Literacy is wonderful. I love reading. I spent most of this summer reading Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, fed to me by my coworker. So I went to the library for the first time this summer last week and got out the books you see in the stack on the right. Three of those books are the second or fifth book in a series, however, so I’ll need to read the other books in those series before I can begin reading them. Naturally I made a list of books I wanted to get at the library. However, I forgot the list at home, and I ended up not needing it anyway, because I pretty much took home the New Books shelf, as I often do.
But first, The Pillars of the Earth! I bought that copy for my friend Carly for Christmas. She foolishly1 mentioned that she was intending to read The Pillars of the Earth, and she did indeed have a copy, although it was a tattered paperback. There’s nothing wrong with cherished tattered paperbacks, but trade paperbacks are wubbly too. Now I’m finally ste—er, borrowing—this from her so I can read it.
The books in the stack below Pillars all came from Chapters. I love shopping at Chapters! Their shipping is amazingly fast. At first I was just ordering The Lies of Locke Lamora, Sundiver, and The Name of the Rose, because my local library does not have any of these. However, that was still under the $34 minimum needed for free shipping, and I figured the difference was small enough that adding an extra book would be a better value—so I bought Foucault’s Pendulum as well. Another coworker has recommended Umberto Eco to me. We shall see!
I don’t think I’ve mentioned Goodreads much yet—I linked to it once obscurely in my entry trumpeting the new site design, but otherwise it’s just been sitting in my sidebar there. For those of you other bibliophiles out there, you can see what books I’m reading on the sidebar, and if you follow the link to my profile, you can learn what other books I‘ve read or plan to read and even read reviews I’ve left on some. Goodreads is a fantastic site; I have a terrible memory, so being able to keep track of my books in this fashion is quite helpful. Plus, it lets me see what my friends are reading. I’ll often see my friends reading something interesting and mark it as to-read for the future. It’s a great way to get suggestions.
- [ 1 ] Never mention to me that you have nothing to read or that you are planning to read book x but don’t have it. Many a friend has realized the error of such statements in my presence.
This is my third day of typing in Colemak. It’s weird. At times I feel like I’m really getting it: my accuracy is great, my speed is better than I expected, I‘m getting into a rhythm. Then I type a QWERTY-ism and all that progress disappears.
To learn I’ve been using Colemak lessons for TypeFaster. TypeFaster itself is a great program, and the lessons are helping. I like to use the hi-games.net typing test, because it uses a large variety of random sentences that better gauge my speed. In addition to the lessons, I’ve been typing mostly in Colemak, interspersed with some QWERTY to keep me in practice.
This has been a learning experience in more ways than one! Until now, I have taken my typing speed for granted—it is so ingrained in me that its just a skill I use, like reading. I never really understood how frustrating it must be for those without typing skills to use a computer—one skill totally changes how one can interact with technology. I‘m used to being able to type almost as quickly as I can think. On the other hand, this new perspective will likely improve my communication skills. I’m ordinarily verbose, and part of that is because my speed allows me to express myself more quickly than a slower typist. Right now, I‘m inclined toward brevity, which can be a good thing! It’s still frustrating, though—hence the title. I’m in the mood where I need some good hard rock with a beat. Or, you know … Mozart’s K-271, Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-Flat … that works too.
My Colemak WPM: 30. QWERTY WPM: 100.
And so I continue!
Partly out of concern for my fingers, but mostly out of errant boredom, I have decided to try to learn Colemak. The QWERTY keyboard layout was intentionally designed to slow down typists, lest their typewriters jam. Now that computers have largely replaced typewriters, such a layout is inefficient, but we still use it anyway. Other layouts, such as the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, just didn’t catch on.
Colemak is another alternative layout that comes to me highly recommended. I can type 100-150 WPM in QWERTY, so why switch? My humourous little sidebar about shift key abuse is the symptom of an underlying problem; all these hours at the computer leave my fingers strained. A more ergonomic layout may be the solution. Besides, if I can type 100 WPM in a layout designed to slow me down, I should be able to type faster and more comfortably in a more efficient layout (once I master it, of course).
This was my first post (of hopefully many posts) composed using Colemak. It took a very long time, and I‘m finding it frustrating, but that’s expected. I haven’t abandoned QWERTY, but the more I practice, the faster I’ll learn. Wish me luck.
I‘ve got a bunch of things I should blog about, so let’s start with Digsby, a new free multi-service IM program. I have both an MSN (I suppose it’s “Windows Live Messenger” now) account and an AIM screenname. Up until recently, I used two separate programs. I’ve tried Pidgin and Trillian; however, I found the former too spartan and the latter too bloated. I couldn’t get comfortable with either—it’s cool that Pidgin’s free and open-source, but it’s just not for me!
