Welcome to my homepage. I became blind at birth from retinopathy of prematurity. I developed an early interest in computers and radio. I use Linux, MacOS, and iOS. I have an extra class amateur radio license. I practice Qigong daily. I consider myself a Taoist. I don't eat meat, and have a genetic sensitivity to gluten. For the rest, you'll have to read my articles.

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.

My New Old Braille Labeler!

February 09, 2009

Today, Mom came over with a surprise. While cleaning out a drawer, she found an old labeler. For sighted people who don’t know, they have handheld devices which punch braille cells into plastic tape. You can then peel the back off and stick it on something. They used to make these awesome metalic ones, hard heavy and solid. Now they just make cheap plastic pieces of crap. The blind community has long bemoaned the lack of availability of quality labelers, or anything else for that matter. I feel so glad she found it. I may have one of the last ones in existence! Thanks, Mom!

Everything that happens will Happen Today

November 28, 2008

David Byrne of the Talking Heads has collaborated with Brian Eno on a new album! They worked together on some of Byrne’s solo projects, as well as several legendary Talking Heads albums. Imagine my excitement!

As soon as I heard of it, I set to work downloading a torrent. As it started, I read that they made it available as a pay digital download. I felt like doing the right thing, so canceled the torrent, and went to the site to buy the CD+FLAC version. Sadly, it uses Flash intensely, and I could not make my purchase. I would “click” on the button, and it would just sit there lamely. My girlfriend tried it on her machine, with a totally different setup, a more recent version of Flash, and using a different screenreader, with identical results.

I felt so happy to cancel the torrent and do the right thing, supporting the artists who deserve it. Now I feel disillusioned, with vivid flashbacks to my dealings with toribootlegs.com. Here we go again! I can always buy it off amazon, and download it in the meantime I suppose. I do feel bad for not doing it through the official website, but I tried.

These accessibility issues really annoy me. Why do people have to use fancy things where standard html will suffice? How often must I repeat myself in an echo chamber of my thoughts on a little-known blog? I can only sigh, and pen a constructively angry letter.

At least the Flash player worked well enough to play the album for us in its entirety. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it. It doesn’t sound exactly like old Talking Heads, but it has Byrne’s and Eno’s influences for certain! I would recommend it if you like either or especially both of their works. The album sounded familiar and welcome to me, even when listening for the first time. David Byrne has also gone on tour, so catch it if you can.

Electrical Freakout!

November 25, 2008

I just had one of those experiences that makes you feel very thankful. The other night, the humidifier leaked water into a power strip. The strip did its job, and shut down, tripping the circuit in the process. Today, I got someone sighted over here to diddle with the circuit breakers. We got the power going again, and I plugged a salt lamp into the strip. As soon as I turned the power strip on, it shorted out, and a huge spark leaped from its depths. You could hear it, like a freaky electrical lighter. The smell of burning plastic filled the room.

My years of meditation and amateur electrical training came in handy, as I yanked my hand away immediately, already feeling on edge. By the grace of Goddess, I had the strip switched off initially! If it would have remained on while plugging it back in, the spark would have happened with my hand much further over, by the socket. I feel so grateful I did not get more hurt. Goddess definitely watched over me there! I still feel freaked out, and probably can’t plug something in for a few days. Wow.

The FiOS Chronicles

October 29, 2008

I will chronicle my experience with FiOS. I just got it installed yesterday. Verizon FiOS provides a fiber optic line right to the house. The technology has moved a rung down the social ladder. As a kid, I remember long distance telephone companies advertising that they now use whisper-quiet fiber optic lines, and now the end user has this technology.

I can’t believe I’ve gone to Verizon for my Internet, but there you go. A guy called and told me I could get 20mbps down, and 5 mbps up, upgradable to 20 mpbs up. That sounded great, plus telephone and television would all come on one bill. I love Speakeasy, but they have a nightmare accounting department, and I just can’t battle with them every month. Mom got FiOS and loves it, though of course we have very different computer usage patterns. I held my nose and entered the labyrinth of Verizon FiOS!

I wanted a static IP of course, since I actually do things. I also didn’t want any port restrictions, which a tech support person confirmed exist – port 80 outgoing and port 25 incoming. Nice. So beware: if you actually use your Internet connection for servers, you’ll want the business FiOS Internet, as opposed to the residential FiOS Internet. You will still want residential television and telephone services, however. This makes things nice and confusing. Originally, the guy pitching the promotion told me I could get all three for $145 or so. I asked about getting a static IP and he said I just had to call ahead of time. Wrong’o! I called over the weekend before the installation date, and they told me that I needed the business Internet. They had to cancel my original order, then make separate business and residential orders, then join them together on the same day, moving it back to the morning. So now with the services as described I pay around $200 for all three.

I feel amazed at the Internet speeds. The business connection gives a guaranteed speed, and it appears to deliver on that. The telephone sounds great. I worried that they’d just use some crappy Vo/IP, but they assured me that they use real fiber optics, suitable for data use even. I do feel worried that it has a battery backup, giving me eight hours of talk time. If the world comes to an end I won’t have telephone. It sounds great, noticeably better than copper. The same applies to the television, going from old-style Comcast crappy cable to fiber offers a vast improvement in audio. I don’t care about picture. I don’t care about HD! I feel absolutely overwhelmed with the television channels and can actually use the DVR to at least pause and rewind shows in real-time. This takes the stress away of missing your favorite show. Too bad as a blind user I can’t access the nifty neato functions which require using a menu. Come on, guys!

I do have to bring up another issue for tech savvy folk: the moronic router they tell you that you have to use. Don’t you believe it, though I still do as I write this, that may soon change. Sure it works, but I have already started getting errors going to one of my machines. I also had some trouble changing the initial admin password, which annoyed me, so we had to reset it, then reenter in everything, which necessitated a call to tech support. We had to enter in the info in the Ethernet as opposed to the Coax network, if that saves someone out there some trouble. I also felt confused by the port forwarding setup. Protocols have rules, and you have to configure it from the point of view of the router, i.e. you want to configure the incoming ports for most services. You then have to go and apply the rules, the protocol, then go back and select your protocol in the forwarding rule, then apply that and then apply your changes to the application which you have just applied. It always bothers me when designers

try to make something for advanced users so simple that a fool can use it, but obfuscate it so those of us who know what we want to do and how we want it done can’t. Give me some textfiles and a simple console interface any day!

Despite all this router monkey business, I definitely love the speeds I have started getting. I started downloading a 10GB torrent at around 1500KBPS at its peak! wow! amazing! I remember getting DSL for the first time, and a friend downloading music with Napster, and us feeling amazed that we’d get speeds around 100K. Now it has moved to the next level. Just watch that router, and to quote Hunter THompson: “Don’t take any gup from those swine!”

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