Apr 30, 2011

Adventures of a touch typist

A scene from work: My boss comes over to talk to me, and I am typing something, and continue to do so as I look up at him to answer him. He stares in horrified fascination at my fingers accurately producing words on the screen without me looking, and finally can't stand it any more and orders, "Look down! Look down!"

It became a running gag between us.

Me, I can't remember when last I saw another person typing with all ten fingers. Touch typing.

I see a lot of typing, but it's all done with two or four fingers, evenly distributed between two hands.

I did have another boss who typed with four fingers and he was as fast as me with my ten (nine, actually. I don't use my left thumb.).

I know how to touch type because my family advised me to take typing classes in school. I discovered I sucked at typing itself—never getting beyond 30 words per minute if I wanted to avoid mistakes—but I was very good at the non-typing stuff: Adjusting margins, changing ribbons, setting tabulator stops. No hitting space umpteen times to indent text for me!

One reason for not being a good typist is that I have a weak left pinky, the very finger used for all those A's. (And shift and '.) Manual typewriters required a lot of finger strength, and my left pinky didn't have enough. What a godsend electric typewriters were! You'd hardly touch the keys, and they'd type! Oh, my, all the extra, unwanted letters! What a godsend correction tape was! (And I got to be very good with that, too, but that didn't increase my typing speed.)

At some point, I had enough time on my hands to practice and managed to get up to a good 70-80 wpm of error-free typing on an electric typewriter—the speed of a professional typist. And then came computers and I learned to punch numbers on the numeric keypad without looking. (Another boss I had used to watch me tally up dozens of numbers on a large calculator just to see my right hand working so independently of the rest of me.)

And then came Norway. Where I applied for a job and had to take a typing test, and watched the face of my interviewer—as she scanned my test—change from professionally interested to absolutely baffled. Before keyboard standardization, the extra Norwegian vowels æ, ø and å occupied the keys that now have comma, period and dash. So all my periods were æ's. (Those letters are now clustered around L and P on Scandinavian keyboards.)

I got the job. "I was listening, so I know you know how to type," my interviewer, now new supervisor, said. I figure my speed was about 75 wpm.

So what has me typing this blogpost? 35 years of left-pinky-on-a, right-thumb-on-space and a whole lot of other automatic habits—the physical memories in my fingers—means that I also hit Enter or Carriage Return (CR) automatically, too, when I want a new paragraph. (On a manual typewriter, you'd have to return the carriage yourself; "Enter" only moved the paper down a line.)

Which comment fields and blog windows and word processors and e-mail and Google Groups* all acknowledge and use. Tap Enter/paragraph key and get a new line with your cursor at the left of the page.

But not Facebook. They changed their interface about a month ago and made it so that tapping Enter meant posting your comment. A lot of chopped up comments showed up and are still showing up because of this. If you want a new line or a paragraph, you have to use shift-Enter or something.

Which breaks my stride as a touch typist.

And that breaks my concentration.

Not only that, it made me hesitate when wanting to make a new paragraph in blog comments and such, and that's when I got very annoyed with Facebook. I have chosen to no longer participate actively there because I want to keep a 35-year-old habit that works very well everywhere except on Facebook as of April 2011.

Obviously, there are no touch typists working for Facebook.

*) The reason for needing paragraphs was a Facebook discussion group that of course led to long answers rather than short comments. Too bad hardly anyone uses Google Groups or Usenet for that sort of thing, which have the right interface for group discussions: Threaded messages show who replied to what, which also means that there's room for digressions (thread drift) that can be as valuable as the original topic.

Apr 18, 2011

I love you. Thank you.

Some time last month, I was listening to a new spiritual podcast, and the speaker said that we can all heal ourselves and each other by stating, "I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you." Apparently, this series of four short statements healed all the patients of a psychiatric facility, simply by being uttered by a doctor while he was looking at the patient files.

I was intrigued.

