Saturday, January 31, 2009


I was happily on my way to bed when I decided to look at the Club for Growth's blog and found this great article on the defense of free trade for cheese. I additionally found this which has a link to a fasenating podcast on truth in economics.

When Putin has a better concept of what good government spending is then our President, one begins to think that we indeed do have an attatude problem.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Life Optimism

I am an optimist on the matter of life. I believe that a person has inherent value due to his humanity, and thus even a life not lived to its full potential still has value. This also makes me pro-life. I do not believe if a woman is pregnant and she doesn't want the baby, this desire on her part gives her the right to end that life. Indeed, she may if she wishs give it up for adoption, but to say that life does not matter because she didn't wish it right now is absurd at best, as well as being immoral.

I was dismayed therefore when President Obama was elected, as his vocal support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) placed him solidly on the side of death. I too some heart when I read this article for being optimistic. I am also well aware of the fact that the laws can say whatever they want, but it is the people on the ground who will make the difference. I was pleased to find out about the 40 days for life campgain, and will be involved with it as much as possible during this bleak time for those who believe in life over death. This gives a brief review of Rowe V. Wayde 36 years down the road.

Finally, I found this article by Mark Steyn to give me a smile.

On dogs

My wife (the most beautiful woman on God's green earth) wants a dog. Not only does she want a dog, she wants a dog that reminds me of Dante's Inferno when he describes Cerberus, minus the two extra heads of course. I have no problem with getting my wife a dog, though I took some comfort in this article from the great Dave Barry. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not celebrating the death of the SMA?

I recently read this article from the Blind Access Journal that mentions some concerns about the death of the SMA. The primary concern is that with SMA profits AT companies will not be willing/able to keep up with mainstream technology. I find this arguement puzzeling, as currently System Access is far more stable then JAWS, equal to it in all ways except for one or two used by computer nuts like myself (and even then it is a close second), and Serotek's business model seems to opporate just fine without a SMA based model. I think this may indeed force the AT companies to get off the path of government handouts and get onto the path of innovation.

All hail the death of the SMA, and thanks be to God and Serotek for killing it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I am thrilled at this announcement from Serotek that they will be eliminating all their SMAs (Software Maintanence Agreements). This is the sort of innovation I have come to expect from Serotek, but even so I am always stunned anew when they once again blow my expatations out of the water.

For my birthday I got a netbook from my wife (the most beautiful woman on the earth) and the System Access Atom Edition from my friend Jenn to go with it. I cannot express how pleased I am at the responsiveness of SA and how pleased I am to know that when it comes time to switch all my boxes over to SA the transision will be an easy one. With Ellequence no longer being supported I see JAWS losing a HUGE part of its market share, as it is only Ellequence that has me currently useing JAWS 10 on my primary machine. Without that advantage I see absolutely no reason to give JAWS any marks above SA, nor Window-Eyes for that matter. I see the innovation for which Serotek is so properly known carrying it, and System Access, far beyond its current market share, even with the government slops being thrown at Freedom Scientific. When customers begin to see that quality and affordability are both available with System Access and that going with JAWS or Window-Eyes offers no real advantage and less customer service and affordability, it will be time for the folks at FS to prepare for a downhill ride. This has been long in coming, as on the whole the majority of AT companies can hardly be called innovative- hence why Serotek is so refreshing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Word Press Mirror

So I've got this blog feeding into a Word Press blog to try and determine how well I like Word Press. If I like it well enough I will switch over there, but if not I will keep blogging here. The Word Press format seems rather busy for my taste however, so I'll probably just keep things going here. God knows it will make the Twitter feed simpler to manage.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some Thoughts on Braille

As I begin to delve more deeply into the AT field, going beyond a hobby to a profession I have found the tendency to disregard Braille displays as a important and necessary part of most blind individuals AT package rather depressing. In the field where Braille is perhaps most exciting and full of possibilities to dramaticly level the playing field between those of us who are blind and those who are not with displays and access to electronic Braille (limiting or all together eliminating Braille's historic space issues) there is a noted coolness towards the code. This is unfortunate to say the least, for one of the best ways to have a full accessible digital lifestyle is to have tactile as well as audible output.

