Welcome to my home page. I became blind at birth. I started programming computers at a young age. I also earned my general class amateur radio license, KA3TTT, a hobby to which I have returned with great joy. I practice Qigong and consider myself a Taoist. I use Linux as my desktop and Android as my mobile OS. I eat gluten-free vegan meals. For the rest you'll have to read my blog. To comment on what you read here, visit Disboardia, my bulletin board system.

Rejoining the Apple Family

September 10, 2010

This summer has inadvertently become the Summer of Apple. First, I got an iPhone, which changed my life. Next, I got an iPad, which I love as well. The other morning while eating breakfast, Goddess told me that the time had come to purchase a Mac. I started out on an Apple II/E, and bought a II/GS, but had to give them both up when PCs gained prevalence. The time had come to rejoin the Apple family.

The adventure started on Wednesday. I went with my Mom and a friend of the family and fellow Mac owner named Bob. I figured both of their presences would help with this major purchase. We arrived, and found it less crowded than last time, meaning we could carry on a mostly audible conversation. The first saleslady had a good attitude, but quickly admitted knowing nothing of VoiceOver, save its function. I expected this, and said I basically knew what I wanted. Instead, she ran off to find someone else who knew more.

The next saleslady arrived, and we went through what I had already said, that I wanted it for audio editing and whatever else. She customized a few settings, but we still couldn’t figure much out. I hadn’t read up much, so didn’t fully understand the concept of interacting with an area. At one point, she said: “Oh, here, let me adjust the speech rate.” It did seem rather slow to me. “It’s so fast!” she exclaimed. I laughed. “Oh, actually, I thought you were going to go turn it up. Faster!” “What? ReallY?” We continued bumbling around Safari and Text Edit, not accomplishing much. I said that I knew the blind could access the Mac, I just didn’t know how to work VoiceOver. It didn’t matter, as I knew I could learn, and as I had not heard complaints, I felt confident. Nevertheless, she didn’t want me to buy something I couldn’t use. The argument continued, I started getting hungry and cranky. I just wanted to buy the thing! As I reached for my wallet, she told me maybe I should wait and come back for a one-on-one shopping appointment. Mom and Bob agreed much to my chagrin, so I grudgingly agreed to come back the next day. “You can read up on it more.” Mom said. “That’s what I’ve been doing!” “Anyways, it will be interesting to see what they offer. We’ve gotten so used to getting nothing from companies, just buy it and get out. Let’s see what they do.” I saw her point, but did I really have to wait a day just to gather some data in this experiment we call life? I told Mom that they wouldn’t know anything, and we would just end up buying exactly what I had picked out – an iMac, long keyboard, and magic trackpad, and that nothing would change. Of course, I predicted correctly…mostly. My enthusiasm had waned but I knew I still had to do the right thing. I satisfied myself by upgrading my iPhone and iPad to the latest versions of iOS, which itself has some excellent improvements to VoiceOver.

The next day arrived, and we made our way back to the store. We found it more crowded than the previous day, meaning we had to speak at close range to carry on a reasonably audible conversation. I gave my name and said I had a one-on-one shopping appointment. When she came back, I also pointed out that they said they had someone trained in accessibility. “Yes,” she said, “but he’s out to lunch right now.” I tried to remain calm as I explained the story. A miscommunication must have occurred, as they had not noted the special circumstance. When I called before even going for the first time, the person on the phone said I didn’t need an appointment, and to just come on in. Then I came back yesterday and wanted to buy an iMac, but they told me to come back today to meet with someone trained in VoiceOver. “Yes, but he’s out to lunch for an hour. Could you maybe come back?” My rage built. I just wanted to buy the thing!

I started talking to some salespeople, making basic conversation, talking about audio, etc. Everyone said the same thing: that they knew about VoiceOver, but they didn’t actually know how to use it, exactly as I said they would. At one point, I met the manager, the oldest guy there by his own admission. It occurred to me that when I told these people that I started on an Apple II/E, that they probably didn’t even know what I meant. This guy did, and almost wept when musing on the beauty of Apple’s products. He also told me something interesting, that the accessibility improvements began when Steve Jobs returned to the company. We had a good chat, but he had to go, so introduced me to another salesman.

