October 27, 2005


It's not on-line yet, but on The World today they did a nice little story about Bill Gates and his foundation's work to overcome malaria in Africa, with guest Michael Specter, who's just done a New Yorker profile on him. But then at the end of the story the host asked a question that was so tooth-rottingly cloying it seemed intentionally designed to drive listeners mad : We know that this is a problem that interests him, but what evidence have you seen that Bill Gates personally feels the human tragedy of all this and is affected by it?

One is forced to conclude that NPR is part of an NTSB study to see how hard a human has to bang his head on the steering column of a car in order to make the airbag deploy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 27, 2005 4:52 PM

Acute Oprah Syndrome. Mostly harmless, except that eventually it leads to the gas chamber.

Posted by: Luciferous at October 27, 2005 5:12 PM

The proper response is, "He doesn't care, and isn't affected by it, no more than you. He's only doing this because he knows that if he did nothing, or made a transparently token effort, for some sort of cause like this, you'd really be on his case. This way, he at least looks like he cares, and he's probably accomplishing something, which has the benefit of at least making from people like you look petty."

(And what are you doing behind a steering wheel? Shouldn't you be crash testing the back of the bus seat in front of you?)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 27, 2005 5:37 PM

squiring a carload of kids around town.

Posted by: oj at October 27, 2005 5:45 PM

i heard a similarly stupid comment on NPR last week, along the lines of the lack of terrorist attacks (in Iraq) on election day showed how disciplined the terrorists were; i.e. that they were becoming more of a foe by not doing anything.

Posted by: anon at October 27, 2005 5:49 PM

If Steve Jobs did the same thing NPR would probably gush about his humanitarianism.

Posted by: John at October 27, 2005 5:57 PM

"what evidence have you seen that Bill Gates personally feels the human tragedy of all this and is affected by it?"

Absolutely none. As near as I can make out he is an asperger's syndrome case, and has no ability to empathize or sympathize with another human being.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 27, 2005 6:27 PM

One is forced to conclude that NPR is part of an NTSB study to see how hard a human has to bang his head on the steering column of a car in order to make the airbag deploy.

NPR listeners can't drive cars, can they? I thought they all rode buses (as one commenter noted) and trains! :D

Posted by: kevin whited at October 27, 2005 7:30 PM

Yes, but Kevin, you can't plaster a bus or train with leftist bumper stickers. Hence, the NPR listener needs some sort of car.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 27, 2005 7:43 PM

Perhaps Richard Mellon Scaife should give $20 million to fight the guinea worm.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 27, 2005 7:43 PM

Interesting thought on the Guinea worm. Except that I think some big drug company is already spending much more on controlling that parasite -- and most likely is getting no credit at all from NPR.

With NPR, both the deed and the doer must be approved before credit is due. Hence the original question.

Posted by: Jim Miller at October 27, 2005 7:51 PM

anyone can tell billg lacks empathy just from using the god awful s/w his company excretes.

Posted by: anon at October 27, 2005 7:51 PM

Can I get a second to volunteer Daniel Schorr for that study?

Posted by: Rick T. at October 27, 2005 7:56 PM

The listeners are conservatives.

Posted by: oj at October 27, 2005 8:23 PM

Why do people think Gresham's law doesn't apply to software development?

The Evil Software Empire does not produce "awful" software. They produce mediocre software, stuff that is "good enough" for most of the people who use it. The problem is that there is almost no market for people is willing to pay for really good software, especially after they figure out how much that will really cost them. A few will try "Open Source", until the discover all its hidden costs. (When the first paragraph of the documentation says that it will be updated and kept current only if the developers feel like it, when they have nothing better to do, you realize exactly what they mean by "free".)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 27, 2005 8:42 PM

Kevin: NPR listeners can't drive cars? You're kidding, right? Who do you think buys all those Volvos?

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 27, 2005 9:27 PM

Raoul, you sound like you work for Microsoft.

I use MS Word 97, which was a program that began life on a Macintosh, when Microsoft was still writing *fantastic* software. Later versions are getting slower and ungainly. But I import the documents into the open source OpenOffice and use extendedPDF to create pdf files with table of contents.

Open source guarantees you own your own documents and don't need to pay a ransom to Bill Gates to access them at some future date. That may not be important to people who don't create anything worthwhile with their computers, but then why use a computer at all?

But the main program I use is fifteen years old and the best program ever written: MORE 3.1 from Dave Winer. It is a relational outliner, written in Pascal and takes up less than 500K. You can download it for free.

On my Toshiba laptop, I use a Macintosh emulator called Basilisk II.

One of my outlines is 1000 pages long and the program has no problems. MORE's as fast as with only 1 page. If I import this outline into OmniOutliner, it takes 2 minutes to load and 10 seconds to insert an item. MORE never crashes. I've never lost data due to corruption. (My wife can't stand MS Word because it corrupts long documents with lots of figures and graphics).

Even after all these years, I can still get more work done with that program in one hour than a week with any other.

The only reason I use a Windows laptop is because my particular Toshiba has 9 hours battery life. I really can't stand Windows and I sure don't risk it connecting to the Internet.

Posted by: Randall Voth at October 27, 2005 10:07 PM

Randall, I wish I understood one word you said. I'd love to stop using MSWord. It's more temperamental than an Italian diva, but what options are there if one isn't a total nerd (that's meant as a compliment).

Posted by: erp at October 27, 2005 10:33 PM

Word Perfect.


despise word - that's for home usage, not professionals.

And WP12 for biz converts other programs. $150 or so. I'm still on WP 9 but will have to upgrade.

Posted by: Sandy P at October 27, 2005 10:49 PM

raoul: i know you know better; ms products are absolutely awful. who produces worse s/w than ms ? possibly oracle but after that ?

