Archive for the ‘Blindness’ Category

Reid My Mind Radio – Microsoft Seeing AI – Real & Funky

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

!T.Reid wearing a hat with a "T" while the Seeing AI logo is imposed on his shades!
Okay, I don’t usually do reviews, but why not go for it! All I can tell you is I did it my way; that’s all I can do!
It took a toll on me… entering my dreams…
I’m going to go out on a limb and say I have the first podcast to include an Audio Described dream! So let’s get it… hit play and don’t forget to subscribe and tell a friend to do the same.

Resources:

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Wasup good people!
Today I am bringing you a first of sorts, a review of an app…

I was asked to do a piece on Microsoft’s new app called Seeing AI.for Gatewave Radio.

The interesting thing about producing a tech related review for Gatewave is that the Gatewave audience most likely doesn’t use smart phones and maybe even the internet. However, they should have a chance to learn about how this technology is impacting the lives of people with vision loss. Chances are they won’t learn about these things through any mainstream media so… I took a shot… And if there’s anything I am trying to get across with the stories and people I profile
it’s we’re all better off when we take a shot and not just accept the status quo

[Audio from Star Trek’s Next Generation… Captain La Forge fire’s at a chasing craft. Ends with crew mate exclaiming… Got em!]
[Audio: Reid My Mind Radio theme Music]

[Audio: Geordi La Forge from Star Trek talk to crew from enemy craft…]
TR:
Geordi La Forge from Star Trek’s Next Generation , played by LeVar Burton, was blind. However, through the use of a visor he was able to see far more than the average person.

While this made for a great story line, it also permanently sealed LeVar Burton and his Star Trek character as the default reference for any new technology that proposes to give “sight” to the blind.

[Audio: from intro above ending with Geordi saying…
“If you succeed, countless lives will be affected”
TR:
What exactly though, is sight?

We know that light is passed through the eye and that information is sent to the brain where it is interpreted and
quickly established to represent shapes, colors, objects and people.

A working set of eyes, optic nerves and brain are a formidable technological team.
They get the job done with maximum efficiency

Today, , with computer processing power growing exponentially and devices getting smaller the idea that devices like smart phones could serve as an alternative input for eyes is less science fiction and well, easier to see.

There are several applications available that bring useful functionality to the smart phone ;
* OCR or optical character recognition which allows a person to take a picture of text and have it read back using text to speech
* Product scanning – makes use of the camera and bar codes which are read and the information is spoken aloud again, using text to speech
* Adding artificial intelligence to the mix we’re seeing facial and object recognition being introduced.

Microsoft has recently jumped into the seeing business, with their new iOS app called Seeing AI… as in Artificial Intelligence!
There’s no magic or anything artificial about these results, they’re real!

In this application, the functionality like reading a document or recognizing a products bar code are split into channels. The inclusion of multiple channels in one application is already a plus for the user. Eliminating the need to open multiple apps.

Let’s start with reading documents.

For those who may have once had access to that super-fast computer interface called eyes , you’re probably familiar with the frustration of the lost ability to quickly scan a document with a glance and make a quick decision.

Maybe;
* You’re looking for a specific envelope or folder.
* you want to quickly grab that canned good or seasoning from the cabinet.

With other reading applications you have to go through the process of taking a picture and hoping you’re on the print side of the envelope or can. After you line it up and take the picture you find out the lighting wasn’t right so you have to do it again.

Using Microsoft’s Seeing AI you simply point the phones camera in the direction of the text

[Audio App in process]

Once it sees text, it starts reading it back! The quick information can be just enough for you to determine what you’re looking for. In fact, during the production of this review, I had a real life use case for the app.

My wife reminded me that I was contacted for Jury duty and I needed to follow up as indicated in the letter. The letter stated I would need to visit a specific website to complete the process. I forgot to put the letter in a separate area in order to scan it later and read the rest of the details. So rather than asking someone to help me find the letter, I grabbed the pile of mail from the table and took out my iPhone.

I passed some of my other blindness apps and launched Microsoft Seeing AI. I simply pointed the camera at each individual piece of paper until finding the specific sheet I was seeking. The process was a breeze. In fact, it was easier than asking someone to help me find the form. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s glancing!

Now that I found the right letter, I could easily get additional information from the sheet by scanning the entire document. I don’t need to open a separate app, I can simply switch to a different channel, by performing the flick up gesture.

Similar to a sighted person navigating the iPhone’s touch screen interface , anyone can non visually accomplish the same tasks using a set of different gestures designed to work with Voice Over, the built in screen reader that reads aloud information presented on the screen.

