Wednesday, September 10, 2008

my past blogging

=(Michael Feir)=
She said yes! Aug 20th, 2008 4:51 pm
Hello everyone. It's been quite a while since my last entry. A whole lot has happened. Normally, I'd go through things in their proper order being the methodical fellow I tend to be. However, Janene has accepted my proposal of marriage. Yes, folks, I think it's time I start using her full name in this blog. That pretty much eclipses everything else. We'll be getting married in around a year's time after she finishes obtaining her degree. Having both experienced church weddings already, we've decided to have a judge marry us this time around. It'll be a small and hopefully inexpensive ceremony attended by close family. After that, we'll take the families out for a meal together. We'll then go on our honeymoon of sorts. We plan to rent a cottage for a week and have some of our friends come to visit and/or stay with us. This way, both friends and family will be an important part of the start of our new life together as they ought to be. I'm absolutely happy to have found a new partner in life this soon. All our friends and family are happy for us. We were able to visit a few of them on the weekend, but I'll be getting to that a bit later.

Things all really started on Thursday. On that day, my grandmother arrived from Winnipeg. A student from Montreal came to interview me for a documentary film he was creating. He spent most of the day with me and followed along when I had my first orientation lesson in quite a while. That lesson went pretty well. Things will doubtless become more regular once Autumn arrives. That evening, Janene and I had dinner at Symposia, our favourite spot. Jeff, the film student from Concordia, couldn't film anything inside the restaurant due to lighting issues but he still enjoyed dinner with us. I think he may have been surprised by how well-known we were to the staff there. It'll be interesting to see the documentary when he's finished it. Things were less hectic on Friday. I went to the casino with my grandmother and parents. None of us did well at all this time around. The engagement ring I had chosen for Janene was ready to be picked up. We got that and then had a very nice dinner with our neighbours. That was pretty much the last thing which went according to plan this past weekend.

Janene freely admits to a lack of patience and had been itching to see the ring for days. I guess I figured we'd go out for a meal at some point over the weekend and I'd ask her to marry me. She had already gone downtown and back before picking me up so I figured it would be better to go right home so she could rest. She was surprised that I even entertained the possibility that she might say no. I try hard never to take people for granted and would never dream I could be certain of a positive answer when it came to such a large commitment as marriage. There was certainly a degree of suspense for me. As things turned out, she very much liked the ring I had chosen to my great relief. Unfortunately, she had given me the wrong ring size. As a result, the moment and rest of the weekend had a far less romantic tone than I had expected. I figured we'd mainly relax and perhaps see a few friends. We certainly saw the friends. However, we also spent a considerable amount more time on the road than either of us figured on.

The first trip was into Huntsville where we brought the ring to a jeweller who Janene and her family trusted. He'll be able to expand the ring so that it fits comfortably and strengthen the band. The drive up there was a good deal longer than it would usually have been due to weekend traffic on the highway. Had it not been so devoid of turns, I would have figured we were on residential streets due to our slow speed. We had a nice dinner with Janene's parents after the ring was left in good hands. They both seem very comfortable with me marrying their daughter. We're still just scratching the surface of getting to know each other. I know I'll learn a lot from both of them. Dinner conversation was very relaxed and wide-ranging.

Huntsville seems a very quiet place. There were certainly a large number of people taking in the sidewalk sales in the street which I presume was at the centre of town. Even a small distance away from that, things were very quiet indeed. Not at all like our neighbourhood. The area around Mark and Wendy's place is somewhat more sonically comparable. I expected to hear more people out by their homes. After dinner, we went to Will and Deb's place. They're a wonderful pair of Janene's good friends. At the time, they were making maple sugar candies. We had a great visit and Janene ended up getting drawn into the Olympics despite earlier efforts to avoid this fate. We headed back home quite late in the evening but still found ourselves majorly delayed on the highway. The drive back should have been a whole lot shorter than it was. Poor Janene was very tired when we got to her place.

On Sunday morning, we went out and had a pleasant brunch. We also got in touch with Mark and Wendy who happened to be free that day. They came over to have dinner with us at a burger place we had never been to before. We got there only to find that they were, of all things, out of burgers. How stupendous is that? We decided to go to Angel's whose burgers were both delicious and thankfully in plentiful supply.

It was good to see Mark and Wendy again. They seem to be doing quite well together. Not all of our friends are so fortunate in that department. One of those less fortunate souls happened to need some help on Sunday night. What I thought would be a relaxing end to the weekend turned into another long drive to pick up a very decent man who found himself in choppy water. He needed a place to stay and Janene could provide that. Things seem to be looking somewhat better for him now. I hope that's not just illusory. Only time will tell. Thus it was that the weekend came to a close. While nothing like I originally expected, it nevertheless was a fitting start to our lives as an engaged couple. I hope life never takes so much out of her that she wouldn't be willing to help a friend in need and will do all I can to see that doesn't happen. Were I able to, I would have done precisely the same thing in her place. That compassion is definitely something we have in common. She and I are both willing to go to great lengths to help friends in need.

As a result of all this activity, neither of us was very rested at the end of the weekend. Monday was basically a creative write-off for me. I ended up re-reading 247 Reality TV by Jim Brown. I didn't think that book would hook me in again so completely. Tuesday wasn't much better although I certainly listened to some interesting pod casts. This morning, I tried to install what I thought were updates to my Xfi sound drivers. They didn't work so great though and I had to get mom to help restore things to their former state. I'm still a bit mystified at what went wrong since it looks like the drivers are for XP as well as Vista. Perhaps, I'll try installing them again in more controlled circumstances. There's no rush.

The rest of the morning was spent talking to one of my troubled friends. Sadly, it looks like a couple I've known individually for years is on the brink of separation. Had things gone differently, I believe they both could have helped each other tremendously. However, at this point, I honestly don't know what the right course is for them. I still view marriage as one of the most serious commitments one can make with another person. The idealist in me would dearly love to see these two pull things together. So many people seem to be having trouble with marriage these days. From where I sit, given my previous experience, that just doesn't seem very likely though. I hope they face the necessity and at least start talking with each other soon. I don't feel at all qualified to do much more than pray for them. Thank goodness I have Janene to face this kind of thing with. Had I still been alone, I may very well have tried to help and done more damage. She said it best. I can't carry the world on my shoulders.

You'd think knowing couples who were experiencing rough times in marriage would give Janene and I pause. For me, That doesn't make me nervous about Janene and I. We're both coming at this having had marriages fail. We've been around the block and come out better people for the experience. We've talked extensively about what our expectations are. I think we're doing all the right things. Yes, I'm well aware that most people going into a marriage probably thought the same sort of thing. However, I believe Janene and I have a very good shot at a meaningful life together as a couple. We've both checked each other out for obstacles we've encountered before. We communicate well together and can talk through any problems we're having. An extremely important one for me is that we each get along well with the other's circle of friends. For Rebecca and I there were large rifts in that area. Not to try is never to know. With my good friends and family behind me, I think it's the right move forward for me.

This afternoon, I got my haircut. It feels and, according to my parents, looks good. I also took in a couple of pretty cool pod casts. An excellent BBC documentary looked at the US efforts to provide realistic training conditions by setting up middle-eastern villages and, apparently, a whole town to simulate urban conditions. Scifi Talk looked at a number of movies. None sounded like absolute must-sees but it turns out that I Am Legend might be worth investigating eventually. The material which is included on the DVD sounds very promising. The BBC's Digital Planet was kind of neat. Also, I learned that the next season of Spark is starting the week after next. That'll be nifty for certain.

Well, that about covers everything for now. I've got a mobility lesson tomorrow. On Sunday, we're going to a family reunion where Janene will be able to meet my extended family for the first time. Janene worked out that Friday is our first anniversary counting, I assume, from the first date at Swiss Chalet. We haven't made any plans yet other than Sunday. She might just need to rest up on Friday and Saturday. She's been a bit under the weather the last couple of days.
Mood: ecstatic
1 comment

post vacation reflections Jul 20th, 2008 7:18 pm
It's been a fairly quiet week now since I've returned from Lake Jo. Unfortunately, I seem to be going through one of my periods of sleeping difficulty. I get up at five or sometimes even earlier and don't tend to get enough rest. Fortunately, life is going very well in all other respects and there are no pressing deadlines to worry about. This makes my insomnia far more an annoyance than actual crisis. I've been contacted by a South African reporter regarding my computer guide and spent a morning answering her questions via email. I also had the interview I recorded with Voiceprint broadcast on the air today. It ought to be archived on their site at:
www.voiceprintcanada.comvery shortly. I'll certainly grab an mp3 copy when that becomes available. I was very pleased with how I sounded. There were certainly things I could have covered better but over all, I think the interview went quite well. I worried that I'd sound like a total twit over the phone. Fortunately, that wasn't the case.

I've thought quite a bit about my trip this year as I've picked up normal life again. Frankly, I didn't have as good a time as I have in years past. The reductions in attractive offsite trips as well as simply the higher proportion of people with whom I had very little in common combined to lessen the value of going there. I tend to think that I merely had less luck than I normally do when it comes to the client ell present. However, if things don't recover in terms of funding so that more diverse opportunities can be offered, I fear that the staff will have more of the least in dependant and least mentally capable blind people to deal with. This is unfortunate in two ways. First of all, the very positive effect of bringing together blind people of all stripes into a place where they can network with each other will be drastically reduced. The more educated and in dependant of us just won't find enough value in going there. The staff, consisting largely of teens and young adult students for whom this is their first exposure to blind people, will come away with a potentially very dim view of us. They'll be even less likely to hire us when they may eventually be in positions where they might do so.

There were a number of people present who felt that the quality of the Lake Jo experience was intentionally being reduced. Personally, I find it very difficult to subscribe to this conspiracy theory despite my less than stellar experience this year. It certainly made for some stimulating conversation though. Sad to think that the night in which I sat in on a discussion of this was the absolute highlight this year in terms of intellectual conversation with fellow guests. A far cry from prior years including last year. In a nutshell, the theory goes something like this: The CNIB wants to sell the Lake Jo facility as a convention centre and thereby gain some much-needed funding from the sale. This line of thinking has been pretty well established over the years. It's not new by any means and is certainly in keeping with the CNIB's trend toward pulling back, centralizing everything and focusing on their core services. The Lake Jo centre is one of their most visible projects. It is widely known of as a place where blind people are given the opportunity to expand their horizons and try new things in an environment designed to be safe and accessible to them. Very in character indeed for the CNIB to shoot itself in the foot by washing their hands of the place. I've certainly seen many initiatives which did some very real good get scrapped over the years. This is all unwell and not good to twist a popular expression to my advantage. However, we now come to somewhat deeper more murky waters. A substantial group of people feel that as a part of this overall plan, intentional steps have been taken to lessen the quality of the experience of Lake Jo visitors. This would reduce the eventual outcry which will happen when the facility was sold. That, in a nutshell, was why there were so few offsite trips; Why a manager whose soul was at least in the right place was dismissed a couple years back and replaced with one who didn't understand the special needs of the clients; Why there was no cleaning staff and things were left dangerously dirty; Why things were so disorganized regarding check-in and payments; Why Lake Jo hasn't had a board of directors in the last four years... Etcetera... etcetera ... ... Regarding the alleged unsanitary conditions, I know that the cleaning of dishes and such was left to the staff and that there was no cleaning staff due to lack of funding. This is naturally going to degrade things on that front somewhat as they have quite a lot else to do. However, there's quite a jump from that to waving the "unsafe" flag. I encountered very little personal evidence supporting this line of thinking. A couple of times where tables were obviously dirty at meals and one cup that smelled clean but felt dirty. Other than that, everything I handled seemed to be spotless as far as I could detect via touch and smell. I learned that all dishes were put in an industrial dishwasher. This makes me think that while there may have been some remains stuck to dishes, that they were nonetheless quite clean. I believe the dishes were somewhat old and this kind of thing can happen over time. I've had situations like that myself while knowing full well that I had given a dish a good cleaning. I certainly never smelled any evidence of unwashed dishes and believe I would have at some point during the week. Somebody would have noticed and presented the manager with some concrete evidence. No manager in charge of blind and often very elderly clients would stand for actual health risks like that. I don't care how out of touch they might be with a client's special needs. Nobody wants to have the potentially bad consequences of that on their record. The bad publicity possible due to the consequences of this kind of corner-cutting would do an insane amount of damage to CNIB's reputation and there's just no way on Earth that they'd be that stupid. For my money, I believe clients were and are quite well taken care of in terms of sanitation.

Call me overly optimistic or downright naive if you like but I can't go along with that whole slightly paranoid picture. Perhaps, the current manager doesn't have the same grass-roots connection to Lake Jo as prior ones. I could certainly believe that. However, she was still very accommodating and went out of her way to check up on how people were doing. She struck me as being quite competent, kind, and making the best of things that she possibly could. Had I wanted to sabotage the Lake Jo experience, I certainly wouldn't have picked her. I just can't believe, as many of these conspiracy theorists seemed to, that the top brass at CNIB are that out of touch with how much Lake Jo has meant to people over the years. For many who I met up there this year, Lake Jo is their bright spot in otherwise very dull and isolated life. They save up most of their spare money so that they can spend two, three and even up to five weeks there over the course of the Summer. Remember here that most of these people are on ODSP. This represents an absolutely incredible commitment to going to Lake Jo and staggering financial discipline on their part. I certainly enjoy going to Lake Jo but wouldn't sacrifice the rest of the year for that three or four weeks away there or anywhere else for that matter. For these committed people though, Lake Jo is where they can be with their friends and enjoy life without worry. Having a place like Lake Jo does tremendous good particularly for people who don't have much else doing in their lives. It can also make a profound difference for people who go blind or lose most of their vision suddenly. At its heart, Lake Jo is a refuge from the sighted world which often doesn't really understand them. We all need a place to get away from it all and explore fresh ideas and activities. For that alone, I'll always value it.

Unfortunately, there is a confluence of factors coming together producing these effects. It's not greed or malice at all. Funding is just not going to stretch as far as it used to. The rising costs for fuel were bound to have a considerable impact on a place like Lake Jo. This is particularly true for offsite trips but it stretches far beyond that. Food and other supplies doubtless also cost them more. Also, over the past years, other blindness organizations have emerged. I believe that their differing objectives are just as valid as CNIB's and should have been represented long before these smaller organizations emerged. One of the costs of having these additional organizations is that CNIB naturally has less dollars to work with. Even the CNIB library must require substantial amounts of money to keep going. Perhaps, we've reached a point where truly painful decisions must be made by the CNIB executives. Although I've often wished that they'd hire more people like me to help other blind people while helping us by getting us off the government dole, I don't envy them or think them supremely greedy. If they have truly decided to sell Lake Joseph, it would just happen without fan fair or such prolonged devious manoeuvres. People in such positions can act in completely good faith with the best of intentions and be in line for heaps of criticism no matter what they decide. I imagine a good many of CNIB clients as well as their friends and family play armchair quarterback and think either they or some better motivated person would have done things another way. I include myself in that as I've often questioned decisions CNIB people have reached. However, editing Audyssey certainly taught me that you simply can't please everyone even when you pull all-nighters to try as I often used to. I've had just enough experience with leadership to have determined that I'd much rather follow a good leader than try to be one myself. Of course, when nobody else is trying to do what I think ought to be done, that kind of puts me into the leadership role. I'd rather be in that position than following an incompetent or badly motivated leader.

At the moment, I certainly don't feel too keen to go back to Lake Jo. I have a sense that it's time to explore other things. However, I know I'd never want to just turn a needless corner and decide never to go back there. Overall, I still had quite a good and relaxing time at Lake Jo. It was good just to be able to wander without fear of getting hopelessly lost. Monday was an absolutely splendid swimming day. The other days were more suited to walking and trying to scare up some good conversation.

Looking ahead, I'll be contacting some newspapers, radio stations and such in order to see if other people want to use the guide I've created as a human interest story. I've pretty much covered the bases when it comes to blindness-related organizations and such. However, if I can make sighted people who happen to know blind people aware of the guide, that might do some more good. Of course, I'm still plugging away at the design document for Enchantment's Twilight. That work is likely going to extend into the Fall a month or two unless I get majorly inspired between now and then. For the moment, I have other priorities. One of which is enjoying the Summer. It was good to see J on Friday. She's been pretty busy this weekend hammering away at a paper and presentation. She's not following the time-honoured tradition of waiting until the last moment. I could never quite rid myself of that tendency when opportunities for fun and relaxation presented themselves. More power to her I say. The two of us may go to see the Dark Knight movy at some point. It's apparently quite good and in the same style as Batman Begins which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Well, I guess that's about it for now. This entry's gotten quite long enough. Until next time, reader, add a nice dose of pure fun to life alright?
Mood: happy

my summer vacation Jul 10th, 2008 7:49 am
Well, folks, it's a bit of a rainy Tuesday morning. I said I would post a blog entry about my vacation here at Lake Jo this year. Now seems as good a time as any to get started. They're continuing to update the facilities here. Everyone is lodged in the new cabins which made their first appearance last year. None of the older cabins still standing are being used. This certainly changes the dynamics noticeably as has this year's brand new addition. The old administration building has been completely replaced by a new "welcome centre" as they seem to call it. It's quite a bit larger than the old building and its entrance is directly at the end of the boardwalk. Everything is different inside including the tuck shop and snackbar which seem to be combined behind a large multi-sided counter. This takes some getting used to but I'm getting the hang of it.

As usual, they've got a terrific staff this year including some of the best people from last year. I was a little worried at first for a number of reasons including there not being a clear record of my having been all paid up. I trust that's been settled to their satisfaction as I haven't heard any more about that from anyone. Although my email clearly stated that check-in was at one o'clock, it was at two. This meant that there was quite a delay between when I arrived and when I could start getting settled in my room. The wireless internet isn't accessible at all it seems. Despite two networks being detectable, nobody seems to be able to work with them or knows the password information needed to log in. This includes the supposedly unsecure network. People needing to access the Internet on their own computers like myself and several staff members must unplug an ethernet cable from one of the computers and use that. This is certainly more than adequate for me but may not be so for people using the new notetakers which are making their way into the blind community these days. They'd do far better to set up a completely unsecure wireless hotspot which guests could make use of. This is likely to become increasingly important as rising gas prices curtail offsite trips and more families and guests become acustomed to having Internet access.

The guests here are quite a cross-section of the blind community in terms of age, circumstance and, frankly, mental capacity. There are a number of characters here who I'd just as soon weren't. One fellow is newrly impossible to understand but keeps entering into and wrecking otherwise good conversations. This often puts me and others in the unenviable predicament of either coming out and telling him to move on or doing the more ethical thing of not hurting his feelings and just trying to roll with it. That isn't easy. There are also people who seem to have no appreciation of how hard the staff work at keeping everyone happy. Some people haven't lived anything approaching a so-called normal life and just don't have a sense of how much effort people are putting in on all of our behalf. It's sad to hear this happen. The staff are truly doing their best and the dissatisfied campers aren't trying to be unreasonable. It's a jenuine misperception on their part which, in tern, is often misperceived by the sighted staff. The resulting escalations of annoyance level can be downright tragicomical at times.

As I mentioned above, the offsite trips have been all but eliminated. The programs here are geared, naturally enough, to the greatest common dinominator which tends not to be all that mentally stimulating. Things are set up in such a way that everything, including getting drinks, must be done with the assistance of staff. The pop machines with braille labels are missing this year and I have yet to encounter a fountain or water cooler which guests may avail themselves of when staff aren't present. There ought to be something like that.

On the plus-side, the staff and many guests are in full posession of their faculties and offer excellent conversations. If this blog entry seems disjointed, that's likely because it was written over several days and broken up by opportunities for such conversation. That is, afterall, my main reason for coming to this place. There's nothing else like it for getting a good idea of what social issues and concerns face the blind community. A number of people seem very interested in my guide. I took some time last night to grab some free games and software in order to burn CDs for the most keen people. This should help them get into their personal computers far more easily and have fun while doing it. None of the people who started me off on this two-year project were here this year. It's a whole different crowd. Hopefully, they'll be able to find the guide on their own.

It's late afternoon now. Many of the guests and staff have yet to return from the cruise which is one of the few offsite trips this year. The trip to the Legeon is tonight. That's certainly always entertaining and the only time I tend to drink any alcohol while I'm up here. I make certain I've eaten a fair amount first to make damned certain I never leave there drunk at all. A fair number of the guests end up that way most years. I never see the sense in getting so drunk that you need to be practically carried back to camp. I like to remember my good times thank you very much. Of course, having other people disagree somewhat strongly to this approach of mine has certainly increased the amusement factor of the trip for me on occasion.

I expect things will begin to pick up again soon as people return in time for dinner. This year, there's a lot less information available to guests. I mean things like brailled or audio schedule information, lists of campers on cabin doors, etc. These things certainly made it easier to figure out who was where. Now, you generally have to take things as they come. Also, the porches are quite well isolated in terms of sound. It's a lot harder to just stroll down the walkway and hear where people have decided to gather. You'd have to decide to hang out in advance. On the plus side, you wouldn't have any complaints of too much noise as long as the porch door remained closed.

Things are a bit dull just now. It's wednesday morning and things are still a bit wet from yesterday's rain. I'm sitting in the welcome centre keeping an ear on people playing cards and scrabble. I'm not keen on either of those. I let one guy take a crack at an accessible pinball table earlier. This afternoon ought to be good for swimming. It's getting warm enough for me to enjoy that again. The benches ought to be dry enough to relax on by then as well.

The trip to the Legeon went pretty well yesterday. I certainly had a good time. One of the elderly ladies was complaining about the music they had on. You know: "This modern music is so hard to understand. I can't understand the lyrics and there's nothing you can dance to... ... ..." Not a fair observation in my judgement. They had a radio station on and at a volume which was actually fairly reasonable. There were a number of quite mild nice songs with good lyrics. I left without even a slight headache. Fay, a very cheerful up-beat woman, seems to have moved on from her music obcession from last year. I find that a lot of these characters with less than a full deck seem to focus in on one particular thing. In her case, the Incredible Hulk has clearly devoured her heart. She talks constantly about him and the actor who portrayed him in the 1970's TV show. She always enjoys the legeon trip and last night was certainly no exception. Another fellow is forever fascinated with various footwear and in people's preferences about it. He'll slip off into his own little world and make strange noises or recite odd little speeches about things. My room mate from last year, George, is back again. He still seems to be on the whole George Bush kick talking about nuclear proliferation, Iran, and such. I wonder if he'll survive the upcoming election.

It's thursday morning now. The weather is somewhat cooler today. Glad I brought along a pair of pants. The sun is out though so I'm hopeful it'll warm up later. It was warm yesterday but there was quite a bit of wind. I got in the water but not past my legs. It was too cold. Nothing like it was on Monday. It was still nice enjoying being outside by the lake. The wind nearly lost me my hat though. Fortunately, a camper with some vision was able to spot it after it blew off my head. The bugs are certinly out in force this year. I've got bites all over. The bug spray definitely helps though.

Last night was the weekly Bingo game. I have absolutely no use for Bingo so I didn't attend. Instead, I went out onto my cabin's porch and plugged in the computer. Another couple of guys came out and we spent the time conversing. They seemed to appreciate my taste in modern instrumental music and I showed them some games on the computer as well. A very pleasant evening.

This evening is the talent show I think. I may tell a story or two at that. I haven't decided yet. Some people wanted to see some things on the computer and we haven't arranged a time to do that yet. There has been quite a lot of news happening with the conventions this week. I'll catch up on the stuff I'm interested in once I'm back home. Glad I've kept caught up with Email. I may not get to it tomorrow. We'll see what happens. It would have been a pain to catch up especially with all the stuff happening with the conventions. I had some interesting conversations this morning with a couple of campers I hadn't hooked up with until this point. One lady works at some sort of manual workshop for blind people where she packs things into envelopes by the sound of it. She seems relatively happy but is one of those extra-sensative people. Somebody inadvertently set her off before breakfast. There are a high number of people around this week who are very prone to that. One fellow sounds very rough and tough and likes to tease people. He can't take what he dishes out though and is very vulnerable emotionally. It's a combination that can fray the nerves. Dealing with him must be frustrating for the staff. The same goes for another guy who keeps getting lost. Even in the cabin, he has endless trouble finding his room or the washroom. He's also very apt to become angry which helps nobody, least of all himself. Some of the campers have gotten quite angry with him. He's one of a number of people here with brain injuries. I began the week thinking that it might help him to have opportunities to find things for himself but I've since changed my mind about that. He should have come with an assistant.

Sleep-wise, things are quite good. My room mate is quite a decent slightly older guy. We get along quite well. The beds are very comfortable. Sounds don't tend to carry from room to room nor from the porches. I tend to wake up fairly early most mornings but always feel very well rested. The week has gone by quite quickly. Tomorrow is my last day here. After posting this, I don't think I'll be going online again until I'm back home. I'm definitely enjoying being able to walk around outdoors and there being new people to chat with. Having both a lake and a number of trees nearby makes for an interesting sonic environment as the wind causes waves and blows through the leaves. Presuming it doesn't rain, I'll be taking as much of that in as I can.

I guess that pretty much sums things up here. When you come for the reasons that I do, the programs don't matter as much. It's the people and the place. I find I'm looking forward to returning to normal life. One week here is plenty for me. There'll be quite a bit to catch up on and my new accessible game to continue work on. I also plan to approach some of the radio and print media concerning my guide. We'll see how that goes over the next while. It'll be great seeing J again. I've certainly missed her this week. It was good to get emails from her over the week. Looks like we'll potentially be seeing some friends over the next while. Always an enjoyable passtime. Things are getting a bit more lively in here now. Think it's time to sign off for now and get this posted. Later, everyone.
Mood: peaceful

obtaining the personal power guide Jul 2nd, 2008 8:20 am
Hello, everyone. I've just figured out how to upload the guide and lectures to a file sharing service. Everyone should now be able to download the guide from:

Copy and paste that link into your browser and you ought to get there. Remember to right-click on and/or save the files to your hard drive rather than just opening them directly from the site. This way, you won't have to keep coming back to get at the files when you need them again. Best of luck, everyone. Hopefully, more people will be posting the guide and lectures onto other sites soon.
Mood: happy

back in the limelight Jun 26th, 2008 11:51 am
My efforts to spread word about the guide I recently completed are certainly starting to pay off handsomely. This week's Top Tech Tidbits newsletter begins with an item about Personal Power. In terms of Email publicity, it doesn't get any better than that. Other than the seventy or so copies I've personally sent out to people, it looks like around five hundred people have at least looked at the site where the guide was posted. Not bad for less than a week. To top that off, I have interviews scheduled with Voiceprint Canada and Insight Radio. These are two fantastic resources which I have enjoyed. Voiceprint has been a point of interesting listening for me over more than a decade. You can check it out for yourself at:

Insight Radio is run by the RNIB and is a radio station broadcasting for blind and visually impaired people in Europe and the UK. I should have found and explored it ages ago. It seems like it'll add some fresh zip to my Summer. That's for certain. Get there and listen up by going to:

I've plunged into my self-appointed time of rest and recharging. Songs rather than instrumental music are the order of the day. I've already heard two nifty ones on Chum FM which I may eventually decide to own once I find out what they're called and who sings them. That sort of information tends to be helpful. It appears they've been around a while and I've been too wrapped up in writing to notice. That's the problem with these big projects. They tend to become obcessions as they near completion. I've nearly finished reading a great collection of urban fantasy short stories from Charles De Lint called Moonlight and Vines. He has a very new age style and I find his writing can impart a terrific sense of wonder. That's something I definitely appreciate just now.

My laptop is now all set for my trip to the CNIB Lake Joseph center. I'm going up there next weekend. Hard to believe how quickly time flies. I feel like a hefty chunk of June just up and went on me. Skype is certainly going to get some use up there as I'll be checking in with J from time to time. I'll also be keeping up to date with Email so I don't find cybernetic heaps waiting when I get back. As has become traditional these past years, I'll bring up some CDs so that I can share the guide and free software with any interested people I come across.

It looks like I'll actually be back from Lake Joseph this year by the time all the accessibility conventions kick off. I always look forward to following news of those. Perhaps, circumstances will let me actually go to one of them in person one year. I'm hoping my guide might lead to some opportunities to speak to groups about its main subject of using accessible computers for personal use. Haven't found any local organisations which might be interested just yet but it's certainly still early days.

J and I are going to be having dinner together tonight and a friend of hers will join us for dessert. Her birthday is coming up and I think I've come across a very practical nifty gift for her. I also have a gift for my brother Dan whose birthday was on the 21st. He's been pretty busy lately so it looks like J will probably receive her gift first. J is going to be pretty busy this weekend with school work. However, she's coming over here on her birthday. She likes our swimming pool and mom and dad are happy to have it used by responsible people like her. I'll go in if it's hot enough and the water is also warm enough. I'm just not into that shrinking sinking feeling. That loving feeling, on the other hand, is absolutely delightful. It's damned good to have a real partner in life.
Mood: happy

Finished the guide! yay! Jun 20th, 2008 7:20 am
At long last, my two year quest to write a document that would help blind people share the joy of personal computers and the Internet is finished. The final stage of work on it has taken quite a bit more out of me than I anticipated. My sleeping has been thrown out of whack. Thought I'd sleep like the dead last night but found myself absolutely wide awake at around five twenty this morning. Word about the guide seems to be spreading around. I didn't inform too many places about its availability before crashing last night but found a good sixty emails waiting for me. I bet some folks will wonder at the early answers to their inquiries. Some people seem to be having trouble downloading the guide and lectures but others are doing just fine. I expect that's a problem which will go away pretty fast. Sending out an rtf file is fortunately no problem at all via email. There seems to be quite a bit of initial interest. I'm very gratified by this and hope it lasts as the guide is read through.

The Internet is certainly a wonderful thing. I can fully enjoy this weekend with J and some very good friends already knowing for certain that I have indeed produced something worth while. It'll take a little while before any signs that the guide has brought new people more into the online world appear. The weight of responsibility attached with writing Personal Power has shifted. I still have to do the work of spreading word about the guide. That's thankfully not nearly as fundamentally personal as authoring it. Other than answering emails and writing this blog entry, I'm damned well going to relax and enjoy this weekend. I'll be enjoying a celebratory dinner tonight with J. It's damned nice to have somebody to do that with. So many times in my life, nobody's been handy to actually celebrate my successes with. My graduation day was quite anticlimactic. Not so this time thank goodness.

People who are interested in obtaining my guide and the three mp3 lectures I've recorded to act as companion pieces should go to:

Life in other areas has certainly been good over the past while. Just now though, I can't think of anything to write about it. I've got to regain my bearings now that the guide is finally out there and I'm not able to second-guess myself any longer. That's the worst part of it you know. I have a keen sense that posting anything online irretrievably puts it in the public domain. Like waving the sorcerer's wand, you have to really be certain of yourself ahead of time. It'll be quite a while before I'm ready to do it again. These projects take time. Certainly, my next one will demand a lot of time and all my creative skill. Other than initial design work, I won't start it in earnest until September. The summer is for relaxation and absorbing the input which feeds my creativity. It's also for publicizing the guide and dealing with whatever this wave of the wand results in. And so, feeling very worn down but profoundly fulfilled, I leave you for now.
Mood: jubilant
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the final countdown Jun 6th, 2008 12:37 pm
Yes, folks. It's friday and a damnably hot one at that. So hot, in fact, that I've resorted to closing my window and turning on the fan. I'm actually greatful for the air conditioning in the house today. That's saying something. It looks like the next couple of days will be pretty much as hot. I'm spending today working on the guide. The first of the three final weeks of work on it has now passed. Last Saturday, I fixed June 20th as the day I'll publish the guide and finally be finished with the thing. This is regardless of how much or how little feedback I may receive by then. I'm still waiting to receive feedback from hopefully a good number of the ten people I've chosen. Some of them have had over a month now. J wanted to see a section of it in connection with a project she was working on. She pointed out that I tended to write very large paragraphs. That observation along with alerting me to a few errors not obvious to spellcheck or to screenreaders has prompted me to have another go at improving things. I've split countless paragraphs up to hopefully make things easier on any sighted people who might read the guide and/or help me proof-read it. I don't notice any difference to reading the guide with a screenreader. I would have expected more slight pauses where paragraphs ended. These damned last-minute second thoughts are liable to damage the final product if I'm not careful to keep them in stride. That's what usually happens when I second-guess myself too much. I've written nearly fifty thousand words. In the process of splitting the paragraphs and such, I discovered a strange formatting issue where a bunch of the guide was written in very short lines. I have no idea how that happened but have fixed that. The end result is that my guide currently stands at eighty pages in length.

J has gone to a conference at the CNIB downtown today and will be blogging about one or more cessions she's attending. She certainly had to get up damned early in the morning especially for her. She's such a trooper. I lent her my laptop and it seems to be behaving itself for her. We're going to see the new Indiana Jones film this weekend. I'm certainly looking forward to that despite some fairly deflating remarks I've heard about it so far. Critics can often expect too much from movies. They expect a brilliant literary piece from what's supposed to be rip-roaring fun. I can relate to them having become similarly jaded when it comes to what constitutes a truly good game. As Tolkien once so aptly put it, To go there is indeed to destroy the magic. It'll also be a good chance for J to relax before things get truly busy for her in July.

If I'm write about how things will play out, the last week of June and first week of July ought to be fairly interesting for me. Actually, depending on when and if I get more feedback on the guide, that period of heavier activity could start much sooner. I reserve this weekend for J and I. After that, however, the sooner the better. I'd much rather have more time to consider any feedback than less. Once I've published this thing, that's absolutely it. The guide will be a done deal. I have other things to get to.

It's doubtful that many people will be at Lake Jo who were present when I started working on the guide two years ago. I wonder how it'll be received. Have I made things lively and personal enough to maintain interest? Have I deluged people with too much technical information? I've tried so hard to avoid that. I feel very keenly the weight of responsability I've taken on attempting to act as ambassador for the digital world. Fourteen more days to go until the guide is out there.
Mood: thoughtful

on a good path May 6th, 2008 11:27 am
What a Monday! I mean that in a profoundly positive way. I got the first constructive feedback on my guide before I even sent out my contacting letter to the editing team. He gave me a golden example of precisely the kind of thing I want them to especially look out for. It doesn't get any better than that. I Used his example to demonstrate to the rest of the crew what I needed from them. The person who responded was in fact a relative novice himself and he also had some very positive things to say about the guide's helpfulness to him. It's the first solid reassurance I've had since the last trip to Lake Jo that I'm truly on the right track and have produced something of genuine value to my intended audience. A couple of other team members also checked in so I know everyone's up to speed now. I don't have that gnawing sense of being in limbo and wondering whether anybody will get back to me about the guide. There are still around six weeks to go so it's not like everyone has been taking too long. It just seems like an eternity of silence when you're waiting for the first trickle of what could be positive or negative response to two years of work. I've got a bunch of good people on the team though and I know they'll act as a nice guard against the kind of errors I'm most worried about having made. Having found an initial place for the lectures and guide at:
I feel like there's definitely a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It's easier for me to continue working on the design document for the accessible game Enchantment's Twilight which I'll start creating in earnest in the Autumn if nothing comes up over the Summer to change that plan.

That afternoon, I learned that my interview for the CBC Radio show Spark will be broadcast this Wednesday and Saturday. The Wednesday show is at eleven thirty AM. It will also be podcasted making it easy to grab a copy of the show. If you're interested, you can go to:
It's a terrific honour to be part of something as profoundly interesting as that show. I've been captivated by pretty much every episode since I learned about Spark fairly close to when it started up. I'm keen to hear how it turns out particularly after my own painful efforts at sound editing over the past while. I hope to get better at that but I believe writing will always remain my strong suit. To anybody exposed to my blog for the first time thanks to Spark, greetings. I hope you find my writing to be of interest to you and would love to hear from you. In order to comment on my blog, I believe you'd have to register with this site. However, you're probably better off emailing me directly as I check that far more frequently. My address is:

Last evening, I joined a cession at:
where the guest was Jim Kitchen, accessible game pioneer and terrifically generous guy. It was an absolute honour to participate in what turned out to be a three-hour chat. He fielded many excellent questions and the archive will be quite a nice bit of audio to listen to when they've got it ready. He's certainly given me a lot of friendly moral support over the past while. Everyone had good things to say about him and how much his free games had done for them and other people. I get the sense he was a bit overwhelmed by it all. He seemed to enjoy the experience immensely as he definitely deserved to. He's an unbelievably humble man and one of the most inspiring blind people I've come across.

