| February 6, 2012 12:26 am

Grandpa Stillman-2011-0205-6Note: This past week, my grandfather passed away. This is his obituary. I’m publishing it here because I loved my grandfather and I think he should be commemorated.

Charles Robert Stillman (Bob) passed away on January 31, 2012 surrounded by his family and friends following a short, but courageous, battle with cancer.

Bob was born August 29, 1924 to Garrie Wayne and Florence Stillman in East Millcreek. He graduated from Granite High School and the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946 as a medic in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. His brother Richard, a pilot, lost his life in the same war.

Bob married his college sweetheart, June Clark, on November 3, 1950. They were married for 60 years prior to her passing in the Spring of 2010. They have two beautiful daughters, Susan and Wendy Oakes (Gene) and four grandchildren, Robert (Marie), Rachelle, Jordan, and Tyler. He is survived by two sisters, Frances Fehr and Marilyn Stillman, and preceded in death by his brothers, Garrie and Richard.

Grandpa Stillman-2011-0205-47

Bob joined his father in the family business, Standard Supply Company, in 1946. He loved his work at Standard Supply. He enjoyed spending time at the office, visiting with clients, working with the staff, and enjoying the success of his lifelong efforts. He was at his desk just a few weeks prior to his passing. He shared a tremendous bond of friendship with his colleagues at Standard Supply and considered them to be members of his extended family.Grandpa Stillman-2011-0205-32

Bob loved being out of doors. He was an avid sportsman and fisherman who tied his own flies, filled his own shells, and actively helped to manage the family duck club. He was happiest when on the water or in the wild with family and friends.

His other great passion was golf. He came to the game late in life, at age 50, but played for over 35 years. He was a lifetime member of the Alpine Country Club and a founding member of Bloomington Country Club. He enjoyed every aspect of game, except for the sand and water hazards, and even made his own golf clubs.Grandpa Stillman-2011-0205-58

It was in his avocation as loving father and doting grandfather that he was happiest, though. He was loved tremendously and will be missed greatly.

 | February 1, 2012 11:06 pm

In this series, we’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve looked at the basics of Subversion and talked about why you might want to use it for a writing project. We examined some of the advanced features, and how to dive into the history of your work. Then, we detailed how Subversion can be used for collaboration: the way locks help writers to own their ideas, how the log facilitates communication, and the way in which branches help to prepare drafts for review.

There is really only one thing left to talk about: conflicts, errors, and their resolution.

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 | January 30, 2012 2:30 pm

When I started talking about the ways which SVN can enable collaboration, my goal was to show how you can replicate some of the best features of a paper based workflow and then supplement them with the power of digital tools. We’ve already looked at some techniques for doing this, using file locks to promote idea ownership and leveraging the SVN log for communications. In this article, we’ll take a look at one more feature that makes it easier to work with others: using SVN snapshots (or branches) to facilitate the review of your work.

Here, I want to reiterate one important point: creating drafts that can be consumed by others is extremely important. It forces you as an author to find break points where you can send something definitive. Finding these points, where you can draw a line in the sand and say “draft …”,  causes you to solidify your thinking and take an important step toward completion. You may end up throwing the whole thing away because it was ineffectual, but that doesn’t mean the exercise was futile. The process of creating something, a draft, is an enormous step toward completion.  You’ll likely take many such steps, but each one results in a better manuscript.

SVN branches can be a huge help in drawing your lines in the sand.

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 | January 27, 2012 2:30 pm

After reading the previous article, you may have the impression that I think collaborative writing is a bad thing. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. When you write with others:

  • it’s possible to distribute tasks according to individual strengths, meaning that the finished product will (probably) be more than a sum of the parts
  • brainstorming is more effective, more people means more ideas
  • not only will you have more ideas, but as you discuss, challenge, and research the topic amongst the group, you will have different ideas than you might develop on your own
  • having many people working on a project gives it energy and focus, which is tremendously helpful upon entering the hinterland of any project commonly known as “middle”

Collaboration is good, but it is also complicated. It takes a great deal of work for a collaborative project to be success. You have to balance competing needs against one another. On the one hand, it is really important to provide an author the freedom and space required to own her ideas. At the same time, though, you need to make sure that everyone is clearly communicating about the project and where it is headed.

Making sure that everyone is on the same page and that efforts are coordinated is a complex challenge. It requires meaningful discussion happens; establishing a system for sharing documents and knowledge; and that goals, scope, audience, and purpose of the project are well defined. In many ways it shares much in common with another complex endeavor, coordinating the care of a medical patient.

