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Podcast With A Blindness Perspective.

Oct 15, 2018

Show Summary:

 

(Full Transcript Below)

Let’s board that Blind Abilities airlines jet and head back to the enchanted Hills Camp in Napa Valley, ca., where Jeff caught up with another student of the Woodworking for the Blind (WW4B) workshop. In this interview, we meet Trevor Astrope, a Computer Analyst who works for Morgan Stanley, as the Global Lead for their Private Cloud. Yes, he’s a computer Geek! but Trevor is so much more!

[caption id="attachment_4024" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Trevor and Jeff sitting outside the Art Barn at EHC.Trevor and Jeff sitting outside the Art Barn at EHC.[/caption]

He shares his story of life, his education and his views on blindness. He also shares his passion for building his own guitars and how WW4B helped him achieve the skill-level needed to accomplish this.  Hear of his original plan to use only hand tools to craft his guitars, but how WW4B gave him the knowledge and confidence to incorporate power tools as well. Hear Trevor describe his guitar-building process, from his template to his tools, and listen as his passion shines through!

 

Be sure to set aside a few short minutes for this fascinating interview with an interesting guest, brought to you by Blind Abilities!

 

Contact

 

If you wish to reach out to Trevor, shoot him an email.

If you want to learn more about WW4B check them out on the web at www.WW4B.org

And you can find out more about Enchanted Hills Camphere on the web.

Thanks for listening!

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
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Full Transcript:

Meet Trevor Astrope: Computer Analyst, Woodworker and Guitar Builder, at WW4B and the Enchanted Hills Camp

Pete Lane:
Hi, folks. Pete Lane here. Welcome to Blind Abilities. Let's go out west again to the Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa Valley, California, sponsored by the San Francisco Lighthouse For The Blind. There, way way up on Veeder Mountain, is where Jeff Thompson connected with his old friend, George Wurtzel to teach a group of blind students the art of woodworking.

Pete Lane:
Jeff also connected with another one of his woodworking students, Trevor Astrope. Let's meet Trevor and hear about his blindness, his childhood and his passion for computers.

Trevor:
By six years old, I had optic neuritis, left me with about 10% of vision in one eye and about two percent in one eye. Then, when I was 12, in my good eye, I had the detached retina. My vision went from shadows to light perception to nothing, just over time. I had a teacher's aid group, grade nine, ten and eleven and then in grade twelve, they wanted me to be more independent, so they let her go. While I was in school, I was always into computers. When I went to university, I got a Unix account and taught myself how to use Unix. Unix is an operating system similar, but very different to say, Windows. Most internet servers are running some form of Unix.

Pete Lane:
And let's hear about Trevor's other passion. His passion for making guitars.

Trevor:
For me, I wanted to basically have my own custom made guitar. I didn't want a Gibson or Fender logo on it. I wanted my own logo and then I wanted it designed to my specifications. I realized, oh why don't I just try to do this myself because the only way it's gonna be the way I exactly want it, is if I do it. And that's kind of always been my philosophy in life like, if you want something done right, just do it yourself, right? I didn't think blind people could use industrial machinery or even hand tools. I like my fingers, I don't wanna lose them. I'm gonna do this all with hand tools.

Trevor:
One tool that is really helpful in guitar making is a handheld rotor. So I learned it here and that gave me the confidence to say, "Hey. Yeah, this is easy. I can do this." And it's much more precise and saves a lot of time.

Pete Lane:
Let's hear Trevor's advice for other members of the blindness community.

Trevor:
It's always hard starting because people will try to place barriers on you that you may not necessarily have. It's really important to be able prove yourself one way or another. You know that even if it's a short term position or maybe in volunteering, anything that you can sort of prove to people that, "Hey, I can do this."

Pete Lane:
And now, without further adieu, let's join Jeff Thompson and his guest, Trevor Astrope.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities, I'm Jeff Thompson. And we're up on top of Veeder Mountain at Enchanted Hills Camp and we're attending the, Woodworkers for the Blind annual event. I believe this is the seventh annual event and this is part of San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I'm sitting outside on the deck of the workshop and we're visiting with Trevor Astrope and he's from Montreal. How are you doing, Trevor?

Trevor:
I'm doing great.

Jeff Thompson:
Great. Trevor, can you tell what your job duties are, what you do for a living?

Trevor:
So I work in IT. I work at Morgan Stanley and I work as the global lead for the level three operations team for their private cloud.

