Tag Archives: Blueroof Technologies

A classic is a book no one reads, Mark Twain said

"I read from Mark Twain's lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy."
“I read from Mark Twain’s lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy.” —Helen Keller

I had pneumonia until three days ago when I was discharged from the hospital.

These days, my health has been doing well:

  • In May, I attended my younger daughter Amelia Altalena’s graduation from college.
  • In June, I spent two weeks in McKeesport, PA seeing how low-cost high-tech housing for elderly and disabled individuals can be made to work.
  • In October, I returned from elder daughter Joanna and future son-in-law Jade Phillips’ Engagement Party.

I am happy in my work and in my life.

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A little illness serves to remind that the way we spend our time matters.

What follows on this site is short installments of Helen Keller‘s 116 page book The Story of my Life.

Here in this season of darkness, when fancy paper containing gifts you will not use are torn away, I have decided to make a token gesture that will brighten your life and change your world view for the better if only you let it.

What follows are selected quotations Helen Keller published in 1903. How Helen Keller’s perspective on the value of life has affected me personally is a subject for another time.

For you, the following may alert you to the fact that a young woman in her Twenties, a woman who could neither see nor hear, opened up the world to another way of viewing reality–a path so radical in its conception and so beneficial to anyone who reads her that life as we know it will never be the same again. That is why The Story of My Life is   appropriately regarded as one of the great books of the 20th Century (and of the century in which I live in now).

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–“I found out the use of a key. One morning I locked my mother up in the pantry, where she was obliged to remain three hours, as the servants were in a detached part of the house. She kept pounding on the door, while I sat outside on the porch steps and laughed with glee as I felt the jar of the pounding.”

–“I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups–two large beads, three small ones, and so on. I had made many mistakes, and Miss Sullivan had pointed them out again and again with gentle patience. Finally I noticed a very obvious error in the sequence and for an instant I concentrated my attention on the lesson and tried to think how I should have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, ‘Think.’ In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.”

–“It seems strange to many people that I should be impressed by the wonders and beauties of Niagara. They are always asking: “What does this beauty or that music mean to you? You cannot see the waves rolling up the beach or hear their roar. What do they mean to you?” In the most evident sense they mean everything. I cannot fathom or define their meaning any more than I can fathom or define love or religion or goodness.”

–“In geometry my chief difficulty was that I had always been accustomed to read the propositions in line print, or to have them spelled into my hand; and somehow, although the propositions were right before me, I found the braille confusing, and could not fix clearly in my mind what I was reading. But when I took up algebra I had a harder time still. The signs, which I had so lately learned, and which I thought I knew, perplexed me. Besides, I could not see what I wrote on my typewriter. I had always done my work in braille or in my head. Mr. Keith had relied too much on my ability to solve problems mentally, and had not trained me to write examination papers. Consequently my work was painfully slow, and I had to read the examples over and over before I could form any idea of what I was required to do. Indeed, I am not sure now that I read all the signs correctly. I found it very hard to keep my wits about me.”

–“I began my studies with eagerness. Before me I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and I felt within me the capacity to know all things. In the wonderland of Mind I should be as free as another. Its people, scenery, manners, joys, tragedies should be living, tangible interpreters of the real world. The lecture-halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and the wise, and I thought the professors were the embodiment of wisdom. If I have since learned differently, I am not going to tell anybody.

–“But I soon discovered that college was not quite the romantic lyceum I had imagined. Many of the dreams that had delighted my young inexperience became beautifully less and “faded into the light of common day.” Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages in going to college. The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time. I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I. We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent. But in college, there is no time to commune with one’s thoughts. One goes to college to learn, it seems, not to think. When one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the dearest pleasures–solitude, books and imagination–outside with the whispering pines. I suppose I ought to find some comfort in the thought that I am laying up treasures for future enjoyment, but I am improvident enough to prefer present joy to hoarding riches against a rainy day.”

–“But the examinations are the chief bugbears of my college life. Although I have faced them many times and cast them down and made them bite the dust, yet they rise again and menace me with pale looks, until like Bob Acres I feel my courage oozing out at my finger ends. The days before these ordeals take place are spent in cramming your mind with mystic formulæ and indigestible dates–unpalatable diets, until you wish that books and science and you were buried in the depths of the sea.”

–“But college is not the universal Athens I thought it was. There one does not meet the great and the wise face to face; one does not even feel their living touch. They are there, it is true; but they seem mummified. We must extract them from the crannied wall of learning and dissect and analyze them before we can be sure that we have a Milton or an Isaiah, and not merely a clever imitation. Many scholars forget, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more upon the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding. The trouble is that very few of their laborious explanations stick in the memory. The mind drops them as a branch drops its overripe fruit. It is possible to know a flower, root and stem and all, and all the processes of growth, and yet to have no appreciation of the flower fresh bathed in heaven’s dew. Again and again I ask impatiently, “Why concern myself with these explanations and hypotheses?” They fly hither and thither in my thought like blind birds beating the air with ineffectual wings. I do not mean to object to a thorough knowledge of the famous works we read. I object only to the interminable comments and bewildering criticisms that teach but one thing: there are as many opinions as there are men.”

