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.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Dumb American Laws

In the state of New York, forget about walking around with an ice cream cone in your pocket - on Sundays.

In the city of Miami Beach, termite farms are not allowed.

In Chicago, no matter how much you want to do so, if you find yourself sitting on the neck of a giraffe, resist the urge to fish.

These and other strange results of the USA legal system can be found on the site Dumb Laws. This site is dedicated to finding the "literally hundreds of dumb, stupid, and ridiculous laws still on the books". Laws can be browsed by state, and you can also view the newest additions and view random laws. Note that many of these laws are NOT for the kiddies. Parental guidance is suggested.

Click this link to check out some Dumb Laws: http://www.dumblaws.com.

The Resume: Professional Experience

By Rachel Whitmire

Your Professional Experience is the "meat" of your resume. This is where your potential employer is going to put most of his or her focus, so it is important that you do a good job in this section.

First, a few things to remember when writing out your employment history:

  • Include the name of each business where you worked
  • Include the city and state where it is located
  • Don't include the address or phone number for the business (you only provide these on an application, not on a resume)
  • Be sure to include the dates that you worked there - at least the month and year when you started and ended the job.
  • Remember to put your employment in reverse order - that means that your most recent job goes first, then the one before that, then the one before that.

These are the basic things to keep in mind, but also pay attention to how you list your responsibilities at each job. The best way to write these is with a bulleted list. Put at least three and no more than five short "phrases" that describe what you did at the job. Some of you may be used to putting your responsibilities in paragraph form under each job. The reason I don't recommend this is because most interviewers are strapped for time and they usually don't even read those paragraphs. However, they WILL look at a bulleted list.

When you are describing what you did at each job, remember to talk about the most important things that you did; perhaps you managed a crew in the evenings or you were responsible for counting down the cash registers. These are great things to mention because they show that you were given additional tasks and that your previous employers relied on you.

If you run out of things to say before you have three to five points, then focus on other things that you did. Here are some examples:

  • Exhibited excellent attendance
  • Assisted in developing positive team moral
  • Performed job above and beyond employer's expectations
  • Provided excellent customer service

The skills that I have included above could fit into almost any job. Think about what you did that contributed to a more positive and efficient work environment. Those are things that are worth mentioning.

Overall, make sure that each job has skills listed. This shows what you actually did at the job and it will help a prospective employer envision what you are capable of doing and what responsibilities he or she could give you at their company.

Article Source: http://employment.families.com/blog/resume-professional-experience

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Resume: Summary of Qualifications

By Rachel Whitmire

This part of the resume comes after your objective. The Summary of Qualifications is something that many people leave off their resume, but I highly recommend that it be included. This is where you have a chance to brag about skills and qualifications that might not make it into your resume otherwise.

This section of your resume should be in a bulleted list. Include at least four items, but don't put in more than six. If the list is too long, then your prospective employer may not read it.

Keep in mind that these need to be your best qualities and they should be things that fit with the job you are interested in. For example, if you are a wonderful welder, but you are applying to be a medical office assistant, then your skills at welding aren't exactly relevant.

Take some time to come up with your qualifications and make sure that they represent you well and that they put you in the best light.

Here are some examples that others have put in their summary:

  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Five years experience as a medical transcriptionist
  • Motivated and reliable employee
  • Strong sales background
  • Experience in Microsoft Word and Windows XP
  • Type 30 words per minute
  • Experience in data entry and ten-key
  • Ability to lead and motivate team members
  • Dependable and prompt
  • Self starter
  • Maintains an excellent working relationship with coworkers and supervisors
  • Skilled in taking and filling orders
  • Three years in sales and marketing
  • Accepted inbound calls
  • Met the needs of customers
  • Resolved customer complaints
  • Maintained positive working relationship with customers

The important thing to remember when creating your Summary of Qualifications is to be positive about yourself. Don't go into this thinking "I can't do anything" or "I don't have any relevant skills". That just isn't true. Everyone has skills and character qualities that are valued by employers. Take the time to discover yours and then put them in your resume for the world to see!

Article Source:
http://employment.families.com/blog/resume-summary-of-qualifications

Names Of Spring Flowers

By Marcus Peterson

Spring indicates a season of new beginnings and delights after a long winter. It is an ideal time for weddings and nature trips, as numerous flowers are found everywhere throughout the season. For students and researchers, spring is the best time to study the exciting names and varieties of spring flowers.

The names of spring flowers are as appealing and intoxicating as the fragrance of some of them. The flowers are found in varied colors, sizes, and shapes. Spring flowers make beautiful decorations, striking centerpieces, and enhance the romantic feeling of weddings. Spring flowers add color to the landscape. Daffodils, Oxeye Daisies, Dianthuses and Thymes list among the most popular names of spring flowers.

Daffodils are wonderful flowers that herald the beginning of spring. Daffodils, in their yellow glory, complement other flower combinations and are well suited for decorations.

Oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) and Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are drought resistant, dependable, beautiful, and simple flowers that bloom in spring.

Other names of spring flowers that stand out prominently are Dianthuses, which come in a wide range of pretty colors and Pink Evening Primroses, with the scientific name Oenothera speciosa. Pink Evening Primroses usually bloom in early spring and look attractive in lawns. Rose mallows (Lavatera trimestris) have large petals resembling dinner plates. Coral honeysuckles grow tall and have tubular flowers.

Thymes spread quickly and have dainty evergreen leaves, which exude fragrance as one walks among the weeds. Most of the varieties are only a few inches tall. Columbine are perennials that live for a short period and produce a large number of seeds. Candytufts (Iberis umbellataare) are small perennials with numerous attractive flowers.

Other popular names of spring flowers are azaleas, irises, shamrocks, hyacinths, snowflakes, violets, and cornflowers.

e-springflowers.com provides detailed information on Spring Flowers, Spring Wedding Flowers, Names Of Spring Flowers, Spring Wild Flowers and more..

Article Source:
http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Marcus_Peterson

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Resume: Objectives

By Rachel Whitmire

The objective is listed as optional in a lot of resume manuals, but I disagree. The point of your resume objective is to explain what kind of position you are seeking. Especially if you are sending your resume to a variety of employers, it is important that it be obvious why you have sent the resume to that particular company. What better way to do that then to write your purpose directly on the resume?

Some people are a little scared of writing an objective, but it isn't very difficult. Basically, you want to say what kind of job you are hoping to find. The main thing to remember is not to use "I" at the beginning of your objective. Here are some examples that you can modify to fit your particular skills and interests:

  • Seeking a position as a customer service representative.
  • To find a position as an automobile repair technician.
  • Seeking a position where I can use my skills in customer service and sales to better the company and improve myself.
  • Seeking a position in a challenging and progressive environment.
  • To use my skills as a medical assistant in an active and growing office environment.

The important thing to remember when you are creating these statements is to be positive. Talk about what you can do for the company and bring up skills that can benefit the company.

Once you are more confident with the idea of an objective, then you can expand to talk about more skills or your goals for your particular field. Here are some examples of this longer, expanded type of objective:

  • To obtain a position where I can use my skills and experience in customer service and sales to increase revenue and customer satisfaction.

  • To achieve a position where I can utilize my strong background in social service, as well as my experience and training in education, to contribute to the mental, social and physical development of students with special needs.

  • To achieve a position in a social services organization where I can utilize my interpersonal and organizational skills in order to reach individuals with services that will improve their day to day lives and help them to realize their goals of independence and a better quality of life.


Article Source:
http://employment.families.com/blog/the-resume-objective

Children ID Kits

By Miriam Caldwell |

Once you have children you automatically begin to worry about their safety. There is the constant worry about what would happen if they become hurt and lost. You teach them about what to do when approached by strangers. Basically you watch over them and try to do everything you can to keep them safe. Do you have an I.D. kit prepared for your children? If the worse were to happen would you be prepared for that emergency?

I suggest that you put together a simple identification kit for each of your children. Your kit should include a recent photo of your child. Take the time to write down the identifying features of your child. This should include your child's name, age, height, weight, hair and eye color. This will save you time so that you can focus more on finding your child. You should also have your child fingerprinted. You may want to contact your local police department to see if they offer this as a service to the community. I know that most police departments will fingerprint adults (for things such as job applications or background checks) for a small fee. I am sure they would do the same thing for your child.

You may want to purchase a kit that is already put together. Once you receive the kit you will simply need to fill in all the information, and you'll be set. The McGruff kit at http://www.mcgruff-safe-kids.com offers a workbook and other educational materials with the kit. You can find other kits at fingerprintamerica.com and at @idkits4kids.com.

Once you have completed the kit, you will need to make sure that you keep it updated. Every year you should update the information and the picture. Hopefully you will never have the need to use your child's identification kit, but it is better to be prepared than to be left scrambling during an emergency.

Article Source:
http://preparedness.families.com/blog/children-id-kits

Tips for Cutting Carrots

Cutting carrots is actually quite easy if you do it right.

  1. Wash your carrot well and trim off any green tops. If you have enough vision, watch for dark spots and trim them off as well.

  2. To make the carrot more manageable, cut the carrot into several sections. The number of sections will depend on the size of your carrot. I like working with about 3 inch sections.

  3. Take each section and cut it in half so that you have a flat section to lay on your cutting board.

  4. Make several 2 or 3 lengthwise cuts to each of your carrot pieces.

  5. Now, cut across the pieces that you cut lengthwise.

You now have a diced carrot that was quick and easy.

Quick Tip To Spread Your Cake Frosting Easier

You just created a beautiful, moist cake. The cake has cooled and you are ready to top it with frosting.

Problem: As you spread the frosting, it sticks to the cake, pulling up the beautifully golden brown top. Now your cake is topped with clumps.

Solution: Use ice water to make spreading your frosting easier.

Dip your knife or spatula into ice water before spreading. Sounds crazy but it works.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Guide to Print Clarity Standards from CNIB

Whether you're designing a brochure or producing an instructional manual for a new product, there are some basic standards to follow to help ensure your message is easily understood.

Clear Print, a document from CNIB, identifies 10 variables that affect print clarity, including contrast (black and white is always best), paper finish (many readers are highly sensitive to glare), and size of type (the bigger the better). Other recommendations cover type colour, type heaviness, letter spacing, margins and columns, and design and simplicity.

Click this link to read the Clear Print Guide: http://www.cnib.ca/accessibility/clearprint/CNIB%20Clear%20Print%20Guide.pdf.

CNIB is a nationwide, community-based, registered charity committed to public education, research and the vision health of all Canadians. CNIB provides the services and support necessary to enjoy a good quality of life while living with vision loss.

Click this link to visit the CNIB website: http://www.cnib.ca/eng/index.htm.

Helen Keller and Deafblind Awareness Week in the UK

Deafblind UK, a national charity, working for deafblind people and run by deafblind people, coordinates deafblind awareness week, an annual health and social care campaign that raises awareness of this little-known disability.

Services provided by Deafblind UK include training in communication and rehabilitation skills, a free 24-hour Helpline, a regional network of staff and volunteers, a range of publications in different reading formats and specially adapted technical equipment to assist with daily living.

This special week complements June 27, Helen Keller's birthday. Deaf and blind from infancy, Helen Keller played a leading role in most of the significant political, social, and cultural movements of the 20th century. Throughout her lifetime (1880-1968) she worked unceasingly to improve the lives of people who were blind and deaf.

To learn more about the UK's deafblind awareness week, or Deafblind UK itself, telephone 01733 358100, email info@deafblind.org.uk or click this link to visit http://www.deafblind.org.uk.

To learn more about Helen Keller:

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan (1930 Newsreel Footage)

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Bits and Bytes of Computer Memory


What is a Bit?

A bit is the smallest amount of memory a computer can hold. A bit can literally hold only one of two values: 0 or 1.

Think of this as a bit either being on or off, light or dark, true or false.

While a bit in itself can hold very little data, bits are strung together in larger chunks that can hold more useful information. For example, eight bits make up a byte, which can hold a value from 0-255.

What is a Byte?

In computer memory terms, a byte is a collection of eight bits. Unlike a bit that can hold the value of zero or one, a byte of memory can hold a value from 0-255.

Think of the below number as eight individual bits making up a byte, all turned off. The value is 0.

00000000

If we turn on the right-most bit in the byte, the 0th bit (computer scientists love to count starting from the number 0), the value is now one.

00000001

What if we want to add 1 to the value? Remember that a bit can only hold values of 0 or 1. So how is the number 2 represented? We turn on the bit to the left, the 1st bit, like so:

00000010

If the first bit is a 1 and the 0th bit is 0, the total value of all bits is 2. Now what if we want to add 1 to create a byte value of 3? Turn that 1st bit on again.

00000011

What happens if we want to create a value of 4? Remember how the 1st bit represented the number 2? The 2nd bit represents the number 4. Turn it on and turn the other two bits off.

00000100

And so forth. Here is a table:

Bit 7 - Value of 128
Bit 6 - Value of 64
Bit 5 - Value of 32
Bit 4 - Value of 16
Bit 3 - Value of 8
Bit 2 - Value of 4
Bit 1 - Value of 2
Bit 0 - Value of 1

If you know what exponentiation means, think of each bit taking on the value of two to the power of the bit number. 2 to the power of 0 is 1, 2 to the power of 1 is 2, etc.

So to get a byte value of 255, let's turn all of the bits on.

11111111

Several bytes can be strung together to form kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, and terabytes.

What is a Kilobyte? Megabyte? Gigabyte? Terabyte?

Computers and storage mechanisms (CD-ROMs, hard drives, USB flash drives, DVD-ROMs, etc.) need to hold much larger values than what a byte can hold (0-255). Thus, the terms kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, and terabyte were created to represent such large amounts of information.

A kilobyte is 1,024 bytes; however many people think of it as 1,000 bytes.

A megabyte is 1,024 kilobytes; however many people think of it as 1,000 kilobytes.

A gigabyte is 1,024 megabytes; however many people think of it as 1,000 megabytes.

A terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes; however many people think of it as 1,000 gigabytes.

Why the confusion? There are two numbering systems in play. Strictly in "computerese", a base 2 system is in play, so that one kilobyte is 2 to the power of 10 bytes, or 1024 kilobytes. However, many hardware manufacturers, including hard drive manufacturers think of a kilobyte as only 1,000 bytes, or 10 to the power of 3 bytes.

This is the same with megabytes, gigabytes, and terabytes, and that is why when you buy a hard drive with, for example, 400 gigabytes, you may not be getting exactly the amount of room that you think!

How To Remove Tarnish From Silver with Science

Tarnish occurs when surface molecules of the silver react with sulphur from the air or food to form a compound called silver sulphide. With repeated polishing over many years there is a danger of wearing completely through the plating and exposing the base metal. The only solution then is to have the item re-plated.

A better idea is to remove the tarnish by converting the silver sulphide back into silver. This is quite easy to do and doesn't require any sophisticated equipment. You will need a bowl large enough for the silver item to be completely submerged, some hot water, some aluminum foil and some baking soda.

  1. Line the bottom of the bowl with aluminum foil.
  2. Place the silver item into the bowl, making sure it is in contact with the foil.
  3. Boil enough water to immerse the item and pour it into the bowl.
  4. Sprinkle the baking soda into the water, using about 1 tablespoon for each pint of water.

It will foam up and could spill over the top of the bowl, so best do this in the sink.

You should see the tarnish begin to disappear. For lightly tarnished items, it should all be gone in a few minutes. For heavily tarnished items, you may need to re-heat the water and repeat the treatment.

So how does it work?

What you are seeing is an electrochemical reaction. In the hot water and baking soda solution, a small electric current is generated between the aluminum and silver. The electric current causes a chemical reaction between the aluminum and the sulphur. Aluminum has a greater affinity with sulphur than silver. The sulphur in the tarnish is attracted into the solution and towards the aluminum, leaving the silver behind, where it belongs. The reaction happens faster when the solution is hot. The compound formed when aluminum and sulphur react is called aluminum sulphide and that's what you'll find floating in the bottom of the bowl or stuck to the foil when you are finished.

Now you don't have to see your silver to polish it back to its original shine! Isn't science great?

Friday, June 23, 2006

How to Write a Letter

Writing a letter may seem like an ancient ritual that is only practiced by those of earlier generations, but there are many rewards to sitting down and expressing yourself on paper. Whether writing a quick note to a friend to say hello or composing a lengthy update to a relative, writing a letter shows effort, respect and care for others. It is a cheap, effective way to communicate with a personal touch.

  1. Find a comfortable place to set up. A desk or table is always perfect for letter writing but may not create the mood necessary to compose your letter. Be adventurous, go to the park with a blanket and stretch out. Just be sure to bring something to lean on while you write.

  2. Once comfortable, begin writing. Start with a proper opening, such as "Dear...", at the top left of the page. Include the date on the same line at the right.

  3. Write an opening paragraph. Tailor your opening to the recipient. For example, if the letter is casual, you can begin with, "What's up?" or "How's it going". Otherwise, a simple "How are you?" is fine. Also, answer this question for yourself so your reader knows why you are writing. For instance, "I'm doing fine." or "I'm writing to you because..."

  4. In the following paragraphs, include all of the information you would like and be sure to write clearly so the reader will understand you.

  5. For the closing paragraph, make a point to write the type of response you are seeking. If you would like a letter in return you can write, "Please write when you have a chance" or, if you prefer a phone call/email, write "Call me soon." or "Email me some time".

  6. Once the body of your letter is complete, include a closing such as "Love always" or "Sincerely". Again, choose your closing based on the recipient.

  7. Address your envelope. Your address should be written on the front of the envelope in the upper left hand corner or on the back. The recipient's address must be on the front of the envelope, right in the middle.

  8. Put your letter in the envelope, seal it, stamp it (add stickers to the back if you would like to add some decoration), and send it off. Congratulations, you have just written a letter and have shown the people in your life how much you care about them!

Remember who you are writing to. If it is a formal letter, such as an official complaint, use formal and polite language. If you are just writing to a friend, feel free to be informal or use abbreviations and slang.

Mailing the Letter

Now that you've written your letter, how about mailing it? Do you know the correct format of what goes where on the envelope? English-Zone.com has created a lesson and quiz on Envelope Reading, click this link to learn more.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Encarta answers your questions via MSN Messenger

By Donny Parrett

So many people have told me about this feature, I just had to try it out for myself, and now that I have, I've just got to share it with you!

>You can add Encarta to your MSN Messenger contact list and ask it questions. The answers are totally fascinating but first, here's how to get this going.

  1. Open MSN Messenger and sign in.

  2. Add Encarta as a contact: encarta@conversagent.com

  3. Press enter on Encarta from your Contact List.

  4. Ask a question.

You'll get this instant message when you add the contact:

Welcome! My name is Encarta Instant Answers. I am a smart computer who can bring you the Encarta info you want right in your IM window! Here are some questions you can ask me:

* What is the size of Italy?
* Where was Nelson Mandela born?
* What is a cello?

Type your question and I'll look it up for you!

Well, I was in the festive mood, so I entered, "Who is Santa?"

Encarta Instant Answers replied with, "Santa Claus, legendary bringer of gifts at Christmas. He is generally depicted as a fat, jolly man with a white beard, dressed in a red suit trimmed..." You get the idea. You can even ask him if he is a real person, or how old he is, or anything else you want to ask.

I'm not sure if it works on AOL, but if you have MSN, add him to your contact list and anytime you have a question, just ask Encarta.

DisabilityNation Website and Podcast

Persons with disabilities, family members, friends and the general public have another resource for information, news and feature rich content about disability and the people effected by it thanks to http://www.DisabilityNation.net and the DisabilityNation Podcast.

The content of the site and Podcast are designed to be cross-disability related and meant to be both educational and encouraging to anyone with a disability. Content is geared toward multiple audiences including persons with disabilities, their family members, friends and the general public.

Too often we hear about the legal, physical or attitudinal barriers facing persons with disabilities in our society today. Unfortunately, not enough attention is focused on those with disabilities living life. The goal of DisabilityNation is to be different than normal and to give you, the listener, the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience of hearing the program.

