Musings on NaNoWriMo and Creativity During COVID

So how are we doing, folks. I think it’s already been over a month since I did the last check-in regarding COVID. And, *sigh* Just when we thought we saw that light at the end of the tunnel, the numbers have skyrocketed to points higher than they were at the so-called peak. Here in North Carolina, for instance, we set two consecutive new case records last week and have just set a record for the most deaths in one day from this virus. Believe me, I know that behind every one of those numbers is a person, family, friend, co-worker or other connected individual who is hurting. I just keep praying that it stops soon enough.

As I continue to look out for my mental health during this time, I strive to at least thrive in the world of creativity. And as was the case when this started, my wife keeps driving me forward in that area. She’s doing her own impressive stuff (shameless plug) with a recently launched Etsy store she calls Carrol Creations. Therein, she makes decorative or inspirational wooden signs that can be hung on doors or walls, customized earrings, t-shirts, and most recently Christmas ornaments and “quarantine reindeer,” each with its accompanying facemask. Of course family and friends have been supportive in stimulating sales, but in this month alone she’s also received three outside orders. Cool stuff. If you’re into that sort of thing, hop on over there and check it out.

Seeing her put in the “elbow grease,” as I often tease, has motivated me to get back off the proverbial snide and attempt to re-launch an idea I initially conceived in 2018, to write a book about two brothers with Norrie Disease who face different variations and thus experience different outcomes. I’m thinking this time that it will be the basis for my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m not exactly sure for how long National Novel Writing Month has been going on, but my first real shot at producing a 50,000-word piece of fiction was back in 2006. I think I got up to approximately 25k words before the whole thing just dissolved into a puddle of goo, and I posted excerpt 1 and 2 in my old blog. I particularly liked the second one.

I made a nod in the direction of trying again in 2017, but that never got off the ground given that I was about to get married and also wrapping up grad school. Now that nearly all travel except that to work and home has stopped, maybe I can make myself sit here with some music on as I am right now and pound these Mantis Braille display keys. I’ll update as November progresses.

And, not a whole lot else. Just working on some cosmetic changes around this my blogging spot, mostly to make it easier for folks to find my book reviews and how they can contact me. I’m not done yet, but all that movement takes so long that it will be mostly reserved for the weekend. As far as I can tell, this viral wave is surging throughout much of the northern hemisphere at the same time, rather than the spikes we saw popping up in varying locations earlier. So wherever you are, I hope you are staying safe and keeping yourself up as best you can. And maybe do some creating of your own. If you have, how so? Has anything worked out?

In Koraalen, Heather Murata Explores Human-Environment Links

(NOTE: The author provided me with a copy of this book to review, but all opinions expressed herein are mine).

Some people commune with nature, and others communicate with it. In her novel “Koraalen: Planetary Symbiosis, Heather Murata constructs a character who revels in doing both.

Nerissa, an up-and-coming star in environmental activism especially as it pertains to saving coral reefs, is asked on her first assignment for the Koraalen Marine Biology Guild to assess what may be causing an illness among this fragile animal. She happens to have a unique ability to “talk to” the coral telepathically, thereby gaining a fuller understanding of their experiences and sensations. Even so, she and her partner Shan find it difficult to get to the root of the problem, as they tackle obstacles that lead them off-planet to consort with others in search of solutions.

Murata has constructed a futuristic “universe” called the United Interstellar Economic Cooperative that most closely mirrors something like the European Union or United Nations. Only this grouping is made up of planets that have been colonized thousands of years after humanity has basically rendered “old Earth” unlivable. A primary goal of the UIEC and its member guilds is to ensure that the same does not happen in these new worlds.

This might sound like heavy science fiction, but in general it is not. The author aims instead to show readers how small changes in our behavior and a willingness to at least attempt to find a way to live in balance with the environment can lead to desirable outcomes. On Koraalen, for example, many residents live in sustainable platform cities just off of the continents and islands, leading to less urban development on land. Nearly all transportation is by air, whether through flitters, which I assume are a sort of flying car; air taxis, or air buses, which resemble long haul commercial airplanes. But everything is powered by means other than fossil fuels.

