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Stephen Kerr's Blog




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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Tell Me the Money!

It's been said there's an app for everything, and I'm beginning to believe it. I downloaded an app recently called the LookTel Money Reader. It takes a picture of a dollar bill using the phone's camera, recognizes the bill's denomination utilizing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) , and says it aloud. Being visually impaired, this has vastly improved my ability to count and sort money independently. The app cost $1.99, and it's been money well spent. For now, LookTel only recognizes U.S. currency, and it doesn't detect counterfeit bills, but they are working on updates to make that happen. Check out my video of a review an demonstration of the LookTel Money Reader, and visit http://www.looktel.com/products#products-money-reader for more information.
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Another Reason To Drink Coffee

For many years, scientists have cited many reasons to not drink much coffee: it causes cancer, it's addicting, it's bad for your heart, etc. Not surprisingly, more recent studies have begun to reverse those myths, and are coming up with reasons why we SHOULD drink coffee. Alex and Terri mentioned some benefits this week on Majic In the Morning, including weight loss among women. I happened to come across an article in USA Today that touts another excuse to have a cup o' joe: it reduces the risk of stroke, particularly among women. Read the article here: http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/medical/story/2011/03/Coffee-may-reduce-stroke-risk/44747710/1
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Stop the Cyberbullying!

Bullying has been a problem for centuries. I certainly was a victim of my share growing up, and, I'm ashamed to say, even occasionally dished out the insults myself. My son was also a victim during middle school. It's no secret that bullying can have major consequences, some of which can be tragic. Many teen suicides and highly-publicized school shootings over the years have been linked to youths being pushed over the edge as a result of either being bullied or feeling ostracized by their peers. Over the past few years, the advent of the Internet, texting, and other forms of technology have created another form of bullying that can be even more destructive: cyberbullying, where humiliating messages and images are sent and forwarded to many people. Unlike face-to-face bullying, victims of cyberbullying suffer widespread public humiliation and don't have the chance to defend themseelves before the damage is done. What can be done to stop it? The Texas Child Safety Organization, in collaboration with the Austin Independent School District and the National Day of Cyberbullying Awareness, will hold its first-ever Cyberbullying Prevention and Intervention Conference. The event will be held Sunday, March 6, 2:30 to 5:30 Pm, at the Anderson High School Performing Arts Auditorium. Parents, students, educators, and others are encouraged to come together in an informative, interactive session to address what is being and can be done to reduce, or even totally eliminate, this growing problem among teens and preteens. Studies show that as many as one in every three children will be cyberbullied in their teen or preteen years, so organizers of the conference believe this is a timely and potentially life-saving first step in putting a stop to it. State Represenative Mark Strama, an internet and child safety advocate, will moderate the conference. For more information, contact Natalie Kloss-Biagini at (512) 947-3385, or email her at: natalie@texaschildsafety.org To register for the event, go online to: http://www.texaschildsafety.org/
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How To Make Money in 2011

I know a good number of people who are looking for jobs; some have been unemployed for quite a while. Though the economy is improving, it's doing so very slowly, and companies aren't hiring fast enough to bring the unemployment rate down significantly. If you are still employed, congratulations; you may have escaped, at least for now, the dreaded layoff frenzy that has put so many people out of work the past few years. But you want to keep that job, right? Here are some helpful tips from cnnmoney.com to do that. http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/111306/make-money-in-2011-your-job?mod=career-salary_negotiation
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Top 10 Toys For Small Children

So many toys. Which ones are appropriate? What's safe? Check out this great online resource for some ideas that are low-tech but creative, and educational. These are mainly for toddlers and preschoolers, but I found myself wishing I could play with some of these. http://www.bestchristmastoysonline.com/top-10-christmas-toys-2010-top-ten-christmas-toys-2010 For more Christmas toy ideas, you can also check out a recent blog from the Majic Morning Show's Alex O'Neal: http://blogs.majic.com/alexoneal/2010/11/16/must-have-toys-for-christmas-2010/
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Microsoft's New Windows Phones