DisabilityNation will highlight people working, participating in the sport or recreation of their choice, married couples, singles, children and adults, politicians and couch potatoes who happen to be people with disabilities. You will hear conversations about life, not necessarily about the disability.

DisabilityNation is produced in the Valley of the Sun, otherwise known as Phoenix Arizona. The show is produced by Larry Wanger. Larry moved to Phoenix in October 2004 after living for over 33 years in Michigan. As a person with a life-long disability, Larry is very familiar with some of the stereotypes and beliefs that some have about persons with disabilities. He believes that having a disability is simply part of his life and something that isn't the end of the world.

Larry has devoted his career and professional life to helping others with disabilities to increase their independence. He began his career with Disability Advocates of Kent County, the center for independent living in Grand Rapids Michigan. He worked in the areas of employment, business development, and community organizing, individual and systems advocacy, grant writing, reporting and management with the organization. Larry worked with DAKC for six years. In October of 2004 Larry moved to Phoenix and began working with The Arizona Bridge to Independent Living. He is currently the Operations Manager of ABIL's employment services unit.

The show features new episodes nearly every week and will be available via popular channels including the iTunes Music Store and Podcasts. Interested persons can directly download the Podcast from http://www.DisabilityNation.net or get the show feed from http://feeds.feedburner.com/disabilitynation.

For more information, contact:

Larry Wanger
DisabilityNation
Phone: 206-338-6225
Web: http://www.DisabilityNation.net

How to Find True North Without a Compass

Which way is north? Whether you're lost in the woods or you're trying to install a sundial in your yard, you're bound to want to find true north from time to time, and chances are when the time comes you won't have a compass. What's more, even if you do have a compass, it will point to magnetic north, which, depending on your location in the world, can vary a great deal from true north. So what's an intrepid explorer to do? Read this article to find several ways to find North.

These tips do require that you have some usable vision, but even if totally blind, they could come in handy, in case you have to tell someone else how to use them.

The Shadow-Tip Method



  1. Place a straight stick upright in the ground so that you can see its shadow. Alternately, you can use the shadow of a fixed object that is perpendicular to the ground. Nearly any object will work, but the taller the object is, the easier it will be to see the movement of its shadow, and the narrower the tip of the object is, the more accurate the reading will be. Make sure the shadow is cast on a level, brush-free spot.

  2. Mark the tip of the shadow with a small object, such as a pebble, or a distinct scratch in the ground. Try to make the mark as small as possible so as to pinpoint the shadow's tip, but make sure you can identify the mark later.

  3. Wait 10-15 minutes. The shadow will move exactly from west to east in a perfectly straight line.

  4. Mark the new position of the shadow's tip with another small object or scratch. It will likely move only a short distance.

  5. Draw a straight line in the ground between the two marks. This is an east-west line.

  6. Stand with the first mark (west) on your left, and the other (east) on your right. You are now facing true north, regardless of where you are in the world.



Alternate Shadow-Tip Method for Increased Accuracy



  1. Set up stick and mark first shadow-tip as above. For this method, take your first reading in the morning, at least an hour or so before midday.

  2. Find an object or length of string, etc., exactly the same length as the shadow.

  3. Continue taking measurements of the shadow's length every 10-20 minutes. The shadow will shrink until midday, when it is at its shortest. Then it will gradually grow longer.

  4. Measure the shadow length as the shadow grows. Use the stick or object you used to measure the length of the initial shadow. When the shadow grows to exactly the same length as the stick (and hence exactly the same length as your first measurement), mark the spot.

  5. Draw a line connecting the first and second marks as above. Once again, this is your east-west line, and if you stand with the first mark on your left and the second on your right, you will be facing true north.


Watch Method: Northern Hemisphere



  1. Find an analog watch (the kind with hour and minute hands) that is set accurately. Place it on a level surface, such as the ground, or hold it horizontal in your hand.

  2. Point the hour hand at the sun. You can use a stick to cast a shadow to aid in your alignment if you wish, but it is not necessary.

  3. Bisect (that is, find the center point of) the angle between the hour hand and the twelve o'clock mark (the number 12 on the watch). The center of the angle between the hour hand and twelve o'clock mark is the north-south line. If you don't know which way is north and which way is south, just remember that no matter where you are, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. In the northern hemisphere the sun is due south at midday. If your watch is set to daylight saving time bisect the angle between the hour hand and the one o'clock mark instead.


Watch Method: Southern Hemisphere



  1. Use an analog watch as above, and point the watch's twelve o'clock mark (the number 12) toward the sun. If your watch is set to daylight savings time, point the one o'clock mark toward the sun.

  2. Bisect the angle between the twelve o'clock mark (or one o'clock mark if using daylight saving time) and the hour hand to find the north-south line. If you're unsure which way is north, remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west no matter where you are. In the southern hemisphere, however, the sun is due north at midday.


Moon Method



  1. Observe the moon. If it is not a full moon and rises before the sun sets, the illuminated side is west. If the moon rises after midnight (standard time) the illuminated side is east. This is true everywhere on Earth.

  2. Approximate north and south based on the rough east-west line of the moon. No matter where you are, if you are standing with the west side to your left, true north will be straight ahead.

These methods may require practice to perfect, so it's a good idea to try them a couple times when you can check your readings. That way, you'll be able to rely on them if you're in a survival situation.

The shadow-tip methods are not recommended in the polar regions, which are latitudes above 60 degrees in either hemisphere. The watch method is not recommended in lower latitudes, particularly below 20 degrees in either hemisphere.

Here are a few more ways to find north, south, east and west without a compass.

  1. Look for any mossy trees around you. Most of the time, the moss will grow on the north side, where there is the least sunlight.

  2. If there are no trees, look at the sun. If you think it's the afternoon it will be setting so it will be in the west. If it is still morning then it will be rising in the east.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Descent into Madness: An Audio Adventure for the Blind

The entertainment industry is primarily geared for sighted people. TV, movies, and video games are all visually-focused, leaving blind kids out of the loop. Some blind kids play Grand Theft Auto using only sound and the rumble pad. Think about how frustrating that must be! But they are eager to play so they suffer through it. There are not many after-school activities available for kids with impaired vision, so they play games intended for sighted kids by trial and error.

Descent into Madness is a horror-themed adventure game from the team of students of the University of North Carolina who name themselves "Sounds Like Fun".

You awaken one day to find that you have been kidnapped! Starting with no idea where you are, you slowly piece together clues that you have been the test subject of a scientist trying to find a cure for his wife's maddening disease. However, the experiments have had the unfortunate consequence of driving their subjects mad as well. Now it's up to you to find a cure for yourself and escape before you experience the same fate of the 51 test subjects before you.

There are no visuals - the game plays like an elaborate spoken story. The gameplay is similar to old computer adventure games. There are three actions a player can choose: Move, Use Item and Examine. The player solves puzzles and unpieces the story through voice recordings left behind by the scientist. The only controls are the arrow keys, the space bar, and the esc key, which are all relatively easy to find for a blind user. The game contains over 300 sound files.

Click this link to visit the Sounds Like Fun website: http://www.cs.unc.edu/Research/assist/et/2005/SoundsLikeFun.html.

The Prodigy Glucose Meter

The Prodigy Meter is a talking blood glucose meter from Taiwan. Truly tiny, it measures 3-7/8 inches x 1-3/4 inches x 15/16 inch. It talks: the meter incorporates speech synthesis. The Prodigy's screen is clear and bright, and screen numbers are 5/8 inch tall. The meter uses "state-of-the-art" capillary action, touchable test strips (no "hanging drop of blood") and tests across a 20 mg/dl to 600 mg/dl range, with a tiny (0.6 µl) blood sample.

Medicare beneficiaries who have met their deductible can get the meter and supplies for free. The meter is FDA-approved. The supplier is:

Diagnostic Devices, Inc.
PO Box 227397
Miami, Florida

You should contact the retailer:

Diabetic Support Program
3381 Fairlane Farms Road
Wellington, FL 33414
Toll Free: 800-990-9826
Web: http://www.prescriptionsplus.com

Accessible Fishing

By Ron Milliman

For those who enjoy fishing, I want to share some information about a neat little gadget that I found really useful as a blind fisherman. It is a device called the Beacon that I purchased at Wal-Mart. It fits on the end of your fishing rod and jingles when you have a bite or fish hitting your line. It has two bells that are on springs and when the pole jiggles, it causes the bells to jingle. It also comes with several light sticks that would also help partially sighted fishermen.

My Son and I often fish off my dock at night, and my Son was able to fish with two or three rods at a time because he could see them wiggle when a fish was hitting his bate. Since I couldn't see to watch two or three rods at a time, I always just fished with one, the one I held in my hand. With the Beacon, I am able to fish with more than one rod at a time just like my Son. I hold one in my hand and put the handle of another one or two rods in holes along the side of my dock, drilled in the dock specifically to hold fishing rods. As soon as I heard one of my rods with the bells on it jingle, I knew I had a fish, and immediately went to that rod to set the hook and reel in the fish.

The Beacon simply clamps on the end of any rod, and is extremely easy to put on and take off.

Dr. Ronald E. Milliman, Professor of Marketing
Western Kentucky University
President: South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind

The Flower Guide for the Weekend Gardener

By Robert Mosse

Everyone needs some form of flower guide to get the most out of their gardens, especially those who may not have time to garden every day. Flower gardening is all about stimulating the senses with a display of colors. So what should we plant, and when?

The buzz in gardening seems to be about whether to plant annual or perennial flowers. Some of these flowers give us textures, shapes and heights, while others just go blooming crazy all season long. Here's a basic flower guide for these two kinds of flowers that will help you design a spectacular wash of color for your garden.

Annual Flower Guide:

Annuals do all of their growing in one season. The seeds germinate in the spring, the plants bloom and grow all season, and then they die. You will have to plant them each season, but the result is instant color. Also, if you make an error in your design about color or height, the wrong effect will only last a year.

