Archive for September, 2011

Ahhhgonomics

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

A few posts back I said I’d give an update on my shoulder condition and my quest for the perfect keyboard. First, I’m not convinced there is such a thing as a perfect keyboard, because to make it truly perfect it would have to be custom made to your specifications. However, I am very happy to report that I am making progress with my rotator cuff injury and have found a keyboard/mouse combination that seems to work for me. I have had both installed for about a week. I am still attending massage therapy once a week, and I still can’t undo my bra behind my back (when I can do that again, I’ll know I’m healed), but I am no longer attending physiotherapy AND massage once a week. I am doing exercises to strengthen the supraspinatus muscle up the whazoo. If you check out the link, that’s the muscle responsible for lifting and the one in which I received a cortisone shot several weeks ago. I also learned I had what they call a cortisone flare, which is why I was in such pain for two days.

The keyboard that seems to be working for me is the Kinesis Freestyle keyboard with the VIP attachment. Here are a couple of photos from their website. The Freestyle Solo is the basic keyboard, and there are a number of ways you can adapt it (check out the website for more information). Basically, it comes in two pieces that you can arrange in the split design to suit your needs. It doesn’t have a number key pad on the right. There are still numbers on the top set of keys and there is a number key pad of sorts that you can access under the U, I, O letters and so forth, on the right hand side of the keyboard. You just have to hit the function key first. Take a look:

The advantage to not having an embedded number key pad is that: (1) I rarely use it because I rarely input data, so I don’t miss it, and (2) it helps with my mouse overreach issue, because with my traditional Microsoft ergonomic keyboard I had to reach OVER the number key pad to reach my mouse, which was on a little drawer that pulled out to the right of my keyboard drawer. Now, my mouse, which is a Logitech wireless trackball, sits just to the right of the keyboard, on the same shelf AS the keyboard, which is a lot better for my right shoulder.

I’m the sort who needs wrist pads, so I ordered the Freestyle VIP attachment. Here’s a photo, although not set up the way I have it. This photo is showing the maximum splay of 15 degrees:

I have the wrist pads attached and I have the legs on the back, but I only have them set up to 10 degrees, which works for me. My two keyboard halves are also attached at top (the tether you see there allows people to set up the keyboard in a variety of ways).

I’m pretty happy with the Logitech wireless trackball, too. The wireless receiver is super tiny, because it’s a trackball, I use my thumb instead of my finger, and because it’s a trackball I don’t have to move the unit around like I did with a traditional mouse. The only thing I’m missing is a little wrist pad, because I’m so used to having wrist pads and I really like them. I’ll have to pick one up for the mouse.

This system is good for me because I can work with a lot less discomfort. The trackball is a little tricky to get used to, but I can’t go back to a regular mouse so I’m giving it a good shot. At first it was really weird to use my thumb to move the ball, but I’m getting more accustomed to it.

Do you have ergonomic issues? What’s the best set-up for you?

Bambi’s Mama Kicks Butt

Monday, September 19th, 2011

In the several weeks since both my sons have left home, I’ve taken to running or long-walk-to-the-park-ing with Allie McBeagle in the mornings and a short trek around the block in the afternoons. Hey, she’s turning ten in a month. I can afford to slack off. Besides, Youngest Son trained her in the art of the “short walk” over the summer.

Last week, we (Allie and I) spied a doe and her fawn on the right side of the road, at the edge of an undeveloped lot. We were on the left side of the road. Allie was on her leash (busy car road), but because she’s nearly ten she doesn’t immediately alert (or care about doing so) to the deer like she did when she was little and she chased a deer in the neighboring orchard into the provincial park in the middle of winter and was thereafter lost for 6 hours until the orchard caretaker found her right where I screamed “Stay!” and brought her home.

Last week, she barely pricked her ears at the scent of the deer and fawn. As always, the sight left me in awe, and my natural inclination is to say, “Hi, guys” and even approach. But I’ve learned not to approach or even want to be around a doe when her fawn is around, or might be around, and you have a dog. So, I was in awe, but I was in a wee bit of terrified awe. I never ever thought I’d be afraid of Bambi’s mama. I thought deer were gentle creatures. But three or so weeks ago, My Liege and I were walking Allie in the huge provincial park near our house with a multitude of walking and biking trails…which the deer also love to traverse. We were doing the “short-short” walk (as opposed to the “long-short” walk), which took us off the main trail down to the road that overlooks a lake of many colors. There’s a portion of this highly used trail (by humans) that is very peaceful and ethereal. It’s hard to believe that in a few minutes you’ll come out to a view of road and/or the wide pedestrian pathway. During this walk, Allie was not on her leash. We always let her off-leash in the park and clip her back on if other dogs on leash approach or, heaven forbid, we see a bear (warnings of bear sightings are usually posted at the park’s entrance; no one’s ever posted a warning of a deer sighting—maybe they should). So, this walk she was off-leash. She was ahead of us and going up a little hill in the narrow path, when M.L. and I noticed, to the left of the path, a deer. Standing there looking very serene and peaceful.

