Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Look Back At 2009: Final Edition

Thought I forgot eh? Well I haven’t, however, this is going to seem very anticlimactic some five months down the road from my original posts. And, thankfully, I sum these two bits up in a paragraph or two. This post has a few edits. I’ve left some anachronisms in place from my draft and added only a sentence here or there.

Apple made a jump into the mobile space for the Blind in a big way last year. There is no denying that the ability to go out to WalMart and buy something off the shelve, and after some doing, come home and make it talk is a fantastic thing. I have a great fear though that some are just trading in one perceived monopoly for one actual monopoly. Um, but I’ll save that discussion for another time. For now, Apple was a big story in 2009.

The biggest story though, and you can confirm my vote with Jamie or J.J. or Rick, was Google and their inclusion of Talkback into Android 1.6 and higher. Why Google? Why not Apple? At the time I stated my reasons as this: 50 handsets running Android for free with most contracts by holiday 2010  can’t be ignored. I stand by that still. While LG offers some built in options, the ability to add talking GPS and Speech Recognition gives the G Men a bit of an edge. Of course, the problem is that the “Eyes Free” project has a long ways to go. Google, unlike Apple, is software based. The ability for Google to throw money, engineers and time at an issue also can’t be ignored. . . Of course, they have to do that part first ..

Google’s bigger issue falls on fragmentation and the rapid ever changing face on what is a Google phone. This is where Apple has the advantage in being predominantly a hardware maker. Google faces an uphill battle with phone manufacturers in the same way that Microsoft does with Windows. And like Windows, Google could be supporting just as many configurations with a new Android phone coming out each week in your box of breakfast cereal. What a cool toy surprise!  

the thing about Microsoft is that they can’t go get a cup of coffee without consulting two teams of lawyers first. The thing about Apple and Google is that they haven’t been tested beyond the court of public opinion yet. At some point the EU and others will descend on both companies and they to will have to defend themselves from the same legal battles as Microsoft. It is just what happens to big companies.

I still think that Google has the potential to rush out of the gate at some point. Either by design or by Advocacy prompting them in nasty ways. it will have to happen. I just wish it would happen faster because we are running out of options in the mobile space. And being locked into a phone platform, a company and a carrier is not a good thing going forward.

Control can be a double edged sword that can cut both sides of the argument clean in half. Reliance can also take the place of control in this scenario as well. I’m reminded of those great but ominous DEVO lyrics on the matter.

“Freedom of choice is what you got.. Freedom from choice is what you want.”

Here the whole track from the link below ..

Monday, June 28, 2010

Yes Virginia, There Is Indeed A Windows 8 On The Horizon

Should this really shock anyone? Really anyone?.. Buler .. Buler? Death, taxes and Windows. 3 constants of the universe. The question will move quickly from when and more to how. As in how will access be changed in Windows 8? The answer may come as early as 2011. but let me back up a second if you are just joining this program already in progress.

The story broke this week about a leaked set of slides detailing early concepts for Windows 8. The following articles cover what was on those slides to the umth degree.

From Beyond Binary


From Neowin


From Ars Technica


And from the man, Paul at the Windows Super Site


Its early days yet, however, some information is better than no information at all.

There are some things we do know for sure though..

1. Microsoft has assured many developers that Windows 8 would be 3 years away from the release of Windows 7.

2. Windows 8 is being said to have no 32 bit flavors in the works.

3. There would be some need for new hardware for some advanced features in Win 8 needed on board to make the OS come alive.

To be fair, that third bit has been sung around the campfire for years. I’m not laying awake at night worried about that one at any point between now and release. After all, how can you beta test something if you don’t have the hardware on hand to beta test said product correctly? Yep, not worried about legacy hardware just yet.

Windows 7 has already sold over 150 million licenses since the debut in October 2009. Some in the IT field suggest that the new OS has already taken 10% of the market. This would make it the fastest rate of adoption of an OS.. like ever. Microsoft will, again prepare for the lack of shock, to take it all in stride and release a new OS regardless of 7 sales because they HAVE! to re-establish the market cycle. Barring a major malfunction of horrific proportions, Windows 8 will be upon us in beta in 18 months or less. Such is the way of things.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dallas: Geeky High Points Of This Year’s NFB Convention Schedule


I’ve attended both ACB and NFB Conventions in the past. I’m not suggesting one is better than the other. And, I’m not suggesting you belong to both, either or neither group. What I am saying is that Convention can be a wonderful time where you can learn from others who are into the same things you find interesting. Networking, learning and dog gone it.. having fun with others. that is why I look forward to July.

