Friday, May 24, 2013

Still Bummed from Abusing the Mouse

I haven't exactly been able to indulge in much writing lately, and that can be chalked up to several factors: complications around my various part-time jobs, playing online video games, and just being lazy in general.

But the main contributing factor was my mouse which tended to double-click at odd intervals all the time.

This may not sound like much, but for the past several months, this seemingly annoying feature kept playing against me.  Every time I would click it once, it would sometimes immediately double-click, causing unwanted files to be opened or going back two pages at once.  Furthermore, going to the options menu and changing the double-clicking speed did nothing to assauge this glitch.

Until you've had your reliable navigation device act against your orders, you can't understand the world of frustration I'm coming from.  Choosing an Internet browser on the taskbar causes two windows to open.  Renaming a file makes it open by accident.  Moreover, moving multiple files causes ALL of them to open at once.  Trying to move a sentence around becomes an editing nightmare where you have no idea whether your words are going to betray you or not.  Compounding to the madness was that the mouse would sometimes UNCLICK while I was dragging, leaving multiple instances where I would find myself moving a different object from my intended one.  Cropping images would result in either zooming in the picture or editing a smaller piece than I intended.  That lack of certainty made me constantly wary.

And every time these unintended actions took place, I would get invariably mad and actively bite the little tool, convinced that if I pressed down on it hard enough, it would work properly.  This school of thought comes from the same place as kicking machines in order to make them work properly.  Of all the bad influences comics are considered a menace for, this one squarely falls in their realm.

After some online research, I found out that there was probably some dust that was interfering with the controls, which would explain why it was so wonky all the time.  I attempted to clean the sides out with some scrap paper and an air blower I normally used to pump my hearing aids of moisture.  For awhile, it seemed to work, but then things would go back to double clicking again, and I'd be back to my old standby of doing a robotic feral cat impression.  Eventually, I got so frustrated that I actually popped up the underlying clicker cover.  I was sure that having uncorked the surface of the problem area and cleaning out the underlying area I'd been unable to reach would solve the annoying double-clicking.  It didn't.

Experiments made with an alternate mouse confirmed that it wasn't a technical issue, since it worked perfectly fine whenever I clicked once.  I could've simply switched back to the old model, but I'd grown used to the laser guided mouse, compared to the old ball mouse model, and needed the fast movement and ease of progress.  I'm always afraid of trying out new things because I worry that I'll enjoy the new thing TOO MUCH and it'll take over my life, and I won't be able to return to the old ways.  I resisted using the internet and email for years because I'd heard horror stories about people suffering from social addiction.  After fighting an uphill struggle involving having to complete my college dossier, I joined the club of online addicts along with millions of other sufferers.  (Well, it wasn't so much of a struggle, as bowing to the inevitable)  I'm amazed at people who purchase the latest technological marvels in their Beta form even before they've gotten all the kinks out, and are willing to plop down hundreds of dollars on the latest device that for all intents and purposes, may not even work that well, and become obsolete within the span of a month.

This is another common feature of new technologies introduced in comics - outright resistance to the unintended disaster the device causes,
until it proves its worth during an emergency.  So yeah, you can blame comics for that too.
I'm very finicky when it comes to tactile stimulation.  I've worn jackets with their zippers missing because they have non-detachable hoods on the lining.  My shoes' arch support area have to be FLAT - no elevated cushions allowed.  Not an easy feat when everybody wants "pump" platforms in theirs. Trying to find new clothes that suit my requirements is always an uphill struggle, because changing fashions demands that I comply with the majority, when I'm more comfortable with what I'm used to, even if I'm a lone voice in the wilderness no longer being adhered to.  I've kept my old toothpaste cap for years, because the later models feel uncomfortable when I twist them off.  I can only drink Apple Juice from a plastic container, because I can taste the "rust" from a metal can.  (Strangely enough, I have no problem eating pineapple tidbits from the can, because I find the acidic factor works in its favor)  I can't even keep my supply of Apple Juice in a fridge that's different from another manufacturer because it tastes "off", even though the temperature is the same in both models.

This Princess & the Pea syndrome keeps holding me back because there are certain sensations that makes it impossible for me to function without constant distractions.  For instance, I can't talk to somebody if they're facing an open window, because the bright light makes it impossible to read their lips.  That's a biggie, but there are other minor details that I find annoying that keep me off my game and prevent me from operating at full capacity.  The mouse issue is one of them.

I heard that mouses (mice?) were relatively cheap at $10 each, so I was shocked to find out that the average computer mouse would sell for about $30+ nowadays.  And these are high-tech mice (mouses?) mainly used for playing online role-playing games, with multiple added buttons on the side.  But I didn't want any of that - I wanted a simple functional mouse that had a reliable scrolling wheel.

Sadly, the model that I coveted didn't seem to be in stock anywhere I looked.  I'd always been surrounded with similar old models in my household, so it never occurred to me that there might be updated models that operated differently from what I was used to.  I found a few mouses that looked fine upon first sight, but they didn't meet my requirements because they felt different scrolling down than when scrolling up.  I want my mouse wheel clicking to be CONSISTENT.  I found another mouse that was laser-guided, and scrolled comfortably, but it was too small for my hand.  Later, I found a mouse that seemingly matched all my qualifications: it was laser-guided, it fit comfortably in my hand, and it made a satisfying clicking sound when I scrolled.  But the ridges on the wheel annoyed me.

