Wednesday, November 30

New Orleans Gets Wi-Fi

Greetings. The associated Press has a story entitled Big Easy launches free wireless system, which talks about New Orleans getting free citywide wireless service. There will probably be a charge at some point, or maybe not. It will be great when this idea spreads to other major cities. Picture yourself sitting at a traffic light or at a bus stop, and being able to use your PDA, laptop, or cell phone to look information up about the next bus or directions to your destination. Ain't life in the 21st century great?

Saturday, November 26

Thanksgiving 2005

Greetings. For those who might be interested, I thought I might write a summary of my Thanksgiving activities this year.

Well, to start with, since my parents are down in Guatemala, our Thanksgiving gatherings have been fractured last year and this year. Last year, I was invited over to my good friend Heather's house for the gathering. This time around though, my younger brother, Tim, worked I think, and my older brother and sister in law (Neil and Brandy), went to Louisiana to spend the holiday with Brandy's family. So, my options were a little limited again. I ended up being invited back for a second time to Heather's house.

I should say at this point that Heather and her family don't make a production out of the holiday. They have all the food you might associate with Thanksgiving, like the turkey/ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, yams with marshmellows, and of course the pies; but they don't add other things that you might see in a tradditional celebration. In fact, they refer to it as a more relaxed gathering. Heather told me before last year's visit, to not expect to be entertained after the meal. That everyone would find their spot and nap. But then, she said that every hour, people would get up and go back for pie. I must admit that I didn't take this statement seriously, but true to form, once an hour, there was a line by the pies.

All this sounded great to me last year, this year, and truthfully, I wouldn't mind doing that from now on, in having a more relaxed Thanksgiving gathering, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Heather works in Sherman, a town outside of the Dallas area. She asked me if I could take the rail train from Dallas to Plano (another suburb), and either she or her dad would meet me there. I was thinking of offering this exact solution, so that's what I did. I caught a bus about 2:10 on Thursday that took me a short distance to the DART rail station, and then went down to the platform and boarded the rail train. The particular stop that I was going to was the last one northbound, so it wasn't hard to figure out where to get off at, :) Heather's dad met me shortly after that and we went back to their house.

The gathering lived completely up to their definition of the holiday: no muss, no fuss. I had a good time interacting with heather, her parents, and a couple of other people there. Sadly, I didn't really get to tune into the Cowboys game, at least not by listening to the radio play by play. However, after the meal, which was later since Heather worked for part of that day, when we all were in their living room, I was able to keep up more or less with what was going on by the TV announcements and Heather's dad and one of the other guys there. It sounded like a great game though and very exciting. (Though Dallas lost, they stayed in it and even went to overtime).

Meanwhile, Heather and I worked on her laptop. She had asked me to show her how to use part of her laptop, a media player, and buy and download music. We didn't accomplish all of those things, but we did cover a lot of ground. And, what we didn't cover, I was able to show her a few websites where she could buy music from.

Since we didn't actually sit down till around 5, I didn't participate in the hourly pie run. However, Heather did give me plenty of left overs that I have been working on since then. She gave me two plate fulls of food, one with several different kinds of pies (which disappeared first), and the other with some of the left overs from the meal itself, along with several rolls. Heather drove me home after 7, since I needed to come back and feed Tony, and Heather had to work the next day, which was yesterday.

All in all, I had a great time. Next year's Thanksgiving plans might be different and I might be back with my family, which actually, as I've said, I've enjoyed Heather's family's definition of Thanksgiving, and actually will likely miss it. I'm not sure it would go over all that well if I asked some people in my family to skip my own family's celebration, and go to Heather's house, :) But that's ok, I like the regular family celebration just as much. Each has their own qualities.

Friday, November 25

Disability Awareness Increasing

Greetings. Here's an encouraging article about Starbucks, and how they're reaching out to the disabled commmunity. While I don't agree with all that they are doing, such as the "political correctness." For instance, instead of flowering the speech to, "people with disabilities," why not call it like it is and simply say, "disable people?" However, the article does show that they are trying, and that's not always a bad thing. Perhaps I'll write in another post of my feelings about politically correct speach. For now though, here's the article. Enjoy.

A Special Effort

Starbucks is reaching out to people with disabilities -- both as employees
and as customers

2005; Page R8

If Starbucks has its way, its future work force will look more like Michelle

Thirty-six-year-old Ms. Penman, who has cerebral palsy, spends three hours
getting ready for work every morning. Because she has trouble speaking and
has limited mobility, customers must write down their orders and place them
on her wheelchair. She returns with their coffee and food on a tray or in a
backpack affixed to her motorized wheelchair.

The Seattle-based coffee giant has already turned Ms. Penman into something
of a company icon. The Starbucks CEO mentions her in his speeches as an
example of the devotion of the company's work force, and says he keeps her
picture in his office.

Now StarbucksCorp. wants to make Ms. Penman a literal model employee. As the
company expands its outlets, it is trying to tap into the growing pool of
job seekers with disabilities. The goal: to make its stores more inviting to
customers with disabilities, as well as their caretakers, family members and

"This is a group that most businesses have not addressed," says May Snowden,
Starbucks' vice president, global diversity. "As I look at changes in
demographics, it is one of the groups that are very important."

Indeed, people with disabilities have discretionary spending power of $220
billion annually, according to the American Association of People With
Disabilities. Of the 70 million families in the U.S., more than 20 million
have at least one member with a disability, according to the association.
For Starbucks, the equation is simple. "Customers tend to patronize a
business that is like them," says Jim Donald, president and chief executive

A Wake-Up Call The Starbucks effort, which is still in its early stages, is
proceeding on a couple of fronts. The company recently hired Marthalee
Galeota, who worked with Seattle-area nonprofits on disability matters, as
senior diversity specialist in charge of disability issues. The job goes
beyond making sure Starbucks complies with the Americans With Disabilities
Act, the law that mandates equal access to jobs and services for the
disabled. Ms. Galeota focuses on establishing a companywide etiquette for a
range of issues.

For instance, she has changed the labels on tables designated for wheelchair
users to read, "For a customer with a disability," instead of "Disabled

The company also has designed its counters at a height that is easily
reached by customers in wheelchairs, and the majority of its roughly 10,000
stores around the world have at least one handicapped-accessible entrance.

