Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Journey Well Begun

Hello everyone. I don't usually write two blog entries this close together. I fully expected that after my busy but excellent day yesterday, that life would continue somewhat placidly through tomorrow morning when my groceries arrive. Sandy, however, had other ideas. He was itching to find out exactly what kind of a system he had been sitting on for what thankfully has turned out to be less time than I had feared. Setting it up on his kitchen table was mostly very simple. The only snag happened with his speakers. I believe he's got a 2.1 set of Creative I-trigues on his hands judging by the feel. Dad came over and pretty quickly determined that we had simply misjudged the use of a cable. He also straitenned the pins in a cable end which had become bent. This time, it wasn't me who did the cable wrecking via bending pins. Everything's pretty ship-shape now. The sound from those speakers is quite excellent. Sandy will really enjoy hearing music through those once they're in their proper places rather than on the kitchen table. Even as it is, they sounded pretty good to my likely less critical ear.

Sandy's computer is a pretty good one with a Pentium4 running at 3.something ghz. A gig of ram will handle XP Home edition nicely enough. To top it off, he's got over 200 gb of hard drive space. I have yet to determine the full capabilities of his soundcard but it ought to suit his needs well. Neither of us heard any rattles, grones or wheezes from the thing's innerds so things seem in good shape as far as I can judge. Software is where Sandy's system will ultimately run him into a brick wall when he goes online. I'm starting to run into more trouble online with my version 9 of Jaws. I wouldn't even want to think about what Sandy will run into using version 7. He'd never be able to afford to keep Jaws updated. Those SMAs are a killer. For both of us, as things stand now, it looks like System Access is the economical way forward. Pay once and never have to again. Once our good Mr. Morgan returns from his trip, the three of us can pool our collected resources and wisdom in figuring that kind of thing out. John has helped a great many blind people over the years and thanks to his sight, was able to better observe them than I. Each of us brings a different set of strengths to this quest and between the two of us, we can help Sandy find his best path into the digital world.

We took some small steps today but those were very important ones. It'll take some time before Sandy is truly competent and comfortable with the keyboard. However, he's begun that process better than I expected. I copied three audio files of movies onto his hard drive in a folder on his desktop. I gave him a quick crash tour of the keyboard and showed him where tab, enter, and the arrow keys were. With those, he was indeed able to find the folder on his desktop, open it, and select a file. When the sound of the movie Jourasic Park began to emmonate from those splendid speakers, you didn't have to be able to see to know that there was a big smile happening. Actually, there were two. Sandy had completed the first task I had set for him on the keyboard marvelously well. At that moment, I knew without the shadow of a doubt, that I would indeed be able to help this guy into the digital world. Theory is one thing, Results like that are quite another. I haven't felt this good since I finished Personal Power. It's a long road ahead but we're well and truly on our way now.

Sandy is loving the Olympics just now. However, he's starting to think beyond them to what he wants from his computer and eventually, the Internet. One thing he's asked me to look into is some sort of Guyanese Indian festival which will apparently happen fairly soon again this year. It's something called pagwah. Apparently, the event has to do with gods, ashes, and given his love of music, I would presume there would be a bumper crop of that involved also. I guess it's a part of his heritage. He gave me a link which leads to an Indocaribbean radio station broadcasting on the Internet. I just tried it out for a few minutes. It sounds pleasant and cheerful enough. However, it's not my cup of tea as I rather like to understand what exactly is being sung at me. Doubtless, Sandy will approve of it when I get him to have a go. Meanwhile, I'll see about this festival and whether there's a past recording of it in mp3 form that I could bring down to him on my flashdrive. I don't mind letting him listen to net broadcasts up here but seven or eight hours of stuff I can't comprehend for the life of me might prove a little taxing. Apparently, the radio station whose link is below will broadcast the event live and describe things in English. Should any of my readers wish to try out this station for themselves, go to:
If I have perchance attracted any readers with a similar background to Sandy, perhaps the station will offer some cultural comfort. It's certainly a different vibe for me.

