The Blind Perspective

The Blind Perspective

Welcome to The Blind Perspective

September 2017
Volume 3 Issue 9

Table of Contents

Greetings from the Editor
Movers & Shakers
International Perspective
Exercise, does a body good
Have I Got A Story For You
The Braille Highway
Kaleidoscope of Krafts
Spencer’s Spotlight
APPetizers: Byte Size Tidbits to Help Master Your iDevice
the Rotating Trio: WindBag
Cooking Concoctions
Riddle & Brain Buster


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Greetings from the Editor

By Karen Santiago

Soon the changing of seasons will be upon us. Whether you are moving from summer to fall or winter to spring, I hope you continue to keep reading the Blind Perspective. I have stated it several times in the past and I believe it’s worth repeating. I am so proud of all the people who write each month for this publication. They work hard, and are dedicated to providing articles that meet our mission; to keep you informed and entertained. Shoot them an email and let them know what you like, what you want to know about, and your comments, suggestions, and ideas.

I am needing your help in keeping the International Perspective segment going. I would love to hear from readers of countries I have not yet covered, and there are a lot of them out there. If you do not want to write the article, that’s fine, I can interview you and write it up for you. However, if you want to write it and need a bit of guidance, I can help with that as well. Please email me if interested:

At A Glance: Charles Bonnet Syndrome, Chicago, Shoulders & Arms, Historical, Suggested, & Love & Friendship Books, Sophia’s Thoughts, Fork Flowers, Victor Reader Trek, Music, Emergency Preparedness, , Enchiladas rojas, Riddle & Brain Buster!

Movers & Shakers

Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS)
By Karen Santiago

Who is Charles Bonnet?
Charles Bonnet was a Swiss philosopher and writer who lived in the 17 hundreds. He was the first to write about this condition. He described the experiences his grandfather was having after losing his sight due to cateracts. His grandfather began “seeing” birds, buildings, people, and patterns that weren’t really there. In 1760, Bonnet described his eponymous syndrome, in which he documented a range of complex visual hallucinations that occurred in seemingly psychologically intact people.

What is Charles Bonnet Syndrome?
Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a condition that usually causes vivid, complex, and recurring visual hallucinations, although they can be very simplistic as well. Usually it is more common among older adults with later-life vision loss. Many vision professionals believe that a significant number of adults with vision loss from a variety of eye conditions, including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma experience CBS. However, anyone of any age, including children, may develop this condition as any eye condition that causes sight loss can trigger CBS.

The Numbers:
It is estimated that as many as 30% of adults with vision loss are affected by this syndrome. However, the numbers may be greater since many people who experience these symptoms rarely talk about it with family members, friends, or physicians.

What Causes Charles Bonnet Syndrome?
The main cause of CBS is loss of vision and how your brain reacts to this loss. This syndrome is sometimes referred as phantom vision syndrome, and can be compared to phantom limb syndrome. In the latter, a person can continue to receive sensation signals from a limb that has been amputated.
Ophthalmologist, Jonathan Trobe, M.D., from the University of Michigan, explained CBS this way: “The brain is a mash-up of stored visual memories. When visual cells in the brain stop getting information, which happens when your rods and cones stop working, the cells compensate. If there’s no data coming in, they ‘make up’ images.”
In other words, when you lose your sight, your brain is not receiving as much information from your eyes as it used to. Your brain can sometimes fill in these gaps by releasing new fantasy pictures, patterns or old pictures that it has stored. When this occurs, you experience these images stored in your brain as hallucinations. CBS tends to occur in the weeks and months following a deterioration in vision.

Charles Bonnet Syndrome is generally determined if there are no other neurological diagnosis to explain the hallucinations. If an individual is suffering from added symptoms such as memory loss, weakness, or tremors, then seeking a neurologist to rule out other conditions that could be contributing to the hallucinations, is greatly recommended.

The Hallucinations:
The visual hallucinations associated with CBS can vary and can range from simple shapes and dots of colors, simple patterns, to detailed pictures of people, animals, buildings, and everyday things. Individuals who “see” these visions know, or hopefully will learn to know that they are mirages, of sorts. They are illusions, not delusions. The difference is that a person with delusions is convinced that what he sees is real. While on the other hand, a person with CBS may initially second-guess themselves but ultimately accept that their perceptions are not real. although it may appear vivid. CBS hallucinations only affect one’s sight, which means that you don’t hear, smell or feel things that aren’t there.
The hallucinations people see with Charles Bonnet Syndrome seem to fall into two broad types: simple repeated patterns or complex hallucinations of objects, people, and landscapes. Both types can either be in black and white or color, or move around or stay stationary.

Simple repeating pattern hallucinations:
*Grids, shapes, or lines
*Quite vivid in color, i.e. bright green dots surrounded by vibrant pink squares
*complicated brickwork or mosaic patterns that enlarge to cover more of your vision
*patterns that look like roots from a tree, growing over everything you see
*Distorted faces, which appear in your vision and can change shape or move towards you

Complex hallucinations:
*People, places, insects and animals
*Whole scenes appear, such as landscapes with waterfalls, mountains or a garden full of flowers
*Individuals or groups of people
People dressed in costumes, like Roman soldiers or small children in hats

How long does Charles Bonnet Syndrome last?
When initially affected with CBS, it can be quite distressing. You may experience hallucinations daily, and for long periods of time. Your CBS may stay like this for a number of months, but over time the hallucinations may become less frequent and they may eventually stop. It was initially thought that hallucinations resolved within 12 to 18 months, but a recent study found that most people still have occasional hallucinations five years after onset.

