I'm new to the hack world; until recently I, like many semi-literate computer users, thought a "hack" was a nard version of the cartoon burglar: you know, instead of sporting a formless black hat, wraparound mask with eyeholes cut, a black sack and maybe a sap breaking into the side window of a brick colonial, a hack(er) was a pasty white dude, usually Dutch or midwestern, with greasy sometimes curly hair, burgling bomb codes from the State Department via pilfered super secret dial-up connections just because he could. Now, since becoming a devoted visitor to my old acquaintance Merlin's site, I seem to at least have the joggling asses of the mac-hack-literate pack in my own sites; that is, they're still way ahead, still dangling that pvc baton behind them waiting for me to at least come within, say, a mile of their outstretched hands...but I'm getting there, ever so slowly. A hack, I've come to learn--duh--is at it's most basic an IDEA with an aura about it of constructivity; at it's core a hack is also a bordering-on-the-gimmicky-(but-aren't-all-concepts-related-to-computers-thus) creative long-cut: working harder now to make work easier later. Sort of like the computer-nard version of the modification of the contractor's pickup I saw this morning en route to dropping off the fellows at school: the ten foot long thick piece of pvc mounted in the back of the truck with the big screw-cap on the end, used to store something long and, one assumes, something that must be kept relatively dry and which one might not want rolling around in the bed of their truck. Not terribly difficult to imagine a conversation surrounding that one: "Honey, why are you going to Home Depot yet again to buy a bunch of pipe and a rack for your truck and a giant wrench to unscrew the cap just so you can store a bunch of long things that you could just as easily, oh, I dunno, put in the back of the pickup truck you bought so you could put long things in it?" "Oh for the love of joycecaroloates, dear, I'm working at something NOW in order to increase the possibility of organization later." In any case, Merlin's got boatloads'o'links to free/beta versions of scads of varied programs cobbled together by vision'ry lads'n'lasses from all over the world, and Merlin hisself has enough charm and sass to convince you through his silky and snake-charmery words that you have to have them all NOW. And of course once you've downloaded all of them you will recognize how brilliant they are, recognizing also (if you never have before, like me I suppose) why the economic umbrella of the computer world will never fold up: that is, an industry made sustainable by an obsessively creative and forward-looking group of people. But also wondering when in the Absalom Absalom! you'll be able to play around with them long enough to figure the farking things out.
All of these hacks could be a distraction from the real business of: work/writing. I'm absolutely sure that I'm in a majority when I say that I've had the following moment more than once, and within the past few days: looking around at all my ridiculous wires and gear and machinery and tippy-tapping away at perfectly balanced and ergo'd keys while email friends pop in and my squid-phone startles me from it's pocket-home, meanwhile the countdown 'til picking up the two juniors --from school has begun; but instead of finishing that short story I've promised to myself to send out TODAY I'm futzing around with Quicksilver, still confused as crap mostly by it and unable to make it do what I want, so instead of finishing the story I'm googling Quicksilver and eyeing the clock and trying to figure out how to type in a web address without having to use the touchpad, figuring out how to activate Safari...then wondering why I'm typing in a web address instead of finishing the story...And then I see, out of the corner of my eye, a notebook and a pen. So simple. So transportable. So functional. So boring?
No. Back to the hacks, and after, to work: I've got notebooks going back to the 80s, all of them with snippets of stories, songs, ideas, etc. Am currently in the process of using a couple of the programs mentioned on Merlin's site to organize chunks of workthat have not seen light in years in usable comp-form. So, if nothing gol'dang else, these programs, and the ideas fueling them, have made looking back through old notebooks a functional and goal-oriented task, rather than a disappointed backwards-trip through the sulphurous mists of nostalgia.