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For extensive bibliographic information on Helen Keller’s Story of My Life: see http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/keller/life/life.html

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Joel Solkoff, December 20, 2012, State College, PA

 

 

 

McKeesport is not as depressing as you might think: Special

I realize not as depressing as you might think shouts out that McKeesport really is a depressing place. It is.

When I get around to it, I will describe the exceptions to depressing, such as this fire juggler whom I saw last night while I attended Corpus Christi, an annual Downtown McKeesport event two blocks from the Blueroof Experimental Cottage where I am entering this blog post on my laptop on the kitchen table.

If you are quick, you can see me now live on the Internet blogging away at Blueroof Technologies’ Experimental Cottage–do-gooders extraordinaire so aging in place can happen with dignity and independence for:

  • Young at heart
  • Veteran
  • Civilian
  • Perfectly able or
  • Disabled like me

http://75.149.30.169:60001/CgiStart?page=Single&Language=0 [Only one view at a time: so take a metaphorical number and experience the enforced patience of becoming elderly or come back and click impulsively.]

I took the following photograph today of a side street (not that McKeesport’s Fifth Avenue is much better) to show what I mean by depressing:

In the six or so years that I have lived and traveled through the Rust Belt Of Pennsylvania, McKeesport is definitely the most depressing of Rust Belt depressing towns. McKeesport has been losing population steadily from its all time high in 1940 of 55,355 to the most current figures available– a mere 19,731 people according to the 2010 U.S. Census–an ongoing decline; this time 17 percent fewer people than 10 years ago.

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McKeesport is 19 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Double click on the photo.

See a START pin showing where I am now on Sunday morning July 1, 2012, 7:10 AM, getting ready to take a shower at the Blueroof Experimental Cottage, 400 Spring Street, McKeesport 15132.

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Hope: The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary of the English Language (Copyright 2012) defines hope as: “expectation of fulfillment or success.”

McKeesport Hope 1. Best shower for the elderly and disabled. For me, as a 64-year-old man with a spinal cord injury who cannot walk: hope in McKeesport means being able to take the best shower (safest, most satisfying) that I have taken in the 18 years of being a paraplegic: a shower I can take without assistance from a health care aide, a shower that does not put me in danger of falling posing the risk (as my neighbors back at an independent living facility at State College which I call home face on a daily basic–a risk that all too often leads to an ambulance outside my window, a trip eventually leading to Centre Crest, a nursing home where at great government expense, my neighbors die in despair).  [I am generally a cheerful guy]

Here in McKeesport is the best shower for paraplegics in the world:

When I entered the bathroom to take a shower, the lights to the bathroom were not on. As the forward wheels of my scooter crossed the beam generated by this contraption co-founder Robert Walters installed:

the lights go on. [Let there be Light.]

Meanwhile, inside the shower a motion detector is making sure that I do not fall.

Here in the shower, a motion detector watches out for me. See it. It is on the top left of the bathroom door. It looks like this:

If I fall, the detector detects no motion. If I do not get up after a period of time programmed by an expert, the walls call 911 and my family.

Actually, the voice that makes the call is a voice synthesizer located on a shelf in the laboratory in the basement. The interns who installed it had a range of voices to choose from. They chose the surprisingly sexy voice whom ever afterward is known as Amy. I can just imagine my daughters Joanna and Amelia when the lascivious voice of Amy calls to inform them their father has just fallen in the shower.

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McKeesport Hope 2. Fresh water fish are back in the Mon Monongahela River.

Now that the River is no longer polluted with the effluents caused by National Tube Company, once McKeesport’s largest employer, sadly missed because the unemployment rate here is in the double digits, fresh water fish have returned.

Signs for live fishing bait are prominently displayed. The Marina, quite pretty, is doing a booming business.

[I must stop this work in progress here. A friend just called reminding me that it is past 10 and this posting, dear subscribers and readers, promises that a return to more hope and more despair await you.]

However, July 4th is nearly here and let me close by reminding you that the pursuit of happiness is currently denied to too many of the men and women, veterans of our wars –who fought to keep us free–and their families.

Blueroof plans to build a research cottage for a veteran family to provide the kind of decent housing Blueroof has become famous for creating–a place not only of residence but of research to ensure that disabled, aging, and low-income veterans can age in place successfully and that our engineering, architecture, and architectural engineering schools can better learn how to provide designs that improve the quality of their lives.

