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Monday, November 30, 2009

Finally We Have the Final Three Teams: Amazing Race Episode 11

At the beginning of the show an announcement was made that one of the teams had incurred a "game-changing penalty". Then the producers showed us still photos of each team during the episode to leave us wondering who did it and how it happened. That was different. And the answer is...the Globetrotters. They incurred a 4 hour penalty for not completing a Roadblock task. Basically Big Easy gave up when all the other teams had figured out the solution and he was left behind clueless. His challenge was to rearrange the letters F, N, Z, A, R to spell Franz. One of the brothers had even told him the word's first letter was F. Surely it would not have taken 4 hours to try various combinations until hitting upon the solution! I was so disappointed in Big Easy. He and Flight Time waited out the time but by the time they got to the next cluebox the other 3 teams had made it to the Pit Stop. Never, give up.

Cheyne & Megan finished 1st and won TVs.
Sam & Dan finished 2nd.
Brian & Ericka to their utter amazement and relief finished 3rd.

Who do you predict will win the million dollars? I'm staying with my early pick of Cheyne and Meghan. In that blog post I wondered what the dating couple's racing dynamic would be like when they landed in the back of the pack. Well, that never happened. They've consistently been front runners. They have also been a refreshing change from the usual dating couple who go on the race to test their relationship. I've enjoyed their sweet interaction and will be cheering them to the finish line.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Photo Fun for Friday: Thanksgiving Feast

Roast Turkey

Cranberry Jello Mold
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie

Kids table place setting

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

This is one of my favorite recipes my mother taught me. It's moist and delicious.

Pumpkin Bread
3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups oil
2 cups pumpkin (I use Libby's in the can)
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg or ginger
4 eggs
Mix together all ingredients and bake for 1 hour at 350. Makes 2 loaves.

This year, I'm hosting a Thanksgiving gathering for 10 at my house. I'm looking forward to it very much so that's where I'll be putting my effort this week, cleaning and cooking. See you around the blogosphere after the holiday.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's Down to the Final 3 Teams Or Is It? Amazing Race Episode 10

I was all excited to find out tonight which of the teams would make it to the final 3. But it didn't work out that way as it turned out to be a nonelimination leg. Nice for Brian and Ericka who came in fourth but frustrating for me as a viewer.

Megan and Cheyne came in first winning a trip to Hawaii. The brothers came in 2nd and the Globetrotters came in 3rd. There was tension between the dating couple and the Globetrotters when Megan made an offer for the teams to work together and Cheyne ditched them soon afterwards. Hey, this late in the game, it's every team for themselves. However, Sam and Dan risked attracting some bad karma by bribing Erika and Brian's taxi's driver to take them instead of waiting for the married couple to finish their detour task.

Overall the show wasn't too exciting tonight. The best part was watching the brothers try to navigate a kayak through a whitewater course, arguing all the way, and inevitably tipping over into the water. That was laugh out loud entertaining.

Do you think married couple Brian and Ericka have any chance of catching up to the other teams? Will Sam and Dan pay for their dirty play?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christmas Gift Ideas for the Hard of Hearing

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? I have. I wanted to remind everyone that my Speak Up Librarian Shop has lots of fun items that would make a great Christmas gift for yourself, a family member, or a friend. I now have coffee mugs, water bottles, tote bags, and BBQ aprons in addition to the t-shirts and sweatshirts. I have reduced the price on all the basic style t-shirts featured in the flyer below. White t-shirts now start as low as $17.99 for styles printed on the front only and $20.99 for styles printed on the front and back. Coffee mugs in these same designs are $12.99.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Photo Fun for Friday: Fall Yard Cleanup

Look what's been hiding around our yard!

Time to get out the rake.

My town offers leaf pickup service twice each fall
for residents who rake their leaves to the curb.

In the backyard, we cover the flowerbeds with leaves.

Leafless Lila Tree - It reminds me
of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.

Faded Glory

Another surprise find - a still vibrant violet.

Last look at lovely autumn.