In addition, Ms. Galeota is working to incorporate disability etiquette into
employee training. For example, employees should ask a customer with a
disability if he or she would like help, rather than automatically lending a
hand; they should also refrain from petting a working service dog for the

Then there are day-to-day matters. Ms. Galeota fields calls from employees
with disabilities as well as store managers to give advice about potentially
tricky situations -- for instance, what a manager should do if an employee
goes deaf.

In terms of recruiting, the company has joined the National Business
Disability Council, which provides a national database of résumés of people
with disabilities.

"We have to make sure we are sourcing at every source that is available,"
Ms. Snowden says. On average, the company hires 200 to 300 people overall
every day.

Exactly how much progress Starbucks is making in hiring people with
disabilities is difficult to measure. The company doesn't keep statistics on
how many employees with disabilities it hires because employees are not
required to record that information on an application.

Beyond the Coffee Line The Starbucks effort comes as a number of other large
employers are reaching out to disabled workers. International Business
Machines Corp. offers internships for students with disabilities and runs
sessions for managers to meet potential hires with disabilities. It also has
put together a video for hiring managers that addresses questions they might
be afraid to ask, such as how much it will cost to accommodate these
employees and how they can ensure that these employees will be able to do
their jobs properly.

"It's sending a message that we are a company that wants the best talent and
we are inclusive of everyone," says Millie DesBiens, an IBM program manager
who focuses on disability issues.

Verizon Corp., meanwhile, sends employees to conferences and conventions
hosted by nonprofit groups working with the disability community. It also
informs disability advocates about certain job openings, says Jeff Kramer,
Verizon's director of public policy and strategic alliances.

But Starbucks faces a higher hurdle than most companies when it comes to
recruiting people with disabilities. Its workers are constantly interacting
with the public in its fast-paced, high-volume stores. Some Starbucks
employees with disabilities acknowledge the challenges -- but also the

Since she started at Starbucks in 1998, Cindy Rogers, 50, has lost much of
her vision. She uses special tactile pads on the cash register and takes her
guide dog along to work. She can no longer do much work behind the
fast-paced espresso bar, so she focuses on the pastry case and register.
Sometimes, she means to take a credit card and instead grabs the customer's
hand. She once called out to say she could help the next person in line only
to be told by a colleague that there was no line. At times, "customers are
not the nicest they could be," Ms. Rogers says.

"Customers will say, 'Isn't that nice that Starbucks will let people like
you work there.' " One man, commenting on her antiglare glasses, said, "
'Cool, I'll put on my sunglasses so we can communicate,' " she recalls.

But she says her co-workers at the Mesa, Ariz., outlet have been extremely
supportive. "I am sure they get frustrated," she says. "I try to use humor,
and if I didn't laugh I would cry."

And she says many customers are tactful and kind. She's gotten to know the
regulars by the sound of their voices and knows exactly what they are going
to order. On her days off, she runs a Braille reading group at the store for
local children and their parents.

Corey Lindberg, a deaf 46-year-old senior business systems analyst working
at Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, says he's less prone to distraction
around the office. If he needs to concentrate, he can just close his eyes.
In some ways, he says, his hearing impairment -- which he developed later in
life -- makes him work harder.

He relies on instant-messaging software and writing notes on paper to
communicate, and the company supplies a sign-language interpreter when he
attends meetings. When he speaks on the phone, he uses a device that
captions the conversation on a computer screen or a videoconferencing
service with an interpreter.

Before Michelle Penman joined Starbucks, she worked at a restaurant where
the owner insisted that she sit out of sight of customers, according to her
mother, Renee.

"He made her sit back behind the kitchen where she would not be in anyone's
way," Renee Penman wrote in an email. "Sometimes she sat there for four
hours without anyone even speaking to her. I talked with the owner several
times about finding another place for her to sit while she waited for an
order to come in, and he would not budge."

At Starbucks, the younger Ms. Penman sits in the front of the store, and
"there are times when customers have to go around her to get in the coffee
line," her mother says. But the manager has never suggested that Ms. Penman
move out of the way, according to her mother. When Ms. Penman is out sick,
customers ask where she is. Mr. Donald, the CEO, attended her 10th
anniversary party at the store. Michelle has been the subject of a local
newspaper story and television news spot, her mother says.

"People talk about Starbucks in such a positive way, they say, 'That's where
Michelle works,' " Renee Penman says. She says she knows her daughter is
giving the company a wealth of positive press, but she doesn't mind. "If
they want to be selfish and do it for them, that is OK. The person with the
disability is winning, too."

--Mr. Corkery is a staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal's New York

Thursday, November 24

Thanksgiving Message

Greetings. On this day of Thanksgiving, I would like to offer a reminder. Not only should you be thankful today, since it is Thanksgiving, but all the time. So, tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and so forth, don't forget to be thankful for what you have. Happy Thanksgiving (and go Cowboys!).

Wednesday, November 23

Yahoo and TiVo Combine

Greetings. In my long string of posts today (I'm in a posting mood for whatever reason), I present the following:

I found the following story while surfing the web. Though its a couple of weeks old, it does present interesting ideas. Yahoo, TiVo team up to blend TV, Web services.

Though this doesn't make TiVo completely accessible to the blind user, since you would still need to access the screen to play, pause and operate the running of the show, it does mean that we could schedule shows through the Yahoo TV Listings area, and that might be the best start yet. Now if we can only figure out how to watch all the hours of shows we scheduled.

New Twist in the Sony Story

Greetings. Here's an interesting, but funny, twist on the Sony CD saga, from the International Herald Tribune, Shoppers become venters on Amazon.

Christmas Music .... Now?

Greetings. I come from the old school, of not playing Christmas music until at least the day of Thanksgiving or even better, the day after Thanksgiving. However, it seems that it is popping up more and more places, before Thanksgiving. Most notably was when I went to Wall Greens about 10 days ago and they were already playing it. I asked the cashier about it, and her response was, "But its Christmas music." To which I replied, "Yes, I realize this. I have nothing aginst Christmas music, but can we wait until we get through Thanksgiving?"