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Words do not escape me. Rest assured, I will return–showered and ready to post and comment on photographs such as this one:

This too is McKeesport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebration of the Use of Virtual Reality to Improve Housing for the Elderly and Disabled

University Park, PA.  On Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 10a.m. Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering and its Smart Spaces Center for Adaptive Aging in Community celebrated progress made in a coordinated effort to reduce the cost of housing for Pennsylvania’s elderly and disabled residents today and in the future.

The celebration took place at the virtual reality Immersive Construction (ICon) Laboratory. The celebration:

  1. Demonstrated the use of full-scale 3-D virtual models on large display screens for evaluating cost-effective designs to allow for aging in place. The animated model, based on the Blueroof  Technologies housing initiative in McKeesport, PA, is the work of graduate student Sonali Kumar. The virtual reality approach allows for an avatar to enter the wheel-chair accessible cottage and evaluate tasks such as making coffee in a kitchen to appropriately design for residents who desire housing where they can grow old without having to move to a costly institution.
  2. Allowed participants to meet the leaders of Blueroof Technologies in McKeesport, PA using a live video connection.  Blueroof is using prefabricated housing with embedded sensors for improving user interaction with their residence.  The environment can inform a resident when to take medication, monitor for falls (then, call 911 if the resident slips in the shower and does not get up), and provide televised links to medical facilities reducing routine medical care cost.
  3. Show the work of the Computer Integrated Construction Research Program, directed by John Messner, associate professor of architectural engineering,  focusing on the application of advanced computer modeling to improve the design, construction, and operation processes for buildings.
  4. Present the work of architectural engineering students  trained in using 3-D experienced-based design.  Virtual modeling is rapidly becoming an important tool for the construction industry, providing the ability to make changes in health care and other facilities before construction actually takes place.
  5. Provide an opportunity for residents of Addison Court, a State College independent living facility for elderly and disabled individuals, to see what the future will bring and serve as critics who can use their life experiences to aid in the design process.
  6. Highlight the work of  Penn State’s Smart Spaces Center, directed by Richard Behr, who leads an interdisciplinary effort to address the needs of the rapidly increasing number of baby boomer Americans who wish to age successfully in their own homes.
  7. Recognize contributions made by the Raymond A. Bowers Program for Excellence in Design and Construction of the Built Environment, the Smart Spaces Center, the Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence, and other private and public organizations working with Penn State to improve life for Pennsylvania’s elderly and disabled.
  8. Using a scooter from Amigo Mobility, Blueroof will begin to experiment on how to help residents with mobility disabilities make better use of the technology around them. The Amigo scooter will have an iPad 2 and other remote devices so residents can turn the lights on and off and perform other functions without leaving the chair.
After Florida, Pennsylvania has the highest per capita of elderly of any state in the union. Not all news about health care costs is bad news. Come learn about some of the good news.
Computer Integrated Construction Research Program:
Immersive Construction Lab (ICon Lab):
Smart Spaces Center:
Immersive Construction Lab
306 Engineering Unit C
University Park, PA 16802

Congressman Mike Doyle represents McKeesport Home of Blueroof Technologies

Mike Doyle, a Democrat in his ninth term, represents the 14th District of Pennsylvania which includes Blueroof Technologies in McKeesport.

Blueroof has developed a monitoring system for patients with autism, a subject of special concern to Rep. Doyle who is he founder and co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, also known as the Coalition for Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E.).

Doyle has a special interest in high-speed Internet. High-speed Internet provides elderly and disabled residents of Blueroof housing the technology that establishes security protection in high crime areas as well as establishing, for example, communications and monitoring so that falls go detected and residents are able to work at home and receive remote medical attention.

The following portrait is from The Almanac of American Politics 2012 by Michael Baron and Chuck McCutcheon well worth ordering from: http://www.amazon.com/Almanac-American-Politics-2012/dp/0226038084/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327557118&sr=1-1

“Doyle rarely seeks attention, nor has he caused much of a ruckus. He has worked to reduce foreign imports, and he pushed a bill to create a national historic site at the former U.S. Steel facilities along the Mon River. On the Energy and Commerce Committee, his focus has been on high-tech initiatives, including increased availability of broadband services in underserved areas. He has been a leading advocate of the “Do Not Call” restrictions on telephone marketers, and won passage in 2008 of a bill to make the national list permanent. During the debate over so-called cap-and-trade legislation, which would cap harmful carbon emissions but allow companies to trade on the right to pollute, he vigorously advocated the interests of steel and other Rust Belt industries, even as he sought to work out a compromise with environmentalists. When Republicans in 2011 voted to slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate emissions, Doyle accused the GOP of “scaring American people” into wrongly believing that failure to curb EPA’s authority would cause gasoline prices to rise further.”

