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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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Letter Case Mania in MS-Word

Ever find that you're constantly trying to change the capitalization of words or sentences? What do you do?

Maybe you highlight the word or phrase and retype it.

Maybe you're the type who only replaces the individual letters that need to be changed. What a headache!

Are you the person who found the Change Case feature on the Format menu? You know, where you get the choices of sentence case, all lowercase letters, all uppercase letters, all title case letters or to toggle all letters between upper and lowercase. There's a faster way than this.

Let's start with the most versatile choice.

Once you highlight the text to change, use Shift + F3. You'll scroll between sentence case letters, all lowercase letters and all uppercase letters.

But what if you're tired of rotating through the choices and just want to jump straight to UPPERCASE?

You could use the Format menu, Change Case choice, but there's a faster way, Control+Shift+A.

  • To change a single word, simply put the cursor on the word and hit Control+Shift+A.
  • Changing multiple words can be done by highlighting them before you use Control+Shift+A.

In either case, to toggle the text back to its original form, use Control+Shift+A again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Accessible City Information

This site is really neat. Not only can you find out information about the city you live in, but if you are moving, you can check out your new hometown too!

There are a couple of ways to navigate. You can check out the links: Top 100 Lists where you can find lists of the top 100 cities and pertinent information like the highest income, the least crime, the newest houses, the most females, the shortest commute, the best educated residents, etc. You can also use the search engine to look up your current city.

So, go ahead and check out your city or your future city, for that matter by clicking this link: http://www.city-data.com.

A Different Word in Word

Have you ever listened to a document and found a word that just doesn't seem to fit what you're trying to say? You listen to it over and over again, trying to come up with a replacement word but nothing comes to you.

It's at this moment that you need Word's thesaurus. The only question now is: where is it?

If you're inclined to use menus, you'll find it buried in the Tools menu, Language submenu.

If you're more in tune with keyboard shortcuts, you simply need to remember Shift + F7.

Highlight the word you need to replace (if you don't highlight it, Word will automatically select the word to the left of the cursor) and hit Shift + F7.

On the left, the selected word is listed along with meanings. On the right, there are suggested synonyms. (Antonyms may also be listed and will be noted as such). Screen reader users will find a list of available words and can tab through the various options.

Find a word that suits your needs, select it and click Replace. Screen reader users will arrow through the list of words and press enter or tab to the replace button and press enter.

Poof! A different word and MS-Word did all the work!

Nickelodeon Dora Talking iCrayons

Talking crayons have been developed to help toddlers learn colours and how to spell. They talk through a battery-operated plastic base in which they are inserted. The base reads the colour of the crayon and relates the information to the child. Blind and visually impaired children have found another use for the talking crayons.

They're called Dora i-crayons (i' for interactive, which is becoming a norm with many of today's children's toys and learning methods). They give blind or visually impaired children the ability to colour without having to ask anyone for help.

Product Features

  • Dora introduces kids to colors and beginning spelling
  • Includes 6 custom crayons, 1 electronic crayon topper and 6 pages to color
  • Set speaks in both English and Spanish
  • Drawing has never been so divertido!
  • For ages 3 years and up


Click this link to purchase the Nickelodeon Dora Talking I-Crayons from Amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snapalarm Smoke Detector

While the Snapalarm doesn't improve on the functionality of smoke detectors, it does improve on the form. Normally to install a smoke detector, you need to first drill a hole into the wall or ceiling and then attach the unit with a couple of screws. As a result most people only have a single smoke detector installed in their home which can be dangerous depending on how big your place is and where the device is installed.

The Snapalarm is designed to be easier to install than a standard smoke detector. The device opens like a clamshell allowing it to be fastened to the cord or chain of a hanging pendant lamp which is ideal given the proximity of these lights to the ceiling. And as an added safety feature the halves of the alarm can't be closed if a working battery has not been installed.

Click this link to learn more about the Snapalarm from their website: http://www.snapalarm.com.

