Thursday, September 27, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 16

Attending College - Part 3

I was most likely one of the few deaf people at NTID who didn't have a TTY. My family didn't need it, as I could use voice on the phone and I had hearing aids on. I was able to keep using voice on the phone for a little time til shortly after graduation, then gave up trying as amplified phones were too expensive. I tried a couple things from Radio Shack, but they didn't always help. Speakerphones did nicely for me. Later, I quit trying to use the phone and had a hearing person help out til the relay came along. That meant dialing an 800 number. Cheers of joy were most likely heard when we could use the relay via instant messaging and the web.

Paintball was introduced to me, and I found it to be a rather fun game to play on some weekends. Sure, I had my share of hitting the other team, including being shot in a few spectacular or interesting ways. Another friend was on the other team, and I somehow came across him maybe 100 feet away in the thin trees and despite all our shooting at each other, we never hit each other though his ball bounced off me. My gun jammed halfway through our shooting match when a paintball broke inside. I ran down the hill to a path and I came across the judge who told me that it was the end of the game. Another game I hid behind a dirt 'wall' and kept shooting at this other person, but he managed to nail me first with the paintball bruising the side of my neck before breaking on my arm.

One particular game had us get close up to each other and I was on my stomach on the ground shooting the other team. I was hit, but even after putting my head down quickly after taking a second shot, they were still shooting at me and it took a judge to get them to stop.

Years later, I attended a community college in northern VA, going into their network security program. I was required to take an elective in english or theatre. You can guess what I chose. The class had 3-4 other course sections within, all of whom were studying various aspects of stage. We decided to do Macbeth. Another person and I did some of the lighting and other stage setups. We captioned two of the performances, something the instructor wanted to do. This will be the subject of another blog post, an update of my Poor Man's Captioning (or Subtitling) Device located on

I graduated in 2005 with honors. The ceremony was at George Mason University. Halfway through the ceremony, the noise started drowning out the master of ceremonies.

Next - Extracurricular/outside of school.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 15

Attending College - Part 2

Since my family lived in southeastern Illinois at the time, I was able to take Amtrak home and back to college. It would take about 23-25 hours. The layover in Chicago would be around 8-10 hours. I managed to pass it by walking around the area including going up Sears Tower, putting my stuff in the station's lockers.

While on Amtrak from home back to Rochester, it wasn't unusual to have around a few other deaf going the same way. At one point, we took over two tables in the food car. When we got to Rochester, it wasn't unusual for us to pile into two or three taxis back to the campus. Either that or someone on the campus gave us rides. Once it was my roommate and I on the same train!

Another roomie I had was from southern Florida, and at one point, he turned up the heat so high, that even though the weather outside wasn't that cold, it turned the room into a sauna. No amount of begging or talking to him from anyone would get him to turn it down or off or open the window. At the time, I had an Atari 130XE with multiple floppy drives attached, and the heat caused some problems to occur, even causing one drive to fail.

It was also here that I started to get involved in theatre. I was in a couple performances, one of the characters being a dumb idiotic waiter, which I played pretty well. There were many good directors and instructors around the Theatre Department, some of whom are still there. I didn't just perform on stage, I was an usher, did prop and stage work, a little lighting, and then some. I still do a little performing today.

Next - College - final part.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bad Big Oil!

When I was reading through roblog's Gas Prices Rising on Refineries' Failures blog entry, I got to looking back. The oil industry has had plenty of chances despite all the mergers and plant closings over the years to either build new plants or modify/modernize their current ones. Will we see a recurrence of the 1974 gas shortages all over again?

We have the abilities and technologies to have cars with higher MPGs, maybe 50+, not the hybrids. Heck, by now, we could have had better ways of burning that gas so it burns more completely with less toxic and lethal exhausts.

If they modernized or built new plants, they'd be taking advantage of various things available today that weren't 25+ years ago. The plants could use less electricity, be computerized more or less than they are now, maybe fewer personnel, backup processing areas in case of failures, and a few other things, which could easily add up to less expenses. All that can translate to lower pump prices. It can be done.