Today, I've passed another milestone by finally getting to the point where I feel I can safely and competently get to the bus stop near my home. It's taken me months but I can finally move on to the next part of the journey. There's quite a lot still to master. However, it's nice just to have a clear sense of having taken the first step there. I know I'll eventually get it all down. I just need to be a bit more patient with myself in that area. Thankfully, J is. Her first class seems to have gone fairly well. I hope having a day in between classes will prove to be a better balance for her over the Summer. Last weekend was so much fun. The Canadian goal ball team isn't going to make it to the paraolympics in China which was the only down spot. The US team will though so I'll at least have a North American team to follow. The gathering J hosted went off very well indeed. Who would have thought a hammer and flat-edged screwdriver would succeed in uncorking a wine bottle where a corkscrew failed? Go figure. The food and friendship were both absolutely first-rate. Ava's second birthday party also went off very well. She was far more engaged and happy than at her last one. We spent most of the evening out on Dan's deck but it got cooler as things were winding down. Ava seemed to like all her presents but was getting tired towards the end. It was a good kind of tired though. J had a good relaxing time with us and got to see Amia as well before she got put to bed. Amia certainly didn't appreciate missing out on the action. She'll get her crack at birthday parties soon enough though. There were a few other little kids there as well but I didn't get the sense that they played all together that much. It was hard to keep track of everything going on though. I have no sense of what all of Ava's presents actually were. However, it was often a struggle to get her to open the next one and leave the last one so that's a pretty good sign I think. It was good to have J there with me. I find it hard to imagine life without her in it these days. She fits so neatly into it all.

I don't have anything planned for the rest of the week other than working on Enchantment's Twilight and the guide if and when more feedback comes in from the team. Weeks like this used to drag so heavily a year ago. Time seemed to be such an endless quagmire to trudge through. Not so anymore. Listening to this week's Ideas podcast this morning certainly gave me a moment's pause to think about the power of time. Ray Kurzweil was describing how technology was going to progress exponentially and how many people failed to take this into account when predicting future possibilities. I caught myself thinking like I presume many of his critics do as he expounded on some of the advances he foresaw us experiencing over the next couple of decades. However, I then began to consider what a tremendous difference a single year has made in my own life. Last year around this time, I was racing to try and finish the guide I had started before separating from a wife who neither shared my positive outlook on life nor valued my accomplishments. The guide had become the one project I was able to salvage from the wreckage of a married life which had been slowly dying for quite some time and had just expired. Finishing it would put as positive a nail in the coffin of that part of my life as seemed possible and I could then move onward, so my muddled thinking went. Days seemed to drag out wastefully with a constrictive slowness. Today, so much has changed for the better. Days are typically quite enjoyable and I can maintain a good balance between work, mental stimulation, rest and pleasure. Thanks to J, my family and some terrific friends, I have a good social balance. I don't have that overpowering sense of disconnectedness from the world which comes of too much isolation and obsessing about projects. Time on my own is something I can truly savour now that there are boundaries around it. From July 6 to the 12th, I'll be vacationing at the Lake Joseph Centre. Of course, I keenly look forward to being able to present my guide to people there. Most importantly though, I look forward to simply being able to relax and enjoy the company of others in an environment set up especially to make that easy for blind people. This time, it won't be a matter of recuperation like last year as enjoyable as that was. This year, it'll be a matter of truly adding to an already excellent time in life. It'll be a calm before the storm of plunging fully into my next big project. This assumes that I'm not swept up into somebody else's cause along the way. I'm quite open to such a possibility if God sees fit to do that to me once again.
Mood: happy

what life's all about May 3rd, 2008 11:07 am
It's been raining and a bit cooler here over the past while. Yesterday and the day before were a bit on the draggy side. However, I went out Thursday night with J and Adam for some Chinese food. Poor J wasn't feeling that great but still managed to enjoy the evening. She's such an incredible trooper that way. Thankfully, she seems to be feeling much better today. It's the last weekend before she starts her Summer classes and she's having a get-together with a few good friends. She's done quite a bit to get ready for that. They're great people and I have no doubt we're in for a cheerful time of fun, food and conversation. Tomorrow, she'll be joining the rest of my family at my eldest niece's second birthday party after the two of us have a nice relaxed brunch. She's a lot more aware this year and is excited about turning two. I joined the family earlier in the week as the presented her with a newly assembled sand and water table which was our present to her. She seems to like it very much and made a right good mess of mud to properly start things off. Amia certainly has a lot of energy lately. She was constantly stretching and moving around while I held her briefly. They tried to put her in her crib for a nap while we were still there but she wanted no part of that. She was missing out on some action and damned well knew it. Sunday will certainly be interesting.

I've been catching some of this weekend's Goalball tournament over the past couple of days. Sweeden is about six hours ahead of Ontario and that makes catching the morning games live pretty much impossible as they start at around two thirty AM. Thankfully, I managed to catch a game involving the Canadian team today. They're hanging by a very thin thread at the moment. Another team has to win by a good number of goals to keep Canada in the semifinals. It looks like the USA have secured themselves a place in the semifinals though and that's a team I enjoy following. The crucial game happens tomorrow at that ungodly hour of two fifteen AM. I've very much enjoyed listening online live to games and being able to chat to other fans around the world. However, I have enough else going on in life that I'm not willing to lose sleep for that priviledge. I can hear the game at my leisure as everything is being archived. The organisers of the Internet broadcasting of these games to a great job with that. Bil Teal is a terrific commentator and narrates the games very well despite not being there. He's in North Carolina. He does better when he's actually courtside but the funding just wasn't there for him to go. He's doing it all with video being streamed back to him from Malmo. The sound setup isn't as good as in the last games I listened to quite a while ago. Has it been a year since those games already? Goodness! How things have changed.

Work on the design document for the second reincarnation of Enchantment's Twilight is going fairly well. I hope to have the initial game board mapped out by the end of this coming week. The Inform7 development language is now being updated fairly substantially. I'll have to examine the new changes to see if they have any bearing on what I'm planning. There's also the chance that they might make the language's front end software for Windows less accessible but I doubt they'd do that. I may bounce some of my game idea off of one of the developers soon to get their initial take on whether what I want to do is going to be possible as I'm quite confident it will be. Next week, I'll be touching base with all the people I selected to have an advanced look at my guide. I've only heard back from three of them to even know whether they've received copies of it yet. There's still a month and a bit to go before the middle of June when I hope to release the guide so I don't want to rush them. There's certainly lots to keep me occupied while I wait.
Mood: peaceful

another nifty weekend Apr 28th, 2008 7:20 am
Things have certainly been interesting over the past while. I had quite a good weekend with J. Her sister has returned to England now and things are getting back to normal for J and her family. I got to visit with them just prior to the weekend. They were all somewhat worn down but seem to have had a fairly positive experience overall. I certainly have a much better sense of the dynamics of J's family. They're all quite nice people who have somewhat divergent interests. This can certainly cause some tention but they cope fairly well with that for the most part. I feel quite comfortable around them and don't foresee any major issues. J's mom seems to enjoy the wordplay J and I engage in. It was good to get her laughing while she joined us on the drive back to my house.

After having her apartment full of people, I figured she'd want a weekend largely to herself. Instead, she wanted my company for the majority of it as well as time to do her own thing. This suited both of us well. I brought my laptop over and was able to keep myself pleasantly occupied while she worked on her own project. We could share insites and enjoy moments of distraction making time pass very pleasantly indeed. We also saw a few of our friends. Amanda is always interesting to talk to. We saw her on Saturday night. On Sunday, we got together with my good friends Mark and Wendy. Introducing those two to our favorite restaurant, Symposia, was a nifty time for all of us. I slept very well last night and found myself wide awake at around six this morning. That hasn't always been the case after a dinner out with such good company. I think that today ought to be a fairly productive one. I passed another important milestone yesterday managing to finish the rough drafts of all three of the fireside chats I've been working on. Now, the business of sound editing will begin as I spend as much of this week as I need to in order to get the material up to a more satisfactory quality. I've already done a test burn to a cd and by that process ascertained that no major revisions to the lectures will be necessary to make them all fit onto one. That was a big releaf.
Mood: good

good times Apr 15th, 2008 7:36 pm
Today has been a very good day. After days of having endless difficulty attempting to record the audio material which acts as a kind of companion to the guide I've written, I've finally found my voice and style. The first of what will be three fireside chat-style lectures has been recorded. I may tweak it a little but I'm basically very satisfied. That leaves the final two parts of the audio material to be recorded. The second lecture will focus on the Internet, communications and online shopping. I'll cover everything from chat sites to blogs to email. I'll also go over the basics of the dangers on the Internet as well as online shopping. It'll make for a fairly brisk twenty-four minutes. The final lecture will focus on fun and entertainment. I'll go over the basic types of computer games available as well as podcasts and multimedia content like Internet radio. The first lecture introduced the actual guide and gave basic instructions on how to read it. It also outlined why I produced it and gave a brief glimpse at the kinds of things one could do with a personal computer outside of work and educational use. It all suddenly just came together this afternoon and I was at last able to do the first lecture without any discomfort at all. It just took a whole damned lot of tries to get things to the point where I was satisfied with the talk. Now that I seem to have found my stride with these lectures, I'm hoping the next two go easier.

I've also had a very good time with J over the last weekend. Her family came to visit including her sister and new niece. Both of them are absolute bundles of energy. They were off visiting friends the afternoon of the day after they arrived from England. It was a pleasure to join them as well as J for an evening meal. J's sister talks very rapidly. She'd certainly give the Newfoundlanders I encountered at the SCORE camp back in 1990 a run for their money in that department. Hearing J and her sister reminded me strongly of Dan and I when we were teenagers. They're both good people but are in two very different worlds and modes of life. I don't wonder they seem to clash somewhat.

J hasn't exactly gotten to relax much over the past while. She gets to enjoy herself tonight though so that should help. At least she's gotten some good sleep. I've done alright in that area myself lately. With the guide out to a select group of people and its first home on the Internet now established, I'm feeling quite good. I like doing things which can benefit others who try to do good in the blind community. The folks at:
have put together an excellent place on the Internet. I hope my guide will garner them some attention before it spreads to other places. Their efforts deserve some. Getting the next two lectures done well is going to take many attempts. Other than that, the next while ought to be fairly easy going. I believe I'll start to get some feedback from my editors fairly soon.
Mood: thankful

major progress Apr 4th, 2008 5:43 am
I've reached quite a nifty milestone. Yesterday, I finally completed the very rough draft of my guide. It's been quite a while since I had that feeling which comes of completing something worth-while. There's still loads of work to do with it. The editing and fine-tuning processes begin in earnest now. The first round of that is personal. I'll go through the guide myself numerous times over the next few days and look for areas needing some touch-up work. Some time next week, the external editing process begins as I'll give copies of the guide to the editing team I've picked. I have no doubt they'll catch a ton of wording errors and such. However, their brief goes beyond that. If they have ideas on where I can improve the guide, I'll consider them seriously and likely act on most of them. I anticipate that process will take up to two months. The whole document is currently seventy pages according to Jarte. Speaking of that devil, that problem of document destruction still exists. It struck again yesterday. Fortunately, saving the document under a different name seems to prevent any loss of data. I sent in the message log the program generates right away this time so I believe it will contain information which is more useful in sorting out what's going wrong. Guess I'll find out soon. Bob Flora, the program's creator, is very speedy in getting back to me. The kind of effort he puts into supporting a completely free word processor is absolutely first-rate and very inspiring.

At last, the CNIB has made Robert J. Sawyer's Rollback available for download from the digital library. I pounced on that book with utter glee and simply couldn't stop reading it. I barely managed to put in a full day's work on the guide on Wednesday as I ploughed through most of the book. A good chunk of Thursday morning was spent finishing the excellent read. Anybody who likes The Terminal Experiment or Calculating God will love this book. Mr. Sawyer brings a tremendous amount of humanity and relevance to what he writes. I always feel like I've grown in a fundamental way after finishing one of his books. This one was certainly no exception. That feeling is further enhanced this time around by my having written the personal reflections with which my guide ends. Of course, having one's work face external scrutiny is the real acid test even if by friendly ears. That more painful growth process will start very soon indeed.

J is certainly going through a tough week. You can tell since her attention span shortens drastically. She always gets things done though. Not once has she handed something in late or taken time away from work without making it up. What she's facing in attaining her master's degree is just awe-inspiring. I hope she'll be able to enjoy the three weeks between semesters and doesn't get sick like over Christmas. She damned well deserves better than that. Tomorrow, I'm going to see my brother and his family along with my father. It'll be interesting to see how things go without Ava's favourite person, her grandmother, present and accounted for. She's off with her art friends at a cottage. Mom always enjoys those trips. Next week, I will likely be going to visit with Ron and Sylvia for a couple of days. I always enjoy those trips and I can get them copies of the guide when I do that assuming I haven't emailed them to everyone before. It depends how the weekend goes.
Mood: pleased

hello again Mar 18th, 2008 5:35 pm
Hello again everyone. I don't usually write two blog entries this close together. However, today, I think, deserves some comment. This morning, my mother and I went downtown to see the proprietor of EZDivorce. It was interesting to meet this man and hear what the office he uses was like. We weren't there very long at all. It was just a matter of going over the forms and checking for any mistakes. I then signed them which completes everything I have to do in this process. It'll still be quite a while before the divorce actually goes through the courts. Something on the order of ten weeks. My total cost should be under $500. I'm very pleased that there was a way to end this somewhat painful chapter in my life which I could actually afford. Things are underway now and that feels damned good indeed.

Jarte is being very well behaved lately. No more missing work over the past while. I suspect that the earlier disasters may have been contributed to by my setting the size of my virtual memory too low in an effort to reduce hard drive space. I have returned control of virtual memory size to Windows which seems to have more ability in this area than a somewhat chagrinned yours truly.

Last weekend was a whole lot of fun with J. We met up with a very interesting friend of hers. Dennis has a great voice and would make a terrific broadcaster. He's also a very good conversationalist like all of J's friends seem to be. I also saw Adam for a long overdue marathon game cession followed by dinner out with J. A fantabulous Friday if there ever was. On Sunday, we went to see another of her friends act in an Easter play. I usually avoid those so am perhaps not the most expert judge of these things. Catholics seem to ratchet up the pageantry a bit more than my admittedly few previous experiences in other denominations. It put me very strongly in mind of a morality play called Everyman I had seen one summer long ago. Very well executed and respectful without being stultifyingly so. Greg did a good job with his lines. However, I get the sense that a lot of his efforts were behind the scenes in support of others.

This entry is proceeding a bit more slowly than usual due to this new flexible keyboard I've purchased. It just arrived this evening and I figured I'd take it for a spin on my desktop. It's a very different feeling to type on it and play games. I did manage to handle Pong and complete a level of Mystery of the Aztecs. I believe I'll wait a while before trying a car racing game. I didn't expect the keyboard to be so flat. It'll certainly fit into my laptop bag without any problems and it's incredibly light. My desk is a bit dusty and this is sticking to the bottom of the keyboard. However, it's completely washable so I'll be doing that for the first time after I'm done. You could spill a glass of water on this thing and just dry it off before continuing to work. A great backup keyboard for the desktop and good for situations where I have enough room somewhere to set this keyboard ahead of the laptop on a flat space. You can't just set it on your lap and type away. It would bend and activate one or more keys somewhat chaotically. It works great on my desk here.

I got another good chunk of the computer games section done today. Still quite a bit of ground to cover there but it's coming along fairly well. I'm still confident I can have the rough draft of this guide done by mid April. I'm just really going to have to slug away at it over the next while. Nothing I haven't done before with these self-imposed projects. Before the gritty endgame though, there's this Easter weekend. It ought to be a very fun time. On that positive note, I'll close off this blog entry. Enjoy reading it while I go and get a celebratory beer and relax for the rest of the evening.
Mood: happy

a contented pause Mar 12th, 2008 12:35 pm
I've passed a couple of milestones over the last little while so I figured it was time to update whatever audience I have. Last night, I got an absolutely awful sleep for no fathomable reason. I tried reading and everything else I could think of which wouldn't knock me out for half the next day but nothing worked. Nights spent tossing and turning don't do wonders for me. Still, today got off to a good and easy start. Dad took the morning off work and we all went to Hamilton to see my brother, his wife and my two little nieces. Ava was in very good spirits wanting to see me fold and unfold my cane. "Mike! Cane!" She always says gleefully. She still gets a bit jealous when mom pays attention to Amia rather than her for brief periods but I think she's slowly learning to share a little. Mom still gets most of her attention. Dad usually spends time with Amia. She's getting a lot more active now and wriggles quite a bit when I'm holding her. She likes to be stood up on her feet and to stretch. Dad and Dan are having quite a lot of fun with Dan's Nintendo Wii. They love to play Golf on it. I enjoy listening to that. Competition like that seems to be a healthy part of my family. Dan wanted me to look into various party games for the Wii and I was able to go over some good options with him on that. It'll be interesting to see what he ultimately decides to go for to fill that gap in his game collection.

Things have reached a very satisfying point indeed. For the past couple of days, I've been dealing with the major annoyance of having Jarte, my word processor of choice, malfunction badly and basically cost me around six hours of work in total. I had a very productive Monday only to discover that all the work I had done was destroyed because Jarte overwrote my guide with an absolutely empty file. You can imagine my horror at thinking I had lost a tremendous amount of work. I hadn't backed up the guide for quite a while and would have lost as much as a month's worth of effort. However, while the autosave function of Jarte didn't work well, the automatic backup function did. The only work I ended up losing was the work I had done since Friday.

I've been concentrating on finishing a rough draft of the section in my guide dealing with the basics of Windows. That's the section I most despised working on. I feel that a new computer owner's training really ought to cover that. Ten or even twenty hours just isn't enough to give a person an effective grasp of all that though. Many people don't even seem to know how to access help built into the software. I had actually at long last written out the section dealing with the control panel and was quite satisfied with my work when the tragic malfunction took its tole. The next day, I was more cautious in saving my work but still lost around two hours worth to the same problem. I finally decided to check for updates. There had just been a new release so I really didn't expect anything new there for quite a while. To my surprise, there was a new update which seems to have thankfully fixed the problem. Jarte is a splendid word processor to work in and I would have hated to have to write it off. Make certain you update to the current version if you're using it. I can't begin to describe how happy I am to have finally gotten the basic draft of the Windows section down and safe. It'll certainly need some tweaking over the next while. I'm nowhere near as satisfied with the current draft as I would have been with my original efforts destroyed by the autosave problem. However, it'll do for now. I can now move on to working on much more satisfying areas. Next week some time, I'll revisit that section for the first time and start fiddling with it. I need to work on completely different stuff for a while to get my enthusiasm back up again.

J's going through quite a stressful part of her school term. There are times when things seem to just pile on like bricks. At the same time as I wish she didn't have to deal with so much at once, I can't help but admire how she handles it all. Things are going very well indeed between us. She'll be joining the family for our Easter dinner on Good Friday. I'll be seeing her tomorrow for a dinner for just the two of us. She's been quite busy so it'll be the first time in a while. Despite all I try to do, she still feels bad when she has to cancel getting together due to school and work. There's no way I'll ever hold that against her. She's always so appreciative of that basic understanding. I'm glad she finds that so valuable but it makes me wonder about how other people in her life wouldn't have had the sense to show a similar understanding. She's certainly more than deserving of it.

At last, things are truly moving on the divorce front. I've decided to use an online service offered by a lawyer in downtown Toronto. The process turned out to be somewhat less accessible than I had originally hoped and I needed my parents to help with filling out the intake questions. We're going down next Tuesday for an appointment where we'll sign the forms and get the rest of what we need to do taken care of. The rest ought to go simply enough. Avoiding consultation with a family lawyer certainly seems to avoid a whole lot of expense. All the work I've put into keeping things civil between Rebecca and I seems to be paying off now. Had things gotten more antagonistic between us, I never would have felt safe in trying this. You really need to be certain that there's nothing your ex partner will object to or the whole thing's shot to hell. In our case, there's nothing either of us could really go after in court. Neither of us has money to spare for that sort of idiocy. Both of us just want the process to be over with as quickly as it can be. After Tuesday's appointment, I believe we'll have done our part. Rebecca will just have to sign things. I can't count my chickens until it's all over and I have my certificate. However, it feels very good indeed just to have things underway after waiting a year in accordance with Canadian law.

I was hoping to participate in whatever was offered from the Csun conference via online conference rooms. However, that doesn't seem to be happening as much this year. I believe I'll get to hear some archived presentations though. That ought to be interesting. Perhaps, they'll do one of those tours of the exhibit hauls. That was very nifty to participate in when I lucked out and stumbled into it last year as it was in progress. I believe I know where to keep an ear out now for anything like that. At the very least, there'll be more blog entries from people who are attending to look at. I also got my CNIB magazines for the month yesterday. It's always nice to have those on hand.

Finally, I've just learned that my good friend Adam has found a new job doing tech support. He seems somewhat tired having doubtless played loads of whatever game he's absorbed into over the past while with no daily schedule to set any time restrictions on that. He's got until Monday to get back in sync with the working day. I hope it goes well for him. He's got so much potential if he can find something that truly suits him.

It'll be so good when all the snow and ice are gone. It's making my orientation lessons quite hard as I try to learn how to get to the bus stop to start my journey to Milton's go station where J can pick me up. It'll be quite a while before I'm ready to try going all the way there for a visit. I wouldn't even think about going on days like last Friday was with all the sheets of ice covering the sidewalk and snow piles everywhere. Had I been carrying anything, I know without doubt I would have taken tumbles despite my quite good sense of balance. Thankfully, J understands that it'll take a while for me to learn routes and is very patient. It can be hard even for some other blind people, let alone sighted people, to understand and accept my jenuine difficulty there. My orientation instructor feels I'm doing quite well and that's somewhat encouraging.

That pretty much covers all the bases for the moment. Things are unbelievably better than they were this time last year. That's for certain. I've regained that sense of poise and optimism which other people have long appreciated in me. I can look ahead with a healthy sense that whatever happens, I'll give a good acount of myself in this life and enjoy the time I have for the most part.
Mood: grateful

life's many satisfactions Feb 22nd, 2008 7:04 pm
Hello, everyone. It's Friday. High time I wrote another blog entry. This past while has certainly been interesting. J and I have done quite a lot together. Today is the last official day of her week-long vacation she took during reading week. Fitting then that we stopped in at Chapters after a nice lunch at Symposia, our favourite eating establishment. I picked up a nice birthday present for my mother and J found a couple of hefty feeling books to devour. It was good to see how J enjoys her time off when she's in good health. Getting out and seeing friends was what we did most of all. I got to meet her Belleville group of friends which was quite interesting. They're a terrific bunch. Like all of J's friends, they're considerate and full of wit. We stayed in a hotel over night and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It made for an excellent Valentine's Day weekend. Since then, we've visited a couple of her friends and a couple of hers as well. Saturday evening will see us sharing dinner with another couple of my good friends. I would have thought J would want more time to herself but she seems bored if she has very much of that.

J's parents came down to have a visit and share a meal with us. It was a good opportunity for me to get a bit of a better first-hand sense of them. Due to the distance involved, I don't expect such opportunities to come along very often. J talks about her parents quite a lot so I'll get lots of information about them that way. However, it's no substitute for actually spending some time with them. They're very interesting and unusual people who have taken a different path through life. They clearly care deeply about her. I managed to get both of them laughing which felt good. They're very private people unlike J and I. I think they struggle with how vitally recharging and restorative it is for J to socialize with friends and to see them even while she leads such a busy life. They like their socialization in controlled doses much as I like my exposure to nature. For them, the challenge and goal has been to get away from the crowd and find their own space. J explained to me how they were beginning to avoid a certain local Tim Horton's restaurant because too many people were getting to know them as regular patrons. Quite different from my own experience. I've had to really work at making connections with people struggling against the barriers to socialization which blindness presents. It would be quite effortless for me to live an extremely solitary life. The social arena is a forum where I can have a very positive effect on other people assuming I'm given the chance to. I need enough solitude to get my work done and pursue such hobbies as computer games. However, too much solitude can give me an ivory tower complex and dry up my creative imagination. I found that out the hard way during the first while after I separated from Rebecca. There were days when I worried that the sense of heavy endless time would never leave me and my creativity would just peter out for good. I'm no good to anybody in a vacuum. Thankfully, I've struck that elusive balance with the help of my friends and family as well as J and the many fine people in her life.

This year is certainly off to a very fine start indeed on that score as well as other areas. I've gotten the latest version of Jaws For Windows after finding out that it wouldn't cost nearly as much as I thought it would as long as I was using Windows XP. It'll still cost quite a lot to upgrade to Vista and I'll need the government's help to do that. However, the new version of Jaws gives me some very nice advantages. For one, I can make more extensive uses of SAPI synthetic voices. This has an immediate impact on my guide as I'll be able to read over things using a more human-sounding voice right after they've been typed. The new Jaws is also a lot more responsive and snappy even while using the SAPI voices. It'll let me use IE7 with out any difficulties at all so I can finally upgrade to that. I've also gotten a good headset for my laptop. It collapses flat and packs into a nice travelling case. No more loose wires in the compartment of my computer bag reserved for speakers, microphone and headphones! Yah! I should have done that ages ago.

Recently, I was interviewed by Nora Young for a CBC radio show called Spark which looks at technology and how we use it. It was an absolute pleasure to get to meet her and to contribute to her show. I discussed how blind people use the Internet and gave demonstrations of that as well as Pong. I figured that would give listeners a basic idea of how sound can be used to good effect if some thought is put behind it. I'm not certain when my segment is going to be on the air yet but certainly look forward to hearing how it turned out. Check out the show if you're ready for some fun and nifty thoughts at:

Over the past while, I've been fortunate to find some pretty nifty software. My most recent find is a free word processor called Jarte. It uses the Microsoft Word processor engine which was originally used to create Wordpad. However, it has been vastly improved. Check it out at:
For personal use, I can't imagine needing any more than the free version of the software offers. It opens so much faster than word and the author has included a screen reader mode which automatically detects many screen readers when the program starts. I communicated with the author and received his permission to use Jarte as an illustration in my guide of why blind people should take the time to look around for free or low-cost software which might prove to be accessible. I'll never need to worry about Microsoft Office again. Jarte can read and save documents in Word format including that used in Office 2007. I prefer richtext myself. You have a spellchecker, status line and word count plus a ton of other stuff. For some reason, NVDA can't currently read the status line but I've alerted their developers to that and hope they'll be able to fix it. It works perfectly with Jaws and I haven't tried it with Thunder and SA2Go yet. Students on a tight budget would be in pretty good shape with Calendar Magic and Jarte as well as a few other programs. Perhaps, I'll flesh out that idea and stick it in my guide somewhere.

Work on that is going pretty well. It'll be tight getting everything ready for my team of editors by mid April but I think I can do it. Ron, Sylvia, Ange and Tony have all agreed to provide me with their feedback and suggestions. It'll be damned good to have that project all done and ready for launch by June. Another thing I've begun doing is letting vendors know about the guide. I'm going to email all the technical support folks who work with access technology for blind people and see if they have any things they wish novices would know about and not have to call them for among other things. I plan to disperse whatever tips I get from this exercise throughout the guide unless I've already covered the information elsewhere.

There are doubtless things I've neglected to write down here. Life feels a lot more pleasantly busy for me these days. There are some nifty online conventions coming up in March which I hope to attend and possibly lecture at. I haven't heard back one way or another from the Ocusource folks about the poss ability yet but I'm certainly willing to present if they are willing to schedule me. It'll also be interesting to see what's next with the Atlantic Connections conference the CNIB is running. I've been meaning to get back into participating in that again. It's damned nice to have enough going on that I don't have to grasp desperately at any opportunity for stimulation which presents itself. Next week, I'll be contacting the paralegal lady I've found and begin the whole divorce process going at last. It'll feel so very good when that's all paid up and done.
Mood: content

back in true sonic form Jan 23rd, 2008 2:49 pm
Well, folks, it's been a little while since my last entry. One of my major reasons for waiting this long was to be absolutely certain of some unfortunate advice I have to share. I'm typically hesitant to point the accusing finger at anyone. This is even more the case when the object of my frustration has never disappointed me before. You'll recall I was going to look into how the Xfi Xtreme Audio sound card handles games. To put it bluntly, it doesn't. If your sole desire is to be able to listen to movies and music on your computer, you won't be disappointed at all with the Xfi Xtreme Audio card. However, if you ever want to try your hand at sound-based accessible games or enjoy any other application which features moving sound, think again. I was absolutely stunned to discover that my brand new card couldn't even handle Jim Kitchen's Pong game. My whole collection of accessible games was pretty much useless to me. Can you believe it? A creative sound card which can't handle pong! Will blunders never cease? The more I looked into it, the more I discovered how thoroughly I had been taken for a ride. It turns out that the Xfi Xtreme Audio isn't really an Xfi sound card. It requires different drivers than other Xfi cards and only supports entertainment mode. I would have survived cheerfully with that had it been able to handle Directx sound movement in accessible games. However, I wasn't willing to have an otherwise excellent machine unable to do that.

I fortunately had the money available to undo my error in judgment and purchase a Creative Soundblaster Xfi Xtreme Gamer card. Thankfully, this card is an actual Xfi offering and as such gives access to the full range of expected features. Had I not initially tried to cut a corner with a cheaper sound card, I would have saved something like a hundred dollars. Oh well. Live and learn. I'm now quite happy with my computer and ought to have smoothed sailing in that department until the government finally comes through with my assessment. I hope other people who have some control over a similar decision learn from my misfortune.

In terms of money, I'm doing alright at the moment. Near the end of next month, I'll be paying a paralegal to file for divorce. After that expense I won't have anything remaining from my previous marriage hanging over my head. One thing I've begun looking into is headphones. I can use a good but travel-ready pair. However, as frequently happens when I embark on such researches, long-standing curiosity got the better of me. While waiting for my new sound card to arrive, I spent a fair bit of time trying to get my mind around why people would possibly feel a need to pay more than a couple of hundred dollars at the very most for a pair of headphones. Back in my university days, I had a housemate who was, through some family connection, acquainted with a fellow who worked for a company producing extremely expensive headphones costing over a thousand dollars. I never pursued trying out a pair since I wouldn't have been able to do anything in the event of some unforeseen accident with a set brought in. Ever since, the question has nibbled at the edges of my brain. Can anybody truly notice a spec of difference? I looked at a number of reviews of some hideously pricy sets and discovered that many of those were custom-made to fit directly inside the ear of their users. Others had all sorts of features for noise cancellation and the like. It certainly made for fascinating reading. Personally, I like to be able to hear what's going on around me while not disturbing others listening to audio at a reasonable volume. I also dislike the very idea of having to spend money on batteries just to power a set of damned headphones. To fully satisfy my curiosity, I'd probably have to try out an expensive set for a day or so. I find it hard to imagine that there'd be enough listening difference to justify such high expense. The only exception I could see would be for musicians and djs who need to be able to hear both the input into the phones as well as things in the environment. They'd use such headphones enough to justify their expense over time.

Life is going pretty well in the relationship department. Splendidly in fact. J and I are off to dinner tonight. It's been quite a hard day at work for her. Most of my day has been spent exploring my new soundcard's capabilities and getting things set to make maximum use of it. I'll be getting back to more serious work on the guide tomorrow. Over the past while, I also received the animated Dragon Lance movie. It was quite a disappointment. The story was utterly sacrificed to time and marketing constraints. Two thumbs hacked right off and flushed down the sewer. I hope a live action version of the chronicles is attempted one day as the books themselves were fantastic. The material is definitely there for fantastic films.
Mood: happy

plunging into the new year Jan 10th, 2008 2:13 pm
Things have proceeded more slowly than I expected at the beginning of this week. My computer finally arrived on Tuesday. I lost quite a bit of time due to what I hope is the last loose end from my former married life in the apartment. It seems I never got around to updating the phone number associated with my credit card. Due to that, they couldn't verify my address and ship the computer to me. Idiotic little things like that can be damned annoying but I shouldn't have that problem again. The computer's all set up and I've gotten most things installed on it with the exception of any computer games. Security and work come first in that order. I lost another day trying to fix the only remaining snag. My Microsoft Office version is an old copy of Office 2000 Sr1. It works perfectly on my laptop but I can't get things up and running on the desktop. Microsoft Word and other programs just shut down as soon as they're run and don't even ask me to agree to the license like they're supposed to. I know I managed to conquer that problem on the laptop quite a while ago but I can't remember what I did for the life of me. Fortunately, J's friend found an excellent word processor called Rough Draft for writers. I very much like it. The only niggling thing is that the status line doesn't have the page, line and column information. Instead, it shows the date and time.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this new machine of mine. My only slight blunder was choosing an entry level sound card. The Creative Xfi Xtreme Audio card is a little better than what I have on my laptop but not as much of an improvement as the Xfi Platinum or Xtreme Gamer would have been. Music sounds very nice indeed though thanks to the 3d surround and especially the mp3 crystaliser features. Movies also sound terrific. Game performance is something I'll be getting to shortly but I have a few more things to take care of first. The most major improvement is the speed and stability. These duel-core processors are splendid. I believe I got a fairly cheap one and it's still making things run a whole lot faster. The two gigs of ram helps as well. I can be checking email, listening to music, surfing the Internet, and even running Kurzweil without any slow-downs or fear of crashes even while a virus scan is taking place. If I tried to pull that off on my laptop, I'd have a completely frozen machine.

At last, I'll be able to get cracking full steam ahead on my guide again. It's always hard to get going after one's momentum has been thrown off. My insomnia seems to have retreated for now. It wasn't fun but it's a lot easier to deal with when the rest of life is going well. J and I had a terrific time on New Year's Eve. She enjoyed the gathering at Ron and Sylvia's apartment which went very well in my humble opinion. The conversation was great and nobody got very drunk at all. Both the beer and the talking trivia cds I brought seemed to go over very well. J chose some great dessert. The chili was great as was Wendy's cornbread. Nobody went away hungry. I couldn't have asked for a better gathering. We also had an excellent time with a group of J's friends the next day. It put me right back in those nifty conversations I remember from my university days. Casual, relaxed, rambling and very stimulating. J has certainly found some good people who obviously appreciate her.

It looks like the classes she's got for the next while are more to her liking than the ones she finished. I have no doubt they'll have their stressful times as well though. So will trying to get my guide done in the time frame I'd like to. However, I have a lot more control over what stress there is for me at the moment. I can pick and choose my battles for the most part. J's on a treadmill until she's done her degree. I'm glad I'm able to make that journey more full of bright spots and good cheer.

It was good to see Ava and Amia yesterday. Ava can say my name quite well now and is learning more words. Amia was somewhat fussy while visiting us for dinner. However, afterwards, I rocked her in my desk chair which she seemed to like. J and I will be getting together tomorrow. We haven't made any solid plans for the weekend yet. It's damned nice to be in a situation where having plans fall through doesn't mean I'll spend the weekend alone. Intellectually, I know those days only came to an end when J and I met around half a year ago in August. However, on an emotional level, they seem like the distant past. Funny how that works. One thing I should try to do soon is introduce J to Adam. I haven't seen him in a while and he's the last of my good friends for her to meet. It looks like I'll also be seeing J's parents again soon as they're coming down for a visit. That ought to be interesting. Perhaps, I'll be able to get a better measure of J's father assuming he's permitted to complete any sentences he starts.
Mood: calm

holiday update Dec 31st, 2007 12:35 pm
Once again, I find that it's New Year's Eve. I've let this blog slide over the holidays. There's certainly been enough time in between festive events but I couldn't quite muster the overall perspective which befits the end of one of the most emotionally charged years I've ever gone through. It's been quite the ride. Thankfully, after a nasty initial nose-dive, it's been continuously getting better all the time. Dad told me fairly shortly after Rebecca and I separated that it would seem like just another part of my past by next year. I guess I took him at his word intellectually but couldn't see that happening emotionally. Yet, it has. I've more than recovered my stride. My efforts along those lines and others have brought me the love of a wonderful new girlfriend who will be joining me tonight. I'm off to Ron and Sylvia's for ring in the new year with good friends as I've always so enjoyed doing. There's no better end to the holidays than that. Tomorrow, J and I will be off to see a couple of her good friends for a brunch. Both of us ought to have enough time to recover nicely before commencing normal life again.