Search the Zoo

We're not talking about a trip to your local zoo, but a great search engine for the net called zoo.com. This is a kid-friendly search engine that should be bookmarked in every parent/school's Web browser. It's custom made just for kids. When you use Zoo.com, it brings you search results from different search engines like Yahoo!, Google, Wikipedia, etc. The good thing is that it censors the search results before they are displayed on your computer screen, which stops the chances of anything unsuitable being presented. There is also a News tab, which brings all the latest news from ABC, FOX and Yahoo! Although you can customize any of the individual search engines to censor the content and the links in search results, one big advantage with Zoo.com is that it brings you the collective results from most of the more prominent search engines.

I tested the site by searching for different terms and found that when Zoo.com encounters something that might be offensive, it simply displays a warning telling you that it cannot display the search results related to that particular search. It really worked well and it's great with screen readers and screen magnification programs.

Click this link to search the net with zoo.com.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Fiber Optic Flashlight Adapter

This flexible fiber optic wand provides pinpoint illumination when used with an AA-sized mini-flashlight (like the Mini Maglite). Bend and direct the light of your flashlight simply by flexing the non-conductive fiber optic tube. Requires AA-sized mini flashlight, not included.

This tool is nothing more than a short fiber optic wire attached to a rubber hood, which goes on the end of a Maglite or equivalent. It completely gets rid of the problem of aiming a flashlight beam into a small hole. Just insert the end of the adapter and voila, the inside is lit up and you don't have to contend with all the glare from the light hitting the edges of the hole. Comes in 7" and 20" versions.

Click this link to purchase the Fiber Optic Adapter from X-Treme Geek.com.

Fortune Cookies in Braille

I don't know what it is about me and those little cookies. I'm afraid to have someone read one to me. "Beware of buses", or "Don't cross any busy streets" seem to come up for me all the time! Maybe I should start calling them unfortunate cookies.

Maybe its the person doing the reading that's the problem? I don't know. It doesn't matter because you'll never find fortune cookies in braille right? Never say never my friends.

The Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company, a student-operated business at the California School for the Blind specializes in braille and large print fortune cookies. The company offers customized fortunes to fit all types of events, including birthdays, weddings, or conventions. There are even chocolate-dipped fortune cookies for the chocolate lovers among us!

The cookies range from $1.00 for three small Braille cookies to $13.00 for one giant, customized, chocolate-dipped fortune cookie. You can place your order by emailing Lucky Touch Advisor Judith Lesner at jlesner@csb-cde.ca.gov or by phone at 510-794-3800 ext. 300. Test your luck and order some braille fortune cookies today!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

American Science & Surplus

This website is a tinkerer's delight. One legendary source of cheap parts, weird stuff, cheap knockoffs, and plain junk is American Science & Surplus. They sell "closeouts, inventory overruns, mis-manufactures, and items whose time has not come. When a surplus item is gone, it is gone." It's the ultimate hacker's mail-order junk store.

They don't take themselves too seriously, either, often belittling the scrap they are selling. The items are illustrated with crude sketches on yellow newsprint paper in their crowded 95-page paper catalog. It's a cornucopia of irresistible bargains. Science fair motors! Chemistry kits! Craft tools. I dare you to open it without finding something you have to have. In addition to the doodles, you can click to see a photo of an item as well.) While funny, their descriptions are always honest, and the stuff delivered will be entirely useable. More so than most catalogs, the bulk of the items listed are inspirational: " Oh, I could do that!" Prices are, as they say, incredible.

Click this link to visit American Science & Surplus: http://www.sciplus.com.

How to Make a Root Beer Float

Nothing feels more refreshing, than a tall glass of ice cold root beer, topped with a large scoop of ice cream sitting atop the glass, and served with a straw and spoon. It is delicious, nutritious (OK, maybe not nutritious) and is known as a Root beer Float! Follow these steps and you'll have a great treat for any occasion.

