my thought process doesn't seem to follow a fully rational path (re blog layout)

I like my design. A lot. In particular there are some gimmicks here and there I could use for various related (but not the same) purposes – some of them are technically possible, some of them are possible but not semantically correct (from the point of view of WordPress PHP flow) and some just don’t work. Yet.

On the top left corner I’ve got a position:fixed; DIV item that shows the “post” icon and “Private Notes” link (when logged in) plus the left arrow and right arrow to turn pages while browsing categories. This section is outside the loop. When viewing individual posts, I would like these arrows to instead function as the next post, previous post links (and have the post title as ALT) that currently sit on the bottom of the left column, which are kind of ugly right now.

Also, I would like a tiny print icon for printing mode, when the post is a “paper” category. (shows an alternate CSS set with double spacing etc, which I used for actual papers later in my senior year)

But both features need to lie within the loop.

One way of making it work would be handling separate sidebar.php files depending on is_single() but that will be a heck lot of work, and most importantly, it’s not elegant and any changes in the future will cost tons of time.