Thursday, November 20, 2014

On Turning Forty and Other Happennings

Hello everyone. And yet another two months have raced past me between blog postings. It's now an apparently foggy Thursday morning, October 16th. Over the past day or so, I've started playing another of these smart phone games accessible to blind and sighted people called Hanging With Friends. It turns the classic game of Hangman into a competitive sport as you get points for solving your opponent's words and building long or tricky words for him or her to solve. When your turn comes up, the game exhorts you not to keep your fellow contestant hanging. Perhaps, I'll one day manage to transfer that exhortation to working on more frequent blog postings and not leave my readers waiting so long. One can hope. The past couple of months have been slow for long patches. Sara and I both needed to recover financially somewhat from July. Illness prevented us from getting together around the time of my father's 66th birthday as we had hoped to do. As things turned out, Sara joined us for Thanksgiving with my family for the first time. It was a very enjoyable milestone of our relationship. We were able to see A few friends during her stay including Steve, Shirley, Rose, Carine and Richie. I'm glad they're getting to know Sara better. We also ended up going to church. When it comes time to walk away from that community, it's going to feel very strange. We also had a good amount of time to simply be together. We enjoyed listening to a lot of things including the two episodes of Pathfinder Legends awaiting our attention. Two more of those are still forthcoming. It's so splendid to have found someone to share the great joy of audio dramas with for the rest of my life. I received an award last Thursday at the new Horizons Peel Multicultural Centre where I volunteer on Thursdays. It's a certificate from the government in recognition of my volunteer efforts in the community. I was quite surprised by that. I guess most of my efforts are directed at people who lack the authority to bestow such an honour. Most of the time, it feels like I've done more to help people online and in other countries than I've ever managed to achieve locally. People keep telling me that I'm doing more good than I think I am just by leading the kind of life I do and being there. I guess it just doesn't usually lead to the kind of results I'm able to measure. Any formal volunteering I've done certainly hasn't directly lead to ongoing friendships or much of a sense of connection yet. Everything seems so damnably indirect. I guess I'm slowly getting used to that. In a couple of weeks, I'll be basically exhorting people to believe in the value of games and play. That can also be very indirect and hard to quantify. Mainly, over the past while, I've been working on the presentation I'll give on October 30th at the CNIB National Braille Conference. It's about the importance of play and accessible games. For the most part, I'll be focused on computer and smart phone games. However, a lot of important events have occurred over the past while thanks to the convergence of technology which will change other areas of inclusive gaming. It would be wrong not to cover them so I've been revising my handout as new information became available right up until it was due for submission. It feels like development has suddenly kicked into a higher gear. Events are happening at the kind of pace I dearly wished for back when I edited Audyssey magazine. Ten years ago, I was at the top of my proverbial game and had a comprehensive overview of what was happening in the slow-moving realm of accessible games. Preparing for a presentation wouldn't have been nearly so demanding as it has proved to be. These past three months have seen a number of initiatives which have the potential to dramatically increase how included we blind people are. Adding to this, a great deal more attention has been paid to accessible games by the media. I've read more mainstream coverage of this in the last six months than I came across over the last three years. A kind of critical threshold of societal awareness and respect for the value of games has at long last been pushed through. People are at last realizing at a fundamental level that games and play aren't the wastes of time they've been made out to be. As these last weeks of preparation tic down, the weight of responsibility increases. Have I missed anything? Am I doing right by all the people who have chosen to make efforts to include blind people in the experiences of play most other people can enjoy? It got like this just before I published Personal Power, my guide to using the Internet and accessible computers to pursue personal life interests rather than the employment skills which everyone else focuses so exclusively on. People were left in such profound ignorance of what their equipment could let them do both for enriching their own lives and reaching out to share their passions with others. The CNIB completely ignored that effort on my part. I sure hope things go better this time around on that score. It's now a cold Monday morning. November 17th to be precise. A third month has scooted past me with reckless abandon since I began writing this post. Thankfully, I have meanwhile published an entry regarding my trip to the Mississauga Book Fest. That was an absolutely awesome day out. Things went somewhat downhill after that. My birthday was, as I worried it might be, spent making final preparations for my presentation the next day. I received a whole lot of birthday wishes from my friends and online acquaintances. It was great to hear from them. It lightened the mood considerably as I chased down quotes and frantically searched for a digital recorder I'm still convinced I have somewhere despite not having found it yet. Dad had just returned earlier that day from a vacation and was therefore suffering from that travel fatigue you have which always seems so out of place after an enjoyable trip. We ended up going out to that most ordinary of places Swiss Chalet. As usual, they didn't disappoint. We all enjoyed our dinner. However, I guess I fell into that cultural trap of thinking that turning forty warranted more of a special event. At the same time though, I couldn't get my head out of the presentation. I would really have enjoyed actually being with friends even over the weekend after. It would have been nice to perhaps go to a restaurant I had never tried before or even just be with some friends in a more familiar place. Doing something out of the ordinary would have been even better. Halloween took place on Friday. Yet another occasion often spent in the company of others. Given all that, I guess I didn't think I'd spend this particular chunk of time mostly alone. Had I not been so absorbed in preparing for the presentation, I would have taken steps to make damned sure that didn't happen. I'm so tired of personal and cultural events in my life going unmarked by shared celebratory experiences. Over the past while, I had felt I was at last building the connections in life to put an end to this sort of let-down. I had a fiance, made some local friends and reconnected with other long-time friends. Unfortunately, all of them were in financial tight spots, had other things happening or else presumed, much as I did, that I'd be busy. The presentation was a disaster in so many ways. It's probably just as well I didn't write a blog entry covering that event only. After all the rush getting my handout ready early so it could be made available in Braille, the CNIB didn't end up doing that for people. I was absolutely thunderstruck by that. All this talk about Braille being threatened on all sides and needing to promote its use where ever possible;And yet, they didn't have the handouts available in Braille? My mom went with me to help facilitate and was actually discouraged from handing out the printed copies we brought. Apparently, the CNIB will email copies of the handout to whoever actually bothers to ask for them. All that effort checking facts, making sure everything was current, and cramming as much information as possible into four pages... and they'll send copies to whoever bothers to ask for them? What the hell? The small size of my audience also surprised me. Until perhaps two weeks before I presented, I had expected somewhere from 30 to 80 people. This was, after all, the National Braille Conference of the CNIB. This organization remains the most widely recognized organization attempting to meet the needs of the blind in Canada. If you attempt to serve a need they're not, God help you getting funding. In total, there were 11 of the 17 people who had apparently registered to attend my talk. I attempted to switch gears and do something more interactive befitting a smaller group. This was hard enough but having the Internet connection fail threw me off even more. I hadn't ben told that the connection would time out if too long an interval elapsed between actions. Thankfully, I had saved pages on my hard drive in case I couldn't get any Internet. Other problems compounded things as I attempted to demonstrate some of the games. I couldn't find how to engage the graphics of Pontes Backgammon. King of Dragon Pass didn't let me get to the control section where I could have gotten rid of the music. Afterwards, I figured out that I had somehow switched audio ducking off. Audio ducking had previously been a default behaviour which decreased the volume of other sounds whenever Voiceover spoke. I had somehow turned this off inadvertently so the music made it hard to understand what Voiceover was saying. I really hadn't thought I'd be demonstrating any games so had focused on being as knowledgeable as possible rather than putting everything into a good state for such demonstrations. Apparently, from what little feedback I've had access to, people seem to have enjoyed the results of my efforts. That's something I guess, but over all, I feel like I've put my best into something which has overshadowed the past quarter of a year and ultimately achieved very little external good. I put my mom through a very stressful drive into downtown Toronto's rush hour and back which further increases my sense of wasted effort. Frankly, I could have done my talk online from the comfort of my own apartment's reliable Internet and easily drawn an audience four or five times as large as I had at the National Braille Conference. Mainly, this audience would be composed of people already familiar with at least some of what my talk covers. I would, in essence, be preaching to the converted as opposed to those who were new to the area of accessible games I had hoped the CNIB would help me to reach. My friend Steve Murgaski recently found an article called Breaking the Mold: From Clienthood to Citizenship. You can find it on the Canadian Federation of the Blind web site at: This was the transcript of a speech given at their convention. I presume this was their keynote speech. I agree with their position that the CNIB really can get in the way of progress for people. I can't count the times people have said: "Doesn't the CNIB do that for you?" I had a friend who tried to start a Braille transcription business but couldn't because people who needed to have things put in Braille would just go to the CNIB. I believe I also lost some money I could have earned training someone because they wanted someone who the CNIB certified. Frankly, I know more about the access technology I use every day then those sighted folks at the CNIB ever will. It also seems increasingly useless to alert them to areas where they could do some truly spectacular good were they to invest their resources. I could and would gladly make a living helping people get the most of the Internet and technology like smart phones and computers. What I'm not good at is selling things. I've never felt comfortable doing that. All the technical advising in this country is done by people who have ulterior motives. there's no in dependant organization people can call up for help using accessible devices or the Internet in their personal lives. Nobody seems to want to hire full time trainers anymore. It's all contract work so you don't get anything like a proper living doing that. People are spread thinly all over the place and there's just not enough concentration anywhere to really make a go of it. For friends and others who know or find out about me, I pretty much am that go-to guy. I know about the resources and access-friendly sites which let people pursue their personal interests. If they're so interested in saving Braille from extinction, the CNIB should be supporting initiatives like They're actually going to give us access to some honest to God modern board games. You know! The ones everyone's actually playing these days! They should be doing all they can to transcribe game books into Braille. There's no technical reason why that can't happen. At the very least, they should be advocating for the apps to be made accessible to Voiceover and PC versions accessible to screen-readers so people can use them with Braille displays. The Fighting Fantasy books won educational awards for encouraging children and teens to read. I'd have lost myself happily reading and playing my way through those books had they been accessible. As it is, I don't really have many fond memories associated with reading Braille. Blind people have missed out entirely on a phenomenon which would have made loads of those. I sacrificed my birthday and put my projects on hold in the hope that the CNIB would amplify my efforts into making some sort of difference. In hind-sight, they totally ignored my Personal Power guide despite it being dedicated to their Lake Joseph Centre. Rather than helping me put it on Daisy cds so it would be useful to people unskilled enough to get it online for themselves, they flat out ignored it. I sure didn't have the resources to do that nor could I have known to whom I should send it. They could have and should have but didn't. This experience has pretty much killed any desire to put my eggs of hope in the CNIB basket ever again. I remain very grateful for their orientation and mobility training, Lake Joseph Centre, and their digital library. However, I'll be looking elsewhere for organizations to help advocate for inclusion in play and online. Steve's right. I have wasted a lot of time and energy hoping and thinking that the CNIB would and should change into something different than the Victorian era charity that it still is at its core. As so often happens, I tried to set my disappointment aside and celebrated on my own that weekend. I had a little help from a good friend and my fiance in that enterprise. Sara gave me a gift card from Amazon. Using that as well as some of my own money I shouldn't have spent, I bought some books which had long languished on my wish list. Similarly, Michelle McQuigge, a good friend who got Sara and I back in touch, game me some iTUNES money which I used to buy some fresh music. I guess I felt compelled to take something significant away from the experience of reaching that cultural milestone 40. Helping to make Halloween more bearable was a splendid rendition of Frankenstein produced by This remake deserves nothing short of top marks. They really cared about the source material and I don't think Mary Shelley would roll in her grave too much this time. They also did an excellent hour-long documentary and included the musical score plus out takes. Right up there with the LOTR movies in terms of value for money. I'm ever so thankful I pre-ordered that quite some time ago. There was also the Audio Defence zombie shooting game from Somethin' Else Productions. The initial release was somewhat buggy. They rushed it out to catch the Halloween vibe. Much as I enjoyed the small piece of it I could play with those bugs unattended to, they really should have waited. Their recent update has done wonders. I'll thoroughly enjoy and make use of what I bought so I can't say I regret the purchases I made with my non-gift money in the least. However, I really thought I'd have been too busy over the weekend enjoying friends and family to contemplate making them. I really can't blame anyone for the unwarranted sense of disappointment and disconnection I've had to overcome this past while. Turning 40 simply resounded in me far more than I thought it would. Having the presentation the day after made things harder to arrange around it. Having it go so off-kilter sure didn't help. I'll certainly think twice before agreeing to do something that major for no compensation again. When the big 50 rolls around. If I'm working or busy on that day, I had better be getting paid more than minimum wage for my troubles. Thankfully, I've managed to take steps to move beyond these disappointments. Having Sara over and seeing at least a few friends has helped a tremendous lot. It was great to see Mark and Wendy again after quite a long while. They treated Sara and I to Swiss Chalet. I just finishing the last of the cake Wendy made for the occasion. She makes splendid desserts and salads. We always end up having interesting conversations and enjoying each other's company. It felt great. Sara also got to meet John Morgan, that amazing and inspiring elderly philanthropist I've mentioned before in this blog. He recently provided the funds for me to get the KNFB Reader app. I was delighted to be able to show him what it could do. I also showed him my Aftershokz wired headset. I thought I had done that previously but he was so surprised at how well they worked that I've concluded I hadn't until that point. He certainly understands how useful they are now. That leaves the other problem; How on Earth to salvage all the time and efforts I've spent getting up to speed on all things accessible game related. I've put way too much time and effort into preparing for this presentation to simply walk away and move on with other things I've put on hold this past while. I'm become the overall expert I was back in the Audyssey Magazine days. Had things gone better and the audience been larger, I could have gone on with the sense of having done enough with that knowledge for the present. As things are, I just can't let that cataclysmic mess be the end of it. The way I see it, there are two steps to redeeming all that work. The first is to deliver the presentation as I had originally intended it to be done making certain that it becomes available to as wide an audience as possible. I therefore made an offer to Accessibleworld, and online site which offers audio chat rooms where events are held. No registration is required. People just need to enter their names and download a plugin. The site makes use of the Talking Communities web conferencing system to offer a very useful service. I've attended numerous virtual events there over the years and spoken once before on accessible games. I guess that was two or three years ago. So much has happened since that it seems like far longer. They've accepted my offer and I'll be giving my talk on December 8th. Even it numbers are low for the event, the talk will be preserved on the site's archive for any interested people to hear and direct others to. That's step one. Step two is somewhat more ambitious. I'm going to write a book. This book will explore the history of accessible games as well as new possibilities for inclusion brought about by recent technological change. It will also discuss the importance of games in learning and building relationships with others. One might wonder why I haven't already written such a book. There were several reasons. Chief among them was wanting to be known for other things besides my abiding interest in and knowledge of games. I fell into the very trap I hope to help others avoid and thought there must be a better thing for me to focus my efforts on than games and the need for blind people to be included in play. I wanted to find some way of working or at least volunteering in the real offline sighted world. If I couldn't actually earn a living, then I at least wanted to find some way of contributing meaningfully enough to earn the respect and friendship of people. I fundamentally didn't want to be so alone and feel as disconnected and powerless to make any of my experiential hopes and dreams come true. Surely, there was something out there for me. There really doesn't seem to be though. Writing a book on accessible games really seems to be how my gifts and talents can best be put to use. By trying so much to distance myself from the online blind world, all I really succeeded in doing was to cut myself off from the only group of people who could understand even a modicum of what I was going through and for whom I had achieved the sort of meaningful impact I wanted to in the local physical world. In the face of my inability to make any sort of breakthrough, the achievements I had made in the online world seemed not to have any value. Why add yet more wasted words and effort by writing a book? Another powerful disincentive was my sense of having written all the thought I had about accessible games in the 40 issues of Audyssey I edited. The well was beyond empty and I had no fresh insights to offer. Things had pretty much plateau ed. It didn't look like technology would offer any means of breaking down economic barriers to inclusion which hadn't already fallen. At best, we were stuck playing games that none of our sighted peers had thought were particularly cool in years. I was certainly proud of the wonderful community my efforts had helped bring about. However, I just couldn't view that journey I had undergone as being inspirational enough to justify a book. Writing about a triumphant journey to a point of near complete stagnation just seemed pointless and self-serving. This blog constitutes my written therapy. I'll write this book as part of my continuing efforts to leave some sort of worthy public legacy and give purpose and meaning to this new chapter of life. Dear God! It's very late indeed. Nearly a quarter to one on thursday morning. Not at all what I had intended. On the plus side, I think I've set things down here reasonably well and can now move on with a lighter heart. I feel better about things. This blog has always made for very good therapy. How appropriate. Winamp has chosen to play one of my new acquisitions from a nice New Age instrumental group called 7and5. Out of 59 songs, it picked the one called Sleep-walking. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Attending the Mississauga Book Fest

