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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.