“Wait, before we start, what do you think this is?” he asked. He held up a thing that looked like some sort of powerful wrench. It would come in handy for smashing problematic hardware, and I wondered why someone would wield such a device in an Apple store. I felt up the wrench, however, and felt it join with his arm. I figured he must hold the other end, and didn’t want to impose, so stopped feeling the thing in question. “Um, some kind of wrench? Or pliers or something?” I guessed. “Naw man! That’s my hand!” “Wow.” “I have an artificial hand. I only have one arm.” After getting over the slight shock of what I had just felt, we fell into a friendly conversation about using computers with a disability. “One-handed people are the most overlooked disabled group, because everyone figures that we can just do everything since we have a hand, but we can’t.” He said typing with one hand pissed him off, and I wondered about some kind of one-handed keyboard. Haven’t they invented something? Also, I swore I read an article about a prosthetic hand controlled by neural impulses. He controlled his “like the brakes on a bicycle” by pushing and pulling. I inquired about getting a job training others in VoiceOver, and he said that obviously they have no problem employing disabled people. Right on! What a trip. You just never know what life will throw at you.

While I enjoyed talking to everyone, I really wanted to just buy my beautiful iMac and get it home to start playing with it. I started asking questions about Audio and everyone told me i had to talk to Mike. You have to talk to Mike. Oh yes, Mike knows his audio. You have to talk to Mike. I think I did for a few minutes, but he had another appointment, and he introduced me to another guy. As we talked about MIDI controllers, I couldn’t help but notice the distinct smell of freshly smoked cannabis upon his breath. Perfect! I ended up adding an M-Audio Pro-Keys keyboard to my purchase, a cute little number with 24 keys, pads, equalizers, USB and MIDI. It just plugs right in. When it came time to find the obligatory next salesperson who might know something, even my Mom said: “You know, I think he just wants to buy it.” “Yes. yes yes yesyesyeyseyseyseyseyseys.”

The dude with one arm remained through this, and we walked and talked on the way to the front of the store. I again mentioned my enthusiasm for Apple’s commitment to accessibility, and said I wanted to get involved somehow. He gave me a helpful tip: take the one-on-one training just to meet the managers and other people, get your foot in the door that way. That sort of networking stuff doesn’t come naturally to me, so I welcomed the suggestion. We said our good byes, and finally, finally, finally I had purchased my iMac, Apple Care, one-on-one training, a long keyboard, magic trackpad, and MIDI keyboard. I felt satisfied.

Mom dropped Bob off and drove me home. She insisted on dusting off my desk before placing the new equipment on it, but that didn’t take long since I have good cleaning people now, and I quickly unpacked. Within minutes I had it set up. When Mom bought me an Apple II/E way back in 1984, it took her and another friend hours to get speech working. They had to assemble the card, insert it, connect some jumpers, and who knows what else. I believe beer may have also played a part. I just remember encouraging them. “You can do it, come on you can do it.” They finally did after a hard afternoon’s work. This time, I just hit command-option-f8 and on came VoiceOver. “That was sure a lot easier than the last time you had to get speech working on an Apple, eh?” I asked. Mom couldn’t talk. It had brought her to tears.

Today, I had a sudden childhood memory. I LOVED my Apple II/E. I bought the II/GS and felt amazed at its capabilities, but frustrated that I couldn’t easily program them. My II/E still worked as it still does, and I had purchased my first PC. I knew I had started using it more and my Apples less, especially my beloved. Some programs still would only work on the II/E, such as older programs which used sound. I had a program which would play a number of songs. By this, I mean single-tone melodies, nothing like today. Just beep-beep-beep, even the II/GS could do better. One song had the title “Tears on my Apple.” I played it, and listening to the simple song, and suddenly felt sad. “Are there tears on my Apple since I don’t use it as much?” I wondered. For the first time in my life, I realized that things come and go, and that PCs had come and the Apple II had gone, and that very shortly I would have to leave the Apple family forever to use the PC. Very shortly thereafter I did.

I used MSDOS and customized it to its absolute fullest. By the end i had a full Internet setup with TCP/IP over dialup, and a very heavily modified shell with Unix-flavored commands and all. I then unfortunately got into WIndows. After it drove me to a white rage one weekend, I knew that had to stop. Eliminating sources of stress in one’s life does wonders for health, and I knew WIndows had to go, so I dove right into Linux.

