Category Archives: screen reader

I’ve Been Calling Myself a Writer. Now I Believe it.

Deciding to dedicate all study and practice to my first memoir was the best decision I could have made for myself and my writing. A few months ago, I realized that all the information I was getting from free resources–articles, blog posts, writing classes, and podcasts–was simply being disseminated in different ways, no longer teaching me anything new. When I first moved to Bellingham, I considered going back to school since I felt like my life was starting anew, but I am just not well enough to commit to a rigorous academic schedule, especially not one that requires attending physical class at specific times.

However I’ve wanted my writing to ascend to that next level, needing to move beyond what I can teach myself. One day, some headline caught my attention on Twitter, leading me to JerryJenkins.com. I don’t remember what the post was about, but I liked it so much that I signed up for his email list and received a message about a free webinar. I’ve since played so many of his webinars that I can’t remember what it was about. At first I was suspicious. The chairperson kept mentioning Jerry’s Guild, and stay tuned for information on how to join, and take advantage of this extra deal only offered during the webinar, and blah zee blah blah. I was like ok whatever, I’ll take my free information and go. But…

The information was so good. Jerry spoke from experience, of which he has much. While a lot of it was stuff I’d taught myself over the years, hearing it from a human voice and not my screen reader, with real-time examples, I felt things I’d learned begin to click into place. So I paid to join the Guild. All of Jerry’s webinars are available to me now (albeit not completely controllable with my screen reader) and I’ve since been able to study from home when I’m well enough to focus my mental energy. I’ve started putting into practice the things I’m learning and my writing has indeed jumped to the next level.

I wrote the first draft of my memoir back in November for NaNoWriMo and have since been in the rewriting phase, using Jerry’s teachings on ferociously self editing as I go, having a blast making scenes really pop. Using my own story to practice has been invaluable, as there’s little struggling over plot and character, since my plot is my story and I’m the protagonist. I say little struggling because, while I know my own story, I find myself writing about an event that took place before or after something else, only to notice while rewriting that that timeline is incorrect.

On Thursday, I attended jerry’s memoir webinar and it showed me what’s been missing, solidifying all that I’ve taught myself. Like switching from margarine to butter in my baking, I’ve finally found the ingredient that makes the recipe click. Yes! So…I’ve been working on the second draft of my memoir, tightening up the writing, adding color and shading to the sketches, and it’s 2008 and I’m about to go blind.

After Jerry’s memoir webinar, I’ve realized that my structure is all wrong, and from the work I’ve done, new themes have emerged. If I had the attention of an agent or publisher with a hard deadline, I’d be freaking out right now. How’s that for a silver lining? the only deadline thus far is my goal for finishing this draft by April 24th. I’ve considered abandoning it to begin working with my new theme and structure, but I’ve decided to finish this work since it has become a silver mine of experience and personal growth. After I finish it, I’ll mine it for the silver that’s waiting to shine. This memoir is like a paint by numbers picture for the beginning artist. I’ve been calling myself a writer. Now I believe it.

Thank you, Jerry Jenkins!

*Coming soon: randioomens.com*

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Filed under accomplishment, gratitude, NaNoWriMo, plugs, screen reader, spoons, twitter me this, writing

My First Submitted Fiction – What A Ride

I need to just free write a post while my body calms down. I just submitted my final draft of ‘That Meddling Dog’ for the YA anthology. Now I wait. Will it be chosen? Will I get my first real rejection? What happens next?

I began work on the story on May 30 and received the final draft from my volunteer copy editor yesterday. the writing and revising was awesome, ending up five hundred words over the limit and getting it down to the six thousand, sending new revisions off to my friends and getting their feedback and talking about things that happened and how the story affected each reader differently and change this word for that and get rid of that story line all together because there’s no room for it and I wasn’t ready to introduce that character anyway but oh I still need to reference him ok let me just change his name.

All the creative stuff was awesome, naturally, then it was coming down to the wire, the story pretty much done, the surface so shiny from all the polishing that I could see my reflection and all that was left was formatting. the visual part.

I’ve known I have a trigger happy thumb. I’m sure it’s evident in this post since I’m not being careful at all, just getting thoughts down. I enter way too many spaces. There’s no way with Voiceover and my word processing program, Pages, to easily tighten up spacing issues. So I went character by character of a six thousand word document, deleting spaces.

Wanna hear a sample of that process?

After I got done deleting extra spaces, I went through and added all my paragraph indents. I do all my first drafts in a basic app called Text Edit, kinda like Notepad for Windows, since it’s the easiest for me to use with voiceover. When I’m writing my first drafts of a fiction story, I never remember to tab for paragraphs and dialogue and I’m not sure that would copy over to Pages anyway.

So I went through and added my tabs and then I counted the new lines of a blank document. fifty lines. I wanted to do that thing with new chapters so the chapter would begin halfway down the page, right? So I’d find the new chapter and press enter twenty-five times. In my head, there’s the white space for the chapters.

I exported the Pages document, was it twenty-seven pages or seventeen I can’t remember. Anyway, converted it to Word for my volunteer copy editor and sent it off Wednesday. Deadline Sunday. today is Saturday. Are you with me?

