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Monday, December 12, 2011

First Light


First light, so I am told, is a ceremony held when an observatory dome is first opened, and the first star is visible through its telescope. Perhaps I'll get to see something like that one day. For now, I am enjoying Christmas lights. My friend showed me this small set and then told me that there are certain streets where I live where these will soon cover everything. What a shocking idea. This picture was taken through a window at night time. I never knew something so small could cause two people to laugh so much.

After my friend went to bed, I stayed up flipping the Christmas lights on and off, on and off, as could only someone seeing them for the first time. Then I started playing with the speed setting on the program, changing it from sweeps of one second to half a second, then to two seconds and back to one. After at least an hour of looking at these lights at different distances, angles, and speeds, I took the glasses off. The transcendent sounds were still playing in my head, only now there were these pin pricks of something in front of me. They were caused by the sounds but separate from them. I imagined more and more of them all around me and tried to picture them in configurations like a helix or a seemingly infinite binary tree. It took me great effort and lots of pacing to get calm as the tiny apparitions faded away. I was finally rewarded with peaceful sleep.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I told my folks.

I finally told my parents about the glasses. They live five hours away in the small town where I grew up. After they made sure I got a good education through high school, I came to the city, got into trouble at the blind rehab center, and was hardly to be seen in that small town again. I know they are proud of me for doing well in school, but I wonder how many interests we have in common. If I give Mom a lengthy explanation of one of my projects, she might say I'm talking over her head. She is about five inches taller than me and actually means that she cannot understand all of what I am saying. Likewise, if she talks about shopping, decorating etc. I, being her only girl, have no idea what to say. I've always been the strange one that everybody picked on as I spent my childhood alone, waiting for my own kind to show up in a star ship and beam me out of there.
If I tell them, I thought, they will either think me even more bizarre than before, or worse, that I am investing my hopes in something that is a waste of time.

As I explained the basics of the system to Mom, as I told her that I was starting to see, it felt hard to breathe. "I'm starting to understand why you do things like hang balls on Christmas trees," I explained. "Before I could have no empathy. I had to dismiss so many rituals as stupid sighted things, but now they are legitimate and I can study them. I can't see all of what you see, but I want to learn."
She seemed excited and had me tell Daddy. It suddenly became easier to breathe. I was able to tell him that the study of vision had become extremely important to me and that I wanted to study science and technology so that many people would be able to see one day. We had a long discussion. "Keep tinkering," he said.  "Remember Thomas Edison and the light bulb, and Don't get discouraged if it doesn't work out right away. You never know where this will lead in a few decades."

It's going to be a very interesting Christmas. Mom has at least three dogs and a huge collection of mercury glass ornaments to show me, and Daddy wants to hear the soundscapes - he is late blind himself. Maybe I will no longer have to sit outside by myself, wishing for home.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Not a Clutz

Many interesting things have happened since I've written last. These include a broken pair of glasses followed by the War of the Camera Drivers (It took several skilled Seeing with Sound hacks to win that war.), my first women's bench press competition, and my professor and I being interviewed for three publications about his work to make physics and drawing accessible to blind people. My life is rarely uneventful. Thankfully I'm always learning something. One of the most important things I've learned recently is that there are certain characteristics which people have tried to attribute to me that are simply false. Several years ago I took what was supposed to be a series of intelligence and aptitude tests. One of them seemed more like a sobriety test. The part where the officer, err, I mean doctor told me to touch my nose was easy, but I could not walk heel-to-toe. It brought back a memory from first or second grade. I was wondering why the coach was scolding some of the boys for falling off the balance beam. I knew if she let go of me I'd fall off instantly, and then I'd be in trouble. She explained that those boys were falling off on purpose. Until then I hadn't realized anyone could walk across it by themselves, and without walking sideways. Fast forward nearly twenty years from that obstacle course and five from the IQ tests to yesterday. The Neandertodd had me stand, squat, curl weights, and lift a 12-pound ball over my head all while standing on a bosu ball sometimes for two minutes at a time. For those who don't know what that is, picture half a sphere on the ground and yourself standing on the flat side of the sphere. Experts have noted the clumsiness of many Aspies and balance difficulties experienced by some blind individuals. One of these "experts" told me there wasn't much I could do about it. I still can't roller skate very well, but I almost never practice, and there are many physical tasks I can perform much more safely and confidently than I could even a year ago. "For the first time, I can pass a sobriety test," I announced loudly as I walked out of the gym.

