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Thu, Jul. 7th, 2011, 09:52 pm
Greetings From Orlando!

Well, since I just spent $9.95 to have some wi-fi access for 24 hours here at my hotel in Orlando, I figured I'd get my money's worth and do a little out of town update. I'm so excited to be blogging on the road. I'm a dork like that.

So I'm seriously having the Best! Time! Ever!!! at this convention. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, I am at the annual convention for the National Federation of the Blind being held in Orlando, Florida. We're at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort which I can't possibly rave about enough. This is a great convention location. The rooms are nice, the staff is friendly and the place is easy to navigate from a blindness perspective despite being huge. It's pretty spread out, but if you think about it as a bunch of smaller sections connected by simple routes it's really a piece of cake to get around. I have spent less time being lost at this convention than the previous 2 that I've been to and I haven't actually been lost since the second day I was here. It's a good thing I like it here, because after next year's convention in Dallas, we will be coming back to this hotel for 6 years in a row. At least I will know where I'm going from now on.

As usual, I'm meeting lots of interesting people and finding plenty of fun things to do. I've combed the exhibit hall thoroughly and wasted a reasonable amount of money on nifty gadgets. I got a couple of new canes, a bar code scanner for sorting through my groceries and lots of little uninteresting odds and ends. I've entered a ton of raffles and can't remember what most of them are for and sold lots of raffle tickets of my own to help my Affiliate raise money for the NFB Imagination Fund.

On Tuesday, I attended the business meeting for the Sports and Rec Division of the NFB where I gave a presentation about the Visually impaired rowing program at the boathouse and discussed adaptive techniques for rowing with blindness. The presentation went really well and I received numerous questions and positive comments. After all the presentations, we had elections and much to my surprise, I was nominated and elected to the board for the Division. So, now I am Vice President of the OKC Chapter, Secretary for NFB of Oklahoma and a Board Member for the Sports and Rec Division of the NFB on the national level. I keep getting dragged deeper and deeper into this thing. It's both hilarious and scary, but I do strongly believe in the fundamental philosophy of the NFB so at least I'm getting dragged into stuff I really care about.

Another highlight of the week has been the chance to drive the blind driver challenge vehicle simulator. This simulator gives participants a chance to try out the non visual interface created by Virginia Tech University and the NFB which allows a blind person to drive a car. The prototype car was demonstrated at Daytona International Speedway in January before the Rolex 24. It's amazing, groundbreaking technology and even though it was just a simulator, it felt awesome to drive. I did pretty well too. The chick at my station said she only saw 1 person get farther along the course before wrecking. I was on the track 71.8 percent of the time. While there were people with higher percentages, they didn't get as far as I did. That's pretty good considering I just sat down, got a 2 minute tutorial on How to interact with the interface and then took off with no practice time. The parts of the interface that are on the simulator include gloves that vibrate along the knuckles. The goal is to have no vibration. If you get off course, the gloves vibrate starting at the ring fingers and go out toward the pinkies. so a vibration on the right index finger would indicate a slight turn to the right while a vibration all the way to the right pinky would indicate a sharp right turn. The seat contains vibrating pads called the speed strip. Vibrations in the butt part of the seat let you know to speed up while vibrations in the back panel alert you to slow down. It's all just really freakin cool. Of course the actual car that was driven at Daytona gives even more feedback to assist the blind driver in making decisions while driving the car but I was blown away by the little sample I got to experience. After driving the simulator, everyone has to answer some survey questions that are being used for research on the project. They are now trying to determine if there are any characteristics that make certain people perform better with the non visual interface. They asked if I had ever held a drivers license and whether I played video games. I of course have experience with both and have always believed that these two factors would give me an advantage with the non visual interface. So, of course I found it interesting that the researchers were looking into that very thing.

I've got a lot more to talk about, but I need to get to bed and I don't want to bother my roommate with all my typing noise. I'll be back with more details when I get home. We're invading Harry Potter World on Saturday. I can't wait.

Toodles!

Thu, Jun. 30th, 2011, 02:06 pm
Win an iPad 2!

Hello friends and family!

Yes, I am begging again. My apologies. I know you all get hit up for
stuff all the time and I hate asking as much as you hate moochers
trying to get at your hard earned cash. I wouldn't be bothering
everyone if this weren't such an important cause to me. So, please
bear with me and help if you can. I'll be back with normal,
non-begging content soon.