While there is considerable emphasis on environmental infrastructure and how best to handle it, with some jargon that only true insiders would fully understand, Murata spices things up with the sweet and powerful love that develops between Nerissa and Shan as they power through testing and experimentation. They first encounter each other as he, Shan, monitors Nerissa during a traditional Luau, and the sparks keep flying from there, growing stronger as adversity mounts. In fact, much of the story occurs against a backdrop of primarily Hawaiian-type culture, with lush descriptions of waterfalls, ocean scenery, pineapple fields, and other tantalizing tropical tidbits.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the work people do in trying to diagnose and save coral reefs here on this planet, work that I know is vital and not very easy. The characters though present the overall optimistic view that if we make the effort, the coral can do the rest and that healing and regeneration are still possible. And if, after reading this, you want a good nonfiction perspective on the plight of coral, check out Ocean Country, by Liz Cunningham. I read that one last year and found it informative. The bottom line, and I would venture to say that both authors would agree with this assertion, is that we must continue to work to save the Earth, even in the face of natural and man-made disaster.

Eight Years of I: My Thoughts On Apple’s Recent Updates

On this day way back in 2012, I posted my first ever iPhone status to Facebook. It was error-riddled, but still I was proud to have mastered use of the touch screen enough to do so. Did auto-correct exist then? I don’t know, but perhaps even if it did I hadn’t learned to use it as I’d only owned the device for a couple of days.

Who could have known in those days that the iPhone, and really all aspects of Apple would take me in as they have. As an aside: what does the letter “i” even stand for as Apple uses it? Internet? Information? In any event, they seem to be deprecating it as time goes on, which makes sense as the company matures.

As I note eight years of Apple products, I thought it would be fun to look at my favorite and least favorite aspects of them. First, there’s my trusty iPhone (now I’m up to the 8 as I have been since this time in 2018). I upgraded it to iOS 14, and it’s still mostly working fine. On-screen typing seems a bit laggy, but I can still do it. This is not a huge deal anyway, since I now have the Mantis Display, which is also working considerably better under 14. So I do most of my typing on this keyboard anyway.

I also notice cosmetic changes, like the fact that it describes Facebook photos better with VoiceOver on, although the 8 does not gain full access to the newest accessibility features like image and text recognition because of its slower processor. I have thus been bouncing back and forth on whether to acquire the iPhone SE 2020, as I suspect that whatever else comes the 8 will be just about unable to handle anyway. But I am glad I have held out now, as rumor has it that the new iPhone 12 might re-introduce some form of Touch ID. If they do, we’ll see how much the phone goes for and consider it.

The biggest, and happiest, change I’ve gotten from the Apple updates Has been to the Apple Watch. My issue with this watch has been the inconsistent vibration to check time that one initiates via a double tap. If your finger didn’t hit the watch quite right, or sometimes if the system just got confused as double tap is an extremely common gesture in VoiceOver anyway, the time would be spoken aloud. This meant that if, say, I opted to check time during a meeting, I was rolling the dice and might end up ruffling feathers, especially at work. So what they seem to have done to fix this, and it took me a while and a whole lot of frustration to figure it out at first, is to make it where you first activate the watch with a single tap, then perform whichever gesture you wish. This, along with speeding up the haptic output, has made the response a lot more consistent and thus has decreased the amount of aggravation I might give my coworkers as I keep needling that clock toward the end of the day. And even more than that, I now have access to Volume Control right from the VoiceOver Rotor, meaning that if I’m in a situation where I really don’t want it to speak I can easily turn the watch down without needing the phone as before.

