Hear The Sound, Blind Guys!

I’m not sure if you heard, since nobody seems to be talking about it, but there’s an eclipse tomorrow. Everybody’s all excited about it, except my grandma who hopes it will be too cloudy for people to stare at the sun and do dumb things. I get that the moon will block out the sun, but I don’t know if I’ll truly get what the fuss is all about. But maybe this neat little app might help.

Winter and a small team have now launched Eclipse Soundscapes, an app (already on iTunes with a Google version expected before Aug. 21) which can provide various ways for visually impaired and blind users to experience the eclipse.
The first experience will be to hear what’s happening; with help from the National Centre for Accessible Media the app will give “illustrative descriptions” of what’s happening during the eclipse. The descriptions can be read either by the voiceover option on a smartphone or through a recording on the app, Winter said.

Pretty freaking cool!

It reminds me of one time when there was an especially spectacular lunar eclipse. I can’t remember what year it was. Mom and dad took a piece of paper representing the moon and cut out pieces to show me how much was left and the shape the remaining visible moon made. At the time, all I did was sort of look at it and go “Hmmm cool I guess.” and run away to do something stupid and childlike, but now I appreciate what they were trying to do, and think they were pretty cool.

I downloaded the app, and it looks like they have plans to have it work for future eclipses and other astronomical events. How awesome is that? Plus, the NCAM is involved, so I’m sure it will be amazing.

I imagine being as distracted tomorrow as the folks staring at the eclipse through their glasses if I end up playing with this app.

Ass Bucket Challenge

Here comes another one out of the rusty and dusty pile of old blog ideas that I’ve been keeping around for way too long, but part of this is kind of timeless.

Back in 2014, when everyone was throwing buckets of icy water on their heads to raise money for ALS research for the Ice Bucket Challenge, a few of those challenges went horribly wrong. We wrote about the guy who got water thrown on his head from a firefighter plane, and I read about some firefighters who got zapped when the ladder they were using to hoist the ice bucket over the college students got a little too close to power. But there was one twisted story that happened at that time that really bothered me.

Some asshole teenagers in Ohio thought they had a good idea for a prank. They decided to trick some kid into participating in the ice bucket challenge, but that’s not what they had in mind. Instead, they dumped a bucket full of urine, cigarette buts and who knows what else on him. The best defense they could come up with was they didn’t know he had autism. Oh really? Let’s take this argument apart piece by piece. So, you would try and trick any old kid into that? You weren’t picking on him at all? And somehow, it would be ok to dump that stuff on someone if they didn’t have autism? What if they didn’t have autism, but had some other disability, would it be ok then? If he didn’t have any disability, what would the defense be? You thought he would find it fun too? Whether or not he had autism, throwing a bucket full of disgusting bodily fluids is assault, and pretty horrible. The kids were sentenced to community service, and one of the kids even said he wanted to work with kids with autism so he could learn more about it. Riiiiight. You really expect the judge to buy that? You don’t think he would take that opportunity to come in contact with more kids he could bully when he was off the clock and not under supervision? I hope he didn’t actually get to do that as part of his community service. Those kids who did that should be as far from vulnerable people as possible.

I will never know, but I am so curious what the lawyers would have come up with as these kids’ defense if the victim was just some kid they liked to bully, and whether it would have been accepted. It seems as soon as you have a disability, all common decency goes straight out the window and anything is acceptable under the umbrella of “I didn’t know!” Really! You would reach between anyone’s legs to pet their dog? You would herd people physically like sheep? You would talk to the people in line around the person you’re talking to and not them just for fun? You would not take the person’s word for anything they say at all? You would ask them how they can possibly be employed? People with disabilities shouldn’t be such an alien concept where all things are acceptable and the excuse they can give is “I didn’t know.”

I’m Afraid They Maytag Her As A Bad Parent

Whenever I think about this poor, poor kid, after I can let out my breath, all I can think of are two things. The washing machines in the apartment building are so deep that in order for me to reach the bottom, I have to almost climb in to get everything, so Steve helps me out so I don’t go head over heels into the machine. Second, an old Radio-Free Vestibule sketch that I saw late one night on TV goes through my head. I can’t find it anywhere on the internet, so I’m basically going to have to write it down.

