Saturday, August 31, 2013

Parallels Access

I changed the keyboard on my Mac from the Apple Bluetooth keyboard to a wireless USB keyboard (Logitech K360). It seemed that this change did not help. However, after I turn off the Mac and restarting it (not just a soft reboot) and also turned the iPad off and then on again, everything seems to work as it should. The delete and direction keys work as they should.

It appears to me that there is an incompatibility between Parallels Access and the Apple keyboard.

I did install Parallels 9 and the older iPad application, called Parallels Mobile, no longer works. So, if you bought this and want to continue using it, you should probably not upgrade to version 9.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Parallels "Applifies” Mac and Windows Applications

Parallels now lets "customers remotely access and experience them as if they were made for iPad." This replaces the old application Parallels Mobile for the iPad which let, or rather, made you run all of Windows. It replaces an application you bought for 19.99. It is no longer available. I downloaded the new application, and it works like a charm. There are some bad reviews out there, claiming that the application is cumbersome to use. This is not true in my (admittedly short) experience.

I can now run ConnectedText in full-screen mode on the iPad. Even the macros in Textexpander seem to work. It's like a dream come true for me because that's what I always really wanted to do with the iPad: run ConnectedText full screen.

There are still some bugs. Delete and direction keys don't always work they are supposed to, but I am sure that will be ironed out.

This is how it looks. The "0" you see has to do with the bug I mentioned:

I have not yet downloaded Parallels 9, but that also seems to be a solid improvement over 8.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Another Zettlkasten Blog

For some interesting thoughts (that do not always agree with mine) on how to set up a Zettelkasten, see this blog.

Since the author commented on my thoughts on underlining, let me clarify two things: (1) I was really talking mostly about underlining in library books, and (2) I was mostly objecting to using ballpoint pen and markers when underlining (though, of course, anyone can do whatever they want with their own books.

I myself use mechanical pencils to make light marks that remind me what to transcribe into ConnectedText.

Adorno on Thinking with Pen or Pencil in Hand

The idea of someone who sits down "to think about something" in order to find out what he did not yet know, is just as slanted as the opposite about intuitions that just come to us. Thinking originates in the work on a subject (Sache) and in formulations. they take care of its passive elements. Said exaggeratedly: I do not think, and that is what thinking really amounts to. The pencil or the pen which someone holds in his hand while thinking are not inappropriate sensible signs for this situation. It is said that Simmel and Husserl did this. Husserl apparently could not think in any other way as by writing, just as some writers get their best ideas by writing. Such instrument, which do not even to be pracically employed, remind us that we should not think without focus, but [always] about something. That is why texts that must be interpretd or criticized support the objectivity of thinking in an inestimable way. [Band 10: Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft I/II: Anmerkungen zum philosophischen Denken. Theoder W. Adorno: Gesammelte Schriften, S. 8400 (vgl. GS 10.2, S. 607)]

This is not unrelated to Luhmann's conviction that real thought must be connected to what has already been said (be anschlussfähig).

Goethe and Quill and Pencil

Goethe said in Poetry and Truth (Dichtung und Wahrheit) that in moments of inspiration he
preferred to pick up a pencil which produced the strokes more willingly [than the quill]; for it had happened to me several times that the scratching and splattering of the pen roused me from my sleep-walking poetic mode, distracted me and strangled a brain wave at birth.[1]
This does make sense. Anything that distracts from expressing one's thoughts, calling attention to the physical process of writing, detracts from what it is to accomplish. It's one of the reasons why the quill was superseded by the steel quill and ultimately by the fountain pen. None of this means—at least as far as I can make out—that the writing instrument //per se// determines what is being said. It only shows that it can get in the way. That media can get in the way is well known. For most Americans reading Fraktur, for instance, gets in the way of apprehending what is being read. That is why even seasoned Kant scholars find Kant's Academy edition more difficult than reading his writings in Garamond or other typefaces more common typefaces. It does not change what Kant said, however. Nor even what they take Kant to mean.

But however that may be, he used a pencil when he was "in need and in a hurry."[2] He also used it for rough drafts and ephemeral notes.

