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.
Two ham radio events happened to me over New Year’s Day. I set a new record for distance, and I won a certificate in a contest without trying.
While listening for the foxes in the QRP Fox Hunt, I heard K5N, a CWOPS 10th anniversary special event station in Texas. I figured why not try to knock out a quick contact, and when the station returned from a break I succeeded. I had to repeat my call a few times, but we exchanged signal reports and logged the contact. QRZ shows the station as 1047 miles away. Not bad for 5 watts into an Alpha Loop sitting on my window sill!
I checked into the HARC weekly net, and Saul, W3WHK, congratulated me for winning a certificate in the Pennsylvania QSO Party for QRP operation in Philadelphia county. I only made one contact, but the power multiplier gave me a grand total of eight points. I wanted to go through the motions of entering a contest - making and logging a QSO, and uploading the log for submission, and I ended up getting a certificate. I’ve heard hams say to submit your log even if you make one or two contacts, because you may still win an award, and this happened to me. It made my night!
I have some good news for blind hams. I wanted to find an accessible logging program. I settled on YFKlog because it has a text interface. I noticed an easy change to make it more screen reader-friendly and emailed the programmer. He quickly completed a fix and released v0.6.0. Now the blind have logging software with minimal system requirements and good accessibility. To my delight, Handiham published my announcement in this week’s issue of Handiham World.
73, Austin, KA3TTT
In 2010 I appeared in a documentary about interactive fiction called Get Lamp. You may also know interactive fiction as text adventure games. I loved playing them as a kid on my Apple II/e, later the II/GS, and on my Keynote PC+ running a crappy version of MSDOS 2.1.1 burned into the ROM. Infocom made many of the well known games. Authoring tools allowed anyone to create these games, and thanks to these tools the art form continues to this day.
At some point - I don’t even remember when - I received an invitation to join the accessibility testing committee of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation. The blind have always enjoyed text adventures, but they have become less accessible as the technology has changed. This committee wanted to help by writing a report to the interactive fiction community. I agreed, and the quest began.
Meetings happened off and on for some time. In 2016 they got Jason McIntosh to manage things. He wrote a blog post of his own. We began having biweekly meetings. Authors wrote two games for testing. Earlier this year we recruited testers. We did not get as many screen reader users as we had hoped, so a few of us put out the call and luckily some of you answered. Finally we bring you the finished report!
This report will permanently live at this address, so make sure to bookmark accessibility.iftechfoundation.org and share it to all relevant communities.
A lot of time has passed since I have last written. My healing journey has continued with a lot of success. I wanted to share a fascinating revelation I had while floating in a sensory deprivation tank.
A few years ago i received echolocation training. This enables a blind person to see by making a tongue click. I use it all the time. It really does work.
To make a proper click, you need to keep the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth while snapping the middle part of the tongue. Explaining it makes it seem even weirder. I finally understood it by imagining the sound one might make to call a dog, but sharper. This pronounced sharpness gives the click as high a frequency as possible, which gives the highest resolution.
Learning to make a consistently high quality tongue click requires several weeks of practice. The muscles in the tongue take time to build. While developing this skill, my trainer recommended making an “Shshshshshshsh” sound. This produces a fuzzier image than a sharp tongue click, but it works, and requires no training. You could start using it right now.
I have gotten deeply into traditional Chinese medicine to heal myself from chronic pain. I use all four branches, especially Qigong. I practice for at least two hours every day. I find it extremely helpful.
In traditional Chinese medicine, each of the body’s five organs have energy meridians which branch out to the sensory organs of the body. The liver connects to the eyes. The five organs each store a different type of emotion. The liver stores the emotion of kindness if healthy, or anger if unhealthy. I wonder if this explains the seemingly large amount of angry blind people. If someone has anger towards their eyes then this would create a negative feedback loop.
Many Taoist traditions have an exercise called the Six Healing Sounds. Each of the five organs has a sound to cleanse it of its type of negative emotion, and the sixth sound clears the body of excess heat through the triple heater. The liver has the healing sound of “Shshshshshshsh.”
How interesting that the Healing Sound for the liver, which connects to the eyes, can help the blind to see. It also soothes a headache, my other major symptom. I love Qigong! By the way, Spiritual Tao sells an excellent version of the Six Healing Sounds. My Qigong instructor Iris also taught me a standing form. Find a version and give it a try.
I wanted to list some of my new year’s resolutions to bring everyone up to date on my progress and goals.
Catch Up on my Blogging
I’ll put this one first because I haven’t published anything on here since the summer, and some interesting things have happened.
I practice QiGong for two hours every day. I love it. I will have a lot to write about it as my practice continues.
Neuroplastic Pain Reduction Training
Along with Qigong I also underwent a process called Neuroplastic Pain Reduction Training with a woman named Helen Rice. It has taught me to think about pain in a whole new way.
I switched to Android.
I may as well break the news. It happened in the spring, I just wanted to wait for time to pass so I could gather an opinion, and I have needed to focus on my health. I have an Essential Phone. Several people have confused it with an iPhone X, which always makes me laugh. It goes much better with Linux, which I use as my primary desktop.
Switch to a non-systemd version of Linux
Speaking of Linux, I have had it with systemd. It breaks the Unix philosophy, and I end up cursing at it every time I have an emergency. Enough! I’ll likely switch my desktop and laptop machines to Slackware, specifically Slint64. I will also migrate this server to a new one running Slackware, which I have already purchased.
In case you don’t know, systemd refers to an init system for Linux. It provides system initialization functions after the kernel loads. I hate it.
Have Fun with Radios
I know I’ve resolved to do this a few times, but this year I really mean it. I have a general class amateur radio license. This summer I purchased a Kenwood THD-74A as a birthday present. I still need to really use it. I want to have as much fun as possible from my city apartment, a hostile RF environment. I also want to venture into the world of software defined radio.
I have wanted to write a bulletin board system since running one as a teenager. I made a first serious attempt a few years ago, and learned a lot. I began the new version before my health issues started. A client ripped me off, which burned me out on programming for the rest of the year. The BBS needs to return. Before the internet we would run our own small social networks, though we didn’t use that term then. I have a coherent vision and intend to implement it in Ruby.
I want to learn a functional language, probably Clojure. I don’t know if it will happen this year, but I enjoy learning new ways to think. Lisp has such a rich heritage.
Mystery Fun Projects
A few other fun projects might happen. I wrote a popular BBS door game which some people apparently want to see revived. I have a few interesting ideas about spreading accessibility awareness. I will likely write some code related to internet radio. Who knows what else?