Hello everyone. Last Saturday, I was able to go to the Mississauga Book Fest. I've wanted to do something like that for ages now but never really had the people in life who shared that interest. This year was at last different. Dani is a good friend of our family who also wanted to attend the festival. We both share a deep interest in reading, science fiction and fantasy. Going with someone who genuinely wanted to be there was very important to me. It makes all the difference when experiencing events like this. There are lots of people who might well have been willing to go as my guide but wouldn't go out of their own interest. It would have simply been as a favour to me. Dani truly wanted to go and was happy to be my friend and guide. I felt that I added more to her experience of the festival. It was a day of interesting conversations. Dani and I had lots of books and other things to talk about. We don't tend to actually get together very often so there was some catching up to do. The authors were terrific. We got to hear a number of panel discussions and talks about writing, publishing, and the increasing viability of self-publishing. Also, authors read from their own work. I never realized Tania Huff wrote more than vampire books. She writes fantasy and science fiction also. The highlight of the day was actually getting to meet Robert J. Sawyer, my favourite author for over a decade. Dani got a picture of that happening which I will include with this blog entry. I didn't realize she was taking the picture so there's a far better chance I'll look natural rather than self-conscious. I thought I'd be nervous or tongue-tied. When the moment actually came though, I simply felt very grateful, in the present moment, and that kind of quiet fulfilled sense you get when you're doing something dreamed of for years. He was very gracious in person. It was interesting to see that in how he interacted with the other authors during the day. I can't wait to read his next novel, but it won't be out for quite a while. I saw no need to buy a print book and have him sign it. He already has signed my books in a way by recording those wonderful introductions for Audible. That's more than good enough for me. People sometimes wonder where my optimism comes from given the frustrations and restrictions my blindness and poor orientation skills have combined to present me with. Writers like him who infuse their characters and stories with such warm positive wisdom are responsible for a good portion of that. Especially after I walk away from religion as a teenager, characters in such stories did a great deal to give me a model for morality. Robert J. Sawyer bucks a lot of trends and established traditions in science fiction. Doubtless, hi finances have suffered for his more optimistic take on the genre. He one of my personal heroes. I can honestly say that in person, he more than lived up to the high impression of his character imparted through his many books. How many people can say that they've met one of their personal heroes and not been the least bit disappointed? I certainly can now count myself among that number. Adding further to my optimism are a slowly increasing number of people like Dani who have found their way past being helpful acquaintances to being honest friends who feel that I have something to offer. If I had to go to that festival alone, I certainly would have done it. There were crowds of people and I would constantly have needed to ask total strangers for help getting around. People we encountered were certainly kind and would doubtless have lent a hand, but the day would simply have ended along with any brief contact I might have achieved. This way, a moment where a dream came true was shared with a long-time friend and serves as another memory in a slowly growing platonic friendship. I keenly look forward to attending future book festivals with her and Sara. Perhaps, others will join us also. Attending such events as part of a small group of friends would I think be the ultimate way of experiencing them. Particularly if the day included our invasion of an unsuspecting pub, restaurant or coffee place where we could enjoy food, drink and each other's thoughts of the day. It's nice to finally have a proper idea of what a book fest is actually like. I had some theoretical notions going in which, for the most part, stood up rather well. The only area where I really came up short was in thinking about the number of people attending. Frankly, I never could have imagined a library containing as much noise and free-flowing un-shushed cheerful conversation. I'll never be able to think of a library in quite the same way again.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Splendid Fleeting Summer

Hello everyone. June and July have hurtled past at great speed. I feel like I'm on the crest of a wave. This has been a very unique vibrant Summer of interesting ideas and events. Sara and I have done a whole lot together since last I posted in mid June. I really didn't mean for a whole two months to go by before posting again.

The only sensible thing to do is try and write down my thoughts of these events in the order they happened. The graduation ceremony was very interesting. I never went to my own secondary school graduation. I just didn't feel connected enough. Hearing such a ceremony take place all these years later in a school I left after only two and a bit years was an interesting and satisfying look at a road not taken. The staff gave out awards for all sorts of things including attitude and citizenship. Unlike my own secondary school experience, I think they had a far more holistic sense of connection with their school. Extracurricular activities played a big role for them. I just didn't have the same opportunities in that area. I hope some of that activity gives them a better shot at jobs and such.

None of the school felt at all familiar. I wouldn't have recognized any of the staff, even the couple of them who ultimately recognized me. It all sounded unfamiliar. There weren't many people who I would have known as students. However, a lot of people who attended were friends I had met elsewhere in life. There were times over the weekend where I had no idea where to go or who was there. They never did any kind of role-call so there may well have been people I would have enjoyed meeting but didn't know were around. There was no good Internet connection there. This didn't inconvenience me but seriously hampered at least one workshop I attended where iPHONE capabilities were to be demonstrated. As I attend more of these reunions, I'll get to know more people and the experience should improve in that area. Sara is involved with the alumni and I had no desire to interfere with her duties. I expected there to be the odd dull moment as a result. It was quite fun most of the time and I'd certainly go again if the opportunity presents itself. Perhaps, staying in a dorm room would be a good move next time. Cab fare ate up considerable cash.

Sadly, Sara's excellent guide dog Rocky reached a point of deterioration where he had to be put down. he had begun to have real trouble standing to eat and moving was painful for him. It was an unexpectedly quick deterioration for her companion of ten years. I'm glad I could help Sara and her parents to fill his last days with plenty of pats, praise and love. He certainly deserved nothing less. It's been strange not having him present even for me. I've never encountered a dog as calm and obedient as he was. Sara has begun the process of applying for her next guide dog. Meanwhile, we've both attended Canada Day celebrations and done other things without him. The habit of treading carefully around my apartment for fear of stepping on a leg or tail while Sara was over has yet to leave me. For a creature who couldn't speak a single word, Rocky has left quite a legacy. I'm glad he could still enjoy things despite the pain and difficulty he was in right to the end.

