On Creating a Show/Podcast

Grad school is filled with many projects that have me pulling my hair out one by one, or banging it’s container on the table as I try to slog to the end. Probably the week 1/4 paper exemplifies that to the highest degree I have yet encountered.

Thankfully though, I followed that extremely challenging literature review, where I was to collect 20 articles and design them into something remotely coherent, with a more fun podcast. This was to be on employee identification within organizations. I had to locate three interviewees, one of whom should be a leader of sorts. I tapped my network and was able to speak with a newspaper reporter (thank you Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan,) a director of Community Relations (thank you Linda Convissor,) and a social media manager (thank you Samantha Allen.) I had to then ask questions that get to ways in which people operate in the ever-changing, now always-on culture.

I recorded the interviews with my iPhone using Voice Memos, and actually got pretty clear audio. Then I used Bossjock to convert them to MP3 so that I could import into Audacity, where things could be edited and moved around. After hours of manual reading and clicking this and that, I finally masted the basic art of adding clips after I spoke. Extraction of my first clip took nearly an hour, but once I fully understood the technique I’d gotten clip removal down to mere seconds.

Is it top-knotch professional? Well I’m not silly enough to think that. First, I still feel my voice is too monotonous, and maybe I need to try and drop it a bit so that I sound more authoritative. Also, obviously I didn’t have the real studio set up that I would need to remove the resonance that comes from being in a relatively hollow room.

But did I enjoy it? Indeed I did. I think if nothing else maybe I can be the one who writes the copy that an anchor/reporter reads. I had fun constructing the narrative and deciding what fits and how. I could probably also improve my audio editing skills fairly quickly, an area into which I plan to look more thoroughly upon completion of my degree. Finally, I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever really have a “radio voice,” but do wonder if there are courses that could help me pursue that goal as well.

I’m stating pre-grade, but whatever the outcome this project was the most desired thing I have done during my time in the program. It obviously comes close to my stated aim to do some kind of work for NPR, and I feel I can grow a lot from that experience.

And with that, another course largely ends. Amazing how quickly these things move! I do have a mini-reflection paper to complete next week, but the “sweaty stuff” is now behind me. Do I want to see what’s coming around the corner? Hmmm, I don’t know… More later.

Job Days No. 5

Well so what I’ve usually done these in March, this is my fiefdom and I do as I please! And besides, there is some precedence, as my second such post was done in April of 2014, rather than the somewhat arbitrarily agreed-upon date of March 23 on which many of the others have fallen.

RELATED: Job Days No. 4

I’m making it now, because I have lots of reason to be evaluating my place in this job/career world. I’ve now started year five (5!) with my current employer. This means that in all likelihood, I’ve already worked there for more days than I had during my time in the Charlotte blindness workshop location, as I never quite worked a five-day week there.

As fate would have it, I’m about done working five-day weeks here as well, at least for the foreseeable future. Yeah that grad school thing? And the important sleep thing? Don’t, quite, mix. And, that is causing big problems at the workfront, as the latter wishes to take me away at wholly inopportune times, prompting intervention from substitute supervisors. I do respect that lady though, as she not only gave a verbal notification, but was also willing to listen to my challenges and help me initiate the solution, which is to downgrade to four days. I just need more time to master these massive projects coming down the line at me now.

So that’s the biggest change. Let’s take a look at how much my routine has altered since last year. In order to really capture it, I write this post prior to having reviewed the last entry. I don’t want to be influenced by the nuance, after all.

