Category Archives: Work

Sometimes I’m not Convinced I Grew Up

Sometimes I’m not Convinced I Grew Up

Every once in a while I still feel like a kid being allowed to sit at the grown-ups table instead of the Kiddy table. Case and point, yesterday.

I had to make a trip out of town for work with our President and two of our legal team. At different points throughout the day I:

* Still carry a backpack because I refuse to use a briefcase.
* Was the only one not drinking coffee (apple juice or water instead)
* Was the only one of five people at the table without a law degree (any degree if you want to really get technical)
* Was eating a cheeseburger instead of seafood.

Good thing they pay me for my uber powers of Nerd. 🙂

iTunes Accessibility and Other Updates

iTunes Accessibility and Other Updates

On Friday I went to Watertown, MA to participate in an exciting press conference announcing an agreement between Apple Inc., The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, and the National Federation of the Blind to make the iTunes software, store, and iTunes U accessible to blind people. It was the first time that I’ve participated in a press conference and I think it went pretty well. You can read the AP story announcing the agreement.

I did learn something from this flight. I should never try changing flights to get back early. I was originally scheduled for an 18:30 flight coming back to Baltimore. My colleague was on a 17:30 flight and I asked f I could change to get back a little faster. There was an open seat and I got on the flight. While we were going through security his wife called and said the 17:30 had been pushed to 19:00. Groan. Sure enough, the flight didn’t get off until 19:45. We ended up having to go through security twice too owing to the fact that the section of the airport we were in had almost no options for food.

Also, a quick update. I finally got the blogroll caught up with reality. Hopefully I haven’t missed anyone.

In other news. We endedup at the Cheesecake Factory Tuesday night since ESPN Zone was closed for a private event. I still need to get my skiball and airhockey game on. 🙂

Workplace Automated External Defibrillator

Workplace Automated External Defibrillator

Last night I finally renewed the CPR certification I let lapse six years ago. I didn’t intentionally let it lapse, at the time I was planning on taking a First Responder calss through the Winona, MN fire department, but lapse it did. Our Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service group had requested to get certified and one of the FF/EMTs who works for Emergency Management did the training. He modified the training slightly and got an 8 hour class done in two. That’s what I’m talking about.

I’m glad I got the chance to test the skills. I’ve kept up with the new AHA guidelines, but never knew for sure if I was doing everything right.

Recently I have been discussing the idea of CPR certification and obtaining at least one Automated External Defibrillator (AED) with one of my bosses. I spoke with him today and it looks like we can get Lifepak 500s for around $2,000 each. I found an AED Grant Program which will partially fund the units we would like. Now I need to fill out the grant app, find a physician to act as Medical Oversight, draft an EMS Activation Protocol, get the powers that be to approve all of this, plus I would like to form a committee to draft some general emergency preparedness procedures for administrative approval.

Our building covers an entire city block and my thinking is taht we need to have at least 2 units. We have an additional outbuilding that is not directly connected with the main building and should probably have one there too. In thinking about it tonight I would optimally like to have one unit per floor on each side of teh building where we usually have people. That makes the total number of desired units about six. I’ll have to see if this is feasable or not. Maybe I want too many AEDs. I’m not sure what the proper balance is between cost and time/distance.

If anyone has ever done something like this, has thoughts, or knows the EMS medical director for the city of Baltimore leave a message in the comments. I could use some guidance.

Wednesday Wackiness

Wednesday Wackiness

I don’t care if today is one day closer to the weekend. I am declaring shenanigans and demanding a do over, or better yet fast forward.

Last night I got home at about 21:30 after working an extra few hours showing products at a technology fair in Columbia. The show was really well attended and we showed off the new KNFB Reader Mobile and a couple of other new products.

Having agreed to go to a congressional hearing today it was necessary to be at the office at 07:00. We loaded up the vans, drove to DC, and spent an hour standing around because the hearing room was locked. No big deal I got the chance to catch up with one of the summer interns who I hadn’t seen in a while and eavsedrop on the US Capitol Police radio traffic. We were let into the room at 09:55 after being informed the hearing would start 20 minutes late.

