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Sat, Jun. 25th, 2011

01:20 am - On The Road Again

Hi, from the rarely appearing me! I guess life has just been kind of going, nothing overly exciting to write about other than the craziness of my grad school life.
Now though, I'm in Raleigh to watch this beep baseball tournament. What is beep baseball, you ask? Well, read my post on that subject in the Accessibility and Technology Geek blog, where much of my writing energy has been devoted these days. I and a couple of other folks living with disabilities write about our experiences working, playing, and navigating around the communities in which we reside. We talk about some of the technologies that have been developed that make participation in these activities easier for us all.
Today I've been out and about pretty much since having set foot on the floor. I'd already known that my cousin's girlfriend would be by to pick me up some time in the early noon, so I briskly showered, popped some pancakes into the microwave, and settled in to listen to NPR. Only as soon as the timer went off signifying that the pancakes were done, I received a text asking if I would like to join my cousin and his girlfriend for breakfast. What did I do about the pancakes? Ate them bad boys, of course!
Her apartment is bigger and more comfortable than mine, and is also quite far downstairs. I joked that it felt as if I were walking into a subway station. After having whipped up a great meal of baked salmon, potatoes, salad, biscuits, and banana pudding the night before, she prepared grits, eggs, liver mush, buttered toast and coffee this morning. Man, I can't even say when the last time was I'd eaten a breakfast like that. I was full and definitely ready to roll, even as my cousin dragged himself grumpily toward a state of wakefulness.
Off to Raleigh we went, with coolers, collapsable chairs, suitcases and food packed into the trunk. My cousin was dj-ing with his iPod plugged into the car's system and broadcasting on a clear radio station. This works relatively well, except that when we pass through an area where that frequency is crowded out it kind of sounds like when you're reaching the edge of a station's coverage area. I loved some of the songs he had on there though: One Night of Love by After Seven, I Swear by All 4 One, and of course some Tupac.
Upon arriving in Raleigh, we came in on a game that was in approximately the second inning. Because we sat kind of far away from the field during that one, it was a little more difficult for me to make heads or tails of what exactly was going on. That game was between Raleigh and Spartanburg SC, getting the somewhat abbreviated tournament underway. Raleigh won easily, though their style of play has caused a lot of controversy. Usually persons hit the ball and run themselves, but Raleigh had two of its fastest runners running for every hitter in the lineup. I guess this isn't in violation of the rules, but it strikes me as a somewhat underhanded way to play the game. Typically, runners are only used in situations where a hitter is clearly immobilized, for example due to advanced age.
Anyway, there was a small break between that game and the next, which was between Raleigh and Charlotte. If you recall any of my previous posts on these tournaments from ages ago, you'll know that these two teams are always intense rivals. This time was no exception. Many an angry word was said as close call after close call was passed down, most of them going against Charlotte. One thing I did like about the Charlotte team was that they were honest about if they thought that one of their players had indeed been given a correct, if unfavorable, call. Of course I am biased toward Charlotte, but I still think that being able to admit shortcomings is always a good thing. In the end, Charlotte went down by what I think was a final score of 12-8. We'd spent a portion of the game hiking to the restroom in a fairly nice recreational center to relieve ourselves of the copious amounts of fluid we'd consumed, and so I never got caught back up on game action.
After play had concluded, we trekked over to the picnic shelter for barbecue chicken. We found out though that there had already been a preassembled list of guests who would eat, not including us because we'd not informed them of our plans to attend, so we opted to depart and find food somewhere else. Other Charlotte players later informed us that we could have gotten plates anyway, but we didn't want to impose. So after an unsuccessful attempt to collect one of my cousin's friends, we headed over to the Holiday Inn where we would be staying the night. My cousin's girlfriend had gotten the room under her name, so she went to the front desk and obtained keys for each of us and we headed on up. Our room is 324. There are two beds, and I am about to climb into mine and under those warm covers in a minute. We all agreed that it is easier to sleep in a cold room than a hot one, so the air conditioner has been set accordingly. And I think they are already quite out of it as I type this.
Before we got to this point though, dinner had to be eaten. Some of our long-time friends tagged along behind us in their car as we searched somewhat in vain for an open place to eat. We'd located a "restaurant" called Capital Creations Pizza online, but on arriving there we discovered that it was only delivery or carry-out. Reading the ad on their website had not made this abundantly clear, apparently. So we continued on, at first nearly deciding to eat at a Japanese grill but finally settling into Bahama Breeze. I'd been to this restaurant with my classmates back in 2010, after visiting the Governor Moorehead School with them earlier in the day. This time, it was so much louder in there! I really couldn't hear anything, and the waitress had to make contact with my shoulder in order for me to know that she was attempting to take my order. I also ended up sitting between my cousin and his girlfriend so that I could hear her read the menu, which made me feel kind of bad. Everyone talked to me though, and so I still managed to have a pretty good time. I had a huge cheese burger with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and just about every onion they had in the building. "I don't think I'd want to eat this sandwich if I were on a date," I quipped to my cousin. I also had seasoned fries and a cup of high c. I'd thought about purchasing an alcoholic beverage but decided against it, as I am trying to budget for next month's trip to the ACB Convention.
And that brings me to this chair where I now sit. This will be the first blog entry I have ever posted from a hotel room. Yay for portability! If Charlotte is to win the championship this season, they must first defeat Spartanburg, and then take down Raleigh twice. Because of the runner issue discussed earlier, I think their odds of besting Raleigh are slim. I certainly hope they are able to do so though. Hopefully I will feel up to reporting those happenings, whatever they end up looking like. For now, goodnight.

Current Location: Hotel, motel, holiday inn!
Current Music: Thought noise

Sat, Jun. 11th, 2011

02:00 am - Party Like A Rock Star!

First, this odd question: is it normal for one's urine to smell like coffee? No, don't ask. It was that kind of night! A much-needed respite from the doldrums that have largely made up my summer thus far.
A little catch-up. Still plugging away at this seemingly endless research paper. I finally submitted the latest revision for review by my advisor, and I'm not sure when he will respond. I hope not for a good while.
I took yet another trip to Charlotte over Memorial Day, and spent a nice weekend chatting with my cousin kind of like old times. We even listened to some baseball on his satellite, which I thought was cool.
Reading: What You Owe Me, by Bebe Moore Campbell, was great! It starts with an African American woman recounting her and her father's struggles with being reimbursed for a business and stolen land respectively. Only it quickly becomes apparent that she is telling this story from the "other side". Lots of twists and turns within this 21 hours of audio, ultimately rising to a rather satisfying climax. There were a lot of little stories in there, and I felt that Campbell did a reasonable job at closing the story off in a way that didn't feel too rush, all things considered.
Now onto the fun! One of my classmates, an incredibly nice Iranian woman, decided that she missed having us around. So, she opted to have a little gathering at her house. She'd issued Facebook invites almost a week ago, and a few of us indicated that we'd be interested in going out there. Someone even determined that she could pick me up with relative ease, so I said yeah, what the hey!
Friday rolled in, sunny but not as hot as the previous two days had been. I spent a lot of it outside with the computer in the shade. One can only take being cooped up for so long. I mostly performed some administrative tasks as kids scampered by me on the steps leading up to the laundromat. I always wonder what they think of me.
My ride showed up at approximately 6:15, the time she'd indicated she would arrive. She'd already picked up another individual who was also going with us. We then drove to someone else's apartment, the person who would take us to the host's house. While I waited for this person to finish preparing for departure, I sat on a comfortable couch and was greeted, and greeted, and greeted by a big, fluffy lab mix. Aww! She kept coming to lick and sniff me.
We hit the road, armed with trusty GPS. Traffic thickened as we left Chapel Hill headed for Durham, but fortunately the snarl didn't last too entirely long. We just made small talk as we prodded along. They kind of gave me an idea what to expect, but, well, I was still thoroughly amazed.
Our host lived in a very nice neighborhood located in Cary, an affluent suburb of Raleigh. The house itself was jawdropping. There were two huge sitting rooms, a couple dining rooms, and a spacious kitchen. And that was all I saw. I think the upper floor was quite sizable as well. On entering, I was seated in a barstool that was so high my feet couldn't even touch the floor.
And the food? Oh the food! I got things started with some chips and salsa and a glass of sweet tea as a couple others trickled in. We met two women who'd known our host for quite a long time, which was interesting. I think the main thing they wanted to know was what inspires someone to go into the psychological professions? We eventually came to the conclusion that everyone struggles with something, and that giving and receiving therapy should thus be in higher demand going forward. It has gotten to a point, thankfully, that people are less ashamed to ask for assistance in dealing with life's challenges.
Our host was clearly a professional at this party-throwing stuff. After making myself numb on consuming a Heiniken relatively quickly, I had a giant chicken shiskabob with several vegetables on it, some rice, and noodles flavored with all kinds of stuff. I topped that off with a glass of coke. "Man, I can't recall the last time I ate like this!" I said between mouthfuls.
I spent a lot of time talking to the woman who'd come to pick me up initially, which I enjoyed given that I hadn't really gotten to know her. I thanked all of them for continuing to make me feel welcome and a part of things socially. With regards to my hearing: well it was pretty much the same as always. I could hear one-on-one conversations fairly well, but talk that bounced all over the table or attempts to speak to me either on my right side or from a good distance were a bit rougher. Some figured out that establishing a tactile connection might help me a little, an observance I appreciated.
After sucking down that scrumptious meal, we retreated to the couches while dessert was prepared. All of us were trying not to nod off by this point. Chatter continued to reverberate around that spacious area, and I just couldn't stop marveling at it all. I can't really say I've ever been to anything quite on that level.
Having made enough room for it somewhere in there, I had tiramisu cake and a cup of coffee. And why am I up at nearly 2 in the morning? Well... Even that was incredibly good stuff. The coffee seemed of a higher quality than I've ever consumed, a fact noted by someone else as well.
Not a whole lot after that, other than a lot of laughs and congeniality. As we readied to go, I was persuaded to take one of their restaurant-style boxes laden with another chicken shiskabob and more rice. I also got two nice-sized cookies. We then giggled our way through a few pictures, which I think they will post on Facebook at some point. Hugs were passed around, and out the door we went.
The rains had just let up, meaning that everything was still dripping wet. I gather that a good-sized storm had rumbled through, but I'd remained blissfully unaware during my time in, as someone put it, the Persian pallace. Oh, I forgot to note that the fireplace was made of marble, and there was apparently antique furniture that should probably not be touched. Wow! We'd left at about 11:30, and I was back in my place roughly an hour later.
I had a blast there. I'd like to thank the host for allowing us to come over like that, and for treating us to such goodness! I'd also like to thank the kind folks who gave me a lift to that event. I hope it is the official beginning to what will be a spectacular summer.

Sun, May. 22nd, 2011

10:38 pm - Hi, Summer

Step from your door. Grab the folding chair, waltz out into the middle of the grass and let the sun kiss your winter-chilled body all over. This, yes this, is my time of year!
I know this might make me sound like I'm 80, but I now have classical music playing from the speakers that are across the room from me as I sit on the couch typing this. It feels like the glass of cool water that helps me unwind after that glorious summerish sunshine is done with me. I kind of picked up the habit of listening to this last Wednesay, and I am rarely now without the ambience. And yes I know there's a game on; I'll be switching back to that in a minute. But the sound of roaring crowd and frantic commentary does not help me to write out a long overdue entry in this journal.
Speaking of overdue-ness, I most need to catch up on the books I've read since A Thousand Splendid Suns. I'm not even sure this would be possible if it weren't for Twitter and its #FridayReads hash tag. Every Friday, we are asked to name a title of something we're reading, whether it's a novel, nonfiction book, heck even a magazine or the newspaper. The woman who runs this show, Bethanne Patrick, is a lot of fun. I told her that I'd had a dream the other night of having won some contest that she'd put on. Three others had won also, and one of the individuals' Twitter usernames was bookee. The bio read: "Cuz you can bet I've read it!" She found this amusing, suggesting that I "lay off the burbon at bedtime". Haha.
Anyway, here for my tracking purposes are the next books I've read. I tried a couple that I can't now remember, but they just didn't grab me, for whatever reason. My next full read was American Assassin, by Vince Flyn. This was just ok to me. I couldn't really follow the plot all too well, but I did enjoy the wide variety of sites in which it was set. They went from the DC suburbs to Zurich to Hamburg to Moscow and to Beirut, Lebanon. I think Flyn did a reasonable job of describing the areas in which the characters found themselves, also. Not too surprisingly, given what I've heard about this guy and his series of novels, there was a lot of violence and undercover paramilitary operations.
The next one I read was The Stones Cry Out, by Sibella Giorello. Also set in the DC area, this one was about a black guy who had been accused of a crime and chased onto the roof of a factory by a white cop. Both appear to get into a scuffle, and they end up tumbling from the roof to their deaths. The FBI launches an investigation into possible Civil Rights violations, and the higher-ups keep pressuring the field agent, Raleigh Harmon, to go ahead and just close the case. The story was intriguing, with a few surprises coming down the stretch. I wasn't all too in favor of the NLS reader on this one though, as she seemed to breathe at odd times during sentences.
Finally, I read a book that came highly recommended from someone I trust to point me to good books. This one was The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton. The story is told in an odd way, with the character to whom it had happened skipping back and forth between the two major eras of his life after some horrid event, the nature of which we don't find out till near the end. This event has caused him to no longer speak, and so he has issues fitting into most crowds and interacting at school. Some of this is solved when his talent for drawing is discovered, which also contributes to a fun courtship and leads him into contact with some shady characters who get him stuck on a path that he finds hard to escape. It was an exquisite read, and the person doing the audio, this time from a commercial outfit, did a great job of voicing the different persons within the story.
And now I am reading a book by Bebe Moore Campbell called What You Owe Me. I'm not done with it yet, but I like it thus far. It's 21 hours of audio, which always makes me happy when I'm actually enjoying the story. I think I'll review it some once I've actually completed it, given that I've already gone on quite a bit as it is.
And another week begins. I thought I was done with that lit review, but scratch that! Turns out I'd not looked at the comments my advisor had embedded in the text, well really I'd not known how! to look at those comments. He wasn't too happy about my sending a paper back to him that hadn't been revised. I've kind of figured out how to access them now, and even to make sure I knew which elements of text a comment was referring to. I've been on a real crash course with perfecting my Microsoft Word skills lately. So now I'm not really sure when I'll have even this part done, but he has assured me that I have some time to work on it. Just keep me in your thoughts. I made a quick get-away trip to Charlotte to visit my cousin last weekend, because I needed to escape the stress for a bit. I almost melted down completely on returning and finally getting a look at those comments, but I think now that I've come to my senses.
Alright, I'm out of here. I want to catch the end of this game between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls. The last I heard, Miami was up 3 at the half. I hope Chicago can pull it out. Funny, when they had Jordan I couldn't stand them! But now they're kind of the cute underdogs again. If they're still good in three years, we'll see how I feel then. Peace!

Current Music: Some concherto or other.

Sat, May. 7th, 2011

07:19 pm - The Great In-Between

Already another academic year has come and gone, and it still feels like it has just barely started. I can remember the orientation as if it were just a couple days ago. Kind of scary.
This is the point when things get really quiet, and I'm likely to not speak to people for days on end. I thought I would have somewhere to go today, but that ended up not happening. It was probably a good thing, since I had to quickly type up some things for one of my professors and get them sent off in a short period. I'm still wondering if I'll ever get over my procrastination and general lagging when it comes to following directions to the letter, but that might happen once they put me out of here.
Speaking of that craziness, my lit review is now mostly done. I again revised the research questions, and am now just waiting on the advisor to approve it before it moves into the defense stage. Once that happens, I apparently have to give it to my advisor and a reader for their evaluation, then create a powerpoint summing up what I talked about in the review and what I intend to cover with the research portion. That and working on my counseling skills will in all likelyhood make up the crux of my summer.
As I mentioned last entry I think?, I was considering attending the Symposium for the American Association of the Deafblind. However, when I got to tabulating all of the fees, things came out to be quite a bit more expensive than I would probably be advised to take on. Even so, knowing of this association could prove useful to me in the future, and I'm subscribed to their newsletter at least.
I've decided instead to go to the 50th convention of the American Council of the Blind for a few days, from Monday through Thursday just as I'd done the last time I attended. Well planned to do, thank you thunderstorms that got me stuck in Louisville, Kentucky. This year's takes place in Reno Nevada, and I am again looking forward to meeting some of the people with whom I've only communicated online in person. Not to mention a chance at further networking, (I should call back the woman I met the first time as it's been a while since I spoke to her), and whatever else ends up happening during that time. I think it'll be fun.
And so I return to sitting out here on my porch with the wireless connection, thinking too much as always. I guess I'll just keep holding onto hope that my life eventually finds balance. And that my canes stop biting the dust so quickly! I've only had the latest one for four months, and the blasted string has already come loose. That does not a happy person make.
One nice thing did happen for me: my aunt and uncle brought me a couch and two chairs, as well as setting up my DVD table and another table for the lamp. Now my apartment is no longer, as I called it, "the blind house," as sighted folk can flip a switch and orient themselves. It is also pleasant to flop down on an actual sofa and listen to my NPR stories while sprawled out. No longer having to either sprawl on the bed or sit in a chair in front of my computer is actually helping my sleep out a lot. It codes the brain better if one uses the bed only. when planning to go to sleep.
More when I have it. Till then, ta-ta.

Mon, Apr. 25th, 2011

05:29 pm - Convention Curiosities

I know I owe you an entry from yesterday, but hey I was zonked! Up at 4:30 AM and on the move till nearly 8 PM, in fact. If I can figure out how to get LJ to backdate as it once did, I'll post that piece later. For now, I have a couple of other matters to address.
First, as you all know, I continue to serve on the board of the Norrie Disease Association. It is a post I've very much enjoyed and from which I've learned a great deal.
Well, we've began in earnest to prepare for our next convention in 2012. If you recall my experience of going in 2009, then perhaps you realize just how life changing it can be. I'm very much hoping that some other kid or young adult with Norrie out there who is pondering his future might well benefit similarly from this experience.
Here's where I'm going to ask for your assistance. I rarely do this, but I'm wondering if I can get some of my readers to donate a little to the NDA. It is tax deductible, and if you click the link above you can get more details on how to do this. Mainly, we have to have the funds to obtain presenters, get the equipment, such as amplification devices for those of us who use hearing aids, and rent the space we'll need to put on the event. Also, I would in all likelyhood not have been able to attend the convention if the NDA hadn't extended a small travel grant to help me absorb some of the costs. We are hoping to do this again as well. I'd say 10 bucks if you can swing it, however if you are in a position to do more then by all means. If on the other hand things are a little tighter, then we'd appreciate anything you can help with. Thank you all.
On a related note, I'm hoping to attend the 2011 American Association of the Deafblind Symposium outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. I see this as a potential opportunity to meet others from the wider deafblind community, learn a thing or two about advocacy efforts, and perhaps speak with some who helped in planning and fund-raising so that I can then pass some of my gained knowledge onto the NDA. It takes place from June 19th till the 24th, and I've only to work out issues with transportation. Airfare to Cincinnati is currently no less than $550 from either the Charlotte or Raleigh airports, so unless that changes I guess I'll take Greyhound and ride for 20 hours. I suppose that wouldn't be too bad, what with my computer to entertain me. I'd also get to hear all of the run-of-the-mill towns we'd pass through. I tend to meet less people on the bus though, but who knows. It would definitely be the hallmark of my summer.
So that's what I've been thinking about lately. I appreciate your taking the time to read and consider this, as always. Back with more when I have it. Out.