4:45: Alarm sounds, whether it is needed depends on the day (see above). Out of bed, shower, dress.
5:05: iPhone in hand to begin reading until and after departure, even on six-minute walk to bus. Had been pleasure-reading, but academics are taking a larger and larger chunk of my time. (In one book this week, for example, we have to read from pp. 1-86, and 157-198. And about seven other articles! Where is that kind of time, y’all?)
5:32: Hop onto bus and resume reading, which had stopped so that safe street crossing could be had. Continue reading for 18-minute ride to Durham Station.
5:50: Chat with other regulars, (esp person who works six days a week, often from 7 AM-9 PM, and I thought my day was long!) Bemoan hot, cold, wind, rain, whatever the flavor of the day is, until bus pulls in (hopefully on time at 6 AM).
6: Listen to podcasts as GoTriangle 700 Express Route whisks me along Durham Freeway and I-40 E with no stops, to arrive at 6:15.
6:20: Stand in increasingly long line as people attempt to clock in with newfangled (touch-ID) tech, get buzzer that says “try again!” Finally check in and walk to break room, where podcast listening recommences. Fire off arrival text to fiance, usually about having missed sleep yet again.
6:35: Read other book on Braille display till time to go in.

As far as the actual work goes, I still do the same job of packaging light sticks. I have managed to gain another order of magnitude in speed, and now can go just about as quickly as the fastest person back there. So I finally rarely get complaints about that, unless they are about how we’ve gone too quickly and thus have run out of work. It is hard to win in there!

And that’s about all. As usual, I am crossing my fingers that year five will be my last, but with the increasing depth and richness of my network, this has never seemed more likely. Let’s see if I can secure this Master’s degree first, which does appear to take some doing on my part. I’ve just got to find my feet right now, but am still ok on the whole.

So, how long have you worked with your current employer? For class, we’re reading a book by Dalton Conley called Elsewhere U.S.A, in which he proposes that job mobility has not actually changed as much as we think, and that most still work the same place for 20 years whether they like it or not. That book was written in 2008 though, and so I find it rather difficult to believe this still holds true. I think even over the last ten years, things have changed significantly. But probably more on that in an upcoming post on my audio editing fun as I attempt to create a podcast for this class. Till then, keep rockin’ and a-rollin’ and workin’ in the coal mine!

#FridayReads Salt To The Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

I don’t have to tell you that we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of unparalleled times. Without going too much into politics, I will just say that any type of generalized discrimination against race/ethnicity, country of origin, gender, ability/disability, etc, is incredibly dangerous. Taking such a hardline stance against people because they don’t come from here makes little sense, given that problems can be generated from bad actors from within also.

But avoiding a full dive into that, which could go on and on, I thought it would be interesting to read a book proposed by one of my Twitter followers who suggested that it might make us more aware of the plot of the wartime refugee. It’s titled Salt to The Sea, by Ruta Sepetys. Yes, it’s another World War II book, of which there are many. I know, because I’ve read at least a quarter of them. It’s an era that has always fascinated and terrified me, given that really one man’s ideology could end up causing so much strife throughout Europe, and by extension and alliances, through Asia and Africa as well.

But the thing that makes this book more interesting is that it focuses on what happened toward the end of the war, as Germans, Polish persons, and others alike ran for the ports in an attempt to escape an uncertain future. The story is told from four perspectives: that of Joana, a nurse who takes care of many of them; Emelia, a 15-year-old who is contending with the loss of her mother and family; Florian, a runaway German soldier; and Alfred, whom I think is still serving in the German army. They all have different dreams and desires, for instance the German who is still serving recites the ethnicities Hitler wishes to wipe out and fantasizes about how he will help the Fuhrer achieve his awful aims. Emelia ponders what it will be like to reconstruct some kind of family that at least resembles that which she has lost. I’m still only 30% of the way through the story, but apparently these characters, along with other minor ones such as a “shoe poet,” a little boy and even a blind girl named Ingrid, will converge aboard a ship. I am anxious to see how this turns out.

I did want to address that blind character. First, I wonder to what extend that was influenced by All The Light We Cannot See, the bestseller from a couple years ago. Or, were there just a lot of blind folks out there walking around then. It’s interesting. My only small quibble with this individual is the usual; the idea that Ingrid has special sensory powers incurred by her lack of sight. Ability to hear things long before everyone else does. Can tell eye color by some sort of feel? Often has ability to deduce more about one’s personality than most everyone else.

