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June 26, 2006

BehindTheMedspeak: 'And the blind shall see' — In time


Right now, though, a huge step forward toward this dream has become reality, with the introduction of the Portable Blind Reader (above, demonstrated by Tommy Craig).

Long story short: Ray Kurzweil has spearheaded the compression of his original washing machine-size Kurzweil Reader — the first device that could convert text into audio — into a handheld device about the size of a paperback book (below).


It combines a digital camera, a PDA and some very sophisticated software.

Here's today's Associated Press article by Jamie Stengel.

    Handheld device helps the blind read

    A whole new world opened up for Tommy Craig as he tested a new handheld device for the blind that converts print to audio.

    Craig was able to "read" everything from menus to cooking directions by positioning the reader over print and taking a picture. In seconds, the device's synthetic voice read the printed message to him.

    "The reader provides access to materials that a lot of times you just didn't read," said Craig, 51, of Austin, Texas, who was one of about 500 blind people who tested the device over the past few months. "It certainly makes you more independent."

    The National Federation of the Blind plans to put the device on sale Saturday, when its annual meeting gets underway in Dallas.

    "It's not quite like having a pair of eyes that work, but it's headed in that direction," said James Gashel, executive director for strategic initiatives at the Maryland-based National Federation of the Blind.

    The device, combining a personal digital assistant and a digital camera, was developed by inventor Ray Kurzweil and the membership organization of more than 50,000 blind people. It's been dubbed the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader.

    "This is really the hottest new technology to be developed for blind people in the last 30 years," said Gashel, who calls it "the camera that talks."

    About three decades ago, Kurzweil invented the first device that could convert text into audio. It was about the size of a washing machine. That gave way to software that could be used by a computer and scanner to perform the same function. The latest device, about the size of a paperback book, introduces portability.

    "It's always been considered desirable to have a reading machine that a blind person could carry along with them," Kurzweil said. "We're getting phenomenal feedback."

    There are about 10 million blind and visually impaired people nationwide, and that number is expected to double in the next 30 years as baby boomers age.

    The device also can be useful for those who have limited vision, said Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind.

    The federation expects that the reader, which costs about $3,500, will be a big hit among the 3,000 participants at the annual meeting. It will be sold though Massachusetts-based Kurzweil Education Systems and will be available on the Internet and in stores.

    People who have tested the reader said they enjoy being able to read text they couldn't before.

    Maurer also points out another advantage: "Sometimes you get something that you want to read that you don't want anyone else to read."


About $3,500.

June 26, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Time Flies Clock


By Josh Owen.

June 26, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Marcelo Balboa is a disgrace and should resign as of yesterday


I watched the England-Ecuador World Cup round of 16 game yesterday with increasingly rapt attention as the scoreless minutes crept by and the clock inexorably moved toward what might well become a PK shootout.

As the game moved into its middle third, Balboa, the ABC analyst, started hammering on the fact that David Beckham simply wasn't doing much on his side of the field and needed to be subbed for by someone who could pick up the pace for the English.

Wait a minute — in a game this sluggish and seemingly even, couldn't the presence of the world's greatest set piece/free kick artist possibly turn out to be decisive?

I don't know anything about soccer but even I could figure that one out.

But no, Balboa just kept hammering on Beckham's seeming disappearance from play and repeating that England needed to get him out of there so as to get more movement of the ball down that side of the field.

Announcer Dave O'Brien didn't address the issue.

In minute 60, as is now well known everywhere in the world, Beckham lined up a 27-yard free kick and drove a beautiful ball (top) into about the only ball-sized space within the goal frame that was available to him.

His magnificent shot scored what proved to be the single, monumental goal that propelled England into the quarter-finals this coming Saturday against Portugal.

But here's why Balboa should be gone: after Beckham's kick, when O'Brien said (tentatively) gee, maybe it was a good thing after all that England hadn't subbed for Beckham, Balboa replied sure, it was a great kick and all but he still believed Beckham hadn't been doing much and shouldn't have been in there to take it.

Hey, Manny Ramirez is not gonna win a Gold Glove out in left field anytime soon — it's more likely he'll be killed by a fly ball bonking him on the head.

