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Stephen Kerr's Blog




Braille Awareness Day

Have you ever seen or felt what Braille is like? Have you ever run your fingers across a page of Braille? If not, have you always been curious to find out? Your chance comes this Saturday, June 25, as the Austin Council of the Blind hosts a Braille Awareness Day at Barnes & Noble, 10000 Research Blvd. in the Arboretum from 1 to 4 Pm. Come see what the alphabet looks like in Braille, along with books that contain both Braille and print so blind and sighted children can read together, and watch a demonstration of different writing tools used to write Braille. As a special treat, have your name or a special message written in Braille for you to keep. For more information about the Braille Awareness Day, visit: http://www.acbaustin.org/bn_braille-awareness.htm In conjunction with Braille Awareness Day, Barnes & Noble is also hosting a Book Fair, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Austin Council of the Blind. The Book Fair will run from June 25 through June 30. Virtually any item purchased at Barnes & Noble can be used to support the Book Fair. If you shop online, all you have to do is enter the code 10512481 at checkout, and a percentage of your purchase price benefits the Austin Council of the Blind. For further instructions on how to shop in support of the Book Fair, visit: http://www.acbaustin.org/bn_bookfair_2011.htm
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Which Prince's UniformDo You Like?

Which prince had the most charming uniform at the Royal Wedding? Prince William sporting his Colonel of the Irish Guard uniform, or his best man, brother Prince Harry, in his Captain of the Household Cavalry uniform? Find out more about the princes' military garb at: http://www.people.com/people/package/article/0,,20395222_20485858,00.html and let me know your thoughts.
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Counting Down To Zero

Reality TV shows are quite the rage these days. Even our City of Austin is getting into the game, and it's all for a good cause. The city has launched a program called Dare to Go Zero. Four local families have accepted a five-week challenge to reduce the amount of trash they generate, and will document their progress on camera. Each family is competing for a chance to win a sustainable home improvement package worth over $2000! Dare to Go Zero airs Friday nights, 7 Pm, on Austin's local Government Access Channel 6, as well as on YouTube. For more information about the Dare to Go Zero project, visit http://www.cityofaustin.org/sws/daretogozero.htm
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Taylor Comes To Town Again

If you're a fan of Taylor Swift, you'll be excited to know the lovely singer/songwriter is coming back to Austin--again! Swift, who was here last year, is bringing her Speak Now World Tour 2011 to the Frank Erwin Center on Wednesday, October 26. Tickets willgo on sale Friday, April 29, 10 Am, at the usual Texas Box Office outlets. You can also charge by phone at (512) 477-6060, or online at: http://www.texasboxoffice.com/ Prices are: $25, $59.50, and $69.50. Check out this cool video of an appearance she made on "Late Night With David Letterman" late last year, playing a song from her current album "Speak Now". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HevhxkMWfU
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Bowling For Blind Baseball

Once a year, I get the privilege of emceeing an annual Bowl-a-thon that benefits an Austin area beep baseball team, to raise money for them to travel to the sport's annual World Series. What is beep baseball? It's a modified version of baseball played by blind individuals. The ball has an electronic mechanism that beeps, and the cone-shaped foam bases emit a buzzing sound, allowing the runner to hear where the base is. The Bowl-a-thon is more than just a fundraiser, though. It's a chance for blind and sighted people to come together, bowl a couple of games, and just have fun. All proceeds go to the Austin Blackhawks, a team that has been in existence since 1986, and is the proud winner of several World Series championships. I happen to be a former player, although I haven't swung a bat in a game in over 20 years. The World Series of Beep Baseball is held each August in a different city, and the Blackhawks have been every year for as long as I can remember. This year's Bowl-a-thon will be held this Saturday, Feb. 12, at Highland Lanes, 8909 Burnet Rd. from 1 to 3. It's $15 per person, and you get to bowl two games. There are also door prizes given generously by numerous local businesses, and many merchants also sponsor a lane. The 2011 Beep Baseball World Series is coming up July 31-August 7 in Indianapolis. Watch this video to find out more about how the game is played: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNXqN_QVmpk
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Ringing In the New Year

Hard to believe we're finished with 2010, and are heading into yet another year. New Year's is filled with making resolutions, watching the big ball drop in Times Square, and observing various traditions. It makes for some very interesting reading. Happy New Year! http://www.2020site.org/fun-facts/New-Years-Eve-Fun-Facts.html http://www.funfacts.com.au/new-years-resolutions-the-facts/
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Champions For Children

