Archive for March, 2011

TV For the Blind

March 13, 2011

I recently wrote a blog on how the blind can read the newspaper using RSS feeds. Now I thought I would share with you the best way that I have found to watch TV when you are blind. Obviously in a dream world, none of us would be blind, and we could watch our favorite shows like normal people. I used to work in the movie business before I went blind, and would watch about a movie per day for work and relaxation. Flash forward 15 years and movies have gone to shit, and being blind watching movies has become a chore and not fun. The reason being is investing two hours for a movie that uses a ton of CGI technology making it impossible for me to follow the story is not an option, and then I need to find someone who has seen the movie and hope they remember what happened. I have found a way to watch TB without having to ask other people what happened at a certain point, as I hate having to rely on other people in that they saw the show and then hear their interpretation. WWith TV improving in its content and the invention of the DVR, TV has come along way in the quality of its programming over the last five years. Of course it would be nice for DBRs, and more specifically TIVO to get with the times, and include Voice Over technology on their devices, but that is a conversation for another blog. What I have found extremely beneficial is to tivo my favorite shows, that way I can watch the show at the speed that is good for me to follow it, rewinding when I miss something. Of course, a lot of tv is visual, so the odds are that you will miss something and be compltely lost. Now this is where my gift to the blind comes. I have found a few sites that are quite helpful in describing TV episoders and a scene by scene breakdown of what happens. You can pull the article up on your computer and pause the episode you are watching when something happens that you do not follow, or just watch the entire episode and then go read one of the recaps. My favorite site for recaps, and make sure you are googling recaps and not reviews as that will get you something entirely different is TVOVERMIND.com. While they do not write recaps for every show out there, they do for a ton of them. Another great site for recaps of TV shows is Entertainment Weekly. What I have also done to make things easier for me than searching for individual episodes of shows is sign up for the free RSS feeds from Entertainment Weekly and from TVOVERMIND’s Twitter RSS feed. That way I get emailed all their new content, and I just save the TV episode recap in my RSS folder until I watch the episode. So there you have it, a very simple for the blind to watch TV. Of course, I have yet to try this method for movies, and I am hoping there are sites out there that describe scene by scene what is going on in a movie. That is something I will look into soon.

Well, the 2010/2011 TV season is quickly coming to an end at least for the networks, as other channels like USA and FX and many others provide us with new programming year round, and I thought I would touch on some of my favorite shows. Currently the Top five shows in my Tivo planner are in danger of being canceled. At least my favorite show is safe and has been renewed through 2014. The Big Bang Theory is by far the funniest show on TV. Sheldon is of course my favorite, and he keeps me laughing, but a brilliant supporting cast that has failed to get the recognition it deserves really makes this show the funniest on TV. Adding the former Blossom as a female Sheldon was brilliant by the shows writers. Moving up the chart to number two on my tivo season pass is Castle. I was so happy to hear earlier today that is has been renewed for next season. You have to love a mystery writer using his connections to work with the NYPD, and the guy who plays Castle who was the weak link on another one of my favorites, Two Guys and A Girl, is fantastic as Richard Castle. No offense to him, but he was good on Two Guys and A Girl, its just the rest of the cast was so funny. And what can I say about Stana Katic, even a blind guy finds her sexy. My third and fourth shows in my seaon pass are both in danger of being axed, that is Human Target and Lie to Me. Both good shows, and I will miss both of them if they get the axe. Who the hell knows what is up with show number 55 Two and A Half Men. I will miss you Charlie Sheen. Not sure where this show is going to go without him, and if you do not know what has been going on with this show, you must be living in the woods in a cabin and I am quite impressed that you found my blog.

While all of the top five shows in my season pass are necessarily my favorite, as channels like USA , FX, and Showtime all air their shows a ton of time, and they are further down in my season pass manager as I can record them anytime. Some of my favorite non network shows are Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me entering its last season, White Collar just finished season two, Burn Notice, Californication, and Entourage ending this summer. Well, it looks like my tivo will have lots of empty space come this summer, can’t wait to see what the networks and cable gives us next.