This year's holiday season certainly passed in a most enjoyable way for me. Christmas was quite a nice one spent at my brother's house with my parents my two little nieces and a number of people from Allison's side of the family. Ava was just old enough to start getting the idea of presents and we all had a very good time. The next day, we went to my aunt Kay's house for another family gathering. There are more little ones present now. They change the dynamics of conversation somewhat and add a bit more zest to proceedings. Unfortunately, J was ill and spent time with her parents mostly recovering. She took me to the symphony on the 23rd which turned out not to be such a good idea. Neither of us enjoyed it that much. People have suggested I go to one for years figuring that since I'm blind, I therefore would naturally appreciate it. Sorry, folks. It just doesn't work like that. Hearing something like that live lets you hear a lot more of the effort, craftsmanship and hours of practice behind a performance. However, all that effort didn't do anything particularly wonderful for me. I'm just glad J wasn't offended at my lack of enthusiasm for her Christmas gift to me. She knows I appreciated the effort she went to so that I could have that experience. I was also glad she liked my gift to her which took the form of some Frank Caliendo CDs and a DVD. He's a very good stand-up comedian I encountered a while back and I figured she could listen to the CDs while driving to keep her good cheer more intact. She's gone through a pretty rough time over the past while. I'll have to wait until her next vacation to get a better sense of how she enjoys one while in good health. She's certainly good at making the best of things though and had an enjoyable time with her family. I've gained a much stronger sense of us being a very good fit for each other. Misfortunes don't make her lash out at people around her. She also seems to recover her spirits remarkably fast.

At long last, I've decided not to wait for government funding and buy a cheap desktop computer for myself. I've already had a hard drive go on this overworked laptop and figured I should take advantage of the year-end sales to obtain something a bit more high-powered and secure. I use the computer constantly and don't think laptops are really designed for that. It took some doing to find a place where I could get a computer with a version of WindowsXP Home installed on it. My version of Jaws won't run Vista and upgrading to one that would is beyond my financial reach. I could purchase two additional computers for the same amount of money as I'd pay to do that. I just hope the wait for an assessment so I can use the funding I'm entitled to doesn't take too long. My computer guide will definitely be more useful to people running XP since I won't get to play with Vista at all before I publish it. One way or another, I'm going to get that project finished during this next year. I'd dearly love to have it ready to launch this Summer. That's as close to a New Year's resolution as I'll get I think. Mostly, I'll just keep on striving to be a good friend, uncle, and person much as I've always done. To any audience I might have, a very happy New Year to you. I hope you've had as enjoyable a set of holidays as I've had which enable you to approach this coming year with a positive spirit.
Mood: thoughtful
1 comment

free accessible personal calndar found Dec 4th, 2007 1:51 pm
I've been having some trouble working on my guide over the last while. My motivation and creativity seems to come in waves and valleys. Once in a while though, you can find treasures in these dry spells as you distractedly search for whatever might get things going again. That's what happened to me today. I've struck absolute gold here folks.

For quite a while now, I've been on the lookout for a free personal calendar program for Windows which was accessible. Sighted people have tons of these personal organiser applications to choose from. However, it seems the only choice offered us by access technology companies is to use Outlook's calendar. I prefer not to use Outlook having found Outlook Express meets my needs in the email department nicely. Wanting a separate application for my ocalendar needs, I stumbled across Calendar Magic from EuroSoft. After going through tons of other free similar applications finding all to be either prohibitively troublesome or more likely downright inaccessible, I was stupified to find that Calendar Magic is fully accessible without requiring any extra effort. It has reminders, knows about holidays in many countries, and is full of handy extras. There are several calculators, measurement conversions, and other very handy extras. All of them seem to be fully accessible. I think the blind community could definitely use this free software and have made certain to tell the developers about their potential audience. It would be interesting to see how broadly accessible this surprising find is when faced with different access technology. If you want to check it out, go to:
They also have a few other programs I haven't checked out yet.

I don't think I could have designed a better example for my guide to illustrate why it's worth the disappointments to try out various freeware and shareware alternativs. This will hopefully encourage readers of the guide to think outside the box and perhaps let the rest of us know about their successes with software that is accessible by accident.
Mood: very fine indeed

life's happenings Nov 18th, 2007 2:46 pm
I seem to be settling into a two-week pattern of blogging these days. The trip to see the Royal Canadian Air Farce was a fantastic birthday gift from J. I very much appreciate that she's willing to drive me to places. Going downtown particularly in rush hour can't be easy on the nerves. The CBC building is far larger than I ever would have expected it to be. It was great to go into the studio on the top floor and get a sense of how the area in which the show was filmed actually sounded. I expected that to be completely different than a large stage. Things seemed somewhat cramped with all the set or more likely sets in place. The show itself had some excellent material which included a pricelessly funny sketch about a Canadian who tried to take advantage of our higher dollar in order to purchase an American car more cheaply. Hearing the audience was a treet as well. It was just good to be a part of something like that live and in person. The rest of the evening was equally delightful as time spent in J's company tends to be.

Of course, with the hectic life she leads juggling work and school, it's only natural that she's going to get overly stressed sometimes. I think both of us have passed that point where we unconsciously try only to show our better natures. As she's confided in me more when she needs to, I think I'm starting to get a better sense of both how I can jenuinely help and how quickly she can recover given a little sympathy, patience and, perhaps most importantly, freedom to approach things in her own way. She bounces back from low points with frankly amazing speed. In attempting to help her think through and solve some problems, I've inadvertently rubbed her fur the wrong way the odd time. The same cuts both ways of course, as someone who hasn't experienced life as a blind person, she, like many sighted people, can be quick to suggest things which are impractical for me in particular or which simply don't interest me. That just comes with the territory. I'm ever so thankful that both of us don't let stuff like that wreck whole evenings or worse. It's damned good not to have to walk on eggshells or worry that an ill-conceived comment will kill plans already made or make things frosty for days.

Last weekend, I got to meet three of J's good friends. Barry is a very interesting dinner companion to put it mildly. He's obviously one of those guys who adds much-needed crass commic releaf to J's work environment. I'm glad he's where I can't be for J making what are at times very long stressful days a bit more palitable for her. Will and Deb are the kind of friends everyone should be fortunate enough to have. We got along quite well right off the bat and spent many pleasant hours together. They made some very good home-made piza for us. It was incredibly easy to keep conversation going with the four of us. We got home very late indeed.

This weekend, we just hung out together. We had brunch Saturday morning at a reasonably priced place called The Truckstop. It's just hard to beet a breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, mushrooms and orange juice. There was a very amusing little boy sitting right near to us who provided some interesting goings on to listen to. It's so much easier to enjoy the antics of children when you don't have to contend with your own. At one point, he started singing Skaterboy. J was able to laugh right away. I was somewhat stunned for the first few seconds. It was just so completely unexpected that a kid would know those lyrics and that song. Absolutely priceless.

I'm getting a lot more done on the guide these days. There's still a whole lot left but things are at least moving in the right direction. I have more to do in the computer games section but feel I've covered interactive fiction quite well now. The one major section which still completely frustrates me is where I have to try to explain the bery basics of the Windows interface without completely loosing the fun personal friend style I want the guide to have. It's just so deadly dull and I frankly resent that people haven't gotten the training which would cover that in a manner which stuck well. It's like giving somebody a car, showing them the gas pedal and steering wheel and then leaving the rest for them to figure out. Explaining everything is a nail-biting process both by its very nature and even more so because it's already been done in the online help and manual which people find so daunting. Yes, they've been written with employment and working people in mind and are therefore as dull and uninspired as one might reasonably expect. The basics are all covered in there though. I've been working on the guide for so long now that I'm starting to lose my motivation and the sympathy needed to do something truly different to fill the void people say they want filled. I'll feel so much better when more of the "Clearing up Windows for Blind People" section is done but working on it endangers my remaining motivation so much that I tend to leave it to work on other unfinished areas. I feel like a kid who doesn't want to eat his vegetables and can only stand the taste for so long before he absolutely has to eat something else or go nuts. Inevidably, the worst gets left for last which is precicely what I don't want to happen. Well, enough of my troubles. I'm off to get my dinner ready. J is coming over tonight for some tea and dessert. After that pleasant evening and a good night's rest, a new week begins in earnest.
Mood: cheerful

a glorious birthday week Nov 2nd, 2007 12:57 pm
I have often reflected on how fortunate I am in life. This past week has done a great deal to strengthen that sense of being blessed. Last Sunday, I had a birthday celebration with nearly all of my closest friends in attendance. I can't think of anything more fitting nore more restorative to the soul than to spend a day with people who truly know you and respect you for precisely who you are. There are so many times in life where we're made to feel that we ought to behave in certain ways or "would live better if only we..." Quite often, the people who make those sorts of remarks have next to no understanding of either our priorities or how counterproductive their suggestions would be. To have a day where everyone around me likes and accepts me for who I am and who have enough of a sense of my character for me to feel safe truly relaxing around was something I should have arranged a whole lot sooner after I separated and moved back in with my parents. J fit into the group extremely well and was able to enjoy everything. Introducing her to Stephen, Tony and Angela was fun. She had met everyone else there on earlier occasions. The Chinese food was excellent and it felt good having them all over without them having to worry about bringing anything. As things turned out, the two people who couldn't make it on Sunday came over Monday evening and joined Stephen and I for some cake, tea and good conversation. Adam has found himself a very thoughtful and friendly woman. He's the last of my close friends to introduce to J.

We had a family brunch today to celebrate both my and Allison,s birthdays. My grandmother is also visiting and little Ava was in excellent spirits. turtle Jack's certainly didn't disappoint in the food department. Their clubhouse sandwitch is absolutely splendid. Ava was very interested in my cane. I showed her how it could open and fold. She was fascinated and wanted to figure out how to do it herself. It's pretty tall for her when fully extended but she figured out how to open it up. It's cute hearing her run around the house like she does. In a very short time now, I'll have another niece or nephew. Everyone's excited and very happy.

In a while, I'm heading out with J to have the experience of being a member of the audience for the Royal Canadian Air Farce. They're one of the few commedy acts I've enjoyed from time to time. It'll be a splendid show I have no doubt. However, just as crucially for me, it'll be interesting to hear and be a part of something live instead of just observing it from home. That means quite a lot to me.

Writing on the guide is going alright. I've added more to the section on emails which needed some beefing up. I still haven't found a nice flowing way to end it but I believe I've done a good job of covering email basics for people. The section on computer games is begun well but there's quite a lot of ground to cover there. /I've also decided to put my autobiographical book on hold and pursue the guide as well as Enchantment's Twilight for the next while. It'll either be a gamebook or a full-blown multimedia experience. I think I've found a way of making that happen where I know enough to have firm control over the ultimate experience and how it turns out. The autobiographical book needs some time to mature in my head before I do much more with it. Those two projects combined with this CNIB online conference which is continuing will keep me quite pleasantly busy when I'm not spending time with friends and/or J. I don't have that sense of something large missing from life. That, I think, has been left behind for good now. There's a whole lot of meaningful work ahead of me and I have the good friends and family to make that work worth the doing. It's danmed nice to start my thirty-third year with such a profound sense of balance and human acomplishment.
Mood: pleased

current thoughts on life Oct 22nd, 2007 2:41 pm
Today's gotten off to a fantastic start. My deepening relationship with J is certainly responsible in large measure for this. We had a great time yesterday here at the house. Swiss Chalet also lived up to expectations as it always seems to for me. The food is just unfailingly good. It's indescribably wonderful to have her adding interest, love and zest to life. She's going through some stressful times at work and university. I'm very glad I can help her to relax and that I'm part of her life which makes the rest easier to swallow. That kind of thing really seems to be what I'm best at. I seem to have a knack for reminding people that what is all too often devalued or dismissed as the fluff of life is truly the stuff of life.

I attended the last of the first batch of vision loss adjustment cessions the CNIB is running in Atlantic Canada this morning. The guy facilitating the group is doing an absolutely first-rate job of it. I've found that not being in that region of Canada wasn't at all an issue. The issues dealt with are universal ones faced by all of us who have greatly reduced sight or none at all. I gained a lot of incites and found that my own experience was helpful to others. A new group is starting next week and I'll keep on attending these as long as they'll have me. It's nice to be a willing participant in a venture like this instead of having to create and lead it myself as I did with Audyssey and the quite surprising community that developed as a direct result of it. It's also good to have the CNIB engaged in things like this which I can feel honoured to participate in. So often, their "one size fits all" approach frankly doesn't fit me or blind people who I know well. Having a group like the one I participated in be facilitated like they've done allows for a far more realistic sense of things. Robert, the group leader, has a very up-beet and open-minded style which put people at ease and encouraged them to open up more. I look forward to the next eight cessions with some hopefully new participants.

The first such cession will be how I spend the morning of my thirty-third birthday. I spent my last birthday attending the fortieth anniversary of Rebecca's parents. We went to a very fancy restaurant with a whole lot of their friends and family. While the food and company were certainly both excellent, I would have traded it all for what I'll be enjoying this Sunday. I'll have the pleasure of hosting around ten of my close long-standing friends here at my parents' house. Just a straight and simple casual gathering with good music at a reasonable volume plus good food and drinks. Nobody has to dress up or worry about appearances. Fun and friendship will be what it's all about. Having them all there for an afternoon and evening will be a wonderful way to end what's been a very different year for me. I believe three or four of these friends have yet to meet J. Also, many of them haven't seen each other in quite a while. It'll be a time of new beginnings for a group of very good people. The one thing they all have in common is that each of them has found room in life for a deep-thinking, philosophical, idealistic, darkly/strangely amused, and sometimes overly serious me. Go figure.

Work on the guide is going fairly well although my creative engine seems to be prone to stalling. I had a great three days early last week only to have things wind down on Thursday. Hopefully, I'll have a more fully productive week this time. There's still a ton to do on the guide but I hope to have it ready to distribute before this Summer. I've recently made a couple of discoveries which should actually allow me to produce an accessible game. That's going to be a massive project. Even restructuring the design document to turn the game from a primarily arcade experience into a strictly decision-making risk and resource management style of game is going to take quite a while to get done. Assuming I don't run into any show-stoppers and that it's actually possible to do what I hope to, all the work I've put into the story for Enchantment's Twilight ought to be fully salvageable with the exception of the now superfluous strange creature I created mainly to serve the arcade portion of the game. The sooner the guide's done, the sooner I can more fully investigate the possibilities and truly get started. I still feel very strongly about seeing the computer guide through to completion. It's definitely a needed resource and I'm in a unique position of having both the time and the experience to do it justice. Having benefited as much as I have in life from other people stepping forward when they had help to offer, it behooves me to do the same. With one document, I'll be able to reach a great many people and help them reach more of their potential via their computers and the Internet. At the very least, I can help them become more comfortable going online and therefore more likely to invest some of their spare cash in future projects like the game and any books I write and publish online. So goes what passes for ulterior motivation in my case. Mainly, I want the knowledge and sense of having achieved some good and making a positive impact on people.

I find myself in a far better emotional place than I thought I would as this year got off to its rough start nearly ten months ago. There's so much to explore and a whole lot of very meaningful work ahead of me. J has certainly opened up a vista which I had no expectation of being able to explore again for possibly years. Not being born yesterday, I have no illusions that there won't be disappointments ahead. However, thanks to the stability of self-esteem and identity I've found over the past months, I know I won't hit quite such a low point as I did earlier this year. Once again, I have a firm rock to stand on. The future seems very welcoming and promises to hold as much meaning and enjoyment as I can pack it with. I'm a man who's blessed in many ways including having regained my ability to truly appreciate that good fortune.
Mood: content

today's ponderings Oct 1st, 2007 11:59 am
Things have gone very well over the past while. I guess it’s been a couple of weeks since I last updated this blog of mine. We had an excellent evening with my good friends Mark and Wendy. J got along quite well with them as I thought she would. Things felt very natural. We’re all around the same age and have gone through university so I guess it’s no great surprise we all click. It’s a lot of fun introducing each other to good friends and there are more to meet on both sides.

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting J’s parents. They’ve certainly lived interesting lives. From my perspective, I think things went quite well. There’s certainly an inevitable bit of nervousness in such meetings but that faded fairly quickly for me as I hope it likewise did for them. J’s mother sounded very different in person than she did over the telephone. I don’t think I’ve encountered anybody else who I’ve noticed as much difference when I met them in person. There was a lot more liveliness to her and thankfully a more relaxed feeling. When I first spoke with her, I was left with an almost regal impression of a woman who could stroll into a mansion where a murder had taken place and solve the whole mystery with no more than a moment’s observation and thought. If I ever hear that she’s gone and done something like that, I’ll be about the least surprised person on the planet. She’s strikes me as being keenly aware of details. That kind of telephonic presence has doubtless served her well over the years. I found myself pondering my own tendency to write far more carefully and formally than I speak. I’ve always had a sense that anything written had a permanence and might be read by other people. It’s therefore probably all too rare that I write as casually as I start out intending to. It’s been an ongoing struggle while working on the guide where I’m aiming for a relaxed familiar authorial presence to offset the intimidation of many people towards their technology. I keep tending to write in too didactic a manner. J’s father is a man of far fewer words than his wife. This is at least partly due to her stemming the flow of some doubtless interesting stories which I believe, left to his own devices, he would have related in the natural course of conversation. He has a sort of quiet confidence and patience. A very thoughtful and practical man of action is about the best way I can sum up my first impression of him. I get the sense that there’ll be areas in which we disagree mainly as a result of the generation gap as well as to my somewhat unique experience in life. As long as they don’t take such disagreements too personally, I can see some pretty nifty discussions ahead.

Over the weekend, I saw quite a bit of J. We watched Stranger than Fiction which is one of my favorite movies. She very much enjoyed it as I was pretty certain she would. We also talked for hours, listened to music and enjoyed some excellent food. May there be many more such weekends ahead. I love the sense of there being so much open territory to explore with J. We’re always discovering similarities with each other. It’s damned good to have found her. It no longer feels too good to be true at all. Absolutely right is more like it.

This morning, I heard a podcast called Hyperspace which keeps me up to speed on science fiction-related news. I learned that it was the twentieth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’ve saved the podcast as there are some very good interview segments with cast members of the show. I can vividly remember watching the first episode with my family. We watched that show quite faithfully as a family through its entire seven years. The final episode was absolutely brilliant. My friend Stephen went down to the Skydome where he joined thousands of other fans. I remember being torn between wishing I too could have been there enjoying the atmosphere of a cultural event of real significance for me and at the same time feeling glad I could hear the episode clearly in our living room enjoying the show’s closure with my parents. I’d very much like to attend larger events such as that with a group of friends who also took an interest. For all I’ve absorbed and reflected on books, movies and such over the years, it’s mainly been at a distance. Why go to a movie when it’s infinitely more sensible to rent or buy the DVD? Why go to a concert when you could likely buy a complete collection of the musician’s work for around the same amount of money and hear it as often as you like in utter clarity? I’ll always be thankful to Jeremy Sutton, my former brother in law for taking me to see all three Lord Of The Rings movies in the theatres as they came out. I got a very visceral answer to those questions. To be there, a part of a crowd of equally enthusiastic people, was something I’ll always treasure. You could feel the excitement and hear their reaction to key events as they unfolded. Going for a meal or coffee afterwards with friends to discuss it all with would have pretty much made the experiences about as perfect as humanly possible. I keep up with events in my sphere of interest enough to know of many conventions and events I would love to have gone to with the right people. Transportation, economics, timing and coordinating have all gotten in the way over the years. However, I guess I’ve come to a point in life where success in this area doesn’t seem quite so impossible a thing. I’m at last able to look outward again to new experiences and friends. I’ve recovered a patience and poise that I had lost so gradually over the past five years that I never missed it. Tomorrow morning, I’ll attend another cession of an online event held by the CNIB in Atlantic canada. I’ve been able to share in and add meaningfully to their discussions and will miss them when the event closes down. However, I have the responsibility and honor of being a mentor to look forward to in the not-too-distant future. As I’ve sorted myself out and reconnected with life, I no longer have the same sense of working in a vacuum on my computer guide. I have to be careful to keep up some online activities in the blind community so as not to lose that sense of purpose again. I haven’t kept as close an ear out for online events lately. I’ve thankfully been enjoying a lot more life in the real world thanks to my lady J and good friends.
Mood: happy

fresh happenings Sep 18th, 2007 12:40 pm
J and I have had a terrific weekend. The highlight was of course having dinner on Saturday night with two of her good friends. We got along splendidly and they weren’t at all uncomfortable or awkward about my blindness. They’re the kind of down-to-earth decent thoughtful fun-loving people who I enjoy spending time with. We had a great dinner and conversation. The sense of having struck absolute gold with J is unbelievable. We get along so well and don’t seem to run out of things to talk about with each other. I’ve found out what genuine growing love with a very good potential to last is. Time will only deepen it I think. She and I have a healthy respect and friendship to build that on and both of us understand how important that process is. Any overly idealistic expectations of perfection are naturally made more reasonable by both of us having gone through failed marriages.

I also introduced her to Digital Flotsam after we had dinner on Sunday. I thought it would be a good fit for her and she certainly seemed to enjoy that. The time I’ve spent exploring and searching for audio treasures is truly paying off for somebody other than me and that’s profoundly satisfying. There’s so much more to explore for both of us. Everything seems so fresh and exciting now. However far this goes, I’ll treasure every moment of it.

Yesterday, I attended a cession of the Atlantic Connections CNIB online support group. The discussion was quite good and very well managed by the moderator. However, it took a while to solve what was essentially a very low-tech problem. It seems my microphone wasn’t seated firmly in its jack on my soundcard. People couldn’t hear my first few comments. I spent a good ten minutes changing settings and scrutinizing my volume controls from end to end before finally thinking to check that the microphone was firmly in place. It’s the kind of thing which leaves you with a profound sense of embarrassment despite knowing that nobody else knew what the problem was. Everything’s nicely up and running now. I’ll try to catch the rest of the cessions on Monday mornings at nine o’clock. The mentorship program is also about to get underway and I have my first online class to attend on Thursday. That ought to be interesting to be involved with. It fits naturally into my overarching goal of helping blind people use technology to live richer and more contributive personal lives. I’ve always advocated using this kind of chat technology for staging far-reaching online events which break down geographical barriers. It seems like such a natural thing but this is the first time I’ve seen CNIB make such excellent use of it. Dammed nice to see them on the right track with something every now and then. They certainly have another think coming with that damned idiotic universal X drawn on the back for representing danger. I’d much rather be told something about how to avoid whatever dastardly fate might befall me thanks. I can see a quick and easy symbol for danger being more useful for deaf-blind people. Saying anything in two-handed manual sign language isn’t a very speedy process. However, simply informing somebody that there’s danger isn’t adequate in my book. They used that symbol during a fire alarm at Lake Jo this Summer and some of the deaf-blind vacationers were quite terrified having no idea how serious the fire was, whether the cabins were burning up with all their stuff, etc. At least they don’t have those degrading World Vision-style ads on anymore. Those were dreadful.

I got my copy of the latest offering from Ian Humphreys' Spoonbill Software today. He’s produced a very nice version of Uno for us. I’m not typically a fan of card games but very much enjoyed and understood my first game this morning. I’ll have another crack at it this afternoon. It’s a lot like Crazy Eights. It’ll definitely get top marks from me in the next Audyssey issue.

I’ve just come back in from helping dad get the pool covered for the Winter. Filling those water bags and getting the blanket situated properly was just a bit hard on my legs. It must be far more painful for him with his bad back. My parents have never shied away from asking me to help with things and I’ve always been grateful for that. So many other people just plod on through life with the assumption that we can’t do anybody any good at all. He’ll be able to enjoy his birthday far better without a sore back. All he had to do was ask and explain what needed doing. Well I suppose it’s time I got this entry posted, checked up on Email and then gave Uno another run. Later folks.
Mood: cheerful

A very good day Sep 12th, 2007 2:48 pm
Today has been a very satisfying day. I got quite a nice start on the section of my guide dealing with computer games and cleaned up a bit of the section dealing with various communication-related software and online sites. That last section is something I view as being absolutely critical to get as right as I can. The online community offers so much to the blind community. I see it as being the best hope inexperienced and isolated blind people have of getting past the barriers of ignorance and technofear which prevent so many from getting the most out of their access technology. The irony of working on this guide while having at last found someone special to spend time with in the “real world” is far from lost on me. I’ve spent months certain that I would have long completed work on the guide before I had much social success to show for my efforts at all let alone finding such an absolute treasure as J.

Two of my favorite podcasts had fresh entries for me to hear. These were the Dragon Hearth podcast:

and the Digital Flotsam podcast:

It was terrific to hear Tracy Hickman talk further about the Dragon Lance animated film which I’m very much looking forward to. It looks like it’s going right out to dvd release instead of to the theatres first. That suits me just fine assuming they do a good job on the dvd with extras and such. Either way, I’ll definitely be grabbing at least the first three chronacles as they emerge.

PW Fenton provided the real soul-food with his current edition of Digital Flotsam. He described his experience with Coney Island over the years and about the adiction to roller coasters he shared with his father. It’s a terrific and poignant listen which I couldn’t recommend highly enough. People like Mr. Fenton bring back a kind of magic that I believe is becoming harder to find in modern life. I also love roller coasters but it’s been around a decade since I last had an opportunity to ride one. I hope that I can do even half as well as he does giving people that sense of interested personal connection via my writing as he achieves with his podcasts. Sharing vicariously in such a life well lived and reflected upon adds so much to my own.

What makes all this even more special is that it isn’t going to be the high point of the day. Tonight is. I’m going out this evening with J for what’s bound to be a very enjoyable time. It’s such a nice change to have an interested and loving lady in life to share my thoughts and time with.
Mood: happy

what a ride! Sep 7th, 2007 7:09 pm

It’s been quite an interesting while since I last wrote a blog entry. My camping trip over the last long weekend of the Summer couldn’t have gone better than it did. I had a wonderful time away from all of my cares. The group of people meshed very well. Ron certainly has some very good friends to show for his years on the planet. There were hours of excellent conversations with some diverse and intelligent folks. We didn’t get rained on and enjoyed sun and fresh air to the fullest. Sunday was the best day for the beech. We all got a ride on a tube pulled by a jet ski brought up by one of the guys. Once I got flung off, I found it impossible to get back on the thing. The fun ride prior to this bash to the ego certainly made up for it though. The food we had was plentiful and excellent including a very nice steak which was certainly my favorite. On the Saturday evening, I suppose I showed just how far I was able to let my guard down and relax by getting as drunk as I ever hope to get. It was my first opportunity to try martinis which, by the way, are absolutely splendid drinks. I had four of these since there were different flavors. In addition, there was an orange drink from France whose fine taste I won’t soon forget but whose name escapes me completely. A few beers completed the night’s brain toxin. I certainly found the sensation produced to be a different kind of pleasure than I normally experience. Sitting in an unstable chair on a bit of a slope wasn’t brilliant except that this was pretty much the only way to be close to the campfire. I remember falling out of my chair twice while everyone else remembers a third tumble which is the only element of the evening I can’t recall. While I had a good time and somehow escaped a hangover maintaining my complete inexperience with these, I believe I have learned life’s lesson concerning mixing drinks. It can be summed up in one word. Don’t!* I certainly look forward to next year’s trip.

Upon arriving home, I learned that I had accidentally left my laptop on while I was away. This resulted in the complete destruction of my hard drive. It gave up the ghost just after I had retrieved all the email I hadn’t received but before I could read any of it. There were something like three hundred and fifty messages which are now simply gone. Thankfully, the laptop was still under an extended warrantee. The folks at Futureshop were able to replace the hard drive at no cost. I’ve been busy rebuilding my digital domain over the past couple of days. It’s absolute drudgework getting all those updates, finding the registration codes, customizing settings, etc. There are still doubtless small things I’ll find need tweaking having forgotten what I did over the past couple of years that I’ve owned the laptop. However, the major stuff Is now behind me. I’ll be getting back to serious writing next week with all my tools in place.

My new girlfriend J and I have also been busy over the past while. We went out for a very nice dinner at the Mandarin one night. As always, we talked on the phone for many pleasurable hours every night. She came to visit yesterday and met my grandmother who was very impressed. J gets along quite well with my family and they couldn’t be more pleased at my good fortune in connecting with her. There isn’t the same sense of walking on egg-shells which characterized Rebecca’s relationship with them. She can deal quite well with the questions and banter. Tomorrow, she’s going to come again and meet my brother, his wife and daughter. I thought it would feel awkward introducing her so soon but have been pleasantly surprised at how well things have gone and how natural it seems now. If I had a place of my own, things would have gone differently. There’s the feeling of being in high school which just comes from living with one’s parents despite how respectful they are of our privacy. On the up-side, it isn’t as acute as I feared it would be.

I used around two thirds of my monthly music downloads from Emusic to grab some great instrumental tracks from Omar, Colors of the Land and Lisa Hilton. I still have eleven tracks waiting for whatever snags my fancy. Deciding to go with two main branches for instrumental music and songs rather than having a separate dance music category meant I had to rebuild my playlists. I keep two of them with one for instrumental music for writing to and another for all sorts of favorite songs. There’s also all those wonderful internet radio stations as well.

It looks like we’ll be doing dim sum on Sunday with Ron, Sylvia and some other friends including fellow campers. J is certainly jumping in with both feet which suits me just fine. Both of us are going to enjoy introducing and getting to know each other’s friends. Dim sum is cheap wherever we’re going and the company couldn’t be better. They’re great people who are thoughtful while still able to have good fun. Just what the doctor ordered for a couple of love-struck geeks like us.
Mood: grateful

around life's corner Aug 29th, 2007 10:59 am
Things are off to an incredible start between my new special woman and I. We’ve each visited the other and of course talked a ton on the phone. That instrument on my desk has gone from months of barely being touched to back in fashion in a week flat. She has a pretty good understanding of how things are for me and remains interested in a serious relationship. I can’t believe how comfortable I am around her already. She’s one of those rare sighted people who can enjoy listening to audiodramas without growing bored and restless since there’s nothing to look at. She also took a crack at Jim Kitchen’s free audio version of Pong and actually won her first game. It’s been quite a welcome and wild emotional ride upward this past while. I went out last night for pizza and to her apartment. We had a very enjoyable evening. Nothing got broken including our moral resolve to approach this new relationship with patience and care. One thing that comes from having a marriage fail is a deeper sense of the importance of that. I never would have thought I’d so quickly have such a strong sense of someone being so right for me that I’d feel right about stopping looking for anybody else a week after first meeting her. She’s made it very clear that I don’t have to worry about her just suddenly deciding to walk away. I took her word for that intellectually right away but it took a bit longer for my emotions to catch up. They have now and that makes quite a difference. I can think ahead to a very interesting and socially rich future with a woman who’s genuinely interested in me as a person.

Tomorrow, I head over to Ron and Sylvia’s for this Summer’s camping excursion. It was certainly a fun time last year. I haven’t packed yet but believe I have what I need. Now, coming back home again won’t be the kind of Summer’s end let-down I wasn’t looking forward to. The rest of the year is full of new possibilities. She has a lot on her plate and I’ve made it clear that I don’t want her to feel guilty if she can’t see me as often due to her work and school commitments. I’m perfectly ecstatic that she’s willing to share some of her spare time. She has such a sense of commitment to our relationship already that it’s both very gratifying and astounding at the same time. I’ve indeed truly lucked out in life’s lottery. She also likes to write so she understands both the need for social time and experience as well as for solitary time to pursue one’s own ideas. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

One thing I’ve struggled with over the past while is a sense of not having any regular meaningful impact. Audyssey could be a real pain to edit sometimes but publishing something on a regular basis certainly does wonders for one’s sense of purpose. The truth is that I don’t need to find yet more work to heap on myself. The answer to that lost sense of meaning has found me instead. All I have to do is be the naturally supportive, compassionate and cheerful man I enjoy being anyhow. The rest ought to flow naturally from that in good time.
Mood: peaceful

progress at last! Aug 23rd, 2007 4:43 pm
Despite its limitations, my life has many blessings in it. I often speak of my very supportive friends and family. I’m also free from any physical hardships. It seems now that I’ve found someone very special. To be more precise, she found me and added me to her favourites on a social networking sight. Thankfully, I get alerted when that happens and sent her a message. Her profile very much intrigued me. She’s a kind and considerate intellectual person who actually enjoys deep thinking and conversation. This is even late into the night after hard days of work. She’s also quite understanding about my limitations and circumstances. I’ve read many profiles which I thought were owned by women with at least enough courtesy to respond even negatively only to receive nothing at all. I’ve written well over a hundred introductory messages. I was a little more hopeful of getting a response since she had added me to her favourites but only slightly. The last woman who did was somewhere in the US and past sixty. She just wanted to keep reading my postings and was unaware that the site tells you when you’re singled out as a favourite. While it’s certainly nice to know that somebody’s enjoying my typing, I really wanted to find somebody somewhat closer to my age and locale.

I was very surprised when she actually not only called me but chatted very… early into the morning let’s say. I was even more surprised as these long conversations continued with neither of us getting bored or anything. I don’t have to be so careful with her not to get too deep or thoughtful. She actually seems to appreciate that about me. We went out last night for a meal in a local restaurant and ended up staying there for something like four hours. It was a little nervous for both of us as I presume first dates always are for people. We certainly still managed to enjoy each other’s company. By some fluke of God’s grace, I somehow didn’t commit some tremendous social blunder which ended my chances with her. She’s interested in getting to know me better and we’ll be talking again tonight. It isn’t the stuff of Hollywood with people getting swept away by some tide of love. If that happens at all, it’ll take time and a lot more experience together. However, I certainly have a deep sense of friendship, respect and admiration for her. God has certainly put a very special person in my path. However far this ends up going, I’m determined to make the most of the experience. Predestination is something I’ve never really believed in. Life experience and computer games have exposed me to far too much randomness for that. However, God does seem to delight in waiting until just after I come to some fairly solid preconceptions on how things will go. He then fudges the odds to cause what I took to be either extremely unlikely or downright impossible actually be the thing that happens. In short, he gets some sort of cosmic kick out of making me enjoy being wrong. I figured we would see highly detailed sidescroller games first but Dave Greenwood then proceeded to pull off the revolutionary Shades of Doom. I figured All inPlay wouldn’t survive more than a year or two because there wasn’t enough spare money in the blind community to support subscription-based games. More than seven years have gone by since they opened and they’re still alive and kicking nicely. I thought I’d be essentially stuck unattached for years. Perhaps after I had published a book, moved to Hamilton into my own affordable apartment or something else major happened, I might then get lucky in the woman department. Now, once again, I’m very glad an thankful to have been wrong. I was right about one part of my thinking. It did take a very special woman to se past all the things which have turned away so many others.

That sense I had of everything being too good to be truly happening to me which I had last night must have drove her nuts. I’m a lot more comfortable with the reality that I seem to have found somebody willing to give things a real chance. I had pretty much resigned myself to a very long stretch of time going past before I found another woman who would want to go places and share her precious time with me. I had prepared more for failure. Stocking up on all sorts of listening material, intentionally not looking to see what places or events were happening because I’d have nobody interested in going to them with me anyhow, and other such stratagems to help me find contentment with how things were. That effort certainly isn’t wasted. I’ve learned a ton and been able to start enjoying life again. Now that I’ve at last found someone willing to drive places, I’m going to start looking for things we might both be interested in doing. It’s nice to have a good reason for doing that.

By the way folks, don’t expect to know everything about her or what we’re doing together. Get your minds out of the gutter! That doesn’t mean we’ll get up to all sorts of that three-letter word. “We won’t! Honest!” She prefers her anonymity and I respect that.

