Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Week Six

Week Six
I am more than ready for vacation, and happy to be going to release a little steam. The beginning of the week was all but relaxing. The system administrator decided this was an ideal week start the entire agencies phase over to Windows 7 Enterprise and office 2010 companion suite due to so many people being gone on vacation. Guess whose laptop was the first in the Agriculture Marketing Service; yes it was mine of course. They said seeing as I am interning through Microsoft it only made sense that I should work out any bugs with the installation process, so that they can create a ghost image of the Operating System (OS) run correctly. It was anything but smooth seeing as the original hard drive was formatted in an older outdated version (FAT32) I had to format the hard drive before installing the new OS and then reinstall my entire cab of drivers, documents, programs I have been writing and training modules. I also had to reinstall all the other applications we run in the office testing the compatibility with the new OS. Let’s just say everything went all but smoothly, but after 3 installations of windows, we had the system perfected and ready for deployment. Although I was a little disheartened at first at my lack of success, I remembered that sometimes mistakes are the greatest learning experience and went forward setting up the other PCs around the department. I’ll be READY FOR VACATION when it comes :)
Justin Patterson

You're a hacker???

Last week I had a radical shift in my schedule. While most of my nights had been free in the past, I started taking classes three nights a week. The interesting thing about these courses isn't the specific subject matter, but rather how I found them and why I'm taking them. You see, in my spare time, I'm a hacker.

I don't spend my weekends breaking into websites or stealing credit card information. I won't break into your email or write a virus that finds its way onto your computer. I spend my time learning. Learning how the system works, learning ways the system is or can be broken, learning what issues there are, right now, that could let me hack into your computer. Hacking isn't about breaking into sites or computers, it's about studying how everything works, from top to bottom, to make sure that everything will work the way its expected. Of course, when I tell people that I'm a hacker, that is often not what they first think.

I started reading hacker magazines when I was in high school. When I got to college, I started going to conferences such as HOPE and DefCon, where I got to meet hackers from all over the world. These weren't people who made fraudulent charges to stolen credit cards or broke into websites. They worked with places like Google, Ebay, Microsoft, the state department, the TSA, and countless more. They spent their days trying to break into critical systems , to make sure that no one could get in. And the shocking thing is, they always always find a way in.

Thinking like a hacker has been the biggest single asset to my work as a programmer. Hackers are thorough, checking every part of a system. They don't need to break in through the front door, slipping something through a crack in a metaphorical window is often just as effective, and far harder to detect. Hackers also think about every element of a system. Sure, you may have your software locked down tighter than Fort Knox, but do you have a good lock on the door to the room its in so that they can't get in? Are the walls thin enough that they can break one down easier than picking the lock? This may sound a bit extreme, but its not a joke - in fact, one group won a hacking contest at Defcon by renting the room next door and knocking a hole through the wall. The art of hacking, put simply, is the combination of attention to detail, knowledge of all elements of a system, and the ability to think outside the box on a day to day basis.

Hollywood usually portrays hackers as either cool cyber delinquents who can do anything with a computer, or fat cyber-criminals who sit at a desk 24/7 trying to break into systems, steal money, and overthrow the government. The media has branded hackers as a new wave of cyber thieves. Very few people recognize the simple fact that hacking is just a skill. Many people know how to pick locks. Some of them are criminals, who use their knowledge to break into homes & businesses. Most, though, are locksmiths, using their knowledge to build better locks or let you into your home when you lose your keys.

So the next time you hear someone is a hacker, keep an open mind. You might even be able to learn a thing or two.

Monday, June 28, 2010

AAPD Pizza Party

Of all of the AAPD events so far, the one I have enjoyed the most was the pizza party. It was laid back, not super fancy. For someone who was hungry, it was a quick way to eat. You could grab the pizza, not waiting for someone to take your order. You didn’t have to dress up for the event, people were casual. But it wasn’t only about the food, it was in an informal setting and was a relaxed event.

One of the things that I enjoyed the most was to hear people speaking about their jobs post-graduation. I really liked hearing from former AAPD interns about the jobs they had secured after graduating from college. I also liked the fact that their presentations were short and to the point. I enjoyed the fact the people who were talking to us were young and had been in our shoes not too long ago so I could relate to their experiences.

Of the two women who spoke regarding their post-graduation plans, the one that interested me the most was the women who applied to AmeriCorps and then got a job with a disability-focused nonprofit organization. I realized how valuable this information is because I know that some people who get jobs in particular areas are very competitive and don’t want to share any advice with others as to how they got them.

It has been a great experience this summer meeting my mentor and other professionals with disabilities. Sometimes there are not enough positive role-models. I think a great possible addition to the AAPD intern page would be a “Where are they now?” section letting us know what former AAPD interns are doing, so we could have a broader picture than just the ones we have the opportunity to meet in Washington, D.C. this summer.

Everyday Able-ism

I was hoping things were going to start slowing down, but I guess everything in DC is always going a hundred miles an hour! That’s probably a good thing, as I never have time to get too homesick…although every time I heat up a frozen dinner I miss my mom’s cooking and home a little more.

This week there has been more work, more events, more networking, and more socializing. With this week of more, I have really noticed the contrast between AAPD/disability activities and outings with people with limited to no awareness of the disability community. This is probably a distinction so obvious that it is a waste of typing to say it, but engaging in AAPD/ disability activities sometimes lures me into a false sense of security and acceptance about being treated equally as a person with a disability. In the outings with people with limited to no awareness of the disability community, I am sharply reminded of all the work still left to be done. This is not to diss the “others” or attack them as horrible able-ists, but simply a realization on my part of how fully pride in the disability community has changed me. It’s a good thing to be shocked when someone displays an able-ist attitude, no matter how subtle, it means the community has taught me not to be complacent and not accept these attitudes, no matter how well intentioned, as the norm.

My point in bringing up these other outings is that I have been unsure in how to handle these moments of subtle able-ism. They are usually offhand comments, such as use of the R-word or a mis-phrasing of a question (“So, what’s wrong with the other people in your program?” Instead of asking about the range of disabilities represented- with the recognition that there is nothing “wrong” with our group and specific medical disability labels do not matter or add any insight into who we are as people.) The conversation has typically moved on before I’ve recovered from the shock and am able to form a coherent sentence. I want to educate people, but am often uncertain about the best approach. I don’t want to yell and scream, kick and stomp my perspective into other people, I doubt its effectiveness and kicking and stomping is a lot more physical activity than I have the energy for right now. Lecturing someone can be boring, and a little awkward when the person honestly meant no offense, but just had no disability experience.

Yoshiko’s advice at the Pizza Party this week made think perhaps one of the best ways to combat these everyday situations of able-ism is to lead by example and to change ourselves. Part of this involves being open about our pride in the disability community and showing respect for all members of the community, whether we share the same specific disability category or not (a little cross-disability love and understanding). Showing the importance of the disability community in our actions and speech would hopefully make people re-evaluate their own attitudes. I’d be curious to hear other people’s thoughts on how to deal with these situations.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dinner with the Interns

Thanks to the generously of Cheryl Sensenbrenner, last Saturday I spent the entire day with the AAPD interns by going to both the Newseum and the Capital Grill for dinner. The afternoon was spent at the Newseum, which I found to be pretty neat. I found the 9/11 exhibit to be very moving and particularly liked the Berlin Wall exhibit. Not only did the Newseum have several sections of the Berlin Wall, they also had a three story watch tower. Originally there were over 300 of these towers keeping eye over the Wall but only about a dozen exist today.

After the Newseum, the entire intern class also with some alum went next door to the Capital Grill for dinner. It was my first time at a Capital Grill and it did not disappoint. Many of us stayed at the restaurant for several hours and it was simply a nice opportunity to get to know the other interns and staff better. I had their filet and capped off the night with a delicious three layered chocolate cake. Towards the end of dinner, people started to move to different seats to talk with other people in the party and I got to have a conversation with my Congressman. The whole dinner experience was a nice treat from my usual and plain meals of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

A Week of Social Events

This past week has been a whirlwind of get-togethers for all of the AAPD interns, and I personally loved it. One of the main events this week for Congressional Interns specifically was a Thursday lunch with representatives from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) which funds the Congressional program. The gathering was held at the America Restaurant in Union Station which is just across the street from the Senate side of the Capitol. This was a great opportunity for all of the interns on the Hill to sit down and catch up with each other as well as personally thank the people who are making this opportunity possible for us. It was nice to take a couple hours away from the hustle and bustle of the office in the middle of the week, and the people we met were extremely friendly. By the end of the luncheon, I felt like I understood the purpose and goals of MEAF better. It was also really interesting to hear about other programs that they help fund.

