Scrivener and Ulysses III — The Stuff of Writers’ Dreams

About two years ago I was looking for a decent application on my Mac which could help me create ebooks from my writing – mainly devotionals, blog posts, and studies I write for the congregation I pastor. I also was looking to create an eBook version of our weekly bulletin to augment our digital version.

My search led me to Scrivener, which I immediately fell in love with. Scrivener is far more than a eBook creator, it’s the writer’s version of Bat Man’s utility belt. Not only can it be used to write content, it also is useful for organizing research, keeping notes on character development and world-building, tracking changes, outlining, and a host of other tasks. It’s a work of programatic art.

In fact, there are only two obstacles which keep me from using Scrivener as my default writing app:

  1. About the same time I purchased Scrivener, my iPad became my default writing tool.

  2. Shortly after my iPad became my default writing tool, I began writing in the plain-text markup language known as Markdown.

While I’m certainly not typical in my writing habits, my iPad has become so in-grained in my work-flow that I find it difficult to write on my MacBook. The experience is not nearly as pleasant. On my iPad, writing feels like freedom. On my MacBook, it feels like work1. As such, while I’ve waited for the iPad version of Scrivener to appear, a novel I’ve started has been languishing for nearly two years2.

What would be ideal for me is a writing tool similar to Scrivener, which allows me to write in Markdown and has an iPad version. This would keep my writing work-flow in-tact, while giving me the extended power of a tool like Scrivener at my disposal. The problem was, such a tool didn’t seem to exist, and then I discovered Ulysses III.

Ulysses III is a writing-tool which, on the surface, is similar to Scrivener. It organizes writing in what it calls “groups” and “sheets,” converts text into different formats, allows the user to control the look of output, and generally organize ideas. The main difference, at first glance, is with the editor. Scrivener uses an RTF editor as it’s input window, which is more comfortable for word processor refugees. Ulysses III, on the other hand, utilizes a customized version of Markdown syntax in it’s editor. Given my love of plain-text writing, this appeals to me, but is Ulysses a better writing tool than Scrivener? The answer is, as with so many other computer-tool questions, “It depends.” Let’s look at some differences between the two tools to explore which tool might better fit your work-flow.

Platforms

If you happen to be a Windows or Linux user then you may want to skip the rest of this post – it make make you envious. Scrivener currently runs on Mac, and Windows, and has an unsupported Linux version. Ulysses III, on the other hand, is Mac only – it also handles it’s full-featured cloud syncing solely through iCloud. The upshot of Ulysses III, however, is that it able to interface through iCloud with an iOS app called “Daedalus.”

File Handling – Projects vs. Database

When writing with Scrivener, users create “projects,” which contain different files and folders. The binder is where the files and folders which make up the actual content for a book or paper reside, but outside this binder any number of folders and files can be created. These can contain anything from images, character descriptions, research, world-building information, and project notes. Each project is it’s own contain system of files and folders. It’s a paradigm with which desktop users are familiar.

Scrivener UI

Upon first glance, Ulysses III uses a similar approach. The left pane of the window contains list of “groups” which look remarkably like the Binder pane in Scrivener. A slight difference, however, is that this pane contains an analogy to Scrivener’s folders only. It’s analogy to documents, called “sheets,” appear the interface’s middle pane.

Ulysses III UI

I quite like this arrangement, and the left and center panes can be easily hidden to create more space for the editor window. The first glance of the interface in Ulysses III is, however, misleading. While Scrivener makes each project it’s own separate set of files and folders which are not accessible by other projects, Ulysses III’s list of groups contains every bit of writing which has ever been done in the application. Special groups, called “filters” can be created which tie project sheets together through the use of flagged text, keywords, and other searchable metadata. It’s an interesting set-up, but I can see it becoming cumbersome over time – mostly because I can’t find a way to search or filter the groups in the interface. Sheets can be searched and filtered, but restricting the view to certain groups doesn’t appear to be possible 3. This means, after months and years, every group you ever created is going to appear in the Ulysses III interface, and I can foresee the sheer overwhelming number of potential groups to eventually become debilitating. If users could filter out groups so they could see only their current project, it would be a much better experience. As it stands at the moment, I’d much rather work in Scrivener’s paradigm. For a database approach to be practical it needs to be searchable and filterable at every level.

