Archive for January, 2012

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Project Gutenberg

It started in 1971 when Michael Heart-Gutenberg was struck with the idea that the future of computing meant finding a way to share via computers what was already stored in our libraries around the world. He experimented with the electronic distribution of the Declaration of Independence. When this was perfected, Michael then copied and stored The U.S. Constitution followed by Shakespearian plays, and light and heavy literary works. Today, the Gutenberg virtual library contains millions of pages of just about every genre of written material available free of charge in the public domain.

According to Michael, “The premise on which [he] based Project Gutenberg was: anything that can be entered into a computer can be reproduced indefinitely…”
He coined it “Replicator Technology,” and the concept is simple. “Once a book or any other item (including pictures, sounds, and even 3-D items) can be stored in a computer,” he says. “Then any number of copies can and will be available. Everyone in the world, or even not in this world (given satellite transmission), can have a copy of a book that has been entered into a computer.”

What this means for those of us who live with a print disability is instant access to information. For example, I was able to find all the literary works of early 18th and 19th Century novelists for college, forgoing the burden of finding the book from the local public library. One collection of short stories wasn’t even available through the National Library Service on tape, but it was available on the Project Gutenberg database for free.

The only snag, however, is copyright law. For instance, U.S. and International copyright laws in most cases can prohibit the reproduction of copyright protected materials for the lifetime of the author. Comparatively, a number of authors do release some titles from collections to the public domain to promote good public relations.

Even with copyright regulations, the quantity of eBook selections is almost limitless. I use the ibook app on my iPhone and have found it the best way to obtain free eBooks. I was thrilled to find a complete collection of Jack London, Thomas Hardy, and even stories by Tess Garretson.

It is because of his efforts to spread knowledge to as many people as possible that Michael Heart-Gutenberg is one of the unsung heroes of the internet age.

What is your favorite way to listen to eBooks? Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

Source: http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:The_History_and_Philosophy_of_Project_Gutenberg_by_Michael_Hart

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – The New iTunes U App: Learning for the Future

Online learning is still relatively new, and up until recently, online courses were limited to people enrolled in a college or university. This is no longer the case. Stanford recently offered a course on Artificial Intelligence, and because it was free, they had over 160,000 students. This is the power of free online learning. To help expand course offerings, Apple has just released a new app called iTunes U, where you can download whole college courses for free.

Since Apple has done a good job of making their native apps accessible, I wanted to check iTunes U out for myself to test its accessibility, but more importantly to learn new things. I’m happy to report that the app is very Voice Over friendly.

I decided to start with a course on Volcanoes offered by the Open University. The course consists of reading materials, videos, audio presentations, and an outline of learning objectives. So far, I’ve had no problem accessing these materials, and the learning process has been fun.

Since the app is so new, there aren’t many courses to choose from, but I foresee colleges offering more and more as the app gains popularity. Here are some of the courses available now: Future Energy, Core Concepts in Chemistry, Ecosystems, Autism and Related Disorders, and Introduction to Robotics. The app is available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad.

This app has huge potential for changing the way people learn. Because the courses are available to anyone with an iOS device, learning can happen anywhere in the world. Higher education is still something that is primarily for the privileged, but this app and the idea of free learning will open the doors to those who didn’t have access before. It is also exciting for people with disabilities because the app is so accessible.

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – A New Year: Part 1

At the beginning of 2012, most people were celebrating a new year and a new beginning. For me, I had to bring my life with Whitlee to an end and look forward to a new beginning. On New Year’s Day, my family and I loaded everything into the car and began a 3 day trip to North Carolina. The purpose of this trip was to bring Whitlee, my guide dog, to be with her foster family, where she would enjoy her retirement. We left at 8:00AM and drove all the way down to Wilmington, North Carolina by 10:00PM. The trip down was actually quite nice. As we drove, the weather got warmer and I was excited because I was going to a place I had never been before. It has always been a dream of mine to drive down the east coast in the winter to experience the ever-increasing warmth as you drive.

We stayed at a nice hotel in Wilmington and the next morning, we drove to Calabash, where Whitlee would live. We didn’t even realize that we had arrived in the place we needed to, which was a gated community area, and all of a sudden, I was only minutes away from saying goodbye to the dog who had changed my life for the better, the dog who I had been with for the last 8 and a half years. That was a tough thing to swallow.