  1. Fill each glass 3/4 full with root beer. Set the glass on small plates so you can catch the overflow from the fizz.
  2. Slowly add one scoop of vanilla ice cream into each glass. Add a little more root beer on top of the ice cream. This will turn to foam.
  3. The glass will begin to overflow as the ice cream begins to float. Keep the foam to a minimum by pouring the root beer first, stirring and waiting for the bubbles to subside before adding the ice cream.
  4. Eat slowly, starting with the cold frozen foam on top, scooping ice cream and root beer together with your spoon.
  5. Use the straw to sip the remainder of creamy carmel colored root beer left in the glass.

You can use cola or cream soda instead of root beer. This is called a Coke float or a black cow. Try using Orange, Grape, or Strawberry soda for a different twist on the float.

Don't put the ice cream in the glass first and pour the carbonated root beer on top of it. This will give you all foam and no root beer.

My Grocery Deals

mygrocerydeals.com is a free service that allows consumers to go online, do their grocery pre shopping based on advertised grocery flyer specials, look at nutritional information, create their shopping list and then head out to their selected store(s) with list in hand.

The site allows members to search through local grocery weekly ads to find deals and sales. Then you can customize your very own price optimized shopping list. It is really pretty handy as it shows the original price, with what the sale price is, and is very easy when working with coupons to see what you have and what you will save. It does the work for you. After you've made your shopping list, which can be categorized by store, etc. you can save your list and print it or send it via email, which is another really handy feature.

Another feature I found quite interesting and probably quite handy for some, is that there is an allergy alert system. If someone you shop for in your household has a food allergy of some type, it can be entered in your profile and if anything you have checked to purchase contains that item, it will be flagged.

In addition to offering the sales ad browsing feature, the shopping list creator, the allergy flagger and several other options, mygrocerydeals.com also has a coupon printer. The software download is spam free, downloads quickly and there are literally tons of coupons to choose from. Check mark what you want, and print them out. Seems easy enough!

Click this link to visit http://www.MyGroceryDeals.com.

NOTE: Sections of this site may not be compatible with screen reading programs like JAWS for Windows and Window Eyes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ten Tips for Family and Friends of People with Vision Loss

Guest Blogger, Priscilla Rogers, Ph.D. posted the following tips on the American Foundation for the Blind's Blog.

Here are ten tips for family and friends of people with vision loss. Please share others that come to mind:

  1. Learn all you can about your relative's vision loss; different types of eye conditions affect vision in varying ways. For example, some people can see to get around but not see people's faces. Others lose their side vision but have some central vision.

  2. Learn about resources, techniques and products that can help your relative continue to carry out everyday tasks and enjoyable activities independently.

  3. Talk directly to the person with vision loss instead of "around" him or her.

  4. Don't walk away without telling the person you are leaving.

  5. Communicate verbally instead of through gestures that cannot be seen.

  6. Don't move things around in the persons' home without asking.

  7. Give clear and specific directions. Remember the person may not be able to see where you are pointing.

  8. Identify yourself to the person. He or she may not be able to see your face and may not recognize your voice. Don't embarrass your family member of friend by making him guess who you are.

  9. Ask first before helping. Expect that your relative will want to do as much as he or she can do independently.

  10. Ask your relative to continue to help you as he or she always has-with babysitting, pet sitting, taxes, or a good listening ear. We all like to feel needed and having vision problems does not make a person any less capable of providing help and support.

Decorate Your Walls with Braille

I've seen some cool ways to promote the use of braille. There are candy bars with braille, T-shirts, bracelets, necklaces and now wall tyles.

Inhabit's Embossed Wall Flats are designed to expand in any direction. With peel-and-stick adhesive tabs and an automatic pattern repeat these wall tiles are simple, modern, versatile and goof-proof. You can cover a existing wall, help disguise a not-so-smooth wall or add a modern pattern to any room setting.

