Dropzone is the best Mac app I discovered in 2015. It works like the "drop stack" feature in Path Finder, but it's available in the menu bar. I use it every day to gather files to attach to emails, open PDFs in specific apps, and more.

Realpolitik TV

Dr. Drang is tired of Donald Trump's bullshit. Which is essentially just an amen to Trump's preaching.

Trump isn't the traditional politician, but rather more of a singer-songwriter in his own indie sub-genre of republicanism.

I think it's very likely that Trump will be written into history as a chief catalyst in the unapologetic push to fully merge politics with entertainment.

Politicians have always been actors fundamentally. The ability to play a charismatic character on stage is an asset. Politicians with acting backgrounds have used their skills to great advantage. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger are notable examples.

Nerds don't get politics because most of us are introverted and probably find acting in a non-Hollywood capacity disingenuous. Which it is. But it's the way things get done in a time when the competition for American attention has never been more intense. Entertainment works.

We implicitly accept that actors are essentially lying to us on screen for the sake of entertainment. If we can accept that the political actor is simply acting (lying for the sake of capturing attention), then it seems logical to allow it to merge with the entertainment sphere.

And entertainment has been borrowing from politics for years. Steven Colbert effectively played the part of a republican on The Colbert Report. If Donald Trump can bridge the gap between capitalist imperialist to acting by way of The Apprentice, who's to say he's not qualified for public office acting gig?

Up next after a few words from campaign donors: Obama on Running Wild with Bear Grylls.

Wolfram Alpha + LaTeX revisited

I mentioned before how useful it can be to evaluate numerical LaTeX expressions with Wolfram Alpha using Alfred. I still do that a lot, but now that I have a Wolfram Alpha pro subscription, I'm spending more time on the WA website itself to take advantage of features like calculation history.

Another benefit of being on the website is being able to visually see how WA interprets the code I enter. This is a fantastic way to verify that I entered the code that I thought I entered—especially for longer expressions that go beyond the visible boundary of the input field.

A recent example: I wanted to evaluate:

\frac{1677 - 1251.76}{1 + \frac{(1-0.004)}{1.04} + \frac{(1-0.004)(1-0.005)}{1.04^{2}} + \frac{(1-0.004)(1-0.005)(1-0.006)}{1.04^{3}}  }

The first time I copied this expression into WA, I accidentally missed the very last bracket, probably because there was some extra space in front of it.

I was able to quickly see that something was wrong since I intended the 1677 - 1251.76 term to be in the numerator.

So I tried again, making sure to capture all of the code, and got what I was looking for, including the numerical value of the expression, 113.41.

Being able to evaluate these expressions on the fly is a godsend and greatly reduces the chances for typos in the final document. As an added bonus, since WA generates a unique URL for each query, I can copy it into my .tex file as a comment for later reference. For example, here's the calculation above.

Defer projects, not tasks

Lots of good, practical, salt-of-the-internet advice from Brett Kelly on using OmniFocus. My favorite is "defer projects, not tasks." On some level of consciousness, I figured this one out a while back, and it's made my OmniFocus perspectives several orders of magnitude more sane.

I don't enter a specific date to defer entire projects. I simply set their status to "on hold," which keeps a placeholder for them in my project list, but keeps the individual tasks from fighting over my attention with active project tasks.

I think deferring projects also promotes a more project-oriented mindset. That is, it helps funnel tasks into goal-oriented buckets. If it's not obvious which project a task belongs to, there's an excellent chance that the task 1) isn't worth your time or 2) belongs in a more calendar-like medium like Reminders.app.

By the way, Brett just released a free OmniFocus book, too.

Office 2016 for Mac impressions

I finally loaded Office 2016 on my Mac. Here are my thoughts.


  • Significantly more fluid and Mac-like scrolling
  • Very Windows-y but significantly more pleasing interface than Office 2011—especially on a retina display
  • Interface, button locations, etc. are more consistent with Windows version of Office
  • Built-in keyboard shortcuts are now consistent with the Windows version (e.g. F2 will finally edit a cell in Excel and F4 will finally put $s in formulas)


  • A more stripped down VBA editor makes doing any kind of serious macro editing difficult to impossible. Microsoft now recommends developing all macros in the Windows version of Office, but they seem to be hinting that a more web-based solution for macro development is coming.
  • No ability to create custom keyboard shortcuts of any kind (big bummer)
  • No ability to customize the quick access toolbar (the improved ribbon layout makes this less of a con)
  • No ability to buy the thing outright (yet)—you can only subscribe for $6.99/month through Office 365. Supposedly a one-time purchase price is coming in September 2015.
  • Super talkative to Microsoft's servers. I've never seen an application try to hit so many URLs through so many ports via Little Snitch. This seems consistent with Microsoft's apparent know-everything-the-user-is-doing in Windows 10. Office 2016 is essentially a giant wants-to-be-connected web app that runs locally on your Mac.
  • Speaking of giant, it really is. Office 2016 consumes over 6 GB of space in my Applications folder, wherease Office 2011 took up a little over 1 GB.

In summary, Office 2016 for Mac feels like a significant visual update, which makes the experience of using it more consistent with other Mac applications—significantly more so than previous versions of Office for Mac. If you aren't a power user of VBA, macros, etc., it's probably a sensible upgrade. If you don't want Office 2016 to be in constant communication with Redmond, install Little Snitch.

We ship with pretty decent video software

Dr. Brian May explains how we're able to see depth in images of Pluto, despite the fact that New Horizons only has one camera lens.

It's based on a simple photoshop hack that our brains perfected long ago—in real-time no less. Our brain can natively import two HD video streams, stitch them into one, then export them as a single live feed of the world around us. Continuously, without any buffering.

I guess we've managed to do more with our star dust than Pluto.


Modern work requires convincing the mind that work happens in this virtual box, but not in this other virtual box appearing on the same physical surface.

We killed leisure

We think we have less time than ever, but this is only an illusion. The Economist:

Ever since a clock was first used to synchronise labour in the 18th century, time has been understood in relation to money. Once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving or using them profitably. When economies grow and incomes rise, everyone’s time becomes more valuable. And the more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it is.

In some ways we're living in the mushroom cloud of a productivity time bomb that was first wired by the Protestant work ethic. It just couldn't go nuclear until there was enough technology to mostly replace physical work with knowledge work.

Taken to its ultimate conclusion, if technology commoditizes all but human judgement (the purest of knowledge work products), the perceived value of time in a capitalist culture will approach infinity. In other words, our own attention will be the only value left to be added over technology.

Rather than increasing leisure time, our technological innovations may enslave us to our own inverted perceptions of value—paradoxically leading us to a state of total time poverty. The more we can do with any minute of the day, the more prohibitively expensive leisure time will become.

I want to say more. Way more. I just don't have enough time. I mean, it's not like you're paying me to write this.


Brett and I rambled nostalgic about Notational Velocity forks, ran barefoot across the socio-political-economic mine field of U.S. health insurance, and discussed the power usage of mind maps in almost perverse way. I'm of course referring to episode 143 of Systematic, which I had fun being a part of.