I'm always happy to promote awareness of community events, especially when they involve helping children who have suffered abuse. Champions for Children is an annual event that benefits Helping Hand Home for Children, a local nonprofit organization that provides services such as residential treatment, therapeutic foster care, adoption services, and charter school education services to children who have suffered major abuse. The benefit will be held Tuesday, Oct. 19, 12 noon, at the Hilton Austin Hotel. It's an awards luncheon that honors local volunteers, caregivers, and staff of nonprofit groups who devote themselves to helping children in need. This year's emcee is Ron Franklin of ESPN, a man I have admired for many years, and who has one of the best broadcast voices I've ever heard. The keynote speaker is Lee Woodruff, Contributing Editor for ABC's "Good Morning America", and wife of ABC News Correspondent Bob Woodruff. Lee has received high praise for her riveting account of her husband's recovery from injuries following a roadside bombing in Iraq. For more information about Champions for Children, email Julie Freeman, Director of Development, Helping Hand Home for Children, at: jfreeman@helpinghandhome.org To find out more about Helping Hand Home, and the services they offer, visit: www.helpinghandhome.org
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A Not-So-Easy A After All

What happens when telling a little white lie paints you as the most promiscuous girl in school? That's what a scheming student, played by Emma Stone, discovers in "Easy A", a contemporary high school comedy based on the Nathaniel Hawthorne classic "The Scarlet Letter". The movie, rated Pg-13 and directed by Will Gluck, debuts in theaters this weekend. Majic 95.5 had a special screening of the film this past Tuesday at the Regal Gateway Stadium 16. See a trailer here: http://www.sonypictures.com/previews/movies/easya/
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The Biggest Streisand Fan

Barbra Streisand has millions of fans, but very few are as famous as Jennifer Aniston. The 41-year-old actress, recently shot a spectacular Mark Seliger photo spread featuring iconic portraits of Streisand. The spread comes out this week in the September issue of harper's Bazaar Magazine, in conjunction with the promotion of Aniston's new movie "The Switch", which comes out August 20. Check it out here: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/fashion-articles/jennifer-aniston-barbra-streisand-pictures-0910
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A Successful Plastic Boat Ride

David de Rothschild, skipper of the boat Plastiki, sailed all the way from San Francisco to Sydney, Austrailia, a voyage that covered 8000 nautical miles over a four-month period. This doesn't sound particularly unusual, until you discover this was no ordinary boat: it was made almost entirely of plastic bottles, over 12,000 of them, to be exact! Rothschild wanted to increase awareness of the dangers of plastic waste, after reading a United Nations report that claimed plastic waste was posing a serious threat to the world's oceans. The 60-foot catamaran had to fight fierce Pacific storms, but docked in Sydney to the cheers of 100 people who gathered to see the unusual boat. Very clever, indeed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlBE9sf8--M
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A New Bowling Record

I've always been fascinated with world records, especially crazy ones. Over the weekend, i heard about a guy from Texas who set a new world record for the longest ten-pin bowling marathon. Stephen Shanabrook, 24, of Plano, bowled for 125 hours, whichstretched over a five day period. His scores certainly ran the gamut, from a high of 198 to a low of 5. Check out the article here: http://www.worldrecordsacademy.org/games/longest_bowling_marathon_world_record_set_by_Stephen_Shanabrook_101791.htm
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Yea, USA!

Well, it was a nice run for the USA soccer team, but its World Cup hopes ended with Saturday's 2-1 loss to Ghana. I'm not a huge soccer fan. I don't dislike the sport; in fact, I rather admire the athletes who play it. I'm just not one who will sit down and watch it on a regular basis. But it's amazing how one event, one sport, and one team can bring out the kind of interest the USA soccer team did. Everyone from blue collar workers to housewives cheered their hearts out, praying for miracles and shedding tears after the final match for the U.S. I can't help but compare the World Cup event to the Summer or Winter Olympics. It's every four years, athletes get to represent their country in a worldwide competition, and people who aren't normally fans of this event lend their support to the team. Will I suddenly become addicted to soccer, and watch every match I can find? Not likely. But like so many others, my heart dropped when Ghana scored what turned out to be the winning goal in overtime, and the USA Team's run came to an end. This year's World Cup has certainly given us some bittersweet memories. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOCLXoSyqPU
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Little Horses, Big Hearts

