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Catchall.

Keyboards

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.

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Counting

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Musical Preferences

I’ve written about the kids’ music playlist before. That has since split into three — there’s a playlist for music the kids agree on, a playlist for Chilkat, and a playlist for Chilkoot. Chilkat really likes the Wailin’ Jennys and Chilkoot doesn’t; Chilkoot tends to like heavier rock than Chilkat.

Edit: If I did write about the playlist before, I couldn’t find the post about it, so here’s the quick explanation: I got really tired of hearing J Geiles Band’s Centerfold and the Mad Caddies’ Down and Out over and over again, so I started a kids’ playlist and said we would listen to their playlist on the way to work and my playlist on the way home, and whenever they liked a song, we’d add it to their list. At this point, they have 200+ songs of wild style variation on their list, and I love listening to it.

Growth of the playlists (and interest therein) has slowed down quite a bit, since they don’t actually commute with me anymore. They have both started picking up songs from outside my list.

Anyway, on the way home from dinner the other day, Chilkat made a series of specific song requests as follows:

  • Callie’s Song by The Mad Caddies
    • To be honest, this was just playing and she wanted to finish it before moving on to her requests
  • You Belong to Me by Butch Walker
  • Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons
    • This also sparked a discussion about why the band decided to use a bad word word in the lyrics “I really fucked it up this time, didn’t I my dear?” even though there are not-so-bad choices like “screwed” instead. The kids agreed they would use the word “screwed” but learned it doesn’t really fit very well in that place.
  • All I Want Is You by Barry Louis Polisar
    • Edit: Originally mis-reported as Treehugger by Kimya Dawson
  • I’m a Mess by Bebe Rexha
    • This is a song I’d never heard of until Chilkat asked to listen to it one day
  • Moondance by Van Morrison

I’m still greatly amused by the variety.

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February Part II

Pictures by clicking here or on the photo above…

Lots of stuff here, but it seems easier to me to make one big overwhelming post than to be considerate and split it into two.

For the kids’ “midwinter break,” we went to California, primarily to visit my brother and meet my new niece, the Mountain. We got first class tickets on Delta both ways when we realized that all things considered, it would cost us something like an extra $25/person.

We got up early and went to the airport. KrisDi and all associated travelers get TSA Pre Check because of her work, and flying first class means short lines, so it was an easy trip through the airport. They fed us and gave us bloody marys on the plane. The kids jabbed at huge first class touch screens mounted on the back of (possibly) annoyed travelers’ seats. Once we got there, we rented a small SUV and stayed in an AirBnB two blocks from Northwood’s place. This is super convenient for visiting family who have a baby!

When we arrived, we went to the Pruneyard and found lunch at Mendocino Farms and ate outside near a park with blue gorillas where the kids could run amok. After a little bit, we got some ice cream at Tin Pot. We really didn’t do much that day in California aside from meet The Mountain and hang out with family. We had dinner at the South Winchester BBQ — the food was pretty good and the beer was really good.

Next day we made our own breakfast at the BnB (french toast), lounged around for a while in the morning before finally taking a short walk to a nearby park. Then finally we all drove out along some crazy winding roads to take a five mile hike in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We grilled at Northwood’s for dinner. I wanted a big bone-in pork chop, but the best I could find was a tiny, thin, boneless pork chop and a weird cut of pork that was kind of shaped like a chop.

Breakfast the next day was at Uncle John’s Pancake House. Then we got to visit Northwood’s workplace, the NASA Ames facility, and walk through the big wind tunnel and shop at the gift shop. The kids enjoyed the elevator and the pallet jack at NASA. We brought the kids back to the blue gorilla park and had some beer at Out of the Barrel, burgers at the Burger Lounge, and bought books at Books, Inc. We made knoephle soup in the afternoon for dinner that evening.

Wednesday the 19th, we basically avoided Northwood and company. They were probably sick of us anyway. Breakfast was low-key, donuts and bagels or something, although I also had a half-coffee-mug of knoephle. We went to the Winchester Mystery House and The Children’s Discovery Museum, a brewery (Golden State) and a half (Lazy Dog), an In-n-Out (Chilkat and Chilkoot both still like it), and tolerated Disney on Ice.

The next day was Chilkat’s actual birthday. She picked breakfast: Uncle John’s again (apparently she loves the pancakes there). Northwood took Chilkat and Chilkoot (and me) on little rides around the block on his little motorcycle. We took a trip to a small zoo, had lunch at a fish place where Chilkoot could get clam chowder, went back to the blue gorillas, and had Chilkat’s choice of dinner: Korean Barbecue at Gen Korean. This was chaotic, noisy, stressful, and seemed to be a bit too much for Northwood’s family. The food was pretty tasty, but not great.

Friday morning we handed off most of our leftovers to Northwood and drove down to Aptos, where we were meeting up with KrisDi’s Mom Board friends in their “cabin” (a large luxurious house near a beach). We had lunch at the Sante Adairius brewery (after KrisDi made cupcakes at the house), which was really good beer and pretty good food.

The husband is a hunter of various animals and fed us interesting things like dove breast stuffed peppers, goose and duck prosciutto. It was interesting and I enjoyed it. We shared our leftover knoephle and KrisDi made chili. They loved it.

