Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

30 August, 2012

I Am Not a Librarian: But I Try

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

OK, so let’s look at top-level categories. You’ll remember the MDS from last time, but let me line it up with some other systems as well, just to get an idea of the variation.

Melvil Decimal System Universal Decimal Classification Library of Congress Classification Bliss bibliographic classification
  1. General Works and Information Sciences
  2. Philosophy and Psychology
  3. Religion
  4. Social Sciences
  5. Language
  6. Mathematics and Science
  7. Applied Sciences and Technology
  8. Arts and Leisure
  9. Literature
  10. Biography and History
  1. Science and Knowledge. Organization. Computer Science. Information. Documentation. Librarianship. Institutions. Publications
  2. Philosophy. Psychology
  3. Religion. Theology
  4. Social Sciences
  5. empty
  6. Mathematics. Natural Sciences
  7. Applied Sciences. Medicine, Technology
  8. The Arts. Recreation. Entertainment. Sport
  9. Language, Linguistics, Literature
  10. Geography, Biography, History
A – General Works
B – Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion
C – Auxiliary Sciences of History
D – General and Old World History
E – History of America
F – History of the United States and British, Dutch, French, and Latin America
G – Geography, Anthropology, and Recreation
H – Social Sciences
J – Political Science
K – Law
L – Education
M – Music
N – Fine Arts
P – Language and Literature
Q – Science
R – Medicine
S – Agriculture
T – Technology
U – Military Science
V – Naval Science
Z – Bibliography, Library Science, and General Information Resources
2/9 – Generalia, Phenomena, Knowledge, Information science & technology
A/AL – Philosophy & Logic
AM/AX – Mathematics, Probability, Statistics
AY/B – General science, Physics
C – Chemistry
D – Astronomy and earth sciences
DG/DY – Earth sciences
E/GQ – Biological sciences
GR/GZ – Applied biological sciences: agriculture and ecology
H – Physical Anthropology, Human biology, Health sciences
I – Psychology & Psychiatry
J – Education
K – Society (includes Social sciences, sociology & social anthropology)
L/O – History (including area studies, travel and topography, and biography)
LA – Archaeology
P – Religion, Occult, Morals and ethics
Q – Social welfare & Criminology
R – Politics & Public administration
S – Law
T – Economics & Management of economic enterprises
U/V – Technology and useful arts (including household management and services)
W – The Arts
WV/WX – Music
X/Y – Language and literature
ZA/ZW – Museology

It all adds up to quite the mouthful. And they’ve got some pretty different notations, too – I don’t know what’s going on with Bliss. To get way ahead of myself, I think maybe using the alphabet is a good idea, just for the extra room it gives you to expand – although the UDC has left a whole number unused by collapsing subjects into others. Combining language and literature certainly isn’t for me. So what do they all have in common, then? Can I draw out some main topics?

  • Philosophy
    • Grouped with Psychology (or Logic, in Bliss)
  • Religion
    • Grouped with Philosophy in LoC
  • Social Sciences
  • Language
    • Frequently combined with Literature, but screw that!
  • Literature
  • Mathematics
    • Generally grouped with Science, specifically Natural Sciences
  • Arts and Recreation
  • History and Biography
  • Geography
  • And they all have some sort of General Stuff-category

Some of them divide sciences and history further on the top-level, but my instinct is to go as broad as I can for the top-level, and go for greater granularity later. I’m actually tempted to go for just a Science top-level – Wikipedia organises its articles into Formal, Physical, Life, Social and Applied Sciences, and that seems like a good subdivision of a big field to me. Of course, I immediately get into trouble, as Linguistics should then be a Social Science, but I want Language on the top-level. Dangit.

OK, let me compare these pulled out with my own tentative categories, then.

General Works
Social Sciences
Natural Sciences
Arts and Recreation
History and Biography


I actually quite like this boiled-down list. Let me redo my list a bit, and see if I get a top-level I can work with, and throw in some of the rest as sub-levels just to see how it’d work.

  1. General Works
  2. Formal Sciences
    • Mathematics
  3. Natural Sciences
    • Geography
  4. Social Sciences
    • Politics
    • Education
  5. Philosophy
  6. Religion
  7. Language
  8. Literature
  9. Art
    • Food
    • Music
  10. History
    • Biography

That even shook out to ten! I’m not sure if I should be happy about that; if I go with these as top-level, I’ll obviously use numbers, and leave myself no room to expand. And I’ve surely overlooked something. And what are General Works, really? Like, encyclopaedias and stuff? Do they even sell print versions of those to private consumers any more? It seems like a good category to have, you know, “stuff”, but I don’t know that I’d really use it. Maybe I should have some sort of Applied Sciences instead – though it’s not like I’ll use that much either. I think this set-up will pretty much work for my current books, though… I think I’m on to something here.

