Welcome to my home page. I became blind at birth. I started programming computers at a young age. I also earned my general class amateur radio license, KA3TTT, a hobby to which I have returned with great joy. I practice Qigong, and consider it the most important thing in my life. I cook gluten-free vegan meals. I use Linux as my desktop and Android as my mobile OS. For the rest you'll have to read my blog.

The Genuardi’s Experience

April 05, 2009

I detailed the problems shopping while blind in the previous post, and won’t rehash that. After our harrowing experience with Acme, we decided to give Genuardi’s a try, per my Mom’s suggestion. We had a much better time. They have always prided themselves on customer service, and they lived up to that with us.

Firstly, they do not have an accessible web site, but their regular site does have a “Disable Images” link. Do this immediately for best results if you use a screen reader. It doesn’t solve all the accessibility issues, but it does go a ways to making things easier. Also, don’t even try going there with a text browser, such as lynx. You will have to use Internet Explorer, or Firefox. To add something to the cart, you will have to find the button with an image filename which contains “Add to cart” in its string. It takes a little getting used to, but it does work. The time selection when checking out can present a problem as well, as it presents a table with radio buttons. If you want delivery on a weekend, you will have better luck selecting a four hour window, again you will have to find the weird image button for that. Once you do that, just select the first radio button, and you will get the first available timeslot. You can go from there. They offer surprisingly good leeway in letting you change your

order, so don’t worry if you get the wrong time or something. They won’t jerk you around like Acme.

After placing it, we awaited the delivery from eleven to three on Saturday. Around twelve thirty, the lady showed up. She sounded enthusiastic and eager to please, as contrasted with the Acme guy, who seemed to have problems speaking. With the Acme guy, we could only make out four phrases: “Yes,” “All right,” “Kitchen,” and “Table.” The Genuardi’s lady on the other hand asked where we would like the groceries, and brought them into the kitchen. She then asked if we would like help putting them away, and without a word, began unloading them, reading them, and giving them to me to put away myself. We rarely experience this level of customer service. You would think people would like to help the blind, but it doesn’t happen as often as you might think or as we would like. It did here, however, and it left us feeling very satisfied.

It seemed like night and day to compare and contrast Genuardi’s with Acme. We will definitely go back there to shop online, especially because they have some of our favorite desserts. Forget Acme. We still love our local co-op of course, but when we can’t get them, or if we need things they don’t have, we will go with Genuardi’s every time. Nice job!

The Acme Experience

April 03, 2009

Shopping while blind presents several obstacles. The idiot dorks at independent living centers tell blind people that they must behave like sighted people at all times, applying standards which in some cases do not apply. In the case of shopping, this means firstly finding a way there, then standing around for half an hour at the service counter until someone notices a blind person with no purchases obviously in need of assistance. It then means telling the person what you want while they go and get it. Some of the more extremist counselors will even tell you to memorize the store’s layout yourself, since they consider asking anyone for help verboten. As anyone who has shopped at a store for more than a week will attest, the layout can change radically over night. After getting groceries, it then means finding the way back to your place, and let me assure you that carrying a bunch of bags while wielding a white cane presents many issues. Try it some time.

Usually, we order food from the local co-op. We email in a list, then they call and we settle any differences or ambiguities. It works well, as they just reside across the street. They do have somewhat high prices, and only deliver on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though the nice lady said we could call in on weekdays if we just needed something little.

Recently, someone suggested that we use Acme, a store with an accessible web site. Firstly, it took some rankling to get the URL in the first place, as going to the main domain just yields “index.html” and nothing else. This should have tipped us off to what would eventually happen.

After getting the address for the accessible version, which we could have never found on our own, we began shopping. Immediately, we noticed problems. Searching would sometimes tell us that “The URL could not be found.” This even happened in some cases when trying to go to aisles, or “Ailes” as the site displays. This seemed sporadic. Once in a while, we would even get a site error. This worried us, but we kept on shopping, adding things to our cart.

