Wordle wizard for tag or word clouds

Oh I love this! I wanted to make one of those ‘tag clouds’ as an image for a chapter in my book and wondered how to do it. But not for long, as I soon found wordle.net and was in heaven!

First let me briefly explain what a word cloud is if it’s new to you. Word or tag clouds are produced when a nifty bit of software scans a bunch of words (from a website for example) and assigns ‘importance’ based on that particular words appearance frequency. It then adds this importance to the font size; i.e. the more often a word appears, the bigger it is in relation to other less frequent words.

Why do I love it so much? Well let me post the results from popping this blogs URL into the program…..

wordle word could for polishign peanuts

Not altered in any way I promise!

You have to smile!

But then I realised I could make up a word cloud of my own to use as an image. Simply open up a spreadsheet and pop the words I wanted to feature into columns. Then its a simple measure of dragging (using the little cross feature in the bottom right hand corner) to repeat words down the columns. Of course the more words in the column the bigger the result for that word. Then copy all of the words and paste into wordle.net and play around with the randomization to get a cloud you like or alter the settings manually. All so easy, oh and free.

Thanks to IBM for allowing this software to ‘escape’ onto the web and for being free to use however we want. Kudos.

Stay well


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Hemsedal in the wintertime

We normally visit Hemsedal (about 3 and  half hours North of Oslo in Norway)  in the summertime, where we walk the peaks followed by cozy evenings in the cabin. But this week we got the opportunity to visit during the skiing season and oh boy what a different place it is in the wintertime!

hemsedal in norway sunrise in winter

Awakening on the first morning after arriving at the cabin in total darkness.

A totally new landscape awaited us as we traveled the familiar roads, but at last we find the  blue sky that so soften eludes us in the summertime!

blue sky in hemsedal in the wintertime

The bluest of blue skies aided by sunshine and silence.

With so many ski tracks to chose from and the fact that most are drawn to the nearby slalom slopes, it means near solitude on the tracks around Hemsedal.

rjukanfossen waterfall near hemsedal norway

The view downriver from Rjukanfossen waterfall.

And what a difference a few degrees make! This is a raging waterfall in the summer.

Frozen Waterfall at Rjukanfossen Hemsedal

Frozen Waterfall at Rjukanfossen just outside Hemsedal.

We’ll definitely look at Hemsedal a little differently this summer!

Stay well



Posted in Norway | 2 Comments

Finding the courage to take the next step

DIY patent application in the UK

Worth 0.008p according to statistics!

I received a letter from the UK patent office (UKIPO) yesterday which included a nice certificate saying that I’d been granted a patent covering an idea for a small tool I had.

Champagne? I don’t mind if I do!

Of course 97% of patents don’t make any money and I’m already down the cost of a bottle of champagne! But in a way I never did it for the money, of course I might change my tune if Stanley Tools are interested in licencing the tool and go on to sell millions (NOTE: not very likely!).

For me it was about seeing if I could do it. Everyone says applying for a patent requires hiring lots of expensive professionals, but I am a terrible bore for wanting to do everything myself. Mostly because I am tight and just a little bit jealous/indignant about the lifestyle most highly paid professionals have when compared to the really important folk, like sewerage workers etc. Call it a working class chip on my shoulder!

But seriously, I had the time. When I applied I was a house husband in NZ with a few hours a day to call my very own so why not have a go myself? After all, there was never likely to be any financial justification for spending more than a few bucks on the project. But now, three and a half years on and with an actual patent in my name, what next?

Well, this time I’m going against my usual nature and am thinking about the possibly of licencing the tool to an existing company to make and distribute. Even though I’d be lucky to keep 5%. But first there is a tiny stumbling block in my head.

Let me explain. The patent is a win. I mean, I had an reasonably original thought, managed to convey it to a bunch of much cleverer folk than me and have been rewarded with a shiny patent certificate. Soooo tempting to stop right there. I mean I’m officially an ‘inventor’, Whoo hoo! But am I? Does holding one patent make an inventor or was it just beginners luck, a fluke. Oh God, I have got to get this thing made haven’t I? Otherwise a patent without an actual product is as they say, not worth the paper it’s written on. Shoot.

That means having to ‘put myself out there’. Gulp, what if everyone thinks the idea is crap? What if no-one wants to make it for me? Cool, back to doing nothing, just keep the certificate and dust the frame from time to time. Patent = win, right?

No, your right, probably not. Damn, better re-read Stephen Keys inspirational book ‘One Simple Idea‘ and find some companies looking to licence new products…

Hope that 2012 has been kind to you and I wish you a 2013 filled with promise and fun!

Stay well

Posted in life, Tools | 2 Comments

Overcoming fear…

learning to paddle a plywood boat called mouse

Mastering fear to learn something new is fun!

It’s not easy to admit that you’re frightened or to keep going when you are. But once you do manage to let it go and overcome it, boy can you have some fun.

The fear that my kids had of being on the water rather than in it, was blown away this week after hitting local beaches and lakes with Mouse, our little home made boat.

That extra bit of practice has dispelled the fear of ‘falling in’ to the point where the kids can stand up in the the little boat, wobbles and all!

It took a while though, and I’ll admit that I was disappointed the first few times we took out Mouse. The kids said that they liked it, but they never raved about it like I imagined I would have done given the opportunity at that age. I had to work at it to get them to ‘enjoy’ it!

But I persevered and found the right conditions to enable them to explore how the little boat performed on calm water with no one around to see any mistakes or wobbles. I think that I forgot that kids feel exposed and vulnerable learning new things in front of others just as I would. Especially when that new thing could potentially involve falling into the water with a big splash!

But now, paddling to the outer beach markers or little islands in the middle of lakes is achievable and indeed a goal. Now I can throw Mouse on top of the car and know that the kids will be arguing about who is going to go first. Result.

Stay well

teating the limits of a mouse boat

Testing the limits!

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Why bother blogging?

image of tulips in oslo, norway

Bringing beautiful stuff to the web .

Someone asked the other day why I bother blogging. And I got to thinking, why do I bother to learn all this stuff just so that I can write a few posts a year on various stuff?

Well, whenever I get stuck and need to know something, which is often; I hit Google and search until I find the answers I need. This might be finding a great pizza sauce recipe or diagnosing a funny noise on the Saab.

But of course this is all one way, taking from the web without ‘paying’ in any way. I am always thankful for the time and effort of all those people who do bother to write down and contribute their particular brand of wisdom, giving me the answers I so often seek.

So, my answer to the question “why bother?” is that it’s my way of contributing, of paying back all the help and information that I get from the web. I hope that the information that I write on the “handy crowd” side of things helps people find the information they need to get their jobs done.

For example, I got a great email yesterday from a guy who had just bought a “fixer upper” and was worried about the old lath and plaster ceilngs and how best to deal with them. He said “thanks Ian, after reading through your site I am confident that I can do the repairs myself”. Getting mail like that is reward enough.

Of course there is always the chance that I’ll figure out one day how to write something that will make my millions…….. yeah right 🙂

In the meantime, stay well.

Posted in blogging | 2 Comments