The Reality of a Visit from the Grandkids

April 18th, 2017

Talking over coffee, the realization hits that you miss the grandkids, and wish they could visit more often. Wouldn't it be nice if they could stay over. We have the room. Kids are cute, it would be great.

Then it happens. They're here. Six of them, and without mommy or daddy. Why do I have that deer in the headlights feeling?

Kids touch everything. Items placed on a table, held by the laws of gravity, suddenly move to strange, new, and unexpected places. Feeling the need to make the world their playground, and all objects in sight their personal toys.

In bursts of energy, chairs and other furniture are bounded over in a single leap, All that's missing is the red cape and spandex suit. objects are touched, and broken. Of course, it's always an accident, or somebody else's fault. Usually those annoying kids who I thought moved out years ago... Not-me, Nobody, Not-Mine, and the dreaded Idunno, are the culprits.

Kids, even older ones, put things in their mouths. They find things in nooks and crannies, or under tables, couches, and other dusty places just to see what they taste like. But just try to get them to eat their vegetables and see what happens. OK, actually, even vegetables are accepted more eagerly when served by grandma. She always has plenty of food to keep bellies full.

The smaller the kid, the stinkier they are. If you haven't been around them for a while, it's easy to forget the joys of that full diaper. Worse, the bag next to grandma's chair, where they're being collected before being put into the trash can. They actually should be stored in a hermetically sealed container, marked for hazardous waste. Smells multiply the more they sit untouched. All bundled up with their toxic contents brewing inside. It brings a tear to my eye, and a sinus headache, just thinking about it.

Toys get left in walkways, on the stairs, and places other than a toy box. Little ones seem to know when a door isn't quite fully latched, and make their escape to the big, beautiful world on the other side. Or get into rooms that were purposely shut off from the prying eyes of the tiny visitors.

Whining, picking on each other, constant noise, empty bellies, full diapers, bathroom accidents, sick babies who vomit through their nose, barely a change of clothes to last for a week long visit.

Then the final day, when parents come to the rescue.

There's just one thing. As much as we love you and enjoyed the visit, and now want to see you go... nobody is leaving this place until the mess is cleaned up.

Heltsley Family Reunion 2017

March 22nd, 2017

A reunion is planned for the weekend of May 12 though 14, 2017. If you're a Heltsley, and can attend, consider yourself invited.

If you need a place to stay, visit Hazlet Cottages for a special rate, before cottages fill up. Use their site for making reservations, and contacting for driving instructions.

If you can't make the whole weekend, at least try to be at the main reunion event on Saturday afternoon,

If you can't make it, but want to stay in touch, email me with the Contact page. If you want to receive updates from this web site use the subscription box in the side bar. Your privacy is important, and will never be shared. You can always unsubscribe whenever you wish.

KDP Rocket Accessibility Tutorial for the Mac-

February 24th, 2017

I have recently been exploring tools to help in writing, and self-publishing. Most times, effort is placed on the writing process, but that's only about a third of the work in putting your written masterpiece out there for the public to enjoy. It also takes some good editing, formatting, and cover art. Then there's the matter of marketing, and getting your book in the hands of your audience. A well written book won't sell, if it can't be found.

That's what KDP Rocket helps to do..

To learn how to become a self- published book marketer, you can't do without the information located at, and the hard work that Dave Chesson pours into helping the self-published author to succeed.

If you have no budget, and can't spend money, he tells all the free secrets to fine tuning the process, and finding keywords to place your book in front of your target audience. Get ready for hours, and hours of work in searching keywords, using tools to analyze the results, and nail down the niche you plan to serve.

Want a faster, and easier way to match the knowledge you have, to a reader who wants to pay you for it? Harness the power of software to do that leg work in a matter of moments. Visit Dave's site to get his personal secret weapon: KDP Rocket.

It works great, but as a blind person, my ongoing concern for new software is... Is it accessible? Will it work with my screen reader? If it doesn't, then I just bought an expensive bit of software to do nothing more than clutter my hard drive. Not to mention, it means money down the drain for me.

Good news.

I was able to test drive Dave Chesson's software, and use it on my MacBook, using Voiceover.. The ride is a little bumpy, but the bottom line is that it works. I hope to give a similar good report for Windows users, but at the time of this writing, all my Windows machines are down. I expect it to work just as well though.

