Complex and powerful software has its place, in my working life and in my heart. Why else would I have loved wrestling with a long sequence of "interesting" programs, from KnowledgeMan to Paradox to Agenda to Ecco to Zoot to Chandler to Tinderbox to ...
But programs that barely exist, except to do the few things that you want, also have their charm. They are fast, light, and so easy to learn that, if you're looking for hidden crannies and variations, you may end up asking, Peggy Lee-style, "Is that all there is?" Then, with resilience similar that of Peggy Lee herself, you stop thinking about the program and concentrate instead on the work it is supposedly helping you do.
Philippe Kahn's old Sidekick, shown above, was one of the original "barely there, but does everything you want" program. My long-time favorite InfoSelect was another. Here are two others in that tradition.
1) Notational Velocity, or nvALT, is an open-source Mac-only program that I've come to find very handy for quick on-the-fly capture of info that you can later sort-out, recall, or decide to dump. The slightly tweaked current version I use is here; you can find out more about the developer here; and there's a primer on its use here. Nothing fancy about the program, but it does the job. Evernote, of course, is also a wonderful quick-capture tool, with lots of other functions and virtues, and I use it every day. But unlike nvALT it stores its notes in a proprietary format rather than in plain text.
2) Fargo, the latest entry from the longtime software innovator Dave Winer, is a minimalist browser-based outlining, blog-writing, and collaboration tool. It's an outgrowth of Winer's "Little Outliner," whose debut I mentioned a few months ago. So far I find it more interesting to think about than actually to use, since it intentionally omits many of the formatting features needed for structured blog work like ours here at the Atlantic. But it is worth checking out.
And if, on the other hand, you find a stroll through essentials-only software reawakening your appetite for the complex and the rococo, you will enjoy this paper, by the philosophy professor David Kolb of Bates College, on some of the visual layout possibilities at your disposal with modern hypertext programs. Here's a sample illustration from his paper, this one created with Tinderbox; you'll find lots more. Seriously, this is an intriguing paper.
Speaking of minimalism, time for a procedural note. Through the rest of this week I will be out of the country, in circumstances that involve very slow and often-timing-out internet connections. I would not have used the illustration above if I had realized it would take so damned long (and so many connection attempts) to load it up to the server! Will try to check in with brief mainly-text posts through the week.
James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne.
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal early on Saturday, centered 10 miles below the surface, less than 50 miles from the capital of Kathmandu. At least 1,100 are already reported to have been killed by the quake and subsequent avalanches triggered in the Himalayas. Historic buildings and temples were destroyed, leaving massive piles of debris in streets as rescue workers and neighbors work to find and help those still trapped beneath rubble. Below are images from the region of the immediate aftermath of one of the most powerful earthquakes to strike Nepal in decades. (Editor's note, some of the images are graphic in nature.)
In her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input. So at team meetings, as each member spoke up about whatever project they were working on, Tim made sure he put on his “active-listening face” to signal that he cared about what each person was saying.
But after meeting with him a few times, Tim’s team got a very different message from the one he intended to send. “After a few weeks of meetings,” Halvorson explains, “one team member finally summoned up the courage to ask him the question that had been on everyone’s mind.” That question was: “Tim, are you angry with us right now?” When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
After more than a year of rumors and speculation, Bruce Jenner publicly came out as transgender with four simple words: “I am a woman.”
“My brain is much more female than male,” he explained to Diane Sawyer, who conducted a prime-time interview with Jenner on ABC Friday night. (Jenner indicated he prefers to be addressed with male pronouns at this time.) During the two-hour program, Jenner discussed his personal struggle with gender dysphoria and personal identity, how they shaped his past and current relationships and marriages, and how he finally told his family about his gender identity.
During the interview, Sawyer made a conspicuous point of discussing broadly unfamiliar ideas about gender and sexuality to its audience. It didn't always go smoothly; her questions occasionally came off as awkward and tone-deaf. But she showed no lack of empathy.
