Monday, January 19, 2015

Word Processor Advice Wanted

I have been trying to get the third edition of Machinery of Freedom done and have encountered problems coming from what appear to be bugs in Microsoft Word 2011 Mac. They include:

My sections have the headers set up as different first page, different odd and even pages. The program shows odd numbered pages as even, even as odd. This isn't a big problem in itself, since I can always adjust formatting accordingly, but I suspect it is evidence of a bug that is causing more serious problems.

The program sometimes inserts an invisible page, so that page number 16 is followed by page number 18. If I save as pdf, the invisible page shows up as a blank page in the pdf.

The program insists that the page number for a page I want to number 4 must be either 3 or 5. If I adjust the starting number for the page by 1, the number that appears changes by 2.

It's possible that with enough kludges I can work around all these bugs, although I have spent quite a lot of time so far trying without success. But I'm worried that even if I manage to produce a pdf to send in that appears correct, some one of the bugs will keep biting me. For one thing, judging by past experience, the proof copy of the book will have multiple errors that need fixing, despite all my efforts to get it right in advance, and every time I change anything ...  . Hence this post.

1. Is any of my readers sufficiently expert in Word to diagnose the problem from my description? I will be happy to send the first chunk of the book, which shows the problem, to anyone who is. 

2. Alternatively, do people have suggestions for an alternative word processor that I should switch to? Desiderata are:

Can import from Word keeping most of the formatting reasonably close to the same.

Does indexing and table of contents. It would be a big help if the words marked for indexing in the Word document stayed marked when the file was imported to the new word processor. 

Lets me format page numbers and headers in a way that alternates which side of the page the number is on, so that it is always on the outside edge.

My final recourse would be to simplify my layout until it is so simple that Word can get it right, but I would prefer not to do that if I don't have to. The current layout is designed to look reasonably similar to the second edition, although not identical. 

On another topic ...  . If Anarchei is reading this, would he please get in touch? As I explained in a comment on an earlier post that he may have missed, he and one other person did the covers I liked best and I want to correspond with both of them about the possibility of improved variants.

P.S. I eventually solved the problem, in part by noticing that "Format Document" had a "section start" option and tinkering with that.  As best I can tell, all bugs are now out of that particular document. I sent the pdf in to CreateSpace and am now waiting for my proof copy.

Thanks to everyone for suggestions.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Charlie Hebdo, the New York Times, and Tribal Politics

I have seen and heard a good deal of talk about the decision by the New York Times not to reprint cartoons from Charlie Hebdo. The official explanation is that they do not want to offend their Muslim readers. Their critics point out that they have been willing to publish things offensive to other groups of readers in the past, and attribute the policy to the fear  that publishing the cartoons might result in violent attacks on the Times or its staff. They go on to argue that refusing for that reason is, if not admirable, at least understandable, but that the Times ought to have the honesty to admit that that is what they are doing.

I think both explanations are wrong. What is really going on, as I interpret it, is tribal politics, as described by (among others) Dan Kahan and Scott Alexander, both of whom I have linked to in the past. A considerable part of the U.S. population identifies with either the red tribe (Republicans, conservatives) or the blue tribe (Democrats, liberals), choosing positions and interpreting evidence accordingly. 

Both tribes are, of course, opposed to Muslim terrorism and the murder of journalists. But the blue tribe version amounts to "Muslim terrorists are bad people, but we should not let their offenses prejudice us against the vast majority of Muslims who are not terrorists or give us a negative opinion of their religion." The red tribe version concedes that not all Muslims are terrorists but sees Muslim terrorism as part of an us vs them conflict, with "us" the west and "them" the Muslim world. The same split shows up in views of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The blue tribe, or at least its hard core members, sees the Palestinians as the oppressed, the Israelis as the oppressors. The red tribe sees the Israelis as part of us, the Palestinians as part of them.

The New York Times is the nearest thing the blue tribe has to an official organ. The Charlie Hebdo case is a red tribe story. The Times cannot deny that it happened, cannot refuse to cover it, cannot defend the killers. But it also cannot identify with victims who, from its (unstated) point of view, were on the wrong side of the red/blue split over Islam, deliberately provoking Muslims with their cartoons.