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Leaving the place better than we found it
You are on this page
Thomas Jefferson on gun control
How to lie convincingly
Our hardy heartland
Breaking the cycle
How to catch the sun's comings and goings
Thoughts from the inside
Leveraging the internet to build our walls
Twitters from the past
And the invincibility of youth
Without ego projection
Yet another gift of the road
The charming side of obstinance
The creative part of photography
A movie critic looks in the mirror
We are not alone
As part of the system
Mastering your master
The end of Kumbaya
The wanderer's poet
Running out of dirt
Striking a balance
The Bay of Fundy, where the sea breathes
How to photograph them with anything, even your cellphone
A simple question we get every day
We may be failing to fail
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Becoming a hero in one's own life story
A writing assignment
A new discovery of something old
Finding new eyes to see old landscapes
Hick humor
Toys for photographing wild places
Experiencing life with God
A radical thought about our radicals
Redemption with style
Hidden heroes among us
Resetting our parallel processor
A village with heart
A lesson from the road
The bullet dodged
A soul sparkles
Isolation in style
Painless ways to lose your virginity : 11/12/15
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Seeing with my eyes closed

Northern Utah was my first mix of work and play, rather education and play. The University of Utah at Logan is the country's epicenter for making websites accessible for the blind and the visually impaired.

So it was that I immersed in a crash course on the tools and techniques that allow the blind to socialize on Facebook, to buy stuff online, to do their banking, to look things up, to open their minds in so many new ways, but with the computer screen black.

We started with screen readers, software programs that convert screen text into sounds the blind can hear. Then we learned about busloads of laws, standards, and design tips to produce websites that present tables, images, and Java-powered dancing balloons such that the screen readers can make sense of them.

Besides learning new things, I learned something about my old way of looking at things, a view that I need to charge in with my problem-solving ideas and fix the world. Roy showed me how to look at this misconception with new eyes. Roy is blind.

The exercise began with the robotic voice of a screen reader. To give you an idea of how those sound, here's Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. I was sure I could do better. I've heard audiobooks presented by great orators, and my imagination roared off to grand enterprises churning out website content read by the likes of Mark Twain.

"That sounds like a great idea," said Roy, "for you, but not for us."

Roy explained how the blind are not listening for artistic wonder, but to get through their day. The voice of the screen reader was designed to be understood if it is sped up as the listener grows his perception. Long after Marc Twain's voice would blur into an angry chipmunk, the blind can still make out a screen reader's robot. Here's Lincoln zipping along, and yes, with practice, I can make it out.

That's when I realized that without having walked an inch in Roy's shoes, I had thought I could sort out his world. Instead, I learned how a screen reader, no longer constrained by our mouth parts, optimizes to the most efficient way to send information to Roy's ear, not to mine. And since Roy's ear had been tuned over the years into a masterly instrument, he could crank his hearing further than I ever imagined.

Mr. Fixit learned that day to cool his jets and listen.

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Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway

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Good thing I brought my sweater

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Hiking the high country

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Logan, Utah

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University of Utah

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For more pictures of Northern Utah, click here.

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