Friday, August 10, 2012

An Extraordinary Summer

Hello everyone. The time following my vacation seems to have snuck away from me. Always a danger when nobody is actually paying you to do anything. I had a very good week up at lake Joe. The drive up was lengthened quite a bit by traffic. The Canada Day festivities onsite were frankly pitiful in nature. As a result, I don't believe I'll go on a week with a long weekend. I missed out on the festivities my family usually partakes in with their neighbours. Also, I missed the still very fresh experience of going out on my own to enjoy the fireworks near my apartment building. That said, it was good to have so many familiar people present during my vacation.

Ethen, the musical guy from Thailand I encountered last year, was my roommate this time. He has yet to find a way to permanently stay in Canada. However, his family can come here on vacations. He rejoined them after the week concluded in New York if memory serves. I wish I had thought to ask him about that blind activist in China everyone was talking about a few months back. We got along quite well and I was happy to help with the odd bit of cultural misunderstanding and English word or two. He enjoys the place so much that you'd have to be very self-centred indeed not to be thankful that you live in a free and compassionate country where such a place like Lake Joe could survive at all.

Lindsey was also there. It seems that nothing has really changed in her life. Anybody thinking one can just suck it up and get with the program after losing sight and all memories from childhood up into early adulthood is just plain kidding themselves. I don't get the sense of much movement in any direction emotionally or otherwise. She's still very sensitive and prone to worrying overly about minor things. I've helped her think through a few such incidents thereby saving the staff some trouble.

Jennie, Janet and Lori were also there from last year. Jennie has been going to Lake Joe even longer than I have. She still enjoys it enough to go for multiple weeks. I don't know how she keeps as cheerful as she does with her health condition seemingly certain to degrade sharply long before she reaches old age. I don't know that I would have her fortitude faced with that. She makes the most of life enjoying being a member of the Lions club as well as the sport of curling. She's also an avid reader of this blog and I'd be deeply remiss if I didn't say a hearty hello Jennie.

Janet was just as friendly and helpful this year as the year before despite my breaking up with her. I still think I did the right thing there. We would have grown more bored of each other as the realities of long distance and long visits set in. Our interests and intellects simply differ too drastically for good will and love to overcome. Lori is still Lori, as enigmatic and difficult to comprehend as ever. Clearly though, she had a very good time once again this year.

Thanks to the various water coolers stationed around as well as the ice machine in the dining hall, I could restock my water bottle easily. It has saved me a small fortune in pop I might otherwise have been tempted to purchase. The cabin water is actually high in sodium content and thus unsuitable for drinking to adults with sodium-restricted diets. I have no such issues but found the water from the coolers quite refreshing when combined with ice from the ice machine. The strap holding the cap on the bottle broke. That made carrying a bag or pack around with me necessary more often than it would otherwise have been but it was no great hardship.

Lake Joe has always been a tad schizophrenic towards its clients. On the one hand, there's the place's goal to promote confidence, independence and exploration among blind people. On the other hand, they have to be so very careful about public image and the threat of a law suit. It's a tough balancing act made all the more so due to the frankly dippy nature of many of the clients who end up going there. If you've made it by society's standards of job, marriage,etc, or have the right friends and good mobility skills, you've got plenty of frankly better vacation options. More than one person has remarked over the years to me about how you give up your adulthood by going there. I can certainly see their point but don't really agree with it. Adulthood is a very multi-facetted thing. You certainly do enter into a contract to abide by the rules and deal with what's there. Due to comparatively low investment capital made available to Lake Joe, such resources can be less robust than other vacation destinations. Also, there are disproportionately high odds of running into people who are painfully sheltered from life, mentally ill, or both. Adulthood is certainly tested when such people either unwittingly or intentionally add a dash or large glob of annoyance to your vacation. Do you keep your cool and realize that those who care for such people are likely in more dire need for a break than you? Or, do you flip out and try to knock some sense into whoever it is that's wrecking your day? While I've been slightly tempted by plan B more than once, only three people over the years have pushed me seriously close to that point. And then, there was that psychotic guy who scared a good number of clients and staff when something went sproing in his box of scrambled thought. A good number of us wondered what resources for self defence we might have to employ on that occasion. It's small wonder that the whole mice or men question has yet to be firmly resolved by the lawyers, administrators and staff at Lake Joe.

On that front, the pendulum is swinging in a more positive direction. Things are beginning to improve again when it comes to offsite trips. I went on the ice cream cruise to Gordon Bay where they sell quite good ice cream. The staff took our orders, went ashore and bought it for us and we ate on the pontoon boat. I also enjoyed the Band on the Bay offsite trip. Admittedly, the choices of music played by the two bands that particular night left much to be desired in my humble opinion. However, I found myself gritting my teeth while admiring their obvious skill, stage presence and dedication misdirected though I felt it to be.

