Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year from South Philadelphia!

Channel 10's news van is outside the church already. I trust that the other local TV stations will soon make an appearance as well.

Mark went to buy ink for our printer. He said he was going to try BJ's, since he was picking up some other items there.

He came home with an immense box, prompting me to wonder, "Just how much ink did he BUY?" I mean, BJ's sells in bulk quantities, but my gosh that'd be a lot of ink in a box that size.

Well, it's not just ink. There is a new printer in there, too. Seems that the ink cartridges for our old printer are being phased out. This one will have what printers should have had all along, IMO: separate cartridges for each color. No more wasting ink in two other colors because only the magenta, cyan, or yellow ink is exhausted.

That was how it worked in the late 80s with the first ink-jet printer I ever had. That's how it should have worked all along, IMO.

So we'll start the new year by being able to print again. Good. :o)
OK, all. Today is the final day to order an XO laptop. If you're pondering taking part in the Give One, Get One program, the order must be placed by December 31.

If you're interested in supporting this immensely worthy cause, don't hesitate -- go for it. You'll be glad you did. :o)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Incredibly, the world is still spinning on its axis even as I type.

Why is this miraculous? Because I FINALLY got to eat at the Moshulu, the tall-ship-turned-restaurant on the Philadelphia waterfront.

I've been trying to eat there for years, and something always came up. In the late 80s, a fellow and fellow commuter whom I'd been chatting with on the bus for several days invited me to dinner there. The pinhead stood me up.

Twice. After that second time, I didn't see him on the bus again. Just as well, I suppose, except I'm mystified to this day as to why HE struck up conversations, and eventually asked me out, in the first freaking place if he wasn't planning to actually follow through. File it under "People are weird".

A few years later, the Moshulu had a fire which rendered it incapable of being used as a restaurant. It wound up towed to the NJ side of the river, where it languished for several years. I thought, when I saw that it'd been damaged by fire, "Well, so much for my ever getting to eat there NOW."

Eventually, after a few plans fell through that involved refurbing the restaurant and either a) leaving it in NJ or b) moving it out of the tri-state area entirely, the Moshulu was repaired went back into operation on the Philly waterfront, not far from Penn's Landing. "Good", I thought. "Maybe I'll get to eat there one of these eons after all".

More years passed. Mark and I decided to celebrate our first wedding anniversary in 2000 by going to the Moshulu. It wasn't meant to be. Unfortunately, a few days prior to the anniversary, a tragic accident happened at a nightclub on a pier adjacent to the Moshulu. The same people owned and operated both the nightclub and the Moshulu, so their entire operation was closed down in the aftermath of the accident, a pier collapse that resulted in four fatalities.

Obviously, we had to rearrange our anniversary plans, a miniscule inconvenience compared to the ordeal that the nightclub patrons went through, not to mention the experience of the employees of the club and restaurant whose jobs were impacted by the closures. Still, I couldn't help but think, in passing, "Boy, I am really not meant to eat at this place. Every time I try to go there, something happens to foul up the plans."

More years passed. Then, as I know I posted on here about a year ago, our Group of Friends (tm) decided to have our annual Christmas Brunch there. Every year, we all go out to brunch some time between Christmas and New Year's. In lieu of buying one another gifts, we go to a nice restaurant together and celebrate being friends. Last year, Joe M. suggested that we should try going to the Moshulu for our brunch. I regaled him with my tale of woe of my failed attempts to eat there, and said, "Finally, I'll get the chance to go to the Moshulu. Provided some natural disaster doesn't occur first; which, given my prior experiences, can't be entirely ruled out."

Sure enough, the plans fell through. Our brunch was slated for New Year's Eve, the only day that we could all get together for brunch. It turns out that we were the ONLY people with a reservation for the brunch, so the Moshulu regretfully cancelled our reservations and said that they were going to be closed to prepare for the New Year's Eve crowd that would be coming in that night. We wound up eating somewhere else for our annual brunch.

