Archive for April, 2010

Letter from the Editor

Hello everyone,

I hope you all had a great weekend.  I just want to make a couple quick announcements.   First, the old site, while still active, is not being monitored and does not contain any new content or information regarding the publishing company.  I am unfortunately still in the process of dealing with our old hosting company so that we can shut the old site down and have the .org address direct everyone to this site automatically.  I’m hoping that this can be accomplished sooner rather than later, and I apologize for any confusion you may have had.

Second, we’ve brought on a new recurring writer this week.  Her name is Ann Chiappetta and she will be featured in the magazine every other week.  While normally I ask for our writers to put together a brief introduction, her first article will take care of that, and then some.  Please join me in welcoming Ann to the magazine.

I wish you all an enjoyable week.   Take care, and thanks for reading.


Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week

Ultimate Barbecue-Rubbed Chicken

Prep Time:20 min

Start to Finish:20 min

makes:4 servings

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup barbecue sauce, warmed

1. Heat gas or charcoal grill. In small bowl, mix brown sugar, paprika, cumin, garlic salt and chili powder. Rub both sides of chicken with seasoning mixture.

2. Place chicken on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F).

3. Serve chicken with barbecue sauce.

Nutritional Information 

1 Serving: Calories 210 (Calories from Fat 35); Total Fat 4g (Saturated Fat 1g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 75mg; Sodium 460mg; Total Carbohydrate 17g (Dietary Fiber 0g, Sugars 14g); Protein 27g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 15%; Vitamin C 0%; Calcium 4%; Iron 10% Exchanges: 1 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 3 Lean Meat Carbohydrate Choices: 1

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Are They Betting Against Us?

According to the American Journal of Public Health, as of June 11, 2009, companies selling health and life insurance invested nearly $2 billion dollars worth of stock in the fast food industry.  This begs the question: are they betting against us?

First, lets look at this strictly from a business perspective, leaving the insurance policy holders out of the picture.  Businesses seek to maximize income in a number of ways, including sales, royalties, licensing, and investments, among others.  By expanding their income potential through new revenue channels, the business becomes more successful and their impact on society becomes greater.  It’s what every business strives to achieve.

That said, lets bring the policy holders back into the picture.  If that business happens to sell health and life insurance, two services whose price are greatly dependent on the state of the purchaser’s health, then should that business be allowed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in an industry that negatively impacts the health of so many individuals, thereby increasing their insurance premiums?  It seems like double dipping.  They’re getting paid directly by the people who buy the insurance policies, and they’re making money off of the industry that makes them unhealthy.  On a very large scale, they’re hoping that people continue to eat at fast food restaurants so that they can get paid twice.  In fact, not only twice, but with increasing returns since both stock price and insurance premiums will rise as a result.  Something is wrong with this picture.

I suppose what it boils down to is a very simple question: when does good business affect a higher moral code?  Is a hearty bottom line worth it if it comes at the expense of the health of so many people?

To read the original article, please go to

An Unlikely Candidate Reenlists

Marine Cpl. Matthew Bradford has chosen to reenlist in the armed forces for a second time.  However, what’s unique about his situation is that he will be the first blind, double amputee to reenlist in the Marines.

On January 18, 2007, Bradford was part of a team that was clearing roadside bombs when one exploded right underneath him.  The blast took his legs instantly and left him blind and with injuries to his wrist and lower abdomen.  He was very lucky to have survived.

Bradford was sent to the newly dedicated Intrepid Center for rehabilitation and dove right in.  The first series of exercises were designed to strengthen his core muscles, then they graduated to more rigorous routines.  When President Bush was touring the facility, he pointed out Bradford ascending the indoor rock climbing wall saying, “Good man, isn’t he?”

Bradford continues to inspire those around him.  He recently took part in the Marine Corps Marathon on his hand cycle as directions were called out to him.  Last year, he participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March, an exhausting 10 mile hike through the deserts of New Mexico.

Now that Bradford is enlisted again, he hopes to devote his time to other injured service men and women in order to help them recover and bounce back as quickly as possible.  “I’m ready to get back to work,” he said eagerly.

To read the original article, please go to

Climbing Everest at 13

Jordan Romero is a 13 year old kid just like any other.  Except he’s got some pretty incredible ambitions for such a young guy.  This May, when the weather is at its best, Jordan will join a team of climbers and attempt to become the youngest person to ever climb Mount Everest.  His father, a paramedic, and stepmother will go with him on this journey, supporting him the whole way and making the climb along side him.

Jordan first knew he wanted to climb the world’s tallest mountain when he was nine years old and he saw a mural depicting the giant rock in his school.  “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do before I die — I just happen to be doing it at this age. I happen to be going for a world record. But I just want to climb it,” he said. 

To prepare for what will undoubtedly be the hardest climb he’ll ever endure, Jordan has been training hard in the California mountains, lugging backpacks filled with heavy rocks and sleeping in a specially-designed tent that simulates the environment in a high altitude setting.  While many are questioning the rationale in letting someone so young attempt such a dangerous climb, Jordan knows that he’s got a team that he trusts, and if conditions become to dangerous, or it doesn’t seem like Jordan can continue, they’ll turn back and try again another time.

For now, Jordan is gearing up for the event of a lifetime.  His school allowed him to do an independent study while he’s away, so he’s keeping a daily journal.  When he comes back, he hopes to do a tour of the country, climbing to the highest peak in all fifty states while he visits schools to talk to kids.

To read the original article, please go to

The Name is Bond, James Bond. I’m on Facebook.

The famous British intelligence agency, MI5, has released a statement saying that all of their agency operatives need to be familiar with current computer skills and social networking tools, or else they’re out.

This new policy comes at a time when terrorist organizations are increasingly using social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace to conduct communications between themselves.  While the older staff members may have been the best of the best in their day, lacking this important technological knowledge may leave them behind the ball, which could mean big problems and potential security risks.

Now the agency is on the look-out for younger agents with computer degrees who are not only familiar with the major social networking tools used around the globe, but can also pick apart complex computer systems to extract crucial data.  The new age spy will need to be half operative, half hacker.

With social networking and cyber attacks becoming more prevalent counterintelligence and attack measures, MI5, along with other intelligence agencies, will need to make sure that their agents are prepared for anything that they may meet.  If it means that a little house cleaning is in order, then that’s exactly what they’ll need to do.

To read the original article, please go to

Feature Writer Romeo Edmead – Jaw Dropping Meal

Imagine opening your mouth really wide as you get ready to bite down into your favorite sandwich, only to have your jaw completely lock in the open position. That is exactly what happened to Chad Ettmueller, when he visited the Which ‘Wich chain restaurant for a family dinner.

Ettmueller, a 38-year-old from Cumming, Ga., was hungry enough that he felt the need to order his sandwich with extra meat and extra cheese. But the sandwich, ironically named the Wicked, was stacked way too high and Mr. Ettmueller dislocated his jaw prior to taking his first bite.

Unfathomably, his jaw would remain in that position more than 14 hours later and only a surgical procedure would provide relief. Throughout his recovery, Mr. Ettmueller has remained a good sport, making jokes and vowing never to pursue legal action. In fact he has eaten there since, and jokes that he wants a sandwich named for his plight. He may even get his wish, because the restaurant is seriously considering the possibility.

To read the original article, please go to

Op Ed Writer Bob Branco – Reshaping Money for the Blind

I would like to talk about the concept of the blind having different sizes of paper money. I recently learned that someone is thinking about changing paper currency in the United States by developing different sizes of bills in order to make life a lot easier for those of us who can’t tell the difference between ones, fives, tens, etc. However, there is a blind consumer group who is against this concept because it feels that we, as blind people, have survived this long with the money as it is, so why make a change? It sounds like this consumer group believes that if there are different sizes of bills, the blind are being treated special, and not equal to the sighted. I have three comments to make about that.

First: I totally respect this group for its stance on equality between the blind and the sighted. I believe that the blind should equally compete with the sighted for jobs, that they should have the same educational opportunities as the sighted, that they should be awarded housing on the same merits as the sighted, etc. As far as money is concerned, why would it necessarily be that the blind are getting special treatment if they are given different sizes of paper currency? I would think that the sighted would be just as appreciative of this type of money. It would certainly help both sighted and blind people count their money faster. Besides, if we want to go along with this consumer group’s argument that the blind have survived all this time with the same paper money that the sighted has, then we can also say that the blind have survived with different sized coins, as the sighted have.

Second, this group of blind consumers believes in independence. So, isn’t it true that if the blind could tell which bills they have without asking someone, aren’t they more independent? Almost always, a blind person has to depend on a waitress, a cashier, a ticket vender or anyone else to tell him exactly how much money he’s getting back. A sighted person doesn’t have to ask; they already know.  They can see the money.

Finally, what if someone tries to take advantage of a blind person when making change? It happend to me in 2005. I was robbed of a substantial amount of money because a girl in my neighborhood told me she was giving me 15 dollars back in change for a 20-dollar bill, when in fact she gave me two ones. Obviously, I couldn’t tell the difference between what I wanted and what I got. All bills feel the same to me. However, if bills were different sizes, I’d know what she was doing and would have caught her in the act. Does this consumer organization think that I’d be better off not knowing what she did, having the same size bills, rather than if I had different sizes and was able to prevent the theft in time?

