East Bay Center for the Blind


Fall 2011
Newsletter of
The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc.
2928 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone: 510-843-6935
Fax: 510-843-6006
E-Mail: ebcb@pacbell.net
Web site: www.eastbaycenterfortheblind.org

Editor's Corner

By Daveed Mandell Welcome to the Fall 2011 issue of "Keeping in Touch". It is significantly longer than previous issues, and the theme is books.

Because the Center doesn't own binding equipment, the Braille edition of this newsletter is in two sections. All of the material that pertains to the Center is stapled together in one convenient section. Please pay particular attention to the Center announcements. The rest of the newsletter is stapled separately. Loralee Castner writes about her fascination with print books and her experience over the past sixty years with the many forms of accessible books. We then reprint a poem that bids a fond farewell to the cassette book. As usual, I invite and encourage newsletter contributions from everyone. Please contact me via email at ebcb@pacbell.net. Put "For Newsletter" in the Subject line. You may also leave voice mail regarding the newsletter at 510-843-6935.

Here's wishing all of you a very happy Holiday season and a joyous, healthy and fruitful New Year.

President's Letter

Hi, Friends:

As I reflect on EBCB's progress over the last few years, it occurs to me that there is a lot to be thankful for as we embark upon fall 2011. The Center is benefiting from a number of capital improvements and increased participation by its members in planning and organizing its day-to-day functioning, fundraising activities and special events.

A number of capital improvements are worth noting, such as revamping the back steps and railing, the installation of a more accessible kitchen sink along with cabinets, dish washer and tankless water heater, replacing aging florescent lights in both the computer lab and main room, ceiling fans in the office and computer lab, vertical blinds along the front windows, a new and vastly improved sound system, including a wireless microphone, a modified telephone for hearing impaired, our recently tuned piano and, last but not least, an accessible security alarm system with an awesomely loud inside alarm that will not disturb our neighbors. Although there are more capital improvement projects in the pipeline the center has made considerable progress.

Fundraising Activities: Thanks to all who provided baked goods, casseroles and ceramic items, etc., and to all who volunteered, along with all who purchased bake sale items, our Bake Sale fundraiser netted over $1300.

Our Fundraising Committee is planning an exciting raffle for our Holiday Party. The first prize is a lovely handmade quilt worth over $300, donated by Sandra Kramford, along with cash prizes. Ticket books contain six tickets which cost $2 each. Each book costs $10. More details to follow.

Making Our Center Safe for Everyone: Our second workshop in conjunction with BORP, (Bay Area Outreach Recreation Program) on disaster preparedness was a complete success, thanks to all who participated. Thanks to Patricia Nash, who gave an informative presentation with many interesting statistics regarding asthma at our summer quarterly business meeting in July. Thanks to all who participated in the meeting.

Our trip in August to the Red Cross building in San Francisco, in conjunction with BORP, gave our members an opportunity to purchase first aid kits and other disaster preparedness-related items at a BORP discount.

Revised Brochure: EBCB will soon have a revised brochure with pictures of center members in action and newly revised text. Thank you to all who participated.

Upcoming Activities: By the time you read this, we will have held our annual Talent Show in September, hosted by none other than Bill Barker, teacher, excellent pianist and singer and long time Center member. We will elect three members at our fall quarterly business meeting on Saturday, October 22, to serve on the Nominating Committee to recommend a slate of candidates for the 2012 elections at next January's business meeting. Nominations from the floor are welcome. Our lunch menu and guest speakers will be announced.

Our Harvest Festival, held on November 19, will feature the Center's chorus singing a Thanksgiving medley, and there will be plenty of good food.

Our Holiday Party on December 17 is one not to be missed. Our chorus will sing, accompanied by our outstanding accompanist Diana Perry. We will have a scrumptious dinner, not to mention the holiday raffle and prizes.

My letter would not be complete with out mentioning our wonderful volunteers who make life at the center go so well. Thanks to our volunteers who made our annual picnic an absolute success. Special thanks to our members who volunteer for those time-consuming projects, like serving on committees.

Thanks to Anita March for lining up volunteers for special events, and thanks to Mike Castner for organizing our audible book library, and Loralee Castner for compiling and organizing our resource referral for easy accessibility.

Thanks to you, the members, who make the center thrive and grow.

Steve Fort

Upcoming Events

Quarterly Business Meeting: The Center's next quarterly business meeting will take place on Saturday, October 22, from 1 to 4 PM. Members will elect three people to serve on the Nominating Committee, which will choose a slate of officers for next January's elections. In addition, we hope to have brief presentations on how to assist people with diabetes and epilepsy. Lunch costs $10 across the board and must be ordered no later than Wednesday, October 19.