This year, being either brave, foolhardy, or both, we tried once again to have our brunch at the Moshulu. Incredibly, despite all odds, we actually managed to eat there. Nothing happened to prevent our going -- the boat didn't sink, the river didn't flood, we didn't have a blizzard or an earthquake or a swarm of locusts or anything else hitting the city. And the food was terrific. :o) Which is good, since I've been trying for about 20 years to have a meal there. I've heard of "good things come to those who wait", but I didn't expect to have to wait quite THAT long.

So the jinx is broken and the mal occhio appears to have been dispelled. Nice. Nothing like a bit of positive mojo, just in time for the new year. ;o)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I got a bit of sad news on Christmas Eve night. The large, friendly tabby Saturn, who I referred to as my Cat-in-law because he belonged to my sister-in-law's family, has taken up residence in Kitty Heaven. :o( He wandered into my in-laws' lives as an adult cat, and so we couldn't pinpoint his age. However, he was already a few years old when I met Mark in 1995, so I'm thinking he was approximately 16-18 years of age by now. I loved that big old loud-motored stripey guy, so I was very sorry to hear the news.

My in-laws' home must have a sign on it, written in Feline, that says "Come get spoiled here". Because their OTHER cat, a large white-with-black-spots young adult cat named Snickers, came to them a couple years or so ago in the same way Saturn did: he just showed up and stayed. :o) He's another big, friendly, loud-motored sort. I hope we get to spoil him rotten for nine long lives, like we did for his adopted brother.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Here's a nice story for Christmas. It's the REAL reason the OLPC exists: helping kids get educated. And, as this story from Peru shows. the kids' parents are learning, too.

Merry Christmas.

P.S. There's still a week left to take part in the Give One, Get One program.
A safe, blessed, and (of course) Merry Christmas to you all!

I have spent the past week getting my Geek on with the OLPC XO laptop. A server has been set up so that OLPC computers (or non-OLPC computers running an emulation program that makes it act like an XO laptop) who log in can all "see" each other on what's called the Neighborhood screen:


The above is an actual screenshot from my Neighborhood screen, taken a day or two ago. All the little people icons (the ones that look like an XO turned sideways, hence the name of the computer is XO) represent XO users who are logged on to the server. The purple-outline, orange-fill-color icon in the center is mine. No one who knows me should be surprised that I picked Phantoms colors for my icon, right? Of course. Actually, I did ponder whether to choose Flyers colors (orange and black) or Phantoms colors. I'm glad I went with Phantoms colors, because already I've run into one other user with a black outline and orange fill color, and one with an orange outline/black fill color. I haven't run into anybody else using my particular color scheme yet, and that is a Good Thing.

Notice also that on the Neighborhood screen there are a couple of icons that look like a "talk" balloon in the comics. Those are chat sessions. The color scheme of the icon matches the color scheme of the user who started the session. You can click on those chat icons and chat with anyone else who's in the session at the time.

This morning, I spent a good chunk of time debugging some software with about eight other users. I don't have the actual code handy, but a few of the people in the chat room ARE software developers for the XO, so I was among the users reporting how things were working on my end and what quirks I had run across.

Given that I used to both test software, and do customer phone support for software, for a living, I was able to give a lot of specifics about what I was reporting. Someone in the chat explained the procedure for how to open a problem ticket, so I'm going to do that after Christmas is over. Hey, I'm a Geek, but I'm a Geek who has family and friends and wants to spend quality time with them during the Christmas holiday. There'll be plenty of time, after Christmas is over, to go into Full Geek Mode with the XO.

Speaking of which, I'm trying to help a new local XO Users Group get off the ground. I started a discussion thread on an OLPCNews online forum, several people responded, and now we're working on the best time/place for everyone to meet. Stay tuned.

OK, have a great Christmas! Later, all!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

During our drive to bring Joey D home from an evenng at Joe M's, I could think of only one thing I would like to tell the people who've adorned their lawns with various lighted Christmas displays:

Would you PLEASE pick a theme and stick with it? If you want to go with a religious/Nativity scene, fine; please put up ONLY Nativity figures, angels, and the Star of Bethlehem. If you want to have a more secular theme, fine; there are plenty of North-Pole-related or generically winter-oriented decorations to choose from. But please make the two motifs mutually exclusive; to do otherwise just looks silly. To wit: there were no snowmen in the Little Town of Bethlehem, there were no reindeer in the stable where the Holy Infant lay wrapped in swaddling clothes, and the Three Magi did not bring the baby Jesus candy canes, toy soldiers, etc.