Editor – Rich Text vs. Plain Text

As was stated above, Scrivener uses a rich text editor which is akin to a traditional word processor. All the major features are present – including indents, character styling, paragraph spaces, and tables. Anyone used to working with a word processor will feel right at home in Scrivener’s interface. The main learning curve for writing is simply to remember to create a new document for each section of the material.

Ulysses III, again as stated above, uses a customized version of Markdown for it’s editor. Instead of rich-text character styles being accessed through shortcuts or interface buttons, they are handled by specific markup which appears in the text itself. Bold text, for example, is depicted by enclosing text in a double asterisk (**double asterisk**). Even more advanced features features, such as footnotes, images, and comments can be included in the text through the use of these tags. The desire is to create human-readable text which can be interpreted even without a piece of software to interpret the markup.

This leads, however, to one of my greatest struggles with Ulysses III. In heavily customizing it’s markup the application makes advanced features far more accessible than straight multimarkdown4 – footnotes, in particular, are handled splendidly. The problem with their approach, however, is that it removes Markdown’s greatest strength. Because it’s custom tags are not displayed when a group’s contents are opened in a plain text editor, it removes the ability to for a human to read unconverted text and understand it in any text editor. While individual groups of sheets can be converted into basic MultiMarkdown, including Ulysses custom tags, if the Ulysses III application somehow becomes corrupt or deleted the application-specific elements of the text will be inaccessible to the user. Additionally, syncing through an external source (such as a dropbox folder) will actually remove some features for the user. For example, images and footnotes are not available to externally connected sheets.

Ulysses III’s Markdown customization leaves me in a quandary. In some ways, I am amazed at the simplicity of what the creators of this tool have managed to accomplish through the use of their custom tags. On the other hand, their implementation removes true content portability from my hands. Granted, Scrivener’s rich text may actually worse in terms of portability5, but I also have no expectations of being able to treat Scrivener projects as truly portable. The expectation of portability probably makes the way Ulysses III handles their custom tags feel worse than it may actually be.

Exporting – Compilation vs. Stylesheets

One of the most confusing aspects for Scrivener is the process of compiling documents into a sharable format. This is partly due to Scrivener’s utilization of rich text editing in it’s writing window. Writers who are used to a WYSIWYG editor tend to assume the formatting they apply in Scrivener will automatically be applied in their compiled document, this is not the case. While certain forms of character styling (such as italics, bold, and underline) will carry over to the compiled document, paragraph styles (including paragraph spacing and fonts) generally do not. Rather, these formatting styles are handled through the compilation dialog. This dialog allows writers to change fonts for different sections, set up the appearance of document titles (or hide them completely), and automatically add text for section headings. Writers who want to have more control over the look of their documents can create preset styles in the rich text editor which have a “preserve formatting” option checked. Any block of text with one of these presets applied will have the formatting carry over when the document is compiled.

Scrivener Compilation Window

At first, the compile interface can be a bit daunting. It gives an immense amount of power to the user, but does so through a paradigm completely alien to many WYSIWYG-trained writers6. Once users grow accustomed to the seeing their documents in levels, each fitting into one of three categories (folders, documents with sub-documents, and documents), this dialog becomes a wonderful tool.

Ulysses III takes a wildly different approach to exporting documents from the application, which springs from it’s use of Markdown in the editor. Markdown was originally created to be a human-readable markup for plain text which could be quickly converted to html and posted to the web. Markdown isn’t concerned with presentation at all – it simply creates a document structure and indicates where character formatting should be applied. The presentation is passed on to a separate file called a stylesheet, utilizing a web-standard known as CSS7. Everything about the look of content is handled by the stylesheet, and can be changed on the fly.