So why aren't we there? Is greed rearing its ugly head again? It's not just the events in the Mideast, the weather, or plant issues. It could be a matter of time before we see another Enron or Worldcom meltdown, a rather oily way to go. The failures we're seeing now will only accelerate given enough time and inactivity. Until then, we'll be paying an arm and a leg to fill up our gas hogs. Do your part by swapping to a higher MPG vehicle or keeping your current one in good shape with tuneups, tire checks, that sort of thing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 14

Attending College

I was accepted by NTID and I went into SVP 1983 (Summer Vestibule Program). It marked the first time I was going to be on my own in the dorms on campus away from home. That plus I was finally with other deaf people, more time spent with them than other times combined. This is where I was finally able to make and keep friends for much longer than my previous school years. I have at times found some from way back then. I knew no one at NTID when I first started there. Thus, like in previous years after a move, I started all over again in finding and making friends.

I was in Peterson Hall on the third floor all during SVP. It was during this time someone tossed a military smoke bomb on the opposite side of the fire door of where I was. Everyone on that side thought it was a fire and didn't leave their rooms, though there were a couple who did. It wasn't til much later when we found out more about the smoke bomb, which burned a crater in the carpeting and the floor. I still have the picture somewhere. They didn't get the person til about a year or two later.

My first year, I tried going into Computer Science, but had so much trouble with it, that after the third quarter, I went to NTID's Data Processing major. I was in the first floor of Bell Hall, which is now a childcare center. My roommate joined a fraternity and moved out, leaving me as the lone occupant in the spring quarter. I found later that it wasn't just me who had problems with RIT's course pace. I did pretty well in the Data Processing program. I even had accounting again, made easier by my having taken it in high school and was a tutor to some at times.

I had the same room on 10th floor Ellingson Hall for three years straight. Few people were able to do this, though I heard about a couple people who had the same room for four years. That may have been a rumor.

It was this time when I started socializing with other deaf more than in previous years. My signing skills greatly improved within the first year, and improved even more the next. I also managed to run a BBS (bulletin board system) on my computer in the dorms on the weekdays. This allowed me to meet other friends in the Rochester area, a few of whom I still keep contact with. I was also able to get out into the city now and then using the local bus service to go to the mall, a local Wegmans, the downtown area, and a few other places.

Next - College part 2.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 13

Going to School - Grades 10-12 - Part 2

Some classes in high school have pretty much stuck with me no matter what over the years.

I had a Photography class where we did black and white photography and developing. I'm still doing photography today. Even though I bought a used manual camera back in college and digital camera years later, I still prefer the manual camera. It's been used for special effects photography like fireworks and dance floor shots using laser light and/or glow lights.

Electronics class was just as interesting. The teacher was a funny person and sometimes had a little laugh with me about my squeaky ear molds. He would sometimes have demos of things and frequent handouts, which helped me out quite a bit. At one point, he had this capacitor charged up to about less than 100 volts, less than its rated maximum. I started going a little nutty when he gave me the leads. "Ah, just hook them up to my hearing aids or my ears and watch them go poof." Then I hold the leads and *POW*. Whoo... We're talking instant body contraction here. I'm fine here, but my heart's going a little nutty as well as my stomach for a bit.

At one point, we have a project to do and I chose to build an electronic organ. Our project tables had power supplies where you adjusted the voltage from around 1.5v to maybe 18v or around that. I kept increasing the voltage on my little organ, making it louder til it pissed off the instructor. I'm wondering how much voltage would have made the circuit pop...

I think it was around my final year when I took accounting. That's pretty much stuck with me as well, as I've found it makes filling out the tax forms easier. At the high school, driver's education may have been a required course, with one of the PE coaches teaching it. With anther instructor, we had behind the wheel practice. I had two other deaf with me, and this instructor didn't point to where should go. He made up flash cards saying "turn left," "turn right," "park," "back to school," and a few more. I passed the DMV's driving test and then the road test on the first try.

