Three Cheers for the Kindle Fire HD!

The Kindle Fire Experiment

Last Saturday I was bemoaning the fact that I can’t really listen to radio. I mean, I can listen to it, but I can’t really follow the conversation. My word comprehension with lip reading is perhaps 60% with the CI but it drops to around 40% without lipreading. So when you can only hear 4 out of 10 words, listening to the radio is like an aggravating game of Wheel of Fortune.

Noelle suggested that I try plugging in my CI to her Kindle Fire HD. I sighed mentally (and perhaps audibly) because I had already tried connecting a double-sided headphone jack from the CI to my computer, and the sound quality had been terrible. I assumed it would be more of the same. But, on the other hand, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try connecting the CI to the Kindle, and I reasoned that I might be pleasantly surprised.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. VERY pleasantly surprised.

First, Noelle had me read and listen to an ebook/audiobook combination via something called WhisperSync. This program syncs the exact text to the exact words on an audiobook read by a human. In other words it wasn’t text-to-speech software, but text-to-audiobook sync. She was able to magnify the text on the Kindle Fire HD so that I was reading four lines per page at the “wide” angle (landscape mode), in reverse video (white text on a back background). The cursor jumped from word to word in sync with the accompanying audiobook.

It was fantastic. I then decided to close my eyes to see if I could understand the audio without cheating, and to my surprise I could understand it very clearly. I’d estimate I understood maybe 75-80% of the text just from the audio alone. I hadn’t experienced anything this good with my CI since I had it turned on in 2003.

I had tried connecting my CI to other devices, but apparently none of them were very good audio quality. The Kindle Fire HD, on the other hand, worked extremely well.

I even tried listening to an ambient music station on Pandora. At some point after I got the CI in 2002 I decided that I liked ambient and synthesizer music (Vangelis, Brian Eno, Kitaro, Tangerine Dream, Peter Gabriel, etc.)

That’s probably because the CI already has a certain degree of synthesized sound, so ambient and synthesizer more naturally (or unnaturally) fits with the synthesized sound of the CI. I often joke that I listen to Borg music (a la ST:NG).

I could tell that I needed to get my mappings upgraded to be able to appreciate the music, but I am certain that once I do get a new mapping that the music clarity will improve substantially. It is quite good as it is.

So Saturday’s experiment was a fantastic success. And now I actually want a Kindle Fire. Everybody else in our house loves it, but I didn’t particularly care about it because I didn’t think it would be all that accessible. But it turned out to be a big accessibility WIN.

So it turns out that I can listen to radio after all, if you count Pandora (and I do). And in case you were wondering, the ebook/audiobook I experimented with via WhisperSync is called “Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues” by Mark Eddy Smith. As you might have guessed, Tolkien has a rather large influence in the Realm of Calinor.

+Sam (aka The Hobbit)

Define Normal

The Hobbit and I went to go see the Hobbit movie in matching Hobbit T-Shirts at the Memorial City Mall in Houston on New Years Day.

When my Hobbit is using his cane, people get out of the way, which is kinda nice–by that, I mean it shows that people are still considerate when they understand the situation.  Someone (who wasn’t handicapped) was sitting in the handicapped seats right in the middle of the theater.  They got up when they saw us coming and moved into the normal seating.  I thought that was nice.

The trailers started, and since my Hobbit isn’t fully blind, but remembering he is fully deaf without his cochlear implant, he can sometimes read and understand the huge words that stream on the screen.  We were watching a Mini Cooper commercial:  – the end of this commercial says “Who wants to be normal?” – my Hobbit read that and said out loud: Me!

For me it was a moment of clarity.  I know that my Hobbit really hates when people admire him for his ability to endure his disabilities.  He thinks somehow they are feeling pity for him, instead of actually admiring his skills, albeit skills that are not ‘normal’ for most of us.  That is where the clarity came:  One man’s normal is another man’s extraordinary.

I love my Hobbit (obviously).  My life has been ‘not normal’ for several years now and I think it has improved vastly because of it.  I have learned a new language, my writing has improved, my adventures are almost daily, and I have a kingdom of my own filled with magic windows, Hobbits (at least one of my own), bogs of Eternal Stench (the kids room), and so much more.

I’m glad for not being normal.

But… then again… I’ve never thought of myself as normal.  Have you?

Daily Prompt: Circle of Five

Daily Prompt: Circle of Five.

via Daily Prompt: Circle of Five.

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Daily Prompt: Circle of Five
by michelle w. on December 12, 2012

A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with?

This is a cool prompt – and after serving almost a full week on a federal jury, I really need the brain candy. So I will accept this challenge!

There was no limiting to persons in this age/time, so I am going to pick the five top people I have always wanted to spend time with, and I’ll tell you why I wanted to spend time with them.

