February 3, 2008

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Upcoming events

image My proposal was accepted at an IBM conference on best practices! I’m thrilled to have all these opportunities to share what I’m learning and to learn even more from other people. It’s a little mindboggling dealing with all of this as an early-career employee with less than half a year on the job, but I know from personal experience just how wonderful public speaking is when it comes to networking and connecting with people.

I’ll need to work extra hard to balance all these conferences with paying work, and to show the business value of all of that. It’s a bit of a challenge in the consulting world where we’re supposed to maximize our utilization, but maybe it will work out well.

To help keep track of all the conferences, articles, and other significant events on my horizon, I’ve added an upcoming events widget below the calendar on my blog. I used MagpieRSS and PHP to read the XML file from Google Calendar, and I did a little regular expression magic to get just the dates and locations. Maybe you’ll find it useful too!

Business responsibilities come first. If my clients aren’t happy, I may just have to pull out of some of the conferences. I think everything will work out, though, and the conferences will help me bring even more value to my client work!

Chapter 7: Managing Your Notes in Emacs – done!

By golly, it’s starting to look like a book.

I just finished putting together my third chapter, which is really chapter 7 in the book: managing your notes and Emacs. This chapter is about taking notes in Emacs, focusing on Remember, Org, Planner, and blogs. At 38 pages, it’s a little over my planned 35 pages, and I haven’t even covered all the things that I wanted to like random information management with Howm, blogging to Blosxom, and customizing Planner templates. Maybe after some really fierce copy-editing, I’ll have some space.

I sent a copy off to my editor, and I just finished uploading a PDF and OpenOffice.org document that you can download and read. There’s also an HTML version, but the formatting is a little wonky. I hope you find this useful! I didn’t blog as much of this as I did last time, so I missed out on all the wonderful feedback people could’ve given me. I’ll do that next chapter.

I formatted most of the chapter this afternoon, hanging out with Leigh Honeywell, Seth Hardy, and a few other geeks at the Linux Caffe. Leigh’s working on a book proposal, and we’re thinking of organizing a writing group for technical authors. We’ll start by meeting this Thursday at Leigh’s apartment. iI enjoyed chatting with them as I worked on my book, drifting in and out of conversations. I think it would be a good idea to work somewhere quieter, with plenty of table room for assorted gadgets, but this was a good start.

Next chapter: contact management in Emacs. I’ve got a lot of fun hacks that I want to share here, so coming up with material shouldn’t be hard. I’ll keep you posted!

(UPDATE: Fixed links. Thanks to Leschinsky Oleg for pointing that out!)

Library Elf is awesome


When I blogged about my totally small-school library reminder script, Claudine recommended Library Elf, which helps people manage their library loans. I hopped over and set weekly reminders to go out on Sunday, just before my Monday book runs. I just got my first reminder e-mail from them, and I am impressed. C’mon. Look at that screenshot. It tells me when books are due and when my holds expire. If I hover over the links, I can see which books they are. The lists of holds ready for pickup and books that are checked out are sorted by date, which makes perfect sense. I can add W-’s library card and track his books as well. =)

Awesome awesome awesome.

I so rock =)

I have about 41 pages for my current chapter on taking notes in Emacs, and I still have to write the introduction and wrap-up sections. This means that I’ll need to do some more editing. It’s clearly time to apply another piece of advice from the wonderful book How to Write Fast (While Writing Well), by David Fryxell: don’t over-write, because the time you waste writing more than necessary and then editing down to the required length could be spent writing about something else!

I also rock because I’m getting the hang of writing macros for OpenOffice.org. Basic is not my favorite language and OpenOffice.org macro programming is sufficiently obscure that it’s hard to find examples of what I want to do. OOoMacros.org helped me learn enough to write a few more functions to make my writing life better. I wrote two new functions today: one to mark up wingdings in my code, and another to mark up the source code examples. Both save me lots of tedious work. The wingding function replaced all instances of (1), ;; (1), (2), ;; (2), until (9) and ;; (9) with the corresponding wingding. The example function marked up everything enclosed in <example>..</example> tags, formatting the first and last lines in a different style and using a single-line code style for short examples. Between that and the two functions I’d previously written to format about 80% of my command and keyboard shortcuts, editing is just so much better.

It seems that most people don’t tinker with their tools. I like doing so. I like getting to know what I can do with a tool and how far I can push it. This can be frustrating sometimes (I spent all afternoon trying to get Emacs to play nicely with other weblogs!), but most of the time, it’s both fun and useful. Not only am I saving myself time, I’m also exercising my brain and opening opportunities for other hacks down the line. This is good.

Oh! And W- is giving Ledger a try. The tool he’d been using to keep track of finances dropped some more of his data recently. Because it’s all magic inside, he couldn’t figure out what happened. I’d been going on about how awesome Ledger is, this command-line double-entry accounting tool that provides no bells or whistles but with which I can do all sorts of crazy things. He described how he wanted to budget, and I showed him how to do it. No screencast, but I do plan to review the audio and create some supporting materials for my upcoming article on Ledger and Gnuplot.

Life is good. =)