Tuesday, November 4, 2008

bumps in the road

Hello everyone. This is the first writing I've done in days not counting the odd email. I'm just recovering from an illness which struck just after my birthday. Before my birthday, I went to a presentation where a group of forty interested blind people and some mobility instructors had an opportunity to try out four of the GPS devices made for blind people. The woman who I've been teaching learned about it and thought I would find it interesting to go. Yet another reason to be glad I took the time to write the guide. The day wasn't exactly made to order for such a presentation which necessitated outdoor travel. The wind made it hard to hear what was broadcast to the fm transmitter we each carried. Wearing an earpiece in order to hear what we could also effectively robbed us of half our hearing so I was glad someone sighted was there to act as sighted guide. Trying to keep up with a group navigating with one ear only in an unfamiliar environment just isn't very smart. Still, despite all this, I was able to get a good first impression of the kind of information each of the alternative devices would present one with while in use. Ironically, the only one of the devices which truly impressed me was the Trekker Breeze, the cheepest option available unless you already needed or owned a cell phone and special screen reader for it. That was the real problem with most of the other options. They were either too bulky, costly, or required you to get a ton of extras when all you truly wanted was something to help you get around. I don't yet see much use in my getting a cell phone. Even if that changes, the only thing I want it to be able to do is act as a damned portable phone. The only time I want to pay for it is on the exceedingly rare occasion that I choose to use it. If you go the cell phone route with this talking GPS stuff, you then also need to pay for internet connectivity. The Trekker Breeze can't do everything that more expensive solutions can. You can't browse different cities with it or anything like that. It's for right around wherever you happen to be. As you travel through an area, it can help you explore it by telling you points of interest within a given range. You can also save points of interest as possible destinations and record your own landmarks. Updates to its maps and software are free for the life of the product. You pay for the unit and that's that. No further costs other than additional maps if you need these are forthcoming. I've arranged to have a more extended chance to examine the Breeze in a couple of weeks. This is one kind of product where you truly need hands-on experience to figure out whether it's worth the cost. I want to try out most of its features first-hand on the route I've been learning and in my neighborhood. Even with some financial help, it's still quite a major expense for me. Taking the long-term view, I believe it would be worth it as it would make me more able to walk around independantly in whatever new area Janene and I end up in after we marry. The directions I heard it give as we went around the block of the hotel where the workshop took place were quite good and precisely what I would need to know. However, I don't know how much was a pre-recorded route, recorded landmarks, or coming from its initial map and database of the area. Getting to try it out in my own area will help me be a far better judge of whether now is the time to jump on the GPS band-wagon as I suspect it might be. I came into the workshop somewhat doubtful that I'd find anything which would be of immediate interest. Less wind and warmer conditions would have made the whole experience somewhat more attractive. However, I've certainly left with a new respect for what a liberating change this technology can be for blind people.

My birthday was quite a good one this year. I relaxed during most of it and finally got around to hearing a nifty horror podcast called Psudopod which I had wanted to check out for quite some time. I also listened to some of the terrific Sherlock Holmes stories that I was able to purchase thanks to birthday money from my parents. It's definitely a posession I'll want to hang on to for life. The BBC has done wonders bringing the whole collection of stories and novels to audio life. Later, I went out to the Keg with Janene and my parents for an excellent meal. Nothing beets a Keg steak. All of us enjoyed ourselves. We went back home afterwards for cake and watched some TV. Unfortunately for me, my birthday happened to coinside with the final game of the World Series. Baseball just isn't something I have any interest in at all. I believe we saw the last four innings of the game. Conversation was pretty much brought to a stand-still as everyone else watched the game. Time just seemed to drag like dead weight. A floor up, I had plenty of interesting audio to listen to, games to play and/or TV to watch assuming that something more interesting was actually on air at the time. However, I knew Janene was interested in seeing the game ending and I felt somewhat socially obligated to stay there with her and my parents. It was an unfortunate sour note ending off an otherwise excellent thirty-fourth birthday. The kind of thing I take pains to avoid. In normal circumstances, I realise that there will be occasions where I'm with a group of people who will take an interest in things that I won't share. In those circumstances, I tend to take the longer view and willingly go along with or sit through whatever everyone's up to which doesn't appeal to me. It's just part of the give and take of being social and outgoing even when you're not dealing with a sighted person's world. Not taking an interest in sports puts me even more in line for this sort of drag time. There are countless blind baseball and hockey fans. I understand, while attending a party, that it doesn't revolve around me. There's bound to be some down time. However, on my birthday, I don't think I ask too much not to be put in such a situation of boredom. Everything necessary was there already. I hinted a couple of times that we should go off and do something else. However, all I could think of at the time were the audio dramas I had at hand. Janene tipically doesn't want to listen to those particularly at the end of a long day. Eye candy always wins in such circumstances where fatigue is involved. That is, I think it fair to say, true of sighted people as a general rule. I was sitting down there bored out of my tree with literally two days worth of fresh new never-heard-before adventures just waiting for me. None of which, however, would have appealed to Janene just then. I would have loved to share my gift with her but she was in no frame of mind to appreciate it. Had I suggested we go up and watch a movie or, more appropriately given the hour, a shorter show of some kind before she headed back home, I would likely have had better luck. Because I watch so little TV, however, I had no alternative suggestions to offer. I don't tend to look over the TV Guide anymore and would doubtless have to search out an accessible site again unless Zap2it.com hasn't changed for the worse since I last used it.

