Half-Man, Half-Machine, All Awesome


Haha, oh, right, blogging. Oh, and some content too!

Posted in Commentary,Disability News,Personal,Rant,Uncategorized by manateehands on November 29, 2009

Ugh, sorry all you people out there who check this site. All 2-3 of you daily visitors. Except for about a week ago when I got a huge spike for some reason. Checking my blog statistics, it seems everyone was crazy for phocomelia that day. Who knows. Anyway, I’ve been a combination of busy and frustratingly non-busy, so I haven’t blogged. So, here is a quick update.

I started writing for AbleGamers.com, which is an awesome website for gaming resources, especially for disabled gamers. I’m going to be a jerk and totally plug my stuff written over there now, just so you guys can go read it.

Here’s a review I did of Space Invaders Extreme 2.
Review of Scribblenauts.
Review of Rhythm Heaven.
Review of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story.
My look at Bayonetta.
My look at Dante’s Inferno.
My excitement over GameX.

Speaking of GameX, it was incredibly awesome. For those not in the know, and who didn’t click the link above, it’s a game expo and media conference. And I got to go as a member of the press. It was ridiculously amazing. As I mentioned above, I got to try out same games, talk to some industry folk, and meet some really cool people.

Now that all that is out of the way, I guess I should say a bit more, maybe comment on some news. In fact, let’s talk about this little tidbit right here. By now, it’s old news, but still. It deserved to be mentioned.

Now, as a disabled gamer, adaptation and accommodations are very important to me. But, I feel it’s pretty obvious what this guy’s motivations are. Now, there are plenty of games out there that could easily do accessibility changes. Games that don’t offer the ability to change their controls? They could do that. Games that neglect to include subtitles, alienating deaf gamers? Easily fixed. Games that rely on colors hard for the colorblind to see? PC gaming has fixed that problem a lot of the time with overlays on colored switched, symbols, and buttons. Consoles, not so much.

As I’ve posted about previously, I can’t play the vast majority of Wii titles due to not being able to hold the Wiimote and nunchuk at the same time. Now, could some games benefit from a one-piece controller similar to a Gamecube controller with motion sensitivity? Yes. Definitely. Is this going to happen? Probably not, but it’s a plausible request. Are all games going to do this? No. And in fact, some can’t. Some games rely on the motion sensitivity of both parts of the controller. While there are some that only use one, and still others that are ports of games existing on other consoles (meaning that making it so added-in motion controls can’t be disabled so the game can be played with a normal controller is kind of ridiculous), not all games fall into this category.

Every disabled person is going to run into games they can not play. In fact, every person is regardless of… ableness, or whatever word is appropriate to use here. Maybe for the life of you, you just can’t understand fighting games. Maybe 3D games make your head hurt. Maybe you’re allergic to jiggle physics. Whatever the case may be, you don’t sue a company because their game isn’t specifically tailored to you. Especially because the company in question, Sony, has made adaptations to games to meet needs of disabled gamers.

The most ridiculous part of all this, of course, that part of his claim is since he can’t play the game, he can’t obtain items and sell them for real-life cash. That would be like me suing automakers for not making ramps, lifts, hand controls, and other modifications standard on all models. Not only can I not drive their cars, but I heard there is something called professional racing, where I would be able to drive and make money from it.

The worst thing is that video game companies are slowly but surely making changes. Not as many as we’d all like, and not as quickly either. But they are doing it. It’s a hard task, because every disability is different. In fact, people with the same disability will still have different levels of ability a lot of the time. But these companies are trying. And disabled gamers and interest groups are working with them. And it is people like this who run the risk of setting all this progress back and making companies less likely to help out for fear of getting sued if they don’t do it like we want.

That’s all for this edition.

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Inaccessibility is Inexcusable

Posted in Personal,Rant by manateehands on May 9, 2009

Hey, guys. You’re in for a treat tonight (I hope). Since I’ve been having trouble thinking up new content to post, I figured I’d dip into my vault and pull out something interesting.

Back in Ithaca, my freshman and sophomore years I belonged to the college publication Buzzsaw, which was known by Buzzsaw Haircut back then. I decided I wanted to write for them and, well, one thing led to another, and I wrote the article I’m about to show you. I hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and sorry for all the building names. If it’s unclear, leave a comment and I’ll explain what all these buildings are.

Imagine me on the day I got my acceptance letter to Ithaca, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and utterly ecstatic. Accepted into the Park School, no less! A school that’s harder to get into than a lot of colleges are. I’m one step closer to the college experience – you know, living in a dorm, spending time with my friends. Oh, and going to class too, of course. I am a journalism major, and hope to eventually become an editorialist, writing scathing essays and articles about what’s happening in the world we live in.

You can only imagine how much more ecstatic I was upon finding out that Ithaca College had an alternative news magazine, Buzzsaw Haircut. The high school from where I come had only one school-sponsored, school-ran newspaper that put out about three issues per year and only covered sports and events that had happened four months prior. When some of the Buzzsaw Haircut staff came to my Intro to Mass Media class one day, I eagerly wrote down the information for the first meeting. This was my chance to go in and get something to write, maybe even make a name for myself.

