I wrote this vignette [Wonder and the Fragility of Ideas] after clustering (from Writing the Natural Way, in October, 2012)

My head bobs up and down anxious, no, eager (because we don’t like worry words and anxious is a worry word). We like words like eager, a puppy aiming to please, a child wondering about his world, living in the moment, the wonder of Now.

Wonder sneaks up on me when I sit quietly. No thunder — who needs thunder? Thunder is suspect, drawing attention to itself with noise rather than substance. When I don’t know what to wonder about, wonder tells me. All I need to do is pay attention.


underwoodOur H.S. biology teacher (Brother Joseph) had a funny sense of humor. He referred to hospitals as horsepistols. So maybe I’m kind of warped myself. I was back to the hospital again last week. I swore I was never going back but circumstances said otherwise.

A routine CT scan ordered my my oncologist showed suspicion of a clot in my leg. We have a family friend who is a top radiologist. I always get a CD of any scans, x-rays, etc. for him to read. He saw the clot and let us know how serious it was. Advice to get to the hospital.

Sue called my oncologist. Sue is my advocate, does all kinds of research and is on good terms with all my caregivers. After Sue told my oncologist about the reading. The question was who would call. Sue said “Rock, paper, scissors, you better call.”

And she (oncologist did) at 10:00 PM on Thursday night. Got to the ER around 11:00 PM, triaged right away then had to wait awhile for an ER bed. They sucked my blood, x-rayed my chest (I had a touch of pneumonia too), and did an ultrasound on my legs which, when they finally get the report to the docs confirmed a DVT in my right leg. Great, just what I needed to hear.

The good part of this hospital stay is that I was there because of the risk, not because I felt sick. Boring!! They gave me shots of Luvenox in my belly twice a day. The plan was to send me home with a script for the stuff. We even had a class on how to stick me. No Luvenox for me. That stuff is ridiculously expensive, almost $500 for generic with my insurance for 11 days!

The next choice was Xarelto, still too expensive but not even close to the other. So once that was settled, they put me on the stuff, wrote the Scripts and sent me home on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday was a real adventure in the hospital. Underwood had merged with Inspira (what a stupid name) and the Underwood computers shut down at midnight Saturday for the transfer. All the work on Sunday was paper. Insanity. We finally got home around 4:30 PM.

So now it’s almost back to normal whatever that is. I have no clues about normal after two years of chemo, etc. Visit my primary tomorrow, get a follow up chest x-ray tomorrow afternoon and finish the course of antibiotics (leviquin is some potent stuff — gives me chemo brain). Then if all is well with the x-ray, back to chemo on Monday.


Wow, it’s been over a month since my last post. Why? I’ve been busy making music (or trying to). Once upon a time many years ago I learned to play the Chromatic harmonica and I was good. I got my first serious harmonica as a gift when I was in high school. At first, I learned and played by ear but learned to read enough music so I could expand my repertoire.

I carried one of my harmonicas just about everywhere. Once, while in Vietnam, my buddies and I went to the Vietnamese enlisted men’s club. I had my big 16 hole (64 reed) Hohner in my pocket and somehow ended up on the stage with a local band. My solo was Summertime and got me a round of applause and free beer for the rest of the evening. That was the one and only time I played for a large audience.

The picture at the top of this post is one I took a few weeks ago for the cover of a book of scores for Harmonica that I had been working on. The harmonica in the foreground is a Chromatic and the other harp standing on end behind is a diatonic in the key of A. I have a couple of good fake books that I use. I take songs I like and enter notes and lyrics with a neat program called MuseScore.

“Create beautiful sheet music for free using MuseScore, the free and open source notation program!” from the MuseScore website. Great program that runs on Linux, Windows and Mac computers.

The program includes a series of plug-ins, one of which is for Harmonica tabs (holes numbered, blow or draw and accidentals using the slide). I like this arrangement because I can learn a piece quickly using tabs but all the notes are there as well so I’m learning to read music as I go along. I made the book using duplex/booklet printing and ended up with a staple bound 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 booklet that’s easy to carry around. (Like I get out of the house a lot these days?)

One of the best features of MuseScore is that I can transpose into a different key, move up or down an octave and lot’s more.

I am having fun with all this. The harmonica (or harp) comes in two basic flavors, the small, 10 hole diatonic or blues harp and the chromatic harmonica. The blues harp comes in at least 12 different keys. The chromatic harmonica commonly comes in the key of C although there are other keys available. The chromatic is really two harmonicas in one, a C and C# (pressing the slide gives you the C#). Playing with the slide out is like the white keys on the piano. Pressing the slide in gives you the black keys. You can play in any key within reason with a C Chromatic.

