Cognitive Mileage

Dvorak Right-Handed Layout

I give plasma every Tuesday and Thursday and when doing so, I can only use my right hand to type because I am pumping with my left since it has better veins. I wanted to use the Dvorak Right-Handed Layout but it doesn’t come with Mac OS X. So I had to create it myself using Ukelele.

Here it is: Dvorak Right-Handed Layout (the file is named “Dvorak-Righty.keylayout”)

You need to place it in ‘/Library/Keyboard Layouts/’ then check it in the International preferences to use it. I typically ‘Show Keyboard Viewer’ from the International menu when using it so I know which keys are which.

I subscribe to John McCain’s newsletter to see what they are telling their supporters. I also respond to these newsletters when I feel they are misleading.

Obama recently made a comment about small-town Americans being bitter:

It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

He later realized that this was worded poorly and prone to distortions. He clarified the statement to mean:

So I said, well you know, when you’re bitter you turn to what you can count on. So people, they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country.

In today’s edition of McCain’s newsletter:

These hard working men and women aren’t “bitter”. They love their country, their faith, their family and their traditions.

My response:

I think you are wrong, Rick. My father lives in a small town in Kansas. He sounds thoroughly disillusioned with politics. He doesn’t really trust McCain, Obama, or anyone else to actually deliver on the promises they make about their presidency. For too long he has seen presidents enter office and not deliver on their promises.

These people may love their country. But they don’t believe in its politics. If my father votes for John McCain it will not be because he actually believes McCain will do something positive for America. He would probably vote for McCain based on religious preferences and because McCain is the most conservative of the three candidates. And that is exactly the point that Obama was making.

Hillary Clinton was also milking the comment for all that it was worth. Obama’s humorous and fairly light hearted synopsis of her reaction can be found here.

I subscribe to the Hillary Clinton newsletter to see what they are telling their supporters. I also respond to these newsletters when I feel they are misleading.

In today’s edition, they said (and have said similar things on many occasions):

We face an opponent who has a virtually unlimited war chest, who is breaking records to spend whatever it takes to win.

Here was my response:

This is very misleading. You make it sound like Obama is a millionaire dropping millions out of his own pocket to win. Obama has a virtually unlimited “war chest” because Obama has an unprecedented amount of supporters making small donations. This isn’t one man trying to blaze his own way with his own money for the sake of personal conquest ; it is someone standing on the shoulders of over a million enthusiastic financial supporters. Obama hasn’t spent a dime of his own money for his campaign. You, on the other hand, have spent $5 million.

So, in short, I resent the fact that your emails constantly paint Obama like some rich fat cat who is using his money to bully you. He has more money because more people support him. He’s winning more delegates because more people support him. If he wins the race it will be, you guessed it, because more people support him.

If you want to stay in the race until you have officially and unequivocally lost, that is your right and I respect you for fighting. But you would have more dignity if you would just admit upfront that Obama is winning because he is doing a good job. Not because he has some unfair personal “war chest”; not because he is using “words” to mislead people. But because he has a genuinely good plan for America, because he inspires people, and because people feel he genuinely understands their dreams, their needs, their struggles, and their concerns.


I subscribe to the Hillary Clinton newsletter to see what they are telling their supporters. I also respond to these newsletters when I feel they are misleading.

This Monday, they were arguing for Michigan and Florida delegates to be seated in the Democratic Convention:

It’s the American way — everybody counts in this country.

Here was my response:

The problem, Maggie, is that when these people voted, their states did it specifically and intentionally against party rules. For that reason, supporters of candidates other than Hillary (and indeed, probably many Hillary supporters) probably stayed home. When their states decided to break party rules, these people probably counted on their votes not being counted. And so they, understandably, probably did not want to waste their time and energy due to the uncertainty of their vote being counted.

So this was not a fair contest. In Michigan, Hillary was the only candidate that was even on the ballot. Now if I am an Obama supporter in Michigan and I know Obama is not on the ballot, what am I going to do? Am I really going to go vote “undecided”? That’s not my real position: I have decided on Obama. So my voice is, essentially not heard.

So at least for Michigan, you are mistaken: if you count Michigan Hillary votes, you are, in effect, silencing Obama supporters in Michigan by not giving them any delegates. That is not fair.

The only way to be fair is to ask for a revote in these states and let both Hillary and Obama campaign there.


One of the number one problems for someone trying to implement syntax highlighting on a .NET platform is that when updating the RichTextBox to have the updated highlights, there is flickering. You have to highlight and change every keyword every time the user enters a new character (the TextChanged event).

There are two common methods. The first is to simply repaste all of the code into the RichTextBox and change the text formatting as you paste. The second is to highlight all the pieces of code and color or uncolor them as needed. Both cause undesirable flicker.

