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Subject:Have you heard? .... The Blind Buzz
Time:04:41 am
Current Mood:excitedexcited
I'll admit it. I'm the worst blogger in the world. This blog has been very patchy and poorly maintained.

I have been pretty good, though, at maintaining my web site on freewebs, Vince's Parallax.

The trouble there is that the site is full. I either have to cut stuff out or stop updating. This is a daft situation.

So I've decided to combine all my efforts in a new blog site, which will take links of the kind I was putting up on my old site and articles I might have included here on LiveJournal.

It's called the Blind Buzz, and it's at

I don't yet know my way around WordPress, but chose it because it seems a very accessible and versatile platform.

See you there!
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Subject:UK readers: your complementary medicines are under threat!
Time:09:08 pm
Current Mood:worriedworried
At the moment, it is up to you whether you want to go to the shops and buy some vitamin or mineral supplement, or some eucalyptus oil to ease your cold. This freedom of choice is under threat by, of all things, the World Health Organisation in the shape of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The irony of this is enough to make you ill.

If the UK Government adopts the standards set forth by the Commission on complementary medicines, you will only be able to get said medicines on prescription, which, of course, is a gift to the already bloated pharmaceutical companies. This may make more sense if you know that the Commission was set up as a trading body, not a medical one. If there is any comfort in the whole thing, it is that the Commission's standards are not legally binding until some fool decides to write them up in their own country's laws.

Some of the commission's standards are laudible recommendations to ban listerine from ready meals and other commonsense measures, but when it comes to nutrients such as Vitamin C, the Commission has decided to rate them on a toxicology scale (yes, treat them as poisons!). So where's the objective science in that?

One step you could take right now is to sign a petition asking the prime minister to oppose the adoption of the Commission's "standards". Please sign up straight away, as the deadline is September 5th, 2009. At the time of writing, some 43,000 people have already signed up.

This is the introduction to the petition.

" We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to oppose the adoption of the Codex Alimentarius (WHO/UN) proposals for restriction of the presently freely available herb/vitamin/mineral food supplements."

The proposal goes on....

"The principle of self medication with herbal/vitamin/mineral food supplements would be restricted to 'prescription only' status, if the Codex Alimentarius is applied in this country.

"Since the NHS priorities are ill health diagnosis and treatment, the good health preservation that supplements provide will be inaccessible to the majority of our population and the cost to the NHS will increase, and the health of the population will decline."

Please note: Deadline to sign up by: 05 September 2009

More information on Codex alimentarius

Codex Alimentarius - Criminalizing Natural Health with lecture on video)

Healing Hub - Stop the Codex Alimentarius laws!

There is much more information online if you Google for it.
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Subject:Carers at Breaking Point - yes, we know...
Time:02:53 am
Current Mood:infuriatedinfuriated
For anyone who doubts that being an "informal" carer is stressful, I'd recommend this article.

Carers UK calls for radical overhaul of benefits and care system to prevent carers reaching breaking point,16Q8,PEUIO,3DDP,0

Unpaid carers save the Government 87 billion pounds a year, equivalent to the costs of a major spending ministry.

Successive Governments have been quite happy to leave this issue alone, as it's much less convenient to change the lousy system we all work in.

Approach any politician about this, and you are likely to hear all kinds of blah blah about how wonderful and vital carers are, and saying that some undefined change may happen in the future sometime or other, can't say what or when.

Meanwhile, the world seems to be full of dozy social workers and others who are supposed to be there to offer support services who don't have the slightest clue about what's involved in caring for another person. If we all downed tools and these idiots had some work to do for a change, we'd probably be able to make our point a great deal louder, but then of course we'd face a torrent of emotional blackmail about walking out on our various situations.

I agree with the points the article raises about the lamentable lack of funding for carers. Most people don't get carer's allowance, which is anyway a derisory amount of money for the few who get it. It was about £53 a week last time I knew about it. That's for a role that can keep you up 24 hours a day, and there are no minimum wages or holiday entitlements. There aren't even any weekends or evenings out if you are anything like me, so where, given all the discouragements, is my motivation supposed to come from?

My requirements are actually pretty simple. Being able to survive financially is helpful, but what I'm mainly asking for is.....


Which of those words is hard to understand I don't know, but they seem to be beyond the comprehension of the aforementioned dozy social workers, care agencies and the benefits system.

For any menaingful change to take place, the benefits system needs to change, yes, but much harder for dim politicians to understand, the exploitative culture has to change.

I suggest a national carers' 1-day strike. OK, we'd have to ensure that our "loved ones" (Evelyn Waugh, where are you?) knew how to contact the emergency services, and we could all nominate someone in the ahem caring professions to be the buddy for the day for our "loved ones". They'd have the duty of care for that day (and I mean a period of 24 hours), and would be told, possibly for the first time in their lives, what to do in a crisis. It would be hard work getting this to happen, but what isn't?

