Friday, October 30, 2009

The Autumns In My Life

Autumn is a favorite time of year for me. I love the colours, love the not-so- sweltering heat, and enjoy the crispness and frangrent scents that the earth offers up for the senses, before Mother Nature sheds her annual skins of summer and bares down for a long and white winter nap.

There is something in the visuals of falls cascade of colours, that can be both magnificent in it's glory, and sad in it's reminder of what is about to come.

I never was a true summer person as I don't do so good in the heat, and as welcome as spring is after the long and arduous winters, I don't do so good in the wet either. So autumn be the main and fave time of the year.

I lost my hearing in the fall, and during my 100 day hospital stay, I watched from my 5th story institutional style window, the leaves turn and winter arrive.
Funny how it was comforting for me, in my newly and profound deafness, to view natures annual show.

It was a reminder I guess, that I was still alive, and that the miracles in nature (the cascades of colours, the change in season, the beauty of it all) were perhaps there to reinforce the miracle that had me still around to watch it all.
Deaf, no balance, in a hospital gown mind you, but only weeks earlier I was on life support with little to no prospects for seeing the 8th of September, let alone the first day of autumn.

So I took in the view in my cone of silence. Thought deeply and introspectively about a God of my understanding, and why I was still around.
I gave thanks in my own way, and looked at the world through new eyes, and no working ears.

That was two years ago last month. Seems like an eternity.
Today, as I type, I watch a rain gentle at first, then a torrent and mighty and times. The leaves, or what remains of them on the trees, are long past the vibrant and vivid colours that had spectators in awe weeks ago. They are reduced to unimpressive tones of yellows and browns.
Yet my awe and admiration for nature is more spectacular now than ever.
My gratitude grows still, after all I have been through. I have so much in my life, after having lost so much, but gained more.

I have new love in my new life.
I have a new way of hearing sound, and I never take any sound for granted. I never complain about the "noise".

I just wanted to write today as I watch life's concerto play out in front of me, and tell any and all that grace these simple pages, that life is wonderful!

I hope I never loose my sense of wonder at the world. A grace or gift that came to me after loosing my hearing and watching the world in that cone of silence.

Enjoy the day!



Monday, October 26, 2009

Money To Play With.

What is wrong with this picture?

New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillie's are in the world series of baseball.

Together these two teams spent an indecent - no an obscene amount of money, to pay a bunch of grown men to play a game.
Combined they spent over $300 million just on salaries!
Yes, they are indeed professional athletes And and yes, they are the arguably, the best at what they do.
But the fact is this: Twenty five or thirty some men get $300 million to PLAY a game.
For this season that runs from March to end of October. (OK this year November)

They get the rest of the time to play with their money!

Did you know that just last week, the World Bank loaned India $320 million to improve and repair more than six thousand kilometers of roads in the country? Roads that are sadly and badly needed to help the impoverished live a fraction better than before by giving medical supply, food supply and the Red cross access to the millions that live out of reach.

Or how about the fact that just last month Uganda took on a $320 million loan for much-needed health, water and sanitation initiatives? Clean water and plumbing that might, yes might, stop the spread of disease that kills thousands a day.

Closer to home and just two months ago, Colorado officials announced 267 government jobs would be cut because of a $320 million shortfall in the state budget. In the face of safe roads, clean drinking water and hundreds of families affected by unemployment, $320 million for a pair of baseball teams seems excessive, no?

In this country our First Nations people struggle with poverty and depend on handouts from the Government in many cases. Not that they are the only poor by any means, but rare is the day that goes by where I read in our National paper about another death on a reserve in the northern climes due to the links of poverty.

As the H1N1 flu makes news and noise, the vaccine to stop the spread, and God willing the deaths hits roadblocks because of lack of funds.

No roadblocks with the Yankees and Phillie's!

Spend like the world needs more rich athletes.

Spend like the poor will feed on watching these men.

Spend like roads and water are just silly and baseball will cure any disease, or build any road, or find clean water for those in need.

When does it end?

What would you spend $300 million on?



Sunday, October 25, 2009

Be Careful What You Tell!

Despite all of my life's grand scale of adversities and a few afflictions that saw me on pinned on God's mat in 2007, I have always maintained an overly at times, optimistic outlook.