But you're not gonna take him out of the lineup just because he can't field, are you?

Marcelo, you're a bozo.

Being wrong is one thing; not being big enough to say hey, I was wrong, is another.

You're a loser — go home.

June 26, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

GustBuster Umbrella: 'Guaranteed not to flip out — even in 55 mph winds!'


From the website:

    GustBuster Umbrella

    This ingeniously engineered umbrella is a must have in windy regions like Duluth.

    Guaranteed not to flip inside out during hard gusts of wind — even up to 55 mph!

    The 2-piece canopy has a top layer of nylon that’s secured with elastic bands.

    When a gust comes up the top layer stretches releasing the wind before it blows the umbrella inside out.

    You stay dry no matter how bad the storm gets.

    Plus all the other features you’d expect from a top-quality umbrella like lightning-safe double-reinforced fiberglass construction, easy slide-style opener and classic hardwood J-handle.

    48" canopy for full coverage.


June 26, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

bookofjoe's first video — Premiering today on YouTube


It's up right here as I type these words.

Yesterday, while I was ambling along on my treadmill doing something close 2 nothing (but different than the day before) I got to wondering if I could make a movie using my ancient Minolta Dimage X camera.

Just so you understand what I mean by ancient, it has a 1.5" screen and is capable of 1 megapixel at its highest resolution.

Oh, yeah — it cost $399 when I bought it, maybe two or three years ago, I don't remember exactly.

Anyway, I did recall dimly that it has a movie capability so I noodled around with the controls and darned if I wasn't able, after very little in the way of confusion, all things TechnoDolt™ considered, to make a seven-second-long movie — with sound, no less — of one of my kitties, chillin' atop my treadmill-side desk (above).

Even more astounding was that I was able to put it up on YouTube first try, no problem, in very little time and with a minimum of fuss.

That is some great technology going on there, to make it possible for someone like me to do that by myself.


This could be the start of something big.

Or not.

June 26, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Olive Oil Lip Stick


If it was good enough for Cleopatra it should be good enough for you.

From the website:

    Olive Oil Lip Stick

    Super hydrating olive oil formula smoothes chapped, dry lips for ultra-soft moistness.

    The same rich emollient that has beautified skin for hundreds of years.

    Goes on clear; wear alone or under lipstick.

    0.5 oz.


June 26, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Near Thing — by J. B. Boothroyd

We only met for a moment
Beside a lichened wall
In fact, to be perfectly truthful
We didn't meet at all.

The road was a 'B' and narrow
The bend was an 'S' and smart;
I was passing a grocer's van
You a pony and cart.

I may have touched the grocer
It's hard to be sure, of course
At an aggregate speed of a hundred
We certainly scared the horse.

We almost met for a moment
Instead we just passed by
In short we missed each other
Though God alone knows why.

I got half a thumb to the hooter
Did you get a toe to the brake
I reckon a mile between us
Before we began to shake.

Did the landscape go pink at the edges
For you as it did for me?
Did you drop to a thoughtful thirty
For a mile, or two, or three.

We only met for a moment
[As I think I must have said]
But another moment either way
And we'd both of us be dead.

And the most alarming aspect
Of having so nearly met
Is that by this time tomorrow
We'll both of us forget.

June 26, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gulliver's Crowbar


Even big guys have needs.

From the website:

    The 58" Big Boy Pry Bar

    Everyone needs a Big Boy Pry Bar lying around the garage!

    Order one today — I'll guarantee it will get you out of a tough situation in the near future.

    At 58" in overall length, the leverage is phenomenal.

    The tip has a tapered foot to get under anything to get leverage and lift it out of the way.

    Hardened, tempered steel shaft with a solid metal end so you can hit it with a hammer!

    Overload the pry bar?

    It will bend before it breaks.

    Use it to get the Mother-in-Law off the couch?

    Who am I to say no?


I just went down to the basement to measure my crowbar: it's 33" long.

And indeed I've found it invaluable about once a year for odd jobs.

I'm very tempted.

The Big Boy costs $99.99.

June 26, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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