Friday, December 30, 2005

Why the "Look Good" Can Be Lethal.

I am once again confronted with a very painful reality. I have to re-apply for Medi-Cal, California's MediCaid program. Whatever good things I've done, felt and or learned over the past twelve months are blown away by an agonizing dose of guilt, shame, and self-loathing. I was told by various members of my family: a) I have courage (to dare) to believe I can achieve anything and b) the reality is: I will never amount to anything because I'm blind and that condition is hopeless.

I have to fight this river of rage and pain the hardest when I'm facing the tedious "fill out the twenty pages of forms to prove to us that you are screwed-up enough to deserve our help." Don't get me wrong, this is a government system with myriad regulations, like The IRS. Many seriously dedicated workers give it their best, to dole out help where it is truly needed, the most. I also confront our American Individualism and can-do spirit. The implication: if you aren't able to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you are morally deficient. At this moment in time, I revisit grief work and a very hard struggle to maintain my faith in God and life. I know it will pass. Prayer and the continuing love of friends both soothe this brief moment of pain.

While trolling my records to get the relevant facts and figures for my Medi-Cal application, a blind friend called. I alerted her to my pain and she admitted she'd felt the same way, but was able to get over it via acceptance and positive affirmations.

I then questioned why no other disabled person, I've dealt with, was willing to acknowledge these strong and negative feelings. I've read thousands of pages of recovery stories and this is never discussed. She said that no one is willing to put that kind of vulnerability in a book. I get angry about this. This total silence leaves me believing I'm the only one so backward as to be having these issues. If standing before you in my vulnerability will help you not to toy with the idea of ending your life. I will sally forth with brutal honesty. My friend feels my desire to be that helpful is twisted and my utter lack of awareness of how to act appropriately.. She hasn't done time in a lock-down psychiatric ward watching trees tippy-toe through a parking lot, hunched over and being sneaky. This problem of feeling isolated and defective has driven me to suicidal thinking, more then once. I know I am not alone in this. I'm absolutely alone in being willing to get in your face and speak about it.

I stand by the idea, that playing the 'look good' game can drive people to suicide. I've read numerous accounts of the crushing loneliness of closeted gays, psychiatric patients and civil rights trail-blazers. Our society is withdrawing support for the poor at many levels. The days of long-term therapy are over. Somebody has to be willing to tell it as it is. I can only speak for myself, but I am creating something I could have used during my twenty years of wanting to kill myself, with no clue as to why.

Having a disability is hard. There are techniques where you can do many things, but you are never going to be able to beat the able-bodied at their own game. Yes, I can use a computer and create a blog, but the time needed for me to function, compared to a fully sighted person is about three to one. This is why 75% of the blind aren't working enough to support themselves. I have always understood this condition to be a factor of economics, rather than prejudice. Lately, however, I'm beginning to wonder if the prejudice angle might be part of the problem.

Now that I use a walker and have to verbally explain my visual difficulties, I realize that I can't even think of applying for a house keeping job, unless the person already knows me, and has seen me operate somewhere, like at church. I grieve this, but I understand it is just another factor of my life. I have a choice as to how big a problem I choose to make my difficulties into. But, I still get side-swiped by the pain. Somewhere I learned that I'm not really disabled, and if I just work hard enough I can 'beat it". This is probably first and foremost, my own absolute denial because of my family's negativity. This is also what my parents and teachers wanted me to believe. This position completely ignores reality. The truth is, that trying to deal with blindness by claiming it is "just like having a broken arm", can break a person's spirit. I have been broken and I see many others broken. Crushed by the reality that, no matter how hard they try, it isn't working and they never leave Social Security, or have to come back to it, after working marginally.

Religion, has taught me a healthier mental perspective. Logic says I'll probably never be able to support myself. As inflation increases, my ability to even provide shelter for myself will disappear. I'll probably die poorer than I am now, and at the mercy and as a ward of the state. I actually didn't start healing in this area, until I seriously accepted these circumstances as my actual or "real" life. I then made the choice to craft my life to be, interesting, fun and of service to others. Religion gives me the courage to seriously try and get ready for a job, in spite of what logic says. "God can make a way out of no way" is true. But in His time, with His conditions and my trust in Him, with or without a job. Attitude is everything. It is scary to jump out on this limb, but I'm not turning back. I know somehow, I'm accomplishing part of what I'm here to do. As an adult I have to stand for my beliefs and be willing to be responsible for the reaction to my beliefs. Some folks call this kind of blog, the modern exhibitionism. I call it a path for a few, who can relate. A way out of a terror you can't find words for. A candle in a dark room. I healed because my therapist revealed all of himself, in relation to anything I was struggling with. That honesty led me out of hell. I guess this is my way of passing on what was given to me.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Dishonest Atmosphere: Why I HATE Political Correctness.

Political correctness is where you get to make your problem my responsibility. Thus a variant of Chapter 4: "Now I've Got You, You Son-of-a-Bitch!" from:

Games People Play: The basic handbook of transactional analysis.
by Eric Berne MD, beginning on page 85.

I routinely misinterpret or misunderstand visual data, especially of an artistic nature. I have a severe limit to my visual input, as I'm legally blind. I have chosen to have fun with this difficulty, therefore moving it from something others have to contend with, into something we can laugh about. I accept the reality of my vision and am not afraid of, or ashamed of it any more.

