Monday, September 29, 2014

Guide Dogs for the Blind

The training of a dog who will be a helper for a blind person begins when the dog is born. For the first 6 to 8 weeks of life, the dog will be at home with a family that will show the dog affection and how to trust humans, and will begin to teach it basic manners and obedience, including 'potty training' and basic commands.  This will continue until the dog is about 14-15 months old.

At that point, the dogs receive their training to help them be ready to work with a blind person. This occurs at a training center many times affiliated with Guide Dogs for the Blind. There are two main campuses of this organization, one in San Rafael, CA and one in Portland, Oregon, but there are 12 accredited training schools in 8 states involving over 1000 volunteers.

Their website is here:

The other major organization that trains guide dogs is The Seeing Eye Foundation:


The dog will meet its blind partner when the dog is about 1-1/2 years old, and they will train together for 2 to 4 weeks.

Some other things you may not know about Dogs for the Blind:

  • Some of the people who have helper dogs have some very limited vision.
  • A person must be at least 16 years old to train a helper dog.
  • These dogs are NOT pets. However, when their harnesses are removed, it is play time for the dogs.
  • There are about 10,000 guide dogs paired with owners at present
  • Some people with guide dogs also use their red-tipped canes to feel extra safe
  • Thousands of blind and impaired-vision people do not work simply because they do not have any kind of assistance to keep them mobile, such as a guide dog
  • Dogs are not totally color-blind, but do not see colors as vividly as we do. Thus, they probably don't see the difference in traffic lights, for example
  • A German man came up with the idea of the "Seeing Eye" dog after World War I; there were many cases of blindness due to the use of mustard gas in the war
  • There are 60 training centers for these dogs in 27 countries
  • The dogs are bred specifically by the two major training organizations so that they are reliable as to temperament and intelligence.
  • The most common types of guide dogs are German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Golden Retriever. Other breeds have also been used, including Boxers for people who are allergic to long-hair dogs.

Can you pet the helper dog?
Ask the owner's permission first, and only if the owner says it is OK, then pat the dog on the shoulder and not on the head. The dog does not act or react as a pet as long as it has its harness on. If the owner says no, then respect his or her wishes. It is distracting for the dog to be petted while 'on duty.'

Do all dogs train to be helper dogs successfully?
No. Most of them do, but occasionally a dog doesn't have the right temperament. There is a concentrated effort to match dog with owner as well, that has to do with size and maturity.

How many years does a dog work?
Usually about 7 to 8 years and then they are 'retired.'

What happens to the dog when it can't be a helper anymore?
The dog can then become a fulltime pet to its owner or can be returned to the training center, which will find it a good home to live out its life.

What does a dog cost its owner?
It depends on where the dog comes from. Through the Seeing Eye program, a dog 'costs' $150, which is a fraction of what was invested in its training, but gives its owner the sense of pride that the dog was paid for by him or her. Through Guide Dogs of America, dogs are given to the blind person free of charge by using donations.

The cost of fully training a dog for the blind is about $42,000.

Check out this story about a girl who lost her vision but continues to run races with her guide dog's help:

Monday, September 22, 2014

What Your Advisor Wants You To Know

You will get out of the program what you put into the program.
  • If you don't show up, you won't reap any of its benefits. If you aren't making an effort to use the advisors or tutors or both, you won't get anything out of them.

Step out of your comfort zone and try new things.
  • You will be surprised at how much fun you will have, and how much you will learn in the process. Try something you never tried or were afraid of. Introduce yourself to someone you don't know yet.

We're here to help. Really, we are.
  • The reason we do what we do, is to help you succeed. We are here to support you and make sure you stay on track. We will cheer for your successes and help you navigate the difficult parts. With that in mind, we will always be honest with you and tell you what you need to know, not only what you want to hear.
We want to see you when things are going fine.
  • We are happy to have you make contact with us to make sure you have no questions or issues. It may be a very brief check-in, but we like to have you come in, update us, and let us know that it's all good.

We want you to come in as soon as you feel like you're having a problem.
  • We can check and see if that's true and help you avoid it getting worse. But, we can't if you don't come and meet with us.

