Saturday, March 30, 2019

Tip - Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Green frog with headphones

There are two types of noise-cancelling headphones: active and passive. Both types reduce distracting background noise, making your listening (or non-listening as the case may be) environment more comfortable and more restful.

Active noise-cancelling headphones contain a miniature microphone in the earpiece to detect ambient noise. This information is sent to noise-cancelling electronics, which then send out a wave that is directly opposite to the noise that needs to be erased. (It’s physics, and it works!) There is also a small battery to power these electronics.

Passive noise-cancelling headphones do not use electronics. They physically cover and seal off the ear, to help block out external noises. There are even in-ear designs that allow for increased fidelity at lower volumes of what you wish to hear.

Why might you want to use noise-cancelling headphones? They are great when traveling in noisy environments, such as planes, trains, and buses. Noise during travel is not just from the engine, but also from fellow passengers conversing. Of course, don’t use noise-cancellation technology if you are driving!

But you may also want to use noise-cancelling headphones when using loud home machinery, such as vacuum cleaners or lawn mowers. It’s much better to listen to a podcast, music, or audio book than to the roar of an engine.

Any time you need to mentally concentrate, noise-cancelling headphones come in handy. A special use case, if you’re trying to understand a lecture or other audio recording that was not well done, noise-cancellation can help you make better sense of what you are hearing at low volume.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Recent Research About the Effects of Children's Screen Time

Children gaming
Children gaming

Pediatricians and concerned parents have paid attention to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations concerning the amount of time youngsters spend watching television or engaged with other electronic media. However recent research calls these recommendations into question. Does additional screen time beyond the AAP recommendations adversely affect children’s mental health?

A UK study published in 2017 in Child Development surveyed parents of 2- to 5-year olds. They were asked how much time their child(ren) spent watching TV, playing video games, or engaged with electronic media (computers, cell phones, handheld electronic devices). They also answered questions about several measures of childhood psychological well-being, including attachment to the caregiver, reliance (bouncing back from not getting their way), curiosity about learning new things, and positive affect (smiling and laughing). The researchers controlled for ethnicity, age, gender, household income, and caregiver education, as these factors were thought to also affect childhood mental health. There was no significant difference between the mental health of children whose parents abided by the APA guideline and youngsters who spent more time in front of a television or other screen.

A different UK study published in 2019 in Nature Human Behavior examined adolescents’ mental health and use of digital technology. Researchers statistically examined three large datasets and found that the relationship between digital technology use and adolescent well-being explained only 0.4% of the variation among individuals. They conclude that “these effects are too small to warrant policy change.”  Apparently, the question of the impact of screen time on the mental health of young people is still open for debate.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Children’s Screen Time

Children and Computers
Children and Computers

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced new guidelines for parents concerning their children’s screen time, encouraging limiting their exposure to television and other forms of electronic media. Among the age-related recommendations:
  • Children under 18 months old should not be exposed at all, except for video-chatting with distant family members.
  • Children from 18 months to 2 years old can be introduced to high quality programs while sitting with and discussing with their parents.
  • Children from 2 to 5 years should continue to watch appropriate programs with their parents, no more than 1 hour per day.
School age children and teens should have consistent rules about use of electronic media, including types and time spent. They should be encouraged to have media-free family time, media-free locations in their homes, and adequate sleep and physical activity.

Parents are encouraged to create a Family Media Plan. The Plan will help family members choose and use online media purposefully, without taking the place of physical exercise, family-oriented time or sleep.

More specific guidance for parents of children under age 5 and for school-age children and teens is available.

Children’s Mental Health Week was February 4-10, 2019

Strengthening Mental Health
Strengthening Mental Health

Those of us who parent or care for children often focus on their physical well being. We want to be sure our children eat healthy foods, stay active, and get enough sleep. But bodies and minds are closely linked, so it’s also important to support our children’s mental health.

Here are some resources to help parents and carers support children’s mental health:

iPhone and Android services for the blind: Opportunities to volunteer

Volunteer Hands
Volunteer Hands

By ArcticPixy, Virtual Ability community member

I'd like to inform everyone about a few services released for iPhone and soon Android to help blind and visually impaired people that I thought some folks might want to assist and volunteer in.