I love Linux, I still do. It serves as a monument to the achievement of what people can do for free. For servers and automated things, you can’t beat it. It hasn’t caught on commercially because it has a somewhat ahem different philosophy towards user interfaces. It lets you choose. For the techie this seems like a blessing, but the average harmless end user may think otherwise.

Here, Apple has always come through, sporting a consistent interface for years on the Mac. Artists, musicians, and academics love them. Douglas Adams loved his. They lacked a satisfactory screen reading solution for a long time, though some tried they never really became popular. I never knew of any blind person using a Mac before recent times. You just didn’t hear of it. VoiceOver has changed all that.

I feel brimming with enthusiasm! While i have had some initial stumbling blocks, I already feel more confident within the first day. Has only a day past? Despite everyone’s concern, I’ve learned things well enough to write this article. The Apple has excellent speech, the best software speech I’ve heard. Alex has the most emotion of any synthesizer. He even breathes. I’ve cracked up several times at his intonation while reading funny parts of this text. Apple deserves nothing but praise for their efforts. Learning how to use my Magic Trackpad to navigate the current application’s window just as I would on my iPhone or iPad has me falling in love. This represents the cutting edge of accessible technology for the blind. It cuts! I joyfully look forward to the day when blind people finally catch on and realize that for $700, HALF the cost of JAWS for Windows, the most popular software used or rather pushed on the blind, they can get a fully functional computer that delivers a superior experience and comes with a superior screen reader with superior speech. May the Mac relegate Windows to the recycle bin, where it properly belongs. Don’t worry, they’ll still have their corporate clients. This probably means that we can expect crappier services from these companies, but who cares, WE will have all switched to Macs by then.

I feel so glad to have fully become part of the Apple family once again. I feel like one cast out unfairly for twenty years because of bad relations or something, then suddenly everything changes and the family can welcome me back. I look forward to exploring this beautiful machine to its full potential. The fact that it runs on top of BSD, another flavor of Unix and one very similar to Slackware and Arch Linux has me feeling very hopeful. I also look forward to finally making audio and music with a professional suite of tools rightly suited to my work. One last note to my long-time friends: does the idea of a computer based around a consistent user interface running on top of a flavor of Unix remind you of something someone may have said ten or so years ago? Just saying.

I feel wide-eyed and amazed like a child. No more tears on my Apple!

How to Sync your Emacs diary with your iPhone or iPad

July 24, 2010

Oh yes! I have wanted to do this for such a long time, and

glancing through the iPad manual gave me the answer. I will now show

you how to synchronize your Emacs diary files with the calendar in the

iPhone or iPad. I should warn you right out that the implementation

seems broken in some ways, for instance I don’t see cyclic dates

showing up, but it provides a start. I have tested this on an iPad

running iOS 3.2.1, and an iPhone running iOS 4.0.

To do this, you just need a working Emacs and a place to put it on

the web. First, within Emacs, use M-x<br /> icalendar-export-file. Put in the name of your diary, for

instance ~/diary. Make sure the output file has the .ics

extension, for example diary.ics. Now, copy the .ics

file to the web. You should probably do this on a server where you

can implement some security restrictions, or just delete the file

immediately afterward.

Now, go to your iPhone or iPad. Go to Settings, then

Mail, Calendar, Contacts. Add an account, choose

Other then Add Subscribed Calendar. Put in the full

URL of your .ics file in the server field. You don’t need to worry

about the user name, password, and SSL fields, unless of course you

do. This would also make a good way to secure your diary. Now save

it and enjoy. You could also enter the URL in Safari, but doing it

through the settings menu lets you put in a description and other

things. Either way works. To update your calendar, just go back to

the mail settings, and Fetch New Data.

I hope this helps some Emacs using iPhone enthusiast out there. I

wanted to sync my calendar for the longest time, and felt an obvious

way existed, and I found it. I look forward to discovering other ways

to integrate Emacs with my iPhone and iPad. I consider it a very

worthy effort.

Reinstalling Windows XP Home on a Dell Dimension XPS410

July 06, 2010

Gather round, and listen to our tale. A friend named Jimmy crashed his Windows XP registry, so Bec and I figured we should help him out and reinstall Windows. He has a Dell Dimension XPS410, and even had his original XP disk and serial key. We figured smooth sailing, and hoped we’d finish by dinner. When the installer could not see the hard drive, we worried. When we realized that we needed to find drivers for everything, we became enraged. When Windows shut down all hardware because we did not activate it in time, we went insane. Ten hours later, at one in the morning, we called it a night. I write this to assist anyone else in the same situation.