Friday, October 21, 2011

An Age-Appropriate Experiment

This week I acquired a lego set for use with the vOICe vision sysstem. The reasoning behind this experiment is as follows:
It's still very hard for me to recognize 3D objects in the real world which might have an irregular shape and might not be composed of only one color. My ability to visualize many everyday objects is only through touch. What will happen if I practice building simple 3D shapes with legos and viewing them in stages? In real life, will this eventually translate into an ability to recognize new types of objects and visualize tasks without relying so heavily on storing them in handspace? Below are some initial results in the form of a modified email I sent to a friend.

I found it surprisingly easy to pick up legos off the floor in front of me without having to feel for them. Once I started building I was easily distracted. It seemed I was suddenly struggling to control the mind of a one or two-year-old.
"Okay, stop staring at your hands. Yes, they're very interesting hands. You've stared at them hundreds of times and counting. Now pick up the blocks. No, don't look at the stripes on the couch. Look down at the blocks."

My guess is that the reason this personality hasn't given me much trouble in class is because I haven't actually asked it to perform a task. I had a plan as to what pieces should be stuck where and in what order and at least twice forgot what it was. I eventually was able to make myself stay on task and begin to deal with the problem of looking directly at the shape. As I added pieces it was an irregular shape. I knew what it felt like and was surprised at how little sense it made when I saw it. Some of this could be due to the fact that the legos are different colors. I suspect though that the main problem was the shape itself. At one point I had a square with a cube-shaped piece missing from one corner and a rectangular piece sticking up in the middle of the top edge. How could I tell things like indentation and upward verses forward? I mainly remember a mosaic of cubes and rectangles which were connected in some unclear way. I kept adding pieces and trying to direct my view to the slightly changed shape over and over. At the end of the exercise I was lying on my stomach on the floor and turning the cube to face me at different angles. There were the round holes on the bottom side, the lines on the sides where the pieces were connected, and the changing slopes of the edges as I turned the cube. It seems that the most difficult position to see it in is standing on one corner with an edge facing me. That seems to require that I be able to see 2D as 3D.

Update: The second time I ran this exercise, it was easier for me to stay focused, possibly due to the fact that I was working in the exact same spot as before with no new distractions. The shapes are starting to make a little more sense, and some pieces are very noticeably brighter than others.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Postponing Physics 2

Last week the precalculus situation was for the most part sorted out. This meant I could turn my attention to the ongoing problem of making physics accessible. In my first physics course I made an A. For my second course I was misled into believing that someone would transcribe the inaccessible PDF equations into an ASCII text file. Unfortunately (and without warning) that transcriber quit. I had to face facts. Right now I am behind because I cannot read most of the textbook. If you count non-accessible diagrams, I can read even less. Sunday afternoon, I saw my friend Mike who is a blind mathematician who has worked for NASA and IBM. I explained the situation - that I was thinking about dropping the course and picking up where I left off in the Spring. Mike agreed with my decision. He then began telling me a bit about his college and high school experiences in the 60s. He told me that even before high school he knew he needed a good education or he'd literally end up selling pencils on a street corner. Perhaps the most meaningful stories he told me were the ones where he made mistakes and had to retake a couple of courses. I've spoken to a few totally blind STEM students and professionals who seemed too perfect to need Braille or any aid whatsoever to visualize the material. I would imagine this strain of super blind mutants with powers even beyond a high IQ which enabled them to sit in a class and absorb everything spoken by the professor as if they had read it ten times themselves. Maybe they intuitively understand the unbreakable code of chalk scratch (What if the Nazis had used chalk scratch instead of the Enigma machine?). Mike is not one of these people. He is a real person who had extremely low vision in school and needed someone to take notes for him in class. Not exactly my situation, but close enough for him to understand what I meant when I explained how difficult it was to keep an equation in my head, manipulate it, and understand its purpose all at once. Mike knows lots of engineers and science types at his church and is helping me find someone who can make a physics book readable.

