Kitchen Pics Online

Kitchen remodel 2005 is just about finished. More on the entire process in a different post but after so many have asked how things are looking I’ve put some pics online. You can see everything done to date in these photos. The project should be done sometime this week and final pics will get posted then.
These photos have no alternative text and are really just a file copy of a directory of pictures. Once I figure out the best digital recording device I’m going to put more audio of this and other happenings online.

Definitely Dated

One of the nice things about Netflix is the opportunity to revisit movies from the past. I used the extended holiday weekend to watch one of those movies I’d seen as a kid that had stuck in my mind as one of those “great” movies that I always wanted to see again.
It has probably been at least 20 years since I saw “…And Justice for All” on some cable channel. The final courtroom scene stuck in my mind over the years as something to remember.
My mind is definitely cleared of that memory now. Perhaps at the time this movie pushed the envelope of courtroom drama. I’m not enough of a movie buff to say for sure. What I can say is that memory in this case was definitely better than reality after watching the movie again.
Perhaps it is the flood of legal movies that have come over the years but watching the movie felt mostly like watching someone paint-by -numbers to complete the picture of the standard legal drama.
It was also funny just how dated the music was. Television and film from the era has such a predictable sound. Oh well, at least my fixation with seeing this movie again has been cured.

Braille in Brazil

I noticed an article talking about how Brazil was going to start production of braille writers in the country.
Likely you can pick any population demographic and see the striking difference between the haves and have-nots on the planet. Each time I read one of these articles about an accessibility technology being built or used in a place that hasn’t had it in the past, I’m thankful for the education and experiences I’ve had.
I grew up during a time when it was no longer standard practice to send kids who were blind off to a residential school. In my case I was offered a choice between what I’ve come to call the “Braille Jail” (Wisconsin’s school for the Visually Handicapped) and what was a pilot program in Wisconsin at the time to send kids with disabilities to “regular” schools and provide the additional resources necessary as part of the education within the school.
This was long before terms like “mainstreaming” and “classroom assistant” were a part of the educational landscape. In my case these additional resources simply meant a full day of school in kindergarten instead of the traditional half. My afternoons were spent doing things like learning braille and developing my sense of touch. In later years it meant a resource was available to do things like read books, tests and such. This is an over simplification and perhaps I’ll blog about my entire education experience at some point.
Reflecting back on my education today, I am so thankful I had the experiences I did. I’ve talked to many people who are blind who didn’t have anything approaching the positive attitudes from teachers and other students I did. All wasn’t necessarily perfect as the school system I attended was not in the city where I lived. Today living in the Seattle area, a distance of 17 miles doesn’t seem like a big deal. Back then the same distance–from Fond du Lac to Oshkosh–was like two different worlds.
Perhaps my only regret is that I didn’t attend any of the same schools as anyone else in my family. Sure the stories of school days past are pretty much the same the nation over, but the characters in mine versus others in my family are all different. That said I wouldn’t even call it a regret. In a family of 11 kids, it was assuredly easier to be my own individual when I wasn’t lost in the shuffle of being just another “Ford” at the local high school.
I’ve used a lot of gadgets, technology and devices over the years. That’s likely another blog post or two but it is nice to see what I regard as one of the standards, namely a Perkins, being made available to more people. Screen readers, scanners and such are all great but I’ve had my Perkins since I was five and it is still something I treasure. Some do not have the physical ability to read or write braille, but for anyone who does, braille is a must and the sound of a Perkins hammering away as someone writes is music to my ears.

The Good Death?

Earlier today I read this article from the New York Times Magazine talking about society’s efforts to arrive at the “good death”. As I sat down to write about the article I happened to turn on the radio and heard the news that Peter Jennings had died.
There’s a strong temptation to write my memories of Jennings and all the news brought to me through his coverage. Although journalism isn’t my profession today, Jennings and ABC news of the late 1980’s was one of the reasons I did get my degree in journalism.
That said today was also my mom’s birthday. In a phone call with my mom to wish her a happy birthday, she mentioned to me that an uncle of hers died.
All the discussion of death and the magazine article remind me of a book idea I kick around in my head from time to time. When “famous” peple die we have such an intense discussion about them and this societal sadness that strikes me as somewhat not quite real.
What about the others who died today or any other day for that matter? The media picks the “fortunate” few, and celebrates their accomplishments with what seems to be an undo importance.
I toy with the idea of a book titled “They Died Too”. The book would pick 15-20 people who died on the same day as someone who’s death was given strong media publicity and focus on the impact those people had in their own circles of influence.
Obviously everyone can not be famous and the theathers to which each of us play out our own lives are of differing sizes but I think it is important to keep in mind that we are all important to those in our world. The media-driven culture we have today tends to make it seem like the accomplishments of a select few are what matter.
We’d do well to step back, look around our immediate environment a bit more and remember that whether it is the person at the neighborhood store or the person running the largest corporation, the contributions we each make to the world are worth celebrating. Life is a precious gift and many do wonderful things with this treasure.

“inattention and failure to yield”

And yet again I read another reminder of that frightful day almost four years ago. Tears, fear, shame, blame, anger, danger, pain, and all so impossible to
explain. Thankfully the result for my being hit by a car as the result of a driver’s inattention and failure to yield” was much
less serious than death–the outcome for 103 pedestrians during the period this article describes.
“Inattention and failure to yield is what you are pleading guilty to,” said the judge to the person who hit me. And the ultimate
in irony, due to Washington traffic laws, promise to be good for a few years–seven I think– and you get no fine and a clean
record.
It was two years ago that I sat in a King County court room listening to a judge speak those words–the same words I’m guessing
are spoken dozens of times a year here in King County alone? I really wonder if the drivers realize the pain, damage and lifelong consequences they cause in the people they so “inattentively happen to hit with their cars? I know the driver in my case didn’t since a witness told me that the person was more interested in borrowing a cell phone to tell another that they’d be late for dinner, repeatedly interrupting medical personnel who were attending to me.
Inattention and failure to yieldā€¯ We couch such wanton disregard for the safety of another in such mild terms that it sounds
almost like the person did little more than spill a glass of milk. Make no mistake, it is the blood of another human being
spilled and trust me there’s more than enough crying to go around afterward.
Where’s the inattention and failure to yield” of the pain I feel after doing nothing more than walking for a few miles? I guess
I’m the lucky one who gets the gift that keeps on giving because the docs say “that’s just the way it is.”
Oh rest assured I’m more than thankful to have the pain. After flying 12 feet in the air, doing a flip I’m told would do a
gymnast proud and banging my head on the pavement, I’ll gladly take the pain. The alternative, given to 26 folks a year here in
King County for the period covered by this article, is something that I’m all to aware of could have happened to me.
I’m also all to aware that pedestrian safety is not taken seriously nearly as often as it should be. Ironic that my own home town newspaper publishes an article on the topic of pedestrian safety where the police chief of a neighboring city says cars don’t stop for folks in crosswalks often enough.

An Accessible Harry Potter?

Bob Regan of Macromedia has a great post talking about Flash accessibility and a newly relaunched J.K. Rowlin site that is a model for Flash accessibility. How nice to see accessibility of such a high profile web site being taken seriously.
Harry Potter books are not on the top of my reading list but having played with the site a bit I’m really impressed to see how well the Flash works with several screen readers. How cool!

Getting Ripped to Read

SF Gate has an excellent article on, well I’m not exactly sure what you’d call it. The functional name is Bookshare. I could call it a web site, a volunteer service, a non-profit or something else and none of those would do it justice. Bookshare is in short to me a revolutionary way for people who are blind to read. Short of publishers making electronic versions of all books not only available but also accessible, Bookshare is to me the greatest way for people who are blind to access books today.
The article goes into greater detail but the basic concept behind Bookshare is that if one person who’s blind scans a book then that book can be shared with others who are blind so they don’t have to go to the trouble of scanning the same book. Optical character recognition technology has come a long way in the more than 20 years I’ve been using it. Today I can read pretty much any book I want with about four hours of work to scan the book. Still there’s no reason that effort needs to be duplicated and I’m thrilled that Bookshare was created.
I read probably three books a week on average and lately the power of a community working to make books accessible is really showing itself in Bookshare. Roughly 50% of what I want to read has already been scanned and it is nice to be able to just grab a book for reading without having to turn the pages on a scanner. It is equally nice to know that the time I still do spend scanning printed books, which is a rather tedious experience, will benefit others.

A Summer Storm

We are back in the midwest for the holiday weekend. This time it is Minneapolis to visit a long time friend.
Even though it has been 11 years since I’ve called the midwest home, a summer thunderstorm reminds me just how much a part of me this weather and climate are.
In 11 years of living in California, Oregon and Washington, I don’t think I’ve experienced a true thunderstorm once. My definition isn’t the few claps of thunder that seems to qualify in Seattle. It is the hour-plus sort of storm where the thunder rattles the windows and rolls from one side of the sky to the other. It is the sort of storm where a clap of thunder can set off a car alarm. It is the sort of storm where the rain falls at a rate to justify the expression “raining buckets” and where you sense the awesome power of nature with every gust of the wind.
As a very small child I remember how much these sorts of storms used to frighten me. The “beep beep beep” of the television weather alert to be followed by the forecaster of the day reading a national weather service alert used to send me to the center of the house Mickey Mouse radio in hand to listen for every detail, just hoping the storm would go away.
Today a summer trip back to the midwest is a disappointment for me if I don’t get at least one good thunderstorm. This morning’s was at least two hours long. Windows rattled, rain pounded the windows and the wind was a constant. Strange how much all that just feels like home to me.

Assassination Madness

Richard Nixon’s presidency is one I know largely through history. I was seven when Nixon resigned and the only memory I have of his presidency is watching his announcement that he would resign on television at summer camp.
The story related in The Assassination of Richard Nixon is one I hadn’t heard until renting the DVD. The movie features Sean Penn as Samuel Bicke, a man that finds life slipping away. A failed marriage, job problems and his general problems with the world lead Bicke to hatch a plot to fly a plane into the White House.
Much of the story and Bicke’s perception on the world is related through tapes Bicke narrates to Leonard Bernstein. The mix of Penn sounding perfectly calm and rational in these narrations while Bicke slips further and further away from reality in the film’s action is powerful. Audio production on this movie is excellent and clips of Nixon are mixed throughout plus news from the period to help convey things with which Bicke expresses greater and greater outrage.
This is a film I recommend.