Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why Won't the "F" Keys On My Keyboard Work?

I try to use F1 for help or F11 to make my browser full screen and nothing happens. My adaptive software is going crazy! What can I do?

My guess is that you have a newer Microsoft or Logitech keyboard. These have something called an "F Lock" key located just above the number keypad on the right side of the keyboard. It allows your Function keys to do more than one operation. If you could see the small print you'd notice, the top side of the keys probably say "Print", "Undo", "Save", "Reply", etc. while F11 and such are on the front. You may have an indicator light that comes on when you are in normal "F" mode.

When you boot up your computer the F Lock key is off so the keys use their "enhanced" function. What that means is that every time you boot up you need to hit the F Lock key for your Function keys to act normally. Microsoft offers no way to change this setting.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Miracle of Braille Music

In 1987 the Music Braille Committee of the World Blind Union decided to update the existing Manual of Braille Music Notation and to try to bring the major library music services together. A conference held in 1990 lead to the formation of a small consortium; FNB (Amsterdam), SBS (Zurich), ONCE (Spain), and the RNIB (UK). Together these four music braille libraries decided to build a central catalogue representing their holdings.

Over a period of six years the consortium defined its cataloguing rules based on AACR and ISBD, using Smeraglia Rules and the Groves New International Dictionary of Music and Musicians as the authority file. The resulting catalogue "the International Braille Music Catalogue" was based on non-standard software.

In 1996 the New International Manual of Braille Music Notation was published. In the following year the CANTATE project produced a system which linked music catalogues and databases of digital scores. It was natural to bring these two standard based systems together. The resulting MIRACLE project, supported by the European Commission Telematics Applications Programme (Phase 4), incorporated the four original partners, together with the Danish Library for the Blind and Regione Toscana Stamperia Braille as associate partners.

The EU-funded project began in January 1999 and formally ended in January 2001. With the encouragement of the European Commission, though without further subsidy, corresponding members have joined the project from Canada, USA, Italy, South Africa, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Finland and Sweden.

The basic idea behind the MIRACLE project is simple. Blind musicians around the world need Braille music. Music is sufficiently international to cross borders. Braille music is very expensive to produce, therefore anything that will reduce the amount of duplication is to be desired. It makes sense then to set up a system in which all music braille libraries can know what the other libraries have in stock and are producing. They should then be able to get the braille from each other at rates that are substantially less than producing the piece all over again. Where pieces are held as digital files it should be possible to send these to each other over the internet.

Now it is possible to browse and search the catalogues of four libraries for the blind (FNB-The Netherlands, RNIB-UK, ONCE-Spain, SBS-Switzerland), and it is also possible to download those files that are digitally available. In this way libraries do not only know what is available in other countries but they can also request files that they then do not have to produce themselves. Braille music is labour intensive and complex to produce and by sharing resources a lot of time and money can be saved.

The creation of a worldwide virtual library of music braille files should make a dramatic difference to the services offered to visually impaired clients needing access to music in alternative formats. The partners are committed to maintaining and developing this practical service.

Further details about the activities of the MIRACLE Group can be obtained from:

Molenpad 2
1016 GM Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 0486 486 486
Fax: +31 6208459

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tips On How to Conduct Yourself at an Office Party

Office parties are a strange mix of holiday cheer and office politics. If you're careful, you may be able to avoid most office party faux pas.

  1. Plan to go to the party. Even if office parties are not your cup of tea, you're part of the group and need to make an appearance.

  2. Find out before the party what most people are wearing. You don't want to show up in a casual outfit if everyone else is dressed to the nines. Make sure your spouse or date has this information.

  3. Be conservative in your dress if you are a woman. Shockingly short dresses or plunging necklines are not appropriate for this type of business occasion.

  4. Get to the party on time, or shortly after it starts. Even if you only stay a short time, this is better than "popping in" at the end of the evening.

  5. Be sure to acknowledge all of your co-workers, bosses and associates. Introduce your spouse or date, and include the spouses or dates of others in your conversations.

  6. Avoid drinking too much. Over-indulging may be the number one cause of inappropriate remarks and behavior at office parties. Remember, you have to face all these people when you go back to work, so leave a good impression.

  7. Avoid pigging out. Loading up your plate, grabbing handfuls of hors d'oeuvres or shoving down chips and clam dip does not present a flattering image.

  8. Go along with games or other arranged activities.

  9. Save gift-giving for another time unless everyone is exchanging gifts at the party. If you begin handing out gifts to your boss or associate when no one else is exchanging gifts, people will be uncomfortable.

  10. Be sure to thank the host or hostess before you leave the party. If the company paid for the party, thank your boss or the person in the office who arranged the party.

If you know you will be partaking of alcoholic beverages, eat a little something before you go to the party, or have some food when you get there (before you start drinking).

Before you bring your spouse or a date, make sure he or she is invited.

Try to avoid office gossip at the company party. You never know who may be standing within earshot.

If "gag gifts" are to be exchanged, keep the humor tasteful. Remember that spouses and possibly even children may be present, and what you may view as a lighthearted sexual or scatalogical joke could be an embarrassment to others.

Dare to have fun. Don't go crazy, but do wear an outfit that you look stunning in. Who cares if you are the last one on the dance floor, as long as you are the first one at the office on Monday? They already know that you can work hard, now show them that you can play hard, too. Live a little! Put the "party" back into "office party!"

Remember when you attend an office party, Less is More! Don't marinate yourself in cologne! You may not be able to smell it, but rest assured, everyone else can. A little spritz in the air above you (not hosing yourself down) is more then enough.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


The ButterWizard keeps your stick of butter at the optimum temperature for soft, easy spreading.

