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Touch-typing and PhD

I hate touch-typing.

I guess I never had the patience to stick it out when I was doing my degree, and this followed through to my masters, my job as a tenured academic… and now this ghost has come to haunt me here. It has come at last to the land of PhD, where I am struggling in my final year writing up the thesis.

But why bring this up now? Haven’t you managed well enough so far? Why shoot yourself in the foot now?

Well, frankly, it’s to do with my wrists. And my neck. Several years back I developed carpal tunnel syndrome, which I first realised when I was playing video games on my Xbox. And then it became painfully obvious when I bought my first motorcycle where I could only ride a few minutes before I lost all feeling in my hands and arms, especially the left one. And doing all this typing writing up my thesis isn’t helping either, as the pain became more pronounce the longer I spent time on it. And did I mention the neck? Do you have any idea how painful it is having to alternate between looking at the keyboard and looking at the computer screen? I mean don’t get me wrong, I can type a storm when I look at the keyboard. Like a demented D.H Lawrence on crack, speed, and steroids. Hoooooh yes I can type. But only when I look at the keyboard. And only when I hurt my neck.

The solution (besides spending a fortune on wrist braces and online massage therapy lessons [which have helped by the way])? Go ergonomic. But isn’t going ergonomic expensive? You bet it is. It’s like paying for three seats that the cinema so you wouldn’t have to rub elbows with the pimply-faced school boy who is much too enraptured with his first girlfriend than to actually watch the movie. It’s damn expensive. If I had my way, I would upgrade everything I had to be ergonomic – my chair, my desk, my screen – everything. But when you’re a struggling PhD student who doesn’t have a job, well, the options are not exactly what you call endless. So I decided on an upgrade that would serve me best within my budget – to get an ergonomic keyboard, as I spend my entire day typing.

So I go out and get me a beautiful ergonomic keyboard – the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, the BMW of all ergonomic keyboards. How much did it cost? Well let’s just say the Internet bill won’t be paid for this month; or the next. But it looks so beautiful. And drives like a dream. Or so it was in my head. Apparently, one this that I realised with the split keyboard configuration is that you have to be able to – that’s right, wait for it – touch-type. Uhuh. Yup. Touch type. I suddenly realised that I still can’t touch-type for nuts, and this drives me CRAZY because I need to be able to write down my thoughts at the same speed they’re racing through my head. It’s like buying a Ferarri and still not know how to drive a stick.

So what do I do? I download a typing tutorial software. And I have been practicing on it ever since. In the space of a day and a half, I have managed raise my skills from 15 words per minute to 20 words per minute. Twenty words a minute? Are you kidding? Sadly no. Even as I type these words, I begin to type while looking at the keyboard, am I looking with a vengeance. I am looking like I never looked before. Touch typing can suck it. For now anyway. I laugh like maniac as my finger start flying though the keys once again. Like Lawrence on a caffeine high my soul soars as my fingers become a blur once again. Neck pain be damned I’m free.

At least until I have to get the massage ointment and maybe take a painkiller or three.

Moral of the story: Before you start your PhD, make sure you know how to touch-type.


Cat-from-Sydney said…
Uncle D,
Bila dah balik nanti, my Mama says to see an ortho surgeon, get that CTS fixed. Surely your employer can cover the bill. Mama had CTS back in 2001, had a small surgery, 2 weeks of MC and she's as good as new. purrr.....meow!
THanks cat & angie..

gee I don't know if the uni covers procedures like this. We don't take insurance like we don in NZ. But good as new after surgery huh? No aftereffects whatsoever?
Cat-from-Sydney said…
After effects? Err...she doesn't play tennis, badminton and squash anymore! You can also consult specialist at government hospitals like HKL, the orthopedic surgeons there are good, as well as their physiotherapy department. As uni staff, you are government servant so should be covered. It was a half day procedure, started surgery at 7am and by lunch time was discharged. purrr...meow!

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