Friday, March 31

Eloquence Fix Available from FS

Greetings. For those that have had problems with JAWS crashing after reading a certain set of characters, such as from an email message on certain email lists, Freedom Scientific has posted a Technical Support Notice that fixes the problem. Even if you haven't had JAWS crash, I'd highly recommend you follow the steps in the TSN just to be on the safe side.

Thursday, March 30

PM 4.0 Released

Greetings. This was actually released yesterday, but I first heard about it from a coworker this morning, so I am just now getting around to posting it here.

PAC Mate version 4.0 has been released. Read about the new features/fixes here. I've only just downloaded it myself, haven't yet installed it, but from the list of new features and fixes, it looks like a great release. At first glance, I'm extremely glad they're listing the fixes as well as the new features. I'm not sure why they didn't before, since JAWS releases always did. They are now though, and that's what counts. Other things that jump out at me include: the ability to have 2 FS Edit documents open at once; the enhancements to FS Edit in general, especially opening and saving files; and the built in check register template in Pocket Excel. I did speak with a tech support person this afternoon about the check register, asking him if credit and debit cards were accounted for, as well as written checks, and he said they were not in this release. He did suggest that I email Freedom Scientific and let them know of my ideas, which I have done. I dont' know about others, but I'm at a point in my life where I make more purchases with my debit card than I do actually writing checks. I could probably count on one hand the number of places I still write checks to. Anyway, this looks like a very promising program. And, you can save it to the flash disk or storage card, which pleases me greatly.

For more on the features/fixes in this release, refer to the link above. Enjoy. I'll write back later about anything else that jumps out at me. By that point, I'll have had some time with the new release. Rest assured, I'll go to work tomorrow with version 4 on my PM!

Wednesday, March 29

Slick Credit Card Scam

Greetings. A friend sent me a notice about a slick credit card scam, involving Visa or Master Card holders. This has been verified as a "for real" scam, so watch out! Here it is.

This one is pretty slick since they provide YOU with all the information,
except the one piece they want. WARNING...New Credit Card Scam. Note, the
callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it. This
information is worth reading. By understanding how the VISA &MasterCard
Telephone Credit Card Scam works, you'll be better prepared to protect
yourself. One of our employees was called on Wednesday from "VISA", and I
was called on Thursday from "MasterCard". The scam works like this: Person
calling says, "This is (name), and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud
Department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460 Your card has been flagged for
an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify. This would be on
your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an
Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a Marketing company based in
Arizona?" When you say "No", the caller continues with, "Then we will be
issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching
and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase
pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will
be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?" You say "yes". The
caller continues - "I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have
any questions, you should call the 1- 800 number listed on the back of your
card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this
Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. "Do you need me
to read it again?" Here's the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works. The
caller then says, "I need to verify you are in possession of your card".
He'll ask you to "turn your card over and look for some numbers". There are
7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the next 3 are the
security Numbers' that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are
the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have
the card. The caller will ask you to read the 3 numbers to him. After you
tell the caller the 3 numbers, he'll say, "That is correct, I just needed
to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still
have your card. Do you have any other questions?" After you say No, the
caller then thanks you and states, "Don't hesitate to call back if you do",
and hangs up. You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell
you the Card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back
within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The REAL VISA
Security Department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new
purchase of $497.99 was charged to our card. Long story made short - we
made a real fraud report and closed the VISA account. VISA is reissuing us
a new number. What the scammers want is the 3-digit PIN number on the back
of the card . Don't give it to them. Instead, tell them you'll call VISA or
Master card directly for verification of their conversation. The real VISA
told us that they will never ask for anything on the card as they already
know the information since they issued the card! If you give the scammers
your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you're receiving a credit. However, by
the time you get your statement you'll see charges for purchases you didn't
make, and by then it's almost to late and/or more difficult to actually
file a fraud report. What makes this more remarkable is that on Thursday, I
got a call from a "Jason Richardson of MasterCard" with a word-for-word
repeat of the VISA scam. This time I didn't let him finish. I hung up! We
filed a police report, as instructed by VISA. The police said they are
taking several of these reports daily! They also urged us to tell everybody
we know that this scam is happening. Please pass this on to all your family
and friends. By informing each other, we protect each other..

Sunday, March 26

The Level Star Icon

Greetings. I just listened to a demonstration of the Icon, from Level Star on the ACB Radio CSUN blog. Here's an interesting approach to a note taker. From what the demo covered, it sounds like the device is based on proprietary software, but before you tune completely out, check out the design. The main part of the unit is a Qwerty or Braille style note taker like computer. What sets it apart from other similar competitive units is that the Icon has a remote-control like piece that will detach from the main unit, so you can take your books, music, podcasts, RSS feed stories, email, and other content, with you on the go. The Icon is not out yet, but it sounds like it will be a worthy competitor to the Pac Mate and BrailleNote mPower. Not knowing much about it beyond what the demo covered, it would be silly for me to speculate just how well the Icon will do; time will tell. To read more about the Icon and the company, visit the Level Star website.

Wednesday, March 22

Life without Active Sync Sucks

Greetings. While talking with a colleague tonight, it occurred to me just how much we depend upon Active Sync. For those that don't know, Active Sync is a programs that bridges the gap between your computer and your PDA device, whether it be a Palm Pilot, other mainstream PDA, or adaptive device such as a Pac Mate, BrailleNote, or Maestro. The following is a short list of what you cannot do if you don't have access to Active Sync. (In these examples, I'm using the Pac Mate, since that's the device I have).

Synchronize whatever you want: Yes, you can synchronize any number of items from your Pac Mate (PM) to your PC and vice versa, including: files, calendar appointments, contacts, notes, tasks, Internet Explorer favorites (though they're berried within the PM and can be hard to find if you haven't looked before), AvantGo stories (a free service that you can get daily stories or pages from a wide variety of sourses), and more.

Install and remove programs: Though I have heard of a select few programs that you can install without Active Sync, 99% of the programs out there for Pocket PC compatible devices require Active Sync to be installed. Programs that fall into this category might include: AvantGo, some free utilities from Freedom Scientific like FS Commander (to use the PM as a wireless remote control for any IR device) and the Book Share unpack utility; Internet Explorer Power Toys (which improves your surfing experience), plug-ins to enhance your PM, such as a calendar program that display more than the standard 1 appointment on your Today screen; and many others. Even drivers for specific compact flash cards or ethernet cards must be installed through Active Sync.

Backing up your device: Here's a little known fact, you can backup or restore a backup of your device from within Active Sync. You can even customize it so that a backup is done each time you synchronize, which is pretty cool. Granted, the people that sware by Sprite Backup can perform their backups from anywhere on their CF cards, they are still limited since they need Active Sync in order to install Sprite on their PM.

Wirelessly sync/control your PC: In the most recent version upgrade to the PM, of 3.0, FS has made the ability to wirelessly connect to your PC with the PM, provided that you have the necessary equipment. In doing this, you have the ability to wirelessly syncrhonize your data, or you can setup the ability to remotely control your PC wirelessly. This can be quite handy, since you can read your email or surf the web, over your PM, through your PC, all while sitting in your easy chair. I know people that have done this.

All of this, and more I'm probably missing, can be done if you have Active Sync to do it with. Of course, if you don't, then your stuck. Thus, life without Active Sync sucks!