Customize them by rotating every other tile or row, mix-and-match patterns or paint them to coordinate with your decor. The rule is there are no rules and the important thing is to have fun with it. It¹s low stress, low commitment and a big payoff in the way these tiles will impact a space.

Only for use indoors. Sorry but they are made of paper. Wall Flats can be used to do an entire room, one wall or to create free-standing-art pieces. Dimensions: 18"x18" panels Content: 10 panels per box Coverage: 22.5 square feet Color: Off-white paintable surface Material: Molded Bamboo Paper Pulp with Peel-&-Stick adhesive tabs.

Click this link to purchase the BRA-Braille wall tyles from Inhabit.

The Wrapmaster

Do you use a lot of aluminum foil or plastic wrap in your kitchen? Do you have a hard time cutting off the right amount for the task at hand? If so, it's time for you to be come a Wrapmaster!

The WrapMaster is an aluminum foil and plastic wrap dispenser. You load the foil or wrap, pull out the desired amount, and press down on the lid. The lid has blades that are specially designed to cut either foil or plastic wrap. It holds rolls up to 200 sq. ft.

I liked the idea of this contraption because my aluminum foil and plastic wrap boxes are always getting mangled in my drawer and I have difficulty cutting off pieces of plastic wrap without getting it tangled up. The foil and wrap is relatively easy to load--although it is a three step process, which could be a problem if you are lazy (like me). Once loaded, it's easy to pull out the desired amount of foil and wrap, and the blade will cut very clean and neat. It'll be much easier than taking foil or wrap from the box. My only complaint is that the WrapMasters are a little big. They are 3.75" wide x 3.5" high x 14.5" long, which is too big to fit in most drawers. You may have to do some rearranging in order to use them.

Click this link to visit the WrapMaster USA website.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tips for the Dip

Good manners are not something we are born with: they evolve with our social and cultural growth and help us emerge as thoughtful, caring humans.

Dipping habits are important because they can be very annoying and unconsciously reflect one's true lack of manners. In an old but tried and true study conducted by Land O' Lakes, guests were asked what they hated most about other people's dipping habits. The survey revealed the following in order of annoyance:

  1. Double dipping: This involves scooping from the community bowl, taking a bit and then re-dipping.
  2. Tasting the dip with a finger: Self-explanatory and gross!
  3. Digging a submerged chip out of the bowl by hand: This is a party not a hunt for buried treasure!
  4. Eating straight out of the communal dip bowl: Why not just lick up all the dip when everyone is looking? You will turn everyone off instantly!
  5. Sticking foods into someone else's dip: Who invited this person anyway?

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Blind Geek Zone

Welcome to Rick Harmon's Blind Geek Zone

The zone contains lots of tech goodies for all you blind geeks out there. There are audio podcasts to show you how to use many popular programs with JAWS as well as audio demonstrations of tech gadgets of all kinds. There are links to mailing lists and websites to places of interest to blind geeks everywhere. Even if you're not a geek come on in and have a look. I'm sure you'll find something of interest.

Click this link to visit http://www.blind-geek-zone.net.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Grant for Disabled farmers

AgrAbility Unlimited, a joint program of U of I Extension and Easter Seals offers Assistive Technology, the equipment that might be additional handholds and steps to access the cab of a tractor or combine, or a specialized utility vehicle for someone with limited mobility or helping make the farm office easier to access and use.

To qualify for assistance, applicants must be in production agriculture, have a significant disability that limits farming activities, be able to contribute financially to the purchase of the items needed, and have a no-cost on-site assessment done by AgrAbility staff. The dollar amount available will vary on a case-by-case basis. Larger amounts may be available if the circumstances warrant the additional dollars.

These dollars are very limited.

Awards will be on a cost sharing basis and available to those who do not qualify for full assistance from Division of Rehab Services.

