A Winter Weather Wonder Week

And what a week this hast been! In many respects, it reminds me of why I dislike Winter. Truly though, it enhances my good feeling toward humanity in general. I wouldn’t have survived without the intervention of many kind people. I thought it might be fun to take a look at how it unfolded. Stay warm and dry, and join me on the crazy ride.

THURSDAY, 1/21: Ah, I gotta admit to the sense of initial giddiness I get whenever a weather system rolls in that promises more sleep! I arrive home that night and quickly run through my checklist. A reasonable stock of groceries? Check. Fully charged external batter? Check. Phone loaded with books and podcasts? Check. Hot cocoa (because I wouldn’t be able to fill my coffee addiction for a few days)? Check. I’m ready to ride this thing out.

FRIDAY, 1/22: Work is reporting before I drop off to sleep on Thursday that they will open at 10 AM, but I know this is highly unlikely as that’s when the brunt of the storm is due to strike. Winter Storm Jonas, as they call it. When did they start nameing winter storms, and we’ve already had nine of them? Anyway, I roll over to confirm that the status has indeed changed to “Closed”, listen to the news about people attempting to slide around out there anyway, and greatfully submerge myself in dreamland till nearly 1 PM. What else is there to do but conk out, eat, and read anyway?

I finally force myself to be remotely productive, getting a bit of classwork done. Because of this, I allowed myself the reward of an Amazon Prime movie. I choose The Da Vinci Code, since I like Tom Hanks and figure the story will be easy enough to follow. In so doing, I make an interesting discovery. I somehow reveal a tab in the app with four options: Scene, In Scene, Character, and More (I Think). When I tap In Scene, I get a screen that tells me the gist of every scene, all of the actors who will be present therein, and interesting facts about its making. While not exactly description, it brings me to a point where I easily know what’s going on. It was also fascinating to learn how many errors were made while creating the movie.

THE WEEKEND: Not much happens during this time, obviously. I am starting to become bored of myself though, and after a day of pacing around on Saturday, I finally step outside to take in the glorious sunshine and nearly 50 degree temperatures of Sunday. And promptly get lost! Ugh, snow/ice still cover practically youngthing, including the sidewalk and grass. I have to stand and wait for one of my neighbors to deliver me back to my apartment. Escape attempt foiled, for now.

Then the one thing that could cheer me up on this day, the NFC Championship. By now, I suppose you know the Carolina Panthers took a weed wacker to the Arizona Cardinals, winning 49-15. They will face the Denver Broncos, who won a much more dramatic tilt against the New England Patriots, in the Super Bowl! Wordrobe malfunction, anyone? Still trying to figure out if I can do anything to enjoy that game, but too bad it’s on a worknight.

MONDAY, 1/25: Or maybe we’ll get another quick storm? I certainly stayed up to revel in our success, knowing that even if the job did open today there was no way I’d be trying to brave that mess just yet. It does delay till 9, but I opt to stay home and drive myself crazy for one more day.

It does demonstrate why I need to not have to work while I attend grad school, though. I manage to plow through a massive chapter on seven types of theoretical framework within communication, and to formulate my initial Discussion Board response. Because I must also record a YouTube video with synchronized PowerPoint slides (um, how do I do that?) complete a lengthy library tutorial, and decide which movie I will write about for a research project; this extra jump is a good thing indeed.

Tuesday, 1/26: On calling into work and hearing no status update, I know this means I must return as normal unless I wanna use one of my valuable offdays. I know that conditions are still not that great out, as our local school system remains closed, so I take the offer Sunday’s helpful neighbor had extended to me of a ride to work. I get there 10 minutes late, but saz to myself “better safe than sorry!”

As is so often the case when I return from such a break, LC Industries seems deafening. I turn my aids down to a whisper, hunker down, and try mainly to stay awake.

After work, I make my way to Chapel Hill. Thank God I have finally been able to get out, as I am running low both on hearing aid batteries and blood pressure meds. After picking up replacements, and encountering a “nice person, but must be taken in small doses” person in Starbucks, I summon the car sharing service Lyft for a ride home.

Wednesday, 1/bg: As it turns out, I would need Lyft to get into work today too. I finally attempt to negotiate the path to the bus stop, but am encumbered by a giant ice hill whose end I cannot find. A Good Samaritan then walks me to a stop, only it is on the wrong side from what I need. So I capitulate and call a ride. The neat thing about these apps too is that they can help find me. Not that I was lost, but if I had been it would’ve been nice to have the GPS component.

