Friday, August 07, 2015

Come and join the insanity

As you all know, I’m assuming, I just got back into blogging recently.

Well, I have another project going now that’s just chock full of crazy.

It’s called Solutions Unlimited.

It’s a collaboration between me and Houston from Tater Tots for the Masses where we come up wih ridiculous solutions for problems that may or may not exist.

It’s good fun, so check it out.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Under the knife

Yeah, I know, I haven’t blogged in a while. I just really haven’t had much to say.

Yesterday, though, I went under the knife.

It was a simple outpatient procedure to remove some scar tissue that had grown up around the shunt they put in my eye last year.

The surgery went well and I’m feeling pretty good considering a doctor was rooting around in my eye with sharp implements for at least half an hour (I’' was awake, but have no idea how long the procedure took, just that I was at the office for four hours total and most of it was spent in prep)

Anyway, it’s made what vision I have left a little weird.

What I can see is blurry, even compared to what I’m used to.

But that’s not the strangest part.

They put an air bubble in my eye to replace some of the fluid that was removed during the procedure.

The gas will slowly dissipate over the next month or so, but until then it does weird things with my vision.

The gas they use acts kind of like a mirror, reflecting light back instead of letting it pass through, so where the bubble is in my limited field of view looks solid black to me.

And, because of how the eye works, the bubble that appears to be on the bottom of my vision is actually taking up the top portion of the inside of my eye since what you see hits your retina upside down and your brain flips it over.

So, basically, when I’m walking or something, I can’t see anything in the lower half of what would normally be my vision and the line bounces up and down as I move around.

It’s really weird, but no big deal. They did the same thing last year when I had the shunt put in originally.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

BREAKING: Supreme Court rules Constitution unconstitutional, takes full control of country

Another fine mediocre lame jrtblog.com parody

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a surprise 5-4 ruling, the United States Supreme Court has struck down the nation’s constitution, seizing full control of the government.

In the majority opinion, former chief justice and now Grand Poobah John Roberts wrote that “Since everybody thinks the court has gone crazy out of control with the recent Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage rulings, the majority of the court feels as if we should show the public what crazy out of control really looks like.”

Grand Poobah Roberts and the other four judges in the majority opinion will form a new governing council called The Supremes, whose first act was to arrest the four opposing judges as well as all elected and appointed officials from the other two branches of our former government.

“We won’t keep them locked up for forever,” said Grand Poobah Roberts. “Just until we’ve sufficiently solidified our power and feel more comfortable in our roles. We just don’t want them making trouble while we’re establishing ourselves.”

When asked about changes that are being planned. Grand Poobah Roberts was rather vague.

“We’re toying around with a few ideas,” he said. “We’re not planning to do anything too outrageous at first, just so the people can get used to their new overlords.”

Grand Poobah Roberts went on to say that the only change he was going to make for now was to make same-sex marriage mandatory.

“We haven’t decided on a punishment for those that won’t comply,” said Grand Poobah Roberts. “Everything’s on the table for now, though.”

When asked about the reasoning behind the mandate, Grand Poobah Roberts said “We just want everybody to experience what same-sex marriage is like for a while. We’ll probably lift the mandate after a few years.”

Reaction among most of the country was mixed, but the nation’s academics were fascinated by the mandate.

“It’s a really interesting social experiment,” said Dudley Grabbington, associate professor of sociology at Harvard. “It will be really interesting to see how many people stick with the same-sex marriages after the mandate is lifted.”

Reactions from the nation’s political establishment was mixed as well.

“It’s certainly an unprecedented step,” said RNC spokesman Brad Ciegler. “”"It goes against everything we believe in, and I fear for our future.”

Shortly after making his remarks, Ciegler was arrested and sent to a camp for political retraining.

“I, for one, welcome our new supreme overlords,” said DNC spokeswoman Constance Pattinson after hearing of Ciegler’s arrest. “As unelected officials, they will bring a new perspective to governance that we’ve never experienced before. I’m really excited about it.”

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bruiser and I are in mourning…

…for one of our fellow bloggers.

For those that have read my blog for a long time (well before my blindness-induced hiatus), you know I had a good back-and-forth relationship with K T Cat from The Scratching Post. For a few years, we had a bet going on weither the Saints or Texans would have a better record among other things, I even had dinner with the man behind the blog once when he was in Houston on business. He’s a cool guy.

For those that don’t read the blog, it’s “written” by K T herself.

Bruiser and I are both in mourning of Our Maximum Leader but we’re sure she’s got plenty of sun spots to lay in.