This coolness towards Braille is in part due to the stereotypes stil so easily found about blindness. People wish to be viewed as "normal" and thus they squint and strain at a ten word per minute rate of speed, rather then learn Braille. Even at twenty five or seventy five words per minutes the issue still remains that most can read at one hundred words per minute or more with no strain in Braille. I find a system and indviduals that promote this foolishness of print worship to be misguided at best, and believe they are woefully misinformed on what "normality" consists of (indeed all who have known me for any length of time can atest to my lack there of). I find the fact that in today's environment of openness and change we still have our minorities and stereotypes.

I believe however that if I, who was a anti Braille nutter from high school on, can be converted to the way of Braille there is hope for the most stubbron senior or recalcitrent student out there. I trust that once individuals have a taste of the freedom reading gives one, as opposed to listening all the time to material, they will want more. I hope so at least.

I am planning on wrapping up the display petition in mid to late April. I think this will give it enough time to be signed without transforming from a labor of love to one of pain. I hope it will have some impact on things, though more and more I find myself in the plite of so many geeks, who fall passionately in love with some obscure bit of programming or some sub sub geek culture issue, which when he holds forth to the rest of the world he is stunned to find that the rest of the world doesn't care about his pet project. This has its amusing side to be sure, though I pray it will be many a year before I need the services of a Tech Addicts Anonimus group. Just give me a gallon barrel of straight espresso and some good SAM Net content and I will survive... Hopefully.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vote Serotek in the Blind Bargains Poll

Vote here for everything Serotek related to give this outstanding company a part of the commendation they deserve for their dedication to quality and service. There are other options of course, but Mike Calvo and Serotek got my votes in every catagory they were offered in. The Victor Reader Stream and the KNFB Reader Mobile also got my vote. Voting ends 1-25, so get yours in today.

Leaving the PAC Mate Behind

Everyone who follows the AT field knows that apdative technology for the blind is extremely overpriced. The only ones who will tell you differently are those who gain the profits from this field. I will gratn that some products are important to the blind, speech output programs being chief among these, and Braille displays being a helpful (if all to unfortunately underused and overpriced) another. I submit however that apart from Serotek these and all other products are far overpriced.

I have always held that as much mainstreaming as possible, in education as well as technology, is best for everyone involved. This is due in part to the social intergration, it adds to acceptance of blind people as normal people who can't see when one uses an iPod or standard mobile phone or laptop as opposed to an odd looking device that looks like it comes fresh from 1970s science fiction.

The other factor is that of the market place. If inovation comes more regularly in the mainstream market (as the article above argues) then everyone, blind and sighted, benefit from such novations. Unfortunately novation is a lost word in the AT field. Apart from the novation of Serotek and the Stream from Humanware, there has been limited or non exsistant. The time is long past for us as blind people to put our money, and that which is used on our behalf by Voc Rehab and others, where our best interests lie, in the mainstream market. As the article notes some adaptive technology is very much needed to make mainstream technology work, but just because it is needed does not mean it needs to be overpriced rubbish. I commend Serotek for its inovation and ask all others in the AT field to think long and hard about how to best meet your client's needs. Will putting them on a device that may fall far behind the mainstream and be overpriced really the best answer? For some it may be yes, but I think for the majority it will be a solid no.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thoughts on Facebook

I have been useing Facebook for about four months now, and I am amazed anew at its usefulness. In addition to keeping up with friends, I can read daily devotionals, fellowship with other believers, send e mail, keep others updated on what I'm up to, and post itneresting articles that I find merit posting. Like anything it can be misused, but I am grateful for an accessible aplication that allows me as a blind person to do so much for FREE. What a blessing.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Serotek Does it Again

