Podcast Transcript, Mosen At Large episode 160, what are your top 10 holiday songs of all time, your Chromebook has TalkBack built in, and do you need a dedicated blindness device when a smartphone app does the same thing?
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. And this is Mosen at Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. This week: what are your top 10 holiday songs of all time? Your Chromebook has talked back-built in, and if you own a smartphone, do you still need a dedicated blindness device when an app could do the same thing?
Musical name: Mosen at Large podcast.
Jonathan Mosen: Welcome to episode 160 and to December, 2021. Is anybody going to be particularly sad to see the back of another pandemic ridden year? I think many of us are looking forward to a recharge, and here at New Zealand, we have a nice long break over summer. I’m looking forward to that. This is the third to last Mosen at large podcast of 2021. The final one will be released on the 19th of December, New Zealand time. And then we’ll be taking a break until the very end of January. So you get a breather from me, aren’t you lucky? Well, the Black Friday bug finally did bite me. I feel like I have an obligation to disclose this because when Bonnie and I were talking in the Bonnie bulletin last week, I said that I don’t really go for the Black Friday thing, but I did get tempted by something.
You may remember all the way back in episode 76, Nick Zammarelli demonstrated the WeWALK smart cane. And I’ve been watching this product for a while. It’s interesting to me, and they had a 30% off deal to buy the WeWALK smart cane. And I thought I would do that. I did it for a couple of reasons. I’ve always thought that the white cane is unutilized real estate. With technology the way it is, there should be all sorts of things that you can put in your white cane. If you’re a Douglas Adams fan, and you’ve read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, you’ll know the whole meme that was going on through that series about one’s towel. You should always know where your towel is, and I’ve always thought the white cane is a bit like that for a blind person. And in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy universe, there are all sorts of things that you can do with your towel.
It’s an indispensable tool, basically. And I think of the white cane like this, and I’ve often thought why doesn’t the white cane have a built-in, I don’t know, FM radio in the old days or wifi or Bluetooth? So WeWALK is a product that has intrigued me for a wee while. And they also have a pretty jolly good GPS app. Even if you don’t find the cane useful, you can download the WeWALK app for iPhone and Android, and you can subscribe to their app. And it’s a very decent GPS navigation app for blind people. But if you get the WeWALK smart cane, you also get a lifetime subscription to the app. And I thought to myself, well at the very worst, it’s worth it for that. But they do have this sensor on the cane, as Nick described in his review in episode 76, that gives you information about overhanging obstacles, that kind of thing.
You can control the functions of your, WeWALK app from this little touch screen on the cane, which I think is a really cool idea. And they’ve just announced a partnership with Moovit, which has a lot of public transport information. And in recent years Moovit has been quite interested in the blindness market, and they’ve made their app more accessible, and they’re trying to provide information that is particularly useful to blind people. So the movement integration is another feather in the cap of WeWalk. And I did hear a little bit of feedback initially about some technicals that WeWALK were having, but I also heard that they were very good about resolving them. That if you had some hardware issues in those early days, they were pretty good about replacing the device. And with a new product like this. Sometimes you are going to have those growing pains.
So I thought 2021, a 30% off deal. Now’s the time to have a look at this WeWalk Smart Cane. So I ordered that as part of their special, and it is in Auckland, New Zealand, as we speak. But you know, what’s interesting. My Lenovo ThinkPad that I’ve been talking about over the last couple of Mosen at Large episodes started its journey from China, and it went to Hong Kong and then it went to Singapore. My WeWALK smart cane started its journey in Leeds in the United Kingdom. And it went to Germany, to Leipzig in Germany. It eventually ended up in Singapore. And then it turns out that the WeWalk Smart Cane and my Lenovo ThinkPad of awesomeness, journeyed to New Zealand on the same plane in Singapore. And I find this very comforting that maybe the WeWalk Smart Cane and the Lenovo ThinkPad are sitting in a transit lounge somewhere saying, “We are going to meet our new owner, and it’s the same owner!” And that they’ve bonded already so that before they even reach my door, they are BFFs.
Don’t mind me. I’m just a romantic at heart. I just think it’s beautiful that they met up and flew from Singapore together. Yeah. So I expect their arrival imminently and that by next week I will have both. And I’ll be able to tell you how they are both going. I am reminded particularly at this time of year, how much I appreciate the Parcel app that I use. It’s just called Parcel. It’s available for iOS. And it tracks your packages from various postal companies. All you have to do is put the tracking number into the app. If the number is ambiguous, you may have to tell the app which carrier the tracking number belongs to, but normally you don’t have to do that. And then you just watch the push notifications come in. Some couriers give you better information than others. DHL is fantastic. And the ThinkPad and the WeWALK are both coming with DHL.
So I’ve been getting pretty regular updates from the Parcel app, as both of these things have journeyed towards New Zealand. Super exciting! But if you are using one of these, WeWALK smart canes, and you’d like to tell me how you are getting on with it … did you find that a worthwhile purchase? Do you find that it adds value to your life once the novelty has worn off? And how are you finding the app? Please do get in touch. Always good to get your opinions on these things.
Jonathan@mushroomfm.com is my email address. J O N A T H A N @mushroomfm.com. The listener line number, if you want to make a phone call, eight six, four six oh Mosen. That is a US number 8 6 4 6 0 6 6 7 3 6. Of course, you can attach an audio clip to the email if you would rather, or just write it down.
Musical name: Mosen at Large Podcast.
Jonathan Mosen: Hark! And Lo, as they say at this time of year, It is Christmas once again. And you know what that means? It means that the mushroom FM Christmas elves have been very busy preparing for you the annual tradition that so many people enjoy. It’s the mushroom FM holiday countdown and Christmas party for 2021. Like Mosen at Large, our holiday countdown and Christmas party really relies on listener participation. So I’m hoping that you will be a part of it. It’s going to be fun. And we could sure use a bit of fun. Could we not? So for those not familiar, let me tell you about how all this works. What happens is that voting is open right now for you to vote for your top 10 Christmas songs. And we do have people who participate in this year after year. We have some people who are new to it, of course. So people’s votes will change as their preferences change. Over the years, we make it accessible and easy for you to vote.
What happens then is that we put all of this data through an algorithm, and that comes up with a top 100 holiday countdown. We play that countdown live for 10 hours and this year that’s going to be happening on Sunday, the 19th of December, that is US time because mushroom FM keeps north American Eastern time. So it will begin at 9:00 AM on that Sunday, the 19th of December, that’s Eastern time, that equates to 2:00 PM in the UK. Now, if you’re in New Zealand like me, you’ll be up bright and early at 3:00 AM on Monday morning, the 20th. And it’ll go right through, of course, in New Zealand until 1:00 PM on the 20th. Now, what has made the countdown and Christmas parties such a special tradition since we started it on mushroom FM … gosh, I think it was 2011 or 2012, somewhere around that time … is that we combine just the playing of the countdown with a Christmas party.
And the way that this works is that when you cast your vote for your top 10 favorites, you’ll be emailed an invitation to our Christmas party. We allocate each guest to a table, which are named after the reindeer in, Twas the Night Before Christmas. So we have a Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen table. And I guess if we had enough interest, we could even go on and create Comet and Cupid tables, et cetera, et cetera. If you want to, when you submit your vote, you can provide Twitter information, if you’re on Twitter. And what we do is the day of the countdown, we publish a seating plan. So you know the names of the people who are at your table. Because we are live when the countdown is being counted down, we are interacting with attendees of the Christmas party. And most of that interaction takes place via Twitter, but you can do this via email as well.
And when you do something witty or make some kind of fun comment, or generally draw attention to yourself in a fun Christmasy way, you could potentially earn points for your Christmas table. So there’s a little bit of a battle going on to find out which of these four tables will become the winner in our Christmas party for 2021. Now, when we award these points, we call them Christmas crackers. When we started this all those years ago, I was surprised to learn that not everybody knows what a Christmas cracker is. Christmas would not be Christmas in New Zealand without Christmas crackers. I had no idea that they weren’t a tradition for pretty much everybody when we started this countdown. But I certainly know that now. And so every year we explain what Christmas crackers are. They are these cylindrical type objects, and they have a string at each end and you pull them with somebody.
So generally you will find them at your place at Christmas dinner, and you will give one end of it to the person sitting next to you or perhaps opposite you. And you’ll get the other end and you’ll count and you’ll pull and the cracker will go bang. And you unwrap the cracker and you usually get a little gift and a silly party hat and a terribly corny joke. And one of the features of the countdown and the Christmas party is that we do tend to get through some of these awful Christmas cracker jokes. I mean, they are real groaners. So you can earn Christmas crackers for your table at the Christmas party while enjoying these perennial Christmas favorites as voted for by you. So it is a lot of fun. And if you’ve not participated in this before, you are very welcome. I know that many people look forward to this every year.
And by about October, I start getting pinged by people who say, “Are you going to do the countdown this year?” So we are going to do it again. What I’d like to do is just take you on a brief tour of the website for voting to show you how this works. The website to go to, and it should be open now, by the time you hear this, is mushroomfm.com/countdown2021. And that is all one word. Mushroomfm.com/countdown2021. I just happen to be on that page now. So if I check the title of the page holiday
Computer voice: Countdown and Christmas party, 2021 mushroom FM Microsoft Edge.
Jonathan Mosen: The first thing that you’ll find on the page is a bit of an explainer, a shorter version of what I’ve just explained to you now.
Computer voice: The holidays are about traditions and rituals. Turkey, mistletoe, Santa, and more. Once again, it’s time to prepare for one such special tradition.
Jonathan Mosen: And so you can read about that if you would like to. Also on this page is the ability to vote. So I’m going to press F which in JAWS takes me to the first form field on the page.
Computer voice: Position One. Write the name of a song here. If you like, edit.
Jonathan Mosen: You’ve got two ways of voting. You can type in the name of the song and an artist, optionally in the edit field, or you can scroll through a pretty extensive list that we’ve built up over the last few years as we’ve run these countdowns. Let me just set some expectations around artist choices. As you can appreciate. There are a lot of versions of very popular Christmas songs. So if we allowed everybody to vote for a particular version of those songs, it’s possible, we’d get a very boring countdown, indeed, because you’d have lots of versions of the same song. So we do reserve the right to do some editorializing and make a captain’s call and pick one version of a popular song.
We do make some exceptions. So it’s not an exact science. For example, the Harry Belafonte version of Mary’s Boy Child is really different from the discoey seventies Boney M version. So we do have those two versions and there are some other examples like that as well. Anyway, in here, if you would just rather type the name of a song or the name and artist of a song, it’s a freeform edit field. So you can just type it in here. But if you need inspiration, you can press the tab key. And we’re still on position one.
Computer voice: Holiday countdown and Christmas party, 2021 mushroom FM. Call free row one combo box, select a tune for position one.
