Job Days No. 3

Well, it amazes me to look up and realize that I’m already about a quarter of the way through year three at Durham’s LC Industries, my current place of employment. I guess I’ve made it something of a habit, mostly for my own records, to take an annual look at how things are going, and whether I’m making any progress towards where I would like to be. The last two evaluations have been at about this time of year as well, so I figured why not go for it?

First, I ask myself if my morning routine has altered any. It’s amusing to ponder how small changes here and there slowly turn into something quite different from what was, isn’t it?

  • 4:15: Alarm rings, I spend another three minutes checking email on the phone and coming up with every other conceivable thing to view to keep myself wrapped in those warm covers.
  • 4:20: I grudgingly roll out of bed, find clothes, and totter into the warm shower stream. Usually, too-loud singing commences and mingles with the sound of falling water that is largely undetectable to my unaided ears.
  • 4:35: Dressed and with socks on, I plug the phone into my table speakers and rock out to either Pandora, or increasingly, our local stations on TuneIn Radio. I like Pandora, but they tend to play the same stuff too often sometimes.
  • 4:45: After banging dishes around, I make a bowl of cereal, sometimes getting the kernels and droplets of milk onto the tabletop as well. Hey, I wasn’t built to function this early in the morning!
  • 4:57: I scramble around in the fridge to see if there are any sandwich products available, either Bologna and cheese or peanut butter and jelly, (crunchy, gotta be crunchy!). If the former, I have to make a concerted effort to remember not to leave the opened jar of mayonnaise on the counter. Man, I’ve lost at least 12 nearly full jars that way. (Refer to earlier bit regarding morning person status).
  • 5:08: Brush teeth while dancing to a tune in the living room, attempt not to actually sing while so doing as choking on toothpaste would probably not be a good idea.
  • 5:15: Out the door, on way to bus stop. I’ve gotten considerably better at crossing the street now as I know there will almost always be a point when it is totally quiet.
  • 5-35: Step aboard, while engaging random passengers in groggy conversation. I guess more and more people have come to know me with time.
  • 6: Catch second bus, fire off texts and more email with the Braille display as we whizz down the highway, and try to mentally prepare myself for the day.
  • 6:30: Arrive in break room, where I read till the bell rings, calling me to my station around 7 AM.

I guess the biggest difference is that I now make lunch nearly every day. I’m not sure if that helps or hinders me though, as once 12 PM rolls around and that stuff is being digested, I usually have to overcome some pretty powerful waves of sleepiness.

Now onto what I do in there. I still work in Light Sticks, packing ten to a box and vaulting them onto a conveyor belt as I had last year. Master Locks has pretty much reopened now, but I assume I will not return to that department and will just remain where I am for however long I stay at this organization. I’ve sped my production up about four times as compared to where I was, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be as dexterous as the true fliers back there. I guess that’s ok, as long as I no longer have people having to swarm around me nearly all day in order to ensure that my bin doesn’t get too far behind the others. It took me a while to understand the innerconnectedness of that whole area and just what was expected from me, but I think I’ve made pretty good strides nonetheless.

And so the final question: what am I doing to prepare for some other career opportunity. Well, still kind of trying to figure that out actually. I continue to learn and grow as President of the Norrie Disease Association, and especially in attempting to plan for our Third International Conference coming this August. (It’s harder than it looks! So many different things to juggle.) I have had a few at least semi-accomplishments though: successfully contacting two potential speakers/panel participants, getting initial info on a tour of the Perkins School for the Blind, and working with other board members to sort out registration challenges. It’s fun, dynamic, and definitely something that I think could help me down the road. Maybe I’ll work for a nonprofit in some capacity, who knows. I’m chewing on that…

So overall, I think things are going as good as could be hoped for. I’m used to just going in here and doing what I have to do, five days a week, and continuing to work on myself in other ways wherever possible. Still trying to fully sit back and enjoy the ride! Always appreciative of those who support me in doing this in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

CHANGE PART II: On a new connection

Remember in my first official entry of 2015 how I alluded to big changes happening both in my professional and personal life? And I didn’t really go into detail about the personal variants? Well, the big news is: I now have a girlfriend.

Out of respect for her privacy, I’m only revealing some minimum facts about her, because I believe that everyone has a right to her privacy. But, I thought it would be fun to share the story of how we came to be, as it’s cool and makes me happy.

The neat thing is, we both run in the same circle of friends but hadn’t really talked to each other before. We were to meet at the Christmas party that took place this past December, however she was unable to attend due to catching a common cold.

“Ah!” I thought to myself. “Oh well, this is where good ol’ Facebook will help me.”

