DARKER BUT DEEPER: My Review of The Lion King

The circle of life spins on, and eventually brings us back movies of our childhood. I have to admit, before going to see The Lion King with my wife, two of her sisters, and a nephew and niece who are young kids, I wondered why bother. Sure, I knew that the new version would use “real” animals as opposed to animated, as was done in 1994. But I thought that other than that, the movie would be the same. It wasn’t.

But before I go into detail about my thoughts, I wanted to note the experience of obtaining audio description so that I would know what was going on. You can read a prior post I made with this title if you want a deeper sense of what audio description is. I was aware that most movie theaters nowadays would have it, so as we arrived at the Holly Springs AMC Dine-in 9, I asked my wife to speak with the customer service rep at the counter about obtaining the device. He hadn’t really known of what she spoke, but the manager did, and that manager also educated him so that future transactions would go more smoothly. I was not surprised at the rep’s lack of awareness, as I would guess that few customers need this. But I was pleased with their willingness to learn.

They asked which film we would see, and programmed the little box accordingly, then I clipped it to my pocket and took the little pair of headphones that come with it. Then we entered the auditorium, wherein there were reclining seats with tables attached. Instead of a concession stand, one orders food straight from the seat by pressing a button. Because we had eaten breakfast only a couple hours earlier, having gone for a 3:30 showing, my wife and I were not too hungry. So we just got popcorn and drinks, and smuggled boxes of raisinettes. As we settled in with our grub and the movie started, I realized that the audio description device was not working. This was rectified by simply locating and pressing the power button.

The quality of the description was pretty good. It was done by a woman with a British accent, which can be a bit challenging for me to follow, but I just sort of concentrated on digesting the more visual scenes and slid the set off of my head during dialog-heavy sections. The audio was presented in two channels: the left ear got the description, while the right ear was fed the movie. This would work wonderfully for one with normal hearing I suppose, but unfortunately my right ear is insufficient with regards to hearing. But that was ok. I think my pie-in-the-sky dream would be that somehow a text-based description app would be brought into existence that would allow me to follow the movie with my Braille display. Amazon’s x-ray is actually not far from this as it shows the scene title and who plays in the scene. I would think adding an extra line of description to that would not be too complicated. This would allow even deaf blind people to follow the action in a movie. My wife informed me that they do have a device that can be placed in a seat’s cup holder and allow a deaf person to read the closed captions, so that’s pretty cool too. It is great that we live in a world where access is being extended to everyone.

The movie began as one would expect, with the Circle of Life song. The elephant hole portion and the part where Scar outlines plans to take down the king were notably darker though, and especially as they basically removed Scar’s Be Prepared song and replaced it with a more march-y beat that made slight reference to it. That song had actually been one of my favorites in the original, but perhaps it was less necessary in a non-animated movie.

I have to say though, I was less a fan of Scar’s voice in the newer iteration. It just lacked the gravitas brought to it before. Nala’s older voice, played by Beyonce, was also less impassioned. On the whole though, the movie was more effectively tied together: with elements like a lead female hyena who tussled with Nala; a more developed relationship between Timon and Pumba, the outcasts Simba meets when sent away from Pride Rock; and a more sensible return by Simba in the end. It seems some effort was made to be more culturally sensitive as well.

This version in many respects felt less like a kid’s movie overall, not that kids wouldn’t get into it, but just that without some of its wimpy, Youngers folks might not connect with it in quite the same way. As an adult 25 (TWENTY-FIVE!) years later, I pretty well enjoyed it, and given that there were some fairly lengthy visual portions where nothing was said, I was happy I had opted to get the audio description box. The movie-going experience was so different from what I remember of my last attendance, which I think was in 2004? That sounds like a long time, but I can recall no more recent ones. I may well go to the movies again soon.

STOP SPREADIN’ THE NEWS: On Decreasing Mainstream App Access

Have you noticed a subtle shift, especially among mainstream news delivery services? Yes, the impending pay wall. These services, such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and even some local outfits, allow you to view an enticing tidbit from an article then say “to read more, sign in,” for (in the case of the former) $38 a month!

Now, as one who wishes he could write for a living, I do understand the need to be reimbursed for people’s services and hard work. I also know that advertising revenue is becoming a smaller and smaller slice of the pie, as people have become privy to and largely just ignore the annoying messages that pop up everywhere up to and including their Facebook accounts. But I remember when I first gained access to the Internet now 20 years ago, I was shocked by the fact that I could browse articles from the Charlotte Observer for free, giving me more access to news and happenings than I had ever known previously.