We prepared by making sure Jimmy had everything important backed up. He used a piece of software called Smart Backup, from Western Digital. Needless to say, it behaved anything but intelligently. I’d bet that the guy who installed it for him didn’t permanently map his external drive, so when he reconnected it it had a different drive letter, and backups failed. We didn’t find this out until later, of course. We did export his accounts and contacts from Outlook. We gave the last call, and booted using the Windows XP Home CD which came with his computer.

Upon booting, we realized something had gone wrong when the installer could not recognize the hard drive. It gave us an ambiguous error message about a problem occurring, and we finally narrowed it down to the SATA controller. It turns out that Windows does not natively support the XPS410’s SATA controller. It sounds unbelievable, but this awful truth would only become more evident as time progressed. Some searching gave us several options. We opted for the easiest: to go into the BIOS and change the SATA Operation Mode setting from RAID to Autodetect. This one sentence holds the key. Upon rebooting, the installer now saw the drive. As Jimmy pointed out, an average user like him would have never known to do that.

We formatted the drive while eating some wonderful black bean and pineapple enchiladas prepared by Jimmy’s girlfriend (fiance, whatever). When the format finished, we continued the installation, and after our meal, booted into the clean system. We thought we could celebrate. We thought wrongly. We quickly noticed a lot of things didn’t work, by which I mean that pretty much nothing worked. The video display looked incomplete, and sound didn’t work. Perhaps most importantly, the network card didn’t work either! Yes, we had no connectivity, a broken display, and no audio which meant no speech. We found ourselves in a fine pickle.

We had to face the task of downloading the drivers. This meant navigating Dell’s unusable web site. After a lot of yelling, an aborted call to Dell, several attempts to find the proper number to enter, and some more yelling, we finally got Jimmy’s sighted girlfriend to battle with the site and download the files onto a thumb drive. We inserted the thumb drive, and started installing the drivers. To our delight, the video, sound, and networking all came online. We gave a yell of victory, and decided to get some ice cream to celebrate. We thought we had finally beaten Dell’s proprietary policies. Again, we thought wrongly. We thought the ice cream would lift our moods and bodies. Again, we thought wrongly.

I took over for Bec, who had worked all day. I began installing some applications and restoring some files. I felt good. Suddenly, the speech stopped. I could not get it talking, and worried that NVDA had crashed. Since I had a file copy going, I didn’t want to reboot yet. Before the crash, I heard a balloon stating to reboot so that the new updates could take effect. Jimmy wanted automatic updates left on, as recommended by Microsoft, so we left it on, and it automatically updated to the latest service pack and all. Austin’s computer tip: Never do something just because Microsoft recommends it! It turns out that it updated us right out of a working system.

Upon rebooting, nothing talked. The video looked screwed up again, and networking didn’t work. We couldn’t figure out why, but suddenly all the drivers we had installed had stopped working. Remember that the Dell XPS410 contains hardware which Windows does not natively support. This ridiculous backward evil materialist selfish profit-oriented sneaky scheming philosophy gave its awful roar, for it had found its ally in Microsoft.

With sudden alarm, Bec exclaimed that she had a similar situation on another Dell. She wondered if Windows required activation. She went to try to activate it, and it gave us the options of a network or phone installation. We of course chose network, and of course it didn’t work. Could this really have happened? Did Windows disable all non-native hardware until its activation? I didn’t think so at first, but some searching confirmed this possibility, along with the likelihood that the disk which came with the computer actually contained Dell’s OEM version of Windows XP, as opposed to a true Microsoft version, if such a thing exists. The OEM version required immediate activation, but of course we had no network, making a network activation impossible. We couldn’t believe it. We cursed Microsoft and Dell. Windows had disabled all non-native drivers, including the video, sound, and most importantly networking, making a network activation impossible – a classic Microsoft catch-22!