Ulysses III Export Dialog

When exporting a document from Ulysses III, users tell the application which stylesheet they would like to use for the export8. Unlike Scrivener, there is no dialog for creating the style of exported texts within the application. Instead, users who wish to customize the look of their work must create a custom stylesheet using CSS. This is both a blessing and curse. CSS is incredibly powerful, it has been a key to the look of the modern Web. It’s also easy to read and pick-up. If a writer doesn’t come to Ulysses III with an existing understanding of CSS, however, it means those who wish to customize their documents will be forced to learn an entirely new syntax. While I had no difficulties duplicating a style and formatting it to my liking, this might be off-putting for some. Once a user sets up their stylesheets or finds a stylesheet from an excellent style exchange9, however, the process of exporting from Ulysses III is actually less daunting than Scrivener.

Conclusion

As stated in the introduction, which of these two applications is better for you depends entirely on your workflow. Do you enjoy writing in plain text and enjoy tweaking styles by hand in an editor? Ulysses III is hard to beat. Do you enjoy rich text editing and having all your research for a project present and organized, siloed off from your other writings? If so, Scrivener is probably the way to go. Either way, these are two tools which make writing a joy.


  1. Again, I’m not a typical user. I’m just speaking from my experience.

  2. The delay is not the fault of the developer, the project is absolutely immense.

  3. If I’m wrong, I’d love to know – this seems like an odd omission.

  4. The base markdown syntax doesn’t support advanced features like footnotes or tables. MultiMarkdown, however, does. Many people shorten this version of the markup to simply “Markdown.”

  5. This isn’t entirely accurate, Scrivener stores it’s documents as RTF files, which are able to be opened by just about any word processor. Saving files in RTF however, especially in mobile environments, is not as simple as working with plain text markdown.

  6. In reality, this shouldn’t be as difficult a transition as it it for many, but many people who use word processors as supped-up typewriters have never embraced the sanity-saving wonders that are paragraph styles.

  7. Cascading Style Sheets

  8. A similar feature is available in Scrivener through the use of saved presets.

  9. Ulysses Style Exchange

 

 

The Amazing Editor that Could – Editorial

A little over two years ago I moved to using markdown for the majority of my writing. For those who don't know, Markdown is a light-weight markup format which uses plain text for it's files – if you're interested in learning more about how to use this amazing tool, follow this link. For me, the brilliance of Markdown is two-fold:

  • The markup us easily read even if it hasn't been converted to any other format.
  • Writers can add the markup with extreme speed, using simple characters.

Markdown is usable with any plain text editor, but where it really shines is when it's paired with an editor which understands the markdown syntax and convert the markup to other formats such as HTML or PDF. I've used several such editors in my time with markdown, but for the last six months I've been using perhaps the most amazing editor I've ever had at my disposal. It's Editorial by OMZ software. Recently, OMZ released the universal iOS version of this app, and I thought it was an appropriate time to explore it's features.

Basic features

At it's core, Editorial is a plain text editor which supports both plain text and markdown files. This is a bit of a strange distinction, as a markdown file is a plain text file – the only difference between them, according to Editorial, is whether or not files are created with a .txt or .md file extension1. The file extension seems to be the trigger for the markdown preview features of the editor window. These features change the look of editor window text to match the markup without having to preview a conversion to HTML. While markdown preview is not necessary given markdown's emphasis on human-readability, it's a nice feature to have.

Editorial's keyboard has an extended row which adds keys for common markdown characters. This saves writers from having to navigate different keyboard modes when typing on the virtual keyboard.

In older versions of Editorial users had to tap on the document title to get access to a word count. Starting with version 1.1, an unobtrusive persistent word count can be enabled in the settings. As I rely heavily on my word count who I'm writing, I really appreciate this feature.

Swiping from right to left brings out a panel which accesses preview, console, help, and browser modes. These modes are basically self-explanatory – browser mode is wonderful for doing research on the web and copying text into a document without leaving the app, help mode contains web-based documentation for the app, console mode opens a scratch pad which is useful for storing multiple bits of information, and preview mode shows what the markdown syntax looks like when converted to HTML.

