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Despite years of development and an almost universal grunt of dismay from geeks, there is no F/OSS tool that can replace Microsoft Word. It comes up short for several tasks (simple data management, spreadsheets, page layout) and is overkill for many others (simple note-taking or letter writing), but it's in a class all on its own when it comes to what it was intended for: writing.
Feel like you can prove me wrong? Know a program that can be my pen-and-paper better than I'd ever believe? Here's the chance to give it a new user and advocate. The program must:
Be a Win32,.Net/Mono, or simiarly windows-friendly App. Java and other add-ons are OK, but Linux-native isn't.
Take either.DOC or a similar equivalent (.HTM,.DOCX, or some standard flavor of.XML). Batch converters are ok, but see below.
Count the words in any arbitrary section of text, including the text as a whole
Track the changes I make at least as well as Work 2k (only the last writing session is all I really need)
Have an on-the-fly spellchecker
Have a built-in or hooked-in thesaurus
Have an some option to fix common typos as a type
have some similiar option to undo accidental typo-corrections easily
Be able to either export to.DOC or have a Palm OS companion that can read and at least commonent upon an RTF-style version.
OOo passes 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9, but fails pretty miserably at 3, 6, and 8. I don't use OOo.
For the record, I did get a laptop a few weeks back. I considered Acer and a few others, but was wooed by the HP/Compaq Turion and "big familiar name to heckle support to." (I checked the post-merger quality by a geek who had, and would still have if not for divorce, a Compaq laptop.)
Thanks to a sale at BestBy, I picked up the Turion, WXGA, 15.4 (.1?) HP Paviliion dv5000. A quick newegg upgrade to 2 GB ram, and it's now my primary PC, where I waste many hours playing City of Heroes with "good enough framerate for an RPG."
As of March 23, I am now a card-carrying, Grade 11 permanent New York State Tax Department Employee. Being as New York State pays its employees one month after they work, I am only now getting the "slightly" bigger paycheck for this illustrious new position. (It'll continue to grow for the next 2 1/2 months, actually.)
By way of celebration, I've decided to splurge on a new laptop. By "new" I of course mean "a" laptop, my previous portable PC being a used Pentium computer whose hinges have long since died away.
So, if you've got any nuggets about the lower-end of PC laptops (~$750), please dig them out and share. Does anyone have any recommendations, or relevant horror stories? Has anyone had any experience with AMD's Semprons and Turions, sufficient to advice one over the other?
As I've said before, we should come out and amend the constitution to make this a better country.
A short recap of previous amendments:
D1: The ERA D2: Define Marriage and give federal weight to Civil Unions D3: Let Congress protect citizens (end-run around the commerce clause) D4: Abortion
To add to this list of good ideas that we really should consider, I'll add a fifth stolen right from The West Wing.
Amendment D5: Voting Rights All citizens who reside in these United States shall be counted and persons for purposes of proportional representation of members of Congress, and for all federal elections.
All citiens so counted shall be alloted to cast one vote, in a manner decdied by Congress and the several states. Citizens younger than the age of eighteen or otherwise in need of a legal guardian shall have their votes cast by proxy by their legal guardian, save for those who specifically register to vote on their own.
In any case where a real citizen and that citizen's guardian both cast otherwise valid votes on the citizen's behalf, the vote of the real citizen shall be deemed valid and the guardian's proxy vote discarded.
Let's given children the vote. All children, even newborns. We value children too poorly, and parents not enough.
It's a good movie. Not as good a Orison Scott Card says it is, but still good.
Why do I say this? Because Whedon's choice of how to heighten the tension in the final act (after they land on the last planet) is a cheap trick. Or an expensive trick, if you want to nitpick. But still, a trick that made me stop living the movie and remember I was watching a man's work.
After discussing things with Chacham, it occurs to me that we have not two, but three political axis in this country.
Right Wing vs. Left Wing: This is the major arc, one that I have previously described as "Righteousness over Liberty vs. Liberty over Righteousness."
Liberal vs. Conservative: This is a minor arc, but one that gets misused very often. The proper use, by the actual meaning of the words, would be "against the status quo vs. for the status quo."
Optimist vs. Pessimist: This is the least spoken and most important arc, and there are likely better terms for it. Some politicans believe that people are fundamentally good, and that the rest of us just need to get out of the way and keep wickedness at bay. Others hold that people are fundamentally evil, and need to be taught and restrained lest they bring ruin to us all.
