don’t let your dog dance on your laptop…or how to turn off a toshiba mouse pad

The Dog Does Dance

Okay, I’m writing this mostly because there was no clear and simple answer to how to turn the Toshiba Satellite laptop mouse pad off (or on) when I entered into a bit of computer laptop confusion last night. My very sweet, at times completely neurotic Blue Heeler Zoa was in her usual you-did-not-exercise-me-enough-today evening mode, and found herself where she usually isn’t: STANDING on my keyboard. I attempted to give her a quick escort immediately somewhat alarmed as she had never been there before. Cattle dogs are a tough stubborn sort – though she doesn’t show it much in the photo above – and she just scrambled around tap dancing all kinds of resistant music on my lifeline keyboard, then giving me a quizzical look of astonishment. Okay, the computer was on the floor, where it shouldn’t be but sometimes finds itself when I’m working a la Descartes, and the floor pretty much is her territory, so it was entirely my fault. She’s a dear, but if any of you have Cattle Dogs, they are a handful breed – I’ve had three – especially if you don’t take the fire out of them on a daily basis.

Well, onto the main, information tidbit part of this. I honestly didn’t know what happened, or even suspect that some kind of crazy combination of key strikes could turn a mouse pad off, but suddenly I was left with a mouseless laptop. And certainly I haven’t navigated a computer with the right arrow and tab keys ever before (ugh). Long story short, hours of Googling around in a second computer in the mess of old forum thread advice that is the internet, trying every sort of reboot, system reset, mouse pad property adjustment, short-cut key toggles, etc.

My wife finally said: What does that button do?

There it is the little devil, just below the space bar and above the mouse pad (but on a decline that makes it nearly imperceptible to a keyboard user). Hey, if I was the type to read the user manual I might know this, but I’m not. It’s a pretty nifty button, once you realize its there. It’s pretty un-niffty that there is no obvious way into this information, or that a dog can undue your internet connection in a second of carefully placed paw-work.

Emotional Charge

It also taught me something about learning and problem solving. The event (my dog where she shouldn’t have been) had a certain traumatic charge that sent me looking for the worst possible, systemic problems. Had she damaged something beneath the board? Are mouse pads so sensitive to touch that they can be blownout like how a microphone can be? Was the keyboard affected too (I hadn’t figured out the Tab, right key maneuver yet). Was it the coincidence of timing (I didn’t notice that disabled mouse pad for perhaps an hour because the computer wasn’t being used) and actually a powerful virus attack? What I learned was that once you let go of the emotional charge, the answer is often small and local. And, it is always useful to bring a fresh, neutral pair of eyes. My wife, who is pretty sharp and brilliant with all sorts of common sense fixed the problem.

Maybe with Google Caffeine’s new love for blog posts this post will be pulled into someone’s need query.

And the Cattle Dog

For those that don’t know the Queensland Blue Heeler breed of dog, here is a Blue Heeler problem solving youtube that simply cracks me up. It shows different qualities of the problem solver caught on Nanny Cam: patience and resolve – there is a wonderful bit where he gets stuck, he just takes a break and rests:

Click here for Video of a Cattle Dog Breakout (there are a few animal stress moments, but the dude gets it done).



Matt Ridings on the complex – problem solving

Complex simply and literally means “with folds”, a folded thing. Matt Riding has a beautiful post up on solution finding when faced with a folded thing:

What is complex?

For me personally, “complex” most closely resembles “nuanced”. Those things that can be comprehended, but not easily explained in simple terms. That tends to mean I’m discussing concepts with variable implications, philosophy would be a good example of something I can find extremely complex.

Then there are “complex” systems. These are the things we most commonly come across in our day to day lives. Your car is one representation, a corporate marketing strategy might be another, biology, various ecosystems, the weather, and so on. It is these everyday systems that cause us so much angst. When we are overwhelmed it is most often due to the fact that we are viewing things through that macro lens of complexity, “I have SO much to do, how will I ever get it all done?!”, “I’ve been made responsible for some huge project but I don’t even know where to begin!”.

The Complexity of Simple

Part of what I do for a living is consult for organizations who have large complex system challenges, and need to derive a strategic solution in very short order. I’m a ‘fixer’ if you will. A specific example might be developing an overriding social strategy that can be integrated throughout an organizations silos. While there are a lot of tools in my toolbox for achieving that, I’ll let you in on my biggest secret. A complex system, is only complex at the macro level. It is always made up of components that are relatively simple. If you can learn to break systems down to whatever level of simplicity you require you can achieve virtually anything. While sometimes not so obvious, you’ll see this theme repeated over and over throughout my posts.

via techguerilla talk – Matt Ridings.

There are several valuable thoughts here – Matt is confessing his trade secret, what makes he really good at what he does – but there is something about this point that is itself com-plex, or as he says, nuanced. The recommendation is easy: when faced with a folded thing, in particular a thing with many, many folds, Unfold it! And then as he suggests, work on in at the fold level. But this requires a sense of how all the folds fit together, and comprehensively how a little re-fold over here will effect all the other folds of the thing (or not at all). The shorthand for this kind of knowledge, a repository for the sense-of-how-it-works, often is kept in a kind of “best practices” sort of list that is memorized or we just become accustomed to, be they rules of thumb for link building for SEO questions, or  “Do unto others…” rules for human being questions.

The true beauty of complexity comes instead from the nuance itself, the way that all the folds together work to have a single, though possibly infinitely varied effect that defies simple encapsulation. This is where the art of solution-finding takes place. This is where the rule of thumb, the best practices, are abandoned as blind templates and each fold and series of folds is done with some reflexive feeling of what the effect will be. That is when the screw turn on the carburetor registers in the sound the car makes when you gas it.

I do agree that when faced with complexity you unfold it, but you unfold it with very sensitive hands, feeling how the folds register upon the whole thing. And when a complex thing is broken, either wide parts of the fabric need to be refolded in a different way, or perhaps it deserves to be a different sort of origami altogether. Sometime though we start out with a plain white sheet.