There is no known medication to stop Charles Bonnet Syndrome. However, some strong drugs typically used to treat epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, dementia or mental health problems Have been successful in helping some people. All these drugs can have serious side effects and should only be used under proper supervision.
Some common medications people take as they get older can interact when they’re taken together. This can make your CBS hallucinations more frequent. Please be sure to consult with your doctor to review your medications.

Coping with Charles Bonnet Syndrome:
Individuals experiencing Charles Bonnet Syndrome may feel anxious and overwhelmed, and the hallucinations can be disturbing and worrisome. While there is no cure for CBS, talking about the hallucinations and working out a plan to deal and manage them can help a lot.
One of the most effective form of treatment can come from knowing that the condition is not a mental health problem or a symptom of another disease but is due to sight loss. Knowing that CBS usually improves with time (even if it doesn’t go away completely) may also help put your mind at ease.
For most people, there is more than one technique for coping with their hallucinations. Many people experience their hallucinations when they are quiet, inactive, alone, stressed, tired, and in dim lit surroundings.

Helpful techniques to deal with hallucinations; remember not all of these will work for everyone:
*turn on the television or radio for a distraction
*stand up, or move around a bit
*look directly at the hallucination
*close your eyes and try to relax
*move your eyes or blink rapidly
turn on a light

A recent study has shown that a specific eye movement exercise can help. When a hallucination starts, look from left to right about once every second for 15 to 30 seconds, without moving your head. The distance moving from side to side should be about three feet (1 meter). In addition, you should be five feet (1 ½ meters) away from a wall, and looking straight ahead. If the hallucination continues, close your eyes and rest for a few seconds. Then repeat the process of moving your eyes from side to side for 15 to 30 seconds.
If the hallucinations do not subside or stop after four or five periods of looking left and right for 15 to 30 seconds, this exercise is unlikely to work and you can stop. However, it wouldn’t hurt to try it again on another occasion.

It’s natural to be worried, confused or frightened when you see things that are not really there. Until you know what’s happening, you may be concerned that seeing things is a sign of a mental health problem, or you might think that you have Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s important to remember and be reassured that CBS is caused by sight loss only and not by any other health problem.
If you have sight loss and are experiencing these types of visual hallucinations, talk with your general physician and eye professional. In addition, talk with family members, friends, and other people who have sight loss. You may just find that it is more common than you think.

Reader’s Personal Experiences:
Veronica: “I saw birds, trees, and flowers. I actually thought I regained my sight.”
Paul: “I see patterns, letters, tiny letters with a bright green and pink background.”
Brianna: “Shortly, after losing my sight, I began seeing hallucinations. I saw mostly people and animals. I didn’t, or couldn’t recognize the people or buildings. I learned to cope with them. I made a journal of each time I had a hallucination. I kept a record of how I was feeling and where I was just before it happened. I then noted the type of hallucination. This helped me in managing them. I can say it has been a very long time since I had a hallucination.”
Meagan: “My best advice to others experiencing CBS is to talk with others; family, eye doctor, and other people who are blind or have low vision. This helped me in knowing I was not alone.”
Allen: “My visual hallucinations started as soon as I lost my sight. I can remember the first hallucination I had. It was of many plush toys marching right along in front of me, like the energizer bunny. I was in the hospital for several months and would actually welcome these images, as it occupied my time. From the very beginning, 11 years ago, to date, I wake up every morning seeing a pattern of semi circles. The hallucinations don’t last as long, nor are they as frequent. That is, unless I am on some medications or very tired. Some other things I have seen are: Tudor houses with the lights and people inside, Bridges, bicycle racks with hundreds of bikes on them, and men, women, and children dressed up as if it were the eighteen hundreds. I have learned to manage and cope with my hallucinations throughout the years. However, it wasn’t until recently that I learned that there was a name, and a real diagnosis for this, and I really wasn’t going crazy after all!”

International Perspective

Chicago, Illinois
By Sharon Howerton

Chicago, located in the state of Illinois is the third largest city in the United States. Specifically, Chicago is in northeastern Illinois on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan. It has a population of nearly 30 million people. Chicago has Dozens of cultural institutions, historical sites and museums.

Some fun facts about this interesting city:
• 40 million visitors annually
• The historical Route 66 begins here
• The McCormick Place, Chicago’s premier convention center, offers the largest amount of exhibition space in North America (2.2 million square feet)
• The Lincoln Park Zoo, one of only three major free zoos in the country, is the country’s oldest public zoo with an estimated annual attendance of three million
• The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 110 stories high

Schools for the Blind:
Chicago has a number of services. There is a residential rehab facility called Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education-Wood (known generically as ICRE-Wood) which is a state sponsored facility. Individuals come from all parts of the state; those who live locally can commute.
There is a residential school for the blind in Jacksonville, Illinois which is about 200 miles from Chicago and about 50 miles from Springfield, the capital city. This is at least K-12 but may also include younger children. Jacksonville also houses the school for the deaf. ISVI, Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, has had a decreased enrollment as have most schools for the blind since the student’s local school district needs to release the student and to acknowledge that this district cannot accommodate the student. Many students seem to have multiple disabilities including vision loss.