I know that people are putting out the Christmas decorations and ads earlier each year. Personally though, since I don't see those, they don't count. Its the music that is coming too early. I'm all for feeling joyful, but let's take this one Holiday at a time. Can we wait until we at least are stuff with turkey and ressing, and the beloved pies, before we play the music?

I must admit that Christmas music is feeling more likely today, the day before Thanksgiving, than it was two or three days ago. But its still not Thanksgiving yet!

Cooll Desktop Search Tool

Greetings. I've had the Google Desktop Search tool on my computer for some time. IMO, Google does a much better job at searching my computer than the bland search tool that comes with the computer ever could or dream of doing. Let me give an example.

I am making CD's for some people for Christmas presents, since I've got loads of disks and music on my computer. In my main music area, I've got over 2100 songs. Anyway, I wanted to find songs by a particular group. I first typed in "*-the cure.mp3" and Google showed a song by Metallica called "The Cure." I then took out everything but "the cure", and got 10 results back, all from the group The Cure. Google's desktop results page lists the results in different categories, like files, web history, chats, email, etc, and if the category has results then it is linked. I clicked on the Files category, and then could further narrow my results by selecting file formats for the results I was looking for, from a combo box. After selecting Mp3 and pressing the Go button, I was presented with the 10 results. As if all this wasn't enough, each linked result had the size of the file in megabytes, its direct location on my computer, and more.

As far as I'm concerned. Google's Desktop Search utility is the way to go if you need to search your system. It can be especially helpful if you have lots of different documents (Word, Excel, PDF, etc), images (JPG, GIF, BMP, etc), or other things on your computer, like if you have a network or have lots of things stored over many years. It can even be set to search in secure password protected documents. I would advise unchecking the "search secure pages" checkbox in the preferences area, unless you want to access online shopping pages as search results. Google does not share the results with the rest of the WWW, and the tool is free. Plus, as with any of Google's tools, the search results are displayed on a web page so they're extremely easy to navigate with a screen reader. Though I don't have to do searches on a regular basis, Desktop Search is the place I turn to when and if I do need to search.

Another Tool to Tackle Black Friday

For those that don't know, "Black Friday" is the day after Thanksgiving. This year's shopping just got easier thanks to Google. Read the article entitled, Google Introduces New Tool For Mapping Out Shopping Trips from Information Week. This article shows that planning ahead can save lots of time and money.

Sunday, November 20

How to Handle a Telemarketer

Greetings. This just happened and might give you some ideas for how to handle a telemarketer. My philosophy on telemarketting calls is: they took the time out of their day to call me, so therefore, I should make it worth their while. I could just hang up, but that's the easy way out and isn't really all that fun, for me or them. With that in mind, consider the following:

As I was coming back on my porch after taking my retired guide dog Tony out, I heard the phone ring. I quickly got him and myself inside and raced over to the phone only to pick it up and realize that a woman wanted to get me to participate in a survey. I agreed to do so, wondering if this was the call, why didn't I just let it ring instead of answering. But then my philosophy came to mind, and I started grinning.

I forget what the study/survey was about, but I was asked if I was over 21. I said yes, and then I was asked the ages of everyone in my house over 21. I said that there were two, a 30 year old (me) and an 84 year old (Tony's age in human years). The woman then asked to speak with the 84 year old male, so I said, "Certainly." I went and got Tony and brought him over to the phone, and put the phone down by his mouth. He sniffed it a few times than turned his head away. I got back on the phone and asked the woman if she spoke dog. She said, "What?" I repeated my question. It then must have occurred to her that the 84 year old was a dog, and her response was, after a brief pause, "Sir, this is a serious study. I don't have time for this," after which she hung up. I was in the process of saying, "Hey, you called me," but she had already disconnected. As my friend Carman Fan #1 likes to say, "I shreaked with laughter!"

More on Sony Protected CD's

Read more about the Sony CD's that are affected. This page recommends turning off auto run to prevent the CD from starting when you put it in the drive of your system, but I would go further and recommend not buying any of the affected CD's, or any Sony CD's for that matter, until this issue has been fully resolved.

Website Combines Blogs and Journalism

Greetings. Here's an interesting story on a Web site to blend journalism with blogs from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. For those that like reading blogs, this sound very cool.

Sony to Recall CD's

Greetings. So much for copying CD's to your hard drive, at least if they are from Sony. Check out this article from the New York Times and see how Sony has royally screwed up. Enjoy.

Sony BMG to recall copy-restricted CDs
By Tom Zeller Jr. The New York Times

NEW YORK The global music giant Sony BMG has announced that it plans to
recall millions of CDs by at least 20 artists, from the pop-music stars
Céline Dion and Neil Diamond to the country-rock act Van Zant, because they
contain copy-restriction software that poses risks to consumers' computers.

The move, announced on Tuesday, is expected to cost the company tens of
millions of dollars. The company said it would remove all unsold CDs
containing the software from retail outlets and offer exchanges to consumers
who had bought any of the CDs involved. A toll-free number and e-mail
message inquiry system will also be set up on the Sony BMG Web site,

"We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers and are
committed to making this situation right," the company said in a letter that
it said it would post on its Web site.

Neither representatives of Sony BMG nor the British company First 4
Internet, which developed the copy-protection software, would comment

Sony BMG estimated last week that about five million discs - some 49
different titles - had been shipped with the problematic software, and about
two million had been sold.

Market research from 2004 has shown that about 30 percent of consumers
report obtaining music through the copying and sharing of tracks among
friends from legitimately purchased CDs.

But the fallout from the relatively aggressive protection system has raised
serious questions about how far the companies should be permitted to go in
seeking to prevent digital piracy.

The recall and exchange program, first reported by USA Today, comes two
weeks after news began to spread on the Internet that certain Sony BMG CDs
contained software that was designed to limit users to making only three
copies of the music but that also altered the deepest levels of the computer
systems of consumers and created vulnerabilities that Internet virus writers
could exploit.

Since then, computer researchers have identified other problems with the
software, as well as with the software patch and uninstaller programs that
the company has issued to address the vulnerabilities. Several security and
antivirus companies, including Computer Associates, F-Secure and Symantec,
quickly classified the software on the CDs, which is only known to affect
users of the Windows operating system, as malicious because, among other
things, it attempted to hide itself on the machines of users and
communicated remotely with Sony servers once installed.

