet to track my Infinite Summer. Matt Haughey also wrote a blog post that brought this into focus for me recently.

I've experimented with this stuff in various ways myself. In college I made a big chart on poster-board to track my sleep. More recently I tried using daytum to track my caffeine intake.

All these things are inspiring me to begin working again on an idea that i first had way back in '06.

I'm a big fan of Lifehacker - in particular the work of Gina Trapani and Adam Pash. Gina has written a nifty set of tools for todo tracking. One of those tools is an AIMbot that can interact with her todo.txt files. Adam later modified this bot to be a personal budget tracker.

I actually ran the budgetbot tool for a short time, but ultimately didn't use it enough. Later I modified it to be a gas mileage tracking bot. I sent it SMS messages everytime I filled up my tank, and a page on my website showed a nifty little graph of my MPG over time. Eventually I moved hosts or something and the code was lost.

Ever since that time I've had more and more ideas for ways to modify the bot to track various stats. I've never sat down and actually done it though. I'm putting this idea out there so that maybe I'll either do it finally, or inspire someone else to do it.

I'm imagining a general-purpose bot/service that can track all these different stats. I could of course just write one big uber-bot by continually hacking the existing bot, but the software engineer in me wants to break it up into a core with many plugins. And instead of simply using sms/AIM, it would have a trendy REST/XML/JSON API or something. Or maybe that would all be overkill.

Here are the ideas for "plugins" that I can see being useful and probably easy to implement:

TodoBot: The original. This is obivously the most mature, since it's already been done for several years.

BudgetBot: Also well defined due to being already done.


gas gallons miles [price] - adds an entry to the db
mpg - returns your most recent miles per gallon or maybe your current average mpg
bestmpg [n] - returns the all time best mpg you got in the last [n] months, default n=12
worstmpg [n] - returns the all time worst mpg you got in the last [n] days, default n=12



weight pounds - adds an entry to the db
weightavg [n] - returns your average weight over the last [n] days, default n=30
hiwieght [n] - returns your highest weight in the last [n] days, default n=alltime
loweight [n] - returns your lowest weight in the last [n] days, default n=alltime
trend - returns whether your weight trendline is pointing downward or upward


game score - adds a game's score to the db
gameavg [n] - returns your average score over the last [n] games
hiscore [n] - returns your best score in the last [n] days, default n=alltime
loscore [n] - returns your worst score in the last [n] days, default n=alltime
handicap - returns your calculated handicap

I think there is a general structure emerging (addnew, best, worst, average), but each one is slightly different.

I'm envisioning a basic storage structure (the existing bots use .txt files, but a real DB may be in order) that can be accessed in various ways. Building one generic interface to the data store allows the ability to put data into it and get data out of it in many different ways. I'm picturing everything from simple websites with forms and Google Charts, to Ubiquity/Quicksilver commands, to fancy Android apps.

I have a hunch that most of this can be accomplished using existing web services, but I need to research it more.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

City Council Race 2009 - Twitter!

I wrote up a post about all the City Council candidates that have Twitter accounts over on the HereInCincinnati blog. Here is a widget containing all their accounts merged into one feed:

For more widgets please visit

Friday, July 03, 2009

Plans for 2009: Mid-Year Update

At the beginning of the year I made a list of things that resembled resolutions for the new year. I had this feeling like I was not doing things as much as thinking about doing things. The list was there so that I would have a place to look during those moments of free time when I think, "I should probably try and do something interesting right now instead of wasting my life away."

Then in March I checked back in to see how many things I'd done, and I was honestly a little bit surprised that I had done more things than I thought I would have. So now I'm checking back in, with the year half gone, so see if I've made it anywhere near halfway through the list.

Making stuff:

- GOAL: Cook "real" food at least once per week at home.
- STATUS: Not going so well. I've learned some new recipes that make it easier to cook something that is relatively healthy relatively quickly, but I'm still mostly just making sandwiches and kool-aid for dinner. I'm doing a decent job of staying away from eating junk food at home though.

- GOAL: I wish I could get good at making my own sourdough bread.
- STATUS: I started out making a lot of Amish Friendship Bread, and that got old after a while. I started a regular sourdough and made bread with it once. Making bread is a long ( like 15-hour ) undertaking. Recently, after several months of keeping the sourdough alive but not making bread, I finally had to commit some of the sourdoughs to the drain.

- GOAL: make beer and root beer
- STATUS: The root beer was fun, but kind of petered out after a while. I met some people recently that brew beer, and I might try and learn from them. I also read recently about making your own mead, so I might consider doing that since it might be easier.

- GOAL: make chese
- STATUS: Haven't made anything. I think I'm going to follow Fankhauser's syllabus where you make yogurt, then work your way up to cheese. I'm not a big dairy person, so I'm not actually in a big hurry to do this one.

- GOAL: Grow food. Possibly hydroponically.
- STATUS: Well, I didn't get my hydroponics set back out, but I did attend a class at Park+Vine called "Your Spring Salad" and got a really great set of seeds and seedlings. I grew several different salad greens, beets, radishes, and onions. I successfully harvested and ate some of the greens and one radish. Most of the plants died while I was in Minnesota for almost a week. Some are still alive though.

Local Food:
- GOAL: eat more local
- STATUS: I had a big project in mind a few months ago and was actively learning a lot about local food systems and was seriously considering building or at least running some sort of local food website for the Cincinnati area, but I think I got kind of burnt out on it. Maybe I need to go back and revisit what I want to accomplish and build some more relationships.

- GOAL: visit a bison ranch and possible eat some bison
- STATUS: This is still something I want to do sometime when I have a free weekend and someone to go with. Unfortunately weekends like that are rare for me. There is a ranch not too far from here.

