Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adventures with my Babelfish

I've had this hearing aid now for almost three years. It is my second aid and was, at the time of purchase, the best of the best as far as power. I have named all of my hearing aids Babelfish. If you don't know what a Babelfish is, you need to read

So this Babelfish has been limping along for some time now. First it was my mould that stop working, and then it got too quiet. I have been practicing the technique of avoidance-- hearing aid adjustments mess up my vertigo so much!
On Tuesday, the ear hook which holds the mould on to the processor broke and that meant a trip to the Audis.

She was able to fix the hook, and then she said that I'm now at the point in this whole long slow death of ear function where it begins to be more about clarity, rather than volume. They can continue turning things up and up and up. I may be able to hear them, but my understanding will get less and less because everything will start sounding like the teacher in the Peanuts with Charlie Brown. I have noticed this happening more and more. It's very hard to explain to hearing people because it is automatically assumed that volume is the problem, when it's clarity.

Basically this means that I need another new Babelfish. Because I am not rich, and my insurance is crappy, I rely on grants to help purchase my aid. I'm just glad I only hear out of one ear, so we don't have to double the cost to buy one for my right side. Lol!

So to qualify for this grant, I had to take yet another... audiogram, which I did, and boy those tests are short when you can't hear! Lol! I remember when I first started losing my hearing and I'd be in there for 20-30 minutes. This last one took maybe seven minutes tops, including all of the hooking, and unhooking of wires. So I did crappy enough on the test, and my Audi is going to submit the grant which will get me a newer and probably clearer Babelfish. I've been growing out of these hearing aids at the rate of one every three years. This came right on schedule. My Audi did bring up the topic of cochlear implants with me and this is tricky for several reasons. Both physical and cultural. She suggested doing the right ear since it's useless anyway. But the possible Meniere's side-effects make this undesirable. Like I said to a friend-- I can live as a deaf person, but I can't really live as a dizzy person who can't even feed herself.

I lived through the whole experience and now I am home, the Babelfish is out and I get quiet once again.

I think I hear a book calling and need to do some laundry now that the puppy is actually, y'know, asleep.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Spring time in New Orleans. Fresh strawberries and that Strawberry Abita beer I love so much. Flowers and shrubs blooming everywhere. Those nasty stinging caterpillars dropping out of nowhere to leave you with a souvenir of their passing which will last for days. This time of year is the same time six years ago when I made my way out of exile in Memphis, TN. back home after the failure of the federal levees.
There is a section of "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran which sums up my leaving of Memphis well.

"Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?
Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.
It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands."

On the 26th of March, I packed my worldly goods into a U-Haul and drove back home. I was coming home to much welcome, but also to much work.

I remember getting out of the car once we had arrived at my new temporary home. The city still had that smell. It's an undefinable smell, mixed of equal parts decay, death, and desolation. And the mold... we must not forget the mold.

That night, friends had come to help us move our things. After unloading the truck, we trooped over to Franky and Johnny's for some soul food.

Those first few weeks were a blur. I saw clients every day with stories of being pulled from rooftops, watching their children die, and floating on kitchen appliances in filthy waters. I listened. I helped where I could.

Things started getting quieter and quieter in my world. I couldn't hear the phone. I couldn't hear my clients or coworkers. In six weeks my hearing was gone, and I didn't know what I would do. I was in a city with very limited medical services. The wait to see an audiologist is long. He is so shocked by the sudden loss, and he fears I may have some obscure form of inner ear cancer.

I wait some more, finally get an MRI, and wait some more only to find out that I do not have obscure and deadly ear tumors. But I'm still deaf, and navigating a city full of crime and debris which would easily fall into the category of biohazardous totally deaf and almost totally blind. I was more alone and afraid than I can ever remember being.

The doctors tell me that it's the mold in the city which has caused my inner ear disease to flair up and take my hearing. It's like a bad country-western song. "Katrina done took my house and my hearing and my city." The only thing missing is a part about trains and betrayed love.