I decided to pop out a message to her a couple days after the party, and we then began some basic chatter. She checked on me when I arrived in Louisiana for my vacation, and I then sent her another message once I got back home.

What really got us going was when I opted to ask if I could call her on January 9th. Our first conversation was at 11:30 PM on that cold Friday night, and because it was already fairly late we kept it to just under 30 minutes. After that though, we had a series of hour-and-a-half long conversations during which I worried about sailing far beyond my meager allowance of 450 cellular minutes. (I called to change/upgrade that plan, and ended up cutting my bill in half while getting unlimited talk and text with the same amount of data with the Verizon Loyalty plan. Why hadn’t y’all told me about this plan long ago!)

Anyway, we discovered that we had many things in common. Chief among these is our enjoyment of music, and particularly 90’s R&B. In one conversation, she clicked on different songs in her little collection and we reminisced on the things we were doing and experiencing when that song was popular.

Other commonalities are that she is quite intelligent, somewhat quiet, and very open to listening and helping others. Not necessarily saying that I am the latter, but well I’d like to think I am?

My favorite thing though is that she gets, often responding in kind to, my weird sense of humor and weirdness in general, probably due in part to her enjoyment of working with children. I think that one must be able to understand this if one has any hope of tolerating me. It makes our conversations a lot of fun.

We kept talking and talking until our first in-person meeting on Valentine’s Day. Ah, that day which is already preloaded with all sorts of hallmark expectations. But we enjoyed it, picking up some food from a Chick Fil-A drive-through and crashing on the couch. We first watched the game between the University of North Carolina and Pittsburgh, which UNC lost handily. The only really important thing we don’t share in common, and something on which I am still working ha ha, is our allegiance with regards to the UNC-Duke rivalry. She pulls for the Devils! Ah.

We also watched an X-Men movie that I think had come out in 2012, as she enjoys that sort of stuff. I think that meeting was all both of us had hoped it would be.

Then this past weekend, she slogged up here through the insistence snice and we just hung out again in my little spot. This is when I finally managed to get over my shyness enough to ask about what was going on between us. I am happy, and I feel that this has a lot of potential. Certainly I can already sense myself feeling more connected to things in a way that I hadn’t realized I was lacking. All people wish to be part of something bigger than themselves, right? I know I have plenty of work to do on myself to really be the kind of person I would like to be for her, but I am committed to doing my best to get there. We shall see.

So yeah, the great promise of 2015 still unfolds in new, unanticipated ways. Hopefully things will continue to head on the up and up as this crazy Winter blast finally begins to get out of here! I hope that whatever is happening with your year has been all you’ve hoped for and more as well.

Cha-cha-changes

Welcome to the first official post of 2015! Yeah I know, some of the Louisiana entries were made during 2015, but they were referring to an event that happened way back in ancient times of the year previous. So, here ya go.

Man, has this year gotten off to a rockin’ start! It is setting up to challenge me in ways I’ve never really been challenged, but that will help me get closer to where I want to be pretty quickly. These changes are happening on both a professional and personal level.

First, excitedly, I have been named President of the Norrie Disease Association. This was necessitated by our previous president having to step down due to some unfortunate circumstances that have made it difficult for him to continue in that role. While the reasons make me sad, I am still appreciative of having this opportunity and hope I can make the most of it. I got a strong vote of confidence from my fellow board members, though I honestly am not entirely certain why. Me? One who is sometimes too shy to make a simple phone call? Who definitely has a ways to go before he is as assertive as he would like to be? But, I hope I have made and am making progress in this area, and it will help to have such knowledgeable people to assist me as I do so. We’ll see if this August’s conference goes off fairly well.

RELATED: Five Years of the NDA

Second, this city and the Triangle Transit system have decided to pull a bit of a switcheroo on me. They’ve altered some of the routes that I take, especially that which I use to get home from work. I hadn’t known this initially, I suppose because I wasn’t smart enough to check the service changes page they posted shortly after the year began. This meant I got stuck at Durham Station downtown for 30 minutes, in the cold wind! I have since been trying to learn how to get from my old bus to the new one, and a cool thing is that BlindSquare GPS, an app on my iPhone, can actually tell me where the buses are within the station. Well it probably has some set database that doesn’t change often, as some of the numbers are transposed a bit. For example, the 700 now stops where the 400 used to, so it still calls that the 400. But as long as I know this, I can easily still use it to track my location. Hopefully I will know it by rote soon enough.

