Saratoga Noir – free from ZBS

ZBS Foundation - Saratoga Noir The ZBS Foundation is offering a free comic strip for radio – it is both for eyes and ears. It sounds great with headphones. Here is the deal: This series will be posted for free, but only one episode at-a-time. Episode #1 will be up all this week. Then starting next week, on every Monday and every Friday, a new episode will be released. Saratoga Noir will play throughout the summer, ending the 2nd week of September. Don’t wait: see, listen, download here: ZBS.org

Eclipse 1979 remembered

In 1979 I was the director of the Manitoba Planetarium. Some friends believed that one of the reasons that I took that job was because I knew that on February 26 the Path of Totality of a solar eclipse included the City of Winnipeg. Previously, I’d traveled to see four eclipses. That very chilly morning, with Bill Guest, I was the co-host of CBC’s live coverage of the event. It has been decades since I’ve seen that program. I was pleased to find that it has been uploaded to YouTube. (The features that cut away from the program have been edited out.)

Is Markdown in your future?

Something seems to be happening in the use of tools for writers. If you write long documents, or collaborate with other writers, Markdown may become useful to you.

Over the years I’ve learned how to use several word processors, starting with MacWrite and Wordstar. As they evolve, they all become more and more complicated. Currently, as a Macintosh user, I’m conversant with MS Word and Apple Pages. In the shadow of these giants from Microsoft and Apple are a host of writer’s tools with special features: Mariner Write, Scrivener, Mellel, Nisus, etc. For script writers there is Celtx, Final Draft, Storymill, etc. All of these programs have a considerable learning curve.

Some people feel that all the bells and whistles get in the way of the business of writing: extracting the ideas from the writer’s head, composing some words, and typing them into the computer. Now, some of these programs have a way of making everything on the computer, including the application’s interface, vanish, so that all that is visible on the computer screen is the blank page and the author’s words. In Pages, it is the ‘fullscreen’ button on the menubar.

I’m suggesting something else.

I just wrote a book. You can see what it looks like online, here: https://leanpub.com/worthy/read

The publisher, Leanpub, has staked its future on authors never using any of the above word processors. In the FAQ, “Leanpub has bet the company on Markdown.” If you look at the book, you will see lots of word processing, e.g. a hierarchical system of headings, bullets, asides, images, etc. In fact, I wrote the whole book as a series of text files. I indicated the formatting by typing a small number of special characters that instructed what I wanted. I did not use a word processor; only a simple text editor (It could have been anything, but I used the free program, TextWrangler). The files are kept in Dropbox where both my co-author, Sherry S Jennings, and I, can edit them; and where Leanpub accesses them to make up the book for the clients.

The special characters are defined by a plain text formatting syntax called Markdown. It is not a word processor, but a system of rules. It is easy and fast to learn.
http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markdown

Just today, I stumbled across Fountain — “Fountain allows you to write screenplays in any text editor on any device. Because it’s just text, it’s portable and future-proof.” http://fountain.io/. This is another use of Markdown. As you probably know, the formatting of screenplays is strictly conventional and there are expensive word processors to facilitate achieving the perfect format. Here, again, with Fountain, there are a few rules to learn, and then the writer can just focus on writing.

Free, fast, easy to learn — and when used with Google Drive or Dropbox, these protocols can facilitate collaborative projects.

At this point, I don’t have a conclusion… except to say that people are using these tools, and you might find that Markdown will have a place in your future.

If I have not been blogging lately…

The Worthy Organization by Robert J Ballantyne and Sherry S Jennings

The Worthy Organization by Robert J Ballantyne and Sherry S Jennings

…it is because I’ve been working on a book. It is called The Worthy Organization, and it is for anyone who wants to grow, found, or revitalize an association, society, club, group or project.

It is now launched, and available at Leanpub – the e-book publisher.

We’ve also created a new WordPress site for the book.

Even indoors, it feels like spring — clivia

The old clivia awakes

The Clivia decides it is time to bloom again

The clivia decides it is time to bloom again

Red Heather Snow

It has been a poor winter for local backcountry skiing. Recently there was some cold rain at sea level, and we hoped it would be snow above 3 thousand feet. The Diamond Head Parking Lot in Garibaldi Provincial Park is at the top of a 16 km rough mountain road that begins in the port town of Squamish. The trailhead is at 3200 feet (975 m). On Sunday, March 30, there was a couple of inches of new snow at the parking lot; and while we assembled our gear the precipitation alternated between snow and sleet. As soon as we climbed only a short distance, there was no more rain, just snowfall.

The trail was once a jeep track, so it proceeds upward at a mellow angle through high altitude old-growth forest for 4.5 km to the Red Heather Hut (1400 m). Amazingly, the depth of the new snow around the hut was over 40 cm.

Above the hut there are vast meadows and glades. And some bumps suitable for skiing. When it was time to go, we pointed our skis down the trail and skied continuously for 5 km. Well, I stopped a few times for thigh-breaks.

The old Montreal Centre, RASC, observatory

I was watching the charming movie, Helicopter Canada, made in 1966 by the National Film Board to celebrate the upcoming National Centennial.
https://www.nfb.ca/film/helicopter_canada

In a brief scene showing Molson’s Stadium on Mount Royal, at the top of University Street on the McGill campus, I spotted the little observatory of the Montreal Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. http://goo.gl/maps/Akxi6

The observatory is gone now. It is where I spent many evenings during the mid-sixties. There, I learned astronomy from the wonderful members of the RASC. And that led to a 20-year career in planetariums.
Old Montreal Centre, RASC, observatory on Mount Royal

Edited to add: Searching on the Internet, I found a picture of the 6-inch refractor that was housed in the observatory’s dome. I remember it was an accomplishment for me to be trusted to open the observatory and navigate the sky with that instrument. The image is posted at the site of Geof Gaherty, who in the 60s, was older than me and one of the Montreal Centre’s most accomplished amateur astronomers. Click here for the picture.


Robert's professional sites:
Ballantyne and Associates
Governing

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