Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Those of you who know me personally are aware that I am -- how can I put this delicately -- obsessed with film. More than obsessed, really. For some, it might appear to be a bit disturbing. Clearly, it's a passion of mine. Next to spending time with my family, there's nothing else I'd rather be doing than watching a flick or a really good television show.

Back in college while I was learning the movie trade by viewing dozens of films a week, I started keeping a journal of sorts. You know, some jottings about the films or programs that moved me. It was an outlet, a way for me to express my undying love for the art form.

I kept up with this journal over the years. Not too much, but enough to add a fresh entry every now and then. I enjoy writing about the things that I love, though I'm not very good at it. Actually, some of it may not even make much sense, but I really don't care. It just feels cathartic to get it out of my system.

Since I've recently discovered blogging, I thought it would be a good time to reinvent my decades-old journal and display it in a format that is more pleasing to the eye than a few dozen dry Word documents. I also want to be able to update it while on the go, thanks to modern technology (i.e. my awesome iPhone).

Last month I started the process building this new blog devoted to my love for the moving images. I took the content of my old journal entries and began transforming them into readable, coherent blog entries. I've also added fresh content to spruce up the place. I still have a long way to go before everything is properly transferred, but I'm in no rush. I have no deadline. I'm actually enjoying the gradual process of revisiting my old writings and giving it a fresh look.

I'm not doing this for anyone else but me. If the site gets one visitor a year, that's fine with me. I'm not advertising it for the world to see. In fact, I may have to warn some of you to stay away. Peering inside of someone's unhealthy obsession can be a traumatic experience.

Some people collect stamps. Some build cars, play fantasy football, hike the tallest peaks of the world. Some take pictures of food, collect international pornography, watch birds, run marathons.

This is what I do. This is a part of me.

The Flickers site is live. Feel free to stop by, but remember: you were warned.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thumbprints and Dead People

The Hearing Journey website, a place where CI recipients can talk, share their experiences and practice hearing in the "listening room," has a Thumbprints Placement Test that I have been giving myself every other month to mark my progress. A word is spoken and I have to choose which of the 4 words displayed is the word that is said.

Example. For one question, the choices are: pat, pass, right and rice. One of those words is spoken aloud and I have to determine what it is. The goal is to distinguish vowel sounds (a vs i), as well as front consonants (soft R vs hard P) and final consonants (hard T vs soft S). There are 50 words in all.

These are my scores:

Oct 19 = 58%
Dec 1 = 66%
Feb 17 = 74%

That's what I call progress! It's slow-going but there is a steady improvement in how I'm distinguishing those sounds. For a while, I could not distinguish between sss and shhh (sew vs show) but I seem to picking it up more these days. My latest mapping (this past Friday) brought up some of the higher frequencies, which is key to understanding pivotal speech sounds. There are still more adjustments to be made, but I think my brain is beginning to become aware of how to listen to speech. Front consonant, final consonant and vowels.

Vowels are the hardest and most complex. You may think there's only a, e, i, o, and u, but there's so much more than just the letters in the alphabet. Look at these 15 words, for example.

meet, mitt, met, mat, cup, cop, boo, book, bought, name, mine, go, use, house, boy

Each of these words sound different. Cup and book, for me, sound very very similar. Mitt and met sound similar as well. When spoken singularly, without the aid of lipreading or context, it's like flipping a coin. I could not tell one from the other. But context is everything. When spoken in a sentence, it makes all of the difference in the world ("I need to return the x to the library".... it sounded like it could be cup, but listening to the entire sentence, I'm going assume the word is book. This is where college education comes in, folks.)

A lot of my conversations are based on assumptions of what the talker is saying. If I can't read lips or get a sense of body language or understand the topic of conversation, I have a lot of blanks to fill in. If I can pick up most of the sentence, chances are I can make sense of the entire sentence.

Before captions came along, I used to watch a lot of movies and TV shows simply by filling in the blanks. You don't know how many times I would talk to someone about the movie and discuss details that never really existed. I would make up my own damn movie. This is why I always dreaded seeing mysteries; I would make up my own clues and then when it ended with the big reveal, I'd be completely lost. It happened with The Sixth Sense, which I saw in the theaters by myself on day it came out. No one knew anything about it. I did not realize that Bruce Willis was dead during the entire length of the film until a week after I saw it. I still loved the movie anyway because, dammit, I had my own ending and it was just as good as theirs.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cheerio, mate

I was taking Ryan to daycare one morning. We were in the car and I heard something fall.

"What was that, bud?"

"I dropped my Cheerios."

I pulled into the daycare, looked at the floor behind my seat and, well, there was a lot of Cheerios.

"That's ok, pal. I'll clean it up later."

That was three weeks ago. The Cheerios are still there.

The point of this story? It's cold outside, I ain't cleaning up no fucking Cheerios.

