My Bleeding Brains

June 21, 2011

keyboard use and maintenance

Filed under: Uncategorized — eeplebert @ 5:25 am

I taught myself to type with a Smith Corona word processing typewriter that could hold about 12 pages in its memory, and let you edit on a 2-line LCD screen with those segment display characters that looked like a digital watch readout.

I borrowed books and read everything I could about the Apple II and the Macintosh computers they used at the junior high and high schools that barely tolerated my attendance. I remember trading games on floppies with my fellow proto-geeks in the mac lab – a heavy walled room with wire-reinforced safety glass and double-locked doors.

The massive cost of that lab, the laser printers, was not lost on me at the time. It just struck me as strange that the library had been usurped in the “valuable enough to lock up after school” status. They locked the weight training machines, the computer lab, and the library.

The keyboards we used in that lab back then were quite similar to the one I’m using now. I’ve used the IBM Model M keyboards that were so prevalent in the PC lab at high school. I liked a few different models I’ve used with some combination of responsive and quiet keys. Anything beats the old Wang terminals in the Vax lab.

In some kind of bizarre tribute to the keyboard that I’ve written two Novembers worth of National Novel Writing Month on now…I set out to replace it – if necessary – when it began to have several sticky keys. I swapped it out for a logitech PC keyboard whose windows key worked fine as an apple key, but it didn’t have one on either side of the space bar and that annoyed me.

When that no longer sufficed I switched to a really nice HP that I found cheap at a thrift shop, but the space bar went wonky and got stuck down a couple months ago. So I fished back out the sticky-keyed Apple Pro Keyboard that came with my first Powermac – a dual G4. It was still a pain in the ass, but better than the alternatives I had around.

I looked to replacements and it just seemed the prices people wanted for a single USED Mac keyboard of any reliable condition were from $17-$30. New prices for such devices were astronomically inflated, and offered little familiar ground – in fact the Apple Keyboard as it exists today is a total aberration.

Why I’d want a white keyboard just because the aesthetics make some designer feel complete – it’s beyond me. It’s irrational fluff and superfluous to the function of the device to make me NOT want to touch it. Hands are messy, being human is messy. I refuse to accept – let alone type on – what looks like a big fugly calculator or Grandma’s jokey over-sized touch-tone telephone from 1988.

Just as I was about to despair the dismal state of the future and what keyboards have come to, a fluke of ebay presented itself. I found someone offering five (5!) of the very model I sought for $35 with free shipping. I waited about three days, hemmed and hawed, and then when another purchase fell through and the seller refunded me with regret that they had previously sold the item…I pounced on the keyboards.

(Good thing I did, too. I went back to leave feedback and found the seller had changed the selling price to $29.99 but the shipping was now $25-30. So I got it for half what it’s selling for now.)

I find myself amused listening to Kevin Smith and Joe Rogan talking about the differences between Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica and have a hard time suppressing my urge to shout “duh!”

I watched The Daily Show from June 20, 2011 earlier and found myself stunned that the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin has his book out on createspace right now. The same amazon affiliate I myself just published a proof on. Something deep and speechless inside me is stunned by that yeah.

I intend to opine further on what I did to rehabilitate this keyboard, the Apple Pro Keyboard 7803 with black keys that I’m using right now. Aside from the white-cord that had vs this partially opaque corded one, the performance seems the same. I plugged the mouse’s wee little transmitter into the same end as the model I just unplugged and it works the same.

I just know dudes who’d tinker endlessly with their guitar, uncles and relatives who are long since passed who fiddled endlessly with their CB radios, and countless other comparisons I could make. But I spent an hour or more this evening rehabbing this keyboard.

I followed a teardown PDF somebody made, carefully removing the screws, popped off the keycaps and blew off the dust, removed more screws, and then cleaned out the inside of the bottom case under the keyboard membrane layer. Since there appeared no liquid incursion, I didn’t complete the teardown, rather after removing the debris and wiping it clean with a damp cloth, I reassembled.

There were a few hangups aligning the screw hole in the metal shield that sits beneath the keyboard’s circuit board. It wanted to pull to either side and not let the screw to its hole. Eventually I had to step back, remove the upper clear plastic bezel, and reseat the connector leading to the USB port at the right hand side. Then the shield set properly, allowed me to screw it back together from the bottom, the central screw that holds the two halves together just below the cord-tension block.

The most time-consuming part of this adventure was the keycaps needing a good hard scrub on all four sides and the face. But the same damp cloth helped a lot, and some OCD-style rhythmic persistence (accompanied variously by: the Rachel Maddow show, the Daily Show, Bagged & Boarded and Plus One Per Diem) paid off in a slowly-growing series of rows of cleaned keycaps drying face-down.

