Sunday, May 25, 2008

DeafMom Has Moved!

I'm no longer posting on Blogger--A Deaf Mom Shares Her World is now over at Wordpress:

A Deaf Mom Shares Her World

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

United Airlines--Are You Listening?

The service industry ain't what it used to be...

This morning, my friend John sent me the link to a story about poor customer service on United Airlines:

Not-So-Happy Flying

Last week, I wasn't so happy with United Airlines myself. After two phone calls trying to get them to load a subtitled movie into the plane, I learned that I was going to have to create a new law to get the airlines to comply:

Dreaming of Accessible Airline Movies

Closed Captioning on the Airlines--We'll Need a New Law

But let's talk about service.

On the flight to Oahu, we were surprised to discover that there wasn't going to be any meal on the flight. We just assumed that on long flights, something would be served. We settled for five dollar boxes of assorted snacks.

Did I mention how crowded the plane was? Not only were we packed together like sardines, but there literally was no room for me to work on my sister's laptop--I couldn't open it all the way and had to squint to see the angled screen. They built that plane to squeeze in the most people they could.

The service on the way to Oahu was a heck of a lot better than on the way back. On the way back, we were served... one drink. The entire eight hours. This was in contrast to our arrival flight, where the staff came around several times to offer water and directed us to the back to get other drinks. (How about running that service cart twice on long trips?)

When I walked in the back to inquire about water, three of the staff were talking and I stood there for a minute before they acknowledged me and I asked for water. The staff person scooped up half-melted ice and poured in warm water.

Lovely. Just lovely.

I couldn't wait to touch down.

Have you had similar flight experiences? Share your story in the comments.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hawaii School for the Deaf and Back Home Again

On Friday morning, our last full day on Oahu, we headed over to the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind. We were met by Harry Hayler, the school counselor, who gave us a tour of the school. The school currently has 72 deaf and deaf blind students and no students who are blind. All of the blind students on the island are in other schools.

The school was down to 20 students at one point and nearly closed. The deaf community rallied together and they were able to save the school from closing. The school averages about 80 students per year and teaches with the bi-cultural, bi-lingual philosophy of American Sign Language and English. "We often have middle and high school kids who transfer here for the social opportunities," said Harry.

After we left the school, we headed over to Hamanuma Bay, a state park which is a frequent spot for snorkeling. We were fortunate to spot some mongoose (mongeese-plural??) running around:

And all this time, I thought "mongoose" was just a brand name for a bike!

Our final activity of the day was to head over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village for a hula show and fireworks. While we were waiting in line for the show, I spotted hearing aids on a woman in front of us. My sister began talking to her and we learned that she was from Washington, near the Canadian border. She and her kids joined us during the show.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village is a beautiful place that has beach access right outside the towers. I would definitely consider staying there if we head back out to the island again. Here, you can see the flamingos that were on the grounds:

On Saturday morning, we drove along the shore of Diamond Head on the way to the airport--this was a nice, scenic drive. We had one final view of the beautiful ocean before heading home on United. Speaking of which, the service was sorely lacking on the way back. United needs to take a lesson from Southwest on how to provide great customer service.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Whale of a Time in Oahu

Yesterday was a day of adventure. Early in the morning, we headed out to Wai'anae Boat Harbor on the north shore of Oahu to board the Hoku Nai'a for a dolphin cruise. We almost missed the boat, as we couldn't find the entrance to the harbor.

The boat captain was a gal named Joyce with nine years of experience. She explained that it was difficult finding the dolphins in the last couple of weeks. I wasn't expecting much but all of a sudden, we saw a whale. We followed the whale for a bit. Marine rules dictate that boats must stay 100 yards away, but we were much closer than that when the whale arched gently out of the water. It was quite a sight to see. I have pictures of the whale blowing water straight up, but I can't get the pictures to show up properly on here. I'll see if I can add it when I arrive home.

My mom became quite seasick and couldn't enjoy the ride. I felt really bad for her as the crew served some delicious hamburgers right off the grill. After we left, Mom started feeling better on the way back to the hotel so we decided to stop at Pali Lookout. That was well worth the drive as the view was simply stunning.

Back at the hotel, I headed out to the beach and finally got myself into the water. I rented a surfboard and asked the staff for the "free, five second lesson." Line yourself up against the wave, paddle to get it going, stand up and ride it out, the guy said. Ah, simple enough.

So I spent an hour trying to find a decent wave to ride for longer than five seconds. The waves were only a foot or so high and far too gentle to get enough momentum to ride it out. It was still fun to try and I definitely want to come back and try it again someday. I think the hubby and kids would love surfing as well.

