Podcast transcript, Mosen at large episode 200, New Zealand says yes to Braille with an uppercase B, Apple feedback, Envision glasses and more
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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. On this week’s episode, it’s official, New Zealand now supports Braille with an uppercase B, plenty of reflections on iOS 16 and the new iPhones, and Bonnie and I talk about our overseas travels.
Mosen At Large Podcast.
Some reflections as we produce our 200th episode
Jonathan: Nice to have you back for this episode of the podcast. I’ve always thought it’s important to acknowledge milestones, and this is Episode 200 of Mosen At Large. In a way, that number is a bit of a misnomer because Mosen At Large evolved into a new version of my previous podcast, The Blind Side. It wasn’t guaranteed that that would always be the case. Mindful that I had limited time when I assumed my present job back in 2019, I decided that I’d keep doing The Mosen Explosion show on Mushroom FM, which I’ve been hosting for a very long time.
One day, it occurred to me that we had quite a bit of torque content on The Mosen Explosion, so I decided to put together the more interesting talky bits, and put it up as a podcast for those who couldn’t or didn’t want to hear the live version of the show, and you, the audience, took it from there. The response to Mosen At Large was beyond my wildest expectations. It quickly accumulated thousands of people from around the world, listening to every episode, and it just developed a life of its own. People sometimes asked me how I sustain Mosen At Large with such a busy day job.
In terms of putting the time in, I do a little bit every single day. Hopefully, when you get to hear the podcast each week, it feels cohesive, but the episode would have been put together over a period of days, maybe half an hour in the morning, and if I’m up to it, another half an hour at night. When you divide it into those bite-sized chunks, it’s doable if you’re disciplined about not letting the work pile up. Of course, you help a great deal.
I read a lot about podcasting. One of the regrets that I hear expressed by many podcasters is that they seldom hear from their audience, they feel like they’re talking into a void. I hear this again and again. That makes me realize how very fortunate I am to have you. Thanks to the time you take to send in your views. We’ve started a very special conversation that I hope will continue for some time to come. It’s special because it’s not limited to technology.
I called the show Mosen At Large because I wanted to reflect that this is about things that interest me. If they interest you too, you’re welcome to stick around. We talk a lot of tech, but even if you’ve been on this journey with me for any length of time, you know that I’m interested in so much more. It’s the variety of topics that makes this podcast special, but even more special to me, is the culture that I’ve tried to establish, and I strive to protect.
Sometimes you might disagree with me. Sometimes you might disagree with me very strongly. Sometimes I may feel the same way about a view that you express, but just because we have differing opinions, it doesn’t make us bad people. I regret very much that the idea that you can still like, respect, even admire someone who thinks differently, is becoming increasingly rare.
A good 98% of people who send in contributions to Mosen At Large have embraced that culture. I hope it makes all of us, myself included, a little more informed, a little more tolerant, a little more broad-minded, and it might even make us change our minds about a thing or two.
Watching this podcast grow in various ways has been surreal. It’s not just that people keep finding us and kindly choose to make the show part of their regular listening, and I really do appreciate that, but we’re now at the point when the show is approached by guests, or in some cases, agents acting on behalf of guests who are asking to be on the show.
I still get surprised when I call the accessibility department of a large tech company, or I call some assistive technology startup because I have a regular consumer inquiry or a tech support question, give my name and get told how much the person at the other end of the phone enjoys the podcast, or I might be just minding my own business doing a bit of podcast, listening myself, and something like this happens.
Marco Arment: Yesterday, I listened to an episode of a podcast called Mosen At Large where a blind user was rating different podcast apps’ usability and features from a VoiceOver perspective, and he pointed out tons of problems in Overcast. I’m walking my dog, listen to this like, “Oh my god, he’s right. Oh my god, oh, I got to do that.” I got it out like a huge list of features and changes and like, “Oh, he found an unlabeled button.” I’m so embarrassed. [laughs] Something like, “Oh man, I like all these features.” It’s very good feedback when you hear other people in the wild, talking about or using your app, assuming you’ll never see it, and then you see it. [laughs] That’s pretty great.
Jonathan: That’s Overcast developer, Marco Arment, speaking in Episode 251 of the Under the Radar podcast. Good on you, Marco. We’ll look forward to all those changes.
For a kid from a working-class family in little New Zealand, it is pretty wild. It makes me want to pinch myself that the podcast has gone where it has. Word gets around in our community, so I know that some senior people and some very significant tech companies get grumpy with me sometimes. To them, I say, my straight talk might tick you off sometimes, but I hope you’ll also agree that I’m equally straight talking about things that have been done well. Please know there is an open invitation to any tech company talked about on here to exercise a right of reply anytime at all.
It only remains for me to thank my darling wife, Bonnie, who is so supportive of all the time that it takes to put the show together, and again, to thank you. Did you know? There are over 2.4 million podcasts out there. That is a staggering number. Yet, Mosen At Large, this niche little blindness podcast is in the top 10% in terms of the number of people who listen each week. I am really stunned by that. I don’t take it for granted. As long as I’m able to keep producing it, I’ll do my best to earn your continued listenership. Thank you again. Now, onwards and upwards.
Announcer: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down, firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60MOSEN. That’s 864-606-6736.
Jonathan: We can make transcripts of Mosen At Large available, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Pneuma Solutions. Pneuma Solutions, among other things, are the RIM people. If you haven’t used Remote Incident Manager yet, you really want to give it a try. It is a fully accessible screen reader agnostic way to either get or provide remote assistance.
We all want to use accessible websites whenever possible, right? But there are some times where we just have to get something done on a website that’s not accessible. I try not to do it too often, but every so often, I’ll get in touch with one of my adult children and ask them if they have a couple of minutes to get me past a difficult accessibility problem on a website or even in a specific app.
For this, we use RIM. I like it because I don’t have to tab around, looking for some arbitrary code in a semi-accessible app. We can choose the keyword that is going to be used. I’m pleased to be a RIM user because Remote Incident Manager was designed by blind people with blind people in mind, but it has advantages over other remote access solutions that sighted people have been used to using but are nowhere near as accessible.
If you have a family member sometimes assisting you through a murky web situation, I’m sure you won’t regret switching to Remote Incident Manager to get the job done. To get the app for both you and those assisting you, just head over to getrim.app. That’s G-E-T-R-I-M.app.
Braille with an uppercase B is now the standard in New Zealand
This is just one of the best presents ever for episode 200 of Mosen At Large. Regular listeners will know how passionate I am that Louis Braille’s code should be given the same respect as Samuel Morse’s code. Morse is spelled with a capital M, or Celsius’s scale, Celsius is always spelled with a capital C, or the Fahrenheit scale, and on and on it goes. Somewhere along the line, some people got it into their heads that Braille did not deserve that same respect. When referring to the code, it should be spelled with a lowercase b.
Well, a couple of years ago, I attended the annual general meeting of BANZAT. This is the Braille Authority in New Zealand. It is the New Zealand equivalent of BANA. It makes standards for Braille in New Zealand. I raised this question of Braille with an uppercase B. I asked where BANZAT’s mandate came from to spell Braille with a lowercase b. They agreed to investigate this some more.
As I reported on my podcast some months ago, BANZAT decided to hold a survey. I applaud them for this. That’s a democratic way of dealing with the issue. They invited New Zealanders to complete a survey asking whether Braille should be capitalized when referring to the code or not. To help people make a decision, there were arguments offered in favor of the change, and arguments offered against.
I’m really pleased to be able to tell you that most people voted in favor of capitalizing Braille when referring to the code. At the recent annual general meeting of the Braille Authority here in New Zealand, it was announced that it is now their policy to support uppercase B when referring to Braille. That means that they will be going out in New Zealand, and saying that when Braille is used in this country, it should be spelled with an uppercase B when referring to the code.
This is the right outcome. It is consistent with other similar codes. It is the respectful outcome. It’s a great outcome. It goes to show that when there is a democratic vote put on these issues, blind people will speak. If you support the capitalization of Braille, there is now a crack as it were in the International Council on English Braille because one of its members has done the right thing. One of its members has said yes. Braille should be spelled with an uppercase B when referring to the code.
I hope that advocates in other countries who support their position will take heart from the New Zealand outcome. I am proud to be living in a country that is doing the right thing on this issue. I hope it inspires others around the world to do the same.
Jonathan Mosen, Mosen at Large podcast.
Oddities after installing iOS 16
Carolyn: Hi, Jonathan. It’s Carolyn here. I just wanted to share my experience of updating to iOS 16. I have an iPhone 11. I had three things that happened to me that I’ve never experienced with updating iOS systems before. The first one was after updating to iOS 16, I noticed that the VoiceOver speed had increased quite considerably. Then all of a sudden, as I was doing on my screen, my voice changed from Karen to Samantha.
I went into my settings, and sure enough, the language had been changed to English US, and the voice had been changed to Samantha. I changed it back to my original settings, and then I was A-okay. I thought, “Hm. Okay. Obviously, something that just occurred with the update, but nothing major. That’s fine.” Then, number two happened for me.
Number two was a bit more problematic. I connected my Bluetooth keyboard, and in this case, it was a Logitech keyboard. I started typing a post in Facebook. I noticed that I wasn’t getting any feedback. I have it set to words so that when I type at the end of each word, the voice will tell me what the word is that I’ve just typed. Nothing was happening until I hit the full stop, and then it would read the whole sentence.
I, “Hmm. This is a bit odd, but strange.” I disconnected that Bluetooth keyboard, and I connected my Apple Magic Keyboard that I got several years ago. Same thing happened with that. Clearly, there was something in the settings, so I go in and the several places where you can check the keyboard settings. I checked it all out. It was all A-okay. It was set to words, and the volume velocity was fine, and everything else. I thought, “What could be causing that?”
I sent an e-mail to Apple and told them what was happening to me. That I had turned the phone off and turned the phone back on again. I’ve done a reboot of the phone, et cetera. All those usual checks that you do, and the two particular keyboards that I was connecting my phone. After sending the e-mail off to them, and getting a reply back saying that they were trying to replicate my problem, but they couldn’t replicate it, I went back again, and looked at the settings, and I thought, “What happens if I do this, and turn off full keyboard function?”
I turned off full keyboard function. Lo and behold, all of a sudden, my keyboards were back to normal, and behaving as normal. I managed to solve that problem, and I e-mailed the accessibility at Apple again, and let them know of what I had done. They thanked me very much for that information. That was that problem fixed.
Then, the third one happened last evening. I was playing around, and I wanted to connect Swarm up with my Twitter account. I noticed that when I tried to open Twitter, it hang itself. For example, I opened it up, and you’d get the blue screen of when it first opens, and then it flicks, and the apps open, and you get all the texts, and all the photos, and everything else. I’ve got light perception, so I could tell one if this change was happening, but it wasn’t happening. It hangs itself, it stayed there on the blue screen that comes up. Of course, you got nothing. There was nothing on the screen for VoiceOver to read.
I thought, “Oh, that’s not good.” But I was able to close it down just by doing this swipe up. I thought, “Okay. What do I do here?” I tried with Siri, same thing happened. Okay. Tried opening it again, double-tapping it, same thing happened. I uninstalled Twitter, and I reinstalled it, and then it was perfectly fine.
Clearly, there was something with the iOS 16 that upset Twitter, the app, because I’ve got all the latest updates, and I was checking on that, but once I had uninstalled and reinstalled the app, it’s working perfectly fine. If you find that you’ve got apps where that happens, I would suggest do the uninstall and the reinstall, and it should come right.