I’m feeling so good about it. Really good. I feel like the story is solid, the protagonist being a secondary character in the main novel I’ve had in my heart and have worked on for years, and the protag from that novel in the story too. I feel great about it. I’ve had fun hanging out with my kids and creating new ones.

Then Thursday morning, before I’ve had coffee, before I’ve played Trivia Crack, I check email on my phone.

Don’t check email on your phone when you haven’t had coffee or played Trivia Crack and you’re already a bundle of nerves from this whole process oh and when Brian is in Sedona for a conference and your sleep is all messed up from staying up all night on Tuesday in a Google hangout with your besties.

email from copy editor lets me know he found extra spaces and other formatting stuff. Extra spaces. After I spent two days going character by character to get rid of them. Words that aren’t capitalized, crazy stuff. Stuff I know I fixed right?

turns out, when you export from Pages to Word and vice versa, formatting errors occur. So I can’t just go through, read his comments, fix what I agree with, stet the rest. this isn’t going to work. I can’t fix those visual errors. I can’t figure out how to make his comments correspond to the area of the manuscript which they refer. I start to panic. I’ve worked so hard. I love this story.

I’m reminded that I’m blind.

later I talk to Ricardo on the phone. He looks at the document with voiceover on his Mac. We try and figure out the comments thing. It’s all so overwhelming. It’s Thursday and the deadline is Sunday. Should I send the manuscript to Amanda who is also blind but uses Jaws with Word? She can fix the formatting issues, keep it in the blind family. but then I still can’t convert back to Pages.

Oh crap I totally left out the cathartic screaming crying fit from earlier in the day. I threw myself on the bed and screamed into my pillow so hard it hurt. I sobbed and sobbed. the cats piled on the bed with me. All I want to be is a writer and there’s all these barriers.

When I’m talking to Ricardo I’m trying so hard not to let the tears come but they do because I can’t do this. I can’t be a writer. There are too many challenges. I need Jaws and Word. All those things I’ve heard for years about Mac and voiceover not working well for professionals, all those things are true. Who am I kidding? I’m a blind disabled nobody and that’s who I’ll stay.

No.

Fuck that.

Deep breath.

Talking to Ricardo. He’s saying all the things I know in my heart, all the things my doubts want to kill. Sure it’s hard. Sure there are barriers. But there are also resources. Amanda told me to use my tools. What are my tools.

Email from the Professor. He can fix the visual stuff. He can just do it, we can talk in the morning, Friday, then he sends me the Word file, I don’t touch it, I submit that.

I tell Ricardo. Should I do that?

Hell yeah!

Weight lifts from my shoulders. People. People are my tools. People are more than happy to help a person who’s doing as much of the hard work as she can on her own.

I think back to the meetings. God will do for me what I can’t do for myself. For me right now, god is those people.

I’m going to be a published writer. I know this. This experience has been so valuable. Even if TMD doesn’t get picked for the anthology, the things I’ve learned from making it the best story it could be are invaluable.

And if it does get published? It could be a launching point.

I struggled with whether to include in my bio that I’m blind. I don’t want to be picked because I’m blind I want to be picked based on the merit of the work. But then I thought back to my last job, the one voc rehab helped me get and they told me not to disclose my MS. Look where that got me? I didn’t get any of the help I needed to be successful while working with a debilitating disability and I went blind.

so I chose to disclose. If I’m going to use the resources available as a blind writer, I can’t pretend I’m not. Hey look at that, tense change. I’m really bad at staying in tense. Hehe! Wait, in tense. Hahaha. Oh but I am so intense at times. In tense. intense. I love freaking words.

I thought back to an essay I read years ago that pissed me off so bad I almost wrote about it here but chose not to. the essay was written by a visually impaired woman who had kept her impairment secret for the same reasons I almost did. She had to admit it though, because she was loosing more and more of her vision.

I was so angry at her at the time but now I get it. It sucks to have to look your weakness full in the face. it sucks to admit oh crap, I can’t do this all on my own. It sucks. It’s painful. I understand now why she wanted to hide it and how much pain she must have been in the day she decided to post that essay.

I have put myself out there now. Until today, five people read TMD. Two blind friends, a young adult friend, and two sighted friends. Friends. All people who care about me. Now the story is in the hands of strangers.

It’s like bearing your soul, which Strunk prepared me for when I read his book.

I slept and slept and slept last night. I woke up at eleven this morning, an hour into the Rays game. So not like me! I was, and still am, exhausted.

After the Rays won (yay!) I opened the submission manager. Deep breath. Heart began racing.

“My heart is racing,” I say.

“Why, because you guys won?” Brian asks.

“No, I’m about to submit the story.”

“Oh!”

He knows what a journey this has been. He’s heard me mumbling during revisions, that doesn’t sound right, how can I reword that, he knows how important this is to me.

Of course I ran into a quick technical issue while looking for the file, the only one on my desktop, to submit. Silly mac.

I clicked submit. There goes the bio I wrote, there goes my baby, bye!

“Your submission has been sent.”

Oy vey, right? Holy crap. I mean holy crap! I tweeted, then grabbed Timmy and went to cuddle him in bed. His purring soothes me. I lay in bed, collecting my thoughts, the feeling slowly returning to my feet.