Previously, folks kept a stick of butter in a butter dish on the kitchen counter. Depending on fluctuations in room temperature, or if it took some heat from the oven, it might get too soft, or too firm.

Powered by its nickel-metal hydride batteries, the ButterWizard never lets your butter get too soft or too firm. When finished at the dinner table, return the ButterWizard to its charging base.

Click this link to learn more about the ButterWizard:


Have you ever been trapped in a conversation with an annoying person and prayed that your phone would ring to give you "an out"?

Well, Ring4Freedom has answered your prayers!

Ring4Freedom is software that will ring your cell or desk phone at your command. Simply press the hotkey and your phone will ring instantly. Download Ring4Freedom now and say "hello" to the person calling you and "gotta roll" to annoying colleagues, boring meetings, and uncomfortable conversations. Click this link to Ring4Freedom:!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

CardAvenue: Buy, Sale, and Trade Gift Cards and Gift Certificates

Do you still have that gift card that your grandma gave you last year? You know you'll never use it. Why not trade it for something you will use?

CardAvenue is the industry leader for gift card exchange and gift card auctions.

At CardAvenue gift card swap and auction transactions are protected by Cardcowboy balance verification on most cards valued at over $100. For gift cards valued less than $100 all transactions are secured with a $10 deductible.

Registration is free and you can setup your gift cards wish list in minutes. After setting up your wish list you can make all of your unwanted gift certificates available for trade on

Why trade your gift cards instead of just auctioning them?

You can trade gift cards at equal face value on If you know you are going to spend the value of your card at one of your favorite retailers, you can probably get more store credit on a gift card than you can cash in an auction. Gift card auctions are also available, because after all, cash is the most universal tender without an expiration date.

Gift cards and gift certificates are expected to appear on half of all holiday wish lists this year according to a survey on gift cards by the National Retail Federation. The term gift certificate is now commonly used interchangeably with gift card. The distinction between the two was originally in the added ability to refill for re-use, and even reissue modern gift cards - features previously absent from traditional gift certificates. Be sure to read the specifics of each card listing before bidding or trading so you understand the redemption requirements and rules. The term gift card and gift certificate are used interchangeably throughout CardAvenue service descriptions.

Click this link to visit

A Website of Word Oddities and Trivia

This website is maintained by Jeff Miller, a teacher at Gulf High School in New Port Richey, Florida and gives great information about words.

Imagine having tons of words to use in your next game of Scrabble. You can learn really long words, words that have uncommon double letters; triple letters; and even quadruple letters, Palindromes, and much more!

Click this link to view nineteen pages of Word Oddities and Trivia:

Monday, December 05, 2005

Braille Bullets?

Message: I am Brailling a formal document, with a list that I would ordinarily put bullets in front of. Is there some kind of symbol in Braille that serves the same purpose, or do I simply make the list? Also, with MS Word, people often put headings in bold font. Is the italics Braille symbol the best way to do this, or is there some other symbol? Thanks for any ideas.

If you're doing a "formal" document, here are the quotes from Braille Formats (See

The rules say you probably don't need the bullets in the list. Rule 7 Section 2a3 of Braille Formats says:

"3) Bullets, hollow dots, check marks, and other signs printed before each listed item solely for visual effect must be ignored in braille".

As for bold headings, Rule 3, Section 12 says the following:

"Special typefaces ignored. Ignore special typefaces for the following. Chapter titles and other headings except paragraph headings".

Many braille readers find excessive emphasis a pain to read. However if you really want the bullets there, use dots 3 6, 3 6 followed by a space.

Audio News To Go

OdiogoT - short for "Audio News To Go" is a Windows application that extracts blog posts or articles from news sites (such as The New York Times, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal) and converts them to light audio files in seconds. The files can then easily be uploaded to any MP3 player. This gives users anytime, anywhere access to their favorite printed news content.

Many articles and blog posts available on the Web today can be read through third-party websites such as Google and Yahoo! thanks to the standard distribution format, RSS. Odiogo converts the content on any website containing RSS feeds into small audio files using cutting-edge text-to-speech technology. Unlike many of its predecessors, this new breed of artificial intelligence technology observes punctuation and more natural speech patterns to provide a better quality listening experience.

OdiogoT comes with 200 preinstalled news feeds including The New York Times, CNN, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, BBC, and Rolling Stone. Users can also easily add feeds beyond Odiogo's list; any website that provides an RSS feed can be podcasted via OdiogoT. Every page of text converts, on average, into a 2 MB audio file, allowing approximately 256 articles to be stored on a 512 MB MP3 player.

OdiogoT requires a PC running Windows XP or 2000 with at least 128 MB memory and 5 GB hard drive space. Having installed the software, users simply select their desired news feeds (e.g. San Francisco Chronicle Business section; BBC Health section etc) using the "Feeds" button, click "Refresh" to start downloading the latest articles from the selected feeds and convert them into MP3 files, and, lastly, drag and drop the MP3 files produced by Odiogo into Apple iTunes or any other MP3 program.

OdiogoT can be purchased securely online at, by mail, or over the phone at 1-415-412-7270. Purchase includes email support as well as a 15-day money-back guarantee.

No More Error Reports

Every time I have a problem with this one program, a little window pops up and asks me to report the error to Microsoft. Sometimes this window can get in the way, preventing JAWS from properly reading the screen. There is a way to stop this window from popping up, read on for the answer.

To get rid of that pesky window, right-click the My Computer icon on your desktop and choose Properties.

