Lessersound and the Power of Woof

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Basset Hound, Wikipedia .com

Did you know that both the bark of a dog and the noise of a subway have equal decibel ratings of 101?  Who would have thought a barking dog could harm your hearing?  What about falling asleep in front of the TV with the volume turned up?  Did you ever wonder about traffic, trains, or construction sites?

Wayne Lesser did.  As a child, he watched his little sister get fitted for state-of-the art hearing aids in the mid-1950s.  He claimed it was an ugly and scary thing about the size of a deck of cards with two wires leading to her ears.  It left a strong impression on him.  So did her huge smile—the moment they turned the unit on—she could actually hear the water running from the faucet that he was turning on and off .  It was a life-changing event in the family.

Dealing with his own hearing loss while growing up was challenging for him.  He wondered why people couldn’t do more to protect their hearing.  He wondered why no one was doing anything to educate people on how to protect the hearing they had and what the dangers were that everyone lives with every single day.

As years passed, still little has happened in society to educate people on how hearing loss occurs. He decided that someone had to start making a change in people’s lives to help them understand the importance of hearing health, and he might as well be the one to do it.  And, he did—with the lessersound app and the “Color of Sound” technology—making it to one of the top three final nominations for the 2016 Appy Awards for new medical technology. Take a look at his video.

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Aladdin – A Broadway Dream Come True

Mattie’s eyes grew heavy from the rhythmic sound of the train running the rails. The warm morning sun shone through the window, and her head started to nod, just a bit, from the exhaustion and wonder of it all. She still couldn’t get over it. Her mind wandered with the clack—clack, clack—clack, sound of the train tracks. Mattie Burch . . . yes, me—Mattie Burch—sitting here on a train all by myself, going to New York.

Visions of freckled-faced children crowding around her, pulling on the hem of her new cotton-print dress, holding her hands, all of them with tears streaming down their faces, flashed through her mind.  A tall man with radiant-green eyes and black hair stood beside her on the platform. Her head bowed to get one last look at the pleading eyes begging her to stay. Before she could answer, a finger under her chin raised her head up; her blue eyes gazed at his handsome face for an instant before he kissed her, picked her up off the ground, and started swinging her ‘round and ‘round in a passionate embrace.

The train hissed, the porter cried, “All aboard!” and her new shoes landed on the steps to the train car as the man she loved lowered her gently down.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart! Remember, you call us, now. Call a lot. I love you!”

The children cried, “I love you, Mama! Bye! I love you!”

The swaying motion of the car as it left Selma, North Carolina, soothed her tired body. Her thoughts, again, played the words from her favorite childhood book: There once lived a poor tailor, who had a son . . . who would do nothing but play all day long in the streets with little idle boys like himself, and her eyes finally closed.

“Next stop, Richmond, Virginia,”came the announcement over the loudspeaker.

Mattie jerked awake. People were shuffling to leave. She glanced out the window and saw the James River—the longest in Virginia. Passing through Ashland, on lush tree-lined streets decorated with flowering dogwoods, were stately Dutch Colonial homes. She noticed there were five rivers they went over: the Quantico Creek, Neabsco Creek, Potomac River, Gunpowder River, and Susquehanna River. Further along, Washington D.C. had many skyscrapers of glass reflecting other skyscrapers. Wilmington had a building with a large mural: one side, a giant whale breaching and the other, clouds. Much of the rest of the trip was filled with industrial yards and older buildings worn from age.

Finally, arriving at Penn Station, her excitement mixed with fear, Mattie stood up to gather her things. Tentatively, she moved toward the exit and down the steps to the massive terminal. Before her foot hit the ground, a man in uniform offered his hand.

“Mrs. Burch? I’m Stan, your limo driver. I will be escorting you to the Chatwal Hotel and then will pick you up tomorrow for the show.”

“Oh! Oh, my! I hadn’t expected anything like this. This is . . . it’s . . . well, it’s just amazing. Thank you.”

