The Fugue Counterpoint by Hans Fugal


Hipster Fotos

Here are the promised pictures of my Hipster Personal Analog Assistant:

Hipster PDA


Hipster Redux

I've talked about the Hipster PDA a few times. I finally stabilized on a system that works for me. I've been using it steadily for months with no major changes now, so I thought I'd share with you.

My brief foray into the hipmod was fun, but too restrictive and small in the end. I understand others enjoy it though, so I'm glad I did it.

I find the classic hipster with a few modifications works best. My biggest beef with the original hipster is that it falls apart and it's not very user-friendly. That binder clip had to go. So I got some binding rings (½" I think, but the exact size isn't critical) and use a standard 3-hole punch to punch 2 holes in the index cards, and bind it with 2 rings. This makes a more book-like planner, which nicely folds over on itself.

Now, those rings can be pesky to open and close so I decided not to. I snip a little cut from the edge of the cards I want to be removeable to the holes. They stay in but will come right out and go right in without struggle.

I also like to print some forms (as you've seen). These I just print on regular paper and trim to size with a guillotine then hole punch (no snips, that works best on cardstock).

I made front and back covers out of a cereal box and duct tape, and even a pen holder out of duct tape. I'll post a picture soon so you can see.

My planner consists of a few reference pages I printed out (including a circle of fifths, a few airport kneeboards, performance data for my favorite planes, and morse code… anything you can find a PDF for.), my weekly calendar/todo list pages, and a bunch of index cards that I use for notes, moments of inspiration, or whatever else they come in handy for. Oh, and a paperclip to mark the current week. I only have to reprint/refill the weekly pages about once every 3 months or so.

For printing things, I wrote a script that automates some of what I mentioned in previous posts.


Printing Hipster

So the hipmod is too small for you? You want to use the regular-size hipster? But by golly your printer refuses to play nicely with index cards?

Here's a solution. Use Multivalent to 4-up index cards onto regular paper, and cut them with a guillotine. You can use cardstock for the full effect.

The trick is in printing the cards at the original size, and optimizing for trimming. Something like this:

./multivalent impose -nup 4 -sep 1 -paper 6x10in core.pdf

This gives you a 6x10-inch PDF (core-up.pdf). Now you need to print it without scaling it to letter size. That should be straightforward to figure out in your environment. Then take it to the guillotine and make your 6 cuts and pat yourself on the back. If you're really clever and your printer has <= ⅛-inch margins you can get it down to 4 cuts.

If you want to make a lot of one card, you can do something like this:

./multivalent impose -nup 4 -page 46,46,46,46 -sep 1 -paper 6x10in core.pdf

You can even get clever and take advantage of duplex printing if your printer supports it. Sky's the limit!



When I was in grade school, I used to bring my homework from and to school folded up in my back pocket. Life was simpler then. I always knew exactly what I had on my plate at any moment by checking my back pocket.

Fast-forward to the era of planners, PDAs, and productivity software. I've gone through all the phases. None of them fit, but I took something away from each. These days I know what I want, and none of the traditional solutions come close.

I want something analog, very simple, compact, and easy to put together. When I came across the Hipster PDA I thought I had found it, but I soon found that even the hipster wasn't easy enough. I didn't like even the smallest binder clips or paperclips because they had to be removed to actually use it. Rings didn't suit my fancy either. Loose index cards are of course a disaster. The supply of index cards got almost as unwieldy as the hipster itself. To top it all off, blank index cards alone wasn't quite enough structure. So it fell into disuse.

Then I found the D*I*Y Planner, most notably their Hipster PDA edition. This added some structure and beauty, so I gave it a try. I soon decided that printing onto index cards is completely infeasible without special equipment. So that was out, alas.

The other day, I came across PocketMod. Here was something not entirely unlike the homework in my back pocket. It had some structure, it was easy and simple and cheap. It was perfect, except… I don't want to visit a website and run a flash app every time I want to print one. What if the website disappears? And what if I want to add custom pages? (There's a Windows app for that but I don't use Windows.) Also, the printouts generated by the flash app aren't quite right—the fold points aren't on the center and so the end result is a little sloppy-looking. I wish the US used A4 paper, but that's beyond my control at the moment (though I might consider ordering some online…). So the pocketmod flash applet had to be replaced.

So I decided to combine the D*I*Y Hipster and some scripting magic, and the result is hipmod. Thanks to the magic of Multivalent (I was going to use pdftk but it's segfaulting on my laptop for some reason) I can now create hipmods including whatever PDF of interest I find lying around. See the README for more information. Here's a screenshot:

2-week hipmod


Wetware Unit Tests

This guy's personal unit tests idea is pretty funny, but it does give one pause. I think he might be onto something there—it's probably much more productive to take stock of how you've done in the past day/week than to write/ponder todo lists for the coming day/week,at least as far as these sort of "maintenance" tasks go. Being aware is half the battle, or more, and I like the focus on "how did I do, where do I sit" versus "I'm going to totally do all these things today, yeah! Oh, right after I finish slashdot..."


