Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bookshelves

Bookshelfporn is a site that posts just pictures of bookshelves.

For those interested in bookshelves from the historical and the engineering perspectives, I recommend: Petroski, Henry (1999) The Book on the Book Shelf. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Not quite as good as his The Pencil. A History of Design and Circumstance (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1999), but still very good.

No further comment!

Synapsen

Synapsen " is a hypertextual card index or reference organizer, which is to say a storage system on the basis of an electronic literature database that enables the management of bibliographies ... synapsen offers a very distinct advantage: with catchwords [keywords, MK] entered by the user, the program connects individual cards automatically and creates not only a network of cards whose relation to each other might have been forgotten, but also creates completely unexpected connections and relations between individual entries." It is in some ways similar to Daniel Lüdecke's Zettelkasten, which has seen much more development during the last few years, however.[1]

Synapsen is also described by the developer as "a hypertextual card catalog or reference management software written in JAVA." It uses an a "SQL-database based in [sic] the literature networking structure [sic] from [sic] Niklas Luhmann." As I have said before, Luhmann's Zettelkasten did not primarily (nor even secondarily) rely on connections by means of keywords. It was based on direct connections of Zettel or index cards to one another (based on a numbering scheme). It was thus much more similar to a Wiki, like ConnectedText.

1. It now allows direct manual links between entries, by the way.

Apple’s "Core Value"

I am slowly getting tired of the constant din of Apple converts and fan boys whose refrain is "Apple is the better ..."

Today I read on some Website how someone commented with adulation on "Apple’s core value:" "We believe that people with passion, can change the world for the better."

Quite apart from the fact that such a belief is not necessarily a value, it is a trite (and somewhat stupid) advertising ploy. Passion always makes a difference—and usually not for the better.

What about: "We believe that people with passion, can change the world for the worse"? Adolf Hitler certainly had passion.

Or what about: "We believe that people with passion, can change the bottom line of the balance sheet for the better"? There is no difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in this regard.

Even if Apple has at the moment the better designed interfaces, even if Apple is more stylish, and even if it has more appeal to the trendy, it is for that reason no better than any other company out to fleece us of our money. It is only more effective at it.

It is one thing to like or even love the product. It is quite another to adore the producer or the supplier who might, for all I know, be rotten to the core (just as most big corporations I have had to deal with).

--end of rant--

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Rule of 200

"The Rule of 200 works like this: my document word count must increase by 200 before I am done for the day, no exceptions. 200 words is a modest goal. It isn't even an entire page of double-spaced 12pt font. It's a grocery list, an email, a series of text messages; it's a lot shorter than most of my ProfHacker posts (this one included). Sometimes it takes me 15 minutes to write 200 words. Sometimes it takes all day long. But no matter what, before my head hits the pillow for the night, the word count is +200." (Chronicle)

I guess in the summer or on sabbatical it should be more like 1000 words or more (plus the research that allows you to write these words).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ResophNotes 1.7 has Internal Links

ResophNotes sports Internal Links. Enclosing any word or words with square brackets, creates a link to a topic with that name. If the topic exists, it links to the existing topic. If the topic does not exist, you are asked whether you want to create it. Clicking O.K. does create it. It's like a very simple wiki, though deleting a just created topic does not remove the link (nor does it change it back to look like a potential link). But it's obviously not meant to reproduce all wiki capabilities. Notetab, for instance, behaves very much like this.

The links are case sensitive, so [New topic], [new Topic], and [new topic] all create different topics. (Don't know whether that is good.)

Still, I would say that this feature puts ResophNotes heads and shoulders above Notational Velocity and Nottingham. It's an example of a PC applications that has become in a short much better than anything available for the Mac! I'd just wish someone would do this for a simple Outliner.[1]

1. Wednesday, August 18, 2010: See also ResophNotes and ResophNotes 1.4.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jünger's Card Index

Ernst Jünger extensively used card indexes. Among others, he had one, in which he collected "last words" of famous and not so famous people.

He also collected words that are synonymous with or similar to "hand."

Weird ... but perhaps no weirder than collecting passages about fog, as Umberto Eco did. They end up in one of his novels, where he conceives of a character that collects them. Paul Celan collected words in different language for "Herbstzeitlose," and many other authors just collected "beautiful passages."

There are collections that are even stranger (and more difficult to store).

Connections

Ernst Jünger: "The degree to which a certain topic occupies us is proportionate to an increase in connections. It is as if we had knocked at a door that leads to a panorama of ideas."[1]

Taking note of a concept, idea or topic means also—perhaps even primarily—to notice its connections to other concepts, ideas or topics. I think this is right, even if it was Ernst Jünger who said it.


1. "Im Maß, in dem ein Thema uns beschäftigt, nimmt das Bezügliche zu, als hätten wir an eine Tür geklopft, die in ein Ideen-Panorama führt" (Ernst Jünger, Die Schere (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1990), p. 10.)

Simplenote Outage

If you go to the SimpleNote Page, you get an ominous: "we'll be back soon..."

It's only on their blog site that you find out: We should have mentioned: all is OK. All is great, actually. And all syncing services are still online. Our temporary absence from the App Store is merely the result of an unexpected complication with the forthcoming major update.

I went to the site because I read somewhere that Simperium is not to be trusted and might go away. Baloney ... though it might have been a good thing to include the information given in the blog entry on the Website itself.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Singer's Typewriter and My Pencil

Came across this today in an old article in The Sunday Times: "Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote for more than four decades on an Underwood portable. For him, his machine was a kind of first editor. “If this typewriter doesn’t like a story, it refuses to work,” he said. “I don’t get a man to correct it since I know if I get a good idea the machine will make peace with me again. I don’t believe my own words saying this, but I’ve had the experience so many times that I’m really astonished. But the typewriter is 42 years old. It should have some literary experience, it should have a mind of its own.”

I once had a pencil which would write only brilliant sentences. Trouble was ... it did not allow me to write anything at all (in either German or English). So I threw it away. I haven't had much trouble with writing since then.

Keith Thomas on Historical "Method"

"It never helps historians to say too much about their working methods. For just as the conjuror’s magic disappears if the audience knows how the trick is done, so the credibility of scholars can be sharply diminished if readers learn everything about how exactly their books came to be written." But he gives a description of his method anyway:

"When I go to libraries or archives, I make notes in a continuous form on sheets of paper, entering the page number and abbreviated title of the source opposite each excerpted passage. When I get home, I copy the bibliographical details of the works I have consulted into an alphabeticised index book, so that I can cite them in my footnotes. I then cut up each sheet with a pair of scissors. The resulting fragments are of varying size, depending on the length of the passage transcribed. These sliced-up pieces of paper pile up on the floor. Periodically, I file them away in old envelopes, devoting a separate envelope to each topic. Along with them go newspaper cuttings, lists of relevant books and articles yet to be read, and notes on anything else which might be helpful when it comes to thinking about the topic more analytically. If the notes on a particular topic are especially voluminous, I put them in a box file or a cardboard container or a drawer in a desk. I also keep an index of the topics on which I have an envelope or a file. The envelopes run into thousands."

The old "envelope" filing system ... not the most efficient, as far as I am concerned.

For more "enlightenment" on the methods of some historians, see Thomas' Diary.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thomas Bernhard on Walking

I just came across this site. It contains the translation of the first five pages of Thomas Bernhard's novella, Walking. The first sentence (which is also the first paragraph) is memorable: "There is a constant tug-of-war going on between all the possibilities of human thought and all the possibilities of a human mind's sensitivity, and between all the possibilities of human character."

I recommend it, even though Bernhard's style takes more than some getting used to ... Definitely not recommended as a source for patchwriting. It's too distinctive: "Whereas, before Karrer went mad, I used to go walking with Oehler only on Wednesdays, now I go walking--now that Karrer has gone mad--with Oehler on Monday as well."

No further comment!

Patchwriting

Continuing the theme of "lack of originality," there seems to be a new recommendation to undergraduates and other aspiring writers, having to do with "patchwriting:"
Rebecca Moore Howard defines “patchwriting” as a method of composing in which writers take the words of other authors and patch them together with few or no changes (233).* Although associated with plagiarism, it is an extremely useful writing strategy with a very long and noble tradition, and I hope that, by the end of this essay, you will be convinced that the opportunities (great writing) far outweigh the risks (accusations of dishonesty).[1]

Perhaps the risks are small, if one doesn't mind accusations of dishonesty. But what about punishment for dishonesty? Patchwriting passed off as one's own work is cheating and deserves to be punished severely.[2]

The author speaks of an "unshakeable moral dilemma" he had when first embarking on his project. I hope these words were not taken from another author because that would reveal lack of good taste in addition to a lack of honesty.

Mind you, I have nothing against using "the words of others" in learning how to write for oneself. Painters often start by copying the work of others as well. But the perpetration of forgeries is not the ultimate goal here either.

Someone might say that a collage can be a work of art. It can be, but if you produce a collage, clearly identify it as a collage.


1. See Composing the Anthology: An Exercise in Patchwriting. The "textbook" in which these claims are found is by one Christopher Leary. I sincerely hope that this is not going on in "composition" classes.

2. I read in one blog: "Leary’s struggle is easy to get past if we set aside the romantic notion that the individual inspired author imbues the content with value." Perhaps this is true, but it does not make patchwriting any better. In the classroom, at least, the student is supposed to demonstrate that she or he actually comprehends the material and can write.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Emerson on Writing and the Lack of Originality

"We sit down with intent to write truly & end with making a book that contains no thought of ours but merely the tune of the time."[1] How true! Nor is it just true of our own thoughts. Everywhere you look: "the tune of the time." Even worse: often there is no "tune" to it at all. It's all just "pc" (or "politically correct," in accordance with one or the other "side.")

Still, Emerson also had a deeper and more important point: "Every common place we utter is a formula in which is packed up an uncounted list of particular observations. and every man's mind at this moment is a formula condensing the results of all his conclusions."[2]

He does not go quite far enough. It would be bad enough, if the "common places" were only our own conclusions, but they really are, in fact, for the most part the conclusions of others we unreflectively accept as our own: "the tune of the time," if we are lucky, a cacophony of different common places, if we are not. Whether 1834 was in this regard better than 2010 remains an open question.



1. Joel Porte, ed., Emerson in His Journals (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1982), p. 127.
2. Emerson in His Journals, p. 124.

Gwennel

Gwennel is advertised as "a free WYSIWYG and WYSIWYM editor for Windows supporting natively the Open Document Format." "WYSIWIG" means, of course, "What you see is what you get" and "WYSIWYM" means "What you see is what you mean." I have seen it referred to somewhere as a TeX editor and that is actually the reason why I downloaded it. It does not do TeX. In some ways, it is just an ordinary two-pane outliner:


It is different from an application like Treepad Business in that both the contents and the styles show up in the outline panel. You can also predefine style sheets (just as in any other half-decent word processor). You can download two from the Website: MediaWiki and OpenOffice.

It's no more WYSIWYM than, say, Atlantis (not to say MS-Word), which both have styles and can show the styles in a side-panel. But it is different in two respects—both not unimportant:
  • it is very small: just 140 KB on disk
  • it needs no install (and does not use the registry), so you can just copy it to a flash drive
As a result, it is also very fast.

It does not print! For this reason it is not a word processor either. (This has not prevented some from referring to it as a word processor, of course).

I don't need it, but someone else might have some use for it, especially if she likes or uses the OpenOffice format.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

ResophNotes 1.4

ResophNotes now can do everything Notational Velocity can do. The newest "improvement" is the ability to save the entries to text files in a directory of your choice.

I don't use it as my main repository for notes, but as a way to store snippets of text that I need just for the moment and reminders on all my computers and my iPod Touch. It allows me to take notes on the Touch while away from home or the office as well. In other words, I use it as would have used pen(cil) and paper for notes and reminders.