On the sensory issue, as far as I know we do not have “more powerful senses,” but we just learn to use and integrate the information we receive more effectively. In a sense, we use all of what we have left to make up for our eyes, and in some case our ears as well. For instance, I have learned to use the smell of laundry to guide me back to my apartment door in some cases, when my neighbor happens to be running her washer. This isn’t always available, of course, but it can be handy. Along with the sometimes useful tactic of reorienting myself by using the Air conditioner’s hum, (only when it’s hot enough, so again I’d better kind of know my way!) But y’all, I think anyone could do this sort of thing if he or she really had to. It’s more about the repurposing of brain areas, as our visual cortex maps itself accordingly.

As far as “feeling” colors? Well I admit I’ve heard some say they can do this? But I have no idea how it works, and don’t think it’s at all common.

And finally the personality issue: we can see more with our heart than you can with your eyes and all that clichéd stuff? Hmmm, well again I don’t really know. I would say I do tend to have good vibes about people. Whether that’s to do with my blindness is an open question. But I can and do get it wrong as far as how people might actually come across, and I along with all of the other blind people I know are far from perfect and have the same kinds of flaws as the general public.

I think what I’d like to see most is a more complicated blind person. But maybe it’s my job to try and write one? We shall see. In any event, it is a pretty good book, and for the most part I don’t have a big problem with this portrayal. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Family Bonding

They say that marriage is about not only the joining of individuals, but also of their families. Long ago, this involved swapping of farm animals, land, and the like. Of course these things hardly apply to us in a modern society, so we have begun by doing things our own way: having a meal at a significant restaurant.

Fuller’s is a Southern/soul food spot with a couple of locations. It’s flagship used to be Lumberton, NC until the recent hurricane and subsequent flooding that wiped out large parts of town. I had really been looking forward to having a meal in that spot, given its place among her family’s traditions and such. Sadly, this wasn’t to be.

They have relocated, probably permanently now, to the former Western Sizzler building on Raefort Road in Fayetteville. We surmise that it will be permanent, because the parking lot was so full that several circuits were required in order to find a place therein. Even so, the atmosphere initially wasn’t too bad. However, a party of 30 soon arrived, and well as usual I could hear only what was spoken directly into my ear. It was ok though, as I enjoyed some delicious fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, and a sliver of chocolate cake, along with that most Southern of staples, sweet tea. Most people partake of the buffet, as we did, and so you could consume as much as your heart desired. I always have to be careful not to overeat in these situations, as it makes me feel bad for a long time afterwards. I did opt for some popcorn shrimp though in addition to everything else, because I love that stuff and don’t get it very often.

The main goal here was to introduce both sets of parents. And by all accounts, they got along famously. Boisterous conversation continued for nearly 3 hours, with the servers anxiously circling that highly prized table but unwilling to force us to depart. During our time there, we heard at least three birthday chants, and much boisterous laughter, along with the obligatory really loud kid that makes you want to ask their parents if they can quiet her down!

Even with all that I still enjoyed it, and especially the sports talk (mostly about our opposing sides in the Carolina-Duke rivalry). Mixed in with the fun and funnies was useful advice about how to proceed down this fun but complex path toward marriage, much of which I have spent this day contemplating.

I admit I’m not entirely sure what’s coming next in this journey, but I’m enjoying the ride. I hope you too have benefited from this little piece of positivity amid all of the current madness. Back with some sort of entry next week, I hope. Working on Class 1’s major project, the good of that is it will be over by next Saturday! Not surprisingly, this is also the bad as I’ll be skating on the raisor’s edge for the next week. Ah, such is my life!

