Sunday, May 28

More Things Added to Newsline

Greetings. I've just discovered that the monthly magazine Diabetes Self Management and the daily newspaper the Dallas Morning News have both been added to the NFB Newsline service. Before I composed this post, I went to Book Share to see if both were there yet, and only the Dallas Morning News was listed. Still, these are good things for people with diabetes, or those who want to read/learn about Dallas for the coming convention. Or, as for me, those who want to read the Morning News that haven't had that chance before now!

Saturday, May 27

How to Write Good

Greetings. The following article presents writing well in a funny way, but consider the suggestions below the next time you have to compose an email message or write a report. Enjoy.

How to Write Good
Frank L. Visco
Vice-president and Senior Copywriter at USAdvertising.

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
4. Employ the vernacular.
5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8. Contractions aren't necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. One should never generalize.
11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ``I hate
quotations. Tell me what you know.''
12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
13. Don't be redundant; don't more use words than necessary; it's highly
14. Profanity sucks.
15. Be more or less specific.
16. Understatement is always best.
17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
23. Who needs rhetorical questions?

Monday, May 22

Facts About Texas

Greetings. Here's another post in the series on Dallas and Texas. For those that don't know, I'm getting the material from an National Federation of the Blind email list, in anticipation of its national convention the first week in July in Dallas. As always, please excuse any formatting errors. And, welcome to those from the Blind Confidential blog. Enjoy.

From the Texas Historical Commission:

Flags Over Texas

Six flags have flown over Texas: Spain, France, United Mexican States,
Confederate States of America, the Republic of Texas and the United States
of America,
with eight changes of government:

Country or Government










Republic of Texas


United States


Confederate States


United States


Natural and Man-made Wonders

The tidewater coastline of Texas stretches 624 miles along the Gulf of
Mexico and contains more than 600 historic shipwrecks.

The tallest point in Texas is Guadalupe Peak at 8,751 feet.

The Capitol in Austin, built of Texas pink granite, opened May 16, 1888. The
dome of the Capitol stands seven feet higher than that of the nation's
in Washington, D.C.

The Governor's Mansion, built in 1856, is the oldest remaining public
building in downtown Austin.

The largest body of water completely within the boundaries of Texas is Sam
Rayburn Reservoir in East Texas, which covers 113,400 acres.

Texas has four national forests (Angelina, Davy Crockett, Sabine and Sam
Houston), two national parks (Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains), one
national seashore
(Padre Island), one national preserve (the Big Thicket), two national
recreation areas (Amistad and Lake Meredith) and one national monument
Flint Quarries).

With more than 267,000 square miles, Texas is as large as all of New
England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois combined.

Archeology Fun Facts

The Spanish explorers and missionaries, who were the first Europeans to
enter Texas, often adopted Texas Indian names for rivers and other natural
The Spaniards translated the place names into Spanish, and many of the
Indian origins for place-names have been lost. See our selection of
Texas place-names derived from Indian languages
as well as names that are associated with Indians or their activities.

. Native Americans did not use the bow and arrow until about 1,500 years
ago - earlier hunters used spears.

. The horse was introduced to American Indians by the Spaniards after 1500.

. Bison (or American buffalo) were hunted by Native Americans on foot long
before the horse was introduced into the New World.

. The Karankawa of the Texas coast spoke a language related to Indian
languages of the Caribbean region.

. Prehistoric tribes in Texas traded for turquoise and obsidian from New
Mexico, shell from the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and exotic stone from as
away as Minnesota.

. A stone quarry in Texas was used for millennia by inhabitants of the
southern Great Plains and is now a national monument - Alibates National
- in the Amarillo area.
buffalo pictograph

. In addition to projectile points (stone points for arrows and spears),
Native Americans used stone, bone and shell for knives, drills, axes, awls,
and grinding implements.

. Prehistoric people in Texas used plant fibers to make baskets, mats,
sandals and other useful objects. Well-preserved woven sandals have been
found by
archeologists in the dry rock shelters of southwestern Texas.

