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Thursday, June 25th, 2015 12:44 pm
I get this question a lot (most recently in the midst of a stupid new layer of airport security theatre that the U.S. has apparently developed). Not only is it rarely relevant -- this airport worker was just feeding his curiosity, it wasn't relevant to anything he was doing -- but it's actually an impossible question for me to answer.

Because...the only answer I have is "Everything." I can see everything I can see. I don't really know what I'm not seeing, except by other people's reporting and how their behavior differs from mine.

I end up having to guess at what kind of answer the person really wants, so listing off random things I can see until one makes them look interested. (Usually I start with "I can see your face" and they like that because everybody likes to think about themselves).

It's so much easier, if you really have reason to want to know "can you see my face?" or "can you tell where you're going?" or whatever, to just ask that. The open-ended questions are much harder for me to cope with, and also lead me into "being an ambassador for the thing about me that other people don't run into very often," which I don't always have time or energy for. I'm really happy to answer reasonable questions (when I think they're reasonable!) but I like to know when that is what I'm doing and not just indulging someone's curiosity.
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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 05:25 pm
All year I've been trying to sort out the registered-blind stuff, and find myself some kind of job or decent volunteering thing, and this week both of those seem to be sorted all of a sudden. It feels weird to not have these things to stress about or feel guilty about not doing. But it's a kind of weird I could definitely get used to.
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Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 10:10 pm
I'm already pretty sick of British people talking about American presidential hopefuls.

Sorry, British people. But some of you seem to be treating the futures of a lot of people I know and care about like it's the casting for a new superhero movie or something you look forward to binge-watching when it's released on Netflix. My country is not your fandom.

It's gonna be a long year and a half, isn't it.
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Monday, June 15th, 2015 10:37 pm
In Minnesota we may laugh at the idea of "blind cards," but now in the UK I have one!

It arrived today as part of my "introductory pack" from the council's sensory team (who, yes, I know well but clearly their receiving a copy of my Certificate of Visual Impairment triggered an automatic response, because otherwise I don't think they would have sent me badly-photocopied leaflets for old people or for macular degeneration). So I've spent the day applying for a Disabled Person's Railcard (on its way now!) and a National Concessionary Travel Pass, which annoyingly I haven't quite finished yet because I need to get someone from the sensory team to sign and notarize it.

Also this morning I got a letter through with my PIP assessment appointment time, which like everything else going on this summer is during the time my parents are making me go on vacation with them, so I had to call them but that was okay actually as not only am I getting it out of the way before I go to Minnesota -- it's now this Friday! -- but I don't have to go to somewhere I've never been in Bolton now, as the nice lady on the phone was able to get the venue changed to North Manchester hospital. Which will be a trip down memory lane! Before Andrew and I were married we lived a few doors down from it briefly, and I used to be sent there on occasion when I worked at MRI. So at least I know how to get there.

So yeah. Nothing non-urgent on today's to-do list got done today, but lots of other stuff did thanks to these two envelopes in the mail this morning.

After I get through my Atos assessment and the bus pass is sorted out, I think then, except for chasing up the light in the kitchen that should have been replaced by now, I might actually be done with the disability admin I can do right now. For so long it's seemed endless, interminable, fruitless, but I knew one day it'd all start happening in an avalanche of busy-ness, and that seems to be what's going on now.
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Sunday, June 14th, 2015 06:11 pm
One of Andrew's tweets from this afternoon says
Improvised a standing desk by putting a chair on the dining room table and putting laptop on that. Using books as keyboard rest
Place your bets on exactly how much damage to property and possessions I can look forward to when I get home this evening!
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Saturday, June 13th, 2015 11:29 pm
The help I'm getting from the sensory team, while helpful, is a bit nerve-grating on occasion, too.

Like the way the Rehabilitation Officer I've been dealing with (and I really hate that title, too, but that's another rant), the one who gave me the white cane and the talking gadgets and is getting light fittings replaced in the house and stuff...she's also the one who does the guide-cane training I'll eventually get, and she keeps telling me about all the benefits thereof.

