Sunday, June 28, 2009

rainy afternoon

Hello again everyone. It's a rainy slow Sunday afternoon. Thought I'd drag you along for a slice of it with me. Last night's get-together with Mark and Wendy was excellent as always. We went out to dinner at South Street Burgers and they use New York fries. I haven't had those in ages and enjoyed them thoroughly. The burger was first-rate also. After that, we went to Stony Creak Ice Cream where I treated for dessert. I hadn't thought about how long it's been since I enjoyed ice cream standing outside with a couple of good friends. The conversation was as stimulating as ever. Mark has a very dry sense of humour which plays off Wendy's tendency to take things literally in interesting ways. Both of them are also ready to hear a little about my frustrations. Even a good listener like me needs people like that from time to time.

I'm in a much better frame of mind about life than I was when last I wrote. It's damned easy to fall into the trap of not enjoying what we have and focusing on what we don't. This is particularly the case once you've experienced and then lost a woman's love. Thankfully, the service at church today helped me see that frustration in myself for what it was. I was starting to get bitter at how no woman would even give me a chance while people who behaved far worse than I seem to have no problem finding them. I've got an old school friend who's a perfect case in point. He's gotten drunk enough to be dangerous, irresponsible enough to accumulate a tremendous credit card debt. Despite this, he has a subsidized apartment of his own. He has an ex-girlfriend with child. They don't even know who the father is and he's already found a new girlfriend. As thankful as I am to have avoided such sheer messiness in my life, the question stands. I just can't help thinking that surely, there's a woman out there for someone as loyal, responsible and easy-going as me. If other less scrupulous people can seemingly go through them like some sort of bag of chips, why doesn't one come along who would truly be willing to settle down with me? You read and hear about even worse situations women find themselves in all the time. While I've always felt sorry for them, the thought that if they had just given me the ghost of a chance at a better life with them, they wouldn't be in their predicament is all too often present. There doubtless is one out there who could find me worthy of that kind of commitment and love. However, that doesn't mean that God will just move her to find me because I happened to think that he ought to. The pastor today pointed out the difference in "deserving" something and being found worthy of something. Love is something that we can only hope to be found worthy of. It's not about how hard one tries to live a good life although I still contend that this puts one in an ultimately better path for long-term happiness. Love is a force for good which goes far beyond that. We're such complex creatures that it's a wonder it happens at all. There are just so many aspects to our individual lives that finding two who connect in that way is akin to winning a lottery. I've put myself out there as much as it's humanly and economically possible for me to do now. I've left no stone unturned there. Other than try to make the best of life with all its frustrations, there's nothing else I can really do. Nobody truly deserves to have another's love bestowed upon them. It's a gift of unmatched splendour we can never earn.

Having things in this clearer perspective doesn't get rid of my frustration entirely. I miss those long, deep and often late-night conversations with someone who truly appreciated where I was coming from. I know that I'll never again be as able to be satisfied with my life as a single man. There'll be times when my frustration will get the better of me. However, my poise and a degree of patience with my situation has been restored to me for now. I'm beginning to have more confidence that God has given me enough support to get me through these rough patches of too much solitude. Solitude and writer's block are a particularly bad combination. My family can't really help all that much since these feelings are so strongly tied in with having a life of my own apart from them which circumstance has largely denied me. I'm just glad they're able to understand that it isn't their fault and that I don't love them any less.

That rain certainly hasn't gotten rid of the humidity out there. I've been lethargically plodding through this afternoon. Sky FM's new age music station has proved quite excellent listening as I've written this, checked email, etc. I have a bunch of podcasts I haven't gotten around to hearing just yet. No tremendous luck on POF or eHarmony. However, a 23-year-old Floridian woman has added me to her favourites for some unknown reason. That's quite a distance away but it certainly makes a nice difference than the 50+-year-olds who seem to appreciate my writing enough to do that. Perhaps, there is someone my age who shares enough of or respects my outlook on things enough to want to take the next step. I can but hope and soldier on. Thanks to a very good sermon and two very good friends, I feel far more able to do so with the balanced equinimity I'm more used to having.

Friday, June 26, 2009

this week's happenings

Hello everyone. It's approaching nine o'clock in the morning as I start writing this entry. I've been awake since around five thirty. Thankfully, my new Steelseries headset designed for gamers arrived yesterday. It looks like I've made another excellent move on the technology front. The headset works brilliantly with my soundcard. I'm hearing details through it that I've never noticed before. It took a lot of tweaking with Winamp's equalizer presets to get music sounding good but I've figured that out now. Movies have yet to be experimented with but I predict damned good listening without too much tweaking required on that front. When it comes to accessible games, I've had a few rounds of GMA Tank Commander and Superdeakout. My ability to move and act with precision while playing sound-based accessible games is definitely improved by this headset. I don't put enough time into gaming anymore to have any chance of making those top scoreboards many of them feature these days. However, if I had discovered these headphones five or six years ago, they might very well have given me enough of a technical edge to have achieved that. I'm likely going to be grappling with insomnia and these needless damnably early morning rises for life. Now, I can face that prospect a little more cheerfully. I can listen to things at a reasonable volume without waking either the dead or my parents. Also, as this morning has shown, I won't end up with that headphone fatigue you get after an hour or so of using less costly headsets by the time it's reasonable to go downstairs and grab some breakfast. A very worth-while investment indeed.

