Thursday, December 17, 2015

How to Make a Great Cup of English Tea

 
An English tea mug with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth the second in cameo on the side.
English Tea Mug

 

How do you make a great cup of English tea?


Making tea the  English way is very easy, even in the United States.

From experience most Americans make two mistakes when making a cup of tea.

1.  They do NOT use a good British brand of tea. The most popular brands of British teas tend to be black teas. Often considered inferior by tea officianados, ordering tea in Britain will mean that you are served a black blended tea. A common and popular brand is PG Tips Black Tea, this is my favorite tea brand





2.  Americans do NOT add boiling water to the tea leaves or tea bag. You should always use water which has just gone off the boil. Never use tepid water, it doesn't allow the tea to release all of its flavor.

I will not stress that you must use loose leaf tea or that a tea pot should be used. You can use tea bags to make tea in the cup. That is acceptable these days, though in polite company it would still raise an eyebrow or two.

Method


1.  Fill  akettle with cold water. You may use bottled water if you like but cold fresh drawn water is best.

2. Bring water to a brisk rolling boil.  A rolling boil is when bubbles form in the water and burst vigorously on the surface.

3. Rinse a good heavy mug with some of the boiling wat. This warms the cup before it is filled, reducing the risk of the cup shattering.

4. After rinsing the mug and throwing away the water used to rinse the cup place one tea bag, in my case, PG Tips Black Tea, in the cup or mug.

5. Add the hot boiling water from the kettle to the mug. Fill until about three quarters full.

6. Let the tea bag soak for about ten seconds and then stir the water around the mug with a spoon. This is to diffuse some of the tea flavor.

7. Allow the tea bag to swirl in the hot water for about thirty seconds, then  remove the teabag from the mug. DO NOT squeeze the tea bag, this can cause the bag to split and drop tea leaves  and dust into your cup, it is not pleasant to taste tea which has lots of leaves still floating in it.

8. Add sugar or your favorite sweetener to taste and a little milk. Don't use cream or coffee creamer they are not meant to be used with tea.

You can also drink some teas without milk or sugar but these teas tend to be the more delicate teas. English black tea is robust and flavorful, but can also seem bitter. It was afterall the drink of the masses, to be drunk while laboring and to replace beer and gin as the drink of the poor.

I hope that you have enjoyed this little excursion into the art of making English tea. Maybe test out some of the many British teas available from your local supermarket or amazon.com.

The links above will take you to pages linked through my amazon.com affiliate account. As such I will receive compensation if you decide to purchase  the items shown in the links.

Here are links to my zazzle designs for teapots; Ireland Teapot;   Inspired by Clarice Cliffe;   Texas Tea Teapot.


Pour for Ireland Teapot
Pour for Ireland Teapot by Bretsuki
Find other Ireland Teapots at zazzle.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

From Puppies to Guide Dogs

Just a few nights ago, Leif and I, joined some friends from Fresno Far Sighted Puppy raisers for a walk around Fig Garden Village, shopping center here in Fresno.




We where joined by Jonathen a journalism student at Fresno State University.




Here is the news report which he created and was broadcast on Fresno State Focus recently.













Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Songs






This year will be my fifty fourth Christmas. That is a lot more Christmas' than I thought I would ever see at times.




Over the years I have built a lot of memories of specific years and often those memories are rekindled by the music of Christmas.




For instance. I was about 6 years old when I appeared in my school Nativity play. I got a solo part too playing Caspar, one of the three kings. I don't remember much of the experience but every year the words of the song come flooding back along with pride that I stood along with a cast of shepherds, Angels and Saints to sing out my solo verse.




So if you are in the mood for Christmas, pop on over to my Christmas song playlist and belt out a rousing chorus or two of a favorite Christtmas song.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Gunman?Why train me for that?

I got a strange e-mail last night. It was from an organization, of which I am a member telling me that I needed to go online to get training for the eventuality of a gunman attack.

In recent days things have gone absolutely crazy, I must say. To say that you can find classes online to teach you, in your own home what to do if you are attacked by a crazed gunman is pretty ludicrous to me.

I am not anti-gun. I used to shoot in county competitions back in England. My preferred weapon was a over and under shotgun. A Browning to be precise. I could shoot at a clay pigeon shoot all day quite happily.

The problem I have is in the sheer panic of some people. Paying $99 to pay for me to have a class and obtain certification that I know what to do, in case of a crazed lone gunman. I have a pretty good idea what to do. Stay away from him. But as a blind man I know the sheer difficulty of even doing that. Moving around an area, lots of noise, echoes how do we know which way is safe?

So why should I buy into this fear?  I must say being blind I have more real fears than being shot.

My fear is real. It doesn't paralyse me. I do go out. My fear is of motorists, not gunmen.

I have had many more close encounters with motor vehicles in myy time here in the United States than I have with crazed gunmen.

Motorists do the silliest things. They drive too fast. Take chances of crossing intersections as the light turns red. They drive down sidewalks to cut into the supermarket parking lot. All to save that vital second.

OK Not all motorists are that bad. Most do stop on red even when turning right to let the blind man and his cute dog cross. But enough don't to scare the sh*t out of me.

So a word to all those in fear of this gunman. Put your fear into perspective. Fear what you know, not what you fear.

For those of you who might drive. Drive safely.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Please Save My Ears!

It is a constant source of amusement to me that sighted people seem to think we "blindies" are all deaf too.

You know. You go into a store or office. An assistant will saay hello, offer help. See your white cane as you ask their assistance and then yell "OVER! THERE!" and helpfully wave their arms as if immitating a windmill in a hurricane.

I don't mind the arm waving too much, unless I am carrying a hot drink in my hand. But the shouting? Oi that bit gets hard on the ears very quickly. I have had my ears whistle for minutes after some encounters.

It happens so often that I have even come up with a hoodie designed to inform the shouter that I am not deaf. The Blind not Deaf Hoodie   also  has the added benefits that if they do shout you can pull up the hood to afford some wear protection and you get to stay warm and taosty all day long.

The shirt is available in a wide range of styles, colors and men and women's fittings.









Blind Not Deaf Shirt
Blind Not Deaf Shirt by Bretsuki
Check out other Blind T-Shirts at zazzle.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Blind People See

I have created a T-Shirt  to help raise some income to fund production work on my planned television program next year.

There are three styles of shirt available from Teespring. Short  sleeved, long sleeved and sweatshirts available in a range of colors and sizes with prices beginning at less than $20.


All the shirts carry the message: "Blind People See Things Differently."

To order and buy a shirt go to  "Blind People See ..."

Gray short sleeved T-shirt saying blind people see things differently in navy blue letters
Limited Offer "Blind People See ..." Shirt

 These shirts are available for a limited time. You can order your shirt now at "Blind People See ..." and receive your garment in time for the Holidays.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mystery Date

This video sketch was made at the CMAC studios in downtown Fresno CA. The premise is that of a "Blind Date."
But then things move to a surprising conclusion.

I really enjoyed thissketch. I think that I have met several young men like the one in this sketch. 

I haven't personally worked with this group at CMAC but I am thinking that I might like to collaborate with them on a few sketches for my show. I'll have to put out some feelers for that  among the Executive Production folks.

I hope you will enjoy this. Blindness itself is not the joke, the sighted reaction to blindness is.



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Braille and Other Updates

About six months ago I wrote to tell you that I was going to learn Braille.

I recently completed my grade one Braille lessons, so I now know all of my Braille letters. But that is as far as I will get.

Over the Summer practicing Braille became more and more difficult as the fingers of my left hand in particular showed they were less sensitive than is required to learn Braille at more than the basic level.

Three years ago, I had a stroke the affects of which were, I thought, mostly gone. I do have a slight tremor in my left hand but nothing else noticeable. Well it seems that the feeling in my fingers is not up to scratch.  As the Braille print got more and more densely packed on the page at higher levels my fingers could not cope.

So disappointingly, my teacher and I had to agree that Grade one was my limit. The good news is that now I can read the numbers on an elevator keypad and find an hotel room number and read it. So two of my original goals were achieved.

A few years ago I also set up a store on zazzle.com called Bretsuki's  The store has been added to over the years, I now have hundreds of designs available on everything from T-Shirts to greetings cards and mugs. The store generates a reasonable income and I have moved up the ladder in terms of selling beyond the level of a basic seller.

My Amazon projects have also terned out pretty well. I am an affilliate and receive some residual income from sales from links on this page. Also my used book store has done pretty well over the two years that it has been in business. The most difficult part of that job is actually finding enough inventory to maintain good stock levels. One thing that has helped me there is moving to a new city where there are lots of good quality thrift stores.



My plans for a Master's degree were placed on hold at the same time that I had my stroke. At present I am interested in returning to school, especially now I live near a good school in the California State University system. But  with only about a ten year working life left, I wonder at the cost effectiveness of a Master's degree now. We'll see.

As you can see. Some of my hopes and plans have not worked out so well, but some have worked out very well. We never know which way things will turn out. So I am glad that I have seized some of the opportunities that have come my way.

Blindness is not a reason not to try things. It can hinder some progress, but blindness is only a problem to be solved, not a reason to give up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Television Production Classes: In the Field

Monday and Tuesday saw me in the classroom and out in the field, well downtown Fresno, CA.

Why?    Because this was the week of the Field Production class, at CMAC studios.

My classmates and I all enjoyed getting to grips with the Sony video cameras used at CMAC.


William Elliott stands beside tripod on location shoot in downtown Fresno as part of the Field class at CMAC. Photo taken by Kevin Hobson
Holding the Camera on location Photo: Kevin Hobson


Though you might consider having very low vision might be an obstacle to camera work, I am having a great deal of fun behind the camera. In fact I think my low vision actually gives me an idea about light and the basic tool of photography in all forms is an understanding of light.

As my vision changes dramatically as I move from light to shadow, or exterior to interior, I can I believe think more like a camera operator. I think in terms of aperture, source of light, brightness and contrast.

I don't know if I am right in this. But we will certainly see in the future.


Knowing what will be in the picture is important for the camera operator. Here William Elliott uses the view finder to frame a few shots while on location photo shoot in downtown Fresno CA. Photo Kevin Hobson.
William Elliott Checking the view finder on Location shoot. Photo Kevin Hobson
During the two day course we  learned that filming out of the studio is no easy thing. For instance all of us found the low late Fall sun was more an hinderance when lining up our shots. As so often the sun was just in the line of shots, causing our cameras to blow out the shot of the road signs and buildings which we were supposed to capture as our field training videos.

Of course only a bad camera operator can blame the sun for ALL their bad shots.






Also as part of the class we learned about interior lighting for those times when we will need to take out a camera and lighting rig for location interviews.

Playing with lighting can be very productive. For instance do you want to make an interviewee look good then light them from the front and side. If you want them to look villainous light them from the side alone in order to create shadow on their face.  To make someone look older, light them from below this causes wrinkles to pop out of the face.

Also during the class I got to talk to the station about my ideas for production.

I need to work on items such as timings, the amount of time devoted to interview in a programme. I also need to work on finding content. My initial idea is a series of possibly monthly, maybe bi-weekly magazine programmes. Shows will contain ideas on health, causes of blindness, maybe a skit or comedy sketch to relieve the perceived heavy subject and a news or technology tutorial section.

The program name is not decided as yet but having asked a few people then "Blind Side of  Fresno" seems pretty popular.

As for airtime, that is uncertain at the moment but I am thinking Early Spring 2016, possibly as early as March.

Please share, Like  or Tweet this post.

To see the first post of this series go to  My Week in the Television Studio

Or take a look at my new Photography Store on Amazon.com  Fresno Camera and Video

Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Week in the Television Studio

This week has been a pretty busy one for me. I was trying something new.

As you might come to expect from me, it was not where you would expect to find a blind man.

I have spent this week learning to be  a television camera operator.


William Elliott in headphones behind his camera as the crew prepare to record the 9th episode of "Members Only" for CMAC Television in downtown Fresno CA.
On Set as the show  prepares

When we began on Tuesday, we, myself and eleven other television production newbies were promised that by the end of Thursday we would have our first TV programme recorded and in post production. That was scary stuff to hear as non of us knew our fades from our takes.

The first day was spent learning just how to pull out the cameras, we used three, large bulky TV studio cameras.  Just positioning them is an art in itself. Then we learned to focus them on what the director wanted, learned to pan and tilt as well as how to zoom without leaving the viewer seasick. That is not easy you know.

Then we learned how to put everything away. Did you know there is a right way to coil a camera cable, and a wrong way too? Well we learned the right way to coil our cables for certain.

Yesterday was spent learning all the various positions from Talent, the person in front of the camera, to Director, the person who calls the shots. "Ready Camera two", "roll sound" "fade up sound", "open  mikes." "Take camera two."  We each took a turn at every place, I was excused Talent as I could not see the autocue ( the electronic display which talent use to read their lines.) I just could not see the autocue in all the bright lights.

I did thoughget to try everything else. I enjoyed being a camera operator most, also being the director, it did give me a bit of a power trip. Issuing orders.

Then at the end of the day we were issued with our script for today. A regular show on CMAC Fresno called "Members Only" A thirty minute show talking about other CMAC Fresno productions.

My place in the show was to operate camera two.

We began about ninety  minutes  before the show. The director and non floor crew made their plans for shots. Camera crews on all three cameras made the set up, then positioned our cameras, set up focus  and locked our cameras down to make sure we didn't accidently moved our cameras out of position or focus. Then mostly waited for the Host and guests to arrive at about 3:15pm. They did their mike checks, our floor director called us  to stand by. The music and video rolled and we were recording.

Through my headset I listened to the director and his crew outside the set calling time and shots while monitoring my camera and watching the programme unveil on a large monitor in the studio. At the half way point some of the crew swapped out to go outside to see the production crew. I was one who swapped out.

I had expected to find the director and his crew frantic with activity, but they were calmly  switching camera shot, bringing in music, calling up graphics. I was impressed with my colleagues. Hard to believe that three days ago they were newbies just like me. Here they looked like seasoned proffesionals.

At the end of thirty minutes the call went out to "Fade to black/ Close mikes. Stop recording and Clear."

The show was over. After we all went back to clean the set. Put away the equipment and settle down. We were told. We had done a great job. The show was timed perfectly, there were no errors and we had created a great show.

Our first show is now definitely under our belt. We were signed off to be able to enter proposals for our own shows, we can do studio work for others within CMAC and we can also move on to take up other challenges.

The link below is the CMAC YouTube link to see the "Members Only" program which we produced in our Stage Production Class. I hoe that you will enjoy watching it.





I will be back in the TV station next week for two classes. A Field Production class for two days and a Feature Film Boot Camp.

During the Boot Camp the crew meet for a script reading on Friday. Are told locations and taken through  a story board. Then on Saturday in the space of five hours they film, edit and present for broadcast a complete short five minute movie. That will be a challenge for yours truly but if this week is anything to go by it will be fun too.



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Low Vision Kitchen: Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Recently I took a step back into the kitchen. It can be scarey for a blind person to step back into the kitchen with all the sharp objects and hot surfaces. But in returning to the kitchen, I have regained some independence and self esteem.

Here is my first cooking video. : The Low Vision Kitchen: Breakfast Sausage Casserole

The Ingredients

Your Favorite Sausage, cooked and sliced into bite size pieces, you may also use Spam or Burgers or Sausage Patties

Your Favorite Cheese for topping

Six Eggs

Cup of Milk

Unbaked Biscuits.

Salt and Pepper for seasoning.

The casserole is quick  to prepare. The video is about 18 minutes long and so I would say there is a 15 minute preparation time plus 30 minute cooking time.

I used this Pyrex Baking dish in the video.Pyrex Basics 3 Quart Glass Oblong Baking Dish, Clear 8.9 Inch X 13.2 Inch - 3 Qt






                                                                                                                                                                       

If you are uncertain about using a hot oven. Then try these cool oven rack guards. They are easy to clean and prevent you burning your hands or arms on the edge of a hot oven rack. I use them all the time in my oven.






Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Youtube Channel


If you like this blog. You might like to subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Blind Sports: Fencing




William at Fresno Fencing Academy in fencing jacket holding a competition epee sword and a fencing face mask.
William in Fencing Jacket

Many years ago. Believe me it was hard not to write, "Long, Long  ago in a country far, far away." See I couldn't help myself. Well I once tried fencing.

No, I did not build fences in yards and gardens, this fencing is an Olympic sport and has some history in the art of single combat and duelling. It is the European styles of sword fighting raised to a sport.

In the early 1990's I used to visit a club about 20 miles from my home in Cheshire, England. It was fun and I got to keep pretty fit and had fun, but work and life made it difficult to keep up the sport.

In January 2015, I was returning home from my local California Council of the Blind meeting, with my wife. She decided to stop for ice-cream at Baskin Robbins. Next door happened to be a fencing school.

Inspired by my youthful experience I took a chance, went in, was welcomed and after talking about my needs for lessons and possible accommodations. I had a lesson booked and was on my way.

My main weapon is the Foil, a light and flexible sword used by beginners. Then after time a novice might move on to a Epee, a heavier sword similar to the foil but with different target areas or maybe the Sabre (Saber) a heavy slashing sword based on the old cavalry weapon. The three swords are represented in Olympic competition.

My personal aim, is merely to improve my balance, keep fit and have fun. Fencing can be enjoyed at all ages, even I at 54 years have lots of fun.

In September my coach, Vladimir, at the Fresno Fencing Academy offered me the chance to try a real opponent. The video below is part of the bout we fought.

We are competing with competition Epee, competitors score one point for a touch on the upper body , not the face mask or legs. First competitor to five points wins. I am fighting from left to right. We join the bout at the end of the first touch. I lead by 1 point to zero.

To make things a little more even. We are blindfolded too.






Monday, September 21, 2015

How a can of beans changed my life

It is strange what things mark a turn in our lives.


For the first forty years of my life I lived in the same town in Northern England.

Then suddenly, without warning. My life was changed in a fraction of a second.

Watch this video to find, "How a Can of Beans Changed My Life"













Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Summers End

Summer will be drawing to a close in a few rapidly shortening days.

What a Summer it has been.

Since May, I have relocated to a new city. Learned a new transport system, two actually both a regular transit and para-transit system. Been active in the job search market. Joined a professional management body, learned some new adaptive technology products, continued learning Braille and on top of all that jumped into the pool to try to learn to swim and also taken up the sword and begun to learn fencing.

I hope all these  items show why I have been a little quiet on my blog over the recent past.

Now however things seem to be settling into a rhythm and gaps are opening in my days which will allow me to come back to my blog and possibly extend my vlog on Youtube too.

Last Night of the  Proms.

Saturday, 9/15/15, saw one of my  favorite evenings of the year. It was 'The Last Night of the Proms', an annual festival of music broadcast on the BBC throughout the summer. 

I used to watch the 'Last Night of the Proms' at home in England, now I listen over my Internet Radio .

'The Last Night of the  Proms' always brought an end to summer for me. My birthday follows soon afterwards, the Bonfire Night was close behind that. Bonfire Night with its smokey air and smell of stale gunpowder. The cool crisp mornings walking through the park collecting conkers as the crisp frost burned on the back of my throat.

