Microsoft Products: Word 2007

Despite the fact that Microsoft has announced that it will delay the release of Office 2007, thereby demonstrating that they are really incapable of putting out their products when they say they are; despite the fact that the new “docx” files aren’t compliant with the Oasis OpenDocument format, and despite the fact that OpenOffice.org is both free and competent, I plan on using Word 2007. Why?

The way it looks.

Now, before you judge too harshly, let me explain.

I am, now that I have left graduate school, concentrating more and more on being a writer. As a writer, I sit in front of a computer screen typing. Word 2007 is the first word processing program that I’ve seen that feels inviting, that presents itself as a workspace that feels both clean and pleasing to the eye. While the new “ribbon” is a bit to bulky on my laptop and I hope there is a way to resize it in the final release, Word 2007 manages to escapte the blandly utilitarian feel of every single word processor I have seen. This seems like a minor point, but for me, coming into a pleasing workspace onscreen as I write is refreshing. I’m thinking of how, back in old days, typewriter’s used to have personalities and I wonder how much the actual look and feel of a specifica typewriter impacted a writer’s process.

In looking at Word 2007’s interface, I’m thinking that my reaction to the program has to do with one simple thing: the background. The blue background, with its little “swoosh” of color in the top left hand corner seems to be the key thing in making the space feel inviting. I’m not sure if it is a planned, subtle psychological effect or not, but it works. I would never recommend MS Office for office environments, however, or at least for non-profit or small business. OpenOffice.org is the much better choice because it is a free, stable, very capable suite of programs. I also like that you can get it as a portable app, putting it on your thumbdrive and carrying your office suite with you wherever you go. Just give your employees a 512mb thumbdrive and they can carry their workspace with them between home and the office without any need to change platforms or programs. It’s a lot cheaper than offering them laptops.

That said, I will use Word 2007 as a primarily word processor because I like the way it feels as a workspace. However, I will also keep OpenOffice.org Suite around because I have no such attachment to the other MS Office programs (although until I find a Calendar/Contact alternative to Outlook that will sync with my pocket pc, I will continue to use that). It is really only Word 2007 and OneNote that I find particularly useful and likable. For email, I use Thunderbird. For browsers I primarily use Opera but sometimes Firefox. For desktop publishing I’m currently taking the open source Scribus for a spin.

Thus endeth my brief defense of 2 Microsoft products. I only feel slightly dirty. 🙂

Net Neutrality

The current bill proposed by Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), has failed in committee. Michael Grebb has a good story over at Wired about how the net has never really been all that neutral… certainly not in an attempt to dismiss ongoing efforts to prevent blatent segregation of information, but to place the situation in context. Definitely worth a read. It is going to be important to hold our politicians accountable for how they vote on increasingly complex issues of technology and science. Of course that assumes both an educated public and and educated congress. If you have ever watched C-SPAN’s coverage of special orders speeches, you wonder a) how these people got elected and b) if they could understand basic alegebra, much less stem-cell research, communications technologies, etc. Perhaps one of the reasons corporations have been so good and buying almost every single politician in the country is that at least cash-for-favors is something that the politicians can wrap their tiny little minds around.

Yeah, there are smart men and women out there who serve as public officials. But as the issues of our world become increasingly complex, we are going to need smarter people than, in the majority, we have right now. Especially because there is such an anti-intellectual bias in this country, we are breeding leaders who are not only ill-equiped to lead, but downright dangerous. Maybe we should start an Intellectual political party. We’d have to find a sexier name, but it would be dedicated to creating a politics of intellect and reflection and grooming leaders who are smart. Really smart. I mean, come on, our leaders should be smarter than the average bear.

Rather than dumber than a post.

Microsoft Products: OneNote

SimpleGeek has a great post about why he has left Windows behind that has me pretty nearly convinced and Mac’s OsX on my Emachine W3052 or my Thinkpad R31 is definitely a sexy thought… especially on the Thinkpad. You’ll find that most of us Thinkpad users tend be very, very attached to the hardware architecture of our computers. Especially as a writer, I find that using the trackpoint to be so much more effective than a touchpad because I have excellent control over the cursor without moving my hands from the keys.