Canada Day was spent at a party thrown by the Hoods. That's become a sort of family tradition over the years. The conversation was quite enjoyable as was the food and drink. Sara was fully able to enjoy the occasion. That means a great deal to me. Social connections and friendships are really the building blocks of life. Even when these relationships are more tangential most of the time, they still matter. We got our fireworks in earlier at an equally good party we attended with Sara's family. Getting to know them has been an interesting process for me. There was lots of time for that during the last visit. They love their sitcoms. In particular, there's the Big Bang Theory. I've now gained at least a modicum of exposure to that realm of geekdom. There are a lot of really clever bits of dialogue and banter. It's the sort of thing which I completely understand how people might logically presume I'd be hooked on. That just doesn't happen with me and any sitcoms. For them, they're a quite enjoyable way to spend an evening as their minds relax after a hard working day. The humour is there demanding one pay enough attention to get the jokes but the steaks aren't all that high should concentration waver. Not like with the documentaries I enjoy or Babylon 5. That show really demands that you pay attention and watch faithfully since each episode is part of a huge sprawling novel. I'll be keenly interested in seeing how Sara's parents handle retirement particularly on the entertainment level. They're very hard-working and basically focus their social time on family rather than friends. That's another area where I wonder if change will occur when the pressure and purpose their work best owes upon them is lifted away.

During that visit before Canada Day, we advanced preparations for our wedding next year. It'll take place on June 7th. The reception hall and church have been booked. More detailed work will take place closer to the day. I don't foresee any major issues or points of conflict. It ought to be a great day in our lives and for family and friends who can attend. I feel very good about things. As much as I've come to enjoy single life, I'm very glad there's a definite point of passage now.

Thanks to my tax refund and a generous bit of help from my parents, money is less of a worry than it otherwise would have been this Summer. I don't quite have the flexibility I was once used to having. However, I'll end the Summer in a reasonably good place without credit card debt. July in particular has been a remarkably enjoyable time. That good time certainly came with a price tag but was nothing like engagement plus holidays. Being away so much has also lowered my grocery bill somewhat. This next month should see a slow-down in excursions. I'll be able to attend the Peel Multicultural Centre more regularly. I've made some interesting acquaintances there and think the prospects for real friendships are quite high age gap not withstanding. There's a genuine interest in each other's knowledge and experience which I've found very refreshing. Work on the presentation I'll be giving at the CNIB National Braille conference at the end of October will speed up. I've set it aside and really enjoyed July but feel the need to crack on the effort over August. There's also the next newsletter for the Disability Concerns office. Lots to keep me pretty busy.

It's Wednesday, July 30. Sara has gone back to Brantford. We've seen a great deal of each other over the past while and have enjoyed that thoroughly. We went to the Murgaski cottage with Steve and his parents and had a splendid time. The weather wasn't hot enough for me to want to swim but I got out on a boat ride. We also enjoyed plenty of fresh air, food, drink and conversation. After the cottage weekend, we were all able to have a superb dinner with Michelle McQuigge at the Granite Brewery. Steve managed the navigating beautifully as he always seems to. Michelle couldn't join us on the cottage trip so it was good to be able to spend some time with her. I find it really gratifying that traditions and familiar haunts are starting to appear more in life. I feel so much more connected these days. Connected and able to give more back to society. I also feel blessed to have time to balance things out.

I've reflected on a great many things over the past couple of months. My relationship with Sara is in a very good place. It's different when you need to plan out visits and can't just see each other nearly every day as Janene and I were able to. There's a kind of ebb and flow in intensity. The growth of attraction and understanding of each other happens in a more spaced out fashion which gives time fore contemplation and longing to see one another between visits. Each of us also has more of a sense of two lives revealing aspects and aligning with each other as we invest time in getting to know what and who matters in our estimation. By the time Sara moves in with me here at the apartment, I think we'll both have a sense that it's totally comfortable, natural and about time we took that step. Meanwhile, we'll continue to enjoy aspects of our separate lives.

It's Thursday afternoon. I had an interesting half-day at the Peel Multicultural Centre. This after crashing early last night and consequently finding myself damnably wide awake at a little past four in the morning. I put the time to good use and wrote handouts about safe and fun destinations on the Internet. As things turned out, they weren't needed. We spent the time learning about Microsoft Word. My knowledge of that word processor is somewhat out of date these days. I've had absolutely no need for it in close to a decade. I heard how two very different teaching styles impacted our little group. I can use that to change my own approach a little when I present my material next week. |I'm glad I was at my most wakeful while there. I seem to be losing my energy now. I'll have to finish this tomorrow.

Gosh! It's August now. I've enjoyed July so much that I don't even feel cheated by the speed of time. I'm on the balcony enjoying a delicious thermos of coffee. The banking is done. I ended up going over my data limit on the Internet this month but only by a little. I'll be working on my grocery order today among other things. Other mundane concerns include such joys as vacuuming, mopping the floor, cooking and doing the dishes. No special plans this weekend. I'll try and get out for a walk or two around the lake. I haven't done nearly as much of that as I thought I would this Summer. Given all the writing I'll be working on this month, I may well atone for that as I strive to keep mental fog and writer's block at a safe distance. There's plenty to read and listen to.

For everything that ends up noted in these long blog posts, there are a million little points of interest which fall through the cracks. Sara and I have listened to many fascinating podcasts and some truly excellent audio dramas this Summer. The Dorian Gray series by Big Finish was a real highlight. The CBC gave us the Live Through This and How To Do It radio shows. The old standby From Our Own Correspondents presented by the BBC has remained the fountain of fascination I've always found it to be. NPR has added Snap Judgement and Ted Talks Radio Hour to the mix. These shows have lead to some very good conversations, interesting books to add to our libraries and pleasure of learning about all sorts of stuff.

It's mid afternoon now. I've done my chores and am once again on my balcony. Thought there might be a start the weekend show on one of the Internet radio stations but there doesn't seem to be. I'll check again at four. A new game called Paladin of the Sky has been released. I've mucked around with it briefly. It has a pretty generous demo. Sound presentation could be better. Looks like whoever developed this was somewhat strapped for cash. The game play seems somewhat shallow to me. There are large maps which take quite a while to explore. That exploration really doesn't strike me is a whole lot of fun. There are apparently hidden objects which you need to be lucky enough to stand on the right spot and somehow psychically intuit that you should hit the enter button to find. I'm fine with the idea of hiding object sounds amid other background sounds. Having absolutely silent objects in the middle of empty inactive maps just doesn't seem sporting. Combat seems somewhat luck-based although the magical attack system seems promising. I don't think I'll be paying the $30 price. Not enough gang for buck at least as far as my initial admittedly brief glimpse has revealed. In other recent gaming news, we can apparently expect something more from the developer of A Dark Room in the near future. Now there's something I'd have confidence to grab right off the bat. We also have the recent release of She Noire. It bills itself as the first accessible hidden object adventure game. I'm really torn about that one. Its price is high at around $30 taking the exchange rate with the Euro into account. There's no demo available. I have yet to see very much reaction to the game anywhere. There were days when I'd have jumped at all these things just to stave off boredom and be one of the first to take a crack at them. The temptation is still there but there are other considerations and priorities. I'm very grateful for that.

It's Saturday, August 2. I hope my friend Steve Murgaski is enjoying his birthday. I certainly am out here on my balcony. The weather is excellent. So was an early brunch. One of the podcasts I occasionally listen to is Documentaries from the BBC. I finally got around to hearing an episode on the possibility of ending the death penalty in the US. I learned that it's actually less expensive to maintain a prisoner for a life sentence than it is to administer the death penalty. I never would have thought that to be the case. Quite the reverse. My major objections to the penalty are that it removes any chance of atonement or redemption. This is true both for the guilty person as well as for society when someone innocent is unfairly sentenced to death. I'm put in mind of the Truscott case where it was later discovered that a wrongful conviction had taken place. At least in that instance, some restitution could be made for all of that man's lost years. Plenty more podcasts await my listening pleasure. There should also be some good online radio shows on today.

Just got back from a splendid walk around the lake a couple of times. I met and briefly chatted with a couple of people. It was a little hot so I'm not surprised there weren't as many people as I initially thought there might be. I came in a different way by mistake but my neighbour happened to be coming back in as well. That hasn't happened to me in quite a while. I usually hit the entrance dead on. Guess I've gotten out of practice. It really has been a busy Summer.

My relationship with this blog has certainly changed over the years. There days, I tend to record short audio postings on a service called:

I still feel that maintaining this blog is an important contribution I can make both to my own mental health and to society at large. I have no plans to stop posting entries here. There's something that just feels good about taking time to write down the happennings in one's life. Every once in a while, someone will stumble on my blog and find it of interest. In terms of what I give to siciety, I hope people can get a bit of a better sense of what live as a blind person on ODSP can be like. People either tend to presume that it's all grim and sad or that we have it incredibly easy and should be whipped into working. A whole host of things determines how well the system works for people. This is true both when it comes to employment prospects and when those prospects just don't pan out and people must make the best of the generocity of the state. I happen to be one of the latter despite considerable efforts to the contrary. It is possible, I contend, to live a good, productive and enjoyable life. I hope people see that and perhaps judge chronically unemployed people they meet less harshly. I think the recession has done some real good in that department. A good many fully able healthy people have gotten a taste of the kind of hopeless quest to make one's mark and earn one's keep which their fears and misperceptions plus actual disability have conspired to make people like me face.

One thing which I'd love to see would be a more facilitated way into volunteering in one's community. I was largely kept from doing that much at a younger age due to lack of transportation options. other blind people are really great at getting around and might not need that. However, insomnia might face them making one's best most wakeful hours uncertain. Perhaps, there's no good way of finding a best fit for everyone. I took a walk around the lake with my iPHONE and seem to have gotten lucky this year. I guess as long as people find ways of reaching out, something will probably happen eventually. It can just take a lot more time, faith and patience than it ought to.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Another Chunk of Time Gone By

Hello everyone. It's Thursday evening on May 22. I figured I'd do a blog entry since it's been a while. This week has been busy with work on my CNIB Braille conference presentation proposal as well as the newsletter which covers the CRC Disability Concerns conference I recently attended. Strange to think of the beginning of the month as recent but it really still has that yesterday feel. Work on the newsletter shouldn't have taken as long as it did. Contributions were slow to come in and there were far less of them than I had hoped for. Thanks to most workshops having handouts I was able to make ends meet. I only heard about the opportunity to speak at the CNIB Braille conference a week ago. The official deadline stated on their site had already long passed. Things collided today so it's been a long and busy one tackling what should have been more spread out. Tomorrow, I'll find out whether or not there's more work to do on the newsletter. They really liked what I gave them but it was too large to fit their usual pages. However, they liked what I did enough to not have me start cutting right away. If that isn't vindication, I don't know what is. They chose their keynote speaker and workshop discussion facilitators very well so there was loads of good information which seemed too potentially useful not to distribute widely to the disability advocates who couldn't attend.

