Monday, October 26, 2020

Blogging 1940s-style now gone with the wind


DSC_0360.JPG My grandfather, Harry MacOldie, was a great blogger. He wouldn't have recognised the term of course, but he couldn't resist putting pen to paper. Which is strange, considering he was a grocer with a relatively limited education. He had a good turn of phrase and I would consider him to be a good writer. Maybe this is where I get my writing enthusiasm from. I was a journalist, so I suppose that helps. Grandpa was a fanatical cyclist, stalwart of the Wigan CTC (Cyclists' Touring Club) and an inveterate jotter. I suppose his Sturmey Archer was akin to my Drobo; and he certainly lost no time in telling the world about his exploits, mostly in north Lancashire, the Lake District or north Cheshire. Unfortunately his world was a bit circumscribed. How he would have loved to have had an internet blog. 

Right: Blogging gear, 1943     

I have a collection of beautifully preserved accounts of wartime cycle rides, presumably on deserted roads. Paper was at a premium, probably almost unavailable, and the stories are typed laboriously on stained quarto sheets. They are bound in brown paper and stapled precisely for posterity. He was quite ingenious and obviously had a collection of typewriters to allow different styles. He had one with a smaller, italic font and he would swop his pages from machine to machine to add an emphasis. Some stories have been laboriously typed several times, each version with small improvements.

How far we have come in the last 60 years. Many of these stories were published in the CTC magazine and they convey the scent of the time and illustrate the privations of warfare on the civilian front. They also provide an insight into the life of a grocer who closed early on Wednesdays and thought nothing of riding 60 miles to the Lake District for the afternoon. He had a good sense of humour and one article tells the story of his obsession and love for Lucy who eventually turns out to be a full-size adult tricycle of wayward habits. One of his last contributions was the poignant account of a run to Cheshire on the Sunday after VE day.

Currently I am transcribing these old articles which, if nothing else, have historic and curiosity value. I will get round to posting them and will provide links from here in case anyone is interested. In these days of Twitter, Facebook and unlimited blogging--everyone can now become a publisher--we have lost sight of how primitive things were even 20 years ago. I am old enough to remember the days before computers, before cellphones; the days of carbon paper (remember that? It now exists only in bureaucracies like Greece where the introduction of more computing power would put the paper-form-obsessed Luddite public sector out of work) and mechanical typewriters with black and red fabric ribbons. Now the opportunities are so much greater but, sometimes, we take them for granted.

Getting Things Done (Chapter 1)


I'm an inveterate list maker and I am never happy until I have all my tasks filed away and categorised. As I get older I realise I begin to rely more and more on my reminders and task lists. For new Mac users there's an easy and simple way of keeping track of your tasks built right into iCal. These tasks can be synchronised between computers (for instance by MobileMe) and you can view the lists in Mail. Also, working in Mail, you can create Smart Folders to provide views such as all tasks in a particular calendar or all tasks due today.

If you are a bit more ambitious I would recomment Filemaker Pro's Bento as a way of adding to the rather basic task management capabilities of iCal. The beauty of Bento (apart from the fact that it is a powerful and easy-to-use database in its own right; it's the database for the rest of us) is that it works directly on your iCal tasks data without any need for synchronisation. You can even add fields to your iCal tasks for greater analysis and reporting capabilities. Yet these fields remain in Bento and are not added to the simple items in iCal. Whenever you open Bento they are there.

Bento allows for Smart Groups but with greater customisation of parameters. All in all, it provides a great enhancement and adds great power to the standard iCal offering. I also use Bento for customised databases which are easy to set up--such as an exercise log, a list of books, a packing list. It's really easy to use.

The major drawback of Bento is that there is no iPhone version available. And that's where OmniFocus comes in. It's a very powerful task management system based on the GTD principles of David Allen. GTD is a fascinating concept and needs an item of its own, so watch out for Chapter 2.