Category: Meanderings

New dog tests Graeme with old tricks

IMG_0376So, hi peeps. I’m the new dog in town, and I thought it was time I dragged myself off the dog bed and got to the old dude’s keyboard. Especially after I trended in Australia on twitter last week. That’s way cool on my first attempt. But more of that later.

Let me tell you about myself for those who have not met me. I’ve been around with the old dude for about a year so many of you may have.

I’m a golden lab — almost white really — and I’m super cute. Out of harness I’m pretty upbeat, but when the old dude picks up the harness and lead I’m pretty chilled. Not that I don’t want to work as a guide dog. I just don’t want him to think he’s totally in control. He’s a control freak you know.

I grew up with this great family of puppy-raisers — three boys and a girl who love me to bits. I’m a bit of a chewer, but quite selective as I only go for left shoes. I over indulged on one and had to have my stomach pumped. I chew much less now, just gnawing through the occasional leather lead when the Old Dude is giving a particularly boring speech. He does go on!

I go back to visit my puppy-raising family occasionally and have so much fun. They are awesome.

I started work with the Old Dude in January last year. It was hard at first and I got stressed as. But I’m finding it easier now that I’m a little more experienced. If I have had a tough day I still make the occasional raid on a rubbish bin at home. Whatevs!

Last week the Old Dude and Mrs Old Dude were moving stuff between our current house and the new house in Sydney. They are quite close, and the stuff was wheeled on trolleys. I just cruised along off-lead, you know, hanging out.

It struck me that they weren’t paying me nearly enough attention, so I thought, let’s give them a wakeup call. I just wondered off for a bit of a cruise on my own.

I was always going to come back — in my own sweet time — but you know what humans are like. They panicked. They rang up Guide Dogs NSW, who sent out an instructor to help look for me. And then the Old Dude had one of his brighter ideas, and told Twitter I was missing.

Well, that viralled of course. Trended in Sydney and Australia. Got mentioned by the ABC and a shed load of other tweeps. It was being re-tweeted for a week afterwards. Not bad for my first social media appearance — I could have told him tweets about me would have far more reach than tweets about him.

I rocked up outside the front door about two hours later, after a sniff-a-thon and a bit of a mooch around. I was always coming back — free board and food, a bath once a fortnight, and regular visits from Rachel. Sweet deal for a millennial dog like me. They were so excited when I returned — I just said: “Yeah right”, and went to my bed for a sleep.

Then Mrs Old Dude had one of her bright ideas. They have attached a Tile to my collar, and use @TheTileApp to keep track of me on the internet. They can locate me with their smartphones. They think I won’t like it, but I think “Way cool dudes, I have a permanent online presence”. What more could a 21st century dog ask for? Fully sick. And Arrow, thought she was so switched on blogging.

Arrow says I should blog like this regularly but hey, commitment is so last century. So, I think this will be an occasional series — you know, when I can drag myself off the dog bed.

See ya peeps.

Something’s happening here

Something’s happening here

Something strange happened last Friday. I sat at drinks whilst a friend leafed through the pages of my book, chuckling at some parts and asking questions about others. It’s not often that one experiences that sort of assessment of your major piece of writing.

I had mixed feelings. I was a little scared that a friend, whose opinion I value, was critiquing what I had written. But overlaying this feeling was an overwhelming level of excitement that my labours have come to fruition.

My book Finding A Way will be in the book stores from 22 June, and will be launched on 13 July. Just 3 weeks to go. And like Big Kev of advertising fame: “I’m Excited”.

I touched an advance copy for the first time last Friday, and the front cover, with its representation of Braille (the script I have used all of my life) is just amazing. I rifled the pages, smelled the printer’s ink, and held the actual printed words to my heart — my life so far in words on paper.

You will be able to share my excitement very soon. You can register on this site and be sent the first copies when Finding A Way is available. Or click the link to buy an eBook. All of the links are on the site. And if you order a signed print book, I will sign it for you before it is sent out.

You can also choose to come and join me at an event to publicise the book. They are starting to appear on my calendar — also on this site — and are currently planned for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Newcastle. Others are still in the planning stages.

If you want me to come to an event near you I am happy to do that. Just get in touch through the link on my site, let me know the place and what arrangements you can make and we will work with you to make it happen. Events may be at bookshops, or arranged by community organisations, either as part of a bigger conference or on their own. I will try to fit in as many as possible.