I’m going to NFB again this year because I’m speaking at the AT Trainers Division meeting. Also, Dallas is kinda closer to Austin. Therefore, I am heading to Dallas on July 3rd.

Here are some portions of the schedule I’ve marked as points of interest. The full schedule can be found at the official 2010 NFB Convention site.


Saturday July 3rd

7:30 - 8:45 am—HAM RADIO GROUP EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS Milan Room, Tower mezzanine  
Discuss convention frequencies, hotel architectural features, and distributing special FM receivers for the hearing-impaired and Spanish-speaking attendees. D. Curtis Willoughby (ka0vba), Chairperson

Senators Lecture Hall, Tower lobby
Join Eric Damery, JAWS Product Manager, for an exciting and informative session covering the new details surrounding JAWS development during the past year.  In addition to many demonstrations of JAWS 11 with Research It, this will also be the first look at JAWS 12 scheduled for public beta in August 2010.

9:00 am - 12:00 noon—GW MICRO: SENSE NOTETAKER AND BOOKSENSE TRAINING (Registration: $10; refreshments provided)
Fleur-de-Lis A Room, Atrium mezzanine
The Braille Sense Plus and other Sense notetakers are exciting devices in Braille notetaker technology.  Learn new features, including the GW Sense Navigation GPS.  See the BookSense in action; play your books and audio files with ease.  Raul Gallegos and Jeremy Curry. To register, call 260-489-3671.

Governors Lecture Hall, Tower lobby  
    9:00 - 11:30 am—Apple’s Mac system, iPod series, iPhone, and iPad
    1:00 - 2:00 pm—Ebay’s accessibility improvements
    2:15 - 3:30 pm—Blackboard Learn, the online platform for education      
    3:45 - 5:00 pm—Accessing e-Books rapidly expanding market

Senators Lecture Hall, Tower lobby
Have lightning fast OCR with OpenBook in a portable solution that folds up.  Connect via a USB port and scan documents. Have them read aloud using Eloquence voices or any of Real Speak Solo Direct human-sounding voices now available on OpenBook. Magnify work, write under the camera, and reformat text.

Obelisk A Room, Atrium mezzanine
Sessions: 1:00 Breeze; 2:00 Portable Devices; 3:00 Stream; 4:00 BrailleNote
Join HumanWare to learn about recent updates and share product tips. Give us your suggestions or ask questions about your favorite HumanWare product. Door Prizes for every session! 

Peridot Room, Atrium mezzanine
Presented by James Gashel.

2:00 - 5:00 pm—GW MICRO: WINDOW-EYES TRAINING (Registration: $10; refreshments provided)
Fleur-de-Lis A Room, Atrium mezzanine
Explore the power of Window-Eyes with advanced scripting support, Office 2010, Windows 7, and much more.  Come to see support for the Internet and scripting provided by a screen reader.  Presenters: Jeremy Curry and Raul Gallegos. To register, call 260-489-3671.

Peridot Room, Atrium mezzanine
Presented by James Gashel.

Fleur-de-Lis B Room, Atrium mezzanine
(Preregistration by May 15 was required to attend.) Independence Science LLC, in collaboration with Purdue University researchers, is collecting feedback on a new portable handheld data collection device for blind students to use in high school science laboratories.  (Focus Group Two meets Monday at 7:00 pm) 

7:30 - 9:00 pm—knfbReader MOBILE USERS MEETING
Fleur-de-Lis A Room, Atrium mezzanine
Conducted by Michael Hingson

Sunday July 4th

Peridot Room, Atrium mezzanine
Presented by James Gashel

Not AT related, but fun to attend anyway...
Milan Room, Tower mezzanine
Don Gillmore, President

Peridot Room, Atrium mezzanine
Presented by James Gashel

Lalique Room, Atrium mezzanine
Learn about the NFB’s free audible newspaper service for the blind and visually impaired.  Topics cover Podable News, the new voices, the new on-demand article request feature, and more.  Sign up for NFB-NEWSLINE® at its exhibit hall table.