And that’s about the heart of it, from my perspective. The major Mac update hasn’t launched yet, at least I don’t think it has as I rarely turn on that machine anymore these days other than to edit and post these entries. But I’m satisfied with the fairly small but important improvements I have noticed. The watch vibration thing is especially useful to me, as it even allows me to check the time without reinserting the hearing aids or disturbing my wife. Without knowledge of the time, the night can seem to drag and I feel uncertain as to whether I’ve overshot my wake time, even though she has the alarm there and will let me know.

Anyhow, Apple has continued to enhance the power and usefulness of these products to those with disabilities over these 8 years, and I look forward to however many more they have as a relevant tech company.

Despite Panthers Loss, My Birthday Hits The Spots

As one of my sisters says, happy life day to me! It was yesterday, and despite it, like everything else these days, being in the middle of a pandemic, I had a wonderful time. The fun thing about birthdays is that one gets to feel special, even if you know that millions of others actually share the day with you. My family and friends definitely made me feel special and helped me enjoy exiting what was, by all accounts, the most stressful year I’ve ever experienced.

The day started early for me, shortly after 8 AM. I came in and read a little, taking time periodically to view the Facebook and other posts as they streamed in. Then sleep claimed me around 10:30, and I stayed there for about 45 minutes until my wife announced breakfast time.

Then at 1, I opted to watch my Carolina Panthers (NFL) take on the Las Vegas Raiders. First, as a long-suffering Charlotte Hornets fan I hate the idea of teams moving, as I feel the NBA snatched ours away just as they were becoming respectable and has since given us a poor facsimile as replacement. And the Raiders? They’d already left Oakland once and returned to the city, only to leave it again.

Anyway, the game was interesting. A stadium with no fans presented an unusual listening experience, but truthfully I got used to it after a while and just enjoyed the announcer’s cadence and the game’s momentum. And the Panthers did a pretty good job seizing that momentum down the stretch. With Teddy Bridgewater, our new quarterback, it looked like we would pull off a decent comeback and top the Raiders after all. But after the Raiders popped it into the end zone to retake the lead 34-30, we failed to convert a critical 4th down play (I’d say because we didn’t give it to our all-world running back Christian McCaffrey, but to be fair he may not have gotten the needed half yard either). There was no more magic in the bottle after that, so we went down. I’m not too concerned yet, though the Panthers have started so many seasons this way that one can only guess how things will go moving forward.

That disappointment finished, I scrambled upstairs to have dinner with my wife and two of her sisters. She and I chose Olive Garden, and each of the sisters picked different restaurants. As we enjoyed lively conversation around the table, we rocked out to Michael Jackson’s Bad album, well the B side anyway. Remember the concept of turning records, or for that matter tapes, over to complete listening? Seems antuquated in the era of streaming, but it also kind of makes you really listen to a singer’s artistry more. For this reason and one of just having that older, better sound, we are starting to collect vinyl records. We now have, in addition to Mike, Lauryn Hill and one of Bruno Mars’ albums. It’s a cool throwback.

After my delicious meal of spaghetti with meat sauce and Italian sausage, served with a house salad, they sang Happy Birthday as I turned red. Then we sank our teeth into some chocolate cake from Publix. And later I had one of my true favorites, butter pecan ice cream.

The only other thing I did, a really important thing, is to have a nice phone conversation with my mom. If this year has emphasized nothing else, it has highlighted the need to try and stay connected to those we love and let those who need to know of our love for them. None of us knows just how much longer we’l be here. I need to do a better job of remembering this within the scope of my ever-crazier life.

And that was about all for my celebration of turning 41. I am tremendously thankful to still be here and in relatively good health. I have so much to reflect on, most of it already written in previous entries. Now I look forward to finding my new place, and this might sound crazy to say as a 41-year-old man, as an adult; as I really feel like I am only now finishing growing up. Here’s to many more for me, I hope?

Local Reporter Writes Interesting Novel

Given that today is Labor Day, one that many (though I’m aware not all) of us have off, I thought it would be fun to highlight a book that examines another career: that of news reporting. Few other professions result in us feeling that we “know” a person more than that of one who covers events big and small and brings them into our living rooms via TV and internet-connected screens.

