Showing posts from February, 2016

SmartDown II

I encountered the first version of SmartDown, written in C+, version 1.0) in November of 2014. It was a minimal, "Zen" writing application. That is, the screen was very stripped down: the top had a sandwich menu, window controls and nothing else; the middle was a pleasant faint grey background and a darker text; and there was a line at the bottom of the screen with a character and line count, and a toggle between editing and preview. Hover your mouse over the character count, and get a word and sentence count.

Markdown editors are all pretty much the same: simple text with a handful of markdown symbols to control formatting. What distinguished SmartDown was that it also offered "folding" - the ability to "collapse" or conceal text under a "#" heading.

In short, it was a clean, fast, quickly learned writing application that allowed for the creation and manipulation of complex documents. At the end, the text could be exported or copied as html or …


I spoke to my sister, Mary, today. She lives up west of Waukegan, where we were raised. But as a young woman she lived in Chicago, probably not too far from where I live now. I like the layout here very much. My one-bedroom apartment features a bay window in the living room. But those windows look out on a brick courtyard. Even on bright days, there just isn't much sunshine in the place. Or even outside of my apartment. I remarked that my apartment doesn't have a lot of light.

"The city," said my sister, "is dark." It is. Chicago's big shoulders cast long shadows.

This weekend, it's cold, too. Early this morning, I got a weather text about chill factor. It would be, I was informed, -20 degrees. Wear a hat! Wear gloves! OR DIE. (Well, no. But 30 minute exposures might well result in frostbite, said my app.)

On the one hand, it's all true. It was cold. Despite my amazing Russian hat (bought in Red Square, Moscow), my uber-warm long coat (a gift fr…

Open Focus

I read a book a few years ago about something called Open Focus ("The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body," by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins). The idea is this: some people who meditated achieved an "alpha" state: measurable brain activity indicated deep, centered contemplation. Others struggled.

But something surprising happened when those laggard meditators were asked to do what would seem to be simple: imagine space. That is, while meditating consider the distances around and between things. Think about the area enveloping your tongue, the distance between left shoulder blade and right collar bone. All of these suggestions were about visualizing dimensions within the body.

Let me add the notion of pondering the rippling horizon over waves (Chicago), the sheer volume of distance from foot to mountain top (Denver). Feel free to add in your own moment of connection with the larger, natural world. This captures, I feel, the Taoist i…

Leadership: definition and challenge

I spoke over brunch last Saturday with Peggy Sullivan (American library luminary and a fascinating, insightful conversationalist) about the definition of leadership.

Based on comments one of Peggy's bosses once made (and I'm paraphrasing), here it is:
figure out where you want to godo stuff that gets you there
Any questions?

The more I think about it, the more powerful it gets.

In so many libraries - in so many organizations of any kind, public or private - we have "leaders" who don't lead. "Where do you want to go?" is usually some variant of "where do we want to go?" That is, direction is not just the independent judgement of the putative boss. Ideally, it's the best thinking of an informed and thoughtful staff, facilitated by (and contributed to, certainly, by) the leader. If that staff and leader have any smarts at all, direction is grounded in user (customer/member) needs or aspirations. To reverse that flow: who do we serve, what have…