Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I am really looking forward to my ASL class, which starts again January 12th. A few of us met at the local bookstore between semesters to practice our signing skills, and I think it was relatively successful. Conversations that don't correspond with any particular area of vocabulary present a unique challenge when compared with the carefully-planned class. I think it was encouraging that we could express most of what we wanted, but also eye-opening since I know I was thoroughly stumped at times and entirely unable to convey my thoughts in ASL.

Cheers
Aaron

Friday, October 31, 2008

No good deed goes unpunished

The US Treasury department is readying a $40 billion bill that will help bail homeowners out of mortgages that are way beyond the current value of the houses. This leaves those of us who borrowed responsibly scratching our heads wondering where our free lunch is...

Example A: John Smith buys a house for $800,000 and the resulting mortgage payment is 60% of his income including bonuses. The house is now worth $400,000, but John isn't getting any bonuses, so he has missed a couple payments and is considering walking away from the house. This bailout could lower his mortgage as low as $380,000 so he does not get foreclosed on.

Example B: Mike Jones bought a house for $400,000 and when its worth went to $800,000 at the height of the boom, he refinanced and pulled out $300,000 of equity and bought a couple BMW's and went on a few trips to the Caribbean. Now he owes $700,000 on a house that is worth $250,000, and is having trouble paying because his wife lost her job. This bailout could lower his mortgage as low as $237,500.

Example C: Joe responsible bought a house for $250,000 and the resulting payment was 23% of his income. His wife recently lost her job, but they can still easily afford their payment since it is such a small fraction of their monthly income. His house is now worth $150,000. This bailout would give Joe Responsible absolutely nothing.

Joe Responsible is intelligent, and understands that this bailout will help him indirectly by preventing a shit-ton of foreclosures in his neighborhood, and a further downward spiral of the national economy. But that doesn't really help soothe the sting Joe feels when he sees irresponsible greed being rewarded while frugality is quietly ignored. Maybe Joe should become part owner of all the equity being freely given to the mortgage crisis "victims".

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Couple good books (Deaf-related)

Oliver Sacks is a noted neurologist, and has published some interesting books in the past. One became the basis for the movie "Awakenings" with Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, and another I have read was "The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat" which is a collection of interesting case studies of various pathologies. I recently became aware that he also has a couple books dealing with the sense of hearing.

"Seeing Voices" dives into quite a bit of Deaf history and lends plenty of credence to ASL as a whole language. It's been a few months since I read this book, but basically he became very interested in the Deaf at some point in his life and decided to learn more and try to tackle some important issues at hand. Also describes a phenomenon likely familiar to many late-deaf people known as "phantasmic voices". An example of this is "hearing" a voice while watching someone speak, even though the voice is not really audible. Overall, it is light reading, but extremely informative for anyone interested an Deaf history and culture.

"Musicophilia" deals with the relationship between music and the human mind. Takes a case study approach and can be quite hilarious at times (how many jingles have you ever had on repeat at 3am?). A really interesting read.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pediatric Audiologist - Pure Tone Results

The first ABR tests for my son were done entirely with broadband frequency "clicks" that range from 1000-4000 Hz, roughly the entire speech range. Those showed that our son could hear down to about 35dB. But when a slope is present, that response is going to be "best case scenario".

We went yesterday for pure-tone tests called "toneburst" and we got 500Hz, 2000Hz, and 4000Hz frequencies done. As expected, he has very good response at 500Hz--about 25dB--slightly worse than normal range. At 2000 and 4000 Hz it drops off dramatically to about 45dB and 60dB, respectively, so he will definitely benefit from early intervention services and amplification from hearing aids.

With such a dramatic curve at such an early age, we also definitely want him to be bilingual with ASL. This shouldn't be hard because I am already almost 2 years ahead of him learning ASL, and we will have help in the future, I am sure. I'm not sure who will help there, maybe Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. They are only like an hour away from us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

ASL class starts today - Level TWO!!

I am really excited about taking the level 2 class this year. We were all really worried that it wasn't going to happen since we needed a minimum number of people and a couple people from level 1 moved away over the summer. So it is very welcome news that the class is happening, and I am really looking forward to taking my ASL to the next level!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pediatric Audiologist - Update

So we went to NYU for an EOAE test and my son promptly failed. So we went directly to an ABR test, bone conduction, and tympanogram. Basically, he can hear with a threshold of about 35dB as far as we can tell, and any loss is almost certainly sensorineural like mine. We have a few other tests and ENT appointment, but that's really the information we needed to make choices with.

Basically, we will do what we can to make sure he is bilingual, and we will have much help with that task. My 2 year old daughter now knows about 20 signs--not nearly as many as a deaf 2 year old would, but I am very pleased.

More to come...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Deaf child + Hearing parents -- options?

So, having had to deal with the real possibility that our newborn son is deaf, all sorts of new questions have run through my head, and I don't have answers to all of them. Firstly, I think my wife and I are in a much better position to make an informed decision than most hearing parents of deaf children because I am already learning ASL and teaching my wife and daughter some as I go. That doesn't really help me understand how Deaf children are raised and educated, though.

