Typesetting and the Dreaded Scottish Chesty/Throaty Cough

Of course, as soon as I dedicate a space to blog about running, I get sick. Figures. I woke up yesterday  with a tightness in my chest, a woozy head, and the beginnings of a cough. After talking myself out of going on my scheduled run (good call, past Ali) I did some work until I had to be on campus at 1. I stayed and kinda floated around in a headachey, coughing daze until 5, then went home and promptly changed into my pyjamas. After kibbitzing with my flatmate, I crawled into bed and watched Buffy until I went to sleep. This morning I woke up with the same tightness now in my throat, a sometimes cough, and some lingering wooziness. I decided to take today off working out as well, and have spent the morning reading for class. I’ve decided that, barring any major deterioration in my health, I will at least get some sort of exercize tomorrow. I hope I’ll be feeling up for a run, but if I’m too tired or it’s snowing again, I’ll head back to the gym after class for some light cardio and maybe some weights. At this level of fitness, I can take about two days off in a row before I start feeling squirrely.

Since I was feeling woozy yesterday and having trouble focusing, I needed something to do that would not require critical reading/thinking but would still make me feel productive. So I decided to teach myself how to use LaTeX. LaTeX is a typesetting program kind of like MS Word, except it allows you to produce very nice looking documents, and allows you to have more control over their layout while simultaneously spending less time fighting with the program (if you’ve ever gotten into a battle with Word over bullets or spacing or chapters headings, you’ll recognize how this could be a valuable tool). It’s commonly used in disciplines that require equations or symbols (math, physics, comp sci, and apparently linguistics), but it’s useful for simple text-based academic  writing too. Both of my papers this term will likely require the inclusion of logical formulae and syntax trees, which LaTeX is also very useful for formatting easily and fancily. The trick with LaTeX is you have to give it commands to shape the document in the way you want it, and then you have to ‘run’ or ‘render’ the commands to see what the final document will look like. If you do it right (which took me several tries) you get a pretty sharp looking PDF. I only got as far as downloading the TeX suite, figuring out how to use the editor, and preparing basic documents with text and headings and whatnot, but considering at 10 am yesterday morning I had never even opened a LaTeX editor before, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself!

[Edit]: I feel that it’s ironic that I can’t get the formatting right on a blog post about LaTeX. Fuck you, unhelpful text editing platform!

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