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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. This is your final chance to influence our holiday countdown and score an invitation to the party. We speak with Bari and Diane from BlindShell USA about the product, who it’s for, and future plans, and it’s the final Bonnie Bulletin of the year.
Mosen At Large podcast.
It’s our penultimate edition for 2022
Jonathan: Welcome to this penultimate edition. That’s a fancy word for second to last you see. The penultimate edition of Mosen At Large for 2022. We’ve got one more episode after this and then I’ll be taking a break returning hopefully bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on the 29th of January, 2023. I hope that you’re good, which is quite different from hoping that you are well. I hope you’re both, but you can be well and not necessarily be good if you see what I’m saying. If you’re well and good, well, you’re on the road to sainthood and I salute you for that.
Welcome y’all in San Antonio
This is episode 210 of the show and as we have been doing lately since we reached the 201 milestone, we didn’t do it for episode 202 because that was the Envision demo and that was a very full long episode, so apologies to the people in DC I’m sure that they will cope. Now we are at episode 210. When I was a child, I was told that US area codes had to have a zero or a one in the middle, but eventually, they ran out of room and they had to break with that tradition, but now we are back with a fairly traditional area code, so let’s ask soup drinker. What is area code 210?
Soup Drinker: Area codes 210 and 726 are area codes for telephone numbers in the North American Numbering Plan in and near San Antonio, Texas. Area code 210 was created in an area code split from number plan area 512 in 1992. After only a few years, the threat of number exhaustion forced a reduction of the size of the numbering plan area to the center of the San Antonio metropolitan area in a three-way split in 1997.
Jonathan: Which only goes to show that everything’s big in Texas. My kids used to love this joke. In fact, I think Richard told it to me when he was a child and I think Richard liked it because it was about blind people and it was also about Texas, and I was living in Texas for a while, so Richard got this joke. As I remember it, it goes something like this. There’s this blind man and he walks into a bar and he asks for a beer and the barman hands him this absolutely huge jug of beer and the blind guy says, “Wow, this really is a very big mug of beer,” and the guy says, “Yes, everything’s big in Texas.”
He drinks the beer and then he says, “Whoa, that beer has made me hungry I wouldn’t mind a good steak,” and he said, “Yes, we all can do that for you.” The barman puts in front of him direct from the barbecue of course this absolutely massive hunk of meat and the blind guy goes, “This is the biggest steak I’ve ever eaten.” He says, “Yes, everything’s big in Texas.” After another beer, the blind guy’s ready to use the facility, we would simply call it the toilet in New Zealand, but for some reason, Americans don’t like to say toilet so they call it the bathroom even though there’s no bath in there.
The blind guy asks for the bathroom and the guy says, “You have no trouble finding it. It’s the second door on the right.” Unfortunately, the blind guy slightly inebriated, chooses a second door on the left by mistake, which happens to be the swimming pool, and he falls in and the blind guy’s heard crying out, “Don’t flush, don’t flush.” Richard thought it was funny.
Anyway, welcome y’all. If you’re listening to us from San Antonio in Texas, it’s a lovely part of the world actually. It’s a very pretty city.
A final reminder to vote for your top 10 holiday songs and join our special party
Now, this is the final opportunity that I have to remind you of Mushroom FM’s, holiday countdown, and Christmas party. It’s really cool to see the votes pouring in. As I put this podcast together, we’ve had around 215 different songs voted for and we are only going to play the top 100 songs. Your vote can not only make a difference in terms of what’s going to be number one and there’s quite a battle happening at the top of the chart, but it could influence whether the song gets heard at all because we’re taking 10 hours to play the top 100 songs that you voted for.
You only have to choose 10 and when you do, you will get an invitation to our Christmas party, which is happening on Mastodon this year using the Mushroom FM hashtag. It’s all going to be super exciting, and that happens on the 17th of December between [7:00] AM and [5:00] PM US Eastern time. That’s from noon UK time and of course, it is the middle of the night somewhere, but fear not, we will be playing the countdown again at a different time about a week later for those who couldn’t catch at all or who couldn’t catch any of it.
Do vote, it could make all the difference and the way to do that is via the accessible form at mushroomfm.com/countdown 2022. That’s mushroomfm.com/countdown 2022. You can either scroll through the songs or type them into an edit field for each position. You will receive in the email your personal invitation and if you’re not on Mastodon, you’re not on social media, you will also be able to tune in and participate via email. Every person who casts their vote is assigned to a table, either the Dasher or Dancer or Prancer or Vixen table, and you can earn points for your table, like Harry Potter style and that keeps things lively while we play the music.
We also have this party thing going on and it’s always a lot of fun. It’s a great way to end the year and it’s an opportunity for many of us who hear each other’s names or are on email lists or groups or whatever throughout the year to just get together and celebrate the festive season as one big glorious virtual group. We do this every year because it is so popular. People really do look forward to it. It’s become part of their holiday season now, and we are honored by that. Whether it’s your first time or, gosh, when did we first do this? 2012 I think, so we might be coming up to the 10th anniversary, or was it 2011? It all gets a bit of a blur when you get to my age, I tell you but whether it’s your first time or not, you are very, very welcome. You’ll love it, I’m sure if you are participating for the first time.
Mushroomfm.com/countdown 2022 is how you vote. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a lobbyist, a bit of an advocate for a song, go for it. Encourage others, your friends, your family, colleagues, whatever, to vote for a song that you would like to see rocket up the chart, the more the merrier. Now you only have until the 15th at [11:59] PM US Eastern Time to get your vote in, so time really is running out, so don’t delay. Mushroomfm.com/countdown 2022. We look forward to seeing our old friends there and maybe some newbies who are trying this for the first time this year. That would be wonderful.
Mosen At Large podcast.
Feedback from the Aira interview
Jonathan: Oh, it’s catchy, isn’t it? Thank you very much to all of those who heard the Aira interview and provided some feedback. I’ll read this one from Francisco who sent this in just after I recorded the interview, so I couldn’t include these questions in the interview itself, but I have sent them along to Aira because I think they’re both good questions and if I get answers back, I will certainly let you have those answers here on the podcast.
Francisco asks two questions. One, “Why is Aira requiring in order to create a new account that users have a phone number from one of the countries where the service is available, many blind tourists are being discriminated against with this policy. Today a blind international traveler is unable to enjoy Aira access at the airport, Starbucks, or Walgreens while in the US.” This is a very good point because if you are using international roaming and you choose not to use a local sim, you may not have a number in a supported country, but you may well be in that supported country.
Two says Francisco, “Why don’t they enable anyone speaking English with a credit card and a compatible device to pay for Aira minutes? It is very easy to grow the user base doing this and they don’t need complicated arrangements. If you are fluent in English and you can pay, then you are welcome.” I agree with this wholeheartedly as well Francisco. If you’re willing to pay in US dollars or some other supported Aira currency and you speak English, I’m really not sure what the deal is. Hopefully, we will get an answer from Aira on this and as I say, I’ll include it here if we do.
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I’m a tech support guy in our family, so I quite often get questions from family members that they want me to solve. It’s not realistic to expect them to install a specific screen reader even the demo. Before RIM came along, I found myself having to try and talk them through what they needed to do. Now I can tell them to go to getrim.app. That’s G-E-T-R-I-M.app. Install a simple application on their Windows PC and just by exchanging a code word. I can have a look at what’s going on. I can either run Narrator on their system or if you’re using NVD-8, you don’t even have to do that. It’s an amazing tool, so do check it out RIM from Pneuma Solutions at getrim.app.
Alternative contacts app for iOS
Let’s talk iOS as we like to do. Rod is writing in, he says, “Hi Jonathan. I find A to Z contact or if you’re in the United States A to Z contact, it is spelled A and then the number two and then the letter Z is a nice solution and resolves the issue of voiceover not performing with the contacts app.” Sad says Rod, that Apple can’t get a handle on this issue. Thanks, Rod. That’s another app for me to try that I’ve not heard of before, so I’ll go and check that one out.
Determining if a light is active on a charger
This email’s subject line is, “Hi, from Dawn in Sydney.” I think we can state unequivocally that this email comes from Dawn and that she’s in Sydney. She says, “I’m wondering if you or one of your listeners knows of an app that I can use as a light detector to confirm whether things like wireless chargers or hearing aids are actually charging. I have actually given up using rechargeable hearing aids because I found that if I didn’t place it on the charger accurately, I would end up with flat batteries and useless aids.” Good to hear from you Dawn, I hope Sydney is treating you well. I don’t know whether there’s an app that can be as granular for want of a better term as you were wanting.
There are these Swiss Army Knife apps out there like Seeing AI and Envision and super sense all of them and probably others have a light detector, but whether it’s sensitive enough to actually go all the way up to something that has a little light on it to see whether it’s working, I’m not sure if you can rely on that. I have a battery charger that just takes ordinary rechargeable batteries and I use this for my Zoom F3 recorder among other things. What I’ve taken to do because there are multiple batteries charging at once, is I just call Aira and I say, can you tell me if the lights are on in all four battery compartments? You could use Be My Eyes I’m sure for a task like this, so that’s one thing that you could do that’s definitive.
Maybe others can comment on how they have found light detector apps to work for something really specific like a wireless charger where you have to place something on a charging dock or something it’s so easy to get it misaligned. This is one of the reasons why I’ve stopped being a major fan of the Qi chargers actually. I got recently an Apple MagSafe charger for down in the studio just when I want to give my phone a little bit of an extra boost and I can’t use the lightning port for that because I need that to plug it into the mixer. This is ridiculous. The lack of a headphone jack and everybody knows what I think about that. It’s absurd that we’ve lost that and people call that progress, but anyway, we’ve got what we’ve got.
I was finding that when I had a Qi charger here, not only did it take up quite a bit of space on my desk, but even sometimes if you didn’t quite get the alignment perfectly right and you got a notification, the vibration of the notification was enough to get it off charge and you wouldn’t realize you weren’t charging for a while. It is a big issue. I think it’s, oh, look at that. That’s my Apple watch telling me to stand, but am I going to stand for it? No, I am not.