Let's just assume we decide not to get CI for him. Obviously we would start teaching him ASL as early as possible, but since our primary communication in the house is spoken English, we would need help. He would not be able to "acquire" ASL like a Deaf-of-Deaf child would. Who would help us before school age? Are there programs dedicated to this? Obviously we would need help, too, or he would surpass our signing skills sooner than later.

Then what about school? Can a deaf child be properly educated bilingually in mainstream schools, or is it far better to look into Deaf schools? (we have a deaf school, but the commute would be 1 hour each way). Are all Deaf schools residential? How does that really impact a child's relationship with his parents being "sent away" to school at such a young age?

It is one thing to oppose CI in theory, but when faced with all the very real details/problems of raising a literate and educated deaf child I can see why hearing parents could be easily swayed into CI. Please help me understand more, or point me to informative internet sites on our choices and options here. Thanks in advance for any help!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's a Boy!


So last week we had our baby and it's a boy! So very exciting. I didn't care if it was a boy or girl, but it will be nice having one of each around the house. He is doing very well, and is very happy for the most part. We are going in Monday for his 2-week-old hearing test because he failed both tests in the hospital after he was born. We haven't had any deaf in either family except for me, and my hearing could pass for normal mostly until I was like 20 years old. I think my threshold in high frequencies was like 30-40 dB when I was about 8 years old and it has pretty much degraded linearly since then to about 75-85 dB now. Odds are very high he is hearing and just has fluid in his ears.

Monday, June 30, 2008

First vlog

I decided to do an introduction vlog now that my first year of classes are done. I took three 8-week classes at a local Deaf association. The classes met for 2 hours per week and we finished the blue "Signing Naturally" book. We are meeting once a week during the summer to "just chat" so we don't lose too much before the next class starts in September



transcript:

Hi, I'm Aaron! This is my first vlog. I am not Deaf, I am HoH. I am married and have two daughters, age 8 and 2. My wife is pregnant and we will have a new baby in about 3 weeks. No idea if it will be a boy or girl. I am excited! I grew up in CA, went to CSUF. I majored in chemistry, and also studied physics, math, and French. Now I know English, French, and learning sign for one year. I love movies (have huge TV), pool, darts, photography.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My take on the recent RIAA ruling

So not long ago, a jury ruled against Jammie Thomas, and ordered her to pay the RIAA $222,000 for a total of 24 songs that she "made available" via Kazaa. The judge had instructed the jury that "making the content available for download" did indeed construe copyright violation. The judge has since made a statement that maybe he erred in that instruction and a retrial may be in order.

An interesting note, though, was that the RIAA took it from "making available" to "disseminating" by running MediaSentry, a program which downloaded the 24 songs from Jammie's computer to their own.

Now, at $9250 per song, what I'm dying to know is... if the RIAA downloaded 24 songs from her computer, and did not own the copyright to even ONE of those songs, they are technically violating someone else's copyright. Why aren't they being sued for downloading content that doesn't belong to them???

I am *so* tired of this racketeering by the RIAA and MPAA. Treating customers like thieves is utterly despicable. I wish only karma upon them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Iron Man - Movie Review

I saw Iron Man last night on a very large DLP screen, and all I can say is if you have not seen it, you should go while it is still on the big screen!

First, Robert Downey Jr gives a spectacular performance. He manages to play the slick public-figure-type guy, the get-your-hands-dirty-genius-inventor guy, and the "Jon Stewart-ish" witty comic all rolled into one. He really was the perfect fit for the role.

Jeff Bridges also gives an unbelievable performance. The quality of his acting really shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, given his past roles. It's nice to see that he's never really been typecast into a certain kind of role.

The video and sound quality was really staggering. The special effects were good enough that the line between real and CGI is basically invisible, and the overall physics in the movie is really lightyears beyond similar movies like Spiderman. I generally don't mind suspending my disbelief for comic book type movies when it comes to dismal physics, but it was truly refreshing to see mostly-real physics in effect in Iron Man.

I see quite a lot of movies in every genre except horror, and I gotta say this is most likely the best movie I have seen in 1-2 years. A+

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Charity starts in the.... desert?

Something RLM said to me in another blog made me think. Some organizations/states/whatever cover the costs of CI and hearing aids while they don't cover the cost of equally useful tools for Deaf like Sidekicks, etc.

This brings up a much larger point, though. I read that the worldwide demand for CI is about $200 million. And if 1 of every 10 people in HoH in the US, then the bilateral cost of providing them all hearing aids is:

300,000,000 people
30,000,000 HoH
$2000 x 2 = $4000 for aids
assume aids last 4 years, so $1000 per person, per year.
--------------------------
so about $30 billion per year at absolute most, since many don't need bilateral, and most aids last longer than 4 years.

Now, that sounds like a large sum of money, until you consider the amount we have spent per year for our precious wars in Iraq and Afganistan (hint, lots more than $30 billion per year).

So instead of sitting here fighting about inequalities of coverage, why don't we all focus our sights on the wonderful people flushing away money for pork barrel wars that might be better spent taking care of our citizens and their health and life needs.