Sorry, but the lighted Nativity scene I saw, that was immediately adjacent to a big lighted red octagon proclaiming SANTA STOP HERE" in bold white letters... that was just over the top. Mary and Joseph did not, repeat, DID NOT put out a sign inviting the Jolly Old Elf to pay them a visit.

So remember, religious ornaments are fine, and secular ornaments are fine. But please see that the twain are kept separated. Thank you.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bless Mark, he's really trying hard to get the item I originally asked for as a Christmas gift. The doggone company that he ordered it from originally, after I sent him the link online, notified him on December 20 that they had cancelled his order because the item was out of stock.

It's actually been discontinued by the manufacturer, which I knew, but I was aware that this was a recent development and some places might have some remaining stock. Apparently, the place we ordered it from isn't one of them.

There's a report online that some Radio Shacks might possibly have remaining stock, if you show up in person at the stores. (It's been removed from their online site.) Mark has gone out to check a couple nearby Radio Shacks to see if we can strike gold that way.

If not, I gave him a couple of book ideas as a backup plan, and he reported that he was able to find one of those in Center City. So that's good. If Radio Shack has the other item, too, that will utterly rock. :o) If not, I'll be disappointed, but I'll keep looking online for somethng comparable to the discontinued gadget. Something's bound to appear eventually.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Miserable cheapskate corporations. They give me ulcers.

The insurers got what they wanted, IMO -- they delayed this kid's expensive treatment so long, she passed away hours after they finally reversed their decision. (Which only happened after protesters gathered around their office buildings and groups of doctors signed a letter urging them to reconsider their refusal to pay for the transplant surgery.)

From the article:
Geri Jenkins of the California Nurses Association said the teen had insurance, and medical providers felt comfortable performing the medical procedure. In that situation, the the insurer should defer to medical experts, she said.

"They have insurance, and there's no reason that the doctors' judgment should be overrided by a bean counter sitting there in an insurance office," Jenkins said.

(Emphasis added by me.)

NO KIDDING. That's precisely what I went through when I was trying to get physical therapy for my knee, years ago. Some freaking bean counter in some office declared that I'd had "enough" treatment, and meanwhile I couldn't walk without a cane *and* there was a very visible difference in the amount of muscle tissue in my left vs. right leg. Enough treatment? WTH? I was brought up with the admonition, "Never raise your voice on the telephone", but I raised it THAT day when I called to find out why they were stopping my treatments. The wheels got put in motion for them to talk to my orthopedist and physical therapist, and extend the treatment. But that's a conference call that never should have been necessary, nor WOULD it have taken up everyone's afternoon if the insurance company had relied on the actual medical staff who were treating my injury for an evaluation. (Incidentally, this was a DIFFERENT cheapskate corporation than the one spotlighted in the news article. They all have the same philosophy.)

Anyway, if I was furious over something as non-life-threatening as treating a knee injury, how must this poor bereaved family feel right now? I hope the family sues, and I hope the cheapskate corporation pays out more in damages than they EVER would have paid in medical expenses if the girl had received the treatment and survived.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Here is a solution for the people who have criticized the OLPC project because they would rather send food donations than educational tools to developing countries. (Even though the places where the OLPC project will be adopted are not the regions where the population is in imminent danger of starvation. But I digress.)

Get an OLPC device via the Give 1, Get 1" program, which runs until December 31. Then use it to go to freerice.com, the site where rice is donated via the United Nations to relieve world hunger. Play the vocabulary game, and for every word you get correct, 20 grains of rice will be donated. There you go: the best of both worlds.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Twelve years ago today. It's hard to believe it's been that long. I was in the same hospital lobby last Wednesday, when I went for the x-rays, that I waited in until Joe M. and Joey D. arrived, so we could all go up to ICU and see Joan together. The memory of that night came back so vividly, it might as well have happened yesterday. On the way to the elevators, I had to walk past the hospital chapel, the sight of which brought back even more memories of that night.