. Some of the most impressive prehistoric rock art in North America is found
in Texas - visitors can see excellent examples at Hueco Tanks and Seminole
Canyon State Historic Sites.

. Not all Native Americans lived in tipis. Many villagers lived in thatched
or adobe houses, and many nomadic groups lived in brush- or hide-covered
or rock shelters.

. Corn has been cultivated in Texas for at least 2,000 years. Beans and
squash were other staple foods of the early Texas agriculturalists.

. The accounts of early explorers help archeologists understand many sites.
Much that we know about the historic tribes of southern Texas comes from the
accounts of Cabeza de Vaca, who was shipwrecked on the Texas coast and
traveled through southern Texas and northern Mexico for eight years, from
1528 until

. The first black explorer in Texas was Esteban, a Moor who traveled with
Cabeza de Vaca.
monkey pictograph

. The Tigua tribe came to the El Paso area from New Mexico in the 1680s, and
some of their fields have been in continuous cultivation since that time.

. The Alamo is a Spanish mission and was the first mission established in
San Antonio, in 1718.

. The first ranches in Texas were the 18th-century Spanish mission ranches
along the San Antonio River, where mission Indians tended the livestock.

. As many as 90 percent of the recorded archeological sites in some areas of
Texas have been damaged or destroyed.

Early Inhabitants of Texas

About 10,000 B.C., the first Indians arrived in Texas. These ancient peoples
are called Paleo-Indians. They hunted mammoths and giant bison and other
that later became extinct.

After 6,000 B.C., Indian lifeways changed, and archeologists call the time
in Texas from then to about A.D. 500 the Archaic Period. During this period
painted beautiful murals depicting human scenes and religious ceremonies on
cave walls in dry areas of West Texas.

The years from A.D. 500 to A.D. 1500 are called the Late Prehistoric Period.
Agricultural Indians domesticated some of our principal crops, including
corn, beans, squash, tomatoes and potatoes. Burial and temple mounds of
these early farmers can be found in the piney woods of East Texas.

Saturday, May 20

Web-Braille is Back

Greetings. It was only a matter of time this would happen. Web-Braille is back!

Certain people and blogs have speculated on the demise of this service for the time it was down, and some have even put together a petition to bring Web-Braille back. Personally, I think that if this service was as popular as it was, and if enough people emailed the people at NLS expressing their concern that Web-Braille was down, it was only a matter of time before it was fully restored. Evidently, this happened, at least in part. We'll probably know the full story, or more of it, later in the summer when the conventions happen and the NLS people give their annual reports. Though I'm glad the service has returned, I still think that the Web-Braille saga in the last week or two will be a big topic/concern and likely be one of the first issues asked about after the NLS presentations at the conventions.

However, as the Google petition, to make their visual verification code accessible to the blind, got so much coverage and nearly 4800 people signed it, some people have started to think that petitions can solve a problem. Granted, this is just speculation on my part, but I think its valid. Anyway, I never looked at the Web-Braille petition numbers myself, nor did I sign it. Not because I don't support the service, far from it. As I said before, I didn't sign because I had a feeling that the service would be back if enough people emailed NLS, which apparently happened. Petitions, and law suits, have their places. I'm not so sure that Web-Braille deserved one, but that's just my opinion.

Anyway, you can read the text of the return of Web-Braille on the Blind Access Journal among others.

I have enjoyed reading Jonathan Mosen's thoughts on the whole situation, and his reflections and own experiences related to getting material in a specialized format, since he's in the United States from another country. Read his thoughts on the Mosen Explosion Blog. He's currently in a stage where he's putting up lots of news stories and links of different kinds, so you might need to search a little for his comments. One entry that comes to mind immediately is at around 3:30 PM on 5/19/06.

NLS has put some extra security measures in the Web-Braille system, but then again, we knew they would. Speaking realistically here and not with any sort of affiliation with anything implied, its getting harder and harder to exchange free stuff online without any sort of security or copyright concerns. Not that I'm complaining, but just stating fact.

So, go and get that Braille file book that you've wanted to get but couldn't!

