Showing posts from January, 2009

Why I Love the Caltech Y

I recently was invited to give a talk at my alma mater, Caltech. The talk was hosted by the Caltech Y, as well as by the local chapter of NetImpact and the alumni association, as part of their Social Activism Speaker Series (SASS) . I was particularly thrilled that Martin Luther King was an earlier speaker hosted by the Y in the area of social activism! Not that I'll ever be in that league! It's just an honor to be in a talk series where the brochure features MLK. One of the board members from the Y, Gunilla Hastrup, heard me waxing eloquent about why I loved the Y as a student and why I still do. And, I agreed to write up why I am so enthusiastic. The Y used to be part of the YMCA but severed the formal connection long ago. It doesn't have a pool or a gym, but it does provide Caltech students, staff and faculty with a vibrant link to the outside world. Caltech is such an intense place; it's helpful to get some perspective. As a student, I loved Decompression,

The New Bookshare has Launched!

Over the weekend just ended we successfully launched the completely rebuilt Bookshare website. The original Bookshare website and service was created over seven years ago, and has served us well. But, our new Bookshare for Education project with its likely prospect of increasing our student users one hundredfold meant we needed a rebuild. I'm also excited about our new logo! The new features built in are too many for me to list in a short blog post, but our team has prepared a brief on the new Accessibility and Ease of Use features . Big news includes: Many new accessibility features Brand new talking software from HumanWare and Don Johnston High quality text-to-speech Extensive features for schools to manage student memberships, including an easy way for a school to recommend a student gets their own personal membership (their own unlimited use library card) Expanded and enhanced volunteer functions to make adding new books easier Replacing our proprietary compression softwar

Ice911: a new take on solving the climate crisis

I'm always interested in fresh approaches to social problems. The global climate crisis is one that is engaging a lot of creative brainpower. I've been tracking local researcher Leslie Field and her Ice911 concept for more than a year. It's still in stealth mode, but I got Leslie's permission to blog about it. Leslie was motivated by seeing An Inconvenient Truth to think about a new way to help reduce global warming. What I like about her idea is that it's both simple and clever at the same time. The idea is to cover portions of the Arctic Ocean with removable, reflective covers: sort of an artificial icecap. One of the problems we've seen is the unfortunate feedback loop of loss of polar ice packs , which leads to more open ocean instead of ice cover which leads to more heat absorbed from the sun, which results in more loss of polar ice cover. The panels interlock somewhat alike to a jigsaw, and there's secret sauce and magic in the materials. But, I

Happy Bicentennial, Louis Braille

Today is Louis Braille's 200th birthday, and there's been a great deal of coverage for the inventor of the premier reading system for the blind. The former British Home Secretary, David Blunkett, published a piece for the BBC called Why Braille is brilliant today. The National Federation of the Blind is organizing events around the country to celebrate his birthday and the invention of Braille . It helps blind people all over the world, as this recent sample of Hindi Braille demonstrates. We're very proud at about our support of Braille. We believe that digital Braille displays combined with Bookshare really make Braille much more practical. What power when you can carry around an entire library of Braille books that weights only two pounds!