Annuals produce an endless array of colors and sizes, and most are easy to plant and grow. They can be used for cuttings, in mass plantings, for edging, in rock gardens, in mixed beds, in containers, and in hanging baskets.

Indeed, most annuals are fabulous plants for the weekend gardener because they are so versatile and not too finicky. For all their glorious color, annuals are very inexpensive. You can start them indoors as seedlings, or buy bedding plants from your nursery or garden center. The majority of annuals bloom for most of the growing season.

Here's a list of some great annual flowers that are easy to grow, show off spectacular colors, and are worth every dig of a trowel to plant:

Begonia - Grows 6 to 12 inches tall. Flowers are white, pink, red, rose and scarlet.

Tricolor Chrysanthemum ^DDS Grows 2 to 3 feet. Flowers are white, yellow, gold, red, or maroon, with contrasting color bands on the base of the petals. (This chrysanthemum is different from the perennial chrysanthemum called the "garden mum".)

Dahlia ^DDS Grows 1 to 6 feet. Flowers are every color except blue and green.

Geranium ^DDS Grows up to 2 feet. Flowers are white, pink, scarlet, orangish-red, red, and salmon.

Impatiens ^DDS Grows to 1½ feet. Flowers are white, pink, rose, scarlet, violet, salmon, and orange.

Marigold - Grows 6 inches to 4 feet. Flowers are yellow, gold, orange white, near red, and mahogany.

Zinnia - Grows 6 to 36 inches. Flowers are all colors except blue.

Perennial Flower Guide:

Basically speaking, perennial flowers live more than one growing season, returning year after year. When perennials finish blooming, their foliage provides wonderful background texture, form, and color for your garden.

Perennial flowers may only bloom for a short spell and at certain times of the growing season. This makes it more difficult to plant a garden limited only to perennials and still achieve the desired effect of constant color. For this reason, mixing perennials with annual flowers is the key to a fabulous garden of continual color.

Let's look at some favorite perennial flowers that offer magnificent color and depth to any garden, and will grow just about anywhere:

Butterfly Weed ^DDS Grows 1½ to 3 feet. Flowers are bright orange (great for attracting butterflies!) with pretty pods covering the plant once the flowering ends. Blooms all summer.

Chrysanthemum or "Garden Mum" - Grows 1 to 4 feet. Flowers are all colors but blue. Blooms in the fall.

Daylily ^DDS Grows 1½ to 3½ feet. Flowers are all colors except blue and white. Blooms from late spring to fall.

Felicia ^DDS Grows 1 to 2 feet; Flowers are blue-petalled with yellow centers. Blooms from early summer to fall.

Hosta ^DDS Grows up to 3 feet. Flowers are white, lavender or pale violet, often with colorful foliage. Blooms from summer to early fall.

Peony ^DDS Grows 2 to 4 feet; Flowers are white, pink, maroon or red. Blooms from late spring to early summer.

Shasta Daisy - Grows 1 to 4 feet. Flowers have white petals usually with a yellow center. Blooms all summer.

With a little experience and planning, you can create a flower garden that blooms from one end to the other, from spring through fall. Bring together a few of these annual and perennial flowers for a wonderful mixed garden.

Learn as you go, make your own improvements^DEL but most of all enjoy whatever time you do have in your garden. Soon you'll be writing your own flower guide inspired by your garden creations!

Copyright 2006 Robert Mosse

Robert Mosse is a garden and lawn care specialist and author of the "Easy" Lawn and Gardening Book Series. Find out more about flower gardens ... and get Robert's free Guide for 101 Gardening Tips.

Article Source:
http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Robert_Mosse

Computer No Nos

Have you ever committed a computer no no? I'm sure we all have at one time or another, but we really should watch ourselves from here on out. To help you pinpoint a computer no no, here are a few things you should never do with your computer.

  1. You should never turn your computer off while you're in the middle of a program or if you have a bunch of windows open. You need to always close out all programs and windows before shutting down your computer. If a program freezes up on you, always try to use Ctrl + Alt + Del before you do anything else.

  2. You should never turn your computer off and then turn it back on without waiting at least 60 seconds. The system needs at least that long to calm down a little.

  3. Never remove a disk or a CD from their respective drives until the drive light has turned off or you hear no sound from the drive. It usually takes a few seconds for it to turn off, but if it's still on, don't push that release button!

  4. Don't ever use a magnet around your computer, the monitor or around a diskette. Magnets are bad news! Also, don't ever try to force a disk into the drive. If it doesn't fit, you may have it upside down or backwards.

  5. Always make sure you turn your computer off before you start connecting any new hardware. It will save you some troubles down the road.

  6. You should never have any type of food or drink around your computer. Just eat and drink somewhere else!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The RNIB Web Access Center

The Royal National Institute of the Blind's Web Access Centre is a source of information for web designers, developers, content authors and website managers. Here you will find advice on how to plan, build and test accessible websites. For additional guidance, read articles on new or contentious topics and case studies from other organisations about how they have resolved accessibility issues.

The Web Access Center blog is a more informal way of bringing people up-to-date with the latest news about web accessibility.

Click this link to visit the RNIB's Web Access Center website Click this link to visit the RNIB's Web Access Center Blog: http://www.rnib.org.uk/wacblog

Monday, June 19, 2006

Orb takes the home out of home entertainment

Orb gives you secure access to your digital media from your home computer through a simple Web interface. Stream your live TV, photos, music and videos to any Web-enabled device.

Use Orb to find your music, photos, video and Webcams. If your PC has a TV tuner, you can watch live or recorded TV.

Open a browser and log into your Orb account from any Web-enabled device and enjoy streaming your digital world. Whether you're using your mobile phone, PDA, or laptop, Orb is simple to use. After installing Orb Media on your home PC:

  1. Open Orb on your Web-enabled device (mobile phone, PDA, laptop, remote PC).
  2. Login and select your media (TV, Photo, Audio, Video, Web).
  3. Orb streams your selection from your home PC.


Click this link to learn more about Orb: http://www.orb.com.

Blind Cool Tech Podcasts

The Blind Cool Tech Podcasts at http://www.blindcooltech.com are quite interesting - podcasts for and often by the blind. From the FAQ:

What is Blind Cool Tech?

Blind Cool Tech is a podcast that brings some fun, education, and variety into your mp3 player. The show provides interviews, brings you along on sound seeing tours, and discusses life and cool technology, especially technology that blind people can use.

Their current selection of podcasts, all of which are downloadable from the site above as MP3s, include soundscapes (including a slow train, a thunderstorm, and others), the responsibilities of using a guide dog, tests of various recording equipment, coffee-making, recipes, and more. Sighted or not, a site worth checking out.

Click this link to visit The Blind Cool Tech website: http://www.blindcooltech.com.

Recharge Your USB Gadgets While Inflight

If you have lots of gadgets and gizmo's that recharge with a USB port and you fly a lot, this is THE gadget accessory for you.

Even economy class has headphone jacks, what if you could recharge your USB gizmo's through that headphone jack? This is a must have for geeks who love to travel.

Inflight Power has a slick adapter that you plug into the headphone jack on the airliner that can power and charge your USB devices. At only 12 ounces, it won't take up a lot of the already limited space you are allotted for carry on items.

The adapter works by allowing a trickle charge from the headphone jack to build up over about 3-5 minutes inside the adapter. Once done enough power is stored to power whatever is connected for about one minute, then the process starts over again.

The device sells for around $35 in a variety of configurations. If you are looking to charge a cell phone, you'll need a particular adapter. Your MP3 player will obviously use another type. The unit uses Gomadic's TipExchange, allowing you to attach different tips for different devices.

Click this link to learn more about the Inflight USB Power Unit from Inflight: http://www.inflightpower.com/products.asp.

Friday, June 16, 2006

How to Play Texas Holdem


How to Shuffle and Deal Texas Holdem

As you become a more serious poker player, you will want to know how to shuffle and deal Texas Hold 'em poker. In a home game, you probably won't do exactly like actual poker dealers at the casino or TV do, but do your best to emulate their techniques. After following these steps and tips, you will be able to effectively shuffle and deal at your home games.

  1. Shuffle before dealing the cards. The first thing a real dealer might do is put the cards in a big pile (face down) and mix them around. Now pull them back together and shuffle the cards.

  2. Use another technique where you basically pull cards from the bottom/middle of the deck and put them on top. While doing this, be mindful not to expose any cards. Then shuffle the cards normally again. This is done a number of times to ensure the deck is efficiently randomized.

  3. Cut the deck one final time and get ready to deal.

  4. After the blinds are posted, deal each player two cards face down, starting with the person to the left of the dealer button.

  5. During the betting round, move all folded cards into the muck pile. Once betting is complete, the dealer will generally move all the chips in to a pile at the center of the table.

  6. Administer the flop. Some people like to "burn" a card before they begin dealing the flop. This means that the dealer takes the top card from the deck and puts it under the pot. Then places three cards face up on the table. Another betting round commences.

  7. Next comes the turn. The dealer once again burns a card and places another card face up on the table. Another betting round commences.

  8. Finally, deal the river. The dealer burns a card again and places the fifth and final card face up on the table. After this round of betting, there is the showdown where all players will show their hands, with the winner being awarded the pot.

If you don't want to perform all of the fancy shuffling techniques, that's OK. Just be sure to give the cards a good shuffling at least 5-10 times.

Remind the players to place their bets in front of them and not in the center. This makes it easier to keep track of bets. Once a betting round finishes, the dealer can move all chips to the middle of the table.

Sometimes a "cut card" can be useful for both cutting the deck and preventing the bottom of the deck from being exposed. If you don't have a cut card, then feel free to rip the top and side of the joker card and use that as a cut card. Place it on the bottom of the deck before you deal.

For the standard 'riffle' shuffling technique known, the ideal number of shuffles is 7 to completely randomize the deck (though more wouldn't hurt). Four shuffles or less is a bad practice as the cards will not be properly mixed.

While pushing the cards around on the table may seem to be a great way to mix up the cards, its not. Remember to shuffle using other techniques as well. (To prove this to yourself, try it with a new/ordered pack. Even 52 pickup is a poor way of shuffling.)

