Archive for March, 2009

Light! Wait, it’s a train

Posted in LCB on March 30, 2009 by Brian

I will not sugar coat any longer.  I am feeling like I have fallen behind in the simplest of tasks.  I am not able to navigate the city with any regular success.  I have dreaded going to Travel Class every day the last two weeks.   I still cannot tell the difference between textures of a street vs. a driveway with my cane.   That function is crucial as well as prerequisite for finding addresses.  “Go to 306 W. Monroe Street”” said Ms. Arlene.  I say which side is west onec I cross the railroad tracks and turn South?  It is driving me crazy.   I get so nervous trying to listen to the traffic patterns and feel for sidewalk changes simultaneously.  Oh, and Braille; it’s just getting harder.  Puncuation is a royal pain beyond drustrating.  I feel like I am mentally handicapped as well as blind.   And my instructor is about to start me on Grade II or Contracted Braille.  This is the type in which a letter can stand for a whole word.  Such as I H K or I have knowledge.  There are a couple of hundred to memorize. Yikes!  Mr. Whittle also says that I will never be able to read at the speed I read when I was sighted.  Only those blind since childhood can read at that pace (150-300 words per minute)  I will be doing very well to get 40-60 he said.  It is just a matter of course as we learn like a sponge when we are children.

There is one reprive:  I am finished with my “Braille Blocks” in Shop Class.  I now start on Home Maintenance and my Graduation Project.  It makes me feel better that those who have been her 6 months have not completed their blocks and I have in less than 3 months.  Yeah for me!

My flight is booked.  I will be home for Easter Break on April 8 by 3pm.  I am looking forward to seeing everyone and some home cooking.  See you soon!

Pizza For The Road

Posted in LCB on March 26, 2009 by Brian

I will bear my tortured soul tonight.  I become so defeatist in my thinking when I make mistakes in my Travel Class.  I believe now that this is my biggest obstacle.  At first, I thought Braille would be my undoing.  Oh no, I was so wrong.  I just needed to accept that I could not learn the entire Braille system in a month.   I have taken  a personality test here at the center.  One all students take.  It is very generalized and not meant ro replace the MMPI and an analyst, however, it gave me great pause.   It revealed that of the 4 main personality types:  I am melancholy with a touch of choleric.  WOW!  No duh.  I knew this already.   So in reality, it was not great pause, but rather 3 second “and!?”.  Still the results provided no new insight nor motivation to suddenly alter my perceptions and cause stupendous, miraculous changes in my psyche.  Oh, I am so sorry.  That sounds so sarcastic when I read that out loud.  But it’s OK as that is part of melancholy personality types.

When I screw up in Travel I feel like a failure, but when I screw up in the kitchen class, I laugh at myself.   Pizza dough rising out of control is funny by the way.   Maybe because I am not nearly as afraid of the Pizza blob as I am getting run over by a truck and becoming a Michelin Pizza!  I think I will have a couple of beers now.

Louis Braille: A teenage genius

Posted in LCB on March 24, 2009 by Brian

To all those curious:  I have been wandering around lost in Ruston trying to find addresses.  I am now being assigned finding addresses by my Travel Instructor, Arlen Hill.  First time a disaster,  It was cold and raining.  I bumbled around in a parking lot for almost an hour.  Cursing the cold and rain.  I have since found two addresses correctly by myself.   Oh, did  I mention I am freakin’ blind!  Only the sounds around me and my cane.  Sounds like an old tv show “Have gun, will travel”  but not quite as glamorous.

Home Economics(kitchen skills) is a breeze.   I am one of the few people here that have cooked for themselves before coming to the Center.   So far I have prepared the following: two kinds of cookies, a cake with icing, a chocolate cream pie, I may need some insulin soon, also, blueberry waffles, bacon and eggs, yeast bread, muffins, meatloaf, and hamburgers.  Each of those is a requirement in the course.  Still have much to go.  No, we cannot use mixes, all from scratch.  I make a hell of a mess not being able to see the mixing bowls.  I am getting better at measuring ingredients, though.  Soon, I will have to make ice cream, cut and fry a chicken, make noodles, and a few other things.  Then I will have to prepare a meal for 8.  By the way, I will have to write all the invitations in Braille and serve each person a plate.  Oh, if that isn’t enough, I will then have to prepare a buffet style meal for 40 people!!  I guess overtaining makes the real world easy by comparison when I leave here.

