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tags/Issue-001
Kenneth John Odle 11 months ago
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Chapter 4.
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[]\OT1/jkp/m/n/10 Rather, I'm talk-ing about the older mean-ing of the term ``h
acker'' which
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@ -352,6 +352,36 @@ This directory contains files who content is expected to continually change duri
\chapter{Miscellany}
\section{Is This Really a Hack? Or Is It Just a Tip?}
The word ``hacker'' has a lot of defitions, and if you just google it, you'll find a lot of scary ones on the websites of companies that want you to be scared of ``hackers'' and spend hundreds of dollars on their security products, some of which may actually protect you against actual threats, and some of which may provide protection against a threat which isn't actually real.
(And yes, there are bad people out there who use their advanced technical knowledge to attain access to systems that they shouldn't have to obtain information they're not supposed to have. I'm not talking about those people, who technically should be called ``crackers'' a l\'{a} ``safe crackers''.)
Rather, I'm talking about the older meaning of the term ``hacker'' which is somebody who enjoys the intellectual challenge of pushing software (and often hardware) beyond what it is meant to do in order to achieve interesting and clever outcomes. In order to do so, of course, they have to know the systems they are working with fairly well. In fact, the definition of 'hack' that I like best is ``an appropriate application of ingenuity.''\footnote{See \href{http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/meaning-of-hack.html}{http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/meaning-of-hack.html}.}
Of course, this term originally referred to computer technology, but now I'm finding that people are using it everywhere, even in places where it doesn't belong. (I'm looking at you, the writers and editors of apparently every food magazine and website ever.)
So let's look at some things that have been called ``hacks'' but may or may not be actual hacks.
\begin{enumerate}
\itemsep-0.20em
\item \textbf{How to cut up a mango} — Not a hack. In fact, I'd argue that this is just basic knowledge. Chop up one ripe mango the wrong way and you'll be googling how to do that pretty darn quick.
\item \textbf{Using an ice cube tray to make sushi (in lieu of using a bamboo sushi roller} — While you are using a common device in an uncommon way, I don't think this rises to the level of a hack. There are a lot of ways to put raw fish and rice together.\footnote{Also, be sure to sanitize the hell of that ice cube tray before you use it to make ice again.}
\item \textbf{Making hot chocolate cocoa bombs} — Not a hack. A technique, to be certain, but not a hack.
\item \textbf{Punching holes in your sausage with a toothpick before cooking to keep them from exploding} — A useful tip (especially in the air fryer), but definitely not a hack.
\item \textbf{Use a spiralizer for perfect baked curly fries} — Really? Next we'll have ``Use a hammer to pound nails into wood'' or ``Use a pencil to make marks on paper.'' Using a tool for what it's meant to be used for is not a hack.
\item \textbf{Peel ginger with a spoon} — This is most definitely not what you're supposed to use a spoon for. But this works great. I'll call this one a hack.
\item \textbf{Microwave lemons and limes to get more juice out of them} — A tip, not a hack.
\item \textbf{Freeze cheese to make it easier to grate} — I do this all the time, and it's a great technique. The trick is leave the cheese in the freezer for just the right amount of time. Not a hack.
\item \textbf{Refrigerate onions before chopping them so they don't make you cry} — Chilling the onions makes the volatile sulfur compounds in them less volatile, so this works, provided you chop fast. It's not a hack, but it is a good technique.
\item \textbf{Wear swim goggles while chopping onions so they don't make you cry} — I'll call this one a hack.
\item \textbf{Use parchment paper in place of muffin liners} — The purpose of parchment paper is to get between your food and whatever it's being cooked on or in. If you run out of muffin liners, you can just use squares of parchment paper. This is just using parchment paper for what it's meant to be used for, albeit in am atypical way because we have another product that we use in this instance. A great technique to use on a regular basis; a great tip if you've never heard of it before. But not a hack. (I actually think the corners sticking it up would make it easier to get the muffins out of the pan.)
\item \textbf{Flavor your pasta water with a chicken stock cube} — Not a hack. Anyone who grew up eating instant ramen on a regular basis figured this one out by the time they hit double digits.
\item \textbf{Use a potato masher to break up ground meat} — While technically a potato masher is meant to be used on potatoes, its ultimate purpose is to mash big things into little things.\footnote{It's right there in the name!} This is like using a screwdriver to pry up a lid of paint. It's not a hack because it's so obvious.
\item \textbf{Collect all your vegetable scraps in a freezer bag and use them to make stock} — Not a hack. Just frugality in action.
\item \textbf{Buy the biggest cutting board you can find.} — While this is great advice, it's not a hack.