Those were my three little bits and pieces that happened. As they say, things come in bunches of threes, so hopefully, there’s nothing else, but everything else seems to be working really well.
Jonathan: Thanks, Carolyn. I’m not surprised about the full keyboard navigation thing. I’ve seen so many compatibility issues crop up over the years between VoiceOver and the full navigation that I would highly recommend leaving the full navigation turned off if you are a VoiceOver user. I don’t know why those compatibility issues exist, but they really do. It’s amazing what is cleared up when people turn that feature off if they are a VoiceOver user.
All isn’t going well for Rebecca Skipper in terms of her upgrade to iOS 16.02. She says, “When my iPhone SE 2020 restarted, I temporarily lost speech when switching between apps. I was using the vocalizer Tom voice. I turned VoiceOver off, and back on, and Samantha announced, VoiceOver on. Then Tom started reading the screen when I swiped from left to right.
“However, Samantha started reading my list of apps when I used the home button to get to the apps switcher. I switched to eloquence, and found it to be responsive, and without the automatic voice switching when using the App Switcher. I waited half an hour, and switched back to Tom, and I’m able to use the App Switcher with the home button, without VoiceOver switching voices. Therefore, the initial error that I had isn’t reproducible.”
The problems just keep on coming. David Harvey says, “I’m having problems with dictation in the pronunciation dictionary. I got a message saying, no transaction available for the phrase McKay even though I’m pronouncing it phonetically as McKay.”
Still on iOS 15. Should I upgrade yet?
Abby Taylor says, “Hi, Jonathan. As always, I enjoyed your podcast. I appreciate you going into detail on some of the new iOS 16 features. However, I have some concerns about upgrading. First of all, I have an iPhone SE 2020 that I bought a couple of years ago. I’m not sure if this is the first or second generation phone, so don’t know if it can run iOS 16.” That’s the second generation, Abby. If you go and check for updates, and you find iOS 16 available for you, then it’s available to install and use on your device. If you were to go and check for updates and find that it’s not there, then the phone you have isn’t going to support it. The second generation iPhone SE, which came out in 2020, is good to go.
She says, “I recently read on the AppleVis website about some bugs that would be major game changers for me. First of all, it’s no longer possible to double tap on notifications either on the lock screen or in the notification center. Second, in Apple Books, VoiceOver seems unable to find the page chooser. I’m wondering if you or your listeners who upgraded experience these issues and if so if there are workarounds. Again, thank you for a great podcast says Abby.
The notification issue that I’m aware of at least pertains to the context menu of notifications. You can get to it I think in iOS 16 by triple tapping, but in 16.1, which is in testing at the moment, the previous functionality has been restored where it’s available in a menu that you can flick through. The behavior is restored to the way it used to be for iOS 16.1, but I am not convinced that the page chooser issue is resolved. You can certainly bring up the table of contents and navigate to different parts of the book, but I don’t think the page chooser is working at the time that I’m putting this together.
Recovering deleted messages in iOS 16
Fanus in South Africa is writing in and says, Thanks for your review. I learned a lot. I’m currently listening to your podcast on setting up the Amazon Fire Stick and absolutely love you and Heidi’s humor. Thanks so much. As far as your review of iOS 16, I heard a rumor a few weeks ago that there would be a feature where one can get deleted SMS messages back within 30 days after deletion. You didn’t say anything about this, so did it not make it into the update?
Yes, it did. I guess it’s just one of those features that I didn’t mention because I didn’t mention everything. You’ll find that by double tapping edit in the Messages app, and you can take a look at deleted messages. As you say, you’ve got 30 days to undelete a message.
Thoughts on iOS 16 and iPhone 14 Pro
Staying in South Africa, as we hear from Brant who was reacting to the far-out event, he says, “As I listened to the Apple event. I decided then and there I will buy an iPhone 14, or if the finances allow, a 14 plus as soon as my plan upgrade can happen, which will be next year in March. I’m still on an iPhone XR. Not that there’s anything wrong with the device, but being the geek that I am, new tech is always fun.
“Apple Watch, meh, not my thing. I use my Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones in combination with my hearing aids to get notifications anyway. The step tracking isn’t really needed in my case, since I’d rather spend time pumping iron, doing weight training than doing a park run or something in that line anyway. iOS 16 seems to be fine in my experience, since I use Overcast, I have no issues with anything I do on the phone.
“I had a voice dream reader issue early on in the beater cycle but a reinstall fixed it right quick.”
Why the Apple Watch Ultra interests me
Don: Hello, Jonathan, and thank you for another wonderful podcast. This is Don Brita from New York City. Regarding the Apple event and the new iPhones and AirPods Pros, et cetera, well, I’m not going to get either because I already have the first AirPods Pros and I like them. I also just recently, in the last six months, purchased an iPhone 13 Pro, so I don’t see myself upgrading.
However, the thing that interested me in the whole event more than anything else, although I do agree the camera is a very significant improvement and in the future, it really probably could help us, maybe even now, with door detection and stuff like that. That stuff I would imagine would just be improved.
The thing that really sparked my interest was the Apple Watch Ultra. No, I don’t go to the gym. I’m not a sports person. I could care less about any sport. I don’t dive. The GPS receiver is what interested me. I feel like there are a lot of companies that have moved their focus to indoor navigation, and I think that’s a wonderful thing. It’s a thing that needs a lot of work, but the last yard, man, nobody’s addressing that. I feel like we’ve been let down because the truth of the matter is 16 feet accuracy or 33-foot accuracy is not enough, and there’s no reason I can’t have better.
I’ve researched GPS receivers and so forth, and even a couple of years ago, I could buy an OEM GPS receiver. Yes, you’d have to put it on a circuit board, and you’d have to write software and so forth, but that OEM receiver for $80 to $100 could give you millimeter accuracy. Certainly without even struggling 3 foot accuracy or 1-foot accuracy to get to your destination.
Now we’ve got devices coming out like the humanWear stellar track, and so forth that are now boasting a very hefty price tag and using cameras for door detection.
Well, frankly, for that money, I don’t see why they couldn’t put in one of those GPS receivers and be done with it and they would blow everybody away and there’s nobody that wouldn’t buy one.
I was very shocked that they didn’t put that GPS receiver in the iPhone 14. If they did, that might have made me consider a stupid financial move and actually upgrade, but I wonder why they didn’t. That was very surprising. If they can fit it in a new Apple Watch, why can’t they put it in the iPhone 14?
I hope somebody gets back to addressing the last yard at some point because I really am disappointed that we still can’t get the accuracy that’s available and possible. It’s just no reason for it anymore that I can see.
Jonathan: Thanks, Don. That’s a really interesting comment. One thing I’d also note is that I found out that the Compass app in the new Series 8 is the same as the Compass app in the Apple Watch Ultra. That means that if you do buy a Series 8, I don’t think you get that GPS receiver, but you do get the new capability to retrace your steps, and I’ll be interested to see how that works from an accessibility point of view.
The new satellite support in iPhone 14 could save your life
Mike: Hey, Jonathan, Mike May. Thanks so much for the recap, that was really helpful. I appreciate you doing that as you’re getting ready to go off on your trip. I thought I’d respond right away to one of the topics you brought up that nobody was impressed with, which was the SOS satellite service. I think this is something that if you really think about it, particularly if you live in the US or Canada, where it can be used, you would want your loved ones, your family members, and friends to have this service.
I worked on a product that attached to the iPhone has a satellite module, and the fact that it’s being built in is really huge. The FCC reports that 10,000 people a year die due to the fact that they cannot get emergency service. That could be for a lot of different reasons. It could be in a burning building, but it also could be if you’re off on rural roads or in the countryside. If you slide off the road in the snow or somebody’s out hiking, and they can’t get service when they break their leg, this is really a critical time where a one-time purchase of the 14 would make sense for the safety factor.
I think it is really significant to have that. You may never need it, probably won’t, but we buy insurance, and we have a lot of other safety protocols for so many reasons. I think the fact that this is being built in is the best thing on the iPhone list along with some of the other things you mentioned, like the 48-megapixel camera. I certainly will be upgrading, and I’m going to do my best to get my son and fiance and everybody else around me, onto the 14th, so they have that satellite service.
I could tell you a lot more about it, later, and I’ll be interested to test it out. I hope there is a test mode because you want to know just how to work it. If you are in a situation where you’re under stress, you don’t want to be trying to sort it out at that time.
Jonathan: Thank you, Mike. I must say I felt quite chastised hearing your message, and you’re absolutely right, of course, you are. It’s one of those features where you don’t need it until you need it, and when you need it, it can save lives. Thank you very much for that.
The point you make about testing, Mark Gurman, who’s a journalist in Apple land that I really respect, he seems to have impeccable inside sources was making this point as well. There really has to be a way for people to test this and gain comfort with it, and that’s particularly the case for blind people, I think, but for everybody as well.
VoiceOver is impossibly quiet on a call
Jana Schroeder’s writing in. “Hello, Jonathan, I’m hoping for a miracle and that you or one of your listeners will know how to fix a problem I’ve had with VoiceOver for years. I think it’s more likely that I’ll just be adding an item to the iPhone wishlist, though. I’ve been using iPhone since 2011. When I upgrade, of course, I back up my old phone and transfer all of my settings, apps, and data to the new phone. This is great in almost all respects, but I think I am also transferring this problem from phone to phone.
The problem is with the volume of the iPhone being low. In my opinion, it does not get as loud as it should when listening to spoken audio music or VoiceOver on the phone or over Bluetooth. In particular, though, when I am on a phone call, VoiceOver gets so quiet that I can often barely hear if I need to press a number on the keypad. I have given up on using my phone for Zoom and other conferencing apps because I can’t hear well enough to find the mute and unmute buttons, for example. I typically use headphones and, for the past two years, hearing aids so the sound is coming directly into my ear, and I still cannot hear it.
I am an experienced iPhone user and have tried many things. Audio ducking is off. I use the volume rotor, but that just raises the volume of the call, not VoiceOver. I asked Apple about this, but they don’t seem to know what is happening. They recommended that I reset the phone, but since it seems like they are saying this because they don’t specifically know what the problem is and that doing the research will fix it, I am very reluctant to do this. I don’t even know what app would have to be set up again. Would I still have the app folders I’ve created, for example?
I’ve made so many tweaks and changes over the years that I am worried I wouldn’t even know what I needed to set up again until I am in a situation where I need to use something like in a work setting or while traveling and would be left high and dry because I don’t have time to set things up again in that situation. This brings me to my wish list item. I think there should be an option to reset VoiceOver to factory defaults without resetting the whole phone.
I’m hoping you or other tech folks will be able to explain whether this is a feasible wish or not. Maybe it’s really not as straightforward as I think it should be to do this. I thought I’d ask you and other listeners what they think before deciding whether to advocate to Apple about this.
Of course, I’d also be thrilled if you or another listener can tell me that they experienced this and how they fixed it or at least can reassure me about resetting my phone. Thanks for providing not just an informative podcast, but also a venue for building an international community of blind people.
I hope you and your family have a wonderful trip to Europe. I had the chance to visit the Louis Braille Museum in Coupvray a number of years ago and agree with everything Linda said. The only suggestion I’d add would be to take a walk through the village if you have time. It is or was when I visited very old and was an interesting contrast to all of the hustle and bustle of Paris.”
Thank you so much for writing in, Jana. I have experienced exactly this issue, and it frustrates me to no end because for me, it is random. Up until a couple of versions of iOS ago, I could resolve this because there was an item on the rotor when I was making a phone call called Audio Destination. When I toggled this Audio Destination thing, the volume of VoiceOver would come right up again, but that rotor item no longer appears for me when I’m on a phone call, and I’m using my Mate for iPhone hearing aids. It used to be there, now it isn’t.
