I’ve got about three different lead-ins to this post rattling around my head. There’s the “we don’t have flying cars, but we have public-key cryptography that isn’t completely terrible” angle. There’s the “truly we are living in a William Gibson novel” angle. But I think I’ll take the “here’s a true story about how public-key cryptography is being used right this second” angle. Everybody loves a good anecdote, right? So there’s this fellow by the name of Michael Anderson.
I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons I never update this blog is because I don’t focus on any particular topic. Some people can dash off unfocused blog posts at the drop of a hat. I, for good or ill, am not a member of that set. Back in, oh, April-ish, I found a topic that not only I could obsess over, but has proven to be an inspiration to write about online.
Okay, listen up. This is pretty simple. I’m gonna start by defining terms. Ends are goals. If you take action, you usually do so to accomplish an end. Say, if I go buy bread and deli meat, I do so in order to accomplish the end of eating a sandwich. Means are the steps you go through to accomplish an end. So, in the sandwich example, purchasing bread and deli meat, putting a few slices of meat on the bread, getting a knife out and slathering one of the bread slices with mayo: all these are means to the end of ultimately eating the sandwich.
IN WHICH Story meets Technology, and they exchange Awkward Pleasantries I kept this blog post about using technology to tell stories by Jurian Baas around because the underlying premise got under my skin. From the article: …the connectedness and interactive nature of the Internet can not only give us multimedia experiences, but also change the way we interact with text, our most basic manner of communicating after speech. I totally agree with Bret Victor on this: “People currently think of text as information to be consumed.
IN WHICH Fingers Paint while Dry, and Egos are Lightly Battered in a Hollandaise Sauce On Mixel Mixel confounds me as a piece of software that shines so brightly, the shadows of its flaws are made proportionately more apparent. Mixel is an iPad app for making collages that has the whole “social networking” thing baked into its DNA. Making a collage feels like something the iPad was born to do.
I have a modest goal: write some fiction. Instead of actually working toward accomplishing that goal, I’m going to obsess about the toolchain and other externalities used to support this endeavor. I will use revision control. By an accident of history I will be using git. I will use a text editor. Since I don’t want to have to run into frictions from modal editing while fiction writing, I will be using Emacs.
“Un-” is a negative prefix denoting the opposite of the word to which it is affixed. The nearest equivalent prefix is “non-”, which denotes the same thing. “Un-”, however, also possesses a connotation (in many applications of the prefix) of time, where previously the state or thing that is not, once was. In the case of zombies, the term “undead” is used to refer to them as a collective whole, as a race or species.
I have a new theory of book-lending. I’ve always been extremely recalcitrant to lend out my precious, precious tomes. They are my babies. Letting someone else read them who certainly doesn’t appreciate them to the same degree, or in the same kind, is a risky proposition. My current reading pile includes a heaping helping of Austrian Economics. I love this stuff. A sense of economics on this scale rewires your brain circuitry (what a crappy, ubiquitous brain-as-turing-machine metaphor) in subtle and not so subtle ways.
I fritter away a lot of time. This bothers. I have a stack or two of notecards I ostensibly use to keep track of what I should be doing in my sparer time. It’s been a week since I used them. I instead allow urgent or interesting tasks to fill my time. I don’t exert my will over this time like I ought. I don’t wonder that GTDis so popular online.
I went and saw the Dark Knight again. This time I went with my parents. My mom is a pretty devout woman with a decent artistic sensibility. Afterward she was still trying to process the experience, and it was good to get her take on things. One thing she said that struck me: “Everyone says it’s lots darker than Batman Begins. I hate that. It’s not dark, it’s sadistic.” In one sense, she’s right.
There is something about data that recommends itself. The more data you have the more you ostensibly know about the subject; the more you know the better basis you have for your decisions; the better foundation for your decisions the higher the odds your decisions are the right ones. Everyone likes to make the right decisions. Few things are as truly satisfying. That said, most data are crap. If they’re not inaccurate then they draw your focus to the wrong thing.
I could really go for a smoke. I’m a non-smoker. The most I ever smoked was three times in one kinda stressful week in college. And I try to buy the good stuff when I do. No Camels for me. If I ever want a smoke, it’s because I’ve an itch that needs scratching, and a cigarette seems like the shortest path to itch relief. It never is though. There’s a deeper underlying reason why I have dry skin.
Allen Ginsberg sang the slow poetry of the technological age before its time. He took the time to wallow in the horrors of the banal that flit by us as fast as we can click thru. With Whitman as his muse, he turned our eyes from nature to our fractured nature, and held our gaze. I don’t even especially like Ginsberg’s poetry. Give me Hopkins any day. But the torrent of measured fitfulness poured out as a fruitless libation, sterile poetry stank with death, demise, burrowing in little rat holes for faint hope; well there’s more there there than the internet, right?
When I started using Emacs, I had grandiose notions of producing copious amounts of prose, linking it together in all sorts of interesting and helpful ways, and basically revolutionizing the way I experienced computers. But most of all, I had a new and urgent desire to do everything from the keyboard in a blazingly efficient manner. I proceeded to burn the Emacs keybindings into my brain and fingers. I developed some slightly inefficient workflows (copying and pasting from text documents into OpenOffice documents, editing the original text file based on whatever page length I was going for, rinse and repeat until paper is produced) that were, on the whole, a net gain due to the speed of typing without mousing.
This is the story of a man and his favorite text editor. In 2001, I was a freshman in college, which meant the closest thing to highspeed internet that I had hitherto experienced. Which upped my time surfing the web. One of the delightful sites I lighted upon was Ftrain. One day, I dug through Ftrain’s archives and found Emacs Notepad. I was intrigued. Having exclusively used Word (and Notepad to edit HTML - ha!