Suddenly, it logged us out, and we had to go back in. My girlfriend had a user ID of longer than ten characters, and she didn’t realize that it only lets you have a ten character maximum until going back to the new user form. After logging back in, she realized that it saved some items to a list and not to the cart. She moved them over, and it looked like we had an order. By this time, we had such a time that she forgot to add ice cream, the one thing she really wanted, but whatever. Upon checking out, it gave us a glorious Microsoft Visual BASIC Run-time Error. It always makes me nervous when it pauses or gives errors when entering credit card information, and we wondered if the order even went through, or if we would receive a run-time error as part of our order! The order arrived today on schedule. We noticed that it didn’t seem complete as we put away the food. We went upstairs to check, and she received a receipt via email. We noticed three problems.

  • Some items in the cart did not even show

    up in the initial confirmation email. </p>

    • Other items did show up in the confirmation, but not in the receipt.
      • Still other items did show up in the receipt, but with a total of $0.00. </ul> Given that we hadn’t eaten, we started getting pissed off, and my girlfriend decided to call them. “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn.” so I figured we’d get some answers. We didn’t. Basically, they just gave her the runaround, and told her that the problems probably came from using the accessible version of the site. We doubt this somewhat, because at one point she did try using the regular inaccessible version, and still saw the items in her cart. On the checkout page, it says to indicate if they should call if they need to make any substitutions. On the phone, they told my girlfriend that “They probably wouldn’t have called, because they work late at night.” “Good,” she responded, “We’re awake.” They told us to put it, then did not even honor it!

        Once again, the blind get screwed, and now we have no food for the weekend. I don’t think we will shop there again, unless at the utmost of need. Perhaps for average crap it will work, but we have special needs, like actually wanting to eat healthily. Oh well, live and learn. I hope this blog entry will benefit the blind community as a whole. By the way, this once again also demonstrates why nobody over the age of twelve uses BASIC for any serious work.

        Next, we will try Genuardi’s! We still love the good old co-op!

My Awesome New Cherry Keyboard

March 06, 2009

I finally got a serious keyboard. I spent $60 on amazon for the Cherry classic 104-key keyboard with a PS/2 port. I got so tired of typing on crap, and just using whatever crap I had lying around, and knew that I deserved better. Now, I know what it feels like to really type, and I remember the good old days of IBM keyboards. Initially, I even considered purchasing a good old clicky keyboard, but I decided to just find a good one on Amazon and throw it on with the order containing my phone. I didn’t know if I would regret my decision or not, but now I feel good about my purchase.

I chose Cherry keyboards because they have mechanical switches. Most keyboards nowadays just have crappy membrane or cheap switches. Typing on them feels like typing on a wet blanket sitting on moist sand on a dismal beach. Typing on this new Cherry keyboard feels like typing on something from the near future or perhaps the past. Either way, it combines past and future values to create a wonderful keyboard that once again makes typing a joy. If you have never typed on a real keyboard then you owe it to yourself, especially if you actually USE your computer.

The action on this keyboard feels exquisite. The keys have a springiness to them lacking in lower grade garbage. Your fingers glide on and off the keys sans error. You can also slam it down though for a decisive stroke, it will feel how you want it to feel. It maximizes my typing speed. I enjoy typing on it so much.

I did have to get used to the numpad layout. It has an extended numeric keypad, rather than the group of six keys above the arrows on most keyboards. This puts everything much closer together, and actually makes things more accessible. The numpad enter has a double length, but the numpad + (plus) only has a single length, allowing more keys on the right. The numpad – (dash) takes up the second key length above the + (plus). Above the 7 8 and 9 Going to the left sit the numpad * (star), / (slash), and numlock. The three keys above the – (dash) replace the print-screen, scroll-lock, and pause keys that usually sit in a line above the keypad. This leaves the six keys above the numlock, and here sit the insert/delete, home/end, and pageup/pagedown. As said, it takes a little getting used to, but the ingenious design works quite efficiently.

I give this keyboard ten out of five stars. Get a good keyboard! You will not regret it! Think about it, you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the components of your computer. Doesn’t it deserve a good keyboard, the thing you actually use as an input device? I say yes!

Panasonic TG9332T

March 06, 2009

I have gone through several cordless phones since they became popular. At first, I didn’t use them, then got one, then realized their convenience, and now I worry about the radiation. Anyways, despite the health risk, I still use one. More recently, I began buying telephones with talking Caller ID. This says the name of the person calling, which comes in handy for the blind. I’ve bought all Panasonic for this, I think the only company making such phones. They all have had similar designs. My first one worked nicely, my second one sucked royally, and now I have gotten a third.

