Sunday, February 26

New Tool from Google, But Can We Use It?

Greetings. I was just reading this weekend's edition of the Kim Komando newsletter, and she mentions a new tool available from Google. This time, they're offering a web page creation tool. Sounds great, right? But, in order to use it, you need to have a GMail account, which you (a blind person) can't get independently unless you get someone to help you read and enter the visual/word verification code that they have in their sign-up process. If you haven't done so yet, please go to Blind Web Access and sign the Google Word Verification Petition. Right before I wrote this post, I checked the number of signitures, and they're up to 4100. This petition has gotten some coverage in the media and has been highly promoted by Darrell Shandrow on his blog. You can read more on Darrell's blog about the different sites and media outlets that have done coverage for this important petition.

Again, if you haven't signed the petition yet, or even if you have, please go sign it or tell your friends and colleagues to do so. Let's try to get up to 5,000 before the week is out! Google might shut themselves out to the blind, to our mentioning that we don't have access because they (Google) doesn't offer an alternative to the visual code, but can they shut us out after we show that 5,000 people support this access effort?

Saturday, February 25

This Past Week in Immersion

Greetings. First off, I think its kind of funny and a reflection of my current lifestyle, to look at the kinds of posts I was doing before I started working full time and the kinds I'm doing now. Before February 1, I was putting up many links to interesting articles, and a few journal like entries. Now, after February 1, my posts are mainly of the journal variety and not much, if any, linked stories. I'll still put up a link to a story, or an article in its entirety, but the main reason why I haven't done so is because--I don't have any time left to do that anymore. Funny how that thing called time disappears after you go from not working hardly at all, to working full time. Anyway, I've kind of come full circle, since when I started this blog about a year ago, I never thought I'd be journaling very much, and look at what's happening now.

Anyway, on with the summary. I must say that its hard for me to recount everything that happens to me in a week, since my days are full of different classes, experiences, and incidents that happen. And I simply wouldn't have space, or well, time, to recount everything. Perhaps I will if we ever talk on the phone or in person. Until then, here's the highlights from this past week, ending February 24.

Monday of the week stands out, mainly because it was one of those all staff holidays: President's Day. I haven't had this particular holiday off in several years, since my early days of college in fact, but I got it off now. I've since learned that as far as holidays go, my agency didn't used to take many of them, preferring to let them pile up and then give the staff an extra week at Christmas time. Now though, since the consolidation of many of the state agencies under the Health and Human Services Commission, more holidays are taken. Therefore, the trade off is taking the holidays as they occur instead of in a larger slice in December. As for me, I can definitely appreciate that extra week in December, but I also think its a good idea to have them in doses and take them as they come. Besides, this way, you get 3-day weekends, and everyone likes those. Another interesting note here: I've also since learned that we don't get Good Friday off. Now, why we get President's Day off and not Good Friday is beyond me, but that's the way things are. I've yet to verify this with my boss, but I've read that though we don't get Good Friday off, we do get the following Monday off. So it all balances out in the end I guess.

Tuesday was an interesting day, since in my shop class, I moved to learning how lamps work and working with wires. This is another one of those things that I never could have imagined that I'd be doing. But there I was, trying to split twist and wrap the electrical wires around some screws on a socket. At that time though, I did not know some tricks to get the wires around the screws, so consequently, it was very frustrating for me. I never completed the task in the hour I had, because each time I thought I had it done, I'd test it by pulling the wires on one end, and they would pop right off one or both screws on the socket.

One note from the previous weeks' shop activity: on Friday, February 17, I successfully put together a toilet's inner workings (without the water inside, thankfully), a fauscet, and the sides to a box fan. The instructor I was working with, made the observation that I was very mechanically inclined. Here's another personal revelation, since I've never thought of myself as mechanically inclined. Here's something I never knew about myself. I still don't consider myself a big time handy man, but I suppose I can do what needs to be done. Several times thus far in the home repair portion of shop class, when someone's made the comment to me of, "Looks like you're doing a good job," I've always replied with something like, "Yes, but I have no idea of what I'm doing." Though I was kidding, there's some truth to that. In other words, I think that I could have successfully taken apart the fauscet and put it back together if left alone, but I wouldn't know what any of the pieces were called. Anyway, something else to mark down in the personal revelation category of my immersion training.

On Wednesday, I got quite a scare, when my mobility teacher took me down to a complex intersection and asked me to evaluate, and then cross, it. We're talking about an intersection where one 4-lane street crosses a 6-lane street. Throw in some right and left turn lanes, and cordinated traffic patterns when the lights change, and you've got one confusing intersection. Looking back, I think the goal for my mobility instructor here was not necessarily to teach me how to cross this type of intersection. After all, there's only so much mobility work you can do in a 6 week immersion session. Rather, I think it was to evaluate my prolem solving and O&M skills, and to see how I might handle an intersection like this. Personally though, even though in the end, I successfully handled this intersection, I'm not going to walk back to one and attempt a crossing on my own. That's too complex for my tastes. In fact, I'll avoid one before I have to cross it. That said, a few hours after the lesson, I did have a since of pride for having conquered that type of intersection.

On Thursday, I conquered the lamp exercise in shop class. The instructor that was there, since there were many that weren't for various reasons, showed me some tricks in working with the wires and getting them around the screws in the socket. Thus, I almost completed putting a lamp back together, after taking it apart and learning what the pieces were called and where they went. When I had the lamp totally apart, and the instructor then told me, "Ok, now put it back together, and while you're doing that, I'm going in the other room to cut some wood," I felt very confident about doing so. When she came back in about 15 minutes later, I was wrapping the wire around the screws and tightening the screws in the socket. I was even able to thread the electrical wire through the lamp before class ended. This Monday, I'll complete the exercise. I'm not sure what's after this one. I've heard that the final thing is to fix a belt on a vacuum cleaner, but I'm not sure if that's right or not. Some people have said that the lamp is the last thing in the home repair course, so we'll see.

The other interesting thing that happened Thursday was in the morning when quite a few students met in the main lounge area, to split into groups and go to explore an Amtrack train station and a Greyhound bus station. I was in a group with 4 other students and 2 instructors. Both stations were very interesting, though I think that the Greyhound might be more useful to me than Amtrack. After all, I don't see myself taking Amtrack anywhere anytime soon, I could be wrong though. Anyway, the goal here was to problem solve and in a controlled manner, to discover the different stations and figure out how to get around them and accomplish several different tasks. Such as, buying a ticket, locating the proper bus/train to board, etc. At the Greyhound station, I found out that a round trip ticket to Dallas costs $59 for a weekend trip. This is good to know, though I much prefer flying to going by bus. Its the way I've always done it, and I don't see any reason to change now. Besides, as far as actual travel time, Southwest gets there quicker. But who knows; perhaps one weekend I'll take the bus just to see what its like.

One funny thing that happened was at the Amtrack station when we were trying to locate the train tracks and where to board. We (the students), found the tracks with little problem, but then someone heard a train coming. Imagine the sight we portrayed to anyone looking out the lobby window: about 5 or 6 blind people wandering, some reaching down to feel, the train tracks, when a train was in the distance. I can imagine their nervousness and anxiety, and that might explain the announcement that the ticket agent made a few minutes later, warning those close to the tracks to move back closer to the building. He didn't refer to us specifically, but I have a feeling he was probably worried about those weird blind people.

Yesterday, in mobility, my instructor had me walk in essentially what turned out to be a capital letter P, as far as the street configuration of the streets I walked on. She said I didn't have to cross any major or complex intersections, but she did want me to follow several streets and make a square, and then come back to the center. I thought, "Fine," and after talking about the route several times, I set off. She used street names and directions, such as north, west, etc., in her route description, so it took me several run throughs to fully understand what I was to do. I usually don't have a problem with this, but I'm not familiar with the streets in that area around the Center, much less in Austin at large, so that's why it took a few times. Anyway, starting out on the route, I had to walk down to 45th street, which was the same path I took when I went to Chipotle a couple of weeks ago with my coworkers. I had forgotten how far that was and how much my calves and feet hurt, before I even got to 45th. In fact, even though I didn't actually cross many streets in my square/P configuration, I actually ended up walking between 10 and 12 blocks in total. To say that I'm not used to walking that much would be an understatement. I had to stop twice in the route to sit down and rest because my feet and calves were hurting.

In part of the route, my instructor said that I'd come to a brick wall with a gate spanning the street. She told me how to go through the gate, in following the brick wall back a ways, but I didn't fully understand. So when I finally got to that point in the route, I was stumped. I looked at the gate, every inch of it, the brick walls on both sides of it, read some signs in print that had raised or bolded letters, which said, "Visitors Only," and something about unauthorized entry. Anyway, suffice it to say, I couldn't find the opening that my instructor was talking about. I finally went back to the gate and felt the number and placement of horrizontal bars on it, and thought seriously about climbing over it. It would have been uncomfortable, and I did wonder if climbing over it would have been considered as part of that "unauthorized entry." Finally, my instructor came over and gave me a clue, which when I followed one of the brick walls a little farther, I finally found the opening she was talking about, and successfully finished the route. While looking at the gate, the walls, and talking with my instructor, I made the comment to her, "I feel like I'm trying to sneak into the castle."

I took a hot bath last night, at the suggestion of my mobility instructor, to relax and sooth those muscles, but I'm not sure it helped. My feet started hurting while I was going over to the apartment complex's office today to pay the March rent. It might take me a little longer than I had thought to get used to this exercise and walking thing.

I have some other thoughts about my immersion so far, but I'll put those in another post. This one's long enough. Until then.

Thursday, February 16

Today in Immersion

Greetings. Here's the news of today.

This morning, I met with my O&M (orientation and mobility) instructor, which for those that don't know, its the "cane travel teacher." Anyway, she had a couple of hours free and had scheduled me in for this morning, so we could have some personal work time. Which I very much appreciate. If there's anything that I know I could benefit from in my immersion training, its learning the layout and how to get around Austin. Today, as in several past trips, we went to my neighborhood and walked around some of the streets, locating places and practicing street crossings. I mention all this because I learned where a health or organic food store, called Sun Harvest Grocery, is located near my apartment. This morning I learned where it was, and this evening after I got home and fed Tony and took him out, I went to Sun Harvest to pick up a few essentials--all on my own!! There are several turns in the route over there, but all in all, its about 2 or 3 blocks or so. That felt real good. On the way there, I was talking with my friend Heather from Dallas on my cell phone. I really haven't shopped before at many health food stores so I'm not sure if this is the standard or if Sun Harvest stands out among them. I'm thinking their selection and variety is the standard, as far as having lots of health food and not many "regular recognizable" brands of things. They are kind of a mini-grocery store, where you can get milk, frozen foods, a few ice creams, cereal, and other things. They even have a bakery. I didn't explore that since it was in the evening and I was ready to get back home and put my feet up.

Austin has been and will be different, from Dallas, for me as far as doing errands. In Dallas, I had several people that "helped" me do my errands. Here, I don't know anyone, or anyone sighted anyway. I'm starting to get to know a few people, but not like in Dallas. I mention all this to say that I'll be getting back to doing things and going places on my own, because I have to. If I don't, then it doesn't get done. I flourish in places with good layouts and bus systems though, such as Austin and Denver. Going to Sun Harvest this afternoon reminded me of that freedom of travel and independence I had back in college and in Denver when I was at the Colorado Center for the Blind. I think I'm going to like this kind of freedom, :)

I'm experiencing that freedom in other ways as well, like in my daily living class this morning after mobility. Today I was going to make macaroni and cheese, which I successfully did. That gave me a little anxiety, especially when bringing the pot to boil, before I put the noodles in, since I had the usual fear of burning myself. I learned some cool nonvisual techniques though, such as using a long handled fork or other cooking utinsil, to help center the pot on the burner, instead of touching the burner and possibly burning myself if it was on. As always though, the best part was doing the taste test afterward. I will be making other things in daily living too, such as chicken salad, pancakes, and more. It reminds me of when I used to cook in Colorado, and I'm beginning to remember how to do some of this. The big thing though is that after making the mac and cheese today, I feel like I can make it on my stove in my apartment, and that's another part of the freedom I mentioned above.

This afternoon was spent at Lowes, looking at cabinets, washers and dryers, and buying several screw drivers and a good looking plastic toolbox to put them in. I'll probably get other tools later, but only when I learn how to use them and have a need for them.

Over all, it's been a great day. For much of my immersion training thus far, I've been busy, taking one thing at a time, figuring out where things and places are, and basically getting the lay of the land. However, now that I'm nearing the end of my second of six weeks, I'm starting to relax and enjoy the training, as many of my coworkers have been telling me that I would.

I still feel that pride of working full time, much less as an instructor (sort of), when I feel my ID card that hangs around my neck. Every so often, when I get caught up in the tasks or classes that I'm doing, I'll reach down and feel the ID card, and then be reminded of that pride and satisfaction of working where I do.

Wednesday, February 15

Midweek Update

Greetings. I've been wanting to put up an update for a few days now, but the past two nights, I was watching the Westminster Dog Show on USA Network, which was great as always. I don't really tune into these dog shows, since they run all the time on Animal Planet, but several years ago, I started watching Westminster, and well, there's just something about that show that keeps you watching. Not only to see your favorite breeds of dogs in each grouping category (working, herding, toy, terrier, hounds, nonsporting and sporting), but the insight and over all feel that the broadcasters bring to the table is something to behold. Anyway, by the time those were over, it was 10, and shortly after that I was headed off to bed. So, that's my excuse, in part, for not getting the update up sooner, not that anyone's keeping count aside from me, :) I'll start from last Friday, since that was when I tackled the door with the two locks in shop class.

Friday. In a way, the door was easier I thought, since it was stationary, more or less, than the movable blocks of wood that I worked with leading up to the door. However, since several hundred people have worked on the locks and door before me, it wasn't in tip top shape. And, finding the holes that the screws went into, inside the door, was challenging as always. I completed the project within the 2 hour period, but much of that was spent poking and prodding the screws around inside the door, where you couldn't have used sight even if you had it. However, I stil feel like I can fix the dead bolt on my apartment if I had too, and I couldn't have said that at the beginning of last week. Tomorrow, that's Thursday, we're all going to Lowes where I'll buy some screw drivers, and look at some tool boxes. Not sure I'll actually get one; it depends how much they are. Not much else happened on Friday, that I can remember anyway.

Saturday and Sunday. Not much happened here either, mainly rest. This was the first weekend after a full week of work for me, and I quite literally spent at least half of Saturday sleeping. Saturday night I had an interesting mishap at the laundry room. I put my money in the first washer and pushed the button, but nothing happened. I had used these same kinds of washers and dryers in college, so I knew how to work them. So, I got a few quarters returned, and put them back in and pushed the button with the same result: nothing. I then reluctantly moved the clothes, dripping with detergent, to the next washer and repeated the process, with the same nonresult. By this point I was getting pretty frustrated. So I did what any other normal person would do: I pulled out my cell phone and immediately called the apartment complex's after hours answering service to inform them of the problem. I expected to hear a whoosh when I pushed the washer's button, but I didn't hear anything, except a slow drip of water. Then I was faced with the task of what to do with my clothes. I went back to my apartment, eventually--after I navigated through the maze of sidewalks that always seem to be around the laundry room, and retrieved a plastic trash bag to put the clothes in. I figured that I could either remove the clothes, which I didn't want to do, or I could go down the line of washers and try each one, which I really didn't want to do, since that would mean putting in $0.75 each time, and probably losing it.