Jonathan Mosen: This combo box, of course, allows for first letter navigation. So if I type H A P, for example:
Computer voice: Happy Christmas (War Is Over). John Lennon.
Jonathan Mosen: I’m straight there, and that’s selected now. So I can go onto the second position. I’ll press tab,
Computer voice: Col 2 row 3, position two, write the name of a song here. If you like, edit.
Jonathan Mosen: So a very simple form. You’ve got an edit field where you can fill in the name of a song or a combo box where you can choose from our list. The good thing is that if you nominate a song that we haven’t got in our system yet, it does get added to the system. And from then on, it will be selectable. We do verify that the songs that people are nominating actually do exist before we go ahead and add them to the database. So only do one of these things for each position, either type the song you want in the edit field, or scroll through the combo box and make your selection. And to be clear, this is a countdown. This is a regular chart. So number one is your favorite song. Number 10 is your least favorite of the 10 that you are choosing.
Once you’ve gone through this process, we have the next part of it.
Computer voice: Your full name, edit.
Jonathan Mosen: You can enter your full name here.
Computer voice: your email address, edit.
Jonathan Mosen: We need your email address so we can invite you to the Christmas party. We don’t use that information for any other purpose. You’re not subscribed to any mailing list or anything dodgy like that. Mushroom FM does have an email list where you can get programming announcements, but this won’t subscribe you to it. It’s used purely for the countdown.
Computer voice: Twitter name, optional, edit.
Jonathan Mosen: It’s fun to put your Twitter name here because we do publish those Twitter names in the seating plan. And it does mean that you can have some fun conversations with your tablemates.
Computer voice: Any extra things you think we should know. For example, you may wish to tell us why you chose a particular song. Edit.
Jonathan Mosen: This is a fun field, because if we get some information relating to why a particular song is important to you, sometimes one of the fun guys who’s playing the song we’ll about that and share some special memories that people have sent in.
Computer voice: Tomorrow is Sunday. If this is true, what day is today? Edit.
Jonathan Mosen: This is our accessible Captcha. We don’t want to get spammed and have the votes falsified. So we do have to have a human test here, but it is fully accessible. So we’ll ask you a question that hopefully has an obvious answer, but it won’t be obvious unless you’re a real human, and you write the answer in there and then-
Computer voice: Submit your vote button.
Jonathan Mosen: You can submit your vote. At this point, you’ll get a confirmation that your vote has been submitted, and it may take some time for the invitation itself to arrive, because that is a manual process.
We do validate each entry. We check the validity of the songs that have been voted for. We make sure the email address is real. So we have pretty high confidence in the integrity of the countdown, which people do take seriously. So I hope you will be a part of this. Just take a minute or two and cast your votes for the top 10 holiday songs. We’ll play the top 100 of them, and we get a lot of songs nominated, but we’ll play the top 100 and that’ll be on the 19th of December this year. Really looking forward to your participation. Votes are open now, and Christmas can get pretty hectic. So why not do it now while you’re thinking about it? Get that vote in early, and we’ll look forward to your company.
Musical name: Mosen at Large Podcast
Jonathan Mosen: I have an unexpected appendix for you in our Chromebook series. Thanks to an interesting series of tweets from Trenton. And I really appreciate Trenton sending these in because it seems like the Chromebook with ChromeVox has some really hidden depths that are quite exciting. Last week in our Chromebook review, we looked at Android apps, and I made the comment that TalkBack doesn’t exist on the Chromebook. You’ve got to use ChromeVox. Well, again, I need to backtrack. Trenton says to me, Chromebooks that have the play store on them do have TalkBack installed. Interestingly, Google does not tell you the commands for switching between the two screen readers at will, accept on one page belonging to their Pixel books. Yeah, this explains why I found it very hard to get any reference to this feature at all, Trenton. So thank you. He continues. The commands are ChromeVox with A and then right bracket to switch to TalkBack mode. ChromeVox with A, and then left bracket to switch to ChromeVox mode. For keyboard shortcuts and other TalkBack settings, type Android in the launcher where the option Android preferences displays, then enter on it.
Enter again on the Manage Android preferences screen, switch to talk back mode. Then either press search with K for talkBack keyboard shortcuts and to switch layouts. Search key with zero for TalkBack screen reader settings, and Trenton continues as for mentioning TTS voices in the play store. Voices from Sarah Prock, E speak, RH Voice, and ETI eloquence, if bought before it disappeared, work nicely with Chrome OS, so I will definitely go ahead and get Eloquence on my Chromebook. That’s great. He confirms vocalizer voices on my Chromebook Duet, no dice here, unfortunately, with installing those. So that’s good that I’m not the only one with that problem, I suppose. He says, when you pick an Android engine voice, it’ll show up in the ChromeVox options screen alongside the OS specific ones. You can use acapella voices, though not worth it for the price. Also, they can crash at random in TalkBack mode. Wow. That is a very useful series of tweets there. Thank you so much, Trenton, for sharing that information. I appreciate you doing so.
And I am now in Podcast Addict. I thought I would pick up where I finished last week, but now I’ve turned TalkBack on by pressing the ChromeVox key with a, followed by the right bracket key. And I’ll go to the top of the screen.
TalkBack Voice: Welcome to the updated TalkBack.
Jonathan Mosen: And there it is. We’ve got the updated TalkBack. I’ll continue to go through the screen by pressing ChromeVox with right arrow.
TalkBack Voice: Page one of three. You will get simpler menus, voice control, and more. You will learn about key updates and changes in the next few screens. This will take about three minutes. You can review this information in TalkBack settings at any time. Welcome to the updated TalkBack.
Jonathan Mosen: All right. It’s repeating itself. So we’ll go on.
TalkBack Voice: Next button.
Jonathan Mosen: And I’ll activate the next button by pressing ChromeVox with space. But remember we are now in TalkBack.
TalkBack Voice: Next button, press search plus space to activate.
Jonathan Mosen: I’m not getting any feedback that the screen has updated, but I believe it has. So I’ll go to the top of the screen.
TalkBack Voice: Reading controls.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah, it has. And we’ll move right.
TalkBack Voice: Page two of three. These shortcuts can help you change settings quickly, such as switching your navigation from characters to words or changing TalkBack’s speech rate. Step one, swipe down, and then up to select the next reading control. Step two, swipe down to move the navigation, focus forwards or adjust a reading control down.
Jonathan Mosen: I suppose that if I had a touch screen, this would all work. And so it may have been a mistake to buy a Chromebook without a touch screen. Although I am familiar with navigating TalkBack using the keyboard.
TalkBack Voice: Try it now. Swipe down and then up.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay, well, I’m not going to be able to do that. Of course.
TalkBack Voice: You can also reverse either of these gestures swipe up and then down to select the previous reading control, swipe up to move the navigation focus up or adjust a reading control up. You can customize your reading controls in TalkBack settings. Next button.
Jonathan Mosen: I’ll go to the next screen.
TalkBack Voice: Press finish button
Jonathan Mosen: We’re on the final screen. I’ll go to the top of it.
TalkBack Voice: More new features, page three of three. Global and local context menus, used to help you find settings and controls, are now united in a single TalkBack menu. Your existing gestures, such as swipe down and then write will still take you to the new united menu. Now you can use your voice to control TalkBack quickly. To try it swipe right then up. TalkBack now includes a Braille keyboard so that you can faster with Braille. To try it, go to TalkBack settings, finish button.
Jonathan Mosen: So we’re right up to date with the latest TalkBack here.
TalkBack Voice: Podcast addict window.
Application voi…: Podcasts, application window, open navigation sidebar button. Double tap to activate. Double tap to activate.
Jonathan Mosen: Now we really are definitely in TalkBack. We can tell the voice has changed, and we’re getting the TalkBack hint. So there’s no doubt that the TalkBack screen reader is running and I’ll move through.
Application voi…: Podcasts, cast. Disconnected. Update, Press Show Hide played content, press add new podcast, press search plus space to activate. More options button. By continuing you agree to accept our policy.
Jonathan Mosen: This is a pretty big deal, actually, because if you remember the demonstration I did, where we went into the podcast addict at the end of our last Chromebook session, you’ll remember there appear to be quite a few unlabeled buttons in there, but now we have TalkBack running on the Chromebook, it’s really come alive. I mean, this looks like podcast addict on my Samsung phone now, and it does appear that if I remain in TalkBack mode and press the search key with K, I can get some help here.
TalkBack Voice: Navigate to next item, search plus arrow, right, press search plus space to activate.
Jonathan Mosen: All right, we’re in a menu where we can activate these functions. If we just go ahead and use the standard commands, I think I can now arrow through this.
TalkBack Voice: Navigate to previous items, search plus arrow left. Navigate to above item search plus arrow up. Navigate to below item search plus arrow down. Navigate to first item search plus control plus arrow left. Navigate to last item search plus control plus arrow right. Navigate to next word, search plus shift plus control plus arrow right. Navigate to previous word search plus shift plus control plus arrow left. Navigate to next character search plus shift plus arrow, right. Navigate to previous character search plus shift plus arrow left. Perform click search plus space list. Perform long click search plus shift plus space. List end. Back search plus Dell. List end.
Jonathan Mosen: So we’ve got these keyboard commands here. If I alt tab back
TalkBack Voice: Podcast Addict window
Jonathan Mosen: And TalkBack should be active again.
Application voi…: Podcasts like theme off. Switch. Get started.
Jonathan Mosen: I haven’t had an opportunity to play extensively with TalkBack on my Chromebook since Trenton told me that it exists, but goodness me, this is such good value for money, isn’t it. You’ve got two screen readers on this device and you can easily get to TalkBack. So just to recap, we did this by pressing the search key with a or the ChromeVox key with a, because it may not be the search key in every case, followed by the right bracket key. Now, if I press the ChromeVox key with a, we get no feedback there, but now I’ll push the left bracket key.
TalkBack Voice: Podcasts application.
Jonathan Mosen: Now ChromeVox is running again.
TalkBack Voice: Open navigation, sidebar update show slash hide, played content, add new podcast, more options, button podcasts.
Jonathan Mosen: So it’s all right, but I just think that having TalkBack, giving the feedback that you would expect in an Android app seems to be more intuitive. And obviously if you’ve got a Chromebook with a touchscreen, I imagine the experience will be pretty impressive. So thanks, Trenton. That is a gold mine of information you provided us with there. And I appreciate that. That’s what makes the Mosen at Large community so special.
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Grace Lakin: Hello, Jonathan. It’s Grace here. I just wanted to say a very big thank you to you for the lovely tribute you did for George Harrison. I was in tears, It just brought back memories. You know, when he died, I remember where we were, Lloyd and I, we were on holiday at the time. We were in a hotel room, and when I heard the news, oh, I couldn’t believe it. I was in tears when I heard the news. And as you know, I’m the same when the anniversary comes round about John’s death too, which won’t be long as you know, that’ll be next week. So that’s another anniversary that I’ll remember that I won’t forget, but thank you once again for that tribute. I really enjoyed it.