Now we wait. I posted on Facebook that I’m equal parts sure it will be accepted and that I’ll get my first real rejection.

Whatever happens, I’ll keep writing. Ren and georgie insist on it and their story isn’t done. They’ve got at least an entire novel to appear in, if not two or three. And my friend Dulce made her appearance in TMD when I had to work in a flashback to explain something. We find out she had her first kiss. And Dulce the character needs to meet Jedi the dog, who will love her as much as Jayden loves the real Dulce.

This story isn’t over. It’s just beginning!

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Filed under accessibility, accomplishment, Adjustment to blindness, apple Inc, assistive technologies, baseball, cats, coffeeholic, faith, fellowship, gratitude, Jaws, Jayden, Microsoft, misty eyes, screen reader, silly girl, spoons, Timmy, twitter me this, Voiceover, writing

Even in my morning desire to rage, I didn’t have the urge to smash it like a bullpen phone.

Welcome to another episode oF *CROWD CHANTS THE WORDS* SLEEP! DEPRIVED! FUN! WITH YOUR HOST, RO, THE RAYS DUCHESS OF THE ARIZONA TERRITORIES!

I HAVE THE TIARA TO PROVE IT.

NO REALLY, I DO. I WAS SERIOUSLY TEMPTED TO WEAR IT TO MY LAST STEROID TREATMENT YESTERDAY. I HADN’T HAD THE ENERGY TO BATHE THE DAY BEFORE AND BLOW OUT MY HAIR SO I STUCK MY RAYS CAP ON YESTERDAY AND ALMOST PUT THE TIARA ON OVER IT. I THINK I HAVE EXPERIENCED A LITTLE OF WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE IN A MANIC PHASE. I MENTIONED IN YESTERDAY’S POST THAT I LISTENED TO THAT GNARLES BARKLEY SONG CRAZY ALL THE WAY TO THE HOSPITAL. JUST ON REPEAT. THE DRIVER WAS A SPEED RACER TOO, SO IT WAS A SERIOUSLY FUN RIDE TO THE HOSPITAL. I KINDA WISH I HAD WORN THE TIARA.

Davis just informed me on Twitter that I was yelling. I hate it when I knock caps lock on and don’t notice it. Was I yelling in this post? Well, it would fit. I’m feeling crazy again this morning as the hours tick by. I don’t know for sure when I woke up. I try not to check the time so I don’t obsess but then I needed an ibuprofin and I always note the time when I take one since I take the 600mg pill and I don’t want to overload my kidneys. When I checked the time it was 3:00am and I had been laying awake for quite awhile. *groan*

So I lay there some more and then just gave up and got out of bed. I ended up reading through all my short stories here when I grabbed the link to the archives page to send to my new neuropathic friend. (His title. I like it.)

My writing schedule has been killed these last two weeks with all the medical stuff that came up so suddenly. I don’t know how I’ve managed to get a post up every day for NaBloPoMo. I’m sure the last few don’t make much sense. At least this morning I’m co-hearing ok that’s me trying to use Dictate on the Mac to spell a word and it’s just not working. Coherent There we go! Oh, it’s ent not ant.

Did I already write that I see the neurologist today? Maybe I’m not coherent if I already forgot what I’ve written. I’ve mentioned it on Twitter so that might be where I wrote it. this is why I shut Twitter down when I’m working on the novel haha.

It’s only 5:12. My alarm is going off in just under two hours. At least it’s not a three hour infusion today with travel to and from the hospital mixed in. I’m hoping to talk to my friend Shupa this afternoon after I get home. I’ve been drawing on her strength the last few days without her knowing it. Sometimes you just reach out through the ether to people who understand what you’ve going through.

I can’t quite seem to get silly like I have in past sleep deprived posts. Hmmm.

You know what sucks? Steroids. usually they’re awesome. this go round? Not so much. usually they increase your apetitie. Oh God I can’t type that word hahaha. Apetitie. What? Ok is a brain lesion effecting my finger nerves? Appetite. Ok had to type it super slow. Anyway, usually food is awesome right? I love food. And in the past on steroids when the hunger would hit and it hits fast, it was fun to wolf down food and appease the hunger monster. I mean it comes on FAST. It’s like, you better feed me now bitch, or there’ll be hell to pay. but yesterday? Hunger hit, had to eat but the thought of food was disgusting. I had my usual lunch at about 3pm after I got home and had to clean up cat mess and it was like forcing down my turkey and radish sandwich that I usually love. Then I went and got a light massage, therapist going easy on me just to help relax the muscles but not exacerbate anything. I had told B before my massage that I had no idea what I might want to eat after so I’d just make PB & J. I mean one can always eat PB & J right?

When I got home I decided I wouldn’t eat. But then the hunger hit and there was no choice. I had to force down that PB & J. I am not enjoying this.

My vertigo is pretty bad. I think if my eyes worked, I’d be noticing some vision issues. It’s hard to explain what I feel since I can’t see, but I feel my eyes trying to do something. It reminds me of the nystagmus I had as a kid. That’s where your eyes vibrate. It used to happen to me at night when I turned the lights out to sleep. I’d have to turn the bedside light on and stare at it to make my eyes stop vibrating. That’s almost how they feel now.