As far as the human behind her, I owe you a dinner and a beer whenever I make it out to San Diego. Remember, it’s nowhere near as long a haul for me now.

UPDATE: There’s a great post remembering K T over at The Scratching Post.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The whole Confederate flag thing

With all the craziness going on about the Confederate flag lately, I figured I should throw out my two cents on the issue.

Yes, the Confederate flag is a part of our history. It’s a symbol of a time gone by and, in my opinion, not one of our better moments as a country.

Like it or not, slavery was and is still wrong, and like it or not, the Confederate flag is a symbol  of it.

Remember, a native Texan is saying what I’m about to say. The south did a ton of things that I’m not proud of. I don’t need to go into details on what I’m talking about, I think everybody knows exactly what I mean.

Also, news flash: the south lost. The losing team doesn’t get to fly their flag over government buildings That, to me, is like flying the British flag over the Capitol. We wouldn’t do that, right?

Now, my stance is a bit different when it comes to businesses and individuals.

Businesses and people can, in my opinion, do whatever they want to with it. Just don’t be surprised if your business loses business because of it. Other people have the right to vote with their money and choose not to spend it with you for whatever reason they want to.

Would I do business with a place that was hanging a Confederate flag on the wall? Yes, because, but not because of it. After all, it’s not like I can see the flag. I’ll do business with anybody as long as they haven’t given me a compelling reason not to. I could care less about a company’s stance on something. Now, if I either or someone I know has had a really lousy experience with a company (like my mother-in-law’s experiences with United that I mentioned in my last post), then I will refuse to do business with them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Leaving on a jet plane

As I’m sure you can imagine, flying is a little more difficult when you’re blind.

Thankfully, the airlines make it as easy as they can (which I’ll go into later), but there’s still plenty of things that I have to do that I wouldn’t have to think about as much otherwise.

The big examples I can think of are getting to the airport and getting picked up from said airport. I know the mass transit system here in Phoenix well enough that I could get to the airport by myself if I needed to, but I’d rather not have to rely on bus and light rail, especially during our lovely (read: only slightly cooler than hell) summers. Also, as close to the airport as I live, Lyft is a fairly cheap option to at least get me to curbside (again, something I’ll go into more detail about later).

Where I go, though, I don’t have all that kind of knowledge. So I have to try to time my flights in and back home so someone can get me to and from the airports.

One of the nice things is that it’s not hard for someone to get a pass to go past security and meet me at the gate. They just have to tell the folks at the ticket counter that they’re picking up a blind guy whom they want to meet at the gate and give them my flight info. When I get dropped off, I’d simply go to the ticket counter (or curbside) and tell them that I need either a pass for them to come back with me or that I need a guide to help me get to my gate.

Of course, if I’m flying with someone, I don’t have to worry about any of that kind of stuff since the person flying with me can get me through everything. After all, they’re going with me.

I’ve personally never had an issue with the folks at the airport helping me get from place to place, though my mother-in-law has had a couple of bad experiences with United, which is why I’ll never fly them.

The guides at the airport will help me get through security (presumably through the special needs line, which tends to be short, but I’ve never asked when I’ve had to go through security with a guide. Once through, they’ll sit me down next to my gate and let the folks at the counter know that I am there and will need assistance boarding.

Most of the time, they’ll preboard me so there’s not a ton of chaos and confusion while I’m getting on the plane. Someone will walk me down the jetway to the door of the plane, while usually a flight attendant will take over once I’m on the plane and help me find my seat. On my last solo flight, one of the flight attendants even made sure I could find the call button if I needed anything and made arrangements with one of the passengers near me to assist me in case, God forbid, we had to evacuate the plane.

As far as getting off the plane, how I do it will depend on a few things. If I’m at my final destination and I know someone is waiting for me at the gate, I’ll just deplane with everybody else since I’m competent enough getting around to get off the plane and walk up the jetway to where whoever’s picking me up can find me. If it’s a transfer or I’m meeting whoever’s picking me up outside security (which I’ve done at a really small airport) I’ll wait for the plane to empty out and have someone help me off then. When that happens, the airline usually has someone waiting for me either coming onto the plane or right outside the gate to get me where I need to go.