MacPhilly is an extremely creative individual. I doubt he has ever met a ‘change’ he didn't like. This is just who he is. I’ve gotten into the habit of quickly scanning his websites to look for the small adjustments and additions which routinely appear. I always note them, but usually forget to mention them. I share part of a recent email exchange:

I have been meaning to mention this to you for the longest. I really like the snow and now you've changed it again! VERY cool!

liked the snow? changed it???

You added dots to the normally uni-color background on, banner, (up above the little box-links that run across the page), and then added vertical lines to the array of random dots. I assumed it was supposed to be snow. I don't think I'm THAT tired? Whatever it is, I like it!

Oh! It's a leopard skin background ;-)

I laughed so hard at this exchange, I haven’t figured out my private response! My thinking proceeds along these lines. A leopard? I have to try and remember what they look like - oh yeah. But why would you put a "MacPhilly” logo wearing a Santa hat on a Leopard skin background? God, what a creative and fascinating mind you have!

I swear, if I had the money, I’d pay to put MacPhilly in an MRI and do one of those ‘live’ experiments, where he’d think of stuff and the MRI would record what parts of his brain light up and in what colors. I bet it would not only expand our knowledge of the human brain, but also be beautiful, colorful art! Unlike most of us, I bet he uses a lot more then 10% of his brain.

Returning to political correctness, there is a truth in life. When you learn how to accept your value as a human being is when you can accept the positive treatment given to you by others. Political Correctness has it exactly backwards. I can’t count the times nice people attempted to 'reach' me, but I was totally closed to the idea that I was worth anything. Therefore, I ignored them and their kindness. Political Correctness is a way of making our entire culture dishonest and co-dependant. A co-dependant lives their life with 'your' needs uppermost in their mind. This is not a healthy giving away of oneself. Health says, “I’m content at the moment and am willing to postpone my wants, to be of service to you. I will get my stuff later.” (And the healthy person actually accomplishes this.) A co-dependant becomes a martyr, in the name of 'helping' others.

"I’ve got you, you son-of-a-bitch!" has hostility and contempt buried within a Politically Correct motif. My totally blind friend doesn’t like the reality of her complete lack of vision. I don’t blame her. I’m not at all pleased with the limits of my low vision either. I just have gone beyond needing to attack the fully sighted for being able to distinguish between a drawing of a snow flurry and a leopard skin.

MacPhilly responded absolutely correctly. He felt no need to ‘sugar coat’ the truth. He made no apology, but simply corrected my misunderstanding along with the smile he experienced when he realized how our brains just weren’t "on the same page"! A politically correct MacPhilly might have felt bad, guilty and or uneasy. His language would have take on a more reflective, self deprecating and dishonest tone. “Its supposed to be a leopard skin, but I can understand (not ‘see’), how you could interpret (avoiding all ‘visual’ references), my attempt at art, as snow” Oh pa-lease! (If I ever got a message, like that, from MacPhilly, I’d try to get him immediate medical assistance!)

This is not to say that MacPhilly is not courteous or sensitive. But he knows who and what he is. He makes no apologies. I’m discovering my very strong commitment to blogging and the mental health of others. I know someone will be helped to see my honest and (at times) less than noble, struggle for mental health. If somebody has a problem with that, I say: “Okay, you don’t have to read it. This is who and what I am”. Hello adulthood! We’ve got to return to telling the truth.

My friend is on a crusade to re-educate me. Here are her conditions for communication:

Can't discuss:

  • irony, doesn't understand it.

  • visual subjects, can't relate to it BECAUSE SHE IS TOTALLY BLIND! (Tries to make me feel like an idiot)

  • my earrings, its disgusting materialism and pride which she doesn't possess.

  • my vacations, hotel adventures, not based in 'reality' she prefers to have 'real' friends, not pretend friends who are only kind to me because 'its their job.'

  • computers, doesn't understand it. means nothing to her

  • Police science or true crime, too violent, sick, it upsets her

  • Philosophy or religion, Unless she's into it, its boring, organized religion is for the weak.

  • science, can't relate to it, its beyond her

  • comedy, I'm too visual, she gets frustrated BECAUSE SHE IS BLIND...

  • current events, too negative

  • My blog, doesn't want to hear about it, as she feels it only reflects my continued mental illness.

which leaves? Food, but not Gourmet, too pretentious!

Looking at this list in the cold light of reality I am forced to ask myself if this kind of self-editing has any benefit for either of us. I can do it, just like I can testify in a court of law, but is this really a friendship? Sometimes I'm amazing at missing (or ignoring) the obvious!

If I ever attempted to straight jacket my friends (especially her), like this, they'd be gone within days! Adults don't have time for this silliness. This woman complains of her isolation. I believe it is a form of painting herself into a corner. (Oops, used a visual image there!) I believe this is a form of locking herself in a prison of her own design. (Now, don't I feel better, having come up to our Brave New World of enlightenment?) Hell NO!

I realize, with some surprise and sadness, that I've been her whipping post for months and my deliberate withdrawal of the parts of my communication, which trouble her, will terminate our relationship. I feel CyberGal gearing up to do EXACTLY what this crusader thinks she wants. I'm going to humbly apologize for inflicting all that pain on her and let her talk. Since most of her life is about trapping others in their conversation, she will become very uneasy having to confront herself.

This is a drag. Happily, it is a rare event. Most of my friends are real friends. They don't need to put me down to lift themselves up. Mental health says: "I don't bring healing to anyone by being a whipping post." So, here are the lyrics to the song I'll be silently singing, until this lady tires of hearing her own voice in response to my 'politically corrected' non-conversation (since 99% of my being bothers her!)