Jonathan Mosen: Well, thank you for taking the time to say so, Grace, and also to the others who emailed in to say how much it meant to them. I appreciate that. Staying on the subject of the Beatles for a bit, Iain Lackey, who is not in Scotland now, but is Scottish as well says, “Hi Jonathan. We were watching the Beatles documentary. So far, we have just watched the first part. I found myself telling Paul how to write his songs as I, of course, knew what the finished article sounded like.”
It’s really funny you say that, Iain, because I had exactly the same reaction. “Paul, it goes this way.”
“I’m sure,” he says, “We will enjoy parts two and three.” Well just while we’re on the subject of that, part three was absolutely brilliant. I was just laughing away there because the Beatles were playing on the roof of the Apple building. They knew that it was going to cause some reaction. They were playing in the middle of London’s business district at lunchtime with their loud amps up there on the roof and attracting a crowd. And they did it because they wanted the police to come and close them down, essentially, to give them something exciting on the film. And the police obliged, but they were so hesitant. They didn’t know how to deal with this. They knew how popular the Beatles were. And I think many of the police enjoyed the Beatles as well. So the whole thing was just a lark. It was brilliant.
Iain says, “I have just acquired a new, Brailliant Bi 20. There’s a lot to like about it. However, I am having one problem. I cannot assign any Braille with an uppercase B keys. I would like to assign a key to auto scroll and to jump headings. But none of the key combinations I type will take. Is this an issue which affects newer Brailliant displays. And is there a workaround?”
I suspect, Iain, that this is a limitation of Apple’s human interface driver for Braille implementation. Newer devices like the Brailliant are using this. The Mantis is as well. And what I’ve found with the Mantis is that if you want to assign a Braille function to something, you can only use the thumb keys. You can’t, for example, use a QWERTY command for a Braille function. Now because the Brailliant BI 20 is a Braille input device, I would’ve thought that Apple would have set this up to work like any other Braille input device, but perhaps not. It would be good to have a chat to humanware, to find out what they know about this and potentially talk to Apple accessibility. I think there is still some work to be done on the head standard for Braille devices with Apple.
Let’s go to Rick Roderick now who says, I like the transcript. I am listening to it, but I can go faster and skip things. Also, I can look at stuff on the Braille with a lowercase b display if I want. First of all, I also hear this figure of 70% unemployment among the blind. What I don’t hear are changes over the years. Where do these figures come from? Are they reliable? Here are some questions I would like answered. How has technology affected employment of us either positively or negatively? How has COVID 19 affected these figures in what sectors have jobs been gained and where have they been lost some good questions there.
Rick, I would like to think that technology has improved opportunities for blind people, don’t you think? When you think of how many offices were full of paper and mechanical typewriters and things that really would’ve required the use of a reader, and now we’re all working electronically. You would think it would’ve made a positive impact. I suppose there are some industries where things have become more difficult and the one that immediately comes to mind is call centers. In days of yore when switchboards were simpler, blind people used to be found quite frequently doing telephonist jobs because, well, apparently I guess we project ourselves okay over the phone and perhaps can discern people’s manner by voice better than other people. Whatever, it seemed to me that telephonist was quite a common occupation. Nowadays, there are challenging proprietary call center environments and that can cause problems in the job market I’m sure.
Others may have some ideas on this, and I really would appreciate hearing them, very good talking points. I don’t know where that 70% figure comes from that are so often quoted. And it’s not only quoted a lot in the United States, but seemingly all over the Western world. So maybe somebody can source it for us. Rick continues, “On the audio description front I would bring a couple of other dilemmas I face. I have a hearing loss that can be a problem in my listening to various kinds of audio. In theaters, audio description and assistive listening systems are often incompatible. What I would like to see is systems that would have receivers that would allow for both kinds of output. Each unit would contain on/off volume control knobs for each system. One could then control the volume of each or turn one off altogether.”
Rick, I cannot find the words to tell you how passionately I agree with this. We are fortunate in New Zealand now that we do have a few audio described plays that are conducted, and I think it’s wonderful, but I very seldom go because of the problem that you mention. As someone with a hearing impairment, that’s great I’ve got the audio description receiver, and I can connect my cable that goes directly into my hearing aids into the headphone jack of that receiver, and I get the audio description crystal clear. Only trouble is I can’t hear the bloody play because it’s not designed for deaf blind people or for blind people who have a significant hearing impairment. So you’ve got to put up with sound that’s often echo-y coming through speakers in a theater. And for me it’s incomprehensible. And that’s why I very seldom go to audio described plays much as I would love to, because they exclude deaf blind people.
They were going to have a crack at this last year. They were doing a play called The Miracle Worker in Auckland. And that’s obviously about Helen Keller. I was consulted about this and made this exact point with the same suggestions that you did, Rick, and then COVID came along, so they canceled the play. But let’s not forget, this is a big problem with live audio description because the majority of blind people are over the age of 65. And with that also comes regular hearing loss. And you add to that the fact that there are a number of genetic conditions relating to blindness that come with a hearing impairment as a bonus absolutely free. Wow, lucky us. So it is excluding a lot of people not to get this sorted. Thank you so much for raising it.
Rick continues, “Another interesting thing is that with some stations when AD is not available, the sound goes away from that channel. I am using the Spectrum app with the iPhone 12. I am listening to a NBC affiliate. The local news will be coming through the SAP channel, even though no audio description is available. When the network newscast comes on, the SAP channel falls silent.” Now for those outside the United States, I’m just editorializing here, SAP, I think stands for something like supplementary audio program. And that’s how you get audio description in the United States. Rick continues, “I have to go in and turn SAP off in the app. And remember that I turned it off for the newscast. A couple of comments about captioning. I am glad it is available, but I find it difficult to use. For two days, my cochlear implant processor was not working. I decided to try captions. I could read them on the Braille display, but they are fleeting. When a new one comes, the old one is erased.
I also find that on my Braille display, I am colliding with controls of the app. Couldn’t something be worked out, so material could be kept on the screen as long as the app is on that channel? Also, it would be helpful if captioning could tell who is speaking. Even when my processor is working fine, which is most of the time, captioning can still be helpful if dialogue is soft or if music is in the background. The Harry Potter movies present this issue. AD is very clear. Dialogue is often soft. I have some thoughts about Zoom meetings, but I will give those later.” A pleasure to get your message. Thank you, Rick, and I am very pleased that the transcript is allowing you to participate fully in the show. So thank you to InternetNZ for making that possible. And now we whisk our way over to Malaysia and hear from Kevin who says, “Hi, Jonathan, as always a great lineup of contributions and thought provoking discussion.
As you know, I am from Malaysia and much of the audio described stuff that I watch are from the West. As I am still starting out slowly, I would love to hear more about audio description from the listeners. One, what are some of the movies or shows that are unthinkable without audio description? Two, what are some of the audio described movies or shows that can make a great watch although it’s consumable without audio description? Three, what are some of the favorite narrators that are a great listen?” It’s interesting. A lot of TV these days is just impossible to follow without audio description. And I guess that reflects an evolution of the medium. For example, I have been very much going retro lately with an old soap opera that I used to listen to as a youngster called Sons and Daughters. And if you are from Australia from whence the show comes, you’ll be familiar with this if you are of a certain age, because it was a really popular soap opera.
By the time they ended it, it had gotten a bit silly, but some of the earlier seasons were particularly good. And I suddenly thought a few weeks ago, I wonder if I can get this all on DVD. And it turns out they have released three collections of Sons and Daughters so far with more to come. Anyway, this hit the air in 1982 and listening to this now without audio description, there are still some bits where I think, I wonder what’s going on, but not many. The dialogue is pretty consistent. You get a feel for what’s going on. If there are a couple of visual elements, you soon get the context, but with a lot of modern TV, it’s harder to do that. Rebecca Skipper on the subject of audio descriptions, says “I understand why you are concerned about sound quality and not having Dolby Atmos with every audio described film and TV show, but I am more concerned about the lack of audio described titles of older television shows.
I am a star Trek fan.” Well, live long and prosper Rebecca, “and would love to have audio described versions of all the series. At the moment, only the current shows are audio described.” Well, Rebecca, I have right here in my hot little hands, the original Star Trek series audio described. So it’s somewhere. I promise you. “I applaud Apple,” says Rebecca, “for providing audio description of all of its shows. I still have audio cassettes from my childhood in the 90s. Although the sound quality is as good as today’s digital tracks, I find it easier to find an exact point on the tapes, particularly when using the bookmark function on the four track players. Press a button at a particular point, and you could hear a beep when rewinding the tape. Would it be possible to connect a cassette player to the computer using a line in cable between the mic line of the player and the combo headphones/mic jack on the PC and record the audio to the computer.
I bought a Star Trek book titled Spock’s World narrated by Leonard Nimoy. I’d love to get that title digitally saved.” Yeah, Rebecca, there are a number of ways that you could do this as long as you get the impedance right of the jack that you’re talking about on the computer accepts line input and you can turn the volume low enough, you could do it in exactly the way that you described. There are also some pretty cheap USB powered cassette decks out there that do exactly this. You can plug it into the USB port of your computer and then just play the tape and it’ll record it for you sometimes at high speed. So there are various options out there. (music)
After a drought of some months, she’s back after just a couple of weeks, tremendous it’s Tristan Claire from Australia again. And she says, “Hi, Jonathan. First of all, thanks for disagreeing with me so respectfully regarding the topic of visual description at meetings. It is obviously an issue that you are passionate about. In an age where people are encouraged to hold strong opinions without nuance, I felt safe sending my contribution into your show, knowing that although you would disagree with me, there would still be sensible discourse.” Well thank you, Tristan. I try to be the change I would like to see in the world. It’s a shame that people, people can’t disagree without being disagreeable. “I’d like to clear up a couple of points though,” says Tristan. “First, the original post that I responded to on this topic was from a friend who had attended a meeting where every person was asked to describe themselves in a roll call style format.
It wasn’t just confined to the presenters. It was everyone on the screen. It sounds like Microsoft did it differently. So it was probably less time consuming and data intensive. Perhaps some guidelines need to be set on who describes themselves, what aspects of their appearance or visual background people might want to know about, and should there only be one blind person at the meeting, whether they would want the description in the first place. If I were attending a meeting with you as another participant, I would be okay with the accommodation. It’s just not something I want for myself. Blind people require all sorts of different accommodations. As a cane user who reads Braille with an uppercase B electronically, it would be reasonable for me to refuse large print and guide dog toileting facilities, because I don’t need them. In the same way, I don’t need to know what the person talking about climate change or Braille formatting is wearing, but my fellow blind participant may want this information.