Tuesday, March 21

Snapshots and Immersion Wrap Up

Greetings. For those that may not know, "snapshots," are what I call memories of specific things, incidents, or events. Here are some of the snapshots of immersion, in no particular order: my various experiences in mobility; some of the dishes I made in cooking and rediscovering the confidence in making those dishes; the home maintenance part of shop; buying my toolbox and some tools at Lowes; successfully running the table saw; going to places independently in and out of mobility (such as to the NFB meeting in February); my first day; telling a former caseworker, when asked what I was doing at the Center, "I work here."; seeing the many people that I've known from prior times at the Center, and seeing that they're still there; getting and depositing my first pay check; exploring a strip shopping center near my apartment on mobility one day; and many more.

There have been so many things in such a short amount of time, that its hard to recall all of the neat things that have been snapshots. Probably one of the most exciting things though is, that was only the first part of my time at the Center. In other words, its not the end, but rather the beginning.

I've also discovered other things in immersion. One relates to my goals in mobility. When I started immersion, my goals were two fold: to regain the confidence of independence that I once had, and to get to know all of the various systems and layout of Austin. One day though, I was talking with one of my coworkers, and he admitted that even though he's lived in Austin for a long time, he doesn't know all of the bus routes and systems. It then occurred to me that if he's not worried about not knowing everything about Austin, then why was I worried? So, then my focus shifted to building my confidence. That was a key point for me, since it in essence took away some of the extra stress I was putting on myself, of having to learn a lot in a short time. And, as I've written here many times before, the stress was at times more than enough. Anyway, after I realized that and shifted my focus, mobility became much more enjoyable. Not all of the experiences were fun, such as trying to problem solve your way out of being lost when no one's around, but I think I did accomplish the goal of getting my confidence back. Or at least I'm on my way to doing so.

Another big realization for me was the people I met in immersion. As I finished with certain classes, like Braille or shop, I would feel a little sad that I was done with the class. But then I'd remember that just because I was done with that class, didn't mean that I wouldn't see the person(s) again, since we worked together. This has been a constant back and forth with me. For those who may not know this yet or have figured it out, I bond with people really well. So some of these little changes can get to me. Case in point, after observing a computer class yesterday, I left and wanted to turn a corner and go to mobility, even though I knew my immersion was over. I was a little sad, but then I realized, "Hey, wait a minute, I can talk with them anytime."

I've also been constnatly amazed at just how many people work at this agency. At my last job, there were only 9 other people, not counting myself. This one has over 100. I find that cool.

I've found it interesting to observe interactions between teachers and students in different classes, such as Braille, keyboarding, and others. For instance, when on mobility, I would listen closely to how the instructor handled different situations with other students. One of the most valuable methods that teachers love but students hate (I've been on both sides, even before now), is when the student asks a question and the teacher asks a question right back, instead of answering. Even though I might have sworn to never do that, at one point many years ago, I now find myself doing it. As I say though, teachers love this but students hate it.

Over all though, it was a great experience. Now that my daily activities are returning to normal, perhaps I can relax a little, :) As I say, it's terribly exciting though to think that this is only the beginning, ...

Keeping Up with CSUN

Greetings. If you can't attend CSUN this year, then you can keep up with many of its happenings by reading the CSUN 2006 blog from ACB Radio. Note that this is their general blog, so you may see announcements for their variety of programs. Both Marlaina Lieberg and Jeff Bishop, among others, will be posting to the blog with updates as they become available. Marlaina and Jeff will each go one step further though by having audio recordings of interviews or presentations about key vendors/products at the conference. There are also supposed to be announcements from vendors about new or improved products. Enjoy.

Monday, March 20

Beware of Audio Magic

Greetings. I've just heard of a new program called Audio Magic. DO NOT (previous words in all caps) install this program. It claims to be an accessible audio editing software, but in fact it's a trogen horse, or piece of malicious software, that will get into your computer and ruin the data. For more, refer to the Blind access Journal podcast of 3/19/06. Probably the most disturbing part of this story is that the supposed accessible software was written by blind person (s). This proves that anyone can write malicious software, whether blind, sighted, in a wheelchair--it doesn't matter anymore.

Sunday, March 19

Week 6 in Immersion

Greetings. Here's my final summary of my weekly immersion experience. Tomorrow or maybe Tuesday, I'll write an entry on my thoughts on the entire immersion process. Until then, enjoy:

Instead of breaking this up by day like I usually do, I'll write it by category. In mobility this past week, I did quite a few things, such as: go to an Irish pub on Friday in honor of Saint Pattrick's Day; get partly lost on the UT campus on Wednesday; get really lost in downtown Austin on Thursday; miscommunicate with my mobility instructor on Thursday's trip, so that I needlessly wandered around downtown looking for the van, and ending up taking the bus back to the Center, only to return at 5:45; tried to hook up with someone in the Irish pub, but in the time it took me to turn to my right and order the traditional Irish breakfast, she had disappeared; and other things I'm probably missing.

One memorable discussion was with someone from UT on Wednesday when we talked about why I was wearing the blindfold. Basically, he asked me why, and I said I was in training. He then said that I was doing a good job with getting around, even though I had the blindfold on, to which I answered, after chuckling, "Thanks, but I've been doing this for 20 years." He then asked me, "Really?" I said, "Yes, I've been blind for that long." He said, "Oh. I thought you were a trainer?" I said, "Well, ... I kind of am." I had a few good laughs about that after we separated, picturing the big question mark he probably had above his head, :)

Cooking. I hit some high points in this class as well, such as making a cheese omlet and fried chicken. The chicken was particularly challenging, since up until that point, most things that I had made in this class, I had made before. But I had never done fried chicken. I don't know if I'd want to do it again, but at least I know I can. On the other hand, I can clearly see myself making cheese omlets (one of my favorite breakfast items). Its not uncommon for me to, whenever I've gone out to breakfast on family vacations or with other people, to order the multi-egg and cheese omlet.

That's all that comes to mind for now, as far as classes go. This is probably the shortest immersion entry I've had so far. Oh well.

On the teaching side of things, I'm observing one computer class and beginning to monitor another. After several days in a row of doing things, I'm beginning to get more comfortable with the idea of teaching, not that I wasn't comfortable with it before. In other words, the observing and monitoring are helping me to move from an immersion point of view to a teaching point of view. Though I know I still have a lot to learn before I'll be teaching my own class, I feel better about the idea of teaching than I did even a week ago.

Over all, I've really enjoyed my immersion experience. It seems like immersion is different for each person. For the sighted person, its a way for them to get a glimpse into what a blind person goes through on a daily basis. For other blind people, it might mean different things. For me, it's been a good refresher of skills in some ways (like cooking), and a good confidence builder experience in other ways (like the home maintenance portion of shop class and mobility). As many people have said, I'm sad to see it end. After the first week and a half or so of adjusting and getting used to the rhythm of my days, its been very enjoyable. Not easy, but challenging. That's good though; I'd prefer challenging over easy. Some people say that immersion is the hardest program at the state agency, and I'd agree with them, since you are spending lots of physical, mental, and emotional energy on a daily and weekly basis, just to keep up and learn everything. Its not a cakewalk, but if you approach it in the right way, it can be very rewarding.

In my next post, I'll write more about some of these things for me, and look at some of what I call "snapshots" of immersion. If you don't know what snapshots are, then you can either refer to my mid-January post, "Snapshots of church," or wait for a definition in the next post. Either way, talk to you later.