All these phones work basically the same. Don’t even try accessing the menus, just dial the number and enjoy. Rather, hit start, then dial the number, or dial the number then hit start. At the end of the conversation, hit end. The first such phone I had would announce the names in the phonebook, but the next two did not. I wish this one would. The one I had previously to this acted terribly. It operated in the 5.8 GHZ range, and failed often. I also felt irritated by the high frequency on an energetic level. With some apprehension, I purchased another phone in their line suggested by my girlfriend. It looked just like my crappy one, but I soon discovered that I got a new model.

This model operates in the 1.92-1.93 GHZ range, and I do not feel the energetic irritation, at least not as pronounced. I also feel very glad to say that it works reliably. One phone has lasted me the whole day – no more switching handsets only to find the other one does not work even though I put it on the base hours before. That other one sucked, and I can’t wait to break it on air. I give this new phone four out of five stars, only because it doesn’t have total accessibility, but if you want a good talking Caller ID phone then try this out. The final number in the model number denotes the number of handsets and additional base units shipped with the base. You can expand the system up to six handsets. Oh yeah, and don’t bother with the online manual, it won’t tell you anything useful, except not to eat the batteries. If you need to, get a sighted friend to help you figure it out. The blind can hack their way through most normal functions. The handset does have soft keys which change function, but most of

the time you won’t have to worry about them.

It also features an answering system which you may use. I use Verizon’s voicemail since it works while busy, so don’t forget to turn it off if you don’t need it. The base unit handles this. The top buttons record and play your greeting. Below that, you will find the arrows with buttons around it. The upper right one turns the answering machine on and off. The lower right one locates the handsets. The upper left one erases messages. I don’t know what the lower left one does. The center button plays the messages.

The handset has the mute button on the top left, the on or start button below it, and the speaker phone button below that. The on button has a raised dot. In the middle you will see the arrows. On the right side you will find the off button with a raised dash, and the redial button below it. Below these buttons sits the keypad in the standard layout with a raised dot on the five key. Below the keypad, you will find two smaller buttons – flash/hangup on the left and hold on the right. You can put a caller on hold, then either push start or end. If you push end, you can save power and then hit start to resume the call.

I hope this rambling review helps someone. Remember to put in the batteries!

New Cacao Truffles from Solay Wellness

March 06, 2009

Like many of you, I received last month’s newsletter, which first announced Cacao truffles. A couple weeks ago, I had a dream about them. When I called Isabella to place my most recent order, she cheerfully told me that she has sold them at her local storefront already, and that they would shortly go online. Now that they have, I felt compelled to submit a review.

For those who don’t know, Cacao, meaning “Bitter Water” in the Mayan language, refers to the unrefined product which becomes cocoa or chocolate. Have you ever heard that eating chocolate makes you feel in love, then scoffed when nothing happened save for a momentary sugar rush? This actually refers to Cacao, the raw form of chocolate, which preserves its chemical profile. Cacao contains iron and magnesium, two very important minerals lacking in many diets. It contains sulfur, which helps the body detoxify from heavy metals. It contains tryptophan to boost serotonin. Cacao does not contain caffeine. Instead, Cacao’s stimulation comes from phenylethylamine and heobromine, a gentler analog of caffeine. Theobromine, meaning Drink of the Gods, has twice the half-life of caffeine, and dehydrates the body less. Many headaches today come from dehydration caused by excessive caffeine use.

With all of this knowledge in mind, I enthusiastically ordered one of each kind of truffle – Mayan, Goji, and Dark Cacao. I also ordered the Maca Manna spread, and Isabella also sent me a Chocolate Chai which she may make available as well. She told me to eat a truffle or two, or to try a teaspoon of the Maca Manna or Chai. As soon as I got the package, I ate a truffle, had a teaspoon of the Maca Manna, a teaspoon of the Chai, and two more truffles throughout the day. I felt quite good by the end. I love Cacao!

I will now review each product in order. Each truffle uses agave nectar and date sugar as sweeteners, and contains no dairy. Cacao Nibbs refer to pieces of the whole cacao bean. Cacao Powder refers to the powderized nibbs. Nibbs and powder contain the whole cacao bean. Cacao butter refers to the removed fats of the cacao bean.