I linked a recording of my initial experience with KDP Rocket to this post, so use the player and download links to hear how it sounds. I think you'll see for yourself how simple it is to search for book ideas to write about, and check out how much competition you're up against... or not. You may find a wide open field. Or just as important, you may find that your ideal book idea has no audience.

Remember, this is not a lesson on how to find your ideal book idea, or use KDP Rocket to market your idea. Check out, and Dave will tell you how to apply the information in the reports.

Here's what I cover in my audio tutorial:

  1. Unpacking and installing. For the Mac universe, it's a snap.
    • Click the DMG file to extract.
    • Copy the application into the Applications folder.
    • Initially running and installing the license code.

    It's all super easy to do.

  2. Reviewing the home screen.
    • Unlabeled graphics. There's a few, but not important for the searches. They're mostly logos, or links to video tutorials on the web.
    • Searches. Buttons for Idea Searches, and Competition Searches are easy to find and use.
  3. Searching, and how the reports are displayed.
    • The search box appears the same for both searches, and other than having no key echo in typing your search, is excellent.
    • When the screen reloads, the report is ready.
    • Using the swipe, Control+Option+(left or right arrows), all the cells in the resulting table can be read.
    • Analyze button. Gives deeper report information, and is also excellent to use.
    • Export. For better navigation, and to have a record of the search reports, an Export button sends it to a CSV file.

    Just remember that the exported file won't have the Analyze buttons. Still, it lets you know what's there, and interesting to follow through on.

Is there any downside to navigating and using KDP Rocket?

  1. The report tables. Though swiping from cell to cell works, There is no way to:
    • Move to the next or previous row. Moving up or down.
    • Column headers aren't read when navigating. I found that writing the headers in a separate text file to refer to when deeper in the grid helps to keep column information straight.
    • Exporting. Works great, but the button is at the bottom. For large tables, it isn't easy to get to. Sometimes stopping interacting with the table, then tabbing past it works. I couldn't get it to work all the time, but I'll admit, it could just be me missing something. I'm not an expert on the Mac.

I give a 5 star rating for doing what KDP Rocket claims. It helps you match book ideas to a potential audience, and does the hard marketing footwork for you.

I give it 4 stars in accessibility. Sure, a few minor bumps, but everything you need to access works, and is readable.

My main purpose here was to put the interface through its paces, and see how screen readers handled it. For better information on what to do with the reports the searches deliver, visit Dave's site.

My final word to potential self-published authors, even blind ones, this is very usable software. The price tag is worth all the saved hours in research, and finding your target market.

Match your skills and knowledge as an author to connect with the audience who is looking for you, and is willing to pay for what you have to say.

The blind Elephant

February 16th, 2017

The elephant in the room. That's what it has become. It's here, obvious, but has been with me so long I usually never notice it any more. Inconvenient, sure. I seem to have gotten used to it. I forget that some people might be interested in it, and what its all about. How did the elephant get here? How do I get things done? Even things I manage to do seem to amaze people, although I can't imagine why. OK, there are some adaptive things I do, but those measures seem pretty obvious to me.

I get around, but clearly driving is out of the question. I know my immediate surroundings at home well enough, I don't walk with a white cane. However, stepping outside the house is different. There's a measure of technique in using a cane to feel the ground and sweep for obstacles. It's not hard. A few basic moves to engrain into muscle memory, and away we go.

Clearly a distinct path to walk on is key. No cutting across parking lots, or wide open spaces. It can be done, but it takes on another whole skill set. Lots of listening and concentration on form, posture, and that muscle memory as you walk. Let's save that distraction for later.

It's all about boundaries. The border of the sidewalk as it meets the grass, or gravel, or the seam in a driveway as it crosses over one. The border of a hallway, complete with all those moveable obstacles like potted plants, wet floor signs, mop buckets... and watch out! That lady in the hall who just bent over to pick up her dropped wallet... Oops... sorery, I didn't mean to touch your bottom. But thanks for the high pitched squeal. I needed something to loosen the ear wax build up that was accumulating. And no, there's nothing wrong with me. And yes, I am indeed blind. Sorry again. I'll try to be more alert next time.