Overdue goodbye

written by Anastacia Newkirk - B. Mann

album: Freak of nature
released: 2001

This is a message, pay attention;

I got something to say,

blessed information.

This is me walking,

That's you waving;

this my get away,

my taste of freedom.

Goodbye, goodbye.

This is a calling, not a conversation

This is not a game, no manipulation

If love is a season, you are my winter

You are just the ice laying on my finger.

This is a message, pay attention;

Nobody's gonna love me the wrong way again.

This is a calling, not a conversation;

this is my overdue goodbye.

Yeah, overdue goodbye.

Oh in my tomorrow all the fields are golden

And all the papers say that the spell's been broken.

To my future lover - Fate will find you

'Cause you have the power Of truth behind you, yeah.

Goodbye, goodbye.

This is a message, pay attention;

Nobody's gonna love me the wrong way again.

This is a calling, not a conversation;

this is my overdue goodbye. Goodbye.

But, what do I do with my Christian commitments here? I haven't decided that question, but am becoming aware that being a whipping post feels wrong. I am pondering this situation, as I am more willing then I've ever been to try and do what God wants me to do. More than likely, my friend and I will discover new things we can truly enjoy together. I am sad for her and the very real isolation she has and is experiencing. I hope to help her find a better answer in Christ, but it is God who does the work. I have to stay open and willing. I'm pretty sure being routinely punished for who and what I am is not a healthy response. God will show me a better way. When I get it figured out. I'll write it up for you all.

Patience is really hard for me. I don't like unresolved dangling things. I have found that hanging out with God every day, just to be there with Him, has given me more tolerance for the unresolved. Through His Grace, I'm finding the courage to stand, "... Hold my peace and let The Lord fight my battles - until victory is mine!" I am going to make a serious effort to be more aware of my friends touchy areas. That is a healthy thing, up to a point. The script isn't finished and since God is the author, I bet something wonderful, good and totally new will grow from the pondering and questioning I'm engaging in now.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Now I Know Its Christmas: Wrapping Presents!

Oh my, it was drizzling here in the San Francisco Bay area. I was on my way across the street from my home, to pick up a gift for someone I love a lot. The clerk and I bundled the 8" x 10" box in a large plastic bag. So with present in tow, I and my walker schlepped home. This present has to be wrapped! (sigh).

Later this afternoon, I trekked over to the local pharmacy for paper and some kind of a bow. The group of offerings in 'small quantities' of wrapping paper had nothing really beautiful. So, I graduated to the size useful for wrapping a car. I found a matching 'cascading' cluster of curly 'Q' ribbon, which will look very nice. Assuming completed project survives a 90 minute commute tomorrow, to its destination!

I love the theory of present wrapping. Its just the actual execution that gives me fits. I never get it right. I usually end up with not-enough, at some planed meeting place of folded paper. I over compensate for this and end up with a package wrapped in a way which would make FedEx proud! Mind you, I'm willing to pay $50 for one fine meal at a restaurant, but can't stand the idea of dropping $5 for some bored clerk to wrap a present for me. I mean, I do have my standards.

I love this time of year. I prefer to send out gift certificates, as I usually don't have a clue as to what my friends 'secretly' desire. I absolutely love the responses I get in return. People who aren't very expressive blossom into full-blown novelists, showing me how they went to the book section and totally lost their minds!

The most surprising redemption was from a man who is a fly fisherman. I'm less then clueless about that sport. I trolled the net and found a sports, camping and mountain climbing store stocked with all kinds of things I'd never heard of. My friend ecstatically bought, (you won't believe this,) a rooster feather! His wife and I had great fun giggling over that one, before she shared her new found knowledge of fly fishing. There is an art to making your own flys, (the fake bate for the fish, which you try to make look like a tasty bug). What part of the rooster is most prized? The long feather at the back of the neck, extending down the rooster's back. (This factoid will eventually come in handy at a business luncheon, or cocktail party).

I also delight in watching others run the numbers like I do, when I shop. You know, if you spend $25 at, the shipping is free. Whoever dreamed that one up deserves a prize! I don't know about you, but I end up with free shipping alright. I need another $3.47, to bring my total up to $25. So I buy something for $30. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant marketing strategy! A friend hung on to the certificate until they'd gathered all of their video treasures together. I got a list of what they'd managed to buy. WOW, so many movies! I was totally impressed.

Yeah, I said I was taking a week off from blogging. I changed my mind. I'd rather talk to you all then attempt to wrap that 8" x 10" box waiting for me with the gift wrapping still-in-the-plastic-tube. (Don't you love attempting to store the unused wrap for the next eleven months?) If I can get a good shot, I'll share a picture of said gift, once I get it wrapped. (This is an example of constructive procrastination. No, the present isn't wrapped, but I did make a blog entry.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The difference between sex appeal and asphyxiation.

Recently, while attending an event in San Francisco I encountered three clueless males, in an elevator. Three males steeped in different 'fragrances' almost caused my premature demise. Gentlemen, please, fragrance is an accent, like hot pepper sauce. Very good, but in small quantities! Ladies also dip themselves in after bath splash, but male fragrance products have far more staying power. This is not sexy.

So before you cover your upper body with your favorite fragrance, just remember gentlemen. The woman next to you with bad color and glassy eyes may not be reacting to your animal magnetism, but to oxygen deprivation!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Few Christmas events: to make you laugh, when you shouldn't.

