Thursday, July 24, 2008

Who needs to sleep, anyway?

Down to Earth and back to work with an anti-climactic thuddd today. That's the downside to days off: the routine seems all the more borrrrrring when you get back. I used to notice the same thing, amplified maybe 50 times, when I'd get back here after being in the States for months. You'd be en route for something like 40 hours to get back, and then ... zap. Nothing doing. Welcome to the Event-Free Zone, where the Scotch tape is keeping the eyelids open --

And it doesn't help that the Tour de France is in the Alps this week, and the day's stage is concluding at about one in the morning. Steady, Keegan: it's all over, Sunday night. (No, seriously, I enjoy the hell out of Le Tour; you can sleep anytime, right?)

A couple of questions from readers today. First, just how 'text browser friendly' is the new version, REALLY, of my website? This one comes from a visitor who would like to be able to recommend Mel Keegan OnLine to a friend or relative who has a profound visual handicap, in addition to being gay.

Well we actually got the LYNX browser up and running, and we ran the whole site through it, and it works. There are two or three pages that, for the life of us all here, we can't figure out how to make them text-compatible. An art gallery, and the giftstore, which pivots on its images. How do you make those come up in LYNX? We're still scratching our heads at that one. But otherwise, you have my guarantee, both the main site, the NARC site are 100% friendly for visually impaired users, and we'll be bringing the Members' Zone into line in the very near future.

If you're wondering what in the hell the LYNX browser is, anyway ... it's a pure-text reader. It logs onto a website and renders the text only. All pictures get dropped, and are represented by their alt text. Any material buried in JPG of GIF images, plus Flash and MPEG content, is ignored. What we've done with the site -- and in particular the NARC site -- is to add 'invisible text' to all images, where there is meaningful content for the text browser, plus we've kept the Flash content to 'significant plugins.' Obviously, LYNX won't see these plugins, but they gussie-up the site beautifully for those of us who can see, at the same time as not rendering the site a waste of time and brain cells for those who can't.

On the slim chance that anyone out there is intrigued as to what it all looks like in text, you can download LYNX here: Vordweb, a UK site. In fact, webmasters do need to think about this...

It had never actually occurred to us that the blind or visually impaired part of the Internet community was so large ... like everyone else with more-or-less normal vision, we careened blithely along without thinking about it. (I, in particlar, have no excuse for this, because to say I have an up-close experience of deafness is putting it mildly. But you don't use your ears on the Internet; you don't read with them, nor do you watch movies with them. Urk.)

To one and all who waited a rather long time for us to get our collective act into gear on this score: sorry. Sincerely. It's done now, and the site is very, very rewarding in LYNX. Would someone like to tell me how a Braille browser works? I have no experience with this whatsoever. We can only assume that it offers a dynamic version of the websites, rendering text to Braille, and once again ignoring images. If this is so, we're fine -- we got it covered.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the rights of folks with disabilities lands squarely under the umbrella of 'human rights,' directly beside gay rights ... and if you were both gay and blind, my gods, you'd have to be feeling the kosh on most gay-centric websites.

Here's hoping that our contribution will maybe inspire others to get their sites made over into more friendly places. (And incidentally, if we missed something on the site, ie., something doesn't work for your text or Braille browser, let us know.)

Second reader's question (slightly more left-field than the above, but still a good question). I write more than a few military and paramilitary characters and situations ... am I military or ex-military myself? Simple answer, no. More complex answer: almost. I'm the first non-military bod in this family, in four generations. My father was Royal Army, my mother was civilian attache to the Admiralty Department of the Navy. My cousin was in 3 Para, my uncle was Air Force, and so on ... and on ... ad nauseam. Sorry, people: if you were waiting for the 'gays in uniform' stories, I can't help you there. (I think I have 'issues' with authority figures. I was never unaware of how resoundingly stupid some of them are, and could never bring myself to take orders from them! Me, in the armed forces? I'd have brought the Commonwealth down.) My writings are based on firsthand research, and a lot of it comes from the horse's mouth. You could say, I'm one step away from the military. But that step's a doosey.

Also, I do want to point out something important (well, important to me) here. NARC is paramilitary. There is a world of difference between the department for which Jarrat and Stone work, and any branch of the forces. I can get away, literally, with blue murder, because (a) it's my world, and I decide how it works, (b) it's four centuries in the future, and, thank gods, things have changed.

Thanks to all who send through their questions ... thanks for reading here, and also for swinging by the website. The next items online will be the screenreader format ebook for WHITE ROSE OF NIGHT, plus a new (free) screensaver. And right after that, we'll have the sample readings (as always, 40% of the book) of AQUAMARINE. The novel itself will be going up in August, both to Lulu (the paperback) and Payloadz (the ebook, in two formats).

Always supposing I live that long. Terminal sleep deprivation, that's my trouble...

Cheers (yawwwwn),

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