This has been one of those days. It’s the kind of day where you know before you even get out of bed that you are going to have a serious spoon shortage. (don’t worry, I’ll explain what I mean by spoons in this post, so keep reading). And not only is there going to be a shortage, it’s going to be severe, and it might even be a spoon deficit. When you wake up and you realize that getting out of bed is going to be hard today. And thinking is going to be hard. And so is eating, or reading, or paying attention, or anything else that would still allow you to classify yourself as a useful human being.

Why do I keep referring to spoons?

As promised, here is the spoon explanation. You can read the original exposition of the Spoon Theory here, but in case you don’t want to click the link, here’s a breakdown. This theory applies if you have one of those invisible illnesses. The ones that get you the “you-don’t-look-sick” treatment.

Imagine you start your day with twelve spoons. Some days you might have less, but we’ll keep it simple for now. Now imagine that there’s another person. A real hard-ass who will take your spoons without mercy. Each task you have to do during the day, (and this includes waking up), costs you a spoon. And because there’s this hard-ass waiting to take your spoons, once you use one, you don’t get it back. OK, so cracking open your eyes costs a spoon. Getting in the shower, shaving and everything that goes with showering costs you another spoon. Then you have to eat. And there goes another spoon. Work? Let’s not talk about work. Just know that you could end up using a lot of your spoons doing that. Then you get to the end of the day and you only have a couple spoons left. You still have to cook, then eat, then clean up, and possibly do stuff around the house. And you’d like to do something fun. But you’re limited on spoons so you have to make a choice about what you’re going to do. You can borrow spoons from tomorrow, but then you have to figure out how to get tomorrow done with les spoons.

So back to today. Today, there were very few spoons. Getting out of bed was hard, getting lunch was hard. By t, things had gone totally downhill. I ate some yogurt for dinner because I didn’t feel like doing anything else, and wasn’t really hungry. And bedtime will be in a few minutes. As soon as I finish this post. Which has taken me close to two hours to write, and not because of a serious amount of thinking. I really hope tomorrow is better. Wil and Denise are coming over, and we’re supposed to go out and have some fun, which I’m looking very forward to. And Pesach starts tomorrow night, and there’s the Seder. So I’m not canceling tomorrow. But for today at least, everything sucks.

Evans, Georgia, United States

I’m trying to be nice about this, I really am. Mainly because I don’t want to push away my sighted readers. But I came across something incredibly stupid today that I think demands a complete fisking. So today, we’re going to visit E-how and find out why this article is wrong on every single level. But first, let’s get some things out of the way. As I said I’m going to try to keep from offending my sighted readers. To that end, I will try to provide constructive answers, even though quite frankly I’m foaming at the mouth. So if I say anything offensive, let me know in the comments, but try not to take it personally. I really do love all of you guys. There’s going to be a little visualization exercise at the end of this, and a pop-quiz. (No, not really a pop-quiz). So let’s start at the beginning.

Having a disabled person in your life can be a challenge. Many blind people have never had sight, so they cannot relate to color, shape or perspective. Here are steps you can take to help a blind person live with his or her handicap.

The first thing that realy bothers me about this article is that it has one hundred and thirty-seven (137) likes on Facebook. Now, some of these could be simply because there isn’t a hate button, but I doubt it. And if it has that many likes, then there are a lot of uneducated people out there, and I sincerely hope that all those people go out, find and talk to actual people who happen to be blind for their own sakes.

And now to the meat of it. Specifically, this bit about blind people having no perspective about shapes, or just plain not having any perspective at all. Lots of blind people know about shapes. We can even identify some of them. Just because our eyes don’t work doesn’t mean the rest of us doesn’t work. We have working brains in most cases, get educations. Some of us even have degrees, and (gasp) jobs, which I’m pretty sure you can’t get if you don’t start out by being able to identify shapes. Some blind people, even though they’ve never had full sight, can identify colors, or at least the basics. And no, I don’t know anyone who has learned to identify colors by the way things feel. That’s a huge myth unfortunately perpetuated by the movies. So is that thing about blind people feeling other people’s faces to find out what they look like. I don’t know anyone who’s ever done that to strangers, unless you count the people who want to use that as an excuse to hopefully cop a much more involved feel.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4snGt8OzUV0]

This wasn’t the clip I was looking for, but it illustrates how the face-feeling myth gets propagated.

