I had a new employee start this week. It is usually not long before I have to explain that I very strongly prefer typing on a Dvorak keyboard. Among computer programmers, it’s a little better than a 50% chance that they’ll have heard of a Dvorak layout. They’ll often say something like, “Oh, maybe I should try that.” And I give my standard response: “If you’re already competent on QWERTY, don’t bother.”

Using a non-standard keyboard layout is a pain in the ass, for one thing. Windows has, over time, improved its handling of having a user on a PC that uses a second layout. At some time in the past, each application had its own keyboard layout setting…if I had Excel and Word open at the same time, one might be QWERTY and one might be Dvorak, leading to lots of gobbledegook being typed in order to recognize I wasn’t using the keyboard setting I thought I was using. For example, right now my keyboard is set to Dvorak, if I switch my brain to QWERTY and type “Fuck you, Windows!” It looks like “Ugjt frgw <cber,o!” And vice versa, if the keyboard is set to QWERTY and my brain is set to Dvorak, the result is “Yfiv tsfw <glhs,;!”

In some Windows 10 update, this was improved to having one global keyboard layout setting within the user’s session (although there are occasional bugs where particular applications will not obey the session setting and in fact can’t be switched without closing them and re-opening them).

You can imagine this wreaks havoc on login information, which is one area where Windows has been terrible (and when typing your password, you can’t see the letters that are coming out…). For a while, Windows would only use the keyboard layout from OS install time in the login screen (always QWERTY). Then it started to recognize that some users had different layouts installed, and would only use the one last used by a user. Then it allowed it to be switched in the login screen. There have been some cases where the Dvorak layout setting, which should be specific to my user profile and should not affect other users, was in use when other users tried to log in (resulting in a few of my coworkers being locked out of conference room PCs because they had no idea to check for that).

Not to mention the difficulty of sharing keyboards. Inevitably, IT needs to come do something on your computer. Or you’re working on something with someone else, and need to share a computer. Or someone needs you to look at something or fix something on their computer.

The learning experience itself is thoroughly terrible, too. Here’s a chart that I typically draw on a whiteboard during this conversation:

You might notice the broad “canyon of unproductivity” which I fell into precipitously when I decided to learn Dvorak. I was in the floor of that canyon during finals week my first semester of college. It was super fun trying to type up my final papers with poor typing skill on two keyboards and near zero ability to switch between the two of them.

Which leads to a funny story…that was back in the days of Windows 95 or Windows 98, and alternate keyboard layout support was even poorer back then.

The lab computers on campus didn’t give users sufficient permissions to change keyboard layouts. So, I found the files that Windows used at the time to define keyboard layouts, copied my Dvorak one from my PC, renamed it to match the QWERTY one, and overwrote it. Yes, on a lab PC. So some unwitting schmuck most likely came to that PC after me, and had absolutely no idea why the letter “o” came out when they pressed the letter “s”. If you’re curious, if you think you’re typing “Why? Dear God, why?” on a QWERTY keyboard, but it’s actually a Dvorak keyboard, the result is “<dfZ E.ap Irew ,dfZ” The OS itself was unaware Dvorak was in use.

The physical markings on the keyboard itself are also interesting. When I was first learning Dvorak, I pulled up all the keys on my keyboard and rearranged them, so if I looked at my physical keyboard, I would be able to see where the keys actually were. Many keyboards are contoured into a curve which matches hand shape better than a flat layout; if you randomly move the keys around, the contour is destroyed.

This person‘s post includes a picture of the screwed up contour that results from rearranging keys to the Dvorak layout on some QWERTY keyboards

I had a friend in my dorm room and he asked if he could use my computer. I said sure. He pulled out the drawer with my keyboard in it, and just stared at the malformed and apparently random distribution of letters for about 30 seconds. Then he closed the drawer and decided he didn’t really need to use a computer after all.

At OU, I had another friend who was substantially more determined. In this case, I had already learned how to touch type so I didn’t need to destroy the keyboard contour in order to have the keys correctly labeled. He wanted to do something on my computer, but he could neither touch type nor look at the keys to find the letters he wanted to type. So he methodically pressed every key on the keyboard until he got the next letter he wanted and deleted all the characters he didn’t want, and repeated this process until he had typed out his desired text.

Years ago, I convinced my employers to buy me a hard-wired Dvorak keyboard. I thought it was brilliant. All the keys were correctly labeled for Dvorak, the contour was fine, and I could leave Windows’ default keyboard settings alone and type comfortably. This was an even worse situation: Unless I had both a physical QWERTY and Dvorak keyboard attached to the computer if anyone else was going to use it, plus I had to carry it around with me and attach it the other computers that I might want to use in meeting rooms, and god forbid if I remoted in to my desktop and changed the software setting to Dvorak and then tried to go back to the physically Dvorak keyboard which sends appropriate codes for QWERTY for the letters pretty despite their physical locations, and have a software re-interpretation as if I was typing on QWERTY keyboard to a Dvorak layout. A nightmare.

