Tuesday, January 31

It All Starts Tomorrow

Greetings. First off, this might be one of those rambling posts, so bare with me.

Well, it all starts tomorrow. It seems like forever since I got the call from my new boss, back on December 15, when he offered me the position. I remember wondering back then how I was going to fill a month and a half and what I would do in the time. I knew I would be moving, but I didn't know about the downtime. Now, I sit on the eve of employment, again, and oh the thoughts that are going through my mind. Thoughts of: where I've been, how I got here, the last 2 and 1/2 years at the ATC in Dallas, the process of getting to and from work tomorrow, what I'll do all of tomorrow, what it might be like to work from 8 to 5 (I know many people that do this, but so far, its not something that I've gotten to do and it seems strange in a way), working at the same training center that I went to as a consumer, and many other things. It's going to be neat to look at and talk with former teachers and now have them be coworkers.

For a long time, I've been taking Melatonan to help me get to sleep. When I started taking it regularly in September of 2004, I always hoped that I would reach a point when I wouldn't have to take it to get to sleep. Now, I think I have reached that point. I can honestly say that I feel more rested after a night of regular sleep, rather than sleep induced sleep. Besides, I always have a Melatonan hang-over the next day when it takes several hours, sometimes until lunch, for all of the drowsiness to fully ware off.

A funny thing happened this morning. For several weeks now, I've been gradually getting myself used to waking up earlier and earlier, to simulate what it might be like for me to wake up and get ready for work. Yesterday morning, my alarm went off at 5:45, and I promptly got up and got ready. By 7 I was ready to go, aside from changing into work clothes. Now by 8:30, the previous night's Melatonan sleep hang-over caught up with me and I crashed, but I was ready to go by 7 and, if I had to go to work that day, then I would have made it to the bus stop by 7:30 for the bus. This morning, the alarm went off again at 5:45, and having a successful run yesterday, I decided to sleep in, wanting to savor one last weekday where I could. From 5:45 to shortly after 7, when I finally went back to sleep, I kept wondering if I was going to be late for work. It took me a few times to realize that this was Tuesday, not Wednesday. I guess my attempt to get up earlier worked, :)

Anyway, like I said in the beginning, I don't really have any clear direction for this post. I mainly wanted to put my thoughts out and see what happens. It seems that writing is a kind of therapy for me, and others. Where we feel better after writing a few paragraphs, and feel like we can go and tackle the world, or in my case, that I can tackle my first day at work. I'm not worried or stressed about the next 24 hours. Anxious, sure, but not stressed. No use getting tied up over nothing. On the other hand, some people thought it odd that I wouldn't start work until midweek. From my point of view though, I get 3 days of work, then 2 days off, and then a full week. Of course, it probably wouldn't go over too well if I were to ask for more 3-day weeks after this one, :) Even so, its a way of easing into full time stuff, at least initially. I'll write again in a day or two and talk about the first few days. Until then.

Sunday, January 29

Interesting Diabetes Article

Greetings. This was in the news a couple of days ago. Here's an article from the Associated Press on a new inhalable insulin just approved by the FDA. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors.

FDA Approves Inhalable Version of Insulin
By ANDREW BRIDGES (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
January 27, 2006 4:00 PM EST

WASHINGTON - The first inhalable version of insulin won federal approval Friday, giving millions of adult diabetics an alternative to some of the regular
injections they now endure.

The Food and Drug Administration said the Pfizer Inc. insulin, to be marketed as "Exubera," is the first new way of delivering insulin since the discovery
of the hormone in the 1920s. Pfizer jointly developed the drug and dispenser with Sanofi-Aventis and Nektar Therapeutics.

Use of rapid-acting inhaled insulin will not replace the need to occasionally inject the hormone, according to the FDA. And diabetics will have to continue
pricking their fingers to test blood sugar levels.

The FDA delayed its decision by three months so it could review chemistry data on the diabetes treatment. The European Commission approved Exubera for use
in adults on Thursday.

Analysts have said the inhaled insulin could eventually become a $1 billion-a-year seller for Pfizer, which recently agreed to pay Sanofi-Aventis $1.3 billion
to obtain full worldwide rights to the drug for use by both Type 1 and 2 adult diabetics.

"Until today, patients with diabetes who need insulin to manage their disease had only one way to treat their condition," said Dr. Steven Galson, director
of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "It is our hope that the availability of inhaled insulin will offer patients more options to better
control their blood sugars."

Clinical trials found that Exubera managed blood sugar levels just as well as injected insulin, but an independent FDA panel in September stressed that
use of inhaled insulin will not mean diabetics can toss out the needles, pens or pumps used to inject the hormone.

The review panel also expressed concern about the bulkiness of the Exubera dispenser and about some patients who experienced coughing or a slight decrease
in lung capacity when using the drug. Pfizer will conduct studies on the long-term effects of Exubera on the lungs, as well as the safety and effectiveness
of the drug on patients with lung disease, the FDA said.

The American Diabetes Association estimated that nearly 21 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, although about one-third do not know it. The number
of people with diabetes is believed to have tripled in the past quarter-century.

