I made kouign-amann. It feels more honest to say I attempted to make kouign-amann or even I made something a lot like kouign-amann or, perhaps most accurately, I really messed up making kouign-amann. However, I also think it’s unfair to myself (and anyone making it for the first time) to downplay the challenge of turning a bunch of butter, flour, water, sugar, and yeast into a pile of sweet, melt-in-your-mouth flakes of delicious pastryness.

I used the Bon Appetit recipe. I read it through a few times and wrote it down (to keep my laptop out of the danger zone). I don’t like how they presented the recipe / ingredients list–though I do like how it is divided into sections.

It takes -forever-. I anti-recommend this recipe if for no other reason than it takes forever. The dough is also, in my experience, super dry. It was basically a total disaster.

A photo of kouign-amann, a light colden color.
A little underdone, but not bad…

To start off, the kouign-amann was underdone. This was the smallest of the problems.

When working on laminating the dough–when trying to turn it into something with nice, flaky layers–it turned into a mess.

When making kouign-amann–or most laminated things–you make a big rectangle of butter. This is quite fulfilling because you get to bash a one-pound pile of butter into a one-pound block of butter.

Kouing-amann, cut in half, showing an underdone inside.
Nope, dry and just barely not raw.

You then wrap this in dough, like your covering a textbook or wrapping a present. Most descriptions talk about this as though you’re folding an envelope around a big letter made of butter.

You then roll this butter-dough mix and fold it over on itself a bunch of times. This should create those aforementioned layers. If you’re me, on this particular day, when you roll out the dough, you mess it up. Rather than layers, I ended up with an amalgamation of butter and dough, which functions more like a bunch of break apart pieces.

In summary, it definitely didn’t work.

I decided to try Martha’s recipe next. This, it turns out, was only a slightly better idea than the Bon Apetit one, in as much as it took about six hours, rather than overnight.

A well cooked kouign-amann, on the slightly too dark side of done.
At least this one is a nice color.

The dough was dry again. When trying to make the BA recipe, I ended up overworking the dough, in hopes that it would eventually come together into the right texture (like my favorite cinnamon roll recipe does). Instead, it just ended up overworked and chewy. I tried to head this off with Martha’s recipe, by NOT overworking the dough. However, it didn’t hold together very well, and I ended up kind of sticking it together with pressure and little bits of water when rolling it out.

It was -really- dry. I talked with a former pastry chef afterwards for advice, who told me that the air was too humid, and I needed to add more water to the dough.


I had the same problem I did last time, and ended up with butter mottled dough rather than delicious, flaky layers. I also think it didn’t rise enough (did the dryness cause this?).

In summary, kouign-amann takes one and two were a total disaster. Stay tuned for take three.

Two halfs of two different kouign-amann, side by side. The one on the left is fluffier, but underdone.
BA on the left, Martha on the right.

Banana muffins

A photo of a hand holding a muffin.

These muffins are kosher for Passover, because it’s Pesach and bakers gotta bake. These contain no flour (or grains)–and therefore no gluten. They also contain no sugar or dairy. They are, however, about 30% egg by volume.

I think these are good! Not just Passover good or gluten and sugar free good, but good good! They’d also probably be good with maple syrup, honey, chocolate chips, banana chips, dried fruit, or 1 tsp baking powder.


  • 2 overripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups nut flour (e.g. almond flour. I used 1.5 cups almond flour and .5 cups hazelnut flour)
  • 1/2 cup oil


  • Pre-heat oven to 350
  • Mash the bananas into a pulp. You can use anything from a blender to your hands.
  • Combine bananas, oil, and eggs. Mix!
  • Add the nut flour and mix it some more
  • Since these are muffins, I put them in a muffin tin. I usually oil a muffin tin and sprinkle flour in it. Since this contained no flour, I instead used paper liners.
  • I put filled the liners 2/3 of the way. I think it was around 1/4 cup.
  • Put in the oven and bake for 40-55 minutes.
  • Let cool on a wire rack (or plate, which is what I usually use).

Strawberry bourbon tart

I made a strawberry bourbon tart and you can too.


