Archive for September, 2010

The Brain’s Method for Controlling Sleep Discovered

Sleep has always been one of those body processes that seems simple but is actually incredibly complicated to explain.  So complicated in fact, that scientists are just now discovering the way it truly works and what our brain is doing while we’re happily snoozing away.

Scientists have always had a general understanding that sleep was linked to brain activity, but they could never ascertain how that process took place and what was involved.  Now, they’ve discovered that a flow of chemical transmitters and proteins are at the very core of the process.  They essentially tell the brain what to do and which parts should shut down. 

To discover this, scientists tracked ATP, the “energy currency” that cells use.  When we’re awake and walking around, our brain is actually building up the necessary receptors for the next time we sleep.  Depending on what activities we’re performing or our state of mind, different receptors will build up, and in different amounts.  Then, ATP comes into play.  Active brain cells release the ATP which then interacts with those idle receptors that have built up.  This interaction causes the release of another, smaller protein responsible for sleep regulation. 

This finding has shown that different parts of the brain sleep depending on which parts were used the most.  While this is still a somewhat fundamental finding, it has some immediate benefits.  For one, sleep regulating drugs can now be tailored to target this process and make the drugs more efficient.  This will be important for sleep disorders like insomnia, when some parts of the brain are awake which shouldn’t be.  By being able to target this process, new treatments will be possible.

Perhaps even more important, these findings may be able to help stroke victims by actually targeting certain areas of the brain and shifting their work load, thus allowing the victim to utilize the undamaged portions of their brain.

Studies like this are the first steps to understanding how the brain and body interact and how the processes within the brain are initiated and carried out.  So next time you lay down for a nap and let out that last yawn before closing your eyes, realize that there is so much more at play than just that comfy bed or chair.  Though, they do help.

To read the original article, please go to http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100914100302.htm

A Sight to Behold, Blind Anglers Take to the Water

Every year, the Everett Central Lions Club puts on the Fishing Derby for the Blind.  On this year’s trip, 38 visually impaired fishermen, including one fisherwoman, headed out in search of a bountiful catch.  While in previous years they were able to catch as many as 100 fish that were big enough to take home, this year’s trip yielded on 13 that could be brought back to shore.

Despite the unfortunate number of keepers, everyone had an amazing time.  Teresa Peterson, who has been blind since birth, has been going on these trips for a few years now.  Last year, she reeled in a 12 pound coho salmon, a seriously great catch by anyone’s standards, and one which was sure to have put up a fight.  Though she never hooked anything this year, any disappointment was eliminated when she was given the opportunity to drive the boat back to shore.

With the wind whistling through her hair and the splash of the boat through the cresting waves, Teresa, with the help of the boat’s captain, drove everyone on the boat home.  “This is breathtaking,” she exclaimed. “For me, it’s the best thing in my life next to going to heaven. And this makes me feel like I’m there.”

The derby has touched other lives outside of the visually impaired community as well.  Nelson and Kathy Goodsell, who participate in many derbies, truly love volunteering their time to take everyone out.  Nelson was a bit unsure at first, unable to understand how he would be able to assist a blind person fishing, but at the urging of a friend, decided to give it a shot.  After that first time, he was convinced that this was something he would continue to do.

After his first derby, a girl was given a fishing rod during an awards ceremony.  Her speech was so filled with emotion and joy that the entire crowd, all 300 of them, was in tears.  They knew that they were making a difference.

The Goodsell’s are not the only ones who get involved.  While captains may have been tough to find years ago, they come out in droves to participate in what is now one of the premier events of the year.  All of them enjoy taking everyone out and even clean and bag up the fish for those involved so that they’ve got some great fresh fish to bring home.

Events like this are simply a fantastic example of a community coming together and enjoying each other’s company.  Fishing is an activity that everyone should be able to enjoy, regardless of sight, and by putting this event together, the Everett Central Lions Club gives a lot of joy to everyone involved. 

To read the original article, please go to http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20100914/NEWS01/709149951/-1/headlines

Never Too Far Away

I heard from a friend this week that after the closing of a northern California McDonald’s, the farthest possible distance between two of the famous restaurants within the continental United States is now 8 miles longer.  That’s right, now, no matter where you are in the 48 states, you will never be more than 115 miles away from the next McDonald’s. 

The most remote fast food hot spot in the country now lies in an out-of-the-way piece of northwestern Nevada, which stole that title from a restaurant in South Dakota. 