The final change I will talk about at this point is in my reading habits. Check out my 2014 Booklist, which you should find in the “Pages” section of this site. There, I note that I consumed 34 titles last year, a record for me. Many of these titles were by so-called “indie” authors, as I’ve befriended them on Twitter and wanted then to check out their works. As local writer Monica Byrne noted in an article that discussed her book, 2014 was actually the year of the indie author in many respects. One of its best reads, The Martian, had been put out by an unknown guy named Andy Weir. The thing I most liked about this book is that, while he clearly knows his stuff regarding what the planet is like, how one might experience a mission there, etc.; he does a good job of making things understandable to those of us who maybe don’t have such advanced knowledge.

I also took in more nonfiction than I ever have before. I’m thus starting off this year in the same way, currently reading a very popular title called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks about a black woman who’s cancer cells were scooped in the 50s, implanted in a dish, and have gone on to aid in lots of research, medications, and the like. It’s an interesting read.

I have it as a goal this year to reach fifty (5-0!) books. That’s a lot for me, as I normally don’t have a whole lot of time to sit and read. I’m doing them two at a time though, and already about a third of the way through both books three and four.

I have them all in my iPhone these days, using the Audible, BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) mobile, iBooks, and Kindle Apps. All of these apps have their pros and cons, but as far as functionality goes I think Audible tops the list. In Kindle, if I happen to get a notification it shoots me to the top of the page I was currently reading. In iBooks, I am slowed by having to wait for the page-changing announcement to disappear, though I suppose I do like this announcement since I can keep track of my progress. And in BARD, the audio books work fine, but I wish the Braille books would be automatically marked when you stop. If I forget to set a mark before closing the app, it’ll jump back to the beginning of the book and I must then find my place again. Depending on how far I’ve read in, this can take a while!

Anyway, that’s a quick scan of 2015 as it has unfolded thus far. It looks to be an entertaining year, full of unexpected occurrences. I just hope most of those are favorable for me and for us all. More soon.

Another Durham Night

A month or so ago, I got a notice via email that NPR’s Ask Me Another, a puzzle/comedy show, would visit the Carolina Theater here in Durham. I decided I would go, opting for mid-priced, and thus first of two balcony level seats. It took place yesterday, and was quite enjoyable.

First though, I had to visit a more recent but instantly respected local institution, Cocoa Cinnamon. I’d read an article way back when I arrived in the Bull City last February about how this place was started, I think by some Russian folks? I can’t exactly remember the story, but was inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit it suggested. It kind of made sense to go on this day, since the little cozy coffee shop was located only a few streets from the theater.

I got there at 4:15. The crowd kept ebbing and flowing around me as I leaned back in a comfortable, homely chair. The only issue I had was that there was little table space inside, meaning I had to hold the giant, two-hands-requiring mug aloft. This meant I couldn’t immediately use my iPhone, which ok ok was probably a good thing, as it forced me to enjoy the environment while I sucked down the vanilla latte..

And speaking of that, yeah the price was a bit up, but I suppose you’ll have that at a non-chain establishment. However, as I said I looked forward to actually supporting locals with good business sense.

And the baristas were nice as well. I remained there till around 6:30, and thus a different woman helped me with the cookie recommendation, a giant coffee-flavored confection, than I’d encountered when I entered. She was also kind enough to walk me outside and help get me into my Uber ride for the short trip over to the auditorium.

Last chance for a $30 trip! Use my Uber code to sign up: johnm1014).

The show started at 7, with the house opening at 6:30. I had to wait a couple of minutes to go inside, but was able to do so in the lobby that smelled of popcorn. My kind volunteer usher told me that the building has two entertainment auditoriums and a cinema where, well different, movies are shown. I think they like to air old stuff as well as pre-screening newer ones. I’ve also learned that that theater has been around for 86 years.

Even so, I was glad to see that this theater had an elevator. I could have of course walked up the stairs, but hopefully the lift would make it more wheelchair accessible. I’m not sure about the small steps that lead up to one’s seat though, but I guess they probably have an area where chairs can park before actually getting to said stairs.

I was told that the auditorium where Ask Me Another was staged holds approximately 800 people. Into my seat, I settled in and immediately sent my cane sailing away somehow. The woman to my right couldn’t initially see it, which caused me to panic. But luckily, it had just fallen to my left. I also enjoyed a short conversation with the guy on y other side, who said he was a great fan of the show but hadn’t known what Ophira Eisenberg, the show’s host, looked like; since he’d only listened to the podcast.

Things actually got started about 12 minutes late, I suppose not too surprisingly. Weekend Edition’s Scott Simon did the courtesy announcement “please turn off your smartphones,” then Ms. Eisenberg came onto the stage. She buttered us up, “Durham, are you ready to party!”, and told stories of predictable Southern hospitality as she walked through the grocery and on the street.

“Um, I wasn’t really sure how to react to that”, she thought in response to some such acknowledgement.