As you can imagine, the first time I flew solo since I lost my sight was pretty scary. Thankfully, my lovely wife Jen had some experience with this with her mom, so we knew what we had to do. I was still thinking of the stories from my mother-in-law, like the time she was supposed to be handed off from one person to another in Denver, but wound up missing her flight because she never got picked up. Thankfully, beyond a minor hiccup in Dallas that a fellow passenger fixed for me, it went smoothly and I don’t worry about it anymore.1

Friday, June 05, 2015

It’s the small things

Patience.

a virtue.

One that I don’t have.

If anything, it’s gotten worse with my vision loss.

One of my biggest struggles I’ve faced with my vision loss is dealing with the things that I could easily do before but now can’t. It’s not easy giving up some of your independence. I’d love to say that I handle it fine, but I don’t. It aggravates the hell out of me, as I’m sure it does most people in my position.

Thankfully, with the advances in technology that are out there, blind people can do way more than they were able to do on their own 20 years ago, but it still isn’t easy.

Take something as simple as going through the mail. The average Joe just stands at their kitchen counter, looks at the envelopes, and opens what’s of interest to them.

But not me!

After I bring in the mail, I have to either boot up my laptop and use a piece of software called OpenBook in conjunction with a document scanner or an iPhone app called KNFB Reader, which will do basically the same thing using the iPhone’s camera.

That technology works great for printed material, but if it’s hand-written all bets are off.

It’s also no help if I have to sign something, since it can’t show me where to sign. I have to get someone to identify the blank for my signature and place a signature guide, a piece of plastic the size of a credit card with a hole cut into it that can be lined up with where I have to sign.

It’s small stuff like that which aggravates me.

On a related note, people who expect that I can do something that I either can’t or are not comfortable with doing by myself and then get aggravated because of that annoy the crap out of me. I mean, did you really think that I wanted this? Because I’ve got news for you: I didn’t! I’m having a hard enough time with the fact that I need help, the last thing I need is you piling it on.

Thankfully, with the skills I picked up at rehab, there’s a lot more that I can do now than I could four months ago and I’m starting to get more confidence in my abilities, but it’s still a struggle that I don’t think a lot of people understand.

Solo flight

Note: I had originally written this post last week before I knew about the problem with Blogger and Windows Live Writer. I haven’t made any changes to it because, well, I just didn’t feel like it.

As I have mentioned before, this is my last week of rehab.

With my last week comes my orientation and mobility final exam. For those that don’t know, that’s the class where I learn how to get around using a white cane, public transit, etc.

The final exam for that class is a tough one. This morning, I got dropped off without being told where I was and had to get to a restaurant of my choosing by myself. Well, not completely by myself, I could have others help me find things, help me cross streets, etc., but I couldn’t hop in a car with someone or anything like that.

Because I’ve been there and I know it’s good, I chose to go to Alice Cooperstown.

After Tom dropped me off, I spent some time figuring out where I was. Thanks to GPS on the iPhone, I was able to determine that I was on Thomas just west of 16th street. Once I had that figured out, I loaded up the Google Maps app and had it give me a few options on how to get there using the bus or light rail. I chose which route I wanted to take and took a seat at the bus stop, which I had been conveniently dropped off at.

When the bus came, I hopped on, swiped my pass, told the driver where I was getting off (I was taught to do that instead of to hit the button when my stop is announced), and found an empty seat.

When my stop came up, I walked east to the corner of Thomas and Central Avenue. From there, I crossed Thomas to get to the stop for the southbound Central bus. At this point, I could have hopped on the light rail, but Google Maps said that the bus route would be a little quicker and it meant less street crossings since the station is in the middle of Central. Someone who was there helped me find the bus stop and I sat for a few minutes before the bus came.

It was when I got off of that bus downtown near 1st Ave. and Jefferson that my adventure really began.

At that point, I changed over to Apple Maps on my iPhone so I could get walking directions to the restaurant. According to that, it was only about a 7 minute walk away.

That 7 minutes took me a good half hour.

Downtown Phoenix is pretty confusing to me, and I don’t know it all that well. Plus there was some scaffolding set up on the sidewalk. After trying to figure it out for myself, I got some assistance locating Jackson St., the street I needed to turn onto so I could get to Alice Cooperstown, I headed down the street towards it.

Thankfully Jackson isn’t a busy street, because at some point between 1st Ave. and 1st St. I wandered out into the street. I realized it just as Tom, who had been following me at a distance the entire time, came up behind me to tell me.