The BAT!
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Subject:Speakon - a free, accessible media player
Time:10:12 pm
Not for the first time, I'm pleased to carry an announcement for the new version of SpeakOn, which Isaac Porat, the author, continues to develop.

Please feel free to distribute this information to other sites.

Hello All,

A new features release of SpeakOn 2.2, 6 June 2009 is now available.

The highlight of this version are new features making SpeakOn an ideal player for listening to both Live and 'On demand' radio. Thanks to RadioTimes for their excellent co-operation. The ability to browse, search and preset thousands of stations and shows has been available for a while. With this version, station schedules for 7 days ahead are available for main stations including the BBC. You can navigate seamlessly from any show (known as programmes in the UK) and play the station if broadcasting live or any archive if available in either podcast or BBC 'Listen again' formats. You can quickly skip content within a stream. Station recommendations, error reporting and direct links to stations' websites are also available.

Other new features in this version include improved and consistent information across all media types, efficiency features and the ability to scrobble your own music to Last.FM.

For those who are new to SpeakOn, it is a self-voicing software environment for finding, retrieving and playing audio and text media. All media local to your computer or remote on the internet is presented in the same simple tree-like structure. You can navigate to the media you want, select it and it is automatically downloaded or streamed and played in the same SpeakOn player which handles both audio and text. Common audio formats are supported including MP3, WMA and Real. You can either operate SpeakOn using a standard keyboard or an external low cost numerical keypad using one hand from the comfort of your armchair. SpeakOn has a low footprint (the installer is only 3.8 Mb) and it is highly efficient making it ideal for use with Netbooks.

SpeakOn is available free from:

This page contains information about SpeakOn, the types of media it supports, links to the download page, manual and mailing list.

The new radio features are explained here:

Media information is explained here:

Efficiency features are explained here:

Scrobbling your own music to Last.FM is explained here:

The 'What's new' page is at:

Instructions for upgrading from an older version are at:

The download page for new users is at:

If you experience slow download, this is probably because of demand for this new version so you may like to try again in a day or so.

The manual is at:

Enjoy - and if you like SpeakOn, please forward this announcement to any mailing lists, blogs or bulletin boards you feel are relevant.


Isaac Porat
SpeakOn's author
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Current Music:"Share and Enjoy" sung by the sirius Cybernetics Robot Choir
Current Location:Where am I? I never know what to put here.
Subject:Build your own MP!
Time:02:44 am
Current Mood:amusedamused

In world first, Chinese researchers create pig stem cells

The pig's ear, I understand, is a particularly productive source of cells. Forget elections - build your own MP!

The BAT!

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Subject:Don't pandemic! Don't pandemic!
Time:02:42 am
Current Mood:pensivepensive
Clearly, the outbreak of so-called swine 'flu in Mexico has revealed to the world the existence of an extremely nasty and dangerous disease.

It's dangerous because it's jumped species, and has now been passed from human to human, including some who have not visited Mexico.

The way the press have handled this story has me puzzled. I had never heard of this disease until last weekend, and now we have Level 5 warnings about a world-wide pandemic. Did this bug just come out of nowhere to panic the world?

Perhaps our news media should be more alert to events outside the Anglo-American nexus. If any such thing had started in New York, you can bet your bottom dollar we'd never have heard the last of it.

Didn't the first woman to die of "swine 'flu" die nearly 3 weeks ago? What happened to that story? Well, it did make it into the mainstream, rather late in the day.

In a country such as the UK, there is probably less need to panic than in less fortunate countries. It does appear that everyone in the UK is to receive a leaflet giving advice about what to do in case of swine 'flu, and there seem to be good stocks of the anti-viral drugs, such as Tamiflu and Relenza, that can successfully treat it. Apart from phoning for advice if the worst happens, it seems ordinary measures such as washing your hands frequently and using a tissue if you cough or sneeze and then binning it are useful hygiene steps that everyone can take. So is staying indoors and not spreading it around. Wearing a face mask won't apparently stop you getting the bug, but again it will reduce the risk of you spreading it to others.

As far as I know, there is no risk from pork products. So long as people cook their food thoroughly, there doesn't seem to be much connection between this bug and the consumption of pork. You're more in danger from other humans.

Hope these links will be useful if you're at all worried about this:-

Swine flue alert clears old stocks of Tamiflu

Swine flu advice for UK homes

2009 swine flu outbreak - Wikipedia (being updated often)

Swine 'flu advice from NHS Direct

Help Rename the Swine Flu! - misleading to link it to pork, industry says
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Current Music:Smoke gets in your eyes
Subject:Invasion of the Barboids
Time:01:35 am
Current Mood:enragedenraged
It comes to something when the ENVIRONMENT Editor of the Independent puts up a headline like this.....

Get your barbie ready – we're in for a sizzler

What the article is driving at is that this coming summer can't be as nasty as the two summers just gone. Well, I could have told you that. Unless climate change really has set in, this summer could hardly be any worse than those dire seasons.