Fleur-de-Lis B Room, Atrium mezzanine
A meeting for all NFB affiliate and division Webmasters to discuss the importance of an informative, accessible, and visually attractive Website.
Gary Wunder, Chairperson, Webmasters Group

Monday July 5th

Don't Miss!!!
Rosetta Room, Atrium mezzanine  
   12:30 pm–Registration; 1:00 pm–Meeting begins
Some of the topics include: the Macintosh as a productivity tool for the blind; Solona, a CAPTCHA-solving service; Association of Information Technology Professionals presentation; accessibility to Microsoft’s products by its director of accessibility, Rob Sinclair; elections; and much more.  Curtis Chong, President

Don't Miss!!
5:30 - 7:00 pm—KURZWEIL 1000 USERS’ CONTINGENT
Steuben Room, Atrium mezzanine 
Join the Kurzweil 1000 Users’ Contingent!  Meet with Steve Baum, Vice President of Engineering, and share some Kurzweil 1000 experiences.  Kurzweil 1000 is our state-of-the-art, text-to-speech and life navigation software for blind and visually impaired readers.

Wyeth Room, Atrium mezzanine 
  6:30 pm–Registration; 7:00 pm–Meeting begins
John Miller, President

I'll be speaking at this one...
Manchester Room, Tower mezzanine
  6:30 pm–Registration; 7:00 pm–Meeting begins
Topics: determining the right note taker for your student; plunging without fear into Windows 7 with Cathyanne Murtha of Access Technology Institute; Jsay Pro; and teaching the Mac.  Michael Barber, President

Fleur-de-Lis B Room, Atrium mezzanine
(Preregistration by May 15 was required to attend.) Independence Science LLC, in collaboration with Purdue University researchers, is collecting feedback on a new portable handheld data collection device for blind students to use in high school science laboratories.

Tuesday July 6th

Peacock Terrace, West Wing
You are invited to our informational reception. Announcing AFB AccessWorld, every month—more authors, more information, more often. CareerConnect, FamilyConnect, and SeniorSite offer newly-expanded opportunities. Network with families, seniors, and successful mentors. We look forward to meeting you.

Lalique Room, Atrium mezzanine
Enjoy snacks and refreshments while meeting the Bookshare staff. This is your opportunity to talk with us and share your ideas; we’re here to listen.  Plan to have fun with contests, drawings, and interacting with your fellow members.  We look forward to seeing you. 

8:00 - 9:00 pm—BEP: U.S. CURRENCY IDENTIFICATION FOCUS GROUP Steuben Room, Atrium mezzanine
Representatives of the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) and the Office of Product Development provide an update on BEP’s progress to provide blind individuals with access to U.S. currency and discuss concepts it is currently testing. (Session Two: Wednesday at 7:00 pm.)   

Wednesday July 7th

During the General Session …

Gilles Pepin, Chief Executive Officer, HumanWare; Drummondville, Canada

Preety Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, Deque Systems, Inc.; Reston, Virginia

7:00 - 8:00 pm—BEP: U.S. CURRENCY IDENTIFICATION FOCUS GROUP Steuben Room, Atrium mezzanine
Representatives of the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) and the Office of Product Development provide an update on BEP’s progress to provide blind individuals with access to U.S. currency and discuss concepts it is currently testing.

Peridot Room, Atrium mezzanine
Presented by James Gashel

Lalique Room, Atrium mezzanine
Learn about the NFB’s free audible newspaper service for the blind and visually impaired.  Topics cover Podable News, the new voices, the new on-demand article request feature, and more.  Sign up for NFB-NEWSLINE® at its exhibit hall table.

A possible don't miss..
Obelisk A Room, Atrium mezzanine
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders in totally blind people. Total loss of light perception prevents synchronization of circadian body clock rhythms to the 24-hour day, leading to cyclic insomnia and daytime napping. The causes of this sleep disorder and possible treatment options will be presented and discussed.

Obelisk B Room, Atrium mezzanine
Don Mauck, Accessibility Evangelist at Oracle, will demonstrate the accessibility features built into the Oracle Siebel Call Center. Oracle CRM products are used by more than 4,000 enterprises and more than 4.6 million business users; these enterprises represent potential employment opportunities for the blind.