The trouble I have most often is the lack of traffic on the street, and the over helpful onlooker. First the helpful onlooker. They mean well. Bless their hearts. But they usually act first, and think later... if at all. What seems like a collision with disaster to them is merely the boundary I need to find to keep on track. Dodging around it, like most people would do, only removes a landmark for me, and a sure fire path for me to get lost at worst. Or disoriented at best. .

There's more to say, and I know I left a couple side topic hanging, but my time is up for this stream of consciousness. Stay tuned for more on Traffic noise. For now, let's just say it makes an invaluable invisible boundary to keep on course. How to handle wide open spaces? Avoid them, but when you can't it's not entirely impossible, but the lack of boundaries and environment noise can make it the worst kind of traveling.

Forgetting Where You Came From

January 26th, 2017

Time marches forward, like troops in lock step.
A vanguard of locked shields, and weapon at the ready.

Forcing approval of policy,
though many in the nation disagree with those sanctions.

Awkward and unpolished egos need buffing,
and ratings of approval take first place over substance.

Potential lies dormant from the beginning.
The solution is so simple, and could be winning.

It's not a ten step process to avert devastation.
Success could be to decrease aggrevation.

Step out of the tower, and listen.
Middle ground can be found without going to extreme.
It's about serving the people, not self image, or a meme.ling 22 Successful

23 Oversight

Adventures in the Life of a Blind Computer Geek #anticipation

November 23rd, 2016

Or, the Joys, and Risks of Computer Upgrades

Decided to see if my desktop computer would upgrade to Windows 10. I reserved a copy shortly after it was released, but balked for months. Then I discovered my video card might not have compatible drivers. Not to mention, I knew my screen reader technology wasn't going to work either. No voice for me, and no screen for an assistant to look at for help. Not going to happen.

Lately, I've been hearing how much improved Narrator is in the latest releases, and my fallback screen reader, NVDA has been up to speed with Win10 for some time. Should I? Or shouldn't I?

I've been using Windows 10 with growing success, and ease on my old Dell laptop, but it bit the dust with hard drive failure. Windows 7 is still a good workhorse for what I use my desktop for, but since my laptop died, it has had to double more as a personal computer, instead of being strictly a home file server. I finally decided to check on updating. No system errors about video drivers. All I gotta do is ditch my age old, tried and true screen reader... gulp...

OK, let's do this thing.

I sat, watching the progress bars tick slowly by, missing a chat session I like to hang out in. Tick, tick, tick. "You may continue using your computer while Windows updates," my computer cheerfully told me. So I did. There I sat, comparing files from my back up drive, to motes I have on my web site. Yeah, I know, exciting stuff, but it kept me busy while I waited the process of files trickling from Microsoft to my humble little hard drive.

The process completed, software began doing it's behind the scenes black magic, and starting yet another process of checking for updates, and upgrading the upgrade. After agonizing minutes that bled into hours, an empty stomach, and drooping eyelids, it was time to abandon the computer to take all the time it wants, while its human component shuts down for the night. With a fresh boot up in the morning, it was time to see where my computer left off, or if it needed human interaction to continue.

It needed to know which of my adaptive software to remove. Grudgingly, I said goodbye to my screen reader, fired up my back up, and clicked. I was soon greeted by an error that brought the update to a halt, and a reboot was demanded. How rude. Good news and bad news awaited.

The bad news. I was going to have to restart the update process from scratch. All those hours of waiting, lost. And the thrill of more endless hours was in my future... well, not exactly.

The good news. Using an alternate method of getting the update started, I saved an easy 3 hours, and probably more.

Within a short time the initial installing was done, but now comes the cycle of reboots, and waiting, as things still aren't quite to the point of talking to me. About 2 hours in, I finally have some assistance to look at my screen... 37%. More waiting, but at least I know there's progress. I can get back to it after breakfast, and a pot of coffee. I can also tend to a misbehaving sump pump, and a semi-flooded basement. Ah, real life encroaches on my fantasy, cyber reality.

Will Windows finally load? I'm sure it will, just gotta wait for it. Will the sump kick in and start pumping water again? I'm sure, its main problem seems to be a clog. Putting in a substitute pump we borrowed, while the other gets cleaned out. For now, we'll just have to wait, tackle the small things that come our way, and anticipate the best.