Using the document channel I can now take a picture of the letter and have it read back.

One of the best ways to do this is to place the camera directly on the sheet in the middle and slowly pull up as the edges come into view. I like to pull my elbows toward the left and right edges to orient myself to the page. Forming a triangle with my phone at the top center. The app informs you if the edges are in view or not.
Once it likes the positioning of the camera and the document is in view, it lets you know it’s processing.

[Audio: Melodic sound of Seeing AI’s processing jingle]

You don’t even have to hit the take picture button. However, if you are struggling to get the full document into view ,
you could take the picture and let it process. It may be good enough for giving you the information you’re seeking.

If you have multiple sheets to read, simply repeat.

Another cool feature here is the ability to share the scanned text with other applications. That jury duty letter, I saved it to a new file on my Drop Box enabling me to access it again from anywhere without having to scan the original letter

Let’s try using the app to identify some random items from my own pantry.

To do this, I switch the channel to products.

[Audio: Seeing App processing an item from my pantry…]

What you hear, is the actual time it took to “see” the product. All I’m doing is moving the item in order to locate the bar code.
As the beeps get faster I know I am getting closer. When the full bar code is in range, the app automatically takes the picture and begins processing.

[Audio: Seeing AI announces the result of the bar code scan… “Goya Salad Olives”

It’s pretty clear to see how this would be used at home, in the work environment and more.

Now let’s check out the A I or artificial intelligence in this application.

By artificial intelligence, the machine is going to use its ability to compute and validate certain factors in order to provide the user with information.

First, I’ll skip to the channel labeled Scene Beta…
Beta is another term for almost ready for prime time. So, if it doesn’t work, hey,, it’s beta!

Take a picture of a scene and the built in artificial intelligence will do its best to provide you with the information enabling you to understand something about that scene.

[Seeing AI reports a living room with a fireplace.]

This could be helpful in cases like
If a child or someone is asleep on the couch.

[Audio: Action Movie sound design]

I can even picture a movie starring me of course, where I play a radio producer who is being sought by the mob. The final scene I use my handy app to see the hitman approaching me. I do a round house kick…
ok, sorry I get a little carried away at the possibilities.

While no technology can replace good mobility travel skills I can imagine a day where the scene identification function will provide additional information about one’s surroundings.
Making it another mobility tool for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Now for my final act… oh wait it’s not magic remember!

Microsoft Seeing AI Offers facial recognition.
That’s right, point your camera at someone and it should tell you who that person is… Well, of course you have to first train the app.

To do this we have to first go into the menu and choose facial recognition.
To add a new person we choose the Add button.
In order to train Seeing AI you have to take three pictures of the person.
We elected to do different facial expressions like a smile, sad and no expression.
Microsoft recommends you let sighted family and friends take their own picture to get a good quality pic.

The setup requirement, while understandable at this point sort of reduces that sci fi feel.

After Seeing AI is trained, once you are in the people channel
when pointing your camera in the direction of the persons face, it can recognize and tell you the person is in the room.

[Audio: Seeing AI announces Raven about 5 feet in front.]

Seeing AI does a better job recognizing my daughter Raven when she smiles. That too me is not artificial intelligence because we all love her smile!

The application isn’t perfect. it struggled a bit with creased labels, making it difficult to read the bar code.

Not all bar codes are in the database. It would be great if users could submit new products for future use.

As a first version launch with the quick processing, Seeing AI really gives me something to keep an eye on. Or maybe I should say AI on!

Peering into the future I can see;

* Faster processing power that makes recognition super quick,
* Interfacing with social media profiles to automatically recognize faces and access information from people in your network
* lenses that can go into any set of glasses sending the information directly to the application not requiring the user to point their phone
at an item or person and privately receiving the information via wireless headset.
That could greatly open up the use cases.

In fact, interfacing with glasses is apparently already in development and
the team includes a lead programmer who is blind.

Microsoft says a Currency identification channel is coming in the future;
making Seeing AI a go to app for almost anything we need to see!

The Microsoft Seeing AI app is available from the Apple App store for Free 99. Yes, it’s free!

I’m Thomas Reid
[Audio: As in artificial intelligence!]
For Gatewave Radio, audio for independent living!

[Audio: Voice of Siri in Voice Over mode announcing “More”]

I don’t know if that’s considered a review in the traditional sense, but honestly I am not trying to be traditional.