I think that hearing aids are a particularly important use case, especially for blind people. If you are out and about and your hearing aids go flat and you don’t have any sight to fall back on, you really are up soup creek. I’m sorry to use such extraordinary strong language and I hope I haven’t offended anybody, but you are up soup creek if that happens to you. This is one of the reasons why I have personally always ruled out using rechargeable hearing aids. I’ve got a little attachment on my key ring and I carry my keys with me everywhere and it’s just a tiny compartment in which are two hearing aid batteries, so I’m never without fresh hearing aid batteries at any time. If I hear the little pips telling me that I’m about to run out of juice, it’s no big deal to just quickly do a battery change and I’m up and running again for another week or so.
I’m sure there are blind people who make rechargeable hearing aids work and that’s great, but it just makes me nervous. I’m too dependent on my hearing. I dread the thought. I get actually quite anxious about the thought of being out somewhere and my hearing aids not working because I really would be in a very seriously vulnerable situation at that point, but let’s see if anyone can come through for you, Dawn, on light detector apps and whether there is one that people can rely upon enough to check that a light is on a specific device.
Guide dog refusals and responsibility
Don’s writing in again and says, “It is great to get a discussion going about guide dogs as so many of us blind people use them.” That’s an interesting comment there, Don. I know that many blind people who use guide dogs are passionate about the benefits that they gain, but it’s a tiny fraction of the blind community. It’s right there with Braille readers I would suggest. Let’s see if the drinker can tell me actually. Soup drinker. What percentage of the blind community uses guide dogs?
Soup Drinker: From plows.org, in the United States it is estimated that of the 1.1 million individuals who are blind, 109,000, 10% use a long cane, and 10,000, 1% use a guide dog. Five–
Jonathan: I would put it at 1%. I think that’s accurate based on my own experience in the blind community. Anyway, notwithstanding that, it’s still a good discussion. Don says, “As I told you earlier, I have had five guide dogs in the 48 years of use. My current dog will be eight in this coming May. I have had good luck with all my dogs, which have come from the Seeing Eye, the same as Bonnie. I agree with you that we blind do have a huge responsibility to make sure they’re clean, healthy, and well-behaved. In fact, I think a restaurant owner could ask a person whose dog is not well-behaved to leave the premises as much as a person who is not well-behaved.”
I completely agree with you, Don. He continues, “In 48 years, I have always been trained to keep my dogs on the floor of a vehicle. This way they do not leave dog hairs on the seats. My dogs have also been smaller, less than 58 pounds with the smallest being 43. This means that they can sit at my feet, on the floor, which is safer for them too. In this regard, I think that some taxi drivers do have a point if people who have not been trained to keep their dogs off the seats can be a problem with hairs. I have heard of some people taking a blanket in a taxi to solve this situation.
The other problem is that some dogs are just too big. In my view, schools should not put out big dogs for this reason, as they are hard to keep out of the way. I know I am an Archie Bunker when it comes to all the above points. However, I will never back off on our own responsibility to look after our dogs in public. Jonathan, I thank you for all you do for us blind in the community.” It’s very kind of you, Don, and thank you for writing in again.
Brandt: Hi, Jonathan. Brandt here from Johannesburg, South Africa. Not California by the way. Just like to contribute to the whole guide dog refusal saga you were discussing in previous episodes. We went to a seafood restaurant several years ago, my wife and I. I did not have a guide dog at the time, so only my wife’s dog. Now we were refused at the door. We thought it was ignorance as you said in episode 208, believe it to be ignorance until it’s proven not to be. Now we asked the person at the door to call the management and they did. Management refused.
Asked them please phone the owner of this particular franchise. Fine phone, refused again. We left seeing that there was another place we actually enjoyed block away. What we did not realize at the time is that the whole restaurant, every single body in there paid their bills stood up and left. The whole restaurant walked out in solidarity with us. This is not the only time it’s happened, it’s happened before. First time around. It was a place that’s known for steak and other very meaty products. Ribs amongst them, but I’m not going to mention names for obvious reasons, legal repercussions, and and and, but the point stands. South Africans have a habit of walking out of restaurants when this kind of thing happen.
Uber refusals. Unfortunately, my wife has decided not to try fight with Uber again because we’ve been refused so many times now, it’s not even funny, and Uber South Africa does absolutely squat about it. We have taken this up with SA Guide-Dogs Association many times, many blind people here has and nothing is improving. Our cops are too busy to do anything about it. Since this is not as you are probably very aware not the safest place on the planet to reside, but to live with the hand you’re dealt. Guide dog refusals, pretty common, pretty much not nice, but they happen. As my wife would say, build the mansion and get over it, and I would tend to agree. It’s not fun, but what can you do?
Jonathan: Thanks, Brandt. Well, I think what you can do will vary depending on where in the world you are, and what legislative protections are in place, and what remedial action you have in place. In New Zealand, for example, like it is in many places, the Uber guide dog refusal issue is a problem, but then it’s a problem in taxis as well, you just never know when you’re going to strike it. They do appear to take it seriously in New Zealand and Australia because it’s all run by the same Uber conglomerate, which is based in Australia.
What happens here is that you report the refusal, there’s a special section of the app, and I think that’s global, where you’ve got a service animal refusal, and there’s a special mechanism you can use to report it. I have always when reporting one got a follow-up call from Uber, and they go through the process, and they say they’re going to de-platform the driver for a period and put them through some education. If there is a second offense, they will ban the driver from the platform outright. Now, I have no way of knowing, of course, whether that ever happens, but that’s what they tell me happens. It is good that Uber is aware of this, and apparently taking action.
In the United States, I know that the advocacy organizations they’re actively engaged with Uber and Lyft, which is a competitor to Uber in the US market to also stamp out refusals. It’s like rust, isn’t it? You just got to keep watching for it and getting rid of it. I think it is important for us to educate and advocate and not simply accept that that’s how it is. Again, the actions that one might take will vary based not just on legislation and debatable enforcement mechanisms, but also to some degree culture.
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Christopher Simms: Hi, Jonathan and others listening to Mosen At Large. This is Christopher Simms from Melbourne, Australia. Firstly, thank you for a great show this year. Secondly, just a tip for those using pinafore.social composing your toot. I’m sure some of you may have experienced the annoying scenario where if you see fit that you want to adjust one’s privacy setting that you lose your focus. Your focus will decide that it is going to jump out of the toot that you’re posting to somewhere else in your timeline.
Have no fear. The fix is that whenever you are doing this, instead of replying from within the timeline, ensure that you use enter or hotkey O for Oscar to open your toot first. In other words, once you are inside, what would be a thread and you’re applying from there, your focus won’t move. When you choose that you want to change your privacy adjustment from let’s say public to direct, and you’ll find that it’s a much better experience. Wishing everybody happy holidays and looking forward to the discourse going into 2023.
Jonathan: The same to you, Christopher. Thank you for sending in that contribution. I would like to make a correction to something that I’ve said and I’m very surprised that no one picked me up on this. When I was going through the transcript, I thought I can’t believe I misspoke. I was very tempted to change the transcript to what I should have said but then it wouldn’t have been an accurate transcript, would it? I left it alone and Brailled it on my hand to correct myself for this episode, ouch.
Last week, I made the comment that there were about 50,000 people an hour signing up to Mastodon now that would be quite phenomenal. What I meant to say was there about 50,000 people a day. It’s been quite spiky, actually, I saw it go up to 60,000 people a day, a few days ago, and then it dropped way down and now it’s going back up again. There is a steady influx continuing of people into Mastodon.
Now I know that there’s some interest in Mastodon as we head towards our countdown and for other reasons as well, so let me recap. If you want an instance to go to where registrations are still open and there are quite a few blind people hanging out and of course, you can follow anybody else anywhere on Mastodon from there, I would recommend taking a look at tweesecake.social, that’s T-W-E-E-S-E-C-A-K-E.social and you can sign up there. You also have the benefit of 2000 characters to post with, which I personally really like.
I have three accounts on Mastodon you may be interested in. The Mosen At Large account is live on Mastodon and actually, I’ve been having some fun with this. I have been crowd-sourcing some decisions about content on there. I’ll talk more about this when Bonnie joins me a little bit later. If you want to follow the Mosen At Large account on Mastodon that is @MosenAtLarge sounds a bit like a Cable News Network in the United States. That’s MosenAtLarge@mstdn.social, and you will get posts whenever we publish a new episode, and when we publish a new transcript of that episode. Also, I post a little bit of commentary we engage about the podcast and a few tech news stories as well. Thanks for following there to those who have.
You can follow me personally, and I am JonathanMosen@tweesecake.social. Finally, we do have our own Mastodon instance for Mushroom FM. You can follow me there for Mushroom FM things, email@example.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to seeing you over on the Mastodon, particularly as we head towards the countdown.
We’ve been talking about ham radio on the podcast a little bit recently and Dave Gordon writes, “I learned about ham radio when I was about nine years old, from an older student at the Michigan School for the Blind. Jerry had a license and I could hear a harmonic of his ham station on my AM radio and immediately I knew that I wanted to try that. I bought an old army receiver from him for $10. I could listen to the ham bands and shortwave stations from 80 to 40 meters. I gave Jerry $2 down and took the receiver home that weekend to show my parents. They gave me the other $8 and were always very supportive.
Jerry also ran an illegal AM radio station at the school, which worked a bit too well. It seems that its coverage extended beyond the school campus, and the FCC caught him and shut it down, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. When I was 11 years old the school let us start an amateur radio club, and some local hams volunteered to come in once a week and teach those of us who were interested the criteria we needed in order to become hams. The first license was at the novice level and was quite restrictive. We had to use Morse code for the most part, but that was fine with me. I really enjoyed it and excelled in it.
My fourth-grade teacher’s husband was a ham and she challenged me to learn the code by learning it with me, so I knew it before we have the club. I also used to go over to her house to listen to Morse code conversations on 80 meters with her husband. Some people struggled with it, but the code came easy to me. The test requirement was to be able to copy five words a minute, later licenses required 13 and 20 words per minute respectively. This is easier than it may sound because if someone is sending their location, Texas, for example, you don’t have to copy every letter for it to fall into place.
I bought an electric Kia which had a paddle that you would swing to one side for dots and the other side for dashes and it had a knob on the front so you could vary the speed. I could copy and write about 40 words per minute during the year that I had my novice license. The novice license expired after one year and was not renewable. The next class was called the general class and offered many more privileges including using a microphone. Some of the guys at the school could build transmitters and other equipment but I was not handy with a soldering gun and after burning myself a few times and becoming very frustrated I gave that up.
