Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large 124, plenty of Apple news, a laptop update that went badly wrong, screen reader comparisons and more
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Jonathan: I’m Jonathan Mosen and this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. Today, WWDC is still a couple of weeks away, but Apple has made some big announcements already. Technology’s great when it works. A story of a computer update going badly wrong, and so much more.
Speaker 1: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: Welcome. Nice to have you back for another installment of the show. It has been a busy weekend at Mosen Towers because we have had my son David’s 21st birthday. If you’ve been listening to my shows over the years, you may even remember when he was born because I was doing internet radio then. I remember interviewing his big brother, who was two years old when David was born. That’s Richard, who’s gone on to do some shows on Mushroom FM, of course, subsequently.
I was trying to ask him how he felt about being a big brother. This was on the old Blind Line show, and all he kept saying was put Barney on, put Barney on. He just wanted to watch Barney. He didn’t want to talk about his little brother, and I have a recording of that. I have a recording of a lot of things as I’ve been saying over the last week or so. I just am so grateful that I took the time to record so much of my children. It really is the blindness equivalent of taking photographs.
I put together a 21st birthday montage. It goes for about seven minutes of David’s life so far starting from when he was very little and working up chronologically. It was fun and well-received. What I will do is play that on the Mosen Explosion on Monday. The Mosen Explosion is the show that I do on Mushroom FM every weekday. You can hear it at 2:00 AM or 2:00 PM, US Eastern time. That’s 7:00 AM or 7:00 PM UK time.
If you don’t know when that is in your time zone, you can go to the Mushroom FM schedule page, @mushroomfm.com/schedule. Assuming all’s well, which it usually is, you’ll be able to see that schedule in your own time zone. We can detect what time zone you’re in and show you the schedule. If by chance it doesn’t work, there’s a simple combo box there where you can choose the time zone that you are in and the schedule will be translated for you.
The reason why I’m not playing the montage here is because there’s some music in the background and I’ll get pinged for doing that on the podcast platforms. We’ll do that on the Mosen Explosion. Looking forward to your company right throughout the week there, of course. I know that there are some sighted people who do a lot of audio recording of their children or of different things, but I think that blind people are more likely to do it because we don’t have the option of just snapping a pic with the photos.
I had a friend who’s sadly died now, but he used to take a tape recorder around and record everything. This little tape recorder, and he’d be there recording and we would know that he was recording. This was way back in the ’80s and early ’90s, and we would just accept that he was recording. He didn’t make any secret of the fact. We thought it was odd at the time, but then we were grateful for it.
I remember when Amanda and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, he suddenly popped up and he said, “I have a recording of your stag night.” Do they call that a buck night I think, in the United States. He provided it to me. I have to say, it was quite extraordinary. He was able to provide this. I think we value these things as we get older. There were so many of us who did record things when we were kids and didn’t keep the recording. Perhaps because we didn’t think it was important or we had a limited supply of cassettes, so we just recorded something over the top, didn’t we? Those recordings that survive, they do become more precious as you get older.
We did talk about different tape machines that people owned some time ago, and that was a really interesting discussion. It’s also interesting to talk about what we use them for and how we might use them on average, differently from sighted people that we tend to use them more to keep a record of momentous events, events that are special to us in some way. Another really cool example of this is that while I don’t have a recording of my absolutely first meeting with Bonnie, which she tells me was in 2006 at a convention we were both at, I do have that recording of the first Mosen Explosion show that we did together in 2012, where Bonnie had been a listener and she came to co-host the show when I was in Boston.
That is so cool. Quite often on the anniversary of that meeting, we get it out and we have a little listen to it. Maybe I would have just snapped a photo if I had the ability to really benefit from that. I do attend quite a few meetings with politicians and senior business leaders and they’re all into this now. They say at the end of the meeting, “Would it be okay if we take a quick photo,” and they often put it out on social media, but to me having a record of that conversation is just so much more precious.
You might like to comment on that. You can get in touch, of course, by dropping me an email with an audio attachment funnily enough, or you can write it down, firstname.lastname@example.org is the email address, and the listener line number is open for you as well. 864-60Mosen, 864-606-6736. It has been a busy week for technology this week. Global Accessibility Awareness Day occurred on Thursday. It occurs now on the third Thursday of May, and this is the 10th anniversary of Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
It really has gained momentum. A lot of the big technology companies support it and do special things for it. It has turned into a pretty busy day for me over the years, I have to say. I often get asked to speak to organizations, either giving online presentations or presentations in-person. I went to give a presentation to a pretty significant organization on Global Accessibility Awareness Day this year. Apple has announced a number of things in conjunction with Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
We’ll go through those and keep you clued in. Apple has now launched SignTime. This is a service that will pair Apple store and Apple support customers with on-demand sign language interpreters. SignTime will allow customers to communicate with AppleCare and retail customer care inside their browsers using American sign language, British sign language, and French sign language. The service will also be available in-person at retail stores without making arrangements ahead of time.
For now, the service is limited to the United States, the United Kingdom and France, but Apple says it’ll roll out to more countries over time. SignTime is available now, it launched on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, but Apple also, unusually really for Apple, took the time to announce some future things that will be coming down, presumably in iOS 15 and the Apple Watch equivalent, so that will be watch iOS version eight.
Assistive Touch is coming to the Apple Watch. The feature uses hand clenches, pinch gestures, and handshaking to navigate and select controls in watch apps. Assistive Touch for the Apple Watch takes advantage of the device’s gyroscope and accelerometer, along with the heart rate sensor and machine learning. Also coming later this year, the iPad is going to gain support for third-party eye-tracking devices to assist users in navigating the iPad’s user interface. Apple also says that voice-over is being enhanced with new details about people, text, table data and other objects.
It says the feature will offer more descriptive information for blind and low-vision users than ever before. Users will also be able to add their own image descriptions to their photos using Markup. For deaf and hard of hearing users, Apple is adding bidirectional hearing aid support. My understanding of this is that it’s going to require either a hardware update, so in other words, new hearing aids, which can often be very expensive, or possibly some could be updatable in software.
By bidirectional hearing aid support, I believe what they’re referring to is the idea that you can use the microphones in your hearing aids to create phone and FaceTime calls and perhaps do other things with the microphones. Sometimes these things work well and other times they don’t.
We had, I believe it was Anisio on the show talking about the difficulty that people have with the Phonak hearing aids that he uses, which actually pair with Bluetooth and therefore have this bidirectional feature already. He was saying that some people find him quite hard to hear when he is using that feature. Hopefully, you will be able to turn it on and off. It could be very similar to people who use AirPods and the microphones on there for FaceTime and phone calls, and sometimes those people are really difficult to hear.
That will be something that hopefully Apple is cognizant of because we are talking about people with hearing impairments here. One thing I would really like to see now that Apple is doing a great job of using the microphone array on the iPhone to produce stereo and that app developers can hook into this feature, is that they allow that to be done in live listen mode. You can have a play with this if you have AirPods, you can certainly use it if you have made-for-iPhone hearing aids.
The idea with live listen mode is that your iPhone becomes a remote microphone, and it can be all that’s needed in certain meeting situations. There is a little bit of latency with it, certainly with the made-for-iPhone hearing aids that I am using at the moment, but you could put your iPhone in the middle of a table and that may be all that’s required for you to hear better in a meeting environment.
The only trouble is that it’s all mono. If you’re a blind person who’s trying to face the person that’s speaking you have no idea, unless you’ve done some checking ahead of time before you enable the Live Listen feature, where they are speaking from. Not everybody will want this all the time. It’s much easier sometimes to hear something if it’s coming through both ears exactly the same, a perfectly mono source, but some people would benefit from it. The option to make Live Listen stereo would be a really big help.
The company is also including support for Audiograms, which can be used with headphone accommodations to tune playback to a user’s hearing. I just wonder how far we are from Apple actually formally entering the hearing aid space, which could be really disruptive, possibly in a very good way. Background sounds like balanced, bright or dark noise and ocean, rain and stream sounds are being added as well. This can help some people who have tinnitus. It can be just a nice way to relax as well.
Apple also says that later this year they are introducing sound actions for switch control that uses mouth sounds in place of switches and buttons. That is a really cool concept. They also have customizable display and text size settings for colorblind users and new Memoji customizations to allow users to add oxygen tubes, cochlear implants and a soft helmet for headwear if you’re building your own personalized Memoji. It sounds like there is going to be a lot to play with in the IOS 15 Betas, which will be available beginning for developers on the 7th of June.
That reminds me to remind you that we will, of course, have comprehensive coverage of the WWDC Keynote right after it happens. We will stream that live on Clubhouse. We’ll also make it available in the Mosen At Large Podcast. Our guests on this one will be Judy Dickson, Michael Feir and Heidi Taylor will be here to give you all the description of what went on at WWDC. Congratulations to Apple for all of those accessibility initiatives.
It’s also been a busy week for Apple with other technologies where they have announced some pretty significant changes to Apple Music. I wonder why all of these impactful announcements are being dropped now. It suggests that there may be something quite big coming at WWDC, but I guess we don’t have too long to wait. The first thing I would observe before we go into the nitty gritty of what Apple has said is coming to Apple Music is that it is quite a brave play to make on their part, making all of these new features free when anti-trust accusations are being hurled around at Apple.
For example, Apple has announced that you will be able to listen to their music catalog in lossless audio at no additional charge. We will get to trying to de-geekify this in just a minute and what it actually means. I want to start by talking about the brave play that they have made here, because there are several services out there that are offering a lossless audio tier at a premium. If you want to listen to lossless audio, you can go to services like TIDAL, Deezer and Qobuz. You can also go to Amazon, they have a high-fidelity music service as well. Spotify signaled some time ago that they are moving to a lossless audio service and that you will have to pay a premium for that.
What has Apple done? Apple has said, “We’re doing lossless audio as well, and you won’t have to pay a cent extra. Lossless audio is just going to happen when you have an Apple Music subscription.” That makes Apple Music super attractive to audiophiles, but it must be causing headaches for the accountants in those music streaming companies whose real value add is this lossless music part that you have to pay a premium for.
What does it mean when Apple says that they are offering lossless streams? If you listen to MP3 files or hopefully you’ve at least been able to upgrade to M4A files, which is a superior version of this sort of technology, the reason why those files are as small as they are is that when you encode them or when the streaming music service that you use encodes them, they are taking out little bits of the audio that they don’t think the human ear will care about missing. How much is taken out depends on the bitrate of the file. The smaller the file, the more obvious it is that there has been audio taken out.
Some musicians have been really grumpy about the advancement of these lossy compression formats, Neil Young chief amongst them. He even got so annoyed about it that he started his own piece of hardware and music service, both of which did not do well. I think this is the thing, most people either don’t have the equipment to notice or the ears to care, or they’re just happy to have music sounding like it does. If you do have the right equipment and you are a critical listener, you will be able to hear a difference when you get your music served to you in a way that is lossless. This means that you are able to hear the music as it was recorded in the studio without any compromise.
What you then get into is a more traditional debate about how that music should be recorded. Compact discs opted for 44 kilohertz, 16 bits audio, and even at the time in the 1980s, that was a controversial decision. Many people felt that it should at least be 48 kilohertz. That that decision to standardize on 44 kilohertz, 16 bit was too limiting for the quality of music for the dynamic range. Now studios are recording at a much better bitrate than CD quality. Yes, it’s true, you can get much better than CD quality.
Now, Apple Music is going to offer you the ability to hear this audio going all the way up to really high bitrates that you will need external hardware to be able to play, for the very high-bitrate versions of the material that Apple is going to serve you. To benefit from it, you will need a standalone digital analogue converter that plugs into the lightning port of your iPhone. What we don’t know about yet is whether external services or products that use Apple’s Music API are going to have access to these lossless versions of the audio.
