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Sunday, 21 February 2021


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From what I read, it's good to stretch, to work beyond what you can do - but not *too* much further. So don't try to jump from being innumerate to working with the geometry of General Relativity. That's too large a push for most of us.

I would think that your pool table, Mike, would be ideal. It requires coordinated use of many mental faculties (very good for working the brain), you can stretch as much or as little as you want at any time, and you enjoy it. Perfect!

I can try to learn a new skill and at best become mediocre at it. Or I can try to improve my skill at something I already know and possibly become excellent.

As I've gotten older (I'm now in my 70th orbit of the sun) I've come to accept a couple of statements that give me guidance.
First is I had no idea when my parents were alive I'd miss them so much now that they're (long) gone. There is no substitute for parental advice.
Second, if you had told me when I was younger that at nearly 70 I'd meet so many people who know everything, I would not have believed you. Yet today I am constantly astounded how many people I come in contact with that know everything.
Finally, during my corporate working life we used to have a saying… Dare to be Cautious. Now, I don't think that's the best approach. We need to push outwards a little, keep moving ahead. The more we move ahead, the harder it will be for that which is always just behind us, to catch up. As the old Whole Earth Catalog used to advise, Stay Hungry.

Robert Heinlein (the SF author) in his later (and bigger-selling but rather less popular among the SF fans I hang out with) books frequently has his older characters in the established habit of learning new things (in his case, and no doubt partly because he didn't have to do it, just write about his characters doing it, at the level of auditing college classes).

Dancing, something I've never had any interest in, is maybe an especially good combination of physical activity and mental stretching; a precise template to keep track of and try to achieve, requiring physical work to do so. And you get to listen to music!

Try the Numberphile channel on youtube for some obscure math to challenge the shrinking brain.

Mike, I meant to comment on this the other day. I went to a State School in Ohio (Kent State University). We had a course in the business school that was a requirement called letters and reports. The course was about how to write memos and reports and such. This was the 1960s so that was a common form of communication in business. A requirement for the course was a typing course that each student needed to pass before they could take the course. Now after 50 years the course letters and reports is very dated and really not material anymore in the business world, but the typing sure came in handy over my entire career. I am glad I know how to type without looking at the keys. Small things in life are important. Who would have thought. Good luck with your learning experience. Eric

If you learn to touch-type you'll be able to type faster, and consequently generate more output before the camera industry disappears completely and forever: 97% camera market drop, 2010 thru 2020. Infographic for those who have not seen it yet at https://lensvid.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/infographics-2020-scaled.jpg

Recommended tool: Happy Hacking keyboard. https://amzn.to/2NNjgDk Also available with black-on-black keycaps so's one can practice overcoming Huntin-Peckering Syndrome all the faster, while swearing too.

Don't know if they work with those goofy Apple computers though. Spensive too. I bought 3 in 1998-2000 when they were only $150 each. Still working fine, but good things aren't also forever. Time to buy a new one soon, price no object for excellence.

I'm older than almost everyone here, and I've been through most of the routines people have argued that you need to stay healthy and sane, because I would like to stay healthy and sane. As I turn 77 in a couple of days, I have some recommendations.

-Don't be fat. That hurts, not so much in the length of your life, but in the restrictions it puts on you when you're still (relatively) young.

-All diets are fads. When it comes to maintaining your weight, or losing it, only two things count: how many calories you take in, and how many you burn. While all diets are fads, if you can find a fad that fits you, you'll lose weight and even keep it off. But there's little point in struggling with a diet you hate -- it won't work for you.

-Stay interested. Work if your work is interesting. Be social. Go out to dinner with friends. Games (with friends) are great.

-Walk, do yoga and swim if you have a place to swim. I've done all kinds of exercise regimes involving gyms and weights, and after decades of experience, I've found nothing better than walking, yoga and swimming. When you're in your sixties and beyond, nothing helps like a simple fifteen minutes of yoga stretches and balancing exercises when you get up in the morning. Weight work, in your sixties and seventies, unless you have an extraordinary body, will kill your shoulder and hip joints. Be very careful with it.

-Some of us have to sit, or stand still, for long periods because we work at computers. Face it: it's not good for you if you do it for too many hours a day. You really have to think about that. COMPUTERS ARE NOT GOOD FOR YOU.

-Find a daily routine that allows you to sleep at night. Good sleep makes a huge difference in quality of life. I personally still struggle with it.

-A bottom line (maybe not the only one): move. Simple as that: move.

I wonder if some (lucky?) people find a typing style that matches the pace of their thinking. Most TOP readers would agree that your writing is clear, concise, and organized. Maybe your hunt-and-peck typing style matches the pace of your idea formulation, or even facilitates your writing process.
Personally, I've always struggled to translate my thoughts to paper or screen. My brain runs faster than I can write with a pencil, but slower than I can type. So, good old-fashioned writing leaves me feeling like I am, at best, creating a rough draft outline (and missing the best bits), whereas staring at a blank screen on the computer leaves me feeling adrift, thoughtless, and spinning my mental gears to no purpose. Unfortunately, my work (wildlife and evolutionary biology) is predicated on reporting and publishing research on a regular basis, so... yeah, that doesn't always work out so well for me.

