Various Thoughts on My Return

Well…At long last, life appears to be getting back to something that resembles “normal.” For all of you who have been asking about me, I appreciate your inquiries very much. As you can see, I am not dead.

In the past month, we had a death in our family, our wedding, a memorial, our post-wedding trip, out-of-town guests visiting for the wedding, etc. As an Obsessive Compulsive, I have to tell you that the clutter of wedding gifts, left-over party favors and decorations, and post-trip unpacking are making my order-craving brain hurt. Oh, yes…And I forgot to mention the new car we bought–as if we didn’t have enough on our plates.

Actually, the new car was kind of a necessary purchase. We previously owned a Mustang (fun but impractical), and a Blazer that was on its last legs. The Focus we bought isn’t nearly as sexy as the Stang, but it’s very fuel-efficient (important given the sky-rocketing gas prices).

Since many of you are male, I won’t go on and on about wedding dresses and flowers. Suffice it to say that, although the planning process was awful (the wedding industry is full of totally incompetent people), the wedding itself turned out beautifully. The only bump (and it was a very minor one) came when my four-year-old flowergirl developed a last second case of stage fright, and refused to walk down the aisle by herself. When I suggested she walk with me, though, she was perfectly happy, and we got through the whole ceremony with no melt-downs or upsets. Well…at least the child was quiet. My retired Black Lab, on the other hand, had plenty to say. Friends were holding her during the ceremony, but when she saw “mommy” walk in the room, she had to convey her excitement (and her displeasure at not being able to greet me in her typical enthusiastic fashion). Kaylor walked me half way down the aisle, and Jason walked me the rest of the way, and he (Kaylor, that is) was pretty content to sit with my sister and her guide while we took care of the getting married part. We’ll have some cool photos, as there were five dogs at our wedding.

We spent the week after the wedding in Toronto–seeing the sites and spending time with old friends. I lived in Toronto for five years, so it was fun to go home, and to introduce Jason to life in a more accessible and fast-paced environment. For those who have the opportunity, Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has an amazing audio tour. There were probably around a hundred audio exhibits for me to listen to background on. Kaylor’s work was wonderful–especially since he’d never ridden a noisy subway before–but we did have trouble convincing him that the squirrels and pigeons weren’t food.

A few days after we got home, I met another friend with a guide dog, so we could take them to the Mall of America. It has been raining a lot here, and that has made it hard to exercise the dogs outdoors. I swear it was National Stupid Day at MOA last Thursday. From the woman who asked to pet the dogs while we were walking by her (with the dogs clearly engaged in their work), to the woman who asked my friend (who was buying a book about some religious subject) if she prays for sight, to the waiters at the restaurant who couldn’t figure out how to give a couple of guide dogs water in a plastic “to go” container, to the man who read the sign on Kaylor’s harness and proceeded to pet and talk to him anyway, it was definitely one of those days. Do you ever feel like you just want to give up and go home, and hide there until sometime the following week?

I recently started the process for getting services through our local State Services for the Blind. So far, the experience has gone very smoothly, and I’m happy to note that MN pays for tools related to independent living. Wisconsin didn’t when I did my internship there, and I always thought that was so stupid. How are you supposed to be employable if you can’t live independently. I mean, things like talking clocks and thermometers, bill readers, and braille labelers are not “nice-to-have” items–they are essential (especially if you live alone). When I did live alone, I was always so pissed off when people continually asked me “don’t you have a sighted person to (fill in the blank)?” It used to totally blow their minds when I would say “no. I live alone.” Admittedly, I am very grateful for some of the things that are made easier by having a sighted spouse, but there are times when you want the satisfaction of doing something yourself (or the choice to do it independently if you wish).

