Some media is better than other media

This article is excellent. I don’t agree with everything in it, but I think it has two very good and important points:
 
1. If you give up on things like value judgements and expertise, you lose almost all ground you have to say much with oomph. Some things are better than some other things. Aesthetically as well as politically. Media created with nuance and skill is better than kitsch and propaganda. People who spend a lot of time studying a thing do tend to know better than most about that thing. “Elitism” has become such a bad word that we’ve forgotten that it is better to be better.
 
2. Texts (and other works, but usually texts) that are difficult and slow, but rewarding, to work through have benefits over fast and easy media. Simple messages are easy to use as rallying cries. For good or bad causes. If something takes no thought to consume, then it usually won’t get much thought in its consumption. This isn’t to say that writing in such a way that is needlessly difficult to understand is a good thing, but works that reward reading slowly and rereading and analysizing are better.
 
 
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Enough LaTeX for basic logic typesetting

I’m currently taking a (meta)logic class. There are assigned problem sets. A lot of people either don’t know how to type logical symbols or else cannot be bothered to fight with Word. I’m a fan of LaTeX. I like it for several reasons, one of them being easy use of logical symbols.

There are a lot of guides to using LaTeX. To my knowledge, none start from nothing and end with just what’s needed for a logic class. So here I fill in that void. My goal is to be comprehensive enough to cover what’s needed to type up assignments for a logic class while not including anything else so someone can be up and running with just this guide in a few minutes.

Setting Up

First, you need something to edit your text and something to compile it to a PDF or whatever other format you like. I personally use Overleaf. It’s a free, online application that lets you type in one column with live updates to what it looks like on the page in the other column. It also has templates, allows collaboration, and has some other nice features that are not important to our purposes here. (Full disclosure: The link is a referral link. If you refer people, you get extra storage space and pro features for free. The default free features and space are fine, though.)

There are other popular options. If you need to compile offline, I suggest TeXmaker. If you go this route, you need to download MiKTeX. If you want to write something very long, you may want to type into a text editor and then copy and paste into Overleaf or TeXmaker. (By “long” I mean over fifty pages, give or take based on things like included pictures.)

Onto the actual typing process. If you’re using Overleaf, go to the “My Projects” page and then create a new project. Choose “blank paper”. Then you’ll have this code:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}
\begin{document}
(Type your content here.)
\end{document}

If you’re not using Overleaf, go ahead and put that code into your document.

There is a bit of tweaking to the basic template to make this better. Before the \begin{document} line, add a line containing just \usepackage{amsmath}. Then add lines with add \title{TITLE} and \author{NAME}. Then after the \begin{document} line, add a line saying \maketitle. If you want it to not be huge, type \small\maketitle\normalsize. (The \small makes it small. The \normalsize makes the stuff after it normal size.) At this point my document looks like this.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}
\title{Phil 125 Homework Set 2}
\author{Nichole Smith}
\begin{document}
\small\maketitle\normalsize
(Type your content here.)
\end{document}

Typing the Document

Everything after this replaces “(Type your content here.)”.

  • Typing letters and numbers works as you would expect. Certain symbols are used by the code so typing them is not straightforward. (The & and squiggle brackets are the most notable here.)
  • Single line breaks are ignored. So if you type some stuff, hit return/enter, and then type some more, it will show up as one paragraph. (This can be useful. I like to type every step of a proof in a new line. Then it compiles into a paragraph.)
  • Double line breaks give you a new paragraph.
  • If you want extra space, use \vspace{1cm} as its own paragraph. You can choose lengths other than 1cm if you want.

Onto the logic specific stuff. Of critical importance is math mode. Whenever you surround text with dollar signs ($) LaTeX treats it as mathematical symbols. So, if you type $x$ it will be italicized like a variable should be. Math mode does not have spaces. So $two words$ will not have a space between them. (If you need a space while in math mode for some reason, “\ ” gives you a space. That is a backslash with a space after it.)

Note all logical symbols have to be typed in math mode. The logical symbols:

  • \land gives you the and symbol
  • \lor gives you the or symbol
  • \lnot gives you the not symbol
  • \rightarrow gives you the material conditional arrow
  • \Rightarrow gives you the logical implication arrow
  • \leftrightarrow gives you the biconditional arrow
  • \Leftrightarrow gives you the logical equivalence arrow (So, capitalizing the arrow tags makes them the bigger arrows)
  • = is the equal sign
  • Parentheses are parentheses
  • \subset gives you the strict subset symbol
  • \subseteq gives you the subset symbol
  • In general, typing \not immediately before another symbol puts a slash through it. E.g. \not\subseteq gives you the not a subset symbol
  • \in gives you the element symbol
  • \times gives you the times sign
  • \neq gives you the not equal sign
  • > and < can be typed directly. To get the or equal to versions, type \geq or \leq
  • \emptyset gives you the empty set symbol
  • \{ and \} give you squiggle brackets
  • \& gives you the & symbol
  • \top and \bot give you the tautology and contradiction symbols.
  • \Alpha and \alpha give you upper and lower case alpha. The other Greek letters are similar.
  • | gives you the Sheffer stroke and \downarrow gives you the Peirce dagger.
  • An underscore gives you subscript. A caret gives you superscript. E.g. p sub 1 is typed $p_1$.
  • \hdots gives you a nice ellipsis. Use \cdots if you want them elevated to the middle of the line.
  • Anything on a line after % will not be compiled. So if you want to make a note to self, you can.

