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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.