I don’t think that the blind are equal to the sighted when they’re at a disadvantage. We can’t tell the difference between a 5-dollar bill and a 10-dollar bill unless we’re told. If someone wants to tell us the wrong thing, then we’re thwarted. Again, I respect the consumer group’s views on a lot of different subjects, and I do agree with total equality between the blind and sighted, but I also feel that if the blind were able to identify all of their own money without depending on the sighted, that’s when the blind become equally as independent, and that’s important, too. And again, I believe that if sighted and blind people can live life with different sizes of coins, why can’t the sighted and blind live their lives with different sizes of paper money? There would be no special treatment.

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – My Biggest Supporters

In the past, I’ve written about some aspects of my life including my job search and acquiring a guide dog.  I wanted to write a little about two people who have been there for me since the day I was born: my parents.

I am one of two children.  I have an older brother and when we were growing up, it was him and I along with our parents.  We did everything together as a family and even though we argued from time to time, we still basically got along.

When I was in elementary school, the Board of Education and Services for the blind allowed me to participate in low vision evaluations.  My parents would bring me to a local optometrist who was approved by BESB to conduct such evaluations.  We would all sit down together and first discuss what my goals were in school and at home in an effort to best figure out what devices or glasses would work best.  At that time, my father worked nights and my mother worked days.  My mother was more involved in helping me pick devices to help me in school and my father was involved in finding things to help me outdoors.  I recall that my father helped me pick out some monoculars that I could take in the car, to my brother’s baseball games and on school field trips.  My mother helped me pick out hand held magnifying devices to help me with reading school textbooks and other school related items.

In January of 1980, my parents began to show us exciting brochures of Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  For the next 6 months, they talked about this wonderful vacation that we were all going to experience.  They talked about us kids flying in an airplane for the first time, going to Disney’s Magic Kingdome, experiencing Sea World and many other exciting aspects of this family vacation.

Finally, our trip was upon us.  During this trip, my father would frequently carry me on his shoulders so that I was tall enough to see things up close.  He put me on his shoulders to show me the huge selection of cuckoo clocks at the Magic Kingdom and he carried me around the park on his shoulders when I refused to walk.

A few years later, my father changed his work schedule so that he was able to spend time with us in the back yard after school.  My favorite thing to do with dad at that time was to have him pitch the baseball to me so that I could practice hitting it with the baseball bat.  He would stand close enough for me to see the ball and this worked out well.  Unfortunately, as I got older, I would hit the ball harder, and at times he would get hit in the shins and this became painful for him.  But, he still enjoyed it as much as me.

As I got older, some of the assignments in school required a lot more reading on my part.  One year, my teacher required students to write a book report once a month.  I would pick out a book from the library and my parents would read it with me.  Some evenings, my mother would read to me and other evenings, my father would read with me.  We all worked on my reading skills together.  Thinking back, this was a lot of fun, we would laugh together and talk about the stories together.  This made it easier to write the book reports and it was a nice thing to do with my parents.

When I was in the third grade, I decided to take piano lessons.  After visiting the mall’s music store, my parents signed me up to take lessons with their teacher.  She was a quiet spoken woman who had long black hair.  I don’t think she had much experience teaching because after a short time, my parents decided to find a different teacher.  The new teacher was a very funny gentleman who enjoyed the piano a great deal.  He found some music books with bold, black print, making it easier for me to read and every time he assigned me a new piece, he would play it for me so I could hear how it should sound.  My parents always brought me to my weekly lessons.  Instead of dropping me at the lesson, they sat with me and participated as well.  If my mother couldn’t make it to a lesson, my father would participate.  If my father was not available, my mother participated.

Years later, when I interviewed at Western Connecticut State University as part of their admissions process, my parents accompanied me through the interview.  We took a tour of the campus, met the meteorology teacher and met with the admissions staff.  When I moved into my dorm room, my parents packed up the car with supplies and helped me get settled into my new surroundings.  Every time I came home for semester breaks, my parents were there to help me move my belongings and they were there if I needed anything throughout my college career.

After graduation, I participated in many interviews, as you read about in an earlier article.  My father drove me to every interview and we talked about the interviews on the way home.  When I was employed at Vision Dynamics, I began teaching people to use computers with adaptive software, such as JAWS for Windows, Window-Eyes and Zoom text.  My father was always available to drive me to each person’s home and he would enjoy meeting the people and sitting through their lessons.  One student insisted on making coffee for him and her husband.  After the lesson, he told me that the coffee was worse than mud.

