Category Archives: Tech Stuff

Electric Hearing

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Short story: Helen Keller reportedly said, “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.” While I can’t speak to the blindness, deafness is an emotional killer when you lose your hearing and you’re in a family of misfits with the patience of day flies. I’m not writing this as a martyr or a victim – I’m long past the days for feeling guilty or sorry for having a physical disability – but if you’re having hearing problems, today is the day to get help.

Long story: To avoid the martyr/victim thing, let’s skip my winding road to deafness other to say it was inevitable. Deafness is a genetic thing in my family, as two of my eight great grandparents wore boomboxes to aid their hearing. Folks in my generation remember the transistor-radio-sized devices folks wore before hearing aids (HA) became small. The one thing common from their days is the persistent perception that hearing-impaired folks are slow and dumb. (I was slow and dumb long before deafness, but I digress.)

I made the decision to get the cochlear implant (CI) when I realized the Bride was almost yelling at me to make herself understood, but I resisted even then. A bad CI operation has life-changing effects, ranging from tinnitus to vertigo, either or both possibly permanent. Even the best situation involves wearing a ~$10,000 external device that makes some people uncomfortable (see above: “slow and dumb”). There’s the possible loss of remaining natural hearing in the implanted ear, too, due to the process on placing the implant on the cochlear. The price tag for the operation and all the fun: $150,000 in this here United States. That’s not a typo.

The examination and interviews for the CI are a long series of “Are you sure you want to do this?”, which makes sense considering the list of potential outcomes. There was yet another hour in the testing booth, a first for The Bride but an old friend to me. Of the three mainstream CI devices, I picked Cochlear over Med-El and Advanced Bionics (AB) because Cochlear is the industry standard. The implant was inserted in my head in May and activated in June. Here’s a non-bloody computer simulation of the implantation if you’re so inclined.

Activation. A big deal. Serious. Watch this video. Joy, happiness, tears.

If you’re considering a CI, here’s advice that’s worth less than a cup of coffee. There is a very active CI group on Facebook where fellow wearers will patiently answer all CI-related questions. Get used to carrying CI gear if you’re away from the house for more than an hour because the device eats electricity. Cochlear (the company) will sell you rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries, which is good since you’ll be swapping out batteries once a day. Finally, take every opportunity to educate family and colleagues on the CI. And the hardest lesson: be patient. Electric hearing is a solution, not a problem, and like all life-changing events, it takes getting used to. Listen to your surgeon and audiologist.

I wish I had a conclusion but there’s none to be had because there’s no happily ever after yet. I will say every patient’s experience is unique, and I was fortunate to miss the negative outcomes. The hearing in my implanted (right) ear is vastly improved, though three months later, people still sound like the kitten at the end of The Emperor’s New Groove. My left ear has a hearing aid, which I forget to turn on some days, so there’s a good sign. All in all, things are working out, knock on wood. Thanks for reading.

 

(if you’re the owner of the above picture, please let me know so I can either credit you or remove it. thanks!)

Backwards Day

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On this “Backwards Day” in northern Nevada, we’re floating away on the rivers and streams full of rain and snow melt. Yes, we live in a desert, but “Nevada” literally means “snow covered.” Those with common sense are either safe and/or volunteering their energies stem the tides of liquid destiny. Others with less sense are fording the waterways simply because they can, forgetting that it’s possible to drown in two inches of bath water. There’s way more than two inches outside.

Here inside the World-Wide Headquarters, The Bride (Cassidy Carson) and I are dry by engaging in our separate literary efforts. She drafting romance and I editing/writing a draft, which is breaking a personal rule of mine: write straight through to the end. The problem is I’m stuck at twenty-seven chapters, so I’m going “backwards” to see if I can break through this wall. One way or another, this WIP will get finished this week.

As we’re on writing styles, I am a pantser, someone who writes from the gut without a road map to the finish. This style rewards spontaneous creativity, but the two problems is sometimes I get lost in the woods and I forget key points, like character names (as noted last week). The best solution for me is to combine the pantser and plotter philosophy with a Google spreadsheet that outlines these key points.