Not that I need convincing, I'm more than happy to do it. But she's said (as have other such people I've dealt with) that I don't offer as much resistance as they're used to getting, which I imagine is a combination of me not having the traditional British reticence, me not actually being new to sight loss, and frankly I think because I'm of a younger generation than most of the people the council will be dealing with.

Anyway, so I think I get the same spiel she gives everybody she deals with, and thus I've heard about all the good things I will get from being "rehabilitated" with white-cane training. She talks a lot about "building your confidence," enough that my reaction to this, which started out as a mild grimace (these conversations are mostly on the phone, so that's okay), has evolved into full-grown teeth-gritting and eye-rolling.

I do understand how the actual loss of someone's sight would zero out someone's confidence. That's as true for me as anyone else -- if I lost any sight I'd probably stop leaving the house or cooking or anything. As someone who's only ever gained sight, having gone from completely blind to, well, this when I was still too young to remember it happening, I have had to build whatever confidence I have at this level of sightedness. And I think I've done pretty well, actually. I was an independent baby -- apparently one of my first favorite phrases when I learned to talk was "I do it!" and I broke my arm as a toddler climbing out of my crib because I was so unwilling to have a nap just then. I was a talkative child and a teenager who hated my peer group because I thought I was better than them. I've never been lacking confidence.

And it isn't confidence I need to navigate the world. I find this cringeworthy because it makes it sound like it's my fault if I'm not always putting myself out there. I don't need to be taught that I deserve to "own my space" when I'm out and about. I know that perfectly well. What concerns me, adds to my stress, is that other people don't think so. I am faced almost every time I go out with someone nearly running into me because they were looking at their phones or they just charge out of shops without a glance to who else might be on that bit of the sidewalk. People try to sneak into queues in front of me because they think the stick means I can't see them at all (and I swear the metaphorical usage of "blind" to mean "doesn't know" or "doesn't care" -- such as "blind with rage" or "blind to the consequences of her actions" -- contribute to this attitude towards blind people...but that too is another rant). I tend to fold away the stick before I do stuff like get cash out of machines because I worry about seeming too vulnerable.

My confidence cannot exist in a vacuum. It is not solely my fault if I don't have enough. It's not our conditions that disable us disabled people; it's people's hostile reactions to us and the lack of accessibility as a general rule.

I'm not saying that my confidence or my approach to stuff doesn't affect my experiences and choices -- of course these things do, and they are important. I think this is just an example of where being new to the system, and thus treated like someone new to sight loss, means I don't quite fit and therefore maybe these things stick out more to me. Of course I do understand why things are this way: the services for people with sensory impairments stand a better chance of changing the impaired individual than they do the whole world, so it makes sense to focus on what they can help. It just irks me after a while to hear that all I need is "building up your confidence." Especially because that implies that I don't currently have much, which I don't think is true!
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Thursday, June 4th, 2015 09:43 pm
1) The lovely pub landlady pulls our two pints and says "That's £6.20 sorry about the price," without any pause at all. The immediate apology for what doesn't seem to me a bad price at all for very nice beer, and the assurance that she's not charging us any more than she needs to, both make me grin and feel like I am in the right place.

2) When the train to Huddersfield finally arrived, a couple of loud young white guys were standing nearer the train door than me, but when it opened and the people who wanted off had gotten off, one of them turned to me and said with a sweeping arm gesture, "go on, love." This kind of thing happens to me regularly now because of the white cane, but usually it's an offer, an invitation. This time, it sounded like I was being scolded, like I should already have known I would get on the train before they did. I scurried up onto the train, a little unnerved but also amused to have been demanded to submit to their chivalry.
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Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 08:23 pm
I'm really glad I've started writing down both what I want to get done and what I actually get done in a day (sort of inspired by [personal profile] kaberett's "todo/tada" and the kind of stuff that gets shared in [community profile] awesomeers (which has been so good for me and I'm still thankful to [personal profile] nanila for mentioning it)).