In my entire life, I have met one and only one person who also typed on a Dvorak layout as their primary layout. I have met one or two dozen people who tried it for a little while and gave up.

Posted by snaotheus, 2 comments


KrisDi let Chilkoot have a York Peppermint Patty earlier.

Later, he came down from doing his schoolwork and said, “I may have snuck another mint when you were in the bathroom.”

KrisDi said, “Well, thank you for being honest.”

“Well, I know we have church in two days.”

Posted by snaotheus in Family, 2 comments

September 2020 Part I

For more pictures, click here or on the dewy web above

Actually not a lot to say for this half of this month.

School started. That’s traumatic enough for a post on its own.

Well, that’s not really true, it just sounded good in my head. For the most part, school started pretty uneventfully. (All of Chilkat’s Days 1, and all of Chilkoot’s Days 1) We got computers and desks and mice and headphones for the kids. It’s been six weeks now, so the details of the first two weeks have lost their sharpness, but now the kids mostly know when they need to be where they need to be, and occasionally have some kind of a computer problem. So the mechanics of “getting to classes” is basically figured out. But Chilkoot still thinks the reason that we’re staying home is to help him with his schoolwork, and he doesn’t notice (or he thinks we won’t notice [and by “we” I mean “KrisDi”]) when we’re in a meeting. He’ll walk up and ask questions and talk at her even when she’s running a meeting, and then be upset when he’s told to go away or that he did something wrong.

My friend and former coworker Brenan and his fiancee Chelsea came over for dinner and whisky. I had intrigued them with descriptions of Beef Wellington, and they had expressed interest but lack of experience with whisky. Two things to remedy in one delicious night. We set up a table outside and spent most of our evening out there. We tried I think just over half of my whisky collection, 21 different whiskies. I bought two new whiskies (Springbank and Glenkinchie) to cover more regions of Scotland.

We got a lot of smoke coming in from fires that were (mostly) far away. California and Oregon sent us banks of smoke that made everything smell like campfire, blocked out the sun, and made breathing hurt.

This peaked on or near the weekend we went to Whidbey Island with the E-Dubs family and Les & D. We got a huge and cool AirBnB on the western shore. I was all excited to play with camera equipment, maybe catch a cool sunset…but all we could see was smoke beyond one or maybe two hundred feet away from the house. Within that range, we did get to see dolphins a couple times (some people thought they might have been orcas, but I think we couldn’t see far enough for them to appear this small within visible distance or resolve marginally well in my camera). Some otters frolicked by as well. And some herons.

We drank beer and ate food and celebrated my niece’s 5th birthday and my nephew’s 7th. The kids played in a hot tub. We played some tasteless party games and watched some Jim Gaffigan. I went shopping with KrisDi at a nice little beer store.

We were there from a Saturday through a Tuesday, so two of the days were school days. This is a neat thing we can do with remote school: We can do it from other places. The kids went through a day and a half of school at the AirBnB, and a half day in the car using KrisDi’s phone as a mobile hotspot.

Random stuff:

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, 1 comment

Weird dreams

A few nights ago…

Chilkat, Chilkoot, KrisDi, and I were driving somewhere together. We stopped at a Wal Mart. We were parked near a corner of the building and not many people were around. A few guys came running out of the building toward the car next to us. Apparently they were thieves or something, except they weren’t exactly making a getaway.

Somehow, we ended up being their hostages or something. They “made” us (though I don’t remember any force or threats) go with them back into the building, where there was a living space (a pretty decently sized apartment) on the ground floor in the back corner of the building, which is where they (we?) were going to hide out for the night. We obliged without any real complaint, ducking down behind furniture whenever there were lights or signs of movement outside. Everyone eventually fell asleep, except for me. I had trouble sleeping.

From the time we had gone into the Wal Mart apartment, I had a mild feeling of dread or anxiety, but it seemed to be more about getting caught than about the bad guys doing anything actually bad.

Night before last…

I was on a boat. I think the family was with me. The area reminded me of the canals and channels or whatever near Punta Gorda — lots of long narrow strips of water. Anyway, our boat was getting into a long line of boats, and there were some orcas a little ways off in the distance. Then some orcas came up close, and then there were some swimming immediately in front of us and immediately behind us.