What’s really frustrating about this is when you’re on a call with a telco or an airline, and I’ve been on calls to both of late. You’re on hold for a very long time, and you’ve got the obnoxious music. You think, okay, I can use this time productively even if it’s just scrolling through social media or answering some email on the phone or just doing something. I used to be able to do that, and now I can’t because VoiceOver is so faint when I’m on a call that I can’t get anything done.
Then every so often, it’ll come right. For no reason that I can fathom, I can’t work out what the variable is. Every so often, I will make a call, and VoiceOver will be as clear as I need it to be, and I can get something done.
In terms of the reset, I think you’re right. It would be a great thing if you could just reset your VoiceOver to defaults, and I think this is a particularly good idea given that you can customize so many keyboard commands and gestures and VoiceOver now. It would be useful to just have a common reference point where you set all your VoiceOver settings back to default.
What I would do if you’re interested in pursuing this is make sure that you have a full iTunes encrypted backup of your whole phone that preserves your folders, the whole thing, and completely erase it. There are various levels of erasure. You can just delete your settings and set the phone back to default while you have all your apps and things in place. If you really want to test this theory, you can erase it and set it up as a brand-new iPhone.
I have to say, while I haven’t done this for a few years, it’s not a bad practice to do this with any computer from time to time. The iPhone is a computer, and you are right. Sometimes if you do multiple restores and backups and things, you are taking problems along for the ride with you.
I can’t remember when I last did this, and maybe it’s time I did it again. Every so often, I will set a new phone up completely from scratch. I won’t even restore from a backup. Obviously, your iCloud data will come down, like contacts and messages and things that you really need, but I have gone through and installed all the apps from scratch and all that kind of stuff. It shouldn’t be necessary, but sometimes it does clear things up.
If you did this and you have a brand new clean phone with no apps on it, other than the stock Apple default apps and everything in the default, you can really quickly test whether that’s fixed it right. You can just make a phone call. If your VoiceOver volume is back to normal, well, I guess then you go through the painstaking process of changing every setting one at a time and periodically checking on whether anything is affecting it until you find the rogue thing. If you do find the rogue thing, I’d love to know what that rogue thing is.
If, on the other hand, you do the reset, you make a phone call in its reset state, and it still doesn’t help, then you can just restore from your backup knowing that that wasn’t what the problem was. I would love to get to the bottom of this one as well, Jana. It’s really horrible, and I guess I just lived with it and thought, well, maybe this is some quirky thing relating to made-for-iPhone hearing aid users.
I don’t know whether this happens to people who wear Airpods, for example, or other Bluetooth devices where when you’re on a call it’s almost impossible to hear VoiceOver, but it’s debilitating. You’ve inspired me to look into this further now, maybe somebody does have the magic fix. I would love to think they do.
Loving my new iPhone 14 Pro but have questions
Back to New Zealand we go, where Dean Charlton has a new toy. He says, ”I got my new iPhone 14 Pro on release day back on the 16th. It takes a bit of getting used to going from a home button phone to a phone without.
Questions I have with the app switcher when I do the swiping up with one finger, and I hear lift for App Switcher? I do, but I don’t think the apps are actually turning off. They don’t show up on the screen like on the old phone. Blind Square keeps on talking, and I have to turn the phone right off, then back on to resolve the issue. Really annoying. How does one resolve this?”
Dean, I think what you may be experiencing is a bug that I understand occurs where if you have invert colors enabled, the App Switcher is not accessible. I think if I remember right, you have low vision, and so it could be that you’ve got invert colors on, and that’s why your App Switcher is misbehaving. If you can get by with invert colors off, that would be a workaround. Otherwise, I’m not really sure there is a workaround until this one is fixed. It’s probably fixed in the 16.1 beta that’s currently doing the rounds at the moment, but I don’t have invert colors on to know for sure.
Question two says Dean, ”Is there a way in the Magnifier app to keep the people detection, door detection, and image detection always on? As every time I open the app, I always have to start them all up individually. Again, annoying, I haven’t found anything in the Magnify wrap settings that would suggest where this can be done. It goes really well when functioning, of course, not always accurate, but pretty darn mind-blowing. It is good, isn’t it?”
Dean, I think the answer to this is the way that you invoke the Magnifier. If you open it with Siri or you open it from your list of apps, then it won’t remember your accessibility settings, but if you’ve got VoiceOver on and you perform a four-finger triple tap, then it does remember the settings that you’ve set in that mode.
When I do that, if I do a four-finger triple tap, I do get all of my settings. It automatically starts to talk, the door detection is on, but if I open it with serial another method, then that does not work.
Dean continues. “It’s really great, I reckon. Now you get a little ding sound when turning the phone on and off.” Thanks, Dean. Yes, this has been the source of some controversy while I’ve been away, so I would like to address it. People have been castigating Apple about this, castigating and berating Apple because they believe that Apple is being elitist by only making this available in the latest Pro phones, and they’re saying, “Why not have it trickle down to everybody?”
Now, first of all, I say I think this should have been done years ago. There should have been an accessible way a long time before now for a blind person to determine when the phone is powering on and off, but it is what it is, right? We’re not going to change the past.
The reason why this feature is only in the new iPhone Pro range is that’s the only phone that contains the chip with this feature onboard the chip. When you start your phone up, if you think about it, you’ll get this when you start the phone up iOS isn’t running at that point. The phone has to boot into iOS, so the sound that is being played is playing at a time before iOS has even got started.
It’s not a feature that they can just add to iOS and have it come down to all the phones, it has to be added at the chip level before iOS even gets started, and that is why it isn’t even in the iPhone 14 range because that’s still got last year’s chip. It’s only the 14 Pro and 14 Pro max that contain this year’s chip. That’s why they’re doing it. It’s not some sort of sinister plot to force you to spend money necessarily. It’s something that will become increasingly available in the iPhone range as older phones become obsolete and chips from this one onwards get put into iPhones in the next few years.
Voiceover having trouble keeping my place on some web pages and emails
Across to the United States we go for this one from Joe Arosco, and he says, “Hi, Jonathan, I’ve been experiencing a frustrating issue in iOS since Version 15. While reading certain emails, generally newsletter-style emails with lots of links and images, VoiceOver will prematurely stop navigating. That is to say, regardless of whether I’m swiping or attempting to read to the bottom from the current location, VoiceOver will act as though it’s bounced to the bottom of the screen.
The only way I can continue reading is to scroll down and then find my place, but I have to do this several times in order to read the email in its entirety. I’ve seen similar behavior in the Chrome and Safari Browsers, mostly around text or video advertisements. VoiceOver will either begin stuttering or just stop reading, requiring me to scroll down and then flick my way back to the previous location in the page.
Is there a setting I can toggle to stop this behavior? Perhaps it has something to do with image recognition. I was hoping the issue would be resolved in iOS 16, but alas, the problem persists. I don’t think it should have anything to do with my phone model, but just in case, I am on an iPhone SE 2020. Thanks for the phenomenal job on the podcast. I appreciate any feedback from you or my fellow at Largers.”
Thank you very much, Joe. I am not immediately aware of this one, but if you do have screen recognition on, definitely turn it off where it’s not needed. That thing is great. It can get you out of all sorts of weird binds. When you’ve got an inaccessible app, but when you’ve got an accessible app, and it’s inadvertently turn on, it can do really weird things, be sure to make sure that is disabled.
I have one of those extensions installed that seeks to minimize clutter on pages, block ads, and just generally decrease the clutter because I figure that it can improve accessibility, so that could be contributing to the fact that I don’t believe I have seen this, but let’s open it up and see whether others have seen it and whether they found a workaround 86460Mosen if you want to contribute to this massive amount of Apple content, 8646 066 736, you can email me with an audio attachment or write it down, send it to email@example.com.
User feedback on the Envision Smart Glasses
Let’s talk more about the Envision glasses and John Gasman is writing in. He says, “Hello, Jonathan, glad to hear you had a great time in the UK. I’m sorry you and Bonnie came down with COVID, but I guess it’s to be expected when out in crowds. I know we all knew we were likely to come down with it during the conventions this summer, and we did. I just went back to work following six weeks of medical leave. COVID attacked my liver and sent my numbers sky-high.” Oh God, I’m sorry to hear that, John. That sounds hideous.
“But all seems to be well again after the first week back at work. As far as the Envision glasses are concerned, I really like them after having worked with them for about three weeks. Reading mail, for example, is very easy. I have said that the best camera I ever worked with was the Pearl with open book and JAWS, but the reading feature on the glasses is just as good, and reading my mail is quick and easy. The Envision people are very nice, knowledgeable, and easy to work with.
I attended two onboarding orientations. I attended mine and Michael Hingsons and would have attended Larry’s if I hadn’t gone back to work this past week. I’m very impressed with Envision’s help and documentation. The help documents and videos are outstanding, and while there is a learning curve to the glasses, they make the instructions very easy to work with, and it is so nice to have hands free again as we did with the Old Horizon Glasses.”
I’m looking forward to using the Envision glasses with Aira in a couple of airports this fall and at CSUN. I think the only thing that might be better is to have good maps as part of the Envision Aira platform. Of course, the current price is far more attractive through the end of October. I purchased my glasses through Aira and got a 10% discount above and beyond Envision’s lower price. I paid $2,250.10 cents, which is significantly lower than the $3,500 initial Envision price.
At least in the United States, there are dealers offering monthly payment plans for the glasses, and of course, Aira offers you 200 free minutes once you purchase the glasses until the sale ends on October the 31st. If listeners were going to buy the glasses, now is the time to do it. I’ve heard Aira will not be selling the glasses after the October 31st sale ends.”
Glad you’re happy with it, John. Clearly, these Envision glasses are a premium product, right? They’re not cheap, but it sounds like you get premium quality service with them, and so that’s as it should be. It’s great to hear that it’s having such a positive impact for you.
More feedback coming in on the Envision smart glasses. This is from Kevin Chao. He says, “I used to use Aira on the Google Glass and Horizon, so I was excited when Aira teased during the Blindness Summer Convention, and I bit the bullet when Envision was able to restructure and announce in the beginning of July. The onboarding to Envision AI with the very detailed 90 minutes reminded me of the onboarding I had back in the days of Sendero GPS on BrailleNote, it was a memorable delight.
Setting up and figuring out the glasses with the app was intuitive and simple, as was figuring out how to use and start hearing the visual world. Since I did the onboarding before the onboarding, it provided a great conversation around user experience, how things could be better, and being added to the beater for Aira.
I’ve tried voice commands with hotspot via phone, but personally found that using the touch gesture commands to swipe and double tap with a dedicated hotspot is more accurate and reliable. I’ve also played with different ways of storing and traveling with the Envision AI glasses since they are larger than typical glasses and come in a larger case.
I’ve landed on an over-the-shoulder bag that is compact enough to fit the hotspot Envision AI Glasses and Bose frames. I need the Bose frames for shade against the sun and sound from the iPhone.
The audio and video quality, especially in more complicated and loud environments between Envision AI glasses and iPhone Aira is night and day. This is where having different tools in one’s toolbox to choose from is important. As from a convenience, hands are occupied or sharing memories and experiences Envision AI glasses. I’ve been able to share memories and experiences with Envision allies that weren’t captured any other way. I’ve been able to have Aira describe or read info that me holding a camera with my hand would not have naturally pointed to even having Aira from my glasses read my phone since quick support didn’t work well.
I’ve been able to use the built-in AI to read text, identify colors or currency, describe scenes, and more in a seamless way. As long as I remember to charge them up, and put them on before I need them.