We still love and miss you, Joan. But where you are now is where we all hope to be someday. Enjoy Heaven. We'll see you when we get there.
RIP Dan Fogelberg. What sad news... he was only 56. :o(

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What a neat little machine the XO is! The keyboard is kid-sized, but that's OK, You should see some of the tiny PDA keyboards that I have learned to touch-type on over the years.

We got home from having dinner with my parents, in honor of my mom's birthday (which is today); we went to Rexy's again. It's close by, the food is great, and it's not a zoo at this time of year, which some places that cater holiday parties are.

As I type, the Phantoms just won their game in Norfolk 1-0. Great job, boys!

I am going to enjoy getting to know this machine. :o)
WHEEEE! It's here!

The XO arrived a little while ago! I can't unbox it now, because we're about to have dinner with my parents. It's my mom's birthday.

More later.

Friday, December 14, 2007

***CRASH!!!***

The second I heard that, coming from the vicinity of the Christmas tree, I feared the worst.

The tree was still standing. However, the cats were under the table where the tree resides, along with four ornaments. Next to the tree, we have the TV, cable box, DVD/VCR, and stereo plugged in. I'm not sure what the cats did, but somehow it involved landing on the TV and cable box power cords so hard, both of them came unplugged AND the prongs on the plugs were bent into the bargain.

"Basement. NOW. Go." I glared at the Resident Felines. Captain made a beeline for the cellar door and went right down. Stanley followed, but then sat in front of the cellarway giving me Big Sad Eyes and trying to convince me he was framed.

"You, too. Downstairs. Now."

Stanley went. I closed the door.

I let them have their timeout while I sorted out the fouled-up plugs, replaced Mark's wireless-headphone transmitter (which was somehow deposited on the floor behind the TV stand), and re-hung the ornaments. Then I went about my business for a while longer.

When I eventually decided to end the timeout, an hour or so later, two polite little kitties came tiptoeing out when I opened the cellar door. It's been unusually quiet around here since then. Well, OK, at this hour the Stripe Committee normally schedules their Afternoon Nap, but the only way I can describe them is "they're sleeping even more quietly than usual".

And I didn't even have to raise my voice this morning to get my point across. I didn't do anything other than Look Mad and Withhold Doting. Who says cats are untrainable?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

BTW, this afternoon, I was running the Roomba. It was vacuuming the dining room, which is where Captain likes to curl up in front of one of the heating registers.

I was in the living room, so I didn't see exactly what happened. However, I suspect that the Roomba must have either run into Captain or made him THINK it was about to run into him. Either way, suddenly I saw an orange blur speeding out of the dining room, through the entire length of the living room and then halfway up the steps to the second floor. (The cats figured out long ago that jumping onto the furniture or up a few steps on the stairs gives them a good vantage point to spy on the Roomba from above, and that it can't climb up after them.)

Not long afterward, I had reason to go to the second floor. Captain followed me up and complained to me the entire time. What makes this noteworthy is that he wasn't making his normal "Mrrrrp" vocalization; he was telling me his tale of woe with full-fledged "Meow! Mew! Meowww!" utterances, a sound he rarely makes. I presumed he was telling me all about the mean old Roomba and how it scared him.

Silly kitty. That'll teach him to sleep on the floor next to the heating register when the Roomba is running.
Surprise! Al couldn't attend tonight's Flyers game, nor could Karla, so he called to offer me the ticket. I was able to go to the season ticket holders' Will Call window, verify the seat info and his contact info. Then they called his cell phone and confirmed that I could use the seat, they printed me a replacement ticket, and here I am.

I hope the Flyers win the second and third periods, because at the end of the first, we trail 1-0.

Go Flyers!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Here's yet another example of "thinking outside the box" when it comes to uses for the OLPC:

Census of India is responsible for generating data on population. Sources said the organisation is considering doing a pilot project where its field force would use these XO laptops and based on the success of the pilot look at whether these could be used for collecting information for the Census 2011.