“Well, hello,” I said (as is my way), and then, remembering the times Allie had tried to chase deer in her youth, I said to M.L., “Should we leash her?” I’m pretty sure he said yes. Because his next step was to go ahead and leash Allie while I stayed a few feet behind so as not to startle the doe. Because, you see, this doe had not taken kindly to our dog’s presence. Her nose was twitching and she pawed her front hooves (hoofs?) on the ground. It was clear she wanted to cross the path without any interference from us. And we were trying to be clear by standing absolutely still that we wanted her to. On the one hand, I wished I’d had a camera, because she would have made a beautiful shot. On the other hand, it was obvious there must be a fawn in the area, although we couldn’t see it. M.L. leashed the dog and kept her on a short leash, and the doe darted across the path and into the woods to our right…but didn’t take off completely. No, she started to stalk us. I’ve never experienced anything like this (my husband has been treed by a black bear and a moose, but normally wildlife loves me). We walked the path without looking straight on at the doe to our right. She continued following us, stamping her hooves and pawing the ground. At one point, I kid you not, I took the dog and M.L. picked up a large branch and shoved it at the doe to get her to stay off the path right behind us. Suddenly, my BFF’s stories about deers attacking humans in the communities around Victoria, B.C. weren’t so funny. Literally, I just LMAO’ed at the thought a couple of days previous. So the story goes, the deer are born on peoples’ property and so consider it their territory. Small dogs and cats are considered ON the deer’s property and can get in trouble/run down. Apparently, so can humans.

Our deer was most likely born in the provincial park. We never did see her fawn, but it’s safe to say the fawn was born in the park, too. Along with the bears and cougars and rattlesnakes we’d rather not encounter.

I’ll never again feel safe approaching a deer…unless my dog isn’t around. Then, okay, I’d give it a go. We often get them in our neighborhood, and we have “sit spots” in our huge back yard in winter. The deer sometimes leave “candy” (deer droppings that look like chocolate-covered raisins) our dog used to find irresistible. I know, disgusting, but there’s no accounting for a beagle’s taste. She also thinks four-week-dead fish smell amazing.

Have you ever had an encounter with a form of wildlife that surprised you? Last week, catching sight of the doe and fawn on the other side of the road, I just wanted to stand there and admire them. Instead, I kept my head down and a short leash on the beagle until we were safely out of sight. Because, believe me, that doe had her eyes trained on us every step of the way.

I’m Big in Japan!

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Well, maybe not “big.” But I’m in Japan! Rather, my books are. Rather, HEAD OVER HEELS is.

Last week, I received a pleasant surprise. A registered letter containing a royalty check for the first Manga (Japanese comic book) print run of HEAD OVER HEELS. This was on top of the advance I received nearly two years ago. Which means the first print run earned out the advance—and then some. You could have knocked me over with a toothpick.

A day later, I received a registered package containing my author copies. And I love them! I only have a handful, and they’re going to immediate family and moi. I must keep track of myself for posterity, you know. People have been asking me where they can buy the Manga version of HEAD OVER HEELS. The only place I know of is Amazon Japan. Yep, check it out, I’m there all official-like. And, well, I’m pretty sure the comic is also available in bookstores in Japan.

If I ever find out the Manga version of my first book is available in North America, have no fear, I shall scream it from my blog. In the meantime, enjoy these photos (if you look real close, you can see my name on the back cover—the second photo).

 

It was such a rush “reading” my book back to front, seeing the Japanese characters and the wonderful illustrations. If I had more than 3 copies left to my name (after giving away the others to aforesaid family members), I’d crack the spine of one and scan a couple of inside pages. But I don’t have more than 3 copies left to my name, so I’m not going to destroy ANY of them for the sake of the blog. You’ll just have to take my word that the illustrations match up to the story. I have no idea if the text does, though, because I can’t read Japanese.

This is such a thrill for me, because this sale to Ozhora is another testament that HEAD OVER HEELS is The Little Book that Could.