Republican advocates (by which I mean, pundits) have sucessfully maligned the liberal/conservative arc as new names for left wing vs. right wing. This deprives us of needed vocabulary, and leaves the words "Judge Roberts is a Conservative Right-winger" as meaning the opposite of what they really mean--someone who values righteousness over liberty but will not change the status quo.
And this isn't something that only damages the left, either. George W. Bush should have ran as a "Liberal Republican", willing to change the way the system works for the better. He did, in fact, run on that idea both times, he just didn't admit it.
"A useful gramamar checker needs to be able to watch a user write, and adapt to their writing style. This should be its primary function--watching the user, noting where they vary against the 'norm', and varying the norm how the user varies it."
Please accompany me for a moment on a thought experiment. By the end, you might just be able to make my point for me.
Imagine yourself as a virgin, who has never had sex before. (Some of you may not have to imagine. Others will have to think back to grade school.) Now, picture that one Friday night you and a classmate find a quiet room somewhere, get naked, and have absolutely mind-blowing sex.
After finally getting home on Sunday night, you lie in bed, no doubt thinking about the experience and how your life has changed. You might fret and worry over the taboos you've crossed. You might be relieved at passing another of life's hurdles. You will almost certainly be thinking of the person you had sex with, and wondering if you can do it again next Friday night.
Now, with that thought firmly in mind, think about what would be different if you were a different gender, or if your virginal mate was a different gender. You'd still be thinking about them. It would still impress upon you the "wow" of sex, and should you and your virginal partner seperate you would likely seek out a person of a similar gender and orientation to your virginal mate.
Humans are designed to want to fuck whatever we first fucked pleasurably.
In fact, the underlying principle goes even further. Those of you who aren't finally re-taking Psych 101 this semester can probably list a litany of other instances where humans seek out repetition of situations they enjoyed.
If you don't know about it already, go read up on the Monty Haul problem. Bear in mind that computer simulation proves Marilyn Vos Savant right.
Now, then, why exactly is she wrong?
A natural inclidng is to jump up and say "she's got to be wrong; there's no way that can be right." A scientific inkling is to say "Planesdragon, you've gone off on a silly Christian rant again. Why must you prove how stupid you are?"
The answer, of course, comes in a closer examination of the problem.
If you choose to always switch, you will win 2/3 of the time.
If you choose to not switch, you will win 1/3 of the time.
But, the desicion to switch does not come until Monty asks his final "will you switch" question. Either you've got the car or you've got the goat--a new possibility that has exactly two outcomes.
I'm just a lowly college drop-out, but I believe that this is an example of "the law of independent trials."
It's an undeniable fact that the President of the United States is at once the most powerful single man in the world and the one with the most ammount of people who wish him dead. Well, maybe we can argue that second part, but slip in "American" and we're back to undeniable.
Becase of this threat and power, the President lives in a more or less constant state of security. No one comes near him without being searched, or being restrained by a bodyguard. No one can easily stand and take a picture of him, because secuirty gets in the way.
A side effect of this, of course, is that the President can fairly easily only see and hear the people he wants to see and hear. He doesn't sit at home wondering "Gee, I've got an hour, let's flip through the channels." He doesn't walk down the street and wait in a crowd, or go to a bar and chat it up with the common man.
Especialy this President, whose political mastermind is infamously censored who could and could not come to his "town hall" style political rallys.
Doing my own hour of mindless searching, I came across an article on Snoops, in which a reporter told the President he was doing a bad job and the President replied "Who cares what you think?"
Now, this exchange is what it is--a reporter being unusually honest and a President returning the favor--and I have no problem at all with that. But what irks me is Snoopes interpretation of the event. To wit:
Our opinion? There are plenty of traditional outlets for expressing dissatisfaction with the policies and actions of elected representatives, but walking up to the President at a public function and telling him he's doing a lousy job isn't one of them. Such behavior demonstrates a lack of respect for the office of President of the United States, an honor that should be maintained whether or not one respects the man who currently holds the office -- just as the well-mannered citizen doesn't express his disagreement with the political views of a American-flag-carrying protester by spitting on the flag he bears, because that act displays a contempt for everything Old Glory symbolizes, not merely for the person carrying it. The President isn't above criticism, but freedom of speech isn't an excuse for ignoring the ordinary civilities of choosing an appropriate time, place, and manner for the expression of that criticism.
Because the President is such a powerful figure, who weilds more power today than George Washington ever did, it's critically important that the people who DO see him are under no restraint to say whatever they please. I wouldn't even mind if the President replied in kind--it wouldn't make for good TV, but it would be a refreshing change of pase from the scripted talking point Presidency we've had since, oh, Kennedy beat Nixon.