The column headers are basic and self-explanatory: “Chapter,” “Title,” “Who First,” “Who Last,” “Age,” “Call Sign,” “Role/Relation,” “What (Scene),” “Where,” “When,” and “Details.” I started yesterday and it’s saved me from embarrassing errors. Even better, I’m forced to look at character links and such, which I’d do anyway, but another flavor of editing certainly helps.

Maybe I’ve overcomplicated a simple task, and this idea won’t fit every writer’s style, but we’re all in a battle of wits with the English language. We should use every weapon at our disposal.

For those of you with a technological spin, here’s the Storify’d livetweet from Saturday. Hope it helps.

Chapter 4

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So here’s the next chapter and Life is coming at Emma from all sides: work, family, her past, and her lover. The thing is her days will get worse before they get…nah, I’m not gonna say they’ll get better. That’s not how we live. We take things as they come, fix what we can, tolerate what we can’t, and keep chugging along.

One personality trait I stuck in Emma is probably funny to me alone: her technological ineptitude. She really is a Luddite when it comes to computers and such, while I have 30+ years in IT and two MIS college degrees. You may not know many social workers are IT-challenged, too, though perhaps not to Emma’s extreme. Their brains are wired to provide human services, to make personal connections through empathy and feelings, and to begin the healing where there is pain. These tools sometimes do not translate to a keyboard. Given a choice, you would want a warm human being reaching out to troubled children versus someone who excels at networks and firewalls. Trust me.

If you’re liking what you’re reading, shoot me a note. If you don’t like what you’re reading, then you can tell me what’s wrong. Either way, hope you having as much fun reading as I did writing this darn thing. Thanks!

Business Views

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In a dusty basement box, my diplomas on papyrus are disintegrating with the sands of time. Two are related to business, and to earn them, I had to take business classes (surprise). Commerce is not my cup of tea. I do not have the sales gene, or the marketing fibers, or even the self-promotion personality needed to be a success in business. I tried, sucked at it, and moved on.

One thing did stick from the days in the Ansari Building bowels at the University of Nevada: Change or Perish. Businesses must reinvent themselves to be relevant, and to take advantage of emerging technologies. Failing to do so means losing generations of consumers who are always searching for The Next Best Thing.

Writing is perhaps less vulnerable to fads that other enterprises (though I wonder if society will ever stop fixating on zombies). We authors should look at ourselves for opportunities at commercial improvement, or rewrap the packaging so we have the appearance of evolution, at least. I inserted some change on the blog last night. A lot of change, actually, to prepare for the publication of the next WIP (tentatively in October). The design is more reflective of current web technologies, and the posts stick out a little better. Also new on the right:

  • You can receive email notifications whenever there’s a new post. This is old technology, and it should have been on the blog years ago.
  • There’s a link to Twitter for folks who randomly stop by and want to add themselves to my Twitter feed.
  • Finally, there’s a small PayPal donation button for voluntary contributions to the web site. I debated adding this for a while, proving again I don’t have a mind for profit. It doesn’t hurt (I hope), and maybe someone will buy me Starbucks for my next editing session.

I admit that making these changes was fun, and I might update the main site soon. It needs a radical makeover for the reasons given above. No clue what the final template will look like, but I can promise one thing: no zombies. For now, anyway.

FitBit: Goodbye

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Dear FitBit,

We’re breaking up and to be honest: it’s you, not me.

It wasn’t always like this. I’d heard good things about you in the beginning and I thought maybe we could evolve from being “just” acquaintances to maybe being life-long friends. The early signs were good. My first Zip was rugged, reliable, and I could hide it anywhere on my body while I walked all over my hometown. Truth be told, though, it seemed like a scaled down Tomagotchi my kids played with back in the Nineties and I wanted something a little more manly.

My workplace pushed us to buy a Flex and it was okay, though the thought on my bosses having access to my fitness statistics was more than a little creepy. For a short time, though, I lived and died by the little lights and the improved dashboard, which was kind of fun to play with. What made me put it on the shelf was the tiniest amount of sweat that seemed to gum up the electronics. The lights stopped working until I dried the darn thing out.