OS discussion aside, I am going go to bat for two Microsoft products that I find useful. One I would miss if I moved to OsX–OneNote, which I have used 2003 for several years now and am now playing around with the 2007 Beta–and the other–Word 2007–is still in beta, but that I would expect to see on a Mac sometime.

OneNote – One of the great thing about OneNote as a notetaker as opposed to Word (or other word processing programs), is the ability to simply place your cursor anywhere on the page and start typing. Now, actually, Word Perfect used to do this, but OneNote takes it a step further because it automatically creates a text box that can then be dragged, or combined with other text boxes. So, if you think a note is going to be one thing (on rabbit biology for example) and discover that it is different (the story actually illustrates how pets are remembered), it is a snap to rearrange your notes into a more coherent narrative. Granted, all this can be done in a word processor, but OneNote can also have multiple columns of information without having to make columns, you just drag any set of notes you want anywhere on the page.

Additionally, the tab system (much improved in 2007 because you can have multiple notebooks), is fluid and intuitive – just as tabs in Opera or Firefox. I used the program throughout this past spring semester for taking notes in classes that were often long lectures. I was able to move quickly and even rearrange thoughts on the fly into outlines and patterns that made more sense. I have also found it to be helpful in rewriting papers, shuffling bits from here to there, moving other bits off to the side for later consideration, and in general being able to take apart and restructure sections in a more visual manner than I could with a word processor.

What about Evernote? For some people, it may be a clear winner. It organizes notes automatically by date, uses an “explorer” like structure on the side to move from notebook to notebook, and (most importantly), it’s free. I did try it last year when I was testing the OneNote demo and found that the organization of tabs and binders was more suited to how I organize information. Like D. Pamela Gaines, I haven’t tried the newest versions of Evernote, so it may in fact be better than the beta version. And if OneNote’s sync capability with PocketPC works well, that will definitely seal the deal for me. Anyone have thoughts on taking and organizing notes on the computer?

The next entry will talk more about Word 2007 and why I think OpenOffice.org is the clear choice for businesses but why I plan on using the beta and purchasing Word 2007 next year.

Providence: Vanessa & Perishable Theatre

The same trip up to RI, I was able to hang out with Vanessa for a couple of drinks. By the way, Vanessa is really damn cool, y’all! And Perishable Theatre rocks! As much as, at the time, I felt miserable working as Perishable’s Office Manager, I loved–love–the theatre itself and what it stands for and the work it does. I was so excited to hear that Vanessa is now Artistic Director and I think that Perishable is going to have it’s own bit of a Renaissance under her guidance.

Vanessa is inspiring because she is artistically fearless, creatively curious, and passionate about theatre. Not passionate about plays (although plays are part of it) but theatre in all its forms and functions; theatre that is about making actions, not just talking (and again, there are certain forms of theatre where talking is an action); theatre that is about making images that strike at the audience like a viper, or tease the audience like a lover, or even make the audience laugh.

If you are in or around Providence please support the Perishable Theatre by attending their many many cool events and shows. If you are not and want to help a vibrant organization dedicated to new play development, new theatre forms and all forms of theatre experiments, you can either donate money or use this great service called GoodSearch, which donates money to organizations whenever you use it to do web searchs. You can even add it to your Firefox seach list. If, like me, you tend to use another browser like Opera, or Safari for you Mac people, you probably won’t stop using your seach bar, but if you know in advance that you are going to be doing a series of searchs for any reason, why not head over there and help out a great theatre!

Perishable Theatre has really stayed with me over the years and I am proud to have been part of the organization. Equally, I’m proud that I can call Vanessa a friend. Proud and inspired.