For the filling:

  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 costco sized strawberry container (my guess is two pounds)

For the crust

  • 200g corn flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • Optional: 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 75g earth balance and 75g coconut oil (or 150g butter)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

For bonus points

Make the filling

  • Make bourbon simple syrup. Take the sugar and the bourbon together in a small pot. Over medium heat, let cook until the sugar has dissolved and it’s become appropriately syrupy.
  • Make the strawberry jam. Okay, I used fresh strawberries, but cooking with whole strawberries is super wet, so I made jam instead. Take the strawberries. If you feel fancy, hull them. If you don’t, just pick off the green bit and cut them in half. TBH you could probably use frozen strawberries and no one would know. Regardless, throw these in another pot and let them cook down until they’re more like jam and less like fresh strawberries. You can also speed this up by using thickener.
  • Are you using thickener?Β IfΒ  you want to use thickener, mix some corn starch or similar with a bit of water and add that.
  • Combine the things. Once the strawberries are jammified, mix the simple syrup and the strawberries and set aside.

Make the crust

  • Preheat the over to 350. While you’re at it, prep whatever container you’re going to cook this in. I bake almost everything in a spring form pan. You might have an actual pie dish.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients. I think this is usually pretty self-explanatory.
  • Add in the fat. You can use a food processor or a stand mixer or a pastry cutter. I just use my hands. This is most easily done (regardless of your preference for mixing), by cutting the fat into smaller pieces.
  • Add the maple. Usually you add water until it all holds together. I used maple syrup. I recommend this.

Rolling out a crust is miserable. It makes a huge mess, takes up a lot of space. You have to clean everything before -and- after. There’s no way to make this not miserable for either your current or future self.


  • Roll out your pie crust. You can do this on wax paper, which helps it be less messy -and- helps you transfer it into the baking dish.
  • Sprinkle some corn flour on the surface which you will be using to roll out the crust.
  • Put the dough onto the surface and flatten it a bit with your hands.
  • Sprinkle more corn flour on top
  • Use your rolling pin (for this particular pie, I used a Campari bottle) to roll out the crust until it’s approximately large enough for your baking dish.
  • “Transfer” the crust to the baking dish. “Transfer” is in scare quotes because this is where I always break the crust into a thousand pieces and then use the magic of dough to roughly squish them back together in the pan. It adds character.
  • Bake the crust (sans filling) for 10-15 minutes.

Assemble your pie


  • Once the crust is done, take it out, pour in the filling, and cook for fifteen minutes.

Bonus Points

For bonus points, you can top your pie. You may have noticed that this pie is both vegan and gluten free. You can roll with that and top it with coconut milk fat (yum). You can also use whipped cream or a soft meringue (link above). It’s also delicious with yogurt, ice cream, or plain.



In January I was at LCA, which was an amazing experience. Thanks to Chris Neugebauer, I had my first opportunity to speak to an entire conference attendance and give a lightning talk. (I recommend watching the other lightning talks, but the link goes directly to mine.)

Over the three, long minutes I somehow managed to talk about small donor fundraising, MollyGive, some cool tech nonprofits, and my newest donation project. (By “talk about,” I mean “mention in a single, run on sentence.”)

Inspired by the success of large matching donation programs and driven by the delusion that there is such a thing as a middle class philanthropist, I found some great people to join me in joining a $10k matching donation fund for the Software Freedom Conservancy’s spring fundraiser.

I don’t have the resources to put up a donation large enough for a match on my own. While I care a lot about the Conservancy (and a number of other nonprofits, charities, and causes), I can’t really justify to myself making a significant donation to a single organization–especially when there’s the potential to double a whole slew of donations through MollyGive.

In addition to wanting to see more of this (in general), I’m still hoping to find a few more people for the spring Conservancy match. We’re close to $10k, but not there quite yet. There’s no minimum, but I think $500 sounds like a nice number.

Even if you can’t join in building the matching fund, I hope you’ll join in helping to meet the match come fundraising time. πŸ™‚

Why I want you to run for the OSI board

The Open Source Initiative board is homogeneous, stratified across generations.

We fit across three (tech) generations of contributors to free and open source software–those who were involved in the early days of free software; those who found places in the community after open source had been established; and the group paultag humorously dubbed the GNU generation–none of us have lived in a world without the explicit concept of user freedom.

Within my cadre of FOSS-loving millennials, several of us have fairly similar stories, both inside of our FOSS lives and out: we all had formative life experiences of financial hardship, and tech helped us emerge into comfortable, middle-class lifestyles. We’re all community-focused and have worked as community managers. We’ve been finalists for the same jobs.

That is to say, while we have different opinions and different outlooks, we all come from fairly similar places.