1. Sonja Neef Imprint and Trace. Handwriting in the Age of Technology (London: Reaktion Books, 2011) called my attention to this passage (on p. 113). Actually, Neef quotes the passage from a secondary source see p. 321 and the quotation is not correct (though it might also be the translator's fault. Goethe does not say "distracted me and strangled a brain wave," but "distracted me and suffocated a little product at birth." He also makes clear that he preferred a pencil when he had an inspiration away from his desk and had to hurry to this place to write it down quickly, often not writing diagonally on any piece of paper, rather than turning it to its "proper" direction. "Ich war so gewohnt, mir ein Liedchen vorzusagen, ohne es wieder zusammen finden zu können, daß ich einigemal an den Pult rannte und mir nicht die Zeit nahm, einen quer liegenden Bogen zurecht zu rücken, sondern das Gedicht von Anfang bis zu Ende, ohne mich von der Stelle zu rühren, in der Diagonale herunterschrieb. In eben diesem Sinne griff ich weit lieber zu dem Bleistift, welcher williger die Züge hergab: denn
es war mir einigemal begegnet, daß das Schnarren und Spritzen der Feder mich aus meinem nachtwandlerischen Dichten aufweckte, mich zerstreute und ein kleines Produkt in der Geburt erstickte. Für solche Poesien hatte ich eine besondere Ehrfurcht, weil ich mich doch ohngefähr gegen dieselben verhielt, wie die Henne gegen die Küchlein, die sie ausgebrütet um sich her piepsen sieht. [Werke: Aus meinem Leben. Dichtung und Wahrheit. Goethe: Werke, S. 11010 (vgl. Goethe-HA Bd. 10, S. 80-81)].
Imprint and Trace is an interesting book, even though she relies far too much and insufficiently critical on différance and Kittler. But many of the examples she uses are of interest to me. As Walter Benjamin said: "And today the book is already, as the present mode of scholarly production demonstrates, an outdated mediation between two different filing systems. For everything that matters is to be found in the card box of the researcher who wrote it, and the scholar studying it assimilates it into his own card index." I do not think this is true of every book. In fact, in really good books, there is a surplus of "what matters" that goes beyond my own "card index." But his indictment is certainly true of Neef's book—as far as I am concerned.

2. In another passage he relates how he wrote a poem with a pencil on the wall of a house. He also relates how he often sketched a picture in pencil and then wrote the poem right beside it (in ink—I suppose): "Drang und Eile zugleich nötigten mich zu einem wunderbaren Hülfsmittel: kaum hatte ich einen interessanten Gegenstand gefaßt, und ihn mit wenigen Strichen im allgemeinsten auf dem Papier angedeutet, so führte ich das Detail, das ich mit dem Bleistift nicht erreichen noch durchführen konnte, in Worten gleich darneben aus und gewann mir auf diese Weise eine solche innere Gegenwart von dergleichen Ansichten, daß eine jede Lokalität, wie ich sie nachher in Gedicht oder Erzählung nur etwa brauchen mochte, mir alsobald vorschwebte und zu Gebote stand. [Werke: Aus meinem Leben. Dichtung und Wahrheit. Goethe: Werke, S. 11126 (vgl. Goethe-HA Bd. 10, S. 152)]

Sunday, August 25, 2013

John Barth on the Cursiveness of the Pen

I recently discovered a blog on writing instruments, called Palimpsest. In one of the posts, the author reports on John Barth's claims about writing by pen versus writing by typewriter, claiming "My sentences in print, as in conversation, tend to go on a while before they stop: I trace that to the cursiveness of the pen. The idea of typing out first drafts, where each letter is physically separated by a little space from the next letter, I find a paralyzing notion. Good old script, which connects this letter to that, and this line to that—well, that’s how good plots work, right? When this loops around and connects to that ..."

