Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blogging My Debt

For those who don't know me very well I have an abiding interest in money, wealth, and how one can be a good steward of the resources one receives. Part of being a good steward is becoming debt free. IMO there are two kinds of debt, good debt (debt for something that will bring in more money such as rental property) and bad debt (consumer debt- credit cards, car loans, etc.).

I believe that by keeping a log of my progress of becoming debt free and building up a reserve I will be more inclined to do what I say here. For starters I currently have a debt of $1,100 to pay off. I wish to build a reserve consisting of $12,000 in the bank and $5,000 in I Bonds. I will continue to log my monthly progress (or set backs) here. Any words of encouragement or advice are greatly appreciated.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Coffee Cantata

JS Bach's
Coffee Cantata
Libretto by
Christian Friedrich Henrici
Cantata BMV211

Composed for perfomance by Bach's Collegium at Zimmerman's Coffee House,
Leipzip, between 1732 & 1734

Recitative Narrator
Be quiet, stop chattering,
and pay attention to what's taking place:
here comes Herr Schlendrian
with his daughter Lieschen;
he's growling like a honey bear.
Hear for yourselves, what she has done to him!

Aria Schlendrian
Don't one's children cause one
endless trials & tribulations!
What I say each day
to my daughter Lieschen
falls on stony ground.

Schlendrian You wicked child, you disobedient girl,
oh! when will I get my way;
give up coffee!
Lieschen Father, don't be so severe!
If I can't drink
my bowl of coffee three times daily,
then in my torment I will shrivel up
like a piece of roast goat.

Aria Lieschen
Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
mellower than muscatel wine.
Coffee, coffee I must have,
and if someone wishes to give me a treat,
ah, then pour me out some coffee!

Schlendrian If you don't give up drinking coffee
then you shan't go to any wedding feast,
nor go out walking.
oh! when will I get my way;
give up coffee!
Lieschen Oh well!
Just leave me my coffee!
Schlendrian Now I've got the little minx!
I won't get you a whalebone skirt
in the latest fashion.
Lieschen I can easily live with that.
Schlendrian You're not to stand at the window
and watch people pass by!
Lieschen That as well, only I beg of you,
leave me my coffee!
Schlendrian Furthermore, you shan't be getting
any silver or gold ribbon
for your bonnet from me!
Lieschen Yes, yes! only leave me to my pleasure!
Schlendrian You disobedient Lieschen you,
so you go along with it all!

Aria Schlendrian
Hard-hearted girls
are not so easily won over.
Yet if one finds their weak spot,
ah! then one comes away successful.

Schlendrian Now take heed what your father says!
Lieschen In everything but the coffee.
Schlendrian Well then, you'll have to resign yourself
to never taking a husband.
Lieschen Oh yes! Father, a husband!
Schlendrian I swear it won't happen.
Lieschen Until I can forgo coffee?
From now on, coffee, remain forever untouched!
Father, listen, I won't drink any
Schlendrian Then you shall have a husband at last!

Aria Lieschen
Today even
dear father, see to it!
Oh, a husband!
Really, that suits me splendidly!
If it could only happen soon
that at last, before I go to bed,
instead of coffee
I were to get a proper lover!

Recitative Narrator
Old Schlendrian goes off
to see if he can find a husband forthwith
for his daughter Lieschen;
but Leischen secretly lets it be known:
no suitor is to come to my house
unless he promises me,
and it is also written into the marriage contract,
that I will be permitted
to make myself coffee whenever I want.

A cat won't stop from catching mice,
and maidens remain faithful to their coffee.
The mother holds her coffee dear,
the grandmother drank it also,
who can thus rebuke the daughters!

This outstanding cantata is one of Bach's best (and I say that not simply because coffee is my addiction of choice). One doesn't think of classical music leaving one rolling in the aisles, but I would submit that Mozart, Bach, and Hyden all had quite entertaining works.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Homeless, or living out of my netbook

So I found out today that we will be let out of our lease early- like on 5-1 early. Good news- we will save a *TON* of money as our unit comes free on 7-1 and the cost of storage, a P.O. Box, and some financial gratitude for those we stay with in the itnerum will not equal our rent. The bad news- we are running like MAD to get everything ready to go. For myself this mostly means getting everything I need off of this machine to go onto my netbook. At this point I am giving harty thanks to God for buying that external harddrive last summer, it will prove an absolute Godsend this summer.