They looked at this ruggedized, moisture-proof, low-power-consumption device with a screen that's readable in bright sunlight, and realized that it would be useful for its workers who have to go out on location to compile data.

I see things like this and it makes me think all the more that the XO is well-suited to be a take-along communication device for a deaf-blind user. I can envision it doing the job of the silicon keyboard and PDA in this image, which I took during the AADB convention in 2006:



In this image, one of the men from HumanWare, the company that developed the BrailleNote that my deaf-blind friend is using, shows the PDA display to a newspaper reporter (left). The sighted, hearing person would type on the silicon, roll-up keyboard that's plugged into the back of the BrailleNote. What they type will come up on the PDA screen, as well as on the BrailleNote's braille display for the deaf-blind person to read. Then the deaf-blind person can type a response, which will appear on the PDA screen, as the PDA is wirelessly connected to the BrailleNote.

Now imagine if an XO were to be set up with a wireless or wired connection to the BrailleNote or similar device (as there are some other companies offering competing braille note-taking devices). It would be easier to read the XO screen than any PDA screen, and easier to set up just anywhere instead of needing a tabletop. The two conversing parties could set the devices up on their respective laps, if no table space is available.

Someone had to write the software to get the BrailleNote talking to the PDA. If that could be done, then software can be created to get a BrailleNote to talk to an XO. Sounds pretty darn straightforward to me, and as I posted before, I'd be glad to have a hand in developing whatever software doesn't already exist.

P.S. See the black case on the table? That's the BrailleNote that belongs to the hearing, blind gentleman on the right. (He also works for HumanWare.) Where my friend has a BrailleNote with a QWERTY keyboard, the man's BrailleNote is the model with a Braille Keyboard. Check it out here. The keyboards are different, but the "brains" inside the two machines are the same.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BTW, since in the past few weeks I've been getting hits to my blog via technorati.com, I decided to create a profile there. My profile is at:

Technorati Profile
Dagnab it. Somehow the content on my Zune hard drive seems to have gotten fouled up.

So, I renamed the two folders on my PC where I store my Zune music. Then I cleared the contents off the Zune (with the Zune software). Then I changed the two folders back to their original names, and I'm re-syncing everything.

It's taking a while, given the number of songs I had on there, but when I'm done I hope all will be as it should.
My foot is officially x-rayed, so now we await the results in "a few days".

I'm surprised they didn't give me the lead apron to put over my abdominal area. The dentist always does, prior to an x-ray.

I'm meeting Joe @ Starbucks prior to going home. I got Us a table since I arrived first.

Monday, December 10, 2007

'Tis the Season, and all that good stuff. So I like to tune in to "Sounds of the Season" on the digital cable music channels. At this time of year, it's all Christmas music, all the time, including some tunes that don't tend to make it onto the radio stations' playlists.

Many times, the songs I haven't heard much on the radio are some older songs that have been shunted aside in favor of 999 cover versions of White Christmas. The song 'Zat You, Santa Claus? springs to mind. But I digress.

Other old classics, which one might or might not hear on the radio, and the radio stations tend to lean toward "not", are some songs where kids announce what they want for Christmas. Older songs, for the most part, strike me as quaint and charming. "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, so I can wish you Merry Christmas", says one. "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas", says another.

Well, I heard a much more modern "kid giving his wishes to Santa" song this morning. "I'm gonna email Santa... send my list to Santa dot com". Er, what? I don't know... it doesn't seem all that quaint or charming to email a Christmas list to the Jolly Old Elf.

Then again, maybe in a few decades, some other technology will have supplanted email. Maybe by then, it WILL seem quaint and charming. I don't know. We'll have to see. Refer back to this blog in 2037 or so, and we'll see what we think of emailing Santa then.
How's this for good news? The OLPCs begin shipping today! That means that they might begin to arrive a few days earlier than originally scheduled. For example, people who ordered them on the first day were originally slated to start receiving the devices on December 14-24. People who ordered them on the fourth day (raises hand) could have expected to receive the devices from December 17-31. If the first-day orders might arrive earlier than planned, maybe the other orders will be following fast on their heels. In any event, sometime this month, I hope to have an unboxing ceremony in this house. The sooner, the better.