Well here's to my first success in this new building. Other than lacking a special ladyfriend to share my triumph with, I feel on top of the world. The hot chocolate I just had went down wonderfully and made a nice change from my more habitual celebratory beer. Sandy thought I was "not very Canadian" when I told him I was going to have that as opposed to suds. No interest in the olympics, don't drink beer after such a splendidly successful day... What can I say? I'm just a different sort of geek to contend with. A geek who finally has the clear sense that despite everything, he's in the right place at the right time to do the good lord's work. I've just got to keep on plugging away at stuff like always and I'll have a good impact here. Never fear though. The day when Sandy starts to surf the Internet on his own, I'll definitely be firmly in double-beer territory.

Monday, February 22, 2010

shaping the future

Hello everyone. Things have gone quite well over the last few days. Sandy had a good meeting with John Morgan on saturday. As always, it was a personal pleasure to talk with the man. He had a good look around at Sandy's and my apartments and also took a brief exterior look at Sandy's computer. He thinks it looks to be in good shape but we'll have to get it up and running to really know what we're dealing with. I took some time to show John a bit of System Access and why I believe it would possibly be better for people like Sandy than Jaws is. He'll look more into that for Sandy as well as other people he helps once he's back from his trip. If anybody deserve to enjoy himself on a trip, it's John. Hopefully, I'll hear bits and pieces about it as we try to help Sandy. I've always wanted to go to England.

Sunday also went quite well. Sandy enjoyed coming to church and out to lunch afterwards with this nifty family, Sudan, Shane, Chrissie and Angel who introduced themselves to me a week ago. There's a kind of awkwardness about Sandy that I believe comes from his very different experience of blindness so much later in life for him. He's been left largely on his own for the year he's lived here which doesn't help either. I can't anticipate all of the social ramifications of this. Today, I got in touch with my former mobility instructor at the CNIB who will write referrals up for both of us so we get the help we'll need. Thankfully, I seem to be running into some good people who can accept us as the very different blinks we are. I enjoyed another lunch today with Sandy. He makes a much better tasting cup of tea on his stovetop than I've yet managed to produce from my Brewstation. I have faith that I'll yet figure out how to get a nifty cup of tea out of the thing. I can produce very good tea in my microwave with the aid of a small plate or saucer set atop the heeted cup. However, the Brewstation, although designed for coffee, seems like a perfect and more convenient tea-making alternative presuming I can get the details down. What can I say? I'm seem to be born to fiddle with gadgets until kingdom come. I wouldn't have it any other way. Single life has too much time in it to bare comfortably if you have no capacity and erge to tinker with stuff and look for alternative ways of doing things. That erge doubtless drives wives to utter distraction. However, I do believe it's a saving grace.

So far, I seem to be doing well socially here. I did my two loads of laundry today. That certainly chewed up some change. I'll have to be careful to keep enough on hand for laundry and won't be able to give as much away as tips as I've become acustommed to. Fear not though. I won't turn into any sort of selfish bastard. No ghosts of Christmas past, present and future need visit me although I would doubtless find such supernatural visitors fascinating company. I met three of four nice ladies today while I was down there. One of them gave me her email and phone number so I could call her if I ever needed any help. She seems interested in getting to know me as a friend. Having a family of her own already, that certainly as it ought to be. One thing I hope never to be responsible for is the destruction of anybody's marriage. I wouldn't wish that painful experience upon anybody. Not a bad start at all. If this kind of luck holds, I should at last be able to build the more integrated social sort of life that I can best enjoy and feel at my most productive while living it. Doubtless, it'll take years to get precisely right but it certainly seems possible here.

There's still lots of mom's chile for me to eat. That'll make for a nice simple dinner this evening. I've begun working on my next order of groceries. Perhaps, I'll have it come on wednesday or thursday. There's so much different stuff to try at Grocery Gateway. I know that eventually, it won't seem like that years down the road when I've had all the products which currently strike my fancy. There's certainly enough to find a nice variety of foods to rotate through. Most of my furniture should arrive on friday if all goes acording to plan. The two tubchairs might take until May but that could change again to a sooner date. I got a call from Customer Service at the Brick. It'll be good to have some proper seeting for guests to use. I'm also keenly looking forward to the arriveal of my icecube trays with lids over them to prevent cubes or water from spilling. Such a simple thing; the ability to add ice to drinks. I didn't think I'd mind its absence as much as I have this past while.

