Category Archives: iTunes

December’s Audio Books Et Cetera

I’m fighting a migraine and it’s my birthday (12/30) as I write this and I’m waiting for my requested birthday dinner of 5 Guys, Burgers and Fries but my stomach is a little queasy from the migraine so no fair. December has not been kind to me. I’ve got a mystery bug that sent me in a panic to the neurologist after I almost passed out on stage while singing in the Tucson Girls Chorus 30th Anniversary concert. I thought for sure my MS was in one hell of a relapse but my MRI was clean, so the neuro tested me for an evil virus which I was sure I was dying from but that came back negative so the neuro sent me to my primary care doc and turned the mystery over to her. I see her next month. the neuro thinks I’ve got a bug that’s exacerbating normal MS symptoms like fatigue and dizziness. I get super breathless and light headed with the slightest of elevation changes. I’ll have a day of feeling better and then the next day I’m back to square one. Sitting in a normal chair is difficult since I feel like I’m going to topple out of it. I worked on my novel in the first part of the month after taking a week to recover from NaNoWriMo, then this bug hit and I’ve been useless. That’s about all I’m going to say on that right now since I’m fighting a depression that would love to grab hold while I’m weak so let’s move on to books, shall we? Oh, I checked my stat counter today to give me the motivation to care about this post and you’re still reading, so I’ll keep writing. comment sometimes, will ya? I’m fragile. tee hee. A ear end book recap/top ten list is coming at the beginning of next year.

*Seven books this month*

106. “The Twelve: A Novel” (The Passage Trilogy book 2) by Justin Cronin – narrated by Scott Brick

finished December 31

Ok so I really don’t think I’ll be finished with this on December 31 but it’ll be damn close and it’s a long book, as was the first book in this trilogy, so I’m counting it since I’m over half finished as of today, the 30th. Book two has been so much better than book one, which was good but very draggy. Lots of blood. Lots and lots of blood. Not quite your typical post apocalyptic. The third book is out next year and I’ll definitely read it to see how the trilogy concludes. And, Scott Brick. Need I say more?

Ok now I’m writing this on December 31 and last night the book started having an X-Files feel. Oooooh! Government conspiracy in the apocalypse? yes please!

Ok so it’s December 31 and I’ll be finishing this book tonight. I haven’t been able to put it down all day.

@jccronin

105. “The Passage” (The Passage Trilogy book 1) by Justin Cronin – narrated by Scott Brick, link Adenrele Ojo and link Abby Craden

Finished December 26

After I tied Ricardo up and made him read my favorite zombie trilogy back-to-back, he told me about this series, narrated by Scott Brick so I decided to read it since it’s Scott Brick and I kinda felt bad for abusively forcing Ricardo into that zombie series even though he did like it.

‘passage’ was good but after the first part, I was very angry and I can’t say why because spoilers but the book redeemed itself and I stopped being angry. Ricardo said he liked the second book better and I have to agree. This book was super laggy with navel gazing, a publishing term I just learned from my friend Lauren which means talking about stuff that doesn’t matter. On and on some passages (hey, passages, the Passage har har) went. Just get on with it, I thought often. It was a good book though. Very reminiscent of Stephen King’s “The Stand” but with a lot more blood. A lot.

The two female narrators read brief segments, the second of which being diary entries. As a warning to the listener, Scott Brick interrupts the second woman with things like, missing pages or illegible, and it made me jump to hear his voice suddenly haha.

good book, but there were times I wanted to skip through or just stop reading all together. Be patient, and I don’t think you’ll be sorry if you like bloody post apocalyptic thrillers.

104. “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” (Daughter of Smoke and Bone book 1) by Laini Taylor – narrated by Khristine Hvam

Finished December 17

I put off reading the Justin Cronin books because my friend Lauren wanted me to read this with her and would you believe it, she kept stopping reading it? I mean, my goodness. She’s reading it again now though which is good since I can’t wait to talk about it.

This book reminded me a lot of Diana Rowland’s kara Gillian series, but for young adults. It has an awesome fantasy element, angels and demons in an urban setting, with portals into other places. Oh and the protagonist has bright blue hair and tattoos. What’s not to love? the writing is absolutely exquisite, with passages that made my breath catch in my chest they were so hauntingly beautiful. then in the next breath, the characters would do something funny. It’s the perfect balance of beauty, humor, magic, world building and character development. I can’t wait for the next two books, which I bought with iTunes gift cards my uncle and aunt gave me for Christmas and my birthday. Weee!

Just wait until you find out what the wishbone is for…oh and the teeth…

This book is the closest to my novel that I’ve read since I began writing it back in November, well except for the achingly beautiful prose which mine doesn’t have yet in this first draft. Muahhaha!

