And another thing...

FIRST STEP. The blind could soon have new navigational tools based on work being done at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Researchers are developing special shoes and glasses that use Global Positioning System data and echolocation to tell people where they are and what's in front of them. The devices send out sonic waves that bounce back to a receiver and vibrate when something is near. They also have a GPS receiver that can relay the wearer's location and direction. Sounds good, but we can imagine the developers have some fine-tuning to do'in some places, the devices wouldn't stop buzzing. And how would they sense traffic lights? While the potential benefits are great, the devices might not be ready to replace a trusty guide dog just yet.

PINK SCREEN. In a handheld world, it was just a matter of time. A 21-year-old salesperson at a body-piercing studio in Wales got fired recently via a text message sent to her cell phone. One of the studio's directors said they sent the message only after repeated calls failed to reach the worker'and besides, he said, they're a youth-oriented business and that's how their employees and customers communicate. It's personal enough. The fired worker, Katy Tanner, objected, saying, 'I don't think you can count it as official by text.' Back across the pond, federal agencies also wrestle with that question. But in work-related cases, Katy, the rules would count instant messages as records. No official word yet on tattoos.

READY OR NOT. The Homeland Security Department has endured some criticism of its Ready.gov/a> Web site, which offers people advice on what to do in an emergency. Some critics have claimed its advice is sometimes superficial or even wrong. A summer intern at the Federation of American Scientists decided to do something about it. The Washington Post reported that Emily Hesaltine conducted her own emergency preparedness research and came up with an alternative site, < a="" href="http://ReallyReady.org">ReallyReady.org/a>., which, among other things, expands on information for disabled people and pets. A DHS spokesperson said the site 'runs the risk of confusing rather than benefiting the public.' But if the information is accurate, how could it hurt?

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