Rosetta Room, Atrium mezzanine
For the most part, technological developments tend to exclude blind people.  Developers must change the ways future technologies are designed.  Join us—perhaps you can suggest a technology or approach that nobody else has considered.  Curtis Chong, Chairperson

Peridot Room, Atrium mezzanine
Presented by James Gashel

Thursday July 8th

During the General Session ..
Dane Glasgow, Vice President, Buyer Experience Product Management, Ebay, Inc.; San Jose, California

Steve Eastman, President, Target.com; Minneapolis, Minnesota

Obelisk A Room, Atrium mezzanine 
A question-and-answer session with Frank Kurt Cylke, Director, and staff of the
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.

All persons interested in science fiction and fantasy are welcome to join in an open discussion.  Please contact Ed Meskys for room location.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

5 Years

This historical look back has been somewhat interesting and sorta depressing for me. Interesting in that I’m amazed by what I thought was the big news at the time I was creating that particular post. Depressing in that I need to change up my writing style more often.

But what’s done is done. I can’t go back and change things can I? Well, I did once. I actually went back and edited some posts for an offline drama situation. Now I can fix that by reposting the original version of the first post of this blog some 5 years later.

The changes I made weren’t dramatic, however, they do fill in some gray areas on things I’ve talked about before. With this now said, here it is, I bring you the unedited first post of TRS.

June 17th 2005

Run for the hills because the Ranger has started a Blog.

So I am like what??? 4 years behind the times. Well I guess I can’t say that I am on the bleeding, cutting or perforated edge. I do however play with all manner of things that beep, flash and talk in the Assistive Technology industry. And that should account for something. Or at least I hope it will as this is going to be a very boring read for some otherwise. I have, as a gesture of good will to those long time readers at ISN and Booji, at least created these posts in MS Word before I dump them here. That means I actually used spell check outside of work. Another first for me. Man that’s a lot of work for a tech specialist on a lonely Friday night.

So for those who may have accidentally clicked on this site let me give you the heads up. I am an Assistive Technology Consultant for the Texas Department of Rehabilitative Services at the Assistive Technology Unit under the Division of Blind Services housed in the Chris Cole Rehabilitation Center. And yes it actually says all that on my business card. It’s my license to be pompous and longwinded. Not to mention we cause others to lose their vision with the size of the font on that card. Which also means that they now qualify for our services. A win/win for everyone really.

But when I am not at work breaking, uh lovingly caring for, our equipment I revert to my on line persona at isnnews.net. At ISN I have been lucky enough to be the Executive Moderator for more than six years. I think that is 42 years in internet time. Or dog years. Either way it’s a long time to be wasting on the net. But that’s not all. I go back even further to the days of the Pathfinder boards in the mid to late 90’s. It was at Pathfinder discussing good old Babylon 5 where the Ranger was truly born.

Ranger1138 is a combination of who I was at the time. It’s like a college frat name that you just can’t shake. And, like most screen names, it came to me in a haze after a 15 hour shift at Incredible Universe. More on that at another time. Anyway, the Ranger part reflects my love of the B5 universe and the 1138 is, of course, a love of THX. Not THX1138 the movie though. I like the film but I was studying to become THX certified at the time and well. Did I mention the 15 hours? Retail and Caffeine equals a name I have stuck with for almost a decade.

My secret plans with this Blog is to combine my insights on Assistive Tech and the passion I have for all things Geek. As being a Geek admits that you are comfortable with who you are and being a Nerd implies that you are in denial about the Midiclorions in your blood. Trekie versus Treker right?

So I plan on giving up some info on what I see in both of my two lives and we will see how bad it gets from there. I can’t break confidentiality on some things as I am an actual State Agent but I can skirt around the issues as best as I can. I did take debate in high school and that Lincoln Douglas training has to be used sometime I guess.

And since this is my first post, look another first I’m winded, on my first Blog I plan on committing all the regular mistakes early on..

Today I ate an English Muffin. It was good.

I clipped my toenail on my new coffee table. Ouch that hurts.

Can you believe that Katy Homes?

There! I feel much better. Onwards to bigger and more interesting content.. I hope!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

To The New iPhone 4 Owners, This Too Shall Pass

I’ve been reading all the stories on the ups and downs of iPhone and iOS 4. I could go on and on about first generations, product design flaws and how it will all disappear in the mind of the press six months from now. but the funny thing is that I stumbled upon two older news stories that serve as better examples of how Apple has survived the company’s previous mistakes quite well.

For example, do you remember that Leopard had launch issues? I kind of forgot about it and this article reminded me of the long gone controversy.


