Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

New Keyboard

I have a new keyboard. I’m not entirely happy about the situation, though. I had one of the older Microsoft Natural keyboards and it worked well for a long time, but last night, after about the 14 millionth space, the spacebar died. I took it all apart, put it back together, and it worked… for about an hour. So maybe I ate one too many meals at the computer.

I went to CompUSA today to find a replacement, and it’s pretty much the story of my life on the keyboard shopping front. There are a few different major features: nice key action, wireless connections, a color other than institutional beige, the natural split ergo layout. I wanted to get a decent-feeling, wired, black, ergo keyboard. You can’t. You can spend five times as much on a complete wireless, bluetooth-enabled, mouse-included, does-everything-but-bakes-bread model. But you can’t get what I want, which means compromise.

I ended up getting a cheapo $20 model that had black keys and a silver case. (The whole color thing is only important because I spent so damn much money on a huge LCD monitor with a black case, and putting a stock white keyboard in front of it is akin to buying a brand new Porsche and putting those stupid blue-LED windshield wipers on it.) So I’m typing all of this as a sort of break-in for the new keyboard, and I don’t like it. My wrists already hurt, but maybe I will get used to it. It feels much sloppier than the old keyboard, like my fingers slip off of each keycap, and I’m typing a lot of the keys next to the key I want to hit. I guess it will just take time. Or I will have to just buy a better keyboard online or something.

Oh, also this keyboard has a cluster of lame “extra” keys, like play an MP3, search the web, take out the dog, etc. in a little group at the top of the keyboard. They are all marked with completely illogical international logos; like one, as far as I can tell, is a button you push to prevent yourself from getting hit by lightning. A few others are used to change the seasons of the year. Maybe it’s some Taiwanese thing I don’t understand. Anyway, none of these work in Linux, and I don’t want to start down the trail of tears to get this stuff to do anything, because I’m certain you have to recompile the kernel or do a complete reinstall to get it to work, and it’s much easier for me to just move my hand one inch and use the damn mouse.

It is hot as hell here, by the way. Between that and the lack of a space bar, I have not done much writing. I have been working on the book of Bloomington short stories, and I am making progress, though. I have mostly been trying to finish first drafts of stories so I can set them aside and then review and edit them later. It’s sort of the “code complete” level of completeness, and then the editing is going to be working out the bugs. I have about 56,000 words of complete stories, and about 35,000 words of partially done stuff. I want to keep the book under 100K, so I am doing fine.

I saw both Manchurian Candidate and Bourne Supremacy this weekend. Bourne was pretty good; Manchurian was a good remake with some clever updates for the modern day, but the original is much better. The big thing I did not like about MC is that even though the politics were kept neutral by not naming the party involved in everything, both sides are going to point fingers and say it was supposed to be the other side. I can certainly see the left saying it was supposed to be a “neocon” conspiracy and the Limbaugh idiots say it was supposed to be Hillary Clinton. Sigh.

I’m sure I have more to write about, but I seriously need to get out of the house or into the bathtub, because it’s a pizza oven in here. I also need to get a USB extension cord for this thing because it came with about a three foot cord on it, and that doesn’t do much good…

Postscript: I just ran down to Rat Shack and picked up an adapter to use my old old keyboard, which has been in storage since I upgraded my computer in 2001. It has an AT connector, so I had to buy an AT to PS2 connector. Unfortunately, that blocks the PS2 mouse connector on my machine because it’s a right-angle adapeter, so I had to move the mouse to USB, and that totally destroyed Linux. Now everything is fine, except that my mouse is moving five times as fast as usual, and that will take an evening of grepping to fix.

This keyboard is one I bought in Seattle, when the keyboard I bought back in 94 or so finally died. It’s the keyboard on which I wrote most of Summer Rain and Rumored to Exist. It’s a basic white keyboard, no extra hyper keys, no funky wrist supports, no split or ergo feature. It’s actually not white anymore though; after about seven or eight years, it has faded to a sickly yellow, and there’s a lot of gross dirt stuck everywhere. I would clean it off, but I know the worst thing you can do to a working piece of electronics is clean it. Anyway, it feels weird to be on this one again. The keys are dished a lot more, which is good, but the spring action is a bit stiffer, and my hands spend more time on the wood of the desk. My last desk (actually, a kitchen table) in Seattle had worn all the way through the cheap laminate to the particle board crap, and I did a lot of improvisational placement of pieces of plastic, cardboard, or paper in the zone below the space bar to keep myself from wearing straight through to the floor. Maybe I should do that again.

I also added a new fan to the family, a 16″ oscillating number on a stand that cost me about $18. I am sure it won’t last more than a summer or two, but it’s sitting next to me by the desk, and it makes a world of difference. I am pretty sure I will trip on it in the middle of the night and kill myself, though.

I haven’t been eating all weekend, either. It’s just too damn hot. I went to McDonald’s after the CompUSA trip and tried their chicken strips, which were marginal. This was the one on 58th and 8th, which is one of the worst franchises in the city. It’s full of the sort of uppity people who always order the most finicky stuff, trying to order a garden salad with no carrots and lactose-free cheese and then 20 minutes into it, they ask if there are gluten-free croutons or not. Get a clue people – McDonald’s isn’t Whole Foods. Pick a number, pay your money, and shut up.

Anyway, I got all of my food and then the guy puts the large Coke on my tray as I was turning to leave, and I’ve got a keyboard in a giant bag in my left hand, and I’m trying to hold the whole tray in my left hand, and someone gets in my way so I turn further to dodge them. And in slow motion, I watched the giant, 200-ounce drink, barely balanced on the tray, as it twisted, and spun, and went airborne, and… BAM. The explosion of Coke and ice was huge, and mostly went behind the counter. They gave me another Coke, but the whole thing was hilarious for some reason (probably heatstroke.)

I think I will take another shower now.