“7:00 PM, Friends 209, Wednesday.” That was all that was on my mind for the next two days, just counting down the seconds until the meeting. And then it arrived, O glorious day. I got there ten minutes early, went into Textor, accidentally drove right through Friends Hall, turned around, drove through it again (realizing where I was), and looked around for room 209. “It must be upstairs.” I checked for an elevator, and nothing. Just stairs. In Muller? Textor? Phillips? No… just stairs. Using quick thinking, I asked a passerby where the elevator to Friends was.

“There’s an elevator in Job… but I don’t think you can get to Friends from there…” They must be wrong, maybe the next person will know. “Oh, no, you can’t go that way. There’s no entrance.” Her remark was quickly verified by another person. And that’s when I got a phone call from a friend to tell me that, indeed, Friends was inaccessible. Thanks, Buzzsaw. Thanks a lot.

Of course, it’d be wrong to pin all the blame on Buzzsaw. Despite what Ithaca College would have you believe (“Ithaca College strives to ensure that all qualified students with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodation to access and participate fully in programs and activities”) the campus is severely lacking in what could be called handicapped-friendliness.

For example… let’s take Terraces, in particular, the dining hall building. I live in Emerson, a building which made me think the entire campus might actually be accessible, but boy was I fooled. To get to Terraces, I have to go all the way to Campus Center, up the elevator, all the way up a hill to Whalen (which is just a tad too steep for a rear-heavy motorized wheelchair, might I add), in the elevator, up to the Parking level, across the Baker walkway, and around the Terraces Dining Hall to the handicapped entrance — which until about the third day of classes, was locked. Of course, to get my IDExpress card, I not only had to do all of that, but also cut through the kitchen and take the kitchen elevator: the big scary kind with hulking metal doors and a grated door you slide open too. You know, the kind you typically find in “survival horror” video games. I was just waiting for the undead to burst through the grated door.

I’ve also had to have a class of mine shuffled around repeatedly. It was originally in Dillingham. I love that building. It’s so wonderfully built and really fun to look at. In front of it, pillars of water rise from the majestic fountains. The fountains flanked by sets of stairs. Oh, right, those stairs that make the entire building inaccessible. After numerous jumps of location, from Dillingam to CHS to outside of the Chapel to inside of the Chapel and then all the way back to Smiddy, right between Dillingham and CHS, I can finally have class in a location that is accessible and suitable.

And let’s not forgot the automatic door buttons (the blue square ones) that seem to be conspiring against me. The one outside the elevator to go up to the walkway has not even worked until very recently. The one outside Terraces (you know, the one they had kept locked the first few days of classes) has stopped working very recently. Add this to the one outside Park School’s entrance and probably a number of other ones, and you’ve got a lot of automatic doors that aren’t exactly automatic. I don’t need to tell you this is an inconvenience when late for class and in the pouring rain, which seems to be typical Ithaca weather.

Also not fun is driving into one of the many potholes in the sidewalks and roads and paths around campus. The ones on the ramp up to the Emerson 2nd floor spring readily to mind, much like a spring in and out of my seat as I drive over them. Let’s not forget the wonderfully uneven sidewalks around the Health Center. Of course, I can’t think of a better place to be forcibly thrown from my chair and scrape along the ground because of a bump in the road.

But, of course, I can always forget my troubles and visit my friends in their dorm rooms, right? Yes, what a perfect way to relax. Of course, half of my friends live in quad buildings with no elevators and don’t live on the first floor. Some of my friends do live in the nicely accessible Towers, though if there were to be a fire, I’m pretty much toast.

I decided to go see what else I couldn’t get into on campus besides the majority of residence halls, and the copy center was suggested to me. Now, allegedly, there are two of those. I had no idea where either one was. Upon asking, I learned one was near the office of public safety and the other one was in the Gardens. The person mentioned having to drive all through Gardens and onto a loading dock to get to the one, and I figured, “Well, I’d like to make it home by sundown, so I’ll go to the other one.” Going to this other copy center sent me over poorly constructed curbs, crossing rather busy streets several times, and finally coming to an access road and a sidewalk next to a lake. Of course, the sidewalk ends up stopping before you even get to the buildings and you end up being sent into the street anyway. Am I the only one who finds it odd that to get to the office of public safety you have to travel down a road containing rather wide curves? Once I actually made it to the copy center (after getting out of the way of two somewhat large trucks) the building was surprisingly accessible and easy to maneuver! Good job!

So, I remember thinking that Ithaca said that they had made very accessible buildings. What I was told is that Ithaca has made great progress in accessibility. I guess that means they had none, and now they have very little. Maybe by the time I’m long-graduated and far away, people won’t have to have their classrooms switched around. They won’t have to miss out on poorly planned meetings. They won’t have to take a power-draining trip across the world to get good food. Maybe, but probably not.

To wrap up, I would like to mention that the Ithacan brought it to light in 1999, and it seems like that passage of five years has done a whole lot of good. Buildings called inaccessible back then (Friends and Dillingham, specifically) are still in the same state now. What makes it worse is the fact that they’ve had five whole years to remedy the situation.

So, until there are repairs made and buildings fixed, it looks like I’ll be shuffled around, tossed about, and inconvenienced at every turn, all while shelling out over $35,000 a year.

So, there you go. Keep in mind, this was written five years ago. Luckily, things have changed since then. I just wanted to show this because it was one of the first disability-related things I wrote.