Annual Harvest Festival: The Center's annual Harvest Festival will take place on Saturday, November 19, from noon to 4 PM. We will be selling holiday craft items and baked goods. Please contact the Center if you plan to bring your favorite handmade ornaments or other wares to sell, or if you wish to contribute your most tempting tasty treats. The chorus will perform songs and readings. Lunch costs $6 across the board, and must be reserved by Wednesday, November 16.

Annual Holiday Party: The Center's annual Holiday Party will take place on Saturday, December 17, from noon to 4 PM. Lunch is on the house for those members who pay their 2012 dues before or on the day of the party. The Center will sell craft items, and the chorus will perform songs and readings. Please reserve your lunch no later than Wednesday, December 14.

Center Announcements

Dues Reminder: 2012 dues are now due and payable. Please remit your $10 to the Center as soon as possible. If you pay your dues on or before December 17, the date of our Holiday Party, your meal will be free.

Center Closures: The Center will be closed for the Thanksgiving Holiday from Wednesday, November 23, through Friday, November 25. It will re-open on Tuesday, November 29. The Center will be closed for the Winter Holiday from Tuesday, December 20, through Friday, December 30. It will re-open on Tuesday, January 3.

Braille Instruction: The Center's Braille instructor, Patricia Nash, is available on Wednesdays from 10:30 AM to noon and from 1 to 2:30 PM to teach Braille. Please contact her at the Center for more information.

Book and Writing Clubs: The Center's Book Club meets on the first Friday of each month from 10 to 11 AM. The Writing Club meets on the third Friday of each month from 10 to 11 AM. For more information, please contact Dorothy Donaville or Patricia Nash at the Center.

Second Annual Holiday Raffle: Tickets are now available to buy and/or sell for the Center's second annual Holiday Raffle, to be held during our Holiday Party which will take place on Saturday, December 17. Each ticket costs $2. A book of six tickets costs $10. The winner of our raffle will receive a custom-made quilt with matching pillows, a $350 value, made by Center member Sandra Kramford, who also produced the tickets. Among the other prizes will be $100 and $75 in cash, plus items to be donated by local businesses. Please support the Center by buying and/or selling as many tickets as possible.

Insulated Bags: The Center is selling insulated shopping bags as an ongoing fundraiser. Each bag costs $12. If you want bags shipped, please add $3 per bag.

Candy Orders: Charlotte Criddell is now taking orders for boxes of See's Candy. Charlotte's email address is ccriddell@sbcglobal.net, and her phone number is 510-632-0917.

New! World's Finest Chocolate Bars cost $1 each and are available in milk chocolate; milk chocolate almond; dark chocolate almond; milk chocolate caramel; milk chocolate crisp; milk chocolate cashew.

The following 1-lb. boxes and/or cans are available for $16.50 each: soft center chocolates, assorted chocolates, bridge mix, milk chocolates, dark chocolates, nuts and chews, Victorian Toffee, Almond Royale, and Toffeettes.

A box of assorted peppermints or molasses chips costs $8.25. A 1-lb. box of assorted truffles costs $18.90. A can of mixed nuts costs $8.50. A 24-oz. box of peanut brittle costs $15.90. A box of eight awesome bars (walnut squares, nutty chewies or chocolate-covered peanut brittle) costs $8.15. A box of thirty lollipops (chocolate, butterscotch, vanilla or cafe au lait) costs $15.80.


Submitted By: Loralee Castner

E-books, digital books, downloadable books! Sixty years ago when I pulled the clothbound edition of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen from the bookshelf and asked my grandmother to read me once again "The Little Match Girl", these innovations were as remote as space probes and microwave ovens.

When I was three years old, I loved the feel of print books and could identify many from a bookcase in my family's home by size, weight, or texture. They felt like friends whose captivating stories reached me through voices, those of my sisters, mother, grandmother and kindergarten teacher.

But soon after I entered first grade, those voices changed to dots, and my fingers fumbled slowly over boring words about Dick and Jane, and except for the details of bedtime stories which my mother faithfully read to me, printed pages virtually disappeared from my life, and I barely noticed their departure. After several years, I fluently read bulky Braille volumes of Black Beauty, A Child's Garden of Verses, and Heidi.

Then "talking books" arrived by mail at my home on thick 33 1/3 RPM records packed in heavy cartons held closed with cloth straps. My sisters joined me in listening to my first talking book, The Walt Disney production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs -- music and all!