So by this point, we’ve established that

  • Blind people know what shapes are and how to identify them
  • And blind people really don’t feel people’s faces to find out what they look like. There are usually other motives, like sex.

On to the next bit.

Put everything back in the same place after cleaning. If you have someone help you clean, make sure they are advised to do the same.

This one isn’t actually a bad idea. But I assumed that this was just the decent thing to do. The only quibble I have with this is that, while there’s no problem with cleaning or getting help to clean, most of the blind people I know can pick up after themselves. We may need some assistance with things, (like cleaning glass), but generally blind people are perfectly capable of cleaning up, and should be doing that by themselves.

Keep everything on a blind person’s desk exactly where he or she left it. This applies to braille paper, CDs, radios, telephones and computer accessories.

This is also a good idea. Most of us, (and I’m sure that includes sighted people), hate it when other people move crap around, or don’t put things back, and blind people are no different in that regard.

Try to keep all hallway and cabinet doors closed. Warn the blind person if you plan to have a particular door open for a prolonged period.

Ooooooo-kay. I mean, if the door opens on the hallway, maybe I could see that. But just because there’s a door or cabbinet open doesn’t mean alarms need to start going off. Blind people learn their surroundings, learn where doors are, and pretty much learn to move around them when they’re open.

And here’s where it starts getting really stupid again.

Keep restocking supplies of anything the blind person uses regularly. This includes food and drink, bathroom items and paper towels.

Here’s a better idea. Take your blind housemate or spouse or friend to the store, Ask if they need anything if you’re going to the store by yourself. I suppose if you want to occasionally pick up something because you notice it’s running low, that’s fine. But blind people who are responsible, independent adults can and do make decisions about what they need and what needs to be replenished. I hated this part especially, and the items that come after it, because they assume an incredible patronizing tone which is extremely offensive, and will make most blind people I know foam at the mouth.

Take out the trash regularly. Check for food that has been accidentally dropped on the floor or not returned to the refrigerator.

No. Definitely no. We can, and unless there’s some other physical disability that prevents this involved, be expected to do this on our own. Same with food being put back in the fridge. In this case, if you wouldn’t do it for a sighted housemate, don’t do it for the blind one. But do make a point of remind that some food has been left out that needs to be put away.

Remember to turn off the lights before you leave, particularly if you are a part-time caretaker. Most blind people have limited incomes.

If this article had been entitled “How to take care of an elderly blind person” possibly with dementia, This might be relevant. But to assume that you should turn off lights because the poor thing is on a fixed income is just patronizing and stupid. Ask if they want the light left on. Most of the time, you’ll probably be asked to turn it off. But the point is, ask. Don’t just assume.

Help the blind person braille a list of important phone numbers, account numbers and any other personal information they might need to access when you are not available.

Once again, ask. Most blind people will take the initiative and ask for phone numbers and account numbers they need, and put them in their phones or wherever they keep other important information. But the important thing is to ask, and not assume.

Some blind people have problems opening doors with keys. You can buy a lock that requires both a matching fingerprint and a code for entry. It also comes with a standard key as insurance should it stop functioning.

OK, this is just stupid. Incredibly stupid. Unless there’s some other physical disability involved, we don’t usually have extra trouble opening doors with keys. Does this person really think we all live in apartments or houses with special locks?

And here’s my absolute favorite:

Keep all sharp objects like knives or scissors out of reach.

Damn. I was going to murder my guide dog, but they took my sharp objects away!

This evidences the “poor thing, she’ll hurt herself” mentality, which I hate with a passion. If every blind person were actually subjected to this sort of treatment, we’d never eat steak again. (which would be a special kind of hell, in my oppinion). But seriously, childproofing, (and that’s pretty much what this little nugget suggests), for people just because they’re blind is really demeaning. I’m surprised this idiot didn’t just go ahead and advise caregivers to roll out the potty chairs, because, you know, blind people are so incapable of taking care of ourselves. So what if we cut ourselves. If it really gets bad enough that it needs stitches, then maybe it might be time to worry. But most of us know how to clean a cut and put a bandaid over it like anyone else. And we need to shave. What are we supposed to do, get help bathing too?

