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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Speaking Up...But Is Anyone Listening?

I took this photo in Chicago last week. Sometimes I feel like these figures. I'm trying to stand up for what I feel is right but no one's paying attention.

Last month I wrote a letter to a theatre that shows one or two captioned films a month asking for more showings. I got no response. I heard recently from another member of my hearing loss support group that she and the group president contacted the theatre manager in person and got a response along these lines: No, I can't explain why more movies can't be captioned. That's up to the movie companies. As for changing the days, I must keep the movies that are on contract on those days at the times that are set. Sigh.

Yesterday I filled out an online evaluation form for my conference experience last week. I reported on the interference difficulty I had with my hearing aids in the room where my track's sessions were held. Of course, I am probably the only one who had any difficulty so I don't know how much impact my response will make.

I also sent emails to my senators regarding Senate Bill 68 on hearing aid insurance. So far, I have only received form letter emails acknowledging receipt of my email.

Mog wrote an interesting post about expectations. In my comment I wrote the following: "I guess we can't expect others to read our minds and know what our needs are. I guess we can expect to have to speak out on our own behalf knowing that we won't always receive what we need. Expressing gratitude to those who "get it" seems reasonable to me. Understanding that most people we encounter won't "get it" seems wise. Working for change and accomodations for all who need them seems like a path to hope."

I want to ask you: Am I viewing the world through rose colored glasses? Am I hoping for too much?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Margie Frightens Me When She Faints in Thailand

Margie in India CBS photo credit
In tonight's episode, teams travel 2,000 miles from Jaipur, India to Phuket, Thailand. Margie interviews that she is exhausted. She looks really worn out from the rigors of this race but she's determined to press on to the finish.

The racers' first challenge is to locate a gorilla statue's location using only a photo. All the teams except Mike & Mel soon discover the statue is at the Phuket Zoo. Mike & Mel's cab driver mistakenly takes them to a beach. Uh oh.

At the zoo, the Roadblock Task is to "take a walk on the wild side". Teams pose for a photo with a live tiger. Oooh, they must be brave here. Especially when the tiger's handler only has one arm! Not too reassuring that, but all the teams remain intact and seem thrilled by the experience. Next, they participate in the elephant show by lying face down on the ground and allowing an elephant to tap them on the back and squat over them. Margie gets tapped which seems to tickle her fancy while Luke gets squatted over which looks a little nervewracking for him.

Next teams are directed to Old Phuket Town where they visit a shopowner with a large cabinet of drawers behind the counter. Teams must direct the shopowner to open a drawer for a peek inside for their next clue. Margie and Luke luck out when Luke's choice reveals a clue on their second try. Way to go! Random tasks like this can be really annoying. Just ask Jaime and Cara who arrive first at the shop but see several teams leave before they choose the right drawer.

Now teams must participate in a Detour of physical labor. Their options here are 100 barrels or 2 miles. The 100 barrels task involves lifting 53 empty barrels from the main deck of a boat to an upper deck and filling 47 barrels on the dock with water using a hose. For the 2 miles option, teams must travel in a rickshaw (one partner pulling, the other riding) and navigate their way on the streets to a designated park.

Only two teams choose 100 barrels: Jen & Keisha and Mike & Mel. Meanwhile, the stuntsmen are the first to arrive at the 2 miles task. One of the brothers decides after pumping up the tire on their rickshaw to hide the provided pumps from the other teams. Then they hire their cab driver to drive in front of them to the park violating the instructions in their clue. Oh dear. Mark & Michael arrive first at the Pit Stop but Phil informs them sternly they must wait out two 30 minute penalties for their misdeeds. Will they be eliminated tonight?

Tammy & Victor arrive at the mat next while Mark & Michael are still waiting and they are team number one and recipients of a trip to Oahu, Hawaii. Cara & Jaime arrive soon afterwards and are declared team number two. The stuntsmen's penalty time runs out and they check in as team number three. They are disgusted that they lost their chance at first place and a lovely trip. Perhaps they learned a lesson in race protocol. Next to arrive are Luke & Margie. Luke tells Phil urgently, "We need water." While Phil makes a comment about the "Bionic Woman", Margie swoons and Luke holds her up. A chair is brought over and water is poured on her. An ambulance is summoned but by then Margie has recovered enough to wave it away saying she's embarassed. It is frightening to me to see her affected by the heat in this way. Take good care of yourself, Margie!

Keisha & Jen and Mel & Mike battle it out tonight for last place. Ultimately the sisters arrive first and fan favorites Mel & Mike are eliminated. Mike comments on how they had never been teammates before the race and how this has brought a new camraderie to their relationship. Awww, even Phil says he's sorry to see them go. They were a class act who really seemed to enjoy their race experience and appreciate each other.

The preview for the episode airing in 2 weeks shows the teams performing karaoke and hints that the stuntsmen make a critical mistake involving their backpacks.