- GOAL: join a CSA
- STATUS: I didn't join a CSA, but I did a lot of research and the CSA page on my Cincinnati wiki is far and away the most popular page on the site. I believe I have put together a table of information there that is not available anywhere else. Although it is fairly well out of date now.

Farmer's Markets:
- GOAL: visit farmer's markets more often
- STATUS: I've visited the Green Corner Market several times and visited Findlay Market once since March, although I still have not made it a regular practice.

Recycling Paper:
- GOAL: make paper
- STATUS: Big win. I successfully followed this set of instructions and made several pages of paper. I use a shredder to shred waste paper, then use a blender to blend it into pulp. Then I use a piece of screen to make it into new sheets. The new paper is still a bit rough, but the process basically works. I would like to start making things like greeting cards. I would also like to experiment with adding seeds to the paper.

Crafting / Remaking / Upcycling:
- GOAL: turn my busted IKEA hampers into useful new things.
- STATUS: I successfully prototyped a folding table made from one of these hampers, but it is now falling apart. I need to figure out how I am going to go from cardboard prototype to real, useful table.

Knitting / Weaving:
- GOAL: learn to weave or knit
- STATUS: I haven't really done this at all. It seems like lots of people are into knitting, but not as many are into weaving. I would like to track down this video tutorial I saw one time that showed how to weave. Ah, here it is.

- GOAL: create a place to take kitchen compost outside somewhere
- STATUS: I haven't gotten to this yet. I really need to soon though because my under-sink compost container is getting full.

Rapid Prototyping:
- GOAL: have something made by ponoko and/or papekura
- STATUS: I took a design from Thingiverse and sent it into ponoko. And I got back a sweet laser cut bunny. But I (stupidly) scaled the bunny up and it doesn't fit together the way it's supposed to. I might order something else, now that I see how the whole process works. I just wanted to get my feet wet, so I consider that a success.

Making online stuff:

hereincincinnati blog
hereincincinnati wiki
virtual vine st.
wikipedia photo hunt

I'm just going to summarize all of these by saying that I haven't worked a whole lot on any of them. I'm considering working on the wikipedia photo hunt idea some more now that I have a phone with a great browser, gps, and a camera.

New Ideas:

- It's hard to believe that 4 months ago the hackerspace was just a twinkle in my eye. A LOT has happened since then. The hackerspace is a real thing. It is a corporation, I'm on the board of directors, and we have signed a lease. We are currently working on raising money and making our space awesome to hang out in.
Click here to lend your support to: Soundproofing for Hive13 and make a donation at !

Local Currency:
- I've had some more ideas on this, but haven't gone out and implemented them. My desire to run an instance of oscurrency has not decreased.

New New Ideas:

- Due to several factors intersecting - including the possibility of many libraries closing soon in the State of Ohio - I've been pondering the future of libraries more than usual. Obviously libraries have been struggling with what their purpose is for many years now, but I've started to evaluate what types of alternatives to centralized libraries have become possible in just the last year or so. With the rise of cheap and easy cloud computing, and the maturation of the open-source Koha, I've been thinking that there may be an opportunity to create a community of small-scale independent online libraries. Something like a blog-hosting site, but instead of a blog, you get your own ILS. Still need to think on this some more, but I am going to pursue it and see where it leads.

- Via a contact in the hackerspace, I was invited to a crafts night at KHAC hosted by the Cincinnati League of Artisans and I learned that it is really pretty easy to screen-print. I was so excited by it, I asked for (and received) a screen-printing starter kit for my birthday. I have some ideas for some shirts and I may also screen print onto my homemade paper.

Android apps
- Oh yeah, did I mention I have a G1 now? It is really awesome. I've started doing the Hello World tutorials for programming Android apps and I have some ideas for apps that I think I'd like to build if I learn enough. One would be turning the wikipedia photo hunt idea into an android app. Another would be an offline topographic maps application that can be used while hiking.

- I've acquired a starter and brewed several kombucha batches. I'm still learning about tea and haven't made the perfect kombucha yet, but I like doing it.

- I have been lusting over these for months now, and now that I have the hackerspace, I have an excuse to buy one. And I think I've found some people there that will team up with me to build it.

Just Getting Warmed Up

I've surprised myself again with the number of things I've done between March and now. The biggest thing is that the Cincinnati Hackerspace is real. This was (and is) a big project, but the awesome thing is that it will help me do all my other projects. I've found a community of like-minded people and we now have a really nice facility in which to work. I couldn't be more excited.

Monday, June 22, 2009

About Your Cincinnati Public Library

1) In 2008 PLCH was ranked in the top 10 in Hennen's American Public Library Ratings for libraries serving a population of 500,000 or more AND the Main Library branch downtown was named the busiest library branch in the the country. Library use is at an all time high.

2) In March of this year, the Fiscal Office at PLCH was awarded the 2007 Making Your Tax Dollars Count Award bestowed by Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor for being in the top 5 percent of finance directors in the state honored for careful spending, accurate fiscal recording and efficiency.

3) Because Library funding is a percentage of the state’s general revenue fund, as the economy has faltered, the Library’s funding has already been reduced 25% since 2000. The Governor’s proposed state budget is considering a 50% cut to the Public Library Fund, a $6 million FURTHER cut to our Library funding. If this proposed funding cut is enacted, consequences would be DEVASTATING regardless if a 1 mill levy on the November 3rd ballot is passed. This is what you would see in September 2009:

* 250 additional Library jobs will be lost
* 20 branch libraries will be PERMANENTLY closed
* Main Library hours will be dramatically cut
* Computer access will be reduced by more than 30%
* Fewer new books, CDs, DVDs and other materials will be available
* Diminished quality of service and less qualified staff to help

* PLCH's call for Action
* The Library Is Now Closed blog


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Modeling Displacement via Gentrification

Ok, so the last time I blogged about this was two years ago, but I still think it's interesting and I still have the same questions. I think I've found a better way to illustrate what I mean. I've drawn up some drawings.