The beech was the real centre of my week there this year. I don't think I've spent so much time in the water as I did there in years. The weather was just perfect. There were a number of excellent people there to talk with this year. One of these, Esther, thinks we actually met before. If so, I don't remember. She had a very different take on Christianity and things in general. We spent hours in excellent conversation despite coming up to several points of sharp difference. She was somewhat anti-technology having no interest in learning to use computers at all but feeling compelled to purely for whatever slim chance that knowledge might give her in the fruitless job hunt. The online digital world which has been such a boon to me in so many ways was a pernicious thing foisted upon her. While I had come to Lake Joseph for relaxed restorative socialization, she felt a constant need to do stuff. I was happy to go along at certain points, but other times chose more restful company. That water and weather were absolutely splendid though.

Indoors, not a ton has changed since last year. Most activities are still really not my cup of tea. The food, on the other hand, remains excellent. The only real dining difficulty was pouring one's own glass of juice. The mugs for coffee and tea were fine but the juice glasses were downright tiny things. Even for a seasoned veteran like me, it was a nervous experience. I always dreaded the possibility of a spill which thankfully never happened at my table. I don't think blind precision pouring was slated to become an Olympic sport. Perhaps, I'm wrong there. My laptop got far less use up at Lake Joe this year than any previous. This is partially due to the inconvenient absence of wifi availability. There were definitely some duller moments when I might have made more use of it were wifi present. I also wouldn't have nearly completely burned through this month's 500 mb of data that the plan for my iPHONE makes available to me. I used it for posting audio boos, getting pod casts, checking news and weather.

My belt decided to give up the ghost on the very day I was heading back home. I found the shorts I had left unpacked a tad too loose without the belt. Thankfully, they never actually fell down on me. Carrying a cane without having a holster on a belt was jarring. I had forgotten what a nuisance that could be. The things we don't realize we take for granted.

It was good to hook up with Mark and Wendy on the way back and treat them to lunch at the Burger Pit. The burgers were every bit as awesome as they had told me when discussing restaurants over the years. Things seem to be going quite well for the two of them.

Things have kept pretty busy and unpredictable since I got back. I never figured on a month going by before this blog entry was done. I've seen a bunch of friends, gotten a belt that fits, ordered some things from Mountain Equipment Co-op including two thermos bottles.. and done lots else besides. It's all gotten a bit jumbled in the mind but I've very much enjoyed this stretch of summer.

There have been some extremely hot days where it has felt like well above 40 degrees C with the humid ex. However, my air conditioner has served me faithfully. The new thermos bottle from Mountain Equipment Co-op has been a godsend. Those things keep water very cold for a surprisingly long time even when out in the sun. I've decided to give one to a certain birthday boy. They're designed better than my steel bottle and require no screen to prevent ice from blocking the drinking straw. Very good value for money. The Gerber Dime multi-tool which now resides on my key chain is also an excellent well-designed addition to my travel kit. It's simple enough that it doesn't even come with a manual. Just a diagram that, when my father looked at it, didn't impart any tools I may have missed without its aid. Even those sneaky tweezers, accessed by a very tiny bump that turns out to be a finger nail catch allowing their separation from the whole tool failed to escape my fingers. I did, however, need a bit of help from dad to figure out the rain cover I ordered for my pack. It was one of those Sherlock Holmes moments; Completely mysterious until dad showed me how it mounted onto the pack and tightened around it. At that point, it was completely obvious. I don't know why or how that kind of shit happens to me. Utterly competent with figuring out a new multi-tool while incapable of figuring out how a rain cover goes on a pack correctly.

The first movie night at the Dam went quite well. We watched District 9 and the teens really seemed to get the message with a bit of coaching from Ken. We had a good little discussion after the movie. The discussion lasted perhaps half an hour but I felt ever so much more productive than during months of drop in cessions. No kids showed up for Slum Dog Millionaires so we left early.

We actually did get a few takers for Pay it Forward. Again, we had a good discussion after the movie. After nobody showed up for Slum Dog Millionaires the week before, I had my doubts. These things do resonate with at least some of the teens. I'm also getting to know a few new volunteers. Together, these things have afforded me a greater sense of being able to contribute than I've enjoyed over most of my time at the Dam.