Wednesday, May 17

Google SMS

Greetings. Well, now that I have a cell phone that I can access, I can do what I've always wanted to do, or at least have wanted to do for the past few years: send and receive text messages. So, I successfully signed up for a Google account earlier today. While I was poking around on the many parts of the Google empire, I came across its Google SMS service, where you can send text messages and search the web and get information with Google in the driver's seat. I thought I'd try it out and messaged "Dallas Mavericks" to 46645 (or Googl). Within a few seconds, I got a reply back in my phone's Inbox. When I opened it, there was the last game's score, where the game was played, and even stars around Dallas, I suppose to indicate the city of the team I searched for. Below all that, in a separate paragraph, was a listing of the next game at 9:30 Central time tonight.

For once in my life, I doubted Google, remembering that I saw the Mavs Spurs game on at 7 in a TV listing. When I turned on TNT though, sure enough, the announcers were talking about the game between Cleveland and Detroit. So Google was right, as always, :)

I've been looking for a way to get the scores for my favorite teams, since I'm now in Austin and not in my long time home town of Dallas, and all of the Dallas teams I'm interested in, or other teams, may not be reported on the local media; I can now get their scores. I can also get the weather for any city, stock quotes, news briefs, and much more.

If you're interested in the many services available to you with a text messaging or web enabled cell phone, then check out the list of services on Google Mobile. This will really help during football season for checking on those NFL or college teams I like. I'm still looking for a service that will automatically message me with the current scores, etc. So if anyone knows of such a thing, then let me know. That would eliminate the need to send a message out for the information. Regardless though, this Google SMS thing is a truly handy thing to have around!

Saturday, May 13

A Unique T-Shirt

Greetings. When listening to the best sports station in the world, in my humble opinion, Sports Radio 1310, The Ticket, from Dallas, the other day I heard an ad for their item of the month. Each month, they feature a different item, some that you would want to have and some you might not. Anyway, May's item is a Ticket T-shirt done in Braille. The Braille T-shirt is not new, but given that I never thought I'd have one from The Ticket is notable. Supposedly, the shirt says, "Sports radio 1310 The Ticket," in Braille. I'm not sure of this since, I'm wondering if a bunch of people at a guy talk/sports station can make proper braille. I've also heard, in the same ad, that there was raised print, which wouldn't qualify as braille exactly. Regardless, I took the plunge and should get my shirt any day now.

Incidentally, if you're interested in getting one of these shirts, while they last, you can order one from this secure web page.

I suppose this could fit in the series of posts on Dallas. So order your shirt, and show it off at convention with pride. If you're interested in exactly what goes on at The ticket, then click here to listen to The Ticket online. Enjoy.

ATIA 2006 Archives Available

Did you miss the ATIA Conference in Orlando?

If you made it, did you miss some presentations due to scheduling conflicts?

Now you can access much of the valuable information shared at the ATIA
Conference through

Event Title.........................ATIA 2006 Online Conference

Where.............................Online at

- it's all online!

When?............................ Now! Your virtual booth will be live
through November 30, 2006.

The Cost? ........................Free access to over 50 presentations;
$49.00 for access to all archives

Over 100 hours of audio and video recordings were captured at the ATIA
(Assistive Technology Industry Association) conference held in Orlando this

January. ATIA partnered with OcuSource to create the
website. The website, powered by OcuSource's subsidiary service LetsGoExpo online conferencing, brings recordings generated at the live conference to end
users unable to attend the live event held in Orlando. The site has audio
recordings, samplings of streamed video, documents and more.

List of archived presentations:

* A "Continuum of Learning" for Children Using AAC Systems

* AAC Intervention with Children and Adolescents: Getting Results!