On the ride this morning I called my physics professor, who also supported me in my decision. At times like this I wonder if emotions like sadness can be summed up and measured as sets of electric signals sent out by the brain as the results of thoughts. Even physical pain is a signal. At the end of the discussion I thanked my physics professor for being so understanding. He told me to keep in touch so that he could help in any way possible. "your a good student," he said. "I wish they were all like you."

Now for the good news. I have more time to get a really good understanding of precalculus, work on my Braille graphics program, and teach my new student. I have decided to volunteer as a programming tutor at the school for the blind. If my student decides to study programming when she goes to college, she will be starting off ahead of her class in her understanding. No one should have to fight to learn. One of the most valuable gifts I ever received from a professor was time. Therefore, I will give her time. I start tomorrow.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Succeeding in a Math Class

Last week I conducted a meeting between my math professor, the Neandertodd, and Grant - the man who spends government money so that I can have the books and technology needed for a good education. Grant is a human being who thinks and plans in advance. Sometimes I wonder if these traits make it hard for him to function inside a bureaucracy. They say the meeting was my idea, but I honestly don't remember coming up with it. I remember one night explaining to God in great detail that if He wanted me to learn precalculus this semester something would have to change, because this class was turning out to be a disaster. The next time I called Grant, I scheduled the meeting without having had any prior thoughts of doing so. I deliberately did not invite any Vogons who would confuse or worry the professor by quoting regulations and making my requests seem too hard.

The meeting went great. Afterwards I began to realize something very important. During our discussion, Grant explained to me that unlike programming, math will not be perfectly accessible to me. However, it can still work. It would be impractical for me to do everything in audio, but if I have ENOUGH stuff that is in a form I can read (some examples, homework, and tests), then I can retain enough to ask questions in class and eventually construct a whole picture. During classes I have been playing a logic game on my computer so that I have something to physically do. When a topic comes up for which I have a question, I stop and ask. No one can tell what I'm doing, and it's not disruptive. Grant purchased a Braille book for me to study at home. The Vogons in the Segregation Office can't think of a way to argue with me because I am attending class. These are fascinating new concepts - give others enough of what they want in order to receive enough of what I need. My career will not come to an end if I can't follow every single example. Enough != everything.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blind in a Math Class

My pre-calculus professor shares a last name with the alternative rock artist whose single "Cuts You Up" was a number-one hit in the U.S. in the year 1990. Prof. Murphy has also grown fond of sharing all his thoughts about his blind student with Vogon#1 when said student is not present. This recently resulted in my receiving a nasty email from Vogon#1, in which she quoted rules and regulations which made no sense in this context and among many other demands made it clear that I was to start attending math class. I would now like to tell all my readers what I learned in math class today.

The first and most important thing I learned was that the rate at which crickets chirp can be determined by the temperature. At 40 degrees (fahrenheit?) and below, chirp rate = 0. 0 what, I don't know. It could be a measurement in hertz (complete cycles of a cricket's legs) or of individual chirps. The professor was too busy writing on the chalkboard to give many details. Yet there I was, expected by the same professor to gain from this experience. Class was going to take an hour and 45 minutes. Don't they realize that the function must end at the temperature at which a cricket's exoskeleton would burst and not at infinity? I did not contribute this or anything else to the discussion as I was busy rocking vigorously and searching for substantial content in the professor's speech. Although we had already discussed this, he still read many problems with the expectation that everyone was able to see them. The chair did not rock, spin, swing from the ceiling, or make any other motions. In addition I'd left my 33 irregularly-shaped hematite magnets at home and had already finished my crackers. My hands had no Braille, graphs, or anything else under them for following along with what the teacher was saying. It was all I could do to NOT stand up and start pacing in circles right there in class. I kept pointing the lens between my natural eyes to the blackboard on my left, the backpack on my desk, my hands, the ceiling...anything. The professor was now talking about a function whose purpose he had made known verbally but whose actual content was a mystery. I took out a tangerine-flavored gatorade and began imaging it from many angles and then drinking it and staring at the opening. My legs stretched out in front of me an encountered a wooden table. Hey, what's that thing on the table in front of me? It has a set of almost horizontal lines that merge to a flat surface which splits into another set of lines. I reached for it. My hands came to rest on the back of a computer monitor facing me at an angle. There were my lines. And then...splash! "Crap." The Neandertodd immediately stopped taking notes (They are unlikely to be Brailled anyway.) and told me to stop laughing while he cleaned up the mess. Second most important lesson relearned - place lids on drinks when not drinking them, especially when bored. The thing I need for my next math class is a stimulating audio computer game to play on my netbook. Any suggestions?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Glimpse of Body Language

