Christmas Vacation 2: The Party

Because I am completely unimaginative, I will use the same subject line I did at this time last year. As I had then, this year I also venture to Lumberton NC to attend the now-Annual Christmas party this past Saturday.

First, the departure. I am excited to learn that Megabus has now made available a route straight from Durham to Fayetteville. This means that, unlike last year when I had to get a neighbor to drive me to Raleigh where I connected with Greyhound, I am able to launch straight from home.

I almost don’t even manage to get out of here in the first place, though. Uber, I still love you as a service, but I have to wonder about the drivers you’ve hired of late. I know that the Megabus is scheduled to leave at 11:25, and I would have to stand in the near-freezing rain to wait, so I admittedly opt to push it about as close as I can and leave at 11. The Uber driver I get though is unable to understand English or, I gather, follow the GPS. I try in vain a couple of times to explain the somewhat complex instructions for locating my apartment and finally hang up. Pondering what to do and prepared to call Durham’s Best Taxi, another taxi happens to pull up in front of me and ask if I need a ride. I’ve seen this guy before as he regularly cruises the neighborhood, and so I don’t hesitate to jump in and hope I still have time to get to that Megabus stop. And because I was unable to properly cancel my Uber, they still billed me $4, I guess their base fare.

Oh man is it cold at this stop! The wind is cutting, and the rain isn’t absolutely pouring but it’s certainly hard enough to make even checking my iPhone impractical. A couple of other families stand nearby, kids milling around and probably trying to keep themselves warm as well. The vehicle mercifully arrives, and a woman lets me stand with her so that I will know when we can board.

I guess the vehicles can be designed differently, as this one has virtually no seat pitch. I sit with my knees almost under my chin, well ok maybe not quite that drastic but close, and try to figure out a way to balance my Braille display on my lap so I can read.

“Excuse me, sir” I hear a voice ask: “where are you getting off?”

I tell her, and discover that she is an older woman from Connecticut who is coming to visit her mom for a month. She has some kind of physical issue who’s origins she is not even certain of, and thus is unable to walk easily.

“I usually use an electric wheelchair,” she tells me: “but they’ve taken it and put it somewhere else. Having to use my walker now, which kind of hurts me.”

We talk about potential careers, and she says she once worked in customer service, but wants now to use her cooking abilities to start a food truck. MMM!

She has offered to help me sort things in Fayetteville in the event that I arrive and my pick-up ride isn’t there, but as it turns out, my ride is indeed waiting. She, as well as the woman on the bus, expresses some concern about the area of town in which the bus disembarks, noting that it’s “real ghetto”. I am just relieved to not have to wait in the cold again.

We speed toward Lumberton as I make conversation with the driver and a front-seat passenger who is also a friend. Both of us blind folks opt to remain in the car during the quick grocery stop, sitting for only about 7 minutes while some additional supplies are acquired.

The party is much the same as it had been the year before and the one before that. I meet my cousin and his wife there, as well as another couple from smalltown NC not far away from Charlotte, who had also been there the previous two years. But, a friend from my university days has made an appearance for the first time in a while. And the most exciting find: my other long-lost “cousin” also shows up with his very kind girlfriend, who impresses us all by her willingness to just jump right in and make herself at home among this disparate, sometimes crazy group.

I am given two tins of cookies, as well as a gift that I still have wrapped because I want something to tear into on Christmas. Just a little of that childhood sentimentality, for old time’s sakes.

The evening’s highlight is the gift exchange. I brought an umbrella, easy to tell what it is even though wrapped, but hey a useful device! Especially considering that we’ve turned into Seattle lately. I don’t know who takes it, but it is plucked near last. I initially get a $25 Starbucks gift card (OO, nice!) but am not surprised in the least when someone opts to “steal” it. On my next draw, I got some sort of ringholder. Funny.

We also consume delicious nachos with cheese and meat, pasta sallad, and the requisite sausage ball that I have every time I go to this particular residence. We laugh as the NFL’s Washington Redskins amazingly knock off the Philadelphia Eagles, ending the Eagles’ hopes of making the playoffs.

After more chattering and ingestion of punch mixed with OJ, lemonade, Southern Comfort, and perhaps something else, I slunk off to bed.