Stopping the RichTextBox Window Update without Win32
The flicker comes because the RichTextBox is updating every time you highlight a new word. The only solutions I’ve seen people offer to stop this is to DllImport Win32 libraries and do a LockWindowUpdate on the RichTextBox or send it a WM_SETREDRAW message.

Most people, upon discovering it and being given no alternative, find that solution disappointing. There should be a purely .NET solution, they say.

I’ve found one. I had to: I’m using IronPython Studio and, AFIAK, it can’t do DllImport.

The Solution
This is written in Python but can easily be translated to C# or VB.

def _rTextBox_TextChanged(self, sender, e):
    # Create new (invisible) RichTextBox for processing
    rt = RichTextBox()
    # Make sure the font is the same
    rt.Font = self._rTextBox.Font
    # But only paste unformatted Text
    # to erase formatting on non-keywords
    rt.Text = self._rTextBox.Text
    # Save cursor position
    user_pos = self._rTextBox.SelectionStart

    # Do text highlighting on invisible RichTextBox

    # Now paste formatted text back into original (visible) RichTextBox
    self._rTextBox.Rtf = rt.Rtf
    # Reset cursor position
    self._rTextBox.SelectionStart = user_pos

The basic idea is that you create your own (invisible) RichTextBox within the code, copy the Text (unformatted text) from the visible RichTextBox into it, highlight the keywords, then paste the Rtf (formatted text) back into the visible RichTextBox. That way there is no flickering while you are doing the highlighting.

There is still some minor flickering when the text gets large enough to consume more than a page. Also, the scroll bar position is reset when you edit text above the bottom line of the text.

So you go to the doctor to get a pap smear and a couple days later you get that fear-inducing call: you have abnormal cells on your cervix. You don’t know what that means but you are afraid it has something to do with cervical cancer.

The bad news: it probably is related to cervical cancer. The good news: if you are under 35, you probably don’t have cervical cancer.

The Reality of HPV

So here’s what they never told you in sex ed: the vast majority of sexually active adults (meaning: pretty much everybody) get human papillomavirus (HPV) sometime in their lifetime and continue to carry it for the rest of their lives. Unless you are a virgin that has only been with another virgin, chances are high that you have at least one of its strains (there are about 100 of them). Why? Because you cannot protect against HPV, not even with condomns.

 On top of that, most men carry it and most men don’t know they carry it because it doesn’t produce symptoms in men. In fact, most men don’t find out they have it until their significant other gets an abnormal pap smear. So if this is a first for you, you might want to inform your man that sometime in his life he joined the ranks of the HPV-infected. Tell him I said “welcome to the club”. And also tell him to calm the eff down because it isn’t that serious. Most people have it.

Now here is the punchline: HPV is the cause of cervical cancer.

Does HPV have any symptoms?

Aside from causing cervical cancer? It doesn’t seem like it. Some strains cause internal genital warts. So HPV’s only real burden is the threat of cervical cancer.

What do I do?

Most of the time HPV clears on its own via your body’s immune system. But don’t take any chances: play it safe. Go to the specialist (OB & GYN) that your doctor recommends and get the HPV infected cells removed. Doing so is what has drastically dropped and basically eliminated the occurence of cervical cancer in the modern world. Get the precancerous cells removed and avoid cancer later.

How do you know I don’t have cancer?

I don’t. But if you are under 35, it is unlikely. Why? Because cervical cancer is very slow moving. It takes about 8-12 years to develop from those “abnormal” cells that your doctor found into full-blown cancer. This is plenty slow enough for OB & GYN’s to effortlessly erradicate with periodic office procedures.

The Stages

Precancerous HPV starts by causing squamous cells. These are the “abnormal cells” your doctor saw in the microscope that alarmed him/her. They start low grade and then grow to high grade on various spots of the cervix. After 8-12 years of growth and incubation, they turn into cervical cancer and spread to the uterus and then other parts of the body just like any other cancer. And, like any other cancer, they become something lethal.

HPV Vaccine

If you are between 14-25, I highly recommend getting the vaccine for HPV (if you can afford it). Or (what is more likely), if you had this experience and would rather save your daughter from it, get her the vaccine if you can afford it. The vaccine has been shown to protect against the most cancerous strains of HPV. That way, you won’t have to get the somewhat painful and inconvenient periodic office procedures to remove the HPV cells when the HPV gets out of control.

You keep saying “periodic”. What do you mean? Is it going to come back?

From what I know about HPV, it sounds like it. Meaning, you will probably get another “abnormal cell” call from your doctor in a few years telling you that the HPV has resurfaced again and that you need to go to the OB & GYN and get it removed again. Some women get fed up with this and just get a full hysterectomy to eliminate the HPV once and for all.

What office procedures?