I opt to come home with another woman whom I’d met on the bus. We rarely get to chat anymore, so any opportunity to catch up is welcome.

And after Thursday’s attempt, which then caused me to get an Uber ride to downtown where I connected with the bus, the packs have finally receeded enough that I can again navigate. What a relief! I could do with no more of that for a while, but am certain we’ve got at least one more storm in the cards.

My Little Blue Boxes: On Ten years of Aided Hearing

So I realized that I very nearly forgot a fairly important milestone. at about this time in 2006, I was finally cajoled, kicking and screaming really, into obtaining these bits of plastic and wire. on which I have become probably more dependent than I am the bodily organs into which they snuggly fit.

Hearing aids. A great invention, but not one I accepted happily at first. I can still recall the oddness of being in the return vehicle home, and listening to the rat-ta-tat of the tires as they met road. And the waterfall that was using the bathroom. The confusing maelstrom of voices as they surged in and out, making demands of me and others that my newly taxed brain simply could not process.

After all of that craziness, can you really blame me for mostly shoving the things into their box and continuing along without them? My audiologist at the Charlotte Speech and Hearing, a wonderful United Way agency that I hope still exists, told me that it would be a slow adjustment process, and so it was.

As with many things in my life, I finally saw the wisdom in fully embracing these new bits of technloogy after one too many an encounter with a neighbor, a soft-talking woman who was trying to get to know me. And once I accepted the need to wear them full-time, the rest as they say was history.

I am still quite appreciative of the good folks at Starkey, the company who had supplied me with the free aids, in conjunction with the state of North Carolina. They hung in there for 5 years, but it soon became clear that the quality was just not good enough for my use anymore, especially as I had started grad school.

So thanks to the good folks at a University of North Carolina clinic, I was upgraded to Phonak Exelia Art aids (in Tar Heel colors naturally). Even these took some getting used to. Initially, they were so loud that I found it hard to function in nearly all social situations.

Paradoxically perhaps, as my hearing deteriorated, I could suddenly make comfortable use of them such that my overall life has and continues to improve. The down side, of course, is that when I remove them at night I am pretty much profoundly deaf. This is also a concern because sometimes these fickle things do fail. I a so thankful, when that occurs, that I can just ask my audiologist usually on the same day for an emergency appointment.

The upside is that, for the most part, I am functional. Of course technology has just changed tremendously in the past 5 years as well. My online grad school attempt means that I can control volume levels, as well as easily participate in discussions on the forums. It remains to be seen, but I’m hoping that this will ultimately lead to much better outcomes.

Hearing aids themselves have gotten better, and more connected, as well. I’m guessing it’s about time for another upgrade, and this time I’ll likely get some kind of bluetooth component. I’ve heard all kinds of good and maybe not-so-good things about how well that works, but it does hold a lot of promise going forward not only for me, but for all of us with similar conditions. So here’s to 10 more years?

THIRD TIME THE CHARM: On the still Challenging Road to Book Access

Doh! As memories of sunny boat rides and historic walking tours become ever more distant, I am forced to slip fully into the grasp of reality. For the next two years, that’s gonna mean grad school. I’m looking forward to this now, having seen the first course and its rigorous but useful requirements. But, I hadn’t thought it would be so hard to get the one text book I needed.

I went to the first site that had been recommended to me by Disability Services, textbooks.com. They wanted $50 for an electronic copy. Ok, not too bad for a college book I thought.

The issue at first was that I couldn’t get the book to show up on my phone’s screen, where I’d initially chosen to log in. It seemed that an image, I guess the cover, was obscuring everything else, and I had no idea how to remove it. So I tried to go back PC-SIDE, only it said my account didn’t exist! Created another one, and no access to the book. Sigh.

Next, I tried Google Play Books. If it’s Google, I reasoned, then surely it should be at least moderately accessible. Hey, they’ve done a lot better meeting this basic standard lately. Well it would’ve been, except the text-to-speech functionality was disabled both on the PC and phone. I’ve heard of this, but it was the first time I’ve encountered it. More frustration, this time for a $33 rental fee. Great.

Finally, it occurred to me to go and check in with my old friends at CourseSmart.com. Only they’ve merged? and become VitalSource, the same provider for the textbooks.com site. Even so, once I again paid a $33 rental fee and obtained it through the VitalSource platform I could finally! get it to work. They even have an IOS app that has a great layout, showing me where each paragraph and page clearly begin and end. This will come in handy when referencing.