I am 71 and my typing is definitely not what it was. I am wondering if voice typing might be the answer.

Happy Birthday, Mike. You are almost 11 years younger than me (9 days less); I will soon be 3/4th of a century old.

I second comments from John Camp, summing it up as "all things in moderation," and add "rolling stones gather no moss."

You talked about keyboards and mice, but also important is a good monitor and proper eyeglasses for the monitor.

My frustration with the data inputting is spell checkers and autocorrection. Since my writing is technical with many unique terms, I dither between turning it off because its autocorrections are generally wrong and leaving it because it corrects my typing/spelling errors.

For those of us who work at keyboards and monitors, frequent breaks are important, and good to add in longer periods of exercise.

When we lived on the farm, it was easy to go roam out to the barn or the fields to break the routine. Now in the city, besides short breaks we take a late morning, late afternoon and late evening walk of 30+ minutes, with Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday afternoon hour+ hikes in the Mountains near here. The hikes are doubly good because it involves short scenic drives along the Pacific through Malibu.

You are in a good location to take a short break, grab a camera and dog and wander your property. On the farm, I always had two cameras ready - one with a macro lens and one with a very long telephoto for animals. Do you have a bird bath or watering hole? We loved our birds - identified 50+ species of them. And they are challenging to photograph.


My wife was trained as a classical pianist and taught piano for several years. She said something to me once I consider simple but profound. She said, "anyone can play any piece if they play it SLOWLY enough". Really think about that and get it stuck in your head. People say they can't do something but if you can move your fingers, hand, mouth, or whatever, to perform the action, then you CAN do it. You just can't do it as quickly as a competent person...yet. Speed comes later with practice.

I realize this is an older topic on mice/keyboards. And you may already know. You can get expansion USB connectors. I use them all of the time.
For wireless devices, I keep it on my desktop and close to the wireless device.

Anaker makes them, as do others. This search on Amazon will show you what I mean.

Anker USB C Hub, Aluminum USB C Adapter with 4 USB 3.0 Ports, for MacBook Pro 2018/2017, ChromeBook, XPS, Galaxy S9/S8, and More

...I'm a writer, not a secretary...

I took a typing class in high school. If memory serves, my speed at the end was around 60 words per minute.

That served me very well about 25 years ago in the corporate world, when everyone except executives got computers and were expected to be their own secretaries.

[I didn't mean to denigrate secretarial work...all I meant was that I seldom if ever have to re-type text that other people give me. --MJ]

I'm eightysomething. Ive never taken a typing class, but I've tested several times at 110/120 WPM during IT job interviews.

In the past I've used several secretarial services—both have been out-of-business for over 20 years. No need for the kids to learn conventional QWERTY typing now-a-days. Have you ever watched a middle school student text with their thumbs? I'm not half-bad myself. The message on my voice-mail says If you want a reply, please text me.

For me, reading the manual, is the best way to learn. Doesn't matter if it's a new camera, car, computer, driver-drill, firearm or computer program. LOL, I RTFM, YMMV.

BTW dictating to an iPhone works even better than to a computer. I can take long walks while writing, instead of destroying my health sitting at a desk.

BTW2 Sputnic 1 hadn't been launched when I was 14 y.o. Like it or not, time marches on.

Thanks for the Keirsey link! I like that sort of thing. Meyer-Briggs with a twist!

I knew they nailed me when they stated in their description of me, Rationalist are "skeptical of all ideas, even their own." Yes, that's me . . . . but not always.

Imagine a language that does not bother withseparationbetweenwords, that has 40 different options for the English word “I“ and don’t use any of them.

The concept of tenses, gender and singular - plural does not exist. The language does not necessarily differentiate between boys and girls, but rather between older and younger, so older sister and younger brother exist, but not the words for brother or sister. Sibling is simply older-younger:-)

Combining two or three word expressions containing the word “heart” could give you more than a thousand regular expressions. That is how you build complexity into a language stripped of the grammatical tools that European languages depend on. A person with a cold heart is not temperamental (easy going), good heart is happy and heart good is a kind person. Animals would be grouped with tables, chairs and things with four legs, Kids belong to the same category as balls and round objects. So four chairs would be chairs four bodies, while four kids would be kids four balls.

The letters of a word does not appear in the order they are pronounced so me would be written “em” and still pronounced me, just because the e is always written before the letter it is pronounced after...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abugida See this for more.

The alphabet contains 44 letters and all of them are consonants. They do have 15 vowels, they are just not a part of the alphabet. And from time to time they are not written, but implied. So “video” can be written VDO even in English and pronounced as vee-dee-o. In the same way tnn is pronounced tanon “highway”. “S” can change sound from s to t if it is at the end of a word... The alphabet is unique but have similar construction to non related languages.