This is, of course, nonsense, strictly speaking. It's not the pen that is cursive, but Barth's hand writing. The most he could say is that the pen allows him to write cursive, while the typewriter does not. And all the claim amounts to is that he has a psychological need to write cursively. If he had been taught writing at a different time, like today, he would not have that need. Would his writing be different? Probably ... Just because his experiences would have been different. How much would the inability to write cursive script have to do with this? I have no idea, and I suppose neither has he. His plots (insofar as they exist) were not destroyed by printing either.

Capote on Outlines

Truman Capote apparently did not like outlines:
At one time I used to keep notebooks with outlines for stories. But I found that doing this somehow deadened the idea in my imagination. If the notion is good enough, if it truly belongs to you, then you can’t forget it — it will haunt you until it’s written.[1]
Who says it was just outlines the killed ideas in his imagination? I have always been struck by the absence of ideas in his work.

1. By way of Elizabeth Browne, thanks to Flavorwire.

The Tools of Authors

For inquiring minds who need to know. I like what Judy Blume, one "of the more famous" authors of children's books said: “Whatever it is that happens between the brain and the pencil in my hand, that’s really important to my process.”

It's not the tool, stupid (as Bill Clinton might say). I am not so sure that what happens between the brain and the pencil is independent of what has been written or is being written. On the other hand, I am fairly sure it does not matter at all whether you use a pencil, a roller ball, a Waterman, a Shaeffer, or a Parker. I am also fairly sure that it matters relatively little whether you use a fountain pen, a typewriter, or a keyboard. The methods you use to take notes or write seem to matter more.

I did say that I collect mechanical pencils and own many pens, did I? In other words I find these objects fascinating, but I feel that just as a good workman does not blame his tools in failure, they do not contribute much to success. Put differently, they allow you to write, but they do not determine whether you write badly or well.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Umberto Eco's Lost Article on the Lost Art of Handwriting

There was an article in The Guardian by Umberto Eco, On the Lost Art of Handwriting. It's no longer available, but one of the things Eco says is that the crisis with handwriting "began with the advent of the ballpoint pen. Early ballpoints were also very messy and if, immediately after writing, you ran your finger over the last few words, a smudge inevitably appeared. And people no longer felt much interest in writing well, since handwriting, when produced with a ballpoint, even a clean one, no longer had soul, style or personality."

I don't particularly like ballpoint pens, but this is pretty idiotic. The same can be said for fountain pens. And what does smudging have to with the absence "of soul or personality." There are those who would say that the should is nothing but a smudge. While I would not agree to such a claim either—"soul" is at the very least a coherent concept—I have no idea why writing with a ballpoint pen lacks soul or personality. For all I know, some good novels may have been written with ballpoint pens. And what about roller balls? How much soul do they impart to writing?

There were apparently other interesting claims in the article, like the one that handwriting as opposed to writing with the keyboard slows you down and thus facilitates thinking. Too bad I no longer have access to this morsel of wisdom by my favorite Italian author.[1]

1. This appears to be it: "The art of handwriting teaches us to control our hands and encourages hand-eye coordination.... [it]obliges us to compose the phrase mentally before writing it down. Thanks to the resistance of pen and paper, it does make one slow down and think. Many writers, though accustomed to writing on the computer, would sometimes prefer even to impress letters on a clay tablet, just so they could think with greater calm." Yes, clay tablets are the way to go ... obviously. "Writing by hand obliges us to compose the phrase mentally before writing it down"? Not my experience, and what about free writing?

Melville's Marginalia

Here an interesting site that shows the marginalia with which Melville adorned his books. They show he was a careful reader.

Also note that (a) the comments and underlinings are in pencil, not in ink, and that (b) they are found in his own books and not in copies from the library.

No further comment!

Personal Workflow?

Wikipedia defines "workflow as follows: "A workflow consists of a sequence of connected steps where each step follows without delay or gap and ends just before the subsequent step may begin. It is a depiction of a sequence of operations, declared as work of a person or group, an organization of staff, or one or more simple or complex mechanisms. Workflow may be seen as any abstraction of real work. For control purposes, workflow may be a view of real work in a chosen aspect, thus serving as a virtual representation of actual work. The flow being described may refer to a document or product that is being transferred from one step to another."