As for the public school system, yes, children are integrated into the public school system.

Braille & Mobility:
Braille and mobility are taught through the school system; for adults, this falls to programs like ICRE-Wood mentioned previously or other local organizations such as the Department of Human Services, Bureau of Blind Services, though like other states, Illinois has become much more limited in the services it provides particularly for those individuals who are not able to work including seniors.

Sports & Recreation:
I cannot speak for the entire state of Illinois but can address Chicago services. There is a beep baseball team, for example, and an organization called Dare2Tri for disabled individuals of a variety of ages to participate in sports activities. There may be more activities offered by the Chicago Park District for children and adults, but I am not very familiar with that. I used to hear about judo classes for blind and visually impaired adults but do not know if this continues.

Job Training:
Organizations like the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired has placement counselors but seems to be fairly limited in job training though they used to do much more of it. I worked for Illinois rehab from 1978 to 2002, and the Lighthouse was one of our primary training locations. Now places like Second-Sense, a small private organization, teaches things like access technology but not job training. To be honest, I don’t know where people get job training these days.

Chicago and Illinois offer many schools and universities. I always encouraged students to work with the special needs departments at their respective schools in order to get the assistance they need. I understand that school districts provide students with technology, but that needs to be returned when a student graduates secondary school and at that point, they need to work with the adult service agency to receive the assistance they need.

For transportation, I must discuss Chicago and what we call the “collar counties” as I am not familiar with transportation in other parts of the state. Chicago has an extensive public transportation system which I use extensively. We have busses and both elevated and subway trains. There are also a number of commuter trains which we call Metra to connect Chicago to the suburbs; in fact, one such train enabled me to get up to Winnetka to Hadley for the first few years that I worked there.
One can access reduced fare services by applying for them as a person with a disability or a senior. There is also no- cost service on public transportation for low income individuals.
We do have a paratransit service. Rides must be scheduled a day in advance and cost 3 dollars per trip, but one must demonstrate an inability to use standard public transportation service. I use this service very sparingly depending on where I need to go as it can be unreliable and involves “ride share” so you have no idea how many people will be in the van or how long it will take to get to your destination. I use this for longer trips and on a very limited basis.
We also do have taxis and programs like Uber and Lyft. I have used all of them. In addition to trains, there is an extensive suburban bus system which we call PACE which I also use to get to Hadley.

Getting around:
*Many places do have tactile strips on the streets and at the edges of train platforms.
*The busses do announce their number and destination, and usually the auditory system on the busses works to indicate each stop.
* This has become much better on the trains as this is done via recording and not the individual driver or motor person. There are auditory track number announcements in the major train stations, but I find these extremely confusing as they talk over each other as track numbers are announced. However, I will also admit that I do not use the downtown train stations much and always request assistance for that reason.
* There are some audible traffic controls, but this is a topic of much disappointment as we wish there were more available.

I generally find braille on elevators in public buildings and often auditory announcements with floor numbers, etc. I do not find many braille menus in restaurants, but perhaps I don’t go to the right places. They are rarely offered. Very few buildings that I have encountered have braille on doors but, again, this may be because of places I frequent.

Guide Dogs:
We do not have any guide dog schools in Illinois. Many people from here tend to attend Guide Dogs for the Blind in California, but I think this is due to what I would call an aggressive marketing plan on the part of their field rep who lives here. I personally did not attend that school. Guide dogs do have access to public buildings.

As in other parts of the country, individuals who have not worked would be eligible for SSI benefits; those who worked the appropriate number of quarters would receive Social Security Disability.
There is a program called the Access Technology Project which allows individuals to borrow equipment; purchase depends on whether the state can assist or the individual locates another resource.

Reading service:
Illinois has the talking book service overseen by the Secretary of State’s office. There used to be a talking book center in Chicago and other locations; now all audio books which need to be mailed come through Springfield. Braille services come through the Utah State Library. Otherwise a patron can download audio or braille materials through BARD.

Blind Organizations:
Illinois has a small chapter of the American Council of the Blind and a rather large active chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. ICB may have a couple of affiliates, I am not sure how many affiliates NFB Illinois has, but they are considerably more active and proactive.
There are organizations for the blind here such as Blind Service Association which may be able to assist with tourism, but I don’t know; they do a lot of great volunteer work.
There is also a residence for the blind, Friedman Place, which has housing options and individuals of all ages.

Final Thoughts:
I think people who are blind or visually impaired, at least in Chicago, can be as active as one wants to be, and one does not have to be limited to blind organizations.