Sonos, for example, is key in my mind, although even Sonos won’t be able to play the absolute maximum high-velocity versions of this music, but some other players could. Sonos does work with Qobuz at a pretty high bitrate actually, as well as Deezer and Tidal in lossless audio, so I am hoping that Sonos will be able to support this. Apple Music is going to be using the ALAC, that’s A-L-A-C codec, it stands for Apple Lossless Audio Codec, to preserve, as they say, every single bit of the original audio file.
The good news, if you too have Sonos equipment, is that Sonos is capable of playing that codec already. That does give me some hope. This means Apple Music subscribers will be able to hear the exact same thing that the artist created in the studio.
Apple says that 20 million songs will be available in lossless audio at launch with a full 75 million song catalog available in lossless by the end of this year. Apple Music’s standard lossless tier will start at CD quality, that’s 16 bit, 44 kilohertz, but it goes up to 24 bit, 48 kilohertz. Apple Music will also offer high-resolution lossless. That gets up to 24 bit at 192 kilohertz. That’s where you’re going to need that digital analog converter to benefit from that really high-res audio stuff.
What interests me about this is the products that don’t support it. If you’ve paid for the expensive AirPods Max, these are the over-the-ear headphones from Apple, and you connect it to the lightning port, so there’s no Bluetooth involved, then at the moment at least, you can’t play the Apple lossless. For such an expensive product that’s strange to me, particularly given that Apple is usually quite methodical about their roadmap. You would think that they would have known when they released AirPods Max that lossless was in the works. Curious.
Similarly, with the HomePod mini and in fact the older HomePod, that is not going to be able to play the lossless audio either. AirPods for now appear not to play them either, although there is a suggestion that because the new AirPods at least are Bluetooth 5-capable, that a software upgrade will make the lossless audio possible.
What’s been confusing about the announcements this week is that there were two distinct parts of the announcement. One is this lossless audio that I’ve just been talking about, and I’m sure that things will become clearer over time in terms of what devices will really let that shine, but the one that most people are going to care about more and benefit from and be able to use are all the announcements that I would describe if I’m trying to capture them all as a way of going beyond stereo for music. Now, Apple’s information has been a bit sparse, and so people have been trying to gather it together. The best explanation that I have seen of this so far was on AppleInsider. I’ll refer to that article as we try and unpack this for you.
Dolby Atmos is something that we have talked about on the show before in the context of watching movies, and purchasing the Sonos Arc, and then all the drama that we had getting the right TV to talk to the Sonos Arc while a screen reader was running. If you haven’t been following that, Dolby Atmos enables a 3D soundscape with directional audio. Dolby Atmos is an audio format for film and music creators, and the creators can use it to place audio in a 3D space during the mixing process.
Previously, musicians would need to combine their music recordings from several tracks into two equally balanced channels used for a stereo track. Similarly, filmmakers had to assign certain sounds to specific speakers in a dynamic speaker setup such as a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system. Now, creators are no longer limited by the number of speakers or how they are arranged.
Artists can designate where a sound is coming from and its distance and the Dolby Atmos system will determine which speaker to play it from. This creates a much more immersive space for audio and gives enthusiasts the chance to design more complex speaker systems. When listening to Dolby Atmos, a listener can hear directional audio from up to 128 channels that can be played to up to 34 separate speakers at once. Headphones that support Dolby Atmos use different mixing techniques to achieve the same effect with fewer speakers. Ultimately, the result is the same, a simulated 3D audio space that contains depth and direction.
Rather than have all the instruments firing from the two channels, musicians can now separate them into several distinct channels. These instruments can move around the listener as the song plays as well. The effect is supposed to transform how music is experienced. Movies and video games were the first formats to take advantage of Dolby Atmos, but recently music is becoming more common in the format. The first experience I had of this, and it was really the thing that encouraged me to get the Sonos Arc and get this sorted was the Abbey Road remix from 2019. With it is a Dolby Atmos version of that album. It really is something very special.
I’ve also heard other Dolby Atmos tracks from Tidal. The way I’ve been listening to this is to use the Tidal app for tvOS, which unfortunately is not the best accessibility experience in the world, and then playing that through the Sonos Arc, which gives you the Atmos soundtrack. Now, obviously, a sound bar set up like the Sonos Arc is just a glimpse into the world that Dolby Atmos makes possible. If you really want to go the whole hog, you would get a proper Dolby Atmos system with speakers strategically placed all over the place and get rid of a sound bar entirely. You would certainly notice a big difference from just using a sound bar like the Arc.
It depends on how much money you want to throw at this, how keen you are about the audio. Apple Music promises thousands of Dolby Atmos tracks when it launches the new experience in June. Can you hear this? Well, you need equipment that supports Dolby Atmos directly. You won’t be able to hear Dolby Atmos audio on older surround sound systems, even if those systems have multiple channels. New sound systems, TV sets, and computers often support the format. The iPhone, iPad, and Mac also include support for Dolby Atmos, though when connecting speakers or headphones, they must support the format as well.
If you play one of these Dolby Atmos tracks on the speakers of your iPhone, or your iPad, or your Mac, you will get the effects, although I don’t know how well you’ll really get the effect with speakers like that. The Mac might not be so bad, or the iPad for that matter. Dolby Atmos will automatically play on devices with the W1 or H1 chip. That means that the Dolby Atmos tracks are going to play fine on the AirPods, the AirPods Pro, and the AirPods Max, and recent Beats by Dre headphones will have the support as well. Other headphones with Dolby Atmos will work, but you’re going to have to toggle it on.
I would encourage you to start looking as they are rolling this out in settings, music, and then audio. Then we have spatial audio. Spatial audio makes it sound as if audio is playing directly from the iPhone or the iPad. Apple introduced Spatial audio, you will remember, in 2020 at WWDC, and we talked about this quite a bit in the recap that we did immediately after WWDC. It was released for AirPods Pro and AirPods Max later that year in 2020. Spatial audio takes advantage of the gyroscopes and sensors in the listening device and headphones to simulate a 3D listening space that stays static as you move your head.
Spatial audio doesn’t need Dolby Atmos audio to work. It can work with 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, but it does work best with well-mixed Dolby Atmos productions. Spatial audio adds some spatial awareness to the device you’re listening to the audio on. Rather than a soundstage that is fixed to the location of your head, it is fixed to the location of your device. We have had people commenting on this when they’ve been watching shows on Apple TV plus, for instance, and saying how really cool it is.
Usually, when you play music or a movie, you hear sound from all around you. If you turn your head, the front of the sound is still where your head is facing. When watching a movie or concert with spatial audio, the front of the sound is always where the device is. Essentially, you’ll be able to turn your head towards a sound in 3D space and hear it as if it is in front of you. There has been a bit of confusion about what device is supporting what feature. There was some suggestion that HomePods are going to support spatial audio. I’m not quite clear about how that would be because it really is specific to where your head is.
To the best of my knowledge, Apple HomePod doesn’t have that feature. It sounds like even though there’s no lossless on HomePod, at least right now you will have Dolby Atmos, and so you should hear some real improvement. Even if you don’t get the spatial audio, you will get those tracks that are encoded in Dolby Atmos. I am looking forward to this rolling out, to getting your feedback on what you are enjoying. As things become clearer about devices that are capable of playing the Apple lossless audio and its different carnations, spatial audio, and Dolby Atmos, we will bring it to you here. Pretty exciting week.
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Jonathan: Hi, Jonathan, writes Ali. Hope you’re well. I thought I’d chime in with my thoughts on screen reader comparisons. Personally, I think JAWS is the unequivocal winner. VoiceOver and Narrator don’t even come close. It’s like comparing salmon with haddock. I think one of NVDA’s greatest shortcomings which is largely glossed over is that it doesn’t come packaged with anywhere near the amount of audio training that JAWS provides.
The folks at Freedom Scientific have done a great job over the years of preparing easy-to-follow Daisy tutorials, which show you how to use some of the most obscure but amazingly useful JAWS features. NVDA may well be excellent, but you won’t know it since the support and the training is negligible, or at the very least hard to obtain. Also, most people I’ve spoken to only use NVDA because they can’t afford JAWS, or because they are awaiting funding and would switch over in a heartbeat if they could.
On a related note, what is your experience with using JAWS with a touchscreen? I am thinking of splashing out on the latest and greatest model of the Microsoft Surface Pro. How would you compare JAWS support for touchscreens with VoiceOver on say, an iPad? Can you operate a touchscreen tablet with JAWS successfully and efficiently without resorting to an external keyboard?
This brings me onto mobile phone accessibility. You touched on Android a couple of weeks ago on the podcast and expressed the view that it is close to VoiceOver at least as as long as there is no Braille involvement. Yes, emphatically with a lower case b. Oh dear. Do you know of a good training resource for TalkBack which provides audio demos for beginners? Do you think an iPhone user who doesn’t use a Braille display with their iPhone could buy a mobile phone running Android and use it without experiencing nostalgic longings for the iPhone?
Thanks Ali. Regarding your first point, I am not an NVDA user but a few years ago when I was involved in Mosen consulting, I thought it was relevant for me to become familiar with what NVDA was offering. At that stage they had some really good training material, but you had to purchase it. They had one module on Word I think, and another one on Office. I think they also had one on general Windows. I must say that material was exceptionally good. I thought it was really well-written. It was well-explained.
Whoever wrote it clearly can articulate concepts in a way that’s easy to understand. If that training is being kept up to date and you purchase that, I think it is a very good resource to have if you choose to use NVDA and it’s a really good quality, in my opinion.
On your second point, I have never really got on well with touch on Windows. I’m not sure whether it’s me or the implementation. It could be that because I’ve used Windows for so long without touch and that I am a real keyboard ninja and I know pretty much every Windows keyboard shortcut there is to know, that I just find myself reaching for the keyboard before I have given touch a fair chance. I would be really interested to find out if there are people who are regularly using touch on Windows successfully and whether they do think that it’s as good as VoiceOver on the iPhone or the iPad.
In my experience, it’s not, but again, it could just be my preferences showing through because of how long I’ve used it with a keyboard. That’s a great discussion point. If there are people using touch a lot on tablets or one of those convertibles where you can turn a laptop into a tablet, I would like to know how you’re getting on with it. Do you think it is equal? Can you get work done with touch and Windows? Not just with JAWS actually but any windows screen reader, how is that working out for you?
Regarding Android, it’s been a while since I’ve played. I’ve heard a few demos of the new TalkBack and it sounds much better now, but I haven’t gotten around to having a play with a new Android device for a while now. I do keep intending to, but life and work get in the way so I can’t really comment authoritatively on that, but I’d like to do that soon.
Saddam: Hi, Jonathan, it’s Saddam from Melbourne. I think absolutely JAWS is still the gold standard. I’ll just give you a couple of examples. The first one being employment. I’m lucky enough to work as a quality assurance engineer on a contract basis. In fact, in the middle of a big project with one of my clients, there is no way that I could do the job that I do every day and maximize my client’s return on investment and their time in my skillset without being able to move at lightning speed from project-to-project.
Whether it’s using Microsoft Teams with Brian Hartgen’s wonderful scripts, whether it’s remote training over Zoom and attending meetings over Zoom, we use Microsoft Word and track changes quite heavily. I’m able to quickly review content and update content and respond to comments with Word. Google docs, I spend a lot of time in and that works very well with JAWS. Microsoft Outlook is my daily email client and I use its calendaring feature to remind me of where I need to be on the desktop.