I returned to the laundry room, and to my astonishment and partial relief, the washers that I had attempted to start, were both running fine. Remember though that one had clothes in it and the other was full of water and detergent. I then called the answering service back and apologized and explained what had happened. Sunday night I did a load without any trouble, except for struggling with the sidewalks that led everywhere. The good thing about the sidewalks, is that they were in right angles. The bad thing was that there's more than 3 of them. It was not uncommon for me to turn down a path, run into a T-intersection, not know which way to turn, and then retrace my steps. To add to the confusion, nearly all of them are very narrow. By the last few trips back and forth, I started to figure out the pattern, but I still wonder each time I try to find the laundry room.

Monday. This day started out interesting, mainly because I accidentally knocked the basket I have on the top of my kitchen bar, off and spilled the contents into the sink. Most of the items, which were just odds and ins, landed in one half of the sink. My spare keys however, which were still in the small envelope they came in, landed in the other half, with the open disposal. I must have reached down at just the right angle because I nudged the envelope just enough to make the keys slip into the disposal. I have large hands, so it took me a good 5-10 minutes to get them out. I thought about leaving them there, but was afraid that I'd forget they were there and turn on the disposal at some point. Plus, I wasn't exactly sure how I'd explain it to the complex if I ground up my spare set of keys. Fortunately the bus driver saw me come out of my apartment and waited for me. When I told one of my coworkers on the bus what had happened though, after we got finished laughing about it, she said that she was concerned about putting her keys on her bar now. As a side note, I asked her yesterday about this and she said that she had moved her keys to another place. I've moved my keys as well, to one of my kitchen drawers.

One other notable thing happened on Monday: I went out to lunch with several people in my department, to Chipotle, which was great. We walked down there from the Center and that was fun as well.

Tuesday. I used a circular saw in shop class. This was a little nerve wracking, since I knew in the back of my mind that the instructors wouldn't let us get cut and would be watching closely. But then again, there's that nasty thought that creeps back in, which says, "Yes, but its still a circular saw." It was a good experience though. Not sure I'll buy one at Lowes though, grin.

Today. The big thing that happened today was I finally was able to file my benefits with the state benefits group. For various frustrating reasons, this has been delayed since I've been hired, but I finally got it done this afternoon. It feels good to be fully covered, even though some of them don't start right away.

One final thought before I close: I realized this afternoon that I've been at the Center for 2 weeks now. I'm settling into the deily and weekly groove of full time work and about two weeks into my immersion training, and am enjoying immersion. There are two things that I don't think I'll lose sight of, no matter if I'm at the 2 week, month, or year points. First, my comfort and fondness with the place I work at, especially since I remember being a consumer there and feel like I can better relate to the consumers. And second, the process, answered prayers, and circumstances that brought me to this point and to the Center in general. I only hope that I can live up to the high standards that I've set for myself, and to the consumers' expectations.

Thursday, February 9

Emersed in Emersion

Greetings. I've started my blindfold, or as they call it "emersion," training and things are going good so far. I started on Tuesday. The first couple of days were tiring and a little stressful, mainly because I was still learning where things were in the building. Today I felt more confident about where things were, or at least the places I frequent, than I did the previous days. I'll be the first to admit that I may not be able to find a room right away, but at least I feel confident about finding it in a reasonable amount of time, instead of getting lost, which is bound to happen several times anyway.

Two things have already come up that are challenging to me. The first happened today where I got chewed out by one of my coworkers about not wearing my blindfold. I've had discussions with a few of the staff members about this very topic, of whether the staff who are blind should wear the blindfold. My thought is no, since it seems redundent for a blind person to wear a blindfold. However, the person that I was talking with today said that we wear them to support the people who are either fully sighted or have some vision, since they have to wear them. A different person I was talking with yesterday at lunch put it well. She said, "Is the point to training people in the skills of blindness, or to make a statement." The staff here are split on this issue, and I'm sure the debate will go on. For my part, I'm wearing my blindfold. Not to support the people who have to or the nonvisual techniques (even though I do believe in nonvisual techniques), but mainly to appease the people who say that it's a statement. And really, after the first hour of wearing it this morning, I didn't think about it. I went through my classes, which are the same as the students take (Braille, cane travel, daily living skills, industrial arts, and others). There were a few times in the day when I did think about it, but only briefly.

The other thing that happened was in industrial arts where I had to take apart and then put back together several locks which are embedded in wood. I should say right off that I've don't considered myself to be mechanically or home repair inclined, so this activity has been very challenging. The first simple lock took me 25 minutes, to disassemble and reassemble. The second lock, which was a dead bolt, took the rest of the time on Tuesday, which ended up being around an hour and a half. Disassembling wasn't hard, but putting it back together and lining up the screws, was very hard. I did the third lock today, and that took about the same amount of time as the second. Today's lock was a standard lock, but with a switch on one side to flip one way or the other, to lock and unlock.

Even though I was royally frustrated by the end of Tuesday's time, after dropping some screws several times, and having to line up the screws, two hours after that, I thought to myself, "I feel like I can now go to a home improvement store, get several screw drivers, and fix the screws on my apartment door." As it happens, next Thursday, the people who have industrial arts are scheduled to go to the Lowes Home Improvement Store, and I now have my chance to get those screws, and perhaps other tools. I might even look for a toolbox for them. I still may not be very home improvement oriented, but at least I will be able to fix some of these things myself, instead of asking for and waiting for someone to come over and do it for me. The next lock is on a make shift door, which I'll have to take apart and then reassemble. I'll do that one tomorrow, and it will probably take the entire 2 hour time too, but that's ok.

Everything else is going fine. I'm gradually getting into the groove of a 5 day work week. I'm still tired at various parts of the day, but that will go away in time, hopefully. I think that I'm going to learn more about my neighborhood from one of my coworkers again this weekend, so that will be nice.

Until then, this is the tired, but satisfied, Wayne signing off.

Monday, February 6

The Advantage of Busses

Greetings. This afternoon I realized the true advantage of busses over ride share programs, like DART Paratransit in Dallas and Special Transit Services here in Austin.

I was getting ready to leave work. I've been having some trouble with my work voice mail, mainly not knowing how to use it. I finally got a gentleman from another department on the line who offered to come over right away and show me how to use the phone and setup my voice mail. He asked if I was going to be there, and I replied with, "Sure man; the busses run quite frequently." The man came over and showed me the phone system, and I educated him about the software that blind people use. It occurred to me when I was waiting for the route 5 bus I take, that I probably couldn't have done that if I was using ride share services. Meaning, I would have had to run out the door instead of been flexible. This is the true advantage of busses over ride share services, especially during rush hour when the busses run once every 20 or so minutes. The route 5 bus that comes at 5:15 goes the same direction as the one at 5:35. Besides, if I had caught a ride share ride, then I would have had to take a no show and try to get another ride, which could have come anywhere from a few minutes to as much as an hour later. That's not as convenient as taking a bus.

I've always known the value of busses, but its at times like this where they take on new menaings for me.

Sunday, February 5

Weekend Review

Greetings. Its been a busy weekend for me. Let me recap.

Yesterday I went to the nearby Chase bank all on my own--well almost. I had been shown how to get to the bank by one of my coworkers that lives in my complex. I suppose it was a little gutsy of me to think I could go to the bank after only being shown once, but I tried. At one point, after crossing a street and looking for a side street, I got lost and couldn't find the side street. As it turned out, I was probably only a few yards from it. Anyway, after going back and forth looking for the darn street, I finally frustratedly pulled out my cell phone to call someone from the apartment office to help me out. When I didn't get them, I do what I always do when I'm hopelessly lost and/or frustrated: pray and ask for God's guidance or an angel, whichever comes first. I should say here that whenever I've done this, 9 out of 10 times, someone approaches me anywhere from when I'm in mid prayer, to about a minute or two later. This time was no exception. Shortly after I stopped praying, a nice man came up to me and offered his assistance. He said he saw me walking back and forth and thought he'd help. I gratefully accepted and we began to talk about the immediate area. To make a long story short, he ended up walking with me to the Chase bank, which was not far away. When we got there and went inside, he asked me if I wanted him to wait for me and walk back with me. I started to say no, but then I remembered that this was my first try on my own, and figured, "Why not?" So I asked him if he'd mind, and he said no. While he waited, I was able to setup several bank accounts and take care of other business. 40 minutes later, we left Chase and made it back to my apartment. So, from this experience, even though I got lost on my first try, I made a new friend. We exchanged phone numbers and said we'd keep in touch.

Early in the afternoon, I went grocery shopping, which was interesting. By the time I had returned and put all my groceries up, it was 3 and I had had enough of running around. Not much else notable happened yesterday.

Today I visited a local church, Grace Covenant, which was interesting as well. I had called the church last week to request a ride with someone, and I got a call a few days ago from another single guy who offered me a ride. I liked the church all right, but was a little confused by the pastor's presentation style. In my opinion, if you don't like the presentation style of the minister, then its not very likely that you'll listen to the sermon. This man made some great points, but I thought he left some of them loose and didn't tie them back into his main theme. Plus, he used some PowerPoint slides during his sermon. I have no objection for using technology to complement one's sermon. This pastor though seemed to struggle or wander a bit with the slides. It didn't seemed like he mixed the slides in very well to me, not to mention his method of covering the content on the individual slides. I'm not an expert on this presentation stuff, but after hours of listening to professors in college use PowerPoint, some that did it well and some that didn't, I'd like to think that I've picked up a few things of what you do and don't do when making a presentation. And, just because I can't see the presentation, doesn't mean that I'm at a disadvantage. A good presenter will cover everything on the slides, no matter if there's a blind person in their audience or not. A good presenter does this by accommodating all the learning styles (visual, audio, and kenesthetic). I could go on about learning styles, but I won't. Also, for those interested, a blind person can make a PowerPoint presentation. I've done it for many of my classes and got good grades because of it.

These are just my own thoughts. Anyone who wants to dispute me or bring up constructive counter points is more than welcome to with the under utilized comments feature of this blog.

Anyway, I'm going to visit another church next Sunday. If I can arrange a ride, it will be First Evangellical Free, which is another large and popular church in the area.

After church, I went with my new church friend to one of those once a month luncheons that introduce people to the church. I thought that some of the people here did a better job of explaining the church's purpose and structure than the pastor did. After that, we went to get me some new shoes. I don't know why it is, but every time I go to buy lots of clothes (which isn't that often) or shoes, I always get the ones on sale. Not that I'm complaining. But, God watches out for me. Today was no exception. The shoes I ended up getting are usually sold for $69, but they were marked down to $49. Actually though, when I went up to pay for them, another discount was applied which brought the price, before tax, down again to $39. My friend said the shoes looked good, even though they were cheap, which you don't see that often when buying shoes. Also, I have flat narrow feet, so buying shoes can often be stressful. This time though, the shoes I got were the first pair I tried on. The store didn't have anymore in my size. I did try on another pair, but rejected them.

So, there's my weekend. Eventful but productive. Now, my only task is to learn more about my neighborhood and where things are, so I can do more things. But that will come in time. Stay tuned for further updates.

Wednesday, February 1

First Day Reflections

Greetings. My hope is that those that want to call me tonight would read this blog entry first and then call if they need any more details, but I realize that this might not happen, :)

Well, I'll attempt to hit some highlights of today, but please excuse me if I miss some things. I can honestly say that it feels good to put in a full day's work. In my part time job in Dallas, I got off work at 3. Around 3 today, I kept looking at my watch and wondering if I had to go somewhere. In part of my mind, I wondered how I would fill 2 extra hours. I need not have worried, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last night, I faced much the same thoughts that I had the first night or two after the lay off, this time though, they were about starting a job instead of leaving one. In short, I had a hard time getting settled down enough to get to sleep. I kept thinking of the upcoming day, transportation, getting to and from the bus stops and to the Center, and other things. It seemed that 5:45 came too early, but I got up and drug myself to the bathroom for the daily ritual.