Recover, Margie, recover. We want to see you and Luke keep racing!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Overcoming Hearing Loss and Achieving Success on Her Own Terms: The Kathy Buckley Story

I enjoy looking at life in a humorous way. For me it's very rewarding to make people laugh with a perfectly timed zinger. Even better would be to get paid to do it. When I was a child I sometimes pretended to be a stand up comedian like the ones featured on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. In my twenties I even put my hand to writing a few jokes of my own. Even now humor is one of the bigger categories in my blog sidebar's list of topics. So I was thrilled to recently learn about a deaf comedienne named Kathy Buckley.

She has written her life story in an inspiring book titled If You Could Hear What I See: Lessons about Life, Luck, and the Choices We Make. Kathy's childhood was difficult. Her hearing loss was not even diagnosed until she was eight years old. Until that time, she was presumed to be mentally slow. In her late teens, she was run over by a lifeguard driving a Jeep. She says, "I finally get laid and it's by a Jeep." No laughing matter, she needed five years to recover from her extensive injuries. Doctors said she wouldn't be able to walk normally again. She didn't listen to that and is today able to walk unassisted. The next challenge to come along was cervical cancer. A frightening diagnosis for anyone, it was even more so for her when she couldn't understand what the doctors and nurses were saying during her treatments. She pulled through and moved forward with her life.

She got a pair of hearing aids and went to school for massage therapy. She wanted to be an actress but got into comedy instead when she entered and won a competition that was raising money for a children's charity. She then worked hard at learning the comedy business and used her onstage platform to tell her life story with humor and raise awareness of what it's like to be a deaf woman. Eventually this led to motivational speaking opportunities.

I highly recommend her book to you. If you'd like to learn more about Kathy, you can visit her website. There's a video there that features some of her comedy act. Unfortunately it's not captioned, I'm disappointed to say.

The following short video gives a summary of her achievements. (No captions needed, the audio is a song.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flowers for Friday: First Flower Sighting

While my husband and I were cleaning out our flower beds last weekend, we saw our first flowers. These sweet little purple beauties are called crocuses. They are so hardy they will bloom even if there is snow on the ground. Crocuses are perennials and are grown from corms which are similar to bulbs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Collaboration, Communication, and Captioning at the Conference

Photo credit
Today was day two of my conference in Chicago. The Web Goddess and I arrived this morning in time for the complimentary breakfast- quite the spread I might add, not your usual muffin/bagel & coffee fare. We went to our first session which was on collaboration between libraries and IT departments. The Web Goddess said she will go bananas if she has to hear the word collaboration one more time. It's the theme of our track for the conference, I pointed out.

Our second session was in a new room. I am happy to say that my ALD (assistive listening device) worked just fine. What a difference it made too. I loved being able to adjust the volume up and down for each speaker's voice.

After this, we gave ourselves an hour off. Oh, did this help me. I took out my hearing aids and curled up in a comfy chair and read a book. Then it was time for lunch. We were supposed to have "roundtable discussions" while we ate. The arrangement was that you could choose where you wanted to sit based on the topic posted on a tabletop sign. The Web Goddess and I deliberately chose a table without a sign so I can't tell you how those designated dialogues went.

Lunch was socially awkward for me. When there was just one or two other people at our table, I felt comfortable interacting. But once more people joined our table, I found myself shutting down and directing all my conversation to my colleague seated next to me. I have always considered myself shy in group situations and now I have to face the possibility that my hearing loss may be partially responsible. I hate it when someone speaks to me and I only catch half of what they're saying.

Earlier that day we had been informed that there would be a raffle drawing at lunch and the top prize was $500 gift card. In my typical hard of hearing way, I assumed the prize was a gift card for the vendor that told us about the raffle. Not interested, I declined to enter the drawing. Imagine my chagrin when the prize turned out to be a $500 American Express gift card. I can only hope I learned something here about making sure I get all the details next time.

The highlight of my day came after lunch when I went to a poster session presented by a team from Eastern Illinois University. They have been working with captioning media. Since that is something the Web Goddess and I have been interested in getting going at our university and we recently received the long awaited software for it, I couldn't wait to talk to these people.

They informed me that it is now the law in Illinois that all media posted to a state website must be captioned. I was unaware of that. As information technology people, their focus was on creating programming that would make the process easier. I was really impressed by their work although I certainly didn't understand all the technical aspects of it. I asked if they had received any feedback on their work (meaning from deaf or hard of hearing students). They just talked about feedback from their colleagues at other universities. I tried to communicate to them how wonderful their work was and what a positive impact it would have for the deaf and hard of hearing. I'm not sure if they really got what I was saying. I think for them they were focused on the technical challenges and the concern with following the law. Nevertheless it's good to know that smart people are working on these issues and making accessibility a reality. They said they would help me in any way they could with my own projects. Collaboration, it's a good thing. (Just don't tell the Web Goddess I said so.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Difficulty With My Assistive Listening Device and Other Challenges Today

You might think that as a fan of the Amazing Race, I'm a confident traveler myself. Not so. Although I have traveled far and wide, I always get a case of the nerves just before making the trip. Today was no exception.