Burning a card before the flop, river, and turn cards are revealed is an important precaution to prevent cheating. The concept of burning cards developed as many professionals playing for high stakes would casually mark the back of certain cards, giving themselves additional information about what card was on top of the deck (and hence next to be played). Similarly in games where the dealer is playing, it is also good practice to have someone other than the dealer shuffle the cards, and someone else to cut the cards. This effectively eliminates many methods of trick shuffling/trick cutting/bottom dealing. All cards should stay on the table at all times.

How to Play Texas Hold'em



  1. If you are betting for real money (check with local laws), assign the job of bank to someone trusted. The bank then exchanges poker chips for cash to each player. If you are not playing for money, then divvy out an equal number of chips to each player.

  2. Decide who is going to deal first. The dealer shuffles the cards. Also decide the minimum and maximum bets allowed.

  3. Before the cards are dealt, you can do one of two things. Have each player put in an ante, which is the minimum bet for the table, or, use the small blind, big blind method. With the latter method, the player to the left of the dealer puts in half as much as the minimum betting amount for the table and the player to the left of that player puts in the minimum betting amount. These players are the small blind and big blind, respectively. When the first round is played and its time for all players to bet, the big blind and small blind players subtract the money they've already put in. So if the big blind put in $5 before the cards were dealt, when the first round of betting comes along he/she can claim that $5 as his bet. If the player wanted to bet $10, then he/she would only have to throw in $5, since he/she already put in $5 before the dealing.

  4. The dealer now deals out two cards to each player, face side down. They are dealt one at a time, that is, the player gets one card, the next player one card, etc.. then a second card for everyone after each player has received their first card. Standard poker dealing.

  5. Players are allowed to look at their own cards, and you should. Once the first two cards are dealt, there is a round of betting.

  6. Each player can bet, check, or fold. Betting begins with the person left of the big blind and continues around the table past the dealer to the big blind who has the "option" to increase (raise) the bet or check. That is, they can bet money on their hand or decide to bet nothing but stay in the game, or quit the round all together.

  7. Now the dealer takes the first card off the top of the deck, and discards it. This serves the same purpose as cutting the deck after shuffling; it prevents cheating.

  8. The dealer will now place the next three cards off the top of the deck in front of him/her, face up. This is called the flop.

  9. There is another round of betting. Players are betting on the total of the two cards they have face down in front of them, and the three cards face up in front of the dealer. Let's say the dealer has A - J - 3. Player 1 has A - 4, Player 2 has J - 3 and Player 3 has 4 - 10. This would mean that Player 1 now has: A - A - 4 - J - 3, Player 2 has J - J - A - 3 - 3, and Player 3 has 4 -10 - A - J - 3. As you can see, each player is using their own two cards, and the three cards in front of the dealer, to build their hands.

  10. After the round of betting, the dealer discards the card on the top of the deck, to prevent cheating, and then lays 1 more card face up next to the three already in front of him. This is called the turn or 4th street.

  11. Just like before, players are using their own 2 cards, plus the cards in front of the dealer to build their hands. BUT, you can only build hands with 5 cards. There are now 6 cards altogether; the two in front of the player, and the 4 in front of the dealer. You can only pick 5 to build your hand.

  12. There is a round of betting.

  13. Now the dealer discards the top card, and lays 1 more card face up in front of him. This is the last card the dealer will put out. This is known as the river or 5th street. These 5 cards are referred to as The Board.

  14. Players build their hands, in their heads, using only 5 of the cards on the table, and there is another round of betting.

  15. It's now time for all remaining players to show their hands by turning over their two cards. Players take turns turning their cards over counter clockwise, starting from the player to the left of the dealer.

  16. Since there are 7 cards to each player, but each player can only use 5 of them, each player needs to announce their hand.

  17. The player with the highest hand wins the pot, which is the chips that were bet during each round of the game.


Winning Hands

These are listed from lowest hand to highest hand.

  • High Card - The highest card with 2 being the lowest and Ace being the highest.
  • Two of a Kind: 3 - J - J - 2 - 5 is a pair of J's.
  • Two Pairs: 4 - 4 - 9 - 9 - A is two pairs of 4's and 9's.
  • Three of a Kind: 6 - 6 - 6 - 3 - J is three 6's.
  • Straight: 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 is a straight.
  • Flush: 5 - 7 - 9 - J - Q of the same suit is a flush.
  • Full House: 7 - 7 - 7 - Q - Q is a full house.
  • Four of a Kind: J - J - J - J - 5 is four of a kind.
  • Straight Flush: 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 Same as a straight, but all cards are of the same suit. This is a straight flush.
  • Royal Flush: Same as a straight flush, but the cards are the ace, king, queen, jack and ten.

After the dealer lays down the first three cards, if you have nothing, fold.

There can only be 4 raises during each round of betting. If each player puts in $5, you can raise the bet by putting in more money.

Play with specific chips that are unique. This prevents a player from bringing in their own chips from home.

Playing Accessible Texas Hold'em Online

All inPlay is a unique online community where blind and sighted people from around the world gather to play and interact as equals. At the heart of this community are games that provide a fun, friendly setting where people can celebrate old friendships and create new ones from across the globe. Not only are All inPlay's inclusive community and games bringing people together from around the world, but now All inPlay is being incorporated into job training, computer literacy, and youth programs for the blind and visually impaired. A 15-day free trial of All inPlay software is available at: http://www.allinplay.com.

With slick graphics and a rich, dynamic soundscape, All inPlay brings the excitement of Texas Hold'em from the dining room table to the global neighborhood.

Thanks to support for all major screen-readers and magnifiers, including Jaws, Window-eyes, ZoomText and Dolphin Supernova, All inPlay Texas Hold'em is equally playable by the blind and visually impaired. As with all of All inPlay's software, the game is easy to learn and uses a small number of keystrokes, so you can be playing like a pro in no time. The game allows up to eight players to come together through the power of the Internet to enjoy a friendly game or a high-stakes battle with fake chips. A vibrant soundscape draws players into the game as each turn of the cards brings new possibilities. In-game text chat lets players banter with their friends as if they were in the same room.

Click this link to visit All inPlay: http://www.allinplay.com.

Safely Picking Up Broken Glass

You were putting away the dishes, and a glass fell and broke. It is always so hard to get all the little shards picked up!

First sweep the area well and dump the pieces into a garbage bag that has been doubled. I usually use the plastic bags that you get from shopping.

Once you have all the large pieces taken care of, time to get the little shards. For these grab a piece of white bread. Use the bread in a sweeping motion across the floor.

The softness of the bread will collect the little shards of glass. If you have a few pieces that are being stubborn, gently press the bread over the pieces until they are adhered to the bread.

Toss into the bag with the rest of the glass, tie securely and dispose of appropriately.

How to Play Scrabble Scramble

You and the kids are bored. You play the same old games every day. This time, take an old game and make it new.

Get out your box of scrabble, and take out the letters only and set aside the board.

Place all of the letters face down on the table. Allow plenty of room for each player as they will be making their own grid.

Let each player take 5 tiles. When you say GO! Each player will try to make a word.

The first player to make a word yells GO!

Each player now draws a letter from the box. The one that already has a word built can build on the word or making a grid like on the scrabble board, make a new word. The ones that don't already have a word, keep working on their first word.

When someone makes a word, they yell GO! again, and everyone takes a new letter.

This continues until a player uses up all the letters in their hand.

Deluxe Braille Scrabble

Great fun for everyone! This deluxe version comes equipped with everything you need, tiles, game board and easy to follow instructions. Braille edition features brailled tiles, tactile board, braille instructions and audio tape. High-quality gameboard is impact-resistant and spins around for easy use!

Click this link to purchase Deluxe Braille Scrabble from MaxiAids.com.

Update Those Pages

Do you visit the same Web sites often? Or maybe there's a site that you visited a long time ago and you'd like to go back to it. Either way, you're going to want to see the most updated version of that site, right? Well, of course, who wouldn't?! As long as you have that particular site stored in your system, you can use this next tip.

To ensure you always get the most recently updated site, you just have to change a quick setting in Internet Explorer. You'll want to go to Tools by either clicking on it with your mouse, or by hitting ALT+T. Arrow down or click on Internet Options. Once in there, look for the Temporary Internet Files section and click on the Settings button. A new box will appear and at the top, there is a section that says "Check for newer versions of stored pages:." This is where you can choose which option is best for you. In this case, the most practical would be "Every visit to the page." With this option checked, IE will check for the newest version of the site every time you visit.

You can choose to have Internet Explorer automatically run your option or you can choose to not do it at all. Choose which one you prefer and click OK twice.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Blind Jokes Archive

My father always said, "If you can't laugh at yourself, don't laugh at anyone else." I believe in this statement, and as a blind person, I've done plenty of things to laugh about. I've heard some really good jokes about blind people through the years, and now they're all in one place for everyone to enjoy.

The Blind Jokes Archive aims to become the one-stop place for all blind-related humor. Not for the easily offended, but definitely for the easily amused. This site is an equal opportunity offender.

If you have a good sense of humor, click this link to visit The Blind Jokes Archive.

Get into The Zone BBS

The Zone BBS is a place for the blind and visually impaired to meet new people, play games, and get away from the more stressful parts of life. The site includes games such as Anagram Mania, Hangman, and Keno, message boards, Graffiti, and Quicknotes to talk to other users, private mail between members, user profiles, and much more.

This site is a community, driven by its members, and always open to new ideas. Click this link to visit the Zone BBS: http://www.zonebbs.com.

Please note that they do not censor their members thoughts, and believe in freedom of speech. There are options to ignore mass instant messages if you wish to utilize them, and we encourage you to make your own decisions as to what you view as acceptable content.

