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Catchall.

2021-10: NYC III

Click here or on the goofy picture of us with the Pietasters front man for more photos

KrisDi arrived midafternoon on Wednesday. It was time for some “victory lap” visitations — back to The Grand Delancey!

This was with a specific purpose. KrisDi and I love Cantillon, which is incredibly hard to find in the US, and they had bottles of it there. For $35 each. So we each had one. Treat yo’ self!

We ordered random food (including pierogi!) from the neighboring food places and continued drinking beer (including a notably unpleasant Firestone Walker — notable both for its unpleasantness and the fact that it was FW, they never make bad beer). Unfortunately, Sam wasn’t there that day to chat with.

We headed back to the hotel and stopped at a place called Craft + Carry, where they have a pretty good selection of mostly local beers and free skee ball. We enjoyed both aspects of the place, then started to head back to the hotel and realized we wanted to eat something…so we stopped at another bar (“The Globe”) for fries and beer.

The next day, we walked down to Katz Delicatessen, which is apparently famous and has been used as a location in several movies. While we were there, some film staff was talking with restaurant staff about logistics for recording there early the next morning before customers arrived. It was the most confusing restaurant I’ve ever been in. Different counters to order different things. I think we had to order at three different counters to get our food. There was a ton of stuff we wanted to try, and we ordered way more than we could eat. But it was really good.

We walked from there to Malt & Mold, a beer and cheese place. We had…beer and cheese. Then we subwayed back out to Grimm and tried more of their stuff! Still awesome! Same server was there! Unfortunately, they didn’t have the inside open at first and they only use plastic glasses outside. I bought a shirt and some glasses to take home. Again, loved everything I tried. And retried the best ones. Excellent!

From there we followed KrisDi’s Polish coworker/friend’s advice and went to a Polish diner named Christina’s, which was great (particularly their beet soup). We also went to a nearby bakery and picked up some poppy seed cake (not as good as P Dubs’) and apple cake. Then back to the hotel.

One of these mornings, and it might have been the next one, KrisDi and I toted two large flat rate USPS boxes of beer, painstakingly packaged in the hotel room, to the post office to ship one to our house and the other to PoD’s. PoD had asked me to put together a box of IPAs for his uncle (who has provided Pliny the Elder many times) and if possible to get Unicorn Farts for his wife. This was a beer I had seen in several of the delis in Part I of the vacation, but then was completely missing despite a concerted effort to check at every deli we walked by the rest of the trip, so none of that was in the box, unfortunately.

Bagels for breakfast the next day at Bagels & Schmear (excellent). Some wandering. Surprisingly, we found local cheese place Beecher’s has a location out there. Went to the Union Square market. Subwayed back out to Brooklyn and visited the Talea brewery (it was OK). Wandered a bit there, and got pizza at Tony’s. Waited for Brooklyn Brewing to open.

Brooklyn Brewing was a good brewery to visit but I was deeply annoyed by them — not customer friendly. I wanted to get small pours of big beers because there was a bunch of stuff I wanted to try that was like 13% abv. But, most of them they only allowed to be purchased as a “sidecar” or something with a regular sized beer. So I bought more than I wanted to so I could try the things I wanted, and the staff were jerks about it. The place was cool and the high end beers were good, though the “standard” stuff is boring.

We went back to the hotel and dropped stuff off, then went out to a German place called Heidelberg for dinner. In particular, I was looking for schweinhaxe for dinner. They had it, and it was excellent. Afterward, we met with KrisDi’s friend Sahnj and her husband at a place called the Stag. I noticed at the very end that someone had ordered a Heady Topper, a white whale beer for me, but we were well done for the night.

That might have been the night we realized why the street noise was so loud in our room: The window was coming detached from the frame wasn’t fully connected to the wall. This may have also explained why the AC was working so hard and dripping so much condensation that the floor was wet (or rain was getting in). Maintenance came in the middle of the night and improved the situation. The hotel apologized profusely and offered to move us to the only available room, which was smaller than the one we were in. We deemed it not worthwhile.