Sat, Apr. 23rd, 2011

11:40 pm - An Unexpected Roadtrip: Making The Train

Happy Easter! I'm coming to you now from my Aunt's very nice apartment in Huntersville, North Carolina. For those not in the know, it's a fairly affluent suburb of Charlotte. Getting here, like everything else in my life of late, was an adventure.
So after the dreary, cold weather that made up yesterday, I was very much looking forward to the 80s and sun that had been promised me on this one. I slept till nearly 12, luxuriating in the rare chance to actually do so amid the constant hubbub that is graduate school. Once I did get up and take a peak outside though, I was disappointed to find that there wasn't much sun to be felt.
Despite this, I decided to take a quick walk down to the mailbox and just get my muscles going, if nothing else. I hadn't thought there was going to be much else to do today or tomorrow, given that it was a holiday weekend and most of my friends were gone. Kids flew by on bikes, almost knocking me down. I also had to dodge the occasional wayward lawnmower as I wove my way in and out of the tightly packed cars that are not kind to knees. Writing this, I realize that I live in an obstacle course!
I'd forgotten to bring my cell phone with me, and so when I returned I discovered that my Aunt had called. She said that if I could take the train down to Charlotte, she'd take me first to our church here bright and early for the sunrise service, and then up to my mom's church in Southern Pines for the normal 11:00 gathering. I've not been to that church since 2007, I'm sad to say. Anyway, I decided that I'd go for it, because I know that I'd regret not having left there come tomorrow morning.
This set off a flurry of activity, during which I called every number and emailed and texted all of the people I could think of in an attempt to secure a ride to the Durham train station. I wasn't too entirely surprised that this venture proved unsuccessful though, as such last-minute efforts often do. Someone suggested that I consider taking the bus and hoping that I could then get help to cross the street on arrival at the Durham station, since that crossing isn't really friendly at all. It was worse than that even, but I'll go into that later.
So I ran over to the bus stop and asked the driver if he thought I might have time to make it all the way to the train station by 5:20, the departure time for my train. It was 3:30 as I boarded. "Hmmm, I don't know," he said. "We're not affiliated with TTA" (The Triangle Transit Authority), "so it's hard for me to say for sure". He gave me the number to that company, but no one would pick up. So, I opted to just chance it. The driver told me to get off at Columbia and Franklin streets and walk over to the stop at the Carolina Coffee shop to catch the bus to Durham. Doing this was easy enough, and I found a pair of eyes to help ensure that I indeed hopped onto the right bus. The TTA driver then informed me that the ETA for the train station was 5 PM, so I figured that should in fact give me enough time. I settled in and listened to people argue, snore, and otherwise engage in the silliness that is normal on public transit. I wanted to go online, but I chose not to do so because I was afraid of being distracted on a route I knew pretty much nothing about.
So 5:00 came, and I arrived at my stop. "Is this the train station?" I asked someone. "No, this the bus station!" they replied. "uh, well can someone please help me get over to the train station?" A woman stood and began assisting me, only there was apparently no easy way to just cross the street. I guess whatever kind of path they had for that before has been altered or something. She had to pass me on for fear of missing her bus, and then the guy with whom I was paired said it would be a long walk. "But I need to be there by 5:20," I insisted. "Well why you come here so late!" "Because my plans were made at the last minute, and I was under the impression that it (the train station) would be relatively close to here". "Ah well it's changed," he retorted. "You can't cross those railroad tracks no more, and going straight across that street will get you hit. Sit down here for a second". I basked on that bench for 10 minutes, pretty much prepared to call a taxi, when someone from the station showed up with a car. "Alright man, we're gonna get there on time" he said. "It's just around the corner". He told me that, at this time anyway, it probably wouldn't be such a good idea to attempt taking the bus over to that station alone. I think I'm going to talk to someone and see if some sort of relatively easy fix can't be implemented. It's a lot more convenient and cheaper to take that bus than to shell out all the dough I'd have to in order to get a taxi all the way from my place. And obviously, I can't always rely on others being available with wheels to help me out.
Anyway, so I just barely got my ticket purchased and had taken a seat inside before the Charlotte train was called. While sitting there, I met a nice older woman who was in a wheelchair, and we began chatting. "I think I'll go ahead and sit beside you sir," she said: "if that's alright by you". She told me that she'd gone to school in Greensboro, I guess at UNCG or perhaps NC A&T State, and majored in Marketing and Sales. "Oh yeah!" she said: "that was my niche. Did that all the way up till a few years ago when I began working in a call center. I'd stayed there till I was laid off last year". I'm not exactly sure what she's doing now.
Everytime I'd pull out my computer as we rumbled down the tracks, she'd ask me another question. I really didn't mind though, since I'm just as much of a talker as anyone. She was only going to Greensboro, so I baid her adieu at that station. Both of us had also begun talking to a woman who said she was an American sign language interpreter here in Charlotte. She said she worked at a high school here. She was very kind, going to get food for both of us from the snack car, which she said was six cars away. I got a cheeseburger and chips, which cost an insane $8. "Man, it's like I'm at a stadium!" I told her. She laughed at that.
Not much else happened. As we pulled into Charlotte, one of the attendants began asking me questions about what I was doing with my life. "Did you go to grad school?" I asked him. "Oh no!" he replied. "I did high school and undergrad, pretty much putting in just enough to get by. All the schooling I needed, I got out here". Ha, I guess I can understand that.
Once inside of the station, I waited no more than 5 minutes for my Aunt to show up. They've recently gotten a new dog, whose name I think is Angel. As soon as I got into her vehicle, he began trying to check me out. He's a 9-month-old poodle. We made a quick stop by the grocery, and then we arrived at her place. I had a quick but delicious dinner of honey-baked turkey, collards, and mac and cheese. Then I chatted with my youngest blind cousin for a bit. With these new aids, this is really the first time ever that I've been able to hear him well enough to easily carry on a conversation. That's a little sad, isn't it?
And now I suppose I'd better get to winding down if I hope to be remotely functional by 5 AM. Tomorrow will be a super long day, and I will of course document as much of it as I end up being able to capture.

Tue, Apr. 12th, 2011

07:07 pm - I Scream!

Today has been one full of unexpected twists and turns, pretty much from the moment my feet hit the floor. No worries though: everything that happened was either funny or finger-lickin' good!
We started the day by capitulating to wakefulness, after managing perhaps, and not likely, 3 hours of sleep. Listening to NPR and reading more of A Thousand Splendid Suns continued until shortly before 7, at which time logistics indicated that there would be barely enough time to drag body and mind into the shower, get dressed, and lop down a giant bowl of frosted flakes before tottering off to the bus.
I boarded, took my usual sideways-facing front seat, and whipped out the netbook to hop online for a bit. Hey, I had to do something to keep myself occupied and thus avoid drifting off and sailing into the great beyond Franklin Street.
Grogginess accompanied me into class, as I stumbled down the stairs and into the building, narrowly managing to keep myself on course long enough to miss an unwanted collision with the massive pillars that stand in the middle of that hallway. Once inside, I sat and listened as a guest speaker drone on and on about qualitative research, coding, memos, and goodness knows what else. He'd only provided his materials in print though, so when they had group exercises I was largely unable to participate. This has been a rare occurrence this semester, one in which accessibility to all needed material has been drastically improved. So I sat feeling upset that I'd somehow neglected to bring my then much-needed bag of starburst jellybeans with me.
Just as my head got two inches from the table: "deet, deet, deet". "Hmmm, that's unusual" the speaker said. It turns out that the fire alarm chose that moment to go off. Into the halls we gushed, and until that moment I hadn't been aware of just how many people are inside of that building at once. I was obviously vastly relieved for the temporary distraction. We sat out there for approximately ten minutes, during which someone I'd met who is in the Physical Therapy program came over to speak to me for a bit.
Even with that stoppage and the other break that came later, that class still seemed incrreeddiibbllyy sslloooowwww. I don't know, it probably had more to do with the density of what was being covered, and my near ineptitude in understanding any of it.
Once we were finally, mercifully released, I headed outside where I remained from 12 PM until nearly 5:45. First, I studied some for Thursday's class while sitting under the awning near the Health Sciences Library until the rain stopped. Then I charged into the scorching sun, where I took up my usual position along the wall near Bondurant Hall until a friend of mine, who is from Lebanon, came over and took me to benches that were getting even more sun. She's very nice: we've already had lunch a couple of times and she wants to do it again this Friday. I think she also wants to go shopping or something like it one weekend. I'm not entirely sure why she started talking to me, but it's rare and nice to encounter individuals who are really interested in taking time to get to know me.
I have to say, again, that this year's class of people in my program are doing wonderfully at making me feel a part of things. As I sat and waited, they came up from their last class of the day saying that they were going to walk over to the area Ben and Jerry's for free cone day. I'm not a huge fan of cones generally, but I can enjoy them. Also, I know a good social opportunity when I see one. I do suppose this is progress though, as too often in the past I'd have said "no" then kicked myself about doing so for the rest of the day.
Anyway, so I paired up with someone and we were off. It was a good walk, especially since I rarely stretch my muscles like I should anymore. We talked and joked about silly professors and other things that were going on in the program. As we neared the store, it became apparent that the line to enter was going to be quite long. There were already people spilling onto the sidewalk. "Are we still going to do it?" I asked. "Oh yeah!" someone replied: "we've come too far to quit."
As the line crawled forward, and not more than 2 minutes after we spoke of how nice and sunny it had been, it began dripping. "As long as the skies don't open up, I'll be alright," I said. I joked that my head was big enough to keep the hearing aids dry, and the woman with whom I was walking replied "why don't you just let your hair grow out for the rest of the month of April, so that it covers them up. You know, April showers bring May flowers." Well we've certainly had enough of those lately. And those showers did indeed get rather heavy for a little while causing many, including the person with whom I was paired, to take out their trusty umbrellas. Ah, how silly we must have looked, and especially when there was a fairly cheap and nearly unoccupied ice cream shop right nearby. But in this society where everything is quickly starting to cost too much, free is the word!
Closing in on the entrance, they began suggesting flavors that I might try. We figured that the workers in there would probably be agitated already, and so it would be best if I could decide long before I arrived at the counter. There was Chunky Monkey, an odd assortment of bananas, vanilla ice cream, walnuts, and something else I think but can't remember. They also had a new flavor called Late Night Snack, which was composed of ice cream and your choice of chocolate-covered potato chips or waffle pieces. There were the standards as well, such as chocolate chip cookie dough. I'd had that kind on a trip to Carowinds, Charlotte's amusement park, and so hearing the name brought back good memories.
There was some sort of jumbo ice cream called the Vermonster, which consisted of 18 scoops and a ridiculous amount of toppings. I think they said that if you could eat all of that in one sitting, you would win a T-shirt and have your name displayed. "I think I'd never want ice cream again after that!" I said. Yikes.
I ultimately settled for the Chunky Monkey, and I didn't regret it. It tasted great, but then the stuff started running down the cone and making my hand all sticky. Never fear though, I always have an emergency stash of napkins. Once we were all done getting deliciously messy, a couple of them walked me to the bus stop and waited until I'd gotten on before leaving.
I needed an unusual day like this, I think. My life has been so routine that it felt good to not quite know what was happening. Hopefully this is a good signifyer to how my summer will go, but of course that remains to be see.

Current Music: Aww, hush kids.

Mon, Apr. 11th, 2011

04:37 pm - On The Downwind

Because I can and it's my journal, I'm starting with a cliche. Isn't it amazing how the more things change, the more they stay the same?
In so many respects, this semester has far outpaced anything I've experienced prior while in Chapel Hill/Carrboro. The biggest reasons are the introduction of much more portable computing, the new aids, and a much-welcome relief from financial burden.
Have I done as well as I would have liked academically? Well it's starting to appear that I have not. I can't recall if I mentioned it in my previous entry, but the instructor of my mock counseling class has pretty much decided that she's going to give me an incomplete and have me work with her on fine-tuning my counseling skills over the summer. I gather that with what she has seen thus far, she couldn't pass me with good confidence. "You're making progress," she told me, "but I just want to see it be a little more consistent".
I certainly can't argue with her on this point. I sometimes find it difficult to know exactly what to say to the client, and thus I end up making a remark that takes me "onto another street" as she is fond of saying. I suppose I'm fortunate she's giving me a chance at all. As we know, the results of my first semester here mean that I can't afford even a low-passing grade or my graduate school career will end prematurely. I think she sees enough potential in me, but the more information I'm fed, I sometimes feel the more flustered I'm becoming in working with clients. The odd thing though is I feel like I'm so close to figuring this out and actually making it work. How many more shots do I get, though. I'm well aware of that ticking clock. And let's not even mention how I'm supposed to convince my counselors at the Division of Services for the Blind to continue believing in me. I guess all I can do is my best.
Other things are going ok, I guess. The weather is finally turning all the way into Spring. As I write this, I'm sitting under the sun and warmth of an 85-degree day and wearing shorts for the first time this season. I know it'll be cooler for most of the rest of this week, but getting a Monday like this can't be topped.
I've also been reading, but then that never really stops. Tried to read Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier, but it just never really grabbed me. I think that had more to do with the NLS narrator who read it though, as the way he rhythmizes (Ok that's not a word, but so!) sentences just doesn't sit well with me.
Read all three in the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, a reality show type story set in a bleak future wherein kids are set in an "arena" to fight it out to the death. These kids come from what are called districts, and their sole purpose is to entertain "the capital", the city that rules Panem with an iron fist. If you've not read it, I highly recommend it. It's 27 hours of audio in total, and yet I still read the entire thing in two weeks. That's absolutely unheard of for me.
I am currently reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. It traces the lives of two Afghan women as they unfold against the backdrop of the war with the Soviets, clashes among the warlords that left the capital in tatters, and the rise and I suppose fall of the Taliban. I've not gotten all the way to the end yet, so I'm not entirely sure. It's a great, if somewhat sad, read.
And that's about all I've got going on over here. Naturally, it has made me feel a lot better to write out some of the things that I've been dealing with. Thanks for reading, and I hope your life is going wonderfully. Bye bye for now.

Current Music: Ah, the sweet sound of... construction?

Thu, Mar. 31st, 2011

10:59 pm - Can You Hear Me Now?

Ah, my neglected LiveJournal. I keep opening this page to type something, and then closing it having decided that I've nothing interesting to say. That may well be the case today, but I think I'm going to let my fingers keep rat-tat-tat-ing away no matter what they put out. All of my writing doesn't have to be grad school papers, after all.
Speaking of that, I've all but completed my first draft of the literature review that is to start my master's project. I got the critiques back last week: there were quite a few comments but overall the paper wasn't as bad as I'd feared it might be. More than anything, she wanted me to clarify what I was trying to say and to do a better job transiding from one major category to another. I've never really been good at that, transitions that is.
And along those lines, my adjustment to these new hearing aids continues. I've had two major chances to test how well they're working for me. One was more successful than the other.
First, on Tuesday I participated in what was to be a discussion with two people at the university. One is a health educator in Counseling and Wellness Services, and the other writes for some sort of theatrical group that attempts to inform the campus on issues regarding diversity. Only the "discussion" ended up being a talk between me and them as none of the other people who had expressed interest showed up. I answered their questions about race, my feelings of privelege, and what I thought might be improved campuswide not only for racial minorities, but also for persons with disabilities. I think I had a harder time articulating my thoughts than I would have liked, though. Hopefully something I said will prove helpful.
And as far as the aids go, I do think they helped me more clearly hear what was being said. I had a couple of difficulties with some phrases, because the acoustics in that room make sound not travel very well. I did like that I could adjust the volume without any distortion, which had been a problem with both of the previous sets of aids I've had before.
Today, I went to a party in celebration of one of my classmate's birthday. I knew this would be interesting, as it was the first real time that I'd be eating in a restaurant with them. They'd chosen to go to McAlister's Deli on Franklin Street. If you've not heard of that place, you should go and try it. Good stuff! After another classmate picked me up from campus and drove me over there, I ordered a meatloaf on croissant bread, and a nice-sized bowl of potato salad. I also had a huge cup of sprite and a delicious slice of chocolate cake, apparently made by the birthday person herself. I thought that was kind of amusing, but ah well.
My hearing in that place was still just so-so, sadly. I think this was due in large part to the fact that most of the people to whom I was talking were on my right side, which is and has always been my bad side. They know me though, so they didn't make a big deal of this. Also, the person with whom I'd come sat in front of me and would help me out by summarizing the main points of whatever conversation was going on at a time. I had to contend with some fairly loud rock music too.
I was greatful for this opportunity because I wanted to know just what it would be like in such an environment with these new aids. At least I was somewhat functional. With the previous aids, I don't think I would've really heard anything at all. Plus, now I'll hopefully know a little more of what to tell the audiologist as she attempts to tweek them a bit the next time I see her. And speaking of her, I just want to say that I truly do respect all that she's done in helping me to get to this point, and that I appreciate the efforts of the rest of her team as well. Hopefully I can make these gains hold out, and perhaps even improve on them. More whenever I have something remotely interesting to write about.

Sun, Mar. 13th, 2011

09:12 pm - Clearly Confused

So, I kind of have the Clearwire service now. And after some fiddling around with things, I am fairly impressed.
First to actually getting it: my address had been listed wrong with FedEx, as the customer service rep somehow left the apartment number out completely. On complaining about this on Twitter, both the account for Clearwire and one for FedEx contacted me in the hopes of resolving this issue. To be honest, I’m not sure if the FedEx thing was controlled by a person or a computer somehow. If the latter, it was scarily efficient. They would respond to every question I posed in a very scripted way, and on looking at responses to other people’s questions similar feedback had been given. It is listed under a woman’s name though, and perhaps she just has to perform under those strict rules. She tracked my package as it made its way through the system, as I’d said I might not be here and if not I’d like it taken to the leasing office. Luckily, I’d arrived just a bit before the delivery truck did. Crazily, I was in the restroom when the pounding on door began. Haha, ah well. And not two minutes after I took the package inside, the Twitter person/machine/AI bot wrote me back to confirm that I had indeed been the one to take it.
So that was getting it. Then it took me a while to figure out what the different parts did. People from Clear gave me suggestions via Twitter direct messages that I might try, but that whole first day was still a no-go. Finally, we worked out that I’d just not logged onto the site and completed the steps necessary to register the device. I was surprised at how easily this was accomplished, and when I plugged the device into my computer at another location it worked quite well. However, here at my apartment I can’t seem to acquire a signal unless I have the computer right in the windowsill or I am sitting outside. I’m still working with them to determine how to get this Clearspot thing set up, which I suppose would grant me WiFi access throughout the apartment. Until then, I just make do with two levels of Internet. I must say that I am impressed with the download speeds on Clear, as well as the fact that I can now smoothly stream content. If I can in fact get the signal issue dealt with, I think I’ll keep it.
As Spring Break 2011 winds down, I feel a mixture of contentment and nervousness. Contentment, because I am constantly reminded of the fortune I have of being surrounded by good people. I spent much of the weekend with my cousin and his girlfriend watching the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) men’s basketball tournament. She cooked up nachos and tacos, and on Saturday following the games we went out for a fun meal and conversation at the Carolina Ale House in Durham. The University of North Carolina got all the way to the tourney finals where they took on Duke today, but sadly they lost by a wide margin. They’d not really come out strong against any of the teams they’d previously faced in the tournament, but were able to overcome fairly substantial deficits to snag the games from the university of Miami and Clemson University on Friday and Saturday.
And why am I nervous? Well, because I’m not really sure what to expect for this second half of the semester. I do know that at some point, probably soon, I will get this literature review back. The thought of that makes my throat dry. I don’t think I’ll have anymore major projects to worry about for the rest of the semester, just more counseling sessions and activities for the research course. I guess the main thing there is to focus on continuing to read, write, and prepare adequately for everything that is listed on the syllabus.
I wanted to do my brackets for the NCAA tournament, as is tradition on this day. I’m just trying to work out how things are designed this year, as it seems there are now 68 teams in the field. Huh? I wonder if the 4 extras play on Tuesday or what? I probably won’t be able to determine whom to pick until the number is widdled back down to 64, as my little brain can only handle so much craziness. I do know that the University of North Carolina was given a number 2 seed, and according to the Yahoo Sports bracket listings, they will open play against Long Island University on Friday at 12 PM from Charlotte. I’ll be done with class then, yay! They have a tough draw, but as someone who writes about Tar Heel sports pointed out, this draw still beats last year’s.
And that’s about all I have for now. I’m sure I’ll be back as next week ends, to cover whatever forms of madness have occurred since then. Out.