A man walks into a laundromat and is looking around. He flags down a woman, explains that he’s never done laundry in his life and doesn’t know how, asking her for help. She hurriedly tells him the instructions for using the machines are on the inside of the lids and walks off. He opens the lid and reads something like “to do laundry, follow these five easy steps.
1. Put clothes in machine.”
*dumps clothes in machine*
“2. add deturgent.”
*adds deturgent*
“3. Close lid.”
*closes lid*
At this point, he is left staring at the closed lid of the washer, realizing the rest of the instructions are on the inside of the lid. He says “uh-oh…” and the sketch ends. It’s much funnier when they do it.

Sadly, what happened in this story would cause us to use much stronger words than “uh-oh.”

One afternoon, Brooke Haney fell asleep while watching her children. One of the toddlers went to play in the washing machine. Check out this little snippet of the story.

The young children in the home told police they were used to helping with the laundry.
The washing machine, which the family used as a dirty clothes hamper, was programmed to switch on when the lid closed. After the clothes were clean, one child would climb into the open machine and pass the wet clothes to another, who would then toss them into the dryer.
Alexis closed the lid — and hot water started to pour in.
Authorities said she died from “scaling and thermal injuries,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed earlier this week in Calhoun County Circuit Court.

*shiver*.

There are so many things wrong with that whole thing. Kids that age are doing laundry, they’re doing it like that, and mom is knocked out while this is going on.

I don’t have much else to say except “eek,” and I hope the washing machine doesn’t sing a cute little song when it’s done. That would just give it that extra creepy horror movie factor.

The Pain In My Brain Is Caused Mainly By The Cane

Meet another group of police officers who need to learn the difference between a white cane and a weapon. This happened last year in Winnipeg, but I finally got around to writing it down.

It seems that Steven Stairs was walking from a bar to a payphone, and he had the misfortune of being in the same area where they were looking for a man with a concealed weapon. He had an ID cane on his hip, and they thought it was a weapon. They asked him to stop, but being legally blind, he didn’t know they were talking to him, so kept moving, and that’s when they tackled him. They say he was drunk and disorderly. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know, but I would at least be disorderly if I was suddenly tackled by a bunch of unknown folks for doing absolutely nothing. Come on, wouldn’t you?

An ID cane
Yeah, that is a scary weapon…if you’re a toddler maybe.

The “dangerous weapon” in question, if his ID cane looks like any other ID cane I’ve ever seen, was one of these. You can’t even use these things as a proper cane to tap obstacles, because you’ll probably break it. I’m sure if you really tried you might be able to bruise someone with one of these, but that’s if you’re really trying, and if they stood there long enough to let you.

In my googling to figure out if Stairs has followed up on his legal action he wanted to take against the police, I found out that this happened to another guy way back in 1989. This time, some police officers in California mistook the guy’s folded cane for a set of nunchakus. Ok, cops, let’s sit down and do a little comparison.

set of nunchakus
Not a white cane, though it would make getting through crowds much easier.

folded white cane
Dishing out beatings…to the ground as intended.

The officers thought because his eyes were open and he seemed to be looking at them, he wasn’t blind, even though his eyes were milky in colour. Ok, while we’re at it, watch this here video.

I wish I could find the old CNIB “not everyone who looks blind is totally blind” commercial, but it has been lost to history. Anyway, are we good now?

I know that sometimes police have to make split-second decisions and they think they see something that turns out to be not what they thought it was, but some of this stuff feels completely unnecessary. In all of these cases, people were walking, using a payphone and standing at a bus stop. None of them were running, lunging aggressively, or doing anything that would make the officer feel threatened, judging from the descriptions. In the case of the bus stop guy, why assume he can see your uniform. Identify yourself as police, and ask a couple of questions to make him realize you’re talking to him, and you’d soon find out that’s a cane, feel foolish and walk away, without needing to clonk the guy with your baton. In the case of the pay phone guy, say something specific like “Sir, this is the police, put down the phone.” to make him realize “gees, that’s for me and I should listen up,” and you could have likely been able to have a conversation. If I hear someone yelling “Stop!”, I’m not going to assume that’s for me unless you’re super close to me, and heck, I might want to get out of there faster in case some shit’s going to go down that I don’t want to witness in an up close and personal way. But I’m not running away because I’m evading you, I didn’t realize you were yelling for me.

