Sunday, August 31

Day 2

Greetings. Not a very exciting title, but hopefully inspiration will come better for me in future days. Well, today has been long but interesting. Lots to talk about.

This morning, we went into town for a "juno" walk. For those that don't know, "juno" is the word used for a pretend dog. It's common to hear the teacher say that they're going to play the juno role, or that they're "Juno." When being Juno, the teacher holds one side of a harness and gives you the other side, and sometimes even a leash to hold onto. They act just like a dog, in the guiding sense, and they stop at all the curbs just like a "real" guide dog would. Anyway, we each took our turn with the trainer and went on the juno walk. This was more for the trainer to get a feel for our walking styles, pace, and our pull on the harness. When I started out, there were some chimes playing in a nearby belltower. The day was nice, a good temperature in the seventies probably, and not too hot. There was a slight breeze. Weather wise, I think I'm going to like being here. Anyway, the juno walk also gives you a chance to talk with the trainer about any preferences you have regarding what kind of dog you want or would like to have, as well as common working conditions and living arrangements you normally have, such as house or apartment, etc. That was fun, but not as fun as what happened this afternoon.

About 2:30, the other students in my small group met our trainer in one of the lounges and then we were told that we would be getting several dogs to work with. The purpose of this is to see how you react with a dog and how you handle a dog. No harnesses are used. You're given the dog and you clip your leash onto the dog's collar. At some point, some people switched dogs to give them another experience. I got a Lab/Golden cross first, and then later a medium to large size German Shepherd. I liked the cross. The hair was short like a Lab, but it also had some Golden characteristics as well, such as the color. Unfortunately, I didn't find out the colors of the dogs I worked with.

The teacher then took each of us one at a time and walked with us down to the dining room and had us put the dogs down at our feet. Then he left to get the next person. I walked with the German Shepherd down to the dining room. I liked the way the cross just lay down and seemed cool with things, looking around at things and people, but simply lie there up in the lounge. The Sheperd though tended to lay quietly, then every so often, she popped up to see what was going on. Or, I would reach down to pat her and tell her that she was doing a good job, and that contact caused her to start to raise up. I should mention as well that when you brought your dog down to the dining room, that's all while other dogs and students were there as well. So there was a bit of chaos when a new dog came in and someone would pop up to see the new arrival. Or, when your dog being the new comer tried to greet the other dogs. It might sound funny to read and think about, but when you've got a 60-80 pound dog attached at the end of a leash, it's not such a laughing matter.

My instructor says that he's still deciding between two or three dog candidates for me, and we'll talk about that tomorrow on the next juno walk in the morning. We get our dogs tomorrow afternoon after lunch, probably around 2. That will be interesting as well. I've been recording many of the sessions we've had with the instructor and today with the dogs. More for my own memory than anything. I want to take every opportunity to make a record of these events and my time here, both to share but also to remember later. In addition, because I can. The last time I was here back in 1995, we didn't have access to the web, or these fancy digital recorders.

One other thing: when we get our dogs, we will have to walk around the house (or building, which they call a house), with our dogs attached to the leash but not the harness. We're not allowed to work our dogs until Wednesday night when we go to dinner. In this leash dog arrangement, we can't use our canes. We've been encouraged to explorer, get lost, and figure things out for the layout of everything here as much as possible before we get our dogs. Things are making sense to me now, but at first they weren't as much. I've been to the main parts of the building that I think I'll go to most often and some others. Given my decreased speed when I travel without my cane, I'm having a hard time imagining how I will travel with a dog attached to me. For clarification, when the dog's on leash, they're not guiding. So this will be without any guiding going on from the dog. Should be interesting. We will get to use our dogs for guiding when we work in town on Tuesday and Wednesday.

That's about all for this entry. Next time we talk, I'll probably have my new dog down at my feet. Until then.