The house musician, Jonathan Coulton, worked the audience into a fervor with a silly song in which he instructed us to sing roughly in a way that represented whichever characters the song was referencing. Sadly, I couldn’t exactly hear what they were saying. That’s probably not much of a surprise, though. They definitely had fun with it, and the energy of the crowd made me smile.

Then, the official recording began. What we hear on the radio only lasts an hour, but it actually takes about two to complete. It begins with two contestants answering a series of crazy category questions. The first was “Are you ready to rumble!” in which all of the correct responses would end in MBLE. The competitors got into it, mumbling “are you ready to mumble?” sounding meak and quiet when saying “are you ready to humble?”, and the like.

The next category was sports teams. They would give some silly clue, and the contestant had to determine which college team was being spoken of. Everyone was kind of quiet as she mentioned this, till someone did the example, saying something that referred to the Blue Devils. More people boo’d than cheered, which amused me since we were definitely in Duke territory. I guess in the Carolina Theater, it was a partisan Tar Heels crowd. Well, of course.

“Wow, a lot of emotion there!” she laughed in response to the crowd’s reaction. “Everybody’s like blah blah when the category is mentioned, but when I ask you who’s side you’re on?…”

After another category of some kind, she interviewed a musician who now lives in the area, but is originally from California, I think. He’d lived in Iowa before arriving in Durham, and commented on the hilarity of being able to walk onto his driveway in barefeet on Christmas here. I’m not sure if I would do that, but well… They then asked him to identify a series of songs that had been altered lyrically in some way. More contestants then did this as well, identifying songs associated with states but who’s state names had been changed to more exotic locales “to bring about world peace,” according to the show’s proctor.

Intermission happened at roughly 8:30, and I got my exercise getting up and sitting down as people moved about along the extremely narrow steps. My knees were so close to the heads below me that I had to make a conscious effort to avoid knocking them against those heads repeatedly. It was fine, though.

The final round was on hills, in honor of Chapel Hill. They nearly ran out of questions to ask the two finalists, and so came down to a tie-break that gave the win to the first to buzz in and answer correctly.

So those are a few of the highlights I can recall. Overall, I really had fun and found it to be a fascinating experience. As someone else pointed out, it was interesting to hear Eisenberg go back at the end and re-speak short portions that the producers, through an earpiece I think, told her to smooth out. This particular episode will actually air on January 22nd, and I will probably listen to it to see how it juxtaposes with what I heard while live in the place.

Now, still looking forward to the live Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me taping I’m due to attend in Chicago. I guess that’ll happen sometime next year though. I want to do more other stuff like that as well.

But that’s a thing I really love about Durham: it’s small, but has good transit and enough umph to attract some pretty cool acts. We’ll see what else I can find indoors, to keep my mind off of the falling temperatures.

Five Years of the NDA

The organization to which I am referring, the Norrie Disease Association, has actually existed for more than 5 years. If my facts are correct, it was founded in 2006 by individuals with Norrie or those who are close to such individuals, (e.g) family members, certain medical professionals. The main purpose of the NDA is to offer support to all involved, advance ability to do and knowledge into research on Norrie-related issues, and to enhance outreach within the larger medical and social context.

I became aware of this organization in 2009, when they advertised to a group of us who had completed a survey about Norrie symptoms on their upcoming conference in Boston. I decided pretty quickly that I would in fact attend that conference, with little understanding of how my life would change as a result.

On November 13 of that same year, 2009, I sat outside of my apartment clutching a nearly dead cell phone to my ear and shivering as I tried to maintain reception. I was attending my first ever teleconferemce as a board member of the NDA, and man was I ever shy. I probably didn’t say much beyond “Hello” when I called in, and “bye” on disconnecting after two hours of chatter. To be honest, I wondered why I’d opted to volunteer in this way at all, and especially as I was in the thick of a crazy first semester at grad school.

Time passed, and with few exceptions I attended each monthly meeting. Slowly, a rapport built between me and the rest of the group, which also consisted of two other Norrie men, two parents of persons with Norrie, and a sibling of that same type. The thing that most brought me out of my shell was the feeling that others took my responses seriously, even if at first they may have been hard to hear, since I would mumble with little confidence.

The person who did the most to ensure that I found a bit of my niche as NDA boardmember was the late, great Mike Kosior. My understanding is that this group was initially his idea, and at that time he held the title of Vice President. He encouraged us all actually, making each person feel like he or she had something valuable to contribute. We hadn’t discovered until he died, but Kosior took the time to email us one by one, asking how things were going, wondering how he might help to make things better, and giving us all silly knicknames. I was “Chief”. Interesting.

I got to participate in planning for the 2012 conference, a month prior to which Mr. Kosior sadly passed on. It was tough to carry on anyway, but we all felt that he would have wanted us to do so more than anything.

