Saturday, March 28, 2009

inner happiness and outer space

Hello everyone. Today, my father and I installed my new Bose Companion 3 speakers. Things went more smoothly regarding getting the desk up onto small bricks than I expected. Nothing even slid on the desk surface or lower shelf. So far, it seems to be quite stable. The speakers themselves produce very good sound especially taking their small size into consideration. Things seem much more balanced than with the Logitech X540 set of surround sound speakers. The sub-woofer just overpowered the other speakers too heavily no matter how you tweaked it. Also, I could never really get the rear speakers situated very well. The virtual surround simulation feature of my soundcard is actually producing better results with these speakers. Apparently, they'll sound even better once they've been used a while. It's a phenomenon called "burn-in" where components need to be worn in like a new pair of shoes. A lot of reviewers talked about that. I presume I'll be adjusting the bass compensation over the next while as that happens. I don't need the desk as far out from the wall now since the sub-woofer fits under the desk and fires forward as opposed to downward. Music sounds a ton better through these speakers. So do games.

The cell phone is also up and working. I've gotten a pay-as-you-go plan. We'll see how the economics of that work out over the next while. The setup was quite easy as things turned out. I got the simcard for free. The plan is to receive calls on the cell phone and then call people back using Skype. I can call anywhere in North America on Skype at no cost. Theoretically, despite how expensive cell phone calls are at 25 or even 15 cents per minute, I should do alright. It'll also be handy to have when I'm away from home provided I remember to take it with me. That'll take a while to get used to. One thing's for damned sure. When I'm out visiting, the phone will be off. I refuse to be one of those idiots who brings proceedings to a halt so somebody can take time I've already decided to spend with others. Doubtless, many of my contemporaries would think that a very Victorian and curmudgeonly stance but well, there you have it. Just because it might be possible to be in contact with everyone all the time doesn't always make it a good idea.

Regarding the new version of Internet Explorer, that hasn't worked out so well. It keeps freezing up on me after a while. I ended up reverting to IE7. None of the new features appealed to me all that much. So much has to do with consolidating all the information you zip around the Internet for into one screen or page. Sounds like a real good way to get comfortably stuck in a rut to me. Yet another dismal sign of how much people are packing into their lives so they have no time to look around for new possibilities. Firefox might be the next move for me but I'll wait a little while and see if they fix things given the not so positive feedback they seem to be getting. I know, damn it! I'm an incurable optimist.

The space shuttle seems to have landed alright. I caught that earlier this afternoon and it sounded pretty neat. They seem to have had quite a good mission this time around. One of these days, I wouldn't mind checking out a physical model of the international space station and having a better sense of what it felt like. I've read a lot of dismal commentary of what a waste all this effort in space is. Frankly, I hope they discover a nice mass-time-travel device so we can send all of those folks mor short-sighted than me back to the stone age they seem to cherish so much. The moment we stop exploring new horizons both artistic and real as a species, we stagnate. I got a pretty good taste of what that kind of life was like after Rebecca and I separated. It took something close to five months to pull myself out of the dead space I inhabited. Certainly, life suddenly got a whole lot easier and less costly in physical terms. However, there was nobody new to see. Nowhere I had any inclination to go. There was working on the guide but I already had a sense of where that had to go. Those idiots are gravely mistaken if they think that money saved by abandoning outer space would automagically ease this world's problems. How many billions have been chucked at the poorer countries of Earth? How many ads have I heard about the plight of African's, the poor of India, the homeless right here in Canada and the US? Things only make a difference when good people approach them with truly good attitudes and intentions. Even in that circumstance, due to the short-sighted idiots in said countries or helping said people, a lot of the money gets misspent or downright stolen. They see a chance to improve their own lives quickly and obscenely in comparison to those around them and don't contemplate what a better life everyone could have if the lives of everyone around them improved just a little.

Space exploration inspires good people to think in new directions. It keeps our minds open and even by changing the single constant of gravity, opens up new potential discoveries. They were looking at bacteria up there and a load of those experiments have just arrived back for scientists here to look over. Remember that salmonella outbreak a while back? What if some observations made in the new environment of space lead to breakthroughs in dealing with that? The space program has certainly already given us better construction materials and computers. How many improved or saved lives would make the money spent on space worth it in their eyes?

Sorry about that rant, folks. I just get frustrated when I see all these negative comments on the CBC site right below any article discussing what goes on in space. There's too much damned negativity in the world. Happily, I have it on good authority from a psychologist on DNTO that happiness leads to greater creativity and more openness to possibilities. Take that, Darth Vader! I, for one, am pretty happy all in all. Good friends, good family, a lovely betrothed and new possibilities in life are things I'm very thankful for. On that happy note, I believe I'll sign off for now.