Meeting Carla Buckley

A moment for which I had been waiting nearly since I completed her fantastic book, The Good Goodbye. Very rarely have I read something whose characters stick with me long after the last page is turned, or word is played in my case as I consumed the Audible version. The two mothers, and two cousins have such complicated, entwined issues as the kids prepare to start university in a less-than-expected situation that I find myself unable to stop pondering them. Then you throw in a female professor taking advantage of the shakiness of things and a male who becomes involved with both of them, and the story becomes filled with intrigue. All of this literally goes up in smoke, creating the major event that separates before from after. If you’ve not read it, I shall spoil no more. But go check it out!

That’s right, I had the pleasure of meeting Carla Buckley, after having inquired about when such an opportunity might be available via Twitter and being told to drop in on her speaking engagement at the Chapel Hill Public Library. As I strode in, tired from a long workday, Buckley immediately came to shake my hand and even had a picture of us taken seated together. Then I graciously consumed the cookies and coffee that were offered me, giving a needed energy boost.

There were an appreciable amount of people in the room by the time 4 PM, its start, had approached. I think she wanted to go ahead and start so that things wouldn’t get too loud for the library atmosphere. A brief introduction was given, wherein Buckley’s birthplace of Washington DC, the four published novels she has out as well as her forthcoming work were noted. And then she began to speak. They had already moved me to the front of the room, as I’d informed them of my hearing issues, and she also repeated information received from the back of the area.I really appreciated that, as I thus missed little.

Her speech wasn’t too long at all, focusing on the art of writing and what helps her do it well. “I write when the kids are at school,” she says “whether I entirely feel like it or not”. I think initially out of necessity she had begun writing while in the library, and now she finds it to be the most productive way to engage in this craft. “I don’t like writing sometimes as much as I like having written,” she says. Now that’s an interesting thought. I know sometimes I don’t quite feel like writing either, but letting those words out then feels good when I have managed to produce something no matter what.

The audience posed some excellent questions as well. “How do you structure a book?” She’s a Plotter, not a Seat-of-your-pants writer (or pantser). She laughed about the friction that can exist when individuals from both camps are attempting to work together.

“How do you come up with your stuff?” “Not everyone writes this way of course,” she replied, “but for me I write about things that deeply emanate with me”. Those are most often family issues, how they are formed and thought of by the individuals who comprise them. This could also be seen in The Deepest Secret, another of her books which I have read and enjoyed about a boy who has a rare disease that makes it dangerous for him to be out in sunlight. In this story, she wanted to explore the relationship between mother and son, which may have differences from that between mother and daughter. Incidentally, she notes that this novel also has her favorite opening line, a “great question!” that someone asked but had not been previously considered.

Not long before closing, she discussed how research involved in one of her four unpublished books regarding watching a building being taken down with dynamite had informed a scene in her later work. “I love conducting research with people who are passionate about what they do,” she says. “It is amazing and gives so much insight.”

I enjoyed the presentation, and the chance to encounter someone whom I had only known through the pages and social media contacts. I also met a kind volunteer who has worked in the library for a number of years, I think public libraries actually get much of their service from such, in many cases older, individuals. I thank them for the work they do as well in bolstering our communities.

So that was the first major event of 2017. What you got next, year? Assuming I can surface from these projects that roll like waves, breaking from them even in ways that I probably shouldn’t but must in order to maintain my sanity. Now to hit submit and get back to work on this discussion board! More soon.

Three Days of Solitary, and Grad School Year Two

And counting? Oh Old Man Winter, I’ll grant that I did hope you would grace us with your presence and in so doing grant me another short vacation. The only thing, dear sir, is that it causes me to be locked behind this door and hardly able to remain upright for more than five hours at a time. I am slipping further and further into hibernation mode already, wherein all I really feel like doing is burrowing deep under the blankets and venturing out only to obtain necessary sustenance.