My destination was Chicago. The Web Goddess and I are attending a conference there this week. Chicago should be a piece of cake, right. Nah, even though I've been there many times, this was the first time I would be going to this particular location. Yep, right on schedule my anxiety kicked in this morning.

The Web Goddess and I had reviewed our travel plans last Friday. She knew exactly where we were going and I had scribbled down notes and a crude map "just in case" she wouldn't make it. She reassured me that of course she would be right beside me. I didn't give it much thought over the weekend.

Right on time I showed up at our meeting place at the train station. No Web Goddess. No problem, I thought. I would just wait a little bit. After three minutes of waiting I dialed her cell. No answer. I tried again a few minutes later. No answer. I panic texted: where r u? No reply. By this time, the train was ready to leave the station. Should I stay and catch the next train or should I go ahead on my own?

I got on the train, figuring if she caught the next one, it would be more fun to wait in Chicago than here. If something had happened and she wasn't coming at all, I would need the extra time to navigate my way to the conference.

Fifteen minutes into my train ride, I got a call from her. She had forgotten we were going on the earlier train. When I had called her, she had been in the shower. I was so relieved that she hadn't been in an accident or had some kind of emergency. Everything would be okay, now.

When I got into Chicago, I used the time to explore the Randolph St. station. It had been completely remodeled and upgraded since the last time I had been there. It looked like the stations I had seen in Washington DC last April. I got to eat lunch and walk around a bit and then I met up with my technology deity, the Web Goddess.

Our day at the conference was interesting. The opening session was about teaching 21st century learners. The speaker has an idea that a "virtual backpack" should be implemented in the United States. Basically any educational opportunity a child had from birth would be digitally recorded and available to all subsequent teachers. She turned me off when she talked about issuing ATM like cards in the delivery room. Too extreme.

Next we learned about a university that merged its library and IT (information technology) departments. When you visit their library, there is a desk near the front where you go no matter what type of service you need. The books were moved out and stored in an annex and the space converted to a group study area with furniture that can be arranged to suit the students' needs. Sounds interesting.

Our final session covered the leadership skills required to merge library and IT departments. The experiences of 3 CIOs (chief information officers) were discussed.

All this listening was quite challenging for me. The first speaker had a strong voice and used a microphone. I sat in the front where I could hear her well. Unfortunately, she had no visuals for her hour and a half long presentation.

In the next session, the two speakers would not use microphones. They said to alert them if anyone couldn't hear them. I got out my PocketTalker. Bzzzzz. My assistive listening device was picking up a buzzing sound, I couldn't hear when I had my hearing aids' T-switch off. I fiddled with it and decided to listen with it as long as I could stand it and then take a break and listen with my aids only. Fortunately these speakers had power point slides that helped me follow along.

My last session was in the same room. I tried moving to another location to see if it helped. It didn't. I found that if I cocked my head to the side and looked at the slide show rather than the speaker, the buzzing noise stopped. It reminded me of the adjustments you used to have to make when you moved a rabbit ear antenna on a TV top to adjust the picture. LOL. I coped the best I could and then eventually switched my PocketTalker off and just listened with hearing aids.

Have you ever encountered a similar problem with an assistive listening device? Any suggestions?

Now that I've finished this blog post, I'm going to get to bed early. Extra listening requires extra rest.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Luke & Margie Caravan Through India

Something new from the show producers: The opening sequence has spliced shots of the teams while on the race in with their publicity shots. Cool!

In tonight's episode, teams leave behind the bitter cold of Russia for the welcome heat of India. Their destination is Jaipur known as the "pink city". Their challenge is to travel to a sacred tree and find their next clue. En route, teams see cows in the streets, monkeys on rooftops, and children eating garbage. Luke is so moved by the poverty he sees out the cab window that he cries.

At this point in the race almost all the teams are traveling as a caravan of cabs on a one lane road. When they arrive at the tree, they have to search for their clue. Underneath the tree are two men sitting by a table with a red telephone on it. Once teams recognize the incongruity of the phone's presence, they examine it closer and see that they need to call a number and listen for the name of their next destination. Hmmm, another listening task. Seems a bit unfair to Luke. Of course Margie listens, but she is unable to decipher what was said. Instead of listening again, she makes the risky move to leave with the others and continue traveling in the caravan. Oh Margie, I hope you two stay with the pack!

Fortunately they do and most of the teams arrive at the Roadblock together. Their challenge now is to feed and water a group of camels. It's one of the Amazing Race's perennial tasks: performing hard manual labor in the hot sun. Unfortunately, Mel chooses to do the task for him and Mike, not knowing what's involved. At 68 years old, he struggles to carry the water to fill the camels' trough. He catches a break when he notices the equipment provided for carrying the hay to the camels. The other teams overlook this and he moves ahead of them. Hurray for Mel. Mike is so proud.