I have a talent for leaving a trail of smiles, giggles or belly laughs everywhere I go. Sometimes, I'm completely unaware of my affect on those around me. First, a story from when I was in therapy with G. B., and then a little tale of a Southern Baptist Christmas Play.

In therapy, we would do several minutes of small-talk, before I'd plunge back into the dreck that was my childhood. I'd had a run-in with another (sigh) moronic Rehabilitation Counselor. For those of you who work for The Department Of Vocational Rehabilitation, and aren't moronic, you have met them too! This clown advised me to "go to a bad college, so you can get better grades". I was totally outraged and deliberately brought to therapy, wrap-around sunglasses, with my white cane. I stood up, slapped on the sunglasses and did a really campy version of "Born to Lose" by Ray Charles. I had Ray Charles shoved down my throat as a role model, when he was having real problems in his personal life. He was just pathetic on a Mike Douglas Show interview, in the late sixties. My doctor laughed lightly, but he had to get me down to business. This happened in late summer.

So Christmas came around that year. I was still at the stage of not really being able to cope with it, but attempting to take 'advice'. I was dragged to a Southern Baptist Christmas Play. Please, don't take offense. Every group has its quirks. I have great affection for these seriously dedicated folks. But, the group I was with, took their religion VERY SERIOUSLY. However, they had a problem. Among their teenagers, no boy would portray Joseph for the play, so a girl dressed in drag, (!) had to play the part. The woman who related this information, sees nothing amusing in it at all. (I wanted to roll on the floor, as these folks gave new depth to the term homophobia.) So, I'm in the second row, as the guest of my very good (but serious) friend. We are in a high school gym/auditorium with the stage marginally made up to look like the inside of a barn. A bale of hay at the front of the stage, and painted animals on the back wall. The play is the reenactment (with modification) of a conversation between Joseph, Mary and one of the Three Wise Men. Can you spell 'tacky'?

Being these folks are Southern Baptist, they read from scripture, whenever possible. The baby Jesus is played by a baby doll. Things progress as one would expect (assuming you can ignore the girl in drag playing Joseph). As the play was winding down, it was apparent that the girl playing Mary, was getting really fed up and tired. She got to the place where she was to put the Baby Jesus on the bale of hay. She literally tossed the doll onto the fore stage bale of hay. Baby Jesus was all splayed out with his head hanging over the side of the bale of hay, facing the audience! He looked exactly like he'd 'tied one on' earlier in the day! I wanted to scream out: "Hey, somebody better get that baby to detox!" I have never prayed so hard: a) not to laugh and b) not to wet my pants, in all my life.

So, Therapy rolls around. I walk into the office and try to tell G., that I didn't laugh. I then absolutely laughed until I cried. G., joined me in the laughter, as soon as I was able to relate the story. I told him then, and I'll tell you now: you will never be able to view a Christmas play again, without wanting to laugh. Why should I be alone in this? The holidays drifted ever closer and when I next came to therapy G., had words for me.

"You'll never guess who was on last night. And you'll never guess what I did. You have caused me to convince my wife I'm a weirdo, who likes to laugh at the handicapped" He was trying to sound stern, but not being very successful.

"The wife and I are watching TV, Ray Charles comes on. (You know I don't discuss anything that goes on in here.) That way, I'm sure to keep it all confidential. Well, he comes on and sure enough, starts singing "Born To Lose". Since I was at home and not at work, I laughed until tears rolled down my face. I kept seeing you! I can't even talk. My wife gives me a look, like: you're laughing at him? You know I never discuss what goes on in here. I had to just let her think I enjoy laughing at the handicapped. Thanks a lot!"

With that, I wish you all a great holiday. I will be taking a week off from blogging, as I'm going to be dog and house sitting between Christmas and New Years (Song: "I'm In The Money") The couple giving me my trip to Tahoe in April has already socked away some money towards my planned delinquency - they regretted they didn't have a wrapped gift for me! These folks are such nice people. I'm going to try and save enough for 3 nights and 4 days. Best wishes to all my readers!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bad Fast Food and Wonderful Memories.

Last night, while sharing some so-bad-it-was-good, fast food with a friend, memories of riding down to LA from the Bay Area came flooding back to me. I was in Dr. Scott's church with several other local fanatics, who routinely trekked down to LA, so Doc would have a 'full house' for church. It was completely insane, but I didn't realize it at the time.

Since we basically gave all our money to the church, we were all hopelessly broke. To save one night at a hotel, we'd leave from Northern California around midnight, arriving in Glendale, somewhere between 6 AM and 8 AM. (Some drivers were braver than others about jumping the 55 MPH speed limit). Since we'd all worked a full day, we needed oceans of coffee, lots of food and sweets, just to stay awake. Something about driving like maniacs all night makes people hungry. The smokers in the car howled for 'smoke' breaks and so the ritual would begin.

Somewhere after Fresno, we'd hit our first 'Food - and We've Got Gas' stop. No joke, that is the sign for the road warriors they cater to. Contemplate your worst 7-11 fast food with the nastiest coffee imaginable. The stuff was such a shock to our bodies, we could all stay awake. Really bad, on-the-road fare.