Thoughts on JAWS 7.1 Public Beta

Greetings. On Friday, Freedom Scientific released the public beta of JAWS 7.1. For those interested, you can read all about What's New in JAWS 7.1. It needs to be said whenever these betas come out, that betas are tests versions of software that are released to the public. Thus, they are not supported by the company, in this case, Freedom Scientific. In other words, try at your own risk. However, whenever the beta comes out, you can be sure that the final or actual version of the software will be out soon. Below are my thoughts on this new version, which will be a free update to current JAWS 7 users.

I'm basing these thoughts only on what I've read from this What's New document. I haven't actually used the software myself, mainly because its beta, and all the bugs haven't been worked out. I'll wait till the final version is out. Anyway, it looks like, for the most part, this is a release filled with fixes and improvements. There arne't many "new" features, and those that do exist (like the automatic update item) are things that have been needed for a long time that FS for whatever reason, seems to have just gotten around to doing. The competitive screen readers already have this facility in them I believe. Among the many fixes and improvements, work has been done to support Windows Media Player version 10, to which I say, "Its about time."

I'm pleased that they worked on a free update that does exactly what it says it does: updates the previous version and fixes a lot of bugs and possible applications that didn't make it into the previous version in time. However, I feel a little let down. Perhaps its the pattern of FS of having, even if its only 2 or 3 new features, in an update in recent years. Now they do exactly what they're supposed to do and come out with an update that does nothing but fix existing bugs in the software and offers very little as far as new features. As an end user though, I still feel that there's nothing new for me. To be fair though, perhaps there's a lot of time and resources that are going into the release of JAWS 8.0, which is set for the third quarter of this year. That will be the version that is supposed to work with the new Windows Vista operating system from Microsoft. If this is the reason why there's doesn't seem to be many "wow" features in the 7.1 release, then I'm glad FS is working on 8.0.

Anyway, for better or worse, those are my thoughts. We'll see how it all works out whenever 7.1 is finally released.

6 Flavors of Vista

Greetings. I came across this article from Tech News, called Microsoft boxes up Vista. Be sure you're sitting down and somewhat computer savvy. This article is not for the faint of heart. It describes not one, or two, but the six, or is it seven, different versions of Windows Vista that will be coming out later this year. Even though they're trying to please everyone, this could very well make it even harder for the home user. On the adaptive software/hardware front, it is probably going to be a challenge for the various companies, like Freedom Scientific, to ensure that their software supports most, if not all, of those Vistas. I'm quite sure that the adaptive companies products will work with Vista, eventually, but that's a big order.

On the positive side, the article does state that the Office suite of software will be released the same day as Vista. Which of course means that the learning curves will become greater, with the task of learning how to open Word, and then how to use its new features. Anyway, read the article and see just how many choices you have for your next computer.

Saturday, March 18

GPS and the Blind

Check out this interesting article on GPS and the blind. As the article says, GPS is not a mobility replacement, but rather a complement or enhancer to the mobility method you currently use, such as cane or guide dog. Enjoy.

Seeing-eye satellites: GPS devices earn the confidence of blind users
By Erica Noonan
The Boston Globe, March 16, 2006

WATERTOWN -- When Brian Charlson walks out his front door, he's
guided by satellites hovering 11,000 miles above Earth.

In an instant, a tiny Global Positioning System receiver he carries in a
pocket can pinpoint where he is and offer step-by-step directions verbally
or via a Braille display.

Charlson, who is 50, lost his vision at age 11 in a household
accident. Thanks to a GPS system he bought in January, he is navigating
streets he's walked for decades in a whole new way.

Instead of painstakingly memorizing routes, he just types in a street
address. If he's hungry, he calls up a list of nearby restaurants and
chooses on a whim.

The lightweight laptop, which he slings over his shoulder, contains
software locating schools, ATMs, stores, cafes, and just about any
other possible destination.

''It's not that I couldn't go to these places before," said Charlson,
vice president for computer training services at the Carroll Center for
the Blind in Newton.

''But now I don't have to concentrate on counting cross streets when
I walk. If I get disoriented, I don't have to ask someone passing by.

''There's a lot I have learned about my own neighborhood, places I
have walked by for years but never knew were there."

The blind community is among the latest beneficiaries of GPS
technology, which was developed by the military in the 1970s and has
popular with pilots, hikers, boaters, bicyclists, and motorists. The
relies on two dozen satellites orbiting the Earth that beam low-power
radio signals to determine a user's latitude and longitude and other
location information. It provides directions measured in feet, yards,
or meters.

Each GPS device for the blind comes with its own street-mapping
software, designed with safe walking routes in mind, which most companies
update annually. Users can also add their favorite destinations and share

customized maps.

Charlson's laptop, a PAC Mate manufactured by Freedom Scientific of
St. Petersburg, Fla., also allows him to do the previously unthinkable:
Head out for a stroll in a random direction with only his guide dog,
Keegan, for company. His software features a ''breadcrumb" function, which

can automatically record his position every 10 seconds and plan a route
back home.

He has used his GPS system on several cross-country business trips.
It guided him on a tour of Capitol Hill. It even allowed him to walk
alone to a wine shop near a friend's house in Alexandria, Va.

''It does make everything we do better, " said Joe Lazzaro, director
of assistive technology for the state Commission for the Blind. ''Blind
people have been mobile for a long time and would continue to be
without GPS, but this is a lot nicer, and offers more sureness and a
comfort level."

Lazzaro said he uses his GPS to direct taxi drivers and track his own
progress through downtown rush hour while commuting aboard the MBTA's
shuttle for disabled customers, The Ride.

With the GPS droning in the background, he knows when to pack up his
work and prepare to step off. ''It lets me have a lot more familiarity
with what's around me, when I used to wind up asking other people."

GPS would have come in handy two years ago, when Lazzaro walked out
of a Green Line station and stumbled into a deserted, fenced-off area
covered in two feet of snow. He eventually found a way out, but GPS would
have made the detour a lot less frightening. ''It offers tremendous
freedom," he said. ''Turn it on, and it will tell you where you are."

It's not known how many of the state's 35,000 blind residents have
GPS devices, but industry pioneers say the market for the blind is still
extraordinarily tiny -- probably fewer than 5,000 specialty units
sold nationwide.

Only about 2 percent of blind people who already use adaptive technology
-- such as talking computers and personal digital assistants --
use GPS, estimated Mike May, founder of the Sendero Group, based in
Davis, Calif., which in 2000 became the first to market GPS systems for
blind. May said his company has sold 1,500 BrailleNote, PDA-style GPS

The main obsticle is cost. A stripped-down GPS for sighted people
sells for less than $100, but the least expensive devices for the blind
nearly $2,000.

Sophisticated systems like Charlson's that come with Braille display
keyboards cost more than $6,000.

Advocates for the blind say most potential users can't pay that much,
noting that many visually impaired people are unemployed or elderly
and living on Social Security.

The potential benefits for blind people of all ages, however, are
enormous. Children as young as 6 are using Sendero devices, May said.
The Carroll Center soon will launch a program to teach blind
schoolchildren to use GPS. Lazzaro said the state commission can afford to
about a dozen GPS setups per year for people who meet special work or
educational guidelines.

May and others in the industry hope that government agencies that
subsidize assistive technology will soon cover GPS equipment. ''I
think we've turned the corner in the past year and it's being recognized
a tool that's necessary for life," he said.

Technological advances, such as providing GPS via cellphone, are
expected to bring the cost down dramatically, but not for another few
May said.

