Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Some Things That I Am Thankful For

In the run-up to the Thanksgiving holiday, which is celebrated this Thursday in the United States, everyone is compelled to share what it is they are thankful for. Of course my list includes family, friends, America, and ice cream. But I’d rather give recognition to some items which are less obvious.

This list is incomplete and in no particular order. I’m thankful for…

The Windows in My Living Room

Really? You bet.

I have two large windows- one which looks out on the street and the other which looks out on the ocean. After I stare into the abyss of my dual computer screens for a while, I pull back, rotate to my left, and gaze out these windows. This invigorates me, and I become reacquainted with reality. Until recently, however, there was a problem. Because I have an eastern and southern exposure on this side of the house, bright sunshine would often blast into the room, making me feel like an accused spy being interrogated under a hot lamp. Because I wasn’t able to operate the shades myself, I was left with either no view out of the windows or excessive sunlight, depending on how Kim had adjusted the shades before leaving for work. Therefore, a few months ago we made what turned out to be a wonderful purchase. I now have remote control blinds that I can adjust to any position, any time. And I do tweak those babies often throughout the day. I’m very thankful for my windows, and my window blinds.

The picture on the top-right is the sunrise as seen from my living room. It's not pristine, but it doesn't suck either.

The IBot Team

This includes: Gary Lawson, Charles Bogle, and everyone else at America’s Huey 091 Foundation; Max Burt, creator of savetheiBot.org; Dean Kamen, Joe Goodwin, and the rest of the team at DEKA Research and Development.

These folks and many others are focused on reviving the manufacture and sale of this incredible mobility device. For their effort and dedication, I am thankful. Wish us luck.

My Medical Team

This includes: Dr. Muscat, my awesome neurologist; Dr. Freedman, my very caring primary care physician, and her team at Martin’s Point Health Care; Dr. Aronson, my oncologist, and his folks who inject me intrathecally with methotrexate every eight weeks or so; my physical therapists Gabe Redmond and Jodi Mitchell and my occupational therapist Maren Nagem.

I know that these people are well compensated for what they do, but I feel that their compassion is authentic nonetheless. Because of my various medical challenges, this team has their collective fingers plugging countless holes in the dike, and for that I am most thankful.

All the Stuff in My Immediate Neighborhood

Two major grocery stores, City Hall, the post office, my bank, my eye doctor and my primary care physician, outstanding caf├ęs and lunch counters, a variety of medium and higher-end restaurants, a useful and not yet dilapidated strip mall, several city parks, Bug Light Park in particular, the bridge to Portland, the butcher shop and market I can see from my kitchen window, and the cozy bar down the street. But most of all I’m thankful for my cool neighbors and the many friends that I have made here in the last two years.

The Internet

If I had MS prior to the existence of the internet, and stayed home most days, I think my situation might not be so tenable. I don’t know what I would do all day if not for the enrichment I receive from the internet. On the other hand, disabled people in the future will have some other, yet to be invented item on their list, which they won’t be able to conceive of having lived without. Still, I’m extremely thankful for my internet access.

The Health Problems That I Don’t Have

Yes, by any measure I’m in pretty rough shape medically. But things could be worse. First, I could be in pain all day, every day, but I’m not. Second, I could have any number of conditions that are worse than MS. I probably will someday, like almost everyone eventually does, but I’m thankful that said day has not yet arrived.

My Mind

Is it conceited to say that I love my mind? I can’t help it. I’m glad I have a brain that is open to and curious about new ideas. I’m glad that I am contemplative and think for myself, rather than adhere blindly to political or religious dogma. Perhaps most importantly I’m glad that I have a mind which tends toward contentment rather than gloominess. Sure, I wish I was more intelligent and witty, and that I had a better memory. I wish my brain function hadn’t been damaged by MS. But all in all I’m very thankful for the squishy blob of neurons and synapses which occupies the space between my ears.