I had forgotten about the dream by the time I brushed my teeth, but yesterday Chilkat said something that reminded me of it. Apparently he remembers Sea World and wants to go back.

Posted by snaotheus in Dreams, 1 comment

August 2020 Part II

Click here or on the sunrise above for more photos

Knowing school was starting completely online on September 1st, we decided we should try to be prepared. We got computers, headsets, mice, and little desks for both of the kids. We set up little workstations in our bedroom so they would have a dedicated place and it wouldn’t be the free-for-all that it was last year: Which device should I use? Where should I do school? Etc.

Chilkat saw a picture somewhere of someone with dyed hair and asked if she could do that, too. Chilkoot then of course wanted to do it as well. Chilkat ended up with part of her hair purple, and Chilkat got blue.

It’s a popular birthday month. KrisDi made a blueberry cheesecake for Les’s birthday, and we visited them in Bonney Lake. We did a make-up birthday at our place for B False Alarm, since we didn’t want to join their crowd for her actual celebration. Chilkat’s current best friend turned 10, and all she asked for for her birthday was dinner with Chilkat. We surprised her — her dad took her out to pick up take out for dinner, we arrived at their house while she was gone, and we all yelled surprise when she came in. She was delighted. She also picked up and tried to steal our daughter. Then of course they played, including in their new above-ground pool.

Since the kids both figured out how to ride bicycles, I wanted to bring all four bikes with us on our next camping trip. Since we pretty much fill up the truckbed, I needed a bike carrier of some sort. Paco didn’t have a hitch installed; I ordered a hitch and a 4-bike carrier on Amazon and installed them. The bike carrier was pretty simple. The hitch was a bit more involved. I needed new tools (I could have gotten away without a torque wrench, but it’s definitely better to torque a load bearing device to spec). Putting it together, when I figured out the carriage bolts went through the square-hole plates and out two layers of holes to be tightened down on the outside by a lock nut without a tool on the head side, I thought, “By God! Mechanical engineers are ingenious wizards!” When the carriage bolt started turning inside the plate without catching, and I had to devise solutions to somehow turn the nut while pulling on it, I began to think, “God motherfucking damn it, fucking mechanical engineers are too fucking clever for their own fucking good, and not half so fucking clever as they fucking think they are!” Eventually I got it all together, despite my lower back’s protests.

And so we went camping. This time it was at Deception Pass, which is a totally beautiful area. Maybe the most beautiful area I know.

It was just the four of us and KrisDi’s parents. We stopped at Bastion brewing on the way up for lunch. We didn’t use the sandwich irons at all this trip. Pizza, shish kebabs, marshmallow-centered-donuts, hefty cheeseburgers, lots of delicious beers. I laughed at myself when I realized I was fishing past Chocolate Cherry Duchesse and Rodenbach Grand Cru to find a Hamm’s in the cooler.

As usual, I woke up earlier than everyone else. I tried to take some sunrise pictures and got at least one I liked (see above). I think possibly my favorite new photography story is how I rewound sunrise so I could try it again: The sun was coming up over the horizon (a wooded hill fairly far to the east), and I started taking pictures. After the terminator passed me, I walked west a couple blocks down the beach until I was past the terminator again, and then turned east again for more pictures as the sun rose over the horizon a second time. I don’t remember if this was from sunrise #1 or #2.

Chilkoot experienced his first injurious bike wreck. We were taking a loop around the campground. Part of it was downhill. A van started pulling out of a camping spot, and he completely panicked. He was behind me, so I heard but did not see the crash. Based on the evidence, I think he locked up his back wheel, turned too sharply to the left, and flipped to the right. He ended up with bruises and scrapes on his right wrist, shoulder, and brow (and side of his helmet). He cried, we walked back to the campsite, and I am super proud to say we were back on the bike later that day. I was concerned it would be a “I had one bad experience therefore this is inescapably terrible” sort of deal.

We took various short rides, we went to a beach, we took various short hikes, the kids climbed on rocks and on trees, we saw squirrels and seals and deer, we tried to watch the sunset but it was too hazy to see anything, we had colorful fires, generally we had a good time. We stopped for seafood and ice cream on the way home (and got yelled at for eating in the grass at the restaurant, since apparently they’re not cleared by the state for that right now).

We finished up the front yard. We dug a trench along the boundary where we’ve had a lot of moles cross and buried some double-to-sextuple folded steel wire cloth. We finished weed-papering the area, and put down about a yard and a half of bark (~300 gallons). Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. Now I just hope the trees survive.

We went boating on Lake Tapps and actually got out of the boat for a while. Kids swam, we drank beer, KrisDi and I dove off the boat…it was pretty nice.

Other stuff…

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, 1 comment