Input devices Keyboards I have known and loathed –

– Keypunch (ka-chunka . . . “Damnit!”). The only CS course I failed was because I had to use a keypunch (well, and submit my programs for next-day turnaround).

– ISC Intecolor (0-key rollover, very bad — you had to completely let up on a key before pressing the next one even a little bit)

– Omron something-or-other. Required a roughly 13-key sequence to put it in the right speed and duplex every time it crashed. Yes, a terminal that crashed. Often.

– Atari 400 membrane keyboard (“Like typing on a formica table top”). Though I wrote my first real video game on this machine (in assembly), and I eventually got proficient, the keyboard was quite painful to type on.

– Kinetics ergonometric keyboard (“Who ever uses escape? Let’s make it a little plastic nub up on the corner.” Sheesh).

– Any number of hideously bad keyboards with F-key madness (“Ours is better because we have sixty five additional F keys you can map”), capslock insanity (“No one ever uses this key, so let’s make it just fucking huge, okay?”) or similar stupidity (like putting arrow keys in a vertical or horizontal rows).

Input devices Keyboards I have known and liked –

– ASR-33 Teletype (ka-chunka).

– The Cherry-based keyboard on my first computer. Lovely, N-key rollover. Capslock in the correct place (practically off the keyboard). You haven’t seen one of these.

– A keyboard sample for a rev of the Atari ST (truly wonderful feel) — they chose the cheaper, much inferior keyboard.

– Original PC keyboard (“I love this thing, but my neighbors are going to beat me to death with it.”)

– VT-100 keyboard (with the leads to the speaker clipped, of course)

Now I use Microsoft ergonometric keyboards, going through one every three years or so (they either get ooky, or something stops working, or a nifty new model comes out). MS appears to be screwing things up (e.g., F-lock, arrow layout), and I’d consider stockpiling a few for the coming decades if it weren’t that the cabling interface is likely to change every five years or so.

Me and Ms Bee

I don’t personally know anyway who gets along well with bees. The beekeeping literature (e.g., The Queen Must Die) waxes poetic about the critters, saying that they are essentially harmless if you treat them well, but most of my experiences have been on the negative side. I’m not allergic to bee stings, I guess that’s a positive.

– – – –

Once upon a motorcycle, traveling at excessive and unlawful speed along a country road, I felt a bee go into my jacket. It was hot out, I had left the jacket partway open for ventilation, and now I would pay. There was a moment of denial on both of our parts, then the bee confirmed its presence by buzzing fitfully against my chest. Now, crashing the bike is bad, so I followed these steps while the sucker was buzzing away, moving around, trying to find the perfect spot to zap me:

– Quickly (but calmly) brake to a stop, making sure that you’re not surprising anyone behind you and that you’re going straight and don’t encounter any gravel. Antilock brakes are good, you can basically just squeeze and stomp like mad until you’re nearly stopped.
– Pull to the side.
– Turn off ignition.
– Put down the kickstand.
– Make sure the kickstand is on something that will support the bike’s weight.
– Get off the bike.
– Ease the bike onto the kickstand.
– The bike is stable and not falling down?
– Take off gloves.
– START RIPPING OFF CLOTHING (ignore the passing, gawking traffic)

Bee gone? Okay. Take a little while to calm down before proceeding.

In this instance, I stopped to get fuel half an hour later. The bee had hidden in my jacket and took this opportunity to sting me.

– – – –

My wife encountered some hornets in our front garden a couple of months ago. This past weekend I ran into two nests of wasps while doing yard work (but got stung only once). Lemme tell you, they do, literally, come boiling out of the hive when you hit them with spray. I don’t think we’ll have a recurrence of one summer when I kept finding dead (and the instance that I sat on one, not so dead) bees that were falling out of a huge nest in the attic.


This piece of hardware by a nameless technology company looks (if you squint) a lot like something that Babbage might have invented…



I have spent two days in our front “garden,” an ambitious planting project of this house’s former owners that we let go for about two years.

There are blackberries. There are frumious snagbush vines. There are wild-and-gone-to-seed Super Seven Hour Itch pods just bursting with burst power. There are Deadly Night-guant flowers (fortunately dormant during the day) that murmer sleepily as I brush against them. Smackdown Strumpets are always closer than you think (and very dangerous), and Patty’s Perfectly Persistent Poison Paranoia climbs other plants and strangles ’em, and will nail you down if you stand in one place for very long. Thank God we don’t have any of the stuff that blows off the Hanford reservation.

Okay, I made that all up. I can’t tell you the name of one plant in the garden other than the blackberries. It hardly seems fair that there are no berries to eat, none at all.

I close my eyes, and I see brambles. It is about as bad as the month or so that I spent playing Quake whenever I closed my eyes (move, run, jump, fire, run run run endlessly run through the corridors of enemy bots). I have not (yet) seen the nest of bees that Lilly encountered a while back. But if I do, or if I do find a frumios whatever, I’ll know how to jump and run run run, I can do it in my sleep….

Monks and water

Ah, the wisdom of Chinese parents-in-law.

We are visiting the in-laws. The Gibber bumps his head on a chair; much crying. Three or four people converge with various remedies (an ice pack, another ice pack, a cold towel). Presently the adults are bickering over the best thing and the child (who had stopped crying and was on the verge of getting over the bump) starts crying again because of the fuss.

A while later, after quiet has returned, the mom-in-law says to me, “Three monks, no water.”


She makes a drawing:


– One monk with a pole, carrying two buckets of water

– Two monks with a pole, with a bucket of water between them

… she didn’t draw the logical conclusion: Three monks returning with no water (no mention of what happened to the pole or buckets. I gather that monks are a notoriously flakey, sometimes malingering bunch).


Over the years I’ve seen a bunch of thrashes, variously driven by politics, someone’s lack of something to do or greed, that lead to the monks returning with no water. Too many people get involved in a project. Some even get so disgusted at the number of people involved in something that they go off and “do it right,” returning with their efforts to stir the confusion of competing solutions even further.

This isn’t a disease particularly specific to large companies (which can afford multiple efforts). I’ve seen it happen in six engineer start-ups, and I’ve seen it happen in three hundred person groups. You get a lot of people involved in something and (lacking a clear, powerfully repeated direction) the result is somehow less than the sum of the pieces; probably the result of repeated multiplication by values less than one.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

This will definitely put the hurt on you. A friend (yes, he’s still a friend, even for sending me this link) pointed me at The Daily WTF. Link.

My mind is still reeling. I wish I could remember (or repeat) some of the howlers that I’ve run across. Simply amazingly bad stuff.

“Basic programs should self-destruct after fifty edits.”
— either me, or my roommate, circa 1985

Comments disabled

After a scumbag spammed FYYFF with about 500 bogus comments pointing to a poker site [fella, we’d better not /ever/ meet in person], I’ve turned off commenting.

Sorry. People shit on things. That’s just the way it is. Those of you on my whitelist can email me comments and I’ll post them. Random commenters will just have to email me and include, say, “please add me to your whitelist” in the body of the text or something.

MT-blacklist was great, but no longer works as well as it did. I’ll probably upgrade / move FYYFF in the near future, and I’ll take that opportunity to toughen things up.

John Sladek is laughing

Behold, the suspect palindrome finally revealed: A Mr. Oops laminates set animal spoor, ma. Link.

… from Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect, one of the early unsung cyberpunk novels. Well, at least cyber. Or punk. Maybe not both at the same time. Recommended.