Posted in Being human, cats, language

Eighties computer memories: PAWS

People often ask me how I learned to type so fast.  I don’t think they’re prepared for how normal my answer is (nor do I  think they’re always intending to ask me the same question I think they’re asking when they say it).  Because I tell them, and then I later hear it getting repeated in forms so garbled I can’t figure out how they came up with it.

It really goes like this:

I was in mainstream school for grade school (went to a public school up to fourth grade, private school repeating fourth grade then after).

I learned to touch-type the exact same way every other kid in my class at my second school learned to touch-type.  I just happened to do it more often and more persistently than most, for lots of reasons.  We had little patches we could get for learning and passing tests for different keyboarding speeds.  I practiced at the same computer program everyone else did (except much more constantly than anyone I met), until by the time I left that particular school I had a patch for 120 words a minute.  (They started at 20 or 30 and you worked your way up by 10s, if I recall correctly.)

Screenshot from Microtype Paws, with a picture of a keyboard, a cat with a smiling face, the practice line “He had cake and cola near the lake,” and a speed score of 140 words a minute.

There were probably a lot of reasons I did this more often than most kids.  But the main one was that I really liked cats.  And the computer program  (called Paws) that taught us typing was cat-themed.  That’s really all.  That and I enjoy things other people often find tedious or repetitive, and I have the potential for really good muscle memory.

But seriously?

It’s not complicated.

I just used a computer program I happened to be really drawn to.

Over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over.

For years.

And I had the right combination of skills, interests, and opportunity to benefit from that constant repetitive practice.

Also, I didn’t have an Apple at home, so I couldn’t use the computer program at home.  And, as I said, I loved the part about there being a cat.  So I played it like it was a game, and I worked my way up the speeds until I hit 120 words a minute.

I wasn’t the fastest kid in school by any means, either.  I was up near the top but there were a couple kids who got up to 130 or 140.  Which are speeds I can do now, but not then.

People seem to expect me to have been in some kind of 100% disability-segregated environment my entire life (no) and to have always had the exact same combination of abilities and difficulties they see at whatever point in time thy met me (no, no matter what those abilities are).  So somehow I tell people I learned to type using a computer program with a cat in it, and it morphs in their head into some weird story about a program (as in “special disability program” — no) that taught me to communicate (no) using an extra-special keyboard (no) that was decorated with cats (no).  Or things along those lines.

No.  I went to a grade school/middle school for a few years, that had a very nice computer lab full of Apple IIe and IIGS computers (I loved the IIGS keyboards, they had relatively thin flat keys that were much easier on my fingers than the big clunky IIe keyboards).  We didn’t have Apples at home so that in itself was a novelty.  I spent a lot of time in there playing the same keyboarding game that all the other kids learned to type on.  I just spent more time doing it than most kids did.  And, as I said, had the skills and opportunities to make use of that practice in a way where my performance improved with time.  And that’s really all there is to it.

Oh also, Paws had a combination of different typing games.  There was usually a tutorial, some stuff typing the specific letters you were learning, some stuff using those letters in words and sentences, and a few different games involving the cat himself.  We also had to, at more advanced stages, do typing tests using a part of the program that timed your typing on a full screen for a certain period of time, typing entire paragraphs.  That part annoyed me a bit because it was one of the few parts of the program where the cat wasn’t pictured.

I suspect Paws is far too slow and retro and uncomplicated for most modern kids when it comes to computer games in general, but I really don’t think it’s in any way lost its capacity to teach touch-typing.  And I think I’d still enjoy it if I was trying to learn.

Also here is an emulated version of Paws 1.1 on archive.org if you want to try it out.

And just a reminder; Being disabled doesn’t mean your life fits into some kind of Template For Disabled People Only.  In fact, it never does, although some of us hide that fact better than others (and some have it forcibly hidden for us), and some of us appear to resemble the existing templates more than others.  But nobody actually fits the Official Disability Templates 100%, and most of us don’t even come close.  When most disabled people say computer program we mean the same thing everyone else means by it, we don’t mean special disability programming ™ that happens to be related to computers (although there’s plenty of those in the world too).  And unless we have some particular reason that touch-typing isn’t something we can learn, and unless our disability involves our hands in certain particular ways, then if we can touch-type, we’re likely to have learned touch-typing in any of the huge number of ways that everyone else learns it.  Which in my case was Paws.

