Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The World Won't Listen

The time has finally come for me to give up hope.

The SmartBoard will never catch on. And that's really sad because it is the best keyboard ever!

Almost 10 years ago a friend, who had a friend who worked for the company, gave me
a Darwin SmartBoard. It totally spoiled me. No other so-called ergonomic keyboard will ever satisfy me again.

What's so special? First look at how the keys are layed out for the left hand. They slant up to the right, the way they should!

Those of us who learned touch-typing were taught that the index finger of the left hand is supposed to be used for the keys V F R 4 while the index finger of the right hand is used for M J U 7. On most "ergnomic" keyboards, the keys for the right hand are arranged properly so that you can reach all of those keys with natural movements. But the keys for the left hand are slanted to the right so that when you curl your left index finger you land somewhere between C and V, and when you extend that finger you land between 5 and 6. Nowhere near the 4 that you should be hitting. On the smart board, the keys that you are supposed to touch with your left hand line up naturally.

Second, notice that the far-away keys that are pressed with the pinkies are larger than normal. That is because your pinkie isn't very accurate so you are allowed more range for errors on those.

Third, look how the board slants. It slants down away from you, not up. If your keyboard is located anywhere below your neck, then slanting it up at the back will make your carpal tunnel problems worse! (Ask any ergnomicist you happen to meet!) But that is what every other ergonomic keyboard does.

There are a few small problems. Most notably, the keys are loud.

It also has one of those evil Shift Lock keys, but so does every other keyboard, and that is easily remedied with a screwdriver!

Because this keyboard is so different from a normal one, it takes a while to get used to. But once you do, typing is a dream. I was so much faster and more accurate when using this keyboard. I absolutely loved it.

I only stopped using it because I got too spoiled by it. After typing on it, it is hard to go back to a normal board, either an ergonomic one or a regular one. And since they are uncommon, I was constantly having to make the transition from my nice board to all the other bad ones out in the world.

It has been sitting on my shelf for years now. But thanks to the miracle of the internet I found someone else who loves this board as much as I do and still actually uses it. I'm going to send it to him.

Alas, as with the Jankó keyboard the world doesn't recognize a good idea when it sees one. Hey, maybe I will buy me a Jankó keyboard and re-learn to play the piano! It's only taken me 30 years to get semi-good on the normal piano. How long could it possibly take to learn this one?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vampire Gnats

Originally uploaded by NeedleNoodles

It seems like I brought something back from Arizona besides my art: an infestation of blood-sucking vampires!

I woke up last week with little pin-pricks all over my arms. I first suspected the huge spider that has been hanging out in my bathroom. I figured he might have gone wandering and accidentally got into my bed. Then when I rolled over he got mad and bit me. That's fair. I can live with that. I allow spiders to stay in my house, so I have to live with the consequences.

But when the biting was repeated the next night, I realized I had a bigger problem on my hands. Well, actually on my arms. They haven't bitten anywhere else. But its like 50 bites per arm, and in little lines.

I remembered reading about how horrible little things I will refer to as vampire gnats since I can't bring myself to use their real name have been showing up more and more often in hotels and catch a ride home in your luggage. I was in four different hotels recently, so I put two and two together and came up with the idea that that was what must have happened to me. (The great thing about being paranoid is that it is really easy to put two and two together. Sometimes too often.)

I immediately went out and bought two different insecticides. I washed my sheets in hot water and dried them in hot air. I threw out my blanket. Drenched my mattress in toxic chemicals. Put sticky stuff on the legs of the bed so the critters can't crawl up. Carried my suitcases outdoors, covered them in poison, and left them out there.

And all that without having ever having seen even one little visitor face to face.

So far, that has done the trick. No more bites for 3 days.

On the second morning after the treatment, I did see one climbing the bathroom wall. Tiny little thing, half the size of a small ant. Just one. But that is enough for me to be pretty sure I didn't imagine the whole thing. I flushed him. Damn lazy spiders aren't doing their job!