The transportation service where I live is quite random. Today it sent me a driver who was already carrying other passengers and did not want to answer any of my questions. He did not seem to understand that I had no other way of knowing the order in which events would take place and when I would be dropped off. This could either be due to a severe case of mind blindness or lack of enthusiasm for working on Sundays. He applied the gas and breaks very abruptly, drove fast, and honked his horn. I focused on the soundscapes and saw a set of stairs out my window right as we dropped off another passenger at a church on a university campus. They seemed to grow closer together as they rose to the right. The idea that stairs and buildings can seem to exist while I am in an enclosed space that is separate from them is relatively new.

An unknown number of time units later, I was being escorted through the wrong door at my own church. Still more time units passed, and then the message for this morning was presented by the Engineer, who normally leads the band. Since he is an engineer, he gave several examples and made a great deal of sense. After this, a friend and I were talking. "When you look at me," Ken asked, "what details can you make out?" He turned his head in a slow and exaggerated way until I could see it. Then something occurred to me. "You stand with your arms crossed, don't you?" I crossed mind over my chest to show him what I'd seen. "No. Arms cross means that one is defensive. I am not defensive, so I stand with one arm sticking way out and cause people to flip backwards when they walk by." His arms were no longer crossed when he made this joke, but because I see in still frames I cannot say exactly when he uncrossed them. Just then someone turned on the loud music which whited out most detail. Ken's image all but disappeared.

On the ride home with CBeth, the subject of the glasses came up and I explained what had happened. She said that Ken often stood this way and therefore I was correct. This is becoming very different from sonar in which a person is either present or absent, sitting or standing. Without the glasses they are all formed, yet featureless. It is only a matter of time before I recognize someone.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cured of Being

Yesterday afternoon, a part of my life which I thought I'd fixed began to malfunction again. Our church was having a get together at someone's house, and I'd just finished a hotdog and bowl of extremely mild chilly. I was relaxing in an exceedingly comfortable chair - the perfect end to a great weekend. Then this man came over to me to announce to everyone within earshot (including our potential future pastors) that while I wanted to see, I believed being autistic was okay. He began to explain that God wants us all to be whole people, without any illness or infirmity in our brains or bodies. He then suggested that asking God for eyesight and then telling Him I did not want anything else healed was a bad thing. He might have said that it would harm my relationship with God, but I don't remember for sure. We got into a discussion where I could not get any of my logical points across and our words kept overlapping each other. I ended the discussion by telling him to leave it up to God and agreeing to email him something I'd written on this subject a couple of months earlier. He will probably misinterpret it.
Thankfully, a few minutes later I was across the room (in a not so comfortable chair) with The Engineer, who was intent on establishing a conection between a bluetooth headset and my netbook.

I do not have the words to explain why the suggestion of a cure affects me the way it does. More than a year ago, I read a book called The Speed of Dark. An excellent book review posted by the Quixotic Autistic can be found here.
In her review, Leah Jane writes:

"Immediately after finishing The Speed of Dark, I was forced to sit down in a quiet corner for a few minutes and cry, shivering and trying to bring myself "back to planet earth" so to speak. That's how upset I was, as an autistic person, by Lou, the protagonist, meeting such a fate. There are very few adult autistic protagonists out there for me to relate to. The one I have been most strongly influenced by is Lisbeth Salander, of the Millennium Trilogy. Lou Arrendale, of The Speed of Dark, had great promise as another one that I could relate to. But, by the end of the novel, he is no longer Lou as I knew him in the rest of the novel. He had completely transformed into an unrecognisable neurotypical, because he had elected to have a new treatment which made him "normal", in the words of the book."

