Sunday, June 30, 2013

Importing into Zim

According to Zim's help file, you can, "If you have a larger number of pages that conform with the page description above, then close Zim, move these pages either into an existing subfolder to the other pages of the existing Zim Notebook folder or create a new subfolder inside the Zim Notebook folder. Reopen the Notebook and the pages and the new subfolder should appear. Rebuilding the index may take quite some time, if you have added many pages." I tried to import about 6.500 entries, and Zim seemed to choke on it. I wonder how many hours are needed for this.

Perhaps it cannot handle that many entries. nVALT does not seem to have this problem.

nvALT as a Plain Text Wiki

I observed in In Praise of Free Links that nvALT's ability to create free links makes it a good candidate for a text-based wiki. There is a recent article that makes much more of this affordance. It is worth a read.

Robertson Davies on Newspaper Clippings

We—perhaps I should say: "I"—read for many reasons. Mostly, I read for information, for ideas, intellectual stimulation, ideas, "growth" or self-improvement, and, for enjoyment and entertainment. The best reading combines most of these. Recently, I bought Robertson Davies' The Merry Heart. Reflections on Reading, Writing, and the World of Books (New York: Viking, 1996). To say that I was disappointed would be saying too much. I was, however, somewhat underwhelmed. His Deptford Trilogy which forms an important part of my Canadian past, had made me expect (much) more. The book is not rich in ideas—old or new. I knew of his adherence to Jungian principles which he calls his "candle." I did not know that he had as much admiration for Ibsen who said he read only two things, the Bible and the Newspapers. Nor did I know that he subscribed so deeply to Nabokov's idea that a novelist is first of all only "an enchanter," but it figures.

The two chapters I expected most from are "Reading" and "Writing." They were also the parts out of which I got least. He rails against speed reading and enmity to intellectual elites, advocating slow reading and "verbalizing." His advice for reading "for pleasure" is
  • "read several books at once, and so keep on your table a book of poetry, as well as a novel, some essay, and perhaps a play or two" (226)
  • re-read often (228)
  • read slowly (233)
  • "read deeply rather than widely" (233)
All sound advice, but rather trite advice, nevertheless.

He is certainly correct when he claims in "Writing" that critics "invent categories, and then try to confine writers within these critical jails, talking of 'minimalism' and 'postmodernism' and 'magic realism' and a dozen others, as if these things had real existence and were not simply gases extracted by the critics from works of strong individuality" (346). Seems true enough. It's one of the reasons why I find literary criticism for the most part less than useful. But his invocation of Nabokov's shamanstvo is not very helpful either.Socrates already found that poets cannot explain where there gift comes from, but that they are just inspired without knowing by what.

One thing found informationally interesting was the following: "When I was a young man I read an excellent book by a French scholar in which he recommended that everybody should keep a dossier of newspaper clippings related to their principal subjects of interest; it was a way, he said, to become a modest expert on any subject you pleased and also to observe how quickly fashions in ideas changed. I began a newspaper file, and I have it still. It is now very bulky, and from time to time I dip into it to remind myself of the past" (357). His subjects: Crime, Psychiatry, Religion, Pornography, Medicine, Art, Music, Grotesqueries [?] and Strange Manifestations of the Holy Spirit—in that order.

I never kept such a file. Nor do I read newspapers as assiduously as he seems to have done (having started out as a newspaper man himself—as he never tires to remind us. This is not to deny that some information taken from newspapers has crept into my notes.But I trust them far less than he seems to.

Perhaps the poverty of ideas I perceived in his essays has to do with his preoccupation with the "fashions in ideas" as observed in newspapers. But perhaps it is also that he really was more of a shamanstvo than a thinker.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Nook, One More Time

"The bookseller said Tuesday that losses at its Nook digital business more than doubled in the quarter ended April 27, easily wiping out profits generated at its bookstores. As a result, Barnes & Noble said it would stop producing its own color tablets, in favor of co-branded devices made by third-party manufacturers." Wall Street Journal.

It probably did not have to happen this way. See also here, that is, not even four months ago.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Zim, Again

I wrote rather critically about Zim some time ago. Recently, I looked at it again more thoroughly, and I must say that I am more impressed.

  1. It installed easily; and it worked "right out of the box," so to speak.
  2. It has wysiwyg markup, that is, all you see when you write is the bold, italic or whatever text. You do not see the markup.
  3. Linking is fairly easy, though not as easy as I would have wished. There is a popup into which you enter the name and alias, and this appears not optimal.
  4. It allows name spaces, like [[Journal:20130623]] to organize pages into groups.
  5. It has a fairly sophisticated template system.
And there are other things I like.

However, what I liked most was that on opening the source files of the wiki pages with notepad I discovered that Zim's underlying markup is almost exactly the same as ConnectedText's markup: **bold** and //Italics//, and __underline__ (though it shows up like a marker highlight in yellow). ~~Strikethrough~~ is different, as is the command for headings which uses the same convention of surrounding the text with "=" but requires a space before and after the words for the heading. There are other small differences.

What really surprised me, however, was that Zim actually uses free links to point to other wiki spaces. Yet, surrounding text with brackets like this [[new page]] in the edit window does not seem to work. You seem to have to go through the pop up route—annoying!

But you'd be wrong to think so (as I did): If you add the links by enclosing them in in double square brackets, close Zim, and then re-open the program, they do show up correctly as links. The same thing for all the other wiki markup (**, //, __). In fact, it gets even better (at least as far as I am concerned. If you edit the text as you normally would in a Wiki and the hit CTRL-R for reload (the command is also hidden under the View menu item), the links and the formatting show up just as they would show up if they had entered with the popup or the menu.

So free links work in Zim after all. It's just that you have to hit CTRL-R after having entered them manually.

Zim won't replace ConnectedText for me, but it is an interesting program that I want to explore further especially since you can store the pages also in DropBox.

The Zim pages import easily into ConnectedText (using text import).

Monday, June 17, 2013


Mango is a folding markdown editor on the Web. The documents are stored on your computer. It's by the creator of FoldingText and TaskPaper.

Looks interesting.

No further comment!