Bob Hachey, 45, of Waltham, has been using a PAC Mate-type system
since December. He said he particularly appreciated it when his office was
moved and he was breaking in a new guide dog.

''I was able to confirm where I was and negotiate some strange street
crossings that confused the dog," Hachey said.

Without the GPS, he said, ''I might have had to call someone on my
cell to ask questions along the way." Hachey is a caseworker for MAB
Community Services, a nonprofit agency that helps blind seniors. He makes
frequent house calls and finds that he can better direct drivers in
neighborhoods. The device also helps him direct his wife when she
drives him around town.

GPS will not replace the white canes that some blind people use for
navigation, or the traditional German shepherd guide dog. Sidewalk
obstacles, errant drivers, and low-hanging branches are hazards far
too small and temporary for any GPS system to detect.

Nor is the technology perfect. The location-plotting system can be
off by up to 100 feet, and it is only as good as its mapping software,
may not include every point of interest or updated to account for new
construction or road changes.

The limits of GPS became amusingly clear to Charlson during a
Business trip to Jacksonville, Fla. He led a group of six blind friends to a

barbecue restaurant at an outdoor market near their hotel. But when
they walked through the doors at the GPS-specified address, they found
themselves standing in a Hooters franchise.

Everyone had a good laugh, and Charlson quickly deduced that the
restaurant they wanted was one flight up -- on the second floor of
the same building. ''The women in the group gave me a hard time about
that for days."

Erica Noonan can be reached at

The ABCs of GPS

The nation's Global Positioning System, or GPS, was developed by the
government in the 1970s for military use.

The system relies on radio signal transmissions from 24 satellites
orbiting the Earth twice daily some 11,000 miles high. The

which measure about 17 feet across, run on solar power and have

boosters to keep them from veering off course.

Using four to eight of these satellites at any particular time, GPS
uses a
complex triangulation calculation-- measuring the speed of the radio
from each satellite -- to pinpoint within 50 feet the position of
holding a GPS receiver.

Once the receiver has determined a user's latitude, longitude, and
altitude, the unit can calculate other useful information like speed
distance to any destination in feet, yards, meters. By combining GPS
technology with detailed street and city mapping software, a user can
just about any journey on foot or by vehicle.

GPS works anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, under nearly all
atmospheric conditions, although a clear day without tall buildings

mountains nearby is optimal for accuracy.

Friday, March 17

Sunday, March 12

Week 5 in Immersion

Greetings. Well, we've come to the end of another weekend, which means another immersion summary of highlights from last week. Starting tomorrow, will be week 6 for me, which means it is my last week for this phase of my training. For those wondering, more training has been talked about but as of yet, no decisions have been made. I'm guessing that I'll talk with some people about that this coming week. Anyway, on with the update.

Monday. I started my wooden Braille cells in shop class, which meant using the eletric tools that I had gotten familiar with the previous Friday. These included, among others, the table saw, the ban saw, the mider (not the correct spelling) saw, drill press, and another one or two. Out of all of them, the table saw was the one that made me the most anxious, and it still does, to some degree. However, an instructor was right there with me the entire time I was getting familiar with it and went over plenty of safety procedures with me. We even did several walk throughs in the method I would use to cut the wood. Even after all of this preparation and watchfulness of the teacher though, she still let me operate the saw and handle the wood all on my own. Sure, she was there to watch, and she told me that she would tap me on the shoulder if anything went wrong (to which I was to immediately stop and step back), but she never put her hands on my hands or on the wood. This did, and still does, impress me. Fortunately for my anxiety, I didn't have to run the table saw on the second cell I made since the wood was already cut. For the record, they say that they will help us make the first one, but then they want us to make the second on our own. The student isn't totally on their own though, since there always has to be an instructor in the room with the electric tools, to make sure everything goes right and to answer any questions. Other than that though, you're on your own and doing it independently.

Anyway, I finished my two Braille cells in 3 days. Here's a good segway into Wednesday. When I finished my second cell, I went into the main room to tell the teachers. There were several new consumers in there, listening to an introduction from the two teachers there that day. When I went in to tell one of the guys that I was done, he told me to come over to the table and asked me if I'd mind showing my Braille cell to the students sitting there. Of course, I didn't mind at all. As I passed it around, the teacher talked about me with the students, saying things like: "Here's a guy who thought he wasn't very mechanically inclined, and after a couple of weeks of instruction, went out and bought his own toolbox and some tools." As I stood there, answering some independent living questions from the teacher, all in front of the new consumers, I felt like I had come full circle. Instead of sitting at the table as a consumer, I was standing at one end, telling them that, "It can be done. You can be an independent adult. Look at me--I am." The teacher echoed my sentaments. In the words of my good friend, OGV, that was a "cool feeling."

Another cool feeling happened on Wednesday. I had gone outside to make a long distance call on my cell phone. As I walked down the sidewalk a ways, I heard someone with a guide dog pass by. I knew they had a dog since I overheard them saying something to it. Since there are, to my possibly limited knowledge, only 2 or 3 people that work at the main part of the Center who have dogs, I struck up a conversation. To my utter surprise and her amazement, it was one of my former rehab caseworkers. The next few statements went pretty much like this:

Former caseworker: "What are you doing here?"
Me: "I work here."
Former caseworker: "You do? When did you start?"

The cool feeling I referenced above was in the pride of telling her, "I work here." Anyway, we talked for a few minutes, and as it turned out, she was at the Center for some of the periodic training that caseworkers often do in the state agency. I saw her again briefly Thursday morning when entering the building. That was neat though, to see a caseworker that meant a lot to me, and one that I knew would work on my behalf.

Friday. On Friday, I made some potato salad in my daily living class. This was significant since, I'm pretty sure the two instructors met before hand and agreed to assist me as little as possible. They kind of had to since about 10 new consumers had arrived at the Center earlier in the week, though only two of them were in my class. However, in the words of one of the instructors, more or less, "I wanted to pull back and let you do as much as of it as you could without my help. And, you did. Do you realize that you did almost the entire exercise on your own? Independently?" She told me this last part toward the end of the time when I was getting ready to do the dishes. I then stopped and thought about what she had said, and realized she was right. I had done nearly the whole thing on my own. The times I asked questions were to locate a few things, or estimates on how long it would take to do something. Other than that, I had done it on my own. I remember smiling and thinking, "Well, if I don't have another daily living class in immersion, that's fine. I've arrived at the place I had been at before, with making things in the kitchen and feeling confident about it." I haven't yet told this to my teachers, since I'm afraid that if I do, then I won't have anymore cooking time. After all, I have really liked the cooking times. But, all good things must come to an end I suppose.

One other item before I close this entry. I had some adventures in my mobility class in week 5. Most days, I was sent to some specified places, most of which were in my neighborhood. One day, I was sent on a discovery trip, and asked to go down the line of stores in a strip mall area, see what they were, and make note of them. That was fun. I think I might have spent too much time at the mattress store, but that's the store's fault for making the ones I tried out, so comfortable. I'm thinking of getting a slightly bigger bed at some point, so I was pleased that this store was on the strip. There were other stores I found as well, some that were relevant to me and some that weren't.

