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 myself a Taoist. I use Linux as my desktop and Android as my mobile OS. I eat gluten-free vegan meals. For the rest you'll have to read my blog.

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.

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.

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