"It isn’t just about bridging the gap to employment, which is certainly important. It’s about providing a way for blind people to have fun, to be entertained, and to communicate with the rest of the world without any geographical, social or economic barriers. [...] The blind ghetto discourages mainstream technology companies from making their products accessible. A select group controls the sales to the ghetto and like it that way. The ghetto barriers protect their market share even though those walls can deny their customers access to the riches available to everyone outside the walls. It takes gutsy companies to build and market products that tear down the walls and it is these "disruptive" technologies that excite me."--Full Article

Once again Serotek shows through the above post its dedication to outstanding service, quality product, and most importantly amazing business philosophy. Dealing with the standard AT companies attatude of "good enough for you," it is extremely refreshing to see this company buck the trend and tare down a chunck of the ghetto wall. This attatude is why I plan to switch to System Access screen reader as quickly as possible. Realizing that life for the blind consists of more then 9-5 (while still regonizing that 9-5 is important) is one of the best and rarest qualities of Serotek. I will continue to support them personally and intend to train future students on Serotek's products. Such market oriented quality service needs and deserves to be supported.

Apostle of Light

This clip gives a dramatic depiction of Louis Braille going blind and inventing Braille. Thought considering the celebrations it was a good thing to post.

More bail outs and some plees for common sense

I found this bail out beg from U.S. Steel to be absurd, and expect it to be approved in a nanosecond by the government. On the opposite side I found these plees from the Club for Growth for economic common sense to be refreshing.

Forget superheros who fight greed, we need superheros to fight redistributionists, environmentalists, and social do-gooders who want to take away from the individuals freedom in the name of the "greater good."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy Birthday Louis Braille

I wish to add a belated but heart felt happy birthday to Mr. Braille, whose bicentennial occured on 1-4 of this year. Celebrations and educational events have already begun and are scheduled to continue throughout the year. I trust and hope this educational push will encourage both the sighted and blind to understand why Braille is not merely important but absolutely necessary for independence.

Happy Birthday Mr. Braille! — $200 discount on our Braille products
Longueuil, January 6th, 2008 — January 4th 2009 marked the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille. Louis Braille is the inventor of the Braille reading and writing system used internationally by people who are blind and visually impaired. It is the only method by which the blind can be truly literate. Statistics show that 85% of employed blind people use Braille to perform part of their job.
HumanWare has been at the forefront of providing award-winning Braille solutions for both students and professionals. HumanWare's BrailleNote note takers are used by thousands of students and professionals who create and access documents and books to be read in Braille. HumanWare offers other Braille solutions from the pocketsize BrailleConnect for use with mobile devices and laptops, several sizes of the Brailliant Braille displays for the workplace, and personal and institutional Braille embossers.

HumanWare will be celebrating this two hundredth anniversary throughout the year with many future announcements. To begin the year with the true spirit, HumanWare is pleased to offer to all of our customers in the Americas a $200 discount on the purchase on any of our Braille products.

HumanWare realizes that much work remains to be done to insure that all blind individuals have an opportunity to learn and use Braille. HumanWare has worked on many initiatives in the past to make Braille more accessible and will vigorously pursue these activities in 2009 and beyond to make illiteracy among the blind a thing of the past.

Campaign tries to teach the benefits of Braille


January 5, 2009 - 2:38PM

Since its invention in the 1820s, Braille has been the key to literacy - and employment - for blind people, according to the National Federation of the Blind.

It's appalling that only 10 percent of blind children in the United States are learning Braille, said Kevan Worley, president of the federation's Colorado Springs chapter.

Nationally, about 70 percent of blind people are unemployed, Worley said. But, he said, more than 80 percent of blind people who have learned Braille are employed.

The federation has launched a Braille literacy campaign as it celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the blind Frenchman who invented the Braille alphabet and published it in 1829. Sunday, Worley and other members of the local chapter demonstrated various mechanical and electronic Braille writers at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Briargate Boulevard. Similar events took place at about 60 bookstores across the country.