We can't turn back time.
  • Once a class is failed, it's failed. Once you are swamped with too much work, you don't have a lot of alternatives. Please let us help you schedule wisely so you can avoid failure
  • You need to be honest with us and come in to see us regularly so we can catch problems before they get bigger.
  • We are not mind readers: we don't know you're having a problem unless you come and see us.

Do not max out your student loans.
  • You will may be offered more money in the form of loans than you need. Take ONLY what you need, do not take more just because it is offered. See what the least amount you need is, and take only that much. You may think you will give the extra back if you don't use it....but you will not, and will have to pay it all back plus interest.

We can help you develop good, or better, study habits. We can advise regarding time management, money management, financial aid, and transferring. Isn't that why you joined TRIO?
  • These are the things that might make all the difference in your being a successful student. Use these services. Again: that's why we're here.

There really aren't any stupid questions.
  • Ask away! We'll get the answers.

If you don't understand the way something is done, see your advisor.
  • We'll make sure you have followed all the procedures and filled out whatever papers need filling out. Better to be completely sure than not!

Your friends mean well, but they are not advisors.
  • Don't take the word of your friends as the total true answer when you have a problem. They do not advise people on a day to day basis, and do not know your scholastic history or goals. We do. Ask us. That's our job.

SSS Students: If you can't keep your appointment, or once you realize you've forgotten it, please give us a call and re-schedule. UB students: if you will miss tutoring after school, do your best to let your advisor know.
  • We'll have your time reserved for you, and will be ready to focus on your needs. If we don't hear from you, we don't know what to think.

TRIO is here to help you reach your goal of a college degree: Let's work together and get it done!

Monday, September 8, 2014

9-11-2001: It Was Just an Ordinary Tuesday

Some of you are not old enough to remember 9-11-2001. Some of you may not have been born yet. I can share what I remember:

It was a beautiful early fall Tuesday morning. The sky was as clear blue here as it was in New York. I remember as I got ready for work, seeing on the news that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York City. Comments were made that perhaps the pilot had suffered a heart attack and lost control--it was thought to be a small private plane at first.  I remember the look of shock on the announcer's face when the second one hit, and that he simply and quietly said: "That was no accident."

I remember wondering who would do such a thing, purposely fly a commercial jet full of passengers into a skyscraper?

I remember going to my job at an elementary school; TVs and radios were on, the news was lit up with all kinds of details, many of which were not true: The White House was bombed, the Pentagon was destroyed, there were warplanes swarming the East Coast. But then we learned that the Pentagon was, in fact, hit by yet another plane.

A National Guard pilot flies over the Pentagon after it was hit

Another one went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after being hijacked. We learned later that there were heroes on board, passengers who decided to rush the hijackers and let the plane crash in a field instead of anywhere else-with the words "Let's Roll" as their battle cry.


All airports were shut down, all flights came to a halt. No one moved by plane: nobody left the U.S., Nobody entered from another country. Concern rose as we wondered about the extent of this plot, this nonsense that jarred a beautiful fall day's innocence.

We became stuck, riveted to the television, wanting information and then being so stunned by what we saw that we couldn't think what to say. Brows furrowed as we tried in vain to make sense of it. But that was impossible, as it still is today.

We wondered if we should stay where we were, or go home: If I'm going to die, I want to be home and not here. Do I get my kids out of school so we can be together? Is there anything I can do?

Our governor decreed that students should not go outside for recess that day and for a few days to come. Would these people, whoever they were, target lesser-populated cities as a surprise? How could we know?

We saw the towers collapse on themselves, the dust, the papers flying everywhere....heard that gut-wrenching, incredibly loud, permanent thud sound we found out later was bodies hitting the ground after having fallen or jumped from dozens of stories above.

I remember the next day heading out to the store and noticing people were very quiet, and much more patient and polite than usual. It was as if we were all grieving a relative that was violently killed the day before, and we felt so very sad together. As if we were in slow motion and it wasn't stopping. As if we were all planning a funeral.

The endless flyers hastily printed up and posted on fences in the area of the Twin Towers: Have you seen my  husband/wife/fiancĂ©/boyfriend/girlfriend/mother/father/sister/brother/aunt/uncle/cousin/friend? Here's a picture. Please have them call home right away. But knowing as well as the person who posted it, that their loved one was lost forever.

