Monthly Archives: January 2014


Emacs: My favorite text editor

Emacs Screenshot
For most of my text editing needs, I use Emacs. Emacs is an open source text editor freely available for most Unix-like operating systems (including Mac OS X). It is extremely powerful and infinitely customizable. One of the overriding philosophies of Emacs is that one should not need to ever use the mouse when editing a text file. Using only the keyboard feels a bit cumbersome at first, but once you have a few keystroke patterns in you muscle memory, it seems much more efficient that using the mouse.

Emacs has a thriving community of people devoted to extending Emacs and supporting other Emacs users. Thus there are tweaks and modifications that allow you to do almost anything you can imagine doing with a text editor (even browsing the web — text only). To get started with Emacs, there is a very well laid out EmacsWiki.

Here are a couple of plugins that I have gotten a lot of use from recently:

  • Color theme allows you to change the colors Emacs uses when writing code. Here is a gallery of some of the preset color themes. I’m a fan of “Blue Mood.”
  • Yasnippet allows you to create and use keyboard shortcuts (specifically tab triggers) when using Emacs. Before switching primarily to Emacs, I used TextMate for OS X. TextMate is strongly influenced by Emacs, but also includes tab triggers to run macros. A few Emacs people like this feature so much the implemented the same functionality in Emacs, resulting in Yasnippet.

I haven’t gotten too much into doing my own customization of Emacs, but I very much like the idea that I can modify however I want. It even comes with its own programming language!


Bean, Cheese, and Kale Tacos


Tonight, I decided to make tacos from some half-used ingredients I had lying around the kitchen. They actually turned out really well, so I thought I’d share the recipe. It seems that often my favorite meals end up being the ones that arise from cleaning out the fridge. Trying to answer the question “what ingredients to I need to use?” often engenders more creative cuisine than “what would I like to cook?” Here are approximate recipes for 12 tacos (4 servings):


  • 250g (1/2 lb) dried beans (I used Rio Zape, but any kind will do)
  • 1/2 a medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Soak the beans in water to total about 4 cups for at least 6 hours. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once the onions start to become translucent, add the carrots. After another couple minutes, add the garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the beans and their soaking water, a bit of salt and pepper and the cumin. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low. Let the beans simmer until tender (about an hour) stirring occasionally. You might need to add water to keep the beans mostly submerged throughout cooking. Once the beans are tender, mash them to desired consistency.

beans cooking


  • 4-8 stalks, cut into narrow strips (I used black/Tuscan kale, but any variety will do)
  • juice of half a lime
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalepeno pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • salt to taste

After chopping the kale sprinkle a little salt on it. Squeeze and mash the cut leaves with your hands until they start to give up some of their juice. Add the remaining ingredients, stir it together and let stand for about an hour.


  • 200g (1 3/4 cup) masa harina
  • approx 250 ml (1 cup) warm water
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder (optional)

Measure the masa harina and baking powder into a large bowl. Use your fingers to slowly stir in warm water until the dough forms a slightly sticky ball. Cover the ball in plastic wrap and allow it to rest at least one hour. Form 12 equal sized balls from the dough. Heat a cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Using a tortilla press or rolling pin, roll tortillas to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cook for about 1 min each side.

Spoon a dollop of beans onto each tortilla, and add a little shredded cheese. Top with the kale mixture and garnish with crumbled dry salty cheese (I had feta lying around, but cotija or any such variety will do).


Welcome to PIC 10A

This quarter I will be the TA for the UCLA math department’s Program in Computing 10A (Introduction to Programming). My sections meet on Tuesday and Thursday from 8 to 9 AM in MS 5138. Office hours will be held in my office (MS 3915B) on Thursday 9 – 10 AM. See the course website for more information.