Margie takes this task for her team and finishes around the same time as Jaime and LaKisha. Victor and Tammy have long since left. They are in first place throughout the whole episode. Meanwhile the stuntsmen and flight attendants have fallen behind the rest of the pack.

The teams race on to their Detour choice of movers or shakers. Movers involves riding a bicycle like vehicle with large barrels strapped on the back. Once the barrels are delivered to their destination, the hay filled containers must be searched for a tiny silver elephant charm which can be traded for their next clue. Ugh, it's partially a "needle-in-the-haystack" task. The shakers option sounds like much more fun. For this one teams put on makeup and dress up in a cow costume. They join a band and dance in the streets begging for money. When they've accumulated 100 rupees, they can exchange the money for their next clue. All the teams except for the stuntsmen choose shakers and have a lot of fun with the task. The Americans notice how amidst the poverty of India, the people are generous and they have no trouble collecting 100 rupees. Margie points out that Luke is unable to hear the music from the band. He watches the faces of the onlookers instead.

Before starting on the Detour, the flight attendants are forced to complete a Speed Bump task as their penalty for checking in last on the previous leg. Their job is to paint an elephant. Oh, I would love to do that. The elephant looks so festive when they're done painting colorful designs on its trunk and face.

Unfortunately for them, the Speed Bump puts them behind just enough for the stuntsmen to finish ahead of them and they are eliminated. Here's the standings at the end of the race:
  1. Victor & Tammy (The brother and sister win ocean kayaks. How appropriate since they both live in California.)
  2. Mel & Mike (father/son team)
  3. LaKisha & Jen (sister team)
  4. Margie & Luke (our favorite team!)
  5. Jaime & Cara (cheerleaders)
  6. Mark & Michael (stuntsmen)
  7. Christie & Jodi (eliminated)

Teams 3,4,and 5 finished within seconds of each other. Luke signed tonight that his mom is doing the communicating and he is doing the strategizing. They need to step it up for the next leg of the race. Unfortunately the preview shows Margie fainting in the heat. Phil is nearby so perhaps it happens at the pit stop. I hope she's okay. Go, Margie & Luke, go!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Come Walk With Me and Rusty

I found this interesting meme on Mog's blog: Take a circular walk around your neighborhood and stop every 5 minutes to take a photo. Mog's pictures are lovely. She lives in a scenic area with woods and water nearby. Looking at her photos and reading their descriptions made me feel just as if we'd gone for a walk together.

I decided to participate in her meme challenge in my own way. Daily walks are part of my life seeing as I own a dog. But where I walk is in a residential area and I don't feel comfortable posting photos of other people's homes on my blog. So I decided to record the walk from Rusty's point of view. You can see all his favorite stops. Leash tugging not included.

Beyond any doubt walk is one English word Rusty recognizes. He gets so excited when I come home from work and take him for a walk first thing. He's very patient even when I have to change my shoes, get a warmer coat, locate a plastic bag, strap on his leash, etc. Once he's heard that magic word walk though, he will hold you to it. Just going into the backyard won't cut it.

We're off! It can be mesmerizing to watch that lovely tail wag back and forth with happiness.

Our first stop is this aromatic rock. Usually another dog has passed by this way and left a calling card for Rusty to sniff.

This pine tree is in the front yard of my dear neighbor, Wendy's house. She is often willing to go for a walk with us. Rusty adores her. While walking, she and I will usually rehash our day at work and keep an eye out for what's happening in the neighborhood.

Well, we've managed to make it about a half block so far. Walking with a dog is not a fitness walk for the owner. It's more like this: Rusty will take a few steps, pause to scratch, meander over here, pause to watch a squirrel, move over here to check out an interesting smell, walk forward, spot another dog, jump up and down, calm down, walk on again.

We've made it to the first corner. This traffic sign is another stop for Rusty. According to Wendy, he's checking his "pee-mail". [Groan.]

Rusty is a modest dog. Notice how this hedge forms a privacy screen around the plant he uses as a bidet. He hates for anyone to watch too. I've preserved his privacy by keeping him out of this photo.

We're on the homestretch now when Rusty encounters this fire hydrant. I couldn't resist taking his photo with this traditional dog magnet.

Home again! The fresh air has done us all some good. Now it's time to start dinner.

I hope you enjoyed my version of Mog's meme. If you participate and post your own walk on your blog, let me know and I will link to it here.

Ms. Toast Burner's walk, part one

Ms. Toast Burner's walk on Moss Street

Flowers for Friday

My husband recently surprised me with this bouquet. I've enjoyed looking at it every day but now it's starting to wilt. I thought I'd post a photo here because to paraphrase (or should I say parody) Isaiah 40:8 "Petals drop, memories fade, but a photo on your blog lasts as a reminder of love."

I'm looking forward to seeing flowers in the yard soon. It won't be much longer before daffodils and tulips make an appearance. Have a happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Honk if you like me!