There are just so many other facets of my life where this screen reader really makes a difference. It literally puts money in my pocket and bread on my table. I would not be half as successful as I am without this screen reader. Don’t get me wrong, I think the free solutions like VoiceOver that are built into the Mac and the other screen reader for Windows, they have their place of a good quality access.
The Mac cannot hold a candle to JAWS. As you alluded in your podcast, lots of blind people or those who are employed working at CSR or customer service representative role. Being able to see who’s calling and bringing up notes about your customer and building a rapport with your customer can really boost your KPI targets and puts you on the fast track for promotion possibly or a larger pay packet and boost your productivity.
I’m on also on the board of the Accessibility Working Group or AWG at my university. I attend meetings and I rely on JAWS to keep me on track with reading minutes using Microsoft Word. I think it’s very important that we push for solutions that empower us to drastically undercut this 75% or 80%, whatever the figure is these days, of the unemployment rate amongst our community. Whilst I love the Mac for entertainment, when you need to get down and push comes to shove and you need to work to the crunch, whether it’s sending an important paper for university or indeed meeting a deadline, moving from project-to-project, JAWS is superb.
Jonathan: Thanks for your thoughts, Saddam. Of course, we welcome the perspective of those who are working well with the Mac in their daily lives. Next week, we are going to be speaking with Janet Ingber, who has updated her book on using the Mac. If you just want to get started with the Mac, they have very attractive devices with the M1 processor now in place. Then Janet will talk about that.
We’re doing something a little bit different this time. We are going to be recording that interview in Clubhouse. That is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, the 26th of May at 3:00 PM, US Eastern time. I will set up an event in the Mushroom FM Club in Clubhouse. If you don’t follow the Mushroom FM Club yet, please do that because then you will get a notification about this event with Janet Ingber. I will do the interview, but then we’ll open it up. If you have any questions about the book or the Mac, then Janet will be able to answer those for you and then we’ll play that on next week’s Mosen At Large.
Singer: Jonathan Mosen, Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: Mrs. C from Canada is writing in and then says, hello, Jonathan. I was very surprised and sorry to hear the news about the snowman. It is very difficult to have something amiss with your hearing, and especially so if you already have a vision problem. However, it is wonderful that there are such surgeries as the cochlear implant. I too have no sight and have hearing loss and do not know how severe my problem will become. It can obviously become isolating catching one off from friends, family, music, and books, plus other things.
It impinges on mobility capabilities, causing loss of some independence.
While attending a dog guide school, I became friends with a lady from Alaska who has Usher syndrome. Usher syndrome is a rare genetic disorder causing both hearing and vision loss. People with Usher syndrome have retinitis pigmentosa, which affects the peripheral vision, their night vision and their color vision.
A few years ago, my friend’s sight diminished from being able to walk down the aisle of a grocery store and read labels on cans, to now where she can barely see at all. Just like looking through a narrow straw. Her hearing also had diminished considerably. She decided on the advice of her doctor to apply for a cochlear implant. She has now had the implant for over eight years. I asked her if I could interview her and share her experience with you, your listeners and the snowman. She readily agreed, hoping her story will encourage and help others. When I heard your program, I wrote down the questions you asked and used them for the basis of the following interview.
Interview. When you decided to look into getting an implant, what was the process you went through like? It was necessary for me to fly from Alaska to Seattle to be assessed. I was there all day and part of the assessment was very similar to an assessment for a hearing aid. I was told I qualified for the implant and I should come back in two months to have the surgery. I was supposed to have an escort to accompany me, but they couldn’t get one until the next day after the surgery. I flew back to Seattle, had the surgery and stayed overnight in the hospital. My dog guide was with me with no one to look after her, but everyone was very kind and the surgeon took her home with him overnight. The next day, the escort came and I went to the hotel with her where we stayed for about five days. She saw that I got my pain pills every four hours. Toward the end of the week after the surgery, I had my stitches out and was then able to fly home. I had to go home for 10 days to heal before returning for my processor.
While this was going on, all hearing was gone from my left ear. This was a difficult time for me. Now, I could only hear out of the right ear with the use of a hearing aid. Prior to the surgery, I heard sounds and speech with the left ear but could not make out what they were saying even with a hearing aid. When I got the processor, I was able to hear and it was wonderful, but it was not like I could hear before. There were adjustments to be made and programming to be done. I had to travel back and forth from Alaska to Seattle a number of times. At first, things were somewhat distorted and when we went from the hotel to the hospital when it was raining, wow, was that ever loud.
It took about six months to get everything programmed right. When tested after six months, the audiologist was so surprised and thrilled with my progress as was I. She said it takes a year or more to adjust, but she felt I had made remarkable progress. It takes patience and hard work, but one shouldn’t get discouraged because it is well worth it in the long run. They have programs that they give you to take home to practice with, but I can’t speak to that because I didn’t need them. I love reading and after losing so much sight, I began reading talking books. I think this made all the difference and why I progressed so quickly. I practiced listening to books with various readers, and I am an avid news listener.
Do you feel like you are better off having made the decision to get a cochlear implant?
Most definitely. I hear very well out of that ear now.
How was music for you? Was it distorted?
No, I just had to put it up as loud as I needed it, hoping it didn’t bother the neighbors. No complaints, so I guess it didn’t.
What is your day-to-day socialization like in terms of before and after?
I am not very social but I’m just the same after the implant as before. I had hearing aids before, as I said. The doctor noticed the hearing had gone way down in the left ear and suggested the implant. That was a number of years ago, and now I have pretty good hearing in that ear. Like I said, I could always hear something with that ear, noise and people talking, but could not make it out. Now, I can hear fine with it, but the other ear has gone the same way.
When the doctor recently suggested I go for an implant for the other ear, I said no because of my age. I just couldn’t see myself flying back and forth to Seattle again and having surgery and living in a hotel for a number of days. Perhaps if I were younger, I would have considered it but not now.
Since having her implant, she has flown independently on several occasions from Alaska to Iowa to visit and to Michigan for a new dog guide. My friend is a very courageous lady who moved to Alaska without knowing anyone, without friends or relatives there. She just loves it. The beauty of the island she lives on, the flora and fauna all have captured her imagination and she can’t wait to have a visit from her grandson and his parents so she can show them around.
Just adding a friend’s perspective, it is much easier for her to hear over FaceTime with me than it is to chat on the phone. We spend an hour every Saturday and Wednesday nights chitchatting. As she says, “It is just like sitting in your living room visiting.” My friend still lives on her own and goes for long walks most days with her dog guide, usually five or six miles a day. Not bad for an octogenarian. I feel sure that my friend would have gone for the second implant if she were younger. She’s a very gutsy lady.
We realize that everyone’s situation can be different. We hope that this may serve to encourage anyone thinking of applying for an implant or even thinking of moving to Alaska. As she says, “I wish to share with anyone thinking of having it done to remember you have to have patience, perseverance and don’t give up. The end result is well worth it.” Thank you so much. That is a great email. I appreciate the time you took to put it together and all of the information that was shared.
Haroon: Ah, Mr. Mosen. This is a dual-purpose recording if you will. I’m testing an app called Just Press Record. I’m sure some people have heard of it. You no doubt have heard of it yourself. The advantage is that it records in stereo using the iPhone’s internal microphone array.
I wanted to offer a word of caution. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by a good friend of mine to update her laptop, which is a Dell. The model is not particularly important here, but suffice it to say that it was a 2019 laptop. It was an i7 with 16 gigs of RAM. Quite a powerhouse. Now, I’ve been, like yourself, doing this for a very, very long time, and usually things go fairly smooth sailing. This did not. [chuckles]
The first thing that happened was she was running JAWS 19, which was not ideal, so the first thing I did was update that. I ran the Dell update utility, which in some instances is accessible. Rather, let’s just say it was accessible until it was updated, then it became somewhat less so. You can get through it with a little bit of frustration. It showed that there was a bunch of updates that were necessary to do to this machine, one of which was the system firmware. [chuckles] It offered the opportunity for an automated process.
Sometimes I don’t like to do that. I like to just do updates one at a time, just in the possibility that an update breaks and I can go backwards a step. Sometimes what happens, as you know, is that when they all get done in a rollout you don’t know which one is the one that went wrong. I’m going through this, and it flashed the new firmware. Then it all went quiet. It went to reboot and I’m thinking, “Oh, dear.” I don’t hear anything. Of course, all these new machines with this SDD drives, there’s nothing to hear when you put your ear to them.
When I’m working on them at home, I have an inductive pickup that I can sit near somewhere that picks up the crackle or the noise of the data going on. Here, I didn’t have that, so I decided to bring the machine home from my friend’s place and work on it here where I had a little bit more somewhat of a better toolkit to do it. I couldn’t get any speech out of it at all, so I decided to employ good old Seeing AI. I had that aimed at the screen, and it spoke of a message.
The first thing it wanted was the BitLocker password. Now, normally when BitLocker is enabled, the automated process of doing that stores the key in your Microsoft account. This person did not enable BitLocker, nor could she remember her password to get into the Microsoft account. Well, she could remember it but one of her younger offspring had changed the password a number of times to the point where when she tried to get in and when I tried to get in, it said that this account was locked and couldn’t be recovered.
As it turns out, what I have learned is that the later model machines have the BitLocker file encryption turned on by default. They don’t tell you this. There is a very, very quick message that flashes when the Dell update utility is going through its process saying
that this program needs to suspend the BitLocker process until this update is complete and then it will be automatically re-enabled. I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions around the place. It turns out that well, the BitLocker encryption process is doing exactly what it was designed to do and that is to prevent you from getting in. The process of trying to recover the Microsoft account is probably the worst and most frustrating process that I’ve ever been through.
I’ve recovered Apple IDs with much less hassle. Part of the process is you have to prove that you’re a human. The Microsoft audio capture is terrible. It is absolutely unacceptable. There’s a form, an online form that one has to fill in to basically validate your credentials. It’s a machine essentially. If you don’t get so many points, it’s not convinced that you are who you say you are. Some of the questions it was asking, for example, was, “Give us 10 emails or the precise subject titles of the last 10 emails that you’ve sent on this account.”
Well, this person doesn’t send from the Microsoft account. She uses a different account. I tried three or four times and we put our heads together and we had the information almost all correct so far as it was entered originally. We couldn’t convince the Microsoft account machine that she was the person that created the account. The account is hosed. The only solution that I had opened to me was to reformat the hard drive and start all over again and put everything back as much as I could recover, and create a new Microsoft account because the Microsoft ecosystem is quite demanding.
There used to be a way where you could say, “No, I don’t want to create a Microsoft account. I’ll do it later.” It won’t even let you do that anymore. It just keeps cycling back around to sign in or create an account. If you’re already connected to a couple of ecosystems already, I’ve been part of the apple ecosystem, both as a user and a developer. I don’t want to have Microsoft as well. I’d like to be able to tie it all into one. Anyway, long story short, I say this to anyone with these, particularly updating the Dell laptops. I say Dell. It’s possible that this situation could arise on other machines, but this was a specific Dell update package that did it.
I recommend if you don’t have a key, go into settings and turn off Microsoft BitLocker, or there are a couple of options you can copy the key onto a USB drive as a compiled recovery script. What will happen is if it needs the key, you can just put the USB drive into the Laptop at bootup where it goes into a command prompt and it will run a little batch file that will insert the key into the right place or make a note of it. It’s a 48-digit key that is required. The reason that I didn’t get any audio was surprisingly enough, the Realtek audio chip on that 2019 vintage motherboard didn’t have a driver that runs in safe mode.
I had to actually plug a really cheap USB sound card, a $3-job into the machine and plug headphones or some output source into that before I could get Narrator to work to do the windows installation.