Before this third movie night, I was on an excellent trip with Steve and friends to a cottage owned by his parents. It was good to catch up with him again. We had good times, good food and a nice getaway from ordinary everyday life. I haven't spent a weekend around such stimulating company in quite a long time. Steve has gathered a remarkable cast of friends over the years. I'm honoured that he counts me as one of them. It seems that both of us have a pretty diverse bunch of associates both in terms of mental ability and experience. Both of us also have the same sort of extremely supportive families. I've always enjoyed visits with Steve's parents and they have gotten to know me quite well over more than twenty years of friendship. The same holds true for my parents and Steve. They're always keen to hear news of his latest adventures. We did it all; went on boat rides, swam, cooked, ate very well, talked and relaxed.

After the weekend, I stayed with Steve and we visited some people I haven't seen since my last trip into downtown Toronto at the start of this extraordinary year in my life. It was good to catch up with Earle, Meko, Rose, Josiah and Jenevra. Steve and I also got to have dinner with Michelle Mcquigge. She's an excellent cook and conversationalist. We both thoroughly enjoyed the evening and kept poor Michelle up quite late for a working lady. She seems to have survived though so all is well. She custom made burgers for us. Even the Cesar salad was good and I'm not usually a fan of that. Delicious food for body and mind. Steve and I got back quite late. I was pretty tired but I get the sense that Steve would have cheerfully gone to a bar or something. What a guy. I hope to have him out my way soon so I can give him a restful wholesome time in turn. There are people in this area who remember him fondly from previous all too rare visits. I also take great satisfaction in introducing him to some of the many more sedentary pleasures his affinity for wandering causes him to miss out on.

Alas, nobody turned up for Stranger than Fiction, one of my favourites. I know better than to take it personally. It's their summer, and I can well imagine all the things pulling them in different directions. It's hard to get a sense of how many of these kids have jobs or other major responsibilities and how many would just drift through a summer. Hopefully, they'll discover these missed movies when they're ready to appreciate them. Certainly, my first encounter with Stranger Than Fiction was most timely. If no kids show up, we volunteers tend to chat for a while before heading home. It's been good getting to know them. I still haven't really connected with anybody at the Dam in a way that I feel will last longer than my volunteer time there. It's becoming pretty clear that much like university, this will be yet another chapter in life with fleeting casual relationships which vanish as everyone else seems to move on. There's just not enough opportunity for me to really connect with these teens and do what I'm really supposed to be doing at the Dam. Perhaps, things will pick up somehow in the Fall when there will be some fresh attendees at the drop ins. Meanwhile, I can't really lose with movie nights. At the least, it provides a chance for me to talk with some fellow volunteers.

It's now Thursday evening, august the ninth. Pretty much a solid month since I started this entry in earnest. I did take some notes during my vacation. A whole lot has slipped through the cracks. Meeting Shirley's grandchildren for one thing. They're a couple of very bright little kids who clearly love my friend their grandmother to bits. They brought over a braille book for me to read to them which had print and tactile pictures. It concerned the prodigious eating habits of a very hungry caterpillar. They always caught me when I ... improvised the odd addition to his stupendous repast. It was terrific fun showing them my various talking gadgets.

I've also done my usual amount of reading and listening to pod casts. I've heard some absolutely splendid stuff from CBC Radio this Summer. Frank Edward Nora has been in very fine form with his Overnights cape pod casts. I haven't had time to enjoy as many of those as I thought I might but have been utterly spellbound by his perceptive affable monologues. I've purchased and am reading David Brin's Uplift saga on Audible. I've also gotten the Dragon Lance Lost Chronicles books. That pretty much gives me the complete chronicles portion of the whole Dragon Lance canon that I'm interested in owning. I found that the series took a nosedive with Dragons of Summer Flame. Too much time travel and the whole necessity for main characters to die spun things out of whack for the series. Some of the short stories aren't too bad but really, the best of Dragon Lance is in the original chronicles and these lost chronicles written twenty years later. I've only begun reading the first book but they seem to have recaptured that zip and spirit of the original tales wonderfully. I've adjusted my Audible subscription to the platinum membership plan so that I receive two credits per month. I hope to set a more even pace with my purchases and not feel the need to grab extra credits quite as often as I have over the past year. I also anticipate more months where I don't make purchases and this plan lets me carry over an additional four credits for a total of ten at any given time. We'll see how that works out.

This Summer has also seen a number of tragic shootings. I don't know what possesses people to commit such horrors. Short of self defence or the defence of an innocent person, I can't imagine any circumstance where I would take someone else's life. So many lives have been ended or changed forever because of idiots and the cruel fate of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So many sad stories that it boggles the mind. My heart goes out to all of this Summer's shooting victims and their families.