While I would not go as far as to say the same is true across each generation represented in the board, we do a fairly good job of agreeing with one another. Occasionally we argue, but that frequently comes from practical points and specific concerns relating to the gritty logistics of making decisions for an organization.

We have a range of experiences represented when you take the board as a whole, but not as different as I would like to see.

The fact is, the board does not represent the greater FOSS community. This is why it’s important for more people to join the OSI–in order to vote in elections and make sure their voices are represented. In order for this representation to be real, we need people from different backgrounds and viewpoints to stand for election and become board members.

To say this in more explicit terms: the OSI board is extremely (exclusively) white. Two board members are European, eight of us from the United States, and there is one Canadian. I think this is a problem.

What do I want from you? If you’re from outside North America, I want you to run for the OSI board. If you’re a racial minority, I want you to run for the OSI board. If you come from a background that is a part of the FOSS movement, but not represented, I want you to run for the OSI board. Are you from North America? Are you white? Are you a college educated coder working in a cool tech job? That is -awesome-. I am some of those things. I want you to reach out to your friends with different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge and encourage them to run for the OSI board.

Think you’re unqualified? You’re totally not. One of the things I’ve learned about life–and especially FOSS–from three of my amazing free software mentors is that we’re never qualified when we start something new–or at least we don’t feel that way. I had no clue what I was doing when I first thought about running for the OSI board. All I knew was that I wanted to do more for the community.

Think you’re too busy? You might be! You might not be! We’re a pretty busy lot, and we each put in what we’re capable of. Sometimes that’s advice and ideas; sometimes it’s fundraising, financial literacy skills, ideas, organizing, writing, and anything else you bring to the table.

Think you’ve nothing to say? I bet you do.

Joining a board is not only about you–it’s about giving back to the community that has given you so much. It’s about pushing a movement forward. It’s about bringing the ideas and voices of others to the table, and making sure that everyone is heard.

If you’re interested in running, but scared, uncertain, don’t think you’re qualified, want help, or just want to talk more about the responsibilities, please email me at molly [at] opensource [dot] org or Josh Simmons at josh [at] opensource [dot] org.

Board members also get sweet email addresses, and that alone is reason enough to run. πŸ™‚

Previously, the board was appointed by the board. This gave them the opportunity to create a group representing a range of experiences and skill sets, as well as fill necessary niches of knowledge (licensing, technical skills, community organization, etc). Now that we have a board elected by membership, it’s more crucial for people to both nominate themselves, if they don’t see enough representation, and join the OSI.Β In order for elections to actually reflect the FLOSS community, wee need a strong, varied membership from all over the world. So, in addition to running or encouraging your friends to run, consider joining as an Individual or Affiliate member.

Gym noise (02)

Here’s the recent(ish) list of videos I’ve watched at the gym.

Okay, so it hasn’t been a lot. I’ve been listening to more Pod Save the People while running outside.

Conference roundup (2017)

2017 was a good year–and by that I mean very busy–for conferences. Here is a brief roundup of where I was.




FOSDEM (Brussels, Belgium)


LibrePlanet (Cambridge, MA)


Lectures in Paris


Linux Fest North West (Bellingham, WA)
OSCON (Austin, TX)




Readercon (Boston, MA)


DebConf (Montreal, QC, Canada)




Leafest (Stowe, VT)
SeaGL (Seattle, WA)
All Things Open (Raleigh, NC)


Public Lab Barn Raising (Cocodrie, LA)
CubaConf (Habana, Cuba)


Chaos Communication Congress (Leipzig, Germany)

Of these, I spoke at:

For this, I was out of Boston for 65 days. (There were a few other travel days over the course of the year.)

I have my eye on a few new conferences for 2018, but also to drop a few of the ones I attended in 2017. For example, I don’t think I’ll be lecturing in Paris; I’m not attending FOSDEM this year. I submitted to the OSCON CfP, but it’s unlikely I’ll attend otherwise; I am planning on submitting to Open West.

I submitted to some conferences I was not accepted to, but I forget which. Sorry!

MollyGive 2017 wrapup

MollyGive 2017 has come to an end. Thanks, team!

Notes: An introduction

As always, I had a lot of fun with MollyGive. Sometimes it’s a little disappointing, but it’s also hearwarming, exciting, and full of discovery. I learn so much about the people in my life and what they care about.

As my salary is a matter of public record, I am going to spend this year talking not just in percentages, but specific numbers.

