Saturday, March 17, 2012

MultiMarkdown, RTF and Automatic Footnotes

One of the reasons I found MultiMarkdown attractive was that it promised footnotes in RTF. This seems to have been a false promise all along. The User Guide now states: "MultiMarkdown 2.0 had partial support for outputting an RTF file, and could do it completely on Mac OS X by using Apple’s textutil program. MMD 3 no longer directly supports RTF as an output format, but the Flat OpenDocument format is a much better option."[1]

In other words, I was led to believe that it produces automatic footnotes in RTF. It doesn't. In RTF the footnote references are superscripted and correctly numbered and they correspond to footnotes at the bottom of the text, but (I noticed yesterday) there is no actual connection between the list at the bottom and the superscripted reference in the text. You can delete either one without having an effect on the other. This means that it does not produce automatic footnotes in RTF.

Given hindsight, I don't know why I thought automatic footnotes were possible in this application in the first place. Like all applications that produce HTML first and foremost, it has no easy way to go from HTML-ased footnotes to RTF-based footnotes.

In a program like ConnectedText, footnotes are enclosed by "[!" and "!]". This can easily be reformatted into the strings "\chftn{\footnote \pard\plain \s246 \fs20 {\up6\chftn}" and "}" that mark automatic footnotes in RTF, as it did in my little script.[2] (It seems that Ulysses and Scrivener use this method as well.)

It would be good, if someone developed a special version of Markdown that incorporates "[! ...!] or something similar for RTF. In fact, I am wondering whether Brett Terpstra's recent musings mean that he is working on something like this. I hope he will, as Multimarkdown in its present incarnation is not very useful to me.[3]

1. I have not looked at the option Flat OpenDocument, but not even Open or Libre Office opens this kind of file without a plugin. And I do not use either of these programs.
2. See ConnectedText Markdown to RTF.
3. One other thing: MultiMarkdown Composer's syntax highlighter looks a bit garish. It would be good, if one could select more subdued (not to say: "subtle") colors.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Quantified Life

Some people collect data about themselves on any imaginable activity. It's also called the quantified life. Stephen Wolfram of Mathematic fame has published an blog post on personal analytics in which he explains how he has recorded every keystroke since 1989. Impressive! though I am not quite sure what all this proves!

No further comment!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A QWERTY Effect?

Here a paper that claims to show that "relationship between emotional valence and QWERTY key position across three languages (English, Spanish, and Dutch). Words with more right-side letters were rated as more positive in valence, on average, than words with more left-side letters: the QWERTY effect."

No further comment!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rooted Nook Simpletouch

Well, I did it after all. The Nook is rooted (since very late Sunday night). Evernote works without a flaw, and even the Android Market Place is now accessible. After three days traveling with it and using it on the T, I can say that it works pretty much as I had hoped it would.

Now, if I had only more ideas. Reading also works, though Beckett How it is is perhaps not the best book to read on the T.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Notes on the Nook Simple Touch

Call me stupid. I probably needed this thing like a hole in the head, but I bought a Simple Touch. It normally costs $99.00. I got a 10% discount, had a $45.00 Barnes and Noble Gift Card and a $30.00 Rebate Visa Card that needed to be used before it accumulated fees. So, it cost a little more than $20.00 "out of pocket," as they say. Cost "out of pocket" is, of course, a category whose usefulness presupposes a certain amount of stupidity. It cost $94.00 with taxes. I could used the $74.00 for other, perhaps more useful things, like books, perhaps.

One of the reasons why I bought the Nook Touch was my thought that I could root it and use it as an Android device, as this article describes it. Well, it did not work, or, perhaps better, it only worked intermittently and so unreliably that I gave up on it.

So I now have two e-reders: the Kindle Keyboard (didn't have "keyboard' in its name when I bought it) and the Nook Simple Touch. I have never had ANY real complaints about the Kindle. It does what it is advertised to do. I can even take notes on it with the pitiful chicklet type keyboard. The notes and quotes can easily be transferred to the desktop because they are stored in a Text file.

The Nook has a very nice onscreen keyboard. In fact, it is the best I have ever seen. I can easily thumb-type on it. And I did not make any mistake on a five-hundred-word note the very first time around.

Great! But there is one — to my mind — fatal problem. The notes are locked on the device. There is no way to get them out of the device at all. This makes them more or less useless for the long run.