Looks like Microsoft is trying to find ways to keep up with its competitors in the Smart Phone industry. Just in time for holiday shopping, they will soon come out with their Windows Smart Phones. Check out this video, and find out if this is somethingyou might want to put on your list. http://www.usatoday.com/video/index.htm?bctid=631864020001#/News/Microsoft%20unveils%20Windows%20phones/42804638001/40264770001/631864020001
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A New Theory On Obesity

I'm filling in for Alex on Majic In the Morning for the next couple weeks, and Friday morning, I talked about an article that has another take on why there is increased problems with obesity in the U.S. A White House Task Force recently released a report citing a class of chemicals in our food called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDC's, that are making us fat. See the entire article here: http://www.newsweek.com/2009/09/10/born-to-be-big.html
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Seeing Is Believing

My blindness has never altered my vocabulary, particularly when it comes to "seeing" things or people. Let me explain. When a person is talking to someone they know, he or she often says, "hey, nice to see you". When referring to a movie or hot new TV show, you might say, "did you see that"? "I saw her at the party last weekend" is another example. When I or any blind person says that, it often leads to some rather interesting reactions. Some people think we're being funny or clever when we say we "saw" someone. If I tell someone, "nice to see you", the other person often responds with, "but you're blind. How can you see me"? What many people don't realize is we're not trying to be cute or make a joke about our blindness. Obviously, I can't "see" anyone or anything, but I don't feel the need to change my wording to fit my disability. I want to be able to have normal conversations just as a sighted person would. Can you imagine the reactions I would get if i said, "hey, nice to hear you" or "good to smell you today"? So, the next time a blind person says to you, "good seeing you", just remember they may not really be "seeing" you with their eyes, but with their other senses. It's all a matter of perspective. See you next time.
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How To Get To Know a Disabled Person

When you see a blind person walking down the street, or encounter someone who is deaf or in a wheelchair, what's your initial reaction? Curiosity? Pity? Fear? Awkwardness? If you answered yes to any of these, you're not alone. Chances are you don't regularly associate with someone who is disabled, so these feelings are rather common. Having been blind since birth, I've encountered a wide range of reactions when meeting people, from curious stares when I walk with my white cane or holding someones arm, to amazement at being able to feed and dress myself. I was even ignored by a server at a restaurant. Most people don't mean to be rude or insensitive. They just aren't sure what to expect. Here are four points to keep in mind if you should happen to meet a person with a disability. 1. We're just like you. Aside from the disability itself, we have the same hopes, dreams, and feelings as anyone else. We laugh at something funny, cry over sad movies, and express anger or frustration when we're wronged. Many people with disabilities work, raise families, and take part in social activities. Instead of concentrating on the disability, look at the person the same way you would at a family member, your best friend or other acquaintance. 2. It's Ok to ask questions. Many people are afriad of offending someone by asking about their disability. When meeting anyone for the first time, it's natural to be curious about who they are, where they're from, what they do for a living, etc. Asking questions about a disability is usually acceptable, as long as you don't give the impression you think that person is helpless. Don't, for example, ask a blind person how he feeds and bathes himself. Instead, find out if she uses special computer equipment to do her job, how does he travel around town,does she read Braille or audio books, etc. If someone does take offense to a question, don't assume everyone with a disability feels that way. 3. Offer assistance when necessary. You see a woman in a wheelchair having trouble entering a building or negotiating steps. You'd like to help, but don't want to embarrass her. What should you do? It's usually appropriate to lend a hand if someone is having obvious difficulty, but keep in mind that not everyone will be accepting of your help. It's not much different than pulling over and offering assistance to a motorist with a flat tire. Unless the woman in the wheelchair is in danger of causing harm to herself or others, it isn't necessary to press the issue if they refuse your assistance. You did your part. 4. Remember that we all have obstacles to overcome. No matter who we are, each of us has a weakness or challenge to face. How do you feel when you are treated differently because you're bald, short, or heavyset? Wouldn't you rather people accept you for who you really are, rather than be pitied, made fun of, or shunned? So would a disabled person. Meeting someone with a disability doesn't have to be an intimidating experience. Asking questions, offering assistance, and putting yourself in their shoes can go a long way toward recognizing them as people with normal thoughts and feelings who just happen to have a disability. Who knows? You just might make some new friends in the process. many friends and colleagues have said to me, "I often forget that you are blind." To me, that is the ultimate compliment.
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