Lately I’ve been trying the new IM program on the block: Digsby. It’s still in “beta” (for what that word is worth in the Google era), but it’s very functional and constantly being updated to improve features and stability. In addition to the major IM protocols, it also supports Facebook Chat. I find this useful, because it means I know when some of my Facebook friends are online without having to check Facebook; then I can talk to them directly from Digsby.
Digsby does more than IM: it’s touted as your “IM + Email + Social Networks” program. It’ll check your mail accounts and supports Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, sending you notifications from these sites and letting you update your account status. I don’t use MySpace, of course, but I love the Twitter integration. The Facebook feature doesn’t work with Facebook’s new layout yet, so I haven’t used it much.
What else do I like about Digsby? You can reply directly to the On-Screen Notifications that pop-up, letting me type a quick reply without completely losing focus on whatever I’m doing. It supports tabbed conversations, keeping everything organized.
So far my file transfers with Windows Live users have been sub par—I hope there’s major improvements soon. I would like support for alternate emoticon sets added to the interface—currently you can override the default emoticons, but your changes get deleted each time Digsby updates.
Even in beta, Digsby is a good replacement for my two default IM programs. Hopefully its rough edges will get smoothed over with future updates. If not, I can always go back to my search for the One IM Program to Rule Them All.
Humans are an insane and suicidal species. This is not a new revelation to most of us, I‘m sure. Nor is it news that the world is crazy. But let’s stop and reflect for a moment on some recent events that underline such insanity, shall we?
First on the block is the situation in Georgia. When this originally happened, I could understand (but did not approve of) Russia’s actions. The area is ethnically diverse and highly conflicted. While South Ossetia may be a part of Georgia, it seems to be more sympathetic to Russia. Unfortunately for them, they’re still part of Georgia, and that doesn’t give Russia much business sending troops in there. Russia claims that their troops are peacekeeping forces, a response to Georgian troops sent into South Ossetia to quell militants. Then, however, Russia sent troops past the border of South Ossetia into other regions of Georgia!
After France finally brokered a ceasefire, Russia agreed to withdraw its troops. So far such withdrawals have been minimal. The Russians are playing the old game of “the truth is what we say it is, not what you see.” The Russian officials insist that they are withdrawing; soldiers continue to fortify their positions in Georgia and some say that they have received no word to leave.
Next up: America (of course!). Let me try and get this one straight: America is a capitalist country, where success (measured in wealth) is a product of individual strength and determination. Yet the two major presidential candidates are engaged in an attempt to make the other one look like an elitist—i.e., a successful, wealthy individual. Obama’s campaign is accusing McCain of owning too many houses; McCain’s campaign gives out free tire gauges to show that Obama’s energy plan is lunacy … it’s a shame American politics are more interesting than Canadians politics right now. I love watching The Colbert Report, but I feel vaguely un-Canadian.
Speaking of Canada, is any one else ready for an election? The sad part is that none of our leaders are particularly charismatic or worthy, in my view, of leading the country. However, Stephen Harper hasn’t done a very good job so far, and now instead of just being dysfunctional, he’s beginning to show signs of adversely affecting the country. I’m concerned about Bill C-61, and you should be too. An election would give us more time to hash out a better set of copyright amendments.
I don’t know that Stephan Dion will be a better Prime Minister, but maybe we can taunt him into doing our bidding by making fun of his passive-aggressive leadership style!
Right, so, I have a confession to make. I am a left-shift-key discriminator (or a right-shift-key abuser, your choice).
What is an LSKD (or RSKA)? Simply put, it is someone who uses his or her right shift key almost exclusively when capitalizing letters. Just reverse the terms if you abuse your left shift key.
I learned how to “touch type” (or whatever you want to call it) in grade 4, and I‘m proud of my speed and accuracy on the QWERTY keyboard. I’ve pondered learning something like Colemak, but I don’t have the time to devote to retraining myself, unfortunately.1
Unfortunately, as with most abilities, I‘ve developed some bad habits with typing. The abuse of the right shift key is one that particularly annoys me now. I was taught that you hit the shift key with the opposite hand of the letter you’re capitalizing. So to capitalize “S”, I hit the right shift key; to capitalize “I”, I hit the left shift key—except not so much. I’ve developed this habit of using the right shift key, even on characters on the right side of the keyboard.
This habit has numerous disadvantages: it cramps up my right pinky, wears out my right shift key more, and makes my left hand feel even more dominated by my right hand (just not fair!). I am trying to train myself out of this behaviour, but I fear I am set in my ways.
- [ 1 ] Yes, that is a code phrase for “I’m lazy.” Good catch.
George Orwell was an English author of great talent. In addition to Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, his two most well-known works of fiction, he was a journalist and an essayist. His topics varied; he covered politics and philosophy, as well as the evolving nature of language. Nineteen Eighty-Four has had a profound affect on our culture, introducing phrases like “Big Brother” into the English language. I’m certain that Orwell would shudder to learn that a term from one of his novels has become the title of a reality TV show … but I don’t think he’d be all that surprised.
