sentence surgery: hybridizing Darwin’s On the Origin of Species

Darwin’s sentences are tedious. Many of his paragraphs are hideously long, complex sentences that are really multiple complete sentences and useless filler words and phrases strung together with semicolons, colons, commas, or some combination.

This material is not the easiest to understand to begin with. And complex ideas need to be presented clearly and concisely as possible. So I’m breaking down sentences as well as paragraphs, and this time changing much more punctuation than I have in the others.

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what to do with the index? formatting On the Origin of Species (Charles Darwin)

By now, I’ve downloaded a number of public domain books in plain vanilla ASCII. Although I’m sure of the next three books I’ll be turning into web books under my dark mode label, I’m no closer to nailing down a publication schedule for the next three months than I was a few weeks ago.

I’m getting into the sinewy meat of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and have encountered a beastly index that, in Google Docs, is 47 pages long. And it uses the original page numbers as HTML bookmark links to the item locations in the text.

That’s a problem. For one thing, there are no page numbers anymore. Each chapter will be its own HTML document and every part is equidistant from the home page by means of the menu. Kind of like a dandelion that doesn’t blow seeds all over your lawn.

Plus, ballparking the number of entries to be 450-500, I realized it would take roughly eleventy-thousand hours I don’t have to locate each reference, assign it a unique ID, and link it with corresponding anchor text. That’s a lot of added code, making the file sizes bigger when I need to keep as small as possible to accommodate images.

And for what? Three point six people who might glance at the index?

So what am I supposed to do with 47 pages of index when I can’t justify putting that much extra time into it?

Ockham’s Razor is my go-to when I encounter a challenge like this. My thoughts usually gravitate towards function. If a thing X exists, it must have a function.

Why is the index there in the first place? Is there a better solution now than there was when the index was invented?

Indices allow the reader faster access to specific topics in the text. Which is really useful in a book like On the Origin of Species that talks about a vast array of species, scientific terms and principles, other writings, etc. But readers don’t need the index when they’re already reading the book in a browser. If they want to look something up, they’re one search away from the world’s library of publicly available information on the matter.

So long, index.

Eventually I’ll wind up publishing something I can’t leave the index out of. But now I have time to imagine what that looks like in Pub3. Probably not so linear.

how HTML and JavaScript make footnotes obsolete

God, I hate footnotes! I confess I tend to ignore them. And they’re important. But by the time I get to the part of the page where they are, half the time I’ve forgotten which one I was supposed to look at and have to go back up and find my place again.

The difficulty and time spent finding where you left off depends on the distance your eyes have to travel both ways. Then you have to use cognitive effort to put the new information in context with what you were reading. And each of these activities takes time and thought away from the thoughts you were having about what you were reading.

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Frankenstein and Sappho are served up. anarchist lit in the deep fryer

The literary scene on Cardano is building infrastructure. So if you hear jackhammers in the distance, pardon the noise. That sound is just a handful of people getting up at (or staying up to) wee hours to turn your wallet into a bookshelf.

A couple weeks ago I published 10 million copies of Frankenstein as a fungible token (FT) on Cardano. The following morning I had a great opportunity to talk about it in the Tokhun Breakfast Twitter Space hosted by Tokhun’s community manager CardanoNoodz. And there was someone else listening with similar ideas.

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Frankenstein: or, Formatting a 200+ year old manuscript for the web

You can tell when you read old books that people used to have longer attention spans, and there was nary a screen to read from. Many of the paragraphs are very long, to the point where many pages look like walls of text.

Reading something displayed on a screen is very different from reading something printed on paper. A screen makes white by emitting a full spectrum of light, and a lot of it. If you’re like me and look at a screen all day, you know all too well what chronic eye strain feels like.

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