Oh, before I forget, I stopped playing sometime around my late twenties. Why? I can’t remember. Probably because I got busy with marriage, family, college and then my career. I have the time and desire so I’m back with my music.

This time, I’m also learning to play blues harp, something I always wanted to do but never figured it out. Now, with the Internet at my disposal, I’m taking a course from Lee Sankey on Vimeo, “Country Blues Harmonica.” I’m loving it.

I’ll post about my progress from time to time. Did I mention that I have a nice acoustic guitar (classical) that belonged to my late father. Time I learned to play the darn thing. I put new strings on it a few weeks ago and ordered a DVD with lots of lessons for beginners from Amazon this afternoon.

So you’ve heard all my excuses for not posting. I’ll be posting more as the weather changes and I’m able to get out more to take pictures. Stay tuned.

MaxThink and OrgMode make good partners when set up properly. The hardest part of the setup is getting the information from MaxThink to OrgMode. The first time I tried I wrote a perl script that accepted the MaxThink file and spit out an OrgMode compatible file. The script was rough around the edges and I never finished it because I discovered a much simpler solution.

MaxThink has an Options choice from the main menu that takes you to a series of screens where you can customize Max to your liking. Today’s tutorial will show you how I set up Max to suit the way I work and most important, to output files in OrgMode format.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Access Options using the Options choice from the main menu. The screenshot above shows Screen 1 of 6. Navigate between the different screens using PageUP or PageDN and use the arrow keys within each screen. IMPORTANT! The first thing you must do when creating a new set of options is  give the Description (first item on screen 1) a new name. This ensures that you don’t accidentally change an existing setup.

The rest of the entries on this screen allow you to set preferences. I recommend you read the manual for an explanation of each screen. You can safely ignore the Date Stamp option, Max doesn’t do dates after the year 2000. I never use dates with Max. No reason when you are brainstorming.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Screen 2 controls the screen settings. I’ve never changed the defaults. Again, look through the manual for explantions of the settings.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I’ve probably played with this screen more than any of the others. Here’s where you can change the colors. The screenshot above shows how I set up mine. It’s easy to experiment because you can always change what you don’t like. Hint: make a quick note of the number sequence you like so you can return to it.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Here’s the screen where you set up Max for printing. I don’t use print but you could if you are running Max inside dosemu. I changed the Page Formats to the maximums and the minimums because when you WRITE a file (the way I move the info from Max to Org) you don’t want the output formatted for a printer. Be sure to set print headers and footers to ‘n’ for each.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This screen, specifically the Numbering Scheme on the first line is how you tell Max to WRITE the file with asterisks instead of numbers, etc. This is because OrgMode uses asterisks to identify outline headings with one asterisk as the top level, two one level down, three two levels down and so on. My setup gives me six levels if needed.

I also changed the next two items to y to align left and n to attach prefix.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Screen 6 finishes the setup for Writing to an OrgMode compatible file. Use my settings. Change the indent between levels to 0, make sure spacing formats are set to their respective minimums and enter the control codes that will work with OrgMode. I deleted the topic end sequence and changed the Line End Sequence to 10\ to be Linux compatible, i.e. single line feed.

I haven’t run into any situations yet where my orgmode setup didn’t work (so far). When you want to transfer an outline from MaxThink to OrgMode all you need to do is choose WRITE from the main menu, enter a file name and hit the enter key. Bingo, switch to OrgMode and use the file insert command to insert the contents of the file you just created. I’ll explain more about this phase next time.

As always, if you have any questions please leave a comment or feel free to send me an email.

John_irishA happy St. Patrick’s Day from a 185 lb., 6 ft – 1 in leprechaun aka John. I saw the silly hat I’m wearing in the dollar store and had to have one. Gives me a one up on the wearin’ of the green.

But this post is about installing and running the old DOS version of MaxThink. You can try the Windows version for 30 days and buy it for $29 from Neil Larson, the author of the program. Neil tried to incorporate the best features of the DOS versions of MaxThink but the DOS version works better.

I started using Max back in the DOS days of the 1980s and 1990s. I upgraded several times but put MaxThink aside for a number of years when I switched to Windows.

I prefer Linux over Windows for a number of reasons even though I have several computers, one running Linux Mint 16, the other Windows 7 professional. I’m writing this post on my Linux machine using Org-mode.

I tried several times to get MaxThink up and running in the past with mixed results. DOSBOX is a program that emulates DOS. It’s a good solution for playing old DOS games and Max runs fine except for the fonts. DOSBOX emulates the old VGA text fonts which are rough, hard to read and ugly, but it works. One advantage of DOSBOX is that it’s available for many different operating systems including Linux and Windows.