I made it to the bus stop on time, in fact, I was slightly early. I met up with the man I was going to meet with at the bus stop across from the Center and I was shown the way to the Center and to our cubical area.

One funny thing that happened when I got on the bus this morning is worth mentioning. The busses in Dallas all had 3 steps that led up to the bus level. This morning, I quickly found out that this was not the case in Austin. I stepped up once, then attempted to step a second time, only to have my foot crash down on the floor. I then felt like one of the biggest idiots ever, and apologetically looked to the driver and chuckled, saying it was my first time on an Austin bus.

Anyway, it was quite cool to sit in my cubical. I had a cubical, not just a table with a computer on it, like at my other job, but a real cubical. A tight one for sure, but there were metal drawers to put things in, a generic computer and flat panel monitor, some slightly comfortable state office chairs, and the thing that was almost as impressive to me as the cubical was: a phone! I never had an extension at my old job, much less a phone. So to get a generic phone was quite cool. This one did me one better though, since it not only had the 12 touch-tone buttons on it, but it also had 27 other buttons on it. I have no idea why all those buttons are there; you could probably launch a rocket with it, :) Hopefully there's a button for voicemail. It would be funny if there were all those buttons, but you had to dial into your voicemail box.

Shortly after that, my boss came up to me and welcomed me. That was a good feeling.

Much of the day was filled with the usual first day stuff, but magnified 10 fold in terms of forms. I made a lot of progress in terms of getting the initial things done, and had a few small miracles happen, such as getting my computer setup and ready. Remember that I've said that I've been a consumer at this training center before? There's still quite a few people that are still there that remember me. Anyway, one person I saw said that some people she's known, haven't gotten their computers up and running for 3 or 4 days. So it was quite good that I had mine setup and configured by the tech person by 10 this morning.

I must say that it was quite cool being taken on a tour of the immediate parts of the Center by my boss, meeting new people and seeing ones that I've known from before, and generally remembering my time there. It was not uncommon for me to think, after passing a particular room or hallway, "I remember (fill in the blank)." Many people have said it to me in the past month or so, and I've said it to myself, but after taking the tour and remembering those places, I can honestly say that I'm going to like working there.

On Monday, I start a big phase of my orientation training, which they call emersion, or blindfold, training. Basically, its where the new employee or staff person wears a blindfold during operating hours and learns how to live and cope as a blind person. The training period is not just a day or two, or even a week, but 6 weeks. I think that this is a great idea, since it gives sighted people a chance to see, in a manner of speaking, "How the other half lives." For the blind people, who probably already know how the other half lives, it gives them a chance to brush up on their skills, or develop new ones. In terms of travel (also called mobility), I will definitely be taking mental notes, since I haven't lived in Austin for any length of time for nearly 10 years. Some of the classes that the person goes through, which are the same classes as the students go through, include: Braille, daily living, cooking (I probably need lots of work here), industrial arts (woodshop), and some recreation, such as rock climbing. Like I say, even though I've been through much of this before, at this center and one in Colorado, I see it as an opportunity to update my skills and get the lay of the land. So, it would probably go without saying to say that I'm looking forward to my blindfold training. And yes, even though I'm already blind, I'll still have to wear a blindfold, from what I hear anyway. Fine by me. Doesn't make much difference if the blindfold is on or off; the result is the same, :)

So, that's about it. After only a day of this 8 to 5 work thing, I can already see how people come home tired, but hopefully satisfied and with a sense of self worth. In my case, I think I'll finally be able to have that satisfaction, but more so, I will feel useful, which is something that I never really got on a regular basis at my last job.