Diabetics with either type of the disease could use the rapid-acting inhaled insulin before or after meals to manage their blood sugar levels. However,
the drug would not replace the longer-acting insulin injections that some diabetics, particularly those with Type 1 diabetes, need to take in the morning
or before bed.

"You're not going to eliminate the needles in Type 1. For Type 2, it really depends on the stage," said Dr. Will Cefalu, a clinical investigator for both
Pfizer and Eli Lilly and Co., which is developing its inhalable insulin system with Alkermes Inc.

Most diabetics have Type 2, a condition linked to obesity that occurs when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it makes. Sometimes the disease can
be treated with pills instead of injections when matched with a diet, exercise and weight-management plan.

Pfizer believes Exubera will encourage diabetics who are squeamish about needles to take the insulin they need to tightly control their blood sugar levels.
About 15 percent of diagnosed diabetics do not take the insulin or pills they should, according to American Diabetes Association estimates. Better control
of blood sugar levels allows diabetics to ward off other serious complications, including diseases of the eye, kidneys and nerves. The latter can lead
to ulcers and infections in the legs and feet and, in some cases, amputations.

The Exubera device is about the size of an eyeglass case. It delivers insulin, as a dry powder packaged in one- or three-milligram inhalable capsules, to
the lungs through the mouth, according to Pfizer.

Diabetics with poorly controlled or unstable lung disease, or who smoke or recently quit, shouldn't use Exubera,
the FDA said. And patients should have their lungs checked before using the drug, as well as at six to 12 month
intervals after that.

The world's largest pharmaceutical company initially will have the inhaled insulin market to itself.

"We will be the first out there and for a while," said John LaMattina, president of global research and development for Pfizer. Eli Lilly and Co., Kos Pharmaceuticals
Inc., MannKind Corp. and Novo Nordisk A/S all are developing their own versions.

Saturday, January 28

Virus Warning

Greetings. I heard on this week's Kim Komando radio show that there will be another serious virus making it rounds. The difference with this one is that once activated, it disabled antivirus software, and then on February 3, it destroys all data on your computer. If Kim mentioned it on her show, and says its serious, then I take her word for it. She indicated that it would arrive via email as an attachment, and with a sexual or pornographic related subject line.

Even though it seems like common sense, it bares repeating: Don't open attachments from people that you don't know, or if you're not expecting them. Especially in this case, use extreme caution if you get an email with subject lines like the ones I described above. Your best action would be just to delete the email and save yourself tons of time and trouble, especially since we're talking about a virus that can destroy all data on your computer.

Thursday, January 26

Another SBC Complaint

Greetings. Complaints against SBC are fairly regular, especially if you've been with them long enough, but I had another one come up this past weekend that's notable.

I had called SBC a couple of weeks ago to setup my Austin home phone for January 20. I was assured that the number would be activated on that day. I even called them last Thursday to see what time the number would be turned on. I was told it would be 5pm. Well, 5pm came and went. When I picked up the phone to see if things were working Friday evening, I didn't hear anything. I tried the other phone jack on the outlet near my bed with the same result: nothing. My parents later said that they tried the phone in the living room with no luck.

So, I've just moved into my new apartment, but my phone line wasn't working. And, since SBC is a phone company, they're only open business hours, which meant that I had to wait until Monday morning before I could call them to inform them of the problem. Thankfully I had my cell phone last weekend and could make and receive calls on that, otherwise I really would have been stuck.

On Monday morning at 7:30, I called the repair services line and requested a repair for my line. I then used a trick that my friend Carman Fan1 told me once. I call the repair line back, got a human, and told them that I wanted to add some information to my service request. That information was: "I am blind and need my phone for communication purposes. So, if it can be ready sooner than the 5pm deadline, that would be great." The representative did add this information to my order and I hung up. I made these calls at 7:30 remember. 2 hours later, at 9:30, someone from SBC was at my door and ready to fix the line. It took him longer than he expected, but 20 minutes later, he had a dial tone on my line, which was great.

So, in the end, SBC had a fast enough response to resolve the issue, but my main complaint is that since they're only open business hours, I wasn't able to call them over the weekend to let them know of the problem. Carman Fan says that the line was turned on at their office, but not at my apartment. Actually, truth be told, someone from DART Paratransit was able to call me Friday afternoon and leave a message on my Call Notes voice mail, even though the line didn't ring in the apartment. Go figure.

Wednesday, January 25

Moving Summary

Greetings. Here's the long awaited moving summary. Too much happened over the weekend to detail everything, but here are the highlights, broken up by day.

Thursday. In mid afternoon, my parents came over to my place with the truck so we could load all my stuff in it. This whole process took about 2 hours, plus another hour or so that it might have took to get the truck and load a few pieces of furniture in before they came to my place. That night, I went with them to my older brother Neil's house for dinner. That was fun. Among other things, I showed my new camera phone to my two nephews. The younger of the two, Cameron, didn't quite know what to make of it. However, the older one, Finley, loved it and wanted to take pictures with it. That didn't go over quite as well with me, since letting him take pictures meant giving him the phone, and I wasn't about to do that. However, we did take a few shots with him and Cameron separately, and one with the two of them in my lap. Incidentally, that last picture is now the wallpaper of my phone.