Thank you, Kevin. I have a pair of Envision smart glasses that have been sent to me for evaluation at the moment, and so you can expect in the next little while a comprehensive Mosen at Large episode on the subject of the Envision Smart Glasses.
Dennis Long: Hey, Jonathan, it’s Dennis Long who called you. I was the one that got the Hable interview started apparently. I do have both Android and iOS. I’m really excited that they’re updating the Android command. To make them in line so that I can see what all this can do with Android and, really give Android 13 a test.
They’ve done a really nice job with iOS, and the fact that they’re adding American English Braille, that is awesome. Who knows down the road, they may add it to work with your computer? I really like that they have that ability, that after they perfect the phones, and the tablets that they could add other device. This thing is just worth its money and I have not seen a better company, and I can’t recommend this thing enough. Thanks for a great interview.
Jonathan: You’re welcome. Thank you for calling in again, Dennis. Here’s Chris Nova from Mystic Access, and he says, “Hi, Jonathan. Great job on your Hable one demonstration. I just wanted to make a small correction for your listeners. The link that Dennis gave during his call is our Mystic Access affiliate link. Activating that link will take the customer to North State Assist of Tech in California where they can purchase the Hable One from Corey.
Mystic Access does have a 2.5-hour audio tutorial for purchase. That takes the listener through lots of things on the Hable One. We also have audio from an event we did back in May that can be downloaded from our free downloads site. Free is always good at www.mysticaccessdownloads.com. I just wanted to make sure the listeners understood it was an affiliate link. Purchasing from Corey Mystic Access may receive a small commission.
“Thanks, and keep up the great work you do every week.” Thank you very much, and likewise, Chris. Thanks for all that you guys at Mystic Access are doing, and it sounds like a great deal. Good to support Mystic Access, while also getting a great product if you use that affiliate link that Dennis provided. Thank you very much for the transparency that’s much appreciated.
Inspired by our chat with David Andrews about tech memories. David Goldfield is writing in, and he says, “Jonathan, I’m only about halfway through listening to your interview with David Andrews, but I just couldn’t wait to write to say how much I’m enjoying it. It’s bringing back so many vivid, very fond memories.
As you know, I worked for Blazie Engineering for nearly seven years in the ’90s. This role gave me the opportunity to experience a variety of products in the industry. In addition to the Blazie product line.” David Andrews mentioned a Windows screen reader, which was produced by Blazie Engineering, but he couldn’t recall its name. It was called Windows Master and probably came out in 1992. It may well have been the third or fourth Windows screen reader. Its developer was actually living in the United States, although I do believe he was from Korea, and his name is Dae Hee Lee.
While Windows Master never enjoyed the success of more recent products, he still made an incredible contribution to this field, and because of this, I wanted people to know who he was. I also have wonderful memories of Larry Skutchan as he was improving support for the Braille’n’Speak in his ASAP screen reader. I had many phone calls with Larry discussing things like how many control codes we should be sending to the device to silence it as I was trying to get it working as good as we could get it, and Larry was always incredibly patient in accommodating.
You mentioned wishing that the newsletters from raised dot computing could exist as a digital archive. It does, and you can find them here. It is at www.duxburysystems.org/downloads/library/news, and I will try and remember to put a link to that in the show notes. David also continues, David Ed Potter’s Playback magazine is archived here. There’s a long URL, so I will really try my best to remember to put those URLs in the shownote archives. We never really got Playback magazine, so I caught up with it retrospectively, and it was clearly a very significant institution in the United States and very well produced.”
David continues, “If you ever decide to walk down memory lane again in a future podcast, it would be great if you could get a panel of people, who can take turns sharing memories of those early days of assisted technology. If you ever decide to do this, I would be honored to be considered as a panelist. Even if that never happens, I’d still very much look forward to listening to other episodes discussing the history of this industry. So many product histories are archived, but our industry doesn’t seem to have such a connection. I think it’s very much needed. There are so many talented people who made some incredible contributions to the field, and consequently to so many of us users of this technology and I wouldn’t want to see these stories to be lost.
Finally, I was quite sorry to hear that both you and Bonnie contracted COVID. I hope that your recovery will be swift, and that you will do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. Please do get well soon, and many thanks for your service.”
David, great email thank you so much and we will do this. We will have some more discussions, and I would love to have you as a part of that panel, so we’ll get this done for sure. Thanks for writing in.
Stan: Oh my goodness, Jonathan, your last podcast, I guess the whole thing got me all stoked. I think I’m going to purchase that Hable One. I really think I’m going to do that. The second part of the podcast, Oh my God, you sent me down memory lane. Holy smokes. You should do things like this. Wow. Anyway, you made me think about something. You were talking about IBM doing certain things.
Do you remember productivity works? Remember PwWebSpeak, and I think IBM was involved in that. Oh my goodness. Then you talked about synthesizers. That was interesting too, because I first got into computers in 1994. Now when I did that, you had to buy all the different things. You had to buy a screen reader. Yes, I bought Windows, and you also had to buy a speech synthesizer.
Of course, I liked DECtalk, but there’s no way since I was paying for it out of my pocket that I was going to pay $1,200 or thereabouts for a screen reader. Not when I could get something that I liked fairly well. Doing a cost-benefit analysis, I like spending $275 for a DoubleTalk from RC Systems. I had a nice chat with the developer of the DoubleTalk, and for the price, I thought it represented value for dollar. I liked it.
Of course, the lady thinks. I’ve going to tell you an interesting story about the folks at Gw Mike. Right now, I live in the town, of Medford, Oregon, which is in Southern Oregon. Nobody, nobody ever wanted to come down here. They only thought Oregon ended in Portland, and Portland was the only place that they would go.
First of all, I went to a Window wise event in Portland. I talked to a few people there, and then when I came back home, I said, “I think that they should do an event in southern Oregon,” and then no, that was going to be a big ask.
One of the things that I finally was able to, between the Oregon Commission for the Blind and stand twisting some arms and doing [laughs] things, I managed to get GW Michael to come here to Southern Oregon. I knew a couple of people who used the product. Then, I just felt that the company should be able to have at least some opportunities to come here, and it shouldn’t just be the larger players that had agency funding. Anyway, I had a chance to get– Jeremy Curry came here, and I think he works for Microsoft now, along with a woman by the name of Kimberly Klein, and fond memories of those two folks.
Jonathan: Thanks, Stan. A couple of comments on your memories. First of all, self-voicing browsers, there was a trend for a while there, I guess before screen readers got really good at the web, where people felt the answer was to have a self-voicing web browser. You’d either put your screen readers asleep before you loaded your browser, or you’d unload the screen reader entirely and maybe you’d have your browser on a hotkey somewhere. In terms of the two that you mentioned, to the best of my knowledge, they were not related in any way.
They were actually competitors. There was a company called the Productivity Works and Mickey Quenzer, who’s been around in this industry for a long, long time, and he’d be a good member of a panel that we might get together at some point, he did technical support for the Productivity Works and for pwWebSpeak, which was the name of their standalone self-voicing browser. Then separate from that, there was a competitive product that IBM were doing, and that one was called Home Page Reader. I remember in the early days of Blind Line, interviewing Guido Corona, who was working for IBM at the time.
We talked all about Home Page Reader, which was a pretty ambitious product, and with the muscle of IBM behind it, that was pretty significant. For a while there, self-voicing browsers were the thing. They were the rage, and I think it really took JAWS and the virtual cursor. Now, JAWS wasn’t the first to introduce a virtual cursor. You can thank WinVision for that. They had a thing called Web pilot, and I’m pretty sure that WinVision, which was an Artic Technologies screen reader, was the first screen reader to have that virtual cursor thing, but JAWS really brought it to life, window-Eyes, of course, had MSA mode as well.
When screen readers started essentially reformatting the page, then those self-voicing screen readers went by the wayside. DoubleTalk was an incredibly popular text-to-speech device or synthesizer. I think they had a card and they had an external box. I could never get on with DoubleTalk speech. Maybe I was the only person in the world who was sad when the Braille Lite Millennium, was it called, came out. I think it was the Millennium. Those Braille ‘n Speak and Braille Lite products switched from the Braille ‘n Speak traditional voice to DoubleTalk speech.
I could not get on with DoubleTalk speech. I just didn’t like it. It’s a very subjective thing. There’s no right or wrong. I actually preferred the original Braille ‘n Speak speech to the DoubleTalk speech, but a lot of people were celebrating the fact that DoubleTalk speech was now in the newer generation of Blazie products. I think by that stage they had become part of the Freedom Scientific stable.
Adding apps to the Favourites in the BlindShell Classic 2
Here’s a quick handy dandy tip from Michael Babcock.
Michael Babcock: Today we’re going to show you how you can simplify the process of launching applications on the BlindShell Classic 2 device. Firstly, I’m going to show you the traditional way of finding an application inside of your applications list and opening it. We want to press and hold the back button, which is the slanted line directly above Number 3 until we hear the time.
Automated Voice: 9:01 AM.
Michael: Now if we press down, we can get to applications.
Automated Voice: Call, messages, contacts, applications.
Michael: We’ll press Okay on applications.
Automated Voice: Internet browser, one of nine.
Michael: Then I know the menu option I want is Number 8, so I’ll tap Number 8.
Automated Voice: Online, eight of nine.
Michael: We’ll press Okay.
Automated Voice: Amazon Alexa one of one.
Michael: Then we’ll press Okay to open that. Now, I don’t want to actually open that, but I want to show you a faster way of being able to get to Amazon Alexa. I’ll press and hold the back button.
Automated Voice: 9:02 AM.
Michael: This takes us home to where it says the time. There is a button on the right edge of the phone that’s often used for dictation. If you simply press it instead of pressing and holding it, you may hear something like.
Automated Voice: List of favorite applications is empty add a favorite application, one of one.
Michael: The only option here is to add a favorite application. I’ll press okay, and this will open a list of all of my applications.
Automated Voice: Alarm.
Michael: Then I’ll go ahead and press the down button, the line directly above Number 2 until I hear the application that I want to add to my favorites.
Automated Voice: Amazon Alexa
Michael: Then we’ll press okay because this is the app I want to use.
Automated Voice: Amazon has been added to favorites.
Michael: Let me show you how now, instead of pressing down four times followed by, Okay, and then up twice or choosing option Number 8 followed by Okay, and then Okay, to open Amazon, is that you can do it with two key presses. We’ll press and hold the back button. Though this will work anywhere in the phone, I like to orientate people to the home area, which is where the phone says the time.
Automated Voice: 9:04 AM.
Michael: If I press the right edge button, you’ll hear–
Automated Voice: Amazon Alexa, one of two.
Michael: Then I can simply press Okay, and this takes me to Amazon Alexa, which once you’re signed in, you can simply use the wake word and wake it up.
An extended Bonnie bulletin on our recent travels
Jonathan: It is time for what I expect would be quite an extended Bonnie Bulletin. Bonnie Mosen is in the studio since it would be hard to have a Bonnie Bulletin without Bonnie. welcome.
Bonnie Mosen: Hi. Hi, guys.
Jonathan: We have been around the world since we literally talked.
Jonathan: Been there, done that. Got the rona.
Bonnie: Yes, instead of a t-shirt all day. I went to Europe, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt, all I got was the rona.
Jonathan: Yes, we’ve had quite a few people email to say, “What was your trip like? We want to hear the goss,” but I feel like it’s like those people who go home after travel. In the old days, it used to be the slide projector. Did you have that when you were a kid?
Bonnie: Oh yes.