Remember when the concern was that you wouldn’t be able to move your iTunes library to say, pause for a moment, your Windows Mobile phone? This blast from the past reminds us of the big news of the day from 2006.


These iPhone issues are growing pains of a company who used to be the underdog but is now a multi billion dollar empire. And empires have bad product launches. Ask Microsoft about the first three years of Xbox 360.

Brave hearts Apple fans. I’m sure by the time the white versions of iPhone 4 roll out, this thing will be lost to the mists of time only to resurface again at archives.org.

Now for some odd chance we are talking about this some 6 months down the road on December 26th at 6 pm still.. then Cupertino we truly have a problem.  

…. 6

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh Yeah, That Poll Thing

I haven’t forgot about that box on the top right of the page. Honest! I just haven’t thought of any good questions lately. And I’m not sure that today’s question is good or not. Only time will tell I guess.

Poll Question: If It Had The Features You Wanted, How Much Would You Pay for A Victor Reader Stream Update?

Something close to $20 U.S.   2 (11%)
Maybe around $30 U.S.   7 (38%)
I might spend $40 U.S.   1 (5%)
No more than $50 U.S.   4 (22%)
I'll never buy an update for my Victor Reader Stream   4 (22%)

It wasn’t by any means a scientific poll, however, it did give us some idea of what people thought about the upgrade before the pricing was announced. Remember, to learn more about the update visit Humanware at the link below.


Poll Question: The Next iOS Apple Do’hicky I must get Is..

iPhone 4
Mac Mini
I'll never buy an Apple anything

I’ll set this one for mid July and see how it goes after many get their hands on Apple stuff at this year’s Blindness conventions. Wonder if there will be a clear winner this time around.

By the way.. 7

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Before The Blog, I Was Still Me


I’ve been roaming through some of my previous attempts at, hmm, writing lately. My reasons for being so introspective will be revealed soon, but lets just say I’m constantly amazed how all things in life happen for a reason. I’ve been lucky to have had my compass set on true North most of my years. And by that I mean one life experience seems to build upon itself in preparation for the oncoming entrance ramp of the next road to take.

Previous to starting the blog, I was [and in some ways still am[ the Moderator of a Babylon 5/Crusade fan site. I know. I know. Shock and awe with your jaw on the floor. More tech and more geek related back-story. However, even then my offline career melded into my writings. And the below post, from 2003, reminds me of just how all my roads lead to the same place. Also, I see my style hasn’t diverted that much either. Must work on that in the future.


Ever wondered what the voice of the Ranger sounds like? Well keep reading and you too will know Ethne’s pain or as I call it my beautiful broadcast trained oration of vocal delight. Ahem.. read on gentle members.

I think after 5 years and 5,000 posts, the post count was semi reset in the hack attack, you guys have gotten to know me pretty well. And you know that I rarely hold back on things that erk me to know end. See the Star Trek Enterprise topic if you aren’t sure about that last sentence. But my off line life has really picked up a ton lately and I feel compelled, no for Ethne’s sake mean to say driven, to voice some of my views here in this topic. Is that wrong? Is it an abuse of my small power here at ISN? Is it a complete waste of electrons and server space? I imagine after you read a few of these posts you may say “Yes” to all three.

The thing is that I joked the other day about this place being my Blog and there really is some truth to that. I have spent a ton of time here on our site moderating and posting over the years. But I also find ways to creep it into my off line life as well. One of my agreements with David years ago was that the site must be accessible to those with visual disabilities. There were two hidden agendas at work with this request.

  1. I wouldn’t have to learn code to fix the site to work with my access and speech programs.
  2. If the site was accessible then I could use it in the trainings and presentations I do on the job. A way of promoting the site and B5 simultaneously.

For the most part ISN is accessible. It has a few places that aren’t perfect but I kind of like that because I can show the good and the bad in the presentations I give in the field. Anyway, ISN has always been my home, my portal and identity on the net since 1998 and I try to give it the credit it deserves whenever I can. It’s like an actor on a talk show giving himself cheap plugs on his upcoming projects.