Now if you need to check the phone book, you will realize that all people with the name Peter are grouped together and Mary would be listed with other Mary’s with the addition of a surname. The problem is that Peters mother became so happy to have a son that she gave him the nickname precious. So everyone knows him by that name. The surname is not used... Mary could be named the shrimp just to make sure that the evil spirits did not get to her. You would only know her as shrimp. So the phone book is a thought one.

Having learned the language including the five tones, I am still fascinated by this rich and old culture. The food, oh the food... The gentle people and their exotic customs.

I am talking about the language you mentioned, Mike, Thai.

Of course you can learn to type fast, just remember every key on the keyboard has two different letters assigned to them:-)

[That's fascinating! How wonderful to have a glimpse of Thai. Thank you kindly. --MJ]

My strong is my left one. PITA mashing my nose against the back of the camera. Following a tip from yourself I persisted with the right eye and in a very short space of time re-learned.
John Camp
Not starting a competition but I hit 77 last December

[I didn't mean to denigrate secretarial work...all I meant was that I seldom if ever have to re-type text that other people give me. --MJ]

Nor did I. My comment was intended to snidely point out the way corporations took advantage of technology by eliminating valuable secretaries, burdening other employees with the work secretaries used to do, then lowering all salaries while hoarding the greater financial rewards this "productivity improvement" gave them. :-)

Why type at all? Use some speech recognition software that can keep up with your thinking. Of course there’ll be lots of glitches, but you can correct these as you revise what you’ve said (you do revise, yes?).

When I have a long piece to write, I jot down an outline with major headings, and then just go for it. The process takes much less time, and interferes much less with my creativity.

I always have a winter project that requires research and learning to keep the blues away. Two years ago, it was rebuilding a stereo system using interesting vintage stuff (to keep it cheap). This winter was to be the Winter of Axes--learning and researching their history and their makers, and then learning to really sharpen, rehaft, and restore old axes. But it has turned into the Winter of Estate Law. Not as fun, and quitting isn't allowed, but still requiring mental exercise.

I second the notion of learning skills slowly. I've been working on one of the Bach 'cello suites on tuba for about 15 years (I started playing the tuba 50 years ago). I'm finally up to speed. And I second the notion of maintaining fitness--I've been fat, and I've been fit. Being fit is better for my goal of dying young--as late as possible.

On the keyboard topic, I bought a keyboard with Cherry MX Blue key switches, which are clicky the way IBM Selectric keys were clicky. For me with essential tremor, they improve accuracy. I've slowed down to about 50 words a minute with no errors, but that's still faster than I think.

I learned touch typing in my first job, recognizing that we would all be using computers routinely starting around then (1980ish). My boss banished me to the conference room--he couldn't stand the sound of me typing manually to learn the technique. Perhaps it was the added colorful epithet every eight or ten clicks. But I learned. Now, I'm trying to teach my thumb to be more accurate on an iPhone. Fat chance (literally--my thumb covers half the keyboard). I'm probably better off with the axes, as long as I keep the Bandaids handy.

Ok well, I’ll jump in and say I’m 70 and during the 2020 lockdown I discovered..... sewing machines! It was the masks... I got bothered that they weren’t available (at first) and started to make my own. I discovered the YouTube sewing community, quickly went from a new cheapie plastic singer to some all metal 80s ones, and then found a 1957 singer 401 all aluminum slant needle by the curb one day. Just bought a 70s Brother industrial single stitch for $300- it’s like the 401 and a Harley Davidson had a baby. Research them and look at the videos of people restoring them. They are early 20th century linkage technology, like typewriters, and like typewriters they changed everything. I’ve got them all at standing height, and they’ve got me up and moving around like the old darkroom did. Yeah, absolutely, discover a new thing!

This just in...

"PRACTICAL TYPEWRITING: By The All-Finger Method, Which Leads To Operation By Touch. Arranged for Self-Instruction and School Use"

Third Edition
by Bates Torrey


I’ve been playing guitar since I was thirteen, but like most guitar players of that era (the 60s) I never bothered to learn to read music. Why bother? The music we wanted to play only existed on records, and sheet music was all written for pianos anyway.

About ten years ago, after retiring, I decided to take jazz guitar lessons to actually learn why I was playing some things the way I was playing them, and how to play more sophisticated ones. My teacher asked how well I read music, to which I responded “not at all”. The truth is I was afraid to try and fail to learn to read. After a month or so of him nagging me every week, and struggling to work out the lessons he gave me - all of which required a minimum of sight reading skill - I sat down in the corner of the living room and learned to read in two days. Not well enough to play a complex piece straight from the score. But well enough to learn the exercises and lessons.

As for typing, I also was fortunate enough to take typing in middle school. Which served me well in college typing my papers on the portable typewriter I got for high school graduation. And then served me even better when I saved a fortune by typing (multiple drafts of) my doctoral dissertation. And even more when I started a career in IT, and have spent most of my life in front of keyboards.

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