I've always been awful at to-do lists, I either ignore them after they're written or panic at the sight of them. But I had been getting frustrated with how easily important stuff was slipping my mind and how much harder I was making things for myself by forgetting stuff.

So now each day has two pages of a notebook, left side I load up that morning or previous days with things I want to do or remember that day, and on the right side I'm listing anything I feel like which I have actually done. This can range from the kind of "mailed the thing!" when on the left side I had written "must mail the important thing!" to "sat outside in the sunshine," because relaxing in ways that are good for me is something that is both important and hard for me to do -- way harder than chores or errands or anything unpleasant -- so I figure deserves noting as well.

This is especially good for days like today, when I woke up feeling a bit under the weather and found it very difficult not to go back to bed, very put off by the (few and not time-consuming) things I knew I had to do today. But by lunchtime I'd started one, and then I did another, and then I was asked to do something else, and then I did something that wasn't even on my list for today today because I hadn't wanted to pressure myself too much but I'm glad I did it, and then suddenly I wanted to do a few things I'd given up on months ago. And so on. But even after all that, I find myself this evening with vague restlessness and unease about having "wasted" the day, about "not accomplishing anything." Which I do a lot, and which I know is dumb but it's just one of those bad thought patterns I fall into at the least provocation. And one way to fight it is to look at the big list I've made myself of all the things I have actually done today.
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Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 08:14 am
Exemplary text from Andrew yesterday:
Waiting for man chest hair train semicolon expected time gets one minute later every minute
That he refuses to learn how to get punctuation into his texts, but is also unwilling to make do without semicolons, says so much about him.
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Sunday, May 31st, 2015 10:07 pm
Mu emerging from upstairs after an attempt to sleep off a migraine meant [personal profile] miss_s_b had to explain to the Geeky Games Night newbie about me and James and her and James and said "this is where you find out about polyamory."

"I was warned about this!" the new person said. "I asked if this was really a board game night or an orgy."

There were the requisite "that could be arranged!" comments from the peanut gallery, but I like being an example that people can be in more than relationship and still like playing board games. It reminds me of Eddie Izzard's story about being harassed by people who that a bloke in a dress is the most risible thing ever, and when he said he was just trying to buy some crisps they were like "what, you eat crisps?"
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Friday, May 29th, 2015 11:21 am
My second-favorite thing about this article on making Spain's Prado museum accessible to blind people is actually this:
Most visitors to the "Touching the Prado" exhibit are not vision-impaired. The museum provides opaque glasses for them — like blindfolds.
It's not just that I love stuff that puts sighted people more on my level.

Last Saturday, Andrew, [personal profile] miss_s_b, [personal profile] magister and I went to see a movie in the dark, or at least that's how I explained it when I was telling people my plans for the weekend. The rest had seen Carnival of Souls, the movie this radio-playish thing was based on, and I was just intrigued by the advisory group of blind and partially-sighted people who helped make this happen.

I didn't know what to expect, but I really enjoyed what I got: I was in a cinema -- people were jockeying for good seats out of habit, even though there wasn't going to be anything on the screen -- surrounded by other people, with noise-canceling headphones and the kind of cheap black nylon blindfold I've gotten on transatlantic flights.

The blindfold seemed a bit superfluous to me at first. After all, the room was totally dark except for the blue lights on people's wireless headsets, and the lights illuminating the stairs at each side of the auditorium like you always get in cinemas. But I thought I might as well try it, figuring it had been included for specific and deliberate reasons, and I quickly really liked it.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, podcasts, radio dramas and suchlike these days. They've taken over most of the time I used to devote to reading. I do like them when I'm in the dark before I fall asleep, but I mostly listen to them when I'm on trains or buses, cooking, doing housework, knitting...mostly I like the audio stories for making whatever else I'm doing more fun, rather than it being the only thing I am doing. And the blindfold? Means that listening is really the only thing you are doing. Yes a lot of the same result could have been achieved by closing one's eyes (as [personal profile] miss_s_b did since she's allergic to the fabric the blindfolds were made from) but I really liked being able to keep my eyes open most of the time. And even if I meant to shut my eyes, they'd keep snapping open whenever it sounded like someone was whispering in my ear or something was crashing into me or whatever. To see no more than a faint glow from a few of the blue lights on everybody's headsets when my eyes did open was somehow both exciting and relaxing because I could be assured that I wasn't missing anything by not using my eyes. It felt, odd as this might sound, like such a luxury.

A huge part -- I'm sure I heard "ninety percent" somewhere, though I'm not sure if that's right -- of the sensory information a non-disabled person gets from the outside world is from their vision. Taking that way is going to do interesting things to our brain and our understanding and even memories of an event. Even for an audio-play-addict like me, this was a special and immersive experience.

One of those facts everyone thinks they know about blind people is that we have exceptionally good hearing/all our other senses are fantastic to make up for the lack of sight. Not only is that completely not true (deaf-blind people are a thing! also lots of conditions or injuries that might cause sight loss also cause other categories of problems), I think it's just a thing that sighted people tell themselves in order to feel better about the poor pitiable blind person. Sensory impairments don't improve a person's other senses, but they might improve how well we're making use of them, because we have to. Most people don't have to, and they -- understandably -- don't often choose to forgo ninety percent (or whatever) of the information they could potentially gather about the world around them.

Which brings me back to the blind people in the art gallery, and the sighted people wearing opaque glasses.
"It's kind of weird. I sort of kept checking over the top of the glases to see what I was touching, because you kinda can't tell," says Isabel O'Donnell, 20, a college student visiting Madrid from Buffalo, N.Y.
Of course you did. You can't tell until you do it enough to get used to it. I remember trying to feel the spots on the sheets of Braille a friend had. I could tell the surface was uneven but couldn't discern enough detail to be able to read that way. I was distressed by this -- figuring I was deficient in some way and that if, as I worried about a lot when I was a kid, I lost the rest of my sight one day I would be entirely cut off from reading and writing, probably my two very favorite activities at that time -- but had it explained to me that the ability to read Braille has to be taught, not just "these dots mean this letter" but also being able to perceive the dots well enough is a skill that has to be learned. If their brains are scanned, the nerves corresponding to the fingers they use to read are connected to better-developed areas of the brain than people who don't read Braille.

You might remember way back at the beginning of all this I was talking about the blindfolds for sighted people being my second-favorite thing about this article. For anyone who's wondering, my favorite thing is this picture:


Look at that guy, he's feasting on that art.

In another article on this subject (written in medium-grey text on a light-grey background, leading me to think this is a website more likely to talk about blind people than to them), someone who was born blind was making his first visit to the art gallery. "We learned all about the great Spanish artists at school, of course, but it’s only now that I can start to understand what made them special." Reading that gives me goosebumps, and makes me glad that blind people in Madrid don't have to feel that art galleries have nothing to offer them.
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Friday, May 29th, 2015 01:54 am
I joked to [personal profile] magister upon leaving the cinema that Mad Max was accessible.

I've got "accessibility" on the brain lately. It's a relatively recent addition to my working vocabulary, actually, arriving only a few years ago after a previous few years of hearing friends I thought of as "properly" disabled use it about events, places, communication and institutions. Since I've expanded my definition of "disabled" to include myself, despite my upbringing encouraging me to be "normal," I've found myself using it a lot more, too.

Just at the moment I'm in the middle of trying to apply for disability benefits and access other services for partially-sighted people like me (just tomorrow I have a follow-up consultation at Manchester Eye Hospital's low vision clinic, someone from Henshaws calling me about their hiking group because I've shown an interest in it, and I have to chase up some paperwork with the council's sensory team so I can get training on using the white cane they supplied me with.