Thankfully, this stops right here and we don’t have to go any further. And I hope I’ve made it easier to see why someone might get offended over this sort of thing. It’s patronizing and objectifying all at the same time. Just visualize for a minute how you would feel if someone seriously wrote an article on how to take care of a sighted person, and suggested that we put pictures on everything to make it easier for you to figure out what it is. I can’t think of anything dumber than that, because I don’t spend most of my time demeaning sighted people, unless I’m joking. If you have a blind person in your life, whether it’s a friend or spouse or colleague, talk to them. Ask questions. Hell, you can even do it in the comments, and I’ll try to answer as best I can. Just don’t go to eHow looking for advise on how to help blind people, because if you do that, and follow some of the advise you find, you really will make a complete ass of yourself, and whichever of us you’re dealing with will likely hate you for the rest of your life. OK, probably not for the rest of your life, but they will be really pissed. and hurt because you didn’t just ask. And if you’re that person’s parent, he or she could retaliate in your later years by putting you in a nursing home when you don’t really need it. (Just a joke. That probably wouldn’t happen. But they’d be tempted).

Until next time.

Evans, Georgia, United States

There’s an article on Israel Matzav discussing the troubling political atmosphere at Hebrew Union College, and it raises what I think is an interesting question. Should rabbis preach about political issues from the bimah? The answer to this question is, I believe, no. I believe this for a few reasons. First, the synagogue is a place for prayer and worship. If rabbis want to discuss political issues, they should do so outside the prayers. Secondly, I see a problem with the idea of rabbi as political leader. I’m only familiar with what goes on in more liberal synagogues, but I see this kind of political involvement as getting very close to a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Rabbis are supposed to be spiritual leaders, not political ones, and I don’t think the bimah is the place for political discussion. I would believe this way even if I happened to share the political views of my synagogue. I don’t. As a matter of fact, I think I’m the only one in attendance who would classify myself as conservative. For me, this creates issues, because I know that I’m going to be on the other side of whatever gets discussed, and since political discussions can become very heated, I think that kind of divisiveness should be kept on the sidelines. There’s mention in the linked piece of how the Torah supports what are considered liberal points of view, specifically the view that government is supposed to take care of its citizens. This is true, but only to a point. The Torah also supports some very conservative positions, and I don’t think it’s accurate to try to mold the Torah to our political views, because it does support views on either side of the proverbial isle. I also believe that if those of the liberal persuasion have a problem with clergy of the conservative persuasion preaching on issues from the pulpit, then they ought to take a page out of their own book and refrain from such preaching, or, if they are congregants, refrain from expecting their clergy to preach on said issues. I believe that social action/social justice is a very thin disguise for politics, and I also believe that the two should be separated, because people of very divergent political views can often believe in a socially just cause, for very different reasons. And I think that by confusing the two, the waters are muddied in a way they never should have been.

In conclusion: Keep prayer and politics separate, no matter which side you’re on, and I think the congregational prayer experience will be better for everybody.

I’m watching Fox News and looking at other news sources online, and according to CNN, Osama Bin Laden has been buried at sea. I’m sure, however, if there is a hell, his soul is already well ensconced in it, and he has to be at least somewhat disappointed that there weren’t seventy-two virgins waiting for him. The burial at sea will hopefully prevent any shrines being built to the erstwhile terrorist. I have to say I’m very pleased with his death and that hearty congradulations are in order for the Navy Seals who carried it out. His body was handled according to Islamic tradition, which I question given that he (a) killed tons of Muslims, and (b) wasn’t representative of Islam, and (c), never gave a fig about the traditions of anyone else he killed. Oh well, good riddance, and may his memory be blotted out, or if it is remembered, for a curse and not a blessing.