The other investment I made this week is one in which I have a lot less faith. You've doubtless heard of the dating site called eHarmony. I don't watch a whole lot of TV as a general rule but have heard countless advertisements from them. Frankly, I've spent too damned many lonely days and nights feeling like my potential for contributing to and experiencing more of life has gone untapped. It's like I'm a car whose engine is going at full speed but whose wheels float mere centimetres above the road spinning uselessly. Church certainly helps as do friends when they aren't otherwise busy. However, when you get right down to brass tacks, I don't think anything else can ever fill that void in my life other than a loving woman. I've never felt more at my best than when I was in a relationship. Given this, I would be less than human if curiosity plus the prospect of more solitary time stretching endlessly ahead didn't finally get the better of me. As with Lavalife and telephone dating, I just had to find out what was behind the door. You can read about my oh so frustrating and fruitless experience with Lavalife if you delve far enough back in the blog. It'll be in that large first entry which contains what can still be found in my initial blog at
I signed up for a three-month subscription. Clearly, eHarmoney has some serious psychology behind it. The report it generated about me was pretty much spot on although the system may perceive me as a tad more athletic than I think I am. It certainly picked up on my creative nature. What it couldn't grasp was how much my disability has forced me to live a different life than I otherwise would. I don't think they expected unemployed blind folks to avail themselves of their services. Despite that, I've found the site pretty accessible overall with a few unfortunate exceptions. Uploading my pictures could certainly have been made easier. I had to use my jaws cursor to pull that off. There were also some parts of the initial questionnaire which I can't be completely certain were filled out correctly. They had to do with how important things like age, ethnicity, etc were to me when it comes to my ideal match. Beyond a certain point, none of these things are overly important. I wouldn't feel right hooking up with somebody my parents' age and would have reservations if she were much younger than twenty-five. Ethnicity doesn't factor into it at all as long as she can communicate reasonably well in English. Education-wise, I just need my partner to be able to appreciate and participate in deep conversation about things. I've met enough people to know that you don't need a degree to do that. Life has its own way of teaching us without classrooms. It's called the passage of time. As to income, what matters is how she approaches the fact that we would largely be living off of what she made. I'm used to living with very limited personal income available and certainly don't need her to be rolling in dough. As long as we have a roof over our heads, if she can face life cheerfully without a lot of spare cash, so can I. There are certainly things I'd love to experience with a loving woman at my side but they're secondary to actually sharing life with said woman. Given a small community of people who I could get to know, I could be quite happy. What's important is that there's respect, love and appreciation on both sides.

Another area which could definitely stand improvement there is their highly touted "guided communication". Basically, after going to all the trouble of finding likely matches for you, you're supposed to see if there are any sparks between you by exchanging short volleys of multiple choice questions at each other. I'm completely serious, folks. Had I sat down and actually tried to conjure an extravert's worst nightmare, I couldn't have beaten this in a million years. If anything screams: "You've reached the very bottom of the barrel in your quest for love on Earth!", this setup certainly lets you know how disconnected and desperate you truly are. Most of the people in the matches I've received so far seem to prefer this inhuman mechanistic method of introduction. For someone in my position who desperately wants to connect more with humanity in general and a loving woman in particular, it seems like a colossal step backwards to introduce yourself to prospective lovers in this way. The only place one can display any degree of his or her actual soul is in one's personal profile. Just like on Lavalife, I can see myself fiddling with mine until kingdom come given its sheer importance. If you flunk out there, you never even get the stimulation of multiple guess quizettes. Due to how the site is constructed, I can't even look at the possible answers to the questions I choose. I presume it's possible for sighted people to do this but my speech software doesn't read the information out other than the actual question. I presume I'll be able to actually read the answers to the questions I administer but won't even know that for certain until I'm found interesting enough by some woman out there to actually bother with answering them. One thing I'm a bit worried about is the potential for sending the same question more than once to a potential partner. Presumably, given the care they've taken to automate damned near everything, they've covered that possibility. I can't imagine a more thunderously insulting blunder to make than that. Nor, at the same time, do I think I should have to keep careful note on which questions I've sent to which matches. I'm searching for a shot at true love, not hoping to pass a bloody university exam. I've done a life's worth of those damned things already while getting my BA.

Thankfully, there is a facility for exchanging standard but anonymous emails with each other if both parties agree to this. I just hope I manage to start up such a dialogue with one or more of these ladies before the three months I've paid for expires. Even if, by some act of God, it were made financially worth-while for me to keep at it for a longer time, I just don't think I'd have the sanity to spare. As always, I'll give this my best shot and represent myself as honestly as their pre-scripted "guided" communication lets me presuming that I actually get sent any questions to answer. As crazy as it seems, I'll also keep initiating this process with people who I find of interest. I did find one lady who preferred "fast-track" communication, otherwise known as saying what you actually want to say via anonymous email. Dare I hope that there are any more who will even come within my per view? I'd love to be dead wrong about eHarmony. Right now, that's pretty much all the hope I have of getting anything other than frustration and perhaps mild amusement for a little over a hundred bucks. Isn't that pathetic? My only sense of hope comes from my having been completely wrong about other things before and having lived to enjoy that. I had been saving up my money in hopes of starting a new life with Janene. Now, I've spent most of that saved money either on places which offer the only faint hope I have of finding someone new to love, or on things to make the single life I see stretching ahead of me more bare able. I still have a good safety margin as I utterly refuse to go into debt. While I certainly don't regret the decisions I made on items, my investments in escaping single life are somewhat more suspect. With nothing else happening over the Summer, there's no better time than now to explore these avenues. It just seems so unlikely to work though. If there were a place I could get to where people came with the expectation of meeting new friends, I would far more cheerfully put my money in getting there. However, there just isn't a place like that. You bring your own crew to bars and restaurants these days.

On that front, I had another mobility lesson earlier this week. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that the grand idea of attempting to master even three routes was simply biting off more than I could chew. We're just shy of July and I'm still a long way from feeling very confident that I could make it all the way to Symposia's and back on my own. The route has yet to form a truly cohesive chain in my mind. I've already zoned out a couple of times today so don't feel at all safe heading out there now. I need a really good night's sleep. Presuming I achieve one of those, I feel quite confident in starting to practice roughly the first half of the route on my own. I'm going to try to do that at least four or five times between now and my next lesson the Wednesday after next. I ought to have enough source material to put some sort of audio documentary about this Summer's mobility experience by the time September rolls around. By that point, I should have getting to Symposia's and back mastered. The trouble with the bus routes is the sheer amount of time it would take to learn them. I'd go through all that trouble and then have it all blown out the window when I finally get a subsidized apartment in Hamilton or, dare I hope, find someone special to move in with.