I'm going to run through a series of scenarios that could possibly describe what is happening in a gentrifying neighborhood. I don't know which (if any) of them describe what is happening in Over-The-Rhine. I don't know which (if any) of them describe what is happening anywhere. I am not an urban planner. I just want a more concrete way to look at a social justice issue.

Also, here I'm just talking about the issue of displacement, which seems to be one of the biggest stated downsides of gentrification. I'm not talking about other cultural effects on a neighborhood, or other kinds of problems that might occur. I'm just talking about how many people can fit in a neighborhood and who moves out when other people move in.

So, I've outlined two basic situations here. The numbers are completely made up. I don't know what the real numbers are in any neighborhood. I am actually skeptical that anyone knows the real numbers in these situations, and that is part of the point I'm making with this blog post. The numbers I've used here are just to illustrate some of the range of things that could in theory be happening.

We start with a square that represents an urban neighborhood. I've made this one 10 by 10 pixels so that the "capacity" of the neighborhood is 100. That makes it so everything works out as a percent. I recognize that a neighborhood isn't a fixed box and that it doesn't have a fixed capacity. And I understand that the quality of housing varies. Those details are not in this abstract model I'm building here.

In situation A, we suppose that there are 37 people living in the 100 person box. The current residents of the neighborhood are the blue squares. It is 37% occupied.

Now, let's say 16 people want to move into the neighborhood. These are the gentrifying urban-pioneers or whatever you want to call them. The question I am exploring is what happens to the people that already live in the neighborhood when the new people arrive?

Let's say most of the new people move into places that were already empty and 5 of them move into places where other people used to live. And let's say that those 5 previous residents all stay in the neighborhood. I think it would look like this:

Or what if all 5 of those previous residents just move out of the neighborhood? It would look like this:

What if the new people make all the rents go up, or make the neighborhood otherwise repellent or unlivable for the previous residents and a whole bunch of people move out. That would be something we would want to avoid. It might look like this:

The blue number to the right is the number of people that move out due to displacement caused by the gentrification. Assuming that this displacement is a social injustice, then that number is bad. We would rather keep that number small or zero.

Let's look at another situation - again with made up numbers. Let's say that there are 73 people living in the neighborhood. It is 73% occupied.

Now let's say 32 people want to move in. Again, there seem to be several ways this can work out, but right off the bat it should be obvious that not everyone is going to fit, because the neighborhood can only hold 100 people. This is an abstract neighborhood - it has a fixed capacity.

Let's say that everyone that can possibly fit tries to stay in the neighborhood. The smallest number of people that would have to move out is 5. The neighborhood is 100% full:

That doesn't seem the most likely though. Let's say like before that the people who leave their current places just move out of the neighborhood, but everyone else already there stays. Maybe 25 people move out. The neighborhood is 80% full:

What if we make it so that the number of original residents left in the neighborhood is exactly equal to the number of new residents? 41 people move out - over half of the original population. The neighborhood is 64% full:

Or maybe the neighborhood is so different now that most of the former residents move away, even leaving their own former homes empty. The neighborhood is only 54% full. That might look like this:

Remember, the blue number is bad. So, this last scenario is the worst of all.

My real frustration is that I don't know which of the above scenarios is actually happening in OTR. Which do you think is happening? Which does 3CDC think is happening? Which does OTRCH think is happening? Studies have been done in other cities that make actual, factual surveys of neighborhoods where gentrification is happening. Detailed block-by-block surveys and multi-decade record keeping would be necessary to make maps like the ones I made above reflective of the facts on the ground.

The decisions that are being made about OTR development rely in part on a narrative of what is happening in OTR - and everyone has a different way of reading the story. It seems to me that this is due in part to the fact that no maps like the ones I made above can be made accurately. Correct me if I'm wrong.

From the OTRCH website:
"In 1950 approximately 30,000 people resided there, with whites constituting 99 percent of that population. Recent data show about 7,600 total neighborhood residents, 80 percent of which are black. Of the current residents, 95 percent live below the official poverty level of $13,000 annually for a family of four. Of Over-the-Rhine's 7,500 apartment units, 3,000 are below housing code standards and approximately 300 buildings stand vacant."

7,600 / 30,000 = 25.3% That's even less dense than I modeled in my first scenario above. In theory a large district like OTR has room for plenty more people before residents start overflowing, but who knows.

I think the thing most people would want to see is something similar to the second graphic above. The neighborhood is mostly empty -> some people move in -> some other people may have to move, but everyone who was there stays within the neighborhood - no one moves out. The neighborhood is fuller and more diverse.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reds Home Game Schedule in iCalendar

I recently subscribed to the Reds Home Game Schedule using Google Calendar. Today I noticed a cool feature: they update the games that have finished with the scores, so you can see at a glance how the Reds are doing. For example, the event for yesterday was called "NY Mets at Cincinnati" but now it has changed to "NY Mets 6 - Cincinnati 8". Use this url right here:

Put that url into Google Calendar to see what I mean. That's the url for home games, but if you want the complete schedule or the away schedule, you can get iCalendar feeds for those too at their page on

Update: I'm going to attempt to embed the calendar below:

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Cincinnati Hackerspace - The Critical Mass Pattern

The Critical Mass Pattern

I'm wondering how many people are interested in this idea of a hackerspace in the Cincinnati area.

It looks to me like there is a kernel of people working to start a local chapter of dorkbot: dorkbot-cinci.