Beginning Saturday, August 9, The United Kingdom’s Orwell Prize will serialize Orwell’s diary online. Apparently this date is significant, as it marks 70 years since the day Orwell first began writing his diary. The website will publish one entry a day until 2012, 70 years after Orwell stopped writing his diary. Seventy years ago would be 1938, so this means we get to read the diary of a brilliant writer watching Europe descend into World War II.
I’ve already subscribed to the feed from the Orwell diaries blog.
The back to school ads have landed.
Going back to university is different from going back to high school. For one thing, I‘m not in school all day, so it feels like I have more free time. In general my schedule is more flexible. Since I’m in a fairly academic program, my school supplies are limited to notebooks, pens, and pencils. I can otherwise ignore the exhortations of sneakers, markers, pencil crayons, and whatnot. Give me something on which to scribble my equations, and I’m happy.
I certainly learned a lot in my first year of university; reflection on this knowledge has led me to make a few resolutions about this year. Firstly, I‘m going to try and establish a more consistent schedule in terms of sleeping, when I do homework, writing, working on my computer stuff, etc. While I still need to be flexible, hopefully this will help me manage my time better. I have four math courses in the fall term, all of which will have weekly assignments, I’m sure. Compared to my two full-year math courses last year, this will make things more complicated.
Secondly, I’m going to try harder. I did well last year, but I could do better if I tried a little harder. For math this means taking better notes (I tend not to take notes sometimes ) and really practising a concept if it gives me trouble. For English … okay, I don’t think I can really try harder in English and improve my grade. I won’t brag. But English is much more subjective when it comes to grading assignments anyway. All I have to do is continue to produce insightful essays. Otherwise, it’s for my own erudition (and the course credit).
School is still a month away, of course. The back-to-school ads merely got me thinking on the subject. I have my courses scheduled. The accounts office should send me a correct invoice someday, hopefully before I graduate. Now I just have to survive the rest of this summer, and it’s back to robbing the Ivory Tower for me!
Where would we be without villains? Well probably happier, and healthier … maybe safer. But perhaps a little more ignorant when it comes to matters of the human soul….
On Saturday I went to see a performance of Zastrozzi: Master of Discipline by a local amateur theatre group as a fundraiser for their local Belegarth guild. The play consists of an insane artist on the run from Zastrozzi, master criminal of all Europe (apparently set in 1893). Zastrozzi finally corners Verezzi only to face Verezzi’s tutor and guardian, Victor. As the play progresses, Zastrozzi and Verezzi both show signs of insanity while they separately investigate the nature of good and evil. Zastrozzi is a misanthrope and an atheist who believes his only purpose is to hold people accountable for their actions. Verezzi believes he is a servant, then a messenger of God, then a visionary, and finally a saint. Whether or not these men are sane is open to interpretation (what is sane anyway)? The play ends on a depressing minor chord, as such plays are wont to do.
The performance was excellent, especially the two actors who played Zastrozzi and Verezzi; they really threw themselves into the part and were enjoyable—sometimes terrifying—to watch. Since it’s the first play done by an amateur group, there were some wrinkles that still need to be worked out—the scene changes were horribly slow, for one—but all things considered, I was pretty impressed. Plus it reminded me that I need to go to the theatre more often.
Today I saw The Dark Knight. OMG another Batman movie!!! Or, as I like to call it, “A well done sequel to a well done movie that puts the Superman movie franchise to shame.” I really liked Batman Begins; it removed any campy elements of the previous Batman movies and presented Batman from a new, grittier perspective. As a sequel, The Dark Knight does not disappoint. It’s loaded with action scenes and fun Batman gizmos. All that praise for Heath Ledger’s performance? Deserved. Of course, I‘m in for Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, whom I believe are excellent in their roles in this film.
It’s kind of long, and it’s pretty predictable. But it’s fulfilling. The movie sets Batman up to take the fall for the events at the end, and it does not disappoint us. Yes, I know: I’m a sucker for tragedy. If the hero gets set up for tragedy, though, I darn well expect him or her to be subject to the tragedy and not find a loophole! That just makes me angry … and you wouldn’t like me when I’m—wait, wrong franchise. Wrong company!
I‘m looking forward to Watchmen. The graphic novel is the graphic novel. So of course there’s a chance that the movie will be utterly horrible. Comic book companies are getting better at bringing their characters to the big screen, however (case in point, The Dark Knight!). If you haven’t read Watchmen, check it out.
Speaking of villains, our old friend Dr. Horrible is back! Yes, that’s right: you can watch Joss Whedon’s awesome supervillain musical, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, for free again. The full episode is available on Hulu as well as the three individual acts, so if you missed it the first time, this is your chance to see it for free.