Canvas Wrapped Artwork

This is our latest thing, and I wanted to share it with you. If you’re not familiar with the concept, click here. We have two beautiful pictures hanging on our wall, which were made from photographs I took, and then wrapped on canvas. Here they are, below, first the source photo and then the finished product.

We also have two professional photographs that are canvas wrapped. We purchased these at separate “Art in the Park” shows nearby. Some may consider this to be less than fine art, but I don’t care. I really love this medium. It’s relatively affordable, generally appealing to look at, and something that I can actually create myself (through a vendor).

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Piece I Wrote is Published

2010 06 15 I’m an engineer, not an author. I know great writing, and this is not that. I do feel that I have a compelling story to share, however, and I've been told that my writing helps some people work through their own challenges. My goal is to get this message out in a form that is as entertaining and readable as I can make it. The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation is helping that cause this month in their periodical called MSFocus. To read my article click here, and work your way to page 60. This magazine also enjoys a wide circulation in the printed form.

A couple of months ago I received an unsolicited email from the editorial coordinator at MSFocus. She had been reading my blog posts and liked one in particular. She asked if I would agree to have it published in their Men and MS column. I asked how much the gig would pay. She responded, "Nothing." I said, "Deal."

Over the years I have considered submitting pieces to various magazines for publication. But that might require some initiative on my part, so it just hasn’t happened. Or perhaps the problem is that making such an effort might either necessitate or compel an emotional investment in the quality of my writing. If I was to be emotionally invested in the quality of my writing, and it was to be rejected, then I would be sad. I don’t want to be sad. I’ll probably just sit back and let them find me again, like they did this time.

If this is your first visit to Enjoying the Ride, having read my piece in MSFocus, I welcome you. You’ll find this blog to be a roughly equal mixture of thoughtful contemplation and utter drivel. Some days I dabble in the profound, and other days I wallow in the profane. It’s a crapshoot.

If you’d like to get a flavor for this blog by reading just a few choice articles, instead of the roughly 300 that I have posted here, check some of these out:
To meet my incredible mother, who was a quadriplegic, click here.
If you need reality checks on your hopes and dreams, click here and here (hint: you probably do).

For instructions on how to select the ideal life partner, based on my personal experience, click here.

Being disabled can be wrought with indignities. For a few examples that all occurred in one weekend, click here.

Sometimes I write about earlier memories, before MS, like here.

Other times I wax philosophical, like I did here and here.

I’m not above offering unsolicited advice, like here, here, here, and here.

Once in a while I post about how I have maintained the pursuit of certain passions, like here.

I came up with lists of the 10 worst aspects of having MS, and the 10 best.

I made one attempt at poetry. I promise I won’t do it again (yet I’m obviously proud of myself since I included it here).
I have also thrown together a few YouTube videos. Most of them feature my amazing iBot wheelchair, but some videos address other subjects. My YouTube channel can be found here.

If you enjoy this content, feel free to share the link www.enjoyingtheride.com with others. I hope to see you here again soon.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Three Recommendations

Everybody is so busy today that they barely have time to deal with their ever-expanding responsibilities, let alone pause to watch something interesting or informative. And even if you do find a moment to sharpen the saw (we miss you Stephen Covey), who has time to sift through all the crap out there to find the stuff that’s worthwhile? Well, I do! Because I no longer work, and spend most days sitting in my wheelchair in front of my computer, I’ll be glad to take care of this for you.

#1: A Movie Called The Intouchables

Based in Paris, this is the true story about the interactions between a wealthy quadriplegic and his unconventional caregiver. If you’re in a wheelchair, stop what you’re doing and watch this movie right now. If you’re not in a wheelchair, you can go ahead and finish eating your dinner or cutting your toenails, or whatever else you may be doing, and then sit down and watch this movie!

#2: An Inspirational TED Talk about Using Technology to Help the Disabled

The presenter, Henry Evans, is a mute quadriplegic who is able to tap into cutting-edge technology to become re-engaged in the world around him. Very inspirational! Don’t be afraid to watch this – it won't make you uncomfortable.