Our representative was first on the agenda. I expected his testamony to take some time and be followed up by questioning from the committee. You know what I sat through? His 5 minute statement and 3 or 4 minutes of the committee chair saying our issue was basically not important and that we shouldn’t challenge the Librarian of Congress on his assertion that it was acceptable to phase the talking book program from cassette tape to digital books over 6 years instead of 4. Couple of quick facts here before I go on.

Seventeen thousand public libraries exist for sighted readers to obtain books from. Countless numbers of bookstores and websites exist for the same reason. Do you know how many libraries there are for the blind in this country? One. The National Library Service for the Blind. It serves 800,000 patrons throughout the entire country, producing talking and Braille books. Care to take a stab at how many recorded books are made available each year?

One percent.

Yes, a mere one percent of the available print material is made available to blind citizens. In a world where access to information and knowledge is a critical component of becoming educated and getting a job is it a wonder that 70 percent of working age blind adults are unemployed?

No, the NLS isn’t the *only* method for accessing books in alternative format, but it is the primary source for most of America’s blind. Services such as Audible and Bookshare do exist, and are good for what they offer (I use Bookshare heavily and Audible occasionally), but many blind citizens don’t have the funds, skills, or technology to utilize these services.

If the United States Congress does not make the 19.1 million dollar appropriation we are seeking it may be 3 years before some blind Americans have access to new books. That’s three fourths of a teenager’s highschool career. Imagine you walk into your local library or bookstore and see that their once massive collection has been reduced to one percent of what it was. Further imagine the librarian or store manager informs you that no new books will be coming in for another three years. How well would that go over?

Wow. That descended into a diatribe I wasn’t originally planning on writing, but I think I finally put my finger on why I was so annoyed today. It wasn’t that half my day was consumed with an eight minute meeting, or the fact that my sandwich vomited mustard all over my shirt and pants, nor the fact that my stomach almost rebelled on the way back to work from something I ate (TMI? Sorry.), or even the fact that I really can’t get any work done now because the Internets are broken. Really, what’s got me annoyed is the Committee chair acting as if we aren’t important. She commented that the blind are “not being left out.” and that a substantial portion of the budget being considered was going to programs that benefit blind Americans. That’s all well and good, but we are merely asking for a chance at accessing something many people take for granted.


Like I said. Shenanigans.

Oh, and I am now on hold with AT&T because they have, once again, deleted my voicemail account. This is still a holdover problem from the night the one support rep hosed one, and consequently the other, of our SIM cards. Cost me a $25 cab ride and two and a half hours on the phone with tech support to get new SIMs too. Yeah, I’m quite thrilled with them right now.

ooh, goodie. Voicemail is back, but I have to recreate my mailbox. Hope noone left me messages I will not get now.

96 Hours In LA, Day 1

96 Hours In LA, Day 1

My watch says 21:30, but my body and the clock on my laptop disagree.

The one thing I’ve discovered about flying west is that you seem to acquire 3 more hours in your day, but you really don’t end up doing anything with them.

The day started when my alarm went off at 05:40 (eastern) this morning. I got up, finished packing, and headed for the airport. After clearing security and buying breakfast we boarded our flight for a 09:10 departure. Five hours later we landed in Los Angeles to attend the annual California State University North Ridge Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN).

This conference is huge, at least for the disability field. It is spread out between 2 primary hotels and a third is being used for some events as well. We are here to relaunch the NFB nonvisual Web Certification Program and to present on low cost verses full featured screen access products.

It’s looking like it will be a fun time, and I’m excited to catch up on the latest in new products.

The only downside to the whole thing is that I’ve spent less than 12 waking hours with Treva in teh past week. She spent last week in Indiana, which was really good for her, but since she got back Monday night and I left this morning, it was a little sad.

I’ll try to cover some highlights of the conference in the coming couple days.

I’m Fired

I’m Fired

Oh yes. Indeed. I totally fire myself as a contributor to this blog since I cannot seem to update with any regularity.

So, here’s the brief rundown of what’s been happening.

We’re still settling into our new apartment and trying to make it feel like home. We need to put up all the decorative junk Treva has managed to auire over the years 😉 so if anyone wants to come be an interior decorator we’ll put you up on our futon for free.