Playing Catch-up

Posted in Personal,Site News by manateehands on April 24, 2009

So, I didn’t forget about having a blog. Believe me, I’ve been wanting to post. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know I’ve recently had surgery for my self-described “butthole problems.” Due to the nature and location of the surgery, I’ve been unable to sit for long periods of time, and also just feeling down and unmotivated when it comes to doing much of… anything.

But here I am. Doing a nice little post. Just going to put some tidbits up.

First of all, there’s a new Punch-Out!! game coming out for the Wii. I’d like to state that the Punch-Out!! series is probably one of my favorites. So, finding this out was pretty big news. But, you know my issues with the Wii. My first instinct was that it would be controlled with the Wiimote and nunchuk, a la Wii Sports Boxing.

Well, I was right. Kind of. You can also control it with the Wii Fit board. But, luckily, you can also play with a controller! Retro-style! Yay! So, that’s huge news!

In other news, let’s talk the joys of medical treatment when disabled. Today we will be looking at the simple act of drawing blood. Or putting in an IV. Fun fact, when you don’t have hands? It’s hard to find a place to do it. One fun place they’ll stick you is the bottom of your foot. When you’re wheelchair bound and never actually use your feet, this is one of the most painful experiences in the world. I should know. If they’re nice, they’ll instead do your neck. Nice is a relative term here, because it really sucks to get an IV in your neck, then they neglect to tell you this when you wake up.

Luckily, they found a small vein in my arm and managed to milk it for all it was worth and still get an IV in.

Also, did you know stirrups don’t work for people without legs? Sounds like common sense, but it’s something not many people think about. So, if your almost-legs need to be held during surgery, the doctor needs to get two guys to do it while they work?

All in all, surgery is definitely not fun, and that’s where I’ve been.

So, I’ll be answering more questions in a day or two. Unless a more interesting topic comes up. Have questions not related to my butthole? Ask away.

More Questions? Sure!

Posted in Humor,Personal,Uncategorized by manateehands on March 23, 2009

Welcome to the next installment of me answering your questions! Let’s get to it.

We’ll start out with an easy one from Lisa. Do I have fingernails?

No. But I do have toenails. Weird, huh?

Next up from circuslzrd, he wants to know various things about my stand-up. So, I guess it’s story time.

It’s actually kind of funny how I got into doing stand-up comedy. Ithaca College has (possibly had, not sure on the current situation, to be honest) a stand-up club. Second semester of my junior year, I took a humor writing class. One of my classmates was the club president at the time, Angel Yau, and another was the vice president. During class they mentioned upcoming auditions to the club. Yeah, I know, a club with auditions. We were a club of snobs, I guess.

Anyway, the meeting was in an upstairs room of a building without an elevator. Having faced this before, I jokingly complained, lamenting how I wouldn’t be able to audition (if I had wanted to).

Well… they moved the auditions downstairs. It was two days, Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, I didn’t show up. Sunday, I woke up around noon, went to the dining hall to grab some waffles. On my way, who do I see but the president and vice president? “You’re coming in to audition, right?”

So, I’m caught. I head to lunch, scarfing down waffles and an omelet and some orange juice while trying to think of jokes, funny stories, observations, anything I could use. Dragging unwilling friends to my table to hurriedly try material out on them. Next thing I know, it’s audition time. I’m practically shaking. I’ve been secretly wanting to do this since freshman year but have never gotten up the nerve. Lack of confidence and whatnot.

I nail it. Absolutely. They call my jokes intelligent, my delivery great, need to work a bit on my timing. I’m in.

So, I was nervous at the audition. But after that, I was rarely nervous at all. People liked my stuff. I had fans there. I’ve got loads of charisma, and I like to entertain people. I’m at my most comfortable putting myself in front of a bunch of people and rambling entertaining stories.

Senior year I was picked to be president of the club. Since graduating, no, I haven’t done any stand-up. Occasionally I’ll look and see that a local pub or whatever will have open mic night, but… I haven’t done anything about it. Mostly because I’m out of practice, and I haven’t really had much face-to-face social interaction since graduating, so, I’m becoming more nervous about it all. Here’s hoping I get started again though.

A question from Kelsey H, what are some things I find most inconvenient because they were designed for people without my condition?

Haha, well stairs would probably go at the top of the list. I can tell you from personal experience that stairs and wheelchairs do not mix.

I know this from accidentally driving off the top step, tumbling (while still attached to the chair) down half the staircase (to a landing), scraping my arm all up on the carpet, and getting pinned under the chair (several hundred pounds). Oh. And for an added bonus, when the chair was lifted off of me, it snagged onto my pants, pantsing me. Did I mention this was my first day at Ithaca? During a placement test? In a lecture hall full of people? Go me.

So, yeah, stairs. Next on the list, obviously, is modern video game controllers.

I’d say jars, but even people with hands have trouble with them, so… jars escape my wrath for now.

Scissors. I lack the hands to hold the scissors and what I’m cutting. I’ve had a special pair of scissors since first grade. They’re a plastic base with a loop of bendy plastic attached to the scissor blades, so you press down on the bendy loop, and the blades close. You can do it with one hand, holding the paper steady with the other.

And for a little bit of irony (I am 90% sure this is actually ironic and not Alanis ironic), the bathroom at my doctor’s office. The toilet is so surrounded by bars to grab onto that is is near impossible to pull my chair up to the toilet and pee. And the sink has an enlarged basin for easier handwashing. It juts out so far that I can’t reach the tap unless I stand up on the seat of my chair.