When Robert had the money and time, he'd whip up his famous egg salad sandwiches. So, we're all drinking coffee and munching on very well made egg salad sandwiches. It is 4 AM and for those of you who don't know, eggs can give one gas. No one wants to be the first offender in a closed car when it is about 35 degrees outside. We'd all get silent, and then a replay of the campfire scene in "Blazing Saddles" would commence. We were all friends, people attempt to ignore the obvious. Eventually we make a stop, to air out the car. We're all silently standing around, freezing our butts off, just looking at one another!

Robert got an old, but cherry'd out Cadillac. He fell hopelessly in love. He named her, washed, waxed, shined, buffed and fussed over her. We all got really sick of it very fast. Remember, I don't drive, as I'm legally blind. I was riding with Robert and David. For once, we were traveling in the late afternoon.

Robert had to make a driver's pit stop. David told me that Robert could look out a window from the men's room and see his (ugh) baby. David had experienced enough. He waited until he saw Robert looking out the window, grabbed the keys and ordered me out of and then back into the car on the drivers side All the while showing me the 'classic' driver moves, to make it appear as though I was slipping her out of park and getting ready to go. Robert freaked-out completely.

I heard him yelling before I saw his lurching and running figure approaching the car, from across the parking lot. He'd been hitching up his jeans, before he thought I was going to 'drive' his car. He started out holding his still unzipped jeans with one hand, while frantically waving with the other hand.

"No! No! CyberGal! Don't drive my CAR!" He forgot about holding his pants up, frantically flailing the air with both hands, as his jeans slid away to reveal his BVD'S! Even I could see what was happening, as I suddenly noticed a moving flash of white. David and I were is hysterics, while Robert was finally getting around to securing his jeans. Robert was NOT amused. But David and I laughed and retold that story for miles!

Monday, December 12, 2005

So You Want To Build A Web Site...OY!

Now that I've returned to reality from my first real rage session with my beloved computer, here is the deal. First off, you never get angry over anything, unless you have expectations about it. I have experienced the unbelievable performance of my eMac. 99.9% of the time, it is absolutely worry-free and wonderful. I don't want to go "under the hood". I want to get in, make my blog, document, email, or whatever and leave. How many drivers know the guts of their car engines?

I've fought with PC's whenever I've been forced to deal with them. Recently I was asked to assist in research on a web site. When I got to the interview, they had a PC. They hadn't a clue about any adjustments MicroSoft does provide for accessibility, so I was reduced to appearing to be incompetent due to my vision problems. Next time, I'll do the extra leg work of making sure the PC is set up correctly for my low vision. In 1998 when I was in the market for a computer the PC's outlined white-on-white cursor was invisible to me. I went with Mac because, even without any adjustments, I could at least find the cursor. I have learned to HATE PC's.

It has gotten slightly better over the years, but I will not forgive Bill Gates for the nifty decision of not requiring his developers to code for accessibility. Every blind person I know has a real problem with MicroSoft and many are sneaking peaks, or listens, to Voice Over.

I also have gotten into thinking that all websites operate like Apple. Apple make clear distinctions between "novice", "casual" and "expert" computer users. FireFox grouped the programs together by function, not technical skill of the user. Now that I realize what is happening, I won't get so tangled up.

My PC website-generating friend committed an unforgivable sin. Among other problems, his site made no use of the current accessibility guidelines. I have no problem riding heard on that one... I have a policy, "If I can't read it, I won't recommend it". Then I let people's egos do the rest of the job of inspiring them to adjust their websites.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A VERY Angry Techno-Rant! (if you aren't into technology, come back later.)

I have had it with the current state of affairs between Apple Corporation, manufacturers of my beloved (not right now) eMac, The Open Source Community, who (I believe) crafted the almost perfectly beautiful FireFox 1.5 web browser, and Sun-something-or-other who farted something called Java, or JRE (Java Runtime Environment,) into the world. I am really, really angry.

A friend of mine, running a PC (of course), used his latest version of Java (1.5) to craft his website. He tested it on the latest version of IE and FireFox 1.5. He said it was exactly the way he wanted it. On my eMac,lines are running over onto one another. I can get a true rendering of his site only by using IE 5.0, (the last IE MicroSoft deemed to provide for us Macintosh users.) I don't like using IE, as it is a major security gamble, makes my machine slow down by almost 40% and I just don't trust MicroSoft.

FireFox provides a page of things you can add to optimize its performance. Macromedia Flash, Adobe Reader (if you like to frustrate yourself) and my current favorite: Java Embedding Plugin 0.9.5. They are very good with their documentation. If you aren't a serious developer, comfortable in Terminal, Object C, Carbon, Cocoa and Java, you ain't got no business messing with this plugin! When I get confused reading through the ReadMe file, I know I'm trying to go somewhere I don't belong. It gets worse. GRRRRRR!

If I don't add this little darling, (still in the beta stage,) meaning they know it will probably screw your system, (they warned you...) If I don't add this thing, my friend's beautiful website is inaccessible to me, unless I'm almost as reckless and start using IE 5.0! Here is just a taste of the ReadMe file:

With versions of the Java Embedding Plugin before , LiveConnect
methods always failed when called from an applet's init() method. Now
they should always succeed (even when "jep.asyncinit" is "true", JEP
0.8.7 and later are slightly less asynchronous than previous
versions). But for LiveConnect calls to work in a JavaScript OnLoad()
handler, "jep.asyncinit" must be unset or "false"

2. jep.jsobjectnotimeout (I think this is the continuing Terminal code I'm supposed to add - CG)

Setting this property to "true" makes Java-to-JavaScript LiveConnect
calls never time out. This was how the version 0.8.6 of the Java
Embedding Plugin behaved. Doing so made it possible for some poorly
written applets to hang the browser. But some applets (possibly the
same ones) might require this setting to work correctly.