Next - Going to College.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 12

Going to School - Grades 10-12

Then with tenth grade, my parents transferred me to a small Christian school. This showed that they were aware of the problems I had in the School From Hell. With this school, everyone treated each other better. I had one instructor that went to the hospital for a heart valve replacement and was out for a couple months. The principal was also the teacher in a couple classes. The interesting thing was finding that he lived right up the road from me. I'm pretty much thankful I went. How much worse would the harassment have been had I gone with the others from the School From Hell to a high school they were going to attend as well?

Then we moved to Illinois, and the last two years of high school had some interesting times every so often. I had this history class where the teacher had this habit of walking around the room. I was taking notes on my own, and someone was getting theirs copied at the end of class, so that worked. I was just about on swivels trying to follow the teacher. I had gotten this new watch earlier, and was trying to tame it. Just when I thought I had the alarm off, it would go off. It went off twice in the history class. "If that thing goes off again, you go off too." I finally got the danged thing quit going off. I still have that watch today.

One interesting thing is that I lived close to the school, and could easily run home for lunch and study hall.

The graduation ceremony filled the entire high school gym. Two other deaf girls were in my class as well.

All those moves we had were due to my dad's being a social worker with the children's homes. That meant I wasn't able to make and keep friends for long. He was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma before Christmas 1989, and we all had a wonderful Christmas and final birthday in March 1990 before he passed away in May 1990. It was painful enough watching him go downhill that fast despite medical treatment. He lost his hair, became weak at times, mom had to help him with some things, he couldn't sleep in bed but was able to do so in a recliner, and in his last days, he was on a painkiller drug. Where he worked as executive director at the childrens home, they flew the flag at half-staff and installed a plaque on a little brick wall around the flagpole.

Next - High School part 2

Update: That watch mentioned above I finally retired after 28 years. It still works but it was getting more difficult to open the back to replace the battery. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 11

Going to School - Grades 6-9

From sixth to mid-seventh grades after a move to another city in Florida, was the beginning of the teasing stage, though it wasn't too bad. It was here that I was beginning to get some more socialization with other deaf outside the classroom. There was this interpreter in church, but my signing skills were still not that great at the time> An adult friend and I managed to learn together sometimes by watching the interpreter.

This was also the time when I started having class schedules and changed classrooms. One of the classes that stuck with me even years later was Home Economics. In this class, we did some sewing, cooking, that sort of thing. I'm still doing some of that stuff today, even hand- and machine-sewing. I think I still have a recipe or two from back then. One English teacher was a fast talker, so it wasn't easy for me to keep up with her at times. Another was a science teacher that had laryngitis for a week. I understood her pretty well.

The School From Hell starts in mid seventh til ninth grades when we move to Louisiana. This was also when my brother was literally dragged, kicking and screaming, from home to school now and then. Maybe I should have denied knowing him when people brought him up at school.

Since I was just a little older than they were due to my going to kindergarten for two years, some of these kids seemed to be a bit resentful due to that. Most likely, it was a good thing I didn't tell them about that little kindergarten fact as I'd probably never hear the end of it. One of the habitually overly rude kids said in one class, "He doesn't have a tan" after summer break. The teacher ordered him away from me.

So I didn't, smartass. I didn't tan, I burned. Shall I apply a hot torch to your backside where the sun doesn't shine?

At these two particular schools, they had announcements over the loudspeakers. The good thing is that they printed them out beforehand, and I was able to read them. The PE coach lived up the road from me, so it was an opportunity at times to talk with him outside school.

It was also around this time that I heard about MSSD. I had some printed information about it, but do not remember why I never went.

Next - Attending high school.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 10

Going to School - Grades 1-5

In first grade, I had this deaf oral classroom, and at the end of the year they told mom and dad that I didn't need to attend deaf classes at all. For the next few years, I'd be tested in my English skills, and was always reading and writing at or above my grade level. I had the hearing tests as well.

