Jan 29 2015

A Guest Post And A Note About Yesterday’s Unexpected Disappearance

This was meant to go up yesterday, but two things happened.

1. I was flattened by some sort of unpleasantness that woke me up in the middle of the night. I’m still not quite over it though I feel miles better than I did.

2. Some tech issues flattened the website for several hours yesterday, so even if I wasn’t sleeping and feeling sorry for myself there’s a chance it wouldn’t have made it up anyway.

And since what took out the website did the same to the email, now seems like a good time to tell you that if you wrote yesterday expecting a response and didn’t get one, try again. Messages from the downtime have been slowly coming in, but I’m not sure they’re all gonna make it. When I sent myself a test message yesterday it bounced, so there’s a chance some things may have gotten lost.

Ok, onward!

Gill sent this, I believe intending to time it for Bell Let’s Talk Day. It’s good that she’s in a position where she can talk about her own struggles, since sadly so many others don’t feel they are.

Question

Have you ever been on an amusement park ride? You probably scream, but you also know that you can get off, right? Imagine that that seemingly harmless rollercoaster was going on in your head. Not so much fun, is it? Knowing you can’t get off, and there are things to regulate it, but you still can’t get off. This is how I, Ms. Gillie live every day. I have something called bipolar disorder.

When it Began

Like most things mental illness invades at puberty. Mine started around fifteen or so. I just didn’t feel right, bursts of sadness, anger, and liveliness that seemed to know no bounds. On my good days I could function at about an average level, but my bad ones would plunge me deep in to a dark tunnel with the light securely blocked. At times I would crave an ending at my own hand, longing for the pain to go away, with most people either telling me to put a smile on my face, or that I was going through one of those dark teenager things.

The Diagnosis Game

When I was seventeen I wrote just how much I wished to die by my own hand in a journal assignment, alarm bells went off, and I began my first round of talk therapy. Diagnosis depression, one of those catch-alls like every professional gives. Several years, and several extremes later, the actual diagnosis. Bipolar.

Myth Fact

Myth- Someone with mental illness is faking it.

Fact- It’s real, anxiety disorders do exist.

Myth- The home life of someone suffering from mental illness is disfunctional, and the sufferer is usually poor.

Fact- The truth is mental illness knows not class, race, or location.

Myth- Only able bodied people suffer.

Fact- Differently able people are just as likely to suffer, sometimes more.

Thoughts

I am just an ordinary person, but I am glad to share this with you out there. It might seem cliche, but sharing is the first step to breaking stigma.

Jan 27 2015

Bell Does What Bell Does, Treats Me Terribly Even While Trying To Keep My Business. I’ve Cancelled

Bell is a lot of things, many of them not overly positive. One of those things, and you can take this however you’d like, is consistent.

Today, I finally did it. I cancelled our Bell service. It’s been a long time coming, much longer than the date on this post would suggest. It feels pretty good to finally have the deed done…or mostly done, I should say. They still have to turn it off at the end of today and I still have to pay the final bill once they tell me how much it is, but that’s all that’s left.

But as good as it feels, I’m still a touch angry. why? Because Bell is consistent, that’s why. They just couldn’t help being Bell. They treated me like an asshole on the way out, because it’s tradition.

The agent I spoke to was a complete tool. I wish I had the call recorded, because if ever comes the day I need to master a talk down to somebody like a dink voice I’d have myself a perfect audio tutorial. Before him I don’t think I’ve ever heard somebody sound quite that condescending, angry and pouty at the same time, but this guy nailed it. He took what should have been an unavoidably negative yet still simple situation and tried to turn it into an argument and a guilt trip.

It started out the way you’d expect. He asked me why I was wanting to cancel. I responded honestly by asking how much time he had, because I had a lot to say if he’d like to hear it. He said he was interested, so I told him one of the many stories we’ve gone over here. It was then that things began to fall apart. He said “I’d like to help you if you’d give me a reason for your wanting to cancel.” I responded by telling him another story, which he answered by saying that he’d definitely help me out if only I’d be specific. So I told him yet another tale of woe similar to the previous two, the moral being that I’m tired of being jerked around by awful customer service at every turn and paying for the privilege. He still didn’t get it, so I kept going. Then things really got interesting. I told him about that time they screwed up our service activation and kept routing our calls to the wrong department, complete with the part about how we’d keep getting sent to French agents from the billing department when we were after English tech support. I was not prepared for his response.

