Thursday, June 30, 2011

Touch Typing with One Hand

I am trying to figure out how to touch type with one hand. I think I'm doing pretty well, since I'm typing this very post with only my right hand. I don't know what prompted me to want to do this; perhaps it's my interest in doing things differently (such as trying to be ambidextrous), or maybe I had to try to type in a search while holding a phone one too many times. In any case, it's kinda fun.

My method and findings so far: I place my index finger on the "F" key and let my other fingers rest on the G, H, and J keys. This puts my hand right in the center of the keyboard and is convenient for finding my hand placement because of the little ridge on the F. I was somewhat surprised how little I had to think about how to get to the various keys. I have to stretch a little further, but I can find my way fairly easily. I suppose all the years I've been touch typing in general has given me a pretty solid idea of how the QWERTY keyboard is laid out.

Now, the main thing that feels really different from typing with both hands is how much more I'm using my little finger. Here's what I mean; my index finger hits 12 letters, middle finger only 3, ring finger 4, and little finger 6 letters plus the semicolon, comma, period, quotes, backspace, and enter. (I was hitting the "I" with my little finger also, but I was getting terribly confused with the I, O, and P, so I started just stretching my ring finger to get to it.)

Alright, so I wanted to see how fast I could type this way right when I was first learning. I did a control test by seeing how long it takes me to type a random page of a book normally, which came to about 70 words per minute. Then I typed that same page with just the one hand, and it came to a whopping 9 words per minute. My second try gave me 11 wpm. Yay! Never mind that it took me more than 45 minutes per try, I'm confident I can get it up to at least 50 wpm with a bit more practice.

More related thoughts: So one thing I noticed is that, unlike typing with two hands, I will occasionally vary which finger I use for certain keys. This has to do with which words I'm typing. For example, for the word "there" I will alternate between my index and middle finger for the "ere" because it's easier and more efficient than using only my index. This made me wonder how it might be possible to find the most effective typing pattern for any word? Or even better, the best keyboard layout for one hand? It would have to take into account not only the most common keys used, but the most common combinations of letters in a language and the fact that the little finger wears out faster than the others. Also, perhaps the thumb could be more useful?

Just a starting place for these thoughts, I'll probably start looking up custom keyboards now. I know a little about the DVORAK, but that's about it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dualistic Debates

So often we think of things in a very dualistic manner. Just look at politics; on almost any given hot-button issue there will be one "side" saying one thing and the other side saying another. Each side has it's set of reasons as well as it's set of arguments against the other side's reasons. Each argument seems to be set up to end in stalemate every single time. What strikes me as odd is that once you've heard the argument once, there doesn't seem to be much new added thereafter. You'd think there would at least be several different sets of reasons for each side of an issue.

I took a look at myself and what I do when I'm forming an opinion on an issue, and to my horror this is what I tend to do: choose a side and adopt its pre-formed set of arguments. And all the while I thought I was thinking for myself... What I've since realized is that if I try to see what I agree with in the opposing side of the issue, I often come up with new ways of looking at things. Sometimes it's a combination of each side's point of view that works best, sometimes a third, completely separate solution forms, and sometimes I stick with my original choice but for completely different reasons than what I started with.

It just reinforces a realization I had a few years back that much of the dichotomy between political parties is an illusion. Taking on a label can be a nice, handy way of defining a viewpoint or aspect of yourself, but you have to keep in mind that it comes with all the other possible interpretations people might come up with for that label. Be prepared for many misunderstandings before you even have a chance to explain yourself. Or realize that there is a misunderstanding.

Here's one of the best examples I can offer: I used to consider myself a Democrat. One day my dad read a selection from one of Anne Coulter's books. In it, she defined what a Democrat was with a series of descriptive adjectives. Shockingly, every single one of those adjectives were exactly what I would have used to describe a Republican! (With the exception of "terrorist sympathizer", which was really more an amusing attempt at an insult than an actual descriptive term.) If that's what Republicans think Democrats are, I reasoned, all we have to do is switch a few labels around and we'd be in almost complete agreement!

Okay, so maybe it's not that simple. But I did learn a couple things. First, that I should be very careful with assigning labels to myself. Second, that it might be useful for me to look into the underlying values Republicans have (as well as others of differing opinions), because I might surprise myself and find something there that I can relate to. Or better yet, something that I can learn to relate to.

There's one more thing I'd like to bring up; debating. Can't stand it. Don't get me wrong, it has its place. It can be very useful for showing flaws in reasoning as well as honing one's abilities for persuasion. It's just not for me. I have a hard enough time communicating an idea without someone trying to prove me wrong. See, if you're putting all your focus on showing what's wrong with the other person's words, you run the risk of completely missing their meaning.

Personally, I prefer a more "philosophical" discussion. When I'm forming a new idea, that idea is going to change a lot as I find flaws with it and think up changes and come up with new ideas that might work better. Inevitably I will hit a brick wall where there is still something I don't understand and I'm repeating the same old thoughts.

At this point I try to seek new input in order to dig deeper. This requires someone who will first try to understand the meaning behind what I'm saying. In other words, I have to bring them to the point where I encountered that metaphorical brick wall. After that, their unique perspective becomes especially helpful. Needless to say, both parties can benefit from such a discussion as ideas are exchanged and modified. Sometimes those passing "stupid" thoughts that wouldn't last a millisecond in a debate can lead the conversation into rarely explored territory that is much more interesting.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Silly Writing Exercise

A friend of mine sent me this link about writing exercises. I chose the exercise where two characters have a secret which isn't revealed to the reader or to each other. I'm not sure how well portrayed the secrets, but what came out of it was a first draft of this (rather silly) little story:

The Gnome Man's Land Pub* always had some rather eccentric people mixed in with the more normal folk. For example, tonight there was some short dude in a hooded cloak sitting at the bar. At least, Eddie was pretty sure it was a dude. It was hard to tell with the cloak and the dim lighting. Normally Eddie would have just gotten a beer or four and been on his way, but now he was wondering if maybe it wasn't a dude. In fact, he got to wondering so much that he made his way over just to find out.

