Archive for November, 2010

Recipe of the Week – Noodle Caboodle

Submitted by Marilyn Brandt Smith

 Ingredients:

4 cups noodles, cooked, drained, and cooled

1 pound ground chuck steak

2 eight-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 cup cottage cheese

Eight-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup minced onions

1 tablespoon minced green pepper

Small can mushrooms, drained, optional

2 tablespoons butter or margarine.

Directions:

Brown meat in skillet, and stir in tomato sauce

Combine other ingredients.

In two-quart casserole dish, spread half the noodles; cover with cheese mixture; then cover with remaining noodles.

Cover with tomato-meat mixture.

Chill.

About one hour before serving, bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Serves six

Reader-Submitted Joke

There were three fathers to be in a hospital waiting room, waiting for their babies to be born.
The first nurse comes out and tells the first father, “Congratulations you’re the father of twins!” He says, “Great! I am the manager for the Minnesota Twins.”
The second nurse comes out and tells the second father, “Congratulations you’re the father of triplets”! He says, “That’s cool! I work for 3M.”
The third father opens the window and jumps out.
The third nurse comes out, and asks, “Where’s the third father?”
One of the other fathers said, “Oh he jumped out the window.”
The nurse asks, “Why?”
He replied, “He works for Seven Up!”

What’s New at National Braille Press

Jump on the holidays – save time and money – with National Braille Press’s annual holiday kids’ book sale!

Order three books from the list below, get the fourth one FREE! Order two books from this list and get the third one for half-price! (As always, we apply the discount/free book to the most expensive book in the bunch.)

Sale expires December 31, 2010.

Order soon – these books are in very limited supply and last year we sold out very quickly!

See the list below, or read descriptions of the books – and see more gift ideas, including print/braille magnets and new jewelry – at: http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/holidaysale.html 

Books included in the sale:

– Llama Llama Red Pajama, $16.99

– Dad, Jackie and Me, $16.95

– Helen Keller: The World in her Heart, $16.99

– Piano Starts Here, $16.99

– If I Ran for President, $6.99

– Madeline, $7.99

– Fly High, Fly Low, $7.99

– In a Dark Dark Room, $5.00

– Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, $9.99

– Froggy Eats Out, $5.99

– In the Tall, Tall Grass, $7.99

– Hailstones and Halibut Bones, $9.95

– It’s Mine!, $6.99

– Little Red Riding Hood, $12.99

– Picture Book of Florence Nightingale, $6.95

– One of Each, $7.99

Note: The following items are NOT part of the sale – but they make delightful gifts!

– Just a Snowy Day, $8.99

– Braille Caravan, $30.00

– Noah’s Animals (Tactile Set), $28.00

– Chunky Puzzle: Shapes, $9.99

– Madeline Plush Doll, $9.95

– A Wish for Wings that Work: An Opus Christmas Story, $7.99

We encourage telephone orders. You can order online, but you’ll need to call or email us for your free book.

Call and charge it: toll-free (800) 548-7323 or (617) 266-6160 ext 520.

Or order by mail – send payment to: NBP, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115-4302

Email: orders@nbp.org

Travel – Have TSA Policies Gotten Out of Control?

A lot has been said in the news lately about the new full body scan machines and pat down protocols that have been put in place in many of America’s airports.  According to the TSA, these measures are necessary to ensure that all travelers are safe.  However, many passengers are concerned about these new policies, and a few terrible tales have surfaced that may just justify those uneasy feelings.

In airports equipped with full body scan machines, passengers are asked to enter the machine, place their hands over their head, and wait for a TSA agent studying a monitor to give the OK.  The agent looking at the monitor is able to see a digitized view of your body as it appears underneath your clothes.  It’s not a picture-perfect image, but body parts are easily recognized.  This measure became popular after the infamous underwear bomber incident, and its use became justified because the authorities felt that the bomber would have been caught at the security checkpoint had he gone through a scanner.