Is it just me, or is this slightly depressing?  Never more than 115 miles away from a McDonald’s?  Are we really that dependent on fast food that between New York City and Los Angeles, you’re never more than half a tank of gas away from a Big Mac?  What about the other fast food chains like Burger King, or Wendy’s?  If you’d prefer chicken over a burger and fries, how far away is the next KFC, Popeye’s, or Chik-fil-a?

What’s more worrisome is, what if you don’t care what the place is offering, and only that their offering it cheap and quick?  What’s the maximum distance at any given point in the 48 states that you will find yourself away from any fast food chain?  I don’t have the actual number, but I’m sure that it makes 115 miles seem like half way around the world.

Americans are eating themselves to death and allowing it to become even easier to pull this off.  115 miles is a joke when you think about where you’re living.  How many of us reside in rural Montana or Texas?  No, the real number, the real “farthest distance” is much shorter for 99 percent of us.  Sometimes it’s not even a number–it’s “right around the corner” or “a stone’s throw away.”  Miles aren’t even taken into account because these places are truly everywhere. 

To finish, I’m going to give you a little picture of what a more practical outlook is.  From my home here in Connecticut to my father’s in northern New Jersey is a distance of about 105 miles.  By using Google Maps, I was able to search for all of the McDonald’s restaurants between us.  Just counting the ones that lie within 1 mile of the suggested route, there are 88.  That comes to 1 McDonald’s every 1.2 miles during that 105 mile trip.  That’s the real number we should be paying attention to.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – What is the Right Course of Action?

For the past fifteen years, I have either run or participated in a mixed bowling league, where many of its members have disabilities and others do not.  We have fun each week, while enjoying the art of bowling and receiving beneficial exercise.  In other words, we are a group of individuals with the same goals.

Last year, an incident happened which rocked the bowling league.  Without going into too much detail, a large sum of money was stolen from the league fund, and the person responsible for the theft is still at large.  In May, I reported the theft to my local police department, along with the name of the suspect.  Since May, the only communication I received from the police was that the case was turned over to the detective division after several attempts were made to visit the suspect’s home.  Since there are lots of other unsolved crimes that need attention, I was told that this case would take a while to resolve.

I have thought about ways to expedite the process, such as a class action law suit, because I believe that justice should be served.  This young woman stole over a thousand dollars from a fund which would have otherwise paid for a nice banquet where bowlers would receive special awards for their efforts.  While most of the bowlers in this league have a disability, there should be a mechanism in place where groups like ours could take legal action at no cost.  The money that was stolen originally came from all the bowlers, who contributed a portion of the weekly bowling dues to this fund.  If I knew the right thing to do so that we would be compensated as a group, I would move forward.  If I go to small claims court, would I be able to go on behalf of a group of 70 individuals, and if so, would it cost us more money than we’d get back?

The point is that we are unsure of a proper mechanism of advocacy to use when someone steals money from a group of people with a handicap who probably work very hard to earn what little money they have.  They certainly don’t need their money to be stolen.  They invested it for a good purpose, and now they have become victims of a terrible and disgusting act of theft by someone who probably had no regard for who she was hurting.

Society should look more closely into cases like this, so that we can all try to understand the best way to resolve these problems that affect more than one person simultaneously.

Feature Writer John Christie – New HD Radio Developed for the Blind

A new HD Radio has just become available for purchase in June 2010. The radio was developed with the blind in mind.

The radio’s manufacturer, Dice Electronics, took suggestions from the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS). This is the professional organization working in Radio Reading Service facilities in the United States and other countries. IAAIS developed a task force of four blind people and two sighted people. These professionals are connected to Radio Reading Services or IAAIS.

Here is a description of the features that Dice Electronics and the group came up with when the radio became available this year.

The Vision Free Radio is a tabletop radio. It measures 5.5 by 9.75 by 5.25 inches. The controls are on the front of the unit. The jacks and the power cord are on the back of the unit. The radio has two antennas: one for AM and one for FM. The controls on the front include 10 push buttons and two rotating knobs. The radio receives AM; FM; HD 1; HD2 and HD 3 as well as Radio Reading Service signals where available. The radio has a clock as well as an alarm and 6 presets.

Once the radio is turned on, you get audible feedback when you press a specific button. The speaker is located on the left side of the front panel. From left to right, you have ten buttons. You also have a much smaller knob for volume control and a much larger knob for stations and menu selections. The ten buttons arranged in four rows. There is one button on the top row, two buttons on the second row and four on the third row. In addition, there are three on the fourth row.