"Excuse me, miss." Eddie said hopefully.

The figure turned, meeting his increasingly nervous face with the shadowy depths beneath it's hood. "I am not," began a squeaky voice, "a miss!"


"No. I am male, you insufferable dolt!" The figure scrambled to stand up on the bar stool in an attempt to look more intimidating.

"I am sorry, small boy!"

"I am not...! Agh, never mind what I am or am not." The cloaked dude poked a gloved finger at Eddie's forehead. "You, foul sir, owe me a beer to make amends for the insults. This is custom, yes?"

"Uh," Eddie scratched his chin, "Yeah sure, why not."

The bartender walked by. "Ya know what's also custom is ta put yer behind insteada yer feet on da stool."

"Apologies." The cloaked dude plopped back down. "And now, beverages!"

The bartender stared a moment, then turned to Eddie, the more familiar patron. "Jus' two beers, Ralph, if ya don' mind." Eddie said. Ralph shrugged and went off to fetch the beers.

"Now," said the cloaked dude, "Your name and purpose for accosting me."

"The name's Eddie." said Eddie. "As fer me purpose, I don' reckon I have none no more seein' as how yer not a miss."

"Ah, I see. And now in turn, as is custom, I shall supply my own name and purpose. I am called Alfie, and I am in this filthy little town of yours only because I am in desperate need of a mechanic."

Eddie wondered where on Earth this crack pot came from. He said as much (in a more polite manner, of course). Alfie replied that it was none of his business 'you stupid toad'.

"And are you a mechanic?" Alfie inquired suddenly.

Eddie was so surprised by the change of subject that he forgot to be offended by Alfie's latest insult. "No, I'm a lumberjack." Eddie said.

"Oh. Explains the axe. Perhaps some companionable chat-chit to pass the time? I take it females are in short supply this season?"

"Actually, come to think of it, there are less women 'round town than there used to be. Smaller population in gen'ral, really. But I don't think that's what my problem is..."

"Perhaps they simply consider you too ugly."

Eddie felt a sudden urge to knock the little pipsqueak off his stool, but he remembered how his mother used to tell him to never get caught fighting. And he never did get caught at it, no ma'am. He downed his drink in one go as soon as Ralph came by with the beers. He signaled for a second beer and downed that as well.

Alfie took Eddie's silence as a reason to continue. "You don't look much like a jack lumberer. Aren't you supposed to have a beard?"

"I use ta have a beard, but I had ta start shavin', 'cause I kept gettin' lice an such."

"What is lice? Can you eat that?"

"I reckon ya could," Eddie said thoughtfully, "If'n youse was real hungry-like."

"Is it just my imagination, or is your grammar getting even more atrocious by the second?"

"Don' know whacha mean by 'ateriosus', but me mum always said I star' talkin' worsin' wi da alchi-hal. Whate'er dat is."

"My, I am finding this quite amusing. Waiter! Another beer! Oh waiter!" Alfie snapped his fingers; quite a feat with gloves on. Ralph gave Alfie a dirty look, but brought forth another beer nevertheless before stalking off.

"Aren't you supposed to wear plaid, too?" Alfie asked Eddie, as Eddie began guzzling the most recent mug of beer.

"Whachyer, yer, yer idear of a lumberjack, 'nyways?" Eddie asked between swigs.

Alfie pointed to the picture of a lumberjack, printed on a package of paper towels.

"I's got tha' same axe, I 'as."

"Ha. Well, maybe that dull axe would be enough to make you into the next jack lumbering star, if only you weren't so downright ugly. Which parent did you get your unfortunate genetics from? I'm only curious. You see, I'm studying the biology of unfortunate mutations. Was it your mother? Father? Perhaps some kind of recessive gene?"

Ralph came by again to start wiping down the bar, hoping Eddie and Alfie would get the message and go home like everyone else already had.

"Ralph, ano'er beer hic, den I'ma gonna slug this 'ere sucker!" Eddie said.

"Now Eddie, ya know three's yer limit." Ralph said.

"I don' care! hic I don' care! I'll, I'll, hic, where's me axe?"

"Ah yes, I took the liberty of storing that behind the bar, here, 'till ya clear yer head."

"Well now," Alfie cut in calmly, "For the payment." There was the sound of metal jingling as Alfie fished through a small bag. He brought out a handful of what looked to be bits and pieces of some rusty old machine.

Ralph groaned, "How many times do I have ta tell you people! Coins only!"

"Oh. Well, no matter. My misbegotten buddy, Eddie here, shall pay. He owes me for the insults anyway."

"Me!? hic I'm da won hic tha's insultin'?!"

"Yes. Obviously your mother never even taught you proper manners."

"You little...!" Eddie rushed at Alphie, or tried to. He wound up on the floor, sobbing. "hic Me poor mum, me poor ole hic mum..."

Alfie stood up (or hopped down, more accurately), stepped over Eddie, then made to leave.

"Ya didn't even try da beer!" Ralph said, offended.

Alfie tentatively took a sip of his untouched beer, then promptly spit it back into the mug. "A nasty substance! Here, you sniveling mass of snot, you take it." Alfie poured the beer over the sobbing and hiccuping Eddie and walked out into the night, the sounds of shattering glass and loud admonishments from Ralph behind him.

To be continued...

*After I finished the story, I typed in "Gnome Man's Land" into Google, and was dismayed to find thousands of results for the exact phrase. Guess it's hard to come up with something truly original with over 6 billion people in the world plus history, eh?