So perhaps this gives you an idea of why such language permeates even my time at the cinema.

I remember the then-poet laureate of the U.S., Billy Collins, giving an interview in which he said that he doesn't like it when his poetry's called "accessible" (unfortunately I think his explanation of this at the time involved an ableist comment about not wanting his poetry to sound like it needed a wheelchair ramp, and I'm really not sure what's so bad about being anything like an inclined plane in any way!) and that he prefers the term "hospitable." Poetry websites like the one linked above gush that "the experience of reading his work is indeed akin to being invited into the home of a cordial and considerate host." While the last thing I want is to perpetuate any negativity about accessibility or particular things like wheelchair ramps which foster it, I do like to ponder on the overlapping connotations of these two words. I ponder to what extent Mad Max: Fury Road felt hospitable to me.



Having read those tweets a week or so ago, I was even more excited about [personal profile] magister's and my plan to go see this movie today. He was one of the first people I knew who watched it, and immediately afterward he said he wanted to see it again.

Since then, the praise for this movie has poured in; the only criticism I've heard of it is that the post-apocalyptic world is thoroughly, implausibly white, something that really did bug me while I was watching the movie (I also found just enough time for my mind to wander to the bigots' easy argument if they wanted an in-universe justification for their bigotry: white people would start from a pre-apocalypse advantage in health and access to resources that might contribute to them surviving preferentially...but then I thought by that logic, people of color and other impoverished and disadvantaged groups are already used to surviving on little or nothing in an environment hostile to their survival, so they should damn well survive and continue doing badass things!).

Feminism can't ignore race if it is to be worth anything. Precisely the things that made me feel so positively toward Fury Road are keeping others from feeling that way. It was easy for me to identify with Furiosa, loving as I do to imagine myself as smart and tough and capable even as I know that really the only thing I have in common with such a character is that I've sometimes had my hair cut like that. Even though she kept her (sensible!) clothes on all through the movie and didn't even snog anyone, it really affected my experience of the film to have her, and so many of the other main characters (Bechdel-test fans keep pointing out that at one stage there are twelve named women on the screen who are having a conversation that is nothing to do with men), played by a woman.

It actually had a surprisingly emotional effect on me, seeing this movie full of women who were for the most part not calling attention to their gender but fulfilling the old cliché about feminism being the radical notion that women are people too.

I don't even know if the story about Alien being written with the expectation of a man as Ripley but nothing changing when Sigourney Weaver was cast instead are true or not, but when you watch the movie they feel true. And it feels true for Fury Road too: most of the the parts played by women could very easily have been cast as men (with I suppose the exception of the "breeders" but c'mon, futuristic dystopia; surely the nuclear apocalypse could've given us seahorse-like male-incubation genes, right?) with no apparent detriment to the movie.

But there would have been some detriment to the movie. I can tell because I had this weirdly emotional reaction to just the sheer number and qualities of the women in this movie. I felt good. I felt...like I was "being invited into the home of a cordial and considerate host"! If this is what the cis white straight able-bodied dudes get to feel like whenever they consume practically any cultural artifacts, no wonder they don't want to give this up! Or even share. It's a rush, to feel that something has been tailored to suit you. This "hospitable" is some powerful stuff!

Even more powerful, perhaps, was the realization that I got to enjoy this action movie the way most people get to enjoy most action movies. I was actually stupidly grateful for this.

At the James Bond exhibit [personal profile] magister and I went to last week at the London Film Museum, I noticed I got a lot more out of the clips of the older James Bond movies than I did of the newer ones, even though I like the new ones, just because they're easier for me to follow. The quick cuts and close-ups more common in modern filmmaking just mean that I'm presented by a series of contextless colors and shapes that my brain can't process quickly enough to make much sense out of them.

