The Scale and The Pendulum, or Bad Libra

So, at the moment, it feels pretty much like I am giving free rein to the “serendipity” half of the equation in my life. Since I am also engaged in high school algebra (helping my oldest son who is in the 9th grade), it occurs to me that whatever I add to one half of my “serendipitymastery” equation, I must also add to the other side to keep it balanced. In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, I am a Libra. The significance of this is only that the Libra “sign” is a set of scales. LOL! I am a BAD Libra! I don’t balance well. Not to say that I’m imbalanced in general, but in life, the day to day kind, I’m just not balanced on a daily meter.

That is likely true for most people. We function much more like the swing of a pendulum. We all vacillate between extremes. Granted, they are subjective, personal, individualistic, and therefore relative, extremes, but extremes none-the-less. I am reminded of a phrase Mal Reynolds used in the television series Firefly, “out here on the raggedy edge.” In the series, which is one of my all-time favorites, but being a strange brew of science fiction and spaghetti western, when the fearless leader Mal said it, he was usually referring to their current physical environs. It was synonymous with, “out here in no man’s land”, or, “out on the edge of the known mapped region of space”. But I like the simplified, “raggedy edge”. That is where I live internally. I’m usually near the raggedy edge of the pendulum swing of my Bad Libra’s scale. I live pretty near to one extreme of “happy-go-lucky”, “take it as you find it”, “fly by the seat of my pants” Serendipity, or the focused, driven, “conquer this right now!” mindset of my obsessive Mastery alter-ego.

An example is my recent discovery of Hazel for Mac. Hazel is a cool, no, wicked cool, app that runs as a system preference in the OS X operating system. You can find it at www.noodlesoft.com/hazel.php. I forget exactly what manner of mental foraging I was engaged in when I stumbled upon it, but once i read about its cool ass capabilities, I had to install it on my system. (The pendulum had reached the raggedy edge of Serendipity and was about to swing wildly in the direction of Mastery’s raggedy edge.) Go ahead, intrepid Mac geek, get you some! They offer a free 14 day trial. What are you waiting for?

Hazel monitors a folder in your file system and then performs actions on the files it contains or that show up there. It comes loaded with some example folder/action pairs to try out. An obvious folder is the Downloads folder where all the cruft that you and I download from the world wide web (Serendipity Nirvana) gets dumped. This folder of digital shit is like my house. Stuff just accumulates there and gets left where it sits. Enter Hazel. This app can sort all the files by type (and even create sub-folders of that type), delete the files that have been there for an amount of time I determine, move the files to appropriate other folders, etc.. Very cool indeed! But wait, that’s not all…

While grokking out on all of its basic functionality, I started looking at all of the links on the Noodlesoft “Buzz” web page (www.noodlesoft/buzz.php)  for ideas and examples of what other geek types were doing with Hazel. I found an amazing, though not exactly cheap, video tutorial by a guy with a great German accent named Andreas Zeitel. If you’re interested you can find the tutorial here: www.macosxscreencasts.com/tutorial/hazel-tutorial. Anyways, midways thru the tutorial, Andreas has shown an example action that Hazel can perform which invokes an imbedded AppleScript to grab any file with file extension .PDF living in a folder called toEvernote and auto-magically opens the Evernote desktop app and send said file to Evernote as a new note. Cool, eh? I had to do that of course because by now, I’ve…just…got …to …tackle …all…Hazel…can…possibly…do!

I’m engrossed. No, addicted! I’m like the guy that has had a jones for coke for a month and then when he finds some he can’t possibly spread it out over say, a weekend, rather, he snorts all of it, ALL of it by the end of the first damn night.

At the end of Andreas’ tutorial, he gives an example of how one can set up Hazel to automatically open web pages you’ve been browsing on your iOS device. That way, when you get home to your mothership Mac, it will be displaying the very web page(s) your were browsing while your significant other was in the dressing room at Marshalls.

It involves Dropbox (www.dropbox.com/home), and creating a “Send to Dropbox” account (https://sendtodropbox.com), and creating a new user in your AddressBook with that handle so you can email files with web page URLs to a new folder created in your Dropbox account, and finally, a wicked cool, imbedded ruby script.

Keep up with me, now. I’m comfortable with Unix. I can write some basic shell scripts. The word “metadata” doesn’t scare me. I can even bullshit my way around a conversation involving Apache, or Postgresql, or php. I’ve installed Ruby and Rails on my system, but I’m not that guy that just uses ruby every day like typing a text message. And this damn action in Hazel using the ruby script just won’t work! I’m stymied. Do I give up? Do I count my blessings? Do I thank the coding gods out there who have created such Hazel and Dropbox goodness for me to enjoy? NO! Hell to the NO! I have to FIX it!

I get so engrossed on something at the raggedy edge of Mastery (I have to keep calling it that to avoid the obvious truth that really I have major OCD tendencies) that I even dream about whatever it is I’m captivated by. So yes, I dreamed of Hazel, and /usr/bin/ruby, and folder actions, until the next morning I woke up and just emailed Andreas Zeitel to tell him how much I’d enjoyed his video tutorial and how much I’d learned, but there was the one little, bitsy problem with my ruby script, and if he would be so kind, and if he had the time, could he possibly take…a…look?

I’ll be damned. Andreas is good people! He sent two different replies detailing possible problems with my script. One involved ruby’s reluctance, er, refusal to recognize “smart quotes” in any script. When that didn’t work, he just sent me a link to a page where I could just freaking copy and paste that mother of a script into my own little Hazel action world. Joy! It all worked! And it was the seventh day, and I could rest from my labors. Ha!

On to the next discovery…the pendulum is swinging back.