Quick Hits

I’m sorry I’ve been a neglectful blogger the past few days. I’ve been busy, you know, changing the world. Jealous? I thought so. There are only two days left before primary day, so I’m putting in as much volunteering time as I can.
So, what I’ve missed:

  • Matt Yglesias only learned this week that one should never, ever buy RAM directly from Apple. Given as my dad’s a Mac developer, I got that lesson drilled into me by the time I was, oh, five or six. It was somewhere between “don’t put sharp objects in your nose” and “if a strange man offers you candy if you take a ride in his van, don’t go with him” on my dad’s “things not to do” list. In case you were wondering, buy from Crucial. Free shipping, low prices – they’re good people. Apple, on the other hand, will price-gouge you up the wazoo.
  • In other tech news, Alan Jacobs apparently uses BBEdit as a word processor, which is just bizarre. Don’t get me wrong; I love BBEdit to death, and I use it whenever I need to write a quick script in Python or edit raw HTML, but it isn’t meant to be a word processor at all. It’s a coder’s tool; Jacobs is the first BBEdit user I’ve ever heard who uses it to write prose. Though JS Bangs, one of Jacobs’ commenters, claims to have written a novel with nothing more than Vim and LaTeX, which proves Bangs to be the World’s Biggest Masochist.
  • I got the scary, “if you don’t elect Hillary Clinton, Arabs will nuke your children” mailer that Matt Zeitlin and Matt Yglesias commented on in the mail yesterday. It’s pretty hilariously over the top to just see that amidst the junk mail. Meanwhile, Giuliani sent us not one, but two mailers yesterday. Apparently, targeting registered Democrats is all the rage with him. Keep spending the big bucks on that, Rudy.
  • This DailyKos diary is the greatest post, nay, the greatest thing in the history of man. Read it. Now.
  • I didn’t watch the Republican debate tonight, but I did see the Democratic one. I think Obama did well, better even than in past debates; he responded to criticism from Clinton and Charlie Gibson very effectively. Hillary’s negative attacks fell flat, and her harsh tone was pretty grating. Edwards came to Obama’s defense a good portion of the time, which was great. Charlie Gibson was the worst moderator I’ve seen this cycle, by far. His editorializing (like his dis of Obama’s ethics reform legislation, or his comparison of Obama to Bush, or his support for the surge) was out of line, the last question (“What statement from a past debate do you want to retract?”) was dumb, and his tone was obnoxious.
    The whole theme of “making change” that every candidate returned to throughout the evening (which had my brother, mocking Hillary, yelling “I can’t make anymore change! What do you think I am, a factory?”) reminded my whole family of this awesome fake SNL ad from the mid-90s:

    Hillary claims she can make change. But can she exchange wrinkled $10 bills for crisp ones, usually the same day? I think not.

  • 6 thoughts on “Quick Hits

    1. I used BBedit for a long time, but I fell in love with TextMate thanks to its extensibility with bundles. I really miss BBEdit’s FTP browser, just about the only feature TextMate is missing, but I can use it as an external editor from Fetch.
      I watched about 15 minutes of the Republican debate before I had to switch it off because I couldn’t stop myself from cursing loudly at the TV.

    2. Since I switched from MacOS to Linux a while ago, I have been using NEdit instead of BBEdit. But they are very similar. Well, yes, an editor plus LaTeX is the way that I do word processing. Is it masochism? Yes and no. It has a learning curve. Once you’ve learned it, it’s a lot better for some things than Word. Mathematical formulas, for sure. But even when I write text with no formulas, LaTeX is just not that bad. It’s good enough that I don’t care to learn Word. I don’t recommend it for everyone, but it is what I do. So sue me.

    3. I guess the learning curve for the vi/emacs and LaTeX approach has always seemed sufficiently high, and the payoff for non-technical writing sufficiently low, that I’ve never seen a reason to bother learning it.

    4. The emacs keystroke commands get to be second nature after a while (cmd-A, cmd-E, etc). BBedit, TextMate, and most Mac text editors support them. Even text areas in Safari support them.

    5. vi/emacs vs BBEdit/NEdit is a substantially different question from Word versus LaTeX. I have had experience with vi for 24 years, but these days I only use it when I have to. BBEdit and NEdit are just better. The argument that vi and emacs are scriptable and configurable doesn’t work, because BBEdit and NEdit are also scriptable and configurable.
      By contrast, LaTeX has major advantages over Word, or any other existing WISYWIG system, for mathematical writing. In my profession, you either know LaTeX or you will get less done. Since I do know it, I might as well use it for non-technical writing. It’s not quite as nice as Word for that purpose, but it’s good enough and it’s also open source and (relatively speaking) light-weight.

    6. The emacs keystroke commands get to be second nature after a while (cmd-A, cmd-E, etc). BBedit, TextMate, and most Mac text editors support them. Even text areas in Safari support them.
      That’s pretty amazing, Mike. Somewhere, Richard Stallman is doing a victory dance.
      In my profession, you either know LaTeX or you will get less done. Since I do know it, I might as well use it for non-technical writing.
      I guess that’s the rub. While I do occasionally need to write formal equations for my math class (my teacher, much like the good people at ETS, refuses to accept my handwriting), I only do that about once a week, and AppleWorks’ WYSIWYG Equation Editor is good enough. Slow, but good enough.

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