Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Favorite Ball Sport = No.

Having a heart transplant didn't solve all my problems. It did a lot of good for my blood supply, but my optic nerves are still pretty awful. This is a blog post on being disabled. People forget how disabled I am all the time. I tell them my vision is terrible, but because I look pretty normal they tend not to remember. Professors forget to enlarge my tests. Friends forget they can't throw things at me to catch. Even my family occasionally forgets I can't read street signs. I compensate pretty well overall. I can get around daily life quite easily. These are just the couple of things that pose big problems.

Sometimes college can be an issue. I'm in the middle of classes, and I am plodding through. As an English major, I do a lot of reading. My  poor vision means I don't read books in the normal sense. I can't comfortably read anything smaller than 14 point font and publishers typically don't print their textbooks that large. Since sixth grade almost all of my books have been enlarged with photocopiers, large print editions, ebooks, audio books, or pdfs blown up ridiculously on my 23 inch computer monitor (I justify the screen with my vision, but we all know it's for the gaming). I've had great support in high school and college to make alternative study materials possible and it's great, but every semester is a new game of how to get good formats. My favorite is ebooks. My kindle has text-to-speech and I love it. On its highest setting the speech rate is such that most people can't make out individual words, but I've had a lot of practice and I can speed through texts like John F. Kennedy. Normal books I can't scan and I read quite slowly, but I can listen with precision and speed. Last semester none of my books came on Kindle. They were all accessible to me, but I was so pumped when I queued up my books at the start of the semester. I was so relaxed. I was like, "I remember how quickly I can procure information. I wasn't stupid. I was just disabled." I have done well every semester, but it is more of a struggle when the materials are hard to use.

I don't really believe in learning styles like a teacher should. I feel like the evidence behind them is shaky at best, invalid at worst, and that it's best just to present information in a lot of ways multiple times if you want someone to understand. Despite this, I would always rather have a text-to-speech system over a book. I love lectures and hate PowerPoints.  I'm just unsure whether this is due to being visually impaired or being an auditory learner. I have a feeling it is the disabled thing.

Then there is the casual experience. People wave to me all the time and I miss it. They get offended until I remind them I literally didn't see. I think everybody should play catch with me just once in their lives so they can watch me suddenly see the thing as it hits me in the face. I won't see projectiles at all so my favorite ball sport = No.

Then there is the worst of it. I always have to live in a city, or at least until Google gets their act together, (http://www.emilysatrium.org/2013/02/google-should-do-for-me-yesterday.html) because I can't drive. That means all future jobs will have to be urban. It makes me kind of sad because I like trees so much, but I think it is fairly manageable. I just wish I had a choice about the matter.

I'm really grateful for the vision I have. I think my low vision helped mold me a lot when I was little because I had to learn how to adapt and compensate. Even if I could have chosen to have perfect eyesight I don't think I would, but sometimes I wish I could see street signs, blackboards, and balls. Sometimes I wish it wasn't quite so invisible.

Monday, February 25, 2013


This post is dedicated to Sean Czarniecki, a man I've never met in real life, assume is not a whiner, and overall seems like a fairly positive person. You asked for it anyway sir.

Whining is my biggest pet peeve. I do it, of course, but sparingly. My issue with whining is that most of the things people whine about are 100% completely in their control and optional. Sean is sorry now that he  secretly and privately whined that I wrote too much in the last 24 hours on my blog. I wrote two long posts, I admit, but it was his choice to read. It would be different if I was an assignment for his job or something, but he must get some enjoyment out of reading the blog or he wouldn't bother.

That whining over voluntary things is an especially rampant problem in video games and other online cultures. If you find an online forum that doesn't include posts by people who say "Thanks for wasting my thirty minutes, jerk" you haven't read all the comments. It isn't the developer's fault that somebody didn't like the content. It isn't even the creator's responsibility if a person spent x dollars and didn't like the content. It's the users responsibility to research something and see if they will like it before purchasing. Games, books, apps, ect all come with descriptions, trailers, and reviews so if you buy something you don't like you have no right to whine about ir.

Same with political elections. If you didn't vote, you can't whine. If you honestly don't care about who your leaders are than by all means skip the election, but no whining. Budgets , menus, and plans are another example. If you had an opportunity to be and weren't part of the progress it is your own fault and you can't whine. Take power where you can get it. Use the little bit of agency you have.