Doyle is a graduate of Penn State in University Park, PA.

State Offices

Pittsburgh, 412-390-1499.

DC Office

401 CHOB, 20515, 202-225-2135

Fax

202-225-3084

Web site

http://doyle.house.gov

Second Life: Virtual World Special

John J. Meier, science and math librarian at Penn State, and guest blogger
Editorial note: Of course what everyone wants to know these days is what effect will  Zynga have on Second Life? (Readers are encouraged to provide answers.) What follows is a guest blog by John J. Meier,  assistant librarian at Penn State‘s Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library providing background on Second LifeThis originally appeared in Voices of Central Pennsylvania with the title, “PSU’s Second Life Encourages Students to Get One.” 
When I was trying to get a better understanding of the effectiveness of Sonali Kumar’s 3-D model of Blueroof Housing for disabled and elderly individuals, John introduced me to Second Life as a quick and free way of being immersed in a virtual world through the use of an avatar who shares this world with millions of avatars controlled by millions of globally immersed participants. Psychologists and human resources specialists use one of Penn State‘s islands in Second Life‘s 3-D universe to provide counseling to students in emotional distress.
This avatar is Speedy Przhevalsky.
Second Life his name is Polish
Speedy is getting ready to change his appearance. I once spent two days trying to decide among a startling number of options regarding the size and shape of his ears, nose, eyes and so on until there was too much to decide and I decided to send him off to walk, run, fly, explore, buy, create, receive virtual therapy, and eventually convince me that he is more real than I am. 
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Second Life’s Virtual World Includes a Detailed Alternate Reality at Penn State
by
John J Meier, Science Librarian, Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library at Penn State
The future has made a great deal of promises, mostly through the voice of science fiction films and books, but we have yet to see flying cars or man on mars or The Matrix.  Or maybe we do have that last one after all.  In the eponymous film, The Matrix was a fictional world generated by computers, a virtual reality where every living person existed and some could fly and dodge bullets.  There is actually a computer generated virtual world where anyone CAN fly and interact with other people in another Earth, it is Second Life.
Second Life is a computer program, available for free download, which allows anyone to enter and interact in the virtual world of Second Life via broadband Internet access.  Unlike some online worlds, such as the popular World of Warcraft, Second Life has no monthly fees for the basic user.  The money used in-game, “Linden dollars,” can be purchased with real money and provides the company behind the game with a source of income.  They also lease the virtual real estate to individuals and organizations on a monthly basis.  You must be 18 years or older to play Second Life, though there is a Teen Second Life in a similar virtual world for 13-17 year old users.  Second Life has considerable “adult content,” which has areas specifically set aside in the game recently.
Each user sets up an avatar to use in the game, which is a representation of them in the game world.  These avatars are often human looking, but can be anything such as an animal or fantastic creature or even an inanimate object.  The avatar acts as the person controlling them:  conversing with other avatars by chat, sometimes known as instant messaging; walking, flying or teleporting around the virtual world; or interacting with other objects in the world, such as chairs or buildings.  Objects are created for the world by the users of the game and through a special programming language called the Linden Scripting Language. These objects can also move and operate on their own.  This allows for creation of items like cars, clothing with moving images, or almost anything imaginable.
While Second Life could be called a computer game, there is no winner or official goals.  Success is measured in some similar ways to real life, such as money and property as well as respect in the community.
Creativity is highly prized and since the cost of creation is mainly time, it is possible for anyone to be successful.  Interactions in the game can even be recorded as videos, which spread outside the game as movie shorts or music video remixes.  Since avatars can also be customized, the appearance of other users in itself reflects a dramatic diversity and can challenge the expectations of a novice user.  Despite the seemingly limitless possibilities, Second Life seems more like the real world than many other virtual worlds and online games.  Most avatars look human and objects are often those found in the real world at their normal scale.
Much of the real estate in Second Life is the property of organizations or companies, which often purchase one or more of the standard “island” sized properties.  They often use this land to create a virtual presence in the world as a way to engage customers, interest potential employees, or to conduct meetings and informational events.  In a global economy and worldwide commerce distance is often the limit, though it has no meaning in a virtual world where travel is instantaneous.
Penn State has a number of islands in second life: an island for the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), an island for the Penn State Berks Campus, an island for the Penn State World Campus and an island in Teen Second Life for the Penn State Admissions Office. 
Since almost any object can be created in second life for only the cost of time, it is often used to create a presence for a real institution or service.  It can also allow users from across the world to interact in a similar environment to the real world. Research projects in Second Life can also take advantage of the large-scale social and economic interactions going on between the millions of registered users.
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Copyright © 2011 by John J. Meier