As part of the tech assessment portion of my plan, I’ve been doing some research about various technologies to see what I might want to ask for–what might make it easier for me to do what I need to do each day. One of the things I’ve been researching are those teeny-tiny laptops. I found a very comprehensive review of the Sony, the Lenovo, and the Fugitsu. The guy who did the write-up had some very valid points. He said that, although the laptops themselves are very portable and light (often around 2 pounds), by the time you add the various peripherals )external drives, extended batteries, docking stations, etc.) the computer ends up weighing around 4-5 pounds. He said that, in many cases, it is necessary to take such peripherals with you when you travel, as many of the little laptops don’t have enough thickness to accommodate standard connectors (like Ethernet). Since you can purchase a regular laptop of that weight for half the price, it definitely doesn’t make financial sense to have one of the smaller sub-notebooks. In addition, you often have to sacrifice performance, as the smaller machines often don’t have the faster processors that the larger ones do.

So then I started thinking about some of the new notetakers out there. They’re light, have braille displays incorporated in them, are instant-on, and are bluetooth compatible. However, they’re really expensive, and harder to keep up to date. I’m beginning to think the best solution is a standard laptop (on the lighter side), with a separate braille display. Not sure… I also want to look at those OQO computers–the ones that GW Micro’s SmallTalk Ultra are built on.

I’ll just have to keep looking around and reading reviews. Hope all of you are well and safe–whether you’re dealing with fires, drout, or floods.

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I'm an accessibility advocate working on issues involving technology and people with print impairment. I'm a stoner, crackpot, hacker and all around decent fellow. I blog at this site and occasionally contribute to Skepchick. I'm a skeptic, atheist, humanist and all around left wing sort. You can follow this blog in your favorite RSS reader, and you can also view my Twitter profile (@gonz_blinko) and follow me there.

4 thoughts on “Various Thoughts on My Return”

  1. From what I’ve seen with the OQO, it looks very similar to the Sony UMPC models, so you’d still run into the same issues with connectivity, etc. Personally, I went with a Dell model that gave me the ability to insert a second battery into the media bay slot. So I have 6-8 hours of battery life, adequate for most all-day sessions but can put in a CD-ROM if necessary. As you pointed out, notetakers will always lag as far as catching up with new features (the BrailleNote is only now adding 802.11G?)

  2. Welcome back Dena! Wow you’re a busy lady! As to notetakers, I used to own a Braille ‘n Speak and then a Type ‘n Speak. Oddly enough, these were both purchased at NFB conventions. Nope I’m not an NFB member, never have been and never will be, but that’s where I got them. Both units served me quite well indeed. Back in high school I had a Toshiba laptop which was outfitted with speech and I enjoyed using that too. The school bought me a Braille printer which was very kind of them. Whenever I had to print something, I’d take the laptop to the special-education suite and hook it up to one of two printers. A little remote-control type device was purchased as well. I would have to turn a knob on the device to go to either the Braille printer or the ink-print printer. I don’t currently own any laptops, Braille displays, or notetakers-just a Dell desktop which I’ve had for a little over 5 years. I think an upgrade is in the works! I can’t wait to try out Windows VISTA and JAWS. As to VR services, all I’ll say is that I tried them for several years and they’re not for me! Illinois ranks very low in terms of state services for PWD’s. As a matter of fact if you click on my name, you will be taken to the website of a nonprofit organization based here in Illinois that deals in large part with this problem. You’ll be shocked me thinks. This organization rightly calls Illinois “a state of shame.”

  3. Let me strongly suggest the Dell xps 1210M A very fine and small machine, the screen is only 12 inches so if you figure on that it’s pretty small.
    I think the exact de mentions is 13 wide and 8 or 9 deep. I don’t know anything about an extra battery for it, but I am sure that’s possible. This unit comes with 4 usb ports and fire wire. Very light dainty machine, the one I had, was configured with a dule core processor and 2 gigs of memory.

  4. Howdy Comrades!
    Welcome back Dena! I wondered when wedded bliss would wane long enough to allow you to get back to BC. Good luck to you from all the Comrades in the Central Texas Chapter of the Blind Panther Party. Onward through the fog. Have you gotten snow yet? It’s been about twelve years since any snow actually stuck to the ground here in Austin Texas. I dare say that’s not the case in your Austin!
    Chairman Mal
    Power to the Peeps!

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