Friday, 24 May 2013

08:09 – Barbara’s dad is back at Brian Center. Barbara called me yesterday about 12:25 to let me know he had left the hospital and was on his way. I stopped at Harris-Teeter on the way over to pick up a six-pack of Pepsi and a couple cans of sliced Mandarin oranges for Dutch, which he’d requested. Then I spent an hour or so talking with his new roommate and his sister while I waited for Dutch to arrive.

The privacy curtain was drawn between the two beds, and as I was talking to the sister a woman on the other side of the curtain asked, “Who is that speaking?” I told her my name and that I was Dutch’s son-in-law. She replied that I had a beautiful voice and asked if I was on the radio. For some reason, people frequently ask me that.

After Dutch finally arrived, I visited him for a while and then headed back home. As I was walking to my truck, I saw one of the nurses, Jodi, coming in the opposite direction. Over the time Dutch has been at Brian Center, I kept thinking that she looked familiar. She’s far too young to have been there when my mom was there 10 years ago, but I kept thinking I must know her from somewhere. So I finally asked, “Do I know you?” She stopped and said she’d been thinking she knew me too. We talked for a while about where we might have met, but we couldn’t come up with any explanation.

Barbara is taking today off to give herself a four-day weekend, so we’ll be doing kit stuff over the next few days. I got another query yesterday from someone who wants to buy multiple forensics kits for a class, so we need to get another batch of those in progress as well.

11:08 – Barbara and I started watching Switched at Birth on Netflix streaming. We’ve watched only two or three episodes so far, but the cast and writing are both very good.

The story centers on two high-school girls who were, uh, switched at birth. In the first episode we discover how they find out it had happened, and I thought that was interesting because in one of the biology book lab sessions, we warned strongly about just such an event. That lab session was on using PTC to track the tasting and non-tasting alleles within a family group. In the program, one of the girls was doing a biology lab that determined her blood type. She soon discovered that genetically she couldn’t be the child of her supposed parents. Same concept, different alleles.

One of the girls is deaf. Given her speech patterns, I was very surprised to learn that the actress is actually capable of speaking like a hearing person, but intentionally assumed a “deaf accent” for the role. She grew up hearing, and didn’t start to experience hearing problems until she was 20 years old, about five years before she started work on this series.

It’s interesting for me to watch a series that features deaf people and deaf issues, because I had some experience with deaf people when I was at RIT in the mid-70’s. RIT is home to NTID (the National Technical Institute for the Deaf), and roughly half of the students I regularly associated with were deaf.

The series does portray the ability to lipread as both more common and more successful than was my experience at RIT. One evening, I walked into the lounge and found the TV tuned to Carson’s monologue with the sound off. There were a dozen or more students sitting with their backs to the TV, and one student standing facing the TV and interpreting the monologue in ASL. Thinking that any deaf person could learn to lipread, I asked her later. She explained that many/most deaf people couldn’t lipread at all, and that the ability to do so varied greatly even among those who had some ability. She was among the best lipreaders she knew, and said that even she often missed things or interpreted them incorrectly. That was why she sometimes paused while interpreting when she was uncertain about what was being said and wanted to wait for context before interpreting something.

I started to learn ASL, beginning of course with the most important things: swear words, how to proposition a girl, ask for a beer and so on. As I told Barbara, in my experience deaf people have better-than-averages senses of humor, and some of them are absolutely wicked. I remember sitting around with a group of girls while I was trying to learn to sign. With completely straight faces, they attempted and eventually succeeded in convincing me that, when signing, deaf people had regional accents just like hearing people. They said they could always tell when someone was from the deep South by the accent of their signing. I sat there trying to figure out how that could be true, and eventually decided that it must just be that local ways of signing used slightly different gestures. Once they finally had me convinced, they looked at each other and started to laugh. I finally realized I’d been had by experts. And that was just the first of many examples of the wicked senses of humor that many of my deaf friends had.

13:35 – I can’t believe it took me this long to think of it. Barbara was filling several hundred RIA (radioimmunoassay) vials this morning. She was working at the kitchen table because she was filling obnoxious ones, like black fingerprint powder and activated charcoal, which put up clouds of filthy black dust. She was filling them using a pointy scoop, when it struck me. This would be an ideal application for a powder measure. Fill up the reservoir with the stuff being filled, hold the mouth of the tube under the dispensing spout, throw a lever, and you’re finished loading that tube. Just like handloading ammunition. The powder even resembles gun powder, and the mouth of the vial is the same size as a .44 or .45 case. I can’t believe it took me that long to think of it. It’s not like I haven’t sat at a reloading bench and filled tens of thousands of cartridge cases with powder using just such a powder measure.