“So you’re cancelling your service because you have something against French agents,” he asked?

“Um…no. That’s not at all what I said,” I replied, dumbfounded.

“Because those agents are bilingual and would be happy to speak to you in English,” he continued.

Oh really,” I asked, sensing the opening I needed. “Then why did they yell at my girlfriend when she was repeatedly transferred to them through no fault of her own? That I do have a problem with.”

A few ums and uhs later, he was quick to drop that line of reasoning and return to his old specific reasons deal. A good plan, since outright calling a customer a racist probably isn’t in the manual.

Finally, I’d had it.

“I’m sorry if I’m not being specific enough for you,” I told him. “But it’s hard to be specific when you’ve been through so much. If you need to put something down, I’m just done. I’m done with the general incompetence of this company. I don’t even care that I’m about to save $1250 a year. I can afford it. But I don’t need to deal with this anymore, and I’m not going to. I’m finished.”

Realizing even his superior level of wienery wasn’t going to talk me off this ledge, he gave me one more specific reasons, then finally proceeded to ask me when I’d like the service deactivated. And true to form, even that he had to be a peckerhead about.

“When would you like the service cancelled?”

“As soon as possible.”

“Would end of day today be good enough for you?”

“Yes.”

And that, fortunately, was that…unless they still have a goodbye surprise up their sleeve, something you can’t rule out what with Bell being so consistent and whatnot.

So now that Bell is out of our hair for good, you might be wondering what we’re doing about the one buzzer, two phones problem.

After the first post I linked above, somebody sent along a nice little Google Voice trick. Nice, aside from the part where you can’t get a Google Voice number in Canada without jumping through a bunch of hoops. I jettisoned Bell in the hopes that my hoop jumping days would be over, so going through what I read that I’d have to go through with Google Voice just to get a stupid buzzer to ring two phones wasn’t going to happen.

There has to be a better answer to this, I thought. And I was right. Enter the fine folks at Easy Buzzer. For around $50 per year (a little more if you need/want to be able to do it with more than 2 phones), they’ll do exactly what we need.

And I can’t say enough nice things about Daniel, the creator and CEO of the company. Since me finding the service happened so easily and the description of it was so perfect, I thought I’d better send him the dreaded screenreader accessibility email before I got my hopes up too high. Generally, when you send one of those, one of three things happens. You get somebody who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground but would like you to think otherwise, you’re sent a very corporate non-answer answer or you’re ignored entirely. But this time, a fourth thing happened. I got a response the same day, honestly admitting that while there were a few issues, he was actively looking to improve them. And he didn’t even try to pretend that he was all over it and already knew everything there was to know. He asked for feedback, help and resources to teach him more about accessibility. and so Carin and I are now giving him a hand. We’ve spent the last few days exchanging emails, and we’re now about to have a look at the changes he’s been working on. Basically, he’s the anti-Bell, somebody I look forward to doing business with.

One of us will hopefully have more to say about the Easy Buzzer experience soon, but for now it’s time to raise a frosty one in celebration of Bell’s removal from our existence. Cheers!

Jan 27 2015

Who’s Got A Bag Filled With All Our Stuff? Santa’s Got A Bag Filled With All Our Stuff!

So that’s where all the nifty stuff we get for Christmas comes from.

A man is facing several charges after breaking into a home and making off with jewellery, cash, tools, alcohol, electronics, guns and ammunition. That man? Charles Santa.

I hope the police aren’t too hard on him. He may have done it for the sake of all of us, after all. Perhaps, sensing that the elves were running behind schedule and would never get everything built in time, he felt he had no choice but to take matters into his own hands and save Christmas. Sound crazy? Well, Santa did commit his heist in the middle of October, so you’re going to have a tough time convincing me that the timeline doesn’t add up.

Jan 23 2015

I Accidentally Read Smut

And now, Gill is here to tell the story of a recent trip to the library. This is why we have old sayings, because you sure can’t judge books by their covers.

The Deceptive Title

When choosing books at my local branch of the Hamilton Public Library I happened to choose one called Beautiful You. It seemed innocent enough. Just some thought-to-be ugly duckling discovering that she truly was beautiful.

Wrong!

