Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rules of Shelving

LibraryThere's a weirdly interesting discussion going on about how to shelve books on a few blogs. It started on the arts side, where one suggested methodology is to only display books that you have actually read (the "pretentious git" strategy). A dissenting voice argues that instead we should display books we would have read had we been the kind of people we would like to be (the "pseudo-intellectual poseur" method). Appearances seem to trump usefulness for these people.

Over in the real world, we have the put the books where they are used strategy, and the put them anywhere but categorize and alphabetize them approach. Either is more or less sensible, and geared towards making their use practical for the owner, not about making some kind of statement to the world.

Me, I have a rather pragmatic, operational approach. If you try to organize too much your system will inevitably break down and you'll feel guilty about not having your books in order any more. Better to be lax about organization - the end result is the same and you can avoid feeling bad about it. Hereby my four rules of librarianship:
  • Put books about the same kind of subject close together. Not the same subject, necessarily, but books sharing a methodology or approach to things. That way, when you're looking for info in some book, you can get inspired to broaden your search in related works.

    As a corollary, put all easy-read and favourite fiction together. When you're about to leave for somewhere and scrambling for something to read on the way, or looking for something to read in bed you don't want to run around looking for inspiration all over your home. And if you're the kind of person to read in the bathroom you especially don't want to be wasting time finding a good book.

  • Put books back in the same place. Our memories work much better with visual and spatial information than with abstract facts, so it's much easier to remember seeing a book in a particular place, with a specific cover, surrounded by particular other books, than to remember how to find it in some abstract shelving system. Just think of how often you can't quite recollect the exact title or author but you do remember the size, the color, the cover design, and perhaps even the overall layout of the page you're looking for.

    The corollary is, do not put lots of books with the same cover design next to each other; you'll have the devil of a time trying to remember what those books are. Visual variation is good.

  • Piles of books are fine when you're currently using them. Yes, that includes having book piles on or under the kitchen table, and yes, "using them" includes having used them the past week with a firm intention to get right back on it this weekend. The document pile serves as the short-term memory of a project. The order and composition of the pile tells you what you were doing and reminds you what you should be doing next.

    The pile is good. Embrace the pile. Love the pile.

  • Oh, lastly, Don't put foodstuffs, money, receipts or other stuff among the books. You forget you put it there. Finding forgotten money is fun, but searching all over your home for some receipt or other important document is not. Food will inevitably be forgotten and grow stale, mouldy or both. Trust me on this.

Not a perfect system - the "piles are good" thing is not generally accepted by everybody in our household for instance. Feel free to post any good ideas you're using.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pictures and Email Trouble

No, I'm still not done with the Hokkaido pictures. As always I have hundreds of pictures, only a couple of handfuls which are really worth keeping. Thing is, I usually know fairly well which ones it'll be already when I take them; I'm drowning myself in pictures I know won't be any good just on the off-chance that one or two of them might turn out to be anything to keep. Nobody is happy with the glut of images, not me and not anybody else.

I need to start doing things differently - slow down and think it through before I start jumping on the shutter button like an overexcited ten-year old. The trouble with digital is of course that it is so very easy to take a lot of pictures with no real limits to hold you back. Film on the other hand is too cumbersome, with no direct feedback on what you did. And you either leave the film processing to a lab - leaving half the creative process in the hands of somebody else - or you process yourself, which means lots of smelly chemicals and piles of processing and scanning equipment, all in need of a separate room to mess with it. Not really sure what to do about this. I'd give medium- or large-format photography a go, but I can't go the film route, and digital large format costs a freaking fortune.


In a separate bit of news, my Lund University email address has been acting up for the past week, refusing to let me log in. I could try to resolve it, but frankly I haven't actually been a member of the university for years now, so I've been pushing to move over to a different address for some time, telling people to use a different account and so on. I think I will just let the email address lapse.

But that means that if you still use my old email address ("jan.moren at"), then it is high time to forget it and use either of my two current ones. My home, and main, email address is "janne" at "". That would usually be the best place to send things. The alternative is my "jan.moren" at "" address; that's the one I'd use whenever I travel. I check both often so either is fine.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Origins of Japan

I'm still trying to work through the mountain of pictures from Hokkaido, winnowing it down to something resembling manageable size. Meanwhile, a friend sent me a link to an article by Jared Diamond (of the "Guns, Germs and Steel" fame) from 1998 on the origins of the Japanese people. He doesn't have a particular historical or cultural axe to grind, so it's arguably more evenhanded and perhaps more reliable than you would find from a lot of Japanese or Korean sources. He's an engaging writer so it's a good read.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Back Again

We're back - back to a wet, chilly Osaka and a pile of laundry to rival the mountain of unread email and the hundreds of still unsorted pictures. I'll make some real posts about our trip later, but for now I can briefly say that we had a great time; the weather ranged from dazzling sun to heavy snowfall; Hokkaido food is as great as rumoured; and the Akan national park is really beautiful.

Happy Valentine's day everyone!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

And We're Off

I-1We're on our way to Hokkaido, with suitcases filled to the brim with wintery clothing; come to think of it, I can not remember having had quite this much clothing even during military service in Sweden many years ago. Ah well, better too much than too little I guess.

Without any internet connection (there is internet in the Hokkaido hotels, naturally; I'm just not going to use it) I'm not going to be able to moderate comments or anything else on this blog until next week. Feel free to comment, of course; it's just that your comment will not become visible until after I come back and can approve them.

I was going to post my homemade soba how-to, but ran out of time; it'll show up when we're back. Until then I leave you with a recent portrait of I-1 on the right. Why? No reason; I just like the shot.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Apologies, with Green Chocolate

I need to apologize. When we got married on Friday I sent emails to everybody who could be personally interested in the event. As it turned out however, my incompetence (no technical glitches to blame here) caused some of those emails to never be sent off properly. Fortunately most of those affected apparently watch this blog now and again and got in touch when they saw it here. Again, very sorry. Feel free to beat me up with blunt objects next time we meet.

On a lighter (greener?) note, Valentine's day is just a week away now, and candies and chocolates are popping up on store shelves like mushrooms after a storm. For inspiration, we found this in the supermarket just a while ago:

Green Chocolate
Green, tea-flavoured chocolate. Tastes pretty good; if you like matcha ice-cream you'll like this too. I prefer the ice-cream, overall.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Ritsuko and I got married, this Friday on February first 2008.

We've been dating for four years and living together for almost two so we doubt it's a huge surprise for anyone. If you wonder why you weren't invited to the ceremony, stop fretting - we didn't have one. Just the two of us filing the paperwork at the ward office, followed by dinner in Kobe at our favourite Indian restaurant ("Raja", just south of Motomachi station, off the east end of Chinatown in case anyone wonders).

Saturday next week we're off to northern Hokkaido. We are both more than a little obsessed over food and Hokkaido has some the best Japanese seafood in the country (and perhaps the best Ramen in the world), so going there in the middle of the winter is not nearly as strange as it may at first appear. I'll post pictures after the trip.