Happy Holidays, Stevie Wonder, & Logic Pro X Accessibility

You may have seen the new holiday commercial from Apple featuring Stevie Wonder and Andra Day singing "Someday at Christmas", a beautiful and poignant holiday song for the times, with lines like:
Someday at Christmas
men won't be boys 
playing with bombs
like kids play with toys
and
Someday at Christmas
we'll see a land 
with no hungry children,
no empty hands
Stevie Wonder using Logic Pro X
Stevie's using Logic Pro X on a MacBook Pro to do the mix (some online media sources have misreported the software as GarageBand—it's not). The commercial opens with VoiceOver announcing: "Track 5 Vocals. Track 3 Piano." At that point Stevie seems to press a two-finger command then starts playing the piano. Presumably he's recording his piano onto Track 3. Kudos to Apple for presenting accessibility so casually here. In a 90-second ad, only three seconds feature VoiceOver, and they never specifically mention accessibility. Stevie Wonder just happens to be doing the recording and mixing. It's a passing reference, no big deal. And it shouldn't be. It's just the way things are. Continue reading

Crashing at the College Inn, Lost In Time

In 1992, DO-IT was founded with funding from the National Science Foundation, and every year since then has hosted a Summer Study program in which high school students with disabilities spend two weeks on the UW campus staying in dorms, learning about college life, participating in workshops and going on field trips that expose them to exciting and challenging academic and career opportunities. Yesterday another Summer Study in this longstanding tradition came to an end.

The kids who participated in this year's Summer Study weren't even born when this program began. For them, 1992 was a very, very long time ago. For me, I was already an adult by 1992, married and on my way to being somewhat comfortably established, already in my second position after attaining a university degree. But I too am a youngster, humbled by the size and history of my university, where brilliant people have worked together to make important discoveries and solve great problems since 1861. Each day at Summer Study I stroll across Red Square in the crisp air of early morning, and behold the majesty of the UW campus. Suzzallo Library stands Cathedral-like, preserving and protecting centuries of thought, and providing a sacred space where students can not just learn, but be awed by knowledge.

From Red Square on a clear day, the view extends to Mount Rainier, far more ancient, majestic and powerful than any of man's feeble creations. The Mountain puts all of this in perspective.

During Summer Study I spend my nights at The College Inn, where rooms are available for as little as $60 per night. Built in 1909, the Inn is nearly as old as the University itself. Its dark rooms, creaking floors, and old—if not period—furnishings are constant reminders that visiting scholars have been staying here for over a century.

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Now

This page was formerly called Projects, but I like the immediacy of Now. I'm a strong believer in living fully immersed in this moment, so it's only natural that I would sign on to the growing Now movement: See other Now supporters on nownownow.com. In this moment, I'm breathing, thinking, and writing the content that you now are reading. But not long before or after this moment, I was or will be fully engaged in one of the following activities.

Accessible Technology at the UW

I'm fortunate to love my day job, working with a great group of people doing great work at the University of Washington. Some of the projects I'm involved with include:

Able Player

Able Player is a fully accessible, open source, cross-browser media player that uses the HTML5 media API. It's the only media player that supports all five kinds of HTML5 <track> elements (captions, subtitles, descriptions, chapters, and metadata). It also features a highly flexible interactive transcript feature, supports synchronized sign language, can be used for playing YouTube videos, and has countless other incredibly cool features. For details check out Able Player on GitHub.

Accessible Hoops

Every March since 2006 I've created and hosted an Accessible NCAA Tournament Bracket for fans of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. In recent years that's been expanded to include several new features like an up-to-date scoreboard and a tournament pool. It's typically dormant until March, at which point I'll begin to send out announcements. For now, I'm simply enjoying some great college basketball (Go Dawgs! Go Zags! Go Jayhawks!)

Peakware

Peakware.com is the premier site on the Web for information about the world's mountains, particularly if you're interested in climbing them. The majority of the site's content was contributed by its users. There are currently over 12,000 registered users from 185 countries who have contributed thousands of peaks, photos, and trip reports. I created and launched this site in June 1998, three months before Google and three years before Wikipedia. I sold it in 1999, then re-acquired it in 2019. I'm eagerly and actively working to grow the site with exciting new features and content!

Music

I'm best able to truly experience Now when I'm making music, so I try to do that as often as possible. I've released three albums, which you can explore via my Music page.

Outdoors

I reside in beautiful Cascadia, where old growth forests and glacial mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. Whenever possible I try to unplug and embrace my natural surroundings. I'm a proud and active member of The Mountaineers (founded in 1906) and Mount Baker Club (founded in 1911).

Giving

The world has many problems, and wherever there are problems there are (a) solutions, and (b) people working toward finding and implementing those solutions. None of us can fix the world alone, but we can all support each other. I'm currently a proud supporter of the following organizations:

Choosing a Web Portal: NetVibes vs Protopage

Given the death of Google Reader in July and the eminent death of iGoogle in November, I've been shopping for alternatives. I need a single service that will serve as my dashboard and web portal, providing me with news updates, RSS feeds, and convenient access to bookmarked websites all from a single location. It needs to be cloud-based, browser-agnositc, free, and ad-free.

I've been combing over online reviews and soliciting input from trusted friends and colleagues for months, and a few weeks ago I finally narrowed my focus to two services, NetVibes and Protopage. Since then I've been using both together in separate tabs in various browsers. And finally, I've made my decision.

Here are my impressions based on the features that matter most to me.

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Spam and Literature

I've long been an enthusiast of collage in various media—visual art, literature, music. This Fall I hope to unveil my latest musical project, a grand musical mashup that I've been actively working on for over a year, but my interest in such things originated much earlier. Back in the 80's I was into William S. Burroughs's literary cut-ups, and as a computer guy I've come to appreciate the vast potential for digital creativity in this space. For example, check out The Morality Rock Story: Defending Urination, political art inspired (and produced) by Dragon NaturallySpeaking. There's a well-developed and fascinating course on this topic on remixthebook.com.

I've recently come to appreciate the contribution that spammers are making to this artistic genre. In an effort to slip past spam filters, they're producing digital cut-ups from a wide variety of source materials and combining them in ways that are sometimes quite intriguing, maybe even... beautiful. I'm not alone in thinking this. There's an entire movement of people who are into "spam lit", as examined in theguardian.com.

This blog post is inspired by the spam email I received this morning. The focus on college basketball, and the insightful quote from Hofstra's web design manager, are on target given my interests and profession. I wonder if that's coincidence or intelligence? Perhaps they're tapping into the same data about individuals that Google and Facebook are using to provide targeted advertising. Anyway this is fascinating reading, and I feel compelled to share it. Hopefully the author won't sue me. The subject of the email was Introducing, but I'm opting to title this work...

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