After that was over, I had just to pull down the one remaining attached to the mac and monkey-see monkey-do the keycaps back onto the right keys. Everybody remembers a QWERTY but nobody can translate a phone number to digits when it’s read off as a word. There are plenty of keys I didn’t know where to put right away and I stuck the plain-caps for the 10-key on the number row above the QWERTY that is supposed to have the shift-keys above. Then I switched them.

The simple truth is that I’d rather have this old keyboard than the new chicklet-style white ones Apple is hawking now. Those look annoyingly easy to get dirty, and the low-profile doesn’t speak to me. I like the feel of the Apple Extended Keyboard from the Mac II days. I still have a few of those up on a shelf in the closet. They’re built to last and whenever I see one in a thrift shop in decent shape, I find it hard not to want to buy it.

I still aspire to piano lessons, guitar playing, lots of other things. But the typewriter, the keyboard, the qwertys I’ve used have been essential, central, important things in my life. I suppose this is a testament toward that end. All hail the tools I use to make my magick happen!

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June 7, 2011

perceptions

Filed under: Uncategorized — eeplebert @ 9:34 am

In my time chasing the brass ring of Academia at College I met tons of people who remain important to me yet today. I remember a few who made me feel like I could do just about anything – and that we could have formed a trans-media superhero squad and collaboratively create in any medium known or as-yet evolving.

We’d remix and edit each other’s performances in realtime, like a video-scratching hybrid of The Slew and Information Society, can you dig it?

Thanks to facebook and twitter, even as far back as myspace, I’ve been in semi-regular contact with lots of the interesting minds I encountered back then. Many of them parents now, but they can still make me feel like a god, make me wanna write a word symphony that could alter the fabric of the space-time continuum and do a backflip on a jetski at the same time.

I had the firm, specific intention to visit Bill Holm and thank him for many things face to face. Maybe even sit back over a couple beers and listen to some Art Tatum. Sadly he passed thru the veil before I got that chance. Circumstance and life itself can keep us from renewing connections we’d very much like to. I guess that’s why I slapped the name of a ghost publication on the subject line of this post and blew past that low hurdle to get on with it.

I heard Robert Bly speak about The Human Shadow, the topic of one of his many books – even though in comparison to some of the gargantuan / impenetrable heaps of reading one might be expected to perform between two nights of a Dave Pichaske class – some of Bly’s works were pamphlet or essay-length at best.

Leaping past whatever Mr. Bly has to say about Our Shadow, this past Memorial Day found me sitting in front of my notebook making a list of Those Who Stand In My Shadow. From my late cat Spike through various relatives, grandparents, the Uncle writer/bard/poet Roy who slipped away just before Bill Holm did.

So reflecting on all that mellow jazz, I found myself inspired enough to break several paradigms, smash a few walls that had been caging me in. For an opinionated, wordy type like me one would think I’d never run up against anything that stops me, that shuts me up for long. Sometimes anybody can get boxed in, but recently I broke through.

I fall somewhere between Habitually and Universally Agnostic – refusing to believe anything without first-hand proof or respectable reason and logic. The greatest thing about free will and the ability to choose is that everybody gets the chance to choose to believe a thing or not believe it.

If today is not a good day for you, and your switch is off when you want it on, or if your religion turned your brain off and you want it back on…whichever position your switch is in on any given topic…you get a whole new choice again tomorrow. And you can choose whichever you want. Stop learning if that’s not helping, and start unlearning. Those are the two positions for your brain to be in. It’s always in one of the two.

Choice is wonderful like that. Brother Prince opined that Choice is the Original Cause and I imagine these from among his more humble words – were informed by and built upon the thoughts and teaching of others. I differ from many religions, and the most recent, entitled, self-important politics behind the new two-faced nature of modern Christianity. All that bluster inside me didn’t mean that I wouldn’t admit he had a very eloquent, potent point about Choice.

I ramble, but who’s really reading this anyway? What does it matter?

That’s where this post elbows the first time. We reach our first bend.

I recall meeting, and frankly being blown away by one rockstar of a woman named Kate Sullivan. I could put her on a level, draw a line from a few other talented, dynamic, inspiring women I’ve known. And I’m just far enough into this life, and unashamed of all the buckets of awesome I’ve been witness to with my own two eyes/ears.

I can’t help but share, despite the knock-kneed nervous boy I once was still being right here inside. I’ve just seen too much that merits testament, testifying, sharing however poorly I can form the words to do so.