I worked about 75% of the year. The donation fund this year sat at just over nearly $4.8k. We went over this. That was unintentional…

Whenever a charity asked if I would pay the transaction fee, I did.

The donations

Basic numbers

Tithe funds: $4,794
Amount donate: $5,107.92
Percentage of income: 10.65%
Charities reached: 53
Number of donations matched: 64
Mean amount: $100
Median amount: $92.87
Mode amount: $100
Charities receiving over $100: 8
Charities with the most donations: Givewell; Software Freedom Conservancy
Number of charities outside the US: 3

Note: mean, median, and mode calculations were based on aggregations of donations per charity.

This year I grouped donations into the following categories:

  • animal rights
  • civil rights
  • digital rights
  • disaster relief
  • education
  • environmental (justice)
  • Givewell
  • medical
  • nonprofit support
  • political support
  • poverty support

Charts and graphs

Here are some charts I made.

Number of donations by organization type

A bar chart in multiple colors showing donations by category.

A pie chart in multiple colors showing donations by category.

Value (USD) of donations by organization type

A bar chart in multiple colors showing donations by amount.

A pie chart in multiple colors showing donations by amount.

The Charities

Most of these are 501(c)3s, registered charities. There are some 501(c)4s. I actually cheated my own rules: over the course of the year, if someone said they were giving to a crowdfunding medical campaign, I gave $50 to it. I later donated a matching amount to MassCare. I -also- donated to one educational crowdfunding campaign and then made a matching donation to a project that supports growing technical communities.

There are some charities I like, that I normally donate to, but I just ran out of funds this year. πŸ™‚ They’ll be at the top of my list next year.

    • 350.org
    • Act Blue
    • Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)
    • AIDS Lifecycle
    • Alloy
    • American Forest Foundation
    • American Indian College Fund
    • Animal Rescue League
    • ARC Cancer Support Center
    • As You Sow
    • Barrets Town
    • Black & Pink
    • Casa Myrna
    • Charity Navigator
    • Congenital Heart Walk
    • Conservancy
    • DSA
    • EFF
    • Effing Foundation
    • END Fund’s deworming program
    • Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative
    • Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water
    • Evidence Action’s No Lean Season
    • FSF
    • GiveDirectly
    • GiveWell
    • Giving Spirit LA
    • Go Fund Me – Medical
    • Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program
    • Hispanic Federation
    • Homeless Coalition
    • Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program
    • MassCare
    • National Parks Foundation
    • Operation USA
    • OSI
    • Parts and Crafts
    • People for Fairness Coalition
    • Public Lab
    • Rosie’s Place
    • Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI)
    • Secularism.org.uk
    • Sightsavers’ deworming program
    • Somerville homeless coalition
    • Southern Poverty Law Center
    • Water Foundation
    • Woodhull Foundation
    • You Caring
    • YVIO

    My thoughts

    Lessons from this year

    Over the past year, I’ve participated in running several nonprofit, small donor fundraising campaigns. I took what I learned from these to push MollyGive with mild-aggression. I’ve been running MollyGive since around 2012 (I think), and this is the first year I’ve used the entirety of the funds.

    It always makes me a little sad when people like, retweet, and share relevant social media bites but don’t participate themselves. Over the past couple of years, I’ve taken to giving them the benefit of the doubt (after my initial sigh): I remind myself that not everyone feels able to give.

    This year, out of curiosity, I spoke with a few of them. I also had someone else approach me and offer a similar explanation: They think MollyGive is a great idea, but, since they have more means, and are planning on giving anyway, they don’t want to take that opportunity away from someone else. That was nice to know, and nice to think about. Thanks, friends for being so thoughtful with your giving.

    General thoughts, personal thoughts

    MollyGive is still a very silly name, that feels a little egoizing to use. After a number of years, I’ve gotten used to it. The first year it felt like a bit of a lark. Having just wrapped up its sixth year, I’ve found that other people have come to take MollyGive as seriously as I do–even though the name seems a little silly. As I’m writing this, I wonder if giving something a silly name helps it be more fun, or more approachable.

    I can’t get over how generous everyone was this year. I really can’t.

    It was suggested to me that I am outsourcing a not-insignificant amount of my decision making. This is true–I believe in expertise. I trust the opinions of others, especially concerning things I know little to nothing about (e.g. nonprofits working on education reform).