.___ __ ___. __ .__ .__
__| _/___________| | _\_ |__ _____/ |_ ____ |__| ____ ____ |__|
/ __ |/ _ \_ __ \ |/ /| __ \ / _ \ __\/ ___\| |/ \_/ ___\| |
/ /_/ ( <_> ) | \/ < | \_\ ( <_> ) | \ \___| | | \ \___| |
\____ |\____/|__| |__|_ \|___ /\____/|__| \___ >__|___| /\___ >__|
\/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/

They meet on the first Friday of the month (tomorrow!) at the Brewhouse "crashing the cinci2600 meeting".

I've got a few notes on this topic over at DIYcity on our DIYcity_Cincinnati page, too.

I think there are a number of different flavors of "hackerspaces" that we could maybe try: hackerspace, co-working space, free geek, tool library, free culture shop, crafter / maker hangout.

I think that the Critical Mass Pattern makes sense. I think I'm going to go to the meeting tomorrow night at the Brewhouse and see how I can help. Join me?

Update!: A group has formed (online) to discuss setting up a hackerspace in Cincinnati. Check it out at:!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Platforms on which to build a local food distribution system

I've become somewhat preoccupied with this whole "local food distribution" concept and I've been finding different examples of how folks are doing it in other areas. (I list a lot of what I've found in these previous posts: 1, 2 ).

To my mind there are two big components to a local food distribution system. The first component is allowing local producers and consumers to discover each other. The name I have for this component is the "market". It can take the form of a website or a physical meetup at a farmers' market. The second component is moving the food around the region from producer to consumer. I call this the "T&L" component for Transportation & Logistics. This can range from farm stores where the consumer travels to the site of production, to CSA's or farmers' markets where producers and consumers meet up in the middle somewhere at pre-determined times, up to home delivery where food travels all the way to the consumer's home or business.

For the market side of the equation, I've thought mostly about solutions based on the internet. I'm a bit of a technophile and so that is where my mind turns and I honestly think there is a lot of untapped potential there. There are a handful of solutions that can be used basically "off-the-shelf" to varying degrees. Those would be:


I know a lot less about T&L than I do about websites, so I have not figured this out as well. In my mind one of the basic problems with farmers' markets and CSA's is the fact that you have to meetup in a certain place at a certain time. I realize that this is probably the simplest way to do the logistics and I'm not trying to knock it. But it does seem like there is room for other types of physical distribution to be tried. What about a CSA pickup point that is limited in location but not so limited in time? Or a system composed of a distribution center and delivery trucks that send food directly to the doors of subscribers? What would the minimum order sizes be? What would be the optimal delivery frequency? All questions I'm not well equipped to answer. I was at first inspired, then disappointed hearing about CityCargo that seemed to have a good idea that ended up being cancelled. It may in fact be that the weekly or monthly meetup is the most efficient way of distributing goods from many producers to many consumers - I have no expertise in the field, so I can't really say.

Locavore iPhone app - anyone in Cincinnati tried it?

I'm really, really, inspired by this new application for iPhone called Locavore. It brings together a lot of cool info making it super easy eat locally:


* Automatically detects which state you’re in (currently only covers the US)
* Food that’s in season near you
* Food that’s coming in season near you soon
* Farmers’ markets near you
* Browse all 234 fruits and vegetables to see where it is currently growing
* Links to Wikipedia articles and Epicurious recipes from each food detail page
* Browse all 50 states to see what’s in season in other parts of the US

Built with the help of:

* Natural Resources Defense Council for food availability
* for farmers’ markets data
* Tattfoo for colors
* Designed by Matt Hickey
* Integrated with Get Satisfaction Remote for in-app feedback, ideas, and bug tracking

Amazing! But I don't have an iPhone. :( Has anyone out there tried it?

Cincinnati Food Congress - Results?

Did anybody out there reading this attend the Cincinnati Food Congress March 14th?

The possibility of takeaways was brought up on, but I have not seen anything shared or published yet.

I'm interested in what happened since I wasn't able to attend. Were any documents or anything produced at the congress that could be shared / made available online? is a new site that aims to be a place where those people looking for locally grown produce and those people looking to sell locally grown produce can find each other.

In the Cincinnati area the closest listings are for the Boulder Belt Farm in Eaton, OH. They're offering leeks for $1 and 1/2 lb. bags of spinach for $4. Boulder Belt offers many, many more items at farmers' markets, their CSA, or their farm store. Check them out at their blog or website.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Local Food Systems Update

I've been doing more research on the web since my other blog post, and I've found some new avenues that I hope to explore further.

First, I found two "off-the-shelf" systems for setting up a local food market website. One is which gives a pre-packaged site hosted on the website. The second is which has created an open source software package that can be customized and deployed on one's own server. I'd like to compare and contrast these two a bit more. I just discovered them yesterday. If there is interest, I can set up a version of the software on my own site and customize it for Cincinnati, so folks can see how it works.

Another site that I found very interesting but still haven't had time to go through in depth is which is a discussion site about the many aspects of local food systems. It looks like a good source of knowledge. It was created as a coordination point for a workshop held by OSU’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in February of 2008, but has since grown substantially. There are discussion forums on the site for such exciting topics as "Logistics, particularly transportation for increasing volume of local foods" and "Local Food Systems Computer Modeling, GIS, Data(mining)" as well as many others. I tried to join the site, but the signup process didn't work right for me, so I'm still waiting. Still, it looks like all the conversations can be viewed without joining the site.

Yet another site I found worth mentioning here is which is the Ohio version of the Market Maker website I mentioned in my other post. This one provides access to the analogous data sets for Ohio. Also, if you go to the "Buy & Sell" forum it shows the same entries as if you browse via the Indiana site. I guess that explains why the entries are from all around the country. I tried searching in the forum for listings in Cincinnati, but didn't find any.

Finally, I'll mention that I probably won't be going to the Food Congress next weekend, but it does sound really exciting. If anyone is going, I'd love to hear from you about how it goes.