This October, presuming my proposal is accepted, I'll have the opportunity to speak to participants of the CNIB Braille conference all about accessible games. I've blogged before about how every once in a while, our expertise actually comes in handy for people. Being unemployed pretty much makes it almost mandatory to jump at any such opportunity to demonstrate one's abilities or knowledge. I would be pretty much the best person in Canada to give a general introductory presentation about accessible games, their history and current events in that sphere. I've submitted my proposal, the first such formal document like that I've ever had to write. I've presented online and for smaller groups. This one would be to something like a hundred people.

It's now Monday, June 9th. This week could be pretty interesting all around. I have yet to hear anything from the conference organizers at the CNIB regarding my proposal. Apparently, the original deadline was April 31, a month before I even knew the damned conference even existed. There have been no updates to their conference web site at all. Before I do a bunch of work on a presentation suitable to such an opportunity, I'd really like to have some confirmation that I will in fact have the opportunity to present. There's plenty else I can do over the Summer. Not to mention the weekend of the conference coming right around my birthday and other family stuff such as Halloween. The CNIB really isn't putting any resources into helping potential blind speakers like me. Getting me there would have been a nice gesture. Centrally producing resources such as the right number of handouts for attendees once numbers were actually know would have been another big help. Instead, it looks like everyone has to do their own stuff. The only thing I'd feel confident in putting together on my own would be a two-page handout. Provided nothing happens to the web sites which serve as central points for accessible gaming, I could certainly take people on a quick tour of those resources if hooking my laptop into display facilities at the convention centre is doable. I really don't know the first thing about Power point or anything like that. One of the central sites was recently knocked out temporarily by hacker idiots. It took them at least a few weeks to get everything back up and running again. Thank God they managed it.

On the up-side, I'm now done with the newsletter for the conference I attended on behalf of my church. It wasn't a huge amount of work but dragged out until the start of last week mainly due to poor preparation ahead of the conference. By the time there was a sense of who was going, the organizers were just too busy to even catch my inquiries about pre-positioning people two write about the various workshops. The final result will be somewhat weighted in favour of the part of the conference which I attended, recorded and had handouts for. Given the circumstances, I'm pretty happy with what I managed to do. It seems as though the conference organizers are as well. The final draft will likely come out soon. Damned nice to have working on it behind me as this Summer gets underway.

That is going to happen quite quickly. Last week, I went to the Peel Multicultural Centre to speak to a group of seniors wanting to learn more about technology. On an earlier walk around the lake, I had encountered Maria, a lady who is trying to help with this program. After an extensive conversation, she asked me if I could come in. I was busy on the Thursday following our initial conversation but was free last Thursday. Apparently, people were impressed with me. So impressed that I was asked to come in on Thursdays from now on. It looks like I've finally found a way of really helping out in the community. They're happy to get me there and back. I've begun working on a sort of glossary of technology terms for them. I think I'll be able to help quite a bit. It's so damned good to have that kind of thing back in life again. After a couple of weeks, presuming things keep working out well, I'll add a new line to my slowly growing email signature turned unconventional resume.

Thursday is also the day Ontario goes to the poles to elect the next provincial government. I've taken the time to read each of the main party's platforms as I did last time. Unlike last time, which I guess was actually federal, I'm not very impressed with any of our choices. If you could pick and choose the best parts of each party's offerings, you might really achieve something. We've gotten ourselves into a very dismal political corner where scandal has hollowed out my once trusted Liberal party. I really can't vote for them in good conscience this time around. I've never trusted the Conservatives. If they win a majority, I'd be very concerned about them using cost-cutting approaches which put numbers ahead of people's lives. I absolutely agree that reducing the debt is necessary. We have to trim down our bureaucracy. I just worry that the frontline workers are going to be reduced in places where they really shouldn't be. The million jobs featured so prominently and apparently mistakenly in the Conservative plan would be created over the same timeframe with no drastic government cuts. Over the past while, I've heard reasonable objections to each of the party platforms. Nobody really has it right. The only questions is who might do the least societal damage. I'm leaning heavily towards the NDP, new democratic party, primarily because of their unenviable position. They've campaigned mainly on the premise that they couldn't support the Liberal government they had been previously propping up due to the weight of dishonesty and scandal having gotten too out of hand. Given that, they had better be squeaky clean should they win their first chance to govern in decades. I dimly remember Bob Ray in power back when I was a child. This would be a precious opportunity to shine for the NDP. It's been such a revolving door between the Liberals and Conservatives that I don't know that either party has nearly as much to lose by screwing up.

It's Tuesday afternoon. I'm on the couch with the air conditioning being used more to rid the apartment of stuffy humid air than to actually cool. Two days to go until the election. I made it twice around the lake this afternoon. It was just too dead and muggy feeling out there. I met with a good five or six people and gently inquired as to their election thoughts. None of them felt very happy or strongly about any of the choices. Here's hoping this next round leaves us in better shape leadership-wise.

Today has been a day of checking in with friends via the phone. I'm ever so thankful I have an unlimited talk and text plan. Nice not to have to worry about that at all. I got to chat with Adam, Steve, Wendy and Shirley at some length. Shirley's doing quite well and has guests from England who she wants me to meet later this week. That ought to be interesting. Mark and Wendy are also doing pretty well these days. It's been around three months since I spoke to those two. It'll be good seeing them during the Summer. Wendy hasn't been able to find employment but thanks to a funding shortfall, she finds her volunteer services in higher demand than usual this Summer. Having that level of commitment and activity in life is a comfort to her. I can totally relate to that. Getting involved with this seniors program gives me a much needed sense of community connection and purpose. I worry for Adam and Steve. A protracted fruitless job search has taken a heavier toll on them. Other than offer moral support and friendship, there's not a great deal I can do for either of them other than pray. Both of them deserve so much better than what they've been dealt. That's true of too damned many people these days. I got Adam talking politics for a bit. Under most circumstances, talking about things besides games with him is downright refreshing despite his deep and growing cynicism. Not so this time. He's pretty much at the point of absolutely no hope of things getting better on a societal level. Governments simply serve those with all the money leaving the rest of us with no real options or cause for hope in life. That pretty much sums up his take on things. I don't think that's altogether fair even about the Conservative party. However, it gets harder to argue with him when good friends are left hanging out to dry despite plenty of effort to the contrary. Reading lots of articles about how housing is increasingly out of reach for young adults, how people are waiting much longer to start families due to sustained financial insecurity, and how that North American dream of personal success is nothing but a pipe dream for the middle class, doesn't exactly give me a lot of ammunition with which to defend my dear old optimism.

Thankfully, I have reached a place in life where I have the luxury of not having to dig and scrape for my survival and have time to look out for my friends. I've been given a space in which optimism and hope are a reasonable approach to life. I can appreciate how a positive cheerful approach is rewarding me in many ways. It has made me more approachable as a person. I still fervently believe that a positive stance would reward the majority of people in some way. However, I also completely get where basically good people like my long-time friend become so frighteningly disenchanted. It's a perfectly reasonable if self-destructive response to what they're going through.

It's Friday afternoon. I'm on my balcony. We tried to get my cane repaired in the morning but weren't entirely successful. Mom and one of my favourite mobility instructors Harpal to a very good crack at it with the repair kit I bought along with the cane. The tip won't go on in a stable way. Other than that, it was a success much too hard fought for. Surely, there's a possible cane design which would give you a sturdy, reliable, but also easily repairable cane. It took so much effort getting the elastic cord through the segments and the handle. It seems such a shame to treat good graphite shafts as disposable just because the cord holding pieces together breaks but that's what I'll have to do.

A good family friend was celebrating her graduation from university today. I've known her since before she could walk. We had an excellent lunch at Milestones Grill. She was in very good spirits. Unlike me, she has had some good work experience opportunities during the time she got her degree so if anyone's ready to face this insane world where unemployment lurks around every corner, Alicia is. Mark, her younger brother, has had what you might called a stroke of luck. He'll be working at golf courses taking care of greens and doing other stuff. One of the perks seems to be cheep golf so that pleases him no end. I hope he makes the most of this opportunity.

Things are off to a fairly good start at the Peel Multicultural Centre where I'll be volunteering. I have begun to get to know these interesting folks and that'll help me focus on their interests technology-wise. Things seem pretty slow and relaxed. I don't have much of a sense of what the people funding this program are hoping for. I was given Internet access on my iPHONE and computer so I'll at least be able to demonstrate things more easily to people. Apparently, Jaws doesn't make it easy to see what I'm trying to explain so I'm going to se if either System Access or NVDA make things I'm doing more easy to follow.

It's a tad chilly out on the balcony. I think it'll be cooler for the next couple days and then warm again on Sunday. I can roll with that. It's still good walking weather unless it rains. I'm indoors for now. Last night while listening to the election coverage, I was out on the balcony enjoying a beer. The Liberals won a completely unexpected victory and now have a majority government. I was certain they were going to get the axe this time. An NDP minority was the best I had any hope for. The next four years are going to be interesting ones politically. The scandals of the past eight years are still out there and being investigated. On the plus side, Kathleen Wynne comes into power not owing anybody any favours. She can pick her cabinet without compromise. With such a clear mandate to govern, we'll finally see what an un threatened Liberal vision of Ontario is like. I've always preferred the Liberal message and ideals. They just need to get their moral fibre back and really deal with all these hover ring ghosts of mistakes past. I've always thought that would be more easily accomplished outside of power. Instead, the Conservatives find themselves needing to rebuild themselves and find new direction. It's not at all the result I had hoped for, but perhaps the Liberals can really rise to the challenge and make me really want them to stick around come next election. Anything's possible I guess.

It's Sunday morning. Very damned early. I guess I've had a little over five hours sleep. This included a strange dream of playing Poker with a deck of iPADS instead of cards. They would say strange things when you touched them. I don't remember any of the words. The preposterous notion of shuffling and sliding iPADS across a large Poker table has stuck with me into wakefulness. I've already done the dishes, wiped the countertop and table, answered a couple emails and fiddled with some different Real tech sound settings I've just discovered while wearing headphones at my desk here. It was fun to fiddle but I didn't find anything I'd use on a permanent basis. None of the various daily book deals interested me in the slightest. That's been mainly the case for a while now. So far, I've only had one book I purchased at full price become a daily deal.

Any time now, I'm expecting to hear that I have a fourth niece. I don't believe her name has been settled on. Dan and Allie have done really well at dealing with life's various demands. I'm amazed they're not more stressed out and impatient. Instead, they mainly seem to handle everything with good grace. No doubt, they'll fill this Summer with exciting trips and excursions for the kids and themselves. I don't know how they do it all. Perhaps, I'll see them today. Church will be first on the agenda in around five hours. It's been cooler these past couple of days. I've been comfortable in slacks. I hear we may be in for a cooler Summer over all this year but I'm not sure I believe it. Some ice coffee and tea from Tassimo would likely be a good thing to get hold of sooner or later. In all likely hood, the hot humid weather will put in a sustained appearance.

