What I'm reading; all nonfiction

I have four three-ring binders on my desk. Each with a print-out of a book in it.

I shuttle them in turn between home and work, since peculiarly, they touch both on my work and personal — that is to say, church — life, and I thought you might be interested in these four nonfiction reference works which take up my lunch hour and early evenings.

The first two deal with organizing data and people in nonprofit settings. More or less.

The other two deal with accounting, and while referring to software systems, are useful for reinforcing accounting concepts.

All sound too dull? I’ve also got “Frederic Henry Hedge: Unitarian Theologian of the Broad Church,” the spring-summer 1981 number of the Unitarian Universalist Christian journal. But that’s for kicks, and — alas — not online.

Feature set for LaTeX order of worship project

On my netbook, tapping out ideas while my home desktop computer finishes updating the latest version of Ubuntu Linux. That massive software project makes me think about the little, somewhat procedural and documentation-focused project I’ve started. To recap, I want to help automate the production of orders of service using LaTeX, a typesetting language more associated with mathematical journals or scientific dissertations than anything religious.

So here are the features I want to see in this project, both to cultivate some interest and to guide my work.

  1. select correct standard LaTeX document style, as project basis, if one exists
  2. project creates makes 5.5 by 8.5 inch pages
  3. prints in selected typeface
  4. set up LaTeX file with comments to allow easy editing
  5. prints lines where half of the content is forced left, flush left and the rest is forced right, flush right
  6. can print as a booklet with pages in the correct order
  7. associate the correct package to allow her/his and he/she pronouns within a service automatically
  8. link file to data source, to create “mail merged” output
  9. insert an image of music, generated from a text file, such as ABC notation
  10. associate correct heading levels with sections within a customary order of worship
  11. insert hooks to pull repeated (“ordinary”) liturgical fragments

Software for publishing hymns

A new hymnal — or at least ready-to-reprint hymns — is one of the pre-conditions (among many) I see for Unitarian and Universalist Christians growing new churches. Singing the Living Tradition doesn’t have the corpus of hymns needed for a rounded Christian life, other denominational hymns often have their own limitations and besides — as I’ve written before — we’re effectively between hymnal generations meaning other options are already several years old.

Besides, having a single current hymnal is a strange place for Unitarian Universalists to be. Both Unitarians and Universalists had a wide choice of hymnals in the past, and today the British Unitarians and Free Christians — only a few thousand strong — commonly use one or both of a choice of two hymnals. We could do better, but I suspect that local hymnals, rather than additional UUA-sponsored hymnals, will be the more likely outcome. Or, alternatively, a church could have their own set of hymn images to be printed in the order of service. The familiar Frankenstein arrangement of hymns photocopied, trimmed, reproduced (often badly) and tipped-in is a bore.

I’ve reviewed some of the options, but I clearly don’t have a gift for the work of typesetting hymns. For one, I don’t read music at all well. But I have been tempted by the open-source Lilypond, a music “automated engraving system”, for Linux (current), Mac OS X (to 10.5) and Windows (to XP). Add a template from HymnWiki.org, perhaps edited within something like Frescobaldi and you have something like a workflow.

How I can work in the snow (and an offer)

Federal offices in D.C. are closed today because of the snowstorm, and my office follows that decision. But with the year winding down, I still have work to do, and so I wanted to tell you about a tool I’m using that makes that possible.

Dropbox synchs up for files between your computers and at a secure website. You get 2 gigabytes of space free of charge. They make their money from power users. I’m not one of those; even though I use Dropbox heavily for home and work, my files are mostly plain text, PDF forms and word processing or spreadsheet files.

Here’s a real example. Last week, I upgraded computers at work and my home desktop died.

We use IM (instant messaging) at work to communicate between offices, so I placed a the IM tool configuation file from my old work desktop onto Dropbox and installed the synched file onto my new work desktop. Naturally, I deleted the IM files from Dropbox. Then the dual calamity of my dead home desktop computer and the snow. I do have a laptop, but never used IM from it, and I want to keep up with other people working from home today. Well: in Dropbox you can undelete files deleted within 30 days. So I did, and installed that configuation file the same way.

And of course, I keep my project files there and will save anything I write today for use at the office.

Also, when Hubby and I went to Europe in October, rather than keeping copies of our passports and credit cards on our person, I put images on Dropbox.

If you get Dropbox using this referral link, we both get an extra 250 megabytes of space fee more than if you downloaded the software through the front door. And I need the space, please. (Otherwise, I don’t benefit from this article.)

Oh, and I still have Google Wave invitations, should you want one.

Google Wave invites, especially for small-church ministers and seminarians

So Google Wave is the big new thing, right? (Of course, the same was said of the Segway scooter-ma-bob-thingy and the sight of one still makes me giggle.) It’s a email-editor-chatty thingy, or in English, real-time communication and collaboration.

For church people, the value is in holding remote working meetings. Work up a schedule, draft a document or (my fave) even chat through Google’s translator tools. Plus I love any service that has a new wave button. Please comment if you work in a religious congregation or ministry and have a Wave success (or dissapointment) story.

If you’re interested, be sure to see this video.

Like others who have been let on to the Google Wave train, I have some invitations to give out. Comment me if you want one. A particular invitation to ministers in small pastorates and chaplaincies, and to seminarians. My logic there? This might be a really useful tool for some, but now you need to know someone who’s in to get in, and I’m thinking if you’re in a large church you might already have a connection.