The Empowerment Zone

Jamal Mazrui has created a great resource for people who are blind or visually impaired. The site is called the Empowerment Zone, the largest public, plain text, organized collection of documents on the following subjects:

  • accessible education
  • accessible housing
  • accessible travel
  • civil rights
  • employment
  • financial advice
  • funding assistive technology
  • gender, relationships, and sexuality
  • health care
  • HTML, CGI, and Perl
  • independent living
  • Java
  • legal help
  • political action
  • popular applications, including Eudora, Internet Explorer, Lynx, Netscape, Notes, Pine, Word, and WordPerfect
  • rehabilitation
  • self development
  • Social Security
  • telecommunications
  • Windows

The motto of Empowerment Zone is "helping individuals and communities achieve self actualization and full citizenship." Its resources may be viewed online or downloaded with any web browser, text or graphical. Suggestions are welcome for additions to this site or pointers to related collections.

Click this link to visit the Empowerment Zone: http://www.empowermentzone.com.

All-Braille Transcription

All-Braille is a great resource for braille transcription. They can produce braille Business Cards and many unique products. Clients include corporations such as CaptionMAX and Lockheed Martin, Hewlett Packard to the Canadian and New Zealand Missions to the UN to internationally acclaimed performer Jose Feliciano. Whether 10 cards to 10,000 cards All-Braille can handle them all.

Their braille and Large Print Menus are found in such venues as - The Statue of Liberty, NYC, The Renaissance Hotel in Houston, TX, The Renaissance Mayflower in Washington DC, CheeBurger CheeBurger in Boca Raton, FL, The Peabody, Memphis, TN, Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Fl, The Hyatt Regency in Orlando, FL, the Azteca Mexican Restaurant chain based in Seattle, WA and scores more.

How would you like to have an accessible cable and satellite TV guide? You'll finally know the position of your favorite stations. All-Braille is currently under contract with Comcast Cable in many Marketing areas for Channel Line-Up (CLU) guides and have transcribed XM and Sirius Satellite Radio guides as well.

Their customized Braille Sports Schedules allow you to tell them how you want the schedules laid out for easiest reading- they cover all sports Local, Regional and Professional.

They publish the "KEEPING IN TOUCH" CONTACT DIRECTORY their most famous product. A listing of voicemail phone numbers, email addresses and shows on many voicemail systems frequented by the blind. Some are - Philmore Voicemail, Lazer box, Yahoo by Phone, and others.

They also sell CUSTOM NOVELTIES -key rings, luggage tags, pet IDS and more.

Click this link to visit All-Braille: http://allbraille.com.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Patently Silly

Welcome to Patently Silly, a quirky site devoted to patents that are strange, unusual or just down right silly. I can tell you that they are, at the very least, odd. On the homepage, you will find the major sections of the site.

In the Archive section, you can see all of the previous patents archived by category. They are just waiting for you to explore them! Some of the categories are: Food and Drink, Clothes, Accessories, Arts, Transportation and Animals. I can promise you that you'll find tons of strange patents.

I found the patents in the Transportation section to be especially funny. I mean, haven't you always wanted arm shades? Or an SUV tent? I also thought the Recreation section was funny. You know you need a surf board with a viewing window, or maybe even a pig shaped swimming pool.

In the Rant section, you'll find one featured patent. If you click the links in the paragraph, you can see different photos of the mentioned patented items.

About Us - Here you can learn all about the two gents who run this site and what their backgrounds are.

There is also a Contact section where you may make contact with the people who run this site.

All in all, I thought this site was as its title claims: "Patently Silly!"

Click this link to visit the Patently Silly website: http://www.patentlysilly.com.

"The FreePatentsOnline search engine is one of the most powerful, fastest and easiest patent search engines on the web. Our search allows advanced search techniques such as word stemming, proximity searching relevancy ranking and search term weighing to help you find exactly what you are looking for. Latent semantic searching is also available, and our account features let you organize, annotate and share documents, along with other helpful work-flow features." Click this link to visit http://www.freepatentsonline.com.

Annuals Bring Variety to Your Garden

Annuals are beautiful flowers that grace almost every garden. Depending on your climate, they will last only a season and will die off in the winter. Sometimes called bedding plants they are relatively inexpensive and loved for their bright flowers which bloom all summer.

Annuals start and end their life cycle in one growing season. Typically, you wou ld purchase them in spring and plant them after the threat of frost has passed (although some hardy varieties may survive a frost). Some popular annuals include pansies, impatiens, petunias, marigolds and begonias.

You can buy annuals for your garden and most garden centers and even the big home centers like Lowes and Home Depot. Annuals are sold in a variety of packages, some come in large pots while others come in individual packages like an ice cube tray with about 6 plants per pack. You can buy as many packs as you need to fill in your area, but be sure to read the instructions on the tag as to how far apart to plant so you know how many to get.

Planting them depends on the particular variety that you have but most annuals like a sunny spot with well drained soil. Annuals need warm soil and stable temperatures so you want to wait until it is well into spring and you know the ground has warmed up.

Place the plants in different spots and configurations around the yard while still in their containers. Once you have found the perfect arrangement, you're ready to plant!

It's a good idea to moisten the soil before you start planting. Dig the holes deep enough so that the base of the plant stem will be even with the top of the dirt (all the roots will be under the ground just like when it was in the pot). Carefully remove the annual from it's original container, shake some of the dirt loose from the roots and place in the hole. Then put the dirt back around the plant, pat gently and water thoroughly. You might want to add some organic mulch and liquid fertilizer.

As your annuals begin growing and producing flowers you'll want to be sure to water them every day - not too much though, just enough to soak the ground. Get a good fertilizer specifically for flowers and use it as directed. Inspect your flowers for pests or disease and remove dead flowers, leaves and branches regularly. This will prevent fungi from growing which can hurt your plants. Look for signs of wilting and yellowed leaves and adjust your care accordingly.

Planting annuals in your garden can give you a great variety of plants and colors year after year. It will allow you to experiment with different plants until you find the combination perfect for your garden.

Why You Need a Gutter

By Dennis Frank

If you're like most people, you don't give your home's gutter system much thought. And that's unfortunate because it's crucial to maintaining your home's integrity and value. The system serves no purpose until it rains, but when it does, a properly installed gutter system is the only way to ensure that the rain water won't collect on the roof or worse, run down alongside the walls of your home.

When rainwater is uncontrolled, it can get in between the vinyl siding, wood or other material that covers your home and protects it from the elements. Water running uncontrolled down the side of a house can also get behind window frames and other openings and cause further damage that's often expensive to repair.

In much the same way as it directs a bowling ball down the end of the lane a gutter system along the perimeter of your roof carries water away from your home. Water that is allowed to flow towards the home's foundation rather than away will slowly erode the foundation, which over time can impair its structural integrity. It can also cause a considerable amount of erosion.

Sections of gutter are attached to the roof using hangars. There are straight sections as well as inside and outside corner sections. In places where the gutter attaches to a downspout, a piece called the drop outlet connects the horizontal pieces to the vertical. Open ends are covered with end pieces. To ensure that water flows away from the house's foundation it's advisable to position a splash block at the bottom of the downspout. And finally, to keep the system maintenance-free, it's wise to invest in a leaf screen which will catch leaves and other debris before they clog up the gutter, which renders it useless.

Finding a gutter system to complement your home is easy because they're available in a wide assortment of colors and materials. Next time you're outside, take a good look at the gutter. If it's in need of repair, don't delay!

Dennis Frank is an Internet Entrepreneur and Author of many websites. Please visit http://www.GutterUsa.com for more related articles and information about Rain Gutters.

Article Source:
http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Dennis_Frank

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What Kind of Embroidery Thread Should I Use?

By Stacy McDougall

This is one of the most common questions we hear. The answer is simple, and difficult, at the same time.

The first thing to decide is what fiber to use. Rayon, polyester, cotton, silk, or metallic? All have their pros and cons, but basically it comes down to personal preference. I believe in using whatever threads work for your project. If it works well in your machine, and you like the effect you get while using it, then don't hesitate, enjoy it! Don't let the embroidery "police" tell you what you should or should not use in your project. As odd as it sounds, embroidery machines have preferences too. So experiment, and don't be afraid to use a particular thread just because it's not "made for that".

Rayon Thread

Rayon embroidery threads are currently the most popular threads used in embroidery machines. They perform consistently well in high-speed embroidery machines with very little breaking or fraying. Rayon is a high sheen thread, and often used as a lower cost alternative to silk threads.

Most Rayon embroidery threads are available in 40wt, though 30wt can be found without effort. A wide range of colors and shades are available, including variegated colors.

Though some brands can be, rayon embroidery threads are not generally colorfast. It is best to avoid using any bleaching agents, including those made for colors.

Stitches sewn with rayon threads are very smooth and consistent, leading to a higher quality embroidery project.

Rayon threads do deteriorate over time, so attention should be paid to how it is stored. In low humidity regions, rayon threads can be stored in the refrigerator to extend thread life for a long as possible.

Polyester Thread

Polyester is rapidly catching up to the popularity of Rayon threads for embroidery. It is a very strong and economical thread. Polyester embroidery threads won't fade or shrink in the wash.

The luster, or sheen, of polyester thread falls between that of cotton and rayon.

Polyester threads do have some give or stretch to them.

Polyester embroidery threads are available in a wide range of solid and variegated colors. Like Rayon, the most popular thread size is 40wt, but 30wt and 50wt can be easily found.

Cotton Thread

Cotton embroidery thread is available in a wide range of weights, and is suitable for most embroidery projects. 40wt and 50wt are the most common, but cotton threads range from 8wt to 100wt.

Cotton thread does not stretch a great deal, and will break if pulled too tightly. Cotton thread will fade with the sun, and shrink in the wash, so treat it as you would cotton fabrics.

Most cotton threads sold now are mercerized. This is a chemical and heat process that increases the luster of the thread. During the mercerizing process, fuzzy threads are burned off, creating a smoother surface. This smooth surface reflects light, increasing the luster of the thread. It also has the effect of increasing water absorbency, making the thread easier to dye.

Long staple cotton is finer and stronger than regular cotton. Most high quality threads are made with long staple cotton, creating a softer, stronger, higher luster thread. Long staple threads tend to have fewer slubs, lumps of lint spun into the cotton threads.

Silk Thread

Silk is an elastic, though very strong thread, and is among the most beautiful of natural fibers. It has a high sheen, and creates a distinctive look when used in embroidery projects.