As they drove, the looming buildings with their gigantic flashing digital and neon signs turned her head on a continual swivel, trying to take it all in.

“Did you know this was my birthday present?”

“No, Ma’am. I didn’t.”

“My sweet, wonderful husband entered the New York contest for all twelve years that we’ve been married. Well, I thought he’d be sick to death already of my talking about coming to New York to see a show. Can you believe it? This year he won. He won! On my thirtieth birthday. And, on top of that, my most favorite story in the whole world is playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre.”

“Yes. Ma’am. That is a wonderful story.”

The limo pulled up to the Chatwal Hotel’s front entrance where another man in a uniform met the car and escorted Mattie up to the lobby’s front desk.

“Hi! I’m Mattie Burch. My husband won that Contestee, New York Contest, on the Internet. I’m so happy to be here.”

“Yes. We know. We’re happy to have you, Mrs. Burch. You’re in the Signature Garden Suite on the seventh floor.  Our bellman will take you to your room.”

Mattie followed the bellman down the rich, shiny gold and brown, red-accented art-deco corridors in a giddy high. He opened the door to her room. She stood there, mouth agape—the suite and terrace were bigger than her whole house in Selma. Rich colors in gold-honey suede and dark-brown tones covered the rooms. The white marble terrace, complete with a fountain and pots of herbs made her feel like she was in another country. Soon she fell into a luxurious sleep, dreaming of her big day.

She awoke to a wonderful breakfast. Although she could have taken the morning to go sightseeing, the peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of motherhood, teased her to stay and relax in the beautiful suite. Finally, it was time to go.

The limo driver was at the lobby door waiting. The drive to the theater was over in a blink it seemed. Mattie got out and walked into the most beautiful art nouveau theatre in New York City. Disney renovated the New Amsterdam in 1994, taking a full four years. The golden colors sparkled in the lights. Everywhere she looked, there were complex plaster casts of grape clusters, peacocks, apples, and all sorts of pieces, painted in soft tones that melted with the color gold. In her whole life, she had never seen anything as regal as this.

Strolling down the aisle, she found her seat, center orchestra, and settled into her dream-come-true birthday when the production of Aladdin carried her off on her own magic-carpet ride. Colors danced and pranced around the stage in blindingly bright hues from the three hundred different costumes the performers wore. The genie performed his magic in bold expression reminiscent of Cab Calloway with a bouncy jazz beat. The dancers, the music, the splendor of it all, took Mattie away to all she had ever dreamed of. However, it was the love story between Princess Jasmine and Aladdin that filled her heart with such love for her husband that she had trouble holding back the tears. The two lovers floated by, across the sky on their magic carpet, so in love that Mattie could not wait a minute longer. She ran to the lobby and called.

“Honey, are you okay? Mattie? What’s wrong?”

“I love you more than ice cream, Jason Burch. No! I love you more than this wonderful trip. I even love you more than Aladdin. This is the best show in the whole world. I can’t wait to get home to tell you about all of it. You will always be the genie of my dreams.”

Tremora’s Young Michael Interviews Author Bill Westwood—Fiction

Regarding: Tales of Tremora: The Shimmering by William Westwood Jr.

A young boy who has lost his father is a terrible thing.  Now, a young boy who goes searching for said father and wanders off into a leaky, shimmering veil, deep in the forest of the Cascade Mountains, and finds himself in another world altogether can be a very, very terrible thing.  And, this is how Michael found himself in the middle of a terrific adventure in the land of Tremora.

Just fourteen years of age, Michael is sent off with well-wishes from his worried mother who is on the other side of the shimmering.  She watches him hike down the trodden trail with a little green man named Tracker–Michael’s guide and protector in this curious world.  What Michael doesn’t hear are her final words, said to herself as a whispered afterthought, “Oh, Michael. . . . Now you’re both gone.  I knew you’d choose to stay, of course–it’s in your blood.  And, Megan assures me Tremora needs you. . . . But, please be careful and come back to me safely.  And please, please, Michael, don’t kill your father.”

