O = 0

by Yule Heibel on October 2, 2005

When I was still a “real” professor, I had laryngitis two or three times. It was really weird — didn’t hurt or and was short-lived, yet suddenly the output from the vocal chords was zero. If “Output” were written as “O,” the equation would read O=0. Funny, eh?

We had a handyman at the house when it happened the first time, and he said, “Wow, can you give that to my wife?” Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk — hee-haw funny? …No, not really at all.

Psychologists could have a field day with the fact that I came down with zero-output vocal chords when I was supposed to be “professing,” and now they could have fun with this one: I have a full-blown tendonitis in my right wrist and hand (from excessive mousing in ergonomically non-correct positions on my defective iBook while seated on a broken chair I got from the Salvation Army at a collapsible buffet table that’s too high off the ground). If you write, afflictions like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis are effectually the equivalent of “professional” laryngitis. If the keyboard is my soapbox, it’s all washed up right now. Postings will be lighter, shorter for a while; mousing & surfing curtailed.

Laryngitis goes away by itself. Tendonitis is potentially far nastier and not as impermanent, so I’m thrown into a bit of a funk over this. And, like everyone else in the house already does, I now have to learn to use a trackball. I haven’t found a trackball design that works well for me. But it looks like the ergonomics experts are right.

Ironically, I’m engrossed in Donald Norman’s straight-talking and brilliant book, The Design of Everyday Things. I could give it a subtitle: And How They Can Snap Your Wrists Off If You’re Not Careful…


maria October 2, 2005 at 5:44 pm

Do take care of that tendonitis while you have the upper hand (ha, lame pun); you don’t want to let it get to the stage where it inflames your prose too…

The mouse is a mighty killer of flexibility — take it from one who has suffered its clicking wrath!

Yule Heibel October 3, 2005 at 4:03 pm

Ah, thanks Maria — and you can throw a lame pun backhanded anytime you want! “Clicking wrath” — I like that. The irony of this hasn’t escaped me. Of course it wouldn’t have happened if the iBook hadn’t frizzled on me. First the display went, and that meant that the slightest wiggle turns the screen black, so it’s important to keep the machine as stationary as possible (not on one’s lap, that’s for sure); then the battery went dead and now the thing has to be permanently plugged in to work. This meant that I went from truly mobile (wireless) to at-a-desk-stationary, and that’s why the ergonomically terrible set up caught up with me. Mobile, I could shift and move and settle and rotate, but sitting at a desk — that’s a killer. Do that wrong and you pay the price….

Shelley October 4, 2005 at 1:18 am

Take care of yourself, and make sure to follow the therapists instructions.

Have your kids type for you. A wonderful way to extend their education, vocabulary, and even spend time on grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Yule Heibel October 5, 2005 at 2:39 pm

Thanks, Shelley — it’s a minor thing in the overall scheme of things, but it would be foolish to ignore, too. I did get an adjustable chair, so that’s one improvement, and occasionally switch to the non-dominant hand for mousing, which helps. Now the numb but electrical sort of tingling sensation has stopped. “Decay is inherent in all compounded things,” no kidding!
On the plus side, it’s a great excuse for avoiding yard and house work….

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