Saturday, August 30

Settling In

Greetings. Well, I made it to The Seeing eye fine. no real trouble, despite my record of always having something happen to me whenever I travel through airports. Anyway, wanted to write a quick note and say that I'm settling in quite nicely. It's been weird walking around here and having all the memories of the time before come back, along with adjusting to changes that have been made in different places to the structure or the equipment that's used. We had a meeting tonight with everyone and we all got our leashes, some grooming equipment, the tie down cahin (to chain to the bed post or built-in eyelet in the wall, to keep the dogs from wandering off; we will use the same tie down methods when we go home), and a mat that we can now take home with us. The mat is different from the first time I was here. Anyway, lots of neat stuff. We get to sleep in tomorrow, with a 7am wake up call and 8:00 breakfast. I say sleep in because when we get the dogs, our wake up call will then move to 5:30 for feeding and taking the dogs out to "park," or make their regular deposits.

There are between 20-24 students and staff here. There are 5 instructors and the rest are students, including me. Lots of replacement dog people here, or as they also call them retrains or retreds. Several here for their second dogs, and some for the third, forth, fifth, even one person for their sixth. There are also a good number of first time people here as well. I joked with one of them earlier saying, "your dog will never throw up," to which we all laughed.

I find it interesting when i tell people how long its been since I've worked a dog, being 9 years, and then they say something like, "Wow, and I thought my time was long at one or two months." There's also the usual comments that go something like, "I love dogs; I could never go back to a cane." Now I'm seeing both sides here, of those that love dogs so much that they don't consider themselves cane users, and those that are more balanced, even though they still might love dogs, but who also accept and use the cane when needed. I used to fall in the first camp, when I thought that the dog was the answer to everry problem, but I've gradually moved into the second, seeing a more balance between the two.

One other thing, since all the rooms have Sirius Satellite radios, as time goes on, many people are leavign their radios on when they're not in the rooms. So its interesting to walk down the hall and hear the range of music coming out, as well as the different personalities and tastes of the students and staff.

Until tomorrow, which promises to be a great day, not the least of which is because I'll have more of a full night's rest. Night.

Friday, August 29


Greetings. AS I sit here in the midst of packing for 3 weeks and with my last bit of laundry in the dryer, I can't help but think of the changes that will be taking place over the next 24 to 48 hours. When riding home on the bus this afternoon, someone said to me, "Have a good weekend." Have a good weekend? This quite possibly could be one of the biggest understatements of the year! After all, this morning I was talking with a student who is a guide dog user, about the pending trip and how working with a dog is great (not to say that canes aren't great too, but they're all just tools to be used in different circumstances), and I couldn't help but think that today I was talking with a student about dog use, but by Monday, I'll be receiving my own dog. Much less that the next 18-24 hours I'll be finishing my packing, getting up way early for an early morning flight to New Jersey, somehow occupying myself on that 3 hour plus flight, meeting new and old friends at students and staff at The Seeing Eye, and walking back into a place that I wasn't sure I wanted to return to after my first dog died. And that just takes us up to tomorrow early afternoon. We're not even counting the initial work with the instructor, getting to meet and mingle with other blind people from around the country who are all there for the same reason, all the emotions and feelings wrapped up in all this, and getting to play and perhaps work with some dogs in training on Sunday afternoon. And, oh yeah, there's also getting my dog, my very own Seeing Eye dog, again, on monday. "Have a good weekend"--you bet! In fact, it might even be a great weekend!

It's interesting to reflect on how far I've come in the last 2 years since Tony died, where I've come from over the last 13 years since I was first matched with him, and where we are now. I just hope I can be a good role model for the first timer students that are in class for their first dogs. I have no doubts about this, but it's still mind blowing to think that I was once in that position as well. Oh, if I only knew then what I know now, but that's what they call hine sight, or however you spell that. I also hope that I'm wise enough not to make the same mistakes with the new dog that I might have made with Tony. And, if I can get a dog that even comes close to matching me like Tony did, then I'll be happy as well.

So, this is the reflective, anxious, excited, and anticipative Wayne, signing off. We'll talk again perhaps when I'm traveling, but definitely in Morristown, New Jersey!