We met Mr. and Mrs. Sahnj again for brunch the next day at a place called Cookshop. We were there too early, so we went to the nearby Chelsea Market and shopped around a little bit. We didn’t buy anything there, just looked around. After breakfast, we all went to Milk & Hops. I chatted with the staff there, and was a little puzzled by their mix of knowledge and ignorance of the beer world. The Sahnjes went their own separate way from their.

We went back to the Stag to get Heady Topper. Unfortunately, it was fairly old, and nowhere near as good as I remember from the previous two cans I have had. I don’t really understand why, but the server seemed to think it was a good idea to buy us shots, so we both had “picklebacks” — a shot of whiskey chased with a shot of pickle juice. We survived.

We had dinner at an Italian place named L’Angeletto, and then we went to the boat for the Pietasters. We remembered earplugs this time (I think I did permanent damage to my hearing last time), but forgot them in the hotel room, and got the last box off the shelf at a CVS on the way to the show.

Lucille is the boat. According to the stats on that page, the maximum standing capacity is 125 people. I don’t think we were close to that. I would guess there were maybe 80 people there including the band. I don’t know how the Pietasters can be making money on this. But, once again, it was several hours of just the Pietasters and a small crowd of super engaged fans. We skipped the buffet (yeah, they had a buffet!), I drank a couple JW Blacks and Bud Heavies (best available). It was so much fun, once again.

It was raining quite a bit when we got off the boat. We stopped at Mike’s for a slice of pizza and then went back to the hotel room to cool down with a fancy sour beer.

The next morning, we went to the Bluebell Cafe for breakfast, which was very good. We walked out to a couple places looking for NYC souvenirs for the kids and found a place run by a crusty old dude. KrisDi was trying to buy two clear blocks with 3D NYC scenes laser-etched inside them and two small ceramic mugs. At checkout, the guy decided we needed more stuff, and insisted KrisDi take a kitchen towel if she would use it (it was an apron), oh and she definitely needed these three post cards…and yes, of course, this pen….and how could we leave without taking this magnet? All at no additional charge. It was very strange and very cute.

We went back to the room and packed. We decided to keep the remainder of the Talisker and passed the Willett back and forth taking swigs and left it behind for housekeeping.

Afterward, we walked back to Good Beer NYC. We were slightly early, so we stopped in a nearby market and found Unicorn Farts! We bought a couple of those to stuff in my suitcase when we got back to the room. We got more food from the Morelos place.

We got a Lyft to the airport (long, expensive ride), and found scales to check our bags’ weights. With the addition of the Unicorn Farts, my bag was slightly overweight, so we moved a pair of jeans into KrisDi’s bag and we were golden. We ate some boring, extremely expensive food at a place in the airport. The flight home was fairly uneventful, except that it was super hot (like to the point where I didn’t feel well), and we took some weird zigzag over Montana / Idaho that didn’t make any sense.

The bag arrived without smelling delicious, and we Ubered home. Then work the next day.

Epilogue

Overall, I think a very successful trip. My friends and I agreed we shouldn’t wait forty years to do it again, but we should have gotten a place more downtown than suburb, although a three bedroom place in Manhattan would have been prohibitively expensive. I learned that Brooklyn is essentially a suburb, although there’s still a lot going on.

I had a great time drinking alone, visiting breweries and beer spots, trying new beer, and chatting with fellow beer nerds. But footwear is important. The shitty flip flops I bought went in the trash. I was developing a rash from the strap and I had some kind of bruise on the ball of my foot that took more than two weeks to heal.

KrisDi and I had a great time, even though we did very little “touristy” stuff. The hotel was shitty, but the location was good for us and we didn’t exactly hang out there. The Pietasters are awesome and as long as they keep doing this Rock the Boat thing, I want to make an effort to get out there. Probably if we’re going to be tourists out there, it would be better for us to be out there the whole time together (rather than me there for a week before she arrives), and maybe plan a couple specific things.

No regrets on my part, though.

I learned also that essentially there are no exaggerations about New York in movies and TV, except one: I never saw a single human being using their fire escape as a patio.