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Posted in Blogging about blogging, language

Explanations

I’m finding that there are many posts that I want to write and can’t.  Because they all require explanations.  Well, they don’t require explanations.  But without explanations, they can create a lot of confusion.  And then people don’t know what I mean by things.

But then the explanations are hard to write, too.  So a post that would be easy to write without an explanation, just doesn’t get written.  Because the explanation would be much harder to write than the post itself.  But without the explanation, the post itself isn’t going to make sense to people.

And yeah this mostly goes back to language use.  And having to explain practically every word I use to make sure people know exactly what I mean by it.  And maybe if people would acknowledge that English is a living language, it would help.  And maybe if people would acknowledge that words have multiple meanings, it would help.  And maybe if people wouldn’t try to force words with twenty meanings to have only one meaning, it would help.  And maybe if people would realize that the same word can have a different meaning for each person who uses it, that would help.  And maybe if people would recognize the existence of language disabilities (which are not always readily apparent to the average person), that would help.

But for a lot of people — they don’t.  So you have to explain everything, or risk being so grossly misunderstood that it’s almost better to have written nothing.  Because if you don’t write all the explanation, they can literally take you as meaning the opposite of what you actually said.

It took me forever to write that post dealing with how I use different words regarding genderlessness, and that was one of the easiest of such explanation posts I had planned.  There’s another one I have to write now, that’s twenty times as hard even though it’s mostly only about one word.  This kind of thing makes me want to give up on language and hide under a rock.  At least there might be interesting fungus under there.

Posted in language, Weave of Traditions

Without explanation.

A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: "The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others." -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto
A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: “The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others.” -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto

This post is part of the Weave of Tradition series.  Please read the introductory post to that series to understand more about this post’s intent and context.  This series deals with traditions, language, and symbols that mean very different things to different people.

This happened some time ago.  I’ve only now been able to respond at all.

Someone requested of me that I stop using the word homophobia and transphobia and instead use the words heterosexism and cissexism.

The person was polite in their request.

They explained, clearly and in detail, why they were making such a request.  I assume they figured I didn’t know.  (I knew.  In more detail than they explained, in fact.)

I didn’t answer.

I couldn’t answer.

I couldn’t explain.

Still can’t.

But I can say this:

NO.

And I realize it’s important for me to say no.

Because you’re penalized for your inability to explain.

So too often if I can’t explain, I just don’t say anything.

I can’t justify myself.  Oh — I know my justification.  But I don’t know the words, I don’t know how to say it.  Especially not in a way that’d make sense to anyone.

But no, I both won’t and can’t — both won’t and can’t — use those words instead.

And I shouldn’t have to.

And I shouldn’t have to have an explanation or justification.  It’s dangerous to leave people without a means to describe our own oppression, no matter if that’s your intent or not.  (And I know it was not this person’s intent.  But that would be the result.)

So all I can say:

NO.

Posted in Being human, cats, language

I used to volunteer to socialize with the cats at the local shelter.

I loved just sitting in a room with them.

We didn’t need to play.

We sat.

Little messages passed between us barely seen by most people.

The flick of an ear.  A tail.  An eye.  Just for a second.  The posture we sat in.  The direction we were pointed.  It all meant something.

I don’t pretend to have grasped all the communication going on in that room.  Some was by smell, or otherwise inaccessible to the average human, or any human.  Some was cat things only cats know.

But you could get a feel for things.

Sometimes.  Like right now.  Right exactly now.  I wish that I could show things indirectly, with ear and tail and whisker and eye movements, and be understood.

Sometimes.  Like right now.  I know where my ears would be if I was a cat.  (Cat ear muscles and human ear muscles — same muscles, very different ear positions.  :-/   Doesn’t translate well across species lines.)

But as much as I know I am not a cat, I sometimes feel a lot like a cat, sitting in a room with cats, my best communication being in Cat, and feeling helpless to do it in Human.   😦

This applies right now.  This also applies a hell of a lot of the time.

Photo on 8-27-18 at 12.36 AM
No ears, no whiskers, no tail, limits communication greatly.