Growl Support for OPML Editor

From blogs.tedchoward.com.

I’ve been privilaged to be part of a bootstrapping comminuty using a collaboration tool called an Instant Outliner. It’s an interesting tool built around the concept of a shared outline. I’ll probably write more about this at some point, but for now I have one specific point I want to talk about.

When the outine is updated, the computer beeps, and the person’s node that updated is bolded. This works fine when I’m at home and at my computer. But when I’m at work, I often have the volume down and the outline in the background. I found myself wanting a visual notification of some sort when the outline updated.

I’m on a Mac, so the obvious solution is to use Growl.

Like all the other tools for this community, the Instant Outliner is built on top of the OPML Editor, which I have previously described as a Swiss Army Knife. If I want Growl notifications for my Instant Outline updates, the OPML Editor needs to know how to talk to Growl. So, I wrote a tool.

Growl.root adds support for sending Growl notifications from scripts written in the OPML Editor. There are basically 2 verbs (OPML-speak for functions) that you need to care about.

growlSuite.newNotification(title, enabled) will tell Growl about a type of notification I want to send. For the instant outliner I would execute:

growlSuite.newNotification("Instant Outliner", true)

growlSuite.sendNotification(name, title, description) will actually send the notification. The first parameter(name) must match a notification type from the previous verb. The second parameter is the title of the notification and the third parameter is the text of the notification. To notify that I updated my outline I would execute:

growlSuite.sendNotification("Instant Outliner", "tedhoward", "Guys, check out my new growl scripts")

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you can download growl.root here.

Shower Thinking

From blogs.tedchoward.com.

Have you ever noticed that you get some of your best thinking done in the shower? I certainly do. Some of my best and worst (i.e most creative) ideas have come to me in the shower. Often I will come up with a solution to a problem I spent the pervious day struggling with while taking my morning shower.

A picture named shower-th.gifWhat is it about the shower that brings me to such a level of clarity? Is it the all the steam? It it the water? the soap? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. It occured to me that when I’m in the shower, I am not consuming any outside information. In the shower I have no TV, radio, books, podcasts, web sites, etc. It’s just me and my thoughts. The only other time when this is true is when I’m in bed trying to fall asleep. When I’m in the shower, Im trying to wake my mind up, and with nothing to fill it, it begins processing the information it already has.

Maybe the magic of the shower is simply the fact that I can’t bring anything else into it with me. It’s just me and my thoughts. I wonder what it would do to my life to take more time out of the day to just think. No reading, watching or listening. Just thinking, and maybe some writing. How big of a difference could this make? I guess I’ll have to think about it.

Do you set aside any time each day just for thinking?

BTW: The idea for this post came to me this morning in the shower.

Giving Up Television

From blogs.tedchoward.com.

Almost a year and a half ago, I took the Zen TV Experiment and wrote about my experience. For the first time, this caused me to really evaluate the position of television in my life and question its value. It also caused be to be aware of the tricks that TV uses and the effects it has on me when I watch it.

The immediate aftermath of this was a conversation with Megan where we decided to no longer eat our meals in front of the TV. It was a great improvement. It also started a series of events that resulted in us watching less and less tv over time. We would have these moments where we’d go through our season passes on the TiVo and eliminate shows for various reasons. I also resolved to only watch TV on purpose. In other words, I would only watch shows that I wanted to watch, I wouldn’t just sit down to “watch something”.

This past month, Megan decided to give up TV for lent. She went through a similar transformation of thought on the value of TV and it’s place in our life. She too is resolved to watch less and be more purposeful about it. And then we come to last night.

Yesterday was Easter; lent is over. Now that Megan is “allowed” to watch TV again, we had some decisions to make. We turned on the TiVo and looked at the list of recorded shows for the first time in six weeks. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much there. Several episodes of the Oprah show, The Office, 30 Rock and The Chicago Code. Having not watched any TV for six weeks, we are faced with the question: “Are any of these shows worth the time it takes to watch them?”

Not watching TV has freed us to do so much more with our evenings. Megan has become a fairly prolific blogger. We’ve both read several books. We’ve had some deep, meaningful conversations, played some games, had people over, gone out, worked on side projects. Which of these things are we willing to give up to watch a TV show?

