Thursday, January 27, 2011

Off To A Good Start

Hello everyone. My first afternoon volunteering at:
has gone reasonably well. There's a lot less structure than I expected. The kids come and things just kind of flow along at least on drop-in days. It'll probably take a while for me to really become engaged with them. One youngster seems pretty curious about what life being blind is like. That'll probably be what draws them over at least initially. I went in thinking that I should forego bringing my netbook and gaming gear. However, audio games may very well be an important bridge for them between their world and mine so I'll bring the full pack from now on. I've had to discard or even reverse a lot of preconceptions I went in with but I think I'm going to have a better chance with that unexpected looseness to things than I might have otherwise. The kids will slowly get to know me as me without much in the way of authority or taught lessons between us. I very much look forward to spending more time there. Shirley, the lady who I've walked around the lake with, has offered to drive me there since she's normally around tuesday afternoons. It'll be a good opportunity to keep in more regular touch with her. Getting back is a bit less certain since I won't know how long the debriefing lasts or whatever else comes up. However, I'm close enough that people there can get me back until it gets warm and safe enough for me to walk back and forth myself. Things tend to work out in the end.

Yesterday, mom took me to get my hair cut. I don't believe a hairdresser exists close enough for me to easily get to on my own. The cut feels nice and reaction has been positive so far. One gains confidence in any esthetic change very slowly when one has no frame of reference. Part of you always waits for the "What's with the hair?" shoe to drop. As long as the stuff is short and out of my ears, I'm a pretty happy camper. Later on, I went for a nice rost dinner with mom and dad. They're doing fine and I was able to help mom with her laptop. It's running as it ought to and she was able to spend the free game credit that was part of her christmas present. Think she chose a pretty good game. She certainly seems good at them now judging by the speed she plays through them.

I've also managed to write an article for my church newslettre. I may have to tweak it a little but I'm feeling pretty good about what I've sent in. Hopefully, Nan will have time to let me know if it needs changing. Pastor Sam came to see me this morning. It was good to catch up with him again. It's been a while. He's starting to get over a cold or something which sapped his voice of much of its normal force. It's sounding much better than it did when he called me last saturday. He was able to laugh without it seeming to hurt him. We had a good talk and it looks like the Faith Alive folks will be able to send a pdf document of the study material for the evening classes on the Belhar Confession my church is having. We had some excellent discussion last time and I keenly look forward to more.

My brother and his family are moving this week. My parents will be helping them take care of Ava and Amia as well as likely helping move stuff. It'll be a bit too hectic a scene for me to do much good for anybody there. I'll be getting their kitchen table to serve as my dining table. They don't need it in the new place and it saves me from having to purchase a dining set. Mark and Wendy can at last have their table and chairs back. As always, I'm very thankful for friends like them as well as my family.

I'm happy to see that my good friend Stephen Murgaski is having some really excellent breakthroughs in India. He's been shown around the campus and has begun to make friends over there. That should help make his trip more satisfying and give him some of the perspective he'll need to do a good job putting together a five-day crash course in computers. I eagerly await more news as I've no doubt the rest of his followers do. Here's hoping he gets better internet access soon. Go Steve!

Looks like there'll be an interesting chat this weekend about new accessibility products announced at a currently running conference. I may try to catch that online presuming nothing more local comes up. I always enjoy learning about new gadgets. I actually have some podcasts I haven't listenned to yet as well. Highlights of this week's listenning included President Obama's state of the union address. He's easily the best public speaker to come out of the politics of both our countries in the past twenty-plus years. He puts so much heart into it. Also, CBC Radio1 has podcasts up of a nifty show called Age of Persuasion all about how advertising works. I've enjoyed three episodes posted up there so far and eagerly await more. There'll be a new Spark episode as well as at least one From Our Own Corespondents. All very good stuff indeed. I have a couple of DNTO episodes to catch up on and another arriving this weekend. Lots of listenning to pass time if nothing else offers.

The world is in its proper shape. All my dishes are done and thanks to winter's icy winds, the tap water is magnificently cold. Haven't even thought to check on my ice cube stash in at least a week. haven't heard back from my vendor of choice, Frontier Computing, about my new equipment. I'm expecting them to present a quote of some sort soon and will follow up with them next week if I haven't heard anything by then. Nice not to be in a rush or deadline situation this time around. I can give people the time to do their jobs right.