Monday, August 25

Official announcement

Greetings. Well, today I made the official announcement to everyone at work. We have what we call the "Monday Morning Meeting," where all students and staff gather in our auditorium and announcements are made by students and staff. I was debating whether or not to make my announcement. No one said I had too, but I thought it would be fun. I had decided not to but then I observed someone from the public throwing question after question to a guide dog user on the bus this morning, and when I heard this, I smiled. So I let the student who was running the announcements know that I had one, and wouldn't you know that they called me as the second person. Glad they didn't say my name first. To clarify, even though not all students or staff may be present on any given day, or may even go to the morning meeting, there's still a good 125 plus that do. I'm not sure anyone noticed, but one of my legs was shaking slightly the whole time I was up there.

So I got up there and told everyone that I'll be going to The seeing Eye this Saturday and that I'll be gone for 3 weeks. I then threw in some guide dog rules. I said that our center was very cane aware, and that this was good since one needs good cane skills to have confidence in traveling. However, that even though we knew about guide dogs and certainly were aware of them, there's room for improvement. I then offered the following: "First, guide dog owners love to talk about their dogs, whether it be: the dog's breed, type, color, (could have thrown in height and weight here, but forgot), where they got the dog, how long they've had the dog, how old the dog is, what the dog had for dinner last night, for breakfast this morning; and on and on. Second, when greeting someone with a guide dog, and let me stress to only do this when the team is stationary. When they're in motion, the dog is actively guiding. When they're stationary though, greet the dog lavishly by name; and then to the person say, "I'm sorry, what was your name again?"" That got a good chuckle out of several people in the room, then I said, "Yes, those who have guide dogs may truly know what I'm talking about here." Then I closed.

I didn't want to go on too long, so as not to hold up classes, however as it turned out, the meeting lasted for at least another 25 minutes or so, if not more. Oh well.

Toward the end of the meeting, a student who happened to be a guide dog user, got up to make an announcement but before he started, he answered all of the questions I posed earlier. He even spoke on the food question. So, right when he was getting started in making his announcement, I called out from the front row where I was sitting and asked, "What kind of food?" To which he quickly answered and then went on with his announcement. I told a fellow teacher later that there's simply no end to the kinds of questions one can be asked regarding their dog.

So, now I feel like its official. I've known for months and my team and the people I regularly associate with have known for awhile, but now the whole Center knows. I had been thinking of various things I could do during that announcement period, but ultimately decided to offer up some suggestions for interacting with guide dogs. Perhaps I'll post the full list, or a more complete list, of those later this week before leaving. Until then.

Thursday, August 21

JAWS 10 beta announced

Greetings. Today Freedom Scientific has released details about the upcoming JAWS version 10 beta cycle. This page has information on what's new in JAWS 10, information about the beta cycle, exactly what a "beta" is, and a link to go to the FS Cast for August 2008 which discusses all things new in the new version.

After reading over what's new in JAWS 10, I wasn't initially impressed. JAWS has had a habit in recent years of having a few features that just make me go, "Wow." However, at first read, I didn't find myself saying this. After listening to a little of the FS Cast covering this new version though, there are some things in the beta that look good to me and get me excited, whether they be things that I'll like or things I think my students will like whenever we eventually are teaching on this version at the training center. Some of these include the auto Forms Mode on feature, the ability to easily retrieve and install any of the JAWS Daisy training materials from the FS site, regardless of how JAWS was installed on the computer, and the ability to better manage the many Quick Navigation keystrokes available when using JAWS in a virtual environment, such as on the Web, in email, etc.