I’d chosen to head the meeting of Norrie men at the conference to discuss challenges and such that we face among ourselves, and I admit and have been told in critiques that I didn’t do the best job in the world at moderating said discussion. I think that shortcoming was again reflective of my general shyness, a characteristic I hope I’ve managed to tamp down a bit simply by continuing to watch how other board members conduct themselves.

I imagine I may get a good chance to find out at our next conference, which is tentatively set to take place in August of next year. I have been vice president since August of last year, and admittedly I’m still not entirely sure what I should do with the role. I do know that I have big shoes to fill, and should begin making more of an effort to do so, perhaps just by taking inspiration from what I got to see of Kosior’s actions.

In any event, I look forward to serving for as long as it is deemed acceptable and of use by and among others. I agree with the president though that we need at some point to get some new blood, so that we keep things, people, and ideas fresh. So to the rest of you in our little Norrie community, keep your ears open for when slots do open up. We will need individuals who represent a number of different backgrounds. Till then though, here’s to another five years!

#GoVote2014 : My First Election Day Ballot

I had intended to get into the early vote line, as I’d done back in 2008, but stuff kept preventing me from going. Well to be truthful, the “stuff” was cold, blustery weather! Especially the case on Saturday. So, I ended up putting it off till today.

I’d looked up where the appropriate polling station was, and thought initially that I could access it by walking. It’s only just over a quarter mile away, after all. But after taking out the GPS and walking to my apartment complex’s leasing office, and finding that I was getting no closer to that location, I almost just gave up and stayed home. Well this happened after I ventured inside of the office and asked a worker who didn’t seem to speak much English if she had any idea where the polling station was.

Once I got home though, I fired up the Uber app and it said I could get a ride within two minutes. After the craziness I’ve seen in articles about this company charging people insane fares over Halloween, I was kind of hesitant to book a ride on this possibly busy night as well. I love the service, but if they charge me $500 I would be quite unhappy, to say the least!

A car arrived, fortunately with a driver who had seen me before. As we rolled up, he said “oh yeah, looks like a voting place. The line stretches nearly off of the sidewalk!”

I hopped out, thankful that the temperature was only in the mid 60s or so, and gingerly made my way toward the line’s first occupants. A woman who was on her way out helped me to find where everyone else was.

I was initially assisted by a kind person who said she works in RTP, went to school in Boston, and was originally from DC. She ended up having to leave, because her husband called saying he needed a ride.

Then, I was attached to, well, a nice but definitely opinionated person. She made her political views known for at least the next 15 minutes, causing me to chuckle a little if anything. I suppose it is a good thing to be so passionate about your beliefs, but I am saddened by the amount of vitreal that results from said these days. I mean disagreements, or perhaps more accurately differences of opinion on how policy should be enacted and who should do it are fine. After all, how would this voting thing work if such differences didn’t exist. We just need to re-remember how to listen to each other and be willing to hear things that are quite contrary to our own positions.

So I listened to her chatter as we inched our way toward the hot room, where we were again split into lines based on our last name’s place in the alphabet. This led me to be passed on to a third individual, who told me she’s currently attending Durham Tech and studying Early Childhood. She said she sees me outside of my door on a regular basis, and also offered to give me a ride once the voting was complete. Really kind person.

After another 20 minutes or so, we finally approached the table. We were asked if we had a picture ID, but told we didn’t need to display them for this election. They will be needed for the next. I’d registered to vote at the DMV when renewing my ID anyway, so I was good there.

Next, the woman thumbed through her list of names, confirmed that I was indeed on it, and presented me with a ballot. My new friend then took me over to a guy to inquire about the accessible voting machine, and he said he often uses it because it’s “cool”.

The ballot was fed into the machine, and off I went. That guy was attempting to talk to me as I listened to the instructions, but I finally got him to hold up long enough. There were also paper coverings on the earpieces, I guess so we don’t run the risk of transmitting germs from others’ dirty ears. A Braille display was present at the bottom of the machine, but it didn’t seem to be doing much other than posting the line “Insert ballot”. I would bet though that I could have done more to activate if, if I’d needed that service.

I have to say that it was quite empowering to be able to make my own choices and have time to go through the whole list. As noted in my 08 post, I didn’t get the chance then because of impatient folks saying they didn’t want to set the machine up. I will insist from now on that I be granted such access though, just as any other eligible American has the right to make his or her own voting choices without interference from others.

I was surprised that there were so many, especially the long list of judges whom I hardly know anyway. It took me maybe 5 minutes to work my way through all of the names, then a good little while for the machine to finish “Processing,” then we were on our way. I’d arrived at 5:15 or so, and think I hit the door out nearly an hour later. I don’t know how that looks with regards to other polling stations, but it didn’t seem too bad during the after work crush. Plus, I’ve rarely met so many people at the same time.