To cap off the excellent weekend, I listenned in on one of the last shuttle missions as they landed safely after quite the successful construction project. The station is pretty much complete up there now. I can only imagine what our planet must look like through the new window on the world they've got up there. Now, I think we'll begin to see the real benefits of such international cooperation. The building is at last truly ready and the focus can shift to all the science people want to do in space. We have so much to discover and so many keen minds who can put the facility to excellent use. Perhaps, my incureable optimism is getting the better of me. However, I suspect a lot of the critics who keep popping up saying we should spend all the money on Earth will be forced to eat their short-sighted words while this blind man laughs in the years ahead. Who knows what marvels we'll discover up there? Also, there are the political benefits from such cooperation to be considered. As a species, we have to grow better at working with each other and playing to our strengths.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Enjoyment of Tranquility

Hello everyone. I'm having a very pleasant second week here. Although I still find myself having to root around for things whose locations I thought I knew, my competence with that sort of thing is approaching the point of subconscious mastery. I find I don't always have to take the time to pre-assemble, for instance, items used for a meal before I start preparing it. I just know where things are and can have them in hand without having to look in several places. The same holds true for items outside the kitchen. However, things aren't set in stone yet. I've recently moved my boombox from its former place on the counter to a portable table I had brought but wasn't previously using. This morning, I tried my new toaster on a couple of poptarts which thankfully came out in splendid fashion.

I've been delighted to get to know Sandy further over the last while. We've shared a number of dinners. Guyanese food is certainly very spicy and interesting. He does amazingly well with elements but I think he would definitely benefit from a microwave like mine. Getting him online could make all the difference in the world to this solitary man. I'm more convinced of that than ever. John Morgan is coming out to see the two of us on saturday. I'll be showing him System Access and the Samnet network. Together, these two Serotek products make for the most intuitive and jentle learning curve I've ever encountered. I showed him yesterday morning how easy it is to scan a document. Teaching him how to type is definitely going to take a while. However, I think teaching him the basic keys he'll need to operate System Access and Samnet will be quite easy. It'll certainly give him lots to explore as he masters the keyboard. Getting him online poses a somewhat more financial challenge. Thank God John is stepping into the role of financeer. As much as I would have wanted to, I couldn't pay for an Internet connection and Samnet access for both him and I. It should be a pretty interesting weekend for Sandy with John's visit on saturday and his first time at my church on sunday. He certainly seems cheered at the prospect.

Yesterday, I vacuumed and mopped the apartment. Things seemed to go pretty well and neither chore takes very long at all. Granted, I may have missed areas. I won't know for certain until someone sighted visits soon after I've done these things. However, keeping this place sanitary ought not to take up tons of time. I'll have to start working on my next Grocery Gateway order. It'll definitely be less costly than my initial order as it builds upon what I still have left from the initial order. Since I've paid for a year access to Samnet in order to be ready to help Sandy as well as to participate in the community there for my own personal interest, I'll skirt the lower end of where I want to be financially for the next month or so. No big deal as there's a healthy margin for error. I ought to have a proper sense of that whole aspect of things by the time Summer arrives.

One piece of kit I'll be wanting to upgrade before Summer is my router. I'm finding that it's a lot less problematic to just plug my netbook directly into the router than try to keep a good wireless connection in this apartment. I have no idea why I'm having so much trouble compared to how things were at home but I suppose that the walls in here must hinder things somewhat. Good thing these new N-capable wireless routers aren't very expensive at all. That little N adapter will definitely be getting some use on my balcony over the Summer. That's for certain. Other than that, everything is working like a charm.

