19 April 2011

As an educator, "I want to work. I want to build something"

If you're following the news (see below*) of the education funding situation in Alberta, Canada, and especially of the news coming out of Calgary, you'll find a lot of very confusing and seemingly unreasonable things are going on.  Due to the way the union negotiated contracts work, and the relatively reduced size of the budget, a lot of new or young teachers — and even some younger but experienced teachers — may find themselves without a job come September.

It should be noted that those contracts were negotiated and agreed upon by Alberta's Conservative government, and now the size of the budget is also controlled by the very same Conservative government!  Is it not fair to say that the entire situation with the teacher layoffs has been engineered at the hands of the Conservative government?  I wonder if they might, in one or two years, ratchet up the education funding just in time for the provincial elections that will likely occur in 2012.

In any case, the situation reminds me of a scene from Mad Men, when Don Draper says, "Who the hell is in charge? A bunch of accountants trying to make a dollar into a dollar ten? I want to work. I want to build something of my own. How do you not understand that?":



(or hear it here)

It will be a real shame if a lot of young teachers will be denied the opportunity to contribute to the building of a better and more educated citizenry, because the government wants to shave a penny's worth off each dollar**.



Calgary’s public school board could cut 324 staff
Hundreds more teaching jobs to be cut by CBE
Provincial education funding falls short
A lesson in pettiness?: Province gives to education with one hand and takes away with the other
Rural students getting hosed

** The imagery evoked is what I want to convey; I don't know if the cuts to education will amount to more, equal, or less than 1% of the whole provincial budget.

09 April 2011

Few notes on ergonomic keyboards and mouse

I'm typing away at a lot of software programming and thesis writing, so having a good keyboard is a must. Here's two suggestions, both of which I've personally tried and has worked well for me. I wrote down a few notes for you to ponder.


Currently, I use a Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000. It's an ergonomic keyboard with a soft curve laterally, and no vertical curve (it lays flat). It's a wicked keyboard if your shoulder width is not so wide, because it has only that slight curve, rather than the dramatic curve of other ergonomic keyboards.  It also has a light but distinctive touch, so it's easy to press the key down, but not so easy that you would accidentally "smoosh" a key down by accident.  The key's travel — how far it travels from the start of pressing a key to bottoming out — is also quite short, so there's less finger motion required to type.

If the Comfort Curve 2000 doesn't fit your body type, you might want to try the Microsoft Natural Ergonomics Keyboard 4000.  I've used that one before, and it's pretty good, but only if your shoulder width is wider than, well, mine is.  Unfortunately, it's keys have a longer travel length, and its spacebar is a tad heavy to press down due to its design. If you're not used to the keyboard, your fingers may become tired and sore the first few times of prolonged usage, but at least for me, I get used to it soon after.  I've used that for years before switching to the Comfort Curve 2000 model, and it was a good experience.

Unfortunately, both of those keyboards, at least when used on a Mac, optionally suggests that you install the Microsoft IntelliType software. The IntelliType software has been known to apparently cause a lot of kernel panics for on Mac OS X — on the order of once or twice a day even, when under heavy typing load. If you use Windows, then this is not an issue (I've used both of those keyboards under Windows XP and Windows 7, and they work well). If you use a Mac, you may find my previous post on the issue useful.

08 April 2011

Mac OS X Kernel Panics due to Microsoft IntelliType: Solution

It seems all evidence [1] points to Microsoft IntelliType causes kernel panics on Macs.  This seems to be a problem that has existed for a long while, from IntelliType versions 7 at least up to 8, and Mac OS X from 10.5 at least up to 10.6.


I learned this the hard way, having bought a Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 ergonomic keyboard. That's a wicked keyboard, by the way, if your shoulder width is not so wide, because it has only a slight curve, rather than the dramatic curve of other ergonomic keyboards.  It also has a light but distinctive touch, so it's easy to press the key down, but not so easy that you would accidentally "smoosh" a key down by accident.  The key's travel is also quite short, so it's less finger motion required to type.

Unfortunately, installing the IntelliType software seems to have caused kernel panics for my MacBook Pro on the order of once or twice a day (under heavy typing load.  That meant I lost a lot of programming and typing of emails and reports.  sigh

The solution is simple: uninstall IntelliType.  The uninstaller is in the Utilities folder in the Applications folder.  But that's not a very good solution by itself, because the Command/"Apple" and Option keys are reversed on Microsoft keyboards compared to Mac keyboards.  So here's the other half of the solution: