Sunday, December 21, 2008

Season's greetings and update

By DAVID FAUCHEUX

Let me begin by wishing all of you the very best of this holiday season. Here's hoping that your 2009 is prosperous.

Visitors to my blog will have realized that it has been nearly 3 months that I have posted anything.

Unfortunately, in October, I had a severe reaction to prednazone and fell down some stairs in my apartment complex.  I spent a month in the hospital and am still recovering from a fractured pelvis.

To say this experience was horribly traumatic would be a vast understatement.  I am now recovering and am trying to plan my future.  I am considering learning the court reporting machine if I can arrange funding.  Suggestions anyone???

This has been a time for reflection, and I'm not sure about the future of this blog.  Let me know if you are enjoying it even without the audio.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Windy City Sojourn

By DAVID FAUCHEUX

Postings to this blog have been scant of late.  My sincere apologies.  I have had some mysterious health issues that seem to want to never leave, and I have been stressed with worrying about two hurricanes that skirted the Lafayette Parish area, Gustav on September 1 and now Ike earlier this morning.  I wanted to discuss my month long trip to Illinois.  While I do not have time to do that today, I can discuss my weekend in Chicago.

A friend and I took the Illinois Zephyr leaving Macomb early Friday, August 8, 2008.  We arrived at Chicago's Union station and walked to our hotel which I am told is in Greek Town.  And the walking began.  Friday we visited Water Tower Place and soaked up the expensive atmosphere of trendy shops and were surrounded by rushing tourists searching for mementoes of their trip.  We had dinner at Pegasus, a Greek place near the hotel.  The lemon custard wrapped in flaky pastry with light syrup was good.  Don't miss the roof garden. 

On Saturday, we took a Metra-train and visited an old college roommate of my friend.  North Brook is one of the many townlets in The Northern Suburbs.  We rode on the commuter train nearly 60 minutes.  It seemed to me that this would be like living in Lafayette, Louisiana, and working in Baton Rouge.  I doubt we have suburbs as numerous as Chicago does. 

Hoping to dine at Moto, 945 W. Fulton Market, we started walking.  We found the 800 block of w. Fulton but it had a creepy feel to it.  Empty big food delivery trucks were parked dinosaur-like along the street; and we could see no activity.  The street was dead.  I regretted not getting to sample the cuisine of a restaurant mentioned in Discover magazine several years ago for its molecular gastronomy--food pushed with the help of science to its limits.  Returning back to our hotel, we came across a bronze monument to the Hay Market riots--a poignant moment.

That Evening we explored Chicago's Rasco Village about 5 miles away from  downtown on the Brown Line.  The subway or el train system was novel to me and not entirely comfortable.  It's noisy, rattles allot, and seems to take off before you completely enter the car.  Guatemalan food was the order of the evening at El Tinajan.  Don't miss the lettuce wrapped tamales at this restaurant that has existed for over 20 years. 

On Sunday we concluded our trip with a walk in the gardens of the Art Institute.  The sculptures were fascinating.  Yes, I cheated, walked on the sacred grass and felt a sculpture that looked like a giant's set of blocks and another that looked like battle ship armor plating.  It was a quick Mass at St. Peter's in the Loop, a quick tuna sandwich lunch grabbed while watching an anti-war protest, and we were off to Union station to meet our train.  I did appreciate that the hotel had found a CD I had misplaced, probably fell between the bed and wall.   They were very gracious about checking the "lost-and-found" box.  All in all, a nice trip and glorious weather.  The weekend high was 68 and  the sail boats were busy on Lake Michigan.  I did envy them as I have always wanted to sail once!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Unrewarding surveys: Is my time worth their money?

By DAVID FAUCHEUX

The other night about 7:29 p.m. my telephone rang, and the caller ID box indicated (caller unknown). I had to decide whether to take the call. I did--ok, I was lonely--and ended up taking a 35 minute survey concerning cable and Internet service providers.

I am usually crippled by a stultifying politeness and hate to just hang up on the hapless surveyor who usually sounds like a college kid trying to put himself/herself through school. I do support higher education. I was asked if I used Cox or some other cable provider. Let's call him Jed. Jed wanted to know if I had my telephone service and Internet and television bundled together. I don't.

Jed went on to ask me if I had satellite television or DVR, like I'd understand how to operate that, if I'd consider changing my long distance telephone service provider if my bill were reduced by $2, and if I would consider one carrier for television, cable, and Internet. There were questions such as "On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being most satisfied and 1 being least satisfied, how would "you" rate the customer service of ATT, Cox, Dish Network, and Direct TV? and on and on. "You" did not know enough to rate all of them but did find some needed improvement.

End the survey, Jed asked for demographic information so I subtracted several unkind years off my age and considered adding several thousand much-needed dollars to my income--who wants to make only $10 grand or less, but I did not upgrade my MLIS to a CLIS or Ph.D.--I am not that creative.

Jed thanks me for my time; but, alas, I didn't see any gift card for that 35 minutes. And funnily enough, the night before, I had taken a 10-minute survey about the local Acadiana news broadcasters. Needless to say, if my gift card from the Acadiana survey is in the mail, perhaps, with the other one, I was not informed!