Things have such a different feel to them now. This week has been nearly as solitary as ones I slogged through last Summer. Sandy has been the only guest I've had over. I've gone out one evening to a church-related men's group. I've also participated in a couple of evenings of online chat with other members of the Samnet service. Other than that, I've been alone here. However, this doesn't get me down at all. Unlike those long empty Summer weeks, I have things on the go socially speaking. There are definite boundaries to these stretches of solitary time. That makes all the difference. There's this weekend's plans. It certainly isn't going to feel empty at all. Presuming I can eventually put together some more visits and outings from friends who are actually present in the flesh rather than online, I believe I can live quite happily as a single man. I got off to a cracking good start with that last week meeting Shane and his family. They seem eager to do things with me. I found myself in the rare position of turning down such an offer due to prior commitments. That kind of thing hasn't happened in ages. As far as more serious relationships go, I certainly still would be thrilled with one. This time around though, it'll have to grow from friendship into something more. Should I be honoured and lucky enough to eventually have a female friend want to take things farther, I won't say no categorically. However, I'll approach that prospect from the stance that I would indeed be giving up the tranquil simplicity of life as things stand for me here. Sandy certainly seems quite content to remain single and thinks I'll feel that way when I reach his age. That's nearly thirty years away. However, the possibility exists that he'll still be alive and kicking. It would be very interesting to discuss that contention with him at that point. Despite being able to find peace and happiness as a single man, I would far rather be in a steady stable long-term loving relationship of some sort.

Over the next while, my priorities won't be seeking out such a relationship. My profile on Plenty of Fish will, however, be receiving some much-needed attention. I'm fairly settled in here now. Financially, I want to reach a point where the balance goes up each month rather than down. I've got to bring expenses in line with my new income. That's far easier to do when you're single. Presuming nothing major breaks down, that ought to happen relatively painlessly in a couple of months. I should be in good shape to enjoy my first Spring and Summer here. I still await the emergeance of the upcoming enhancement to my Trekker Breeze as well as the opening of the Blio Reader bookstore. Meanwhile, I have a lot to explore with this Samnet network. There's quite a lot of content but I believe I'll get more out of the people who I chat with over the evenings.

Over the next week, I feel like it's time I tried to continue working on Enchantment's Twilight again. I don't really have any terrific new insights for the project other than looking at creating a smaller cast of characters with more optional episodes in their past to be chosen from. I think that this approach may perhaps work better than my old one of coming up with a large number of potential characters to choose from. We'll soon see how that goes. Once again, the island so long in my mind's eye is beginning to call to me. It wants to be realised in words and eventually, in sound and code. Perhaps, at long last, I'm ready to continue that process. We'll soon find out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Right Kind of Salsa! Yes!!!

Hello everyone. I've now lived a week in this wonderful apartment of mine. It's been a pretty damned good seven days. Sandy had an absolute blast coming over for dinner. Everything turned out very well. The only slight blunder was with the potatos. They were cooked properly but I thought the garlic I added would have been somewhat more pronounced. I'll have to work on that. The chicken turned out splendidly as did the grilled zukini. Didn't think things would go quite that well the first time I tried them. I'll be going down to his place for a meal this evening as he's keen to return the favour. He's a very nice and amazingly cheerful man given what he's been through. He'll be coming with me to church tomorrow where I hope he'll be as fortunate as I've been in terms of finding comfort. Also, I've gotten in touch with John Morgan. He's the kindly soul who got me my Trekker Breeze. A true humanitarian if there ever was one, he and I should make a perfect duo to brighten up Sandy's life here. Meeting someone who has none of the advantages I've come to take for granted over the years certainly makes you appreciate them for what they are. I keep being surprised about what nobody has told Sandy about during his twelve years being blind. He had no idea that the Lake Joseph Centre existed. A trip there would do him a whole lot of good. The temptation is to try and tell him and show him everything at once. Even during our dinner, I believe all the talking gadgets, digital music and stuff somewhat overwelmed him. I'll have to be careful not to do that and take things slow as I introduce him to what his computer can do for him. There's all sorts of ground to cover there. It's a long-term project but if anybody has the time to do this right, I do.

The whole week has been full of firsts. Yesterday, I capped it off by doing my first load of laundry. It went quite well. Everything came out clean and dry at the end. I've heard what the washer sounds like as it completes its cycle and won't have to stay down waiting. Both washing and drying seem to take around forty to fifty minutes. An older woman was kind enough to help me and describe the machines. Her name escapes me at the moment but I'll certainly recognise her voice when I hear it again. I also took out my first bag of stuff to be recycled. I got somewhat thrown off by the doors coming back in from the courtyard. The one which seemed sensible to take unexpectedly lead to a staircase. Another door right beside it with a pull-catch rather than a proper handle lead me back into the lobby. A custodian came to the rescue. Despite sounding completely different thanks to a Caribian accent of some sort, he reminds me strongly of Herb. Like that kindly custodian from the building Rebecca and I lived in, this man is very cheerful and given to laughter. I look forward to running into him and adding further reasons for mirth to his days.