On Saturday, a Microsoft engineering team indicated that it would be
updating the company's own security tools to detect and remove parts of the
Sony BMG copy-protection software to help protect customers.

Researchers at Princeton University revealed on Tuesday that early versions
of the "uninstall" process published by Sony BMG on its Web site, which was
designed to help users remove the copy-protection software from their
machines, created a vulnerability that could expose users of the Internet
Explorer Web browser to malicious code embedded on Web sites.

Security analysts at Internet Security Systems, based in Atlanta, also
issued an alert on Tuesday indicating that the copy-protection software
itself, which was installed on certain CDs beginning last spring, could be
used by virus writers to gain administrator privileges on multiuser

David Maynor, a researcher with the X-force division of Internet Security
Systems, which analyzes potential network vulnerabilities, said the
copy-protection system was particularly pernicious because it was nearly
impossible for many computer users to remove on their own.

"At what point do you think it is a good thing to surreptitiously put
Trojans on people's machines?" Maynor said. "The only thing you're
guaranteeing is that they won't be customers anymore."

Some early estimates indicate that the problem could affect half a million
or more computers around the world.

Data collected in September by the market research firm NPD Group indicated
that roughly 36 percent of consumers had reported that they listened to
music CDs on a computer. If that percentage held true for people who bought
the Sony BMG CDs, that would amount to about 720,000 computers - although
only those running Windows would be affected.

Consumers who listen to CDs on stereo systems and other noncomputer players,
as well as users of Apple computers, would not be at risk.

Although antivirus companies have indicated since late last week that virus
writers were trying to take advantage of the vulnerabilities, it is not
known whether any of these viruses have found their way onto PCs embedded
with the Sony BMG copy-protection software.

Security and digital rights advocates say that does not matter. "There may
be millions of hosts that are now vulnerable to something that they weren't
vulnerable to before," said Dan Kaminsky, a prominent independent computer
security researcher.

For some critics, the recall will not be enough. "This is only one of the
many things Sony must do to be accountable for the damage it's inflicted on
its customers," said Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, a digital rights group in California.

Friday, November 18

TV Program on Medicare Changes

Greetings. For those that have access to CNBC on Cable or Satellite, and who have Medicare or a related program, you might want to pay attention to this upcoming TV show. Here are the details. I received this from an email list I'm on. Please excuse any formatting errors.

I wanted to let you guys know about a TV program you should watch this
weekend. It is sponsored by CMS. The program is titled "Medicare Rx: A
Conversation" and will air on CNBC from 5:30 - 6:00 PM Central Time on
Saturday, November 19th and again on Sunday, November 20th.

If you have Medicare, you should make an informed choice on whether to
enroll in a plan of your choice even if you are on Medicaid or the state
pays your premiums (QMB, SLMB) or if you have been approved for the LIS
Subsidy. If you do not enroll, CMS will place you randomly in a plan which
may not be the best one for your needs! If you have drug coverage under
private policies, check with your insurance plan to find out if you should
enroll in Part D.
For assistance in picking a plan, Medicare beneficiaries can call:
List of 3 items
* Medicare at 800-633-4227 (or TTY at 877-486-2048)
* Texas SHIP at 800-633-4227
* Capital Area Agency on Aging (AAA) at 512-916-6062 or toll-free at
list end

Wednesday, November 16

Austin Recap and Personal Reflections

Greetings. First off, I must give credit where credit is due: to God. He answered a number of prayers for me on Monday's trip to Austin, not the least of which was energy to go throughout the day, having no worries about what I was going through, safe airport travels, and probably the big ones, a good interview and presentations. Now that a couple of days have passed, I can truly look back and appreciate how some things fell into place. Such as, getting my return boarding pass when I checked in at Love Field in Dallas Monday morning.

I initially wondered why they were giving me both passes, going and the return, but I accepted. As it turned out, I had a 2 hour interview. In order to get the presentations, or mock training sessions, in, I had to cancel my shuttle return trip back to the airport from Criss Cole (the rehab center). I did the presentations, and did very well if I can say so myself. Anyway, I had mentioned to the interviewer that I could take a cab back to the airport, but he ended up offering to drive me back, which I gratefully accepted. As it happened, even though I started to worry about the timing, I got through security and to my gate with literally 1 or 2 minutes to spare before they called for the pre-board people. In other words, just in the nick of time. So, getting that return boarding pass Monday morning ended up working to my advantage, since I likely wouldn't have had enough time to get it and do the usual airport stuff since I was running late coming back.

I've really only interviewed for jobs relating to blindness or people with disabilities, such as this job at a rehab center, or a job with Bender Consulting Services, that I wrote about a few days ago, who place disabled people with corporations. So, I haven't yet had to interview in the "mainstream." I have had quite a few phone interviews and a couple of them in person. I say all this to say that I hit a point sometime during Monday's interview where I was enjoying it. Really. There were times that it turned into more of a discussion about philosophy or techniques, than an interview. I had to remind myself that I was interviewing to work there. Anyway, during the entire 2 hour period, my mind was clear (which was something else I had prayed about), and I was able to give clear and concise, or detailed where necessary, answers to all of the questions. There was only one question that I didn't know the answer to, but I said as much and the interviewer rephrased it, which made the question more clear to me.

In closing, I want to point out something that a friend brought to my attention yesterday. He said that he was proud of me, and that I should be proud of myself, for traveling all the way to and from Austin, to an interview, arranging transportation for myself, all on my own and with little help from anyone. Upon reflection and being a couple of days removed, I can appreciate this and feel proud about it. At the time I might not have recognized the significance of this because, its what I had learned how to do. I remember being on the shuttle that took me to the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center, and talking with another passenger who was marvalling at my ability to travel alone. I told him that basically, it might be scary the first time or two, but then you learn how to do it and are able to go through with it. Between asking directions, possibly getting help from a skycap or other airport person, and using a little common sense, I have been able to travel alone for quite some time now, probably around 10 years or so, perhaps more.