Last week I had close to $500 fraudulently taken out of my bank account by a sophisticated scam. I noticed it hours just after it happened and called the bank to get answers. After no explanations, I drove to the branch and signed some papers to declare that it was not me or anyone I knew that removed funds. The money had been taken out via a telephone bank transfer, and I was told days latter that this is not new, nor is it uncommon.
It seems that many of us that embrace the social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, Linkedin, and in some cases those of us who share stories of the personal nature on blogs, are giving out enough clues for sophisticated cyber criminals to figure out important pieces of information to claim to be "us".

We leave trails every day, and I always thought that those "things" only happen in movies and to those "other" people that don't practice safe banking habits etc.
Not so.
I do bank on-line and purchase the odd ticket on line. This is not how my fraud was perpetrated. I had criminals that somehow got enough information to go on to the automated telephone banking service and transfer just under $500 to someplace that I have yet to figure out or be told.

Think about it: How many times do we drop information about us in our day to day stuff?
To get passwords at times, many organizations ask us the secret question that only we would know: "What is your Mothers maiden name?"
Now think about how easy that is to find out in one of the many places where we chat/frequent/visit/leave messages etc.

Anyway, the bank is making good, and I am a little more careful things I write in the places I go.
The first question that the security folks from the bank asked me is if I post on facebook.

Makes ya think what you write about, and who is reading it. I naively believed that unless you were my "friend" there was nothing you could see about me. Man is that wrong I am told.
Anyway, a new experience that gives me yet another look at a changing world.

I heard a story about a couple that were excited about a weekend away in celebration of an anniversary. Like we all do they posted their "status" on Facebook to let the world know their excitement.
"Bob and I are excited to be leaving this morning for Niagara on the lake for the weekend"
They came home on the Sunday night to find their house emptied of all the electronics.

A business colleague of mine was going away on a week long get a way with his wife a few years ago. They ordered some furniture from a national chain.
The trucking company that delivers for the chain phoned to advise them that their sofa was to be delivered in a few days.
My colleague's wife pipes up, "But we are going to Barbados for two weeks and will not be back until..."
Arrived home to an empty house.
Neighbours thought they were moving!

For every security option their is a better scam.
For every mousetrap there is smarter mouse.

As I started to write in this post, I am still optimistic that the world is OK.
I like this place and find a lot more good people than not so good.
I am not naieve, I just hold out hope that the human spirit is wonderful, and I know that there will always be that element of evil and bad that takes from us. Robs us of our possessions for the sake of a lazy way of getting ahead or just surviving.

I just have to be more careful.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Closed Captioning Still In The Dark Ages!

Why is Closed Captioning so difficult to do on television.
Or is it?

Watch any show on any night and the "CC" goes from the ridiculous to the hilarious. Spelling is atrocious and following the actors timing of speech is never even close.
When you think about it, they know the script on any tapped show, so how hard can it be for the networks to just type the copy in and time it to the scene?
Good God man, we can do so much in animation, special effects, sound effects, but give the networks the task of attaching copy to the visual, it just blows the mind what they do with it.

There are conservatively 30 million D/deaf or Hard of hearing in the United States, and 3 Million of us in Canada that fall into that category. I, like many of my cochlear wearing implanted mates, struggle with sound out of a man made speaker. My brain seems to translate better from lips to processor.

To many of you reading this, you may have never had occasion to care about the world of "CC". Perhaps you saw it once at the doctors office or in the gym where they use closed captioning so the sound need not be put on, and you possible never gave it a thought.
But in my world, and my fellow d/Deaf friends, implanted with a CI or not, the closed captioning is how we get the rest of the story.

There is no rhyme or reason to the madness of how the "cc' consistently fails. Re runs on the Fox network seem to be the worst for some bizarre reason. If I watch the new episode of the same show latter that night, they get it close to bang on. The script follows the lips more or less. Occasionally the speech is too fast, and the script falls behind, but for the most part it seems to work in "new" episodes.
The same station, latter or earlier, broadcasting a 4 or 5 year old rerun of the same comedy show, is so far off the mark, I have to turn off and walk away.
What is the reason for this?

I have emailed at least one broadcaster asking them if they have any idea of how "off" the mark they are on "CC".
No response.
Don't care, don't matter to hearing executives. Besides, how big a market can the deaf world be?

We are a friggin huge market good network and television executives.

Sit up, take note, and pay attention.



Friday, October 9, 2009

Getting Out Of My Car, And Getting More Than I Paid For!

I hate the drive thru!
No, hate is a word I hate.
I dislike and question the drive thru.