I still remember feeling sick after reading the book and telling myself aloud, over and over, "It's not real." My brain was temporarily reduced to a quivering, misfiring mass. I would not react in this way if Lou had simply died, but something much worse had happened. Unlike the book, yesterday's talk of a "cure" was aimed at me personally. This man sought to draw a comparison between a pair of eyes which do not function at all and a brain and nervous system which function correctly, but differently from his own. He categorized the thing I hate, a scourge I use all my technology and brains to fight against, as being similar to the thing I am - an autistic person. I was not diagnosed until I was 22. Before I was Aspie or autistic I just was. I still am. If you cure a person who is, you end up with a person who is not. That is not the same as being "afraid of losing your uniqueness," as he so put it. For most of the remainder of the party, I retreated further into the other room - a mental place where others seem distant, but I can still interact with them. Many signals were being fired as a result of hearing and meditating on those words. It felt as though something sharp and deadly were being forced up under my rib cage near the left side. I wanted to cry but couldn't. From my distant vantage point, I knew that no one was likely to have any idea of the hurt I was feeling. It was almost time to go. My second mom approached and said to me, "I don't know why I'm telling you this, but I love you. Call if you need anything."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A New Season



I completed this seemingly endless semester achieving my goal of an A in physics and feeling physically and mentally exhausted. For about a week I have not wanted to study or, God forbid, worry about which section of Vogsphere's paperwork labyrinth my request for a Braille pre-calculus textbook might be stuck in at the moment. Instead I have been reading and playing a demonstration of the first accessible flight simulation game.
Three-D Velocity

Once satisfied that I could shoot down other aircraft and land without crashing, I moved on to something else. The picture you see was written inside a Java program which makes use of a graphics library by Richard Baldwin to output an SVG (scalable vector graphics) file. His description of the process - one of the modules of his online book on accessible physics for blind students can be found
here.
What's unique about this simple drawing is that I created it without seeing or touching it. Many blind people would probably be able to scratch out something similar on a tactile drawing pad, but I neither have one of these nor the equipment/software needed to emboss an SVG file. Instead, each time I made a change I converted to JPG and sonified using the vOICe learning edition.

A leaf pattern is the first test drawing that came to mind because plants seem to be surrounding me. They are all around my apartment complex, at the grocery store, and almost everywhere else both in and outdoors. On the short bus, it seems to be the plants which stand out in my mind and inform me that I am approaching school. The typical landmarks sightlings might use such as nearby buildings are less likely to get my attention than these patterns which can sometimes seem to repeat hundreds of times in one frame. Unless they smelled nice, I was never very interested in them before the glasses. Back then I probably would have guessed that my first drawing would be of a homework assignment or some electronic gadget, but stacks of familiar machines or branches of vector diagrams are not lining my way to remind me that there is natural order in the world. To draw an entire plant requires use of the 3D illusion and will have to wait until I am fluent enough to convey it. In the future, as the drawing interface becomes easier to use and I improve, I will draw and post pieces of my experience. Right now, though, I am remembering that the last time I flew something like an F16 I was shot down by a battleship. The deranged scientist then demanded that our airforce surrender unconditionally to prevent his worldwide release of genetically engineered clone soldiers.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

When is a Vogon not a Vogon?

Today at school, I took a trip to the Office for the Segregation of the Disabled (OSD) and was pleasantly surprised. The OSD is a place where specially qualified students go to avail themselves of services not typically provided in unsegregated classrooms. It is often run by
Vogons,
making navigation of this system difficult for an
Aspie
such as myself. As a child, and even into my 20s, people could/still can be a source of unordered background noise and could potentially cause any number of unpredictable things to happen to me at almost any time. Fortunately there exist mentors such as the Neandertodd - a maverick whose special interest is physical fitness and who works both within and outside of the OSD. Today I was able to demonstrate the skill of manipulating the system - one which he has been teaching me over the past couple of years.