My fascination was with antennas. I learned that antennas could make all the difference in the range of your transmitter signal. I believe that it makes more difference than the power of the transmitter. I read several books on antenna theory and built several through the years and purchased many more. Of course, if you have antennas, you are going to likely want to have a tower. The first one that I bought was about 40 feet high, and I paid a lot of money to have it installed.
They put it up while I was at work and when I came home, I climbed the tower for the first time and installed a three-element beam antenna. I was young and foolish and didn’t know about tower belts, which a smart person would use to secure his body to the tower while working. Instead, I thought I was creative in using a bungee cord.
Needless to say, I am lucky that thing did not break. Shortly after that, I bought the best tower climbing belt that I could find, the one recommended by the local power company.
Other than digging the huge hole and pouring the concrete for the base of the tower. I always did my own work after that. This, of course, fascinated my neighbors to no end to see a blind person, 60 or 70 feet up in the air working on my tower, and they insisted on talking to me. At first, I thought it was funny, but it soon became annoying because I had work to do and I couldn’t take time out to yell back and forth with them. To solve this, I started doing my work at night.
On one occasion, a friend was helping me put together a rather complicated beam. Ted, who could see but would not climb towers assisted me in installing this one, which weighed about 65 pounds, Ted helped guide the antenna from the ground while I pulled it up using a pulley and a strong rope. I got the thing up and lifted it above my head and managed to get it on the mast, but at that point, Ted yelled up that I had it upside down. I knew that because it rolled over while I was holding it above my head, but I could not control it.
No way was I going to take that thing off the mass because I felt it was too dangerous. I didn’t think I could do it so I loosened the U Belt and twisted it 180 degrees, so it was facing correctly.
There was one other time when I did not use a belt, but there was a reason. I was taking down an antenna and it required a lot of climbing and I couldn’t be tethered. I almost fell that day because I attempted to lean back in my belt for comfort because I forgot that it was not tethered. It was a way too close call. I communicated with people located all over the world, but sometimes with very little power because it was challenging. I relied on the antenna. I also used to run telephone patches for people from other countries where phone communications were limited.
Field day was fun. I think you mentioned this a few weeks ago. Field day is where we trained how to set up communications that we could use in emergencies. This can involve both makeshift antennas and generators or batteries for electric power. The goal is to see how many people we can communicate with in a 24-hour period. My personal goal was to see how many states I could work. I never got all 50 during the 24-hour limitation. I think 48 was my high.
One afternoon I heard some people playing chess. There were several games going on at the same time between people located all over the country. I found this fascinating and I tried to meet with them as often as I could. One of the players sent me what’s called a QSL card, which is basically a confirmation that we had talked. My wife read it to me and told me that he had included a picture and he was in a wheelchair. A few days later, he asked me if I had seen his picture. I explained that I was blind, but that my wife had told me about it.
On another occasion, I was playing this guy and I made a move with one of my nights, but I accidentally moved his night. He asked me if I was blind, and I of course said yes.
He was also blind. John was from Ohio and was a chess master. Most of his games were with an airplane pilot from Chicago who was equally talented. I did not play John too much because I simply wasn’t in his class, but we did play a few times when neither of us had anyone to play. His challenge was to let me make progress, then settle in and work his way out of the little problems that I thought I had created. It was fascinating to play him.
I let my license lapse when I really got into computers. I played a lot of chess then, and there were no weather conditions or time constraints due to band conditions to have to deal with. I hope that you and Bonnie get your licenses. I think you’d have a lot of fun with it.”
Thanks, Dave. It is interesting the similarities around the world because we had a radio ham. His name was Jack Short, and he’s a bit of a legend at least in this part of the world and he used to build towers and his neighbors got concerned about him climbing the tower late at night or even in the wee small hours of the morning. I imagine Jack might have been experiencing non-24, so it didn’t matter to him that it was [2:00] or [3:00] AM. Of course, sometimes people just can’t see past the fact that it’s dark and in the middle of the night. The neighbors were quite concerned and he had to point out to them, what difference does it make to me if I’m up there [2:00] in the morning? It makes no difference at all.
Interestingly, there was a station at the school for the blind, very similar to the one you are describing in Michigan, that was illegal. When I started a licensed legal station at the school for the blind in 1987, there was a lot of interest in this from the previous generation, if you will, of blind people who went through that school because they had a radio station called Radio ANX, that was run from an annex in one of the hostels at the school for the blind. Apparently, people loved this, blind people love their radio and something happened one night or maybe they were just pushing their luck and this station got heard all over Auckland and the radio inspectors came out to say, this is not on. I don’t know if the gear was confiscated, but they got reprimanded and they had to put a stop to it. Isn’t it fascinating the similarities?
I used to collect QSL cards, but from shortwave radio stations, and I remember writing into HCJB in Quito in Ecuador where they had a great show called the DX Party Line that I used to listen to regularly. Radio Netherlands was great. They had a show called Happy Station. I think that might have been on a Sunday night. Jerry and Dody Kalwin, they were a married couple and eventually I think they got divorced and that was the end of Happy Station.
They also had a thing called DX Jukebox and that later metamorphosized into a fantastic show on Radio Netherlands called Media Network that was hosted by a New Zealander called Jonathan Marks. Oh, my goodness, I just would not miss Media Network because they had so many interesting things going on, talking about some offshore radio activity that was still going on in Europe at that stage, and various other new technologies emerging. Just a brilliant show and I think the Media Network archives are still available.
We got international subscriber dialing, finally, one year where you could direct dial countries and the first thing I did was to call Media Network and record a message.
I was quite young at the time and they played that on Media Network and it cost a small fortune to call the Netherlands and I was fascinated by the ringtones and that sort of thing, but I got a QSL card from them as well. I don’t know if I was brave enough to get a QSL card from Radio Moscow, but I think I got the VOA, the Voice of America that is.
Then when we set up the station at the school for the blind and it was all legally licensed and everything, and we sold commercial revenue to pay for the hiring of all the equipment and the massive mass that we had in a paddock at the back of the school for the blind. We did design a QSL card and we got DXers who were listening from around the place right in for our QSL card. It just felt so good to be able to supply one after having requested them myself as a DXer and short-wave listener for so many years. Some great stories there, Dave. Thank you very much for sharing them.
Mosen At Large podcast.
Kim: Hello, Jonathan, and hello to all of your listeners. Thanks for your amazing episode recently and the topic that a listener introduced about disability and blind and the Low Vision Center that was mentioned and your perspective and your response on the topic.
Jonathan, I’d love to add a perspective that comes from me and my own journey as a person who became– I’m still not fully blind, so even though I’m in my late 60s, so how do I fit into the spectrum of having a disability, of being blind or being deaf? I also have severe hearing loss and in fact, it is my severe hearing loss that was discovered first when I was four years old and at that time no one used the term disability with me. It was never mentioned in my house. I was treated and expected to behave as if my hearing loss– I think everyone thought that the hearing aid made my hearing 100%, and I think I lived in enormous fear of the fact that only I knew how much I was missing and not comprehending. Then, of course, on my 18th birthday, just a few weeks after that, I was informed that I was going blind due to tunnel vision, usher syndrome, or retinitis pigmentosa.
Since the blindness was in the future, still no one informed me I had a disability. No one informed me there were services I could get or anything like that. I just simply struggled alone all through the journey. 20 years later, fast forwarding, I’m petrified of driving. I must be getting close to being blind. I still had 20/20 eyesight. By the time I turned in my license, my eyesight was 20/25 with glasses and I had adapted to turning my head in every direction to scan and look for everything. It was really reaching the point of panicking and freaking me out, and I didn’t feel I should be on the road at all. That’s when I discovered and asked, “Hey, how much longer before I’ll be legally blind,” and was terrible I have been. It turned out I had probably been legally blind for about a decade.
I still didn’t understand that that meant I could go to a center for the blind because, of course, almost everything is still today labeled for the blind. We’re only just now more recently starting to see and visually impaired or some term like that added onto the ends of the names. Even the National Federation for the Blind, the American Council for the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, none of them say, “Low vision on the end,” so you don’t think you belong in there because you’re not yet blind. It will be great to see if we can figure out a all-inclusive label that serves as a beacon to those of us who come into these things later or who are never 100% either blind or deaf.
I am not blind, I am not deaf, I am not sighted, I am not hearing. How we make it so that someone doesn’t have to wait such a long, long time to find out that they can get services for a Center for the Blind? I suspect that it would happen much more quickly. In fact, it happened when it did for me because the internet finally came out, and then I was connected with other folks when I went searching for my eye condition. I managed to turn 50 years old before I ever met someone else who had worn hearing aids as a child. I had felt like a freak because I really felt I was the only person who did. I didn’t meet anybody else who wore hearing aids as a kid. Same thing with the vision loss. There’s no role models.
It’s an opportunity for us to find out ways, not only to add low vision as part of the label with anything that is for the blind, or set up separate organizations for low vision. As the recent guest mentioned, your recent contributor, “It’s okay if we do things separately and it’s okay if we do them together. It’s just that it needs to sound welcoming to all of us.”
Just as you don’t want the term blind dropped, we do need, for the exact same reason, the low vision has not been a part of the blind community and terminology. Either everything is for both or we are maybe seeing centers that are just for one or the other.
I hope that we all eventually come on a consensus for this and find ways to respect where we are with our journey and how different it is when you have to learn everything as an adult and just drop and change almost everything you spent the first portion of your life learning to do. Now, you have to untrain all of those skills and habits and learn to do them differently. It is a very daunting, very difficult, very time-consuming journey but it is, of course, very possible.
I love the fact of how much I’ve grown and how much more confidence I have and how many skills I’ve learned when I finally had the opportunity to connect with other people who have been there done that. Thanks to you, to all your listeners, for the hard work that you all do, especially for you and for the ones who contribute. For the ones who don’t contribute to your show, but speak up and do their own advocacy in their own community in their own way, my hat is off to all of you as well.
Jonathan: Thank you for being so willing to be open and share your story in the way that you did, Kim. I really appreciate that. I found it interesting and congratulations on all that you’ve achieved. This is definitely a contentious issue, and I have read NFB literature over the years since you specifically mentioned that the NFB doesn’t have the word blind in it, nor does ACB. The NFB’s position, at least in the past, and I don’t think it has changed, is that if you are unable to function in a visual way effectively and efficiently, then social pressures and the fact that vision or sight is such a dominant sense often means that people struggle along with an inefficient visual technique for doing things when they’ve actually reached the point in their life that the blindness way would actually be better.
