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"Ignorance is not bliss. But ignorance sometimes helps me to focus." -- Chung-Hong Chan
***

Like academician Chung-Hong Chan, I understand the temptation to fiddle with the software I need to get the job done. He speaks here of one of his tools and one of my favorites, the venerable Emacs text editor:
editing.jpg
A slightly customized Emacs and an auto-updating web page are easier to use and much less annoying to me than a traditional word processor. Pictured is an earlier version of this post. (Image by the author. Copying permitted.)
First thing you might notice from all 23 previous posts is that my emacs lisp sucks. I don't write in a way that is idiomatic and there must be "correct" slash "better" ways to achieve what I wanted to do. Sure enough, mea culpa. But I also wanted to say that those hacky emacs lisp snippets work for my purposes. I don't need to write "correct" or "better" emacs lisp. I just need to write some useful emacs lisp that can facilitate what I do. As I said many times, my main job is doing research and writing academic papers; not even writing R code; and absolutely not writing emacs lisp.

I always like the motto "learning enough x to be dangerous". I have something that I really want to focus on, say developing the next best automated content analytic method or making social sciences adhere better to the modern concept of open science. But writing "better" emacs lisp is not a thing I want to focus on. I just want to know enough emacs lisp to be dangerous. Or put it less flamboyantly, to know enough emacs lisp so that I can use emacs comfortably. Do I need to know how to write generators, macros, and recursive functions in emacs lisp? It would be nice if I am with all of these tricks. But I can do well enough without. Ignorance is not bliss. But ignorance sometimes helps me to focus. [formatting in original]
In my case, I don't even know Emacs Lisp. Slashdot, Google, and Bash are my friends, and I am very well-organized: I can transplant my entire working environment to any computer I use and very easily keep all instances standardized.

That said, I still have to watch out for those times when the urge to tinker is a disguise for procrastination.

I am a bit older than the writer, but in addition to finding his silver lining to ignorance worth remembering, I like the following:
I am in my 40s. In my language context, we say: "my one leg is already in coffin". I am no longer a budding young person who can make infinite number of commitments to learn everything.
There is something about one leg is already in coffin that is both more memorable and makes me stop to think more than the equivalent idiom, one foot in the grave. In fact, I'm going to use it as a my own memento mori the next time I catch myself wondering if time I am contemplating for scripting is actually worth it.

-- CAV

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