So that’s an access need that I’d be happy to accommodate. I’d even have a stab at describing myself.” And just before I move on to Tristan’s next point, I would say, I do understand where you’re coming from with the objection that you have to everybody on a Zoom call describing themselves, because if you’ve got a large-ish Zoom call of 20 or 30 people, that does take a lot of time, doesn’t it? So I’m not sure if as my kids would say, I am down with that. “On a completely different note, I have a voiceover question. Is there any way for me to get voiceover to stop speaking abbreviated words in full without having to go into the pronunciation dictionary and changing them individually? I particularly refer to the word no when followed by a full stop. Recently I was reading a book that contained the dialogue sentence, ‘no, no, no, no, no.’ Voice over read it as number, number, number, number, number. I’m used to all kinds of screen reader abbreviations, but that one was particularly distracting and annoying.
It completely broke the narrative session. And I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if I’d read it in Braille. I’m sure I’m missing some incredibly basic setting, but a quick troll of the voiceover settings isn’t netting me anything useful. Do either you or your listeners know how I can rid myself of this aggravating bug? As always, thanks for the show. I particularly enjoy the topics that produce strong opinions as I love a good debate.” Oh, me too, Tristan, me too. Lovely to hear from you and get another of your articulate, lucid messages. I don’t think you have missed any setting. This is a bug bear of mine as well. What I would like to have is a screen reader that just tells me what’s on the screen.
My favorite example of this, and I think I’ve discussed this on this show before is the old keynote golds used to say phone number Aviv. So you’d write, Tel Aviv, and it would say phone number Aviv, and I remember this really clearly because I was just starting to get access to online news. I think the first time I noticed it actually was when I was using that hideously expensive executive news service that you used to have on CompuServe. And they talked about phone number Aviv, and it took me a while to work out what the deuce they were on about. But you do hear this quite a lot. Another one is where voiceover will always pronounce number sign as hashtag. And that’s not always the case. I just wish that they would read the screen and leave our brains to interpret what’s going on.
I mean, what does it matter if you get N-O full stop nine. Our brains are used to that sort of auditory reprocessing. We know that it should be number nine and that that’s how it’s written on the screen. The other issue too is actually quite serious, which is that if they keep trying to change what’s actually on the screen, there are things that we as blind people may miss out on in terms of the way that things are written. So I think that our requirements as blind people using screen readers are different from sighted people listening to text to speech. I understand why you would try and contextualize in that context, but they shouldn’t be doing it in my view for screen readers, or if they are going to do it, please give us a setting to turn it off. Here’s an interesting question.
It’s quite US specific, I think, from Marisa. So perhaps somebody in the US can help us with this. She says, “I prefer large print. No, that is not something thought about by medical professionals as a possible accommodation due to being legally blind and also my writing being pretty illegible. I will usually have a family member help me fill out medical forms when going to the doctor. It’s a lot easier for me and a lot less time consuming. Granted, I know not everyone has family that they can rely on. However, most of these medical forms ask for a lot of sensitive information. I personally do not feel comfortable asking a stranger or someone from the doctor’s office to fill this in for me. With that being said, do you know if healthcare organizations or healthcare providers for that matter within the United States are required to provide accessible forms?
If the forms are not accessible, let’s say they are given to you via PDF, are there ways to make them able to be filled out with JAWS or Kurzweil? I personally do a lot better with technology. I find it’s a lot easier for me to fill things out using the computer. So I really would appreciate any guidance on this.” Thank you very much, Marisa. Let’s open it up and see if people in the United States can comment on whether the ADA is applicable here, whether there are other healthcare laws that may be applicable here in terms of seeing if you can get accessible copies of these forms. And I’m with you all the way, of course, being able to fill in forms online, assuming the forms are accessible, is so much easier. I have a veritable treasure trove of contributions from Debee Armstrong that I draw from.
And here’s one that she sent in quite a while ago now on the good old subject of mainstream devices versus blindness devices. And she says, “It seems like we blind folk either love all those gadgets specifically for blind people, or we do everything on our smartphones. I am middle of the road and wonder if others have similar positions. I would never buy a Victor Trek. My iPhone can get the latest apps and maps. I can quickly obtain a replacement from Apple if it fails. If I need to get somewhere, I want a device with lots of choices. You can buy a lot of apps for that $600 that would be spent on the Trek. The Stream for me is a completely different story. Because I use it strictly for reading and listening, I don’t have to worry if I run its battery down. I don’t want to read a lot or listen to things on my phone as much, because I want to keep my battery mostly full for an important call or if I need to navigate somewhere. Wasting my precious iPhone battery on entertainment seems plain silly.
Unlike the phone, the Stream is easy to operate in bed. It can be operated one handed and I don’t worry if it accidentally gets squished under my pillow, that it will overheat and cause a fire. Because it uses an SD card, I can easily swap cards, something you cannot do with an iPhone when you start to run out of room. I can organize cards by subject, fiction, nonfiction, podcast, work related, et cetera. Try having multiple storage drives for your phone. Of course you can always pay for iCloud drive, Google drive, One drive or Dropbox, but I don’t need entertainment in the cloud, and SD cards are a heck of a lot cheaper than those monthly fees. I do use cloud storage extensively in my job, so I can work from anywhere. But for entertainment, a case full of SD cards is much more convenient.
Even my $49 Kindle Fire uses SD cards. So why pay for a lot of cloud storage for the privilege of keeping data on the phone? And you have to shuffle data between phone and the cloud, which is awkward at best. No, give me a Kindle and a Victor Reader Stream for my recreation, and I’ll save the phone for important stuff. Regarding Braille with an uppercase B note takers, I’d love to be able to buy a new one every two years. I’ve avoided even wanting them because it seems like they become obsolete quickly, are not always compatible with commercial equivalents, don’t get supported after a few years, and companies go out of business. When Baum went bankrupt, I was left with a VarioUltra that needs repair. When Freedom Scientific stopped supporting my perfectly working Telesensory Braille displays, I was beyond frustrated because I would have needed to choose between buying a new laptop now or foregoing a computer long enough to save up for both the display and the computer.
The other issue with Braille devices is if you are poor, but enterprising, you can get an agency to purchase one for you. If you are rich, you also can purchase one. But if you make enough money and have enough job security that an agency won’t help you, but aren’t rich enough to buy one of these devices outright, you are really stuck. I have a mortgage, car payments, utility bills and property taxes. And now it looks like I’ll have a deferred payroll tax, I’ll have to pony up for next year. I save for my retirement. I have family expenses. One thing I don’t have are credit card bills because I pay them off each month though I do have several cards for convenience. COVID-19 did not cause me to lose my job, but had that happened, I at least would not have had extra debts that were fueled by impulse buying.
Unless I want to discard some of these financial responsibilities to incur debt, there’s no money left over for a Braille display. I buy a laptop every three or four years and a phone every three or four years when I’m not getting a new laptop. Those big expenses are hard enough to justify to my sighted husband who still uses Windows XP and doesn’t understand why I can’t just keep using all the displays and gizmos I already have. Are all these other middle class blind people who buy note takers, video magnifiers, and Braille displays taking on more debt? Do they reside in parts of the country that are less expensive than Silicon Valley, where I live? How does their income compare with the median income for their region? How do they manage to buy expensive toys that only they can use and still handle all their necessary family expenses without feeling selfish?
Do they have partners that encourage spending over saving? I’d really like to know.” Thanks very much, Debee. I will definitely take you on, on this Victor Stream issue because I completely agree with you with your analysis about the Victor Trek. But I would submit that the same analysis applies to the Stream as well. One of the disadvantages of having multiple devices is that you’ve got more things to lose. Another disadvantage is that you’ve got more devices to charge. So you have to take more chargers with you when you can potentially lose those as well. You make the very valid point that you can save the money that you’d spend on a specialized blindness navigation device and buy quite a few different apps with that. And you’re absolutely right. And I’d also contend that you can save the money on a specific blindness reading device and put it towards more storage on your iPhone.
My iPhone 12 Pro Max has 512 gigabytes of storage on it. So I don’t need to worry about SD cards that can easily be lost, SD cards that can easily be corrupted. I don’t even need to worry about cloud storage because there’s enough room on there to take care of all of that. And even if you got a 256 gig iPhone, that is an enormous amount of storage, if you’re just using it for books and a little bit of music. Even if you don’t want to buy that expensive a phone, but you subscribe to Microsoft 365, as many of us do, you’ve got a terabyte of storage just waiting there and you can copy things from your PC into that storage very easily. Also, if you’re subscribing to services like Spotify and Apple music for streaming, then a specialized blindness player, like the Stream is not going to play content from there.
So why not have one device that handles it all? If you buy one of the newer iPhones, you’re not going to have a problem with battery life. I mean, they literally do last all day and sometimes into the next day, without a charge. If you are playing a book with the screen off, you are consuming very little battery, but if you truly are worried about that, you could get one of the Apple Mac safe batteries for far less than it costs you to buy a blindness specific device and keep it in a handbag or a pocket or whatever. When you’re starting to run low on juice, snap that thing on the back of your phone and you’re up and running again. And your books are with you all the time, because you’re carrying your phone with you all the time in case you do get that important call.
Sometimes I find myself in a waiting room or waiting for an appointment and I have five or 10 minutes to kill. Now I could check my email, but if I’m up to date with that, I could just put on a little bit more of my book because it’s right there on the device that I’m always carrying around with me. And of course that book could come from multiple sources. It could come from an accessible format library, BARD in your case, since you’re from the United States, but equally, it could come from Kindle or it could come from Apple books, some of those commercial sources, it doesn’t matter. My phone plays them all. So I really struggle to see the need for these specialist blindness devices. Now the market of course will determine this. So as long as the market determines there’s a need and people keep buying them then long may they continue, but I really do struggle and always have to understand why a competent iPhone user would feel the need for one.
I’m glad they’re there for those who struggle with iPhones or don’t want to own one, but it’s really a head scratcher for me. I just do not get this at all. On the subject of affording these devices, it is a real concern. Digital poverty is a thing. And in the blind community where we are spreading the cost of manufacture over such a small number of units, this is really a serious problem. In my view, the answer is to recognize that if you are going to give blind people a level playing field, then there should be funds available to subsidize this technology, regardless of your income or job status. People can hate on the blindness manufacturers all they like for producing material that works and that has facilitated people getting into employment. And unfortunately the R and D, the cost of manufacture, the cost of support does have to get spread across a small number of units.
So in my view, a decent society looks like making sure that the funds exist for a blind person to level the playing field. If there’s a blindness component to the purchase, then it should be subsidized or fully covered. So for example, you’d expect anybody to be able to buy a laptop, but when it comes to the cost of a good screen reader or a Braille display, something of that nature, that should be considered an investment in capacity building of blind people.
Speaker 2: What’s on your mind? 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.