There is, however, one way to get information out of the thing. It has e-mail capability. You can "share" your reading experience with friends, i.e. you can send an e-mail message to contacts you define beforehand. These contacts must have an account with Barnes and Noble. Since you can use yourself as a contact, i.e. yourself with a different e-mail address, you can sent notes to yourself. The note is primarily a big advertisement for Barnes and Noble and the Nook, but it does work — at least for now.

In fact, the Nook is much more commercialized than the Kindle. The "Home Page" is actually a Barnes and Noble Website that pushes popular books on the user. In my case, they are exactly the kinds of books I would never dream of buying. I may not have bought enough books from them yet, so they don't me yet. But the fact is noteworthy in at least one other respect. It shows that this Nook has a Web-browser just as it has e-mail capability. In earlier versions, the Web-browser could be accessed and used in a fashion. Now it is disabled for any other use than accessing Barnes & Noble. The same thing is true of the e-mail capability. It is used as a vehicle of advertising for Barnes & Noble and it allows comments by a user only to entice them to engage in advertising. I would not be at all surprised, if the ability to send messages to yourself will be eliminated as soon as Barnes & Noble figures out that this does not benefit them.

The only things I can recommend it for is that it reads ePub files natively and that it has a nice onscreen keyboard. I checked out the onscreen keyboard of the Kindle Touch. It's bad ... really bad.

I hope one of my children or grand-children will take the NOOK off my hands. I do not dare to hope that Barnes & Noble will allow you to actually use your notes or improve the e-mail capability or that the Kindle Touch will get a better keyboard and e-mail.[1]

1. You may ask why I would like this capability, as I also own an iPad II and it obviously can do all I want and more. The reason is the form factor. The two touch e-readers are so small and light that you could carry them everywhere without really noticing them.

Coercive Citation?

What could "coercive citation" be? Is someone coercing someone else by citing someone (else)? No, it seems to be the practice of some journals to force their contributors to cite the journal(s) of the publisher to which they have submitted their paper. The threat is that without "proper" citations, their paper will be rejected. The economists Allen W. Wilhite and Eric A. Fong have recently published in “Science” a study called “Coercive Citation in Academic Publishing” in which they show that "coercion is uncomfortably common and appears to be practiced opportunistically. As editors game the system and authors acquiesce, the integrity of academic publications suffers."

The journals that seem to be involved most seem to be the Journal of Business Research, Journal of Retailing, Marketing Science, Journal of Banking and Finance, Information and Management, Applied Economics, Academy of Management Journal, ...

Whether more traditional fields of scholarship or science are affected is not clear, if only because they fall outside of the study. But can they be far behind? As always, whatever else is true in business, "it" must pay. And academic journals have become big business just as textbooks.

I not infrequently use(d to use) a textbook in philosophy that sold for under $20.00 in the eighties. It now sells for under $200.00 and hasn't changed much. When I complained to one of its editors, he wasn't even aware of the price. So, I would suppose his royalties did not increase tenfold. The textbook publishers extort money from the students directly, the journal publishers do so indirectly. No wonder education gets more and more expensive. This is not to say that the rise of the "corporate university" is not to blame either. It's the same principle. Coercion all around!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Conan Doyle on Notes

I recently read Michael Dirda's On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling — don't ask me why, as I haven't read any Sherlock Holmes since turning twenty one. Nor do I intend to read any in the future. I guess it was "the whole art of story telling" that let me to buy the e-book. On that score, I was sorely disappointed, even though the book proved to be an interesting read. It made me forget the annoying continuously worsening conditions on the Boston "T" for two or three trips and that's not nothing. It also convinced me that adults who are fascinated by Sherlock Holmes to attend meetings, etc. are more thana bit peculiar. But I found these passages that are somewhat interesting:
Reading without note taking is as senseless as eating without digesting. It is easy to condense into a single page all that you really want to remember out of a big book, and there you have it for reference for ever. When you have done that systematically, for five years, you will be surprised at the extraordinary amount of available information which you can turn upon any subject, all at the cost of very little trouble (80).
It would be difficult to disagree with this sentiment.

Conan Doyle "built up an extensive archive of letters, papers, clippings, and memoranda. One early biographer counted sixty scrapbooks alone" (80). He also kept a pocket diary.

His rules for writing:
  1. The first requisite is to be intelligible.
  2. The second is to be interesting.
  3. The third is to be clever.
These could be mine, though I am struggling (especially with the third one).