I am currently involved in 2 fundraising activities for the National
Federation of the Blind, which is an organization that has influenced
me in so many positive ways. Every year, the NFB asks for donations in
support of its Imagination Fund campaign. Half of the funds raised
through this program are used to maintain the national operations of
the NFB at their headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. The other half
goes back to State Affiliates and local Chapters to support various
programs and initiatives on the local level. My chapter, the Central
Oklahoma Chapter located in Edmond, Oklahoma, has used money from this
fund to sponsor a free Braille class for anyone who is willing and
ready to learn. One of our students is a very bright young man who is
in a public school system that refuses to teach him Braille because he
has some vision. Never mind that he needs the print to be gigantic and
hold the paper to his nose in order to read it. That's good enough for
the school, but we believe it is not good enough for the student.
Thanks to the efforts of the NFB, we are helping a child get the
skills he will need to be competitive with his sighted peers. This is
just one of many ways the Imagination Fund gets put to use. The
Imagination Fund money is used for all kinds of creative purposes all
for the benefit of improving the lives of blind people everywhere.

To help support this campaign, the Oklahoma Affiliate of the NFB is
selling raffle tickets for a chance to win a brand new 64GB iPad 2
with wi-fi. Tickets are $5 or 5 for $20. All the proceeds from ticket
sales will be donated directly to the imagination fund. To buy
tickets, you can send me an email to atfarnum@gmail.com in order to
reserve your tickets and make payment arrangements. I can accept
Paypal payments to that address as well. If you order tickets through
Paypal, please make a note in the comments section including the
number of tickets you wish to purchase, your name, address and phone
number. The drawing will take place at the end of July and you will be
notified if you are the winner.

If you don't want to mess with all of that, you can also make
donations to the Imagination Fund on my behalf by visiting my personal
donation page located at
http://www.raceforindependence.org/goto/audreyfarnum and click on the
donation link. All transactions are secure and tax deductible. Please
note, if you donate on this page, you are not buying raffle tickets.
These are 2 different fundraising efforts. The money goes to the same
place either way, but to get raffle tickets, you'll need to contact me
personally through email or Paypal.

I really hope that isn't ultra confusing. In any event, thank you for
reading. Every little bit of support helps. You can only spare $5?
Great. Got more? That's great too. And if it's just not a good time, I
understand. I appreciate any and all support I can get. Thanks, and
have a great day.

Toodles!

Mon, Jun. 27th, 2011, 10:14 pm
Have a Tasty Burger & Help My NFB Chapter!

Hello to my most excellent, generous and brilliant readers. Yes, I'm
sucking up because I need a favor. All day tomorrow, June 28, 2011, S
& B's Burger Joint in Northwest Oklahoma City will be donating 10% of
it's profits to the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the National
Federation of the Blind. The restaurant is located at 5929 N. May and
they have a huge selection of specialty burgers, fries, salads,
sandwiches and more. I have been told by a reliable source that the
food is excellent and it is reasonably priced as well. The Burger
Joint has generously agreed to support the NFB of Central Oklahoma as
part of it's Pay It Forward program where they adopt a charitable
organization each Tuesday to which they donate 10% of their profits. I
plan to eat there for lunch and dinner and hope that any of my readers
in the Oklahoma City area will help as well in order to support an
organization that is very important to me. You're going to eat anyway.
Why not have a tasty burger and help the blind as well? The NFB of
Central Oklahoma is made up of blind and visually impaired people
living in the Oklahoma City / Edmond metro area. We accept donations
to fund many programs and initiatives including an annual scholarship
awarded to a deserving blind student, free Braille classes for anyone
interested in learning to read Braille and a transportation program to
assist our members getting to and from meetings. We also participate
in numerous outreach and education programs to help raise awareness
about blindness and help change perceptions and stereotypes often
attributed to the blind. The National Federation of the Blind believes
that the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The
real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information that
exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity,
blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance. I believe whole
heartedly in this philosophy. The NFB's attitudes toward blindness and
independence has played a profound role in my adjustment to blindness
and made me a much stronger and competent person. This organization
has changed, and continues to change my life. Please help the NFB of
Central Oklahoma change what it means to be blind for other people
with vision impairments. Thanks for your support.

Sun, Jun. 26th, 2011, 01:10 am
Regatta Recap

I had a seriously awesome time at the regatta today. We rowed great!!!
It was a major rush. I'm still high from it which explains why I'm
writing instead of sleeping at the moment. If you enjoy my overly
detailed rowing stories, read on. Otherwise, this isn't the blog entry
for you so you might want to move on.

We have a shortage of blind rowers this season, so we had 4 blind /
low vision rowers and 4 sighted volunteers in the boat for this race.
3 of our volunteers had quite a bit of experience and as a result, we
ended up having to row in the intermediate open category. Open is for
any combination of men and women. You can only go co-ed with 4 and 4
so since we just had 2 chicks in the boat, we ended up in open. This
is a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. There were
only 2 boats, so worst we could do is silver. But, I like competition
and prefer having to fight a little harder to earn my hardware. It
depends on perspective I guess.