Jeff Thompson:
And you have an interest in woodworking, mostly centered around guitar building?

Trevor:
Right. So I'm an aspiring guitar builder. I work in my home, primarily in my kitchen/workshop and I'm building guitars primarily by hand with some power tools. So yeah, I come to these workshops to learn new skills that I can take back home with me and apply to my guitar building.

Jeff Thompson:
That's great. And how did you find about the WW4B Event out here in Enchanted Hills?

Trevor:
I found out first, by finding WW4B and then, subscribing to that mailing list and joining the group to get access to the website and the articles and then from there, I found out, hey there's a summer workshop. And even before WW4B, I was searching on the internet to find out if there was any kind of blind, woodworking workshops because I did see some YouTube videos where there were people showing videos about teaching blind people woodworking and George [inaudible 00:04:08] one of these people. And I'm like, "Well, how do I get there? How do I find that?" And I searched the internet, I didn't really find anything how to get to these places, but then, I found WW4B and then from there, that's where the workshop is organized through and advertised through and I said, "Ah. That's where I wanna be."

Jeff Thompson:
And you can find that at, WW4B, and that's the number four, WW4B, the number four, B.org on the web and you can look on there. And if you're interested in woodworking or finding out more about it, that's where you would go.

Jeff Thompson:
Trevor, you're blind, visually impaired?

Trevor:
Totally blind.

Jeff Thompson:
When did this all take place?

Trevor:
Well when I was six years old, I had optic neuritis, left me with about 10% of vision in one eye and maybe about two percent in one eye, which was just peripheral vision. And then, when I was 12, I had in my good eye, I had the detached retina, which was misdiagnosed and didn't go treated in time and then, my vision went from shadows to light perception to nothing, just over time.

Jeff Thompson:
So, how was your educational journey with accessibility, alternative techniques? Were you mainstreamed, what was that process like?

Trevor:
Yeah, so I grew up in a northern community in Canada. I read large print, was a low vision user all through school because I lost my sight when I was in the first grade and I managed pretty well. I had the CCTV enlarger and large print typewriter and that kind of thing because my handwriting was very messy, I was always told teachers couldn't read it. So they always wanted me to type, so I learned to type at a young age. When I was 12 and I lost my sight, I left this town and I moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba and I lived with my grandmother to go to school in the city because there was much more resources there and I can braille my work and then they would translate it.

Trevor:
And then I started using computers at that point. This is in 1980s around 1985, 1984, 1985 and I started using versabraille, an Apple II computer, then I started doing most of my work with those technologies. And when I eventually went to university, I took the same type of thing, except I had a PC by that point and the newer versabraille and at some point I got, what was the other thing that was called ... Braille and speak. I got a braille and speak for a while too.

Jeff Thompson:
Do you went to mainstream school through your educational process?

Trevor:
Right, right. It was all sort of facilitated through the Manitoba Department of Education. They had a special branch that they had consultants that liaison between the school and Manitoba education produced all their own materials. They had their own recording studio and did record books. So any books on the curriculum, they produced. And like I said, I could braille my work, it would ship there and then they'd have people that would translate it and write it all out, in between the braille lines, it would print out what it was and they'd send it back. And there was like maybe two or three day turnaround for that.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh that's awesome. So did you have a teacher for the visually impaired?

Trevor:
I had a teacher's aid once I got to high school that did a lot of that work that went back and forth. She learned how to read braille and then she would translate my stuff, she would do tactile drawings, she would do a lot of reading of materials that weren't available or articles or different materials that we had, that was sorta at hawk, she would do that. And she worked part time, so yeah, she worked with me during high school. Through grade nine, ten and eleven and then, grade twelve, they wanted me to be more independent, so they let her go and they wanted me to fend for myself because they knew I was going to university and I wouldn't have those kind of resources around.

Jeff Thompson:
You had to start advocating and doing it yourself?

Trevor:
They wanted me to learn to be more independent, so grade twelve I went solo.

Jeff Thompson:
When you were at university, did you have a student's disabilities office, of sorts?

Trevor:
Yes, there was. Well, they had a computer center which had PCs with, what was the voice program back then that we used, was it called flipper, something like that?

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, wow.

Trevor:
It'd be early 90s I guess. Like I said, I used the versabraille for a long time and then I got a PC. They had this computer room, which had the braille printer and they had a bunch of stuff in there. I went to write my exams there. So the teacher would give the exams, they would put them, usually, on a computer and then I would read them on the computer and answer them on the computer.