I’m pretty sure police get some kind of awareness training to do with disabilities, but I’m starting to think it should be refreshed like CPR training so maybe a few less of us get our heads caved in unnecessarily.

Woe! I feel old!

Jen sent this video to my timeline and holy crap! I have to admit I don’t think I recognize all of the clips in here, but I recognize a lot. What’s more annoying are the clips I recognize but can’t name. For example, the one before the touch tones for the modem. What is that? It’s something to do with cartoons but that’s all I know. The one that’s the slowly rising thing I didn’t even know was the THX sound-effect. So, how many of these do you recognize? And how old do you feel?

Hogewey: What A Neat Idea

While we’re on the subject of dementia, I heard about this whole Hogewey village idea, and thought it was kind of neat. Basically, it’s a little village set up for folks with dementia that doesn’t feel like a nursing home. It has actual stuff in it, like restaurants and a grocery store, and all the people who work there have training in dementia, so it’s pretty safe, and people aren’t locked down. Here’s a basic description.

Hogewey creates a familiar, “normal” environment that dementia patients understand, says van Amerongen.
The citizens of Hogewey share a house with about six others, and are classified according to one of seven lifestyles.
For example, former tradespeople often live together in homey accommodations and eat a lot of Dutch comfort food. Those used to an upper-class lifestyle may join the Gooi group, named after a posh Netherlands region, and are more likely to feast on French cuisine in a stylishly decorated abode.
Each household has at least one health-care worker present who helps with housework and other tasks.
Residents are free to stroll all through town.
“You will see [residents] sitting in a restaurant with a glass of wine or buying a box of chocolates from the supermarket,” says van Amerongen of those who still understand the concept of money. A worker and a resident from each house walk to the market daily to buy groceries.
Employees organize day trips to nearby shopping centres or towns. Special bikes allow two people to sit side by side so residents and health-care workers, volunteers or family members can cycle in pairs.
Nearby townspeople frequent Hogewey’s amenities, and often go to concerts or the annual Christmas fair. On Sint Maarten, a Dutch holiday similar to Halloween, children knock on residents’ doors to sing songs in exchange for candy.

I know some people think the whole Hogewey thing is evil and wrong, but I feel like it gives people a better quality of life, and a lot of the stuff in the village isn’t an act. They’re having real interactions with people, and people outside the community come in too. It’s a lot better than a fake bus stop outside a nursing home that is used to lure people back home who are trying to leave. Unless I’m missing something huge, I think it’s a great idea, and hopefully it becomes more accepted than rare.

I Like The Blue Umbrella Idea, But…

A little while ago, I saw a tweet about a new program to create dementia-friendly communities. I thought this was an interesting idea, so went to read about it. I guess it’s part of this blue umbrella program that seems to be an initiative of the Alzheimer Society. The society provides training to businesses about how to give better customer service to someone who might have dementia. They can also get included in a directory of businesses who are considered dementia-friendly. Finally, they can stick a blue umbrella decal on their window to indicate they are dementia-friendly. Another part of the program involves making these pins available to people with dementia to wear and self-identify as someone with dementia.

I am totally down with all the training and getting listed in a directory. The more aware and empathetic people can be about any group of people, the better they will be, and I suspect dealing with customer service when you have trouble remembering or communicating probably feels pretty daunting, so maybe having a directory of friendly ones might be kind of nice. Having decals in windows of businesses might get people talking, and although the current generation of folks with dementia might not remember that that blue umbrella is good, eventually we might come to recognize it as much as we recognize the accessibility symbol, so future generations might benefit. The hitch in the plan, for me, comes at the self-identification pins part.

