Friday, May 23, 2008

Pimp your life...or at least your computer.

I've been enjoying the newest Zits comic collection, Jeremy and Mom, my sons gave me for Mother's Day (and although I don't have a teenager yet, Will at 10 seems so similar to Jeremy sometimes! Except the part about girls. He's into knowing about sex, like it's a super-secret handshake that he just learned and wants to use as much as possible with the other secret members but he still thinks girls aren't really worth his time. Thankfully.) Anyway, in one 4-panel strip, Jeremy is completely unimpressed with his boring sack lunch and returns to the kitchen and says to his mother, "Pimp my lunch." Not only did this crack me up, it also got me thinking about other things in life in need of a little pimping!

Computers are ripe for the pimping. Could be your garden-variety--ok, so maybe exotic garden given this collection-- physical modding. But what about the actual way you use your computer. Take my keyboard, for instance. I'm a proficient touch typist, use most of the correct fingers for the numbers and special characters, but my speed slows way down when I need to use some of those upper register keys. One in particular, is a constant problem: the hyphen. I know what you're thinking; it's not even a shift character and how often do you need it? Stop whinging. Right? Wrong. It may not be a shift character but I use it a lot. That's a lot for those of you who didn't hear the emphasis the first time. I use the hyphen key like I use my automatic ice maker at home. Constantly. (Don't get me started on how inferior refrigerate ice makers are. Blog topic # 237.) In fact, I'm shocked that I've only used 6 hyphens thus far. Now my shock is morphing to chagrin and as I continue typing, I'm starting to question myself. I'm having the *** oh-no-maybe-I'm-just-a-poser-and-really-don't-use-hyphens-as-much-as-I-- No, wait! There they are. I told you I'm a hyper-hyphenate. (Erin McKean would tell you this word is undictionaried; it's not a judgment call, just a lack of space in the pan. For more on the dictionary as The Pan, lexicography, and a variety of delightful word humor check out Erin's TED talk.) Updated hyphen count: 24. Phew. I was really starting to doubt myself. Disaster narrowly averted yet again.

***Note: This is a minor, but as you can see annoying, downside to excessive hyphenating; Auto returning doesn't know how to format these phrases so it does nothing, leaving an unsightly gap that requires you to go back and futz with your text. Or you could just leave it. Yeah, right. It is all I can do to leave the above gap here to make my point.

Point is, when you type a sentence normally, it's pretty fast if you are even an average touch typist. You hit the space bar without even thinking about it and you even become quite adept at flinging that right pinkie up to the delete key with only the occasional \ thrown in there which simply requires another tap of the big D. But. If, like me, you feel the need to give a lot of detail, even when you don't have much to say. If you like to try to convey the subtle nuances of a feeling or thought, then the newly-patented Intra Hyphenated Phrase is crucial. Most people can use the hyphen in moderation. Not me; I'm an abuser. If it works for 2 or 3 words, it'll work even better for 8-10. (Rand would interject here that I have a problem; he likes to point out any time I do anything not in moderation as if it's yet another sign of my as-yet-unidentified-but-impending addiction problem. As if putting chap stick on your lips 9 times a day is going to make them drier, permanently. Come on. ...pardon me, my lips are dry...) But once you start to hyphenate full sentence lengths, the hyphen really slows you down. Your thumbs keep twitching to the space bar and somehow it turns into a hyphen/equal sign/delete/space bar/delete/word dance that drags your words-per-minute average waaaaaay down. Not that I'm counting. It just drives me crazy and is a repeated issue I have. OK, so I have a lot of issues; I admit it. But so do you; they're just different!

The good news is I've come up with a solution. Two, actually, but one is less of a pimping issue and more of a training regime (If you are a VIM user, you'll see the brilliance of creating a macro to change a given set of text's spaces into hyphens in one keystroke. I haven't done this yet but think it will work and need my geekier-than-me [which, btw, is meant as a compliment, as in smarter-than-me; more-skilled-in-this-area-than-Jen.] husband to help me create it. Say, my hyphen use is accelerating!) No, what I'm thinking is a way to improve my keyboard, but in a somewhat flamboyant and is-that-really-necessary? fashion, hence the eyebrow-raising verbing of 'pimp'. I call it the hyphen lock and it would toggle the space bar just like the shift/caps lock. That way anytime you needed to start hyper-hyphenating, you'd just hit the hyphen lock and until you tapped it again, every time your thumb pressed the space bar, you'd be hyphenating your spaces. It would be totally awesome! (and Jenny becomes her 17-year old self again, momentarily, reliving Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.) Of course, at first glance it could easily go unnoticed, unless, of course, you go for the full Pimp Job, adding some bling to that key. Rhinestones, or maybe painting it fuschia w/ some zebra stripes? I don't know; I'm still working on that part.

So, if you are, or know of, a custom computer builder that could actually mod my keyboard this way, please let me know! It would seriously make my daily life better. I would smile contentedly every time I tapped the key (which you know would be frequent!), and I would be the envy of all type-A-Enthusiast-hyper-hyphenate-writers-and-or-typers everywhere!

Final hyphen count: 54

A final note...

The only sad part? I can't start adding "Pimp my ___" as part of my ever-expanding Favorite New Slang. I mean, really, if you heard one of my boys at school talking about pimping their backpacks, wouldn't you be worried?


  1. Ok. Multi-part comment incoming:

    1. If we weren't related, you would totally be my friend. This is a huge, huge, huge compliment (ok, maybe just a compliment and it's my ego that makes it huge). Every time we hang out, I realize this more.

    2. Hyphens are awesome and I'm going to try to figure out your hyphen-lock. May be hard to do on an all application basis, but I guarantee I can figure something out per-application, like you're talking about with WIM.

    3. I'm really disappointed that you got me all excited about saying "Pimp my ____" and then ended by saying it would be a bad influence on my child. You're right, but I'm still disappointed. Now I know why Pop was so excited when we were old enough that he didn't have to self-edit.

    4. My personal ideal "Pimp my Computer" is the rotating quote of the day on either desktop (preferred) or screensaver (easier, but not as cool as my screensaver is almost never on). I want to provide a list of quotes and have it automatically cycle through them on my desktop, preferably with groovy fonts and some nice transitions. I could probably do it with Motion if I had my act together.

    5. If you haven't gotten a gesture software for your computer (and you regularly use a mouse -- seems tricky for a touchpad), gestures are a key "Pimp my Computer" item. I may have to get some again (I was addicted in grad school and then changed computers). Gesturing to open a new tab or go back or forward is a nice personalized alternative to the key-commands I'm addicted to.

    6. More hyphens is better. And not just because we're glutton personalities. *grin*

  2. Hyper-hyphenators unite! We should start a club! Or maybe a support group? We could call it the I-use-a-lot-of-hypens-so-get-over-it Club! Are you in?

    PS - I tried to post this comment last week, but there was some blogger weirdness and then I forgot. Whoops!

    So, has your blog come out of the closet? Or did Janie just stumble upon you?

  3. Well, at least we know we have 3 members for our Hyper Hyphen Club! :-)

    Oh, and the blog is still in the closet but the door's wide open. I told Janie about it while she was here for the Twilight Premiere (see new blog) and I see it coming up in our conversations when we visit The Fam for Christmas so I suspect it will be completely outted soon. But I haven't started wearing my Bloggers Anonymous t-shirt just yet.