As comfortable as living here is for me, I hate being in this Limbo in life. There's just no affordable alternative. When I ultimately get into a place I can afford, there's the question of whether it would then be considered at all responsible of me to leave it in order to be with someone I loved. Given that I've waited my entire adult life to have the opportunity to live in my own apartment, could I ever trust someone enough to let it go again? Especially after how much all of us, my friends, and my family, trusted her to actually marry me. That still hurts a lot. It's going to be a much slower process building that kind of trust presuming I'm ever given the chance to try with another woman. I can just hear a chorus of voices saying: "well then why not go for quantity and the short-term fling rather than this seemingly unattainable permanent marriage?" Because, readers, I just can't be at all comfortable with that. I'm not built that way. Just like I can't see my way to intentionally getting drunk, high on drugs, or wracking up a mountain of debt for instant gratification. That kind of human intimacy simply demands a deep love and level of commitment to be fully enjoyed. Shortcuts only diminish the experience.

Thank God for good friends. Mark and Wendy have rescued me from yet another empty Saturday. We're going to have dinner tomorrow evening. Thanks to my camping trip as well as the trip to Chicago, I'll have quite a lot to tell them about. Those two have really stuck by me over the years. It certainly takes the edge off the glumness of lethargy. It's just getting on five o'clock now. I zoned out at my desk for a chunk of afternoon but didn't type anything in my sleep. That phrase I entered among all the garbage I typed during one night's doze at my desk still sticks in my mind: "They're here because" I've never been able to pull the foggiest notion what I meant by that. Hundreds upon hundreds of random characters with that odd phrase stuck smack in the middle. I got a brief second wind and made another stab at the shorter article I'm writing for the church about my conference experience in Chicago. I'm inching closer to something good but it doesn't yet snap crackle pop like it deserves to. Damned earlier this morning, I did manage to help around ten people with their computer questions. Neither of my two short story ideas aren't going well at all. They seemed so promising when they first occurred to me and they're all I have at the moment. Guess I'll take this weekend off and try again on Monday. I'll feel a heaping bunch better once I've finished *something* and my money's on the church article. That conference was a terrific experience. If I can write something which conveys enough of that to motivate someone else to go on one of these things, I'll have done another bit of good and scored an important victory for my own peace of mind.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

care for a legacy

Hello everyone. It's pretty damned early once again. Slowly, I'm getting somewhat used to this. Later this evening, I'll be attending church with other conference participants for a consultation about our experiences. Other than that, I expect today to be fairly uneventful. I hope we hear back from Audyssey Laboratories in California at some point soon. It seems that while I was otherwise occupied, they, the owners of
objected to Raul's having the
domain name registered on our behalf. He's done a whole lot of good for the community surrounding Audyssey Magazine over the years including providing this domain and hosting our considerable list trafic from it. He received a warning from this company which apparently sells audio equipment. I had never heard of them before and they've certainly never contacted me during the past thirteen years Audyssey magazine has existed. See the very first issue of the magazine for how I arrived at its name. Because I never thought of what I was doing as a money-making venture, I didn't give any thought to something like this happening. Who in the corporate world would care about a completely non-profit community of blind people helping each other to find fun?

Thankfully, everyone from the Audyssey side has responded in exemplary fashion to this. Raul came up with a good compromise which he has sent to the email address we were given. Ron initially felt a bit overwelmed but still essentially did the right thing and kept a cool head. He's written a letter to them, as have I, explaining what we're all about. I've been acting as a sounding board and advisor to him since Tuesday evening when I first found out about all this. Neither of us have any experience with corporate law. The only leadership we can lay claim to any expertise in is the use of authority vested in us by the community we serve. That's the only leadership the Audyssey Magazine community has ever really needed. I'm certainly happy to step up and give Ron some reassurance now and then. From time to time, I've stepped in and tried to help in discussions when things seemed to be heading down a dangerous path. However, other than that kind of occasional nudge, it's really their show now. It's my legacy but it's very much their ongoing story. Ron might not have the same gift with words but he's got a good heart and understands the spirit of what I've started well. Ultimately, that's what counts as far as I'm concerned.

Given the steps we've taken, I'm quite confident that things will all work out for the benefit of everyone. Over the next while, I'll keep a somewhat closer ear on the situation in case there's anything further I can do to help. We should all walk away from this crash of nomenclature on the information superhighway in one peace. Although I'm quite confident in this, I wouldn't be human if I didn't feel some unease. Particularly for Raul, I'd hate to see him suffer in any way after all the tremendous good he's done for us. We've all acted in good faith here. I have to believe that even in the realm of corporate affairs, that ought to count for something. I guess we'll all find out over the next while. I've done all I can to illuminate matters. The ball's in their court now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

multiethnic convention 2009 Chicago trip

June 12: 2009

Hello everyone. It's been quite a long day. I'll turn in fairly shortly at midnight Chicago time. I got up at around five this morning. The drive was quite a long one. We started at six in the morning and got in around four thirty our time or three thirty local time. I've set my watch backward to avoid any confusion but won't
bother with the netbook's clock. The drive was very pleasant as my companions were very much open to conversation. They're all quite deeply involved with the church and have a lot of experience with the wider picture of the challenges facing the larger reformed denomination as a whole.

I've met a whole lot of interesting people. Getting all the names straight will take more exposure to most of them than I've had yet. Everyone's been really helpful and kind. The keynote speech was quite well-delivered but the points made in it just struck me as dead obvious. It seems that there are more ethnic tensions even within the reformed denomination than I would have guessed. In the US, it seems that a substantial number of coloured people feel that they don't have a proper voice or influence on decisions which are made. It seems so strange to me that this and other similar feelings should exist today. I get the same frustrated feeling as when I think about the middle east or Ireland or Quebec. It has been obvious to me since childhood that the only fair way to approach people is from the assumption that they deserve equal respect until they prove otherwise on an individual basis. All the people I've met here and in my own church certainly seem to get this at least on the serf ice.