As noted on the page above, the beta is expected to be out the week of August 24. Also, as with the JAWS 9 beta from last year, during the beta cycle, you can have JAWS 10 installed without needing to worry about authorization for JAWS 10. However, if you don't regularly update the beta using the Check for Updates feature from the JAWS Help menu, or if you elect not to purchase version 10, it will run out at the end of the beta period. You can however download and use the full version of JAWS in the 40 minute demo mode, where it runs for 40 minutes and then you have to reboot the computer. If you can't afford to buy the full version of JAWS or the SMA, then you can still take advantage of it. Either way, this looks like a fairly good version coming. There will likely be a list, sounds like a rather long list from the FS Cast episode, of enhancements and fixes for JAWS posted when the beta goes online. That will be the really interesting part for me, to see what they've addressed and fixed from prior versions. FS doesn't always fix everything that they break in prior versions. At any rate, if you do try the beta and encounter a problem, please do use the beta problem reporting form that FS has on that beta page linked above, in order to report it. After all, if you never report it, then it's never fixed. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 14

Getting Sirius in September

Greetings. One of the big things that I'm very excited about regarding my trip to The Seeing Eye soon is the prospect of getting Sirius. No, I don't mean "serious," I mean "Sirius," as in Sirius Satellite Radio. Not long ago, The Seeing Eye received a 2 year grant to put accessible Sirius Satellite radios in all their student rooms. I've heard that they provide both electronic and Braille channel guides regarding which channels are where. That will be helpful while in class, however, after doing some searching online, I came across the Sirius Channel Guide on the Sirius site. For whatever reason, I wasn't able to get to the guide from the sirius home page, but that's never stopped me from getting at information before. Anyway, Not only will this allow me to test drive Sirius while in class, but I can do it for free! Sirius is also the major satellite radio broadcaster of NFL games. I'm assuming that they broadcast all of the games, but given the few sports channels they have, I'm not sure how. At any rate, being a huge football fan in general, and a Cowboys fan in particular, I was secretly hoping that i would be assigned to a class in the fall--and I was! perhaps I'll even come back and subscribe to Sirius, though I'm not totally sold on it yet. I like listening to local radio, even with all the commercials. There's something about the local flavor that you can't get from an online or satellite broadcasted station, such as the radio personalities and the local flavor of music/talk provided.

Dog journey update

Greetings. Today I received the electronic copy of my travel arrangements to The Seeing Eye in a couple of weeks. Knowing they're coming is one thing, but just like reading the initial acceptance email, reading over the travel arrangements only gets me more excited about going. This journey over the past several months is nearing its end. I also credit them for booking me on a non-stop flight directly from Austin to New Jersey. I thought that I would probably fly through Houston or Dallas and connect to a longer run from there to NJ. Thankfully though, that's not the case. I don't mind making connections, as long as the lay overs are an hour or less, but getting a direct flight is even better. So, the saga continues.

As I've told several people up to this point, I hope to make frequent updates on this blog during training regarding how its going. I have also been able to setup the ability to blog from my wireless phone. Probably not that exciting, but it sounds cool to be able to write, "I'm sitting on the plane waiting to take off," during the action. Anyway, we'll see how all that goes. If I can pull it off, I might even be able to provide pictures of the dog and audio recordings of different things. But we'll see. My main concern will be bonding with the dog and absorbing as much as I can while in training; everything else is just icing on the cake.

Tuesday, August 12

Lotus 'Safe & Sound' system makes hybrid, electric vehicles audible

Greetings. I received the following article, originally posted on CNet, from an email list. After reading this, it sounds like someone is starting to take notice and do something about the hybrid car issue. Please excuse any formatting errors and enjoy.

Lotus 'Safe & Sound' system makes hybrid, electric vehicles audible

"Due to the almost silent operation of hybrid and electric vehicles
on electric power at slow speeds, blind and partially sighted
be at risk while crossing roads or walking through parking lots since
cannot hear the vehicles as they approach.

Lotus Engineering, a name most commonly associated with lightweight
cars, has announced that it has developed a system to synthesise
on electric and hybrid vehicles to make them more audible to
cyclists. A simulation of a real engine sound is used on
Lotus' Safe &
Hybrid technology demonstrator vehicle, making it instantly
recognisable that the vehicle is in motion.