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For the Blind Using RSS Feeds Is Like Reading the Newspaper

March 8, 2011

If you are like me, you spend most of your day in front of a computer. For years I have noticed a listing on most websites called RSS feeds, but never paid much attention to it until recently. For those of you not familiar with RSS feeds, a RSS feed alerts you when there is a new article on a website or new content. Instead of constantly checking up on your favorite websites, you can subscribe to its RSS feed, which for those of us who are blind or visually impaired is a great way to keep up to date, and for those of you who like drinking your morning coffee and miss reading the daily paper, here is a way to once again do that even if you are blind! So sit back relax and get ready to learn.
First think about your favorite sites and some of your favorite writers contributors, and bloggers. For example, I like to be kept on the latest happenings of the world and of course NYC, so I went and googled Yahoo news RSS feeds, and it brought up a page of all Yahoo RSS feeds. I clicked subscribe in mail, and will go in to how to view these feeds at the end of this. I then thought about my favorite sports writers and went to ESPN and looked up their RSS feeds, it offered me categories of sports to follow like MLB, NNFL, etc. Then it broke it down to some of my favorite writers on ESPN like Mel Kpier, Buster Olney, etc. I subscribed to each of their feeds. I then looked up Entertainment Weekly, and subscribed to their general entertainment feed. Additionally, if you are using Twitter which I highly recommend you can sign up to a RSS feed of the people whose tweets you do not want to miss. I follow a lot of Visually Impaired Technology companies like Optelec and VisionZone on Twitter. When you sign up for their RSS feed you be sure not to miss an important tweet as you will receive all of their tweets, and can go through them at your leisure. I also signed up to receive Denis Leary’s tweets as he just cracks me up. Ok so now you are signed up for a ton of RSS feeds, but how do you make this like reading the newspaper and how do I view all of these feeds.
The most common way to view RSS feeds is by using Goggle Reader. I have only briefly used the free Google Reader, and it is very easy to sign up for if you are already using Gmail or have a google account, and if you don’t use either, I would highly suggest signing up for google as it is free and offers you a lot of great services. Google reader is aaa simple RSS viewer where you can scroll through all of your RSS feeds and click and choose which articles you want to read. I am using my macmail box to read my RSS feeds, so I will talk about reading your RSS feeds in your email, as I am pretty sure this would work with any email client. When you to a RSS feed it offers you a ton of options. One of them is receive in mail. Select that RSS feed. By default in mcmail, it sends all of my RSS feeds to a special RSS mailbox. At first I thought it would be great to just receive my RSS feeds in my inbox, but quickly learned that would be a disaster as you will receive a ton of feeds, an dyou don’t want your feeds cluttering up your email. Most email clients should have a sepearate RSS folder. What I do is use this RSS folder for all of my feeds. Since I am now subscribed to a ton of RSS feeds, tabbing through each one in my RSS general folder would take awhile. Here is where we get to my newspaper idea. In my RSS folder, I created four subfolders, News, Entertainment, Sports, and Technology. I put all the news RSS feeds into the news folder, and so on for entertainment, sports, and technology. Now when I go to my RSS folder in the morning with my coffee, it is like I am reading the newspaper. I go to news, and get all the latest news happenings of the world. You can very quickly scroll through the articles and read the ones that interest and just hit the delete key as if you were deleting a mail item you did not want to read. Your RSS feeds are constantly doing the work for you and checking your favorite sites for new articles instead of you having to do the legwork. The only that I do not care for about RSS feeds is some of the sites will only give you a snippet of the article and you will have to click on the read more in the RSS message to get the full article, but for the most part I am loving using RSS feeds and keeping up to date and I am betting you will love using them to