For more information about AgrAbility Unlimited, or to schedule an assessment, call Mike Brokaw, AgrAbility Unlimited Program Manager, at 800 -500-7325 ext. 126 or by email at fbfm_brokawm@extension.uiuc.edu.

Finding Stuff with Nemo

Travel with ease! The pocket-sized Nemo is lightweight and affordable. Look-up phone numbers in seconds and perform simple household tasks with ease. Incorporating a 4" viewing screen with digital magnification - this ultra portable device can go anywhere.

Key features:

  • 4" Viewing Screen
  • Anti-Glare LCD Screen
  • Lightweight & Compact
  • 4.5 to 9x Magnification
  • Brightest Image in its class
  • Three step digital magnification
  • 6 viewing modes (including 2 color select)
  • Freeze Frame control takes a temporary picture
  • Tactile Controls allow for ease of use
  • Three hour battery life
  • Two year warranty
  • 30-day money back guarantee

For more information,or to schedule a free product demonstration please contact:

Enhanced Vision Headquarters
5882 Machine Drive
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Toll Free: (888)811-3161
Phone: 714-374-1829
Fax: 714-374-1821888-811-3161, or fax at 1-714-374-1821, or
Email: evinfo@enhancedvision.com
Web: http://enhancedvision.com

Healthy Fridge

One of the big health concerns facing people right now is heart disease. This site is devoted to providing heart healthy tips for you and your family. Navigation is pretty simple here. There are buttons near the top of the page that break the site down into four sections. Under those, there are two more links: What's New and Search.

The Healthy Fridge: Here you will find 10 tips to a heart healthy refrigerator, the FAQs, Meet the Doctor and "Open the Door to a Healthy Heart." The tips have great suggestions for organizing your fridge so you eat better and the FAQs have some great answers to our burning questions.

Good Nutrition: Here you have a quiz that tests your knowledge of Saturated Fat, you can find Heart Healthy recipes for both kids and adults, you can even figure out what you should eat, check out the section on women's eating habits and so much more. This section is all about good nutrition and how you can get to where you do have good nutrition, if you don't already.

Heart of the Matter: This is where you can learn all you need to know about heart disease. This section talks about cholesterol and how to count it. It also has a calculator for your risk of heart disease. You need to know your Total cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol and Systolic Blood Pressure to use it. Don't you deserve to know the facts about heart disease?

Just for Kids: Recent studies show that heart disease can be traced back to childhood, so it's important to make sure your kids learn to eat heart smart. Here they can check out recipes, take a quiz, play with a word search and learn the facts about children and heart disease.

This is a great site for the whole family. It teaches us all about heart disease and healthy eating. It even has great tips on how to better shop for, plan for and make heart healthy meals.

Click this link to visit http://www.healthyfridge.org.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pointer Control from the Keyboard

What would you do if your mouse happens to stop working for a day or two, you would have a really tough time trying to get your work done on your computer wouldn't you? You would have to spend most of your time working with your keyboard, trying to remember all the shortcut keys and the combination keys to use and all of this would have to be done from your memory. How about something a bit better?

Windows has a facility where you can use a keyboard to control the mouse pointer in the absence of a mouse. Note that this trick will not work if a screen reader or screen magnification program is running because these programs remap the keyboard.

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Select the Accessibility option.
  3. From the dialogue box, click on the Mouse tab.
  4. Tick the checkbox of Use Mouse Key.
  5. Click OK to close the Accessibility Options window.

Note: You can also press Left Alt key + Left Shift Key + Num Lock together to open the MouseKeys dialogue box. Then press Enter to turn MouseKeys ON. Press Cancel to turn MouseKeys OFF.

You can use the numeric pad (the number pad on the right hand side of your keyboard) as MouseKeys, but only if the Num Lock is ON.

On the numeric keypad, use the following keys to control the mouse pointer:

  • 2, 4, 6 and 8 to move the cursor on the screen toward Down, Left, Right and Up.
  • To perform a left single click, press 5.
  • To perform a right single click, press ^DDS (minus).
  • To perform a left double click, press + (plus).

