Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Qwerty vs. Dvorak

As you all have known, I have been a big, huge, nerdy, geek for the Dvorak keyboard. For those of you who live Normal Lives and have absolutely no interest in the geekiness of the Dvorak keyboard, I must tell you all about it. . . .

. . . The Dvorak keyboard was developed in the late 1930s when electric typewriters were introduced as a more efficient layout to the standard "qwerty" layout of manual typewriters. Mr. Dvorak studied the frequency of the most commonly-used letters in typing and placed them in a layout that would enable the typist's hands to strike these letters on a typewriter keyboard in a much more efficient manner. 

The most-used consonants were placed in the right hand on the home row with all the vowels in the left hand on the same row. The least-used letters (q, j, k, x, b, m, w, v, z) were place on the bottom row. 

Also, think of this -- drum your fingers on the desk. You go from the little finger to the index finger. That's a natural hand motion. Dvorak arranged the most-common letter combinations to employ this natural finger-motion.  

Yes, I'm a complete geek when it comes to the Dvorak keyboard. As a pianist who is continually thinking of the best strategy for playing a difficult passage with one's fingers, the Dvorak keyboard enables me to type and express myself in the most efficient manner. 

I've spent the past couple of years re-learning to type from "qwerty" to "Dvorak".  I was an awfully speedy typist, even at the age of 14, when I could bang out an impressive 60 wpm on an old, manual Royal typewriter. I'm now closing in on 80 wpm on Dvorak.

Here's a couple of videos for you so that you can see the difference in finger-motion; between typing on a standard "qwerty" keyboard and on a Dvorak layout.

First, here is my friend, Miss Healthypants, who is extremely fast, typing a paragraph of standard words on a qwerty keyboard. (Notice the finger-hopping and excessive finger motion that is required.)

Now, here I am, typing the same paragraph. Notice how much less finger-motion there is to type the same thing. With the Dvorak layout, 70 percent of all typing is done on the 'home' row. Also, more of the typing is done with the right hand and with the index and third fingers; not with than with the left hand and with the fourth and fifth fingers. The left hand hardly has to move about at all. Also notice how seldom any of the fingers type on the bottom row at all; hardly ever. (It's a pretty ingenious layout -- don't get me started.)
Can you see the difference?

Isn't the just about the most elegant thing ever?

Yes, I am a Dvorak geek. I would never expect anyone to spend two years re-learning how to type.
Sure, it's geeky and nerdy.  

But for me, every time I type on a keyboard, I get to experience a little thrill; some excitement at doing so. 

How many of you have that pleasure?

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Morning Scene - Stuck Truck

Here's something we've seen in downtown Chicago before -- an oversized truck stuck under the EL tracks.

One would think that driving an 18-wheeler under the EL would not be a prudent thing to attempt.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011



We’re all prone to being sucked in by them. I suspect that in twenty or thirty years, the following will be taking place:

There will be a huge industry built around the recycling of granite. The millions and millions of granite counter tops in kitchens will be as gauche and maligned as lime-green shag carpeting is today.

Billions of dollars in profit will be made from tattoo removal. The amount of barbed wire tattoos removed from flabby biceps will be enough to encircle the earth seven times.

There will be dance clubs that feature a “retro rap night” once a month.

Empty bottles of Aquafina and Desani will be on display in museums as evidence of our generation’s gullibility. People will laugh at them.

We’ll also laugh at how much we used to overuse bullet points when writing. Every sentence will no longer begin with one.

There will be millions of elderly women with big, firm, puffy breasts surrounded by sagging skin. And tattoos.

We’ll make fun of the big, puffy SUVs that are currently being driven. They’ll be the equivalent of the AMC Pacers and Gremlins from the 1970s.

And finally,

Grocery bags will come in a multitude of colors, having been made from the billions of discarded, forgotten awareness bracelets.

Mark my words. This will be our future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Running Like Sheep

Lately, I've taken up jogging again on the indoor track at my health club, also known as the Chamber of Distress and Torture.

I've got quite a strange variety of songs to listen to on my little iPod Shuffle, but hey, whatever motivates me, I'll take it. (There's "Bad Romance" from Lady Gaga, Prokofiev's 2nd Piano Concerto, a few tracks from The Killers, and some choral selections by assorted Renaissance composers.)

