It’s all about me. Word clouds.

Like many of us I enjoy things that purport to tell me something about me, even if what they tell me does not seem right. I like fanciful things too. I take Facebook surveys – what color would I be if I was a color? I made that one up.

And I like data analysis and data visualization. Data visualization is the new way of saying that you make your data look like a picture – a chart, a graph, a map overlay, something. You visualize it. “Data” is (often) counts of something, by something – number of sales by product (the oblong widget, the square widget), month and year of the sale, area of the world. You can use metrics other than counts, such as averages. What is the average price of a pint of blueberries in Philadelphia, during July 2014? You get the idea.

A word cloud, also called a tag cloud, is a data visualization of all the words in a document or a web site. Wikipedia talks about this in some detail, and includes a formula – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_cloud. You do not do this manually; you use an application, a program that count up all the words, and displays the words differently, depending on how often they are used in your source. Words that are used more often are bigger and have more prominence on the page. You omit filler words such as “the”, “and”. The goal is to make a pretty picture that says something interesting about the document or web site.

I decided to use Wordle (http://www.wordle.net) to make a pretty picture of this blog. Wordle is free. You can put Worldle images on your site. Most importantly, the images it generates are attractive.

I could not find an easy way to grab all the words from this blog, so I carefully copied my blog posts into a document, eliminating administrative words such as “posted”, dates of the posts, and the words from the columns on the side of my posts. I wanted wordle to work on what the blog was about. I wanted to see what comes up. Will California still be important?

I generated my word cloud before the last two posts. My word cloud captures how my blog looks before July 19, 2014. I tried a variety of picture formats and took a screenshot of the one I liked.

Word cloud of amarez.com, generated by Wordle, June 2014

Word cloud of amarez.com, generated by Wordle, June 2014

Good news – California is still prominent in my word cloud! There it is, looking blue. You can also see that Wordle is not smart enough to figure out that some words are really one word, even if they look like two. I wrote about Palo Alto, where I lived, but Wordle breaks it up into two words, and distributes the words “Palo” and “Alto” on different parts of the picture.

Next, I wanted to see what my resume looked like, after it went through Wordle. I removed my name and address and let Wordle do its thing. Here it is.

Word cloud of my resume, generated by wordle, June 2014

Word cloud of my resume, generated by wordle, June 2014

From my readings, when you apply for a job, you are supposed to generate a word cloud of a job you like, and then a word cloud of your resume. Then you make the word cloud of your resume match the job as closely as possible. The idea is that your resume fits the job, and so people will want to interview you for the job. I do not know if this works, but I understand the reasoning. But here’s the thing – I am absurdly fond of my how my resume came out on Wordle. I can look at my resume and I see what I care about.  I would not want to change it.

It’s all about me.

Advertisements

Summer swimming, changes, goodbye to my California connection

Summer swimming at my local community pool in Pennsylvania was the best ever.

Before the pool opened. June 2012

The office where I bought my season pass. June 2012

Rope dividing the sections. August 2012

Diving area is beyond the rope. August 2012

Swimming In the lap lane, looking at the diving area. August 2012

You can barely see the seam at the bottom of the pool (diagonal line) that I use to swim in a straight line. August 2012

Goodbye to outdoor swimming for this year. August 2012

This leads me to changes.  Currently I work at home, doing something a bit different from what I usually do for a living.  I worked for over a year for a company based in California.  Most people who work there work remotely – there are people I work with all over the US and a few other places.  And  I love telecommuting,

That changes in the middle of September.  I am taking a job with a local organization.  I have to go there every work day, though it is the easiest commute ever – two stoplights at the edge of my small town, get on the good freeway, the modern one, not the “good luck merging in traffic” one, two protected left turns right after the exit, and I’m there.  It’s not a great time for me to get a job outside my home, but the job is a good one, I like the organization, and I will be doing work I value.  The job was too good to pass up.