The one I’ve seen is called LEEP. The doctor uses an electric instrument to slice off the tip of the cervix. It only takes a minute. It is fairly painful for at least a week (especially if you become strongly sexually aroused while playing around with your partner..). I mean hell, he cut off your cervix. But it will grow back. And it typically eliminates the threat of cancer.

My girlfriend, her daughter, and I had to deal with an infestation of brown recluse spiders about a couple months ago. There was a sparsity of information available about them so I thought I would share what I learned through research (about half from several websites that shared personal BRS experiences and half from Bruce Cutler, an Arachnologist at KU).

How do I know if I have brown recluse?

Here is the one easily recognizable unique feature of brown recluse spiders: they have three pairs of eyes. No other spiders (at least not any I’m familiar with) have this. Almost all other spiders have 8 or more eyes. Brown recluse are the only ones I’m aware of that look like they only have 3.

They also typically have a light brown body. You’ll find more information about what they look like here (the source of the images).


The Wound

First: the bites aren’t deadly. They are just extremely (temporarily) damaging and painful. What will happen: you will experience necrosis, meaning anywhere from a centimeter to a few inches of your skin will just die over the course of a couple weeks. It will produce a big dip in your flesh and, again, the process is very painful. However, people only die from it when the open necrosis wound gets infected. If you keep the wound clean with disinfectant, you should probably be okay.


Many sites I’ve been to say something to the effect of “if you get bit by brown recluse, seek medical attention immediately”. This is a very common sense reaction and in most medical situations would be helpful. However, you may be surprised to learn that there is absolutely no effective treatment for brown recluse bites. If you get bit, you will experience necrosis. There is no getting around it. The only thing doctors can help you do is treat the wound for infections. But your skin is going to die.

On the bright side, you will also heal from necrosis if you tough it out and let the skin heal naturally. About the worse thing you could do is let a physician debride the infected skin. People who do this get permanent dips in their skin. Without that (temporarily) infected skin, you won’t be able to grow back healthy skin later. So don’t cut it off.

But if you get bit or aren’t sure if you got bit, my advice is: don’t sweat it. You probably don’t need to go to the hospital or even a doctor (and if you did, there is nothing they can do anyways). You should just keep an eye on the wound and see how it develops. If it becomes throbbing, sharply painful, and pusy, there is a chance it is a brown recluse spider (BRS) bite.


Shake out your clothes before putting them on. BRS only bite defensively and this is how the vast majority of bites occur. A BRS (or any spider) is never going to like chase after you trying to bite you. The only time they are going to bite is when they feel like their death (by squishing) is imminent. This happens most often in bed sheets, clothes, and towels.


So fine, the bite isn’t that bad for an adult. But what if you have children? And what if you just don’t like the idea of having a huge open-wound hole in your skin for a few months or otherwise suffering the pain of a bite? That is understandable. My girlfriend and I were worried about her daughter and we really didn’t want to get bit ourselves. So how do you get rid of these damn things?

Pesticides Don’t Work

First, let me tell you up front that an exterminator is a waste of your money. Like doctors, when it comes to BRS, there is nothing they can do. In fact, it has been theorized that pesticides will actually increase the amount of BRS you have. This is because, unlike other spiders, BRS aren’t picky: they will eat dead bugs. And they (and other spiders) are immune to pesticide because their long legs keep them up off the ground away from the chemicals. So if you use pesticides, you are at best doing nothing and at worst giving the BRS a free lunch.

Fancy Gadgets Don’t Work

We tried sonic devices. I had one of the BRS we captured in a jar and held it next to the device. It did not respond. I also killed two BRS within inches of sonic devices. I wrote a full review about how ineffective these devices are against BRS here.

Manual Extermination

What does work? Good old-fashioned squishing them with a paper towel. After discovering we had an infestation, I went on a hunt every night to kill them. They were mainly right out in the open but I checked every room. Some nights I killed as many as 3. Some nights I didn’t find any. But after a few weeks of this, their numbers rapidly dissipated.

Spider Traps

What is a spider trap? Basically a piece of duct tape turned upside-down. The spider steps on it, can’t get off, and starves to death (or you come by and expedite the process by squishing it since they can survive for weeks without eating). Some upside down duct tape caught a couple spiders for us. Place these near dark, structurally crowded places like utility closets.

Encourage the Presence of Other Spiders

You may be surprised to learn that other spiders actually kill BRS. That’s right: spiders eat each other. How do you know which ones to encourage? Well for one, BRS don’t have webs; they are walking hunters. So if you see any webs in your basement and don’t mind the aesthetic blemish, don’t tear them down. Those spiders will eat your BRS. Basically almost any spider but BRS in the United States (other than black widows) are not a serious threat to anyone in your house and they will eat pesky bugs as well as the painful, semi-dangerous brown recluse.