Dragon Dictate 4 is fast.

Nuance has released Dragon Dictate 4. I am pleased with this update, despite my misgivings. The speech recognition is much faster than it has been in the past. I am not left wondering if what I’m going to say will be translated or not. The last two updates of Dragon Dictate were good but just not spectacular. So, when I was downloading Dragon Dictate 4 I found myself holding my breath.

I was wondering if this things could even work. Dragon Dictate has never been my favorite programs to use. I had incredible hard time initially setting it up, because my AirPort extreme caused interference with the USB headset. This was a program that I had a lot of hangups and shutdowns. With each new version, there have been some incremental improvements. But, the speed of translation has always left me wanting.

However, with this new version, the dream of a near instantaneous voice-recognition has been almost realized. Now, of course there are some problems with recognition of a non-English words. This particular version of Dragon also seems to hang up on its training window. Also although I can activate the program, I cannot seem to get it registered. But, this is the best version yet. I can use his program in real time, without having to wait for a translation. I did try the transcription feature, but that failed miserably. I suspect this has more to do with the recording rather than the technical ability of the program but I would have to explore this feature further.

Markdown for General Writing

Author, David Hewson has written a post about using Markdownfor general writing.


Definitions

The title of the post is “Markdown: For general writing I really don’t get it”. But, Hewson later qualifies this.

OK. Stop the shrieking. I’m not saying that Markdown is, unlike IA Writer Pro, rubbish. It’s actually a very capable invention. Just one that’s not made to be used for creative writing.

In spite of the inflammatory title and prose, I have to agree in part with this sentiment. Markdown might not have much benefit for the purely creative writer(Fountain is another story though). Writing in plain text will not make you more creative than writing in rich text.

But, to me general writing encompasses more than creative writing. When I write I want to be able to define headings, bullet points, lists and footnotes quickly.

Hewson misses the point by disparaging the time it takes to type markup for bold and italics…

Formatting

Most Markdown editors do actually format text too. So you get the italic styling and the marks as well. Plus, if you type out the marks instead of using keyboard shortcuts, you do more work for some — four keystrokes for bold and six for bold italic, against two and four keyboard combinations. And if you’re using keyboard combinations… what’s the difference anyway? You might as well be in a real text editor such as Scrivener or Word.

Why is it better to write in Markdown than using the standard formatting shortcuts we’ve all learned over the years? No really… why?

If all I wanted to do was bold and italics , Markdown would be overkill. This is where a markup language outshines WYSIWYG. I can define these things much quicker with markup rather than a laborious trip to the menu bar to find some obscure item to accomplish the task.

I suppose I would eventually learn the keyboard shortcuts for that particular editor to learn footnotes etc… but with markdown, I can use my knowledge in any text editor without having to worry about program specific keyboard shortcuts. I can also write using my iPad without having to worry about syncing issues or being tied once again to one specific editor.

Cool factor

The trouble is fashion — and nothing else — has now dictated that it’s cool to use Markdown as a general word processor too. That stripping out conventional text formatting — the kind you see in uncool but universal apps such as Microsoft Word — somehow unlocks the creative process by removing the supposed distraction of WYSIWYG.

I do not use markdown because it it “cool”. I use it for it speed, consistency and ubiquity. For me this means the ability to use multiple editors for the same text. Markup is faster that a trip to the menu bar and if there is a problem with formatting, I can see where things have gone wrong and correct them as opposed to madly deleting unseen returns and hoping for the best.

Rich Text

Books are read in rich text — and for most of us that’s surely how they’re best written.
And when you come to deliver your manuscript to an agent or a publisher they will, I promise, shriek if you go all geek on them and say you’d like to deliver it in any other format than Word. So if you write in Markdown you have to export it to rich text anyway.

Sometimes, I like to write in one font and print in another. Some fonts just look better on the screen. Markdown makes the option available. To be fair so do good text editors like Scrivener.

I have never submitted anything to a publisher, but markdown to rich text conversion very easy, using any competent markdown editor. In addition you have the option of exporting to Latex, Word, ePub, Open Office etc…

Writing in plain text will not improve your creativity. But, I think that assuming

Markdown was never meant as a replacement for an industrial strength word processor. It’s a superb minimal markup language for people dealing in computer code or writing for the web

is too narrow a focus. Markdown has great application for general writing. I suspect that most people do not need the bloat (power?) of MS word for their day to day writing.

