Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Humor: When Reality Interferes With Your Satire

In my last post I referenced a communication from a friend, indicating his in-progress development of a product for the blind. It turns out he was joking! Here is a case where sloppy use of language and unknown information led us both down a primrose path. However, of the two of us, I definitely wandered the most.

My friend does indeed do work with cell phones, so when I ran into some accessibility related information about cell phones I forwarded the information to him. He, ever being ready for a good laugh, saw a chance for some humor and fired off the response I referenced in my last post. He claimed to be developing a (sic) "brail touch screen cell phone to make it easier to read." Since he is intimately familiar with what is and is not doable on a cell phone, the above was satire, obvious and clear. Like reading a reference to a flying truck.

To me, a member, no matter how loosely, of the blind community, this assertion was a brilliant idea whose time had come. I have a habit of not paying all that much attention to word meaning. "Touch screen", "display", hey, if I touch it and it feels like Braille, its a touch-screen, right? WRONG! My friend's misspelling of Braille, should have alerted me to the possibility of a lack of knowledge on his part, in reference to Braille and current technology. I saw it, but assumed he was just doing his geek-speak. A hyper version of the English language designed to save time and keystrokes. As in: 'np' instead of 'no problem'. A device saving eight keystrokes. Over the course of a day, this can be a substantial time and work saver. You type just enough to get the idea across and spelling be damned! I imagine after several years of texting to one another we'll dispense with words all together and simply 'character' back and forth! (I'm using satire here!)

Within the blind community there is a sad state of affairs in regards to Braille usage. Many blind people don't know the system and don't use it. They get by using recording devices of various types. I have tried the 'tape only' system and found it really wanting. Braille to a blind person is like paper and pencil to a sighted person. Yeah, you use your computer, blackberry and other techno toys, but you do occasionally need to write something down on a piece of paper. You sighted folks, think of a world where you couldn't physically write things down. Forget about taking notes at meetings, sharing a phone number, or even a reminder scrawled on a Post-It note. You can function, but it absolutely hinders your 'flow'.

The Braille and non-Braille camps are similar to the tug-o-war between PC and Mac users. I confess, I can't resist taking the well-practiced swipe at my (unfortunate) PC using friends, who never fail to meet my challenge. It is a similar fight within the blind community, however, lacking all humor. Because the ability to get employment is involved, both sides are serious and, at times, a bit hysterical.

I have a totally blind friend who would swoon over a cell phone with a Braille display. She is forever complaining about how difficult it is for the totally blind. She is processing grief work. This fact keeps me from ranting at her to "GET OVER IT!" I am, however, more sensitive to the issues because of her real and imagined problems.

Now, a lesson in Gmail usage and proper English. Yes, I'm going to be arrogant, whether I'm right or not, just because I can. If you have an email stream of several replies to an original message in Gmail, all these communications are saved in one physical email in your inbox: me,Terry (3). If you are really stupid and accidentally DELETE the above email, further additions Terry might make aren't registered through your inbox. Why? Because the original is in the trash! (Sheepishly, hehe, lesson learned).

Now, an English lesson for my beloved friend. A 'post' refers to a BLOG (post) and an email, refers to an EMAIL! Since when have we started referring to posting email? Maybe you folks talk like that on the East Coast, but out here in California, posts are in fences, or blogs and email is NOT called a POST. Thank-you very much!

I rejoice over this classic 'failure to communicate'. In years gone by I would have panicked over this state of affairs and cried. Now, I simply laugh. I have a habit, I am sure drives my friend crazy. I see something he does on one of his websites and fire off an email praising the change (I misidentify), with no detail of where I saw the change. I always have to reply back to his confused questioning. "Snow, on my website, where?". It is getting more and more fun being alive in this world of ours. Playfulness is lurking around most corners and I'm loving it.

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