People ask me if I regret coming back. If I knew what would happen to me, would I have gone back? And my answer will always be hell yes! Because I would rather be deaf in New Orleans than hearing and live anywhere else.
The New Orleans native and author Poppy Z. Brite once said:
"If you belong somewhere, if a place takes you in and you take it into yourself, you don't desert it because it can kill you."

I have known from the very moment I first arrived here. On that gray and rainy day nine years ago. I knew that this is where I wanted to live for the rest of my life. I want to work here, and be in love here, and train dogs here. When I am old, I want to sit on my porch here, and drink whisky in my lemonade on muggy July afternoons. And I want to die here, and I want this place to be better for me having been a part of it. I am certainly better for it being a part of me.

This whole time, when I struggled every day for simple communication, I took strength from my clients. They would tell me how I gave them hope for the future. But what they would never know is that really, it was the other way around.

And so it's spring again-- a time which makes me think about great love, and great inspiration. It makes me think of renewal and redemption and hope.

And I pass one more season under a sky of vibrant blue, sitting on my porch drinking Strawberry Abita beer and knowing that I am truly blessed.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Scotsman Clad In Kilts...

Well actually he was an Irishman... Today was the St. Patrick's day parade. This is my second-favorite parade of the year. What can I say-- I'm a fan of men in kilts, and of bagpipes. My friend and I had arrived at the parade route, and had obtained the requisite Guinness from a local store. While standing around on the sidewalk drinking our beer (remember-- this is New Orleans and we can do that here without getting sent to the pokey), anyway, we were standing around drinking our beer, when we met up with a group of men in kilts. Apparently they were from New York City. They were transit drivers there and had a marching club with bagpipes. They came to march in our parade. I'd never seen bagpipes before so asked my friend to describe them. She decided to ask one of the players if I could touch his bagpipes instead of explaining it herself. That's when I met Mark. Who very patiently explained to me about bagpipes, and then showed me how to hold it. I put the bag under my arm, and the pipes on my shoulder, and then he put air in the bag and played the bagpipes. I could feel the vibrations from when the bag inflated, and the notes from the pipes vibrating my whole body. It was crazy. He showed me how you put your fingers on the holes in the breathing pipe and that's how you make the different notes. If I ever took up bagpipes I'd have to get one for smaller hands because the holes were spaced too far apart for me to keep my fingers in the right place. All in all, it was a very interesting experience. I have pictures, and need to upload them to Flickr for everyone to see. We saw the parade, and I caught a bunch of beads, a huge cabbage bigger than my head, a moon pie, which I gave to Mister Pawpower when I came home, a bag of conversation hearts, a stress ball in the shape of a carrot, three footballs for Laveau, and a flower for my hair. Oh and someone threw go cups from the parade, and they hit me in the head, so I kept them. That's what I get for being blind and not catching things. Laveau was very tired and slept for a good two hours after we got home. I gave her a knuckle bone to chew when we got home for doing such a good job. It was a lot of walking and I am very tired. I hope everyone had a happy St. Patrick's day. Also, I would be forever grateful for good recipes which use cabbage. Did I mention I have a huge cabbage to use up? Now that I've slathered noxzema all over my very sunburned face, I think I will read for a while! Be safe, y'all!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sense on the Edge-- my review of new products from Hims

Today I met with a rep. from Hims and got a look at the Braille Sense U2 and Braille Edge. I came away really impressed.

The Braille Sense U2 is a traditional notetaker with Perkins-style keyboard. It has 32 cells, a 1GHz mobile CPU and a 32 gb hard disk. It has a small screen on the top of the unit which a DB person could use as part of a face-to-face communication system. The screen can also be disabled if you are so inclined.

The unit comes with the usual suite of applications found on most blindness-specific PDAs. Word processor, planner, file manager, email and internet, database manager and games as well as media such as mp3 player and memo recorder. I obviously didn't check out any of the media functions but I looked at all other programs and they seemed straightforward and easy to use. The unit also comes with GPS and a client for Twitter, Google Talk, and MSN messenger. I really liked that they included a switch to lock the keyboard and braille display when not in use. I can't tell you how many times my Apex has gotten buttons pushed while in my bag.