Today has been alright but not exactly all smiles. I had what could be my last conversation with Rebecca this morning. I guess she and I were on a different page when it came to remaining friends. She expected that I would eventually feel comfortable going over and visiting her again. I suppose I thought that might be possible too for a while some time in the farther future. However, I’m very glad that she understands now that our lives are just heading in different directions. It wasn’t the neat and polished kind of ending I would have preferred but it was, I think, long overdue. I probably could have handled things better but she took it without bursting into tears or anything and I suppose what’s done is done. I could have saved myself and some mutual friends some awkwardness had I resolved myself to this earlier. However, a sense of wanting to support her for the first while as she got used to life alone and a desire not to be cruel kept me from taking such a drastic step right away.

To add annoyance to proceedings, my allergies have decided to make their presence more known to me. I think they started bothering my eyes last night. It got more annoying late this afternoon and I finally conceded my stubbornness and took a Clariton. I can’t say it’s exactly done wonders. I know I don’t use my eyes for a heaping lot in life but it’s still damned distracting when they start running and being sore. Better than a runny nose though. I hate those.

One item put a smile on both my mother’s face and mine today when they announced on the TV news that they were thinking of renaming part of the 401 the “highway of heroes”. I kid you not! To be fair they want to do this in honour of the many Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and whose route back home takes many along that highway. There just has to be a better way to honour those actual heroes than to name a damned highway in such a fashion that I can’t help thinking of Super Friends cartoons whenever I hear it referred to. Some innocent traffic reporter will say: “There was a major accident today on the highway of heroes…” and my brain will instantly fill in something like: “Superman was being pursued by the RCMP when he collided head-on with the other caped crusader in the batmobile. Choosing that precise moment to cross, Rocky and Bullwinkle sadly became the highway’s first official road kill. At the time of the accident, Superman was clocked at a speed faster than that exhibited by bullets in flight.” I just couldn’t help myself and then I’d probably smirk or do something decidedly unpatriotic like laugh out loud. Those people trying to make a real difference over there deserve a lot better than that.
Mood: ecstatic

old friends, new ones and books Aug 6th, 2007 9:13 am
Yesterday afternoon, I went to see Tony and Angela. These two were friends of mine for years but after I married Rebecca, we fell out of contact. It was fantastic to be able to rekindle our friendship. We had a lot of catching up to do and time seemed to fly along. I was able to help them with their computer somewhat but both of the main problems they have seem to be hardware related. Despite that, I left them in better shape overall. They had no idea how many updates they needed. I was able to get the ones which were needed and prevent the latest Internet Explorer from installing which would have caused problems with the earlier version of Jaws they have. We had a great meal and even better conversation. Now that we’ve reconnected, I know I’m in for a lot of good times. They live busier lives and Tony has managed to keep working. However, they’re eager to get together with me and close enough to do it. They’re somewhat better at mobility than I am. Tony actually has a little vision. They want me to come with them on some of their outings and I very much look forward to that.

Over the weekend, I read Robert J. Sawyer’s Calculating God for probably the fourth time. It’s so packed with interesting ideas that I kept missing out on some. I believe I’ve captured it all now and what an awesome work of art the book is. Robert truly faces big questions head on and gives us the human dimension of them. I could truly empathise with the main character, Dr. Jerico. His journey is so extraordinary but his reactions are so anything but. He represents the best of us in so many ways without giving the sense of being too perfect. His journey to belief mirrors my own in some aspects. His books always leave me with a sense of warm compassion and positive humanity. The world needs Sawyer’s brand of optimism.

I had a very pleasant first talk wth a woman I emailed on Plentyoffish. She and I talked for quite some time on the phone and I'm hopeful we'll be able to go places together and be more than just friendly voices. I guess we'll see how that turns out over the next while. Not a bad weekend at all. I'm taking it easy today unless som brilliant idea strikes out of nowhere. It's an official day off after all.
Mood: happy

the droppings of a contemplative mind Aug 2nd, 2007 7:05 am
I’ve awakened damnably early this morning. Starting to read Guy Gavriel Kay’s Summer Tree probably didn’t help matters in terms of getting more sleep but I think it was a lost cause by quarter to four when I began. I thoroughly enjoyed the book despite being barely into my teens when I read it for the first time. I’m at the same time thrilled with and humbled by just how much I missed before. I know I’m in for even more of a treet this time through as the last time.

It’s my friend Steve’s birthday today. I’ve known him since grade school and have very fond memories of the parties he used to have back in those days. He was one of the first life-long friends I made when going to a school of mostly sighted students was still a new and strange experience. In the interest of remaining friends and actually adding to his happiness, I believe I’ll wait for a more civilised hour to ring him up.

Such an early start to the day has produced in me a mood far too contemplative for working on the computer guide. My thoughts are definitely elsewhere as my collection of new age and other modern instrumental music from movies and games comes out of the surprisingly good portable speakers I got for my laptop. It’ll be good to have surround sound again when I hopefully get my new desktop before waring this laptop right out. I can’t say I’ve missed the 5.1 set all that much. I look forward more keenly to eventually having a lot more than forty gigs of hard drive space. Even as I write that, I’m amazed I even thought it. It seems so utterly gluttonous of me. It’s true though. I can still remember a time when I was overjoyed to have two hundred megs. Most people collect physical posessions in life. Everything I value now fits comfortably into my room here with plenty of space to spare. I collect digital data. I’ll never give a tinker’s cuss what my space looks like beyond that it’s decent and clean. However, I care very much that I can fill that space with sound. Books, movies and games are what keeps boredom at a safe distance when there aren’t people to interact with. Music completes my arsenal by giving me something with which to decorate the air and stave off the still silence that can make time drag. If you added up the minutes and hours of all the audio I have, it wouldn’t surprise me if you ended up with more than a solid month of listening. So much art and wisdom there. Thanks to this digital age, I could probably pack it all into a large box and carry it all in one hand if I had to.

I actually got a response last night on Plentyoffish. Unlike other rare answers, this one was quite positive. She seems interested in getting to know me. I think I’m over the shock now. Amazingly, I can stil find some hope in me that this won’t just be another case of one interesting meeting like last time. I like to cling to the ilusion that it’s actually possible that I’ll be able to find people on that site interested in at least a more durrable friendship. I guess we’ll se. The forums were a disappointment yesterday with no threads at all drawing my attention. Perhaps, in the afternoon, I’ll drop by and see what’s vexing everyone’s minds. Skype, on the other hand, produced for me some very interesting discussions. A medical student in the Czek republic, a few people from China and my online friend from Kirgistan however that’s actually spellt. I’m able to help many of these people with their English in the course of our discussion. It’s damned nice to feel useful in the short term. My book and guide are going to take quite a lot more time before either is complete. Lake Jo helped renew my sense of purpose and meaningful contribution with these projects but I know that’ll fade again as more solitary time goes by. It’s so easy to become disconnected with the flow of time when one has so much of it. I can’t help thinking of an elderly Indian woman I met at Lake Jo. That encounter is going to stick with me. She arranged a marriage for her son which ultimately didn’t work out. The woman chosen turned out to be a lesbien. I couldn’t help but laugh when she told me that. It just struck me as so sadly absurd. I’ve never thought much of the idea of arranged marriages and that position hasn’t wavered despite my own ultimate failure to pick a suitable partner. I’ve always felt that for better or worse, we have to take charge of decisions of such magnitude ourselves so that we have some sense of ownership of our lives. However, I would have thought that one of the benefits of having an arranged marriage was that you’d be protected from earth-shattering surprises like that. I felt bad for laughing but she understood why I had and was alright with it. We had other conversations over the week in which she revealed how disconnected she felt from the youth culture of today. It must be doubly hard being in our western culture to maintain a sense of understanding where young people are coming from. She very much wants that understanding. The only advice I could give her was to take a deper look at the books and movies they read and watch. I’ve found that despite a lot of shallow stuff out there, the really popular movies tend to have a surprising amount of substance if one looks past the violence and such. I used the examples of Gladiator and Terminator II: Judgement Day. Both are certainly full of action but have very moral serious points to convey. My whole life is spend absorbing culture and news. Will that protect me from the same fate of feeling my grasp on the pulse of modern thought slipping away as I age? Will time render all my empathy and efforts to engage with the world utterly fruitless as I’m left in the dust of the past? I sincerely hope not. That danger can seem all too real at times with no special partner to share it with.

It’s approaching ten o’clock now. I’ve been slowly writing this over nearly five hours and haven’t even checked my email yet. That seems like a good next thing to do. I don’t think I’ll do much with the guide. I just don’t have that sense of urgency I did yesterday. I know it’ll come back though. I’m just not built for too many days with nothing acomplished in them. It’s been a pretty good week for writing all in all. Tomorrow, assuming this isn’t the start of another round of insomnia, perhaps I’ll be more energised.
Mood: contemplative

a great Canadian win Jul 29th, 2007 3:49 pm
This weekend has turned out very nicely indeed. Last night, I went out for a splendid meal at Montana’s with Mark and Wendy. We had a lot to talk about including my week’s vacation. It was so damned nice to be physically with friends in a restaurant instead of in my room here typing to people on other continents. I heartily recommend the firestick salad. Aftertwords, we stopped in Baskin Robin’s for a nice frfreshing ice cream treet and went on a short walk.

Today, I heard the final two games of the Goalball tournament I’ve been thoroughly enjoying all weekend. It was absolutely thrilling. The Canadians took home the gold medal which made my introduction to the only sport I’ve had the slightest real interest in hearing even more special. I’ll definitely try to catch more games in the future. Bill Teale did an excellent job comentating. You can tell he’s an absolute enthusiast of the sport. Being able to type back and forth to other fans as the game progressed was nice also. I had as much a sense of participating in a big event as is possible without actually being there. You can re-live the excitement minus the interactivity by going to:

Things pretty much get back to normal again tomorrow. I’ll do my usual writing continuing to concentrate almost exclusively on the computer guide. Skype plus a nice reserve of podcasts I’ve built up will hopefully make this week more pleasant and less prone to such moments of feeling absolutely hemned in by circumstances as I experienced last week. There have been a few interesting discussions in the Plentyoffish forums which I have hopefully contributed positively to. I plan to keep that up but don’t have much hope at all of it leading to any offline friendships let alone anything more special. It does provide a sense of interacting with people much as Skype does. Better than nothing but far from ideal.
Mood: happy

Found a sport to follow! Human after all! Jul 26th, 2007 2:31 pm
Until now, the week has ben very dull. Days have started to blend together on me. I’ve been writing well in the mornings but working on this section describing basic elements of Windows is pretty dull stuff. Skype has helped. I’ve chatted with a bunch of people and think I’ve helped a few of them with English. Of course, they’re all distant friends instead of the geographically close kind I really have to find somehow. I’d love to spend a lot more of the Summer out with people my age. There just aren’t any around who know or care. I’ll hopefully be seeing one couple of friends at some point this weekend. It’s only been two weeks since my vacation and I’m already starting to feel that stifled lonely sense I experienced so acutely before. Thankfully, I can still enjoy most of the time and although there are days where I can’t help but be frustrated at circumstances, things don’t seem nearly so hopeless.

I was very pleansantly surprised to find out that I enjoy listening to Goalball. There’s a tournament on this weekend and an enthusiast named Bill Teale is doing a splendid job narrating the action. It’s nice to finally have found a physical sport I can listen to with interest. It helped even more when Canada won both of its games today against Denmark and China. The match is narrated using Ivocalize chat software. This means that the audience can type to each other while the game is being commentated. I love that interaction. Not as good as actually going somewhere but as close as you can get. The official site to begin at is:
However, I found that whenever I went to it, my computer restarted. I think it’s a problem specific to my laptop. However, in case I’m wrong, here are two important links for people with the same situation. To listen to the actual games, go to:
To read the schedule of when games happen, go to:
I very much appreciate having things like this to listen to over the next few days. Games are split evenly between the morning and afternoon so it’ll help empty days move along more. I also have a good stock of podcasts to go through. Also, there are the monthly magazines from the CNIB library. Reader’s digest was certainly up to its usual excellence but McClean’s is more hit-and-miss. I believe I still have two issues to go through. One very interesting article I read had to do with our justice system. It doesn’t have enough resources and it showed how the people tasked with making the system work anyhow tried to do their jobs. A lot more deals and such than I would have suspected take place in order to move things along. I know I’ll find at least a few more nifty pieces in the next couple of Mccleans issues. There’s also the new version of Soundrts to dig into. I’ve obtained a new pack of sounds for it which people seem to favour over the originals. Perhaps, that will be engaging enough to keep me at it a while so I don’t go through my entire fresh stash of podcasts. I have to be a bit more economical with those. Thank goodness it’s an exhaustable but renewable resource at least on a weekly basis.
Mood: thankful

saved from potter mania by skype Jul 21st, 2007 9:05 am
For the first time since I got back from Lake Jo, I experienced what was shaping up to be an absolutely torturously boring evening. Nothing interesting was on either tv or radio. I had drained plentyoffish's forums dry of interesting topics to comment on earlier in the day. My wad was completely shot in terms of writing. The only new thing going was all the fuss about Harry Potter who I'm not a big fan of and haven't been since the fourth book. I was inches away from caving in and listening to one of the Harry Potter internet interactive radio shows just to have something new and a smigion social to pretend to participate in.

Thank goodness I thought of Skype. I've never been as warm to these messenger and chat programs as one might think given how I tend to leap with glee at other software. Chat programs tended to frustrate my efforts in other directions if I left them running as you're supposed to in the background. However, Skype hasn't been nearly so annoying while I've done this over the past week. I figured I'd delve deeper into its secrets and try out the Skype Me mode as well as searching for people to talk to. I was pleasantly surprised at what resulted. Nothing beets a good gathering with people in a place where there's good company, food and music. I'll always prefer my company live and in person. However, Skype is certainly one way to find interesting people to talk to. Beer and popcorn were fortunately close at hand. I ended up talking to a guy from the middle east, a couple from Poland, a Russian who's living in British Columbia and a bright young student in China who's better with English than she seems to think she is. At one point, I had two txt and one voice conversations going. I'm not good at that at all and felt a bit out of my depth. I don't mind talking to a group of people together but having completely separate individual threads of conversation going is, I find, a bit taxing. It's nice to have another social option at my disposal. Next week, I'll be hearing back from Therese from the CNIB who's in charge of some online events they're having for Atlantic Canada. I may have a chance to help out there and do some good online. We'll see how that pans out.

I've also gotten my portfolio of writing ready to share from my autobiographical book. There are eight pieces including two poems, my section on faithand five stories. If you're interested, send an email to:
and I'll be happy to send it as an attached file called writing.rtf

I'm going to take it easy for the rest of the weekend and then go at the guide again on Monday. Today is off to a good start. This week's edition of From Our Own Corespondants by the BBC was very interesting. I enjoyed it with my breakast. Lately, I've been sleeping later than I plan to. Hwever, I was up late chatting last nght. That's certainly worth it as that also recharges me in a fundamental way.
Mood: contemplative

a sense of proportion Jul 19th, 2007 4:48 pm
I thought I’d take a short break this afternoon. My writing on the guide was going great this morning but the muse was deserting its post and I needed some interesting stimulation. Accordingly, I went to one of my favourite sources for thoughtful listening. Barbara Bogaev is a journalist who has a site called Soundprint. All my readers should check it out at:

It features some splendid radio documentaries. The archives go back many years. I’ve probably heard most of them since I discovered the site during a long and boring Summer near the beginning of my marriage. I’ve found, however, that if I just leave it alone for two or three weeks, there’s pretty much bound to be something nifty waiting when I next visit. I came across a documentary about Hurricane Katrina. While it was happening, I expect I paid about as much attention as anybody did to the coverage but it all seemed so distant and impersonal. I’m not at all a Jazz fan. It might not rub me the wrong way like rap or heavy metal but it’s really not my cup of tea. Once again proving just how multi-faceted and surprising people can be, Charmaine Neville kept me absolutely transfixed with her personal story of survival. I was first quite surprised to learn that this famous musician from a family that even a non-musical person like myself had heard of could be struggling to pay her mortgage and not have her own car. That really makes me think twice about whether I shouldn’t just give all my writing away and not even try to get any compensation for it. I’d certainly have less hassles to worry about. However, finding out if my writing might be able to earn some money is a question whose answer I can’t just walk away from. It is, after all, what I seem to be most gifted at.

As she continued into the ordeal she shared with a group of other people in her neighbourhood, everything I had gone through seemed so absurdly trivial. Having my marriage and adult life come crashing down around me was no fun at all but I was never in any physical danger and didn’t have to worry about not having a place to stay. Charmaine and her companions went through a kind of loss I don’t have the ego to presume I can fully imagine. They went to so much effort trying to get peoples’ attention and get help. That must have been absolutely infuriating having all those choppers flying over and never stopping to help. Hearing her story certainly brought home to me what a personal tragedy Katrina was for so many ordinary people. Conversely, it also gave me some cause for hope as she recounted how people came together and helped each other. Everyone in her group got organised and even tried to help other people in various ways. I’d like to think that in similar circumstances, I would have that kind of selfless courage. Living in as safe circumstances as I do now and fully expect to for life, I expect I’ll never find out. I just wish it didn’t always take disasters or common threats to pull that kind of community sense out into the open where it can do some real good.

Charmaine had quite a bit to say about how the good ordinary people of New Orleans seemed to be invisible and only the buildings and bad people taking advantage of the chaos got much attention. In a small way, I can relate to that. I’ve certainly experienced the efforts of a lot of good people in my own life. These people have rarely made the news. They’ll just go that extra bit out of their way and make a big difference to less fortunate people. It’s been said that the devil has the best tunes. They’re certainly louder and I imagine it’s more dramatic seeing a crime committed than seeing a charity put its money to good use. That tends to happen behind the scenes.

I hope After Katrina gets played to school kids. If it’s not already, it certainly should be. It illustrates the disconnect which diminishes western society from being the inclusive engine of positivism that it could be. It also tells us the kind of empathy for others and willingness to act which could save us all if it is properly nurtured to the point where it’s downright cool to care. I’m fortunate to have encountered a lot of people who’ve learned that lesson. Perhaps, my writing will help to teach that lesson to others. All I can do is keep plugging away doing what good I can from here.
Mood: thoughtful

post vacation thoughts Jul 18th, 2007 1:04 pm
I’m back at home again and all settled in. There’s still quite a bit of email to catch up on but there were absolutely no phone messages whatsoever. Despite how infrequently my pone actually rings, that still came as a bit of a surprise. Overall, it’s been a very positive week away. I feel reconnected with life in a fundamental sense now. After so much solitary time over the past months, it was fantastic to have a week around people who were up there to relax and eager to get to know each other. Weeks like that one are going to be absolutely vital if I find I’m unable to change the predominantly solitary nature of this unique life. It was absolutely wonderful to be able to actually be the kind of extravert I’d choose to be a lot more of the time if I were given the opportunity. There’s an immediacy about sharing one’s wisdom, kindness and sense of fun directly with other people which you just can’t get doing the same thing via writing. It’s entirely too easy to lose a sense of connection to the world and each other. When that happens, you start writing from an ivory tower and that’s no good to anybody. I’ll always need time alone to write but need the fuel of direct experience shared with others to make that writing meaningful. It’s that simple.

Before I left, I was advised by a friend I made online not to rush into anything and thereby get hurt. As things turned out, I didn’t meet anybody at all suitable to rush into something with. Many women there were otherwise hitched. Many others weren’t exactly playing with full decks to put things charitably. While I’m very relieved to find out that my compassion for the latter category of people hasn’t deserted me after all and I’m able to be friendly with them, I know that for any more of a serious commitment, I’ve got to find a woman on the same intellectual page as I am. That’s one area where I really can’t compromise much. She’s got to have the desire and capacity for deep and stimulating conversation. I’ve learned how destructive a situation it is when you feel that this is more possible even with people you’ll never meet online than it is with the one you’re in love with. That’s how things ended up between Rebecca and I. It’s a kind of soul-destroying pain I wouldn’t wish on anybody let alone myself for a second time. It’s absolutely important not to rush into any serious commitments. However, what I don’t think most sighted people can truly comprehend is just how frustrating it can be to have such large blocks of empty time without even having the opportunity to make the kinds of mistakes they’d like me to avoid. I have the wit to know what a rare thing it is for me to feel as balanced and socially fulfilled as I do now. The rest of the year stretches out ahead of me like an empty canvas. During the week one of the more intelligent people who were thankfully present remarked that one of the largest things blindness denies us is eye contact. I was attending a church barbecue yesterday and spent quite a bit of time alone in a crowd. That’s the problem. Even if I could learn how to get somewhere social, the chances of me being included in the so[SPAM WORD]ing going on are pretty much non-existent unless people already know me or are insightful enough to think me worth getting to know. That chance further degrades as the background ambience gets louder. I’d have no chance at all in one of these dance clubs I hear about. A conversation I could meaningfully participate in could be happening no more than a metre away and I might very well have no idea.

Last week, I was very glad that I was a single person as it gave me the freedom to do a whole lot more good and put more of my gifts to use that I could have while in a committed relationship. The trouble is that such times are going to be profoundly rare. I’ve had more social activity over the past month and a half than I’ll likely experience for most of the next year. I’ve certainly come away with some new friends who may indeed find time in their lives to be more than distant voices. Perhaps, eventually, I’ll find myself in a situation as a single person where I feel that things are truly in balance and I’m being used to my full potential. I have a faint hope, perhaps merely a fool’s hope, that this is possible. If so, I think it’ll only happen after I’ve gotten a place of my own and have had years to build up local relationships. Until that happens or I find a new special woman, my need for social stimulus and new experiences will go largely unmet. A major part of my ability to contribute meaningfully to others will also be wasted most of the time. There’ll be brief periods like what I’ve just lived through but those will merely be islands in a sea of too much time. Relying on friends to help fill that time doesn’t work for the simple reason that they’re generally busy leading lives and being the engaged sort of people to be worth my regarding them as such in the first place. Before things started truly going off kilter for Rebecca and I, we experienced enough overall good times as a married couple for me to know that I’d get a whole lot more out of a life attached to a good partner than I would being single. The sacrifices and compromises are absolutely worth it in my case as long as we’re both basically reasonable and have an overall positive approach to life and other people in it. There are so many experiences I’d love to have in life which would only be worth having if they were shared. It’s possible that I might some day have many of these with the right friends. I’d love to attend more events such as science fiction or fantasy conventions, lectures, plays, concerts, festivals, etc. I’d love to be a true part of more social gatherings. Joining in volunteer efforts with other live people rather than over the Internet would also be of major interest to me. Like most healthy young men, I’d very much like to experience the sexual side of life. Unlike many people, however, I would only enjoy experiencing that with a willing partner who I shared the rest of life with. There has to be a deep level of commitment, trust and love or the experience is out of its proper context.

Time at Lake Jo has certainly clarified the paradoxical nature of things for me and balanced my formerly more bleak perspective. I have quite a lot to be thankful for in my life. My basic needs are well met. I can direct my time and money towards things of my own choosing. I have an appreciative audience for my accomplishments and can have a positive impact on other people. My family and friends are very supportive and understanding. From where I sleep, my commute to the desk at which I both work and play is a few steps and a quarter-turn to the right. I can fully appreciate how easy it is for more hard-working people to envy me. Seeing how hard the staff worked and how stressed they occasionally got trying to keep us all happy and safe certainly gave me a deeper appreciation for the time I have at my disposal. At the same time, I didn’t get any sense that any of them would trade their sight and the freedom it gives them for that easier but more lonely life style. I certainly have a lot to be grateful for but also have countless reasons to search and hope for a life which is ultimately more engaged with people near me. While I’m not about to throw away my extra time in any old direction, I would gladly give a lot of it up for more interactive experience. Meanwhile, I plan to get the most enjoyment out of the life I lead and contribute as much as possible to others. If that means sitting in front of a computer fending off writer’s block and participating online instead of in the so-called real world, that’s where you’ll find me.

On that front, both my insomnia and writer’s block have gone and I’m starting to make real progress again. I received a lot of feedback and encouragement on my idea for the guide and even got people to listen to a few sections of it. It’s damned nice to have a real sense that this thing which has swallowed up a year of my time and looks ready to take at least another half-year will indeed have an eager audience. Thankfully, the reason I have so much more work to do on it is additive rather than destructive. The personal and friendly style I’ve chosen to write the guide in has been very well received. However, what seemed either too obvious to me or likely to have been already covered in the basic training people got with their systems wasn’t at all obvious or taken for granted by a surprising lot of people. I’m talking about things like how to basically navigate the Windows operating system, how to install software, etc. For the most part, my tendency to assume people are equal to me until they prove otherwise stands me in very good stead. However, one of the drawbacks is that it’s then natural to assume that anything which has occurred to me must therefore have occurred to everyone else given similar life circumstances such as owning personal computers. This just isn’t always the case. It’s going to be a substantial challenge adding a lot more of the nuts and bolts of how to do everything into the guide and not have it come out as pedantic as the very manuals people are so hesitant to actually use. My sense of duty and responsibility to see this project through is something I feel even more keenly than before. It has to be done and it has to be made available free of charge to whoever has the slightest interest in getting the most out of their accessible personal computers. The word on what is possible has to get out there

Many people including some of the staff expressed an interest in my autobiographical book. It’s been quite a long time since I made a portfolio of stories I’m happy to have shared so I’ll be doing an updated version with five or possibly six stories shortly. If you’re interested, send me an email and I’ll send the stories in an attached rtf file. That format can be accessed by pretty much anybody and doesn’t require you to have Microsoft Word.

It’s been three days since I started writing this entry. There’s still a whole lot to think about from the last while as things go back to normal. I sincerely hope I can add a lot more variety to that “normal”, but the need isn’t felt quite as sharply as it was earlier in the year. I’m far more able to enjoy my time alone and use more of it productively. Slowly, I’m starting to hear from a few people I met up there at Lake Jo. I always tend to assume nothing will come of the acquaintanceships that are started in situations since that is so often the case. People are swept back up into their lives and you never hear from them again. It’s nice to be proved wrong about that once in a while. After I get a bit more writing done and put together that portfolio, I’ll be turning some of my attention back to the couple of online social sites I’ve chosen to stick with. It may eventually lead somewhere and the discussions in forums and such can at times be stimulating. I have a nice stock of podcasts and such waiting for the next time boredom threatens to pounce. Very good not to be running on empty with those. I’ve also decided to try having Skype running most of the time. This will let me talk to people overseas without spending a fortune. It also seems to be less destructively intrusive to my thinking when somebody decides to message me. I haven’t received any audio calls yet to know exactly what that’ll be like. I believe I now have a handle on the basics of using it but am far from an expert. For anyone interested, my skype id is:
Mood: thoughtful

away from it all Jul 12th, 2007 2:12 pm
It’s been a very good week up here at the Lake Joseph Centre. They’re in the middle of re-building the place. A whole section of old cabins is going unused. The new cabins are a mixed blessing. They’re certainly more durable and safe than the old ones. I also very much appreciate that my room-mate and I have our own washrom. However, they have an entirely too institutional aire. Instead of going to a resourt which merely happens to be blind-friendly, you’re left with the sense of being in a place made especially for less functional blind people. I doubt that was the intention but that’s the ultimate effect. Instead of the cabin-in-the-country feel, these cabins exude an almost apartment-like essence. Quite a number of clients here actually are less functional in terms of mental capacity among other things. I see a danger of this effecting the manner in which the place is run which might make it less attractive for the more independent and intelligent blind people with less tolerance than I have for the kind of managing techniques needed to keep these less thoughtful clients happy and safe. An example of this happened on our first night when the fire alarm was triggered somehow. They had everyone head to the rec room and proceeded to sing camp songs. After spending the past while feeling much older than my thirty-two years due to the end of our marriage, I suddently seemed to be painfully right back in childhood. Not what I had in mind for the first evening of an adult vacation. The activities on offer are often geared towards this type of client out of a similar necessity.

Despite this, I still never fail to have a fantastic time when I come up here. I don’t have to do what I don’t want to and can spend my time relaxing and seeking out stimulating company. When this fails to be available, I can always pull out my laptop. The staff are always interesting young people who are keen to learn and to engage in meaningful discussion. The waterfront has been great despite the cool weather. I need it to be very warm before I go in for a swim. However, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed relaxing by the shore with my Bookport listening to tunes and chatting with my fellow vacationers. The snackbar has also been a good place to hang out.

You always get a nifty wide cross-section of the blind community up here. I’ve met a nice woman today who lives quite far away from me but who I think will be interesting to keep in touch with. We spent the whole morning in excellent conversation. I wish I had met her earlier as I think we’ve got plenty of interesting talk ahead of us. There are a lot of mentally challenged clients up here as well. It can get on one’s nerves as you might imagine but can also be interesting to see how they cope with things and what makes them tic. Inevitably, there are always one or more people who simply complain about nearly everything under the sun and bring the rest of the place down around their misery. I’ve been avoiding one particular old bat this year who makes me hope I die before ever having the chance to turn into such a bitter person. Nothing is ever good enough for her and she’s spent so much of her time upset with everyone that I wonder why she bothers to come up here at all. My current theory is that she must secretly like complaining and snapping at people who don’t have the typical means of shrugging it off. She’s reduced many poor souls to tears and certainly annoyed me often enough by doing this. On the other hand, there are always one or more extraordinary people up here who make all that more than worth slogging through. I met a pleasant elderly man from New York was was an excellent drinking companion on Tuesday evening when we went to a local bar. I also ecountered an interesting Chinese man who turns out to be a wonderful floutist. Many of the staff have stood out as well. It’s very rare that you find any who are just up here for the money or for work experience. They’ve all got plenty of heart and soul and are precisely the kind of people I enjoy spending time with. I’m very much enjoying being single again. It’s nice to be able to be jenerous with some spare cash without worrying about anybody else. I can do exactly what I want without worrying about my other half being bored or feeling ignored. My room-mate this year is a fairly quiet sort given to talking to himself in his own language at times but still capable of some interesting chats. We certainly get along well enough and I can trust him not to damage or lose any of my stuff.

I’ve only got one more day up here so I believe I’ll keep this blog entry short. I certainly plan to keep coming up here in the future. Being in a place where you can enjoy yourself and do some good at the same time is just what the doctor ordered for me. I’ve enjoyed the company of others for all it’s worth this week and have gained plenty of food for thought over the next while. I still hope to find a way of getting out into the community more in the Fall but have a far better sense that a single life with weeks like this in it can be a good one if that’s what’s in store for me.
Mood: refreshed

balance restored Jul 1st, 2007 8:15 am
I’m thoroughly enjoying this very active slice of life. Quite literally, I’ve had something other than routine to look forward to each day. Today, I’ll be attending a Canada Day party at a neighbour’s. Tomorrow, I’ll likely be seeing Mark and Wendy. A week from today, I’ll be heading up to Lake Jo for my vacation. I’ve never had a time like this where so much was going on. The world seems very vibrant and filled with possibilities for doing good and enjoying good company. During the past week, I’ve solved some marital dificulties, physically met my first online friend, solved eight other peoples’ computer problems, pointed six other folks to resources of interest to them, and had an absolutely splendid time while doing this which isn’t over yet. I haven’t felt this kind of absolute contentment with how things are for ages. The insomnia is at last starting to go away I think. Lake Jo ought to finish the process of bannishing that demon. Things just keep getting better for me. I feel very blessed and thankful. Despite having to temporarily set aside working on the guide, I feel none of the sense of nagging guilt I previously experienced whe I couldn't get much done due towriter's block. I know I'll finish the guide eventually and that it'll be the better for my brief absence from working on it. While I certainly would have enjoyed the sense of trimumph from having the guide ready to hand out at Lake Jo, I'll be more at ease while I'm upthere without it. There'll doubtless be people to help in any case and I'll approach that cheerfully. Rather than an escape from dull solitude, my trip will be more an excursion having the potential to add to an already very enjoyable and worthy life. I never would have thought things could have turned out this way.
Mood: grateful

up to his old tricks Jun 26th, 2007 12:49 pm
Well, folks, it now appears that God has truly decided to step in and change the character of this part of my life. After a quiet weekend, I ended up enjoying an absolutely splendid Monday yesterday. I met Kristy, the woman I referred to in my last entry. We had a very good first meeting and lunch together. She’s clearly going to be a very good friend. It’s an indescribable relief to me to have had that much success with my online search for new friends. I’m no longer nearly as sceptical about that being able to happen. After I got back from this excellent first meeting, I had no sooner settled down to a more ordinary rest of the day when a Dutch couple from my church invited me over to dinner with their friends from Holland. That certainly made for a stimulating and pleasant evening of good conversation. There was a bit of a language barrier but Nellie and Klaas were able to translate where that was needed. Today, we have my brother, his wife and little Ava coming over for dinner. Tomorrow, I’m going to spend a couple of days with Ron and Sylvia for the first time since they’ve married. Saturday, we’re going to see a couple of very good family friends who I’ve known since childhood. Finally, on Sunday, we’re going to attend a Canada Day party held by our neighbours. That pretty much fills what I formerly expected to be the first of two fairly empty weeks in which I worked flat out to get the guide done before going up to Lake Jo. From a dead stop, my social life has suddenly taken off in a completely unexpected and very much appreciated way.

It’s now pretty clear to me that I have to approach completing my computer guide in a more slow and steady way. It won’t be finished until likely long after I return from vacation. There have just been too many things for me not to think that God wants me to be open and available for other things as well. I’m a pretty firm believer that sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar and that there are random coincidences. However, when life’s character takes such a sudden sharp turn, something’s clearly up. God has something special in store for me. Over the next while, I’m going to do my best to be observant, ready and willing for whatever opportunities for both doing good and for enjoyment which come up. I won’t stop work on the guide entirely but will only begin again in earnest after I get back from Lake Jo. Meanwhile, I’ll concentrate more on Rail Racer and try to get as good a review of that game together as I can in between all this social activity.

Regarding that, I’m getting better but am nowhere near deep enough into Rail Racer to feel that I’m ready to start the review yet. I tried to play this morning both with the mouse and joystick and found neither to my liking. I’ve always done better using the keyboard. However, I’ve read enough from proponents of mouse use that I won’t give up on that completely. I don’t think I’ve quite mastered taking curves as well as I need to. Learning how to fine-tune my gear ratio and wing angle to suit the track I’m racing on would also likely be a good idea. I believe I’m starting to develop more of an intuitive sense of how that operates but it’s been a very costly process in terms of my poor racer’s finances. I’ve pretty much put him in debt with my various experiments. It’s certainly been fun though.

There are times in life where things are clearly up to you and others where events sweep us along. There’s also an exhilarating combination where events provide a momentum which you can still direct to some extent. It feels like I’ve emerged from a stagnant pool into a fast-flowing river leading in a positive direction. Doubtless, life will slow back down eventually. Meanwhile, I’m going to make the most of whatever I come up to over the next while.
Mood: contemplative

five wonderful days Jun 23rd, 2007 8:36 am
This week has been absolutely wonderful for me. We had great weather for the blind sailing program. The one big storm which occurred didn’t hit us until after we were heading home. It was so nice to have a place to go and new people to interact with each day. There were twenty-nine participants. The folks at Bronte Harbour actually go to the trouble of helping with transportation and that lets people like me attend where I couldn’t have otherwise. Many people go every year and I met many old acquaintances. One of the new participants was a young woman I had first encountered nearly ten years ago while I was a staff member at the SCORE computer camp in 1998. She’s certainly come a long way since then. Meetings like that can certainly give you a healthy respect for the power of time to transform. I managed to get contact information for a number of people there and it’ll be nice to have them to keep in touch with. I may be able to help some of them with computer problems as well. The company couldn’t have been better. There was such diversity of experience and beliefs. Through it all ran a strong sense of generocity of spirit and understanding. Many of the blind participants as well as the people running the event readily understood my need to do good for its own sake. Indeed, they shared that inate drive.

Sailing is at the same time very relaxing and tiring. All that fresh air and sunshine certainly felt good. I always felt ready to sleep when I got home and had to work at staying up until at least ten thirty each night. Despite that, I’m still getting up at five or six in the morning. Writer’s block has also not been banished by this week’s abundant stimulous. I haven’t made much progress at all on the guide. However, I believe I’ll do better now that I’ve gained more social balance. Time seemed to drag so slowly before. The past week went extremely quickly. I have two weeks left to get the computer guide done on time to follow my current plan. I’m going to give it my best shot but won’t be devastated if I don’t manage to pull that off. It’s much better done right and later than rushed and sooner.

