Monday, January 4, 2016

Half a Year Newly Married

Hello everyone. It has been entirely too long since I've written in this blog. For that, I apologize profusely. Many completely blog-worthy things have happened and should have been remarked upon in this space. In terms of accomplishment, there isn't all that much to crow about. However, in terms of enjoying married life, Sara and I have done pretty well. No major disagreements or fights to speak of. After all this time, it's hard to know where to begin. I can't promise to cover everything but will attempt to hit the highlights of our first six months together.

Sara and I continued to enjoy an excellent Summer. All the administrative stuff with ODSP and Peel Housing has been settled. That took somewhat longer than I expected but I needn't have worried. Sara has done better than I at keeping her creative projects going. She has begun recording and editing things using her new Blue Yeti microphone. The bedroom seems to be best suited for that. She also does pretty much all the major cooking these days. She truly delights in having her own kitchen. While I appreciate its utility and my good fortune to have an apartment like this made affordable, I've never taken much enjoyment from cooking. Not like Sara. Dish duty is more my area. I've found us some good auditory entertainment to while away the hours companionably. We've been enjoying audio dramas from my collection and have expanded it thanks largely to Big Finish. Dorian Gray has been mostly excellent. So has Sherlock Holmes, Pathfinder Legends and other splendid additions. The Dark Adventure Radio Theatre has graced us with some nifty H.P. Lovecraft Stories turned into audio plays. That has to be the best discovery of the year. They've put out some really fun stuff.

By far though, a very supportive cast of family and friends have been key ingredients to our happiness. It was wonderful spending time at the Murgaski cottage with Steve, Michelle and Steve's parents. Everyone had a good time. Drink and the Summer sun each took a toll that was well worth paying in my humble judgment. We have also enjoyed visiting Shannon and Kim. After hearing so much about Shannon's new place, it was interesting to actually go there and get a real sense of it. We'll have to see about having them visit us here after the holidays. Adam and Jeanette have graced this abode a time or two. So have Mark and Wendy. Good friends all. One thing I hope for this coming year is that we have some more regular opportunities for socialization.

I don't believe I'll be able to finish the book by the middle of next year as anticipated. I'll still take a good crack at it but there's so much ground to cover. I really don't want to break it up into more than one book. There's enough of an interest in public circles to make me think that one book would be grabbed as a novelty particularly by parents and friends of blind people, game design students, game developers and such. Not a whole series though. I don't really want to do a text book so much as a personal examination of the accessible gaming history I've experienced plus current possibilities and speculations on current and future possibilities. I will also discuss why it's so important that blind people be included where ever feasible in digital and other forms of play. Getting the balance right is going to be a real bear. I also have my game to get back to eventually. I've done well at gathering resources for both these projects over the past while. The epic find of the year in that quarter was discovering an accessible way to obtain and read The Art of Game Design: A book of Lenses 2nd ed. by Jesse Schell. When the Kindle version proved impossible to read with its iPHONE app, I was forced to look farther afield and discovered CRC Press. they use something called Vital Source bookshelf. It's a system for reading text books which is made to be accessible with screen-readers. There's an app for i devices and versions for Windows and Mac. The books are typically of the more expensive type you'd get for taking courses in particular fields. Students in particular will want to check out:

Getting to know my new church community is going to be a long and slow process. Sara has really found a place of honour there. They value her musical abilities very highly. She knows her religion and her music. Hearing that combination at work is something special. I'm getting along well with people. they're very patient and kind. It's a lot to take in from a theological standpoint. I'm simply not on the same spiritual walk. There are some real glimpses of the kind of wisdom the Orthodox approach affords. I am increasingly confident that my patient observation and attentiveness will prove rewarding. I really don't know that I'll ever be a real believer in their take on what God wants of us. At the same time, it's obviously the same God I've believed in and worshipped so differently.

My birthday this year was tremendous fun. Adam and Jeanette came over and we all enjoyed a Swiss Chalet dinner courtesy of my lovely Sara. One present, a trio of unique soundscapes put together by Julian Treasure, has just arrive during the holidays. I'm very thankful to have been able to use my gifts to acquire music and books which had waited on my wish list for ages. I also got the whole Afganada series of audio dramas done by the CBC about Canadian troops in Afghanistan. Lots of superb listening for long Winter days.

One new challenge I'm just beginning to contend with over the past couple of months is the use of my hearing aids. It really changes the character of what I can hear and adjusting is really not a thing to be taken lightly. This is especially true when you rely on sounds as heavily as I do for getting around. Sara has proved to be remarkably patient as I've gone through this process. I've had to do everything from acquiring more gear to figuring out which mode works best in given circumstances. Both of us use headphones most of the time while working so asking each other to repeat what we said is nothing new. She's far more tranquil with the reality of my hearing loss though. At some level, I'm still blown over by the fact that I, who take pride in my listening abilities, must now use hearing aids to do what used to come naturally. I go through batteries more quickly than average since I need to increase volume in many situations to hear more comfortably. Just how many of these little pellets will I use up before life ends or I need to upgrade to new hearing aids? The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headset is a godsend since I can use it for my iPHONE and keep all that sound and phone calls separate from my hearing aids. I've just discovered yesterday that wearing the Aftershokz on the inside and hearing aids outside doesn't stress the hearing aid wire and is far more comfortable than having the aids between the headset and my skull. Little tricks like that are worth their weight in gold.