I also had the opportunity to hang out with some of the other interns in a more relaxed setting on Saturday. A group of us decided to catch dinner and tour some of the monuments at night. We started off at Johnny Rockets which is a great burger diner just down the road from our apartment building. The place has a really cool 50’s feel to it, and we had fun getting to know each other better and enjoying the atmosphere. When it was dark enough for the street lights to come on, we began our tour by walking down to the Lincoln Monument. We then proceeded along the reflecting pool to the Korean Memorial (my personal favorite), the World War II memorial, wrapped around back to the Vietnam Memorial, and then headed home. It was a really long walk, but I got some great photos of the different memorials and monuments at night. I think this was a really fun way for some of us to get to know one another outside of the more professional setting of the AAPD events. I really hope we can all get together again soon.

Week 5: Work, but not really

This week was very busy at work and I worked a lot, but it didn't feel at any point like I was fulfilling an obligation or that I was doing something I HAD to do. I had the great opportunity to do very interesting assignments, and I even had the privilege to attend a fund-raising event for another politician at the Capitol Hill Club. It was a small event, so the discussion was intimate. It was a great learning experience to hear industry professionals speak on the issues that I had been working on these past few weeks. The experience thus far has been truly enjoyable. My hope is that when I graduate from college I can find a job similar to this in that it is not only challenging, but that it presents challenges that I am motivated to conquer and overcome.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Internship Blog for Week Five

Today I received the papers to confirm the appointment on Thursday for DHS Access Control Office photo ID. Mr. Liming told me that I have to attend a security briefing on Wednesday from 9am to 11am and after that, report to 3rd floor for the photo ID appointment on Thursday at 9am. He told me that make sure I am all set up and get ready to work together with the team; I am looking forward to this. He gave me my assignments and explain to me what I’m suppose to do with it. I have to make sure to check the paper (name or id number) that they match to other papers with the same unique number in binder and write the name down on papers. When I get a computer then he will give me a project relative to my major. I feel like today was an easy day for me. Mr. Liming told me that he will have a busy day today. There was a meeting and I would like to join with him for the meeting but again, no interpreter. He told me he requested the interpreter next week Tuesday for sure. I said “thank you” and I returned to my office to finish up my paperwork assignment. When I finished the paperwork, I went over and gave to him and he wants me to check again sure if everything is same, matching. If nothing missing then make highlight it. I return to my office again and I look again and again make sure I don’t have anything missing; everything was fine then I made the highlights, after about 2 hours. It was another easy day. I went to security briefing about access to the building and security system. They explain how to protect my photo id and how to secure the computer. When leaving from office or lunch time, always lock the computer. The person told us that we can’t use social networking, such as “Facebook” or “MySpace” because of DHS policy the briefing was almost two hours and then I received the form for photo id. I didn’t need go to my office because my POC told me just go to security briefing and get form for photo id then that was it. I went to DHS to get my new photo id; now I have a badge with me and I don’t need to contact my POC to meet me each morning. My POC told me that I will start new project next week Monday for sure because I got computer today so that means we can communicate thru email. I am so happy; I got almost everything I need and I am excited to start. I had no project today because of the AAPD board meeting at 1pm. I sat in my office today getting familiar with the computer, internet and email formats. One person came to my office and created a new id for me with “WinMagic”. WinMagic” is more secure for disk encryption before entering the welcome page for Windows XP. After lunch, I return to my office then went to AAPD board meeting at Verizon. They discussed celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ADA. Of course, I will be attending to ADA Events on July 20; I think it will be an absolutely awesome event.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Slow Week

Hello all,

This week was a bit dull, compared to the other 4 that have passed. Not that it's necessarily bad that it was a slow week! My main supervisor and one of the project leaders that I’ve been collaborating with were on vacation/training respectively, so there wasn’t much for me to do in terms of deliverable work.

There are 9 main members of the Microsoft Consulting Services CBP team, and there are a few projects that are being worked on by different members. I’m actually equally distributed between the teams, so it’s a fun and interesting experience all around. I’ve had the chance to socialize and make some great connections, not only at work but also with other people in the DC Metro area, which is a very good thing!

On another front, I’ve been working on a few side projects during my time here in DC, and they’ve been progressing nicely, some at a much better rate than others. After I get back home this summer, I’m confident that I’m going to be able to look back and be proud of what I’ve accomplished regarding my side projects.

Honestly, to tell the truth I’m just glad to be in a city environment again. After 5 long years in a rural country area, this city slicker is glad to be somewhere where there are places that I can actually walk to!! J

Till Next Time,

Ron S. Nunes

Week 5

This has to be one the hottest weeks in Washington since I’ve been here, and oddly enough I feel right at home with the weather. In Georgia the temperature is usually around 99 degree’s Fahrenheit if not hotter so I have some experience dealing with kind of weather. The trick is to drink as much fluid and find as much shade as possible while walking.
Work has been great, I started to set up some new desktops we received in the office with all the software that the IT architectural employees in the office will need to complete there complex projects, it has been kind of exciting to get to work with architectural software applications and to get a first hand look at what they use to do there projects. I’m getting hands on work experience with the software so I will be able to list the fact that I can trouble shoot some of the problems they may encounter, using the is newest version of the software on the market. I translated 5 pages of text from English to Spanish for the US Access Board. It feels so empowering, that I will be responsible for tons of people reading the pages that I translated into Spanish, and even though they don’t know I am the translator it is still cool. I met Congressmen Sensenbrenner last weekend and had dinner with him and his lovely wife and Congresswomen Cheryl Sensenbrenner. They were great hosts; they paid for us to go to the Newsuem; and they paid for dinner as well. They are very both very responsible for the implementation of the ADA bill and, congressmen Sensenbrenner helped make the amendments to the ADA bill in 2001.

And so work begins

I finally started work this week, and I'm so glad not to be sitting at home. My week started with two days of orientation where I learned the basics of USCIS operations. It is pretty great to see an organization actually has some sense of computer security, and I even learned a couple things about maintaining secure networks. I have always loved learning about securing networks and software. I often enjoy reading about how people penetrate systems and software, and use that knowledge to secure my own operations.
Later in the week I actually started working. My work is focused on data migration and website development. I got into it pretty quickly and was able to come up with ideas to streamline migration. I am pretty satisfied with my work considering I wrote some code in a language I never used before. It was pretty fun to challenge myself to code without looking up language syntax.
I have (of course) been biking to work every day. And while I endup sweaty and get to change my shirt, it saves me lots of time and money. I can do the two mile ride in about 10 minutes, and that’s only because of the annoying lights.
Welcome to the work force.

DC Heat Wave

I think it is safe to say that this week was the hottest week of summer.

Waking up every morning under the heat and commuting on the metro with no air conditioning, sometimes discouraged me to put on the long sleeve shirt, tie and suite jacket. But I was determined to get free pizza!

On Thursday, all the interns and AAPD staff members gathered at the South Hall residence halls and enjoyed the summer's first pizza party. We shared our experiences at our respective internships and discussed interesting stories that helped everyone see how each of us are contributing to the disability movement. Although this is my first time working with the disability community, I have learned so much in the short amount of time that I have spent here in AAPD.

I have started to notice many accessible entrances, ramps and seats in places I have always been, but never noticed that they were there or knew why they were there. Just the other day, I was on a website that I visit nearly everyday and finally noticed that it was not accessible. Slowly but surely I am starting to realize how much of an influence the disability community can have on the society, not just for people with disabilities but also to those without disabilities.

I recently had a conversation with Helena Berger, who explained to me that she too was new to the disability community when she began her career, and she emphasized that the disability movement needs both disabled and non disabled to help further the mission, and I am truely grateful that AAPD has given me the oppertunity this summer to be part of that mission.

I can see that the sun has no intention in giving us a break, so I am going wrap up and get ready for the weekend. Enjoy your weekend everyone and the worldcups!!

