Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Helen Keller Comic Book. Seriously.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

The folks at Fred’s Head Companion led me to a new comic book series based on the life of Helen Keller. Well sort of!

Helen Killer, yes apparently this is true. From the site:

At the dawn of the 20th Century, twenty-one year old college student Helen Keller has a dark secret science has restored her lost senses and granted her unimaginable power. Will she use it to protect herself and her country. or will it destroy them both? Thoroughly researched, Helen Killer blends a full cast of historical characters with high octane super-spy action, examining the extraordinary spirit of one of the most inspiring individuals of the twentieth century. Written by Andrew Kreisberg who has written for such tv hits as “The Simpsons,” “Boston Legal” and “Eli Stone.” This is the first fully illustrated book by Matt Rice, a talented up and comer of whom big things are expected.

I haven’t read the comic so this is not a review.

My beef, is pretty simple.

The online version of this comic  book, which features a “super hero” who is blind, is inaccessible to screen readers. What seems to be Flash based cannot be read by the blind community

Did it ever occur to those involved in this project that blind people may want to read the story?

C’mon, the real Helen Keller wouldn’t be able to independently access this information in 2009. The technology is available, but it does no good when it’s not properly used.

Since those involved with this project found it so important to give Ms. Keller her two senses, I thought I would give my two  cents too!

Adventures with Belvy Part 2 – The Setup

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

 

“Adventures with Belvy” is an idea that began with my post “A piece of Fiction with a link to reality.” I talk about a day in the life of me and my dream robot guide Belvedere, or Belvy for short. It got me thinking about what it would be like and how some would assess this technology.

…well really it’s just fun writing the story

“We are providing jobs and free transportation for individuals who would otherwise have neither. Not everyone can be the first blind person with a robot”, Sabrina said insistently.” It’s not about the robot, it’s about the way R.E.A.L conducts business. You mean to tell me that all of the contracts they are securing from the government and Fortune 500 companies and all they can pay is minimum wage. The only people they employ are so called people with disabilities. There isn’t much in overhead, oh wait; the poor disabled folk can have free transportation.

It was easy for Sabrina to realize, she wasn’t going to change T’s opinion of R.E.A.L (Resources for Employment Access and Labor). Trudy Rudaper, president of WESI, recently launched a joint project to employ people with disabilities as call center representatives. PWD’s are paid a minimum wage and can work up to 20 hours a week, allowing most to keep their disability payments without passing the earnings threshold. The other perk given to the R.E.A.L employees, is free transportation – up to 5 rides a month, with additional restrictions. “Look, finding work for the blind community, I am all for” t said, but when companies make ridiculous profits on the backs of others and try to sell as a social endeavor, I can never back that. As T was on his soap box, Sabrina reached into her purse hitting two keys on her phone.

T’s phone began to ring, “Excuse me one second”, T said as he jammed in his ear piece.

“Hello.” “SHAAA HUUU ERRR WHUUU RAAA VROO.” “Hello, hello, not again!”

I can see you are passionate about this subject and I can definitely respect that. As I told you, speaking at WESI would really give you a platform. Trudy Rudaper is interested in having you speak at her conference on emerging technology. It will be held at the Drake Chicago Hotel right on Lakeshore Drive.” Suddenly no longer interested in debating corporate ethics, T replies, “I have been interested in going to Chi town for a while now. I heard some good things about the deep dish pizza and I’ve been listening to the Blues.”

The two finish there lunch talking about their love of music, from Blues to classic R&B and Jazz and Hip Hop. T even had Belvy play some of his favorite tracks from Howling Wolf to Hip Hop classics from the Cold Crush Brothers.

Twice on his way home, T received the strange phone calls. He was considering changing his number. Caller ID was no help since many of his friends and contacts had private numbers.

Sabrina immediately called Trudy to provide her with an update. We are not going to change his mind without help, I am convinced. “Don’t worry, that is being taken care of. He will start to see things our way.” Trudy replied with arrogant confidence. “He has agreed to speak at the conference.” “Great, I will have my assistant mail the plane tickets to him.” “That won’t be necessary; he avoids planes when traveling with Belvy. Two hundred pounds of metal and airports just don’t mesh well together. He prefers the freedom of being on the road.” “That’s fine; I will make sure everything is ready for our friends, especially Belvy.”