Shop class is going very well. I am almost done with my individual assignment and then I will move on to home maintenance where I will trace and mark a breaker panel, replace a door knob and lock set, and fix plumbing .  I had no idea that I will still be in command of my home after blindness.  The methods taught here open a world to me.   Once I am done with home maintenance, then I will begin my graduation project.  I get to build my choice of something.  It usually takes months to complete, so I will have plenty of time.

Once I finish with Home Ec. I will then be able to use those two hours elsewhere.  I plan to divide it between Braille and Computer Lab.  I still hate Microshaft….er Microsoft Office, but that is what is taught.  Only 1% of the nation’s population learn to negotiate through MS Office without a computer screen.  Who needs it anyway?   Well,

The big Louis Braille Coin Launch is Thursday, March 26, 2009.  Here is a link for more information:  Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar

The coin is to not only commemorate 200 years of Braille, but launch an awareness campaign.  Braille literacy is at a shocking 12%.  This means that 88% of blind or legally blind persons cannot read.  This is a travesty, especially for the children.

Past my bedtime.  G’night.

Bitter and Sweet

Posted in LCB on March 17, 2009 by Brian

Triumph Among Sorrow:

Another among us has fallen.  Chris, a 27 year old from New Orleans has passed away.  He died in his sleep Friday and it hit us hard.  This comes in the wake of the funeral of Michael last week.   We are going to Chris’ funeral in New Orleans on Thursday.

Chris was a good friend to many here.  He is from the Big Easy and will be laid to rest there.  Chris was in my Cane Travel  class.  We had some good times racing on routes and talking many hours.  Chris was a very proud man and was not known for asking for help.  He asked me to help him with his math word problems for his G.E.D. , which was scheduled for this week.  I knew this was not easy for him.  I felt honored as he must have been comfortable enough with me to ask.  Chris had been tellnig me that he thought I was a good traveler so early on in the program.  I had yet to find addresses on my own.  That day came only 3 days after his passing.  I wish he could have shared that with me.    I am organizing a collection of funds for Chris’ 4 year old daughter, Kirsten.   He was providing for her and now…

Today was indeed a success for me in Travel Class.  I was able to be given an address and find it solo.  401 N. Trenton Street- City Hall and Civic Center.  I went to the address without incident using only the skills I have learned so far.  Cane Feedback, sound, mental mapping, traffic cues, etc.   I went inside and bumped around to find all the offices: Utilities, Police Dept.,  Mayor’s office, etc.  I am now confident in my Cardinal Directions and mental mapping of a city on its divides of North South and East West. I still have much to learn and I am continually pushed out of my comfort zones, however, it still feels incredibly liberating.

As hard as it is to be away from home, I am quite fortunate to be here.   I have learned that only 5% of the blind population receives any training at all.  Far less get this level of training.   An investment of months that will pay dividends for years to come.

Our Braille instructor, Mr. Whittle organized a Karaoke party for us on Saturday night and the young ladies had the most fun.   It was entertaining to say the least.   I believe it helped lift some down trodden spirits.   Time to get ready for school.   More later.

In Memoriam

Posted in LCB on March 9, 2009 by Brian

Both the Louisiana Center for the Blind and Louisiana Tech share a loss. Our friend, fellow student, and colleague, Michael Seay passed away this weekend. Michael had completed the program here at the LCB and was in the Masters Program for Orientation and Mobility at Louisiana Tech. Michael was a kind and engaging man. Liked by all. He will be missed. Several of us here went out last night to have a Toast to Michael. There was a benefit concert at a local tavern (unrelated event) with live entertianment of local talent with open mic as well. My young friend Gary K. or as he prefers “G Stack” performed solo accapela. I did not recognize the songs. Afterward, he told us he made them up as he went. He improvised all the lyrics! He was amazing. Several young ladies approached him after to chat it up. Gary was revelling in it. He likes to say “Got Game”. We had a great time. Events earlier this week included getting lost on my Travel route and falling from a bridge. Well, later I learned it was merely a drainage ditch I fell into. Well, it seemed like a 4 foot drop. Doesn’t it always seem bigger when you are the one involved? I had stepped onto what I thought was a sidewalk. I was not where I thought I was. It was actually a supermarket driveway which went over a ditch! No real harm done. I was fine. But imagine walking blindfolded along the sidewalk and the sidewalk suddenly ended without warning. I stepped as if on solid ground and fell straight down as if it were an open elevator shaft. Just a pulled muscle and a bit of “road rash”. I now have learned the proper method for examining my surroundings. I will not do that again. Well, that’s all for now. Time for chores and a 3 mile walk.