PS: Thanks to #DailyPost, and the #dailyprompt: Anticipation

Crazy Pilgrim Friends #ThanksgivingCarol

November 19th, 2016

Or: My Lame Thanksgiving Carol.

Pilgrims feast, and then grow fat.
So sad, but way too quirky;
They need full bellies of deer and turkey.
Or pants could fall down, with buckles on shoes and hats.

A harsh winter carved numbers down;
But harvest gave plenty for all.
So we now celebrate with football.
Pass, punt, and kick! Touchdown!

O, Pilgrims and indians can be friends;
And so can we, to the end.
Don't be so jerky,
Ad pass me the turkey.
O, the Pilgrims and indians can be friends.

A Lifestyle of Waiting

October 18th, 2016

People tell me, "it'll be OK." They offer encouragement, advice, or relate what happened to them, or somebody they know, But nobody offers real solutions. I'm told that government programs will meet my needs, but the process is endless.

Strangers poke their nose into my business. They want an exact accounting of my personal life. Income, expenses, assets, lifestyle, medical, not to mention the endless forms to fill out. Papers filed, with what seems like the same information. Endless papers, endless and tedious waiting for my piece of paper to filter down the stack, and finally reach a human being who can make a decision. Will the support really be enough? I've heard that line before, and the assistance turns out to be barely enough, and plenty enough to keep me buried well below the poverty line. I'm assured the wait is worth it.

So, here I am, Waiting, without recourse. No body to ask where my piece of paper is in the stack. Excruciating nothingness screeching through my head with the mystery of what will happen to me. Where do I stand in this process of waiting. Where am I down the dark tunnel of red tape. No ray of light, and no way to talk to anybody who knows how long.

"Just wait," is the official word. "Why the long wait?" is the question on the lips of everybody. Mental numbness, and the only lame response I can offer is, "I don't know."

I'm told it'll be worth it. The longer they take, the more back pay I'll receive. That's nice, but what about now? What about where my next meal is coming from? What about how I'm going to pay my housing, or utilities, or provide for my kids? What am I supposed to do, pack myself up into a closet, pack myself into mothballs, and wait? How long? Should I just tell my bill collectors to just wait for... Oh I don't know... sometime in the undetermined future... and don't worry, it'll be worth it. I'll be telling them that from the homeless shelter, while I wait with a better response in a soup line.

I called once, and the stock answer was it can take ten months. I wish it were ten months. I was told that over 6 years ago. I would love a decision in ten months, it would be an answer to prayers. An end to a long, slow, decline into the dark, endless tunnels of time and red tape. Why so long? I don't know. When will I hear where I stand in the waiting list? I don't know. When will somebody contact me? I don't know.


But wait. What happens if the hidden decision makers of my fate tell me something is missing in my papers, or I used the wrong form, or I used the wrong wording that isn't in the dictionaries and lexicons of government lingo? I get to refile my papers, and go back to the end of the line... and wait. Believe me, this is a reality. I know, because it has already happened.

Don't worry. I'm doing OK. I manage. I keep on keeping on. But while I plod through life, and keep busy... I wait...





I Could Really Use a Cup of Coffee, or an Asperin, or a Long Nap

October 13th, 2016

What a day. I feel like a fire hose has been going off in my head. Information overload. Cramming data, doing word searches, cross referencing, gathering, and packing it in. Where will it all go? How will I use it to make sense of the topic I need? There's way too much. I'll never need all this data. What should I focus on? All I need from all this squirreling away is enough to cover an outline to last ffor 20 minutes.

I can't think any more. All this is sounding the same. My back is beginning to ache, sitting in this easy chair. I should have went to my office. I love my office chair, the back support is so nice.

Finally reached the bottom of my resource list. Now to smooth things out, sift through the data... Heck no. Forget that. I need to just let it cool off, and get back to it tomorrow. Gotta give my brain, and back a rest, besides...

What now? The phone is ringing. Hmm... It's time to grab a bite of dinner... It's my brother... OK, I can talk, and munch on a hot dog. Decompressing... but the nice little chat turns into a long one. Missed a phone call. Oh well. I'll call them back, just as soon as...Well not now, it's time for another appointment, and an hour long meeting.