Additionally in the time between 5-1 and 7-1 we are homeless. As of 6-1 I will be at the summer program at the CCB, so I am set. Sueanne will be staying with family and Jenn, so she is set. It's the whole May thing that kind of has us concerned. We are contacting family and friends to get crash space on a weekly basis, in hopes that we will be able to cover ourselves in the meantime.

All in all a very exciting time. Getting out of our lease early overall is a blessing, and one I am grateful for. I will log how electronic life is on a netbook and external harddrive. I've been saying for months that a netbook could easily replace most people's desktops and notetakers, now I get to put my money where my mouth is. Will let you know how it goes.

Running around like mad but still having time for the iced coffee...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On the tea party and blindness

I found this post from Serotek to be most interesting. On the one hand it suggests correctly that one of the primary issues is government spending going into outdated technologies, while suggesting on the other hand that government spending isn't wasteful and that we as blind people would be worse off without it. On the former point we are in complete agreement, but on the latter point I must disagree. Would the market truly bare the current prices for adaptive technology? Is there such amazing innovation in the AT field that we need really worry about RND being discontinued? What RND exactly? As a company that supports affordibility in its products I would think Serotek would be above all others eager to see the government slops that keep adaptive technology prices above market go away. I hope their business model succeeds, because Freedom Scientific's model looks forward to the increased government spending for the blind we supposedly are in such need of. Give me reasonable prices I have a hope of paying, not endentured servitude to the government so I can have accessibility.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cheap Shots and Government Wellfare

I recently found this post from Cafe Hayek on snarky cheap shots- a post that I found personally touching as it excoriates those who delight in ad honimem attacks rather then addressing their points in an arguement. I have had several of these, as I currently receive social security payments due to my blindness, while strongly argueing for limited government and free markets. I have stated before and will state again that I find it extremely unfortunate that the means I currently find of living are from the government; however, I would present that if they were to go away tonight I would not starve- nor would my wife. We would no doubt have some hard choices to make, but we would survive- as would all those who are on social security. Reliance on the government from a personal viewpoint has given me nothing but a sense of worthlessness and being a drain on society. I find happiness and worth when I have had employment and been able to make my own way in life. I look forward to the day when I am able to disconnect this IV of government and walk forward in freedom. This disconnection may be awhile in coming, but I work to make it happen- and as is mentioned in the post above of my personal state doesn't impact the validity of my arguements for the free market and limited government.

The only reason why we find it so necessary currently is because we have been trained to do so. People survived perfectly fine before the 1930s, and I have no doubt would do so if SS were to depart directly.

One arguement as a disabled person I have heard from other disabled individuals is that the cost of adaptive equipment would bankrupt us if we didn't have government support- and if we are talking about today's prices for adaptive equipment I would quite agree. If one looks however at the real worth of these products one would find if the companies didn't have the government doling out the money they would be forced either to drop prices in order to stay in business or go out of business. Shocking notion in today's economy of bail outs, but such things can be a good thing. I do not believe that subsequent development of adaptive technology would end, and I suggest that those who believe so have no concept of what market economics is. My primary example is Serotek. This company has lowered the bar drasticly on prices, particularly for screen reading technology. Granted it may not have all the bells and wistles one might like (though it has a surprisingly large number considering the difference in price) but it works. With the new atom edition of System Access one can have a completely accessible computer via a netbook for $500. Now I am not made of money, but even I would find such a deal within my means, especially if such an avenue were my only method of gaining access to the internet and on line commerse.

Additionally there is the example of Apple's VoiceOver software. Less useful then System Access it still provides access to e mail, the internet, word processing, etc. useing the Apple OS platform. How much for this access one might ask? It is free.

With all this in mind I find it extremely unfortunate that some view government slops as the only means of obtaining independence. I find it absolutely criminal that companies charge $800-$1000 for blind individuals to access the internet. This reliance on government makes us throw our freedom to choose into the hand of the local VR councilor and limits our choices about where we live, what we do, and how we access life to them. I prefer freedom, and thus will I continue to support Serotek and all companies that support freedom for markets and individuals.

P.S. Found this on resenting the rich very valid. from Cato

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

10% Read Braille

Although I find the stat itself troubling (if not surprising) I like the positive points put forward about Braille. In particular the focus on the fact that literacy for the blind can only be found in Braille.

I am applying for grants to obtain an Alva BC640 to aid in my own quest for greater Braille literacy. Hopefully it will go well.