So I don’t know how much success the steroids were. I don’t know if the doc will order another MRI. Several have asked me that. I didn’t have a second MRI in the past after steroids, but that was after being treated at the hospital, so who knows what Dr. v will want. I’m looking forward to this week being over but I am grateful I see him today.

I’m just plopping my hat on today. Don’t worry, I won’t put the tiara on. I am becoming one of those people who goes out with hair overdo for a wash. Nooooooo!!!! I just have not had the energy to shower after treatment this week and I can’t do it in the mornings because bathing takes all my energy. So…body spray it is! I hope I don’t stink. I don’t think I do. I haven’t sweat. It’s been really beautiful here weather wise.

So I’m just sitting here drinking coffee, flipping over to Twitter and carrying on conversations. The heater is on. the air from the vent in my den is so loud I have to adjust the volume of my screen reader when it turns off and on .

Oh no, the hunger wolf is prowling. I’d really rather have breakfast close to the time I’ll be leaving to my appointment but when this wolf gets hungry, it gets really hard to ignore, like a dog who is demanding attention. I think I only have one more bowl of Special K left in the box. *sob*

I’m going to get some green tea later with my prescription. My massage therapist said green tea is good to help the body adjust after high doses of steroids. I didn’t ask how he knows that. Maybe I should see if I can get ARod on the line for his tips. Bah ha ha! I assure you my phone is safe from harm. Even in my morning desire to rage, I didn’t have the urge to smash it like a bullpen phone.

Dammit hungry. Maybe I can manage a slice of bread with some peanut butter. Hmmm. Yeah that sounds good. I’ll go try and eat that and report back.

Ok, that was pretty tasty. I stuck a half a banana on there. Jayden was happy with this development. A taste of peanut butter and a half a banana? Nom.

Only problem is I forgot to take a Zantac this morning. Steroid heartburn sucks. Just popped one so hopefully it’s not too late.

I think I’m done rambling about nothing. I’m getting sleepy. Go figured. Three hours till I leave for the doctor. Tick Tock.

Today’s song of the day:

I really like how WordPress handles youtube videos now. Just plop the link in and WP does the rest.

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Filed under coffeeholic, doc, gratitude, humor as coping skill, iPhone, Jayden, mental health, NaBloPoMo 2014, num num food, rambles, random stuff, screen reader, silly girl, Sleep Deprived Fun, spoons, twitter me this, weather, youtube

‘Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English’ by John McWhorter – narrated by John McWhorter – ‘The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Structure of DNA’ by James D. Watson – narrated by Grover Gardner and Roger Clark

These next two books on my never ending audio book list are educational type books. I absolutely love learning as long as it’s about something I’m interested in like the english language or DNa, not say, accounting or ditch digging. Now, I love learning about accounting when my friend Georgie talks about it because her enthusiasm for it is contagious especially since she does things like forensic accounting and when you throw the word forensic before anything, it makes that thing that much more interesting. I couldn’t read a whole book about accounting unless maybe Georgie wrote it or it was about forensic accounting. Now, forensic ditch digging? That has some major promise! Where was I going with this? Ah yes, today’s books.

Today’s books were both daily deals and they appealed to my love of learning. ‘Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue’ is a fun history of the english language though I must admit that my mind wandered quite often. I think one who studies linguistics would hang on every word but for me, I just laughed at some of the pronunciations and enjoyed how excited McWhorter sounded as he narrated his work. You can most definitely tell he’s a language geek and that made listening to the book all the more fun despite the sometimes dry subject matter.

I think a book about language is perfect as an audio book because you can hear the correct pronunciation of words. As a screen reader user, I’ve given up on the fun Mental Floss articles about words because voiceover just garbles it. I enjoyed that aspect of Bastard Tongue. You know nothing, John Snow. What? never mind.

‘Double Helix’ took me back to my youthful excitement in freshman biology with Mrs. Stewart when she told us about Watson and Crick, the two men who discovered DNA. Those names have always been with me since that lecture my freshman year turned me to a life of science and medicine and DNA combined with forensics made me love true crime and find an odd sense of fascination with serial killers. So when this book was a daily deal, I snatched it up.

Much like it’s now exciting for me to read about an author’s journey as he or she writes a novel, learning what the struggle was like as these two young scientists raced to discover the secret of life before anyone else was fascinating. the book read more like a memoir with a scientific discovery attached than an educational book about DNA. That disappointed me a little since I was looking forward to the science. Late high school and in to college, my online name was DaNA. Screen readers, that’s a capital d, lower case a, capital n, capital a. Dana for Dana Scully of the X-Files and DNA jumped out visually with that lower case a in the middle. Science geek anyone?

I enjoyed these two books but I certainly could never be one who reads nothing but nonfiction. I just need to throw in a nice educational book every so often to supplement what I learn in my daily online reading haha. Oh and the DNA book being narrated by Grover Gardner? Score! Love him.

Both books got a rating of entertaining.

‘Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue’ at Audible

‘The Double Helix at Audible

So this worked well, working on this post at the time I did. I’m trying to figure out what will be my writing schedule for my books. Today I read Twitter, news and stuff while having morning coffee, had cereal and made the bed, then sat down to work on the post. I’ll try this again tomorrow and see how it works. I won’t be finishing and posting just yet since I have a phone call scheduled, but it became a good chunk of writing. Everything I’ve read from successful published authors has told me a schedule of some sort is a must. Treat writing like a job, even though you do it from home. What I’m discovering about blogging every day is there’s an end goal. Write a post, publish it to the blog. What is the daily end goal for writing a novel? That is what I must discover for myself.