I can't help thinking of all that scrambled data. I've already released it in my mind to return to later, so I'm not worried about giving it space in my head. Still, what will it all mean? What direction do I need to go in paring it down. Just a 15 minute outline, that's all I need. I know I said 20 minutes, but it always seems easier to go longer than shorter when doing the presentation.

I still feel like my head has been pelted, and power washed with firehoses. I need a cup of coffee... no... it's too late for that. I'd never get to sleep. A shower. That's what I need. A nice hot shower, and relax in bed with a book, until I drift off to sleep. A good night's rest, then I can get bogged down with miore projects I'm behind on... mailing list, follow up ccalls, notes to write, and 0post for the podcast.... the blog... the... I need a shower, and maybe a couple of asperin for my aching back.

The End of a Bad Day

October 11th, 2016

Or: Water Babies

Janet returned to the living room after tucking the baby in for the night. Sitting back in her spot on the couch next to Dean, she commented, "You should probably be going home now."

"But, we're finally alone," Dean replied, knowing full well that Janet wouldn't stand for him staying any later, but what kind of boyfriend would he be if he didn't tease her a little? "I've been good. I even helped you out with the little squirt, and her bratty brother."

"That's right," Janet remarked, pleased at Dean's maturity. "It wouldn't be right for the babysitter to have company over, and you've been here long enough. And I'm so proud of you for behaving. Especially when Zack turned out to be the kid from the park that had been bothering you."

"Yeah, and it's been awfully hard not to kill him," Dean grinned to himself over his good deed. "Don't I deserve something special for that?"

"Yes, you do," Janet replied as she looked deeply into his eyes, "but you still can't stay. It wouldn't look right to have you stay late."

"Not even for a few minutes?" asked Dean innocently. "I won't tell, and nobody will ever have to know."

"No," was her answer. "I'm getting paid for an overnight babysitting job, and if the parents thought that included an all night boy friend, nobody would ever trust me again to sit up with their kids. I've already let you stay longer than I should have Now go home before your mom starts to worry about you."

"My mom won't worry about me if I don't get home until late," Dean said.

"Don't tell me that," Janet gave him an accusing look.

"She wouldn't worry about me," Dean finished, "she'd be a lot more worried about you, if I got home too late." With that Dean gave Janet a quick kiss on the cheek and headed for the door.

Just as he stood in the door, he heard the commanding voice behind him say. "Stop right there mister. Come back here and give me a real good night kiss." After the long embrace, the young couple separated, and Janet again told him, "You did so well with Zack tonight. Taking him popcorn to his room, even after he locked himself in to hide from you."

"It was nothing," was Dean's modest response. "The kid needed something, since he skipped having supper with the rest of us. He sure seemed thirsty though."

"You're so sweet." purred Janet.

"I kept telling him not to fill up on the sodas. Too much of that stuff will make a kid pee the bed or something."

"Dean," Janet scolded, "you didn't say that to him did you?"

"Well, it's true." Dean defended himself. "He shouldn't drink so many, especially right before bedtime."

As Dean disappeared out the door, he called over his shoulder, "Give me a call when you're ready to leave tomorrow. I'll pick you up. Let me know if the kid wakes up in a water bed." Dean's laughter at his joke lingered in Janet's mind as she wartvhed the tail lights disappear down the street.

Back in the house Janet turned down the lights, and flipped through the channels on TV. In her bedroom, the baby was cozy, warm, and dreaming peacefully. In Zack's room, where he had been remorseful at his misdeeds during the day, then terrified of his sitter's boyfriend, then confused at the nice treatment from him, had just awakened after drifting off to sleep some time earlier. "I guess I'd better turn off the light, and get some sleep," Zack mumbled as he kicked the little pile of empty soda cans out of his way, where they laid in the floor of his room. How many did he drink anyway? There had to be at least six... maybe eight empties. As he drifted off to sleep, he began to have a strange dream. One where he had an incredible urge to use a restroom, but there wasn't any to be found.

Note: If you feel like you've missed something here, go back and read the earlier misadventures of Zack, and his day of misbehaving.

Disclaimer This has been a complete work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, place, or event is purely coincidental.