I think of all the great shows like Babylon 5, Star Trek TNG, Robin of Sherwood, Superfriends which demonstrate to all ages what a strength diversity is. There's so much powerful fiction out there which speaks to that issue that you'd think all of us would have just clued in by this stage.

It frustrates me that such a conference as I'm attending should even be necessary. The steps needed to fix things should already have happened. However, they clearly haven't. I keep thinking that there must be some sort of shortcut to making people realize the need to sort out their past hurts and move forward together as equals. It's just so damned obvious to me. Like the echo of my cane's tap off the wall of the building a short distance in front of me. One of my companions, Cicilya, was amazed that I could tell that it was there and couldn't seem to hear the echo. I know her ears would have picked it up just fine. She doesn't seem at all hard of hearing. I certainly needed training to master using those echo's for travelling more safely but the basics just always seemed about as clear to me as gravity. So does my approach to people in general. Would I have felt the same way if I could see? I'd like to think so. Realistically though, given all the quick judgements I hear sighted people make based solely on appearance, I have to wonder.
I guess it's all a matter of connecting the dots one person at a time. Recent events like having Mr. obama becoming the US president certainly have set the stage for the kind of transformation I can't help thinking should already have happened. It'll be extremely interesting keeping tabs on his term or terms in office.

June 13, 2009

It's early morning. I'm up and ready. We'll be going off to breakfast soon. Last night, I got involved in a very interesting conversation with a Navaho man named Mark. I'll be hearing more from him this morning I think. He had to go through a whole lot of soul-searching to reach his current desire to find ways to reconcile his own culture with the dominant white culture. It just staggered me that he actually had to go through what he did to reach that point. Hopefully, I'll learn a little more over the next couple of days about the underlying problems and perhaps get some ideas of how I can help other than to just keep on writing.

The morning cessions were quite interesting. However, the chairs put my legs at an angle too steep to take notes during them. We heard from an Arab Christian who was Muslim and he explained the basics of his former faith to us. I must confess to a bit of impatience here. I had learned all this in grade school, again in secondary school, and a third time in my Sociology class at university. It seemed preposterous that everyone else there hadn't gone through roughly the same before. I later asked about this and found that even in Canada, what you're taught seems to change drastically depending whether you're in an urban or rural area. This surprised me greatly. In the US, there's also apparently a lot less emphasis on learning about other cultures due to the melting pot approach it seems the majority of them favour..

**Communicating Across Cultures workshop:
Dr. Nelvia Brady
[Sounds a lot like the character Penny in Stranger Than Fiction with a dash less bite and a spoon full more friendliness..]
Note: If you haven't seen that movie yet, go grab the DVD. It's pulled me out of two episodes of cynical glumness brought on by separation from my wife and break-up with my ex-fiancee. Worth its weight in gold.

With communication comes conflict.
democratization invites conflict as globalization increases. Immigration is the trend of the future. One out of 3 North Americans speak a language other than English. 4.4 million school age children have English as a second language. 78.4 percent of US is Christian. People need to develop communication skills to deal with diversity.

Invitation received accidentally implied that coloured people were a discomfort. Think carefully about the words we use. Words are powerful.

Language, culture, disability are all invisible. Political alignment, religion are all under the serf ice.

Culture is learned behaviour. They are inherently logical. Culture can be visible or invisible. Indians believe in reincarnation and avoid stepping on insects. We see insect avoidance but don't see belief in reincarnation. Cultures can be low context or high context. Low context cultures depend less on environment and more on words to convey meaning. High context cultures communicate in spirals in their approach to things. Low context cultures proceed linearly. Cultures can be formal or informal. Time orientation can differ. North America views time as a commodity. Other cultures see time as unlimited. Individualism versus collective. Ethnocentrism also varies which is how cultures think they live in the only right way.

Stereotypes are preconceived ideas about other cultures. Personal space also can differ between cultures. Eye contact notions also differ.

things to know:

1. Know yourself and be conscious about your own culture. Everyone has culture.

2. The more we take time to understand each other, the better our understanding and communication will be.

Look at web site called

be careful using words which exclude. Treat others as they would have you treat them. We are responsible for making certain our meaning is understood. Avoid assumptions. Be patient. Be respectful of tradition, age or hierarchy. Ask for help or clarification. Be comfortable with silence. Remember to listen carefully.


Is there no way to orchestrate the universal alteration of how easily people can give and take offence? When I was married, I was constantly walking on eggshells trying desperately not to say anything which would be negatively misinterpreted by my wife. People get damned tired and resentful of having to go through that much effort in a relationship. I've spent hours undoing five seconds worth of accidental damage. I absolutely understand the need to put forth effort in this direction. However, isn't the opposite also the case? There has to be an effort not to take things in the worst possible way. Political correctness and the fear of accidentally giving offence has put up almost as many barriers to me as my blindness or inability to master routes to places easily. People are so afraid to say the wrong thing that they don't bother saying anything to me. If that collective guilt could be worked through so that people could address each other as individual people without all this fear, all our lives would be so much better. Would that not be worth some letting go of old grudges? I don't go around angry at sighted people as a whole. It's unfair. They aren't all responsible for the challenges I face. I can see how it's easier to get to know or hire someone whose abilities and world view you know since you largely share them. However, we could all become so much better if it were easier to cross the barriers and treat our differences as the assets they can be.

**Contextualising Worship
Mark Charles
[Sounds very much like Geordi La Forge, chief engineer from Star Trek TNG. His voice conveys a similar level of cheerful resolve.]

Mark grew up as mainly Dutch rather than Navaho. Grandparents were both Christian. Taken forcibly from homes and forced to adapt to western culture. Navaho father wasn't very connected to his heritage. Internalized and adopted Christianity more than most. Mark feels he had to live in two worlds. Studied how Navaho perception of time effected students from the reservation.

