Sunday, October 30, 2011


I have always loved this time of year, ever since I was a kid. One of my favorite fall activities is pumpkin carving. I remember making groceries with my Father. Come fall, we'd get out of the car, walk toward the store, and there they'd be; the heaps of orange pumpkins. Maybe I like pumpkins so much because that particular shade of orange is one which I can clearly see. We would go through the heaps of pumpkins, and each of us girls would pick out "the perfect" one.

Several hours later, we would cover the table with newspaper, and begin carving our pumpkins. My sisters were much better pumpkin artists than I was. I remember clearly, my father very patiently helping me to get it "just right." Come Halloween night, we'd put candles in our jack-o-lanterns and set them on our front porch.

Even now, when I'm supposedly a grown up, I still carve a pumpkin come Halloween. Well actually Mister Pawpower and I do it together. It started many years ago. Our first pumpkin was quite ugly. His eyes were narrow-set, and rather windswept. The nose was huge, the mouth rather lopsided. Once we had finished carving our first pumpkin, we went to put the top back on, only to discover that it was missing. We searched everywhere, and eventually began searching the dog's crates. Rule of paw at our house is that is something is missing, always check the crates. We found the top to our pumpkin, a bit the worse for wear, in Rudy's crate. Apparently he found the taste of pumpkin to be rather pleasant, and to that end, had taken a few nibbles from the edge. The top still fit, though. But it look like an in-bred hick had come out second-best with a shotgun. So we named our pumpkin Shotgun Bubba.

That started the tradition of naming all of our pumpkins Bubba. Usually with describers at the beginning of their names. Through the years, we've had Bad, Bad, LeRoy Brown Bubba, Shit-Eating-Grin Bubba, and Back-Alley, Blind-Justice Bubba, just to name a few.

This year was no different. On Saturday I went with my SSP to pick out this year's Bubba. She showed me these cool pumpkins that looked like the ones from Cinderella. And here I thought that the pumpkins in Cinderella just looked like regular, normal pumpkins. Just goes to show what I know. I decided to pick just a regular old traditional pumpkin. I found a round one with a jaunty stem, and paid for it. Today Mister Pawpower and I commenced to carving up our Bubba.

Now Mister Pawpower is very good at making straight lines and carving recognizable shapes. Me...? not so much, as my Father can attest. So despite Mister Pawpower's careful carving, I always end up making it look crazy, because I can't carve anything right to save my life.

This year's pumpkin is <"Cave-Man, Me No Have Dental Insurance Bubba."> The dental insurance part is because I kind of messed up on the teeth. The cave man part, because he is noticeably lacking in a forehead.

We celebrated the successful carving of our Bubba with a barbecue, and will roast the seeds to snack on for later.

The dogs, as always, took great delight in eating the guts of the pumpkin. Tomorrow our Bubba will go out on the porch and will frighten the entire neighborhood, I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn Roundup

The universe has seen fit to have mercy upon us down here in "da swamp." We have officially entered into the season known as "not summer." This means that one can safely go outdoors without immediately becoming drenched. This new state allows for more frequent outside activities such as long walks and barbecuing, and long evenings spent on the porch with a six-pack.

Baylee is growing, but that is the nature of puppies so it shouldn't come as a surprise. But seeing as how this is my first ever dog to have from a puppy, I am surprised daily by her. It's like, one day her body will pick one part and will focus all of its growing might upon it. She is now 33 lbs and I can't pack her around with ease any more. Baylee is enjoying being bigger, and the more advantage her new-found size gives her in games of chase and tackle.

I have downloaded the new IOS on to my iPhone and have really enjoyed playing with all of the new features. I may actually get the iPhone 4s itself, once I have a chance to have a good long chat with the fine folks at AT&T. My old 3gs is over two years old and is beginning to show its age. If I do get the new phone, it will be very exciting because I'm a geek.

I am also getting a new braille display because my Braille Note has been broken more than it has been working lately. Human Ware, the manufacturer of this device is slow to repair the units and has recently broken mine even further in an attempt to "fix" it. This will be my last Braille Note. I have not had my unit in over two months and am very grateful for the loaner which allows me to use my iPhone and have independent communication. Because of all of these problems with Human Ware, it is necessary for me to get a new display for use with my Macbook and my iPhone. I am eagerly awaiting its arrival; see part above about geeks.
Miss Bristol is enjoying a bout of renewed vigor thanks to the cooler weather. She will be fourteen years young in December and we are enjoying every day we get with her.

I have just finished my 127th book of the year. I am currently engrossed in the universe of Stephanie Plum. Janet Evanovich's writing improves as the series progresses, and I highly recommend these books if you need some light reading. Once I finish my current book, I think I'll take a break from the Plum universe and read "Interview With a Vampire." It's either that or "Dracula." I haven't decided. Something scary and appropriate for the season

Oh and it is pumpkin-carving time. Our "bubba" will be carved some time this weekend or next week and I will post pictures of our... masterpiece.

That is the update from here, I need to take a dive into our huge dog freezer to search for tomorrow's canine breakfast. I'm always afraid I'll fall in there, head first one of these days.
So if you are looking for me, and I'm nowhere to be found, check the freezer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Independent Living Without Sight and Hearing

Yesterday I read a book called "Independent Living Without Sight and Hearing." It was written by Richard Kinney and was published in the 1970's. While reading this book, it really hit me how much technology has really changed the lives of deafblind people within the last thirty years.