Fewer Than 10 Percent Of Blind Americans Read Braille


BALTIMORE (AP) -- Jordan Gilmer has a degenerative condition that
will leave him completely blind. But as a child, his teachers did not
emphasize Braille, the system of reading in which a series of raised dots
signify letters of the alphabet.

Instead, they insisted he use what little vision he had to read print. By
the third grade, he was falling behind in his schoolwork.

''They gave him Braille instruction, but they didn't tell us how to get
Braille books, and they didn't want him using it during the day,'' said
Jordan's mother, Carrie Gilmer of Minneapolis. Teachers said Braille would
be ''a thing he uses way off in the far distant future, and don't worry
about it.''

That experience is common: Fewer than 10 percent of the 1.3 million
blind people in the United States read Braille, and just 10 percent of
children are learning it, according to a report to be released Thursday
the National Federation of the Blind.

By comparison, at the height of its use in the 1950s, more than half the
nation's blind children were learning Braille. Today Braille is considered
by many to be too difficult, too outdated, a last resort.

Instead, teachers ask students to rely on audio texts, voice-recognition
software or other technology. And teachers who know Braille often must
shuttle between schools, resulting in haphazard instruction, the report

''You can find good teachers of the blind in America, but you can't find
good programs,'' said Marc Maurer, the group's president. ''There is not a
commitment to this population that is at all significant almost

Using technology as a substitute for Braille leaves blind people
the federation said, citing studies that show blind people who know
are more likely to earn advanced degrees, find good jobs and live

''It's really sad that so many kids are being shortchanged,'' said Debby
Brackett of Stuart, Fla., who pressured schools to provide capable Braille
teachers for her 12-year-old daughter, Winona.

One study found that 44 percent of participants who grew up reading
were unemployed, compared with 77 percent for those who relied on print.
Overall, blind adults face 70 percent unemployment.

The federation's report pulled together existing research on Braille
literacy, and its authors acknowledge that not enough research has been
done. The 10 percent figure comes from federal statistics gathered by the
American Printing House for the Blind, a company that develops products
the visually impaired.

The federation also did some original research, including a survey of 500
people that found the ability to read Braille correlated with higher
of education, a higher likelihood of employment and higher income.

The report coincides with the 200th birthday of Louis Braille, the
who invented the Braille code as a teenager. Resistance to his system was
immediate; at one point, the director of Braille's school burned the books
he and his classmates had transcribed. The school did not want its blind
students becoming too independent; it made money by selling crafts they

The system caught on, but began declining in the 1960s along with the
widespread integration of blind children into public schools. It has
continued with the advent of technology that some believe makes Braille

''Back in about 1970 or so, I was heading to college, and somebody said
me, 'Now that you've got the tape recorder, everything will be all right.
the early 1980s, somebody else said, 'Now that you've got a talking
computer, everything will be all right,''' said Marc Maurer, president of
the federation.

''They were both wrong. And the current technology isn't going to make
everything all right unless I know how to put my hands on a page that has
words on it and read them.''

Audio books are no substitute, said Carlton Walker, an attorney and the
mother of a legally blind girl from McConnellsburg, Pa. Walker once met a
blind teenager who had only listened to audio books; the teen was shocked
discover that ''Once upon a time'' was four separate words.

Walker also had to lobby teachers to provide Braille for her 8-year-old
daughter, Anna, instead of just large-print books.

''At 3 years old, Anna could compete with very large letters. When you
older, you can't compete,'' Walker said. She once asked a teacher,
are you going to do when she's reading Dickens?' She said, 'Well, we'll
go to audio then.'

''If that were good enough for everybody, why do we spend millions of
dollars teaching people to read?''

Gilmer, now an 18-year-old aspiring lawyer, worked on his Braille in a
summer program when he was in middle school and can now read 125 words a
minute, up from his previously rate, an excruciatingly slow 20 words a

''Just try it,'' Carrie Gilmer said. ''Go get a paragraph, get a
and try to read 20 words a minute. Try and read that slow and see how
frustrating it is.''

Fluent Braille readers can read 200 words a minute or more, the

Carrie Gilmer is president of a parents' group within the federation for
blind. She believes poor or haphazard instruction is largely responsible
the decline in Braille literacy, but she says sometimes teachers push
Braille only to meet resistance from parents.