I think this covers it. Most of them are pretty straightforward. If you do need more, this webpage has a nifty list. Or, detexify lets you just draw what you want, and it gives you the code. At this point you’re ready to type stuff.

I will provide an example now. Say problem 2 asks you to symbolize “neither both p and q, nor q only if p” with the and, material conditional, and nor operators. Then you type:

2. The sentence “neither both $p$ and $q$, nor $q$ only if $p$” symbolized with the and, material conditional, and nor operators is $(p\land q)\downarrow(q\rightarrow p)$.

Truth Tables

LaTeX can also handle tables very nicely. If you’re lazy, there are online tools to make tables. They have quite a few options. You’re probably fine using that.

I prefer more control for my truth tables. Again, you’re fine without. But in case anyone is interested, I’ll explain. Maybe you’ll want to be able to edit the code the generator spits out. (I often use a generator to start and then tweak as needed.) First, here’s the code for the truth table for p_1 or not p_1:

\begin{tabular}{c|cccc}
$p_1$ & $p_1$ & $\lor$ & $\lnot$ & $p_1$ \\
\hline
T & & \textcolor{red}{T} & F & \\
F & & \textcolor{red}{T} & T & \\
\end{tabular}

How do you construct this thing? First set up the tabular environment:

\begin{tabular}{}
\end{tabular}

The second set of squiggle brackets after \begin let you set up the columns. Each c gives a center aligned column. If you want left or right aligned columned, use l or r instead of c. Yes, you can mix the three. The | gives a vertical line going down the entire table. Note for truth tables you want a column for every single symbol. That way nothing is under the variables and you can have a straight line of Ts and Fs under the connectives. So, for p_1 or not p_1 we want a column for p_1, a bar, then columns for each of p_1, or, not, and p_1. That’s four more. So, we have:

\begin{tabular}{c|cccc}
\end{tabular}

We have the table set up. Now to fill it in. The first line of the table has the atomic sentences on the left and then the sentence in question on the right. Type the content of each column, separated by &. Then end the line with \\. So, to have the first line of the truth table:

\begin{tabular}{c|cccc}
$p_1$ & $p_1$ & $\lor$ & $\lnot$ & $p_1$ \\
\end{tabular}

To have the horizontal line, type \hline on its own line. Then more on to the next row, doing the same thing you did for the first row. Note that if you want nothing in a certain spot, just leave the space between the two &s empty. So, for the second row, you want a T under the first p_1 (The one on the left side of the table), then nothing under the first one on the right, then a T under the and sign, an F under the not sign, and then nothing under the last p_1. The third line is similar.  Now we have:

\begin{tabular}{c|cccc}
$p_1$ & $p_1$ & $\lor$ & $\lnot$ & $p_1$ \\
\hline
T & & T & F & \\
F & & T & T & \\
\end{tabular}

This is a fine truth table. But, maybe you want to bold the truth values for the main connective. To make T bold, type \textbf{T}. You can replace “T” with other text, of course. If you’re using Overleaf, highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+B will put the tag in automatically.

This brings us to the complete table as quoted in the beginning of this section.

The comment section is open. Questions and suggestions are welcome.

(Edit notes: As Soren pointed out, I originally put the wrong symbol for commenting. I also realized the amsmath package is not needed, so I removed that. Since these are usually printed in black and white anyway, I got rid of color in favor of boldface type. This has the added benefit of avoiding the need for packages entirely. In the third edit I added the \leq and \geq tags as well as \hdots because I realized they’re needed for indexing variables. \hdots requires the amsmath package, so I added that line back in. Using bold instead of color still seems to be better.)

The pirates are ready for more Netflix removals

Well, another batch of popular shows are being removed from Netflix. And quite a few people are ready to just pirate the shows. I’m not quite sure whether the network execs aren’t thinking this sorta thing through or just assume everyone forgot how to acquire things for free. Piracy rates plummeted when Netflix, Spotify, etc. got big because, sure, you could download things one by one for free, but then you have to remember to do it and manage a library and have storage space and all those annoyances. It’s easier to drop $7 a month to just have everything you want or might want in one place, ready to go whenever, and already managed in the cloud.

I get why they’re doing this: They all want their own streaming services now. Except that kills the benefits. Now it’s $7 or whatever per service, which would quickly let prices approach the old cable range, not in one place, requiring switching services depending on what you want, and managed with irrelevant borders. (Music has the added drawback of not being able to shuffle everything. Just whatever is on what you’re using at the moment.)