That’s right, we got brushed with just enough of the good stuff to ground us, but what would be laughable to those in colder climes. The biggest problem at the moment is that the sidewalk is a solid sheet of ice from my door outward. Actually there probably is a different way that I could exit more safely, but because the temperatures were barely out of single digits when I went to check, I didn’t bother going to survey that avenue. Should work open tomorrow, I might MIGHT take a look at going out that way. Truth be told though, if it’s delayed I probably won’t bother both because it then costs me unnecessary amounts of money that detract from the point of going in anyway and, well, I am storing up all this sleep for later. Not to mention there is a college football National Championship game on tonight that I could then watch in near entirety without worry of grogginess in the AM.

I’ve been ok in here for the most part. I do have the requisite food, though I just ran out of bread because I hadn’t properly anticipated how much I would consume. Still plenty of other stuff to eat though, so I won’t starve anytime soon.

I have also stocked up on books, grabbing four in my most recent go. I just started one called The Woman In Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware, in which a British travel writer, after suffering a break-in, embarks on a luxury cruise aboard a boutique ship and, I think, hears the voice of a woman about to be thrown overboard? I’m not exactly sure, I’ll admit, but it has a “The Girl on the Train” kind of feel. Might be good.

The “reading” I really need to be doing of course is that for my Master’s program, which just restarted officially today. This course is one on Organizational Identity and Brand, which I’ll admit doesn’t sound like the most stimulating topic ever? But, it is good to know for one who wishes to help an organization set its course. I’m going to be more interested in the nonprofit angle, to which one of the texts does allude so I hope it will be addressed. Given that most of my other major projects have focused in some way on the Norrie Disease Association, I will continue in that vain if I am able to do so. This should help in my efforts to become a more effective leader. There are two projects in this class of note: we have to write a paper on why identity and brand are important, a seven-page lit review and blog post; and we’ve to do a podcast interviewing three “employees” about how they see their place in their brand. I admit I don’t entirely understand the premise of the second project (any employees or those of a specific organization) but it should be the more interesting one. I’ll just need to have a teleconference with the professor, whom I’m having for the second time, in order to clear up my issues.

And that’s about it. Just over here now looking forward to thawing out and the 70 degrees we’re to experience by Friday. Here’s to wild weather swings! More later as this crazy 2017 really gets going. Hope yours is off to as interesting a start.

Goin’ To The (Floating” Chapel

This year, as we marked our second New Year together with wine she could hardly finish, I had the honor of asking for this beautiful woman’s hand in marriage. In my clunky way yes, but I managed to do it. And with that comes, as she puts it and I agree, a mix of excitement and some trepidation. Not because we don’t actually want to do it, but because we are aware of the awesome responsibility that comes with melding two distinct lives in such a way that we both benefit and enjoy each other. It will be an ongoing process, that’s for sure.

While we are aware that most of what needs to happen will be after that ceremony of course, we are also hoping to have a different experience for a wedding. At the moment at least, this would happen aboard a Carnival cruise ship before setting sail to the Bahamian ports of Nassau, Freeport, and some Cay that I’ve forgotten at the moment. The price is actually lower than that of most traditional weddings, and we have the added benefit of not having to do too much planning. I think it’s a really cool idea, and am surprised that more people don’t do it. We are hoping to do this close enough to my birthday to celebrate that at sea as well.

So having expected that the proposal would occur around New Year’s Day, I’d spent much of my holiday pondering it. Mixed in of course with lots of relaxation, especially as the weather was fantastic from Monday the 26th until Friday the 30th. During that period, I managed to complete two great books while living outside and absorbing the rays that I will need as we finally plunge into the gloomy heart of Winter. This marks the first year in four that I’d not taken an actual vacation somewhere, but truthfully I welcomed the stillness.

Other than the already documented momentous event, I spent Christmas and New Year’s Day with her folks. On the former, we ate at a Lumberton NC area Chinese restaurant. I think more Chinese restaurants tend to be open on Christmas anyhow; then there was a quick gift exchange at her family’s home. And to begin 2017, I had the requisite dinner of I think something like blackeyed peas but not those exactly, collards, fried chicken, potato salad, white rice with gravy, and dressing. I admit I may have eaten too much, but I enjoyed every morsel.