The demonstration vehicle is a
Toyota Prius
equipped to demonstrate the sound synthesis application. The
has devised is a re-application and development of its Sound
Synthesis technology, a suite of technologies originally
designed to reduce the amount of
noise in a conventional motor vehicle by using active sound

An artificial engine sound is played through a waterproof
loudspeaker in
car's nose, compensating for the lack of engine noise emitted by the
when running on an electric motor. Because it's just a speaker, Lotus
make any sound they want, but they've stuck to using an
existing engine sound that makes the vehicle instantly
recognisable, with the pitch and
helping to identify its distance and speed. Front-facing
speakers mean
once the vehicle has passed, the sound is no longer heard.

In electric-only vehicles, the system is always on, but for
hybrids the system only operates when the vehicle is using
electric power. If the hybrid's engine starts operating -
either at higher speeds, higher throttle demands, or lower
battery levels - the control system automatically stops the
It is all completely automatic and, according to Lotus, the
driver hears almost none of the additional sound."

Friday, August 8

IPC launches YouTube channel

Greetings. I received the following post via an email list. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors.

Bonn, Germany – Today, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has
taken further action to promote Paralympic sports and the Paralympic
Movement by launching a Channel on YouTube™, the leading online video
community that allows people to discover, watch and share originally
created videos.

From today on, fans of Paralympic Sport can go to
to watch clips of Paralympic sports, athletes and events. Viewers of ParalympicSport.TV on YouTube can enjoy
the different features YouTube offers: they can subscribe to the
Channel, watch, rate and comment the latest video clips and upload
their own videos and much more.

Not only will the IPC regularly upload a selection of video clips from
the IPC's internet TV channel
but also
encourages Paralympic athletes and all fans of Paralympic Sport to
upload their Paralympic content on the YouTube channel. Video clips
uploaded by IPC will include athlete portrays, sport features, event
reports and trailers of the monthly ParalympicSport.TV magazine

During the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games daily news clips will be
published on the YouTube Channel to keep viewers up to date about what
happens in Beijing.

Said IPC President Sir Philip Craven: "Having a site on YouTube will
help to further raise awareness for the Paralympic Movement. I
encourage everyone out there to utilize this feature and upload any video that could provide another glimpse into the Paralympic world".

Watch Paralympic sports from all over the world on

Notes to the Editor:

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the global governing
body of the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the Summer and
Winter Paralympic Games, and serves as the International Federation for
nine sports, for which it supervises and co-ordinates the World
Championships and other competitions. The IPC is committed to enabling
Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and to developing
sport opportunities for all persons with a disability from the beginner
to elite level. In addition, the IPC aims to promote the Paralympic
values, which include courage, determination, inspiration and equality.

Founded on 22 September 1989, the IPC is an international non-profit
organization formed and run by 161 National Paralympic Committees
(NPCs) from five regions and four disability specific international
sports federations (IOSDs). The IPC Headquarters and its management
team are located in Bonn, Germany.

For further information, please go to

Monday, August 4

Omni 6.1 released

Greetings. freedom scientific today released version 6.1 for the PAC Mate Omni. This link provides an overview of the new features and instructions on how to download and install the update. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 2

Omni 6.1 preview

Greetings. To those that attended any of the summer conventions and went to Freedom Scientific's PAC Mate presentation, the following news may not be news to you. To everyone else, the July 2008 edition of FS Cast, from Freedom Scientific, has Jonathan Mosen going over the new features and enhancements in PAC Mate version 6.1 for the Omni. Among the many enhancements and interesting items is the following:

* Support for entering contracted or uncontracted Braille in more places than ever before, wehther you're using a BX or QX.
* Data retension when performing an upgrade/update, ensuring that none of your data, installed programs, or other settings will be lost during the update process. (This alone is worth its weight in gold to me).
* Support for many more of the Quick Keys available on the web with JAWS, something that has needed to be done for a long time.
* Ability to read PDF files on the Omni. Granted, you have to get a third party program in order to do this, but there is indeed support for opening PDF's, which makes the PM the first note taker in another category.
* And more.

The 6.1 update is not out yet, but watch the FS site. I'll put a link to it when it does come out. The link above is the direct link to the MP3 file, which you can listen to in the browser or download. Jonathan demonstrates in the podcast all of the things I mentioned above. Enjoy.