Jonathan: The people who’d been traveling would come over, and you’d set your living room up with the projector.
Bonnie: You’d watch the slides, yes.
Jonathan: Yes. As a blind person, you’d sit there and they’d go click, and they’d go, “Oh, that’s interesting.”
Bonnie: It sounds very lucky that people described the slides when the slides existed because I hadn’t been blind very long, so I knew what they were looking like. I used to introduce them. I had this thing about, I don’t know, wanting to be some sort of game show host. I would pop out behind the slides and narrate them to everyone’s annoyance, I’m sure. They’d rather just look at the slide, not get the commentary on them.
Jonathan: Yes. We have got some audio recordings. Maybe not as many as I thought we might make, but we have made quite a few, particularly on some of the buses that we took. I cabled the Zoom F3 to the actual audio recordings in some cases. What I also have is some fantastic audio from the ABBA Museum in Stockholm. That is amazing audio, and for licensing reasons, what I’m going to do is create a kind of a documentary thing called Mosen At the Museum.
Bonnie: Mosen At the Museum.
Jonathan: Obviously, Mushroom FM is licensed to broadcast commercial music. Mosen At Large is not. We can do a really cool presentation of the ABBA Museum stuff on there, but I’m not sure when I’ll get around to putting it together. We have got some audio, and we’ll probably play some of that periodically from time to time. We’ll stagger that over the next few months on Mosen At Large. I guess we should start by saying that before we went to the UK, we talked a bit about what would happen if the queen died. Of course, you woke me up in the middle of the night because Buckingham Palace had issued that statement. They’re so careful about what they say about the queen’s health.
Bonnie: Yes, they’re saying the royals had gone.
Jonathan: We knew at that point it was only a matter of time, and we didn’t know what to expect because we didn’t know how much would be canceled, how much would go on as normal. We got so lucky because the ABBA Voyage concert, the day after ours, was canceled. I would have been just totally gutted. That was the reason why we went.
Jonathan: Yes. We should say a few words about the queen because– I should say from the outset that I am a Republican with a small R. By that I mean that I think New Zealand should have its own head of state. I don’t think that we should have someone from Britain being our head of state, but the queen just symbolizes so much to admire. Duty and dedication and just steadfast politeness.
Bonnie: To the end.
Jonathan: She was an extraordinary woman.
Bonnie: Person, yes, and sense of humor, and her duty. Her duty was so important to the very end. She was meeting the new prime minister right before she died. She wanted to get that in, that handshake. That was important to her. Just that duty reminds me a lot of my mother and just a incredible person. Intelligent, really a symbol. The second longest reigning monarch, I think, or the longest reigning European monarch to be in a job for 70 years. Just an incredible person, and just a very sad but special historical time to be in Britain.
Jonathan: The amount of history that she spanned and that she represented, it’s just extraordinary. Her first prime minister, Winston Churchill, was born in 1874, and her last Prime Minister, Liz Truss, was born in 1975. It’s just extraordinary. This is Episode 200 of Mosen At Large, and all the way back in Episode 2, we talked about flash-bulb moments, that’s what the psychologists call them, where something has such an impact on you that you remember everything about it. I will never forget where I was when I heard and I rushed up the stairs to let you know. It’s just one of those incredible moments that you’ll never forget because, for me, the queen has been our head of state since I was born.
Bonnie: Yes, the queen, she’s always been the queen. Now we have the king.
Bonnie: I think that was the thing that was shocking me most was hearing about King Charles, I’m like, “King Charles? Who’s King Charles, or the king?” I’m like, “We don’t have a king.” It was so quickly because, obviously, he becomes monarch the moment she dies, so there’s no grieving time, per se, between him becoming king. He’s now the king and everything changes from the Queen’s Court to the King’s Court. It’s talking about the king now. Every time they’d say, “The king, “I’d be like, “Who? What?”
Jonathan: That continuity was emphasized in the very first statement. It was extraordinary to me that the royal family chose to release the statement via Twitter, so everybody got it at the same time. I, actually mindful that the statement was coming, set the royal family account to Push, so I got it the moment that they pushed it. The continuity was right in that statement, so it regretfully announced the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, but the next paragraph said the king and the queen consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will travel back to London. They were at pains to emphasize the continuity of the way the system works.
Bonnie: I’ve heard some people make really nasty comments that don’t know history, that a monarch does take over the minute the old monarch passes. They’re like, “Oh, he couldn’t wait to be king.” I’m like, “No, that’s the way it is.”
Jonathan: Yes, the moment that she drew her last breath, he was king, that’s how it works. That’s how.
Bonnie: That’s how. The same thing with her father, the moment he drew his last breath, she was queen.
Jonathan: Yes, that’s right.
Bonnie: That’s the way it is. That’s the way it’s been going for any monarchy since the beginning of time.
Jonathan: We should probably try and do this in some semblance of chronological order.
Bonnie: I think we should start with the beginning, the flights.
Jonathan: They took my GaN charger away.
Bonnie: Yes. It’s a very long way from–
Jonathan: You don’t want to talk about my GaN chargers?
Bonnie: Oh, you can.
Jonathan: We’ve been through security and they emptied– My bag, my backpack was a treasure trove, I’m sure, for the security people. Actually, most of it wasn’t too bad because I decided to be on the front foot with it. I would say to them, every security checkpoint we went through, “Listen, I’m a podcaster. In this backpack, you’ll find a whole bunch of microphones and recording gear. I don’t know whether it would’ve been the same had I not worn them, but it worked pretty well except that right at the beginning of the trip, and I didn’t find this out till afterwards, they got my little GaN charger out, which has the four USB ports, and it plugs into the wall.
I didn’t bring many charging things because I had the GaN charger, and they didn’t put it back in my backpack, so when I turned up to London, very grumpy and just needing to sleep and put things on charge and stuff, I didn’t have my GaN charger. At the time, it felt like the world’s greatest tragedy, but actually, it’s worked out okay because I’ve got a better one. I’ve got a much better one that puts out 160 watts instead of the 100 watts, and it’s all USB C. Anyway, that seemed like a major catastrophe at the time. Yes, anyway, you want to talk about the flight, so, over to you.
Bonnie: Yes, it’s a long way from New Zealand to Britain and–
Jonathan: [laughs] No soup.
Bonnie: Yes, and there’s a few ways you can go. You can go through Los Angeles, you can go through Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong. There’s probably some other, but wherever you go, it’s going to take at least 24 hours.
Jonathan: It’s like that old song about, [sings] “Let me tell you, Dubai doesn’t mean forever.”
Bonnie: Yes. Most people like to avoid Los Angeles because we were switching to Lufthansa because we did it the long way. We went from-
Jonathan: We did it the cheap way.
Bonnie: -New Zealand, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Munich, Munich, London. I was able to sleep quite a bit on both flights, so I actually felt pretty good when I got to London. No real air traffic troubles. We flew a lot, and were very grateful too, that our baggage returned with us. The only tragedy was Nicola’s suitcase got damaged beyond repair somewhere between Stockholm and London. There was an air traffic strike in France, so we had a few hours there to wait. Then Amsterdam, there was something we found out. It was a ground crew strike in Amsterdam. I’ve never had an aircrew act flustered or frustrated. When we flew from Paris to Stockholm, our captain was very frustrated. You could tell he was very just flustered.
Jonathan: There were actually quite a few grumpy European aircrew all around. They just didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves, and they’d had enough.
Bonnie: Yes, but I’d never had a captain, I’m like, “Is it going to be okay to fly on this plane? He sounds very frustrated.”
Then when we flew back through Amsterdam, our pilot went on this like five-minute rant about the airport, [laughs] then the aircrew. He goes, “You have the best aircrew on here. My flight crew is the best, and we’re going to make sure you are safe and comfortable.” This was KLM. It was like, “Okay, I think they’re over it.” The sad thing, going back to the queen was when we were flying from Germany to London, I think we were a little late getting out of Munich, and the flight attendant, they usually come over and ask if you’ve flown before.
She came over to talk to me, and she goes, “I apologize for not talking to you guys.” She goes, “We were late taking off.” Then we were talking about going to London, and I said something about the queen, and she got all upset. I had to counsel the flight attendant about her emotions about the queen. That was interesting.
Jonathan: Yes, there was a wide range of emotions. In some of the store windows, people had photos and signs and things. At the airport, some of the displays that would normally have other information had the UK flag and messages of condolence and stuff. Then sometimes you’d get into a London cab or whatever, and you’d have a really good conversation about it, and the cabby was pretty moved. Then other times, people just went on as normal, so there was a real contrast there.
Bonnie: Yes, I think that’s what had happened to the flight attendant. She said something to a British passenger, and they like, “You’re German, why do you care?” [laughs] I’m like, “Just not really friendly at all.”
Jonathan: One thing that’s really cool, in some of the London taxis, and these are the original London cabs, they’re like vans that have these little seats. You sit opposite each other and things. They’re quite an experience in their own right, traveling in a London cab. A lot more expensive than an Uber, but some of them have hearing loops. It’s amazing because sometimes when I go into Ubers or whatever, and I’m sitting in the back of the vehicle, I find it hard to hear the driver, but these cabs, many of them do have hearing loops. I was able to actually switch into what the driver was saying, and really enjoy the conversation.
Before we get off the flights, Air New Zealand, great food, lousy WiFi. Lufthansa great WiFi, pretty mediocre food because you only had one choice with every meal. Whereas Air New Zealand, even in economy, they give you choice, but the WiFi on the Lufthansa was excellent.
Bonnie: I slept, so I didn’t really use the WiFi.
Jonathan: They had a weird electronic malfunction on the Lufthansa flight, where some of the technologies, some of the entertainment wasn’t working.
Bonnie: It was fleet-wide. They couldn’t download– There was a software update, so Nicola could only watch I think movies from the early ’80s or– [laughs] I’m not sure what it was.
Jonathan: I can report that the Sony noise-canceling headphones, the W– What are they called? WM1000XM5s or something?
Bonnie: 1000, yes.
Jonathan: They were phenomenal. They really did cut out a lot of noise. It was just the most extraordinary thing. Those headphones are superstar performers.
Bonnie: Mine, I actually didn’t listen to because I conked out. [laughs]
Jonathan: Wow, we spent good money on those Bose QC.
Bonnie: I know that they do. Not as much as yours, but yes, they do. We did bring a nuisance along, which I think it was a good idea at the time, but then we decided when we were in the Auckland Airport to get neck pillows.
Jonathan: This was Nicola’s inspired idea, yes.
Bonnie: Nicola’s idea, which there’s nothing wrong with them. They are comfy, but then you have to carry them everywhere. Mine kept rolling away on the flight home. I don’t know what was going on, I had it in my seat, and then all of a sudden people were bringing it back to me.
Jonathan: It’s like a boomerang.
Bonnie: It was like a boomerang, it really was, but yes, the trip was– I can’t wait to go back because I feel we did so much in so little short a time that I would like to spend more time.
Jonathan: This was definitely a trip at a Jonathan kind of pace.
Jonathan: It was a grueling pace. There are a number of things to comment on in terms of when we got to London. The first thing I would say is that I haven’t done a huge amount of international travel for a while. Like many people, we’ve been grounded because of the pandemic. One of the things I really did enjoy was we stayed at Hilton Properties most of the time, and they had this electronic key system where you can use the NFC reader on your phone in conjunction with the Hilton Honors App. It can unlock your room, it can unlock the correct floor that you want to go in the elevator and various things like that. Just by tapping the button and waving your phone at the little room key thingy, it unlocks the door. That was fantastic.
Bonnie: The hotels we stayed in were nice, all three of them. No bathtub.