As I say, being two days removed from the trip, I can appreciate this independent travel more, and am grateful for those that have helped teach me the ways of independence, whether they be caseworkers from a state agency, blind role models that I might know locally, or other plain old blind people that I might come across in daily conversation or at a well grounded rehabilitation center. So, to all of those, especially those people at the Colorado Center for the Blind and other NFB related training centers, I say thanks. Thanks for giving me the confidence to travel to and from a city for a job interview, which I stand a pretty good chance of getting.

Tuesday, November 15

Just the Facts

Greetings. For those that want to know what happened yesterday but don't want to read a long narrative, here are just the facts, man:

* I feel real good about the interview.
* I feel real good about the presentations (mock training sessions) I did after the interview.
* A number of prayers were answered in which I had asked different people to pray for specific things, such as: stamina, energy, not to worry about things, good travels through the airports, among other things.
* And perhaps the big thing people want to know: I'll know something by the end of this month or possibly in the middle of next month. Some of that time is paperwork, going through the necessary regulations before a decision can be made, and getting the person who is hired in the payroll system, etc. It sounds like I should know something in 2 or 3 weeks though.

So, there are the facts. I'll fill in some of the gaps later, but I wanted to post this short summary so people can get a brief idea of how things went. There were several interesting and amazing things that happened yesterday, which I'll write more about later.

Saturday, November 12

Audible's Response

Greetings. At the suggestion of a friend, I emailed Audible about my concerns I wrote of yesterday. Below is their response to my username/password concern:

Response (Lori B. CC) - 11/12/2005 09:22 PM
Dear Wayne,

Thanks for contacting Audible, the world's largest online destination for downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment.

Please note the call was legitimate. Our Marketing Department is contacting customers for various promotions (ie 2 free book trial). Please note that
there should be no need to ask you for your password, however, to reassure you, even we, cannot see neither your full credit card number nor your actual
password on the account.

I apologize for the inconvenience and concern this has caused you.

If you need further assistance, please try our online Help Center, where you'll find quick answers to many common questions and issues. You may also contact
us directly during our regular business hours:
Mon - Fri we are open 24 hours
Sat & Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.

We appreciate your interest in Audible, and wish you many hours of great listening.

Audible Customer Support

Now, I'm still wondering about the phone number access (them calling my home number and how they got the number), but perhaps I gave my home number instead of my cell. At any rate, the larger security concern has been addressed. So, I guess that if you get a call from Audible asking you for your username and password, then its legit.

Friday, November 11

Another Job Opportunity

Greetings. First off, my apologies for the "test posts" that have ended up on today's entry. I had a problem with Blogger for awhile when composing one of them, and it trippled itself.

Anyway, onto the news of consequence. I have applied to work with, or be placed, with a company called Bender Consulting Services. In brief, they help place disabled people with companies in management, human resources, and information technology. I had applied with them before, submitted several resumes, done a couple of interviews, and filled out some other paperwork. The last time I heard from them was back in June or July, when I was told that I would be contacted if something opened up.

Well, yesterday in the late afternoon, I got a call from them. Their home office is in Pennsylvania, but they place people all over the U.S. and in a couple of Canadian provinces. Anyway, the person I spoke with was an assistant to someone, and he said that his boss wanted to interview me on the next day (today). I said that I was free and we agreed upon a time. I never found out what the position was that I was being interviewed for though, and when I asked, the assistant said there was several openings but he didn't know which one either.

Well, today I had the interview and did very well, if I can say so myself. The positions are in the help desk arena, and for two corporations in Los Colinas, near Dallas. I got an email address to send updated copies of my resume to, and was told that they would be in touch, which could be soon or not so soon. It all depends on the client and what they want to do. However, since I was told that the next step would be a detailed technical interview with the client, and since I haven't been told about that before, I'm inclined to think that there might be a possible job in this for me. We'll have to wait and see though.

Wouldn't that be a fix to find myself in: to have to choose between a job with the state, and one in help desk stuff locally. Off hand, I can't say which one I'd ultimately choose, but who knows. Watch this space for further updates.

I feel like I did well with the interview too. It was kind of like a dry run before the interview on Monday, so that's good. There were never really any times when I was lost for words. The truth of the matter is that I've been interviewed over the phone more often than I've had face to face interviews. I'll try and put up one more post before I leave Monday morning, and I'll definitely write about my travel and experiences when I get back, probably sometime on Tuesday.

Beware of Audible

Greetings. I got a weird call today and wanted to share.

I haven't used in months. Their website is certainly very doable with JAWS, however listening to audio with their Audible Player leaves a little to be desired. Plus the fact that they charge for all their content, when I can get an unlimited number of books (for a small annual fee) from Book Share.

Ever since I first got an interview from them, I've been getting emails from Audible offering me any number of free books/memberships if I will only visit their site again and get my free books, or even better, buy another book/publication from them.

Late this afternoon, I got a call on my home phone from someone claiming to be with Audible offering me 2 more free books, with no restrictions, if I will only give them my username and password. As soon as the guy took a breath and stopped, I politely refused and hung up. Then it hit me: how did they get my home number? When I register with many, but not all, sites, I will give my cell number instead of my home number. With the thinking of using a forwarding email address: at least they don't have my "real" number or address. I reluctantly concluded that they could have looked my number up on the Internet or through directory assistance, but the question of how they got my number still lingered. After I thought about it though, I became more concerned.

I've grown up in the computer age, and have been told numerous times never to give out your password, under any circumstances. I remember hearing of a study that was done in an information technology department of a company, to see how willing people would be to give up their passwords. The study had a supposed head of the IT department, call various people that worked at the company, and for security reasons, ask the people to verify their passwords. 100% of them did, without question, probably thinking nothing of it. I'm not sure I would do the same if I were in that situation, but then you never know.

Anyway, I mention the study to ask: why would someone from Audible want to verify my username and password in order to give me free books? Wouldn't it be more pheasable for them to ask for the last few digits of my credit card I used with them, or something other than a password? I have no idea if the person actually was from Audible, but in thinking about this for the last few hours, I'm sure glad that I didn't give them any information.

Which brings me to my warning: I don't know if any of this is specific to Audible, and I'm certainly not intentionally wanting to draw any business away from them, however, beware if anyone calls asking for any of your account passwords from specific websites. You never know who's out there these days.

