Saturday, September 20, 2014

Slow Reading, Cooking, or Knitting?

There is a Wall Street Journal article on the benefits of "slow reading." It emphasizes all kinds of benefits of this practice: "really, really enjoy," improves "ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize," offsetting "the ever-faster pace of life, such as cooking the "slow-food" way or knitting by hand," "slowed rates of memory loss in participants' later years," improving the understanding of "others' mental states and beliefs, a crucial skill in building relationships," and "a return to a continuous, linear pattern, in a quiet environment free of distractions. Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers. Some suggest scheduling time like an exercise session." The words "learning" or "knowledge" do not occur in the article.

I doubt that the advantages mentioned are the primary benefits of reading. In fact, I dam sure that reading builds "crucial skills in building relationships." I think it atrophies that ability (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

There is also the claim that "many recommend taking occasional notes to deepen engagement with the text," not for the sake of extracting knowledge, of course, but to make reading more, like, say: cooking or knitting. I ask myself, if this "analysis" is true, why not cut out reading altogether and go for cooking and knitting right away. But I am unfair—the "or is not an exclusive or that is meant to exclude any of these activities, but rather an inclusive one that enjoins us to do all of them, as long as we don't try to do them all at the same time, as that would not be "linear" and "continuous" enough, leading to an "ever-faster pace of life."

Enough said!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

DeLillo on Writing and Thinking

Delillo said in an interview
Writing is a concentrated form of thinking . I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them. Maybe I wanted to find more rigorous ways of thinking. We are talking about the earliest writing I did and about the power of language to counteract the wallow of late adolescence, to define things, to define muddled experience in economical ways: Let’s not forget that writing is convenient. It requires the simplest tools … A young writer sees that with words and sentences … He can place himself more clearly in the world. Words on a page, that’s all it takes to help him separate himself from the forces around him … He learns to think about … things, to ride his own sentences into new perceptions.[1]

I tend to agree. It's true not just for "a young writer." Nor is it true just for fiction.

1. The Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 135

Monday, September 8, 2014

Typewriter Muzac

Muzac or elevator music fulfills a function. This function is—at least as far as I am concerned—to annoy people. Apparently, the Times has discovered a new twist on this. It pipes typewriter sounds into the newsroom.
“Typewriters disappeared from newsrooms in the late 1980s. There will be very few people there who remember the noise of massed bands of typewriters in the newsroom,” he said. “They will have to find out whether a crescendo of noise will make reporters work better or faster.”
There have been for a while applications that reproduce typewriter sounds as you type. I find that annoying. I believe that I would find the trype writer muzac even more annoying.

Loosely related to note-taking, I know!

Scribbleton, Again

I said I would most likely not take another look at Scribbleton, and I have not. But, as one reader of this blog reported, the ridiculous restriction of three links has been removed. There are many "reviews" of this alpha version on the net. Most of them are just summaries of the developer's description of the program.
This review is the best I have seen, though it is far from clear whether its author has actually used the application extensively. Nor is it clear whether Scribbleton allows other ways of creating a new page than that of pressing a button in the sidebar. The post says: "A left sidebar lists (clickable) the pages in the wiki and provides a button to create new pages."

No further comment!

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Folia is supposed to blow "the socks off of the linear word processors we’ve all been stuck using. It’s inspired by years of work observing how we communicate, learn, and record ideas (and of course our experience with iAnnotate)."

It's supposed to be more than "just a word processor with web-like links" because "connections in Folia are more powerful than the links we use on the web. Links on the web are just hollow connections between two pages, they provide limited information about why the link exists or which specific parts of a linked document are relevant. Frankly, I think it’s this limitation of HTML-style links that has prevented linking from becoming a more ubiquitous part of creating, writing, etc."

I was excited, I downloaded the application, and I opened it ... only to be greeted by a screen with "username" and "password" fields. It turns out that "in order to use Folia and view folias shared with you, you will need to be registered. ... The app is offered free of charge for a limited time but subscription pricing will take effect in future versions." This is revealed in the Frequently Asked Questions page.

I did not register and deleted the application. Someone else might not mind the proprietary format and lack of control over their own data as much as I do. Though I am intrigued by their claims about linking, I am not going to waste any more time on this application.

The application is available for free in Apple's Application Store. I should have read the customer reviews before downloading, as they mirror my main concern. I would also have found out that you cannot even print from the application.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Marginal Notes

Here is a post on marginal notes made by some authors in some other authors book—most of them by David Foster Wallace. It's interesting, but I liked the quote from Edgar Allan Poe the best:
In getting my books, I have been always solicitous of an ample margin; this not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling suggested thoughts, agreements and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general. Where what I have to note is too much to be included within the narrow limits of a margin, I commit it to a slip of paper, and deposit it between the leaves; taking care to secure it by an imperceptible portion of gum tragacanth paste.
There is something to be said for keeping one's notes inside of the books themselves—at least until retirement looms and you are faced with having to take all the books home from your office to your home with limited shelf-space. It's much easier to move index cards or paper slips; and it even easier to move computer files.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Paul Klee, Notebook

Here are three images of Paul Klee's Notebook on the doctrine pictorial forms. I reproduce one

The whole notebook can actually be bought as a facsimile at Amazon Germany.

It's beautiful!

No further comment!