A lot of things happened in addition to sailing to make this a truly wonderful week. I got two pieces of my writing published. One of them was an article I wrote for the yacht club’s newsletter expressing my deep appreciation of the sailing program and all the effort the club members put into it. The other was a poem I wrote in university about interactive fiction. Malinche is celebrating Zork’s 30th anniversary and my poem is basically about the Zork trilogy. I’m honoured to have my writing be a part of that. I also got a dvd of The Invitation. Later in the week, I watched the movy with my parents and finally had, I think, most of the things which had formerly mystified me about the film explained to me. I’m not quite convinced that absolutely all of the secrets shared by the group of friends has been sorted out. However, I no longer have the sense that I’ve missed out on understanding any major elements. I had no idea that Lance Henrichson’s character dies at the end after everyone departs his island. That was ultimately the biggest surprise to me. It ends with a monolog from him which I had assumed he said to the audience after everyone had left.

The final truly pivotal thing with happened this week was having my first telephone conversation with a woman I found on Plentyoffish. After so many non-responses and rejections, it was fantastic to chat for over an hour with somebody who’s interested in getting to know me and is willing to drive out to do things with me. We hope to meet for the first time before I go up to Lake Jo for my week’s vacation. I had begun to wonder if I would ever find anyone like that. It’s certainly restored a great deal of hope for a more active future where I’m out in the world. These things have all contributed to a far better appreciation for my new single life. I don’t expect to do much over the next couple of days. Having these quiet weekends won’t bother me as much as they have in the past though. They are no longer so emblematic of an adulthood destroyed by the end of marriage. Rather, they are a part of a life reclaimed. With the prospect of new friends and special opportunities like sailing to look forward to, I don’t feel so alone anymore. As long as I stick to my principles, life will keep building and getting better. I have the potential to do a lot of good out there. What I’m working on will ultimately matter to people. This week renewed my sense of that as I met several blind people who were personally interested in copies of the guide. I also gained a stronger sense that there are people out there who can look beyond “blind, unemployed, separated” to the man who’s trying to lead the best life he can given the circumstances.

I haven’t gotten much feedback on the stories I posted a while ago in the blog. You’ll have to go down a ways to earlier entries in order to read them. I’d still very much like comments on them. The Alien Conspiracy has to do with a prank I was involved with while at a boarding school. Camp Chaos recounts a crazy summer camping trip. A Pawn of Fear depicts the only recurring nightmare I have these days. The Breakdown is about a trip to Canada’s Wonderland that I went on with some blind and visually impaired friends. If you’re not signed up for this site, you can email me directly at:

Well, folks, that brings you pretty much up to date. I’m going to post this and then play some Rail Racer. I’ll try and write up a full review of this new accessible game for this issue of Audyssey. I’m not terribly good at racing games so it’ll take a while to get proficient and to have explored enough of the game to write a competant review about it. I’m certainly impressed so far. I also have some very interesting podcasts to hear this weekend including an item from the BBC about the knights templar. I’ve heard of them before but have never dug too deeply into their history. There are also several short essays from the very interesting “This I Believe” series from CBC Radio. I believe I also have two episodes of 1-up tv to listen to. They’re funny and do a good job covering events in the sighted gaming world. You can also get a good sense of what games sound like using that podcast and I find that interesting as long as the games being discussed are more than simple shooters.
Mood: cheerful

faith in so many words Jun 14th, 2007 2:56 pm
It’s been a very strange day. Yesterday, I talked to a woman who was on another networking site I had all but given up on. She’s I think a bit far to hope for actually doing things together and visiting but she had time to chat on msn. I hope she’ll call me so I can hear what she actually sounds like instead of my computer’s somewhat dead voice saying what she thinks. I still don’t like having MSN open all the time. I tried it for a while. It feels very good to have someone genuinely interested in getting to know me. Religion is something we’ve both given a lot of thought to and talking about it with her brought my thinking back into subconscious focus I guess. I haven’t touched my autobiographical book for quite a while now and wasn’t planning to until after I had gotten my computer guide done. However, I decided to read over my section on how I came to believe. I’ve never been entirely happy with it until today. At last, I think I’ve gotten it written in a way which completely satisfies me and might actually do God some good when the whole book is finished. It was magical the way everything just seemed to flow. I have little doubt I’ll change the odd thing before I finish the book. I am, after all, a perfectionist with this sort of thing. However, telling that part of my story correctly is something I’ve struggled with and cared very deeply about for five years now. After all this time, I can at last feel that I’ve done that important part of my duty.

I can’t say anything else all that dramatic has happened today. Writer’s block returned in full force this afternoon. I found myself drawn to listen to Stranger Than Fiction again. That movy speaks to so many important truths in life and in the value of art that I seem to turn to it hoping for my own writer’s block to be put to rest. It hasn’t been but it’s still a damned good movy. I’ve also been playing around with the new demo of Rail Racer. It’s a very well-conceived demo which gives a good idea of the game but is limited and nagging enough that people should gravitate toward buying the whole thing if they’re at all interested. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes. It’s nice to have a new challenge to go at when things look hopeless with writing. Over the next while, I have to think up something to write for this coming issue of Audyssey. Nothing has inspired me yet. Depending on how quickly the full game is released, I may be able to review Rail Racer in time. I’d feel better if I had a backup plan just in case but nothing’s occurred to me yet.
Mood: happy
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various aspects of life Jun 11th, 2007 2:30 pm
Last weekend was another very good one. My grandmother came to visit so we were all able to catch up on family news. On Friday, we went out to the casino with her since it’s one of her favourite activities. None of us did well at all that day. However, we returned on Sunday and I actually came out about thirty dollars ahead. While I don’t mind spending an hour or two with friends or family there, I don’t get what’s so addictive about gambling. I would have been happier doing other things with that money. As an outing with family, I suppose it was entertaining enough. Only some of the slots actually gave me enough sonic feedback to have any sense at all of how well I was doing. Visually, I guess they offer a lot more stimulation but absolutely everything is pure luck. There’s no skill involved at all. I had no sense that one more try would undo a run of bad luck. Each instance of spinning is completely disconnected from prior spins. I believe it was C. S. Lewis who remarked that he could never truly understand peoples’ addiction to gambling. I can see how it offers a slight thrill to wager what one has. However, I can’t see how people get to the life-destroying stage of things where they’re throwing away entire months worth of pay. That’s just completely beyond me.

There was quite a severe storm on Friday. The wind blowing outside my window sounded like waves due to the trees around us. While that was pretty neat, I was disappointed at the thunder. Nothing was at all out of the ordinary there. Thankfully, the space shuttle launch wasn’t cancelled due to weather and that was as nifty to listen to as always. I’ll have to remember to tune in to the mission as it progresses when I’m not writing.

Saturday was mainly quiet but I went out to see Mark and Wendy for dinner. It turns out they have an excellent pizza place near them in Burlington whose name completely escapes me. Both the company and food were very good indeed. Jake, their female cat, was also quite friendly and wanted her belly rubbed quite a bit. It’s very rare to find people who truly don’t mind going that extra mile for friendship. They drive me out to their house and back again just so we can all visit as friends in their place. It’s nice to be valued that much by at least some people. Adam’s another friend of the same calibre. I hope to see him this week as I believe he has it off work. On Sunday, we took my grandmother to my aunt Kay’s. It’s always nice visiting with relatives in Bright Ontario. Next week, I’ll be going sailing. That was the other great thing about last weekend. It’s nice to know their bus can pick me up as well so I can participate in the program. It’s always a great time and I could very much use a week out of this room doing something different.

I had a very good writing day working on the guide. The communications section is almost all finished now and I’ve started work on the computer games section as well. I’ll probably start sending out some letters this week to people with software that I’d like to include on the cds I’m going to burn and take up to Lake Jo. My guide is large in text terms but only takes up a tiny amount of space in terms of a blank cd. I’d like to give out software which would let a person take even a slightly old Windows-based computer and get it talking. The folks at Thunder have made that very possible. I’ll also include a selection of accessible games as well as other material I feel would help beginners develop computer skills. I’ve heard of people who can’t develop the computer skills they need in order to qualify for their own accessible computer. This could certainly help get around such a stupid catch22.

I tried another extensive search last week for potential new female friends in life but have nothing but two negative responses to show for all my effort. I don’t know how I’m going to get past this lonely place in life. People don’t even want to take the time to get to know me as a friend. Unless I find some opportunity to volunteer in the community in the Fall, I’m beginning to think I’m just not going to have any luck at all. Certainly, it seems that directly emailing people I deem to be possibly receptive and near enough to actually get to me without unreasonable time and expense doesn’t seem to do any good. If I’m lucky, I get a polite “no”. Keeping active in the site’s forums seem to be my only slight chance for success. If I can reveal enough of what I stand for there, perhaps someone will pick up on the fact that being blind doesn’t have to mean being completely stupid and unable to take care of oneself. There are absolutely things like transportation that I need help with. However, I fully expect to make up for that in whatever way I can in a relationship. Are there no women out there who can think enough outside the box to appreciate what I can offer them? I’ve met other couples where one partner’s sighted and the other is blind so I know it’s at least theoretically possible that I’ll eventually run into someone like that. I just hope I’m not eighty by the time that happens. I could do so much more for people if the opportunities would just present themselves. That sounds pathetic but in my current circumstances I don’t have any way other than online of getting out and searching for them unless somebody can take me there and back again. Sherlock Holmes once observed that there’s nothing more frustrating than having extraordinary powers and not having a field on which to exercise them. I wouldn’t go as far as he went and start taking drugs to stave off boredom but can certainly sympathise with why he turned to them. I don’t consider myself to be extraordinary. I’ve merely had a very different life due to my disability which has both taken a great many opportunities away from me but has also given me different gifts I’d be all too happy to share. I keep reading about all the cheating and insecurity people on POF seem to moan about endlessly. Any woman who gave me a chance just plain wouldn’t have to worry about that sort of thing. I can usually see both sides of issues and never lead by force. I don’t ask people to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to do assuming I could. I’m genuinely interested in what other people think. I don’t always feel an overriding need to be right about everything. Helping out with housework certainly wouldn’t be a problem for me. You’d think that those sorts of qualities would count for something to somebody out there. I’m not after money either. I’d be friends with and am friends with people who have less money than I do and could love a woman regardless of her level of income. It would be great if there was at least one woman within a reasonable distance who would at least want to see if we had enough in common to build a relationship. This searching can certainly ware your hope down. More than likely, I’ll have to wait until I get into affordable housing in Hamilton before I have any kind of real shot at expanding even my circle of friends let alone finding a life partner. I’ll keep writing in the forums though just so I’ve dotted every I and crossed every T. Now there’s an expression that doesn’t work at all in Braille terms.

Part of my pessimism definitely stems from the grind of working on this guide. Sailing ought to help tremendously with that and a week up at Lake Jo will do wonders for a while. I just have to keep grabbing as much enjoyment as I can and make certain I appreciate the positive things in life while I keep working away. To that end, I’ve ordered a couple of dvds and a CD last week. They ought to start arriving any day now. It’s so damned nice to have a little extra personal money. I’ve denied myself quite a lot over the past five years so that Rebecca could pursue her extra wants without that straining things too much. Experiences with friends were of far more value to me and still would be if I had to choose between the two. However, with the damage done to my social life, that’s not going to be a concern until one or more new friends come along. I guess such a meagre demonstration of consumerist splurging must seem laughable to any sighted folks reading this who have a steady job. I don’t mind. Both of the movies are ones which I’ve seen and know I’ll enjoy seeing again. I can also share them with sighted friends both new and old. I have the sound file for The Invitation and a descriptive audio file of Stranger Than Fiction. However, people afflicted with sight tend to need something moving in front of their eyes in order not to be bored and inattentive. What I’m most looking forward to are the extras on the dvds. Those can be quite enjoyable. In the case of The Invitation, there are some scenes which I’ll finally have somebody sighted explain to me since what happened wasn’t obvious via sound. I also impulsively bought a cd featuring music inspired by some of the best video games composed by mostly people who work in that industry. One exception which surprised and intrigues me is David Arkenstone. I’ve always liked his stuff and wouldn’t have expected to read his name on the list of contributors. That ought to be interesting. I won’t be doing any more such shopping until after I’m back from Lake Jo. The only possible exception would be a very good new accessible game. I don’t expect any of those to emerge over the next while though. They’ll likely come out while I’m away.
Mood: happy
1 comment

peaceful reflection Jun 3rd, 2007 6:45 pm
Unlike the last couple of weekends, this one was quiet. Being single increases the likelyhood of such solitary times. I certainly would have loved company but still enjoyed it thoroughly. I had a slow painful week of working on the guide. I hate the thought that I might miss my deadline despite having so much time at my disposal for working on it. There must have been twenty or more people last year who showed real excitement at the thought of my doing this. At a place known for outdoor pursuits and pretty much anything but computers, I think that’s a pretty clear indication that there’s a real need for the different kind of guide I’m trying hard to create. My close contact over the years with the blind community combined with these people I met last year have given me a keen sense of responsibility. I have the time and tools to do a good job of this and I mean to see this through before I move onto other projects. With most days pretty much spent the same way with the same people, inspiration and fresh thinking are hard to come by. I did manage to make a few key decisions last week which ought to clarify things quite a bit.

Earlier today, I conducted an interview with Jim Kitchen. It was an absolute pleasure and honour to pick the brain of such a pioneer in accessible games. I hope events like it serve to attract more new members to:
The staff there do an excellent job of running events and keeping their community in good order and spirits. I’ll likely drop in more often for chats over the next while. Talking to people I’ll never actually meet is a lot better than talking to nobody at all. The past week has certainly strengthened my resolve to make the very best of the life I have while still striving to change it. In that quarter, I’ve decided to abandon one of the social sites that was sucking up my time. I’ve decided to stick with
for trying to find new people near me to get to know. Having one set of forums and this blog here to keep fresh is enough extra writing. I didn’t feel I was getting anywhere on
and had emailed what I thought of as the most likely people who were both near enough and might have been interested in me. I got absolutely no response save for one woman who I still might eventually hear from. That seems like such a long shot though. The whole online exercise does when I really stop and think objectively about it. Like it or not, I’m probably in for a long stretch of this style of life. Today at church, a man thought that perhaps God would find somebody special for me. I certainly think that’s within his ability but doubt he’d actually do that. I’ve never believed in predestination. He might indeed fudge the odds in my favour. I think the very existance of randomness and chance in the universe gives him quite a bit of leeway to do that sort of jentle nudging without compromising our right to free will he cares about so much. We’ve all got to face the basic facts though. It’s going to take somebody pretty special to truly value what I have to give in life and who I can help enough to be content that everything’s fair. I think I’ll have a slightly better chance when I get my own affordable place. Perhaps, I’ll even find somewhere to volunteer while I’m still here in Mississauga after I finish with this guide. There’s a small chance I’ll find somebody at Lake Jo who’d want to relate for longer than the week we’re all up there. However, there’s every likelyhood that the people I’ll spend time with for that week will live too far away to visit. I’m just not after a long-distance relationship. There’s enough of that in my life already.

The latter half of this coming week ought to be interesting. My grandmother is coming to visit. There are always interesting conversations and we’ll also be taking her up to my aunt’s on Sunday. I guess the weather is going to be cooler over the next while. I’ve rather enjoyed the early taste of Summer we’ve been getting. I really haven’t heard as much thunder over the last while as I expected. Claps of that are pretty run-of-the-mill around here for the most part but I still enjoy hearing a good thunder storm. Last year at Lake Jo, I heard an absolutely splendid example of natural niftyness in the form of a superb storm. It didn’t last all that long but what a sonic treet! I was out on the walkway when it hit. A bunch of people pannicked and ran into the lounge. I just stood there and listened to the most expressive and unique thunder I’ve ever heard with no walls or other interferance. It was marvelous. Perhaps, I’ll get lucky in that regard again this year.

I've been loosening the purse strings a bit and enjoying a few things lately. Tonight's meal from Swiss Chalet is one example. I've alwas liked their chicken dinners. Earlier, I ordered a couple of new cds. One was a BBmak album. That was an excellent purchase. Something like seven of the songs on it are good. I also got the Cellestine Prophecy music cd by Christopher Franke. I wasn't too keen on the book but am nonetheless grateful to it for inspiring such good new age music. Some of the tracks are very uplifting. Over the weekend, I've been revisiting Raymond Feist's Rage of a Demon King. The Serpent War saga has always been a favorite of mine. Whenever I need to put my own life and troubles in perspective, books like that help to do the trick. The characters are faced with such extraordinary challenges. They prevail in these despite seeming like such ordinary decent moral people. I find reading those sorts of books gives me hope and helps me face my own trials with proper humility and reflection. Books like those inspire me to keep looking for ways to pitch in where I can and make a difference. In the end, that's ultimately my best chance for finding happiness with someone special. It's like Ms. Nalic sings in that wonderful anthem In The Rough. "Some day, love will finally be enough."
Mood: relaxed

weddings, wishlists and rantings May 28th, 2007 12:59 pm
This past Saturday, I was honoured to attend the wedding of Ron and Sylvia, two very good friends who I had a hand in introducing to each other years ago. My mother went as my guest. I wasn’t certain how I’d feel about that but things couldn’t have turned out any better. Both of us enjoyed the occasion thoroughly. The ceremony was very well-executed although it was hard to hear Ron and Sylvia exchanging vows. It was a chance to meet many of the good influential people in their lives. The dinner was amazing. I’m not a pasta fan but I even enjoyed that. The steak was first-rate and I got to try mussels which I’ve been curious about for a while now. That was just a fraction of all we enjoyed food-wise. Mom and I ate at a table with mainly Ron’s friends and what a splendid crew they were. I finally got to meet Cory who I had heard about for years. Mark and Jamy were in tip-top form and it was not only great just to be with them but also interesting to see how my mother reacted to such young boisterous people. Ron and Sylvia had a terrific time and held up very well indeed. I hope they can relax and enjoy their first day together as a couple. Their love for each other has certainly prevailed over a lot of stress already. I’m very pleased to wish them every success in their marriage but even more honoured to be thought of as a good friend by both of them. I gladly accept the responsibility of using that trusted position to their best advantage as things go forward.

For me, attending this turning point in the lives of these two excellent friends has been more of a gift than either of them realises. It has completed the process of restoring my ability to make the best of my circumstances as I have so often advised people to do. I can now se what a vicious emotional dance with frustration and flirtation with self-pity I’ve gone through over the past few months. I guess that completion of self-restoration really started to happen last weekend as I spent time with three other very good friends. Although I still hope and strive to expand my social life and perhaps even find a new special lady, I can look on where I am with a lot more equanimity. There’s work that I’m in a far better position to do now than I was while married or even before I was married. The depth and perspective I’ve gained will serve both me as well as my friends and family. I’m in a good position to help Ron and Sylvia when times get tough because I’ve had personal experience with marriage to draw upon as well as what life’s like being blind and unemployed. Not many sighted people can truly grasp the whole of that existence.

Another pleasant surprise was finding out this week that Rebecca has found somebody new to become interested in. Again, I wasn’t at all certain how I’d feel about that. However, I was able to wish her the best of luck and actually mean what I said. I can be certain now that she also has moved on and doesn’t cling to some misplaced hope that there’s any going back for us. I was able to let go of any remaining obligations other than those imposed strictly by friendship and my wish to be a decent person to everyone who I cross paths with in life. It was actually quite a relief.

This week ought to be pretty quiet. That doesn’t bother me so much anymore. I’ll jump at anything new and different but will also enjoy the peaceful life I have here if that’s all which presents itself. I expect more struggling with writer’s block but that just goes with my new territory until new experiences with new people can provide some serious artillery to stave it off more firmly. Yesterday certainly provided a lot of food for thought and I expect that’ll help things progress more easily. I’d dearly love to finish the rough draft of the communications section and perhaps even polish the online shopping section to the point where I no longer have nagging doubts about it. That would be a terrific week’s work. June is arriving and I’m not where I’d like to be at this point.

One thing which going to a wedding naturally brings about are reflections on the kind of woman who I’m looking for in life. I guess it’s about time I spelled that out clearly in here. When all is said and done, a cheerful positive overall attitude toward life and other people is an absolute must. Five years trying to conquer my wife’s pessimistic approach is enough of that for me. I certainly sympathise with people who have to contend with clinical depression and whose life circumstances give some justification to their bleak outlook. Sadly, I’ve discovered that my positive nature and optimistic viewpoint just aren’t up to facing that day in and day out. You get so much more out of even bleak circumstances if you make the best of them. Also, as a rule, people are far more likely to add interesting positive experience to your life if you treat them kindly and give them the benefit of the doubt. Yes, you could be taken advantage of once in a while. That’s happened to me about four times in the past thirty-two years. That ratio tells me in no uncertain terms that everyone just isn’t out to get you in life. We’re simply not worth that much trouble on an individual basis. Let’s instead try to find the good in one another, forgive especially unintended slights and get on with things.

A good sense of humour and the ability to take a little good-natured teasing are two more essentials. I take a lot in life seriously but am not above laughing at funny aspects of even things like religion. My faith can certainly stand up to that. So can God. On the subject of religion, all I ask is that you respect that my somewhat different approach to it is the result of careful and conscientious thought on my part. If you can accept that, I can accept that other people approach things differently. I don’t subscribe to a literal interpretation of the bible and have no doubt whatsoever that the dinosaurs were in fact real. I don’t believe that absolutely everything that happens was pre-destined either. God can deal with random chance and I’ve had far too much experience of it to doubt that chance and coincidence exist. God’s freedom extends far beyond the simple binary choice to obey him or not as we choose. I tend not to get along as well with the conservative Christians whose idea of a first date is going to church together. That’s probably already painfully obvious by this stage. I’ve got forever to get to know God and his son. I’d really like to get to know you as a person.

When it comes to money, I don’t need a lot of it nor its trappings to be happy. I’ve unfortunately had run-ins with people who have a lot of money. It doesn’t seem to make them better people. In fact, in two cases, I’d have to say quite the contrary. I’d certainly love to have a moderate amount of money at my disposal but can be quite content on government assistance assuming I can find housing with rent geared to that lower income. I’ve learned the secret of contentment as Paul says. I’d gladly work for more money if a genuine opportunity to do so was provided. However, I’m through wasting time looking for work nobody wants to give me. I have a lot better uses for my time. My special woman would truly have to understand and live with that. If she’s got a business and thinks I can help her run it, I’m certainly willing to examine the possibility. If somebody else in her family has work they think I can do competently as a blind person, again, I’m literally all ears. That’s pretty much where I stand on that whole ball of wax. I have friends and family who are happy with how I’m living my life and who value my contributions despite the fact that I don’t get paid for them. I expect nothing less from whoever wants to be my new friend or perhaps more. There has to be give and take on both sides. I want to be as useful and helpful to my partner as she is to me. I stayed with my wife for quite a while out of a sense of charity and duty. That only holds up for so long. I want somebody I can truly live life with and not just around. We didn’t really complement each other’s interests after a certain point. We simply retreated into our own. I don’t want that to happen again.. It’s a very slow and painful way for a marriage to die. Also, it’s up to me what I change about myself. You have to accept me for who I am and that goes both ways. If there are two many things that we don’t like about each other, it just won’t work beyond a level of friendship. That’s another bit of wisdom I’ve learned the hard way.

A problem Rebecca and I definitely ran into was age and attitude towards it. I don’t mind if my special woman is even as much as five years older than I am as long as what wisdom and life experience I’ve had still counts for something. I’m happy to learn from you if you can also learn from me. I’ve met older people who are very childish and naive and younger people who have attained more respect in me than their parents. We each take a different path to knowledge and can all stand to learn something for each other’s unique experience. I don’t hold my BA degree in English from the University of Toronto over people. That’s doubtless because I’ve learned more from the people I encountered there than I learned from my actual classes. Life’s too short for power tripping.

Basically then, I’m looking for somebody with cheerfulness, humour, patience, kindness, compassion and respect for others. Fortunately, despite what the media and other doom and gloom types would have us believe, I don’t think people with those qualities are in such short supply. I’ve experienced too much goodness in other people to ever join the pessimists even if I do end up a single person the rest of my life.

On the social front, there’s not much new to report. Thankfully, I haven’t been driven by the constant need to edit any of the three profiles I have up on the sites I’ve chosen for this personal campaign of mine. Once I’ve written and posted something, I’ll occasionally come across something which prompts me to make minor changes. However, it’s nothing like the endless dissatisfaction I experienced on Lavalife with my spoken profile. Now that my experience with Lavalife is over, I believe I’ll cap things here by using this blog as a lava vent. Volcanoes have them. After facing such a barrage of idiotic questions about what it’s like being blind and how we can possibly manage in the world without site, I believe I need to take off my blind ambassador’s shoes and vent a little myself. You have been thoroughly and theatrically warned. “Permission to speak freely, Sir?” “Granted, soldier. Let’s have it!”

Right then. Let’s start with the all too frigging common but inoffensive questions. These are questions like how one cooks, cleans, walks around safely, and basically survives without sight. Yes, folks. It’s all possible. My blind wife and I survived perfectly intact for five years in our own apartment. Some idiot in the building across from us fell asleep while smoking and could very well have burned down the whole place. Yet, people hesitate to let us live in their apartments. Go figure! We had not one fire, flood, smashed piece of furniture, destroyed appliance or any other disaster to report with the exception of a bedbug invasion which could happen to anybody. We entertained plenty of guests often repeatedly and they’re all still very much alive and kicking too. We cook in places called kitchens with appliances marked in Braille or with raised bumps in key places so we can turn dials to correct temperatures or press correct buttons on things like microwaves. I cook meat in a George Forman or similar indoor electric grille. Guests seem to like my chicken, salmon, potatoes and steak enough to come back for more. I was often asked especially to do spiced potatoes. Now, like many other guys, I’m not particularly fond of cooking beyond the pleasure of making something enjoyable for guests. Cooking is more a chore than a delight to me. However, I can certainly cook enough to take care of myself. Other blind people have a real flare and have taken cooking to a high art. Cleaning is also quite feasible for us. It has to be done in a systematic way. We don’t need any special tools or anything like that though. The lady we originally had come in once a month to make certain we didn’t miss anything was so impressed with how we kept things that she asked if we were certain we in fact needed her. We might not notice every last little stain or bit of dirt but many guests told us we kept our place cleaner than they kept theirs. People train us in techniques which have been long proven sanitary. I only wish more people would somehow read up on or find out about that instead of assuming the worst. That’s what very much annoys me at times.

And now we truly come to it, folks. Prepare for ultimate ventatiousness! I was asked two absolutely stupefying questions by well over ten people each while on Lavalife. Normally, I quite like the role I’ve imposed on myself of being an ambassador for blind people. I’d much rather have people ask questions than act towards us blind people on the basis of false assumption. However, the following two questions when received from adults who enforce our laws, run nuclear reactors, teach our kids and vote for our governments illustrate quite clearly why it is that the world is seen as such a mess and why it’s so hard for us blinks to get jobs:

Question: How can blind people enjoy movies they can’t see?
Answer: Really, 007! Have you ever noticed after watching a movie in the theatre how your ears ring and your head perhaps hurts a bit? Well no matter how much it might be deserved, these pains aren’t the result of theatre staff giving your heads a thump or three. You see, there are these waves which travel through the air and slam into your tympanic membranes at high speed. I know it might come as a shock to you that those other holes in your head which receive and process these waves are actually providing you with useful information about the plot, story and such but it’s absolutely true. Trust me on this. Movies have made use of this phenomenon for around a hundred years now and man’s experience with it goes far back beyond this point. It’s called sound! You may have heard of it before. We used to get discounts when we went to theatres because it was felt we couldn’t fully enjoy movies. I freely admit that there are some less sonically obvious moments in many movies which I’m glad to have explained to me by sighted people. However, I also have to tell you that discussing movies with sighted people has often left me wondering who deserved that discount more based on missed content.

Question: How can you eat when you can't see where your mouth is?
Answer: Come on, people! If it was anatomically possible for you sighted folks to do that, I'd have to pity anyone forced to view what they've chewed up ad watch it go down. I can't conceive of a food where that would look at all attracive crunched life-savers not withstanding. Now that the idiocy is out of the way, let's get on with getting to know each other.
Mood: good
1 comment

the afterglow of friendship May 20th, 2007 2:36 pm
This weekend was absolutely great. It would have been fantastic enough getting to spend it with as good a life-long friend as Steve. I’ve known him since grade school. His parents came over as well to see me and my parents. That used to happen quite a lot back when we were growing up but it’s been quite a long time since we were actually all together. You couldn’t have guessed that had you been there to observe how things went. It was as if the intervening years had never happened in terms of how everybody just clicked. Of course, there was a whole lot to talk about. Steve’s just finished getting a degree in international development. I just had a marriage fall apart. Everyone seems to be either at or approaching a life change of some sort. Conversation was very wide-ranging from the personal to global events as it should be at such a gathering. I hope we’ll see more of them in the future. Steve stayed over for the weekend and we had our usual if all too rare good time. Perhaps it won’t be so rare now that he’s back from Ottawa. I also discovered a great new song to add to my collection. The artist is Anna Nalick and the song is In The Rough. It strikes a powerful cord in me and has an uplifting hopeful quality I very much appreciate.

We also saw some good family friends this weekend. Earny and Kim have been a big part of our lives since I first moved to Mississauga just prior to starting grade nine. Steve fit right in and enjoyed that as I thought he would. My parents don’t usually have so much going on in a weekend. It’s a long weekend though so they’ve got a nice quiet day tomorrow to recover and they certainly enjoyed seeing everyone. I introduced Steve to Stranger than Fiction which he quite enjoyed. We listened to a lot of the audiodramas I have. It’s always neet to hear people’s reactions and actually be able to discuss these things with. Deep, funny and rich conversation about life and its many aspects occupied the majority of our time as it always seems to. To top everything off, Mark and Wendy, two of my other exceptionally good friends, came and drove us all out to a nearby restaurant for brunch. Kora’s is definitely worth another crack at. The food was very good and the ambience was likewise. We all had a very enjoyable morning and early afternoon. It’s not often for me that such a short space of time is so full of excellent company. Such occasions are the real spice of life for me. I feel more grounded in my growing optimism about the future. Good friends leave a kind of afterglow behind them which makes everything seem that much more wholesome. I know I’m in for many more solitary days ahead but right now, that doesn’t really matter as much as it has over the past while. I can approach that problem with less frustration and more patient good sense.

I’ll probably start working again on the communications section of my guide tomorrow. I’d like to take advantage of this positive energy before the everyday starts to bleed it off. I still have blogs, forums, online classes and virtual conventions to cover. After that, I’ll revisit online shopping. That section still nags at me despite extensive effort on getting things just right. Next comes a section on accessible computer games. That’s one of my favorite topics and I’ve intentionally saved it until I had done the rough draft of all other key aspects of the guide except closing reflections. I’ll very much enjoy doing the games area but will doubtless have to reign my enthusiasm for them in and not fall into the temptation of ultra-perfectionism. Games get such a bad rap and are so valueable for overcoming hesitation with computers.

Good heavens! I just realised that I’ve been wearing my shirt inside out today. Nobody said anything! That’s just utterly stupifying. The more I learn about sight, the less I think I’m missing.
Mood: rejuvenated

nice progress May 16th, 2007 12:06 pm
Things are definitely on the uphill path for me now. Two days ago, I met my wife quite by chance at the doctor’s. We both went on the same day and like most people not in immediate danger of death, had to wait our turn. We talked and I was very surprised at just how natural and easy it felt. Now that her issues aren’t going to wreck my life for me, I can be certain that we’ll at least be civil and comfortable around each other should circumstances place us together socially. I thought it would take a lot longer before I had such a secure sense of that. Yesterday was a very slow and draggy day. It was very hot and rainy. At least there was some nifty thunder though. I spent a good amount of time chatting online with a group of people who also seemed to have nothing but time to shoot the breeze. It certainly beets feeling guilty for not being able to get much writing done. The best part of the day was a conversation I had with a young woman I encountered on Lavalife who actualy decided to call me. I think I’ve found someone who’ll be a good long-distance friend. There’s quite an age difference plus she’s quite far from me. Our friendship seems to have survived its first major difference of oppinion concerning country music. In short, I’m generally not a big fan of it an she has singing aspirations in the genre. Finding somebody new who likes good conversation has certainly done me some good. Now, I’ve just got to find somebody who’s actualy close enough to do things with. To that end, I signed up for a site called:
It’s thankfully completely free to use and run by a single person. Considering all the stuff he’s got going on the site, I find that absolutely astounding. I needed my father to read one of those damned captia things which seem to block blind people at every turn. Once that was done, I’ve been able to do everything else on my own. There don’t seem to be any other accessability issues from my perspective. There are a staggering number of people even in fairly close range to me so I have a lot more hope of eventually finding somebody or being found.

Progress on the guide is going very well today. I hope to have the communications section finished in rough draft by the end of next week. I keep catching myself either not injecting enough human interest into it or not explaining things which are completely obvious to me but wouldn’t be to a novice. Those seem to be my toughest challenges. Once I get rid of the insomnia I’ve been struggling with, I’ll be able to make far better progress. I much prefer to conquer these things without taking any medication. However, I think I’d better admit defeat this time and take a sleeping pill. I also have to stay up late enough so that I get a good solid block of actua sleep instead of a little sleep and a lot of lying bored and awake.
Mood: satisfied

stunning stupidity May 14th, 2007 7:45 am
After getting back from church yesterday, I thought I'd check out that Facebook site. Quite a few people had suggested I should sign up on it. Most of it is actually quite accessible and with only one instance of needing sighted help, I was able to register and set up a profile. However, everything comes crashing down because they use those stupid captia things. I can sympathise with requiring that when you register but I have a huge problem with needing sighted help whenever I want to send a message to another member. That's just pure idiocy. I found a few people from my high school days that I wouldn't mind sending a message to but found that I couldn't. I of course immediately sent their customer service people a message regarding that but have yet to hear back from them. Warning them that they might get taken to court by one of the more militant American blindness organisations, I later discovered that they have already noticed this senseless situation and are taking steps. For once, I wish them luck. I've never been a fan of the idea of taking people to court rather than finding a more productive and beneficial way to achieve things for blind people. However, this whole captia thing is one issue where some decisive action should be taken. There are clear accessible arlternatives which damned well ought to be used.

Those who have known me for any length of time will I think agree that I am an optimist when it comes to people. Some of my friends have in fact been exasperated at times with just how much credit I give others and point out that there are actually people out there who simply don't deserve a ghost of a chance. They also love to find examples to throw at me that being nice and honourable doesn't always pay off. Last night on Survivor Fiji, I received proof positive of both these things. Even given the context of the game, Dreams demonstrated just how thunderously stupid and short-sighted it was humanly possible to be when he betrayed Yau-man failing to keep his part of the bargain they struck. I was absolutely stunned. A good part of the game is certainly about deception but there are some innate rules of civilised sportsmanship that you just don't cross. How could dreams not realise what a cataclismicly self-dooming move keeping that immunity idol was? He had a chance to come out of the game as a heroic figure. You couldn't ask for a better thing on one's resume than having shown how trust-worthy you were by keeping your word in those circumstances. Had he kept his promise, I believe he wouldn't have won. He was quite correct about that. However, breaking his word absolutely shattered any chance he might have had. There are also the post-game consequences and forfeited opportunities to be considered. Even looking at it from a purely selfish angle, anybody should have realised what doors keeping your word would open. He could have been held up as a role-model. I wouldn't have been a bit surprised if a TV movie was made about the formerly homeless man who still showed moral fortitude when it came down to the crunch. That's the kind of thing which can truly make a star or at least a motivational speaker out of somebody. It would certainly have done him credit as a father. I mean, if he had won that million after breaking his promise to such an honourable and superb player as Yau-man was, what would he say to his kid? I just found out this morning that he was a cheer-leading coach. I wonder how long that's going to last. Were I a father, I certainly wouldn't want him to have anything to do with my son or daughter having set such a horrid example. He was so unrepentant about it even after finding out just how bad a mistake it was in game terms. Earle got every single vote. That surprised me. I thought the lady who remained would have gotten at least some despite not being as noticeable as other players. I'm glad Earle and Yau-man are going to stay frends. That's definitely as it should be. It would be neat to find out what happens to these survivors in a while. Yau-man certainly deserves all the good fortune he gets.
Mood: shocked

a genuine turning point May 13th, 2007 5:31 am
While distance didn't prevent me from enjoying the fantastic evening I've just had, my lack of clear communication very well could have. Again though, my honest mistake actually ended up enabling me to do a couple of good deeds with some cash I brought along that I otherwise wouldn't have. It also seems to have opened the door for me to get together with Ron's circle of friends as the jentleman who picked me up at the last minute is very near where I live. He doesn't mind driving me to the get-togethers this group of people has and that'll be a very welcome addition to life. I get along well with all of them and will be glad to see them more often. Ron'sparty was I think quite successful as he certainly seemed to enjoy himself from my perspective. It takes a great deal of weight off me knowing I have some new friends to get to know better.