''They're afraid of their child looking blind, not fitting in,'' Gilmer

The report outlines ambitious goals for reversing the trend, including
lobbying all 50 states to require teachers of blind children to be
in Braille instruction by 2015. But its immediate goal is to simply make
people aware that there's no substitute for Braille. It's not just a tool
help people function -- it can bring joy, Maurer said.

''The concept of reading Braille for fun is a thing that lots of people
don't know,'' Maurer said. ''And yet I do this every day. I love the
beautiful, orderly lines of words that convey a different idea that can
stimulate me or make me excited or sad. ... This is what we're trying to

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Colorado Joint Braille Resolution

Below is the joint resolution passed by the Colorado House and Senate on March 26th recognizing Louis Braille in general and the Braille coin in particular. Great stuff. I listened to the readings and adoption via streaming, and it was most moving.

First Regular Session
Sixty-seventh General Assembly

LLS NO. R09-0962.01 Joel Moore

Shaffer B.,


Senate Committees House Committees


WHEREAS, Since its invention by Louis Braille, the reading and
writing code for the blind that bears his name has become the accepted
method of reading and writing for the blind the world over; and

WHEREAS, Braille is used to represent not only the alphabets of
most written languages but also mathematical and scientific notation and
the reproduction of musical scores; and

WHEREAS, Braille provides people who are blind with the power
of knowledge, expanding their opportunities and equipping them with the
tools to be productive and imaginative contributors to society; and

WHEREAS, Contrary to popular belief, Braille is not difficult to
learn, nor is reading Braille slower than reading print; and

WHEREAS, While technology has improved the lives of blind
people by facilitating quick access to information, no technology can
replace Braille literacy since literacy is the ability to read and write and
to do both interactively; and

WHEREAS, Despite Braille’s efficiency, versatility, and universal
acceptance by the blind, the rate of Braille literacy in the United States
has declined to the point where only 10 percent of blind children are
learning to read and write Braille; and
WHEREAS, Just as a literacy rate of 10 percent among this
nation’s sighted children would be rightly viewed as a crisis and as cause
for national outrage, the decline in Braille literacy is a crisis, and swift
action must be taken to reverse this dangerous trend; and

WHEREAS, Braille literacy is the key to independence,
productivity, and success for blind people, as evidenced by the fact that,
while 70 percent of the blind are unemployed, 85 percent of those who
are employed use Braille; and

WHEREAS, The United States Congress officially recognized the
importance of Braille by passing the Louis Braille Bicentennial--Braille
Literacy Commemorative Coin Act, authorizing the striking of a United
States silver dollar in commemoration of the two hundredth anniversary
of the birth of Louis Braille; and

WHEREAS, The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s
oldest and largest organization of blind people and the leading advocate
for Braille literacy, has launched a national ”Braille Readers are Leaders”
campaign to promote awareness of the importance of Braille and the
magnitude of the Braille literacy crisis and to increase the availability of
competent Braille instruction and of Braille reading materials in this
country, with funding for said campaign to come from a portion of the
proceeds of the sale of the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar; and

WHEREAS, The National Federation of the Blind has today
released a comprehensive report, ”The Braille Literacy Crisis in
America--Facing the Truth, Reversing the Trend, Empowering the Blind”,
and the United States Mint has this day released the Louis Braille
Bicentennial Silver Dollar for purchase by the general public; now,

Be It Resolved by the Senate of the Sixty-seventh General Assembly
of the State of Colorado, the House of Representatives concurring herein:

(1) That we, the members of the Colorado General Assembly, do
hereby proclaim March 26, 2009, as National Braille Readers are Leaders
Day, to celebrate the hope, opportunity, and power that literacy in Braille
provides to the blind and to our nation; and

(2) That we call upon all public officials, educators, and citizens

-2- 031

throughout Colorado and this nation to recognize the importance of Braille in the lives of blind people and to assist the National Federation of the Blind in its efforts to increase instruction in and use of Braille in Colorado and across the United States.

Be ItFurther Resolved, That copies of this Joint Resolution be sent to Governor Bill Ritter, Jr.; the members of the Colorado Congressional delegation; and Scott C. LaBarre, President, National Federation of the Blind of Colorado.

-3- 031

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Acquiring a new Braille display

Yes indeed as everyone knows I have been drooling over an Alva BC640 and today I determined to acquire one. Of course this entailed a loan with my soul as calateral, but what's eternal life compaired to a new shiney Braille display? I looked at and went, well only $5,500- how can I ever pass *that deal* up?

For those of you having a bad day today is April 1st.