So far as I know, the switch-over is quite complete now. Everyone who needs to know of my new address does. That's not the case when it comes to online shopping. Paypal and Visa are updated but I'll have to take care as I order from various places that they have the correct address to send things to. There's also my profile on Plentyoffish which I'm not quite happy with given my new circumstances. Facebook seems fine but I'll still only use that service when necessary. I know there are other places online with outdated info about me which I'll eventually get around to changing. There's no huge rush.

Having my own place has made a trememdous difference in psycological terms. There's no longer that sense of being shut away from everything. I don't feel nearly so compelled to try every trick in the book in order to meet friends. I can let that happen naturally over time as it seems to have begun to. My goal still remains to build a life full of far more interaction with people than I've previously experienced. That'll likely take years as I start to explore the area around my building in the warmer months and keep jumping at opportunities as they come along. Neither of my neighbours have approached me yet. I knocked on each of their doors once to introduce myself but neither answered. I still have to get around to my neighbours immediately below and above me. Sandy hasn't had the best of luck approaching people in the building. He finds himself either ignored or at best, has his greetings returned. I'm hoping for better but even if I find myself similarly passed over for friendship, I can be happy here. I have a place which will soon be very comfortable for guests and my own place to face solitary life in if such is to be my fate. I couldn't have hoped for more as a single man.

This morning, I decided to try the scrambled eggs I used to make so well in the microwave now that I have all the supplies. By a stupendous piece of good luck, I seem to have chosen the correct kind of salsa which goes splendidly with eggs. Thought I'd have to work my way through a number of less than satisfactory bottles before that happened. Thankfully, I don't. Heaven forefend I withhold my hard-won knowledge from my readers. Add some margarine to two eggs in a bowl along with two teaspoons to a tablespoon of Old El Paso Thick N Chunky Salsa Medium. Scramble the eggs in between time in the microwave totalling around 150 seconds. I usually scramble the eggs after the first minute as well as once again after a further forty seconds. The new microwave does a terrific job. I had a nice brunch with the eggs plus bacon, a croissant, and one of those large minneolas. After doing the dishes, I polished it all down with a delicious root beer. The only thing missing was ice but I should soon have a safe means of producing that. Mom found and ordered me a couple of trays from Avon which come with lids so I won't spill either water before it freezes or need to chase errant cubes across my floor afterwards. That'll be damned nice.


Dinner was very tasty and different. I tried split pea soup as well as soup with fish and pork. I guess I was supposed to mix them more with the rice but I ended up just liking the soups separate. He said he tried to make things mild since it was my first experience with this sort of food. It was very good and I'll cheerfully try more spicy renditions. He went to so much trouble even preparing a hotdog and potatos in case I didn't like the West Indian food. Rather than feel badly for him, I got the sense that he was thrilled having a guest to go through the trouble for. We had quite a good conversation. He was surprised that I had planned for him to come to church tomorrow. He misunderstood that and figured it would be a week or two. Next week will work better for him so he can get more prepared. I guess he's used to people not responding very quickly to him at all. I'll have to be a tad more careful when arranging things that dates are more firmly understood.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No Place Like Home

Hello everyone. I've had quite an interesting time over the past few days. On Sunday, I had church in the morning. That was immediately followed by a surprise party in the afternoon for a lady I've started to know there. The party was quite a success and I had a good chance to talk to a number of people. The connections are definitely starting to be made. During the evening, I went to O Noir with my long-time neighbour Danni and her friend Jacqui. It was splendid to be out with two ladies around my age. Steve Murgaski was there also so I got to chat a little with him. His shift had ended so I couldn't boss him around in good conscience. Still, it was a fun time for everyone. Monday was a much appreciated quiet day with nothing happening in it at all. I had more of a chance to settle in and finish unpacking stuff.