By this point it had gotten on past midnight, and we saw the situation all too clearly. My logical brain felt satisfied with the explanation – it fit the facts, but my emotional brain reeled with a mixture of bewilderment and rage. My love of open-source software and open hardware standards felt strengthened. Dell puts hardware on its machines which Windows doesn’t support out of the box, then ships their machines with their OEM version of Windows which requires activation, and if you don’t do it in time, it disables the networking, making a network activation impossible. And in case you wondered, others have had no luck trying phone support. It went round and round in my head on the ride home. We said we’d talk the next day, but as this occurred on the Fourth of July, we didn’t feel like facing this evil. Jimmy did, however, and called us after he installed Windows again, put the drivers back on, and activated it. Everything worked, confirming our theory. Unbelievable.

In summary, if you want to install Windows XP on a Dell XPS410, you must keep several things in mind. First, change the SATA Operation Mode setting in the BIOS to Autodetect. Next, download


all drivers in advance](http://support.dell.com/support/downloads/driverslist.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=gen&ServiceTag=&SystemID=DIM_PNT_9200_XPS_410&os=WW1&osl=en&catid=&impid) onto a thumb drive. This will save you a lot of headaches. Better yet, use a program such as Driver Magician. Finally, use a cracked version of Windows! We tried to do it legally and got burned. Advanced users might even like to slipstream the drivers into the installation, using a program such as n-Lite. If you must use Dell’s version, install the network driver and activate it as quickly as possible. Keep updates turned off until activation. Once activated, update and you should have no problems fnord.

If this article helps just one floundering tech in a tight situation, I will feel like I have done my duty. Dell sucks for doing this. Now I understand why the “Dude, you’re getting a Dell” guy got stoned all the time. If you ever have to service a Dell, you should follow suit. Now more than ever I will loudly oppose Dell to potential buyers. If you want a computer, go local! Find some dude building awesome custom jobs in his garage. Don’t go for the Dell just because it seems easiest. These corporations and their dishonest ways must end. By the way, that ice cream from Wawa made us feel sick. An onlooker the next day would have thought that we suffered from hangovers, taking alka-seltzer at two in the afternoon. It mirrored the experience. I scream, you scream, we all scream for Dell and Microsoft. Give me Linux or give me death!

My First Week with the iPhone

June 12, 2010

Last Wednesday, my life changed forever. I got an iPhone. I consider it the greatest thing to happen to the blind for a very long time, possibly ever. It offers unparalleled access to properly made applications, and changed my life in twenty-four hours. The iPhone only has one thing holding it back: iTunes. Nevertheless, I have fallen in love.

When I first heard that Apple would release a touchpad cell phone with VoiceOver, the screen reading software used by Macs, I scoffed. The blind have gotten so used to lofty promises of a dream platform, only to receive some slapped together set of software with a minimally functional screen reader running on overpriced hardware which can’t take a beating. I figured that Apple just wanted to get some good PR – after all, how could a blind person even use a touchpad? I laughed at the trendies, both sighted and blind, buying iPhones and enthusing about them. That changed when another blind friend with similar opinions also founded in long years of experience bought one, and just went nuts about how much she loved it, especially the touchpad interface. I could hardly believe it, and figured that I should reevaluate things.

I went to the AT&T store with my Mom. It

felt like coming full circle, since we went to an Apple store many years ago to get my Apple II/E. To my delight, the salesman knew about VoiceOver and how to activate it, though didn’t know about how to use it. Fortunately, I read up on it before I went. Tap an item to hear it, double tap to activate it, swipe three fingers to scroll. You can also split-tap, where you hold down one location and tap another. This makes for more rapid entry once you understand it. It also has a rotor which you activate by turning your fingers like a dial. You can also double triple-finger tap to toggle speech, and a triple triple-finger tap turns on the awesome screen curtain, which disables the screen and camera.

Many reviews and people said to spend at least a half hour to an hour before passing judgment on using a touchpad interface with speech. I anticipated a weird and slightly arduous journey, especially when it came to using the keyboard. To my great surprise, I picked it up immediately. Within 30 seconds, I checked the weather. Next, I read some stock prices. Amazingly, it even renders stock charts, something the blind have never had access to. Sold.