Being unable to find a working mouse to my liking, I asked a computer friend of mine if he happened to have any old models lying around.  He did, but they were all the kinds used for playing online games.  However, he helped me out by telling me that I could open up my mouse, which I never knew I could do because the screws were hidden by the sticky pads underneath.  Once I opened up the thing, I was amazed at the amount of hair and dust that'd accumulated inside.  You know how a corner of your keyboard tends to get dirty without your knowing?  Take a small piece of paper and drag it through the F-number boxes, and you'll get a fair idea of how much crap was in there.  No wonder the thing wasn't working properly!

However, there was a slight complication.  Upon opening up the mouse, some pieces fell out, and I hadn't taken the time to take notes on which part went where.  However, because I'm notoriously stubborn when it comes to accepting outside help, I resolved to solve the dilemma myself.  I won't bore you with the details of how I managed to put Humpty Dumpy together again, but when I was done, I found some pieces of plastic with no idea what they were for.  But the mouse seemed to work fine without them, so I didn't press it any further.  But then the double-clicking started happening again, necessitating opening up the patient again.  After various matching, I eventually determined that the plastic pieces were actually broken off support material that had broken off during my earnest abuse on the mouse.  In short, it's internal organs were a mess, and it was my fault.

I tried to do some transplant surgery with other spare mouses I had lying around, but found out their plastic skeleton designs were significantly different from mine.  Upon further exploratory surgery with different models, I found that later mouse designs had the scroll wheel attached to the cover, which were different from my preferred model with the wheel at the bottom.  I could've taken the easy route and removed the offending plastic obstacles, but my lack of confidence and experience in handling plastic surgery prevented me from doing so.  Besides, I had no way of knowing if removing the offending part would work, and the cover would be ruined if I tried to put it back in the original mouse.  Of the four spare mouses I had, I only managed to switch between two fairly similar models.  That goes to show how rival companies stick close to their competitors.

Finally, in a dilapidated place next to an abandoned library, I found a computer store that sold the kind of mouse with the following qualifications I wanted.  So far, there's just one small glitch - I don't like how the stickers underneath feel when I move it about.  There's just no pleasing some people.
On the left is my preferred model.  On the right is the latest model.
Note where the scroll wheel is attached.
At times like these, I'm reminded of a Wayne & Shuster solo skit where a man was talking about his failed dates:

"I went out with a woman.  She liked me, but her parents didn't like me.  I went out with another woman.  Her parents liked me, but she didn't like me.  I went out with a third woman.  She liked me, and her parents liked me.  

"But her husband hated me."

It's such a relief to be able to move things around and not worry about when the computer's going to turn against me.  I'm hoping the scratchy underside will be resolved in the next few days.  As for the name of this post, it comes from the title of a Dilbert collection when it was still about amusing things other than office humour:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Adam's Nemesis

For most of the early years, househusband Adam had to deal with teasing barbs from his chauvinistic neighbor, Walter, who demeaned his masculinity by daring to stay at home and do "woman's work".  (I might do another post about the man sometime in the future)  But for me, his rival will always be associated with the occasional appearances of his most loathed chore: his washing machine.

It's long been an urban legend that washing machines eat socks resulting in mismatching pairs, and in Adam, this myth was taken to absurd limits.  Most likely, this was the result of Adam dealing with a tedious project on a weekly basis, and letting his imagination would run wild.  The resulting conflict between man and machine led to instances where he was the only witness to the washing machine's misdemeanors, and oftentimes comes off looking crazy to anybody he tries to explains the robotic crimes to.  It's basically a mechanical version of Garfield strips with the fat cat's internal dialogue removed.

Given how much Adam loathes doing household chores, it's not much of a surprise that he would have nightmares involving the machine.  Not bad for an opponent that never even talks back.

Where was it hiding all that???
Oftentimes, Adam has to resort to outright threats in order to get the machine working properly, much like in the same way that Zaphod Beeblebrox threatened the Heart of Gold with the binary equivalent of "Blood... blood... blood..."  In these cases, taking the HAL lobotomy route is the only language these devices understand.  That still doesn't stop them from malfunctioning though.  Consider it their form of payback from kicking their undersides all the time.

While this could be considered a simple mistake, there's unintentional undertones hinted at from the washing machine's malicious grin in the first panel.  If you check out the throwaway panel in the first strip, you'll see that Adam's socks have been somehow snatched off without his knowledge.  And this is a machine that's known for holding socks in reserve until good and ready.  So - a case of mistaken wardrobe malfunction or a malicious appliance that intentionally switched socks without the owner being the wiser?  You be the judge.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Forgotten Characters: The King's Mom

Here's another mini-feature that I figured I'd like to focus on - characters in comic strips that for one reason or another, have been neglected or forgotten to the ravages of time.  Since today is Mother's Day, it seems fitting to start off with the King of Id's mother.

