Sunday, January 14, 2007 - 2:12 pm
I just found out this week that a close friend went blind. No one knows if its permanent of temporary yet but best guess is that it will be a reality for at least 3 months if its not permanent. A group of us started talking about how we could help her and a desktop was the obvious result of that discussion along with a text-to-speech engine however that will take awhile to get sorted out. The next topic of discussion was about getting music and audio books for her since she is absolutely SICK of listening to the news replay over and over. Sounds easy enough.

Next problem.. she refuses to learn braille yet as she is fighting to get her eyesight back. So getting audio books and music is great however she has no way to identify what it is in the case. Yep. You guessed it, next suggestion is well lets get her an mp3 player. So I start looking for software for an Ipod.. and HOLY SHIT BATMAN.. Apple has ZERO support that I could find for Blind people. So I start digging..

There are an estimated 1 MILLION blind adults in the United States as of 2004. Lets think this through.. there are 1 Million People who DEPEND on their hearing and not a single MP3 player I could find on the market supports voice menus. Hell.. even when I started looking into IPods I discovered that you can NOT buy a new, bigger IPod without a video screen.. Well shit.. now what..

Well the open source community has done a fantastic thing and created their own software for MP3 players that support Ipods. has a dual boot firmware application that takes 10 seconds to install (not including download time) and will read small files placed into each folder aloud making it a perfect application for blind people.

I did run into a few configuration issues which I am going to post here for anyone who wants to the same thing for a friend.
There are a couple ways of viewing files for the sighted, one is using their own database or the other is by using a directory system. Unfortunately I did not realise that the database does not allow for recorded folder and file mp3 files which means as you scroll through the options in the database it will spell out each folder for you which is aggravating to say the least. So.. after I deleted the 20+ GBs of Audio Books from ITunes I set about creating a folder structure that made sense, the reasons for this will be explained in a moment.


——> History

———–> The Learning Company

—————–> The Civil War

mp3 files


——> Thriller

———–> Book Group – John Sandford

—————–> John Sandford – 02 – Shadow Prey

mp3 files

Using a very sweet little application called VoiceBox (also from RockBox) it will auto generate voice tags using text to speech for every folder and mp3 file in the directory structure. This can be a serious time saver when your trying to do this quickly! However this forced me to start thinking like a blind person. I originally had my folder called John Sandford. Well that doesent help me identify if it is a grouping folder or a folder with files in it. So I changed the folder name to Book Group – John Sandford to help her know which folders are groups and which would contain mp3s.

I used the following links to be able to set up the Ipod 5.5 Generation 30Gb Video.

Main Installation Instructions for Ipod.

Voice Tagging

– Begin Rant –
I can NOT understand why the software to do this has to be developed by open sourcers.. You would have thought some marketing genius at Apple or some other company would have said.. Hey.. if we build IPod software that will read directory names and file names outloud as you scroll that there are at least a million new consumers out there would would want to buy our product immeadiately. Come on people! I mean anyone if they shut their eyes can manage a click wheel and know where the four buttons on the click wheel are. It is almost the perfect tool for a blind person and yet.. NADA. NOT A SINGLE SOLITARY SAUSAGE!
– End Rant –

Sunday, December 10, 2006 - 9:59 pm

Seattle airport removes Christmas trees to avoid lawsuit

SEATAC, Washington (AP) — All nine Christmas trees have been removed from the Seattle-
Tacoma International Airport instead of adding a giant Jewish menorah to the holiday display as a rabbi had requested.
Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, who made his request weeks ago, said he was appalled by the decision. He had hired a lawyer and threatened to sue if the Port of Seattle didn’t add the menorah next to the trees, which had been festooned with red ribbons and bows.
After consulting with lawyers, port staff believed that adding the menorah would have required adding symbols for other religions and cultures in the Northwest. The holidays are the busiest season at the airport, Betancourt said, and staff didn’t have time to play cultural anthropologists.

I love it.. They dont have time to play cultural anthropologists!! what a great line.

“They’ve darkened the hall instead of turning the lights up,” said Bogomilsky’s lawyer, Harvey Grad. “There is a concern here that the Jewish community will be portrayed as the Grinch.”

Well there you have it. The Jewish Community is the Grinch.

Someone needs to point out that these days the Christmas tree really is not seen as a “Christian” symbol. At least for me (Atheist) its simply a sign of the season and has fuck all to do with some religion. Especially since it and the yule log are all pagan symbols to begin with.

Filed In: GeneralComments (6)

Saturday, December 2, 2006 - 11:40 am

In U.S., fear and distrust of Muslims runs deep

WASHINGTON (Reuters)- When radio host Jerry Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly.

The first caller to the station in Washington said that Klein must be “off his rocker.” The second congratulated him and added: “Not only do you tattoo them in the middle of their forehead but you ship them out of this country … they are here to kill us.”

Another said that tattoos, armbands and other identifying markers such as crescent marks on driver’s licenses, passports and birth certificates did not go far enough. “What good is identifying them?” he asked. “You have to set up encampments like during World War Two with the Japanese and Germans.”

At the end of the one-hour show, rich with arguments on why visual identification of “the threat in our midst” would alleviate the public’s fears, Klein revealed that he had staged a hoax. It drew out reactions that are not uncommon in post-9/11 America.

“I can’t believe any of you are sick enough to have agreed for one second with anything I said,” he told his audience on the AM station 630 WMAL (, which covers Washington, Northern Virginia and Maryland

“For me to suggest to tattoo marks on people’s bodies, have them wear armbands, put a crescent moon on their driver’s license on their passport or birth certificate is disgusting. It’s beyond disgusting.

“Because basically what you just did was show me how the German people allowed what happened to the Jews to happen … We need to separate them, we need to tattoo their arms, we need to make them wear the yellow Star of David, we need to put them in concentration camps, we basically just need to kill them all because they are dangerous.”

The show aired on November 26, the Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday, and Klein said in an interview afterwards he had been surprised by the response.

“The switchboard went from empty to totally jammed within minutes,” said Klein. “There were plenty of callers angry with me, but there were plenty who agreed.”

Those in agreement are not a fringe minority: A Gallup poll this summer of more than 1,000 Americans showed that 39 percent were in favor of requiring Muslims in the United States, including American citizens, to carry special identification.

Roughly a quarter of those polled said they would not want to live next door to a Muslim and a third thought that Muslims in the United States sympathized with al Qaeda, the extremist group behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Where does the problem lay? Does it lay with the ignorance of the callers or does it lay with the Muslims within America not speaking up enough and against Al Qaeda. I personally think it lays with both sides. While it sucks that you have to speak up and against Islamic Terorrists its the way of the day these days. It makes me wonder.. If Islamics truly feel their religion has been hijacked by terrorists then why aren’t they speaking up loudly all the time? If my religion was being hijacked by a fundamentalist group that was killing in the name of my religion I would be using every means possible to yell about it and distance myself from those nuts.

Filed In: PoliticsComments (1)

Saturday, December 2, 2006 - 11:21 am

Blind man sentenced to library course

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A blind Turkish pensioner has been sentenced to a 26-day reading and writing course at his local public library after he failed to vote on time in an election for his village cooperative, his son said Friday.

A prosecutor in the province of Kutahya in northwest Turkey sentenced Ismail Canseven, 73, to the education course after he did not show up for the election of the cooperative’s board of directors in May, Isa Canseven told Reuters.

“What am I going to do in a library? I can’t see out of either of my eyes, and I can’t read or write anyway,” Friday’s edition of the Hurriyet newspaper quoted Ismail as saying.

Isa Canseven, 42, said he would appeal against the sentence served on his father. “My father can only find the bathroom by holding on to a piece of string we’ve tied to the (bathroom) wall,” he said.

In Turkey, people are obliged by law to vote in elections.

A case of the law going nuts!
Although it would be interesting to see what truly happened if a similar law was enacted in the US. Would you really want people who can’t be bothered to vote in the first place actually voting? Perhaps if a similar law was enacted in the US it would also have a required test based on knowledge of the issues.

Filed In: Humor, PoliticsComments (11)

Saturday, December 2, 2006 - 11:15 am

Shops destroy Santas giving “Hitler salute”

BERLIN (Reuters) – A German chain of shops has removed miniature wooden Santa Claus figures from its shelves and destroyed them after customers complained it looked like they were giving the stiff-armed Hitler salute that is outlawed.

Josef Lange, a spokesman for the Rossmann chain that has 1,200 outlets, told Reuters Friday the figures depicting Father Christmas with his right arm stiffly upright toward the sky and holding a sack in his left hand upset some customers.

“We were astonished by the reaction,” Lange said. “It looks like he’s just pointing up to the sky and we were surprised that anyone saw the so-called ‘Hitler salute’ in that. But we responded and had the entire inventory removed and destroyed.”

Oversensitivity in action? Hard to know since a photo is not available of the hilter santas.

Filed In: GeneralComments (21)

Saturday, December 2, 2006 - 11:09 am

Supreme court to confront school racial diversity

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court confronts whether race can be used in deciding where students to go to school on Monday, testing the willingness of President George W. Bush’s two newest court appointees to overturn programs to foster racial diversity.

In a pair of cases that could affect millions of students nationwide, the high court will consider whether the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equality allows public elementary, middle and high schools to use race as a factor in admissions.

A sharply divided Supreme Court voted 5-4 in 2003 when it last addressed similar issues and ruled that racial preferences can be used in university admission decisions.

It’s about time this was redressed. While I believe affirmative action was usefull in the past to help level the playing field I think in this day for someone to get a position either in a job or educationally, simply because of race, is discrimatory against others who have worked hard. Only when someones qualifications are identical can other factors intervene. Those factors may not just extend to race. They may extend to verbal communication, sense of humor, in other words.. personality. You can not legislate against someone making choices based on someone’s personality. Everyone makes choices based on the personalities in play legislated or not. My biggest problem is with the forcing of racial quotas. Any time there are quotas in play there will be discrimination against someone.