Shortly after I got back home, my good friend Heather came over to pick me up for an evening out. That was fun too. Even though some of the schedules conflicted that night, it was fun to go out with Heather to dinner at our/my favorite place, the Cheesecake Factory.

Friday. My parents and I got up early that morning to drive down to Austin. They took a regular car in addition to the truck, so they would have a car to drive back after they turned the truck into the rental place. Anyway, we made fairly good time and were in Austin by 11 or so. We immediately went to the apartment complex and picked up my keys. Here's where things went astray from our original schedule. The complex didn't have the new carpet in my apartment so we couldn't move in right away. We chose to have them put the carpet in that afternoon. Although the leasing person told us that the carpet wouldn't be in until at least 3-7 or so, the carpet installation people got right on it and had it in by 2. The entire process only took them an hour. I don't know if that was the norm, but we were glad all the same. Meanwhile, to make up for the error, the leasing agent bought us lunch from Blempie's, and that was good. After that, my mother and I did some beginning orientation to the complex, showing me the way from the office to my new apartment. My mother did a great job over all in her orientation. It's safe to say that I think she now has a new respect for people that orient blind folk for a living. Over the course of the weekend, she oriented me from the office to my apartment, and back; to the laundry room, the dumpster, the mailboxes, and even to the nearby bus stop and transit station.

After we went back and forth from the office and apartment a few times, we started unloading things and checking out where to put things in my new place. The largest item which took the most man/woman power and was the most challenging was the 7-foot couch from my grandmother. I now have a new respect for movers, who carry this kind of stuff all the time. Moving things in took a few hours, and before I knew it, it was nearing 6:30. My mom ran out to get dinner, in the form of a frozen pizza, and some other things while my Dad and I stayed behind unpacking and getting things put together. I don't remember what we did after dinner, but think it was more of the same.

Saturday. This was a busy day of shopping, grocery and otherwise, orienting, putting things together, learning about the community shuttle that runs by my complex, and many other things. When I look back on it, its like a blur of activity to me. One of the things that stands out though was dinner.

My Dad had told me that he wanted to take me out to dinner and treat me, as a celebration of my new apartment and over all new beginning. He said that we'd go wherever I wanted, whether it was really cheap or really nice. This was quite an offer, and it took me while to decide where I wanted to go. This decision process was made all the more complicated since I had no idea of the restaurants in Austin. I ultimately settled on barbecue, and we found ourselves at one of those neighborhood places that seem to have everything. I ended up with a sausage poorboy sandwich, fries and Cold Slaw. All of which were very good. I couldn't finish the Slaw, actually I got full long before I ever got to it, so I took it, along with my Mom's leftovers, which she graciously offered to me, in a box and had them for lunch on Sunday. One other highlight. Before we went to dinner, we had a champane toast to my new success and beginning. They suggested that I should keep the small bottle as a momento, so it now sits near the Cable box on the shelves in my living room. All in all, it was a busy but satisfying day.

Sunday. In the morning, my Mom and I wrapped up our orienting, but I was clearly beginning to hit the wall of exhaustion. Two days of unpacking and memorizing and internalizing lots of information, and trying to keep all of it straight in your mind, wares you out. This was how I felt. By the end of it, in the remaining half hour before my parents left, I had a look on my face like, "Don't bother me; don't ask me to make any decisions; I've had it." We went over a few more things, through one of those Move-In checklists from the complex, and said our goodbyes, or as I call them, the "See you laters."

I freely told my Mom that after they left I was going to crash. This wasn't exactly what I did immediately, but I did move into relaxed mode. I dozed on my bed for awhile, got up and had the leftovers from the previous night for lunch, and generally took it way easy that afternoon. Lunch was a time of realization for me, since it was the first lunch I've had in my new apartment, at the new dining room table. So, there I sat, eating the remaining brisket, Slaw, and hash browns, wearing a Walkman and listening to "A Prairie Home Companion." It was mighty good, and I'm not just talking about the food.

During all of this time, throughout the weekend, Tony (my former yellow Lab guide dog), had been walking around the apartment, trying out various places in the rooms as laying down places. He was even spotted in the closet, with only his head sticking out. I think he was getting acquainted with the layout as well. Even now, he goes from laying by the couch, near the coffee table in the living room, on his mat in the bedroom, and probably other places. I think he liked laying in the walk-in closet, with all those clothes around him.

Sunday afternoon and evening I listened to the NFL conference championships and did more relaxing. That night, I talked with my Mom and Finley on the telephone. The talk I had with Finley was fun and was a great comfort.

At one point, we were talking about Austin--the city and his friend named Austin. This was a hard concept for him. Here's a small clip of this talk:

Finley: "Where's Austin?"
Me: "Austin is when you get in the car and ride for 3 hours. That's a long time, but its where I am."
Finley: "Are you in Austin's house?"
Me: "No, I'm in my own house in Austin."

We went back and forth like this for awhile, until he asked me, "Where are Austin and Barbara?" I then understood and said I didn't know where they were. After asking me the same thing again, and repeating my answer, he gave the phone back to my Mom.