So as it happened, I came across a book by Amanda Lamb, a crime reporter for WRAL News. The story, called Dead Last, follows Maddie Arnette, who had also been a crime reporter but moved into features reporting where she profiles silly animal stories after her husband’s death.

As it opens, Maddie just happens to see a woman collapse onto the ground while running the Oak City Marathon. I should note that the story takes place in the North Carolina Triangle, though the towns are given fictional names. Anyone from this area will enjoy pondering which real towns most closely fit the descriptions given.

Maddie’s story becomes a lot more complicated as she entangles herself with the woman, Suzanne, after visiting her in the hospital. It turns out that Suzanne is afraid for her life as she fears her husband, who is a well-liked doctor but may also have a dark side, is attempting to kill her. Maddie feels that she should not become involved, especially as serious questions arise about the veracity of Suzanne’s story, but her own background with domestic violence (she lost a mother to it) compels er to at least assist Suzanne in discerning the truth.

I liked many elements in this story, but my favorite parts involved what life was like as a news reporter. Maddie makes one statement that floored me, as it hit so specifically close to home. I’m paraphrasing here, as finding the exact quote in the audiobook (narrated by the author as it were) would be difficult: Sometimes I feel like being a reporter is like being an assembly line worker, packing sticks into a box and throwing them onto a conveyor belt. Well anyone who has followed this blog knows that this is exactly what I do, box sticks and throw them onto a belt. So that thought made me chuckle.

I also laughed at the references to 70’s-era detective shows that we see in her inside cop friend, and as previously noted at the names given to the book’s towns. For example, Oak city? Well Raleigh, our state capital, is also known as the city of oaks.

These moments of levity aside, the book tackles serious topics in a way that really makes one think. How do we decide whom and when to believe as potentially dangerous situations unfold. How do we define friendship, and what happens when we feel we and our profession might be used in ways we don’t want.

Lamb has written nine books, mostly about true crime, but this is her first novel. She says, as the subtitle “A Maddie Arnette Novel” indicates, that this will be part of a series with the second book in editing and the third already underway. So we can look forward to more of this deeply introspective and powerful character. The entire story is told from her first-person point of view, lending a depth to it that might not have come otherwise. I would recommend checking it out, and especially Lamb’s audio narration as she of course knows how and why Maddie responds in certain ways. I mean how many other news reporters do you know who have written novels too?
RELATED: Job Days No. 7: Work in the Time of Covid

My Covid Testing Experience

In this year where any kind of disaster imaginable seems possible, one could hardly blame me for being a little jumpy. Over the past couple of weeks, at my job’s temperature checks, I have realized that my core body temperature is almost always below normal. Well especially in the morning, as it often clocks in at 96.7 degrees, and I feel that cold when sitting in my room after dressing for the day.

On top of that, my nostrils have been a bit drippy and my throat congested for some time now. When this happened last year, I simply assumed that it was some kind of allergic reaction that would eventually calm down, as it did. But this year, with the ever-present threat of Covid-19, I was wary.

So all of those things converged this morning, as my temperature bottomed out at 96.1, and I was so cold that my hands shook and teeth rattled. I also felt so congested in my head that it seemed my brain was swimming. I am aware that this is probably not Covid, but on calling out of work to get the sleep I needed I decided I should get myself tested for the benefit of my coworkers, if nothing else.

And on that sleep? Ah, it was glorious. After some Covid-induced dreams, I finally, wonkily emerged around 12:30 and stepped outside for some air. I was relieved to learn that my temperature had increased to 98.4, and I certainly was warmer. But I still felt so yucky that my time outside did not last long.

So, my wife had made the testing appointment at a Cary, N.C. Urgent Care center at 3. After running some other errands, she drove me over to the clinic. This was not a drive-up appointment, but rather we were to enter the room to have the test administered. I was surprised by this, but admired the way they had things working.

First, we called a number and checked in, at which time we were told to wait in the car until contacted. It took about 12 minutes to get the call, with the office having texted a link that would have let me see my spot in line. Their texting was used well and kept the patient abreast on all progress throughout the experience.