Sara and I will be going to the W. Ross McDonald school reunion next weekend. I've never been to one of those before. It'll make for an interesting shared experience to add to our year and a half as an engaged couple. She's actually involved in organizing the occasion. While I certainly have memories of the place, I wasn't really there to form any sort of lasting attachment to it. Sara will also be giving a speech at the graduation happening just prior to that. I never attended my own secondary school graduation. I just didn't feel connected enough to the place that I should bother. Here's hoping these very young adults feel differently and enjoy the moment. Such milestones are far to infrequently reached in life. University was a different story. I attended that graduation and was frankly expecting more of a celebration with friends and former classmates. There really should have been, but we all just went our separate ways. I didn't even say goodbye to anyone, staff or student. At least when I next reach a milestone like finishing one of my endless projects, Sara will be there to share in my triumph.

It's now Tuesday afternoon. I believe that makes a week that I've been working on this entry. My fourth niece has arrived in fine style. Her name will be Ailsa but the current thinking is that people will call her Dani. Guess we'll see. Everyone's doing well. My parents have been over in Hamilton helping out where they can. I've just finished doing a second load of laundry getting all the sheets and towels clean. Nice to have all that ready for action. Once I'm back, I'll have to stock up on groceries. I'll be packing this evening. It's always tempting to try one of these trips with just my iPHONE and a few accessories for it. I'd just dread the thought of writing anything longer than a few sentences on the iPHONE. Perhaps, now that Siri can take dictation, it wouldn't be so bad. I certainly have enough storage on the iPHONE to take all the reading I want. I may just do that this time around.

Other than this weekend, the only thing now firmly planned for Sara and I is a Canada Day celebration with Jim and Carol. They always throw a good party and it has become something of a family tradition to attend. I don't know whether we'll go on any major expeditions to see friends in Toronto or where ever hers might live but that's a possibility and I'm going to be ready for that. It's so damned good to have someone so special in life. Even with recent sleeping troubles, I'm still a very happy man these days.

Apparently, we could be in for some rough weather this afternoon. Sitting out here on my balcony, there aren't too many signs of this. The wind is picking up a bit and it feels like perhaps clouds are getting in the way of the sun. Harder to tell given the direction my balcony faces. It's pleasant enough just now but I'm using my sound bar speakers which attach to my laptop so I can get inside very quickly if need be. With that thought, I believe I'll say goodbye to you, my intrepid loyal readers, until next entry.















Friday, April 25, 2014

Of Cents and Consequence

Hello everyone. I didn't think three months would fly past between entries but it seems we're about done with April now. This time of year typically slows down somewhat. Given some extremely cold weather and an attempt to claw my way out of the first credit card debt I've ever been in, I haven't been doing a whole lot which seems blog-worthy. Having our engagement right near the holidays made for an absolutely awesome time but I hadn't quite factored in the damage to my usually stable finances.

With some generous assistance from my parents, I'm now clear of that situation. I've gained a very keen understanding of just how nearly impossible it is to make a dent in even a modest level of debt while living on ODSP. If you don't have family willing to help or a means of somehow getting unexpected income which doesn't impact your monthly income, there's just no way short of really drastic measures. You'd have to forego eating well, never see friends, severely limit phone and Internet, and more to lower the credit card balance significantly. Keeping it steady is one thing but meaningfully reducing it is quite another. Thanks to being on the receiving end of some such income, things didn't get as slow and grim as they might otherwise have. I tried everything short of those really drastic steps to very little effect. The ODSP system was, I've come to think, really designed with the assumption that disabled people would have supportive family or others in their lives to supplement the monthly income when necessary. Hence, the allowance for gifts or honorariums. This experience has increased my empathy towards those who are tempted or are forced into credit card debt who lack the friends and family I'm blessed with. One easily made bad decision could and has thoroughly wrecked years of life for some people I've come to know. If you avoid getting into debt, you tend to have at least a little wiggle room each month.

Over the past while, I've made numerous adjustments to streamline my expenses cancelling nearly all of my monthly paid subscriptions. If you add everything up, I've saved something like $80 per month. As a single man with no drastic changes foreseeable, I lacked any real motivation to cut these things back. However, so much has changed over the past year or so that I'm finally ready to get rid of some of my bastion against lonely boredom. I no longer pay Skype or Sendspace anything. Skype calling was very useful to me when I had to watch my long distance and cell phone minutes. Thanks to my new iPHONE plan, that just isn't necessary. Sendspace was a nice useful luxury. However, I have other uses for the roughly eight dollars per month it cost. The largest cut was my most recent decision to cancel my TV service. The small television and digital box I own are both now in my storage closet. I really should have taken the step of cancelling TV a whole lot sooner. I mean as much as a year ago. Mostly, I used it to listen to CBC Radio1 or local news. I'll miss CP24 a little I guess. Other than that and the odd documentary, I just haven't been interested in actual TV shows. All the entertainment I really value comes from the Internet in the form of books, audio dramas, podcasts and Internet radio stations. I've gone nearly a week and haven't really missed TV at all. Eventually though, I'll have to look into getting a better radio. My old boom box still mainly works but the antenna has broken off. This has somewhat impeded reception. I can only get really good signal if I put the thing on an end table in a corner by the window. There's a rather nifty spot I'd use if I could get better reception. My TV once sat there.

One subscription I've held onto is my platinum plan with Audible. I get two credits per month and thoroughly enjoy the books I obtain from that service. Increasingly, my iPHONE has become my reading device of choice. I've been reading a tremendous number of books lately. I'm going through a bit of a creative dry spell and have had a few thankfully short episodes of sleep difficulty. Reading has been my lifeline. The Kindle app is A wonderful way to read. I've read so many books that just wouldn't have been accessible to me before it became so accessible. Admittedly, Amazon has financially benefited from my newfound reading freedom. Over the past while, I've really had to work at adding books to wish lists rather than just buying them outright. I've ...well... somewhat succeeded at attaining this discipline thanks in part to the debt I'm thankfully now out of. It's damned nice to have at least a little wiggle room once again.

I'll be doing a lot of things differently this year. Being engaged certainly has that effect. As the weather warms up, Sara and I will doubtless be doing more socially. Once the weather makes up its mind, I also plan to do a lot more walking around the lake this year. I really want to get more into the habit of doing that on nice days. My bone conduction headphones will be getting a lot more use. I really like my Otterbox Defender case for my iPHONE but it's a pain to take it off the phone in order to fit it into the waterproof case I can wear on my neck. I can put the phone in shirt or coat pockets but hearing it while in a pants pocket can be tricky when it's windy. Glad I got those Aftershockz bone conduction headphones. They've been splendid when attending meetings but that's been the only use I've put them to for quite some time. As there's a Disability Concerns Canada conference in early May that I'll be attending, I've got the headphones plugged in and charging. I'll be the editor of the next issue of the organization's newsletter which will cover the conference in detail so those who couldn't attend might still benefit. I don't anticipate any trouble. It'll be good to make use of my editorial experience once again. It's been a while.

I won't be going to Lake Joseph this year. Back when I came to my decision about that, part of me wondered whether I'd change my mind as Summer approached. The first letter came urging me to register for the season. Frankly though, my mind hasn't changed. For at least the next two years, I'll simply be focusing my time and money on other things. It's all going to be about strengthening the friendships and laying the foundation for a good marriage. I'm hoping that there'll possibly be ways to perhaps catch the odd festival or partake in some other more memorable different experiences with Sara and friends.

Easter has now come and gone. I had a good one in all respects this year. Good Friday was consumed by my second reading of The Robe. That book has an entrancing powerful quality to it. I guess God's going to get my attention one way or another. On Saturday, I went to my parents' house for dinner. The food was excellent as always. There was plenty of turkey, ham and pie. As the kids get older, the Easter egg hunts get shorter. This last one may perhaps have taken five active gleeful minutes. It was good to see everyone again. This year, everyone included four good family friends. Two of them have yet to be introduced to Sara. Easter is a very busy time for her so we made certain to have a visit earlier in the month.

It's absurd o'clock on Easter Monday morning. Siri informs me that it will be a wonderfully warm 19 degrees C today. Definitely walking and balcony weather. Hopefully, that'll translate into better and more timely sleep tonight. I've been doing a great deal of reading, spiritual and otherwise, this past week. Mainly, there was Bob mayer's Atlantis series. I got the complete six-book set as a single ebook on Amazon. It made for a very enjoyable read. Made me wonder why I never could get into Stargate seriously. Another excellent recent read was a book called The Death Class: A True Story about Life. It was written by Erika hayasaki, a journalist who found out about a professor who taught a college class about death. I had first heard about this book on an episode of Tapestry, a favourite show on CBC Radio1 which looks at faith in the modern world. The book is available in print and Kindle form and is worth every penny. Andrew Pyper has also contributed very nicely to my mental stimulation of late. I thoroughly enjoyed The Demonologist, The Trade Mission and The Guardians. All very good stories.

Two glass items have met their violent ends on my kitchen floor. A thankfully empty beer bottle was accidentally knocked off the counter where I rarely leave them these days. I've gotten quite good about taking the time to put them back in the case safely on the floor immediately after I've poured them. However, something must have distracted me this time. There's always that instant of dread just after you make accidental contact and send a doomed object flying from its perch; A strange horribly stretchy instant of "oh no!", when you simultaniously recognize what that object is and realize that "is" will become a messy possibly dangerous "was" in the next nanosecond. While getting some juice, I heard an object fall from a shelf in my fridge. A split second before it hit the floor, I realized that it was a jar of some sort of goopy barbecue flavoured mayonnaise I had been contemplating throwing out for some time now. Broken glass by itself is no fun to clean up even when it's in a limited known area. Broken glass plus goo is less fun to deal with by an order of magnitude. Thankfully, only a small portion of each of these objects actually broke apart into small pieces. I can be pretty confident I've cleaned things up and have avoided injury. Of course, I'll be extra careful and ultra conscious as I walk in the kitchen over the next couple of days just waiting for the telltale crunch that informs me I missed some glass. Yes, Douglas Adams fans; I did think "Oh no! Not again!"

Having just polished off a light breakfast, I'm enjoying a dark coffee at my desk while listening to an episode of The Overnightscape. Frank Edward Nora is doing a splendid job as always. He's talking about everything from creepy Easter gifts to glum retail store employees to the vanished culture of flee market vendors. It makes for a very engaging start to the day. I hope he writes a book some day about his experiences wandering and riding his way through his beloved New York City. He's so wonderfully thoughtful.

The change in weather seems to have affected me this year. I've had a runny nose, dry cough and the broken up sleep. Allergy medication seems to be helping with these symptoms. Glad I had some handy.

I god out for a while today but have found myself with a head ache and tired enough that I slept away a chunk of afternoon. I had really hoped to have avoided that. However, it's still been an awesome day. The only real exception to that was a seasoned fish fillet I tried. Should have known better. I didn't like it at all. Oh well. One must gamble and loose every once in a while or go stale. A couple of headsets I bought recently after my Logitech G330 set unexpectedly broke on me have proved interesting gambles. The Creative HS800 headset is one of the most comfortable I've ever owned. It has very good sound for its $45 price but lacked a USB dongle. These let you plug the headphone and microphone plugs into a single port rather than the two jacks on one's computer. This little detail actually makes quite a difference for me due to my iMac's tendency to suddenly stop producing sound when running Windows bootcampped. If you're using a USB sound device when that happens, you can always pull it out and plug it in again thereby restoring sound and, more vitally, speech output. Thankfully, I kept the USB dongle which came with my G330s and it works perfectly with the Creative headset. The detachable gooseneck mic is a very nice touch. Due to the bulk of the headset as well as the somewhat delicate rotation points on the HS800, I don't plan on using that headset for travelling.