Jonathan Mosen: Some comments on Windows XP from Christopher Wright. “Hi, Jonathan, Windows XP was my first introduction to Windows after Windows CE on the BrailleNote mPower which really wasn’t Windows, since it was extremely customized and stripped down. I’d argue, XP was, and still is the best version of Windows to date. Newer versions of Windows beginning with Vista are unnecessarily bloated in all kinds of ways. The interface in XP was simple and easy to use. It used very few system resources and it ran like a champ. If Microsoft would take all the under the hood improvements made in newer versions of windows and pack them with the XP interface and extremely lightweight system footprint, I’d use it in a heartbeat. Imagine how much you could get out of your hardware if windows was only using say 500 megabytes of RAM for the base system, instead of two or more gigabytes and four gigabytes of disc space instead of the ridiculous 20 or so.
Sure you can argue our drives and RAM have skyrocketed in capacity and the fat modern versions use as much RAM as possible means they run faster, but it still seems bloated to me. The only way you are getting a lightweight system now is using a Linux distribution optimized for that purpose. Windows XP is no longer suitable for internet use though my experience has suggested it never performed well on the internet to begin with. Maybe it was because I was using old wifi standards, but I could never get files to download faster than about 200 KB per second, and file transfers over USB were horrendously slow. Perhaps it might also have to do with the age of the system going from 2001 to 2014 is an eternity in computer land. I was still using XP on the internet until early 2018, though it was mainly for playing MUDs and other multiplayer audio games.
I didn’t open web browsers or use email, which is probably why I didn’t get into trouble with malware. Now that we have Windows 10 with automatic driver detection, improved narrator, support for SSDs and much faster network and file transfer speeds, I haven’t looked back. I mainly find myself pining for the fjords. Pining for the fjords, oh sorry. That’s something different. I mainly find myself pining for the simple interface and stability. Fortunately, it’s very easy to run a virtual Windows XP computer on top of your existing system. So it’s not truly gone. The fans, including myself are very happy and time for a little bit of gentle castigation now. Ouch. Oh no, no. That’s something different. Not… I was thinking about something else.
From Dawn Davis of Sydney who says, “Hi, Jonathan. This is just a suggestion that maybe some of your contributors might take into consideration. For those of us who have either some hearing loss or find it hard to follow the speech sometimes, it might be worthwhile for people to bring the speech back to a more normal rate. I know a lot of people have their speech rate very fast, but there are people, like me, who find that when they need to learn something or listen carefully, they need to slow the speech rate down.”
Thank you, Dawn. It is a point very well and gently made. It’s an important point too. You want your demonstrations to be intelligible to the masses. I would add a couple of things. Sometimes, people who don’t use the text-to-speech engine in question can’t understand at a fast clip because they’re just not used to the speech, so it does affect even people who don’t have a hearing impairment. The other thing I would say is that this show is transcribed, and if we have text-to-speech engines going on at a fast clip, that really does make the job more difficult, and that can prolong the transcription time.
While we’re on the subject of recording demos, the other thing I would urge people to do is don’t talk over your speech. That really is a nightmare for transcribing because you’ve got two things talking at once and often, it’s difficult to differentiate the two, so all the transcriber can write down is that dreaded word, crosstalk. So you talk. Your text-to-speech talks. Never both at the same time. So please do keep the demos coming in. It reminds me of the old main menu days when I started that back in 2000, but just keep in mind that we have a wide and varied audience, and you want to get your speech to about speaking speed.
This email comes from Ben Blatchford. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. I truly love the dedication and work you put into making this podcast every weekend. I know it must not be easy, but I just wanted to say thank you so much for doing it, and I really appreciate it, as I’m sure all of your other listeners do.
Well, thank you, Ben. I don’t mind. It’s not too much effort, really. I mean, it takes some time, but I love it. And I could probably do it standing on my head. I tried this for a while, but I found it was really hard to operate the keyboard and position the microphone correctly, so I’ve gone back to sitting on my little chair.
He says, “I had a couple of questions. First of all, do you know if anyone has the main menu archives from 2008 and prior because they have disappeared from the website.I would love to listen to those old demos and things from the early 2000s. It’s definitely an nostalgic thing, and it shows how far we’ve come in the past 21 years since main menu was launched.”
Ben, I have most of my main menus. There are a few that I don’t have because they’re on a CD that’s gone missing, and I do hope, one day, to fossick all around again for my old CDs that I copied things onto because in those days, hard drive capacity was an issue and see if I can find them again. I do have most of them in the original high bitrate format because what went on that website was the streamed version, as I recall, and they were at 16 KBPS, 11 kilohertz mono, which sounded horrible. But we had to do that so that people with dial-up modems back in 2000 could hear the shows. So I’ve got the original higher bitrate files, and I gave them, I believe it was, to Larry and John Gassman, and while I haven’t gone searching for those because I don’t need to, you understand. My understanding is that they have created a podcast, which I think is called something like Main Menu Legacy. So if you search for that, you may find those old shows. I don’t know if they’ve just dumped them all up there or whether it’s a staggered release or what is going on, but that is my understanding.
Ben continues also, “I’m getting my new computer soon.” Dude, that’s exciting. Nothing like new toys. He says it has an Intel core i9-10900k processor with 16 gigabytes of RAM and a 2 terabyte SSD. Whoa, you’ll be able to store the world on that thing, Ben. He says it’s running Windows 11, but I was wondering if there’s a way that I can downgrade to Windows 10, or do I have to buy a license for Windows 10?
Ben, I don’t know, but I do have a piece of advice before I go on about this any further, and it’s this: don’t do it, Ben. Don’t do it because we’re all going to have to get used to Windows 11 eventually, right? So if I get a new computer, and it’s got Windows 11 on it, I’m not going to downgrade, but I’m just in no hurry to upgrade because what I have is working, and I don’t perceive any benefits in upgrading. But if you’ve got a shiny new computer, and it’s all installed for you and it’s ready to go. I don’t really personally see any value in downgrading to Windows 10 because it’s the future, isn’t it? Windows 11 will be around for a while. We’ll have to get used to it. And there’s nothing too show-stopping, as far as I’m aware, with Windows 11.
But if you really want to do it, you could contact the manufacturer of the computer and see if they have a way for you to be on 10. In fact, it could be that you can ask for this before you take delivery of the computer, if it’s not too late, but I’d give Windows 11 a chance on a new system, personally.
And he says also, “I’m loving my Pixel 5. It’s a great phone, and I am trying to convince my wife to switch over to the Google ecosystem because she has an iPhone. She’s using my Pixel to take pictures and is amazed at the camera quality of it compared to her iPhone 8 Plus. I keep trying to convince her, and she’s like, ‘but I like my iPhone, but that camera is really nice.’ I think I just might trade in her phone and get a Pixel 6 for her.”
Well, here’s some more advice from me. Don’t do it, Ben. Don’t… at least not without her permission. I mean, imagine this scenario. Wife of Ben, who is not named, wife of Ben comes home, and Ben says, “Hi, honey. I traded in your iPhone for a Pixel for you.” Do you think she’s going to be happy? She might not be. She might be quite grumpy with you. And while she still might love you, it might cause marital disharmony. Do we want that for Mosen at Large listeners? No, we do not.
And I would also point out that you’re really comparing Apples with Androids here, if I may coin a phrase, because is it fair to compare an iPhone 8 Plus, which is an aging phone now, with the latest technology in a Google phone? Surely, you should compare what’s in the Google Pixel 6’s camera with the iPhone 13’s camera because it’s a big upheaval, changing operating systems. It’s a big decision. You’ve got to repurchase your apps, in many cases. You’ve got to get used to the way things work. You’ve got to do things differently. It’s a big thing, so if wife of Ben doesn’t want to be forced into the Android ecosystem, my view is wife of Ben should not have to be.
“Anyway,” says Ben, “Thank you so much for putting the show together every weekend.”
Well, thank you for writing in, Ben, because if you didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to read your email.
A contribution now from someone who’s asked to remain anonymous, which says, “A couple of weeks ago, you had a listener ask Bonnie about blind people purchasing guns in the United States. Laws differ from state to state and sometimes, from city to city. However, I, as a blind man, have purchased guns in two western states. I don’t know if the people at the store would’ve filled out the paperwork for me or not because I always had a sighted person with me. I did, of course, have to sign the form. Where I happen to live, a license is not required to carry a gun in many circumstances. So as long as I obey the local laws, I can carry, if I choose. I realize that the topic of blind people with guns, or just guns in general, is a very contentious subject. So I will say only one thing: if a person, blind or not, chooses to own a gun, it is that person’s responsibility to be properly trained and know what they are doing because the responsibility of what happens with the gun lies with the owner.”
Thanks for the email, and I realize that it is a contentious subject, and it’s one of those subject I have long come to realize where there’s just no changing people’s minds, whatever side of the spectrum they sit on. I would just comment, then, that I am so glad this is not a part of the culture of the country where I live.
Group : Mosen at Large Podcast.
Jonathan Mosen: This audio comes from Mickey Quenzer and it starts part way through, so I’ll just pick it up from where it begins.
Mickey: If you might have a little bit of a discussion about how to create good feedback when you’re reporting something such as a voiceover issue. The example that I’ve been working on is I’ve got some AirPods, and when I flick around sometimes with voiceover, I get this really weird noise. It sounds like [inaudible 01:09:34], and then sometimes, the AirPod, the left ear shuts off. Sometimes, both AirPods shut off. And other times, it just makes that noise, and I am learning with feedback to create the feedback. But I didn’t realize that when you’re on an item, for instance, the time, if you double tap that, that actually allows you to put the time in. So I was putting all that information below, and I have a feeling that the best thing to do is to double tap on the item and see if you can edit it before you could continue with your feedback.
Not sure if this makes sense, but it would be nice to have a good description of how to create this kind of feedback for Apple so we can be more effective as users of voiceover.
Jonathan Mosen: Thanks, Mickey. As a general rule, when it comes to reporting bugs, the ideal is that you report the problem, so what happens, and then how you reproduce it, how do you make the problem happen on demand, if possible, the expected behavior, and the behavior you are getting instead.
What I’m not clear about is whether this issue that you are having is new and therefore, you are submitting it as a bug report in 15.2, which is in beta at the moment, or whether this is a longstanding issue. And if it is a longstanding issue, others may have experienced it and potentially, can offer a workaround based on your description. I’m not an AirPods user myself. If this is a longstanding issue, then what I would suggest you do is actually talk to someone at Apple. Give Apple Accessibility a call and describe it, and they should be able to remote in if they need to, and they can do a lot of this work for you.
I think one of the realities, too, is that so many bug reports get submitted that often, they don’t have the effect that people want them to. We’ve had discussions on here before about people who take a long time to produce beautifully crafted bug reports and never hear back from Apple. So that’s a danger too.
So if you’ve got this problem and it’s going on for a while, I’d open a case with Apple through their Accessibility number and see what happens.
Brett Wilhelm: Hello, everyone. Since this is my first contribution to the show, I thought I would introduce myself. My name is Brett Wilhelm. I am an assistive technology trainer living in Missouri. And like you, Jonathan, I have Norrie disease. I had hearing aids for many years and now have two cochlear implants.