Monday. Not much to write about this day. It was a long and boring day. Remember, I didn't get Cable TV and Internet until yesterday, so Monday I figure I was still decompressing from the weekend.

It's been cool to walk around my apartment thinking that its mine. At various times, I'll walk from room to room and marvel and what I now have, mainly for the fact that its way more than I had before. I can now put things straight up in my regular fridge, fill a shelf in the door with sodas, and have lots more freezer space to store things. I experienced this feeling again of ownership this morning when in the bathroom area. My sink, vannity and cabinets under the sink are outside of the closed off bathroom area, which is nice. I was standing in front of the sink, running my hands over the vannity, admiring its width and inner storage space. It's good to have a place to call your own.

That's about it. I'm sure I've left out things, but that's enough for now.

Custoemr Service Experiences

Greetings. In the past day, I've had some interesting customer service experiences. They started with the technician from Time Warner that came to my place yesterday morning to install the digital Cable and Internet service.

I suppose that I should have picked up on his reluctance to put the Cable in as a sign of things to come, but I didn't. He didn't want to put the Cable in because, for whatever reason, he would have to string the cable across the floor and didn't want to be held liable if I tripped. I understand this, but finally I told him, "Look man, you're giving me access to several hundred TV and digital channels. If I trip, its my fault. I'm not going to blame you." He then complied.

I think that there was something missing upstairs though with him, since after putting the cable together and getting the system up and running, he toyed with the remotes. I should say that I have an older TV, about 8 years old, so I have a remote for the TV and one for the Cable service. Anyway, this guy finally says that the system won't work since he can't change the volume with Time Warner's remote. I then explained to him that that was normal; that I had the same situation with Comcast when I was with them.

He then starts to put his stuff away and tells me what I owe him, but I quickly remind him that my Internet service isn't setup yet, and his response: "Oh yeah." So we go into my bedroom where my computer is setup. I told him several times that I use adaptive software on my computer that reads the screen to me, and that was what he heard talking from, if my computer were to talk. So he hooks up the Internet Cable modem (of which I have no idea where he put), and attempts to install the software and configure the connection. I'll skip some of this stuff for the sake of not boring the reader.

The last bit of frustrating contact with this tech, who obviously hasn't taken his Computer Programs 101 class, comes when we attempt to setup the email configuration. He tells me that I have to use the Road Runner site to check my email. I personally know quite a few blind people who are on Road Runner, and able to use email frequently, so I wasn't as concerned about this. I should also say that the Road Runner site has lots of unlabeled flash content on it, making it nearly impossible to use with JAWS. Anyway, this guy is telling me on which button to click, and I then attempt to explain what I want to do, of using the email through Outlook Express. Not an odd request. Apparently though, through further talk, this tech has never heard of this widely used email program, much less that its used for email. This is when I really labeled him a nerd in my mind. So we struggle with the Road Runner site for awhile and he even calls back to his supervisor, who instructs us to refresh the Road Runner page and that will make it work. At one point he tells me to open Outlook Express and type in a web address, to which I explained (hopelessly) that OE is an email program, not a web browser. I kid you not, his reply was something like, "oooooh." I finally turned to him and said, "See, this is why I want to use my email through Outlook Express; if I'm having this much trouble with the Road Runner site, then how am I going to use email?" And then, I asked him how he used email, and he said he uses web mail. That explains everything. Well, not everything; I'm still struggling with how this guy can be a daily technician, deal with people of lesser computer knowledge than me, and still not have even heard of Outlook Express, much less know what it does.

That was my first customer service experience. The other two are thankfully more positive. The second was when I called Road Runner with trouble setting up my settings in Outlook Express. This time, I got a very nice gentleman who was very patient and understanding; a model CS agent. Anyway, he walked me through various settings and had me send several test messages to myself. Finally, when reading an error message to him, I started laughing, and he said, "Uh-oh, whenever the customer laughs like that, I know that they have realized that they made the mistake. Is that right?" I answered that it was and he asked what the error was. I told him that I had misspelled the name of my own city, in my haste of writing the outgoing mail address. He said, "How did you spell it?" I answered, "A U N S T I N." To his credit, he laughed right along with me. He even said that he's had people ask him how to spell Houston.

The last experience I had was last night when I called Time Warner because my Cable wasn't working. I got a very nice woman, Sara, who was great about walking me through various steps. I told her right up front that I was blind, so couldn't help her with the visuals. She was super about telling me which buttons on the remote to press, such as, "... the one under the rectangular power button," and others. Finally, after nearly an hour, and some working on her computer, we got it back on and working. She also answered my questions about the Time Warner Cable system. I can't say enough about Sara and her abilities, especially since I was beginning to wonder if I would have to have another technician come out and fix my Cable, which probably wouldn't have been until Friday or Saturday, since those techs are never available the next day. Thankfully though, this didn't happen.

Its positive experiences, like with Sara and the Road Runner guy over the phone, that help me forget the bad ones, like the initial tech and his knowledge, or lack thereof. I still find myself coming back to the question of how he could not have heard of Outlook Express? Anyway, given that all of those happened in the first day of service, hopefully I'll be trouble free for awhile to come. Then again though, with my luck, I'll be calling someone this afternoon, :)

Tuesday, January 24

Thoughts on Austin Radio

Greetings. My moving summary is coming, but first, I wanted to give some thoughts on Austin radio.