I've joined the mailing list for the first OLPC user's group that I've seen, even though it's based in Washington, DC. I figured that it's not all THAT far to DC, and anyway with the internet I don't HAVE to be in the same room with people in order to share information with them. I even posted on their site, mentioning that one of my primary interests in the OLPC is seeing what can be done to make it an assistive-tech device for deaf-blind users. I got a response almost right off the bat from someone else who sees its potential as assistive-tech for learning-disabled users. I figure that if we get enough heads working on the OLPC/assistive-technology possibilities, we'll get usable results that much sooner.

It's like we're thinking outside the box regarding a device whose very existence was brought about by a LOT of people thinking outside the box. It's all good.

P.S. It occurs to me that Gallaudet University is based in the DC area, and because of this, there's a large Deaf and Deaf-blind population in the region. I'm thinking that hooking up with MWADB (Metro Washington Association of the Deaf-Blind) would be a big help. It would enable us to have direct input from consumers, as well as maybe connecting us with people who would be willing to help people test the software by bringing along their various braille devices for the OLPCs to (attempt to) interface with. Did I mention "It's all good"?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Phantoms win, 3-2! :o)

Welcome to the GIANT Center, home of the Hershey Bears!

And... we're off! The Phantoms Season Ticket Holder road trip is this afternoon. Karla and Al arrived first and saved us seats on the third bus (of three).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

As I posted earlier today, I read a lot of techie sites. Hence, I ran across a link to a video that I don't intend to click on.

It's in this article describing the lifelike behavior of a toy baby dinosaur named Pleo. The reviewer's two little daughters are crazy about it. But when he followed the recommendation of the accompanying press materials, to see how it reacted when he picked it up by its tail, he made the mistake of doing so in front of his 4-year-old daughter. The Pleo screamed and thrashed, and the 4-year-old got upset and cried. (And the reviewer got in hot water with his wife, lol -- he had to promise never to do that in front of his daughter again.)

But the link that the reviewer referred to was a video of some engineers "torturing" a Pleo. I *hope* they were doing it with the intention of stress testing, and/or testing its reactions to being abused (struck, kicked, whatever). I'll never know, unless someone else writes about their rationale, because once I saw the commentary that the Pleo cries, whimpers, cowers, etc., I knew I couldn't stand to watch the video. Yes, it's a toy. Yes, it's programmed to react that way, and it's not actually experiencing pain or fear. I don't care. Even reading the description of the video is enough to make my blood run cold, so I don't intend to watch it.

You'll recall that posted a few months ago how I wigged out on Mark when he was trying to remove the batteries in the Furby when it wouldn't shut down properly. The problem was that he held it upside down for too long while it was "awake". The Furby complained that it was scared, and eventually started crying. At that point, I threatened Mark with mayhem if he didn't either turn the Furby right-side-up or give it to me. What I didn't post was that the next day, he tried inverting the Furby again as a joke, but I got so mad that he hasn't played that prank since.

I couldn't stand to see the Furby "suffer", and I have no desire to witness the Pleo being abused to electronic death.

However, if you want to read the interesting article, and the even more interesting comments that it spurred, do click on the link I provided above. The video itself isn't in the article, so you won't see it if you don't want to. But the LINK to the video IS in the article, so if you do want to watch it (for some sadistic reason), you have the option of doing so.
I read a lot of techie sites. One common theme that runs through them all is the "unboxing" ritual whereby someone documents, by photo or video, the act of opening the box of a new device. I'm not sure where this trend began, but apparently it's the Next Best Thing to Being There for those of us who'd like to be the person unboxing said device.

Well, if this sort of pictorial essay floats your boat, you're in luck. I found a link to the unboxing of an OLPC XO-1 laptop.

Enjoy the photos, and remember that from now through December 31, you, too, can arrange to unbox an XO-1.
This morning was my doctor's appointment. Recap: I'm extremely pleased with my blood pressure numbers. Yes, it took meds to get the numbers into the right range, but the dose is obviously the right one because the BP has been pretty much stable (and in the desired range) for the past few years.