I recently became familiar with a wonderful local nonprofit organization called Minis and Friends whose mission is to share the love and spirit of miniature horses to people who are suffering mentally, physically, or emotionally. This group of horse lovers shares their mobile herd of trained miniature horses free of charge with children's shelters, schools, hospice centers, group homes, and many other places to interact with people of all ages. They may be children with disabilities, at-risk youth, or elder adults. In a world filled with stress and suffering of all kinds, these caring people and their calm, gentle minis provide a welcome comfort. I am always happy to recognize individuals and groups that do their part to give something back to the community in which they live and work. Minis and Friends has various activities and fundraisers in many parts of the Austin area, so I hope you'll join me in attending some of them. If you'd like to know more about Minis and Friends, you can watch this segment from YouTube, or visit http://www.minisandfriends.org/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8YHPUE7Fhc
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Can You Sing Like John Mayer?

Have you often thought about what it would feel like to sing like your favorite artist? Or even taking it a step further: uploading a video of you singing like that artist for all the world to see? Well, if you're a fan of John Mayer, wonder no more! Starting June 7, you will have the chance to represent Austin in a national singing contest by uploading a video of yourself singing like John Mayer! This is going to be fun! If you're the local and/or national winner, you'll win some fabulous prizes, including an opportunity to meet John in person, and a meeting with his label, Columbia Records. Show us your stuff! Let's prove to the world why Austin is known as the "live music capital"!
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My Friend Bertha

A couple of weeks ago, my son James and I went to the UT football spring scrimmage. Other than getting a nasty sunburn (I usually don't think of sunscreen this early), we had a great time. I think he and I made a new friend: Big Bertha, the drum. Check out this pic.
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Bowling For Baseball

Once a year, I emcee a bowl-a-thon for the Austin Blackhawks, a team that plays a sport called Beep Baseball. Yes, the name is as it sounds: a game that uses a beeping baseball, and it's played by the blind. The ball itself is actually a large softball with an electronic mechanism inside that emits a beeping sound once the pin is pulled out. I played the game myself years ago, and I'm here to tell you, it's every bit as competitive as regular baseball, or any sport, for that matter. There's even a World Series of Beep Baseball, held every year in early August. The bowl-a-thon helps raise money to send the Blackhawks to play in the World Series, which will be held this year in Rochester, Minnesota. The proceeds come from a registration fee to bowl, as well as corporations who sponsor individual lanes. The event is always a lot of fun. Each bowler gets to bowl two games, but it's not a competition. It's just a way to get together, have fun, and help a great cause. Best of all, blind and sighted people can bowl together (blind bowlers use a portable rail to feel their way along the lane). The event has been going on for about the last 17 years, and usually raises several thousand dollars each year to cover the Blackhawks' expenses to the Series. This year's bowl-a-thon will take place this Saturday, Feb. 13, from 1 to 3 at Highland Lanes, 8909 Burnet Rd. Registration begins after 12 noon, and it's $20 a person. Anyone, blind or sighted, is welcome to participate. Who knows? You might even win one of the many door prizes I'll be giving away, generously donated by local businesses. If you're curious to find out more about Beep Baseball, check out the official website of the National Beep Baseball Association, the governing organization of the sport: http://www.nbba.org/ Hope to see you Saturday!
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Movie Of The Year

Recently, I took my son to see "Avatar", one of the hottest flicks to come out in a long time. We decided to maximize the experience by seeing it at the I-Max Theater in 3D. For a blind person like myself, this didn't mean anything, but I wanted James to enjoy the experience, and did he ever! He thought the 3D glasses were the coolest thing, and it felt so real, as if the action was right on top of you. Just hearing it made me feel the same way. It's already grossed enough at the box office to be considered one of the top movies of all time. If you get a chance to see it, James and I highly recommend it. Here is the "Avatar" official website: http://www.avatarmovie.com/index.html
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Winding Down The Toy Drive

Time is passing by so quickly. That always seems to be the case, especially during the holidays, doesn't it? Our Majic of Christmas Toy Drive is no exception. It seems as if we just started it, but it's winding down as we head into our final week. This Wednesday, I will be making my last appearance of the toy drive at the Arboretum, between Pottery Barn and Express. We've gotten lots of wonderful toys, but we still have room for yours, so hope you can make it by. Don't forget about our gift wrapping party this Saturday from noon to 4 at Designer Floors of Texas, 3841 Ranch Rd. 620 South. Bring your gift wrapping supplies: paper, tape, scissors, etc. and help us wrap all the toys you've so graciously donated. Hey, Santa will even be there to help. It's become as much a tradition as the toy drive itself, so hope you can make it by.
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A Child's Initiative