Monday, March 23, 2009

a nifty weekend

Hello everyone. It's Monday morning again. I've just had quite a nifty weekend. There was so much going on that I'm glad to be able to relax today and tomorrow. My grandmother came over for a visit. She's doing quite well and it was good to see her again. Her hearing might be dropping off a little but not too much thank goodness. Other than that, she sounds as healthy as ever. I showed her the netbook and she was amazed at how small it was.

Friday night, Janene and I went over to her friend Barry's house. He does this Barry Kirkey Show those of you who read peoples' comments to the blog will have seen mensionned. Not to cause anybody's cranium to rupture, but the best way to concisely describe it that I can think of is like a radio morning show served anal side up with generous helpings of smut and indecency. Definitely not recommended for parents or children. The anxt of the young adult single male writ large and with little heed to future consequences. Paradoxically, what little contact I've had with a few people involved in this group seem quite decent and thoughtful folks. They just seem to need this kind of bestial commic releaf. It certainly made for an interesting and darkly fun night out for Janene and I. Not something I'd do very often. I tend to be pretty conservative about publicly discussing sexual matters and such. Doubtless, most audience members found me quite dull.

Barry is one of those people who you can just tell are very loyal, caring and considerate despite themselves. Those who take the time to get to know him rather than judging him by his cover will come to realise that. Sadly, there are a great number of people in this world who refuse to take a closer look at people who are at all unusual. They lose out on a wonderfully unpredictable, quirky and refreshing dimension to life. They'll grow old fast because they fail to see the true value of childhood play and aspects of it. He has the strong whiff of antihero about him. You can never be certain which way he'll go or what he'll say next. The fatherly part of me wanted to reach out, tap him on the shoulder, and say something excrutiatingly paternalistic. "Come now. You have so much potential that could be far better directed to good purpose." or some such nonsense. That wouldn't be fare at all. He and his audience are just coming at life from a different angle than I am. They've had a lot more worldly experience while I've had a lot more time to absorb and reflect on things like self-identity. I can see how Janene thinks of him as a kind of younger brother. His girlfriend seems to be secure enough in her own identity to not mind him making a crass fool of himself. Barry's co-host is a good friend who I expect will stick by him through any rough weather which might happen should Barry take things too far with his show one day. Sadly, I believe that's a distinct possibility when you're pushing hard at all the social boundaries. Barry also tends to use voiceclips out of context so don't take anything you hear me say on the show or future ones seriously.

Saturday was extremely busy. Dad and I went out first thing in the morning to grab some beer. We also picked up a set of Bose Companion 3 speakers which were on sale at Futureshop. I think they'll be far better and easier to manage once I've moved in with Janene. I've never been comfortable with the idea of speaker wires trailing across an apartment floor. Also, over the years, I have yet to be in a situation where it's possible to actually position two rear speakers correctly. Having them not lined up right doesn't do wonders particularly while playing sound-based games. Also, having a sub-woofer which fires downward may annoy people below. The Bose Companion 3 speakers certainly have a high-quality feel to them. Their sub-woofer fires forward into the room so it should keep things somewhat more contained. There was just one little problem. The sub-woofer wouldn't fit under my desk as I had been positive it would. My estimation of the hight off the ground of my desk's shelf and the top of the sub-woofer was off by perhaps two centametres. Damnably annoying. Dad has thought of a very good solution but I was so positive he wouldn't have to at all.

Later that afternoon, we went over to my brother Dan's house to baby-sit Ava and Amia. It was the first time my grandmother had seen them in quite a while and we all had quite a good time. Amia is getting very quick and quite adept at grabbing things she wants. You really have to stay sharp. I let her check out my flexible keyboard as it seemed to interest her. She didn't seem curious about anything else in my netbook bag like Ava is. Neither of them pay attention to any one thing for very long. Ava did watch a show on Treehouse for a while but really wanted to go off with her gramma downstairs. Her great grandmother was completely overwelmed by the number of toys the kids have down there.