CHELSEA, Ma.—The woman Barry Berman saw sitting in the dining room of the nursing home was not his mother.
Or, at least, she was his mother, but didn’t look anything like her. His mother was vivacious, or she had been until she was felled by a massive stroke and then pneumonia, so he’d moved her into a nursing home so she could recuperate. He knew he could trust the nursing home, since he ran it, and knew it was lauded for the efficiency with which it served residents. But when he went to look for his mother a day or two after he moved her in, he barely recognized her.
“I’ll never forget the feeling as long as I live,” he told me. “I said, ‘Oh my God, there’s my mother, this old woman, in a wheelchair, lifeless. Look what my own nursing home did to my own mother in a matter of days.”
Today was the latest installment of the never-ending Clinton scandal saga, but it won’t be the last. Yet in some ways, the specifics are a distraction. The sale of access was designed into the post-2001 Clinton family finances from the start. Probably nobody will ever prove that this quid led to that quo … but there’s about a quarter-billion-dollar of quid heaped in plain sight and an equally impressive pile of quo, and it’s all been visible for years to anyone who cared to notice. As Jonathan Chait, who is no right-wing noise-machine operator, complained: “The Clintons have been disorganized and greedy.”
“All of this amounts to diddly-squat,” pronounced long-time Clinton associate James Carville when news broke that Hillary Clinton had erased huge numbers of emails. That may not be true: If any of the conduct in question proves illegal, destroying relevant records may also have run afoul of the law.
Our patient—we’ll call him W.B.—is a 56-year-old father of three who, until last year, had always been healthy. He had worked his entire life, in jobs ranging from automotive repair to sales, taking great pride in providing for his family, even though doing so had recently meant combining three part-time positions. All of that ended in February 2014, when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. A neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive muscle weakness, ALS leads to the loss of all voluntary movement, difficulty breathing, and, in the end, death.
W.B.’s life was turned upside down by the diagnosis. But once the initial shock passed, he began researching his condition intensively. He learned that he was unlikely to survive five years, and that in the meantime his quality of life would diminish dramatically. With limited options, many patients retreat. But, quite bravely, W.B. had other ideas. After much consideration, he decided that if he was going to die, he would like to try to save another person’s life in the process, even if that person was a stranger. And so last May he approached the University of Wisconsin’s transplant program, where we are surgeons, as a prospective organ donor.
The editors of Smithsonian magazine have announced the winners of their 12th annual photo contest, selected from more than 26,500 entries. The winning photographs from from the competition's six categories are published below: The Natural World, Travel, People, Americana, Altered Images and Mobile. Also, a few finalists have been included as well. Captions were written by the photographers. Be sure to visit the contest page at Smithsonian.com to see all the winners and finalists.
When healthcare is at its best, hospitals are four-star hotels, and nurses, personal butlers at the ready—at least, that’s how many hospitals seem to interpret a government mandate.
When Department of Health and Human Services administrators decided to base 30 percent of hospitals’ Medicare reimbursement on patient satisfaction survey scores, they likely figured that transparency and accountability would improve healthcare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials wrote, rather reasonably, “Delivery of high-quality, patient-centered care requires us to carefully consider the patient’s experience in the hospital inpatient setting.” They probably had no idea that their methods could end up indirectly harming patients.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa—By the time I arrived, Cecil John Rhodes had already been trussed up as if for a hanging. It was an autumn afternoon in April, and Rhodes’s statue hung in limbo at the entrance to Upper Campus of the University of Cape Town, canted to the right like a drunkard. His eyes were obscured by orange paint, and in the previous weeks he’d been pelted with everything from stones to human excrement. Hovering just above the plinth, graffiti read: “AFRICA LIVES, Fuck Rhodes.”
The British imperialist and former prime minister of the Cape had once written, “I find I am human, but should like to live after my death,” predicting his influence would persist for at least 4,000 years. Now, 113 years after his death, he’d been hoisted up for hauling to an undisclosed location.