Stephen poses with 12-year-old Josh at the Samuels Diamonds Majic Of Christmas toy drop This past weekend, I went to Samuels Diamonds in Round Rock, at Lafrontera, for one of our Majic Of Christmas toy donation drops. I've been involved in every single toy drive we've had over the past eight years, but I'm always touched by the generosity of people who bring us new, unwrapped toys, whether it's one toy or several bags full. But I'm especially moved when children take the lead in the giving. One of the people I met on Saturday was 12-year-old Josh, who came with his mom to drop off some toys. In the course of our conversation, I asked if I could have a picture taken with them. Josh's mom decided to let Josh take it with me, and told me it was his idea to make a donation to the toy drive. On behalf of all of us at Majic, we salute you, Josh, and other kids like you, for being willing to help others who are in need. Check out our photo.
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A Fun Time At The Stadium

My 16-year-old son James and I went to the UT-Kansas game this past Saturday night, and wow, was it fun! We try to do at least one game a year, but haven't been the past two seasons, so he and I have been pumped for weeks about seeing all the rennovations that have allowed attendance to be over the 100,000 mark. We sat in the upper deck, and James was very happy with the view. Since I'm blind, it doesn't matter where I sit, but I always try to get the best seats possible for him. When it was announced that the stadium had set an all-time attendance record, James became excited. "We picked a good game to go to," he pointed out. "Not only is Colt McCoy going to break the record for most wins in the NCAA, but I was a part of setting the attendance record. Pretty cool." It certainly was. I remember reflecting how much I enjoy these father-son events, especially now, as he's almost grown. He must have been thinking the same thing. "We need to keep doing this, even after I'm grown," he said. "As long as my kids can come, too." "Why, of course they can," I replied. "I'm all for that." James was having the time of his life, jumping up and down, clapping, and cheering at the top of his lungs. He even talked a little trash. "You smell that, Dad?" he asked me at one point during the fourth quarter, when Texas had put the game well out of reach. Not knowing what he was driving at, I sniffed the chilly air. "No, I don't smell anything. What is it?" "It's the smell of burnin' Jayhawks," he replied, laughing.
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A Scaled-Down Holiday

When I first heard there would be no Trail Of Lights at Zilker Park this year, my initial reaction was one of regret. It's been a while since I've walked the trail (my kids were very little then; they're practically grown now). But we had such fun. The lights themselves didn't hold great meaning to a blind person like myself. But I liked walking the trail, visiting Santa's house, and just hearing the joy in my children's voices as they took in the whole event. My, how things change. The tough economic landscape has forced the city of Austin to scale back the Trail Of Lights event this year. When I first read the headline, "No Trail Of Lights This Year" I thought they were eliminating the whole thing. As I read on, however, I was glad to find out there will still be an event, albeit a scaled-back version. Instead of the 1.25-mile trail in past years, it will be about a half-mile, centered around the Zilker Tree. It will be a nine-day event instead of two weeks, and there will be concessions, concerts, and other entertainment around the event. Parking fees will drop from $15 to $10, and, perhaps the best news of all, it will still be free admission. The city had originally planned to charge a $5 admission to anyone over the age of 11, but they decided to do away with that idea. No, it may not be the Trail Of Lights we've come to embrace as an annual Austin tradition, but it may still be fun. Perhaps times will be better by next year or the year after, and the full event can be brought back. At least we're still having one.
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The Pirate, The Hippie, And Me

Stephen Michael Kerr poses with Lynette the pirate and Tammy the hippie in a Goodwill Costume Contest Last weekend, I made an appearance at the Goodwill store on Research Blvd. between Burnet and Metric. It's always fun to go there before Halloween, because they have such a wide variety of costumes to pick out. One of the things I get to take part in each year is a costume contest, and last weekend was a real hit. We gave Goodwill gift cards to two contestants, and they had nine minutes and fifty-five seconds to pick out their costume and come back to the contest. Everyone else throughout the store got to judge the best costume; one winner took first prize, the other second. They each received tickets to Zach Theatre, the annual Ghoulwill Ball, and Mansion of Terror, plus a T-shirt. Tammy decided to dress up as a hippie, and Lynette decked herself out as a pirate. The pirate took first prize. I posed for some photos with the contestants. Check out this one featuring them both in costume. happy Halloween!
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