Tag Archives: indexcards

2014-01-04 16.01.48

The End (of the notebook)

Back in April, I started an exper­i­ment with Field Notes Expedition Edition. I love always hav­ing a notepad/notebook and (Fisher Space) Pen at hand. I did index cards for a while (i.e. the Hipster PDA) but I didn’t like them loose, I didn’t like stor­ing them in an over­sized wal­let, and I didn’t like secur­ing them with a scratchy binder clip. I moved on to pocket note­books. I like the stitched bind­ing on the pocket Moleskine Cahir, but the cov­ers kept falling apart, the pages ripped out, and I wasn’t too keen on the off-yellow paper with dark grid­lines. After putting up with a lot of fail­ures, I switched to a Field Notes dot-grid (Fire Spotter Edition). I was very happy with the white paper and the fact that the grid sort of faded into the back­ground, unlike the unig­nor­able Moleskine notebook’s grid. Unfortunately, those note­books didn’t even sur­vive as long as the Moleskine ones. I guess I just go through note­books more slowly than oth­ers. Or maybe I’m more rough on them than oth­ers.

2013-04-28 17.10.13

I had never got­ten to the end of a pocket note­book before it totally crum­bled apart. Until today. Today, I reached the end of a note­book with­out it falling apart.


The Expedition Edition, with it’s Tyvek-like water– and tear-proof plastic-like paper sur­vived. Nine months later, I’m ready to start my sec­ond note­book of the three-pack.

2014-01-04 16.01.48


Posted in: Dear Diary

The Hipster PDA Scrabble cheat sheet (v2.0)

A while back, I made a Scrabble “cheat sheet” that fit in the stan­dard Hipster PDA 3x5 index card for­mat. I used it for a few weeks, both in play­ing the Scrabble board game and Words With Friends. Unfortunately, it never quite worked the way I wanted it to.

A cou­ple of weeks ago, I updated it to ver­sion 2.0 and have been beta-testing the new ver­sion. This one focuses pri­mar­ily on valid 2– and 3-letter words — the sorts of words you need when play­ing words side-by-side and pack­ing in tight matri­ces of let­ters. I am a lot more happy with this one over the orig­i­nal ver­sion.

You can find more infor­ma­tion and the PDF down­load on my Hipster PDA Scrabble cheat sheet project page.

Netninja site changes: Hipster PDA & Code


I have talked about my rela­tion­ship with the Hipster PDA for years.  It is a sort of love/hate thing.  I find that the basics are invalu­able.  I really love all the beau­ti­ful lit­tle tem­plates and forms that peo­ple have made for the 3″ x 5″ form fac­tor.  Alas, I find that most — if not all — of those tem­plates are all but use­less to me.  A blank page has so much poten­tial.  ANYTHING you can think of (well, that fits between the mar­gins) can go on there.  Once you start adding fill-in lines and check boxes and cal­en­dars and what­not, its util­ity becomes less gen­er­al­ized and more spe­cific.  You sud­denly have to carry around blank index cards, blank Form X cards, blank Form Y cards, blank Form Z cards, and what­not.  Uh-oh, I ran out of todo-list forms.  I guess I can’t do any­thing until I print out more.

That being said, I am going to get all hyp­o­crit­i­cal and men­tion the forms I have cre­ated for myself.  They work for me, they may not work for you.  Before I do that, though, I am going to men­tion the changes to Netninja.com.

Yesterday’s Changes

Yesterday, when adding sev­eral new Hipster PDA tem­plates to the site, I real­ized that one giant page with all the tem­plates had become a less-than-ideal way of pre­sent­ing them.  I rearranged things (thank you, WordPress as a con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem!) so that a top-level index led you to the indi­vid­ual PDF sheets.  In doing this, I also real­ized that the “Projects” sec­tion of my site is exclu­sively related to code I have writ­ten — except for the Hipster PDA “project,” which is, effec­tively, a bunch of PDF forms to print.  I decided to pro­mote those to a new top-level nav­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy.  If you are read­ing this on the site (as opposed to in your RSS news­reader), you will see the new “Hipster PDA” tab up top.