The thing is, thinking about the application started to extend past the time when I was working on the piece…

That little jingle sound the app makes when it’s processing… it started to seep into my dreams…
[Audio: Dream Harp]

[Audio: “Funky Microsoft Seeing AI” An original T.Reid Production]

The song is based around the processing tone used in the app with the below lyrics.

(Audio description included in parens)

(Scene opens with Thomas asleep in bed with a dream cloud above his head)

The processing sound becomes a sound with Claps…

(We see a darkened stage)

(As the chorus is about to begin spotlight shines on Thomas & the band)

Chorus:
Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

(Thomas rips off his shirt!)

Verse:
Download the app on my iPhone

{Background sings… “Download it, Download it!}

Checking out things all around my home

(Thomas dances on stage)

Point the camera from the front
Huh!
Point the camera from the back!

I’m like;
what’s that , what’s this
Jump back give my phone a kiss!
Hey! (James Brown style yell!)

(Thomas spins and drops into a split)

Chorus:
Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

(Back in the bed we see Thomas with a fading dream cloud above his head)

Ends with the app’s processing sound.

TR:
Wow, definitely time to move on to the next episode…

With that said, make sure you Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Tell a friend to do the same – I have some interesting things coming up I think you’re going to like.
And something you may have not expected!

[Audio: RMMRadio Outro]
TR:
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Hello, From the Other Side!

Friday, July 14th, 2017

After over two years of interviewing different people I’ve become more comfortable with the process. I think I have a long way to go to become really good at it, but one thing is certain; I much rather ask the questions.

However, recently I was interviewed for the Vision Aware blog and the process was pretty painless. Writer, Susan Kennedy asked some good questions that really gave me a chance to get into the back story of Reid My Mind Radio.

While I don’t want to put myself in a box in regards to the things I talk about in the podcast, people adjusting to any form of disability, specifically vision loss; low vision or total blindness and everything in between, those are my people! I want them to know they can come here and hang out and it’s all good! I got you!

Head over to the Vision Aware Blog and check out the article. Hopefully this piece will attract all sorts of listeners & readers (don’t forget we have transcripts for Deaf and Hearing Impaired).

Either way, the plan is to continue amplifying these experiences and having fun while I do it!

If there are any new readers/listeners finding this blog & podcast … welcome!

Reid My Mind Radio – Abigail Style Means Business

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Abby is an illustration of a stylish fashion icon who walks in confidence, handbag in one hand, white cane in the other and her exquisite hairstyle floats about her head. She is wearing heels with a dress made of individual panels resembling overlapping banana leaves. The dress panels gently curve from her nipped in waist to just above the knee.
Who is Abigail Style?

Past guest of the podcast and fashion blogger Steph McCoy of Bold Blind Beauty is here to tell us all about Abigail. Plus she shares some life lessons on creating a business and working towards goals.

Now, here’s what you should accomplish;
1. Listen to this episode
2. Tell me about your goals and any methods or tools you use to stay on track… use the comments or email reidmymindradio@gmail.com
3. Subscribe to the podcast if you aren’t already…
4. Tell a friend by Sharing the episode on your favorite social network!

Resources:

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:
What’s good family?

So the other day I’m in the park with my family.
I strike up a conversation with someone nearby and introduce myself.
They ask if I’m the host of Reid My Mind Radio!

I couldn’t believe they knew me.

Then all of a sudden another person standing near us over hears the conversation and
says they too are listeners…

Next thing you know the entire park breaks into this impromptu celebration of Reid My Mind Radio!

Fortunately I had my recorder going…
just listen to this…

[Audio: fourth of July Fireworks]

I’m still riding the high from that experience!

Raven: Uh, Daddy we need to talk

TR:
Talk about what?

[Reid My Mind Theme Music]

SM:
Bold Blind Beauty in a nutshell is all about real beauty transcending barriers.

TR:

Say hello to Steph McCoy.
If you’ve been riding with the podcast for a while you may remember Steph.
Some time ago I featured her on the podcast talking all about her blog BoldBlindBeauty.com.

SM:
I started with the purpose of helping blind women with makeup and fashion style beauty that type of thing because as a society we kind of think that people who are blind or vision impaired aren’t concerned with these types of things. And we know now that’s totally not true.

I’ve always been an advocate. I’m 56 years old. It took me about 54 of those years to figure that out. It’s who I am. I’m an advocate. I advocated on behalf of my son who had A.D.H.D. I advocated on behalf of my mother who has a physical disability. It became more difficult when I began losing my sight and then subsequently became legally blind. Now I had to advocate on behalf of myself. It’s easy to do this for other people but for yourself it’s a little different.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

Has blogging, because it’s related to the vision loss, has that in any way impacted your adjustment process?