Now, I’ve seen this in work as a technology trainer over the years where you see somebody who is just so adamant that doing anything the visual way is the better way, is the superior way, no matter how long it takes that they put themselves through all sorts of problems like eye strain and fatigue. You see somebody who struggles to read an email and it might take them a minute or more to read a short email that would’ve taken them 10 seconds to read with text to speech. You often hear things from teachers who say things like, “This child can read print, but this child has to learn Braille.”
I think in the case of some of these organizations, not all those you mentioned by any means, you’re actually getting a statement that being blind is respectable. We shouldn’t shy away from the term. If you can no longer do these things in a visual way, go about your life and be effective, then you are effectively blind even if you have some sight. There are some people though who are just not ready to hear that. There are some people who may miss out on service because they’re not ready to hear that. I think that’s what your post is saying.
We shouldn’t get so bogged down by the philosophy that we deny people the chance for services that will help them regain independence or maybe gain it for the first time depending on when their vision condition developed. I think we do have to meet people where they are, I definitely agree, and I said that when we last discussed this, but I also think that being proud of blindness is important in this context because there’s so much unnecessary stigma born out of ignorance and prejudice that it is important to challenge it. Somehow we do have to find that middle ground.
I personally don’t have any problem with blind and low vision being used in the same sentence. What I will rebel against passionately is when somebody insults my identity by trying to ban the word blind or say that somehow the word blind is now not politically correct. I’m certainly not going to tolerate being called a person with sight loss. Thanks again for your contribution.
Mosen At Large podcast.
A gift can brighten someone’s day
Stan: Greetings, Jonathan and Mosen At Largers. This is Stan Warren Latrell making another contribution, or at least I hope is another contribution that I think you may find of interest. On Thursday afternoon, I was alerted that I was going to be receiving a package. Now, of course, ooh, you know how you feel when you’re about to receive a package and you don’t know where it’s from, as I didn’t know where I was from.
Well, come Saturday morning after coming home from enjoying a great breakfast, I went out to my mailbox and my mailbox is one of those where the mail is on one side and if there’s a package, there is a key left inside the mailbox. The only problem is I don’t know which key, they’re four different places where a key can open a package locker. Once I got in touch with an individual who was able to assist me, I wanted to find out who the package was from, and it was from the general manager of the radio station that I do work for. No, Jonathan, it was not a pink slip. No. [laughs] No, it was not. Actually, what it was, this is a reason for my little posting here. The package was a gift basket from a place called Wine Country and there were all sorts of goodies for Stan to enjoy.
Here’s what I did as I decided to, let’s see, one thing I’m going to open first and then I used an app that I find to work more reliably than most other apps and that’s called Seeing AI. I find it to work better with my phone and the package I decided to open was something I shouldn’t have had, but well I am enjoying them. Italian cookies. Of course, one of the reasons why I wanted to see about the app is among the things that I received were several different containers of liquid and, of course, probably all three, but one of them, the first one that I checked Seeing AI told me it was olive oil. Olive oil is a good thing. I have some containers of that to look for and I don’t know what else, but who knows? There may be wine in there because there’s– well, I just have things that I need to go and check a little bit.
I felt like a kid opening a package on Christmas Day. After the things that I’ve been through this year, I think it’s nice to have friends like that. I call this year my sweet and sour year and I think you among others will understand what I mean by that.
Jonathan: We are coming up to the giving season, aren’t we? There’s a timely reminder that you can bring joy to someone’s life by giving them something a little special. Glad you enjoyed that, Stan. Since you brought technology into the mix and your use of Seeing AI, which is a very good app indeed free from the iOS App store and coming to Android soon, by the way. Microsoft have said this, they are not giving any guarantees about when, but they are bringing Seeing AI to Android.
Since you mentioned technology in this context, I get a lot delivered and so I needed a good parcel-checking app. The one that I’ve settled on is called simply Parcel. It’s very accessible, it does a reliable job. You can track Amazon packages, it will track packages from most carriers even here in New Zealand. You paste the tracking number into the app, generally, it gets it right the first time. It works out what carrier the package is coming from and you get regular push notifications if you pay the tiny amount every year for a premium subscription, which is well and truly worth it.
I like checking parcels as they wing their way from around the world to Mosen Towers. It really is good fun. If you’re looking for an app like that, do check out Parcel. I’ve had some dialogue with the developer. He is strongly committed to accessibility. It’s an excellent app. He keeps it up to date and he is got with the groove with the latest version of iOS and you can I think have it on the dynamic island and all sorts of things like that lock screen widgets when your parcel is out for delivery. Do check it out and enjoy what’s left of the munchies and the goodies, Stan, although I suspect by the time we play this they’ll be all gone.
Chromevox granularity shortcut
It looks like Fanus Buys is researching the purchase of a Chromebook and he’s writing in and says, “Hello Jonathan, I did a Google search to make sure that the ChromeVox screen reader is available for Lenovo Chromebooks. I came across this useful info on a webpage. The person says he use ChromeVox plus equals and ChromeVox plus minus to increase or decrease the level of granularity to character word line, object, and groupings. Android users will already be familiar with this structure. Maybe you discovered this but I thought it might be interesting to others. I have not yet bought the Chromebook so I could not test this.”
Well, good luck with the Chromebook if you buy one. It’s always fun to have something new to play with. They are a very economical way to get into computing or have something portable with you.
Staticless AM radio
Here’s an email from David Van Der Molen who says, “Hi Jonathan and fellow listeners to Mosen At Large, where I live AM radio doesn’t work well at all because there is too much static. I can get only one station and my radio has to be turned in just the right direction in order to eliminate as much static as possible.
I’m wondering if there are accessible digital AM radios that don’t use the internet to get their signal. The reason is that there are a couple of local sports teams whose games I want to listen to without having to pay to access their broadcast over the internet. Why is it that AM radios in cars generally work so much better than AM radios in buildings? When I was much younger I used to listen to my Walkman in the backseat of my parents’ car and I noticed the reception was not nearly as good as that of the car’s radio. Does the aerial on the car make that much of a difference in generating a good AM signal? Is it possible to get AM radios with built-in antennas that provide better reception?
Thanks, David. In terms of digital radio in the United States, I don’t hear much about it but I guess there’s no reason why I would. Most of the world has gone with a standard called DAB, Digital Audio Broadcasting and now they’re onto something called DAB+ which uses AAC I think instead of MP3 if I’m remembering correctly. You can get a better quality sound with a lesser amount of bandwidth, which means you can squeeze more radio stations in and the quality doesn’t degrade. Indeed in some countries Norway comes to mind, they have actually switched off AM radio completely and they’ve gone to digital and FM only.
Now in the United States what happened was the broadcasting industry who are very powerful over there lobbied Congress to go with another standard. It’s just fascinating to me the way this happens so often in North America, they adopt standards that are different from the rest of the world in so many ways, and this is another example. I don’t know what the state of digital AM radio is like in the United States now. How many broadcasters have actually adopted this? What radios are available for it? Whether you would be able to get those games that you want. If you did get a digital AM radio, I don’t know how accessible those radios are in the United States. This is the thing, when you adopt the standard that’s a niche, something that’s different from what the rest of the world is doing, you do have fewer products.
If anybody can tell me what the state of digital AM radio was like in the US, that would be very interesting. Having said all that, if you are getting a dodgy signal, chances are it will continue to be dodgy if you have a digital radio on AM. Most likely it’ll either be there or not, or it could be if you just get in the zone, it might be cutting in and out in a weird digital way. I’m sure you know the kind of digital interference that I’m talking about. Yes, the antenna on the roof of a car can make a big difference and in those little Walkmans, you’ve only got enough room for a little ferrite AM antenna. That’s why on the Walkman’s FM was often better because the headphone cable became the antenna, and so if you had a good pair of headphones with a long cable, you’d get good FM reception.
There are portable radios out there that are really good AM receivers and I’m talking about analog at this point. Doug Hunsinger was telling me on Mastodon about Sangean, I think it was a Sangean radio that actually does do some speaking of frequencies and things. I’ve got one, I bought one in about 2018 or 2019 from a company called Tecsun. It’s a Chinese company. The radio I have is one of those radios where you punch in the frequency and you’re right there. It sounds fantastic. It’s got a brilliant speaker in it. I thought it was about time I bought an AM/FM radio just for emergencies because we are in Wellington, we get a lot of earthquakes and one day the big one will come and it might be that the internet infrastructure goes down and we need to listen to instructions, so I bought this radio.
It’s a really cool thing, albeit not fully accessible because I can’t use all the memory functions and some of the screen-based functionality, but just being able to punch in the frequency and get there and listen to it has got quite a wide band AM tuner. It sounds much clearer than most radios, but I’ve got so much computer gear around the place that listening to AM, you do get a lot of static, there’s just too much electromagnetic stuff going on now. However, you can plug an external antenna and I believe that when you do that even on AM it disables the built-in antenna, it also has a telescopic one.
That might help, but all it may succeed in doing is amplifying all the background electromagnetic interference that you’re getting from being inside your building. Anyway, if you’re going to buy a radio like that, you may as well subscribe to a service that’s going to give it to you over your phone or some other device. Anyway, let’s open this up. We’ve been talking about amateur radio, so we know there are some people out there who have a lot of expertise in the way that signals propagate and the things that stop signals from propagating, so we might get some really interesting responses.
Pre-recorded voice: What’s on your mind?
Jonathan: A lot.
Pre-recorded voice: Send an email with a recording of your voice or just write it down. Jonathan@mushroomfm.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60 Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.
Bari Azman and Diane Ducharme from BlindShell USA
Jonathan: Many of us thrive in this touchscreen-based smartphone era, but a large number of blind people do not. It’s frustrating because they understand the promise of touchscreens, but for reasons of dexterity or just because they prefer physical buttons, they want the benefits of smartphones without the hassle of the touchscreen. That’s why we’ve devoted quite a bit of time in several episodes of the podcast to the BlindShell Classic 2. I thought, oh, it would be great to talk with Bari Azman and Diane Ducharme from BlindShell USA about the product and perhaps even its potential future. Welcome to you both, it’s really great to have you here.
Diane Ducharme: Thank you.