...and don't even get me started on earmarks and lobbyists...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Prius - smug or selfish?

So I bought a Prius earlier this year after dealing with the very frustrating people at Volkswagen who could not (or would not) fix my oil consumption problems with my 2006 Jetta 2.0T. In looking for a new car, my only criteria was something with at least as much back seat room as my Jetta for the carseats, and I definitely prefer leather or some other non-fabric that doesnt stain every time the kids spill something.

The two main contenders ended up being the 2008 Prius and the 2008 Accord. Configured with leather, they are both very similar in price. There were a couple deciding factors here. First, because my Jetta was so new, I lost a bundle by trading it. Second, I cannot stand oil companies and their record profits while we all suffer, and would do nearly anything to take that from them. Some calculations showed that buying the Prius would save enough per month in gas to make my monthly car+gas cost the same as the Jetta, even though the payment would be much higher than the Jetta. This really was the main tipping point, so I bought the Prius.

So, while there is a tendency to view Prius owners as tree-hugging hippies who sip capuccino while feeling better than everyone else, I think there are a lot of people out there just like me. I didn't buy the car to save the planet--I bought it to save money and screw the oil companies (with the happy side-effect of reducing gas usage and emissions).

I just don't understand the hate Prius-drivers get. Are the Hummer-driving soccer moms jealous? I can understand that not everyone can get rid of their current car to buy another one right now. But really, it's kind of annoying that as a nation we whine about spiraling gas prices while people continue to buy gas-guzzlers...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ASL class ending next week--boo

I have really enjoyed learning ASL every week for the last 8 months. It has been truly helpful, and now I can see how far I've come, and see just how far I must go. My teacher was wonderfully patient for our class, and really helpful. I think we started with about 20 people, and now we end with 9. Sad, but I believe the remaining 9 will all take the 2nd level class in September. I know I can't wait.

I definitely enjoy watching vlogs more now, because I can understand a lot more than 8 months ago when I was just studying on my own from books. Thanks to all those who have been encouraging to me!

My world got a little quieter

So time flies, and my current hearing aids are 4 years old when it seems like I got them yesterday. The aid from my better ear quit working well, so I sent it in yesterday. I will enroll for a 2009 flexible spending account to get a new set of ears next year.

It's pretty amazing how far things have come since I got my first set in 1999. I had the Widex Senso+ CIC from 1999-2004. They had no controls, and were meant to be automatic in every way. This was only annoying when I needed more power in very quiet places where people talk very low, and in very loud places where they basically turned themselves into earplugs and I couldn't hear people talking at all.

Then I got the Phonak Claro 21 dAZ ITE that I wear now. My watch controls the program and the volume. These are a huge improvement over the old ones, since I can now compensate for my environment. I miss wearing designer watches, though, because I have always loved cool watches. They also have a telecoil program (which I sometimes use as a mute program) and a program for loud places that only amplify sounds coming from in front of me. I dont find this program useful at all.

Maybe my next set will be the Oticon EPOQ or the Rexton Revo+. Binaural bluetooth for phones and music and maybe movies would be really nice. I will definitely go BTE this time to get better features. In 1999 I actually wanted them to be invisible, now I just dont care about stereotypes. "Yes, I am deaf, now please get over it and quit staring at my ears" :)

Monday, April 7, 2008

ASL Journey - Equal Footing

My ASL class has been going almost 7 months now and I feel really encouraged. The class is much smaller now than when it began, but I think we are all doing pretty well. Something occurred to me while I was watching tonight, though. It is now nearly as easy for me to understand ASL as it is for me to understand spoken English.

In everyday conversations with strangers, I understand anywhere from 30-60% of the words they are saying. I pick up another 10-20% reading lips, pick up some more from the context of the conversation, and the rest I rely on asking people to repeat themselves (hopefully they can figure out some other way to say it so I understand).

If I am signing with patient people like my teacher or classmates, I find it is nearly the same situation. Obviously it is easier with my teacher because she can easily find different ways of explaining, and her nonverbal communication is way beyond any of the students. So although it may seem discouraging that my ASL communication is so painful, I find it very encouraging that we have made this much progress. We can only get better from here, right?

Cheers

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Day in the Life

practicing my iMovie skills with content from my favorite muse.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My daughter's first sign

My daughter knows a couple signs now, but it is still hard because she often doesn't realize I am identifying something. It should get easier soon, as her spoken language is taking off like a rocket now.

Friday, February 1, 2008

My Prius = a big middle finger to Exxon's record profit

So I kicked my old car to the curb this week and bought a Toyota Prius. After just over 200 miles on the odometer, I am averaging 48 mpg in fairly cold weather, which should mean 55 mpg during warmer weather.

Today's new about Exxon beating their previous profit (which in itself was a corporate record) confirmed my decision to buy my Prius. I am tired of padding the pockets of these money-grubbing bastards. I am tired of not having a choice. Sure, my car still uses gas, but I am using 320 gallons less per year, and my old car got a lofty 25 mpg compared to big SUVs.

Man this pisses me off. Where are the fuel cells? Where is solar energy? I'm not a tree hugger, I'm just tired of making other people rich...