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Weekly thoughts: missing time, dying languages etc.

Passing thoughts on saving time, people against grammar, and MarsEdit.

1. Time management

Where does the time we save go? I have wondered about this often. We do so many things to make sure we “save time,” but what really happens to it? It is hardly kept in a bottle for later use, no matter how beautifully Jim Croce put it. And for what it is worth, one does not save considerable time by speeding through traffic in a city.

We do however save time by speeding through other tasks on a daily basis. For instance, eating lunch fast means you can finish about ten minutes earlier than usual. On paper, this is great, because if you finish your next test five minutes early, you should, technically, have finished your work, up to that point, with fifteen minutes to spare.

Unfortunately, we do not work like machines. Saving fractional amounts of time does not necessarily imply that those times add up. In fact, the smaller the fraction of time one saves, the more likely it is that we lose it. I have no empirical evidence backing this up, but anyone who has existed for at least a decade on this planet should be able to vouch for it.

We can, though, look at it the other way round: if I give you five minutes and ask you to do something with it, it is glaringly obvious that the time given is insufficient no matter what meaningful task we intend to accomplish. In much the same way, time “saved” gets distributed over time stretched elsewhere or, quite simply, in relaxing.

A better way would be to reschedule the entire day in an order arising as a delicate mixture of the decreasing order of difficulty and the increasing order of time taken. So, the shortest, toughest job must be done first, and the longest, easiest towards the end. Given that not all tough jobs are short and not all easy jobs are long, we will have to decide this delicately. In any case, I have no doubt in my mind that this will save us more visible time at the end of the day than speeding through tasks. All these thoughts are in their infancy and undoubtedly warrant further discussion.

2. People against grammar

I am inclined to believe that a not-for-profit organisation called “People against grammar” exists in the seedy underbelly of nearly every city on earth. In this day and age, when Nokia phones are rare (to say the least) and autocorrect is omnipresent, why texting lingo still exists is beyond me.

One can simply swipe their way across the screen like a maniac to draw words. Clicking “u” takes no less time, for all practical purposes, than swiping “you” or simply hitting “y” and letting autocorrect do the rest. As a helpful perk, it saves the english language from dying.

And yet, this is by no means centric to the english language. I remember years ago in my French class, when I had first bought a pocket French dictionary, I was rather surprised that it came with a special “Guide to french texting”. At first I thought it had to do with French courtesies (and their million-and-one exceptions to the rule) but I was wrong. Not only was it a handy guide to French slang, it proved beyond all doubt that French texting lingo was worse than English. And if one of the most poetic languages on earth can fall into this state, what hope is left?

De rien is written “2re1”. Like in english, it comes down to a format that is the foundation of most Indian languages: reading what is written exactly as it is written. “2”, “re” and “1” are read “deu”, “ree” and “an”, in what is a crude but fairly representative manner of putting it. This is almost exactly what de rien sounds like. The same goes for “C mal1” for c’est malin, but things get murkier for sympa, which is written as “5pa”, or the entire phrase, “J’ai une idée de cadeau”, which is written as “g1id2kdo”. Others are similar to English: “AMHA” is like “IMHO” and expands to “À mon humble avis”.

This may be more a case of spelling than grammar, but they go hand-in-hand. As always, nasalise your french to sound more authentic. You may then also come off as sounding sorrowful at the deaths of some wonderful languages.

3. MarsEdit

Earlier this year I wrote about Byword, the minimal text editor I use to write my articles, essays etc. I used to publish straight from Byword as well. Following the re-launch of this website, though, Byword failed me and their team failed to respond to any questions I had.

I have since moved to MarsEdit because it is considerably more robust. I had previously questioned whether I would want offline control over the writings I publish on my website and I had thought I did not, but, since I found myself returning to published articles and correcting them, and because I gave MarsEdit a nice trial run, this has turned out to be an unimaginably huge productivity boost.

With MarsEdit, I can simply open the programme and start writing a new essay, and a double-click from Launchpad turns on MarsEdit displaying a list of my posts, regardless of the network, and I can edit right there and publish when I have a network. To some extent, it goes to show how ancient web-based interfaces still are. And WordPress’ own desktop app leaves a lot to desire. Often, with my thoughts gathered in my little pocket book or on the Notes.app on my iPhone, I write offline in a bid to prevent my alarming habit of opening and working across 3,574 tabs at once. (That number may or may not have been made up.)

MarsEdit has an “edit in” feature that allows editing in another app, not least because its bundled editor is worse than Notepad on Windows XP. I use Byword for this because it is convenient and has great Markdown support (which MarsEdit pushes to my website as HTML), so not all is a waste I suppose. In conclusion, if you are thinking about getting MarsEdit, get it. If you have never thought or heard about MarsEdit, start thinking about it now. I have gone from spending about thirty-minutes on writing an essay (a lot of time goes to thinking about things, but that is just part of my day) to spending less than fifteen minutes now. So, at the risk of going round in circles, I can state with certainty that MarsEdit will save you a lot of time. Just make sure you save it in a bottle.

Read more essays in the journal