And that’s pretty much the crux of the happenings at this year’s party. Most everyone had already departed long before I do, but I stay with my friend and watch our Carolina Panthers keep their playoff chances, which should by rights have been long gone, alive with a win over the Cleveland Browns 17-13. We have to defeat the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday starting at 4:25 in order to win the woeful NFC South, and extend our season with the worst record in NFL history of any team that has managed to do so.

I guess I’ll check in on that one while down in Louisiana, as I will be from this Friday till next Tuesday. Those will of course be my next series of posts. I’m guessing more will happen than I can even contain in two entries. We shall see, though. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and happy holidays.

EDIT: Oh, and I also don’t have to await a ride when I arrive on the Megabus in Durham, as the individual I’ve designated as my favorite cabbie happens to be there. I guess she positions herself near arriving transit vehicles like that and Amtrak to see if she can get a fare. Makes me happy, again.

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.

Post-Convention: Writer’s Block and Finding Me

So, I’ve been back from my fun trip to Las Vegas for a bit over two weeks now, and I’ve not been able to think of anything particularly interesting to write about. I feel a bit dry, just trying to keep going from day to day. But my goal is to make at least one entry per week, so let’s see if I can just capture a hodge podge of my thoughts.

One of the things that has made this period better is spending two consecutive weekends with my cousin: the previous down in Charlotte and this one here in Durham. This was especially nice, as I opted, after asking my supervisor if I had enough time to do so, to take off of work on Friday and chill at home. My cousin had arrived on Thursday night.

We just did a lot of talking, harkening back to long ago days when we would often stay awake into the early morning hours, watching sports and gnawing on pizza slices. As far as baseball goes, I guess I’m an Atlanta Braves fan, as much as I’m a fan of any team. I like the sport, but wish we could get our own major league team somewhere in North Carolina. This isn’t likely to happen anytime soon though, given the many minor league franchises we have speckled throughout the state. Anyway, we listened to the Braves lose to the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1. They seemed unable to do much of anything.

On Friday, I figured we might want to get out of the apartment for a bit. So, I used Uber, the service I mentioned a few entries ago, to take us over to the Waffle House on Hillsboro Road, about 1.5 miles away. I’m starting to use this service more and more frequently, finding that it is regularly cheaper than cabs and probably more reliable as well. I had them take me over to the DMV to get that expired ID card renewed, and going straight from work it was probably about $7 less than I would have paid otherwise. I also took them back to the Amtrak station when leaving Charlotte last weekend, and sent my cousin to the Durham Amtrak when he left yesterday via Uber. This last after there was some miscommunication that occurred when my favorite cabbie hadn’t let me know she wouldn’t be available to pick him up and was sending another cab. When that cab arrived and told me I’d called for a cab, I insisted that I hadn’t. I mean, it’s a strange thing to have happen when one isn’t expecting it. My cousin had planned to catch the 2:33 train out, but because of that snafu he ended up having to wait for the 7:48 train.

If you’d like to try Uber, and it’s available in your area, why not get us both free rides by using my code at sign-up: johnm1014 . Thanks.

And, not much else. I hear tell that we may get at least one final burst of summer. I sure hope so! Right now, it doesn’t seem as if the sun has shone since at least Wednesday. Anyone who knows me knows I begin to feel deprived after such a long time without that warmth. On Friday, we had to brave heavy rains and gusts, and were lucky to emerge with our hearing aids in tact. It was definitely fun.

I am doing a lot of reading and acquiring books with the Amazon gift card I was given for my participation in the Braille study at ACB. So far, I’ve gotten Earthbound, by my good online friend Elaine Calloway, the third in her Elemental Clan series. I also got one that sounds fascinating to me called Fasten Your Seatbelts: A Flight Attendant’s Adventures 36, 000 Feet and Below, by Christine Churchill. I read Heather Poole, another famous flight attendant’s book Cruising Attitude at about this time last year, and feel that it will help me continue my travels, if only in my mind.

Not that I have any idea when I’ll have time to read these books, on top of the stuff I’m already reading from Audible and/or the NLS, but we shall see. Certainly the iPhone does make that easier.

Let’s hope I have more fun stuff to write about in the near future. Till then, I’m off to enjoy what remains of my weekend, and perhaps catch a bit of tonight’s preseason NFL opener between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. That’s right, it’s already time for American football again. Too fast does time go.