Sun, Mar. 6th, 2011

10:55 pm - Books for 2011

I'm bored, with nothing but time, cold, and music to contemplate. Then I realized something: I've not really documented my reads for this year so far. That's going to be a bad thing come December. Gah, can you believe it's already March? I welcome the coming warmth, but still.
Ok, I'm too easily sidetracked. Let's see what I can even remember about my reads. I read a thriller by Gregg Hurwitz called Minutes To Burn. Here, animals in the Galapagos Islands were being effected by a virus that had been unleashed by earthquakes and rapid climate change. Scientists and soldiers were dispatched to try and get a handle on the situation, and in so doing they met with all sorts of unfortunate disasters. Its conclusion leads me to believe that there will be or already is a sequel.
After that, I read The Confession, by John Grisham. I enjoyed this, because it was a bit of a return to his old form. Here, an African American teen-aged male is falsely accused of raping and murdering a white girl in a small Texas town. This is done more out of police desperation to capture and can someone quickly, so that they can look as if they are doing something. The two individuals capable of saving the falsely imprisoned person choose to come forward, but, well there are many complications. This story is A Time To Kill meets the Facebook generation.
Next, I read another good book, a fairly local one called The Footprints of God, by Greg Iles. Much of the beginning of this novel took place in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Given that Iles made at least a passing mention of Charlotte in the other book I read by him, I'm guessing he must have connections to these parts. We just aren't featured all that often in stories. A computer onto which a neuro model of a person's brain could be loaded was being constructed in a lab called Trinity, right here in Research Triangle Park (RTP). For those who don't know, that area is so named because of its location relative to the three prestigious universities in this area: North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina, and Duke. (Duke isn't prestigious in my mind, but yeah. Haha). Anyway, this book exhibits a woman who practices an odd version of Freudian psychotherapy, a man who was hired to ensure that the construction of this computer was done ethically but who then experiences so much tracking and interference from government agencies who don't want the project derailed that he fears for his life, and a mix of other, quite excentric characters. There were definitely some very tense points within this book.
And my latest attempted read is Neighborhood Watch, by Cammie McGovern. While I found the first chapter compelling, it seems to have lost a lot of steam of late. I may try and stick with it though, as it's only 9+ hours of audio. I did enjoy the voice of the person who reads it for BARD. Here's their synopsis, as I've not had time to fully form one yet.
"
Twelve years after she's wrongly imprisoned for killing her neighbor while sleepwalking, librarian Betsy Treading is released based on DNA evidence. As she now begins her own investigation into the murder, Betsy learns startling things about herself and her suburban neighbors."
Ha, that doesn't sound so exciting, in retrospect. I think that's all I've read this year. I'm having a harder time finding good titles, it seems. Give me some suggestions, if you dare. I need a good one to enjoy during this week of vacation. More soon!

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Sat, Mar. 5th, 2011

06:20 pm - Breaking

Ah, isn’t it fun to use subject lines that can mean several things at once? I want to begin by thanking you for the comments on both entries concerning my grandma. I apologize for not being responsive, it’s just that my Internet has been so bad lately that I’m hardly able to access more than the mobile Facebook or Twitter. Please know that I value your reading and caring about what’s going on here.
Speaking of the Internet, I’m hoping those slow issues will be remedied soon. I’ve just subscribed to a service called Clearwire, which provides Internet access on the go. The rep I spoke to sent me a WiFi hotspot, or as they call it a Clearspot, that I can use to bring up to 8 devices online simultaneously. That sounds nifty. I guess the device is small, as he said I can carry it around in my pocket. I’d heard of this service because my cousin uses it.
I’ve just had it with Time-Warner and their issues in this complex. They sent a guy over to see what the problem was, and of course when he ran a speed test on my connection all appeared fine. He even had me log on while he was here, and yeah it worked. But not more than a few minutes after he departed, the thing went right back to dragging as it had before. I know they’ll think I’m crazy if I keep calling about it, and I question their ability to fix it anyway. So, I’ll try Clear.
The only thing is since my credit is pretty much nonexistent, they won’t waive the activation fee for me. This means that in order to get everything up and running, I have to shell out $165. After that though, it’ll be just $45 a month. That’s still cheaper than getting the iPhone I’d thought about obtaining, so I guess it’ll be ok in the end. They did seem to have excellent customer service, though.
And, am I ever happy to be on Spring Break! I did manage to just slip that lit review in under the wire, staying in the library until I was forced to catch the last bus to my apartment, then scrambling to make last edits at home before zipping it out on the apartment WiFi while sitting outside in the cold. As soon as I got that accomplished, the apartment WiFi went down. This was at 10:45 PM, and the paper had to be in by midnight on Wednesday. So as you can see, I was very fortunate to pull that off. I’m not really sure how I did in the end. I do know that it required 30 articles and I only submitted 24. I just didn’t like the others I’d attempted to use. I’m sure that’ll end up costing me something, but ah well. I need to use this time to relax, retool, and find my motivation.
Tonight is the final game of the ACC regular season for Carolina, against Duke. Amazing that the season is already ending! I guess I didn’t win those tickets after all, which isn’t surprising but kinda blows. The game should be quite exciting, though, and I plan to have a burger on the George and have fun with my Twitter friends as it progresses. All I’m missing is a cold beer. Haha.
For all the other students on Spring break, I hope you are having a fun, safe time. We’ll be back for the second half, the warmer half! Of the semester shortly. Till then, farewell.

Sun, Feb. 27th, 2011

12:27 am - Catch-up

Since this will probably be the only time between now and March 1 that I have to write, I figured I should say something. Probably no well-thought-out prose this time, but you can blame this endless graduate school paper for that.
Speaking of, it’s a massive review of the literature that’s supposed to be a minimum of 15 pages. I think my greatest fear with this thing is that I’m probably just not doing it right. I’m doing mine on enhancing vocational outcomes. It is to be the first chapter of my Master’s project, oo scary! If I don’t survive this thing though, I can kiss grad school bye bye.
Onto other things: my grandma’s funeral was last Saturday. But first, I arrived in Charlotte on Friday night with my cousin’s girlfriend, as she lives in the area. We had a nice family dinner at Golden Coralle, although my cousin, his girlfriend and I got there towards the end of things. It was ok though, as folk lingered for a little while longer to chat with us.
After eating, we went to my youngest sister’s house for a little more chatter, and I had a glass of white whine. I think that’s the first I’ve ever had of that kind. It was pretty good, actually. We just reminisced over some of those grandma memories I chronicled in the previous entry. All but one of my sisters were there, which was nice as we so infrequently gather these days outside of maybe Thanksgiving.
Then, my cousin and I went to bed down at my Uncle’s house. I can’t really remember the last time I slept in there, but doing so definitely brought back its own flood of memories. I’d taken the netbook with me in order to try and whack out a few paragraphs of this paper, but the few sentences I did cobble together were so bad that I just gave up on that idea and didn’t even bother saving my work. My cousin and I just mulled over life until nearly 1:30, with my uncle popping in periodically to interject his thoughts.
I had to wake up very early on Saturday in order to get my hair cut. There was a barber close by, fortunately, and they made quick and efficient work of knocking all of that stuff off. I’d like to go back to that place, actually. Then my uncle had to scare up some clothes for me to dress up. I have very few of those, but need more. We found enough stuff that worked, and after coaxing my cousin out of bed and through the shower we were off.
Much as it had been when my grandfather died, my grandma’s funeral was of course somewhat sad but much more of a celebration of her life. We’d all gathered at and departed from my Aunt’s house in the limo to head for the church. We have the viewing portion at the beginning, during which each guest files past the body at the front to pay their respects. I hadn’t been warned that this was going to happen at my grandfather’s funeral, and thus I jumped when my hand was placed on the body. The person with whom I walked this time kept me informed as each thing happened, which made it easier. We, the family, then took our seats on the front row and shook hands with everyone as they passed.
I can’t quite remember what exactly the pastor preached about, the venerable Pastor Jones, but the words were stirring as always. I was particularly surprised to note that the pastor from First Missionary Baptist Church in Southern Pines had come down as well. I was also moved to tears by a woman who sang a beautiful solo piece. We sang what I take to be one of my grandma’s favorite hymns as well: Blessed Assurance. You can click that link to see what it sounds like musically, as well as to view the lyrics. That song really does take me back to childhood whenever I hear it.
Back into the cars for the procession to the gravesite. Here, I talked to my biological father and to his mother, whom we called grandmother. I hadn’t seen her in at least 20 years. She still insisted on calling me Alexander, and so had to tap me in order for me to know to whom she was even speaking. She gave me that name, and is pretty much the only person who uses it.
At the site, my cousin and I along with I think six other individuals? Were pallbearers. This meant we carried the casket over to where it would ultimately be placed. It was a solemn experience, knowing that her body would rest there. I had to be turned around a few times, but we worked it out.
Back to the church for the traditional meal. We definitely ate a lot that weekend. Once we were done with that, we had to be driven back across town in the limos again, since everyone had left their cars at my Aunt’s house. As we watch the University of North Carolina’s basketball team sloppily take down Boston College, more chatter ensued. I was also given a huge slab of chocolate, a UNC backpack, packages of peanut butter and thin mint girlscout cookies, and a few other things. I was touched, and I can’t fully express how much the support my family has given and continues to give means to me.
That was the crux of the weekend. On Sunday, my cousins and I attended church with my uncle. Before we left though, he read us the story of his cross-country trip with his son, my youngest cousin. It was fascinating, as he’d described views of the Grand Canyon, the Utah sky, and Santa Monica California. There was also a harrowing experience involving a trip to Coors Field in Denver, the home of the Colorado Rockies, during which my cousin became ill, probably due to dehydration. In his true fashion, he countered the paramedics advice to seek further medical attention in a hospital saying “but I wanna go to the game”. Two miracles happened: my uncle said that someone seemed to appear out of nowhere with a rather elaborate set-up providing both water and ice, and the seats he’d purchased for the game were in the only shaded section throughout. So they did in fact manage to see that game.
And I suppose that was all of interest that really happened during that weekend. As soon as I got back, probably as a function of the weather being near 80 on Monday and upper 30’s on Tuesday, I got pounded with a rather viscious cold from which I am still trying to recover. Needless to say, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. There have also been some positive developments, but I shall go into detail on those in a future entry. For now though, I will wrap this up and say that I hope all is well with you. Night.

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Sat, Feb. 12th, 2011

06:13 pm - Ode To A Life

I wonder if people still experience their grandparents the way we did as children. Just thinking the word “grandma” brings to mind the sweet scent of peaches on a hot summer’s day. The loud rattling of a largely ineffectual window unit air conditioner. Those days of lying on the floor, feeling stuffed and happy and trying to stay quiet while she watched her stories. She knew my sisters, cousin and I like to gorge ourselves on candy, ice cream sandwiches, and yes even fruit, and so she’d always keep her fridge full to bursting of the stuff.
Grandma could be stern too. You recall my mentioning of that air conditioner which hardly worked? Well if you turned it off, you were basically setting the oven to 350. One crack of thunder, and all of us would moan. This is because my grandma would order the immediate shutting down of any and all things electric. “But can we at least keep on a fan?” “No! Turn it off!” “But you know, lightning isn’t all that likely to hit…” “Shut up and turn that thing off!” Ok? I’ll just quietly slide back to grandaddy’s room and hide in there, before I lose all of my water.
Through all of her quirks and the things that made her her, I really loved my grandma. When I was a child, I’d sit in rapt fascination as she told stories of a rough childhood in the country parts of South Carolina. It is sad that I don’t remember a whole lot of her story, actually. I do know that at some point, she relocated to Charlotte, married my grandfather, and raised three children. Both of my grandparents were blind, so bringing up a family during that era, before all of this wonderful technology and other opportunities we now have, must have been frought with challenges. They did it though, and quite well.
She always sought to have a hand in the lives of her children’s children as well. As my mom and dad got their own family started, they had to reside with my grandma for a time while gathering the finances and making other preparations to strike out on their own. I know I took a tumble crawling backwards in her house, falling down the stairs. It wouldn’t surprised me if I took my first steps there as well.
She even held me up during my freshman year of undergraduate study. She’d call me at least once a week to see how I was faring, and when I was truly at my lowest point, contemplating the end of my life, she stayed on the phone and prayed with me that things would be ok. I think she had a way of feeling our pain that went way down deep. For her empathy, understanding and love I will forever be grateful.
I have just learned that on this day, February 12, 2011, my grandma has passed from this earthly realm. She was born on January 29, 1929, meaning that she had just turned 82 years of age recently. She had been in a nursing home for quite some time and was suffering with things, so I am glad that this is no more. Yet I still feel a profound sense of loss, as in so many ways she was the glue that held our family together. I imagine though that we will again begin finding each other in this difficult time.
I remember shortly after my grandfather’s passing, he sent me a message asking that I do my best to keep my life moving forward. He wanted me to benefit from all that he and his generation had fought for. I am now reflecting, and hoping that both of my grandparents are looking down on me with smiles on their faces. I intend to work as hard as I can for as long as I live to make their struggles and triumphs worthwhile. So let that sweet scent linger on always. May you rest in peace.

Sun, Feb. 6th, 2011

11:55 pm - A Hectic but Enjoyable Week

I've been meaning to update this thing for some time, but whenever I put finger to keyboard after a long, exhausting day I inevitably give up and press Control+w. For this I apologize, dear reader, assuming you even care. So many things have happened this week that I don't even know how much of it I can capture. It has been a great one for my social life, that's for sure.
I hadn't had class until Thursday, but even so I was still up by 7 every day of the business week. Monday saw me running all over campus: first to collect a book I needed for my research class and deposit it in the Disability Services office, and then to meet with my instructor on my first mock counseling session. On the book; why did I not have it till now? Well, because I had to transfer my Division of Services for the Blind case, as we all know. It ended up being ok though, as the entire thing is now scanned and I'm basically caught up.
She also said that I did relatively well, for a first session. "You looked too tight as it started..." she told me: "but you warmed up at the end." Well, I'd only gone 3 minutes. It's hard to do that well!
Tuesday was another really long day. Since we had our research class for that day online, my partners decided they wanted to go ahead and conduct our next mock counseling sessions. I wasn't entirely sure what to say to the client at points, even causing her to become defensive in some cases. Haha. I wonder what the instructor will say to me about that tomorrow. And when I played client with the other individual, well I think that poor character is hopeless. As before though, she showed me a couple of things that I should have done as counselor, and must remember to implement. This is an informative, if entertaining process. I just wonder how we'll keep it up all semester.
Wednesday was probably the nicest day of the entire week, in so many ways. First, it bobbed up to near 70 degrees again. The only issues with that were the constantly gusting winds and the fact that the sun refused to stay out consistently. But again, I guess you'll have that on warm days at this time of year. I met with a kind librarian who gave me a quick tutorial on how to use RefWorks, which I need in order to help me keep track of the 478348756387 research articles I will need for this literature review. Goodness gracious, that's a lot of articles!
Then came the best part of the day. A former classmate, the woman who'd been kind enough to help me with transportation to a class last semester that was off campus, came by my apartment to get me so that we could hang out. We had dinner and drinks at Tyler's Restaurant and Taproom in Carrboro. She told me that they had an amazing variety of beers, and that you could get them in sampler glasses. We tried four different kinds. Two were India pale ales: one with a particularly bitter taste which she attributed to its hops and the other with a taste that I favored less. The first was the best of all four, actually. It tasted kind of like medicine, but not in a bad way! Made me feel all sleepy and warm. The third was, I think, a German wheat beer. I'm not even sure she knew what the fourth was. I may well have mixed these up, as I'm of course no beer afficionado. It was a unique experience, for sure.
I was hungry as well, so I'd ordered a cheese burger and fries. Because they felt that things were taking a long time, the servers first gave us appetizer chips, then told us that our entire meal and drinks were on the house. The place was loud and packed though, so I really wasn't planning to complain anyway. But wow were those folk nice! She and I just had a blast talking and sipping, and she picked on me because I opted not to finish all that beer. I'm a lightweight. So?
Oh alright, I suppose this entry has gone on long enough eh? Not much significant really happened after that anyway. I did go to a little Super Bowl gathering with my cousin, his girlfriend, and a couple we've known for ages. They'd also gone to the UNC Tar Heels game today against Florida State University, one which the Heels won going away. They've won their last three by 20 or more, in fact, a very promising occurrence going into the tilt with Duke University this Wednesday on its home floor. I've thought these folks had gone to at least two other games, but I know for sure they went today. Smiles My cousin said someone played the Carolina fight song on harmonica on the shuttle bus as they rode to the Dean Smith Center. I'm still hoping to experience a game this season in person, but we shall see.
And tomorrow is my first interview for this internship in DC. It takes place at 9 AM. I'm not entirely sure about the wisdom of choosing such an early time, and on a Monday to boot, but I guess I like a challenge. I'm not really sure what they're going to ask, other than perhaps something about my knowledge of politics, the ADA, and related vric a vrac. So I'lll just see how well I can answer them. In any event, wish me luck! Thanks. More from my crazy life as it continues to unfold.

Current Music: Jill Scot - A Long Walk

Fri, Jan. 28th, 2011

11:44 pm - My Story

And as promised, here is a link to the personal story about me that was recently posted on the VisionAware website. I've already put it on my other social networking feeds, but I figure there may be some who only see the journal.

I enjoyed writing it, and the individual who posted it did a great job spiffing it up with edits and pictures. It seemed to be well received.

I got a lot of touching responses from people all over the world. This one, from someone in Italy, was the most profound to me. Obviously I will leave out the name, but the message lets me know that something I'm doing is actually having an effect on someone else. That is a very good feeling indeed.

HI JOHN, my son has Norries, I'vejust read your site. He has 3 years, he's totally blind and no other issue related to Norrie: he's an intellingent and always happy child, he can talk quite well for his age, and never stops it! (he talks even during sleep time sometimes!!) and he's starting to learn simple things to be more independent... we live in Italy, so we have many services that help him well, and good schools. I just want to thank you for all you're doing for many younger men affected by Norrie: the Association is very important for us! you're great in all the things you do! bye

In other news, I've been informed that my application for the DC internship has indeed been received. I'd asked both my advisor and mentor to write letters of recommendation, as I knew it was the last minute and someone might not be able to come through. Fortunately, my mentor managed to get it to me just in time and all was well.

Speaking of her, she had me talk to a bunch of elementary school children yesterday. They were from kindergarten through 3rd grade, and I guess they attended some sort of charter school that was a part of her church. Those were very smart, well-behaved children. I commented that my ghetto crew would've been bouncing off of the walls! I told them about blindness, demonstrated some things to them such as how I use my cane, and took questions. And that baby name thing was in full effect. Some of those I'm surprised they could pronounce. My generation is insane.

Speaking with them was rewarding but also exhausting. Well that on top of the fact that I'd done my first taping as a mock counselor for this lab class, which I'm not really sure how that went but will talk to the instructor about it on Monday. I think I didn't solicit enough information, as I got to see a little more of how it was done when I played client to someone else. It was definitely a learning process.

As I feared, the laptop has spoken its last words. I've therefore transitioned to full use of the netbook. Things are going well thus far, as I explore and learn more about Windows 7. I've not noticed a whole lot of difference actually, except that the start menu works a little differently with the search box that appears right after pressing the Windows key. I also like that I can reliably shut down the computer by pressing start, and Tabbing twice to get to the button. This helps when the machine stops responding. I guess there will be more for me to learn as time goes on.