The strangest thing happened to me today on my way home from work. I was stopped for a red light at an intersection when the car next to me honked lightly. I looked over and the driver gestured hello. He didn't look familiar to me so I assumed he had mistaken me for someone else. I turned my attention back to the stoplight which seemed to be taking forever to turn. Beep, beep. I looked over again and the driver was trying to get my attention. I rolled down my window. "I want to get your phone number so we can be friends," he said. What on earth, I thought. "That's okay....I'm married," I replied shaking my head. "You're married", he said puzzling that possibility over. I guess he hadn't heard that one before. I rolled my window back up and was pleased to see the light change to green for my turn. "Better luck at the next intersection, buddy" I thought as I drove away.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's all about having fun. When I was a little girl, it was tradition to always wear something green to school on March 17. If you forgot, the teacher would draw a shamrock on your hand with a green marker. Otherwise with no green apparel on, you were fair game for pinching!

At home, I like to add a few drops of blue food coloring to a pitcher of lemonade so my son and I can share a green drink together. My family's not too fond of traditional Irish fare like soda bread, corn beef and cabbage, so we'll have a shamrock themed dessert instead. This year I'm thinking of making cupcakes with white frosting and having my son draw on shamrocks with green Betty Crocker cake decorating gel.

Whatever your nationality is, I hope you have a grand day and remember you don't have to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beautiful Sand Artistry

Watch this incredible retelling of the Adam and Eve story as drawn in sand. The way she moves her hands reminds me of the beauty of ASL.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Margie & Luke Finish First Again!

In tonight's episode, teams board the Trans Siberian Railroad to travel to Russia. Only one train leaves that day for their destination and it's scheduled in the evening. This allows all the other teams to catch up to the flight attendants who were the first to depart from the pit stop. For AR fans, this is known as an "equalizer". It can be frustrating when your favorite teams are ahead but this time it proves a wonderful advantage for Margie & Luke who came in fourth on the last leg.

As they board the train that night, the teams comment on how cold the weather is. Brrr. Next we learn that Mike, Tammy, and Victor are all aware that Margie & Luke were responsible for the blind u-turn. Mike says that Luke will create a new archetype for the show as "the sinister deaf kid". Nah, I don't buy into that. Luke & Margie do not fit the mold for Amazing Race villains. Indeed, Mike admits that he now realizes they are "power players". They are racing well and their determination to win is plain to see.

In Russia, the teams face a Detour choice of bride or snowplow. Interesting combination there. Luke strategizes that the snowplow task is less complicated and predicts it will be the faster option. He & Margie, their closest allies Cara & Jaime, and Victor & Tammy (who are there when they are choosing) all go for the snowplows. It appears that the three teams are going to work together. But no, while pulled over at a gas station as the cheerleaders ask for help, Victor secretly gets directions from a cabdriver filling his tank, and pulls away from the pack without sharing his information. Luke & Margie manage to follow, while Cara & Jaime are left behind. En route, Victor gets additional directions and shakes off Luke & Margie. Any goodwill the other two teams felt for this brother/sister duo has evaporated. It's "game on", as Margie says.

I wonder if Tammy & Victor may have forfeited that goodwill for nothing as the other two teams quickly catch up to them at the Detour site. All three teams are successful at driving their snowplow through a short curving course as their partner directs them. I'm excited to catch Luke signing "stop!" emphatically to his mom. That's one of the signs I use often at my house. Just ask my son...The teams' next clue directs them to a biblioteka (not sure on spelling) which Margie recognizes and signs to Luke is a library. Another sign I know!

Meanwhile Mel & Mike have chosen the Russian bride detour. The father & son drive themselves to an apartment complex, find their bride, and drive her across town to meet her groom at a church. The two sweetly compliment the beautiful bride. Mel marvels at how well his son navigates through Russia. Falling behind, the stuntmen choose snowplows, while the flight attendants and the sisters choose brides.

The library Roadblock turns out to be the outdoor "run in your underwear" task we saw in last week's preview. Luke & Margie arrive first at the library. Luke takes the task much to Margie's relief when she finds out that he has to run 1.4 miles in his underwear accompanied by a group of marathon runners. Is this CBS' idea of humor? It is terribly cold out and rather humiliating to have strangers see you in your undies and laugh. I think I would have preferred watching a Travelocity gnome task, an unpopular commercial tie-in staple of previous races.

While Rocky theme music plays and Luke jogs, Margie is shown giving encouragement from a cab as she passes Luke. He says he pushed through his embarassment by not looking at anyone as he ran. At the end of the race route, Luke is reunited with his mom at a performance center. The two race up several flights of stairs to find Phil at the mat while ballet dancers twirl on a stage in the background. Still in his underwear Luke is thrilled to see Phil sign that they are team number one! Their reward is a trip to St. Lucia after the race.

