January 2005
Newsletter of
The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc.
2928 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone: 510-843-6935
Fax: 510-843-6006

Editor's Corner By Daveed Mandell

Now that the Holidays are behind us, it's time to begin another year in earnest. I think most of you will agree with me that the Center's November Harvest Festival and December Holiday Party were truly wonderful events. Everyone appeared to enjoy themselves, sales of craft items and baked goods were vigorous, food and drink were plentiful, and our chorus filled us with good cheer, thanks to their enjoyable songs and poems.

Our heartfelt thanks, once again, go to all the volunteers who so graciously gave of their valuable time to assist us.

Well, it's that time of year again. That's right. It's almost time for Center elections. I hope you will all attend this month's quarterly business meeting and participate.

I look forward to receiving ads, articles and informational announcements from you to include in your newsletter. Please contact me via e-mail at, or phone me at 510-665-9260.

May all of our members and friends have a satisfying and rewarding 2005.

Upcoming Events Quarterly Business Meeting: The Center's quarterly business meeting will be held on Saturday, January 22, from 1 to 4 PM. Among other things, we will have elections for several officers and the Board of Directors. Only members who have paid their $5 2005 dues can vote. Please pay your dues without delay. If you choose not to vote, or are unable to attend the business meeting, the deadline for paying your dues is January 31. Please RSVP for lunch by Wednesday, January 19. The menu is chicken enchiladas, rice, beans, salad and flan. Lunch costs $7 for members and $8 for guests.

Mardi Gras: Come enjoy our annual New Orleans-style Mardi Gras dinner and dance, which will take place on Saturday, February 26, from 4 to 8 PM. The menu has yet to be determined, but it's sure to be tasty! The cost of the meal is $5. Please RSVP by Wednesday, February 23.

Pasta-Bingo Fundraiser: Be sure not to miss our annual Pasta-Bingo Fundraiser. We'll be playing for all it's worth on Saturday, March 19, from 4 to 8 PM. This fundraiser costs $10. Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 16.

Center News Officers Nominated: The Center's Nominating Committee has submitted the following slate of officers. Please note that, as always during elections, nominations from the floor are welcome. Lizz Deeff, President Steve Fort, Second Vice-President Patricia Nash, Corresponding Secretary Directors: Alice Chavez, Daveed Mandell, Katrina McCurdy, Preston Moses, Peter Pardini

Because Lizz Deeff became the Center's President last June, Grace Rodriguez took over as First Vice-President. Grace's term continues for one more year.

Center Closures: The Center will be closed on Good Friday, March 25.

Computer Donated: Thanks to Susan Lewis, who recently donated a computer to the Center. We very much appreciate her generosity.

New Clay Tiles Adorn Center Facade By Melva Hall Have you seen the beautiful clay tiles on the front of our Center's building? If not, please take a look at them. Our ceramics teacher, Ruth O'Day, initiated this project and worked with her class to design attractive tiles, upon which are embossed "Keeping in Touch" in raised print, and "East Bay Center for the Blind" in Braille. Ruth and her students have done a wonderful job!

We are sorry that Ruth will be leaving us at the end of January to move her ceramics business to Nevada. We will miss her very much. We are pleased, however, that the Center will continue to offer its ceramics class under the guidance of a new instructor, Masina Tillo.

Gregory Scott Remembered The cheerful voice of Center member Gregory Scott was stilled last November, when he passed away at the age of 45 of liver cancer. Despite his illness and pain, Scottie, as so many of us called him, kept up an active routine. Just weeks before his death, he attended the CCB convention in L.A.

Scottie was always smiling. He enjoyed music, and was an enthusiastic member of the Resnick Alumni Dance Band. He was an avid ham radio operator, and his artwork "Textured Door" was on display at the 2004 Insights Art Exhibition in San Francisco.

Scottie's exuberance and energy were contagious, and his zest for life was enviable. We will miss him.

Issues and Resources of Interest NEW EAST BAY PARATRANSIT FARES: As most of you know, fare increases took effect this month for East Bay Paratransit. For your reference, here is a list of the new fares: $3.00--0 to 8 miles $4.00--8 to 12 miles $5.00--12 to 20 miles $6.00--20 miles Travel to San Francisco $6.00--for trips as far as Civic Center $7.00--for trips beyond Civic Center Additional MUNI fare of $1.65 charged on some trips

You will be told your fare at the time you make a reservation.

Tickets are available in $3.00 and $1.00 denominations. New tickets can be purchased from East Bay Paratransit now. Call 510-287-5000, and press 0.

$2.25 tickets can still be used after January 1, with the extra fare paid in exact change. It is also OK to pay your fare all in cash.

A Cingular Breakthrough!: Cingular Wireless is the first mobile phone carrier in the United States to offer a nearly fully accessible cell phone for blind and visually impaired individuals. Keep in mind, though, that the Nokia 6620 mobile phone will set you back about $300! The TALKS screen reader software costs about $200. However, that amount is credited to the customer as a rebate. TALKS speaks menus, prompts and instructions that are displayed on the phone's screen. It uses the Eloquence speech synthesizer which has been built into the JAWS and Window-Eyes screen readers for years. For more information, call Cingular's National Center for Customers with Disabilities at 866-241-6568; or visit the company's website at, and click on Disability Resources.

New Digital Audio Book Service: State libraries for the blind in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Oregon, along with NLS, have partnered to launch an innovative digital audiobook service for visuallyusers. Unabridged ( enables blind patrons to check out and download digital spoken word audio books directly to their computers. The digital audio books can then be played back on a PC, transferred to a portable MP3 playback device, or burned onto CDs. The first year of the program will serve as the pilot phase, with a limited number of users in each participating state. Early responses from librarians and patrons have been very positive. During the first month of the service use of the collection has been brisk, and reports of technical problems have been sparse.

Unabridged is powered by the new digital audio book system from OverDrive ( The content is delivered as encrypted Windows Media Audio (WMA) files applying Digital Rights Management service (DRM). Playback on a personal computer is accomplished using the new OverDrive Media Console (OMC) software. OMC builds on the existing features of Windows Media Player to offer key functionalities useful to digital audio books users, such as MediaMarkers, which allow non-linear navigation, bookmarks, and the ability to skip back 15 seconds in the digital audio book. OMC also enables variable speed playback, an exciting new feature for a mainstream digital audio book system designed for the general consumer market. The OMC offers enhanced accessibility and general usability for blind and visually impaired readers. For more information, contact: Tom Peters at Unabridged (816-228-6406;, and/or Jennifer Jackson at OverDrive, Inc. (216-573-6886;

Give Voice to Reading!: Read Aloud International is a newly incorporated nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Virginia. For nearly two years, RAI has been working to form a group which will: serve as an international voice for individuals and entities that promote reading aloud; facilitate the exchange of information and resources; and offer startup assistance for new groups dedicated to reading aloud. For more information, call RAI at 866-822-5683; or visit RAI's website at

"A novel is not an allegory? It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved with their destiny, you won't be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience. So start breathing."

--Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books Back to Home Page