Jonathan: No bathtub, that’s right. It was nice to have a good soak in the bath with our rona-inflicted cells when we got home.
Bonnie: Yes, because my legs were so sore from climbing and walking.
Jonathan: Aww, boo. Now, I’m going to give some free business advice. If my plate weren’t so full, I would start a new enterprise and make a fortune because there’s something that is seriously missing not just in the UK it seems, but also in France and Sweden as well. Do you know what that thing is?
Bonnie: Oh, yes.
Jonathan: I don’t understand this. We could not get kombucha. It became a challenge after a while. At every restaurant we’d go to, I’d sit down and they’d say, “What do you want to drink?” I’d say, “You got kombucha?” You would think I was talking some foreign language or that I’d come from another planet. In New Zealand, kombucha is everywhere now.
Bonnie: Yes, in the US, it’s [unintelligible 01:21:08].
Jonathan: In the States, it’s been everywhere for quite a while. There was not one single place that we went to that had kombucha.
Bonnie: We could get Kombucha. Yes, it was very strange.
Jonathan: In the UK, or Paris, or Sweden, although we didn’t spend too much time in Sweden, but there, I really missed my kombucha. As soon as I got home, I raided the fridge, and there was a nice bottle of kombucha there. Oh my gosh. If you are looking for an enterprising thing to do, make your own kombucha and sell it, mass produce it, or even import kombucha from somewhere. What else can we say? We went on the Tuesday to the London Eye. That was quite a visual thing, wasn’t it?
Bonnie: It was very visual. Yes, it was a good chance to just sit and relax for half an hour. It was one of those touristy things. Then we went on a boat ride down the Thames. That was fun.
Jonathan: That was great. Now, I will try and play a recording of that at some time because the guy, he fancied himself as a bit of a raconteur, didn’t he?
Jonathan: He was quite entertaining.
Bonnie: People were noisy. That was annoying because people were noisy on the boat. I was like, “Can we just be quiet so we can enjoy the tour?”
Jonathan: Oh well, he was fun.
Bonnie: He was fun.
Jonathan: He was very fun.
Bonnie: He was like a pirate or something. What did we do after that?
Jonathan: We went on the bus, the big bus.
Bonnie: Oh, that’s right, we went on the big bus.
Jonathan: Our time in London was fairly limited, and we decided, “We could just cruise around.” Also, it would give us a bit of information about things that we could do.
Bonnie: There were things that we couldn’t go to. Like you couldn’t go the Buckingham Palace.
Jonathan: Yes, all the palaces and things were closed.
Bonnie: You couldn’t go, except for the Tower, which isn’t a working palace.
Jonathan: Yes. There were some things that were closed, and there was a lot of talk in the UK about the things that were closed, and the things that were still open, or the things that had been postponed. For example, there was this really weird thing that I still haven’t gotten my head around, and that is that the Met Office that gives the weather forecast in the UK, went through a phase there where, out of respect for Her Majesty, they were giving the weather forecast for today but not long-range weather forecasts.
Bonnie: It’s their National Guinea Pig–
Jonathan: Then, yes, the one that really got everybody’s attention was that the Guinea Pig Awareness Week had been postponed. It was supposed to start on the day of Her Majesty’s funeral, so they put it back by a week.
Bonnie: It’s this week is Guinea Pig Week.
Jonathan: As we record this, that’s right, yes.
Bonnie: If you have a guinea pig, hug it. We took the Tube a few times.
Jonathan: Yes. I would be interested to hear from Londoners, and maybe I should have put a message out on the Twitter, I didn’t really find any app that gave us absolutely clear step-by-step newbie-type instructions about is this Tube trip we’re taking going to be direct, or do we have to change somewhere. I found Google Maps pretty vague. I thought that the Moovit App would be okay, but it didn’t seem accurate.
Bonnie: No, and I found out since, that when we went to the Tower, we should have got off at Tower Hill instead of London Bridge.
Jonathan: Yes, that’s what actually I did say, but Nicola got us off at London.
Jonathan: Yes. I didn’t get that right, but we got [unintelligible 01:24:11].
Bonnie: Oh dear, okay. I thought we were supposed to– Okay. Yes, Nicola wasn’t a huge fan of the Tube.
Jonathan: She was not a fan of the Tube. She kept saying, “Can’t we just get an Uber?” The thing is that there were so many disruptions with various processions and things that the streets were just incredibly gridlocked.
Bonnie: Yes, and even some of the Tubes were messed up and some of the stations they were bypassing. I really liked the Tube. I can see how Nicola would be confused because when you’re learning a subway system, there are so many different line. If you get on the wrong line, you end up–
Jonathan: She’s guiding two blind people as well.
Bonnie: She’s guiding two blind people. I couldn’t see, but compared to New York and Boston, it seemed to be very clean. I’d be curious about blind people who travel around London and use the Tube, how accessible do they find it? We did the Tube. We went, of course, on Wednesday to the Tower of London, which I’d been waiting to go to. That was a very exciting tour.
Jonathan: Yes. I’m really disappointed that the audio guide which was really good at the Tower of London, it had a mono 3.5 jack, and I came along with a stereo plug. I could not get audio from it. I should have taken a little adapter just in case, or something. I didn’t get the audio guide from the Tower of London. I got some other audio guides, but not that one. It was a very interesting experience just knowing that you were in a building that had been occupied all that time since the 1200s.
Bonnie: Over 1,000 years. Since 1000 when William the Conqueror built it. Before that, the Romans were there. We saw some Roman Wall. I was talking to a friend of mine in the States this morning who had been to the Tower of London. We were talking about the Crown Jewels. She goes, “Did you go on the moving sidewalk?” I’m like, “The what?” Apparently, there used to be or is a moving sidewalk where the Crown Jewels are. I’m like, “No, we didn’t do that.”
Bonnie: I thought that was interesting. Some of the Crown Jewels, of course, were not there because they were with Her Majesty for the funeral.
Jonathan: We spent a long time in there because it was just so interesting. What was interesting to us was that we thought we might be taxing Nicola’s patience a little bit, going to there, but she was fascinated by the Tower of London.
Bonnie: She was interested. I figured she would not enjoy the Tower but she did enjoy it. She even took in stuff because she was showing Heidi some pictures. “This is the gate because of Traitors’ Gate. This is what the people, the prisoners see as they’re being rode up the river.” She did enjoy the Tower. If history is correct, my family has relatives that died there.
Jonathan: Oh dear, what did they do?
Bonnie: They made somebody mad, the church or the monarch.
Jonathan: There are various strands of tours that you can do, so there were various audio guides.
Bonnie: Next time I want to go to the biggie tour, like the everything tour, where you can go play with pet ravens or go visit the ravens.
Jonathan: Let’s talk about the ravens for those who aren’t familiar with that. One of the first things that you hear as a blind person when you get to the Tower of London is those ravens.
Bonnie: Caw, caw, caw. They have been there for centuries. There’s a legend that says that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, the monarchy will fall. They usually keep about six or seven ravens there all the time. They have their wings feathers clipped so they can’t fly away too far. They have a raven master, and he’s the guy that takes care of them. Gets up, feeds them. They’re treated like royalty because technically, they are paid for by the taxpayers, so they’re like the royal family. They’re taken care of, but yet they’re expected to perform for the public.
Jonathan: As part of the audio guide, they actually did have the keeper of the ravens talking about his work and the hours that he keeps at different times of the year. Apparently, they are super-intelligent birds.
Bonnie: Yes, they like to play tricks. They talk, they can talk. One of them, he says goes to feed him, and he goes, “I’m here to feed you.” He says, “You’re here to feed me.” He says that’s not mimicry, that’s intelligent. They’re cheeky because the public is always there, so they do stuff. Like one of them would land in a group of tourists and start barking like a dog, and the people would be looking around for the dog. Then he would fly off laughing. Then another one would play dead because that would upset people.
Jonathan: Like a Monty Python skit.
Bonnie: Yes. If they behave badly, they can be kicked out of the Tower and go live in a sanctuary because one of them used to fly down to the pub and get drunk.
Jonathan: Drink the beer, right?
Bonnie: Drink the beer and come back drunk. Then, this was years ago, another one disturbed a bunch of TV aerials, destroyed a bunch of TV aerials in the area.
Bonnie: What I also thought was interesting was I found out that people actually live in the Tower, that the Beefeaters, Yeomen Warders’ families, they can live there. Also, there’s a constable head of the Tower and his family lives there in the queen’s house, which was over by Tower Green, which they believe was built for Anne Boleyn. That just must be fascinating living there. I was reading an article about a young woman who’d moved in with her dad, who’s one of the Beefeaters there because she had just gotten out of college and paying the rent in London.
She said that it was interesting. The hard part was getting takeaway because the Uber Eats people could find the Starbucks across the street but not a 1,000-year-old castle. She’d have to cross over to the Starbucks to get the Uber Eats, and you have to sign in people that come to visit. If you leave after a certain hour at night, you have to let the guards know. It’s just neat to think that you could live there and have all that history, and ghosts, and stuff like that with you.
Jonathan: It was really fascinating. I should say we also went to a very traditional English pub because I wanted Bonnie, especially, and Nicola, to have an English pub experience. I’ve been to a few of my time. That was good, but the one that we picked was hella noisy. It was very difficult to–
Bonnie: Yes. I think that they have a roast.
Jonathan: Yes, I think they only have those on the Sunday.
Bonnie: Oh, okay.
Jonathan: I think that might be the deal.
Bonnie: Now, someone, my friend that I was talking to this morning asked me did I have any scones while I was in England.
Bonnie: You know what? I didn’t even think about it because we get them here, so I didn’t even think about having one in England, so now I feel cheated.
Jonathan: Aww, yes. We managed to get to a pretty nice steakhouse, where, in the UK of all places, they had USDA-certified beef, and that was quite nice.
Bonnie: That was real good.
Jonathan: Then we went to see Mama Mia on the West End, and that was such a good night.
Bonnie: That was a good one.
Jonathan: It was just a feel-good night. Nicola loved that too, and we all loved it. I’ve got a hunch that maybe that’s where the rona might have been picked up, but I can’t prove it, of course.
Bonnie: The thing was, people were coughing and sneezing all over you.
Jonathan: There wasn’t a lot of mask wearing in the UK, was there?
Bonnie: No, and people were coughing and blowing their nose, so it was probably just everywhere. We went to this gelato place in the West End that was really good cold. I think it’s called Gelatorino.
Jonathan: I actually think we may have ended up there twice if I recall.
Bonnie: We did go in there twice. It was really good.
Jonathan: It was so good.
Bonnie: I’d go back. I loved London. It’s funny how the grass is always greener because when we were in the Chanel boutique in Harrods, the woman was asking where we were from, and saying New Zealand, “Oh, I want to move to New Zealand. London is so boring. I’m like, “We can do a swap. I’ll work at Chanel, you can come to New Zealand.” It was just funny.
Jonathan: We’ll come back to Harrods because I’m moving through in chronological order so that we can try and keep some semblance of order.
Bonnie: Oh, okay.
Jonathan: After Mama Mia, on the Wednesday night, we had a very early start on the Thursday because we took the Eurostar over to Paris. We were using Uber quite a bit, but we really just had to be very careful with timing because I know that London can get gridlocked anyway, but there were just so many more people in there. By this stage on the Wednesday night, the famous queue had started. This was such a bastion of Britishness, wasn’t it?