All of those shananigans cost me $113 in total. I don’t know how much of a refund I can get, but am just glad to be able to read the chapter in time. As you can see, yes access has come a long way, but it is still too much of a crapshoot when one is attempting to make purchasing decisions. On Google especially, I tried to ascertain if the thing would work but didn’t see the “helpful” message to screen readers that they wouldn’t be able to interact with the material until I’d already wasted my dough. I wish it had said so more upfront!

In the hopes of avoiding more craziness, ah who am I kidding, there will always be more craziness, I’m referring to the graduate checklist I wrote a couple years ago when reflecting on what happened last time. I want to make sure I’ve done everything to the best of my ability, or at least know how I will do so soon. Here she blows.

  1. Know your goals. As I’ve spoken of before, this is the one thing of which I am most certain.
  2. Know the writing style. APA, ah the nightmare continues! We do have a really structured way of learning it in the first class, though, and will also do a podcast. On APA. Right.
  3. Know the technology. Oh, book craziness aside I am far better at that than I had been in 2011. Now, I have most of my stuff in the phone, and will mainly only need the PC to do discussions.
  4. Talk to professors and Disability Services staff about needs. Well? I’ve started that. The director of that office at Queens is excellent, and has gotten most things in line. Still must set virtual office hours to chat with prof.
  5. Be financially able to survive first semester. This is the reason I’m staying on at the job, though it would benefit me tremendously if I didn’t have to work. Maybe I can win that $900,000,000 power ball lottery?

So come and join me as I begin this wild ride again. I anticipate that some classmates will be reading soon, so hello. I hope I entertain, educate, and inform. Off to what else? read.

#50Book50Author Challenge: Second 25

Ok, I must begin with a sheepish confession: I didn’t officially win the challenge. Sad, right? But, well it can be argued that I did actually read 50 books! My mistake was being sucked into This New Ocean: The story of the first Space Age, by William E. Burrows. It’s a good one, which you’ll see later, but it’s like a thousand pages! Anyway I’m reading it and the one on Charleston, so those make 49 and 50 respectively. And I’ve read half of it, making probably near 2 regular books. Can that be accepted as finishing? Weigh in.

So without further delay, I give you the second 25 books I read in 2015. There may be diamonds, and there may be duds. Only you can decide that.

RELATED: First 25

An alphabetical listing of my second 25 books read of 2015
Title/Author Genre/rating App/File format My 20-word summary
Mean Streak, Sandra Brown Crime Fiction, 4/5 BARD Audio Action-packed especially at end, woman kidnapped in NC mountains; does rely too heavily on Southern stereotypes
A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson Nonfiction Memoir, 4.5/5 BARD Braille Man attempts walking Appalachian Trail, sprinkled with amusing anecdotes, adventurous, pretty funny
Impasse, Royce Buckingham Crime Fiction, 4/5 BARD Audio Boston-area lawyer sent by friend to wilds of Alaska for birthday trip, not superb writing but craz
The Deepest Secret, Carla Buckley Crime Fiction, 5/5 BARD Audio Mother of son with rare condition commits accident, runs away, causes suffering to all, more than I can summarize!
This New Ocean: The story of the first Space Age, William E. Burrows Historical Nonfiction, 3.5/5 BARD Braille In-depth telling, from ancients to US/Soviet Space race to Shuttle development, very political and can drag for long swaths
The Forgotten Room, Lincoln Child Sci-Fi/Fantasy, 4.5/5 BARD Audio Story of sonic machine in old secluded lab that could produce horrifying effects, breaking up friendships and lives. Page-turner
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline Sci-fi/Fantasy, 5/5 Audible Audio 80’s meets 2045, contestants compete in computer game to unlock billions by referencing old movies, also warring with big business
The Fold, Peter Clines Sci-fi/Fantasy, 4.5/5 Audible Audio Essentially 2nd in series, California company opens “door” shrinking distance, with unforeseen consequences
Missing You, Harlan Cohben Crime Fiction, 4/5 Audible Audio People inexplicably disappear, discovered that it is due to online dating scam
The Secret of Fair Hill, Faith Cummings Religious Fiction, 3.5/5 Kindle Text Woman grows up in 18th-Century Vermont, grapples with feelings on God, marriage, and family
The Solomon Curse (Fargo Series Book 7), Clive Cussler Adventure Fiction, 4/5 BARD Audio Couple seeks to unearth treasure on Solomon Islands, must survive deceit from those known and unknown, and uprisings
What Is Visible, Kimberly Elkins Historical Fiction, 4.5/5 BARD Braille Fictionalized telling of the story of Laura Bridgman, deafblind woman educated at Perkins in 1800s
Sycamore Row, John Grisham Legal Fiction, 4/5 BARD Audio Black housekeeper is willed inheritance from white man, children try to fight it
The Art of Forgetting:Rider, Joanne Hall Sci-fi/Fantasy, 4/5 iBooks Text Boy separated from family in faraway land, taught to fight for army, primarily on horseback. Deals with adolescence, sexuality
Locke and Key, Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez Sci-fi/Fantasy, 4.5/5 Audible Audio Amazing multi-narrated story about ghosts, a magic residence, and a New England town. Hard to follow at times, though
Charleston: A Novel, John Jakes Historical Fiction, 5/5 BARD Audio Fictional family that follows the arc of real Charleston SC history, from late 1770’s to middle 1800’s
Middle Passage, Charles Johnson Historical Fiction, 3/5 BARD Audio story about a freed black man on slave ship in mid 1800s, slaves revolt then must survive return to New Orleans
Descent, Tim Johnston Crime Fiction, 4/5 Audible Audio Girl is kidnapped while hiking trail in Rockes, family spends 2 years living in region to try and find her
The Bullet, Mary Louise Kelly Crime Fiction, 4.5/5 BARD Audio
Darkness, Take My Hand, Dennis Lehane Crime Fiction, 4/5 BARD Braille Story about organized crime in 1990s Boston, couple of detectives battle to solve case that has links to their childhood
The Wright Brothers, David McCullough Historical Nonfictional, 5/5 Audible Audio Tells great and fairly simplified story of the famous aviators’ track to the air
Liars and Saints, Maile Meloy Family Fiction, 4.5/5 BARD Braille Sex, between family members and adult-teenage, results in many and varied consequences
Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult Sci-fi/Fantasy, 5/5 BARD Braille New Hampshire girl searches for her mother, a prominent elephant researcher in Africa, enlists psychic for help
The Transcriptionist, Amy Rowland Psychological Fiction, 4/5 BARD Braille Transcriptionist at New York paper becomes fascinated by encounter with blind woman, finds ways to work through issues
Shadows Over Paradise, Isabel Wolff War Fiction, 5/5 BARD Audio Englishwoman ghostwrites story about another’s experiences on Java during World War 2


