Foundation is the epic story of the fall of a galactic empire. Hari Seldon is the architect of psychotherapy, a branch of science that can plot the behavior of large groups of people. Using this unique talent, Seldon is able to forsee the collapse of the galactic empire, and correctly plot the path mankind must take to escape a fall into a thousand year era of barbarism. To that end, Seldon establishes a Foundation to preserve a kernel of the knowledge and culture that once was. The path that the Foundation must follow (as mapped out by Seldon) is a series of crisis points and decisions, all of which lead the galaxy toward the establishment of a new Empire within a few hundred years instead of a thousand.
The Foundation is established on a small, resource-starved planet called Terminus. There they begin to compile the ambitious Encyclopedia Galactica. Their work is interrupted when the political turmoil of the surrounding planetary systems try to involve them. Quick thinking on the part of Salvor Hardin, the first mayor of Terminus, saves the Foundation from extinction and establishes a foothold of power using the one resource that they alone understand in this decadent time period: atomic power!
From that time on, the Foundation grows in power and influence using the atom, becoming almost an empire in itself. To read Foundation is to get a small glimpse into civilization; it’s a micro anthropology lesson. From primitive beginnings, to theocracy, to expansionism, and coming full circle to bloated bureaucracy. Mr. Asimov successfully convinces us that his story is part of a larger universe. This is why I loved reading Foundation and its three sequels Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. Oh, there are many, many more books from his Foundation universe. For the full list, check out the Wikipedia article.
Foundation began as a series of short stories published in Astounding Magazine between 1942 and 1950. Unfortunately, the short story origin of the book is the only flaw to be found; the story has a slightly disjointed feel about it. Do I care? NO. From one viewpoint, it’s that sense of discontinuity that creates the ‘bigness’ of the story, the feeling that it takes place in a very large and fragile galactic Empire.
As soon as I can, I’ll post a review of Foundation from a writer’s viewpoint. TTFN!
JDarkRoom is one of several minimalist text editors. I’ll list others below. What I like about JDarkRoom is portability. It’s a simple Java (.jar) application, making it usable by both the XP I use at work and my Linux laptop at home. Talk about the best of both worlds! It is also portable in the sense that it resides on my USB drive and I can take it anywhere.
Now, why use a minimalist text editor instead of fancier apps like MS Word and OpenOffice? I’m not dissing them; they have their place, and their place is to make the words look pretty when I need to send them off to an editor hungry to publish my work. At all other times I don’t need so many bells and whistles, and I don’t want such a bloated program hogging my wimpy computer resources. Hello, JDarkRoom! Just a simple screen that seems to cut you off from the rest of the computer — and that dreaded attention sink, the Internets — so all you have to do is write. That’s nice.
JDarkRoom has just enough configurability to make it interesting. I love the word count function. By pressing F6 I can bring up menus that configure the look and feel such as background color, font color, and line width. You will have to try it out to grok it.
Below are some (but not all) of the minimalist word processors out there.
* JDarkRoom — the happy subject of this post. Go check it out!
* Q10 — this is a nice application. It has a lot of the functionality I want — such as USB portability — and in some cases is better than JDarkRoom. For instance, it boasts live text statistics that update as you type. However, it suffers from a serious, severe flaw that disqualifies it for me: there is no Linux version, nor will there ever be. A brief Google informs me that it won’t run under Wine. Sorry, Q10, I want a one-app solution!
* Writer — This is interesting. It seems to be like JDarkRoom, but is entirely online. You can save your work there, or save it to a local disk.
For a longer list of good apps, including some for the Mac, see this article.