KrisDi’s friend is interested in starting a newborn photography business and had recently acquired a camera she didn’t understand (Canon EOS 80D). I let her play around with our travel kit (which, looking at it from the outside, is super nice, including her “dream lens,” which apparently cost them a fair chunk of money after she fell in love with it). I spent a little time teaching her the rudiments of how cameras work (which is the bulk of what I know about photography). It was fun.

One of the other moms had a craft activity set up, which occupied the kids on Saturday morning. I played with cameras and shot the shit with the hunter (and drank beer). Northwood biked over the mountains and met Aunt L and the Mountain and us at the house (they drove across), even after he broke the tensioner or something on his bike. LG, the aspiring photographer, borrowed our camera and took us to the beach to take family photos. It was fucking cold — fifties and windy as hell. Some of the pictures turned out OK. I can’t link them all so go browse through if you care. Northwood and crew departed before we made it to the beach.

Sunday morning was time to leave. We got up early (4 AM IIRC for the parents, and a bit before 5 for the kids). Chilkoot zonked on his mom at the airport. Les and D picked us up at the airport and we mostly chilled for the afternoon.

Conclusions:

  • I do not understand the attraction to the blue gorillas. I think we went three times, and we also had some arguments where we told the kids we weren’t going back.
  • The Mountain is eerily adorable. She rarely cries. She rarely laughs (unless her mom or dad is holding her). She stares. And judges. Chilkoot seemed to really, really like her. He let her pull his hair. Chilkat seemed to be a little jealous of the attention The Mountain got.
  • It’s nice (for me at least) to have a vacation where the primary agenda item is “hang out with people when possible”
  • I’m glad I don’t have a baby any more. So glad.
  • Apparently KrisDi’s internet friend NS likes some of the same beers we do. This surprises me. We have lots more interesting beers we could share with her.
  • Cameras are fun.

I don’t remember which day we were out there, but since the manager of the other development team that works on my project at my office announced he was leaving, our boss asked me to manage both our teams so we could hire a full time developer instead, and offered me a raise. With KrisDi’s encouragement, I managed to (sort of accidentally) turn that into a slightly bigger raise and a promotion. Effective in a couple weeks, I’ll be a Senior Manager, and have 16 positions reporting to me (likely the largest number of direct reports ever managed by one person at my company; whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen…).

Real life resumed the day after we got back.

Various things:

  • Chilkoot dressed up as a centenarian for his 100th day of school. He was suddenly and unusually reluctant to go to school in costume, because he was afraid he’d be the only one dressed up. In the end, he mostly complained about the hat.
  • In my ongoing quest to kill superfluous liquor bottles, KrisDi cooked with some sherry and killed one bottle.
  • KrisDi and I went to Hard liver Fest, ate “lightly” (a huge plate of frites and a couple croquettes); afterward we shared a delicious bowl of ramen.
  • Chilkat’s Girl Scout troop sold cookies in front of a local grocery store.
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Taster Flight Project

Click here or above for all the pictures

We occasionally have get togethers where we have several people tasting several beers at the same time, and we have always cobbled together a collection of 25 assorted sample glasses collected at various beer festivals or similar events. I wanted to get a consistent set of glasses and be able to pack them up to take them places if needed.

Around the same time we decided to pull the trigger and get rid of the old collection and order new glasses, we discovered that you could buy used whisky barrel staves on Amazon, and thought it would be cool to build taster flights as well.

So, we bought 10 used whisky barrel staves. The widths can vary fairly significantly, but we found a listing that said they’d guarantee none were narrower than 3 inches. We ordered three dozen 5.5oz Acopa taster glasses from another website.

I wanted to have a spot for five glasses on each stave because we often do five beers at a time. Basically eyeballing, we decided to cut them to 22″ long and put the holes 3.5″ apart from each other center-to-center. We original planned to put feet on them, but decided against it for simplicity and because we thought they looked cooler without them.

Basic process and tools and materials:

  • Start with staves.
  • Miter saw at a fairly arbitrary angle (outside on top, inside on the bottom) on both sides to cut them down to the center 22 inches
  • 2″ hole saw 3.5″ spacing 5x for the holes (1 7/8″ was not only hard to find, but too small for the glasses), cut using a hand drill (a drill press would have been really nice for this step
  • Wire brush to clean off the big chunks of ash or other loose material
  • Sandpaper on the outside edges just to get rid of the whiskers left behind
  • Drum sander on the inside of the holes
  • Three coats of varnish liberally applied
    • I used vinyl gloves to keep it off my hands and let me handle the wet staves
    • I drove some wood screws through cardboard to make drying stands, figuring the points of the screws would leave no noticeable mark in the burnt texture on the bottom of the staves
    • 1.5-2 hours in between coats

That’s basically it. We’re keeping six of them, and giving P Dubs four of them.

We used eight of them to support a 10 year vertical flight of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot for four people after Chilkat’s birthday party with our Oregon friends.

Note: Power tools on used whisky barrel staves smells delicious.

Also note: Glass base diameters varied quite a bit. The first stave we drilled with 1 7/8″ hole saws, which was OK for the first one or two glasses we tried (when they were cold) — which unfortunately were some of the narrowest ones we had. It took forever with the drum sander and a hand drill to open up the holes.

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