AT 4 O’CLOCK each morning, Laura J. Sloate begins her daily reading. She calls a phone service that reads newspapers aloud in a synthetic voice, and she
listens to The Wall Street Journal at 300 words a minute, which is nearly twice the average pace of speech. Later, an assistant reads The Financial Times
to her while she uses her computer’s text-to-speech system to play The Economist aloud. She devotes one ear to the paper and the other to the magazine.
The managing director of a Wall Street investment management firm, Sloate has been blind since age 6, and although she reads constantly, poring over the
news and the economic reports for several hours every morning, she does not use Braille. “Knowledge goes from my ears to my brain, not from my finger to
my brain,” she says. As a child she learned how the letters of the alphabet sounded, not how they appeared or felt on the page. She doesn’t think of a
comma in terms of its written form but rather as “a stop on the way before continuing.” This, she says, is the future of reading for the blind. “Literacy
evolves,” she told me. “When Braille was invented, in the 19th century, we had nothing else. We didn’t even have radio. At that time, blindness was a disability.
Now it’s just a minor, minor impairment.”

The above is taken from a New York Times article, documenting the decline of Braille literacy in the blind community. I find the viewpoint expressed to be particularly distressing, especially as a Braille reader. I have been reading Braille to some extent or another almost ever since I can remember, and I find it shocking that someone would willingly go through life without it. I’m not discounting the convenience of screen readers, mp3 players and other, more modern ways of accessing printed information. In fact, I use all of these to some extent or other myself. If it weren’t for these alternative methods of information-grabbing, going to college would be a lot more difficult. I remember the last time I attended college, when there weren’t widely-available mp3 players yet, and a big, bulky four-track tape recorder was considered portable, and upon comparing the two vastly different situations, I will definitely take this second go-round, with all of its new technology, over the first, hands down. But I would never dream of giving up Braille. I use a Braille Siddur (prayerbook) and Tanach (Bible), provided by JBI, and cherish the large, even cumbersome volumes lining the shelves in my office. I like the smell associated with books. It’s comforting in a way. Of course, I have some of these volumes, (by “volume” I’m referring to a complete book, not necessarily a Braille volue), on my Pac Mate. After all, having to carry, in some cases, multiple big, heavy volumes to synagogue is a huge inconvenience. But I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of the books, short of very pressing need. but back to my original train of thought. I don’t understand how anyone could choose to be illiterate, and that’s exactly what non-Braille literacy is for the blind community. Braille is our way of reading, and to not teach blind children how to read Braille is doing them a huge disservice. Being illiterate in Braille creates all kinds of problems in the blind community. The worst of these, in my oppinion, is the horrible spelling that often plagues said community. I’m not suggesting that everyone must perfectly spell every word. I don’t do that myself. But having a rudimentary understanding of grammar and spelling is a must, especially if one plans to work in a professional environment. In my mind, neglecting spelling and grammar is laziness, plain and simple. And for anyone to suggest that this is a good thing to do, or even just OK, is worse than even this. Unfortunately, I don’t see this trend changing for the better. I see Braille, despite the efforts of the National Federation of the National Federation of the Blind, becoming a dead language. But I commend the NFB for their efforts to keep this from happening, and that’s saying something, because most of the time, I disagree with them on everything. So I suppose I can always hope that their current Braille literacy campaign is successful, but I don’t expect it to be.
Hat tip: Darrell Shandrow, who is quoted in the article linked above.

Originally published at Customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

Yesterday, jury selection began in the trial of the now infamous Mary Winkler, the young minister’s wife accused of shooting her husband to death in their parsonage.
According to her lawyers, the couple were arguing over money after having gotten caught up in the Nigerian email scam, also known as the 419 Fraud.
So she killed him, but it wasn’t her fault.
It was the spammers.
Right.
Since when did stupidity become a defense, and, yes, anyone who gets “caught up” in one of these has failed to use their God-given grayware.
When did stupidity and greed become a defense?
Does that mean that I can go off, so something amazingly idiotic, then commit a crime like murder, and then use the original stupid act as my defense?
And let’s discuss the 419 Fraud in and of itself.
It’s not like this kind of thing is new.
It’s been going on since the 1920’s, but back then it was the Spanish Prisoner scam.
The Nigerians picked it up in the 70’s, and since then have turned it into a technological wonder.
But do people actually have to be instructed not to just fork over their life’s savings just because someone says they’ll give you lots of money in return?
I’ve gotten tons of emails like this, and I have yet to be tempted to just hand over my banking information.
Sure.
I’d love a ton of money.
It would make life easy for a while.
But I’m not gullible enough to think that some anonymous twit who comes begging for my information is going to give me any, and noone else should be either.
And how does murdering anyone solve the problem?
It’s not going to bring the money back, and the woman’s likely going to spend a lot of time in prison for this, away from her kids.
Oh well, I suppose if she’s convicted, she’ll have a lot of time to repent for her crime.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