We arrived at the foster parents’ home and as soon as Whitlee saw them, she was wiggling, wagging her tail, and excited. This helped me because I always loved when she was excited. We went into their home where we met the two other dogs that Whitlee would live in her golden years. It turns out that she is the tallest and longest of the three dogs in her new group of friends. I gave all of Whitlee’s belongings to her foster family, had a melt-down, and then gave her a few pats before we left. I didn’t say goodbye, though, because I know I am welcome to visit anytime I wish.

After leaving their place, we visited some family in the area and it was a nice distraction for me. The entire area is quite nice–flat lands, green trees, nice people, and they get mostly mild temperatures all through the winter and only average about 2 or 3 inches of snow per year.

The trip home was also interesting, except that as we drove north, it got colder and colder because some arctic air had made its way into the region. By the time we got back to CT, the temperature was 19 degrees with lots of wind. Coming back to my apartment was a hard thing to do for sure. My home didn’t seem like a home without my dog. I decided to keep very busy until the day I had to leave for guide dog school–the next chapter in my journey.

Letter from the Editor – January 30, 2012

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a nice week last week and a fun-filled weekend. Just as a reminder, for those of you who are not receiving the email version of the special notices and pen pals supplement, you can use the link at the very end of the magazine to read it in a secure section of our website. If you’re reading it on our website, be sure to select the “skip to main content” link right when you visit the page to jump over all of the headline links and get right to the supplement.

Also, it’s a big sports weekend coming up, and even if you’re not a Patriots or Giants fan, I think we can all agree that we should expect to get an entertaining game no matter who wins this rematch. I just hope that it isn’t a blow-out and that most of the commercials are, at the very least, tolerable. At $3 million for a 30 second spot, you would certainly hope so.

Other than that, it’s business as usual here at the magazine this week. We’ve got some great articles lined up for you, and please feel free to submit your comments to the Reader’s Forum by emailing me at editor@matildaziegler.com.

Take care, have a great week, and as always, thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
Ross Hammond, Editor

December 2011 audio version

Welcome to the Matilda Ziegler Magazine audio player. To begin listening to the magazine, simply click the “Read more” link below. Once you select the month, an embedded media player will start playing the magazine immediately. While using this player, you can press the control key plus the space bar to pause the current article. To proceed to the next article hold down the control key and the shift key and then press the N key. To go back to the previous article hold down the control key and the shift key and press the P key.

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Recipe of the Week – Harvest Bounty Casserole

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups cut-up green beans, cooked and drained
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Bisquick®
1 teaspoon Sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup milk
3 Eggs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

Spread beans and peppers in dish; sprinkle with tomatoes and cheese. Beat remaining ingredients with mixer until smooth. Pour over vegetables and cheese. Bake uncovered until golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Reader’s Forum – Week of January 23, 2012

For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.

In response to posts in last week’s Reader’s Forum regarding Braille teaching, Gary wrote:

I love Braille and have often used the argument about not teaching sighted students to handwrite, but I was surprised to hear our school board actively discussing no longer teaching cursive, the reason being the use of the keyboard for writing. I have yet to hear them recommend discontinuing print reading because there is audio. I hope that is never advanced as a serious argument for the sighted for it is most certainly a flawed one for the blind.
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In response to posts in last week’s Reader’s Forum regarding Braille teaching, Sean wrote:

I am unable to readily use Braille due to nerve damage suffered when I was shot, but can feel the dots for just a minute or two before they are unrecognizable. But I can’t imagine doing many of the things I do now without the little I do read. I use it to access bathrooms, find offices in the hospital, take the elevator, and even to purchase snacks and soda from the vending machines where I frequent. While I have had to label the machines myself and the snack machine man knows the situation and tries not to change the menu without letting me know I do occasionally get a bag of chips instead of the snickers I wanted or a cookie instead of chewing gum. But life without it would be very difficult for me. Those who feel it is not important need to spend a month living blind and they would soon change the tune they sing.

Sean Martin
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In response to a December Reader’s Forum post, Alan wrote:

Hello,

I am writing to comment on Shelley McMullen’s December contribution to the Readers’ Forum regarding the use of treats by guide dog schools as a training aid. I got my first dog in May of 1979. At the time, the school I attended did not use treats as part of training. While that situation has changed since my first trip to class, I don’t think the use of treats has been applied in all situations. When I trained with my most recent dog in 2008, treats may have been used in some situations for some of the dogs in class, but I never used them when I worked with my current dog and have never had to do so since I came home.

I share Shelley’s concern, in that I’m not sure how gradually the treats are withdrawn and I don’t want my dog to have to work for food rewards, but since it was clear that the dog I trained with didn’t need that kind of encouragement, I never had to use food rewards.