Dosemu is another way to run old DOS software. Dosemu is a Linux only program that emulates DOS on a virtual machine. Unlike DOSbox, Dosemu requires DOS and comes with FREEDOS already installed. “DOSEMU is a PC Emulator application that allows Linux to run a DOS operating system in a virtual x86 machine. This allows you to run many DOS applications…” from the Dosemu documentation.

The first time I tried Dosemu I could not get it to work. The reason was because the Linux distro I was using at the time had a poorly compiled version of Dosemu in the repository. The program would only run as root, a real no no in my view.

I thought I’d give dosemu another try and I’m glad I did because it works well and has better text fonts. If you use Dosemu in graphic mode, the fonts are decent and scale OK to a full screen. But there’s a better way. Run Dosemu in terminal mode. Have a look at the screenshot below — nice!

Screenshot from 2014-03-17 15:57:24

Click to enlarge


I like making a launcher for programs that I use frequently. It’s simpler than digging through menus or opening a terminal session. The screenshot above shows how this simple launcher can do all the work for you. And here’s how to do it:

Fill out the three fields in the launcher properties window and be sure to check off Launch in Terminal? Where to find the command? Dosemu installed in the main menu under Administrative on my machine. I simply went into the menu editor and copied the /usr/bin/dosemu command and added the -t so the program would run inside a terminal.

Once I had the program running in the terminal I created a new terminal profile with a new, larger font. Running Dosemu in a terminal is a no brainer because MaxThink is text only, you can use your favorite font and you can size the terminal window to suit your preferences.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

All this assumes you have a copy of DOS MaxThink. I still have my copy from years ago. If you don’t have a copy and want to know what all the fuss is about, feel free to download and read Neil Larson’s wonderful Max94 manual. “…in MaxThink, the real gold mine is the manual. Not because I wrote it, but because MaxThink is a new concept — computers to expand your high-level thinking skills.” Neil Larson from the Max94 manual, p. 1-2

If you’re interested in the DOS version of MaxThink, contact Neil Larson and ask him if he’ll sell you a copy or if you’re an old time customer who lost their copy, Neil is the guy who can help you out.

So then, the screenshot above is the autoexec.bat file that lives on the Dosemu virtual C: drive. Here’s what I added to the file:

  1. added the path of my max directory to the path (on line 3)
  2. d: (switch to the d: drive on line 21)
  3. set MAX=d:\max\MyMax (on line 22)
  4. cd MAX (switch to the MAX directory on line 23)
  5. cls (clears the screen on line 24)
  6. max (runs MaxThink on line 25)

Why the d: drive? Because the d: drive is a virtual drive that points to your home folder. I put the MAX.exe file in d:\max and all the other files including the long list of help files in a subdirectory d:\max\MyMax so the max directory (where Max saves all your files) stays clutter free. The set command tells Max where to look for the files. cd (dos command for change directory to change to the max directory). cls (clears the screen — I did this to solve an issue with FREEDOS info cluttering the Max Screen). Finally, max runs max. I put that last command in the autoexec file because I only use Dosemu to run max. So, when I want to run MaxThink, I simply click on the panel launcher and I’m on my way.

I have a lot more to say and show you about MaxThink and how well it integrates into a modern workflow, especially when used in partnership with OrgMode. But this is enough for this time. Please feel free to ask questions, point out flaws in my reasoning, or to just say hello. Until next time.

PS — I just tested another feature of Dosemu. I was able to copy a list of items from OrgMode, switch to Max and paste the list into Max by pressing the mouse wheel. This is a DOSEMU feature because Max has no idea what a mouse is. This is another good reason to use DOSEMU instead of DOSBOX because the latter cannot paste from Linux to DOS.

Screenshot from 2014-03-08 13:18:59

I have an original, 221 page printed Max94 manual that I’ve kept preserved for 20 years. After I scanned the entire manual and made a pdf file yesterday I contacted Neil Larson, the brain behind MaxThink and received his permission to upload the pdf file so anyone interested may download the manual for their own use.

Left click here: MaxThink to view the MaxThink manual or

Right click here: MaxThink and choose Save Link As to download.

As promised, I’m working on the tutorials. Making the manual available was a priority. Enjoy, please leave feedback and please respect Neil’s copyright.

And please be patient. The manual file is 8.5 Mb and takes a few seconds to view or download (depending on download speed).

It’s late and I don’t have the time for an in depth article but here’s a taste.
Screenshot from 2014-03-05 22:20:56

You’re looking at a screen-shot of an Org-mode outline on the left and a terminal window running MaxThink on the right. I’ve been trying to get these two to work together for a few years and I finally got it right. So far so good. I generated a small outline with 85 songs, songs I’m picking out of my fake books so I can learn them on my harmonica.

I will put together a comprehensive tutorial of my entire process once I have my thoughts organized. Meanwhile, it’s been too long since I posted anything on The Aware Writer.


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