Jonathan: Holy soup, holy soup. I know that’s very strong language, but what an experience. That is Haroon with that. Thank you so much for chronicling that for us. The easy part first. Yes, we have talked about Just Press Record quite a few times on the show over the years. We talked about the fact that in iOS 14, Apple made some API changes that now allow audio app developers to offer stereo if they want, using the built-in microphone array.
There are a number of apps that do this. I think Ferrite was the first one that I had that did it, but now several do. I like Just Press Record a lot. I have it on my apple watch and actually, it occupies one of the complications on my watch face, just in case I ever get into a situation where I need to record something quickly. It doesn’t do a bad job recording on the apple watch. As we heard from Haroon’s recording there, it does a nice job on the iPhone and it’s accessible, so what’s not to like.
Your comment about the induction coil that you use to get clues about whether things are powered on and what they’re doing or not gladdens my heart because as I’ve said on a few demonstrations, this is one advantage of having a hearing impairment is that my hearing aids have a telecoil. When I want to find out if a computer is on or not, I listened to it via the telecoil. I’ve become quite used to interpreting the noises over the years. I can tell when a computer’s booting up, I can tell when it’s idle, it’s really cool especially in this era of solid-state drives.
Recording: It’s cool, baby.
Jonathan: Yes, it is. It is very cool. I would encourage people to get into this if you can get an induction capture like that, so you can put it against different devices. It’s amazing the information it can convey and how you can learn to interpret it. This makes me quite useful to Bonnie. I’m pleased to say; because every so often she gets her computer in a state where she can’t rescue it. She doesn’t know whether it’s on whether it’s off, why there’s no audio and I can usually sort it out because of that feature.
Regarding the Dell situation, this technology works well until it doesn’t. It sounds like there were several factors that could have played a part in this really challenging situation. I’m running the Dell XPS 15(9500). This is the late 2020 edition. I have found the Support Assistant quite good. When you go into the Support Assistant, the trick seems to be to press the Tab key a few times and then you get into a virtual cursor environment with JAWS.
From there, I am able to check for updates, do its hardware diagnostics, and the various things that you can do in the Dell Support Assistant. Now, I have gone through a firmware update process I believe twice now since I’ve had the Dell XPS 15, and I’ve not had any problem with it. I can say it does take a very long time. When you go through that process and you want to know how it’s going, I don’t believe Narrator is available during the firmware update process because it’s going right into the bios level.
When I update, I use either Aira if I’m really anxious about it or I use Seeing AI, and that often gives me very good information as well as the progress unfolds. I’ve had really good results actually with the quality of this screen and the XPS 15 and Seeing AI. The trick is to be patient and let it do its thing. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether that might’ve helped with the situation or not if it had been allowed to go a bit longer before it was switched off and taken home. I have just gone into the settings on my XPS 15 to verify whether BitLocker is on or not.
It is on and I have had these updates complete successfully with BitLocker on, but then I am also signed in to my Microsoft account. It’s a pretty generic installation, but this is the thing. When they go wrong, they can go horribly wrong. That is frustrating. Then of course you have accessibility challenges in the mix. It’s enough to make you go bald. Well done Haroon for persisting with it. I agree with you. On a couple of occasions, I have had to do things relating to Microsoft accounts and they are incredibly “fastidious,” I think is the word that I would use to describe it.
It can be quite difficult. I’m glad you found a solution at least to get the machine up and running in the end. Perhaps other people can comment on their update experiences with Dell and other machines when BitLocker is enabled.
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Jonathan: More on daylight saving what a fun subject this is. Flor Lynch writes, “If interested, you can find a lot of material on the change from GMT to daylight savings time on Wikipedia. There is also mention of the experiment that ran between 1968 and 1971, where the UK and Ireland joined CET, Central European Time, and then abandoned it. On the computer clocks, Lisbon is listed alongside Dublin, Edinburgh, and London for our region of GMT.
This email is from Imke who says, “Hello, Jonathan, thank you for continuing to produce the Mosen At Large podcast on your own time. I find it extremely useful and interesting to listen to and listen to much or all of it most weeks. Today, I have three questions and thoughts. One, what is your verdict on the official release of iOS 14.5, with respect to the Braille, with a lower case b, problems that were introduced in iOS 14.4.I understand that the Bluetooth connection issues that affected some displays have already been fixed in 14.4.1, but have all of the focus issues that were also discussed in previous episodes of your podcast been addressed.”
I’ll answer this one right away because it’s easy. Yes, they’re all fixed. As far as I’m concerned, my general feeling about iOS 14.5 is ship it, lock it in, install it. I like this release. Two, the email continues. “Do you or the other listeners have any suggestion for how I can reassign NVDA shortcut keys to key combinations that do not involve the caps lock or insert keys? I have become a devoted user of NVDA and use it together with Dragon Naturally Speaking, to reduce the chance of reaggravating repetitive stress injury symptoms in my wrists and arms. I have been using an open-source program called ‘DictationBridge,’ which allows me to use voice commands for screen reader commands.”
“With the advent of NVDA 2020.3, this has stopped working and the developer team does not seem to have enough developers to fully diagnose and resolve the problem. If I could just figure out how to reassign some of the NVDA shortcuts to key combinations that use the Control, Alt, and Shift keys instead of Caps Lock and Insert, I could easily create my own Dragon command for issuing them. Any suggestions? Also, I know that there is a program J-Say that does something similar with JAWS. Are there any users out there who can tell me how well that is working for them?”
I’ll stop and answer this one. I’m not an NVDA user, so I can’t answer your question relating to that, but I can say that J-Say is regularly updated. It is supported by Hartgen Consultancy. It’s been around a long time and keeps going and depending on what it is that you need, you may be able to get away with just using J-Dictate, which gives you dictation functions at a very reasonable price. If you do need to do the full voice control thing though, and perform all JAWS functions with your voice, then yes, J-Say is the one to get.
You can find out more information by going to hartgen.org, H-A-R-T-G E-N.org, contact Brian. I’m sure he would be happy to help you. You’ll get a product that is extremely well-supported. Three, regarding wheelchairs at airports. I have used all of the non-confrontational techniques as well, and I too have insisted not to use one. The first time was at a jetway when getting off a plane in San Francisco, the last part of the conversation went something like this, assistant, “You have to sit in the chair.” I, “I don’t have to.” Assistant, “But would you please?” I, “I’d rather not.” Assistant, “Okay.”
I ended up not riding in the chair and the assistant became very friendly. Thanks, Imke, It is good when things can work out like that.
Theme song: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Maria: Hey, Jonathan. It’s Maria in Albany, New York, so many great topics lately. I’ve been catching up on some shows. I love that you did a meditation episode. I practice a primordial sound mantra meditation, and I’ve definitely found a lot of those similar benefits that you’ve mentioned. I thought it was great that you covered your story with it and a sample meditation. I never thought of the concept of a blind culture prior to your coverage, but I do see your point after thinking about it. Interesting perspectives.
Also, on the blind pride, I never thought of it as being proud. I was waiting to comment until I heard how you defined it because I didn’t quite understand either, but after hearing your comment, I can definitely relate to a lot of what you’re saying. I’ve never been ashamed of being blind when people ask me how I feel about it, I definitely speak of it as something that I hugely appreciate the unique perspective and the resourcefulness and the life journey that it’s allowed me to have. I certainly love being able to travel with my Lacey, with my guide dog with me everywhere, so that’s great. That is considered pride. I really never looked at it that way.
Yes, it’s some interesting new perspectives to think about. In terms of vaccines, I got my Pfizer doses on the 17th of March and the 7th of April. On the 17th of March, at that point, there wasn’t just a blanket eligibility of 16 and over, anyone can get like there’s in New York state now. Now they allow for walk-in appointments, but they didn’t at the time. On the 17th of March, I became eligible as a state government employee. That category opened up that day. It just so happened that my parents were also going for their second doses that day at the mass vaccination site that was set up.
It’s literally the vaccination site that’s closest to me. I knew that my chances of getting booked at that particular site, on that particular day and booking it the day off, in the morning for some appointment six hours later was slim to none, but I figured like, “I’ll just go along with them and see what happens.” Like I said, they weren’t doing the walk-in appointments and I figured, “What’s the worst that could happen is that they can say no,” but they allowed me. That was really great. They accepted me and then the second appointment is just automatically scheduled after you do your first.
I merely had a bit of arm soreness for a couple of days after both doses. I’m so glad that I’ve gotten it. I’m planning to travel for a couple of weeks to Croatia over the summer to see my family there. I haven’t been in five years, and that’s something I never would’ve considered at all without being vaccinated. We have something called the Excelsior Pass in New York State. It’s a voluntary thing and it’s analogous to a boarding pass. They have a system on their end that the vaccination providers upload the data of who’s been vaccinated and the testing sites upload who’s gotten recent negative COVID tests and such.
You go into the system and you get a pass. You can either print it or show it on your phone. Then whoever is requesting proof, the business or what have you, they have a corresponding app and they scan the QR code that’s part of your pass and that’s how you show your proof. Of course, it’s voluntary and thankfully, you can also use your paper vaccination card because I still, even after all this time, I’m not in the database, I cannot get a pass. I don’t know what’s up with that maybe because it’s a vaccination site that there’s a lot of data to upload, I imagine, this is the largest mass vaccination site in the Albany area.
I know they have a lot but my brother, for instance, he got his vaccines after me at a small pharmacy in New York City. I’m guessing they have less data and he has his pass. We’ll see what happens if I ever am able to get one. Luckily as I said, I can show the paper card as proof as well. That will be good, if it never happens, I’ll still be okay. I just found that interesting that it’s very slow to update. In terms of the wheelchair acceptance in airports, I’ve only had it happen to me once that it was offered.
I travel pretty infrequently, but I explained, I’m definitely not going to sit in one as a guide dog user, I’d be concerned about Lacey feeling she needed to run after it, or accidentally sliding the wheels, sliding over her paws or what have you so there’s no way I’m going to sit in it. Luckily, the person did when I explained why I was refusing that I didn’t need it, they allowed me to walk. If they did insist, I think I would do what you did with putting the bag in there or using Aira. I don’t know, maybe the fact that I’m a guide dog user it’s just has been dissuading the airport workers from insisting that I need to use the chair, I don’t know, or maybe I’ve just gotten lucky.
I did get my four-pack of air tags on Friday. What’s very interesting, I ordered two of the accessories from Belkin, their secure holder with strap, which is their loop and then their key chain one, those are going to take a month to arrive. Can you believe? I got the air tags themselves yesterday and I have these foreign pockets of various bags so I don’t need the accessories right now, but I might be getting more of these because I can think of more places to have them. I’ve been quite impressed with them similar to your demo. I really like the simple setup, and I like that the sounds are pretty pleasant. They’re not something like jarring, frightfully loud beep.
Like you, I was I’m absolutely sold on that precision finding feature, I think that’s the most impressive. For me, I had a similar experience, when I tried it with an air tag in my luggage bag, which is in a different room of my apartment. For me, it started telling me when I was like, it said “a weak signal,” and then I shifted around. I think it started to telling me when I was about 28 or something feet away, it started telling me directions. Obviously, distance decreases, I moved toward it, and I purposely moved in the opposite direction, and it did say that I, it was behind me and such, told me move to the right-left when necessary, etcetera.
What I found interesting is what it was aiming at. I figured, Oh, I touched my bag, and it was going to tell him it was here, but it was very precise to the actual air tag itself that it literally said here, right when my phone was above the air tags. I found that really impressive. I found it interesting, at one point, it said that more light was required. My bag is in my walk-in closet, and there is a separate light to that closet, which I hadn’t turned on but there was light coming in from the main room.