@lainitaylor

103. “Champion” (Legend book 3) by Marie Lu – narrated by Steven Kaplan and Mariel Stern

Finished December 14

What an excellent trilogy! Bleak dystopia, heart breaking romance, awesome narration and the most epic fighter jet scene I think I’ve ever read in a book. Highly, highly recommend this trilogy if you like YA.

102. “Prodigy” (Legend book 2) by Marie Lu – narrated by Steven Kaplan and Mariel Stern

Finished December 10

Wait, the epic fighter jet scene, that was in this book, not book three. Why, why do I not write stuff about these books right as I finish them? I seem to remember at least jotting down notes. My brain this month, blame my brain.

I think all I’ve got is so good, go read, so good haha. click the links I provide to Audible and read about the books there, what do you think I am, a publisher’s summary blog? Haha! Ok I think I need dinner. Loopy much? Books? What? Oh right, books. I think the first book in this trilogy is in November’s book post.

101. “Kill Shot” (Icarus book 1) by Aria Michaels – narrated by Rhiannon Angell

finished December 9

This was a daily deal and I wish Kate Rudd had narrated. It screamed for her voice. the narrator was ok but there were two characters she did super high pitched that made my brain throb.

It was an entertaining read, though several times i found myself thinking, was this book self published? There was a glaring error of continuity at one point, where these teenagers are hunkered down in the basement of the high school after this solar flare causes all hell to break loose, and they’re in the basement for days. When the protagonist has to venture out she thinks to herself how different everything looks from when they walked to school that morning. *record scratching sound* Nooooo, back up and read what you wrote. Didn’t realize they’d be in the basement that long or something?

turns out the novel was self published. the reviews on the book are from people who were asked to review the book by the narrator. It all makes sense. I’ve got nothing against self publishing, but I’d like to see this book and the sequel get a traditional publisher and professional editors. Just a good polishing and this book would shine.

Ooooh, I did jot a one word note on this book: anyways. The characters kept saying it and that word is one of my pet peeves. Also, everyone kept saying the protagonist’s name. How are you feeling, name? How’s the weather, name? Name, what should we do now? And not her full name. Her nickname. It got so old! I still enjoyed the book though; I can’t lie.

@AriaMichaelsYA

100. “A Dangerous Fortune” by Ken Follett – narrated by Michael Page

Finished December 5

Ken Follett at his best, wow. This was such a good book. This book takes us into the inner workings of the banking world of the late 1800’s. It shows what happens when families have too much power and will do anything, anything, to keep it. Ricardo recommended this book and I could not put it down. Excellent!

***

Happy New Year and happy wedding day to Evan Longoria!

@Evan3Longoria Anyone who says they weren’t nervous on their wedding day is a liar! It’s a great kind of nervous! Excited to see my bride @jaimeedmondson. from Twitter for iPhone Dec 31, 2015, 12:07:17 PM

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Filed under 2015 Monthly Audio Book Lists, Audio books, birthday, Choir, doc, evan longoria, family, gratitude, humor as coping skill, iTunes, new year, rambles, spoons, twitter me this, writing

The Latest

Singing hurts when your jaw hurts, did you know that? Whoa, why did my iTunes radio just stop? Odd. It’s like it knew I had just written that singing was painful. Oh well, I put on some local radio since I had just been thinking it would be nice to hear some other music mixed in with the Christmas music I had been listening to on iTunes radio.

Christmas music? You’re listening to Christmas music?

Why yes, yes I am. I don’t start listening to it as early as most seem to do, like right after Halloween, but I was in the festive spirit this morning and Christmas music lifts my spirits. I just need to remember that singing hurts. This station doesn’t seem to be playing regular music with Christmas music though. Anyway, I wanted to write an update about my dental hell, er health, not music.

I can’t remember what I last wrote about though, let me go take a gander. Oh so I did already write about irrigating the sockets and stuff. I had completely forgotten. Wow. Next time I whine about my normal MS fog, I need to remember the pain and Vicodin induced fog, ok?

I had decided to write a post while I was having some chocolate ice cream for lunch. Yum, right? Yes, when you are having ice cream as a treat. Not so much when you just need calories and sugar in you because you were dizzy but if you ate anything solid you’d have to irrigate your sockets so ice cream is just easier. Also, I really like additives in my ice cream like chocolate chips or brownies. My how I mis texture!