Oh, and sidewalks! Not all sidewalks. Only certain sidewalks. Like poorly-maintained ones. The kind with uneven cement or tree roots busting out of the ground. Or the kind that belong to people who leave their trashcans in the middle of them. Or the kind without curb cutouts. My favorite kind of sidewalk is the four-way intersection with only one cutout. It’s more likely than you think.

That’s all that comes to mind right this second.

Let’s finish up with a question from Chrissy. Did my mom know something was off before the birth?

Yeah, they saw the little tiny manatees and everything. But besides my crazy limbs, everything else seemed normal.

I have no idea how many more of these I’ll be doing. From the looks of it, two or three. More if you guys keep up the awesome questioning!

Until next time!

A Letter to the President

Posted in Commentary,Disability News,Humor,Personal by manateehands on March 19, 2009

Dear Mr. Obama,

So, how is everything? Fixing the economy? AIG giving you trouble? Good luck with all that.

Enough small talk though, Mr. President. I saw that you were on with Leno. First time a sitting president has went on “The Tonight Show.” Impressive. Now… while you were there you said some things. Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The bowling thing.

You’ve been practicing on the White House lanes and you’ve gotten better. You got a 129. Good, great, wonderful. Pretty lousy score, we all know. But saying it was “like the Special Olympics or something.” That was a bit much.

You’ve been messing up recently, Mr. President. I don’t even really mean on the big issues either. Come on. You gave Gordon Brown a box set of 25 DVDs. Region 1 DVDs. It seems you forgot Mr. Brown was coming over that day. And now this.

I’d like you to know that I’m offended. On a personal level, as a matter of fact. I wouldn’t expect you to know this, but I was in the Special Olympics. For bowling, believe it or not! Repeatedly made it to regionals, almost made it to nationals.

And I have never, NEVER bowled a 129. Actually, my average was closer to the 180-190 range. My personal best was 235. That’s without a handicap or anything either.

So, Barack, for this little remark of yours, I propose you and I go bowling and I show you how exactly someone who was in the Special Olympics bowls. Just name the time. I’ll even give you home lane advantage. Does the White House alley have bumpers? You can use them if you want.

Yours truly,
Michael “manateehands” Myers

P.S. Please start thinking before you speak. I know you’re the “cool president” and all, but… you’re just being offensive.

For those of you not in the know on this story: Here.

Let’s Answer Some More Questions!

Posted in Personal by manateehands on March 15, 2009

Hey, all. Time to answer some more reader questions! Fun times, right? So, without further ado.

Caity asks whether or not I’ve ever been extremely bitter, lost hope, or lost faith because of my disability.

Short answer? Oh yeah.

Long answer? Being born with a disability, in my experience, is a really weird journey. Growing up, like, in elementary school? No one cares. Everyone is different and that’s all totally cool. Differences make us special and unique. Everyone wants to be friends with the kid in the wheelchair. I personally feel this stems from young boys’ fascination with vehicles and young girls’ fascination with taking care of things. You get a lot of “WHOA COOL” and “I want to push the chair.” I knew I was different than the other kids, but like I said, it wasn’t a big deal.

Then junior high comes around. Uniqueness is losing its cool. Conformity is where it’s at. It’s cool to have the same interests, do the same activities, and so on. The different kids are mocked, ostracized, ignored, and so on. At least, that’s what happened to me. And the world of dating starts. That’s already tough on… any teen. Throw in being incredibly different? And it is stressful.

I’d say I began to grow slowly bitter in 7th grade or so. So around the age of 12? And it culminated around 10th grade. This is when I lost my faith.

I didn’t exactly grow up in a religious household. We never went to church. But I was taught that there was a God and he made everything, and all the stuff that goes along with that. In 10th grade my grandmother died. And not in a pleasant manner. 10th grade was also when 9/11 happened.

So, between those two things, I questioned a lot of things. How could God let 9/11 happen? How could God let my religious, nicest-person-I-knew grandmother die? And more selfishly… how could God create disability? Had I done something wrong? It even says in the Bible that the disabled are not to approach the altar.

What little belief and faith I had flew out the window. I became very bitter. I had lost hope of doing anything with my life. In preparation for graduating, a guidance counselor (also in a wheelchair) told me I probably shouldn’t bother with college because I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself. I had disabled friends graduating before me and going on to do… nothing. Well, not all of them, not all of them did that, but it’s hard to focus on the successful ones while having a meltdown.

So, yeah, for the rest of high school… I was really bitter. And angry. But, I tried to channel it into good things. I wrote an article on being disabled for my high school literary magazine. It won a state prize. I wrote a satirical religious play my senior year. It got second place in the Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ Festival. With these, I buckled down and changed my attitude and got ready for college.

Of course, then I got to college and became bitter all over again, but I worked through it.

So, that leaves me with now. I don’t lose hope so much anymore. At least not because of my disability. I’m terrified of the economy. I have faith in myself, but in some outside mystical being? No. Not a bit. Am I bitter? No… I don’t think so. A bit cynical. Angry. But bitter? I don’t think so.

I’m not gonna lie. A huge amount of the time? Being disabled really sucks. But, hey, there’s nothing I can really do to change it, so I may as well make the best out of life. I really hope your friend comes to the same conclusion.