Michael follows Tracker over hill and dale.  They meet up with wood elves, fairy folk, ogres, a camelop, and a wazalop on their way to the wizard’s gathering where the greatest wizard and magician of them all, Megan, will be presiding.  It is here, Michael finds out the real reason why he is in Tremora—he is to save Prince Cedric from the dragon.  And “finally” he learns where his father is.

I met up with Michael after he spent a couple of weeks training with the wizards.  I had far too much curiosity to know how Bill Westwood could come up with such a unique world for Michael to complete his quest.  Michael had a little time to kill before he was ready to head out again on this next leg of his adventure.  After a brief introduction to Nova, his animal guide, and a few pats on her fuzzy nose from me, we sat down to chat about this amusing, imaginative man who was Michael’s inner guide and overall good-guy creator.

After a little thought about my musings, Michael said that Bill had spent five years in England—the mystical land of elves, fairies, wizards, and the like.  Not only did he spend time with the little folk, but he met his wife there as well.  It was a very important period in his life and set him on a new course to follow his dreams.  Then, he added, “Well . . . it might have something to do with his background as a Russian linguist, and his time spent in the National Security Agency.  I think he probably had some interesting adventures of his own.”

Those years in England provided plenty of time to conjure up a wonderful land for a young boy to travel and have adventures in.  I know how it has changed Michael’s life, but another curiosity I have is about how the book an author is writing changes his own life.  Does writing a book that is so involved and wildly different have any effect on him when he’s writing it or when he’s done?

Michael arched an eyebrow and squirmed a little as he thought about this.  After a bit more fidgeting, he said he wasn’t sure, but he thought it had changed Bill a great deal.  “He spends a lot of time in Tremora, you know.  It took over seven years of Bill’s life to get this far.  Did you know that he is an artist as well?  He has made sculptures of just about all of us.  That’s why I’m stuck here now, waiting. . . . There’s such a backlog for his artwork that he hasn’t had time to get back to “me,” and it is frustrating—I need to go and find my dad, alread!”

We talked some more about the different stories and various authors we knew. That brought me to wonder about another question.  So, I asked if he had any fears that Bill would “kill off” any of the main Tremora characters during these perils.  There are a lot of authors who “do in” their characters to promote more suspense into their storyline.  “Bill loves us all too much, Diane, and he would never do that.”

With that, Michael jumped up, threw his backpack on, and said as he turned and walked away. . . . “Besides, I have to go and save Prince Cedric and my dad.”

If you want to have a little fun, check out Bill’s sculptures here.

Charlie

White_Leghorn_Rooster, WikipediaI was raised by my grandmother.  Back in the mid-60s, in St. Louis, Missouri, she toiled away at the florist’s shop to keep us all alive.  My father drank a bit and was not very regular about his employment habits.  Somehow that woman managed to keep us all fed and even sent us to Catholic school.  My mother, who was very ill, left us.  I was volunteered by my father to keep house for my family at the tender age of five.

I can’t remember a day in my life when I wasn’t totally mesmerized by animals.  I loved them and pleaded to have a puppy or kitten to love because I missed my mother so.  Sadly, my grandmother had her fill from all the creatures my father had dragged home as a boy.  So, I coaxed whatever sick or stray animal that would wander by the yard and closed the gate so it wouldn’t get loose.  It would be all mine, for a day or two, until it figured out how to escape.  And I would cry my heart out that it had left me just as my mother did.