In the System Properties window that appears, go to the Advanced tab and click Error Reporting.

You have a few options. You could Disable error reporting. This will make any crashing program's window simply close itself. Poof! No explanation of what happened.

You could also click But Notify Me When Critical Errors Occur, but it might be even safer (and less confusing down the road) if you select Enable Error Reporting and Choose Programs to exclude only your commonly crashing program.

Click OK until you're back to your desktop, and that error reporting window shouldn't bother you when using that particularly touchy program any longer!

The ABCs of My Programs

Remember when your computer was new and all the programs were listed in alphabetical order? Don't you wish there was a way to alphabetize all the programs under Start/Programs?

There is a way, and it's easier than you think.

  1. Click the Start button, then Programs. Highlight any program group (i.e. menu item) that's listed there.
  2. Now, just right-click, or use the Applications key and select Sort by name from the resulting menu.

That's it. Remember that you can still cut and paste program groups around if you want to manually specify which ones sit at the top of the list.

The Fred's Head Companion Newsletter

Fred's Head Database

So, you really like the Fred's Head database? Are you one of those folks who click on the link to see the most recent entries? Do you find yourself visiting the Fred's Head Companion page everyday to see what's new? Would you like a way to get the new articles in your email? Thanks to the Fred's Head Companion newsletter you can!

In order to sign up for the Fred's Head Companion Newsletter, you must do the following:

  1. Visit the Fred's Head Companion page at, or click the "Our Blog! Read the Fred's Head Companion" link from the Fred's Head start page.

  2. Under the heading "Receive Posts by Email" look for the box labeled "Subscribe to the Fred's Head Companion feed ". If you are using a screen reader, you can press the letter "e" twice and you should be taken directly to the edit box.

  3. Enter your email address in the box.

That's it. You should receive a confirmation email and the newsletter will be delivered daily to your In Box. Fred's Head Companion articles are also available through an RSS feed, as well as a podcast. You can find more details on these features by visiting the Companion page.

Find Medical Information in The Merck Manuals

Basically this site has all of the Merck Manuals available online for free, which means a lot of medical information you can use to make informed decisions. You can access two reference books for patients and caregivers, The Merck Manual Second Home Edition and The Merck Manual of Health and Aging.

The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, The Merck Manual of Geriatrics, and the Merck Manual of Veterinarians are also available on this site, but they contain more technical information for healthcare professionals. They might be useful to look up more about a specific condition or test if you already know the basics from the "for-patients" books.

The Merck Manual Second Home Edition covers topics such as Accidents, Children's Health Issues, Fundamentals, Special Subjects, and Women's Health Issues, only to name a handful. Special Subjects included sections about alternative medicine, diseases of unknown cause, surgery, and medical decision making.

The Merck Manual of Health and Aging organizes 66 chapters into 4 sections: fundamentals of aging, caring for yourself and others, medical conditions, and even social, legal, and ethical issues. This section discusses how you can properly care for yourself, your children, and your family. The manual discusses how the body ages and what kind of care you need to give it.

These useful manuals put a lot of information at our fingertips. I looked up some symptoms I am having, and the manual provided me with direct questions to ask my doctor. I can go to my doctor's office better informed and have an idea of what to expect. If I don't understand something after my appointment, I can look up any tests or medical terms later.

Now, does this give you the information you need to run out and treat your neighbor's problems? No, these are online for research purposes, and to help you be better informed. They are not designed to be a replacement for your family doctor.

Click this link to view the Merck Manuals:

Bowling Breakthrough

Tenpin bowling is a social activity that most people enjoy quite regularly nowadays.

The first time I tried it was in my teen years when my brothers took me to Hollywood Bowls in Brizlington in Bristol. This was quite a memorable experience because they kept trying to position me in the right place to throw the bowl straight down the middle and it never reached the pins!

I had a few failed turns before a member of staff came along to tell us that I could use the barriers to help the bowl reach the pins. The barriers would automatically come into place for my turn and then go down for everyone else's turns. This was news to us and I was surprised to see an improvement in my game as small as it was.

Although I have always been bowling with my friends and family ever since, I was never really a good player. That is until I joined the team of visually impaired bowlers in the summer of 2005.

It still makes me laugh to remember how much everyone else on that team joked about my bowling technique, or lack of it as the case was! I even became known as "the barrier queen" for a while and I'm sure they miss that now because they still refer to it every now and then.

After a lot of advice and coaching from just about everyone, I slowly began to improve my bowling technique which was seen as a miracle to most!

I got told everything from how to stand with my right leg behind my left one, to try standing sideways to throw across my legs, to practice my swing and test my aim before throwing, and so on.

The majority of my success is credited to a friend's mum who goes bowling with us every Tuesday. My gratitude is endless because I would never have improved if she hadn't put so much time and effort into helping me get it right. She even shared games with me to get us a better score while teaching me how to perform better at the same time. She rescued me from all the shame and embarrassment of being the worst player while everyone else was so great and I will forever be thankful for that!

I am now able to play a good game on most weeks and usually score between 100 and 115 which is a huge step up from the 50 or so that I use to score with great difficulty in the recent past!

I know that to most people this story might sound trivial, but I believe that it is important for visually impaired people to do the things they enjoy doing regardless of how visual they may be. It is too easy to give up trying when there are so many barriers holding us back, but the feeling that one experiences after achieving high can only be properly understood when it is directly experienced firsthand. Experience has shown me that it is this exact feeling of achievement that keeps me going on to face and conquer other potential drawbacks.