Later, I tried to explain this to Janene. I wanted to avoid that relationship deathtrap of withholding discontentment until well past when expression of it is at all rellevent. I saw it as a pretty simple small fix to avoid similar things happening on future birthdays. She saw it as an indictment of her and thought I was also tired of being bored when we spent Sunday nights watching TV with my parents. That experience, although sometimes boring in part for me, is what I regard as part of family routine. It gives my parents some time with Janene and I as a couple. Also, we normally end it with a show that Janene and I are interested in. Mythbusters is a nice and engaging way to see a weekend out. Something I can get my mind into. It's a lot more balanced and doesn't leave me as completely in my own world of boredom as that World Sieries baseball did. Also, they're just ordinary days for me. It took around three tries for me to be certain she properly understood this and wouldn't go off feeling overly guilty or thinking that everything had to change. I was pretty tired by that point and very well may have been already coming down with the illness which I'm still recovering from.

The next morning began with a slightly sore throat and a stuffed head. I was feeling more tired than usual and figured I'd better warn Janene. What I had hoped would be a 24-hour thing proved far worse than I expected. Basically, I lost most of thursday and Friday completely. Janene and I were going to go down town and watch the Rick Mercer show live. It would have made a great evening out. We also had planned a lunch with a couple of friends for the next day. Thankfully, I was actually up to having lunch but it ended up being with Janene only. That was probably for the best as I don't think I was anywhere close to being at my best. I seriously couldn't have navigated sonically to save my life. Everything sounded puffy and misplaced around me. I'm finding that Dayquil and Niquil are helping out quite a lot. They don't completely eliminate the symptoms but definitely reduce them to more manageable proportions. Hopefully, I'll be rid of whatever this bug is by the end of the week. I'm finding I have more energy now which is a good sign I think.

On Sunday, I got to meet Adam's new girlfriend for the first time. They certainly seem smitten with each other. We all got a long quite well. She seems prepared to cope with Adam's being a gamer in much the same way Janene copes with me being into games and audio stuff. She's willing to tollerate it and dip her toes in on her own terms. I hope things work out for them over the longer term when the work of relationship maintenance starts and the novelty and some of their physical passion wares off. I can't say that I'm convinced that they actually have enough in common. That kind of thinking strikes me as being damned jaded even as I so naturally think it. I hope I don't wake up one day to find that I'm a grouchy old bastard who wouldn't recognise goodness if it thwacked me with my own cane. You'd think first-time loves never lasted at all. I catch myself thinking more cinically more often and it's certainly given me pause given the drastic improvement of life I've enjoyed over this past year. It was amusing to hear how their overt displays of affection impacted Janene. She doesn't think we were ever that physical with each other in public. Perhaps she's right, but I can't help wondering what the staff at our favorite restaurants would conclude having seen us in our days fresh in love. Youch! Does love go sour? That sounds aweful! If handled with care and attention, I believe love ages gracefully and becomes better much like wine is supposed to.