Bari Azman: Thank you so much, Jonathan. It’s an honor to be here and it’s an exciting time for the BlindShell community.
Jonathan: Bari, can I start with you and just ask how you got into BlindShell USA because this is your subsidiary, right? As I understand the way that it works, the BlindShell Classic 2 is developed in the Czech Republic and you are the distributor for the United States and possibly a bit beyond.
Bari: That is correct. I’ll try to condense the answer. BlindShell USA is a completely independent company that oversees North America and we are now moving into South America as well. I personally and as well as Diane through one of our other companies have been involved in working with BlindShell for three to four years already. That other company was a regular distributor for BlindShell and we recognized early on the potential of what the overall BlindShell platform has to offer and what it could bring and how it can change the way people communicate.
We had the opportunity to take over master distribution for the Americas earlier this year, it’s something that we’ve always wanted to take on and it’s been an extremely exciting venture. My personal involvement as far as personal involvement in the sight loss community really goes back to 2014 when I joined my father’s low vision practice in Baltimore. That is the official entry point for me when I was really introduced to the sight loss community.
Jonathan: How much input can you have into the evolution of the product, if you’re getting feedback from all of these customers, are they receptive, do you really feel like you’ve got the influence that you need to make the product better over time?
Bari: We work extremely closely with our– we refer to them as our colleagues, our counterparts over in Prague. We feel that the US, the North American market is a very substantial market and we are constantly taking the feedback that we received from the consumers. Feedback that we come up with here internally on the business development side as far as what is an important application to be added to the BlindShell Classic 2 specifically. Our input is pretty significant and we’re happy to have that relationship.
I think that part of it our existence is to bridge the gap, I would say, between BlindShell and North America as far as really the demands and the requirements that people here in North America have as far as their daily life. At the end of the day, lifestyle is a little bit different here in the US as you know you’ve spent some time here and everyone has different requirements. I think our colleagues in Prague, they do value our feed feedback, they value our input and they listen to us very closely.
Jonathan: Diane, if it breaks or there’s some issue, I come to you and I bother you. As a member of our community, it must be important to you that you believe in this product. Do you think it has value to add? What got you into this and what’s your role with BlindShell USA?
Diane: My role with BlindShell USA, is I am the senior program manager. I am usually the first contact somebody has regarding BlindShell. They will call me or email me or send an inquiry to our website about, what is this BlindShell? How does it work? Will it work for me? That’s my first contact with the person. I explained to them what the BlindShell is, I explained what it is not, and work with the person to decide if this is the best phone for them. Since I am a visually impaired person myself, I’m aware of what is out there. I feel that I can guide people along the way on what would be the best advice for them. As you said, as part of the community, that is what is really important to me to make sure that I get the right device for a person.
Generally, it is the BlindShell Classic 2 because it is such a superior phone as far as– and I call it a hybrid, it’s in between the smartphone and a flip phone. It has the actual tactile buttons, but it has a lot of the same features that a smartphone has. Getting somebody connected with the BlindShell too, it’s really exciting to me because it really opens up a whole world to people that they never thought they could do before. I have customers that had absolutely no idea about anything with technology and now they’re sending me emails with attachments and they’re on YouTube and they’re checking out podcasts. It’s really been such a great experience for people regarding their quality of life as well as their independence.
Jonathan: I’m a huge iPhone user but I do find as someone who’s done a lot of training, and you may well have experienced this too, Diane, in your life, that there is sometimes a little bit of elitism here that somehow if people don’t get on okay with a touchscreen, that somehow they are the problem and actually the consumer’s always right. There are different preferences. People have different abilities. Who is the BlindShell not for? You mentioned that it’s for most people. When would you say to someone, “Well in your case, I wouldn’t recommend this for you.”
Diane: I actually have people who will contact me and say, “Can I change the script or blah blah blah coding on the BlindShell?” I’m thinking, well, no, I think you’re a little bit too advanced for the BlindShell if you’re talking about reprogramming the whole phone.
Yes, maybe you should look into working for JAWS or something at that point. The BlindShell, it’s great for anybody really because you can operate a smartphone, but there’s times when– the best example I give is when you make a phone call and if you want the bakery dial 6725, well, a lot of times on a smartphone before you get even to the six, you’re already disconnected. It’s got the actual tactile button that’s great.
Yes, the BlindShell is for everybody. However, if you’re a very high-end smartphone user, you may feel that the BlindShell does not have all the features that you would want. Also, I would say who the BlindShell is not for besides a high-end user. I can’t really think of anybody who the BlindShell is not good for because it’s menu-driven, it has actual tactile buttons. I suppose if hand dexterity is an issue where maneuvering your fingers around buttons might be an issue, then maybe the BlindShell isn’t a great phone for you but there are alternatives for that person as well.
Jonathan: Are you confident that the current hardware is up to future developments? One thing I have heard from some is that they think the device can get a little sluggish from time to time. Do you think that’s a fair call or is performance okay at the moment?
Diane: I personally have not had an issue with the phone being sluggish. I’ve had issues with the voice dictation. I will definitely agree with people on that that sometimes the voice dictation gets a little bugaboo in it and it doesn’t either want to input what you’ve said or you just keep getting a network error issue and sometimes that does have to do with the cellular network so I would agree that the dictation can be an issue. I think I understand what people mean by sluggish. A lot of times when you load an app, it’ll just take you to the top of the screen and the bottom of the screen with nothing in the middle and that’s because the phone is loading. If you give it, I would say, 15, 20 seconds then all that will work itself out, and then whatever needs to load up will load up.
Bari: I think when we hear the term sluggish, people may think slow or memory. The phone has significant capacity as far as memory in itself, its own internal storage and addition, it also has the ability for individuals to add an SD card to keep pictures and other contents on an SD card. I think what Diane was saying sluggish, maybe there’s a little lag in some cases with maybe downloading an app or two but overall, we find it to be a very smooth platform. You mentioned as far as the hardware itself, right now this hardware is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Jonathan: It’s Android under the hood as well and that has many advantages. One of them is that it is just so easy to get media onto this thing if you have those skills. If you’ve got a computer, certainly in Windows anyway, you just plug the device in, it appears as a drive. No worrying about third-party apps like iTunes or whatever, you just copy the material over in the right place. That really is such a gloriously relieving user experience after some of the argy-bargy that people have to go through in other platforms.
Diane: Absolutely, yes. Probably one of the things that I get called out a lot is, how do I transfer my contacts? I have an iPhone, and I’m like, “Oh, gosh, here we go.” [laughs] Because anything that love-hate relationship with Apple, but sometimes it’s very tricky to convert anything Apple into something that’s not Apple.
Jonathan: That’s an interesting observation you do have then people who do choose to go for a BlindShell Classic 2 when they have had an iPhone.
Bari: Very common.
Diane: Yes, that’s actually the trend right now. As soon as Aira came on board, we saw a lot of people were ditching their iPhones for the BlindShell.
Jonathan: It’s good to see that there. When I browse the collection of apps, it is now a really extensive collection. I hope I’m not geeking out too much with this question, but I’m interested in how that happens. It seems to me broadly, that there are two categories of apps and I’ve been using this device and I’m really grateful that you’ve provided me with a demo unit to do that. On the one hand, you’ve got apps that clearly have been written, shall I say, natively for the phone, and on the other, it looks like there’s a kind of a skinning that’s going on where maybe the Android app or has a mini screen reader at play that is making that Android app available on the BlindShell Classic 2. Is that correct? If I’ve got that, right, how many are done the native way, and how many have done the skinning way?
Bari: Yes, you are 100% correct from what I understand what you are explaining. There are some that are designed from the ground up and then there are some that when it can work out because the BlindShell Classic 2 is inaccessible cell phone. We always want to make sure that all the features line up and are able to provide the accessibility that the phone prides itself as being. There are in many cases where an app may not be fully accessible for the BlindShell Classic 2 and therefore we would hold off on bringing that to the platform.
For example, Aira, that’s a modified version of the original Aira app for the Android. There was a lot of integration from the developers on both sides, from Aira, and from BlindShell to bring that to the table. It took a lot of coordination. Then we have other apps like OHSAA that is, I don’t want to say off the shelf but it’s been skinned and tweaked so it can work properly on the BlindShell.
There’s two parallel tracks where we’re looking at applications whether to take an existing application, of course, that make sense. Does it work? If yes, great. Does it need any modifications? Maybe, maybe not. Move forward in that. Then we have other applications that require significant adjustments in order for it to be fully accessible, and we’re doing that as well. It’s just a mixture of content and how it’s being tweaked, program developed that goes into the BlindShell Classic 2.
Jonathan: Do I have a way as a user, if I’ve got those skills to just try an Android app from Google Play or some other android store and see if it goes, or is it the responsibility of BlindShell to make those apps available through its own app interface?
Bari: It’s running Android under the hood and today we’re going to close ecosystem. Now, anything’s possible but I would say that we’re in this close ecosystem and we want to make sure that whatever is being used on that platform is accessible and is going to work up to our standards. For right now, you cannot just even figure out how to add things on to the phone independently.
Jonathan: I guess the value of that is that if you find it in the store, you can expect a higher level of accessibility, and that gives people comfort that they’re not going to waste their time trying an app that is not going to work for them.
Diane: Absolutely. That’s what we say. If there is an app on the BlindShell, it’s accessible, and it’s going to be accessible tomorrow. A lot of times, on a smartphone, you’ll have an app that’s working today, there’s an upgrade, and then tomorrow, all of a sudden, you’re like, “Why doesn’t this work, it’s not accessible anymore.” That’s the one thing that BlindShell absolutely insists on is that if there’s an app that is on their ecosystem, any update is also going to be accessible.
Jonathan: How long can that take? I’ll give you an example. At the time that we’re recording this there is this quite remarkable migration going on away from Twitter and to a relatively new microblogging platform called Mastodon. On iOS and Android, there are a couple or several actually, Mastodon apps that you can try. If BlindShell got the notion that actually we need to provide accessibility to one of these clients so that BlindShell users can use this thing, new social network that everybody’s defecting to, how long can that typically take between okay, agreement, we need to get this done and actually seeing it available to users?
Bari: I think it really depends on the complexity of the application and if we have the full support from their development team. I would say could take anywhere as 30 days to 120, 180 days in some instances. There’s a lot of testing that needs to take place, sometimes there are bugs that need to be fixed. It’s a process and we have an incredible infrastructure to support it and a wonderful team of developers based in Prague who are working day and night to bring more applications.
