Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Thursday, October 14, 2010

  Looking for linearity

I'm often unable to write a paragraph without having to write dozens simultaneously on all the different topics on my mind.

I've only been moved into Colorado for 4 days, and I've got a lot on my mind. Today has been rather scattered. I'm simultaneously:

1) Trying to organize the coming week. I have meetings with a potential client, two potential employers, and a lawyer.
2) Trying to figure out if I want to order a (15 dollar/month) static IP address from comcast and run 6to4 over it or stick to my existing hurricane ipv6 tunnels and also coaxing 4over6 to work again on my nanostation m5s
3) Getting co.teklibre.org delegated to my new house
4) Coaxing my open-rd to do more stuff (like web/email/split DNS/samba) for my new roomate
5) Writing up several more of my "interesting failures" and the "internationalization" series.
6) Trying to figure out what wiki software to use for wisp6, or what, if anything, I can find that will interface with org-mode better.
7) unpacking my stuff and figuring out what else I need to get, when. Things like - a car.

Org-mode in emacs has been a life-saver, letting me create HUGE outlines, but it's still difficult to pull together everything in the end. This blog, wikis, emails, and the other forms of output media I deal with don't co-operate well with org-mode. I find that the last edits of everything I write get done in the final tool. I have no good way to import them back into org-mode, where someday I might easily expand and expound upon them.

While I can write a coherent sentence in a few seconds, a coherent paragraph requires 5x the effort, a 1500 word article 10x that, and a book - fuggetaboutit. I marvel at the people that can write linearly from an opening paragraph to a conclusion, and hardly pause in-between.

My loss of linearity has its benefits. I'm able to multi-task VERY effectively, sorting a half dozen tasks (a couple big, clustered, compiles, notes on multiple projects, some code, the web itself, a bug tracker) into my mental deadline scheduler, until my brain buffer overflows.

Often, I just type and type on various subjects until I'm tapped out, just to keep the output queue flowing. Eventually, something as irrelevant as this piece is to what I should be doing today, jells enough to bother to publish.

But sometimes I need to be linear. That last, great push to get something clean and done, where I finish something and then let it bake overnight for a final proof-read... I tell myself to wake up linear, to not check my email or messages, and just get that last thing out the door... it usually works. Otherwise...

The only way I know to cope, when my consciousness gets scattered, is reams of pipe tobacco, and lots of exercise, while dictating into a portable recorder. The classic "drive to the gym, work out for 40 minutes, drive back" just plain doesn't work. Long walks, surfing, swimming, and rigid calorie control based on the nearest store being an hour away, work best. I've owned exercise machines. They just sit there, glowing, and make me feel guilty.

I get a lot of "tough, deal with it" comments, from fat people and people that naturally seem to be able to stay thin.

Over the past couple years, my carpal tunnel has receded to where I can play piano again. I don't ever want to lose that ability again, so I go to extremes to keep the workload on my hands at a minimum. I dictate a lot, use a really good keyboard, on a desk of a perfect height, and a footpedal. I can get a good 16 hour day in, without pain, so long as I sit back and dictate stuff rather than rest my hands on the keyboard while thinking. Then I can blast through typing up whatever I dictated, or, if it's big and I have spare cash, I can outsource it to a dictation service like Transcribr.

Although utilizing dictation services are a common thing for doctors and lawyers and CEOs to use, it's uncommon for a programmer or program manager. Whenever I get into the corporate world again, I figure I'll be carpal again inside of a year unless I occasionally outsource my typing.

Last month, I purchased a footpedal. It's the first one I've had in years. After fiddling with this one and getting the footpedal python code to nearly work well I've decided that I need another pedal - one for the common modifier keys like shift and control, three pedals under each foot, or maybe just two each.

I discovered that I liked having the pedals mapped to backspace and enter, but have no use for the center pedal. Should I make it be control, or escape?

Years ago I co-wrote a keyboard emulator in C for Xwindows, and it's better than the python based footpedal code by a large margin. For example, it would do repeated keys right, and run forever. I find myself restarting the python based footpedal code often enough for it to be annoying.

Even while typing on the best keyboard I can find nowadays, I keep wondering: Why is it so hard to have a split spacebar on the keyboard (backspace and space)? Why is that not standard? Is it patented or something?

I look at people texting rapidly with one thumb and wonder what their worlds would be like if they could communicate as fast as I do with just a conventional keyboard, much less one with a pedal. I'm really impressed by the quality of the suggested words on my android phone, it matches up with the desired word quickly within a couple letters. It's a lot better than autocomplete is in openoffice and just about as good as my emacs abbrev implementation (which as one example turns "dont" into "don't" automagically)

Ah, well, back to trying to get linear on the next piece....

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


Resume,Songs,
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Uncle Bill's Helicopter - A speech I gave to ITT Tech - Chicken soup for engineers
Beating the Brand - A pathological exploration of how branding makes it hard to think straight
Inside the Internet Mind - trying to map the weather within the global supercomputer that consists of humans and google
Sex In Politics - If politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it, it would be a better world
Getting resources from space - An alternative to blowing money on mars using NEAs.
On the Columbia - Why I care about space
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Where's Cherie?
UrbanAgora
Jerry Pournelle
The Cubic Dog
Evan Hunt
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Brizzled
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Unlocking The Air
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BroadBand & Me
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