Week Five: A few words with Secretary Vilsack

Week Five
I am still buzzing from my opportunity to speak to Tom Vilsack this week during our USDA intern mixer this Tuesday. After being informed that interns who sit up front are much more likely to get a photo opportunity I arrived 45 min early to the event which was hosted in the Jefferson auditorium. Once I arrived and registered for the event I was allowed to sit directly behind Secretary Vilsack and the other USDA and government officials who attended the event. It was amazing to hear all the different presenters stories of the trials and tribulations they had faced before they finally arrived at their current career, and found that many of them, like myself, were late bloomers in the game of life but through P.R.I.D.E. (perseverance, resilience, innovation, determination or doughnuts :), endurance) have excelled to high levels in the USDA and government. It made me feel like there is still much hope to see success in my own life. After Vilsack finished speaking he allowed for four questions to be asked from the audience of 600+ people. My hand shot up like a rocket, and I had been jotting down possible questions I would ask during the meeting, and was ready to stand up and make my presence felt. The Secretary called on me first! I was almost speechless, but dug deep remembering that first impressions are sometimes your only impression that will be remembered. In the 3rd point of the presentation is food safety and providing this information to the world as one of the biggest focuses, how will you use new technologies to better assist the visually and hearing impaired? His answer took several minutes to complete and ended with him saying it was up to the new generation of tech influenced individuals to better serve these individuals. He then asked what I was doing next summer and if I would consider coming back to work for him! I was even more shocked when he stopped the questions briefly to have ME write my name, email address and attach my business card and hand it to him! I don’t know how I could ever thank him for making me feel so important, but maybe next summer I will find a way :)
Justin Patterson

Week Four - The Fourth Adventure

Good Adventures America, I had a pleasant weekend at the Newseum, a museum about news/journalism. Even if I am not a big fan of museums, there's always plenty of places that interest me. If I do not want to see the horrors of war, I could go downstairs to read a small section about the history of comics in newspapers. The top level of the Newseum had a nice view of the cityscape, I could see the road to the U.S House of Representative. Another part of the museum had stories about journalists risking their lives to publish their news. It can be dangerous but this is what I call adventure.

After the Newseum, we had dinner with Cheryl and Jim. I admire them, they are good examples of leaders who fight for disability rights. I must do good for the rest of the world by helping the disability community. Knowing that we made a difference gives us a good feeling.

About every other day at the USDA, I continue to show my willingness to begin new projects to my employers and coworkers. It is an opportunity for me to improve my skills and experience. I am aware that it is not wise to tackle too many assignments at once. I just want to make the best experience possible from my internship.

Did I tell you that my adventure begins with a fancy brick wall which I have tried to soar high above awarded me a golden scar. My manuscript has scores of golden scars but never did I earn a silver scar. Nothing big it's just a small ticklish scratch. But what if it has happened to you, would it be any different?

Yes, it might be different for them, I am completely aware that society has difficulty finding their positive emotions, happiness. I encountered people who would depart with a grumpy face whenever I express my greetings or gratitude. Communities with no sense of happiness can view joyful people as crazy or insane.

Regardless if we have seen the horrors of the world, happiness still comes from ourselves. It is an ability that one can achieve, it does not have to be pure.

Think big, live large, smile and be happy because I have two lovely quotes to ease your adventures.


"A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships." - Helen Keller

“Disability is not a brave struggle or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live.” -Neil Marcus (Performance Artist)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Disability as an Asset?

One of the many pieces of advice we’ve received from friends of AAPD (I think it was Mat McCollough of the Washington D.C. Office of Disability Rights?) is that oftentimes, many of us can’t hide our disability in the workplace. So instead of thinking of it as an obstacle, we need to examine how we can use it to our advantage. In the past, I’ve engaged in previous work environments with an assumption that I could indeed hide my disability. Yet until now, I haven’t been able to admit to myself that this is often just not possible. To be completely honest, I’ve had some frustrating personal ups & downs around my disability in my work environment. There have been moments where I’ve been (perhaps excessively) self-critical.

Let me make it clear: the vast majority of the time, I'm happy with my performance. Though with this new piece of advice about disability in the workplace, I’ve been questioning whether trying to completely hide mine is even desirable. Even though I certainly believe I have a very positive sense of self as someone with a disability, I can’t say I ever imagined how it could also be an asset in the workplace. For this entry, I think it might useful to list some ways I think my disability can be an asset during my internship:

1) People with autism often thrive on routine. The fact that I prefer to start my day whenever possible by performing a particular task & ending it performing another ensures they’re consistently checked off my to-do list.

2) My tendencies to be detail-oriented & highly organized are often related to my autism. While someone else might rush through something, I am more apt to examine a project much more closely before I complete it. This is particularly important for the current project I’m working on.

3) An ability to memorize & recall quickly can certainly be an asset- it’s not too difficult for me to recall what was said during a hearing or briefing when I may not have been able to write it all down. Not to mention storing all the information for Capitol tours! Or navigating the mazes of the tunnels connecting congressional buildings when I need to get somewhere quickly!

4) When I’m feeling balanced, I can “get in a zone” & become incredibly focused.

5) With a focus on process, I develop a concrete sense of the steps I need to take to accomplish a given goal.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have skills to work on. Some of which are certainly related to my disability. But because of my disability, I do have several specific strengths I can use to improve upon my weaknesses. Which is extremely important to remember.

Simple Gifts

My Dad called me too late. He called me at midnight last night, so I didn't sleep very well.then I stayed awake thinking, probably something really important though don't recall it now. I woke up reluctantly, but found a seat on metro and napped until shot out into the sunshine of New York Avenue which always wakes me up. I went into work not sure what to expect. My desk is kind of out in the middle of the aisle and it was hemmed in on back and side with big boxes of monitors for the new laptops. I went wandering in search of something else to do.

I said Hi to a couple people, including peeking in at the Help Desk where I worked yesterday. I went over to the desk, which is surprisingly close, of the woman who emailed me yesterday about reviewing some online help database articles that she wrote. She and I talked some first about how cameras work because her new desktop's image was stretched. We fixed that. Then she pointed out the training manuals that they were in two different places on the website, confusing. Then before we got to the documents I could revise and write, she showed me around the shared drives and how to color code my email so that I could stay organized.

I worked some and then ate a quick lunch, because I wanted to go to the Wednesday Yoga class. Sun salutations are basic, but I don't know or flex enough to do all of them. We did six sets. I took a child's pose break. The teacher let me do some deep breathing instead of "shining skull breath" where you sort of hyperventilate. I did some deep breathing right after I got home, and it made me slow down. Also right when I got off at Foggy Bottom, I didn't need to go shopping because it was the Farmer's market. I learned how to cook collards from a southern farmer: instead of bacon you can cook them with olive oil and garlic, with fried tomatoes and cornbread on the side. But I ended up buying leeks. Going back to cook dinner they smelled like they were already cooked, onionly wafting out of the bag. So it was a busy but also simple day.

Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!

Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is Kevin Whetstone, I am going to tell you my third week of internship, I been working on database and combine it into excel to fit the agency’s preference. I also went to Department of Defense for a meeting on Microsoft SharePoint with my co-worker to see what his options about it. Also, I attend to meeting to discuss about “Knowledge Management” with my agency. I also attend to AAPD Pizza Party but I was disappointed that my mentor didn’t go but she has a personal reason. Also, I am looking forward to meet more people in my agency to open my background about my work ethics because I think it is great to networking with people. Also, there is AAPD board meeting that I will attend tomorrow since I am writing a blog earlier to get over with, but I really enjoy my internship. Plus, I learn a lot about people’s experience with their internship.

In conclusion, I am happy to be in AAPD because it can give me a future goal and education goal to follow. I’m looking forward to events next week for AAPD and I am ready for my presentation on my project to the team to see if they want to change or make a suggestion. Well, that is all for now.

Take Care,

Kevin

A Week to Remember

Words can hardly capture the surreal experience of attending the highly anticipating BP hearing or hearing Tony Hayward testify in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee in person. Knowing that the event taking place in front of my eyes and that people across the nation were anxiously waiting to hear or read about the words I was hearing my own ears was a surreal experience. To know that at that very moment history was being made and that I was a part of it is an experience that I will always cherish. I was also fortunate to attend the Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Situation in Afghanistan and witness General David Petraeus testify regarding recent developments from the first row open to the public. While Senator McCain was questioning General Petraeus, the General fainted. Thankfully General Petraeus was only suffering from a bout of dehydration. Beyond attending Committee hearings on my off-time, I’ve tried to make the most of my time here in DC this past week by taking advantage of all the activities and opportunities DC has to offer. This week I watched my hometown Royals take on the Nationals, visited the National Museum of American Indian History, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Freer Gallery of Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. From the committee hearings to my time on the National Mall, and the Nationals Stadium, this week truly was a week to remember.