And that's about all for this long, rambling edition. If you read the story and wish to ask me further questions, please feel free to do so. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Fri, Jan. 21st, 2011

12:51 pm - 1st Entry of Semester 4

And also the first posted directly from the Netbook! Yay for portability.
I'm sitting in the bustling lobby of my main academic building, Bondurant Hall, because sadly it's too cold to be outside for an extended period. I did get a iraculous break in the weather on Wednesday, during which we saw temperatures climb to the mid 60's with ample sunshine. You had better believe I took advantage of every minute of that! And to those who remember my UNC Charlotte days, I'm proud to announce that I've found a similar sunsplashed bench here now. It's the little things, folks.
Anyway, so what's been going on with me. Not surprisingly, a whole lot. I've completed my second week of classes, the first full one though because we missed last Tuesday's due to snow. Well more like ice, but whatever. I wish all of that stuff would just go away!
The research class is a bit unnerving, because I must begin writing my literature review. This will be the first chapter of my Master's project, so obviously it is very iportant. I'm having a hard time deciding what to pursue, but let's hope I've come up with something by February 8, as the outline is due then. The entire lit review must be completed on March 1.
And then there's the lab class. Here, I must pretend to be a counselor and a client, obviously in different sessions. These sessions will be taped for later viewing by the instructor. The problem? Well there's an uneven number of students in this course, meaning that one group must have three participants. And of course, I've always got to be the oddball. I'm trying to work with some of my classmates and ask the professor how such a group would be composed. She has actually ensured me that a three-person group should be easier than a partnership, but I guess we shall see.
In oter, slightly more exciting news, I'm attempting to apply for an internship with the Association of American people with Disabilities (AAPD). If I get it, I'd be placed in the office of a congressperson, where i would have the opportunity to learn a lot about the political and legislative process over the summer. They'd provide travel to and from DC, as well as lodging for the ten weeks I'd be there. I think it would be a really neat opportunity for me to learn about advocacy and disability rights, and my advisor agrees.
Speaking of whom, I went to meet with him today about some things. What he had to tell me was somewhat distressing, although I guess in retrospect I shouldn't have been all too surprised. He is recommending that I continue on the part-time track even beyond this year. The biggest reason for this is that if I don't, I'd have to work on my master's project, do practicum work, and take three courses simultaneously next Fall. We all recall how difficult it was dealing with just those four courses in the Fall of 2009, so I think he has a point. I'm not sure if the Division of Services for the blind is going to agree though, not to mention the added time I'd be spending in school. It would tack another year onto my program. I'm not exactly sure what to do, and I have only a limited time to decide. I finally have completed the transfer of my case from the Charlotte to the Raleigh office, and met with my new counselor this past Tuesday. That is a huge relief! Now I have this other, new curve to throw at him. I hope he is understanding.
And I close by acknowledging two individuals who are allowing me to guest post in their blogs. Well the second isn't up yet, but the first, a former UNC student whom I've written about in here before has a blog called Access Tech Geek. She had me write a piece about System Access, including how I use it and my overall impressions. I think it actually ended up being pretty good. The second entry, coming shortly, is a personal story about me. It may well be the most comprehensive background post I've ever written about myself. I will definitely post the link once it is available.
I hope you all have a great weekend. I hear they're threatening us with that four-letter word again, S-N-O-W. No, make it stop! I've had enough days sequestered to my apartment, thank you very much. Wednesday reminds me that Spring will arrive eventually, though. Out!

Wed, Jan. 12th, 2011

10:12 am - Unboxed

I think I'm close to losing my mind! This never-ending snow-ice storm has kept me largely grounded in here since Friday. We have snow in all but one state, and the poor folks of Queensland in Australia are being flooded out. This on the already tragic anniversary of the Haiti earthquake which took the lives of over 250000 people. It seems we have a lot of natural disasters, along with the man-made types created by the mad people of the world, to deal with these days.
How do I cope? No better way than music, in my opinion. But then the quality of the stuff they put out lately has degraded to a level that makes it all but intolerable to me. Never fear, Pandora is here!
I had heard of this amazing music service, which allows you to input artists and find others related to them, but it had been largely inaccessible. Until now, that is.
The developers of the now famous Qwitter Client for Twitter have done it again. They have created a client, called Hope, which greatly simplifies interaction with Pandora for screen-reader users like myself. You can create an account, search for, add and customize stations with ease. Also most importantly, it allows for controlling the volume.
I had it on today while doing the online job, and it really did a number on the time! I first plugged in Boyz II Men, and I sang along to every single song it played for the next hour and a half. I'd actually experimented with it first late last night, and thus I found myself going to sleep and dreaming about some of that great music. I am currently listening to the Rascal Flatts station, another of my favorite groups. It's playing a song by Lady Antebellum called When You Got a Good Thing.
You do have to pay for access to this client, $10, but the proceeds are used to enhance future development of Qwitter and other accessibility tools. And given the hours of enjoyment and definitely increased school and work productivity that will result, I'd say it had paid itself back before I even completed the purchase.
Even if you don't have a specific reason to obtain the Hope client, might I ask that you consider donating to the Qwitter project? This can be done at the Qwitter site listed above. This has made a tremendous difference in how much I am able to get done. All of the functions for which I use it; Twitter access, online search, language translation, and Captcha solving; can be completed in other formats. However no other system presents all of these things within one easy-to-use interface such as this. This has caused Qwitter to become an invaluable tool to me in a relatively short period of time. My thanks to those who are working to come up with solutions that make the Internet more fun, flexible, and usable for all.

Current Music: Clay Walker - A Few Questions

Mon, Jan. 3rd, 2011

03:56 pm - Remember To Give

I decided to try something a little unusual for me, and get out again to access the WiFi at Starbucks. I am writing this entry on the netbook, but because I'm having all sorts of issues actually establishing a connection I'll probably be posting it later. Anyhow, let me tell you what happened on the way in here.

So I head out to catch the bus on a sunny, if cold day. No one is really aboard, which I don't find surprising as we're still hanging onto the last vestiges of an all-too-quickly fading vacation. I only hear a set of high heels go clacking past me to a seat further back.

Off at Columbia and Franklin, and along the street towards Bank of America I go. I need to withdraw $20 in cash for some erands I will be running later. I meet a woman who says she works at some sort of nonprofit agency in this area. I of course tell her my major and a bit about what I hope to accomplish.

Into and out of the bank with no difficulties. As I exit, I see the woman who worked with me last Tuesday on her way in. I guess she'd been on break. We exchange pleasantries and I bounce on out to the street. I wonder if she's single.

Anyway, as I cruise along the strip searching for the correct entrance to Starbucks, an individual with a ragged-sounding voice approaches and asks "Where are you trying to go?" I tell this person (I couldn't distinguish if it was a he or she because of the unusual pitch. I think the barista, isn't that what you call them at Starbucks?, referred to this person as a she.

I asked the person behind the counter what he'd recommend to one who doesn't know a whole lot about coffee. "Um, I don't know. We have a bunch of flavors. Do you like things that are milk-based?" "Yeah sure, I'll try something like that." "Ok, how about a vanilla latte, or a (I forget the other kind of latte he mentioned)." "I'll try the vanilla." "Alright, that'll be $3.02" he said.

The individual who'd encountered me outside had followed me in, and so volunteered to assist me to a seat. I sucked on the drink and settled in to begin trying to log on. I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Uh," this person said in a whisper: "I need $2, please". Unsure of whether I'd heard them right I said "Huh?" "I said I need $2." Of course they knew I had it on me: I'd used a 5 to make the previous transaction. Even though I was kind of planning to use that as part of the change I'd need later, I opted to go ahead and hand it over. I obviously have no idea what this person may have been or is going through, but given how things have gone for me I owe about a thousand acts of kindness to the universe. I guess I just hope that helps out a little.

And now I will probably get out of here and head on back home, since I can't actually get online. I hate trying to figure out how to deal with all these screens you must penetrate to gain access in these establishments. At least in Caribou Coffee, I just had to put my e-mail address in and I was able to hop on. I tried checking the box that says I agree with the terms of service, but I couldn't figure out what I needed to do next. Ah well. I like doing this though, as interesting things almost always happen. Let's see what fun I can get into next time. Till then, have a good Monday.

Sat, Jan. 1st, 2011

10:55 pm - 2011 Begins

I know, not the most original subject line, but oh well. Wow! Already another year behind us. It went by so quickly that I feel like I never got properly adjusted. Will anything be different on this trip around the sun? It's hard to say.
It at least got off to a better start than 2010 had. It is probable that I never recovered from that craziness.
Interupting to note that iTunes Radio is playing One Moment In Time. One of my favorites, and a great song to inspire me! Ok, two-minute meditation done, I think I'm ready to continue now.
I didn't bother writing about Christmas, because nothing really happened. A friend was going to come and visit, but I think she changed her mind due to the pending snow. So I just read a lot and listened to radio, while being entertained by my online friends. It wasn't too bad, actually. I don't think my family did much of anything anyway.
That blasted snow did come, though. This meant I was stuck inside from Saturday the 25th till Tuesday, on which I finally decided I had to get out and head somewhere. There was still a lot of snow and ice, or as I've taken to calling it snice, on the ground, so my walk to the bus stop was slow and treacherous. I made it though, standing upright the entire time. The sun was out, so I basked in that and awaited the bus's arrival.
I went over to Franklin Street again so that I could run a few erands at once. I needed quarters to wash my extensive pile of laundry, so I ducked into Bank of America. I enjoy chattering with the person who assists me while I wait in line. This woman was from Chapel Hill originally, had attended UNC, worked in Bank of America branches in Greensboro, Virginia and Las Vegas Nevada at different times. "I finally got tired of all that moving," she said: "and so I came back to settle in Chapel Hill".
That done, I went to pick up batteries for my hearing aids. Then I ventured over to Suttons for lunch. I think I'm already becoming something of a regular in there, even though I'd not eaten since mid November. The waitress remembered me though and took a seat at my table to chat with me some. I hadn't thought it would be so crowded in there. I didn't think many people other than students really lived in this community. On my way back out to the bus, I ducked into Krispy Kreme to nab a couple doughnuts. Yummy!
I hadn't done much else prior to Friday, except for setting up my netbook so that I could do the online job more mobily. I really love it: sitting outside made time go by so quickly that I'd already put in an hour before I knew it. This even seems to have had a carry-over effect into my home environment, when I decide to work on the laptop.
The most exciting parts of this vacation were New Year's Eve and day. My cousin came up from Charlotte with his girlfriend, and they treated me to two good outings.
Yesterday, we were having a bit of a time figuring where we should go to ring in the new year. We did cruise on Franklin, but she said many of the restaurants were either closed or appeared to require a reservation. Not to mention I can't imagine there would really be an easy place to park. So we ended up going to Champs Sports bar in Durham. It was nice, if a bit loud. They had music blaring, and there were quite a few people there. I sat across from my cousin and his girlfriend and just listened as hard as I could. Of course they know my hearing situation though, so I didn't have much difficulty remaining in the conversation. They did have to advise me a little on what the waiter had asked or told me, which I appreciated. I had a huge! chicken parmesan sandwich, some steak fries and two buds. Yeah I know I should've gotten a classier drink, but hey that stuff was expensive! We just chattered and laughed until 12 came, counted down and clinked glasses. After paying, we couldn't find my debit card for a second. This definitely had me concerned. I think it had just been left behind somehow. I think others were singing a bit on the microphones as well.
Today was more laid back, but no less enjoyable. I went to his girlfriend's place, where she'd prepared the traditional New Year's day dinner. We had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, collard greens, cornbread and banana pudding. And this being the south, I topped all that off with a nice, tall glass of, as someone from Indiana joked, a little tea with my sugar. Hey, don't hate. It's good for ya like that!
I also attempted to help my cousin figure out why he couldn't download books from the BARD website, the portal that gives patrons of the National Library Service for the Blind access to online audio books. As it turns out, they'd only signed him up for the catalog I guess. He had been given a username, but his e-mail address wasn't entered into the system. I told him to just call the NC library on Monday and have them forward another application to his in-box. Somewhat disappointing, but ah well.
And I suppose this entry is long enough already. I'm nervous about the oncoming semester, assuming I manage to enter it. I will write about how things go on that front as they begin to unfold, though. Hope all of you had a blast this holiday season, and I continue to wish you a wonderful 2011.

Fri, Dec. 24th, 2010

09:16 am - 2010 Year in Review Poll

Assuming people still read this. Smiles I wouldn't be surprised if not, as I don't write like I once did. I thought it would be fun to post the kind of year-ending poll I used to and get some sense of how 2010 stacks up. I wish they allowed non-LJ users to vote though. Enjoy!

Poll #1660344 Year In Review

Rank 2010 based on your personal feelings about it: 1 Bad, 2 Not so good, 3 Ok, 4 Pretty good, 5 Excellent

Mean: 3.52 Median: 4 Std. Dev 1.05
1
0(0.0%)
2
5(23.8%)
3
4(19.0%)
4
8(38.1%)
5
4(19.0%)

Which of these have you done in 2010?

Found a new boy/girlfriend.
5(11.9%)
Purchased or acquired a new car.
4(9.5%)
Moved into a new house/apartment.
5(11.9%)
found a new job/career
5(11.9%)
purchased or acquired a major electronic appliance, such as computer or TV
13(31.0%)
Had a child
1(2.4%)
Gotten married
1(2.4%)
Purchased or acquired a pet
2(4.8%)
Ah, but you left something out that I think is interesting!
6(14.3%)

And that thing is?

A bonus: Is this the end of the decade?

Yes, it goes from 1-10.
13(61.9%)
No, it goes from 0-9.
8(38.1%)

Tags:

Wed, Dec. 22nd, 2010

09:42 pm - Vacation

Or something like that. Not surprisingly, it's been mostly a staycation. Oh no, there's that word again? That's, what, 2008? So what!
Anyway, if you follow my social networking feeds, you know that I survived the manual! By the slimmest of margins, but still. This time, I got 42/50 on the manual itself, and I clearly understand why she marked off the points she did. Again it was small details that I could've corrected in 2 seconds.
Speaking of details though, I almost got nailed because my diagnostic case studies were "far too short". In the message she wrote me, she provided extensive examples that showed how it should've been done. Of course I got the concept then.
I guess more than anything, I'm afraid I'm the only one who needs this kind of intensive explanation to understand what I'm to do. Somehow I have to get myself to thinking better and faster on my feet, or I won't make it here or anywhere. I know I'm not unintelligent, I'm just out of it at times.
So anyway, that's that. Now I just have to come up with my research topic in order to get this paper started. That'll be the next thing on the agenda. I have ideas, but am not entirely sure how to put them into the correct format. Perhaps I should camp out in my advisor's office.
So, it is nearly time to wrap up 2010. Knowing my sporadic writing, this may well be the last entry I post during the year.
My overall impressions are that this was an extremely tough financial year, not just for me but for many of us. January and February found me so hungry at times that my body literally shut down. I had to crawl into bed and fall into sleep, waking groggigly and with a pounding headache to scrounge for something, anything! to suck down. My mentor and the old woman upstairs saved me then, no question about it.
In April, things finally got a little better because I went to sign up for food stamps. The leasing manager all but dragged me over there, and obviously I should've gone much earlier. Many in this complex aren't high on the folks in that office, but I can say nothing bad about them.
Throughout the summer and Fall, I should've been evicted at least four times. However they just kept waiting and waiting, allowing me to push things till the last possible minute. And amazingly, something would always happen at that last minute that would keep me kicking into another day.
Hopefully those extremely stressful days are now totally behind me, thanks to some funding that came through and the online job I got via a good friend. I guess we'll see how those things pan out in 2011, though. I guess adulthood will always present a set of new challenges, and I will learn and grow by finding more creative ways to overcome them.
I think my hearing has also gotten significantly worse this year. Thankfully I was put into contact with someone who will continue to help me find solutions to this longterm. I'm finally initiating the transfer of my case from the Charlotte office of Division of Services for the Blind to the Raleigh office. Even my advisor has recommended that I do this, because he spoke with folks in Raleigh who confirmed that Charlotte just tends to move much more slowly. So once this is done and I have a new counselor, I intend to see what can be done about acquiring a permanent set of new hearing aids. As I've mentioned before, these I have now were loaned to me by the audiologist at the UNC Hearing and Communication Center. Fortunately I can keep them until I attain my own.
Now onto happier subjects. What have I read this year. Surprisingly, I still managed to get in at least a fair amount of pleasure reading. Let's try and name every title:
Impact, by Douglas Preston
The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
House Rules, by Jodi Picoult
Caught, by Harlan Coben
Change of Heart, by Jodi Picoult
Matterhorn, a novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes
Cemetary, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Solar, by Ian McEwan
Fever Dreams, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
The Lion, by Nelson DeMille
Slumdog Millionaire, by Vikas Swarup
The Last Surgeon, by Michael Palmer
Over My Head: A Doctor's Own Story of Head Injury from the Inside Looking Out, by Claudia L. Osborn
Blasphemy, by Douglas Preston
The Fifth Vial, by Michael Palmer
The Passage, by Justin Cronin
The Art of Racing In The Rain, by Garth Stein
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, by Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger
Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese
Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant; A Memoir, by Daniel Tammet
Blackout, by Annie Solomon
The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards
Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, by Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger
The Devil's Punchbowl: a Novel, by Greg Iles
Pushing Ice, by Alastair Reynolds
Room, by Emma Donoghue
Wow! I've read 30 books? That surprises the heck outa me. And that's just what I recorded. I probably didn't write about them all. It may be no wonder I barely passed, I spent too much time lost in the pages. Ah well, it helped me to maintain my sanity.
And if I in fact do not return, I wish you a merry Christmas, and a highly successful new year! I'll contemplate which, if any, resolutions I'll make on New Year's Eve. I hardly ever follow through with them anyway, though. And now I'll end this and sink my teeth into something tasty. Buh-bye.

Fri, Dec. 17th, 2010

11:13 pm - More Than A One-Horse Town

As I write this, I am listening to the Second Annual SAMNet Member Holiday concert, put on by
the Serotek corporation, makers of System Access. Of all the things I've come across and
had happen in 2010, my move to this screen-reader has definitely been the
most beneficial. I've talked about the podcasts they produce, and the satogo
website that allows me to have access to any computer running windows with
an Internet connection. I still! haven't found out my grades for this
semester, but I wouldn't have had a chance if it weren't for the creators of
this screen-reader.
That's kind of where the title of this entry comes from, noting that, still
fairly unknown to the general public, there are now many viable
text-to-speech solutions for the blind.
Anyway, I gather that these are people singing songs into their microphones
or something. It is helping to enhance my already burgeoning Christmas
spirit, so that's a welcome thing.
This winter has continued to be a bear. Though we didn't really get much
snow yesterday, we got just enough slush to make it somewhat dangerous for
me to venture out beyond my complex. Therefore, I just hunkered down
throughout. Thankfully I'd gotten to make a grocery run Wednesday night to
at least secure the basics in survival. The biggest problem was to-the-bone
cold and isolation. I just did a lot of reading, online work, and
gameplaying with friends.
Today, on the other hand, was probably the warmest in 2+ weeks. It got to
near 50 degrees out there, so without question I was going somewhere! I
decided that I was going to finally get this netbook talking on the regular,
if it was the last thing I did. So, I ventured back to campus.
I'd already had the JAWS for Windows demo installed on there by one of my
online friends with whom I had the pleasure of chatting in the library cafe
on Wednesday. We'd attempted to do System Access, but for whatever reason
the website was being uncooperative. I just wanted some sort of voice. This
worked for the 40 minutes she was there, but once I got the thing back home,
nada. Marbles. Part of it was that, since I only had the demo, I couldn't
get JAWS to start up on the log-on screen. This meant I wouldn't know when
I'd successfully entered the password, and as I discovered today, I wouldn't
be aware of what sorts of other windows may have popped up as well.
Today, I went to see if I could find my favorite tech person again. She
wasn't there, only a grumpy-sounding old man. So I slid back out into the
halls, deciding I'd just find some eyes and carefully explain what I needed
done. Fortunately I came across two very kind individuals who sat patiently
with me for nearly an hour trouble-shooting until finally we got the SA
website to come up. I installed the program, rented another license for an
additional $5 on top of the $9.95 a month I'm already paying, and I was
finally ready to go. It beats the heck out of the $250 or so I'd have to pay
for an upgrade to the newest version of JAWS, and this is just my opinion,
but I am starting to find it to be a superior product as well.
Other nice things that happened in this literal more than a one-horse town:
the bus driver asked that I hop aboard tomorrow for a while just to chat.
Not many students are riding at this time, and I guess I just look friendly.
So I will probably do that, and then have brunch at the Carolina Coffee Shop
on Franklin Street. They have cheese grits and pancakes! Yum.
Also, the mailman recognized who I was and attempted to run me down as I got
off of the bus. "Hey John! I have this envelope here that says "do not
bend"." As it turns out, it was a Christmas card from my friend hierath , who always finds me cool cards. I confess to not knowing
exactly what the tactile design on the front represents. Santa? A snowman?
Haha, but I like it anyway. It came all the way from England!
And I'll wrap by noting that my alma mater, the Charlotte (UNC-Charlotte)
49ers took down the Number 7-ranked Tennessee volunteers 49 (how
appropriate!) to 48. They said it was the first time we'd defeated a top ten
school in six years. I'm wondering who we beat in 2004. Now if the UNC Tar
Heels can take down the Texas Longhorns tomorrow at 4 in Greensboro, my
sports weekend will be complete.
Happy holidays, as we begin to bid 2010 adieu. i suppose I should do a
comprehensive review of sorts in the next few days, if I can even figure out
what has happened to me this year. We'll see on that. Till then.

Tue, Dec. 14th, 2010

04:00 pm - The Weather Outside is Frightful

And I'd planned to try and get myself into the spirit with some Christmas tunes, but iTunes radio has apparently removed the holiday category. So I'm still ba humbug!
I think today will be the coldest of it, with the low falling all the way to an absolutely nutty 14. It gets worse though, as they're calling for snow on Thursday. Please be wrong. Wah, wah, wah!
Ok, so I lied. I've still not gotten the grades back for my manual and case studies. I'm a bit concerned, as the professor sent out a mass message yesterday stating that some of us had neglected to put names on our case studies, and they were thus lost in the shuffle when printed. I realized I'd done this, gah how dense do you have to be to not put your name! So I've been trying to call her and I've e-mailed her the corrected version, but I've still not heard anything. *sigh* I just don't know.
So what's a winter day with largely nothing to do good for? In my case, too much thinking. I've actually done that for the better part of the last three days. My cousin dropped in to visit me for a bit on Thursday, Sunday, and yesterday. Thursday and Sunday were particularly nice, as we did a lot of reminiscing and watched some football. I think I probably miss that aspect of my former life more than any other. My cousin is also getting ready to make big changes, which I think is great. While I wish we could go on living like 20-something's, there obviously comes a time when settling down and making a life for ourselves becomes a priority.
Speaking of making a life, if you could do whichever job you wished, what would it be and why? I'm really giving a lot of thought to this, as the spector of losing my graduate school opportunity still hangs over my head.
If my hearing weren't so shot, I'd have tried to become a reporter for NPR. If you've been reading this journal for any length of time, you know how much I love that network. I just feel that it would give me a little of everything: the opportunity to travel, a space into which I could project my messages, and most excitingly, a never-ending pool of new people and stories. I at least hope that I can tour the studios one day and meet some of the cool people I've listened to for years. That is one of the coolest things about Twitter: I've actually been able to hold conversations with some of those very reporters.
Well enough of my dreaming today. Right now I need to scrounge up something to eat. I've only had a box of raisins thus far. I'm hoping to go on a mini-grocery run to touch up on things, just in case the dreaded snow does in fact arrive. Ta-ta for now.

Sat, Dec. 11th, 2010

08:36 pm - Limbo

I'm now in that wonderful in-between time, when I can't be sure what will happen or even what has happened with me this semester. It is a very scary place to be.
So, how did the manual presentation go? Well, I guess not entirely badly. The class started with them passing out yummy chocolate donuts, but I was almost too nervous to eat mine.
I'd decided to risk it and bring my newly acquired netbook over to the building instead of this big laptop, in the hopes that I would find someone who could help me get it up and running. Very fortunately for me, this was accomplished. Wow that thing is so small! And whenever I can get a screen-reader on there permanently, it'll be sweet. My issues with this have kind of brought home how few people I really have to hang out with on a regular basis though, as fifteen minutes of someone's eyes would be enough to get the thing fully running.
Anyway, I sat there trying to find microsoft word and make sure I knew where everything was as people's presentations ticked by. Each was supposed to be 10 minutes long, and I think something like 16 of us went. Needless to say, that was rather long.
I ended up sliding all the way to last, and right before my turn came the netbook began downloading an antivirus update. This slowed down the processing speed, such that when I tapped the arrow it would take 2 seconds to move on to the next line. They'd already put the powerpoint onto some sort of computer, so all I did was signal someone when I wanted the slides advanced. Since it was dragging, however, I had a hard time keeping myself in synch with it. This, uh, this caused me to, to repeat, repeat, uh to repeat my lines too many times. Ugh! I really need to just sit down and practice presenting with this modern technology. I was just relieved that things didn't get so bad that I would've had to restart the machine.
The professor did say that the content was pretty good. I gave her the manual on Thursday, and a series of diagnostic case studies yesterday. I'm still waiting for her to post my results on Blackboard. I am so uncertain, but well it's out of my hands now.
Alright, let me wrap this thing up and watch the rest of this game between the UNC Tar Heels and Long Beach State University. They've allowed this thing to get a lot closer than it should be. I guess this will be the season, though.
I think my cousin, his girlfriend, and another woman we've known for some time are at this game. I wish I'd gone there, or somewhere. I've been stuck in here all day, and given that my cane has fallen apart as of Thursday I'm not sure how often other activities will be had. So begins the long, sad slog through the winter months.
I'll be back once those grades are posted. Till then, stay warm and dry. And if you were in some sort of school, I hope your semester ended well.

Wed, Dec. 1st, 2010

09:47 pm - Coming Around Again

And into December. My my, can you believe it. It sure feels like the weather got the memo though, as the temperature fell straight off of the table! That hot coffee and donut I received on entering the leasing office to pay my rent earlier were very much welcome. So too was the all-too-rare pleasure of being able to alleviate that little bit of financial stress.
And man is that ever important at the moment. Yesterday I successfully put down one of my major presentations, and the other is coming fast on its heels this coming Tuesday.
The funnier part was that technically I wasn't scheduled to give even this presentation until next Tuesday. He has a final exam, but before that commences they will listen to four presentations. The class is approximately 3 hours long, and each presenter gets up to 20 minutes. This means that by the time they start their exam they will only have a little over an hour and a half to complete 50 questions that could come from anywhere in the book, our notes, or people's talks. He says there will be a mixture of multiple choice, fill in the blanks, and short essays. Even though the test will be open-book, I don't think it will be easy to complete in an hour in a half. So I feel fortunate that I must go to Disability Services to do mine anyway. I ended up switching off with someone since I was already fully prepared to present, and I'm betting I made her breathe a lot easier. It's the small things.
My talk, as I've mentioned before, was on Down Syndrome and learning. I began by giving a general explanation of what Down Syndrome is and how it can be detected. I then talked about challenges involved in early assessment of infants' functioning, and how these could cause bad decisions to be made that might have lifelong repercussions. Next, I spoke about ways to enhance linguistic and reading development in children with Down Syndrome, and particularly being sure to couch newer vocabulary words that one wishes them to learn within a context that they already understand. Finally, I talked about three main methods of learning and how they affect and are affected by Down Syndrome: collaborative learning, implicit memory, and mastery motivation. I concluded by pointing out that, unlike most of the class, who were more interested in education, I brought the perspective of rehabilitation which concerns adolescent and vocational outcomes. Therefore, making sure that children get off to the best developmental path possible is in everyone's interest.
It went relatively smoothly. I'd created a powerpoint and had Disability Services Braille it out for me. I think I'm just not as confident with public speaking as I once was though. I tend to stutter a lot more.
And now for this blasted treatment manual. I'm basically done with it now; I just have to place some further resources in the back, hash out a couple of sections, and do some minor editing. The therapist that I met on Twitter gave me the link to an awesome blog of a guy who is writing a book about Autism and had also requested resources from his readers. There are definitely some good ones, so now I am tasked with sorting through them and determining which will best serve my purposes. All the more reason why I love social networking.
And, I've finally bought my Netbook! I purchased it at nearly 12 AM, and it is still being processed in the warehouse. I'm really hoping they'll hurry up and put that darn thing in the mail, because it might be useful to me next Tuesday. I mostly can't wait for the enhanced portability it will offer.
I'm off to watch the Duke Blue Devils hopefully get rolled by the Spartans of Michigan State in college basketball. I'm kind of disappointed with how the University of North Carolina Tar Heels are doing thus far: they already have a record of just 4-3 and haven't really taken on any strong teams yet. Hopefully Roy Williams, their coach, will somehow be able to get it together before conference season starts shortly.
And I guess that's about all that's happening in my crazy life. Please continue to pray that I will have good news to report after this manual presentation concludes. I feel like I'm close to doing well, but I'm afraid to let myself really believe that. I've been burned too many times.

Fri, Nov. 26th, 2010

02:28 pm - Gobble Up!

Dearest LJ,

I know it has been just over 27.3 years since we last made contact, but trust me you have not been forgotten. Too many other suitors, or annoyers I should say, have taken away my precious time during this month. Finally, thankfully, life seems close to improving. Let's hope it stays that way!

Amazingly, we've already shot past Thanksgiving. This year has gone by so quickly that I find myself saying "wow, we're already ending 2009." No, don't ask.

I enjoyed paying my family a visit, folks who are a blessing to me in every way even if I'm not as in touch as I should be. I departed on Wednesday, and have only just returned.
I decided to hop the train from Durham and go down to stay with my cousins in Charlotte, as the feast would be located in that city as well. My mentor came at the last minute to get me, snapping at me a little because I hadn't talked to her as much as I should have been. Most of my time on campus has been dedicated to attempting to complete this pesky manual, but she's right, I should go and see her more often.
Anyway, we weren't sure if we'd arrived at the station in time, having slid into the lot at 5:20. The scheduled departure time was 5:24, but I figured this wouldn't happen because of the heavier-than-normal holiday load. Luckily I was correct. We didn't actually leave till nearly 6:30. I was placed next to a grumpy sounding old blind guy, so I just spent much of the trip reading my book. I was wishing I'd at least gotten the window seat so that I could keep my cell phone charged, but I was stuck on the aisle.
Once at my cousin's house, we just did what we always do in those situations and talked till nearly 1 AM. Now he's been hired back at Lions Services, the sheltered workshop for the blind in Charlotte. This means he won't in fact be moving in with me, at least not for the moment. I am fortunate that my financial standing has changed drastically within the past week. I had a bit of a scare, thinking that I would need to leave the online job after some fairly heavy criticism, but as it turns out she was just trying to make sure I understood the requirements. She'd sent these kinds of reports out to everyone working under her. So I will try and make the recommended changes and see how long I can go on.
Thanksgiving itself was great. My cousins made a light breakfast of eggs and bacon, which I consumed greedily after showering. Then we waited another hour or so for my Aunt to arrive. (She'd said 30 minutes, but the cardinal rule is to double her estimated arrival time to get what will actually occur. Y'all know about that, though.)
Our first stop was at the nearby nursing home where my grandma is housed. She's pretty much there constantly now, so we wanted to bring a little bit of Thanksgiving to her. Everyone said hi and updated her on the status of our lives. Then we recited the 23rd Psalm, most of which I can still remember. Finally, we sang Blessed Assurance and another song that I can't remember, both of which brought back intense memories of my childhood. Then my mom, the budding reverend, said a rousing prayer as we prepared to leave.
Then it was off to one of my sister's houses. Well it's actually an apartment, but it definitely felt very homely. My cousin, dad, and I sat on the couch and talked sports until we were summoned to the table for the blessing of the food. Then we dove in! This time, I had barbecue chicken, some sort of delicious casarole-tasting stuff with rice and veggies, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and green beans. I drank a glass of iced tea. They turned on some music, and I heard that my mom and Aunt were dancing around making everyone laugh. I just sat and conversed with the folks near me as much as that was possible.
Then we hit the road. I came back to my mom's house to stay overnight, from where I would then be driven back to my apartment. Nothing much happened here, except that more sports were watched, cake was consumed, and one of the best sleeps I've had in months was experienced. I guess they had some other obligations, so we headed back to these parts bright and early. First, we picked up another of my sisters and her children. I have a tremendous and growing respect for my nephews and nieces and the way they are being raised. They are great people.
And that largely covers the happenings of Thanksgiving, 2010. I have yet more plates for later, and I'm betting I won't run out of food again for the remainder of the year.
Now I'm back, and trying to prepare for what was the worst part of the semester last year. I am more ready than I was then, but I'm still pretty nervous about things. I'm hoping to get a Netbook here in short order, so that I will be more able to work while on the go. I know I've been saying that for months, but this is the first time I've been in any kind of position to really make that happen. Just cross your fingers for me that I manage to get all of this done successfully this time, as it is my last shot at advancing in the program.

Current Music: Mariah Carey - Vanishing

Mon, Nov. 8th, 2010

12:40 am - My Haven

Cell phones. It is almost absurd the extent to which we've come to depend on those things. Wait, I'm almost certain I said the last time I had problems with them.

Only a couple of short months ago, I purchased a new battery for my Verizon LG EnV phone because the previous one wouldn't hold a charge. I thought that would be the end of that particular difficulty. It appears though that I was wrong.

As time has gone on, the charger connection has gotten looser and looser. Recently, it was so bad that in order to pump anything into the cell I'd have to sit there like a statue holding the phone just so. If I moved even a fraction of an inch, the connection would be lost. Needless to say, this got old real fast.

Finally I'd had enough, and so I decided to go over to the Verizon store and let them take a look at things. A kind classmate took me over on Saturday night. My worst fears were confirmed: the charge port inside of the phone had been so severely bent that it could not be easily repaired. The customer service representative therefore concluded that I should go ahead and get a new phone. I'd already heard this podcast on the SamSung Haven, and so I already knew I'd ask about it in this event. It's a fairly simple phone, with no e-mail capabilities but an enhanced menu readout for the blind. I think they worked with a company called Nuance, makers of all sorts of voice software.

Anyway, so I got the phone out of the store, scrambled to my computer, and redownloaded the podcast. Once the presenter led me through getting the phone to speak, I was impressed with the fact that not only could I read text messages, as was available with the LG, but I could also easily edit them, and that I could tell from whom a message had come even if I happened to miss it as it came in. Believe me this is a welcome addition, as on my LG phone I could at times have 3 conversations going at once, and thus accidentally send a response to someone that was actually meant for someone else. Not surprisingly, I got so wrapped up in familiarizing myself with the features that I neglected even to eat until well after 12 AM. Good thing the time changed, huh?

The podcast presenter mentioned something about the battery being very bad with energy, at best. He said that a potential solution to this was to get a battery extender, whatever that is. So when the phone went dead by 12:30 AM I felt a little worried. I could, however, chalk that up to my heavy initial use. I charged it up, only to then wake up at 9 with it already back down to 25% capacity. Uh oh. Maybe I just hadn't given it enough juice. This time, I plugged it in for a little over three hours. It said the phone had been fully charged, and even seemed to hold that way from 3:30 till approimately 7 PM. Someone called, and I conversed with her for approximately an hour. By the time I hung up, it was already down to 50%. A little questionable, but not unheard of in this area of cell hell in which I currently reside. The kicker came though when the phone was already dying by 11:30, after having sat untouched on my table since the completion of the phone call.
Two things are fortunate here. First the CSR let me have the phone for free, saying it was my lucky day. It's supposed to cost $20 with a 2-year contract and upgrade eligibility, $39 if only getting a contract. Second, he also programmed his name and number into the device and told me to be in touch with him specifically if I had any issues. So I will do that in fairly short order, and hope that some kind of solution can be quickly generated. I actually like the phone, though the voice can be buggy and is kind of slow. I like feeling that I can control not only my texts more, but also my alarm clock, calculator, and even the setting of ringtones. Maybe it is as they say though, you get what you pay for. Hopefully this darn battery doesn't end up costing too much!

Tue, Nov. 2nd, 2010

12:02 am - Shut Down

The computer speaks, seductively, tickling the sleeping cells of my brain as I stumble to my chair. I feel a surge of adrenaline as I prepare to discover what all of my "friends" have been up to during the lost hours. Only this time, when I go to press the keys that will start up my Twitter feed, I am met with silence.
Ok? I'll try the cell. All the amusing, frightening, and just plain weird messages that have surely rolled in from Facebook that always make me wonder about the company I keep. No wait, keep reading! I do still love you, I'm just saying. Anyhow, I flip it open and nothing, nada.
My goodness! Has everyone forgotten me? Did I say or do something wrong that caused people to feel a disinclination to maintain communication with me? Fortunately in my case I had not, but I think that sentiment was what this particular experience was attempting to get at.
Throughout November 1, those who chose to were to shut down all social networking type communications. Idealy, one would have donated to autism charities through this site as well. I did try to do this, but the form provided on the page was relatively inaccessible. I am hoping then that donating my time and participating in this and writing about it will be of some use.
As I know I must've said before, I have very good reason to pay close attention to autism-related research. Many of the men with Norrie Disease present with some autism characteristics. I quite often wonder if I'm on the high end of the spectrum, and here's why.
Over the past few months, I have been told some disturbing things about myself. "You're a great conversationalist," people say, "but you seem to have difficulty fully understanding reciprocal interaction." I gather what they mean by this is that I miss an opportunity to share in something that they've extended to me, or that I do something that, in retrospect, they perceive as rude. Obviously this is a big problem; one that, now that I'm more fully aware of, I work daily to correct through more intensive self-monitoring. It probably explains a great deal of why I have difficulties forming close offline relationships, be they platonic, romantic, or otherwise.
Given that I have this set of personal issues, is it strange that I am trying to enter a profession where I would be helping others with these? I'd say no. After all we joke about it but it's half true: it's the counselors who need the most help. Who else can really understand what it's like to fight such battles on a near-daily basis.
So given what I've just written, I think it's clear that shutting down all online connections except e-mail, which I had to watch for faculty communications, did have a profound effect on me. I spent hours in the library continuing to try and hammer these graduate school projects into shape. I also found a new really sunny spot, as the angle of its rays is already changing such that my old spot is now cold and drabby. Then I came home and logged on for a bit of money-making research. Finally I went to the grocery store, a task that irks me and one which I'm always glad to complete. During all that, I probably talked to twelve people at most.
On the Norrie Disease mailing list, many men with this disorder are currently discussing similar difficulties that they had either while growing up or trying to maintain employment and the like. I guess it is a good thing to know I'm not alone in my experiences with this and the uncertainties that come about as a result, but it is still very hard to deal with sometimes. Will I always be this socially inept? All I can say is I am striving with everything in me to change that as soon as possible. Then I will pass on the knowledge I gain through personal experience and through the research I'm currently conducting to help others do the same. Never take your connections for granted.

Sat, Oct. 30th, 2010

11:10 pm - Really Fall This Time?

Because in North Carolina, we can't seem to make up our minds! After the cold snap I referred to in relation to my ears, we still climbed back into the 80's for a short time. Over the last couple days though, the real cold has begun to roll in. It's probably mid 30's out there now, and my time outdoort to absorb the sun was limited to a short, 15-minute walk to the mailbox and back. Ah, it's time for me to start feeling caged in and wanting more than ever to go to Florida. And given the law of averages, I'm thinking it's gonna get quite cold here shortly.

So, what else have I going on outside of whining about the weather? Well, not a whole lot really. I forgot to mention in my previous entry that one of my friends up here hooked me up with a big table that gives me much more workspace. With the little thing I'd had before, I had to sit kind of scrunched up because it had those blasted shelves attached to the legs. I love being able to stretch out while I type. It makes me a whole lot more productive.