My life so far has been a fantastic experience, not without its challenges. But I have always managed to Find A Way. Join me to share that experience.


DOG BLOG … or FINDING A WAY: Hey! That’s My job

DOG BLOG … or FINDING A WAY: Hey! That’s My job

A journal of the life and travels of Graeme Innes from the perspective of his guide dog Arrow

Monday 16 November

Wow, the boss has finished writing that bloody book. I saw him boasting about it on Twitter. About time too. I’ve been doing far too much sitting around and sleeping on the balcony while he wrote that.

It must be huge – he’s been typing for days. Hope he gave me a starring role.

Oh well, at least he did a lot of work on it when we were down at Gerringong last week. I liked it there. Maureen talked him into taking me to the beach a bit and letting me off the lead. And then Rachel would just come and steal me and take me to the beach. I like being with the boss, but it’s all work work work.

At least with Rachel I get to have some fun. All work and no play makes Arrow a dull dog you know.

The book has caused me to think. I’ve decided to start blogging

– damned if I’m going to let the boss have all the profile. I’ll sneak it on to his blog site – probs he won’t notice. And if he does I’ll tell him it will help with book sales – that should get him off my case.

Tuesday 17 November

Oh my goodness! The boss is packing the bag. We just got back from the South Coast and it looks like we are on the road again.

I wonder how far we are going this time. Hope I get to ride in the back seat of the car so I can look out the window.

I watched very carefully. He’s just made up eleven dog dinners.

This could be a big one. And damn it, he didn’t drop a crumb – note to self, jostle his elbow more often.

Wednesday 18 November

I heard the zipping this morning after he and Maureen came back from their walk. He’s showered and dressed – nice suit today but no tie, probably means its meetings rather than speeches. I wish he’d just let me look at his calendar so that I knew what to expect. I wonder if Hey Siri works with barking or loud doggy panting. Might try that if he would ever leave me with the phone.

And we’re off (very excited tail wagging) It’s harness on so it’s a taxi. Damn I don’t get to look out the window. But I can sleep down here on the floor. Hope no-one runs into the back of our taxi like they did yesterday. That gave me a fright and I may have disgraced myself with the little expression of wind I let go. Don’t think they minded too much. Boris our cab driver was more concerned about looking at the back of his car. And the boss is used to my breaks of wind.

Oh I know this place. We’re at PwC. Some sort of meeting. The carpets are nice to lie on here, but the boss and those PwC people do talk a lot. Oh well.

And we’re off again. Another taxi. And it’s the airport. I love flying. Can spread out on the floor of the plane, get admiring smiles from flight attendants and passengers, and the carpet is just crumb heaven. Great.

We’re off to Melbourne. 720 km. I’m going to count them this time.

Another taxi, and a café. Meeting – cafés seem to be the boss’ meeting place of choice. More crumbs.

Now across the road and into the Treasury building. This must be important. Oh Department of Education bureaucrats – with some old friends amongst them from when the boss was Commissioner.

He’s talking to them about the Programme for Students with Disabilities. He’s quite articulate when he gets warmed up you know. I didn’t even snore.

Another taxi and the airport again. Wow, that security guy just pointed and said over there three times before he got it and used left and right. I must be invisible.

This time we’re off to Adelaide – another 650 km. That’s 1370 km for the day. Not bad, but I think tomorrow might beat it.

Does this guy ever stop? He’s dropped our bags at the hotel and now off to a late dinner with colleagues from tomorrow’s conference. Doesn’t he realise an old dog needs her beauty sleep?

Nice hotel though, good carpets. I hope he takes me for a walk in the morning.

Fifteen responses that show Siri is like sooo a teenager

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. George Bernard Shaw.

As a person who can’t see the screen of my iDevice I rely quite a lot on Siri. Whilst as a male over fifty, with some level of hearing loss, I find the male voice (available in the latest upgrade) easier to understand, I fear I may have lost somewhat in emotional intelligence following the change. But that would be assigning gender qualities to my iDevice wouldn’t it?

I asked Siri to do something for me last Sunday morning at about ten o’clock, and the response was incredibly slow and a bit sulky. This caused me to wonder whether Siri was, in fact, a teenager.