The upper most button is the power button. When you turn it on, a female voice will tell you that the radio is on. When you turn it off, the voice will tell you that the radio is off. When the radio is turned on there will be a request to set the time if it hasn’t been set yet. If an alarm has been set at power off, the time of the alarm set is also announced. The buttons on the second row are mode and alarm. The three buttons in the third and three buttons in the fourth row are preset station buttons. The fourth button on the fourth row is a dedicated Radio Reading Service button if there is one available running the Radio Reading Service in your area.

Pressing the mode button gives you the choice of AM. Pressing it again brings you the choice of FM. Pressing it again brings you to the auxiliary choice. If AM or FM is chosen, you can use the large knob to obtain stations. Audio feedback continues when you turn the dial. The announcement will be made of what station you’re on, whether it’s HD one, two, or three and the frequency of the station.  The seek knob is also used to set the time and alarm.  The sound quality of the radio is excellent.

One feature that a blind person would welcome is the auxiliary feature. You can listen to your mp3 or other sound device. You can press the mode button until you hear auxiliary and plug in your device in to the proper jack.

The Vision Free Radio sells for $249. An additional stereo speaker costs $49. For more information, visit their web site at www.diceelectronics.com or call 888-342-3999.

The Vision Free Radio is a great radio and really allows the blind and visually impaired to access HD radio stations much better than before.  When Dice Electronics got input from the IAAIS, the professional Radio Reading Service group, they really turned out a great product that’s accessible to the blind. Dice Electronics is a great example of what other manufacturers could do with input from the blindness community. While the only non-accessible feature of the radio that I can think of is the lack of audible feedback concerning signal strength, it should be very easy to work around.  It sounds like a great radio and I plan to get one myself.

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Only 5% of Published Work is Accessible? Not Anymore

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about a book on NPR to then find out that none of my accessible book resources have it. Sometimes this is due to the fact that the book is too new, but most of the time it’s because the book is too obscure and so it’s not in an accessible format. This problem is likely going away, though, thanks to the efforts of Apple and Ray Kurzweil. IBooks for IOS devices was released earlier this summer, and Blio will be released for the PC, according to this press release, by the end of the month.

The great thing about both these applications is that they’re designed for everyone, they just happen to be usable by people with print disabilities. Both of these apps include text to speech for screen reader users, and will be compatible with Braille displays. A great feature for people with low vision is that the book appears like it would in print. If there are colorful pictures in the print addition, then those pictures will be in color. Also, in the case of Blio, you don’t have to buy a special device outside of your computer in order to access the books.

I myself have had great success with iBooks on my iPhone. Downloading books is a simple process, and reading them can be done with one simple gesture. Reading books using TTS is not nearly as enjoyable as listening to a professionally made audio book, but using TTS is the best way to give access to people with print disabilities.

It is my hope that with these two resources, plus all the resources that are designed for people with print disabilities, having access to published work will no longer be an issue. Not all books or other publications are available in electronic format, but that is the direction that the publishing industry is heading.

A Blio press release can be found at http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20100915006132/en/Blio-Revolutionize-Digital-Reading-Experience-Launches-September

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Hands On Living: Deliver Me Something Good to Eat!

There are many ways to enjoy food shopping these days and whether it is in person or through a delivery service, surely one of them will suit your needs.  Food shopping is accomplished two different ways here on the farm; going in person to several local grocery stores and produce stands, and last but not least, using Schwan’s Home Service. They are one of the few food delivery services that really makes an effort to assist the visually impaired with easy and accessible shopping.  They are based in Marshal, Minnesota, but distribution centers are all over the United States.

You will find all sorts of frozen foods from family size meals to single serve meals ready to pop in the oven, microwave or just thaw and enjoy.  Schwan’s also stocks meats, pizzas, breakfast, snacks, appetizers, fruits, vegetables, breads, side dishes, and drink mixes.  They also have wonderful frozen yogurt, desserts, and let’s not forget their outstanding ice creams.  With 350 products available, I’ll just bet you’ll find something you can’t wait to try.