Western perception of time is linear. As you move along the line, you pass milestones. You cannot go back. Once something is past, there's no second chance. Therefore, there is a mid-life crisis. Life is organized by making a schedule. People are valued by how well the normative schedule is kept.

Navaho perception of time is circular. You still pass different events but if something is missed, there'll eventually be another opportunity. You work on something until it's done and move onto the next. It isn't offensive to show up late. It is offensive if an interaction is rushed and not allowed to come to a proper conclusion.

Most of the time, Contextualising worship is about what elements will be used in worship. Mark challenges churches to talk about how to think of time during worship. Being in balance is very important to living well as a Navaho. Ceremonies aren't scheduled. They happen when they're needed. Missionaries failed to translate the space of time into the Navaho. They used their western style of worship. A lot of the worship therefore didn't speak to the Navaho soul. Mark tried to create a space to take Navaho perceptions particularly of time into account. People weren't always present for the whole event and this didn't matter. The whole experience mattered. Intonation changes the meaning of words. Therefore, translating songs into Navaho doesn't work well. The medicine man knows how to sing the language while the missionary did not.

It is a sign of patience and honour to wait until moving forward isn't forced on people when it comes to Contextualising worship.

An important lesson is that Jesus loved and cared for people around him and made a point of spending time with the low in society. Mark and friend lived on street as homeless people for a weekend. Nothing to give an everything to learn. Were welcomed even when they informed the homeless people that it was an experiment and they were really students. Have to resist the temptation to withdraw when we encounter being marginalised. Mark describes never knowing quite were he fits and what the rules are. Doesn't want church to have to be interpreted by Navaho people. He wants people to be with the creator in their own way and know that he loves them for who they are. Wants his people to know that God can come to them where they are and bring relief. Once you can avoid being put in a box and communicate that you want a relationship, you force the other culture to have an actual dialog with you and have a chance to have a real impact. Continued relationship is very important so that stereotype of missionaries who come and then leave forever are broken down. Sees his people hurt by people who are sincerely trying to help.

I deeply empathize with Mark's sense of frustration and sadness as I share them to a somewhat lesser extent. There must be a way to connect the dots so that things don't go so wrongly so often. I guess that's what I'm trying to do with my autobiographical book and other writing. Mark's article was extremely well-written and perhaps he can do a similar thing for the Navaho and white people. That whole concept of circular time could do a world of good in the CRC and for all of us. Everyone, myself sometimes included, is in such a rush to get places, reach that next milestone, get something done.

I'm reminded of a story I heard once on the CBC radio show Ideas. An English anthropologist was studying a Native tribe largely by asking questions of the people and particularly of their chief. He expressed his appreciation to the chief for answering all his questions. The chief then asked whether he might ask some questions in return. The Englishman was amiable enough and proceeded to answer as best he could about his own people. At one point, the chief asked: "What is this god you seem to worship above all else? You tend to it every morning without fail. You never go anywhere without it. Before you do even minor things, you often consult it. The Englishman was quite startled to realize how much his custom of checking the time on his wristwatch was misinterpreted. You can thank Lester St. Clair, former host of Ideas for that bit of brain flotsam. While you're at it, thank God for fudging the odds so that I'd be bored enough to tune in all those years ago. While we're on the subject of time, I don't believe I've mentioned Rob's gift in that department. He doesn't wear a watch and hasn't for years. Despite this, he pretty much invariably knows quite precisely what time it is. He'll ask me the time and then guess, usually right down to the minute, while I open my watch lid and feel the hands to be just where he thought they'd be. The thing is, I don't think he even once looked down at the print numbers which I presume are still visible that accompany the tactile markings on the watch serf ice. It's absolutely uncanny. You'd think he was a child of Chronos as well as Christ.

It's nearly time to turn in now. I've just spent a little time taking out some extra carriage returns from my workshop notes. It seems that I haven't ditched that habit I picked up in university. Whenever sighted classmates asked me for my notes, I'd cheerfully give them a copy but would usually forget to warn them about my habit of tapping the enter key when not taking down points. They'd print them out and have huge gaps of blank lines to contend with. My apologies if I've left any here. In general, I'm quite happy with this netbook but I must confess that when you really get cracking with it, you notice the small reduction in your speed more. I tend to write in sentences and/or fragments of sentences so things got tight on occasion. Yes, that's a long-winded way of saying... I'm long winded. I've captured the bare bones here but there's no way of truly getting the impact of what each presenter achieved in the time they had without hearing their actual voices and presumably seeing them. There's a real friendly and sincere atmosphere here. Everyone is ready to learn new things and share observations. Even more than the actual content being conveyed, I found this aspect of my trip here most encouraging indeed. People are genuinely keen on getting to know each other and helping out. It's fascinating to get a glimpse at the larger picture in which this denomination who have been so supportive and welcoming of me operates. My perspective seems to have added something to the proceedings. I don't feel at all like I was just a proverbial fifth wheel. Quite the opposite in fact. It's been a damned long time since I felt truly a part of something larger than my own life. The results of my current projects have certainly helped people but they're kind of one-off packages. I put them out there and then move on to the next one presuming I'm not stymied by writer's block or some other damned thing. Blogging about an experience like this certainly helps with that as does all the new food for thought I've taken onboard from conversing with the other participants. It'll take a day or two once I'm home to truly digest it all.

I don't know how much of what I've learned here can be applied to my church as I know it. There are likely many aspects and are certainly many people there who I have yet to discover. Everything's still so wonderfully new. It's been very good getting to know the others who came from our church. I hope it's the start of something lasting. When it comes right down to it, I guess I've been hoping for much the same thing as Mark Charles and the Navaho seek from the rest of the world. A sense of place and friendship which truly lasts. Because I can't make eye contact and look for people, I need them to come to me and seek me out to get to know. There are few things more frustrating than having all kinds of things to share and nobody to share them with. At last, in this new church, I have a real sense of optimism that I'll find people interested in getting to know me as a friend, or they'll find me.