Now I have some experience with this particular self-sustaining life form, having been more or less successfully trained by one some years ago, and then submitting myself to the training process all over again during the last four or five years. So I considered the general approach of the teenage life form, and realised that my hypothesis was further supported by the latest adaptation for Siri, in which you can just lift the i-Device to your ear rather than pushing the button to talk. This seemed to equate well with the teenage preponderance for an immediately oppositional position to anything which requires movement, or “leaving the cave”.

I decided to try fifteen (note the amount) of the phrases I regularly use with teenagers, and check Siri’s responses. The results – as well as looking remarkably like the lists in most Buzzfeed articles – confirmed my hypothesis.

So here they are-

Comment 1. You need to clean up your room!
Siri: You are certainly entitled to that opinion.

Comment 2: You can’t go out wearing that!
Siri: Is that so!

Comment 3: (As asked by a grand-parent or older aunt or uncle in a vain attempt to sustain conversation with teenager) So, how tall are you? Siri: Not exceedingly big, but my gravitational pull is quite strong.

Comment 4: Have you done your homework?
Siri: I found an article on homework in Wikipedia. Shall I read it to you?

Comment 5: It’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you go outside?
Siri: I don’t understand it’s a beautiful day, why don’t you go outside. But I could search the web for it.

Comment 6: What time are you getting out of bed?
Siri: Checking my sources on the web for that.

Comment 7: I don’t care what you say, you are not going.
Siri: Ok, you don’t then!

Comment 8: When are you going to have something to eat?
Siri: I can’t really say.

Comment 9: Can you clean the bathroom?
Siri: I’m not sure if I’m able to do that or not, but I’m always learning new things.

Comment 10: Just listen to me!
Siri: You’re coming through loud and clear.

Comment 11: Have you considered that, as an adult, I might just have a bit more experience on the subject? Siri: Who? Me?

Comment 12: Should we talk about sex, and taking precautions? Siri: I’m sure I don’t know.

Comment 13: Just do it! don’t answer back!
Siri: I’m not sure I understand.

Comment 14: I will count to ten before I answer that.
Siri: I’m not sure what that means.

Comment 15: It’s not that I don’t trust you, I’m just not sure you’re ready to do that yet. Siri: If you insist!

All of the above comments and responses by Siri are true, and I can assure you that – although it was close at times – no iDevice was harmed in the writing of this blog.

Much silly comments! Very annoying! Wow!

What’s your funniest experience with Siri, and how old do you think Siri is? Siri tells me that a gender has not been assigned, so I have refrained in this blog from using female or male pronouns.

Graeme Innes is a doting dad, who constantly annoys and embarrasses the teenagers in his life by emailing them articles from Buzzfeed, and persistently failing to be too cool for school.

You can take that to the Bank

Guide dog asleep
Arrow the guide dog taking a well-earned rest

Travelling with a guide dog is a great way to get around- it removes some of the stress of travel, and can have other advantages. Many is the time I have walked into a room or lift and heard – “Aw, look, beautiful,” or “Sooo cute”. To which I usually reply: “Yes, and the dog doesn’t look bad either”.

I had completed a meeting with some senior bank officials in Brisbane. Walking with my guide dog, I got into the elevator on the 30th floor of their building at the same time as another person. The lift buttons were not marked with raised letters or Braille, so I didn’t know which one to press. Turning to the other man in the lift I said: “Could you press the button for ground please?” I got no response.

Thinking that he may have a hearing impairment – I am the disability Discrimination Commissioner after all – I looked directly at him, so he could read my lips, and said a little more loudly “Could you press ground please?” Still no response.

Puzzled, I reached over and tapped him on the shoulder, and repeated my request.
“Oh,” he said, “Are you talking to me. I thought you were asking the guide dog.”

My dog’s good, but she hasn’t learned to read lift buttons yet!

Graeme Innes travels with a black labrador guide dog called Arrow, and spends some of his spare time thinking up funny responses to such questions as- “What’s your dogs name?”
“Can your dog read bus numbers?” and
“Does your dog have its own mobile phone?”

What funny guide dog questions have you asked or heard? Have you ever said something embarrassing to a guide dog user? Please tell me about it?

A Happy Apper

When you’re travelling and can’t see, the mini bar can provide some dilemmas.  How much you drink is a matter for you- what you drink can be more of a lottery.