Moving on, Lisa asks if I have a chair in dreams. It really varies. Sometimes I have a chair. Other times I’m still physically disabled but not in my chair. Especially if being chased by something (symbolism much?). Other times I’m not sure how I get around. So, it’s never definite.

Another question from Chrissy, she wants to know if I have any theories on where my disability came from. Definitive ones? No. Even my doctors say they’re not sure. Let’s run through some options…

Genetics – I guess it’s possible, but no one else in my family that I know of is disabled. Then again, phocomelia syndrome can occur if both parents carry an abnormal chromosome 8, I guess?

Drugs – Yeah. Mom doing illegal drugs? Not a chance. And legal ones? She says no. So, it’s not like I’m a thalidomide baby or anything.

Umbilical cord – I thought for a while that my umbilical cord being wrapped around my neck might’ve stunted growth, but that is usually harmless and causes heart and brain problems when not.

My best guess – I just got a bad draw on the birth lottery, I guess. Kids are born constantly with two penises, a foot growing in their brain, extra legs, extra heads. Short answer: Who knows. Maybe genetics.

That’s all I’m going to answer tonight. Keep your questions coming!

Some Answers: Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by manateehands on March 8, 2009

The results of having readers ask me questions certainly went beyond my expectations. I’ll be dividing up my answers between several blog posts. At least two. Maybe more. (That also means I have more definite stuff to post if I can’t think of anything else. Haha. Sneaky.)

Sorry this has taken so long, but several health issues have come up. Those who follow me on on my Twitter account know what I’m talking about. That said, let’s get on to business.

I suppose one of the best places to start would be to post some pictures, as per Trina‘s and Nargbop‘s requests. Let’s see what I can scrounge up.

pic41

Here I am on my 21st birthday. Can’t see my hands too well, but they’re there. Also an awesome dinosaur cake Chrissy made me.

pic21

Here’s a much better picture in terms of seeing a hand. My other’s kind of hidden, and it tends to be in most pictures for some reason. I am drinking some sort of beverage from a blue plastic cup while surrounded by friends of mine!

pic11

Included this one to show my distinct lack of feet. This is also my lesser-used chair. The dreaded manual chair. I can’t really operate it myself. So, I avoid it.

pic32

One of me doing stand-up. If you look closely, you can see my foot. Pretty awesome, yeah?

pic51

And, uh… I’m including this because Nargbop asked? Nothing to do with my disability. Just my kickin’ rad hat. Chicago gangster. Got it for junior prom in high school. I’m not sure where he got the purple feather from, but, okay.

So, there are some pictures. Now you have a better idea of what I look like and what I’ve got going on, so, let’s take another question.

Next question comes from Kelsey H (When I see a [first name, last initial] name like that I just feel I should tack of a “from [city, state]” at the end. Don’t know why…) She wants to know about my computer set-up.

Well, it’s a crappy old standard IBM ThinkPad. Regular keyboard. No mouse. Just one of those weird little nub mice embedded in the keyboard, with the buttons below the space bar. Nothing fancy. I’m totally capable of using a mouse. But I’m used to the inconvenient, terrible little nub. It’s funny, because everyone else I know gets horribly frustrated after using it for three seconds, but I MSPaint with it on a semi-regular basis.

Chrissy wants to know what bothers me more, awkward curious kids or ignorant questioning adults.

With the kids, you get the jaw-open, eyes-wide, “what haaaappened to you?” Which, to be honest, does get old. Especially when they follow you around. For over a minute. But the prize definitely goes to ignorant adults.

Now, I don’t mind the ones that will politely ask what happened to my legs, if I don’t mind answering, they’re sorry, blah blah blah. That’s fine. But, well, I guess it’s comparable to being a celebrity, in a way? Like, you can go up to a celebrity and compliment them and ask for an autograph if you act like a human being. Don’t do it while they’re eating. Or on the phone. And don’t just start jumping around shrieking that you’re talking to a celebrity. Same thing goes with asking me about my disability.

If I am clearly in the middle of a conversation with someone? Don’t ask me about it. If I’m enjoying a meal? Don’t ask me about it. If you’ve come up to me and you haven’t even introduced yourself or said hello? Don’t ask me about it.

Who are you and why should I be telling you where my legs went??

If you act like an idiot while asking, you will get an idiotic answer. If you act politely, come up to me in, say, the mall, and ask me while I’m in line for a pretzel? I will tell you that it is a birth defect, no it’s not a big deal that you asked, don’t worry about it, have a nice day. If you ask me while I am on the phone?

However, I tell different stories to rude people. I have told people who have interrupted phone conversations to ask me that I have been in: a car crash, a bus crash, a plane crash, and one special case of a bus crashing into a car I was in, then a plane crash landing onto the wreckage. I’ve told rude drunk people all sorts of crazy lies.

As an aside, mostly because I absolutely love telling this story, one time I was at a bowling alley with a girl, Laurel. I was a senior in high school, and it was kind of a ‘going-out’ thing. We had finished bowling, and had gotten some food from the little food counter area. In the middle of the meal, a group of 12-year-old boys surround our table. Staring. And gawking. And whispering. It’s embarrassing. Finally, one of them goes, “So, what happened to you???”

Without missing a beat, Laurel turns to this kid and says, “You want to know what happened to him? He fought an alligator! He was trapped by the gator, and fighting it, and it bit his legs right off! Mike fought back, and he grabbed the alligator and he ripped it right in half, tearing it in two, but not before it took his hands!” By this point, she’s standing up, looking down at them, telling the story the way a salty fisherman tells one about the giant squid who killed half his crew. “He fought that alligator, and he won!”