Pizza = happiness

I just got back from the AAPD pizza party, where I got to meet some of the interns I hadn't met yet, see the ones I had, and talk to some great people about some bad TV. This week I spent a lot of time in the office, working especially on a project for Disability Mentoring Day. I’ve also been continuing to work on questions for a program called Life Smarts that encourages consumer knowledge in teens. When I’ve been out of the office, it’s been pretty interesting too. On Wednesday, I (and Jae and Ross, two of the other HQ interns) attended a meeting of the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), which my cubicle-mate Ginny Thornburgh runs. She also runs AAPD’s Interfaith Initiative. At the meeting, religious leaders and disability advocates (and some who wore both hats) came together to talk about the enforcement of the Olmstead decision, which stated that unnecessary institutionalization is in violation of the ADA. There were two speakers, Sam Bagenstos and Henry Claypool, and they both spoke about their work in the government and how they’ve seen the successes and shortcomings of the Olmstead decision. They both were extremely knowledgeable and great speakers. It also gave me an opportunity to get to know Ginny better—even though we sit right next to each other, we rarely get a chance to talk. But we discovered that her granddaughter will be going to my college next year, which was a fun coincidence! In the afternoon I met David at the SilverDocs film festival in Silver Spring—they have something called The Good Pitch, where filmmakers show their films in progress to experts in relevant fields and potential funders, seeking advice and financial backing. David spoke on a panel about a film which tracked Lott Industries, a factory connected with the auto industry that employs hundreds of people with developmental disabilities but is in danger of closing. It was really interesting to hear a variety of perspectives as well as to see the other film proposals at the Good Pitch. Today I went to a meeting of APRAIS, which is the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion to discuss the progress of S. 2860, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, and I participated in a conference call about the temporary high-risk insurance pools for people who have been denied health insurance based on pre-existing conditions that will begin on July 1. This seems like it’s going to be big for health care reform, but the real action will happen in 2014. So now I'm exhausted, and I'm going to take a break from all things AAPD until tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Week 4: Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Last week went so quickly I forgot to post my blog! Work went really well as I really got into the meat and potatoes of some interesting issues. In addition to the work I continued to do regarding finance, I attended a briefing on Down Syndrome where passionate researchers presented compelling arguments on why the "one percent rule" should be amended lower. The argument to have students with disabilities in the mainstream classroom resonated with me because I know my mom had to jump through hoops to have me in a mainstream classroom as I was just starting school. The opportunity to have a world class education should be one that is available to all children. Thankfully, my mom made sure I was given the same opportunities as other kids, which has paid dividends beyond measure. However, some other parents don't have the will or the understanding of the law to argue on behalf of their children. As a result, there will be children that fall between the cracks. Fortunately, schools have to do a better job educating all students as a result of NCLB. NCLB is easily enforced, whereas IDEA was not enforceable. With the re-authorization of NCLB pending, even more children will be given the right to the education they deserve.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Second Post

This was a very interesting week for me. First off, I got to go to an interesting panel discussion on philanthropy in the private sector through my internship program, The Washington Center. It was not the most applicable topic for unpaid interns, but it is still something that I did not know about before that I do now. I also got to attend a Google event with AAPD interns which was my first time meeting many of them. I really enjoyed the panel’s discussion as it was very relevant to what an intern would want to know, and I can thank Robin for choosing such appropriate questions to ask. The last event I went to this week was a USAID visit, in which we heard a short lecture by a senior executive who runs the Middle East division of the agency. I was amazed at the amount of accomplishments this man had achieved internationally, and it really gave you an insider’s perspective of what the US’s goals are in that area of the world.

My big task this week was to construct the ADA Anniversary Events web page. I had been compiling a list of all the events I had found or had been given to us, and simply transferred them to the new web page. With some minor formatting, hyperlinks, and copy/pasting the page was coming along great. Then I was asked to put all the events into a Google map to make it more accessible, and then find a way to put it on the web page. In the process of inserting this beautiful Google Map I had created on the web page, I haphazardly inserted its code and ruined the entire page. I spent the next day correcting my error, and was able to fix the problem with no more major slip ups. All’s well that ends well I guess.

Web development step 2: Let’s take a step back.

So, you’ve read up on basic web development, maybe tried a little bit of HTML/CSS. You’re all set to start making your website. But wait, what are you going to put on it?

All too often I get contacted by small businesses that want to attract business over the web. They are convinced, and rightly so, that a good website will boost the amount of new customers they bring in. Unfortunately, no one ever seems to put any thought into what they will actually put online. Content is king, and no web developer is going to fill the place of lacking content. With that in mind, here are a few guidelines in figuring out what to put on your site.

Make a list:

Start by listing out the different areas/pages of your site. About & contact are a standard place to start. Maybe you want a separate page talking about the history of your business, or a page to sign up for a company newsletter. This list is by no means permanent, but it is still the most important part of the process. Make sure you keep referring back to it throughout your work, both to fill in details and add ideas for other pages you come up with.

Use what you already have:

Most businesses have an information pamphlet, existing ad in magazines or local newspapers, or other printed material. Assemble as much of this as you can, as it will help you flesh out some of the ancillary pages of your site. It may also be a good idea to keep in mind the design & color scheme of existing logos and pamphlets when working on your site design. Even if you choose not to reuse the material, it will a good idea of what you already have & what you may need to reprint to keep your company brand consistent.

Research your competition:

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s an important step people often miss. Look at what competing/related businesses have on their web sites. Make sure there’s no important element that you are leaving out of your design, such as adding menu information for a restaurant. Don’t just focus on your competitors, but look at any business that markets itself in a similar way. Be on the lookout for interesting designs as well, and make sure to write down the URL of any particular site that stands out. If you are having trouble programming in a design element, you can always go back to the site that inspired it and take a look at how they accomplished it.

Put it all together:

Sit down with a pen & paper and sketch out the general layout of your site. You want to make sure that you have a general idea of what elements are gong where on the page, before you begin writing your code. If you are doing the design as well, put in the major color themes at this point, and put wire-frame or other block stand-ins where you plan to add images.

Don’t be afraid to get help:

Professional designers, copy editors, marketers, and usability experts can all bring a major improvement to your site, and often will be what sets you apart from your competition. Don’t be afraid to bring in an expert in an area you don’t feel confident in. I have yet to find someone who regretted spending an extra few hundred dollars to make sure their website was perfect.

With those steps done, you should have a pretty good idea of what your site will look like. Depending on the complexity of your site, you may already have enough knowledge to start building it. More complicated sites may require either a framework/content-management-system, server side programming, or both. Hopefully I will get to explaining those in a future article.

Georgetown

This weekend I walked the Georgetown neighborhood and the Georgetown University campus. It was quite a walk from Foggy Bottom but totally worth it. The neighborhood was full of restaurants, shops and historic buildings. I kept stopping every time I saw a plaque, but then realized that if I continued doing that I would never get back to my dorm. I saw the Georgetown University campus and the buildings around Healy Circle made me think of Harry Potter. I got a good view of the Potomac River and passed by the row house that had been the residence of then Senator John F. Kennedy.

I was trying to find something to give my Dad for Father’s Day. I couldn’t think of what to get him. I was starting to think I would just get him a card when I became hungry and walked by “Mr. Smith”, a restaurant and bar. I remembered then that my parents had been there several times many years ago, so I decided to have something to eat, and then it occurred to me that maybe I could get my Dad something from one of the places he talked about from his years living in D.C. I asked the waitress if they sold any souvenirs with the restaurant’s logo and slogan and sure they did. So I ended up having dinner and doing my Father’s Day shopping at the same place. And yes, Dad was right, the food was good, the waitress friendly and they had live piano music, which was great. After dinner I walked back to the dorm and I was exhausted, but I did have the opportunity to go by many of the places I heard stories about at home from Dad. Foggy Bottom is a great neighborhood but Georgetown is just a good walk away and it is great too. Everyone should go to Georgetown at least once.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Internship Blog for Week Four

I had my first day of working at my internship finally, after three weeks! There were two interpreters with me all day and I was so glad for that! I met Mr. Liming (he is my superior) and he said “welcome to DHS”. He said, “You can come to work anytime and that fits your schedule. That means he gives to me a flexible schedule but I’d rather be there at 8:45am to 3:30 or 4pm. I went to three meetings that day and observe some very busy people who were calling on the phone to discuss if they agree or disagree, related to the computer server, etc.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get computer account yet because of more deep security checks, and I have to sign the form about Rules of Behavior. I asked, “When I can get the computer?” He said, “Next week Wednesday (June 23, 2010) because I attended the scheduled security training this week then will be able to attend on June 23, 2010 for the computer training. Mr. Liming told me that I have to read the DHS policy requirements. I was enjoying keeping busy and it was very interesting to read and learn about DHS.

The next day, there was no interpreter but I could speak to Mr. Liming and we seemed to understand each other and then I went to my office and read the DHS policy book. Mr. Liming came to my office and let me know that pizza arrived. I then went to the conference room and enjoyed some pizza and pop. The team wanted everyone to introduce ourselves to each other. Mr. Liming introduced me and I met some new people and I really liked it because they are all so friendly. After the lunch, he gives me assignment to make the punch holes in the papers and connect to big binder. It took about 30 minutes.