June 14 2009:

You'd think that this far away from home, I could escape being awakened by the same kind of birds which trouble my sleep in my own bedroom. I know they're completely different individual birds and are guiltless of waking me up in the past but come on! Oh! Alright then! I'll get up, dress, pack and start typing away. It's around five thirty local time. The birds got me up around half an hour ago. There's certainly a lot to reflect on during this tranquil stretch of linear time. I've taken so much onboard over the past while. So many different lives whose stories one only gets a brief glimpse of. So many good people out there who are on much the same quest as I am. I wish there was more time to talk with them and become better friends. Perhaps, for some of them, that'll actually happen.

Winamp has just picked out a splendid instrumental track I had no idea I had on the hard drive. Sometimes, when you gamble on a new artist and buy a few of their albums in mp3s, you strike sonic gold. Paul Lawler - Cerulean Skies has just caught me up in its soothing tones. Take that, you birds! Hah! If you're not more considerate of my slumber, next time, I'll drown your cheerful chirps out with something truly dastardly like Weird Al's Backstreet Boys parody song about Ebay! That did it. I feel so much better now.

I've certainly gained a stronger sense of hope here. That sense of frustration, of a simple truth of human equality being blatantly obvious to me but somehow not to too many others still hangs there like a cloud. So much offence is taken when none is intended. That's a tremendous part of the problem. Many people in the blind community have the same sort of "us and them" mentality about sighted people. I've never had any kind of sense of a general conspiracy or overarching plan too keep us from experiencing the so-called good life. It's never as simple as some sort of grand conspiracy. There are no arch-villains to track down. It's just a matter of enough people overcoming their preconceptions to truly start changing things. A matter of time, patience, and effort. A better time will ultimately arrive. My general sense of that has gotten stronger. Doubtless, that optimism will ruffle some of my more jaded friends a tad. I damned well like that delicious thought. Optimism ought to do that; make people back up and give each other a second more charitable thought before proceeding on with their lives. I wish there was a faster means of transmitting hope and optimism. Other than continuing to plod along with my smaller and larger writing projects, and eventually, perhaps Enchantment's Twilight as the game I still believe the overall story wants to be. It's such lonely work though.

I think that over time, I'll get a stronger sense of where I might be able to pitch in with the myriad efforts my denomination is engaged in. Everything's so new at the moment that it's hard to know where to direct my energy to do the most good. Due to a bit of mistiming, I got to hear what was an apparently historical election take place in the synod. However, until Rob explained it to me afterwards, I had no sense of that. It all sounded so procedural and orderly. You definitely got the sense that people of good conscience were hard at work but as a newcomer, that's honestly all I would have been left with had Rob not clued me in. There were a few things like that where you got the sense that things hadn't quite gone as the conference organizers planned. We were apparently supposed to be presented to the synod in some fashion while they were in session rather than overhear their voting. I don't exactly know what purpose that would ultimately have served. I believe that it was about feelings among people working on solving these problems that the church leadership wasn't fully appreciating the importance of that work. What they heard from Mr. Dykstra during his evening address to us was unfortunately a bit alarming. I certainly didn't walk away with any sense of whatever strategic plan might exist to address the deeply felt concerns of many attendees. He talked about possibly turning back the clock fifteen years. In my experience, it's actually a good thing that this is utterly impossible to do when it comes to things in which human beings are involved. You just don't end up with a system cleanly restored to a previous condition. The stakes here are huge in terms of human cost. I certainly wasn't left with a sense that this was Mr. Dykstra's preference. Unfortunately though, he left a sort of paternal impression I'm all too familiar with. The CNIB certainly has a history of coming up with things where you're left seriously questioning whether it was even possible that they bothered to consult some of the blind people they serve in Canada. That kind of thing, like pamphlets which leave sighted people with the impression that blind people are incapable of doing up their own seat belts, tends to aggravate a lot of us. All but the most extreme among us certainly appreciate the good things CNIB does but there are just way too many instances where a moment's thought could have avoided so much hurt. I sensed the same frustration here too. I have a strong sense that Mr. Dykstra is a very capable man doing his best to make some pretty difficult decisions in between these synods. It was quite obvious, even to this totally blind newcomer, that he feels like he carries the weight of the world. However, that tendency not to lay out all one's cards on the table, though doubtless necessary at times, always leaves a bad taste.

June 15: 2009

The drive home took quite a while. I basically went to sleep almost right away. The blasted birds were kind enough to give me a break so I didn't get up until nearly nine thirty. Basically, I've been working on these notes since then. Figured I'd get it done while it was all fairly fresh.

Sunday morning was fairly eventful. The service was quite good overall. What with the reverb and such, I found it hard to recognize the speakers. I'm pretty certain Esteban was the preacher but I could be wrong there. He sounded a whole lot like my high school principle. However, that slightly startling "That's not X, is it?" moment I experience when people sound like someone else doesn't apply so much to him. He simply had way more gruff basso striking power than dear old Mr. Forde could ever hope to conjure up. Lets just say I'm quite glad I remained on the good sides of both men. Whoever was leading the songs also had a notably impressive voice. I don't often conjure up images to go along with peoples' voices. He was a rare exception to that. As soon as I heard him, a Football player's uniform with all the padding which I had felt well over a decade ago sprang instantly to mind. He just sounded so energetic that you couldn't help imagining him tossing a hapless player onto the field between exhortations. You just can't judge people safely by voices. That's why I don't do it other than as an effort to remember a voice should it actually sound at all similar to others. For all I know, he's one of those wafer-thin people you could knock over with a sneeze.