Swiping from right to left opens up a file browser panel with modes to list both local storage and files synced through dropbox. From the bottom of this panel new documents can be created by tapping on the document icon found in the lower left corner. Tapping on the edit button in the upper right of the panel allows documents to be moved or deleted, and new folders to be created.

As was stated above, tapping on the title of an open document reveals the current word and character counts of the file. Additionally, a dropbox icon is present which can be tapped to access different document versions and to copy the dropbox link for sharing2. To the right of this panel an edit icon allows the file to be renamed. This includes the file extension – so .txt files can be renamed with the .md extension, activating the editor preview features. Finally, the headings currently used in the document are listed in this panel – though, sadly, they are not nested according to level. Tapping on these titles causes the document to jump to that location.

Advanced features

While Editorial has an incredible amount of basic features, it separates from the competition in the advanced feature arena.

Workflows

Editorial's greatest power comes through it's incredible scripting features. The app allows the creation of “Workflows” which can automate the app to do all sorts of amazing feats. Workflows take some practice to get in the hang of how workouts are put together, but once the basics are mastered the possibilities are endless. Below are some workflows I've created so far.

“Big Idea”

This prompts the writer for basic header information and then inserts the answers, along with some pre-defined text. I use this when prepping sermons.

Custom Preview

This workflow shows the HTML conversion with a style sheet I created.

Superscript

A workflow which wraps any selected text with HTLM superscript tags. This overcomes the limitations of superscript in markdown.

Image Tag

This workflow inserts an bold “image tag” into my document, or which converts selected text into an image tag. This tag looks like this **[image: ]** . When my workflow is activated the text caret moves to the left of the right bracket, where I can type in an image description. I use these tags to create my presentations.

Move Caret

These two scripts move the text entry caret left and right one space, perfect for getting the cursor into the just the right spot.

Python Scripting

If the standard workflow features don't offer enough power, Editorial also allows users or script the app using python. This opens up a whole new level of customization in Editorial, one which has me itching to learn python so I have access to it!

It's important to understand, though, that the workflow feature is extremely powerful without knowing even a single line of Python. This is very much a power user feature, and it says something that the ordinary workflow features are not for power users only.

Shortcuts

Each workflow can be assigned a shortcut which allows it to be activated by a specific keystroke on an external keyboard. This works with markdown's philosophy of not having to remove hands from the keyboard to apply formatting. Workflows may also be added to the Bookmarks Bar. While this is a bit awkwardly named, the feature sets workflows in a toolbar at the top edge of the editor window – along with custom text and icons. This allows for single tap access to a user's most valued workflows, saving much time while writing.

Taskpaper

Quite a few people were excited about Editorial 1.1 adding support for taskpaper, a plain text task managment markup system. I have yet to play much with this aspect of the application, especially since I rely heavily on reminders to keep me on task, but I can see it's appeal. The ability to create universally readable task lists with tags is a great accomplishment. When tossed in a shared dropbox folder, taskpaper formatting could allow teams to work collaboratively on a task list and while checking the progress of the entire project. I plan on experimenting more with this in the future.

Conclusion

I typically go for “it just works” apps on iOS as heavy customization is typically a obstacle to me getting work done. Editorial, however, is a wonderful exception to this rule. The customization it offers is as transparent an implementation of scripting I have ever seen. The app is fully featured without accessing workflows, but when utilized it frees a writer to make the editor an extension of their personal work flow. Prior to using Editorial I didn't really distinguish between writing markdown with my iOS, Android, and Mac editors. Since taking up Editorial, however, I find myself intentionally moving toward my iPad for writing. It is, without a doubt, the best markdown editor in the App Store, and perhaps anywhere. It is certainly worth it's $6.99 price. If you have ever been interested in plain text writing on your iPad, this is the app to get.