I suspect I am on the losing end of the argument because WYSIWYG makes things look like typing on paper. There is more of a learning curve initially with Markdown, but what you have to learn is some basic syntax. The biggest stumbling block is wrapping your head around markup as opposed to WYSIWYG.

I can write things faster in markdown than in a WYSIWYG editor because I do not have to rely on style to define headings, bullet points or footnotes. The words I type are potentially readable for generations because they are in plain text( I am not dependent on MS Word maintaining backward compatibility). If I write in markdown, I am not restricted to an editor, device or operating system and I do not have compatibility issues.

Markdown has application outside of writing for the web in spite of what Hewson contends. If you are interested some great applications that are useful are:

Transcribing Audio

The problem

I have been trying to transcribe an extended interview. It had been annoying, playing ,stopping and transcribing. Then “rewinding “to the parts that I missed . The constant shifting from keyboard to mouse was slow, repetitive and annoying.

The solution

The solution was using VLC, which has keyboard control. The second step was using keyboard maestro to configure keys for playback,rewind and fast forward. This way I can control VLC without having to switch fous to it.

I can now, play the file, pause and continue my dictation or transcribing without having to touch the mouse or switch focus to VLC.

Lee Valley Tools

We visited Lee Valley Tools yesterday. It is a shop that specializes in woodworking instrument’s and gardening. It reminded me of the old Consumers Distribiting stores, with its catalog based ordering. You had to look in the catalog, write down the product numbers, and take it to the counter for the person to check to see if they had it in stock.

I liked the atmosphere of the store. The first thing we saw was a pumpkin carver and several carved pumpkins. There were no sales people asking if we had found what we were looking for.

Best of all there was nobody under 40 on staff.

Search for the Perfect (Homemade) Pizza

The quest for the perfect homemade pizza has taken
a few years. The home made crust that I had been making were sadly
too hard. For a few years we made do with pre-made crusts from
Superstore. This was okay and better than any frozen pizzas, but
still not satisfactory. Then I found this
recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1
    Tablespoon olive oil or melted butter
  • 2
    Tablespoon Sucanat (or granulated sweetener of your choice)-I use
    sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon dry active yeast
  • 1/2
    teaspoon each of basil, oregano, and garlic powder (optional, but
    make for an even more flavorful crust)
  • 2 3/4
    cups flour (see note above. If using 100% whole wheat, try adding a
    pinch of citric acid and/or ginger to help soften the

Flour

This was a great
start but my first attempt was less than spectacular. I had mixed
all the ingredients in the bread machine. Once I began hand mixing,
I realized that the amount of flour that was called for was too
much. For whatever reason if I followed the recommended amounts of
flour for any baking recipe , I would get a hard unyielding dough.
By putting in 25 % less flour I would get a softer more pliable
dough. I suspect this has something do do with the hard water or
our altitude.(In Edmonton ).

Mix the the
yeast,sugar and warm water in a bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes.
I consider the water to be warm if it is slightly uncomfortable to
my finger but I am able to tolerate it. Mix one cup of flour at a
time. After 2 cups, I then add flour slowly(a sprinkle at a time)
to achieve a soft, pliable , but not sticky dough. Knead the dough for 8 minutes. I let the dough
sit for 1–2 hours before rolling.

Toppings and Pizza Sauce

I find that
cooking the red bell pepers and mushrooms before they are baked
prevents the pizza from getting soggy.

<

p>The pizza
sauce is the most versatile component of the whole recipe. I use
tomato paste as a base. A small can is usually sufficient for one
pizza. I add a teaspoon of vidaloo
paste
, some pepper and mix well. I used to like adding a
small amount of jerk
seasoning to the mix, but it makes for a spicy pizza. l will add
this again once our son is older.

Baking

Oil both sides of the pizza
with olive oil(unless you are using a pizza stone), then bake at
400 for 10 minutes. Put, tomato paste mix, with precooked toppings
, raw onions, and garlic, and grated cheese on the partially baked
pizza . Then bake at 375 for 10–12 minutes.

Michelin Defender Sidewall Cracks

On Monday I discovered that my front right tire was completely flat. I had bought 4 Michelin Defender tires only a year ago. No big deal I thought, probably a nail or something big. When I took the tire in, they found sidewall cracks all around the tire and rubber bits inside.