So these are the only times it's acceptable to whine. My friends, I will call you on it.
  1. A decision was made that you had no power over and can't change
Nope! You thought there would be more, but there aren't. That's the only one. Otherwise, no whining.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The King

The interesting thing about growing up is that when you are younger you have no idea how the things you are doing and the person you are will create who you will become, but when you are old all of your personality quirks, oddities, and odysseys make sense. One of the biggest fallacies of college is that it assumes you know what you want to do with your life when you are eighteen. It's even worse in, say, England, where you pick A-levels at age 16. I've met very few people of any age who know what they want their future to be. People can make decisions about what classes sound interesting and what will help their careers, but declaring a major is almost always a challenge. I understand that colleges and universities have to have some organizational system, but if you think about majors too much your head starts to explode. I am a sophomore in college. My brother is 23 and has graduated. The two of us are remarkably similar to how we were as children, but when we were small I never would have been able to predict where we are today. I know my childhood self would be proud of the person I am right now. His would too. My third grade teacher was the best and convinced me unshakably that I was a writer. He has been an entrepreneur and programmer within my memory. This is me with a sign for one of his companies. As long as he has been creating companies I have been writing stories. So far, the children of my parents are doing fairly well.

Google and some of the other most innovative and successful companies in science and technology (Atlassian, LinkedIn, 3m) subscribe to "20 percent time" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrkrvAUbU9Y) which is the idea that eighty percent of an employee's time should be spent grinding away company tasks like putting cover sheets on TPS reports, coding log-in pages, arguing with managers, and other miscellaneous responsibilities, but in twenty percent of an employee's time they are allowed to do whatever creative project they want to do for the company. It works because people actually work harder when they have autonomy and are intrinsically motivated. Self-direction works really well. If you are interested in what you are doing you actually do it better. More than half of the new products that come out in a year from Google are imagined and worked on in twenty percent time. I want to do things that I think matter.

I hear pretty often that my majors are a bad choice. Sometimes the sentiment is less tactfully put and I'm told, "that's stupid," but it's what I want to do. It's what I've always wanted to do. Writers have the most powerful jobs in the universe. I'd be a great politician, but authors are the politicians' police. They are so powerful that Plato threw the poets out of the perfect society. He saw their truthtelling as dangerous and destabilizing, but sometimes society needs to be destabilized so it can grow. A King has nothing to fear but a poet and in some cases the King should be afraid. Sometimes they need to be questioned.

I was not born as a tourist. I am a citizen of this place, this Earth. I am not here just to watch my life and my world change. I am here to shape the lives of the people around me.The only way I know how to do that is through knowledge and information. Writers, teachers, and speakers expel that information so people can be more successful than they were when they met you. I don't have a clue what I'll be writing in the future, but I am fundamentally a wordsmith. Be it video games or the great American novel I need to get my message out because I have the right, as a citizen, to be heard.

I really would rather write books, become a motivational speaker, or, especially work for ArenaNet than just about anything else. Those things I can set as a Plan A, but I will always have to fight Plan B. The problem with Plan B is that it exists as a default future. Unless I put in remarkable effort none of my Plan As will happen. I will just revert to my Plan B, something that will make me happy and fulfilled, but not a genius or a threat. Teachers change the world of their students, but writers change the world of thousands. The dreamers are better off. If you don't set a Plan B your default future is wild success. Being practical often leads to a fulfilled life, but not a heroic life. I am still working on setting aside my Plan Bs and convincing others that I can be amazing, but at least I have a Plan A. At least I'm not still undecided. I know I'm a writer. I love words with their infinite meanings and the way they tell stories, build worlds, and help us to imagine issues complexly.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

All Roads Lead to Orr

In Guild Wars 2, the end of the game is called Orr. Orr is a massive land of undead monsters and viscous dragons. No matter what decisions you  make within the game, you end up in Orr battling Zhaitan, the Elder Dragon. The reasons for being there a\re different for each player on each play-through, but every person will inevitably make their way to Orr to defeat the greatest challenge in Tyria.

Sometimes I wonder if life is a little like that. We can make a lot of different choices, but some battles we fight are unavoidable and epic. For me, my heart transplant was definitely a boss fight. I dread the thought, but I acknowledge that I will find myself in the swamp of The Straits of Devastation at least one more time battling dragons. Nobody's health lasts forever.