That whole area of having separate major interests is something both Janene and I have certainly given some thought to in the past. Despite the growing popularity of podcasts and audio books for sighted people, when the chips are down, they just flat out prefer to see things while being entertained or stimulated. They tipically listen to these podcasts and audiobooks when they're either commuting on busses or while they're hurtling down the road in control of a thousand pounds of their own personal steel in order to stave off boredom. At best, they're doing dishes or something which won't result in carnage should they get too engrossed in what they're hearing. Eyes dominate in a truly different way. When I used to read books in Braille, I would always do it in silence even when that was purely optional. My ears didn't start jumping around for lack of things to focus on. Eyes do that though. They need things to look at most of the time.

Both of us have aspects to contend with like that. For her, it's pictures and visual art of all kinds or sights in nature wile we're driving around that she wishes I could see. I'll be able to read her writing since she tends to do that on a computer. However, her drawings will never amount to more than words when they're described to me. They strike her emotionally but are merely points of a moment's conversation for me. The real trick is finding things to enjoy together to keep a relationship going and fresh while satisfying both our separate needs. She can enjoy the scenery and presumeably some interesting sights on the road during a long drive somewhere. On that same trip, I enjoy conversations or hearing something interesting on the radio or merely being with her. I also tend to enjoy wherever we end up going. We both get a lot out of going places together. We can also add some different observations to each other's interests when we talk about them. We both enjoy good food and good conversation. We have a shared interest in language and words. Our overall moral outlook on life is very similar. We talk a lot about our friends and their lives. Both of us share an interest in keeping up with world news and discussing it. There's enough drawing us together that our different worlds give us more to tell each other about and spark conversations. While it can indeed be frustrating when your lover isn't as thrilled with what you care about, it's far easier to keep things fresh than when both people share all the same interests and have had too much life experience in common. Janene has said on more than one occasion that she wouldn't have been ready for me if she hadn't gone through her failed marriage and subsequent experiences first. I can see more clearly after thinking all of this through that I wouldn't have been ready for our life together had I not gone through my own lesson in what lasting love has to be based upon. I simply wouldn't have had enough of a sense of the give and take of life. One of our real strengths as a couple is going to be how important our friends are. Both of us share a keen desire to help where we can and to share our blessings with good friends. They'll keep us two from becoming too inactive and give us places to go to paired with good reasons to go there. We can also relax together while doing our own things.

It's tuesday now and things are going alright again. Janene and I went through a little tention over a fairly substantial paper of hers last night. She occasionally gets into a panic over things outside of her control. The only thing you can do is just hunker down, shut up and wait for the storm to pass when circumstances prove conclusively that her worst fears aren't going to come true. That's an extremely tough thing for a guy to do. I hope I get better at dealing with that over time. I seem to have the majority of my energy back now. The head, however, is still a little stuffy. My ears are ever so slowly returning to normal. Perhaps, in a couple more days, I can play a sound-based game with some hope of doing well at it again. I got a bit more work on the game design document done today. It was good to get back to that. It'll be my main focus for this week. The week after, I have another teaching cession as well as a mobility lesson. A delicious sign of the times comes in the form of those small holiday oranges. I had a couple today and they were quite good. It seems that the instant Halloween's over, thoughts turn to Christmas. There is no pause for a collective breath. The impact of the holiday season on retailers was all over the news this afternoon. Would people still be interested in gadgets despite the economic uncertainty, etc, etc. I'm all for the holidays, but might I have a moment to get the gore makeup cleaned off before people think it's the result of running into a Christmas tree?


Heather said...

Maybe a good compromise would be a pair of headphones and a portable device to listen to your audio?

Look at the bright side...at least the World Series is only once a year.

Michael Feir said...

That's pretty much as bad as getting up and walking away. I don't mind using my bookport in situations where everyone else is doing other stuff or we're on some long-distance drive. However, it was a gathering in celebration of my birthday. Ultimately, I very well may have felt better had I plugged in the headphones. At the time though, it just seemed rude to do that as it pretty well shuts you off from your surroundings. It's one of those awkward social situations where there's no really good way to handle it. Cell phones seem to generate a lot of those awkward situations. My ex-wife and I had friends come and visit for a couple of days where they seemed so often to be talking on their cell phones or waiting for people to call them that one wondered why they came at all. It got to a point where we did ultimately tell them how we felt about that. There was just no getting around it. The same can apparently happen with Blackberries where people drop conversations they're in the middle of just to check email or something. How about the rest of you out there? What are your social pet pieves and what do you do about them?