“Come and give Daddy some sugar”, T calls out to his girls. After the shower of hugs and kisses, which always leave him wanting to change his mind and stay home playing silly games with his family, he rolls his suitcase into the garage and places it in the back of the truck. “I will call you in a few hours just to check in and will continue to do the same until I am back in this garage.” T says to his wife. There was something about Trudy Rudaper that she didn’t like. She couldn’t exactly describe the feeling, she just didn’t trust her from the first time she met her during a presentation she attended with her husband. “Don’t worry; I will only be gone three days. Besides, the money I will get from this presentation is too much to pass down for just a feeling.”

As the truck pulls out of the garage and heads down the driveway, T cranks up the volume on the stereo and exaggerates his appreciation of country music. “Stop being silly, and make sure you call me!” shouts his wife as the car rolls down the street. “I love you”, he returns.

T had enough time on the 12 hour trip to make some last minute adjustments to his presentation. At one point he jokingly thought about publicly denouncing R.E.A.L, but he knew that would not only be the end of his speaking career, but it would be wrong since he was invited to speak on an entirely different subject. Most of the time was passed listening to various pod casts, audio books and surfing the many channels on the satellite radio.

Arriving at the Drake on schedule, Belvy pulls up to the Valet parking area. Trudy Rudaper and the co founder of R.E.A.L Sam Stanger are waiting with a camera crew and other members of the press. T thought Sabrina and Trudy would meet him at the hotel, but was unaware of the press. As T exited the truck and members of the press began to get into position, Sam tapped his stylus against the screen of his wireless tablet. While one of the Tribune reporters were crossing in front of the truck Belvy suddenly stepped on the gas. Trudy happened to be in the perfect position to grab the reporter out of harm way. The truck stopped short of hitting the car in front. T was thrown about five feet breaking his fall with his hands. All of this was captured on tape.

No one being seriously injured, Trudy used this opportunity to sarcastically comment on robots being used as drivers, “Well, I guess this is why it’s called, Emerging Technology.”

T immediately stood up and cleaned himself off. He declined any assistance making his way to the truck. “Let’s go Belvy”, he commanded visibly angered by what had just occurred. This was not like Belvy, he never made such an error during the 9 months T has been working with him.

T entered the hotel lobby with Belvy as the photographers continued to capture photos of the duo.

Adventures with Belvy – Initial Contact

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

“Adventures with Belvy” is an idea that began with my post “A piece of Fiction with a link to reality.” I talk about a day in the life of me and my dream robot guide Belvedere, or Belvy for short. I’m not exactly sure where this is going, but if you’re game join me as I figure it out.

So, here’s the first in a series – “Initial Contact.”

It was supposed to be a lazy Sunday. The girls were all out of the house doing girl things, shopping, hair, nails, it really didn’t matter. The plan, lay on the oversized couch in his basement media room. A great setup, the center piece most people gravitate towards, a 52 inch flat panel plasma television, but that’s for the family. T enjoys turning on the cable box and piping the output into the 7 in wall surround sound speakers. It’s the only thing that gets him to watch action movies these days. The two sub woofers make an earthquake feel like one of those vibrating beds in a 1970’s hotel.

As the classic soul music plays throughout the house, T loads Belvy with a few of his favorite beverages. Belvy’s 12 by 12 inch compartment made to keep beverages either hot or cold is usually reserved for get-a-ways, but what the heck; this is sort of like that. The two retreat to the basement. “System On”, T commands. The system in the media room is connected to a computer he equipped with speech recognition software. This beats looking for the remote control any day. Usually T would dive into the oversized couch. He recently altered this tradition after a previous experience. One of the girls left a brush, one with a big wooden handle, an we’ll just say, he felt violated in a way no innocent unsuspecting man should have to feel. Now, he sits more like a cautious and somewhat timid old man. “Guide On”, he says making himself comfortable on the couch. While the on screen guide is loading Belvy takes a seat on the chair next to the couch. After about twenty minutes of channel surfing and reviewing the guide T reaches the inevitable conclusion, “Ain’t a damn thing on!”