Easter time at the dime-store brought 100 little chicks, packed and stacked, in Chinese food cartons.  They were all dyed in pastel blue, yellow, green, or pink.  The store was alive with peeps.  One quarter bought enough peeps to drive a city dweller insane in short order.  And it did.  I still can hear my father screaming through the peep-peep, peep, peep-peep-peep “Shut that gawd-durn bird up!  How am I going to hear the TV?”  My father would spend many evenings cussing that bird while waiting for the usual death that befalls all dime-store chicks. I spent those wishful nights, gleefully, downstairs with my new best friend, watching him race from one end of the toy box to the other, while he was looking for his new “mom” to pick him up.

I named him Charlie. We were inseparable, Charlie and I.  He ate what I ate (in addition to his chicken food), went where I went, and did what I did.  The most difficult time for the little chick was when I’d go to school.  He’d wait in the backyard all day.  When I was a half a block from home, he could hear my whistle, then he’d take off running full speed ahead—chicken style: all his feathers slicked back, his neck and body stretched forward as far as he could stretch; each step would swing him left or right as he raced as fast as he could to greet me. That was his mode of airstream travel.  When he reached me, he’d fly onto my shoulder and, all out of breath, he’d gasp little peeps while he tried to tell me all the trials of chicken life that day.  And we’d mosey home that way.

Spring melted into summer, and our weekly trips to the dime store continued.  Those were the days of penny candy—big jars of penny candy. There were five rows of jars on the shelves stacked high enough to make us stand on tiptoe. There were no laws about animals being in stores then.  Charlie sat in the crook of my arm, and I’d pick one piece of candy, and then I’d ask him which one he wanted.  I’d wait, and when he jerked his head a couple of times at a certain jar that choice would be his.  Always before returning home we’d stop at the Velvet Freeze for our ten-cent ice-cream bar to tide us over during the walk home.  Fudgsicles were a favorite.  I’d take a bite and Charlie would take a bite.  With the jostling of walking, holding a chicken, the bags of candy, manipulating the ice-cream bar, chocolate would cover my mouth, his beak, and most of our faces.  What a sight!

When Charlie got older, I found a round box and secured it to the back of my bicycle, cut a hole in the top and voila! the chicken graduated to wheels.  We could make the candy trip to the store in style.  He was tightly secured in the box on the back of my bike.  Sticking out of the hole in the top of the box was the white head of a leghorn rooster with long red waddles and a bright-red comb. As my legs pedaled, Charlie’s head kept rhythm: forward-back, forward-back, just like he was walking along in the yard.  Every bump brought with it a “Brrraught” from the little backseat passenger as the two were off on their summertime adventures.

We received a phone call from the neighborhood college in the fall.  “Yes, we have a chicken.”  “You want him for a play?”  Oklahoma?  Charlie was going to be a star!  “Be at dress rehearsals at nine p.m.”  We left Charlie backstage, and all was quiet.  That was until he got on stage.  He wouldn’t shut up.  It was the scene with the traveling salesman, and he was holding Charlie in a cage.  Every time the salesman spoke, Charlie thought an answer was required, and he did so–quite loudly.  No one could hear the salesman’s lines.  Charlie lost the audition and his only chance at being an actor.

A few years went by, and Charlie was past his prime.  He had taken on the personality of a dominant rooster and was chasing the little kids, walking home from school, and scaring them to death.  My brother was home, one day, when a policeman knocked on the door.  “We had a call to this address that there is a dangerous chicken here. Is that so?”  My brother, not sure what to do with the comment of “dangerous chicken” said, “Well, we do have a chicken here.”  He went outside and led the officer around to the backyard, opened the gate, and there was Charlie eager and ready for company.  The officer took his stance, drew his gun, and pointed it at the bird.  My brother was doing all he could to not burst out laughing at this ridiculous scene: the policeman vs. the “dangerous” chicken.  I think my brother is still chuckling, forty years later, at that officer and his gun.Well, we had our warning.  Charlie had to go—dangerous or not. We had to find a new home for him.

My brother happened to work for a man who had a large spacious farm in the country with lots of hens that were eager for a boyfriend. That’s where Charlie lived happily, ever after.