The reason I’m calling in today is to answer a listener’s question from last week about alert systems for the deaf-blind. I wanted to tell you about a great one called the Serene Innovations CentralAlert System. Now, this system is not specifically designed for the deaf-blind, but the manufacturer has made it mostly accessible.
The way this system works is it comes with a master unit and then you buy the accessories for the items in the house you want to be alerted to, and you connect everything wirelessly. The unit will alert you through three methods: flashing lights, very loud beeps, and/or bed shakers. The Serene system can alert you to a wide variety of things, such as your cell phone ringing, the doorbell, fire alarm, weather alerts like tornado warnings, and baby crying. It has a baby monitor accessory.
The thing I like best about this system is that as long as you have some hearing, almost all of the components that you want can be set up by a blind person because it uses beeps to confirm that you have indeed paired the accessories you want, and that’s not true of most of these systems.
I own most of the accessories, and they all work well. My favorite is the phone dock. What this does is you can place your phone on it and whenever it detects the vibration from your phone, it sends an alert, so you hear the alarm, and you get vibration from the bed shakers. This allows me, because I’m a very deep sleeper, to have a very powerful alarm clock with two bed shakers getting me up in the morning.
I don’t know if this is only available in the US or if it’s available internationally as well. I hope so. But this may be something anyone wanting an accessible alert system should look into. I’ll include a link for more information in the email. I hope this is helpful, and I hope everyone has a great day.
Jonathan Mosen: Thank you very much, Brett. That was a wonderful first contribution. Good information there, and I hope that we will hear from you again.
For all things Mosen at Large, check out the website where you can listen to episodes online, subscribe using your favorite podcast app, and contact the show. Just point your browser to podcast.mosen.org. That’s podcast .mosen.org.
Denise: Hi, Jonathan. This is Denise, I just wanted to thank you for recommending the book, Project Hail Mary. I’m on chapter 20, letting my reader charge, and it’s absolutely fabulous. Thank you so much for recommending it.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, you’re welcome, Denise. And for those who weren’t listening at the time, Project Hail Mary is the latest offering by sci-fi author, Andy Weir. I have not read any Andy Weir that I didn’t like. I think he’s only written about, what, three novels and maybe a short story or two, but he’s a really good author, and I like his character development a lot.
So Bonnie and I both read that, and we enjoyed it immensely. So if you’re heading into summer or perhaps a long winter, then Project Hail Mary might be a good one to add to your reading list.
Terri: Hi, Jonathan. This is Terri from Phoenix, Arizona. Again, I had a question for you about hearing aids, though I believe you have mentioned that you have the Oticon hearing aids. I have the Oticon More hearing aids that I received in February, and I had a different version of Oticon hearing aids or slightly older ones before that.
My question to you is when I got these hearing aids in February, I had heard that the microphone would route through the iPhone soon with no defined definition of what soon means. I did contact my audiologist today and asked her about this, and she checked with Oticon and told me that it’s still saying that it’s a popular requested feature, and they are working on it, and it should be coming out soon, but they don’t know when that is or that will be.
So I just wanted to get your take on it. What do you do about phone calls on your phone without holding the phone near your face? My husband has the Phonak P90, which are very good for him, and his do allow phone calls where he can talk to the person, and they can hear him just as well with him having the phone in his hip pockets or sitting in the… somewhere away from him. So not a feature I would trade mine in for, for sure. But I’m just hoping that you have found already a solution.
Jonathan Mosen: Thank you, Terri. We had a contribution on this some months ago now from Inicio who has those Phonak hearing aids, and he wants to turn the feature off because it’s hard for people to hear him sometimes. And I tell you this: I’ve got no objection to people who want to use this feature, but if they introduce it, I hope, I would have everything crossed, that it is an optional feature and that you can turn it off because I do not want this. The further away you are from a microphone, the more difficult it is for people to hear you, particularly hearing impaired people. I, for example, sometimes get calls from people who are using AirPods or some other earbuds, and the audio quality that they hear when these things are in their ears may well be wonderful, but the phone call quality of many people using AirPods, I struggle with it. I sometimes just have to say, “Take the damn things out, call me back on the real phone, and we’ll talk” because the audio quality, in many cases with these things, is hideous. So in case you haven’t worked it out, I’m not a fan of this at all.
The workaround for me? Well, I usually, during the day at work, am in a suit, and I have a suit jacket pocket, and my iPhone stays in my suit jacket pocket. That’s not that far away from my mouth, and so often, if the phone rings, I can do a two-finger double tap of the phone when it’s in my suit jacket pocket and not take the phone out. But I’ve really got no objection to taking the phone out and holding it in front of my mouth because I like to sound as good as I can be. I think it’s calmer. If I want people to sound good for me, then I will try and hold my phone up to my mouth and talk and make sure that I’m as clear as possible to those who call me.
I hope your Oticon More aids are going well. We’ve had a few contributions from listeners about these since they came out, and I am interested in them. I’m still on the Oticon Opn S1 hearing aids. And one of the reasons why I haven’t requested a trial of the Oticon More yet is I don’t think the non-rechargeable version is available in New Zealand yet. It’s possible that it has been released now, but I don’t think it’s available in New Zealand. Obviously, we’ve got some supply issues with a lot of things at the moment, and I wouldn’t want to go to a rechargeable model myself because I would just be worried about being caught short and not having replacement batteries. I really like just having a set of them in my pocket. I can pop in replacement batteries whenever they’re needed and not worried about how low I am on my charge. But they’re getting rave reviews and the technology sounds intriguing in them, so if anybody else wants to comment on the Oticon More and how they’re working out for you, that would be very interesting.
Paul emails in and says, “This is a question of about when you find the need to use hearing aids with a wired connection and with what equipment is this useful for, given that hearing aids offer Bluetooth connectivity to phones and tablets. I’m referring to a couple of weeks ago when this was briefly mentioned. My hearing aids are Oticon More, and they don’t offer the option of a wired connection.”
Well, first of all, Paul, they may actually, but you may need to replace the battery door with a battery door that contains an audio shoe input. It’s possible that the Oticon More doesn’t yet because the non-rechargeable battery version isn’t widely available or hasn’t been released. But if it turns out that the Oticon More never offers this option, then unfortunately for me, I will never use an Oticon More because this is absolutely essential to me.
It’s correct that tablets and smartphones and even laptops offer Bluetooth connectivity, and you could, of course, get a Bluetooth dongle even for a desktop. And that may be fine for a lot of people. It isn’t fine for me, though, when I’m working on my laptop or with my mixer for audio editing because latency is the enemy of good audio production. I like to think that the edits, for example, in this podcast are generally pretty clean. Every so often, if I have to go back, I can hear one where I think, “I didn’t do a very good job of that.”
But generally, the edits that I make in this podcast are very good, and a significant contributor to that is the fact that I am absolutely obsessed with latency. I lower the buffers in Reaper to as low as they will tolerate. So I get very low latency, which is just a fancy word for delay, really. And if you introduce something wireless like Bluetooth into the mix, you are going to add latency.
For an example of what I’m talking about, you could download an app like Backpack Studio or Ferrite is another one where you can turn the microphone on in those apps and hear your voice echoing back. And what you will find is that there is a definite delay between when you talk and when you hear yourself echoing back. It’s pretty low delay, but it sounds kind of like an echo because you’re not hearing yourself with zero latency, and actually, an even easier way to test this out is to use the Live Listen mode on your iPhone with your made-for-iPhone hearing aids, which I can’t really do because it’s fine when I hear people around the table. But when I talk, there’s just enough echo, even with the modern iPhones, to make it really hard and unnatural.
So I’ve got no problem using my made-for-iPhone hearing aids with the Bluetooth functionality for day to day, swiping through, reading tweets, doing email, all of those things. But when it comes to audio production, absolutely not. In that case, I would plug in a Lightning to 3.5 adapter, and then I would connect to the wired cable, and the latency is significantly better. And that’s where an app like Backpack Studio or Ferrite would really show you this.
But also, of course, I’m working on a PC a lot. I plug straight into the headphone jack. Latency is absolutely zero. So that’s important to me not just for audio production, but also just when I’m typing away and using my screen reader. The feedback is so much more instant than when you, say, paired your hearing aids via Bluetooth to your laptop. I notice those things, and some people don’t care, so that’s fine, but I really notice it. I’m an efficiency nut. I’m a latency ninja, and these things bother me when I don’t have that low latency.
There are other use cases too, of course. One of them is when you want to use an ATM. And if you’ve got that little cable that you can plug into your hearing aids, you can wire your hearing aids directly to an ATM and use it with speech. And I often do this and find it very handy. Despite Apple’s ridiculous sabotaging of the 3.5 headphone jack and all the other sheep smartphone manufacturers who have followed, the 3.5 millimeter jack is still ubiquitous. It’s in a lot of devices and being able to plug your hearing aids straight into one is incredibly helpful.
So I hope that further explains why I value the direct audio input feature of my hearing aids. And whenever I’m up for new hearing aids, I always make sure that my hearing aids will support that.
Andy Lopez is writing in with his first contribution to the show, so welcome, Andy. It’s always good when we convert a listener into a contributor because without contributors, what would the show be? Nothing.
Anyway, Andy says, “I would like your opinions on what I am about to say. I posted this on my main Facebook page, but I would like opinions from you as well as listeners. Also, I don’t want any sort of rude comments as I think that this is extremely personal for me, as it is not something I share lightly.”
“I am autistic as well as visually impaired. A few months ago, I emailed a dental office that is in the area that I am located in. I explained to them that I suffer a lot of anxiety at the dentist due to past trauma as a child at dental appointments. I also explained to the dentist if they would be willing to please rub my front teeth because it helps with my sensory needs. Upon emailing the office, I received a call from them a few days later and asked them if they had reviewed the email. They said that they did and that they would gladly accommodate what I requested in the email.”
“Upon arriving to the office, I was helped with the initial paperwork, and I waited my turn to see the hygienist for my appointment. Once I introduced myself to the hygienist, she revealed to me that she was the one who read the email, and I asked her if I show her how I would like my teeth rubbed. Once she was done doing x-rays and doing the initial checkup, she allowed me to show her before she started the cleaning, and she did it for roughly 30 seconds, and I told her about my anxiety situation, and she was very understanding. She even went so far as to let me know that I can give her hand signals if I feel uncomfortable at any moment. This was highly appreciated because there have been some instances where I have felt uncomfortable, and some dentists have been extremely rude about it.”
“Once the initial cleaning was done, the dentist came in to do a check-up. I showed her as well and asked if she personally saw anything wrong with it. She said, ‘No.’ My question is, would any of you see anything wrong with this if you were in the hygienist’s shoes. My family members think that I shouldn’t ask the hygienist because they claim it as weird. I have even been told things like my teeth are apparently going to fall out if someone does this for me. Personally, now that I am an adult and think about it, I personally don’t think that it is true, that they can fall out because of that, especially if you brush on a regular basis. I would also like to know, how would you react if you in the hygienist’s shoes?”