First off, those who know me well, or even remotely, know that I'm a sports fan. In Dallas, there was a super sports station called Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket. Though the Ticket is not for everyone, they do a great job of blending "guy talk" with sports. A popular phrase seems to fit well here: "They are often immitated but never duplicated." I've listened to other sports stations around the country, and they don't seem to hit that perfect blend of sports and nonsports stuff like the Ticket does. Anyway, after only a day or two in Austin, I can already tell that it does not have a "Ticket like" station. Of the sports stations I've found, there are two ESPN Radio related ones (no clue why they have two), and the big local station, The Zone, which broadcasts Fox when local programming is not on. Granted, I haven't listened much to them, but I've already been able to tell that they dont' measure up to The Ticket. So far, the only broadcaster that I've heard that I can listen to for any length of time is Craig Way, who does a show from 2-4 on weekdays. I remember Craig from when he was at KRLD, News radio 1080 in Dallas. Back in the day, Craig did a high school football game of the week, and a post game wrap up show on the area games. There were others involved too, but you could tell that Craig was the driving force behind it all. Now, Craig is the voice of University of Texas football and basketball games.

Anyway, I love his voice. He's one of those people that has a voice for radio, and you can tell he's got his own style. I'm sure the other people on The Zone as well as those on the ESPN stations are good as well, but Craig's the only one that's jumped out at me so far.

Another station that I'm finding myself listening more often than not is the local public radio affiliate, KUT 90.5. I love listneing to their national public radio programs, especially All Things Considered. Regardless of their political affiliations, NPR does some of the best reporting that I've heard. There are some places that a radio reporter can go with a tape or digital recorder that you can't get to with a camera. I like some of their other programming too, such as "A Prairie Home Companion," heard on weekends. I'm not going to attempt to spell the host's name, but he has a deep voice and you'd know him if you heard it.

The last station that I'm really liking is 590am, KLBJ. I have a link to them on the Media Page of my website. Anyway, I listened this morning to their morning drive program and it's really good. They do a great job of blending topics of the day with news, traffic reports, sports, and regular announcements of the current time. The time announcements are what I'm looking for in a morning show, since I often am too busy getting ready for work to bother with checking a clock or watch nearby. I think there's something to the weekday morning show as well, since you want to hear people that really like each other, instead of having some sort of forced chemistry on air. The people on the KLBJ morning show seem to be these kind of people, or the ones who really get along and work well with one another.

That's about all for now. All these points seem to work well together in their posts, instead of being mixed into the over all summary. And, at least for now, the KLBJ morning show gets my vote for the station that I'll have on my clock radio in the morning.

First Austin Post

Greetings. This is a brief post to let everyone know that I'm in Austin and am getting my cyber feet back under me. I had someone from Time warner over earlier, and have been getting back in the cyber stream of activity. I wanted to put this quick note up to let everyone know that I made it to Austin just fine. I'll write later about the last 5 or 6 days, which will cover the move, settling in, and the time after my parents left. Until then, ...

Tuesday, January 17

Phone Access is Great!

Greetings. Now that I've come up for air for awhile since I've been playing with my new phone, I wanted to post a brief message here. I was successfully able to install the Talks software with the help of a kind gentleman from Missouri. It took us a couple of tries, but that was mainly my fault for accidentally pushing buttons and not realizing it. Anyway, I got Talks on the phone, and while I thought of it, I installed the light and color identifyer, and an expanded file explorer. Ever since that point several hours ago, I've been toying with the phone, adding contacts, listening to a tutorial I got for Talks some time ago, and other things. It's great to be able to put contacts, some with more than one number, in my phone independently. Currently, I've got 8 people in my contacts. I can understand why the blind people I know that have Talks or software like it, say that they will never go back to just a "regular" phone, where you can only dial a number. I can already see that I'm going to love this new phone and Talks. What's going to be really good is picking names and then numbers, and not having to remember all these various numbers for people. Kind of like when I went from typing in email addresses, to using the auto complete feature in Outlook Express. Similar thing here.

Well, I'm off to enter more contacts and generally have a good time with the new phone and software I have, not to mention the greater access.

The Final Blog ...

Greetings. This will be my final blog, or at least from Dallas. My next blog will likely be in Austin.

Last night I had my gaterhing, or farewell party, at a local Tex-Mex restaurant. That was fun. Of the 40 people I invited, about 30 showed up, some only for a few minutes but most for dinner. I think everyone had a great time talking with those they did not know. I felt better about being the host/guest of honor at this party, verses the graduation party that I had about 2 and 1/2 years ago. My parents and I got there about a half hour early, so I could at least start my dinner. It was a lovely dinner too, which for me was three crispy beef tacos, with the standard rice and beans. The chips that dotted the tables had a certain flair to them as well, and they were hard to resist.