After the service, things took a somewhat questionable turn. During the conference wrap-up when people had already begun to leave for lunch, we found out that a smaller group who were very concerned with Mr. Dykstra's speech the night before had gotten together and drafted a letter expressing their anger and worry about proposed changes being done without proper consultation. They wanted a vote on whether to send this letter or not. The timing was just terrible. This is the kind of thing where there should have been a time slot afforded for discussion of concerns among the whole group. In point of fact, I seemed to be asked to make the same sort of leap of trust which they were denying Mr. Dykstra. The tone of the letter was just too angry. I'm told that the Synod was composed of exclusively Dutch white men. As I heard the initial draft read out to everyone, I could just feel their defences going up. I didn't like the thought of that given the who knows how many hundreds of people a chain of events influenced by the letter could kick off. While I edited Audyssey Magazine and was an online community leader, I would insist on having a very good grasp of the factors before I made a decision. I kept all of the emails sent to everyone on the Audyssey list and could look back to see where and how problems rose. I had time to carefully consider how best to use what authority and influence was granted me. Not so in this case. Ultimately, when the vote was called, I stood. I did it because I felt that the Synod should know about this disappointment and discontent. Also, the recommendations sounded sensible enough. Frustration left to fester is never a good thing.

After the vote, Henrietta and Ciciliya came across people who were working on the lettre so that it better reflected the group's feelings of pain rather than anger. Both were able to make suggestions and left with the welcome assurance that the tone of the letter would be altered so it wasn't so confrontational. [Take the cheerful voice of Wilma Flintstone, add a deeper care-worn aspect and you've got a pretty good approximation of what Henrietta sounds like.] Throughout the weekend, she was quite up-beet and a wonderful resource of information and guidance. It seems that a number of us had similar concerns about the letter's tone. I think a few people went around working on the letter and getting our recommendations or consent. One of them found me at one point during lunch. I was therefore far more easy in my mind with the end result by the time lunch was over. I just hope it doesn't fall on unreceptive ears. Those delegates who I met certainly seem like very good and fair-minded men.

I close off this blog entry literally at the end of a whole day's reflection. It's midnight now. This morning, I have an interview with a professor from the University of Toronto who is researching how I use the Internet and how I determine what sources are trust-worthy. This afternoon is going to be entirely devoted to catching up on the thousand plus emails which will have accumulated in my absence. Most are from email lists which I like to keep tabs on. The delete button is absolutely priceless in those circumstances. One of these days, I'll create folders and rules to direct traffic more sensibly. I haven't been nearly as happy with my writing as I find myself now in a very long time. For that, in no small way, I have you members of Meadowvale CRC to deeply thank for that. God has put so much in place here for this denomination. This conference certainly provided me a very worth-while glimpse of the calibre of good character and range of perspectives we have to work with. I learned a great deal and have so much more to start piecing together. I'm going to start digging in to the denominational web site:
There's this Belhar Confession which I'd like to look over at last and a whole lot else besides. The next time I'm put in a position to vote, I'll hopefully have a bit of a better grasp on the forces and consequences at play. Besides, it certainly beets wrestling with writer's block.

In honour of Mr. Mark Charles, I thought that I'd try engaging with these reflections in a style which I hope he finds fully in keeping with the Navaho sense of time and quality of interaction. You have my complete current thoughts on what I've just experienced as fully captured as is possible. Any of you church members who might be a bit shy have something to read by which you can get to know a lot about me before coming up and saying hello. I don't bite. It is my hope that you and any other readers find this small compensation for the wonderful experience I've enjoyed a worthy one.

Monday, June 8, 2009

a place of contentment

Hello everyone. It's just past nine o'clock in the morning. My weekend camping trip was a lot of fun despite the unfortunate discovery of a forgotten set of tent poles. Said discovery meant that four of us ended up sharing a single seven-man tent. There wasn't room for our packs of personal items and clothing to be kept in the tent so we all just ended up wearing the same stuff for the durration. I didn't end up using half of what I had brought along and doubtless looked like a first-class ruffian by the time we headed home. Our air matress completely deflated during the first night so we were essentially sleeping on the ground. Nobody ended up getting a lot of unbroken sleep but we all seemed to get at least a bare minimum needed to enjoy the weekend. Things proceeded at a leisurely pace for the most part. Meals were made when people felt like making them. The days were filled with good conversation.

One thing I very much enjoyed was how well everyone just accepted that things didn't go perfectly to plan and cheerfully made the best of things as they were. There have been times when I've wondered how exceptional my ability to do this actually was. We all went there to have a good time. Despite waking up stiff after broken sleep, finding the nature trail more muddy and difficult than expected, and other things, we all damned well still enjoyed our time away from the rest of life. I came back very tired yesterday. Mark, who did the driving and a whole lot else during the trip, was even more worn out. However, even for him, you could just tell how restored and fulfilled he felt. This chance to just be himself with a group who truly appreciated him as he was recharged him in a fundamental way. There's a real kind of glorry in that. For me, I've come away with a number of things. Getting away for a while really does give one a better sense of perspective on life. I've found that a degree of resilience I feared I may have lost is still fully intact. In addition, this trip was an absolute vindication of the value I place on friends in life. Ron has some excellent friends around him who are very welcoming. It was a wonderful pleasure to be able to meet a couple of these friends who had fallen out of touch for a while. They both just clicked meatly into the group that their prior history together would have been obvious even had they not informed me of it before.

Regarding alcohol, things went along quite smoothly on that front. Nobody got drunk enough to do anything outrageous or particularly memorable. Good fun and conversation prevailed even under the onslot of drinks. I ended up coming home with a lot more beer than I thought I might. I get the sense that this was the case for pretty much all of us. Needless to say, it'll be a day or two before I actually have one of them. I'm still not quite a master martini drinker. They gave me more of a buzz than I had anticipated even aided in my calculations by my first run-in with these drinks a couple of years ago. They tasted absolutely precious and have a way of disappearing entirely too quickly. Even so, I still managed once again to avoid experiencing a hangover maintaining my lifetime of blissful ignorance concerning these. During the hight of this alcoholic buzz, I still made an impression while conversing with one of our number by using the word antithetical. He has apparently never come across that word before. I hadn't planned on using it and wasn't trying to impress anybody. It just popped out like a cork under pressure as my larger words usually do.