That makes sense that the light was needed but in the end, it actually wasn’t because it did find the tag without requiring it. I thought that was interesting that it was telling me about that. I’m quite happy with them. I finally had a question for everyone at Mosen At Large land, if anyone out there knows or has an experience with the Fire tablets. I’ve toying with the recent, I think it was, was it last week? The times blurring. Anyway, recently, Amazon announced their new lineup of the Fire HD 10 and the 10 Plus.
The 10 Plus, it seemed like it had four gigs of RAM and such and it seemed like an inexpensive thing, they were pretty decent specs. I think the processors like an octa-core, 2 GHz or something like that. Anyway, I thought of it as an inexpensive and portable way to– I really love the IVONA Voices. It would be a way to be able to read Kindle content portably with those voices, and with audible things, it wouldn’t hurt as well if I didn’t want to turn on Do Not Disturb on my phone and such to just read without being interrupted by notifications and such.
Yes, I was wondering if anyone out there has an experience with them, and how do you like them, are they worth it for the price, are they laggy, are they pretty responsive? My Kindle experiences are on iOS and Windows, which I both like and on the screen reader governs the experience there, but I read while I was reading this Amazon help topic on reading the Kindle content with VoiceView, which is the screen reader on the Fire tablet. It was talking about two different, it was saying about a continuous reading feature, which seems separate from VoiceView.
Then it seemed to imply that the VoiceView reading was like a noncontinuous thing. I guess that means it wouldn’t turn the pages, I was a little confused. Is it clunky? Do you have two different types of speech settings that you have to adjust? I thought I read something about an angular gesture, but I thought that there were alternatives to these, which is a big consideration point for me because I’m terrible at those angular gestures when I’ve tried them in the past, the Android ones. Do you have to use those, and obviously, as a Braille user, a proud Braille user with a capital B, I have a focus Braille display.
I’m curious, has anyone used it with one of those? Does it work well for reading and navigating? Are there pretty good commands for doing that? I did see on the Amazon Braille page, it was not one of the ones listed but I could have sworn I read somewhere, and of course, I have no idea where now. I think I read somewhere that someone did get a focus to work. I don’t know if that was an error or if Amazon hasn’t updated their help pages or what have you, so I’d definitely be curious to know anyone’s experience.
Jonathan: Thank you for the update, Maria, I too would be interested in people’s experience with the Amazon Kindle as it is at the moment. I’ve got an old Kindle Fire tablet, and I’m not sure if you can still update it or anything like that. I didn’t like the angular gestures either, and not sure if they’re still a thing or not. If you’ve been using the Amazon Kindle tablets lately with VoiceView, how’s it all working out? Is it a good experience? Would you recommend it? Let us know, Jonathan@mushroomfm.com is my email address. You can call the listener line as well. On 864-60MOSEN, 864-606-6736.
Mike: Hi, Jonathan. Mike May here enjoying your podcast as always. I wanted to comment on the video camera theme on the Ring doorbell, I’ve always been amazed at how bad the audio is, and particularly because sometimes there are situations with a Ring doorbell where the audio is better. If you have an echo show, and you tell it to show the front door, you get video streaming, but you also get audio, and you can hear things outside pretty effectively, the birds and everything and if somebody comes up to the door, they sound pretty good.
It’s curious that Alexa Audio and that Ring audio don’t seem to be equal in their quality. It’s certainly an area where they need a huge improvement. If you’re in noisy environment at all, listening to that distorted audio, it’s really hard to effectively use it. I have found it to be really effective in being out of town and able to talk to somebody at that door. I actually helped somebody once who had a car that was stuck out on the street, and they needed to call AAA for assistance, and the keys were locked in the car and I was able to do that for them remotely from a couple of 1000 miles away.
The thing that’s really unique to the Nest camera is that it can do some face recognition that you have to teach the names of the faces to the system. The way that it would work is the first time somebody would be seen on camera, you would save that. Once that person is named, the next time they come in view of the camera, it’ll identify, “Jonathan is at your door.” I find this really useful in situations like wanting to know is it the UPS driver, is it the neighbor, any known person you’d like to hear about. Then if it’s unknown, that would be really valuable for a blind person as well.
Think of it as our people through the door. I asked Ring about this, and they said that for privacy reasons they didn’t want to do it, which is a pretty pad answer, and a good excuse, but they didn’t seem to have any intention of adding that feature even though Nest has it and it seems to work fine. Mika and I use this at InVision a couple of years back. We set up a camera on the reception desk on our fifth floor that didn’t have anybody working at reception desk, and we wanted to know a guest came in or if it was a staff member.
We identified the staff members in the Nest camera software, in the app. If they came through, it would be a known person, it’d be announced in our office and we wouldn’t pay attention to it, but if it was unknown, then one of us could pop up and go out to the elevator reception desk area and see who it was and greet them. That really allowed us not to have a receptionist who’s just sitting there primarily for that purpose and I thought it was a really useful tool for blind people, but in that situation, it would be useful for sighted people as well.
Jonathan: Once again, we are not hearing the regular Bonnie bulletin music, we are instead hearing– No, we don’t deserve a round of applause yet, but [music] there we go, that’ll do it. Yes. We’re recording another bulletin from the PodTrak P4, and I have to confess in the interest of full transparency, this is the second time we’ve tried this because I’ve pushed the wrong button the other time, but we’ve got Bonnie’s friend. Bonnie, you can introduce Lisa.
Bonnie: This is Lisa Calhoun, and I’ve known her for, gosh, a long time. Lisa has been aware we actually only met for the first time in 2016, but I’ve been on email lists with her and chats and things like that for a very long time. We went to the same university, although not a different time had the same writing instructor, and also we’re both seeing Eye graduates at different times. Lisa is a longtime horse person, longtime race tracker, and now has a farm in Virginia called Perfect Peace Farm. Lisa is most known for breeding and racing Marq your Bible, aka Marcus, who is now happily retired. He is the horse that I owned in partnership with Lisa, the main partner, and several other people. You will remember many conversations about Marcus over the years.
Jonathan: Because those of us who go back all the way to the very first Mosen explosion show that you were on when I was broadcasting from the DoubleTree in Boston and I said you should come and do the show. You said to me then that you were a racehorse owner and I said, “I’m sure you own the main part.” I remember that. Calhoun’s a very famous American name, isn’t it?
Bonnie: Yes, Lisa can speak to that.
Jonathan: Hello, Lisa. We should let you get the word in.
Bonnie: Yes. Anything else you want to add to your bio, Lisa.
Lisa: Well, that’s my husband’s last name, but yes, he traces back to the Calhoun’s, yes, the famous. His father traced back to the older brother of John C. Calhoun, so not the best stuff.
Jonathan: That is pretty impressive. I should say just on the technical side that we are on the couch; we are recording on just the Zoom PodTrak P4. We’ve got Bonnie’s iPhone and a cable going into the TRRS input on the P4. We are using the PodTrak P4 really the way it was intended so that you can bring people in via FaceTime and join in on a discussion. Can I ask you before we talk about the reason why we gathered you both here? Why we gathered you here today in the sight of the Mushroom FM audience, what did you guys think of the result of the pregnant?
Bonnie: Oh, the Preakness?
Jonathan: Yes, the pregnant.
Bonnie: It was positive in my view, kind of a surprise, but yes.
Lisa: It was exciting. It was a very exciting race.
Jonathan: Are you glad that Medina Spirit didn’t win?
Bonnie: I hate to say that because at the end of the day, he’s a horse that’s loved by many people. The people that take care of him his owners, his breeder, and it’s always hard to say that you’re glad he didn’t win, but considering all the controversy that’s going on the past few weeks, it was good.
Lisa: It was good that it was somebody different, it wasn’t even a top. In the racing world, we know the trainer, we know of him, but he’s an up and comer on his way and it’s good to me.
Bonnie: A rider who was very excited okay. I’m probably going to slaughter his name. Lisa, Flavien Prat, is that it?
Jonathan: Sauvignon blanc.
Bonnie: No, he may like that, he’s from France, but he was so excited when he won. He just had a smile from ear-to-ear and just a young rider, up and coming, very top rider and you can see, [crosstalk] yes.
Lisa: You just hear the excitement in his voice.
Jonathan: No Triple Crown this year.
Bonnie: No, which is actually a good thing because I think if Medina Spirit had gone on to win the Preakness in Belmont, it could have put, if [crosstalk].
Lisa: We don’t need it.
Bonnie: Yes, we don’t need a disqualification or whatever.
Jonathan: Who knows, maybe the Supreme Court would have got involved and there.
Bonnie: There was already a lawsuit
Jonathan: Now this segues us nicely into the reason for doing yet another Bonnie bulletin in this way, partly because it’s the latest and greatest hot gadget, but also because we thought we’d bring Lisa in to have a discussion about an email that we received a couple of weeks ago from Peter in Hungary. He says he’s worried about being banned from Mosen At Large for asking this question, but not at all, Peter, because we love a bit of lively, robust discussion, as you know. Peter as he gathers from all the waffle on the Bonnie Bulletin although he didn’t put it that way, that Bonnie is a fan of race horsing and he doesn’t understand how you can be. He says that he really values horses. He appreciates what they can still contribute to agriculture, to various other things that the relationship with horses is a very special one often. They’re great animals, they can do various things, but his concern is that no horse wants to run. They are forced to run. His concern is that there’s a lot of cruelty involved and he doesn’t really feel like you can call it a sport at all.
Now I should say by way of a bit of a preface that I’ve come from a racing background as well because my dad used to own and train race horses, so it’s been a part of my culture all my life. Particularly on a Saturday, mum and dad would listen to the races and follow them closely, but I’ve certainly heard it said that it is a cruel sport and so I thought I would just hand it on over to you two, to give Peter an answer to this.
Bonnie: I’ll just start with just my own experience and then Lisa can chime in with hers. I’ve been around horses all my life. I got my first pony when I was six and read The Black Stallion, read about horse racing, and the race that I really became aware of watching was when Genuine Risk won The Kentucky Derby in 1980. I remember the very controversial Preakness that year when Codex beat Genuine Risk. I just was so enthralled and wanted to learn everything that I could about horse racing. Then over the years, following it, spending a lot of time on the backstretch in Kentucky when I was in college there.
People have their views and of course, they’re entitled to their opinion, but my thing is in any industry, in any sport, you are going to have your bad actors, if you will, people that are doing things that are not ethical, but racing is very, very well-policed. You have stewards, you have veterinarians at the track. Just watching today the Preakness, these horses want to run. That’s what they’re bred to do. Talking about horses that are on doing the agriculture thing on farms, that sort of thing, they’re nowhere near as well taken care of as the race horses.
I don’t think it’s a cruel sport, that it’s cleaned itself up over the last several decades with a lot of aftercare when horses aren’t able to race anymore, don’t want to race anymore. A lot of aftercare programs to make sure these horses find homes or other careers, a lot of the police horses in New York or off the track thoroughbreds, they go into all kinds of disciplines showing therapeutic riding, there are even several programs that teach people how to care horses, how to care for the racehorses. People who have disabilities or people who have been in trouble with the law.
A lot of good has come out of the industry. No, I don’t think that it’s a cruel sport at all. There you go, Lisa, handed over to you now.
Lisa: My background, I did not come from a horse background and I discovered horse racing in 1985 when Spend A Buck when the Kentucky Derby. Then I read all the books, The Black Stallion, and all of those as well. After high school, I took a year off from schooling before I went off to college and I worked actually in the industry. I worked on several different farms. I was a groom at the track. I exercise road, I trained yearlings. Being around them when they were young, before they were actually at the track, they would race each other in the field.