Jeff Thompson:
So, I have a feeling in the years that you were doing this, was it very acceptable or was it standard that people would be going to this computer science fields like you were?

Trevor:
No, it wasn't. When I first started university, there was a computer programming for the blind course and it was on mainframes. And my first year was the last year of this program because mainframes were being supplanted by PCs, right, and Unix type of systems. So they were a dying system and so, I think what they were finding is that the graduates of these programs were having a difficult time getting employment. I was interested. I used computers all through high school and I did have an aptitude for it, but it was just not something that was open for me because the university I went to ... This is sort of when the Mac and PC were challenging for supremacy and they put their money on the Mac. So all the computer science, computer labs were all Mac and the accessibility just wasn't there. They didn't have voice-over. What was the predecessor to voice-over? I can't remember.

Trevor:
But anyway, it wasn't something that was really gonna be accessible for me. I took an arts degree, general arts degree in sociology and political science, but meanwhile, while I was studying this, I did have a Unix account and access to the Unix system, which I would access via PC. Then I just taught myself how to use Unix because it just gave me so much more accessibility. Back then it was tell them that you [inaudible] into the library had an interface so I could go and I can search for all the books I needed for my essays and then I can reserve them and then I can just go there and pick them up and they'd have them all ready for me. Then I had a scanner with the [inaudible] software.

Jeff Thompson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Trevor:
Yeah. And I had that and then I would scan all my books and all my materials. When I first started with tape based stuff, but my first year in university, all my textbooks were, and I guess everybody can relate to this, they were all one edition behind because they would only re-record it if it was more than two editions out or something. So I'd go write a test and some of the times, the questions would be totally different because they rearranged the chapter numbers. And so, I always had to ask students, "What's ..." Because they'd say read chapters, what, two, four and eight, they'd skip around. [inaudible], "Can you tell me what the titles of those are?" And occasionally one of those chapters would just be totally missing.

Jeff Thompson:
Looking back at the amount of work that you kind of had to do, just before you can even start doing your homework, like scanning, collecting it, making it organized and getting it ready, then you could start reading it or read it as you go, however you did it. And now, you see people today with the handheld device such as the iPhone or the technology that they're utilizing today ...

Trevor:
It's totally different now. I thought it was amazing when I got access to Unix and I could go online and search books and find them and read newspaper articles online and find some information like that. I thought that was just totally revolutionary because before that, it was like I said, it was books on tape, that's what I was using and that was really archaic. And now, I see, I mean not only can they access books from ... They don't have to even go to a library, you can just download the books and read them. You just can't compare with available now to what was available then and even then, I thought what was available then was so much better than people before me, right, so it's always improving.

Jeff Thompson:
And that's kind of interesting because you got hooked up with Unix early on, which gave you access to a lot of stuff people were trying to get to that didn't know anything about Unix. You kind of had a jump start.

Trevor:
Yeah and I did it out of my own self-interest that this gave me access to information I didn't have access to otherwise. I couldn't read a newspaper and I couldn't get newspaper articles. Just day to day stuff, not just with school, I thought this was amazing. So yeah, I took to it and I learned it and it was great. And then when I graduated, I have a general arts degree, which wasn't very helpful for me finding a job, but it was right in the 90s when the internet was exploding and people who knew Unix were high in demand. So I just naturally found myself doing that kind of work, doing some consulting work in the beginning because it'd be small companies that people who you know, know somebody and they say, "Yeah, we wanna get into an internet. We don't know how. How do we get internet?" "Oh, well I know how to do that. I can get you on the internet, no problem. I could set up a mail. You want an email? Really, I'll set you up in a mail server."

Trevor:
And fax servers were huge in the 90s. I did a lot of work setting up fax servers for small businesses and stuff like that. And now, nobody uses faxes anymore, but that was a big thing then, too. That's what really helped me. Going to university, yeah I got a degree, which I'll say was a useless degree, but it wasn't useless because if I hadn't gone to university, I wouldn't have learned Unix. I would never would have learned that.

Jeff Thompson:
Can you explain Unix to the listeners?