Schwan’s delivers on average every two weeks, but they will do their best to accommodate delivery schedules to ensure you are home for your food delivery.  My driver, Adam, also referred to as a customer service manager, calls me every other Monday to see if I am at home and want delivery service that day.  When I do, he tells me he’ll be there within about fifteen minutes.  Then I make sure my little dog is tucked in his crate, double check that I have my Schwan’s list and my bankcard in my pocket.  Once that’s done, I’m ready to wait for him on my front porch.

We always have the Schwan’s catalog in print, which Adam makes sure we have every time they change, and I receive the same catalog in Braille two weeks or so later by mail.  I try to have my list already Brailled out the night before, but Matt and I have had plenty of Mondays where we are flipping through their catalog as Adam is driving up our long driveway. Don’t worry about not being sure of what you want, the drivers are always willing to assist you with your choices and are very patient as well.

Once Adam arrives, I always ask about the current specials, which he reads to me from his little hand-held computer.  He uses the computer to place your order, pre-order for next time if an item is not on his truck, and has a running inventory at his finger tips as well.  Quite often, Schwan’s will have promotions such as contests for the drivers to see who will either sell the most of a particular set of items or who brings in the largest sales within a certain time period.  I always try my best to help Adam out on those promotions because he is so helpful to me–I like doing something for him in return.  Another sales incentive they do for each customer is offer several items which you have ordered in the past for a reduced price.  I take advantage of these sales on items we buy on a regular basis.

The drivers also have opportunities to try out new products at their home base so they will personally know how they taste and can talk to you knowledgeably about the foods you will be fixing and eating yourself.  Adam doesn’t hesitate to let me know when a specific product is one he really likes and always listens when I tell him about any product we fancy as well.  When my order is done and Adam has found everything in his big freezer truck, he bags it all up and brings it to me on the porch.  He always asks if he can help me get it inside the house, but it is no trouble for me.  The drivers will assist anyone with loading your products in your freezer if you need the assistance.

Once Adam has gone on to his next customer, we quickly sort through the items to split them between my small kitchen freezer and our larger upright freezer in the garage.  Most items are either individually wrapped in plastic and then boxed in a thick cardboard shipping box or just in a lone thick plastic bag.  Either way, the full directions are printed on both, so the boxed items are delegated to the garage, while smaller bags and a few individually wrapped items are tucked away in the kitchen refrigerator.

Now comes the fun part, deciding what to fix for dinner.  When planning out our menus for two weeks, Matt and I try to mix meals between something frozen that is fully prepared that we just put in the oven, something simple as soup and sandwiches, or something that is divided out with a meat, vegetable and starch to choose from.  Another thing we really like about Schwan’s is that they have recipes in their catalogs that include products of their own combined with ingredients from the store.  Recipes vary from quick and simple to multi-ingredient slow cooker meals great for cold winter nights.  Below I have included two quick recipes that use one Schwan’s product each and if you’d like, you can substitute that product with something from the store instead.  I’m hoping you’ll take this opportunity to try Schwan’s Home Service out for yourself.

Contact Schwan’s Home Service at 1-888-724-9267 or visit their web site at

www.schwans.com.

Schwan’s takes orders via phone, on-line, or directly from customer service managers.  They except checks, debit cards, cash, major credit cards, electronic food stamp cards and their own gift cards. 

Pepperoni and Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes, Total Time: 10 minutes

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 cups Schwan’s Mini bow Tie Pasta and Vegetable Blend (#767), thawed

½ cup diced cucumber

½ cup diced celery

½ cup mini pepperoni slices

½ cup whole pitted ripe olives, quartered

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

½ cup Italian dressing

Directions:

Place all ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Slow Cooked Maple Bacon Baked Beans

Prep Time: 5 minutes, Total Time:  2 to 4 hours

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

2 10-ounce cans pork and beans

½ cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 cup diced onions

1 teaspoon ketchup

10 slices Schwan’s Fully Cooked Bacon Slices (#811), diced

Directions:

Mix together the ingredients and place into a covered 2-quart Slow Cooker.  Cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours.

Enjoy!

E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation Grants to Fidelco

Since we’re still in National Guide Dog Month, I thought it would be appropriate to mention that our governing foundation (The E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind, Inc.) contributes yearly to the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation here in Connecticut.  In fact, since the foundation began issuing grants to Fidelco in 1998, it has given over three hundred thousand dollars so that they can train dogs that will be given to the blind and visually impaired.

