All the cool kids are doing link posts now and because I’ve had such weird days working for the past few weeks I’ve collected a bunch of things that I think are worth making some notes on.

First off there’s this talk by Harry Schwartz at the Boston Emacs Meetup called Getting Started with Org-mode. Fantastically nerdy stuff. In my experience there are several categories of tools for manipulating text. There is Microsoft’s Word, obviously, which is good enough for most people’s purposes. And then there are the more minimal text editors from the default notepad application which appears on every computer’s operating system and has a greater or lesser set of features depending on the system’s target audience. (Notepad on Windows is shit. Gedit provided with some Linux desktops is pretty good.) Then we have your integrated development environments. Scrivener, a tool for writers, is equivalent to the tools available from Jetbrains, who produce specialist IDEs for various programming languages. These provide tooling and automation for common tasks in the problem domain. They are often very good, but have a tendency to force you into a work flow.

And then there are the two sleeping giants: Vim and Emacs.

Vim could be said to be a minimalist environment, but it’s customisable and has plug-ins available. I use it for work because it’s installed on pretty much every server in existence. It’s good, but not for me.

But I’m an Emacs user. And I’m an Emacs user for two reasons: firstly it’s inherently programmable and you can change it to adapt to your work flow. It is an old joke that Emacs is a fantastic operating system in need of a good text editor. And while that’s got a genuine core of truth in it that’s slightly unfair. Mostly though I use Emacs because of Org-mode. The talk linked to above is an hour long outline of some parts of Org-mode, but is in no way an extensive tour. Like Harry, I use Org for todo list management and also for writing technical documents. At various times I have tried to use it for writing prose in, but find my optimal process often involves paper & pen then typing up, so text generally goes straight into Scrivener.

Anyway, look at that talk. Emacs and Vim are fascinating as they will likely be around for as long as we have computers and have parallel solutions for many tasks.

My evangelism caught the better of me there.

The next thing which has caught my interest has been the ongoing discussion around the Clarke Awards. It started with Nina Allan and continued with Martin Petto and Jonathan McCalmont. I suspect that my contribution to the discussion has been minor and betraying how junior I am within those circles. Broadly I’m less interested in literary awards than having a robust & boisterous culture of debate around literature. I nominally write SF, but only one example of it has been published anywhere of note. I’ve ruled out submitting material anywhere this year, as I just want to get good enough to my own standards and I’m not quite comfortable with what I’m attempting to articulate yet. To have spaces for lively arguments which are conversational is something that would help me get there.

The genre (whatever that is) has gotten better over the last fifty years, but everyone seems happy for us to be in situation where writing at a Hard Difficult level is the accepted norm. Personally I want to see myself pushing into the high E numbers along with my friends. It’s the critics who’ll get us there.

Related to the above I’ve been reading Lavie Tidhar’s HebrewPunk. It’s good and definitely of a high standard than is usual. Will have thoughts later.

I start work in an hour and a half, so best make another coffee. Tonight is the night that I resort to chemistry to power me through to 6AM.

See below for a selfie.


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