Last Thursday though, I was sent to what ended up being one of the largest grocery stores in the state, an H.E.B., to do some shopping and get back to the Center. My instructor has written out the instructions in Braille for me, on several index cards. I made it to the store fine and did the short shopping. The way back was interesting though, mainly because the bus I was to catch, didn't go to where my instructor thought it went. I chatted with the driver for a few minutes, and then started to back toward the door, but he assured me that everything would be fine. To myself, I thought, "No it won't. I'm going to a place that I know nothing about, to streets I know nothing about, and you're saying it will be fine?" To clarify, since there may be someone reading this who might be saying, "But isn't that what you're being trained to do: handle unfamiliar places?" To which I would say, yes. However, and I suppose this is a work in progress for me, but I get real nervous about routes and streets that I am forced into and know nothing about. I'm fine about going to specific places though, like an airport, and problem solving to do what I need to do.

Anyway, my instructor ended up coming up behind me (since it was around 5:00 and I was real late getting back, and she didn't want me to miss my home bus), and taking me back to the Center by car.

The notable thing though was while I was sitting at the bus stop. There were several other men there, who might not have all been waiting on the bus. One of them came over to me at one point and said, "Can I ask you something? Why are you wearing those shades? Are you conducting an experiment?" I thought I'd have a little fun with him, so I said, "Well, I'm seeing what it might be like to be blind." He said, "Oh, that's what I thought. It must be a drag." I said, "Not so much. You might be surprised." Then, our conversation took the stereotypical turn into the following:

He said, "I guess your hearing is a lot better, ey?"
I said, "No. That's one of the big rip off myths that's floating around." (I had to speak "hip" with him since he sounded like one of these 30-something geeks; oops, just described myself, :)
He said, "Well, I don't know if it's a rip off. But, your hearing does improve, you know, like Stevie Wonder?"
I said, with a slight sigh, "You know, not all blind people are musicians like Stevie."
He said, "Really?"
I said, "Sure. There are blind: computer programmers, electricians, mechanics, teachers, lawyers, and the list goes on."

Our talk ended there, for all the education he might have gotten out of it. One funny thing though is that he thinks I'm just wearing this blindfold to "see what its like." What will he say, if and when I happen to come across him again, when I'm not wearing the blindfold but am still using a cane?

Well, that's about all for now. I'll write more next weekend on week 6, and then an over all summary of my immersion experience. Several impressions and thoughts have come up in past weeks that I've wanted to include, but will save for the over all summary, since they fit better there. Until then, have a good week.

Saturday, March 11

Important Article for Parents of Teens

Greetings. In this weekend's Kim Komando weekly newsletter, she has a column on Assessing the dangers on MySpace. This is one article every parent of a teen or young adult should read. In recent months, there have been quite a few news items about kids that have fallen pray to sites like MySpace, as well as items about the people who try to catch them. I usually don't put up articles like this, since I think the Net is more than what you see on the nightly news. However, this particular site has raised red flags with many parents and other people, like Kim Komando, and it should be publicised. So read, take note, and pass on the information.

Friday, March 10

Beware of Viruses for the Cell Phone

Greetings. Though viruses for the mobile or cellular phone are a ways off, take note of what the article, Wireless: Ominous sign in new phone virus, from the International Herald Tribune. Also note that these supposed viruses will only infect your phone if you intentionally download or run the virus. So, as always, common sense goes a long way in protecting yourself.

Amazon Considering Video Downloads

Greetings. Here's an interesting article from todays' New York Times Technology section, entitled Amazon Considering Downloads.

Sunday, March 5

Week 4 of Immersion

Greetings. Here are some of the highlights of week 4 in immersion, which was last week. By the way, my apologies for the larger second audio post. I guess that the largest those posts can be is 800 or 900 KB instead of the 500 KB that I previously thought. Now that I know how long I have though, I can better measure my time. Anyway, on with the recap.

First off, the week was a weird one since we had a Braille celebration all Wednesday afternoon and Thursday was Texas Independence Day, which was a state wide holiday. Though if you look at it another way, we worked 3 days, had a day off, worked one more day, and then had the weekend off. Not a bad schedule. I wouldn't want to do it every week, but not bad. Though, Friday felt weird since it seemed like it should be Monday, since we had Thursday off.

Last Monday on mobility, I went by bus to the neighborhood near my apartment, to one of the local grocery stores. My instructor met me when I got off the bus and we worked on the street crossing leading to the store. To my chagrin, the street crossing ended up being one of those complex ones I am gradually learning, with right and left turn lanes and different segments of traffic surges. I'm beginning to get more comfortable with these types of intersections, but I don't yet feel like I can cross them independently. We then crossed the parking lot, eventually (it was a big parking lot), and made it to the store. By that time, it was late in the afternoon and we had to leave. She got me back to the bus stop and assured me that I would go straight home, like I normally do. I was taking a different route of bus and wasn't sure of the ride back. Anyway, she said that I wasn't far from the complex and I'd be back there in no time. She was wrong. I didn't time it exactly, but about 40 minutes after I boarded the bus, I was let off at the stop at my complex. I told my instructor about it the next day and she apologized, several times, for the longer trip. It was no problem, but now I know for sure that if I go to that store on my own, I'm definitely not taking the bus back. Not just because I might have bags of groceries, but because the ride back took so long.

I did meet an interesting man on the bus who asked me the typical "sighted person" questions, such as if I've been blind my whole life, what I can see, how I lost my vision, etc. I'm fine about answering these types of questions, since let's face it, I'll be asked them the rest of my life. However, at one point he hit me with a totally unique question/statement, which I instantly marked down in a special category I have for people that ask questions without fully thinking them through. He said,"I guess its hard to walk when you can't see." I paused a moment, and then replied, "No. No harder than it would be if you could see. What does walking have to do with not being able to see?" He paused, stuttered, stammered, and never really answered my question. I don't want to talk badly of him, since he was very nice and simply didn't know. He was also very informative, telling me the names of streets every so often when I asked (remember, I had not been on this particular bus route before). However, all that aside, he was one of the many people that have asked me questions or made statements without fully thinking them through. In fact, this man's question reminded me of one that someone asked me when I was in college at the University of North Texas in Denton. The woman, while walking with me briskly to class, asked, "How do you get around campus without going up steps?" I felt like saying, "Look at my feet! What are they doing?" But I actually said, "Well, I guess I don't." And I left it at that. Anyway, another one for the books.

The Braille celebration on Wednesday was lots of fun. They had various tables setup with different games, all in Braille. There were games like Uno, Black Jack (which I ran this table for part of the afternoon), Scrabble, Monopoly, and others. There were also people that, at various points in the afternoon, stood up front and read things in Braille, talked about what Braille meant to them, or sang songs about Braille. Probably the best one, and funniest, was the first song. The director of the training center came out, and with a drummer accompanying him, did a rap on Braille. I think everyone got into that and had fun listening to him.

One thing that impressed me was a UT student at my Black Jack table who played with us as well. He said that he was getting a degree in rehabilitation and that he was visiting the Center for our celebration. He also managed to learn the beginnings of Braille from one of the Center's students. That was cool to watch. The UT student would close his eyes or wear his blindfold, and try to read the cards while we were playing. He did pretty well, for only having learned the dot configurations that afternoon. At one point, I asked him, "So, this is what you do in your degree: play Braille Black Jack?" He said that unfortunately, there was a bit more to the program than that, such as homework. All in all, it was a fun afternoon.

Friday morning in my cooking class, I made beef tacos, which was fun. I remember browning ground beef on the stove when I was a student at the Colorado Center some years ago, so this ended up being a refresher activity for me. However, after doing it, I feel like I can brown meat on the stove here in my apartment. I only had a few small tacos, in the small taco shells, so I put the rest of the meat in a freezer bag, which was about half the meat or more. I had the rest in tacos, or actually what ended up being some burritos, last night. That was quite good, and it was very satisfying to know that I was eating food that I had made myself. I'm gradually getting some cooking items together, so I can make things on the stove again. This coming week, I'm going to expand my stove cooking even more with omlets, chicken salad, and other things.