The kids are standing there dumbfounded before letting out a collective wow, before a collection of panicked-looking mothers runs up and drags the children away.

So, to answer the question, ignorant adults annoy me more.

We’re going to finish up with two more related questions, both of which are relatively short.

Lex asks what my chair’s top speed is. I’d say a little bit above 5 miles per hour.

Anneli wants to know who would win in a wheelchair race, me or Stephen Hawking (well, she said Hawkins, but I’m going to assume here).

Simple answer: No idea. I have no real clue about the mechanics of his wheelchair. Comedy answer: He’d probably win through use of black holes.

So, there we go. Round one of answering things. I have plenty more questions to use, so this will go on for a few more installments. Feel free to ask me more stuff too! Those of you who know me know I really don’t mind talking about myself.

Ask Me About…

Posted in Uncategorized by manateehands on March 3, 2009

So, I had an idea. I want you guys to ask me questions. I’ll answer them. You want to know specifics about my disability? I’ll answer them. You want to know how I do a specific thing? I’ll answer it. You want to ask me… well, anything? Go ahead. I’ll answer them.

Just comment on this entry with your question(s) and in my next post I’ll answer everyone’s!

That said, let’s get some common things out of the way.

How do you write?
I hold a writing utensil with both hands kind of similar as to how you hold one in one hand. One hand to support it in the back, the other tilting it appropriately and applying pressure from the front.

How do you type?
If typing casually, say for IMs or e-mails, or a blog… I kind of type one-handed (one-nubbed?), while the other one handles the Left-Shift, Caps Lock, Tab, Ctrl, etc. In the case of, say, computer games, I’ll use the arrows/mouse with one hand and the letter keys with the other. If typing with a need for speed or in a more formal setting, like for a report, I type two-handed, with each hand taking care of each half of the keyboard. On average, I get about 71 wpm.

Do you have genitals?
Yes. I have witnesses who can back me up on this. You’d think this question would bother me, but… whatever. It makes sense. You see me and you see no legs, and I wear shorts that tend to cover my weird little feet, so… who knows how far up the whole me-missing-parts thing goes. But, yes. I have them. Ran into this question during high school. Default answer was “Want to check?” I’ve matured since then. Also, it never worked.

Do you have a butt?
Yes. I also have witnesses who can back me up on this. Also, sitting would be a bit of a challenge. Wouldn’t it? First ran into this question in college. I’ll refer you to my previous explanation. Plausible question, but we’re getting into nonsense territory now.

Do you have a tail?
No. Why would you even think this? This was asked about me of my roommate my freshman year of college. This one bothers me the most, I think. It’s bad enough people are taking parts away from me in their questioning. Now they’re adding things too.

So, there’s a sampler platter for you. Go on, ask away!

News Round-Up

Posted in Commentary,Disability News,Rant by manateehands on March 2, 2009

So, today we’re going to read some news. We’re going to read it, and hopefully, you’re going to be angry about it. I already know I’m angry about these news stories. That’s why I picked them. So, let’s get started.

Our first story comes from The Daily Mail, and has also been reported by CNN and various other news outlets.

The BBC children channel, CBeebies, has hired a new presenter/host, Cerrie Burnell. Burnell was born with one arm, and if you look at the picture in the news story, even that arm is most of arm.

This, apparently, is an outrage. Upset parents have written the BBC and flooded parenting websites with complaints, saying this woman is going to scare their children. They are demanding she be removed. These terrible people are saying that she was hired to fill some sort of politically correct employment quota. Never mind that Burnell has a four-month-old daughter, is a teaching assistant at a special needs school, and has won praise for her work in the theatre, she was obviously hired out of the need to show minorities on television.

Heaven forbid a child sees a person who is different. Heaven forbid they see one who is a positive influence, one they can relate to, one who makes them feel good. We all know it would be terrible to teach kids about different people, and instead let them stay sheltered until they blatantly gawk at these strange humanoid creatures on the street!

It’s an utter tragedy that someone has been put on a kids’ show that might require parents to sit down with their kids for once and have a brief conversation about disability.

At least all people aren’t morons. You’re not going to hear me say this often, but… read the comments on that news story. These comments are actually as disgusted by these complainers as I am. And it seems all their kids love Cerrie.

Newsflash. It is rare that disabilities scare other children. This is all anecdotal, but, well, I’m handicapped. I’ve grown up around other handicapped people. All of us in a mainstream public school. There was never a problem. At the worst, what you get is gawking curiosity. Which, yeah, feels weird at times and makes me (at least) feel uncomfortable. But they never seem scared. The only way these kids are going to seem upset is if they see that their parents are. So, complainers to the BBC, you sicken me.

Next up on the list of people that sicken me, The Authors Guild. The Authors Guild pretty much seems to be the RIAA of the publishing world. Why have they made today’s post? It has to do with the Amazon Kindle 2.

I’ll say up front… I’m not a big fan of the Kindle. I’d much rather have a book. But hey, to each their own. One thing the Kindle 2 does, though, is kind of neat. It has a text-to-speech program. So, it reads whatever book you buy in that wonderfully terrible robot voice that all text-to-speech programs use.