On Unruly Bus Passengers And Social Skills

Sometimes, things happen that leave one shaking his head. They also kind of dove-tail with some of the thoughts I’d had regarding my own social skills, which admittedly may or may not be where I’d like them to be.
The relatively empty bus rattles toward the transportation center. I have my headset on, listening to the latest news as usual. A passenger boards approximately a stop before the station, but at a point where some highway still separates us from that final location.
“Hey!” I hear him say: “don’t you do…?”
I kind of lose track of what he is asking the driver, but I know at first he was inquiring about which bus left for the airport and at what time. Then he says he’d need to take the driver’s number, because apparently the driver provides some service that he was desperately seeking. I think that driver expressed reluctance to divulge his digits.
“Ah alright, man,” he said: “I’ll just give you my number!”
I put exclamation points, because everything this guy said is indeed very loud. It doesn’t take long for me to develop a headache and long for that bus to hurry up and let me off!
I transfer. Ah, I’m free of that, right? Wrong!
Not long after hopping onto the second bus, the skies open up and thunder booms overhead. We ease away from the station, this time with a woman at the wheel.
“Hey!” someone yells.
And again, I lose track of his thoughts as he thunders on and on.
“I can’t really even hear you!” the driver says over the din of the downpour.
And if that isn’t the same guy as before, then it’s incredibly ironic.
When I do manage to re-connect with the conversation, he is asking “but you’re not allowed to give out your number, right?”
“Right,” she says.
“Ok, well I’ll give you mine when I get off. … Ok?”
“Ok,” she replies.
Woo, I think to myself; perhaps that’s finally over.
“You know, your husband is really lucky,” he pipes up again.
Sigh. I have no idea what kind of state this guy is in, but maybe he was trying to figure out a way to talk to people. It probably bordered on, if not actually being, harassment.
While that’s a particularly brazen example of how not to socialize with others, I can’t entirely say I’ve been all that good at it either.
Back in my younger days, I pretty much thought that every time I met a woman, I should try and get her number or find some other way to ensure that a connection was established. I wasn’t doing this for malicious reasons, but because I thought it was the only way I could have a chance of finding where and with whom I might be able to build a relationship.
Needless to say behaving in this manner can create sticky situations, and especially for one who is blind and can’t see her husband, standing right there. Yes, I’ve done that once. That incident finally showed me why just taking that sort of blanket approach was a bad idea.
So during this phase of my social development, I’ve pretty much gone to the other extreme. I really don’t try to connect with anyone, but instead I just keep working on my conversation skills. I do know that it takes more than a couple of minutes to really know if you want to continue talking to a person. I guess my difficulty now is that I feel that I’ve missed some good opportunities out of an abundance of caution. And of course, it would be nice just to have someone with whom to hang out. But all in time. I certainly don’t think it’s ever! Acceptable to make people feel uncomfortable in order to get something I want, and feel badly for the, hopefully, few times I’ve done that.

Stepping Out

Remember how, some time ago, I indicated that I wanted to be more a part of the Durham community? I felt I should start finding places more local, rather than just defaulting to the easy choice of Chapel Hill.
Well, I’ve finally taken a step in that direction today. As I write this, I’m sitting in the business center at Duke Manor Apartments, the giant Durham neighborhood located near its namesake (booo!) university.
A few moments ago, it was pretty quiet in here. Located just off a rather large and echoy gym, I could actually hear people working out on some of the machinery therein. I suppose that’s the next thing I need to go and discover. I wonder if they have somewhere to swim?
Then, a bevvy of children swooped into this room and began crying, fighting, and causing other amusing havoc. I feel somewhat more relieved about this situation now, as I can hear their parents yelling at them. The way they’re bouncing around in here, perhaps it’s not surprising that some of this furniture is a bit the worse for wear. The chair in which I’m currently sitting, for example, is permanently stuck in a reclined position.
And now one of those kids, with breath that smells of cookies, just tapped me on my chest. I guess s/he was attempting to ask me something, but what I don’t know.
Ah, well I’m enjoying this diversion. It’s definitely a different kind of weekend, although I’d hoped some of the clientele would be a little more college student like. Maybe that’ll happen as the school year approaches. I’m just happy to finally know where this place is, as it’ll be a good social spot during the cold winter months, when sitting outside is a bad option indeed.
This is all part of my continued effort to make this town home for me, during the length of time I actually remain here. We shall see what other kinds of craziness I can get into, as things progress.
(EDIT:) I just realized what that kid wanted. I’m wearing my Braille shirt that states the title of my old blog, Hearing Change, Seeing Promise. S/he probably wanted to feel that.
Sample of Chaotic Business Center (Audio)

