Anton Aylward

The Benjamin Franklin Method: How to (Actually) Learn to Write

Cover of The Unix Programming Environment, 1984

Cover of The Unix Programming Environment, 1984
Well, that’s interesting.
I’m not sure I’ve ever learned that way.
I learned to program in C by taking a core dump of the UNIX kernel and reconstructing what the source code must have been with only the header files.  Yes I know about “The White Books”, but lets face it, everyone cheats by downloading the source files rather than typing in the code by hand. Yes, hand re-typing all that code would make you think about it.
The other part of learning C for me was doing maintenance programming.  Somewhere along the line I had to decide “this is abominably ugly code, do I dump it and do a re-write or do I patch it into further unintelligibility?”

Once, reading a book on the history of economics I came across a sentence that ran for a page and a half. Galbraith is an excellent writer, he made his living for a while writing intelligible papers for US politicians. That sentence made perfect sense. I kept meaning to go back, copy it down, de-construct it and see if I could break it up into shorter sentences while maintaining intelligibility. Sadly I never did and I’ve forgotten what book that was. Galbraith loved words. Continue reading

Anton Aylward

What happened to ‘Storybook’?

storybook-iconThis last weekend I started my copy of Storybook 4 Pro and got the message that my pro version is no longer valid, and the software changed back to the free version. I could no longer access the Pro facilities, which included the ability to print and export the work I had done.  It turns out that the internet addresses of do not work any more. It seems that the licensing mechanism ‘calls home” to verify the license and the site being down it can no longer do that.

I’ve tried updating/reinstalling Java and reinstalled Storybook from the zip file. Zilch.

So what is Storybook?

Essentially, the software allows you to organize, track, and chart your book’s characters, locations, plots, and chronology (among other things). The Pro version also lets you chart various plot pieces to ensure that nothing remains unresolved or forgotten.  It lets you keep track of characters and plots and scenes: which characters appear in which scenes and which scenes belong to which plot-lines.

I found it well developed, reliable to use and very comprehensive.  For example, Pro, offers some export and print tools that include .txt, .pdf, .html, .rtf, .odt, and .csv.

I’m sorry its gone.

Now the domain ‘’ is back up, or at least there is a notice there.  Its in German and I’m unsure whether its a ‘for sale’ sign or as some people are saying, a notice that the site has been shut down for unpaid taxes.  So the message when starting Storybook does not appear any more, because the site is up again, but it is not doing the licence verification. Obviously, the software has been discontinued.  I say ‘obviously’ because there is no trace of the source on SourceForge any more.  I’ve tried contacting the author via Google+ but got no response.

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Anton Aylward

“How to …” for the DMC-GF-1

Panasonic have published these excellent “How to ..” guides for the GF-1.
They are a lot clearer than the written manual since they explain a bit of the “what” and “why” behind the various settings, something absent from the manuals.

In my opinion it is still not enough.

How to Use Intellegent Exposure

How to Use Exposure Compensation

How to Understand and use Peripheral Defocus

How to Use Multi Film Mode

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Anton Aylward

August Bank Holiday: The Island

We have various names for the holiday at the beginning of August here in Canada:

Or just plain, boring old “Civic Holiday”.

Back in the UK we were a little less boring and called it the August bank Holiday.  It was another excuse for the banks to shut.  In England the banks always seemed to be shut in the days of my youth.

But somewhere along the line it turned into a joke.   Some people say it was because of the TV comedy The Goodies, other blame Monty Python.   But the idea is that this day falls somewhere approximately half way between Easter and Christmas, so, since there is an Easter Island and a Christmas Island, there ought to be a August bank Holiday Island.

And like so much of fiction it has developed its own sort of reality on the net.

But no, what kind of  country is it?  Is it a “Fascist Authoritarian State”, a “Democratic Free Nation”, an “Inoffensive Centrist Democracy”, communist, facist?  What kind of economy does it have?  They can’t seem to make up their minds.

Enquiring minds want to know …


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Anton Aylward

Dumbing Us Down

There is a maxim attributed to the Jesuits that goes: “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man”, meaning that the childhood years are formative. More ancient philosophies going back to to the Greeks and Chinese voice a similar outlook. Modern psychology, thanks in large part to Freud, supports this outlook.

I want to show how the bad stuff we learn at school harms us as individuals, in our relationships, in the workplace and how it damages society as a whole.

So its frightening when that principle is used for subversive ends. We feel horrified when we hear of children being recruited by rebels and terrorists in Africa and the Middle East, being armed with automatic weapons or being used as involuntary human bombs. What frightens us most, perhaps, is that their minds and outlook are being perverted, just as in another age children living in totalitarian societies were encouraged to “report” the “subversive” activities of their parents and other adults.

We, especially in the contemporary West, value our children and their innocence. We take the view that crimes against children, exploiting them or abusing them is particularly pernicious.

Why then, asks John Taylor Gatto, do we do so systematically, and have this deeply embedded in our culture and educational system? Gatto has written books and essays on this subject. The essay you can read on-line, the book is worth reading in its own right. Continue reading

Anton Aylward

Kansas Outlaws Evolution, “No Species Exempt”

If you are not familiar with The Onion then this report may come as a surprise to you.

Kansas lawmakers passed emergency legislation outlawing evolution, the highly controversial process responsible for the development and diversity of species and the continued survival of all life.

It reminds you of the laws defining the value if Pi, doesn’t it? Continue reading

Anton Aylward

Are you a Dummy or an Idiot?

There are a few axioms in business, sales and marketing.
Up there at the top is something of the order of “treat your customers with respect.
For many, this starts at “hang up the phone before you start swearing at them”, but the principle is more universal. Its a variation of the idea of “The customer is always right” that one famous department store owner – or other – brought into the vernacular.

Along with such truisms goes the idea in marking that something new and dramatic will grab the customer’s attention.

Which has led to an interesting paradox. There is a line of books that is predicated on the assumption that telling the reader — the customer — that they are ignorant. Continue reading

Anton Aylward

How the Celts are Responsible For Everything

Cover of "How the Irish Saved Civilizatio...

Cover of "How the Scots Invented the Mode...

These two books look like they go hand in hand, but actually they tell very different stories in very different ways about very different things. One might say that they also reflect the troubles between the two Celtic heritages in Northern Ireland today, but that would be stretching the matter.

Cahill’s book originally came out in hardcover in 1995. I have the trade paperback which came out in 1996. It has full colour front plates and 8 pages of photographs as well as many in-line illustration and maps. It is about two-thirds (218 pages of text) the thickness of Arthur Herman’s book (429 pages of text) in paperback, and therein lies part of the point of this review. Continue reading