Once we entered, with the support nurse holding the door ajar so we needed to touch nothing, she first asked about symptoms and then affixed something to my pinky finger, I think she said to test blood flow. Then another quick temperature. Check, still holding steady at 98. And finally, the real fun started.

Another man, in what capacity I am not entirely sure but I suppose a doctor-type person, came in to do The actual test. “It’s not too bad,” he said even as he offered me a Kleenex. Then, after helping me extract the mask from its entanglement with my hearing aids, he stuck the swab into my nose.

Ok, that’s it right?” I thought. But no! It went back, and back, and back, and surely took some of my whatever lobe when extracted. “Ow ow ow!” I said as I tried to keep myself from separating from the swab. Whew! That may have popped something into place, because much of my congestion has actually stopped, at least temporarily. My nose still hurts a bit, but yeah I guess it’s survivable.

And now I wait for probably three days. He said if it’s positive, then I’ll hear from the health department and that center. If negative, I’ll get a letter in the mail in approximately 2 weeks. We’ll see. If nothing else, it’ll give me a little peace of mind for as long as that lasts. I’m sure there are thousands of other tales of those who have been tested, many less dramatic than mine. But this is my quintessential 2020 story, and let’s hope it’s the last I have! Maybe things will settle down now?

Live! From Hurricane Alley

Welcome to the eighth year of 2020! I’m probably not the first to say that, but I’m the funniest, right? Right? … Ah well.

Jokes aside, this period has seemed and been for many the longest and most difficult ever. Especially here in the good ol’ US of A, it feels like the Covid crisis will never end. Still so many deaths, and even for those who survive they are changed for good in as yet unknown ways. This without mentioning our myriad personal struggles. I will be all too happy to put this 365 days behind us, if that actually makes any difference.

So, I’ve been back at work for just over two months now, and things in that setting are starting to catch up to the times. They have constructed pods of plastic around my primary section, which centers around a conveyor belt onto which boxes of light sticks are flung. With the frontal barrier of the wooden boxes that contain the sticks and the small boxes we must fill, it does make one feel significantly safer and more socially distanced. The only nerve-wracking thing is sometimes we work at open tables where people are sitting relatively close together. Thus far though, I hope, I’m fine.

Outside of slogging continuously through these workdays, I really go to and from that job and spend the rest of my time at home. I miss vacations, but do not yet feel entirely safe taking them either. Our last trip of sorts was to Tampa Florida in January, where it was a lot colder than it should have been. According to my scientific, randomized poll that I administered via Twitter, 28% of you are planning to travel somewhere at least 100 miles by car for a vacation, while the rest will do as we are and indulge in a staycation. Well that will leave a lot of time for some good reading at least, and I am on pace to shatter my record of 60 books consumed in one year.

And oh yeah! To add to the excitement, here in North Carolina we’re about to get a relatively small hurricane. That is actually the most “normal” thing that has happened in the last few months. Isaias, one of the more unusual names I’ve ever heard of for a storm. According to a cursory Internet search, Isaias is something of another name for The biblical prophet Isaiah. Interesting. We’ll probably get some tropical storm-force winds and all oto ain,and. I’ll likely hang here in the crib and, if power holds, get some stuff done. I think our pandemic numbers are finally starting to trend in the right direction, and I just hope that continues amid the storm. And of course that we all stay safe.

The ADA At 30: On Employment Challenges and Freelancing Opportunities

Today, the Americans with Disabilities Act turns 30! Just under 11 years younger than I am, and having been there for me in some capacity for the whole seventeen years I have fought and pounded for some kind of employment. Without question, this document has made things better for those of us with disabilities, and from my perspective especially for us blind and low-vision folks. But I would probably get little argument in saying that things are nowhere near where they need to be.