That's pretty much all she wrote as they say other than the recent developments with Mysteries of the Ancients. Tom Ward continues to make progress with that game and thinks he has another beta release nearly ready. He started a very interesting discussion about whether to quickly slap some relatively easy levels together and get the game out sooner or take time to do things more his way producing more difficult and properly balanced levels. Sad to say, there were some impatient folks out there who wanted the damned game. Hard to really blame them given the extremely long wait we've all endured. However, when a master developer is nearing the end of the time he'll spend on a project, I'd just as soon give him the time to do it right. We then end up with a more satisfied developer who will move onto other games as well as a far better game all the more worthy of the long wait. It just seems common sense to me as a creative person. I'd want folks to give me the time to do things right. He hasn't really said anything definite yet but I believe those of us in the "wait and improve" camp have won the day. Patience is a virtue and the lack of it has already cost the community dearly in the past. Lots of interesting stuff happening in life just now. It feels absolutely marvelous.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Thoughts

Hello everyone. It's early saturday evening. Jarte decided to crash on me in a very rare instance of recalcitrance. I had been lax in saving my work so this is my second attempt at a blog entry today. Follow me down yet another stream of consciousness. It's been a pleasant day. I've spent so many similar saturdays utterly frustrated at how excluded I've been from life. All that anger and frustration seems to have disappeared as if God just figured he'd zap it all away. I know I've written a little about this before but I'm still completely stupified by the phenominon. Too bad the cellulite didn't vabourise along with it. I'm not euphoric or anything. There's still a longing for more inclusion, more time talking with friends rather than typing to distant ones, and to be in love again. However, there's a kind of positivity which sort of balances that off now. Even during days spent completely alone, a kind of quiet enjoyment or joviality prevails for the most part. Insomnia and writer's block are still annoying me but that no longer prevents me from enjoying other things while I wait for them to leave off. I just know somehow that it'll all work out in the end and that things will get etter/more interesting.

I'm certainly in for some interesting changes over the next while. I've been approved for ADP upgrades to my access technology and that process is now underway. After ongoing discussions with friends and other blind folks, I've set my sights on getting an iMAC which has Windows7 on it. That way, I can best take advantage of both operating systems and can hopefully better dig myself out of trouble if stuff goes wrong given the Mac OS's built-in accessibility. I also hope to get a short and portable braille display. Negociations have begun with my preferred vendor and we'll see what they can do for me. That'll open up a lot of new possibilities when it comes to presenting my writing, doing more podcasts, perhaps even voice acting. At the very least, I'll hopefully be in a better position to help people in both the PC and Mac community.

An even larger change starts this tuesday. It'll be my first afternoon volunteering at The Dam. I've been eagerly anticipating this welcome addition to my weeks for quite some time now. My father will drive me over for the first week. The weather has been very cold and snowy lately and walking there would be somewhat dangerous. I have a few people I can turn to for rides so the Winter should be manageable enough in terms of getting there. I'll walk there and back myself in the spring, summer and autumn. Unlike when I published my computer guide, I don't have the jitters. I've done all I can to prepare and must simply try to be the best man I can be for the young kids and for those I'll be volunteering with. That's really all there is to it. I'll learn more once I'm there.

That attitude very much puts me in mind of Stephen Murgaski. He's made it to that school for the blind in India after some initial frustrations. I had to let slip the hounds of Google to find his blog since he didn't really tell me he started the thing. Unfortunately, he doesn't yet have the wireless internet access he expected and must post updates when he can plug into an ethernet cable from time to time. Hope they get those technical rinkles ironed out soon. They've certainly set him a challenging task. I'm not at all certain I could pull it off but if anybody can, he'll find a way as long as he can get the information needed. You can read more on this without needing to make use of Google by going to:

I can't help wondering if anything we do as young blind people will really make a bit of difference in our lives other than to our character. It seems like nothing we acomplish is ever enough to really make a difference to prospective life partners or employers. Society puts us in a very strange box. Not many people my age have met as many famous people, been on television and radio, had articles written about them online. We are given unique access to resources like funding for expensive access technology to enhance our personal lives. And yet, it's like we're punching at a brick wall for all the effect this has on the 80 percent unemployment rate the blind community suffers. It's like we're damaged puzzle pieces that simply can't quite fit anywhere unless something extraordinary happens to make a spot for us among the rest. I don't feel damaged. There are plenty of able-bodied folk who strike me as having far more damage to their integrity, honesty and other things. Yet, it too often seems that they'll get even second and third chances at at least a moderately good living while I'm barred from even earning a basic one. All due to that one sense I lack and they have. Once in a while, like when there's a blackout, people will actually need our particular skills and we'll be sought out. Once every so often, we'll notice that we haven't heard a curious child who has snuck away from parents. We may be in the right place at the right time to notice some strange sound or the absence of a sound that nobody else present notices. These things might just save lives once in a while. More often, we're in the right place at the right time when someone needs a good listenner or we come out with some thought that people think is profound. I've never thought myself particularly extraordinarily wise. I've just had more time to actually think about things than most people. That's what happens when you get largely sidelined by so-called normal life. Every great once in a while, some experience will befall us which enriches us or gives us a rare opportunity to really make a positive difference somewhere. I stil hold out some hope that we'll somehow cross the threshhold where people start inviting us into life's more serious commitments of love and secure jobs. That we'll somehow stumble onto a hidden experiencial equivalent of a spring which catapults us into that realm. Whether Stephen succeeds in India or not, he'll come back a somewhat changed man. I think of incredible human capital in someone like Stephen. To just march off like that speaks such volumes about him. Will even that be enough to make a prospective imployer or special lady change their question from a worried "what if?" to an eager "What can?" Sadly, I doubt it. It's definitely going to be a formative experience for him either way. Such things come upon us so infrequently that the effects can act as a lense for our thinking and worldview for some time after. My relationship with Janene was one such. It has definitely cost me a degree of selflessness, trust, and optimism. I won't be nearly as willing to just go off and start life fresh with someone unless I'm very convinced that they're really in it for the long haul. That's a pretty substantial change in character for me. No doubt my time at The Dam will prove a more positive such formative experience. I'll meet a lot of people with very good intentions and a lot of precious young minds. It is very unlikely, given past experience, to change my future prospects much at all. Going in with such expectations would be foolish and could damage the good I hope to do. I'm far more interested in learning about how today's kids and teens think about things. Especially moral issues. I can take those observations and eventually use them in building Enchantment's Twilight. I'll feel fantastic if I actually manage to help one or more young people avoid some nasty pitfalls. Everything else is just icing on the cake. I've come to believe that the only real way forward is to do as much good as selflessly as one can and let the chips fall where they may. I've seen so much good in people like Ron go to waste. There are tremendous transformations in character like what Earle has gone through. I've spent so many empty hours raging at how there never seems to be a positive echo for us; how the only satisfaction we gain is internal. Now, inexplicably, it just doesn't matter that this particular lot falls to me. Rage has done me very little good and I guess a bit of me has finally simply realised that. Our measures of success must simply differ from so-called normal able-bodied people. I didn't set out to be special and would trade all the extra time in the world away for a more ordinary life. However, society seems to need us where we are, ready to fill in the atrocious gaps left in the hectic lives of everyone else. I guess I've finally made a real kind of peace with that which wil see me through until either the next extraordinary experience or more drastic permanent change comes along.

Inner peace is one thing. Why then am I so very cheerful? It's as if I knew I was going to win a lottery or something. I guess I've just know that I'm at last on the cusp of an ongoing stable opportunity to actually do some good for people. Good has its own reward which I've experienced numerous times now. At the moment, it's a kind of glimmer of good feeling that tells me I'm on the right path. At times, I've experienced waves of sublime clarity. Sometimes, I have that sense when some profound idea initially presents itself to me. Usually, it's when I've done something which I find out has unexpectedly helped someone. Personal Power has given me many such moments over the years. So has Audyssey. There were times when I worked on those things that I felt absolutely fulfilled and content. A euphoric sense of rightness would sweep over me as if God was saying so that my very guts could hear: "Well done Michael. You're in the right place at the right time doing precisely what you were meant to." My world just suddenly seems to make fundamental sense regardless of all the disapointments and imperfections. I haven't tried any recreational drugs and have no desire ever to do so. However, I'd be willing to bet that none would produce a sensation which even came close to that kind of tranquil sublime euphoric contentment.