I have seen a lot of good in humanity. People have gone out of their way to help me find something or someone, and they certainly didn’t have to. So, probably most people, once they learned what that pin meant, might be super helpful. If they see a person wandering seemingly aimlessly, and they have a blue umbrella pin on, they might put the pieces together and offer some help. But I worry about the unscrupulous part of the population, and fear that people with dementia wearing these identifier pins might become really easy targets.

Think of it this way. Maybe I’m over-generalizing, but my understanding is a lot of people who are in the early stages of dementia either don’t realize they have it or don’t want to admit it. If a person is at a stage where they feel they need to self-identify, it must be pretty serious. So, imagine if that person is walking down the street and someone spots their pin, sees an opportunity and starts talking to them. Before too long, they have walked into the bank and convinced them to take out a large amount of money. Does that sound like an unlikely scenario?

I can hear a warring voice saying “a blind person’s white cane identifies them as blind, and a person with low vision might carry an ID cane to show they have low vision, and they don’t actually use that cane for a purpose other than identifying themselves as having low vision. How is that different than wearing a pin?” I have two answers to that. A full white cane actually helps the person by making sure they don’t kiss a tree or fall down some stairs or trip over something. It will help blind folks appear less blind because they’re not crashing into everything and everyone. With regards to an ID cane, it is probably closer to an umbrella pin, but the key difference is the person holding it isn’t dealing with memory and communication issues, so has more coping strategies to be able to ward off con artists.

I know we need to do something, so I don’t want to spit in the face of this program. Dementia isn’t physically visible like an artificial leg or a wheelchair, so it’s harder to spot. I get that. But do we want to make it so easy to spot that we end up sticking a “mug me” sign on people? Maybe, if you’re going to give folks a thing to carry around that is identifiable, make it serve a greater purpose for the person. Maybe the pin has a button on it that calls a trusted caregiver or family member. Then if the person gets lost, they can call home. Or, if someone sees something fishy, they might be able to get the person some help by getting them to push that pin. Just give it some greater ability to assist than “Hey, I have dementia. Do with that info what you will.”

Spirit Indeed!

I heard this song as part of a Spotify playlist, and although the tune is really catchy, it’s weirding me out. In fact, it’s made worse by the catchiness of the tune. I’m walking around humming it, and then shaking myself and going “Oh god stop!” Here are some lyrics for you.

All you lonely sons and daughters
stepping to the raging waters
Let them swallow you forever
silencing your beating heart
Your voice echos in the distance
Over come by their persistence
Sleep now child beneath
the heavy current
dragging you along
ooooh oh oh and then you die x2

I would bet money that it’s “step into” but that’s not what the few lyrics sites that have the song are saying. But that’s beside the point. What in the hell is going on here? Am I missing a metaphor or something? On its face it sounds like “You’re lonely, go drown in a raging river in a mass suicide.” Over and over and over again.

And who is this band? I can’t find out a single thing about them. Are they someone else under an alias? Did William Melchert-Dinkel put together a band? Oh boy…I’m in trouble now.

Enjoy the…um…earworm?

Tansy Goes Back To Her Roots

Tansy in her puppy raisers' living room
Home sweet vacation home!

This trip happened last summer, but I’m just writing about it now. Way to go, me! But it is one that needs to be written down as an important thing in the life of Shmans.

Last July, I planned a trip to Tansy’s puppy raisers’ place. They had invited me down to spend some vacation time with them, and I like to at least make one trip so they can see their pup all grown up and working. With Trix, we met up in Niagara Falls, but this time, I was actually going back to the home where Tans was raised. What a funny and interesting experience that was.

Tansy’s raiser met us at our gate. I fully expected mayhem to ensue, but although Tans went nuts, no fellow travelers were harmed in the making of this display. We walked out to the car, and after all luggage was grabbed, off we went. At first, Tans was relatively calm, happy but calm. But once we got about a mile from her puppyhood home, she started pawing at my legs as if to say “Ooo! I know where we’re going! I think I could run there now! Let’s goooo!”