Posted by: anon at October 27, 2005 11:22 PM

In progressively more "techy", here goes...

On a Macintosh, there are a million choices. Mellel is really good.

MS Word is still the best bet for a non-techy on a PC. But I really like Word 97 better than the newer versions. I've never liked WordPerfect because it doesn't have a proper collapsable outliner. OpenOffice is getting better all the time. I haven't used version 2.0, but I'm downloading it right now.

Another program I have used a lot is called LyX, but it is quite unconventional. It is not "what you see is what you get". You basically tell it what you want the line, or paragraph or document to look like and it makes sure everything will turn out correct. Look here for installing under MS Windows. You need to install TeX and some fonts first, but it has links for the MikeTex installer.

A good free outliner for Windows is called Ecco Professional. It can be downloaded for free from here (This is a link to an FTP site. You want the two files: README.WRI and Setup32.exe) The only downside is it must be installed in the Admin account or it won't work. Unfortunately, I can't seem to locate any documentation, but I find it easy enough to use and it has online help.

For those who are going to try out MORE 3.1 on a Macintosh, Apple seems to have ruined the performance of running very old (pre-OS 8) programs under OS X 10.4. Hopefully they will fix this with the update coming out soon because if it doesn't, I am going back to OS X 10.3.

Posted by: Randall Voth at October 27, 2005 11:23 PM

My previous post on what software I use didn't seem to make it past the BrosJudd sensor-bot.

But I did want to make sure that people who are trying MORE 3.1 on a Macintosh should know that Apple has ruined the performance of pre-OS 8 software on OS X 10.4. Hopefully they will fix this in a soon-to-be-released update. Otherwise, I am heading back to OS X 10.3.9.

Posted by: Randall Voth at October 27, 2005 11:47 PM

MORE sounds like a program called TreePad (or perhaps I should say TreePad sounds like MORE) for Windows. It's available, in pay and free versions, at treepad.com. I've found it to be very stable.

Posted by: Guy T. at October 28, 2005 12:03 AM
(My wife can't stand MS Word because it corrupts long documents with lots of figures and graphics)

Hey, it's perfectly capable of doing that with short documents, too!

Posted by: Kirk Parker at October 28, 2005 12:48 AM

TreePad looks interesting, but it is more of a data repository than a classic outliner.

The cool feature of MORE is what they call "clones". You can make clones of the outline hierarchy anywhere and editing one edits them all.

Clones are great for developing novels or doing research because you can have the same item in various places. For instance, you can have cloned scenes under the character section as well as interspersed throughout the plot section. You never lose ideas and waste effort because of duplicated and outdated garbage in your outline.

As well, MORE allows more than one line of text per heading, functioning much like the outliner in MS Word. I find this essential in my work process.

There is an open source program called Leo that borrows a lot from MORE, including clones, but it is designed to write large Python or C programs and allows only one line per heading.

Leo is free and developing into quite a nice program. Definitely "techy", however.

Posted by: Randall Voth at October 28, 2005 1:57 AM

I tend to do OK with Word although some of the formatting decisions it makes are really annoying to fix.

Anyone tried StarOffice?

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 28, 2005 2:47 AM

Never ceases to amaze me how people can get so upset about things they don't have to use.

Man, I friggin' hate brocolli!

Posted by: RC at October 28, 2005 3:42 AM

StarOffice has become OpenOffice.

I just downloaded the latest version and it seems very polished. The only problem I noticed tonight was the flickery repagination of long imported documents -- especially when switching between page and "web" view. The flickering stops after it has finished repaginating.

But if you like to work in "page" view, it should replace MS Word quite nicely for most people. It seems to import Word documents very well.

Another nice thing is it creates a Table of Contents in PDF export, so you can ditch Adobe Acrobat.

Posted by: Randall Voth at October 28, 2005 4:42 AM

It's drive time radio--drive time radio is about male listeners, who are conservatives by definition.

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2005 7:37 AM

Like Ali, I can work with Word if only I could turn the autoformat stuff off permanently. I haven't used Word Perfect for a long time, but I remember being glad to switch to Word when I did. Word has probably gotten worse and Word Perfect better, but I guess I'll stick to the devil I know.

The red and green zigzaggy underlining and the formatted handling of quotes and paragraph indenting, etc. drives me crazy as does the frequent hissy fits that cause the normal template to become corrupt. I unchecked every item on the autoformat and options menu, but they keep coming back on.

I'm too chicken to download other programs for fear that my delicate balance will be disrupted. Yesterday for the third time this year, I had to reinstall Windows (twice on my 14 month old notebook) and once on my less than year old PC necessitating hours of upgrading and re-installing. It took three (3) hours last night to upgrade? install? whatever it's called? Service Pack 2!

These two machines snarled and spit when we tried to join them into a nice network, so we naturally acceded to their wishes and uncoupled them. Just a further little annoyance.

My next computer will be a ?

Posted by: erp at October 28, 2005 11:11 AM

What Sandy said.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 28, 2005 11:59 AM

erp -- I use a Macintosh for Internet and a Windows notebook for word processing. Never have to reinstall my OS on the Mac. Neither does my father, nor father-in-law on their Macs (65-75 age group).

In Word, the red underlines are from the auto spell check, and the green are from the auto grammar check. Turn those options off in the Tools>Options>Spelling&Grammar dialog box.

Another thing to set is to turn OFF autoupdate in any styles you use so that the whole document doesn't change whenever you change a single line.

But, really, if you can find MS Word 97 somewhere -- it came with most people's computers back then in the package called Home Essentials 97 -- then you will get rid of most of the gimmicky garbage they've added to the latest versions of Word.

Posted by: Randall Voth at October 28, 2005 4:16 PM