When You’re Blind Even Your Apartment Can Be A Hazard

March 5, 2011

Since I don’t use Nash to lead me around my apartment, my apartment can be hazardous to my health, and has been so in the past. It has been a few years since I gave myself, or rather my apartment gave me a slight concussion. I also almost broke my nose about a year ago from running or walking really fast into the wall. But there are ways to make the apartment more blind friendly and safer. For example, even though I am only in a studio apartment, I keep the space very wide open so there aren’t as many obstacles to take me out. I got rid of the coffee table years ago, as I got fed up with all the shin injuries. I would advise those who are losing their vision that end tables are the safest way to go. I know that it may cut into your Fung Sche of your whole apartment, but it is worth it. Years ago I had someone from the Lighthouse come over to my apartment to place some blind friendly marks on common household appliances, but I guess the wear of the years has caused them to disappear. So this past week I headed back into the Lighthouse to meet with a home safety counselor. Funny that I had to go in to the Lighthouse to meet with someone about making the home safer, but I guess this is the way of the world, as I first had to go in for an assessment instead of them coming right in to the home. Now I have no idea what they were assessing. Maybe my ability to live on my own? Strange, as what were they going to tell me, we’re sorry but you shouldn’t be living alone? Ok, so what the hell do you suggest I do? Anyway, on Wednesday Nash and I headed over to the Lighthouse, and we had to take the bus. I lost my reduced far metro card 5 weeks ago, and they told me it would be here in 14 days, but of course, five weeks later and it is still not here. Amazingly, the bus still only makes me pay half fare without the card. Having seen the Charlie Sheen interview on Tuesday night, and it being fresh in my head, he didn’t look so crazy on Wednesday after our short bus ride. There was a woman on the bus who kept talking to Nash and yelling at me. Strange stuff. I just ignored it, figuring leave the crazies of the world to Charlie Sheen. We got off the bus and turned on to 59th street only to eventually realize we were on 58th street. We then got a little turned around in some construction, so I was a little annoyed when we got out of the construction, and a woman plowed right into me. She immediately said, “watch where you are going!” I fired back with “Are you expletive kidding me, I’m expletive blind you expletive expletive!” and she said “So am I!” Funny thing we both just kept going on our way. I was a little embarrassed having ripped into her so good, but I was still annoyed about the construction. After rounding the corner I felt a little bad, but recovered quickly. The woman that I met with at the Lighthouse was completely blind since birth. When I got into her office, and she fired up her computer, I started laughing, as I said, “wow what is that computer from 1970? The voice on the computer was so ancient it was quite shocking. Strange that the Lighthouse wouldn’t make some of their technology available to the people who work there ,but I guess limited budgets are affecting everybody, but really they do need to upgrade this poor woman’s system, I mean at least to 1980 technology. Considering that I am meeting with her to discuss the ways technology can help me in the home, it was a little hard to take everything seriously once I heard that computer speak. I was able to focus on what I was there for making my home safter. We went over everything from the cooking that I do not do, to appliances, to cleaning the apartment, which I can use some good advice on. She then talked to me about some of the things they could offer me, but it all comes down to the Commission For the Blind and them deciding what I need. Kind of a messed up situation and the way it all works. I passed the two hour assesssment with flying colors, and on Monday I move on to step two, having someone come to the apartment to implement the things we discussed. I am looking forward to seeing what little goodies I was approved for. Funny the answer to a lot of the questions was I use my Iphone to do that. They are going to help me rearrange my closet, as I can never tell what I am putting on, just if it fits or not. We will go over cleaning techniques, they will make my microwave more accessible with some touch and feel buttons, and hopefully offer any other suggestions that they have. I was a little surprised that the assessor wasn’t familiar with the Iphone and all of the great things it can do for someone who is blind. You would think the Lighthouse would make sure that their people were up to date on the latest and greatest things out there to make blind people’s lives better, but I guess in the end it all comes down to money. They say money can’t buy happiness, well it can make a blind guys life a lot safer and easier to live.