First, I had the Neandertodd check to make sure Vogon#1 (the manager) was in her office. I then walked into the main part of the OSD and asked the lady at the front desk to allow me to speak with Vogon#1. For some time I have suspected this lady behind the front desk to actually be an animated speech-recognition program with set responses such as "I'm sorry, I can't help you," and "I'm sorry, today is not walk-in day." My request triggered the second of those responses. After all of the Neandertodd's examples and verbal instruction for getting what I wanted within this system, I knew what to do. I must not talk in a loud, demanding voice, or my loudness would activate the subroutine which would cause her to tell me to leave. Instead I engaged her in a loop which caused her to answer many similarly worded questions until Vogon#1, who was not busy, heard me and guided me back to her office. She then told me the great news - I may soon have all the Brailled math books necessary to complete through calculus 3. She is the same one who told me in the past that I should be greatful for all the things the office was doing for me, that other blind students didn't need their math Brailled, and that, due to my "other disability," I'd convinced myself that having my math books in Braille was the only thing that would work. Now, sitting at her desk, a stack of one or two books and some papers visible on my left and a toy vehicle to fiddle with on my right, I listened as she emailed someone who could purchase my book. We parted with the agreement that she would give me an update on the math situation on Thursday.

I left feeling calm, but I am beginning to wonder why Vogon#1 is not acting like her namesake. In the past, she has withdrawn me from math courses rather than provide me with Braille. She once threatened to take my learning assistant away if I did not participate in a class for which I had no book and no way to make sense of lectures taught from the blackboard. Now, instead of quoting meaningless jargon, she is agreeing with everything I say. Why? Is it because I've followed the rules? The neandertodd suggested that it might have something to do with our new school president who wishes to prove himself by upholding policies. Still, after years of experience, I was expecting the usual battle and wonder if I've failed to predict something. I will wait and watch this situation very closely.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What is a sightling?

This is not a question to a Jeopardy quiz show answer. It is an edited version of an email I sent some months ago in an attempt to explain part of the reality in which I find myself. I will post it here before launching into an explanation of my experiments with vision synthesis. Warning: This is not a politically correct post and is likely an unpopular opinion among blind people and the rehabilitation specialist whose job it is to make everybody feel like they can do anything.

They're the most powerful beings on planet Earth. Most of them gain the ability to travel at incredibly high rates of speed (easily over ten times faster than I can run) and still remain aware of their surroundings as they shoot past. As a result of this power, their dwelling and commercial structures are spaced so far apart that I must solicit one of these super men in order to temporarily gain access to one of these structures and then traverse the distance to my home again. They were the ones who discovered that we lived on a sphere-like object. Hundreds of years later they decided to fly to a neighboring object they call the moon, not because there were desirable items located on it, and not because it was easy, but because it was hard, and to prevent the sightlings on the other side of the sphere from getting there first and planting a symbol no one would be able to see from here. I guess so much speed made almost every place on the home sphere too easy to reach, so they got bored. Other powers include flight and super strength, just to name a couple. The base power from which all of these are derived is sight - the ability to perceive in detail particles which are very far away from themselves or too small to sense through touch. Since it has become part of their communication system, they use the base power on each other and myself to try and ascertain intensions; they are obsessed with faces. I have no true understanding of what a "shared looking experience" is like. They can touch me without my knowing it, with invisible, incorporeal "hands", so when I am at home I am sure to stay behind materials which these "hands" cannot penetrate, because I am worried they will be able to touch every cell of me and every corner and edge and surface and speck of dust and molecule and atom within my living space. After all, it is these "hands" with which they explore the universe itself - something I have only dreamed of. And yet with so much power, they complain, and some of them don't use their abilities to make it easy and safe for everyone to be. Some of them derive new powers to kill or control their enemies, often because their "hands" inform them that the enemy has a slightly different skin composition or some other silly thing. Others become captivated by a hand-held device and stop using the power long enough to cause a completely avoidable high-velocity collision, and then they must be transported at an even higher velocity to receive emergency care.