But – what this means is that after three years, my last California connection is gone. I can’t exactly pretend I’m just passing through, though I won’t retire here.  I live here, in the house I grew up in, and I’ll go to work, every work day, to a job in this area.

I’m reminded of those movies where a person who has lived away returns home and discovers something.  There’s usually a lesson, some connection, some reestablishment of roots, some closure, sometimes an appreciation of the “simpler” life.  I don’t feel any of those things. My life is not a heartfelt movie.

And wait, my recruiter, who got me the job here, he lived in California for years, and liked it.  There’s always a connection.

The Shore – Ocean City in between

Unlike California, New Jersey beaches, or “the shore” as it’s called, have a  season.  If you go to a beach town in the off season, the shops next to the ocean, the ones on the boardwalk if your beach town has one, will usually be closed.   In the “season”, July and August mostly, also June, the weather is good, the ocean breezes provide some coolness, everything is open but it is very crowded.

I loved going to the ocean, as I called it in California, in fall, winter and spring.  It was beautiful.  The seasonal rains didn’t happen every day, and they turned the dry landscape green. The weather was mild.  The end of February and March were wonderful times to go.  I didn’t go much in the summer – I spent the summer swimming in my pool.

New Jersey is different.  Winter means snow, cold, ice, and bad weather for travel.  And many hotels are seasonal, open from the end of April to the first week in October.  So “shoulder season” is the time to go.

My sister and I stayed in Ocean City, New Jersey, in June and September.  June was a little crowded, but not too much, and everything was open.  September was not crowded at all.  Some places along the ocean (the boardwalk) were closed in September, though they were probably still open on the weekends.  Both times we went were magical.  I had a wonderful time.

The drive in over the Route 52 Causeway Bridge into Ocean City

Going over the Route 52 causeway to Ocean City, New Jersey, June 2011

Continuing over the causeway into Ocean City, June 2011

This was the place where my sister got our wonderful beach chairs.  The chairs she got have a canopy you can attach to the back of the chair — you can flip it back when you don’t need it.   You don’t have to mess with a sun umbrella.

The best place to buy beach chairs! Ocean City, New Jersey, June 2011

We stayed at the Ocean 7 Hotel.  Wonderful, 60’s pop retro charm, with contemporary comfort.  Our room had a little kitchen.

http://ocean7hotel.com/

Ocean 7 Hotel. The wave motif. June 2011


Ocean 7 Hotel. Exterior Mural. June 2011

Ocean 7 Hotel. Walkway to our room. June 2011

We were very close to the beach.

Ocean City, View from the front of our hotel room. June 2011

Ocean City (New Jersey) dates from the 1880s.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_City,_New_Jersey) It has a famous boardwalk, “a wooden walkway for pedestrians, often found along beaches” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boardwalk).

Ocean City is what is called a “family oriented” place.  Along the boardwalk there are rides for children, a ferris wheel, miniature golf, and shops with beachy type junk food – french fries, funnel cakes, frozen custard.  You can also eat pretty well.  It’s a “dry town”; the place does not sell alcohol, though you can certainly drink in your room.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I like to have a glass of wine with dinner, but it is wonderful to not run into drunks on the boardwalk or the beach.  There’s a lot of drinking in New Jersey beach towns.   Ocean City has shops, plenty of them, and if you look carefully, you can find good things to buy, particularly during the September sales.  The place is full of retro charm.

Ocean City boardwalk at night. I have no idea what venue this is. June 2011

Ocean City boardwalk at night. June 2011

Ocean City boardway in September. Some places are closed. September 2011

Ocean City. New Jersey. Boardwalk in September. Lovely overcast day. September 2011

In September we had pizza at Mack and Manco Pizza – wonderful thin crust pizza.  The place felt regional, local, in a good way, something you don’t always experience in a beach town.   And they don’t close in the off season – they are always open.