I could fill a large volume with the list of books that I read in Braille and on talking book records by the time I entered high school: Anne of Green Gables, every Louisa Alcott book I could lay my hands on, the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Chronicles of Narnia, Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, Jane Eyre, and on and on.

But throughout high school, college and graduate school, my love for reading became a constant struggle to break the barrier of the print world. Yes, print books were back in my life, but I barely experienced the joy of holding one in my hand, relishing the texture of its binding and leaves, or breathing the scent of its ink. I simply needed to get its pages read. In high school, I depended on student and volunteer adult readers; while some read well; others read slowly, tediously. Nevertheless, their words enabled me to complete required assignments in English, geometry, science, French and government. To supplement their efforts I read novels and French books in Braille, and history texts on reel to reel tapes.

In college and graduate school, I sent away hundreds of printed books, barely noticing their shapes and sizes, to organizations such as Recording for the Blind and Volunteers of Vacaville, and received in return reels of tape read by multiple narrators. Without the ability to speed up the tape recorder, I listened to texts at maddeningly slow speeds, as voices lumbered through beautiful prose and lyric poetry, as well as philosophical theories and scientific equations. I learned about the first variable-speed recorder, a machine that could speed up speech without raising its pitch, only a year before completing graduate school, and at that time its cost exceeded my tuition.

But despite the effort and time needed to access the world of books, I experienced extraordinary moments: reading The Little Prince by St. Exuperey in French and revisiting the joy of childhood; listening to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for the first time and grasping Gatsby's vision of the world; sitting spellbound and unmoving for eight hours as Pip made his discoveries in Charles Dickens's Great Expectations and living through Holden Caulfield's struggle toward maturity in Catcher in the Rye.

In the early 1970s, bulky records and tapes disappeared, along with their large playback machines. Books recorded on cassettes arrived in the mail with a much smaller player which operated either with a cord or a rechargeable battery, a machine which had a variable-speed dial which enabled me to read twice as rapidly. And with the availability of cassettes, commercially-produced audio books emerged in bookstores, and suddenly print readers began to listen to books as they commuted to work. Was the definition of a book expanding?

The first real breech in the print barrier occurred unexpectedly for me in 1977 when I acquired an optacon (optical to tactile converter). To read, I moved a small camera across a line of print with one hand while with a finger of the other hand, I recognized the raised shapes of printed letters as they slid past. I could read in real time without waiting for a reader to arrive or a tape to reach me in the mail. As I engaged with books in this new way, I expanded my understanding of the format of printed material. Among other things, I discovered each page of a book had a header, words appeared in various sizes and type styles, and sometimes black letters were printed on a white background and sometimes white letters on a dark page. It is true that with the optacon I read slowly and seldom read an entire book. Even so, this device changed my life.

As years passed, home computers became accessible to blind users through screen reading programs and Braille displays. My second computer arrived with a scanner. At last, through use of a special program, I could scan virtually any print volume and read whatever I wanted. In 1994, while I was away from home on a month-long training, my husband visited Crown books, purchased two paperbacks, and scanned them for me. A biography of Danielle Steel, and The Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore were the first of the shelf books that I read quickly, independently and immediately. After that, I no longer had to rely on a limited selection of Braille or recorded books provided through only several sources, or to mail a print copy of a book which I longed to read to a volunteer to be read and returned months later. Instead, I borrowed books from my local library or purchased them from Barnes and Noble, then scanned and read. With books more immediately available, I could readily participate in a class at church, enjoy a wider range of fiction, and peruse volumes on various topics that caught my interest.

Now, in the twenty-first century, I don't need to do as much scanning of books, or even wait for books to arrive in the mail. Instead, I check the California State Library's website, browse thousands of titles from Bookshare and Learning Ally, and then download works which appeal to me. I then read them on a hand-held device that translates the computer code into speech. Moreover, I can save books on various types of flash drives and build a library. I can have a huge quantity of books in my home, the equivalent of the shelves of books that graced my parents' house, or the stacks of books that cluttered my dorm room years ago.

About a year ago, I began hearing about book readers, including the Kindle and the Nook. Now my friends talk about e-books, explaining that they download them quickly for half the cost of the hardcopy editions. For them, the world of books no longer consists only of those beautifully-bound hardcover books with exquisite print on textured pages or mass market paperbound books with lesser quality print on flimsy paper. Reading no longer requires that a book be held in a hand and that hardcopy pages be turned for the material to progress. But for those who read e-books, has something been lost as they move from electronic screen to electronic screen rather than from paper page to paper page? As reading changes to this new format, will people cease to savor plots, characters, and language? Is a book still a book when the format becomes less tangible? Is there a difference between deleting a book from a reading device, rather than sharing the book just completed with a friend? Is there a difference between finding an unexpected treasure while browsing titles online, rather than while perusing shelves in a bookstore?