But what if you don’t want to go through the scanner?  If you demand an alternative–because you don’t want to be seen digitally naked by a stranger staring at a monitor, for example–then you are subjected to a personal pat down.  These pat downs have gotten more invasive, and even the head of the TSA admits that point. 

Stories involving these pat downs have gotten the most attention lately, because TSA agents end up groping, sometimes aggressively, the areas around a person’s genitals, and for women, around the breasts as well.  In extreme circumstances, TSA agents have essentially sexually abused individuals during this process and law suits have been filed as a result.  The pilots union has spoken out against these policies, as well as multiple travel groups and even senators.  One senator was quoted saying that he would be very upset if his wife was handled as other women have been during a pat down.  One husband was put in an airport jail for objecting to the pat down of his wife.

Now, it needs to be mentioned that those stories, while horrible, are largely isolated incidents and many passengers are treated appropriately, even if the process remains to be uncomfortable.  However, those instances where the agents decided to inappropriately go above and beyond the assigned protocol for body pat downs should be handled by the TSA quickly and harshly, and more in-depth background information is needed for TSA agents if they are going to be literally handling citizens.  Privacy and dignity should not be necessary sacrifices in order to travel.

What do you all think about the new TSA policies?  Let me know in the reader’s forum.

News – Holiday Shopping: Black Friday Deals

With the economy taking its toll on consumers, companies have been fighting to get customers in their stores.  This year, many retailers are offering the notorious Black Friday deals, some even before Black Friday even comes around.

Everyone knows that the Friday after Thanksgiving is one of, if not the most notorious shopping day of the year.  Throngs of people flock to their nearest retail establishments looking for deals on highly sought after holiday gifts, in hopes that they’ll be among the first to burst through the door and claim their prize.  This year, you don’t have to travel far to find a deal, either; and if you pay attention to which stores are offering certain products, some serious deals are waiting.

Stores like Walmart are offering killer deals on electronics like computers and televisions, among other things.  Target is having an unprecedented sale on household appliances, offering things like toasters, hand mixers, and sandwich makers for only three dollars.  They are also offering some amazing deals on everything from electronics to pillows as well.

Keep in mind, that’s just two stores.  Others, like Amazon, offer Black Friday deals, and with those you only have to get up early and go to your computer instead of hanging out in the dimly lit hours of the morning waiting for the doors to unlock.

Black Friday retail sales have always been used as a barometer to help experts see how well the economy is doing.  Last year’s Black Friday spending was up significantly from the previous year, and hopefully it will rise again this year, despite high unemployment.

Stores will be doing everything that they can to cement themselves in your mind, and they will be battling each other through prices and store opening times.  The real test for them is to be the first and the best.  That way, when you’re planning your shopping siege, they’ll be at the top of your list.

To view popular Black Friday ads, you can go to http://blackfriday.com/blackfriday-ads

Science – Probe Brings Back First Samples from Asteroid

While we may be decades away from any sort of reliable and speedy space travel, our reach into the heavens is still impressive when you look at a few projects that have been successfully completed.  Recently, a Japanese probe was able to obtain samples from a passing asteroid and bring them back to Earth, making it the first time that any samples from a foreign celestial body other than the Moon have been successfully brought back.

The project was met with many problems, including a solar flare that nearly ended the mission altogether and intermittent propulsion issues.  The probe, which was thrust into space back in 2005, was able to finally come back to Earth, only it took three more years than they had initially expected.  It landed in a remote portion of Australia back in June.

When the probe was recovered, scientists found that it had disturbed the surface of the asteroid Itokawa enough to grab up 1,500 small particles, each no wider than a human hair, but holding a wealth of information about the make-up of the billions of rocks capriciously floating throughout space.

Scientists were able to conclusively determine that the particles had come from the asteroid because of the presence of a mineral called troilite, which is not found on the surface of the Earth.