And therein lies my issue with these new pay walls. In order to complete my recent project at the job, I had to read an article on the Wall Street Journal’s website. Fortunately for me, they had a sale for July 4th in which one could sign up for just a dollar. So I did. I downloaded the app, which really opens up access as it lets you “follow” different authors and choose which kinds of articles you wish to be notified about. I get the notifications, but when I click on them all I hear is “null article,” “null article.” And even trying to press that link does nothing. I find this extremely disappointing.

And especially as we celebrate ten years of the iPhone having a text-to-speech option, VoiceOver, as Shelly Brisbin noted in her fascinating documentary. I know when that thing came out in 2007, I and my blind peers worried that it would quickly shut us out of the changing cell phone market. But with one fell swoop, that whole idea was turned on its head.

As we see though, having it truly stick is going to require that developers continue to be made aware of what this technology is and how it works. I can certainly understand smaller-scale companies not knowing about this, but the Wall Street Journal? I mean sure I can read most of the articles online, but I am still being denied a significant advantage by the app’s lack of VoiceOver functionality.

And if I am allowed to indulge, let’s move away from news and talk about travel. I specifically am taking umbrage with the Hilton Honors app. Again, there are other ways for me to gain most of the information on Hilton Hotels, but if you go through their app there are spectacular prices to be found. Their issue is the way dates are displayed. You have to move by headings from month to month, but it will only let you jump two months or so before losing focus and jumping way ahead or off the page entirely. I’m wondering why they can’t just use the standard calendar as almost every other app does.

So these are some of my worries. As the best stuff continues to move more into the apps and away from websites, it is inherent that people make at least a little effort to understand what standards need to be followed or as I’ve seen suggested by some, that a company like Apple mandate accessibility testing, if for no other reason but to let people know what works and what doesn’t. To do less is to (inadvertently) exclude a portion of the market that has waited a long time to gain even basic access in the first place.

2019 Part II: Starting It Write

Hello, and welcome to the second half of 2019! Has any year ever gone faster? I can tell you I have never had one with so many fireworks (which perhaps explains why I have generally posted less here, but hopefully these pages can be darkened again on the regular.

From April’s evaluations, to May and June’s Music Narratives to: something that… holds promise? Yes, a development for which I have been waiting, I am now getting to try my hands at technical writing with my current employer.

What is technical writing, you ask? Well, I am still learning the ins and outs of it myself, but as best I understand it it’s writing about business happenings and technologies that can benefit those within a business or users of its services.

To test my abilities in this area, I have been given two projects to work on for three-hour stints throughout this week, with July 4th providing a natural day off for pondering before submission. I will do these projects; a white paper that addresses some kind of accessibility issue and provides a solution, and a user manual or guide that helps a blind person learn to use a device; within their computer room over said days.

Today was my first go at it, and I actually quite enjoyed it and myself. First, I kind of had to re-familiarize myself with a Windows computer, after having typed on this Mac for a little over two years now. I have limited experience with Windows 10, but did not find it hard to learn the few new things I needed to know. What did make things fun at first was remembering that the cursor in Jaws works a little differently than it does in VoiceOver. I kept typing in the wrong place and having to erase. I’ve also gotten used to the autocorrect function on the Mac, so had to remember to go back and correct errors more frequently in the Windows environment. But, I’ll be right as rain by the time I get back at it tomorrow.

With regards to the projects themselves, the user manual is proving pretty easy for me, as there is a really good Internet template into which I have only to insert the relevant information. The biggest challenge there is making sure I know exactly what I am talking about. With the white paper, I think I am going to change direction from my initial idea, because that approach is kind of a slog. I’m actually thinking of doing it on Paratransit and its lack of flexibility. I have cooked up a couple of articles and will mine them for some kind of potential solution, especially as this is something I find quite relevant, and it says we can discuss travel-related accessibility issues. We shall see.

One thing is for sure, just flexing my mental muscle like that made me feel something I’ve not really experienced since grad school. So I hope I get to do this sort of thing some time soon. Wish me luck as I continue to work on crafting and ultimately expanding my skill set to include an idea I had not really considered, but as with the music thing, now wonder if I can run with. More later.