Jonathan: The queue was all people were talking about. It developed this life of its own. It had its own website, it had multiple streams. You could tune into YouTube and watch the queue. There wasn’t a lot of noise. I actually sat there with the stream of the queue on for a while, and because they had this very plush red carpet, I think it was, in the Palace of Westminster, you couldn’t really hear people walking in or anything. What you could hear, if you listened long enough, every 20 minutes I think it was, there was this tap tap sound, and that was the guards changing.
Jonathan: You could actually hear the changing of the guard taking place, but that was really pretty much all that you got. One thing that did really impress me about the queue was just how considerate, how much time they had put into accessibility. There was an accessible option that you could take. My understanding is that that significantly shortened the queue time if you qualified. They were at lengths to say that the information about the queue and stuff, they had made sure it was fully screen reader accessible on VoiceOver and TalkBack.
Bonnie: They allowed guide dogs and stuff. Guide dogs were welcome.
Jonathan: Yes. Part of me thinks why, in 2022, would you not have a system where you could just book your place in the queue online and then turn up at the time that you’d been assigned? I suppose it wouldn’t have had the same mystique.
Bonnie: Yes, and there probably wasn’t a lot of time too. They probably would have crashed the booking system.
Jonathan: Maybe, yes. A lot of people went through their queue. You’d be talking to cabbies, or Uber drivers, or whoever you were talking to, and they’d be talking these amazingly vivid descriptions of this queue just snaking for kilometers around London, and all these landmarks that we now identified with as a result of the big bus tour that we’d been on. We had a concept of how far away things were from one another, and the queue was just immense. The other thing that really struck me about it from the processions to the funeral, to everything, was just the quality, the production values of everything that the BBC did around all of it.
The care they took to mix it in stereo, all those little touches when they would have been under considerable pressure. It was just, man, it was amazing. Just such good broadcasting they do. They’re a treasure. A treasure. Anyway, so on the Thursday morning, we popped on the Eurostar. What did you think of the Eurostar to Paris?
Bonnie: It was nice. It was a train, It wasn’t any different than any other train I’d been on.
Jonathan: Made your ears go bad, though, when you–
Bonnie: It did. It really hurt every time they’d open the door between the cars, but you didn’t really know when you were under the channel. They didn’t announce were going under the channel. That was cool.
Jonathan: Yes. They had pretty mediocre WiFi on the Eurostar too, I’d say.
Bonnie: Yes. The food was nice, the coffee was good. Funny thing was when we got to Paris, we got off to catch an Uber, and we caught it over by a Starbucks and a Burger King. I was like, “Welcome to Paris.”
Jonathan: Yes, and we had some trouble attracting the Uber. I think in the end we got a cab, didn’t we, rather than an Uber?
Bonnie: We finally did get an Uber, I think. No, maybe we got a cab. I don’t remember.
Jonathan: No, we got a cab back to the hotel.
Bonnie: Yes. That was a really nice hotel, and then we went to the Eiffel Tower, which was actually interesting. I was like, “Whatever, it’s just a stupid structure that–”
Jonathan: Oh, how sacrilegious can you be?
Bonnie: A lot of French hate the Eiffel Tower from what I understand, but actually, I thought it was just going to be like going up in the sky tower. You get on an elevator and go up, but it actually is a metal structure. It’s open, and you can really see the whole structure under there. When you get there there’s all these hawkers selling water, and key chains, and street musicians.
Jonathan: For those who haven’t been to Paris before, one of the characteristics that I’ve always liked about it when I’ve gone is that you can be shopping for something, and in the stores, often, they have these little food bars with pastries
Bonnie: And coffee, yes.
Bonnie: Oh yes, the macaroons.
Jonathan: Macaroon, and chocolate eclairs, and stuff like that. It could have nothing to do with food, but you’re never far away from a good pastry.
Bonnie: Yes, when we were in the L’Occitane store, they had a coffee bar, and I was like, “This is my kind of town.”
Jonathan: Nicola, she said to me, she only had a couple of requests for the whole trip, but before we left, she said, ”The one thing I’d really like, dad, when we go to Paris, I’d like a room with a view of the Eiffel Tower.” It cost double what our room did.
Bonnie: She had a bathtub.
Jonathan: Yes, for the Eiffel Tower room, but that’s all right. She got her Eiffel Tower. I braved the elements, and I practiced what French I have. We also had the translator app. I’d be interested to know if anybody has used these apps, which one they prefer. I actually found that the Google one was the best one, so I had that. I do have a little bit of schoolboy French, which, it was funny, a lot of it came back to me when I was there.
Bonnie: It’s funny because my French is very limited as well, but I found myself speaking or talking in French. Then when we got to Sweden, when I bumped into someone or said something, I found myself speaking French. I’m like, “The heck?” It was funny.
Jonathan: I went to the Apple store because, as I mentioned in my halting voice last week, rona-inflicted voice, I could not get an iPhone on delivery day, and so I thought I will take our chances. I went into the Apple store in Paris to say, is there any way at all I could pick one up tomorrow, and basically, “Non, non, non.”
Bonnie: Non. No, need a reservation.
Jonathan: Yes, so couldn’t do that.
Bonnie: We got some, I’m wearing my Eiffel Tower earrings right now from Swarovski Crystal.
Jonathan: Just hold them up to the mic, so people can see them.
Bonnie: Yes, from Swarovski Crystal because they had Swarovski Crystal store in the Eiffel Tower. Nicola was buying a lot of merch, and T-shirts, and things you do, and I said, ”I’ll go get you something that’s not merch,” because I did that when I was her age. Wanted the t-shirt that said Yellowstone or whatever. “I’ll get you something you can keep that’s not going to outgrow, or whatever,'” so I got her a necklace with the Eiffel Tower on it, and I got these earrings. I think I got her earrings too, and I got a couple of charms for my Pandora bracelet. One of them is the Eiffel Tower, and one of them is Arc de Triomphe. The guy was really nice, he gave us a discount, so that was really cool.
Jonathan: The hotel that we stayed at, on the roof, they have this sort of grill thing, but it’s a– How would you describe it? A woodfire grill?
Jonathan: When we went up there, and they sat us right by the grill while the grill was coming up to speed or whatever, we actually got the smoke inhalation. It was gross.
Bonnie: Yes, we had to leave. Thankfully, Nicola found a restaurant that was really good.
Jonathan: Yes, so we went down, and we found that really that’s all there was in that hotel. Nicola did some quick googling, and this cafe around the corner came highly recommended. We went there, and it was a wonderful night. Nicola was being quite brave and she tried the escargot, Did you end up trying one?
Bonnie: I tasted it and spat it out.
Bonnie: It was too disgusting. It was just gross. I don’t know why anybody would want to eat that. Now I wish I’d bought that snail ring at Kate Spade.
Jonathan: It was a really wonderful evening we had. I’ll tell you what, I consider that I have quite good self-control when it comes to food these days. I have this little mantra that goes on in my head, and I say, “Is this food I’m about to eat medicine or poison?” Normally, that works, and I can stick to low carb, but I got to a point in Paris where I just decided I cannot do it. There was just such nice pastries.
Jonathan: I didn’t have that so much.
Bonnie: Oh, I had the baguette and ham and cheese because I love ham and cheese baguettes. There’s actually a French bistro in Wellington that I order from Uber Eats sometimes.
Jonathan: There you go. That takes us up to the Friday morning, where we took an Uber out to Coupvray, and we did the Louis Braille Museum. For me, that was a kind of a sacred type occasion.
Bonnie: Like my tower visit was my sacred [unintelligible 01:40:52].
Jonathan: I just couldn’t believe that I was actually in the place where Louis Braille had grown up, and actually had his accident, but lived and slept. It was just nice to pause while I was there, and reflect. It was very, very special, but still, it was interesting looking at all the different codes that have been attempted over the years.
Bonnie: Yes, like Moon.
Jonathan: I think that’s the first time that you saw Moon, was it?
Bonnie: Yes, the first time I saw Moon. Just seeing the book that he had actually Brailled himself, the music book that we touched, and some of the slate and styluses that he used, and some of the other equipment that had come along with that very old Braille writer.
Jonathan: What actually people tend to do, I think, is just look at the first couple of pages. If you open that music book to the middle, the Braille is in surprisingly good shape. The dots still feel pretty good. I was having a look at that music, and it was very special. Actually, what I didn’t expect to see that made me smile and get all reminiscent was they had a verse of Braille, the original TSI Versa Braille in there.
Jonathan: That was really amazing. I was thinking about how I [unintelligible 01:42:05].
Bonnie: I haven’t seen one of those in ages.
Jonathan: Did you ever use a Versa Braille?
Bonnie: Not really. We had one, and they brought one to show us in school, which I think was the one that had the discs in it, not the cassettes, which was different.
Jonathan: Yes, had a rubbery keyboard.
Bonnie: Yes, had a rubbery keyboard because this one looked very different than what I remember, or either I just don’t remember it, but yes.
Jonathan: We had a great time. We spent some time there just talking to Stefan who showed us around and things like that. It was very special. We did spend a little bit of time in the village as well. We spent some time in the afternoon on the-
Bonnie: The Big Bus.
Jonathan: -Big Bus in Paris, so I have got some really amazing audio from those Big Bus tours. At some point, I’ll produce an item, perhaps to be an occasional travel log.
Bonnie: We learned the French are pretty much as violent as the English. We heard all about the guillotine and why the Champs-Élysées is built the way it is. We didn’t go in Notre Dame, but we did go to Notre Dame and took pictures because it’s still under construction after the fire.
Jonathan: It was fun doing the Big Bus thing. I highly recommend that actually for blind people.
Bonnie: We didn’t get to do it in Stockholm because we just weren’t in Stockholm very long.
Jonathan: Yes. The Big Bus, they have these audio guides, kind of like the old in-flight entertainment systems that they had in old airline seats. They have a volume button and a channel button, and you can actually flick between different language tracks. The tone was very different. In the UK, the Big Bus was kind of quite flip, very British.
Bonnie: Yes. Paris was very non–
Jonathan: Paris was non-serious.
Bonnie: Yes, which I liked.
Jonathan: Then we headed to Charles de Gaulle Airport, we were held up at that airport because of the strike. We were wondering whether we’d ever get out. Of course, the thing is that we were on such a tight timeframe that it’s like a domino effect. If we couldn’t get to Stockholm, we’d have to find another way to get back to the UK in time for ABBA Voyage, which was the big focus. We finally landed in Sweden after midnight, and we got to our hotel, which was a considerable distance from the airport at about 1:00 in the morning.
Bonnie: Yes, it was.
Jonathan: Then that place was jumping, dude, at 1:00 in the morning.
Bonnie: Oh wow, it was 1:00 in the morning, then breakfast was packed. I don’t know if they all partied all night and came to breakfast, or what, but yes.
Jonathan: Saturday in Stockholm was all about the ABBA Museum, and that was wonderful. As I say, we’ve got some really, really cool audio from there.
Bonnie: It was very well done.
Jonathan: You go to the ABBA Museum, it was funny because the Uber driver we had, he knew a bit of English. I think he knew enough to take direction and that kind of stuff.
Bonnie: He knew welcome and thank you.
Jonathan: I’m trying to make conversation with the guy and I’m trying to keep it reasonably simple. I say to him, “You like ABBA?” “No.”
Jonathan: We turned up at the museum. When you get out the first thing you notice is that there’s ABBA music blasting out of the speakers. When you get out, even before you go into the building, there’s ABBA music blasting out. It really made me realize how the new ABBA music has just integrated seamlessly into the ABBA discography because one minute they’re playing stuff like Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, which I think they might have been playing when we turned up if I remember correctly. Then they had Andante, Andante from Super Trouper. Next thing you know, they’re playing I Still Have Faith in You. It just seamlessly integrates. It’s just another ABBA song, very well done. They’re obviously all ABBA fans who run the place.