I got prescriptions, and referrals, for X-Rays and for a podiatrist. The X-Rays were a no-brainer; I pretty much expected that would be part of the outcome of the visit. The recommendation that I go to a podiatrist surprised me a bit. But frankly, with the medical history this ankle has, what SHOULD surprise me is that I didn't wind up in a podiatrist's office *years* ago. If I hadn't toughed out some of the worst sprains (note: plural, not singular) Back in the Day, and had seen an MD after any one of them, I'd probably already have been to a specialist by now.

Bless the doctor's heart, he even faxed a prescription for ibuprofen to my neighborhood pharmacy, so I wouldn't have to haul myself there in deteriorating weather and drop a paper Rx off to be filled.

And the weather IS deteriorating. I saw an isolated snowflake or two during my drive to the doctor's, but at that point it was really just cloudy, not snowing. Not so by the time my appointment was over a couple hours later; it's currently snowing merrily away. Fortunately, it's the big wet snowflakes that tend to melt on contact with the pavement or street. But it IS sticking on cars and lawns, and if the temps drop or the snowflakes change consistency, we might end up with a dusting or more on the ground when all is said and done. (And with this funky ankle, I want to walk around on any amount of snow like I want a hole in the head. Freaking weather.)

Anyway, that's the latest news from these parts. That, plus I think I only have one more present to buy and then I'm done Christmas shopping. Hooray for point-and-click shopping.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Got a cough? Take honey for it. It scored better than dextromethorphan in a test involving honey, dextromethorphan, and a placebo. (The placebo came in last.)

Good. I'd rather take honey anyway, ten out of ten times. It's so nice when GOOD news comes out of health studies.

Now if they'd come up with a study that says "chocolate cures ankle pain", I'd be in business.
The soonest I could get an appointment with my doctor, to have this ankle looked at, is Wednesday morning. I really do want a medical opinion on this since the ankle pretty much stopped improving about a week ago. I have more prior experience with ankle sprains than any sane person would want to have, and I think it should feel better than this two weeks after being sprained.

I'm also not too fond of the fact that there's an area on the top of my foot that I can touch, that causes a pins-and-needles effect down the top of my foot to my toes. That's not a symptom I've ever had after any of my (myriad) prior sprains, and that's another thing that doesn't seem to be improving.

Phooey. The moral of this story: don't freakin' sprain things. It's not worth the aggravation.
Here's some more information about the Nigerian-character keyboard patent that LANCOR is suing OLPC about. It seems to be a "registered design", meaning that it protects the device's appearance rather than its function. So they're claiming that the OLPC keyboard LOOKS too much like their keyboard. But the OLPC keyboard places some characters, and in particular the function key that allows the user to type special characters, in a different place from LANCOR's keyboard. Even if the patent were for the device's function, rather than appearance, the two keyboards are designed to work differently. (The article goes into some techie details that I won't reproduce here.)

From what I've been able to track down online over the past two days, I can't see where this suit has a legal leg to stand on.

In other news, we had a nice group get-together at Karla and Al's for turkey dinner on Sunday. Joe M. and Joey D. went with Mark and me. Good food and cartoons -- can you beat that combination for a great day?

(OK, the Phantoms and the Eagles could have won, too, but we can't have EVERYthing. Like I said a few posts ago, sometimes there's a need for a lot more mojo than one person's pregame ritual can provide. ;o) )

When the leftovers were divided up, we got some turkey and fruit salad. The cats escorted me all the way to the kitchen, meowing the entire time, when I transported the bag with the food in it to the refrigerator. The Stripe Committee loves turkey, so we'll have to make sure they get a little snack when we eat the turkey.

OK, it's time to attempt to sleep. I'm so aggravated -- I had my sleeping patterns close to normal for a few days, and over the past couple days they've gotten all goofed up again. Grrrrrr! Back to square one in the "straightening out the sleep patterns" department.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Interesting things are coming to light regarding the company that filed the patent-infringement suit against OLPC, for the way their multilingual keyboards handle Nigerian characters.

First of all, the company that filed the suit is run by a man who spent time in a US prison for bank fraud.