This is a large ReadMe file, (16 KB) and it just kept getting more convoluted as I read. I finally just turned it off and am now reacting to this awful situation. Here is my guess as to what has gone wrong:

  1. Apple jumped from Sys 9 to OS X 10.x and screwed everybody up. Their entire system underpinning changed, leaving customers and especially, developers scrambling to 're-code', 'patch', or 'stop supporting' their products. This causes customers to have hissy fits.
  2. Sun got Java to work on OS X, but decided to change it, probably to get it to do 'something new', or do the old more efficiently.
  3. All the non-PC browsers stopped working properly, sending developers back to the Beta Bench attempting to create a 'work-around'. The little plugins that could (sort-of).
  4. They've gotten FireFox to work with this new plugin. Actually three programs, one of which is helpful to the browser, while the other two might blow your system to hell - when not 'time-stamped' properly. (You don't even want to know how to do THAT!)
  5. Assuming you get it all working, you may still have problems, as this thing is being coded under pressure, with guesswork, using things Apple '...discourages developers from using...' and did I say, THIS IS A BETA AND HAS BUGS THE POOR DEVELOPERS HAVEN'T FOUND YET?

This is a pile of CRAP!

Sure, tell a PC user its The Yellow Brick Road over here, in Apple Land. (Somebody better spray off all the do-do, on those bricks,) before those PC users leave their Dark Tower at Redmond. Go ahead, MacPhilly, I dare you to walk me through this!

Please don't email me that: "it works for me...'. As angry as I am at this present moment, I might have a stroke! (If anyone could walk, the technically-challenged, through this systems level tweaking, MacPhilly would get my vote). Now, I leave, to find a brick to chew on, until I feel better.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Friendship: The Best Gift.

(ID characteristics have been changed to protect privacy.)

I am filled with gratitude. My landlord fails to understand why I believe he is up for Sainthood, new friends are astonished at my reaction to behavior they see as normal human relations and my psychiatrist tears up at the mental health and adjustment I've acquired since leaving the Intensive Outpatient Program, a bit over a year ago.

My landlord believes he has responsibilities after depositing my check. He actually
maintains his property, helps tenants out when they have problems and is just a nice guy.
I'll always remember his plaintive statement of being willing to buy a bed for me, if I couldn't afford one. I sleep on an army cot, covered with thick foam, luscious flannel sheets and warm fuzzy blankets.

My bed is perfect, not the torture rack this dear man imagines. When I needed immediate medical attention, he offered to let me keep back most of my rent until my health was stabilized. He further stated that he knew I'd get it back to him, when I could. See, this man is truly up for Sainthood.

New friends don't understand why I'm so moved by their average behavior. Behavior like: encouragement, support and interest in me. When I make the decision to accept the positive from the world around me, the sense of togetherness and elation is amazing. I've not had healthy friendship before. Concepts like modesty completely alluded me.

As usual the bizarre childhood held the answer. From age ten through age fourteen, I was the entertainment appetizer at my family's drinking parties. I'd be sweetly coaxed into the living room, filled with mixed company. I'd be invited to take off my clothes to show everyone my new "training" bra and panties (!) While this was happening at home, I was being sexually molested by a neighbor I cleaned house for. He'd grind his privates into me and attempt to French kiss me. I kept my teeth clenched, but was not strong enough to get away from him totally. When I complained to my family, they sided with the neighbor and I had to endure three more years of his completely inappropriate behavior.

As I got older and entered the world of church, I found more sexual harassment. As a thank-you to a male driving me to church, I was expected to provide a grope session, and or intercourse (which I refused). All I understood was that sex seemed to please people. So whatever... It is almost impossible for someone violated like this to have any serious concept of modesty, or shame.

In therapy I learned that a male holding me by my buttocks, while pushing me forward in a crowd is NOT acceptable how-to-lead-the-blind behavior. Because I really know how to pick 'em, my therapist was speechless at his response to my confronting his behavior. He claimed that I was ruining my reputation and causing his children to laugh at me! This lead-by-the-buttocks behavior was done in front of his wife and children. A very troubled family, indeed! Friends feel I have courage. I have trouble agreeing, as most of my life has been about being unwilling to be taught. But if in my CyberGal-just-being-herself musings, you are encouraged, or inspired, then I've done well.

For me courage is the man on that flight to Pennsylvania who tried to stop the hijackers during 9/11. Check out these lyrics and the song.

Let's Roll by Neil Young
(available at The iTunes Music Store)

I know I said I love you,
I know you know it's true,
I've got to put the phone down,
and do what we got to do.

One's standing in the isleway,
Two more at the door,
We've got to get inside there,
Before they kill some more.

Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.
Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.

No time for indecision,
We've got to make a move,
I hope that we're forgiven,
For what we got to do.

How this all got started,
I'll never understand,
I hope someone can fly this thing,
And get us back to land.

Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.
Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.

No one has the answer,
But one thing is true,
You've got to turn on evil,
When it's coming after you,
You've gota face it down,
And when it tries to hide,
You've gota go in after it,
And never be denied,
Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.

Let's roll for freedom,
Let's roll for love,
We're going after Satan,
On the wings of a dove,
Let's roll for justice,
Let's roll for truth,
Let's not let our children,
Grow up fearfully in their youth.

Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.
Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.
Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.

Those words will remain with me forever. It is wonderful the way we impact on one another. My friends are like a wonderful treasure chest. They plant themselves in the garden of my heart. Some develop into delicate bonsai trees, gracing my garden with their beauty. Others blossom into huge patches of fragrant flowers. A friendship, like any relationship requires some effort. Ignore your friends now, and they may not be around next year It is sad how many have completely forgotten about the small investment of time and love that can mature an acquaintance into a life long close friend.

God is healing me via a group of adults who still like to play. It is so nurturing to engage in mental volleyball with very smart people. MacPhilly (featured in my "Cool Link" section, has an amazing mind. He blogged about a dream he had. Scroll down to: "I Know I've Officially Turned 45". This dream has animation, live characters, TV characters and three or four subplots! If I ever had a dream like that, I'd request an immediate medication change. I actually had to re-read the post several times to gather it all in. I lay awake at night cogitating on things I can throw at his amazing mind, because: a) I can count on a reaction, b) it will be something I'd never considered and c) it will be hysterically funny.

Now to my favorite presents of all time. Maria (like a mom to me) and her husband provided me with a night at The Argent Hotel. The actual experience is even better than the video. I've always loved hotels, the more expensive, the better. The Argent is amazing. Maria knew one of their employees. I believe my file must have been labeled: "Related To God". I have never been so lavishly attended to ever. At that time I was carrying a white cane, so I wasn't hard to identify. Two concierges met me at the door, escorted me to the front desk and INTRODUCED me to this very nice desk person. My room wasn't ready, so they gave me a complimentary cup of coffee in their dining room, even though it isn't normally open at the time I arrived. I knew I was to get a welcoming basket, but didn't expect something large enough to need a table! Imagine a huge wine glass, I mean spanning eighteen inches across. Filled with fruit, cheese expensive crackers and a tasteful floral arrangement. Then came the silver tray with the wine bucket, overflowing with ice and a very nice merlot. I figured I'd get a small sampler-type basket. This was beyond belief.

Dining at The Argent is a true gourmet experience. They have one of only three Master Chefs in San Francisco. Their food is so different. Everything else is like a very good marching band. Their food is like a symphony orchestra. All the flavors blend, but are still distinct. The chocolate moose cake is to truly die for. I now go there for breakfast on my birthday, ordering one of their moose chocolate deserts, as a to-go item and Eggs Benedict. I was on the 29th floor. Did I mention, the higher up, the better. The last time I was at that altitude I was on a plane landing somewhere. Lovely, just lovely.

The second best present is a CD library a friend made for me of ebooks. I have over 700 ebooks on almost every subject. I have always wanted a real personal library, with the classics, but in a 12' x 12' room, where would I put it? You know who your are: damn, I LOVE IT!

The best gift of all are the wonderful people who are populating my life. I recommend you all start a "Rah-Rah" file, filled with treasures from your friends. When you aren't having the best day, their written belief in you can bring back a healthier prospective. I also have a "huh...?" file, for all those emotional concepts that are still a mystery to me, like my intrinsic value as a human being. Oh, sure, I can define it, and even quote the Bible about it, but my heart hasn't gotten it yet! I look forward to the next year. My life is far better than any fantasy I dared to dream. I cherish you all.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Blind Woman's Break Down Over A Failure Of Technology.

(ID Charistics have been changed to protect privacy.)

After many years of ignoring other blind and low vision folks, I decided it was time to come to terms with who and what I am. I see very poorly. 20/200 or less without glasses. This is called 'legally' blind. The world of the truly non-seeing blind is a maze of frustration and unmet expectations. Remember when we all thought computers were the next 'magic bullet' for the office? The blind were led to believe that all things were now going to be possible...

Paula, uses a screen reading program called JAWS. It is a stand-alone program the user has to purchase, on top of a serious computer, printer and scanner (with the scanner software). I looked on the website of The National Federation of The Blind where they tally up a total cost, to the blind computer user, of roughly $5,000. This is in order to have all one needs to use the computer at all! My friend was working for a government agency which refused to upgrade to the newest JAWS version, because it was around $800 / user multiplied by 10 computers in her office.

Try and wrap your mind around the following pressure cooker of a problem. You are a customer service person. When a call comes in, your computer opens up six windows on your screen, along with library reference data. Depending on the nature of the call, you select the correct information, and / or data entry window. Paula could only 'read' three of these windows with JAWS, the reference library she needed wasn't available AND she never knew which particular three-out-six windows would be unreadable while dealing with an incoming call! What finally broke her spirit was the time limit she was required to work under. She was ideally supposed to complete a call within three minutes! Paula was always over this limit and management was 'talking' to her. She called me in hysterics one afternoon. This event changed the entire direction of my life.

I had discussed the problems of her job with Paula and was not totally surprised when she called me, sobbing, that she'd resigned her position. Would I please meet her at a local eatery? I have very low vision, and for me to perceive what I saw meant that Paula was in a dangerous physical condition. Her face appeared to be grey. She had no color of pink at all. I've seen pale people. I've seen rosy-cheeked drunk people, but she looked something like, the color of a wet newspaper. She ate, but was very shaky. Her body was shuddering and her balance was really awful. Thankfully, Paula wanted me to come with her for an emergency therapy session. She knew she was in some kind of trouble. I prayed as we talked and made the mental commitment to go with her to the hospital, if she needed to be admitted. I was sure she was very close to needing to be hospitalized.