A Bit About Myself:
I started working for Hadley in September, 2002 after retiring from state service. It has been a fabulous opportunity where I do not have to concern myself with government regulations and constraints. For the first time in my 40+ year career of working with blind and visually impaired people, I feel I can actually provide service and “do good” for people.
I am the mother of two adult married sons, both of whom are sighted, I currently have five grandchildren. My activities include exercise at a local facility, participation in a parish church choir which I have done for most of the last 25 years, current president of the Chicago Uptown Lions Club and anything else that my guide dog Cameo and I can explore.
If you would like to get in touch with Sharon, you may email her

Exercise, does a body good

By Dan Kiely

Welcome back to exercise does a body good!
I am sure all you fitness geeks have had your fill of planking. So, this month I am focusing on strengthening your shoulders and arms.
Below I discuss the front, side, and back of the shoulders.
Note: Anterior deltoids, medial deltoids, and posterior deltoids
In addition, I discuss the front and back of the upper arms.
Note: Bicep and tricep muscles

When working the shoulders, you need to work all 3 shoulder head muscles. You need to keep the shoulder muscles in balance. For example, if you just work the front and side shoulder muscles, and neglect the back shoulder muscles, you risk injuries, such as tendonitis or rotator cuff issues.
So, what is good for the front shoulder muscle is good for the back shoulder muscle, and what is good for the front and back shoulder muscles is good for the side shoulder muscle.

Exercise # 1: Front Shoulder Raise. 
The front shoulder raise works the anterior deltoid muscle, which is located in the front of the shoulder.
You can perform these exercises either standing or sitting.
Note: Used dumbbells, a can good, or a resistance band when exerting the shoulders.
Starting Position: Arms position at your sides, palms facing down, feet flat on the floor hip width apart, and either stand or sit up nice and tall.
Raise both arms up in front of you at shoulder level, and then back to starting position.
Repeat 15 times, and do 2 to 3 sets.

Exercise #2: Side, Lateral Shoulder Raise.
This works the medial deltoid muscle, which is located on the side of the shoulder.
Starting Position: same as above; standing or sitting.
Raise both arms up and out to your sides, and up to shoulder level, then back to original position.
Note: If you are doing this correctly, you will look like the letter T.
Again, do 2 to 3 sets of 15.

Exercise #3: Rear Shoulder Raise.
This exercise works the posterior deltoid muscle, which is located in the back of the shoulder.
Starting Position: this exercise may be more comfortable in a standing position. Stand with feet flat on the floor hip width apart, and knees slightly bent. Bend your upper body forward, about 45 degrees. With palms facing each other, and arms hanging in front of you towards the floor, slightly bend your elbows.
Raise both arms up and out in front of you, and at shoulder level, then back to beginning position.
Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Exercise #4: Military Press. 
This works all 3 shoulder heads muscle, the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoid muscle.
Starting Position: Again, either sitting or standing, move your arms out to the side, elbows bent at 90 degrees, and upper arms just below shoulder level.
Pretend you are holding a barbell in your hands, with palms facing away from you and at eye level. Push both arms up and extend them so they are straight up in the air; like a ref signaling a touchdown in football. Then lower back down and repeat.
Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Exercise #5: Bicep Curls.
This exercise obviously works the biceps, which are located in the front of the upper arm.
Starting Position: same as previous exercises; standing or sitting Bend your elbows and raise your hands up to your shoulders, then back to starting position.
When performing bicep curls, you can work the biceps simultaneously or alternate them, moving the left, and then the right.
Note: You can hold dumbbells or can goods in each hand for an added workout.
Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Exercise #6: Tricep Kickback.
And, this exercise obviously works the triceps, which are located in the back of the upper arm.
Starting position: this may be easier to do while standing. Stand with feet flat on the floor, hip width apart and knees slightly bent. Bend upper body slightly forward and tuck both arms close to your sides.
Keeping forearms straight and parallel with the floor move your arms down and straight back as far as you can go, without causing a strain. You should feel a pull in your tricep if you are doing it correctly. Then return to starting position and repeat.
Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Men if you want big guns, you need to go heavy; working both bicep and tricep.
Women who want to tone up that flabby back area of the upper arm, you need to attack the tricep muscle.

Health Tip:
I received an email from a reader complaining of tendonitis in their hand and wrist. Tendonitis is an overuse injury. These types of overuse injury cause inflammation in the tendon, which connects to the bones and muscles.
The treatment for tendonitis is friction massage and ice therapy. The way to do friction massage is to use your finger or thumb and apply pressure across the belly of the muscle. Apply this constant pressure back and forth for five minutes, or more. The amount of pressure you apply should be enough to feel it, but not to cause pain.
After the friction massage, then it’s time for ice therapy. Take an ice cube and massage the area until it numb. Yes, I know everyone hates cold therapy, but it works. It cuts down the inflammation, and that will help ease the pain.
Well, keep the emails coming and exercise a body good!

Have I Got A Story For You

By Carla Jo Bratton

Hey There, Hi There, Ho There book lovers!
Wow! It’s September already! I bring you 2 interesting books and a reader writes in with her recommendation of a great book. Let’s Go!

Dead Wake; The last crossing of the Lusitania
Written by: Erik Larson
DB 80936
Reading time:13 hours and 6 minutes
From the number-one New York Times best-selling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania, published to coincide with the one-hundredth anniversary of the disaster.
On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”, and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship–the fastest then in service–could outrun any threat.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their ways toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small–hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more–all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.
It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.

My comments; Erik Larson is a fantastic writer. He fills this tragic story with all the human emotions, excitement, fear, uncertainty and so much more. The humanization of the u boat captain has really stuck with me. These were all real people, these were all real events. Just a whirlwind of a book. History buffs will enjoy this one.