To increase the speed of the pointer movement, double click the mouse icon on the taskbar and select the Settings button from the dialogue box. Now you can increase the speed of the pointer by selecting the Pointer Speed option.

Place a check in the box that says, "Hold down Ctrl to speed up and Shift to slow down." Now, if you press the Ctrl key while holding the arrow key, the pointer speed will increase and if you hold the Shift key while holding the arrow key, the pointer speed will decrease.

Note: If you want to use the numbers from the numeric keypad while using the MouseKeys, select the OFF radio button from Use MouseKeys when Num Lock is the option. If you select ON again, the numeric keypad will be used as MouseKeys.

So, from now on, even if your mouse goes bad, you still have options to move the cursor!

The Orchestra: a User's Manual

The Philharmonia orchestra offers this introduction to the orchestra, orchestration, composition, and instruments, using text, quicktime videos of Philharmonia musicians, audio clips, and "illustrative musical examples." Composition students will find this especially valuable.

Click this link to begin your exploration of an orchestra.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Printing Folders in Windows

I had written a post on this before and found it to be too unreliable to leave in the database. I found two programs that do the same thing and are much simpler to install.

When you browse a folder in windows explorer, you sometimes would like to print the content of that folder. Unfortunately there is no option to print the content of a folder from Windows Explorer.

You can add your own print folder (or list the folder content to a text file) by using the following programs.

  • Dirlist adds an option to your send to menu that will create a file of the directory listing of all the file names in that folder. Simply right-click any folder you wish to save/print.

    Click this link to download DirList.

  • Run print folder from your programs menu or choose print folder from the context menu of a folder to create a file of the directory listing.

    Click this link to download Print Folder.

Notepad: The Accessible Way to Organize

Do you use Notepad? Do you like to make

lists for the things you need to get done throughout the day? Then this is the tip for you!

Did you know that you can use the Notepad application from Windows to write down any information you need to remember on a day to day basis? You know, you can use it to record any appointments you have or you can even use it to make an accessible grocery list. The options are endless. Here's how it's done:

  1. Open Notepad by clicking Start, All Programs, Accessories, Notepad.
  2. Type .LOG (in all caps) as the first line of the file, followed by a carriage return (Enter). Then save this file and close it. (You could save it as example.txt, for instance).
  3. Navigate to where you saved the file and double click it. You may notice that Notepad appends the current date and time (the system date and time) to the end of the file and places the cursor on the line after it. With the date and time in place, you will never forget to do something on a certain day. How's that for a reminder?!
  4. Go ahead and type your notes. When you're finished, save the file again and close it.

Each time you open the file, Notepad will repeat the process. So, each time, the new date and time will show up at the end of the file and it will place the cursor below it. You can then just type what you need to and save it all over again. It's a great way to have an accessible reminder right on your desktop!

Some readers have emailed me saying that this tip doesn't work. Please note that in step 2, you must have a period before the word log to insert the date and time.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Turn Off Website Animation

I think we've all run into this at one time or another. You go to one of your favorite websites and each time you get more and more frustrated with the animation it has on the pages. Sometimes it's something scrolling across your screen and other times, it might be a flashing image. Whatever it is, it can cause lots of problems for your screen reader or screen magnification program. Would you like to turn those annoying animations off? Here's how using Internet Explorer.

  1. Open Internet Explorer and click on Tools, Internet Options. Use the keyboard command Alt+T and arrow down to Internet Options if using a screen reader.

  2. Click on the Advanced tab. If using a screen reader, use Control+Tab to navigate through the tabs until you get to Advanced.

  3. Scroll or tab down until you see the Multimedia section. Disable the option that says "Play animations in Web pages" by unchecking the box.

  4. Click OK when you're done.

From now on, you will see the images from the animations, but they will be still. They won't move around any longer. No more distraction here!