At that point, well, piracy is looking a lot nicer. (I’ve seen quite a few people at least see themselves as justified enough if they buy one service and then steal the rest. “I’m already paying for Netflix. I’ll just steal whatever HBO refuses to put on.”) Maybe some estimates have the gain from the people jumping on board the new services outweighing whatever loss there is from not collecting from existing services. Regardless, theft technology has gotten a lot better over the past several years, so perhaps this time we won’t see legal trolls trying to ruin people’s lives as much this time around.

Letting phones live longer is actually kinda nice…

Well, apparently Apple apologized for allegedly sabotaging the phones they make. It’s almost funny since if anything their tactic lengthened the lives of old iPhones. I’ve had beverage containers with taps that stop dispensing before the container is actually empty and also containers that can actually be emptied via the tap, and I prefer the latter. Also I’ve had printers that will keep going regardless of how much ink/toner is left, just slowly fading out as well as infernal contraptions that just throw an out of ink error when there’s still plenty of ink but not enough to always make a perfect print.

I have plenty of complaints regarding the phones, but adjusting energy draw to accommodate aging batteries is a pretty cool move.

Pervasive technological problems don’t get solved by just opting out

Interesting article, if you ignore the stupid headline. The mentioned studies connecting screen-based activities and unhappiness is of note. (Though I wonder how ebooks compare to books.)

“As teens have started spending less time together, they have become less likely to kill one another, and more likely to kill themselves.”

Is, well. Something. (Reminds me of the meme showing 80s/90s rock screaming “I kill motherfuckers” and 00s rock saying “I wanna kill myself, motherfuckers”.)

“Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.”

Well someone born in 1995 having an Instagram account (possible only in 2010 and after) before high school would be mildly impressive. Considering the Internet started somewhen in the 60s, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first generation to not remember a pre-Internet world.

(Ofc this is just me poking fun at boundaries at fundamentally spectral things.)

And the best thing about this article is, as long as I’m on the generational boundary, I get to feel smugly justified in refusing to appear in pictures on social media (in general — I still do photos that would have justified a Polaroid).

The article suggests getting away from phones as a solution, but I really question how much good any individual can do for themselves.If the population is full of isolated people, cutting yourself off from the one means of communication with them doesn’t magically bring back the old methods. It just leaves you alone.

Reflections on the quick fall of Sarahah

Well, that anonymous platform fad seems to have risen and fallen in record time. (Several months ago.) Thoughts, observations, responses, etc.

~ I would guess the very low lifespan of the fad can be mostly blamed on a lack of interaction. You send something and then it’s sent. That’s totally unsatisfying. Earlier platforms allowed people to publicly post the messages and respond to them. This gave users extra reason to send interesting things and also come back to the site to check in on whether they got a response. Seeing what others said was also interesting.

~ The site seemed to be also aiming for a business audience (e.g. send anonymous tips or reviews to coworkers, etc.), but really any business that wanted that probably already has it.

~ Ted and I played around with it a bit and found out, for better or worse, it does actually have a filter. So, some of the nastiest messages just went into the abyss. No indication of the message not being delivered is given.

~ I finally got a negative message. Turns out insults with a complete lack of point to them just makes me assume I must have missed an idiot for the block list. Like, I have posted plenty of stuff online and have been plenty social in person. If someone doesn’t see something in all of that to criticize, I’m taking it as a compliment.

Software (May 2017)

As I get ready for another reformat of my laptop, I’ll take a moment to consider what software will be getting put back on.

Express Burn Disc Burning Software seems light and easy enough. I got it because it came preinstalled and had no drawbacks for putting an ISO on a DVD-R. I might just get a different disc burning program, though.

FL Studio 10 lets me turn the MIDIs I make into listenable audio tracks.

Skype is the only way I have to communicate with some people.

Spotify lets me listen to pretty much anything for free, and its organization is a fair bit better than YouTube. Plus I don’t have to deal with Chrome’s attempt at handling memory.

4k Video Downloader 4.2 is the only program I’ve ever found that will download Youtube playlists in a variety of formats without making a fuss.

Sumatra PDF is light and lets me read my ebooks and papers. I may seek out something with better highlights and annotation powers.

FileZilla lets me easily move things on and off my wobsite.

HydraIRC is a nice IRC client. That’s about the extent of what I would ask of it.

SimCity 3000 is a very fun game.

Pidgin covers basically all of the messaging protocols. Notably XMPP.

Adobe Illustrator CS6 is great for making vector graphics.

Process Blocker is good for when a process doesn’t seem to want to buzz off.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 is a fantastic photo editor.

VLC Media Player gets the job done for video viewing. And the keyboard controls are nice.

Notepad++ is my goto text editor. Which I use surprisingly often.

IrfanView is good for viewing images.

Audacity for audio editing.

Google Chrome because of ChromeCast.

Windirstat for keeping tabs on how much stuff is taking up space.