Speaking of that, I got the part-time online position about which I didn't want to speak last time. I have to do research into the usefulness of websites for a company that wishes to attach different types of links to them. They want me to supply them with e-mail and contact information of someone who might be able to make such changes. I'm honestly not sure how well I'm doing thus far. I know it's harder to get in all the time I'm supposed to than I thought it would be. I'm acclamating myself to it though, and just recently I've come up with the strategy of downloading music podcasts and playing them on my nLS player. I can set the sleep timer to, say, 45 minutes, then watch it dwindle down rather quickly. If I am given time, I think I'll be fine by next week. In any event, this is good experience at having to maintain focus over a long period. At Lions Services, I hardly had to pay attention to what I was actually doing as it was so automated.

Now onto everybody's favorite part: what am I reading! I just finished The Memory Keeper's Daughter, and it was as moving as I figured it would be. Of course I don't really want to give more away, so I'll just say that my previous description of its contents should suffice. And now I'm going for a little fluff, and reading a book that was listed as a popular download on the BARD site. It's called The Devil's Punch Bowl, and at the moment I can't even remember anything about it. I'd gotten it at the same time as the other, but I opted not to read it.

I've spent a lot of time in here with my thoughts, which I sometimes think isn't such a good thing to do. My family got so nervous over my financial issues that they began threatening to drag me out of here as they had in 2003. I think my feelings on this have been stated fairly often; yes I know I'm struggling, but I'm not the only one who ever has or will. Just accept that I'm an adult trying to learn my way, and stop feeling that I must be rescued all the time. I've figured out some means thus far, and if it does turn out that I need you you'll know.

And that's really all. Both of my professors have forced me to narrow the scope of my projects, but I think that will actually help me to gain focus. The Diagnosis professor told me to send her something concrete early so that she can review it and critique, so I'm hoping to have the Powerpoint completed shortly. Just continue to hope that I am able to pass this class this time! Hopefully it won't be quite this long before you hear from me again. Till then though, I hope all is well with you too.

Sat, Oct. 16th, 2010

06:38 pm - Mid-Semester

Man, it's already been too long since I've written in this thing. I am nosing up to the point in the semester when everything began falling apart for me last time, so I know that I must maintain focus and keep an eye on the requirements!

The fortunate thing is that I have most of the materials in place for both of my upcoming presentations. I've drawn up a Powerpoint outline, and all I really have to do is fill in the spaces with information I've found in my studies. Of course, there's the treatment manual on Autism. For the brain class, I'm doing a talk on Down Syndrome and ways to enhance learning in individuals who have this condition. For example, I've found research that looks into how persons with Down Syndrome process language, what they may have an easier time remembering, and how to keep these persons engaged. Much of the research compares Down Syndrome to a condition which is similar but different called Williams Syndrome. If one has the latter, he or she is too open and trusting when dealing with strangers. Given that these are so often juxtaposed, I figured I would do the same with my presentation. It's interesting stuff.

Other than that, of course I've been reading. Lately, I've become fascinated with one of the people who reads many of the books for the National Library Service for the Blind (NLS) named Laura Giannarelli. I'd heard her back in 2002, as she read the Cobra Event. I think she's some kind of voice actor, as she reads many children's books and even in the adult books she adds in vocal variations for characters when appropriate.

The Bard site allows a search by narrator, so I've found a couple that she's read that interest me. The first, which I just completed, is called Blackout, by Annie Solomon. A woman who was working undercover for a secret government terrorist-fighting organization discovers something she feels needs to be told. Her superiors don't want this information disclosed, however, so they use some sort of technique to wipe her memory. When she comes to, she finds herself in a bewildering world where she fails to understand why she owns most of what she does, what she may or may not have done, or who she even is.

It's a pretty good story. I only wish that the author had been a little more sure of what these techniques were, or perhaps just made the person who'd taken them away refuse to explain them at all. The vague explanation we do get makes it feel kind of fake. I did enjoy the action scenes, and also the wide-ranging settings. We go from Washington DC, to Spain, to a little town in Indiana. I think overall that I would recommend it.

I currently have another book that she read downloading onto my hard drive. This one is called The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards. I don't know much about what it will contain, except that a doctor who delivers his daughter, who turns out to have Down Syndrome, tells his wife that the child has died. He then gives the child to a nurse. It sounds like it might be a good story.

And I guess this precipitous drop in temperature has done something horrible to my ears. I woke up with a loud ringing in my right ear that even wearing the hearing aid couldn't fix. I still can barely hear anything, which makes doing anything outside of this house difficult. I wanted to go to the library so that I could use Microsoft XL to fill in something, but I decided that trying to do that and get off of the bus in the right place was more than I wanted with only my left ear functional. I did, however, have to go to the grocery store, as I was very nearly down to the metal in the refrigerator. I pretty much just kept my left ear shoved up against the shopper's mouth the whole time. Well ok, not quite that drastic. He had an accent, but I think the new aids at least made him fairly understandable. And, amazingly it seems that I got everything I asked for!

And that's been my life up to this point. I'm lamenting the end of summer, and yet hoping that the time ahead will continue to get better. I have some exciting possibilities on the horizon that I shouldn't talk about for fear of jinxing them. But we shall see how things play out. Thanks a lot to the people who have stepped up and helped me with suggestions on things I could try, you know who you are. It's what networking and looking out for one another are all about. I will find ways to return the favor. Hope everyone has had a great weekend!

Thu, Oct. 7th, 2010

04:12 pm - On Sleep

I have spoken of this issue numerous times, and especially during my days of work at Lions Services. Even so, I don't think I could talk about it too much as it has such a profound effect on my life.

Am I lazy? Do I just lack motivation? Why is it that some nights find me wide awake till 3 in the morning, and yet I still have to fight the bobbing head in classroom settings or on the bus (I very recently missed my stop because I'd gone into doze mode).

These effects were actually far more profound during my school days, and probably all the way through undergraduate study. I would sit in the class literally with my head on the desk, and whatever I managed to take in was done through a haze of dreams and tingles. How I learned anything is beyond me.

Many have long speculated that real problems establishing a normal sleep rhythm exist among those of us who are totally blind. Now, there seems to be a name for it: non 24-hour sleep-wake disorder. That's quite a mouthful, isn't it?

I heard about this on a podcast by Debbie Hazelton, whose show is initially aired on ACB Radio Mainstream but is then made available for download. If you wish, I invite you to check out the show here, although I'd recommend that you right click and save target as in order to download it.

If however you do not have time to listen to it, the long and short of it is this: a drug company called Vanda pharmaceuticals is attempting to study the efficacy of a drug called Tasimelteon in regulating circadian rhythms with people who cannot perceive light. Hazelton spoke with Dr. John Feeney, one of the study's founders, and a collection of other blind callers who'd volunteered to pose questions for him.

Feeney noted that, according to their predictions, there are approximately 65000 individuals who have this particular disorder, which makes it rare among the general population but quite common among those who are totally blind, representing a little over half of us. Our internal clocks, which are controlled by a structure in the brain called the SuperChiasmatic Nucleus, have us on a sleep-wake pattern that goes for something like 24 hours and 20 minutes. This causes us to drift into and out of the norm every two or three weeks, and thus obviously effects every aspect of our being.

Other non-regulated substances, such as the ever-popular Melatonin, have been available on the market for years. Some are in fact attempting to convince me that I should give this a try, and maybe I will. However, Feeney pointed out that the danger with these sorts of things is that the product consistency is not verified. Also, there isn't much in the way of credible research suggesting whether these treatments are effective. And a concern I have, many who might wish to start using them will avoid doing so, because they don't know the proper dosages and lengths of use.

In that light, they are hoping that this drug will bring about a greater degree of certainty, and ultimately result in positive outcomes. After a series of urine tests over a month-long period to verify that one has N24HSWD, a six-month trial will begin in which the person takes either the drug or a placebo pill every night. I believe the person would also be expected to ocasionally come into the clinical site to have other measures run as the study progresses.

I'm trying to decide if I will participate. It sounds like a time commitment, and I'm not exactly sure how that would work on top of graduate school. Although the possibility of improved sleep would probably benefit many other areas of my life as well. If you are totally blind with no light perception or know persons who are, you can get more information about this study by calling 1-888-389-7033. At this time, it is limited only to those between the ages of 18 and 75, although it was suggested that children could be tested some time in the near future. I do hope this eventually ends up helping us all.

Fri, Oct. 1st, 2010

11:49 pm - Important Issues

Wow! We've already drifted into October. That is pure craziness.

Walking to the bus stop, I feel the crunch of leaves under my feet. A brisk wind blows, and I need sun in order not to shiver. Soon, it'll be turkey time and then the holidays.

As we whirl into this period, some things come to mind that I want to make sure to take part in. This is because, now that I am entering that point of life where maturity supposedly sets in, I'm beginning to re-evaluate where I fit in the grand puzzle that I find myself.

The first of these things is that I wish to vote. And if you happen to reside in the U.S., I hope that you will also be inclined to participate in the midterm elections, no matter on which side of things you tend to stand. Whatever the outcome, the decisions made by those folks will have an effect on our lives. So while I could sit at home convincing myself that my little voice doesn't count, if there were enough people who took that same mentality, then we would effectively weed ourselves out of the system.

I can recall my first experience voting. I was kind of frustrated, because I wasn't able to gain full access to the machines myself. I guess I should ask about this, if it even works that way in my current situation. Someone on my Twitter timeline said that since I'd initially registered in Charlotte, I would have to either look into one-stop voting or get an absentee ballot to vote in Charlotte. I don't fully understand this process, so I will try and get in touch with someone at the NC Board of Elections. She also pointed out that one must have registered by next Friday in order to participate in the upcoming election, so obviously I need to get on that. I know not how things work in other states, but I'm sure the answers are right at your fingertips with good ol' Google.

Another thing I've been thinking about a lot lately are all the good folks who have helped me out. It has doubtless been an insane year financially for me, and yet I was fortunate to have people who saw to it that things haven't yet ended badly. In that vain, I would encourage you to donate to those charities and/or causes that have either effected your life personally or that can help others whom you support.

One of these for me is the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, an agency local to the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area. They can always use such things as canned goods, clothing, personal care products, and of course financial contributions. They were very kind to me, going above and beyond when I needed it most. I'm exploring ways to volunteer with them, and I'm asking that if you have time maybe you'll consider helping in some small way also. Most of us have fallen on hard times at some point, I'd imagine, and persons with disability tend to be disproportionately effected by economic downturns such as we are currently experiencing.

Speaking of disabilities, and more to the point, gaining an understanding of causes, effective treatments, etc., I would also ask you to consider donating to the Norrie Disease Association. We are beginning to look at ways of expanding research so that we can get more effective information to persons with Norrie as well as their parents, other family members, medical professionals and the like. As a member of the NDA board and one who is subscribed to the Yahoo Groups Mailing list, I can see that this organization has real potential to bring about change for those coming up with this rare genetic condition. We are benefiting both from the wisdom of the older among us as well as the sharpness of the younger. Please keep us in mind as the holidays approach. Thanks a lot.

Now I shall bask in the warmth of my heater as the temperatures make their first mini-dip. They're saying it'll drop into the mid 40's by the end of the weekend. I'll probably be indoors reading all day anyway, although someone has suggested the possibility that I might get to go to a UNC football game. We'll see if that happens. Have a great weekend!

Sun, Sep. 26th, 2010

09:14 pm - Put On A Happy Face

Because sometimes, that's what you've got to do despite your situation. This week has definitely been a tough one, but I'm still here, and in the end that's all that matters.

I think today's sermon said what I needed to hear. It was taken from Micah Chapter 7, verses 7-8, which said something to the effect of And when I fall I will arise again. The pastor said that sometimes our setbacks are setting us up for our comeback. In order to regain our previous footing though, we must first admit that things aren't where we want them to be either financially, in personal relationships, or other important areas.

All of these things are still sadly true for me. I could allow myself to point fingers at others over the continued struggles I am experiencing in maintaining this apartment. But you know what? I have made many mistakes, not the least of which is relying too fully on the promises of others.

I'm hoping now that I can somehow get at least a part-time job, and thus I would be able to take care of myself. My monthly budget is small: I figure that all I need to cover rent, the cell phone bill and groceries is $711. I'm guessing that if I can find anything, I should be able to pull that in. Of course I know this won't be as easy as just stating it. If it were, there wouldn't be so many unemployed individuals in this country currently. But I guess all I can do is try and work my connections to see if they can come up with something for me. I know I could at least do some sort of office work, answering phones, entering things into the computer. This may well be my last hope.

In better news, I've finally got Internet service in this apartment. It's almost sad how much my world revolves around that, but there you go. With not having to restart the computer as often, it also seems to be functioning well enough for me to get things done.

The best thing to happen this week was my attendance of the reception for current and past recipients of the Thorpe-Mitchell Diversity in Leadership Award. I'd won this as I entered the university, and it is what led to my meeting my mentor. I spoke to all of the ways she'd helped me in my two-minute speech, and I think what I said made her feel good. I was also inspired by the others who were there, enjoying lots of good conversation with students and faculty alike. I am so appreciative of all of their support.

And now I'm just unwinding on this cool, extremely rainy day. I watched the end of the game between the Carolina Panthers and the Cincinnati Bengals. That didn't end up making me happy, as my Cats are looking pretty bad this season. I think the final score was 20-7 for the second straight week. I guess this is already designated as a rebuilding year. I'm now listening to the nightcap between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets. The Dolphins are my other team, I guess because my mom likes them. They aren't doing so well at the moment either, losing 7-0 in the beginning of the second quarter.

I'm just hoping that I can get the things set into motion that I need to survive. I guess part of that comes in believing, though, so I must work on that part first. Hope you had a great weekend, and enjoy the full arrival of Autumn.

Tue, Sep. 21st, 2010

08:47 am - Review: Born On A Blue Day

And again this e-mail to LJ feature is coming in handy. I still have no Internet, so I'm writing the entry now and will send it once I reconnect tomorrow. The diagnostics on my computer aren't good either. The tech woman says this laptop is basically toast, and improving it would cost as much as purchasing another one. So I'll see what happens with my finances, and perhaps I'll attain a low-end netbook that might at least get me through the semester. Anyway, onto my thoughts on the last read.

The book, entitled Born on a Blue Day: Inside the extraordinary mind of an Autistic Savant; a Memoir, was fascinating. I should start with a correction, though. Remember how I said the NLS narrator seemed like he would be interesting at best as a choice of reader for this book? Well I take that back. He is probably the only person, other than the author Daniel Tammet himself, who could have done the story justice. There were a number of reasons for this, not the least of which was the requisite British accent and an ability to make it sound believable when reading in other languages. He did a fantastic job.

I have to write a review of this book for class, as previously mentioned. Obviously this isn't that, but rather it is just my disjointed ramblings on what I got from the story. Hopefully it will result in my ability to generate something of a coherent report when the time comes.

One of the things that I found most interesting was his incredible grasp of numbers, and all of the ways in which he could work them. Many of the chapters would start out on another subject, and invariably they would find their way back to some sort of unorthodox explanation of numeric values. As one who cares not at all for math but has indeed generated a few tricks for solving problems, I did get something out of these sections. This is because even though I'm clearly not a visual person, my brain does seem to find a pattern in everything. He notes that much of the ways in which these patterns are revealed happen through synesthetic connections, meaning that the senses tend to overlap. He therefore sees numbers in different sizes and colors, and can fit vast collections of them together into a picture that makes them memorable.

I can do this as well, although I'm at a loss in attempting to detail how. For instance, I only have to hear my new debit card number once and it remains stuck in my memory. I can still recall all five card numbers I've ever had, as well as all but the oldest phone number I'd ever had assigned to my household.

One thing I didn't really get was the meanings of the visual symbols at the beginning of each chapter. The narrator did describe them, of course, but maybe something was lost by not actually being able to see them. This was only a minor drawback, however.

Another thing that I particularly liked was his perseverance. Growing up in a rather large family that experienced its share of difficulties, he had to find a way to overcome the distance that existed between himself and everyone else. He did this by reading nearly constantly, mostly nonfiction, and encountering that rare individual who would actually work to understand him. He credits his parents with being willing to constantly work with him in helping him to gain enough social experience to attain independence and learn to understand emotional connection.

On that note, probably the most touching part of his story to me was his bid to find and engage in romantic love. As was the case for other elements of his life, this love falls outside of what most of society would deem conventional. However, the partner with whom he settled turned out to be incredibly supportive. He used this as a jumping off point as he moved away from his family, created an income source, and gained confidence that would allow him to travel easily overseas. This kind of love is rare, and especially when one of the persons in the relationship has a disability and the other does not. It certainly gives me hope.

I'm pleased that I chose to read this story, and actually surprised I hadn't heard of it before. There apparently was a documentary done on him as well called Brain Man, which played on the Rain Man movie that had been made on a previously well-known savant. If you are interested in gaining insight not only into what a person with Asperger's Syndrome might experience but also those things that make us uniquely human, then I'd recommend you check this one out.

Thu, Sep. 16th, 2010

01:20 pm - The Rolling Barber Shop

Have you ever been to a barber shop that caters primarily to African Americans? The kind that often lie in neighborhoods that are a little, shall we say, lower income? If so, then you know they can be fascinating places.

If you don't believe that men gosip, then go and visit one. It's a little brutal actually: you can see someone holding a conversation with a person, and once that individual leaves, the person will immediately begin talking quite negatively about him.

Why do I bring this up, you ask? Well I encountered a similar situation on the bus as I came over to the university today. The driver sat up front and, as usual, yacked with each person who came through the door. As I boarded, I think the guy beside me had ridden around on the line a couple times for the sole purpose of continuing to hold up a conversation.

"Hey man, how you doing," he asked the driver. The driver responded, and the man then said "I'm sad man. I gotta get a job! My girl left me and I gotta get her back. She thinks I lack motivation." The driver replied: "Ah man I've been there. You're fine, just keep at it. Life out here is crazy, and if your woman don't understand that then oh well."

Shortly after this, the other man disembarked. Then another person who reminded me shockingly of one of my co-workers from Lions Services, both in tone of voice and how he conducted the conversation, began to speak. "So, what do you think of that guy," he asked the driver. "What do you mean?" "I mean how do you rate him. How hard do you really think he's trying." "Well, I don't really know, probably not very hard. He seems kinda lazy." "Yeah, on a scale of 1-10, where would you rate him?" "Probably a 5, at best."

This kind of thing bothers me for some reason. I guess the main one is that I often feel that people are talking about me in this way when I'm not actually in their presence, even if they seem supportive up front.

Of course the other thing is that, quite often, when we feel this way about others it has more to do with the fact that we are seeing a reflection of our own lackings and don't wish to admit it. I, as have most have at some point I'm sure, have been guilty of this behavior. I'm pretty sure I've done this because I feel that something is wrong with me. It'd help us to keep that in mind as we say these things.

They did have a pleasanter chat about sports. I think that guy got so wrapped up in it that he ended up missing his stop. I found that amusing.

I'm not sure how often I'll get to post over the next few days, because I can't seem to log on from home. I'm currently sitting in the classroom building. Also, my laptop keeps coming up with some yucky error, saying that the memory cannot be read. After I finish this session of getting NPR stories, finding a couple research articles I need and the like, I'm going to see if I can take this thing next door to the technology person. Pray she can get it working, as I need it!

Mon, Sep. 13th, 2010

11:30 pm - It's My Party

And fortunately, I didn't have to do any crying. My birthday was mostly filled with fun and surprises.

It's funny to reflect on where I was at this point last year, as opposed to now. Shortly after 12 AM on September 13, 2009, one of my o so friendly neighbors saw fit to call the police on me. Oh alright, I'll concede that my music was probably a bit... loud. But still! Ya could've come over and said something instead of trying to get a brotha sent to jail. I think that night was the beginning of my rough times.

Anyhow, enough of that. On the subject of getting to know people, I've apparently made huge strides in that area. By the time I rolled over and retrieved my phone, the texts were already rolling in. I actually would venture as far as to say that I received more Facebook wall posts today than I had otherwise, combined.

And let's not even get into the chocolate. Yay chocolate! My cousin's girlfriend had already given me some delicious cupcakes, and another classmate, the person from my brain class with whom I'd been e-mailing, has baked me a cake as well. Somebody wanna come over and help me polish off this stuff?