Yesterday, I went out with mom and one of her friends to look for some furniture. The Brick had precisely the properly sized things I needed at very reasonable prices. I bought a futon which also serves as a couch, two end tables and a coffee table which is moveable and small enough that it doesn't take up the whole space between where the futon will go and where my desk is. My parents also bought me a couple of tub chairs which will fit neatly at the ends of the futon on the other side of each end table. That ought to sit five or six guests comfortably when the occasion calls for it. There's still a permanent dining room table and chairs to get as well as possibly a couple of bookcase-like cabinets. As much as possible, I plan to avoid having glass shelving around. Wood has no chance of shattering into deadly shards and it's not like I'll ever want lots of knickknacks around on display.

Last night, I went to a new men's group started by people in my church. They're going through the Truth Project videos which seem like they'll be pretty interesting. At times, I think I'll find that they come on too strongly against the non-believing world and philosophy. However, when dealing with such material, that's pretty much to be expected. Ravvi Zacharias is one of the speakers in the series and he's always stimulating to listen to. Apparently, it's a twelve-week series. That certainly affords lots of time to get to know the participants as well. It's good to have a regular outing like that.

Today, my first order from Grocery Gateway came. I also got my first piece of junkmail from my new mailbox in the lobby. It's nice to feel more confident that I have what I need for myself and for any guests I may have. The first of them is coming over for dinner tonight. His name is Sandy and he's been here for around a year. Unlike me, he went blind well into his life and had to adjust to a whole different reality when he found he could no longer work. I met a worker who comes in regularly to help him. He has no friends or family around to help him cope. Add to that a somewhat different and tighter money situation plus a strangely unresponsive CNIB and you have a blind man who faces a completely different reality than I do. I spent the morning in his place getting to know him. Fairly quickly, I seem to be gaining proficiency with reading raised print numbers. I know what a seven, four, one, two, zero, and three feel like now. Thankfully, the layout of the floors seem to be identical so I had no problem finding his apartment. It'll be good to have someone to talk to who I can actually help. He has a computer but never learned how to use it or went on the Internet. I don't think he can afford the Internet right now but I can certainly let him come up and use my net access. First though, he'll have to learn to type. I believe I can help him with that and find things his computer can do for him without being connected. One experience which both of us have sadly shared is a high degree of being left socially isolated by others. He's experiencing something far more acute than I have in that regard. I hope to have him come to my church where I think he might find some comfort, help, and friendly voices. Also, when circumstance permits, I can introduce him to the friends I've found over the years.

Well, readers, that's pretty much it for the moment. It's so damned good to have my own space. Even better to have my first guest and new friend here this evening. Life has certainly improved markedly for me over the past while. Hopefully, I'll be able to share this good fortune with Sandy and others. I'll have to find out whether he spells his name like that or if there's an i at the end of it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Capital Good Start

Hello everyone. At last, I'm settled in an apartment of my own. Moving has certainly been a hectic experience. Everything's here now. The bed, cable TV, the Internet, and the surprising amount of stuff that I've managed to collect over the years. Mostly, everything is now unpacked and in its place. There are still a few things to sort out. Mainly, there are dvds to shelve. I haven't quite worked out where I want some of those.

I had quite a lot of help from friends and family. Adam lent a hand as did my parents, brother, and today, Mark and Wendy. A man couldn't wish for a more willing and ready group to help get quickly settled and sorted. I've met some of the building staff as well as a few of my new fellow residents in this fifteen-floor edifice. One of these was a fellow blind man who seems quite keen to get to know me. That ought to be very interesting indeed.

You'd doubtless expect that after waiting for this moment for so long, I would be far too wired and excited to even contemplate sleep. All the new people to meet who might be willing to share their stories and/or become friends; All the freedom I have to do things in my own time and in my own way. And yet, what I actually feel something akin to quiet satisfaction. Partly, this is due to a need for sleep. I've been getting up fairly early these past days and not getting good full nights of rest. These restless days have also been full of packing and planning. Now, all of that is done. The place begins to feel like home. I'm getting better at finding my way around but still end up very briefly disoriented once in a while in here. That ought to sort itself out rather quickly over the next days. It's a fantastic space for me. I feel very blessed indeed. I believe I'll sign off here and get some sleep. Tomorrow is the first full day of this brand new chapter of life.