Sarah Peterson then came to my office in which a private one-on-one conversation happened for site visits. Sarah and I were talking about feedback AAPD for next year. She asked me, “Will you recommend to your friends?” I said “sure” because AAPD helps students with disabilities find great jobs in the future. We were talking like 45 minutes. I went for a tour with Mr. Liming; we went to downtown to different buildings for USB Flash Drives. We went to different buildings like three times; the outside of buildings are beautiful and weather there was good.

I enjoyed chatting with him and to getting to know each other as well. Next week, for sure I will get a project to really keep me busy; I am looking forward to it. I feel this is going to be an awesome experience for me and I can’t wait to continue and get “hands on” next week and do some real working!

Decisions, Decisions....

Day Al-Mohamed, my mentor, has already been a big help to me during this internship experience. As I was challenged to come up with an answer to where I see myself in five years, the question of whether I want to engage in policy advocacy or implementation of policy was very apparent. My political experience thus far has largely had a foundation in grassroots advocacy, especially in the non-profit sector. The idea that this environment may not be the one I want to be in, or even the one I work best in, is hard to let go of. It’s been where I’ve been vaguely setting my career goals for the last five years. However, working with Day as her mentee has made me realize perhaps it’s a good thing that I’m starting to realize this now. I’ve learned from her that simply “floating” through one’s career, taking whatever happens to be in your sight next, is rarely meaningful. It’s important to be deliberate in where you want to go and most importantly, acknowledging you won’t necessarily stay on the same path.

Nor will you necessarily get onto the path you want to be on right away, either. This was something I took away from my lunch with Lacy Pittman, a policy analyst at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL). She also reminded me how important it is to articulate what my passion is and stick to it, even if I’m taking some time to reach some specifics while I still can. Although considering how she also told me about her advocacy in favor of specific legislation with NCIL, perhaps there are opportunities to both advocate for and implement policy, even if not to the same extent. I’m glad I had lunch with Lacy, since NCIL is a group I would certainly see myself working with in the future. NCIL reflects my philosophy that people with disabilities are the individuals who are able to most effectively deem which ways of living and working are best for themselves. This right to individual autonomy & philosophy of “nothing about it without us” are components which have largely reflected my past and present organizing work around reproductive justice as well. Therefore, these are two components I’ve found where one can find an intersection of reproductive justice and disability justice. The independent living movement and the reproductive justice movement both question inherent medical models in our society which articulate disability as serving to decrease one’s quality of life. As someone with an autism spectrum disorder, I certainly find solidarity in this way of thinking with my frustration when I hear individuals who want to find a cure for autism- while I can understand why many loved ones of people with autism would wish for such medical intervention, those of us with autism spectrum disorders do not see ourselves as “problems” or even “puzzles” for that matter. While communication may be difficult at times, it does not make us any less as human beings.

Lastly, I was also thankful that P.J. Edington, Government Programs Executive at IBM, also took time out of her day to meet with me. From her I learned how important it is to build multiple professional networks. For example, while Smith College prides itself on not having an “old boys club” but an “ageless women’s network” it’s up to me to seek it out. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to do so this summer and maybe I’ll even meet some additional members of the disability who are also Smith College alumnae while I’m at it!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Good week!

This week went rather well. I am getting adjusted quite well and have a somewhat consistent routine down now. Currently, at work, I am learning about the in's and out's of Drupal, a content management systems, which is used by the many offices in the DoC to maintain their web sites. I am glad that it is something that I have not learned about before and it is also something that I could use for my own purposes. I have come to determine that my one co-worker reminds me of Ryan from the television series "The Office" and the web developer in the office reminds me of someone from back home who is a diesel mechanic; just thought I would add that for the humor of it.

I have also been running a lot, as I am currently registered to run the Marine Corps Marathon. I have been many places in DC and have got to explore the area on my runs; I have even been to Virginia! My runs are rather enjoyable given the wide array of monuments and places to go around here. I recently ran to the Air Force memorial, which is about a 7-mile run round trip.

The week ended very well with a tour of the Newseum, hosted by the very generous and delightful Cheryl Sensenbrenner, and her husband Congressman Sensenbrenner. That was such a great experience as the museum was just amazing. I enjoyed the interactive parts of the museum, as well as being able to see the most prestigious news staples throughout history. Also, the dinner that we were also graced with afterwards, at the Capital Grille, was awesome. I was fortunate to be able to sit with two interesting and funny gentlemen, David McKee and Nick Imparato. What a great day it was!

Friday, June 18, 2010

1 Month this Sunday

Hello all,

For starters, this Sunday it will be one month since I started my internship. There have been some ups and downs along the way, but I feel that I’ve really settled in at my placement, and things are starting to go really well for me.

The type of work I’m doing is interesting yet completely different from what I expected. I’m a get-it-done kind of guy, and while I had some previous experience at consulting to customers, this internship takes it to a whole new level. I’m working directly with the Public Sector division of Microsoft, and together we provide consulting services to the Customs and Border Protection branch of the Department of Homeland Security. The role of consultant is just that however, a consulting role. 99.9% of all implementation and actual tasks are done by on-staff CBP IT employees. We essentially guide them and suggest possible ways to better do certain tasks, and of course, recommend Microsoft products and help with implementation of said Microsoft products.

It’s not quite what I expected, but it’s not a bad experience at all. In fact, I quite like the kind of work I’m doing. I’m stretched a bit thin at the moment, between several separate projects, and more being added to the list every day, but I can handle it. I hope that I’m able to make an impact on the workplace, so that when I’m gone they remember the intern from this summer who was there and helped out, and made a difference in how things operate.

Until next time,

Ron S. Nunes

Amazing Week

Hello Ladies and Gentleman,

How are you guys doing? I am doing very well, and just glad that this week was over because I been busy with creating more table to agency’s database, also, my boss was impressed with my work and I am very outgoing with the projects and asked for more projects. Also, I finally meet my mentor, Angela Kuhn; she could read this blog, because I am going to say something about her. I am very impressed with her encouraged with me because she sees that I can success in Business world, mostly with federal agencies, because I am very into military agencies and want to help them.

Tomorrow, I am going to tour with other interns, hopefully that would help me to networking with people that I will meet at the tour because I want to get a chance to get know the city, itself because I start to like the city, it keeps me busy and I always get a good sleep. Oh yeah, I went to the event, Google and that was amazing because I always want to attend to Google headquarters, I met the important people and listen to their good advices for me and other interns. I really enjoyed the event and looking forward to more events, soon.

In conclusion, I am ready for the weekend and looking forward to next week because there would be AAPD Pizza Party, I love pizzas.

Take care,

Kevin

Week 4

This past semester I wrote a paper on the representation of disability in the Harry Potter series. One of my more minor claims was that political establishments and governments serve as the enforcers of the borders of normalcy, and thus determine which abilities will be appreciated and which will be marginalized. To kind of back peddle, and hopefully make this a little more clear, the entire argument behind this paper is that disability is not a category inherent in itself, but a category created by how a society or culture defines what is normal or what is abnormal. Disability therefore comes to define a group of people who are excluded from standards of normalcy. The point about politics and government is that political institutions codify social ideas of normal/abnormal or what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

This was a long way of saying, now that I am settling into my internship, and learning more about the ins and outs of governmental work, I am doubting my original claims and more fully appreciating the significance of the ADA. In my thesis I minimized the significance of the government, saying it was merely a source of legitimacy from which to enforce these ideas of normalcy. Learning more about the buildup to this year’s 20th anniversary of the ADA, I am realizing the significance of the ADA is the way it reconstructs and redefines the category of disability, contrary to society’s dominant ideas about disability at the time. Of course this is exactly what all the leaders and activists involved in the passage of the ADA have been saying, but as an “ADA Baby” (meaning I grew up with the ADA already enacted) I guess I did not really understand the magnitude. For me, equal rights for our community has seemed like an inevitable progression, something basically guaranteed to occur. I grew up with the “luxury” (for lack of a more accurate word) of pride in the disability community and the expectation of equal rights. But the leaders and activists who worked for the ADA’s passage not only had to work to keep that pride alive in themselves, but also convince others that the expectation of equal rights for the disability community needed to be legislated and legitimized by the government, contrary to popular opinion’s...misunderstandings.