Monday, January 24, 2011


In the past few weeks, my kids have reached pivotal birthdays -- Ryan turned 3 and Emma is 6 months -- and the changes that came with those key celebrations are just plain adorable.

Six months. Sure, Emma is still an infant, one who eats, poops and sleeps most of her life. I'll be honest -- babies are cute and all, but damn, they are boring. There is no personality, no joy in their lives, no purpose. But now, at 6 months, the kid is pure sunshine. Her recently discovered laughter is nothing short of infectious. All you want to do is make her laugh, all day and everyday. She even knows when you try to make her laugh -- she'll laugh in anticipation of your efforts. And even if you are not funny (it happens -- babies are notoriously tough critics), Emma will shoot you one of those half-smiles that is basically saying, "Alright, I'll smile, but please, for the love of all things holy, just stop." See, that's love.

I was cleaning the house the other day and had her strapped onto my chest in the Baby Bjorn. She was a willing student, soaking up every cleaning task I was doing. Hell, she was reaching for the mop more times than I can count. She looked in amazement how much pet hair was picked up with the swiffer. She was practically salivating at the mouth. Most would say she is teething, but no, she was just aghast at how much of a mess Parker leaves behind. Five years from now, that little girl will be on Parker's ass, making sure he cleans up after himself. Yep, that would be my daughter.

And Ryan, coming out of his terrible twos and heading straight into the even-more-terrible threes, has all of a sudden turned into this adorable, heartbreaking, affectionate little man. Of course, he still has his whiny breakdowns and temper tantrums, which comes with the territory, but suddenly, he's morphed into this mushball who will give his mother a good night kiss, walk away, and then stop, turn around, and decide that he wants a hug too. How do you not melt when something like that happens?

A couple months ago, we used to say, "I love you", and he would repeat it back verbatim. It was almost like he was imitating you. But now, he personalizes his affections. I'll say, "I love you, buddy," and he'll reply with, "Daddy, I love you, too." That sound you hear is my heart breaking into pieces.

He's finally wrapping his head around the potty-training, becoming a willing participant as opposed to a stubborn toddler who collapses on the floor at the mere sound of "going potty." There's still a ways to go, but he's finally learning how to relieve himself in the toilet. Just last night, he peed as he should have for the second time that day, and he was truly and utterly thrilled. You know that look little kids have when they come across something so awesome, that so-amazing-I've-got-to-have-it-now look? His whole face transformed into a euphoric freeze-frame. "Yaaaaaaay!!! I went pee-pee in the potty!"

These are the things that make the little ones happy. It just goes to show that we adults take things for granted. Really, wouldn't it be great if we stepped away from the urinal/stall, with a grin from ear-to-ear, and exclaim with absolute glee, "Yay, I just went pee-pee!" Your co-worker at the sink would give you a funny look, but who cares? Dammit, you went pee-pee in the potty, and that. is. awesome. You deserve a treat.

I'm telling you, peeing has never been so beautiful.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm not dead

Wow, it's been almost 2 months since I have last posted. Well, no worries, you haven't missed anything. I'm making progress with the CI, albeit very, very slowly. I think I may have underestimated the pacing of this adventure. The first month or so were filled with surprising revelations about my new hearing. As noted in earlier entries of the blog, I was picking up new sounds left and right -- some clear, some not -- and the power and sophistication of the device was instantaneously recognized.

After my last post, things have cooled down considerably. I'm not going backwards, but more like going uphill. The incline is higher, so to speak. The path to better hearing is getting harder and harder to climb, and for a while, I was beginning to resist the effort. Maybe I was resisting because I didn't expect it to be so challenging; I didn't realize that I needed to make this many sacrifices to get where I need to go.

See, in order for me to hear voices more clearly, I need to hear less. Sounds contradictory, I know. My hearing aid allows me to communicate with others more than the CI. Voices are clear with the HA. Not so much with the CI. In order to hear voices better with the CI, I need to take away the HA, to lean on that CI so that it's being used. My brain needs to figure it out. Like a puzzle, you need to work at it until it all finally makes sense. Puzzle pieces don't fall into place automatically. Once voices make sense to me with the CI alone, I can go back to using the HA and the two can work together to create better hearing.

The CI device itself is primed for optimal hearing. My mappings are occuring less frequently because my brain needs to begin to picking up the slack. It's ideal to get mapped every 3 to 4 months at this stage, and eventually, it becomes an annual visit. My brain will continue to adjust to new sounds so mappings are always very much relevant to a CI user.

I had a 3 month evaluation last week. I will post the results once I get the paperwork, but I am definitely progressing. It doesn't seem like it, but I'm actually hearing more now than I was pre-CI. The actual numbers will be interesting to see.

For now, it's time to roll up my sleeves and take the hits. We've still got a ways to go.