If you've been in the same forum as me just about anywhere but/., you've probably heard me shill for Mindcraft -- my own take on how Psionics should have been. Well, this week I finally got the good news that the product is done, on (electronic) shelves, and ready to buy. It's avalible for $7 at RPGNow, DriveThruRPG (no DRM), and, if you're in Europe, 5.79EUR at Arima.
Since the subset of "friends circle" folk and d20 gamers is so small, I'll link to my discussion over at the dnd3e Livejournal. (Yes, that is my ugly mug on the icon there.)
This is for everyone on my "fans" list who isn't where they want to be in their lives at the moment.
For everyone who thinks that life sucks.
For everyone who doesn't believe that there is some benevolent, all-mighty thing out there watching them and handing them a script.
For everyone who is growing, and scared of what the world around them is becoming or what they are growing into or growing out of.
The lives that we lead are not to be spent in any particular way. Our lives are not destined to be spent in prasie of a dead man, in study of arcane secrets, in droll labor to enrich another, or even in the creation of a legacy of industry or family.
Our lives are to be spent living. We were all created to be, first and foremost, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to deprive you of the wondrous freedom that I happen to believe God gave us and wants us to exercise.
My religion is thus: God likes you, and is watching even when no one else is. He isn't a judge taking down notes, but a member of an audience glued to the edge of his seat as you live out your life.
Please keep that in mind, and live your life in exactly the way you want to live it. Only failure to do that is blasphemy. Only refusal to be yourself is unforgiviable sin.
(Feel free to tell me I'm wrong about God. But don't you dare for a moment think that you life is for anything grander than living.)
I've heard more than a few times the claim that Americans are especially prone to friendly fire. The claim is most often attributed to a friend who happened to serve in the Canadian or British military services, and I'm willing to take uncontested the fact that Americans have this REPUTATION.
But I don't believe it, and I won't believe it until some real statistics are shown.
Such as, how do these friendly fire incidents add up when you normalize for the size of the military? How about when you seperate the rate of inter-army and intra-army friendly fire?
It's an horrible event when any soldier dies at the hands of their allies. But if a country that fields 100,000 men and women DOESN'T have ten times the friend-fire incidents of their 10,000 strong ally, then I'll get worried.
Until I hear the numbers, I'm not convinced that the greater number of American friendly fire incidents is due to anything more than the greater number of American soldiers.
And the whole country breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that the only political party that could take on the Republicans has been handed over to someone who showed he knows how to remake a campaign. 2008 starts looking more and more interesting, to say nothing of the mid-term 2006 elections.
(Even if you're a Republican, you must recognize the importance of a strong opposition to ensure that no party rules by defalt, but instead retains the will of the people to stay in power.)
As I was talking with an Army Veteran friend of mine last night (in lieu of our wednesday night RPG game, naturally) I had an off-hand idea that I think deserves entry into my list of "good ideas if they could get past that wacky implementation phase."
Demilitarize the army.
By this, I don't mean throw down our guns and say "we'll never fight a war again!" Rather, I say let's turn our large, land-occupying force into something that's not intended to level countries. Either dramatically reduce the extant conventional force's numbers and create something new, or repurpose our oldest and most-maligned military branch to be a non-military "peacekeeping force."
The primary reason I think this is a good idea is to prevent any future prison torture scandals, or anything else of the kind. The new force would be closer to a massive police force that is loaned out to other countries as needed than a highly funded brute squad.
And, since it wouldn't be a military force, it could act domestically if needs be. We need to guard the mexican border for a month? Send in a few divisions of the Peacekeeping army.
The rest of the offensive military -- which would be all of the special forces and Marine Corps, and most of the Navy and Air Force -- would be a "kill it and leave" group designed purely to attack and destroy nations, armies, and giant lizards from outer space. They could drop any need to exercise respect towards the enemies of our country, and focus on executing the wars we send them on with all needed effeciecy.
And, once this stealthy fire-from-heaven shot-in-the-dark force does its work and we conqer the next country to find itself under a tyrant, we send in a different force whose every person trained and studied and views themselves as a keeper of the peace and not a killer of men.
The new force would be the left hand of American international power, intended to aid those in need be the need caused by the war-fighting right hand or some other disaster.
I no longer work for UWNYS. My job of long suffering is over, and I no longer dread waking up to go to work in the morning.
I am now a bonna fide State Employee, albeit with a temporary contract instead of the regular "permanent" thing. Ah, well. Five months to convince them to keep me, and if not that then I get a new addition to my resume that doesn't have "secretary" attached to it at all. Yay!