Mack & Manco Pizza. Spectacular pizza. September 2011

Wonderful Ocean City mural

Mural, Ocean City, New Jersey. September 2011

And the ocean, beautiful, timeless

Atlantic Ocean. Beach at Ocean City, New Jersey, June 2011

Atlantic Ocean. June 2011

Ocean City beach with local vegetation. September 2011

View from the Ocean City Music Pier. September 2011

The Music Pier and the Atlantic Ocean. September 2011

We go home.

Leaving Ocean City, going back over the causeway. September 2011.

Going home. Goodbye Ocean City. September 2011


Going to Philadelphia – The Colmar Station

Over the spring and early summer I went to Philadelphia for events – the Philadelphia flower show, a street fair, a dinner with women in technology.  Now, when I lived in California, I drove  to San Francisco many times.  I’ve driven all over the California coast.  I’ve driven to Seattle.  I drove 3000 miles across the US.  But, driving to Philadelphia does not appeal to me.  I will drive in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, because I have to, but I don’t like it very much.  In the US I like to drive in coastal California, the Pacific northwest, the southwest, Austin Texas, and parts of Hawaii.  Maybe I’ll make an exception for coastal Maine and the highway to the Florida Keys – liked driving those roads.

That leaves train travel.  Train travel in the US is painfully slow.  Regional train travel is even slower.  But taking the train is fun.  It’s extra fun if you can start at one of the platonic ideals of train station cuteness, the Colmar station. Sadly, you cannot walk to this train station, unless you lived next door, perhaps, but there are still many benefits to traveling via this station.

Parking

Lots of parking and the parking lot doesn’t fill up.  Getting there is easy for me, if a bit long, a straightforward route, no tricky intersections, fairly good traffic.

The Colmar Train Station. April 2011.

Parking and the Wawa gas station. April 2011.

An adorable little train station.

Per Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colmar_(SEPTA_station)) the Colmar station was built in 1856.  I do not know if this is the original building.  Glass blocks such as these were originally developed in the 1900s.  Perhaps this station dates from the early 1900s.  It’s a tiny station and there is no restroom, but there is a restroom at the Wawa gas station across from the station, as well as food.  The Wawa gas station is open all the time. There’s a heater in the tiny train station building, for the winter, though I don’t know how much heat it provides.

Side view, exterior, Colmar train station. April 2011.

Interior, Colmar train station. Wonderful glass blocks. April 2011.

Colmar train station. The heater. April 2011.

Waiting for the train.

I feel like I’m in a movie, setting off from the country to the big city.  I look one way and the other, to see if a train is coming.

The train station and the train tracks. May 2011.

Looking the other way at the train tracks. April 2011.

The buildings across from the train tracks. Pretty. April 2011.

A train is coming. May 2011.

The train is not fancy, but it is comfortable.  Cell phone service is good, so I can use my Android smartphone.

On the train. April 2011.

On the train with my Motorola Droid Android phone. April 2011.

Looking out the window

I used to take the SEPTA Norristown line into Philadelphia, which gave me a lovely view of the Schuylkill River.  There is no river on this route, but the landscape is pretty.

Watching the view on the way to Philadelphia. April 2011.

More views from the train. April 2011.

If I worked in downtown Philadelphia, Ambler would be a good place for me to live.

Ambler, view from the train. April 2011.

Farewell to the Colmar station.

Goodbye Colmar Station. April 2011.

They sold my building

For fifteen years I lived in paradise.  When I left, the place existed, frozen in time.  Sometimes I’d think – I’ll move back to my paradise, if I ever move back to California.

It’s not to be.  The owner’s children sold the building and the building is getting all fixed up.  It’s not the same.

I lived in a neighborhood called midtown, in Palo Alto, California, a smallish city on the peninsula south of San Francisco – a city located in what is called Silicon Valley.  Midtown is mostly residential, but my street was zoned for mixed use. There were shops, apartment buildings and detached single family homes.  There was a gas station up the street, but it closed.

