Memories of Mom – the Elephant and the Mouse

When I was four years old my family moved into a big yellow house on 98th Avenue in Oakland California. That’s me on the right, Mom, my big sister in the middle and my little bro on the left in Daddy’s arms.

I checked out 98th avenue on the street view in Google Maps and discovered that our house is still there, pretty much unchanged except for the color.

The Oakland Zoo was just three or four blocks further up the hill from our house.  Mom would take my brother and I up the hill to the Zoo. I remember the high point of each trip was to stop and say, “Hi”, to Essie the Elephant.  This was back in the day when you could still feed the animals.  Mom would buy a brown paper bag of peanuts and let us feed Essie.  We’d toss the peanuts over to her.  Essie would swing her trunk down and gently pick up the peanuts and put them in her mouth one by one.  We got such a kick out of it.  I’m sure we bugged Mom constantly to let us go to the zoo to see the elephant.  I don’t remember any other animals at the zoo, just Essie the Elephant.

I have lots  of warm and fuzzy memories from this house, like Dr. Seuss books,the big walnut tree beside the house and the greenhouse in the back yard.  I discovered comfort food in this house, Campbell’s Bean with Bacon Soup,Campbell’s Black Bean Soup, which they don’t make any more, darn!  I was able to find Campbell’s Soup – Black Bean, c.1968 Art Poster Print by Andy Warhol on for illustration purposes. Mom used to make the yummiest grilled cheese sandwiches with Roman Meal Bread.


I remember the backyard of the house had more gardens than grass.  There was a sidewalk that ran up the side of the house and across the back yard, under a trellis to a gate that opened out onto a hill covered with tall grass and fox-tails.

There was also a huge greenhouse on the south side of the yard.  We really weren’t supposed to play in there, but I remember sneaking in with my cousin sometimes. This is a picture of me on my tricycle, so cool in my cowboy hat.  This was eons before Big Wheels.

A few odd memories of Mom surface when I close my eyes and imagine that house.  One time, early on a Sunday morning, we heard Mom scream bloody murder and the whole family came running to see what was the matter.  We were all still in our PJs.  Mom had surprised a mouse in the kitchen.  Dad got a baseball bat and chased the mouse around the kitchen trying to hit it with the baseball bat.  The memory of a manly husband doing his duty to gallantly defend his family from this scary wild animal burned an indelible image on my psyche.

Should You Kill Your Mouse?

Magnet for Foolishness got me started thinking about frustrations with technology.  The gizmo that I most want to abolish is the mouse.  Not the squeaky kind, but the computer kind. The second thing that drives me absolutely batty is software without keyboard shortcuts.

About fifteen years ago I discovered web page design on AOL. After about a month of intense work I came down with a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome.  I tracked the pain down to excessive use of the my computer mouse. I bought a couple of wrist braces and started looking into ergonomic fixes.  I got a trackball and a Microsoft Natural Keyboard.

The next thing I did was to force myself to use keyboard shortcuts for as much as I could. It slowed me down in the beginning. As I got used to using shortcuts and memorized the majority of Excel Keyboard Shortcuts, I noticed my speed pick up dramatically.

This is the source of my frustration.  When there are missing shortcuts in an application and I have no choice but to reach for the mouse I want to tear my (non-existent) hair out like Mr. Pocket in Great Expectations.

For example the main software package used at work has a print queue function.  There are shortcuts to navigate to the print queue, open the drop-down menu, hit G a couple times to get to my report, but nothing to execute the job.  The job name is highlighted, but <Enter> or <SpaceBar> won’t work to start the report.  I have to reach over and find my trackball, roll it around to click on the report that is already highlighted, then I can keyboard through all of the report options.  There’s just that one little hangup in the middle where I’m forced to use the mouse (trackball).

Now this isn’t giving me carpal tunnel, ’cause I dealt with that by buying the trackball.  But still, something that should take nanoseconds now takes two or three to find the mouse and click.

I asked our tech support to submit a request for universal keyboard shortcuts.  Then I found out the software is moving to a “browser-based” platform.  Tech support thinks that keyboard shortcuts are going the way of the dinosaurs (like me).

Business Case for Keyboard Shortcuts:
1) Keyboard shortcuts pave the way for increased employee efficiency.  Users who know and consistently use keyboard shortcuts are much faster than mouse users.  Every-time a user has to take their hands off the keyboard to scroll and click with a mouse they lose several seconds. Those seconds add up throughout the day.  Just like macros speed up routine keystrokes in Excel, keyboard shortcuts speed up manual data entry.

2) Mice present a serious productivity problem in the workplace. Mouse usage is a CFO’s nightmare, not to mention a Human Resource migraine.  Mouse use is a primary cause of increased workers comp claims with all the attendant expense, lawsuits and downtime for Carpal Tunnel.  A little bit of prevention on the front end (keyboard shortcuts) save a lot of pain and moolah on the back end.  We might even save enough to buy an extra software module or two. Something for software developers to think about.

Introduction to Human Factors and Ergonomics for Engineers (Human Factors and Ergonomics)

Browser based applications programmers should find a way to build in keyboard shortcuts for every function.  It just takes a little research on and some JavaScript programming.  Check out Jason Stiles Blog for some Programming tips for Java Developers.

It should be a company standard that all tasks in the software can be run from the keyboard without ever touching a mouse.  All modules should be trained this way.  Trainers should never have to mention the words, “mouse”, or “click”.  I know this may sound extreme to some mouse addicts.  If a little time and effort is spent learning shortcuts you will see a dramatic increase in productivity.

The GTD guru, David Allen recommends learning touch typing and keyboard shortcuts to improve executive efficiency. Keyboard shortcuts take efficiency to a new level.

Let me know what you think: How do you feel about your mouse? Has mouse usage contributed to your carpal tunnel syndrome? Do you use keyboard shortcuts?