For me personally, breaking down one barrier despite its size gives me hope and determination with regards to future barriers that I know I will have to deal with throughout my life as a visually impaired individual.

Bowling rails are available for purchase from:

American Blind Bowling Association
315 N. Main St.
Houston, PA 15342
Phone/Fax: 724-745-5986

Contributor: Anela Naz

Get Sticky with Sticky Keys

I love using keyboard shortcuts. It's quick and makes me look like I'm a pro or something. However, I realize that many of you like to keep one hand on the mouse, so those three key combos are out. How about a way to type one key at a time rather than all at once?

This feature is called "Sticky Keys" and gives you a delay between key strokes when doing a keyboard shortcut. Let's say you want to copy something-rather than hold down Ctrl + C you can type Ctrl then C. Ready to get sticky? Here's what to do...

Head over to the Control Panel (Click Start / Settings / Control Panel ) and select "Accessibility Options".

On the "Keyboard" Tab, place a check in the checkbox next to "Use Sticky Keys".

Click OK to close the Accessibility Options window.

Now you can do combos a key at a time. Yeah!

Saving Unfinished Email Messages

How can I "hold" an unfinished email to send later? I use Outlook Express.

Whether it's a telemarketer or a "Clunk!" and suspicious giggling from the next room, life's interruptions don't mean you have to start writing your message again from scratch. From the composing email window, select File, then Save. A window will appear to tell you that it has been saved to your draft folder. When you come back to your computer, open the drafts folder and take up writing that message where you stopped!

Saving Unfinished Email Messages

How can I "hold" an unfinished email to send later? I use Outlook Express.

Whether it's a telemarketer or a "Clunk!" and suspicious giggling from the next room, life's interruptions don't mean you have to start writing your message again from scratch. From the composing email window, select File, then Save. A window will appear to tell you that it has been saved to your draft folder. When you come back to your computer, open the drafts folder and take up writing that message where you stopped!

Cyber Security Bulletins for Your Computer

There are several records in this database on how to keep your computer free of viruses, spam, and phishers. Now I have a site where you can keep up-to-date on all the latest computer threats.

Cyber Security Bulletins, from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, provide weekly summaries of security issues and new vulnerabilities. They also provide patches, workarounds, and other actions to help mitigate risk. The site offers the bulletins in weekly emails, or through their RSS feed. Click this link to see the latest Cyber Security Bulletins:

Pricelessware Software for Your Computer

I don't know about you but I love free stuff, especially free computer stuff. I found a site that contains a list of free computer software, and it's just waiting for you to download it.

The Pricelessware list is a compilation of software collected through a yearly vote by the participants of the "alt.comp.freeware" newsgroup. It is a list of what people have voted as "the best of the best in Freeware".

The software listed on the site is commonly referred to as "Pricelessware", a term given with great respect and thanks to the authors of these programs for giving us such wonderful quality freeware. I can't guarantee that everything will be screen reader friendly, but you never know what you'll find until you take a look.

Click this link to get some free computer software:

A Tutorial for Microsoft's ActiveSync

You just received your new portible notetaker? I think congratulations are in order here! You will absolutely love the freedom your new device will bring, but you may find the Microsoft ActiveSync program a bit confusing.

I'm not sure how many of you are new to Windows Mobile devices, but a company called Aximsite has a tutorial for people new to ActiveSync.

This tutorial may help people understand how to set up ActiveSync, and to understand some of its limitations (i.e., limit of two computer partners, limit of one e-mail partner, and the lack of subfolder support for calendar, contacts and tasks). This is certainly an easy-to-follow guide to get yourself started. Click this link to view the ActiveSync tutorial from Aximsite:

Create A TinyURL

Have you ever found a cool product on the web and wanted to share it with a friend? Were you discouraged to find that the URL was extremely long? Imagine trying to share a web address like: tohistory=&searchtab=home&address=&city=irvine&state=ca&zipcode=?

You have to be careful when sharing long URLs, they can wrap around to a new line and not work properly in some email programs. Imagine trying to share that URL over the phone!

There is a website that can help you "shrink" those long URLs down to size. TinyURL automatically squishes any long URL into a permanent, smaller URL that you can easily share with others.

The whole process is simple:

  1. Copy any long URL to your clipboard.

  2. Point your web browser to

  3. Paste that long URL into the box on the TinyURL web site.

  4. Click on the "Make TinyURL" button.

  5. Copy the resulting shortened URL and share it with others.

For example, using TinyURL I can turn that really long MapQuest URL into something MUCH shorter:

Better still, TinyURL also has a free "bookmarklet" that lets you add a TinyURL button to your browser that cuts that five step process down to one step: Anytime you are on a page whose URL you'd like to smush, just click on the TinyURL button in your web browser. No cutting and pasting. TinyURL automatically smushes that long URL. This feature may be somewhat difficult for screen readers because the button appears on the tool bar of your browser.

I probably use TinyURL half a dozen times a day. It has helped me share long links with friends and co-workers.

There are other sites that will assist you in shrinking down URLs, check out the following sites:


SnipURL provides the same service as TinyURL. Using SnipURL is easy as pie. All you have to do is dump the address into the box and select the Snip URL button. That's it!

If you want to take advantage of all of SnipURL's features, you are going to need to create a user account, which takes two seconds to fill out with no sensitive information being traded. Once you see the features it has to offer, you'll understand why this account will be so valuable..

So if you're somebody that is always working with links, this may be a service you want to check out. It could make your life a little easier anyway.

Click this link to visit

Removing The Windows Login Prompt

I am the only user name on my computer. How can I skip the user login step?