* AAC Interventions for Communication Partners: Cross Cultural Applications

* Accessible E-Learning Demonstrations Using IMS Accessibility

* Accessible Information Technology in Education: An Awareness Video

* Accessible Multimedia in E-books

* AGE Appropriate Services for Adolescent and Adult Communicators with
Severe- Profound Disabilities

* AT and UDL: Teaming Up to Meet the Needs of All Learners

* AT Consideration in the IEP: To Be or Not to Be

* AT Outcome Data Collection Tools--Platform Independent and Web-Based

* Avoiding the Pitfalls, Brick Walls, and Trees of Assistive Technology

* Blogging the Accessible Way

* Building Effective Campus-Based Teams with the ATSTAR Curriculum

* Building Interactive Classrooms Through Environmental Engineering and AAC

* Closing the Circuit: Building Accessible Modules from the Ground Up

* Developing a Universally Designed Curriculum: One Unit at a Time


* Expanding the Benefits of Cooperative Buying: Sharing What We've Learned

* Finding Their Bliss: Discovering Ways to Increase Active Participation

* Getting Started with School-based Data Collection on AT Strategies and

* Guidelines for Submitting Manuscripts to Assistive Technology Outcomes and

* Implementing AAC in Acute Care Settings Beginning in Intensive Care

* Increasing Mean Length of Utterances on AAC: An Action Research Project

* Inside the Trainer's Studio

* Instructional Strategies for Using Video Magnifiers

* Integrating AAC Into Leisure and Learning

* Interpretype for Deaf and Deaf-Blind Communication

* Let's Play! Selecting Toys with Universal Design Features

* Low Tech Adaptations Across the Curriculum

* Mastering Microsoft Word

* Moving Students Forward

* Note Taking Strategies Using Technology for Students Who Are Visually

* Organizing my Space

* Partner-Assisted Communication Strategies for Children Who Face Multiple

* QIATConversations: 2006 Update

* Sorting through Symbol to Text Systems

* STFLS Meets Core Vocabulary for AAC Users: Supporting Language and
Literacy Through Start-to-Finish

* Supported Readings: Understanding Symbol Supports

* Switching to Talk - Not Just Talking Switches

* Tactual Literacy for Students with Severe Cognitive Challenges

* Teacher Use of Kidspiration with Elementary Students: Impact of Teacher

* Technology in the Preschool Setting: The Impact of CollaborativeTraining

* The Assistive Technology Wheel for Young Children

* The C.O.A.S.T.: A Framework to Facilitate Assistive Technology and

* The Economics of Developing Assistive Technology: A Hypothetical Case

* The True Power of Teaching with Technology

* The User Experience: Accessibility and Usability in the Online Environment

* Thinking Beyond AT in the Classroom Phase 2 of ILT Project

* Using Assistive Technology to Increase Undergraduate Student Engagement

* Using Technology to Enhance Literacy and Language Skills

* Using Written Assistive Technology Implementation Plans

* Video in the Classroom on a Shoestring Budget

* Visual Considerations for Individuals with Complex Communication Needs

Music Events Between July 1-7

Greetings. Here's another in the series on the Dallas area, this time on
music events that will be happening during the NFB convention. Enjoy.

Music Events Between July 1 and July 7:


Salsa Lessons


Escapade 2009 -


Kerry Daniel & Nitebeat


Balcony Club -


Reggae Vibes


Palm Beach Club -


80's Retro Music


Club Clearview -


Cool Down Sundays


Palm Beach Club -


Arthur Riddles


Balcony Club -


Daniel Pitzer


Balcony Club -


Southern Strums: Texas Edition


Hilton Anatole, Room To Bbe Announced (location will be in convention


B&B Chorus


Betwixt & Between -


Electric Campfire Acoustic...


Sons of Hermann Hall -


Merengue, Bachata, Salsa a...


Escapade 2009 -

Most popular bars in Dallas, according to AOL City Guide:

1. 8.0 Restaurant & Bar

2. Purgatory

3. Cowboys Red River

4. Monica's Aca y Alla

5. Venice Beach Teen Club

6. Gypsy Tea Room

7. Blue

8. The Capital Grille

9. Lizard Lounge

10. NOKIA Theatre Grand Prairie

11. Abacus

12. Cuba Libre Cafe

13. Fox and Hound English Pub & Grille

14. Velvet Hookah

15. Billy Bob's Texas

Friday, May 12

Email Posting

Greetings. When I first heard of posting via email, I never thought I'd get
into it as much as I am. I tried to set it up for my trip to Guatemala last
summer, but had some troubles. Now though, I'm able to post flawlessly,
aside from getting used to putting links in a different way in my messages.
Plus, there's the bonus of an automatic spell check from Outlook Express or
Outlook, instead of hoping a word is spelled correctly. I may even be able
to post like this at the national convention in a few weeks, but we'll have
to see. That would be cool though: to pound out a message and send it from
the hotel's Wi-Fi connection, while sitting and drinking my morning brew.
Anyway, posting like this beats trudging through forms mode and dealing with
the occasional, but sometimes frequent, stops and starts of JAWS. Give me
email posting any day!

Until later.

Getting Around the Metroplex

Greetings. For those going to the National federation of the Blind's
upcoming national convention in Dallas, or anyone else interested in the DFW
transportation scene, here's the scoop. This message originally appeared on
the NABS-L email list, a list for the NFB's student division. I'll post
other related messages about the Dallas area and the convention, as I get
them. For more information on the upcoming convention, refer to the NFB website ( Enjoy.

Method 1: DART Light Rail

DART - Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Our extensive network of DART Rail,

Trinity Railway Express (TRE) and bus services moves more than 200,000
passengers per day across our 700-square-mile service area. We serve DFW

Airport and Fort Worth via the TRE. The DART Rail System provides fast,
convenient service to work, shopping and entertainment destinations in
Dallas, Garland, Plano and Richardson. Plus, our TRE commuter line links
DART customers to DFW International Airport and downtown Fort Worth(only an
hour away by TRE). Free parking is available at most rail stations, and all
are served by DART bus routes specially timed to make transfers between
buses and trains quick and easy. Whether you're headed to a concert, a
Dallas Mavericks or a Dallas Stars showdown, ride the TRE to all Monday
through Saturday events at American Airlines Center. Or ride DART Rail to
West End Station and catch the free special events shuttle bus. The TRE gets
you to and from DFW International Airport for a fraction of the cost of taxi
fare or long-term parking. Just take it to CentrePort/DFW

Airport Station and transfer to the DFW Airport bus serving airline

Airport buses meet all trains, departing every 15 minutes Monday through
Saturday. There is no Sunday service. Airport bus service between the rail
station and the airport terminals is free.

DART operates local and express bus routes serving Addison, Carrollton,
Cockrell Hill, Dallas, Farmers Branch, Garland, Glenn Heights, Highland
Park, Irving,

Richardson, Rowlett, Plano and University Park.

To get going, call DART Customer Information at 214.979.1111. DART Day
Passes are your best transportation value. $2.50 for Local bus and rail,
which includes local bus, DART Rail and TRE service in Dallas County. $4.50
for Premium bus and rail, which includes express bus service and TRE service
to DFW Airport and Fort Worth. DART offers two basic, one-way fares: $1.25
for Local bus and rail service, $2.25 for Premium service, which includes
express bus service between downtown Dallas and free park & ride facilities
in Addison, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Glenn Heights, Irving, Plano and

TRE fares are in two zones: $1.25 one-way to all stops between downtown
Dallas and West Irving Station.

$2.25 between stations in Dallas County and Tarrant County.

Passes are sold in Ticket Vending Machines located at each rail station. Day
Passes can be purchased in advance by visiting the DART Store online (

Method 2: McKinney Ave Trolley

Visitors can ride McKinney Avenue's nostalgic trolley between Dallas' Arts
District and the McKinney Avenue Uptown neighborhood, enjoying the route's

offering of antique shops, restaurants and clubs. The restored, historic,
vintage streetcars are also available for private events. Runs 7 days a week
10:00 am - 10:00 pm.


Method 3: The M-Line

The historic M-Line Streetcar is FREE!

The M-Line Streetcar offers you a ride down McKinney Avenue, within walking

distance of the Dallas Museum of Art.

Whether you're eating lunch, shopping, browsing art or making a bus or rail
connection, the M-Line takes you there!

M-Line service operates 7 days a week every 15 minutes during peak and lunch

hours, every half hour off-peak hours and weekends between 7 a.m. and 10

p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Saturdays, and 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Method 4: Footmobile?