So I googled the phrase and discovered it comes from a Hawaiian spiritual ritual called ho'oponopono.*

I found a blogpost that described this "cleaning" process. I found an online article claiming that you can heal the whole planet with ho'oponopono because everything that comes into your sphere of experience is your responsibility.** I searched Amazon for books describing ho'oponopono. I bought Mable Katz's book "The Easiest Way".***

And her title may not be an exaggeration.

After reading her short book, I have replaced my usual rituals for starting my day with simply repeating over and over, whenever I manage to remember (i.e. brain not occupied with other thoughts) either "I love you" or "Thank you".

The "Please forgive me" part is for addressing mistakes or bad behavior. Then you say to yourself, "Please forgive me for whatever made me do this." (You can be specific.) The nice thing is that you don't have to actually know what mechanisms triggered you into bad feelings or reactions.

Here's the deal: Ho'oponopono is about erasing whatever junk is stuck in our subconscious. These subconscious memories get triggered and replayed over and over, and make us react inappropriately. You don't have to know what the memories actually are, however. The Universe knows. Your inner child knows. You just have to start the process of healing or cleaning by asking to be forgiven.

I haven't done that consistently yet. I am still reading Katz' book, so this is all so fresh, it has to sit on the window sill and cool for a bit.

But the experience so far is so fun and encouraging, I want to share it now, not later.

My usual ritual for starting my day consists of some breathing exercises and lots of affirmations, usually said silently as I walk to work. These have become, I realize, virtual crutches, but my personality has a limp so the affirmations help. Repeating them until they "stick" (I agree with them) focuses my mind and my feelings and I can feel the difference.

Anything repetitious will focus the mind. This is the function of a mantra. The mantra can have meaning or be a nonsense sound. But imagine walking around, repeating in your mind "I love you" or "Thank you" while looking at other people, at complete strangers.

That reminded me of the experiment I did once, asking God to teach me to find God in other people. Wandering through one's day, dwelling on "I love you" or "thank you" whenever the mind remembers has a similar effect: It makes me warmer, friendlier, more tolerant and compassionate, more joyful. The day becomes happy.

I'm actually amazed at the profound effects of such a simple technique. I had a good test on Friday because I was attending a class with the same instructor for the third time. The last time I was there, I snapped at him (he kept calling me "missy", which was funny up to a point, at which I snapped). This time, my behavior was more focused and interested, and his was more respectful and also interested. A chance comment on my part had him and his co-worker enthusiastically finding books I could borrow so I can spend Easter learning Wordpress. (Thanks, guys! :-D)

All I do is say "I love you. I love you. I love you." or "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." Should an annoyance or critical thought pop up in my mind, I say a series of I love you's. Back to peace.

Katz says that since you can't listen to someone and be reciting "I love you" in your head at the same time, pay attention to the speaker, then say, "Thank you, I love you" (for example) before replying. Your reply will then be far more appropriate.

There are pleasant side-effects to ho'oponopono. The usual ones: Clean yourself, find yourself. Find yourself, become happy. Become happy, become rich. Something like that (which some of the links above get into). Although Katz mentions this, the focus of her book isn't wealth and success; it is on healing or cleansing. Her point is that as long as you keep letting past pains call the shots, you can't be your best self.

There is much more to ho'oponopono than what I've outlined here or than what Katz presents in her book, but that requires delving into the religious traditions of the Hawaiian Kahuna. Katz's version may not be traditional, but it does seem to work, and to work without harm.


*) The book I have read is based on the modern practice.

**) A comment on Amazon left for Joe Vitale's book suggested not taking on someone else's problems because you may make bad karma for yourself.

***) While reading the blogpost and an excerpt from Vitale's book, I kept struggling with the Hawaiian word. It wasn't until I was reading the excerpt from Mabel Katz's book that I realized how to pronounce ho'oponopono, so I took that as a sign and bought her book.

Apr 17, 2011

The Third Leg Theme (heh)

Black and white and grainy video is very forgiving. Now I know how Rolf Harris did it, but as a child, I was completely baffled by how he got that third leg to act like, well, a third leg. In spite of knowing the secret now, I must say that this bit still makes me laugh. I can better appreciate both the funny lyrics and the visual gags.