Trevor:
So Unix is an operating system. Similar, but very different to say, Windows or macOS, but more similar to macOS because macOS is a graphical interface built on top of Unix. So it's underlined operating system and it's primarily the operating system that runs the internet. So most internet servers are running some form of Unix, most web servers are running on a form of Unix. Nowadays Linux is pretty much dominated the market and there's various different flavors of Linux, but it's all the same thing when it gets right down to it. It's just how it's packaged.

Jeff Thompson:
Still the Microsoft operating system, Apple operating standard are just interfaces that the general public uses to connect [crosstalk]?

Trevor:
It's better for the desktop, right? It's a user productivity tool that helps people access software and prevent nicer menus and more usable interfaces. Whereas Unix, you're not concerned about the interface, you're more concerned about the performance and it was just designed for a server architecture. Windows came from the desktop and then they made a server version from that, but Unix is the other way around. It started out as a server operating system and they made a desktop out of it.

Jeff Thompson:
What suggestions would you have for someone who is transitioning from high school to college to the workplace? What advice would you have for them?

Trevor:
For me, it was, like I said, I did a lot of consulting work. So if you have a skill and you have something that you can do, that was a good way to start like project base to say. In my field it was easy because it was sort of a task and, "Oh, okay. We wanna be on the internet, how do we do that?" "Okay. This is what you need. This is what you need." And set it up. But sometimes it's good just to ... You have to just get your foot in the door, right, and then you have to prove yourself and then once you have, then you can build upon that. So that's what I've found. It's always hard starting because people will try to place barriers on you that you may not necessarily have. It's really important to be able to prove yourself one way or another. You know that, even if it's a short term position or maybe even volunteering, anything that you can sort of prove to people that, "Hey. I can do this."

Jeff Thompson:
Great. Trevor, we both have an interest in music and it seems like it goes back to somewhat guitar style music from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and that was a common thing plus the woodworking and then you mentioned that you wanted to build guitar. What got your interest in manufacturing, building your own guitar?

Trevor:
I collect guitars and what really got me started is, you can buy guitars in China, which I'll say are generally counterfeits. They will make them as a copy of an existing guitar. But for me, I wanted to basically have my own custom made guitar. So, I didn't want a Gibson or Fender logo on it, I wanted my own logo and then, I wanted it designed to my specifications and it was kind of hit or miss. Well, I only bought two guitars. One was really great and one was ... I got a bit ambitious and I tried to really spec it out to a lot of details, but there was a big communication problem between someone who doesn't speak English very well and someone who doesn't speak Chinese at all, right? So, at that point I realized, "Why don't I just try to do this myself because the only way it's gonna be the way I exactly want it, is if I do it." And that's kind of always been my philosophy in life like, you want something done right, just do it yourself, right?

Jeff Thompson:
And if you can't afford it, you better be able to make it yourself.

Trevor:
That too, exactly.

Jeff Thompson:
So what was your first start? How do you get started? First of all, you're talking woodworking, I used to teach woodworking to students and it was like that's an expectation that shocked them like you're gonna operate machinery.

Trevor:
Right. I had that same thought, myself like I didn't think blind people could use industrial machinery or even hand tools. I thought, this is very dangerous, I like my fingers, I need them every day. I don't wanna lose them. So I thought, my approach in the beginning was, "I gonna do this all with hand tools. I'm doing it as a hobby, this is not an occupation for me. I'm making guitars for myself, not for anybody else. I have time. I don't have a deadline, so I'm gonna learn hand tools and I'm gonna build the guitars just using hand tools." Plus, I had limited space. So I live in an apartment and I work in my kitchen. I didn't wanna make a huge mess. Hand tools are less messy than power tools ...

Jeff Thompson:
Now, what you call an apartment is like a condo here, you own the space?

Trevor:
Sure. I got some ... A little more flexibility.

Jeff Thompson:
So you can choose what you do?

Trevor:
Yeah, sure.

Jeff Thompson:
There you go.

Trevor:
But it's still an apartment style building, it's apartment style layout. So yeah, so I started with the hand tools and I use nothing but hand tools. And I made a guitar body, not that I finished it, but I just wanted to get the experience. I just use cheap lumber. This is not gonna be my masterpiece, this is gonna be my learning, test piece. So I joined two pine, two by eights, I bought one from Home Depot and they cut it up for me and then, I sawed it by hand to the length I wanted. I glued the two pieces together to make it wide enough for a body. So I learned, okay, this is how you edged one, how to make a plane, I had to make each side to be plane straight, so you could join them together without a gap. So I learned these basic techniques that everybody woodworking needs to know. Of course you get machines to do that, I did it by hand.