  1. Editorial also recognizes other common markdown extensions, such as .mmd or .markdown, but not not these change the core truth, Markdown is plain text (and, yes, you can do footnotes using a version of Markdown).

  2. If the document is stored locally, this button offers to move the document to DropBox.

 

Create works of art with Phoetic

Phoetic word cloud

The words which created this cloud are —Painfully Hopeful, discipleship, geek, books, Jesus, family, technology, theology, story, Wezlo

I have always been fascinated by word clouds. I first discovered them through a web-site called wordle, which takes text and created a spiffy-looking word cloud based word usage. The site's engine is smart, it's able to skip linking words such as “and,” or “a,” or “the” and concentrate on the words which make up the heartbeat of a text. More common words are made larger in the cloud, less common are smaller. I used to create word-clouds from my sermons to see what I was actually communicating in a message. If the largest words weren't related to what I thought my main point was, I knew I wrote it wrong. It's pretty fantastic. Sadly, it also uses Java — which is why I used to use it. I've turned Java off as a web-plugin. If you haven't made that step, though, I highly recommend the site.

My new toy

Catch the fire, circle up

An image for our church transition. The words are the circles which will make up our new structure.

I'm still fascinated by word clouds, so I've taken to scanning the iOS app store to see if there is anything which would replace the functionality of wordle. There are several apps which look promising in the store, but my curiosity never led me to make a purchase. Until yesterday, that is.

Yesterday morning I discovered an app called Phoetic. It's not a word-cloud in the tradition of wordle. Instead, Phoetic takes an image, and creates an image mask — filling the contrast of an image with either black or white, depending on it's color value. It then uses this mask to recreate the picture using a list of words you provide. The app's features are dead simple to use. Photos can be cropped, the mask levels can be altered or inverted, color schemes can be created, fonts can be chosen (or even added), and words can be selected with simple swipes and taps. The results are stunning.

Things to remember

While Phoetic is simple, and incredibly powerful, there are some things to keep in mind in order to make your word clouds turn out as beautiful as possible.

ABCNJ logo with Annual Session theme

The theme for the ABCNJ Annual Session is - God's Word, Our World. This image could use some more contrast in the palette.


Use high contrast images

Phoetic uses an image mask using contrast as it's key value, so it works best with images which already have high-contrast. In other words, close ups with simple backgrounds or computer art with high contrast are going to give you your best results. You aren't going to recreate huge group shots or nature scenes using this app.

Darker colors equals sharper results

I've had better results with a majority of darker colors in the color palette. Light colors tend to reduce the illusion of sharpness in the generated word cloud. If you like the shape of your cloud but are disappointed in it's sharpness, make the colors darker.

Play with the color order

The color palette is easy to set up and rearrange. Play with your color sets to get your best results. Also, remember the first color in the palette will be used as the background color.

Email any cloud you want to print

I don't like paper, but some people are addicted to printing. So, if you want to print out a cloud make sure you email it from the app, rather than saving it as an image. Emailing the cloud allows you to send a PDF which is set up as a vector image. That means you could scale the cloud infinitely and not lose any sharpness. One a screen you can zoom in to the smallest letters and see which words are being used. For printing you could make the image fill an entire wall and have every word be legible.

One thing I'd like to see

As it currently stands, there is really only one feature I'd like to see, the ability to insert color values by typing in their numerical values (either hexadecimal or cmyk values for printing). That way, I could easily match the colors of my word clouds with the color schemes for a particular brand.

Conclusion

The app is 99 cents. If you have access to an iOS device (the app is universal) and enjoy making unique pieces of art from photos picking this up is a no-brainer.

 

Some days…

There are days when I just don't think I have any pastoral gifts at all and my calling is just a joke people are playing on me to which I haven't figured out the punch line.

Then there are days when I manage to do something useful by God's grace. When I turn around and look at it I think, “Who on earth did that?” I'm amazed to find out I was actually involved.

Most days actually consist of both realities, which is why I go through life rather dizzy.