So today began on a somewhat somber note. But then that's how life works these days. Because I hadn't heard from my counselor at the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind, I'd finally opted to contact the supervisor. He then asked her to contact me by the end of the week, and she responded nearly immediately. However, she says that they've already authorized my tuition payment, or at least up to the maximum allowable amount for grad students. This isn't showing on the university's record though, so I have to try and figure out what is going on there. Another piece in my never-ending saga.

That craziness behind me, I headed over to my usual spot at the library to try and get more of this first assignment I must complete for my brain class. I have to summarize an article, 1 of 4 that I'll need to find over the course of the semester. Certain elements must be addressed, which forces me to grasp an understanding of what the article is talking about. It's dense stuff though, so I won't send it off till tomorrow when I have a chance to proofread it again and make final adjustments.

I scrambled back over to the apartment for a quick catnap while I waited for my ride to come and collect me for the night's festivities. Of course, I didn't actually end up sleeping any because I got sucked in to responding to all those messages.

So the restaurant I'd chosen, on recommendation of hollym4784 , was called Spanky's. This place is located at the corner of Franklin and Columbia Streets, which means that if I wish to go there again it should be very easy to locate. By the time we arrived, the rest of our party had already been seated. There was a couple immediately to my left, and I think three other people on the other side of the table, along with the person who'd brought me sitting on my right.

Again it was rather loud. I'd never mentioned, but I got some new molds for these hearing aids on Friday which made them sound even better than they had before. Even so, trying to stay in a conversation that could bounce any of six directions overlaid with the general din of the place was quite a challenge. Well? At least I could say something on ocasion. I definitely still enjoyed myself.

The thing that I was really waiting for was the food. I ordered a blue cheese burger with chips and lemonade. If I had to describe the taste of blue cheese, it would be something like "I'ma clog your arteries, but you're gonna enjoy every minute of it!" That, is some good stuff.

In a very nice gesture, the couple presented me with a birthday card. Inside, I found some of that rare, in these parts, green paper. And in these days when every penny counts, that was certainly a much appreciated gift.

Then they rolled out the dessert. It was a ridiculously big bowl of ice cream cake that we probably could have split among us. Instead, I ended up tackling that mammoth by myself. I think I ate at least half of it. And of course, they had to do that amusing if slightly embarrassing thing where they sang Happy Birthday for all to hear. I turned red, no doubt. Ha, ha.

And that was the substance of my day. A pretty darn good one, if I do say so myself. I'm just winding down to a football game, after having had the obligatory conversation with the folks. Surprisingly, the Kansas City Chiefs are taking it to the San Diego Chargers 14-7. It remains to be seen how long that will last. Let's not even talk about the attrocity that was the Carolina Panthers yesterday. We got rolled by the Giants 31-18. I wish we could find a real quarterback.

I'd better be headed to bed in a few moments, as it's the dreaded early class again. Thanks all, and goodnight.

Thu, Sep. 9th, 2010

11:02 pm - Confluence

I've just completed a book called Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. I'd mentioned this one before, but being the genius I am I'd spelled the author's name wrong. Ah well.

It was a great story. Very heavy on the medical terminology, and there were a couple of stretches in which it kind of dragged, but the plot ended up being profound. Much of it did take place in Africa, but the climax happened right here in the good ol' United States of America. I'd say check it out!

Now here's where the subject line comes from. I've already mentioned that I'm planning to do my treatment manual for this Diagnosis class on an aspect of Autism, as we have to choose a psychosocial disability. Of course, I've just started Born On A Blue Day, by Daniel Tammet, which I also think is going to be a great read. However, the book Little Bee that I read in June featured a character, the son of the English family to which Little Bee fled, who seemed to have a lower-functioning form of Autism. He often refused to talk, and he insisted on wearing the same Batman costume every day despite its tattered appearance. If he couldn't wear it, he'd throw a huge fit. No mention was made of such a diagnosis within the context of the story.

The same seemed to be the case in Cutting for Stone. Shiva and Marian were identical twins, and while Marian seemed to develop in a typical way, Shiva stopped talking for the first few years of his life. His language was only displayed when he felt it necessary to speak up for the animals that they were insisting on killing at the Ethiopian hospital due to their inability to afford upkeep for them. He also had an ability to examine words or a picture once and copy it down exactly, even to the smudges that may have been on the page. He was certainly intelligent, but quite distant emotionally. If he did something that might be construed as emotional, it was primarily because he could see the rationale for doing so, not as a result of a feeling of connection. It would seem that he may have had Asperger's syndrome, as does the author of Born on a Blue Day.

Again no mention was made of this particular diagnosis. I guess it just shows the rapidly rising prevalence of persons on the Autism spectrum, but I still find it fascinating to continually encounter such characters within contemporary literature.

Other than my reading, what kinds of craziness are happening to me? Well, mostly the same ol' same. I have an appointment with the audiologist here to see about cleaning up the sound of these hearing aids a bit. I'm not sure how much she can do, but anything would be appreciated. That fanlike sound isn't really a big deal, but singing and music would definitely sound better without it. They also have my new molds, which should help her to get my right ear up closer to the settings that are needed to maximize functioning.

This weekend should be interesting, as my birthday is at the end of it and the NFL season opens. It actually started today. I got to listen to half of the first quarter of the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, but they blocked the free link through which I was tuned in online. I will watch the Panthers game against the New York Giants this Sunday somehow. My cousin is already in town, planning to go for a job interview at the Durham version of the workshop I worked at in Charlotte. I'm guessing I'll see him on Sunday, come game time.

And that's basically all. Cross your fingers for me tomorrow if you please, as I have some crazy issues that must be dealt with somehow. Later!

Tue, Sep. 7th, 2010

12:15 am - End of 31

And what I really need to be doing is dragging my narrow behind off to bed. However, I've not written in here in four? days already. Goodness, where does the time go!

So, I am now into the last week of my 31st year. Yes I know I'm turning 31 years of age, but think about it. I will in fact wrap up 31 years of existence on September 13, not 30. I've often thought we need to rethink how we define this in English.

Speaking of things that should be rethought, shouldn't we rename Labor Day take-off day, or something like that. It's certainly more in line with what most of us would like to be doing on said. As for me, I didn't do anything substantive. Well I did force myself to reread some articles for this duplicate class. And someone from the class on the study of the brain whom I'd not met in person but had only conversed with via e-mail came over to help me run some errands. I could tell by the tone of her messages that she would be a nice person. That is of course the difficulty of living in a town like this: you may as well forget using public transportation on a holiday.

I didn't get a real grilled burger, but I did break out the George and make my own sort of grilled delight. I also had steak fries that were huge! I think I put too many in the pot. See? Somebody should've come over for company.

And finally, we have sports. This was an exciting football weekend. The University of North Carolina Tar Heels had a bunch of people get kicked off of its football team due to academic and other violations. It was therefore thought that they would stand little chance of defeating Louisiana State University on Saturday night. The way the game started seemed to bear this out, as by the end of the 2nd quarter they trailed 30-10 and were basically not there. I turned it off, until I saw reports that they'd completed a 97-yard touchdown pass. They then scored again to cut it to six with 2 minutes remaining in the 4th. Amazingly, they got all the way to the LSU 6 yard line for the last play of the game, but that final pass was incomplete. They definitely put up a good, if unexpected, fight.

I also just finished watching Boise State University take down Virginia Tech in a thrilling game 33-30. They've had a number of great seasons, and yet they still garner little respect. I'm really hoping they can take the title this season.

And that's all. iTunes is playing The Time Of My Life. Man, this song makes me long for the good ol' care-free days. Meanwhile, I have to try again later today to get these ding dongs to help me with tuition and hearing aid issues. This endless craziness is making me think about starting my own colony on Saturn, as Stevie Wonder suggested. Any volunteers wanna help me? Hope you all have a good shortened week!

Fri, Sep. 3rd, 2010

11:44 pm - A Random Milestone

Yup, today marks exactly a year since I made that first entry from the University of North Carolina. I recall that as I was writing it, I felt that the final ceal was being applied to the prior era of my life, for better or worse. And there have definitely been times when, hard as it would be for my former self to believe, I pined to be back at that boring job with little to worry about but wrapping cheese cloth.

Thankfully, I am making a lot of progress in many important areas. Since the year began, I've been expanding my knowledge of the bus system and the streets that comprise it. I've also obviously acquired the needed technology to put myself into a much better position to handle the rigors of graduate work. Heck, I hadn't even had the Internet for an entire month on arrival. That's a bad place to be, no doubt.

Now to get my mind back on that level. I can't use the excuse of not knowing what to do this time, but sometimes motivation is higher than others. Can somebody kick me in the behind a couple times? I'd very much appreciate that.

So today I went back to the Bank of America branch on Franklin Street to activate my permanent new debit card. I got off of the bus at the Columbia and Rosemary stop, which is one street up from Franklin. I got a little lost, or more like I thought I'd gotten lost. For some inexplicable reason, I thought that the strip of buildings in which Bank of America is located was facing the other direction. Probably my brain was just being deep-fried. It didn't help things that they seemed to have signs or some such obstructions all over the place. I asked someone if I was indeed headed the right way, and she assured me that I was. By the time I got in there, the teller said "it's hot enough out there huh?" I had a regular waterfall running down my back.

On my way back out, some random guy at the bottom of a set of stairs to my left shouted out "The Five Blind Boys of Alabama!" "Huh?" I asked. "Yeah, can you sang like them? They's a gospel group! Blind as bats, but they can make some good music!" He went on to talk about how Stevie Wonder's Song in the Key of Life was "one of the best albums ever made!," but that he was "blind as s**t, too." Yeah, uh huh. I just scuttled away as quickly as my legs could carry me. No idea what that guy might've been on, or what his living condition could've been. I guess that comes with the territory as I move around by myself though. It sure makes for interesting stories, if nothing else.

And so we head into Labor Day weekend. No special plans for me, but that's not all too surprising. It'll be fun to lay back and watch a whole lot of college football, and maybe, just maybe, I'll manage to get some work done as well. Here's hoping. All Americans, have a happy and safe holiday. To everyone else, just chill.

Thu, Sep. 2nd, 2010

10:23 pm - That's What I'm Doin'

I'm attempting to post this entry via e-mail, just because it would be easier to do so than trying to navigate to the right spot on the website or installing a client. Thanks to the great instructions provided by kittytech , which I'm hoping actually lead me to doing so correctly. If it goes wrong, I will attribute that to my brain's small size. Anyway, let's give it a go.

I wanted to write this entry yesterday, but by the time I got back it was already 12:30 AM. I knew I had to be at least somewhat functional this morning, so I just trundled off to bed.

One of my classmates decided to get a group of us together for Karaoke night at Toreros, a Mexican bar/restaurant in Durham. Thanks to the power of Facebook, I was able to arrange transportation to and from the event. So the only thing left to do was fortify my vocal cords, try to get a little in my tummy, and get ready for the fun!

I am again virtually down to the metal in that refrigerator, and thus I'd better make a trip to the grocery in fairly short order. Even so, I had a sandwich and some baked beans. I do have a surplus of canned goods, which obviously can stay there for a while and are good for emergencies.

I made myself complete some coursework, mostly reading of incredibly dense articles about depression and about the brain. I was so sleepy after finishing that that I was worried about my ability to function during the night.

My ride showed up at around 9, as the Karaoke portion of the evening wasnt due to start till then anyway. We think that many of the others who were invited may have opted to go to another bar night event set up by a different classmate tonight, thus leading to a slightly lower turnout. I knew I wanted to do the singing thing though, as it's something I enjoy doing and I'd never done Karaoke before.

As we rolled up to the building, the person who was driving spotted a problem. "Hmmm, I wonder why it's so dark in there?" she said. Seconds later, someone came over to tell us that they'd temporarily lost power. Uh oh. "Come on in though and have a drink while we wait, they said. So we hopped out.

I had a beer, two of them by the close of the night actually. I think the kind I tried there was called Yuengling. According to one of my Twitter followers, this brand comes from the oldest active brewery in the US, located in Pensylvania. I don't know if I could tell much of a difference, but then beer usually tastes fairly similar to me unless it's particularly thick. It did make me happy happy though, and as usual, the women were so amused by my response to that first beer that they talked me into getting another one. Ah, I love making people laugh.

The waitress was very friendly also, immediately addressing a question to me as she came over. This created an awkward silence at first, as I thought maybe she was talking to the person sitting across from me. I think they'd already known each other. I got the clue once no one had said anything for 3 seconds, and I think all was forgiven.

Two other classmates, that I'm aware of anyway, dropped in. One of them also brought her boyfriend along. So we had a little party, but a party nonetheless. We got a bowl of chips which we shared, and of course our own dipping bowls of salsa with which to eat them. I also got a big plate of taquitos, chicken and cheese wrapped in small shells with guacomole and sour cream in the middle of the plate for dipping. They were delicious and quite filling, and I could only eat half before giving in to the box and taking the rest home.

By this point, the power had come back on. I was asked to choose a song, and I decided to go with These Days, by Rascal Flatts. It's one of my perenial favorites, but I kind of wish I'd gone with another choice that would've shown off more of my voice. Perhaps I Believe I Can Fly, by R. Kelly. Ah well, I'm hoping to do that again someday.

So my turn came, I was second, and I tottered up there on legs slightly wobbly with alcohol. I think there was a small microphone issue at first in which I could hardly be heard, but this was suddenly corrected and my voice boomed through the small space. It felt weird, and I had to try not to hold back on my sound. I think I didn't do half badly though. The only gaff occurred because I hadn't realized that the Karaoke version would not have the extended electric guitar portion before the beginning of the last chorus. I don't know how many noticed this, though. The small audience clapped enthusiastically as I made my way back to the booth in which we were seated.

The music was so loud as to preclude my participation in conversation for much of the night, so I sat back and listened to the other singers. Of course some of them left me shaking my head, but there were a couple good performers also. I particularly lied the guy who sang God Must've Spent a Little More Time On You, by NSync, a woman who sang I'm Goin' Down by Mary J. Blige, (I don't remember who made it first), and another who sang More Than Friends by Envogue.

I think the hearing aids did help to some extent, as I would have found it difficult to interact at all previously in that kind of atmosphere, but anytime things are crowded and blaring I'm probably going to experience difficulty. My group was understanding though, and they didn't make me feel bad for this. I very much appreciated that, actually. It turned out to be a great, relaxing night.

We finally departed, and this time the couple drove me home. I don't think there were any major difficulties in relocating my place, and so I stumbled back inside shortly after 12:30. I'd had fun doing some live tweeting while I was there and I was interested to see what people's responses would be to this. So I read those, decided to skip NPR, and slide under the covers feeling exhausted but in a good way. Let's hope the positive momentum of this week continues and leads me to a gread semester!

Tue, Aug. 31st, 2010

10:11 pm - Appreciations

A reminder that there are still nice people in the world: So I'd gone over to the student store, because I needed a headset so that I could use my electronic equipment in class. Today was the first that I'd taken my laptop with me, and holding those bandless headphones against my head while trying to type and navigate the web? Not happenin'. I'd asked the library if I could just temporarily hold the ones they always let me use at their computer, but they won't allow me to take them out of the building.

So after another long Diagnosis class, this one in which we had to watch a video and evaluate the likely disorders of the patients, I trundled off to lunch with the other students in this department. I'd decided to nab a delicious ham and cheese sandwich from the Quiznos located inside of the little cafe before heading up there. I ate this with a cup of apple sauce I'd brought with me, and a chocolate cookie that one of the classmates supplied.

I think this year's gonna be a lot of fun, assuming I don't fade toward the bottom of the social order again. Of course, this is kind of inevitable largely due to the shere composition of students here, which as I've already noted is women, women, and more women. So perhaps what happened next is a good thing. Meanwhile, they're planning to go to a bar and/or a karaoke night sometime this week. With my love of singing, I'd really love to do the karaoke, but we'll see.

The required sun basking occurred, and finally I hopped a bus over to the student store. A guy helped me, I tried to stay within my limited budget and get something for under $10. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised that none of the headsets there were less than 20. "This is UNC," he said, "they don't know the meaning of inexpensive". I had to chuckle at this, as it is absolutely true.

"I'll get it," he said, "because I know what it's like to be broke". I wasn't left with the feeling that he saw me as some sorry blind person, only a struggling grad student. We exchanged numbers, and will probably hang out sometime too.

I so rarely encounter men like this, and especially, let's be honest, African American men. I suppose that what I need to do with this is to pay it forward to someone else who might be dealing with similar difficulties as soon as I get a chance. I guess too that if you are really trying to do something to better yourself and those around you, your effort will b rewarded. Thank you.

Sun, Aug. 29th, 2010

10:35 pm - Week 1 At A Glance

I want to start by thanking all of you who have commented on how much you enjoy reading my journal. I've probably said this a million times, but I can't say it enough. You don't know how much that lifts my sagging spirits. I wish to get beyond just surface writing one of these good ol' days, but so many other life elements are making that difficult at the moment. And sadly, grad school is already slowing my posting again!

My "week" really consists of one day: Tuesday. And if this opener were any indication, I think I'm in for a whole lotta chaos.

As I walked to my first class, the dreaded Diagnosis, some of the current second-years who were apparently lost latched onto me. I guess that for whatever reason they thought they'd be retaking that course, and not whichever they were actually supposed to head for. We sent them away, and I settled in, trying to hide in my chair.

The first thing the professor said though was "this is John. He's a second-year, but he'll be joining us to take this for a second time". I said "oh no" and hung my head, causing everyone to laugh. The first-year student who sat right beside me said she'd worked with the deafblind population, so it might be particularly interesting to get to know her. She hasn't talked to me yet, but I did meet someone else while perusing the halls.

One thing's for sure, I'm not playing around this time! We have to read a memoir covering any of the disabilities covered in this course, which are largely psychosocial. Last time, I hadn't gotten my choice to her until the middle of September even though it was actually due by the end of August. And I'd chosen A Beautiful Mind, by Silvia Nasar. Let's just say the movie was better than the book, but both led to questionable conclusions regarding the ability to recover from schizophrenia.

I think this is the first year she's also including Autism and other related disabilities. Given that I have an interest in this area as it relates to the disorder I have, I selected a book under this category. Of course it doesn't hurt that we don't cover this topic till November, giving me plenty of time to procrastinate, uh, read! Yeah that's what I said, read. The title I found, via a therapist who specializes in treatment of autism that I have on Twitter, is Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant; A Memoir by Daniel Tammet. It sounds as if it should be good reading. I'm not sure about the narrator who does the NLS version, though.

Anyway, so back to Tuesday. We stayed in that class for most of the allotted time, and afterwards I dashed off to the bank to pump in some money so that I could pay rent. I scrambled out of there just in time to make the bus back to my complex, ran over here to do a couple quick things, and bounced over to the office to finally nip that thing in the bud. Only when they swiped my card, the thing came up as invalid. Oh boy! And as this was unfolding, the last bus that I could catch if I wanted to make my 4:00 class came and left. Fortunately, one of the workers in the office was kind enough to drive me over to campus and get me to the correct building. As it turned out, the bank said someone had tried to use my card in an unauthorized way. So they shut it down for security reasons, meaning that I had to go through the craziness of acquiring another one. I currently have a temporary card, which I gather will be replaced by the end of next week or so. Ugh, I've always heard of this kind of stupidity, but still it's no fun. I guess I'm fortunate that the bank caught it in time.

The other class is going to be rather interesting, I think. It's all about the brain. One thing that I'm very happy about is that the books for it and the Diagnosis class are now available online, through the UNC Libraries. I sure wish that had been the case when I got here in the fall of 2009.

And not a whole lot else this week. My cousin did come up to visit his girlfriend on Friday, and they hosted me over a dinner of spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. It was nice just having one of our trademark conversations, and I didn't really want it to end when it had to. At least I did have an additional plate of spaghetti for Saturday.

Mostly I just hope things settle down much more quickly this semester. I'm still trying to get up with my counselor to discuss a few things, and I kind of wonder if she isn't actively avoiding me. I can't imagine why that would be the case; I mean if you've got some sort of issue with me just say so! We'll see what happens over the next few days.