The psychiatrist's office was in a converted home in Fremont, it was a long trip, but she trusted her doctor. The office had no sound proofing. You could here very faint muted conversations from the office that was next to the waiting room. When we got into the waiting room, Paula disintegrated in front of me. She gasped that she was having a panic attack, fell into my arms sobbing and then she made a noise I'd never heard before. It was a cross between a dog's cry of agony and a human being moaning. I think she was wailing. I was praying as hard as I could and when her therapist came out, Paula could barely speak between her sobs and moans.

The waiting room was right next to her doctor's office. For the next ninety minutes I heard noises of human suffering I didn't think were possible. I have seen a lot, and been through a lot, but what I heard that day embedded itself in my brain. I made a decision and commitment. I told God that if He'd help me, I'd try and invent a screen reading device that would retail for at most $100, be truly computer friendly, (Microsoft, Apple, or whatever). Hopefully my reader would be able to handle the constantly expanding file systems problem, by going under the file architecture. So avoiding the need to upgrade, with every new file format.

I know this is a lot to ask. I have no electronics background and scant current computer know-how for something of this scope. I just am not Okay with what I saw and heard in that office on that terrible afternoon. It is not acceptable to me that a person be driven to a total mental collapse because of the failure of technology. I also hate the expense of 'disability' aids.

If you want a shock, google 'disability aids'. You will discover tables made for wheelchair users, operating a computer at $3,000! This is just for the table that holds the computer! If I search for 'low vision aids' I discover magnifying devices starting at $70 and topping out at $5,000 for the top-of-the-line portable closed-circuit TV magnifying system. Many hand magnifiers are around $50.

If, on the other hand, I google 'magnifiers'. I am exposed to specialty equipment for scientists and jewelers. I was shocked to discover higher magnifying strengths, better manufacturing and prices averaging around $20! Things like this keep my fire burning to attempt to solve a really serious problem.

So, blessed with blissful ignorance, I hit the education trail to learn the new languages for the now common desk top, with-a-mouse, computer. After a year of futile, and I do mean futile, struggle with something called Java, I ran into some extremely helpful information from a friend. When you know nothing about modern computing, try a language designed to TEACH you about modern computing as well as programming, for example, Real Basic.

After a year of floundering around in Java - getting nowhere. I would bog down at the same spot, all the time. I read and re-read what might as well have been Chinese! After six hours with Real Basic I'd made a tiny, but actual working program that did things! I am still learning, in fits and starts, but there is measurable progress.

There are now several new screen reading systems available. Apple provides Voice Over, with their standard operating System, Tiger. I watch computer discussion groups thrash out getting things done with Voice Over. It works, sort of. Again, since I don't have experience using a screen reader, I figured it would be easy to learn. Oh, my no, it isn't easy to learn at all. We sighted folks: see it, point at it and click on it. Those who are really BLIND endure something like this:

Voice Over, has three items one must keep track of in order to have something 'read' from the screen.

  1. The physical mouse cursor on the screen.
  2. Voice Over's internal pointer - where it actually begins 'reading' information from the screen.
  3. Location where the keyboard thinks it is 'pointing' in relation to the actual mouse cursor and the Voice Over pointer.

All of the above is easy to access. Hit three function keys, and the program tells you where your three pointers are. By the time I've gotten that far, I've totally forgotten what I was attempting to 'read' in the first place! Friends, there must be a better answer!

Something else which I'm now running into, which is terrifying. A friend just put in a totally new modern kitchen. I can only successfully operate the faucet on the sink! The microwave, dishwasher, stove and over all have flat screen no-button keypads. I can't get physically close enough to the controls to read them! The totally blind have had this issue for years. Also, close your eyes and try accessing screen data from your cell phone, or in some cases, your desk phone at work! The good news is: a company has successfully developed a small program for use with cell phones. It's exclusive to their brand and therefore not universal.

I just can't leave this problem alone. I don't care about anything as much as never having to hear of another person having a break down over these issues. For the first time in my life I've found a cause that is specific and a continuous nagging. I now have many blind friends . They share their horror stories and battles with accessibility. The inaccessible laptop, wi-fi, email and unreadable web pages. What good is when once you fight through finding an item, you are physically unable to 'click' to tell them you want that item in your shopping cart? For the sighted, amazon is a three column information treasure trove. For a screen reader there are no columns, the data is read through in a continuous stream! Shopping like this, isn't worth the effort. Thanks to all the spam bots around, sites, including this one, have the 'read the characters in the box' task. This procedure is not accessible for the screen readers of today.

So this is my ultimate Project. I first tackle the programming basics, some physics, as I suspect some of my 'new way' is buried somewhere in the bizarre world of quantum physics. Once I've begun actual software coding, I have to investigate something called venture capitol and the hardware side of my device. I hope to stir up budding creators everywhere, to take any of this and run with it. The totally blind can only physically perform (assuming the correct assistive technology) about 3.5% of available jobs. Statistically between 75% to 85% of totally blind people within the working age range are unemployed. This is a lot of wasted potential and sidetracked lives. I am grateful to the working tax-paying Americans whose money sustains me, however, I'm at or below, the poverty line. I personally know of two totally blind individuals with dual BS, not BA, but BS degrees who are languishing in unemployment.

I dedicate my life and future business venture(s) to finding ways of decreasing the technology gap between those with some kind of 'reading' vision and the totally blind.