It’s a difficult question, because the shows we watch together (I don’t watch Oprah) are really good shows. We really enjoy watching them (most of the time). But are they worth the half-hour every week commitment?

Last night we decided to quit watching The Chicago Code. It’s a fairly new show, and it’s off to a pretty decent start, but neither one of us is heavily invested in it. That left The Office and 30 Rock. We decided to table the discussion for later. We may finish out the season and then be done with them (especially since Steve Carell is leaving after this year).

Once we quit watching those shows, do we still need the TiVo? Do we still need the TV? It takes up a lot of room in our living room. These are questions that we will have to answer over time.

Could you give up watching television? Have you taken the plunge? What was it like?

Links of Note for March 8, 2011

From the link blog:

  • URL Hunter game takes place entirely in your browser’s address bar, courtesy of HTML5. engadget.com
  • Can’t update really old rubygems 1.0.1 on Mac OS X Server 10.5 – Geoff Coffey’s Posterous. gwcoffey.posterous.com
  • How to use the new host-a-website feature on S3. scripting.com
  • Airport ‘Nude’ Body Scanners: Are They Effective? The Government Accountability Office — Congress’ investigative arm — concluded in a report last year that AIT scanners might well not have found the explosives concealed in the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
  • White Rock Local Market returns this Saturday.pegasusnews.com
  • Apparently spell checkers were included in the President’s budget cuts. curry.com
  • Leading Off (3/8/11). Leading Off Is DMN-Free Today. Finally, if you didn’t notice, your favorite early morning FrontBurner feature was compiled today without use of the Dallas Morning News, whose paywall was officially erected this morning. I think we can all agree — subscribers and non-subscribers alike — that the phrase “officially erected” makes us a feel just a little uncomfortable.
  • Our mayor just sued the city to cover up the release of an embarrassing police report. When’s that election again? blogs.dallasobserver.com
  • Chefs for Farmers dinner at Highland Park Cafeteria benefits Family Place. Some of the best chefs in Dallas are teaming up with their favorite farmers to bring a cafeteria-style Chefs for Farmers dinner at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 13.

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Links of Note for March 7, 2011

From my new link blog:

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Looking to Scripture to Shape Christian Community

Many strategists within the church are asking for paradigm shifts in our organizational life. But the paradigms they recommend are primarily those found in the business world. We should rather be searching the Scriptures with an open mind, uncluttered by preconceived notions, to see whether we have lost some of its teachings on community life. The Scriptures are usually used today not to derive truth but to reinforce or illustrate truth derived from secular management studies.
–Ajith Fernando: NIV Application Commentary on Acts

Disconnecting

We live in a very connected world. In my lifetime, we’ve gone from people only having phones at home to everybody carrying a cell phone. Half of the cell phones out there are smartphones which allow you to not only make and receive phone calls and exchange text messages, but you can also connect via email, Twitter, Facebook, and a long list of other “social” networks.

As a technology enthusiast, I’ve been an early adopter of these new ways to communicate. I’ve maintained a personal website since the late 90s. I think I had a livejournal sometime around 2002 and a MySpace some time after that. I joined Facebook in 2005 and Twitter in 2007. I also signed up for many of the now defunct (but superior) Twitter competitors (Pownce, Jaiku, etc.). I’ve used Brightkite, Foursquare, Gowalla, Google Latitude and other more “location-centric” networks.

When apps came to the iPhone in 2008, many of these networks became instantly accessible to me wherever I was. When push notifications came along, I became accessible to those services wherever I was.

It’s really quite incredible. The moment someone mentions my name on Twitter or posts to Facebook or checks in at a restaurant near me or sends an email to my Gmail, I’m notified. In some cases I can receive up to three notifications: my iPhone, my iPad, and my laptop. When breaking news happens, I can know immediately. Remember when the plane landed in the Hudson? We all had pictures of it on Twitter before the TV news reports even began.