STAYING FRESH WHILE AGING: Our Trip to Duplin Winery

To produce great flavor, grapes must be planted just so; given consideration for current climate, desired outcomes, and how much capital is available. I feel like relationships are similar. They can be better with time, if the right attention is given to their surrounding environment and the resources one has at hand to truly nurture them. So, my wife and I make a conscious aim not only to enjoy the things we have always, but to keep expanding those commonalities where possible. The prior weekend, we took a simple walk to a local fast food chain on Saturday night, taking in the others strolling along our strip and having a meal in a relatively empty dining room while chattering. But yesterday, we made good on something proposed a while ago, a trip to Duplin Winery in Rose Hill NC for a tasting.

The drive is about an hour and a half from where we are located, and once we arrived, parking at first seemed illusory. After a couple of lot circuits, we slide into a spot that someone has just vacated and make our way inside. The winery has a store where the four bars are located, and where the various types of wine can be purchased. A tasting, which lasts approximately a half hour and involves ten of the 42 varieties they carry, costs $5 without the crackers that help cleanse pallets between wines, and $10 if the crackers are acquired. We opt for the latter, because I want to be able to taste the difference.

The total amount of wine consumed amounted to just one glass, and as our staff person prepares to pour each dollop, he explains the type of wine and how it is prepared. We try white wine varieties first: with one called Carlos that was named after an NC State professor which we found to be ok but a little strong; the Magnolia wine, named after a nearby town and the one my wife and I liked the most; and three other whites that made not particular impression on me. The stories that come along with the tasting are amusing though, and make it worth your while to go and check out if you can.

The most important thing I learned is that I can, in fact, distinguish between whites and reds. I must say that this was the only time I had actively tried to do so, and I found it educational. While white wine tended to be sweeter, the red had a flavor that I find hard to describe. Most of the five we tried did have more of a kick, which she did not like at all; but that I could drink, if someone just eve it to me. The only of those she did mostly like was the sangria rosé, which contained a certain amount of sweetness as well, and a frozen wine slushy that we had at the end where I couldn’t even taste the alcohol.M/p>

I think the entire tasting may have actually lasted a bit longer than a half hour. Being the sociable person my wife is, she met a woman whose husband was in the room but had opted not to participate. We noted, not surprisingly I suppose, that most of the other attendants were couples. There were a few families though, including a grandma and grandpa, and even a baby whom I’m guessing was not partaking of the festivities. I enjoyed it though, and appreciated the different experience. One more thing to add to our memory bank. What has been the most unusual thing you’ve done this year, with or without a partner?

THE BIG REVEAL: Or, What’s This Music Thing I’ve been Doing?

First, I should note that I have been asked by the good folks at Vibbidi to write a post introducing you to their product, but all thoughts and opinions herein are my own. Thank you.

If you have been following me on social media or even picked up on the coy bits I’ve dropped in this blog, then you know that our the last couple of months I have been writing for and involved in a music community. They call it Vibbidi, and its aim is to be part music streaming service, part social media platform. They have artists from every genre on the site, which had been an app but will soon be converted entirely into a web-based platform accessible from any internet-ready device.

Of course they have singles, albums, curated playlists, and even videos, as well as cover content generated by the users. But what makes this site different is its album narratives. These are posts, written either in blog form or as a story, they say really however you wish as long as it kind of relates to the album, that can introduce people to new performers in an informal way. You can read my narratives, the few I have generated thus far, on my personal Vibbidi page. I’m enjoying it, and finding that it gets me more into music than I have been in a long time, both by bringing up memories of those singers to whom I used to frequently listen and connecting me to those I hadn’t yet discovered.

Once they roll out the full service some time this summer, you will also be able to write these narratives if you wish. If you think you’d be interested in doing so, let me know and I can put you in touch with the right individuals. From a blindness perspective, the app is kind of a challenge to use, but I think the web page will be considerably easier. At any rate, I have notified them of my experiences, and they seem receptive. So give it a look, with the awareness that everything is currently under construction. And let me know what you think. Thanks

A Throwback to Move Forward

Hello from a place that is old to me, but new again: the DSB Career and Training Center, formerly known as the North Carolina Rehabilitation Center for the Blind. I suppose they consider the modern name more descriptively accurate of the services offered here. This place is located on the campus of Governor Morehead School for the Blind, and I am to receive an evaluation to provide insight into which kinds of job I might wish to search for in the future.