For security reasons, it can be a good idea to leave this be. However, if saving time is important to you, try the following:

Go to "Start" and choose "Run". In the dialog box, type "control userpasswords2" (without the quotes) and click "OK"

Under the "Users" tab, uncheck the box "Users must enter a user name..." and click "Apply".

You'll be asked for your Administrative password. If you have one, type it in and confirm. If you don't, just click "OK". The windows may disappear automatically, or click "OK" to close them.

The next time you boot up your computer, you shouldn't have to log in.

What does "IP" stand for?

Outside the computer world, IP sometimes stands for Intellectual Property.

In computer lingo, IP stands for "Internet Protocol". You'll often see it paired with TCP, "Transmission Control Protocol." Together, TCP/IP allow two different computers to talk back and forth over the internet.

Every computer and server (email servers, IP hosts) has an IP address.The IP address acts like a return postal address stamped on packets of data that your computer sends through the internet.

IP addresses are made of four numbers separated by periods, for example, This stamp on data sent through the net tells receiving computers what country, service provider, host, and computer sent the info.

Some routers and software can make you anonymous over the internet by masking your IP address. In addition, less scrupulous computer masters can take control of a remote computer and thus have that computer's IP (return address) stamped on their evil doings.

Want to find out your IP address? Check out

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Maintaining Your Freezer

Most people buy a freezer and stick it in the corner hoping for the best. There are a few hints that will help you get the most out of your freezer.

  1. To help maintain an even temperature in your freezer, never freeze more than 3 pounds of food per cubic foot of your freezer. If your freezer is 10 cubic feet, do not freeze more than 30 pounds of product. If you add too much frozen food, you may raise the temperature of the freezer, causing your already frozen foods to defrost.

  2. Try not to overload or underload your freezer. Try to keep it about 2/3 full at all times, this is the optimum space for allowing air circulation and minimal effort for the motor to work to keep the food frozen. If you don't have enough food, fill it with containers of ice, or fill old milk jugs 3/4 full with water and place in the freezer.

  3. Try to defrost your freezer every 2 months or if the ice reaches a depth of more than 1/2 inch.

  4. Label and date all foods stored in the freezer with print and/or braille labels.

  5. Store similar items together. I found some small plastic coated wire baskets that I use to separate different kinds of food.

  6. When you place something in the freezer, check on it in about 24 hours. If the item still is not completely frozen, check your freezer temperature. The dial should read no higher than 0ºf. Usually between -10º to -20º is better.

If you think your freezer isn't keeping things cold enough, place a zip lock bag of ice in the top of your freezer. If the freezer gets too warm the ice cubes will melt.

Continue to check to see if there is any water in the bag. If there is, it means that your freezer did not stay cold enough and your food may not be safe to eat.

Baking Bacon

I have found that making bacon is a cumbersome task. It throws grease all over my kitchen and you have to constantly watch it and turn it until done.

I have found the easiest way to prepare the bacon is to bake it.

  1. Take a large baking sheet with edges (jelly roll pan or cake pan) and line with aluminum foil.

  2. Lay your bacon pieces on the foil with the pieces just touching.

  3. Bake in a preheated 400º oven for 15-20 minutes depending on personal preference for crispiness.

  4. Remove from the oven and serve everyone piping hot bacon at the same time.

After breakfast, just pull off the foil from the pan and toss. Clean up is done!

Chilling Drinks for Hot Summers

There is nothing like a tall cool drink on a hot summer day. Unfortunately as it gets hotter out your ice cubes melt making your drinks watery. Try this handy tip to add a bit of spice to your summer drinks.

Get a couple of extra lemons, limes, strawberries or even use some balled melon depending on your drink. When you get the fruit home, wash it thoroughly and cut into medium sized pieces. Place on a flat cooking sheet in your freezer. Once the fruit has been thoroughly frozen, usually a couple of hours, place them into a large zip lock storage bag and freeze. Now when you prepare your favorite refreshment, drop in a couple pieces of fruit for coolness and added flavor.

Wouldn't this be great for those large cups of water?

Circus Web

My wife and I were looking through some picture albums and came across some pictures of the kids at the circus. This got me curious to see if there were any good circus sites on the net. Let me tell you, I sure found what I was looking for.

If you click the "Circuses" button on the side menu it gives you an alphabetical list of Circuses from the United States, as well as a bunch of circus related links. Each link goes to that Circus' homepage, where you can learn tons of nifty stuff about them. A favorite of mine is Circus Flora. Their site is really well put together. Now that's a circus I'd like to see.

"History" is the next button on the menu. If you want to learn about the rich history of the circus click here. A time honored tradition from the time of Rome until the present. How did it start? Find out by reading here.

"Lore" to me is the heart and soul of this site. Here is where you can find out about every aspect of the circus from participating to attending. Well written and thought provoking it doesn't seem like another history lesson.

Let'sgo to the Circus by clicking this link:!

Computer Media: What are the Differences?

What are all these different drives? Probably the easiest way to explain it would be to define each of them:

  1. Hard Drive - A hard drive is a fast, high capacity internal disk drive found in all modern PCs. Unless the computer is older than say, 12 years, it should have a hard drive in it. Any PC running Windows does.

    The reason for having a hard drive is to give you a permanent place to keep your computer's information. They are generally much more reliable than keeping your data on a floppy disk (that's not to say you shouldn't back up your info though), are much faster, and hold tons more.

    Adding a second hard drive is a great way to add more space for files. They are available as both internal or external.

  2. Floppy Drive - These little 3.5" disks hold about 1.4 MB of information. It seems like just yesterday that floppy disks ruled the planet, but now with the cheap price of CD-Rs and CD-R drives, the floppy drive is being put to pasture. Most new computers don't even have one.