Work is going great. I get paid to play with all kinds of fun stuff and help people with technology related issues.

Treva is still looking for work and trying to settle in. It’s been kind of an ajustment moving from Richmond to here, but in time it will all smooth out.

We really do need to find a church. Not having a church family is something we miss.

I’ll make an effort to write more soon. We’re working on a podcast too…. soon.

Changes, Changes, changes

Changes, Changes, changes

It has been so long since I’ve written a substantive post, I’m not sure I remember how to do it right anymore. Life is spinning like a whirlwind and and I want to let everyone know what’s going on. So I’ll muttle through the intricacies of language, sentence structure, and punctuation to keep my readers enthralled. 🙂

We have been running around like crazy the past couple weeks getting ready for our move. The Friday before Thanksgiving Treva’s mother and sister came down to deliver some furnature and help pack. We had a chest of drawers and a headboard made to match the dresser and lamp stand turned table that we already had. The craftsman who made them consulted the Amish guy who made the first set. They match nearly perfectly and we think that in a couple years, when the wood fades somewhat, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

We spent that weekend in Goshen with Treva’s family and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with them.

Tuesday we headed to Wisconsin. We had planned on spending the day with friends at the Museum of Science and Industry, but unfortunately they were all sick and had to cancel. We grabbed an earlier train and had the chance to spend more time with my Uncle Darren who would only be in town until the following day.

We were in Wisconsin until Sunday when my Dad and Grandpa drove us back to Richmond. We had a great time and it was good to spent time with everyone since we won’t be able to come home for Christmas this year.

Our friends took us out to dinner Monday which was really nice. We got to spend some more time with them before leaving and they, of course, got to pick on me some more before they had to do it over e-mail. 🙂

Wednesday was my last day of work in Richmond. It was a day of mixed emotions. Excitement over the upcoming adventure, trepedation over the upcoming adventure, and the sadness that comes with knowing you are leaving good friends.

Because of the giant amount of work I still needed to complete before leaving I decided to go in early. Treva and I arrived at the office at 6:30 to discover the phones didn’t work, we couldn’t get to the internet, and we couldn’t access internal web applications either. Muttering a harty, “I love the smell of server crashes in the morning,” I dove into the server room. When all was said and done I had to reboot both servers (a process that takes about 10-15 minutes per box) and reset the Internet gateway. After discovering everything appeared to be functioning again I got about 20 minutes of work in before I had to go get my hair cut.

On the way back from my appointment I called in to talk to someone and discovered that calls were not being forwarded to voicemail if the phone wasn’t being answered. Fine, yet another box to reset when I get back.

After that was all fixed I finally got around to what I was actually supposed to be doing that day and hammered out the end of year grant report for the state. Well, I got done as much as I could anyway. The report form we used last year was different than the one for this year and I had to send some of it to my boss for him to figure out. I never had any training in this report or even a general overview of what the “workplan” really is and where ours even was.

At the end of the day I ended up deleting myself from all network systems. E-mail, user account, and the StatusView software. It was a little weird to be removing myself from the system, but it did need to be done. Finishing the day by having my picture taken several dozen times I headed home with Treva to cram in as much last minute packing as possible.

After a 45 minute nap, some last minute purging of my office space, packing my suitcases to the point of weighing just under 50 pounds each, reprogramming my scanner, talking with our friends on Ventrilo, scouting the Internet again for more possible housing choices, moving Treva’s computer, putting laundry away, and possibly eating a turkey sandwich somewhere along the way I finally got to bed around 4:30.

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEEEP!” says my alarm at 6:15.

“I hate you.” says I.

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEEP!” says the alarm with obvious delight.

“If you weren’t on the other side of the room already you sure would be now,” I grumble. Stumbling out of I bed I beat the alarm int o silence. Turning the radio on I crawl back into bed for another 15 minutes. When I wake up again Treva is in the shower and I am absolutely shaking. My teeth were chattering and my limbs were trembling. Do I ever wish I was kidding about this too. It was the weirdest feeling. I don’t know if it was nerves, if I was actually cold, or a combination of both. Maybe my body was just mad at me for granting it so little sleep.