On a more positive note, this has also been a tremendously exciting season for science. During my vacation at Lake Joe, I received news that the long sought Higs Boson particle, also known as the God particle, has been substantiated as fact. Apparently, you can't isolate this particle or see one directly. However, enough high-speed collisions at the LHC under France and Switzerland have provided data proving its existence beyond doubt. I remember learning about the quest to verify its existence back in secondary school science class. They've done so at long last. I wonder what this will lead to. Earlier this week, my damnable insomnia let me down when I needed it most. I slept through the exciting landing of Curiosity. Thankfully, this latest most advanced rover has made it safely to the surface of Mars and we'll doubtless learn a lot from it. I can't wait for that whole process of ramifications filtering from the lab into mainstream society to begin. Such monumental achievements. What stupendous seeds for deeper understanding have been planted in these hot dry months. I have so many reasons to be thankful for the Summer of 2012. All the major events have happened now, but we're not quite done yet. There's still most of a month to go before Autumn takes hold and I really knuckle down to serious work.

There are still some things I'd very much like to do first. One of these is to take in the Bat Man Dark Knight Rises movie preferably with friends who haven't already seen it. That begins to seem pretty damned unlikely though. I'll likely end up going with my parents just as I have for pretty much every one of the few movies I've felt were worth paying to see. Ideally, I'd like to see such a film with people who liked discussing what they took in afterwards perhaps over dinner or a coffee in some nearby establishment suitable for a good conversation. Somehow though, I simply can't seem to connect with the right people. Same goes for attending festivals or conventions where I might meet some of the authors whose books I've read. How to connect the god damned dots? Over the past two summers, I think I've moved somewhat in the right direction. Enough has happened so that my disappointment in what hasn't happened is far less keenly felt than it was in prior years. For the record, I would like to get to a Derry Queen and enjoy a blizzard with one or more friends before this decade ends. I haven't done that since Janene left me and I'd like to think it's still humanly possible for me to do so without her.

On a somewhat related note, I have no doubt that readers may wonder where I am on the whole relationship question after this splendid Summer. I wish I had an easy answer. I still very much hope to find a special lady to share life with. That hasn't changed. Fairly soon now, I'll be making some changes to my profiles on a couple of dating sites. Frankly, I don't hold out much hope at all for lightning to strike again via that means. However, I want to leave the door open and clean on that front. I think it far more likely that some lady will stumble onto this blog and appreciate me through it. Either that, or some local meeting will occur. All my travels have given me far more of a peek into the down side of relationships lately which has tempered my enthusiasm and increased my appreciation for the stability of life that I enjoy as a single man. It is, as someone once wrote on a Plenty of Fish forum, a different kind of happy. Most of my friends seem to have had far greater luck in finding people of the opposite sex who were interested enough to become intimate. However, far too many of them rushed in and now regret it. This Summer frankly didn't expose me to many couples who I would call contented. I no longer have such a keen sense of time slipping past while I remain single. I still hope for change. God knows it would open up a whole lot in life for me. It would also make solitude a desirable option rather than what I too often find myself imprisoned in. Given the economic reality in which I find myself, I would settle for a love partner who didn't want to live together and marry although that would still very much be my preference. I couldn't go for one of those casual sex things though. To be worth-while at all, there has to be exclusivity and permanence. A marriage in all but name in other words. Something deep, lasting, and built up over time. I'm certainly open to possibilities within reason. Hopefully, God will some day see fit to open up at least one less solitary possibility for me. Meanwhile, given what mess I've observed lately in that sphere of life, I wait a good deal more patiently and contentedly than I have before.

Looking ahead to the approaching Fall season, I plan to go full throttle in two directions; First of all, there's proceeding creatively with the design document for Enchantment's Twilight. The magic system needs to be rounded out. Combat, skills, weaponry, characters, overarching story, and the interchangeable subplots and story arcs that will make up the heart of the game need to be created. All of that simply won't happen in a season, but I'm hopeful to make substantive progress in at least some of those areas. Also, on days where creativity runs dry, there's the whole business of picking through my three central game development books for key principles and lessons applicable to what I'm attempting to create. That process will also eat up a lot of time. I hope to approach things with a bit more discipline than I have for a while now. That isn't easy with so little extrinsic motivation and reward for efforts. The vision I was initially given seemed to indicate that I would reach some sort of critical mass of material which would allow the creation process to begin to feed off of what was already there. Thanks largely to Rose's breakthrough with my magic system, my faith that this will indeed happen has been restored to me. It's still a long way off, but I have confidence that it'll eventually happen. So much has happened socially this Summer that I find myself feeling balanced and recharged in a way I haven't felt for a very long time. As long as insomnia doesn't get its hooks into me too badly, I think my creative engines are ready to rev up once again.