  3. Zip Drive - A zip drive is basically a floppy drive on steroids. The disks work in the same manner as a regular 3.5" floppy disk, except they can store up to 100 MB. A 3.5 floppy can only store 1.4MB.

    In case you're wondering, no, you can't stick a zip disk into your 3.5" floppy drive and expect it to work. In fact, you would have to insert it with the assistance of a hammer. If you wanna use Zip disks, you'll need a Zip drive.

    Oh, and Zip drive should not be confused with Zip files!

  4. CD-R- A CD-R is a writeable CD, meaning you can record data to the CD. Works just like a regular CD ROM drive otherwise. Although you can add data to a CD-R, you can't delete data from it. Once it's there, it's there. Most CDs hold 675 meg of info.

  5. CD-RW- Same as a CD-R except you can re-write the CD. So, you can remove old files, and add new ones if you like. The only disadvantage to this over the CD-R is the disks are generally more expensive.

  6. DVD-R/+R - As DVD recording comes of age and the prices come down, more of us will likely be adding DVD writers to our computers. If adding a DVD writer to your computer, I would suggest getting one that writes to both DVD+R and DVD-R disks.

  7. USB Drive- Also known as a thumb drive, key drive, pen drive or flash drive. These handy little things plug right into your USB port and come in many sizes.

  8. Card Reader- If you have a memory card reader for you Compact Flash, Smart Media, or other camera card it is technically a drive. These are beginning to appear as standard in some new computers, but you can also get external ones. They really make transferring pictures from the digital camera easier.

  9. Digital Audio Player- We go more into detail about these elsewhere, but in this context consider your player an external hard drive.

I hope this helps clear things up.

Light and Fluffy, Dishes?

You just made a casserole for dinner, and now that it has all been eaten you are left with a baked on mess. You have tried almost everything, but your elbow grease is just about all used up. What else is there to do?

From your laundry room, grab a sheet of fabric softener (2 or 3 for larger pans).

Place it in your casserole dish and fill with water.

Let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Now just grab your scrubber and the mess should clean right off.

Cleaning The Coffee Pot

You are looking at your coffee pot and notice that there is a lovely brown coloring on the glass. Time to clean the coffee pot!

  1. When the pot is cold, fill the pot with about a half a cup of water, 2 tablespoons of salt and a cup of ice.

  2. Now holding the pot by the handle, swirl the ice and water in the pot. The ice and salt will scrub the stains from the inside of the pot.

  3. Dump out the water after a few minutes and see if you need to repeat. Once the pot is clean, dry and let warm back up to room temperature.

  4. Now fill the pot with 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar. Remove the used filter and place a clean filter in the tray.

  5. Pour the water into the hopper as normal and let run through a cycle.

  6. Dump the water from the pot, bring back to room temperature and repeat with plain water.

Your pot should now be squeaky clean and your coffee should taste better!

You can do the cleaning cycle once a month or as needed, it's up to you!

Basic Measurements

Here are some basic measurements that you may have been wondering about:

  • 3 teaspoons= 1 tablespoon
  • 2 tablespoons = 1/8 cup
  • 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
  • 4 oz = 1/2 cup
  • 8 oz = 1 cup
  • 16 oz = 1 pound
  • 2 cups = 1 pint
  • 2 cups of Sugar = 1 pound
  • 1 pound of Butter = 4 sticks or 2 cups

An Easy Way to Clean The Blender

You just finished making up a fresh treat in the blender for the family, and now you need an easy solution for cleaning the blender? Well, you knew exactly where to look!

Cleaning the blender is simple, just place a cup of water into the blender and a squirt of dishwashing soap.

Now just blend away.

Remove from the base and dip your rag into the soapy water and wash the gasket well, then re-assemble and wipe off the outside of your blender.

Rinse well and dry. Ready to go again!

Need to Keep Lots of Food Hot?

You have a large amount of food that you have to prepare, you are having a hard time trying to figure out how to keep it all warm. You might have a bit of trouble finding all of the supplies, but this tip will help you keep it all warm.

Find a box that is large enough to hold all of your food with plenty of room to spare.

Now locate some thick foam insulation boards. You can find these at your local home improvement store.

Cut the pieces to line all sides of your box and a piece for the top.

Now cover the whole inside with aluminum foil.

When you have your box prepared, just drop in all the food and place on the lid and your food will be kept toasty warm for hours.

Use Outlook Express to Create a Web Page

Don't have a web page editing program? Don't know HTML? No sweat. Anyone can write an email-so why not use Outlook Express to design your web page.


That's right. If you can make a rich text email you can save it as a web page. It won't be the fanciest site on the net, but at least you'll have something for people to visit.

Before we get started, you should create a folder called "Web Page" to save the HTML files and pictures in. Any pictures you will be using should be in there first.

Click "Create Mail" just like you do when writing an email. Go to "Format" and make sure it is set to "Rich Text (HTML)".

From here get as creative as you can. Keep in mind the design principals mentioned in previous Fred's Head articles.

You can add a background color by going to "Format", choosing "Background" then "Color". Select one from the list.

Next you can specify the size of your font and select the color. Unfortunately you cannot specify your font-it will open using the viewer's default font (probably Times or Arial). Want the text centered? You can do this too by clicking the "center" text format button on the toolbar.