Rusty closes his eyes against the cold wind.
Can you tell he's lost weight?

I'll be watching the sky now for signs
of the first snow of the season.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Heart Blogging

This month I get to teach two library workshops on blogging. It's always fun for me to talk about this topic with those who are new to the blogging concept. I share the following words from Antonella Pavese with my audience because they resonate with me on why blogging is wonderful. [Note: the bolding is mine and doesn't appear on her website that way.]

Typically, people get into blogging by reading blogs. Most blog readers are not bloggers, they just enjoy visiting and reading/listening/viewing content that others create. And this is great: blogs need readers. Some people, after lurking for while, start contributing to the discussion by writing comments to other people’s posts. This is even better: blogging requires participation. Some blogs becomes like coffee shops: nice places to visit and hang out, where one can listen to stories and chat with friend.

But best of all is having your own blog, because you have the chance to create something that is yours, on which you have complete creative control, and at the same time is public. This is the true power and beauty of blogging: a blog is something you create and take care of, like a garden, and other people from all over the world can visit and enjoy. Antonella Pavese

I love her image of a blog as a garden, don't you?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Encounters With the Amish

Lately I've been reading Christian fiction author Beverly Lewis' series Abram's Daughters about a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Amish family. These entertaining stories are filled with faith and family and storylines dramatic enough to rival a soap opera. I highly recommend them to you.

By chance, I happened across a charming children's book in my library last week about two Amish girls and a peacock called Just Plain Fancy by Patricia Polacco. I highly recommend it to you as well. You can learn more about this book and related learning activities about the Amish at the author's website.

Where I grew up in the Midwest, encounters with the Amish were not unusual. I remember during my school days being outside at recess time and seeing horse and buggy carriages pass by with their cautionary orange triangle symbols attached at the back. Family names of Troyer, Yoder, Miller, Schlabaugh, etc were common in the area. Reading these books brought back these memories to me. They also reminded me of two humorous encounters I have had with the Amish.

One time when I was a young girl my family went to an Amish restaurant. I was hungry and ordered a hamburger. When it was served to me, I reached out for the condiment bottle on the table and poured what I thought was ketchup onto my burger. Then I noticed the Amish waitress's surprised look. "That's apple butter, miss." Oops. I hurriedly scraped it off as my sister laughed at me.

Several years later when I was in college and working as a substitute teller during the summers, I was assigned for a day to a bank branch frequented by the Amish. Since, the bank had trained me to ask for identification every time I cashed a check for someone I didn't know personally, when an Amish man handed me a check to cash, I automatically asked him for his driver's license. The man just stared back at me wordlessly until the light dawned on me. You don't need a driver's license for a horse and buggy! Oops - major faux pas. Fortunately the teller next to me rescued me and approved the check for cashing.

Have you had any encounters with the Amish? My British readers may be interested to know that the Amish refer to anyone outside of their community as the "English".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sprint WebCapTel: Have You Tried It Yet?

I learned about Sprint's free WebCapTel service at a recent hearing loss support group meeting. As I tend to avoid telephone calls as much as possible, I was intrigued by the idea of being able to hear a caller's voice and access a captioned version of what the caller said on my PC.

I had never tried a relay service before. Instead I've relied upon turning my telephone volume all the way up which I'm sure is not good for my ears. It's been a long time since I enjoyed a nice relaxing chat on the phone.

The Sprint representatives at the meeting suggested trying out the service by calling someone "safe". So I started by calling my husband. I was amused when at first the captioner came back with [speaker unclear]. Yes, that's been my experience too! I felt validated. After that first "speech bump", the rest of our brief conversation went fine. There seemed to be a three second delay between the finish of what he said and the start of the captioning. Not bad.