That night, we decided to try the buffet at our hotel, the Waikiki Marriott. It was a meal that was well worth it. For twenty dollars, you get an incredible buffet of prime rib, roasted turkey, pork loin, Thai seafood, tofu with watercress and veal ragout. There were many more dishes and side dishes to choose from. The desserts were out of this world, especially the creme brulee which is one of my favorites. My compliments go out to the chefs at the Marriott.

Tomorrow, we head home in the afternoon. I'm not ready to leave but I sure miss the hubby and kids. And the dog, too!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Dole Plantation and a Hula Show

Good grief, it's already Thursday. Our time here in Oahu has flown by. Yesterday, we headed out to the Dole Plantation on the northwest side of the island. A small train took us around the plantation where we viewed the various crops that are farmed there. Can you guess my favorite plant? It wasn't the pineapple, it was the plant that makes...


After the train tour, we sat down to have pineapple icecream with fresh pineapple on it. That alone, was worth the trip. The next best part was the incredible gardens on the site. There were an abundance of beautiful hibiscus flowers in every shade imaginable. We were planning to go to the botanical gardens, but I think the Dole gardens took care of the botanical craving.

We grabbed dinner and then dropped off Dad at the hotel. His feet weren't holding up anymore and he decided he was going to call it a day. Mom, Linda and I walked over to see a hula show, thanks to Stephen Hopson's advice: Free places to go on Oahu. This show featured local talent and some older dancers:

After the show, I discovered that I sat on some bird droppings and decorated my very favorite capri pants. I spent the rest of the night washing out my clothes. So a word of advice for those who are going to see the hula show on the grass: bring a towel to sit on!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pearl Harbor Revisited and a Sunset Cruise

We headed back over to Pearl Harbor yesterday to tour the U.S.S Bowfin submarine and the U.S.S. Missouri battleship. Once we were on board the Bowfin, we met an intepreter, Vanetta, who was the staff person explaining the operations compartment in the submarine. Vanetta moved to Hawaii from Ohio to go to school out here. It was nice to be able to chat with her and ask questions. We obtained scripts for all of the audio tours so we had access to the tour information, but nothing beats chatting directly with the staff.

Two of the videos at Pearl Harbor were not closed captioned. The video in the Pearl Harbor museum supposedly had captions but the captioning wasn't working. The video on the Missouri was not captioned at all. We did view the Pearl Harbor movie with rear window captioning-- a system that I'm not thrilled with at all. I really wish there was an option to turn on open captions when needed.

Later that night, we headed over to the harbor to board the Star of Honolulu for a sunset cruise. We pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren't going to see a sunset. It was cloudy and gray when we left. The food was delicious and the entertainment was fantastic. There's something about Hawaiian guys moving their hands and hips--makes a girl want to move out here. The staff signed "America the Beautiful" at the end with a combination of ASL and gestures. It really moved me.

For five awesome minutes, the sun broke through the clouds and we were able to view the sunset:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Visiting Pearl Harbor--Dad Fulfills a Dream

Ok, pinch me. Here I am in Oahu with my parents and my sister. Yesterday, we headed out to Pearl Harbor and spent the entire day there. We aren't finished-- we're heading back out there to see the U.S.S. Missouri and Bowfin.

This trip came about quite suddenly and unexpectedly. A few weeks ago, I was up in Michigan, sitting across from Dad and asking him, "If you could go anywhere, where would you want to go?"

He had always wanted to take a trip out to Pearl Harbor to see the place that lead him to spend three years overseas in World War II. Dad fought in Guam, Guadacanal, Okinawa, and stayed after the war for the Occupation of China. When I was growing up, Dad didn't talk much about the war. It was a time that was better left to the dark depths of memory. The older I became, the more I wanted to know about his part in history. So little bit by little bit, he shared some stories.

There were a lot of dark stories, but there were some lighthearted ones as well, such as an amusing moment when he snuck off to grab an ice cream bar only to be called back to attention by the sergeant-- with the ice cream melting away in his pocket.

In the fall of 2007, Dad was reunited with his Marine buddy, Albert. You can read more about that here: Marine Buddies Reunite.

So there we sat that spring morning, talking about our "someday" plans. I looked at Dad and said, "This 'someday' that you're talking about, what's stopping you?"

Well, the next thing that I knew, we booked airline tickets and a hotel. And that's how we ended up in Pearl Harbor yesterday, fulfilling a dream.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What I Learned From a Bunch of Things

Just a week ago, I was hanging around a bunch of great people from the SOBCon'08, cruising on Lake Michigan with a rum and coke in my hand. I had the opportunity to meet Robert Hruzek from Middle Zone Musings. You can see him in the photo above if you squint really hard. That's him in the twenty-gallon hat (inflation, ya know?) from Houston.