Test post

Test post

Wednesday, November 9

More on Monday

Greetings. I talked with the man who is hiring for the position in Austin this morning, and he told me that Monday's interview would also include a presentation of my teaching skills in a mock training session. This led me to ask if the interview and presentation would be in person, in Austin, and he said that it would. He went on to say that, if someone wasn't "in the cut," then they would have a phone interview. This leads me to believe that I am "in the cut" for this position!

I haven't made my reservations yet due to some details that have yet to be worked out. Monday will be a cool, long, but satisfying day in Austin. The schedule is for an interview at 1:30 and then after a 30 minute break the presentations start at 3, and go until 4. Thanks to those that have been praying for me. Now, please pray that I do well in the interview and presentations, and that I would have a clear mind and not be too nervous. I'll write more about it when I can.

Even if I don't get the job, at least I will have more practice interviewing and doing the presentations, though I'd love to get the job. Especially considering that I applied two years ago for almost the exact same job and didn't get it, mainly due to lack of experience.

Tuesday, November 8

Great Austin Job Development

Greetings. For those that don't know, I'm in the process of applying for a technology instructor job at the state's rehab center in Austin. I just got a call from the person hiring for the position, saying that the list of volunteer hours I sent him is enough, and that he can offer me an interview. I don't know much beyond the proposed day of next Monday sometime. It will probably be a phone interview, but that's fine. I've actually had more phone interviews than I have had ones in person. After that, if they like me, then I would go down to Austin and possibly have another interview in person, and then have to do some in person training on a set topic/software. This is mainly so they can see how I train and present things.

I'll call him tomorrow morning and work out the details. Considering that I applied for almost the exact position two years ago, this is quite exciting. I didn't get the job then because of a lack of experience. However, since I've been at the Assistive Tech Center, I have gained lots of experience, in teaching, developing curriculum, and learning more about work interactions and relationships.

If you can't tell from my writing, I'm getting excited about this pending interview. I'll write more when I know more.

A Weird Day

Greetings. Today's been a weird day for me. Since I usually work on Tuesdays, I kept waking up every half hour or so after 5am, and thinking that I had to go to work today. I finally got up at 7:15 and thought that I was late for work, and then it dawned on me that I wasn't going to work today.

It's been a little awkward today, with thinking about those things and having those feelings. I did hear from a long time friend from Houston, Ron Graham, who called (thanks Ron) earlier and we talked about what's been going on and other random stuff. That was good and helpful.

I'm going out to dinner later with another friend that I hook up with every week or two, and we'll no doubt talk about what's happened in recent days.

That's about all I have for today. I would normally be getting home right now, slipping into home type clothes, and taking a nap. I've already taken a nap a while ago, so I guess that's out of the way. Its odd to think at various times of the day, where you would be and what you would be doing at those times. This will take awhile to work through, but I'm in no hurry. I've had a couple of friends who are counselors tell me that it can take several weeks to a month to fully work through everything, and that sounds fine to me. As I say, I'm in no hurry. I don't plan on staying home and crying during the month, but I'm sure these moments and memories will come up and I'll deal with them when they do. That's lots better, I figure, than berrying them and acting like they don't exist.

I'll write more in the days ahead as things come up and occur to me.

Sunday, November 6

Church Experiences

Greetings. I wanted to write about some experiences that I had this morning at church. I attend Scofield Memorial Church, on Abrams Road in Dallas. I have really enjoyed my time here since I've been going, which I started going in the spring of last year.

Anyway, everyone that I've come in contact with, has accepted me, with no exception. No one has questioned my abilities, and I haven't had to prove myself to anyone, as in prove myself as a blind person. I've been in situations at other churches where this wasn't always the case.

Well, the first instance happened in Sunday school. The class that I go to is for young singles. At the end of the class, when the leader asked for prayer requests, I said that I had one. It seems that our class never lets out on time, so the leader said that those who wanted to leave, could do so. I quickly said that I wanted those who knew me to stay, and the leader repeated my request and added again that those who wanted to leave could. No one got up. We usually have between 8 and 10 people, but I think we had more than 10 there this morning. It was nearly full in fact. I was quite surprised and pleased that everyone stayed where they were, even people that I had not met before didn't leave. That's part of what I mean by everyone being so accepting of me.

After the class let out, I started to leave, but the leader told me to sit back down. He said that he wanted to pray for me and for my job loss. When one of my church drivers came to meet me and go with me to the main service, once the driver heard that the leader was going to pray for me, that touched me as well. I'm not usually comfortable with someone putting their hands on me during prayer, even though it is in the Bible. However, this time I was glad that he did. It made his prayer more real to me.

The last thing that happened was a song we sang in the main service. The song is called, "Draw me close to You," and goes as follows:

Draw me close to You, never let me go,
I lay it all down again, to hear You say That I'm Your friend.
You are my desire, no one else will do,
Cause nothing else could take Your place.
To feel the warmth of Your embrace.
Help me find the way, Bring me back to You.

You're all I want. You're all I ever needed.
You're all I want, help me know You are near.

Since I first heard this song, it has touched me and seemed like a song that one friend would sing or say to another. It takes on new meaning to me now, especially the first two or three lines, in my recent lay off. When reading it on my Pac Mate this morning, I had to stop singing for a few minutes because tears welled up in my eyes. It was very moving for me.

It's always hard for me to pick my "favorite," but I think this song is my current favorite song to sing in church.

Saturday, November 5

Blogger's Getting Better

Greetings. I saw this referenced on another blog and after I did some reading on it, was pleased that it was done. Blogger is offering a Comments Moderation feature which allows you to choose what comments are posted to the blog before they are actually posted. It will email you with the comment in question, and you can either click on the Publish or Reject links, or go to a comment moderation page and make your selections from there. This is great, since I get lots of spam on my blog, I now have a way of better controlling it and preventing it from ending up on here. It can also be used to stop people from posting off topic comments I suppose. In any case, I'm glad Blogger has introduced this feature. It gives those of us who can't use word verification, a way of combatting spam. Which leads me to wonder if they did it for the blind in part? Whatever the reason, I'm glad they did! Now if we could only solve the other accessibility issues, things would be really great.

Odds, Ins and Some Bitterness

Greetings. I have some reflections on the past day or so, and the events of the week.