I always say we’re not going to have every single application available on the BlindShell but we’re going to have a lot more. We have great stuff today and there’s going to be we’re going to continue to add more and more. I think the focus is on bringing practical applications to the platform that really enhance whether it’s communication or just overall quality of life in daily use.
Jonathan: You mentioned Aira and obviously, I’ve seen Be My Eyes and some other camera-related apps, what’s the camera like on the phone? What are the specs of that camera?
Bari: We have a 13-megapixel camera.
Diane: I’ve used both Aira and Be My Eyes with the BlindShell and I’ve never had either the agent or the volunteer tell me that there was an issue with the camera.
Jonathan: Am I remembering right that there’s also Google Lookout on the BlindShell?
Diane: There is. I love Google Lookout.
Jonathan: That is a super impressive app. I don’t think I’ve had an experience quite as good on iOS, actually, as what I’ve seen with Google Lookout, it really is super.
Diane: Exactly, and since I was an iPhone user, I didn’t even know about Google Lookout till I got the BlindShell and I was like, “Oh, wow, this is so awesome.”
Jonathan: For those not aware of it, can you describe what it does and how you’re using it?
Bari: Oh, baby, I love this.
Google Lookout it has five different components and the first one is the explore mode. you can actually use the camera on the phone to look around the room. It’ll tell you and it will say laptop, water bottle, dog, cat, whatever and if it comes across text, it will also read texts along the way. My favorite Google Lookout story, in the explorer mode is I was at the office and I had dropped my ID and I couldn’t find it. You’re using your foot to find and doing everything, couldn’t find it. I opened the Google Lookout app into the explorer mode, and I just scan the camera around the room. As soon as it started to read my ID I reached down and there it was. That is an awesome application for finding something as well.
It also has a food label feature, which will– it’s not a barcode reader, it actually read the package. It also has a currency reader so it’ll let if you have a 5, 10, whatever. It also has a text mode, which I like to tell people is good for scanning your mail or if you want to quickly see what a document is, but maybe not read the whole thing that I say it’s for short reading. Then there’s also a document reader, which will take a picture of the document and then read the document for you.
Jonathan: The scanning mode, the document reading mode, and also the way it identifies products is actually really good. I was quite amazed by how good it is compared to other offerings that I’ve tried.
Diane: Yes, especially like the food label thing, it’ll read cans, which that’s always been a pet peeve of mine, I couldn’t get anything to read a can before and this does.
Jonathan: There is one feature that may surprise you that I bring it up but I actually think that it’s really significant and that is that this phone has two SIM card slots. The reason why I believe that significant is I’m in Wellington, in New Zealand, we’re like the earthquake capital, and networks can go down. When you have some sort of natural disaster, and I guess this could also be true of people who live in united states like Florida, for example, where they’re very prone to hurricanes and will continue to be more so with climate change, your main network may go down but if you’ve got another sim, maybe a prepaid SIM as a backup in the second slot, and you’re on your own, and you need to contact someone, then you’ve got that backup and I think that is an incredibly powerful selling point.
Diane: Absolutely and that’s a great idea what you just brought up about having the extra prepaid SIM card in there.
Jonathan: As soon as I saw this, I said to my wife, we’ve got to get two separate SIMs from two separate carriers. The battery life is also another thing, when you think about natural disasters, and how it might be a while before as a blind person, you might be able to get assistance, the battery life goes on forever on this thing.
Diane: Yes, it’s 96 hours. I charge mine every couple of days and it’s good.
Bari: There’s people who would travel, let’s say, around Europe, it’s more common around Europe, from country to country, where people use two different cell services so that is also a big part of it as well but you bring a very valid point.
Jonathan: Yes, that’s right. When you’re traveling, you might want a local SIM so that your local carrier at home doesn’t sting you for roaming charges but you can still be contactable, that is, of course, the most standard use case, that’s right. I wanted to ask you about getting data into the device. I go all the way back to the Symbian days when I was texting away there with this keypad, it was like, oh, my gosh, this feels like home. I haven’t used that sort of method for a while, but it was second nature like riding a bike but I noticed that you can only use a keyboard, a QWERTY keyboard if it’s hardwired and I was surprised that there’s no Bluetooth support for Bluetooth keyboards. Do you think that could change in a software update?
Diane: Well, as far as the type of keyboard you can use, yes, you could use a wired keyboard with a USBC connector, and also, people are using wireless keyboards that have a dongle and that’s how they’re using it. As far as the Bluetooth. I will pass that on to Bari.
Bari: Right now, I don’t see any hardware changes as far as that capability but I think it’s something to look out maybe in the future as far as maybe an upgrade on that aspect.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s a curious limitation because Bluetooth is, I think, on the phone, right?
Jonathan: I’m not quite sure why keyboards might not be supported in software because a lot of us do have Bluetooth keyboards that control various devices. We have one in our living room, for example, that you can switch between four different things and we have it working with the Apple TV and our main TV, so to be able to just press a button and control the BlindShell with that keyboard would be sweet.
Bari: It would.
Diane: Yes, I agree. Now you can Bluetooth headphones and Bluetooth speakers to it, those can be done. There are some hearing aids that are successful with bluetoothing it but other than a keyboard it would have to be the wired or the wireless with a dongle.
Jonathan: Some hearing aids, for example, those made by Phonak actually use standard Bluetooth protocols, so to a phone they would appear like a headset and they would work great with the BlindShell but then you have some like mine that are proprietary in the sense that they use the Made for iPhone standard, and they are only going to talk to the iPhone, unfortunately. There’s nothing really that anybody can do about that other than the hearing aid manufacturers.
Diane: Exactly. Now we do get comments from people who have some form of hearing loss who say they absolutely love the BlindShell because of the speaker, that it’s a very loud phone for them. At least that’s something. I love it because people who will say, I’ve never been able to use an accessible phone before because I couldn’t hear it but with the BlindShells speaker I’m able to hear it.
Jonathan: While we are talking about deaf blind people, what about Braille support, we have transcripts here so that those who can’t hear the podcast can read what we’re talking about, so we have a lot of deaf blind people who read those. Do you think there might at some point come a time when Braille will be supported by the device?
Bari: I think everything is just a matter of time, I always say Rome wasn’t built overnight and I think that we will see additional enhancements as every day goes by. Listen, on the software side, updates, that’s happening at a pretty nice pace these days. Again, the team in Prague is working day and night to enhance it with more opportunity because everyone’s got different preferences, different ways how they want to communicate and so we’re continuously working really hard to bring all of these options to the BlindShell Classic 2 platform, so nothing is out of the realm of being added in the future.
Jonathan: I do empathize with you, because as a former product manager and I used to get asked these questions, and all I can really say is I don’t have any announcement to make today kind of thing but that said, now I’m in a different seat. If I were to guess, I would say that the number one request you get on email and discussion of some things in the United States would be for a bard app and I wonder whether you can comment on that.
Diane: You got it.
Jonathan: Are we going to have one?
Bari: The ultimate answer is yes and we are waiting actually for BARD to launch their new app, which is scheduled to come out in early 2023, that is where things are, they’ve asked us to wait until that is available and then we can continue forward and God willing have BARD on the BlindShell Classic 2.
Jonathan: It would probably be that you would modify BARD’s new Android app to work with the BlindShell UI, is that probably the approach?
Bari: That is correct. Again, we’ve had face-to-face correspondence with them, emails, phone calls, all of the above. Again, it’s literally the number one request, we acknowledge it, we are working on it. If it was up to us, we would have it already but obviously, we need to go at the pace as far as the team at BARD and as soon as they are ready to launch their new app, and allow us to work with them to integrate, we will be right there and ready to do it.
Diane: It would not hurt for all of you BlindShell users to contact BARD and say we want BARD on the BlindShell.
Jonathan: There you go.
Bari: There you go.
Jonathan: A little bit of lobbying, it’s a government entity, go ahead [crosstalk].
Bari: It is a government entity so lobbying would be very appropriate.
Jonathan: Let me ask you, Diane, are there any other apps that we haven’t talked about that you would like to highlight, things that you think are particularly well implemented on the BlindShell?
Diane: Well, the Podcast Reader, I really like it is so simple to use, all you have to do is search a podcast. For example, all I did was I went into the Podcast Reader, I went to add a podcast, then I opened up the search box, typed in Mosen and you popped up.
Jonathan: Oh, I’m sorry.
Diane: It is so easy.
[unintelligible [01:29:11] from the sky there and then I could subscribe to you. It’s so easy to use. Also the step counter, I was pleased to see that because sometimes that kind of stuff isn’t accessible for people and I think anything that helps blind people get out there and get some exercise and increase their physical fitness is a great thing. People are now having little contests with each other and who’s walking the most, so they really liked that feature. Alexa is now on the BlindShell and people are really enjoying that.
Jonathan: And you can favorite those apps too, of course.
Diane: You can, yes.
Jonathan: Those that you use a lot, they’re just a button press away and there’s a nice little list there.
Diane: Oh, the Document Reader. I really like the Document Reader because I can save an attachment from an email so that then I can either discard that email or I don’t have to search through a whole inbox to find that particular say it’s a schedule for an event, I can just save it to my document reader then go into the document reader and find it.
Jonathan: That circles me back actually, we’re talking about quite a lot of apps and potentially loading this up with media and documents. What kind of SD card does the device take and what’s its maximum capacity?
Diane: It takes a micro SD card up to 128 gigs.
Jonathan: When you’re trying to put it into the thing you might drop it. Those Micro SD cards are so small-
Diane: They are.
Jonathan: -and then you can use Google Lookout to find when you–
Diane: To find it, exactly. Well, if you have another device, you could use Aira to help you line it up.
Jonathan: That’s true.
Diane: Just so people know say the front of the phone where the buttons are is in the palm of your hands, so you’re looking at the back of the phone. The SD card slot is the one all the way on the right.
Jonathan: It’s pretty tactile. The whole experience is very tactile.
Bari: I want to have Diane make an announcement. I figure this would be a very appropriate platform to share a bit of news/workaround/solution to rideshare. It’s something that we’re in talks as far as to bring rideshare applications to the BlindShell Classic 2 but until that happens, Diane has some exciting news to share with everyone.