Andy, there are a lot of things that stress people out, and one of those is going to the dentist. Some people are terrified of going to the dentist. Whether they’ve had a traumatic experience or not, for some, there is something about going to the dentist that just makes them deeply distressed and uncomfortable. And I’m sure that you won’t be the only person that the dental practice has encountered who knows that they should go and get a checkup but are very, very frightened of doing it.
What I would say to you is it is certainly not my place to judge an accommodation that has been mutually agreed upon between you and the dental practice. You asked for an accommodation. Based on your account of the story, the hygienist was happy to provide the accommodation. It wasn’t a problem. And the dentist confirmed that it wasn’t harmful, and she didn’t think it was a problem. You are happy. They’re happy. I think that’s all that matters. You did the right thing. You got your teeth cleaned and seen to, even though it was a deeply distressing experience for you, and if that helped, then great. I think, I like to hope anyway, that these days, people are more accommodating of people’s impairments and if one of those impairments is anxiety and you’ve found a way to mitigate it, then more power to you and the people who were so willing to accommodate it.
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Speaker 3: Hey, Jonathan. Kushel here. How’s it going? Hope you’re well.
I had a question for you. I’ve got a friend in Houston, Texas who is low vision, and she’s requiring training for talk back on Android. She’s got a Samsung A32 phone. Now, she has tried contacting Lighthouse Houston and they are not responding. So I’m just wondering, do you know of anyone who provides one-on-one training for talk back on Android or even with the low vision features, and for any low vision clinics where she can get her assessment done for her retina, her eye condition and stuff? Because she doesn’t even know what her eye condition is. And her situation is that she is on an H-4 visa, her husband’s on H-1B visa so they’re still waiting on their green card in the US so any help from you or any of the listeners would be appreciated.
Jonathan Mosen: Houston, we have a problem. Well, hopefully somebody can help there. If she’s still waiting for that visa, she probably doesn’t have a social security number. And one of the things I found when living in the US, is that even if you are there legally and you’ve got a visa and you don’t have a social security number, it does limit your access considerably. It’s almost like a universal identity number. So we’ll see if anybody has any ideas for you on this one.
Iona: Hi Jonathan, this is Iona from Montreal. I had a few questions that maybe you and the community could help out with. One would be any recommendations for an accessible doorbell. We have this great well-insulated house that we now live in, and it’s a pleasure to have very low heating bills but one of the side effects is that the entrance door, when it is closed, even if I sit in front of it and ask who is at the door when I hear the doorbells, sometimes they don’t hear me. And I’ve had people just leave with a package because I wouldn’t open the door until I knew who was ringing at the door and they couldn’t hear me. So I would like to have one of those doorbells that ideally I could talk to the person outside and hear their answer on my smartphone, for example so any experience with those would be very appreciated.
The other question was about document formatting. I know it’s a complex one, but I was wondering if you have any tips for potential tutorials or how to go about accumulating knowledge of good formatting practices. Because I find that when we read with speech detection, unless we have proofreading mode on, and even that’s not always clear, it’s hard to gather information and learn from the way other documents are formatted. Even with Braille, it’s not always clear how the outline and the layout of a document works out. Is it something that you have gathered experience through sighted help or are there actually some good tutorials for best practices for visually impaired people that could explain how to go about formatting? I mean, it doesn’t need to be application specific, I think, it’s just a matter of increasing awareness of professionally formatting documents and tips and tricks and such.
Jonathan Mosen: A couple of great questions. Thanks so much, Iona. I have the Ring Video Doorbell. I can’t say I like it very much. I find the audio not particularly good quality. Somebody did suggest to me that I could improve the quality if I took the doorbell back down to 2.4 gigahertz, at the moment it’s on five gigahertz, and it’s actually quite complicated to do that. So I’ve not tried doing that. And one of the reasons why I bought the Ring Video Doorbell Pro is precisely because it did five gigahertz because 2.4 gigs is so congested around here and many other urban places. So you can get the Ring Video Doorbell, it can be made to work.
I also hear very good things about Google’s Nest Doorbell. I believe it’s called the Nest Doorbell. So many Google things are called Nest. I’m pretty sure they have a doorbell called that and that we have had reviews of this on Mosen At Large, and it sounded great and apparently the accessibility is pretty good as well. I must say, I am surprised that you don’t seem to be able to connect a Ring Video Doorbell to any Amazon product like the Echo, unless it has a screen. I’d be quite happy to just talk obviously, to somebody at the door from my Amazon soup drinker device, but it doesn’t appear to be possible to do that, of course, there is the iPhone app. There are other video doorbells on the market, and so if anybody else has other recommendations, then by all means feel free to share those.
Regarding formatting, I think structure is the key here. So good use of heading levels. It’s important to use, say a heading level two for major sections. If you have subsections under that, use a heading level three or a lower heading level so structure’s really important and that actually does help with accessibility as well as readability. If you use in Microsoft Word, for example, heading level styles, which you can very easily do in Windows, you can highlight the text and then press control and alt followed by the number of the level that you want. So to create a heading level two, write your text, then select it and press control, alt, two, right there you’ve got a heading level two, couldn’t be simpler.
Every so often I do find it useful to enable additional information on my Braille display or even with speech. So I get a feel for the way documents are formatted. This has given me an understanding over time of the way that some people choose to bold, and underline, and italicize text. So it’s quite useful just to learn from example about the way that sighted people are doing this. I’m not aware of any kind of document on this that’s a guide to formatting from a blindness perspective, but it’s such an obvious one and there’s clearly such a need that you’d think it does exist. So if anybody knows of such a guide, please feel free to share. I’m sure many would be interested.
Because the way that we present really does matter. If I can jump on my soapbox, I’m amazed by how many people do not spell check. Now, that’s not passing any kind of judgment on people’s ability to write because for various reasons, perhaps some people just haven’t been taught how to spell well, I get all of that, but really isn’t not putting your documents through a spell checker in this day and age, just laziness? I can’t think of an email client where you don’t have a spell checker. Why not use it? You just dent your credibility so much when you can’t be bothered putting something through a spell checker.
Stan Latrell: Greetings, Jonathan, this is Stan Latrell in Medford, Oregon. And boy, you got my brain juices flowing with you and Bonnie talking about retro things like the typewriter. Oh, man. One of my favorite typewriters that I didn’t own, but I wish I would have at that time, was the IBM Selectric typewriter. I know a friend that repairs them still to this day. And of course, you mentioned about how typewriter ribbons can get all messed up. And I remember doing a paper when I was in a school at San Francisco state in the late 70s, one of the things I’m so happy that I did was I always brailed my work in order to transfer it to typewritten material, and I’m so happy that I did that because I knew the typing sounded funny, but I wasn’t sure until I handed my paper in, when the instructor told me that the paper was basically, the writing didn’t come through so I had to retype my work once I got the ribbon fixed.
And I knew a friend that worked for a major radio station in San Francisco. It was a music station at the time. K S F O were the call letters. And the gentleman who unfortunately is no longer with us, there was a gentleman that wrote topic reports for them. He was an engineer, but he was blinded because of diabetes. And I first met him at the orientation center for the blind back in 1973. Well, anyway, he went back to the radio station and I will say one thing about the Gene Autry owned stations. Gene Autry owned the station or his group owned the station. They kept Gene employed. So what he did was he wrote traffic reports. And the only reason I knew that there was a flaw was that there was this great gentleman who I had talked to a few times that was an on-air personality by the name of Rick Cimino.
And he was doing his music program between three and seven in the afternoon, 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM in the afternoon. And he was giving Gene a bad time because of the ribbon that didn’t work. And Gene found out how bad it was to have a defective ribbon. And yes, I could really identify with what you and Bonnie were talking about with a typewriter, and what’s old as new will eventually become new again. I don’t have any desire to buy a turntable or to go and get my music collection on LP form. I’m very happy to get it either digitally or through the means of CDs and then transfer it to my computer and some sort of way in order to keep it. I mean, I just love having music the way I wanted. I mean, I just don’t have any desire to go back to what was once the case.
I had a great, you would’ve been proud of my vinyl collection in the day, but then through a series of things that happened, I lost my vinyl collection. The only reason that would’ve been nice to have it is to have all those USB turntables, but I don’t want to go back and try to get a vinyl. I sometimes think it sounds like it has more depth because, but other than that, I’d still rather have a CD or some sort of a digital means.
Jonathan Mosen: Absolutely. Thanks, Stan. And these days there are audio systems capable of playing audio that is much better quality than CD. A much higher bit rate, higher sampling rate, which means that you get better dynamic range so if you’ve invested in a good system, it’s going to sound better than the vinyl. It really is.
Speaker 5: (Singing) Hey, it’s Jonathan and Bonnie. It’s Jonathan and Bonnie. It’s Jonathan and Bonnie. It’s Jonathan and Bonnie.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, it’s that time of year again. And it’s that time of the show again. It’s Jonathan and Bonnie with another Bonnie bulletin. Welcome Bonnie. Hi guys. It is recorded at 3:33 AM. Beep beep. What are we doing recording it at 3:33 AM?
Bonnie: I think it’s because I had a cappuccino with dinner and haven’t really been able to sleep much.
Jonathan Mosen: You don’t normally get a bad response to those caffeinated beverages.
Bonnie: No, must have been really strong cappuccino. Yeah. I don’t really feel energized.
Jonathan Mosen: The reason why we were having this dinner, we went to the Rydges. Are they an Australian chain or something?
Bonnie: I think so. Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: Cause I never seen Rydges in the States or anywhere else like that. We went to the central Wellington Rydges and they have a restaurant there. It’s a steakhouse called the Portlander. See, you’re going to get crosstalk again. No more crosstalk for Christmas, daddy. I don’t want to see my mama cry. Yeah. Anyway. Oh, now, now you’re not talking at all.
Jonathan Mosen: The reason why we were out celebrating was because it’s a great milestone for any couple. We’ve finally got our mortgage paid off.
Bonnie: Yep. Very exciting.
Jonathan Mosen: It is very exciting. It’s quite liberating.
Bonnie: The only mortgage I’ve ever had.
Jonathan Mosen: There you go. Yeah. I’ve had a few mortgages. I’ve had a few, but then again. Now what about the holiday countdown and Christmas party, which has been unveiled on this very podcast? What are you going to be voting for?
Bonnie: I have no idea. I just kind of go through and just put down songs. So I don’t really-
Jonathan Mosen: What, what’s your favorite Christmas song?
Bonnie: Probably O Holy Night. I’ve always really liked that one a lot from the first time. I, I remember seeing it and hearing it. I think I was in, it was definitely in elementary school and the high school choir sang it. And I just remember we were in the, the cafeteria and they all came down the aisle in their robes, and they were carrying candles and then they, you know, went up on the risers and sang, O Holy Night. And I just cried.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, that’s nice. Isn’t it? Do you have a favorite recorded version of it?