#3: An Online Course Called The Big History Project

This one has nothing to do with disabilities.

Each of us endured our share of history courses in school, be it American, European, or ancient history. Also, we all managed to survive science courses where we were taught  facts about the universe, galaxies, and the solar system (except those of you who grew up in Louisiana). We all had at least one class focused on the Earth’s geology, environment, and/or biosphere. I recall that my freshman year Earth Science teacher had a speech impediment such that he pronounced the name of his course as Erf Science. Although many of my classmates were cruel, I felt bad for the guy. Couldn’t they have had him teach chemistry instead? Anyway…

I’m betting that none of you, however, was offered a single, all-encompassing course that tied everything together. There was no class that surveyed the history of our universe from the Big Bang to present day, broadly examining the series of events that led us to where we are today. Now there is such a course, and it’s awesome, and I just finished it.

The Big History Project is offered online, and free, because of a private group headed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and historian David Christian. And the beauty of this course format is that you can take your sweet time. There are nine sections, and each one will take you approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Maybe you could tackle just one section per week? If you do take the course, please let me know what you think. Here’s the link.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Don’t Make This Mistake

There will be no images used in the production of this blog post.

I received a letter in the mail recently from a law firm in another state. It was peppered with phrases such as:
… Unauthorized Use of Copyrighted Image… your website www.enjoyingtheride.com has, knowingly without a valid license or permission… unauthorized usage on your website… pursuant to… you are liable for… statutory damages between $750 and $30,000… not more than $150,000 per infringement… our client’s legal fees… immediately cease and desist…arrange a monetary settlement… we have been authorized to commence litigation… maximum statutory damages… etc.
I was accused of displaying someone else’s copyrighted image in a blog post in 2010. That person hired a lawyer to not only compel me take the picture down, but to negotiate a monetary settlement for the period of time that I used the picture. I thought that it must have been a mistake. I hurried to the subject blog post, and sure enough, there was a beautiful photographic image that belonged to this law firm’s client. Yes, I had put it on my blog (somewhere in the middle of the post) without permission or attribution. I could not have deleted that picture more quickly than I did.

The next decision I had to make was whether I needed to hire a lawyer for this, or whether I could try to resolve the issue myself. I chose the latter. I wrote a letter to the law firm, and asked them to pass it along to their client. My letter was peppered with phrases such as:
… I am in receipt of your letter… alleged copyright violations… I offer the following points for consideration… personal blog website, which sells no advertising and generates no income… no use of my legs… unable to work… Dragon NaturallySpeaking… inspired many people… pains me greatly that I might have caused anyone harm… never occurred to me that I might be committing any sort of copyright infringement… I apologize for my misuse of the image… need to continue producing compassionate blog posts for the disabled community… lesson learned on my part… etc.
Over the next few days I scoured my almost 300 blog posts to see if there were any other violations similar to this one. I now have a high degree of confidence that none of my posts will cause me this type of legal trouble in the future, and I will be oh so careful going forward.

A couple of weeks later I received a call from the law firm indicating that “It would be counterproductive to pursue this further. Since you’ve taken down the image we’ll consider this matter closed.”

I was quite relieved.

My point here is not to complain about what some may consider a disproportionate response by the photographer or his law firm. He was completely within his legal rights to pursue this matter the way he did. Who knows what he’s been through regarding copyright issues. My relatively benign infraction may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, or I may have been part of a broader roundup of offenders. I know that I certainly wouldn’t like it if someone plagiarized my writing, for example. The important thing is that I learned from my mistake, and I was able to mitigate any financial ramifications.

Perhaps some of you can learn from my mistake as well. Just because something pops up in a Google image search doesn't mean it's free for the taking. There are many options for public domain images. A few of these are listed in this article. Also, if you are a blogger, there’s a program called Zemanta, which works hand-in-hand with WordPress or Blogger, and offers up suitable images that match the text in your post.

Whew, that was close…
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