It was good to talk with people, those that came up to me, and those that I went around and spoke to after I finished eating. Over all, it was very encouraging, satisfying, and uplifting to see that many people there, but also to know that I have a special relationship with each person there. Toward the end, it was somewhat sad. However, now that the party is over with, I feel like I can move to Austin without any trouble. In other words, now that I've said "See you later," I refuse to say (goodbye), I can move on. And, that's how I should feel I think. I'm still sad about leaving Dallas, no doubt, but there are better things ahead.

On a slightly different note, I received my new Nokia 6682 phone yesterday. I am in the process of getting things up and running on that phone, so that I can install some screen reading software on it, called Talks, which will speak all parts of the phone to me, and I can interact more with the phone. The previous phone I had, I could only dial a number. In recent years, I've begun to want to do more. Picture not being able to see simple things on the phone display, like who called or if there were any missed calls. This Talks software will give me that ability. Plus, I figure that if I'm going to a new job where I might be called after work, by colleagues or friends from Dallas, I want to know who's calling me. Anyway, I will also be able to send and receive text messages, and could do email or web browsing on it, though I'm not interested in the email and browsing at the moment. This particular phone is one of those newer camera phones, and that gives more flexibility, since there is a freeware application I can put on the phone which acts as a color identifyer and light probe. I find the color identifyer application a particularly interesting use of the camera phone. For those interested, you can find a link to the light and color identifyer application on the Computers page of my website.

So long for now and I'll write again when I'm up and running in Austin.

Sunday, January 15

Snapshots of Church

Greetings. To me, snapshots are brief memories of things I've been through, whether they be one scene or doing something with others or even a snapshot of my environment. Well, below, I've listed a few snapshots of church, specifically Scofield Memorial Church, where I've been going for the last year and a half and some. These snapshots have been popping up in my mind for most of the day. Today was my last Sunday to go to Scofield before I move to Austin. I'll probably leave some things out, but then again, I'm doing this so that I and others can remember. Here goes:

Meeting Scott and his family, and riding to and from church with them. I have several snapshots with Scott, which include in no particular order: going grocery shopping with him and his Dad, and that one time I went with shopping with his 11 year old daughter. That was fun since his daughter really enjoyed shopping (not surprising I suppose but I was surprised, no kid likes grocery shopping, or so I thought), and she was really helpful. Riding with Scott to drop one of his kids off at baseball practice during the spring and summer, and then going through drive throughs to get lunch, or even finishing the kids' lunch, grin.

One thing that impressed me about Scott right off was his willingness to serve and help. Scott has 4 kids, and had I known that, he probably wouldn't have been the person I would have asked to drive me to and from church. However, when Scott was asked, he agreed. However, I suppose that if Scott didn't respond, then I wouldn't have gotten those snapshots.

I also remember having brief, but meaningful, talks with Scott about various things. And, going out to lunch with Scott, his family, and his parents, a few times. Those were fun.

Other snapshots include, from the singles class: going to the Sunday night Bible studies with the singles; hanging out at the house the studies were at back in May, at the last study of the spring; and generally getting to know the people in that class. One big snapshot that must be mentioned is getting songs from the worship leader on a regular basis, and then being able to put those songs on my note taker and read them during the singing period, just like everyone else. Along with this, I regularly got the songs that were sung in the main service from Daniel, and was able to sing and follow along in that service. This has been a big snapshot for me, since before I got these songs, there would only be one or two songs I'd recognize that they would sing. But when I got the words, I could really act like I knew the songs and sing with everyone else, or at least read along.

Also from the singles group: the fellowship that we always had before we started class; this past Christmas party and going carolling; praying with Brent and Bill after class on the Sunday following my lay off, about my future; going swing dancing in September with Sharon and others; teasing Sharon about her butter dish; teasing Helen about her violin; and generally getting to know the various people in that class.

In the main service: listening to the people sing in that service, such as Daniel; giving a consistent offering to the Lord; listening to Pastor Matthew's vivid story illustrations, where I could feel like the characters he would describe; and others.

Another big thing that constantly and consistently impressed me about Scofield and its people was that I was accepted without question by everyone I met. This shouldn't be out of the ordinary, since you'd think that this would be the norm, but I'm sad to say that this hasn't always been the case in some churches or with some people. With the people from Scofield though, I didn't have to prove myself or try to minimize my blindness; everyone accepted me as I was, and I like that.

Anyway, I'm sure I left some snapshots out, but these are some of the ones that have been in my mind today, and even over the past few days. Scott asked me today if Austin will be my new home, and I really didn't know what to tell him. Ultimately I answered along the lines of, "Well, I hope so, but up until now, each time I wanted to call an area my home, I've moved on or my environment has changed. So I don't know." Truthfully, around September last year, I really felt like Scofield was my home, and then a couple of months later I was laid off, and here we are. Time will tell I suppose.

My best wishes to everyone from Scofield. As I told another friend a few days ago, "It's been a good ride." And, I'll definitely stay in contact with you and visit when I'm in town; count on it. When I visit, I might even call Scott for old times sake, and ask him if he can pick me up for church, :)

Saturday, January 14

American Printing House Featured on the Travel Channel

Greetings. I received the following announcement from an email list I'm on. Refer to local listings to find out what time the program is on in your area. Enjoy, and as always, pardon any formatting errors.