I was not pleased to discover this as it seems to be an issue with the tire construction rather than a random accident. The tires have handled well, even in the winter and I was pleased with the mileage during the summer. Maybe this was just a freak manufacturing defect. Unfortuneately, other people have run into similar problems.

The good thing was that the defective tire was prorated, so the new one only cost $16. But, I hate the thought of the same thing happening with all the other tires.

Understanding iOS URL Schemes – Opening a specific file in Notesy using Drafts

I have been trying to do some ios automation using Drafts, Lanuch Centre Pro, and Notesy. I have been failing miserably because I have no idea of the format for the whole URL Schemes. Yea, my though was – schemes – that is exactly what it is; I paid good money to do exactly nothing.

I wanted to create an action that would allow me a append text to a specific text file in my Notational Velocity Database. My normal procedure would be to load Notesy, find the note and then type my amazing, enlightened texts. Because when insipiraton strikes, I need to be ready (My other problem is finding inspiration – but in case I do find it I want to be ready).

I have been amazed at the things people automate with ios:

But, I feel that I am on the outside looking in and having no way to join the secret club. Apple does have some documentation on Url Schemes but they make no sense to a non-programmer. This site has a seachable index for Url Schemes. But, once again I am missing some fundemental information.

So I decided to play around to try and create my own url scheme.

Format

The devolopers of Notesy have laid out the available url schemes.


' notesy://x-callback-url/[action]?[x-callback parameters]&[action parameters]'


What the heck does this mean ? No idea but I played with Lanch Centre Pro, which allows you construct a URl scheme bit by bit. Unfortunately, with Drafts, you have to know what you are doing to start with – clearly not the case with me.

notesy://x-callback-url/append?path=Notational%20Data&name=blog&text=[[draft]]

This was the URL scheme I created after much playing around.

notesy://x-callback-url/

notesy://'

Both will open a blank file in the root directory. This was a good start. But, I wanted to open a specific file on Dropbox in my Notational Data folder, called "blog".

Actions

Notesy allows for a few actions:

  • open an existing note (use open action)
  • open to a folder (use open action)
  • send contents of note to another application (use open action with x-success parameter)
  • copy contents of note to the clipboard (use open action)
  • create a new note (use append action)
  • append text to an existing note (use append action)
  • open Notesy to its previous state (use restore action)
  • convert Markdown text to HTML (use render-markdown action)
  • send rendered Markdown to another application (use render-markdown action with x-success parameter)
  • have Notesy open another application after using the append, render-markdown, or open actions

The important actions were:

Open

Append

Since I wanted to add to a file, I chose append. Why is there a question mark after it – don't know, but seems important.

Path

The path describes the location of the file. In iOS, each application is an island. So, it does not matter that the file is on dropbox, Notesy calls it up. If I were accessing a file on the root directory, I would not need a path. But, the file in is the folder : Notational Data.

I found this hard, to figure out, but just typing Notational Data into Launch Centre Pro, the app provided me with the URL. I think this is some really basic information that everybody on the planet knows, except me. Turns out that

path=Notational%20Data

you need to add %20 for spaces in the folder name. If I needed to go deeper in a folder structure:

notesy://x-callback-url/open?path=dir1%2Fdir2

Text

Finally, I wanted to add my enlightened text:

the &text= tells Notesy what text to place in the file . If it is left blank, Notesy will append the clipboard text.

Drafts allows you to add specific things to the file:

  • [[draft]] the body of the amazing text you composed
  • [[title]] the title of this stupendous body of work; this is the first line
  • [[text]] everything except the first line

I hope this article was uselful. There are some amazing tutorials out there, describing some detailed workflows. But, my eye glaze over, because I am lacking in the fundamentals. I feel this way every time I read some detailed workflows at Mac Stories. Sometimes, it is good just to cover the basics and hope not too many people were bored.

Ethical Meat

This story was about the increasing number of hunters wanting to hunt for food.

Kesia Nagata is uncomfortable buying commercially produced meat. “It looks all flabby and grey and not at all appealing,” she says. As a Buddhist-raised, recovering vegetarian, the grisly reality of feed lots, slaughterhouses and the shrink-wrapped denial represented by the neatly packaged meat in her grocery store weighs on her soul.

I want my meat to be grass-finished, and killed as ethically as possible,” she said. “As much as I firmly believe in the necessity of animal protein and saturated fats, the commercial stuff is all toxic.”