Charlotte Trip and School Thoughts

Now that my cousin’s birthday has already come and gone, as of this Thursday in fact, I consider the summer on the decline. Man is it trucking by or what.
Remember all those fancy trips I’d pondered earlier on? Well, I don’t think any of them are really going to happen, for one reason or another. So, I’ve just had to make the best I can out of my little staycation.
I just returned from my third trip to Charlotte this year, this time to visit my cousin and his wife in their new digs. They live in a nice little place not far from where I spent some of my formative childhood years. There isn’t a whole lot in the way of restaurants or retail over there, but I suppose as a residential area it’s pretty decent. It’ll also give them the best chance to get off to a solid financial start.
I decided I’d take Friday and today off, since I would have done so if I’d actually gone to Washington DC as planned. On Friday I headed to Charlotte, having an entertaining train trip in which I got to talk to a nice woman all the way down to Greensboro. She said she’s 20 years of age, attending UNC Greensboro, and working a full-time and part time job. The full time is at Burlington Coat Factory and often can encompass 5 and a half days per week. The part time is babysitting children closer to her home town of Fuquave Marina. Right off of that train, she would go to work at the store from 7-10 that night, and by 9 AM Saturday morning.
“Wow, you’re a hard worker!” I said.
“I have no choice,” she responded.
And in a demonstration of how out of control our education costs are these days, she will still have to take the Fall semester off in order to save some money before continuing. This makes me sad, as one must have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, and really more than that, if one wishes to have a decent career.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and especially as I try to decide what kind of path will get me to where I’m going. As I prepare to begin this HTML course, (last day to enroll, by the way), I of course know and hope that others who are taking it are aware as well, that it alone will not result in some sort of magical employment opportunity. In fact, I hope that my experiences in the job market haven’t pushed my idealism/realism meter too far to the other side, to the point where I’m not really sure anything will quite work. I do hope this course will get me thinking about how I can use my newly acquired skills, along with ones I already have, to start the hard work of building credentials and experience. And as I discover that some of my long-time friends will also be taking this course, I grow even more excited by the possibility of firming up professional relationships.
Will I find a graduate school program to attend? Well, I’m not sure. As I said earlier, education expenses are increasing exponentially. And those points were in reference to undergraduate students. On this past Friday alone, I met three (3!) individuals who said they either were taking this semester off or had taken the previous semester off in order to scrounge up enough dough. While I hope I can get something to work out with my idea to become a professional blogger or social media manager, I know there are no guarantees. I’d like to avoid a $200,000 student loan debt that I’d never be able to repay with my workshop salary. So the tough adult choices continue to spin through my head, with no one to give me definite answers on which are correct.
My Charlotte trip did give me some respite from all of these worries, even if only for a couple of days. I ate, slept, enjoyed chatting and listening to baseball games with my cousin, and had my regular Charlotte lunch dates with a good friend I met online. On Saturday night, I even helped to make delicious fudge brownies that we enjoyed with almond milk, after having consumed garlic bread that my cousin made, and a couple of plates of delicious spaghetti with meat sauce and parmesan cheese.
So all in all, it was a great weekend. When I returned to Durham, I met the kind cab driver who has often assisted me these days in grocery shopping, going so far as to accompany me up and down the aisles and thus making it a lot less irksome a process. She quite regularly works with many of the area’s blind folk, and started telling me about all sorts of places near my apartment that I might want to know about as well. Things like that make Durham feel to me less like just a place to stay and more a bit of home.
More soon, probably on what I think after experiencing my first couple of HTML classes. I hope you’ve enjoyed this summer.