Saturday evening was spent in the new Keg in Waterdown where my brother is a bar manager. It was what they call a dry run where they iron out any remaining kinks before opening to the general public. They have friends and relatives come in and have a meal with some of the proceeds going to charity. Things went quite well overall. The only slight disaster was when our server spilled some wine on my father and I. The poor guy felt so bad about it. I felt bad for him but couldn't help a touch of dark amusement. Usually, I'm the one who accidentally knocks glasses over. It was refreshing, in more ways than one, to hear somebody else do that. As things turned out, they did a masterful job of making amends. We ended up getting a new choice of dinners which were better suited to our tastes. Not that it would have been easy to go very wrong eating pretty much anything at the Keg. The food was good to the tenth power as it tipically is. The conversation was also excellent. I got to hear more about Mom and Dad's younger days for one thing. The stark contrast between Friday and Saturday night was sharp enough to cut through steak with. Dan and the staff as a whole did a very good job as far as I could tell from my auditory vantage point. Dan really hit his stride checking up on people and making certain things went well. It was the first time I really got to hear him at work like that.

Sunday was busy as well. We went out to take my grandmother to my aunt Kae's house in Bright. She seems to be doing quite well. They'll be going on some sort of bus trip together soon before my grandmother returns to Winnipeg. Heading home afterwards, we had a nice relaxing afternoon. Mom and Dad certainly needed it and I was also glad of the lull. I took in a couple of movies. Namely, The Fantastic Four and the sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer. I wasn't certain what I'd make of comicbook adaptations having never read any. However, I found a depth of character I wasn't at all expecting. There wasn't as much of a dark gritty edge as in the case of Batman Begins. The premise was also somewhat more far-fetched. Certainly an enjoyable few hours all in all.

Another fantastic bit of news this weekend was hearing from a kind lady who is donating her accessible cellphone to me. It has been made especially for blind people and doesn't have all the bells and whistles I didn't want like Internet browsing and a camera. I merely wanted something I could call and possibly send text messages with and this phone does all that with all the menus and functions speaking. These phones aren't at all inexpensive and I deeply appreciate this lady's generocity. It was a terrific stroke of fortune that I happened to attend the same accessibility chat as she did last week. With everything going on in life these days, I'm far from a regular atendee. Now, I just have to figure out which GSM network provider to go with. That's one of the things I'll be working on this week.

Janene and I ended the weekend by having dinner together at Swiss Chalet. She ended up relaxing for most of the weekend and seems much better for having done so. It was good to do that and then have her over afterwards to visit with my parents and I. She'll likely be busier next weekend with school work. The pressure isn't quite over on that front. I guess I'll be catching up on news from CSUN as well as examining this new version of Internet Explorer more thoroughly. So far, it's working quite well for me but other people have apparently not been so lucky there. I'm not using all the new features so I hope there's less chance of my encountering snags with the basics.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

a gps walkabout

Hello again everyone. My mobility instructor Ray and I just went on an impromptu GPS excursion. I now have routes recorded to the corner store from home as well as to the bus stop. I just have to do a little cleaning up of extra landmarks. We learned quite a bit about the Trekkor Breeze today. Ray and I both thought it would be worth-while to record my impressions for others.

For the most part, the Breeze will announce landmarks when you're fairly close to them. However, the ten-meter radius of error is large enough to make for some possible missed turns and could certainly put you in your neighbour's driveway. It will often announce things a fair number of steps before you come to them or after you've passed them. Humanware was quite serious when it says that you should be basically familiar with the area you're in. For instance, I know that I'm the second house down from the nearest corner. From that corner, I go up two driveways on my right side and that one will be my parents' home. If I didn't know that, the Breeze would be absolutely useless at guiding me back home. Don't expect it to be all that precise with street numbers. It says I'm near a street address that Ray couldn't even spot from where we were. There may not even be a 5789 Montevideo Road. I think there may be something wrong with the backtracking feature when you use it to reverse your steps. It's probably meant more for when you're in exploration mode rather than on a route. We tried it and it got me pretty well back to where we started alright. However, it failed to notify me of its success. In fact, it started to think we were moving farther and farther away the longer we stood still at the correct place.