That should have been a warning sign, but I worked so hard on our relationship and I wasn’t ready to quit. I put in an order for a Charge HR and waited for it to be mailed to me, knowing it would be six weeks before it arrived.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally I broke down and emailed your Help Desk for a status report. In return, I received a boiler plate response saying the wait was now eight to ten weeks. You didn’t mention that when I ordered.

Then the news came that the Surge was causing rashes on a “small fraction” of users.

Cancel my Charge HR order? Click yeah!

To be honest, though, I was right on the edge of cancelling, anyway, and that’s because we could see out here in the boondocks that your left hand stopped talking to your right hand.

Your left hand is your marketing department with all the pretty colors, the pictures of energetic young people (no aging boomers or Social Security patients on your web site or in your commercials, nosiree, Bob!), and so many promises of a bright future in only six or eight or ten weeks.

The right hand are your techies and they’re awesome. I posted a problem with your iPhone app on Twitter a few weeks ago and one of your programmers jumped right on it. (I admit to a little bias: two of my degrees are in IT.)

Your executive suite is somewhere in the middle of those hands and they’re responsible for reining in the energy of the marketing department while inspiring the techies to reach higher and faster. Based on my experience, the techies are doing their job (I disregard the rashes; I think that’s user error from cinching the wrist bands too tight), so in my opinion, it’s marketing that’s the cause of our break-up.

I can’t tell you where to go from here because you’re a for-profit company. Somewhere in your corner suite, there’s someone who believes it’s marketing that generates profits, but that’s wrong. You already have a product line that will sell itself, but your company (through advertising!) keeps making promises with bright colors and pretty people, then not delivering on your promises in a timely manner. That means somebody in your executive suite failed to corral marketing’s energy with handcuffs called Reality.

Anyway, I’ll stick to my abused little Zip for now until it dies, then I’ll look elsewhere.

It didn’t have to be this way but you and I can’t go on like this anymore. I have to have trust in your promises for our relationship to continue and, frankly, it’s hard to trust you right now.

No response required. It’d probably be something on a boiler plate, anyway.

See ya.

Procrastination

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slackerI got the art of doing nothing down to an…uh…art.

– Had a meal at the Carson Nugget.
– Lost money on Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune.
– Watched a motorcycle cops contest.
– Walked to Lowes.
– Walked to Office Depot.
– Talked to a lady about why her favorite coffee place was moved.
– Walked to County Outfitters.
– Walked to Schats and bought artery-blocking goodies. There was OJ involved.
– Went to a garage sale.
– Talked to a colleague who happened to be driving by.
– Caught up on the social networks.
– Set up a Chromebook for The Gorgeous Editor (TGE).
– Swapped emails with The Awesome Aunt.
– Set up a web site and email for TGE.
– Downloaded a song from iTunes.
-Watched back-to-back videos of Jimmy Fallon having his ass handed to him (here and here). No idea why.
– Played too much Bejeweled, Chess, and Backgammon.
– Wrote and edited this blog entry.

Time to go edit. Bleh.

Deer

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Carson City sits at the base of the Sierra Highlands which are the foothills of the  Sierra Nevada Range, my home since 1975 (aside from an Air Force enlistment).  The picture here is a common site. When food is scarce, the mountain wildlife travel down to the valleys and bravely hop high traffic zones for sustenance.  Sometimes this ends in tragedy for the deer or the humans, but we manage to get along most times with little to no damage. This guy was probably on his (her?) way to sample the wares at Starbucks (white building in the background).

The point of this post? No idea. I started typing this morning and got lost along the way. Maybe I should go with “Life finds a way.” Not an original quote by any means but worth repeating in this time of burdens. We’ve so many, what with family and work and the instant age of information where we instantly learn of troubles in faraway lands.

Hang in there,  folks, and try not to let things get you down. Holler if you need a little strength. And keep dodging them high traffic zones, okay?

(Update: Going to try out a few WordPress themes, so expect unexpected changes. Sort of like Life itself.)