The majority of the internet, however, is not fully accessible. There are many times I have clicked on a link that someone gave me and I wasn’t able to read it with the access programs I use to read the web. The sad thing about this is that any site can be made accessible rather quickly with some additions or some forethought to it’s initial design. Placing ALT Text tags on buttons, using hidden tags on links and generally using text or HTML text are ways to keep the internet accessible for all. You might have also noticed that some sites offer a text only version for this very reason. I think that’s a bit much at times but I have found that many people who aren’t disabled use those pages as well because of it’s ease of use.

The phrase “function over form” comes to mind. Okay I am listening to Rush’s “Moving Pictures because it’s a rule of the ISN Empress that I must do so at least once a day. The phrase is accurate enough though. Sometimes new web developers get so locked into using Flash and Java that they skip some of the steps in making a fully designed web site. An that’s their bag. It just means that not everyone on the net will be able to read their content. And that’s a shame because a percentage of the web community, like me, will move on to the next site on the list. This is especially true of sites that sell things. Amazon, Audible and Dell were some of the first companies to offer alternative views to their sites and it paid off for them. Some of these changes were simple to implement and they didn’t cost a thing either. And that’s the real beauty of this rant. Fixing the problem costs very little, if no, money at all.

To show you guys how passionate, T says crazy actually, I am about this I decided to post this bit on my new role with AIR Houston. This wonderful project is hosted through Knowbillity and it’s designed to be informative and fun. I know. . you have heard that one before. . but here me out.

We have gathered major companies together to build web sites for non profit companies. Better yet we made it a contest to see who could build the best designed, yet still accessible, site for bragging rights and cheap swag. We took something like a boring training and made it fun with the thrill of On Line Tournament play. It’s the best of both worlds for your company’s IT staff. And it promotes accessibility for all as a beautiful bi product.

So I thought that I would share this bit of info with you all as my first off topic rant in the Open Forum. And as an added bonus I am placing a link to a site that contains a radio interview with me that was just featured on National Public Radio. Please read and pass on these links to others so we can level the playing field for Nettezens who need accessibility.

Knowbillity.org’s Home Page


Monday, June 21, 2010

Tales Of Terror From The Travel Log


I’ve had to travel a lot over the years for my various jobs. and the one thing I’ve learned, as mundane as this sounds, is to “expect the unexpected”. By this I mean you should be prepared at any time, any given moment, to take copious amounts of notes for an eventual letter to the manager or owner. Letters of praise and complaint have served me well in the past for getting a particular point across about a service or visit somewhere. Below you will find an excerpt from one such letter, a personal fave, that did happen despite the dubious nature of the parts halfway down this read. I swear I thought I was on some revival of Candid Camera or some other just as bad reality TV.

The following took place between the hours of 8 AM and 10:00 AM… Events happen in real time.

8:12 AM

My wife and I had finished our breakfast at the hotel and were returning to our room to pick up our luggage and check out of the hotel. We both tried our keys, which are little chips with a metallic tab on one end, in the electronic lock to no avail. We then proceeded to the check out desk where the staff re-encoded our key and suggested that we try the lock again.

8:22 AM

We tried the keys again and they did not work. Usually there is a beep to signify that the lock has accepted the key, however, there were no sounds or lights to be seen or heard from the lock.

8:26 AM

We returned to the check out counter and asked for guidance in this matter. The staff conveyed to us that this sort of thing happens all the time and that it would take ten minutes for the maintenance man to replace the batteries in the door lock. We were assured that it would take no time at all even after I explained to them the fact that I was late for my appointments of the day.

8:37 AM

The worker arrives to begin his task of replacing the door lock batteries. He tries his key to see if it works and it does not. He then moves on to the room to the left of our hotel room, Room 503, and goes inside. After 45 seconds he leaves 503 and tells us to wait for his return.

8:45 AM

The worker returns and he has brought some tools with him. He attempts to gain entrance by removing the covering of the lock to our room. At this point I then went to my car to find the number for Ms. X in order to explain my situation and that I was going to be late in my arrival to our appointment. That is when I heard the workman break the window. I returned to see the glass broken out of the window on Room 503. The workman then realized that the window he had just broken did not gain him entrance to our room that had no windows [ except for those in the door ]. The worker then moved to the room to the right of our room, 501, and broke that window as well. Once again the man realized too late that the window also did not gain him entrance to Room 502.

9:03 AM

I returned to tell the staff about the broken windows to find that they were not all that concerned about the situation at hand. I again explained to them that I was late and that they must have come across this kind of problem before. Mr.. T, Rooms Division Manager, said that it happened all the time and that it would only take ten minutes longer. I explained to him that I was told that in the beginning of all of this and we were now fast approaching the one hour mark.