IMAGINE that!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cooking without looking

By DAVID FAUCHEUX

I realize I have let my fourth-year anniversary slide past with no retrospective or clever posting about time and its winged flight. I had originally planned to do a piece on The National Spelling Bee but did not. Imagine knowing how to spell and define words such as bogatyr, ziarat, escabeche, chorion, nacarat, ecrase, numnah, thymele, oxylophytic, sinisize, hyphaereses, taleggio, introuvable, or guerdon.

Well, Samir from Indiana managed to and won thousands of dollars in prizes and may one day, as can happen, work for the spelling bee in some capacity. I think this and the geographic bee sponsored by National Geographic are neat ways to showcase nonathletic talent; and kudos to ABC for broadcasting in prime time the final orthographic rounds. I also had thought to mention Steve Lopez, award-winning columnist for the LA Times, and his book The Soloist but my email to Mr. Lopez, while read according to the receipt pending notice I attached, has not been answered, so check back later on this blog.

I do want to mention the cooking show developed for the blind. I found this a novel idea with lots of possibilities. I recently visited the Web site and found it interesting. It is my understanding the show is in its third season and may pick-up some big sponsors and also appear on a cable channel. There seem to be so few shows by or about blind people, as major or supporting characters, game shows rarely have us on, that when someone wanted to do a show like this, I thought wow! Renee---I spoke to her last week---is the producer and seemed optimistic and brings years of television experience to this project.

Imagine that!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act: Thoughts from a Blind Consumer

By DAVID FAUCHEUX

I've just received an email from AFB about a proposed law that will would make things better for blind cell phone users and may make TV more accessible by both adding video description and accessible onscreen menus

I do not have a cell phone yet; I'm probably one of the last people on earth to not have a cell phone.  A telephonic dinosaur.  I do not have one because I am both worried about the effects of radiation despite assurances that it won't hurt my brain and I am a little intimidated by learning yet another piece of technology that may not be fully blind friendly.

Making a telephone speak menus helps to make it accessible but if all the layers or levels of software do not speak, my accessibility is only skin deep.  (Like Braille on a drive thru banking window--me drive!)  I know I'll get a phone within the next several years. 

I was pleased to learn that they are again trying to make video description fly on television.  They tried it several years back but it flopped.  I simply can't understand why producers find this such a hardship.  I rarely watch TV now because it's too confusing for me.  I don't want to work that hard to sit in front of the idiot box and veg out.  I sadly lack sufficient genius to decode all the sounds made by various people, devices, and animals and to instantly recognize any voice I hear and store it in my brain.  I want to know what people look like, wear, what physical actionhappens on a show, and then some!  I'm really letting down the blind brotherhood by such an admission. 

The sighted world will think I am an incompetent since they all know a blind person who can tell you what denomination any piece of paper money given to them is by feel; who can cross streets anywhere in the world listening to the traffic going any direction, turning on right or even when a quiet hybrid car happens by; who can hear the sounds of walls and other building structures and instantly map out a cartography of sound and travel anywhere and even go skating while never bumping into anyone because of facial vision; who can read Braille at 500 words per minute; who can use a slate and stylus to produce 100 words a minute in Grade 3 Braille while taking college notes; and who plans to become a medical or naturopathic doctor/tax lawyer/mountain climer/Olympic medalist/actor/singer/inventor/millionaire/model/world solo traveler/Nobel Laureate/politician/chef/humanitarian/minister/professor all before age 30!  Yawn.

IMAGINE That! 

Monday, April 28, 2008

A good virus?

By DAVID FAUCHEUX

Today I received an e-mail from journalist Tom Avril; and while I am not certain whether we have ever exchanged e-mails, I did find a link of interest.  It discusses a virological approach to treating a unique sub-type of RP.  I hope more gene therapy makes blindness nothing more than the memory of a mere nuisance. 

One wonders where the next 50 years in medicine will take us provided we don't help greenhouse the planet to death or something even worse!

IMAGINE That!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Optacon: Memories

By DAVID FAUCHEUX

The optacon--the name is an acronym for optical tactile converter--was the first portable reading machine.

Consisting of a small camera attached to a display via a thin cable, it turned images into tactile shapes by means of vibrating pins.  If I recall correctly, it was invented by a scientist for his blind daughter in the mid 1970s.  This was several years before even the earliest synthetic speech reading machine, clunky with a funny garbled accent and the size of a microwave and the cost of a car, was introduced. 

I remember that day in eighth grade when we were introduced to the optacon.  I forget which group of people from where came to the school for the blind to demonstrate it.  I found it novel and interesting but tricky.  You had to glide the camera over each page of text, not swerving off each line and then read with the other hand which was resting on a shallow trough full of vibrating pins.  It could be confusing to me.  It sounded a bit like a mosquito attack.  My left index finger sometimes got tired of the vibrations.  I recall several times feeling like I was falling when I used it to read.  Some of my friends were whizzes.  Some still use one to read bills and to read the addresses on envelopes that they receive in the mail.  I had hoped one could be made that changed the print letters into Braille using refreshable Braille display technology--nothing doing, I was told!

I receive Dean Martineau's weekly tech sheet and the following announcement caused me to remember this nearly  forgotten chapter in my early life.

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1) The Optacon was the first portable reading device that was widely used by the blind, and many people still swear by it. Efforts are being made to keep it alive. You can find documentation and other information about it here.

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IMAGINE That!