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On learning a new keyboard layout

In Technology on 2014/10/15 at 23:23

I’m learning Colemak. It’s like your typical keyboard, but you switch the letters around. There are tons of other blogs out there that give a fuller history, but I will give you a brief one here: Because of the physical limitations of mechanical typewriters, the best layout of keys at the time was an inefficient, uncomfortable staggered layout where frequently-used keys were placed in hard-to-reach places. In fact, it was built to make the typist slow. None of those reasons are valid for computer keyboards, but the ol’ QWERTY layout on an unergonomic staggered keyboard is now the standard.

I could type at over 80 words per minute, but never learned true touch-typing (typing without looking). I got the idea in my head to learn touch-typing, and while I was at it to get a sensible layout and an ergonomic keyboard. And once the idea took root, I became obsessed with keyboards.

The ergonomic bit will have to wait a while. I’d like to have one of AcidFire’s keyboards, if they ever become available. Barring that, maybe a Keyboardio, if they ever make a case that doesn’t offend my masculinity (I really don’t need coworkers commenting on my butterfly-shaped keyboard). But the touch-typing and efficient layout I can integrate right away. So I did.

You’d be surprised, but there are tons of layouts out there. I narrowed it down to two: Norman, which concerned primarily with ergonomics of hand movements, and Colemak, which is all about efficency. Since Colemak is more established and is even implemented by some keyboards in the hardware layer, I ultimately went with that one. I installed virtual keyboards so I wouldn’t need to change my actual keyboard to practice, similar to how I type Chinese without a dedicated physical keyboard. But it took a great many days of vacillating and even trying to design a custom layout that merged the two (I did not find a balance that was good enough to justify yet another layout (but I would have called it the Ivak if I had)). And after all that frustration, I finally devoted time to training my fingers to forget Qwerty and condition them to quickly type in Colemak.

I’ve trained for about two weeks now, and I am moderately happy with the results. I am typing at about 40 wpm in the context of writing prose, but coding takes much longer because I have not trained programming, because as far as I know there is no such thing. But I notice my speed increasing every day. It really is just a matter of practice. Even now I am reflexively typing the right key, reaching for the backspace, then realizing that I hit the right key by sheer muscle memory. It’s neat!

I lost Qwerty proficiency much faster than I gained Colemak, though. But it’s OK; I think that by touch-typing Colemak and doing that funky typing-while-looking thing with Qwerty will help to insulate those two sets of muscle memory.

One final thing, though it’s about the keyboard itself rather than the layout: I took the plunge and purchased a WASD V2 from wasdkeyboards.com. It’s gonna be pretty, with one of my mom’s nice black-and-white pieces of art overlayed on all the keys. I also didn’t print any letters on the thing, just a few media keys. Her logo/emblem/crest is over the “Windows” keys, my name and website are on the space bar, and there’s even a little QR code that leads to my web site (because why not?). I can’t wait until it arrives, but I hope it turned out OK. Tracing the 3MB image into SVG took it to 15MB, diluted the quality, and nearly killed my PC when trying to work with it.


On Colemak

In Technology on 2014/10/05 at 22:44

So I’m learning the Colemak keyboard layout. I’m typing this post at a blistering 15 words per minute, but it feels like 15 words per hour. It’s like learning to type all over again, because it is. But I don’t remember it being this painful. Despite the excellent practice that this blog post provides me, I’ll have to cut it short so I don’t go crazy. Gah! Ghur ur rgl;us.

On Relativity

In Uncategorized on 2014/09/23 at 23:26

Not General Relativity or Special Relativity, mind you. Blag posts on either of those would be more interesting, but philosophical relativity will have to suffice.

This blog focuses on a particular claim about cultural relativity: the kind that states everything in the domain of human experience is relative. This blog isn’t really about cultural relativity, but only the universal aspect of that claim (the “everything is relative” aspect). The thing that captivates me about this that the claim is inherently self-defeating, and none of its proponents notice. It involves a little meta-thinking, one of my favorite pastimes (I’m a strange kid). There’s no real debate to be done; the holder of such claims does all the work for me. My goal is simply to point this out and make an appeal to logic.

My observation is simply this: claims about total relativity are always cast in absolute terms.

For example: “There is no moral absolute. All morality is derived from cultural and environment.” A very popular claim nowadays, and a tenet of multiculturalism (“That word sure sounds nice, right? Who would argue against something called multiculturalism? RACISTS, that’s who!”). That claim always brings along its natural conclusion: “It is wrong to push your morality on someone else.” After all, if all moralities are equal, it would be immoral to promote one over the other. And here’s the (not so obvious) contradiction: the claim of relative morality spawns a moral absolute. The claim’s proponents feel justified in expecting all right-thinking people, regardless of their culture or environment, to believe as they do. To not hold this belief would make you, in all circumstances (absolutely), morally reprehensible.

Here’s another: “All experiences of reality are relative to the person experiencing it.” That’s very insightful, isn’t it? The interesting part is how a believer of such a claim will argue with others about it. An argument is an appeal to the intellect to accept a new idea. It’s as if this person expects you to draw upon a reason like his own, make observations about reality that are self-evident, and draw conclusions using identical logic. Moreover, this person will think that if you fail to observe reality like they do, use the same logic, and draw the same conclusion, then you have failed. It would not be merely a different way to look at the world, but an inferior one. To disbelieve in the relativity of all human experiences would be wrong, in all situations, forever.

I find it very curious that so many intelligent people miss the great irony of making an absolute statement while championing total relativity. It is like championing world peace by killing all the violent people; by that logic, the champions are also the opponent. With this self-defeating logic, the truthfulness of a fact is used to prove it false. Absolute relativity (the very term is oxymoronic!) requires the end of reason and the destruction of one of the three foundational axioms of logic itself. If you want to believe that all things are relative apart from any absolutes, go right ahead. Enjoy your madness. But don’t try to convince anyone else you are right; you already forsook that capability.

The original discussion that precipitated this post, as it turns out, did not contain an argument for absolute relativity. So that person should not take this as criticism of what ip said, but of a related philosophy.


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