Response from Judy Dixon on Web-Braille

Here is the current NLS reply coming from Judy Dixon (Consumer Relations
Officer) in response to patron inquiries:

"Web-Braille has been removed from public access temporarily. We apologize
for the inconvenience that the removal of Web-Braille has caused. At this
time, it is not known how long Web-Braille will be unavailable but we have
every hope that the curtailment of the service will be short-lived. We are
making every effort to resume this service as soon as possible.

In the interim, all NLS-produced books and magazines are available in
hardcopy Braille from your Braille-lending library. If the status of
Web-Braille changes, information will be posted on the main Web-Braille

More on Web-Braille

Greetings. Since the shutting down of Web-Braille, there have been several different rumors of why it has stopped. Some say that since there is no "digital rights management," like in Windows Media Player when trying to play certain kinds of copyrighted music from some sites, the books should not be viewed by people. Further, there is speculation that some of these Web-Braille books have been sent to other parts of the Internet, which I agree, violates policies of the program. I don't think it should be shut down just because of this though. There have been attempts to control this by other groups, like Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, such as coding digital playback equipment to only work with RFB&D books. While it saddens me that we have to take such measures to protect materials, I'd rather have these measures in place instead of simply pulling the plug on a successful project as Web-Braille.
The other big rumor that I've seen/heard is that the director of the National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Frank Kurt Cylke, thinks that only a few people will care about the shutting down of Web-Braille. I've seen this thought on a respectable blog, so please don't accuse me of undue speculation. At any rate, to show him otherwise, you can email him at, and tell him how much Web-Braille means, or has meant, to you. If he hears from many different people, then perhaps the program will be reinstated. There is talk of a petition from The Desert Skies Podcast ( to show how many people care about Web-Braille. Read more on the 5/11/06 entry.
As I said yesterday, if this decision is not reversed by the time of the summer conventions, then I pity the person, or persons, that have to go and give their annual reports to a room full of upset blind people.
Respectfully submitted.

Thursday, May 11

A Disturbing Development

Greetings. The following information is being circulated around the Internet, and I thought I'd do my part. Web Braille is no more. Read on for more. I know people that have used, and love, this service. I even considered using it a few times, though I never signed up. In a larger sense though, there's one less resource for blind people to use on the web for getting books and other information. Hopefully the NFB and ACB will jump on this pretty quick, if not at their summer conventions coming up shortly. You can be sure that serious questions will be asked of the NLS people when they go to the summer conventions of why this was done.

If you haven't heard yet, you will all probably be hearing from your patrons
very soon about the shutdown of Web-Braille. Any patron logging into the
Web-Braille site as of 5-10-06 is receiving the following message:

NLS: That All May Read

Web-braille notice

Because of technical and security difficulties, Web-Braille will be
unavailable in the near future. NLS regrets the inconvenience and will
provide further information as soon as possible.

For more information contact:
Judith Dixon
Consumer Relations Officer

Tuesday, May 2

Rebuilding Begins

Greetings. For those that have not heard, or couldn't access, my latest audio post from last Friday, note the following: last week, my main hard drive decided to fail. When I took my computer to work, I learned this from one of my coworkers. I was able to go to a nearby computer store and get a new drive, 160 GB in size, and have it put in by said coworker. Yesterday, he was able to put the initial software on my computer, such as computer applications, drivers, JAWS, etc. I brought my computer home yesterday afternoon and have begun the lengthy process of rebuilding. This has happened to me before, in different circumstances and from different causes, about two years ago, so the process is a familiar one to me, though tedious. I say all this to say that: if you don't hear from me immediately, then don't be too concerned. I've got my email setup again, so I'll be able to respond that way again, which is good. After a week of not having access, when I pulled my email down from the ISP's server, I had 1100 messages, half of which were spam. On top of putting the initial stuff back on my system, I'm getting things ready for my parents, who are coming to see me this weekend from Dallas (they're back in the good old USA), so I'll be busy either way this week.

I'll write something more substantial when I have the time, :) Until then, ...