Since Jeff Grubb first said, "all roads lead to Orr" it has become a meme. It's a viral idea that turned into magazines  blogs, video series, and pictures about how people got to Orr in the game and the ways in which they conquered it with honor and dignity. I think it partly became so big because it resonated with people. I certainly (as seen by this blog) want to chronicle the most epic battles in my life, especially if I think sharing those challenges could teach others how to fight the same baddies. You can ignore the rising brutes in your life all you want, but at some point you will go to Orr.

Adolescents have a habit of looking at something their friends do and saying, "that's not fair" to which their parents and advisers have to stifle the response, "life isn't fair." Of course, the problem adults have is it is true. Life isn't fair. Some people get terminal or incurable diseases far too young. Some people live in poverty. Twenty percent of the people always have at least eighty percent of the income. None of that is the point, though. We all start in different zones and travel different paths gaining more or less experience along the way and finally find ourselves fighting the Elder Dragon. All we can hope to do is have good friends at our side and the right equipment and resources when we get there.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I Choose

I'm in a place now where I am able to choose my friends and it is amazing. I love the friend(s) I had in High School, but the intersection of people who were willing to talk to me and were normal, fun human beings was less than five people. I had choices, but not many. Now I am in a place where there are 1,000 people in that intersection (that calculation was basically everybody here would talk to me, but only two-thirds of them are normal). So now I have a choice.

My relationships are still controlled primarily by circumstance because a computer randomly sorted my best friends and I onto the same floor our first year, but I could have ignored that and chose to hang out with people from class or in clubs. Instead I stuck with Laura, Bruna, and Victoria because I like them.

Today is my roommate Victoria's birthday. Sometimes I have trouble communicating to people why I chose to live with her and why I enjoy her company. She doesn't exude charisma or make any particular effort to be charming, but I find her magnetic because she is unapologetically herself all the time. I often start conversations about her with, "You wouldn't know her" because she doesn't make a massive wave on the campus as a whole, but instead deeply affects the people around her. She doesn't pretend to like people so when she is kind to me and helps me I know it is genuine. I quest in life to find truthtellers and Victoria will look at me and say, "Dude, what are you doing?" when others would only equivocate and pretend not to notice when I am being weird or failing. What more could I ask than someone who is honest with me? She is loyal, trustworthy, and mostly importantly extremely considerate of others feelings without trying to pacify them. She is amazing not because of her athletic ability or intelligence (both of which abound), but because she is the kind of person you want to have around to help remind you what's right.

I've enjoyed our two years and I expect many more. Hopefully your birthday was wicked mint, dude. See you soon.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Google Should Do For Me Yesterday

I love Google. I have their phone. I use their web browser. They collect my email. They wake me up in the morning. They shop for me. They own YouTube. Their calendar is the only thing that makes me reliable. Most of my information is stored on their servers. I am very excited about their future technologies. Basically, they are just awesome. They literally inspire awe. They are in my top two favorite companies.

When we read 1984 in High School and had the inevitable debate about whether censorship was going to murder us all and take away our humanity I fell down decidedly on the side of pretty much alright with it. When the targeted ads come up I am like, "why yes Google, I would like to buy that" and I am not even remotely creeped out. I like it that they tell me how far it is to my destination even though I never asked for navigation. I like it that it knows I want to know the arrival time of the next train even though I never told it I was travelling. I don't think Google plus will ever be a thing, but more power to those guys if they can make it work. As long as I can maintain decision-making, autonomy, and my uncensored thoughts I am a little too comfortable with Google helping me out.

This is a little movie about a car Google made that drives itself. This is something I would've liked to have in high school and its a technology I'd like to see ready for me by college graduation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdgQpa1pUUE When I am at home for a vacation I get a little stuck. Mostly I like to just stay at home and doing nothing, but I'd like the opportunity to expand my options. In Boston you don't really need a car, but there are a lot of jobs in places outside of major metropolitan areas. If I could live in the mountains and exist in a quiet life I would actually prefer that to living in a city, but it is not currently even a possibility for me because in most of the world you need a car. Self-driving cars are now legal in Florida, Nevada, and California. Google has logged over 500,000 kilometers in their vehicles safely. I want one. I don't want to be disadvantaged just because of poor vision. Please Google. Do it for me.