First off, my sadness of losing my job is starting to be replaced with bitterness toward the company. Not because I lost my job, but because countless blind and disabled people lost an option for computer training locally. For blind people, there's only one other place in Dallas, the Lighthouse, where they can get computer training from, and in recent years, I have some difference in opinions with the Lighthouse. Several people have suggested that I work there, but frankly, I don't think I want to at this time. For one thing, I've heard that they are in financial troubles of their own, not to mention some of the training techniques that I've heard them using, or not using, in computer classes.

Anyway, the place where I did work, the Assistive Technology Center, was on track to have an evaluation center open up so that blind people could receive evaluations for different technology. In other words, say someone wants to get a Braille display. After they tell their caseworker and complete some of the initial paperwork, the person is sent to an evaluation center, where they can look at several different models and decide which they like best so the caseworker can buy it for them. The Division for Blind Services, the state agency, had been sending people to Austin or San Antonio, to these evaluation centers since there wasn't one locally. If anyone was wanting the center to open, it was the local DBS office, so they wouldn't have to spend money on travel as well as the evaluation for the consumers. Now though, the consumers will still have to go out of town to get evaluations. I'm not saying that the center would have saved the Assistive Tech Center, but it definitely would have brought in lots more business. And yet, the decision was made that the evaluation center might be too much of a risk (speculation on my part, but probably not too far from the truth), and it was closed this week.

In addition, what's going to happen to all that adaptive equipment; all the software and some hardware that was recently purchased in the past few months; all the copies of software, like JAWS, Zoom Text, Magic, Dragon, and others? My guess is that they will either sit in a warehouse somewhere, or maybe be given to the Lighthouse. Even though I'm not as fond of the Lighthouse as I once was, at least they will use the equipment, verses letting it sit and collect dust.

So you can see some of my bitterness. Again, I'm not bitter for myself, and the fact that I no longer have a job, even though that is depressing. Rather, I'm bitter for the closing, and thinking about the people that we might have served in the future by staying open and having this evaluation center. Along with the equipment that might or might not be used, that fills the Assistive Tech Center.

Yesterday was a better day for me. I kept myself busy with phone calls and other activities. I think I'm beginning to heal from all this, though in the quiet moments or the times when I talk with my friends and coworkers from the ATC, I'm sad again. So, I'm not quite there yet, but getting there.

That's about all for now. This is the, "doing ok" Wayne, signing off.

Blind Cool Tech on Marlaina

Greetings. Fans of the podcast/blog Blind Cool Tech will be pleased to know that Larry Scutchan, who works at the American Pritning House for the Blind in Kentucky, will be interviewed tomorrow night on ACB Radio Mainstream's Marlaina show, which is hosted by Marlaina Lieberg. If you're not familiar with Blind Cool Tech, then I highly suggest you go over to the site and check out the variety of shows. Many of them are of Larry podcasting about technology, what's happening in his life, and other interesting commentary. Recently though, he has accepted contributions from other people on technology reviews, or whatever they had to say. From what I've heard from some people in the blindness community, Blind Cool Tech is beginning to approach the place Main Menu was at several years ago, as far as grass-roots contributions, and good ones, from a variety of people on a variety of topics.

Anyway, Marlaina will talk with Larry in the first hour of her show, which is Sunday evenings at 1 Universal, which translates to 7pm Central Standard Time. The secodn hour will be an open forum. And, its possible Larry will put the interview up on his site in case you miss it. I'm not sure of this, but I wouldn't be surprised. In order to listen, go to the ACB Radio Mainstream, listening page where you can choose the link for your appropriate media player (Winamp, Real Player, or Windows Media). Enjoy.

Friday, November 4

Unfortunate News

Greetings. I received a call at home a couple of days ago from the CEO of my company, letting me know that everyone in the assistive technology training department of the company was being laid off. There are a lot of thing that I could and might write here, but mainly I wanted to let the readers of this blog know.

The past 2 days have felt like watching a disaster on TV: at some point you want to turn away and do other things, but you can't help going back to it or talking about it. Yesterday was the last day of work for many of us, there were 9 people including me, and that was hard. It would have been easy for me to think that it was no big deal, since from the time I heard on Wednesday afternoon to when I went to work yesterday morning, I was by myself. However, when I went to work and talked with my coworkers, and saw that they were sober and grim about what had happened, that made everything all the more real. I mean, the director was wearing sunglasses, not to look cool, but to hide the red eyes she had from crying much of the previous night.

I've got a job lead I'm working on at the state training center at Austin, basically doing the same thing I was doing, being a adaptive technology instructor, but other than that, I'm not sure what I will do. I've got to make some calls in a little while to cut down some of the monthly expenses I have, like loan payments or payments on equipment, down to their minimum to conserve my money. I will be getting severence pay which will help, hopefully it will last through the end of the year.

I'm starting to come out of my sadness, since the same emotions have been worked through for 2 days, however whenever I think about being let go; of not going to work next Tuesday and seeing some of the people; it all comes back to me. As I say, I might write on this blog of my experiences and possibly some of the things leading up to the lay off, but we'll see. If anything, I can now write of my job search. I've been searching for a job before now, but I was afraid to write of it, afraid that someone from work would read it and I'd get in trouble. But, I guess that I don't have to worry about that anymore.

Two good things that happened yesterday were going out to lunch with Brad, one of my coworkers, and talking with my good friend Tim last night. In true lay off fashion, Brad and I went to Hooters for lunch, and ended up talking for quite some time after we had finished eating. That was good, not only because it was bonding time with a coworker, but we got some of the complaining of what happened and the events leading up to it, out of our systems. And, last night with Tim was good since he helped me work through some of the minor decisions, let me cry, and mainly listened and fulfilled the role of a good, close friend. One of the hardest things that I might very well have to deal with in the immediate future, is letting people buy things for me. I'm one to pay my own way as much as possible, since in growing up and as a young adult, I had people try to buy things for me because they felt sorry for me. I'm not saying that this will happen a lot or even that it will, but this is one of the struggles I'm already going through.

That's about all for now. Until we talk next, this is the sober, jobless Wayne, signing off.

