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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Going Soft and Other Thoughts

This morning, while X-Celerator and I walked through the neighborhood a few random incidents caused me to think twice about whether or not my edge has chosen to abandon me just a couple of months before we plan on traveling to the northeast for the summer.

 

While walking north on 7th street on the way back to our house, a person (at this point I could not determine gender) and a dog (I could hear the tags jingling) approached us from the front.  I could hear the dog handler step off the sidewalk onto someone’s lawn likely to avoid a collision with us.  His dog growled and snapped at the X-Dude and, I can state with pride that my gentle guide dog ignored the unruly pet and continued walking forward. 

 

Typically, when a random family dog snaps, growls or behaves badly toward X-Celerator and/or me, its human says something out loud.  This morning, the nasty creature just passes by, dog on leash, without acknowledging our existence.  “Hey fuck-tard, we’re not deaf,” pops into my head and I prepare to turn and shout it at the person.  Then, this new idea came in, “Ignore them, shouting won’t accomplish anything,” and I followed the second notion.

 

About one minute later, a male voice from further behind us than the nasty dog and his moron starts yelling in inquiry, “Is that Ralph?”  I think that he may be talking to me as there were only three humans within shouting distance and, perhaps, from behind, the X-Dog and I looked like someone named Ralph.  It also occurred to me that this human may have met us on a walk in the past but forgot my name.  So, I turn around and, while pointing at my chest, ask, “Me?”

 

The human did not respond, he just yelled, “Is that Ralph?” again.  I assumed that this mental magician didn’t hear me so I yell, “Me?”  Again, he yells, “Is that Ralph?”  His voice seemed considerably nearer to me at this point so, without the appropriate serious New Jersey accent attached, I asked, “Are you talking to me?”

 

Finally, the genius yelling for Ralph and the previously silent human both kind of mumbled (can one actually mumble at a volume loud enough to be heard at a distance?) something on the order of, “No, Ralph is the name of this dog.”  Did I respond with a, “Listen dipshit, you might have fucking said something,” but, rather, I turned north again and told X-Celerator to go forward.

 

If I arrive in the Boston area with this newfound lack of profanity and aggression, I may end up in the filet section at the local fish market.  My friends will laugh at me and will have ammunition from which I have no defense.  I fear that I’m going soft and getting their rapidly.  Does anyone make a Viagra for the attitude?

 

Demonstrating further evidence of my newfound politeness, a few blocks further up the street, I could hear a woman and a real little kid, maybe four or five years old talking.  As we approached, the mom or babysitter or whatever the adult’s relationship with the child is, asked, “Does he like children?”  Immediately, my brain lights up with a “Yes, for breakfast, sunny side or over easy.”  I said, “He loves them but,” I leaned down closer to the little girl and explained, “you can’t pet him now, he’s working.  If you see us in the park, you can play with him then.”  The adult thanked me and the little girl said a sweet, “See you soon.”

 

It’s one thing for me to allow a pair of imbecile adult males to act like I’m invisible but kindness toward small children?  What has become of my once nearly famous edge?

 

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I seem to have regained the ability to include epigraphs in my writing.  I think separating dashes and asterisks with spaces confuses whatever Word does to replace the three stars I used in the past.

 

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While walking this morning, I did think of another slogan for the back of one of the CrankyBlindPerson.com t-shirts that Dena and I will sell through our upcoming online cranky blind person gear shop.  This one takes one of the originals and makes it a bit more specific by saying, “Thank you for not running a red light and killing me!”  Needless to say, the motivation for this slogan was a car who ran a red light about 5 paces in front of the X-Pup and me while we walked this morning.

 

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If the guys who make NVDA ever build a virtualized version similar to SATOGO, I think they should change its name to PAWS – Public Access With Speech.  They could use a cute guide dog paw print as a logo instead of that mean old shark that represents the leading brand.

 

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I think that the people who make Cialis should hire Grace Slick to do the soundtrack for a television commercial.  With a slight tweak, she could revive her most famous song: “Go see Alice when you’re ten feet tall…”

 

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I started using the dog barking ring tone on my T-Mobile Dash phone.  Of course, I live with two dogs whom we reprimand for barking.  So, when my phone rang I would automatically start shouting, “No noise!  Come!  No noise! No, come!” and so on.  I started to wonder why I had been getting so few calls.  Did our dogs get curious about why I had started maniacally shouting at them?

 

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On Friday we took delivery on our new shallow water fishing boat.  It has a kick ass electric motor designed for salt water and is sleek, white and shiny new.  We need to register it before we can take it out fishing.  I got a life preserver for X-Celerator and a pair of shades called Doggles to protect his eyes from the effects of the shiny Florida sun and to keep fish hooks away from these organs vital to his employment.  The X-Dude swims very well, he is a Labrador after all, but if he jumps or falls out of the boat in relatively deep water, I haven’t a clue how we would get a wet, 92 pound, hairy beast back into the boat.