 

Dear Donald

I don’t typically write “open letters” to other Christians, but your recent blog post made me want to reach out to you. Your follow up post offers a lot of clarity to your first thoughts. I especially love your thoughts on the “not about you” section. This quote was amazing,

But this is a much larger issue. The subtext of these comments seemed to insinuate that God wants us to suffer for Him. But not suffer by reaching the poor or by being outcast, suffer, literally, by standing in a church service singing songs you don’t find catchy. Really?

Thanks for pointing that out. You have no idea how often I’ve had the same thought.

Your first post resonated with me, largely because the reasons why you don’t often attend a “traditional” church service are the same reasons why I don’t often attend conferences. I find sitting in large rooms for hours on end, while an endless litany of people tell me how excited they are, to be emotionally traumatic. The fact that conferences typically break up the endless litany of speakers by putting on faux rock concerts doesn’t do anything to make them more palatable. Like you, I’m an introvert. Noise followed by louder noise does produce fond feelings in me. One of my most common thoughts during a conference is, “Make the bad man stop.”

Unlike you singing does produce an emotional connection with me, but in a much different setting. Also unlike you, I enjoy a good lecture – provide I both know beforehand I’m attending a lecture and I know there is a clear ending time to the lecture1. We have different tastes. I’m pretty much ok with that and I’m sure you are as well.

Other than to tell you how much I resonate with your thinking I wanted to reach out for some other reasons.

First, as a pastor, I wanted to apologize for all the righteous bloggers who read2 your blog and attacked. When people who depend on a particular institution see the institution questioned, the questioning voice needs to be silenced or discredited. I wish it were otherwise, but it is what it is. I’ve experience similar attacks in my lifetime. They are rarely direct, and hurt deeply. For the wounds inflicted by fellow Christians, I apologize.

Second, I wanted to encourage you. Run away from “traditional” Evangelical worship as fast as you can. If it just leaves you exhausted, numb, or even hostile – it doesn’t matter what the production value is, the spiritual damage it can do is just not worth it. “Traditional” Evangelical worship has turned worshippers into audience members. They are there to give emotional energy to the band, sit quietly when appropriate, and provide the audience track for the sermon. In fact, a lot of the same people who reminded you that worship is “not about you” need to be reminded of the same thing3.

You wrote this in your first piece,

I connect with God by working. I literally feel an intimacy with God when I build my company. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe God gave me my mission and my team and I feel closest to him when I’ve got my hand on the plow.

That is simply amazing, and it explains why the “traditional” Evangelical worship-service leaves you feeling blah. The audience model of worship turns you into a combination recipient/emotional-prop. You want to work, which is exactly what worship is supposed to be – service to God. The “weekly fill-up” mentality of Evangelical Christianity has got it backward, worship isn’t a service station for congregants and leaders. It’s a temple through which we render service to our Savior4.

I do hope you find, however, a community which deliberately and regularly gathers to serve Jesus. Filled with people who have the same conviction to serve, but who experience God in a way which is different from you. These folks help us see our own blind-spots, help protect our weaknesses, and give us space for our strengths to bless them as well. Being regular isn’t only good for the physical realm5.

Third, I wanted to invite you to come and worship with the little church I pastor if you happen to find yourself in the Philly area. We are in South Jersey, not too far from Center City. You don’t have to announce you’re coming, you don’t even have to let me know you’re there6. I don’t offer this as an, “this will convince him he’s completely wrong about going to church” un-vitation. We probably do a lot of things that would leave you banging your head on the wall. On the other hand, I think you’ll appreciate the eclectic nature of the group. Folks are goofy, fun, and think it’s funny when people take themselves seriously. I think you’d have fun.