The Wedding, The Wetting, and Work

Friday:
Work. Or at least I used to call it that.
I punch the timeclock, grab a seat in the breakroom to listen to my NPR stories, then saunter onto the floor to start my day.
“Ok folks,” our supervisor says during our regular morning huddle meeting “we’ll begin by finishing what we were doing yesterday.”
That involved re-counting tiny round things, the nature of which I couldn’t identify. Ostencibly to verify that the number was correct, but more likely to remain somewhat occupied.
Ah, the summer doldrums return. Much of this week has involved working for small stretches, then waiting patiently for another task to be devised. The department to which I had defected the previous week no longer had need for my, or the others who had followed me, services. This is common at NIB-affiliated workshops, and especially as we await the end of the government funding crunch.
One of the results, and perhaps I’m not entirely displeased with this, is that we get the week of July 4th off without pay. Ah, of course I could always use the money. But at this point, I could also use the time for relaxation, contemplation, and preparation. I will still be up to quite a bit in the coming week.
So we make our way through the rest of the day in that vein, and I can barely suppress my cheer as I finally head for the door and freedom at 3:20. The duffel bag strap digs into my arms as I jostle myself aboard the Triangle Transit 700 bus that will take me to Durham Station, where I will then hop onto the free Bull City Connector for the short jaunt to the Amtrak Station.
Once at that ticket counter, I find that the trains are yet again sold out! Well the coach class seats are anyway, meaning that I will have to upgrade to business. I must show my appreciation to that agent though, as she asks me to hold off on the purchase for a minute while she attempts to squeeze me into coach somewhere. That was simply unavailable, and so I paid $47 instead of the usual $26 in the interest of just reaching my destination.
And I had only an inkling of what I was in for. This endless Carolina rain has and continues to reak havoc throughout the state.
The train departs Durham approximately 15 minutes late, but the time posted on the Amtrak iPhone app optimistically projects that we will make up much of this difference. But first a storm in the Triangle socks us, and then a much more violent storm screams in as we approach Charlotte. This last causes us to slow to what my GPS app tells me is between 7 and 10 miles per hour, meaning that it takes us nearly an hour to traverse from the entrance to the Queen City to its train station at 1914 North Tryon Street.
My patience is definitely gone by this point. I know of course that that situation is beyond their control, but am surprised that they can’t at least go 20 miles? I guess the tracks become too slick. I do make fun conversation with another passenger who says she’s been onboard since just prior to Washington DC. It could always be worse?
Once we finally arrive, my uncle collects me and we slosh through nearly knee-deep water. I say a prayer that my electronics will somehow survive the continuing deluge, and happily they do. In the car, Angel the poodle immediately says hi with tongue and tail as I make small talk with my uncle and cousin. My uncle, who is already zonked by this point, nearly takes us to the place where he and my Aunt used to stay off of Beatties Ford in the northwest part of town, instead of to my Aunt’s current residence near Providence Road. Luckily, we manage to slide on and arrive safely at our destination.
By this time, it is nearly 11 PM. I am saddened by this, because now I won’t get a whole lot of time to just sit and chatter with my cousin. Of course, I have to accept that those days are largely over with his now being married, a realization that I am fine with but just note as being another part of getting older and adjusting to change. We smack on a dinner of barbecue chicken and sides, yammer for approximately another half hour, and call it a night.
Saturday:
The vibrating phone pulls me to at 7 AM. I roll over, bring up the NPR News app, and continue listening to the stories from the day before. I’d tried to do so on Friday night, but a while after since they made longer no. So, I couldn’t deny that sleep was needed.
For breakfast, I have a hard boiled egg, it’s been a while since I’ve eaten that as they used to make my stomach protest but seem not to have an averse effect this time, sliced turkey sausages, grapes, and strawberries. Then I shower, put on my suit which if I manage to attach the photo one of my sisters took of me you’ll get to see, (yeah I know that some of you who only read my blog haven’t actually seen a picture of me) and headed out.
My mom says that the suit I have chosen has some red in it, which was my late Aunt and cousin’s mom’s favorite color. My mom has worn an outfit with red in it as well, in acknowledgement of her memory. I find that moving.
We reach the venue where the ceremony is to take place at approximately 10:20. It’s a recreational building at Charlotte’s Freedom Park where wedding receptions, birthday parties and the like are held. My uncle says that the architecture is some of the best he’s ever seen, with flat roofs and colors that blend in with nature. They even have it so that shrubbery grows right up against the side of the building, and the shaded areas are particularly effective in combating summer heat.
As we wait for things to begin, I chat with my Aunt and younger cousin while enjoying some mints provided by the couple. I like the little jar they come in, as someone says the seal is particularly strong and useful in camping or other outdoor areas. This may come in handy in a couple of weeks for me, as I have an exciting trip that may or may not happen then. Details forthcoming.
More friends and family trickle in, and we all note, only half jokingly, that we wish to do a better job of staying in touch. The first person I meet used to work with the Charlotte Beep Ball team on which I once played, but has baked the wedding cake for this gathering. Then I talk with another beep ball player who is one of the most energetic people I know. Finally, we all make our way back to our respective seats and settle in for the show.
To begin, they play snippets of Brandi’s version of Everything I Do I Do It For You, and another song I unfortunately can’t recall. I assume the couple is approaching the front of the room and the reverend ensconced there as these play.
Vows are exchanged, somewhat nervously but with a laugh whenever a little slip of the tongue or early reaction occurred. The whole thing probably took 15 minutes, but it’s as they wanted things, simple and to the point. I think they definitely still managed to achieve memorability, which was the most desired outcome.
Then there are the pictures. I bet photographers make the biggest portion of their income on weddings alone. Of course I’ve not yet had the experience of being groom, but it seems he and the bride participate in hundreds of photos. I and my family are shot in various group configurations with the newly weds, with me sometimes conjuring up smiles just from the amusing way they have to turn my head.
Once this is done, we reach my favorite part: the food! What? I have a delicious and giant meatball smothered in some kind of sauce, a couple of chicken tenders, a tuna sandwich, and some pineapples, along with a small goblet of punch. Licks lips. Then they rolled out the cake. I’m not exactly sure what that flavor was, perhaps German chocolate? I of course eat it with another big smile on my face.
And that is largely all of the substantive portion of happenings. My cousin and his wife depart for their weeklong vacation on the Isle of Palms, just off the coast of Charleston South Carolina. After making video statements to them about what we hoped their new life together would be like, (I sound silly and have a hard time speaking in a straight line as always, why can’t I speak like I write!) we all head out as well.
So as I tried to say then, I will again now. First, I again extend an official welcome to the newest member(s) of our family, as her folks are also included. My cousin and I spent many a night talking about the kind of person we would like to find and marry, and I feel that he is very blessed and fortunate to have found the one he has. I am excited to watch the ways in which they will grow and develop, and thank them from the bottom of my heart for the way they helped me both in finding and connecting to good times and in staying alive during the tougher times. I plan to do what I can to support both of you when I can, and especially as I hopefully begin to attain some financial stability. Here’s to Calvin and Corliss, many pleasant years together.