Since there were only 2 intermediate open boats and 2 advance open
boats, they combined the two categories into 1 heat. So, there were 4
boats in our heat but only 1 of them really mattered for medal
purposes. In addition to racing against better rowers than last year,
we had tough weather conditions. There was a strong crosswind that was
giving everyone fits and the water was choppy with some white caps.
Between the competition and the rowing conditions, we had a big
challenge to face and weren't expecting to be competitive. We wanted
to give it our best and at least try to look good, but it was
impossible to ignore the fact that the odds were against us and we
were the underdog in this one. We didn't know until after the race
that we were really up against only 1 boat, so we all figured we'd
come in 4th by a wide margin given that we were racing against
advanced boats. I even told my parents to expect an ass whipping. The
actual outcome was a huge shock for all of us. Perhaps the low
expectations helped us relax for a change or maybe we learned from
our experiences last year. Whatever the case, this was definitely no
ass whipping.

I was in stroke seat for this race. I haven't done stroke very much
and this was my first time to do it in a race. My strategy going in
was to keep the boat at a slower stroke rate and make everyone take
longer strokes. We stay more controlled that way and stay together
better. It's also better for windy conditions because the longer the
oars are in the water, the less we're being pushed around by the wind.
I told the crew before hand what I was going to do and reminded them
to take long strokes. It went great and they stayed right with me the
whole way. I think we got a little off for a few strokes at the
beginning of the race, but it was the most synchronized we've ever
been.

We got a nice controlled, clean start and were right there with the
pack. We usually lose ground on the starts because we've never quite
gotten the hang of doing a good one. My personal opinion was that we
were always rushing our starts, so I set a slower rate on this one
hoping for control. We nailed it today. . I think we all new it was a
good start and it really helped the confidence of the boat. After the
first 10-15 strokes, we were still right there in the pack. Our cox
told us we were in contention and hanging with these guys and we all
started to feel it. Speaking of our cox, she's awesome and had a huge
impact on our performance today. She called a great race and kept us
motivated and fighting from start to finish. She really gets into the
races and her excitement and energy just radiates through her voice. I
think she could probably motivate me to walk through fire. I don't
think I've ever enjoyed being yelled at more. She's really that good.
Anyway, when she told us we were at the 250 meter mark, I couldn't
believe it. I knew then that we were killing it because it felt like
we got there in about 20 strokes. It was probably more, but it just
felt like the race started and then, boom, we were half way done. And
still, I could hear the other 2 lead boats right beside us. Our cox
did a great job of keeping us focused and not letting us get excited.
I know in the past, when we've been doing well part way into a race,
we've gotten too juiced, lost focus and fallen apart. Not today. My
mind was on nothing but my stroke and cox'n. I didn't even notice
crowd noise this year. I think we were all more focused than we've
ever been before. We were in a zone and it was sweet.

One of the boats pulled out to a comfortable, but not huge lead. My
team and another boat were side by side the whole race. . I think at
about half way, Our bow was at their stern, but they were dying and we
made a huge push on them. Our cox was counting off seats every time
we gained on them. It was excellent motivation. We reeled them in and
were still gaining as we crossed the finish line. If the race had been
5 meters longer, we would have caught them. As it was, we finished 3rd
in the heat. The boat that edged us out for second was the other
intermediate boat, so we ended up with silver. The boat we beat was
one of the advanced boats who should have smoked us. I think our cox
was a little bummed that we didn't catch those guys, but I was
thrilled knowing we had rowed well and earned a medal without having
the benefit of a disqualification. Like I mentioned, at this time, we
had no idea that we were only racing one other boat. We all believed
we had earned a bronze and were very satisfied with the outcome. None
of us knew about the combined heat until they called us on the stage
for the medal presentation and awarded us silver medals. We thought
there had been some kind of screw up and had to go ask what the deal
was.

Unfortunately, there was a technical malfunction and we didn't get an
official time. I heard a rumor that first place finished in 1:36. I
heard the horn sound when they finished and I think they were about 10
seconds ahead of us. That means that if that first place time is
right, we did somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:45. I suppose it's
possible. It did feel really fast and I was surprised it was over so
soon, but I'm having a hard time believing we did 1:45 in that wind
when we've never broken 2 minutes before. Our previous best time was
around a 2:05. In any event, our time was definitely under 2 minutes
and it's by far the best piece we've ever done.

So, yeah, there were only 2 boats in our group and so perhaps that
doesn't make our silver medal seem like a big deal. But screw that. It
is a big deal. We just hung in a race with good competition and were
competitive. If there had been more boats and we rowed like that, we
would've gotten a medal. Plus, we beat an advance boat by a
comfortable margin and raced completely out of our minds. Yes, we had
help from experienced sighted rowers, but we've practiced with that
lineup before and never rowed that well. It really was rather amazing
what we accomplished today. It was really exciting for us to do so
well when historically, we've struggled under racing conditions. We
kicked ass and looked like a real crew today. It was exciting for all
of us.