I love this time of year as we look towards Autumn all the hopes of the year are now bearing fruit and we can look forward to cooler days.

Symbolic of all this time is what I saw  Saturday. Leif, my guide dog stretch on his back, listening to the music with me.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Guide Dog Leif






It seems such a short time, but Leif, my guide dog and I have been together just over eighteen months.




Over those months he has posed for many photographs and we have built lots of memories together.




The only sad thing so far about our partnership is that he has more friends on Facebook than I do. Well what do I expect, he is cute, cuddly and a dog. And I am not ..."

If you like the video, then share it.

Maybe even become a friend on Facebook, the link is below the video on the playback page of Youtube.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Latest Laser Surgery

A couple of months ago a new retinologist at my eye doctors practice took a look at my left eye and though it has been NLP (No Light Perception) for quite sometime now lots of new blood vessels ( neovascularization) have formed in the eye, making it pretty uncomfortable.

Anyway this meant laser surgery to destroy those new vessels. I went for my second series of treatments yesterday.

The treatment itself is pretty simple, after dilation of the eye, you lean into the headrest on which there is a laser and optics for the doctor to observe and aim the laser. Then the doctor fires several hundred laser shots into the eye to cauterize the blood vessels and seal them. The whole process takes about twenty minutes. There is some discomfort, eased by my taking some Tylenol a couple of hours prior to the procedure. The doctor can inject pain-killers, but having that done a couple of years ago was actually worse than the procedure and leaves you with a pretty colorful black-eye.

After the procedure, my doctor was pretty up-beat. She had done two sessions of laser in one go, just to reduce any need later to do anymore.

But then came her killer stroke. She said, "OK. Be aware that in cases like yours, past results often predict the future. You will now probably lose the right eye as well."

My heart sank. My right eye has very little peripherel vision, but that is some vision. I do not want to lose that. Here she is saying I will lose that too. Even though the right eye has been stable for about thirteen years, the left was also complicated with a stroke which destroyed the optic nerve blood supply, I now cannot do anything but worry that I can lose what vision I have at any moment.

That is not a good feeling to have as we move into the summer.

Monday, June 8, 2015

High Visibility Light Swich Cover for the Visually Impaired

In the past few days I have moved house. Stressful at the best of times. But very stressful when you are looking for light in your new home and all the light switches are the same color as the walls.

So I went to my Zazzle store page and created this bright and contrasting design for a light switch cover.

This design is specifically created not to blend with any background, it is meant to stand out for those of us with low vision.

Take a look at this and many other items at my Zazzle Store.



Chevron Light Switch Cover
Chevron Light Switch Cover by Bretsuki
Check out other Chevron Light Switch Cover at zazzle.com

Sunday, May 24, 2015

What Would You Do?

Recently I have been hearing a lot of articles on various blind websites and podcasts about declaring blindness to a new employer.

The arguments seem to go that if you are blind, you should either declare in order to prevent a prospective employer becoming angry at your "non disclosure" at the interview, thus losing you the job.

Or you should  keep silent as long as possible so hoping if the perspective employer doesn't notice you might land the job.

These two views seem legitimate  in the case that many blind people are unemployed. But to me it seems that we as blind or even other disabled people cannot hope to hide our disability indefinitely.

So in my  case for instance. I cannot see well enough to walk down the street without assistance, whether that be my white cane or Leif, my guide dog.

Should I try to hide the fact that I cannot see I would rapidly give the game away by walking into the nearest wall or worse still, the interviewer.

So my dilema becomes cane or dog?

Do I use a cane for the interview or do I go in as I would to work with my dog?

It is tough. There is no right answer. Just opinion.

But in such a case "What would you do?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thoughts of a Guide Dog: Leif and the treat mine

Life as a guide dog can be hectic.

Recently I have had to retrain William in his use of positive reinforcement.

William, over the eighteen months we have been working together had become prettylazy about offering treats. Instead of rewarding often he began only offering a treat after we reached a kerbside.