27 August, 2012

I Am Not a Librarian: Classification Redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

About six months ago, I complained about my dissatisfaction with the Dewey Decimal System as an organisational tool. I bitched and moaned about its nonsensical hierarchy, and generally expressed a desire for something that made a bit more sense for organising my shelves.

While I’ve managed to keep quiet about it since, the dissatisfaction remains, simmering away out of sight, and bubbling up every now and then – usually when I look at my shelves. Now we’re in August, the start of a new semester, and with it comes a whole bunch of new non-fiction books. This is when the dissatisfaction boils over.

Proper classification systems are a lot of work and a lot of planning and a lot of careful considerations. That’s why there are professional librarians who do it, and why the people who own the big systems charge a good deal of money for licensing them. I have, reluctantly, conceded that a system of organising my own shelves does not need to be universal in scope. If I trim it to the bone, it really only needs to cover the books I own – though I do want it to be open enough to accommodate topics which I currently do not own any books in. So, forging ahead in ignorance, without any classification experience or qualifications, I am trying to make myself a system I can live with. This post will be partly what I have done already, and partly me doing it on the fly; let’s see where I end up.

I started with making little digital cards, with book titles on them – one for each non-fiction book I own. I then started sorting them into piles based on the broadest categories I could think of. This resulted in seven clear categories – History, Religion, Literature, Education, Philosophy, Language and Food (I own a single cook book).

Some of these probably shouldn’t be top-level. I’m looking at you, Food. There are some books left over which I have not quite decided where to put – do my books on comics go with literature, or should there be an art-category, or should comics finally get to be their own thing? The Communist Manifesto doesn’t feel like it belongs in History, should I have a category for economics, or maybe politics? Should The Federalist Papers and the US constitution, in that case, go into that bag, or should there be one for law? Do Michael Moore’s political satire go in with politics, or does it belong with the other humorous non-fiction I own? I guess I did put the satirical literary history in with the rest of literature. And what about my two quote collections?

Say I do add Politics and Art. Let me compare my categories to the tags I have used for these books on LibraryThing. I’ll line up the top twenty tags that describe contents with my proposed categories.

religion (44)
history (36)
ancient (18)
Christianity (18)
classic (16)
mythology (16)
epic (15)
literature (13)
Greece (12)
linguistics (11)
language (9)
Rome (8)
America (7)
Bible (7)
Antiquity (6)
English (6)
humour (6)
American (5)
biography (5)
empires (5)

Several of these tags aren’t really all that useful on their own – that’s the beauty of tags, they can work together to paint a more complex picture than a single subject label can. That’s also what makes them less than ideal for shelving systems. Books tagged Greece or Rome or America could easily be literature, religion or history, with no way of telling from that one tag itself. Tags like Christianity and mythology obviously belong as a subset of Religion. After talking the matter over with a friend, I also grouped biographies under History. The politics tag didn’t make the list, but it has five books associated with it, while art only has one.

I think it would be a good idea to look at how other systems do it – even if I am trying to tailor-make something for my own collection, there’s no reason to struggle to reinvent the wheel. Melvil Dewey’s top-level goes something like this:

  1. General Works and Information Sciences
  2. Philosophy and Psychology
  3. Religion
  4. Social Sciences
  5. Language
  6. Mathematics and Science
  7. Applied Sciences and Technology
  8. Arts and Leisure
  9. Literature
  10. Biography and History

Education would go under Social Sciences in this system, as would Politics and, indeed, economics. Food would go under Applied Sciences and Technology, which admittedly makes cooking sound pretty bad-ass, but I’m not quite sure about that particular delegation.

This isn’t a project that will be finished in this post. I think I need to look up some other classification systems, and compare more top-levels, before I hash out which ones I think make sense, but I want to do as much of the process as possible in public, so that others can let me know when I’ve done something dumb.  I think I’ll pause here for now, and go do some reading.

20 August, 2012

A Long Way

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I wonder if Europe is just poorly suited for road narratives.

I have this idea for a story, see, that I have been kicking around in my head for a while. It would be a very episodic type of story, structured around a set of protagonists who move from place to place and have different adventures in different places. It’s the same basic sort of set-up as Doctor Who, or Quantum Leap, or Touched by an Angel, or early seasons of Supernatural. I doubt I’ll ever break into TV, but there are other ways of telling an episodic story. The thing is, though, I have a hard time picturing it set in Europe.