You’d turn the yearlings out or even the babies out with their mothers and they’re just running across the field at top speed, trying to see who can get to the gate first. If you’re standing at the gate, they see you when they want to and they start racing each other. I saw them after I turned them loose, do laps. They almost seemed like they created their own starting and finish lines. As soon as they were done and a winner was determined, they went to graze the grass, but they wanted to run first. \
When Bonnie says, it’s what they’re bred for, it’s instinct to just run and want to run. Having raised many babies now over the years, as soon as they can get outside and run, they’re running and when they’re retired, like I have Marcus now and his sister as well, Glory, they go out there and they run. They’re in their teens now and they still enjoy racing one another and just having fun. They’re squealing and neighing and having just a blast doing it. If a horse doesn’t want to run, they’re not going to.
They’re a big animal, you cannot force them to and they can sometimes figure this out before they get to the racetrack. Other times, they don’t know until they actually put them in a race for the first time. Oh, at least two of the yearlings that I can remember training at one particular farm raced only one time, and that was it. They finished last and they just didn’t want to do the job and they were retired and found a home for. When a horse does decide they want to do the job and race, once they show you that they’re done, the workers and the trainers that exercise, riders, the grooms, everybody’s paying attention.
Once that horse doesn’t want to do the job, it is retired. They’re not going to force it to. There’s cases of horses when the starting gate opens at the beginning of the race, they just stand there. They don’t take off from the starting gate. They just don’t go and they can show many different ways to the people around them that they don’t want to do the job anymore. These animals are loved and if the horse is not happy in the job, it’s not forced. The whipping, if that’s not going to hurt them and it’s not going to make them go faster.
It might tell them to go faster. It’s a cue to go faster, but it’s not going to make them go faster. A fast horse is going to be no faster than its legs will actually go, you cannot make them run faster than they’re wanting to go.
Jonathan: There are now regulations, aren’t there, regarding how you can use a riding crop so that they’re not hurt.
Jonathan: There are penalties if, in fact, it’s found that that has happened.
Lisa: Yes. Here in the United States, it does vary state to state, but there are regulations of how many times they can be tapped with the whip. Some people call it a whip, some people call it a crop. It’s pretty much the same thing. It makes more of a noise than it does actually cause pain. You can hit yourself with it. It will not hurt you. It just makes a loud pop.
Jonathan: Perhaps I should do that when I press the wrong button.
Bonnie: I’ve been hit by one of these. Sometimes it really hurts. It’s more of a sting and a surprise.
Lisa: Yes. They count how many times the rider uses it throughout the entire race, and especially on the home stretch. If the rider exceeds it too much, they can be fined. I know it varies per jurisdiction. It could be like, for instance, one place may say it’s 10 times. If they feel that it’s excessive, that’s actually what they call it, “excessive whip use,” and the jockey is fined. They can even be suspended if they’re overly aggressive. They get fined if they actually do put a mark on the horse. If they have hit so hard that they’ve actually caused a welt on the horse, they will get in trouble.
These crops or whips are designed not– It would take a lot of force to do that, to leave a mark on the horse. I’m saying it’s possible, but it would require a ton of force to do so. You use it also to cue them to change their leads, they do have a certain footfall pattern. They can actually change that footfall pattern. It uses the muscles of their body differently when they switch those leads. It helps them if they’re getting tired to switch their leads to use other muscles. They are using the crop to tell them, “Time to change your leads so that you can get another burst of energy.
Bonnie: Also, Lisa, you in another conversation a few weeks ago, when we were having this discussion about the whip rule changes, particularly in New Jersey, were describing how it’s used to change the lead with the horse, but also why a jockey has to use it because of the way they sit on the horse, which a lot of people who aren’t familiar with racing don’t understand because they’re used to seeing cowboys that are just astride and you can kick the horse. If you would speak to that, that would be great.
Lisa: Sure. A typical rider has their legs fully on a horse hanging down along the rib cage. They’re able to press the side of their calf into the horse to squeeze gently to encourage a horse to go faster. When you are in a show ring, for instance, you can use say your right leg to get them to move their body in a certain way. Depending on where your position of that leg is you can tell them, I want you to move your shoulder or I can want you to move your hip depending on where your leg is on their body. They learn to move their body to that position of your leg and they learn to give in and move and it helps them.
A jockey needs to be up higher and stirrups are very, very short. They are almost what you would consider almost up on top of these horses. That’s almost how it looks. And they’re on their toes, and the stirrups are only hanging down maybe about 6 inches off the side of the horse from their back. Their legs are not touching the horse very much at all. They need to use the crop to tap the horse if they need to help tell it to move over along with the reins.
It just gives them a little extra control to give cues to the horse of what they want the horse to do. It’s not just for going faster, it is for, “You need to move to the left because there’s a horse in front and you’re not wanting to move. I really need you to move to the left because we’re going to have a problem if you don’t move to the left right now.”
Jonathan: One of the things that has gone mainstream, though, is that in recent memory there was that spate of horse deaths at one single race track in the United States. They got quite a lot of press. If there’s no cruelty going on, why are horses dying in that way?
Lisa: On occasion, the track surface, it can go bad and they don’t realize it. I believe there they had a drainage issue problem, there in California.
Bonnie: Then a lot of drought recently too.
Lisa: Yes. Then they had a ton of rain, and then it messed with the base of the track. It ended up making the tracks surface unsafe and nobody realized it until it was too late. Then what they ended up doing is they closed the track down, and they totally redid the track surface and tore up it all the way down to the base and started over and created a new surface. Since they have done that, they have had no deaths at that particular track. That was Santa Anita in California. They just had this happen at Laurel Park in Maryland. They’re redoing that now.
They do pay attention when there starts to becoming injuries. They try to figure out, “Okay, what could be the problem? Sometimes it is the surface and then they need to totally do an overhaul of the track surface. Other times its other issues. Occasionally, it has been a particular trainer has a big string of deaths and they start trying to figure out, “Is he feeding something? What’s he doing differently that the other trainers are not doing? What’s causing this?” They start investigations and try to look into to see if they see a pattern.
Jonathan: I suppose it’s also true to say that there are varying degrees of animal rights advocacy, aren’t there? Because there are even people who believe that any kind of use of animals for human advancement or pleasure or whatever is wrong, including guide dogs. There are some people in PETA, not to be confused with Peter, who’s actually asking this question, who think that it’s morally wrong to use dogs as guide dogs?
Bonnie: Yes. The animal rights people, what they don’t do is they tend to be very reactionary. They won’t listen to a lot of reason from people who actually know what’s going on. They’ll be out there protesting. I think there was a big protest at Golden Gate Fields last year. They were shutting down a vaccine center because they wanted– They were nowhere near the horses. A lot of them, they won’t listen to reason. They have their ideas. They’re very radical and they won’t listen to the fact that as Lisa just described, racing’s aware of what’s going on. There are stewards that watch every single race. There are track veterinarians out there. They know what’s going on. Yes.
Lisa: Yes. They have at least three veterinarians on the track at any given time.
Bonnie: When something happens, and it raises its ugly head when something happens because it does make national news when Eight Belles broke down after the derby. Then of course, Barbara, who made national headlines became a national hero, but you don’t hear the good stories. You don’t hear how Santa Anita did fix the problem. They don’t do the good stories.
Jonathan: Yes. That’s the nature of news, isn’t it?
Bonnie: It is.
Jonathan: News is something exceptional that has happened and so you do tend to hear the bad side.
Bonnie: There’s so many good things in racing and how racing is a community. It’s actually one big family and the backstretch workers which sometimes called the “invisible workforce,” the majority of them are immigrants. They do a lot with providing scholarships for the children, for themselves, providing medical care, I care for them, a lot of recreational activities, counseling services.
Lisa: They have a path to citizenship. I know Delaware Park, for instance, one of the places Marcus raced and I visited the backstretch there multiple times. They have a preschool, they have a daycare, they have housing, they offer health care. It’s a community back there. It is not just stables for horses. It is so much more.
Bonnie: The big buzzword now is “social justice.” Racing has been doing it a lot longer than a lot of people.
Jonathan: There you go. There’s the defense. It’ll be interesting to see whether Peter is convinced or not. I’m sure that there are arguments on either side of this on the way of beating them.
Bonnie: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I think people are entitled to their opinion and you can’t fault them for that. I also think being informed too. Racing has its issues. I’m not going to deny that it doesn’t but everything has its issues.
Lisa: It is up to us to when we see a issue to call them out and hold them to the fire that okay, you’re doing something wrong and we need to clean this up.
Jonathan: Every industry, every sport has its rogue players., doesn’t it?
Bonnie: Absolutely. Looking at just when Lisa was talking earlier about the horses that didn’t
want to race and they’d stand at the stall. It also reminded me of incidents during races, where the jockeys come off and the horses kept running and even won the race, which of course, they didn’t get the price money because they were riderless but that shows you how much that they want to be in it. Talking about it being cruel because I’m very, very pro-jockey rights and it’s a very dangerous sport. It’s actually the most– It’s the only one or one of the few ones that a ambulance follows you around.
You’re looking at a 110, 112-pound person up on a 1200 pound animal going at 40 miles an hour. They don’t want to come off. They want to see safety because the accidents can be catastrophic. It can be paralysis, or there was a rider killed today overseas, I believe in a fall. It’s dangerous and one thing that racing is doing is working with other sports like football because concussion is a very common injury and working-
Bonnie: -to prevent this.
Jonathan: Thank you both very much for such a comprehensive answer. Whether Peter considers it satisfactory, I do not know, but we’ve certainly addressed it and you’re still welcome to get in touch with us later.
Bonnie: Absolutely. Lisa and I are both very open about discussing it and having a respectful conversation. Feel free to hit us up.
Jonathan: Thank you both and thank you for helping us take this PodTrak P4 for a spin.
Lisa: Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it.
Theme: Mosen At Large podcast.
Jonathan: Luis in the subject line to this message says, “Playing internet stations in iOS 14.5 got broken.” He says, “Hi, Jonathan. First of all, I want to thank you for the Mosen At Large podcast. Every time I listen to a new episode, I think how generous you are to share your time and knowledge with the blind community. Well done, Jonathan. Giving to others is a very rewarding experience.”
Thanks for those kind comments, Luis. He continues, “I recently updated to iOS, 14.5 but I am not happy with this update. Playing radio stations got broken again, or at least it is not working as smoothly as it worked in previous versions of iOS 14. Specifically, every time I ask Siri to play a station, it asks me what app should it use to play the station? Apparently, this sounds good since it expands the choices where a station can be played, but iOS very often doesn’t remember what app it uses to play such a station and it keeps asking you the app that it should use.
Furthermore, Siri often fails to play stations that are in TuneIn mistakenly indicating that such a station can’t be found when indeed it is on TuneIn. Finally, the shortcuts app shows potential TuneIn shortcuts, but when you try to configure them, they simply don’t work.” Thanks, Luis. I think what you’re seeing is Apple responding to increasing concerns about antitrust-type of behavior and they don’t want to just automatically send you to Apple Music or Apple Podcasts when you might prefer a different app.
It’s a much more complex problem to solve than the one of which should your default browser be because you can tell the operating system that every web page you go to, you want by default to choose whatever browser you personally like. If you give Siri the instruction to play something, Siri really has to know whether that thing you’re asking for is a podcast, a radio station, a song that you might want to access from a streaming music service.
It’s beyond the capability of artificial intelligence to really know these things. As a result, it is asking you much more frequently than would be the case with other types of queries like this what you want to play it with. Now, I’m running the beta of iOS, 14.6, and it may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think it is learning better. For example, I listen to quite a bit of BBC Radio 4 and for a while it was saying, which app did I want to use? I said Apple Music and now it always plays BBC Radio 4 on apple music.