Then I tried calling my friend, Linda. She is someone I have missed talking to by phone. Before my hearing loss was identified, we used to have hours long conversations to the delight of the long distance companies. She admitted that she'd avoided calling me knowing how difficult it is for me now. We did pretty well using WebCapTel. Lately we've been instant messaging each other so we were used to having a delay between our replies. We got quite a few chuckles out of the captioning mistakes. The captioner prints what he/she heard and then analyzes it. If he/she comes up with a better answer, it prints those words in brackets like this: ... woman irking at the library [working].
My third call was to my mom. We had trouble getting the timing to work for us. I think if she could have seen the captioning as it appeared on my screen, it might have gone better. When I called my sister next, I made sure to keep her informed of where the captioning was at. To her credit she made a huge effort to speak slowly and clearly and the captioning was very accurate as a result. But it seemed to me as if this was perhaps too much to ask of someone. It felt intrusive and awkward conversing this way.

As a hard of hearing resident of Illinois, I'm eligible to receive a free captioned telephone for my home. It will caption all the outgoing calls I make. It will caption incoming calls that are directed through a relay service. Sprint also offers a $99 telephone model that will caption both incoming and outgoing calls automatically. I think that is the one I would like to eventually purchase. For now, I am going to keep using WebCapTel until my family, friends, and I are more comfortable with captioned phone service.

What are your thoughts on WebCapTel?
Note: This blog post has been edited since it was originally posted. A reader commented that the service works through human captioners not voice recognition software. I have edited the post to reflect that. If I had known it was a human captioning the call, I wouldn't have laughed at the captioning mistakes. My apologies.

I've just been corrected once again by a reader. The system uses both a human captioner and voice recognition software. See the comments section for more details.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: Amazing Race Episode Nine

At the beginning of the episode, a ferry's departure time brought all the teams back together, even Gary and Matt who had fallen way behind last week. Their Speed Bump task turned out to be possibly the easiest one ever - sitting in a sauna for five minutes! This sauna was located on an Estonian Saunabus - an interesting concept. In the US we have bookmobiles, why not mobile saunas? On second thought...Anyways, Gary and Matt enjoyed the task immensely. Lucky Matt was seated beside a gorgeous young blonde during their sauna session with a group of locals. His dad Gary socialized by talking about his Finnish heritage and sauna experiences in Minnesota.

Meanwhile the other teams were solving a mystery at the headquarters of the Blackheads society. They had to locate a candleabra with a numbered tag which gave them a room number where they would receive a scroll. The trick was the scroll turned out to be blank. Teams quickly figured out they needed to hold the scroll up to their candle to reveal their next destination. Well all the teams except the Globetrotters. Flight Time thought the trick was to rub a crayon on the scroll to reveal the message. Pretty soon he figured out he needed to use heat instead. With their trouble on this task and their difficulty deciphering the briefcase code, I am wondering how they will cope with the final challenge that usually requires puzzle solving ability.

When Gary and Matt finished their sauna speed bump, Matt took the task. He struggled a bit since he didn't know what a candleabra was. During the commercial break my family switched to a different channel and we missed seeing how he figured that one out. Hopefully by recognizing the word candle inside of candleabra.

At the Detour teams had a choice of playing mud volleyball or using a slingshot to hit a target. Megan and Cheyne, the Globetrotters, and the brothers all chose mud volleyball. Brian and Ericka were forced to choose the slingshots when no more volleyball courts were available. Matt and Gary also chose target shooting when they arrived later.

On the way to the Pit Stop there was a scuffle between the brothers Sam and Dan and the Globetrotters. The bad feeling between the teams seems to have escalated. Their encounter reminded me of Jen and Luke's clashes last season.

Final standings
1st place: Cheyne and Megan
2nd place: Sam and Dan
3rd place: Flight Time and Big Easy (Globetrotters)
4th place: Brian and Ericka

Sadly, father/son team Gary and Matt were eliminated. I will miss seeing them as they were one of my favorite teams.

Next week's elimination will lead to the final three teams. Predictions, anyone?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Photo Fun for Friday: Butterfly Garden

In this photo you can see the blur of this
butterfly's wings in motion. Butterflies
are tricky subjects to photograph.

Watch your step!