In one case before the high court, Seattle used race as a tie-breaking factor in deciding who gets into which of the city’s public high schools when too many students seek admission to the same school.

School officials there aim for each school to have about 40 percent white students and 60 percent racial minorities, reflecting the city’s overall racial composition.

In the other case, the Louisville, Kentucky-area school district used racial guidelines to keep black student enrollment at most elementary, middle and high schools at between 15 percent and 50 percent to maintain diversity.

A group of parents in Seattle and the parent of a white student in Louisville who had been denied entry into his neighborhood school challenged the use of race.

Their lawyers said the Supreme Court has yet to decide a case involving a school district’s voluntary use of race-based pupil assignments for a purpose other than to remedy the effects of past segregation.

Both supporters and opponents of the programs cited the Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 that outlawed racial segregation in the nation’s public schools.

Filed In: GeneralComments (96)

Saturday, December 2, 2006 - 10:22 am

In a world where the holidays are run by the efficient Bureau of Yuletide Affairs, a bitter and burned-out Ghost of Christmas Past decides to go AWOL while on a “mission” and leave his “target” stranded in 1965.

A brand new way of showing “A Christmas Carol”. This was a very funny comedy film that had a few twists to the old story. It blends technology with the concept of the Ghosts Of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Answers a few questions about how those ghosts think and their purposes in life.

Great fun for all.

Chasing Christmas

Filed In: Movie ManiaComments (0)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - 1:35 am

Judge rules insurance covers New Orleans homeowners

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – A Louisiana federal judge has ruled many New Orleans homeowners whose houses sustained water damage after Hurricane Katrina are not excluded from coverage under their insurance policies, a judgment that represents a loss for the insurance industry.

In an 85-page judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood Duval denied motions by some insurers seeking to stop policyholders from receiving claims they said were prevented by exclusion language spelled out in the policies.

The insurance companies argued the industry standard wording for what constitutes a flood covers any inundation of dry land by water.

He also said insurers’ definitions of the word “flood” were ambiguous and did not necessarily include man-made causes, such as levee failures.

“It is the considered opinion of the Court that because the policies are all-risk, and because ‘flood’ has numerous definitions, it reasonably could be limited to natural occurrences,” Duval wrote

Ok I am confused or Reuters has written this wrong.. but it certainly seems that the way this article is written the insurance company won.. but lets HOPE they have to pay out if it says the word floor. I mean whats up with that? The leveees broke due to the water coming down from the hurricane as much as from wind.

Filed In: GeneralComments (3)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - 1:26 am

Hey the so called activist judges are at it again.

Judge strikes down part of Bush anti-terror order

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A federal judge in Los Angeles, who previously struck down sections of the Patriot Act, has ruled that provisions of an anti-terrorism order issued by President George W. Bush after September 11 are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins found that part of the law, signed by Bush on September 23, 2001 and used to freeze the assets of terrorist organizations, violated the Constitution because it put no apparent limit on the presidentâs powers to place groups on that list.

Ruling in a lawsuit brought against the Treasury Department in 2005 by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Collins also threw out a portion of Bushâs order which applied the law to those who associate with the designated organizations.

Oh fabulous.. can we not freeze the assets first and then decide if they should be on the list by a court of judges?? Put a penalty in place like 8% interest for freezing assets if the court can not see any reason why they should have been frozen in the first place. That would make the government step lightly and not slow the speed at which these things can happen if necessary.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of five organizations, including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, which wants to create a separate state for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, and Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan, which represents Kurds in Turkey. Both groups had been designated by the United States as foreign terrorist organizations.

Yeah I have no clue why we would want to freeze the US based assets of those organizations!!

Filed In: GeneralComments (2)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 - 11:45 am

Scientists say trained bees can sniff bombs

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Scientists at a U.S. weapons laboratory say they have trained bees to sniff out explosives in a project they say could have far-reaching applications for U.S. homeland security and the Iraq war.

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico said they trained honeybees to stick out their proboscis — the tube they use to feed on nectar — when they smell explosives in anything from cars and roadside bombs to belts similar to those used by suicide bombers.

Researchers in the program, dubbed the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project, published their findings on Monday.

By exposing the insects to the odor of explosives followed by a sugar water reward, researchers said they trained bees to recognize substances ranging from dynamite and C-4 plastic explosives to the Howitzer propellant grains used in improvised explosive devices in Iraq.

Ok.. so I either get a mental picture of some cop with a bee on a leash or they are going to release two billion bees into Iraq and see which cars they go after so now I have a bunch of troops running after a swarm of bees. I would be wrong.. they are going to carry shoeboxes with bees in them..

Haarmann said the bees could be carried in hand-held detectors the size of a shoe box, and could be used to sniff out explosives in airports, roadside security checks, or even placed in robot bomb disposal equipment. He said the next step would be to manufacture the bee boxes and train security guards in their use.

Dont forget to take the bees home with you and feed them!

Filed In: General, HumorComments (7)

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