Bonnie: It would probably be that one, but I don’t think that would ever be found. I think the one that pops up the most is the Josh Grubin one, but-
Jonathan Mosen: It is now. Yeah.
Bonnie: Yeah. But is it Grubin or Groban?
Jonathan Mosen: Groban. Sounds like Sesame Street.
Bonnie: It does.
Jonathan Mosen: Hello, I am Josh Groban.
Bonnie: I’ve heard, I think it’s, is it Andrea Bocelli? Has he done it?
Jonathan Mosen: Probably, I mean, this is one of the challenges that we face with this holiday countdown is that there are so many versions of these perennial Christmas classics. It’s difficult sometimes to know which one to pick and, and some people are very particular.
Bonnie: Oh yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: That’s one of the things we have to guard against because otherwise we could have a hundred versions of the same song.
Bonnie: Yeah. I like Jingle Bells by Gene Autry, that to me is the best one. And the interesting thing about that one is I was reading recently that that was actually offered to a lot of different singers that refused it. And then Gene Autry finally took it and it is, I think one of the best Christmas songs ever.
Jonathan Mosen: But Jingle Bells isn’t really a Christmas song. Is it?
Bonnie: No, no. Wait a minute, think it’s Rudolph that’s Gene Autry, right?
Jonathan Mosen: Yes. That’s right. Rudolph.
Bonnie: That’s it, it was Rudolph.
Jonathan Mosen: He wrote that, I believe.
Bonnie: Did he write it?
Jonathan Mosen: I believe he did.
Bonnie: Okay. There’s there’s a story about Rudolph that there was a, a guy that was working for a department store in Chicago, this on Paul Harvey, a rerun of Paul Harvey.
Jonathan Mosen: The rest of the story.
Bonnie: Yeah. That he was, it was the thirties. He was working for a department store, maybe Marshall Field’s in Chicago, his wife, he had a young child, his wife had just died of cancer. And so, you know, wasn’t going to be a very Merry Christmas and he wrote the story for his kid.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay. Now I’m just going to ask the soup drinker. You won’t be able to hear the answer, but I’ll tell you. Okay. So soup drinker, who wrote Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
Soup Drinker: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, popularly known as Santa’s ninth reindeer, is a fabled reindeer created by Robert Lewis May. Rudolph first appeared in a 1939 booklet written by Robert L. May and published by Montgomery Ward.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay. Let me ask this question, then. Soup drinker, who wrote the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Soup Drinker: Here’s something I found on the web, according to wikipedia.org Rudolph the Red-Nosed. Reindeer is a song by songwriter Johnny Marks based on the 1939-
Jonathan Mosen: [crosstalk]
Bonnie: I think it was given to several different singers and he took it. And of course it’s one of the most iconic Christmas songs. I don’t know where I got Jingle Bells from.
Jonathan Mosen: Right. So, so, so Rudolph is, yeah, that’s a nice song Rudolph and I guess it helped inspire the Louie the Blind Christmas Elf story that I wrote. That is just amazing. How that little thing that I wrote in an afternoon has gone so viral.
Jonathan Mosen: And we should probably play it on the podcast before Christmas.
Bonnie: Yeah. I think we should. Yeah. And definitely on the Small World.
Jonathan Mosen: It’s been translate- yes. It’s on Small World this weekend actually.
Bonnie: Oh, okay.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. It’s been translated into other languages now and I even gave away the rights to have it produced a play. I mean, it’s amazing. And I hear various consumer organizations have meetings where this gets played. I mean, it’s just wonderful to have made that contribution.
Bonnie: It is. It really is.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay. So what about your least favorite Christmas songs and why, don’t vote for these or you’ll upset the Bonnie.
Bonnie: Probably Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. I mean, it, it was funny like the first two times I heard it and then it just got overplayed, seriously overplayed.
Jonathan Mosen: Wow.
Bonnie: The 12 days of Christmas kind of annoys me.
Jonathan Mosen: It can go on, can’t it.
Bonnie: It just goes on and on and on.
Jonathan Mosen: There, there are some funny adaptations of it though.
Bonnie: Yeah. Stop, already.
Jonathan Mosen: The, the, okay. So the one that I struggle with every year and people who’ve been listening to me for a long time will know is the Little Drummer Boy. I just find that funny. Yeah. I mean, you know, can you imagine they kicked you out of the hotel because there’s no room and you’re sitting there in the stable, you know, with all these smelly animals or, I mean, even if the smelly animals have moved out or something, but I don’t think they’re cause they’re lowing. Low and hark, yeah. They are lowing. I think that’s different from lo, right?
Jonathan Mosen: The cattle are lowing is different from and lo and behold.
Bonnie: Yeah. The cattle’s like a noise they make like-
Jonathan Mosen: So, so, so there’s, there’s a difference between lo-
Bonnie: Which I don’t think you think they harked in those days.
Jonathan Mosen: Didn’t they hark?
Bonnie: No, that was, that was later, that was in the- they didn’t speak English.
Jonathan Mosen: And anyway, so, so with all these cattle lowing and things, you know, they’re in there in the manger and everything. And then this kid comes like, oh, I think I’ll play my drum. And can you imagine, you know, Mary’s going, look, I just got the baby to sleep. Would you mind just keeping it down on the drum a bit?
Bonnie: Yeah. Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: And then the thing that I find quite interesting is the various tunes to the same carol. So you’ve got O Little Town of Bethlehem is one where you’ve got the original English version. And then I think the Baptists, if I’m remembering correctly, did a different tune in the States, which I far prefer. I think the American melody to O Little Town of Bethlehem is beautiful. And then you’ve got Away in a Manger. There were two melodies to that. There are a few like that. Of course, Bob Rivers did O Little Town of Bethlehem to the tune of the House of the Rising Sun.
Bonnie: Yes. Yeah. Oh, another one I really like is Carol of the Bells. That’s a, that’s a really good, oh song. Do you know that one?
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Bonnie: And I like anything that the Trans Siberian Railroad and Mannheim Steamrollers do.
Jonathan Mosen: You mean the Trans Siberian Orchestra?
Bonnie: Yeah. I’m sorry. It’s 3:30 in the morning. The Trans Siberian Railroad. Which I’m sure they’re named after, you know, the orchestra, but now they probably sing the volga boat song on the Trans Siberian Railroad. I don’t know.
Jonathan Mosen: All right. Well, so you can vote for all these songs. Now. What about ABBA’s Little Things? This is the latest big Christmas song.
Bonnie: Yes, it’s nice. But I, I really, do like the old classics, you know, the ones that I grew up with, I do really appreciate those more than some of the newer ones, I guess. You know?
Jonathan Mosen: I love Text Me Merry Christmas by Straight No Chaser.
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s cute. I like who stole the, or who brought the egg?
Jonathan Mosen: Who Spiked the Eggnog?
Bonnie: Yeah, that’s a good one.
Jonathan Mosen: And I also like some of the Pentatonix versions, especially It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, there’s some great acapella work there and some cool syncopation going on. Now I tell you, I’ve had a complete 180 on Fairytale of New York. For years, I just thought this is so un-Christmassy. And I don’t know what happened to me. Maybe it’s just that I lived a bit of life and you know, for some people Christmas, isn’t a happy time. And Christmas is a time when perhaps you looked back with regret on things and Fairytale of New York is actually a very complex song. It’s sad.
Jonathan Mosen: This, this couple who came to the United States from Ireland with all these dreams and they can’t stand each other. And he’s obviously a bit of a drunkard and yet the tune is so bouncy and happy. They can’t live with each other and they can’t live without each other. It’s quite an incredible song. And I believe it is the most popular Christmas song in the UK.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. But it’s never made it to number one on our countdown. It’s pretty consistent about getting in the top 10, but it’s an amazing song. It’s completely grown on me. And of course, you know, you’ve got to like the Happy Xmas war is over. It’s the 50th anniversary of that this year.
Bonnie: Oh, wow. Looking forward to watching the Christmas shows like Rudolph and Frosty. And I work with a lot of North Americans and, and it’s still so hard to get it in the Christmas spirit, in the Southern hemisphere, because it’s hot. You know?
Jonathan Mosen: Well, I was going to make that comment because people say that Jingle Bells is a Christmas song and it’s actually a winter song and you do get this quite a bit. Winter Wonderland is considered a Christmas song and then what’s the other one. Let it Snow.
Jonathan Mosen: Is, is often associated- sleigh ride. Yeah. So there are quite a few songs that have become seasonal. And what’s funny is that even though we are sweltering in the heat at Christmas, radio stations still have traditionally played those songs.
Bonnie: Well, there’s not a whole lot of songs, you know, aside from Christmas on the beach and a few others that recognize that not all Christmases are snowy.
Jonathan Mosen: No. Well certainly they are not here.
Jonathan Mosen: They are not here. So it is, it is a very different thing, having Christmases.
Bonnie: And it’s interesting how the advertising is all around it. Because a friend of mine, who’s an author. Hallmark was looking at one of her books to, for movie rights, but they can’t use it because it takes place in the Caribbean. So there’s no snow and they have to have snow.
Jonathan Mosen: Isn’t it sad though?
Bonnie: I know. I said, can you, you like have a freak blizzard hit, you know, St. Kits or something. Yeah. But you know, but yeah. I mean it’s, I mean even Florida and California, they, I mean not everywhere has snow on Christmas. You know, most places probably don’t. I mean we rarely had snow in Tennessee or Georgia, so not everywhere has snow.
Jonathan Mosen: I have only spent one Northern hemisphere Christmas. And that was when Amanda and I went to the UK and we were there for Christmas in 1988. And we went round all these little pubs. I mean, we stayed at this village that had no local shop or anything, but it did have four pubs.
Bonnie: Of course.
Jonathan Mosen: And we would go round the pubs and we’d put whatever it was, then 20 P or something in the jukebox. And we’d always put Bing Crosby’s White Christmas on wherever we went because we thought we’ve come all this way and we want to have snow at Christmas. And it was apparently the mildest Christmas on record.
Bonnie: Oh wow.
Jonathan Mosen: But I love Christmas, you know, it’s a great time of year. And I think ABBA’s song Little Things, it’s quite cute because it really does resonate I think with parents.
Jonathan Mosen: Who often wake up in the morning, they’ve been doing all this work and the planning and they want to make Christmas magical. And it’s funny how often when the kids were little, we used to wake up early and wait for the, oh, why don’t we just go and nudge them or something and get them to wake up. Cause we were so excited ourselves. And I think that that ABBA song, Little Things really captures that. It’s a cute song.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. So hopefully people will vote, cast their vote, mushroomfm.com/countdown2021 and the votes are open now and I presume you’ll come and co-host on the countdown.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh that’s nice. Jolly decent of you.
Jonathan Mosen: I 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.