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2021-10: NYC II

Click here or on the beer above for more photos

I arrived at the hotel too early to check in, so I gave them my bags and I went out to lunch — a nearby place called Taproom 307. It seemed like a yuppie douche place dressed up as a beer place. I had nachos with an egg on them and a beer and went to Brooklyn to visit some breweries.

First stop was Interboro Brewery. I was not terribly impressed. Nothing bad, but nothing great. I had mostly IPAs there. Servers were kind of standoffish, but not exactly unfriendly. Most disappointing was their strangely unsuccessful attempt at a straightforward west coast IPA.

Second stop was Grimm Brewery. I was terribly impressed. I don’t know the name of the server I talked to, but she was really knowledgeable, fun to talk to, and totally engaged. The first beer I tried there (on her recommendation) was a legit American-made lambic style beer named The Open Work. It is one of the best new beers I have tried this year. I asked her to recommend a NE style IPA that would convince me west coast breweries were not doing it right, and Lambo Door did exactly that. Then I asked her what the brewer was most excited about right now, and I was very impressed by Invisible Touch, a helles lager. Three completely different styles, and all excellently executed. Grimm is my new favorite NE brewery.

Third stop was Kings County Brewing Company (KCBC). It was pretty busy, and it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Generally good stuff, but not excellent. Subwayed back to the general vicinity of the hotel, stopped at an Irish bar named Molly’s for another beer (a Sixpoint Bengali, which I now know to be boring) and a burger.

I learned that night I had forgotten my contact fluid in the AirBnB, and had to go searching late in the night to several CVSes before I found something. The next morning, I decided to improve my life for the next week by buying flip flops, toilet paper, and water at a Target (as well as some packing/shipping material to send beer back for me and for PoD.

I had breakfast at Sunburst Espresso (a really good French toast). I had a hankering for udon, and Googling brought me to a Japanese restaurant named Ootoya. I had envisioned a simple, cheap bowl of udon. Wrong style of restaurant (I still have not found that kind of udon place in the US) — instead, I got a gorgeous seventy-four course lunch that included udon. Excellent.

Based on a recommendation from a random guy on BeerAdvocate, I went to a place called The Grand Delancey, and I was not let down at all. 49 taps, all excellent and/or interesting stuff. I tried several things there, chatted quite a bit about beer with Sam, the server and possibly owner. I learned he gets little chance to try west coast beer. I told him I’d ship him stuff when I got home, and he threw two Fox Farm beers at me. Both were excellent.

The Grand Delancey doesn’t have a kitchen, but it has a menu: Food from the restaurants that share the shopping center. On my way out, I got a kelp cookie that was surprisingly good.

I stopped at a bit of an Irish dive bar called McSorley’s that only had two beers (light and dark), and each beer you ordered was served as two glasses of beer. Then I got some boozy ice cream near the hotel and went to bed.

Tuesday, I subwayed out to Brooklyn again to go to a place called St. Gambrinus Beer Shoppe, which was an excellent decision. They were celebrating their 8th anniversary on Tueuzeday Gueuzeday and had an incredible selection of American and Belgian lambic/gueuze style beers. It was fantastic. I ordered some Mexican food delivered, and some dude noticed my fountain pen as I was taking notes on the beers I was drinking and talked to me for a while.

Once I killed enough time, I went to Folksbier, because I had heard that their lagers were excellent. But they had no lagers at all. I wasn’t impressed with what they did have. Too bad. Then I subwayed back to Manhattan and went to a well known beer bar, The Blind Tiger, for dinner and (surprise!) beer. It was very good. I got ice cream across the street and walked back to the room.

KrisDi was arriving the next day. I decided to go for a long walk before waiting for her at the hotel room. I started by walking to Johnny’s Luncheonette, a tiny little diner. It was good. Their bathroom was ridiculously small.

Then I walked a lot. Still wearing the shitty flip flops I bought at Target. In the long run, this was a bad idea. I walked along the western shore and saw lots of interesting architecture and a weird man-made island thing, stopped at the Fountain Pen Hospital (which I didn’t even realize had a physical storefront) and bought some Clairefontaine notebooks, walked through the government area and Chinatown and ended up at a store that will surprise you: Good Beer NYC.