 

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Maybe my edge has started to fade as a result of all of the clean talking, super smart, ultra polite people with whom I work at bookshare.org, CUNY and elsewhere.  None of them come from the northeast and, as I’m entirely outnumbered, I suppose that my subconscious may be surrendering rather than trying to attach an entirely new vocabulary to the people around me.  I really worry about this softness thing.  For nearly 48 years, I have sounded like a guy from Jersey and, in the last 25 years, with that bitterness New England causes in a person.  These days, my newfound, “Aw shucks” attitude scares me and causes me to have a strong desire to move to Nebraska.  The only previous attachment Jersey had to the corn husker state being the Springsteen album named for the place.

 

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I’m working with a lot of Daisy related software lately.  I must say that for the desktop, FS has the hands down winner and I would guess that it is pretty kicking on the PAC Mate as well but I haven’t tried it yet.  I do not know if FS has started or plans to sell it for any other Windows Mobile device so people who use the Dolphin or Code Factory screen readers for them can enjoy the really good book reader.

 

For open source, free desktop software that I think will improve dramatically as more people need a Daisy player for NLS, bookshare.org and other book repositories, AMIS (pronounced ahmee as in the French plural for friend and not Amos as in Famous the cookie) is really quite good.  Its self voicing interface seems a bit incomplete but it works great with SATOGO which makes a very cost effective solution for reading enthusiasts on a tight budget.

 

I’ve heard the Icon does pretty cool things with bookshare.org content and, perhaps, other Daisy content as well.  I haven’t seen one of these in person so I can only describe what my friends have told me.

 

Finally, I’ll say it again: if you want the best Daisy experience, get out the credit card, call my friends at ILA (or your favorite AT retailer) and buy a Victor Reader Stream (Vic) from Humanware.  It continues getting better with each new software release and it has held the lead position (in my survey of myself) for quite some time.

 

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I’m curious, how many BC readers use the JAWS Quick Keys or one of the knock offs in the other screen readers to navigate web pages?  Of those who use them, how many use more than the (JAWS and SA keystrokes quoted here, I do not know the Window-Eyes defaults off hand) “n” to jump to the next block of non-link text, the “h” to jump to the next header and one or two others?  I have really loved this feature since we put it into JAWS a long time ago but recently have read that although these improve browsing efficiency quite a lot, few people ever learn more than a small number of these really useful features.

 

On the efficiency question, how many people use the JAWS Speech and Sounds Manager?  Again, I really love this feature but hear an awful lot of people say they haven’t tried it or that they didn’t understand it.  I remember working with Eric and Ernie to make this as cool as we could and feel a bit disappointed when what I thought was a real big breakthrough technology goes ignored.

 

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I’ll stop now.  I have work to do.  I have been receiving a lot of fan mail for BC during my recent silences and really appreciate all of it.  Once I get my various gigs sorted out and build a predictable working schedule, you will see more BC articles on a far more regular basis than I’ve been publishing thus far in 2008.

 

-- End

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey BC. First off, I'd like to answer your questions about JAWS. I do use both the quick keys and the Speech and Sounds manager quite frequently. At first I found the Speech and Sounds Manager pretty confusing, but after awhile of practicing I got the hang of it. I think both these features are excellent and a big time saver. I also use SAtoGo frequently and I use its quick keys. Now to the Daisy software. I've heard of Amis but haven't used it, and I love Freedom Scientific's DAISY player. I use NVDA only at work because they haven't yet asked me to use Windows Vista, but if and when they do I now have firsthand experience with a great free screen reader that does wonders with Vista. I wonder why Michael Curran and others haven't yet tweaked NVDA to work with Vista.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous bithead said...

Nasty and edgy makes people remember you and stay the f*ck out of your way. Keeps them on their toes, lets them know you are looking out for number one. Makes them think twice before f*cking with you.

However, you really have to cut the little ones some slack, unless they prove out to be vile midget monsters, in which case you should immediately remove the cap from the razor tipped cane and start swinging.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,
Glad to see a new post on BC. As for the screen reader question, I normally use just a few hotkeys. The h for heading is extremely convenient, as is the links list command. Don't much use the sound manager though. Not that its tough or anything, I just find that I can get along well enough without it.
As for the edginess, I'm not sure which way is best to go. Yes people do not screw with you if you show an attitude.
But then there's a risk that over time you would push away those in the public who are willing to talk about more than the dog. Sure the convo starts out about the pooch, but if you're lucky it goes past that. I've found that over time I've met some really cool people by just being polite.
Note also, that being polite in my view is more of a general concept than a steadfast rule. I do make rude comments every now and then, and do not feel sorry for doing so.

2:49 PM  

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