One thing to always bear in mind is that the Breeze won't always know precisely where you are at all times. When you hear it make a slight dong sound and announce the street it thinks you're on, that's when it's updating the fix it has on where you are. People may find that annoying but the more I hear it, the more I can trust its directions. The satelites are constantly moving above you and sometimes, you have to just wait in one spot for it to zero in on you again. It can sometimes seriously lose track of you. One thing I thought we should do was to see how it would direct me back home from the corner store. It doesn't know about the shortcut path that I use to get there so I knew it would take me on a completely unfamiliar route. Ray knew the area enough so that I could trust we wouldn't be out there for ages. He too was curious to see how the GPS would do in such a crisis when one were hopelessly turned about and lost. I told it to guide me home and it warned me that it might guide us on unfamiliar paths. Ray's first impression wasn't a good one as it sent me onto what he thought was a crazy and much longer route. However, we decided to follow it and off we went. It did a pretty good job of telling me enough about intersections and crossings. However, there were several instances when it lost track of how far I had gotten. The Breeze certainly did take us on an unfamiliar and circuitous walk home. One thing people should do is to wait around a minute or two at any intersections to give the Breeze a chance to be certain of where you are if you're in unfamiliar surroundings. Otherwise, it might still have an older instruction as the current one and that could send you in a wrong direction. If you go off-route, it will eventually correct you once it figures out where you are again. As long as you do that, the Breeze should get you to your destination. However, it may not notice that it has done so right away. We had to wait around a minute and a half before it finally figured out that we were home and announced that fact. Make certain you're not in any kind of hurry when you travel with the Breeze and will be relying on its guidance rather than your personal familiarity with a given route. You've really got to have good mobility skills in terms of cane technique and safety. Having said all that, it did indeed manage to get me back home again. The Breeze is certainly going to be good to have as a guide of last appeal in such situations as long as I'm not in a rush. You just have to get a good mental grasp on its limitations and quirks. It was certainly interesting to try something totally new like that. Once it's gotten somewhat warmer out there, I'll probably go out for more walks with the Breeze and perhaps do a bit of cautious exploration.

Rogers, the internet provider I currently use, has just decided to throw another curve my way. As of the middle of next month, my Internet phone service will be discontinued. As a result, since I'm going to be moving in another five or six months, I'm going to be unexpectedly thrust into the world of cellphones. Now folks, I don't really want any of these advanced features like texting and web access. I just want a simple cell phone which is relatively inexpensive and easy to destinguish the keys on. I'm just going to use it for receiving calls and making the odd call. Mostly, I'll be using Skype. I have the jaws scripts for Skype4 installed and have purchased a subscription which gives me free calls anywhere in North America. All I couldn't ultimately get was an online number for people to call. Everything else is splendid with Skype but they don't have online numbers which people can call available in Canada. What a pain! Snarl! That's the only reason I'm getting a cellphone although it will likely come in handy if I do more travelling. Also, I'll be able to take it when I move and keep the new number. Having said all that, if anybody has recommendations about good simple cellphones which don't cost hundreds and where I can use a "pay as you go" plan, I'd be much abliged to you for sharing them.

Monday, March 9, 2009

illness and idleness

Hello everyone. The past month or so has been fairly uneventful other than a nasty cold or flu. It started out as a mildly annoying cough which I didn't take very seriously. However, it has since turned into quite a monster. Sadly, I gave it to Janene and pretty much wrecked her week's vacation. She seems to be getting over it now but it certainly took a while. For me, it stayed mild for longer and gradually transformed from a cough into a more orchestrated campaign to make me miserable. I've generally found myself fairly lethargic and unable to get very much done. My nose has been quite plugged over the past week and a bit to the point where I couldn't even taste what I was eating. My head has felt absolutely stuffed at times and my hearing has also been effected. Everything sounds more distant and fuzzy. The cough has also returned so that now I have the plugged nose and cough in tandom. You'd think whatever this bug is would have gotten bored with me and moved on by now. Mom has also gotten a cold. Thankfully, she still had a good vacation. Dad also thinks he has the flu and stayed home today. I guess it could be the varient the flu shot didn't protect against.

Not being able to muster a lot of creative energy, I've been doing a whole lot of listening lately. All sorts of shows, documentaries, podcasts and speaker reviews. I'm looking at purchasing a good set of 2.0 or 2.1 speakers if the sub-woofer is small enough. The only 2.1 system I'm considering at the moment is the Bose Companion 3. Dad took me out to Futureshop last Friday and I was at last able to feel the speakers I had been reading about. The Logitech Z2300 has a very large sub-woofer. That was disappointing as it had come out very well in the reviews. Currently, I'm thinking of either going with that or with the Creative Gigaworks T40. The TV highlight of the past while is definitely History Television's Urban Legends show. Having to figure out which of the stories is true has proved to be very entertaining indeed. Another show on Spike called 1000 Ways to Die appeals to my darker side and to the part of me which values the bizarre events of the world. Voiceprint has gotten some of my time as has the CBC and BBC.

Janene came over yesterday and we went to a place called Score's which my father originally told me about and took me to last Friday. The service and food were just as good the second time. I could only taste my food some of the time but it was certainly good. It'll be nice to go back when I'm fully healthy and can more thoroughly enjoy it. They do excellent chicken and the service was fabulous.