Victor & Tammy finish second, the cheerleaders third, Mel & Mike fourth, and the stuntsmen fifth. The first and second place teams from last week are now battling it out to not finish last. In the end, the sisters arrive before the flight attendants. The blondes are sad to hear Phil begin to say "I'm sorry to tell you..." but are pleased when he finishes with "you'll be the last team to leave on the next leg of the race." Aha, this is the first nonelimination leg of the race. The flight attendants have been spared for now but they will find an additional challenge known as the Speed Bump - a task only they will have to perform - on the next part of the race.

Margie & Luke are the only team so far to have finished first more than once. Go, Luke & Margie, go!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Protecting My Vision

Green eyes originally uploaded by misstere.

I wrote earlier this month about protecting the hearing I have left. That got me to thinking about how I might protect my vision as well. As my hearing proves less than reliable, I find myself depending more on my eyesight to understand the world around me. I've been a regular at the eye doctor's office since I was nine years old with my first pair of glasses. Was there anything else I could do?

Little did I know when I set out to research this topic, that March has been declared Save Your Vision Month by the American Optometric Association. The Prevent Blindness organization has also designated March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month.

I found lots of helpful information on the internet. On the American Optometric Association (AOA) website I found out what 20/20 vision really means: "If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet." Their website also presents an overview of Good Vision Throughout Life which describes eyesight challenges for different age groups. I especially appreciated reading about age related changes in my own age group category. I find myself cleaning my glasses alot lately when I probably need to get my prescription updated!

Here are 5 basic tips the AOA recommends for all adults:

  1. Eat healthy.

  2. Don't smoke.

  3. Get regular exercise.

  4. Wear sunglasses.

  5. Get periodic eye examinations.

That's pretty much the advice you would expect, right? I'm doing all of that now. I even got my last pair of eyeglasses with "transition" lenses. They darken as soon as I step outdoors. When I wore contact lenses I was always misplacing or breaking my sunglasses. This works better for me.

Online I also came across other common sense advice like be sure to wear protective goggles when working around hazardous chemicals and never stick a sharp object in my eyeball. Pretty standard safety stuff. Could there be more?

There was. I found out that "in the last 20 years, eye health research has linked diet and nutrition with a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)." The nutrients recommended are:
  • lutein & zeaxanthin

  • vitamin C

  • vitamin E

  • essential fatty acids

  • zinc

You can read more about this research study here. If you're like me, I was familiar with everything on the list except for lutein and zeaxanthin. Here's a chart that shows food sources for these nutrients.

To benefit my eyes, I should try for 10 mg/day for lutein and 2 mg/day for zeaxanthin. Fortunately I like corn, green beans, spinach, peas, and romaine lettuce. Oranges and eggs I may need to add to my meal plans more often. I doubt I'll be eating kale, collards, or turnip greens any time soon.

Other good things to know.

  • The American Academy of Opthamology now recommends a baseline eye disease screening at age of 40 for those who have had no previous symptoms or risk factors. Source

  • If you can't afford an eye exam, you may be able to get one for free though Eye Care America. Click this link to see if you qualify.

  • You can ask an eye doctor a question at Get Eye Smart.

Here's looking at you for years and years to come!

Signs of spring in my backyard

Originally uploaded by speakuplibrarian

Despite our continuing cold temperatures, spring is on its way to Illinois!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aids

Today in Springfield, Illinois a hearing will be held to discuss a bill that would require insurers to provide coverage for hearing aids. The amount specified is $2500 per hearing aid every 3 years.

You can read more about Senate bill #68 and follow its progress at the Illinois General Assembly website.

This bill has the support of the Hearing Aid Action group. I received an email from them asking me to call the 12 senators who are part of the Insurance Committee considering the bill and express my support for it. I was happy to do my part. It was quite easy as the people answering the phones were used to receiving such calls and generally just asked for my name and where I lived.

The captioned video below explains what this bill is all about and the efforts being made to water it down so that it only provides coverage up to $2000 and only covers children up to age 18.

Illinois, the time is now!

3/13/09 Update: You can read about Kim Putz' experience in Springfield on this blog. I received another email today that said after the hearing, the bill has been referred to a senate subcommittee. I have 3 names to contact and state firmly that I want Senate Bill 68 passed with no age restrictions.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Margie & Luke Use the U-Turn in Siberia

Tonight's episode began with Margie & Luke discussing the newest twist in the game: the blind U-turn. On the Amazing Race, when a team is u-turned by another team, they are forced to go back and complete a second detour task. In past seasons, the team using the u-turn option had to post their photo up so everyone knew who was responsible. Hard feelings often ensued. Now teams can play this move anonymously. That's brilliant, CBS producers!

The eight remaining teams moved on to Siberia (brr) in this leg of the race. They were allowed to choose their own flight from Romania to Moscow. This divided the teams into two groups - those whose connection made the first flight to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia and those who missed it. The stuntsmen, the sisters, and the flight attendants were the lucky ones who made it to Siberia first. Margie & Luke and the remaining four teams travelled on the next flight.