Shop for Assistive Technology Online with MSN

Empower Technologies has created an Assistive Technologies (AT) comparison shopping experience via a number of Microsoft Web sites, including MSN Shopping and Windows Live Shopping.

The arrival of this new shopping service coincides with a growing audience for Assistive Technology products, such as those who have physical or cognitive difficulties, disabilities, and the rapidly growing baby-boomer population who may need AT products as they grow older and live longer.

The AT product catalogs can be accessed directly through the following links:

MSN Shopping: shopping.msn.com/results/shp/?bCatId=4524

Windows Live Shopping: http://shopping.live.com/#m=results&query=%3FbCatId%3D4524&reloadRef=true

Monday, November 06, 2006

Napkin Folding 101

Wouldn't it be cool if tonight, you could surprise your dinner partner by making fancy folded napkins? I found a site that will tell you exactly how to make all kinds of designs. I didn't know you could fold napkins in so many different ways. Check out this list:

  • bird
  • goblet
  • cardinal
  • arum
  • clown
  • fan
  • rose
  • crown
  • pyramid
  • rosebud
  • bishop


Click this link to learn how to fold these styles, and more by visiting the Napkin Folding 101 website: http://www.customlinenservice.com/napkins.htm.

Click this link for another site with PDF instructions on folding napkins and towels.

Mildew in Your Towels? What About Stinky Dishcloths?

Towels and other linens can be a haven for bacteria and mildew, even when fresh from the washing machine. The following tips will help you to prevent unwanted spores in your laundry.

  1. Remove towels and other linens from the washing machine as soon as possible. Allowing laundry to sit for even short periods of time in warm or humid conditions can quickly lead to mildew. While you might not see or even smell it, mildew spores can grow rapidly.

  2. If it has been several hours since the washer stopped, re-wash the load. Even if it doesn't have a noticeable odor, mildew could be lurking. At the very least, run the rinse cycle again.

  3. When drying towels, use the highest setting on your dryer and make sure to dry towels thoroughly. Some people take them out when they are still a little damp, in order to conserve energy. If you do this, towels should be hung until completely dry, so moisture isn't trapped where it can lead to mildew and other bacteria growth. Folding towels while even a little damp, will keep in moisture.

  4. Bath towels, dishtowels, washcloths, and dishcloths, harbor lots of germs. Wash them in hot water at least occasionally or if they are heavily soiled. Add bleach where possible. If you have colored towels and can't use bleach, add a bit of fabric safe disinfectant to each load.

  5. You may not think of your washer as "dirty" since water and detergent are cycling through it. However, most laundry detergents are not antibacterial and water temperatures don't tend to be high enough to kill all contaminations. Wash a load using disinfectant or bleach after a few loads to keep your washing machine sanitary.

Keeping your dishcloth clean, fresh and sanitized makes your whole kitchen smell a lot nicer. (Isn't the smell of a musty dishcloth just AWFUL?) Here are two of my favorite ways to keep the dishcloths clean:

  • Just clean the dishcloth in the dishwasher! All I do is leverage a bowl or cup against the dishcloth on the top shelf of the dishwasher and let it run as usual. Because the dishwasher gets so incredibly hot, it will completely clean and sanitize your kitchen cloth.
  • A few people have told me to try cleaning the dishcloth in the microwave. Apparently you can put a thoroughly moistened dishcloth right into the microwave and heat on high for about 30 seconds or so. Be careful not to burn yourself when you take the dish cloth out again! How about killing two cleaning chores with one stone? Try popping the above mentioned dishcloth in the microwave for 30 seconds or so, and then just let it sit in there for about ten minutes. Your dishcloth will get cleaned AND all of the accumulated steam inside the microwave will make it easy to clean, just wipe that dishcloth around the interior of the microwave and you've got a gorgeous, lovely, clean microwave.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Retrieve Lost Data with Copy Cat

Remember when we used to save our documents to 3.5 floppy disks? It wasn't that long ago! I found one of my old floppy disks the other day and wanted to copy the files from it. It was very annoying to discover that the disk was damaged and Windows couldn't copy some of the files. I used Copy Cat to copy the disk and was able to retrieve the data perfectly.