Our ride arrived at 7 and we headed to the airport. I think we both pretty much slept the entire way to the airport. I know I slept through the first part of the flight to Baltimore too.

After getting settled in at our temporary accomodations at the National Center for the Blind I talked with my new boss to learn where I need to be and what I need to do Monday morning. We had an enjoyable dinner with our friends Mark and Melissa and headed back to the Center to relax.

Today is day one of The Great Housing Hunt. We have 4 apartments to look at. I found a few more condos on Craig’s List that I think we’ll check out tomorrow. I have to make arrangements to look at them. Hopefully we’ll find something in our price range that is accessible and not too bad of a commute to the office.

I want to heed the advice that was given to me by someone from my Church before I left for the school for th Blind in 8th grade. He told me to journal my thoughts every day so I would remember the adventures in my life. (Yes, I know this was 10 years ago. let’s not dwell on the fact that I’m coming late to the party, but embrace the fact that I showed up at all.) So, I’m going to try and write something in this blog every day. Hopefully the fact that life is going on won’t stop me. I may not make it every day, but I’m going to try. These book-length posts are too hard on my fingers. 🙂

I Should Not Be Allowed To Use A TDD

I Should Not Be Allowed To Use A TDD

We got a call today from another agency who needed to test their TDD (telecommunication Device for the Deaf) and was wondering if we had one we could try. Ours is fried, so I suggested another agency she could try.

A few minutes later I realized I could use IM to make a call to her TDD. I could have used 711 relay, but our PBX doesn’t recognize that as a valid number and won’t put the call through. I’ve never exactly done this before, and thusly, made a complete bonehead of myself.

Relay: please hold for the next available operator…
Relay: IP RELAY RO ####F   DIALING ### ### #### PLS HD   
Relay:    RING 1  2    

Here’s where I get stupid. My brain is thinking QQ is Quit and GA is Go ahead (keep waiting).

Me: qq  
Relay: (WHILE U TYPED    
Relay: 7   (F)  yes   
Me [Still thinking we’re talking about waiting for an answer.]: no  
Relay: sounds calm)    (WHILE U TYPED     (HUNG UP ANOTHER CALL QQ)  
Me: no  

It wasn’t until a minute or so later that I remembered QQ is the equivelant of a question mark and in fact the other party had answered her phone. Rather than embarass myself further I dug up the number for Relay Indiana and used that instead.

I found out later that she had answered and knocked the receiver off the acoustic coupler on top of the unit and the situation wasn’t entirely mny fault, but I still think I looked like a bonehead. 🙂

A Quarter of A Century

A Quarter of A Century

That’s right. Today I celebrate my twenty-fifth anniversary of life on Earth. I don’t know why, but other than the presents, Treva making me dinner, and practically everyone in my family calling birthdays don’t seem all that much different than normal days. Not that I’m complaining about any of the above activities, I’m just saying it’s not like when I was a kid and anticipating my birthday was done with a level of excitement akin to that at which I accepted the job I was offered last week.

Ha. See how I casually slipped that in there? You want details now I suppose?

Patience my friend. I’m not done pontificating on my fabulous birthday just yet.

It all started at midnight. The witching hour. O-Dark-O’Clock. The time when normal people are snug in their beds, visions of the crap they have to do the next day dancing in their heads. Me. I’m chilling on the couch since I have been unceremoniously kicked out of the office so Treva can finish “the project.”

The project it seems is a treasure hunt. I am offered a choice however. I can participate in the hunt or wait until 2:31 PM. The time, in this timezone, at which I was born. Not being one to wait for 14 hours for no good reason I opt for option A.

After hunting around the house I have found the following items from my wonderful wife:

  • A t-shirt that in SQL basically says the entire world is clueless
    “SELECT * FROM Users WHERE clue>0”
    “0 Rows returned”.

  • A new earphone for my radio gear. It’s pretty cool. It still allows you to hear ambient noise. Plus it’s clear and clandestine looking.