As so many have been recounting, the success of the ADA lies partially in the changed attitudes of society towards the disability community. Through this internship, I am getting a glimpse of how monumental this success really is. Everyday, constituents are calling, emailing, writing, or visiting, pushing for their positions, wanting their voice to be heard, and hoping to influence the direction of our nation. I am only now beginning to imagine all the activism and exhausting work it took to get disability rights on the agenda, let alone passed through the legislative process.

Week 3

This week has been jam-packed, as usual. On Monday, I went to a meeting of the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (AAPD is a member) to talk about the newly-formed Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and how fiscal reform might affect the disability community. Tuesday I participated in a Webinar on disability employment. David presented using a Powerpoint I made on Disability Mentoring Day, and it was kind of cool to see it officially presented. Wednesday I went to another Congressional hearing; this time it was about HHS’s actions to deal with potential health effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As far as I could tell, there’s going to be big trouble down there, because the basic message I got from the hearing is that they don’t know what the effects are going to be. People are being exposed to massive amounts of oil and volatile agents they’re using to clean it up, which hasn’t really happened at this magnitude before. Yikes. After the hearing, I rushed to Google for our event. I had a great time there—I have never seen offices that cool before. Who has a giant Google Earth machine?? And that game room? Also I really found the panel to be interesting and informative--I especially liked what they said about bringing the knowledge of disability issues into any field. Thursday I worked on a couple of JFA articles and did some research for another DMD thing. This morning, I went to a meeting about possible cuts to Social Security. On another note, I’m really excited for the Newseum tour this weekend—I’ve heard it’s awesome, and I really haven’t been to see DC touristy things here yet. Then afterwards I’m having dinner with my grandparents at a restaurant that’s supposed to be great, so things are looking good!

The Capital Building

One of my jobs as an intern involves making Capital tour reservations for constituents of the Congressman and then take them on a tour of the building. Today I had to go through tour training at the Capital Building so I know how to give a quality tour. Even though training consisted of an all day class, I found it really interesting because I got to learn a bunch of cool facts about the Congress and the building itself. I visited both the old House and the Senate chambers, the old Supreme Court and out course, the Rotunda. In addition to learning about what I need to say while on my tour and where in the building I need to take constituents, the tour training places a very strong emphasis on disability etiquette. It was really nice to see the Capital Visitor Center address the issue of accessibility and coach the class on how to make a Capital tour accommodating for everyone in the party. They even have a staff on hand at the Capital who is dedicated to helping tour guides if they ever have a problem figuring out a way to appropriately assist a person with disabilities.

A Move from the Mundane

I have talked about some pretty dry policy and legislative issues for a couple of posts, but as everyone knows, DC is more than the center for our federal government. It’s a living, breathing metropolis full of interesting people from all walks of life. Last night, I had the opportunity to meet and socialize with a variety of people who belong to an organization called the “Hidden Army”. They describe themselves as a group “for the next generation of leaders within the disability community, who happen to live in the DC metro area.” Their membership base includes both people with or without disabilities, but they do request that you have “an interest in the disability community, culture, history, and public policy. The Hidden Army hosts a dinner or happy hour gathering every so often throughout the year. This month, they all met at the Black Finn Restaurant near the Farragut West area of DC. Since a couple of my suitemates and I had heard about this through our AAPD orientation, we decided to give it a shot, and I am really glad we did. Even though we were all a little late (the event started at 6pm, we didn’t get there until 6:30pm because of work), everyone was very welcoming and inviting. We were able to recognize a few faces from people who had spoken at out AAPD orientation, but we also had the opportunity to network with some new individuals. I had a great time speaking with both Sarah Jacobs and Daniel Davis last night. Sarah volunteered with AAPD for some time, and she is going to be starting a new job at the IRS soon. It was great to hear about her past experience within AAPD, and it was also really exciting to hear the details of her new career. Sarah also gave me some great “girly” advice about the city in general….where to shop, the salons to go to, etc which I highly appreciate. The other person I had the opportunity to speak with was Daniel Davis who works for Health and Human Services. I am very interested in the field of Public Health, so when I heard where he worked, the first thought that clicked in my head was “I HAVE to speak with this guy”. Daniel is a fountain of information, and he is more than willing to share his experience with the next generation of leaders which was excellent. After last night, I am very excited to communicate with both Sarah and Daniel more as well as any others I meet at future Hidden Army events. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the founders of the Hidden Army. I think it is great that young professionals with a similar tie can all get together to both relax and network in a setting such as this. Thank you very, very much!!

Google!

This weeks highlight would definitely the Google event!

All the interns got together at the What Can You Do? event, hosted by Google, where they had the chance to listen and speak to a panel of successful members of the disability community. It was very interesting to hear what the panel had to say about being an employee with a disability and how you can make the best of it.

They emphasized that "at work, it's what people can do that matters."

Members of the panel also shared their experiences on their career paths and how they ended up with the positions they have today. One thing they said, that really hit me, was that nothing is set in stone, that you never know where one job or internship can lead you into.

Another discussion that was interesting was the employee boundary conversation. It was nice to hear that we are not obligated to answer e-mails that come in at 3:30 in the morning, although I'm sure that as interns this doesn't happen as much, but for future reference it was a good advice!

They also told us that we should all be taking advantage of our environment, and explore DC while we have the chance. They gave us great suggestions on museums, monuments and parks, some of which I have never even heard of, even though I grew up near the area! So, now I am determined to check out all the attraction that DC has to offer!

I also learned a great deal about Google. I am not determined to get an internship at Google next year, after hearing that the company provides them with a chef to make them lunch everyday, and their food was delicious! Oh and of course, some of the employees were wearing shirts and jeans as their work attire.

But of course, nothing beats the office setting of AAPD!

I am looking forward to seeing everyone again at our next event.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Week Three - The Third Adventure

Life with a disability comes in many forms, my deafness is a gift and a curse. Being deaf allows me to be better listener. Allows me to have more patience with problem solving skills. I can do anything except hear but I still would love to hear. Instead of viewing deafness as chains that pulls me down, I use these chains as ropes to climb towards triumph. This interview with Sarah today had me take a good look at what I think about my disability. It's still good to remember how my disability makes me a much smarter person.

Let's talk about my job, it's exciting like golfing so I hope it doesn't bore you. I was working on .NET programming to enhance a web application for webmasters. A webpage that allows users to manipulate transferring images to the server. It's like a web image uploader with more advanced features. I am glad that there's enough work on the plate. My job now seems to be all about Web Development at the moment.

Another adventurous week, I have attended to the "Google Speed Lead Event." There were discussions from successful people with disabilities. As interns we can learn from their experience to create a positive outlook for our futures. I learned that they set the boundaries to become examples of good leaders. Their helpful advice encourages me that I should take advantage in helping the AAPD to create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Other than discussions, I am informed on why it's important to choose the right career path. It just hit me again because I always continue to dream big. Am I actually choosing the right career path? Before my career even started, I wanted to be a captain, a director, a billionaire, a agent, a architect, a superhero, or a monk. My career path is fine, I do not hate it. Regardless what my career path is, the first thing I must do is live life to the fullest.

If I was a billionaire, I would give all of my money to the charities and become a billionaire again just to prove myself that being disabled means nothing.

One more quote for one more adventure.

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.” - Hellen Keller

DC, an Incredible Opportunity

During the short amount of time I’ve spent in DC this summer has enabled me to see how truly special this experience is. No other city in the United States affords residents the opportunities to educate themselves about national treasures on the weekend, to experience the empowering sense of patriotism and gratitude for the sacrifices made by our service men and women on Memorial day, nor the surreal experience of attending events and later reading about them on nationally distributed media. Thanks to the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s generosity in funding American Association of People with Disabilities’ (AAPD) Congressional Internship Program, I’ve acquired skills, knowledge, and opportunities that I will take with me long after I leave DC later this summer. But it’s not just about the phenomenal experiences we have as individuals or the great moments we’ve already shared as a group. Rather, I’m excited that in the relatively small amount of time being an AAPD intern has had such a profound impact and most of the summer still beckons. At the beginning of each week I set small goals from visiting at least two Museums each week, to professional goals, and personal development goals. I believe that this process will enable me to continue to capitalize upon all the opportunities that DC has to offer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Learning Lots