I am developing an addiction to Stouffer’s mac and cheese. I’ve always liked it but since it’s really the only thing thats comfortable to eat right now, I’m eating a lot of it. So wait, is this addiction or dependence? I am dependent on Stouffer’s mac and cheese. Hi, I’m Ro and I’m a Stouffer’s mac and cheese addict. Hi Ro!

Speaking of addiction, I’m keeping a very close eye on me and this Vicodin. When it comes time to take a pill I take stock of my pain to make sure it’s needed. I told my massage guy last night that one thing I’ve noticed about being on Vicodin is that the rest of my body benefits from it, too. However I hate hate hate the additional cognitive issues and it makes me sleepy.

My sleep has been all over the place. I’ve really noticed that my sleep seems to be effected whenever I introduce a new medication of any kind. Wednesday night I could not get to sleep, which is usually never a problem. After B came to bed I decided to get up for a bit thinking that would help but when I went back to bed I was still wide awake so I just didn’t sleep at all on Wednesday night. I had a massage at 4pm Thursday and luckily was able to doze for a bit in the afternoon before the appointment and last night I slept all the way through after waking briefly when B came to bed. We both said uh oh, but I fell back to sleep quickly.

This morning I thought I might be able to clean up my kitchen but no. Just making the bed and messing with some tangled computer cables wore me out. I’m just so under nourished! I forgot to ask B to grab some Ensure from the store yesterday. I started sweating while organizing the cables and had to turn the heater off.

The heater? In Arizona?

It’s rainy and cold out, yes. We do get cold weather sometimes. I turned the fan on and before long I was cold. I’m glad I’m having my thyroid checked next month though I suspect the elevated temperature sensitivity has to do with all the work my body is doing to heal my mouth and the narcotic in my system might have something to do with it as well.

So that’s where it stands. The left side of my mouth doesn’t hurt at all anymore but that pesky right side is taking forever to catch up. That’s the side that had a really deep root and the pain goes all the way down to my jaw and up into my ear. Woo hoo!

I have more dental work to get done next year but there’s no way there will be this much pain. I’m glad I did all the extractions at once so that when this is done, it’s just done.

You know what I can’t wait for? Chili Cheese Fritos!

Oh PS – My massage guy and his wife adopted a career changed dog from GDB and when she was dropping me off last night, A said Jayden always looks so happy. She said she’s been paying more attention to the guide dogs at work and some of them look so sad. She said whatever I’m doing keep doing it. That made me happy because it was a great compliment, but sad knowing there are miserable looking guide dogs. I remember hearing a woman talking to her guide dog one day at the blind center and the angry edge in her voice was sharp as glass and I thought, poor dog.

I got to thinking last night about Jayden being a happy dog and beyond the fact that I love him more than life, I think I just always remember that he’s a living being first and a service dog second. I’m just so glad he looks happy! He has been such a rock for me during this last really really difficult couple months, as always.

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Filed under Dental Health, GDB, guide dogs, holiday, iTunes, Jayden, music, num num food, spoons, weather

So that’s why Twitter and I work so well together

I’m having a terrible cognitive day today. Started taking vitamins this morning instead of the usual Lexapro and Zyrtec, couldn’t remember if I took my probiotic. Just a little bit ago I did something with the air conditioner/fan control that had me seriously questioning my ability to think properly. This morning when I was turning on iTunes Radio I voiced a thought out loud that made me chuckle so I wrote it down. I’ve since jotted down a few other random thoughts so I’m just going to post that because I’m not capable of thinking any further beyond what I’ve just written.

***

So wait, did they put the Fun in with the Lorde?

Apartment complex: Let’s street sweep and leaf blow right before a huge rain storm hits town.

I thought about Georgie this morning and then she called out of the blue. I began thinking about a million dollars.

Cell phone calls on airplanes? Nooooo! How annoying would that be if the guy behind you was shouting into his phone?

***

Those are pretty much just tweets. No wonder (actually wrote “no longer” wow) Twitter and I get along so well. It doesn’t take much brain power.

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Filed under iTunes, NaBloPoMo 2013, spoons, twitter me this

From the Desk of my Sleep Deprived Cat Audio

So every time I write a sleep deprived post, which is a really odd tradition to have but I seem to have made it a tradition because as soon as I decided to say screw it and get up at 5:30 this morning after laying awake since at least 4:00 I thought, I’ll need to write a post. I also always seem to write really rambly run on sentences in these. I planned on starting this post another way but then a described movie started in iTunes even though I swear I set them all to skip when shuffle so I had to go do that in iTunes. It was The Glenn Miller Story, have you seen that?