The unit seems sturdy and well-made. It also has a vibration feature-- great for DB people. You can get alarms, and system alerts as vibrations instead of sound.
The unit has 3 standard A USB ports, an ethernet jack, as well as a VGA port, and SD card slot. It has built-in WIFI and supports USB 3g modems.

The Braille Edge is a new 40 cell braille display with some note-taker functions. While the Braille Sense U2 has synthetic speech output in addition to braille, the Braille Edge does not have any speech and uses only braille.

In addition to its use as a display, this unit has a notepad, alarm, count down timer, stopwatch, calculator, and scheduler functions. This unit does not come with either a screen or built-in vibration.
The Braille Edge can be used as a USB or bluetooth display. It also has a slot for an SD card for storing files.
Over-all, I was very impressed with these products. While I personally don't see myself relying heavily on blindness-specific PDAs due to their smaller size and limited available to run third-party applications, something like the Braille Sense U2 would be great for a person who is not interested in an iDevice, or other off-the-shelf option. I can see both of these products being of great benefit to students, and people first learning braille, or assistive technology.

The products are repaired in Austin, TX. Hims says that repair time is five business days. If the unit cannot be fixed during this time period, Hims will send the user a loaner unit until the repairs are complete.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ready, Set, Download!

It's no secret-- I love my iPhone. I use it every day-- for a multitude of things. Everything from the GPS function-- to identifying money, and looking at the sale paper for my favorite stores. It is not a stretch to say that if my phone were to break, that I'd be in big trouble. To that end-- while it's exciting when Apple comes out with a new update, it's also scary as heck. It's almost like waging war.

I first have to back up my phone's content, and then it's time. I close all open apps, take a deep breath, and start the update.

The next few minutes are full of nerve-racking tension. I watch the numbers get bigger as the new software downloads. I read people's tweets who are also updating their phone.
"I think I killed it!"
"It's sticking at 97%."
These are just a few of the things people say. I respond with my own worry. We sit, and watch, and bite our nails. It is like you need a mix of solid nerve and some prayer to get you through.
And then... I accidentally moved my phone and it got unplugged from the AC outlet. Oh boy-- I know people to which this same thing has happened and they messed up the phone and it became necessary for them to do.... the dreaded R! That's R for Reset. Which takes forever and after you have reset your phone, installed the latest OS, re-downloaded all of your Apps, and prayed that they end up in their correct folders, and then you find out that no, there are no apps in folders any more-- leaving you with six pages of apps and an organizational nightmare.

This process requires a stiff drink after it's complete.
And I do all of this, the phone is thankfully fine. The update is finished, and I breathe a sigh of relief.
Only to have to go through this entire process on another phone!

As much as I love IOS upgrades, I'm glad they only come around a few times a year.
I think I'm off for that much-promised bourbon after all.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Boil on her Back-Side

Juuuuuuuuuuuuuust when I think I have heard every idiotic, moronic, ignorant, and thoughtless thing the general public can possibly say to me and/or my friends/family/communication facilitators....

somebody opens their mouth and proves me wrong... yet, again!
today is my usual day for running errands with my SSP. I needed to go into Radio Shak. My SSP was helping me when the man behind the counter suddenly turned to my SSP and said:
"You know, you're going to make a man a great wife one day-- you must have the patients of Job."

I'm probably not the most up to date on my Bible scholarship-- but wasn't Job the dude with boils, and plague, and all of these problems? So if my SSP is Job, logic must therefore dictate that I am the boil on Job's backside.

Which, if I took myself less seriously than I do could possibly really cheese me off.
I mean, do people just... not! think about what comes out of their mouthes?

My SSP and I are always getting strange people telling us how brave/inspirational/wonderful/heroic/beautiful it is that we are out buying a bunch of groceries. So now it's a game. We are keeping track of who gets the most ridiculous compliments. So far she has the patience of Job and I am a miracle sent from heaven.