Archive for May, 2015

Command Line vs the Editor

May 10, 2015

Which Editor matters, in this case it’s Emacs.

Because emacs has a different view of the world.  The editor is not yet-another-command-line tool. No, the editor is the environment. The past year has been real growth for my editing, command tool writing.   Shell Functions has been out there for a few years now, and upgrading it, rather how, which way to go is my current challenge. But that’s another story.

My current challenge: do I work principally from the command line vs inside an editor.   The standard answer:  “It depends”.

But now the answer is taking shape.   When editing text, this blog being an exception, the answer is “in the editor”.  The routine tasks are, the diary, the analemma project, the software diary, my story, quotes from diogenes small, etc..  I break out to the command line when I’m doing “my business”:  my expense tracking, my stock-watching, my shell-curating…

Most recently, however, I’ve moved my expense tracking back online.   I’d used gnucash a few years ago.  With a new iMac, I figured it time to take another look.  Sorry gnu-bies.   The online connection is still as confusing as it was in ’13.   So, that cuts into the tool development.  Another bit of the toolshed is closing:  my “MarkApp”.  I’d developed a Markdown wrapper to add “include file” and “table of contents” features.   Time to trash that as well.   The surviving local tool work is now based around /rdb, “the Unix Relational Database Management” brought to us by Manis, Schaefer, and Jorgenson near 30 yrs ago.  But that’s another story.   What’s happened with Markdown?

I was introduced to Markdown while writing the book.  It’s a clean way to produce HTML documents, from a simple, almost syntax-free editor.   The core idea from markdown is “you should be able to use a readable text document to produce a nicely formatted (in this case HTML) document”.  Standard things like section headers, lists are easy.  Importantly hypertext links have as low a learning curve as necessary, with convenient features to produce references.  This served me well for the few years since writing the book.   As a matter of fact it got me to eschew my original idea, “THT” Tcl HyperText.   So, time to take these two down from GIthub:  Tht and MarkApp.    But, lurking in the background, I’d had an experience with OrgMode,  mostly as t GTD (Getting Things Done) tool.    Not that I’d ever been a great “todo” user.   But occasionally thumbing thru the OrgMode manuals, _and_ importantly keeping a up-to-date copy of emacs handy, I was challenged to see more of what’s there.

OrgMode is doing itself a favor by moving away from the GTD focus and aim for the note-taking focus.   it’s TODO idea follows, rather than precedes note-taking.   Approached that way, it is much more widely useful.  And with that, is Markdown’ denouement.   For me, now,  OrgMode’s most important feature is its “export” feature.   Foremost is the HTML export, since that avoids the need to use Markdown.  But, it also has a Markdown feature, which I’ll use when it’s time to work on the book.  There are a handful of others, interestingly LaTex, PDF, ODF, but that’s another story.   The real reason it captured my attention is it’s ability to open and close on an outline.   For example, here’s the current section of my diary:

* 2015
** July 2015...
** June 2015...
** May 2015...
| sun | mon | tue | wed | thu | fri | sat |
|     |     |     |     |     |   1 |   2 |
|   3 |   4 |   5 |   6 |   7 |   8 |   9 |
|  10 |  11 |  12 |  13 |  14 |  15 |  16 |
|  17 |  18 |  19 |  20 |  21 |  22 |  23 |
|  24 |  25 |  26 |  27 |  28 |  29 |  30 |
|  31 |     |     |     |     |     |     |
*** Nextday
*** Saturday, 9th :chip:katie:

Today we go to Chip's to see Reese play baseball and _maybe_ bbq

A number of feauturea are evident:

  • The outline with leading *s allows TABbing in to show the contents of the current level, and
  • The trailing … in each headline indicates there is hidden hidden content below, which a TAB exposes
  • Self-formatting tables allow easy creation of calendars, for example.
  • Tags are appended to “headline”s (with *s) between “:”s, e.g. the two tags in the example are “chip” and “katie”, two of our three children.

Another reason the text editor is a big deal for me: the editor in this and most media sites I’m familiar with has gratuitous behaviors. In this case, it insisted in placing either the closing CODE or PRE tags on the first blank line after the opening tag.

So, this will be an occasional stop for me.  My blogging will take place in a much friendlier editor

Free Trade — post NAFTA

May 9, 2015

Today’s NYTimes reports Obama Scolds Democrats … .   Well, good for him, but since NAFTA I’ve thought those who see themselves as gaining from these “free trade” bills would assist those who see themselves as losing.   In this later category, there are plenty of folks who are willing to self-identify:  “I can see my job going overseas if we do this deal”.   Well last night, on the News Hour, I heard first evidence of the former: someone willing to announce they will benefit.  One of our sneaker manufacturers (I believe, someone check me on this) announced “If we get this deal, we will create 10,000 US jobs”.   For them, that’s a cost they seem willing to bear.   Let’s say we want to hold them to this commitment.

If we wanted to see this was more than an idle promise, we’d have to put some more information into the Labor Department statistics.  That would add costs, both to the government and private sector.   But, of course, since any trade agreement is sold as a net plus to the economy, we should expect commitment on both sides.   And by commitment, I’m thinking more than just words, which our sneaker manufacturer appears willing to do.   But they can’t be alone.   Here’s where the government, with a plan, steps in.

Each state in the nation offers a number:  How many jobs is this agreement going to cost us?  These are totaled.    And to keep the numbers from being wildly speculative.   Each state’s compensation is calculated on their accuracy of  reporting on a ratio of their estimate to the total, given their population.   The total cost is the cost of creating the jobs.   This is not on the back of any state, and certainly not the federal government.  It’s on the back of those companies pledging to create those jobs.   And not until the pledges of new jobs exceeds the total demand as tallied in the states, is there any free trade agreement.     The rationale is as follows:  “this will create more jobs than its costs”.  Good.

There would be a penalty for a shortfall.   The penalty is the salaries of the un-filled jobs.   The money collected (units of percent for administering) would be disbursed to the states whose job-creation (from these promised jobs) fell furthest from the target.

There are obvious problems, but let’s call them details.   It would be difficult for any company to pledge it’s job-creation to be uniform across the nation according to the perceived need to offset job loss.   So, an additional piece of overhead would be tallying the jobs lost as a result.   We hear too many companies (not necessarily their fault) who lose jobs overseas, if not ship them out by themselves.     Another problem:  small companies.   We can’t ask every mom and pop to take on specific jobs, not to mention the bureaucratic overhead of accounting for need and job-creation credit and loss.   Some provision would allow, if not encourage trade groups, chambers of commerce, etc.   to take on this role.   With carrots and sticks. It all has to add up, so, at the end of the day we can say:  “this trade agreement lived up to it’s promise”.

So, how would we pay for this?   Our sneaker manufacturer has hinted at the way.   Increased economic activity will necessarily produce increased income and corporate taxes.   But this has to be more than wishful thinking.   These increased  taxes would pay for the administration, and the disbursement to the states.   Missing pledged job growth would incur the much greater cost of the salary.  Imagine a corporation, faced with paying 6% of a person’s salary as a tax, or 100% of a person’s salary to the government as a penalty, would have little trouble in finding a productive job for a person to fulfill their pledge.

Now there’s an incentive for job growth.  Let’s get the projected winners to put some skin in the game.