But one of my favorite pieces to jog to is "All We Like Sheep" from Handel's Messiah. Upon hearing this, one cannot but help to trot along -- like sheep.
I highly recommend it.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Illegal Immigrants

Here's one of the most brilliant insights I've ever read regarding illegal immigrants:

The U.S. sends such mixed messages to illegal immigrants. At the border, they encounter armed agents and barbed wire. An hour north, there are soccer moms rushing to pick them up to do the kind of household chores that our teenagers used to do before the precious little darlings discovered they were the center of the universe and too good to dirty their hands with such tasks.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Weight loss: It’s an elusive endeavor.

A friend of mine recently lost over thirty pounds and now I hate him. I asked for his secret, hoping to God that exercise or any sort of general movement wasn't involved.

Here’s the thing. He started out by maintaining a diet that was comprised of 75% fruits and vegetables and walking an hour every day. The weight dropped off and then he had enough energy to exercise at the gym.

I like fruits and vegetables! A lot.

Now that the weather is a balmy 35 degrees, I wouldn’t mind walking around a bit. I’ve got all of downtown Chicago out my doorstep and, from what people tell me, it’s a pretty neat city.

Lately, I’ve been drinking a quart or more of my “green smoothie” every day. It’s comprised of an avocado, frozen mango, pomegranate juice, fresh parsley and spinach – all blended together. It really does taste great and I just sip on it all day at work.

Next to my workplace is a nice little grocery store where I can buy fresh fruits and veggies to nibble on all day (as opposed to hitting Panda Express for lunch.) Right now, I’ve procured baby carrots, celery stalks, a pint of fresh blueberries, bananas, apples and unsalted cashews. That’s certainly better than having a couple boxes of Girl Scout cookies in my desk drawer. (Those Scouts are insidious little sylphs.)

I’ve been taking vitamins now as well; one multi-vitamin, a B-complex, and a fish oil pill.

If a start exercising after eating this healthy, I’m going to live forever. That is, if I don’t get struck by a Chinese food delivery truck while walking outdoors.


Monday, March 07, 2011

Space Shuttle Launch

Here's a video of the space shuttle launch seen from a passenger jet.
Whether or not you are a space-junkie, you gotta admit that this video is wayyy cool.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Really Smart Phones

I’m sorry, but after owning a “smartphone” for twelve hours, I still gotta rag on it a bit.

Yes, I own a cell phone. I love it. I’m still amazed at the fact that I can call my friends or mom and dad while riding on the Amtrak to Springfield at 100 mph. I think about how amazed Abraham Lincoln or Mary Todd would have been at doing so. 

They also would have thought that texting is an idiotic, stupid, inefficient endeavor. Can you imagine Mary Todd texting on a phone when she could have been verbally berating someone?

She probably typed on a manual typewriter at 50 wpm. Normal speaking voice is at 250 wpm on a cell phone. We text at less than 10 wpm.
You do the math.

Texting = as far as I'm concerned, it's an inefficient, time-consuming activity done by those who have atrophied to the point of hiding their true personalities behind lower-case letters. 

I wish I could program my phone so that if anyone texted me, they’d get an automatic response that read,

“I’m sorry, but I DON’T TEXT!
I really wish I could load that as an automatic response to anyone who texts me. 
One would think there’d be an app for that. 

I have some really cool retro phones in my apartment.

Here’s a 1964 Trimline rotary-dial phone in “harvest gold.”

My apartment was completed in 1964 and I still have the original harvest gold refrigerator that came with it. I thought it would be cool to have a matching telephone. 

Just think -- this phone is 47 years old. And I remember when this phone was "cutting edge." To me, it still is. After all, how fast must we give up the notion of what's "cutting edge?"

It’s really fun to be cooking in my retro kitchen, decide to call someone, and really crank out eleven numbers on this puppy. I love this phone.

Here’s my blue Trimline phone that matches my Kandinsky prints. 

Again, this thing is so reliable. My cordless phone often runs out of battery power, but I can always depend on this thing and its 20-ft yellow cord.

Here’s my pride and joy. 