A "workflow" involving many steps may make eminent sense when you talk about a corporation or any other large organization produces whatever it produces. The question for me is how much sense a, say, four-, five, or seven-step fixed workflow makes when you talk about efforts individual—especially as far as writing and note-taking is concerned. I am beginning to think that it does not make much sense. Yet, I read more and more about such supposed workflows, each involving a different application. I will not refer to any particular discussion, but here is one example.
  1. Taking first note and ideas (nvALT, and possibly paper)
  2. Outlining these ideas in some outliner application (opml would be a good option)
  3. Transferring the outline to some mind map program to "flesh out" these ideas
  4. (Re)converting the mind map to a text document to work on it in a more capable editor (or perhaps even a more capable outliner)
  5. "Writing it up" in an rtf or html editor and final storage.
A search on the Internet will bring up many variations on this theme. Some involve many more steps. I doubt anyone can consistently adhere to such a scheme—especially as far as switching from one application to another is concerned. But even if it were possible, I doubt that it leads to superior results. Writing and note-taking are not linear processes consisting "of a sequence of connected steps where each step follows without delay or gap and ends just before the subsequent step may begin."

Therefore, the fewer steps there are, the better designed the approach is. At most two, I would say, and perhaps three. But perhaps what I am really saying is that the use of two applications is better than that of many. I can see, for instance, how someone may brainstorm in Scapple. Import it into Scrivener, fool around with these ideas, using the outline, the editor (and perhaps even the fake index cards), and then compile the final product. That would be two (or at most three) steps. The important thing is that you can constantly switch between "writing up," outlining and visualizing the materials without having to switch applications. It's just that there is no clearly defined sequence of steps that must be followed in a linear way. And I consider that a good thing.

I have used the example of Scrivener as such an integrated writing environment, but there are other applications that allow you to do this. As I have said many times before, I use ConnectedText for everything and convert to rtf at the very end.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


NVim is NVim is "a clone of the mac app Notational Velocity in vim," or rather "a fast Notational Velocity inspired plugin for Vim."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On "Late Abandoners"

I was reminded of "Kedit" again. I never used it and never will use it. But I have written about McPhee's "workflow" with Kedit. Here is a somewhat interesting article by John Derbyshire about his experience with Kedit, in which he coins the phrase "late abandoners." Some programs, like Lotus Agenda, Ecco, and Grandview, seem to have had a special "attraction" for "late abandoners" (and I don't know why it is outliner programs that come to mind—perhaps people who outline are one of the species of of the genus of "late abandoners," and I do not deny belonging to this species). Part of the phenomenon constituted by "late abandoners" has, of course, to do with the fact that the programs they refuse to abandon, did one or the other thing very well, but it does not explain the phenomenon in its entirety. Loyalty, habituation, and fear of the unknown—a combination sometimes called "love"—must also have to do with it. But there must be other reasons. I'd be grateful for more information.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Borges, Foucault, and Perec on Lists

Jorge Luis Borges relates in his essay on "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins", in La Nación, 8 February 1942 of a certain list ascribed by "Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into
(a) those that belong to the Emperor,
(b) embalmed ones,
(c) those that are trained,
(d) suckling pigs,
(e) mermaids,
(f) fabulous ones,
(g) stray dogs,
(h) those that are included in this classification,
(i) those that tremble as if they were mad,
(j) innumerable ones,
(k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush,
(l) others,
(m) those that have just broken a flower vase,
(n) those that resemble flies from a distance.”[1]
He also cites other, less memorable, examples of classification, and concludes: "Obviously there is no classification of the universe that is not arbitrary and conjectural. The reason is very simple: we do not know what the universe is. “This world”, wrote David Hume, “...was only the first rude essay of some infant deity who afterwards abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance; it is the work only of some dependent, inferior deity, and is the object of derision to his superiors; it is the production of old age and dotage in some superannuated deity, and ever since his death has run on...” We must go even further; we must suspect that there is no universe in the organic, unifying sense inherent in that ambitious word. If there is, we must conjecture its purpose; we must conjecture the words, the definitions, the etymologies, the synonymies of God’s secret dictionary."

