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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Another Christmas is Coming ...

One month from now, Christmas will be all over and we’re preparing for the New Year. Sadly, we have turned Christmas to a marketing event using Father Christmas to sell gifts to children. Yes, Saint Nick is becoming more and more like Old Nick – making us believe material goods and wealth can make us happy. But, the truth is that they don’t. Not the real happiness of being loved and valued as a person.
I don’t want to thread into sentimentality here. We will have enough of that soon. My point is that whatever we’ll be getting over the upcoming celebrations, it won’t solve our life problems or guarantee our happiness. I recall, as a child, how much I craved for a particular toy – only to discard it after just 2 weeks of use.
I admit, I haven’t really completely stopped craving for things. I also plan to get a few gadgets this Christmas and New Year as wll. So, I might be writing this for myself. It may be also the last post off 2010 since the weeks ahead will be rather hectic. I have to travel to Brussels to attend a conference on Tue 30 November and with the start of International Day of Disabled Persons on 3 December, I am booked for the first weeks of December at least!
I should take it easy. That’s what my doctor advised last time using different words. I wish I could just do that more often. Alas, it won’t be that easy in the coming days. That might be a good new year’s resolution I guess. To find more time for myself. Will I honour it? Ah… better leave it until the new year and take it from there.
Until next time…

."All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual"
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Comfortably Numb

I realised yesterday how our modern technocentred world, we risk losing our basic ability for human compassion. Are we growing immune to human suffering?

I felt uneasiness as I became aware that while I was eating, in the background they were screaming, crying and shrieking wig pain and despair. Their voices ... Cholera victims were being transmitted In my living room.

And what was I doing? Eating a burger (a thing I do rarely). I felt bad with myself. It's as if I had opened my mind to my own immunity to suffering. It's like I suddenly reflected on what was happening.

These were real people. Actual distress. Yet, it appears that I've become so used to watching and hearing real or fictional war, violence and tragedy; that I tend to be left unmoved. Until yesterday.

Think about it. Are you comfortably numb?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My MaConversion - Part 2

Now, both Window Eyes and Mobile Speak helped me in my life. That I cannot deny. However, as operating systems change or are updated, after some time you also need to upgrade your screen reader. This means forking out hundreds of dollars each one or two years to get an upgrade. It’s because the screen reader must be able to read the screen and tell what the system is doing. Or something like that. Thus, it must adapt to the computer to work. Yet, that was the only solution to the problem of making a mainstream computer accessible. Or so I thought…

Then I dared to consider replacing my HTC with an Apple iPhone… Yes, it took a long time of convincing and reading. It had to be accessible. I listened to pod casts, read articles, visited the Apple site… to read about the new iPhone’s built-in accessibility features. Was it just hype>? But I took the risk and bought the iPhone 3GS. Believe me when I say that I was impressed! Never was so I excited by a mobile phone. And in truth, I am still excited as I discover more things to do. With its voice over screen reader, which is installed on every iPhone, I could do more and more. I also enjoy the feel of being able to use the touch screen and finding my way on different pages, especially when surfing the net on Safari when I’m using WiFi.

That would be impressive enough if it wasn’t for the fact that Apple introduced an innovative solution to providing accessibility to their products. Instead of having to install expensive software to make the system and the apps it runs accessible, the system provided a means users can access it and the installed apps with whatever means they preferred (Voice Over, Zoom, etc). No more running costs of upgrades to screen readers. Apple provided the possibility for disabled people to purchase a phone and be able to use it right away out of the box.

That is why I decided to switch to Apple. Judging by my experience with the iPhone, the future ahead should be bright. In fact, over the next 2 weeks I should be the proud owner of a Mac Book Air sporting OS X Snow Leopard. Yes, Christmas is almost here…

Friday, November 12, 2010

My MaConversion - Part 1

Finally, I have seen the light! Apple is the path to follow. No more Microsoft Windows and all those Microsoft products. True, I am still typing this on Microsoft Works and that will be the case for some more months. Then, it will be all over, Mr Gates.

No, really, don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Microsoft or the PC and I have spent many happy times using a PC and experimented with Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). In fact, I think I have bought four PDAs - the most recent being an HTC Tytn II. This also acted as a mobile phone. PDAs are great, yes, but since I acquired a visual impairment, I realised that it would be now impossible to use my old PDA phone.