    Lessons for next year

    I think next year I am going to put a soft limit on the amount a given charity can receive. This is for personal reasons. I was using funds from outside the tithe account at the end of the month (see: going over 100%!!!). I am excited about the outcome–really–but I also wished I had been able to reach some other groups that I like and didn’t have a chance to get to this year.

    I’d love to somehow expand MollyGive. One suggestion someone gave me is to invite people who want to give, but want to outsource their decision making, to join me by promising their funds.


    I don’t think I’ve ever written this before, but I’d like to thank Katrina Romangoli. She put the idea for MollyGive into my head in the early 2000s. I’d also like to mention Madeleine and Chris Price Ball, for the inspiration their yearly giving brings me.

    I’d also like to thank the socio-economic situation that allows me to do this. I am really grateful.

    To everyone who donated: thank you so so so much. We gave over $10,000 to charities. I’d like to give a special shout out to the people who helped me find new charities I’d never heard of, the student who is struggling financially who gave $20, and the people generous enough to give over $1000.


I travel a lot. Not as much as people who are travelers–people who define themselves by the thing. In general, that’s a theme in my life: I do X more than the average person, but not as much as the average person who takes on that identity.

I leave the US a handful of times a year. In 2017 I went to Brussels, Paris, Montreal, Cuba, and, now, Leipzig. It looks like 2018 will include a trip to Australia, a few to Canada, and, hopefully, one or two to Europe. I miss my nephew (who is a baby and lives in Paris).

I probably leave Boston about once a month. 2017 was a fairly unique year, and I think I averaged a week out of town a month.

Okay, so I guess I do travel a lot.

The thing is, traveling -terrifies- me. Every time. Every single time.

Traveling within the United States makes me a little nervous. As long as you have a credit card and a pocket computer (and ideally a lap computer) you’ll be okay. I have these things. I also have a driver’s license and a passport, and am pretty good at keeping both of these with me most of the time.

Traveling internationally, however, means the phone function of your pocket computer is significantly less useful, your credit card may not work, and you need an adapter for your laptop charger. It is suddenly much easier for something to go wrong.

Also, the passport/driver’s license redundancy breaks down. In fact, losing your passport will throw you into a cascading adventure of bureaucracy, stress, and mounting express fees.

Add into this mix not speaking the language (as is usually the case for me. If I do speak any of it it’s mostly limited to ordering an espresso (as in one), or occasionally a croissant as well. Okay, I can generally express wanting an object).

Traveling internationally quickly can become much less exciting and much more nerve racking. The conversation now heavily relies on not just what can go wrong, but how to compensate for your lack of native knowledge should something go wrong.

Take today for example:

My debit card isn’t working at the ATMs. It turns out, one of my friends is also having this same problem (albeit in a different part of Germany). We have the same bank. Neither of us can call our bank, because we’re in Germany, because it’s Christmas, and because we’re in Germany on Christmas. Tomorrow, we may be able to call our bank, but neither of us could go to a German bank for help, because it’s the day after Christmas and we’d be in Germany on the day after Christmas–which counts as second Christmas according to a calendar I saw! They have two Christmases in Germany.

I usually don’t even have one.

So, now I have 15 euros (actually 11.81, because I bought a double espresso). I have a credit card, and the fees, while annoying, are something I can survive. However, I still don’t have any cash, and it’s not really feasible to do everything I need with a card.

Alternatively, I could find a friend (or friends) and buy them something (with my card) in exchange for cash. Maybe I could pay for someone’s hotel room, or take a big group out to dinner. Well, what if my card doesn’t work then? It will just be embarrassing.

In order to attack any of this, I need to find somewhere with wifi, which is what took me to the Starbucks where I spent 3 euro 19 purchasing an espresso so I felt okay using their wifi to text people. (Signal has been life changing for travel.) This doesn’t help me with the ATM problem, but it does make me feel less alone in Germany.

I’m kicking myself for not having a bigger stash of euros at home.

I know I’ll figure this out, but in the meantime I’m in Germany, all I can do is order espresso and say “eine bisse bitte” when someone asks me if I want sugar with my espresso and I only recognize that they’re offering me sugar because when I used to just say “ja” to every transactional question, I would end up with too-sweet coffee whenever they said the word sucre,

CDN expressed something along the lines of being impressed at my seemingly flawless confidence when it comes to getting on planes or trains, taking ferries and cars, and a deep love of discovering public transit systems and shortcuts through alleys. The thing is, every time I do any of this–whether it’s taking the yellow line on the BART and hoping I don’t miss the last stop before it crosses between San Francisco and East Bay (or East Bay and SF) or being pretty sure the woman who is going to check my ticket on the train is going to yell at me, in German, for something i don’t know I’ve done wrong and I can’t get another coffee, which my soul needs to survive the German woman who is inevitably going to be yelling at me–I am terrified. It’s scary and it’s hard.