Pure filament silk is the highest quality silk, as the fibers do not need to be spun; they come naturally in long strands from the silkworm.

Spun silks are made of shorter fibers. They come from broken cocoons or the beginning and end of cocoons.

Silk thread, and projects created with silk thread, can be gently washed in the washing machine with a mild soap. Bleaching agents should not be used as they can damage the threads.

In most cases, when it comes to thread, you get what you pay for. Good embroidery thread will stand up to high-speed embroidery machines without breaking or shredding. Bargain bin threads are inexpensive, but of poor quality, and will cost you in time and frustration.

Have fun, and don't be afraid to experiment with thread.

Stacy McDougall's company, Red Rock Threads sells polyester quilting, sewing and embroidery thread online: http://www.redrockthreads.com.

Article Source:
http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Stacy_McDougall

What Kind of Sewing Thread Should I Use?

By Stacy McDougall

This is one of the most common questions we hear. The answer is simple, and difficult, at the same time.

The first thing to decide is what fiber to use. Rayon, polyester, cotton, silk, or metallic? All have their pros and cons, but basically it comes down to personal preference. I believe in using whatever threads work for your project. If it works well in your machine, and you like the effect you get while using it, then don't hesitate, enjoy it! Don't let the sewing "police" tell you what you should or should not use in your project. As odd as it sounds, sewing machines have preferences too. So experiment, and don't be afraid to use a particular thread just because it's not "made for that".

Polyester Thread

Polyester is far and away the most popular thread for general sewing. It is a very strong economical thread. Polyester thread won't fade or shrink in the wash.

The luster, or sheen, of polyester thread falls between that of cotton and rayon. A medium luster thread, it is suitable for almost any sewing project.

Polyester threads do have some give or stretch to them.

Polyester threads are available in a wide range of solid and variegated colors. The most popular thread size for sewing is 50wt, but many other weights are used depending on the project.

Cotton Thread

100% cotton sewing thread is the traditional choice. Cotton is a natural thread that gives a soft, matte look.

Cotton thread is available in a wide range of weights, and is suitable for most sewing projects. 40wt and 50wt are the most common, but cotton threads range from 8wt to 100wt.

Cotton thread does not stretch a great deal, and will break if pulled too tightly. Cotton threads will fade with the sun, and shrink in the wash, so treat them as you would cotton fabrics.

Most cotton threads sold now are mercerized. This is a chemical and heat process that increases the luster of the thread. During the mercerizing process, fuzzy threads are burned off, creating a smoother surface. This smooth surface reflects light, increasing the luster of the thread. It also has the effect of increasing water absorbency, making the thread easier to dye.

Long staple cotton is finer and stronger than regular cotton. Most high quality threads are made with long staple cotton, creating a softer, stronger, higher luster thread. Long staple threads tend to have fewer slubs, lumps of lint spun into the cotton threads.

Silk Thread

Silk is an elastic, though very strong, sewing thread, and is among the most beautiful of natural fibers. It has a high sheen, and creates a distinctive look when used in sewing projects. Silk threads are used in many high quality sewn garments.

Pure filament silk is the highest quality silk, as the fibers do not need to be spun; they come naturally in long strands from the silkworm.

Spun silks are made of shorter fibers. They come from broken cocoons or the beginning and end of cocoons.

Silk thread, and projects created with silk thread can be gently washed in the washing machine with a mild soap. Bleaching agents should not be used as they can damage the threads.

Rayon Thread

Rayon is a high sheen sewing thread, and often used as a lower cost alternative to silk threads. It performs well in high-speed sewing machines without breaking or fraying.

Most Rayon threads are available in 40wt, though 30wt can be found without effort. A wide range of colors and shades are available, including variegated colors.

Though some brands can be, rayon threads are not generally colorfast. It is best to avoid using any bleaching agents, including those made for colors.

Stitches sewn with Rayon threads create a very smooth consistent stitch, leading to a higher quality project.

Rayon threads do deteriorate over time, so attention should be paid to how it is stored. In low humidity regions, rayon threads can be stored in the refrigerator to extend thread life for a long as possible.

In most cases, when it comes to sewing thread, you get what you pay for. Good thread will stand up to high-speed machines without breaking or shredding. Bargain bin threads are inexpensive, but of poor quality, and will cost you in time and frustration.

Have fun, and don't be afraid to experiment with thread.

Stacy McDougall's company, Red Rock Threads sells quilting, sewing and embroidery thread online: http://www.redrockthreads.com.

Article Source:

http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Stacy_McDougall

LED Umbrellas Make You Easier to See

Proving my theory that almost anything can become a device to aid the visually impaired, I bring you the Twilight Umbrella.

Visibility is so important on those dark and dreary days, and if you have to cross several streets, the easier you are to see the better.

Rain is grim enough already without adding a dull umbrella to compound the misery. These two cheery rain-beaters laugh in the face of glum weather. The Twilight Umbrella (the black one) is studded with a galaxy of tiny blue fibre optic lights, and the Red Umbrella (which is, red unsurprisingly, has eight light strips that phase through five colours. Not only do they make you visible, but these funky light-up umbrellas stand out happily from all the dreary black ones out there.

Features

  • Three switch controlled lighting functions: 'all lights on', 'slow random phasing lights' and 'off'.
  • An automatic open button.
  • Available in Red with 8 phasing light strips.
  • The lights strips phase blue, green, yellow, purple and red.
  • Available in Black with tiny constellation lights.
  • These delicate lights glow and phase in blue.
  • Suitable for ages 5 years+.
  • Requires 3 AAA Batteries (not included) per umbrella.
  • Size: 87 x 6 x 6cm (unopened).


Click this link to purchase the Twilight Umbrella from the "I Want One Of Those" website.

Note: This website is in the UK and offers delivery to the United States. Click this link to see their US Delivery page.

Now, if you'd rather have the light in a different place, this LED Umbrella from Think Geek is for you. With a push of a button, the shaft lights up, illuminating you and your path. Now, even in the darkest of nights, you're a lot more visible to the cars on the street, making your long walk home through the rain a lot safer.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Accessible Nine Men's Morris

Nine Men's Morris, also called Merrelles, is one of the world's most ancient games. Your goal is to make as many lines as you can, all the while trying to prevent your opponent from doing the same. You see, whenever either player is allowed to place three of his men in a line, he has made a mill. And every time a player makes a mill, he takes one of his opponent's men. Play continues until one player is unable to move any of his men, or has only two men left. In either case, that player is unable to make a new mill, and he loses the game.

This version of the classic game comes with a wooden box to store the board and men. There's a dot on the white pegs, so blind players will know which men belong to what team. So, if you're good at strategic games and enjoy a challenge, you'll like Nine Men's Morris as much as the Egyptians did over three thousand years ago. For ages 8 and up.

Click this link to purchase Nine Men's Morris from Future Aids.

Wooden Playing Card Tray

Here's a must-have for any card player! This perfectly-crafted wooden playing card tray has two separate cavities - one for the Discard pile and another for the Pick-Up stack. (That's right: as soon as you have this attractive card-playing accessory, you'll be able to do away with those annoying round bowls which never hold the cards properly - or the tall, tippy piles of cards on the table which always seem to get knocked over and mixed up.)

What's more, the dimensions of each section in the tray are just the perfect size for any standard deck of braille cards or Uno cards. And the sides on this tray are much higher than those on the plastic ones you'll find in stores, so the added thickness of Braille dots on the cards won't be a problem at all.

This Playing Card Tray effortlessly accommodates games which use one or two complete decks of cards. Newby card players and experienced card sharks alike will fall in love with this handsome all-wood card holder, which makes a great little gift for that somebody who already seems to have everything!

Click this link to purchase the Playing Card Tray from Future Aids.

How to Organize a Home Poker Game

Organizing a home poker game is an excellent way to bring friends, as well as people who don't know one another, together. Gambling in your home is illegal in most states. Check out state law on this subject.

Preparation



  1. Survey friends by e-mail to find those interested in playing poker.
  2. Invite six to nine of those interested. Ask them to bring friends to the game.
  3. Choose to play a simple poker variation that people already know or can learn easily.
  4. E-mail, in advance, the rules to the players who are unfamiliar with the game.
  5. Buy at least two decks of braille playing cards and some accessible poker chips.
  6. Prepare snacks the day before and set them out 1 hour before people arrive.
  7. Don't forget the tunes!

Invite more people than necessary. Invariably, people will cancel, and it is more fun to play with at least six players.

Play



  1. Seat everyone around the table.
  2. State the rules and house policies briefly.
  3. Shuffle and deal the cards.
  4. Rotate the deal so that everyone has this responsibility.

Seat people who don't know each other next to each other. Home poker games are a great way to meet folks.

Allow players to take breaks so that they can have conversations away from the table and play doesn't get too monotonous.

End of the Evening



  1. Survey the players to find out who would be interested in playing regularly.
  2. Create an e-mail list of those players.

Try to organize poker games on a regular basis, such as once a month.

How to Play 20 Questions

This is a terrific way to occupy children on a rainy day or during a long car ride. One player thinks of an object and the other players ask questions to determine what that object is. This game works best with four players or less.

  1. Choose a person to start. This person must think of an object. To make the game easier, he or she can classify the object as animal, vegetable or mineral.

  2. Have another player ask a question about the object that can be answered yes or no.

  3. The person who has the object in mind should answer the question with a simple yes or no.

  4. After hearing the answer, the questioner is allowed to guess the object. The players are allowed to ask a total of 20 questions.

  5. If the guess is correct, the winning questioner now thinks of a new object. If the answer is incorrect, another player is allowed to ask a yes or no question.

If the players use up their 20 questions without guessing the object, the player with the object in mind reveals it and thinks of a new one.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Keys-U-See Large Print Keyboard

The Keys-U-See large print keyboard by The Key Connection, is designed specifically to reduce the stress and strain a visually impaired person has to grapple with when he or she is using a computer. From the ABCs to the numbers and the punctuation marks, each key in the keyboard is labeled with the largest print that will fit the keycap.