Made in America Showcases American Printing House for the Blind
Tuesday at 9:00 PM on the Travel Channel

(Louisville, KY - January 17th, 2006): John Ratzenberger's Made
in America came to Louisville in August of 2005 to profile local firm
American Printing House for the Blind. On Tuesday, January 17th, 2006,
we can finally watch the behind-the-scenes coverage that John spent the
day shooting. The program will follow the production of several
products the firm makes for the visually impaired, from books to
software equipment. John (Cheers, Pixar Films) will finish the program
by reading a Braille cowboy novel Braille aloud.

WHAT: Nationally televised program Made in America showcasing
American Printing House for the Blind and its President Tuck Tinsley,

WHEN: Tuesday, January 17th, 2006 at 9:00 PM

WHERE: The Travel channel - Please check your local listings

Airing Tuesdays at 9:00 PM on the Travel Channel, John Ratzenberger's
Made in America celebrates the people, places and products that are
uniquely American. John honors the men and women who work with their
hands and skillfully make the products that are the backbone of the
American economy. Each year the program visits roughly 40 manufacturing
facilities throughout the country. This week John will profile 2 other
companies including Tom's of Maine and Herman Miller Chairs. Please
visit www.travel.discovery.com for more information on Made in America's
schedule, companies profiled and host John Ratzenberger.

American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is the world's largest
nonprofit organization creating educational, workplace, and independent
living products and services for people who are visually impaired.
Founded in 1858 in Louisville, Kentucky, APH is the oldest organization
of its kind in the United States. The American Printing House for the
Blind promotes independence of blind and visually impaired persons by
providing specialized materials, products, and services needed for
education and life. Please visit
for more information

Roberta L. Williams
Public Relations and Special Projects Manager
Works with: Media information, Tours
InSights Art competition, Events
Address: American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206
Telephone: 800-223-1839, ext. 357

APH- A local landmark, a national resource, since 1858.

Friday, January 13

Good News About the USPS

Greetings. I wanted to report a positive visual/word verification incident. The USPS has their act together with regards to making their site accessible. I just changed my address from Dallas to Austin, and had a great experience. When I reached the screen where you enter the visual/word verification code, right above this form, there's a link which says something like, "If you use a screen reader, then click here to be redirected to an alternate page." When I did, the code was displayed on screen and I was informed that an email would be sent to the address that I had filled in on an earlier form, with the link to click on to complete the process. When I found the email and the link and clicked on it, a secure page opened up where I could write or paste in the verification code, then check the box authorizing the $1 transaction for the change of address, then hit the Continue button. I was able to complete the address change process completely on my own. This is the way it should be.

This is the first time I've come across this method of giving the code, but it worked for me and as of next Friday, my mail will be forwarded to Austin.

If You Care About Access, Then Take Action

Greetings. If you care about access, then take action. Darrell Shandrow has formulated a petition against Google for their inaccessible word/visual verification practices. You can view and sign the peitition at his blog, the Blind Access Journal, in the 1/12/06 entry.

If you've been reading this blog or others like it for any length of time, then you've undoubtedly seen references to Google's word/visual verification. Or, perhaps you've experienced it yourself on another site. If you care about access, then sign this peitition. If enough people sign it, then Google will have to respond.

Monday, January 9

Austin Moving Update

Greetings. It's been a busy day as I've been working on the move down to Austin. Depending who will help me move, I'll either move on January 20 or 21. Consequently, posts to this blog might be less frequent than usual, but that's understandable.

I've been calling many people on the phone, like doctors for recommendations, the leasing person I'm working with at the new apartments (I've talked with her several times today), my new boss, and others. Thankfully, much of this preparation can be done over the phone or by computer, which is good. However, it seems like the more I do, the more errands that appear on my To Do list. Oh well, I guess that's how it goes.

Depending on the time and what I'm up to, I bounce between being excited about the pending move and new job, to wondering how I will get everything done. I plan on having a local get together, or as I call it a gathering, for friends I've made in Dallas, sometime early next week, so they can say goodbye. Long sentence, grin. Anyway, amidst the planning for the move, I'm also attempting to plan that. Like I said, it's been busy.

One note worthy thing worth mentioning here is that I ordered and received a new clock from Independent Living Aids. This is their talking electric clock radio. I believe the product number is 835895. Anyway, like many adaptive products these days, for whatever reason, the product doesn't come with any instructions on cassette or disk, so the user is left to figuring it out on their own. Or, possibly getting a patient sighted person that can walk you through its operation. Well, I called the company this morning and was informed that they've placed instructions in Word files, for many of their products on their website, and that I could find such instructions for the clock radio there. I went to the site and then clicked on the Product Instructions link, and then it was only a matter of finding the product number and then saving the file to my system. After about 10 minutes of reading the manual, I had the time and alarm set. This is a great idea for these types of companies that sell these daily living products for the blind and vision impaired. And one that other companies should look into.