So, everyday is bringing new and interesting ideas out on this topic! I'll keep digging around and keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Plans for 2009: Update

In part inspired by this post by Bre Pettis on the Cult of Done, I'm checking back in on the things I wanted to get myself to work on this year and seeing how far I've gotten with 1/6 of the year gone already...

Making stuff:

-goal: "been trying to really cook at least one real meal (not pizza rolls) every week"
-status: fail. still find it hard to prepare real food very often.

-goal: "been keeping one sourdough alive, want to start another one (or two)"
-status: started up a second sourdough starter; made bread with it once. i need more practice.

-goal: "made beer once, want to try it again"
-status: haven't made beer, but i've made a lot of root beer:

-goal: "not huge into dairy, but find cheese-making to be as fascinating as bread and beer making"
-status: fail. haven't made any cheese yet. did join the cheesemakers mailing list though.

-goal: "want to get my hydroponics rig going again and also start a real outside garden if someone will let me use their land"
-status: haven't grown a thing yet. there is still time to make a plan before it gets too late.

local food:
-goal: "been a member of the cincilocavore mailing list and loving it; want to make more of that"
-status: been thinking a lot about this one. i've been putting feelers out about some sort of alternative distribution project, and that may go in some interesting directions. very exciting.

-goal: "visit a bison farm and maybe get some bison meat; bison are so awesome"
-status: need to find a boring weekend to go out and visit some bison. put it on the calendar.

-goal: "maybe join a CSA (or herdshare)"
-status: fail. haven't joined anything, but i have been thinking a lot about this.

farmers' markets:
-goal: "visit these more regularly despite not being very close to one"
-status: fail. only visited one market one time this year (at pea pod cafe). i will definitely try and visit more often when the move up the street to the "green corner".

recycling paper:
-goal: "found some super-easy instructions on how to do this online; want to try it"
-status: i got a used paper shredder from goodwill. i either need to get a used blender to do this with, or just go ahead and use my main blender.

-goal: "i am working on turning a busted ikea hamper into a folding table; needs more work"
-status: my ikea hamer -> folding table is falling apart. needs some love.

-goal: "i'm fascinated by weaving and would love to give it a try in some spare time"
-status: fail. haven't even thought about weaving since writing this list.

-goal: "tried collecting kitchen scraps but it doesn't work too well if you don't have an outside compost place to take them"
-status: have re-started my kitchen scraps composting. need to build an outdoor compost bin to transfer the scraps to or possibly venture into vermicomposting.

rapid prototyping:
-goal: "i want to try getting something made from ponoko or similar (also maybe papekura); i'm a big fan of everything bre pettis does"
-status: fail. gotta find a neat design to have made. even something pointless. just to do it.

Making online stuff:

hereincincinnati blog:
-goal: "update the blog more frequently and let people know it exists"
-status: updated the blog a few more times. changed the layout on my blogs so they prominently link to one another. gonna blog about some of these ideas over there maybe.

hereincincinnati wiki:
-goal: "keep it up-to-date and use the articles in blog posts; maybe reach out to others to help contribute"
-status: been adding, but it's hard to find enough time. been mentioning the wiki in conversations, blog posts. traffic is going up; edits by other people, not so much.

virtual vine st.:
-goal: "tried it with omeka, wasn't really that great; maybe try another cms or roll my own. also, may need to get approval from CMP"
-status: fail. haven't touched this project. still need to find right way of building the site. needs research. i have not enough time.

-goal: "started a local "chapter"; need to find others to join in with me; do projects on something other than transit"
-status: win. :) got involved and participated in conversaitons. rolled out twitter bot traffic_cincy. looking forward to more projects here.

-goal: "blog needs love; find ideas, blog them."
-status: made an attempt to write a stimulus-in-cincinnati post, but it was a bit weak. blog's concept is still viable.

-goal: "i'd like to streamify the city council agendas and other stuff they do; needs a weekend of planning and doing; also maybe a team to help"
-status: some progress has been made. a real rss feed is emitted. minutes have a cool contextual link feature that makes use of the wiki.

wikipedia photo hunt:
-goal: "got started with the project, but ran into hangups; need to kick it up a notch or let it die"
-status: fail. haven't touched this project in a while. BUT, win because i got really involved with wikipedia loves art project.
-goal: "figure out a way to get the data into the site "fresh" and automatic"
-status: fail. haven't touched this project either. next action still somewhat uncertain.

New ideas:

hackerspace - got some interest in doing some kind of hackerspace / co-working space / free geek / tool library / free culture shop for local makers, etc. gonna keep working on this.

local currency - found an awesome open source project that allows people to create an online complementary currency. need to explore the possibilities there.

Not Too Shabby

I was actually a little bit surprised how many things I actually worked on considering how many things I normally do when I make lists like this. I have made a conscious effort this year to say "yes" to projects more often. And I've also tried not to spend as much time as I used to "keeping up-to-date" on things, and instead going out and doing new things. I've got buckets of ideas of things I could work on and they will never get anywhere unless I go out and start trying stuff.

If I think of it, maybe I'll update again in another two months.

Cincinnati Food Congress - March 14th, 2009


From CinciLocavore:
"The Food Congress aims to gather delegates from Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeastern Indiana concerned with local land use, public policy, health, environment, and economic development as they relate to food production, distribution, and consumption. The general objectives of the Food Congress are to foster a culture of collaboration between urban and rural stakeholders concerning local food systems in the Cincinnati area."

Saturday, March 14, 2009
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM EST

Community Design Center
2728 Vine St
Cincinnati, Ohio
United States-45219

$10 registration at Registration is by invitation only. Contact for details.

More Info





March 14, 2009 95pm : Cincinnati Regional Food Congress at Community Design Center 2728 Vine St Cincinnati, Ohio United States-45219
The Food Congress is a day-long event aimed at developing a shared vision for the future of the tri-state's local food system. The Food Congress will bring together urban and rural stakeholders from non-profits, citizen groups, governments and businesses to identify opportunities for food system development, share best practices, and set goals for the local food economy.