I've had three people suggest that I look into this whole facebook thing. I guess signing up for one more social networking site wouldn't hurt. I just worry about getting somehow compelled to try to keep up with all the ongoing elements on each site. Nothing realy forces anybody to do this but the temptation to fiddle with or add to what you've put up seems to nag at people including me from time to time. There's so always the temptation to check and see if anybody has noticed or reacted to all your efforts. It's not as powerful a pull as email checking due o the work of going to a given site and loging in but it's almost as compelling. Still, if it'll help more of the right sort of people to find me I should probably d it.
Mood: hopeful

don't know much about geography May 12th, 2007 11:20 am
This week was another slow and draggy one. One of the ladies I talked to on Lavalife actually shockingly called me back and we started chatting. She’s had it quite rough in life and I would have been very pleased even to be a friend she could count on. Unfortunately, I have no sensible way of getting to her even to see if there’s really any chemistry there at all. I know I could have at least done her some good with her computer troubles. She may eventually come up to visit me here but I doubt it. It figures that the one person who’s thus far showed any serious interest in me is the one person I can’t get to. I can’t even begin to express how frustrating that is. I’ve tried so hard to live my life as morally and sensibly as I can. Given all the complaints of cheating, unfaithfulness and expectation of utter perfection, you’d think somebody close enough for it to matter would decide I just might be good enough to get to know. There’s no real place for being angry since the situation I find myself in is no one’s fault. I’ve tried everything worth trying to beet my mobility problem. Any further effort would just be a waste of time. Enough very skilled experts have tried their best to help me. My family has always done their best for me. The friends I have in life have also stood by me as well as anybody could ask. It’s not like all the other guys out there don’t deserve happiness. They can also do more to provide for women who decide to make them happy. The only real hope I ever have of doing that is to luck out with a book I write or have somebody notice my online efforts and decide to offer me a paid job. I’m far from giving up on either outcome but must face the fact that neither outcomes seems all that likely. I’ve just come to a point in life where I’m in need of new people and opportunities for fresh experience. To take life any further than I have, I need someone willing to go that extra mile. I’m happy to do my share in all other aspects of life. I think I’ve more than proved that to my own and other peoples’ satisfaction. As things stand now, all my spirit for adventure, compassion, loyalty, and willingness to pitch in is going to waste for lack of people to share at least some of life with. It’s pretty much that simple. I will of course keep trying to find ways of pitching in from a distance. If that’s the only good I can do in the world, I’ll be damned if I don’t put in my best effort when I come across a problem I can help with. The problem is that being alone just isn’t as comfortable for me as it used to be. It takes a real toll on me particularly during the weeks. Because of that, my writing isn’t up to its usual snuff. You’d think that after my marriage fell apart so torturously, I’d be more comfortable and even happy to have all the time alone that I do. I actually am at times. Unfortunately, as paradoxical as it is, one of the things that Rebecca has unintentionally taken from me is my ability to be as content as I once was with how things are.

As painful as having to face not being able to do any good for Sharriann was, it at least proved to me beyond any doubt that ultimately failing to have much positive effect on Rebecca’s more destructive aspects hasn’t robbed me of the compassion for other people that I was afraid I might have lost. Had there been any practical way at all for me to actually get to her without inconveniencing other people, I would have been ready and willing to give her the chance she’s long overdue for. I don’t need to find some impossibly ideal set of circumstances in order to be ready to risk reaching out. I have to keep believing that my more realistic expectations and open-mindedness will pay off eventually. Maintaining that hope is just proving to be extremely hard these days. Perhaps, after I somehow find some new friends, things will look better.

Time on Lavalife is pretty much up. I have something like five minutes left. Ultimately, I have to regard that experiment as a failure. There were a lot of “good luck” and “I’m already tied up or we might have had something” messages. There was one lady who thought we could be friends but I hit the wrong key and accidentally deleted her message before noting down any information. That’s a painfully easy mistake to make as the 3 and 6 keys are used for save and delete. You want to delete messages as soon as possible so you don’t pay money for listening to them again. Everything seems geared to squeezing money from men on Lavalife. I simply don’t have that money to spare and don’t think it would be a wise investment if I did. As in most cases, this failure didn’t exactly leave me empty-handed. It put me in touch with Sherriann. Although geography prevents me from getting more involved with her, I’m left with more confidence in my own idealism and with some hope that perhaps someone closer or more able to nullify the effects of distance might be encountered. I was also put in touch with an old friend who I had lost touch with well over a decade ago. She lives too far to make visiting at all practical. Fates seems to delight in doing that to me lately. Like me, she’s also living at home waiting for affordable housing. Other than that similarity as well as being unable to find work, our lives have certainly taken us in different directions. We’ll certainly keep in touch but how much we have to share with each other besides reminiscences remains to be seen. I had wondered what became of her over the years and I’m glad I can at least walk away with that curiosity having been satisfied.

I got to see Adam this week for the first time since coming home. We had a great dinner at Turtle Jack’s and then proceeded to Baskin Robin’s where I had my first ice-cream cone in a very long while. It was great to catch up with him and we had quite a good chat. Like everything else though, things have changed. We’ll always be good friends. That’s pretty much a given. However, the dynamics are different. We’ve both had somewhat different experiences and because Rebecca didn’t ever really get along with him, he wasn’t somebody I could just invite over to the apartment. Married life as well as his single but working life kept us from spending the kind of time together that we used to. We’ve drifted apart a little, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. We both have more space to grow in different ways. It certainly does wonders to know that he’s willing to go out like that after a dull and long day’s work like he has. I don’t think Rebecca ever understood why it’s worth forgiving good friends their problems, issues and occasional inability to stick with plans. That was one of the many key differences between us which pulled us apart. It took so little to start her second-guessing people’s character.

Tonight, I’ve got another of these bright spots that friendship can put into life. My good friend Ron is getting married to Sylvia who I was a classmate of long ago in grade school. It’s Ron’s stag party and I’m very honoured to be invited. I’ll also be getting a ride there and back. It’s nice to know that distance doesn’t always have to win. Friends like those two add a lot of comfort and interesting moments to life. I’m very much in need of those just now. They recharge me in a fundamental way. Tomorrow night, my family will once again join our good neighbours Jim and Carol to see just what final masochism the Survivor Fiji show inflicts on the remaining contestants. Things have been pretty interesting this year. I actually care who wins. I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday. That’s one trip I’m not exactly looking forward to. Despite that, I’m hopeful that this coming week will be more productive.

Work on the guide is chugging along in fits and starts. The communications section is proving to be a tougher challenge than I thought. I’ve got to find ways of conveying how useful and helpful computers and the Internet can be and have been to me. The irony that I’m doing this while at the same time desperate to move more of my life experience into the real world certainly hits home lately as the days crawl by. The Internet is for now my last best hope for doing that. I’m typing more now so that I can hopefully have less time later with nothing to do in it but type. Fortunately, I have a week at Lake Joseph to look forward to in July. For that time at least, I can easily see people and distance will play no part at all in who I decide to hang out with. I likely also have a week of sailing in June if transportation can be arranged. It would be an absolute personal triumph for me if I can get this guide finished by the time I head up to Lake Jo and present copies of it to the week’s guests. If that can be achieved, I’ll wait for any possible feedback they might have for me. I’ll then release it onto the web in August. I’ve been so blessed with peoples’ patience, kindness and knowledge about computers over the years that it’ll feel fantastic to pass this knowledge on to whoever can make use of it. In the Autumn, I’ll then be free to look at the possibility of volunteering somewhere in Mississauga. I hope I can find somewhere willing to get me there and back where I can be of genuine use and where I have a chance of meeting some new people. That’s really what I need in life.
Mood: touched
1 comment

a super sunday May 6th, 2007 5:54 pm
Today was a very nice change of pace. I went to church with a family I had never gotten to know before which was in itself very interesting. The children weren’t shy or anything and we all got along quite well. I may be seeing more of them outside of church and I hope that kind of things starts to happen more. There was a special lunch after the service which I stayed for an very much enjoyed. This afternoon and evening was spent at my niece Ava’s very first birthday party. She seemed to enjoy it and makes enough noise that I can have some idea of how she’s feeling and what she’s up to. She apparently likes to stare at me and grabs my hand with a surprisingly strong grip. Mom and dad always enjoy seeing her as well. She likes to be lead around as she can’t quite walk on her own and I don’t think mom or dad ever feel they can have enough time to spend with her doing just that. It adds quite a spark of youth to their character whenever she’s around. Ava was a little overwelmed at all the people. There were something like 27 apparently. I had some interesting conversations. It’s going to take a while before I feel I truly know people from that new side of the family. I still have trouble matching voices to names and information. I think Ava liked her presents but they were opened towards the end of the evening and she was getting tired. The stuffed animals seemed to be favored the most. She seemed very pleased with those. I was surprised that she didn’t like her toy cell phone more but she was probably too tired to really take in anything ore complex than a huggable kissable fluffy fake beast. I hope she likes the rest of the stuff and has more fun tomorrow. I’ve already started keeping an eye out for things she might find interesting when she’s a lot older. I’ll be able to engage with her far more as time goes on. I’m still new at being an uncle.

It was a nice if a bit cool day out. I’m very glad I wore a sweater and jacket. The fresh air combined with a rather bad sleep last night probably means I’m in for a much better one tonight. To top everything off, it seems a couple of ladies took some small interest in me on Lavalife. Whether anybody will actually call me and start even a phone friendship remains to be seen. I think the chances of making that much progress might not be as astronomically slim as I had originally thought. Perhaps I’ll even find somebody interested enough to come and see me. Good days like this can restore quite a lot of hope. I highly recommend that all my readers add some to their lives.
Mood: rejuvenated

words, wits and social striving May 4th, 2007 10:15 pm
Hello again, everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog entry and now seems a good time to do so. I’m spending tonight the way I spend a great many nights and days for that matter. I’m alone sitting in my room in front of my laptop here. However, in my defence, I am enjoying a very fine dark ale. I’m not in a habit of drinking those during the day except on special occasions. I’m a very cautious drinker and will usually just have one beer during an evening if I’m not so[SPAM WORD]ing. I generally like to have my full wits about me in case I get any ideas I can work on or want to enjoy a podcast, book, game, documentary, occasional movie, etc. I very much like to be able to appreciate such pastimes with a fully engaged and ready mind.

I’ve been embarking on a bit of a campaign lately to rebuild my social life. Marriage has a way of sweeping you into a kind of social bubble and destroying particularly more peripheral relationships enjoyed in one’s single life. During the past five years, I’ve wished on many painful occasions that I were single again. It’s a very easy thing to do when common sense and reason just refuse to hold any sway and what could have been enjoyable times are wrecked. Of course, the truth of the matter is that there’s really no going back to premarital life. Too many changes occur in your relationships with others and indeed in yourself. I’m a far different person in many ways to what I was five years ago. I’ve grown up a lot. What we wish in anger to return to is an idealisation of single life. Single life after a marriage fails is in reality quite empty socially speaking. Any friends you have are now typically both your friends and should continue to be so. That means they have to split their time between both of you. A lot of friends during marriage are both of your friends simply because you’re married. They’ll also tend to disappear from whichever person’s life they were least connected with. That leaves you with a whole lot of time to yourself. I know! I know! That is precisely what we wish for when the sparks are flying and our nerves are absolutely frazzled to bits. However, when the reality hits, as is so often the case in life, it’s a lot less shiny up close.

Of course, living at home with my parents mean that they’re often available. However, again, time has just changed things for me. There’s so little new ground to cover that we haven’t been over before. Our tastes are different as far as entertainment goes. Even though they both very much respect my adulthood and privacy, I just don’t have the same feeling of it that I did in our apartment. It’s not like they spy on me or anything. It’s just that if I’m listening to music while surfing the net or working at the same time, the first inkling I have that anybody’s actually near my room is when the door is knocked on if it’s closed or somebody is suddenly there if it’s not. It’s not like they’d object to anything I’m up to or that they could even see it in the first place. I don’t generally have my laptop screen all the way up. Having the door closed at least gives me a sense of being in my own sanctum as it were. Having people over is no real problem for them. It's just a different experience when it's not your actual place. New people are going to meet my parents pretty much right away. My first meeting at least proved that this doesn't have to be as awkward as I had feared. It's just different than where I think things ought to be in this stage of my life. My room is certainly large enough to bring in an extra chair but it just doesn't quite feel as right as having one's own apartment to entertain guests in. I hope that once I’ve re-built more of a social life and am going out with people, it’ll feel a bit less like having stepped back through time to childhood and a lot more like how things really are. I’m just living here until it becomes affordable to live somewhere else on a permanant basis. It also makes a lot more sense that my parents get room and board from me. They did everything they could to support our marriage and frankly deserve it. Despite time having changed things between us, I couldn’t ask for a better and more supportive family. I just need to engage more with my piers and find people my age to start doing more with and getting to know.

There are no real traditional avenues for me to do this. Going out to a bar or club alone just isn’t a very smart thing to do. It’s not so much the danger although that’s certainly real enough. It’s also just not likely that I’d meet the kind of people I’m interested in even assuming they’re present when I am. I’d likely just make an ass of myself trying to strike up or enter conversations nobody wanted me in. I quite enjoy spending time in pubs if I’m with somebody who’s interested in talking with me. Same with going places. There are a lot of things such as going for walks that I’d quite enjoy with people other than my parents. Things like going to cultural festivals and other events. There are likely a lot of other things I’d enjoy but haven’t had opportunities to try. I don’t see much point in going to movies anymore. They’re so expensive and nothing I’ve heard of would compel me to go spend five times as much to see it live as you’d spend renting the dvd when it’s available. It would have to be something absolutely beyond the commonplace like the Lord of the Rings series was.

The only means I have to try to rectify this problem is via online social networking sites. I’ve signed up for a couple and have also bought some time on Lavalife. I’ve actually had one nice woman come out and meet with me. That was a very fun evening enjoying desserte at a local restaurant. However, she later felt we didn’t have enough in common. That was more success than I had expected to have for months and was the start to a terrific weekend. I also enjoyed dinner the next night with Mark and Wendy, two very good friends. That broke a three-week period of pretty much no social activity at all. The real trick will be increasing my social life in such a way as to make certain I still have the solitary time I need. Things move so very slowly that I don’t think a lack of time to myself will be a problem for quite a while unless I get very lucky.

I have a lot more hope for a free site I signed up for called:
than I do for anything else I’ve found. It’s completely free to use being supported by ads. They’re fairly easy to navigate around and only present a minor annoyance. I’ve already written quite a lot on that site and have also posted my picture. It drew some helpful responses and a joke or two about added demon horns and such. Before adding my picture, I discussed it with some other blind people online. One of the Brits in a stunning imitation of the museum curator who’s Dr. Jones’s friend told me I was “meddling with powers you cannot possibly comprehend.” That just cracked me up laughing completely. I’ll have to watch those movies again some time. Even if I’m unsuccessful, I’ve still found the process very helpful in a therapeutic sense. It forces you to truly examine yourself and think about the kind of people you want to add to your life. For somebody in my position, that’s a very useful thing even if it doesn’t lead to any relationships.

I’m far less impressed with the Lavalife phone network I paid for time on. It’s only been a couple of days and I’ve already used up over half of the time I bought. There were a lot of people curious about various aspects of blindness and I answered their questions without realising quite how much time that chewed up. You can listen to people’s profiles for free and record your own for free. However, any time you either send or receive messages, you’re billed by the minute. This means that I can’t afford to be the soft-hearted guy I might want to. I have to be very selective with who I send and hear messages from if I want my remaining time to last at all. Thank goodness I have my own phone line. I can leave that and other information with people who seem interesting and the only person that will inconvenience is myself if I misjudge. It’s such a bloody expensive way to do things that I frankly can’t see too many criminals lurking around. I certainly won’t be purchasing more time. I will, however, make the most effective use possible of my remaining minutes and see if anything lasting results. Getting my profile to sound good and include all the relevant information I can pack into it is another thing I’m just not too comfortable with. People can listen to that for free and you have five minutes to make your case to them. Having that case presented as best I can is something I’ll likely be working on right up until I’ve used up all my time sending and receiving messages.

I’ve always hated math but in this instance, I have too good of an idea of the astronomical odds against even finding a serious friendship this way. I have somewhat more faith in the online site since people are under a lot less pressure and can take their time reading stuff. Also, they don’t seem to have the same reluctance to read and discuss more interesting issues.

I have, of course, been continuing hard at work on my guide. I still fully intend to have it ready for distribution by the time I go to Lake Joseph from July 8 through 14th. It would mean a tremendous lot to me if I could have copies of the guide ready to hand out to my fellow vacationers there. It was after all while on vacation there a year ago that I received the inspiration and a lot of encouragement to embark on this project. Most of the guide should be useful for many years as it deals largely with the Internet and what kind of things you can and should do with a personal computer. I want to mae it as non-specific when it comes to access technology and operating syste as I can while still sharing my experience with Windowds XP users. The earlier I finish, therefore, the longer that information will remain useful to people. I don't think I'll have a new computer with Windows Vista for some months if not longer. After I get it, I'm not going to feel comfortable advising people until I've spent a good deal of time doing things for myself. That's where all my work effort is going now. In the Fall, I'm going to look more into possibly finding somewhere to volunteer in the community here. In Oakville, the transportation just wasn't there. I wanted to volunteer in a distress call centre but it would have been too costly getting there and back. They also woldn't even tell me where thecente was until after I had been trained and was commited to a year's service. I couldn't keep a bus rout in my head that I was only going to use three times a month and cabs would have been far too epensive an option. Perhaps, Ill have better luck here in Mississauga. I hope I don't have to wait until I'm in Hamilton in affordable housing before branching out more. I could be pushing forty by then.

My productivity has suffered somewhat due to the lack of fresh social stimulus. That just starts to happen if you pound away at something too much. I have to get better about taking breaks. I should be using the treadmill more and I’m going to try to motivate myself more this coming week when I get writer’s block. I also need to play more games and make greater use of online chat sites. In my drive to add more people to my life that I can actually have a chance of meeting, I’ve been neglecting those.

Today was a bad day for working on the guide. Part of the reason for that was that Rebecca called in the morning and started going over issues I felt we had covered absolutely to death. All she ultimately wanted was to make certain that I understood why she was concerned and knew the circumstances she was in. I felt we had already talked about everything to both of our satisfaction and have been so stressed out by continued rehashing of things that I just can’t handle that anymore. I get so frustrated that I’m reduced to tears. Nobody else has ever done that to me. It’s not like she’s intending to cause any distress at all. She just has a penultimate need to have her feelings understood and never felt that I had expressed my understanding of them sufficiently. That kind of utter misunderstanding of each other is what ultimately completely doomed our marriage. Unless I spelt everything out absurdly clearly to her, she had a way of assuming the worst that just drove me bonkers. When I did spell things out ultraclearly, she didn't think I should treet her like a child so there was just no safe ground to stand on. She, it seems, felt I never really wanted to talk things out fully despite painfully long cessions during which I felt I had done just that to the detriment of everything else. I think we’ve finally cleared the air to both my limit and her satisfaction. I made it clear that I just wasn’t going to waste any more time covering the same ground and I think she finally is ready to let things go and just be friends. I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable visiting her again but at least I can talk to her civilly and be of some help to her over the phone. I’ve just gone through so much needless stress due to her inability to understand where I was coming from and how much I fought to have things work in her favour that my circumstances are going to have to change pretty drastically before I’ve gained enough emotional distance to handle anything more from her. It's also very disconcerting to be in what was so recently our apartment where we lived an ultimately unsustainable married life. Hearing space where my things used to be brings everything into such sharp sonic focus. We ended the conversation on a far more pleasant note and this gives me some ultimate hope that all my efforts and emotional pain haven’t gone for nothing.

Later on, I got the audio descriptive version of Stranger Than Fiction. This is a movie about a tax agent who is actually a fictional character in a book in which he dies. He hears the narrator in his head tell him that he will die soon and sets off to avoid his fate if at all possible. The movie raises a lot of issues about life’s value, destiny, responsibility, and many other deep issues. I won’t wreck it for any of you but it’s ultimately a film that reminds us that there are good and thoughtful people out there. It also shows us that words and fiction have a lot of power to do good in the world. After such a long time of more solitary life punctuated by stressful moments caused essentially by a failure to find the right words at the right time, I find that a very encouraging thought.

Sadly, my efforts to find friends to get together with tomorrow have yet to meet with success. My friends have often called at the last moment however, and I have knocked on a great many doors recently in my quest for new friends. My information is out there now and there’s at least more of a chance than before that something new and interesting might happen. Otherwise, I’ll be at the beer store with my father to re-supply myself with some suds. I should also have a new Rief lecture from the BBC to listen to and possibly some other fresh podcasts. Usually, there are also some online events on Saturdays so that’s a definite possibility if nothing more physical presents itself. On Sunday, I’m going to my niece’s first birthday party. It’ll be interesting to see her and what she thinks of all the gifts and fuss. I’ll likely also be going to church. I’m very glad things worked out so that I can keep going to the same one. Everything else Rebecca and I invested time in together has pretty much disintegrated and I’m thankful I’ve at least salvaged something from the mess.
Mood: hopeful
1 comment

one last story Apr 24th, 2007 2:57 pm
The Breakdown
By Michael Feir

Canada's Wonderland is a very large and lively place. There are literally thousands of people there during most days. The day we chose to go there was no different than the usual. The bus we rode in was full of other excitedly chattering people on a similar quest for fun. Patience and kindness were in bountiful abundance. The good cheer was so thick you could have sliced it in two. All the noise made it seem like there wouldn't be any room left for anyone to breathe in the park. From years of past excursions to the place with family and friends, I knew intellectually that this wouldn't be the case.
Despite the multitude, one almost never felt crowded in Wonderland. The place was both very large, and well organised. Even on the most busy days, I, for one, have never felt at all hemmed in. One had to be a bit more careful using one's cane so as not to wack anybody's ankles or get it caught between the legs of some hapless wanderer. Other than that, the throngs of people going hither and yon merely added to the sensation of being part of something big. Another nice thing about Canada's Wonderland was that it was a place where five visually impaired people could go and just be normal. Unlike other locales where you'd get the powerful sense that people around were nervously wondering exactly how to treat us, what we might damage if they didn't keep watch on us and what help we might need, Wonderland was so vast that we didn't even make a dint in the day's proceedings. Help was certainly available if we needed it, but it wasn't forced down our throats. In pretty much every way possible, Canada's Wonderland has always lived up to my expectations and actually been a place where extraordinary was ordinary. I spend most of my time in-doors and in front of a computer, so a day like this was a very nice change indeed.

There were five of us in total. Three of us had partial vision, and the other two were totally blind. This wasn't some gathering organised by any support group for the blind. Rather, it was simply a fairly spontaneous gathering of good friends. The youth group we had all belonged to at one time had been disbanded long ago, leaving us to socially fend for ourselves. We had done this with great success, and met fairly often in various restaurants, bars, and other social venues. Each of us had led fairly different lives, and had different expertise to contribute to the others. Mobility has never been my strong point. Most of my spare time has been spent in the mentally stimulating pursuits of reading, writing, and playing computer games. Ethical and moral issues have always intrigued me, and my friends have often turned to me for advice or opinions on such matters. George and Shelly were essentially a couple. Both of them had partial vision which operated best at different times of the day. George saw best during daylight, while Shelly was better at night. Both of them were quite active, and well accustomed to navigating around large places. Living together had resulted in a fairly healthy respect for each other. This friendship was, however, prone to some minor disagreements. George really liked roller coasters, and could stand just about any ride you threw at him. I was of a similar persuasion. Shelly was more into rides of a less jarring nature. She had a special liking for water rides. Maggie was a good-natured but somewhat naive woman around my age. I've often thought that it was unlucky for her that she wasn't fully blind. Although visually impaired to the point of being legally blind, she could see well enough to give people the impression that she didn't have any significant physical disability. This meant that teachers and others tended to give her little of the patience and time she needed to learn what most of her contemporaries took for granted. I was all too often amazed at how little she knew of world affairs, how things worked, and other kinds of general knowledge. Despite this, she had a kind of common sense and honesty which kept her out of serious difficulty and kept me from thinking of her as a child. She was quite short, and her voice sounded child-like despite the fact that she was my age. Thankfully, she wasn't so short that she couldn't go on adult rides.
Rounding out our expedition was Martha, the group organiser. She had been filling this role unofficially for some time now. Her guide dog accompanied her. Although a basically cheerful woman, Martha always strikes me as... well... sober for lack of a better word. Not above laughter or relaxation, she nevertheless had an aura of efficiency about her most of the time. Her husband Sam, in contrast, could be serious when the occasion demanded it. However, he was a fairly happy-go-lucky sort of guy. Very talented with the keyboard, I once heard him stop all business inside a Radio Shack store dead in its tracks by playing jazz on one of their demonstration keyboards. Everyone just stood and listened while he rattled off a tune on a pure whim. It was too bad he couldn't join us.
Our first stop was thanks to Martha's connections at the park. She knew a lady who trained the fish exhibited there. We all got to touch a seal. Personally, I was surprised at how rubbery they felt. I had often heard seals referred to as cute, and the rubbery slick flesh I touched just didn't seem to fit that word. I didn't notice any reaction from the others besides teasing Shelly who was kissed by the seal about whether she preferred that ministration to the efforts of her partner George. George and I kidded Maggie about tossing her in the fish-tank if she dragged us ride-loving guys into too many shops. Surprisingly, she laughed and took it all for the good-natured fun it was meant to be instead of taking it literally as she sometimes did.
Looking back on things, I'm surprised that we never got lost for any major length of time. We took the odd wrong turn, but it's pretty much to be expected that all attendants of a place like Wonderland would do that. George and Shelly seemed quite able to navigate for us as well as guide each other when light conditions gave one of them trouble and favoured the other. Maggie guided me for much of the time and did quite a good job of it. Near the end of the day, we came close to being lost when it started getting darker. However, help is never all that hard to obtain in a place like Wonderland and we were assisted in heading out.
Other than the many well-known cartoon characters who wandered the park in search of their adoring little fans, Wonderland is host to some state of the art rides. Everything from roller coasters to bumper-cars were there, and we sampled pretty much every locomotive amusement they had. George, Martha and I wanted the roller coasters. Shelly and Maggie didn't like them so much and tended to just wait for us fools to have our brush with death and get it out of our systems. They liked the more sedate rides like the swinging chairs and octopus. Surprisingly enough, this variance in taste didn't generate any friction. Everyone was willing to make the compromises to their ideal time to allow us all to have a good day. While sitting in a stopped bucket high up in the octopus ride, I reflected on how amazing it was that a group of friends could avoid any sort of tension while we could hear families below us arguing loudly with each other about what to do next. So much for the benefits of family ties, I remember thinking to myself. They had vision. Certainly, it would be more possible for them to split up and do their own thing than it was for

us. Yet, there they were arguing loudly with each other as if it would be the end of the world if they did that.
Finding lunch satisfying to everyone was something of a marathon walk. All of us had been to the park on past occasions and had our favourite foods. We had fairly different ideas on what constituted a good lunch both economically and in terms of taste. Despite our differences, all of us enjoyed our repast very much indeed. We were here on our own enjoying the park with our peers. There were no organisers, guides, or parents. What we did with our day was strictly up to ourselves. I think all of us had a sense of how we had really made it here under our own power. We were adults. I had my university degree, a couple of us had gone to coledge, and the two who hadn't done either of these things had lucked out and found at least a brief experience of employment. We had all gone through the ego-smashing meet-grinder of job hunting in a working world ill-suited to young visually impaired people without very spe[SPAM WORD]ed aptitudes. We can't all be Math experts, lawyers, doctors or computer programmers you know. If you're not one of the above, finding work is very hard indeed. To illustrate how idiotic things can be, I recently read an article telling of a blind woman who had earned a degree from a college to do dispatching work for police and emergency services. Despite the fact that the college thought she could handle a job in that field, she couldn't get hired even though there were job openings. We've all therefore had to find other ways of defining adulthood and successful life.

We were all over twenty years old. Most of us, however, still lived at home with our parents. It just wasn't economically feasible to live on one's own as a single unemployed blind person. Despite all these things, occasions like this adventure served to ram that fantastic fact of our adulthood home for us. I think that was what overrode our natural self-centred tendencies and let us all simply enjoy everything.
Many things were discussed as we ate. Maggie caught a glimpse of a cartoon character and we all began discussing our impressions of the show. Martha and I started debating whether one of the characters was a human or animal. Both of us have been totally blind all our lives so we had only the character's voice to go on. We were pleased to have the question answered by Maggie who had fortunately watched the cartoon. I told the others about the first time my parents got me to feel one of these poor souls stuck in bulky and probably insanely hot furry costumes. To a sighted person, I guess they look cute and loveable somehow. To me, I felt a very tall and wide obviously artificial furry body which only slowly gained features as I explored it. My first temptation at a tender young age of around eight or so had been to try to push it over. This wasn't out of malice so much as a kind of scientific curiosity. I wondered whether it would hurt when he/she fell and whether the costume might make it very difficult or even impossible for him/her to get up again. Maggie was stunned and horrified in a comical sort of upper-class way at my line of thinking. Her “Oh! That's so mean!” reaction provided the rest of us with a good laugh. I don't think she realised why they thought what I had told them was funny or why she was being laughed at. I certainly haven't done it justice here. There was a kind of royal displeasure feel to her words despite the child-like voice she had which made us all howl with merth. As hard as I've tried here, you probably had to hear her to properly appreciate what set us off.

At one point, we came to a situation where a roller coaster and another tamer ride were in close enough proximity that we could do what we liked at the same time without fear of losing each other. Martha had looked forward to going on this particular coaster all day, and we had finally come to it. Since Shelly and Maggie were on a kind of odd ride featuring sale-boats on tracks, one of us would have to look after Martha's dog. I felt I owed it to her after all she had done for us. I've always been a cane user despite vigorous attempts from many people to convince me to get a dog. You can just fold up a cane and stick it in its holster when you don't needed. No vet bills, cleaning up, feeding arrangements and shedding fur for me, thanks. Before going off to meet her destiny, Martha warned me to keep a good grip on the leash in case the dog tried to rescue her from the ride. Had I not followed her instructions, I have no doubt that the brave animal would indeed have tried to save all of the screaming fools on the perfectly harmless coaster. These rides were very modern and built with extraordinary safety systems. Computers monitored the trains as they sped over the tracks and had to be in perfect agreement that things were fine for the ride to proceed. There were air-brakes at points on the tracks and brakes in the cars. I had learned this from a park employee who had come with another group I had been a part of. I knew from personal experience that the harnesses they used to make damned certain people kept everything inside the cars could likely have prevented prisoner riots by paralysing the inmates and robbing them of their full quota of oxygen. They were invariably tight and sturdy. Unfortunately, Martha's dog wasn't aware of all that and started whining at me and pulling on the leash as the ride sped past. I patted it on

the head and tried to talk to it in a friendly soothing manner. This wasn't as easy as one might think given that the dog seemed on the brink of instituting some sort of rescue plan. He was a fairly powerful animal. I had to pull hard on the leash at times and tell him to stay. With a determined effort, he could easily have either lunged away and forced me to let go of his leash or be dragged along behind him. Thankfully, this did not occur. Martha returned in excellent spirits and sound condition to the relief of her dog and I.
The water rides were an essential part of this very hot Summer day. We all enjoyed the log-ride which ended up sending its passengers hurtling down a steep slope into a pool of water. The splash certainly drenched most people on the ride. It also caused a torrent of water to wash over a section of bridge where people could stand. I had come determined to avoid being tricked into standing on that again, but nearly didn't succeed despite being at full alert. It's just far enough removed from the ride that the danger isn't immediately audible. However, I surprised the group by realising where I was in time to run ahead far enough not to get my share of the wave which engulfed everyone else. Score one for me.
Another water ride we all enjoyed was a white water rafting one which had us all sitting in bucket-seats. Each raft held up to six people, so we could all go together. The raft bumped and spun through the artificial waterway with us placing bets on who would get hit with one of the geysers which park employees could trigger at any moment. I was hoping not to get hit full-force since this would tend to mean you'd be wet for the rest of the day. The suspense was exciting despite the trivial nature of what was ahead. Adding to this sense of real adventure was the quality of ambience the ride had. Perhaps, it was actually outside the main bunch of rides. I don't have any sense of the geography of Wonderland or many other places for that matter. More likely, it was the rushing water and resulting mist which deadened sounds outside the ride. Whatever the cause, it truly gave the auditory impression that we were travelling far away down a kind of surreal dream-like river. The slow pace of the ride was such a change from the typical offerings at the park that it didn't seem possible we were still in that place. George and Shelly got deluged by a perfectly timed geyser, and us still dry-witted folks teased them about that being their wedding shower. A few moments later, I felt us hit a harder bump which set the raft spinning slowly around. With mounting horror, I began to hear the roar of the waterfall the ride went under. I hoped in vain that we'd hit another bump to change the timing of our spin. It was obvious that we'd arrive under the waterfall in the position which would soak me even worse than a geyser hit. Normally, I don't have much sympathy for sighted people who become scared of the wilder rides. I don't tend to scream on coasters, and simply enjoy each thing as it arrives. I rarely had time to be afraid since I just dealt with things as they happened. This ride, however, gave me plenty of time to hear my back line up perfectly with the waterfall. I still had a few seconds after that to anticipate the drenching I was going to get when that powerful roar swallowed me whole into it. My worst fears for the journey were realised in full measure to the delight of my fellow rafters. I dripped for ages afterward and had to endure sticky wet clothing. A snack I purchased was bought with a bill so wet I wondered whether it would still be legal tender.
I have already mentioned Maggie's love of shopping. As things turned out, I was the only one who had any real dislike of it. Thus it was that I found myself in a clothing and souvenir shop. Three of us had enough vision to see things for themselves as long as they were close enough. Although totally blind like I was, Martha had once had full sight and actually had a good grasp of the colour and appearance of what the others were talking enthusiastically about. I would have been painfully board if I wasn't kept busy twisting and turning in an effort to follow Maggie through narrow spaces among all of the racks and displays. Those little long sharp hooks common in stores like this are no fun to be poked and scraped with as you're worming your way through the maze of items. Short and thin, she had no problem with the confines at all. I being somewhat larger had a hell of a time negotiating my way around behind her. Fashion and I have never been on stellar terms. I certainly believe in looking decent, but won't bother about appearances beyond that unless sighted people demand it of me. Frankly, there are far better uses of my time than trying to make a coherent statement in a language I'm unfamiliar with and can't even hear. I was very glad when we left the shop and could get back to having some serious fun.
The end of the day seemed to hit all too soon for us. Despite our fatigue from constant walking, I think we all would have jumped at the chance to have that one last ride. A place like Wonderland has that kind of magical pull. Even with the sense that most people in the park were starting to call it quits and head out, the sonic ambience seems like some sort of enchantment. I remember taking it all in with a kind of wistfulness. The cartoon music coming out of distant loud speakers blended with the misty rush of the waterfall coming from Wonder Mountain in the park's centre. This seemed to fill the space now vacant of people. It felt like the park was there just for me to decide to venture out in and explore with no cares at all. It was getting late though, and we needed to catch the busses home. As we walked through the exit, I reflected for a moment on what a great day it had been. Any number of things which might have gone wrong had not done so. Maggie's epilepsy had not come into play. Martha's dog had caused no problems at all

despite being in unfamiliar and noisy surroundings. We hadn't gotten lost for any length of time. Nobody felt that they or their desires had been ignored. Other than foot fatigue, we were completely contented and basking in the glory of having accomplished that.
The bus was absolutely packed with people. Despite this, our luck held and we all found seats near each other. We all began to relax. A boisterous but friendly drunk apologized when he had to squeeze past us saying that he wasn't as steady as he had thought. I answered him politely to the scandal of Maggie who couldn't believe I'd actually say something to such an intoxicated stranger. I suppose we had all been sheltered to a degree. University was the experience which gave me the first real inkling of this. I had been around a lot of good people who were still good people even after they had gotten drunk. Some of my best friends are folks who I had just decided to strike up a conversation with. Life's like that. If you don't take the odd chance once in a while, you won't live as full an interesting a span of years. More than that, you won't be as interesting to others. I had always had an intuitive sense of this, but the admonition not to talk to strangers seems to be a favourite among parents of blind children.
Suddenly, the engine stopped running. The hot day and continual operations had finally taken their toll on the last least complex ride we went on. The driver announced that the bus was over-heated and we'd all have to get off to wait for another which was on the way. Everyone else was annoyed to one degree or another. The drunk remarked in an Irish accent I hadn't noticed before that he'd punch the driver's lights out. He was laughing as he said it though, and the driver seemed to take it in stride. We stood there at the side of the road, still able to hear the music and all those incredibly complex rides at the park. The simple everyday bus sat hissing and fuming nearby. Amid all the grumbles of annoyed people, I couldn't help laughing at that stupendous irony. Even at that moment, I knew that it would be the anchor which kept this excellent day firmly in my memory as I got older. It's worked so far.
Mood: happy
1 comment

A Pawn of Fear Apr 20th, 2007 11:44 am
A Pawn of Fear
by Michael Feir


As a blind person, I have often been asked what the dreams of blind people are

like. My first task as a responsible representative of blind people is to point out that I can't speak for all of them, or indeed any of them other than myself. The myth that blind people perceive things in the same way as each other seems to be as prevalent as ever. In my experience, all people perceive things differently from each other. Given this, the best way I know how to answer this question is to describe my own dreams. I frequently have dreams that I can remember. They have inspired a lot of my writing. Over the years, most of the bad ones have been left behind. I often had narrated nightmares as a child. I suspect that this was partially due to those read-along books I used to listen to which had a narrator reading a scene in a story durring or just before hearing an audio recreation of the scene. It was not only frightning but also somewhat embarrassing. The narrator would say something like: "Suddenly, Mike was grabbed from behind by a vicious roaring monster!" Despite this warning as well as a musical indicator that something wicked my way came, I would still invariably be scared witless when the event happened.

