Weekly Head Voices #165: Get in my Pocket.

This short WHV looks back at the week from Monday March 4 to Sunday March 10.

In the week after that, I had actually decided not to publish this one, instead folding whatever I wanted to say into the next edition.

However, fear of yet another much-too-long WHV, along with my current preference for a short warming-up of the writing pipes, have led me to change my mind, and so here we are!

This post consists of a really short life part, followed by a longer nerdy pro-tip for the storage and retrieval of your web references.

GOU#3 turns 3.

It seems like just the other day when Genetic Offspring Unit (GOU) #3 joined us here in the warm and fuzzy Humanist Kingdom of WHV.

Well, the “beautiful pink little not-yet-walking but rapidly expanding cellular mega-city” never stopped expanding, and is currently surprising us every day with the new ways in which her neural network processes and transforms the reality she finds herself in.

Replacing Pocket with Just a Bunch Of PDFs (JBOP).

I’ve been a happy user of Pocket Premium since October 23, 2016, when they cleverly offered me a locked discount on the annual plan.

I’m a sucker for a deal, and I needed something with which to store archive versions of interesting blog posts and other web resources.

It served me well, as I frequently access and share especially research-related articles and blurbs, such as this one discussing the observation that aspartame (a sugar substitute found in popular fizzy drinks) interferes with some of your enzymes, possibly resulting in more weight gain that straight sugar!

(For Real Academic Articles, i.e. RAA-RAA, I am still a huge fan of Zotero. If Zotero had better mobile access, I would have used it for these straight web references also.)

ANYWAYS, recently the new beta pocket interface was failing me horribly as I was trying to find the exact article mentioned up above.

Typing “glu” or “glucose” was unsuccessful in finding another article “Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota”, even although I could see that exact article in the overview screen. To add insult to injury, searching for “aspartame” also did not find that entry, although I had explicitly tagged it with “aspartame”.

It could very well be that this is just a (serious) glitch in the beta system, but it was a frustrating reminder that for something as important (to me) as my collection of references (aka “argument-winning potion”), I was at the mercy of someone else, with almost no other recourse.

This frustrating led me to find an alternative solution, which became… a big ol’ bunch of PDFs! (call this JBOP, inspired by JBOD)

In order to do this, we need a method of turning web-pages into readable PDFs, and some system for the storage and retrieval of said PDFs.

Use a browser with ad-blocking and Reader Mode

The general idea is to use a browser with ad-blocking and some sort of reader mode, and then to print to PDF.

On desktop, I am using Brave Browser because of the great built-in ad-blocking, and because I strongly support the idea of micro-payments to long-form content producers instead of content-destroying ads in my face.

Because its built in reader mode, called Speed Reader, has not shipped yet, I’m currently using the Print Friendly & PDF extension.

Safari on macOS and Firefox have built-in reader modes / views. I can recommend the AdGuard ad-blocking extension for Safari.

Unfortunately, Safari on iOS 12 does not currently add the source URL to its virtually printed PDFs, so I’m using Brave there also, although on iOS I generally prefer Safari, also with AdGuard.

To print to PDF on iOS, simply print (swipe up, tap share, tap print), then do the zoom-in gesture to turn the print into a PDF, then share again to save out the PDF.

Store and name your PDFs so you can search them from everywhere

I store all of these PDFs in year-named sub-directories of a directory called refs in my Dropbox.

Each PDF is named “publication-date - publisher / author - title / stub”, so the full path is e.g. ~/Dropbox/refs/2019/2019-03-09 - CBC Radio - Your brain may need sleep to repair DNA 'potholes'.

On macOS, all of these PDFs are indexed by Spotlight, so I can find the ones I want quite quickly. Your operating system of choice should have something similar.

If you are a Dropbox Pro subscriber, the mobile app provides full-text searching to mobile spotlight also, so you can find any article lightning fast on your phone.

Google Drive will do this for cheaper, but Google Drive might also end up eating your files. ;)


Now all of your web references are in PDF format, arguably the typeset-document equivalent of plaintext in terms of accessibility and future proofing.

As you change around your syncing and storage systems in the coming years, your faithful directory of PDFs will follow you wherever you go.

As an added bonus, these PDFs can be annotated with your notes and text highlights.

This ending is only a pause.

Thank you for sticking around for the warming up of the pipes.

I hope that they will not have cooled down too much before I find another bit of time to start on WHV #166.

There will be pretty pictures!


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