As soon as she entered the gates of her old yard, it was like Tansy reverted to her puppy self. The first thing she did was run over to the tomato plants and steal a tomato! During my time there, tomato-thievery was a regular pastime of hers, much to my chagrin. Her raisers would joke that she would have a tomato for dessert, and reminisce about how she would steal avocados in her puppy days. Everything she did, she did loudly and with gusto. If there was a barking dog among the 3 dogs in the yard, it was guaranteed to be mine. Shmans! Shame on you! But apparently that was her way as a puppy.

Tansy lounging on her old bed
Carin brought a bed? Who’s Carin?

She remembered where all her favourite spots were. She found her favourite bed next to her raisers’ bed[and would go there when it was time to sleep. What am I, chopped liver? She picked out her favourite spot to do her business and would always go there, and of course she went right back to her vegetable-thieving, loud barking ways.

I got to meet one of the dogs that Tansy grew up with. Sadly, the other dog had already passed away. But this dog was 16 years old, and although she was showing her age, she still liked to join in the fun. Once, when Tansy was outside, this dog actually found a way to let me know that Tansy wanted back in. She poked me in the leg and then kept walking to the door. Good job! She’s still alive as I write this, amazingly enough, but she’s definitely slowing down.

There was another dog who had come since Tansy had left. I think she considered herself to be the house’s security alarm. For the first couple of nights, I could not so much as leave my bed at night to visit the washroom without this dog growling and barking as if there was an intruder in the basement. Eventually, she accepted me, but it took a while.

I was worried about how I would feed Tansy and keep her away from the other dogs when they were eating. I should have been more forceful about this, but the puppy raisers had put Tansy’s leash and harness somewhere where I didn’t know where they were. So, I couldn’t just put Tans on a leash when the others were eating. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Shmans didn’t even steal from the other dogs, and they were good about her too. I guess I had nothing to worry about when it came to the older dog because sometimes she couldn’t even finish her own meals, and the self-appointed security system dog would finish her meal, but only when given permission.

I learned about more nicknames for Shmans, and once again, Tansy told me in no uncertain terms that those nicknames were off-limits for me, kind of like when Steve calls her ‘Bear’. The lady who raised her would call her something that sounded like “Mishka Pishka” and Sweety-beety” and she’d get all waggy. But if I call her that, there is 0 response. Ok, I get it.

Tansy on our boat ride
I’m on a boat!

We went on many adventures over the next few days, and I think Tansy blew her raisers’ minds. They could not believe how quiet and calm she could be in a play, on a boat, at puppy meeting, even during that meditation session where I saw all the things. They got very excited watching her walk me around cars and keep me on the straight and narrow. I think they knew the theory behind guide work, but they may not have seen very many working teams. To be more accurate, I think he had a pretty good idea, but she was less informed.

I learned so much about Tansy’s younger days. Apparently she was known around puppy club as “Wild Tansy.” She had no tolerance for laying around doing nothing. If she got bored in puppy meetings, she would bark! Really? Wow!

I also learned that she was almost matched with someone else, but they didn’t work out as a team. Wow! I almost didn’t get the Shmans. This is just mind-blowing! Well, I’m glad the first team didn’t work out because I think she was meant for me. I just hope whoever was going to get her got a better match.

I have talked about how well-behaved Shmans was on this trip, but boy, she had her moments of doing things I have never seen her do before or since! One morning, before we were going to go on our day of adventures riding a boat and walking all over creation, Tansy’s raisers wanted to take their pet dogs on a walk to tire them out so they wouldn’t be all wound up when we got home from all our walking. I said I would keep Tansy back with me because she was going to be out with us, so didn’t need this walk, plus I wanted to do a bit of obedience with her since she was acting like a bit of a crazy dog and I wanted to make sure she was still listening to me. Well, that was not going to happen! When Tansy saw the raisers leashing up their dogs, she let out this set of shrieks and screams that would convince someone who didn’t know better that I was torturing her! So, to my sadness, she went with them.

I need to write down a couple of funny and unforgettable stories about this trip.

Tans wearing giant headphones
Tans in her theatre-going ear protection: best investment ever!