Of course this meant that I was working hard, avoiding the trash cans, lamp=posts and benches as well as the occasional pedestrian and car.

Now as a guide dog, I can't just say, "Hey Bud! Give more treats, dude."

We guide dogs don't work that way. It is not our nature. So, How did ?I show my disappointment in the situation? I sniffed.

Sniif a bush. Sniff a fire hydrant. Sniff a tree. My irritation knew no bounds.

Then Came a visit from a Guide Dogs for the Blind trainer. William pointed out "my" problem. Typical human, His problem is MY problem. But.

Easily resolved said the trainer, offer more treats more often. Reward only the good behavior not the bad.

Well I sat through that lesson with a rising heart. More treats. Treats for all my good work. Treats are great for encouraging  a guide dog.

Well  now I have to say, my life is easier. William gets into the treat thing pretty well. I get rewarded all the time. Now my life is less hectic. No more looking for places to sniff. Now my life is hectic in my driving to the next treat.

Fire hydrants, lamp-posts and benches are no longer sniff points they are possible treats mines. Avoid them and do so with gusto and I get a treat.

So tip to all those with a guide dog out there and in particular to you guides. Make every situation a treat mine.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Braille Assessment

My first lesson in Braille was shall we say an "eye opener."

What did we do?

First my instructor went through the letters in Braille on a large model of a Braille cell. The dots were modelled by table tennis balls on a rectangular piece of wood.

Following that my instructor checked my fingers for sensitivity.  This was done by having me tell him how many lines of Braille dots I could feel. He actually suggested there were just two lines, I thought there were three lines and said so. He agreed, the suggestion was just that, a trick to see if I would just agree to pass the test.

Then finally he showed me what a real Braille text feels like.

Were there any surprises for me?

There was one really big surprise for me. I had come across braille on items such as hotel room numbers or the odd gift card like Starbucks which sometimes have Braille lettering on them. There the Braille is widely spaced and quite easy to feel. 

A real Braille book is very densely packed though. there seems so little space between letters it almost seems that there is just one stream of dots with no distinguishing features or breaks.

I can say right now my estimation of Braille readers has gone way up, I had imagined it pretty easy, just like reading with eyes, but I cannot imagine reading even printed matter that is so densely packed.

My instructor, Paul, said that pretty much every adult who has been sighted and whom he has taught has a similar experience. Often the experience is compounded with a fear of failing, I had felt this too, though I didn't mention this. The world of Stage one Braille is a large one, twenty six letters, symbols for capital letters and punctuation as well as numbers to learn.

Where from Here?

Now I have to wait for my Braille textbook to arrive and we will begin more formal lessons, learning the alphabet.

I did get to try out some of the initial lesson from the book yesterday. The letters a through e. I also got to read a very simple set of words in Braille. We did this in a sort of spelling bee style.

I would find the word, say it, spell it out and repeat the word again.  Bear in mind though we are talking of sentences like "The cat, sat on the mat." But in the end I was happy, I could read simple words like ; cab, ace and bee.

Now for my first assignment. Wait for the textbook.

Would anyone have any experiences of learning Braille that they would like to share?

Please feel free to tell me about them in the comments section.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I am Going to Learn Braille

Since losing my sight I have often  been asked by people, "Do you read Braille?" It is as if they think blind people instantly know how to read Braille as a sort of gift in return for having no sight.

I have until now only been able to answer , "No. I have never been taught to read Braille."

Well next week I begin to take official lessons in  how to read using Braille texts.

For those who do not know, Braille is named after  Louis Braille a blind man who lived in France at the turn of the Eighteenth Century. He came across messaging system used in the French Napoleonic Army of the day which allowed officers to receive and send reports in the field to be read at night using a system of raised dots on hard paper. The millitary system was complex and cumbersome, but  Louis worked to simplify and adapt it to make it usable for blind people. The current system uses a series of six dots placed in a grid to denote various letters, numbers and identifying symbols.