Those doing NaNoWriMo have a goal of a certain word count per day so they end up with at least a fifty thousand word novel at the end of November. I thought about setting a daily word count goal but I don’t want to constantly be focusing on word count as I’m writing. Sometimes a day of writing comes super easy and thousands of words can be pushed out and the next day, your characters might be pushing against where you think you want to take them and only a few hundred words come out. So I don’t want to be constrained by a daily word count goal. So what shall be my writing goal?

How about keeping it simple. the goal is to write every day. NaBloPoMo is starting the habit. Just because blogging creates the goal of pushing publish every day, doesn’t mean I have to have that same goal with the books. I’ll just create a symbolic publish button. Maybe I’ll post on twitter how many words I wrote that day. Yeah…yeah. That will work. Yay writing!

Tomorrow’s book post will be about ‘A Light in August’ by William Faulkner and whatever thoughts about life that brings up. I kinda like doing book posts this way.

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Filed under 2014 Book List, Audio books, NaBloPoMo 2014, screen reader, Voiceover, writing

“Double Play” by Ben and Julianna Zobrist with Mike Yorkey – narrated by Apple’s Voiceover

For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, Ben Zobrist is a Tampa Bay Ray. In fact he’s not just any Tampa Bay Ray, he’s the Rays super utility guy. He mostly plays second base but he can really play anywhere the Rays need him. In my opinion he’s one of the most underrated baseball players in the game today. He also should have won a gold glove last year along with the rest of the infield who were nominated but passed over, James Loney at 1st, Yunel Escobar at short and Evan Longoria at 3rd, but I’m getting off topic.

We Rays fans are very familiar with Ben’s wife Julianna since Ben’s walk out music when he comes to the plate is always one of her songs. Julianna is a Christian pop singer with a lovely voice. They are both on Twitter but share one account, @TheZobrists.

When I found out they were working on a memoir together I knew right away I would buy it, no question. They gave little hints on Twitter here and there about the book so I knew it was going to be about their life together as a Christian couple and that they would both be sharing some deep secrets.

I got the book on Kindle when it was released and was flying through it so I took a break when I reached the pictures section which had captions and gave away some of the second half of the book, oops! I went back to the book on the flight home from St. Petersburg and it was awesome to go back to their story as I was leaving after my incredible trip.

There is some baseball in the book as we learn about Ben’s journey and how his swing was developed but for the most part it’s a story of love, deep christian faith, parenthood, life struggles and survival.

I got to meet Ben Zobrist when I visited the field and I was amazed by how tall he is. I told him I was reading his book and explained how my screen reader spoke the words and he said something like, “Oh man, they should have had Julianna and me read the audio book!” I said it would have been nice to hear him read the journal entries in the book and he laughed, saying how embarrassing those are and I told him they were sweet. He is such a nice guy! He let me hold his batting practice bat. It was awesome!

I highly recommend every Rays fan read this book and even if you aren’t a Rays fan, it’s a great story about how love survives life’s curve balls. I’m not religious but I appreciate their devotion to Jesus. They are a couple to admire, for sure.

Rating: So good!

My friend JB told me there is in fact an audio book now, not read by the Zobrists of course.

“Double Play” at Audible ~ “Double Play” at Amazon

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Filed under #RoToTrop, 2014 Book List, baseball, evan longoria, screen reader, Voiceover

Handwriting in iOS 7 – Most Excellent!

The other day when someone retweeted @Ducktail’s demo of handwriting in iOS 7 I played the demo not sure what I’d find. Not long into it my hands were covering my face as I listened, completely amazed and filled with gratitude toward Apple.

In iOS 7, we’ll be able to draw letters on the screen! Not only will this allow us to hand write text, but it can also be used to search the device for apps. Looking for Sound Hound? Draw an “s” on the screen and a list of all your apps beginning with the letter “s” come up. I cannot wait for this feature! I hadn’t thought about how much I miss writing letters!

It seems like this could definitely be difficult for those who never used handwriting, for sure, but for someone like me who wrote the letters of the alphabet until I was twenty-nine, this will bring back something I thought I’d lost forever! The ability to hand write! Oh man. I’m so excited hahahahaha!

Ok, as LeVar Burton likes to say, bydhttmwfi. go have a listen to the demo. It’s an auto play Dropbox. Just go listen. Oh man! So cool! So amazing! Thank you, Apple!

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Filed under accessibility, Adjustment to blindness, apple Inc, assistive technologies, cool product, demo, gratitude, iPhone, misty eyes, plugs, screen reader, twitter me this, Voiceover, wow

“Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour” (Midnighters Trilogy) by Scott Westerfeld – narrated by Voiceover (iOS Kindle app)

I have listened to every Scott Westerfeld novel available in audio format and was deeply dismayed not to be able to find the Midnighters trilogy. Every time I read something on his website that referenced the trilogy I would feel sad and left out.