How about a picture? Just go to "Insert", "Picture" and browse your way to the "Web Page" folder you created on your hard drive and grab the image you want. Folks with some vision can also click the "Insert Picture" button on the toolbar (it looks like a mountain). Highlight and delete all the file information in front of the actual picture file name. When you click "OK" you'll get a box with a red X, but that's fine for now.

Once your page is just the way you want it, you can save it as a web page. Go to File/Save As and change the save as type to "HTML Files". Give the file a name-the first page of a web site should always be called "index.htm". Put it in your "Web Page" folder.

Now the page and pictures need to be put on the internet. Follow the uploading instructions for your server-each one is different or I would explain how here. Make sure that you also upload the picture too.

There you go. Remember, it's not the best way to make a web site, but it works, and talk about accessability? Have fun and be creative.

Retro Turntables and Radios From Crosley

If you like the retro look, Crosley has some cool stuff for you to check out on their web site.

In 1920 Powel Crosley founded the company that pioneered radio broadcasting and mass market manufacturing around the world. Dismayed with the $130 price tag for the radio receiver he promised to buy for his son's birthday, Crosley decided to make his own. Upon successfully building a working set for only $35, Crosley was quick to spot the mass market potential.

Today the Crosley name lives on with superbly detailed replicas that truly transcend time. Reintroductions of original vintage radios and turntables feature the newest technologies graced by unforgettable Crosley stylings. The Crosley Collection includes AM/FM radios, portable suitcase - styled record players and turntables, record changers, multi-functional audio cassette/compact disc players, jukeboxes, music boxes, telephones and more.

Click this link to take a trip down memory lane with Crosley:

The History of Computing and the Internet

The history of computing and the story of how the Internet came to be are fascinating subjects to me. But it's too big a story to tell here, so I've pulled together some excellent links that you can use to explore it at your leisure.

The HISTORY OF COMPUTING PROJECT: offers a timeline of the major events in the history of computers, biographies of computer pioneers, and even a history of video games.

The HOBBES' INTERNET TIMELINE: gives a brief history of Internet milestones from 1957 to the present.

The South Carolina Commission for the Blind Telecommunications Training and Employment Division

The South Carolina Commission for the Blind Telecommunications Training and Employment Division train Blind and Visually Impaired individuals to work in a call center environment. After 12 weeks, employers are able to hire qualified individuals who have completed a rigorous customer service training program. The Training and Employment Division at SCCB has placed hundreds of blind and visually impaired persons in customer service jobs not just in South Carolina, but all over the United States!

Since its beginning in August 2001, SCCB Telecommunications Training Center has trained hundreds of Blind and Visually Impaired consumers. The Telecommunications Training Center partnered with Vanguard, Inc., as well as, the American Red Cross to train qualified visually impaired or blind persons who wish to reenter or remain in the work force.

Upon completing 6 to 12 week training, if an individual decides that relocating may not be the best option for them, there is an employment consultant that works alongside the vocational rehabilitation counselors to help place those individuals in a competitive work environment in their local area.

Students leave with the necessary skills that are required to work in a fast-paced call center setting. They are work ready individuals who are able to compete with persons whom have no disability.

For more information on the Telecommunications Training and Employment Center, contact Ed Bible, Director of Training and Employment at 803-898-8786 or You may also contact: Steve Cook
American Red Cross Training Program Instructor
South Carolina Commission for the Blind
Phone: (803) 898-8788

The PCMate CCTV for Your Laptop

You have a meeting in the board room? Wonder where you are going to plug in your camera? No need to worry, just connect your PCMate to your laptop's USB port and view the meeting agenda or watch the presentation right on your screen. Whether you are going from classroom to classroom or sitting on a plane you can have your video magnifier with you at any time.

With the PCMate you simply connect to your laptop and anywhere you go you have your video magnifier. The PCMate is powered by the USB port, making your computer your CCTV.

The PCMate has split screen, distance viewing, color select and can even "Capture" an image to be saved as a file on your hard drive.

The PCMate uses only 3% of a 72 watt hour laptop battery.

For more information on the PCMate or any other Clarity Product please use the contact information below:

2222 Park Place
Suite 1C
Minden NV 89423
Toll Free: 800-575-1456
Phone: 775-782-5611
Fax: 775-783-0966

Autism Spectrum Disorders and Visual Impairment

Meeting Students' Learning NeedsOver the past several years, the incidence of autism, or the range of conditions known as autism spectrum disorder, has increased. Children with autism have special needs and require a great deal of support from family and teachers. When a child with autism is also blind, the situation becomes even more complex. To address the needs of children with autism and vision loss, AFB Press has released Autism Spectrum Disorders and Visual Impairment: Meeting Students' Learning Needs-the first book of its kind.

Written by Marilyn H. Gense and D. Jay Gense, two professionals who have devoted their lives to studying and helping visually impaired children with autism, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Visual Impairment offers a comprehensive look at how autism interacts with vision loss and presents effective ways to work with students. Helpful resources include suggestions and approaches for assessment, instruction, and program planning; numerous forms and tools for capturing vital information; and information on assessment instruments, instructional materials, and web sites rich in important advice. Parents, teachers, and service professionals will find this one-of-a-kind resource invaluable as they help to bring children with autism and low vision out of their isolation and "into the world."

The book is available at AFB's online bookstore, click this link to learn more.

Spray On The Flavor

The David Burke Flavor Sprays contain zero calories, zero fat, zero cholesterol, zero carbohydrates and FDA-approved flavoring. Whether you are on a low carb, no carb, low fat, no fat, no sugar, point system, or counting calorie diet, the Flavor Spray is right for you!