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 | January 25, 2012 8:21 pm

Though they are wonderful tools that have transformed how we live and work, computers also cause about as many problems as they solve. We can see these problems in the way that work has crept into our private time via email; in the ways teenagers choose to socialize with their peers via text messaging and social networks, often to the exclusion of the world around them (and parents); and in the way that we prepare the written drafts of our work.

In each case, these problems aren’t the result of malicious intent. Rather, they were unforeseen consequences of a transformative technology. When it was originally developed, email was a great way to quickly exchange letters with friends and colleagues. Its original designers never intended it to become the way in which a large number of people organize their daily lives. Nor was the introduction of text messaging or social networks meant to cause teenagers (or adults) to socially withdraw into an online world, but to provide an efficient and convenient way to keep people connected. This is also true in the changes that word processors and communications software have brought to the process of writing.

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 | January 24, 2012 7:00 pm

If you’ve read parts one and two of this series, you should now have a pretty good understanding as to what version control is and how it can benefit you. You’ve seen how it can be used to keep a backup of your files, synchronize your work between computers, and ensure that you will never suffer the panic of losing your work.

But that’s really only the beginning. Hopefully, you’ve taken things to the next level and feel comfortable digging into the revision history to look at past drafts, make comparisons between documents, or to see how your work has evolved.

Mastering the basics of version control, followed by the finer points, is a fantastic way to be more productive as a writer. By relegating the job of backup and synchronization to a tool, you can spend more time actually writing (and who doesn’t want that). Having the ability to look at how you’re writing has evolved can make you more thoughtful. Both are powerful additions to the scrivener’s arsenal. If you can believe, it though, there is yet another level which allows Subversion to be even more helpful: using it to work collaboratively.

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 | January 20, 2012 4:30 pm

In the last article in this series, we looked at a few of the features that version control (specifically Subversion) offers to a writer, coder, or editor. These benefits include the ability to track all of the changes made to a file in a project, synchronize your work between different computers, and automatically ensure that everything is backed up. But though these are invaluable contributions to a writer’s workflow, they only scratch the surface of what Subversion is capable of doing.

In the next few posts, I would like to dive a bit deeper and take a look at a few of Subversion’s more advanced features, such as:

  • How to compare newer changes to older versions of a file
  • How to use Subversion’s collaboration features to work with others
  • How you can resolve errors that might arise from incompatible changes made to the same file

Though Subversion’s basic features are tremendously powerful, it’s the advanced options that make it indispensible. You know, the little things that live in the background most of the time, except when you really need them. This rest of this series is about how to leverage those. The first of those features we will look at is the revision history.

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 | January 11, 2012 4:33 pm

As part of the new year, my wife and I have been organizing our storage room (which we’ve traditionally referred to as the box room). After tidying a bit – which amounted to adding wedding gifts that we’ll be giving to others, organizing the assorted boxes and bags to be used for future gift wrapping, piling up Christmas decorations, shelving the book collections of two rather bookish people, sorting the supplies of someone who is expected to be “crafty” in her spare time,1 and cataloging a collection of stuffed bears spanning some thirty years– the old name no longer seemed to fit. So … we spent a bit of time brainstorming a new name. Here’s what we came up with:

The beautiful and bountiful boutique of books, boxes, bows, bowls, bags, balls, beads, basil, bears, and other beautiful beasties.

or, “the b14box room”, for short.


  1. The modern expectations of women seem rather unfair. Not only are they expected to be intelligent, sophisticated, and ruthlessly competent, but also must excel in all manners of other crafty endeavors. It somehow seems that being a physicist in one’s day job ought to suffice …
 | December 28, 2011 1:49 am

Elegant-Book-page1One of the most difficult (and, subsequently, rewarding) publications to create is that of a photographic or fine arts book. Unlike a novel, or a book with a sane number of images, fine arts books have a lot of variables. These include a written narrative, photographs and the artwork, and the typography. Additional page decoration add to the complexity. Things can get really sticky because all of the different elements rebound against one another, but it’s essential that they all sing harmony to the melody.

The photography needs to match the timbre of the text, and the typography should cause the whole to resonate. When everything comes together well, a carefully crafted volume will draw readers like famished revelers to a feast. They’ll linger on the artwork, study the captions, dwell on the text, and ponder the message.

About a year ago, I played around with different layouts for such a publication. Initially, I wanted to experiment with a style known as “formalism”, which combines some of the best aspects of Swiss/Modern school with a slightly more relaxed attitude toward using decoration and embellishment. I had planned on developing a template for a side project.