June 16, 2010
I felt tired by meeting so many new people. Takes some time to process but sometimes don’t have that going from one thing (work) to the next (event). I was blessed though by those who were good listeners as I tried to be too. Someone else got lost Coming to the Google event, and went in the opposite Art Deco building. (they probably got that a lot because they instantly knew what I was talking about) And then Leaving I got so caught up in talking that I didn’t watch where I was going and forgot where the Metro was and Yair and others pointed me in the right direction. He told me about some neat things like the Replicator? Printer that can print a 3-D model of itself. I hope to follow up and learn more from him as a resource. I am reminded of what I did in work this week. I am still getting trained so I didn’t get to do hands-on, but I did learn a lot by following the lead tech around. He had been bugging me nicely to come over to the Help Desk, so I followed through. First someone’s hard drive wasn’t working so we went back and forth between her computer and setting up a session to ‘drop’ the image onto her computer from the network. He also tried a new toy to see if he could recover her data from her hard drive but it didn’t work so he had to give her a new hard drive too. We heard rumors of ice cream and turned out we only had to go downstairs and it was given out for our work on the laptop rollout. I had mint with extra whip cream, which I would eat solo if I could. Then I went back up for more shadowing. After lunch I saw a variety of users with different gadgets. Someone had lost part of a laser pointer, and that caused some frustration but the techs moved on with work. People came directly to the help desk like one woman who thought her printer was there, which isn’t surprising since they all have long numbers and hers was 71 and ours was 17 something. The tech walked with her and showed her where it was, and also she needed it changed back to the default. We got back and someone else came in wanting to scan a paper, and though the tech said he didn’t do it for people, he sat down and did it explaining as he went. The guy helped was happy because he wanted to save the page for his records because it was a case that went well. I think there was a lot going on so it could have been overwhelming but it was interesting to learn. I hope that I can explain so other people will get a feeling for what I’m doing. And I will try next time to include the boring parts, but this week wasn’t really. Ask me if you see me and I will try to be honest. Oh and also about the plotter printer, cuz that was cool.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Week Four

Week Four
This week started off with a whirl before 7 AM. Monday was composed of creating a 3 page 13 website proposal of the changes that we suggest to the current USDA website. Stephanie another intern working for AMS (American Marketing Services) Dairy Programs and I worked diligently to finish the project by noon so that we could email it so it could be reviewed before the Tuesday meeting.
After a rushed lunch I had to begin putting together my PCAT (Public Comment Analysis Toolkit) presentation which was due by 2:30 PM for a conference meeting with Lionel Patterson. I just finished the training material before 2:25 PM when Lionel called to begin the live meeting. After a few bugs were worked out the meeting flew by like a breeze and I was able to answer all questions asked of me with little difficulty. The meeting filled me with a new sense of accomplishment for the day. I looked at the clock and it was approaching 5 PM. I felt like the day had gone by with a blink, though the time said differently.
Tuesday was my biggest success, and hardest day of the week. After an early 5 AM start to the day, I was on the subway destined to work. I knew I had to head in early, and would be at work late due to my 3 meetings and web site crawling (testing every link and connecting link that appears) of 539 different connections. The meeting went amazing and it ended with a little demo of the robotic software that will soon be provided to our office so we no longer have to manually crawl through the Dairy Programs website in search of broken links. I was so grateful and offered up my Audio Visual expertise any time he would need it. Then I had a final meeting I arrived late to where I had to present the Public Comment Analyzer Toolkit I have been creating with Dr. Stuart Shulman from U Mass. I am preparing a video training platform for Dr Shulman due to the fact that Wikis are difficult to use without the aid of visual representation of what tasks you are trying to accomplish.
Justin Patterson

Busy Busy Week

Last week I was able to attend a congressional hearing for technological and communications accessibility with the interns here in the office. It was my first hearing, and it was by far the best experience I have had so far working DC. It was like watching C-span, but less mundane and boring. It was more interesting because I was there in person and was able to see the reactions of the crowd when they heard something they did not agree with. I can definitely say that it was not what I expected at all, you can feel the tension in the air between the opposing sides and there were a lot more emotions that I had expected. I hope that I can attend more of these hearings while I am here for the summer, and for those of you who have not been to one, just try to sneak into one when you can!

I also spoke with Jenifer Simpson, AAPD's Senior Director of Government Affairs, whom I interviewed for the ADA video countdown project. Being a mother of someone with disabilities, she offered a different perspective of what the ADA meant for son Joshua, and how it has affected her. It was great to see a different aspect of the disability community. The video can be seen here! http://bit.ly/aj9nA1

I also attended a meeting for It's Our Story, a documentary in the making by Victor Pineda and Scott Cooper. They gave a presentation on what the documentary meant for them and how they need everyone’s support from the disability community. I was amazed to see how much work they put in the past five years, traveling to over 100 cities and conducting more than 1000 interviews! This is definitely something that everyone should be on the lookout for and should help support!



Work and World Cup Soccer

The office has been pretty quite so far this week but it is only Wednesday. There have been some minor hiccups the voice mail system of the entire office is messed up. The time stamp on the voice mail system is off by six hours so I may get a voice mail at 8:30 am but the voice mail says the message was left at 2:30 am. This can pose a big problem as far as figuring out what time they called. The other problem I ran into was the email server messed up and would not allow people to send out emails because it said that all the email accounts had no more storage space on the server which was not true there was only one email account that was taking up a large majority of the space all I had to was get him to clean out some of his old emails so it was a quick and easy fix. This past weekend watched the world cup at the apartment and had Robert Schlaeger, Jimmy Curran, Anwar Alumeyri. The teams I am pulling for are Spain, Brazil, and USA if any of those 3 make to the finals and win I’ll be a happy camper. Spain plays Wednesday at 10 am I can’t wait see how they do because this is their first match and this game will set the tempo for all the other games they will play. The USA plays Friday at 10 am that is another game I want to see because they did exceptionally well against England so it should be a good game they are playing Slovenia. Brazil plays the Ivory Coast on Sunday at 2:30 pm I think this will be a good game because Ivory Coast put up a good fight against Portugal yesterday so they should give Brazil a run for their money but I predict Brazil will win.

Monday, June 14, 2010

From the Pentagon to Congress...

My week started out with the coolest thing I've done this summer: visiting the Pentagon.

I was lucky enough to get a meeting at the CAPTEC office, a lab devoted to accessibility solutions for the pentagon, servicemen, and a host of other agencies they are partnered with. They have nearly every piece of accessibility tech you could ever want, and specialize in figuring out what people need & procuring it for them at no extra cost to the agency they work for.
My meeting was about developing accessible websites. I was able to try browsing the website I am currently working on using JAWS, a popular screen magnifier, and dragon dictate. This allowed me to get a really good idea of how to make websites that are not only 508 compliant, but easily used by those with all types of disabilities.

This was quickly followed up by the second coolest thing I've done so far: Seeing a congressional hearing.
Specifically, the house telecommunications subcommittee hearing on HR 3101, the proposed update to the ADA regulations regarding accessible communications equipment. There were representatives from a few disability associations, as well as some consumer electronic and telecommunication advocates, each stating their case. Currently the proposed law requires that all devices have accessibility features built in, but the tech sector is arguing that this will stifle innovation and kill small businesses. While I knew that these regulations were a contentious issue, I was not expecting the debate to get as heated as it did. It is clear that some major improvements need to be made before it goes up for a vote, but everyone is hopeful that it can be finished in time for the ADA 20th anniversary next month.

So, that was my week. It is so amazing being in Washington DC and being able to do these things with relative ease. I can't wait to see what the rest of my internship will bring.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The White House

I was once told that the neatest picture someone can get of themselves and the White House is a picture that has no gate bars in the back ground. On Tuesday night my congressman and his wife invited me to a picnic at the White House south lawn. Not only did I go into the White House after passing through very difficult security, I had the opportunity to take plenty pictures of the White House close up and meet President Obama. Our meeting was brief, but I got to shake his hand and snap a quick picture. There were many Washington politicians there along with their families. A live band played tunes while the guests had the pleasure to choosing picnic food from different parts of the country. In addition to meeting the President, my congressman walked me around the party and introduced me to other politicians. It was a very special and unique experience that I will remember for a very long time. Meeting the President and being on the White House grounds will definitely be a memorable moment from this summer.

a bit late, but worth the wait

Week 3 in DC brings me: still no job (waiting for clearance... oops), and the love of my life is in town! Yes! My dearest tension arrived in a few pieces and I put her together. OK, to clarify, tension is my bike and the love of my life...


As you can see, it has bright yellow rims and a pretty pink chain. It's whats known as a fixed gear... it has only one gear, and that gear is connected directly to the tire so if you pedal backwards you go backwards and there's no coasting.

