A Quiet Retirement

Not too long ago, I bought a heated cat bed for Luna. Her age is really starting to show these days, and she can barely get around as much. We noticed that she was sleeping near the heating vents in the house, basically flattening her whole body against them.

Not only does she love the new bed, she hardly ever leaves it. She gets out occasionally if she’s too warm, and lays down literally one foot away next to the cold air return grate. I’m glad she likes it, and I feel better knowing that if she is starting to wind down toward the end, she’s comfortable.

All the cats have had their dental appointments for the year except for Luna, since she’s basically too old to go under general anesthesia safely. That set us back a cool grand, but at least all the cats will have healthy teeth. This is another reason we don’t have more than four cats; vet appointments and general upkeep aren’t exactly free.

It looks like a new “simulator” game will be available soon. I got pretty drawn into Car Mechanic Simulator, PC Building Simulator, and even House Flipper. Well, now Mech Mechanic Simulator should be available March 25th, and that should be pretty amusing. I’ve always enjoyed Mechwarrior bots, and screwing around with those in a more mechanical sense should be pretty engaging.

What I’m really waiting for though is Everspace 2. I have a policy of never buying anything that’s in Early Access, but the YouTube previous I’ve seen of it thus far make it look just about perfect. It’s not the rogue-like (not my favorite genre) that was Everspace, so I’m hoping it lives up to the hype.

In Keyboard news, I’m going to be buying some Sorbothane to sound-dampen my keyboard a bit. I’ve been seeking new key caps, but finding double-shot PBT Cherry profile backlit keys is surprisingly difficult. The shorter body of Cherry profile caps should decrease the key to frame resonance, and combined with making the keyboard less hollow, should quiet things down substantially. I’m not ready to give up on my GMMK just yet!

Until Tomorrow,

A Weirdly Productive Sunday

I woke up today at a time I never thought I’d see again: 8am. As someone who usually wakes up around 5:30-6am unable to return to sleep, it was definitely a welcome surprise. But more intriguing was the sleep chart from my Fitbit.

What’s this? Normal sleep?!

This is practically a template for a perfect night of sleep. Early dive into deep sleep for several short durations, and then a remainder of REM and light sleep. I don’t know what I did, because that’s something I definitely need to repeat.

In any case, I’m going to start adding Pregnenolone into my daily vitamins. Apparently it’s a base hormone for over 400 different systems in the body, and you lose about 2% per year after 30. Given that I have a Dacron patch in my heart which is made of PET plastic—a known endocrine disruptor—this is probably something I should have done 20 years ago or more. The idea is to start low at around 10mg and work up to 50, which seems to be the “accepted” dose for someone my age. It’ll probably be a few months (if ever) before I notice any differences, bet we’ll see.

I fiddled around in the morning a bit and made breakfast, took a shower, and so on. I don’t always get a chance to take everything slow like that, so I probably dragged things on a bit more than I would have otherwise. But as a result, it was 11am by the time I decided to leave to pick up some more cat litter, wet food for Luna, and get a haircut.

That out out of the way, I was in the mood to tinker. So I cleaned the inside of our stove’s vent hood. It had accumulated a substantial amount of greasy… fur? on the mesh grate over the filter, and I don’t think it was clean even before we bought the house. Now it looks practically brand new, which is a relief, because I had already looked up the part number for a new mesh.

Then it was time to try and fix the door to the garage from the house. Recently it hasn’t been latching, and we’ve resorted to blocking it with a bottle of bleach to keep the cats out of the garage when it inevitably pops open. I wish I’d examined the scratch marks on the strike plate before to took the whole door handle assembly apart and lubricated it. It turns out the house had settled on that side and the latch simply didn’t line up with the plate anymore.

This isn’t really the whole story, of course. That door had never really behaved, and only years of scraping would have worn those very light marks into the strike plate. Judging by those, the door had barely lined up even when it was latching correctly. Given that’s the case, I’d rather lower the strike plate by using a chisel, filling the old screw holes with wood glue and toothpicks, and drilling new screw holes.

Is there some reason strike plates don’t use elongated holes so you can adjust them up or down, given that houses settle, or doors sag over time? It seems like that would be the obvious and easy fix.

After that, it was time to try and fix my GMMK keyboard by finally adding o-rings. It turns out, this was a fool’s errand. I should have realized it when I noticed that the larger keys on the keyboard, such as Shift, Enter, Backspace, etc., all produce the expected “click”. All of the smaller keys have an overwhelming “clack” instead.

If this were an effect of keys bottoming out, it would affect those bigger keys equally. Instead, the smaller keys are somehow louder and even with two o-rings to prevent the noise, are not muted in the slightest. There is something about the acoustics of this keyboard—perhaps the modular switch mount points—that causes some kind of internal resonance. maybe it’s the more stable metal backplane, rather than my old keyboard’s cheap plastic.

Whatever it is, it’s distinctly not what I wanted. The switches themselves are beautiful, and I consider them a vast improvement over a Cherry MX Blue. In this keyboard at least, the click sound is lost to the clacking, and I’m not sure I want to compromise.