I visited this butterfly garden with the specific purpose of obtaining the answer to the question, "Are butterflies deaf?" I have seen websites online that say they are and some that say they aren't, but I haven't gotten a definitive word from my web research. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the answer from the staff at the butterfly exhibit either. I was promised my question would be referred to an expert but I never received any reply to my query even after I sent followup emails. At any rate with your indulgence, I'd like to share my own "butterfly logic".
If butterflies are deaf and butterflies are beautiful, then deaf can be beautiful!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Brighten Someone's Day

U.S. Troops Surrounded by Holiday Mail During WWII
Originally uploaded by Smithsonian Institution

On Veterans Day it seems appropriate for me to share a way that you can help lift the morale and spirit of someone serving in the American military, even if you don't know anyone personally who's currently enlisted.

Write a short letter of encouragement with phrases like "I support you." "God bless you." "Come home safely." "Thank you."

Address your letter to one of the following:

Any Soldier US ARMY
Any Sailor US NAVY

When you take your letter to your local post office, you will be told how much postage to affix to your letter.

Once it reaches its destination, a commanding officer will distribute your letter to someone who hasn't received mail lately or someone who is in special need of a boost.

I hope you'll brighten someone's day soon.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Finding a Flag in a Haystack: Amazing Race Episode 8

Last night's episode featured a new twist - the Switchback task which turned out to be a repeat of an infamous task from a previous season. One contestant from each team was required to unroll haybales in hopes of finding a small Amazing Race flag hidden inside one. The odds were against them with 7 flags hidden among 180 haybales. An earlier race contestant spent 10 hours unrolling haybales without finding her clue, thus the notoriety of this task.

As luck would have it the Harlem Globetrotters found their flag first which pleased Flight Time to no end as it was his birthday! Meghan found hers next and played a trick on Cheyne. She approached him groaning that she couldn't do it anymore (she'd been at it more than two hours) and then pulled the flag out of her pocket and said, "Let's go!" That was an awesome race moment. The two of them remain my favorite team.

Brian found his next and went over a haybale with excitement. Sam who had been searching the longest and having to endure his brother's yelling from the sidelines found his next leaving only Gary to continue the task. Gary kept on and finally found a flag after unrolling for more than 3 hours. Fortunately it was a non-elimination leg and the father/son team remain in the race.

One of the other funny moments on the show was when Gary and Matt were navigating in Sweden and Gary kept reading off the Swedish street names which turned out to be no help at all. They have a great attitude towards each other and the race and they are definitely my second favorite team. I'm hoping for an equalizer to appear on the next leg so they can stay in the game.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Photo Fun for Friday: Fall Foliage

I took these photos at the university where I work on October 26. A week and a half later and most leaves have dropped from the tree branches. The last photo put me in mind of the winter to come. Enjoy the fall colors while you can.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

If Harry Potter had a hearing aid...

If Harry Potter had a hearing aid, instead of program settings there'd be spell settings:

Reparo to fix any malfunction.
Nomore Uhdawax to clean it.
Vox Heliuma to make Draco's voice sound like he'd been inhaling helium.
Amplifario to make Hermione's helpful whispers in class louder.

Maybe with a deluxe model, he could even use Translatia Comprehenso to understand foreign languages.

Or perhaps his hearing aid would be just a hearing aid, the way his glasses are simply glasses.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bells and belles: Amazing Race episode 7

Bells proved frustrating for belle Erika. She had difficulty counting the number of carillion bells, struggling with the task long after the other teams had completed it. Then she and husband Brian missed a vital part of the next clue which resulted in a long walk in uncomfortable wooden shoes.

Luck ran out for the Poker Girls this episode. While they were handed the answer to the first challenge of the leg by one of the brothers, they couldn't overcome their lack of strength to complete either of the Detour task options.

What do you think? Was it an unfair choice of tasks for an all girl team? I'm inclined to think that the tasks get harder further along the race and weaker teams get weeded out as a result. The girls had experienced many lucky breaks along the way which kept them in the race longer than I would have expected.