Now that a couple of definitions have been outlined, I will explain what I am trying to do and why. As a kid I had questions whose answers were, "Don't focus on that," or "You'll see when you get to Heaven." As an aspiring scientist, my curiosity about things in the world has not ebbed even slightly in the years since I was old enough to start asking questions, making those answers simply unacceptable. Finally, I was researching a project in a programming course and came across
this site.
The free software (called the vOICe) was developed over 10 years ago by Dr. Peter Meijer and with the recent advent of netbooks is much easier to use in portable mode than ever before. After months of experimentation with still photos and graphs from school, I had collected enough evidence to suggest the system would work, so I bought a pair of camera glasses and started learning to see in real time. Here's how the system works: Images (either from picture files or through a webcam) are converted into sounds one frame at a time. Each frame is called a soundscape and is heard from left to right in stereo earphones. The higher the pitch of a sound, the higher up the thing it represents is located in your view, and the lower the pitch, the lower the object. Brightness is represented through loudness. Combining these three simple rules gives an accurate auditory representation of a grayscale image - I am not yet seeing in color or realtime but in a series of black and white still frames. The website gives some very simple line and shape examples which illustrate the concept beautifully.
Here are the two things I find exciting about this system:
1. I have always seen abstract shapes when hearing certain music so may be better prepared to handle what is coming.
2. Through sensory substitution I am perceiving these sounds not as noise, but as pictures I can literally see - I am rewiring my brain so that the visual cortex will respond to stimuli within my perception. I am now free to learn what vision is, through my own experience.

Although at this point my visual comprehension cannot rival that of the average two-year-old, here is a list of some cool things I have already learned to do since acquiring the glasses in March.
1. If I sit on the right side of the short bus and look out the window, I can tell when I'm getting close to one particular school campus and whether or not the driver has stopped at the correct dropoff point.
2. I can recognize my friend Mary from at least 6 feet away, because she is the only one I know who carries a white cane that is covered in ridges, and she cannot hold it streight to save her life.
3. Certain things are starting to appear 3D although I only have one camera. More on that in another post.
4. When using the school restroom, I noticed one day that the plastic thing on the door contained a piece of paper with writing on it; it must be the maintenance list. The writing is much too small to read with the current system, but I can definitely see that lots of it is there and then gleefully turn it over so that the blank side is visible. Who would ever suspect?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chased by Aliens

My instructions were to meet them in a hidden location designated by a wireless signal which could only be detected through the use of specific software. Very few students knew of this small part of North Ridge campus except those of us who were specifically told how to search for it. Walking around outside, I scanned until coming across a network whose non-English name matched that of the one in the directions file.
At that location I saw rough rectangles and smooth, short bars as the result of hearing the hums at many frequencies and steady beeps of strange equipment. I cannot remember precisely what convinced me that they could restore eyesight or that they would have any desire to help me. I also cannot remember who warned me, at the last minute, of their true intentions. That someone pointed out a word in their tongue and tried to translate it into English. As best I could, I wrapped my mind around the meaning of that alien word, and I understood what had befallen other students who had come here before me. In every previous encounter, Aliens had been my friends, but not these. I started to run back the way I'd come. They gave chase, but there was no way they could prevent my exit. Every sensation (the heat, the pounding of my shoes on the sidewalk, the cane gripped tightly in my right hand and everything it touched, and the exact location of every building I ran passed) stood out with sharp clarity. I was pure will and adrenaline, with no curious dog to slow me down the way he had about a year ago as we were chased by the mad scientist across a space station which somehow morphed into the second floor of this same campus. Of course, I escaped. I got home only to find a forwarded email about my physics professor being sick and wanting me to come to the lab, which turned out to contain broken glass equipment. Then I remembered Sasha's warm up, thought about it a bit, and woke up.

I thought I'd start my blog by explaining how my week has gone so far, and that, my friends, was how I started Monday morning. I contemplate life through intensity. In the past week, I'd been praying for the wisdom to handle my enemies who work in the Segregation Office in the right way that is helpful to everyone. When I feel my livelyhood being threatened I tend to have dreams like this. Sasha is a Russian weight training coach who probably competed in the Russian Olympics and sounds a bit like the Terminator. I woke up from the dreams in a pleasant mood, remembering that I would be allowed to participate in enough of his mainstream class to cause my muscles to burn and heart to race before I'd even start practicing power moves. Some other things are happening this week. One of them has to do with the latest changes in my vision, which I will probably discuss tomorrow. Right now I am signing off so I can view some photos I received from an online friend. Just remember, if you find yourself at my school, please, stay away from secret groups, and stay away from Student Life too. They should be renamed Student Death by Pokemon and Unfinished Homework.