I confess that I haven’t voted nearly as often as I should, well ok that was only my second time so doing actually. But my ability to do so in this community continues to demonstrate the unprecedented level of access I have to resources here. This is why I would really like to remain here for a long time if at all possible. Not excluding some big, as yet unforeseen opportunity to relocate to a big city and great new job, but barring that I’m pretty happy right here in this little apartment.

I am also exceedingly pleased with the fact that so much is now accessible to persons who are blind, deafblind, with other kinds of disabilities and the like. Goodness knows we still have a long way to go. But as I sat in front of that machine participating in a widely watched state election, I thought about the brave men and women, African Americans, persons with disabilities, etc, who put their lives on the line to ensure that I could take that seat. I’m reading Edge of Eternity, Ken Follett’s last in a 20th Century trilogy that takes place mostly in the 60s. He puts his characters in the place of the major historical events of that era, I suppose revealing little-known details of what it was actually like on the ground. It has definitely given me a new appreciation, and if I can help it, I will vote forever going forward. Thank you.

#TransitThursday : On Uplifting Passengers and Drivers

This post inspired by the most recent on GoTriangle’s blog entitled A Shout out to Operator George Walker, in which we were asked to recount our good experiences aboard Triangle Transit buses.

It never takes long for a routine to develop. Both in coming to and leaving work, I have encountered individuals who do surprisingly small things that make a big difference in the day’s direction. I suppose they are aware of the effect they have, but it never hurts to acknowledge in a formal way.

At 6 AM, I arrive at the Durham Station transportation center, where I await the usually timely 700 bus. This will take me to the Regional Transportation Center, (RTC), which is right across the lot from my employer. Usually I have my iPhone in hand, headset on, and some interesting programming to try and keep myself awake.

I think maybe a month and a half ago, I heard something unique as we approached the dropoff point. The driver, I guess an older woman but don’t know for sure, began talking to us on the PA. Ever since, she usually offers some word of encouragement, and makes a point of saying hi and bye to each passenger as we board and disembark.

She also has a pretty good singing voice. I admit I got a bit nervous when she began singing “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” while navigating the winding roads near RTC. Fortunately though, she left the “clap”ping to us. We were all highly amused though, stomping and cheering by the time we arrived. The smile I had on my face after that, and after so many of her fun interventions, caused me to easily sail through at least the first half of the day before my head began to bob on a stick. I know she probably feels pretty tired herself, and so think it’s great that she takes the time to inject that little bit of life into her regular passengers.

The other person from whom I regularly draw energy hops on to ride in the afternoons. I’ve searched this blog high and low, and am surprised to discover that I hadn’t yet written about her, at least not in a way that I can think to find. I guess I’ve just done so in other circles.

Our initial contact happened, because she was concerned that I might find it difficult to get home safely through a forecast storm, maybe in mid April. I ensured her that I would be fine, and unwittingly, a friendship was born.

We only get two minutes, if traffic causes us to slow up enough, so the getting-to-know-you has occurred in fits and starts. She is an older, wiser, person with whom I talk a lot about my employment goals. Doing so leaves me feeling more positive, and also helps me think things through.

I enjoy watching the camaraderie she has with her colleagues, as they all band together to help each other out when needed. She has also helped me run errands on occasion, and would have allowed me to join their group for a fun night out in Durham if I’d not been too slow on the uptake with regards to checking messages. I would say that if there’s anything I most enjoy about public transit, it would be this kind of community-building.

So thank you drivers and passengers for helping to add some spice to what would in many cases be drab workdays. As always, I hope that I give at least half as good as I get.

The Dinner

Well, I promised to write a bit about my experience attending the dinner for those who had received or were receiving the Thorpe-Mitchell Diversity Leadership Fund Scholarship. So, I will attempt to do just that.

A cool and somewhat gloomy Thursday dawned, but I felt satisfied that I would get a shorter workday. I knew that in order to arrive in Chapel Hill so that Dr. Mitchell, my former grad school mentor, could pick me up; I would have to depart from the jobsite around 2:15. Before catching the 805 bus at 2:30, I finally scuttled across the lot and picked up 2 7-day Triangle Transit bus passes. For some odd reason, they never gave me one for this month, so I’d been having to cobble together enough cash to board every morning. This was a pain.

It had been two years (2!) since I last ventured over to UNC Chapel Hill’s Health Sciences Library, where I lived during my grad school days. So I guess it shouldn’t have been too surprising that I couldn’t remember things as well as I’d thought I might. After detours into grass and accidentally sliding inside of other buildings, I arrived at the School of Medicine in which my mentor’s office is contained. The sounds of students and smell of mingling perfumes flooded me with nostalgia and longing to be back in that circle.