  • A keychain with flashlight, red blinking beacon, alarm, window punch, and seat belt cutter. Let me tell you, that alarm is pretty loud. Treva desperately wants to find out how the window punch works, but isn’t willing to break a glass to figure it out.

  • A Braille Suduku/Rubix cube

  • A 5 gigabyte flash drive which I have already equipped with mobile applications including OpenOffice and XAMPP (a portable web server)

Right now she’s working on dinner. Steak [that I’ll help grill], baked potatoes, corn, apple salad, and chocolate peanut butter pie. Some of my absolute favs. Excellent!!

[Edit: dinner rocked. I will say that not knowing the filets were wrapped in bacon seriously goofed up my cooking times. Oops. Next time I’m sticking with the serloin.]

The rest of the evening was all kinds of fun. I ran out after dinner for a few minutes with Tony and Rett and picked up a For Sale By Owner sign for the house. When we got back I helped finish the dishes and then we watched Blades of Glory.

Blades of Glory. What can I say. It was… insane. When I first started watching it I thought it was going to end up being Nepolion Dinomite meets Dodgeball meets Highschool Musical. Turns out I was pretty much right. I told Treva it was, at the same time, hilarious, stupid, and incomprehensibly bizarre. I’m still working out whether I’d recommend it to others. If you have two hours of your life you don’t care about ever getting back and want to laugh at “men humor” then this movie is for you.

So, about the job…

*** Flashback ***
Previously on Niner and Associates: Niner was headed to Baltimore for a job interview.

Tuesday the 11th I flew out to Baltimore. Indy wasn’t all that busy and BWI was an absolute ghost town. I was talking to one of the security guards at BWI who said the day before was like a holiday, but almost no one was flying on the 11th. I gotta say if we don’t fly that day, they win. I’m all for remembering the tragedy, because it certainly qualifies as one, but using that as a reason not to fly seemes pointless.

I feel the need to interject one of the lighter moments of the day. I was getting ready to walk through the metal detector and had the following conversation with a TSA employee:

TSA Employee: Sir, I need your shoes.
Me: (removing my shoes and putting them in the bin with my laptop, cell phone, and wallett) No problem.
TE: What kind of belt is that?
Me: (Rearranging my not insignificant ponch so he can see it) Hmm?
TE: You’d better take that off too… and the jacket.
Me: (shrugging) Okay. I just want to say that I have no problem doing this in the name of security, but if you ask for my pants we’re going to have problems…

I spent Tuesday evening with one of the gentlemen from the department I was interviewing with. We had a nice dinner at a local place that was having a killer special on steak. You can’t beat $10.99 for a NY Strip.

Wednesday morning started off in a bit of a panic. I had to reemboss the 3 copies of my resume that I was asked to bring sinceI discovered a horrible formatting error which, if discovered, would have made me look pretty incompetant.

After that, things got better, though not necessarily in the nerve department.

I had 4 meetings that day. One with two people from the department I was interviewing with, one with the head of the Institute that department is under, one with HR, and the final one was with the head of the organization. I have to say the first and last meetings were the most intimidating for me. The first because I was told to, “teach us something,” and the final because I am always intimidated when I meet with this individual.

It turned out really well. I was offered a position and after talking it over with Treva I accepted it.

I will be working for the National Federation of the Blind in the International Braille and Technology Center. This is absolutely one of my dream jobs and I’m so greatful to have the opportunity. It’s going to be a challenge though. Moving across the country, making new friends (we have some out there already which will help a ton) and Treva trying to figure out what she wants to do now. I just keep praying that I’m reading the signs right and we’re heading in the direction God wants us to be heading.

Thursday I flew back to Indiana via Chicago where I spent a fun afternoon with our friend Ronza. We hit up the Cheesecake factory for lunch, did some shopping, and caught part of a random concert in front of the Federal Plaza to celebrate some german restaurant that closed (I don’t really know what the festival was for, someone mentioned October Fest, but I garentee the smell in the air was not sour crout.) before I had to catch my train for the trip to Elkhart.