Diane: We are in talks with the different rideshare companies but they don’t move as fast as I would like them to move. I got a little impatient. I was trying to think, how can I figure something out? If you go into your internet browser and you type m.uber.com, the first thing that comes up is book a ride using a website or a phone and you click on that and then you can use your BlindShell to schedule an Uber ride.
Jonathan: I’m glad to hear that works because I had some really great conversations with some folks at Uber and we had a lot of talk about the Uber iOS app actually seriously breaking a few months ago and they commented to me about how they’re really working hard on making their web property accessible so that’s great. When you’ve booked your ride, what’s the experience in terms of knowing where the ride is and who your driver is, that kind of thing?
Diane: It’s really easy if you already have an Uber account. Now you can create an account on there and there’s actually the third item down is an unlabeled button and that’s the one you would press if you needed to add a credit card and do something with your profile. Anyway, once you click on the book a ride thing then you would put in your pickup address. You put in your pickup address and then you scroll down because then there’s a list of different addresses that are similar to that one, you click on yours. You go back up to the destination, you put in your destination, you hit okay. Again, you go down, you click on your destination and then it immediately takes you into the page where you select if you want the Uber X or the fancy-schmancy one or your pet whatever. Then you just click on confirm ride and then it will work the same way, you’ll get the text message and all that other stuff.
Jonathan: Does it work with Lyft or is that Uber-specific?
Diane: I have not tried it with Lyft yet, but that’ll be my next attempt, so I’ll let know.
Bari: If you really want to Lyft ride use Aira and they will a schedule Lyft for you.
Jonathan: That is a very good point of course because Aira still supports Lyft, but I think the API stuff broke a long time ago with Uber but it still works with Lyft.
Diane: Yes. The thing you were talking about with Uber, it seems every few months they update their app, and then something isn’t working right on it. Hopefully, this will be a good workaround for people.
Bari: I just wanted to add that the BlindShell Classic 2 the overall platform is continuously evolving. We have a lot of great projects that are in the works looking forward to adding great new applications in the coming months and it’s exciting times where we can provide a device that allows people to communicate the way they feel comfortable.
Jonathan: What’s US pricing on that at the moment?
Bari: The price is $489 and I’m going to put something out there for all the listeners listening to this podcast. We are going to, if you place an order for a BlindShell Classic 2 and you add a flip case to either Cardinal Red or Midnight Black, if you add that to your order and you enter the promo code Mosen, that will be M-O-S-E-N for those of you who are not sure how to spell it, you will receive a complimentary leather case. Once again, you can go to blindshellusa.com. It’s a nice $45 value in the US, we also have free shipping as well. Take advantage that will be active through the end of the year. You can again, go to blindshellusa.com, purchase your BlindShell Classic 2, add a flip case to your cart, enter a promo code Mosen, M-O-S-E-N and you will receive a free case.
Jonathan: That’s really great, we certainly appreciate that. That does bring to mind though probably my final question which is people can try an iPhone or a Google device or whatever and decide maybe this doesn’t quite meet my needs for whatever reason and I think Apple has a no questions asked right of return policy or they can just go into a store and they can pick up one of these devices and feel them, have a bit of a play in the store. Obviously with a blindness-specific device that’s a little bit more difficult. Is there a way that people can try this device and just evaluate whether it suits their purposes?
Bari: Absolutely. First of all, I think you just touched on actually a category or a subject which we are really working hard to make it better for people to try out BlindShells in their city town or wherever it may be. We would love to see more BlindShells out there as far as state-funded organizations. We are working with a lot of organizations, institutions around the US, a lot of them do and are starting to have demo units on hand but if they don’t, you can purchase from BlindShell USA. We do have a 14-day money-back guarantee for whatever reason. We do have that flexibility. We are hopeful and we are constantly striving to add more demo locations throughout the United States. There’s a lot of great things that are in the works today that will hopefully pave the way to opening up those additional locations
Jonathan: That’s a great price point for buying a phone outright, isn’t it? There used to be all sorts of subsidies and things that locked you in but these days if you are buying a smartphone outright you would typically be paying quite a bit more than that.
Bari: If you’re buying a new iPhone or a new Samsung galaxy phone, I think you’re well over $1000. Price point $489 is a great price point, great value there and it’s literally straight out of the box, you’re able to get all these great features.
Diane: I look at it this way, especially for a blind person, it’s not just a phone but it also does have a book-reading capability. It has Audible on there, it has Aira, it has Be My Eyes, it has a color identifier. If you added up all those things separately it’s a great deal. Even if you don’t ever activate your phone it’s still such a great tool to have.
Jonathan: It’s really great to catch up with you both and I know that we’ll keep in touch as the device develops and adds new features and we’ll keep people informed. Thank you both for coming on the show I really appreciate it.
Diane: Thank you.
Bari: It’s our greatest pleasure thank you so much and we’ll say to you kia ora.
Pre-recorded voice: Very good. Transcripts of Mosen At Large are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at pneumasolutions.com. That’s P-N-E-U-M-Asolutions.com.
Blind people working with the International Phonetic Alphabet
Jonathan: Haya Simkin is writing in and says, “Hi, Jonathan. I have to read and write in the international phonetic alphabet. I am working on my master’s in Arabic language and literature and I am specializing in dialectology. That means the study of dialects. I want to become a dialectologist and conduct research in the field as an academic. This means I have to read and write in the international phonetic alphabet IPA, which has symbols for every vowel and consonant in the world in order to spot variations in pronunciations.
I’ve had bad luck with that so far, both in terms of reading Braille and text-to-speech. Does anyone know how to read and write the IPA using voiceover on the Mac? Is there a Braille table for the IPA? Certainly, the Mac doesn’t have one. Out of curiosity, can any of this be done with JAWS?”
We’ll open it up, Haya, and see if anyone has any answers for you.
HidrateSpark smart water bottle
This could be the little section of the podcast that you are looking for. If you are wanting a present for someone in your life who has pretty much everything. This is Adi, who’s in India and he says, “Hi, mate sometime back Apple had made available the HydrateSpark Smart Pro Water bottle at its US store. It is not available where I live, but from what I know it is available in the US and maybe a few other countries. Do you have any experience using this bottle or will any of the Mosen At Large listeners have any input with respect to its functionality and accessibility? It also has a companion app and will be nice to know about its accessibility. From what I understand, it flashes different colors, serving as a reminder for us to drink water.
I have no experience of this product, Adi, so we’ll open it up and see if anybody else has got one. It is important to stay hydrated and what I do is I use a really cool accessible app called WaterMinder, although it is going through a bit of an accessibility crisis of sorts at the moment. It used to have a tab strip at the bottom of the screen that would speak or the tab names and currently, it just says tab button or something. It doesn’t speak the text labels. Hopefully, that will be resolved soon because it’s a very good app.
You can set up reminders, you can log your water intake, you can log custom cup sizes, you can log other drinks in addition to water and it goes right into your health app as well. You can keep track of your water consumption on your health dashboard. I look at that regularly because it has things like BMI, blood oxygen level. I’ve added a whole bunch of stats to that dashboard that I collect from various devices like the Apple Watch primarily, but also my Withings smart body cardio thing, and other things as well. The dashboard’s useful and the fact that the WaterMinder data goes right in there is convenient and handy.
Let’s see if anybody’s got any comment on the smart water bottle.
The frustrating RealTek Windows drivers and screen readers
Alina is writing in on a subject that frustrates many of us and this is the Realtek audio driver issues where speech is cut off. If you don’t take some action when you’re arrowing around or typing, you often miss the first little bit of what’s being said as the audio device wakes up. She says, “I have a Surface Pro 9 Intel i7 with 12 gigabytes of RAM and it has the problem. I solved it temporarily I fear with JAWS at least keeping screen reader’s voice assistant always awake with Hey Sharky on the specified sound cards mic the Realtek.
I also tried another trick. It’s a GitHub script called Audio Caffeine, but the result is not guaranteed for me. NVDA still eats some syllables, especially the beginning of words. It’s sometimes even difficult to understand if it says activate or deactivate. I am wondering how I can give Microsoft feedback, making them hear the audio recording via OBS or something else. I really would like to give them feedback on this audio issue because if no one talks, no one solves the problem and I’m not the first blind user to encounter it. Let me know if you can help.”
Yes. It is a frustrating one, isn’t it? There are a couple of other options you might try. Silencio is still out there and that is a screen reader-agnostic solution. It’s a little utility that runs in the background and it just sends silence to the sound card, which keeps it awake. There’s also a feature built into JAWS called Avoid Speech Cutoff, not the catchiest of names because I think this is a really important setting and in most cases that does resolve it.
You’re right, it shouldn’t be necessary to do this workaround and the only thing I can suggest is to keep letting the Disability Answer Desk know that this is an issue. I was very surprised to find this. The first time I encountered it was actually on a Surface device, which I returned for a bunch of reasons, including this one. That wasn’t the only reason why I returned the Surface laptop. I think it was called.
There were so many Microsoft computers with Surface in the title, I get confused by them all, but I think it was a Surface laptop. It was the one that unclips. You’ve got the screen on it, but the screen actually detaches and it becomes its own wee portable tablet, which is quite nifty. The audio issue was there and that was the first time that I’d come across it. Now it is very common. I’m pleased to say that my ThinkPad 9th generation does not do this and I’m delighted that it doesn’t.
There are a couple of solutions, but sure if people are encountering this, they should contact the Disability Answer Desk because I do think that although this is a third-party driver from Realtek. Realtek don’t seem interested. I don’t know whether anybody’s actually engaged with Realtek about this. Has anybody actually found anyone at Realtek that they’ve talked to? Have they had any response? Do they care that this issue is plaguing screen reader users? I would be very interested to hear about anybody’s interactions with Realtek on this. In the end, these are drivers for Windows and Microsoft does care about accessibility. There’s no doubt about that. This thing really does detract from the Windows experience.
The Bonnie Bulletin
Jonathan: Christmas time is nearly here and here’s the incredible Bonnie Mosen with another Bonnie Bulletin.
Bonnie Mosen: Hi guys.
Jonathan: I specifically made a point of saying Bonnie Mosen because the last time I didn’t, I just said it’s a Bonnie Bulletin because most people listen to the podcast and they know it’s you. However, the transcriber could only then resort to calling you Speaker 2, I think it was.
Bonnie: Oh, dear.
Jonathan: I had to do a search and replace and replace all the Speaker 2s with Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie: Oh, no.