This hCalendar event brought to you by the hCalendar Creator.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cincinnati Local Food Distribution

I'm pretty excited about the city's Urban Gardening Pilot Program. I'd really like to help out at one of these plots, so I'll be keeping my eye on the project. Let me know if you know of any groups that are planning on applying. ( Predictably, I've started a page for this program on the wiki. )

I've been thinking a lot about local food lately. I've been a part of a discussion with some people from, I've been reading a few threads on the CinciLocavore mailing list and I've been reading The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Ellix Katz and I just read the chapter on urban food production. I also recently dug out my copy of Toolbox for Sustainable City Living by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew.

Right now there are farmers markets, and CSA's. And there is what some people refer to as RSA - Restaurant Supported Agriculture. In Cincinnati we have many farmers' markets and CSA's. I know there are some restaurants out there that have relationships with local farms too. It seems to me that there are many, many producers of local food as well as many, many different consumers of local food that can be matched up to each other in creative ways.

Producers / Products
- farmers / vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, dairy
- gardeners / fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, seeds
- beekeepers / honey, pollination services
- value-adders: winemakers, cheesemakers, bakers
- mushroom growers
- fish farmers

- chefs
- school cafeterias
- restaurants
- teaching kitchens
- party planners
- individuals
- churches
- soup kitchens
- food co-ops
- caterers

I'm imagining that there may be room for other forms of distribution to be tried. I found a number of exciting projects around the web that don't seem to have any local equivalent in our area.

Indiana MarketMaker MarketPlace Buy&Sell Forum:

A project of Purdue University New Ventures Team, Indiana Market Maker is "an interactive mapping system that locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in Indiana, providing an important link between producers and consumers." In addition to being a large database of business and demographic data for the state of Indiana, there is an area of the site that lets buyers and sellers find each other directly. The Buy & Sell Forum lets sellers (all across the country) list goods and services that are available. Buyers can also list requests for items they are looking for. The listings can then be browsed by buyers searching for products in their local area or sellers looking to sell to locally. In addition to produce and other farm products, listings can be created for value-add services or transportation services.

Fresh Fork Market

Fresh Fork Market in the Cleveland area is an organization that provides a supply chain solution that matches up the needs of restaurants that would like to buy locally produced food with those of local farmers. In this system farmers set their own prices and restaurants can search through the listings by farm or by product category. Fresh Fork also gives farmers the opportunity to detail their growing practices so that restaurants can be choosy. Fresh Fork delivers products twice a week and requires a 2-day lead-time for all orders. Since products are delivered straight from farm to buyer and never stored, the produce is always delivered within 24 hours of harvest. Over 20 restaurants and over 50 suppliers have joined Fresh Fork.

City Fresh

City Fresh is a nonprofit program of the New Agrarian Center a 501(c)3 organization focused on growing a sustainable local food system in Northeast Ohio. "The City Fresh program impacts the local food system through the development of neighborhood food centers called Fresh Stops, nutrition education, facilitation of garden installations in urban areas, the cultivation of direct farm to business connections, and the City Fresh Youth program." City Fresh guides a network of urban farms, educating people about food production and business in the process. City Fresh also operates a series of "Fresh Stops" that act like traditional CSA pickup points but they are different in that they allow buyers to purchase on a week-by-week basis. City Fresh has a network of around 22 supppliers. I really, really like this chart of how food flows through City Fresh (inspiring!):

Farm Fresh To You

Farm Fresh to You is a set of services in San Francisco based around the distribution of food from their farm Capay Fruits & Vegetables. Amazingly, they offer their products via home delivery, office delivery, restaurant delivery, wholesale, farmers markets, and a retail store.

Door To Door Organics

Door To Door Organics is a direct-to- home, office, and co-op delivery service that offers variously sized subscriptions in several markets in mid-west / east coast. The service allows subscribers to select a box size and a few vegetable/fruit types when ordering, rather than setting up individual relationships between each buyer and supplier. The products are not all produced local to the buyers, but they are organic certified.

Sprouts Box

Sprouts is a student-run organization at the University of British Columbia. They've started a basic CSA that they're calling the Sprouts Box. I include it here because of the unique distribution method. They've teamed up with a local bike co-op to have all the weekly deliveries carries out by bicycle. Nifty!

Where to go from here?

I'd be interested in any efforts similar to the ones that I've mentioned going on in the Cincinnati area. I really think there is an opportunity for some sort of service to spring up, whether it be a website for locals to buy and sell or some sort of supply chain solution. My guess is that there may be other novel ideas out there for better connecting locally produced food to local eaters. Comment here or join the discussion at the CinciLocavore mailing list if you have any thoughts on the subject.

UPDATE: I've posted again on this topic with some more ideas here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cincinnati / Ohio / Wikipedia Loves Art Meetup

I'm going to plan on being at the Taft Museum for the Wikipedia Loves Art event / contest on this coming Sunday the 22nd from 11-12. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to meet up with other Wikipedians, photographers, and art lovers. Although this is a way to hopefully encourage participation in that project, I hope other Wikipedians will feel free to come and chat. It is not necessary to pay admission to come into the cafe portion of the Taft. Please stop by and see me!

See my previous post, the Wikipedia project page, or the Flickr group for more about the Wikipedia Loves Art project.

Which reduces congestion better: adding lanes or streetcars?


I started this post with the intention of finding some facts on whether or not a streetcar would be a waste of money compared to investments in highways. Even though I believe streetcars are a good investment for more than one reason, I wanted to address the congestion question directly, since it is seemingly the easiest question to get data on. (We shall see that I was in part wrong about this.)