And that pretty much makes up my break. I am a bit bummed that it is ending and I must return to work, but have a whole lot to look forward to as we move deeper into this new year. I do have many hopes and dreams for how everything will turn out, but suppose the more interesting part is not knowing exactly how things will go in the end. I continue to hope that it all goes well for us, and wish you a happy new year!

Books of 2016

I wanted to be fancier with this than I feel like doing, but can’t bring myself to create the nice table to go along with it. So I’ll just slap a rating on each book, and you can give them a look or ask me for more info if so desired. It should go without saying that these ratings reflect only my personal opinion, and yours may vary widely. I think, assuming I can count, I’ve completed 44 for the year. Still working on a couple, but they won’t be finished before 12 so I guess I won’t count them. Enjoy.
Books of 2016
Fever, Megan Abbot 3.5/5
Magnificent Desolation, Buzz Aldrin 5/5
The Weekenders, Mary Kay Andrews 4/5
The Now Revolution, Jay Baer 3/5
The Guilty, David Baldacci 4/5
Memory Man, David Baldacci 3.5/5
The Good Goodbye, Carla Buckley 5/5
72 Hour Hold, Bebe Moore Campbell 5/5
Death Match, Lincoln Child 4/5
As Time Passes, by Mary Higgins Clark 3/5
Fool Me Once, Harlan Coben 4.5/5
Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy 5/5
Host, Robin Cook 3/5
Sonic Wind, Ryan Craig 3.5/5
Dark Matter, Blake Crouch 5/5
The Faithful, S.M. Freedman 5/5
Find Her, Lisa Gardner 4.5/5
Maid To Match, DeeAnne Gist 4/5
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi 5/5
The Art of Forgetting:Nomad, Joanne Hall 4.5/5
When the Moon is Low, Nadia Hashimi 5/5
Saved!, William Hoffer 5/5
Between, Georgia, Joshilyn Jackson 5/5
The Opposite of Everyone, Joshilyn Jackson 5/5
Charleston, John Jakes 5/5
Storm Cycle, Iris Johansen 4/5
Running the Amazon, Joe Kane 4.5/5
You, Caroline Kepnes 4/5
The Moor’s Account, Laila Lalami 5/5
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie 4.5/5
The Stranger in my Recliner, Doreen McGettigan 4/5
Born With Teeth, Kate Mulgrew 5/5
Crash Detectives, Christine Negroni 4/5
Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel 5/5
Mercy, Michael Palmer 4.5/5
Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult 5/5
Crimson Shores, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child 4/5
Obsidian Chamber, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child 4/5
Most Wanted, Lisa Scottoline 4/5
I’ve Got Sand in All The Wrong Places, Lisa Scottoline; Francesca Serritella 4/5
The Dolls, Taylor Stevens 4/5
Seveneves, Neil Stevenson 4.5/5
Sophie’s Choice, William Styron 5/5
Back to Blood, Tom Wolfe 3.5/5

YEAR ONE WRAP: Partying from Warmth to (Occasional) Shivers

You probably don’t know how happy I am to type the words preceding the colon, a successful completion of a year in grad school! With near as I can tell no final grade less than an A. This last class, by which time I admit I was rather tired and found it hard to ride out projects as strongly as I could/should have, I squeaked out a 92.5. That, my friends, is a far cry from where I stood at the conclusion of, well my first semester at UNC during which I’d taken almost as many classes as I did this time in a year’s period. That kind of load was probably a mistake for me anyway, but the good thing about this life is you can get knocked down but still not be all the way out! So many, including my wonderful partner whom I have been dating for nearly two years now have helped me in this rally. Thank you each and every one.