Lillian writes to recommend: I recently read The Magdalen Girls by V. S. Alexander which can be downloaded from BARD. The db number is: 87873. Give it a look and hope you will enjoy reading it.
Thanks Lillian, I’ve grabbed it, but haven’t started it yet.

A House Among the Trees
Written by Julia Glass
Reading time: 13 hours and 45 minutes
In Julia Glass’s fifth book since her acclaimed novel Three Junes won the National Book Award, she gives us the story of an unusual bond between a world-famous writer and his assistant – a richly plotted novel of friendship and love, artistic ambition, the perils of celebrity, and the power of an unexpected legacy.
When the revered children’s book author Mort Lear dies accidentally at his Connecticut home, he leaves his property and all its contents to his trusted assistant, Tomasina Daulair, who is moved by his generosity but dismayed by the complicated and defiant directives in his will. Tommy knew Morty for more than four decades, since meeting him in a Manhattan playground when she was 12 and he was working on sketches for the book that would make him a star. By the end of his increasingly reclusive life, she found herself living in his house as confidante and helpmeet, witness not just to his daily routines but to the emotional fallout of his strange boyhood and his volatile relationship with a lover who died of AIDS. Now Tommy must try to honor Morty’s last wishes while grappling with their effects on several people, including Dani Daulair, her estranged brother; Meredith Galarza, the lonely, outraged museum curator to whom Lear once promised his artistic estate; and Nicholas Greene, the beguiling British actor cast to play Mort Lear in a movie.
When the actor arrives for the visit he had previously arranged with the man he is to portray, he and Tommy are compelled to look more closely at Morty’s past and the consequences of the choices they now face, both separately and together. Morty, as it turns out, made a confession to Greene that undermines much of what Tommy believed she knew about her boss – and about herself. As she contemplates a future without him, her unlikely alliance with Greene – and the loyalty they share toward the man whose legacy they hold in their hands – will lead to surprising upheavals in their wider relationships, their careers, and even their search for love.

My comments; Another beautifully written book by Julia Glass. Such great characters, settings, emotions and life situations. I really loved this one. It’s read by Mary Stuart Masterson and she does an exceptional job of it.
Until next month, Happy reading,
Carla jo

The Braille Highway

By Nat Armeni

September mornings still can make me feel this way! Oops! Sorry for bursting into my favorite Neil Diamond song. Happy September to all! I would like to send out a big thank you to everyone who emailed me with their interest in a Q & A session regarding braille in their lives! With this in mind read on below to see what Sophia thinks of braille.

  1. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
    A. My name is Sophia Li. I currently live in California with my 3 cats. I am totally blind and I am 32 years old. I am engaged and I am a big braille advocate.
  2. Tell us your interesting story about how you learned braille?
    A. I was born with a rare eye condition in which my pupils were not growing at the same rate as the rest of my eyes. So, at the age of 5 while in kindergarten, I was being introduced to braille even though my eyesight was pretty good. Then when I was 6 years old and in grade 1, my eye sight took a drastic turn for the worse and I had only some usable vision. Then half way through grade 1 for some unknown reason my eye sight pretty much returned. At this point I was learning braille while my sighted classmates were learning printed letters. It was decided for my best interest that I should learn print, like my peers and braille was abandoned.
    Then by the age of 18, My sight decided to quit on me even though I tried many procedures and medicines, but none were successful. After adjusting to the fact that I had lost my sight for good, I inquired, and found a place that taught braille through an outreach program. I have not looked back since. Braille has been a big part of my life and definitely a big part of my independents.
  3. Can you give us some examples on how braille assists you?
    A. The regular things of course, like: labelling my CDS and DVDS and data disks. Finding what I am looking for in a quick manner is made possible by labelling things in braille. I admit that I am in to girly products and by labelling them it makes their use much more pleasant and easier to sort out especially when I am in a rush. My fiancé has a little group that gets together to play poker, rummy, or cribbage. Sometimes the girlfriends/wives tag along and so it is great that I can partake with my braille deck of playing cards. I’m a sentimental person and when my birthday comes along my fiancé goes out and purchases a personal print/braille greeting card for me. That absolutely means the world to me. To have that ability to read the message over and over again and whenever I please is such a big deal for such a small task for the average person. Since I lost my sight, I still pride myself in dressing so I am color coordinated and looking good. I can still do this by sewing on color label tags to my clothes.
  4. I must admit that when we spoke on Skype, you sounded very sure of yourself and very much like you’re in control of your own destiny. What words of advice would you have for the readers out there who are still teetering on whether to learn braille or not?
    A. Braille is an awesome weapon for blind people to have in their coping with life bag of tricks. It is quite satisfying for me when I want to find something to listen to and I can do so quickly and painlessly. In addition, while at work, it is a great feeling to be able to retrieve information that is stored on a backup cd or on an external drive, just like my sighted peers, and sometimes faster than them. If we like it or not, we are always being judged and assessed by others. it is always nice to know that in my case, I stack up pretty evenly. I honestly think it is with the assistants of braille that has enabled me to multitask and keep up with the fast paste environment that is my work.
  5. What do you do for work?
    A. I work in the shipping department of a large manufacturing company. I need to keep track of palates of product as they leave the warehouse. I need to know their lot numbers and where each palate is shipped to. It is very important for me to be able to search through and find the necessary items. For example, I made need to find a product that was on back order two weeks ago, and get it out ASAP. I can do this while a customer may be ranting in my ear. I am efficient and able to provide this service to the best of my abilities.
  6. On a closing note, do you have any final thoughts about braille?
    A. In closing, I think braille is an asset to any blind person. For the person who wants to stay at home and raise a family, braille is awesome for organizational purposes; labelling things and brailling out simple directions and to do lists. As for that thriving business person, braille is an awesome tool to benefit us in completing our work as independently and efficiently as possible. Let us not forget, things like receiving greeting cards from special people and the freedom to read the note as often and, whenever we want. It truly gives me a great feeling of satisfaction and pleasure to be able to participate in card games or in a braille adapted scrabble match.