David is the owner. I was hungry. He told me there was a great Mexican place down the street that didn’t complain if you brought beer in (at least from his place): I got a little plastic cup of beer from him and walked down the street to Tacos Cuautla Morelos. Then I went back and had a couple beers there and bought a bunch of stuff. I got a Lyft back to the hotel because I was sore in the feet and back regions, and I waited for KrisDi to arrive.

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2021-10: NYC I

Introduction

Pope of Djibouti, Djiboutian Phoenix, Monocular Ben, and I all turned 40 this year. We decided to have a long weekend getaway together without the spouses/children. They unwisely left the bulk of the planning up to me, and we ended up going to Brooklyn. This happened to be the week before KrisDi and I were planning on going to NYC for another Pietasters Rock the Boat show, and it turned into a three part vacation for me: Thursday-Sunday with college buddies, Sunday-Wednesday alone, Wednesday-Sunday with KrisDi.

Chapter I

Click here or on the whisk[e]y for more pictures

I got a three room AirBnB in Brooklyn. I didn’t figure anyone really wanted to deal with sleeping in the same room as each other, and that I would be OK sleeping on a futon or the floor in the living space, since I wake up early as hell and if someone else slept there I’d have to tiptoe in the mornings.

Pope of Djibouti (PoD) and Djiboutian Phoenix (DP) flew out Wednesday night. PoD brought a bottle of scotch with him (Aberlour A’Bunadh Alba, a cask strength doozy), and DP bought a bottle of Eagle Rare bourbon. Ben and I took the redeye Wednesday night and arrived around 7 AM. I had had a shitty night of sleep the night before and my back was hurting, so I took some flexeril and zonked out for basically the whole flight, and probably got as much sleep as I usually do at home.

Our Thursday plan was to visit the Widow Jane distillery. I had booked a private tour at 3 in the afternoon. We went to a nearby breakfast place for a very late breakfast, and then walked to the Other Half brewery and had a couple beers.

Ben is not a beer drinker. He asked me to pick stuff for him, and so I looked for things that depart wildly from the “norm” in the beer world — fruited berlinerweisses and barrel aged stouts with chocolate and such added to them. I did not hit a home run, but I did not strike out, he was OK with one of fruited sours.

We walked on. We found the distillery but still needed to kill some time before they opened, so we went to a nearby deli and ate a sandwich.

Edit: Forgot to mention the yelling match between a moron in a pickup truck who couldn’t get through an intersection blocked by a FedEx truck stopped for a delivery and the FedEx driver, pickup guy genuinely angry and screaming invective, and FedEx driver mostly laughing at him. I’m on the FedEx driver’s side because I think a competent driver could have made it through the intersection.

The distillery tour was pretty cool. Since it was just the four of us, I didn’t feel like I had to be polite and let other people ask questions. I learned that almost everything they sell right now is other distillery’s whiskey that they blend. They are still in the process of distilling and aging whiskey enough to sell their own, but they do have a four year old that is somewhat available. The tasting flight at the end was their four year old, a whiskey aged in barrels that first aged whiskey and then aged maple syrup, two ryes, and the regular Widow Jane 10.

We tried to visit Sixpoint (a brewery) after that, but learned that they were closed on weekdays. We walked back to the room, which was a 45 minute walk (according to Google) and a seventy-two hour trek according to Ben’s poorly-shod feet.

The plan for dinner was pizza from a local joint (Luigi’s). I walked in and ordered takeout, but it was like an hour and twenty minute delay for orders to be filled, so PoD and I wandered around looking in the myriad corner delis and discovering that they each have different selections of beer and some of them have fresh beer and some of them don’t. I bought a couple (~8) beers at one. We eventually got the pizza, brought it back, and spent the rest of the night drinking, eating, and shooting the breeze.

The next day, our primary plan was to go see We Come From Away on Broadway, a musical about Gander, Newfoundland, and the chaos that ensued when dozens of international flights had to land and stay there after 9/11 and the closure of American airspace.