\end{enumerate}
So, 15 ``cooking hacks'' and only one of them is an actual hack, and that's pretty questionable. I'm pretty much calling it a hack because I'm trying to be generous. The thing that strikes me is not so much that these aren't actually hacks, but the difference between a ``tip'' and a ``technique.'' Maybe I'm just tired, but it seems like it's a technique if you use it on a regular basis and a tip if you're in a jam and someone tells you about it. But that's an argument for another day in another zine.
\section{What I Learned About \LaTeX\, While Creating This Issue}
@ -382,16 +412,29 @@ As for why I wanted to learn LaTeX in the first place—well, that's complicated
I knew in the back of my mind that there was this great typesetting thing specifically for math and scientific papers, but it took me a while to find it. (This was back in the days before the internet.) But I could recognize just about any paper typeset with it.
Is LaTeX the ideal thing to create zines with? Not necessarily. It does give a very polished look, and although I love the handmade look (i.e., ``clip and copy'') of a lot of zines, I don't have the talent required to pull that look off. The important thing for me is to be able to create something that is easy on the eyes. (And I've see a lot of handmade zines that \textit{aren't} easy on the eyes.
Is LaTeX the ideal thing to create zines with? Not necessarily. It does give the finished product a very polished look, and although I love the handmade look (i.e., ``clip and copy'') of a lot of zines, I don't have the talent (or the patience) required to pull that look off. The important thing for me is to be able to create something that is easy on the eyes. (And I've see a lot of handmade zines that \textit{aren't} easy on the eyes.
I've created zines in the past, and I've previously used Adobe InDesign (back in my Macintosh days) and LibreOffice Writer (more recently). They are WYSIWYG\footnote{What You See Is What You Get} programs and it's fairly easy to get what you want (more or less).
I've created zines in the past, and I've previously used Adobe InDesign (back in my Macintosh days) and LibreOffice Writer (more recently). They are WYSIWYG\footnote{What You See Is What You Get} programs and it's fairly easy to get what you want (more or less). (They can be a pain in other ways, however. InDesign used a lot of resources on the little Mac Mini I was using and crashes, while not frequent, were not unknown. LibreOffice has certain interface quirks that I just find frustrating, such as using sections to have different footers or headers. You can't have everything.)
However, they aren't very amenable to version control, because they don't generate text files, but proprietary files. (I'm not sure about InDesign files, but .odt files are just a collection of \verb|.xml| files and a few others. Change the \verb|.odt| to \verb|.zip| to see them.) While you can track this files in with version control software such as \verb|git|, you can see the differences between those files.
However, they aren't very amenable to version control, because they don't generate text files, but proprietary files. (I'm not sure about InDesign files, but .odt files are just a collection of \verb|.xml| files and a few others. Change the \verb|.odt| to \verb|.zip| to see them.) While you can track this files in with version control software such as \verb|git|, you can't see the differences between those files by running a simple \verb|git diff|. You have to download the files in question, make sure they have different names so they don't overwrite each other, and check for differences manually.\footnotemark
\footnotetext{As a result, to do version control, I used a version number in the file name and simply did a ``save as'' every time I opened the file for editing, incrementing the version number as I did so.}
With LaTeX however, your \verb|.tex| file really is just a text file, and so if you use something like \verb|git| to track changes, you can run a \verb|git diff| and see changes from one commit to the other pretty easily. This is nice when you are writing, because if something is working, you can just delete it, and if you decide you can use it after all, you can just go back to the repo and get it.
With LaTeX, it can be difficult to get something to appear exactly where you want it to. Placing objects is actually easiest in InDesign. The main advantage of LaTeX is that it makes it \textit{extremely} easy to make things consistent. I suppose this is something that I will get better at as I gain more experience with it and learn about some more packages.
Also, there is no easy way to get a word-count from a LaTeX document, nor is there a spell-check. Considering that LaTeX was originally constructed for use in academic contexts, I find this strangely lacking. You can get around this by converting it to another file form and counting the words there. I used
\medskip
\begin{center}
\verb|pandoc input.tex -o output.odt|
\end{center}
\medskip
\noindent to convert this \verb|.tex| document to a LibreOffice document and counted the words there. (It couldn't find the two images I include in this document, but that's okay.) Before I added the last three sentences, I was at 6,515 words. I didn't bother to do a spell-check.
I'm not there yet (and I definitely won't be for a while—I've got bills to pay) but perhaps the nicest thing about LaTeX is that while there are a lot of packages available, if you can't find one to do what you want to do, you can always create your own. Like I said, it will be a while before I get to that point (first I need to find something I want to do in LaTeX that isn't convered by an existing package) but I will someday. Like I said, it's always good to have a challenge to look forward to.
\end{document}
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