Ali Hill in/near Perth in Western Australia, remains a stunning vision of a strong woman, a rockstar with a hell of a voice, a songwriter, a DJ, a voice-over person, and a musical actress. I met her when I was there half a lifetime ago and I’ll never forget her.

Cassandra L., a multifaceted artist and punster from my time at what is now known as Southwest Minnesota State University. She brings a smile to my face when I recall her. She of the tall paintings with lithe human figures dancing, and long talks late into the night about any and everything, and all of it intensely gratifying.

Aicha, a fine amazon queen of an African lady, who worked with and lived with my wife during her time in Labé, Guinee, West Africa a few years back. She’s a mother to a smart young woman schooling in Conakry. Aicha ran the household, she cooked the meals, she tended to almost everything, and she still had a little time to muddle through my poor few words of french and giggle over coffee. And she makes fish (Echeke) so good I rhapsodize about it to whoever will listen.

My old barely-casual acquaintance, miss Kate Sullivan – she blogs. She has been for some time and it’s my own damage that I hadn’t noticed until now. I just stumbled upon her again the other day. I look forward to delving into her rich trove of blog posts in my summer’s reading.

She recently wrote a post about Things We Maybe Shouldn’t Blog About. I had to appreciate it on many levels. I have a spouse, I am not a poo-flinging monkey living in a box under a bridge. I just don’t talk about a fair number of things online because they’re none of anybody’s business unless I choose to make them so.

And remember what I was saying about choice?

It isn’t paranoia to keep some of your cards close to your chest if the world itself has taught you that some things are best left unsaid. The world beats us all to a bloody pulp eventually, and I hear tell nobody gets out of here alive. So let’s make the best of it. Maybe I’ll feel more freedom, or if that’s not what’s lacking, then perhaps confidence – to write about things which have thusfar remained unsaid.

There are so many places to begin.

The third place I meant to touch on…the last thing I meant to bring up here is WHAT I blew through. Which paradigms got busted?

Well, NaNoWriMo winners get a coupon for a free proof copy of their novella. We only need pay shipping. I’ve actually finished up the first NaNoWriMo-Novel I did and plan to send for my proof copy soon. Just a few changes to make, minor edits made in ink on the first printout.

I recalled hearing Kevin Smith talk about Tweetbooks, or perhaps it ended with a Z, I dunno. It began to occur to me, and swept over me all sudden like woosh – that the various sites I’ve been blogging, tweeting, posting on and uploading to for the past several years. They are NOT intangible!

The teenager, the pre-teen who once dreamed of having his own words in a paperback book like Garrison Keillor, Piers Anthony, Stephen King – I don’t know if I ever dreamed that I’d have ALREADY written several books worth of material by the time affordable print-on-demand technology caught up to my overactive muse and the decade of digital babble already spent out there on the net right now.

I wanted a proper edited-and-professionally published paperback indistinguishable from what I bought on the racks at the drug store or borrowed from the squeaky wire rack at the library, but with MY words inside.

Yesterday when applying the same “survey of what is available” tactics I used last month on searching for a new cellphone to DIY pdf-to-print books made “on-demand” I busted out laughing.

I will probably, in the next year, end up paying quite reasonable sums of dollars for books to sit on my shelf. Far more professionally packaged than the 3-ring binder of printouts I gave me mum years ago.

To serve my youthful vanity, put a once-upon-a-dream to bed nicely. I may get a Twournal printed with my first year’s tweets. I could see a row of book spines, each with my name, one for LJ, one for my deleted myopera, one for myspace.

It would make it a lot easier to flip through that history, MY HISTORY, having it right here on the shelf at my fingertips like The Elements Of Style, A People’s History of the United States, or Custer Died For Your Sins. Might build that confidence we were speaking of before…

I made a PDF ebook from my LiveJournal posts at a pivotal turn in my life using a different site whose name escapes me. But the pdf file is nicer than the rough HTML grabs I made for backup.

I lost a blog – inexplicably deleted – from my.opera.com’s community. But the wayback machine helped me recover those years of my writing. Most if not all of it. And now with the new tools and businesses offering various methods to turn those blogs into printed books, even ebooks…

…how long before I at least have a shelf with 4-6 books of my various blogs and the years I posted to them?

And if my family or friends wanted to have those, I might be okay with that.

Would I ever want to publicize, monetize, perhaps even get all capitalist and SELL them?

Stranger things have happened. And these are quite possibly The Most Interesting of All Possible Times.

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