When my friend Ricardo told me the Kindle app for iOS was accessible, the Midnighters trilogy was the first thing to come to mind and I was so excited to find that Amazon had it. I wasn’t too sure how I would feel about having a synthesized voice read me an entire novel but I had gone without for so long it was worth a shot. It really wasn’t that bad. I slowed the voice down quite a bit and it basically turned the book into an audio book. I definitely wouldn’t choose it over a human narrator but it’s certainly better than not having access to a book!

Soon after Jessica Day arrives in Bixby Oklahoma where her mom has gotten a new job, Jessica discovers that the hour of midnight is strange indeed. It seems like the world around her freezes for exactly one hour, everything but her. Imagine what it would be like to run through frozen rain drops as they hover in the air! It’s not all beautiful though as Jessica soon finds out. It gets downright scary. There were several times as I read this that I shouted at Westerfeld, “what was going on in that head of yours when you wrote that!”

I very much enjoyed this book. For me it wasn’t up there with “Uglies” and “Leviathan” but that could be due to the fact that my phone read it to me. I haven’t really known how to include books I’ll read with the Kindle app here, so I decided I just won’t give them the ratings I do with audio books. I’d recommend this if you’re a Scott Westerfeld fan or just want to read some good young adult fiction. I started the second book in the series but have been distracted by some really good audio books. I’m sure I’ll get back to it before long. I wasn’t able to listen to it for hours like I can with an audio book and I can’t imagine laying in bed at night getting sleepy listening to voiceover read me a book haha. I’m so grateful the Kindle app is accessible now, yay!

Bixby, Oklahoma, is that the same Bixby from the movie Tremors I wonder? Staaaaaaaaampede!

“Midnighters #1” at the Amazon Kindle Store

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Filed under 2013 Book List, accessibility, Amazon, apple Inc, gratitude, iPhone, screen reader, Voiceover

A Phone Call from a Light Dependent Person

It’s Sunday morning and I had just started a podcast when I heard my phone ring but it was just the harp and that’s the no need to run ringtone. I couldn’t hear Voiceover to know who had called so I checked the phone after the podcast and it was my massage guy. Hmmm, why is he calling on a Sunday? I checked the voicemail and had a panicked message from his wife that went something like this:

Hi Ro, S is making the switch to the iPhone so I started playing with the screen reader on mine to get familiar with it before he takes it over and all of the sudden my screen went black and I don’t know what to do and I know you’ve gotten really good with your Iphone so I decided to call so if you could call me back that would be great.

Those weren’t her exact words but I think it’s pretty close. I was laughing as I listened to it and called her back immediately on my massage guy’s phone. She answered laughing which was a good thing and I laughed with her. She put me on speaker and I could hear as she unlocked the iPhone.

Me: When the screen went black did you hear the phone say, “screen curtain on”?

Her: No.

Me: Hmmm, well, try doing a three finger triple tap.

Her: The screen is back!

Both of us burst out laughing. I still don’t know why she didn’t hear the phone announce the screen curtain but at least that was all it was. After we finished laughing about that she asked me why a double tap made her music play.

Me: A double tap? That’s odd, I mean unless you’re on the play button or something…

Her: No actually it’s when I double tap with two fingers.

Me: Oh! Yeah, a two finger double tap will start your music or any audio you had been streaming.

Her: Ok so that is supposed to happen then.

Me, laughing: Yes, that is normal.

We discussed getting together so I can help S get to know his phone. He’s been pretty resistant to the iPhone, being stuck on the whole no buttons thing like so many blind are. I know once he finally makes the switch he’ll be happier than a pig in…you know.

I just thoroughly enjoyed helping a sighted person with her black screened iPhone! She is a “poor light dependent person”, her words. Fun stuff.

Oh, note to self, give her and S a must run ringtone for future iPhone emergencies.

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Filed under apple Inc, funnies, iPhone, random stuff, screen reader, Voiceover

And it would have been fine if it hadn’t been for those meddling headphones

This is why I really shouldn’t make plans. Strike that, I need to be prepared when a wrench is thrown into the works. It’s not even like I had crazy awesome plans, but I had my Saturday pretty much mapped out to be leisurely after a stressful week. I planned to give a book a read through to write up a post on it today. I managed to read the book but then…enter the wrench.

Last night I discovered something I didn’t know about my Mac that is pretty sweet. I had this book in a text document but I have no way of holding my place in such a long document so I planned on recording system audio during a time I wasn’t on my computer. Luckily I mentioned this to my Mac expert friend Ricardo and he informed me that the Mac will convert text to speech into a sound file in itunes. No way! Way! He explained how to do it and it worked. So Today I had an audio file of Voiceover reading the book just like an audio book with the ability to play and pause when I needed to.

So after I was done with my morning reading which included an email with content that got my blood pressure up and my heart rate pounding which started a headache (this is foreshadowing), I settled back to go over the book and drink my coffee.

B stepped out to run errands so I took my Logitech USB wireless headphones off and plugged them in to charge so I could enjoy the book over my speakers and also to throw some additional charge into the headphones. Sometimes on Weekends the charge doesn’t last all day and while I can use the headphones while they’re charging, I don’t like being tethered now that I am so used to the freedom of wireless.