What I thought was one of those feel good stories turned out to be basically pornography. It was about this billionaire who uses women to test out his sexual products. He also controls their carnal urges by something that looks like your common TV remote. Did I also tell you that he takes his powers from an ancient in the mountains of Nepal called Baba Gray Beard? I won’t say too much other than his test subject, upon whom the book is based, gains the powers of remote control.

Lesson To The Wise

I have learned that I must ask each time I go to get a book to have someone read me the jacket.

Jan 22 2015

The Year Things Fell Apart

Had I been thinking, I would definitely have suggested this to Carin as a soundtrack for her goodbye to 2014 post. The Year Things Fell Apart.

It’s almost perfect. A good balance of screw you to the past and hope for the future, not to mention that it’s just a good little song.

Here are the lyrics, in case you couldn’t catch them all.

Say goodbye to the year things fell apart
As beginnings go, let’s call that one a false start
We could use some education, we could use some thought control
To help us pull ourselves out of this hole
Adios to the poster year of down
Sayonara to all energy vampires and clowns
No more arsonists above us or arseholes down below
You say things could get worse but I don’t know….

Say goodbye to the year things fell apart
Not between us, though, and doubtless, that’s the best part
This was just our Maiden Voyage not The Shape of [Things] to Come
It’s Kind of Blue right now, but not for long
Say goodbye

Jan 22 2015

Knock Knock. Who’s There? A Drug Dealer. A Drug Dealer Who? A Drug Dealer Who Just Got Busted

Police raid drug houses every day, but it’s not every day they have to do so little legwork to catch the dealers.

While police were searching the house, a man knocked on the closed front door. When police asked who it was, he identified himself as a drug dealer. Officers opened the door and the surprised man assaulted an officer by pushing him, police say.
The driver of the waiting car fled immediately. The suspect threw a loaded .45 caliber hand gun into the snow as he ran from the house. The man was pursued and arrested.

Jan 22 2015

Cabbucket

I took a cab ride last night. I had one of those really nice, talkative drivers, so we had a pretty good conversation as we went.

At one point we started talking about jobs that people think are easy but really aren’t, and driving a taxi came up. I said I’d never consider that to be a walk in the park. Yeah sitting in a car and tooling around the city looks easy, but the hours are long, you always have to be pleasant no matter your mood and perhaps worst of all, you never know who you’re picking up next.

Later in the evening, I got home from a really really really fun Alan Doyle concert to find that Michelle had dropped this story in my lap. Such timing!

Just after 2 a.m. on Saturday night, a drunk woman was riding in a taxi with a number of other people near Upper Wentworth and Kingfisher Road, when she got sick and started vomiting inside the cab, police say.
After being told she would have to pay a cleaning fee, the woman became upset and started hurling vomit and assaulting the driver, police say.

The 24-year-old hammered hurl hurler tried to run, but was quickly located and charged with assault and mischief under $5000.

People: As nice as we are, we totally suck. And that’s why driving a cab or doing anything else with the public is hardly simple.

Jan 22 2015

Comcast Takes Break From Stifling Competition, Builds Blind Accessible Cable Box

Saying nice things about companies such as Comcast becomes an increasingly difficult task on a daily basis, largely thanks to the efforts of companies such as Comcast. But credit where it’s due, this sounds pretty damn amazing and I want one very much. X1 TALKS: COMCAST LAUNCHES INDUSTRY’S FIRST VOICE GUIDED TV INTERFACE

Comcast today announced the industry’s first voice-enabled television user interface, a solution that will revolutionize the way its Xfinity TV customers, especially those who are blind or visually impaired, navigate the X1 platform. The “talking guide” features a female voice that reads aloud selections like program titles, network names and time slots as well as DVR and On Demand settings.  The feature will be available to all X1 customers in the next few weeks.

Before we go any further, I should note that today equals November 12th, 2014 and therefore next few weeks should equal has been available for a while now.

About 19 million U.S. households have at least one member with a disability and according to the U.S. Census, there are 8.1 million people with a visual disability.  In 2012, Comcast hired Tom Wlodkowski as Vice President of Audience to focus on the usability of the company’s products and services by people with disabilities.