While attending a creative writing class at university, I was asked once again what blind people's dreams are like. On the spot, I decided to write about the only nightmare which still plagues me from time to time. There was no particular malice in this decision. I got along well with everyone in that class, and regard it as the best experience I had in university. I just felt that it had been entirely too long since I'd done anything the least bit dastardly. I was rewarded for my wickedness. Ever since I took the time to write what you're about to read, the nightmare has lost a good deal of its power to terrify me. I can't recommend this process I accidentally found for dealing with nightmares highly enough. Take the time to write as much as you can about your nightmare and its various elements. Think about all five senses if you're fortunate enough to have them. Think about every event, every feature of surroundings, every word spoken or thought which you can remember having during the dream upon waking. I don't know if taking my extensive notes and turning them into a traditional narrative helped or not, but I know it didn't hurt. After you've written it all down without taking any shortcuts, leave it until the next day and read it over. Despite this process, I still find my nightmare somewhat unsettling. You shouldn't expect never to have the nightmare again. However, it's far easier to face when it reoccurs after you've thought through it while awake. Be warned that my nightmare is of a very dark and morbid nature. There is plenty of violence and some aspects suitable for mature people. I wouldn't recommend it at all for youngsters.
The path up to the north building is devoid of travellers. I walk along through a kind of windy mist which billows around me. There is no sunshine, even though my watch says it's around three in the afternoon. No birds are around. All that can be heard is the wind blowing through the trees, and a haunting but fortifying music, like the stuff at the start of Silence of the Lambs. the main feature of it is a massive clock's bell chiming on every fourth beat. I arrive at the door, and it screams like a lady as I open it. A clap of thunder ends the music as I go through the door. Walking down the halls of the north building, I can't help but notice how empty they are. I know that everyone has an excellent excuse for not being around. They're all dead for some reason. I've got to see the invisible professor. Never mind that I'm totally blind, and he's totally invisible. I know I'll be able to see him anyhow. This strikes me as frighteningly absurd for some reason.
The walls suddenly seem sinister, and the doorways in them are mouths ready to swallow me whole. Which is the right door? I stop at one and feel the raised letters on the upper portion of the door. Shouldn't they be numbers? Maybe I don't want to read this. I try to pull my hand away, but it's far too late. My hand moves across the letters, which spell out: “Sadistics: Professor blood money presiding.” I don't want to go in, but I'm curious at the same time. I open the door and step into the room.
“Now then, class, this is Mr. Hobbes. His parents wanted him to be a doctor, and couldn't care less about his psychotic tendencies. He was trapped into going here, you see?” As the professor speaks, Hobbes comes into focus. The first impression I get is one of absolute stress, of wanting to do something else! I had to study these books! There was just no escape for Hobbes, or me as him. I am Hobbes, but I'm also still me at the same time. Parents are nagging at me constantly. I know they're not mine. My parents expect me to do my best, but leave it up to me to figure out what I want to do with life. Not so for Hobbes. I feel the sickening stress building up. The monumental force of parental expectation rips me away from my nature. Something has to give, and it does. “Hobbes eventually went mad. He killed his parents with the scalpel they bought him for his seventeenth birthday.” I am Hobbes as he slices viciously at his parents. I'm the mother, absolutely terrified as her life bleeds out of her under her son's all too skilful hand. I'm the enraged father, chest torn to shreds, clinging to life with a sinking desperation. The master bedroom is full of bloody trails. They flow under the doorway and out along the hall floor.
Suddenly, I'm a little kid in another room. I hear a scream, and know something's terribly wrong. I know more than the kid does, but he suspects everything as he gets up and creeps slowly down the hall. It's too dark! Which way to turn? I feel the kid's sense of fear and confusion, and part of me hopes that he'll go the wrong way. Part of me wants to scream: “Don't look! Run for your life!” I know for a fact that he's about to die, and there's nothing I can do but go along for the ride.
“Follow the red bloody trail! Follow the red bloody trail! Follow it right to the end of two lives, and learn every gory detail!” The words fill my hearing, sung hauntingly off-key by a church choir to that tune from the Wizard of Oz. And of course, he does. A sign on the door reads: “Innocence has a price!” It's written in Braille characters formed from severed finger-tips. I don't have to feel it. The kid is too stupid to understand it, but I know what it says anyhow. Stepping into the room, the kid and I grasp it all in a shocking instant. Neatly dissected body parts are scattered at random all over the floor. Hobbes stands in the middle of the room, licking his lips in a disturbingly casual fashion. I feel the kid's mind freeze in horror. The little wisdom he has collected in his six years of life is blasted out of him by dread. Unfortunately, mine is still all too intact. I know too much! The kid stands there in absolute shock. Bits of questions barely begin to frame themselves in his stricken mind. His big brother turns to him, bloody scalpel behind his back.

“Hey, Jake! I got something to show you. Wanna see?” Why did Hobbes have to tell me the kid's name? It's bad enough that a little kid has to die! I didn't want to know his name! I don't want to know about his life at all! Of course, a biography of innocent little Jake appears in my hands. I'm forced to read it, despite its uniform dullness. Jake never got in any trouble at school. He was always nice to everyone, always sharing, and always caring. I resent him for leading such a boring life. He deserves to die for making me read that! The thought horrifies me with its intensity and lack of flippancy. My mind is unforgiving on the whole, but concedes that at least it was only one small volume in Braille.
I feel Hobbes's hatred for Jake mounting to an unbelievable level. He gets away with everything, but doesn't even know how lucky he is! Well, not any more! Innocently, just to get his attention off of his dead parents, Jake looks at the bloody scalpel as it quickly penetrates his eyeball and twists inside his skull. I feel Jake's sudden pain, and then nothingness as his intellect is cut and pulled to pieces by the scalpel. But how did Hobbes himself die? Hobbes has been little more than a concept until this point, but suddenly, he becomes physically present. I feel him jump from a bridge, and land in a river. The water is deathly cold. His many layers of clothing weigh him down, and pull him under very quickly. I feel the water filling my lungs, and the life slowly draining away, unwanted. My perspective now shifts back to the class, and I suddenly realize that all of the students are accidental or intentional suicides. All of them have their own horrific and twisted tales to tell, and I know their stories. The sudden feeling of being surrounded by a veritable ocean of death dissolves into individual stories like a chunk of ice falling to pieces. The first-year student who thought a drink was the perfect cure for stress comes into my awareness, his future nicely preserved inside a brain pickled in alcohol. Sitting next to him is a physics student. He was thinking too hard about the laws of motion as he crossed the busy street where a truck slammed into him. The words: “For every anguish, there is an equal and opposite reanguish!” appear in blood on the black-board. I sense the fatal moment happening. The truck collides with him, and I feel his ribs cave in and gouge his heart to pieces. The corpse lands on a sidewalk, and an old man standing nearby says: “These young whipper-snappers! They sure don't build ‘em like they use to.” The scene peels away from my reality like a layer of dust wiped from a window. I'm back in the room again, ready for more tragedy. I get plenty of it before I am able to continue on my way. I ponder how inconsiderate the dead are being, forcing me to re-live their tragedies. It's as if I don't have an invisible professor to see despite the impossibility of my doing so.
I arrive at the right room. I don't know how I can be certain of this, as there is no raised print on the door. I enter, and there sits the invisible professor, in all his non-splendour. I can see him clearly. This is a fact. I know it is because it's written in a book lying open on the professor's desk. Despite this, I only know two things about the appearance of the learned man before me. First, he is sitting hunched over his desk. Second, he wears his hair in two triangles, like vertical wings sticking up from the top of the back of his head. On his desk is an odd machine whose myriad buttons are scattered haphazardly over its surface. There is a strange old clock on the wall. Its face has words like hunger, pain, thirst, terror, and death, written in place of numbers. The hands are skeletal. The clock says it's now hunger past suffering.
Despite his lack of physical charm, the professor is not alone. A couple in the corner are casually copulating. This strikes me as extremely indecent, but I decide to be polite and ignore it. I begin to discuss my problem with the professor, when my attention is caught by a sudden clink on the floor near my feet. A student who got an F from the invisible professor is busily building a pipe-bomb, and has absent-mindedly flung his screwdriver my way. Out of courtesy, I pick it up and fling it back at him. I aim for his hand, throwing it handle first. Suddenly, the screwdriver is equipped with wings and jet engines. It turns around, accelerates and slides into his left ear with incredible force. It goes into his head all the way to the handle. “Thanks, man”, He says warmly as he pulls it out of the side of his head. I shrug and turn back to the invisible professor, but can still hear the blood and cerebral fluid drip from his ruptured eardrum.
The professor turns on a machine to demonstrate something to me, but it starts to act strangely. “Oh dear!” The professor exclaims as I feel the Braille display he has attached for my benefit. “City traffic lights are now malfunctioning. Casualty count commencing.” Chaos reigns on a grid work of streets which suddenly surround me. All manner of vehicles start smashing into each other. Metal crunches, bodies are hurled through broken wind-shields, and people are carved to ribbons in their seats by flying glass. I feel their injuries occurring as if they were happening to me, although I know they aren't. I'm absolutely helpless to do anything to stop it. I can't save anybody from the chaos consuming them. “ Dread alert! Dread alert!” the machine intones. No shit, Hemlock! I think dryly, but this switch of my favourite detective's first name with that famously deadly poison jolts me out of my paralysis. Inspiration hits me! “What was that for?” I yell as blood drips down my stricken face. I receive only a mocking disembodied laugh for an answer. I reach over and press a button on the professor's machine. A spark ignites the collected

puddles of gas on the streets, and all is washed away in a sheet of flame. This includes several thousand people who would have survived otherwise. As I shamefully withdraw my hand, Kevin's voice from those old cookie commercials says his trademark: “Heh-heh! Oops!”
I quickly reach over and hit another button. “Showers now spraying sulphuric acid.” The display reads. Oh damn! I didn't want that to happen! I am paralysed, and must listen to the screams of dying family members. Head and Shoulders, step aside! The cruel pun springs unbidden to mind in the voice of a commercial announcer. The whole trouble is that they can't move aside, and are the first body parts to be melted by the deadly spray. The clock centres itself into the foreground again to tell me that it's now a quarrel of hopelessness.
While all this is happening, the couple in the corner start to argue. It seems the man had AIDS, and the woman is understandably pissed off at having just forfeited most of her life. She wants to kill him, even though the Red Cross was responsible for his acquiring the disease. I feel her rage increasing, even as her essence drains away due to the accelerated effects of the virus. Her hatred becomes a propulsive force of flames beneath her, catapulting her upwards toward the ceiling of the class. She carries an impossibly large safe in her arms, ready to hurl it down at him as if dropping it wouldn't give it nearly enough momentum. I know it contains her future, now locked beyond all reach. The hundred or so combination locks on the front of the safe tell me that she has no hope left. All she has is her fury. The man stands under his former lover, still figuring through some crazed sense of hope that he can prove his innocence to himself and to her. Part of me analyzes the case as if I were a court judge. The man is only partially innocent. He didn't deserve to have AIDS, but really ought to have told the woman before having sex with her. Because he was desperate for love, he fails to notice his error, and pleads insanity due to love deprivation and an agency beyond his control. She's long past the listening stage, although I'm left wondering why she's bothering to lug that safe up there when the other guy's almost finished with his bomb anyhow. The plutonium in it really ought to be enough to kill us all.
A desk stands near the sobbing victim of chance. If he'd just go under it, it would protect him from the safe. It's made of solid diamond, and isn't that the hardest known substance in the universe or something? I try to advise him of the urgency of his situation, but he is entirely too caught up in his defence. He pulls a pistol from his side, and starts firing madly at her. The safe deflects the bullets, which have labels on them stating the diseases and cancers which compose them. That's a terrible idea! Even one of those could kill her, and she'd then drop the safe on him. I'm just about to tell him this, when he gets her. The safe falls down out of the smouldering cloud of ashes the woman has turned into. Incredibly, it falls extremely slowly. As it does, the woman's final witch-like shriek fades away. Everything seems to freeze in place, except for the falling safe, of course. The hands of the clock spin around until they both point at death.
While they are moving to their dreaded destination, the student finishes his bomb. He puts it into the warhead of a guided missile which he casually withdraws from his coat pocket. By the time he closes it up, it has grown from the size of a pop can into a mammoth engine of destruction. “Don't you think that's a bit of a drastic measure?” I ask in a highly moralistic tone. Things seem to be going so completely out of control, that it behooves me to say something in order to salvage the situation. “This is a populated area you know. Innocent people could die!” I had seen far too much of that already.
“Innocent people? Populated area?” The student's questions, delivered in an excellent John F. Kennedy voice, drip with sarcasm. “Do you see anyone else around here, wise-ass?”
A sense of utter shame permeates me, and I'm forced to sheepishly admit that I saw no one. After all, I am blind, and the professor is invisible. The lover is still there, but a curtain quickly appears to block my non-existent view of him. As if to emphasise this, my cane suddenly appears in my hand, grown as tall as the room itself. The safe strikes it on its way down, and it falls from my hand towards the prone lover. It catches him full on the head, and he falls unconscious to the ground right under the descending safe. The room trembles. Was he that fat before? Suddenly, the lover is as heavy as your average refrigerator around Christmas time. There's no way I can move him out of harm's way now.
“Hi, professor.” The student says with an evil laugh that the professor seems not to notice. “I've finally got my work done.”
“And so you see that the final solution is really quite simple in its essentials.” The professor wraps up his explanation to me in a voice which sounds like W. C. Fields. Thoughts of the gas chambers of World War II fill my mind. The room seems filled with the hiss of gas and the choked tortured screams of Hitler's victims. He turns towards the other student as I thank him and turn towards the door. Why can't

I leave? My feet don't move at all.
“So, you've managed to finish something, have you? Well, bring it here, my boy. Bring it here. I've never quite given up on you, since it's never too late to burn for your mistakes.” Hey! That didn't sound right!
The sense of pure chaos and doom is overpowering, but something makes me turn away from the door. I can't get out of this. The missile fires and homes in on the invisible professor. I naturally conclude that it must be a heat-seeker. The safe comes down squarely on the spread-eagled form of the comatose lover, flattening him thinner than paper. I casually inform the professor of his rapidly approaching doom. I advise him to duck, but a pair of hearing aids suddenly appear about where his ears ought to be.
“Fuck?”, He asks rhetorically. “I'm a bit too old for that kind of fun, my boy. Besides, you saw what just happened to the other guy who tried that. You see, it falls on the rest of us to learn from the mistakes of others, and burn for our own. That's just the way the sanity crumbles.” This line of reasoning strikes me as incredibly wise, and I can only nod my head in utter speechlessness. The missile streaks past my ear, and I reach for it out of pure impulse. It smartly avoids my grasp. The clock bell chimes again. A disembodied scream which belongs to no one in particular and everyone at once fills the room. At last, the missile reaches its destination. The blast catapults me back into consciousness.
As I stated earlier, the act of writing down what happens in this nightmare of mine has somewhat lessened its power over me. I don't believe I'll ever fully understand what factors in my life contributed to it, or what all of the dream's elements mean. I haven't been afraid of my own death for a long time now. I certainly don't look forward to it, but take it for granted that I'll experience death at some point. Historically speaking, that seems a pretty safe if dower assumption. However, accidentally causing others to die is a thought that does trouble me. The professor's chaotic and sinister machine symbolises this fear perfectly. In trying to do good, I ended up causing evil. The episode with the rocket-propelled screwdriver is another element which seems to spring from this fear.
I've always liked things not to be too orderly and in control. A little chaos seems to bring out the best in me. However, I've always been uneasy with the thought of having absolutely no control over situations. if there's any actual theme running through my nightmare, it is this lack of control. Even when I acted, nothing I did in the dream had the result I intended. I was always pushed along to the next horrific experience. Any instances when I briefly had the feeling that I could effect some good only ended up underscoring the sense of complete chaos.
Those who have known me for any length of time might well derive a certain amount of satisfaction to see my cherished ability to twist words around come back to haunt me. Words have been the building blocks of my identity. They have brought me understanding and have made me understood by others. During my school days, I often found that words were the only offensive and defensive weapons that I could use with any degree of competence. Like most weapons, they can all too easily be turned against their wielders. My nightmare is liberally sprinkled with language gone wrong. It is my master, backing me into corners and rendering me helpless.
There are all kinds of theories about dreams and what functions they serve. It is generally agreed that they serve a vital function. Some say that dreams portend things. Others think that dreams are the mind's way of sorting out what we experience. Being a creative person, dreams are certainly essential to me. They have provided me with many useful ideas and insights. I certainly agree that they help to restore creativity. Further, I think that even nightmares may serve a useful purpose. They warn us of things, and remind us that we are never absolutely safe. If nothing else, they provide our pleasant dreams with a foil which lets us appreciate a good night's sleep all the more. On that note, I'll wish all my readers pleasant dreams.
Mood: happy
1 comment

The Alien Conspiracy Apr 20th, 2007 11:31 am
The Alien Conspiracy
By Michael Feir

Many years ago, when I was eight or nine, I had no idea what the word “morality” meant. I realize what a different life I led then, and that this difference was one of the few which is likely common to all of us. I can be certain that all of you understand how easy it was to quash that “little voice”, as my father used to call it, that told you that what you were doing was “bad!”. I can be certain that all of us have done things which we later partially, but not totally, wish we hadn't. Since we've all partaken in the folly of youth, I can let that reason for participation in the “Alien conspiracy” rest. I admit freely here that there was a dose of malice in what we did to the hopelessly gullible fellow I'll introduce to you shortly. However, you must understand that this was completely over-shadowed by a sense of fun and adventure. None of us meant for things to go as horribly wrong as they did. Also, note that I don't write this as any kind of apology or defense. Our actions were cruel

and unfair no matter which way you think about it. This is a confession of a sort, but I seek no atonement. There can be none. For as long as I live, I'll go on laughing at the trick I helped perpetrate. My laughter, however, will always be tempered by guilt.
Before you can properly appreciate and/or cringe at this conspiracy I mentioned, you must have some understanding of what insanity life could be in the institution for the blind where I spent the first two and a half years of the school days which I have any recollection of. This place was one of the boarding schools for the blind in North America. I lived close enough so that I could go home on a bus for weekends, but many students basically spent most of their younger years there, weekends and all. The effect of this was that one's conception of “real life” became largely based on life within the school. Everyone understood what it was like to be blind since most people there actually were. Very few students, at least in my dormitory and classes, had any vision at all. The ultimate effect of this, as far as pulling pranks went, was that you could get away with just about anything if you were careful that none of the sighted staff were around to see you do it. One of the favourite pranks was to swap someone's seat for a garbage can for them to sit in. Rubber bands were fired at will, even in small classes. The only restriction was that you had to wait until there was other noise in the room. This noise would provide the cover which would prevent people from easily localizing the small snap made by the launching of these annoying projectiles. Voices were routinely changed to protect the guilty. I once had a class firmly convinced that I was their female supply teacher. They were actually doing work before I coughed and ruined the whole thing. Braille, as essential and beneficial as it is, was also a major source of grief to the unsuspecting and gullible. No matter who writes it, Braille, unlike print, is always identical. There were countless ways to put this simple fact to spectacular advantage. One of the most devastating was to forge a note from the principle informing the unfortunate victim that he or she had to report to the office and be ready to face any number of punishments. I fell prey to two of these very official and terrifying notes, before learning that the P.A. system was used to summon students to the place of supposed dread. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the office got upwards of three or four unexpected and uninvited quivering visitor s per week.
Now, you have some sense of the common kinds of mischief that went on there. As you struggle to fully absorb the implications of what a day could be like if enough people chose you as their victim, I'll begin to explain higher forms of mischief. At last, the time has come for John, my crackpot of a room-mate, to make his appearance. I know now that John was and still is mentally retarded. Back then, I had no idea what that actually meant, and merely regarded him as particularly gullible and stupid. Most of my circle of friends felt much the same way about him, as did some of the older kids who made use of the play-room. All kinds of ingenious schemes were devised to torture and terrify this poor young loner.
One mean teenager with particularly lofty delusions of grandeur had John firmly convinced that he was God himself. John would be minding his own business, building a tower from the large plastic blocks kept in the large playroom. This was John's favourite activity, and he wasn't too bad at it. If the thunderous crash of their destruction is anything to go by, his towers usually grew fairly high. After he had finished, John would always step back in order to rest and either sonically or mentally admire his work. No sooner had he taken this fateful step, then a loud crash would be heard by all present. Before we could laugh at John for his supposed clumsiness, a deep voice would bellow: “Thou shalt not build!” This mischievous and soft-footed teen would quietly sneak close to John, knock over his tower, make his declaration, and then step quickly and silently away. After a few seconds, he would calmly approach John and inform him that he had broken one of the ten commandments. Opening a book which he claimed was a bible, he proceeded to recite to John all ten commandments, with the obvious revision of one of them. John would get down on his knees, (on those few occasions when he didn't land squarely on his ass), and begin hysterically stammering out what passed for a prayer for forgiveness. The main reason why I doubt that this was a holy book at all, other than the decidedly uncharitable way this trickster went about inspiring holy terror, was that the bible in Braille consists of around twenty-five large volumes. The sound of the pages turning was wrong for a volume of this type. The pages were just too thin. Overall, I'm drawn to the conclusion that this tome, though ponderous, was nothing more vital to salvation than a copy of the phone book.
Another older girl, gifted or cursed with a particularly wicked voice, had John firmly convinced that she was a wicked witch. She would have fit perfectly into the Wizard of Oz. John was fairly careless with the few belongings he had, and was always losing or forgetting about them. The major exception to this frivolous disposition was an old stuffed dog of which he was very fond and proud. if John displeased or annoyed this woman in any way, or, if she were merely in a spiteful mood, she would utter those famous and fear-inspiring words: “I'll get you, my pretty, and you're little dog too!” John would clutch his dog tightly, if he happened to be holding it, or run quickly to his room and grab it if he wasn't. Someone would usually find him sniffling in some corner, guarding his stuffed faithful companion. The musical

lament sung by the Scarecrow was constantly being piped up around him. People would whistle, hum, or just sing it outright. I don't think he ever realized the cruelty in this. He would sing snatches of it cheerfully enough himself from time to time.
We used to sneak up behind him and lightly hit him on the back, telling him that the sky was falling. He'd run off to hide under the nearest thing he could find, yelling: “The sky is falling!”, at the top of his lungs. Why objects would somehow fall silently through the roof of the building, not to mention the floors above us, without causing some kind of damage or being stopped by these obstacles never seemed to occur to him. The fact that no one else ever seemed to be hit by small pieces of sky never seemed to trouble him either. To try and convince each other of the absolutely unbelievable wasn't all that uncommon in those days. The only uncommon element in this was that with John, you didn't even have to try and convince him. He'd readily believe just about everything.
Eventually, we all grew bored with the idea of a falling sky, and my friends and I decided it was high time to pull a wholly new and wondrous prank, the likes of which John had never experienced. There were four of us sitting in a quiet corner of Robert's room, calmly discussing the most absurd ideas we could think of. Could we make him think the school was on fire? Probably, but we all saw how that one could potentially get out of hand. It was actually fairly possible. It was also lacking in originality. The fire alarm would be pulled by some prankster or other at least twice a term. Could we convince him that he was going to be arrested for some imagined crime or other? Probably not. None of our voices were sufficiently authoritarian to sound like those of actual police. The problem of height occurred to us as well. Everyone knows that cops are supposed to be big and tall. At age twelve, Henry was the oldest and had the most cop-like build, being a fairly athletic sort of guy. It actually might have worked if something could have been done about his as yet childish voice. Several other ideas were discussed and dismissed in their turn, before the grand scheme of making John think that our school was to be the site of an alien invasion occurred to Robert. Robert was by far the most well-read of us. He was always using big words. However, he was always willing to explain them, so no one held it against him. We began to work on the concept, and found that each of us could contribute to the plan. Henry had a CNIB tape player which we could put in one of the cupboards we had to store our personal effects. James had a number of tapes with sound effects on them, and also had a highly prized “double-decker”, which could be used to copy things from one tape to another. Robert could explain the large words and the essentials of alien existence to whoever was chosen to play the part. Of course, that chosen one, (drafted being somewhat closer to the truth), was me. After all, I was his room-mate. Robert was as well, but he had to do most of the thinking. That got him off the hook.
Initially, our plan was to keep the illusion going for as long as we could, coming up with new ideas for it as we went along. We had a sense that like the falling sky, we'd eventually find the prospect of an alien invasion to be rather tedious, and have to come up with another idea. We'd end it all by finally showing John how it was done, and have a good laugh at his expense. So went the plan. Vague and skeletal as it was, we eagerly put it into action. I don't believe any of us knew that ominous saying about best-laid plans being laid waste.
Over the course of the next month, we slowly worked on John's natural resistance to the idea that I, a here-to-fore fairly normal room-mate, was anything but a kid two or three years older than himself. We soon discovered that John had no idea what an alien was, or even what outer space was supposed to be. I now realize that Robert and Henry were probably the only two of us who actually had anything like a proper notion of these concepts. James and I had only those notions which come of listening to cartoons like Battle of the Planets. Space, we thought, was a really big place just teaming with strange monsters, neat-sounding ships, and those wonderfully sinister “intergalactic villains” Robert was always going on about. For the most part, James had shied away from pulling pranks on John, so it was decided that he would be trusted more than the rest of us. Therefore, James should be the one to explain these basic concepts to John and to “figure out” that I was an alien. None of us envied him this role. Explaining anything to John was no one's idea of a good time. We had all heard a well-meaning but short-tempered member of the staff make a disastrous attempt to explain the use of a knife and fork to him. The staffer was driven to absolute fury, and John was so stressed that he had flung a knife across the dining room. Although not especially sharp, the handles of the knives we used were heavy enough to cause more than a little pain. The knife had landed harmlessly on the floor, but could have easily hit any number of people. James spent the first week or so filling John in on the basics, and telling him about those evil “intergalactic villains!” He was fairly good at it, and by the end of the week, John started asking me timid questions about aliens and space. Were all aliens actually bad? Why was space so big? Were there many monsters out there? So many questions, and so little certainty.
In the meantime, Robert was coaching me on how to “talk alien”. As it happened,

he was a Star Trek fan, and told me about the famous Mr. Spock, and his “Vulcan mind melt”. even Robert's understanding of things was off the mark on occasion. The true Star Trek mind meld was a means for Mr. Spok to link his mind directly with others. Not too many kids know about a word like meld though, so it's hardly surprising that Robert came to the conclusion that he did. This was a fortuitous error for him to have made. To have one's brain melted! What could be more “totally gross!” What would it be like? Seeing the potential usefulness of adding a dash of terror to John's existence, we worked out what such an experience would be like. You'll learn the horrors that presented themselves to our misguided minds in due course. He taught me such words as “interplanetary”, “hyperspace”, and dozens of others. I had known that we lived on a planet, so “interplanetary” wasn't too hard to explain. Saying it without sounding uncertain of my ability to pronounce the word was a different matter entirely. Neither of us really knew what hyperspace was, but we both concluded that it sounded like a “real cool fast way to go places”.
The month rolled on, and as it did, more pieces of our illusion were put into play. James played his part beautifully, ending up seeming to force me to confess my Vulcan origin, and the impending invasion. Why a scout from the planet Vulcan would confess such top secret information to a scrawny little kid like James never concerned us in the least. Fortunately, John never questioned such “ minor details”. Despite countless slips back into “earth talk”, such as:
James: “So! You are an alien! Where are you from?”
Mike: “Ninety-two Harvard road...Er!... Vulcan! Yah! That was it!” and:
James: “What's your favourite food?”
Mike: “Frosted brains!”, John began to actually believe that I was an alien.
That tape player, so thoughtfully provided by Henry, and so skilfully provided with strange sounds by the efforts of Robert and James, became a central piece to our operations. There were sounds for all kinds of things. Whenever John came into the room, and I happened to be in my cupboard, I'd turn on a taped sound of the Star Trek transporter beam. I'd then step out of the cupboard and greet him with a “Hello, Earthling!”, which was about as spooky as I could make it with my all too human high squeak of a voice. When brushing my hair in the mornings, I'd put on the sound of a hair dryer at twice normal speed. That was one of the great things about those nifty CNIB players. You could change the playing speed, and, for a special thrill, you could play things backwards if you flipped the tape over and threw a switch into the right position. It was amazing how many totally innocent and beneficial things we managed to find devious uses for. A dog's bark became the growl of a pet space monster when played at slow speed. A children's book of fairy tales, played at slow speed and backwards, became my commander who would want to talk with me on occasion. One student at the school was fond of breaking windows for some reason. We recorded one of his destructive acts and played it at high speed, telling John that it was a garbage smasher. As unpatriotic as it was, I took the Canadian national anthem. Playing it backwards at an absurdly slow speed, I stood solemnly at attention for the whole thing. Well, as solemnly as was possible while trying desperately not to laugh. I told him it was my “interplanetary anthem”, and hoped that I was using both words properly. The anthem was my idea, so we didn't have the reassurance of having it sanctioned by Robert. I've paid dearly for that flash of wickedness. I've never been able to hear the national anthem without grinning at the very least.
It still amazes me how long we kept the prank going, despite numerous extremely close calls and tense moments. All of us realized that if the wrong people discovered what we were doing, punishment would be fairly severe. Being anything but perfect, we all made mistakes which might have, or even should have tipped off someone as crazy as John to the truth. I made all kinds of errors in my speeches and ravings like the ones presented above. The tapes we used for sounds were not always blanks, and sound effects would often be followed by bits of music or stories before someone thought of stopping the player. All good things, and even bad ones, must come to an end though. For us, things fell to pieces very suddenly and unexpectedly.
I had just transported into my room having finished sending my intergalactic report card for the day. I made a show of smacking my lips as if I had just been snacking on asteroids. (Lame? Extremely, but Robert couldn't think of any space foods, so we went with them because they sounded like something you'd pass around at parties. I think Robert knew that they were rocks, but I suspect he had as little of an idea of their potential size as I had.) Of course, being human, my mouth was empty and I had merely run back from classes. I had begun to habitually try and get to my room before John did in order to have some fun with this whole alien thing each day.
“Hello, foolish mortal!” Robert had just taught me those two words. I had no clue what they meant, but thought they sounded wonderfully sinister.