There’s a saw that goes along the lines of: “Europeans think a hundred miles is a long way. Americans think a hundred years is a long time.” The European bit definitely rings true to me; I sure as hell think a hundred miles is an inconvenient distance. America, as a continent, is just so big, with lots of open spaces with scattered settlements spaced far apart. It lends itself to a narrative with travelling baked in. Europe, by contrast, is all scrunched up and packed tightly. The Romans founded heaps and heaps of cities within a day’s travel of each other. And where fjords and mountains once isolated small villages that are actually pretty close as the crow flies, modernity have brought these right next to each other as well. The story idea I have wouldn’t work here. Are there any road narratives that do? Surely there must be, I just can’t think of any.Doctor Whois British, and had to go into space and time to get anywhere. You don’t go exploring the open road in Europe, you backpack through it, from convenient point to convenient point.

The thing is, I don’t really trust myself to write Americans. I’m not an American; I’d mess up the idiom. I never went to a High School, never grew up with the US Saturday morning cartoons, never ever recited any pledge of allegiance. I haven’t even lived in America, all my info about life there comes from the media. I do not think I would do it right, were I to attempt to write Americans in a sustained, episodic format. It would ring false.

There isn’t really a solution to this, I guess, beyond practising. Maybe hope that a media caricature of real America is close enough. Maybe retool the idea from the bottom up to make it work in a setting I do know. Look for some good examples of this kind of story set in Europe, for inspiration. And, as the advice always goes, write, write, write.

16 August, 2012

Indulging Geeky Habits

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Gallifreyan circle writing

OK, admittedly, this post is going to be me indulging in a bit of weird geekery.

I am a big fan of the TV series Doctor Who. I am one of those Johnny-come-latelies who only started with the modern series, but I am trying to round out my Whovian education by going back and watching a bunch of the old series – it’s slow going, but it’s there.

But that’s not the point of this post. As xkcd has just pointed out, there’s always a geekier level further down.

The modern series of Doctor Who has at several points featured writing in the Gallifreyan language, the native tongue of the main character. These samples of writing have been circles, interlocking in patterns. It looks pretty cool. I assume the people who put it in – would that be set dressing, I wonder? – have some sort of system to make it more than just random circles. At least I hope so. I think I recall someone saying in a DVD commentary that there was one. Of course, if there is one, we the viewers don’t know what it is, because it hasn’t been released. This is where we descend one level deeper – not just Doctor Whoand fictional writing systems, we enter the realm of rampant fandom and the home-made variety.

Some clever cat of a doctor who fan actually sat down and worked out a usable script of circle patterns. His website seems to be down for the moment, but there’s a pretty good explanation of the script here. Now, it’s not really a script with a particular language in mind, it’s mostly just an elaborate cypher for the Latin alphabet – but good enough to include separate glyphs for digraphs like ng, th, sh and ch, and it drops c, so there’s some movement towards phonetic transcription. Since I am not yet quite at the level below, where you’d actually learn Gallifreyan, a cypher is enough of a toy for me. I love this thing, it looks cool and very Who-y. Here’s the name of this blog:

Gallifreyan circle writing

Like I said, this post is mostly just indulging the geekery. Lookit the pretty pictures! I’ve always had a bit of an interest in constructed languages and the constructed scripts that go with them – and as a relevant aside, have a look at Omniglot some time – but this is the first one that’s got me sitting there just playing around with making pretty circles.

Gallifreyan circle writing

Go on, have a go transliterating that back into English! It’s not as hard as it looks. And it’s fun!

13 August, 2012

Fiction: Red Flag

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

“It’s red, captain!” Bill shouted. The blood red flag filled the whole view through the spyglass. He lowered the glass and squinted towards the approaching galleon, already too close for comfort.

The deck was silent. Everybody knew what the flag meant. No quarter given. None would be spared.

The captain scratched his bushy beard with his hook. Some crumbs fell out of it. The rest of the crew watched him, waiting. Bill knew they were all feeling the same thing. Excitement. Expectation. Nerves. All the standard pre-battle jitters. The other ship might have treasure.

“Do we have a red flag?” captain Davies finally asked. Bill could tell from his tone that he was uncertain. The approaching galleon was much larger and finer than their own ship, which was simply flying the old black flag Red Willy had painted a crude skull on.

“We’ve a dark pinkish one, cap’n!” Raving Trevor responded. He was rummaging through the small flag chest, and pulled out a flag of dark but decidedly pink colour.

The captain sighed and scratched his beard again. “Anyone remember what deep pink means?” he asked the assembled pirates. Bill ran through all the flags he knew in his head. Deep pink wasn’t a common one.

“Er, I think it means ‘We don’t quite know if we’ll bother with quarter, we’ll see when we get that far’,” he finally said.

“Nay, that won’t do, can’t look uncertain,” the captain said at once. “Have we any others?”

