Sunday, January 31

DAF: Delayed Auditory Feedback

Some of you may have heard about a 'miracle cure' that came out a few years ago for stuttering. One of the brand names is Speech Easy. Here is a heartwarming video demonstrating just how amazing the device is: a person can go from a severe stutter to fluent speech by simply inserting what looks like a hearing aid into the ear and turning it on. Immediate effects. (skip to about 5min in to see the actual heart-wrenching).

The principle behind the device is Delayed Auditory Feedback. The speaker's voice is echoed back in their ear with a delay of about 50ms (give or take). The hypothesis of why it works is that it creates a situation like choral speech that typically increases fluency (ie. it is like someone is speaking with you). Being an SLP student I get to learn about these amazing things, in fact, I take a whole class (6 hours a week!) in just stuttering. There is, of course, a catch because there always is. The effects of the device tend to wear off after some time as the brain gets used to the echo. It isn't a replacement for treatment and actual control of stuttering but may be a wonderful option for someone who is desperate, who stutters severely and who has tried everything.

The science behind it is interesting. Technology that causes stutterers to become more fluent can cause disfluent speech in nonstutterers. In class I volunteered to read a passage aloud while wearing headphones and the professor would switch on DAF at random intervals. My speech became slow, disfluent, repeating syllables, prolonging sounds. I didn't stutter exactly but I stumbled over my words much more than I normally would. Someone tried it before I did and, not wanting to be shown up, I tried to read even faster. Impossible! Every time I would try to speed up I would just start stringing together almost unintelligible syllables.

You can try it yourself. Do it with a friend because you may not realize just how different you sound. Download this software (it is free as a trial). Crank up the delay to approx 150-200ms (although try a range to see what causes the biggest effect). Wear some headphones and turn up the volume. Now read a passage. Try speeding up. Slow down. What happens?

Science rules. Ps. You'll need to have a microphone /built-in mic in order to do this activity.

Monday, January 18

An Offensive Blog

My little sis has a blog. I personally think that it is hilarious. This may have something to do with us sharing a childhood environment. While our humours are similar there are in slightly different taste.


If you are in any way offended by swearing: do not read it.
If you are in any way offended by sexual innuendo: do not read it.
If you are in any way offended by blatant references to sex: do not read it.

Otherwise, I think it is safe.

Friday, January 15


Witnessed good mother-child communication today. This is the stuff we learn about in school (yep, I'm in grad school and they teach us this!).
Setting: Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in the biodiversity section. Mother is with her 3-yr-old looking at a case of insects.
Mom: Whats that?
Child: Bug
Mom: What is another name for a bug? *here mom waits for an awkwardly long time to give the child a chance to respond. This is good!
Child: babbles a little
Mom: Insect :) Another name for a bug is an insect. Look at me when I say it: In-sect.

She waits for responses. She has the child look at her when she says the word so they can see how it is formed. She repeats the word many times in a variety of sentences. I wanted to ask her if she was an SLP or had been to an SLP!

Next story:
Last weekend a few friends and I were walking past the University of Toronto at approx 7pm. Just as we turned on to a side street there was a low but powerful boom. The kind that causes the ground to move beneath you. It was almost exactly like the mini-quake I experienced in Peru. Not being hardened Toronto citizens we all stopped where we were and, after a bit of thought, ventured back to investigate. The air started to get hazy and there was a funny smell.

Me: thinking someone blew something up. Waiting for debris to rain on me.
The rest of Toronto: no one even awknowledged that it happened! Our little posse was the only group that showed any sign of concern or even recognition.

Recently joined with Couch Surfing again. I have yet to surf or to host (I don't have a couch but I indicated a willingness to show people around). Reading through the profiles makes me want to travel!!!! Is it wrong to use it as a free place to stay within the same province???

ETA: Forgot to actually finish the whole sounded-like-an-explosion story. Sorry to leave you hanging about the current state of downtown TO. What happened? Nothing. Or at least, we never did find out and I checked all the news sites I could think of for days afterward. Of course, the smartest thing to do is always walk towards the big boom sound...

Tuesday, January 12

No Day But Today (RENT)

Opening night tickets to RENT in the Canon Theatre Toronto = GLORIOUS!

The place was full but had a laid back atmosphere. I was excited to go (more than excited) but a little unsure of what to expect without most of the original cast. There was nothing to worry about. With Mark and Roger, two characters with the most stage time, played by the initial cast, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal respectively, there was a comforting consistency.