It was an absolute pleasure in speaking with Sophia and reading her replies to my questions. Officially, thank you Sophia!! Once again, please feel free to email me on this subject or anything else pertaining to braille at the email mentioned at the top of this article. A friendly reminder to stay on the dotted line of life! Talk with you again in October!

Kaleidoscope of Krafts

By Lindy van der Merwe

Hello again to all crafters. Firstly, thank you to those who have written to say that they are enjoying the craft articles. Your input and kind comments are much appreciated.

Since it seems to be such a versatile craft item, I am sharing another yarn craft for children for this month.
You will only need scissors, some scrap yarn and a metal or plastic fork for this craft.
This craft should be suitable for children from around four years but as you will see from some of the uses I mention below, anyone could make and use these fun fork flowers in various ways.
Step 1: Cut a piece of yarn around 20 inches or 50 cm in length for the stem of your flower.
Step 2: Hold the fork with the prongs pointing towards the ceiling and the underside of the fork facing away from you. Lay the stem strand in the center of the fork, making ends even, so that one end hangs at the back and the other at the front of your fork. The stem strand will not be used until the end of the project, so simply leave it hanging for now.
Step 3: Take the yarn you will be using for your flower and lay it in the first groove of the fork from front to back, leaving about an inch down the front. The long end that is now laying down the back of the first groove will be your weaving strand.
Step 4: While holding the short piece of the yarn against the fork with your thumb, take your weaving strand around the side to the front of the first prong of the fork. Weave it in and out around each prong, moving to the right.
Step 5: At end of first row of weaving, continue by bringing yarn back to front but around last prong instead of first.
Step 6: Continue to weave until almost reaching the top of the prongs of the fork.
Step 7: Cut your weaving strand about an inch away from the top of this last row.
Step 8: Now, bring the stem strand that is hanging at the back of the fork to the front, enclosing your woven loops along their center.
Step 9: Lightly tie the two stem strands, that are now at the front of your fork, together. You will notice the woven strands begin to scrunch down at the center of the fork. Do not make a knot yet.
Step 10: Slowly slide your flower off the fork, while gently pulling the two stem strands taut.
Step 11: Once the flower is completely off the fork, pull stem strands tight to secure your woven creation. Tie once more to knot securely.
Step 12: Gently shape “petals” to cover stem portion that has been tied around flower, and to also “puff” the flower out. Trim stem and loose ends if necessary.

The following are just some ideas for using your fork flower creations:
* Add a safety pin and give to someone as gift / brooch
*Make stems extra long and use fork flower as bow on a present or tie flowers together to use as ribbon to decorate a gift
*glue flowers onto a card or box or tie onto a gift bag
*tie one or many flowers around your wrist as a bracelet or make longer for a necklace
*make many flowers in different colors and present a Bouquet to mom or grandma

making fork flowers can also be great as an activity at a birthday party or as a Sunday school or classroom art project. If you can knit or crochet, these fork flowers can be used to decorate children’s hats and scarves and could even be used as buttons by attaching a flower to one side of an item and a yarn loop to the other.
You could knit or crochet a simple headband, then weave the flowers onto it, or think up a few more uses of your own and have lots of fun.


Spencer’s Spotlight

By Cheryl Spencer

What a pair! There are Two old products that has been combined into a fantastic one. It’s kind of like a Recees Peanut Butter cup. It promises to be equally delicious to all you tech lovers. I actually saw this product at the NFB Convention in July and yes, you guessed it on the first try. I ordered one.

I am referring to the Victor Reader Trek. Humanware is combining their popular talking book player with the technology of the GPS Trekker Breeze to make one powerful little gadget. This device can fit easily in the palm of your hand or in a pocket.

A few goodies are added into the mix, like FM radio, Bluetooth, and beacon detection just to name some. There are many more features this little baby will have on board. The gps features will also have all the functionality trek users are familiar with and are used to using.

With a press of one button Trek will tell you:
*your current nearest address
*cardinal direction you are traveling
*description of the next intersection
* next instructions if you are following a route

Two of my friends had asked me why get something like a gps when you already have it on your iPhone. My reply was why not. Furthermore, it’s a gadget and I have to have it!

There have been podcast and interviews on the Victor trek but it has not officially been launched as of the time of this writing. Ok, time to get down to the money, how much? The introductory price which is valid till the end of this year is 599 dollars. The price increases 100 dollars in January. So, if you are sitting on the fence about whether or not to buy it, you have until the end of December to jump on it. There is free tech support and a 30-day money back guarantee with some exclusions.