Miquelrius Hipster

I have told you about the Hipster

before. Today I found a
wonderful medium for those of us looking for something a little nicer than
index cards and paperclips. It's like the Moleskine Pocket
but even smaller (so that it
actually fits in your pocket) and with a faux leather cover instead of the
rather boring Moleskine cardboard. This thing feels like Napa leather. I bought
it for logging my swimming workouts, but I don't know if I can bring myself to
get it all wet—it feels so nice in my hands.

Did I mention it's cheaper than Moleskine? See if you can't find
Miquelrius products at a bookstore near you.
You're looking for the Flexible Notebook line. They have full- and half-size
notebooks too.



My fan has asked me to talk about PDAs. This is great for two reasons: because
I have a lot to say about PDAs and because I learned I had a fan.

First of all, let's just make sure we're on the same page. We'll be talking
about Personal Digital Assistants, not title="PDAs">Push-Down Automata or Public
Display of Affection

In my frugal but gadget-filled life I've managed to own a PDA or two, and
before that several Franklin planners and the like. I am, at heart, an
organized person. Or at least, a person drawn to organization. When I was
younger I obsessed over my Franklin planner, filled out lots of those
enlightened forms, did the daily planning thing at least half of the time, and
kept my pretty simple life pretty well organized.

When I served a mission for my church they had these
cardstock one-page double-sided planners, where you could keep track of who you
were visiting and teaching, and your calendar for the week. We were supposed to
plan every hour of the day each morning so as to maintain peak efficiency
(think Seven of Nine). Some missionaries ignored these planners whenever they
could get away with it. Others used them precisely as they were designed to be
used. I, with the help of some of my wiser companions, developed a system that
was both less tedious and more effective (for me, anyway). It involved ignoring
the column headings and writing down more information, omitting some useless
information that was asked for, and using symbols and squiggly lines to
communicate various bits of information. I learned two important truths:
planner forms are like speedos and programming languages (one size does not fit
all), and pen and paper is amazing in its flexibility and ability to

Fast forward to the day of ubiquitous PDAs. I got my hands on an old Palm Pilot
and had loads of fun as any geek will with a new gadget. I used it at least as
much as I used to use my old Franklin planners. But I knew it was just a game.
Then I got my hands on a newer old Handspring Visor and had a little more fun
(more RAM) but rarely used it for more than the occasional Project Gutenberg
book. I've come to accept and even embrace the truth. I just don't use PDAs.

Let's take a look at what a PDA is and what it's supposed to accomplish. It is
a little slow computer with a little screen, terribly slow input, and no
networking (that I can afford). It's supposed to make your life organized and
productive and help you do all those things that will make you rich and famous,
or at least be a fun toy to entertain yourself during boring meetings. For me,
it accomplishes none of these things except perhaps the entertainment during
meetings, and it's not very attractive on its own merits as a computer.
Besides, ever since I got a laptop I have a real computer I can play with in
almost as many places as I could play with my PDA.

The one thing a PDA does do is hold text. Lots of text, although never quite
enough. I can tote my latest Project Gutenberg book and Scriptures around and
read them wherever I like. This is nice, when I do much moving around. When I
was commuting on the bus every day for an hour I used my PDA as an eBook reader
extensively. It does the job, but I'm hoping for that electronic paper any year
now, which will be so much nicer. In the meantime I am either at home, in my
office at school, or in class/church 90% of the time. The rest of the time I'm
doing husbandly/fatherly things which don't involve PDAs anyway (at least, not
the digital kind), so I have little use for my PDA and don't even know where it
is at the moment.

However there's still that little bit about being organized. I'm not
anti-planner, I'm just anti form and anti PDA-as-planner. After all, a PDA is
just a glorified form when used for planning. I have gone back to what I
learned on my mission. I plan with pen and paper. I use a Hipster
and a
Fisher Stowaway Space
. My
hipster is just some index cards on which I scribble whatever I want.
Frequently, when my life gets busy enough to warrant it, I quarter an index
card and write my tasks in the appropriate quarters (one of the things I took
away from Covey). Whenever the need arises I take notes on a card. Occasinally
I throw away the cruft. I have a card for frequently-wanted telephone numbers
and a card with my name, email, and phone number on it. That's it. That's my
PDA. Aside from eBooks and meeting distractions no PDA can hold a candle to my

Hipster PDA

On a related note, I find ye olde composition notebook is all I need for my
school notetaking, brainstorming, designing, doodling, and logbooking. And to
think I used to think they were the silliest thing in the school aisle. They have a miniature version which would make a great alternative to an index-card Hipster PDA.

Mead Composition Notebook

I just found out about the pocket-sized Moleskine which would make an excellent gourmet analog PDA.