Monthly Archives: May 2007

Georges Prosper Remi – 100 Years On

Tintin, badly drawn by Smiffy

Hergé 100

It was 100 years ago today, on the 22 May 1907, that one Georges Prosper Remi was born to the world in Etterbeek (Bruxelles), Belgium. Better known to the world as Hergé, Remi was the creator of The Adventures of Tintin. After his death in 1983, Remi left a legacy of two dozen Tintin books and several other works, which continue to delight readers to this day.

The badly-drawn Tintin (see my entry on Flickr for technical details) was done to illustrate this post. I hope that others can come up with something more appropriate – read a Tintin book, have a Tintin party, blog about Tintin/Hergé, making this special centenary something to remember.

One thing that I have learned from this is that I can’t draw a free-hand oval, even with the aid of a computer.

Update: after exploring the GIMP a little more, I found out not only how to draw an oval, but how to create construction lines on a separate layer. The result is somewhat better.

Here’s some real artwork, from Adam Koford.

Other Happenings

Please mail me (address at bottom of page) if you know of any other relevant material that should be linked from here.

The Fate of Project Noddwr

Project Noddwr, which includes former work on the Tivis accessible touchscreen project has been shelved and the site taken down as of May 2007.

Project Noddwr was intended to be a repository of Open Source hardware and software components for independent living and also to encompass the scope of the Tivis project, originally designed for community/tourist information via touch-screens, and later to provide accessible kiosk solutions.

Examining the documentation that was online, I found it so out of date that I have simply removed it and created this page as a place-marker. Anyone seeking information on older content should contact me through the address at the end of this page or by my "real" e-mail address, should they know it. I still have a proposal available for the development of an accessible kiosk system; should anyone be looking to produce such a system and who may consider sponsoring this development, I would love to hear from them.

The spirit of Project Noddwr is not dead, just resting. I started the project early on in the stages of an ongoing illness, which has prevented me from pursuing the work that I had started. Of late, however, I have been working on the software component for my own use, to help manage time restricted by Chronic Fatigue and prop-up an impaired memory. Developments that would have found their way onto the Project Noddwr site will appear here, on Smiffy's Place.

Update

2009-09-12: the noddwr.org domain was allowed to lapse at the end of last month and the tivis.net.au domain which also pointed to this page will expire on the 8th of next month.  Whilst I will continue to offer related services to clients who might need them, as far as the Noddwr and Tivis projects are concerned:

"This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late parrot. It's a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn't nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies. It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot."

(Substituting "project" for "parrot".)

New Version of Functional Accessibility Evaluator Released

The Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES)
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has released a new version of its online Web Accessibility Evaluation tool.

This is a rather neat bit of code that can be pointed at a site and will spider down to third-level links within the site, producing a report at the end.

You can access the Functional Accessibility Evaluator here. Please note that registration is required to make full use of this tool.

Gluten Free Fruitcake, Simplified

Cooking Should Not Be Rocket Science

Whilst it has been interesting to go through the motions of developing gluten-free recipes, making precise measurements of ingredients, this is slow and tedious for a “production” environment. If everyday cooking gets this complicated, it will end up not getting done.

Everyone has advised me that precision is, however, required for gluten-free recipes for them to be successful. As one who normally cooks by gut feeling, I decided to see whether this really was the case and decided to “guess” a fruitcake.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup green pea flour
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • Heaped teaspoon guar gum
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • Handful brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 500g mixed dried fruit
  • Large pinches of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom (all ground)
  • Packet dried yeast.

The ingredients above were not measured with any precision. They were mixed, with the exception of the fruit, with a hand whisk to form a very stiff batter, after which I combined the fruit with a wooden spoon.

Dividing the mixture into my usual (greased) silicone bun and loaf tins, I gave the mixture a full hour to rise, as size increase was very much slower than that of the “precision” batter. A rise did occur during baking.

Results

I was half expecting to get a result which was rather solid, but the result was lighter than anticipated and had a texture of “real” (wheat-based) fruitcake.

It now remains to be seen if I am able to replicate my results, still using rough measurements fine-tuning by the look and feel of the batter, as I would in “normal” cooking.

Parade Thai Restaurant, Norwood

A Long-Time Favourite

My wife and I have been eating at the Parade Thai for several years now, just about since I first came to Australia. We discovered it whilst visiting the Adelaide suburb of Norwood around lunchtime. There were two Thai restaurants to choose from; from the outside, one was all glass, stainless and glitzy, the other small and very slightly shabby. In my gastronomic travels, I had generally found the latter type of establishment to be a common hallmark of good food, and the Parade Thai, which I chose of the two, proved to be no exception.

We have always enjoyed the food on offer, found the service very friendly and generally quick. It is no coincidence that we try to schedule any appointments in Adelaide for Wednesday or Thursday, when this fine establishment is open for lunch. (Also open Friday, but not a good day to get out of the city.)

Gluten Free?

In the months since my wife was diagnosed with coeliac disease, eating out options have become extremely limited. Not so with our old favourite. After eating the same dish known to be gluten-free on several visits, my wife enquired as to what else might be available – expecting not a lot. We were, however, shown a list of no less than 21 dishes which could all be prepared as gluten-free. Sadly, this does not include her favourite chicken satay, but we were nevertheless impressed by the choices available.

Added to this is the fact that the staff are actually knowledgeable about gluten-free (and they have the list, of course). This is a considerable improvement on all the establishments where we get an “er, I’ll have to ask the chef” – generally followed by a ten-minute wait.

The one thing that I would like to see is for the menus to be marked up somehow to indicate “can be made gluten-free”, which would make choosing easier. (And quicker – important to me when I am already getting hypoglycaemic.)

Conclusion

I have rated the Parade Thai as “highly recommended”, and would now just add “for coeliacs too”.

Parade Thai Restaurant

Contact/Location

128 The Parade,Norwood 5067 South Australia.
Phone: (08) 8364 4243

Hours

To the best of my knowledge, but should be confirmed with the Parade Thai directly: Lunch: 1200-1400 Wednesday through Friday; Dinner 1730-2200.

Other Reviews

Review from Adelaide Now, July 2006.

What About Food?

When looking at the effects of disability, often in the context of Web Accessibilty, I have a tendency to focus on some of the less obvious issues and have been known to write the odd article and presentation about these issues. In this, my second post for BADD, I will continue in this vein and talk about something very close to my heart: food.

What I am going to talk about is a rather mild disablism, but it is worthy of a mention if for no other reason than to draw attention to a couple of issues that many people may not have considered; these are diabetes and coeliac (celiac for our friends in the USA) disease.

Diabetes

I don’t know how many people would agree that diabetes constitutes a disability, but from personal experience, I have found that it means that I cannot do some things that “normal” people can. At one stage, this meant that I could not go for more than 2 hours without eating. Working from home, this was not a problem, but attending a conference was.

The disablism: workplaces, conferences and anywhere where people are gathered artificially should recognise that lengthy sessions may cause problems to some people. They should also recognise that a catered tea-break should not just consist of sticky cakes and other starch and sugar related rubbish.

My doctor lent me a DVD of a conference that she attended and I had to chuckle when the speaker glanced at his watch and commented that hypoglycaemia would now be setting in and therefore it was time for a break. Maybe non-doctors will be saying the same thing if the message ever gets across.

Coeliac Disease/Gluten Intolerance

Whilst diabetes is relatively well-recognised and is generally (but not always) manageable, Coeliac disease and the horrendous effects of gluten (not exaggerating, ask someone with the disease) are not. Only this year did the British Parliament debate the coeliac issue. I don’t know how many working days are lost per year as a result of this, but it can be a truly disabling condition.

If restaurants are required to provide equal access, should this not extend to the food? I would not be at all surprised to find that a non-coeliac client in a wheelchair would get an easier ride in many restaurants than a walking coeliac with an “invisible” issue.

The disabilism: lack of adequate food labelling (gluten sneaks in to the most unlikely of foods), lack of choices in food outlets, inadequate training of staff causing cross-contamination. This isn’t like slipping a bit of chicken stock to a vegetarian in an otherwise innocent risotto – we are not talking food choices here, we are talking about people being made ill, unable to work and with reduced life expectancy (dramatically increased risk of bowel cancer).

Conclusion

I am not coeliac (my wife is, hence my Life Without Gluten section in this blog) and I am managing my diabetes. Eating out is a major frustration – especially taking my fatigue into account which eliminates any evening excursions – so happens very rarely. Lucky that I like cooking.

There are people out there with far worse cases of diabetes and far worse cases of coeliac disease. These people may think that they are being inconvenienced when working/eating out, but they are really suffering from discrimination. This, I think, is where you – the reader – should have a think about the Social model of Disability and then think about what I have written. Which is getting incoherent due to fatigue, but there you have it. Happy BADD, folks and don’t forget to check out all the other BADD posts.

Comments – for and against – this article are very welcome.

Going to Work – Time for a Rethink?

Preamble

This is my contribution to Blogging Against Disablism Day 2007. I had planned to write at least two, pithy, and thought-provoking posts, but am just too tired and uninspired. Maybe something else will emerge tomorrow now that the rules have been relaxed (posts do not have to be made on the day).

Do we need to go to work?

For the last 4 years, I have been fully self-employed. Unfortunately, this employment has not been particularly fruitful as for those same 4 years, my health has declined and I have been in varying states of incapacity as a result of severe fatigue issues caused by sleep apnoea and an endocrine system that is fit for the scrap heap (oh, that we could pick up human replacement parts at the local Organs-R-Us). However, even when the number of hours that I have been able to work per week has reduced to single figures, the way in which I work allows me to carry on nevertheless.

As a freelance software developer and IT consultant, my home provides me with an almost perfect working environment where I can work when I want – going into the office because you’ve woken up a 3am with a good idea is not always practical – and with few distractions. (Latterly, this has been a case of me working when I can.) As one who finds social interaction during work a distraction if not an annoyance, I am quite comfortable with this fairly solitary way of life, especially when I can communicate electronically with my peers across the globe when I need or want to.

There are many jobs where working from home is simply not an option and there are many people who are themselves unsuited to this type of environment. For those where this “teleworking” would be practical, I would like to see more employers giving offering this opportunity.

If I were back working for someone else, my health situation – let’s call it disability because, for all intents and purposes, it is – would have seen me unable to go to work on a regular or predictable basis. (I never know day to day what I will be capable of doing tomorrow). This would render me totally ineffective as far as the employer were concerned, see me being paid sick leave and then finally ousted, should the employment laws support this. If however that employer were canny, I could work from home on a part-time or casual basis, still be productive for my employer and – at the of the day – still be employed.

So far, I have looked at this from the perspective of someone who has become disabled whilst already in employment. Consider now people who have issues similar to mine or have some other impairment that prevents them going to work. They may even have a disability that warrants a full-time carer; this does not, however, mean that they need to (or want to) be unproductive.

We could say that the employer who does not offer a teleworking opportunity to an appropriately qualified person is no less discriminating than if they refused employment because it would mean installing a wheelchair ramp.

Please, employers, give this your consideration; you may be missing out on some valuable talent

Update – 13 May 2007

Since writing this article, CIO.com has published an article, Getting Clueful: Seven Things the CIO Should Know About Telecommuting, which is well worth a read.