I suspect, however, that if used properly, they may help some dogs over situations that might otherwise frighten them and if it helps, I wouldn’t discount it, especially since treats are a part of effective clicker training, which has certainly helped some dogs learn to work effectively.

Alan Conway
Quebec, Canada
##
In response to Feature Writer Karen Crowder – The Last Time I Saw Donna, Jan wrote:

I was very touched by Karen Crowder’s article about Donna. I’ve known Donna since 1963, when we were at camp together. I was planning to go to the party Karen was referring to, but I was sick, a rare occurrence. So the last time I saw Donna was the previous November. She brought me back in touch with several friends over the years. Donna was a special person and will certainly be missed.
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In response to Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Wrangling with Windows 7, Duane wrote:

Lynn’s piece in the current Ziegler about her frustration with Windows 7 is further proof that Microsoft really doesn’t care if its products are accessible to those who are blind. Despite my recent purchase of a new laptop with Windows 7, I’m plodding on with my XP unit until it crashes because I’m reluctant to enter the unknown environment of the new operating system. I don’t even know where to begin to set it up to be accessible. Perhaps a future issue of the magazine might be devoted to some quick tutorial help for that time that will come to all of us when we must wave goodbye to XP, and plunge headlong into this new world Microsoft creates every few years to make computers more and more inaccessible, while people like Lynne patiently persist in devising workarounds with little or no help from those who create such new computer environments.
##
In response to Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Comparing Two Popular Screen Readers: Part 2, Keith wrote:

The use of the caps lock key is also used in Jaws, but you have to switch to the laptop configuration to use it. It’s handy for laptop users who don’t usually have a numpad to issue commands. The trouble in Serotek is that they don’t offer the rest of the laptop commands to navigate that Jaws does. For example, in the laptop configuration, capslock + j, k, or l is the same as using insert+4,5, or 6 to move by words (left, say current, or move right).

It would be cool if Serotek would let you route mouse to PC. I have some software where that’s the only way to access a status bar on the screen and have it read.

Great observations.

Contributors Rosetta Brown and Herbert E. Brown – A Tribute to Glenwood Romelle Floyd

Floyd, Glenwood Romelle, 60, of Richmond, departed this life on December 29, 2011. He was preceded in death by his parents, Carl Washington and Ethel Jearlean Floyd.

Our friend Glen was a wonderful guy who was larger than life. He was so giving and loved around the world. His word was his bond. I have known Glen 3 decades. He was an intellectual genius who earned a Masters in Computer Science and was an exceptional computer programmer.

His passion was advocating for the rights of people who were blind/disadvantaged. He was a long time devoted member of The American Council of the Blind, working diligently within the ACB organization. Glen served as Presidents of ACB’s Virginia affiliate and of the local Richmond chapter. He received many prestigious awards and accolades, and was the recipient of a letter from Governor L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, commending him for outstanding services rendered.

Rosetta Brown

I met Glenwood Floyd in the summer of 1974. Glen was always ready, willing, and able to assist me with problems I had with my studies. He was so mild-mannered, clear-thinking, and patient with me, that we became very best friends.

We often discussed our jobs, families, and issues in the blindness community. Glen was absolutely one of the most intelligent, level-headed, and compassionate people that I’ve ever had the privilege to know, and this world will definitely be a much poorer and sadder place without him. So long, my good friend, I certainly hope to see you again in that celestial place where we will never grow old: where sickness will have no power to cause suffering, and death no dominion.”

Herbert Brown

Contributor Nancy Scott – To Be Of Use

Do any of you feel your inspiration and energy slipping? The new year is a time to count or to find blessings.

A quote from January’s Guideposts started me thinking: “There is satisfaction in wisdom, in having loved people and accomplished things, in having not wasted all our time with caution and escape.”

People often believe that blind folks sit around with no purpose. We can come to believe this too. So let me tell you about one little end-of-year week full of clues about what to do and not do. I’ll skip necessary things–cleaning, bill paying, exercising. I’ll skip my struggle balancing desire, mythology, and practicality–they are ongoing and revised more slowly with repeated “guidance.”

I began the week listening to Karen lament her cut in work hours and how she has never had a raise. “Some residents,” she said, “were very generous with Christmas presents this year.” Generosity, being listened to, and being valued keep us caring about what we do.

So I checked in with several other friends who need someone to carefully listen or at least someone to think about them, including a 93-year-old who asked to call me to test her new cell phone because she didn’t know who else to call.