A realization hit me Friday morning that I tried to communicate to my instructor, but I don't think I did a very good job. It was: for myself and I'm guessing many students that go to training centers like this one, they enter the cooking class and other classes, with people (like their families) having told them what to do, how much to dish out, how to sprinkle on their food, and so forth. At the training center though, instead of them telling you how much to dish out, they say, "Whatever you want." In other words, they leave the choice up to you. This makes sense, but coming from a background where I've largely been told, at least by my family, how much to dish out, its refreshing to have a say in the matter. This realization led me to the thought, that this is another part of the freedom that I've written about in other posts: the freedom to choose. And, if the serving is too much, then I make note and do less next time.

Shop class on Friday was another matter. My choices weren't taken away, but I was given a tour of the big tools or the electric tools in one of the rooms. These included such things as the table saw, radio arm saw, plainer, and other things. The ones that I touched were turned off, but I was encouraged to touch and explore them, and to see where the all important blades were located. In my final two weeks of immersion, I will be making at least one, and perhaps two, miniature Braille cells out of wood. I learned that the first one, they will help me with and instruct me on how to do, that there will be someone there when I use the table saw and other equipment. However, the second cell I will be expected to do on my own, as much as possible. The thought of operating the table saw itself, much less some of the other types of saws in there, gives me the willies. Something about that spinning blade and running wood through it, and the possibility that I could lose a finger, or two. I'm guessing that this feeling is similar to one that many of the other students and staff that have gone before me, and ones that will come after me, have felt or will feel. I've done it before though in Colorado, and I'm sure I can do it again ... hopefully, :)

Last Wednesday, I got my first pay check. That was a good feeling. I've since deposited and am in the process of paying bills or setting up automatic payments for my bills. Wednesday also marked the one month point since I started working at the Center. Honestly, the two week point felt more meaningful and reflective then last Wednesday did. I suppose though that the Braille celebration was a good way to mark the time, grin.

That's about all for now. I'm sure I'm missing some big thing or two, but if it comes to me later, then I'll add it. Until next time, which probably means next weekend, have a good week.
this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play

Missed Highlights from Week 3 in Immersion

Greetings. Here's another realization from me: since I'm working during the week, the weekends are becoming more and more valuable and enjoyable to me, since I can do what I want and not worry about working. I'm sure this is a simple truth that most Americans have realized long before now, but remember, I'm new to this full time work thing. So, with that, here are a few highlights I missed from week 3 in immersion.

On Friday, February 17, I had a funny experience on my mobility lesson. I went to a nearby mini-grocery store with my instructor and one other student in immersion. This other student was one of the many sighted people that was going through immersion, so cane travel and keeping track of where you are, your direction, and such things, were all new to her. After we crossed the last street, where the store was located, the student and mobility instructor had an intense conversation of direction and how to locate the building. I had already been told to go inside when I found the store, so I decided to go on ahead and let the instructor handle things. I must say here that when the instructor wasn't around, I would often ask the student, when she was confused or even when she wasn't, "Where are you," or, "What street is this?" I've since learned that this was very helpful for her and she gained a lot from it. Anyway, I quickly found the building and entered the store. I then reached up to my blindfold to adjust it, since it often gets hot while wearing it. Suddenly, I heard a loud voice off to my right which said, "Don't take it off yet!" This caught me off guard and I turned towards it and starting moving in that direction. I replied with, "I'm not taking it off, but adjusting it. Do they have you guys planted in here to make sure that we don't take the blindfolds off?" The man chuckled. I then asked him, "How long have you been watching us?" I meant the people wearing blindfolds during training, immersion and regular students alike. He answered with, "Oh, I've been watching you all for the past 5 and a half years." I then asked him, with a confused look on my face I'm sure, "Who are you?" He answered, "Oh, I work here." The full impact of what had just happened then hit me, and I grinned from ear to ear. By this time, I had made it over to the counter. After further conversation with him, I learned that this gentleman, named Steve, was a cashier at this store. I also took the opportunity to say, "Well, its good to meet you. Before you totally chastize me for adjusting my blindfold though, let me show you this," and I pulled out my state ID badge that was under my coat. I also told him that I was totally blind, so even if I had taken the blindfold off, it wouldn't have done me any good. Steve laughed. I've told this story to several people since it first happened, and I think its one of those "experiences" that everyone has in immersion, or even if they're a regular student, that you remember for years to come and look back upon with fond memories.

The other thing that happened in week 3 was the next day when I went to the Feburary meeting of the Austin chapter for the National Federation of the Blind. Let me briefly say that over the past 2 years plus in Dallas, I've been a little lax in my independent travel and thus have lost some of the confidence that comes from that. One of my goals early on in my mobility classes has been to attempt to get some of this confidence back, since here in Austin, I don't know hardly anyone and I can only depend on myself to get things done, at least at first. Leading up to this meeting, I had asked several people how to get from the bus stop to the meeting location, which was in downtown Austin, at a place I had never been to before. I first asked some of the members of the organization if someone would be willing to meet me at the bus stop and walk with me to the meeting. This didn't seem to work out. However, as I talked with different people about how to get to the meeting location, I became more comfortable about doing it on my own. I was assured by my mobility instructor that there were no complex intersections, ones with right and left turn lanes, etc., in the area. So, when the time came, I caught the proper bus, took it downtown, and successfully made it to the meeting with time to spare. I ended up not going back on my own since I went out to lunch with some people, one of whom drived. But mainly because it was very cold that weekend. I don't think we got out of the thirties that Saturday. So it was good to get a ride back. If I had to go back on my own though, I'm confident that I wouldn't have had any trouble. After that experience, my confidence sharply rose and I've felt better about traveling independently, even in locations that I've not been to before.

A few days ago, I talked with my mobility teacher about the remaining time I have in immersion. Even though we have a couple more things to go over in my neighborhood, and even though more students (regular ones) are coming to the Center this coming week, she assured me that she would give me more of those confidence building experiences. Truthfully, as long as someone doesn't send me to an area with intersections or places that are beyond my abilities, or that they know I'm not fully confident with, such as those complex intersections I mentioned earlier, I love those types of confidence building assignments. Ones where I'm sent to a specific business or location, and told to bring something back from it. In fact, I was sent on one of those assignments two days ago, to the same store I went to in week 3, and I was back within an hour with several items that I had bought while there. Some of those were chocolate related, and I made an executive decision to leave the receipt on my instructor's desk--not the chocolate, :) For those that don't know, I'm a big chocoholic and part of an unofficial chocolate lovers club (which I can't talk about, so don't ask, :)

So, those are the big things that I missed from the last round of highlights. Both of them were significant in their own ways, the downtown trip and being busted by Steve at this grocery store. I'll write later about what happened in week 4.

Saturday, March 4

House Approves Louis Braille Coin, Now Its on to the Senate

Greetings. I received the following story a few days ago and thought it appropriate to post here. If you want to know more on this commemorative coin, then read the 2006 Washington Seminar Legislative agenda which explains it in more detail. Enjoy.