Second of all, the patent appears to have expired in August, 2006. Last time I looked at a calendar, that's more than a year ago. How can someone file suit over an expired patent? (View the entire 7-page patent by tweaking the URL; the individual pages can be found on URLs ranging from ADE_OYEGBOLA1.pdf through ADE_OYEGBOLA7.pdf .)

Personally, I'm unconvinced of the merit of this suit. It strikes me as someone who's trying to pry some money out of the pocket of a company that they perceive as a rival (since they've designed another keyboard to handle Nigerian characters). Way to go, rocket surgeon... filing suit on an expired patent against a non-profit organization. Yeah, there's a ton of free money to be made there. :rolleyes:
Whew... Saturday was a tough day for Philly hockey. The Flyers lost to Dallas 4-1, the Phantoms lost to Lake Erie (Cleveland) 2-1, and the Flyers alumni lost to a visiting Russian team 7-1. Ouch. My normal pregame routine, such as it is, is to have a bagel for breakfast on game days. It normally works. (Then again, the Flyers and Phantoms are normally good teams. Ya think that might have something to do with it? Nah. It's me and my bagel for breakfast giving them all good luck. )

I guess some days, there just aren't enough bagels in the world to give the mojo a boost. It looks like Saturday was one of those days.

Anyway, here's some GOOD news: the OLPC project is starting to get more orders in from countries' education ministers. Excellent. I had a feeling that with the popularity of Give One, Get One, there'd be additional interest coming from official channels. After all, now it's not just a little unknown computer that's being offered for sale, at inexpensive prices, to third-world educational systems and nowhere else. Now it's a little computer that first-world countries' private citizens have been ordering (and therefore donating) like crazy. IMO, that casts the device in a whole different light, since it's not just "for developing countries" anymore. It's going to be in wider use than that.

I've been doing some homework on the accessibility issues with the OLPC computer. Some software, like a Text to (synthesized) Speech reader, is already in place. However, I haven't tracked down anything that tells me there's full-blown screen reader software out there. That makes the difference between a blind person's being able to have the machine read a document's contents aloud, or being able to have the machine tell them aloud what they've just typed, what program they've opened up, what menu item they're on, etc. I'm giving a bit of an inelegant description, mind you, but the long and short of it is that a screen reader tells a blind user what's going on while they're using the machine. The screen reader software is also able to send its info to a braille device. For examples of these, see my June 2006 blog archives for photos I took at the AADB (American Association of the Deaf-Blind) convention.

Besides the idea of getting the XO PC to work with a screen reader program and a braille device, I keep thinking of another way that a deaf-blind person might be able to use an XO to communicate. I remember my deaf-blind friend KC's setup that allowed her to communicate with the medical staff when she was in the hospital. It involved her BrailleNote, a roll-up silicon keyboard, and a Palm Tungsten. The keyboard was plugged into her BrailleNote, and the Palm device was set up to pair with the BrailleNote via bluetooth. Then she ran a program on the BrailleNote, that allowed whatever was typed on the silicon keyboard to show up on the Palm, so the sighted person could see what they were typing, and also to show up on the braille display so KC could read it. Then she could either type a response back (if she were communicating with someone deaf) and it would show on the Palm screen, or speak her response (to a hearing person). You can see most of the hardware I described in the June 2006 archive photo where I posted about the newspaper interview. (The Palm was acting up, and in fact the people who designed the software were going to have a look at it during the convention, so it might not be in the photograph I took. But the BrailleNote and the keyboard were used throughout the interview.)

As much as I liked seeing how this worked, it's still three separate pieces of equipment that need to be set up. I keep thinking, "What if the XO computer could be set up to serve the same function as KC's silicon keyboard and Palm device? It's made to wirelessly communicate; what if it can be convinced to talk to the BrailleNote? Would it be easier to haul around an XO and the BrailleNote, instead of a keyboard and a Palm and a BrailleNote? All I can say is, "Let me get my hands on the device, let me see what software is already out there, and let me run these thoughts by some blind and deaf-blind friends, and see what comes of it." Things could get Very Interesting around here if this proves to be a viable idea. And that's a Good Thing.