Argh-onomics

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

My absence from the blog hasn’t just been due to Summer Brain. I’ve been super busy on the writing front without doing any actual new writing. I critiqued a full manuscript for a friend, proofed my December release from Five Star Expressions, went through two rounds of editing on Penny’s first single title for Samhain Publishing, then did the final line editing and the proofing for the same. Then, in preparation for editing, I preformatted Penny’s short story for Ellora’s Cave (release date TBA). I just received the edits for the story on Monday, so it’s deadline time again. Not that I’m complaining, but when you’re writing for three different publishers under two different names, well, those publishers all have schedules to keep, which means I need to hop-to when one of them beckons. I’m down two projects, one to go. News which my shoulder greatly appreciates.

Part of the reason, other than the deadlines, that I’ve been gone, is because I’ve been suffering with rotator cuff issues for the last year, but I hurt myself badly in early July when I was moving too quickly, doing too many things at once, and my hand got caught in the workshop door while I was trying to walk up the basement stairs. This stupidito action on my part resulted in a cry of pain and writhing on the couch for what was probably only 30 seconds of torture but felt like 2 minutes (which is a long time when you’re in bad pain). Since that injury, which exacerbated the rotator cuff issues I’ve been having for about a year now, I moved into attending weekly physiotherapy (PT to Americans) and massage therapy…to little result. I saw such marginal improvement that I finally went to my doctor about the issue for the first time since, oh, last November. Not smart, I’ve discovered, to keep telling yourself “It’ll get better without bothering my GP.”

Well, my GP is a sports medicine specialist, so I shouldn’t have been so dense. I should have returned to him a lot sooner. But that’s water under the bridge. Three weeks ago this Friday, I finally went to see him about my shoulder issues and the July injury. The result was a cortisone shot to my supraspinatus muscle which pretty much incapacitated me for 48 hours. After that first awful 48 hours, I began to see slow improvement to my shoulder impingement. However, whether it’s due to, ahem, age, or the fact that I spend a good portion of my days on a keyboard and mouse, or that I fooled myself into thinking the injury would heal over time, I’m making progress but not enough to ignore my doctor’s advice to follow up in 10-14 days in the event that I might have a rotator cuff tear. Okay, so three weeks isn’t 14 days, but he was on holidays. I honestly don’t think I have a tear, but if he wants me to schedule an MRI to make certain, I will.

When you have a cortisone shot, the physio and massage therapists don’t like to see you for 7-10 days, so while I was waiting for the cortisone to work, I did a ton of exercises the physio had shown me and began investigating different keyboard and mouse options. I have been using a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard for years, and I didn’t know what else I could do until researching my injury led me to believe that it isn’t specifically the mouse that exacerbates my condition, it’s the fact that I’m constantly reaching over the number-key pad on the right of my keyboard to GET to the mouse. I do believe I’m a victim of mouse over-reach. I researched my options and was disappointed to realize that Microsoft doesn’t make a left-handed keyboard (number key pad on the left) in an ergonomic wave design. So I ordered what’s called a touchpad keyboard, from another manufacturer. The keyboard itself is ergonomically shaped and still has the number keypad on right, but instead of a mouse, you have a touchpad (like laptops have) in the bottom middle of the keyboard.

I loved this idea! And, while the brand of keyboard had received hit-or-miss reviews on-line, I spoke to a handful of writers through email who owned the keyboard and loved it. Well, they either had the older, more reliable version or I received a lemon. And what a lemon! I had that stupid keyboard set up three days, and while getting accustomed to the touchpad might have taken about a week, I would have gladly put up with that if the touchpad software didn’t keep going berserk. The cursor would whip around on the screen and open every program for each icon it touched. The only way I could stop it was by doing a cold shut-down. I later read on-line that you could unplug the keyboard to get it to stop glitching, but because of my computer and office set-up, that presented a whole ‘nother PITA of crawling around under my desk and straining my shoulder that I was not going to endure. So the keyboard went back in the box, and I’m awaiting reimbursement.

Since going back to the mouse, I can tell, yep, I have mouse over-reach issues. I can not keep my current set-up. My next experiment will be ordering the Kinesis Freestyle keyboard with the VIP attachment. This keyboard doesn’t have a number key pad (you can order one that comes separate from the keyboard itself) and it splits into two halves that can be arranged in several different ways, to suit the user. I sincerely hope this works for me. While I’m at it, I’m going to try a trackball again. I have my eye set on a Logitech model.

I’ll report in on my ergonomic issues in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’ll continue to blog sporadically (twice a week if I can manage it) and reserve my keyboard/mouse use for editing and writing.

Wish me luck!