When we got to the dock, I was greeted first by our coach who grabbed
me for a big hug. It was awesome to see how excited he was for us. He
gave us great advice on coping with the wind and it really helped us
be successful. On the way off the dock, Most of the rowers from the
other crews in the race were lined up on the ramp to congratulate us
and shook all of our hands. It was cool to get so much respect from
the competition not to mention all the love we got from other rowers
and spectators. It was a fantastic day and I had a kick ass time. I
can't wait for the next one.

I talked to a reporter from the Oklahoman several times today, so I
suppose I'll end up in the paper again. She was asking a lot of
questions about how I row by feel and sound. She was really interested
and seemed like she was taking a good angle on the story. I'm hoping
it turns out better than the other stories that go for the amazing,
inspirational blindy stuff. We'll see. I'll post a link when I find
the story. For now, I really must sleep. Later.

Oh yeah... GO VIPERS!!! Hisssssss.

Wed, Jun. 22nd, 2011, 10:47 am
Life is Good

Sorry for the hiatus. Things have been crazy with moving and painting
my new place. I'm finally moved in and basically settled. Thanks to
Dad, every inch of the place has been painted. Yes, I just spent about
$500 painting walls I'll never see. Hey, just because I can't see it
doesn't mean I don't want the place to reflect my style. I described
what I wanted to my BFF, Lou, and she helped me pick out the colors.
Based on feedback I'm getting from sighted visitors, it sounds like
she did a great job. Most of the place is a nice neutral tan that
looks really cool with the white trim. I wanted my office to be some
kind of blue that looks like the ocean so Lou picked out a nice light
blue that everyone who's seen it has raved about. I have a yellow
bathroom that we picked out to match a really cool shower curtain that
I already had and the other bathroom is some kind of light teal /
turquoise color that matches some bathroom accessories that I had and
really liked. I really like knowing that there's some color in the
place. I can't stand white walls. That's entirely too boring for my
taste. Dad did a great job on the painting. He had to take down some
ugly wallpaper in the 2 bathrooms and in the kitchen which meant he
had to do some texturing before he could paint. Of course he did an
awesome job and most people seem to like his texturing better than the
texture that was already in the rest of the house. It was complete
chaos while all the work was going on, but now that it's done and I'm
basically settled, I'm thrilled that we went through the hassle and
got it done. I'm loving the new place and doing quite well at getting
back into practice with cooking, etc. I haven't chopped off any
fingers or burned the place down or anything. Go figure. I even made a
kick ass pot roast wit carrots and potatoes. It was something I had
never tried before, but it turned out great and I chowed on the
leftovers for several days. Living alone kicks ass! I seriously could
not be happier right now.

Yes, I still devote most of my free time to rowing. The Vipers are
struggling a bit this year. We've had several experienced crew members
who've dropped out for health or family reasons so we're trying to
break in some newbies. It's been challenging to say the least. We
don't have enough experienced rowers to fill an 8 with all blind
rowers this year, so when we race on Saturday, we'll be using 4 blind
rowers and 4 of our awesome volunteers. We're having to jump up to the
intermediate class this year because of all the experience coming into
the boat with volunteers so we're definitely just racing for fun. I
don't think we have much of a chance of being competitive, but who
knows what will happen on race day. I'm looking forward to it anyway.
Racing is a blast.

As for rowing in the novice masters program, it's going pretty well.
I've met some awesome people and am making lots of friends which is
really cool. I'm a little frustrated with the coach because he doesn't
really seem like he wants to coach and I don't feel like I'm getting
much feedback. I'm also one of the better rowers in the class so the
bulk of the coaching attention goes to the people who need it more. I
really want to move up to intermediate where I'll be with better
rowers and have a chance to learn more. I've rowed with the
intermediate class a couple of times and am sure I can handle it. It's
just a matter of convincing the boathouse peeps that I'm ready. I'm
working on it.

I actually had a chance to row with the advanced class a few weeks
ago. I was the only novice rower to show up one Saturday morning. It's
not like I can just jump in a single, so they put me in a quad with
the advanced class that was there at the same time. It was a really
intense workout and I was exhausted when it was over, but I did pretty
well. It took me a minute or two to relax and get used to the stroke,
but once I settled in, I did pretty good at staying together. We only
had to stop once because I got out of sync and it was late in practice
when I was rowing on fumes and my concentration was slipping. True, I
was the weakest rower in the boat, but I held my own much better than
I or anyone else expected. It was a good learning experience and I had
a good time. I did overdo it a bit that day though. After doing a
really tough workout in the morning, I went back in the afternoon to
row with the Vipers. We ended up taking out a quad that day with me
and George plus 2 volunteers. Since we had plenty of experience in
the boat, we did a pretty tough workout there as well. It wasn't as
intense as what I had done with the advanced class, but it was quite a
bit more than we usually do in Vipers practices. By the end of the
day, my right wrist was killing me. By the next day, my forearm was
swollen and I couldn't lift a thing. It was a little scary but it
turned out to just be tendonitis caused by poor technique on my part.
I had to keep it splinted for a week or so and sat out of rowing for
about 2 weeks but I'm all good now. I'm paying more attention to my
oar handling now so I don't have a repeat of that injury. Not rowing
for 2 weeks made me really cranky.