By eliminating your toppings, gravies, dressings, and sauces the flavor spray provides the flavor that most diets are missing. No longer when you diet will you crave the sweet taste, or yearn for flavor when you count calories. Just spray our flavor spray and you will no longer need to satisfy your craving for flavor. Follow a low carb meal regimen, and allow flavor spray to add the toppings and sauce to your meal.

Want the taste of ranch dressing on those french fries? Spray it on! How about tasting some cookies & cream on your morning bagel? Spray it on! Hey kids, tired of drinking plain old milk? Then spray some Memphis BBQ in there! OK, well maybe you could use something different on that one, but you could certainly use your imagination and come up with all kinds of new goodies! Click this link to find out more about the Flavor Spray Diet, or to purchase the sprays online:

12 Tips to Reduce Food Contamination from Packaging

The following guidelines should help give you ideas of how to avoid food contamination from packaging.

  • Plastic tends to migrate into fatty foods, especially hot fatty foods. Don't leave cheese wrapped in its plastic wrapper sitting in the sun! Cool leftovers before placing in plastic storage containers.

  • Plastic wrap should never come into direct contact with fatty food in the microwave. It is also important not to use leftover margarine or yogurt tubs in the microwave. Use ceramic or glass cookware instead.

  • Microwavable packages should be avoided. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) migrates from the packaging into the food, as do the adhesive components (and their degraded products) of the package.

  • A 1988 FDA study of microwavable packaging components, called heat susceptors, showed that low levels of the carcinogen benzene could migrate into food when heated.

  • Skip the boil-in-a-plastic bag foods, as well as sous vide foods--foods that are vacuum packed.

  • When you can, replace plastic cups and other eating utensils that come into contact with hot fatty foods with glass or metal. For example, instead of buying a plastic thermos, consider a metal one.

  • As much as possible, avoid food, water, and other beverages sold in plastic containers and bottles. For example, try to buy water from distributors who can deliver large glass jugs in convenient dispensers.

  • Package components can migrate into wet food, especially if the food contains alcohol, acid, or fat.

  • Use substitutes for bleached paper products that can come in contact with food, such as gold coffee filters and glass bottles.

  • Avoid packaging with antioxidant preservatives such as BHT, an additive with a questionable safety record.

  • Avoid buying imported food in cans sealed by soldering the soldering may contain lead. Lead-soldered cans are bumpy feeling under the seam, as opposed to seamless or welded cans.

  • Many cans have plastic coatings that line the inside of the can out of concern that the metal might contaminate the food. Eighty-five percent of the cans sold in the United States have such linings, and the plastic coating leaches substances into the food, which can disrupt the hormonal system. When you buy the cans there is no way to tell which cans are lined with plastic and which aren't.

Planet Tea

My wife is a tea aficionado, and through her love of tea, I've grown to understand and love the stuff myself. Although my earlier efforts were to drown it in sugar and cream, now I understand what a good cup of Jasmine with just a little bit of sugar is all about. Now I have many favorite teas, and I'd like to share my love of it with you by sharing this site.

Here you will be able to browse the following sections: Resources, What is Tea, Tea's Origin, World of Tea, Preparation, Health Benefits, Article Archives, and Links.

What is Tea? Well if you check out the "What is Tea" section, they can answer that question promptly. There you will learn all about tea from its technical definition to its simple definition. From the four kinds: Black, Green, White, and Oolong.

World of Tea - This section gives you a map where you can explore the different kinds of tea from different places all over the world. If you click on the location you can see in detail what kind of tea that location produces.

Preparation - Do you know how to make a proper cup of tea? Well it's not heating water in the microwave and stuffing a tea bag in, that's for sure. Learn all about how one makes a cup of tea, and how long you should let it steep.

Health Benefits - well we all sorta know that drinking tea has health benefits, but what exactly does it do for our bodies? Find out in this section.

I also want to recommend the "Article Archive" where you will find some great articles on tea. They were very interesting and diverse.

Hey anyone want a cuppa tea?

Click this link to visit the Planet Tea website:


When you buy your herbal tea, you will be tempted to store it in the refrigerator like coffee.

Tea should not be stored in a humid environment.

If you store it in a tightly sealed airtight container in your pantry, it will remain fresher without absorbing scents and flavors from other foods around it.

Tea should be used no more than one year from the purchase date.

Net State, The History of States and More

Welcome to Net State. I know it looks like just another states and capitals site, but there's more!

If you just use your mouse to rollover the states, that's all you will get, the state and it's capital. But, if you are adventurous and click on the state THEN you get to the cool stuff on this site.

Out of curiosity, I chose Ohio. Here's an example of the introduction I received:

"Welcome to Ohio, birthplace of seven U.S. presidents, birthplace of the first professional baseball team, and birthplace of that all-American favorite, the hot dog!"

"Ohio grew into a highly industrialized state in large part due to its geography. (Location, location, location...) With ports along Lake Erie, major rivers, and rolling plains, Ohio was perfectly situated to grow as America grew, and to provide what America (and the world) needed. Ohio's industrial might has encompassed steel, automobiles, rubber products, chemicals, machine tools, and building materials. The state is also the eastern end of the corn and meat belts, with agriculture contributing to Ohio's economic strength."

Boy that makes Ohio sound really interesting. On the side menu you have access to more great information like Almanacs, Symbols, Geography, Maps, People, Forum, News, Quiz, and Schools just to name a few. Not all of the site will be speech friendly, but there is a lot of text information for browsing.

So check out your state, and then every other state that catches your eye-I sure did my share of trotting around America on this site. I started in Ohio and spent at least an hour checking out other states!

Click this link to visit the Net State home page:

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The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

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