Mon, Aug. 23rd, 2010

11:35 pm - Day 1: Orientation

And how I'm awake now is beyond me. I sure as all better hope I get up for tomorrow's classes! Ah well, even though I'm 30 I can still rock the college life. It's probably my last chance to do so, right?

I snapped out of some odd dream at 4:30 AM and tottered out to plug in the stubbornly dispondent cell phone. Oh me, why did I get out of bed. Not too surprisingly, I suppose, I couldn't get myself back to sleep. So I just pulled down the player and turned on NPR till shower time.

I set off to catch the bus at 7:35, thinking I needed to be at orientation by 8. As it turned out though, not only did the actual orientation start at 8:30, but the second-years weren't expected to show up till 2 hours later. So I did what I always do in these situations: I turned into a big, lazy seal basking in the lovely sunshine. Just feeling the full-throttle pulse going throughout the university excited me more than I can say.

Shortly after 10:15, my classmates started trickling over. They told me about their summers in such places as Florida, 104-degree Dallas, and other cool places; and I told them about the fascinating time I had lying on my carpet listening to audio books. I know they were jealous of me!

Into the building we went. I was told that all of the first-years look like they're fresh out of undergrad, and there are two incoming guys. I don't know if that's ever been the case for this program. In my other elective class, there is only 1 other guy. We surmised that the ratio of girls to guys at this university is something like 4 to 1. I know it's one of the highest in the nation at a school that isn't designed specifically with such things in mind. Anyhow, none of them talked to me.

Basically, they just welcomed us back and shooed the part-time outcasts, myself of course included, from the room. Back to the lazy seal routine, this time only for fifteen minutes as we had pizza coming for lunch. I had a slice of hamburger pizza and one of peparoni. It was ok, but one of those where the different types of meat could hardly be distinguished.
After lunch, we part-timers got the special treatment in the form of a meeting in a 2nd-floor room. We were able to ask questions regarding how we would enter clinical placements, the composition of research papers/projects, and generally handling class loads. The advisor did get a little testy at times, but I wasn't really surprised by that. I did get a slightly better idea of what is expected of me, and I'm holding onto hope that I will achieve it by 2012. That is assuming I manage to find the finances for this, which will be no small feat. Halfway through the meeting, we got kicked out of that room as I think some folks were waiting to have class. Ah, crossed wires. Gotta love it.

So once that meeting was done, I scrambled up to the library desperately hoping that a certain e-mail would be there. It wasn't on arrival, which made me really nervous. However, by the time I finished downloading my NPR stories and checking a couple other things it had shown up. I was very much relieved.

Out into... the pouring rain! Aaahhh! I was driven onto the benches which are positioned under the library's awning, where I sat and read until the tempest had passed. While I stood waiting for my return bus the sun popped back out for a while, but by the time I'd gotten back to my apartments the skies had opened up again. This caused me to have to stuff my hearing aids into my pocket and bag the barely working cell, and to make a run for it! It was nerve-racking, as I could barely hear cars that might have been passing through that giant parking lot.

that was the crux of my day. I got back and skimmed through 1208 tweets, chilled on the porch for a bit, and ate. Because I was too tired to make anything substantial, I had peas, apple sauce, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner. What! I finally got the blasted cell to charge too! This thing's gonna make me grey.

Let's see what kind of trouble I can get into tomorrow. I have to go to class from 9-11:50, to Disability Services to pick up the FM system that'll make it easier for me to follow in-class discussions, to the bank, back over here, and finally to class from 4-6:50. I'm exhausted just writing that! Glad to be finishing this day in a good mood, though. Night, all.

Sun, Aug. 22nd, 2010

10:06 pm - A Hodge Podge

Bad bad me! I didn't post anything yesterday, admittedly because I just couldn't come up with anything compelling enough. Well I did at least get through a month of consecutive entries, which was quite an achievement during this fairly empty summer.

Speaking of which, it's off to class tomorrow! Well more like orientation, as the actual classes don't begin till Tuesday. I think it starts at 8 AM, so I'll be up with the birds in order to get to campus on time. I'm not sure how long I will need to stay, as I'm neither a first-year or second-year, but in that mirky in-between. I hope to be out of there by 2 at the latest, as I have serious matters that need tending to. It's gonna be a long, tiring day. It should be exciting too, as I'll get to meet so many more people.

Today, I just went to church as usual. For the second sunday in a row they didn't really preach a sermon. I think the pastor had something to do shortly after service, so they just sang songs and allowed people to testify and bring forth issues to pray about.

I was delighted to get a real chance to flex the muscle of these hearing aids, and overall I was pleased with the results. The woman who often drives me there is very quiet, and on top of that she likes to play her music kind of loud. Still I was able to conduct a conversation with her as we bounced along, and still could concentrate on the songs as well. I literally can't remember the last time that was possible, folks. My hearing has been so low for so long that I just took such lacking for granted.

I'm curious to see how or if these aids will make it easier for me to mingle tomorrow. My hearing is still not perfect by any means, but it feels like there is real improvement. I am thankful for the people who convinced me to give it a try.

Other than that, not much. I let my cell phone charge for six hours, checking at each three-hour period, and it's still saying it's only 25% full. Not. this. again! Verizon just gave me a much needed free month of service for renewing my contract, which I actually didn't mind doing since I don't plan to leave it anytime soon. They'd better get the iPhone in January, darnit! In the meantime though, I need a phone that works. I just replaced the battery in May, so I'm thinking it's probably the charger. Blah.

And finally in sports, I'm concerned about the NFL's Carolina Panthers. In both of their preseason games, they've looked quite bad. I didn't get to listen to either of them, because I couldn't find a working link on Free Football Radio dot com. I did follow the tweets on Twitter, which was probably more entertaining than the actual brodcasts anyway. I want to get NFL Audio Pass, which would allow me to listen to other games online, but I have to keep telling myself that I can't now afford it.

Well that's a wrap. Wish me luck tomorrow, as I will certainly need it. I will of course report on things as they happen.

Fri, Aug. 20th, 2010

11:02 pm - Lifeblood

Ah, I can hear the football game and smell the books in the air already. This is truly the most exciting time to be living in a college town. So much humanity, excitement, and of course, confusion. And even though UNC-Charlotte was not a college town, this place still makes me miss those days, before I had to really concern myself with financial responsibility, career choices, etc.

I had to run some erands, and in the course of doing, I overheard many things. While on the incredibly crowded campus shuttle, (it seemed a new busload stumbled on and off at every stop as we crawled along), the upper class person sitting beside me watched someone across the aisle. I'm sure that woman was green around the gills, as the woman beside me asked "Uh, which way are you trying to go?" The upper class individual agreed to hop off with her and show her exactly where to locate her desired destination. I was touched by that act of kindness, and by the person taking a step back from her own thoughts and worries to inquire about another's. I think I could do a little more of that myself.

So this is it. Orientation on Monday, and class on Tuesday. I'm curious as to why Blackboard hasn't shown me the Fall classes yet; everything is still set to those I took in the Spring. I wonder if I need to call someone about that. I wanted to get a sneak peak at those who were enrolled in the class, and to see if I might be able to touch base with some of them before things even got started. Ah well. I guess that more than anything I hope I find my way this year, and that I will get the chance to gain valuable experience to aid me in eventually making a difference in the lives of others as well.
And speaking of volunteer work, we had another Board meeting of the Norrie Disease Association tonight. When we called in, the teleconferencing Service seemed to cause many of us to have a lot of echo. We'd almost decided to just give up and cancel the meeting, but things eventually smoothed themselves out. I can definitely feel a sense of camaraderie building among us, as we made jokes and laughed a lot during the entire call. It really is nice.

One of the persons at the forefront of this organization is an Aussie, and well first he was almost too excited by the tight election they've got going on over there to focus. Secondly, he may be coming to a conference in Chicago in March. If he does, we're all thinking of meeting there in person. Another of the members who lives there said she'd have enough room to host us all in her house. If I know about this far enough in advance, perhaps I can use my US Airways Dividend Miles to book the trip. I would then have to pay very little. I hope it happens, as I've never been to Chicago before. I guess we shall see, though.

And that's pretty much all of note that has happened today. Just doing a lot of reading and wondering as usual about things. I'm definitely hoping to find something to do tomorrow.

Thu, Aug. 19th, 2010

11:25 pm - Writer's Block: Me, myself, and I

Which one word would you use to describe yourself, and why?


That's easy, bookworm! I'm actually losing count of how many books I've read this year, but it feels like a surprising amount. Especially during this crazy summer with all of its issues surrounding my hearing and the subsequent difficulties integrating socially, reading has been a welcome respite. Not to mention, I don't have to pay anything to do it. That is a real plus lately.

I'v just started a fairly long book: 21+ hours of audio and over 540 pages. It's called Cutting For Stone, and it's by Abraham Berghese. I'm not sure what it's about, other than it seems to be a medical type. I read the annotation, but I have this great ability to then forget it once I start the story, meaning that everything is still a surprise. Or perhaps I'm suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's, but we won't discuss that.

One thing that has interested me thus far is that there are elements of travel within the story. It opens with the nun who will eventually become a nurse making a harrowing voyage from India to Yemen onboard a cargo ship. She has been assigned to do some work in Africa. It seems that the focus of the story will be her son telling about something bad that he'd done to cause a rift between him and his twin brother. I am intrigued thus far.

So today turned out to be yet another wash. Well I guess one plus is that we don't have to worry about drought this summer. Luckily, this computer decided to act right for most of the day, meaning I could get some things done. I've set it up to acquire the accommodations I'll need from Disability Services, and I know where my second class on Tuesday is located. I just have to go and scout it out tomorrow, but I think I've got someone to help me with that. Now I'm just hoping the rain will stop!

And oops? I broke it! What, you ask? The blasted garbage disposal. I poured slightly larger clumps of stuff down that drain than I should have, and now it's kind of stopped up. I got all the water out of the sink, but now the disposal has pretty much given up the ghost. Ah, fun. The maintenance people won't like me, but I think they will fix it. That combined with yet another half gallon of milk going bad entirely too quickly! As my Twitter followers then suggested, I have to be more vigillant about which cartons I select, making sure that the expiration date is at least ten days away. I think it's this store though, because I hardly ever had such problems in Charlotte and the times I've gotten milk from other locations in this area.

Alrighty, I'm off to scarf down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and listen to NPR. I can't wait to get back into this book. Hope Thursday (Thursday, already?) was good to you.

Wed, Aug. 18th, 2010

11:23 pm - A Moment

And in honor of the Sully book I just finished, which was a superb read by the way, I'm going to make my moment aviation related.
In Charlotte, the Metrolina Association for the Blind (MAB) hosted an anual summer camp that was designed to get blind children thinking about where they would fit into the business and social world. To this end, they would often have themes that ran throughout the four weeks or so of day sessions on the bottom floor of their facility.

This particular year's theme was transportation. Examples of what we learned were: honing a restaurant to ask for directions from the nearest bus stop, actually locating and boarding a bus and getting off at a destination, boarding a commercial airliner and speaking with the pilots, and other things. Without a doubt, this was my favorite year at that summer camp, and it probably has much to do with my continued enjoyment of travel to this day.

The highlight of that period was to be a trip up in a small four-seat plane. I can't now recall which kind it was, but I guess some type of cesna. This took place at some sort of Christian organization that I think was called JARS. They flew supplies into small African countries that were donated here in the United States. We got to see some of these things, including a player that aided vilagers in learning their local language. This had a little crank that you turn in order to make it play. It was made out of clear plastic, so that the people could see what was going on inside of it and would thus resist the urge to smash it on the rocks to investigate how it worked. They also showed us a device that you use to, I think, administer electric shock after a snake bite. This supposedly helped you to gain enough time to get medical attention before the venom had fully taken effect.
They had quite an impressive fleet of aircraft, some of them having been put into service in 1954. This took place in 1994, four years after my first ever flight to Los Angeles California.

Both my cousin and I almost missed out on the short plane ride, because for some odd reason we hadn't gotten out folks to sign the permission slip. I can't remember if, and this was likely, we were just too shy to ask, or if we'd just lost the paperwork.

As the engine fired up with the first round of kids and I sat there with a pack of oreo cookies in my lap and an ice-cold coke in my hand, I began to feel sad at the prospect that I would indeed be left out. And when the initial group stumbled back toward us, excitedly chattering away, I knew I had to go. The second group went up and came back down, and after that, the adults said "alright, it's your turn!" "But we didn't bring our slips," I replied sadly. "Ah, don't worry about that". I knew there'd be some kind of insurance issue if that bad boy went down, but well they didn't want us to miss that opportunity, and I suppose they deemed such a horrifying conclusion to be unlikely.
So we strapped in and buckled up. I was amazed at how different it felt. It was like being in a car. As the guy in front fired up the engine again he said "now this won't be like the flight you took on the big plane. Any blowing of the wind, and this thing's gonna buck like a bronco!" I tried to imagine what that would be like as we taxied onto the strip, roared up to full power, and rose off of the ground. For reasons unknown to me, I felt the need to shout "we in the air!", I guess just in case they hadn't noticed.

It was quite loud by this point, and I was enjoying every second of it. We seemed to be sliding in all directions, up, down, back, forward, and side to side. We reached a maximum altitude of 900 feet, did a few fly-arounds of the immediate area, and touched down. It was such a neat contrast to what I'd experienced previously, and I've not had the fortune of experiencing it again.

Tue, Aug. 17th, 2010

10:46 pm - A New Sound

That neighbor has his music up so loud. If he don't turn it down soon, I'm gonna call the police!

Somebody make that baby shut up! I can't sleep a lick.

Uh oh, why on Earth is that refrigerator making that sound. And those pops and clicks around this place are making me nervous.

All of these things probably cross your mind on a fairly regular basis as you go about living in your residence, whether a small, cramped apartment or a big, spacious house. Even with my previous hearing aids, I'd began missing out on some of these sounds at all but the quietest parts of the night. It looks like that will finally change. You can read the piece I wrote on getting those hearing aids for a comparison to today's experience.

We ended up moving the appointment from 2:30 till 1:30 so that my mentor would have enough time to drop me off and pick me up before leaving for her class. Prior to heading over there, I just spent time doodling in the library and reading outside on what was a fairly nice day. Given that I was awake by 6:30 again, I should imagine that I will sleep quite well tonight. I think I go through this insomniac stretch regularly during this portion of the summer, when the nights just seem warm, sticky, and endless.

Anyway, we got to the clinic and I had to sit in the waiting room for approximately 15 minutes. The audiologist with whom I worked on my initial trip out there had scheduled me to do this part with another woman, because she's currently on vacation and wants me to have the new aids in place by the start of the semester.
Into the other room, I have no idea if it has a proper name actually. Ha. She didn't really have to do much. She just pulled my old aids from their molds, which, she noted, were in horrible shape. The one on the right side is especially bad, with much of the covering material worn off in places. She said this meant she wouldn't be able to optimize the sound in the aids she'd give me. Ah, I don't know how I hadn't realized that was an issue.
She then put tubes into both of my ears that were connected to some sort of cords that she clipped to my shirt. I felt like I was going to take off! When I felt them, it seemed that the cords were actually attached to the aids. "Uh, do I have to keep these on?" I asked. "No," she replied. "In fact, I had someone accidentally walk out of here with them still in, and when she entered the bank they thought she was bringing in a bomb or other type of incendiary device. They actually had to call the clinic to verify that this came from us". Oops? I said "Imagine what kind of trouble that could get me into at the airport."
She said she was born in Ireland, lending her an unusual accent. It wasn't really Irish anymore, just articulate. Her d's and t's came out very clearly. I found this amusing.

So she got the aids all programmed, and we put them on. They definitely sound far better than the others I'd had. The only issue is that sound has this, hmmm how do I explain... wabbly? quality to it. I guess the closest analogy would be to say that it's like I'm singing into a fan. And when my cell phone beeps with incoming messages, it sounds as if I'm holding it up to a fan as well. Though odd, I'm not finding it to be a big deal. Perhaps I will ask her if this can be modified when I go back, though. These aids are only loaners though, and they are not the same ones recommended to me after the most recent audiologic exam.

After that, she went ahead and made impressions for my new molds. This is a very weird process, because while I have that stuff plugged into my ears I can hear absolutely nothing. And putting it in kinda hurts and feels good at the same time. I know that doesn't make much sense, but it's true. I was relieved when she finally was able to take it back out.

On arrival at home, I was amazed at how echoy this place sounded. And, as expressed earlier in this entry, I was shocked at how well I could suddenly hear things going on not only in this apartment, but also in apartments above and beside me. It kind of showed me exactly how loud I can be sometimes, often without realizing it. I also took a walk outside and listened to the roar of machinery, the much more constant sound of people chattering than I'd ever heard before, and whatever other general hubbub I happened to pass.

I'm anxious to get into a real social setting to see if they make a difference therein. I think I'll have a chance tomorrow, as a prospective faculty member in this graduate program is giving a presentation. I'll probably get to see if I can hear not only a person talking to the class, but also the questions posed by students and staff. It'll be a good practice. I had to tell her to program in the t-coil setting, so that I'll be able to use the FM system that Disability Services will provide. I'm just glad I thought to ask about that.

So, that was a happy outcome. The entire saga isn't over and won't be till I get permanent new aids, but I think these will hold me until I get all of that sorted. Now the pressure is on me though not to break, lose, or otherwise damage these things. *shudders*. I guess we'll just have to see how the rest of this crazy week plays out. Thanks a lot for reading, and for your support.

Mon, Aug. 16th, 2010

11:50 pm - Don't Stop

Today has been largely about invisibility and distraction. At first the former caused the latter, then vise versa. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

I hopped out of bed around 9:30. I'd actually woke up by 7:30, but I just rolled over and pressed "Play" on my NLS player so that I could continue listening to my NPR stories. I kept setting the sleep timer so that if I drifted off, I wouldn't lose too much of my place.
I wanted to head over to campus, both because I needed a place where I couldn't get caught up in so many other things and would just sit and focus on making final preparations for the week, and because I wanted to actually talk to real people again! Even though I've been going to church nowadays, lately those folk don't say a whole lot to me either. I reckon this is because they are afraid I won't really be able to hear them.
So I got to the bus stop early. It arrives at my complex by 12:20, and I was there by 12:13. As it pulled in, I stood and positioned myself near the curb as usual. Because they back into the spot and I then have to cross the lot to board, I usually stand in place and wait for the driver to engage the air brakes. I want to experience a lot of things in this life, but getting bashed by a big city bus is not very high on that list.

Instead of slowing, however, the bus shifted back into gear and pulled off! I was very perplexed by this. Most of the drivers know me by name, and even if they don't they will in most cases idle there so that they can catch back up on time and stretch their legs. I don't imagine that they left me standing there out of some vindictive desire, but I can't really figure what other explanation there might be for having done so.

Annoyed and hot, I just marched back to my apartment and re-entered. And not too surprisingly, I didn't get nearly as much done as I needed to. I just vegged out on the floor after drinking a lot of water, and brooded for a while.

The second part of my day involved continuing to read the Sully book. It's 10 hours and 35 minutes of audio, and I'm already under six hours remaining. This is pretty fast for me. I was so engrossed that I hadn't heard my neighbor attempting to speak to me until she tapped me on the shoulder. I didn't think I would find this so compelling, but I guess I have flying genes after all. I wanna be a pilot!

I have an appointment to get fitted for my new hearing aids tomorrow. The only problem with this is transportation. My mentor said she can get me there but not back, and for some reason the place isn't on a bus line either. I find that a bit odd. The appointment is at 2:30, and I'm guessing I will be there till 4 at least. Most of the people I know who might be able to come and get me would be otherwise occupied at that time. It's at times like these and the non-waiting bus that i wish I could just hop in a car of my own and drive where I want to go.
Well let's see if I can get to and from my appointment tomorrow. I have a feeling this will continue to be a crazy week. I hope you had a good Monday, at least.

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