Nothing much else is going on. I'm headed to Orlando in a little over
a week for NFB 2011. Some of us from the Central Oklahoma Chapter are
staying an extra day so we can go to the Wizarding World of Harry
Potter theme park at Universal Studios. I am completely geeked out
about this. They have butter beer and pumpkin juice and lots of the
shops and taverns from the books. Plus, there is, of course, a
Hogwarts Castle and lots of HP themed rides. I can't wait. I'm such a
dork. I'm so glad we have a good group of dorks in the Chapter who
want to go do this. My goal is to find myself a "Property of
Gryffindor Quidditch" t-shirt, or something similar. I am such a spaz.
And, yes, between this trip plus the final HP movie that comes out on
July 15, I am yet again reading the series again to get myself all
geared up. I just Finished "Half Blood Prince". That is a fantastic
book. The first time through the series, it was my least favorite, but
after reading it a few times, it has become my favorite by far. The
back story on Voldermort is fascinating plus there's just so much
drama and action going on. There seems to be more character and plot
development in HBP than in any of the other books. It just really
stands out from the rest of the series and is a great read.

In sports related news, I feel good about the Thunder's season. The
way they blew a couple of those games in the Western Conference Finals
was unbearably heart breaking, but after taking a couple of days to
put everything in perspective, I feel like it was a successful season.
It was a necessary step in becoming a championship team and I'm sure
the guys learned from the experience. I'm keeping my fingers crossed
that the NBA will work out its labor dispute so I can enjoy another
exciting season next year.

The Red Sox have bounced back amazingly well since their disastrous
start to the season. They're just mowing everybody down now and
looking like the powerhouse everyone predicted them to be. I'm excited
and thrilled. I purchased the MLB At Bat app for my iPod so I could
listen to Red Sox radio broadcasts. I love it. That was a very well
spent $15. In fact, I'm enjoying it so much, that I've been in my new
house for about a month and haven't even hooked up any kind of TV
service yet. Between Red Sox games, Podcasts and music available to me
from the iPod, I haven't even missed TV. That's pretty odd when you
consider I used to be a TV junkie and had trouble keeping up with
everything I was recording on the Tivo. I'll probably get something
hooked up eventually, but it's pretty low on the priority list these
days. I pretty much live at the boathouse anyway so I barely have time
to watch TV at the moment. Of course, this will all change over the
winter, but for now, screw TV.

I'm starting to get really excited for TU football to get underway.
The new coaching staff seems to be having great success with
recruiting so far. I'm anxious to see how they do managing games. It's
going to be a tough season. TU's first 3 games are against OU, Boise
State and OSU. That's a brutal way to start the season and we're
likely looking at an 0-3 start. But, if we accidentally win even 1 of
those, I'll consider it a success. Even with going 0-3, we'll still be
in good shape for another bowl trip as long as we take care of
business in conference. I can't wait to see how things play out.
Whatever happens, you all know I'm true blue and solid gold, win or
lose. Go TU!

That's enough rambling for now. I'll check back in before I leave for
Orlando so I can give a report on the regatta this weekend. I'm
officially in stroke seat for the race. This will be my first race at
stroke. I really like it there. There's an extra mental challenge to
setting the pace for the boat that I find enjoyable. Toodles for now.

Tue, May. 3rd, 2011, 02:13 pm
Running on Fumes

I can't promise that this will be coherent because I'm friggin'
exhausted, but I've got so much crap to talk about that I feel
compelled to give it a go. The reason for my exhaustion is that I went
to see Flogging Molly last night. Yes... again... They played in Tulsa
at the Cain's Ballroom. I thought this was an odd bit of scheduling
since they were just in OKC about 6 weeks ago but it worked out well
for me so woo for odd scheduling! Plus, Cain's is my favorite concert
venue in Oklahoma. It's a cool place with tons of history and
everything sounds great. The parents didn't want to go again, so I
went up to Tulsa with a friend. The show was great. It was basically
the exact same show they did in OKC only it was on a high quality
sound system so it sounded about a hundred times better. It was
totally worth the trip and the 3.5 hours sleep I'm running on at the
moment. The OKC show was slightly dissatisfying because the sound
quality was so bad. I felt a little cheated but after last night, I'm
all better. If you are keeping count, that was my 6th Flogging Molly
concert and still... Best! Concert! EVER!!! I love those bastards!!!