Robert has an interesting challenge this week, a Mashup of Words. Eighteen topics, he says, can you mash 'em all up?

A mash up? Welcome to my life. First of all, let me tell you that pets, children and writing don't mix. This week, I attempted to finish a writing project on a day when one kid needed to be picked up from school, the second one had to go to baseball practice and the third one wanted to go to a friend's house. At that very moment, the dog decided to decorate the chair she was lying on. Apparently she ingested something from the backyard and it didn't agree with her.

This was the week of friends, relatives and a movie of memories. We hosted my Mom's 80th birthday celebration today and I put together a DVD of 80 photos set to music. Of course, messing with technology found me tearing my hair out as I struggled to get the music to load properly and the software to behave. We attempted to play it on the television, but the DVD player wouldn't behave. So I hauled down the Mac and set it up in the living room. The friends and relatives enjoyed the recreation we provided.

Tomorrow, we're jumping in an automobile and heading to the airport to board a plane to Hawaii. I would gladly take a train over a plane, but they haven't build a track over the ocean yet. After three hours on an airplane, I find myself needing more space than the itty-bitty airplane seats provide. Thank goodness, I can lose myself in the mountains of books that I picked up from SOBCon. I just hope they serve some edible food on the plane!

Why are we heading to Hawaii, you ask? Well, a few weeks ago, I was talking with my Dad and I asked him, if he could go anywhere, where would he like to go? My Dad served in World War II and has always wanted to see Pearl Harbor. Someday, he said, he'd like to take the time to go and see that memorial.

Well, that "someday," is happening tomorrow and we're boarding a plane to go and see that beautiful state. I feel really blessed to have this chance to spend a week with my parents and sister, because time is spinning way faster than I'd like it to.

So if you're waiting for that "someday" with someone who is important in your life, grab your chance now.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

ooVoo--A Great Way to Communicate

Have I told you about ooVoo

I don't work for the company and there's no financial incentive for me to promote this, but I'm going to tell you about ooVoo because it's an amazing tool for communication over the internet.

I first used ooVoo when I participated in "My ooVoo Chat" back in February of this year. A short video featuring the conversations (including mine) can be seen here: My ooVoo Day Recap.

Since then, I've used it to conduct business and chat with friends. During one BookHands meeting, we used ooVoo to connect with a BookHands member in another state.

Yesterday, I discovered yet another neat use of ooVoo--internet access!

Let me explain.

I was on Twitter and explaining that I attempted to lipread my way through the Today show interview online about Moms who blog as it wasn't captioned. There was a lot of Twitter chatter about Heather Armstrong, a featured blogger and the interaction with Kathie Lee Gifford on the show.

Out of the blue, Codadiva, twittered:

We connected on ooVoo and she interpreted the entire video segment. How cool was that? A big thanks!

Here's to ooVoo and all the connections that are possible with it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Steak 'n Shake Issue Still Creating PR Waves

Remember when I had the drive-thru window shut in my face (not once, but twice!) back in January?

The issue continues to ripple on. In April, it was the subject of Laurel Papworth's presentation at the RMIT Communicator of the Year event in...


That's right, Steak 'n Shake has gone down under. Laurel has an excellent presentation on why companies need to be aware of social media and how it can impact public relations for their companies. Be sure to check out the slide show on her blog.

Two days ago, I was doing a search and spotted the Diversity, Inc. article and the video featured as an ad on the search page. And just yesterday, a friend sent me a screen shot of his email page showing the same:

Over at Disaboom, they're sharing my two-part series that takes a look at the solutions for drive-thru access:

Two Milkshakes, Please--Discrimination at the Drive-Through

Two Milkshakes, Please--Discrimination at the Drive-Through Part Two

Ironically, this morning I saw a Steak 'n Shake commercial that featured Steak 'n Shake employees pulling customer feedback suggestions out of a jar-- and it wasn't captioned.

As for me, I'm still waiting to hear back from the Steak 'n Shake corporation to see if they plan to turn this drive-thru issue around and make it accessible for their customers. Many people have assumed that I've filed a lawsuit and I have not. I want to work out an accessible solution. Can you imagine the fantastic PR that would result if Steak 'n Shake would take the steps toward welcoming their customers with access?

Steak 'n Shake, are you listening?

Monday, May 05, 2008

SOBCon'08--What's the Deal with those Klondike Bars?

On Friday night, the SOBCon bloggers hopped on board for a cruise down the river and out to Lake Michigan. During the week, we were keeping an eye out on the weather as Chicago is known for making fools out of the local weathermen.

Friday called for severe thunderstorms in the late afternoon into the evening, so when I saw the predictions that morning, I thought for sure the cruise would be canceled due to rough weather. I guess enough bloggers were talking to the weather gods at the same time, as we ended up with a beautiful afternoon and the cruise took off despite a few raindrops.