Wednesday, November 2

BrailleNote Driver and JAWS 7

Greetings. I received this from an email list and thought I'd share for those that might have a BrailleNote and want to use it with JAWS 7. This is particularly notable if you use JAWS on a Windows XP, 2000, or NT operating system. I can only provide the information that I was given, so please direct all questions to HumanWare on this matter. (I still think the PAC Mate rules, but I would be considered bias if I didn't provide some info to HumanWare folk). Please excuse any formatting errors. Enjoy.

Hello all,

I am pleased to be able to inform all of you that there is now a new version
of the Jaws KeyNote driver available for download from the Humanware
website. This will allow people to use the BrailleNote or KeyNote voice
synthesizers, as a speech synthesizer with the Jaws for Windows screen

People who are running Windows 95/98/ME will not require this driver, as it
can be installed from the Jaws CD. However, folks who are running Windows
NT, 2000 or XP, will require this driver if they wish to use the BrailleNote
as a synthesizer with Jaws.

The new file will allow people with Jaws 7 to also take advantage of the
BrailleNote's functionality. Due to changes in Jaws 7, the old driver would
not function for Jaws 7 users, without some manual configuration.

To download the driver, please go to the following website address:


Dean Jackson
BrailleNote Product Specialist
11 Mary Muller Drive
new Zealand


TV Program to Watch Friday Night

Greetings. I received the following from one of the NFB's email lists last week, and thought it appropriate to share. It sounds like the show that will aire this Friday evening on NBC will present a more accurate portrayal of blindness, than ABC's Extreme Makeover show last May. As always, please excuse any formatting errors. Enjoy.

Please contact all of your NFB friends or anyone you know who might be interested and encourage them to watch an exciting program, Three Wishes,
on November
4th, 2005 at 9:00 PM Eastern 8:00 PM Central. This is of particular interest to us because it focuses on the NFB helping a blind woman learn skills to
help her take care of her baby daughter.

Additionally, after watching the show, let NBC know how much you appreciated and enjoyed the show.
Please email them at:

If you are interested in the show any further, please visit NBC's website for the show at:
Three Wishes.

Please read below for more information about the episode in Cedar City, Utah.

NFB and NBC's Three Wishes

This fall, NBC premiered a new primetime television program called Three Wishes. This new program has captured the attention and the hearts of television
viewers nationwide. Producers of this program travel to various towns and cities in the United States and grant "Three Wishes" in that community. One episode
of the program was filmed in Cedar City, Utah where a man wished that his blind wife could be more independent in caring for their baby daughter. NBC contacted
the National Federation of the Blind of Utah for technical assistance in granting his wish.

After consulting with Dr. Zaborowski and Dr. Wilson of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the local Utah affiliate of the

National Federation of the Blind sent a team of four blind individuals to provide consultation about blindness to the producers of NBC's Three Wishes and
to provide training that would lead to higher self-esteem and more independence. Each member of the team is a graduate of the Louisiana Center for the
Blind (LCB) in Ruston, Louisiana. The LCB is one of three training centers sponsored and supported by the National Federation of the Blind.

The team members included:

Nick Schmittroth holds a National Orientation and Mobility Certification, is a graduate of the Louisiana Tech University O&M program, and is an employee
of the Utah Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He provided orientation and mobility training.

Karl Smith, President of Axis Technology, an adaptive technology consulting company, provided adaptive technology and training.

Rebekah Jakeman, a blind mother of two children, provided guidance on alternative techniques for caring for children and running a household as a blind

Ron Gardner, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah and former Director of the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University, consulted
with the producers about blindness, provided Braille instruction, and conducted philosophical training to Three Wishes producers and staff to promote a
positive attitude about blindness.

The training was very successful and provided hope and education not only to the blind mother and her family, but also to program producers and the residents
of Cedar City, Utah. Our hope is that this positive image of blindness will be promoted across America through the NBC Three Wishes primetime television

Producers expect this program to air on Friday, November 4 at 9:00 PM Eastern 8:00 PM Central.

Please tune in on Friday evenings to watch Three Wishes!

You will soon be able to find information about the National Federation of the Blind on the NBC Three Wishes web page.

This information can also be accessed at our website also:

Thank you for sharing this with people across your state!

With kind regards,

Joanne Wilson
Executive Director of Affiliate Action
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

Tuesday, November 1

Exciting Promotion from Discover Card

Greetings. Discover Card is experimenting with a new 5% cash back bonus promotion, just for the Holiday season. From November 25 to December 31, you can get 5% cash back on all online shopping purchases! This is in addition to the usual 5% cash back bonus promotions they have on a monthly basis. Considering I have done more and more of my Christmas shopping online in recent years, this is exciting news!

To put it in perspective, consider spending $30 on something and getting $1.50 back (the 5% amount), instead of the normal 1% amount of $0.30. Quite a difference I'd say. Now, consider spending an average of $30 per person you shop for, which in my family is about 5 or 6 people. Those bonuses quickly add up. You are limited to $500 on purchases for this promotion, but that still equals $25 in cash back, and you only need $20 to redeem for an award.

This is an experimental promotion, so the regular restaurant/movie theather/rental promotion for September-November is still in effect until the end of the month, and their will likely be another similar promotion in December. For more information, call Discover at 800-Discover, or 800-347-2683. Or, check the Discover Card website.

Media Outlet Breaks New Ground

Greetings. Here's the third in my trilogy of news items. This time on a media outlet that will be heading in a new direction. Being the avid follower of media and technology that I am, this sounds really cool. In an article on entitled, Coming soon, Nightly News, free and online, NBC announces that they will offer daily streams of their nightly news program. As with the story on the Ford trucks getting mobile offices, here's another concept that will likely spread to the other news organizations, like CBS, ABC, Fox, and the rest. Enjoy.

Another Distraction for Ford Drivers

Greetings. Here's yet another distraction for drivers of certain 2006 Ford models. The company gets points for their creativeness though. The story is from the Associated Press and is called, Ford to debut pickup truck with mobile office at Las Vegas auto show. Its an interesting concept and is one that I think that we'll see more of as time goes by.

Tighter Security for Online Banking

Greetings. If you currently bank online, or if you're concerned about your account's security on the Internet, then read this article from the El Paso Times on Online banking security will go past passwords.