I travelled from Sydney to Auckland recently at the request of RRRT  to conduct some training for Pacific country politicians on the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.  I got to my hotel without being waylaid by hobbits or dragons and discovered that my Aussie dollar didn’t have quite the clout it had last year.

The length of the flight and the two hour time change meant that I arrived mid to late evening, after the hotel restaurant had closed.

I turned to the mini bar for a cleansing ale before retiring.

Reaching into the “electric chillibin” known as an Esky or fridge on this side of the Tasman, my hand discovered four bottles with crown seals, which could have been beers.  But were they beers, and which beers were they?

Who ya gonna call? Out comes the iPhone, and I tell Siri to “open Tap Tap See.”

I place the bottle on the top of the fridge, point the iPhone camera and click the app.  Seconds later Karen (the voice of the iPhone)  tells me it is Jack Daniels bourbon. Not what I want.

Two bottles later, using the same process, the Crownie  I’m looking for comes up in the camera lens, and Karen announces the result.

I crack the twist top crown seal, and settle back to enjoy my New Zealand beer, a happy apper.

Graeme Innes is a lover of accessible apps, and experiences significant withdrawal symptoms when his iPhone is not in his hand or pocket.

Scarlet Ribbons

A friend gave us tickets to see Celtic Woman (link ) recently.

It was a very pleasant experience. Beautiful young women, clearly classically trained, sang a selection of traditional Irish and Scottish songs mixed with a few “modern classics”, which were not so much to our taste.  The voices, musicianship and dancing were all excellent.

My favourite song was a beautiful rendition of Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair) (link ) sung by the newest member of the group, Mairéad Carlin (link ).

The story the song tells is enchanting.  A mother hears her little girl make a request.

“I peeked in to say goodnight

And then I heard my child in prayer

Send for me some scarlet ribbons

Scarlet ribbons for my hair.”

The mother knows that, despite her best efforts, they cannot be obtained.

“All the stores were locked and shuttered

All the streets were dark and bare

In our town no scarlet ribbons

No scarlet ribbons for her hair.”

How times have changed.  In this modern world it might be an iPad Air, or an iTunes card.  But in that Irish village in the first part of the 20th century it was scarlet ribbons.

The mother, let’s call her Marie, was devastated that she could not grant this wish for her beautiful daughter.

“Through the night my heart was aching”.

And she shared her grief with her husband.

But, when she went to look in at the child early in the morning she could not believe her eyes.

“Just before the dawn was breaking

I peeked in and on her bed

In gay profusion laying there

Scarlet ribbons, scarlet ribbons

Pretty scarlet ribbons for her hair.”

As I listened to the beautifully sad lyrics, enunciated perfectly by the clear sweet voice of Mairéad, who learnt the song from her grandmother, my mind turned to the practicalities of how this magic was achieved.  A picture started forming in my mind.

Come back with me to an Irish country home before the 1940s.  Marie has cleared up after dinner, and put her daughter to bed.  Tom is resting in his dad’s old armchair by the fire, enjoying a quiet pipe after a long day hoeing in the new potato crop.  The sounds of his daughter’s prayers drift down to him from the room above.

A dim memory slowly forms in his mind, and he stands, knocking out his briar pipe on the hearth.

“I’m just going for another scuttle of coal to tide us through the night”, he calls up to Marie.  She has forgotten that he filled the scuttle before dinner, and does not question him.

Quickly putting on his coat, he hurries out to the byre in the yard.  He goes in quietly, not wanting to disturb the two old milking cows resting inside.  He climbs up to the loft, and starts poking through the boxes of odds and ends carried from his mother’s house when she passed away some years ago.  Towards the bottom of the pile he finds the old sewing chest he is looking for, opens it, and his memory springs into reality.

He hurries back to the house, knocking the snow from his boots at the back door.  And, after his wife has fallen into a fitful and disappointed sleep, he creeps into his daughter’s room and distributes his prize.

He doesn’t need to tell Marie – the joy on the faces of his wife and daughter the next morning are all the reward he needs.

“If I live to be a hundred

I will never know from where

Came those lovely scarlet ribbons

Scarlet ribbons for her hair…”

Graeme Innes is an advocate for social justice, and a dad who is often gratified by the pleasure he can bring to the women in his life.

You can follow him on Twitter at @Graemeinnes (link )