Copy Cat will not only copy the bytes of a disk that can be read, it will also attempt to read the bytes that have been damaged or that are not normally picked up through the standard Windows copy operation.

Copy Cat is great for copying a CD or DVD that has been scratched,when you want to copy data from an area of a hard drive that is partially damaged or when you want to copy data from a floppy that is currently not being copied correctly by windows.

Click this link to download Copy Cat from http://www.vcsoftwares.com/cc.html.

Mp3 Knife

Have you ever wanted to save a portion of a podcast? Maybe they talked about a great new website that you wanted to check out and you wanted to save that information for later?

Mp3 Knife is a simple tool for extracting mp3 clips from large Mp3s. The extracted clips will be stored in mp3 format. This is the simplest and fastest tool in its category which has the ability to extract long mp3 clips in seconds. Its so simple, only three steps to get the clips: select start, select end and save.

Click this link to download MP3 Knife: http://www.vcsoftwares.com/mk.html.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

National Center for Blind Youth in Science Web Portal

The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute is pleased to announce the launch of its National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS) Web Portal (www.blindscience.org), a clearinghouse of information and resources related to blind youth and their participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The NCBYS Web Portal, funded under a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), provides easy, centralized access for teachers, students, parents, and others to gain the knowledge necessary to make STEM fields accessible to blind youth. Users can not only find high tech solutions but also low tech, simple tools and strategies to teach and learn STEM subjects.

This portal also provides users with a career section where they can read biographies and hear interviews of blind scientists and engineers, including Abraham Nemeth, developer of the Nemeth Code. Users can also explore career opportunities and science programs available to blind students, such as the EXcellence through Challenging Exploration and Leadership internship program and the NFB Youth Slam.

Click this link to visit the National Center for Blind Youth in Science Web Portal at http://www.blindscience.org.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Organizing Books by Color

Organizing books in a personal library can be a challenge, especially if you are visually impaired. Finding a science fiction book by removing each book to read the larger print on the cover is not practical. Design Observer recently blogged about a slightly unconventional way of Organizing Our Books by Color instead of by author, title, or subject. According to the article, arranging books by color is not only "cool to look at", but some even argue that it helps "discover new and unexpected relationships between books" - suggesting that certain color books are associated with certain subjects or moods.

I can see this working organizationally for a visually impaired person's small library, because for books we are very familiar with, we often recognize them by the color of the cover. Sorting your books by color gives you a reference point for where to look on the shelf.

True or False in Braille


Message: I'm looking for a braille math indicator for "is the equation true or false" In print the indicator is a question mark over an equal sign. Is there a braille symbol for this math expression? Thank you.
Location: CT

Dear Carol,

You will find the sign you are looking for on page 136 of the print edition of the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Scientific Notation. It is under comparrison signs. The entire sign is this:

dot 5, dots 4-6, 1-3, 1-2-6, 4-5-6, 2-3-6, 1-2-4-5-6.

I hope this helps.

Fred Gissoni

Quit drinking my drink

As a parent, I know the aggrivation of the kids getting out cup after cup, not keeping up with it, and before too long, you have no idea which cup belongs to which child. This is especially annoying when you are a blind parent and can not rely on colors to differenciate the cups.

Here's a product that can help with this and a host of other labeling issues in the kitchen.

Bumpy Name labels are elastic rubber "orbit" labels that come in sizes to fit a variety of containers.

They're dishwasher-safe and can be made in print or Braille, and you can order custom labels with a second line of information, such as "No Dairy," or the child's phone number. They are available at http://www.bumpyname.com in either a package of three stock names or a package of four custom labels. Get a bunch of these and just go crazy labeling stuff!

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