Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where Did January Go?

It seems only a few hours ago since I was wishing everyone a happy new year. Now here we are and it's the 31st January.

The month has been busy. I have got another class almost under my belt. My Modern China class ends on Saturday next. Then a one day break to see the Superbowl game and back to school Monday for Modern American History.

January also saw the news that two studies and medical trials for blindness treatments are going well. One with human fetal stem cells at UCLA came out first. That was encouraging that human trials were positive.

At Pennsylvania University a gene therapy treatment for Retinitis Pigmentosa is also looking positive. Treatment there is still at the animal test stage. Scientists are using a virus injected into the eye to transport a modified gene to the retina to implant the gene into retinal cells curing the disease.  Again encouraging results there.

On other fronts we have got past the first of the Primaries in the Presidential race. Still a close call there for the Republicans. It will be an interesting few months till the primaries are over and we get to the final race to November.

So that seems to be where January went for me. I hope it was as normal for you.

Now to decide who I should cheer on Sunday in the Superbowl. Patriots or Giants? Manning is good, and he gets to go to his brothers home field. My mother in law is from Connecticut so torn there for the Patriots.

Decisions, decisionns, decisions?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Breakfast at Perko's

One of the best things about life in the United States is breakfast.

Normally I eat breakfast at home before dashing out to work. That is not fun.

I had swapped around my week this past week, gave up working Wednesday for a plumber and surrendered to work today, Saturday, instead. As a treat for mmyself I decided o make a trip to the local diner, Perko's for breakfast too.

I walked the couple of miles to the diner in the dark, it took me 45 minutes to tap and shuffle my way across town. I left home a little after 6am and arrived a little before 7am. I was surprised to find the parking lot full, large pick-ups everywhere.

It has been a few years since my visit to Perko's at such an early hour and I had forgotten that farmers breakfast early. The place was full of wide brimmed Stetson's and John Deere baseball caps. Talk at the tables was of rain or lack ofrain and the price of livestock and such worries always sent to try the pockets of the farmer wherever they live.

I just savored the pleasure of this ruitual as I ate my steak, country potatoes and scrambled eggs.

As the sun began to rise over the distant Sierra Nevada. I suddenly felt quite appreciative of what I have. A full stomach, a home and men and women who care about the rain sun and price of livestock.

It is nice to live in this country. Nice to share breakfast at Perko's.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Wonder?

There has been quite a bit of comment in the press and on the news this week about the success of the first human embryonic stem cell treatments for Macular Degeneration.

I have come to wonder does such a thing then mean that their may be a treatment for my kind of blindness?

I have blindness caused by a Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO). This is a blood clot which caused a loss of blood flow through the eye, damaging the retinal cells, especially in the macular.

The treatment is, for me, as I have an underlying auto-immune disease. Antiphospholipd syndrome (Hughes syndrome or APS). a lifetime on blood thinners under constant monitoring and monthly intravitreal injections of Avastin or Lucentis.

So while I could not give up the blood thinning medication, maybe the stem cell treatment might be possible.

That would save me a lot of problems, no monthly injections into the eye, not painful but not pleasant either. Not having to go to the eye doctor every month gives me twelve more working daysper year. Making me more money as I don't get paid leave, being part-time, maybe I could even get a full time job with one working eye, not many places like to start a blind person, no matter how qualified.For me then, maybe for you too, the new treatment may be akin to winning the lottery. A dream of, "If I got that injection I would ..."

Oh well. We can watch and wonder.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Intel Reader Video

I thought you might like to see this.

It is a video that describes the use of the Intel Reader.

Intel Reader: Tips #2

Here are some new tips that I have found using my Intel Reader.

1.  Listening to Text:

Use a pair of earphones or headphones when listening to your Intel Reader.

The internal speaker is ok, but can sound very mechanical. Listening to your reader through ear or headphones makes the voice sound more human and much clearer.

I guess it is psychological in that we are used to listening to phone calls and such and we can interpret the sound much easier.