The King's relationship with his family members is shaky at best, what with him either locking up or exiling all his relatives to avoid being overthrown.  Only a handful of them are ever seen more than once, or referenced, and then forgotten later.  Only the King's mother, forced into a life of servitude has managed to remain a reoccurring character.  Though she mostly appears during the middle of May.  There must be some significance to that date or something.
Beware of Streets selling gifts.
For the uninitiated, Joe E. Brown is a large-mouthed comedian in the 30's and 40's who had a broad smile, and could be considered a contender for fitting three billiard balls in his mouth.  (When you're referencing obscure actors from the Depression era, that's a bad sign of being behind the times)  Her earliest appearance I can find has her as an offscreen presence that wouldn't be out of place to the other family members being locked in a tower.

As such, she's the only person who can talk back to the king without fearing the repercussions.  (Though she's still expected to wash the windows and change the sheets)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

To an Early Graves

Back when I described my epic comic find, I scanned a bunch of Graves Inc. strips, but decided against showing all of them at once, feeling that the post was going on long enough already, and wanted to skip to the end.

The other reason I chose not to show these was because I felt that these strips weren't as strong or funny as my other examples.

There are some creators who are reluctant to take a look at their earlier work, because they don't want to be influenced by what they've done, having "grown up", and letting their newfound experience inspire their latest work.  And then there's creators whose early work is clearly an embarrassment to them.  In the case of some Graves Inc. comics, the latter option certainly qualifies.

The comic is lavishly drawn, but in the end, it still designs to show a simple joke.  That's a lot of effort to create a throwaway punchline.  Only artists who really enjoy their craft can afford to focus on this much effort without skimping on the details or relying on helpful shortcuts.  In addition to being a completely inverted comic compared to the saccharine Rose is Rose, Graves Inc. is a dour smog-filled place where any joy is likely to be short-lived.  The last comic below is a rendition of the famous Casey at the Bat poem.  No guesses for how this pessimistic workplace scenario ends up.

...huh.  I guess the 162nd Ferengi Rule of Acquisition still applies: "Even in the Worst of times, someone makes a profit".  One thing that most people who create dystopian civilizations forget - it's impossible for everything to be awful all the time.  There has to be the occasional twinge of victory once in awhile.  That way, the sting of defeat can feel just as overwhelming.  Otherwise, it just becomes a hollow pursuit.  If you never achieve anything of worth once in awhile, then you'll never want to accomplish that high once again.  Having that goal exceed your grasp when you've tasted a win once is more despairing than never reaching it in the first place.

Monday, May 6, 2013

For and Against Cartoon Violence

On Sunday's Baby Blues, the father lamented how today's educational cartoons had been
sanitized to the point of pablum.

Interesting thing is, a generation ago, Adam was arguing against how violent cartoons were getting.  Keep in mind that this was long before Anime started becoming popular and before DragonBall Z entered the fray.

Nowadays, the violence in a typical He-Man cartoon would be considered simply laughable, and not in a good way.  At least, that's what I've heard, since I've never seen a single merchandised cartoon that was captioned, which is neglecting a sizable portion of their intended audience.  Even now with the DVD, they haven't bothered to release those licensable characters with subtitles.  This is also lamentable for the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons, which are remarkable for their humour-laden scripts, and the only reason I even know about their genius is due to a VHS tape collection that WAS close-captioned.  Sadly, the quality was uneven in the copies I borrowed from the Video Stores, and I wouldn't be able to tell whether a tape would have every second sentence blonked out, reducing my enjoyment factor by 80%.  Not to mention I was too lazy and cheap to go back to the store and complain and get a discount or refund.  (Rant over)

In both instances, both big-nosed fathers preferred the current cartoons to the classic Warner Bros. shorts of yesteryear.  Even across a generation gap, some tastes don't change.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Maybe in your Favor

This is their version of "The Hunger Games"

It's the start of the month of May, and you all know what that means - the new year's already 1/3 through.  It also means that it's time for another round of smattering Garfield material!  Joy.

Upon first viewing, this Garfield comic wouldn't seem that out of place from any other regular Sunday strip, save for that Garfield entices Jon to join his antics, which was something he occasionally succeeded in doing in past comics.  However, upon closer inspection, this is actually lifted off from an old For Better or for Worse Sunday comic

Next up is what's possibly the cheapest party second only to the 10-Minute Office Break Party.  At least there, you have the chance of having office supplements to snack on.  To me, the only reason to go to a party is for the food.  The guests are incendiary, and are just obstacles in your path to the buffet line.  Otherwise, why would you bother coming?  Surely it's not for the social status, right?  Right??

Mime Party

Have your guests come as mimes and pretend to have a party.  While your friends are pretending to have a good time think of all the money you are saving on drinks and food!

As an aside, I've never quite grasped the loathing that's portrayed towards mimes, having grown up with the pantomime of The Pink Panther and Mr. Bean.  But then, those are exceptional examples who've excelled in their roles.  Perhaps it comes from the lack of talent of street performers using minimalism to an extreme degree.
Dear Diary... Today, I composed myself.