Seeing AIis one of these, but does not require volunteers.
This application has features such as:
      Currency identifier,
      Short text, to be able to read things such as recipes on boxes, names on mail envelopes and packages, and so on,
      Document scanner,
      Product, to be able to scan UPC codes from sellers such as Amazon, Best Buy, and others,
      Person, to recognize your friends and describe other people,
      Scene preview, to let you know what kind of area you are in,
      Color preview, to identify colors of items, and
      Handwriting preview, to enable us to read handwritten notes on paper, blackboards, and so on.

Two services in particular could use volunteer help.

The next application I'd like to bring to your attention is called Be My Eyes.
Basically, the person connects/calls in using the app, and another sighted person gets connected to the one being assisted. The blind user can ask things such as colors of items, what kind of things are on a menu, such as in a vending machine, or touchscreen, and so on.

To get more information and to volunteer for “Be My Eyes,” go to their website:

The last and final item I want to share is a pair of smart glasses. The service is called “Aira.”
Similar to Google glasses, I find this service more helpful for traveling, being that they can see everything pretty much from a straight path. The glasses have a camera, and they can help you out much easier.

Aira” can also be used just like “Seeing AI" and “Be My Eyes," but each app has its uses. "Aira" is a little more accurate and steady.

In order to register/volunteer to help with “Aira,” an application has to be filled out, and you will be evaluated. To volunteer, go to their website:

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Security Tip: Be sure to periodically close and then restart your web browser!

While the advice below is specific to an issue with Google Chrome on March 21, 2019, it is an important general practice that everyone should follow.

"If you are running Google Chrome and its version is below 72.0.3626.121, your computer could be exploited without your knowledge. While it’s true that Chrome features an automatic update component, in order for the patch to be installed you must restart your browser."

Considering how many users keep Chrome and all their tabs opened for days or even weeks without ever restarting the browser, the security impact is real.

In the meantime, if you haven’t done so yet, you should update and relaunch Chrome; and don’t worry about your tabs, they will come right back.

Along with restarting your web browser, it is also important for your computer's security to restart the computer at least once a week.


Friday, March 15, 2019

February 7th (or any day really) is Send A Card To A Friend Day!

By Orange Planer, Virtual Ability community member

There are a wide variety of ways you can send someone a card.
  • Postal Mail!  You write someone a card in your own handwriting, put it in an envelope, add a stamp for just a few cents, and someone picks it up and delivers it for you!  There's nothing more personal and enjoyable.
  • Email!  Who said you had to have a fancy "card"?  All you need is to send them a note that you're thinking of them.  You can add a picture of your own creation (got a cell phone or a camera?), doodles you can make in Windows Paint, the Mac equivalent, or some other application.
  • Online eCard companies!
    •  this is a for-pay site only but it's pretty cheap and the quality is very good.
    •  cards and invitations are sent with advertisements to help them keep the site free.  Some features are for-pay only, such as specialized cards, sending cards with pictures, or removing advertisements.
    • And more:  go to any search engine and look for "free online ecards."
  • Social media sites such as FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  • Are they nearby?  Call ahead and drop a card off at their house!
  • And more.  Use your imagination and have fun with it.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Junk Journaling for Rehab

By OperativePhoenix, Virtual Ability community member

I've been debating over what to do with some of my memory clutters like old photos and school papers.  I couldn't quite come to throw them out since I've been a packrat.  I do organize and clean my room from time to time, but my storage has always been cluttered.  One day, YouTube was recommending some Junk Journal Artist videos.  I clicked them to see what they were.  And boom, they hit me like a thunder.  They recycled garbage and clutter and they created some fascinating junk journals with what they had.

Since the day I discovered what junk journals were all about, I've started my own effort to create my own journals.  My hands struggled to use a craft knife and cut out some shapes, and I was challenged to do some embroidery and sewing with my feeble hands.  However, as I struggled to do some things I used to do before the car accident, I started to find myself enjoying doing something in real life.  Sure, I cut some wrong places, or my sewing are kinda crappy looking.  However, many junk journal artists suggest how there are no mistakes in junk journaling.

Some of the junk journalists even suggested collaging instead of writing.  I'm a habitual skipper of writing a diary or I end up writing negative things in my diary and never bother to go back there.   Junk journalists keep journals on random days.  So, I realized I don't have to worry about keeping a journal every day.  I decided to make mine a gratitude journal.  Only keep something I feel good about.

My life changed completely after I decided to work on my journal.  Everywhere I look now, I think about collaging or getting papers for my journal, paying attention to some positive quotes and pictures.  It's been fun and I feel like I am moving one step forward toward becoming more positive.

Two great YouTube videos about Junk Journaling: