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Showing posts from June, 2015


To complete my complement, on all platforms, of markdown-based editors with folding, I have also purchased Editorial. This application turns my old iPad 2 into quite a powerful editing program. Like Haroopad and Smartdown, it allows me to pull things from Dropbox, edit the markdown files, then send or save them as plain text, HTML, and even PDF. All of them share a design aesthetic I like: very clean, very similar in function. Editorial also has a very handy touchscreen way to drag paragraphs around. Until now, on the iPad, I really haven't seen anything that did quite everything I wanted. Editorial's basic functions are clear and powerful; the built in Python scripting could scale to very complex things. But I don't need to go there, yet.

So now that I'm done tinkering with my tools, and have established a master file on Dropbox available from Windows, Linux, and iOS, all I have to do is write.

Smartdown and Haroopad, revisited

I've written twice now about the Windows application Smartdown (a Mac version is also available now). It's a markdown editor that includes code "folding" -- the ability to hide or "collapse" text under a heading. It is also "Zenware" -- software that adheres to a simple, stripped down aesthetic. It sells for $20 from Aflava. When I was on my writer retreat, I decided to buy it, first because it's a fine tool, second because good programmers should be paid. Smartdown is a pleasure to use, although I did have to reach out to support to figure out how to change its "save to panel" properties, instead of the more common minimize behavior. Smartdown can also be stored on a flash drive to make a portable application. I found it ideal for working with a long, chapter-length file, collapsing and expanding the sections to track the flow of it.

On my Linux box (a recycled ThinkCentre PC running LXLE) I already had HarooPad, which is free, but …

New rhythms, new mistakes

First, I want to thank my good friend and colleague Claudine Perrault for letting me have a mountain retreat for 5 days to work on my book. She and her daughter were vacationing, and Estes Park (where Claudine is library director) is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. I wound up writing a little over 8,000 words, which was mostly one full chapter. But I also had a chance to think about the whole structure and audience of it.

I returned to three things: first, I'm stepping in to fill out Kari May's term as Past-President of the Colorado Association of Libraries. Kari is moving to Utah to become the Assistant Director of the state library there, overseeing Continuing Education and certification. Past-president is the best job of all. CAL seems to be recovering from its recession challenges, and there's a lot of energy in the group. As part of my position, it seems I'm also to be chair of the Colorado Library Educational Foundation or CLEF. Stay tuned for more…

Self-interest versus the common good

I've been working on my next book, tentatively titled "The Public Library and the Public Good: A Renaissance." Here's the kernel of my idea.
There are two arguments for the public library: what's in it for me, and what's in it for us. That is, we justify support for an institution on the grounds of self-interest, or on the grounds of the common good.
You can't help but be struck by the language used during the public library movement of the 1880s. Libraries were founded for clear social purposes. They were intended to acculturate and Americanize a new wave of immigrants. They were meant to reform the rowdy miners and common laborers through exposure to Great Literature. They were designed to inform the citizen on the issues of the day, the better to advance an enlightened democracy. They were conceived to give tangible evidence of civilization, of a town or community that was now grown up enough to invest in serious pursuits. 
The public library, like p…

Are libraries socialist?

In the very conservative Douglas County, Colorado, people sometimes told me, angrily, that the library was "socialist." That's libertarian shorthand for "an unnecessary program that steals my money through taxes." But we won't get very far if we allow those opposed to our aims to define our terms.

First, as I hope to make clear (in the book I'm working on), libraries are not only important, but a staggering return on investment. And taxation is not theft; it is a well-tested mechanism for a people to pay for essential services that don't easily lend themselves to short-term profit (think public roads, sanitation, court systems, etc.).
Second, a more precise definition of socialism is "a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies." Typically, socialism requires both the "production and distribution of goods" to be managed by the …

So You Want to Write a Book: a 10 step program

A year or so ago, I wrote a series of blog entries about how would-be authors can get started at the library. These were on the Douglas County Libraries' "The Wire." When that blog was discontinued, I decided to republish the content here. Thanks to Amber DeBerry, Director of Community Relations, for passing the content along, and for her staff for many suggestions for improvement of the text.

So You Want to Write a Book

So you want to write a book. Good for you!

Do you want to write a good one?

We know from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers (Little, Brown and Co., 2008) that accomplishment is more than a matter of talent. It's the result of disciplined effort over time. No one picks up an instrument and plays it perfectly the first time. Similarly, no one sits down and cranks out fine literature right off the bat. Just as musicians spend a lot of time practicing, good writers spend a lot of time writing. And if Gladwell is right, approaching mastery takes a goo…