We spent the weekend with Treva’s family and had a good time. The focus was taken off our moving by other family antics. I’m kind of greatful for that.
*** End Flashback ***

That’s basically the story. I am super excited about the new adventure in our lives. I keep praying for God’s guidance and wisdom in all our decisions though, especially what to do about the house. I’ve got one possible interested party and it would be really sweet if that pans out, but if anyone knows anyone looking for a wheelchair accessible, 3 bedroom house in the Richmond area let me know.

I’ve really got to update more than monthly. These posts keep turning into mini novels.

August Update

August Update

On the off chance that anyone is still reading my blog, I thought I should check-in and tell y’all what’s been happening.

So, work is… work. Pretty much the same garbage, different day. Our boss is completely obsessed with the upcoming strategic planning “event” in September and honestly most of us could not find it in us to care less. It isn’t that planning for the future isn’t important, but when current operations are messed up and we’re having to scramble to keep our heads above water it becomes difficult to not want to get out of the current situation before figuring out what we can do 2-3 years down the road.

On the bright side of work related things I have an interview next month for a job in Baltimore. It’s something I’ve been looking at for a long time and really wanting to do. Next to working in public safety it’s on the top of my list. It would be working with blindness technology and new products and stuff along those lines. More details later if things pan out, but prayers now would really be appreciated. Treva is a little, uh okay a lot, freaked out about moving across the country. If it’s God’s will it will all work out. I’m flying out the 11th and I guess the interview will take most of the day on the 12th.

Let’s see. What else has been going on?

We were on local AM radio the other morning. We talked about the Center we work at and it was kind of cool. I recorded it for posterity sake if anyone is incredibly bored and wants to listen to it :-). I was going to throw it up and call it a Podcast bonus episode, but I figured it really was not that exciting.

Speaking of podcasts, we got a new one up last night. It’s over at

I bought a new toy yesterday too. I finally broke down and bought a Uniden BCD-396T digital scanner. I can actually listen to the new state digital system and other trunked systems when I travel. I had to order it from Milwaukee because the store in Hamilton was out, but it should be here by Wednesday. I hate waiting. 🙂 In the meantime I’m playing around with one of the software packages for programming the thing and learning the new concept of how Uniden’s Dynamic Memory works.

Instead of the way a “traditional” scanner works, where you can store X number of frequencies in y number of banks, Uniden has devised a more logical method of Systems and Groups that more closely mirrors the way radios are used. A system contains groups. In a Conventional system groups hold frequencies. In a Trunked system the system itself holds the frequencies, but groups hold the different talkgroups. So, for example, I have a Conventional system programmed for our local area. There are 5 different groups. Law Enforcement, Fire/EMS/EMA, Municipal Services, Amateur Radio, and Business. It gets a little more complex when you try to program a multi-site trunked system like we have in Indiana. I’ll spare you the technical details, because I’m guessing I’ve made at least a few of your eyes glaze over already, but this type of Trunked system works quite similarly to a cellular telephone network. Each radio can affiliate with one or more towers and unless a tower has a radio affiliated with a specific talkgroup it will not push that talkgroup out on itself. A talkgroup is basically like a channel in a “normal” system. The basic problem in programming one of these systems is which tower sites to program and how to do it. Option A is to put all the control channels into one system and whichever the scanner locks onto first that’s the tower you will hear traffic from. Option B is to create different systems for every control channel. This way, you can hear traffic from multiple towers. The downside to Option B is that it takes up more space in the scanner’s memory. The downside to Option A is that if you can actually pick up more than one tower it won’t scan them both because it stops on the first control channel it finds. I’m starting with Option A because I don’t think I can hear many control channels from here. In playing around with a different radio I was only able to hear one of the two towers in my county. Basically, what the whole affiliation thing boils down to is who you can hear and where. If, for example, an ISP unit is affiliated with the Henry county tower and I can’t hear the henry county control channel, I won’t hear that unit unless another ISP unit, in the same talkgroup, is affiliated with a tower I can pick up. This doesn’t affect dispatch since they are connected via wireline at the console to the Zone Controller and don’t really care about the towers. We’ll see how this all works when I actually get my hands on the radio.

Right. Enough of the boring stuff. That’s about all that’s been going on. Now it’s time for work. 🙂