While checking for new descriptive movies playing in the theater on a laptop stored in the couch, the phone rings. “Phone on”. “Hello!” “SHAAA HUUU ERRR WHUUU RAAA VROO”, a jumbled, gargled voice on the other end. Damn, not this again. Phone off.” Second time today receives a call like this. “Caller ID”, he commands. “Private Listing” says the synthetic voice output from the media room.

“No way, “Bustin’ Caps” is described. The narration alone is worth the price of the movie. I must be really bored to want to go to this movie, but what the heck. This should be interesting. Belvy set the GPS to the AMC Theater downtown.” “Yes sir.” As T grabbed his things Belvy went off to warm the truck.

Arriving at the AMC Theater with more than enough time to spare, T and Belvy head into the theater. T activated the homing device which omits a vibration on his white cane that provides direction based on Belvy’s GPS. Sometimes T likes walking without the guide. He finds it especially amusing how people are so excited about seeing a robot walking by itself that he is virtually invisible. After purchasing his ticket and a brief argument explaining why he should not have to pay for Belvy, he was able to buy a large lemonade and Nestlé’s Bunch o’ Crunch. The theater was surprisingly empty. This was only the second week of “Bustin’ Caps”. It starred the hottest new rapper, Gangsta Luv. Street legend says he was shot 9 times in the groin and yet, ironically he continues to go by Gangsta Luv.

After over a half hour sitting in the almost completely empty theater, he wondered why he was there. “I can’t stand these types of movies. Apparently, no one else can either”, he thought to himself. “To the truck Belvy.”

As the two left the theater and walked into the lobby, it was obvious that the latest children’s animated movie just ended. Preparing himself for the frenzy that would soon begin, T put his cane away and held onto Belvy. All of the kids in the theater lobby rushed toward Belvy. The kids showered him with questions. “Where did you get him?” “Can he talk?” “What can he do?” T answered as many questions as he could, fortunately the parents would help in his exit.

As T was getting into the truck, a woman approached. “Excuse me sir,” Not sure if she was talking to him T continued into the truck. The woman called out again this time close enough where it was obvious she was talking to T. “Excuse me sir, one moment please. It’s funny I would see you here. I read the article in the paper a few weeks ago.” T exits the truck to greet the woman. “Hi, my name is Sabrina Boudreau. I wanted to introduce myself.” “Nice to meet you”, T replies. “I read the article about you and your robot. I was wondering if you would be interested in speaking at the convention of Women Entrepreneurs for Social Improvements. I don’t want to keep you but if I can give you my card and possibly take yours, we can discuss all of the details at your convenience.” “Sounds very interesting”, T replies as they exchange business cards. The two shake hands once again and T joins Belvy in the truck.

As the truck pulls off, Sabrina removes her cell phone, tucked away in her hand bag next to the Glock 9mm. “Sir, as you directed, I made the initial contact.”

A piece of fiction, with a link to reality.

Monday, March 19th, 2007

 When I lost my sight, many people asked if I was going to eventually get a guide dog. I usually responded, “No, at least not right now.” The geek in me started thinking of my ultimate guide, a robot.

I am not talking about one of those little robot dogs kids play with or one of those little vacuum cleaners, I am talking about a full sized, multi featured robot. Let’s call him Belvedere or Belvy for short – at least that is what I would call mine. Think of Robocop without the automatic weapons, at least not in version 1.

Belvy would stand about 6 feet with a muscular frame. He would not take on any characteristics of a human other than two arms legs torso and head. A shiny silver metallic color equipped with some really useful functionality and of course some cool gadgets.  

Check out a day in my life with my robot Belvy.