The Authors Guild? They have a problem with this. They say that what Kindle 2 is basically doing is offering audiobooks for the price of regular books! Now, anyone with two braincells available to rub together know this is, to be blunt, a load of crap.

Yes, it is an audiobook, in the most literal sense. It is a book, done as audio. But don’t people buy audiobooks for the person reading it, most of the time? Because want to hear the words in the author’s voice, or by whatever celebrity or professional reader they got to do it? And aren’t a lot of audiobooks abridged? And beyond that, aren’t a lot of books simply not made into audiobooks??

You know who this feature would work really well for? Someone who can’t see! How about that, Authors Guild? Or someone who would have trouble operating controls and would just like it to be easier and just be read to?

But no, no. You’re not thinking of that. Or you just don’t care. Instead? You threaten Amazon with copyright law violation (and undoubtedly get publishers to threaten to break ties with Amazon) and get them to leave text-to-speech ability up to writers and publishers on a book-by-book basis.

So, Authors Guild, if you have a book you’re not going to turn into an audiobook, maybe you’ll give them the rights to do it? And if you’re going to do it? What then? All the people who could really use text-to-speech are going to have to drop $30 on a possibly-abridged, read-by-someone-they-might-not-care-about version of an $11 paperback? This is why you’re on the list, Authors Guild.

Aaand finally, the biggest one has been saved for last. I’m not sure who to be the most angry at. I’m pretty sure we might have a tie. Should I be mad at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? Or should I just be mad at Jerry Lewis? I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Jerry Lewis was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Why? For his work on Jerry’s Kids. You know, those telethons to benefit muscular dystrophy. But wait, some of you are probably saying… that’s so wonderful of him! How could this be a bad thing?

Because they are a crock and Jerry Lewis is a sham. All Lewis does is get on television and further a stereotype that all people with a disability are pathetic, pitiable subhumans. He doesn’t want people with muscular dystrophy to be empowered. He doesn’t want them to feel good. He wants to have everyone pity them and throw money their way. He wants them to be terrible little novelty God-bless-us-everyone Tiny Tims.

Don’t believe me? How about in 2001? When confronted by disability rights activists for exploiting the disabled and making them out to be nothing more than a group to be pitied, he said the following: “You don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!”

This writer has muscular dystrophy, as do a lot of Lewis’ critics. When this one in particular protested in 1993, how’s Lewis respond? “This one kid in Chicago would have passed through this life and never had the opportunity to be acknowledged by anybody, but he found out that by being a dissident he gets picked up in a limo by a television station.”

Let’s go further back. 1992. According to Jerry, his Jerry’s Kids “cannot go into the workplace. There’s nothing they can do.”

1990? Jerry Lewis said he was glad he wasn’t in a wheelchair, but if he was, he’d “just have to learn to try to be good at being a half a person.”

That is what the disabled are to Jerry Lewis. Half-people. Helpless. Unknown. Worthless. Cripples. Pitiable. And they gave this man a humanitarian award? For holding back an entire group of people? And for being thanked for it? By making people with muscular dystrophy practically owe him for his so-called charity?

They gave him an award. Absolutely wonderful.

That’s the news. See you next time.

A Bit of Introduction and a Personal History of Video Games

Posted in Personal by manateehands on February 28, 2009

So, before diving right into a blog entry, I figure I should at least give a little introduction. Then again, that’s kind of what my about page is for.

I’m Mike Myers. Not Austin Powers Mike Myers. Not Halloween Mike Myers. Not defensive tackle or pitcher Mike Myers. Not former New Zealand Chief Justice Mike Myers, or disgraced yet bad-ass former Pennsylvania Democrat Congressman Mike Myers. Though, if you’re going to go “haha, dude, just like the other Mike Myers” and crack some sort of lame joke, can you not do it about the first two? It’s getting old. I’d prefer you’d try to compare me to the last one. While he did get videotaped accepting a $50,000 bribe from undercover FBI agents, he was also a former longshoreman and was known for engaging in fisticuffs with a Washington D.C. waiter he felt wasn’t respecting him enough.

Anyway, I’m Mike Myers. Writer, blogger, stand-up comedian, journalism graduate, and gamer. I’m going to be talking about that last bit today.

I’ve been playing video games since the age of two, when my dad bought my mom a Nintendo Entertainment System (which she didn’t want, but he did). I quickly fell in love with the machine, playing Super Mario Bros., Tetris, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Kickle Cubicle, and a bunch of other games.

I probably played it too much growing up, but there wasn’t much else to do. There were no other kids in my apartment complex, and the neighbor kids’ favorite hobbies mostly involved setting their lawn on fire.

I was born with tetraphocomelia, which is one of those words doctors make up that do nothing but perfectly describe in Latin what I have. Tetra – four. Phoco – point. Melia – something that probably means under-formed. (Wikipedia doesn’t have tetraphocomelia. They insist I mean Tetrapdomorpha, which would make me an ancient fish creature. I assure you, I’m not this.) Because that’s what I’ve got going on. My four points, or limbs, aren’t quite developed. My legs go from hips pretty much right into weird little skin-colored Ninja Turtle feet, and my arms are about half the length of normal arms, and end in fingerless, manatee-shaped stumps (hence the URL), one of which might have a knuckle and the beginnings of a finger. As such, I use a motorized wheelchair to get around, and have since kindergarten.