In second and third grades in Florida, I attended this small Christian school. I did pretty well there and everyone pretty much accepted me it seemed. But this is where some things ended. It was the beginning of my being picked last for anything. The kids would kick the ball high into the air, and we'd compete to catch it. Many times, someone would go in front of me and interfere with my catching.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my parents were told not to use sign/ASL, but to keep me talking as they were afraid that if I was to learn sign, I would quit talking. It seems no one thought of total communications long ago. It was either oral or sign. I didn't learn sign til starting around fifth grade.

Adoptive mom and I can't seem to talk much about it or go into it too much without us breaking down. It's still an emotional issue with us even today seeing how much I missed while being mainstreamed and not gone to a deaf school. Even though I did have deaf classes, it was only in the first and fifth grades, and even then, they were oral classes and didn't allow any sign to be used. It was also around sixth and seventh when I was in a deaf class with total/simultaneous communications, despite my other classes being with hearing classmates. My last two years of high school had a homeroom with other deaf.

I'd always be sitting at the head of the class, first desk in front. The good thing is that I'd usually be taking part in other classroom activities. That particular seating arrangement would never change all through my school years.

Then we moved again, staying in Florida. Fourth and fifth grades were with a deaf-oral class. There was still no socialization with other deaf except here. I had a second class with some other hearing students. It wasn't unusual for me to go to lunch before those in the deaf class and then go to the hearing class. It was here in this class that I didn't miss things and was able to communicate well with the others.

Next - Attending middle school.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 9

Speech therapy

Around the second year of kindergarten in Kentucky and/or first grade, I had speech therapy. I believe I did quite well, so I never went for a long time. It was, if I remember right, an Easter Seal Society thing in the downtown area. I'm hoping that next time I'm back I'm back in KY, I can go visit them again and see if by chance they'll still have my records.

They had all kinds of methods to help out in the therapy. One method that seems to have stuck with me today, even though I almost never used it, having used it twice in about 10 years, is when you feel someone's throat and lipread them. Then there was the requisite mirror on the wall. That "throat feel" method I used in a couple interesting ways. Once it was at a computer show on a friend's computer running a game, which had a narrator talking in demo mode. While watching the narrator, I put my hand on the speaker, and listened to the narrator talk. I understood just about everything. For a training video one time using the same method, I understood everything. Doing it on a human is the same process. It takes practice, but in some cases, will wear you out quickly. However, it's not for everyone.

Then for fifth grade, we had the occasional speech thing. The therapist would have us sit in a line of chairs and go from there. At one point, she had us "flicker" a candle with our breath without blowing it out, saying certain words. I blew it out just for the heck of it with an overly-pronounced "P" sound. It was around this time when I started learning sign.

Even today, while I talk well and am understandable, I still manage to mangle or mispronounce words at times. Even hearing people think I'm hearing when I talk. Again, in these times, there was no encouragement to learn sign and use it. My parents were told not to learn sign, but to keep me talking as they were afraid that if I was to learn sign, I would quit talking. It seems no one thought of total or simultaneous communications long ago. It was either oral or sign. This would later become an emotional sticking point with adoptive mom and I, seeing how much I missed over time.

However, who am I blaming for this issue of not signing? I'm not blaming my parents for that, even though they listened to the so-called "experts" at the time. The issue back then and still going today as I've said before is not to force a deaf or late-deafened person to become "hearing." The hearing loss is still there.

Best thing to do is to give them the tools they need for effective communications, which is total and/or simultaneous communications. Learning to talk and using your voice is one way to 'please' the hearies out there. Adding on sign language 'rebels' against the hearing people in a way, and still allows you to communicate. I will also repeat one thing I've said before... Hearing and understanding can easily be two different things for those with hearing losses. Just because something is heard, if at all, doesn't mean that it will be understood and known.

Next - Attending elementary school.