Currently, I am employed at the CT Institute for the Blind / Oak Hill.  When I had my interview, my parents took me shopping to help me pick out a new suit and new clothes for the job.  My father drove me to and from the interview.  After the interview ended, I had to come back for a second interview.  My father drove me again and when I was hired that day, I sent for him so I could share the good news and he was very proud.

I lived several towns from this new job so this meant that I would have to take 2 busses in the morning to get to work and 3 busses to get home in the evenings.  It all worked out to about 4 hours a day for the commute.  If there was bad weather and or traffic, the busses would run late and sometimes I would miss a connection.  All of the staff here at Oak Hill were tremendously supportive.  They knew all of the bus routes and if I had to call them, they always knew exactly where I was and could pick me up and get me to and from work.

Each morning I would get up at 5:00AM and leave my condo at 6:15 AM to begin the daily commute to Hartford.  The bus schedule was such that I could not get to the commuter parking lot by taking a bus.  My father had to get up and come from his house to my condo and drop me off at the commuter lot each day.  This was the only way I could get to this lot to get the first bus up to Hartford.  It didn’t matter what the weather was doing, he was always there on time ready to help me. 

After a while, an apartment on the campus of Oak Hill became available.  I decided to sell my condo and move to campus.  My parents were there yet again to help me move here and get settled.  My mother helped me pick out window curtains and blinds and my father helped me paint the apartment. 

Throughout my career, I’ve met many other people who are visually impaired or blind and I’ve always been shocked at how many people are not fortunate to have parents to help them.  I heard a story once of a person who was blind and they needed assistance organizing things in their apartment.  I asked if their mother or father would be helping them.  They said that they had to find a volunteer to help them because their parents didn’t want to travel from the shore to their area to help them.  Whenever I hear these kinds of stories, it just reminds me of how thankful I am to have the blessing of parents who have made it a point to be so helpful to me through my life.

A Tribute to Torsten Brand

Less than a decade ago, the only way a blind person could send a text message was through a website, or by connecting some models of phone to a computer. Less than a decade ago, the only way a blind person could navigate the menus and change settings on their phone was to memorise the sequences of key presses required, or carry around a Braille cheat sheet. And then, two brilliant people began collaborating. Marcus Groeber and Torsten Brand formed Brand and Groeber communications, and they got our phones talking.

The original Talx, yes it was spelled with an X in those days, worked on the Nokia communicator, a PDA device with a qwerty keyboard. Later however, Talks was released for S60 phones. In 2003, I purchased a Nokia 6600, and I’ll never forget the phone starting up after I’d installed Talks. It was almost unreal. After 13 years of not being able to use all the features of my phone and really set it up the way I wanted, my phone was truly accessible. He made this dream a reality for blind people all over the world, in numerous languages.

Those very early versions of Talks were somewhat luggish, and had numerous issues. But we stuck with it because we knew it was ground breaking technology. Over the years, Marcus and tenacious Torsten kept at it, to the point that Talks is now a very robust, reliable, speedy solution.

Talks became so successful that eventually it was acquired by Nuance Communications, who thankfully kept Torsten and Marcus on to manage and develop the product.

In looking back at the email correspondence I’ve had with Torsten over the years, and the times we’ve met up to chat or have dinner, a few words come to mind. Thoughtful, intelligent, committed, good fun, and great company with that distinctive German accent of his, when we’d catch up at CSUN or some other conference.

As a blind guy himself, Torsten used the product he managed every day. I have always believed this makes a big difference. It is reflected in the power, and elegant user interface of Talks. Talks gets an awful lot done, very simply, with in many cases only a number pad and a few other keys to work with. He took user interface and efficiency extremely seriously, sometimes considering esoteric issues like how many syllables a prompt contained, because as a speech user himself, he knew all of that stuff mattered. Most recently, he and Marcus worked together on a very elegant implementation of an accessible interface for the S60 Fifth Edition touch phones.

Torsten was in his prime, with many more great ideas on which he and Marcus would have collaborated. His passing is a tragedy for the blind community.

Let’s not also forget, Torsten was a husband, and a dad. There are two things I send to Torsten’s family. Firstly my sincere condolences. But secondly, I send my deep appreciation. The work Torsten did changed lives for the better. If you can leave this world a better place than you found it, in whatever endeavour you pursue, your life has been worthwhile. Torsten led a most worthwhile, and worthy life. He has earned his place in the history of assistive technology.

Ever since I heard the news of Torsten’s death, every time I pick up my Nokia handset, so much more powerful than the first one Torsten helped to make accessible, I pause, and say a little thank you to him.

You will be missed Torsten.

Forwarded from Neil Barnfather.  For more information, please go to