These things have a reputation of being hard to get rid of. Immune to just about everything. They can't fly, so as long as they can't cross that barrier on the legs of my bed I should be safe. And they can't live on anything other than blood, so they should die out without me to feed on. Unless they go into hibernation, in which case they could last six months or more.

I guess it could be worse. There are some crazy ants down in Houston that have learned to "pile up the dead, sometimes using them as a bridge to cross safely over surfaces treated with pesticide." Then they crawl in your computer and make it stop working.

Problem is we've got a couple of "unseasonably warm", by which I mean horribly, horribly hot, days coming up. Like a good Berkeleyan, I have no air conditioning. The heat makes it hard for me to sleep and makes me itch. So I'll lying there all night scratching my skin off and imagining bugs crawling all over me. It'll be just like losing myself to meth! (Not that I would know, of course.)

That reminds me. I've got to go buy a fan.

Friday, May 9, 2008


My orchid had a baby! And it is doing it the way God intended: asexually!

I've never been a particular fan of orchids. They have a reputation of being difficult to grow, and I've never found the flowers very interesting.

But I have a neighbor who works for a service that installs plants in peoples homes or offices. When she has an extra plant, I often end up with it. And that is how I got my Phalaenopsis.

The blooms were dying back by the time I got it, so I thought that would be it for blooms. But after a while it starting making this little bud. Then the bud grew a leaf. Then another leaf. Then the leaves grew a stalk. I was quite surprised. I never expected such a thing.

According to wikipedia, this thing is called a Keiki.

Now, several months later, the new stalk is blooming.

I guess orchids don't deserve their reputation as difficult plants, because I keep mine in the dark most of the time and don't water it much.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Where's my sykkelheis?

Hey! How come there's not one of these in Berkeley?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I can't ride my bicycle

I'm still waiting for my new bicycle to be delivered. In the meantime, I have to keep riding my old one.

I went for a ride up Tunnel Road today. I never quite made it to the top because I started to get one of my headaches. I know from experience that it is best to stop as soon as the headache first starts. Otherwise, it will get pretty bad.

So I turned around and started down the hill. I tried to shift into high gear but I couldn't. For some reason my front derailleur refused to cooperate. I couldn't figure out why not.

Soon I met ANT who was on his way up the hill, so I asked him what could be wrong. He showed me that my cable was frayed and rusted. Apparently that is not a good thing! How was I to know? I don't remember anyone telling me that before. I thought it was supposed to be like that.

Anyway, it is a good thing that I already have a new bike ordered.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another reason to avoid the office

I'm always glad that I work from home, but I'm especially glad I don't have to go to the office tomorrow. It is National No Pants Day. I don't even want to think about what I might see.

"Otter Skin" by Sheldon Harvey

My painting arrived today! I'm so excited.

While I was in Phoenix I went to the Heard Museum. They were having their twice-yearly sale at their store. I had not known about that, I was just really lucky.

I had planned to buy a Navajo rug while in Phoenix, and they had some good prices at the museum store.

Much to my own surprise, I bought a painting instead! I can't explain why, but when I saw this painting, I just knew I had to have it. In part because I just love the colors. But there is something more that I can't explain.

After I showed a interest in this painting, they took me into a storeroom where they had four or five other paintings by the same artist. They were nice, but I was stuck on this one.

Maybe I was drawn to this one so much because I've recently re-discovered Paul Klee and I noticed something similar here. I've done lots of Google searching after buying this to find out more about this artist, and several sites mention the influence of Klee, among others. To the right I've added an image of "Crystal Gazer", which is another Locust, but with a more clear nod to Klee.

All I really know is that this character is Locust. In traditional stories, Locust was the first to come into this world, before the first man and woman. The title of my piece is "Otter Skin", which I assume refers to what he is wearing.

I notice a bit of comic-book influence in some of his paintings, such as "New Look Connection", to the left.

Now I just have to find a space to hang this!