  1. Also, lectures aren’t usually filled with people telling you how absolutely wonderful the event is – over, and over, and over, and over. I’m sure these people want to get out of there as much as I do, but they are contractually obligated to sell the product. 
  2. Or at least read other blogs which quoted your blog and wanted to chime-in. 
  3. I also need this same reminder, just in case you were wondering. 
  4. I’m a mystic, so it’s pretty easy for me to embrace this idea. Worship, as far as I can tell, is the act of stepping into the throne-room scene in Revelation. 
  5. Yup, potty humor. I went there. 
  6. We’re small, so we’ll all know a visitor has joined us, but I won’t recognize you, trust me (if that hurt your feelings feel free to borrow my metaphorical wiffle-ball bat of doom and give me a good wallup). Heck, even go by your middle name if you want (don’t give a false name, lying is a sin and then you’d have to confess and give your real name and it would kinda defeat the whole purpose). 

Our Town

This past week, I found myself linked in a post from one of my old LMH acting compatriots. When I followed it to see why I was linked in the post I was delighted to discover our alma mater was launching a production of Our Town — which they had not performed in 23 years. This was important to both my self and my friend because in that 1991 production we played the lead couple of George Gibbs and Emily Webb.

our townstsge

Set in a 3/4 round the intimate environment was perfect for the play

When word spread about the current production on FaceBook many of the old cast and crew connected and reminisced about the time we had with the play. For all the wonderful simplicity of the Our Town's set-design, our production was a monumental undertaking. At the time Lancaster Mennonite High School had no stage on which to perform a drama, the current fine arts center was still months away from opening. So, the cast and crew had to come together and help build a stage in the school's old chapel space (currently the cafeteria). It was probably the combination of the hours spent preparing the production space and the depth of Wilder's script which cemented the Our Town experience into our collective psyche. Personally, I can say the memories of that production are among the most vivid of all my moments on stage. In fact, I still display our cast and crew photo in my office, 23 years later. This photo has became a wonderful point of connection between past and current productions. I scanned the image and emailed it to the current director, but my little gesture got trumped. In a moment of inspiration, our “Emily” printed out a copy of the photo and delivered it to the current cast and crew, along with a congratulatory card and some snacks.

Along with the reminiscing came a compulsion to see the current production for myself. In some ways I'm sure the ache of nostalgia played a role in this desire, but I also felt the need to witness this current cast and crew enter into a joy similar to the one our 1991 group experienced. Last night I was able to travel out to Lancaster along the same path I drove on Monday mornings for two years. I was accompanied by my daughter and my parents. It was especially gratifying to have my daughter along for the experience, as she had never been to LMH before. Her response after the play was, “This place is amazing.”

Aside from being treated to a phenomenal performance, I was also able to several connections. One of my old teachers, who happens to be the father of one of my dearest friends, was at the performance with his wife. I hadn't seen them in over a decade, but I was reminded again last night of what special people they both are. The current Assistant Superintendent of the wider Lancaster Mennonite School remembered me from my time at LMH and we had a wonderful chat (he also tried to recruit my daughter, to which I am not adverse). As a special bonus I got to meet the current director and take a picture with the current “George” (who graciously chatted with a guy who played his role seven years before he was born).

It was a beautiful evening, reminding me how special my alma mater is.

1991 cast and crew

The 1991 cast and crew

 

Snow Bowl

Yesterday it felt like our Philadelphia fate was going to happen again. Everything about the game seemed to be stacked in our favor.

  1. We were playing at home.
  2. It was SNOWING.
  3. We were playing a dome team.

Any Philly fan could tell you, “Of course we'd be losing that game. Don't you remember the NFC Championship game against Tampa?”

So when we were down eight points, and amassed a whopping -2 yards in the first half it just seemed as though it was “business as usual” for Philly sports. When the Lions returned a punt for a touchdown and went up 14 points it seemed certain the day would not end well.

Then “business as usual” took the day off. I actually think it must have gotten buried in the 8 inches of snow which dropped on the field.

  • Our warm weather quarterback figured out how to throw in the snow.
  • Our offensive line invaded the Lion's trenches and evicted their front four from the game.
  • Shady McCoy ran for more yards in one quarter than most backs run in a game.

Having grown up here, seeing the Eagles win a game like this boggles my mind. They can keep boggling it all they want.