I still think that the method of finding about the web manuals could be improved upon, like a note in either large print or Braille that is included with the product in question, saying that the manuals can be found online. But a great initiative all the same. I've been wanting this particular clock radio for sometime, but haven't been able to justify it for an efficiency, since I already have a radio and what's the point of having two in the same room? Now that I'm moving to an apartment though, I can easily justify it. For those interested, the clock is only about $27 plus the $7 or so of shipping charge. I'll put the link to the product instructions page up on my site tonight or tomorrow, probably in the What's New section on the home page.

Talk soon.

Saturday, January 7

Austin Apartment Summary

Greetings. As I did when I came back from my interview in November, I thought I'd put up a short summary of my apartment search over the past two days, and then put up a longer narrative later. So, here goes:

* My parents and I drove to Austin early Thursday morning and met with the first apartment leasing people at 11.
* We met with several more apartment leasing people on thursday and Friday.
* By Friday afternoon at 3:30, we sat down and wrote down the pros and cons of my two finalists.
* We were then able to decide on the right apartment for me.
* I will move in and get settled and acclimated on the weekend of January 20-22.

There were several interesting things we saw and some celebrating as well, but as I say, all that will come later today or tomorrow when I write the longer narrative. Until then.

Sunday, January 1

The Boys' Are Done

Greetings. I'm writing this in the third quarter of the Dallas Cowboys game against the Rams. As the title says though, the Boys' are done, but then again, is anyone really all that surprised?

For one of the few times in the season, I'm having trouble staying interested and glued to this game. In order for Dallas to move on into the post season, Washington or Carolina had to lose their games today, and neither one of those happened. So, by game time, there were no playoff implications for either Dallas or St. Louis. It's hard to get excited about a game when you know it will be your last. However, the Cowboys have only themselves to blame for getting in this position. If they'd won some of their early games back in September or October, and taken care of business, then they'd probably be in a better position to move on. One game in particular that I can think of right off is their first game against Washington, where they gave up 2 touchdowns in the last few minutes of the game, and ended up losing by one point. That hurt.

I consider myself a realistic fan/person. So from my point of view, even if they had made into the playoffs, did anyone really expect them to go to the Superbowl? Some people locally talked about it, but let's be realistic, especially in light of the last half of the season. Even if they had made it to a wildcard game, I'm pretty sure that they would have faced off one of the really good NFC teams, and gotten blown out.

I don't want to be misunderstood; I'm not real upset that Dallas didn't make it into the playoffs. I'm more upset that the outcome was determined by other teams, one of which is at about the same level as Dallas (Washington), who actually won their game. Granted, I didn't watch the Washington vs. Phillie game, so I may not be able to comment effectively on it. The fact remains that they and Carolina won their games, and Dallas missed its last chance.

It doesn't really matter to me whetehr Dallas wins tonight or not. Truthfully, I heard on one of the radio pregame shows, the people talking about the implications of Dallas winning or losing, as it related to where they'd end up in the first round picks of the NFL Draft in April. That about sums up other people's interest in this game, grin.

In other NFL news, the clock is ticking for how long it will take various teams to fire their coaches, including the one down south in Houston. I heard one person say earlier that that firing should happen sometime before lunch tomorrow. I've also heard talk that houston will likely take Reggie Bush in the NFL Draft, since they will get the first pick due to their worst record in the league. That would be a good find for Houston, to get Bush, though I dare say that they probably need to do a lot more to that team to get them back in the hunt for a good season's record. In today's NFL though, even though they stunk this year, Houston will probably be in the playoffs next year, which I'm sure would make OGV happy, grin. In other firing news, it took the Vikings until just after their game ended to fire their coach. They didn't waste time, :)

But don't despair OGV and every other Houston or Dallas football fan, there's plenty of ball left to play with the remaining bowl games, the NFL playoffs and the Superbowl. Once again, good luck to the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Texas Longhorns in their bowl games.


Greetings. I usually think that New Year's resolutions are kind of subjective, or for show, since you always hear of the regular ones like dieting, stop smoking, exercising, etc. Unless the resolution is not one of these, then it stands out. Such as the one I make every year: to increase my independence in some way during the year. Let me first put forth a definition of what I think independence is, since it can be over used in certain circumstances. To me, it means being able to do things on your own, but also knowing when to ask for help if needed. I'm not so over confident that I think I can do everything on my own, but I do try to do as much on my own as possible. Mainly because there may not always be someone around to help. I do recognize that I will need help at one time or another, and I have allowed for that in my definition.

I purposely make the definition very broad, so that many different things could fit in this category, such as walking down to the corner bank and opening up an account, going to a travel agent's office and getting airlines tickets for an upcoming trip, moving in to a new living place, such as an efficiency, or even cooking a meal for 40. Ok, so this last one might seem a little far fetched, however, it along with all the previous things are things that I have done in prior years that I think fit my annual resolution.

As for things from last year that fit my resolution, I think that my interview at Starbucks with the sales representative from VisuAide, and my interview in Austin a few months ago both fit this resolution quite nicely. Especially the Austin interview, since I literally traveled to the airports and to and from the interview location on my own.

This year it might be a little interesting to achieve this resolution, but I'm sure I will in some way. I probably can't count my move to Austin in a few weeks, but I'm sure that there will be other things that I can count.

So, cheers to a new year and may you meet all your New Year's resolutions.