Had lunch with our annual special physical chemistry seminar speaker today, a big-wig in US science policy and a professor from UT Austin. Lunch was great (Laad Naa), and the conversation was fairly encouraging regarding the future of science in America, and for me in particular. He said that more and more universities are starting medical schools based in large part on the fact that a growing number of young faculty members are married to medical professionals, and hey we may have fancy degrees but we still need jobs. I brought up the topic of women as an untapped resource in scientific research with somewhat antagonistic motivations. He is from texas after all. But it seems that he fully recognizes the challenges facing women scientists today, and is committed to addressing them in the proper forums. He actually raised several issues that I had not been aware of. I asked him if he sees any changes happening currently and he said that, yes, there are changes, but it will take about 10 years or so before they manifest themselves.

On another note. This is sub-titled: why I don’t use proprietary software willingly. This is not a diatribe against microsoft. Too often people mistake poorly written non-ms software that is designed to run on windows with the real thing.

Windows based software sucks for research. It is over engineered. While casual PC users make up the lion’s share of consumers, there are still a few of us who do not so casual things like writing manuscripts with 3 page long equations in them. By trying to make the use of their products easier for the general public, they have made them a royal pain the the a$$ for me.

The great thing about open source software is that it is so rudimentary to the point of having to tell it exactly what to do, that when you have an exact idea of what you want it to do it is very easily implemented with a few lines of code. No auto-complete, no spell-check, grammar-check, or cryptic tab settings. If you want an equation with the third line indented 1/16 of an inch more than the rest it is easily done with about 10 keystrokes, rather than 10 hours of clicking, highlighting, dragging and searching through the most non-intuitive labyrinth that is windows help features.

I realize that windows is not designed for this type of use in mind. That’s why I use Linux. But my boss wants word documents. So word documents he shall get.
But for anyone with a choice, take 30 minutes to learn Tex and Bibtex, and save the lifetime of self-inflicted punishment that is trying to get word, mathtype and endnote to jive.

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