Right, so I meant to start off this post by saying I always look back on the previous sleep deprived post when I write one of these. In the last one, I wrote about how I had to have a colonoscopy because of my recurring diverticulitis and I was all doom and gloom about it, being pretty sure there’d be nothing they could do about it, that they were just ruling out something more serious, my life was already messed up so throw more at me oh woe is me cry me a river pour me another. Well guess what? Yeah, gastro doc said, “everything looks fine, you only have a small area of diverticula, keep taking the fiber and probiotics and you should be fine.”

Hmmm, will it really be that simple? Well that was back in April, the bum hose and I’ve been taking the supplements as suggested since and I’ve been fine. I even found the probiotics he recommended on Amazon for way cheaper than they were at Walgreens. I signed up to have them delivered every month and saved even more. So all my woe is me talk was just silly.

So this morning I was laying on the couch for a bit with Timmy and he was purring like crazy so I decided to grab a quick voice note.

In that I mention that his front paws are declawed and I say I don’t believe in that. I just want to clarify what I meant. I just can’t knowingly cut off a cat’s first knuckle. My mom and I always trained our cats not to claw the furniture. I’ve lost that battle in this apartment since B never trained Fi not to claw furniture so there was no point in trying to train Spinelli. So yeah, that’s what I meant by not believing in declawing. When I listened back on that I thought that was an odd choice of wording haha.

At one point I jingle Timmy’s bell collar and it made me think of Carin and Steve. Bells!

Timmy totally sounds like a pidgin at one point. I’m not sure if it’s really as funny as I thought or if I’m just delirious from sleep deprivation.

I totally couldn’t stop the recording at the end. the ol’ two finger double tap no longer works in iOS 7.0.3 I guess.

So how bout that for some sleep deprived fun with cats? First time I’ve put audio in one of these I think. I haven’t slept well the last few nights. Nature calls and wakes me up and I can’t get back to sleep for awhile. This morning I just gave up. I realized after I’d already had coffee that I forgot to use my meditation bells. Gah! Reading that last post, I sure remembered them then! Grrr. Just hope I sleep tonight.
I wrote this post much later in the day than normal for this category. It’s 1:33pm, do you know where your feet are?

I write the word “so” too much.

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Filed under Amazon, cats, coffeeholic, doc, Fi, iPhone, iTunes, mom, plugs, random stuff, silly girl, Sleep Deprived Fun, Timmy

Book fifty-five in 2012 – “Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base” – Annie Jacobsen

This book was one included in one of Audible’s recent sales so I snatched it up. I remember my friend Ricardo reading it last year before I was on Audible and I couldn’t find it on iTunes at the time so I was happy to rediscover it at Audible. I enjoyed this book a lot. Being a huge fan of The X-Files , learning about Area 51 was incredibly interesting and the book also delves into history, most of which I had heard about but didn’t know much about since history was not a strong subject at my high school.

As I read this I kept wondering who the heck this Annie Jacobsen person was. I should have looked her up but I didn’t until I was done with the book. Here is how a New York Times article explains where Jacobsen’s info came from:

What is it about Ms. Jacobsen that has made her privy to such inflammatory material? It’s best to know her answer to this question before delving into her book. And her answer is strange and byzantine in the way that all things about Area 51 seem to be. Ms. Jacobsen, a national security reporter and contributing editor to The Los Angeles Times Magazine, happened to be at a 2007 family dinner with her husband’s uncle’s wife’s sister’s 88-year-old husband, the physicist Edward Lovick, when Mr. Lovick leaned over and said, “Have I got a good story for you.”

This book had me until the end when Jacobsen inserts her own theory that I just can’t begin to believe, sorry Annie. I almost wish I didn’t know what I know now about nuclear testing, I can tell you that much. There’s no debate about the truthfulness of that history unfortunately.

Jacobsen narrates this book herself and while I usually don’t like when authors narrate their books, I think her voice is well suited to the narration of this type of book. It was well written and very well researched. I only wish I could insert the book into a word cloud machine so I could find out how often she uses the word, “clandestine”. At least it pushed me to understand the full meaning of the word. She also pronounced it funny, at least to my ear, with the end syllable as “stine” and not “stin”. Potato potahto.