Michel Foucault was very much impressed by this classification. Indeed, he tells us that The Order of Things (Les mots et les choses) arose from the laughter "that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other." Inedd, in "the wonderment of this [[taxonomy]], the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that."

Georges Perec correctly thinks "the abundance of intermediaries and Borges' well-known love of ambiguous erudition permit one to wonder whether this rather too perfectly astonishing miscellaneity is not first and foremost an effect of art."[2] He then produces another mind-boggling list of kinds of animals from government publications that I won't repeat here. More importantly, he also seems to think that such lists show that there is something inherently wrong with classification. But he is just as wrong as are Borges and Foucault. These lists do not show that classification is per se problematic, but only that any attempt at classifying presupposes a certain point of view and thus makes only sense from that point of view.[2]

Borges' list is so astonishing because we cannot imagine any possible point of view from which this classification would make sense. The same holds for his list of animals based on what use of animals is prohibited by the government (though once you realize that this is the unifying principle it is so much less astonishing.[2] Lists are just very basic ways of ordering things from a certain perspective.[3] This has nothing to do with the way the universe is, but only with what Kant would have called "necessary conditions of the possibility of thinking," i.e. with general logic.

1. Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Non-Fictions. Ed. Eliot Weinberger (New York: Penguin Group, 1999), pp. 229-232.
2. Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (New York: Penguin, 1997), p. 196. I will have more to say later about the essay "Think/Classify" in which this claim occurs.
3. See also The List.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Scapple for Windows Beta

Scapple for Windows is in Beta now. It looks and works just as it does in OSX (or so it seems to me).

It's not a mind-mapping application. The Beta expires September 15.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

CardBoard for Android

Applications using the Index Card metaphor are available for the Android platform as well. There are Cardboard Index Cards and CardScape, for instance. They seem to be doing essentially the same thing as the iPad applications.

Supernotecard has for a long time done the same for the desktop.

As I said before, I am not sure whether this skeuomorphic approach is always the best approach. Do we really have to move around objects that look like index cards in order to outline material. Clearly not! But in this case, I am willing to admit that it might be helpful. Though the sticky notes analogy might do just as well. See Stickysorter for Windows, for instance.

Index Card Board for iPad

Another index card application for the iPad. I looked at Index Card in a previous post. I exports to "email, iTunes, or Dropbox as a formatted text file, image, PDF, or an Index Card Board file." It costs $4.99 (just like Index Card).

There is also a minimalist version called "index cards®", but it seems to have a rather limited feature set (and I don't like the registered sign behind "index cards"). It's just $0.99.

These applications seem to be inspired by Scrivener's cork board. They are designed for outlining, or perhaps better: pre-outlining, or moving around different passages or scenes before or while writing them up. They are not really designed for serious data storage, though they could perhaps be used for such purposes as well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to Write in a Car

Follow Nabokov's example:

Nomadic Gatherers of Knowledge

McLuhan famously claims that electricity changed everything and automation is the final step in the process: "Men are suddenly nomadic gatherers of knowledge, nomadic as never before, free from fragmentary specialization as never before—but also involved in the total social process as never before, since with electricity we our central nervous system globally, instantly interrelating every human experience" (358).

Only one problem knowledge is different from berries or roots. You can't pick it up just like that. Try to "gather" the knowledge of calculus, of C++, or even of RegEx. It takes a lot of concentrated work and "fragmentary specialization." "Nomadic" moving from one field of knowledge to the next does not help understanding—quite apart from the fact that the more interesting "fields" need more cultivating than ever. If anything, we have moved even further away from a "nomadic existence. I do not mean, of course, those who underline with ball point pens or just "capture information on the web" in order to "share it around."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

McLuhan on Typewriters

I recently picked up at Brattle for a whole dollar Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The extensions of Man (New York: McGraw Hill, 1966). Perhaps I paid too much, but the book was appropriately used. Underlining in red and blue ball point point pen, many pages with a super-abundance of check marks, and inane comments thrown in for nothing. Like the claim that "post hoc ergo propter hoc" is a "confusion of cause and effect." It may well be that McLuhan is often guilty of confusing the two, but this is not the same as confusing mere temporal succession as a causal relation. The book had the reader it deserved—or so I think. I am, of course, a mere meta-reader.