2. You can change the text and page background colors from the settings screen. The default is white on black but you can change it to black text on yellow background or red or blue and white text. So try the various color schemes and find what suits you best.

For lots of reading I use Black letters on Yellow.

If you have a tip share them here.

Stem Cell Technology Trials: Encouraging

Good news for sufferers of Macula Degeneration.

Doctor Schwartz, of UCLA has announced that the first trials of stem cell treatments have proved to be encouraging. While one patient showed visual improvement with no visible regrowth of retina light receptors and so a placebo effect (patient felt it would work so acted accordingly), could not be ruled out. another patient showed growth of new retinal cells.

This is a link to the Washington Post video report Click HERE.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Vacation Suggestions Anyone?

I am thinking ahead for possible vacation destinations this summer. Does anyone have a suggestion?

I just want suggestions for visually impaired friendly vacations. Not really interested in night-life, partying and such.

Ease of getting to a place would be a big factor, so I'd guess it would need lots of public transport. A good airport would be good. Doesn't really matter too much to me if I need to make transfers, if I fly from my local airport Fresno Yosemite International (FAT) I always have to change planes, they either fly through San Francisco, Los Angeles or most often Las Vegas.

Those three cities have been on my vacation list alot so are not really what I am looking for.

I also travel a lot by bus, Greyhound or Amtrak, often to Reno, NV.

Amtrak is a favorite mode of travel for me.

So if you have any suggestions for great vacation destinations for a single traveller who is visually impaired let me know.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Recent Eye Doctor Visit

Last Monday, January 16. I went to see my eye doctor, technically she is a retinologist. But that is by the by.
I went through all the usual checks, eye chart, pressures, OCT scan, no dilation which is always good.

The eye chart part was tough though. I have been noticing my vision is getting worse. Not blurred anymore, which is good. But for you older readers, do you remember the days when television sets had contrast and brightness knobs on the front? Did you ever turn both these knobs to full. The picture got so bright and more undefined.

Well that is about where my vision is today. Bright, I close my eyes at night and I still think I can see light. Maybe that is something to do with the insomnia? Anyway, I pointed out the phenomena, she just said, "There is no physical reason for that."

So is she saying it is in my imagination?

I know in the past that I have been able to detect changes well before the machines and doctors tests could find something. My doctor is good, but somehow I think we are missing something happening here. Don't know what it is, but it is happening.

On Wednesday, my wife even got the message that something is going on. She came to my work unexpectedly. We were organizing a book club and she wanted to know whether to pick up some of the snacks. She was three feet away from me and I walked past her. I didn't even know she, or anyone for that matter, was there. Of course she was offended because I ignored her. That was despite my protests that it was not a deliberate snub. Life is too short to start a fight that way, anyway.

I'll need to keep an eye on the matter. Pun intended. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sleepless In California

Is it the stress of planning a class paper? Is it the stress of starting a book club? Id it jusst blindness induced insomnia?

It is hard to tell what is causing the lack of an ability to sleep these days. I can generally sleep for two or three hours. Early darkness means that my most sleepy periods tend to be around seven in the evening. Then by midnight I am wide awake again.

This has been the fifteenth night in sucession that I have spent sat up. Now at 6am Pacific time there is no point even trying to hope of some sleep today.

There could be some stress involved in this. I have an eight to ten page paper due at the weekend. I have done most of the research for it and know what I want to write. Normally I have never in the past lost any sleep over a mere paper. Maybe now at the Master's level I just feel there is more at stake? Who knows? It's all subconcious.

Thursday will see me leading a new book club. That has been in preparation since November with some work entailed but mainly it was order books the wait for people to collect them. I am always nervous about being in the public eye, especially now I have gone blind. Interacting socially can be anxiety ridden. But the book is a fun book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by  Helen Simonson if any of you would like to read it, it is very entertaining.