In other exciting news, I am now an official member of the Chesapeake
Boathouse and have joined the Novice Masters coached rowing program. I
have been rowing with the masters for a few weeks now and all is well.
I was worried about dragging the boat down with suckage, but as usual,
I was freaking out about nothing. I feel kind of out of place and
awkward when we're carrying boats and oars to and from the water, but
on the water, my blindness isn't an issue at all and I feel completely
comfortable and competent given my experience. I make mistakes, but
it's the stuff novice rowers are supposed to screw up so it's all
good. The other rowers in the program have been totally supportive and
have even been helping me out with rides. It's great and I'm learning
lots of stuff too. I'm very excited about learning more and getting
better. I'm still rowing with the Vipers too so needless to say, I'm
at the boathouse a lot these days. I'm loving every minute of it, of
course.

OK, major announcement. I'm finally moving out of the parents house!
No more being a 37 year old loser living with Mom and Dad! I'm buying
a totally awesome place that's in a great location for me and will
allow me and Cinnabar to get out and do a lot more independent travel.
I'm totally jacked and can't wait to move in. Still working out
details and getting stuff situated but I'll be on my own again in no
time.

In all seriousness, I actually didn't mind living with the parents at
all. We have a great relationship and it has really been more like
crashing with friends. It was also fortuitous that I was there to help
out as we all went through some tough times together. I really
appreciate all the help and support they've given me as I've been
going through this phase of my life. I couldn't ask for better
parents. You guys rock! Thanks for allowing me to mooch for 2 years.
Love you guys.

And finally, I went to the NFB state convention this weekend. We had
elections and I am now the Secretary of the State Affiliate in
addition to remaining the Vice President of my chapter. I'm a little
concerned about where I'm going to find the time to keep up with my
NFB duties and rowing and everything else, but I'm excited and look
forward to helping the NFB get stronger in Oklahoma. I have lots of
cool ideas and the newly elected board is full of smart, enthusiastic
people so I'm expecting us to be able to do some awesome things.

That's it. Too much excitement going on at the moment. I'll catch
y'all later. Thunder Up!

Mon, Apr. 11th, 2011, 10:43 am
Random Test Post

This is a random test post to see if I remember how to send posts via
email. I think I'd update a lot more if I bothered to take advantage
of this feature. I suppose I'll throw in some random comments to go
with my random post.

1. What happened to the howling winds we were supposed to have
yesterday? Nothing happened. It was a rather nice day. I'm glad I
didn't have to deal with wind, but at the same time, I'm annoyed with
the local news for getting me worked up about nothing. I know they
exaggerate everything for ratings and I usually ignore weather
forecasts because of this tendency but it feels like these guys just
make stuff up sometimes. I need to stick more firmly to my policy of
ignoring local news. Jerks!

2. I'm geeked out of my mind about the Thunder. They're playing with
some serious swagger leading into the playoffs. I'm trying to stay
calm but I'm having very little success. Since making trade deadline
moves that added Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed the Thunder have
become tougher and more confident. The experience that those guys
bring is going to be huge in the playoffs. I can't wait. Thunder up!

3. I am so freaking hungry right now.

4. I say "Woo!" a lot on Twitter. Sometimes I wonder if it annoys
people, but it's a conveniently short way to express my enthusiasm for
things so I'm not cutting back. Wooing is fun! Woo!

5. Seriously, I'm starving!

OK, that's enough randomness for a test. Now to send and hope I got
this right. If you're reading this right now, then woo me!

Sat, Apr. 9th, 2011, 10:28 pm
Blowin' in the Wind

I really hate wind... a lot. I'd rather deal with rain, snow, sleet, scorching heat or anything besides wind. Wind completely ruins my day. It makes me cranky and I just want to stay home curled up in a little ball waiting for it to end. It's noisy and makes it hard for me to navigate and it makes my hair move. I hate it when my hair moves. It's the main reason I have short hair. There's less of it to flop around and annoy me. Don't even get me started on people touching my hair. Man, I hate that! AAAGH!!! Yeah, I have hair issues and I'm probably living in the wrong state considering OKC is one of the windiest places in the country. . Anyway, it's been hella-windy for at least 2 weeks straight. I'm sick of it and I'm starting to go a little nuts. Ok, nuttier. We're supposed to be getting 50mph gusts tomorrow. Bloody Hell! This is really interfering with my life. It completely sucks the fun out of bike riding and creates unsafe conditions on the river so that I can't row. We've had to cancel a couple of practices, including today and would have scratched another one if not for some awesomeness by the boathouse that I'll get to in a minute. To steal a word from one of my favorite Tweeters, Chad Ochocinco, I'm pisstified! I seriously need some relief from the wind.

Last Tuesday, we would have had to cancel rowing practice due to high winds but were saved by the most excellent people at the boathouse. Instead of scrapping practice, we got an hour to practice in the fancy new dynamic propulsion rowing tank at the new Devon Boathouse. This tank is the first of it's kind in the country and is new enough that until recently it was mainly being used only by the high performance athletes. Now they're letting regular schmoes in there, but it's rather pricey. So, I was shocked to show up at the boathouse and discover that the Vipers were getting to try it out.

Basically, this tank is a long shallow pool with a boat thingy mounted in the center. I don't really know what to call the boat thingy. It's not really a boat but it simulates one. I'm going with boat thingy until I learn if it has a technical term. It has 8 seats with seat slides and foot stretchers just like you'd find in a boat. You use oars in the tank and row just like in the water. It also has mirrors mounted by each seat so that each rower can watch themselves and see what they're doing wrong. Obviously, the mirrors are no help to me, but I can understand how that would be a very helpful training tool. Trust me. It is very frustrating to only have verbal descriptions of my mistakes to rely on. I'd love to see what I'm doing wrong. Rowing tanks are pretty common, but what makes this one different is that the boat thingy can move back and forth to give a more realistic feel. It is anchored by bungees or something and surges forward on every stroke just like being on a boat. It feels very close to rowing on the water. The biggest difference is that it doesn't lean left and right like a boat ( well, a poorly balanced boat which the Vipers frequently contend with). The water in the pool moves to simulate a boat's movement through water and the speed can be changed to match the experience level of the rowers. Basically, this tank is like one of those never ending pools but bigger and it has a boat thingy in it. I'm doubting the usefulness of this oh so technical description but the point is, it's high tech and really cool and I got to row in it. Woo!

After practice Tuesday, I hung around with Gary and Guyla for an event that the Masters rowers were doing. I'm planning to join the masters program soon so this was a chance for me to meet some of the rowers and coaches. Just so there's no confusion, masters is the rowing euphemism for old. You're either a junior or a master. Master does not mean good. I'll be starting with the novice masters to work on sculling and will progress from there. I'm excited and nervous about this. I'll be the only blind rower so I'm of course putting pressure on myself to not make blind people look bad. I know I can handle it. There's no reason I need to see to row and I'll do fine. I just don't want to screw up and have people think "oh yeah, blind people suck". This is all in my head of course and I'm being way too hard on myself. I do not represent all blind people and I can only represent myself. Still I don't personally want to look bad or have my shortcomings applied generally to all of my peeps. Everyone I have met at the boathouse is so accepting and supportive. I know I'm spazzing out about nothing. I'm sure I'll screw up, but I won't screw up more than anyone else who is learning to row. I've just always had this hang up about being judged by my blindness. It's weird and hard to explain and I know I really just need to get over myself. I'm working on it. At least I am aware of my irrational tendencies.

Anyway, back to this event...I I didn't exactly know what I was getting into, but it turned out to be a nifty tour of the Devon Boathouse. That place is slick. There's a huge weight room, tons of ergs and other workout equipment, an endless pool, a high altitude chamber and of course, the previously mentioned dynamic propulsion rowing tank. There are several kinds of ergs over there. There's one where the whole thing rocks side to side kind of like a poorly balanced boat. I assume it's supposed to help you learn balance. Gary wanted to see what would happen when I got on the crazy thing so I gave it a try. I wobbled quite a bit for the first minute or so but then I started to get it all under control. I figured it out pretty fast. I wasn't completely rock solid, but in less than 5 minutes, I was reasonably stable. I was somewhat surprised to pick it up so fast but for some reason, I have always had a somewhat freakish awareness of my center of gravity and have been able to do stuff like that. It was really interesting though. I was on that thing for less than 5 minutes but learned quite a bit about how my body position plays a role in balance. I could really feel my core getting a workout as well. I really need to get stronger there. At the end of the evening, I got to get in the tank again and the intermediate masters coach told me I did well so that was good for the confidence. I had a great time and really appreciate the time the Gary and Guyla took to do the tour with me.

OK, I'm done with rowing for now. In my last entry, I mentioned some weirdness at the Flogging Molly concert. The concert was at the Diamond Ballroom. This place has a craptastic parking lot that is so crater filled, that I'm pretty sure it's like walking on the moon but with more gravity of course. When we got there, there was a huge line of people waiting to get in. We started to make our way to the end of the line when a security guy called us over and took us to the front of the line because he saw my cane. Obviously, this was very nice of the dude, and I'm kind of a jerk to complain, but I always feel icky when people do that to me. Yeah, it's polite, but it also comes from the perception that the blind are somehow more fragile and less capable of waiting in a line than everyone else. I have no physical impairment that makes it more difficult for me to wait in a line than anyone else yet I frequently get ushered to the front of lines. It's just awkward. I hate lines so getting the blindy hook up is cool, but I feel awkward for accepting special treatment that I don't need. And I can't really argue with the guy and say "No, I'll wait in the line." He's just trying to be courteous and shrugging off his kindness like that would be rather rude in my opinion. It would just be ungrateful and unnecessarily bitchy. So instead, I just accept it and feel awkward.

Complicating things in this instance was the fact that I didn't have a ticket and the rest of my group did. I was supposed to meet my cousin outside and I was going to go in on the guest list due to some connections that her husband has at this venue. I actually would have been much happier to buy my ticket. I love Flogging Molly and will happily hand over my cash to them any chance I get, and it feels like stealing to get in free. But my cousin wanted to do this for me as a birthday present and a thank you for the kick ass baby shower I threw for her last summer, so I let her do it. Anyway, my cousin hadn't arrived yet when this thing with the security guard came up. I explained the situation to him and he said "well, you're on my guest list tonight". It was hilarious. Yeah, I was getting in free anyway, but it was still very nice of the guy. Again, I felt awkward, but it was still entertaining to get in free on the blindy hook up.

My other weird experience at the concert was an interaction with stupidity. During the concert, some drunk guy got up in my face and started waiving his hands in front of my eyes. Apparently, he wanted to assure himself that I really was blind. Of course, I had no idea what was going on. It was too loud and crowded for me to hear or feel him there. I had no clue anything was happening until my cousin bombarded him with a healthy dose of F bombs. She seriously ripped this guy. It was hilarious. He took off in a hurry with his tail between his legs. He tried to apologize and my cousin interrupted him and said "No! Just go!" I laughed my ass off when she told me what happened. People are so ignorant.

That's all I have for today. I'm trying to not freak out about the Red Sox. At least I have the Thunder in the playoffs to distract me from it for a little while. Hopefully the Sox will get it together but things aren't looking promising. The pitching really stinks. Thanks all for reading this crap. If I don't blow away in the next couple of days, I'll be back with more riveting tales. Toodles for now.

Sun, Apr. 3rd, 2011, 11:31 pm
Just a Quicky Before Bed

I was at a beer tasting fundraiser thingy tonight to support the high performance rowers training in Oklahoma City. While chatting with some people I know from the boathouse, someone made reference to something I had written on the blog. I had a split second panic attack because I am really much more comfortable believing that no one reads this crap so it freaks me out to be reminded that a few people actually do read this. After my split second mental meltdown, I felt bad that I haven't written anything in forever. So, here I am with a quicky before I pass out from exhaustion.

The great Twitter experiment is over. I have decided that I don't like having my tweets automatically post to the blog. They clutter the place up too much and detract from the well thought out masterpieces that I post here. You can always click the link on the sidebar to go directly to my Twitter feed if you are interested in my little nuggets of nonsense but there will be no more tweets in the blog.

The Vipers are back on the water! Woo hoo! Watch out corporate league! We had our first team practice yesterday. It was a real light row just to let everyone get a feel for being back in the boat, but damn it felt good! I Hadn't been in a boat since last October, but I jumped right back in without skipping a beat. I was expecting to be a bit rusty, but it was like I didn't have any time off at all. It was so cool. My legs feel stronger than ever thanks to all the erging I've been doing since January.

I rowed in the stroke seat yesterday instead of my usual 7 seat. I don't know if that's a permanent change, but I like being stroke. It's a fun mental challenge to make myself row at a consistent pace even when I can feel the rest of the boat trying to rush and get off my pace. Plus, it's a port oar instead of starboard. I can do either side just fine, but port feels more natural because I get to use my right hand to feather. I really don't care what seat I'm in as long as there's room for me in the boat. I'm flexible and want the lineup that gets us the best results, but stroke is the most fun for me.

one thing I didn't miss during the off season... carrying boats. Damn those things are heavy. But the boat has to get in and out of the water somehow, so if I want to row, I guess I better not complain about carrying boats.

Finally, in case anyone was wondering, yes, I am in the early stages of panic mode since the Red Sox got swept opening weekend by the Rangers. Definitely not an ideal start to the season, but hopefully they'll shake it off and get into championship form soon.

That's it. Must sleep now. I have a couple of Flogging Molly concert stories I want to share, but it will take too long to find the right wording so I'll save it for later. Toodles.

Sun, Apr. 3rd, 2011, 12:02 pm
My tweets

  • Sat, 12:48: On the way to rowing practice. Stuck at a train crossing. This stupid train is going to make me late. Grrr.
  • Sat, 12:50: Hey! There's the end of the train. Sweet. I'll make it just in time.
  • Sat, 15:12: Just had 1st rowing practice of the season. Felt good to be back in a boat. I was in stroke seat. It was fun.
  • Sun, 01:31: Bought some new earbuds since I broke yet another pair - 3 months. Anyway, I'm up way too late listening to tunes & loving the new buds.
  • Sun, 06:20: My dog wakes me up every day for breakfast within the same 3 minute window. Always between 5:55 & 5:58. How does he do that? Alarm dog. SMH.

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