To train the dogs, Fidelco gradually increases the size of their training area as their skills progress.  They start them out working in small towns, then they start roaming the small-to-medium sized cities in Connecticut and southern Massachusetts like New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield.  The training culminates with trips to large cities like Boston and New York where they train to use various modes of transportation in the busy city atmosphere.  Fidelco incorporates an in-community placement program so that their clients can remain in their home area with their families while they train with their new dog.  For new placements, the training lasts three weeks; successor placement clients receive two weeks of training.  

Fidelco uses German Shepherds as their exclusive breed and have developed what they call “A breed within a breed” by using select working lines that are brought over from Germany.  They chose this breed for its intelligence and physical structure which lend them to be great guide dogs.

The E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation has always been passionate about contributing to Fidelco and truly appreciates the wonderful program they have in place so that people who are blind or visually impaired can be given the opportunity to live a fulfilling and independent life.

For more information about Fidelco, you can go to www.fidelco.org

Letter from the Editor

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a great weekend.  Just a couple quick announcements and we’ll get on to the magazine.  First, I’d like to point out that there will not be a recipe of the week section in this week’s magazine.  Susan Roe has created a great article than contains two recipes which I’m sure you will enjoy. 

On another note, while I mentioned that we were making an effort to become available through NLS, I recently found out that it entailed much more than I originally expected.  Without getting into too much detail, due to NLS policy, we would have to participate in the digital cartridge program in addition to being available through their BARD site so that the magazine could be made equally available to everyone.  We would be responsible for all of the associated costs, which would total almost one hundred thousand dollars a year–a number that I absolutely did not expect and an unfortunate barrier into the NLS network for us.  Currently, the NLS is deciding how they will make magazines available in the future and their policy may change.  Until then, we simply cannot afford to participate.  I’ve been told that a decision regarding magazines will most likely be reached early next year.  I apologize to those of you who got your hopes up.  I was right there with you.

That said, I do have some good news.  While the NLS would have expanded the amount of people that the magazine could reach, it would also represent an important shift from synthetic voice audio to a professionally-recorded spoken voice audio edition.  This has been an important goal of mine since the current synthetic audio edition was originally released.

While allowing access to a world of information, screen readers and other text-to-speech software only offer a synthetic voice that, even developed using the best voice programming possible, is incapable of inflection and emotion when reading to you.  We need to offer you an option that’s better than that–and so we are.  With the help of DuArt Film and Video’s professionally run recording studio, we’re going to begin offering a spoken voice audio version of the magazine starting with the content from this month.  The audio version will include all of the previous month’s articles and will be available for download on our website and via email.  You will also be able to stream it directly from our website using the same player we use now if you choose.  I’m hoping to get everything in order so that the first recorded audio version will be released in early October.  The audio version will be formatted so that it can be used in as many digital audio players as possible.  I’m really excited that we are going to be able to offer this to all of you and I can’t wait for the first release.

Well, I do believe that covers everything for now.  I hope you all have a great week.  Take care, and thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week

Luscious Orange Cheesecake with Raspberries

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Prep Time 35Minutes

Total Time 6:25 Hours/minutes

Makes 16 servings

INGREDIENTS

Cheesecake

1-1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafer cookies (about 50 cookies)

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Sauce and Garnish

1 pint (2 cups) whipping (heavy) cream

3 egg yolks

2/3 cup splenda

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur or orange juice

2 cups fresh raspberries 

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 300°F. In bottom of 9-inch spring-form pan, stir cookie crumbs and butter until crumbs are well coated. Press firmly on bottom and 1 inch up side of pan.

2. In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in milk, eggs, vanilla and 1 teaspoon orange peel, scraping bowl twice, until well blended. Pour over crust.

3. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes or until edge is light golden brown and center is still slightly jiggly. Cool on wire rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate 4 hours or until chilled.

4. In 3-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream just to boiling over low heat. In small bowl, beat egg yolks, sugar and 1 teaspoon orange peel with fork or wire whisk until well blended. Stir small amount of hot cream into yolk mixture, then stir yolk mixture back into cream in saucepan. Cook over low heat 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture coats a spoon. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat. Cool 30 minutes or until room temperature. Stir in liqueur. Refrigerate until serving.

5. To serve, spoon about 2 tablespoons sauce onto individual serving plates. Place wedge of cheesecake on sauce. Top with raspberries.

Kitchen Tips

If you’re bringing the cheesecake to a gathering, replace the side of the pan around the cake to keep the edge from being crushed during the trip.

Drape a few curls of orange peel over the raspberries to highlight the orange flavor.