My digital recorder performed quite well on the trip. It made an excellent platform for listening to music or podcasts while others were sleeping or busy. It also captured many pleasant moments including Saturday night's festivities. I must have lowered the microphone attenuation level and forgotten that I had done so. Once I figured this out, the quality of what was recorded improved drastically. I've kept four files, the longest around four hours, of wonderful clear sound. They aren't going to find themselves on Blindcooltech as I had originally contemplated doing. Instead, they'll form the first entries in my new "sound memories" folder. Sighted people have their digital pictures. Why shouldn't I have my digital sound files of events? If people who participated in the trip want copies, they're certainly welcome to them.

Until friday, the rest of this week is likely to be fairly uneventful. There's my mobility lesson on wednesday, an apparently needed haircut at some point, and doubtless one or two other things to do before I leave on my trip to Chicago. A couple of women from the new dating site I've joined,
may want to chat with me. That's certainly proving interesting. Most of them are fairly far away so I doubt it'll ever move beyond friendly talk but it helps to fill a social void. The pieces of writing I posted to the small blog you can keep on the site seem to be making a favorable impression. I'll have to keep rotating pieces in as you can only have four or five entries posted before your next post deletes your first. I've recovered my sense of optimism that there is indeed someone out there for me. The real trick is to find her. It's just another one of those things which I have to do what work I can and then leave the rest to God. Thanks to trips like the one I've just gone on and the one I'm looking forward to, I'm starting to truly be content with that once again. There'll doubtless be days when my frustrations get the better of me. However, as I sit writing this, I have a strong sense of having found my way back up onto a plateau of contentment and good cheer once again. My sense that things will indeed work themselves out somehow is back in full. A nifty new song I've just heard was successfully found and purchased from
It's by a group called Ballas Hough Band. They have a very exuberant sound reminding me of the Backstreet Boys in their finer moments. The song, Do It For You, has a very epic heroic quality which manages not quite to overstretch itself. Definitely worth grabbing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

an excellent Sunday

It's not often that I write so many entries so close together. However, yesterday certainly deserves some comment. Church was very helpful in a couple of ways. The sermon was very timely. As our pastor went through numerous examples of how God puts us where we're most needed, it suddenly became clear to me that it was alright to set aside Enchantment's Twilight. Long-time readers will recall that I did this in creative frustration some time ago choosing to focus on short stories while I handled the overly ambitious mobility ajenda I had embarked on. Now that time is stretching before me endlessly again, I can appreciate Enchantment's Twilight for the life-long project that it likely is. There was never any way I could pull of the kind of complex overall vision I have for the game in a span of five years. It may very well take three or four times that long for me to even have the ghost of a chance of pulling it off alone presuming I did nothing else. Frankly, I don't have that kind of patience. I need to feel that I'm having some sort of impact on other people's lives or I lose the balance of conscience I work so hard to maintain. At last, I understand that God is alright with this. I can proceed with these short stories and whatever else is sent my way without feeling guilty for abandoning this grand vision of a magnum opus game I've been given. I simply have to trust that the life experience I need to proceed with that as well as the autobiographical book will be granted me or not as he sees fit.

The signs are pretty good that I'm going to live a life that at least is a bit more connected and less solitary. The barbecue at the church went quite well and I met a number of new people. Many of them seem to live fairly close or are related to people who do. A number of complete families spanning two or three generations use the church as a connection point. I never had much of a sense of that in the Oakville CRC. There's such a sense of up-beet energy in the place. After the lunch, a group of us went on a tour of Lake Wabacane which is a man-made lake right near the church. I'm not by inclination a nature buff but certainly appreciate it when it comes with a chance to socialise and observe people.

Yesterday ended with a dinner with some good family friends. The hamburgers were excellent and it was fun to catch up with the happenings in their lives. I got a fairly good night's sleep but not nearly as good as after Saturday. So far, today has been going pretty well.

I've started to try writing a short story about a chain of events which start with the spending of a single dollar. So far, that's going alright. I've also checked in with that new dating site for disabled people I've joined up with. I figured I'd use their blog facilities as a means of more extensively introducing myself through some of the stories in A Life of Word and Sound. They've already begun to draw some positive comments. I don't know how much I'll use the forums. They're not as intuitive to access. However, I plan to check out some other peoples' blogs and leave some comments if I deem any appropriate. I've also put a little more money into so that I can grab the odd track which catches my fancy. Thank goodness they still have options which don't lock you in to a continuous cost. There are months and months where no new music is worth even downloading let alone buying. I need to be able to go right away and look up a song that strikes my fancy before I forget the name of it. Later on today, Che Martin is supposed to be releasing his version of Texas Holdem as well as Hearts. I don't have much inclination for Hearts but Texas Holdem is a card game I actually feel somewhat competent with. I'll definitely take it for a spin. Having something like that to pass some time with when writer's block strikes would be very good for me. I'm not partial to AllinPlay's other offerings although their version of Texas Holdem was also quite entertaining. Che's charging quite a bit less for access to one game by the sound of it which is perfect for me. Dad and I have started looking into starting an RDSP for me. I plan on saving some money up to contribute to it along with my parents. By the time I'm 49 and have to stop contributing to it, there ought to be enough set aside to make things a bit better for me from age 59 onwards. You can't withdraw money any earlier than that without incurring a penalty. It's good to be able to actually do that and take some responsibility for one's own future. Before now, there was seriously no way one could legally do that while on ODSP. They've also raised the yearly allowed money which can be received as gifts, donations or honorariums.

Well, that pretty much wraps things up. I just listened to a sad but interesting documentary podcast from the BBC called Anatomy of a Car Crash. All of the people involved in an acident were allowed to tell their stories and give comments on how it effected their lives. If I were a young driver, I would think hearing this show would be pretty sobering. It really brings home how the slightest moment of mistaken judgement or lapsed attention could involve anybody in something like that. Very grim stuff but well worth the listen.