I moved back over to the sidewalk and made it to the corner of Jackson and 1st St., where I got confused again. It’s easy to get confused in that area since there isn’t much traffic to give you sound cues. So, instead of simply crossing the street, I managed to make a turn and start down 1st St., taking me farther away. I knew I’d screwed up somewhere, but I wasn’t sure where. I backtracked and tried to figure out where I was, but had some problems doing so. After a good 10 to 15 minutes of me going around in circles, I ran into a guy working in the area that got me pointed in the right direction and made it.

Even with a few shaky moments, I did manage to get there and passed the final with flying colors.

I really felt like I’d earned that Cuban sandwich.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

And I’m back!

Sorry that blogging was light the past week or two, but there was a problem where Blogger and Windows Live Writer weren’t playing with each other nicely, but that’s apparently been fixed.

Anyways, I’m done with rehab and will be posting a couple of things about that and my recent trip to Vegas in the next few days.

Which begs the question: Did you miss me?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Just playing some cards

Sometimes it’s the simple things.

As ,y vision got worse, one of the things I had to give up was playing poker. It was something I wasn’t necessarily all that good at, but I enjoyed it none the less.

I’d read some stories about people that were blind pulling up to the tables and trying it, so I tried to back in September before Jen and I were planning a trip to Vegas for a family get-together.

But I wasn’t just going to show up at the poker room and say “How are we going to do this?” That’s just not fair to anybody.

So I placed a call to the poker room at Wild Horse Pass to talk with someone on how we would work out any accommodations that I’d need. I got escalated up the food chain two or three times before I got transferred to a supervisor or manager or someone with instructions to leave them a voicemail and that I’d get a call back.

Well, that never happened.

I called a few more times and didn’t get any farther, so I did a little digging around on their website and found the number for their guest relations manager. I left him a strongly-worded voicemail where I may have mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act and the next day I had everything worked out. I had approval to have my wife sit behind me and whisper to me what my cards were. As far as the community cards, the dealer would just read them to me.

So, with that worked out, I went to play a tournament just to see how it would go. I played like crap, but it went well.

I played a few more times before the trip to Vegas, including a trip o a different casino in town. I called them as well as the Monte Carlo, where we were staying in Vegas, and asked if the same arrangement would be ok with them and neither casino had any objections.

It’s taken some time to get comfortable with the arrangement, but it works out pretty well. But, more importantly, I felt like I got a little chunk of my life back since I got back into one of my hobbies.

Now, one of the things that I get asked a lot is if I feel like I’m at a huge disadvantage not being able to see the other players. While I do miss a few things, I feel like it’s not a huge disadvantage since I always read more into people’s betting patterns than what faces they were making or anything like that.

As far as Las Vegas, I’m going again in a few weeks and will be playing at the Monte Carlo again. They were so awesome with us that I won’t stay anywhere else.

No touching!

No, I’m not just making an Arrested Development reference for the heck of it.

I know you may mean well and are really just trying to help, but don’t grab me when you want to guide me somewhere.

I’ve had this happen before, but an incident that happened on Monday just got under my skin.

As part of a mobility lesson with rehab, I was getting on a light rail train downtown and taking it down five or six stops to meet my instructor. It was the third ride like that which I had taken that morning, with another light rail trip and a bus ride.

Anyways, when I got onto the train, a lady saw me with my cane and offered me her seat. I started to walk towards where I thought she was, but apparently wasn’t exactly on track. She decided to just grab my shoulders and basically push me to the seat.

If I grabbed her and had tried to move her, I would have gotten slapped. Twice. Once by her, and once by my wife when I told her about that bonehead thing I did today. But. for some reason, people think it’s ok to just grab a blind person and steer them like a car or something.

Remember, I can’t see that you’re about to grab me. When someone unexpectedly grabs me, it surprises me. When, after that, they decide to steer me, it throws off my balance. I’m clumsy enough just standing still on my own, the sudden shifts don’t help anything.

It’s not that I mind the help, I promise that I don’t. What I do mind is someone invading my personal space and potentially screwing up my balance.

If you want to help out a blind person, just ask if you can guide them. More often than not, we’ll say yes. Then simply offer us an elbow to grab onto. That’s how we’re trained to let folks guide us, after all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Counting down

The countdown has begun.

I had a meeting yesterday with all my instructors at rehab. After cutting my schedule to three days a week a few weeks ago, we have chosen next Wednesday as my last day.

That means just two more days!

When I look back, it amazes me just how far I have come.

Just as an example, I wrote this post using just a braille note taker, a device that allows me to type using the same type of keyboard I'd use if I were brailing a piece of paper. It also allows me to read things in braille. I'm trying to get my speed up so I can use it to take notes when I start school in the fall.