B.C. is experiencing a hunting resurgence, fuelled in part by interest from young urbanites like Nagata and her brother, according to hunting instructor Dylan Eyers of Vancouver-based EatWild BC

Apart from the not so subtle anti-vegetarian slant, this article is good. While I believe you can have a good diet without animal protein, understanding – intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually is a lot more honest than buying grocery store meat.

The biggest problem I have with factory meat is the degrading conditions the animal were raised in. The conversion from animals to “meat on the hoof” is also the same mentality that allowed for the gas chambers in Nazi Germany. In hunting for your own meat, you have taken the effort to learn the apporpriate skill, you have seen the animal in the eye and have made a conscious choice to kill it. You know what you are doing at every moment, unlike when you pick up factory meat neatly wrapped in plastic and styrofoam.

There are also places like Polyface farms that are trying to raise animals ethically.  This addresses the other issue. What happens if there is too much demand on natural systems. Raising  and slaughtering domestic animals ethically is another solution. I suspect there would be a greater tendency to support such a system if the full economic cost of our subsidized meat were know or paid.

Another Take on Ulysses 3

The Chandler Blog has a different take on Ulysses 3, which is well worth the read.

Ulysses III puts writing front and center, doing away with the "document" model. Instead, you compose text in "sheets" which can be organized into "groups" (basically folders). A sheet doesn't need a title, though you can add one with a Markdown header. There is an Inbox where you can compose loose bits of text for later organization or just get to writing.

Ulysses III puts writing front and center, doing away with the "document" model. Instead, you compose text in "sheets" which can be organized into "groups" (basically folders). A sheet doesn't need a title, though you can add one with a Markdown header. There is an Inbox where you can compose loose bits of text for later organization or just get to writing.

I must admit, my head is firmly stuck in the document model. I can not really fathom any other way of editing text on a computer. Perhaps this is also a reason why I do not find Drafts for ios useful. I usually have a topic or purpose/application in mind when I start writing.

Jonathan Poritsky, from the Chandler Blog continues with an interesting take on tagging and versions in Ulysses 3. These features did not interest me as much as I rarely use them with Scrivener, but the use of tagging and filters of different sections of his reviews is intriguing .

I'm using filters right now. I've got a few sheets for different sections of this review. Some sheets have the keyword @first-draft attached to them, some have @second-draft and some both. I've got filters limited to my Ulysses Review group for each keyword, so I can view each draft separately. By doing this, I'm able to edit the same sheet in both drafts, which jibes with my brain more than making multiple copies of the same text.

Comparing Ulysses 3 vs Multimarkdown Composer and Byword

I have been playing more with Ulysses 3, Multimarkdown Composer and Byword.

Multimarkdown Composer

  • automatic lists
  • intelligent wrapping
    • I can select text, press a (,[,or< and get the text wrapped in brackets.
  • intelligent paste
    • if I have a url in the clipboard and I select and paste a text, it creates a markdown links with the selected text as the title and the the url as the line
  • support for Multimarkdown – not such a big surprise given the name
  • automatic previewou
  • support for Markdown Services
  • export to LaTeX

Byword

  • looks nicer than Multimarkdown Composer
  • Does not have intelligent pasting
  • Does not have customizable themes
  • Does have intelling wrapping

Ulysses 3

I admit that Ulysses looks gorgeous. I like the way it handles documents and syncing. The potential for having them organized and on iCloud is great. Unfortunately, as an editor it is lacking some helpful features:

  • the lack of automatic lists is disappointing. I can apply a list style to a group of items, but automatics lists are just nice
  • Markdown Services are broken
  • my textexpander snippets outputting standard markdown links are broken
    • the lack of intelligent wrapping and paired brackets is also disappointing
  • no support for Marked yet
  • no typewriter mode support yet
  • I do like the potential markup – comments, highlighting etc…. This is by far the most interesting development for plain text writing. But, at this point, Ulysses does not play well with other text editors. Also, editing functions are limited when editing a plain text file vs a markdown file.
    • with the soon to be incorporated Critic Markup into Multimarkdown Composer, these features may be less useful

Ulysses 3 is a good looking product. It is only at v.1 since it is a complete rethinking of the original Ulysses. But, I wish more time had been taken to make it a better editor. To be fair, I did not use Multimarkdown Composer 1 very much either because if its shortcomings – Byword was the better choice.

I hope Soulmen continue to develop Ulysses 3 at a rapid pace. I would love to have the same power with plain texts and Markdown as I do have with Scrivener.

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