A good job then that I've also acquired the Turtle Beach Ear Force M5 mobile gaming headset. I give this headset very high marks for comfort also. Unlike the cushion used atop the Creative set, the M5 employs a more standard sort of rubber foam which would hold up far better to any accidental emersion in liquid. The cups on the M5 can be rotated to flatness relative to the headband. They're designed to be used with tablets or smart phones but come with an adaptor for use with laptops. Rather than the USB dongle I was expecting, this adaptor splits off into two jacks for mic and headset. This is fine for my laptop where I need not worry about suddenly losing sound. Unlike other smart phone headsets, these lack volume controls but still have a cord-mounted button for answering calls and such. Despite the lack of said volume control, I'd rate them better than the Urban Ears headset I once owned. This is true both in terms of sound quality and rugged construction. The Ear Force M5 has clearly been built to last and withstand travel. The Urban Ears could fold into a very small circular shape which was really only semi-pocket able. You can't stuff the M5 into a pocket at all, but people have apparently worn them around the neck. I don't know that I'd ever get used to doing that on a continual basis with a headset but they'll travel very well in a pack with other accessories. That flat cup rotation ability turns them into a padding asset rather than a recipe for snag and snap disasters like what I believe to have befallen my poor G330 headset.

It's Wednesday morning. I've been a tad tired this past while. I guess all the weather shifts haven't helped any. Glad I got to enjoy some of Monday outdoors. It was very nice indeed. As the disability conference approaches, more will begin to happen regarding the newsletter. As registration happens, it'll become possible to know who attends which workshop and I can ask people to write a piece about what they experience. I should also receive handouts for all the workshops. The real crunch will come after the conference when the writing arrives and I actually have the building blocks to construct the issue. I look forward to that.

Recently, I've begun investigating a new possibility for Land of Trivian. Rather than a board game, I might change how it's constructed entirely. It would be more like a gamebook with scenes triggered by location and other elements. That would greatly reduce the need for separate discrete locations. Travel choices would be more meaningful and I could still have the building of a legacy before time expires motivation conflict. The overarching crisis or objective still proves illusive. Lately, I've been digging into more of my treasure trove of books on game development, choice psychology and rpg mechanics. I know what I'm looking for is out there and I'm pretty sure I have the resources to eventually point the way forward. One big decision that the new approach would make for me was that the game would definitely be a computer game rather than any sort of tabletop game. I'd be using Inform7 in a way that would be far less of a stretch from the kind of game it was designed to produce. When I started this project, I didn't see myself arriving at such a fork in the road so soon, but here I am.

It's now Thursday afternoon. The groceries have arrived and are stowed nicely away. It was a medium-sized order which I'll probably have to supplement before the end of next month. I'm still trying to achieve a balance which keeps me in fresher fruits and vegetables and also maximizes my savings from coupons. This past while has seen quite a lot of financial tweaking and I won't really have a clear sense of things until the next month or two of bills come in. Overall though, I'm quite confident things will be noticeably better.

There are a few iPHONE discoveries which I should go over: The bible app I've been using was rendered fully accessible by this morning's version 5.01 update. This was a very quick and spectacular turnaround from its previously inaccessible state which the prior version 5.0 update unfortunately caused. I find that I now prefer using the You version bible app on my iPHONE over any version I have on my computer. The developers responded very quickly and comprehensively to the outcry from blind users of the app who had been bitterly disappointed with version 5 changes. I think what we saw here was a clear case of a lack of awareness on the part of the app developers that they had achieved such a strong blind following. I wrote them an apparently helpful email as did many others. Doubtless, they'll keep us in mind when they make further changes. Having such a widely used app made manifestly accessible is a nice victory for accessibility awareness.

Another discovery was with Flip board. I've enjoyed dipping into this app's endless supply of interesting articles. Now, having finally checked out one of their frequent emails touting new magazines and sources of said articles on my iPHONE, I can easily add them to my personal flip board. I was able to search back for prior emails and add a wealth of new content sources of interest which I couldn't figure out how to do before. When you come to the correct link, activating it opens Safari which then presents an option to open the desired magazine in the Flip board app itself. Once there, you just use the "add" button to subscribe to it. Very nice indeed. Especially since I don't plan on buying any new books other than my two Audible credits worth for the next few months.

Speaking of Audible and Kindle, they've both just updated their app's also. In the case of Audible, I'm very happy to be able to download books as single large files rather than have them split into parts. This will be great for books I want to jump around in a lot. People who still want smaller parts can opt for that within the settings of the app. Upgrades to the Kindle app don't seem to change anything from a blind user's perspective. I still need to go through the menu to get to the table of contents. Once there, I still need to feel around the screen until I encounter what I want and then double-tap on it. I would dearly love to be able to flick left and right among the chapters and headings rather than hunt around the screen for them. I haven't found any means of accessing these "info cards" mentioned in the update notes. At least they haven't broken what works. It's been nearly a year since they first made the Kindle app really accessible. While I'd love to see improvement such as my gripe about tables of contents being addressed, I'm still basking in the glow of having so many more books accessible to me. Being able to simply buy a book and not having to spend a fortune or wait years for it to be accessible has been utterly liberating in a way that people with sight would have difficulty truly comprehending.

It's nice to be able to have my balcony door open and not be freezing. We're not quite at the point where I'd set up on the balcony table for the day, but clearly, we're heading in that direction. Meanwhile, I'm drawn to all the noises which have been absent since Autumn; traffic, birds, people down below, and of course, the thud and crash made by the dumpster's being taken and returned empty by the garbage truck. I had forgotten how surprisingly loud that could be. They're pretty quick though so it doesn't disturb the peace for very long.

It's friday afternoon. I've finished rading the Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design. That book is probably one of the most worth-while read in terms of getting me to re-evaluate what I'm trying to achieve with Land of Trivian. It covers so many areas of rpg design well. I'm finding that flu medication is somewhat more helpful than the alergy medication. My dry coughing and stuffy nose have subsided nicely over the past while although my eyes have been a bit dry and itchy. Given past illness, this seems a fairly minor annoyance to contend with. Lulu and Brian are having a surprise episode of the Bear's Lair on a station called The Bell. I'm enjoying the music and hearing the two of them dish out the tunes. Brings back a lot of fond memories.

There's not too much happenning this weekend. I've just registerred for next weekend's saturday disability conference. I used to really resent these uneventful weekends like the one in front of me. They used to signify how thoroughly I had failed to connect meaningfully with anybody physically near enough to make any tangible difference in my life. That resentment of empty time has pretty much gone these days. Empty weekends don't tend to heard the bank balance as much. I treasure my time wheather it's solitary or not. Warmer weather is on its way and I can look forward to more time with friends. Perhaps, on my walks around the lake this year, I'll be lucky enough to make some new friends. There's always hope. That seems so blatantly obvious now that I wonder how I once managed to utterly lose it. Another cheery up-tempo show is following the Bear's Lair. A fine start to a weekend of good listenning and interesting reading. Of course it would be Irish Anne. Haven't heard that voice in quite a while. Splendid.

And so we come to the end of another long-overdue posting. You and picture me sitting contentedly at my desk with the afternoon sounds drifting in through the open balcony door to my left. It's actually rather peaceful out there just now... ignoring the motor cycle which rored past just after I typed that sentence. I look forward to seeing Sara again some time this month. This time, we'll do more socialising with friends. I'll close here by wishing all my readers the best of good fortune until I post again.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Changing Times

Hello everyone. It's been an inexcusably long time since I've last blogged. Life has ben eventful and gone on pleasantly. I've enjoyed very good health and overall far better sleep thanks to the CPAP machine. It's not a complete cure. I still experience insomnia and shifting sleep hours. However, I typically get around five or six hours of unbroken sleep. That makes a stupendous difference. My dozes during the day have diminished greatly and I feel much more energetic in general. However, I seem to be stuck on getting five or six hour chunks of sleep and then being very awake. This can make for some long days at times. Every once in a while, there's a sort of small return of the old days where sleep is scarce and badly chunked. However, these stretches last one or two nights rather than the seemingly endless weeks I used to slog through.

All the sleep in the world couldn't hold a candle to my most exciting news. I am once again an engaged man. Sara and I hope to be married in around a year and a half or so. Neither of us fancy a Winter wedding. Beyond coming to that agreement, we haven't set any sort of date. However, simply having reached this point is thrilling beyond words for me. I ultimately proposed to her in the familiar comfort and privacy of my apartment. Originally, I had other more involved plans which Michelle, a very good friend to both of us, managed to convince me to abandon. Ultimately, Sara indeed preferred it that way. It got the nervous bit out of the way right at the start so from that point on, we could celebrate with friends and family as an engaged couple. And we have indeed celebrated in fine style.

The congratulations came pouring in via Twitter, email, audioboo and Facebook. We thoroughly enjoyed our Japanese dinner as well as a Babylon 5 movie. It was an excellent evening. I believe it's safe to say there'll be a great many more tranquil enjoyable evenings ahead. It's so indescribably good to be with someone who appreciates and shares many of my interests. Given the financial constraints living on ODSP puts people under even when in subsidized housing, sharing interests becomes absolutely critical to sustained happiness. She liked the ring I picked. The diamonds are small and imbedded into the ring. I thought that might be less of an interference to her when she played instruments. One thing which attracted me to the ring I chose was how very different it was than the engagement rings I bought for the two women who chose to walk away from me. Sara is very different from either of them as is the deep abiding love we've found. The foundation for something truly lasting is so much better this time. It deserved something which felt unique. Sara and I are starting out with a whole lot more in common. Emotionally, we're both stable cheerful people who tend towards being grateful for what we have and making the best of circumstances. Our financial prospects and circumstances are both pretty similar too so there'll be no destructive disparity to contend with. Also, we'll have this apartment to live in. That in itself makes the footing for this latest adventure in love far more solid. Our attitudes towards religion do differ somewhat but the basics are the same. Also, what we want out of earthly marriage is the same. We're both creative people who need some alone time to work on our projects. We also deeply value our families and friends and the time we can spend with them. Neither of us expect any sort of perfection from the other. Stability, tranquility and good communication are keys to a whole lot. There's definitely going to be disagreement on things but I believe we're both mature enough to keep things in perspective.

We had a wonderful week together visiting Steve and seeing friends in Toronto. Mom and dad took us to Symposium for brunch and we had a good time with them. My parents really like Sara and are very happy for both of us. She fits in very well with my family in general.

Soon after that, Steve arrived to stay with us for a couple days. He added wonderfully to our conversation and was, as always, the good and true friend I've known him to be. During our time in Toronto, we stayed with him at his parents' place. I've known the Murgaskis since early grade school days. They've always been very thoughtful and generous people. Steve took us to some very interesting places. There was lunch at Derry Queen with Earl and Meko. As fun as it is to see their children, it was good this time to be able to have a conversation without them having to be so vigilant. We also tried out an excellent Korean restaurant. I very much enjoyed that and can now say that I've tried kim chee among other things the names of which failed to stick in my memory. We also went back to Commo Encassa where we had a delicious meal with Michelle Mcquigge. I very much wanted to revisit that particular restaurant as it featured prominently in our very first Toronto trip. The owner went well out of his way to be helpful. I hope re return every now and then. All of us enjoyed the food and atmosphere. It was really good to catch up with everyone and start life as an engaged couple in such good company.