I have experienced books in myriad formats, Braille, spoken word, recorded word, optical to tactile presentation, and now, in a manner recently discovered by many lovers of books: electronic format. It is my experience that whether a reader engages with an author's message through reading a printed page or words on a screen (or through Braille or audio format), a book offers sharing of knowledge, insight, understanding and dreams, a sharing that has joined that reader's thoughts, plans, joys and growth with those of creators from all eras and realms. Still, when I think about books, I recall the heavy, cloth-bound volume I handed to my grandmother when I asked, "Read me 'The Little Match Girl'." Will tomorrow's children pull such a tome from a bookshelf and treasure it for a lifetime, or will they point to a computer screen when they request a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, and will the presence or absence of an aesthetically-pleasing volume make a difference? The answer to such ponderings will surely fill numerous books, but will those works be bound volumes or electronic transmissions?

Nevermore: a Farewell to Cassette Books

By Wendy Eisenberg

(As it appeared in the LUA Ledger, Summer 2011; reprinted from the Fresno Talking Book Library Newsletter)

Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I listened, weak and weary,
To many a quaint and curious
volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping,
suddenly, I heard a tapping,
As of something gently snapping--
snapping from my player's core.

"'Tis the tape," I sadly muttered,
as a quiet curse I swore,
"Just the tape--and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember,
it was in the bleak December,
As I in a fit of temper threw
that tape upon the floor,

So many times my player failed me,
with frustration it had ailed me,
Many new ones they had mailed me,
saying "this one's good for sure,"

But each time I'd press that button, it
seemed that it was all for nothing,
"Would I ever find that something
lets me listen," I implored,
"To my books forevermore?"

Eagerly I wished for morrow--
for perhaps, surcease of sorrow
Would come with the next tape I would
Borrow--without hiss or pop or roar,
Without stop, or twist, or tangle,
Maybe it would play me more.

Dare I hope that I could someday hear
a book straight through once more?
One day sit, relax, and listen,
Find my reading joy restored
By a book forevermore?

I woke next morning, after dreaming,
in my room the sunlight streaming,
Tried again to play that tape
I'd thrown upon the floor.

Then I heard a quiet tapping,
as of someone gently rapping,
'Twas the postal carrier tapping,
tapping on my dwelling's door.

"Friend," he said, with smile of greeting,
"this is such a merry meeting,
For I bring the gift of reading--
reading that is now restored
By digital books forevermore!"

I took the package that he gave me--
could this package truly save me
From the anguished cries I made when
my books would play nevermore?

I opened up the package, beaming;
inside a black machine was gleaming,
And a small white cartridge, seeming
much too small one book to hold,
But I put that cartridge in it, and
within a single minute,
I knew that this machine would win
It--win my heart forevermore.
And cassette tapes? Nevermore!

Remembering Eva Bloch

We are sad to announce the passing of Center member Eva Bloch last August 8. She was 95 years old. Eva worked as a medical transcriber. For many years, she was actively involved with the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Golden Gate Chapter of the California Council of the Blind in San Francisco. Eva was a very kind and caring human being. We will miss her very much. She is survived by her son Michael and grandchildren.

Mission Statement

The mission of the East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc., is to develop quality programs and services for blind and visually impaired people by providing a safe and supportive environment, while encouraging one another through leadership, interaction and the sharing of information, resources and skills. The Center's activities enhance independence, dignity and self-determination. As a self-governing organization of primarily blind and visually impaired persons, The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc. is committed to remaining a living, working foundation of strength, as we participate in the larger community in all areas of our daily lives.

Center Officers and Directors

General Manager:  Jan Santos
President:  Steve Fort
First Vice-President:  Lizz Deeff
Second Vice-President:  Anita March
Recording Secretary:  Daveed Mandell
Corresponding Secretary:  Patricia Nash
Treasurer:  Ida Johnson
Directors:  Charlotte Criddell; Dorothy Donaville;
Sandra Fancher; Connie Kelley; Connie Skeen


If you or a friend would like to remember The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc., in your will, you can do so by employing the following language: "I give, devise, and bequeath unto The East Bay center for the Blind, Inc., a nonprofit charitable organization in California, the sum of $___ (or ___) to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons." Thank you for your tax-deductible donation.

"Forgiveness is giving up all hopes for a better past."
--Lily Tomlin