About adding lanes

Scientific studies have shown that adding new lanes to highways does not necessarily reduce congestion; instead, adding lanes often makes congestion worse. This is often referred to as "Induced Travel".

The best and most neutral source I've found on this topic is at the Federal Highway Administration's website.

One way to think about this is to think to think of highways lanes as something similar to what economist call a "free good". What this means is that people will use up as much of the resource as there is. If more of the resource is added, people will just use that up as well. One way to change model is congestion pricing which makes the resource no longer "free".

See also:

Here is the big study OKI did on congestion in our region: (direct link to PDF)

If you turn to page 30 (page 36 of the PDF), you'll see OKI's evaluation of many strategies for reducing congestion including congestion pricing, rail transit, and additional lanes. If you look at table 10-1 (page 39 of the PDF) you'll see an analysis of which strategies could be used at which locations across the county. You'll see that on I-75, both rail-transit and additional lanes are give black squares which indicates high-cost/high-impact. (I don't see any way of knowing what ranges of costs are represented by the shapes. Perhaps a $100 million streetcar and a $800 million highway project are both squares.) There are also a number of X's which I'm not exactly sure how to interpret. I'm guessing either the analysis wasn't done there, or that strategy is infeasible for that location. If you turn a few more pages, you'll see that I-75 widening to four lanes in both directions is listed as an underway project.

More about the transportation projects in this particular corridor can be found at and

About streecars

I tried browsing through here for more info on what OKI has published relating to the streetcar, but couldn't find anything showing it's estimated effect on highway congestion (or any road congestion at all). Mostly I'm finding cost esitmates and ridership estimates.

There are some up-to-date presentations on the city's website here but there isn't a whole lot on the congestion question there either. Again these focus more on cost and ridership. One study showed impacts on local traffic, that is to say traffic on the sames streets as the streetcar runs; but they didn't mention impacts on regional traffic.


I'm guessing that the reason that the question I originally set out to answer hasn't been answered is that the effect of a streetcar on highway congestion is probably pretty small. The number of people that forego a car trip on the highway to ride a streetcar instead are probably small to non-existent. Travel between areas served by a streetcar is probably already accomplished without using highways.

Thus, I've come to the conclusion that at least in terms of their effects on congestion comparing highway investments with streetcar investments is probably like comparing apples to oranges.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homemade Root Beer

Root beer, originally uploaded by Pez King.

homemade root beer = awesome

I have recently starting getting into the exciting world of brewing my own root beer and I'm loving it. Over the past few months I've been learning about sourdoughs (which may lead to a separate post sometime), and that led me to learn about other fermented foods. Two things have really inspired me to start trying things on my own at home that I never would have thought I could do.

The first is an incredible website belonging to Professor David B. Fankhauser. The second is a book called Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Dr. Fankhauser's Cheese Page is one of the best sites out there covering the basics of home cheesemaking. (And he's local!) I haven't tried any cheeses yet, but as I was browsing through the site, I saw the root beer recipe and knew that I had to try it right away. It's really easy, and I think the results are pretty tasty. The root beer does have a beery / yeasty flavor to it that I don't mind, but my girlfriend is not a big fan. This brew is definitely not like the liquid candy that you would buy at the grocery store. Here's the basic recipe (but definitely check out Fankhauser's page for the full details):

1 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp. yeast, 1 tbsp. root beer extract, 2 liters water.
Leave out on the counter for 3 - 4 days; put into fridge overnight.

That's it!

I also tried the ginger ale and cream soda recipes on the site and I came up with somewhat less drinkable sodas. The root beer extract is a really powerful flavor and I think it matches up a little better with the beery flavor, whereas the lighter flavors of the ginger ale and cream soda are more easily over-powered. I plan on trying again with some champagne yeast I got from The Party Source. The first time around I just used regular old baking yeast from the grocery.

In my most recent batch of root beer I made a minor modification in an attempt to make it at least a little bit less bad for me (since I've started drinking the stuff all the time). I substituted some of the sugar with a sweetener called agave nectar. The main advantage of agave is that it has a lower glycemic index. I substituted half of the sugar (1/2 cup) with agave. Most everything I could find said to reduce the volume of agave when substituting it for sugar since agave is supposed to be sweeter so I used 1/3 cup in place of the 1/2 cup sugar. After I mixed it up I started reading more about agave and I found out that this is the same plant that is fermented to make tequila -- I was starting to worry that I was making tequila flavored root beer! But no worries, it tastes just fine. Another way to have approached it would have been to try brewing the root beer with less sugar and then adding in the agave after. There is a limit to how low you can go with the sugar because that's the food for the yeast, and I don't know what the limit is yet.

I haven't made any sodas with the champagne yeast yet, but if it turns out well I've got all kinds of crazy ideas for sodas I could make. I've started the search for unusual flavoring oils and started researching other beverage recipes. :) I can't wait to do more experimenting!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wikipedia Loves Art @ The Taft

Wikipedia Loves Art is a scavenger hunt and free content photography contest among museums and cultural institutions worldwide, and aimed at illustrating Wikipedia articles. The event is planned to run for the whole month of February 2009.

The Taft Museum of Art in downtown Cincinnati is one of many museums particpating all across the country.

To join in the fun:

1. Find the goal list for the museum(s) you plan to visit. The goal list for the Taft can be found here.

2. Photograph as many things on the list as you can (make sure you're allowed to) and upload your photos to the Wikipedia Loves Art photo pool on Flickr.

3. Museum staff will award points and choose the best photos to be uploaded to Wikipedia to help illustrate articles on the site.

The prize being offered by the Taft is museum membership for each member of the winning team!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cincinnati Twitter Bots

I was inspired by the DIYcity challenge #1, but (selfishly) since I don't drive very much, I wasn't inspired enough to work directly on the TrafficTweet concept.