I then asked him some questions on what would have happened if I had not been leaving that day.

Q: “Would you move me into another room?”

A: “Sure. If that’s what you wanted.”

Q: “So I would then have to wait for all of this to be cleaned up before I could retrieve my things to put into another room?”

A: “Or we can do all that for you.”

I explained to him that at this point I didn’t feel comfortable with them handling much of anything and that I had a security issue with the other two rooms with broken windows. It was made clear to me that this situation was a common state of affairs and at no time did I get any apology, however, Mr.. T made a half hearted gesture of an offer to make things better on my next stay.

9:14 AM

I returned in time to see the workman drop his tools and then break the window inside the door to Room 502. The glass did not go all at once so he had to work at one particular section for awhile before he had a workable area to reach around the door with. At this point there is no lock on the door and no handle either. The worker had made a large hole in the glass, however, the rest of the glass now creaked and groaned with spider web cracks running throughout the rest of the remaining door. The workman told us that he would return in a moment.

9:25 AM

My wife and I noticed that the door was slightly ajar and we managed to pry it open without touching the parts of the door that contained the splintered glass. Glass covered the floor of our room but not any of our belongings. We gathered our belongings and moved them to our car.

9:40 AM

I returned one last time to the check out counter to make sure I had my names straight and to also give back my key to the hotel. Mr.. T was still on duty and he made a joke about the key being a “keyless lock” that I found not funny by this point in the day.


As you can see, being able to jabber into a digital recorder can be ever so helpful in these matters. You never know when you may have to pretend you are a side character on 24. Hmm, no wait they don’t make it to the end of the day do they? That’s like I just suggested we all put on Red Shirts and journey down to the planet on the Enterprise Away Team. Oh well, point made somewhere in all that mess above I guess.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some Bedtime Stories Do Come True.. Pt. 1



Alright, I’ll tell you a story. Hurry up and get ready for bed. Brush your teeth, wash your face and get comfy while I pull this dusty old book out to read from. Are you all tucked in now? Good..

A long time ago, in the mid 1990s, there once lived a young boy named Ranger1138. Ranger was a happy-go-lucky lad who worked very hard to fit in amongst the others in the court of the Tandy kingdom. Ranger had entered a big tournament in his village and he won the right to serve in the Empire’s fleet. The construction of a new shiny retail battleship was known around the world to be a fool’s errand as it was way too big to take on the lighter ships of the other countries. Many said that a ship that was more than 212,000 square feet, with a crew of 450 carying a cargo of 12 million dollars in technology was a crazy venture indeed. But none of this mattered to the little Ranger as he was happy enough to have won the tournament and earn the right to see the world aboard an amazing vessel.

Ranger knew he wasn’t the fastest or strongest amongst the crew. He also knew that if he worked very hard he would be noticed by the ships officers, which in turn, would give him the opportunities to meet many of the Empire’s trading partners. Ranger took on extra duties, he filled in when others in the crew were sick and he stayed ashore to help the citizens of the village find cables and high priced accessories for the goods that they were sold from the battleship’s vast array of stores. Ranger worked nights, weekends and holidays. Some thought him to be crazy for doing this. But many didn’t realize that the Ranger was thrilled to be working on the ship and he honestly didn’t want to go back to the quiet and unexciting prospects that awaited him in his old village. so he pressed onwards with a smile and several songs in his heart [that he was able to purchase with his crew discount I might add].

The Ranger started his new life aboard his beloved ship below decks at first. He served with his friends in Home Audio but he soon was moved to a higher deck with the crew of Music and Movies because Ranger was the only one who spoke the rare dialect of the sales language known as “Laser Disc”. Ranger had learned this odd form of speech amongst his local travels with smaller ships. He never dreamed he would ever be able to use this knowledge again. And use it he did for this got him into more quarterly strategy sessions with higher ranking officers.

Ranger found that many of the skills he had learned came into play beyond his “Laser Disc” translation abilities. Ranger’s mother had once told him that his year’s of playing videogames with the village’s children was a waste of time. His mother was shocked one day to find this not to be true as Ranger was asked to serve with the Videogames crew of the battleship specifically because the Ranger had so much experience with them. This knowledge began to attract the attention of others in the merchant fleet at large. One day the Ranger was approached to open negotiations with the strange land of Nintendo. Ranger was more familiar with their long time rivals SEGA, however, he soon learned that the little fellow with the hat named Mario was just as nice to work with as his rival the Hedgehog named Sonic.