Blind Gaming on iOS

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

Needing Change, Wanting Work

Adulthood. Stress. The inevitability of expectations becoming reality. This seems to be my story.
Well, I’m not sure it’s quite reality yet, but it’s beginning to seem scarily close.
Remember the entry I posted near the end of April in which I detailed my pending plans for a summer trip or two? And how I talked about needing to hold back just in case I get bounced, at least for a time, from this job?
Well, I went to work today and was immediately concerned, because there was little to nothing to do. I spent nearly the entire eight hours, well ok I didn’t actually clock in till 9 due to another set of problems that I’ll get to later, in mind-numbing boredom. It seems no new orders have come in for the product we put out in my section, locks, in quite a bit, and thus all of the material has been used.
So to pass the time, I was given a tub with two different types of nails that I was to sort into piles in a different bin. It was busywork in the extreme. I’d grab one nail, drop it into its pile, deliberately count off either a minute or a minute and a half, and then grab another.
On top of that, it slowly warmed back there, as I suppose they’ve not really turned on the AC yet. While I am a big fan of warm weather, I either like to be outside in it or in a building with some degree of climate control. Its lacking, along with the generally aggravating nature of the work, made me a bit grumpier than maybe I would normally be toward anyone who attempted to talk to me.
I know there’s no way we could possibly continue to perform in that way for probably even a week. I’m really disturbed now and hoping that somehow some way we get some sort of order to work on.
I can’t afford to have this happen right now, as I suddenly find myself having to spend a lot of dough just to keep these hearing aids on. On Friday, shortly after having had my left-side aid shipped off for repair and a loaner installed, my right-side aid decided to die. I was thus stuck inside for the whole of the holiday weekend, which didn’t turn out so badly because the weather was fantastic. I just ate pizza and enjoyed some favorite movies from childhood to take my mind off of all the craziness and responsibility.
I have to pay $65 to cover repairs to my left-side aid, and will likely fork out another 70 or so in order to obtain a dry aid kit to hopefully avoid having this problem constantly in the future. So that’s the reason why I definitely need to keep some cash flowing in.
I guess this all is keeping me motivated to continue pursuing more meaningful career opportunities. As I reiterate, my dream is to work for either NPR or one of its local stations, perhaps as a social media person. They’re posting a lot of descriptions in an attempt to fill such positions, meaning that I may well be onto something. As it stands, I don’t really qualify for most of these positions. However, I’ve learned to view the descriptions as a sort of road map that tells me how to arrive at my destination instead of a roadblock that prevents me from getting there. This is an important shift in thinking.
One thing nearly all of the openings specified is a desire for the candidate to have some basic ability to design websites. To that end, I’m going to try and take a course this August that will cover a lot of the important components of web design. Offered by the Cisco Academy for the Vision Impaired (CAVI), they clearly place an emphasis on working with persons who are blind. They will teach such things as HTML, PHP, and CSS. Do I know what all of that is yet? No, but that’s why I’m taking it! They say you can come in on the ground floor and they’ll work with you to learn. It sounds intensive, but I’m excited to hopefully take a concrete step to opening the doors I need for advancement.
And that’s just a little of what’s been going on in my topsy turvy life. No wonder I’m exhausted already. Thank goodness for a shortened week.