Why have I been missing from these pages for as long as I have lately? Well there’s a really good reason for that, but I am not at liberty to go entirely into detail yet. Let’s say a wonderful side-opportunity for some freelance writing has fallen into my lap, and I’ve been brushing up on how to compose solid articles. Hopefully you will be able to see some of these articles, from me and others, in the coming months. That is exciting, and interestingly it developed just as my DSB counselor and I were ramping up plans for this evaluation.

I can’t say I’m completely certain what will happen here. Their handbook says standardized testing, perhaps. Computer assessments, and I guess some kind of vocational component. I remember coming here in 1996, and staying in Cox Dorm as I am now. The place seemed old and the stairs narrow and hot, with carpeted rooms and a giant, single bathroom for use by everyone on the floor. Surprisingly though, they have now renovated it into suites, with each containing a bathroom that has a shower and toilet. This is in some ways nicer, but it also means that only one person can get in there at a time. I’ll be interested to see how much demand is placed on the facilities.

I arrived, after commuting the arduous seven miles from my Cary home. I kind of wondered why I had chosen to stay on campus exactly, but dinner dispelled any uncertainty I had about that. It’s about the networking. I spoke with people and informed them about some of my freelance stuff, while also hearing from two twins (we could tell they were by their rhyming names) who were in the Randolph Shepard Vendors of America Program. I know little about this, except that they train blind and low vision people to load snack machines at various businesses. It seems to be a good establishment, but takes a while to complete certification. The twins have been here since January and will remain till June. I also spoke with an individual who is seeking voiceover work, and suggested that he take a good, hard look at NPR. Overall, it was an uplifting conversation for us all, as we’re fighting the same battles.

So however this ends up unfolding, of course you will hear about it. More coming, probably tomorrow.

I Work: Finding People and Tech to Revitalize my Career

My life is accelerating. And technology has played and will play a key part in successfully making the transitions I am about to attempt, both in the job and volunteer setting. Much of this has been affected by the speed with which 2019 has gotten underway, especially following the wonderful trip to Miami that I have documented over the last month.

Of course, the first and most immediate attempt at change will be in career. A number of near-simultaneous developments have made it likely that I will, at least I sure hope, finally have some real movement.

In the months since receiving hearing aids from the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind, my counselor there and I have been working to construct a plan. To that end, and to find some kind of direction, we have scheduled me to go into the Governor Morehead School for the Blind and their Blindness Education Center (what used to be referred to as the Rehab Center for the Blind) for an extensive evaluation. I will arrive on campus on Sunday April 14, and stay there till Thursday April 18; undergoing a battery of tests and simulations to help determine what might be my best area of fit. I did a similar evaluation a little over 20 years ago, but one would imagine that the experience has been, updated? since then. I am excited and curious to see what I will discover about myself.

Self-discovery is also being helped at my current employer, Durham’s LCI (officially shortened from LC Industries now as they increase their tech focus). They have recently hired a Workforce Development Specialist, and I met with her a couple weeks ago to begin thinking about my long-term plans. We completed a values assessment, using an exercise to narrow my values from 50 to 10 to just five. These are, I suppose, my core values, and they include:

  • Creativity
  • helping others/serving people
  • Influencing people
  • Leisure
  • Visioning

Certainly I would like to believe I am, and continue to find more ways to be, creative. The desire to help others and influence are a large part of why I’ve blogged in some way for the last 15 years now. I think leisure speaks for itself: I need time to read, relax, and sometimes even take vacations. I must confess I am not entirely sure what is meant by “visioning”, but I suppose it has to do with looking forward and thinking of possible futures.

I will work further with the specialist at LC after the evaluation, and well, we’ll see. In the meantime, I am about to also step up my role in the Norrie Disease Association. We’re now trying to create committees, which will hopefully make it easier to produce useful content, raise funds, and otherwise interact with the people we are trying to serve. One thing this new focus is already establishing for me is a need to learn to use sharable technology platforms such as Slack. So I’ve spent much of this weekend trying to learn at least the basics about it, and am pleased to find that it not only is pretty accessible, but it also has embedded features that help learn things relatively quickly. I know that this sort of collaboration will be a key part of whatever comes next as well.

That’s a little about what has been happening with me of late, hopefully the beginnings of real fun in coming months. As always, to the extent that I can, I will share what I learn with others as so many of us work to be more.