Just to see what would happen, I said a couple of times, “Play BBC Radio 4 on TuneIn,” which I duly did, and then after that, every time I just said, play BBC Radio 4, it automatically played it on TuneIn. I really like this feature because if you choose not to subscribe, say to Apple Music, it learns pretty quickly that it should use an alternative app, be it Spotify or Deezer or one of the others to play your streaming music selection. It is a complex area, but I’m prepared to cut Apple a bit of slack.
I think this is definitely a move for the better, we just have to let them perfect the queries a little bit. For those using HomePod, it’s particularly exciting because it looks like HomePod is opening up to a number of other streaming music services and I see that Deezer, which offers a Hi-Fi lossless streaming music service, is coming to HomePod. It’s great that you’ll be able to make sure that Siri understands that by default when you ask for a song, you want it played on Deezer, the lossless music service.
“Hello, my friend from New Zealand,” writes Pascal. “Writing to you from Long Island, New York. I listen to your podcast on occasions and recently heard one of the episodes about your hearing aids. I hear you were very satisfied with the Oticon Opn S-1 model. I am currently trying out the newest Oticon More. Do you find that your hearing aids tune in to one particular sound a bit much at times? I tend to notice this happening when my surroundings become a bit complex.”
Thank you for writing in Pascal. We have discussed the Oticon More hearing aids in a previous episode when a listener wrote in who was also evaluating them and I think he made a similar comment, that he felt they tended to tune in to particular sounds a bit much and he was working with audiologists to get that tweaked. I didn’t hear how he got on, so I’d love to hear another report. My understanding is that the Oticon More hearing aids use quite a different paradigm from the Oticon Opn S-1s that I have and I haven’t noticed this problem with these particular hearing aids. Do keep us posted on how you get on with these aids. There’s a lot of interest in them.
Gordon: There’s been quite a bit of chat in the podcast in the last few weeks about discrimination and I want to chime in with an example I had just a couple of months ago which really struck to me just how much this thing still exists even in this day and age with all this enlightenment. In the UK at the moment there is this plan in place to try and make our homes more green. One thing is to get better insulation in our houses be that in the walls or the attic and all that good stuff.
I’ve been looking to up my level of insulation in my attic and I’d found a company who were going to come down and give me a quote. They had organized this and everything seemed to be in place okay, however, the chap showed up an hour and a half late which isn’t a problem in itself and so much as we’re not going anywhere in this day and age and they did let me know the chap would be late. When he eventually turns up, he says, “Yes, sorry I’m late I had to deal with a blind lady and had to wait for her son to come home. “Well very good. Well, so be it.”
We then come into my living room all mashed up et cetera, and all that good stuff and he starts doing and then he goes, “Is that a guide dog?” I’m like, “Yep.” Fair enough and then he said, “How long have you lived here?” I said I’ve been here for over 12 years and we thought we going to get married and then he lost his seal immediately but his further comment nothing to do with me blamed the light, he just said. “At least she left you with the house.” meaning my wife. I’m like, “Actually no, she died three years ago.”
He then trotted off up the stairs to the attic to do his examination of my loft space in order to give me the recommendation and how much it was going to cost me for the level of insulation I was looking for. Which when I hear him upstairs chatting away to somebody and I thought nothing of the rest of it until my phone rings and this is his boss to say, “Mr Luke.” “Yes, yes.” He said, “I understand from a colleague that you’re blind?” I said, “Yes.” He says, “Is there anybody there that can help you at the moment?” I said, “No, why?” He said, “Well because you’re not really competent to make a decision on this loft insulation.” I said, “Sorry? I’m not quite sure I’m hearing what you’re saying here, try that again.” “No, you’re not competent to making a decision about taking rough insulation just by yourself.” I said, “Excuse me, I think you really want to be watching what you’re saying here. Are you really telling me that I am incapable of making a decision about how much money I spend on my house, in my own terms, in my own household?” “Yes, well it’s for your own protection.”
I said, “Excuse me, this is the this is 2021. We are not dealing in the dark ages. I’m perfectly capable of making this decision and if you do not let me do this I will personally kick your man out of my house because quite frankly I’m not putting up with this.” “No, no, no.” he said. I said, “Sorry, when I agree to make this decision I said, “Your guy would come along, give me a quote and I would go away and think about it. I’m not making a decision today because I don’t make decisions like that because it’s far too difficult a decision to make after a short sales pitch.”
I said, “I will take the session away and I will make a decision, however, my competence in making this decision is neither here nor there to do with blindness or not.” The boy eventually trotted the stairs and he comes up with his quote which I laugh because it’s just so ridiculously high just like £5,000 more than I expected it to be. He then tries to say, “Well, you could pay up over five years with a 13% interest rate.” I said, “I’ve worked in the insurance industry for the past 25 years on a negative income but I won’t suppose at the moment I think I can get a better deal than that.” I said, “I will think about your offer but thank you very much.”
He left the house and I put his offer straight in the bin so there you go. It still exists in this day and age. I think it’s ignorance on the part of the companies and quite frankly really it just staggers beyond belief some people still think we are incapable. Yes, we may not be the world’s greatest decision-makers but that’s absolutely nothing to do with our ability to see or not. It’s oft to do with what’s between our ears, end of story. Thanks guys, cheers.
Grace: Hello, Jonathan? It’s, Grace. I just forgot your name, fancy me forgetting your name, my goodness. Last night on Mosen At Large, you were talking about bullying. Now, I’ve got a couple of things to share with you Jonathan, and I feel that I can share this with you. I was talking to May about this and she said, “Yes, I think you should tell Jonathan about it,” and I said, “Well, I feel I would like to share this.” Two things that happened to me, well, one thing happened when I think I was over 18, when I used to travel by bus and one of the conductors that used to travel on the bus, he was really nice and he always spoke to me.
There were some days I went on the bus and he said, “There’s no front seat. You can’t get a front seat.” Because I usually sat at the front seat, so he said, “You’ll have to sit up the back.” It was a very busy bus, and I thought, “Okay, that’s fine.” He took me to the back seat and then the next thing he said, well, he said, “There’s more people coming,” he said, “I’ll go and check the seat and I’ll come back and chat to you.” I thought, “That’s fine, that’s okay.” He came up the back of the bus and he said to me, he said, “I’ve got something to show you.” I said, “For sure, man.” I never thought anything over this.
What happened is he got his penis out and he put my hand on it and it was really hard and I was scared, so I slapped him so hard and I said, “Don’t you ever do that again to me.” He said, “No, this is our secret. You’re not to tell anybody about this.” I thought, “Well, okay.” I was so scared, Jonathan, I didn’t say anything and then another time– Oh, I should say, eventually, I told my mom about it, but the conductor, he had now died, thank God. My mom said, “I wish you’d said something.” She said, ‘You’d be so scared to say something.” My mom was upset when I told her about it.
Another time I was on the bus and there was a drunk man and he was getting off the bus and he kicked my guide dog, my dog wasn’t doing anything, she was just lying at my feet and he kicked my dog and the police came to see– The driver stopped the bus and got the police. The police came on the bus and arrested him and took him away to prison, to Stockton prison. The police came to see me the next day and he was lovely the policeman, and he said, “I’m really sorry this happened to your dog. With you talking about bullying, it just all came back to me, and I’m glad I can share this with you because I just felt it was right to share it.
Jonathan: Well, thank you, Grace. I’m sitting here wincing while listening to that. It’s just a horrific– Well, both of them are horrific stories. particularly the first one, I have to say. It’s just so contrived and manipulative and horrible. I really am sorry that that happened to you and that sort of thing never goes away, does it? I hope that these days there is much less tolerance of that behavior, but I know that there’s still a lot of fear out there about this sort of thing. Really sorry to hear that that happened to you.
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Jonathan: John Wesley Smith is in touch on the email and he says, “I belong to a writer’s group called Behind Our Eyes, which participates in the AmazonSmile program. Recently, I received an email from AmazonSmile promoting their Amazon mobile app as a place to sign up for the smile program included was a set of instructions for app users to sign up. I would like to post those instructions on our two websites. However, I’m not certain how blind-friendly those instructions are.
Furthermore, I’m not even sure how accessible the Amazon app is. I don’t use it myself and don’t plan to anytime soon. I prefer to negotiate Amazon on my desktop. I’m reaching out to anyone who uses the Amazon app because I need your insight, could you help me craft a set of instructions for signing up with AmazonSmile using accessible smartphone technology? The instructions I’ve seen online for using voice-over are brief and vague. Is there more to it than that? Below I’ve pasted the instructions I found.
They say, “Open the app and find settings in the main menu. Tap on Amazon smile, and follow the onscreen instructions to turn on AmazonSmile on your phone end.” If anyone can share a yea or nay to these guidelines, all, if someone can give further directions, I would appreciate it. Thanks to all for your help.”
Andy Smith is talking about text to speech engines and specifically Keynote Gold. He says, “Hey, my dude,” which is exactly what my youngest son says to me. He says, “Someone brought up the Keynote Gold and may I say, man, I agree. It was an amazing synthesizer. There was also a dictionary that used it somehow, the Franklin Language Master. It was strange though because it pronounced every word as its own sentence. For example, “This. Is. A. Test.” I’m not sure if it was recorded speech or it actually had the chip or what, but it was cool. I used the BrailleNote mPower. I had a QT and later a BT and just loved Keynote Gold.
I remember listening to a detailed description distributed on CD of the mPower’s hardware, where you describe how the only thing lost, was the parallel port. You used talks with a Nokia phone for something maybe to demonstrate Bluetooth, I’m not sure, et cetera. I didn’t know that there was a software Keynote Gold. It’s a shame that it can’t be ported to 64 bits. I had to buy it to keep using it.
I remember the mPower getting Eloquence and it lagged slightly, which is one of the reasons I kept using Keynote Gold with it. Eventually, it broke and my needs simply outgrew the product, particularly with Word documents, et cetera, but man, I really do miss Keynote Gold. As for your proud-to-be-blind speech, I was on my treadmill and was literally crying, listening to it. I’ve sent it to a few email lists and I think some people are going to read it at various support groups, very inspirational and true. Thanks for all you do for the show, especially with your busy schedule, stay well, sir.”
Thank you, Andy. That’s very, very kind. I do wonder if someone at HumanWare has got the source code for Keynote Gold, the software version, and whether we might be able to persuade them to bring it back. I do wonder how many people would buy it though. I think it probably is quite an acquired taste.
If there are some people who are tiring of Eloquence these days, I can only imagine that the number of people who would be interested in Keynote Gold would be very small.
Here’s Christopher Wright, who says, “I initially refused the use of wheelchairs, but after being ignored by airport employees for extended periods of time, I decided to go with the flow. I was returning to Houston from World Services for the Blind in December and had to wait about 10 to 20 minutes to get someone to walk me to my luggage.
I don’t fly very often, so I don’t need or really want to learn the layout of a building I’ll visit extremely infrequently or never again. Yes, it’s not ideal, but I get to where I need to go much faster. I don’t have the time or patience to deal with incompetent airport employees. I have bigger fish to fry. The thing I found interesting was the fact that the employees were apparently bending over backwards to help all kinds of other people, but they ignored me as a white blind man standing there trying to get someone’s attention.
Once again, I have to ask why blind people aren’t included in the diversity initiative. I’m genuinely curious. Diversity sounds great on the surface, but my experience has been that it’s a code word for anti-white and or anti-heterosexual. Maybe we should start virtue signaling blindness, just like everyone else is doing in all forms of modern media, and shunning those who are anti-blind.
