Passengers, a classic love story disguised as science fiction

Usually when I write about science fiction movies on this site, it is to complain about how bad they are. Today will be different. Today I am going to rave about Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. While this film is categorized as science fiction, it is really a classic love story. The futuristic setting is a utility to put the two main characters in the situation that leads to the decisions they make. Which is good, because the science isn’t great — though not bad enough that I found myself interrupting my enjoyment of the film to shout, “Hey, that could never happen,” though, in fact, much of it couldn’t. But that’s beside the point.

I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. Let me just say that the situation Pratt’s character finds himself in is heartbreaking and though he makes an awful decision, I could sympathize with him. And Lawrence is a marvel. She is easily one of the top actors on screen today — maybe ever. The range of emotions her character navigates is breathtaking and she is never anything but completely honest and real. Pratt is very good too, and very likable. For most of the film, it is just the two of them, along with Michael Sheen as a sort of Wilson the volleyball from Castaway.

I watched the film on DVD on Saturday, while Amy was at work. I liked it so much that I knew Amy would like it too, so we watched it together Sunday. I enjoyed it even more the second time through.

So, don’t rent Passengers because you want to see a sci fi classic. Rent to to watch two fine and likable actors in a terrific love story filled with lots of marvels and a few tense thrills.


iThoughts – an excellent mind-mapper and planner

This is a quick shout out for an application I’ve come to admire a lot. It’s iThoughts from toketaWare, which is essentially a one-man show. The application first came to my attention as an excellent iPad application. Soon it was also available for macOS. And just recently a Windows version was unveiled. Save your maps to Dropbox and you can open them on any of those three platforms.

iThoughts isn’t a competitor for full-featured mind mappers, of which there are many. And there are other good cross-platform choices, including SimpleMind. But I like iThoughts best. It fits right in my sweet spot: powerful enough but it doesn’t overwhelm me with features.

The video below demonstrates one of the thoughtful new features, which I admire:


The developer, Craig Scott, has really built a wonderful cross-platform application and I just wanted to acknowledge that. Check out iThoughts if you’re looking for a lighter-weight, but highly functional mind-mapper.

Tinderbox 7 is now available

Composites -- collections of related notes in a map -- is one of the big new additions to Tinderbox 7.

Composites — collections of related notes in a map — is one of the big new additions to Tinderbox 7.

Tinderbox 7 has been released by Eastgate Systems. It is jam-packed with new features (find a list here), but the biggest addition is the “composite,” a collection of notes that are all associated. Think of a note as an atom and the composite as a molecule. Tbx 7 comes with four composite prototypes, two of which I’ve displayed in the screenshot above. You can easily build your own composites just by sliding notes up against each other. When you do so, they become joined and a gray-lined box is created around them.

I haven’t tried to put this feature to practical use yet. When I do, I’ll try to create a screencast.

The other most significant addition is that you can create a kind of wiki link in the text of a note to link one note to another. As usual, the upgrade is free if your annual subscription to Tinderbox is active. Otherwise, it’s $98 for an upgrade, $249 for a new purchase.

A new distraction-free writing app: Tabula

Tabula is a new writing app that recognizes some basic elements of text on the page and automatically adds formatting.

Tabula is a new writing app that recognizes some basic elements of text on the page and automatically adds formatting.

This is a review of Tabula, a new writing app that interprets your page as you write, recognizing headings and other elements. It’s like using #markdown, but without all the added characters.

Automatic Headings

Tabula recognizes short phrases on a single line as headings. For the app to recognize your text as a heading, you do need to capitalize at least two words — unless it is a single word heading. If you don’t capitalize, the phrase is interpreted as body text.

Like this.

Create Lists

Tabula recognizes unordered and ordered lists.

  • Use a hyphen at the start of the line to create an unordered list
  • Or an asterisk
    • Create a nested item by tabbing
  1. Or create an ordered list with a number
  2. This is pretty much like markdown

Emphasize Text

You can emphasize text by adding a backtick (“”) to the front of the word in question, as I did with question. This isn’t any different than markdown really, and you’re limited (as far as I’ve been able to see) to italics. The app reserves the right to apply bolding to headings and simple tables.

Create Simple Tables

Tabula For Mac $4.99
Tabula For iOS $2.99

Very Nice Exporting

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Tabula environment is its simple but very nice export function. Just click the little export icon in the upper right corner and you switch to a preview of how the document will look. You can select from several preset export styles.

To go back to editing mode, just click the little arrow icon that replaced the export icon in the upper right. Below are two of the half dozen styles for exporting:

In preview mode you can see how your work will look and select from several styles. This is the "Reel" style.

In preview mode you can see how your work will look and select from several styles. This is the “Reel” style.



This is the “Report” style. Note that along the bottom row you have controls to select the style, add spacing between lines and indenting paragraphs.

As you can tell, from the screenshots, I wrote this review in Tabula. I exported it as HTML code which I pasted into WordPress, and all the formatting followed nicely. I did change the headings from the Heading 5 format (a little too small) to Heading 4. But that’s it.

Like TaskPaper, but Not

Tabula reminds me a bit of TaskPaper, but it is definitely intended for writing and not for task management. TaskPaper is a far more sophisticated app.

iOS Version

The Tabula version for iPad and iPhone is very nice, offering the same features as the Mac version, but with a handy extended keyboard row to make editing more convenient, including a little tap button for selecting text.

If you store your Tabula files on iCloud, you can open them on either type of device.

The iOS version is handy too, and can read the files created by the Mac version. Note the extended keyboard row with handy buttons for editing.

The iOS version is handy too, and can read the files created by the Mac version. Note the extended keyboard row with handy buttons for editing.

The Bottom Line

Tabula probably won’t replace Scrivener or Ulysses if you are a writer, but is a viable option if you’re looking for an elegant, simple editor for drafting and publishing reports, essays, short articles or the like. This is not a note-taking app. What you put into Tabula, you will be publishing in some form, most likely PDF.

This is just a version 1.0 release. The developer has plans to add custom export styles, typewriter mode, embedded images and other improvements in coming releases.

Tinderbox screencast tutorial four

It took almost a month to get this to the point that it was even somewhat publishable. In this episode we expand on our Day Planner, which we started in episode 3. We see how to set up an agent to hunt for completed tasks and place a check mark badge on the note. We look briefly at “display expressions” so we can see due dates in our notes on the map, and how to format the dates so we don’t see times. And we create a dashboard agent with a summary table to get an overview of our appointments.

Tinderbox 6 Tutorial 4 from Stephen Zeoli on Vimeo.

A lovely and inspiring video featuring Tinderbox

Dominique Renauld creates wonderful Tinderbox videos. They aren’t tutorials so much as they are inspirations. They show you what Tinderbox can help you do, not the nuts and bolts of how to handle Tinderbox. But they are well worth seeing, both for the spark they may provide in tackling Tinderbox and for their shear beauty.

In the most recent video, he shows some of the great features of the outline view. Watch it here:

Tinderbox screencast number 2 — stamps and agents

I’ve uploaded the second of my Tinderbox 6 tutorial videos. This one might be a little — just a little — bit more polished than the first. In this episode I provide a quick introduction to Stamps and Agents. Stamps allow you to set an action to be applied to a number of selected notes simultaneously. Agents are notes that look for other notes that match a specific criteria and then apply some action to them automatically. Agents work continually, search for any new notes or changes to work upon, while Stamps are used manually by the user. Hopefully you will see what I mean if you watch the video. Here it is:

Introduction to Tinderbox 6 – Part 2 from Stephen Zeoli on Vimeo.