Bienvenido a Miami 4: The Long Road Through The Keys

Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett, It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere (Youtube)

I chose this last track to represent our trip to Key West, because Jimmy Buffett seems to be an iconic representer of this unique place. It certainly feels like one of the most isolated places in the U.S., and as such it has developed a culture not seen really anywhere else. Of course, tourists and their (our? But I’m not a tourist, I’m a traveler! Haha) actions make up a significant portion of this culture, as you will see.

4:45 comes early, and that alarm feels like the same that awakens me for a workday. Not surprisingly though, I have a much easier time willing myself out of bed to prepare for the coming adventure. We stumble into and through the showers, and for the only day during our visit, do not have breakfast at iHop. Instead, we pack snacks and water into our backpacks and make our way outside into the unwelcome cold that has descended over the land. 52 and a brisk wind, and yes it takes little to no time for one’s perspective on what constitutes “cold” to change. As we await the Miami Tour Company bus that will come by the nearby Crystal Beach hotel to pick us up, I mostly hope that it will warm enough for walking to be enjoyable. The email has stated that the bus should arrive at 6, but it actually rolls up shortly after 6:30. We are only the second group of passengers to board.

As we make our circuitous trip around Miami Beach and then across the causeway to Miami, we continue to collect others. Most are couples, will very few non-adults. We marvel in the fact that the bus nearly fills, at 53 souls on board, even on. Monday morning. She is relieved by this. As we make our way out of the city, again with the drive narrated by an individual speaking quickly in English then in Spanish, my wife goes to sleep while I read some and enjoy watching the GPS as we go further south. Florida City the last mainland post, slides by, and we continue onto the Overseas Highway. Part of, the end of, US-1, this amazing piece of engineering extends over the Caribbean Sea to the left and the Gulf of Mexico to the right. She tells me that the two bodies of water do look different as well. Also, and this makes me feel slightly dizzy, there are stretches of highway even over the water where no guardrails are present. The longest stretch, the seven-mile bridge, I think takes us to Big Pine Key. But along the way, we do make a stop.

“Ok,” the driver says: “get your cameras ready, because we are about to stop at a very historic place. Very historic… McDonald’s.” This draws chuckles from the half awake crowd, and we scramble off at the Key Largo location to acquire a more substantial breakfast.

Back on after about 30 minutes, we move through a surprising number of small keys: Marathon, Duck, and others who’s names I am not able to recall. Finally, we bump onto Key West and roll to a stop at Caroline Street, immediately searching for more food. We enter a little diner called Harpoon Harry’s, where she orders a key lime pie sandwiched in French toast (interesting?), and I get a giant Cuan Mix sandwich that had pork, mayo veggies, and delicious bread. I regrettably consume only half of it, and by the time I think of eating the other half we make the determination that it is probably already too late to do so safely.

By the time we step outside, at around 12:15, the sun is up and temperatures climb nicely into the mid 70’s.

“Ok, we’re down here” she said, “now what do we do?” We decide that then $39 trolley tour is not worth it, as most things are walkable anyway, and make the mile-and-a-half hike to the Southernmost landmark to have our pictures taken. She makes frequent stops to accommodate my sedentary body, which is not but should be used to taking such strenuous strolls. As we waddle down the walk, roosters waddle along with us, moving freely through yards and along streets. This, I hear, is common to many island locations as they are seen to symbolize good luck. They give me nightmares! Because I have this weird thing with birds that go back to my dream of the Big Chicken stomping through Charlotte and causing havoc as a kid. Don’t… ask.

Anyhow, rogue roosters aside, the walk is pleasant and I absorb the calming feeling one gets by being so far away from news centers and other such minutiae. We get to the icon, where we must stand in a somewhat lengthy line. “My phone is down at 3%,” she says, noting that use of the GPS has nearly drained it. I had tried to allow her use of my wonderful Anker Portable Battery Charger, but her ports were not USB. As you arrive to take your picture, the person behind you in line actually snaps it. I suppose this is a sort of unwritten rule that developed over time. Just as our would-be picture taker prepares to snap us, her phone bites the dust. So I hand the woman my phone. Only it chooses to not stay bright, continuing to drop brightness to 0%. Later, I determine that this happens because I have the green curtain enabled. In any event it causes us to throw in the towel on that and scramble out of others’ way.

She searches for a likely location to give her phone a little more juice, and we discover the Southernmost Guest House. Yeah I know, real creative name. The person inside is nice, allowing her to plug in and grab a cup of coffee, and inviting us to sit on the porch with a table and chairs.

