Oct 082014

Finally switching web hosts. It’s gonna take a couple days. Silence until it’s done probably.

Fingers crossed that all goes well.

Oct 062014

Ma vie est monotone. Je chasse les poules, les hommes me chassent. Toutes les poules se ressemblent, et tous les hommes se ressemblent. Je m’ennuie donc un peu. Mais, si tu m’apprivoises, ma vie sera comme ensoleillée. Je connaîtrai un bruit de pas qui sera différent de tous les autres. Les autres pas me font rentrer sous terre. Le tien m’appellera hors du terrier, comme une musique. Et puis regarde ! Tu vois, là-bas, les champs de blé ? Je ne mange pas de pain. Le blé pour moi est inutile. Les champs de blé ne me rappellent rien. Et ça, c’est triste ! Mais tu as des cheveux couleur d’or. Alors ce sera merveilleux quand tu m’auras apprivoisé ! Le blé, qui est doré, me fera souvenir de toi. Et j’aimerai le bruit du vent dans le blé…

–Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

 Renard et l’amour  October 6, 2014  Tagged with:
Oct 042014

GodzillaOnce, long long ago, I convinced my parents to take me to a Godzilla double-feature at the drive-in. They sat through the first one but midway through the second, they were fed up and drove around to the other screen to watch something else. I don’t remember what because I sat in the back seat watching watching Godzilla battle a mechanical dinosaur through the rear window. I couldn’t hear anything but it didn’t matter and it was great.

So I have history and low expectations and was more than open to whatever this new version wanted to do. But it just talks and talks about uninteresting people who seem completely incidental to what’s going on.

Pacific Rim hit the required note in a way this film didn’t.

Oct 032014

I upgraded to Tinderbox 6 when it was released in late summer. There was a lot to love about the new version, but also plenty of things to adapt to. Perhaps the most jarring (and initially disruptive to my work) was the introduction of tabs.

Adapting to Tabs

The switch from windows to tabs in Tinderbox 6 sent me into a tailspin that lasted for several weeks. Somehow I experienced tabs as a brake keeping me from thinking properly as I worked. The problem was clearly conceptual, but I couldn’t identify exactly what it was.

This was, in a sense, ridiculous. Tabs are everywhere on my computer and have become the more-or-less default approach to presenting multiple views within a piece of software. I use them in my browser everyday, and they are certainly tidier and easier to manage on the small MacBook Air that I use when I’m out and about.

And yes, eventually I grew to like Tinderbox’s tabs because, regardless of how I felt about them initially, they were helpful. Full-screen mode on my MBAir was now workable, for example, and the new link-anchor system that appears designed to support tabs seemed much easier to use than the old toolbar-based system. More importantly, to the extent that tabs implied strong boundaries between materials, they offered a very useful tool for bringing distinct but still related materials into productive contact in a non-chaotic way. (This is reflected in my admin file, which consolidates what had been three separate projects in Tinderbox 5. Each of the original projects is consigned to its own tab in Tinderbox 6.)

And yet.

Something about tabs still nagged at me. Then last week, I finally figured out what it was.

Sheets and Screens

In Tinderbox 5, I saw multiple text windows as multiple sheets of paper arranged across a dining room table. Using them I felt as if the software’s frame had slipped away. My project file was unrepresented on the screen. All that was visible were those pieces of it that I chose to work with. I could shuffle, revise, arrange and stack these pieces on my desktop and I could do it however I wanted to. My computer desktop had became a kind of map view but with editable note texts. This was powerful and something I could not reproduce in other software. Not even close.

Tabs present me with a very different metaphor. Although in theory, they could be imagined as stacks of paper, in practice they felt like different display screens. When I switch from one tab to the next, I perceive this as moving from one computer desktop (or display) to another. (I assume I’m carrying this idea over from iOS.) On the small screen of my MBAir, tabs offered an ingenious way to manage and use limited display space. But on my larger iMac screen what I now saw was my project file, drawn inside the software frame, and rightly or wrongly, I felt boxed in.

Sheets and Stacks

Now I learn that the newly available point-one version of Tinderbox 6 reinstates saved window states, and however much I’ve grown to appreciate tabs, I’m very excited. In a sense, multiple windows are back. They work differently, and I’m only just beginning to experiment, but to me it now feels like the old choice between sheets of paper and screens (i.e windows v. tabs) is gone. What I’ve got now is an opportunity to work with both sheets of paper and stacks of paper (i.e. windows and tabbed windows).

I think I like this change a lot and that it is a good example of the workmanship that goes into Tinderbox. Things change but they also get better and more powerful.

Oct 022014

The Beav—who never watches TV—wanted to watch this show. So we started it last year, working through season one and two with barely restrained glee because the melodrama was so deliciously ridiculous and wonderful. The story moved along quickly and all the characters were exaggerated stereotypes in the best of ways. Everything was wretchedness and condescension draped in pearls or petty fighting over livery and starched shirts or the heavy business of not-kissing the person you clearly intended to kiss eventually. And letters. There were endless letters endlessly foretelling of imminent scandal and shame.

But when season three hit, the story’s steady march forward came to a halt, the fun drained away, and the amusing bauble become a drag. By the middle of season four, I couldn’t help thinking of Henry Fielding’s observation that neither the upper nor the lower classes were a fit subject for a novel. To his eye, both were naturally boring and only become interesting when they attempt to transgress the boundaries of their class.

Attempts of the rich and the poor to transgress their classes were central in the first two seasons of Downton as were the middle classes Fielding found ripe with narrative potential. But now the show has become about two parallel but separate worlds, one upstairs and one down, both serious, both “topical” and the story has fizzled and died. Or as the Beav put it: “ils ne savent plus quoi inventer!”

So I thought we were done with the show once we’d seen the last episode of season four. But then, as I was shutting off the TV: “How many seasons are there?” Me: “Five so far.” The Beav: “We should see how it ends.”

So, to be continued (apparently).