I had the same issues with accessing my PC. Fortunately, nowadays text-to-speech software, which reads the screen, allows me to use a computer. I have used Window Eyes for more than 6 years now. I learned to touch type as now it was through the keyboard that I needed to control my computer. In addition, I dare say quicker and more efficiently than before when I relied on the mouse and still was doing ‘finger’ typing. However, much before I got my HTC, and I had an old HP PDA from the days I had good eyesight, screen readers for mobile phones were only being developed. Unless, of course, I didn’t want to buy one of those mobile phones designed for the blind.

I have no real problem with my visual impairment, but when a company is advertising its product for disabled people in particular, it usually means only one thing. Yes, extremely high costs! One of the PDAs ‘for the blind’ I checked out at the time cost over $1,500! No way am I going to spend that money on a PDA - whatever it does…

So, I waited and when the first mobile phone screen readers such as Mobile Speak started appearing, I was one of the first to get a copy. Believe me, the wait was worth it. At last, I got to access most of my PDA and could play music, check email, manage my contacts and calendar, etc. That brings us to the time I used an HTC Tytn II.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering the Past

Today we remember the fallen soldiers and civilians. The first world, and later, the second world war, saw the loss of millions - the young, idealistic youth and the innocent and defenceless.

The dark realities of war are incomprehensible to most of us today - although some have tasted the fruit of isolation, alienation and inhumanity. I'll stop here and let you reflect on a first world war poem about Flanders fields - a region in Belgium where millions of mostly young men lost their lives. Many of the fallen are unknown and still buried there.

In Flanders Fields by John MacRae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

."All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual"
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Monday, November 08, 2010

I'm now 29

Another birthday is almost over. Thank goodness! I am always ill-at-ease when it comes to my birthday. I don't really know why. It's not because I realise I'm getting older. Well, that too. But it's at this time that I look back at my life and ask myself whether I have achieved anything so far.

I did find my facebook wall flooded with messages with some coming in as I type this. That indicates that I am not forgotten. Yet, I just don't know why I can't see the point in celebrating my birthday. After all, today wasn't such a great day. I had to stay home because I sustained an injury during a weekend conference on Saturday.

I did enjoy the conference mind you. It was a training session for disabled people to help in conducting disability equality training (DET). You've probably never heard of DET. In a nutshell, it involves raising awareness about the issues pertinent to disability, such as the barriers and negative attitudes that prevent disabled people from participating in society and which exclude us from society.

I met other disabled people and shared ideas and experiences. Apart from being one of the presenters at the conference, I got to be a participant as well. On the whole, the hotel we stayed in had good food and in my accessible room, I managed on my own. Indeed, after making a risk assessment, I decided that I would attend without a personal assistant. Even if I say so myself, I did fairly well and managed to survive the weekend. The fact I was in my own country helped me in opting for a PA-free conference.

What about the accident? I have to mention that inasmuch as our hotel was great, it had terrible lighting conditions. And long corridors... I was making my way to my room for an afternoon rest and, yes, I took a wrong turn left. How was I to know there was a 20cm step there? In a matter of seconds, me and my electric wheelchair crashed on to the hard floor. That changed my good relationship with gravity. I screamed and shrieked until assistance came to help me.

I am lucky in a way. I was also thrown off my electric wheelchair. That sounds like bad luck. But, believe me, if that heavy thing had fallen over me, I would probably be in hospital right now - or worse! True, I felt excruciating pain in my knees and elbows. I banged my head which confirms that I have a hard head. I had some bleeding too. It was a traumatic experience I admit that. I realised that this wasn't good considering I was just recovering from hospital.

Thankfully, I managed to wash, dress and prepare myself for Sunday. Admittedly, I was on a diet of Panadol that day. That meant I was more tired than usual with my body temperature fluctuating. Today, it's my birthday and I'm still in a little pain. However, my body appears to be reacting well to the medication. I think I need to stay at home for another day.

I think getting all that out of the system changed my gloomy mood. There are a few hours left... I need to start the celebrations!

PS: In spite of all the tempting offers, I regret that I must refuse to become a stunt man for your next movie blockbuster.