We went up front to make the necessary arrangements. I had to purchase a data plan. Luckily, I got the $30/unlimited plan, which ended on the seventh. After a little work, we had things settled. I continued to excitedly ask questions, as did my Mom. “Can he get text messages on this?” she asked. “Well, yes, but it doesn’t read the message.” the salesman said. Mom’s hopes sunk, but mine didn’t, since I understood the software enough. “Well, let’s see, try it.” I suggested. She pulled out her phone, and sent me a text message. Within seconds, my phone alerted me, and said her name. I simply swiped my finger and it read her message: Hi Austin. She almost cried. “Leave it to Apple.” I said. “This feels almost as amazing as when we went to the Apple store the first time, except maybe more so, because we know what this can do.” True – in the eighties, computers seemed like more of a curiosity. I remember my parents checking stock quotes and getting messages for their business over the Apple

II/E, now we can do it with an Apple device that fits in our pocket.

I have seen a lot of technology for the blind, and I can safely say that the iPhone represents the most revolutionary thing to happen to the blind for at least the last ten years. Fifteen or twenty years brings us back to the Braille ‘n Speak, which I loved in the same way, so have a hard time choosing the greater. In my more excitable moments, I consider the iPhone as the greatest thing to have ever happened to the blind, and it may prove so. Time will tell. The touchpad offers the familiar next/previous motion which the blind need, since speech offers one-dimensional output. Adding the ability to touch anywhere on the screen and hear it adds a whole other dimension, literally. For the first time, the blind can actually get spacial information about something. In the store, Mom could say “Try that button” and I could. Blind people know what I mean. How many times has a sighted person said “I see an icon at the top of the screen?” Now, that actually Means something. I want to find a way to

browse the web with a touchpad on my computer. It truly represents the wave of the future.

Applications have the same issues with accessibility as with any graphical environment. Apple has done a good thing by making guidelines available for app developers, which I passionately urge them to follow. Any blind computer user has run up against these problems in Windows, Mac, or in Gnome. These include unlabeled buttons and fields, unreachable controls except through annoying means, or in extreme cases complete inaccessibility. The Accessible Apps page can help, as can AppleVis.. Properly coded apps offer stunning access unlike anything the blind have ever experienced. As I said, I want to use touch gestures on my Linux machines now!

That brings me to the only proverbial worm in the golden Apple: iTunes. I understand the power of market forces, but to see such a beautiful piece of hardware chained to such an awful and inaccessible piece of software bothers me to no end. Apple has done an amazing thing making the iPhone accessible, but iTunes remains virtually unusable to the blind. Of course, blind Mac users have little problem with it, but they make up a very small portion of the blind community. A blind Windows user with a strong will can do it, but they won’t enjoy it. Those of us blind Linux users get left in the dark on two counts, since no Linux users can access iTunes, except through WINE, or through a virtual machine.

Apple has a right to tout its efforts in accessibility. Still, they must realize that they cannot make a completely true claim as long as people have to use iTunes for everything. As a Linux user I expected as much, and I can overcome those challenges, but the challenges of blindness remain. I know blind people who have not purchased an iPhone because they do not want to battle iTunes. When dealing with a permanent health issue, you cannot just wish it away or just hope things will improve while doing nothing. I have a feeling Steve Jobs would understand.

Apple has always had a special place in my heart, since I started on an Apple II/E. That machine had two programming languages, BASIC and Assembler, built into its ROM, and its schematics on the inside. Its nonrestrictive environment inspired innovations that lasted a decade. I reluctantly went to the PC platform when it became dominant. I used DOS to its extreme, hated Windows, and comfortably settled in Linux land. We have all come a long way since two hackers began selling blue boxes out of their garage. It therefore seemed especially ironic to me to see the “Red Box Pro” app removed from the app store.

Despite having to overcome the limitations of iTunes, I still love the iPhone. I continue to feel amazed at the iPhone’s capabilities. I can get email, Twitter mentions, and direct messages any time. I can listen to Good Vibes Radio anywhere on Earth! I can read Liberty Pulse on the toilet. The WebMD app would have come in handy for my burn. I could go on and on, about how the iPhone with VoiceOver provides a streamlined accessible interface to things which seem annoying at best over the web in a standard browser. Listening to Coast to Coast AM comes to mind.

The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color Identifier. It uses the iPhone’s camera, and speaks names of colors. It must use a table, because each color has an identifier made up of 6 hexadecimal digits. This puts the total at 16777216 colors, and I believe it. Some of them have very surreal names, such as Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White. These names in combination with what feels like a rise in serotonin levels makes for a very psychedelic experience.