House Approves Coin to Commemorate Braille -

Louis Braille, the inventor of the most widely used reading and writing
method for the blind, will be featured on a commemorative U.S. silver

Under a House bill passed by voice vote Tuesday, the U.S. Mint will issue
400,000 silver dollars commemorating Braille in 2009, the bicentennial of
birth. Funds raised from a $10 surcharge will go to the National Federation
of the Blind to promote Braille literacy.

"Blind people today would be far less likely to achieve the goals of
independence and productive living without the positive contribution of
Louis Braille,"
said Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, a co-sponsor of the bill.

The front of the coin would depict Braille, and the reverse would include
the word "Braille" written in Braille code.

Braille, born outside Paris on Jan. 4, 1809, lost his sight in a childhood
accident. He later built on a nighttime code used by the French Army to
the pattern of raised dots that is named after him.

Similar legislation introduced in the Senate earlier this month has 23
co-sponsors. This type of legislation requires 67 Senate co-sponsors,
according to
Senate Banking Committee spokesman Andrew Gray.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Article on Merging Technologies

Greetings. Here's an article that Carmanfan1 sent me a couple of days ago, on merging technologies. Specifically, it tells of the pending cooperation of several Cable, cellular and broadband companies. Read on for more. The formatting on this particular article is weird. If you use a screen reader, set your reader to "read all" or "say all." If you can see and you're reading this, then my humble apologies. Enjoy.

Tens of millions nationwide to have access to the 'Quadruple Play'
integrating video, voice, Internet and wireless capabilities

NEW YORK, Nov. 2 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:
S), Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable -- a unit

of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse
Communications today announced they will form a joint venture that will

the convergence of video entertainment, wireline and wireless data and
communications products and services to the approximately 41 million
customers currently

served by four of the country's largest cable companies as well as to
Sprint's nearly 46 million wireless subscribers. The venture has the
potential to

serve approximately 75 million homes currently passed by the cable

The companies in the joint venture will work to develop converged next
generation products for consumers that combine the best of cable's core

and interactive features with the vast potential of wireless technology to
deliver services anywhere, any time. Leveraging the expertise, technical

and customer focus of Sprint and four of the largest, most successful cable
and broadband communications companies will provide millions of customers

to the most advanced integrated entertainment, communications and wireless
products available anywhere in the United States.

Terms of the Agreement

The joint venture, which is mutually exclusive for three years and has a
20-year term, calls for a combined initial financial commitment of $200

$100 million of which will be committed by Sprint and $100 million of which
will be committed collectively by the cable companies. The investment is

to be used to fund the development of the converged services, national
marketing initiatives and back office integration. The companies contemplate

participation from other cable companies.

Beginning in 2006, the companies in the joint venture plan to:

-- Offer consumers access to the expanded four element bundle, or

"Quadruple Play," or any combination of services including video,

wireless voice and data services, high speed Internet and cable phone


-- Serve growing consumer demand for a wireless "third screen" beyond the

TV and computer screens

-- Develop and introduce new co-branded wireless devices that will provide

new and unique features that integrate cable and wireless services all

on a single device

-- Sell and market these co-branded products and services to customers

through a combination of 1,600 Sprint retail stores, cable retail

outlets and other third-party distributors, including thousands of

RadioShack stores

Unlike MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) or other wholesale
relationships, the companies participating in this joint venture will retain
full economic

benefits of the acquired customers, similar to what they currently enjoy
through their direct retail channels.

Next generation wireless products and services

The next generation wireless phone will be designed to connect customers of
Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Advance/Newhouse Communications to

through Sprint's nationwide high-speed Power Vision(TM) EV-DO (Evolution
Data Optimized) network and integrate products from each cable company.

using the converged services will be able to seamlessly interface between
email, home and mobile voicemail, Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) and photo

An interactive demonstration of these capabilities and services can be found
The parties plan to implement and sell Power

EV-DO-enabled handsets and service packages that will enable customers to:

-- Use interactive features like remotely programming their home DVRs

-- Have a single voice mailbox that serves both the home and the wireless


-- Access innovative new calling plans which allow for unlimited calls

between the home and the wireless device

-- Surf the Internet using their cable Internet portal

-- Send and receive e-mail from their cable high-speed Internet account

-- Access unique content like streaming television programming, music,

video clips, games and pre-recorded DVR programs

In addition, the five companies have agreed to work together to explore
potential next generation wireless technology business plans for new
services that

could be provided using Sprint's Broadband Radio Spectrum (2.5 GHz), with
the goal of further integrating wireline and wireless services. This

has the capability to provide high-speed data connectivity that can help
deliver an even wider and richer array of entertainment and communications

In each market, the price of the integrated offering will be agreed to by
Sprint and the cable company serving that market. Each cable company will be

for billing customers and for customer service in its territory for the
converged offering. Customers can enjoy the convenience of a single bill for

of their services, including video, data, phone and wireless.

Gary Forsee, president and CEO of Sprint Nextel said, "The new Sprint- cable
partnerships will forever transform what used to be merely a cell phone into

an indispensable third screen in customers' lives. By giving consumers more
access to information, entertainment and data from their cell phone, we will

create more loyal customers, and we'll further drive our growth. With the
convergence of technologies and capabilities accelerating, we will create

content, useful innovative applications and easy-to-understand navigation
required by consumers. Together with our cable partners, we will have the

content and distribution assets to realize this opportunity."

Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation said, "This
agreement, which represents the most expansive technological convergence of
its kind,

will deliver to our customers an unprecedented level of real-time,
high-speed mobility and access to content all in a single package. We have
always believed

cable provided the best available entertainment and communications
experience, and by teaming up with other leaders of our industry, we will
now take that

competitive advantage to the next level. Together with Sprint Nextel, we
look forward to developing fully integrated products that give our customers

even better entertainment experience whether they are in the home or on the

"We believe this joint venture is the right way for cable operators like
Time Warner Cable to fully engage in the wireless business in the most

and least capital intensive manner," said Glenn Britt, chairman and chief
executive officer of Time Warner Cable. "This is really about much more than

adding a fourth element to our existing video, data and telephone bundle. It
is about developing a wireless platform that connects all of our services

for the customer both inside their home and when they are on the road."

Jim Robbins, president and CEO of Cox Communications said, "This
revolutionary partnership will forever change the way Americans consume

communicate and exchange information. With more than 3 million Cox customers
already choosing to bundle at least two services, and more than 1 million

bundling cable TV, high-speed Internet and telephony, our company has been
realizing the benefits of bundling for some time now. We look forward to

increasing our customers' satisfaction by adding new wireless services,
increased integration and portability."

Robert Miron, chairman and CEO of Advance/Newhouse Communications said, "We
welcome this opportunity to join our partner Time Warner Cable, as well as

and Cox, in this very worthwhile initiative, which will enable us to offer
our customers a wireless addition to our product line of digital cable, high

speed data services and digital phone, and future cutting edge innovations
to be developed by the venture."

Media Luncheon and Product Demonstration

The CEOs of Sprint Nextel, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications
and Advance/Newhouse Communications will hold a luncheon for the media and

demonstration today at 1:00 p.m. ET in the Le Trianon room on the second
floor of the Hotel Plaza Athenee, located at 37 East 64th Street in New York

Reporters who cannot attend may call into a teleconference to listen to the
event and ask questions. U.S. reporters should call (866) 297-4539 and

reporters should call (706) 679-9046. The conference call ID number is
2067146. A replay of the call will begin at 5:00 p.m. today and will be

for 24 hours. To access the replay, please call (800) 642- 1687 or (706)
645-9291 and input the conference call ID number 2067146. The conference

will also be webcast and can be accessed at
The interactive
demonstration of these capabilities and service

can be found at

About Comcast

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) (
is the
nation's leading provider of cable, entertainment and communications

and services. With 21.4 million cable customers, 7.7 million high-speed
Internet customers, and 1.2 million voice customers, Comcast is principally

in the development, management and operation of broadband cable networks and
in the delivery of programming content.