After getting the pictures successfully taken, We again find a place to charge up, the Markers Resort. The lobby of this establishment is quite swanky, and as this occurs at nearly 4 PM, I have a hard time not drifting off as I listen to people walking around, getting on the elevator, and the like.

Prior to our visit to the Markers, we wander into a cookie shop called Matheesen’s, where all of the cookies are huge! She purchases a half-pound peanut butter cookie, and I eat a small bite. The people are friendly and joke with us as we get the cookie. They even ship their wares online, two-day and only through Wednesday so that they can be had by Friday. I may well get one someday.

The bus ride back, beginning at 5:30, is more brutal than the inbound trip, and I slide into Lala land before we even get out of Key West. Second on also means second off, so it is with great relief that I finally step from the bus and try to stay upright long enough for us to purchase frozen meals from Publix and to crash into our room.

And thus ends our trip. Fortunately I have found a 4:30 PM flight, so we are able to sleep in at least a little bit the following day. Then we return to rainy, cold North Carolina, energized and full of memories to add our our ever-growing pile. A great way to celebrate a year of marriage.

Look, No Wires! On Finding My Perfect Bluetooth Headset

(Note: Link added to post)
Ever since I heard of the concept, I wanted a pair of headphones that required no physical connection to a device to work. No more entanglements, premature shorts, and most useful of all, increased flexibility when exercising and the like. The only problem? And this might be just me, but perhaps other blind folks agree: bluetooth headphones can be difficult to power on and off accessibly. At least, if you haven’t located a pair built just so.

My first set of bluetooth headphones were a Christmas gift to me in 2016. Uproar Wireless, I’m uncertain of the exact model number as I don’t think it listed in the bluetooth connection as most current models do. They were fairly small and the pads fit well, meaning that I didn’t feel like they would come off easily due to repeated entrance and removal from my backpack. They lacked the flexible speaker though, so that putting them into more confined spaces was difficult.

The real issue though was the power button. I could get the unit to power up and connect to my iPhone, but when I attempted to turn it off, the headphones would call my wife as I held the button down. At 6:30 in the morning. Obviously this was a no-go. The odd thing to me was that this behavior was not entirely consistent, and sometimes the headphones would indeed shut down as I had hoped, emitting a series of descending beeps.

This inability to predict what would happen, as well as the fact that the headphones lacked enough volume to allow me to hear in louder places such as our employee break room, caused me to shelve those and return to my old, wired set. I continued to use these as they slowly deteriorated, now to the point that I basically have to put the raggedy speakers that have no padding, and in which only one still kind of works, against my head.

About a month ago though, someone on my Facebook page spoke of a feature in the latest iOS called Live Listen that turns the iPhone into an FM system with a pair of bluetooth headphones. This means, I suppose, that I can have sound beamed into my hearing aid if I wanted to, say, listen to someone speaking in a larger room. I still haven’t actually tried this feature, but I intend to look it up and see if I can discern it.

Before that can happen though, I must track down a workable headset. So I dare to venture back into this, and on recommendation from a Twitter follower, I acquire the MPOW H5 Noise Canceling variety. These do have considerable volume, and an impressive amount of bass. They make music and other programming sound fantastic. They even have those flexible speakers, as well as the option to connect via the headphone jack. But when listening via Bluetooth, they would beep anytime I interacted with VoiceOver or even pressed the volume up-down switch. While mildly annoying, this was tolerable.

The power button, however, is what really dissuaded me from using them. Though it audibly says “Power Off” when the button is held, sometimes twice, for four seconds, my wife says a green light continues to shine. And sure enough, when I go to try and connect them the next day the 30-hour battery is drained and I must resort to a hard connection. This leads me to one conclusion, I need something with a switch I can flip bon or off.

My wife sets off on a search to find such a device, carefully combing Amazon reviews to see if mention of an on/off switch is made. Finally, she locates the Plantronics Backbeat Go 600 Noise-Isolating Headphones. I’ve only had them a couple of days, but they seem to be just what the doctor ordered. When I push the switch up, they say “Power on, Battery High, Phone 1 connected”. If I continue to push the switch, it becomes something of a rocker. I imagine that is how you can switch between multiple, connected devices. I wonder if any other, lower-priced, headphones allow for this kind of thing. (I just can’t bring myself to spend 300 bucks on a set, not yet at least). Anyhow, these headphones also allow for a wired connection if you choose, and say they can remain charged for up to 18 hours. Mine still report that the battery is high so we shall see how long they last. There is also a long button that, when pressed, reports the status again.