Each of us did Christmas with our respective families. We'll work out something more together and equitable from this point on. We both had a very good Christmas. Gifts were well received and given. My nieces were very rambunctious and happy. Dan gave me a gift card to be used at Symposium Cafe. My parents got their gifts from me early. The digital download links expired sooner than I thought they would. However, all ended well and they have the adventure games I picked out for them. One of the funny moments during Steve's stay with us was when he basically let the cat out of the bag concerning my present to Sara. I knew of her need for a new headset and took time to pick out the best fit for her needs that I could. Unlike my choice of rings where I felt woefully inadequate like I was grasping at intuitive straws, this was another matter entirely. I hoped it would come as a pleasant Christmas day surprise. However, I also worried about the card I made possibly being damaged in transit. As things turned out, she was glad to start using them right away. I was also on hand to explain the card. I guess nobody else had made her a picture using Braille characters. It's funny that I've always just taken for granted that most blind people using Braille would either have made or encountered such pictures. It seemed such a natural thing to experiment with as a child.

It's now Wednesday, January 8th. I'm in the living room of the house Sara and her parents now live in. It's my first time here. I can appreciate why it took Rockie time to adjust. Originally, he couldn't tell which floor Sara had called him from. It's a single-story very open plan house with a basement. This trip has done a great deal to reduce my sense of the unknown regarding both Sara's family and the Orthodox church she attends. On the home front, we've had several meals and a few evenings together during which to converse and get a game of Trivial Pursuit in. Haven't played that in ages. I've felt pretty comfortable around them since the first meeting but certainly feel good that we've gotten to touch base more. Despite very icy cold conditions, they've been working quite a bit. Sara and I spent a good deal of time here indoors when church events weren't happening. I introduced her to Calculating God, a favourite Robert J. Sawyer book. Each of us have acquired some new books over this period largely due to the podcasts and shows we jointly listened to. Due to the Orthodox Christmas season, she also had some work to do for her church.

Sara's faith experience is a very different one to my own. The people of her church are just as welcoming and seem pretty cheerful on the whole. The church itself is somewhat smaller and people tend to stand most of the time during services. That definitely takes some getting used to. Thankfully, despite being done in what I'm told is a more Russian style, things are all in English. This includes the innumerable prayers, singing parts, and chants. I have yet to hear anything I'd think of as a proper hymn. People sing things which strike me more as short passages, refrains and litanies. The overall impression is one of somewhat rigidly scripted interactivity. There's a tremendous amount of repetition. I find that somewhat jarring and less useful in terms of my own walk with God. Other than very brief sermons in comparison to what I'm used to, I don't get the sense that there's much in the way of commentary and thought from week to week about how life should be lived with God. That, as I understand it, is something left more to individuals. Resources are provided to support such spiritual development in abundance. There's a calendar and devotions, various fasts and feasts, prayers for various days, etc. All of this would certainly lead to a life in which one was extremely conscious of God, the church, and those who have tried to follow God's path in earlier times. I'll be honest here though. Most of what the Orthodox people put themselves through strikes me as needless overkill. I don't feel the least bit personally convicted due to my not having done any of this. Nor would I consider members of other faiths condemned in God's eyes for a less overly rigorous approach to worship. God wants us to be friends with him, not ritualistic robots jumping through endless thousand-year-old hoops. The whole Orthodox approach seems too much based upon the fear of God and of change itself. These are, of course, only initial impressions. I would have been far more hesitant to delve deeper into a relationship with God had I encountered an Orthodox church rather than a Reformed one right off the bat. The first church visit would have frankly sent me packing quite smug and secure in the knowledge that I had thereby avoided a lot of what would have struck me as ridiculously inflexible requirements. Due to my faith experience so far, I can at least appreciate that we all worship the same holy trinity simply taking very different approaches to reach the same sort of healthy transformation of the soul. Their methods clearly help them feel more spiritually in tune. However, they simply don't speak to my sense of what's actually called for in this time.

Contrary to what I might initially have presumed based on my impressions of Orthodox church life so far, the people have proven to be quite interesting, tolerant of people who disagree with them, unfailingly kind, and appreciative of worldly culture and creations. Conversation after the services was interesting and lively. You get a clear sense of a healthy small connected community. Because I've gotten to know Sara so well, I can more easily approach the idea of such a radical eventual change to my church life. All the ritual and such which sets off some gentle alarm bells for me really helps give Sara a strong sense of belonging both to God and to her congregation. I can understand the attraction of so much sculpted routine even if I don't share it. It builds a strong sense of community and shared experience markedly different from everyday life. Sara is deeply respected and valued both for her considerable gifts and her dedication to living a Christian life. She also takes the time to think about why she does things and what she believes. She really gets into the details of stuff. Using an old Braille note taker, she is able to have notes with her in the church which she can review silently leaving her ears free to focus on what happens around her. It was a real treat to be standing right next to Sara and hear her completely in her element going full tilt. She does a truly splendid job and her congregation deeply values her efforts.

Every so often in my walk with God, I'll encounter people who just seem to be in precisely the right place at the right time. A friendly small business owner whose good cheer was tinged with a quiet gloomy sense of a wonderful yet fallen world was an early mentor of mine. I still miss his friendship. We parted on excellent terms but his deep involvement with his own church and doubtless engaging with others as he did with me keeps him very busy. A very knowledgeable female pastor was there to keep me interested in God while my first marriage and what felt like my whole adult life crumbled to dust. Given my prior comfort with agnosticism, that was no small accomplishment. In my current church, there are numerous people who stand out similarly in different capacities. Pastor Sam is a clear case in point. You couldn't find a better pastoral voice if you tried. He's exactly the kind of man who illustrates how and why Christianity is still very useful and relevant in today's world. It's apparently his 20th year at the Meadow vale Christian Reformed Church. He was exactly the spiritual leader I needed to help me recover from when Janene broke off our engagement.

I've often remarked at how belonging to the same church since childhood would give you a strong sense of community and could improve one's prospects of finding a soul mate due to that extensive shared experience and history. Despite feeling very comfortable in the reformed church I presently attend, I'm not nearly as deeply embedded in it as I would be had I grown up in the community. I don't know all the right responses, don't sing the hymns, didn't go to missions, youth groups or school with any of them, etc. Coming in as an adult, there's always that sense of distance and a lack of shared history. We just don't really have the experientially common ground to properly take each other's measure. This makes the thought of eventually switching to a very different church community where I will likely feel even more distant paradoxically easier to contemplate. My own walk with God has always been a different and deeply internal one. It manifests itself in all sorts of decisions where other people might not necessarily realize that my belief in God had any bearing on a given situation. Ongoing reflection, observation and relationship are at the core of my experience.

Today, Sara's at a funeral. Never having met the man being laid to rest, I didn't feel comfortable attending as a kind of sociological observer. I'm sitting in the living room using my laptop's battery for once and working on this blog entry. I return to my apartment tomorrow afternoon. As much as \I enjoyed this visit, I look forward to picking up this hopefully final year of bachelorhood in earnest. The first order of business will be cleaning up the apartment and doing some laundry. At some point, I'll be getting my new iPHONE. I keenly anticipate that. I have a whole lot to reflect on over these next quiet days. A whole lot of exposure and experience has been packed into a relatively short time.

It's now Saturday afternoon on January 18th. I've been working on this entry off and on for around a month as life events piled up in wonderful profusion. The novelty of the year being 2014 is finally beginning to subside into normalcy. For me, the next couple of years will be a time of preparation and transition. Even after marriage, I would still count the first married year as part of that more fluid period where life rhythms and priorities are shared and established together. In a way, this past while has been a fitting and fond farewell to the largely contented single life I eventually managed to put together for myself. I let go of my customary financial discipline and simply let enjoyment of the beginning of what I fervently hope will be a life-long journey together take precedence. These past weeks have been exceptionally enjoyable ones starting life as an engaged couple. We've had relaxing days and stimulating ones with friends and family. Things change once you're engaged even if no day of marriage has been settled upon. Priorities change. As a single person, it doesn't matter quite as much if you overspend on books here and there. That's one area where I really have to start using wish lists more rather than just buying books right away. The same goes for music now that I've spent the iTUNES gift money I received. The focus naturally shifts to solidifying our relationship and saving money for a less solitary future. There are still important people in Sara's life who I have yet to be introduced to. Having money for such excursions is definitely more of a priority when you're one half of a couple. A lot of expenses including a missed Rogers bill, renewing apartment insurance, holiday gifts and groceries, the ring, accessories for my new iPHONE, etc, have mounted all at once placing me in a much tighter financial position than I'm accustomed to being in. My parents have been very helpful in that department but it will still take two or three months of very careful restraint to return to a more comfortable and familiar debt-free place. The basics are covered. Food, shelter, Internet and phone. It's those smaller impulse buys of books and tunes that I need to curtail almost completely over the next while. The same goes for snack foods. Also, I simply won't be ordering dinners from Justeat or Swiss Chalet for myself nearly as often as I used to. I'd much rather have that money to spend on such things when I'm with friends or have guests. Thankfully, I'm starting that journey from a position of having plenty to keep me mentally stimulated. This is especially true when it comes to books. I have assembled a magnificent digital pile of food for the mind. It should stand me in excellent stead whether I'm travelling lite with just my iPHONE or am at home on the couch using my laptop.

There are also many changes of habit to contemplate. Time spent with each other is slowly becoming less like a vacation as we allow aspects of our respective ongoing commitments to intrude more into our time together. Admittedly, Sara has done more of that than I have to this point. I guess I've simply been captivated by the wonder and joy of being in love. Now that we're sure of wanting to make the commitment of marriage, all sorts of conscious and subconscious changes will happen. As a single bachelor, I've tended to let things slide. This includes everything from skipped meals when I'm having a good creativity day to neglecting to shave in the near certainty that I wouldn't be getting together with people for several days. Dishes pile up in the sink. The vacuum cleaning is left for tomorrow or, ... whenever. As part of a married couple, prior experience has shown me that better habits do take hold out of necessity. Marriage adds more people to life who approach you as friends or relations to your partner. That makes a difference. You care for and about your soul mate. As a consequence of that, you end up taking better care of yourself too. It's a different sort of mental life space. Going through this preparation stave for the third and hopefully final time, I find I'm walking a tightrope between trying to learn from my experience and simply letting this relationship follow its own path. I have a tendency to over-analyze everything and have to be careful not to ever let that remove me from the present experience. I think I've done well at that so far. I think it'll actually become less of a factor once we're married since I've only had one of those and it took place in very different conditions.