An Elegant Book - Page Spread 1

Unfortunately, I never got much further than the layouts that you see here. Life and circumstances prevented me from completing the side project, and the typography didn’t have the right tone for other things I was working on. So, the template I was going to create languished.

Until last week, that is.

An Elegant Book - Page Spread 2

A little under six months ago, I got married. As part of the celebrations (which are still ongoing), I created a wedding album for my wife. Instead of working from scratch on the album, I chose to use the “Elegant Book” template. This means, that I’ve finally cleaned it up enough that I feel comfortable releasing it into the wild. I hope that someone is able to enjoy and make use of it! (Merry Christmas, belatedly.)


An Elegant Book. This archive includes all of the files and fonts needed to install the template. A PDF example can be found here.


To install, download the .zip archive. Then, extract it and open up the main document file, which ends in the .sla extension. Once the file finishes loading, select the “Save as Template” option from the “File” menu. Be sure to place a checkmark in the “Include Font” and “Include Color Profile” boxes. Select the directory where you would like to save the template (you will probably want to make a new one). Finally, click on the “Save” button.

When you save a template into the Scribus Templates folder, it will copy the template file, photos, and fonts to the directory you specify. It will also add the template to the template gallery.

Template Use

Once you have downloaded and installed the template, you can create a new document by clicking on the “New From Template” link in the “File” menu. When the template file first loads, it will provide you with several example pages that can be used in your layout. Simply delete the sample text/images and replace them with your own.

To adjust the appearance of a particular block of text, you can apply character and paragraph styles from the “Text” section of the “Properties” dialog. To modify the appearance of a whole page, you can make use of the “Apply Master Page” option under the “Page” menu.


Below, you can find a few of the page layouts I used in the wedding album. The template contains additional examples.

Book Cover

Book Title Page




Bridal Veils


Memories of Weddings Past

 | November 29, 2011 8:34 pm

Sometimes it’s important to be extremely fussy about otherwise inconsequential things. There’s a reason why people fight over the proper pronunciation of már ‘habitation in Quenya (the m takes on an mb sound), pirates versus ninjas, and the proper placement of footnotes. It’s not that any of these particularly matter, but when pronounced, understood, or typeset correctly, such miscellanea greatly enrich the world.

For months, I’ve been distressed about how LaTeX handles footnotes. (Which, to be clear, is much better than how Word handles them.) Notes are used for subordinate details, which provide additional information, insight, and wit. In that role, they provide an important supplement to the main text.

Depending on which type of note you choose to use – foot, end, or side – there are certain rules which govern how they should be typeset. Robert Bringhurst, author of “The Elements of Typographic Style” and the authority on book typography lays it out pretty well:

Footnotes are the very emblem of fussiness, but they have their uses. If they are short and infrequent, they can be made economical of space, easy to find when wanted, and, when not wanted, easy to ignore …

In the main text, superscript numbers are used to indicate notes because superscript numbers minimize interruption. They are typographic asides: small because that is an expression of relative importance, and raised for two reasons: to keep them out of the flow of the main text, and to make them easier to find. In the note itself, the number is not an aside, but a target. Therefore, the number in the note should be full size.1


Unfortunately, this isn’t how LaTeX does it. Instead of having a superscript in the text and a full sized numeral in the notes, it uses superscript for both.2 Not only is it wrong (as far as anything can be wrong in a war of opinions), but it’s really hard to change. Most of the document classes only give you one or two options for the footnotes, and they’re not generally any better than the default. Nor does the heavy of all footnote packages, footmisc, provide a fix. Which means, if you want to adjust the way that the number appears, you have to hack the class at a lower level. (Sigh.)

Unless, you’re using memoir, that is.

It turns out that memoir provides hooks to customize everything about the footnotes. This includes the style, the size of the font, and … the numerical label. (If you’d like, you can even use symbols.) The code below will give you properly formatted references:

  • superscript in the text
  • full sized numeral in the note
  • numeral out-dented into the margin by 1 em
  • note text typeset left flush


The \footmarkstyle macro is used to remove the superscript, \footmarkwidth is the size of the box containing the note label, \footmarksep is how much to offset the numeral from the text.


  1. The footnote is flagged by a superscript in the text, but the note itself is introduced by an outdented figure of the same size for the text of the note. (Taken from “The Elements of Style,” page 69.)

2 Which is, frankly, unsightly and distracting.