I saw some YouTube demonstrations of the MSI Vigor Gk50 Elite which uses Kailh Box White switches natively, and it sounds like I expected my GMMK to sound. Better yet, the keycaps actually have legends which include advanced features, rather than just the basic letters or symbols.

Before I take that drastic step to basically replace my new keyboard, I’m going to try a couple of other ideas, such as putting sound dampening material under the keys themselves. If that doesn’t work, I’m just going to write to GMMK and ask them what’s going on here, because it doesn’t seem normal to me.

Until Tomorrow

Cat Scream Fever

Luna has acquired a new skill that I can only describe as “yowling in utter distress”. This has been happening for a while now, but she’s been steadily increasing the volume and urgency with every passing day. With that said, that sounds a lot worse than what’s actually happening.

Luna is old. Super, duper old. I’ve addressed this multiple times in the past. Well, she’s now at the point where she’s starting to go a bit senile. The issue is that she’s now falling into routines, and when something deviates from her expectations, she yells about it.

For example, I work in my home office generally from 8am to 5pm. If I’m in another room during any of this period and she’s awake and wants to sit in my lap, she will be extremely perturbed that I’m not in my designated area, and will sit there and howl as if her organs are failing and I’m the only one who can save her. Of course when I arrive, she’s perfectly fine and looking around innocently as if she didn’t just perform her best impression of a banshee which as been lit on fire and chucked into a wood-chipper feet first.

Yet she’s also rather ancient, so any screaming like that can’t be ignored. There’s really no “crying wolf” when a 21 year old cat repeatedly wails in distress; there really could be something wrong. It’s things which convince me this is likely her last year, but I’ve been wrong about that prediction before.

One the Keyboard front, I am overall extremely pleased with the typing experience of the GMMK itself. The feel of the Kailh box white switches is very responsive and impressively clicky, and that’s really what matters. The other reason I chose these switches is because I loved the crisp and high tink noise emitted by the clicking mechanism. Unfortunately with the key-caps installed, that sound is drowned by the noise from each key bottoming out on the keyboard backing plate. A loud “clack” will vastly overwhelm a “tink” every time.

And unlike Cherry MX Blue switches, the use of o-rings won’t actually solve this. Part of the problem comes from the key stem striking the bottom of the switch itself. I figured this out by testing the escape key. Even when the key comes nowhere near the backing plate, it still makes a clacking sound. Additionally, when releasing the key, it makes another clack when it pops back up due to the strength of the spring causing the stem retaining stub to hit the top of the switch. Apparently there is a way to dampen some of this by installing a much smaller o-ring inside the switch itself, but dismantling 100 switches and modifying each one with the aid of tweezers isn’t exactly high on my to-do list.

The GMMK itself isn’t perfect either. The keyboard comes with a red cap for the “escape” key labeled “Ascend”, which is a reference to the “PC Master Race” meme. Cute. But they have completely neglected to laser-etch this legend, so the backlight doesn’t show through only this key. Similarly, while the keys use a bold and clear font for the key legends, the secondary legends which are clearly present on the samples shown on their website, are completely absent. So media and function hotkeys are a mystery. Yes, I get that function-F11 is volume-up, but I feel like I was misled at what I would be receiving based on their website. This is distinctly less convenient than having a volume roller above the numpad like my G710.

I also keep having an issue with “phantom” spaces, where I’ll be typing along and without touching the space bar, I’ll see a space entered into a word that I didn’t put there. There’s a possibility that this is somehow due to how I’m typing because it happened occasionally with my old keyboard too. My addition of a gel wrist wrest seems to have made the issue less prevalent, so I wonder if I’ve been somehow skimming the keyboard with my palm without realizing it. Having a 45cN actuation force is a bit of a dual-edged sword that way.

We’ll see; I’m not one to give up so easily. I may have to simply order an alternative set of key caps with proper legends on them, and possibly search far and wide for some method for silencing the bottom-out sound that seems otherwise intractable.

Until Tomorrow

Key Bored

So now that I have the GMMK, I decided to see just how bad my old Logitech G710 keyboard was after five years of service. It… wasn’t pretty. Imagine five years of never once cleaning it in a four cat household, and never even doing the usual cotton swabs soaked in rubbing alcohol every few months. Well, imagine no further!

Here it is with all of the key caps still installed:

It qualifies as having its own ecosystem

And with the key caps removed, we can see that the cats were clearly rubbing themselves on it constantly while I wasn’t looking:

I think each of my cats have their own blogs

This was easily far worse than I had imagined. I was able to lift the matted down hair as if it were a woven carpet. Then I balled it up into a pressed representation of my failure as a tech geek. Observe:

I now know the origins of Cousin It

I took outside to hit it with my high pressure air duster. I briefly considered firing up my air compressor, but figured the blower would be enough. Luckily, I was right! Aside from a few stray hairs, it ended up pretty clean:

Almost not disgusting

Next came the rubbing alcohol bath with various cotton swabs and a microfiber cloth. Then I hit it with the blower again for good measure, making sure to really get in there with the attached brush. What I ended up with was almost shocking to behold:

I’d almost eat off of that

Finally came the most arduous task of individually cleaning and polishing each individual key cap with a microfiber and rubbing alcohol before popping it back on. I planned ahead and took a picture of the keyboard so I had a working reference. I didn’t want to dig through the bucket of keys to put everything back in any particular order. When that was all done, I made one final pass with a microfiber to polish all of the piano black around the periphery. And viola:

Almost like new!