[personal profile] magister said that even he couldn't follow something like the beginning of Skyfall completely well, and then when I saw this tweet saying something similar about the new Avengers movie a few days later I started to realize that even though this was a problem I'd never heard anyone talk about before and had only recently started articulating myself, this isn't just one of my Blindy McBlinderson problems.

Which is great! Because it gives me hope that something will be done about this. Like all the people who hate 3D and won't pay for it, they're helping my cause of removing this scourge from movie theatres and leave room for more 2D showings so I can actually go see stuff I want to!

I expected to enjoy this movie, but I didn't expect a car chase to elicit such emotional responses! Between the ease of following a two-hour car chase (I was so cheerful at the end because this movie had been no work at all for me, visual-processing-wise, which is so weird you have no idea) and all the women making me glad I'm a woman ([personal profile] magister pointed out that the old lady who, upon examining one of the "breeders" exclaimed "this one has all her own teeth!" is probably the Granny Weatherwax of the Mad Max universe), this was really a remarkable movie for me.
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Monday, May 25th, 2015 10:25 am
An overlapping but different (and seemingly more numerous) kind of nerdy person will tell you that today, May 25, is Towel Day.

Which is all well and good, but I find myself humming "how do they rise up..." instead.
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Monday, May 11th, 2015 10:18 am
Having a statistically-significant other who's an engineer means I don't want t-shirt/badge/whatever that says SMASH THE PATRIARCHY; I want one that calls for CONTROLED DEMOLITION OF THE PATRIARCHY.
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Sunday, May 10th, 2015 08:07 am


By Morag of Manfeels Park.

Of course, the particular reason I've been crying has been this:
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Saturday, May 9th, 2015 09:59 pm
Andrew's just asked me to help him with re-writing the lyrics of a Monkees song into a Shakespearean sonnet.
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Friday, May 8th, 2015 11:58 am
I was 18 for the 2000 U.S. elections and voting for the first time.

From there to 2004 to 2008 where we Minnesotans had to wait eight months to get Norm Coleman to stop throwing his tantrums and let Al Franken take the seat he was elected to...

To 2009 in the UK being the first election I paid attention to here (when we got Nick Griffin as an MEP and Andrew helped a great Lib Dem win Northenden by eight votes, having persuaded more than that many LDs to go vote) to 2010 to Manchester's council becoming completely Labour as the country got all those UKIP MEPs last year, to yesterday...

...each election of my political lifetime, in either country I want to feel is mine, seems more harrowing than the last.
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Friday, May 8th, 2015 08:40 am
Oh I love Andrew.
I see we now have at least two MPs. Good. Two is enough for a leadership election.

Starting tomorrow, we will regroup.
Damn right. I'm scared and I'm angry and I'm sad but I'm determined to make things better, as soon and as thoroughly as I can.
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Thursday, May 7th, 2015 02:47 pm
Even Facebook taunts me.

Every time I look at it today there's a box at the top I can't get rid of, which says "It's Polling Day. Share that you are a voter and find more information..."

I'm not a voter. Not today, anyway (I can vote in American elections.) Thanks for rubbing it in, Facebook.

I can't vote here without British citizenship, which is hardly practical when the fees currently stand at about two mortgage payments. So for now I'm not British, and I can't vote in the country where I've lived for the past (nearly) decade.

So I do hope that all of the people I know who can vote in British elections do so today (or already have by postal vote!). I know the choices are lackluster and the results in many places feel like a foregone conclusion. But I strongly believe that not voting is a feeble form of protest against the establishment and against extremists, as it makes life easier for both of them if you stay away from the polling stations.

Don't make life easy for them. Please vote.
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Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 10:13 pm
Along with not wanting to hear about how Americans are the weird ones, I also hope I don't have anyone telling me that the way the U.S. votes for its president is weird or confusing.

Because this:


And it's even worse than this, since the UK was given a chance to make the second circle look more like the first circle and turned it down (this is actually a demonstration of why referendums are stupid, but that's a digression), whereas no one's even asked me if I'd like to improve the voting system in the country where I can vote!