I liked the comment by Dwight MacDonald in the New York Herald Tribune, reprinted on the back cover: "Compared with Mr. McLuhan, Spengler is cautious and Toynbee positively pedantic." Ah well ...

One of "the extensions of man" is, of course, the typewriter (258-264). Except, it turns out it that if we believe McLuhan it is really more an extension of woman, as wave after wave "of female typists hit the business office" beginning in 1890 (259). As to the typist: "She was a style-maker who was also eager to follow style" (259). And, as "much as the typewriter, the typist brought into business a new dimension of the uniform, the homogeneous, and the continuous that has made the typewriter indispensable to every aspect of mechanical industry" (259). Remember, "post hoc, ergo ..."?

"An army needs more typewriters than medium and light artillery pieces, even in the field, suggesting that the typewriter now fuses the functions of the pen and the sword" (259). But, the "poet or novelist now composes on the typewriter" (260). Henry James is the example he uses: he "found dictating not only easier but more inspiring than composing by hand. 'It all seems to be so much more effectively and unceasingly pulled out of me than in writing'" (260). Nice ... but this is at best incidentally related to typewriters. Typewriters are neither necessary nor entirely sufficient for the practice of dictation. But the non-sequitur is necessary for the rest of McLuhan's account which somehow issues in the claim that E. E. Cummings used the typewriter "to provide a poem with a musical score for choral speech" (261).

And so on:
Just how much the typewriter has contributed by its unjustified right-hand margin to the development of vers libre would be hard to discover, but free verse was really recovery of spoken, dramatic stress in poetry, and the typewriter encouraged exactly this quality (261).
Isn't it interesting that the "typewriter carried the Gutenberg technology into every nook and cranny of our culture and economy", produced also "these opposite oral effects"? Perhaps it would, if it did. McLuhan is confident just because "such a reversal of form happens in all extremes of advance technology, as with the wheel today" (262).

He seems to have nothing to say about how the typewriter might influence our thinking—at least not in this context. It's just that he thinks the typewriter makes the author into printer and publisher and thus serves to end "old dichotomies" between culture and technology, between art and commerce, and between work and leisure" (346f.). Sure it did ...

The same thing seems to hold for "automation" or "the invasion of the mechanical world by the instantaneous character of electricity" (349). It is not an extension of the mechanical principle of fragmentation and separation of operations, but serves to unify.[1]

1. I am glad that it is only the "instantaneous character of electricity" that invades, for electricity itself might have the opposite effect. I am also glad to find out that a "conscious computer would still be one that was an extension of our consciousness, as a telescope is an extension of our eyes, or as a ventriloquist's dummy is an extension of the ventriloquist" (351), though I am left to wonder about the "self-amputation" that accompany such technologies (see p. 45f.).

Sunday, August 11, 2013


"ReactOS® is an effort to create a Free and Open Source replacement for the Microsoft Windows NT® family that is compatible with both applications and drivers. The NT® architecture has always been highly flexible and powerful and its continued dominance in the computer industry means it is one of the most supported family of operating systems in existence, with its latest iteration being Windows 8.
As these days operating systems are little more than gateways to applications that users want to run, an open source NT implementation would allow users to continue using familiar programs in a familiar environment. The project seeks to embrace the strengths of the NT family while avoiding many of the configuration decisions that made older versions of Windows vulnerable and maintaining a lightweight environment so that a computer's resources can be dedicated to what really matters to the user, running their applications."

"ReactOS 0.3.15 is still under heavy development (alpha stage) and is not ready for everyday use."

I hope it will succeed because I want to use it!