Raving Trevor rummaged through the chest again, while a sense of inferiority spread through the crew. Bill could see it in their faces, and knew it would be visible in his own as well. The other ship had better flags than they did. And it was bigger. And, he could see now, painted in a rather impressive shade of black. Bill looked down at the brown planks beneath their own railing, and wished they were a just slightly cooler kind of brown.

“We’ve a Union Jack, cap’n,” Trevor said. Bill could tell he didn’t have much faith in the suggestion.

“No, we’ll meet them as honest pirates, not under false colours,” the captain cried to general sounds of assent. He sighed.

“There’s a green one as well.”

“Green? What’s green?”

There was a pause as the pirates puzzled through this question. Bill was sure he did not know himself. After a few seconds, Blue Balthazar gave a small, embarrased cough; he rarely spoke in such public circumstances.

“It means ‘vegetables for sale’, captain.”

“Vegetables for sale?! Why the blazes do we even have that flag?”

“We got it off that potato transport we took a week ago.”

“Oh. Well, don’t hoist it!”

“Aye, cap’n.”

There was another pause. Bill looked over at the enemy ship, which was drawing ever nearer.

“Well,” the captain finally said, resigned, “We’ll leave the flag as it is. We’ve no room for prisoners, so try not to give quarter anyway.”

“Aye, captain!” fifteen voices replied. Bill looked over at the other ship again. The men crewing it were visible now, and the sunlight gleamed off polished steel. Bill looked on his own rusty blade in shame. It was unlikely to gleam in any light. Several of the others seemed to have reached the same conclusion; Blue Balthazar was trying in vain to polish away a particularly ugly spot of rust with his sleeve.

“Look on the bright side, lads,” the captain said, his voice full of forced cheer. “We’ll give the lot of ’em tetanus.”

There were new sounds of assent, but less eager now. Bill kept his eyes on the other ship, which would soon be in firing range. The cannons were already loaded, but he could see that the enemy’s cannons were bigger, and also polished to a shine.

Bill sighed. Even if they won this skirmish, the other ship had already taken the moral victory. He could see them fully know. He heard the captain moan behind him, and he could see why. There was no end to ignominy; even the kerchiefs of the enemy were cleaner and costlier than their own.

“All right, lads,” the captain said, with no real enthusiasm. “Fire.”

9 August, 2012

What is a Obdormio

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

What up, Filipinos?

I’ve noticed a curious trend in my traffic stats. Once or twice a week, I get a visitor from the Philippines, who arrives at my site through a search related to the meaning or origin of the word obdormio. “Obdormio sentences”, “familiar words of obdormio”, “sentence for obdormio”, “origin of word obdormio”, “history of obdormio” and “what is a obdormio” are all examples of searches that have led people here the last couple of months.

I confess myself afire with curiosity. What is going on in the Philippines to make so many different people search for this? Is there some company using the word in advertising? Is it a game show or some sort of radio contest with prizes involved? Are the Romans secretly invading? I have tried some googling myself to see if I can find any answer, but the only results I get are my own website, which is as unhelpful to me as it probably is to the Filipinos. If you are one of the people doing these searches, I would be very grateful if you’d tell me why!

Since there’s apparently a whole demographic here, the least I could do is try to give an answer to the question they appear to be asking. Obdormio is a Latin word. It means “I fall asleep”. Its etymology beyond that, I do not know; that seems like something you’d need specialised Latin scholarly dictionaries to find. Wiktionary has a whole list of conjugated forms, should you be interested in those. That’s really all I can tell you about the word.

As for my own history with the word, I have used it as a handle on the Internet for quite some time now. The earliest use by me I can document is registering my Gmail account back in May of 2004, but I am fairly sure I had already been using it elsewhere for some time then. I cannot recall exactly when I started using it. I do remember sitting up trying to think of a good handle, late at night, and feeling very tired, and finally just putting “sleep” into some skeezy translator. While using a verb as a noun is a bit dodgy, I suppose, I feel it has served me well so far. This domain, obdormio.com, I have had since registering it in 2006. Or possibly the very end of 2005; I’d have to look it up.

There are some other Obdormios out there, which I have nothing to do with at all. That’s what you get when you pick a name from a dictionary, I suppose. It does irk me a very tiny bit, but as I don’t really have a case here I try not to think about it. I’ll not name them here, for fear of creating some illusion of affiliation, but I’m sure you’ll find them easily enough if you want. I don’t think any of them have much information about the etymology of the word on hand either. I should, perhaps, seek out a unique identity – or at least a somewhat more distinctive one – but I honestly doubt I’d manage to find anything that has never or will never be used elsewhere, so I’ll stick with what I have for now.

So, Filipinos, did that help at all? Is some of that what you were looking for? Why are you looking in the first place? Please do tell me, or you will doom me to live through life in slightly annoying ignorance.

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