April 23rd, 2011
Weekly Office Flowers

With the grey and damp we’ve been having around here for far too long, I’ve discovered a weekly bunch of fresh flowers in my office really seems to help my mood.

Here are some pictures of this week’s flowers – Tulips are in bloom!

March 3rd, 2011
Your fingers don’t speak my keyboard’s language

Several years ago, I had to have surgery on my right hand & wrist. I’d suffered for a while with the writer-standard sort of wrist pain from overuse and long hours of typing but, thankfully, had never developed carpal tunnel or any other really nasty hand ailments. Instead I developed a ganglion cyst – a fluid filled cyst that is mostly benign until and unless it starts to interfere with function. In my case, the cyst grew large and parts of my hand went numb or tingled. Not a good sign. And my right hand is my dominant hand.

Surgery plans were made and while talking about my recovery with my surgeon, I remembered that I’d read about a keyboard layout that was supposed to be far more ergonomic and easier on your hands and wrists that the qwerty layout we are all used to. This is the dvorak keyboard layout, developed by Dr. August Dvorak and Dr. William Dealey in 1936.

Now the qwerty layout was designed in the days of typewriters with the individual letter keys that would swing up to impact the ribbon to imprint on the paper in the typewriter. If you typed too fast, the keys would jam and you would have to stop and unjam them before you could continue on. This layout just became the norm and persisted long past the days of those typewriters and into the modern age. Now all they do is make a keyboard less ergonomic and slower to use (in English, mind you, I can’t speak for other languages).

I am a touch-typist. I don’t look at the keys at all. My recovery from surgery would mean that I would not be able to use my right hand at all during the first week or two so I would have to resort to hunt-and-peck as well as the dreaded left-handed mousing. I thought this would be the perfect time to switch from qwerty to dvorak. So before I had surgery, I bought stickers for my keyboard keys rather than a whole new keyboard, printed out the keyboard map on paper and switched my Windows to dvorak layout. Done.

I did invoke my stubborn side. I was determined and I would not go back. Good thing I’m stubborn, too, because it took a while for my brain to rewire its knowledge of where keys are. It was probably about a month before I was fluent in dvorak and another two months before my speed exceeded my prior typing speed on qwerty. I’ve now been qwerty-free for two years. After my initial learning period, I no longer even put any stickers or maps on my keyboards because I don’t need them.

Which brings me to when life gets funny – a friend pulled one of my laptops to her and said “let me show you this” and tried to type a URL into the browser. Except she was typing qwerty and my laptop only speaks dvorak. The look on her face cracked me up and I told her that my laptop doesn’t speak the language her fingers did.

Pros of switching:

  • Faster
  • No wrist or hand pain anymore
  • Geek cool factor
  • No one borrows your computers

Cons of switching:

  • Frustrating as hell at first
  • Occasional brain farts where I forget where a key I don’t use often is
  • Have to hunt-and-peck on other people’s computers now
February 23rd, 2011
Cats as Office Assistants

Up until today my cats have been locked out of my home office. There was too much chaos and too many things for them to get into. So, thwarted by not having opposable thumbs, they resorted to sitting outside the door, pawing at it and yodeling as only a donkey attempting an operatic aria or an annoyed cat can. I admit it, I did laugh at their expense. But today I felt sorry for them, especially my sickly skinny cat that’s probably not going to be around a whole lot longer. It’s cold and he’s skinny and loves to lay on me but can’t when I’m working in the office and he’s not allowed in.

So I caved.

First Harley (the skinny guy) came in and very nervously sniffed all through the room and rubbed his chin on anything and everything he could claim for himself. It was HIS, dammit. After several trips in and out the now mysteriously open door, he discovered the reading chair’s ottoman and the fluffy warm blanket I’d laid on it for him. He was happy to nest there for a while.

Then, just as he got comfortable, we had a brief visit from Nettle. Nettle is one of the Scaredy Cat Club — she’s semi-feral and not at all willing to come within 20 feet of a human. I heard a cat come in and turned to look around the side of the desk. When she saw there was a HUMAN in this mysterious room, she bolted. No pictures of her, sorry.

Another twenty minutes or so later, Merlin showed up. Merlin is our oldest cat and would gladly knock off all other cats so he had all the pets and humans for himself alone. He and Harley are arch enemies most of the time though lately they’ve devolved to a more “willful obliviousness” state. He pestered me for pets for a while and then discovered the ottoman and blanket when Harley went out of the room for a bit.

They danced around any need to acknowledge each others’ presence for quite a while, even ending up on the ottoman and blanket together, until the unthinkable happened. Meeps, our dominant girl kitty, discovered the office was open. In she saunters! Again some requisite exploration, then she hopped up on the ottoman and pestered the boys to groom her by meowing and kneading them until they got disgusted and ceded the rights to the ottoman and blanket to her. She is Queen! Note the laser eyes, too.

I needed more tea after this and the whole group trouped down the stairs after me as if I were the pied piper. When i got back up to the office, they started getting into things and got booted out for a while.

Such help.

January 28th, 2011
Hoarfrost (random flash fiction)

Sometimes flash fiction happens to me.

Hoarfrost
(c) 2011 Maura Anderson

As the crescent moon sets, shadows deepen to ebon velvet and the relief of dawn seems a lifetime away. The night sky is now decorated only by the faint shimmer of distant stars, their meager light unable to warm the sharp, freezing air.

Slowly gathering in the depressions and hollows, a light mist begins to blanket the land. Icy tendrils flow out and fill the valleys, deepening from silver to grey as the growing fog works to block out even the light of the stars until the very land beneath it seems isolated from the rest of the world.

A place between the worlds of Sun and Moon. A time and place so temporary and so rare it bears no name of its own, yet it’s the only time she can walk the lands of man again.

The fog thickens and roils into a column, then a vague form emerges and solidifies into a tall, gracile female form. Clothed in flowing robes that changed from white to grey to midnight black in a shimmering pattern, her presence makes the very air weigh heavily and the residual warmth of the earth fades into a dusting of frost. Her white hair streams out behind her like tendrils of clouds and glistens with drops of ice.

Released, at least for a short while, from the prison of her own making, she wanders this small part of the land of man. All the life she has missed, all the plants and animals she lost through her own attempts to manipulate others. Slow tears flowed down her face only to drop frozen to the ground, a trail of diamonds to mark her path. A gently caress coats a crocus in glistening frost. A slight brush against a bush freezez tendrils water dripping from its branches into tiny icicles.

The first faint colors of dawn begin to drain away her cloak of fog and she knows her time here is over again. As she fades from the land of man, her last heavy sigh flows out over the branches of a tree and freezes instantly into the lacelike tendrils of her namesake, fragile and delicate. Even that beauty is doomed to disappear at sunrise, leaving only a memory and the faint scent of the wild and regret.

She is Hoarfrost.

January 28th, 2011
Guest Blogging Today on Selena Illyria’s blog – STEAMPUNK

This week is Steampunk week on Selena Illyria’s blog and she’s graciously allowed me to guest blog about my upcoming m/m steampunk novella – Impressed! This is coming soon as part of Renaissance eBook’s Sizzler Edition’s anthology “Ride the Rocket”.

Come on over and read about my inspiration for turning Honolulu into an airship port complete with pickpockets, opium dens — and press gangs!

Impress Guest Blog