While many people may say reading Braille is less important today as we have all the adaptive technology that helps us read and transmit our ideas, I have felt that there is always a need to learn older technologies too. After all I learned to write with pen and paper and still it is often the easiest way to pass on an idea, rather than whipping out a phone to dictate an e-mail or voicemail.

Braille will be a useful extra tool, after all some stores like Starbucks have Braille on their gift cards, no need in future for me to pull out a handful of cards and hand them to an embarassed barista asking him or her to pick out the correct card for me. Restaurants also still have Braille Menu's no need to ask my wife to use her choosing time to help me, when I can help myself.

And that is what all this is all about. Finding a way to help ourselves, be independent and live a fuller life for ourselves and allow those around us to live their lives to the fullest too.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Have a Laugh With SIRI

One of my major hobbies at the moment is listening to the radio.

Earlier today I was listening to the B.B.C. on my iPad and there was a program describing the history of the robot in the cinema and comparing this with the reality of robotics  in science.

But in the midst of a quite serious programme came a brief respite. If you have an iPhone or iPad with Siri, try asking your favourite computer aide  to complete  the following task:

"Open the pod bay doors Hal."

Seems the geeks at Apple have a sense of humor and know the script of Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Oddessy. I tried also asking what to do about Klingon's on the starboard bow, but it seems Cuppertino's best are not Trekkies.

 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wow A Quarter of the Year Gone!

Wow Folks. A quarter of the year has gone by already and this is about my first post since 2015 began.

I promise you all has been well and the only reason for my lack of posts this year is just that I have been very busy.

The end of last year saw me taking up some independent living skills (ILS) lessons, these took up one day per week. I have learned some new things like cooking and cleaning house. Learning to cook again was possibly the best thing. Blindness had brought with it a terror of the cooker, hot plates and ovens are pretty scary when you can't see them. But with the addition of a bump dot or two and a patient teacher things come together in a nice meal.prepared by yours truly. Those ILS classes are now coming to an end.  But I cannot really explain fully what a difference they have made to my life in general.

I also took on a more active role in my membership of my local California Council for the Blind chapter here in Fresno.

In addition to continuing my part time work at my local library, I taught a U.S. Citizenship Preparation class at my local community college, the class went well and was a great deal of fun for all.

Then last but not least, I took a new hobby which shocked some of my wife's friends and family, but one which I enjoy very much. Fencing. More of my new hobby in later posts.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

At Starbucks Drive Through with Leif



Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Visit to the Emergency Room

Last Sunday was an ok day. My wife and I sat watching the last week of the regular football season watching the teams battle out the last minutes of drama.

At the end of the afternoon my wife offered to take my guide dog Leif for a walk. This is ok, he needs an extra bit of excitement after a long day snoozing beside the TV.

As it was getting close to sunset, I decided not to go along. It would have meant no play for Leif as I would need him to guide me as my sight rapidly deteriorates after sunset.

They went out and about one  hour later I heard snuffling at the front door and a shuffle. Leif it turned out had been let loose and ran about like a mad thing. My wife unfortunately had not been able to step aside quite quickly enough.

Leif had hit her below the left knee, knocking her legs from beneath her. She had fallen twisting her ankle badly as she fell.

Leif was quite undeterred and led the way home with my wife shuffling along behind.

By the time they got home her ankle was badly swollen and painful. I harnessed  up Leif and we got my wife to the car and drove to the emergency rooms where she was seen in a few minutes, x-rays taken and the doctor happy there were no fractures prescribed some pain killers and rest.

If however my wife wanted to take a pain pill, she could not be allowed to drive herself home. At which the attending nurse turned to my wife and said "Well your husband can just drive you."

I heard my wife reply in no uncertain terms, "The blind man with a  guide dog?"

"Oh, yes. I see." said the nurse.

All bandaged and on crutches my wife and Leif and I left the emergenccy room. Giggling and enjoying how we might explain that I had been ordered to drive my wife home after an accident with my guide dog to any police or highway patrol officers we might have encountered.