Palo Alto is a pricey city, even by pricey San Francisco Bay area standards.  But, midtown Palo Alto was a little less pricey.  My apartment, though ridiculously expensive by what I call “normal” standards, was a good deal by Palo Alto standards.  I like that – I like being the “poor relation” in a pricey area.  There were about thirty apartments built around a central courtyard with trees, two patios, plants, and a pool in the back.  I say “about thirty” because I never noticed the exact number – how California is that!

Building view via Google street view

Apartment building, front view, July 1999

Another view, front of the building, June 2009

Satellite view, apartment complex, 2004

Satellite view, apartment complex, showing location of my apartments

I lived on the second floor,  an apartment with high ceilings, big windows and a screen door which opened up to a view of the inner courtyard.  The apartment I lived in for eleven years was a two bedroom, with a big window facing the inner courtyard and another big window across from it, against the back wall, looking out onto a tree in the condo parking lot next door. I didn’t have a balcony, but there was enough room to place a container garden against the railing, across from my front door.  From my desk near the back window I looked to my left and saw a tree, and to my right I saw the top of another tree from the inner courtyard.  When it was warm I saw my plants from beyond the screen door.  It was magical.  The light, the courtyard, the trees, the plants, the pool, the open layout, the glorious weather – the entire time I was there it felt like I was living in a resort.

My container garden, 1st apartment, April 2004

Another view, my container garden, 1st apartment, April 2004

My second apartment was a one bedroom, still on the second floor, across the courtyard from my first apartment.  I was back in school and needed to economize.  While not as wonderful as the first apartment (the layout was different, not as much natural light) – it was still wonderful.  When I was in my second apartment my plants were nestled outside against an exterior wall.

My container garden, 2nd apartment, May 2005

Another view, my container garden, 2nd apartment, May 2009

In most apartment complexes you don’t get to have your own in ground garden; our place was different.   The place had a bit of a funky quality – which I like a lot.  Someone (might have been the apartment managers) had created a space for a garden.  As my plants got bigger I moved them to the garden, along with new plants I bought for the garden.  The garden was a low key affair – put in a few plants, a bit of topsoil, water once or twice a week during the dry season.  That’s it.  Given the soil and the dry climate there were almost no weeds. There was a bird of paradise bush.  In season the lily of the nile, agapanthus, bloomed.  There were hummingbirds.

View, garden and courtyard, May 2004

Another view, garden and courtyard, May 2009

Courtyard with Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus) and Bird of Paradise, July 2007

Courtyard with overflow plants from my container garden, May 2009

And the pool – did I say there was a pool?  There was a pool at the back and it was wonderful.  It wasn’t heated, so the swimming season was only from late May, early June, through September.  Unlike some areas in the US, there was no rule that you have to have a lifeguard or pool attendant, so pool hours were very generous – daytime to around 10 PM at night, though if you live in northern California you know there’s not much night swimming.  Nights, even in the summer, tend to be blissfully cool.   The pool was used, but not heavily.   There were many, many times that I was the only one there.  It was my pool.  When a family member came to visit we spent many happy hours at the pool, swimming, then, using Styrofoam pool toys (“noodles”) lazily kicking our way back and forth, talking and laughing.  I was so happy.  Some summers I lived in my swimsuit on the weekends, putting shorts on over my suit to go to an art exhibit at the Palo Alto Cultural Center or to get the paper, coffee or a burrito.

Apartment pool, November 2007. Too cool for swimming, but still beautiful.

Pool, June 2009, late afternoon. My things are in my usual spot.

Pool, July 2008. Lovely reflections.

Getting ready to get out of the water, June 2009, a month before I left. I'll always think of this as my pool.

The place wasn’t perfect.  The apartments were large but didn’t have much soundproofing.  If you don’t get the right tenants, interior courtyards can be awful – sound carries.  So the apartment managers tried to get responsible tenants who weren’t noisy.   Palo Alto is a desirous place to live and the schools are excellent, so we had a mix of ages and nationalities, singles, couples, people with children.  For fifteen years, this place worked out well for me.  I didn’t want to leave.

