Retracing My Dreams and Other Places My Mind Goes

When I awoke shortly after 3 this morning, due in part to my wife jostling the bed as she got up to use the bathroom, I was involved in a terrifying dream. Rather than go back to sleep, I got up and spent about 35 minutes or so recording what I could of the convoluted dream (which, I think, might have been multiple dreams stitched together in my head).  I haven’t taken the time to make sense of what I wrote, so I’m not posting the “dream-of-consciousness” that spilled from my fingers. Instead, I’m posting about typing. Maybe I’ll post about the dream another time. I’ve got it all down, recorded as a draft post.

That’s right, as I wandered the interwebs, subsequent to memorializing my dream, I came across an article on the BBC website about competitors to the QWERTY keyboard and over the years. There’s AZERTY, designed to accommodate French language typists; Colemak, a direct replacement for QWERTY that halves the amount of finger movement required for typing (and which enables the typist to type 35 times as many words using only the keys on the home finger row); Dvorak, which places the least commonly-used letters on the bottom row and makes the right hand do more of the typing; and JCUKEN, designed for the Russian language, using the Cyrillic alphabet. The focus of the article was on the Dvorak keyboard, which enabled Barbara Blackburn to earn a Guinness World Record by typing 150 words per minute for 50 minutes, with a peak of 212 words per minute. I once thought I was a blazingly fast typist when I hit 65 words per minute during a brief period when typing speed mattered to me.

I’ve often thought the QWERTY keyboard needed some help, especially with respect to special characters, such as ñ (pronounced énye), which I find I use quite a lot because of the joy of jalapeños, a joy I wish to share with the world.  The virtual keyboard on my smart phone has addressed the issue by allowing me to let my finger rest on a key and then select  from a drop-down menu an underlying symbol associated with that key. But on my clunky old physical keyboard, I must go to great lengths to find special symbols. Using WordPress, I’m able to simply select, using my mouse, from a drop-down menu associated with a special character set. But what I’m after is a physical keyboard that makes it easier for me to select special characters like these and others [€ ¥ © § î]. I doubt I’ll find a keyboard that will physically give me those options. The size of such a keyboard would be enormous. It would have dozens and dozens of additional keys. Typing on such a beast would be an agonizingly slow process, I suspect.

+++

Last night, I seared a couple of tuna steaks (a minute per side on a very hot grill). My wife then cut them into chunks and added them—plus chunks of avocados—to a mixture of red onion, green onion, Tabasco sauce, soy sauce, wasabi powder, lime juice, sesame seeds, lime zest, salt, and pepper (there may have been more). It’s an Ina Garten recipe that we make at least a couple of times a year. I could eat it every day, if given the opportunity.

We ate dinner outside, on the screened porch, listening to and watching birds. Just off the deck, flitting from limb to limb and leaf to leaf, a flurry of birds we decided must be tufted titmice entertained us with their antics. After looking at our handy “Arkansas Birds” guide, I announced that the bird in front of me was a tufted titmouse. We decided the plural of titmouse was titmice. This morning, I checked what bird authorities called the plural of titmouse. They, too, say titmice. But the etymology of titmouse suggests it ought to be titmouses. According to the etymological resources I checked, the mouse in the word comes from an Old English word māse, meaning small bird. So the plural should be titmouses. But I won’t argue with the likes of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, from whose website the following words are taken: “Look for Tufted Titmice flitting through the outer branches of tree canopies in deciduous woods, parks, and backyards.” That’s exactly where I found my titmice.

+++

You may have noticed the ā in the word māse above. Perhaps I should have known (and perhaps I once did) that the symbol above the letter is a macron. The definition of macron is “a horizontal line used as a diacritic over a vowel to indicate that it has a long sound.” The macron is just one of many diacritical marks (including cedillas (comma-like marks attached beneath letters, e.g., ç), tildes (like the squiggly above the n to make énye (ñ) , circumflexes [yes, like ^, ˘, or ~ above letters], and, of course, macrons) that help us understand how written words are to be pronounced. One could make a career out of understanding and properly using such marks. I am sure many people have done just that, including people who nose about in publishing houses that specialize in dictionaries and their ilk.

Now that I’ve found the above knowledge in online dictionaries and other such places, I think I may once have been the proud owner of that knowledge. I can say I am again. But I had misplaced that information in my brain. It took an online dictionary for me to find it again. That’s one of the prices one pays for long-ish life. One’s head gets filled to overflowing with knowledge that gets shoved out to other parts of the body. I think my knowledge about the name for and meaning of macron was pushed into my right shoulder which, as you might know, has given me fits off and on for many months now. Part of my knowledge about circumflexes was jammed in a spot midway between my left elbow and left wrist.

+++

In just a few hours, we’ll be at church, listening to Janis Kearney speak on “Living My Dream: From Varner Road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” Janis was President Clinton’s diarist. She served in the Clinton White House and co-authored a memoir with him. She’s written several other books, as well. I met her a few years ago and have enjoyed visiting with her from time to time over the years. It will be a treat to see and hear her again this morning.

+++

Apparently, I’m still awake after arising just after 3 in a rush to document my bizarre and frightening dream. It’s now approaching 6 in the morning and my coffee cup holds only evidence that I’ve been enjoying coffee while I type on my QWERTY keyboard. That evidence suggests it’s time to refill the cup with French roast coffee, hot and strong and sufficiently powerful to kick any remaining ideas of getting more sleep to the curb.

 

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Please tell me how this post strikes you.