It’s what the left does all the time to anyone who opposes them. Why don’t we do it too? If we’re truly diverse, I should be respected as a blind person being a Trump supporter, and generally being a good person. You don’t have to agree with all my views, but you should be able to accept the facts, I think a particular way just as I do for you. It seems to me there’s a set of rules for the left and a totally different set for the rest of us.
I don’t say these things to be racist, xenophobic, et cetera. I’m simply trying to understand why we can’t all get along. I treat everyone the way I want to be treated and while I may not always agree with you, I would never attempt to shut you down because something you said hurt my feelings. Why are the people that preach tolerance and acceptance the most intolerant people ever?
Again, these are genuine questions I’d like answers to/ Then again, there are certain statistics and other information that you’re not supposed to talk about, or else you might get banned so maybe I’ll never truly know. Most of the time, I want people to leave me alone with my computers and fantasy books because so much of the world makes me sad.
I was originally very doubtful of your speech on “Blind pride”, but the more I think about it, the more I agree with you. Being blind is certainly a major pain, but there are definitely advantages, which you outlined in your speech. Having lived my entire 23 years, thus far being totally blind, I have no desire to change it. I don’t long for sight because it will make me more accepted in society. Truth be told I don’t care what most people think of me. Those that know me, know I’m a good person.
If you can’t get past the fact that I’m blind, oh, well, there are billions of other people in the world and I’m sure I’ll find a soul or two I can truly connect with someday. As I said a while ago, being blind has given me a different perspective on the world and aside from instances where the information barrier rears its ugly head, it’s been wonderful. Thank you for that term, by the way, I’ve said it before, but it’s such an accurate description of blindness.”
Thanks very much for your email, Christopher and I have a number of questions that came out of it. The first one is, how do you know that the weight that you incurred was because you were white? That seems like an extraordinary assertion to make.
I do agree with you that the quality of the dialogue and the discourse in the United States has become really dysfunctional in a very concerning way and I think that many people outside of the United States just can’t get their head around how dysfunctional it’s become, but it is difficult to have meaningful dialogue when people just ignore evidence. This nonsense that has no basis in fact about the election being stolen.
The fact that there was an insurrection on the 6th of January, that now certain elements don’t want to confront and hold an inquiry into, all of those things, make dialogue very difficult, because if you can agree on a common set of facts, then you can argue about what those facts mean but if people make things up, it is really difficult to find consensus then because there’s no basis of reality to begin a discussion about. Disability is often neglected when it comes to discussions about diversity, but we’re not going to change that and nor should we by invalidating the very real needs of people who’ve been neglected over time as well.
I had a really meaningful experience when I was working in the government relations field in the 1990s. For New Zealanders who are listening, I will mention the woman’s name, who I met, her name was Tariana Turia. She has been an activist for issues relating to Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, all her life and she became a member of parliament.
I went to see her in my capacity as the manager of government relations for the Blind Foundation then, and she said to me, “Māori and disabled people have so much in common. We’ve had other people making decisions about us without consulting us. We don’t have our autonomy respected. We need to find common issues where we can work together and support each other.” I absolutely agree with that.
As somebody who faces discrimination and being underestimated, isn’t it hypocrisy to the extreme, insensitive, and pretty disgusting to rail against other minorities who have also suffered similar problems rather than saying, “Don’t forget us either. Let’s all work together for a more equitable society.” What we are talking about is not a zero-sum game. We want a society where we realize that when any of us can’t contribute to our maximum potential, for whatever reason, then we’ve all failed.
It’s easy, completely easy, but very unconstructive to demonize people was words. Left or right. You can use code words like woke, politically correct, or virtue signaling but I think the question every person has to ask themselves is, what have we personally done today to make our lot better?
It doesn’t have to be some big-grand thing. Not everybody is in a position to do political advocacy. Not everybody feels comfortable doing it.
If you can do something, even if it’s contacting respectfully an app developer or talking to an airport about the quality of assistance they provide in a constructive way, you’ve then become a tiny bit of a solution rather than lashing out at other people, further dividing people into categories and creating enemies where in fact there should be allies.
The choice about how we choose to advance our course is ours individually and when we make the right choices individually, to make sure that we have a more accepting society with less prejudice and less bigotry for us all, then we’re all going to win.
John: Hey, Jonathan, this is John in Los Angeles. I want to thank you for the wonderful podcast. I appreciate it very much. I also want to comment on one of the things I like about your podcast is the way you present both sides of all issues, how respectful you are, of people who disagree with you and when you give opinions that I disagree with you present them thoughtfully and you make me, if not change my mind, at least think about what you’re saying and more of us should be like that and I wish more politicians were like that these days.
The reason for my call, and I know you’ve discussed this ad infinitum, but it’s about the wheelchair at the airport. I kept thinking back about 20 years ago, when I was at one of the busiest airports in the world, Heathrow Airport, I’m a very frequent flyer. I’ve flown in and out of Heathrow in many other airports, many times. On this occasion, I was visiting a friend in London, flying back to Los Angeles and I asked for a sighted guide to assist me to the gate. I was shocked when they brought a wheelchair and I went through many of the things that you and other listeners have talked about. “I don’t need a wheelchair. I’m perfectly capable of walking. I would have been embarrassed to take a wheelchair from someone who needed it, et cetera, et cetera.”
The attendant said something to me. I wish I could remember his exact words, but essentially it was words to the effect, “Please, sir, trust me. This is better if you take the wheelchair.” Whatever it was he said, or how he said it, I gave in and I sat in the wheelchair a little mortified, whatever, and proceeded to be whisked through Heathrow Airport faster than I ever have before or since.
He was so efficient at maneuvering me through security, et cetera, et cetera. As we were going through, I learned two things. Number one, I didn’t know I could get through Heathrow that fast, I’ve never done it since, as I said, but more importantly, one of the things he said is, “You know sir, one of the reasons I do it this way is because it frees me up to help other people who need assistance and we only have so much time in so many customers. By sitting in this chair, you give me that extra time so I can help somebody else.”
That has always stayed with me. I will not ask for a wheelchair and I don’t hopefully will never need a wheelchair, but if one is brought from now on, I will probably sit in just for that reason alone. Another comment quickly someone said, “Look, we’re not the example for all blind people in the world. We don’t have to set the example. I’m an individual what I do is what I do.” I agree with that, totally. However, all of us are examples for everybody else. Am I supposed to be the example for all blind people? No, nor you or anybody else, but we all to a certain extent set an example for other people.
When we refuse to take a seat on a subway, because we can stand as I have done, or I used to do, that’s fine. However, what I learned from my sister-in-law when my brother refused to sit in a chair when he was using his white cane, is that you’re blocking the aisle and you sometimes, and you don’t realize it by sitting down, you’re making it more efficient for other people. Again, my basic point is sometimes this assistance isn’t just for us, it’s for everyone else. It’s for the whole community, cited wheelchair-bound, able-bodied et cetera.
Sometimes it’s okay to do something that we don’t like, it’s also okay to not take the wheelchair. I respect those of you who don’t want it. I respect all your reasons, but I think sometimes we have to stop and think about the big picture, and maybe on those occasions, you’ll take the chair in the subway or take the wheelchair. Again, those are my thoughts. I don’t know if I’m going to change anybody’s minds, but I wanted people to think about that we’re not an island. No man is an island. What we do affects a lot of people.
Jonathan: Thanks very much John, I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast. I want to tease this out a little bit because I’m not convinced by one core aspect of this. That is that somehow it’s faster if a blind person sits in a wheelchair than it is, if a blind person is being guided by someone because you can only walk as fast as the person pushing the wheelchair can walk. When you don’t have the burden of the chair to maneuver, you may be able to walk faster without the chair, assuming you don’t have any issues walking than with the chair. It sounds to me like this Heathrow dude is making an assumption about the speed with which you as a blind person can walk.
Theme: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: Here’s some poetry. It’s from Marcia Yale, and she says, “Inspired by your contributor’s monologue. I wrote this poem pasted below in 2007 as a rant. Your contributor made the same comments.
Please, give me back the second
The second it takes to hear the traffic move at the beginning of a cycle, why should I trust you more than traffic patterns?
The second it takes to hear where the nearest subway door is, yes, I can hear them open and would rather make my own choice
The second it takes to verify the direction of an escalator, there is a convenient way to do this, it’s not rocket science
The second it takes to find the beginning of a staircase, hat’s what my white cane is for
The second it takes to turn around after passing that landmark–then again, maybe I was enjoying the walk
The second it takes to find the door, it’s often easier if I open my own doors then I know where the door actually is
The second it takes to avoid your groping hands, I often wish I could return the favor and grope you too
The second it takes to avoid the probing questions, why do you need to know where I am going?
The second it takes to be independent, unless that’s too much to ask.”
Sandra is in Germany and writes, “Hi, Jonathan and fellow listeners. I just heard you read the listener’s email who suggested spelling blind with a capital B. I’ve never heard about this idea, but I think it’s brilliant. Deaf people do it. Black people do it, when they claim their adjectives as part of their identity and reject the negative connotations connected to them when hearing or white people use them in contexts that are demeaning. I think spelling blind with a B absolutely makes sense. Thanks for creating an opportunity for us to exchange ideas like this on
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Sunil: Hi, Jonathan. I just wanted to tell you about the exercise bike I bought about six weeks ago, which I’m really happy with. A bit about why I decided to get it, I’ve not been to work for over a year, not been to the office for over a year, and when I did go, I used to walk for about 40, 45 minutes a day.
When lockdown started, I tried going out every day for a similar amount of time, but I just got bored of going to the same place, doing block routes. I thought I better do something, and I thought an exercise bike would be a good bet. I thought it’d be a lot quieter than the treadmill and it would be something that I could just get on and off as I’m waiting for a few minutes. I did a lot of research, particularly looking at Peloton bikes, but the bike I got, which is an Echelon Sport, E-C-H-E-L-O-N sport compared incredibly favorably with Peloton. It is very quiet. I’m cycling now. I don’t know if you can hear it.
You should be able to, very faintly, but it’s very quiet. It doesn’t move around and it’s just great I really love it. Also, it costs about £800, the Peloton I was looking at was nearly £3,000, so that was another reason to get it. It’s got an app as well that you can subscribe to. The longer you subscribe for the less it costs. I paid for two years, I think £300 or £400, I think.
It has classes on it, different classes, yoga, cycling, running, and you can also play what’s it called? Scenic rides where I guess what’s on the screen on your phone would be a cityscape or the view as you were cycling up a mountain or along the beach or whatever. Some of them have music, some of them don’t, some of them are guided, so you have an instructor giving you instructions, telling you when to speed up and slow down.
The ones I like really are where you put them on for half an hour, 30, 35 minutes, they’ve got music on and you can cycle along with them and look at the calories you’re burning off. You can use the app to set the resistance– no, not to set it, to tell you what the resistance is. There’s a knob in front of the seat, which you turn and the app will tell you the resistance.
You can also look at the leaderboard, there’s a leaderboard, and you can look at how other people are doing. I don’t do that because it’s very fiddly, it doesn’t look particularly accessible to me, but the app’s great then it stores the information. That’s just one suggestion anyway, in response to the person asking about exercise bikes. Thanks for a fantastic show. Thanks for all the brilliant information you continually give out speak to you all soon.Thank you.
Jonathan: Thank you. That is Sunil with that comment and he is obviously one fit dude, I tell you, wow, I just looked it up and Echelon bikes are available in New Zealand. Whereas Peleton bikes are not, this is really intriguing. He also does add in an email that the bike does not come with a tablet. There’s a groove at the top of the bike where you can add your own, and that’s fine because most of us already have a device that we could use for that purpose.
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