The small Braille machines easily attracted the attention of children visiting the store.

"Kids love to learn about Braille because it's a code," Worley said. Many myths about Braille - that's it's slow and hard to learn or that it can be replaced by audio material - have kept the Braille literacy rate low, he said. Also, there's a shortage of qualified teachers. But perhaps the biggest obstacle is that most blind children have some visual capabilities and are encouraged to use that rather than learn Braille, Worley and others said.

Rene Harrell, who is teaching Braille to her 7-year-old daughter Clare, said: "The default is to use print because people believe it's easier and it's less intimidating."

That might be OK for children's books when there's only a few large-print words on a page, she said, but by the time blind students get to high school they can't keep up with the reading and can't compete for college and jobs.

Harrell said she adopted Clare when she was 4 and at first believed that she could only perceive light. It turned out that Clare has some visual abilities, but they can vary based on the environment and other factors.

"We decided to let Clare use her vision when it's useful and let her learn techniques for when it's not," Harrell said.

Most children learn Braille at about the same rate that seeing children learn to read, Worley said. And it opens a world to them that listening to audio books alone cannot. When he adopted his son, Nijat, from Azerbaijan at age 11, he'd had no Braille training. He was living in a refugee camp and when his sight was lost at age 9, his schooling had stopped.

Nijat said he quickly picked up Braille (and English), learning to read it with Harry Potter books. He graduated last year from Cheyenne Mountain High School and is now a freshman at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Now he teaches his dad how to download the newspaper on the equivalent of a Braille laptop, as well as scanning and downloading his textbooks so that he can read them in Braille.

Contrary to popular belief, adults who lose their sight later in life can learn Braille, too, Worley said.

Rob Lewark, 45, awoke one day in May 2005 and could barely see. His vision was about 80 percent gone, and by January 2006, he was blind because of glaucoma. He'd done a variety of things but in midlife had gone back to school and became an architect. That career was gone, too.

But he learned Braille at the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton, and soon was running his own cafe on Peterson Air Force Base.

"There are a lot of things blind people can do," he said. As for the saying "Life's a bitch," Lewark had his comeback tattooed in Braille on his arm: "Let's get this bitch started."

I also have to mention the continuous and tireless work of the National Braille Press. Their quest to provide Braille at prices our sighted counterparts would pay is a praise worthy one.

Monday, January 5, 2009

First Post of the New Year

I found this on National Review and it is a riot! Good to laugh a bit during this time. For those unaware my wife has taken a short full time job in Littleton that entails her being away from home pretty much all the time between now and early April. I miss her already (she left this afternoon) and am eager for the three months to be past. This is why I am reading the National Review at 4:47am- hard to sleep without my beloved here.

Also this describes well why I view with disgust those who will not look at both sides of an issue or take into account small things like facts.

Sueanne and I spent New Year’s Eve quietly at home, a very enjoyable way of bringing in the New Year (as loud drunken parties aren’t much on the agenda these days). We celebrated our second wedding anniversary early on the second and third at Cripple Creek where we enjoyed gambling, food, and the room. This week I have my first AT client, and am attempting to enjoy a better year this year then last.

My first post of the new year would not be complete without this gem from Dave Barry reviewing 2008. I found out he is a Libertarian, which I found most cool. His colum feed can be found here.

I also have to include this about wrapping paper from around Christmas time. Made me laugh so hard I thought it deserved inclusion despite the late date. As did the below.

What happened was, I slid off the chairlift and went back down the mountain very fast.
Q. What do you mean by ``very fast''?
A. I mean that, because of the Theory of Relativity, after a few seconds I had traveled in time back to 1963, and was still picking up speed when I penetrated deep into the woods.
Q. How deep did you penetrate?
A. One of the trees later bore my child.
Eventually I learned that the best tactic for skiing is: Never go DOWN the mountain. Always go SIDEWAYS, which involves less gravity. --Full Article

I pray for the persecuted.