For starters, most of us blind individuals are not employed at all. I think the number is still something like 70%, a staggering figure that those without disabilities would never fathom. Among those of us who do work though, most are either in Ability One manufacturing facilities such as my current employer LCI, state rehabilitation agencies like the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind, or with local, state, or federal government. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those positions of course. I only wish that we had full access to the depth and breadth of the job market.

Unfortunately though, attempts to penetrate the private sector are still too often met with barriers like an unwillingness to accommodate, or even placing requirements, like usable vision and a driver’s license, in descriptions who’s essential functions would not indicate a need for them. After all, technology and apps that make it easier than ever to summon a driver even in many rural places abound, and even if these are not available I still think that the would-be employee should only need to prove that he or she has an adequate and reliable way to get from point A to point B in any position where driving is not the primary job objective to be given a chance.

The good news for those of us who are blind, and I suppose to some extent for those with any disabilities, is that the job landscape is rapidly changing. As this opinion piece on NBC points out, the ADA does not specifically mandate digital accessibility. What I believe it has done though is to make everyone, even up to large tech companies like Apple and Google more aware of its necessity. Thanks to that technology, we are finding it easier than ever to become freelancers. Remember my discussion some time ago about becoming a book reviewer and following my passion? Well I’m truly starting down that road, as I have been accepted to and am now writing reviews for a site called Reedsy Discovery. My first review, for which I had to crash through a 500-page book in a week with VoiceOver, the iPhone’s screen reader, set to a speech rate of 70%, is live! You’re supposed to be able to read it, and if you enjoyed it to leave a small tip of $1, $3, or $5. For some reason, my tip button is not yet working. Also, if you think you would like to review books for this site just go through my referral link to apply, and I’ll receive a nice kickback from the site. I’m pretty excited by this development, as if nothing else it should really allow me to build a name for myself while bolstering indie authors, a group whose careers I am always willing to promote.

So yes we with disabilities have futures that some of those who put their lives and bodies on the line for 30 years ago to get the ADA, our Civil Rights act, passed could hardly imagine. My hope though is that in the next 30 years, a much larger slice of this community will be able to partake, with the creation of policies that give us a better chance of breaking free of poverty and exploring our true potential without fear of losing whatever benefits and services we need to thrive (and that topic could be a whole post, believe me). In the meantime, Happy 30 to the ADA.

Three Books: On Whitney Houston, Jessica Simpson, and Alicia Keys

The desire to sing and make music is among humanity’s most important qualities. Whether you can or can’t “sing,” (and who makes that call anyway) you probably at least find yourself tapping your toes in the shower and either silently mumbling or belting out a favorite tune.

With favorite tunes in mind and locating three memoirs about them, I decided that the next installment in my “Three Books” series would be on life as a musician as seen through their, or a friend’s, eyes. My chosen titles are as follows:

A Song For You, My Life With Whitney Houston, by Robyn Crawford
Open Book, by Jessica Simpson
More Myself: A Journey, by Alicia Keys.

Each of these stories shed a slightly varied but surprisingly similar light on what life is like as someone who becomes famous for her voice and must do battle with external and internal forces.

Book Summaries

Whitney Houston

In Whitney’s case, as told by her long-time friend Robyn Crawford, she primarily struggled with drug addiction and an almost unhealthy desire to be liked by men. First though, as many probably know, she was rumored to have a deeper relationship with Crawford because of their hanging and living together. Crawford actually wrote this book in large part to dispel the theories and share the truth, which is that they did have a brief romantic partnership but Whitney ended it in light of her budding career.

As the story unfolds, we see how close Crawford still remained to “Nippy,” as she and many others called Houston at the time. I think the reason for this nickname is given, but am unable to recall what it is. Anyhow, as Whitney rises in popularity, she continues to eschew the drugs she and her friend have shared for many years. But the lure is always too strong, and eventually Crawford points out her concerns to Whitney’s family, whom she makes it clear are not particularly high on her like list. Sadly, most of us know how Whitney’s story ends, but reading the twists and turns that get us there is informative and unsettling.