I was jotting down notes for my write-up when B got home and I plugged the receiver for the headphones in and switched them on. Nothing. Hmmm. Switch off and back on. Nothing. No beep. They usually beep when switched on and then beep again when connected. Nothing. Over and over, on and off and on. Nothing. Unplug receiver. Nothing. Headache getting worse.

I dig out the old Logitech headphones that I had taped together to salvage them until B got me a new set. Nothing on those. I switch off and on. One beep. Ooh! Then nothing. Both sets were dead. Head is pounding.

Ok, so remember the vicious murder of the coffee maker?

I stood up with the Logitech and tightly grasped the earpieces in my hands.

“I’m going to break this,” I grunted through gritted teeth.

“No!” B exclaimed, making the moment sound very dramatic.

“Why not? They’re already dead!” I said, stomping towards the kitchen, prepared to snap the things like a wishbone. B stammered something and I came to my senses. I’m not sure if it was him or the Lexapro that kept me from destroying the Logitech. It turns out the charger for the headphones will work to charge B’s phone via his computer, so at least something good came from it. For some reason, both dead Logitechs went back into my drawer.

I began the task of shopping for a new set of wireless headphones. The major thing I didn’t like about the Logitech was the behind the neck design. The tops of my ears begin to ache after prolonged use and I can’t rest my head back on the couch. So deciding to try something new meant that I wanted to find a set with the old headband design.

If anyone has any questions about wireless headphones for computers, I think I read about nearly every kind out there. I asked Twitter for recommendations and it failed me for the first time. No one had opinions which shocked me. Actually one person did recommend a Plantronics set but that was after I finally settled on something.

I don’t remember how I finally found these but I decided on this Soundblaster Tactic3D Wrath wireless usb headset from Creative> After reading that page I was beginning to drool and after I read reviews on Amazon from extreme gamer types I was sold. Headphones are an extension of my computer for me. I need to be able to hear my screen reader when B has the TV on and I also don’t want him to have to hear my computer. Not only that but my music, books and movies as well. Oh and let’s not forget baseball! They must be wireless, especially for baseball, so I never miss a minute of a game when I have to walk away from my computer.

B had already agreed that a Best Buy trip would be in order once I found the headphones I wanted. I checked the website and they carry them but it said that store delivery or something wasn’t an option. That worried me. I called to see if they had them. After getting through the Silicone Sally prompts, I was told one caller was ahead of me. Loud, no not loud, blaring synthesizer Christmas music began pumping through my bluetooth. Headache. Got. Very. Very. Pissed. I thought to myself, if they have the headphones, the obnoxious music will be worth it. They didn’t have the headphones.

This was a few hours after the death of the Logitech. I had my old wired headphones plugged in and had even tried paring the Plantronics bluetooth I use for my phone to the Mac but it sounded awful and I scared myself, thinking I had killed the connection between it and the iPhone forever haha.

So when we found out Best Buy didn’t have the Soundblaster headphones, we were both dumbfounded. What other electronics stores are there? We both drew a total blank. Finally I just Googled electronics stores and remembered Radio Shack which made me remember Gamestop and SWS. Neither Radio Shack nor Gamestop had them. The man at SWS sounded regretful to inform me he didn’t carry them either but at least he had the knowledge to tell me it would probably be hard to find Soundblaster devices in stores. He told me they make soundcards and such but that I’d need to get the headphones online.

“Yeah, my headphones broke today so I was hoping to replace them today,” I said, defeated. He went on to tell me he carried Logitech and I thanked him and hung up.

I went back to Amazon and put in the order. I’m saving fifty bucks. Go Amazon! In the meantime I’m tethered to my desk. I kept getting tangled in the chord . Once you go wireless, you just can’t go back! I began to wonder how I could sit on the couch with my headphones when I remembered that my Samsung Gomic has a headphone port in it. Perfect! So I’m using that as an extension for now so I have a little more freedom of movement.

I said to B after that was all over with and we ordered dinner that this was the first day on the Lexapro that I really felt my emotions go out of control. He said the headphones must have just been the last straw. Just yesterday I wrote about taking care of the little things. They can still totally sneak up on you. This morning I had a hard time catching Timmy so I could put him in the room to keep him from escaping while I took Jayden out. I collapsed on the floor sobbing, and the darned cat came right to me. This was after awakening from a nightmare that someone had stolen Jayden. Then the email happened, then the headphones died, all after a tough week. Perfect recipe for a breakdown. It wasn’t awful though and getting some emotion out was actually a relief. Good floor time with Jayden made the headache go away.

At least no electronics or appliances were harmed in the making of this day.

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Filed under Amazon, apple Inc, coffeeholic, dream, Jayden, mental health, NaBloPoMo 2012, proud geek, screen reader, Silicone Sally, Timmy, twitter me this

A Letter to Fifty-Three Year-Old Me

Writing the letter to my fourteen year-old self was fun. The writing prompt I took the idea from said to follow it up the next day with a letter to myself in twenty years. I didn’t give it much thought until it was the next day and the thought of the future was too scary. I think today I am ready to do this since two fictional worlds I’ve dived into recently are more scary (hopefully) than twenty years from now will be.

So, fifty-three year old Ro, I hope you are alive to read this. If you are not fifty- three year-old Ro, meaning you are Ro and not fifty-three yet, don’t read this. You can’t read this until November 11, 1032. Oh wow.

