Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in 40 Seconds

To end 2008 and start off 2009, this video gives a beautiful recap of 2008. I feel bad for those who don't get to experience the variety of the seasons.

Happy New Year!

One year in 40 seconds from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sign Tube

Okay, so virtually everyone has been to You Tube at one point or another. If not, then they've watched one of their videos embeded in a news story or blog (such as this one). Though You Tube recently added captioning, its not widely used by video producers. One limitation of the You Tube method is that only the person who uploaded the video can add captions to it.

There's now a video site out there for those who are Deaf, Sign-Tube. Funded by the UK based Deaf Enterprise Partnership, it is for "deaf people or those who wishes or involved in Sign Language or in the deaf community to share the news, information, events and even fun with people across the world."

It looks like the site is fairly underused, as there are only 500 videos listed currently (as opposed to YouTube which has 10 hrs of video uploaded to the site every minute and has hundreds of millions of views per day). A quick search on You Tube for Sign Language gets 42,000 videos.

Sign Tube is an interesting idea, especially as it intends to develop community as part of it. I'm not sure if there's a need for it, as YouTube seems to be hosting a significant amount of sign language videos, but that's what is nice about the internet, you can always put something out there and see what sticks.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

David Patterson SNL Parody- Did it go too far?

A recent sketch by Saturday Night Live has drawn some criticism for its portrayal of David Patterson, the Governor of NY who is blind. Quoted in the LA Times, Patterson said "I can take a joke," Paterson told the Daily News on Sunday. "But only 37% of disabled people are working, and I'm afraid that that kind of third-grade humor certainly adds to this atmosphere."

The National Federation for the Blind was also quoted as saying "The biggest problem faced by blind people is not blindness itself, but the stereotypes held by the general public," spokesman Chris Danielsen said. "The idea that blind people are incapable of the simplest tasks and are perpetually disoriented and befuddled is absolutely wrong."

Read my opinion after the video

Did SNL go too far? I'm not sure if too far is the right phrase. They didn't do anything original, this was juvenile humor. The cliches they missed was him walking into a wall, or being surprised that he was black (ha, ha, didn't know he was black because he's BLIND! yawn).
Aside from this poorly written skit, it raises a good question about the use of real or fictionalized characters with disabilities in humor. Is it okay to use someone's disability in a humorous skit? How? What would make it too far? What about the character's comments about someone "with a gamy arm...giant gums with the tiny teeth", is that humor?

Ultimately, I'd love to see David Patterson go on SNL and show them was humor is. The little I've seen him speak, he appears to have quite a sense of humor and can laugh at himself. He also seems to have a good sense of how far is too far and how they could use his blindness in a skit.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Book Review: BizzWords

BizzWords: From Ad Creep to Zero Drag, a Guide to Today's Emerging Vocabulary By Gregory Bergman

I've been putting off writing this review for some time. I finished the book within days of receiving it from Mini Book Expo for Bloggers, but have delayed in writing the review. I'm not sure what exactly my reason is, but that's also how I feel about the book: I'm not sure exactly. Formatted like a dictionary, and written like bad comedy, BizzWords purports to be "A Guide to Today's Emerging Vocabulary".

There are plenty of terms that cause a chuckle, such as Dot Snot defined as a "young arrogant person who got rich by owning a dot com company" or when people stick their heads over a cubicle wall when there's noise or something interesting happening is called "prairie dogging". Some of the terms actually have merit, and are useful if you're not familiar with business language and need or want to know such as angel investor, action items or red chip. There are others that have little utility and are more descriptive or just interesting.

My problem with the book is what I haven't been able to resolve about the book. That is; What is the book's utility and the intention in writing it? Is it meant as a serious guide to emerging vocabulary? Then it should act like it and skip the silly terms while embracing a more dictionary style format and form. Define the term, origins and provide an explanation without the weak attempts at humor. This would make the book far more interesting by providing a context to the words and, over time, perhaps an evolution of the terms (or extinction). There are serious terms that are actually very descriptive and interesting, but are ruined by bad writing. A prime example of this is "Brightsizing" where a company lays off those with the least seniority while retaining older workers. The book proposes that these "new employees, who are often younger are typically the best trained and educated..." Interesting concept and decent description ruined by

"Signs that your company has been brightsized:
* The highest level of education among your employees is now the tenth grade.
* In the lounge, magazines like The New Yorker and The Economist have been replaced by coloring books.
* In the design department, the Mac has been replaced by the Etch A Sketch."

Ultimately, there is some utility in the definitions BizzWords provides assuming that you can overlook those that aren't useful or just plain silly, but I can't say I'd want to hand over my $9.99 to take this home from my local book store.

From Adams Media

A review for Mini Book Expo: Full Disclosure

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Voice Activated Alarm Clock

voice activated digital alarm clock with blue face
"This unique alarm clock uses advanced speech recognition technology that lets you easily set the time and alarm via voice commands and responds to queries such as What time is it with vocalized answers." -Assistive Technology Services website
Very interesting alarm clock. Why not, the technology exists and allows those with cognitive disabilities as well as visual impairments to use the clock. I suspect though that it's susceptible to problems with accents and speech impediments. See the demonstration below or check it out on their site where there are other interesting AT demonstrations.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Assistive Tech. as Psychological Marker

Okay, so the title might over state it a bit, but the point is very valid.

"...we can often have the false impression that providing a patient with a bit of kit will be well received as its offers a "solution" to a problem. Sadly however the issue of a device can also be a clear a visible marker of an ability lost or never to be gained and may therefore be received with a distinct feeling of sadness, even anger."

Short but very interesting article. It's imperative that we're cognizant of an individual's feeling about using a piece of AT. For many, especially young people, its others' perceptions of the AT rather than their own. They may understand how it can help them, but the perception may out weigh this. It is not enough to say you should or must, but to help them come to a point of accepting it, and finding a way to build it into their life. This may mean helping them talk to others about what it does for them.

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AT picture used with Creative Commons Permission from Flickr user cobalt123

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Skype Boating

Interesting article from IT about using VOIP (voice over internet protocol) to help people with visual impairments navigate using a boat or participate in other sports.

"Ed Gallagher has slowly lost his sight over the last ten years. He was a keen sailor in the San Francisco Bay area and wanted to continue his hobby. He joined the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS) but really wanted to continue solo sailing. He put together a solution using a head-mounted video camera and a video Skype link to a friend on terra firma. The friend can now see the boat and where it is going and direct Ed so that he can sail solo in the Bay."

Great example of using existing technology to meet needs, and how assistive technology needs to be neither expensive or specialized.

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Boating photo used with permission from Flickr user tiarescott under Creative Commons License

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book Review: A Wood Engraver's Alphabet

There are plenty of alphabet books out there, ones that have cars, fruit, clothes, kids, toys and animals. However, this isn't your child's alphabet book. A Wood Engraver's Alphabet Book 2008 Porcupine's Quill, Inc. by G.. Brender a Brandis is a beautifully crafted art book comprised of 26 wood cuts of both familiar and rare flowers and plants.

In his introduction Mr. Brandis talks with a love for his craft and an almost intimate feeling about his subjects. He talks about his drawing process of drawing on paper and later transferring this to wood while other times drawing directly on "the highly polished wooden block (usually boxwood if available although the lady's mantle was done on a piece of holly wood)."

"Something mysterious happens in my brain when I actually begin engraving. Throughout the drawing process I make dark lines on white paper or onto the blond wood, but the minute I pick up a graver or burin to start incising lines into the block I am thinking in terms of white line in a black field since what ever bits of the block's surface I lower by cutting will not catch any ink... I have never understood how I do this reversal of black and white- it just came to me from the first engraving I did..."

Read the rest of the review at Associated Content

Thank you to Mini Book Expo for providing me this book. Read my other reviews at Associated Content
Full Disclosure

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