While the capturing of a few tiny bits of space dust may not sound like a massive accomplishment, the ingenuity that a project like this requires is unimaginable and the probability of success iffy at best.  Projects like this don’t just benefit curious geologists, but other programs aimed at space exploration as well.  Think of it as someone learning how to pitch a baseball.  The more they throw, the better they get at throwing.  In the same light, the more we put ourselves into space, the better we get at it, and the more likely our successes will become.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11763484

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Numerology or Bull

Recently, after a nice evening out with my friends, there was nothing much to listen to on television or radio, but I happened to tune into a radio show called Spooky South Coast.  There was a lady on the show talking about numerology and how it dominates our lives.  She tried to convince her listeners that if you gave her your first and middle names, along with your age and the month, day and year you were born, she could give you an accurate numerology reading–describing your character, your positive experiences and your negative experiences.  Well, I am not a fan of Spooky South Coast, but I felt I had to call this numerologist and challenge her credentials.  I asked her how my first and middle name helped determine my astrological chart if my names were given to me by my parents after I was born.  Wouldn’t you know it?  She had an answer for me, whether I believe it or not.  She said that my soul telepathically suggested to my parents what to name me because it already had a predetermined astrological character. So, in other words, if I get married, and my wife is about to give birth, and, if for some stupid reason, I want to name my son Pretzel, this lady would say that the soul of my unborn child told me to name him that, because of his predetermined astrological makeup resulting from whatever numerology that the name “Pretzel” defines.

And to think that this particular radio station has no problem putting a show like that on the air while I’ve been trying my best to put my own local sports talk show on the air.  Go figure.

Contributor Terri Winaught – New York Times to Chart Bestselling E-books

The New York Times will start publishing e-book bestseller lists in early 2011, gathering info from e-book retailers such as Amazon.

In recognition of the growing foothold of the digital book format, the New York Times is to introduce bestseller lists dedicated solely to e-books. “The vibrant growth of digital publishing has created a need for an impartial, reliable source for tracking and reporting the top-selling

[e-books] across the country,” Janet Elder, the paper’s editor of news surveys, said in a statement Thursday.  “The Times is a trusted brand within the book publishing industry and with consumers.”

To determine the e-book bestseller lists – set to debut early in 2011 tracking fiction and non-fiction titles – staffers will rank sales aggregated from online e-book sellers after verifying the data. The newspaper will partner with an outside transaction-tallying company, RoyaltyShare, to validate the sales figures.

The results will appear in the books section of both print and online editions of the paper, where

The bestseller list, introduced in 1935, is widely considered a publishing industry benchmark for success.

The market for e-books has skyrocketed in recent years, with Amazon’s pioneering Kindle reader facing competition from improved smart phones as well as more recent tablet computers and e-readers such as Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony’s Reader and Indigo’s Kobo.

E-books accounted for about nine per cent of total book sales in the U.S. during the first eight months of 2010, an increase of more than 190 per cent from the year before, according to the Association of American Publishers. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos reported in July that e-book sales for the Kindle had surpassed hardcover book sales at the online retail giant.

I’m interested to hear in future Readers’ Forums from any of you who have used any or all of the E-readers mentioned in this article.  Which did you find most accessible and which devices were problematic?  Since both the American Council of the Blind (ACB), and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) have expressed concerns in the past regarding inaccessible features of the Kindle, how many Ziegler readers have tried the Kindle and felt the same way?

For more information, follow any of the links listed below:

www.cbc.ca/arts/books/…/e-book-new-york-times-bestseller.html

and

www.ebookmarketwatch.com/…/new-york-times-to-chart-bestselling-e-books-cbc-ca/

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Low Cost Accessible GPS Applications Part 3: Android Phones

In this final section of the low cost GPS series, I’m going to discuss GPS options for cell phones running the Android operating system. It is important to note that unlike the iPhone, Android phones are not accessible out of the box, but with some sighted assistance, the screen reader can be loaded onto the phone and then the user will be able to use it independently. The fact that Android phones are available from all cell phone carriers, getting one of these may be more appealing then the iPhone because the user has more options. So with these things in mind, let’s get on with exploring the apps.