Jessica Simpson

Jessica Simpson’s story is still unfolding of course, but as told in her memoir the biggest challenge she seems to have faced is finding the right man. I had no idea that Nick Lashay, the lead singer of 98 Degrees, was so nasty to her leading up to their parting. Granting that there are multiple sides to every story, the unrest this and other failed relationships caused is surprising. We see her initially cover the resulting feelings by having a child, but soon have to fight back from alcoholism.

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys, one of my two wives many years ago, (an old Live Journal post, remember that?) seems to have had the most uneventful life of almost any celebrity I’ve read about. I don’t suppose she ever got into drugs or alcohol, at least not as written, and she had relatively few problems with men. Her story thus largely focused on the lack of a strong relationship with her father, which saddened her deeply, and feelings about women’s image in the media. On the latter point, the book begins with a dis turning portrait that drives home the real issues that arise when we insist too heavily on some societal standard of female beauty rather than letting everyone express herself however she wishes. Her story overall is the most placid of the three, but inspires and makes one think.
All three authors narrate their own works in audio, with emphasis on different things. Crawford and Keys have the strongest voices, while Simpson makes the reader feel he is sitting in an armchair listening to her impassioned stories. She even clearly cries during certain segments, and does not bother to mask it. Keys pours her emotions out by actually singing to us portions of the songs she feels most strongly about. She also has various well-known guests, as well as people who represent some important part of her life, introduce many of the book’s chapters. Each of these stories, just as the musicians whom they are profiling, gives us a different slice of the human experience.

Bugging Out With the Mantis Q40: My Quick Take Review

Hey hey! Comin’ at ya from my new display. I have, after five years of great use with the Brailliant, acquired a Mantis Q40 from the American Printing House for the Blind. After all, technology marches on and this represents the potential fora significant upgrade. This machine has a full-sized laptop keyboard located above the row of Braille cells, which makes typing a lot easier and more intuitive.

I surprisingly received it yesterday. With APH’s ordering information, I had a hard time deducing when the device had actually shipped, and was thus kind of nervous and concerned until it finally arrived. After that, of course the rest of the day was spent playing with my new “toy”

So, first I had to familiarize myself with the display’s functioning by reading much of the user manual. It is relatively straightforward, but getting everything to work was… not. I would say the experience was similar to that when I first got my Brailliant five years ago, which is to say that a new device is going to have some issues. I think many of these are of Apple’s making, and I hope that they will be resolved sooon.

The primary issue I’m having, and just had as I typed this, is keeping the display connected to the phone via Bluetooth. It took four tries to even get some semblance of joining, and with each attempt after that the connection seemed to become more stable. Now, when it freezes periodically, I have only to go into the Bluetooth menu on my iPhone, disconnect and reconnect the display and it usually works. Obviously this would present long term challenges, but well we’ll see.

To find the positive: I love the machine’s size as they still manage to have a thin, very portable device with the full keyboard. The keys have nice spring and are just fun to type on, although the Braille bug that doesn’t let you type too fast, which has existed since iOS 11, is still a big nuisance. What was I saying about hope for a fix to these other problems soon? Yeah.

I also enjoy the crispness of the Braille, and find that I can now read at about 1.5 times the speed. Of what I used to manage. The thumb and panning buttons, while likely he Brailliant’s, are just a bi t smaller and perhaps more responsive in some way. So until the myriad writing stuff is reworked, I will likely most enjoy the reading experience.

So would I, in my short time having this device, recommend it? Well yes, and especially fort he educational//professional audience for whom it is most intended. As I mentioned before, typing is just easier than Braille in many respects, most notably when one must enter email and passwords, which even if I know the correct Braille symbols the translator just gets wrong. I would also recommend it for its charge, which seems lightning fast, and the replaceable batttery. This machine looks like it will hold up for at least another five years, and hopefully at some point I will be able to pound out my great American novel on it as well as to get back up to regular posting. There will be another probably in less than a wee k. Till then, have a good Fourth of July holiday.