The Company's content networks and investments include E! Entertainment
Television, Style Network, The Golf Channel, OLN, G4, AZN Television, PBS
KIDS Sprout,

TV One and four regional Comcast SportsNets. The Company also has a majority
ownership in Comcast-Spectacor, whose major holdings include the

Flyers NHL hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team and two
large multipurpose arenas in Philadelphia. Comcast Class A common stock and

Class A Special common stock trade on The NASDAQ Stock Market under the
symbols CMCSA and CMCSK, respectively.

About Cox Communications

Cox Communications, a Fortune 500 company, is a multi-service broadband
communications company with approximately 6.7 million total customers,

6.4 million basic cable subscribers. The nation's third-largest cable
television provider, Cox offers both analog cable television under the Cox

brand as well as advanced digital video service under the Cox Digital Cable
brand. Cox provides an array of other communications and entertainment

including local and long distance telephone under the Cox Digital Telephone
brand; high-speed Internet access under the Cox High Speed Internet brand;

and commercial voice and data services via Cox Business Services. Local
cable advertising, promotional opportunities and production services are
sold under

the Cox Media brand. Cox is an investor in programming networks including
Discovery Channel. More information about Cox Communications can be accessed

on the Internet at

About Sprint Nextel

Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline
communications services to consumer, business and government customers.
Sprint Nextel

is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative
technologies, including two robust wireless networks offering industry

mobile data services; instant national and international walkie-talkie
capabilities; and an award-winning and global Tier 1 Internet backbone. For

information, visit

About Time Warner Cable

Time Warner Cable owns and manages cable systems serving subscribers in 27
states, which include some of the most technologically advanced, best-

cable systems in the country with more than 75% of the Company's customers
in systems of 300,000 subscribers or more. Utilizing a fully upgraded

cable network and a steadfast commitment to providing consumers with choice,
value and quality customer care, Time Warner Cable is an industry leader in

delivering advanced products and services such as video on demand, high
definition television, digital video recorders, high-speed data, wireless

networking and Digital Phone. Time Warner Cable is a subsidiary of Time
Warner Inc.

About Advance/Newhouse Communications

Advance/Newhouse Communications manages Bright House Networks which serves
more than two million customers in several large markets that include Tampa

and Central Florida (Orlando), Indianapolis, Birmingham, Bakersfield and
Detroit, along with several other smaller systems in Alabama and the Florida

Bright House Networks offers its customers a wide range of cable television
services including Video on Demand, high speed data and Digital Phone

For more information, visit

Safe Harbor

This news release includes "forward-looking statements" within the meaning
of the securities laws. The statements in this news release regarding the

outlook, expected performance, as well as other statements that are not
historical facts, are forward-looking statements. The words "estimate,"

"forecast," "intend," "expect," "believe," "target," "providing guidance"
and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements.

Forward-looking statements are estimates and projections reflecting
management's judgment and involve a number of risks and uncertainties that
could cause

actual results to differ materially from those suggested by the
forward-looking statements. With respect to these forward- looking
statements, management

has made assumptions regarding, among other things, customer and network
usage, customer growth and retention, pricing, operating costs, the timing

various events and the economic environment. Future performance cannot be
ensured. Actual results may differ materially from those in the

statements. Some factors that could cause actual results to differ include:

-- with respect to Sprint Nextel, the uncertainties related to its

contemplated spin-off of our local telecommunications business;

-- the effects of vigorous competition and the overall demand for the

services offered by the parties in the agreement as well as the

converged service offerings described in this release;

-- the costs and business risks associated with providing new services and

entering new markets;

-- the effects of mergers and consolidations in the communications and

cable industries and unexpected announcements or developments from

others in the communications and cable industries;

-- the uncertainties related to investments in networks, systems, and

other businesses;

-- the uncertainties related to the implementation of business strategies

(including those described above) the impact of new, emerging and

competing technologies;

-- unexpected results of litigation pending or filed against the parties

included in this release;

-- the costs of compliance with regulatory mandates;

-- the risk of equipment failure, natural disasters, terrorist acts, or

other breaches of network or information technology security;

-- the risk that third parties are unable to perform to requirements under

agreements related to our business operations or that the parties

described in this release are unable to finalize definitive agreements

surrounding the contemplated activities (including, but not limited to,

the distribution relationship with RadioShack);

-- the possibility of being impacted by changes in political or other

factors such as monetary policy, legal and regulatory changes or other

external factors over which the parties have no control; and

-- other risks referenced from time to time in each of the party's filings

with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

-- The parties believe these forward-looking statements are reasonable;

however, you should not place undue reliance on forward-looking

statements, which are based on current expectations and speak only as

of the date of this release. No party is obligated to publicly release

any revisions to forward-looking statements to reflect events after the

date of this release. The parties regularly disclose in their

respective public SEC filings a detailed discussion of risk factors

including their respective 2004 Form 10-Ks as amended, and you are

encouraged to review these filings.

SOURCE Sprint Nextel Corporation; Comcast Corporation; Time Warner Cable;

Cox Communications; Advance/Newhouse Communications

Thursday, March 2

Comments on Dog Guide Legislation

Greetings. I've been reading on some email lists about some proposed dog guide legislation, which would in essence required a charge for dog guides when traveling with their owners on airplanes. Before everyone gets all upset, I've also heard that this charge would not happen if the dog could fit under the seat in front of the user, or in the bulk head area. Further, this legislation and its purpose is false. It might exist, but people with dog guides would not be charged extra. I've gotten confirmation on this from people at both the Seeing Eye and the National Federation of the Blind. Besides, if there was a charge, I'm sure that consumer groups like the NFB and American Council of the Blind would undoubtedly have something to say about that.

I'm saying all this to say that if you hear or read about this legislation, rest assured that you will not be charged extra if you have a guide or service dog and want to fly. If I am wrong, then I trust that someone will constructively correct me.

Jury Duty Scam

Greetings. I recieved the following from an email list and it looks to be for real. If you get a call requesting the listed information, proceed with caution. As always, please excuse any formatting errors.

So far, this jury duty scam has been reported in Michigan, Ohio,
Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington state.

NOTE: It's easy to see why this works. The victim is clearly caught
off guard, and is understandably upset at the prospect of a warrant
being issued for his or her arrest. So, the victim is much less
likely to be vigilant about protecting their confidential
information. See details below.

Most of us take those summons for jury duty seriously, but enough
people skip out on their civic duty so that a new and ominous kind of
scam has surfaced. Fall for it and your identity could be stolen, reports CBS.

In this con, someone calls pretending to be a court official who
threateningly says a warrant has been issued for your arrest because
you didn't show up for jury duty. The caller claims to be a jury coordinator.

If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the
scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so
he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest
warrant. Sometimes they even ask for credit card numbers. Give out
any of this information and bingo! Your identity just got stolen.

The scam has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma,
Illinois, and Colorado.

This (scam) is particularly insidious because they use intimidation
over the phone to try and bully people into giving information by
pretending they're with the court system.

The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on
their websites, warning consumers about the fraud.