2012 Audio Book List (all unabridged):

1. “IT” – Stephen King – Began end of 2011, finished 1/4/12

2. “The Concrete Blonde” – Michael Connelly – Finished 1/9/12

3. “Under the Dome” – Stephen King – Finished 1/22/12

4. “The Black Echo” (Harry Bosch #1) – Michael Connelly – Finished 1/24/12

5. “The Black Ice” (Harry Bosch #2) – Michael Connelly – Finished 1/27/12

6.* “The Concrete Blonde” (Harry Bosch #3) – Michael Connelly – Finished 2/2/12

7. “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” – Rob Lowe – Finished 2/6/12

8.** “So Yesterday” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 2/10/12

9.** “Peeps” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 2/15/12

10. “1Q84” – Haruki Murakami – Finished 3/12/12

11. “The Stand” – Stephen King – Finished 4/2/12

12.** “Uglies” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 4/9/12

13.** “Pretties” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 4/15/12

14. “The Last Coyote” (Harry Bosch #4) – Michael Connelly – Finished 4/20/12

15. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” – Seth Grahame-Smith – Finished 4/25/12

16. “Zero Day” – David Baldacci – Finished 5/1/12

17** “Specials” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 5/7/12

18.** “Extras” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 5/13/12

19. “77 Shadow Street” – Dean Koontz – Finished 5/21/12

20. “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)” – Jenny Lawson – Finished 5/25/12

21. “Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars” – Paul Ingrassia Finished 6/1/12

22. “The Glory of Their Times: The Story Of The Early Days Of Baseball Told By The Men Who Played It” – Lawrence Ritter – Finished 6/3/12

23. “The Given Day – Dennis Lehane – Finished 6/17/12

24. “Trunk Music” (Harry Bosch #5) – Michael Connelly – Finished 6/22/12

25. “The Lincoln Lawyer” (Mickey Haller #1) – Michael Connelly – Finished 6/29/12

26. “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” – Norman Doidge – Finished 7/6/12

27. “A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans” – W. Bruce Cameron – Finished 7/11/12

28. “The Potato Factory” (The Australian Trilogy Part One) – Bryce Courtenay – Finished 7/25/12

29. “Tommo and Hawk” (The Australian Trilogy Part Two) – Bryce Courtenay – Finished 8/8/12

30.* “Fifty Shades of Grey” – E. L. James – Finished 8/11/12

31. “Fifty Shades Darker” – E. L. James – Finished 8/16/12

32. “Solomon’s Song” (The Australian Trilogy Part Three) – Bryce Courtenay – Finished 8/22/12

33. “Fifty Shades Freed” – E.L. James – Finished 8/25/12

34. “The Poet” (Jack McEvoy #1) – Michael Connelly Finished – 829/12

35. “13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time” – Michael Brooks – Finished 9/4/12

36. “Angels Flight” (Harry Bosch #6) – Michael Connelly – Finished 9/8/12

37. “The Scarecrow” (Jack McEvoy #2) – Michael Connelly – Finished 9/13/12

38. “Blood Work” (Terry McCaleb #1) – Michael Connelly – Finished 9/20/12

39. “A Darkness More Than Night” (Terry McCaleb #2, Harry Bosch #7) – Michael Connelly – Finished 9/25/12

40. “City of Bones” (Harry Bosch #8) – Michael Connelly – Finished 101/12

41.* “Defending Jacob” – William Landay – Finished 10/7/12

42. “The Next Right Thing” – Dan Barden – Finished 10/13/12

43. “Lost Light” (Harry Bosch #9) – Michael Connelly – finished 10/17/12

44. “The Narrows” (Harry Bosch #10) – Michael Connelly – finished 10/21/12

45. “Gone Girl” – Gillian Flynn – finished 10/25/12

46. “The Closers” (Harry Bosch #11) – Michael Connelly – Finished 10/27/12

47. “Echo Park: (Harry Bosch #12) -Finished – 10/31/12

48. “The Overlook” (Harry Bosch #13) – Michael Connelly – Finished 11/4/12

49. “The Hunger Games” (Book One of the Hunger Games Trilogy) – Suzanne Collins – Finished 11/9/12

50. “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Margaret Atwood – Finished 11/13/12

51. “Catching Fire” (Book Two of The Hunger Games Trilogy) – Suzanne Collins – Finished 11/18/12

52. “Mocking Jay” (Book Three of the Hunger Games Trilogy) – Suzanne Collins – Finished 11/23/12

53. “The Brass Verdict” (Harry Bosch #14, Mickey Haller #2) – Michael Connelly – finished 11/28/12

54. “The Art of Fielding” – Chad Harbach – Finished 12/2/12

55. “Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base” – Annie Jacobsen – Finished 12/11/12

*Audio book previously listened to.

** Audio book previously listened to multiple times.

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Filed under 2012 Book List, Audio books, iTunes, proud geek

Demo: Making a Text to Speech Audio File with the Mac

[[rate 360]]

I’m going to be writing up a cool book on echolocation tomorrow. I would do it today but I have a demo I want to record and I want to take advantage of an empty house since B is off this week and he’s out right now. This is different because usually I record stuff and then write up the post. This time however, I’m going to use this text to demo using the Mac to make an mp3 recording of a text document.