All the other parts were well acted but clearly cast not to fill a role but the shoes of the (very well-known) cast members before them. Nicolette Hart as Maureen had the same nasal whine that Idina Menzel brought to the performance. Michael McElroy had the same rich voice and smooth mannerisms that Jesse L. Walker as Tom Collins. All, except for the notably blond exception of Hart as Maureen, strongly resembled that first Broadway cast. While talent is important we humans like consistency.

The 'new' Angel had quite a bit more personality, he seemed to have fun in his role. The singing, however, was quite a bit flatter. With 'Today for You' being a favourite song of mine it was somewhat disappointing.
Idina Menzel, the original Maureen, was incredible. It would be intimidating to fill a role that everyone who loves RENT associates with her but Nicolette Hart held her own. While she could have been a bit more feisty Hart managed good vocals and some very funny moments (ie. mooning Benny with flair during "La Vie Boheme").
The number that, in my humble (read: new to musical theatre) opinion, was far superior in the production to the film was the Tango Maureen. It was sassier, angrier; the dancing was more fun, the actors had the right chemistry (or lack there of) between them.

If you have only seen musicals in the movies (and that is still me to a large degree) get out and see them live! It is a bit pricey but worth the fee.

--type casting to fit what the original characters created
--the Angel had more spunk and personality but the singing wasn't as impressive
--trying to live up to Idina Menzel
--superiority of the Tango Maureen

Saturday, January 9

Adam (2009)

A film you (likely) haven't heard of but definitely should see (trailer). If for nothing else than the soundtrack and Hugh Dancy's stunning performance as Adam.

The story follows a young man with Asperger's syndrome* while he copes with change and relationships. The scenarios were realistic (ok, mostly, it is a movie afterall) and the acting even more so. When Adam finally explains his condition to Beth the writers used it as an educational opportunity. Maybe a bit transparent but a necessary explanation nonetheless. This isn't a review as much as a bulletin: watch this film! It is quirky and heartwarming and, yes, a little slow at times but entirely worth it. To restate: at least get the soundtrack filled mostly by The Weepies and Joshua Radin.

Here is a taste: (caveat: this song is also associated with those frilly Vampire movies - don't make me say the name - which I discovered on youtube with some disappointment)

*Asperger's Syndrome: This was the deciding factor for our movie selection last night as budding SLPs and we were not disappointed. The characteristics most emphasized in the film were the social awkwardness, necessity of routine and the intense dislike of change.

For a personal account I recommend the book "Born on a Blue Day" by Daniel Tammet. Some of the promotional material touts him as an "Autistic Savant" however I believe that the term Aspergers is more accurate. Tammet relates what it is like for him to have an incredible intellect but an almost absence of social skills.

Wednesday, January 6

My Traveling Downfall

If you asked me whether I like a wide variety of foods I would say YES! I love food! I'll try anything! However, if you asked me more specific questions like "would you try chicken feet?" I would say NO!

I have the illusion that I'm adventurous with food because I love many different cuisines (Indian, Thai, Latin American, Chinese baking, etc.). Yet, there are many many things that I could never tolerate. I like the safe versions, the vegetarian menus found in Canada. Once you start throwing in fauna I get squeamish. I'm at the point now that I think I could eat most meats. Meats meaning muscle-based animal products of land animals (Snake? I think so! Zebra? Sure! Otter? Why not?). Did I mention that they have to be cooked?

Things you will not see me eating:
1. Uncooked animal products (eating ceviche - a dish of raw fish in lime juice - was almost too much for me). Sushi and raw whale meat are out.
2. Bugs.
3. Gristle (you know, those cartilagey parts)
4. Organ meats.
5. (Most) Sea creatures (I can do shrimp/lobster/crab/fish if absolutely necessary but I draw the line octopus, fish eggs, squid or sea cucumber anus)

Places that would cause me the most food anxiety:
1. China (oh, but I do want to go!)
2. Japan
3. France

Anywhere I go I should research "safe" foods (which is somewhat unfortunate because food is a major part of the travel experience - especially sharing meals with new friends....). Why is it always so rude in other cultures to turn down a dish? They could all come to my house and I won't be offended if they say no to my chickpea meatloaf or veggie stew!

ETA: Apparently French food isn't as obviously awful as I thought lol. They to use all parts of the animal: the liver, other organs, and yes, escargots. Also, I dislike wine. And I dislike blue/stinky cheeses. And mushrooms. It just wouldn't go over well.
And I like ketchup; I hear you can't ask for ketchup.