I was chatting to them about various ABBA things. You can get audio guides, and you can get them in two forms. You can scan a QR code, and it opens up in Safari on your phone, which is what I did, but you got a physical one, right?
Bonnie: Yes, but they didn’t have a headset, so you had to put it up to your ear, which was hard because you had the music in the different rooms in other people’s audio guides. It was kind of strange, but it worked.
Jonathan: Yes. The museum is divided into-
Jonathan: -I think it’s about six, seven rooms. They’ve also got a theater there where you can go in and watch ABBA: The Movie.
Bonnie: Oh yes, we watched that.
Jonathan: They have features there where you can go into a recording booth.
Bonnie: Oh yes, and record yourself.
Jonathan: Record an ABBA song. What happens in Stockholm stays in Stockholm. There are various other participatory things, but what’s cool is that the audio guide material has all four members of ABBA. It’s really clear from that material that any tensions that led to their marital separations and the breakup of the band, long since dissipated. They just seemed like really good friends now. What was interesting about that was that there’s nothing about the ABBA reunion yet. The time just flew by at the ABBA Museum.
Bonnie: Yes, and then we went and had lunch. Then it was pretty much time to go back to the airport.
Jonathan: Yes, where we had more delays and Nicola’s bag damage. We got to the UK quite late, and the hotel, even later, of course, because most hotels, if you’re going to be in Central London where everything is happening, they’re long way from Heathrow, mate.
Jonathan: A long way. This was almost on Week 2 of the trip. That was the point where we got acquainted with Uber Eats in London for the first time. All the things we could have, we ended up having Papa John’s. [laughs]
Bonnie: Yes. It was so funny because they served a sandwich on KLM. It was a pimento cheese sandwich. I haven’t had that in ages. That’s just like a Southern thing. I’m like, “Oh, did the Dutch invent this?” Then on the second part of the journey, they gave us chips. I told Nicola, I said, “I guess if we fly the next leg, we could have a desert.” It’s like a revolving meal. It wasn’t bad, it was pretty good.
Jonathan: Yes, we used Uber Eats a bit in our final part of London. On the Sunday, we made it to Madame Tussauds. Madame Tussauds, I would highly recommend this for blind people because we’ve had these robust debates on Mosen At Large, about visual description, or self-description. If you can get up close to those wax figures, other than the royal family, which were roped off, I think most of them were not, you can actually touch them. You can actually get a feel of what they feel like. It’s quite interesting.
Bonnie: Yes, I got a picture of Muhammad Ali, and Princess Diana, and Chewbacca.
Jonathan: Yes, and I got one with Taylor Swift. That’s the long and the short of that. She’s a tall girl anyway, but she’s in at least 3-inch heels. I think they’re actually higher than that, they’re really high. Freddie Mercury. I have an appreciation now for the flamboyance of his costumes, which I didn’t know before, and what his hair is like, and stuff like that.
Bonnie: Oh, and Audrey Hepburn.
Jonathan: It was incredibly interactive from a blind person’s point of view.
Bonnie: Then we went on this kind of cheesy ride, which I didn’t quite understand.
Jonathan: It’s very similar to the soaring over California one that they have at Disney. Basically, it’s very virtual and visual, and they strap you in. If you can see it, it looks like you’re flying over London, and you’re getting an aerial view of London, but it is highly visual. Then we spent quite a bit of time hitting the shops because you were desperate to get to Harrods.
Bonnie: Yes, which was very, very crowded. I was like, “This is a bit much.” I’d like to go back sometime when not like half the tourists in Europe are there, but it’s definitely an experience.
Jonathan: Yes, huge multi-story department store. I had my hopes up because we went to the electronics depart– It’s actually a specific Apple Store, isn’t it, that they have at Harrods?
Bonnie: Yes, Apple.
Jonathan: They had iPhone 14 Pros, and I thought, “Oh, we’re getting close.” They had an iPhone 14 Pro in stock, and I said to the guy, “Can you do me an iPhone 14 Pro Max?” He said, “I can do you the Pro, but I can’t do you the Pro Max.” I was really tempted. I thought, “Will I go with the Pro?” Then I thought, “Yes, I really like my Max for the battery life and the Braille screen input.” Just a bit more real estate, so I thought I’d wait, but, yes, I was so close, so close.
Bonnie: Yes. Nicola wanted to get her boyfriend a jersey for the Arsenals. Is that–
Jonathan: Yes, Arsenal, the football team.
Bonnie: Football team, yes.
Jonathan: Her boyfriend is called Zach. I’ve now met Zach, and I’ve given him the third degree as is my right as a father. He’s a good lad, actually. He’s a good lad. Very articulate and intelligent, bright lad, but he’s a big guy. He’s like 6’4, isn’t he, or something?
Bonnie: Yes, and just big.
Jonathan: Yes, he’s a big lad. We’re trying to find an Arsenal jersey that fit him.
Bonnie: We couldn’t.
Jonathan: We went on this mighty quest to try and find an Arsenal jersey that would fit him, and we weren’t successful.
Bonnie: No, they just don’t make it in his size.
Jonathan: We’ve traipsed around all the sports stores and goodness knows what else. Yes, it was mad.
Bonnie: She had to get a drink model and a hat.
Bonnie: Poor Zach.
Jonathan: Of course, the climax was it was something that we left towards the end deliberately, and I’m just so glad I didn’t leave it to one more day or we wouldn’t have gone, and that was going to ABBA Voyage. What can we say about that? We caught an Uber out there, and they really looked after us.
Bonnie: Yes, they did.
Jonathan: They saw us out there with the canes and stuff. I felt a bit bad about it, but they tapped us on the shoulder and said, “You guys better come with us.”
Bonnie: See, I don’t feel bad about that because I think if I’m a princess or a celebrity, they’re going to do the same thing.
Jonathan: Yes, but when we’re just ordinary nits. Just ordinary nits. I’m not a big merch person normally, but the ABBA Voyage was an exception.
Bonnie: That was lit.
Jonathan: I just totally stockpiled on the merch.
Bonnie: Yes. This was in Sweden, we got some ABBA mugs. Mine has the cats on it from the costume. Yours has the ABBA faces, and I got a scarf that says Mamma Mia on it, I think. Then, in the voyage, we got t-shirts, and jerseys, and stuff.
Jonathan: More mugs and things.
Bonnie: I don’t think we got any mugs. We got socks.
Jonathan: Yes, I did. I did from ABBA Voyage.
Bonnie: You did?
Jonathan: The ABBA Arena is purpose-built out at Pudding Mill Lane, and there’s plenty of space. You can get food ahead of the performance. They started the performance late because went on Sunday, the 18th. At 8:00 UK time, they observed a period of silence to commemorate the queen. The performance was supposed to start at 7:45, and I had a hunch that it was going to start late, but I don’t think we officially knew. Now, a lot of people, myself included, wondered, “Is it worth a blind person going to this?” Because what happens with ABBA Voyage, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is you have a live band playing, but the ABBA figures are virtual.
They’re not holograms. It’s much more complicated than that. They are virtual, they’re not physically present. You’re clearly working with ABBA’s canned vocals, and there might be one or two exceptions, it’s hard to tell when you’re in the arena, but they are certainly, for the most part, the studio vocals, and so you think, “Is there any point in going really?” My answer to that is absolutely, emphatically yes, because the live band just changes the dimension. Of course, the geek in me thinks about how is the sausage being made. The only way I can think it must be happening is they must be wearing earbuds with a click track so that the band is staying in perfect sync with the vocals.
Otherwise, all chaos is going to break loose. It is a live band. I won’t spoil it completely, but one of the ABBA songs is completely different. It’s a brand new performance of one of the songs, and it completely changes the complexion of the song, actually. Completely flips it on its head. If you want to know more about that, you’ll have to go.
Bonnie: What did Nicola say about the visuals?
Jonathan: Oh, she said you have to look carefully when you know what you’re looking for, that it’s not ABBA up there, but it’s pretty deceptive. It’s pretty compelling and pretty convincing. You really feel like you’re in an ABBA performance. There’s obviously live banter that all the band members are engaged in. They even do things like, in one of the songs, the instrumental backing cuts down so that the audience can sing along. It’s pretty damn amazing. Having the band there playing just really brings it to life, and you do feel like you’re in this live performance.
I wasn’t disappointed. I didn’t feel like I was sitting there listening to a recording at all. I felt like I was part of a live experience. The one thing I will say, I’ve been to a lot of concerts, the combination of the acoustics in there, which clearly, since they built the arena for themselves, and the sound system, it was one of the best audio experiences I’ve had at a live event. It was really good. Wow, the bass is going right through you. It’s all happening. The band is really good. I would have reversed the order of the last two songs. I’ll just leave it at that in case anybody wants to go. The song they ended with is probably ABBA’s most famous song, but it’s a downer. It’s a downer.
The penultimate song is probably the second most famous song, and it’s incredibly up-tempo, and a feel-good song. I think they would have done better to end with a feel-good song.
Bonnie: Yes, I think so too.
Jonathan: Because I was sitting there with tears streaming down my face, [laughs] but it was wonderful. What did you think of it?
Bonnie: It was good. It was really good. I thought it was really good.
Jonathan: Yes, people were singing and dancing. Everybody was up dancing.
Bonnie: A lot of people were in costume.
Jonathan: If you really want to, you can look up the ABBA Voyage setlist so you know what they sang, and you’ll know what I’m talking about, but I’m trying to be careful not to spoil it for anybody who’s got tickets because God knows they’re expensive.
Bonnie: Yes, don’t spoil it for anybody.
Jonathan: Yes, I’m so glad I went. It was a very, very emotional thing. I know it’s the closest I will ever come to an ABBA full live performance, so I’ll take what I can get. That’s essentially what we did. Monday was a write-off because London was just at a standstill.
Bonnie: Shut down, yes.
Jonathan: We just made a decision that being out there and that level of crowd, there’s a balancing act, isn’t there, between paying our respects, but just being in a real crush?
Bonnie: Yes. Then we came home on Tuesday.
Jonathan: Yes, we did. We packed a lot into a short time.
Jonathan: You glad you went?
Bonnie: I am, and I can’t wait to go back.
Jonathan: Yes, there’s a lot more to see and do. I know I kind of felt bad because there are people contacting us saying, “We want to do dinner.” It’s not like we were snubbing anybody.
Bonnie: We didn’t have time.
Jonathan: We literally didn’t have time.
Bonnie: We will come back.
Jonathan: Yes, especially if we can camp at people’s houses.
Bonnie: Yes, exactly.
Jonathan: Perhaps we could build a list of people who are willing to put us up.
Bonnie: Yes, exactly. We can do that. I’d go back tomorrow. I loved London.
Jonathan: You wouldn’t want to put us up, by the way, because we’re annoying.
Bonnie: Yes, it’s like fish and gas.
Jonathan: Very annoying.
Bonnie: You can get a service department or something. [unintelligible 01:58:11] our home in a–
Jonathan: Yes, Airbnb.
Jonathan: Oh, we’ll leave it there.
Bonnie: All right, cool. Thank you.
Jonathan: May your recovery be swift and full.
Bonnie: Yes. You, too.
Jonathan: All right, then. Goodbye.
Jonathan: Transcripts of Mosen At Large are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at pneumasolutions.com. That’s P-N-E-U-M-Asolutions.com.
Closing and contact info
Jonathan: I’d love to hear from you, so if you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan, J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States, 864-606-6736.
Mosen at large podcast
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