I have never experienced this before in my life. I can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don’t really have a color, just light sources. When I first tried it at three o’clock in the morning, I couldn’t figure out why it just reported black. After realizing that the screen curtain also disables the camera, I turned it off, but it still have very dark colors. Then I remembered that you actually need light to see, and it probably couldn’t see much at night. I thought about light sources, and my interview I did for Get Lamp. First, I saw one of my beautiful salt lamps in its various shades of orange, another with its pink and rose colors, and the third kind in glowing pink and red.. I felt stunned.

The next day, I went outside. I looked at the sky. I heard colors such as “Horizon,” “Outer Space,” and many shades of blue and gray. I used color cues to find my pumpkin plants, by looking for the green among the brown and stone. I spent ten minutes looking at my pumpkin plants, with their leaves of green and lemon-ginger. I then roamed my yard, and saw a blue flower. I then found the brown shed, and returned to the gray house. My mind felt blown. I watched the sun set, listening to the colors change as the sky darkened. The next night, I had a conversation with Mom about how the sky looked bluer tonight. Since I can see some light and color, I think hearing the color names can help nudge my perception, and enhance my visual experience. Amazing!

I love my iPhone. It changed my universe as soon as it entered it. However, as any Discordian knows, every golden Apple has a golden worm at its center.

Swarthmore Pizza not Nasty Anymore

May 31, 2010

Ever since I can remember, Swarthmore has had a local pizza place, appropriately called Swarthmore Pizza. We have generally regarded it as a nasty place. Happily, that no longer holds true.

Their main page says that the business started in 1982, but their About page says 1981, so I don’t know what to believe. They also misspelled “Restaurant” in their page titles. Despite these shortcomings, they have a nice web site with somewhat inaccessible .pdf menus. It mirrors their storefront – simple and homely, with a few easily over-looked glitches.

1981 or 1982 sounds about right. That would mean that it opened around the time my family moved here. I have a vague childhood memory of going to a friend’s house, and him ordering from Swarthmore Pizza. I hated it. The sauce tasted nasty, the dough felt rubbery, recalling the memory of it turns my stomach. Because of this, I felt reluctant when my Mom suggested going there. I said I didn’t know, but she insisted that she and a friend had some good seafood. She knows I’ve never liked seafood, but her point remained.

We arrived at the standard dinner time. Mom said they had really tried to fix the place up. She said they have some cute umbrellas outside. They go with the tables and chairs for outside dining. It felt too hot when we arrived for this, but by the time we departed it felt cool enough to make that seem attractive. The inside feels like a standard pizza shop, nothing unexpected there. A waitress showed us to our booth, and we began looking over the menu.

I wanted something with garlic and olives. I love garlic. I settled on a brick oven pizza with garlic, olives, mushrooms, and peppers. I forget the name, I just called it the Olivina and people knew what I meant. It sounds like that. I asked the waitress about the garlic. “Oh, it’s not bad, you’ll be able to handle it, it’s not that much.” “No no! I WANT garlic.” “Oh, well we can put on some garlic spread, and give you some garlic powder.” We also shared a salad with Italian dressing. I ordered root beer to drink, which came first. I heard a little ruckus about my garlic spread. “Those never have sauce.” “I know.” I felt glad to help spread a little constructive chaos. The salad came next, made with surprisingly fresh vegetables,

real homemade croutons, and good dressing.

Finally, my pizza arrived. I loved it – a thin crust, and not greasy. I used to get these great pizzas while in college, and this sort of reminded me of those. Unfortunately, it didn’t knock my throat out with garlic. It had a little, I put on peppers and more garlic powder, but I wanted enough garlic to kill off any illness, strengthen my immune system, purify my blood and heart, parry evil, and alter my breath. Oh well, I didn’t mind so much, this pizza had enough other wonderful things going for it. I ate half, and saved the rest for tomorrow. Very good!

In total, we spent around $25 for two entrees and drinks. It felt good to go to a local establishment and have a positive experience. It also felt good to wipe away a foul memory from childhood. If you’ve avoided Swarthmore Pizza because of bad experiences in the past, you should give them another try. Tell them you got the idea from Austin’s blog. They probably won’t know or care, but it can’t hurt.

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