In Siberia teams directed their cab drivers to take them to a hydroelectric dam pictured on a ten ruble note. There they encountered a detour choice of stack (a huge pile of firewood) or construct (shutters and install them). The stuntsmen blew their lead when their firewood pile collapsed. They quickly switched to the second option of making shutters but got sidetracked looking for the marked home where they would install them. The sisters and the flight attendants successfully stacked their logs and took the lead. Both teams chose to forego the u-turn knowing they were well ahead of the pack.

Margie & Luke chose to stack along with the cheerleaders, dating couple Kris & Amanda, father/son team Mel & Mike, and Victory & Tammy. With all the other teams' (except for Victor & Tammy) piles falling, Margie & Luke arrived at the u-turn with an important choice to make. Agreeing that "It's just part of the game", they u-turned Kris & Amanda, one of the strongest teams left. Excellent strategy! Coming right behind, Victor & Tammy were relieved to see the u-turn was already in play.

While the cheerleaders rebuilt their fallen pile, Mel & Mike, and Kris & Amanda switched tasks meeting up with the stuntsmen who were still clueless about where they were supposed to install their shutters. The teams joined together to work cooperatively and completed the task successfully. Back at the clue box Kris & Amanda were angry to discover they had been u-turned and forced to return to stacking wood.

Meanwhile the other teams had gone on to their next destination, a Roadblock. Here one team member was required to ride a bobsled over a rollercoaster like track. Posted along the route were seven letters they needed to solve a puzzle at the end of the ride. If they missed any of the letters, they had to ride again. Their final task was to arrange the letters to spell the name of a famous Russian playwright.

Luke struggled over this last part as he had never taken any Russian literature courses. He tried four times unsuccessfully to guess the right answer. Unable to help, Margie continued to encourage him to "keep trying". Her positive spirit paid off as his next try was correct. The answer: Chekhov. I bounced up and down on the sofa with joy and my son raced over to hug me. Hurray for Luke!

Amazingly, the flight attendants hit the mat first followed closely by the sisters. Victor (who immediately thought of Chekhov) & Tammy came in third. Margie & Luke finished fourth for the third time in a row. After them were the cheerleaders, their closest allies. Last to arrive were Amanda & Kris who were eliminated. They never suspected that it had been Margie & Luke who had u-turned them.

Next week's preview shows Mike discussing the u-turn with Luke. Hmmm. How did he find out? The preview also highlights the teams racing around Siberia in their underwear (huh?). I'd much prefer a parka myself.

Go Luke & Margie, go!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Protecting My Hearing

As mentioned in a previous post, my hearing has stayed the same since my initial diagnosis of hearing loss in 2006. While making the adjustment to life with hearing aids, I have been conscious of my desire to protect the hearing I have. Here's why:

According to the American Academy of Audiology, of the 36 million Americans with hearing loss, one in three were caused by noise exposure. Here are some common examples of everyday sounds with their loudness measured in decibels:
  • dishwashers 60 db

  • alarm clocks 80 db

  • hair dryers 90 db

  • blenders 90 db

  • lawn mowers 90 db

  • mp3 player at full volume 100 db

  • ambulance 130 db

Anything over 85 db represents a risk to your hearing if your exposure is prolonged enough.

How long is too long? I have not found a definitive answer to that. Most likely because it would vary from person to person. I wish I had the citation, but I do remember having read somewhere that once you already have a hearing loss, you can be more susceptible to further loss from noise exposure.

The American Academy of Audiology recommends three strategies for protecting your hearing.

  1. Walk Away From the Noise

  2. Turn Down the Volume

  3. Wear Ear Protection

I've been putting that into practice in my own life. At a recent sporting event, loud music was blaring while the basketball teams warmed up. When I noticed 20 minutes on the clock until game time, I decided to walk out of the gymnasium and wait in the entrance way for the game to start. It felt good to be so proactive about my hearing rather than enduring the noise in misery worrying that my hearing was being adversely affected.

I have also been trying to turn down the volume when possible on my cell phone and work phone. My normal habit was to keep them at full volume which was really too loud for those with strong, clear voices. It's better for me to keep the sound at a lower level and turn it up as needed.

At home, I have also been wearing ear protection. In the morning when I'm blowdrying my hair, I slip in foam earplugs first. Although my hair dryer claims to be a quiet model, it's plenty loud. Add that noise to the sound of the ceiling fan that comes on with the bathroom light and my ears get a beating. The earplugs make it bearable. I keep them in a sealed plastic baggie when I'm not using them. When I'm vacuuming or using an electric mixer or the blender in the kitchen, I wear over the ears protection (pictured above). They are terrific at reducing the volume. I also wear them outdoors when I'm using a shop vac to clean my car.