First, I found out that we were going to some kind of concert. All I knew about it was the main event was someone named Sam Harris, and he was involved in American Idol, or maybe America’s Got Talent, nobody really knew. It turns out it was Star Search. I tried to google him but was having no luck. Upon arrival, we got our tickets and read that it was some kind of one-man musical theatre performance called “Ham”.

Hmmm interesting. We sat down and started to watch, and a few things became apparent:

  1. This was a dramatization of this fellow’s life story.
  2. It was a story of a man discovering he is gay and coming to terms with it,
  3. and

  4. Tansy’s raisers had no idea this was the content of the musical. Yes, they just read about it in the paper.

I have come to know that they are very open-minded people, but there is always a limit to someone’s open-mindedness, and was this going to be it? Would the play push a certain button and they would feel the need to leave? Meanwhile, I think they were panicking, wondering what I was thinking, possibly feeling bad about bringing me to this play. I told them over and over again that it was fine, I’m pretty hard to offend, but to this day, it seems that they feel bad about it. There’s no need to feel bad. It makes a great story, and I liked the play anyway!

The other funny story was a joke that sort of built over the few days I was there. I learned pretty quickly that they did not want Trump to be president. But whenever we would pass by anything owned by Donald Trump, the husband would say loudly, “President Trump! We have to get used to it, President Trump!” I would laugh and we would go on, and at least I thought this was a ridiculous joke. Who’s laughing now? Then, we took Tansy and their pet dogs through a nice walking path and had a picnic. Where was this path located? In the Donald Trump National Golf Course. Incidentally, they couldn’t help commenting that in a state ravaged by drought, his huge golf course was lush and green. Anyway, as a joke, they snapped a picture of me standing next to the Trump sign. I don’t have this picture, because they told me they wanted to use it as blackmail material. If I didn’t give them enough Tansy updates, they would release it and tell the world I was a Trump supporter! Of course they were joking around…but hmmm I still don’t have that picture. Uh-oh!
I do have this picture of us by Bubba Gump’s.

Tansy and I near the Bubba Gump's sign
Bubba Gump would make a better president than Trump anyway.

It was time to leave, and just like I did with Trixie’s raisers, I felt like I was ripping their heart out and stealing their baby. I was a little worried that Tansy would start screaming at the sight of her beloved first family leaving, but thankfully she didn’t. When we finally got home after nearly getting stuck in Chicago, she seemed happy to be back, and jumped all over Steve before running off to her bed.

I’m glad I went to visit Tansy’s raisers. I met and learned about more of their family, and I feel like I know them even better. It would be fun if they could come up here…but I think we would have to stay somewhere a little more fun and/or picturesque than Kitchener. How could I compare to living in LA’s backyard? But hopefully I could figure out a way to take them to interesting places.

Even Geniuses Create Monsters…

I know this is old, but in a sense, it’s really old, so it doesn’t matter.

A long time ago, I came across an article about talking dolls invented by Thomas Edison. These things, although technological marvels for the time, could give you nightmares. Observe.

Ok ok, you can take your hands off your ears now. Seriously. If you think those little kids reading prayers in horror movies are spooky, they have nothing on these big ol’ creepy dolls. Apparently, they looked just as creepy as they sounded.

In early April 1890, each doll that emerged from Edison’s vast West Orange, New Jersey, site stood 22’ inches tall, weighed a heavy four pounds, and sported a porcelain head and jointed wooden limbs. Embedded in each doll’s tin torso was a miniaturized model of his phonograph, its conical horn trained toward a series of perforations in the doll’s chest, its wax recording surface etched with a 20-second rendition of one of a dozen rhymes, among them “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Jack and Jill” and “Hickory Dickory Dock.” With the steady rotation of a hand crank located on the doll’s back, a child could summon from the doll a single nursery rhyme.

Even back then when they were an amazing technological feat, they didn’t sell too well. Gee, I wonder why! For $20, which was the equivalent of $574 in 1890’s money, you could have a heavy, fragile, buggy doll which you hand-cranked to get often incomprehensible speech. Notice how that video says “restored” on it. Eek!

When I was a kid I always wanted talking dolls. Maybe my mom should have showed me an Edison doll. I never would have wanted one again!