I’ve learned that it’s different now.  The former apartment managers told me that the name has changed, and the plants were torn up to put in new patios.  For new tenants the rent is $500 more than it used to be.  I understand.  Given the location and the structure of the building, you could change the place and charge a lot more.  You could take away some of that naturalness, that imperfection, the communal space.   It will be a good place, but it won’t be my place.

I guess it’s true – you can’t go home again (apologies to Thomas Wolfe).  Even if I would ever move back to California and live in paradise, it won’t be that paradise.

The Christmas holidays, or the idea of them. Decorating my phone.

Sometimes I think I like the idea of the Christmas holidays more than the holidays themselves.  My ideal Christmas is very, very low key, with no stress.  You do what you want in your own home.  If you don’t like a tradition, you don’t do it.   If you don’t care for an event, you don’t go to it.  And of course there is no snow or ice or humidity or dampness.  Snow or cold or ice does not mean “Christmas” to me!  I miss being in my home in my California.  Hawaii would be great too, for the Christmas holidays.  In Hawaii the humidity would be worthwhile.

I do like seeing the Christmas lights outside, on the houses and the streets.  And I shop in stores so rarely (online for me!) that when I do, seeing all the holiday “stuff” is rather festive and charming.

I am glad to be of help to my family and I’ve (mostly) accepted the fact that I’m not in California.  And the job scene is looking up – it might be very soon that I have a job!

Speaking of holiday decorations, I never planned to buy this, but I saw it, and then it was in my hands and I was at the checkout station.  It’s a combination night light and snow globe.  It’s nicely designed.  The small amount of heat from the light bulb makes the glitter in the sky move, slowly.  It’s like a snow globe, but I don’t have to shake it.  Isn’t it wonderful?

The Christmas nightlight snow globe combo, December 2010

I decorated my Motorola Droid, my Android OS smartphone, for Christmas, with the Christmas Tree Live Wallpaper, http://www.1473labs.com.    The picture appears on all the screen displays on your phone – my phone has five screen displays.  The snow falls and the lights twinkle.   On one screen  I added a widget, Christmas countdown.  Christmas countdown displays a little image and the number of days until Christmas.  There is a different image for each day of the week.

The wallpaper shows up behind all the icons you have on your phone, the apps, the bookmarks, the folders.  I kept one of the screens of my phone free of icons, so I could look at the wallpaper and the Christmas countdown, all by themselves.

Christmas Tree LIve Wallpaper, Christmas Countdown on my Droid. November 2010

Before I had my Motorola Droid, I used to play fun little games on my Palm TX, a pda, personal digital assistant, like a smartphone but without the phone part and without the internet.  There was a Christmas game I particularly enjoyed, a game where Santa dropped presents, and you had to catch the presents with a cart (or a sleigh, can’t tell).  It was a sweet little way to pass the time.  I haven’t found that game, but I found a Christmas version of a game similar to Bejeweled, called jewellust Xmas, http://www.smartpixgames.com.  Like Bejeweled, you manipulate the icons to make at least three identical icons in a row.  They then go away, and the icons above them roll down.  In this game, your goal is to collect all the mosaic tiles on the screen.  You collect them when you get them to roll off the screen.  The mosaic tiles make a picture.  You have a limited amount of time to collect all the tiles for each picture, but it’s not that hard.  This version of jewellust is Christmasy. The icons make bell like sounds when they drop.   The “three of a kind” icons look like ornaments.  There are candy canes and Christmas scenes.  If you play in Campaign mode, after you complete a level and fill a mosaic tile picture, a Christmas village is displayed, with a line in the snow as you go from one house to the next.  It’s just a line; you have to imagine yourself in the picture!  There are also simple tile puzzles to solve, displaying Christmas ornaments.

I love this game.  It’s a wonderful way to give yourself a little holiday break.

Jewellust Xmas on my Motorola Droid phone, November 2010.

Happy Christmas holiday preparations, if that’s your thing.