I wish I had written in here more often, but by the end of that semester, as I said I was just trying to slog it out and survive. So once it was over, I happily went down to Lumberton for my friend’s annual Christmas party. Therein, we experienced temperatures near 70 after they had hoovered around 16 the night before. Welcome to crazy north Carolina weather. The mainstays of these gatherings are meeting people we don’t get to see very often, eating foods, such as sausage balls, that I only really get there, and the gift exchange. This year, we had Secret Santa’s. Knowing the person I’d drawn as I do, I figured she would want something “weird”. So we managed to find a puppy that vibrates and massages you in so doing. I couldn’t have that thing myself, as it would glue me to the ceiling. But happily, she enjoyed it. I got two Carolina Tar Heels glasses, to the consternation of my partner who is a Duke fan, as discussed in my initial post about her. I’m thinking of compromising by buying her a set of those rival glasses, but not sure if I should allow myself to be tainted to even that extent. Ha, ha. What I need to happen is that she drinks water from the magic glass and is finally made to see the light!

The laughs that accompany people’s receipt of these gifts are what really make them worthwhile. Other than that though, the party was mostly laid back as one can tell we are all aging and not exactly “party animals” as we once were. They did have fun shouting random songs for Alexa, the voice of the Amazon Echo to hear. After a while, they got into a rhythm and generated some fun 90’s tracks. Many, including my cousin and his wife, got out there and took a spin on the dance floor. And no, I did not do this. My bones would have cracked!

So that took place on Saturday. Her parents also reside in Lumberton, so we usually try to swing by and meet them as well, as we did on Sunday. We enjoyed a lively breakfast, then discussed some very big changes that she and I will soon be making, the details of which I will divulge later. But suffice it to say this has been one of the most important and shaping years I have experienced as an adult, and I might finally be getting close to actually becoming the full person I hope to be. Still much to do though, without question.

One of those things I must continue doing, as written in my last post some four weeks ago or so, is to expand my comfort zone. As such, I always keep my eyes pealed (it’s a metaphor! who cares if my real orifices do not work?) for new opportunities to do things I normally do not. So when WUNC, our local NPR affiliate, extended a chance for select listeners to attend a holiday listening party, I filled out the form. They were planning to air a radio drama called Occasional Shivers at the historic Motorco Music Hall in Durham. This, along with a couple of landmarks, was a place I had long wanted to visit during my stay in the Bull City, however long it lasts, so I jumped at the opportunity.

And what do ya know? I won! I was told to arrive and state my name, as it would be on the guest list. So I showed up at 6:30 for the 7 PM show, not entirely sure what to expect. The venue had a small club feel, but there were also quite a few folks packed into it. The chairs were so tightly put together that in attempting to situate my backpack under mine, I knocked over the neighboring chair. Mild embarrassment and amusement accompanied that clatter. While awaiting the start of the show, I consumed a big, cool glass of ginger ale. They had quite a selection of alcoholic beverages, but I was not particularly in the mood for that.

I hadn’t really known how a “listening party” worked, but basically we were able to hear the airing of this play prior to its premier on the radio station, along with short interviews with cast members between the major scenes. It’s a holiday love story set in the early 1960s New York City, when jazz was still king and, as noted on the site, was still “trying to find itself” just prior to the rock & Roll era that no one really saw coming. It was a musical with some dialogue, and because you couldn’t actually see people’s faces, their emotional reactions and such had to be more strongly conveyed. This of course made it more ideal for blind folks like me. You can learn more about it and listen to an Occasional Shivers trailer here. I really enjoyed the music, and especially the song that deliberately used just four chords. There is something the brain finds so beautiful about that, which is why studies consistently show that most hit songs are based on that very premise. Complicated simplicity?

Anyhow, I appreciate the opportunity to have attended such an event, and thank Regina Yeager, WUNC Development Director whom I got to meet (cool!) for helping to ensure that I connected with my Uber ride amidst the hubbub. She definitely helped me to feel more comfortable about having attended this event.

“ah, you’re the name I always see,” I said once I finally realized what she had said her name was.

