Dec 132016

Earlier this Fall, I hurt my shoulder and elbow. Right shoulder, right elbow, and yes, I’m right handed. In the worst weeks, I couldn’t find a comfortable way to sit for more than a half hour or so and could barely hold a book to read. Writing by hand for more than 20 minutes was basically signing up for night-long pain, sitting at a computer for more a five or ten minutes was worse. Healing has been painfully slow.

So what do you do when your work and a great deal of your leisure involves reading, writing or sitting still to watch something and suddenly all of those things become competitors for pain-free time in a zero-sum game?

That’s the unexpected experiment I’ve been running chez moi since September. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Work plays trump cards. When I have a stack of papers, all available handwriting time is spent there. Same goes for keyboard time: when assignment sheets or grade entry or email has to be done, nothing else is done at my computer.

My iPad has served as a lifeline to my non-work, digital worlds because I could use it without aggravating my injury. So in the past few months, I’ve had to discover how to make an iPad do real work for me in a way I’d never had to make it do before. Living on an iPad (as opposed to just using one casually on the couch) is not just a device switch though. It demands a different state of mind. I love the physical realities of interacting with iOS, but the virtual realities on the other side of the glass slab are like trying to talk to someone who likes Bill Compton or polka. You can understand the words but not the spirit behind the thing. I want a file system (DevonThink to Go helps with that) and RTF (Devon again, sortof), but I miss Nisus Pro and Tinderbox, both staples of my virtual life. (So many of TBX’s map, outline, text and link functions seem perfect for the iPad’s direct interaction that its absence is a bit haunting.)

And blogging? It turns out that I love the wordpress web interface. I open it on my desktop and I start writing. Open the mobile version and the various iOS stand-ins I’ve tried and, nothing. Maybe it’s the loosey-goosey feel of things without a keyboard, or perhaps the absent file system. Whatever the reason I’m still trying to adjust to the dashboard on iOS.

So what is the point of all this rambling?

As virtual as I am day-to-day, as digital as my work has become, I’m a bodied creature. Physical states matter.

I don’t think I’d taken that into account before quite the way I have done recently.

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