The book on echolocation prompted me to discover this because the author sent me a text file containing the book. I have no way of holding my place in such a large document so my friend Ricardo explained how to make an mp3 of Voiceover reading the text.

In the demo, I am going to convert this text you’re reading into an audio file. It’s so cool!

Text to Speech Demo

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Filed under Alex, apple Inc, demo, iTunes, NaBloPoMo 2012, techie tips, Voiceover

Demo: Creating custom audio labels using Digit-Eyes

This is a demo of using Digit-Eyes to create custom audio labels. If you are unfamiliar with Digit-Eyes, you can listen to my first demo and you can visit www.digit-eyes.com/ for more information and to purchase the app and labels. The website also allows you to print your own labels if you have a printer and sheets of blank labels. I don’t have a printer, so I have the pre-printed labels from Digit-Eyes.

This demo is about thirty minutes long. Today was the first I had recorded any custom labels and I did some practicing before recording. As with any new technology there’s a learning curve. Just be patient and before you know it, it clicks.

Digit-Eyes Custom Labels Demo

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Filed under apple Inc, assistive technologies, cool product, demo, gratitude, iPhone, iTunes, NaBloPoMo 2012, plugs

Solo-Dx – The Next Wave of Audio Descriptions

I used to enjoy movies back in the day but since going blind, they have lost their appeal for the most part. When I do take in a movie it’s usually alone when I can get my hands on a described version. For those who don’t know, audio descriptions are sometimes available for the blind and visually impaired. This will be a narrator describing the action on screen when there is no dialogue.

While this is great, it’s not easily accessible since it will be in a DVD or Blueray menu and not available at all for streaming movies. B and I have watched a few movies together when he was renting DVDs. If a movie sounded interesting to me he would check to see if it had descriptions and most times it didn’t. So I only got to do a few movies with him that way and while it was great for me, it was annoying for him because sometimes the narration would describe action before it happened on screen. The narrator can only speak when there is no dialogue so often times something is described right before it happens visually on screen. I’ve completely gotten away from enjoying movies, so imagine my intrigue a few weeks ago when I checked the Roof’s mail and found this from a company in Los Angeles that specializes in audio description, hollywoodaccessservices.com.:

“Located in the heart of the entertainment industry, Hollywood Access Services, LLC produces audio description that is faithful and appropriate to the source material, offering a vivid experience to visually impaired consumers of motion pictures, home entertainment, and television programming. 

Here’s a little bit about our new product: Solo-Dx Solo-Dx is a new premium audio description MP3 file that you can play along with your favorite movie at home. Each Solo-Dx track is written and produced by experienced entertainment industry professionals. Solo-Dx helps bring movies to life for individuals with visual or cognitive impairments.  Solo-Dx works with any standard media player. The only other thing you need is the movie itself on DVD, Blu-ray, streaming, or Video-on-Demand.  Simply follow the directions narrated at the start of the Solo-Dx file, sit back, and enjoy!   You can learn a little more from our website at solo-dx.com.” 

I was able to choose Hunger Games to try this out with and was sent the Solo-Dx track. Time kept passing and I kept not having a good chunk of uninterrupted time to enjoy a movie. It’s amazing how quickly you get out of the habit of setting aside time for movies and television when you no longer enjoy such activities. Finally today I had time so I rented Hunger Games from iTunes. Solo-Dx had sent me the description track and I had that loaded on my iPhone all ready to go.

Wait, back up! I can hear your thoughts. Rented a movie, track on the iPhone, what what? The Solo-Dx track is an mp3 file you download from iTunes or Amazon. Currently the tracks are $1.99 but I was lucky enough to get Hunger Games complimentary. Unfortunately I don’t have a Netflix or other streaming subscription so I needed to rent the movie from iTunes. Lucky I don’t need hi-def so I only had to spend four bucks on the rental. I had never rented a movie before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once you download it you have thirty days to watch it. Once you press play, you have twenty-four hours to watch it. I couldn’t get the movie to start right back at the beginning again after I messed up the syncing of the track. I was able to get it all lined up though and we’ll get to that in a minute. I was jus able to start the movie again after completing it so I presume you can watch it as many times as you can in that twenty-four hours.

I put the Solo-Dx track on my iPhone but you can put it on any device. I would think it would be difficult to play both on the computer since you would need to play the Solo-Dx track using a different audio player. On the Mac you could do this with Preview by showing the Solo-Dx track in finder and pressing space to play the file at the appropriate time. So this would be possible without another device.

