Summer Time

And the livin’ is… well ok I guess. I still gotta slog to work every day and manage to hold myself together through the 8+ hours.
No more lying on the floor nearly comatose, enjoying the cool, flowing air and the cadence of a well-narrated book. Or swimming in vastly overcrowded public pools with kids from every background. Ah, I really miss those days sometimes.
Even as we reach summer solstice and celebrate the longest day of the year, I think maybe nature lost the memo on that occurring. I’d initially dressed in a short-sleve shirt and shorts until I opened the door and was hit by a surprisingly cold wind. My trusty iPhone said the temperature came in at only 57 degrees as of 5:15 AM. Brrr! I’m thinking this particular season will be cold and wet, in contrast to the Sahara-like experience we logged last year. I want my heat back, man, because I’ll be missing it when old man Winter makes his return.
I’m slightly disappointed with myself for not writing at least something last week, but I just couldn’t come up with anything stimulating enough. I realize though that if I really want to do some sort of professional blogging, then I’ll have to learn to just sit here in front of the keyboard and dig stuff from the recesses of my mind. But I suppose it’d help in that situation that I’d be writing about some specific category.
Speaking of categories, or perhaps sections?, I’ve been moved to a different one now at the workplace and it’s actually turning out not to be too bad. I’m hoping things have stabilized enough now that the perceived immediate threat I spoke of recently has discipated.
The thing I enjoy most about that new section is the people. There are three of us in particular, and we can get onto talking about music from the beginning of the day till the end. The guy, who usually sits beside me, works in my previous section also, but I’d not really taken the time to get to know him. And the woman, sitting across from me, is also a pretty cool person who has started talking to me more and more as the week has gone on. She took Wednesday off and he didn’t show up today, each time drastically changing the dynamic and vibrancy of our discussion.
Hopefully this fun work environment will persist for at least one more week, and then I’ll head down to Charlotte for my cousin’s wedding. That’s going to be exciting, especially as I get to meet and fellowship with my family in the process. I can remember my sister’s wedding, the first non-traditional ceremony I ever attended, being quite good. I also went to a good friend’s wedding last year, where an outdoor reception featuring delicious food and a live band was had. I’ll be interested to see how this goes.
And that’s really all for now. I’m still working on my DC trip, which I keep pushing farther and farther back into July. I did find the blog post explaining how one registers for a tour of the NPR headquarters, so that’s definitely a start. I plan to have that happen some time soon. Back with more, probably next Sunday on how my trip to Charlotte and the wedding went.