Trevor:
And then I used a special saw, called the bow saw, which is not a bow saw you cut tree limbs because if you do an Amazon search that's what you'll get, but it's an old world tool before the band saw existed is what they used these tools for. So it can cut around. It has handles on the side and you can turn the blade to cut at any angle, any curve you want. And I can even cut 90 degrees with it. I had a guitar template. I bought the template, the shape of a guitar was like on a piece plywood that's quarter inch plywood, gives you the two dimensional shape of the guitar. Made another template of that. Using that template, I used a bow saw to cut another one out and then I placed the pine wood that I glued together, in between. So there was a template on the front and a template on the back. I had to use a drill and I drilled dowels to go through, so I can line the back template up with the front template. Then I used that saw to cut the guitar body.

Trevor:
And it's very rough because you can't go in a smooth motion when you can't see what you're doing. So I'd have to stop to make sure I didn't go too far out or I wasn't going too far in. So you get kind of a wavy pattern along the lines and then I used these small, little palm planes that are very fine and very small and can get into tight spots, just to clean up the edges and I got it all smooth. And I did the same on a guitar neck, I used a router plane, another hand tool, to cut the trust rod channel, a spokeshave for carving the neck. And that's as far as I got before I came here. Last year was my first, Woodworking for the Blind Workshop and that introduced me to tools. Again, I don't have the space for these big tools that hare here, but one tool that is really helpful in guitar making is a router, a handheld router. I had learned how to use that while I was here. I never would have bought it on my own because I wouldn't have known how to use it.

Trevor:
So I learned it here and then that gave me the confidence to say, "Hey, yeah this is easy. I can do this." So I've been working with that tool now to do a lot of the work cutting the cavities, cutting the shape and it's much more precise and saves a lot of time. And there's still a lot of room for the hand work and carving the neck using spokeshaves and planing to join wood. I use a combination of hand tools and power tools and as I learn more power tools, I'll probably incorporate more of them into my work.

Jeff Thompson:
That's really cool.

Jeff Thompson:
It's like you've had drive like whether it was to get more involved with Unix, gaining access to books and then when you wanna learn something, you go to the resource and you went to WW4B.org and ...

Trevor:
I've always been self-taught like I taught myself Unix and I taught myself woodworking with the hand tools, but there's a line. I wasn't gonna teach myself on tools that could injure myself that I wasn't confident in. That's what this workshop gives me that confidence to learn stuff and say, "Hey, yeah. This is doable and this is easy." There's a limit that I'll go to, I won't endanger myself in my pursuit of knowledge and skills. Otherwise, I like to learn stuff and I like to learn stuff on my own. Part of the discovery of it. Having people show you stuff is great, but to me, it's the discovery, right?

Jeff Thompson:
The experience is the best teacher, isn't it?

Trevor:
Yeah. Exactly.

Jeff Thompson:
We've been talking to, Trevor Astrope, from Montreal, Canada and he's down here at the WW4B annual sessions. You're attending both of them, there's a beginner's and an advance?

Trevor:
Yeah. I was in the beginner's last year and I still am a beginner, but I've learned some skills that go a little bit beyond the beginner. And I'm not quite advanced yet, but I would become advanced. So I'm gonna hang out with the advanced woodworkers to learn the skills and tips and tricks from them, so I can become an advanced woodworker.

Jeff Thompson:
Tap their brains?

Trevor:
Exactly.

Jeff Thompson:
And that's what it's all about. Getting experience, learning from others and getting a tool in your hand and doing something. So Trevor, if someone wanted to get ahold of you, yeah, how would they do that?

Trevor:
Probably the easier way is just send email, Trevor@Astrope, A-S-T-R-O-P-E, .C-A.

Jeff Thompson:
So, we hope you enjoyed this. We're gonna tune out from the top of Veeder Mountain, out here in Napa, California at the Enchanted Hills Camp. Thanks, Trevor.

Trevor:
Cool.

Pete Lane:
This concludes Jeff's conversation with Trevor Astrope. We'd like to thank Trevor for taking time out of his day at WW4B to chat with Jeff and we wish him all the luck in the world with his guitar building efforts. And for all of you out there, thanks so much for listening and have a great day.

Pete Lane:
For more podcasts with the Blindness Perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com.

Pete Lane:
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Pete Lane:
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