I'm very much enjoying my new iPHONE 5S. It's a tremendous upgrade from the iPHONE 4 which has served me these past three years. It will now serve my father. Due to his iPAD experience, things have gone quite well so far. It's basically just a smaller iPAD with phone capabilities and GPS. One thing we just discovered today was that he never learned to close apps. All of the games my nieces played on his iPAD have been open in the background. The book I read while learning my iPHONE went through the app switcher and how to close apps you weren't currently using. Voiceover also gave instructions on how to close apps whenever I was in the switcher. No such hints are given sighted users apparently. You'd need to have read the user guide I suppose. It makes me wonder how many people who have complained about the battery life of iPHONES and iPADS simply haven't been closing the apps they're finished using. I keep hearing how less people read manuals before starting to use a product. With something like this situation, you'd think Apple would have found a way to make it visually obvious how to close apps and that you ought not to leave them all open.

It's very early on Sunday morning now. I went to bed feeling very tired at around ten last night. I've been having itchy eyes and a slightly stuffy nose this past while. That combined with the tiredness makes me wonder if I'm perhaps fighting something off. If I am, I can't complain too much about my lot in life given the wonderful time I've had these past weeks. Eventually, the ride ends and one has to metaphorically pay the piper. I'll be off to church in around seven hours or so. These early rises sure fiddle with one's sense of a proper day. I may perhaps get a couple hours more sleep but I'm somewhat doubtful of this. I'm feeling wide awake and not stuffy in the least.

There's more for me to learn about the capabilities of my new iPHONE 5S. I find the touch screen a lot more accurate and responsive. Voiceover jumps around far less than it did on my old phone. It's so good to have the extra storage space. That opens up a lot of new possibilities all on its own. For instance, I now have the complete English textual contents of Wikipedia as of September 2013 available to me regardless of whether I'm online or not. That takes around four gb of space. I don't have to be as careful with the selection of music and audio books I carry. I can have more old favourites while still having room for new stuff. The camera is noticeably better. I'm getting much better results when using apps to identify stuff. I have yet to experiment with OCR capabilities. I never got very good results before using Prismo or Text Detective. However, given my positive experience with item identification, perhaps this too has changed. I've begun to dabble with Siri. Getting familiar with its capabilities and quirks is going to take a while. There's also the new motion sensor chip. I'll be taking on the challenges of Zombies Run in a more serious fashion this year. I'd like to get into better shape and make exercise more of a daily habit. Yes indeed. Changes all over my personal life. I'm happy that circumstances have put me in this position including the financial aspects. I've fallen into consumerist habits lately that need to be better mastered. I managed to take control of my Mars bar addiction. Therefore, I have no real doubt that I can succeed when it comes to books and small purchases. I'm certainly not contemplating abandoning anything. Such items will simply have to do their time on wish lists. If I lose interest in them, they get taken off the list. If my desire for particular books or songs survive that trial by time, I may purchase them. It's a matter of putting the breaks on rather than chucking out the engine. You value things more if you have to wait for them. I used to do that more often and it's about time I got back into that groove. I don't take this as a loss of freedom. It's more like a restoration of balance. I don't regretted the majority of my investments. My instincts are good and I'll get lasting enjoyment from them. I just have to let more of the low-hanging fruit continue to hang. There was a time when I went something like four years without buying a single CD. I can do this.
There have been so many smaller enjoyments and life experiences which really deserved their own blog entries over this past half year. While I've captured many of these in audio boos, this blog has languished. Rectifying this will be one of this year's higher priority objectives. Expect to see at least one entry per month. Hopefully, there'll be far more shorter entries than that. These entries will hopefully be more specific to individual experiences or topics as opposed to these large sprawling postings. I'm also hopeful of making far more progress with Land of Trivia than I have so far. It has also suffered a lack of attention. I'm still searching for a more cohesive objective. Once I find that, substantial progress ought to be easier to achieve.
It's Monday. I got a very good sleep last night, the first in quite a while. There's no stuffy nose and my eyes are only very slightly uncomfortable. I go long stretches without noticing it at all. A nice change from a week ago. I'm not the only one fighting off this sort of thing. A number of friends, family and Twitter followers seem to be suffering similarly. Dad is getting used to my old iPHONE. It's been a pretty smooth process. Since he's not on a contract and doesn't want cellular data, it's a very inexpensive and powerful phone which will be put to occasional use. I've been using Siri more on my new phone and liking it very much. Papa Sangre II is also now playable for me. I couldn't use it on my old phone. It's a pretty incredible audio game. I'm very impressed with the user interface and game mechanics. Can't wait to see what Something Else comes up with next. There's still plenty to learn about and try on the new phone. I'll likely be discovering new and easier methods to accomplish things for months.
As this new year gets underway, I'm feeling very positive and hopeful. Having a credit card debt is a bit of an unwelcome novelty for me. However, I'm pretty confident that it won't take too long to pay it off. Winter slows things down when it comes to social life expenses. In other areas, I'm pretty well stocked and should be able to keep grocery expenses down over the next while. I've also recently succeeded in getting Qcast, my favourite podcast player, up and running on my desktop again. Additionally, I've figured out a setting change in the speaker configuration which seems to have improved overall how sound is handled. As fond as I am of my laptop, I feel good that I've figured out how to get a more satisfactory experience from my Mac. There are at least a couple of years before I'm eligible for upgrading my equipment and I like to go longer between upgrades if at all possible. I've been experimenting with NVDA and System Access. At the moment though, I need Jaws to use Jarte, my favourite word processing program. There are numerous other things where Jaws works better than my other two screen readers. However, work is constantly being done to improve each of them so I don't expect that situation to last too long. Uninstalling and then re-installing Jaws seems to have improved its performance so I've gained through my explorations despite having to conclude that Jaws is still a very necessary part of my digital arsenal.
I just did my first mission of Zombies Run for this year. Thankfully, I didn't have to start all over again. That holster on my Otterbox Defender case is actually pretty useful for when you're working out in a familiar environment. I just wouldn't trust it for travelling with. It's just too easy to imagine my iPHONE getting grabbed or snagged on some bush while walking around the lake and popping free of the holster. There's also Carine's experience of having her holster actually break. Recently, Earle had his phone actually stolen in his own building. I wish all the bad fortune in the world upon the miscreant who did that. These devices are so personal and so very useful to blind people. I hope the police are able to help recover the phone or at least rid the neighbourhood of one really heartless thief. Earle's done so much to share his knowledge and test apps for accessibility. I think of all that when I think of him. All the thief saw was easy money. There are some people who really make me question my normally compassionate stance. Thankfully, a friend was able to provide and inferior model for his use but I hope he beets the odds and gets his own back. I've only had my new phone for less than a week and I'd already hate to have to go back to my older one. One thing's for sure. I've enabled all the security features. I'm pretty sure Earle had them enabled too though. The Touch id is working very well for me and I have mine set to erase all info if ten failed access checks happen.
People often say that I live in a safer area here in Mississauga. I certainly have felt largely sage here. During my three years in this building, I've heard only one situation which might have turned violent had it continued. A man was dumped by his girlfriend and somewhat lost his cool in verbally spectacular fashion. I was ever so glad to be seven floors up on my balcony. Still, I only go out when at my most alert and don't take that safety for granted. Earle's building is somewhat larger than mine but I'd bet he's at least as well-known there as I am here. Most people seem to know my first name and will offer greetings or occasional casual conversation. Going much beyond that point seems to be asking a lot. Some friends who live in buildings owned by subsidized housing agencies have said that they feel that it's easier to find and maintain friends since everyone's facing similar circumstances. You don't have the gulf that comes when everyone around you has found their way into that ultra-busy successful consumer groove. The law has more of a hold on what people are willing to do since they have much more to lose in the first place, or so goes theory. As much as solitude has hurt over the years, I have been spared from the kind of victimization some friends have endured. To me, that now seems a fairly acceptable trade. Five years ago, I would likely have come to the opposite conclusion. What a stupendous difference half a decade can make in one's outlook.
It's now Tuesday morning. The water is shut off in my building for repairs of some aquatic sort. I'm nicely stocked up with water even if something went terribly wrong and we didn't get water back for several days. That's never happened during the years I've lived here. They keep this place very well. I've gotten my apartment queries answered by my contact at Peel housing. It looks like I need not worry about signing a lease each year like I thought I'd have to. That's nice to know. I asked about the procedure we'd have to go through when Sara and I reach the stage where we're ready to live here together. There's not much of one at all. We just need to meet with both our ODSP workers and Peel Housing and make sure the paperwork is all done prior to the move. There shouldn't be any problem at all. I was pretty certain that would be the case but it's good to hear it from an official source. We should be pretty much able to set our own pace.
I caught part of a discussion on Ontario Today, a talkshow on CBC Radio1. It was all about how something like half the work force in Toronto was in temporary contract work. I've been hearing more and more alarm expressed about what this profound lack of job security is doing to communities and society. It definitely worries me these days. People who work temporary jobs are less likely to complain since they then simply won't be offered another contract. It's an employer's makret where there's always someone else despirate enough to put up with being taken advantage of and keep quiet about it. Also, there's apparently no protection or garantee of receiving payment one is owed after a work contract expires. Very scary. I heard people talk about how that uncertaintly stops them from getting married, buying a home, moving away from their parents and starting families. I have time to listen, but does anyone in power who could actually make any kind of difference? It feels more and more like everything I once deeply valued as being part of the Canadian identity has eroded and is in danger of crumbling away in favour of short-term greed. Apparently, other countries have instituted legislation and measures which make job insecurity not such a terrible thing. I hope the paranoia of socialist ideas felt by our large neighbour to the south doesn't scare us away from implementing some. I don't believe we've passed a point of no return but I think we're on a slippery slope to such a precipice. All I can try to do is be there for the people who I've come to know. I can appreciate them and try to make them aware of their priceless human value. If we can rekindle a more outward sort of public consciousness, I still have enough hope and optimistic imagination left in me to envision radical positive change taking place within my lifetime. The building blocks of decency are all over the place. The just get buried in the daily scramble to keep afloat.
Today, I've begun to help with the newsletter put out by Disability Concerns Canada for church advocates. Over the next while, I'll be walking that tightrope of doing the most I can for my current church and denomination keeping in mind the eventual certainty of moving onto a whole new faith community. I don't want to be so intrenched that my leaving does any brief damage when that point comes. On the other hand, I'd like to avoid going through a large swath of time where I'm not doing anything for my church. The church has given me a community where my talents are put to use and appreciated. I've felt very valued there as a member despite not being able to contribute much financially. Unlike other spheres of society, the church is very good at respecting and recognizing other forms of contribution. Unlike the working and secular volunteer sectors, people in church seem more willing to put in some extra effort, such as getting me where I'm needed, so that my abilities can actually come into play.

Perhaps, new possibilities for community involvement will become available as married life turns from heart-felt wish into actual reality. Maybe, some bit of writing I let loose or someone I manage to help in some small way will connect the dots to a meaningful new adventure I can't even imagine now. Stranger things have happened. Slowly, the building blocks just keep on clicking into place. They come from new technology, new ideas from books and conversations, from the splendid music I've been able to obtain, from experiences shared with friends and family. As long as I keep myself ready and willing to give back, God sees to it that I'm able to in endlessly surprising ways. While nobody will ever convince me that one branch of Christianity has somehow gotten things all right, my journey up from spiritual bottom has firmly convinced me that there is a very real, merciful, loving God.