In Mr. Kinney's day, there was no way for a person who was blind as well as deaf to use the phone. You couldn't access a TTY for sighted deaf if your couldn't read print. In his book he mentions a couple of devices for using the phone with someone who knew Morse Code. These devices were called the Tactaphone and the Sensicall. They were attached to a phone and the hearing caller could tap out messages in Morse Code which were felt as vibrations by the deafblind person on the other end. If the deafblind person could voice they could speak back. Reading about the lengths a person who was deafblind went through just to place a simple phone call, made me so thankful for my iPhone and braille display.

In the book he also mentioned that the
<"National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped">
had 10,000 braille books available for loan.
10,000 books sounds like a lot... at first... But if you really think about it, and compare it to what sighted/hearing people have, it is only a drop in the bucket. If you had special interests, such as growing carnivorous plants, you were basically out of luck. If you were Christian, there were several charities which would provide you with religious material in braille. There is even a Jewish Braille Institute which provided materials, however if you were another religion, you couldn't get any material easily available in braille.

Today we have
which has, at last estimate, over 125,000 books. The content is largely user driven, so if you are interested in a particular title, or area of interest, you can scan books for the collection, or have a friend do it for you. There are books on almost every topic you can think of. There are sacred texts from many different religions from around the world. There are fiction books, cook books, self-help books, and text books for school. If you have a braille display and a computer or smartphone, or a note-taking device specially designed for the blind and deafblind, you can read. What's more, you can keep the books you like. Braille is three times the size of print. As an example, the first book in the Harry Potter series takes up four volumes in hardcopy braille. I think the book is somewhere in the range of 300 pages.

If I kept every book I loved and wanted to reread or own in hardcopy braille, I would need entire building devoted to housing my book collection. While something like this sounds like the closest thing to heaven on earth, to a bibliophile like myself, it is not financially feasible at this time.

Thanks to technology, I can keep copies of books on a jump drive to be read later. I can keep reference books, and cook books. My braille display weighs 2 pounds whether its hard drive is full of books or not.
Mr. Kinney's book also goes into great detail about the communication methods used by deafblind people during this time period. Although most DB people were using
<"The Rochester Method">
Which was made most famous by Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. It is the one-handed American Manual Alphabet-- the same one used today. This book does not discuss the use of ASL or other signed languages at all.

It does discuss the use of morse code and the British Two-Handed Manual Alphabet. This Alphabet is still in use today around the world, by deafblind people from Canada to Scotland. The books gives very detailed descriptions of all three types of communication. I have always wanted to learn the British Two-Handed Manual Alphabet so that I may more easily chat with DB people from other parts of the world. I already know the One-Handed Manual Alphabet but I don't know Morse code and I think it might be interesting to learn so I have it in my "communication tool box."
Although much of the information is out-dated, this book was still a fascinating read. It really brought home to me how blessed I am to be a DB person living in this current time. I have access to information at my fingertips and on demand. I can call a taxi, read a recipe for curry chicken, or place an order for new shoes by myself. I have frequently heard some people say that technology cuts people off from one another. This may be true to some extent. However for a deafblind person, I believe the opposite is true.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Because of Steve

I'm not really one to be interested in the goings-on of celebrities. However there is one person whom most would consider a "celeb" that changed my life. When the smartphone craze started happening, I was largely left out due to my increasing hearing loss. I canceled my contract with Verizon in 2006, because I was no longer able to use the phone. From that period until 2009, I didn't have one. For most people, a cell phone is a nice thing to have. However for a deafblind person it's a necessity.

I got my first iPhone in 2009. I was able to place relay calls, use GPS, text, and use many other apps right from my phone. For a person who can see and hear, this isn't probably such a big deal. You can read street signs, use a pay phone, if you had to, or read the ingredients on a box of crackers. I can do all of these things with my iPhone.
It has literally opened up an entirely new world for me, and many other deafblind people. It levels the communication playing field and gives us equal access to information which is something we have never experienced. My life-changing ability to have this device which supports braille displays and third-party applications is a large result of the work of Steve Jobs. No matter what you may think of Apple, or its products, or of Mr. Jobs personally, it cannot be disputed that he has changed lives. He has changed my life.

My sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends. They have lost more than just an innovative thinker-- they have lost a husband, a father, a friend. Steve will very much be missed.

Thank you, Steve for everything. Rest in peace.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Love Letter To A Puppy

When you were new, your paws so soft, and untried.
Your toenails miniscule, and me afraid to cut them.
I carry you from room to room, with your head tucked under my chin-- feeling your sweet puppy breaths on my neck.
You are sleeping-- your head in the crook of my elbow, your tail draped over my wrist.
I watch you breathe, and for a little while I know what it is like to feel complete.

Days pass, weeks pass, and you shoot upward.
Your long legs have not learned the art of moving in concert.
I watch as you stumble, fall, and rise again.
We lengthen your collar, and shorten your leash.
I stand with you balanced on my hip-- now your head is above mine.

Yet more, outward, upward, ever changing, moving on, learning more.
I think if I just held still, and didn't blink, I could watch you growing-- see your brain expanding with each new experience.
A year from now, you'll be someone's eyes.
You will stand between him and the very big world
with cars, and shards of glass, and angry people all around you.
This is your purpose, this is the plan.
But as you sleep next to me, curled into a ball of striped legs and ears, and that very long tail, I watch you dream.
The selfish part, that protective part of myself which I didn't even know I had until you came along, wishes that you could stay a puppy forever.
I wish that I could still carry you in the crook of my elbow, and feel your soft paws on my face.
When I was young, they told me that growing up was over-rated. I never understood what they meant until today.