While the past months have been largely about settling into married life, I really want this coming year to be more about building up that life socially and re-kindling my creative drive. The resources are largely in place now for that to happen. A final piece of the puzzle just arrived in the form of Trekz Titanium headphones from Aftershokz. These are a godsend and work wonderfully with my hearing aids. I'll be doing a travel gear update post early in the new year. It's long overdue and I believe things have reached a tech plateau for me in this area. Kickstarter and Indegogo have been a big and exciting part of that process. The Trekz Titanium campaign did a masterful job of making me feel like part of the team. That journey will continue as more of the projects I backed in other non-tech areas such as audio dramas and one game development book are slated to be finished in the coming year.

I really have to curtail my spending. This will be a struggle for me. I've managed to obtain pretty much every urgent item on my wish list over the past while but at a cost I simply can't sustain over time. I don't want to bar myself completely from purchasing books but really need to be more disciplined in my approach. I think I've come to a point where I'm ready to do that. Expanding life socially is going to require some money when it really starts hap penning. That'll likely be when things warm up. Winter has arrived in force here. We're under an extreme cold alert today. My cote, Winter boots and gloves are already in use and in good shape as far as I can tell. I don't plan on many Winter walks unaccompanied but am glad I was able to test my new iPHONE, Blind Square, hearing aids and Trekz Titanium on a windy outdoor walk recently. It's nice to know I can do it if I have to provided I take my time. Echoes of cane taps sound different enough to throw off my sense of distance from things. Too much wind simply renders walking with any idea of my surroundings beyond the tactile completely impossible.

Technology expenses should be a thing of the past for a while. I believe I've managed to hit a stable point where my needs are met nicely both at home and while travelling. My laptop will now be my desktop and likely won't leave home. The iPHONE6 has 64 gb of storage which is plenty for books, music, apps, documents, etc while on the move. I recently put my new Anker external battery and Bluetooth keyboard to a more sustained field test over the holidays and am very pleased with the results. More on that in my upcoming travel gear entry.

There is a whole lot to look forward to this year. More of my long-time friends are popping up in Mississauga. I fervently hope we'll be seeing more of Bill, Tony and Angela. One larger-scale project I really need to undertake is more orientation and mobility lessons. I'll need to get onto the waiting list for those. Mastering the bus system, learning to get to doctor/health appointments, getting downtown to Union Station and assorted other destinations on my own would be a very good thing. At the very least, getting enough information into Blind square and enough notes on routes to be useful to me is worth pursuing. I realize that mobility will always be a weak area for me but it's time for taking another stab at doing better there.

We have a brand new government in power who are ready to undo a lot of stagnation and stifling Harper had in place over the past decade. Societal cohesion has really taken a back seat to the budget and we need that changed. I'll be very keen to see how much the new government will be able to do of what it promised to do. I'm glad we're doing our part to help the Syrian refugees. Shutting the doors wasn't the right approach in World War II and it wouldn't serve us well here. I just wish Trudo hadn't bitten off more than we could chew in the quest for votes. I hope things and proceed at a measured pace which the systems here can realistically deal with. I also feel for the many would be immigrants who have been forced to wait longer due to this crisis. Should there be a meaningful way in which I can help at all, i won't say no. I've felt like this country just hasn't been its best self this past decade. Restoring our good compassionate society is long overdue.

One area I must always be thankful to Harper for is his ongoing support of the underwater archaeology surrounding the Franklin Expedition. I now have an accessible copy of Franklin's Lost Ship, in iBOOKS and have begun to read it. That story of arctic explanation has long fascinated me and we'll at last start to really learn from the remains of hopefully both ships. I don't believe the Terror has yet been found. That will be a profound journey of soul-searching and really force some people to re-examine their thinking on Native culture.

The Truth and Reconciliation report has come out and seeing how that gets dealt with will be very interesting also. I have copies of the six volumes on my iPHONE awaiting my attention. I don't expect that to be a pleasant read but think we ought to be aware of the negative forces employed to shape the society too many of us take for granted. I really feel for everyone involved in the process which produced these documents. I hope generations of Canadians to come are given a better sense of our past and are able to figure out how we can really move forward. Even with abundant good will in our current politicians, I have no illusions that there's some magic quantity of resources, apologies or anything else which could really mend this sort of damage quickly.

A whole lot is hap penning in accessible games. This year seems bout to be a historic one in that quarter. Another successful kickstarter has put 64oz Games in a position to acquire new equipment to drastically increase their capabilities to make board and other games accessible which have heretofore been beyond the experience of blind people. I was a small part of that kickstarter and expect a 20-sided die for my small donation. I still intend to eventually acquire at least one board game from them for our own entertainment and for hands-on research for my book. While it's sad to see Something Else Ltd. bow out of the audio game creation business, they have left a wonderful legacy. A number of the best audio games to grace iOS as well as a sound engine which those more skilled than I will doubtless put to good use. The year will kick off with an English localization of a Korean games called Ji Eum. I've earned a place in the credits with another small donation. Lots of new stuff coming up. Fallen London should be a spectacular offering on iOS rivalling even King of Dragon Pass for death, scope and replay value. Six Ages, the next game from A Sharp, makers of King of Dragon Pass, should also be a very good experience. PC gaming is picking up again. Marina Break is a strange combination of Breakout and Pinball which appeared over the holidays. So far, no other projects in development for play on Windows have been widely discussed. I expect everyone's busy getting used to Windows10 much like I am.

I started this blog entry before Christmas. It is now January 4th, 2016 as I bring the post to a close. Due to a switch in calendars instituted by Sara's church of choice, this is in fact a few days before Christmas. Time travel just isn't as flashy as it's made out to be. I do appreciate having the more secular family events separate from what should be an interesting religious Christmas experience this week. This does however mean that our new thankfully  small and out of the way Christmas tree will remain on our dining room table for a while yet. Life is both wonderful and strange. And with that last observation, I will leave you for a hopefully shorter while between entries. Happy New year everyone.