First, I tried a goji-Cherry truffle. Goji berries have a whole fascinating nutritional profile themselves, and the Tibetans use them to enhance longevity. Combining them with Cacao make an ultimate superfood snack! Ingredients: Organic Cacao Powder, Organic Agave, Organic Cacao Butter, Dried Bing Cherries, Organic Cacao Nibs, Organic Goji Berries, Organic Vanilla Beans, Organic Date Sugar, and Celtic Sea Salt. Sounds good! I popped it in my mouth, given I hadn’t eaten anything yet. Usually, you should not do this. Instead, you should take little bites, and saver them in your mouth, letting them dissolve, releasing their layers of flavor. The truffle had a sweet fruity taste which I really enjoyed, and the goji berries and cherries gave it a wholesome quality. It made a great first truffle!

A little while later, I wanted to try a Mayan truffle. This flavor really excited me, since I think in Mayan time, and have long known about the Mayans’ and Aztecs’ use of cacao, combining it with spices to synergize with Cacao’s endorphine-releasing properties. In fact, you can make a pretty authentic drink by combining a tablespoon of cacao powder with a few shakes of our Gourmet Southwestern Seasoning. Add water or a milk substitute and heat to above body temperature. I expected something similar and the truffle did not disappoint. Ingredients: Organic Cacao Powder, Organic Agave, Organic Cacao Butter, Organic Cayenne, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Date Sugar, Organic Vanilla Beans, and Celtic Sea Salt. I took a small bite, anticipating the spicy flavor, and felt glad I did. This delivers the authentic experience in a portable form. Spicy foods also release endorphines, explaining why some people love spicy foods. The combination delivers a wonderful experience which you will not soon forget. The Cayenne adds

a cleansing property as well. Brilliant!

Later in the day, I decided to try a Dark Cacao Truffle, so I could try one of each in the same day. Again, I had an expectation and it met it. This has a dark and thick flavor, with a texture to match. I would consider this the most accessible truffle. Ingredients: Organic Cacao Powder, Organic Agave, Organic Cacao Butter, Ground Organic Cacao Nibs, Organic Vanilla Beans, Organic Date Sugar, and Celtic Sea Salt. Pure and wonderful, this delivers the full satisfying experience, without any frills, and twice the enjoyment of any chocolate you will buy in any regular supermarket. You will love this one. The Celtic Sea Salt makes the perfect glaze. I might have to go and have one now. I already had a Mayan one earlier.

I will now describe the other two Cacao products. Maca Manna combines the stimulating effects of Cacao and Maca. Maca has a very male energy. Combined, the two make me feel like He-Man! “I Have the Power!!!!!!!!” It tastes incredible – chocolate, with a hint of cinnamon, and a thick and decadent texture. Ingredients: Organic Agave, Organic Cacao Powder, Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, Organic Cacao Butter, Organic Maca, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Cacao Nibs, Organic Vanilla Bean, and Celtic Sea Salt. Keep a jar of this at hand at all times. Maca has adaptogenic qualities, similarly to ginseng. I also got to try the Chai, which she doesn’t currently carry so I won’t dwell too much on it. If you picture good spicy Chai with a nice touch of Cacao powder then you will get the picture. I will amend this review if it becomes a regular product, and I hope it does. It puts me in a very intellectual mood, and makes me want to play chess or do something similar.

At the end of my conversation with Isabella, she said: “You have Cacao, you need some tea as well.” I figured that sounded good, so I ordered some Green Tea with Lemongrass. The loose tea comes in a thing sort of like a teabag, but with paper “wings” which fold over the sides of the cup. This lets the tealeaves unfurl. Before I switched to Cacao after seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I drank tea exclusively. I love and appreciate good tea and can judge it well enough. I really enjoyed this tea, and consider it of top quality. The green tea has a delicate but earthy taste, with just a touch of caffeine. The lemongrass combines well with green tea.. I have had this combination before, and once again it worked. If you enjoy tea, then you will want to try a tin or two of these teas.

We have some great new products, and I hope you enjoyed reading my reviews as much as I enjoyed trying the products interviewed. Definitely give them a try!

Support the Curtain by buying these wonderful creations. Just follow the link and visit Solay Wellness from there.

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