But why, as soon as there is any mention of good weather in the media, do we get forecasters and journos urging people to assault the air with their barbecuse?

I don't want to be a killjoy. I was only too happy to make the most of one glorious sunny day last week. I took some rare time out to walk in the woods and photograph the emerging bluebells. It was a life-saver slice of quality time. At that point, Joy was my middle name.

Feeling very mellow, back in my house with the doors and windows open enjoying the early evening sun, as ever, some moron struck up the barbie. I sat in my own living room with my eyes streaming from the burning fat, or the burning firelighters, or whatever it was that made the air so toxic. This onslaught certainly killed my joy on what was otherwise a marvellous day. My other half has asthma, and does very badly when people indulge in this act of chain-smoking. I just find it plain revolting.

We have what seems to be a world-wide ban on smoking (tobacco) in public places, and This is probably quite right, if some way over the top.

I am not allowed to have a useful pesticidal bonfire in my garden. Bit anti-social, I suppose, especially when the neighbours want to leave their washing out all the time.

So, considerable efforts and bigotry have gone into giving us cleaner air. What's the point, then of letting any number of people light up smoke-bombs in their backyards? If passive smoking of tobacco is suddenly such a health hazard, how dangerous is barbecue smoke? I bet it leaves tobacco as a non-starter in the danger league.

True, that one barbie only went on for a couple of hours. But if we are really in for better weather, the usual outcome in my part of the world is that dozens of morons will light up at once, and it will be hard to escape this smoke-screen.

So, if this is to go on, the least our esteemed Government can do is rescind the smoking ban and let me chain-smoke in the pub or when I'm going past the deli counter in Sainsbury's. I'm sure it will give a nicely barbecued overtone to the turkey slices.

And, please, media people, stop inciting people to violate the air.
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Current Music:Steppin' Out (Joe Jackson)
Subject:NVDA, the free screen reader
Time:07:38 pm
Current Mood:okayokay

If you're trying to use a speech program to get access to your computer, I can imagine the state you're in. You find it harder than you thought to follow the speech, it's not the same as reading by sight at all, if you ever have done, and the costs of these programs, if you order the real thing, are horrendous. OK, it's a limited market, takes a lot of R&D, etc etc. But that doesn't help you.

You can at least tackle the cost problem, now that there are a number of free and cheap screen readers in existence. The problems of making a transition to a screen reader are not something I can do anything about, although I would just say "Don't despair, it gets easier with time."

The best of the free screen readers, in my opinion, is NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access).

I've been using NVDA for a couple of years now, and believe me I wouldn't have done that if it didn't meet my needs for computer and Web accessibility. It does exactly that 99% of the time. The other 1% is made up of objects that just don't allow screen readers to read them. These objects include software programs, badly slung-together PDF files and Flash items that don't use the accessibility features.

NVDA is free of charge and open source. Open source means that if you have the programming skills, you could take part in developing the project. It also means that those who are developing other programs can see NVDA's code and fathom how screen readers work..

There's a very active mailing list for users and another one for developers, which provide very useful support.

NVDA can be installed in the normal way on any Windows PC running a recent version of Windows, and can also be installed on a pen drive. It doesn't make registry calls, nor does it use video hooks, and so it is wonderfully portable, unlike many other screen readers.

Now that there's a new, relatively stable version of the program, there's never been a better time to try it. Version 0.6p3 is only a few days old, and is maybe the best choice for most people at present. If you feel like chancing your arm a little more, you could try snapshot versions, which usually come out on a daily basis.

Useful links:-

NVDA web site

Download NVDA
- look for the stable release, version 0.6p3

NVDA v0.6p3 User Guide

NVDA Users' Mailing list
- to receive messages directly in your e-mail, subscribe by sending a blank mail to
, with the word subscribe as the subject line.

NVDA Developers' Mailing list
- to receive messages directly in your e-mail, subscribe by sending a blank mail to
, with the word subscribe as the subject line.

The BAT!

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Subject:National Trust offer Allotment Plots
Time:01:13 am
Current Mood:pleasedpleased

National Trust land for allotments - the UK Trust is offering to share land with would-be allotment gardeners. TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has set up a landshare web site where gardeners can be matched up to plots of land. Community groups may also apply for plots, or groups of plots, in their area.

There are more references to allotments on my Blind Gardening Page.

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Current Music:I can see clearly now
Subject:Vince's Parallax has moved
Time:01:11 am
Current Mood:relievedrelieved
Please go to for the current version of Vince's Parallax.

I don't know if this is temporary or permanent, but at least we're up and running.

There are bound to be some things I haven't fixed yet, such as pointers to web rings or missing graphics files, but I'm going to be working on it.

Apologies for the disruption, but I am sorry to say it's beyond my control.

The BAT!
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[icon] THE BLOND - a Blind Blog
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