I love my occasional "Four Bucks" and the odd "Double/double" at the local "Timmy's" But why on God's Brown and grey (used to be green but the drive thru is changing the colour) earth, do we have to line up like lemmings in our automobiles, whilst spewing out the toxic fumes like we were doing the world a favor by not getting out of our cars and walking in to spend our hard earned four bucks on a cup of hot foam?

I am challenged in the respect that speakers in these systems sound foreign in language to this cochlear challenged guy, and on occasion when the wind and rain team up with the "no parking" in the lot, I have done the deed, and driven to the oh so friendly speaker and heard:
"Mey si make your odour plans?"
"Yes, triple grande latte, one raw sugar"
"wood you lake anybing self wid dat?"
"No that's all
"that bums do spew dolls hairs and iffy spine lents. Please live to the sepent widow"

I know what the drill is, and I also know that they probably asked me a few other things to keep their shift supervisor happy. Perhaps wondering if I wanted to spend a few more shekels on a lovely biscotti. But I know what biscotti means: "Twice baked" So twice the price.
Look it up!
So we are lazy at best, because if we were in a "hurry" we would park and run in and grab and go. This of course all falls apart because the owners of these establishments put the "A" team, and plenty of them on drive thru detail, and then challenge them with timers and the history of each hour.

A photocopy that I saw in a "Red Robbin" in Thunder Bay last week
"October 3rd 2006 was our best shift ever! 284 vehicles served in the 7 to 9 am time, with an average serve time of 29 seconds per transaction. Can we beat that today gang?"

Now I park (farthest away) and wander in to the shop for many reasons:
  1. I like to walk. I spent 100 days in a hospital bed, another 30 with a walker and/or wheel chair, then the next 90 with a cane. This from a guy who ran two half marathons in 2004 and 2006, then had a medical 9/11 in 2007.
  2. Fresh air in me lungs feels good, and I take it whenever I can.
  3. The sound quality on a speaker is built for the 90% percent of the population who hear quite fine thank you very much. The 3 million Canadians, and thirty odd million Americans who are deaf or Deaf have no use for drive thru's! I am deaf.
  4. I am also cheap. Burning fuel at $1 a liter of Alberta tea, sucks quite frankly. While one sits in a line to spend $4 on a "FourBucks" I know, I know why the contradiction. Well I treat myself and indulge in an overpriced but lovely foamy frothy drink.
  5. I like people: I am in a space at this point in my life where I like to see face, see a smile, make a smile, tell the person to enjoy the day, eat it up, live it to it's fullest. I like to effect the day!
  6. Exercise is good! I park as far away as I can to get the tiny extra benefit that a brisk walk offers.
  7. For almost 10 months before being implanted with my Cochlear Implant, I lived in complete and profound silence. What I missed the most was one-on-one human conversation. In my hearing days prior to deafness, I took sound and conversation for granted. I traveled life at the speed of life. I never want to take the wonderful world of one-on-one human interaction for granted again!

My beef is that I stand in a small line while ONE nice lady tends to us, while a team of nine young fast bucks try to smash the old drive thru record of 18 seconds per vehicle. God forbid if I order a toasted bagel, the young brash 17 year old will break my servers elderly bones if she attempts to put a bagel in ahead of the 287 cars that NEED to get in and get out!

So what happened?

Why did life get so busy and so important that we can't leave our cars and enjoy the day, say hello to a live face, interact with others in line and live a life that is in real time?
We claim to be good denizens and caretakers of the planet. Just see how much we recycle.
But we can't leave our cars to do us good, other good, and leave a little smaller footprint?
Interact and leave a smile or get a smile?


I can.

There is the odd but occasional gloomy start to the day that began with life's usual fast and furious morning rituals, but has chaos and mayhem thrown at us.
Can't find wallet, realize shirt has stain on it, running ten minutes late due to looking for Guitar Boys permission slip to sign for school, no stamps in house to mail overdue get the picture.
It is no mistake that on these occasions that I feel the need for two things: More caffeine and a warm human smile that is genuine, sincere, and from the heart.
I get this fix from a few places where kind warm souls offer both, and I get the odd wonderful conversation in the line with other good souls who think a bit like me.