I record NASA information for voice-mail. Marcia commented, “I haven’t heard a launch and docking for years. I used to be so involved with this and I got all the old feelings again.” Esther also thanked me for sending the early morning Soyuz launch.

On Monday night the heat was off in my apartment row. I’m usually the first person to notice such things. I told Maintenance at 9:00 that “It’s probably better than people calling at 3 a.m.”

Bev is my computer wizard. On Wednesday I was about to call her concerning e-mailing a bio to clinch a publication when she called me. (Synchronicity?)

The switch in NASA TV’s satellite was something I warned my cable company about, over a month ago. For the first time in such situations, there was no local interruption in NASA programming. And, yes, I called back to compliment then. (I always report NASA issues, and they trust me now.)

We must beware of that “we don’t matter” syndrome. Maybe no one is there at midnight or when we feel particularly frail. But I, for one, have a lifestyle of all-hours NASA events or reading whenever I wake up. Or writing a rough draft on New Year’s Eve. I mustn’t take the luxury of moldable time for granted.

And Bev is nudging me toward a new project. Besides being very purposeful herself, Bev is a voice teacher. “Did you do any Christmas singing?” she asked. “No,” I said, “my voice is shot.” “That’s not true. I can hear that your voice isn’t gone.” Because of catching too many colds, I had to give up music-therapy volunteer work. But the CDs are still here–I could perform Karaoke. I could help carol next Christmas. I could enjoy the process, and perhaps inspire others. And I just met a new tenant on my floor who practices soprano opera an hour a day, which is surely a sign.

Contributor Valerie Moreno – Dream Chasing

I am not ashamed to admit that I am a die-hard music fan and often become ecstatic when one of my favorite musicians or groups has a new CD coming out. But, remember the days before the internet? Securing one of these gems wasn’t easy at times. So it was in August of 1987 when The Monkees released their first new album in almost 20 years.

I’d been a fan of their weekly sit-com since its debut in 1966 and my husband and six year old daughter had joined the ranks of Monkee-maniacs in 1986 when they made a successful comeback. On the wave of positivity, their first comeback album, “Pool It,” was out then and I’d spent that summer looking for it with no success. On this hot weekday afternoon, daughter Mary and I were at the local supermarket to purchase the perfect lunchbox for her first grade semester.

It took 30 minutes to find a bright Care Bears box. Taking a shortcut down the miscellaneous aisle to the express counter, Mary grabbed my arm suddenly.
“Mom!” she yelled. “The Monkees!”
“What?” I said, confused. “Where?”
“The records!” she squealed, jumping up and down, pulling me over to the rack. There it was, the new album right up front. Seizing it as if it would vanish, we ran to the check-out, talking over each other.

Grinning, I set the lunchbox and album down, reaching in my purse for my wallet. I felt the blood shoot to my shoes as I realized the wallet was back at the house.

“Hello, ladies,” the chipper girl said at the register as she greeted us and priced the Care Bears box.

“Mommy,” Mary said beside me as I franticly rummaged in my purse. “You look sick!”

My fingers touched a stray bill. It was a $5 bill, enough for the lunchbox. “Excuse me,” I said as the girl reached for the record. “I changed my mind–just the lunchbox, please.”

Confusion and horror filled Mary’s face. “But, it’s The Monkees!” Her incredulity made the people behind us snicker.

“I know, Mare, but we have to put it back. My wallet’s home.”

New Jersey’s youngest Monkee fan burst in to tears. She cried the entire walk home until I was grabbing my wallet from the kitchen table. “We’re going back!” I declared as if we were heading for a pack of lions. “Nobody’s getting that one copy, baby doll, but us!”

In our hurry, we tramped back to the store without setting the lunchbox down. In my mind, I could see Davy, Peter and Micky smiling on that album cover!

We got it, yes, we did–and walking home again, I took a grand tumble on some rocks. Sitting on my backside on the grass as Mary was shrieking with laughter, I wondered why this day was getting a bit too annoying.

At home, Mary ran to the stereo as I inspected the lunchbox for damage. It and the Monkee LP were intact, which was more than I could say for my aching hind area.

Irony of this little tale, then? At lunch time on Mary’s first day of school, her Care Bears thermos had leaked milk all over her tuna sandwich and cookies. Seems there was a crack in it. Whether from my glorious fall or poor production, we’ll never know, but she said it was OK, since we did get “Pool It,” didn’t we?