I was up hours before anyone else. No surprise. Unfortunately, I was also up about an hour before any coffee places opened. I had two cups of coffee from two different shops before we actually went anywhere. We had breakfast near the room and then got subway passes to go elsewhere. Since breakfast was late, our first stop was the Evil Twin brewery, where I was able to recommend some beer that Ben actually liked, so I felt like an accomplished beer dork.

We subwayed to the southeastern side of Central Park and wandered some more, with the intent of going to the Met, only to discover that the line to get tickets for entry was about a long block long (side note: there are two types of blocks in New York, long ones and short ones; I think in general a long one is 3x longer than a short one, but some areas I swear it’s 5x). We gave up on that idea, walked through central park, and had lunch at a seafood place because Ben wanted to have Maine lobster. He and I shared a five pound bucket. It was excessive, but very good.

Then we subwayed to broadway. The show was really good. After that, we walked someplace for ice cream, and then subwayed back to the room to drink and chat some more.

That subway ride was interesting. There was a dude on the far end of the car with a big stroller sort of thing, with a big colorful parrot on it. Later, I saw him reach in and pull out a portion of a snake with a five or six inch diameter cross section. Then a portion of an albino snake with a four or five inch cross section. Then he took the parrot for a walk up and down the car.

I asked the girls across the car from us, “We’re not from around here. Is this normal?”

She scrunched up her face. “It’s New York City. This is the first time I’ve seen this specifically, but there’s always something.”

We had absolutely no plans on Saturday. We went to a ramen place for lunch (first time at least for DP), then we subwayed down to Coney Island and walked around getting sandblasted in the wind. Then we stopped at the Coney Island Brewery. We subwayed back, had dinner at a somewhat fancy Italian place, bought some more whiskey (I don’t remember actually if we bought it that day or another day), and spent the rest of the night drinking and chatting.

Ben’s early morning flight was cancelled late in the night. I didn’t know about it, so I was worried he’d slept through his alarm and missed his flight. In the end, I got a Lyft to my next place, a hotel on Manhattan Island called The Marcel at Gramercy, for the next segment of my vacation.

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May 2021 Part I

Click here or on the photo above for more pictures

Chilkat watched a video about cultural diversity for the Girl Scouts, and one of the things they talked about was food. This video inspired her to make arepas (wiki article about arepas). She did most of the work herself (with some help and supervision from KrisDi). We ate them for dinner. It was good!

We spent an entire day (or it felt like it) doing headshots for the kids’ theater production. We did this last time, too, and I think we got asked to do it because (1) we are organized(ish), dependable, and resourceful, and (2) we have a big fancy camera. Over the course of the day a bunch of kids came to our house (masks on when not being photographed), received costumes and/or props, took pictures with and without them, and goofed around. And then I had to process something like 700 photos that day so the director could use them in pamphlets or fliers or whatever. Some highlights from the day:

  • One girl, I think 12, came with about a half dozen fresh stitches on her face in between her eyebrows. She had hit herself in the face with a skateboard or something and then spent most of the night in the emergency room. But she was so nice, positive, helpful, and sweet to everyone, it was just delightful to see.
  • Chilkat was playing Olaf. We were going to take pictures of Anna and Elsa “making” Olaf the snowman, when we remember we still had snow from the winter in our freezer. So we used that as a prop, which was pretty silly.
  • For no particular reason, Chilkoot and I staged a fake murder.
  • Chilkat has grown six inches since the last time most of these people saw her, so there was much marveling. Here’s her head shot.
  • KrisDi thought she would look cute with her own personal flurry (she was right)
  • Chilkoot’s main character was the Duke of Wesselton. Here’s his head shot.

Our friends from Oregon came out to stay with us for the weekend. They needed to get their daughter to a specialist doctor in Seattle on Monday morning, and we’re much cheaper and comfier than a hotel, plus we provide food and beer. I used their visit to surprise KrisDi with her mother’s day flowers. Nick and I ‘needed to get beer’ (and Nick got to be the flower holder). We got the flowers early for Mother’s Day, so it was at least a little less of a surprise.

Random stuff:

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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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