5. Joseph Smith – Not just because he is the founder of my church, the LDS church, but because I have so many questions for him.  I wasn’t always interested in his life because his story is familiar and retold again and again in the church as you study the history of the Gospel and Mormon Doctrine.  But after really reading his history, his writings and many of the things that other people thought of him, I am really interested to know what he thought about it all and I think, from the stories I know, that he would be a really great guy to have around just for stories and general good humor.

4.  Jim Henson – Dying to know what he wanted to do if he had more time on Earth.  Also, a great story teller.  I’m sure he could just sit around and tell stories forever.  I would love to brainstorm up a story with him.  Try to figure out which muppets would fit in with what classic myth- who wouldn’t love that?

3Libby Custer – I’m just fascinated by her story and her efforts to defend her husband’s legacy after his death.  I would really like to do a sit down interview with her and find out everything I could about how she felt about her husband.  Such loyalty has to come from somewhere deep.  I would just love to sit and listen where such convictions were born.  There aren’t many women that dedicate their widowhood to defending their husbands legacy as stridently as she did.  She sounds spunky.  I really want to meet her.

2.  C.S. Lewis – So many questions for “Jack”–the first of which would be why he insisted on being called Jack.  I would love for him to personally teach me how to understand the language of apologetics the way other apologists do.  I really can’t understand them once they all start talking to each other.  It’s like another language.  I’d want to tell him how much my husband loves him and thank him for that.  I’d want to ask him why Tolkien felt the need to complicate things that were really quite simple…

1Karl Urban – Actually, I don’t really want to meet the actor Karl Urban, but I want to meet every single character he has portrayed in the last 20 years and talk to them, especially Eomer, Dr. McCoy, Cupid, Caesar and Reaper, among others.  I don’t really want to meet the Russian in Borne #2, but I would like him to speak to me in a Russian accent.  Did I mention my husband reminds me of a deafblind Karl Urban?  I knew and met Karl when he was just Cupid and I was doing interviews about “Privateers” a pilot by the writer of “Trekkies” that never got picked up.  He would have made a great space pirate, but I guess he went onto better things anyway.  I love Eomer.  I have loved Dr. McCoy since the 80’s when I first saw Trek.  I loved Cupid, hated Caesar, but loved Xena, and I loved Reaper in Doom.  This isn’t really making any sense, is it?  Oh well…

Titanic Problems… or ‘Never let four twelve year-old girls plan an outing”

Last Wednesday was a half day for my kids at school.  Unscheduled (it’s not on the school or district calendar) half days are a headache for any parent.  It means kids are home for an extra three to four hours, and for twelve year-old girls, finding an extra four hours without parental supervision means it’s time to plan an outing.

My daughter and her friends planned to go see Titanic.  One problem-almost all the parents were at work and there was no transportation.  All of the moms who had to give approval agreed that the girls could not go to the movies without adult supervision, and since most of us didn’t get out of work until 5 and had other children that couldn’t be left alone and I had Cub Scouts to interpret for after and the Titanic is almost three hours long and it was a school day so everyone had to be back before 9–the girls had a serious flaw in their plan:  No parents available.

Just so you remember all the hype we faced when these twelve year-old girls were still too young to care anything about romance, here’s the teaser/trailer:

Enter Grandpa.

My father is a Vietnam Vet who raised his kids with military style punishments for non-completion of chores.  His favorite movies are war movies.  He raised us playing baseball, basketball, hunting, shooting and whatever manly thing he could think of.  Yes, even his daughters.  He doesn’t like when I say this, but… I was his firstborn son.

My mom is an angelic, artistic, feminine former beauty-queen, but he only goes to the movies she wants to see because it’s his “duty.”

Lets just say he’s not the type you ask to go to a chick flick.

But…  Being grandpa is also a “duty” he takes very seriously.

I didn’t really have time to imagine what it must have been like for a 60-something year old Vet to endure the company of almost a half dozen twelve year-old girls, I was too busy interpreting and fending off questions from two dozen boys under twelve.  My husband, the lucky deaf-blind guy who could have endured it all but isn’t exactly the right sort of chaperone for 12 year-old girls in a theater and someone has to be dad to my son at Scouts.

When Cub Scouts was over, we made it home to discover Grandpa and my daughter still weren’t home.  They didn’t arrive until almost ‘lights out’ was going to be called at 9 pm.  But like the good soldier he is, my Dad got my daughter home before the bugler played.

His words upon arrival said all I needed to know:

“Oh my GAWD that was horrible! … The only good part of that movie was when Leonardo DiCaprio died!”  He proclaimed that my daughter had to take HIM to a movie in return, a nice bang-em-up war movie would do (but not that new Nicholas Sparks thing, no, no).

I made my daughter thank him (again and again) and told her that next time her friends wanted to plan an outing, one of the MOMS had to be there to help with the plans.

And we all lived happily ever after… Except Leo… He was dead.