I was listening to a not-very-recent episode of Judge John Hodgman recently where Judge Hodgman, Bailiff Jesse, and an unspeakably fabulous man debated the equivalence of reading and listening to audiobooks, and ever since I’ve been paying much more attention to the different dynamics of the experiences. Having just made it through Spring Break, and as a regular commuter, I’ve been doing a lot of both, and my feeling—somewhat surprisingly—is that Judge Hodgman was right: they are “separate but equal” experiences. A book and its audiobook offer two fundamentally different ways to experience the story they describe.
As a teacher, I comment on a lot of student writing. I usually do this digitally, as my handwriting is so awful as to make doctors weep. And, because students in the same classes tend to be learning the same things at the same time, I often find myself needing to say the same thing over and over, to lots of students in lots of different classes.
Since I need to be able to inject these comments quickly, easily, and repeatedly, I’ve been trying to find a good way to automate them for some time now. In my last attempt, I’ve figured out a pretty good way to do this—solving a long-standing problem I’ve had with Keyboard Maestro in the process.
Iteration is important. One of the most elegant things about the difference between, say, Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 is the way in which the combat system builds on what has come before. On the one hand, ME2 feels like ME. On the other, it’s streamlined. Simpler. More elegant. And what speaks most highly for it, I think, is that I feel like playing ME2 made me better understand what combat in ME was supposed to be.
So I recognize that games that come in series are supposed to iterate. But having just finished Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, I’m starting to remember the dangers of iteration.
I fiddle around with a lot of things. It’s in my nature. I began listing my recent forays into configuring email as an example, and I realized quite quickly that the odyssey ought to be its own post. The reason I do this sort of fiddling, though, almost always composed of two intertwining mental phenomena:
- I know what I need, and
- I know the limitations of the thing I’m fiddling with.
Sometimes, when we’re talking about software or something similar, I know up front what the limitations are; often, though, I only find out by playing around with it. Likewise, I often know what I need up front; other times, though, I only find out what I need by finding out where my needs rub up against the limitations of whatever it is I’m trying to work with.
As I was listening to Back to Work 71, I started thinking about the problems that exist in organizations—things like the passive aggression that Merlin and Dan were discussing—as functions of that same pair of forces. More specifically, it made me think about the problems I have as a teacher with my students, the problems my students have with me as a teacher, and perhaps most importantly, the problems I have with myself as a teacher. All these problems—and perhaps all problems—come down to a conflict between one party’s expectations and another party’s limitations.
As I mentioned previously, I’ve converted the little python link gathering doodad I did into a command for Sublime Text 2. But, because I am an aggressive footnoter, I decided I wanted some convenience functions for footnotes. And so I made some. Hooray.