And so, enamored with the apparent ability to know everything as it happens, I continued to sign up for more and more services with phone apps that can push information directly to me so that the incoming stream of information is so much that I can no longer process it. A great example of this is the new Twitter Mac app that has a live feed from Twitter. Every one or two seconds, a few more tweets scroll by. Not so fast that I can’t read them all, but fast enough that I could sit and read it all day and do nothing else. I realize that in my eagerness to embrace this connected future, I never bothered to step back and question whether this is a good thing.

Yes, I can be connected and notified immediately when anything happens, but do I want to be? The more I think about that question, the more convinced I become that this level of connectedness is more harmful than it is helpful. Last week, I turned push email off on both my iPhone and my iPad. Now, if I want to read email I have to go to my computer and check it. I’ve discovered that I haven’t missed much. I’ve also been distracted less than normal, which is nice. I’m now looking at other ways of continuing this trend.

I don’t want to completely unplug, but I definitely want to reduce the noise coming in, so that I can focus more on things that actually matter. I think a reduction of Twitter followers may be next. We’l see. I plan to chronicle my experiences here, so, if you care, stay tuned.

Ode to the Fair

The other day, when the air turned cool, I had the thought: “This is Fair weather!”  My husband, Ted, and I practically live at Fair Park for those 24 days of the Great State Fair of Texas.  People are always surprised by how often we go, saying things like, “There can’t be that much to do,” or “It’s the same every year!”  I dispute the first statement:  there is plenty to do.  The second statement is mostly true, but, I also think that is one of the reasons I love it so much.  When I breathe in the fried grease mixed with smells from the livestock pavilion, see Big Tex waving his hand and booming out a Hello, it’s like visiting a good friend you only see once a year.

Every year, Ted and I take off Friday to go to the Fair on Opening Day.  There’s nothing quite like beginning a celebration – and we definitely don’t want to miss it.  Most people think the Fair is only vomit-inducing rides and rip-off Midway games – but it is so much more.  Ted and I hardly spend any time on the Midway.  We don’t have time!  There are the pig races to see and the butter sculpture to ogle. The Vitamix demonstrations and the car show.  Open museums with new exhibits and African acrobats defying gravity.  Cooking shows to watch and searching for friends’ award-winning jellies in the Creative Arts building.  And the food – the glorious, decadent, completely unhealthy but totally worth it food.

If we did nothing else at the Fair but eat, I would be a happy woman.  I first have a round of all my favorites:  fried green tomatoes, a cinnamon roll (admittedly, I will have more than one round of this particular item), a barbecue sandwich from Smokey Johns, and my new favorite:  fried shrimp corny dog.  We, of course, must try all the new foods, especially the award winners.  Fried Frito Pie, here I come!  But sometimes the food vendors get a little too creative and come up with something I can’t stomach.  Sorry, Fried Beer, I won’t be tasting you this year.   However, last year’s most creative prizewinner, Fried Butter, was a surprising dose of comfort food.  I wish we could try every single food item, but alas, even attending all 24 days would not allow us to try them all.

The real joy of the fair is just soaking up the atmosphere.  The Fair, for us, isn’t so much a place to do as it is to be.  It’s a showcase of Texas culture and our exuberance for doing things BIG.  Everyone is here to have a good time, suspending any dower thoughts or harsh realities.  How can you frown while watching a hawk shoot out of the top of the Texas Star (the giant Ferris Wheel, for those of you squares who don’t know) and race above your head to the stage upfront – all while eating a corny dog and a Lemon Chill?

Sometimes the majesty of the fair can be too much.  The crowds are massive and the constant sun exhausting.  But even at the fair, there are places of reflective quiet.  After an exciting day of walking 9 times around the park and eating more in a day than I do in a week, I find solace in a little known spot – The Texas Discovery Gardens.  When the day is just turning into the first shadow of night, we’ll find a bench near the fountain to watch the casual butterfly float by.  We rest our tired feet and feel the cool mist from the fountain on our sunburned skin.  We talk over the day, the food we’ve had, the shows we watched, and the friends we unexpectedly ran into (which always seems to happen).  We sit and we remember, savoring the day, and feeling just a little sad that only 23 days are left.