“Good morning Sir, this is your scheduled wake up call. As you requested, I will play the song you decided would best help you to begin your day. As Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrodome” plays, Belvy accompanies me into the bathroom where he   has prepared my clothes for the day, according to my previously loaded command, loaded via Bluetooth of course

After brushing my teeth and shaving, Belvy cleans up, removing any hair left in the sink. “Would you care for cologne today sir?” Yes please Belvy” Belvy recognizes my voice and only obeys my commands.

While eating my breakfast, made to order, I ask Belvy, “What is on my calendar today?” You have a meeting at10:30, a lunch appointment at 1 and you have to pick up your daughters at 4.” “Great! Start the car. For my music, I would like to hear “Songs in the Key of Life.” Set your GPS to the address listed in the address field for my first appointment.” As Belvy walks out to the garage where my truck is parked, I gather the rest of my things.

Many people wonder how Belvy is able to drive me any where I want to go. Both he and the truck are equipped with matching GPS navigation systems. Belvy’s however, includes walking routes. The truck is equipped with auto sensory detection that automatically senses on coming traffic and alerts when cars are too close. Between the technology in the truck and Belvy, I am safer than driving with a human. Belvy doesn’t get road rage or upset. As we are driving to the appointment, Belvy asks “Would you like me to call ahead sir” “Yes please.” Belvy activates his on board phone and dials the number directly from my contact database. “Good morning this is Mr. Belvedere calling on behalf of Mr. Reid. He will be attending the meeting and according to my calculations should be arriving by 10:20. Thank you.” All the while I am seated comfortably in the back seat enjoying Stevie Wonder’s “As.”

When we arrive at the appointment, Belvy immediately parks the truck. Belvy exits and opens the back door for me. “Would you like to go sighted guide sir?” “Yes please Belvy.” I hold onto his elbow and we proceed to the entrance of the building. His on board navigation kicks in automatically to the walking route. When we enter the building the GPS immediately detects a building internal navigation system, Belvy determines the meeting will be held on the 4th floor in conference room C.

I earlier programmed Belvy to record the entire meeting. I remove the wireless keyboard, securely stowed away in Belvy’s rear compartment located on his torso and jot down some notes.  Belvy’s hi speed wi-fi connectivity allowed me to quickly check my email and access documents on my home network.

Following the meeting I decide to walk to my lunch date 10 blocks away. As we walk, “Belvy, tell me the points of interest.” Belvy immediately begins listing the various businesses and shops in the area. “As we pass a perfume store I decide to purchase something for my wife.” Belvy immediately detects the RFID tags and generates a list of perfumes. He compares that to a list of my wife’s current collection to determine which she would most like. I sample a few and decide on a purchase. “Sir, you have 12 minutes to get to your next appointment. I pay for the perfume and continue walking. Belvy has adjusted his walking speed to assure we are not late. Several on lookers try to stop us asking about Belvy, but I engage the anti on looker mode. Each time someone calls out to us Belvy simply says through his surround sound speaker system “Sorry, we cannot stop right now, but if you are interested in learning more about us please visit http://www.reidmymind.com/.”

During the lunch with my wife, Belvy sits in a chair at the table with us. I ask Belvy to play some random slow jams from back in the day. Shirley Murdock’s As we lay” begins as I hand my wife the perfume.

After lunch Belvy and I head back to the truck. This time I disengage the anti on looker mode. Stopping several times to talk with various people on the street to explain how Belvy works. I even show off his high speed internet access, his on board high definition television screen, mainly used by my kids when we are on the road to access the thousands of movies stored in the 10 terabyte hard drive.

On the way home my music selection changes a bit and I listen to Boogie Down Productions “Criminal Minded.” We make it back in time to get my daughters from school. As usual they ask if they can show Belvy to one of their friends. I have him demo’ his latest Xbox, games. The girls just smile as their friends admire Belvy.

When we arrive home Belvy begins dinner as directed while I help the girls with their homework. When my wife arrives home we all sit down and enjoy a meal together. “Belvy, why don’t you head over to your recharging center and I’ll do the dishes.” “Thank you Sir, will do.”

That’s the least I can do for my man, uh, robot that is, Belvy!

Think it’s far fetched, check this out.