“Yes, I’m sure you’ve seen my many emails,” she replied. We had a laugh at this.

And so we begin to wind down from 2016. I suppose I will provide a more thorough year-end review as it closes out. But on the whole I have been very happy with my new and varied experiences, and all the friends I’ve made and maintained throughout. And mostly to surviving grad school! If you’ve closed an academic semester, I do hope it went well also. More soon.

Out of My Comfort Zone 1

Every other week for the last two months or so, I had had a Life Coaching session. During these, we spoke of many different things, small and large, that I could do to gain some direction as I bumble along. Not surprisingly, one of the most salient of these is to allow myself to step beyond my comfort zone, that oft-used but rarely played-out cliché we all purport to strive for.

“Start small,” she said “and don’t worry so much about looking stupid!”

“Well I often do that anyway without trying,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but that’s coming from a place of accident, maybe even some fear. I think you should aim to take an intentional act toward just stepping out there, so that you learn that these feelings are mostly in your head”.

So as I have a vested interest in ensuring that all that work and dough were not for naught I humbly accepted the challenge. Then, of course, life takes it from there and I am so instructed on what my task is to be.

I have decided that it is time for me to become more active in my local community, Durham, North Carolina. I will potentially do this by attending City Council Meetings and the like, and just putting my feelers out to understand how the whole political process works. If I am to work with advocacy/nonprofit groups after all, as is becoming increasingly more likely given my seven years with the Norrie Disease Association as of Friday, then it would benefit me tremendously to know how the wheels are greased, so to speak. Social media and even this blog have their place and probably reach a wider variety of individuals than I am even aware, but there is still greater value in showing my face, and in so doing helping some understand that persons with disability are good for more than just being shut away in sheltered settings or worse, inside of their homes or institutions.

So I had the thought that one of the best ways of learning how I might begin this engagement is to read the small town paper, the Durham Herald Sun. This publication aided me in my initial adjustment to the city, because the articles talked about favorite restaurants, highlighted interesting personalities, and quickly gave me a sense of place and home in this fast growing area.

However, they somewhat recently, well maybe a couple years ago or so, decided to implement a registration system in order to access their content online at a subscription fee. I wholeheartedly support this, as I know it takes dollars to get the reporters who do the good work of disseminating information to the community. I have found it quite challenging to sign up though, as they have a visual-only captcha that one must fill in to complete the sign-up (you know the hard-to-read characters meant to keep spammers out?) I also get why this exists, but man does it ever present a pain to those who are blind. Even most audio versions aren’t all that useful to me, given my hearing problems.

Anyhow, I tweeted my difficulty with sign-up to the paper, and one of the reporters who knows me well through this medium replied first asking me to what I referred then suggesting that I scamper down to the paper’s facilities and have someone assist me there. I looked forward to this actually, knowing that it would require me to ask a random person for help once I entered the building.

In many respects, today was a good one on which to do this sort of thing. It was definitely too cold and gllomy for my usual sit-down outside, and so I needed some other kind of post-work stimulation.

And not too surprisingly, the encounter was largely uneventful. Maybe I did look kind of “stupid” as I worked out which doors to enter and how to navigate the halls. I mostly had to keep reminding myself that if someone did speak to me, I should remember to use my indoor voice. This seems easier now that the aids have been adjusted though, and I again have the right perspective on how loud is loud. It amazes me how far that had drifted below normal, as I’ve realized with continued public interaction.

Anyhow, a door popped open and someone told me that I should enter that room and he could help me. In about ten minutes, I was all done and on my way. I had hoped to perhaps meet a reporter there, but no such luck there. After pressing the button below 2 on the elevator and inadvertently setting off the alarm (why are all panels not set up alike!) I stepped back into the frigidity and got ready to head home.

So another challenge two weeks from now? Maybe sooner, who knows. I hope to step them un in intensity over time too, as I continue the hard work of making myself into the person I really want to become. And, how was your Monday?