Graduation Weekend

I’m sitting on my porch as the wind blows lightly. There was, I suppose, a fairly significant storm as I slumbered an accidental 3 hours on this Saturday afternoon, but then I suppose that such slumbers are what weekends are for.
So, this is graduation weekend, the one on which I would have completed my studies at the University of North Carolina if I’d managed to survive. I’ve been reflecting some on that, even as I celebrated with others on making it to that milestone.
First, my cousin and his fiancé came up to attend her hooding ceremony. Hooding? Yep, that’s what one gets upon completing a Ph.D. Wow, I have a lot of respect for one who can actually follow through with that.
I hadn’t realized that the “hood” was kind of a robe-like thing that one drapes over the shoulders. When she put it on me, I joked that her power had been transferred to me. DR. Miller!
“No, I want that back,” she said.
Then, I have the pleasure of attending a party thrown for one of my friends who has just received her bachelor’s degree. One of the nicest people I’ve known, she as part of the Community Empowerment Fund, an agency that especially helps people in the Durham/Chapel Hill area avoid homelessness, worked with me for much of 2012. She taught me some basic job skills and helped to improve my confidence when conducting the search. When I considered volunteering at UNC Hospitals, an idea that never quite worked out due to financial constraints sadly, she walked me to and from the place I would need to go a few times in summer heat until I got it. She and another person pitched in to assist me in moving my heavy furniture from my previous apartment into storage right before I headed off to PineBluff in September. And finally, she’s just a great friend who cares. It’s kind of a shame I lost my entries on the 2012 experience, or else I’d link up to them.
Anyway, I meet some of her family at this party after having been transported there by another awesome CEF personality. The host house is in Chapel Hill, but I think in Chatham County. The setting is idyllic: a nice deck outside that allows us to be splashed in sunshine, a long, curving gravel driveway, and separation from other houses by some woods. I can’t help thinking to myself that this would be a wonderful place from which to read and write, although perhaps I could get a little lonely out there.
They have food, including turkey sausages, a mix of fruits, m&m’s, and coffeecake. We eat this while chattering and being entertained by some kids who put on an impromptu jump rope show. Ah, I remember the days of doing that sort of thing. I don’t even know if I can get this long, lanky body off of the ground now.
And so this has made for a nice weekend thus far. The best part of it is getting to hang out and spend time with family and friends, and I hope that continues. I’ve kind of felt that the writing well is dry regarding my personal life these days, thus a greater participation in entries dealing with a specific topic or observance. But I wanted now to let people in a bit on how I’m feeling and what’s going on here. There will be more soon, I’m sure.
To all of you receiving any kind of degree this weekend or in the coming months, I offer my congratulations. Go forth and shake the world!