And later came: Why? Who would do this? How did they do this? How many more were out there? Did some of them live here? Why weren't they stopped? Could it happen again?

We were arrogant to think no one would dare attack us on home soil. We were smug. We thought it would never happen here in a million years. We were so wrong.

And we were angry. The term "waking a sleeping dragon" was tossed about, and appropriately so. We wanted some justice. How would we do it?

We're still not sure we've achieved it. We constructed a 'War On Terrorism' in an effort to avenge those 2,977 deaths. Whether it's accomplished anything will always be up for debate. But, how might we change our mindsets to be more aware, to be less encapsulated in our no longer safe little world?

We have to recognize that any group promoting hatred and violence has nothing to do with true religion. We have to remember those who claim their 'reasoning' are extremists, that most other people in the world do not espouse violence and killing but want to live in peace.

Consider this pledge against hatred, which sadly can come in so many forms. We have to do better. Our survival depends on it.

  • I pledge from this day onward to do my best to interrupt prejudice and to stop those who, because of hate, would hurt, harass, or violate the civil rights of anyone.
  • I will try at all times to be aware of my own biases against people who are different from myself.
  • I will ask questions about cultures, religions, and races that I don't understand.
  • I will speak out against anyone who mocks, seeks to intimidate, or actually hurts someone of a different race, religion, ethnic group, or sexual orientation.
  • I will reach out to support those who are targets of harassment.
  • I will think about specific ways my school, other students, and my community can promote respect for people and create a prejudice-free zone.
  • I firmly believe that one person can make a difference and that no person can be an "innocent bystander" when it comes to opposing hate.


    Please don't let the words "We Will Never Forget" become a meaningless catchphrase. Do something that makes a difference, no matter how small. Be kind.

    Be kind to one another.

    Be kind.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tic-Tac-Toe, Pancakes, and Malaria: The Bill Gates Story

William Henry Gates III was born in 1955 in Seattle, Washington. His family was well-to-do, his father was an attorney.

In 8th grade, Bill's interest in computers was sparked when he was able to program an early computer to play tic-tac-toe with a human. When he and three others found a way to change the computer's programming so they could get free time on it, they were banned for the summer from school.

                     Useless trivia:    #   used to mean number, then pound, now 'hashtag.'

However, they returned, and were then hired to write first a payroll program on the computer, and then one for scheduling classes. Bill modified the scheduling program so that he was placed in classes with "an inordinate number of interesting girls."


At age 17, he and a friend formed a company they called TraffOData, which made traffic counters.

In 1973, at age 18, Bill became a page in the U.S. House of Representatives. He scored a 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs and was accepted to Harvard. In his sophomore year, he wrote an algorithm for sorting pancakes as a class project.

In 1975, he formed Microsoft. He did not finish his college degree.

In 1980, IBM asked Microsoft to write an operating system for their IBM PC.

The first version of Microsoft Windows was released in 1985.

             Imagine being part of the process that started with computers the size of a room....

                               the laptop........... the tablet... Not to mention the Smart Phone/Android and other computer-driven items.

In 1987, Bill Gates' net worth was about $1.25 billion.

Up until 2006, Gates was the Chief Executive Officer of his company, and worked on all product strategy plans. He eventually eased off his role as CEO but still has an active role in the running of Microsoft. He now devotes most of his time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is involved in charity work, including:

Disease prevention such as HIV, Malaria, and TB
Vaccinations such as polio
Agricultural Development
Maternal Health
Clean water
Education - The Gates Millenium Scholarship Fund in particular

He has donated $20 million to MIT and $6 million to Stanford

On 8-14-2014 he dumped a bucket of ice water over his head to raise money and awareness of ALS, when challenged by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The video:

Gates' hobbies include playing bridge, tennis, and golf.

He has written two books relating to computer science: The Road Ahead and Business @ the Speed of Thought, and is featured in three documentaries, "Triumph of the Nerds," "Waiting for "Superman," and "The Virtual Revolution." He was played by Steven Sires in the film "The Social Network."