She was at that moment engaged in another appointment, so I cooled my heels in the reception area and played with GPS apps, learning what all was nearby. Much of UNC is labeled, which is pretty cool.

Then we were off. The get-together was to be held at the Hampton Inn Chapel Hill Carrboro, which was not far at all away from the med school. So we arrived early, as it was to start at 5, went to wash hands and all that fun stuff, and settled in.

I had a name tag on, and so as I sat there a confusing array of people stopped by to say hi and inquire about the status of my life, what I was hoping to do, etc. All of the other recipients, as well as nearly everyone else there, works in the Allied Health field. This is a broad area, covering careers from Rehab Counseling (which is what I had tried) to Occupational Therapy, Clinical Laboratory Science, and Speech Language Pathology, to name a few. And most of them actually had decent jobs, too.

We were to give a short speech detailing what we had achieved, how the scholarship had helped us, and why we felt that diversity of culture, gender, and thought was necessary in the field of Allied Health. And, well, I don’t know what I said. I had ideas, but guess I was a bit intimidated by my own current position and desire not to come across as a negative ned. I croaked something about appreciating the award, it having been my second such after being named a Ronald E. McNair Research intern in 2001. McNair was the first African American astronaut who sadly lost his life in the Challenger explosion. As I’ve probably said before, that program’s goal is to increase participation of underrepresented groups at the graduate level. So, I feel I still have a high mandate to become more successful somehow, also in order to reimburse the scholarship fund I got while at UNC. I want to help others to have a better opportunity to get where they want to be as well.

With regards to networking, a couple of the individuals I spoke with are going to see about finding me some contacts to learn about journalism or communication studies programs. I met and was assisted in getting food by a nice young woman from Texas who now works at Duke doing something that sounded over my head. Haha.

For eating, they mostly had finger food. I had a few meatballs, a delicious little turkey sandwich with all kinds of stuff in it, some brie cheese, (whatever that is,) tuna, and a delicious brownie. Because I was unaware that my turn to speak would be next, I found myself hastily ramming the last of that brownie into my mouth as I made my way to the podium. This may be why I had a hard time talking in straight sentences: chocolate can amp you up!

And that’s really all that happened at the dinner. My phone also told my mentor how to get back to my apartment, and she says that now we will stay in touch and I might go over there to chill with her and her husband sometimes as I did while in grad school. She really is like a mother to so many of us.

Now I just need to try and ride the forward momentum gained from that experience to new heights, and hopefully stay up there this time! It was strange going back to the same old job on Friday, but also I felt better as I could see that tiny pinprick of light shining at the end of the proverbial tunnel. More soon.

Preparatory Thoughts

In pondering the next few days, I am inspired by a couple of my good blogger friends. I will mention them when referring to what they have said that so inspires me.

So here we are yet again, having arrived at that time of year when things either will or won’t change. Grad school? Some new way into my desired career? I’m still not entirely sure, but I do think long and hard about it as I jam light sticks into the packs each day.

Last week, I had a job evaluation. The supervisor concluded that I have indeed improved in nearly every area, and especially in speed of packaging and quality of the final product. These areas of growth didn’t necessarily occur passively, but rather I had to generate some active strategies to cut down on wasted time and still maintain or increase efficiency. I believe that these strategies will be useful for me wherever I end up.

I posted about this on Facebook, and some suggested that I should just make sure not to settle or even be too entirely pleased with my current situation. Well there is some truth to that, but I believe that in order to get what we want, we have to work hard on taking a more positive inclination to our lives. I’m telling myself this more than anyone else, because I’ve never been particularly good at doing so. I can gain something useful from this little job, if only that I can pay rent, travel, and get the stuff, especially iPhone and accessory-related, that continue to enhance my independence.

I’ve been pondering this since reading Amy Juicebox’s post What I’m Thankful For after their Canadian Thanksgiving celebration. Thanksgiving, MMM food! Anyway, I’ll try not to think about that just yet, as while it will mean bountiful food, it will also portend the beginning of the real cold months.

Second, I dove-tail a bit off of Natasha Ramsey’s post entitled Passion? Do I know what it is? Do you? Boy am I ever trying to figure this out! I posed this question to my Twitter followers once: does everyone have at least one thing that they’re good at? If so, how do we find it. I’m not really sure if I can move on until I do, but then how will I find it if I don’t actually move on. It’s the old chicken and egg problem.