There is a brief overview of the Victor Trek on the Humanware website. Keep checking it out for additional information. Preorders are due to ship towards the end of October.

Humanware web site is:

APPetizers: Byte Size Tidbits to Help Master Your iDevice

By Darrin Cheney

Emergency Preparedness for Your Digital World
I recently got a new iPhone 7 for my Birthday. As I began the process of reinstalling apps and purchased content, I was reminded of how many “settings” and “tweaks” there are to really customize your iDevice for your digital world. The challenge is to remember what apps you use and what settings to change. In this month’s installment, I’ll share some tips to help you create a plan to configure an iDevice from “new setup” or “restore from back-up.”

Getting Started
OK. I get it. Why would I spend time tracking my every setting on my iDevice? I just want to set it and forget it. And yes, I back-up my iDevice to iCloud or on my computer every once-in-a-while. If I don’t know why something doesn’t work, I ask my tech source to fix it. No problem. No, It will be a big problem if you lose the address for your daughter or a picture of that oceanside vacation last year. Here are some things you can do to save yourself time and frustration later.

iDevice Emergency Info Card
Whether you buy a new iDevice from the Apple Store or restore your iDevice from Apple back-up, you’ll need some information to complete the process. Consider creating an Emergency Info Card for your iDevice. Your Emergency Info Card should list your Apple ID and iCloud email address and password, wireless network name, username, and password. You’ll need this information to setup a new iDevice if your iDevice is lost, stolen, or damaged. Consider listing account info for 1-2 of your most used apps like mail or assistive technology.
This apple support page lists what info you need to setup or restore an iDevice:

This support doc explores the steps you need to restore your content from a backup:

You may need to go through each app and make sure it installs correctly and will work on your new device. You may need to login to an account, download your purchases and configure any settings. Remember, all your purchased apps are listed in the App Store > Updates > Purchased.

Email Configuration Summary
Consider creating an email Configuration Summary for each account. Include the provider name, web address, account information, the app you use, and any advanced settings or special provider instructions. I braille a notecard for each email account. You could also create a spreadsheet or a document on your computer or create a voice recording on your ReaderStream or digital recorder.

Device/App Configuration Journal
Take the time to journal each app you download and use on your iDevice. Think of this journal as a friendly reminder that you can use to re-install it on a new device and retrieve any in-app purchases. Your journal entry may include the app used, username, password, and email, any special settings, and any premium content you purchased. Be sure to include any VoiceOver settings or low vision preferences. Include any privacy settings or Apple app settings. In Safari, I note that I block cookies and set my search engine to Google. In the BARD Mobile app I note the braille settings I need to change from reading and writing in contracted braille to reading BARD braille books. In my Voice Dream Reader app, I note my purchased voices and settings for my default voices.

Password Book
Consider creating a Password Book for your various accounts and apps. I braille mine on notecards, sort them by category, and store them in a small notecard box. On each card, I list the website, username, password, and date modified. Keep in mind that your Password Book will constantly change as providers require frequent password updates. It’s easier to braille a new notecard than an entire page.

Back-up and Restore
If what you own is irreplaceable, copy it to a hard drive or USB drive. Also, back up your data in iCloud or iTunes on your computer:

Learn how to perform a restore from backup from iTunes:

If your backup is unsuccessful, here are some strategies to explore from Apple:

Explore where your content is located and plan accordingly. For example, your photos may be stored in iCloud or on your Mac; mail may live on a Google server; Amazon will keep your purchases on their server; Apple will keep track of the music purchases on their servers; Facebook…, etc. You may not easily restore an email, a message, or a post if it stored elsewhere and the provider has a problem. If it’s important, take a screen shot (Press Home and Power button) and email it to your iCloud address. You can also print the image. Finally, download and/or print your contact list.

Our iDevices have become an extension of ourselves through the apps and tools we install and use, the music we stream, or the ways we communicate and stay in touch. It is worth our time and energy to create a personal Emergency Preparedness Plan to back up our data and restore our unique settings to our digital world.

The Rotating Trio: The WindBag

By BlowHard
A Fun Form of Expression
If you’re one of those who are afraid of public speaking, and who isn’t? There is a great way to express yourself that you may not have considered. Try music!

Expression is just one of the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument. Self-satisfaction, pleasing others, a very good way of improving self-discipline that can be beneficial in life, and just the fact that it’s a cool way to be popular.

How to get started? Well, what kind of music do you like to listen to, and who are some of your favorite artists? Do you think it would be cool to play along with them on stage or just for fun? Ah, now you’ve been inspired.

I’ll be showing my age, but I don’t care. I was impressed by Herman’s Hermits and The Ventures when I was a kid. Rock music and guitars. Guess what I now play? Not as well as they did, but it’s fun and enjoyable. I play with a small musical group on 3 out of 4 Sunday mornings at Church, sometimes both before and during the service.

