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

Death to Bullet Points – maybe

I think this is an oversimplification or over-generalization:

Well written prose is more engaging.  It all depends on context. Are you blogging or giving a presentation?

One of my complaints about many of my teachers at school was that they taught in an unstructured manner. History was the worst. Chemistry was close second.

The problem was that chemistry OUGHT to have been structured. The Periodic table illustrates a potential for that.

As it was, the teacher was at fault. We had to learn lists of seemingly random reactions. At university I met a chemistry student who told me about ‘Reaction Mechanisms’ and I learnt more chemistry from him in an hour than I did at school school in 6 years.

Well structured material can come across OK as bullet lists.But if the presenter doesn’t know his stuff anyway, it doesn’t help.

That’s why I develop my presentations using mind-mapping; hierarchical, ordered, NOT concept maps which just allow anything to anything relationships. If it doesn’t make sense as a hierarchy, a structured ‘taxonomy’, then it won’t make sense as a communication.

That’s not to say that the bullet-list output from a mind-map *WILL* make sense…

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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