This was certainly an adventure I don’t really want to reproduce anytime soon, but the keyboard was so filthy, it really needed a deep cleansing. If this happens again, I could presumably just hit it with the blower and spend an hour with a few swabs and rubbing alcohol while all the keys are still on. Either way, I can now put it in storage and rest assured it won’t mutate in the filth and eventually plot my demise.

Until Tomorrow,

We Don’t Need No

I’ve considered this once or twice in the past, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Colleges and Universities may very well end as an institution. They’ve long since outlived their usefulness as centers of collaboration and education and devolved into mere adult daycares.

Even back when I was attending in the late 90s, it was basically High School 2.0, but with a Boarding School atmosphere and no parental oversight. These aren’t the great institutions we used to read about that once produced by the likes of Newton, Darwin, or Turing. The concept was long since appropriated by the modern inclination to mass-produce.

I was probably the first in my scattered family to even go to college, but by the time I got there, it was a watered-down over-hyped dubious exercise in self-aggrandizement. I would have been better served by going to something like a technology trade school for a couple years. This kind of education system has, much like several components of our culture, propagated itself on the momentum of a lauded past.

Now we have things like The Khan Academy, Skillshare, Udemy, etc. We barely knew it back in the 90s, but the Internet had already rung the death knells for colleges and universities alike. And while they’ve tried to adapt, the fact that online offerings are so slim, even in the aftermath of Corona, is a damning indictment. Worse of course is that tuitions are still climbing at a faster rate than inflation despite a value proposition that was awful even 20 years ago. And of course that also ignores the predatory reference book publishing industry that introduces new editions every year, for all of those times Calculus has changed over the years.

We don’t need any of that anymore. Everything you’d ever want to know is online. Given a proper guide, it’s possible to learn anything to any desirable depth or level of mastery. I never learned anything about databases in school, and yet I’ve written two full books on the subject—one of which is in its 3rd edition. And even that could be construed as an anachronism. Books? In 2021? Why bother. There’s a blog, webinar, online discussion thread, demonstration, tutorial, lecture, or class a mere click away for any subject imaginable, and quite a few that aren’t.

I get that I’m ignoring the collaborative and social aspects of higher (and even lower) education. that’s an aspect that’s not replaceable by Brady-family walls of faces. Humans—well most of us anyway—are social creatures. I never really fit into that mold, but I’ll readily admit I’m a wild aberration in that regard. Still, I understand that quite a few people sorely miss that interactive element that can’t be replaced by the power of the internet.

But the concept itself can evolve and still retain the underlying intention. Satellite branches are not unheard of, and perhaps a more locally-driven approach would better serve our communities in any case. Why go to college when you can hop down to the local community education center and dial into Cambridge for the day? Or maybe colleges and universities can actually call upon their roots. The days of “Party Schools” or degree mills should suffer terminally after these next few years. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I’d love to see fewer locations but better quality. I want the only people in college to be there to collaborate on higher ideals and furthering humanity.

Not everyone needs to go to college. In fact, the vast majority of people don’t. I certainly didn’t. It’s a waste of 4-5 years of your life, and a great many tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tell me what desk job requires a liberal arts degree? What service sector job? The fact that so many of these jobs require such is a travesty that’s forcing our younger generations to start life in so much debt they’re unable to buy a home or start a family. We’re killing ourselves for a line in a resume.

In other news, my GMMK keyboard finally arrived. After assembling it, I liked the click and feel of the Kailh Box White switches. Unfortunately upon testing everything with the key caps on, I found that the keys bottom out frequently, causing a loud “clack” as the bottom of the key strikes the backplate. This clack is much louder than the crisp click I was looking for. Normally I’d install O-rings under each key cap, but these switches already have 0.4mm lower travel distance than a more common Cherry MX variant. If I reduce key travel too much, typing will start to feel cramped. Either way, it’s the only way to silence the backplate that I know of, so I ordered some 0.15mm O-rings. It’ll be irritating to pull off all the keycaps to install the rings, but I need that soft click in my life.

I’ve also been waking up at 5am recently, and usually unable to fall back asleep. I keep encountering new research on red light therapy, and some of it suggests potential neurological effects as well as assisting in circadian rhythm synchronization. Given that stopping Lexapro down-regulated my ability to produce adequate amounts of melatonin, encouraging neurogenesis and augmenting my sleep hygiene routine seem like a good idea.

Until Tomorrow