I had misgivings about doing this with my iPhone since it’s a phone and phones interrupt things. We’ll get to that. You sync the track and the movie by first listening to the track and the directions. Using Hunger Games as an example, the instructions said music would play for about ten seconds and then a distinct guitar would sound. When you hear the guitar, start the Solo-DX track. After it told me that, it counted down to three and there was a beep. You pause the track at the beep and wait for your guitar. When this was explained to me I thought it all sounded rather complicated though it made sense and I figured actually doing it would make it clear and it did.

I was disappointed when I had the track all cued up on my iPhone, paused at the beep, and the darned movie was too quiet and I didn’t hear the beginning music. The guitar started but that too was quiet so I quickly paused the movie and tried to find a way to restart it. I couldn’t find how so I got frustrated and thought how will I ever sync this? I checked the time elapsed and it was thirty seconds. The instructions said there was about ten seconds of music so I restarted the Solo-Dx track and paused and unpaused both track and movie until I got it lined up. I was lucky because the description said something about a girl running down the stairs and I got it lined up perfectly with the sounds of running feet. Lesson learned so I’ll be prepared next time. After finishing the movie I replayed the beginning and got it all synced up perfectly the first time and it was pretty sweet that way! I hadn’t missed anything with my syncing attempts before luckily.

So wait, you put the descriptions track thing on your phone? You didn’t get any phone calls or anything interrupting the description track?

That had been my first huge misgiving about this. I could have used my iPod but I didn’t want to use earbuds and I keep it in my room with my audio books on it. I know, luxury problem. I thought I would just use my phone and my Bluetooth earpiece so I’d have the descriptions in one ear while the movie played on my computer speakers. I ran this by Solo-Dx and it was suggested to either use airplane mode or the new do not disturb feature in iOS 6. Perfect! I would just use airplane mode I decided. Do not disturb would still allow favorites to ring through unless I went and changed settings so airplane mode was just easier. Only problem with that was it also disabled my Bluetooth earpiece so I was back at the ear buds issue. I decided to just use the built in speaker on the iPhone.

It turns out that my pickeyness here was a benefit, at least in my opinion. The female narrator’s voice on the Solo-Dx track took on a different audio tone than the movie so it was easy to separate the two. Also, neither ear was taken up with anything so the movie took center stage and the Solo-Dx track was secondary. I was comfortable on the couch with the phone either resting on my shoulder or sitting on the arm of the couch. (Obviously in a theatre or with others I’ll use my earbuds.)

An awesome thing about this was I could control the volume of the audio descriptions. When the movie volume increased, I just put the phone closer to me and when it got quiet again I moved the phone again. This was great, because I’ve noticed when watching movies with audio descriptions built in, sometimes the volume of the narrator isn’t adjusted so when the scenes get loud, you can barely hear the descriptions. It’s either that or sometimes the volume of the action fades out so you can hear the description. Either way it’s disruptive and draws your attention solely to the narration.

With the Solo-Dx track on my phone, the voice of the narrator at a comfortable volume, easy to control when I needed to, the movie was brought to life more than I’ve ever experienced since going blind. It was truly remarkable, being able to completely control both aspects of the movie. I never thought about it before but just like with a bad audio book narrator, a bad descriptions production can really take away from a movie. The Solo-Dx track was clear and easy to understand and the narrator portrayed the emotion of scenes without going overboard or being boring. It was really freaking awesome, no other words I can think of!

I emailed Solo-Dx excited to let them know I’d finally watched it and how cool I thought it was. They let me know some exciting news:

“We just came out with Solo-Dx for the first 4 episodes of the Walking Dead.  On iTunes it’s album-only
for $2.99.  On Amazon, it’s 99 cents per episode, or $3.96 for the album of all four.”

I’m excited about this because that show has sounded awesome but just like with movies I’ve been unable to really get into TV. I will be checking these out for sure!

So, what do you think? I think this is pretty fantastic. I had a lot of misgivings going in but now that I’ve tried it, I’m very impressed. By the way, Solo-Dx isn’t paying me to write this or anything haha! I feel very lucky to have been considered a good test subject to check this out and help get the word out to the blind and visually impaired community. I think I have a pretty good grasp on this product so please feel free to ask questions in the comments or email me and I’ll see if I can answer your questions or forward them to the Solo-Dx team.

I’m really excited about this. I think the opportunities are great in that we might be able to take descriptions with us to the movies even! I can watch movies with B and have descriptions all to myself. He no longer rents DVDs anymore since he as access to any movie he wants with his streaming subscriptions and since he does that now, descriptions are out of the question since you don’t get cool DVD menus.