I started taking piano lessons during the seventh and eighth grades at the school for the blind in Arizona, but didn’t make much progress. It just didn’t click. Then, a kid in the dorm showed me a few guitar chords which I immediately got the idea of. Over the summer of 1969, I took guitar lessons at a music store that was a mile from my house using an inexpensive acoustic guitar. At the end of the summer, I bought an electric guitar from the instructor. When school started in September, I started playing along with the guy that had shown me those first few chords. Another kid played the bass guitar, and a classmate was a drummer. Other students said that we sounded good and that we should play for the next school dance instead of using a reel to reel tape deck to play music. We gave it a try just for fun, and we were a hit. A while later, someone was invited to one of the parties, and he asked if we could play for their prom that year. The school bus driver for our school said that he would transport us and our equipment, so we went for the idea. We didn’t know that we were going to get paid $400 for the 4 hours that we played! That blew us away! We were playing for other schools in the city where the school for the blind was located, and did so for 4 years.

I would say that the best way to get started would be to find a local music store where lessons are given. Talk with the people and let them know your needs. A lot of lessons are given through the reading of sheet music. This can be a problem for blind people. Usually, we should get lessons, one on one, with the instructor. Either have them show you the fingering, or describe it and immediately correct your mistakes, patiently. Ask if you can make a recording of your lessons so that you can use them to practice during the interval between lessons. Also, you should have something to practice on when at home, so get advice from the music store on what would be a good instrument that fits within your budget. There’s no sense in buying a 2,000 dollar guitar and a 1,500 dollar amp if you can’t play. Start small and relatively inexpensively. 300 dollars should be enough to get you going, and I think this is even a bit high.

If there isn’t a music store that you can go to, you can get inexpensive music lessons through the Internet. The first source that comes to my mind is the collection of lessons by Bill Brown. The beginner’s sets of lessons are available, free of charge, for those who are BARD users. For those who are not users of this NLS program, you can find his site through a Google search. Try looking for guitar by ear and you should be able to find the website. He has made audio recordings that give verbal instructions, step by step, that explain the parts of the instrument and how to play. Not one bit of sheet music is used, whether you are blind or sighted. You learn by ear.

Now comes the fun part. Practice, practice, practice. I suggest half an hour each day. Also, be patient with yourself. It might take some time. For those who are learning the guitar, be prepared for some sore fingertips. Starting out with nylon strings is an option, but when switching to the metal ones later, is when the sore fingertips come into play. Over time, though, those tips will get to where they aren’t bothered anymore. And for those who read braille, don’t let this scare you. I read braille with no problem at all after playing for as long as I have.

Once you can play that first song along with an mp3 on your computer, or just by yourself, you’re on your way to success. Just keep plucking along at it. It will come. It’s absolutely awesome!

Cooking Concoctions

By Maxine

Readers, I have a request for you. I would love to get recipes from all over the world to share with others. If you have a favorite recipe, one that has been passed down through the ages, or one that is predominant to your area and culture I would love to try it out and publish in future editions. Please send your recipe, with any background to my email address above, and thanks!

Enchiladas rojas
1 4ounce can green chilies, finely chopped
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped,
½ cup onions, diced
½ tsp garlic, finely chopped (I like more)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cilantro, finely chopped
½ tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
5 Tbs olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup cream OR half-and-half
6 chorizo sausages, skinned and chopped, OR3/4 lb. spiced pork, chicken or turkey sausage, skinned and chopped
1 cup mixture of Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, shredded
12 tortillas
1/2 cup green onions, chopped

To make the sauce:
Mix chilies, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, cilantro, sugar, salt, and pepper 
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan
Add the mixture to the pan, and cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently
Remove from heat, and let cool down for a few minutes 
In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the cream or half-and-half until well blended
Slowly pour the egg and cream into the pan with the sauce, stirring constantly
Cover and set aside

For the meat:
In another frying pan, fry the sausage meat over moderate heat for 5 minutes or so, until lightly browned
With a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the skillet and drain on paper towels. Discard the fat from the frying pan
Place the sausage in a small bowl and stir in three tablespoons of sauce and ½ cup of the cheeses
Heat the oven to 350ºF

For the tortillas:
In a heavy frying pan, fry the tortillas, one at a time, in very hot olive oil as follows 
Dip a tortilla in the tomato sauce
Fry for a minute on each side and remove to a warming plate
Place about ¼ cup of sausage mixture in the center of each tortilla
Roll up the tortilla with the filling inside

Place tortillas in a baking dish, seam side down
Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over them
Sprinkle the top with the green onions and the remaining ½ cup of cheeses
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the top has browned lightly

If you like beans, as I do, add 1 can of your favorite beans (rinsed and drained well) to the sausage when almost done cooking
You can also add black or green olives at the same point
Serve with Spanish rice (recipe in April 2016 issue)

Riddle & Brain Buster

By Alex Smart


We see it once in a year, twice in a week, and never in a day. What is it?

Answer to August’s riddle
Take away my first letter, and I still sound the same. Take away my last letter, I still sound the same. Even take away my letter in the middle, I will still sound the same. I am a five letter word. What am I?

Brain Buster

Flexible Abbreviations
Each of the following abbreviations in everyday uses can stand for two completely different things. What are they?
Example: CD; compact disc & certificate of deposit


Answers to August’s brain buster
False Plurals
*It’s almost BLANK for people of BLANK not to help the poor; mean, means
*The English BLANK wearing leather BLANK fooled everyone into thinking he was a cowboy.; chap, chaps
*The Firecracker was a BLANK but the man in the fancy BLANK kept trying to light it anyways; dud, duds
*Just thinking about getting honey directly from a BLANK gives me the BLANK; hive, hives

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