Providence: Jen

Listening to you sing… watching you play… talking of dreams and projects, creations…

It’s been 13 years since we’d seen each other and the years have added to both of our spirits in some good and some painful ways. The pure idealism and belief of our our late teens/early twenties may have become a bit tattered, or at least stained by the processes of living in the world. We have hurt and been hurt in those intervening years, tasting the bittersweet of living with the complexity of life. Yet the moment I saw you, it was apparent that on some basic level, beneath the years and the disappointments and the folding away of our most outrageous dreams, we are the same. Not the same in any shallow, let’s act like we aren’t 35 way, but that fundamentally, our goals and desires, our spirit and our love have remained unsullied by the demands of the world, time, and loss.

As much as hearing you sing, seeing you smile and feeling your hugs, this realization is a lovely gift from a lovely woman.

New Theme

I have switched both LtL Sites to this new theme “Connections – Reloaded.” Thanks Ajay! While not perfect, I think it feels a bit cleaner and more contemporary than the previous one.

I promise, the next entry will be more interesting than my back and forth about the look of the site.

Actually…

What do you think of this theme as compared to the previous one (which you can still see here.) This current one is much more complex and I am not sure I can tweak it as easily, but then again, I may have to learn some new things in order to customize it, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Let me know what you think of the look. Thanks!

Ann Coulter is Evil

David Carr has a good article in week’s NY Times about Ann Coulter.

Tony Norman’s essay “If Ann Coulter’s a Christian, Then I’ll Be Damned” is also quite good. I don’t know anyone who actually likes her (the perils of an extremely limited social group: you think the whole world thinks like you), or thinks anything she says is more than spite, malice, and bile. But if you know someone who is a) christian and b) gives any credence to the ramblings of this mad-woman, you should have them read this essay.

World-O-Crap has a great parody of Coulter here. Or might it be the truth… For a more conservative, but intelligent, response, check out Right Wing Nut House’s “Anne Coulter: Conservative Lout”

I want to point out that I find the division of conservative/liberal to be increasingly meaningless while at the same time proponents of one side or the other have become increasingly vitriolic in their rhetoric. Conservatives do not own the monopoly on spewing stupidity, lies, and petty meanness.I think we need to be much more specific with our language in order to navigate, with any sense of usefulness, the political landscape of today. The most frightening people in this country are not “conservatives” in any real sense of the word. They are, like Coulter, zealots. There is a difference. Also, the so-called “base” of the Republican party is no longer “conservative” but, and let’s be honest here, “religious fanatics” who want to create a theocracy. What I don’t understand is how little attention is given to the apparent and growing resemblances between the religious fanatics of Islam and the religious fanatics of Christianity. When Pat Robertson calls for the assassination of another human being–and is not roundly denounced by Christians around the world, we have reached a point in time when Christ is no longer being taken seriously by many of his “so-called” followers. What are the moral or ethical differences between Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists? Regardless of your religion, the moment you take action to deny full humanity to others based on their beliefs, you have lost all moral standing. Let’s be clear here as well: I do not accept moral relativism as an answer. If you are performing a clitorectomy on a 13 year old girl, you are wrong and I have no problem with opposing that cultural practice. If your religion says that others are less than human and should be killed or harmed for their beliefs, than your religion is, inherently, anti-human, anti-life, and just plain wrong. If you believe that non-believers are going to hell, or will be punished by your God, then fine, I have no problem with that. God can take care of his own. Render unto God what is God’s and render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Remember that we have our freedoms in large part because of the secular nature of our government, regardless of the inclusion of Christian rhetoric within our government. Theocracy is not what America stands for, and yet there are significant forces in this country who want to establish just such a theocracy. What is most frightening about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s letter is the end section where he urges Bush to work with Iran because both worship the same god. For all Bush’s talk about freedom, his government of zealots and fanatics is enacting a campaign of secrecy, anti-constitutionalism, religious fundamentalism, blind arrogance and spiritual bankruptcy. Pundits like Ann Coulter only exacerbate the situation, feeding a hungry populace a diet of fear and hatred. Not a particularly fulfilling diet, but one that, like most junk food, momentarily stops the hunger.