When it got here it had around 2350 miles on it, and I did at least 60 miles on it this week. The first ride was a 10 mile ride (20 round trip) along the path by GW. Towards the end the path turned to gravel and I kinda got lost in a small town haha! Thankfully I have an iPhone with gps. My second ride, today.. I went down to Mt. Vernon. I think it was a 20 mile ride (40 round trip) and it was a great challenge. Fixed gears are meant for city streets or track racing in a velodrome. Many bike messengers use them, and I've seen a few on DC streets.. however they do not work good on hills, so I had a fun fight climbing them. But I did it! And it was a beautiful ride, much nicer than the path I usually take in Chicago. However, biking the streets in Chicago is a lot better because the cars don't stop.. that may sound weird, but I've gotten use to timing it perfectly so I can bike without stopping for traffic. IE at a stop sign I slow down just enough to go through right after a car does... But in DC they stop and wait, so it throws off my timing and I end up slowing down even more... because in Chicago if your "timing" gets messed up chances are when you go through you'll be hit.. so you have to stop.

Having my bike is great, I plan on not using the metro at all (except on rare occasions) and the money I save will offset the cost of shipping it here. plus its greener! yay green!

Other than biking, I went to capital pride (the gay pride parade) and that was pretty fun. Nothing like a bunch of cute guys and girls dancing on floats to lady GaGa.. Honestly nothing can top the pride parade in Chicago, theres wayyyyyy more floats and loud music and the streets are packed. I was actually pretty surprised at the turn out, and its great to know so many people are so accepting. We are all humans, and all deserve to be free to love and live without restriction. Imagine if they banned disabled people from getting married!
This country has a long road equality, and I'm proud to be a voice in it.

Other than miscellaneous adventures, I wrote some poetry and did a bunch of programming. I launched a website for my old teacher and hopefully it will take off.
So far I'm liking DC, granted I would like it more if I were working, but stuff happens and you just gotta "roll with it"

peace + love
Matt

Week 3: Do Everything Twice

Week 3 was a roller coaster ride as it was my first experience as an Intern while Congress is in session. While my work is intellectually stimulating and relevant, I will share an experience I had yesterday that I thought was somewhat profound. My mom is in town for the week so I thought I'd dutifully take her to see all of the monuments on her first day, but I found my second-time around visiting the monuments even more eye-opening than the first. I took her to see the FDR Memorial where my favorite statue is of FDR in a wheelchair. Directly behind the statue is a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that reads as follows, "Franklin's illness... gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons- infinite patience and never-ending persistence." This quote truly resonated with me as I never viewed my disability as a handicap or disadvantage, but as a blessing. Given the obstacles I have overcome in my past and my successes thus far, I feel like there is nothing I can't do. I wouldn't change that for the world.

Jimmy Curran
Week 3 was a roller coaster ride as it was my first experience as an Intern while Congress is in session. While the work that I am engaged in is intellectually stimulating and relevant, I will choose to discuss another event that occurred today that I thought was somewhat profound.

Another week!

Hey everyone!

So I just finished my second week at HQ, and I'm still loving it. This week was exhausting, but also pretty exciting. I went to two briefings on health care reform (one on the general state of health care and one on HC from a disability perspective), and I think I'm starting to understand what's happening with it. On the other hand, the more I learn about health care, the more I realize that it's extremely complicated. Either way, it's going to mean big things for people with disabilities. I am also working on a project that involves incorporating disability into a program called LifeSmarts, which is a program to promote consumer awareness and knowledge in teenagers. It might seem trivial, but disability is so often neglected as a subject that I think it's really important to get in wherever we can. I also got published this week! Check out JFA if you're interested, but I wrote two articles last week (one on market regulation for medical devices and one about the proposed Hearing Aid Tax Credit Assistance Act), and now they're up on the blog.

After work, I've mostly just been hanging around my neighborhood and getting to know my roommates. I also think I mentioned I have some family and friends around - this weekend I met my cousin for breakfast and hung out with my sister quite a bit. Last night we went to a barbecue at her friend's house in Maryland, and I saw someone I knew from school. It was a lot of fun! Also, I have to mention that people were going CRAZY yesterday in Dupont Circle when the US tied England in the World Cup. They were acting like we had won the whole Cup, but it was fun to be around all the excitement. More next week!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Internship Blog for Week Three

Wow! Now it is the second week of June already and I haven't started working my internship because of the delay in getting my security clearances, but I did not lose my faith and I continue to think positive, but it was tough time for me because I like keeping busy. My family and friends helped me to think positive and remind me to keep my faith strong and that was helpful to make me feel better less stress.

I went shopping at Barnes & Noble and bought a book for reading while I have free time and I went also to a Deaf performance plus I went to Smithsonian Museum for demonstrations and went with friends from Gallaudet University for touring of the city. Finally, the DHS contacted me with good news that I will start working next week on Monday June 14th, between 8:30 to 9:30 am; I think I will show up there at 8:30 to "play it safe".
I am really very excited to start working at my internship but more excited that I am at DHS! I am looking forward to doing this internship and I thank God for my chance to learn and grab a hands on experience here. Honest, I feel "honor" to receive this chance because not everyone can pass security clearance because it is so tough because of background check, and so many details.

I will have more details next week on my blog; I’m sure I will have lots more to report and will be very positive.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Visit to the Smithsonian

I had fun this week doing what almost all tourists who come to D.C. do, checking out the monuments. I went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It was a lot of fun. When I got tired of walking around the different exhibits I sat and watched all of the informational videos. Of all the videos I watched, the ones that I really liked were the ones about underwater exploration. Those videos made me have an urge to go scuba diving, and it made me become more motivated to learn scuba diving to go deep under water.

I also really like the exhibit on sand because I could relate it to the different types of sands and beaches of where I am from, Puerto Rico. This exhibit also made me think about what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico. I think it is really tragic that after all the time that has gone by since the accident happened, the oil continues to flow and spill all over the Gulf. When I watched the coverage of the oily birds and the now oil-filled wetlands, I wonder how can we be of any help to stop the damage that continues happening to the Gulf coast. I try not to think about it too much.

The other exhibit that really caught my eye was the crystal and rock exhibit. As a child I had a big rock collection, but nothing like the Smithsonian. It was then, when I was in the rock exhibit, that I really regretted not bringing my camera. While at the rock collection I saw a fellow AAPD intern who was nice enough to give me the head ups that Justice Sotomayor was going to be speaking this week on Capitol Hill. All in all, the rocks were the last exhibit I saw in the Smithsonian but I know I have to go back.

Work and the nightlife

This week I had the opportunity to attend the farmers market at the USDA and got the chance to meet with Rayne Pegg, which was great experience. The farmers market was a great place to go to purchase organic fruits, vegetables, and even fresh organic ice cream. The Washington DC nightlife is great there is always something to do take tonight for instance there was jazz festival taking place with great live music. This past weekend went to Dupont Circle and walked around with my roommate Justin and some my friends found a salsa club which was really fun did a little salsa dancing which I hadn’t done in a while so it was definitely a lot of fun and got to listen some more live music.
Work is great I have been doing research on some programs for the access board, which is cool because I didn’t really think that they would want an interns opinion on what kind software they should get. I have the office all to myself next IT wise because my supervisors have to go to a conference so it is going to make for an interesting week. I don’t foresee any problems that I can’t handle on my so it just a lot of responsibility but I’m up to the challenge so I’ll definitely let you know how it went in next weeks blog.

VSA Congressional Reception

This week I had the opportunity to attend the VSA Arts Congressional Reception with my mentor Yoshiko Dart. Shout out to Andy Imparato who was also there. VSA is basically an international, cross-disability organization focusing on disability and arts, working to ensure people with disabilities have access to the art world either through presenting their own works or participating in inclusive art education programs. The program was founded by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith in 1974 and is affiliated with The Kennedy Center.

The event was pretty neat as it featured a young artist from every state that participated in the CVS Caremark competition to have their artwork displayed at the reception- other pieces can be seen on exhibit at Union Station. There were also a variety of VSA artists in attendance who are showcased in the International VSA Festival. The festival features a wide variety of art forms, from music to performance to readings. I enjoyed the reception because of its fusion of the art/ creative world and the advocacy/ political world. This is not to say the two are mutually exclusive, but the two circles do not often intersect despite having a broadly similar goal of promoting equality for the disability community. When Ambassador Kennedy Smith spoke she mentioned the importance of making art accessible to the disability community, emphasizing its importance as a medium of self-expression. Self-expression is vital to the promotion of the disability community's rights. Too many times we are the subjects of photos, of literature, of news stories without our true voice being heard. Art, as sponsored through this organization, has the power to represent the reality of the disability community, providing another avenue for advocacy. One of my professional goals for the summer was to learn about the different ways I can be a disability rights advocate so this reception opened my eyes to a new avenue of involvement. The reception also included speeches by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Patrick Kennedy, and Senator Harkin to name a few, discussing the importance of Healthcare Reform, VSA arts, and this year’s ADA anniversary.