Ranger’s mother was suitably impressed and it was nice that the Ranger didn’t gloat over the fact that the time spent with the games ended up paying off after all. . . Okay, he gloated one holiday season for about two hours. He didn’t do it again out of respect for his parents. Who could blame him, right? Strange journeys open the door for exciting opportunities. But not even the Ranger was prepared for what happened next.

One day a major trading partner asked the battleship to send over some of her crew to see many fine jewels, speaker systems and a few movies as a means to an end to sell these things to the people of the Empire. Ranger was asked to go along with a few of the ships officers to translate the words of Laser Disc. But! What the officers didn’t know was that Laser Disc wasn’t the only obscure language the Ranger spoke. Sadly, Ranger knew that Laser Disc was a dying language and he knew, to remain helpful to his crew, he would need to know more. new terms like Dolby Digital, known as AC3, and DTS were starting to be spoken amongst the villagers. New things cost money and the Empire loved money. So the little Ranger read many texts and worked hard to speak these languages as well.

But these languages were technical, dry and boring. The Ranger craved excitement. So, he decided to read some other books beyond that of the 5.1 speaker variety. What really interested the Ranger was the mysterious words of one storyteller. You see, words hold power and some would even tell you if used just right.. words hold the power of magic. And this one storyteller was known for passing down stories of a Doctor Jones and tales of a farm boy from a little desert planet. The Ranger read everything he could about this storyteller and his caves at Skywalker Sound. And, like videogames, he did it just for fun. Or, for the thrill of knowledge. Or, better yet, for the ability to get paid to learn this knowledge was a fantastic bonus for the little Ranger.

The officers of the battleship were asked to meet in a neutral spot. Which meant that the Ranger got to put on his best uniform and polish his one lone medal he had earned for saving his fellow villagers from the monsters of high prices. He stood tall behind his fellow officers. He only spoke when he had to and he was polite to the trading partners. Until, and he really couldn’t help this at all, he saw three little letters. He read them in awe. He stared at them intently for they were not just meer letters. No, they were signs, glyphs and beacons from the mysterious storyteller himself. Burning bright, the three individual letters formed a logo that served to guide the way for those to follow in a way that no lighthouse could. The proud letters called to him and they could be read as T H X.

Ranger was elated. He was drawn to the power of these three letters like a moth to a flame. He could not pull his one good eye away from the logo with T H X. Further still, he was given a personal demonstration of those letters by a beautiful girl from the land of JBL on just how powerful those little letters could be. She reached over and pulled out a Laser Disc, which was also emblazoned with those letters, and she played [or rather let the storyteller tell] part of a story. What the Ranger heard was almost as inspiring as the beauty of the woman who played it for him. The Ranger was moved by the crisp, clear sound of the story and was enthralled by its charms.

The staff amongst the JBL was also thrilled that someone aboard the battleship knew so much about their obscure languages, and more higher priced products, of Laser and THX. The Ranger was asked, by the JBL, to represent them at more trade meetings in other ports where the battleship would travel in the future. The Ranger’s fellow officers were also impressed. Except the Ranger didn’t know that just yet. He soon would though as the officers came back to the ship waving their flags high with triumph from the success of the boarding party talks with the land of JBL.

One day the Ranger sat quietly surfing the channels of the DSS systems. It was a Tuesday and nothing tended to happen at 11 in the morning on Tuesdays. The Ranger was thrilled to work on these days at these times as he got paid to essentially sit around and watch television from the wide selection of channels open to his battleship as a dealer of DSS. Needless to say, the Ranger was shocked to get a call from his Captain from out of the clear blue sky on just such a quiet Tuesday morning. Even more shocking was that the Captain wanted him to come to the bridge of the battleship. “Why me?” the little Ranger thought. “Why me out of a crew of 450?”. Still, the Ranger knew his duty well and he gathered up his strength to approach the Captain . He didn’t think he had anything to fear from him, however, stories of those who were called to the bridge rarely ended happily.

What happened next would change the Ranger’s life forever. But, that story is best told on another night. For now you must dream of X Wings and the Holy Grail. And we will pick up the story again soon.