Whew! That record-shattering challenge took a lot to pull off, at least to the extent that I did. No question, I won’t be able to try it again for the next couple of years at least. Let’s take a look at the trends.

Most of the books I read this time were via BARD, not surprising as I don’t have to pay for that ha ha. Eight were audio, and 5 in Braille. I did also enjoy the Joe Hill book that came free from Audible around Halloween.

< p>I also didn’t stick as closely to half and half men and women as I had last time, with only 10 being by women during this 25. I suppose that’s still a fairly decent number. The most important thing was to hear from a number of voices and backgrounds. Probably my favorite thing was taking in work from authors whom I’ve known, at least online, for a long time: Faith Cummings and Joanne Hall.

I don’t know what kind of challenge I could come up with for 2016, but think it’ll mostly be trying to survive grad school! Stay tuned, and thanks for your support.

2015 In Review: Leadership ops, the start of a great relationship, and fantastic travel (CONT)

I’m writing this in 2015 but scheduling it to show up in 2016. Technology is amazing, isn’t it? At the moment you see this go live, I’m probably about to get my New Year’s eat on! Gotta have the black-eyed peas, right? MMM.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the second half of the year. This is where the travel began, and travel I did. I’ll just choose not to look at my bank account, but the memories make it worthwhile.

JULY: On Independence and Travel

I so often feel fortunate to live in the era that I do. I’m reading a fictionalized account of the esteemed Laura Bridgman, called What is Visible, by Kimberly Elkins. Bridgman attended Perkins School for the Blind (then it was known as Institute) in the mid 1800’s. As you probably know, she was both deaf and blind, as well as lacking a sense of smell and taste…

That was a pretty good book, and contributed to my knowledge of the school’s history when I went to tour a month later.

Summer does something to the soul. It uncaps that need, that primal desire to get oneself out there and into nature! Full-time workers who must stay on for 12 months (Yes, I’m envious of you school teachers who only work 10) thus find it hard not to use all of their tiny allotment of days off.

This entry was clearly a precursor of the next 5 months, which featured three trips, two to the water. Well I suppose it could be argued that Boston is also a waterside destination, but officially that didn’t happen.