You can't get the second part of my equation from a speaker, and a face at the window that is more concerned with speed and serving the person they are talking to through their mic system, then paying heed to my concerns or the day I may or may not have.
The smile and "have a wonderful day" I get live and in person from a "counter" person (and yes they are human and have life"s, and I ask them about their life's if I get the chance. The response to my sincere inquiry is amazingly wonderful) seems to be indeed sincere and well intended, lift my gloom for hours and hours. Where as a drive thru can dampen and frustrate and do more harm to all creatures great and small that no amount of caffeine can ever repair.

I am not naive to believe that the drive thru's will ever be gone, but I am hopeful enough that there are many of us that might do the park and walk thing once a month, and graduate to once a week.
After changing (I love that word change!) some habits a bit and realizing that the smiles and human interactions make a difference. And the planet and our physical selves can get better, step by baby step; perhaps one day many of us may do what I do: Park and walk most days, and occasionally (sheets of freezing rain coming down on my Fourbucks parking lot) do the drive through.

Can we move the world a millimeter to the good by picking one day a month, and get out of our cars?



"We can do no great things, only small things with great love". - Mother Teresa

Here we are again! Back at the place that was warm and cozy for a year, but got neglected when life roared back at the speed of life.

The place that gave me solace and comfort in creating words; the blogs that I read in my deafness, wrote in my recovery, and laughed at when I needed to smile and make the world smile.

My history at the blog writing began in January of 2008 and in my utter and profound complete deafness, I wrote "Life in a cone of silence" diligently and daily for the better part of a year. If I missed a day, I got anxious and bothered.
When sound, or semblance of sound returned in May of 2008, I no longer resided in that funny, funny place called the "Cone", but in a digital funny, funny sounding world that gave me music sans one string on the guitar. Thus, "Five String" started a journey of self discovery and healing as I climbed out of my medical soup as it were.

In 2009 life "changed" more radically and quickly than I ever imagined it, so acceptance of change was key in keeping on my path that was filled with new love, new enlightenment and as always;,more change.

Looking back is difficult as it is "in the books", but I do recall having a dream and a desire to enact change with my writing.
I started "Five String" with a hope and a dream that I could maybe change peoples perception just a millimeter. Just enough to make a difference.
One year ago the world was going to hell in a stock brokers hand basket and the world was getting ugly. If the news were a weather report, every day read the same: "Black clouds, heavy wind and rain, Tornado warning"

As the the world hunkered down and battened down the hatches, a new President in the United States was sworn in, and the word "change" was used in sentences with the word "hope". It made me feel good indeed.

My world was changing daily as it always has and always will, but by accepting the change in my new outlook and philosophy, I had a relaxed almost confident outlook on the future.
I got away from putting fingers to qwerty and I miss that. I used to write for me at first. I wrote to keep my deaf melon in the game.

Then I wrote because I was angry that we live in a world where thirty million people live in slavery, a world where children in abject poverty make toys for rich children, where according to netaid, over one billion people, or one in six, live in poverty while two-thirds of Americans fight obesity. 180,000,000 Americans are over weight, and one billion other denizens of this good planet can't string together more than one decent meal a week!
but hey, distance negates responsibility right?

So I got busy, and life at the speed of light saw wonderful love enter this CI-Borgs life, and give me a wonderful euphoria that can only be experienced, not described.
Love at the right time heals and works magic.

Still does.

Every day.

But I still need to write, need to move the few dozen readers here another millimeter if I can. Need to reach out and help the deaf that look to us writers on various places like "Deaf Village", "Hearing Journey" "Deaf Read" and other wonderful forums that so graciously published my deaf ramblings and funny stories that saw a then 49 year old loose the world of sound, but think he could still survive a Wal Mart superstore by himself. It was funny to read, and hilariously therapeutically healing to write.

I wander my small piece of the planet with a skip in my unbalanced step, and love in my life, smiling at any and all who look at my magnet adorning head. I say hello to any that will listen, and I listen intently and earnestly, as sound, although in a new digital format, is the music of my soul.
I challenge myself daily to step out of my comfort zone and attack with zeal and vigor the challenges of doing what it takes to effect the quality of the day in a positive way.
I take ASL classes with Mary, the love of my life, every week, in the hope that I can use it one day to help where I can.

I love this place.
I love the people.

I miss writing.

I want to leave a tiny piece of this old dogs mind on whoever graces my pages one day.
So I am back!

"I feel the vacuum, the loneliness, the silence, the dehydration of the soul as people who want desperately to save our constitution, country and planet still wander the streets without knowing how to say hi to one another" - Sam Smith