A 1937 vintage Western Electric Model 302 desk phone, commonly known as “The Lucy Phone” since it was the one featured in the living room of “I Love Lucy.”

It still works, too. As a matter of fact, when my cordless phone runs out and I pick this monster up, the person on the other end always says, “Oh, you sound so much better!"

This was also the same phone that my grandfather had in his oak-paneled office when I was a kid.

I can still see him talking on this phone. We were always supposed to leave him alone and be really quiet while he was on this phone, for he was probably on “long distance” and conducting “serious business.“  

Oh my goodness, you never wanted to interrupt my grandfather while has was doing “serious business” on this black office phone! (Knowing my grandfather, he was probably talking to a bookie or conducting some slightly illegal business -- thus the private phone in the oak-paneled office.)

But I have this phone now and I love old thing. It’s 74 years old, for crying out loud and still works as good as the day it went into service. 

I ask you, how many smartphones will be working 74 years from now? How many of our grandchildren will remember the devices we used and the memories that went with them?

Sigh . . . there'll probably be an app for that. . .

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Try watching this without smiling

Just to brighten your Friday, here's a challenge for you. Try watching the following video WITHOUT SMILING.

I challenge you! It is totally impossible!

(there's an advertisement at the beginning -- sorry)

Here you go . . .–-so-cute/


Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Smartphone

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had a fascination with phones.

In the second grade, I was amazed with the fact that I could dial a number and it would make another phone ring at one of my little friend' houses. While in the 5th grade, my little bitty home town finally got the ability to “direct-dial” a long distance call. (Long distance calls cost 20 cents a minute back then – a pretty hefty toll for 1969.) I longed for the day that we’d be able to have one of those new “push-button” phones in my home town. (It didn’t happen until 1982.)

So, I was pretty excited over getting my first Smartphone the other day. My ten-year old self would have never ever fathomed how far telephone technology had come. Heck, I’m still pretty amazed over cell phones and the fact that I can dial England without the assistance of an operator.

The fact that a phone could give you directions, transfer money, order Thai food, and download porn - - yes, technology has come a long way indeed. I was ready to jump on the bandwidth wagon.

I returned the smartphone the following morning. I had it for a little over twelve hours. (I won’t say what kind of phone it was because it worked just fine and was a brilliant piece of technology) - - I just found the entire Smartphone experience very inefficient and distressing.

For the past two years, I’ve wholly embraced the use of the Dvorak keyboard precisely because it’s a much more efficient way to type. (I’m now typing a breezy 90 wpm.) So you can imagine how frustrating it was for me to poke at a virtual, little bitty keyboard every time I needed to enter a password, much less an entire sentence. I got to the point of feeling distressed every time that little keyboard popped up for me to poke at.

Also, my apartment building is notorious for bad cell phone reception. Downloading an app took forever and I could see the battery power dwindling in the process.

The smartphone is, indeed, very very smart. I was able to deposit a check by downloading the app from my bank, taking a photo of the check which completed the deposit. That was way cool!

Then, I soon realized that I don’t need a smartphone. I already have a nice camera that also takes great videos, a pretty powerful desktop PC at home, a laptop with wireless access, an iPod and an iPod Shuffle. Do I need to contribute to rampant consumerism? Do I really want to play Angry Birds that badly?

The answer was a resounding ‘no’.

Yes, the smartphone deposited my check by taking a photo of it. But there’s also an ATM in the freaking lobby of my building.

Yes, the smartphone has a voice that tells you where to drive. But I cannot follow verbal directions to save me. I would have ended up smashing into the Sears Tower.

Yes, I could play online Scrabble with my bestie Scrabble-friend, Lorraine. It’s fun. But that can’t compare to laughing and playing with her at the kitchen table in Seattle while drinking Seattle coffee.

Will we, as humans, atrophy into “there’s an app for that” type of beings?

I realize that smartphones are incredible, entertaining inventions and if you like having one, that’s wonderful. For me, it was just an inefficient and frustrating device to have.

So, like surrendering an adopted puppy to an animal shelter, I took the smartphone back to the Verizon dealer and obtained a regular, garden-variety cell phone; one that was a better fit for me.

By the way, I can’t say enough nice things about the excellent customer service and the staff at Verizon.

I just hope they don’t text me to see how my shopping experience was.