AUGUST: Off to the NDA Conference

Probably more happened this month, but the only thing I can really remember, and the only entry I posted, was my fun trip to the third International Conference of the Norrie Disease Association (NDA). To the extent that I had to do with it, things went fairly well. I was especially relieved about how the Perkins tour went. Here’s a snippet of us on the plane.

The most interesting thing I learn is that the feeling of near motionlessness we get is mirrored in the visual sense as well. “It looks like we could get out and walk faster than this,” she tells me as the buildings shrink to sticks, then only land and fairly large bodies of water can be made out. Well that, folks, is an experiment I don’t think I’ll be trying, at least not without the right equipment, whatever that is. I suppose that perception of slowness is a trick of the brain, so that it doesn’t drive us, and by extension itself, crazy.

SEPTEMBER: My Birthday At The Beach, and Medical Concerns

And finally, I break my 13+year drought and visit the Atlantic Ocean at Wrightsville Beach. Mostly a lukewarm, gloomy weekend, but I enjoyed the water and toe-tickling sand, and of course the food!

We had a fifth-floor oceanfront, from which you could hear everything down there as if you were close to it. We spent a good stretch of time on Saturday, during which time we had gotten rained out of the water, on that balcony listening to a rousing game of volleyball as the waves ramped up. They even put up a yellow flag at the lifeguard station, which we guessed meant that the current was getting to be a bit dangerous so folks should use caution.

On returning from that great experience, reality invaded with the knowledge that my blood pressure was too high and needed to be regulated. Only a month later, I started medication, which I am still on, but first here’s a bit about what I found to be the importance of a good doctor-patient relationship.

Then a new person came in this April, one who really takes the time to sit down, talk through things with me, and take extensive notes. She even picked up on unspoken subtleties that led to more questions, uncovering further information that I might not have otherwise inquired about. That shows how truly effective medicine uses components of counseling such as empathy and the ability to propel a previously stalled conversation forward.

OCTOBER: Re-Thinking Grad School, and the Four E’s

And what have I been up to? Well, pondering how to begin seriously laying the course for my next moves in life. It is looking increasingly like I will make a real attempt to enter graduate school, this time in Communications as I probably should have last time. I did a search for Master’s programs, and found one administered entirely online by Queens University of Charlotte, in my hometown. Of course given that it is in fact online, it would hardly matter if the program were on the other side of the country.

Hello, and welcome to Blindness Awareness Month! What exactly this means I confess to not entirely knowing. But I suppose the main idea is to continue to make society aware of the fact that we’re here, we function, and despite little or no use of our eyes, we are still quite capable of accomplishing great things. So in my clunky way, I will try to highlight how I and some of my peers have done this over the years. Of course, some things will be very much related to other posts I’ve already created, but well that’s part of the point right?

I’d say I did a so-so job with that series, but it was fun to try at least. I also caught a yucky cold at the same time we were to go to the North Carolina State Fair, which would’ve been more enjoyable if I’d felt better. The weather was great, though.

November: Thanksgiving, and Acceptance to Grad School

Ok it’s official, I have been accepted to the James L Knight School of Communication Master of Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte. Classes begin on January 11, 2016. So after a three-year hiatus, I am back to give this grad school thing another shot!

And as that day approaches, I think more and more that I might just be out of my mind. But well, there’s no turning back now. I think I should be ok, though.

I didn’t actually write the Thanksgiving post till December, but it was a great day spent with the girlfriend’s family before trundling off to Charlotte.

This year, we went to Fayetteville and ate with her folks instead. I was a bit nervous about this, mainly because of my hearing issues. But, I found it surprisingly easy to just slip right into conversation and never really felt left out of anything. It probably helped that only immediate family was there, but I was prepared to cope with a larger gathering if it had been so.
Mostly all I have to do anyway is get my eat on! Sometimes I choose not to have turkey, as I so did this year. Instead, I sucked down some delicious ham, mac and cheese, dressing (as we call it in the South, an NPR story said most everyone else calls it stuffing but so what), green beans, a roll, and some cranberry sauce. Outside of her father, I’m the only one who eats that last. I grew up enjoying it at our feasts, though. One thing I’ve learned is that it is very important that I not overeat, as doing so can make me feel faint and awful for the rest of the day. So I give myself just enough.


And that brings us to now, and the entries I’ve just posted. I tell you, if I have more trips like Charleston to look forward to, I’m definitely excited. Here’s to a new year! I wish you, me, and us all a fantastic one. and I hope for less craziness than occurred in our world in 2015, but know that’s unlikely. We’ll see where we are at this time next year.