Being in another country, whether you’re visiting or live there, when it’s not the place you carry native knowledge from–that’s a struggle. Every day of being in a place that’s foreign (whatever that means to you) brings with it a small but constant struggle that just makes you tired. It can be your brain doing that extra little work trying to understand languages you don’t speak at all; or not being able to tell if the packet you’ve picked up is baking powder or baking soda because it doesn’t say “sodium bicarbonate” anywhere, but the illustration of a cake and some cookies and a muffin makes you pretty sure it is one of those things; or just walking too slow (or fast) on the escalator. Walking on the escalator at all.

Life is full of constant, unconscious decisions we know instinctively based on knowing where we are. When we don’t know where we are, we struggle to make it work. We have to think consciously about these things or, when we don’t, we put more energy into it than the seamless flow of our life at home.

I travel a lot for my profession. I really do enjoy it, both my work in free software and traveling. I’m tired and it’s hard, but it’s valuable. There is a real purpose to putting myself on a train, a plane, another plane, a shuttle bus, another train, a subway car, and then a short walk in order to end up in the place where I’ll meet the people I need to meet, have the conversations I need to have, and build the ideas without which there would be no progress.

Besides, going interesting places is the most interesting thing about me. I have a credit card, a pocket computer, a passport, and an ability to be so terrified I appear confident.


For years I used Gedit as a text editor. I didn’t need one to do anything other than write, save, cut, copy, paste, and give me word counts. Usually, for long things, I would use LibreOffice, but Gedit served all of my note taking, idea sketching, and song writing needs.

Then it wasn’t sufficient anymore.

Over time I needed (or at least wanted) my text editor to do more. Text wrapping, working in split screens, and even just highlighting the beginning and ends of parentheticals. So, I switched to emacs.

Why emacs?

Well, I knew a lot of people who used emacs. That’s about it. Having friends use it means having a convenient support staff.

What I don’t like about emacs.

Key bindings are those things like how Ctrl-c copies selected text. Emacs uses wacky key bindings. I have some post-it notes with my favorite key bindings on them. Since emacs uses different key bindings than everything else, you have to code switch every time you move between, say, a web browser and emacs. Yes, I know you can set up extensions so all the typing you do into a browser is actually managed through emacs, I just don’t know how to do that yet.

The most annoying thing about emacs is that if you select text and start typing it looks like:

This is an example.


Of when you try to replace text. This is an example.

Annoying, right?

This is EVEN MORE ANNOYING when you have to copy and delete a large swath of text. After you copy it (alt-w), it deselects the text and you have to find it all again.

Some neat things I like to do in emacs

Here are some of my favorite / most used commands in emacs.

Save and close

  • crtl-x ctrl-s, save
  • ctrl-x ctrl-c, save and quit

Copy, paste, and other basics

  • alt-w, copy selected text
  • ctrl-w, cut selected text
  • ctrl-y, paste text


  • ctrl-x h, select all
  • ctrl-x u, undo
  • ctrl-s, search
  • ctrl-g, cancel the command you’ve already started entering

That last one is the most important command in emacs. So important, I bolded it.


Flyspell. Seriously. I can’t get over it. Maybe just because it’s new. Flyspell has changed my life. It’s a live spell checker, which was the greatest failure of emacs for most of my time using it.

alt-x flyspell-mode

This turns on flyspell.

alt-x flyspell-buffer

This runs spell check on the buffer (i.e. all the previous text you’ve entered).

I am using flyspell RIGHT NOW.

Frequent frustrations

Here are a few mistakes I make semi-frequently:

  • ctrl-v, this takes you to the bottom of the document (buffer) or something.

Actually, that’s the only one I could come up with right now in relation to key bindings.

Anyway, that’s my brief guide to emacs. There are more commands I use, but they come up infrequently enough that I need to look it up each time.

I love emacs–or maybe I should say I love using an extensible text editor that can, a far as I can tell, do anything given the right combination of keystrokes and sheer willpower.