Christine Kane entertained us with some beautiful songs and we all received a copy of her album--thanks Christine! Stephen Hopson and I were very fortuante that Hannah and Tammi, two interpreter students, donated their time to interpret Christine's singing as well as the conversations that flowed on the cruise.

We had some great food and plenty of drinks and just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Chris Cree and Liz Strauss came along with...

Klondike bars.

What's the deal with those Klondike bars?

Over at Liz Strauss' blog, every Tuesday night, Klondike bars in every flavor are a regular staple. If you view past conversations, you'll see Klondike bars being tossed around the comment section.

So for SOBCon '09, maybe the Klondike company would like to hop on board as an official sponsor, who knows?!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

SOBCon '08 --An Amazing Weekend

I'm sitting at home now with Stephen Hopson from Adversity University and we just finished talking about what an amazing weekend it was for us at the SOBCon '08. Like Stephen said, "It's all about the love." And there was plenty of it this weekend.

So here are some pictures to browse through-- there will be more tomorrow!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Rachel Coleman of Signing Time Nominated for Emmy

"It's singing time and laughing time and playing time and now it is my favorite time, signing time!"

The first time I saw a tape of Signing Time, I couldn't get the lyrics out of my mind. I suspect that's one of the reasons that Signing Time has become successful in the mainstream. Little toddlers everywhere are listening to the songs, watching the videos and moving their hands to communicate.

Rachel Coleman, the mom behind Sign Language for Baby!,was recently nomimated for an Emmy. It's been an amazing trip for her, especially since the intitial production was a family affair with her sister and husband helping to create the videos.

I did an interview with Rachel several years ago when the Signing Time series of videos was beginning to take off:

Meet the Colemans: The Story Behind Signing Time

Congrats to Rachel-- all of her hard work has paid off!

Clean Up with Signing Time DVDs

Thursday, May 01, 2008

SOBCon '08-- I'm Off to Learn More!

I'm having a bad hair day today. I'm praying that the rain gods will take their dance somewhere else tomorrow. Raindrops and my hair don't mix well.

Why all this concern? Well, I'm heading downtown to the SOBCon '08 and the forecast calls for rain.

And possible thunderstorms.

Ah, but who really cares? We'll be inside a boat, cruising the Chicago shoreline and connecting with one another. Look at all the cool bloggers who will be there:

SOBcon2008 Chicago Attendees:
Cliff Atkinson
Shashi Bellamkonda
Chris Brogan
Harry Brooks
Anita Bruzzese
Dave Bullock
Mark Carter
Brian Clark
Tom Clifford
Valerie Combs
Chris Cree
Lisa Cree
Thomas Croghan
Donna Cutting
David "Chicago Mobile Marketing" Dalka
Kevin Dixie
Tim Draayer
Andrew Dubber
Monica Duncan
Easton Ellsworth
Kevin Ferrasci O'Malley
Jonathan Fields
Sarah Filipiak
Mary-Lynn Foster
Annie Galvin Teich
Brian Gardner
Chris Garrett
Jon Gatrell
Phil Gerbyshak
Jared Goralnick
Karen Hanrahan
Joseph Hauckes
Vicky Hennegan
Scot Herrick
John Hong
Stephen Hopson
Robert Hruzek
Timothy Johnson
Pete Jones
Todd Jordan
Bob "Internet Advertising" Kakoliris
Christine Kane
Adam Kayce
Kristen King
Jen Knoedl
Stephen Koernig
Bryan Kress
George Krueger
Amy L
Tammy Lenski
James G. Lindberg
Eli Litscher
Rick Mahn
Sim Margolis
Michael Martine
Becky McCray
Maria Meadows
Cory Miller
Ann Michael
Dawud Miracle
Debra Moorhead
Matthew Murphy
Paul O'Flaherty
Tim Padar
Jesse Petersen
Melissa Pierce
Wendy Piersall
Sandra Ponce de Leon
J. Erik Potter
Karen Putz
Susan R Quandt
Levy Rivers
Barbara Rozgonyi
Jeff Sable
Sheila Scarborough
Mary Schmidt
Derek Semmler
Maria Sharon
David Sherbow
Steve Sherlock
Brad Shorr
Louise Silberman
Sonia Simone-Rossney
Julien Smith
Stephen Smith
Michael Snell
Derrick Sorles
Terry Starbucker
Liz Strauss
Jon Swanson
Ruth M Sylte
Windsor Tanner
Michelle Vandepas
Lorelle VanFossen
Colleen Wainwright
Denise Wakeman
James D. Walton
Randy Windsor
Joanna Young

So let it rain. We'll have fun anyway!