“Hi, Michaelalien!” John tended to join his words when even remotely nervous. “Is the vasion today? You don't have your braimelter on you, do yuh?” Unlike many other concepts we threw at him, this one had some staying power. For days, we had kept him terrified of having his brain melted.
“I have it right here!” How could I miss an opportunity like that? At this point, I pulled out the toy space-gun which was, to John if no one else, my brain-melter. “You know what happens when your brain gets melted, don't you?” I shook the space-gun at this point, so that it made a small click as if being loaded. The click had more of an effect on him than any words Robert or I could have cobbled up.
“Please don'melt my brain! Need it!” Yes, reader, the obvious question “What for?” did occur to me, but I couldn't think of a sufficiently witty way to put it to him so I grudgingly let it go. Instead, I launched into the tortured tale of the melted brain.
“You're thinking along, and suddenly, your brain gets really really hot! It gets all crispy around the edges. Then, it starts to bubble in the middle. And then, it all turns into this big slimy blob. And then, the blob falls down into the back of your throat, and you choke on it and die!” I ended this speech with the most wicked-sounding laugh I could muster.
John was at the ragged edge of what passed for his sanity. I knew this intuitively, even before he began to whimper a bit. I knew it, and even savoured it for the few seconds I had before all hell broke loose. Despite the fact that it would have been an act of betrayal towards my faithful comrades in arms, I was very sorely tempted to say something like: “Guess what, John? It's brain-melting time!”, and fire off the space-gun. that would doubtless have caused him an instant's worth of the purest terror to be found this side of Hell, but his brain not being melted, this impulsive act would have shattered the illusion beyond easy repair. I'd have to somehow acquire a different space gun. These were highly valued and carefully guarded items. What happened instead was infinitely worse.
“They're here!” the shriek of mock terror came in from the hallway. I had never heard the voice before, nor have I ever been able to figure out who it was who wrecked our plans so thoroughly. The scream was immediately followed by the sounds of a fierce space battle from one of those read-along Star Wars tapes. Ships and laser blasts seemed to whiz down the length of the hallway past our room. Whoever decided to join our conspiracy had set up a pair of stereo speakers in excellent positions. Had it not been for the musical score that accompanied the furious exchange of fire, I might have been halfway convinced. John could have won a gold medal for high-jumping had he been able to leap as high as he did just then on a regular basis. I heard his head hit part of the ceiling of our room. I'm uncertain whether the part that he hit was lower than the rest of it, but regardless, it was still an incredibly high jump for little tykes like us. He then ran wildly out of the room at a pace which would have put the road-runner to shame. He was yelling: “They're here! They'll melt-our-brains! We're historeeee!” I don't know where he got hold of that word, but suspect it was either Robert or Henry, both western fans, who might have used it while threatening him with my supposedly awesome powers.
It took a moment for me to gather my somewhat scattered wits, but after that, I was right behind him all the way. Heedless of the doors he rammed open by sheer force of impact, he charged onward through the fortunately empty hallway. Except for Robert and Henry, we were all too young to carry canes at the time. It didn't matter that things had just gone to hell in a split second. For the brief moments while we were in the hall, I was able to laugh unreservedly at the results of our little conspiracy for the only time in my life. I laughed at the sheer cruel farce of it all, as I puffed along behind him. I thought of what an absolute lunatic he sounded like. I laughed at the relief I felt that my part was over at last. I laughed at how all our efforts were thrown off kilter by the only member of our audience that I ever learned about. Someone had appreciated the sheer insanity of what we were doing enough to want to partake in it himself! It was downright vindicating in a way. During this time, I had lost all track of time and space. I had absolutely no idea where we were going. This didn't really trouble me much until we actually got there. The principal's office isn't typically on a prankster's list of prime destinations you know. Nonetheless, there I stood. John marched in and let loose the last words I heard him speak that day:
“Ms. Smith! Ms. Smith! There's a vasion goin'on! Aliens! They'll melt-our-brains!”
In the two and a half years I attended that school, I don't think I ever heard Ms. Smith or any other staff member caught quite so thoroughly off-guard. She burst out into a cackle which made me feel like my hairs were standing on end. The next sound I heard was John thumping on the floor. I'm not certain whether he fainted, or passed out. I didn't run into him for the rest of that day. That was when I began to feel guilty for my actions. I knew the axe was about to fall, and I wasn't disappointed in this belief. I think it goes without saying that I told all. I didn't even think twice

about giving her the names of my three partners in crime. Surprisingly enough, they never held it against me. Considering the heaps of trouble we all got into over our little caper, this was nothing short of miraculous. The punishment we were subjected to sunk the smiles off our faces like the iceberg sunk the Titanic. And yet, it didn't completely destroy the comic power of what we had done. All of us could still laugh at the whole thing, even at the worst of times. I guess one of the reasons why we could do this was that John didn't seem to be all that traumatized by it in the long run. After a fairly shaky couple of days, he was back to his usual gullible but fairly cheerful self. Nothing ever seemed to make a lasting impact on him. There were times when I almost envied him his innocence.
Two years ago, I met up with John at a lodge for blind people situated on Lake Joseph. He's still a cheerful and gullible fellow, and his marbles continue to illude him. I had to tell him what my name was at least half a dozen times during each of our conversations. I didn't take this personally. Despite a four-year relationship, his girlfriend had to do the very same thing. He didn't remember me at all, nor the cruel trick we had played on him.
Over the years, I've found that the “alien conspiracy”, as Robert ended up coining our enterprise, has left me a rather mixed legacy. As I grew older, kinder, and somewhat wiser, I've learned what a cruel thing it was to be a part of. Even though I'm certain now that we made no truly lasting impression on him, it doesn't lessen the guilt and shame. We took advantage of an innocent and entirely too gullible person. In contrast, I have also found that there was a lot more comedy to be enjoyed in the whole episode than we found in it at the time. The old reasons for my guilt-ridden mirth are still just as valid as ever they were. I'll never forget his shriek of absolute terror, and the way he ran screaming down the hallway. James was the most unlikely space hero imaginable. I was an absolutely pathetic excuse for an intergalactic villain. Despite this, it all worked out anyway. I laugh at all the hilarious slips we made, which never quite had the disastrous effect on our plans that we thought they would during one horrified instant after another. I laugh at our ingenuity, and at all the crazy, misguided notions we put into play. We all had such a stupendous sense of control. It's funny how one guy with a stereo managed to rob us of it completely and escape unknown and unscathed. He turned our prank into the stuff of legends, but kept his own obscurity. John himself seems not to remember it at all, but apparently, the story has been passed along. I've had several blind youngsters whom I had never met before come up to me and say: “You're not the Mike in the Alien Conspiracy, are you?” My affirmative answers to this are somewhat less full of pride and good cheer than they seem to expect. But then, the story they know has been twisted somewhat. They know the fun of it, but not the whole of it. To them, the “Alien Conspiracy” was the pinnacle of all pranks. I have no doubt that it has now fallen from its position of greatness, but am convinced that I'll meet people eager for the “whole story”, twenty years from now. I'll give it to them too, but they'll have to take the grit along with the glory.
With the exception of my own name, I've changed the names of everyone else involved in this incident. I have a number of reasons for writing this down, but causing the various participants any more pain and embarrassment than they've gone through already isn't one of them. The institution to which I refer has doubtless changed drastically since I left. I doubt very much that any practical joke quite as cruel or prolonged could happen nowadays. For one thing, more students are visually impaired, rather than totally blind. It's a lot harder to keep something like what we did secret when people can see what you're doing. Also, I have yet to meet anyone quite as impressionable as our young victim was. As far as I've been able to tell, no one except that one person who joined in the fun knew how long we kept the prank going, or how terrified John actually was. The whole episode spanned about a month's time.
I've always had mixed feelings about this whole episode in my life. I thought that by writing about the “Alien Conspiracy”, I could sort out my feelings concerning it. Ultimately, what I've come to realize is that it's only natural to have mixed feelings. Anything else would almost be abnormal. I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't found reason to laugh at the misfortunes of others from time to time. The simple truth is that remorse and mirth aren't always mutually exclusive. One of the two almost always dominates, but neither can ever entirely eclipse the other in a case like this.
As I've alluded to earlier, the whole enterprise had a kind of magical and adventurous quality to it, which I'll freely admit to cherishing to a degree. I have yet to hear of anyone being involved in a prank as detailed or blessed with sheer luck as this one was. It just seemed to fly along, despite the countless ways there were for our antics to be brought to a screeching

halt. Yes, it was quite cruel. I could never go along with anything remotely as mean as this prank was now. Like any other young school-boy, I was ignorant. So were my partners in crime. It was an immoral experiment in psychology. What could we make this nutty guy believe? How far could we bend his reality? I think we all had a sense that what we were doing was mean. I certainly did, but for me, it seemed about equal to hiding someone's toy on them, or smearing toothpaste on somebody's pillow. Only afterwards did I attain any real sense of how reprehensible our actions were.
Despite this sense of wrong-doing, I still find myself unable to hear the Canadian national anthem without grinning at the very least. Thinking about how the whole thing fell apart still evokes quite a chuckle. My pity for our hapless victim doesn't lessen my sense of amazement, nor render me incapable of finding amusement in the whole affair. Now that I've written it all down, I realize that one of my reasons for doing so was simply to share a good story. I've told it orally on frequent occasions, but never as fully as I've managed to set things down here. Why should this story be told? Well, for one thing, if it does nothing else, I hope it will convince you that us blind folks aren't really as marginal as is sometimes thought. We're not all musicians, bumbling fools, incredibly deep and wise, nor as free from the propensity for youthful mischief as some would all too easily believe. I can't count the number of times I've been accused of “never doing anything wrong in school”. Given the opportunity, we can be just as helpful, and just as harmful as anyone else. You've doubtless read stories of remarkable achievements of people like Helen Keller or Louis Braille. Well, here's an achievement which certainly qualifies as remarkable in its way. This remark ability is dwarfed, however, by the remark ability of its being recorded. I've read tons of books about sighted children getting into all kinds of strange mischief. However, other than reading Tom Sullivan's biography at around age eighteen, where he recounts some of the capers he got involved in, i never read about any blind kids pulling pranks.
Another reason for writing this is simply to capture the experience of a slice of my youth in a form that I can share with others. I want you to feel, if possible, the sense of wonder and fellowship which I experienced. There is magic here, a very important and special kind of magic. However, I also hope that you feel some small portion of the pity and unease at your mirth that I have over the years. Perhaps, you'll even think twice before engaging in a prank of your own. I am by no means advocating a life of sainthood here. There's always room for the odd practical joke, or slightly dastardly deed. Life wouldn't be half so interesting without them. Just be certain that you consider the consequences of your actions.
I've suffered the odd twinge of guilt along the way, but on the whole, I've immensely enjoyed solving the puzzle of how to recount this properly. Time after time, I've gotten the sense that people miss one side or the other of the equation. Either they grasp the amusement in its entirety, and miss the darker side altogether, or they find it impossible to understand how I could find anything to laugh about. I can only hope that you, my readers, have come closer to my experience than either of these positions. Ultimately, empathy is why I wrote this all down. Experience a part of what made me who I am. Have a taste of the uneasy laughter I've enjoyed. The ability to empathize is all too rare, particularly among the young. I find it ironic that this ability is often only gained due to the lack of it in others. With that parting thought, I leave you to your own deviousness.
Mood: mischievous
1 comment

Camp Chaos Apr 20th, 2007 11:26 am
Camp Chaos
By Michael Feir

I've never been a big fan of camping trips. This is particularly the case when it comes to the kind of structured tightly controlled day camps that all too many kids find themselves stuck in. I do better when things aren't so structured, but I've never been known as any kind of out-doorsman. The trip I'm going to recount here happened when I was somewhere between twelve and fourteen as far as I can figure. I can't remember the exact year. It was a trip organized by the CNIB out to a place called Killbear Lake. The atmosphere was quite relaxed as this was supposed to be more of a vacation than anything else. I wouldn't have agreed to go otherwise.

It was quite a bus ride up there, but there were all kinds of interesting people to talk to. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but got the impression that most of the campers were itching to get there and start things going. Eventually, they got their wish. We took part in everything from setting up our tents to getting the camp fire ready to preparing food for the volunteers to cook for our evening meal. It was only a one-night two-day trip, so we did quite a lot during the first day. Swimming was excellent. I've never been fond of freezing cold water, but the weather was quite hot and the water was at least warm enough for me to enjoy myself. They arranged a buddy system for safety so that each blind person had a sighted buddy. This was the only real jarring element straight out of day camp. I felt betrayed somehow. Everything had gone great until they started that business. After around ten minutes in the water, just as I was finally getting truly comfortable in it, they completed the silly business and called "Buddies!" I always hated sitting there dripping while they made certain that everyone was out and getting hypothermia with their buddy. The sun was masked by a cloud just to add insult to injury and I was starting to have second thoughts about going back in by the time we were allowed to. Ultimately, it was worth it. We got into a splendid water fight and had heaps of fun. There was nobody there to put a stop to it or scold us for fooling around. There were no attempts to teach us all manner of swimming lessons. Unrestricted spluttering splashing warfare prevailed in full high and friendly spirit.

After drying off, we went on a long walk through the woods. My experience of such things had been marred by too many lecture-laiden strolls where well-meaning folks had tried to force us to appreciate nature by teaching us volumes of boring details. Resigned to my probable fate, I set out with everyone else into the trees. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no such agenda this time. People were silent for the first wile giving me a chance to get some thinking done without being interrupted. Slowly, I began to truly appreciate the woods for its sense of life and mystery. When conversation started, it was of the everyday variety. We all got to know a bit about what mattered to each other and what was happening in their lives. One boisterous blind camper impersonated a wild animal and actually succeed in scaring one of the sighted volunteers into bolting for his life. We killed ourselves laughing including the somewhat chagrinned volunteer who came back at a more leisurely pace.

All of us were a bit worn down by supper time. The burgers and dogs were excellent though. Helping clean up wasn't exactly fun but was accepted as fair enough. The volunteers got some things ready for our breakfast in the morning. They left out a large bag of brown sugar on one of the tables by the fire.

As the evening progressed, people congregated around the fire. Good conversation and good times were the order of the evening. Some of us were musically gifted and treated the rest of us to some nifty tunes. One guy brought a flute, a couple had recorders and there had to be two or three guitar's. I wasn't into music at all back then, but appreciated the craftsmanship and effort it took to create it. We traded anticdotes, discussed various aspects of our lives, told jokes, ate some roasted marshmallows, and enjoyed the heat. I'm pretty certain it was one of our volunteers, older and supposedly wiser than us young folks, who first got the idea of getting a handful of that sugar I told you about earlier and chucking it in the fire. This produced a surprisingly loud hiss and flash of bright light. A lot of us had light perception and took note of this. We all took turns throwing handful's into the fire until somebody started a heeted conversation about Star Trek and distracted everyone including the volunteers from the sugar. Star Trek is one of the rare TV shows which is completely easy to follow for blind people. The captain's logs and well-written dialogue kept things from ever being too confused. Favorite episodes, characters, technologies and such were discussed in spirited fashion with the sighted people filling in many little details which weren't apparent to blind Trek fans. Meanwhile, one of our number snuck over to that sugar bag and lifted it quietly up from the table.

Explosions in space and whether they should have sound or not was what I remember arguing about when it happened. Since it was a show based on science, one of the sighted fans put forth that there shouldn't be any sounds at all during space battles. This thought horrified those of us without sight. What fun would all that space action be without the neat sounds in there? A bunch of people were rising to what I now suspect was bate to get a good bit of verbal pugilism going. Suddenly, there came what seemed almost like an explosion right there on Earth. Whoever the sneaky guy was had gone and thrown the whole bag of sugar in the fire. There was a kind of muffled wumph sound followed by a very loud hiss like a strange wave. I think everyone including the sighted volunteers were a bit stunned. I didn't immediately click into exactly what had happened, but instantly knew something was happening which was anything but ordinary to our fire. The heat and light hit first. A few seconds later, I knew exactly what had happened due to the smell. Those of us who had light perception were treated to an extremely bright sustained flash of light as the sugar went up in a kind of strange-smelling smoke. We were all a safe distance from the fire, but all of us felt an intense wave of searing heat. I can't ever recall experiencing anything remotely as bright and vibrant. I stood there absolutely exhilarated and full of wonder. Two ordinary every-day things had combined to produce something extraordinary. Had this been a day camp, all the fun would have stopped dead until the culprit confessed to his crime. Thank goodness it wasn't. Most of us, blind or not, were able to realize what had happened and everyone seemed to regard it as a cool thing to have experienced. I agree entirely with this. It's always dangerous playing with fire. However, it was neat to experience something like that with a slight element of danger to add to the rush. I and most of my contemporaries have led quite sheltered lives. I don't go out of my way to court danger, but appreciate it when rools are bent enough to allow for unusual sensory treats like that was.

After such an eventful long day, we were all quite tired. I didn't lead an especially active life, and was really feeling the effects of all the fresh air and exercise. With the added responsibility of keeping an eye on us, the volunteers were also very tired and somewhat out of patience. I was in a tent with two other blind campers and a sighted volunteer. We all settled down to sleep. I was so ready to drift off that I wasn't even bothered by the bugs. I was, however, bothered by one of the blind campers who shall remain nameless. He found himself having to go to the bathroom an hour after the volunteer had taken us all there. I was in no condition to help. Even if I wasn't exhausted, I didn't know my way around the site. The full-bladdered camper kept insisting that he had to go pee soon. Our volunteer was just too tired to rouse himself and come to his aid. I was getting more perturbed each time he repeated his plea for help. Finally, in pure exasperation, I said: "Go piss in a pop can already!" It was just one of those flippant throw-away ideas. I had no idea that a pop can was even handy. One was close to hand though and I was amazed despite my fatigue when I heard the needy camper pissing into it. With all the magical swiftness found in a Saturday cartoon, my flippant suggestion born of sarcastic frustration had turned into reality. He amazingly didn't spill any all over the tent or cause his nether regions any injury while doing this. However, one problem solved led to another. We now had a stinking can of piss to get rid of. Though not quite up to getting out of the tent and taking the offending vessel with him, our volunteer was willing to support more minimal efforts for dealing with the problem. The only solution I could think of was to throw it out the tent door.

Figuring it might be dangerous to just chuck it in any old direction, I prevailed on the volunteer to have a quick look out the door and find a safe direction to wing the can in. This didn't seem too taxing a problem for him as he didn't even have to sit up to accomplish his task. Relieved of his distress, the author of our misery agreed to move over and throw the can. The volunteer told him to throw it hard left. Sadly, this didn't end up being specific enough. I heard the can being thrown. Next, there came a soft impact followed by wet spattering sounds and a final chink as the can hit the ground and rolled away spilling its contents. The results were clear even before the volunteer informed us of them in a voice filled with disgust and unwitting culpability. "Oh shit! You hit the girls' tent!"

Nobody said anything after that. I lay awake for quite a while and think the others did as well. We were listening for shrieks of outraged loathing that seemed certain to follow our dastardly deed. However, the night's silence was unbroken. I slept despite my slightly troubled conscience as did we all.

A paul of dread hung over us as we rose the next morning. We were leaving earlier than the unfortunate ladies in the tent we unintentionally doused. They were still sleeping as we packed up and went off for breakfast. The food was good, but I couldn't get the thought of those poor women out of my head. The day was gloomy which further increased my unease. More than one kind of storm seemed about to arrive. I just hoped we were on the way home before either of them did. I almost got my wish. The volunteers disassembled and packed our group's tents quite quickly. We were getting ready to board the bus when we started hearing the ladies coming out of merciful slumber into what had to be an awful sudden state of disgusted alarm. "Yuck! Who threw piss on our tent? Those bastards!" Other exclamations were lost in the sound of the engine of our bus starting up. I wanted to walk up and apologize for my part in what had happened, but was at the same time relieved that I couldn't. It took quite a while before the shame faded and I was able to laugh at the incident. It seemed to fit so neatly at the end of the trip. I had learned a lot and enjoyed myself more than I would have ever thought possible camping. When other opportunities came up, I was far more ready to give them a chance than I would have been without my somewhat unusual experience of beyond day camp.
Mood: happy
1 comment

stories Apr 20th, 2007 11:25 am
Hello, everyone. I'm having a good day so far. Work on the guide has gotten as far as it can for the afternoon but I'll doubtless end up doing some tomorrow. As some of you doubtless know, I've been working on an autobiographical book for the past years. I've decided that this would be an excellent place to share some of that and perhaps receive comments on some of my work. I don't regard these drafts as final and will likelymake further changes with or without your feedback before the book is completely done. The next three blog entries are three of what seem to be my best pieces. People have responded favorably to them so far. They will also serve those who wan to get to know me well as they contain a lot of my reflections and current thinking. If possible, please post comments on these stories onto this blog so that I don't miss yours by not checking each story separately. It'll just keep things a bit more organised. Enjoy, folks.
Mood: thoughtful

kids today Apr 16th, 2007 11:03 am
Right now, I feel absolutely on top of the world. I’ve just come back from doing a presentation at a public school. The grade 8 class came up with some very good questions and I hope my answers stimulated some thinking. I certainly enjoyed the experience. The kids seem very open-minded and eager to learn. I hope that carries forward into the rest of their lives. This was the first opportunity I’ve had since moving back from Oakville to do something in the off-line community face to face with people and it felt very fulfilling. I know my writing will eventually make a difference for blind computer users but until it’s done and out there, I won’t have any sense of impact. Not so for what I’ve done today. I could feel the enthusiasm in the air of that room. I know I’ve done something positive. It has quite literally recharged me in a fundamental way.

Other than that, I’ve gotten quite a bit done already in my guide this morning and think this afternoon will be a very productive one. Despite the blustery day, it did me a lot of good to have somewhere meaningful to go in it. I can’t exactly say I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s dentist appointment but they’re very pleasant people to talk to when that’s actually feasible. As far as one can enjoy getting one’s mouth poked, picked and pried, I’ll do so. I haven’t looked into what’s going on this week in the online blind community but I have no doubt there’ll be some interesting stuff to join in. Also, it looks like the Reif lectures for the year are being podcast from the BBC. Those are pretty much guaranteed to be interesting. The first one was an absolutely blast to listen to over the weekend. I just have to be careful not to miss grabbing any of them. The CBC has the Massie lectures which I’m also keen to hear when they come out. I just can’t remember when that’s going to be. They too are typically very engaging. Scott Sigler has a book called The Rookie that I’ve been eagerly following for months. There are just two episodes left now and I have no doubt they’ll be exciting. When I get around to writing the story behind the game Enchantment’s Twilight that I sadly won’t be able to produce as a full game, I may try that approach and podcast the book before I see about publishing it. But first of all, it’s back to the grindstone to work on the computer guide. Online shopping will be what I focus on today. I want to be certain I warn people of the dangers and what precautions they should take without leaving them with a sense of fear about making use of such a powerful tool for blind people who are able to use it.
Mood: rejuvenated

feeding the creative drive Apr 13th, 2007 11:09 am
Things are going quite well today. It looks like I'm through the worst of separating from my wife and adjusting once again to the single life. I've made good progress on my guide for blind computer users. The section on tuning into Internet media is now done in rough form. I've begun work on the section on internet communications and communities which will be one of the most extensive parts of the guide. Isolation is certainly a problem blind people like me are prone to. Of course, creative people need their solitude in uninterrupted chunks. Striking that all-important balance between that and so[SPAM WORD]ation is tricky even if travel is easy. It's not easy for me. Navigation has always been a weakness I've had to contend with. As a result, I'm very grateful for online communities. They give me an audience and a means of having an impact when there's nowhere I can physically go. I hope to eventually find a way to interact more with people in my geographical area. As long as I can get transport there and back, I'm happy to volunteer some of my time. An opportunity to do that is coming up soon if all goes well. I'll be talking with some children in school about what it's like being blind. I've always enjoyed doing that.

Last week, I went to see my good friends Ron and Sylvia. I had an excellent visit with them and it was very nice to not be alone for most of the day. I get along very well with my parents but need to spend more time with my peers in life.

I've been taking in a lot of podcasts, books, and Internet radio lately. Complete silence is nice at times but normally, I like to have some noise in the background. One of my favorite podcasts is Escape Pod. It features shrt science fiction an fantasy stories. Check it out at:
As for my taste in music, it varies depending on what I'm doing and my mood. Right now, I'm listening to Sky FM's new age station. I also like their top hits. Check them out at:
Thanks to Shoutcast, I have a number of dance music stations I like. Fusion Radio Chicago is one of the best. Their home site is tricky to use so I just use Shoutcast to find the station. Robert Heinline and Piers Anthony have sinspired and cheered me up with their excelent prose. I thoroughly enjoyed Citizen of the Galaxy as well as a couple of Xanth novels.

Slowly, a new routine in life is starting to take hold for me. I'm not sleeping exactly normally just yet but am managing on around six hours most nights. I guess that should get better over time. One activity I've neglected in the last number of days is playing games. I've been so busy writing and chatting that they've taken a temporary back seet. I'll make a point of playing some over the weekend which looks like it'll be a quiet one.
Mood: peaceful

moving onward Mar 25th, 2007 1:03 pm
Sunday, March 25, 2007

I feel absolutely content with life at the moment. It’s not like I’ve done anything all that drastic. I have a very productive week. It was fascinating hearing the webcasts from CSUN. I think I needed something like that to start life up again. During the cession, there were times when the audience could interact both with the exhibiters as well as each other. I made a few very interesting new friends.

Progress on my guide for new blind computer users is going very well. I got more done in the past week than I had in the preceding month and a half. I still have a whole lot of work to do but things don’t seem nearly so daunting now. I have a good pace going there.

Rebecca and I are on better terms and I think we’ll be able to remain friends or at least part company with a degree of grace. It still causes me a good deal of pain when she jumps to a negative conclusion about either myself or my family. It’s hard not to feel entirely frustrated and like you’ve completely wasted your efforts over the past years of marriage if you don’t even get the benefit of the doubt. Still, she seems at last to understand where we’re coming from in our approach to things. I just hope that lasts. My patience for needless idiocy and suspicion is at an incredibly low point. It’s also quite clear that we’ll always disagree sharply about how things ended up. I think I’ve genuinely moved on though. Today has helped with that.

Nothing extraordinary happened to have that effect on things. I went to church this morning. I suppose the sermon made me re-examine exactly how God leads us. This new examination of that didn’t yield any sharp change in my stance on that. I don’t believe everything is pre-destined. We have choices and there is a great deal of randomness in life. God sees through that confusion from his vantage point outside of time and gently guides us for the most part. We always have choices and they typically aren’t either to obey or be a rebel. Things just aren’t that simple and thank God for that.

This afternoon, I listened to Tapestry. This is one of my favourite shows on CBC Radio1. It examines faith and its effects on daily life. I heard from a western Buddhist all about meditation and how another faith than my own adds to the good of the world by showing its followers to be ever conscious of the present joys and sorrows of the world and always looking for ways to help wherever possible. This is certainly a good stance for Christians to take and resounds deeply in me since that is largely how I strive to live myself. That is what a conscience and a work ethic demands of me.

I guess it all left me feeling very relaxed and good. I look forward to attending an event this afternoon on
where I can get to know other members of that online community. I hope to have more of a physical social life built up soon. However, an online social life is a heaping lot better than absolute solitude and I’m profoundly grateful for the people who make that possible. I look forward to doing some real good online over the next while and eventually to seeing how my computer guide is received. I also tried a new free accessible game called Treasure Mania from
I found it quite baffling at first but believe I’m getting the hang of it. It seems the developers are paying attention and improvements to it are on the way. I’m very glad to be all settled in here at home and to have the time to truly enjoy things and absorb new thoughts.
Mood: animated

life well lived Mar 11th, 2007 1:50 pm
Blog entry

Not so very long ago, I swore I’d never write a personal blog. I based this position on the old saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely. A writer couldn’t ask for more power than what a blog offers. Whatever gets written in these things is instantly and irrevocably published for all to see. There is no time for reflection or sober second thought. There is no editor beyond one’s own conscience at the time of writing. I’m actually acquainted with people who have suffered due to another person’s blog. Although I don’t think they had as much cause for concern given what was written, I can well imagine their feelings of utter powerlessness as their faults were laid bare for curious eyes. Keeping this in mind, I will try to follow the golden rule at all times when I add to this journal. My conscience has always been a powerful force in my life. Perhaps, I’m up to the challenge of wielding this new power appropriately in a way which will hopefully prove helpful, inspirational and of interest to others. First and foremost, I’ll do my best to do no personal harm to anybody through what I write in this journal. I know there will be days when I’m sorely tempted to cut loose on any number of people. Given what I’m going through in my life at present, the temptation and testing pretty much starts right now.

I begin this blog during a transitional period in my life. My wife Rebecca and I have sadly discovered that our marriage simply isn’t going to work out. There are two many differences between us. The realisation that things just could never work out so that we’d be truly happy together came very suddenly. However, looking back on things now, there were plenty of warning signs. Love has a way of letting us gloss over our rough edges and faults. When you find that you’re no longer in love, it’s a whole other world. I never could have predicted the incident that proved to be the last straw. Now that it’s happened though, it seems so obvious how much we had both sacrificed in an effort to keep things going placidly along. I won’t go into the many personal reasons we have for ending things. That would clearly fall into the potentially harmful category. Just be aware that neither of us came to our decision lightly. Facing this has definitely not been easy. The last few weeks have been excruciating and exhausting. Intellectually, I know that separating is the right thing to do. I have no doubt that we’ll both live happier lives apart from each other. However, there’s no getting around the fact that I’m basically breaking the most serious and heart-felt promise I’ve ever made in my life in order to make the rest of that life worth-while. I also leave behind much of what we’ve built up over the past five years. Despite how things have turned out, that life certainly had its positive aspects. We had some very good times and experiences together. At the end of this month, I’m moving back into my parents’ home to live there until permanent affordable housing can be obtained. That process may take anywhere from months to years. There’s no way of knowing. Given what I’ve been through, living with my parents again is going to feel strange. I’m too much a different person from when their house truly was my home. They’ve always been very supportive of me and respectful of my adulthood. I’ll certainly have a pleasant time while I’m living there. However, it’s just a pit stop on my way to a place that I can truly call my home. I have a strong sense of being adrift now.

Further increasing this sense of being adrift in life is a more profound lack of sleep than I’ve experienced before even during the hardest parts of my academic life. Ever since we concluded that our marriage was essentially over, I’ve done the noble thing and slept on the couch leaving our bed for Rebecca. As a result of this as well as the turmoil which comes of bringing five years of married life to an end, my nights have been rather tortured. I believe I’ve now reached a point where I’m more at peace with our decision. My conscience isn’t flogging me like it has been over the past while. We’re leaving on pretty good terms all things considered. We don’t hate each other or anything so dramatic as that. The only major trouble now is that couches just aren’t designed to be slept on. There’s also that sense you get sleeping in the main room of an apartment that somebody could walk up and knock on your door at any time. It’s just not secluded enough to give that sense of security despite the fact that I’ve never yet slept long enough to be woken up by visitors.

My dreams have changed sharply in character. I usually remember them in terms of some sort of story. Lately, however, I’m left with strange fragmented vivid moments in subconscious time. Things are brought together which normally wouldn’t be. These moments seem more real and sharply etched than many of the dreams which have inspired my writing over the years despite their disconnected nature. Standing on a beach holding a number of Lego blocks, walking on a balance beam while tossing bits of a broken clock away, eating a hamburger while somehow climbing a ladder backwards, crossing a bridge while throwing a basketball into space, and many more such strange items are left for my edification upon waking. I presume my subconscious mind is trying to sort things out for me and isn’t just playing havoc for pure devilry’s sake.

It’s strange to be both looking forward to being back home with my parents and at the same time resenting the need to be. I’ve more than proved I can live on my own. However, there’s no affordable housing immediately available. Rebecca and I waited for six years to have affordable housing. That puts quite a lot of pressure on a marriage even if you’re lucky enough to have supportive friends and family as we do. Now the country will in all likelihood have to provide two separate apartments where one provided in more timely fashion might have saved the marriage.

Thankfully, there are still some constants. As I said before, I’m fortunate to have a very supportive family. I also have a number of very good friends. It’s at times like this when you see just how valuable these relationships are. They’ve all been there for me in many ways as I’ve struggled to come to terms with things. Thanks largely to Rebecca, I also have faith in God as a welcome resource. I know that nothing has truly been wasted in his eyes and that I’m forgiven for not always being up to the high ethical standards I set for myself. I think he’s been trying to tell me two things: I’ve learned and experienced what I needed to from my relationship with Rebecca. She brought me out of complacency and into faith. Our marriage gave me a far deeper and different perspective on life that I don’t know I would have gotten any other way. Also, I’ve reached the limits of my patience and compassion. Until now, I had no idea there were any. I’ve literally done all I can for Rebecca. Her problems and insecurities are just too big for me to deal with over the rest of my life. I have to trust that God and the good people in our lives will take care of her. I’m no longer equipped for that role. I can enjoy life more as well as do much more good in the world once I’ve moved on.

Having a sense of self and knowing what I truly value in life are things I’ve always felt I had. The irony of finding out that I ultimately chose to marry somebody who didn’t truly share a number of very important values isn’t lost on me. It’ll be quite some time before I have the same trust in my ability to judge other peoples’ character. When I use that ability in order to serve other people, I do very well. However, when it comes to intimate personal relations, I’ll have to start again at square one. I was absolutely certain that things would have worked out for us together. Perhaps, in the final analysis, I needed this painful and costly dose of humility. I can only hope and strive to see that the life I have now reclaimed is lived in a worthy fashion.

In other aspects, I’m a far more confident and stronger person than I was before I left home. My sense of purpose, self-worth, pride in accomplishment and direction in life are all quite clear now. At heart, I am a social person. However, I must have sufficient uninterrupted time alone in order to write, ponder and create. As a single person with a place of my own, I’ll be more able to utilise my strengths and maintain a good balance. My ability to be content with circumstances and make the best of things will be much better used. Nothing makes being content harder than living with someone who never is. If you’re a moral person like me who takes commitment seriously, it’s impossible not to be permanently changed by this kind of experience. I feel a great deal older than I did just a few weeks ago. I have a much keener appreciation for just how capricious life can be and of how valuable time is. It’s so vital that we make the very most of our lives and enjoy as much as we can. In doing so, we help others gain more from their own lives.

Given current conditions, it’s extremely unlikely that I can find permanent sustainable employment. I’ve learned first hand how difficult it is for blind people to find work particularly if their skills don’t lend themselves directly to suitable jobs. I have a BA degree in English from the University of Toronto but it’s harder for me to find an entry-level job than it is for a high school dropout. Given this, I’ve come to see that the best way for me to use my time and feel that I’m earning my keep is to live well. What do I mean by that? It’s simple in concept but harder to actually achieve in practice. You have to find a healthy balance between the need for enjoyment and the need to have a positive impact on the world. A lot of blind people who can’t find employment despite their best sincere efforts make the mistake of simply becoming sponges. They absorb all sorts of kindness, information, and other resources and don’t find ways to give back anything. In my case, the internet has provided me with a very powerful tool by which I can use my skills in writing, communication, community leadership, and understanding technology. Through it, I can give back to society and derive stupendous amounts of enjoyment. Being the master of my own time again means that I can direct my efforts to where people I come into contact with, my conscience, interests and God directs me. Often, I find myself swept up in one cause or another. A crusade against spy ware, an exploration of the idea of blind culture, and writing the guide I’m working on at present are just the most recent examples of this. I hope also to find more ways of doing things with people in the “real world”. This has proved difficult due to my weak abilities in the orientation area. I’m very good at getting around buildings. However, getting from A to B outdoors has always been a major problem. I don’t see that changing any time soon although things should get easier when I can move to affordable housing in Hamilton. They have more resources there for disabled people needing economical transportation. Until that happens, it looks like the online world will receive the bulk of my efforts. As long as people can get me there and back, I’m more than happy to help out. I wanted to volunteer at a distress centre in Oakville but the funds just weren’t there for me to get reliable transportation to and from. It sounds like I might have better luck with that sort of thing in Hamilton.

The major project I have going right now is an effort to swell the ranks of blind people who use their computers and the Internet more fully in their lives. It is a guide which will approach computers from a personal life angle. I hope it goes some way toward making up for the very basic training many blind people have. Too many people out there have only been trained to read and write with their machines. Computers can do so much more for blind people if they can just get past the whole hangup about computers being work tools used in jobs they’re unlikely to obtain. Enough other people are going at this from the employment skills angle. What’s being missed is that through using computers for fun and the pursuit of personal interests, you gain useful skills and are also likely to gain new friends and acquaintances. Both of these are absolutely vital even to have the slim prospects for finding work that we currently face. The current generation of sighted people are certainly benefiting in that area from having grown up with computers as personal tools in their lives. It’s way past time the blind world caught up. If at all possible, I’d like to have the written guide finished by the middle of Summer when I plan to attend the Lake Joseph centre for a much-needed vacation. If time permits, I will also have a series of audio lectures to accompany the tutorial. Other software on the CDs I’ll be distributing the initial copies of the guide on will be either fun or helpful to beginning users. I received the encouragement and requests that compelled me to start working on the guide last Summer while on vacation there. I’ve enjoyed many vacations at the centre over the years and have done some of my best writing while doing so. It is therefore very fitting that those who happen to be there while I attend should be the first to benefit from the guide assuming I can get that finished.

A very eventful week has gone by while I’ve worked intermittently on this blog entry. The lack of sleep we’ve both been struggling with finally reached a point of crisis. As a result, I moved home on Wednesday completely abandoning previous ideas of a far more orderly end to life together. Thankfully, my family was up to the sudden change in schedule. By this Sunday, I should have my furniture and other personal effects out of the apartment and back here. I’ll also have high-speed internet again. What an absolute relief that’ll be. I’ve been using an open wireless network that’s been intermittently available. Doing anything online has been very frustrating. All I could pretty much be certain of was that at some point during a given day, I’d be able to get my Email. I’m not used to having messages sitting in my out-box until it’s actually possible to squirt them out. That’ll all be behind me on Sunday. I’ll get my phone line some time this coming week. I’ll then have the tools I need to start rebuilding life in proper fashion.

Thank goodness! I’m back online again! My router is up and running so my father is also able to use his laptop’s wireless connection to surf the net without using his phone line. It’s good to be able to help him start to truly enjoy the Internet. I’ve certainly got a lot of catching up to do with things. I’ll also be visiting the online chat places more frequently. I feel like a whole universe of possibilities is ahead of me. Being adrift isn’t such a bad thing now that I’m not so cut off. I have a second chance to forge my life and I don’t intend to waste any of the painful lessons I’ve learned over the last five years. My phone service should be here fairly soon now. I’ll have quite a few calls to make.

Future entries in this blog will certainly be shorter and will I think be more likely about observations of less weighty and certainly less painful matters. One way or another, I know I’ve got a good life ahead of me. I intend to make the very most of it and to share my good fortune as much as possible. That, I have always found, is a very rewarding practice. Rebecca and I are on much better terms. Truly sorting out our level of friendship from this point onwards is going to take some time. There are still a lot of raw nerves there. Other than that, the loose ends have tied themselves up far more neatly and rapidly than I could have imagined. I look forward to the interactivity of this new medium. As I write more, you’ll all get to know me better. Feel free to comment if you like. I won’t promise to respond to all of them but will certainly keep an eye on things and respond where and when I can. My personal Email address is:

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