This user-friendly keyboard also has hot keys for emailing and navigating the internet and multi-media control keys. Power control and energy-saving options are also right on the keyboard. Another useful feature is that the directional navigation keys (or arrow keys) are molded so that each is recognizable by touch. The Keys-U-See keyboard is available in ivory with large black print, black with large white print for low light situations, and also black with yellow keys and large black print. Note that these color combinations are chosen for their visibility factor.

With all it has going for it, the Keys-U-See keyboard is sure to gain quick acceptance, if not advocacy, among senior citizens, low vision organizations, schools and other educational establishments. And for companies and government departments implementing Assistive Technology adaptations in the workplace, Keys-U-See is an affordable solution.

For the millions of visually impaired persons, The Keys-U-See keyboard makes using the computer easy again!

If you would like more information about the Keys-U-See large print keyboard, contact:

Ron Pusl
The Key Connection
Phone: 928-340-3404
Web: http://www.keys-u-see.com

Monday, June 05, 2006

Turn On the Water with a Wave of the Hand

The iTouchless EZ Faucet adapter can automate any sink, enabling easy control with the wave of a hand. The adapter fits over a conventional faucet, and runs for about a year and a half on just four AAA batteries.

Touchless faucets are great for limiting the spread of germs and saving water, as they shut off instantly once your hands are removed from the sensing area. To adjust the temperature and flow of water, you can use your existing faucet controls and leave the adapter on. Plus there's a manual override in case you need it. Save money, save water, and save the hassle!

Click this link to learn more about the EZ Faucet Adaptor.

Independent Living Centers: An Introduction

By Jesse Fisher

Independent Living Centers, as non-profit social service organizations, offer a wide variety of services and support in accomplishing their primary function of helping the disabled to transition into living as independently as possible. Fundamental to the Independent Living philosophy is the fact that disabled people are seen foremost as citizens with human dignity and rights and only secondarily are they seen as consumers of social services. Persons with disabilities deserve opportunities to make decisions on their own behalf just as non-disabled people. do. Their mission statements frequently include such things as assuring equal access, full participation, self-help, self-determination, in short, independent living and economic self-sufficiency of people with disabilities in their community.

What Services Do They Offer?

Services offered by Independent Living Centers are usually of limited duration and are always focused on achieving the goal of independence for those they assist. One wonderful facet of Independent Living Centers is that they are "consumer-controlled". This refers to the fact that center usually give authority and responsibility to individuals within the community who themselves have disabilities. Many of the staff are courageous people who overcome their various challenges every day to serve their peers. This serves the staff member by building self-confidence and self-worth, AND it offers their disabled peers a flesh and blood example of someone who faced their challenges and is succeeding

What Exactly Do They Do?

ILCs assist individuals with disabilities in many different ways. They serve those with disabilities by providing individual and systems advocacy services, peer counseling, housing and employment tips, referrals to personal care assistants, and information and training on how to live independently. Individuals within the community that need assistance with disability challenges are invited to contact their local ILC either in person, by phone, or online. One does not need to be employed or looking for employment to benefit from their services.

On What Specific Skills Do They Give Training?

An ILC's training program may include interpersonal skills like adaptive behavior and verbal and non-verbal communication. They almost all also include career exploration, job skills, money management, and how to deal with housing, transportation, and legal issues.

How Are They Funded?

Most ILCs receive a large share of their funding through federal and state grants. They also are often able to provide disability related services to the community at large for appropriate fees, such as giving informative ADA workshops and/or performing Accessibility Surveys for local businesses.

Finding an ILC Near You

Most metropolitan areas are likely to have an ILC, some rural areas also have one. To find one near you, try the ILRU.org Directory or call your state's vocational rehabilitation department.

Article Source:
http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Jesse_Fisher

Digging in the Dirt: Container Gardening

Create a wonderful flower garden, kitchen garden, woodsy area, or shade garden on your deck or patio. Although growing plants in containers is not a new idea, it has become more and more popular in recent years due to our smaller living spaces.

Easy access, care and maintenance are major factors that are especially important to those of us who are visually impaired or physically disabled. Truth is, it is just wonderful to be puttering around in our own little garden making things grow. The type of container garden you plant will depend largely on the amount of sun, shade and temperature available.

Choosing Containers:

Plastic, ceramic, terracotta or wood containers are all good choices. Stick with the same type of container throughout the garden for a pleasing look. Choose various sizes and shapes of containers. This helps to identify plants. Grouping together containers of various heights in threes or fives makes for easier watering and allows air circulation and more sunshine for each plant.

Soil Preparations:

For flowers and vegetables, use one half potting soil and one half compost. For woodsy or shade gardens, use one third potting soil, one third compost and one third bark dust. Use a four to six quart bowl to scoop soil and compost from bag to container. Fill each container three-quarters full because most plants come with additional soil. If you intend to plant seeds, fill the container to within two inches of the rim.

Planting the Most Successful Garden:

To help decide what to plant, call a local nursery or garden center for information on what is available in your area. Ask about flowers that bloom throughout the summer, as well as early and late bloomers. A garden is always more attractive when you have flowers blooming.

If you want to purchase seeds, here are a few recommendations to keep your purchases organized. Take some clear tape with you and mark each packet with one, two or three strips of tape, etc. Also bring a small tape recorder to record the planting information you get from the nursery worker and so you can record info about how you marked your seed packets (e.g.: double white petunias = one strip; pansies = two strips, etc.)

Planting Zones:

Each state is divided into plant hardy zones. This determines what plants grow and survive best in your climate, and there can be anywhere from four to ten zones in one state. The county extension master gardener desk is a great resource for free information. They will be able to tell which zone you are located in and help with any other plant information you may need.

Kitchen Gardens:

Kitchen gardening allows you to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs in containers that are within close proximity of your kitchen. Here are some suggestions.

Fruits:

Dwarf blueberry plants have pink or white blossoms, fruit in midsummer, and colorful leaves in autumn. Ever-bearing strawberries have lush green foliage and berries summer through fall. Red currants have hot pink flowers in the spring, fruit in late summer.

Vegetables:

Most vegetables can be grown in containers with the exception of corn that requires pollination. Try other plants such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard and radishes. All grow quickly and can be planted from seed. They grow best in spring and late summer. These plants become bitter and inedible if they are exposed to too much hot weather. Peas, in fact, grow great in spring. Pull them out when the crop is finished and plant tomatoes.

Try cherry tomatoes. They ripen quickly and taste sweet and wonderful. Plant an early variety, 60-70 days, and one that ripens later in 90 days. Start with purchased plants that are eight to ten inches tall. Follow these same guidelines if you want larger sized tomatoes or Romes. Keep in mind that these plants will need stakes, so they won't topple over and break when the fruit gets heavy.

Zucchini and summer squash need large amounts of sun and water. Their large, deep green leaves and yellow orange blossoms make a very attractive plant. Cucumbers need lots of sun. Also pick a variety that is good for salads. Vines and fruit will hang over the sides of the container.

Bell peppers, the red, green, yellow and purple varieties, are very similar in taste, size and shape. Plant several different colors. Extra peppers can be cut up and frozen for winter use. If bees bother you and you want to avoid them, work in your garden very early in the morning or after the sun goes down.

Herbs:

Rosemary, sage, tarragon, oregano, thyme, mint, parsley and chives can be easily grown from established plants and used frequently in your kitchen. They can also be dried for use later.

Container gardening can be a fun and rewarding experience; and yes, it's even therapeutic. Also, it opens up your deck or patio and makes it into a new living space you can enjoy.

May the sun shine brightly on your horizons.

This article by Melinda Holland first appeared in Dialogue 35 (Winter 1996) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher. Dialogue magazine is published in braille, large print, 4-track cassette and IBM compatible 3.5-inch diskette.

Click this link for additional tips on Container Gardening from the Gardening In Boxes blog at http://www.gardeninginboxes.com.

Keeping Containers Looking Good

By Michael Russell

The most inspiring container displays are grown by gardeners who have developed a real feel for their plants and can tell at a glance when they are in need of water, food, a bigger pot or just a good tidy up. If you play doctor with them, your plant will reward you with luxuriant growth. Professional growers achieve this by keeping their plants growing steadily throughout the seasons, so they never suffer from a check in growth by being starved or dried out. It's not rocket science but having a few pieces of essential maintenance equipment to hand is one of the keys to success.

A well balanced, long necked watering can turns watering from a chore to a pleasure. A fine rose on the end of the spout is ideal for soaking seedlings and plug plants without washing them away.

Give container grown plants a liquid feed every seven to ten days. If this seems too much of a commitment use push in feed pellets that deliver nutrients every time you water during the growing season. Water retaining granules can also be mixed into the potting compost before planting up. They are especially useful for hanging baskets or window boxes on south facing sills where they can make the difference between watering once rather than twice a day during hot, windy weather.

Just as having a dog to walk gets you up in the morning, so will having a mobile garden to tend to. Get into a watering routine and you will make light work of it. Water in the morning or evening to reduce evaporation and try to avoid splashing the leaves as this will cause them to scorch when exposed to strong sunlight. At holiday time, move your containers to a shady wall and stand them on special moisture retentive capillary matting fed from a tin bath of water.

In the Autumn, winter and spring months, plants need much less water, although it is surprising how a series of hard frosts can strip the moisture from the compost and this can only be replenished when the compost has thawed out. When the weather's particularly severe, it pays to gather your containers under a warm house wall where they will escape the worst of the weather.

Deadhead your plants regularly as soon as flowers fade. This will encourage a fresh flush of flower buds. Spent flowers left on the plant will usually inhibit further flower production, however, not all spent flowers need to be removed. Busy Lizzies and those super vigorous petunias carry on regardless. Some like marigolds can be snapped off. Others like pansies and nasturtiums can be nipped off by pinching them with your fingernails.

For bushy fuschias and chrysanthemums with lots of blooms, pinch back shoots regularly. Do this by simply nipping off the tips of the shoots. At the end of summer be ruthless and throw annuals past their best onto the compost heap. However, some plants sold for bedding can be propagated from cuttings in late summer or dug up and over-wintered in a frost free greenhouse or porch. They have the potential to get bigger and better every year.

Article Source:
http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Russell

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