I've begun reading a book called Outside The Wire. It's about the experiences of Canadians over in Afghanistan. Any secondary school kid who smurks at Rememberance Day ought to be forced to read the book at gunpoint. It really brings home what kind of courage it takes to try and contend with political greed, stupidy, lust for power, and corruption. Even more than the CBC audio drama Afganada, this book gives you a substantial idea of the human cost of what we're trying to do over there. Reading the emails and letres of those who have died is particularly heartbreaking. How can so much shere good be so misconstrued that some folks there would try to kill these excellent people? It takes one's breath away.

Well folks, I believe I ought to sign off here and head to bed. I have a somewhat busier day tomorrow than I've just had. I welcome that. I went to bed early friday night for lack of anything at all to do. I feel far better about today even if I did lose a good chunk of blog posting due to not saving often enough. Where does that sense of digital immortality come from anyhow? Now there's a profound question to dream about.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Good Friends and Life Journeys

Hello everyone. It's early afternoon. The New Year's party went terrifically. The only bit of kit I didn't have on hand was a corkscrew. Sadly, three guests couldn't make it. Mark and Wendy were sick and Ron had transportation issues. Two unexpected but very welcome guests were Adam and his girlfriend Jeanette. She was the second Jeanette I've come across in the space of a couple of weeks. She makes a very interesting match for Adam and was a much appreciated addition to the party. We kept things going until around three AM, much later than I had expected. No damage was done and cleaning up wasn't horrendous in the slightest. Admittedly, I kept coming across empty beer bottles for the next couple of days. Nobody got completely sloshed or anything so I guess I just didn't perceive how much beer was gone through. Nice to have people over who can really appreciate one's favorite beverage. It was odd though. I'd finish breakfast and hear a faint rattle on the dining table. I would have thought it inconceivable that one could have remained there undetected when both Stephen and I ate breakfast on it. I remembered checking the table thoroughly at one point and being completely satisfied that nothing was there I hadn't felt. And yet, a slight bump produced the unmistakeable rumble of a disturbed empty bottle rolling slowly across the wooden surfice. Having that many friends be there at the same time did wonders for my sense of connectedness. Especially when three more would have if they could have. When you go months without more than one occasional guest at a time, the world just seems empty. It felt like nothing was ever going to change that. Now that a larger gathering has actually happened, it no longer feels like I need not have bought that couch and chairs. They don't mock me with their continued emptiness any longer. I have that long-sought sense that they'll get used over time; that this place will be filled with more than just music, sound and writer's block ridden stark raving mad me. There'll be other living voices here from time to time who will feel welcomed.

That sense of connectedness was further strengthenned yesterday. I attended a going away party for my good friend Stephen Murgaski who will be leaving for India in around a week. He's going to volunteer at a school for the blind there for three months. It's so very like Steve to get into a wild adventure like that. He's approaching it in his usual madcap manner. He doesn't know exactly what they'll be asking him to help with. He's so versatile though that it won't matter a damn. They'll find plenty for him to do I'm certain. At his party were a number of friends from my days in Hollywood Public School. Everyone has changed in at least one profound way it seems. Earle certainly has. It's good to be back in touch with him again. Running into Meko was also a treet. Both of them were partners at one time and each has moved onto another relationship now. Life certainly can throw us some interesting curves over the years. Living out here in Mississauga, nearly getting married a second time and going into a hell of a tailspin when that fell through on me, I had lost touch with them all. Catching up with all of them was a real treet which has somewhat changed my perspective on life. With so much dead time, it can often feel like you've reached a sort of inescapable dead end. There doesn't seem to be any room left for the utterly extraordinary to come along and set you in motion. That's where people like Stephen come into the picture. You think that he's finally truly trapped in mundanity with the rest of us having no job and paying off university debt from his successful second attempt to gain a degree. "I'm going to India for three months to volunteer at a school for the blind there." he says out of the blue. Half your brain is just blown away as you try to absorb this. You're left absolutely gobsmacked for a bit. You made the mistake of thinking that you had learned better than to be so utterly surprised by what he gets up to again only to discover that this is a futile effort on your part. At the same time, part of your brain is like Gandalf catching Mary and Pippin up to their usual mischief in Fellowship of the Ring. I could almost hear his deep rich voice saying: "Off to India are you Stephen? I might have known.", as he hauls him up off the floor by the scruff of the neck like a troublesome little hobit. It's going to be an amazing and formative adventure for him. He's been fascinated by India for ages. I didn't really think any of our group would end up travelling that far afield. He'll realise a life-long dream and I can't wait to hear the stories and insites he'll come back with. Glad he was able to get to my New Year's gathering first. Best of luck Steve. God go with you.