They don’t have the bass of the MPOW, but this is ok as I discovered an AppleVis podcast (AppleVis is a site for blind people that helps us with all things Apple) that shows me how to use the iPhone’s equalizer. With this, I can set it to “Small Speaker” to make music sound good in my headphones, or “Spoken Word” to improve the quality of audiobooks. I have found that this works wonderfully with my new set, and am finally able to truly enjoy bluetooth connectivity. I thought I would post about them, just in case any of you were pining for something similar, (i.e.) ones that do not require holding down a button and hoping.

Bienvenido a Miami 3: Do You Know What Today Is?

And today’s soundtrack is obvious, as far as I can tell just about the only of its kind. A nice, smooth jam clocking in at over 7 minutes to get your head in the right place for chillin’!

Anniversary: Tony Toni TonÉ (Youtube)

That’s right, it’s our anniversary. And unbeknownst to us, instead of being stuck inside with gloomy weather as we’d thought, the South Florida sunshine is about to make a glorious appearance. This means we will get to truly enjoy our special, shared holiday.

Sun, January 27

I lie awake, with thoughts of how much getting this braille display fixed would cost me, and more worrisome how I would fair without it bouncing around my head. I finally have enough time to truly browse Miami radio, and decide that the better iPhone app for this purpose is OOTunes, as it truly emulates terrestrial radio. But as is always the problem in this room, my proximity to her awakens her soon after I begin, so I abandon the browsing in favor of conversation.

Anxious to see if I can determine what has happened to my display, I ask her if she can help me locate and remove the battery, as many of my Twitter followers have indicated might be the problem. Only I am unable to find a battery port on the Brailliant BI 40, I suppose because it is entirely sealed in the unit. In a move based on hope, I give up and jus try turning it on. And what do you know, it works! This is why the prior day’s quip about someone perhaps wanting me to disconnect for a while and truly be present with my wife. In any event, I am hugely relieved. One cell, or at least one of its dots, does seem to have been casualty to whatever occurred last night, making repairs imminent.

We shower, then proceed to dress for the upper 50’s with rain that we are expecting. But when we step outdoors, the sun hits us in all the right spots and a nice, ocean breeze caresses our skin. “Ah, this is what I paid for!” I say, graciously taking it in.

“Indeed,” she replies. “We’ll come back to the room after eating to dress down a bit before heading to the beach.”

IHOP is not too bad on this morning, so I sit and have my old man breakfast again, feeling content. I am hungrier this morning, as our last full meal had been around 4 the previous day. Conversation flows as smoothly as my lemonade iced tea, and I am glad that, at least to my telling these new hearing aids are easing my comfort level in such social environments.

Swinging by a beach storm we acquire a nice, large beach towel that we will put in the sand. I try to wear my flip flops down as we walk from the room, but they velcro and I can’t get the material to fit snugly enough. So I just opt for my regular shoes until we get down there, as I will go barefoot in the sand anyway.

One thing I wanted to do is dip my toes in the Straits of Florida to see if that water would be as warm as a bath tub. The answer? No! I suppose you have to go a bit farther down for that. While that initial cold is shocking, I am able to withstand a few washes by the waves that, today, sound more like what I am used to as the waters are churned up.

The most fun part comes though when we return to the towel. She lies down, and I back up against my backpack. “Why don’t you lay down, see how differently it feels?” she says. So, using my backpack as a pillow, I stretch out. It does feel different, as if I”m on a deserted island somewhere. I am afraid to drift off entirely out here though, because what if sand drifts into my mouth? Or one of those loud seagulls swoops down and snatches me up. Ok, I have a vivid imagination. But, yeah.

After nearly an hour and a half, we finally fold the towel and make our way back to the room, where I promptly go to sleep in the bed. She allows me to remain in this state for another couple hours, before concluding that we should eat before the rains come.

We were to locate a fancy restaurant so we could get all cleaned up and put on a suit and dress to celebrate the occasion. But she said, and I agreed, that the atmosphere of the day just didn’t fit this vibe. So we just walk down to the nearby Burgerfi and have one of their delicious burgers with even better hand-cut fries. It is a good thing we make this choice, as some fierce storms roll in just after we complete another Publix run and scramble back into the room.

And that is about all that happens on this low-key day. She wraps it up by reading me a beautiful note that she has written using the letters of LOVE as an acronym. And we bed down relatively early for our early AM wake-up call to head to Key West!