“The talking guide feature will enable all of our customers to experience the X1 platform in a new way, and give our blind and visually impaired customers the freedom to independently explore and navigate thousands of shows and movies.  We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible in the accessibility space and we are thrilled to have Tom and his team leading the charge.”
The talking guide “speaks” what’s on the screen as the viewer navigates the “Guide,” “Saved,” “On Demand,” and “Settings” sections of X1 and includes details like individual program descriptions and ratings from Common Sense Media and Rotten Tomatoes that help viewers decide what to watch.  Future versions of the feature will include functionality within the “Search” section of X1 and additional personalization settings like rate of speech.
“The talking guide is as much about usability as it is about accessibility,” said Mr. Wlodkowski. “We think about accessibility from the design of a product all the way through production and this feature is the result of years of work by our team including customer research, focus groups and industry partnerships. For people like me who are blind, this new interface opens up a whole new world of options for watching TV.”
X1 customers will be able to activate the talking guide on their existing set top box by tapping the “A” button twice on their remote control.  The feature also can be turned on via the “accessibility settings” within the main settings menu.

Here’s a promo video for the system, complete with a clip or two of it in action jammed in amongst much self-congratulation.

But like I said, a bit of self-congratulation is justified in this case.

If any of you has tried this out, what did you think? And if anyone from Rogers is reading, you guys are working on one of your own, aren’t you?

Jan 21 2015

I’m Late, I’m Late, For A Very Unwanted Date

Having grown up on a steady diet of Unsolved Mysteries, America’s Most Wanted and pretty much anything with Bill Kurtis in it, I know that now and then a person might find herself in a situation where it feels like the only option left is to fake her own death. But for all the reasons I’ve seen it done, I can honestly say that to the best of my knowledge, because I don’t want to date this guy anymore is a new one. Even if we allow for the idea that her wannabe other half might have been a bit creepy and needs a lesson or 12 on how to take a fucking hint, this still seems a bit extreme and kinda dumb.

After a third date with the poor fellow whom she had met on an online dating site, Gray decided that she didn’t want to see him again. But when she tried to let him down gently, he didn’t get the hint. Even when she flat-out told him it wasn’t working, he persisted.
“He continued to message me and the day came when he sent one stating ‘I think we need to have a date tonight! I will be around your house in 30 minutes.'”

Totally gross, not to mention borderline stalker. But rather than take the conventional route and call the police which I’m aware doesn’t always work, she sent off a text.

“Hi there, this is Ann-Marie’s sister, I am really sorry to tell you but she was taken into hospital last night with a very serious illness, so she won’t be available for a while. Sorry about that, if or when she comes around and is feeling better I will get her to message you.”

If you’re slow, you’ll be surprised to learn that this didn’t work. It did, however, prompt him to ask which ward she was in and then try to find out for himself by going to the hospital when an answer was not forthcoming, because of course it did.

In a bit of a pickle, she felt she had no choice, and another message was sent.

“I am really sorry to tell you but we lost her last night.”

That seemed to do the trick, until our hero forgot the first rule of faking your own death. That rule, naturally, is don’t get caught…especially not by the guy you’re ditching as you continue to have conversations with others on the same dating site the two of you met on.

“He sent me a horrid message!” she told the Mirror. “Can’t say I blame him, really. I am currently engaged to be married and not dead!”

Not yet, at least.

Jan 21 2015

Canada Gets Online Access To The WWE Network, But Only If You’re Already Signed Up To The TV Version

While the number of TV providers that offer WWE Network in Canada remains stuck at two (Rogers and Eastlink), there’s still some pretty big news to report today.

If you’re a network subscriber through either one of those companies, you can now get the online access you should have had to it all along. To get started, hit this link.

After choosing your provider, you’ll be asked to create a WWE.com account if you don’t already have one. There’s an option to sign in through Facebook or Twitter, but I didn’t like the looks of what authorizing the WWE sharing app to use my Twitter account would allow it to do so I opted to sign up via email instead. Once you have that, you’ll be asked to sign into your Rogers or Eastlink account. When that’s done, you’re good to go. The whole process takes maybe a minute, a little longer if you’re like me and can’t remember your Rogers password at first. I was surprised how easy it actually was. With Rogers on the job, I fully expected it not to be as simple as advertised and wouldn’t have been surprised if it didn’t work at all. But it does work, and I’m watching the first episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event in the background while I type. I still have to see what it does when I try it on the iPod Touch, but desktops and laptops is definitely a good start.

This really is a big development. If they’re not going to bother putting the full on demand library on the TV service as they should, we at least have access now to all of what we’re paying $2 more than the Americans for. It’s especially nice for blind dudes like me who couldn’t even use the crappy television version of on demand if we wanted to because nobody wants to build us an accessible cable box.

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