Blind Gaming on iOS

Lately on weekends, there hasn’t been a whole lot going on around here. Well I guess last weekend was nice, with my cousin’s bachelor party that was mostly a laid-back affair of music listening, some consumption of adult beverages, and a late-night trip to the Waffle House.
It would have been more enjoyable for me if I’d had hearing aids that were fully functional, but fortunately my old aid that had been sent in for repairs has now been returned. Amazingly, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in battery life. Even if they put a new battery in on Tuesday as I received it, the aid should have run down by this point. It still hasn’t, but for safety reasons, I will probably go ahead and replace it tomorrow as I venture out and off to work again.
The most exciting thing that I’ve noticed with these aids now is that I can again hear in stereo sound without them wavering or scaling back so that things don’t come across as they should. This means I can engage in audio gameplay that often involves the use of headphones to help gauge where things are coming from. As such, I’ve recently more thoroughly ventured into the world of gaming on the iOS platform.
I’d attempted some non-audio games a few months ago, most notably iAssociate, a puzzle-type game where you try to solve words based on categories and enhanced by the solving of previous words. This game wasn’t so much my cup of tea, largely because I just couldn’t figure out enough of the words with the few hints I was given. I don’t know how good a puzzler I am anyway.
In the past couple of weeks though, I’ve become addicted to a simple, silly game called Audio Archery. In this one, you attempt to shoot at a “moving” target as it slides from the left to the right ear. You shoot by flicking your finger down, then releasing as you wish for the arrow to fire at the target. There are ten rounds of seven shots apiece, and as far as I can tell it, the target seems to gain speed with each successive round. You also have to score higher and higher in order to continue advancing.
This game is especially fun as I rattle down the highway on the bus heading into the plant. Although perhaps other passengers wonder what that occasional muttering is about when I misfire or a game ends prematurely. Ah well, most of them are probably barely awake for the majority of the ride.
Finally, because of a recent AppleVis Podcast Extra, I was inspired to try the Papa Sangre game. In this one, you walk through a castle attempting to save someone who is “in grave danger” by collecting musical notes, avoiding hogs, and overcoming all sorts of other amusing challenges.
On the podcast, the game developers said they wanted to create a game with enough complexity to rival those made with fancy graphics and video, but also playable by individuals who are blind. I would say that they have done this in many respects. I like the female character who speaks and tells me what I should do as I navigate through this world, apparently with a Spanish accent.
I wonder though if my iPhone 4? At least I think it’s still a 4, has enough juice to really handle this game though. Sometimes, it gets stuck as I am to transition between levels. I only just figured out that I need to re-enable VoiceOver in order to click the “Continue” button, or I might accidentally go back to the beginning of that level. Those are minor quirks though, and eventually I will work my way through them.
It continues to amaze me how much I’ve adapted to this iPhone over time. It is in many ways my entertainment platform now, with the trusty PC serving as my mechanism for writing when I choose to do so. Learning gaming is quickly enhancing my ability to navigate around the keyboard and to get even more out of this product. And it’s probably the first computing device on which regular game developers begin to grasp the concept of creating feature-rich audio games that are thus accessible to a greater percentage of the population. Take a look, and enjoy!

Book Review: Desired To Death, by J. M. Maison

To date, most of the reviews I have written are on bestsellers or books of that ilk. This is primarily because I usually have easy access to these titles, and thus I choose to read them. I also admit to a sense of familiarity with such reads: a feeling that I know something of what I’m likely to get.
This runs contrary to my general thinking though, which is that I wish to support anything that helps us to avoid becoming one big chain. I want it to continue to be possible for the starters out there who come up with an idea to get their idea to the masses. Isn’t it somewhat ironic that Amazon’s Kindle probably allows for more flexibility for potential authors than most any other platform?
Thanks to the recent ability to access Kindle material via the iOS app, I was able to purchase a book written by someone I know on Twitter who writes under the penname of J. M. Maison. That sounds cool to me, as I once thought I’d do my work with the penname of J. Alexander. Has a more literary ring to it, huh?
Anyway, this first book is called Desired to Death. It will be part of a series called The Empty Nest Can Be Murder, featuring main character and “amateur sleuth” Maggie True. Awakened by a call from her former best friend one early morning, she finds herself pulled into the teeth of a murder investigation that causes her to connect with people and places throughout the New England region where she resides.
Much of the story takes place in a small, idyllic town called Halfway Bay in Maine. I love the vivid descriptions of buildings, plant life, the color of the water, and other things Maggie encounters along the way.
I also enjoy the feeling of Mayberry clashing with the modern, as we are as likely to encounter someone on a smartphone as engaged in small-town gossip.
Much of this gossip is over the gruesome killing of A.J. Traverso, an individual who is said to have interacted with many of the town’s women in some way. Starting with jail conversations with her former friend, the well-to-do Cara, Maggie must try and piece together who may have done it and what kind of motives they had. She does this while attempting to keep herself from becoming a suspect in the eyes of the town’s police force, and coping with her kids having moved on to college and other lives.
The story is told from a third-person perspective, and mainly from Maggie’s point of view. We do get the occasional flashback that helps explain why Maggie has opted to take a particular set of actions.
I like that there seems to be a fair amount of depth to and difference between the characters also. We feel the love that Maggie’s husband Joe, an airline pilot has for her. Even their old dog Smythe is definitely an important part of the narrative, as she helps to comfort Maggie and ease some of the loneliness.
I have been taking this story in as I make my commute to and from work, reveling in unraveling the clues as Maggie does, even though I typically am not into mysteries. Maybe I just hadn’t known what I was missing? In any event, I would recommend checking it out.