What do you do to protect your hearing?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

CBS Amazing Race and Captioned Video Clips

Today I was on the CBS Amazing Race site and noticed that some of their videos are now offered with closed captioning. The only ones captioned so far are for clips of Elimination Station (where eliminated teams are sequestered until the end of the race). It's a start and I hope that CBS will caption more of their Amazing Race videos soon.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tinnitus Poem

Tinnitus is

No one else ever hears. An
Inner ear
Tingling that rings
Unceasing. The
Secret soundtrack of my life.

This poem is dedicated to both Glenice and my Uncle Henry.

Creative Commons License
Tinnitus is by speakuplibrarian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Margie & Luke Race Through Romania

This week's episode brings the racers to Bucharest, Romania. When their destination is announced, I'm confused. Margie echoes my thoughts exactly: "I thought Bucharest was in Hungary!"

Luke is shown interviewing that he doesn't want to rely on his mom for all his communication on the race. He wants to know for himself what the other teams are thinking. Later the cheerleaders Jaime and Cara tell the camera that some people might be put off by Luke's deafness but they enjoy communicating with him. One of them is shown fingerspelling a word to him and writing notes on a pad of paper.

The first task of this leg of the race is to get in touch with one's inner Nadia. For this roadblock inspired by Nadia Comaneci, one team member is required to don a leotard and obtain instruction on the balance beam, parallel bars, and a floor routine. When Margie asks Luke if he wants to do it, he emphatically states, "I'm not wearing that girl's leotard." (CBS uses his comment as the title of tonight's episode.) Margie takes the road block and does a great job. She even looks good in her leotard!

As team after team completes the task with ease, I'm thinking that the judges for this task seem pretty lenient compared to some judges from past races. But then Tammy (of brother/sister team Victor & Tammy) takes her turn. She struggles throughout the task having to try again and again to win her judges' approval. Little sister Tammy is fit and trim so that is not the problem. No, she struggles because she is mentally distracted by her team's difficulty in getting to Bucharest. As team number one from last week, she and Victor had secured the first flight out of Munich. Unfortunately for them, their plane had mechanical problems and had to return to the airport. They got on the next flight out with several other teams.

Brad & Victoria

Their problems were not as bad as Brad's and Victoria's (the older husband/wife team) airport fiasco. Booked on the last flight leaving Munich with some of the other teams, they take a chance by booking an alternative flight that arrives earlier. Missing a tight connection in Amsterdam strands them at the airport until morning. As teams have learned before on the race, sometimes it's safer to stay with the pack.

Once teams receive their clue from their gynastics judge, they are directed to the next stop on the race Brasov, Transylvania. Cool! There they have a Detour choice of two tasks: Gypsy Moves or Vampire Remains. Gypsy Moves involves locating a gypsy settlement, packing up a gypsy family's belongings on a cart, and transporting them on the horsedrawn cart to another gypsy camp where everything is unloaded. Kris & Amanda (photogenic dating couple) are first to arrive and have no trouble with the task. Until it's time to leave and they can't locate Kris' fannypack with their money and passports. Yikes! Not another Toni and Dallas scenario! No, all's well here when the fannypack is recovered. Phew.

Kris and Amanda's delay while searching for their lost items allows father/son team Mel & Mike who surprisingly also chose the gypsy moves task (doesn't Mel have a groin injury?) to forge ahead. This week the father and son are first to the pit stop winning a trip to Costa Rica.

Meanwhile Margie & Luke choose Vampire Remains along with the cheerleaders, Tammy & Victor, and the flight attendants. This task involves following a marked path, locating a coffin, dragging it down a hill, unlocking it, and opening it to obtain wooden blocks inside. These blocks must then be impaled on a stake. One of the blocks contains a red/yellow flag which can then be exchanged for a clue from the watching "vampire". I would definitely have chosen this option!!! Margie & Luke breeze through this task and offer their closest allies, the cheerleaders, some advice.

Tammy & Victor

Unfortunately for Victor & Tammy, this task is not so simple. They are misled at the very first step when Victor spots some red and white paint markings on trees and declares they show the way to the coffins. Tammy points out that markings on previous races have always been in the form of red and yellow arrows but Victor doesn't listen. They walk on and on climbing up and up even though the airline flight attendants who were just behind them never make an appearance. Tammy questions Victor repeatedly but he insists that he's right. Meanwhile all the other teams except for Brad and Victoria have checked in at the pit stop. Luke & Margie have placed fourth again.

Eventually Victor and Tammy return to their starting point where Victor notices the arrow pointing to the correct path. Their troubles continue when they lose their key to the coffin while dragging it down the hillside. Their persistence pays off when Victor recovers the key in the grass. Where are Brad and Victoria? Do they have any hope of catching up? No, their choice at the airport is fatal and they are eliminated from the race. I thought they were a team that would stay around much longer. I would not count Victor and Tammy out even though they are at the bottom of the pack. Teams have gone from first to last in previous races and moved back up in the standings on the next leg.

The preview for next week's episode shows Luke having a frustrating time solving a code. I wonder how that dilemma will be resolved. We know you're smart, Luke. You can do it. Yes, you can! Go, Luke & Margie, go!