No further comment!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Underlining in Library Books

I am reading David Lodge, Deaf Sentence (New York: Viking 2008). It's clever book, but it's not just clever but also insightful and, what is rare, at the same time entertaining. In it, the narrator comes across a library book that has been marked with a turquoise highlighter pen, "not just in the margins but with parallel strokes drawn right through the the lines of text from left to right." The narrator considers this as vandalism and finds it hard to believe how anyone "educated enough to have access to a university library should do this to a book." To him "the treatment of books is a test of civilized behaviour." He admits "to making light pencil marks in the margins of a library book occasionally, but [he] erase[s] them scrupulously as [he] goes through the pages writing up [his] notes." Heavy underlining enrages him. The previous borrower must have been "under the delusion that this procedure will somehow engrave the words in his or her cerebral cortex" (105f.). The offense is even more serious if ballpoint pen or a felt-tip highlighter is used.[1]

I could not agree more and would not even do this to my own books. Ballpoint pens are not tools for marking books, and felt-tip highlighters should be prohibited altogether. Yet, students seem not to be able to do without them. In fact, they seem to think that their understanding of texts is enhanced by using different colors to indicate different categories. No serious reader will do this.[2]

Needless to say, I don't own highlighters.

No further comment!

1. Needless to say, this episode has great significance in the novel.
2. See also here, here, and especially here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


The complete text of Leopardi's Zibaldone is now available in English.

I was tempted to buy the Kindle Edition, but I ultimately decided to buy the hard cover.

From the blurb: "For most of his writing career, he kept an immense notebook, known as the Zibaldone, or “hodge-podge,” as Harold Bloom has called it, in which Leopardi put down his original, wide-ranging, radically modern responses to his reading. His comments about religion, philosophy, language, history, anthropology, astronomy, literature, poetry, and love are unprecedented in their brilliance and suggestiveness, and the Zibaldone, which was only published at the turn of the twentieth century, has been recognized as one of the foundational books of modern culture. Its 4,500-plus pages have never been fully translated into English until now, when a team under the auspices of Michael Caesar and Franco D’Intino of the Leopardi Centre in Birmingham, England, have spent years producing a lively, accurate version."

Friday, August 2, 2013


The term logject seems to be an invention of Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin. It refers to "everyday objects" whose work includes "recording and communicating their use." He explains:
The easiest way to introduce the notion of a logject is to consider the ways in which the embedding of software is changing the nature of everyday objects. Many objects now have software physically embedded into their material form. On the one hand software is used to enhance the functional capacity of what were previously ‘dumb’ objects enabling them to sense something of their environments and to perform different tasks, or the same tasks more efficiently, or to be plugged into new distributed networks that afford some value-added dimension such as data exchange on how they are used. On the other hand, software is used to underpin the design and deployment of new classes of objects, particularly mobile devices (such as PDAs, MP3 players, Satnav), that in some cases replace analogue equivalents (diaries and filofaxes, personal tape and CD stereos, paper maps and gazetteers) or undertake entirely new tasks.
The belong to a class of things that they call "codejects," distinguishing between
  • "Hard codejects that rely on firmware to function but are not programmable and therefore have low levels of interactivity (e.g. a USB memory stick)."
  • Unitary codejects, i.e. programmable devices that "exhibit some level of interactivity, although this is typically limited and highly scripted, and they do not record their work in the world."closed codejects that work independently of the world around them (e.g., alarm clock, CD player)." There are closed ones (like an alarm clock) and open ones (like a digital thermostat). And finally
  • there codejects "that have an ‘awareness’ of themselves and their relations with the world and which, by default, automatically record aspects of those relations in logs that are stored and re-used in the future. More specifically, a logject is (1) uniquely identifiable, (2) has awareness of its environment and is able to respond to changes in that environment that are meaningful within its functional context, (3) traces and tracks its own usage in time and/or space, (4) records that history, (5) can communicate that history across a network for analysis and use by other agents (objects and people), (6) can use the data it produces to make automated, automatic and autonomous decisions and actions in the world without human oversight, (7) is programmable and thus mutable to some degree."
Logjects are for collecting "useful information, and the question is, of course, useful for whom.

A Kindle (which is discussed in the post) seems to be a logject and the information it collects about the purchase of books and the notes taken is not just useful to the owner, but also to Amazon (and other parties).

I find the conception of a "logject" intriguing, though I am not sure how useful it will ultimately be (for me).