Oh and readers, you should leave a comment. If this blog is still here in twenty years, hopefully it is, your comments will be in a time capsule of sorts haha!

Dear fifty-three year-old Ro,

Wow, so did I make it this long? Mom didn’t make it to fifty-three so if I’m reading this in twenty years I better be grateful. Remember how you thought you’d never see thirty because of how crazy your life was and then you literally didn’t see thirty because you went blind at twenty-nine? Yeah, I still think that’s funny today. Do you still find it funny in twenty years? I hope so, because without humor there’s just no point.

Do you need a refresher of what life was like for you at thirty-three? Well, I’ve been with B for just over five and a half years now. Are we still together in twenty years? If we are, what is he like? Did he ever start eating vegetables? I know, that’s probably a really stupid question. My three best friends are Carol, Chupa and Georgie. How are they? Ok I’m misting up thinking about these people in twenty years. Do you remember being convinced that everyone would die before you and you would be left alone in this scary world? That was only like two months ago, before I started Lexapro. Thinking about the people I love the most and how it will be in twenty years is starting to freak me out. It’s a good thing I’m medicated.

What about Erik? He’s my only friend who’s younger than I am. Only by a few months but still. How is he? I hope you are still in touch with him. We’ve been friends so long and there has always been gaps where we lose touch. Although ever since I went blind and started using my Macbook, we haven’t lost touch, so I hope in twenty years we’re still close.

Ok, so speaking of my Mac, what is technology like? Do people have stuff implanted in them yet? I always imagine little nano chips for phones and stuff. I mean seriously, the technology has to be amazing in twenty years! Or is it scary? Has it gotten out of control? It could go that route too. Right now you have an iPhone 4 running iOS 6.0.1. The latest iPhone is the 5. What is the iPhone in twenty years? Do you have an iPhone? Has any other phone ever rivaled the accessibility of the iPhone? I have a Macbook they don’t even make anymore. I was almost completely out of space on it so I started converting videos to mp3. What do you have in twenty years? Do they even make laptops anymore? Do they use wires at all? I can’t imagine there would be wires anymore. Am I right?

What animals do you have? Right now I have Jayden and Timmy and Spinelli and Fi. I can’t think about the future without them.

Are you still blind? Did they figure out how to give you new optic nerves? If so, did you get them? As of right now, I can’t imagine seeing again. I’m so used to things the way they are, so I don’t know if I would try anything to see again. I remember when I first went blind I wanted more than anything to see again, even just a little bit. I was ready to get on a plane and go to the UK where they were experimenting with a cancer drug that helped MS patients regain lost functions. Now though? I couldn’t imagine testing a drug. It’s a scary thought. So what have you done in twenty years?

I’m afraid to think about what the MS has done to me in twenty years. It’s impossible to think about my future self though without wondering about that. I won’t think about that now. Maybe you’re reading this in twenty years and smiling because nothing horrible has happened. Is that too much to ask for?

There really isn’t much more to write. There isn’t much to say to a future self beyond asking questions. I can say I hope you are as happy as I am today. Though I hope you are happier. I’m happy, but I could be happier. I just hope you aren’t less happy. I hope you’re still sober, though obviously when it comes to that I can’t really think beyond today. If you’re sober and still smoke free and at least as happy as I am now, then you’ve got it good.

Oh hey wait, I have to ask, is there equality? Have people finally quit being so damned uptight about gay marriage? Has racism and bigotry finally really gone away? Do women still have freedom over their own bodies? Has the insanity over birth control gone away? Did people start finally focusing on the real problems? God I hope so. If there isn’t more love an acceptance in twenty years, how are you managing?

I’m reading “The Handmaid’s Tale”, do you remember reading that book? It’s incredibly depressing. It’s what could happen if the crusty old white guys don’t stop wanting to control the female body. It’s terrifying. I hope it’s nothing like this in twenty years because if it’s going to go down that path, I hope the Mayans were right. If they were right, you won’t be reading this in twenty years, no one will.

Ok wow, this turned very doom and gloom. I was afraid this would happen when I thought about writing this letter. Writing to fourteen year-old me was fun because I don’t fear the past and because I knew what happened. This letter is nothing but fear of the unknown and my dwindling hope for a happy future.

I guess my only hope is that there’s just more love in the future. There has to be, or the future is grim grim grim.

I should end this on a happy note. Hmmm, happy. So have the Rays won a World Series or five? Ten? How long did Evan Longoria stay? Please tell me he didn’t end up with Boston or New York. What about David Price? Did I ever meet any of them? How are all my online friends? I don’t want to start naming them all because that’s a lot and I’m sure I’d end up leaving someone out.

One last question, what kind of voice are you listening to on your Mac? I can only assume you still use a screen reader and a Mac. Is it still Alex or have they made new voices that are just as good? Knowing Apple, they probably use human speech in twenty years haha. Ok, I just heard my DM ping. I think that’s my cue to wrap this up.

I hope this letter finds you well , my fifty-three year-old self! Oh, happy early birthday!

Love,

Thirty-three year-old Ro

PS – Do they have replicators and/or transporters yet? Did you ever publish anything?

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