Jonathan: I shall mention your name.
Bonnie: That’s good.
Jonathan: It’s Bonnie Mosen talking. Could I also just wish a very merry Christmas to the transcriber if you’re reading this?
Bonnie: Thank you.
Jonathan: Well, happy holidays. Whatever you’re celebrating.
Bonnie: Happy holidays transcriber.
Jonathan: Yes. We appreciate all you do. Now, how was the Billy Joe concert for you mate?
Bonnie: It was great. It was really, really good. Billy’s still in great form. It’s 73, 2.
Jonathan: Yes, 73 years.
Jonathan: Born on May the 9th actually in 1949.
Bonnie: 1949, yes.
Jonathan: A Cold War kid.
Bonnie: in McCarthy time.
Jonathan: In McCarthy time. He didn’t sing that one though.
Jonathan: It was a really good night. I think you could actually count on the fingers of both hands the number of songs he sang in the correct key or shall we say the original key. Some of them were lowered by just a semitone or so, but it’s enough to make those of us with perfect pitch go, ah. Actually, it was a really-
Bonnie: I didn’t even notice.
Jonathan: -good concept.
Bonnie: We kept running into people we knew. That was the hilarious thing.
Jonathan: That’s New Zealand for you.
Bonnie: It was hilarious. I ran into someone from Guide Dogs from Work, and then I found out my boss was actually at the concert too, I didn’t know that until on Monday.
Jonathan: Yes, I was at the concert.
Bonnie: I talk about my other boss. My real boss. Then a lot of your neighbors and friends from long ago were [unintelligible [01:47:40].
Jonathan: Yes, it was really good. It was the place to be and he sent some feedback that he thought it was one of the best stadia that he’d ever played in.
Bonnie: That’s good.
Jonathan: This was the first time that we had an international rock act at Eden Park, which is traditionally used for rugby and cricket. They recently got authorization to have rock concerts there.
Bonnie: I don’t even want to know what that place is like after a rugby match because there were some pretty drunk people even there after the concerts. I don’t even want to imagine a rugby match.
Jonathan: That was where we had that wonderful match in 2015 where we beat South Africa to get into the World Cup final. Oh, man. That was just one of the best days of my life.
Bonnie: I feel sorry for those people in that neighborhood, not because of the music or the crowds, but because of all the people wandering through their neighborhoods.
Jonathan: Yes. That was one of the reasons why some of the people who live around there objected to the concerts being held at all.
Bonnie: The one they get the rugby people too and the cricket.
Jonathan: I guess and the cricket people. It really was a wonderful concert and the band is just so tight. Many of them have been playing together since the 1980s. It meant actually that many of the band players were on the original recordings of the songs that we heard. Billy Joel’s always been good with a little bit of banter and he didn’t disappoint this time either. He got his young daughters out there because he’s now up to wife 4.0 and with wife 4.0 they’ve got two young children.
Bonnie: Yes. Della and Remy. They were out there, they had little tiny pink earphones on apparently.
Jonathan: Yes. Really to block out the sound because it’s so loud up there. You’ve got to be very careful.
Bonnie: We got rained on, so we had to dress in garbage bags pretty much. They’re these raincoat–
Jonathan: That is a really hilarious story. On Friday afternoon in the immortal words of Bob Seger, if I ever get out of here, I’m going to Kathmandu. We went to Kathmandu. Is that an international brand or is that a New Zealand thing?
Bonnie: I think it’s international.
Jonathan: People know that Kathmandu is like a–
Bonnie: It’s like North Face in the States.
Jonathan: How would you describe what they sell?
Bonnie: Mostly outdoorsy equipment. Sporting goods. They do climbing equipment I think. Mostly a lot of tents and camping, hiking.
Jonathan: You mean we could get like a swing and slide for little Florence when she’s born?
Jonathan: Not that kind of climbing equipment.
Bonnie: No, no, no. These are hardcore folks that head into the Himalayas and Matterhorn and that sort of stuff.
Jonathan: Anyway, we concluded that it would be good to have a good quality raincoat and I’ve got this coat that keeps me warm and dry in the top half, but it’s not really a long raincoat type of thing. I haven’t had a decent raincoat for a long time because I was traumatized as a teenager. I got this really good raincoat, it was made of an excellent material, very water resistant, very long and then people started to tease me about its color because apparently it was quite fluorescent because whoever bought the raincoat for me, and I don’t recall precisely who it was, so I won’t incriminate anybody, said that it would be good for me to be really visible on a dark and stormy night if I’m out there in traffic. It was a very fluorescent sort of thing, but I got teased about it. Of course, when you’re a teenager you want to fit in, don’t you?
Bonnie: Yes, I used to wear my dad’s hunting coat, it was obviously too big for me, but it was orange it was hi-vis.
Jonathan: Now you’ve put that Tom Lehrer song in my head about the two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow. You know that one?
Bonnie: Pretty much, but it was good. it was warm, it would keep you warm out in the woods.
Jonathan: We went to Kathmandu and we thought we’d pick up a couple of raincoats in case it rained. Then we checked the forecast on the soup drinker and it said that there was no rain in the forecast for Saturday. We left our nice expensive Kathmandu raincoats at home then it rained. Not heavily most of the time. It did get quite heavy very briefly during She’s Always a Woman.
Bonnie: During the one song. Yes, it was interesting, but they did give us these poncho things and they looked just like a garbage bag.
Jonathan: This was part of our VIP experience. We got the VIP tickets, we went on the red carpet. They gave us this beautiful commemorative book, hardcover with, all sorts of pictures.
Bonnie: I gave mine to Richard.
Jonathan: Was he pleased?
Bonnie: Yes, I think so. I figured we had one, we probably don’t need two and I figured he’d probably enjoy it more than I would, looking at the picture. We did the merch thing.
Jonathan: Oh, [crosstalk].
Bonnie: That’s why these people are making money on the merch because merchandise is expensive.
Jonathan: Because the merch is ridiculous. It did serve our practical purpose because I got a sweatshirt, A New York State of Mind sweatshirt.
Bonnie: Yes. I got my New York State–
Jonathan: It kept me warm because it got a bit cold out there.
Bonnie: Yes. I got my New York State of Mind sweatshirt and we got a couple t-shirts and all that good stuff. Mugs.
Jonathan: It was such a good night.
Bonnie: It was a really good concert.
Jonathan: It really was. It’s interesting how he wasn’t just doing the greatest hits, he went quite deep into some album tracks which I really appreciated. A lot of people know those. Billy Joel fans are really big Billy Joel fans and they know all the words to all the songs.
Bonnie: I definitely would go back if he came.
Jonathan: Yes, me too. Without a doubt. He did things like All for Leyna, what else? He did the Entertainer, which I think was a single actually. What else did he do from albums? He did Zanzibar from 52nd Street.
Bonnie: Yes, he did The Downeaster ‘Alexa’, which wasn’t scheduled to do, but he decided to do it because he was in New Zealand.
Jonathan: Yes. There were lots of good deep album tracks and it was just fantastic and all the greatest hits as well. When he last came in 2008. I did go and see him there. That was an indoor concert. He did not sing a single track off An Innocent Man, which was bizarre, but this time he sang the title track as well as Uptown Girl and he didn’t do anything from Turnstiles and Turnstiles is one of my favorite Billy Joel albums. It’s got the New York State of Mind on it and the Angry Young Man. I’ve Loved These Days that’s on it too. He did some tracks off The Nylon Curtain. The only two albums he didn’t do any tracks from were Turnstiles and Cold Spring Harbor. What’s happening with Christmas for you?
Bonnie: I’ve got most of it sorted.
Jonathan: Because this might be the last time we hear from you in 2022.
Bonnie: It could be. Yes. I’ve got four presents sorted. Something I was looking for, no one knew what I was talking about.
Jonathan: Oh, no.
Bonnie: Even though I had seen it on their website.
Jonathan: What are you looking for?
Bonnie: I don’t want to say just in case I find it, but I’m not sure I am.
Jonathan: It sounds high-tech.
Bonnie: It kind of was.
Jonathan: You might need our help.
Bonnie: Then I’m such an idiot because I was in the mall and I had to go to EB Games and I was looking for, I said, is PB Tech next door? There’s no PB Tech there.
Jonathan: I’ve been doing some shopping too. I’ve got a present for my mum and my brother. I’ve got your present.
Bonnie: Oh, goodie.
Jonathan: Yes. It’s an excellent present and I look forward to talking about it at some length and longth at the appropriate time. Now for Christmas dinner, we are having a turducken, which I got into thanks to the Mosen explosion because we had listeners who would have turducken sometimes for Thanksgiving in the States, sometimes for Christmas. We got our first turducken a few years ago. It took me ages to find somewhere that did turducken and now we’ve got the turducken and then we all love it and Anthony, he’s absolutely excited to bits.
Bonnie: He can’t stop talking about the turducken
Jonathan: Our spotty nephew. He’s coming over to have some turducken for Christmas. I also bought myself a present. I’ve been thinking about, should I do this or should I not? It’s funny when it was back ordered, that was enough of a disincentive and it stopped me from ordering it. Now it’s right available now and so I have ordered my Apple Watch Ultra and that resulted in me doing a poll on the Mastodon this is another advantage of following MosenAtLarge@mstdn.social on the Mastodon. MosenAtLarge@mstdn.social, because I did this poll, you can do polls on Mastodon.
I said, I’m going to be getting an Apple Watch Ultra should Heidi and I do an unboxing. Do you like that or do you find them boring? A pretty significant majority said we want an unboxing of the Apple Watch Ultra. For our last show for 2022, part of it will be the unboxing of the Apple Watch Ultra, but you don’t want one.
Bonnie: No, it’s too big for me and I really want to wait till they do blood pressure on it. I think that would be great. I’m happy with my Apple watch right now.
Jonathan: That’s good. It’s good to be happy with what you have. Well, given that this is probably the last Bonnie Bulletin for 2022, would you like to say any end-of-year things to your voluminous volume of fans?
Bonnie: Just glad for you guys for supporting the podcast and I hope that you have a wonderful and safe holiday, however you celebrate it, and have a very, very happy and prosperous new year.
Pre-recorded voice: I’d love to hear from you, so if you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan, J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States, 864-606-6736.
Mosen At Large podcast.
[01:57:09] [END OF AUDIO]