I also tweaked the front page of Netninja.com to bet­ter call out inter­est­ing and pop­u­lar projects.  Previously, it was a dynamic list of recently updated project pages, but in look­ing through my logs I real­ized that few peo­ple care that the crude JavaScript-Minesweeper pro­to­type was updated recently if that causes more pop­u­lar things like LJProxy, wmap, or the Hipster PDA pages to drop off the list.

The New Hipster PDA Section Introduction

The fol­low­ing is the intro­duc­tion to the new top-level Hipster PDA sec­tion of Netninja.com.  It cov­ers what I men­tioned above, but in a lit­tle more detail.

Over the years, I have been a big fan of pro­duc­tiv­ity tools. Back in the day, I would drool over the vari­ety of dayrun­ner fold­ers and their page inserts. Later, it was pro­duc­tiv­ity soft­ware. After that, sys­tems and frame­works and gim­micks and what­not. I kind of stopped when I hit the “Hipster PDA.” Admittedly, I did not imme­di­ately stop there. I played with all the tem­plates, espe­cially the D*I*Y Planner tem­plates. There is so much poten­tial, so much hope, in those tem­plates. I fell in love with the idea of those tem­plates, but dis­cov­ered most of them were just not as use­ful or flex­i­ble as a blank index card. As cool as they are, I had to give up most of those tem­plates.

I dis­cov­ered that, for me, there are two main types of Hipster PDA index cards that are use­ful. Your mileage may vary, but for me, there are two:

  1. The blank card. Okay, tech­ni­cally, I pre­fer the graph paper index cards from Levenger because I’m a nerdy engi­neer, but most peo­ple would con­sider these “blank.”
  2. The pre-printed ref­er­ence card. There are times when I want to have some­thing on-hand to look up at a moment’s notice. And I really do mean a moment’s notice — not take out the iPhone, turn it on, enter the lock code, launch Evernote, search for the note I’m look­ing for, then open it.

The blank card is just that. There is no sys­tem or tem­plate that can help there. The pre-printed ref­er­ence card is mainly cus­tomized to me and my life, but might be use­ful to oth­ers — or at the very least, may serve as inspi­ra­tion. For instance, I have one for work as a ref­er­ence for things like model num­bers and pro­gram­ming con­stants that is of lit­tle inter­est out­side the work­place. I have a pre-printed shop­ping list where I can just tick off the things I need; the items are spe­cific to me and my life but oth­ers may find them use­ful. The style, with dif­fer­ent items, could work for oth­ers.

The New Templates

You will have to hit up the Hipster PDA tem­plate list­ing to view all tem­plates, old and new.  Yesterday’s newly added tem­plates include:

Scrabble Cheat Sheet

thumbnailThe Scrabble Cheat Sheet is a ref­er­ence of high-scoring and unique words in Scrabble. This includes Q-without-U, words with large num­bers of con­so­nants, and large num­bers of vow­els.

Portland Map

thumbnailThis is the first revi­sion of a not-quite-to-scale down­town Portland map with the bus routes and stops that I am pri­mar­ily inter­ested in. It served well over Christmas, in that I could mark down the loca­tions of stores I rarely fre­quent. I know the loca­tions I typ­i­cally go to and their prox­im­ity to bus stops, but needed a good memory-jog for those rarely-visited loca­tions.

Title Page

thumbnailThe Title Page is a quick ref­er­ence of my con­tact infor­ma­tion as well as a phone list for impor­tant num­bers. It serves three pur­poses. First, I never remem­ber my own phone num­ber, so it’s nice to have it avail­able at a glance. Second, if my phone (where I keep all of my phone num­bers) breaks and I need to call some­one for help from another phone, I have impor­tant num­bers. Third, if I’m found uncon­scious in a ditch, the author­i­ties can see who to call.

Posted in: Code

Hipster PDA TODO Envelopes

Something I for­got to post a week or two ago: some Hipster PDA “hang­ing envelopes” that I made for work and released as a PDF. Basically, it is a thin enve­lope that you can stick to the wall (with some­thing low-profile like tape or poster putty–thumbtacks may not work.) They’re great for TODO lists and such because about half of the front­most card is vis­i­ble.


More details and the PDF are at http://netninja.com/projects/hipsterpda/#envelopes

Posted in: Projects

Provided For Your Protection 1


I am now offi­cially over the Space Pen. See A Letter To My Pen for my list of gripes and com­plaints. The new pen, a Cross Ion, is great. It is a bit more chunky than I’d like, but it writes well and has a good visual indi­ca­tion of how much ink is left. Plus, both the pen and the ink car­tridges come in a vari­ety of col­ors. I have a silver/black one with black ink and a silver/red one with pur­ple ink (so my writ­ing can look like that of a 14 year old girl, of course!) Here it is in com­par­i­son to the space pen:

They are about the same length closed, both quite usable when open, with the Ion being more fat.

In unre­lated pho­tos, this Nerf gun is sit­ting on a shelf out­side my office...

Posted in: Dear Diary Work

A letter to my pen

Dear Space Pen,

Although I love you dearly, I believe it is time for us to start see­ing oth­ers. You have a beau­ti­ful body, which is what ini­tially attracted me to you. Your com­pact, sleek form that elon­gates into a full-sized pen is absolutely amaz­ing. As the ini­tial lust for your form-factor is wear­ing off, I am com­ing to the real­iza­tion that it is the stuff on the inside that really counts. This is, unfor­tu­nately, your ugly side. Even though you have a fancy pressurized-gas ink car­tridge that can write upside-down, under water, through but­ter, or in zero grav­ity, at your heart you are truly just another ball­point pen, with all of the bag­gage that goes along with that. I have very lit­tle need to be writ­ing while dan­gling upside-down from a cliff or while snor­kel­ing. I have every need to write in smooth, con­sis­tent, dark strokes. At this, you fail. Your ink comes out unevenly. Recently, you have taken to ini­tially releas­ing large gobs of ink before being able to write. Not only are these drips of ink unsightly, they are sticky and stain hands, pock­ets, and other papers.

I have tried my best to make things work. I tried chang­ing my writ­ing style to bet­ter account for your uneven lines. I tried search­ing far and wide for a roller­ball or gel ink car­tridge that fits your body. I even inves­ti­gated mod­i­fy­ing ink car­tridges for other pens to fit you. In the end, though, noth­ing worked and all I am left with is a beau­ti­ful pen and inkstained fin­gers.

Very soon, a Cross Ion tele­scop­ing pen will arrive.  I do not want you to be fear­ful or resent­ful.  I just want you to under­stand that the Cross will pro­vide more of what I need.



Hipster Sudoku

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/03/

Last time, I talked about print­ing or stamps, but I caved in and sim­ply made a smaller Sudoku grid. The pre­vi­ous grid was 2.75″ (on a 3″ wide card.) This new one is 2.5″ and should fall within the mar­gin of error of con­sumer double-sided print­ing.

Posted in: Projects


My 3x5 Life

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/03/

This is another Hipster PDA report from the front lines. Previous ones are tagged hip­ster­pda.

A month or two ago, I picked up a shirt pocket brief­case from Levenger. It’s basi­cally a leather wal­let and writ­ing sur­face for 3x5 cards. It’s a fancy Hipster PDA vari­ant that’s use­ful for car­ry­ing around to meet­ings with clients. While I still use the ghetto binder-clip ver­sion for all of my own stuff–for that extra street cred, ya’ know–the fancy ver­sion is use­ful for work-related notes (and for keep­ing work at work, iso­lated from the per­sonal Hipster PDA, if that makes sense.)

I noticed that Levenger sells 3x5 file fold­ers that look like your typ­i­cal manilla 8.5x11 fold­ers, but put through the shinkotron. Because I did not feel like fork­ing over the cash and because they are sim­ple enough I made some myself (PDF forth­com­ing, if you’re inter­ested.) This lets me jot down notes dur­ing meet­ings and brain­storms, then group sim­i­lar notes together — like with reg­u­lar paper and reg­u­lar hang­ing file fold­ers, but smaller. It’s also a use­ful long-term stor­age for “back of the paper nap­kin” style notes and dia­grams. I ended up get­ting another cheezy plas­tic recipe-box style box to put them in, but only after spend­ing a week try­ing to find a local place that sells nice wooden boxes of the cor­rect size.

I’ve found a flaw in the Sudoko cards that I designed. The flaw is that the PDF is too accu­rate for con­sumer print­ers. I’m find­ing that most print­ers, when han­dling card­stock, get really finicky about every­thing. Depending on how much paper is in the paper feed and how care­fully you try to feed it through, the results could be as much as a quarter-inch off by the time the printer reaches the other end of the paper. It’s that whole thing about small angles grow­ing to large dif­fer­ences if you fol­low the angle out far enough. Trying to man­u­ally get every­thing to line up each time, then cut things exactly (even with a nice paper cut­ter), is start­ing to be a pain in the butt. I actu­ally talked to a cou­ple of local print houses about hav­ing some­one else do the exact print­work and cut­ting, but over $100 for 500‑1000 cards seems exces­sive to me. As much as I hate to do it, I may just have to shrink down the size of the grid to account for printer inac­cu­ra­cies. Another thought was to have some­one make (or make myself, if there’s a way) a rub­ber stamp to just put the grid on reg­u­lar blank cards, but I have not had much luck in that depart­ment. Most stamp com­pa­nies only want to han­dle text: return mail­ing addresses, check endorse­ments, inspected by #23, and that sort of thing, with maybe a piece of stock cli­part. So shrink­ing the pat­tern might be my only remain­ing option.

Posted in: Dear Diary Work

New Hipster PDA Shopping Template

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/02/

I revis­ited my Hipster PDA shop­ping tem­plate. The items have been grouped by cat­e­gory (i.e. sec­tion of the store) and for­mat­ting has changed in slight ways. The new tem­plate is called shopping2. Just like I said with the orig­i­nal shop­ping tem­plate, it is my own per­sonal set of generally-weekly sta­ples and may or may not be use­ful to most other peo­ple.

Posted in: Projects

Hipster PDA Revisited

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/02/

After about a month of using a Hipster PDA, I have to say that parts of it are work­ing extremely well and other parts aren’t.

To-Do List
This works sur­pris­ingly well, and I have a lit­tle bit of a the­ory about this. With the to-do list in my orga­nizer or on the com­puter, I always have to keep refer­ring back to it. Many, many, many times a day, I will hit the right sequence of but­tons (the “Calendar” key 3 times on my Treo) to bring it up. With the Hipster PDA to-do list, I remem­ber things on the list with­out hav­ing to look at it con­stantly. I believe this is entirely due to the tac­tile nature of the writ­ten list, giv­ing my brain some­thing to latch on to. With the com­puter and phone/organizer, the list is a screen. The back­ground is white, the fore­ground is black, the items on the screen are all a con­sis­tent size in a con­sis­tent font. It’s all cookie-cutter, and there­fore eas­ily for­get­table. It con­veys the infor­ma­tion long enough to look at, but does not leave any “hooks” for the brain (or, at least, *my* brain) to latch on to. With the printed list, there are a num­ber of good mem­ory “hooks.” First off, there is the act of writ­ing out the items. Like a school child writ­ing out the word “ency­clo­pe­dia” ten times in a row as a spelling exer­cise, writ­ing out the items hits a piece of [my] mem­ory that is not hit by sim­ply typ­ing. Second, there are lots of lit­tle irreg­u­lar­i­ties, incon­sis­ten­cies, or just plain unique things about hand­writ­ing on paper that seem to give my brain a bunch of things to latch on to: the spac­ing of the items, the size of the items, the cou­ple of items writ­ten side­ways because there wasn’t enough space at the bot­tom, the way that the descen­der on a par­tic­u­lar let­ter swoops, the “t” that didn’t quite get crossed, the asym­me­try of a par­tic­u­lar cap­i­tal “A,” or maybe just the look and feel of the paper as it fades from its orig­i­nal pure white after days of use. At any rate, there are lots of lit­tle phys­i­cal, vis­i­ble, and tac­tile cues in there that let me actively visu­al­ize the whole card and the items on the card. I do not have to refer to it as much because the items are more mem­o­rable.