For me, 11 September, 2001 dawned just like any other
Tuesday morning.
I got up, and started getting ready to go to math class.
I turned on the radio, and the announcer was saying that
a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World
Trade Center.
I immediately assumed that the plane had been some prop
job, and that the pilot hadn’t been paying attention to
where he was going.
I remember asking myself how someone could miss a
building that big.
I never once considered it could be a terrorist attack.
It wasn’t that I thought America could never be
attacked, it was just that no one, especially me, had
ever heard of planes being flown into buildings being
used as a method of terrorism.
Then the announcer said a second plane had hit the other
tower, and I knew at that point we had been attacked.
They played music for a while, and it seemed so out of
place.
Then, a little before 10 in the morning, the announcer
came back on and said that the Pentagon had been hit as
well.
I remember thinking to myself, “What are we going to do
now?”
Who the hell would do something like this?
And I still had to go to class.
Luckily our professor, (a graduate student named Robert
Lee), made a short announcement about our upcoming test,
told us both towers had collapsed, and told us that we
could leave if we wanted to.
I don’t think anyone stayed.
I remember walking back to my apartment, and noticing
that no one was laughing, or joking, and that Everyone
was talking in hushed tones.
When I got back home, I found my friend Daniel and my
roommate Joseph sitting in front of the TV watching the
coverage.
People from every nation were sending their condolences,
and then that message came in from the Taliban at around
13:00, saying that they weren’t responsible.
No condolences, just “We didn’t have anything to do with
it, and we don’t know where Osama is.”
Later on, we all saw the video of the Palestinians
dancing in the streets of Gaza, handing out candy, and
it mane everybody very angry.
For the rest of that day and for some weeks after that,
our nation seemed so much smaller than usual.
Everyone wanted to help, and everyone was kind and
polite to each other.
Anybody who displayed extremist partisan tendencies was
very swiftly put in their place, especially the people
who tried to say it was America’s fault, or who tried to
give the dancing Palestinians an excuse.
For a while it seemed like we had the answer, and we
knew what we had to do, and we didn’t care how long it
took, or what the cost would be.
It was America’s “Never Again.”
Unfortunately, we seem to have lost our resolve.
We’re just as partisan as ever now, if not more so.
People seem to have forgotten that the people who did
this haven’t gone away, and no amount of trying to
appease them is going to make them do so.
People keep moaning about the rights of those imprisoned
being violated, or the methods being used by the
security services in order to try to combat what can
effectively be called wild card warfare, without
providing any alternative, practical solutions.
Healthy debate is always a very good thing, but this
discussion has degenerated into a free-for-all on both
sides.
We need to stop all this bickering and one-upmanship
amongst ourselves, bite the bullet, and do what needs to
be done: Go after anyone who either commits terrorist
acts, or supports terrorism, international law be
damned.
Anyone who thinks taking the moral highroad by applying
the Geneva Convention to those not signatory to it, even
going so far as to extend its parameters beyond what
would be required if we were engaged in traditional
combat, is the right thing to do is hopelessly naive.
We don’t have time to sit here and engage in serious
navel-gazing, especially when it comes to an enemy who
isn’t really interested in whether or not we repent of
the sins they accuse us of.
And let’s be real clear about who that enemy is, because
it’s a very real one.
That enemy is anyone who either commits terrorist acts,
gives money to terrorists, sympathizes with them, or
gives them shelter.
It doesn’t matter whether the terrorism is committed
against America, or against its allies.
It’s not a very pretty view from where we sit right now,
but unless we keep these things in mind, and really
start acting accordingly it’s going to get a lot worse.
I, for one, am not interested in waking up one day to
find a bigger blood bath has been perpetrated on our
shores, nor am I interested to find out we’ve become the
latest addition to the one world government known as the
Caliphate.
I think we know which path to take, even if we all agree
it won’t be easy.
Here’s hoping and praying for a better, more peaceful
future, for everyone who wants such things.

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