I’m hoping to get some kind of momentum by attending the Thorpe-Mitchell Diversity Scholarship dinner this Thursday. I had won this scholarship while in grad school, which then led me to meet Dr. Brenda Mitchell, the person I considered my mentor. It’s been far too long since I last spoke with her, mainly because I have so little time outside of employment to venture over to the University of North Carolina. So, it will be nice to catch up with her and the rest of those folks, and I’ll try not to get too down on myself based on my current situation.

The thing is, they want us to speak to the audience about where we’re going and how the scholarship may have ultimately helped us get there. I know what people have to say regarding my possibly returning to grad school and largely agree. Have I thoroughly considered other options? Will I be financially prepared. Well, I hope so. Very tentatively starting conversations with people about Master’s programs in either Communication Studies or Journalism. As far as I know, grad school is still my best chance to make more happen. And the thing for which I feel the gratest passion is this thing I’m doing right now: writing/blogging. So, I’d like to take a shot at making something happen with that. As I learned last time, you may as well not even mess with grad school unless you’re going to be able to find that drive! So, we’ll see. Still a long way to go before I know what will happen.

I suspect I will post a bit about my experience at this scholarship dinner. I think it’s pretty cool that I was even still invited. How do you feel about your current job/career? Is it anywhere near your passion, assuming you’ve figured out what that is?

Ramblings on a Crisp Day

Hello. I have to admit I’m feeling a bit uninspired, but need to try and type something out anyway. So, I am sitting under the sun, for it is so cold out that one must be in sun to enjoy it if that one is me, and just letting my brain wheels spin.

I guess the first piece of news, which most of you already know, is that I got my iPhone 6 on Friday. It’s both longer and wider than the 4S, and amazingly thin. The unit is subtly faster than my other one as well, as I’m noticing that apps start up immediately on launch. And the battery life is fantastic! I’ve been running it, outside of the hours I took for sleep of course, almost continuously since 1 PM yesterday, and it’s still at 20% charge. My 4S definitely couldn’t do that.

Thus far, there are only a couple of things I don’t really like, and I think they’re more iOS 8 related. First, there is no way to turn off key echo in VoiceOver. This isn’t a big deal, but it probably slows me down a bit as I pound away on the screen. Also, the A button in particular only works intermittently, with me having to swipe away and back in many cases in order to input it. I do like that autocorrect seems to be less intrusive, in that it doesn’t make that pop-up sound but will just correct the word once you hit space. I need to figure out how to more adequately use the predict feature, but once I do I think that will be pretty cool as well.

I downloaded Alex, the voice that Apple had already included with VoiceOver for the Mac but only just put onto the iPhone. I like it, I suppose, but am just so used to Samantha, the American voice that had been there since this software was made for use on iOS, that I ultimately had to go back to her. I just feel I understand more of what she says at a higher speech rate. People’s milage with this may vary, though.

And now for something completely different in this largely pointless post: a topic I’ve not talked about much in a while. What am I reading. Well, I currently have two titles going, trying hard to get that somewhat low year’s book count of 26 up before we end it.I’ve read others by both of these authors before.

The first is Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is about what I assume is a little-known war in Nigeria, a Civil war of sorts between that country and a breakaway southern country called Biafra. (Assuming I spelled that correctly, having consumed it in audio). The story is told through the perspectives of three main characters, a house servant boy, the mystress of that same house, and her sister’s boyfriend. The latter is a white man originally from England, who has come to live in Nigeria and is writing a book on his experiences there, and particularly in the war.

It is a beautiful story, but kind of sad as so many kids slowly starve to death in villages that have been cut off by the warring Nigerians. While it does show that side of Africa, the side we often think of in referring to it, this novel also demonstrates that there was a substantial middle class even at those times. Some work for the area’s major university, while others are employed by the government. Some live in a sprawling oceanfront house, while others reside in a village near the city. I’ve heard Adichie talk about how she wishes to show those in the west that such parts of African society do exist.

The other I’m reading is Earthbound, by Elaine Calloway. The third in her Elemental Clans series, it takes place in Portlant. The earth elemental is attempting to stop the Acobi fallen angels from taking young girls into tunnels dug into the riverside and torturing them. He must also do battle with a woman who lives in a pressure-cooker family of workers in a business who try to get her to further develop the riverfront in a way that would thwart his plans.

As always with her books, the best part is the amazing description of the town and its surrounding scenery. I’ve also read the other two books in this series, Water’s Blood, which I think I reviewed earlier, and Raging Fire. They take place in New Orleans and New York respectively.

And now I’ll disconnect and continue listening to this Carolina Panthers game as I sit outside here at Dunkin Donuts. Given that we are a virtual mash unit lately, with so many of our players hurt, I’m surprised that we are at present winning 7-0. Hope we can hold on. More soon.