I gave up. A printed cal­en­dar just can’t touch the iCal/Treo cal­en­dar syn­chro­niza­tion. It’s pretty much a data­base with mul­ti­ple views–day, week, month, etc. The only way to do that on paper cards is to use non-normalized data (to use a data­base term... or “lots of dupli­cates” to use com­mon English.) Duplicating the same event on the monthly, weekly, and daily cal­en­dars is just a pain.

Yes, it’s sort of a weird card/page, but the Harmony card is work­ing out well for me, but maybe not as well as I hoped. Its main focus is as a to-do, but to track a few short-term items ver­sus sev­eral long-term goals. It also helps bal­ance and track phys­i­cal, men­tal, social, and inspirational/spiritual goals. It’s a bit more rigidly defined than a free-form blank to-do card, and it forces me to think about long-term goals. I find that I’m maybe not refer­ring back to it enough, or maybe not com­ing up with good short-term steps to lead to the long-term goals. So while this is mostly work­ing, I either need to tweak the card or tweak my life to get it work­ing bet­ter.


Potential Project
Awesomeness! I often get crazy ideas for some future project. Sometimes I end up doing the project. Sometimes I drop it. Sometimes I com­pletely for­get about it. Having a spe­cific page for a spe­cific future project is an awe­some idea. There’s a spot for a title, descrip­tion, sum­mary, and a graph-paper sec­tion. When I think of a new idea, I can put it on a new Potential Project page, then for­get about it until later. These projects roll around in the back of my mind (although now won’t get lost because they’re writ­ten down in a spe­cific place) and some­times, with­out try­ing, I think of some cool detail or tech­nique to add to the card. If and when I get the time and moti­va­tion to work on one of these projects, all of the notes are in one spot.

Financial Log
I hon­estly haven’t used this. I tend to use the debit card for every­thing, which leaves an item­ized trans­ac­tion in my bank state­ment. It’s pretty easy to load this into the com­puter and tag it with the appro­pri­ate labels (gro­ceries, util­i­ties, etc.) based on the line item. I haven’t come across a time when I have needed to write down a trans­ac­tion.

Shopping List
The shop­ping list I made works really well. I am prob­a­bly going to flip the ori­en­ta­tion of the back side of the card, though. When I orig­i­nally designed it, I thought of hold­ing it in my hand, then flip­ping it top-to-bottom to get to the reverse. With it a “page,” clipped in to the hip­ster PDA, it really should behave more like a book and flip right-over-left. I am also con­sid­er­ing ‘s sug­ges­tion of group­ing items by kind, rather than alpha­bet­i­cally. One thing that I miss about the Treo SplashShopper pro­gram is the abil­ity to set up tem­plates (like “all prod­ucts nec­es­sary to make casse­role”), which can’t be eas­ily done on paper with­out car­ry­ing around a bunch of recipe ingre­di­ent cards.

Various Other Templates
For me, with my brain, noth­ing works as well or is as flex­i­ble as a blank white card. I have tried a few of the other tem­plates, but have found that [for me], they are either too rigid in for­mat or are so flex­i­ble that I’d be bet­ter off just using a blank card.

So over­all, it is work­ing great as a to-do list and for project notes. It works so-so for a num­ber of other things (shop­ping, long-term goals.) The pre-made pages don’t work well [for me] for other things, but blank pages are like blank can­vases and can hold all vari­ety of notes, so that’s a win. It is a lot more dif­fi­cult to draw a quick dia­gram or jot down a few free-form notes on the Treo, given its screen size and res­o­lu­tion. I didn’t men­tion it here, but the “big box o’ index cards” as a task list at work, as expected and as always, is still work­ing well.

Posted in: Projects