Friday Four

Friday, December 05, 2014

1. Lately, I've been playing with Emacs for fifteen or twenty minutes at the end of my morning writing time. The learning curve is steep and, yes, I'm having to use a cheat sheet as I compose my first blog post, this one, in Emacs.

But here is just a part of what some slow, steady effort can buy for me, in the form of access to "Org Mode":

... By defining some org files as being agenda files, Org mode can examine these files for TODO entries, scheduled tasks, deadlines and more to build out useful agenda views to get a quick handle on what needs to be done and when. While at first I started by simply syncing down my google calendars as org-files (using ical2org.awk), I've started managing TODO lists in a dedicated org file. By adding tasks to this file, scheduling them, and setting deadlines, I've been doing a much better job of keeping track of things I need to get done and (even more importantly) when I need to get them done. [emphasis added]
One of the big deficiencies I have noticed in simply having a to-do list is that the items there are devoid of context and that keeping tabs on them as part of a project involves duplication of effort and a greater possibility for human error. Being able to get around such problems while simplifying my own system is the long-term reward for learning this somewhat arcane text editor. So, as I learn the basics, I am keeping interested/making sure the effort is worthwhile by making a first pass through the org-mode documentation.

On top of this, Org Mode may obviate much of the effort I anticipated having to expend in order to create a personal knowledge base.

2. Paul Graham writes about why mean people fail:
Why? I think there are several reasons. One is that being mean makes you stupid. That's why I hate fights. You never do your best work in a fight, because fights are not sufficiently general. Winning is always a function of the situation and the people involved. You don't win fights by thinking of big ideas but by thinking of tricks that work in one particular case. And yet fighting is just as much work as thinking about real problems. Which is particularly painful to someone who cares how their brain is used: your brain goes fast but you get nowhere, like a car spinning its wheels. [italics added]
Other people are a fact of reality, but the emotions caused by fights can cause one to lose perspective, paying much more attention to an opponent than is warranted. That is a big part of the merit of some advice I got a long time ago about I fight I was contemplating. A friendly acquaintance advised me to "let the anger go", and an old friend advised me to ask myself what I could accomplish by engaging. Between those things, I realized that the fight would have been a big waste of my time. Retrospectively, I think Paul Graham's words also explain why the potential for a confrontation felt so burdensome. I dreaded the prospect of preparing myself for the fight at the expense of so many other things.

The moral isn't so much, "Never fight," as it is, "Pick your fights wisely."

3. If I weren't married to a physician, I'm not so sure we'd bother having a land line, and the daily barrage of robo-calls that comes with it despite our listing in the National Do Not Call Registry. On days that I'm home alone with the kids, I have taken to unplugging the line from the phone to prevent calls during nap times.

Of course, I'd rather just not get robo-calls. To that end, I may try two things I encountered recently: some advice from a telemarketer on how to get rid of such calls, and a free service (that won an FCC award) called Nomorobo. If anyone here has tried the latter, I'd be interested in hearing about your experience.

4. An NPR article asks, "Is the Food Babe a fearmonger?". The answer, according to quite a few people who should know is, "Yes," as some of her claims are ridiculous upon even cursory examination:
Take, for example, [Vani] Hari's campaign urging beer-makers to reveal the ingredients in their brews. Among the ingredients that concerned Hari was propylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze. But, as cancer surgeon and blogger David Gorski writes, the product used in some beers to stabilize foam is actually propylene glycol alginate -- which is derived from kelp. "It is not the same chemical as propylene glycol, not even close. It is not antifreeze," he wrote. [links dropped]
This would be a lot funnier if Hari didn't command a wide audience.

-- CAV


John Shepard said...

With respect to fighting, Gus, you may appreciate and enjoy the 1958 movie The Big Country, especially the character of James McKay (Gregory Peck), a retired sea captain who has moved west to marry Patricia Terrill, daughter of the landowner Maj. Henry Terrill (Charles Bickford).

McKay soon discovers that the Terrills are involved in a long-standing feud with the Hannasseys (Burl Ives, the father; Chuck Connors, one of his sons), and he finds that he cannot take one side over the other. In short order, McKay is accused by others, including Patricia, his fiance, of being a coward, and he decides to break off his engagement and move into town, away from the ranch.

Having refused to fight Steve Leech (Heston), Maj. Terrill's foreman, when provoked in public and to the embarrassment of Patricia, McKay goes to Leech late that night, before moving into town, and calls Leech out for the fight that Leech has been itching to have. In the early morning dark they meet out in the open (it's a big country) and fight it out, both becoming exhausted, the fight more or less ending as a draw.

McKay then asks Leech just what they had proved, and one can see that Leech is learning from McKay about the futility and senselessness of the feud with the Hannasseys.

McKay, with his courage, honesty and intelligence proves to be the force that brings the Terrill-Hannassey feud to a climax and resolution. (The relationship between McKay and Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons) is also a testiment to the significance of character, of both, in their blooming romance.) Great movie!

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the movie recommendation, John.

Vigilis said...

Gus, your readers may like to know VOIP is required for Nomorobo according to the sign-up page and a Nomorobo(with Verizon) user's January 2014 comment.

An ingenious voice "captha" has been invoked due to non-cooperative carriers (e.g. AT&T).

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks, Vigilis.