It seems like we're all having different kinds of adventure. Earle finds himself a father and that has totally changed him from the man prone to drunken wildness I once knew. I think back to a particular New Year's eve more than a decade and a half ago which I attended in his apartment. You may read about that eventful night when I get around to publishing my autobiographical book in another decade and a chunk. When life experience comes at you in dribs and drabs, these things do take time. Like my divorce did for me, being a father has aged him in a fundamental way that possibly no other experience open to us could have. As for my own adventure, it's taking a bit longer to get going. I've been expecting some forms to sign for a while now and they ought to be coming next sunday or sooner. After my police check and whatever else I need to go through first, I'll be volunteering at The Dam once a week seeing how I can be a good friend and possibly a mentor to young people deemed to be at risk. Like Steve, I don't have an exact sense of what I'll end up doing there. However, they're eager to have me and that in itself is a damned nice change. Most organisations worry about what I might damage rather than ponder what I might do for them. It'll be so damned good to have somewhere to go to which is close enough for me to do so on my own terms. My big dream is more about living in a community and, dare I hope, a marriage where I feel wanted and useful most of the time. Stephen has enough physical courage, daring and mobility skill to think nothing of wanderring off somewhere or, flying off to India. My skills and hopes take a different direction. Volunteering at the Dam for at least a couple of years seems like a long-overdue first step toward the more tranquil sort of life filled with good stable deep relationships where I feel that I would be most able to have a positive impact over the longer term.

This week, I have my assessment at ADP for new equipment. That ought to be interesting. I'm also finally making some small headway on Enchantment's Twilight. Of all things, I'm having a breakthrough with the combat system. A story arc to pin all these game mechanics into still eludes me. However, that isn't getting me as down as it was. I've found my patience and good cheer again over the last month or so. It's like somebody threw some sort of switch and all the anxt and frustration at my lack of social progress here just melted away. It doesn't feel like one of those temporary reprieves from dull lethargy either. I think this new positive aspect is here to stay and it's very welcome indeed. Insomnia isn't quite gone yet. I finally caved in and took my usual Graval knockofs last night and got a pretty decent sleep but I hate that groggy drag that persists for a while after you get up. Once that lifts though, you feel like a million bucks. I'm expecting some mail from my apartment inshurance company this week. It must be close to the time when that gets renewed. I guess I'll be signing another lease with Peel Housing before long also. Presuming I remain single, I'll hang onto this place for keeps if I can. This spring and summer will be interesting now that I know where I'm going around here and don't need mobility lessons each week. It looks like the Dam is open through the summer so I'll be walking to and from the mall at least once per week. At long last, it seems like my social life is also starting to slowly pick up and recombobulate. I'll probably be seing a couple from church this sunday for a social visit rather than a religious one. I have yet to meet anybody here around my age who would get together and watch a mutually liked show on Discovery Channel or go out to some event or other with me. My expectations along those lines were clearly much too high when I moved in here. Everyone certainly knows snippets of me and plenty of people say hello when they pass me. Doubtless, I'm one of the most widely recognised people in the building. It just seems to stop at those brief chance conversations. However, Perhaps, over time, more folks like Jeanette from Lindsay will pop up. She wants to bring her son over to meet me at some point. That's four hours of driving for them. They'll come all that way and nobody around here will even come up or down the elevator shaft for a visit. And folks wonder why there's so much polution in the world. That's what happens when people geographically close to each other see no reason to get to know their neighbours. GRRRRRR!!!!

Looks like I'm off to a dinner with family friends. They'll be getting into the football so I'd best go and grab my netbook to bring along. There'll be some good conversation for certain but inevitably, there are moments where all of that stops as whatever happens on TV happens. I'll post this when I get back after looking it over.