Once the Solo-Dx catalogue really expands, maybe I’ll be able to say, “hey, I have this movie available, want to watch it?”

The only real lingering question I have is pausing when I watch a movie with him or someone else. Today it was simple, I just unlocked my screen and put my iPhone on my shoulder. I put my keyboard on my lap and on the second two fingered tap of the pause/play double tap, I pressed the space bar at the same time with my other hand. I paused the movie several times in this manner and only once did I get a little out of sync when my phone didn’t play it. It was easy to get it back but I’m not sure how this would work trying to pause a movie with another. I think B would probably need to let me control that when one of us needs to pause. He would need to just show me the button on the remote I suppose. I hope anyway! I look foreword to trying it eventually.

This is going to make me want to get back into movies and TV, I can tell you that much for sure. And the cool thing about these tracks being on iTunes and Amazon is you can get gift cards from friends and family to help with this. I know even $099 on a tight budget can be a lot for entertainment. I think those of you who have Netflix and such will really benefit. I might look into that myself since if I start doing more movies and TV, that might offset the cost of iTunes rentals. As of right now, Amazon streaming isn’t accessible with my Macbook which is too bad since I have a Prime account and get a lot of free streaming content. I need to email them about that. Ah, I digress.

Is Solo-Dx the next wave of awesome assistive technology for us? Could be! I’m very impressed. Oh and Hunger Games? That’s a hole other blog post. What a messed up movie!

Oh one last note, I listened to the entire credits at the end of the movie as well. The narration reads all the credits and the music was nice at the end. So if you’re wondering who played who and don’t feel like going to IMDB, just listen to the credits haha! Ok, I think that’s it.

Oh except this, follow Solo-Dx on Twitter @SoloDx1

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Filed under Adjustment to blindness, Amazon, apple Inc, assistive technologies, cool blinky stuff, cool product, iPhone, iTunes, plugs, twitter me this, word pictures

Fleksy App for iOS

I just got the Fleksy App a few hours ago after following its development on Twitter for a couple months now. This app is amazing! I was so blown away by it that when people expressed some confusion on Twitter, I went and recorded a quick demo of it, having no real experience with the app aside from what I read from the developer’s instructions. I also had the beginnings of what is turning into a monster migraine, so when I say, “it’s so not user error”, it um, really was user error for the most part haha!

This app is incredible! Oh yeah, it’s for iOS devices. Click the link above for the the iTunes store page. Ok, I’m gonna go nurse this migraine and listen to some baseball, if that’s possible.

Direct youtube link

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Filed under apple Inc, iPhone, iTunes, proud geek, twitter me this, youtube

Books Four through Six in 2012 and why I pay for audio books

The week before last I did a lot of listening to books while I was sick so three books were ccompleted pretty fast. I was on a Michael Connelly kick and started the Harry Bosch series from book one. I reread book three so I’m including in the list again, which brings me to a topic I wanted to touch on since I get a ton of people who tell me how I can get free books for the blind. I know this, trust me haha. I’ll explain why I like to buy books.

A great example of why I like to buy books is the fact that I wanted to reread “The Concrete Blonde”. I know I can get books from the library, but I can’t keep them. This was the same when I was sighted. I liked to keep books because if I like a book, I’m almost guaranteed to read it again. I’ve replaced several print books I used to keep with the audio versions. When I first went blind, a friend brought me audio books from the library at the college she taught. There are several of those books I can’t remember and wish I still had, or knew the authors so I could get more or reread.

Because my introduction to audio books were these cds, I got very used to professional narrators and the production that goes into making an audio book. Call me a snob if you want, but I enjoy them. When I heard a sample of the talking books player at the blind center, it didn’t sound nearly as good to me. It’s all about what you start with maybe. I also fell through the cracks getting signed up for talking books, so when I got my computer and iTunes and didn’t have to rely on others to start the service for me, it was a relief.

When I was sighted, books weren’t free. I’m used to buying books. I’m a collector, too.

Sooo, hope that clears it up. I love my books and I can afford them, especially now with Audible.

Ok, so here’s the complete list for this year:

1. “IT” – Stephen King – Finished 1/4/12

2. “The Concrete Blonde” – Michael Connelly – Finished 1/9/12

3. “Under the Dome” – Stephen King – Finished 1/22/12

4. “The Black Echo” (Bosch #1) – Michael Connelly – Finished 1/24/12

5. “The Black Ice” (Bosch #2) – Michael Connelly – Finished 1/27/12

6. “The Concrete Blonde” (Bosch #3) – Michael Connelly – Finished 2/2/12

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Filed under 2012 Book List, Adjustment to blindness, Audio books, iTunes