I’m sorry this is all so jumbled, but it’s a lot of information to pump out in one post, and it’s all needed to get to where I’m going with this.

Being the kid in a wheelchair raised some problems growing up. For one, the local school district wasn’t handicapped accessible. No ramps, no elevators, not even a bus with a lift. So… I was bussed out to another school about 30 minutes away. I thrived, made a ton of friends… who were 30 minutes away. Not only that, but you know kids. They like to do things like go ice skating, explore the woods near their houses, climb things. These were all things I couldn’t do. With people I couldn’t readily visit.

So, I played video games. And, really, it was great. I developed great hand-eye coordination, a better attention span, and all the other rarely spoken of advantages that video games give. It made my chair driving better, too.

Now, the NES was perfect for someone of my situation, since it was a directional pad and two buttons. It wasn’t complicated, it was easy to use. This was the same reason I loved the Game Boy I received for my birthday one year. It was like the NES, only portable and monochrome.

A few years later, Nintendo came out with the SNES. It had the directional pad, and four buttons. Also, it had two shoulder buttons, L and R, but few games utilized them and the ones that did could either be reconfigured or worked around.

It was the fifth generation of video games that started to change things for me. The Playstation came on the scene. Directional pad, four buttons, two shoulder buttons, and with the DualShock, two joysticks. It was still doable, but I never got one. I held out for the Nintendo 64.

My first. Directional pad, joystick, six buttons, two shoulders, and… the Z Trigger. It was on the back of the controller. And it did everything. It shot guns in shooting games, it was usually something like a brake in racing games, it was always something important in a platformer or adventure game. And it was on the back of a controller that I tended to rest on my lap. Which I couldn’t do anyway, since it was shaped like a weird spaceship with three points at the bottom, and plastic pressing into my stomach wasn’t exactly comfortable.

Luckily, I discovered a risky little treasure trove known as third-party peripherals. These are devices and accessories made by other companies. They’re usually cheaper and built like crap. But sometimes not. What I got was an arcade tabletop controller, a big clunky piece of plastic set up like an arcade machine. It was made for fighting games, but, it was perfect. All the buttons… L, R, Z. There were all on a big flat surface. Crisis averted, and I could play Goldeneye with the rest of them.

The next console I got, not counting all sorts of Game Boy variations, was the Gamecube. Now Nintendo was up to a directional pad, two joysticks, four buttons, three shoulders, but…! The Z-Trigger was gone, it was now one of the shoulders. Games were getting harder to play, but it was still doable. Meanwhile, the PS2 and X-Box were in full force. All their good games seemed to be complicated first-person shooters and such, requiring you to run with one stick, aim with another, and fire, pressing two buttons if the weapon had an alternative firing mode. In a word? Undoable.

So, I figured that the Gamecube would be my last console. I figured the next Nintendo console would go the same route. But then, the Wii was announced. It had a remote, and motion controls. I was thrilled. And the game line-up! Super Paper Mario, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii, Super Mario Galaxy, Bully, Lego Batman, Twilight Princess, and so many other interesting games!

Nintendo had also made the DS, which was also a nice bit of innovation. The stylus and touchscreen. This worked very well for me. Mostly. A few games required a combination of touchscreen and buttons simultaneous, which made things hard, but all in all, it was great.

The Wii, though… turned out to be another story. So many of those games I’m dying to play… don’t just use the remote, but also the nunchuk attachment. Making the Wii as complicated as any other system, but a controller broken into two pieces. I need both hands just to use one. If the game doesn’t use just the remote, or is compatible with the Gamecube controller, I simply can’t play it.

This bothers me… for several reasons. A few of the games only use motion control for a few minor things. Things that aren’t even necessary to gameplay. A few others? They’re ports from other systems. Systems without motion control. There should be a way to play those games as they were made too. And then there’s the idea of peripherals. There are so many controllers and accessories for the Wii out. Steering wheels, swords, sports equipment, classic SNES-style controllers. But they can’t make a Gamecube-style controller with motion control? I find that hard to believe. There are the same amount of buttons… but, no go. I’ve e-mailed Nintendo, and they say there’s nothing that can be done. Third party companies have yet to release anything. Even independent modders haven’t seemed to do much else besides change the LED color or something else minor.

So? Where’s that leave me, and surely other disabled gamers? For a system that is talked about on the news as being handicapped accessible… it’s really not, depending on your handicap. So I’m stuck with an expensive piece of electronics and maybe 5 games I can play comfortably.

But it’s not even the money wasted that bothers me. Or the games I’m missing out on. It’s that I’ve always been a gamer. Since I was a toddler. Not only that, I’ve always been good. This was something I identified as. Now? Now I feel I’m losing that part of my identity. And the technology? It’s only going to get more complicated. More buttons and functions and grips and things that I just simply can’t do. What do I do when I just am no longer something that I’ve been for the past two decades?

Wow, this came out longer than expected. Sorry. They’re not all going to be like this. I just figured this would be a good introduction. Thanks for reading. Next time, I’ll be looking at some disability stories in the news.

EDIT: Apparently, tetraphocomelia is probably Greek, and probably means “four seal limbs.” This is cooler than what I said. Thanks, Erin.

EDIT 2: Apparently, phocomelia has a Wikipedia entry. Not only that, phoco means seal and melia means limb. My doctors lied to me. Thanks, Aaron.