My final idea is that it is all this combined with that damn blindness induced insomnia. The reduced light cues gained through my eyes combined with dark early evenings mean my body clock is now growing further out of sync with normal day to day rhythms. My body is basically reating rather like a worker on a pattern of shift work, except where they have days where they can readjust to different work shifts, I cannot. So my body is tiring at all the most innappropriate times like now.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What's the Stick For?

I walked around the corner into the car showroom yesterday. My wife and I were dropping off the car for it's latest 5,000 mile oil change and inspection.

I heard the assistant whisper quite loudly to my wife. "What's that stick for?"

Patiently she said, "He's blind."

"Can he see at all?" Asked the young assistant again.

Of course by now I am stood next to my wife and feel free to answer for myself. "I can see light and dark. That's all really."

Again the assistant asks my wife more questions. Also sharing some insights into blindness. How Blind people develop super hearing and such.

It is not the fact that the assistant asked questions that made me feel isolated. It was the fact that she asked my wife the questions. Even when I attempted to answer, it was as if I answered in my wife's voice. Any attempt by me to answer seemed to be ignored as the assistant preferred to direct her whole attention on my wife.
Having not seen the assistants behaviour with other customers, I do not know if she just preferred to deal with female customers or if it was just my blindness which affected her.

I was reminded of the old days back in England. There used to be a radio programme called "Does He Take Sugar?" The title referred to the fact that whenever in the presence of two apparently able bodied people, the obviously disabled person disappears completely. All discussion and questions are directed to the able bodied companion, rarely the disabled person.

So maybe we should bottle our invisibility and sell it to the government for military use. I believe they want to make soldiers, ships and planes invisible. Or maybe I should just be happy that I have the ability to tap, tap, tap my way around this world. Unseen and unseeing.

Does He Take Sugar? A HubPage on Interracting with the disabled.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Classes Begin Tomorrow

The day has come. Tomorrow sees the start of my next class.

This one will be a graduate seminar in Modern China. Actually it is not up to the present, just China between 1644 and 1912.

I have done all my scanning of the main textbook, it took a couple of days to do that. Mainly it took a couple of days because the Intel Reader uses a lot of battery power to process documents. So one may get several chapters processed per battery charge then it takes three or four hours to recharge the battery fully. Possibly a thing to consider buying additional batteries.

The instructor for the class also advised "skimming" several chapters of the text. Of course skimming a text is not really possible for a blind student as we need to listen to all the text in order to glean some information. At least I didn't need to make detailed notes. But I can say that I have read the first part of the textbook. I don't mind that thought, there is a lot of background information which I am sure is very important to the course.

At this moment I am a little nervous about the class. I always am. Lots of questions flying around in my mind and wondering what the next four weeks in class will bring.

Anyway I am as prepared as I can be. Whatever else happens I have done as much as I can now.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Here we are now coming to the end of the first day of 2012.

What do you do to bring in the New Year?

Personally New Year has never been a time of revelling and drinking. Not that I object to parties, it's just I spent many years working in my family store and had to be up at 4.30am in the morning to get in the newspapers and open by 6am. So a party and a hangover was never really an option.

Last night I was in bed by 10pm and wide awake at midnight, a neighbor was outside shooting off a rifle into the sky. Illegal of course, but who's going to get upset with one man shooting off his rifle on New Year's, it would be frightfully unsporting and it is only one night.

Any way no one got hurt, he did a few shots, a yippy youu and was back inside before my heart crept back into my chest.

Back in England I found it a lot quieter in the night, but the morning often brought the surprises. One New Year's morning I went out to bring in the papers only to find a man fast asleep on the front lawn in front of the shop. He was snoring loudly, laying on his back, so I turned him onto his side, in the recovery position, actually the only time I used my first aid skills. He lay there until about 9am before waking and staggering off up the street. Hopefully to his home and a proper bed.

Thankfully there are few drinkers in this neighborhood. Just my happy hunting neighbor.

So to all of you, Happy New Year and I hope all of you gain all you would wish for yourselves and your families.