But in the introduction to the challenge they mention a twitter bot called shakeshack. The shakeshack bot has a very simple purpose in life and that is to retweet reports on how long the line is at a restaurant called the Shake Shack in NYC. This is useful for fans of that restaurant who want to know if it's worth stopping by. If the line is too long (since it is a popular joint) they can avoid it, and if the line is short, then they can make the trip. People who are interested in the info just follow shakeshack. People who are at shakeshack can tweet @ messages to it, and it will rewtweet their messages automatically to the rest.

So, today I had lunch at Chipotle on Fountain Square and I was thinking about how I could really use a similar service for knowing whether or not to walk all the way down there. Fountain Square Chipotle tends to have a pretty long line usually, but sometimes it's short, and on those days, I would want to visit.

So, I found this site called that lets you create a basic retweeting bot like the shakeshack bot and I made an account called fschipotlebot. (Maybe I should have gone with fschipotle. Oh well.) So, if you send an @ message to the bot, it will retweet it to its followers. Any information on line length, etc, is the goal here. Like today I would have tweeted "@fschipotlebot line is almost to the second doors. Looks like maybe a new employee in the burrito-construction team."

Anyway, if it gets used, that will be awesome, so check it out. Using the service was dead-simple (it took me about 30 minutes) and is all this bot really needed. In the future, I'd like to move onto making more complicated bots, that I will probably have to script and run on my own hosting. Let me know if you have any thoughts on other useful twitter bots!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ubiquity Commands I've "created"

If you're not using Firefox 3 and Ubiquity, this post may not be all that useful to you, but go check them out and then come back here and this might make more sense.

If you are using Ubiquity, you may have noticed that a nice feature is that you can create your own commands from right within the browser. There is a nice tutorial on how to get started on this on the Mozilla site.

The absolute easiest way to create a new Ubiquity command is to make a command from an existing bookmarklet. There is a video here that explains this. Basically, you just copy and paste some code snippets and bam, there's your nifty new command.

Commands I've made using this method are:

The 'page2rss' command:

name: "Add to Page2RSS",

I've gotten so used to clicking the RSS icon in Firefox to subscribe to sites I like, that when I come to a site with no RSS feed I feel really frustrated. So I use this bookmarklet/command that sends the page through which in turn monitors the page for changes and creates a feed for it. Then I subscribe. :)

The 'HuffDuff it' command:

name: "HuffDuff It",

This allows me to submit things to my queue. For more on how I use, see my last post.

Similarly, one for the 'easylistener player':

name: "easylistener",
url: "javascript:void(,%22easylistener%22,%22menubar=no,location=no,resizable=yes,scrollbars=no,status=yes%22));"

I used to use Google Notebook heavily until I heard it was being pseudo-discontinued. Now I use Evernote, and thus an Evernote command:

name: "evernote this",
url: "javascript:(function(){EN_CLIP_HOST='';try{var%20x=document.createElement('SCRIPT');x.type='text/javascript';x.src=EN_CLIP_HOST+'/public/bookmarkClipper.js?'+(new%20Date().getTime()/100000);document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(x);}catch(e){location.href=EN_CLIP_HOST+'/clip.action?url='+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+'&title='+encodeURIComponent(document.title);}})();"

This last one is one that I actually "wrote". I gradually figured out how the commands are normally written, and made this one mostly from scratch. It let's you type in a song name and it returns a list of songs from the service. I find it extremely useful when I want to hear a particular song. This makes it really easy to go from thinking about a song directly to listening to that song. Much less cumbersome than opening a new tab, browsing to the site, and typing it in there. The command could use a few improvements, but I'm still pretty happy with it.

name: "tinysong",
takes: {"song to find": noun_arb_text},
preview: function( pblock, songToFind ) {
pblock.innerHTML = "song results...";
var baseUrl = '';
var params = {s: songToFind.text, limit: 5 };
jQuery.get( baseUrl,
function ( response ){
var results = eval( '(' + response + ')' );
pblock.innerHTML = results.Custom;
execute: function( songToFind ) {
var doc = Application.activeWindow.activeTab.document;
var url_dest = ''+songToFind.text+'&limit=10';;

It should be possible to copy and paste these directly into your Ubiquity command editor and they should work right away. Let me know if you try them out.

How I listen to mp3's online

Here's how I wrangle mp3s and podcasts on a day-to-day basis.

First, if I'm reading a page that has a link to some mp3's and I just want to listen to them, but I'm not sure if I really want to download them, I use something called the 'easylistener' bookmarklet. Here is the bookmarklet itself:


Drag that link into your bookmarks in your browser and then when you're looking at a page that links to mp3 files, all you have to do is click it and a new window will open with an instance of the easylistener player playing the files. Super easy and super useful. Note that the easylistener will also take the url of an RSS feed of a podcast and play it, so it's useful for when you find a podcast and you want to decided whether or not to subscribe to it.

Next, if I really like something I download it for keeps, but if I want to share it with other people I use this great site called This site let's you build your own podcast of sorts out of mp3 files all across the web. You can manually submit the entries, but the thing I really, really like is the bookmarklet they made. Like with the easylistener bookmarklet, you just click this bookmark when you're looking at a page that links to an mp3 that you want to submit. The bookmarklet for huffduffer is here (you need to sign up for a huffduffer account to use it):

Huffduff it

The bookmarklet detects the mp3 file and some info from the page you're reading and pops up a form to let you fill in a description and tag the entry if you want. Then the mp3 is entered into your queue and becomes part of your feed that can be consumed as a blog, podcast, or even xspf. Huffduffer is really smart with tags and such too, so you can get a feed of anything tagged 'music', or 'cincinnati' for example. See the about page for more on this. On huffduffer, I'm dmenninger.

I subscribe to my own huffduffer podcast along with a couple other podcasts on my Nokia N80 and listen to them while I walk to and from work.