The first application is called WalkyTalky. This app works similar to a turn-by-turn GPS. It works in conjunction with Google maps to give the person spoken directions on a route. It will also tell you about POI’s (Points of Interest) and intersections. According to the “Eyes Free Blog,” WalkyTalky can be used to, “Specify a destination, either specify the destination by address, or pick from favorites or recently visited locations, and in addition to spoken walking directions hear street addresses as you walk by.”

The other application is called Intersection Explorer. This application is used to do virtual navigation, and only works with those android phones that have a touch screen. According to the “Eyes Free Blog,” this is how Intersection Explorer works. “Intersection Explorer starts off at the user’s current location. One can change the start position by entering an address, to do this, press menu and click on new location. Once the map has loaded, touching the screen speaks the streets at the nearest intersection. Moving one’s finger along a compass direction, and then tracing a circle speaks each street at that intersection along with the associated compass direction. Presence of streets is cued by a slight vibration as one traces the circle. Lifting up the finger when on a street moves in that direction to the next intersection, speaks the distance moved, and finally speaks the newly arrived-at intersection.” The guys at BlindBargains have done a great demo of this app, and you can find it by visiting this link.  http://www.blindbargains.com/audio/101012_intersectionexplorer.mp3

In summary, it was not long ago that the blind had no options when it came to a low cost accessible GPS solution, but now we have many to choose from. Whether you’re using the iPhone or an Android-based phone, you have affordable applications that will help you explore your surroundings and travel independently. I really hope that you will share some of your experiences with the apps that I’ve discussed in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Shopping on the Internet and Through Accessible Catalogues

It is five weeks until Christmas and we are beginning to think of shopping for the holidays. You seldom have to leave home if you shop through accessible catalogues or online.  Here is a review of three catalogues that can be ordered from on Home-Readers or online. I will also review three more internet sites, where you can make family and friends ask “Where did you get that?” The three catalogues we will review are Schwan’s, Beauty Boutique, and Audible Editions. The three internet sites we will look at are Scentastics, Caswell-Massey and L.L. Bean.

Schwan’s delivers frozen food items to your home and offers gift cards of any denomination.  Your friends and family will love eating delicious seasonal favorites like Andes mint pie, and products sold year round like flounder fillets, Angus beef burgers, or choosing one of three blends of coffee are great gifts. Add in the home delivery, and Schwan’s makes for a great gift idea.

Beauty Boutique is where you can find hard-to-find and brand name fragrances for deeply discounted prices.  Friends will ask “Where did you find this?”

Audio Editions has CD and cassette books to read old science fiction classics and best-sellers. Their web sites are www.schwans.com,  www.beautyboutique.com , and www.audioeditions.com.  They all are accessible.

You can also go online and shop Scentastics, a company selling bath and body products located in Brattleboro, Vermont. They carry diverse scents like lilac, lavender, pine, and balsam.  They also have accessories like glass soap dishes shaped like claw-footed tubs for under $6.  Their website is www.scentastics.com.

Caswell-Massey is one of the oldest American companies selling men’s shaving products and bath and body items for men and women.  At Christmas, they often have boxes of six miniature men’s and women’s fragrances priced below $30.   They have wonderful bath soaps in gift baskets for less than thirty dollars as well. They have such distinctive scents as English lavender and sandalwood.   Their website is www.caswellmassey.com

L. L. Bean sells everything from clothing to footwear to luggage, and products for the home. Their quality is unbeatable, and anything you buy from them lasts for years. I have bath towels bought years ago and slippers bought a year ago that still look great.  Their customer service, either by phone or at their, store is fantastic. Their website is www.LLBean.com.

All of these stores have a wealth of gifts and gift ideas for your friends and loved ones this holiday season.  So get out there and get shopping!  Or, if you prefer to avoid the crowds, take a seat at your computer and start typing away.