SM:
Yeah that’s a good question Tom. I actually do think that it’s helped it’s helped exponentially not just myself but others because blogging is hard. It takes real dedication. It’s not just about the writing. It’s the writing and researching it’s taking photographs it’s interacting with people, connecting with people. And every time I would get to the point where I thought you know I can’t do this anymore I just wanted to give up I would get either a phone call or text message or somebody reach me through Facebook or some other means and it would be a blind woman who would say you know I was just reading your blog and I just want to say that it’s so helpful to me, it’s such an inspiration and I love what you’re doing and it’s been people like that that have kept me going.

TR :

Steph said she got a late start on moving on after blindness due to
her Retina Specialist sugar coating the fact that she was legally blind.

A more pragmatic person Steph was ready to just move on with her life.

SM:
Hope is a wonderful thing. It’s awesome, we need hope. But at some point you have to be able to deal with the real issues so you can move on. I had to move on so I could know where I was going to go as far as my job as far as where I was living what I was going to do down the road and I thought
like he was sort of hindering that. Had he been onboard earlier and a supporter of the things that I wanted to do like when I suggested to him that I wanted to learn how to use the white cane and he said oh no you don’t want to do that. That would be a tragedy. See that’s in a sense the negative connotation of how people perceive blindness.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
He said that would be a tragedy? Is that what you said?

Yes! Yes, he said it would be a tragedy.
[TR in conversation with SM:]
Wow! Wow!

SM:
Here I am, trying to be proactive I want to continue with my life and I have this doctor a professional who I am supposed to be looking up to telling me that it would be a tragedy to learn how to use the white cane

[TR in conversation with SM:]

Wow!

TR:

She may have not gotten that quick start, but Steph is definitely in the race.

She’s recently launched her business which began with one person. Well,
fictional person, named Abigail Style.
fictional person, named Abigail Style.

SM:
Abigail, is my white cane icon. She’s a fashionista a real fashionista. I see her in my mind years ago I just didn’t have the ability to create her so a couple years ago I put out some feelers on the blog and a couple people recommended different artists`. I connected with one and I was telling her what I was thinking that the white icon looks like. She drew a couple of sketches for me. We settled on one and voila Abigail was born. As a matter of fact I recently just posted her back story on the blog. She’s just a real go getter.

Abigail is a homanation of ability and Nightingale – small little brown bird that has a beautiful singing
voice. She carries a white cane in her right hand, she has her handbag in her left hand. She has this really snazzy looking dress that sort of resembles banana leaves. They look like they overlap. It’s nifted at the waist, it sort of blossoms out. She’s a little bit hippy(laughs). She wears heels and she has this really cute hair style that was very unique. It just sort of floats in the air. It’s not a real structured sort of hair style. We wanted her to be the unique individual that she is; so she looks unique, she has a unique story, she’s a unique person, but she appeals to anybody not just women, but men and children I mean anybody.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Is this you alter ego?

SM:

When I first started I thought she was, but as story developed I realized that she is really who I would aspire to be. She knows no fear. She’s
adventuresome, she’s traveled the world. All the things that I would like to do Abigail has done and is doing.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Ok, so she’s Spider Man and you’re Peter Parker.

SM:
Yeah!

[Both laugh… fades out]

TR:

Both Steph and Abigale mean business.
Abigail Style is the E-Commerce component of Bold Blind Beauty.com.
Currently selling slogan printed apparel and novelties like
T-shirts, mugs and other items with messages tailored to the blog’s audience.
Messages like…
Blind Chicks with Attitudes
Hey, I’m walking here
And the Bold Blind and Beautiful series as in …
My Mom, My Sister or My Friend is Bold Blind and Beautiful

And for the men?

SM:
I actually have a few men’s t-shirts as well. The message isn’t targeted to men it’s targeted to women. Like if you’re a father of a young woman who is blind or visually impaired it would say my daughter is Bold Blind and Beautiful or my sister is Bold Blind and Beautiful.

It didn’t occur to me until just a few weeks ago I had all these things designed and I actually did the designs, I didn’t have one thing that said Bold Blind Beauty. I have my URL on the bottom of all the designs but nothing that says Bold Blind Beauty. I am actually working with a designer who is helping me with that so we will be carrying some products that do say Bold Blind beauty.

blind
I want to extend the product line beyond T-Shirts, mugs and tote bags. I would like to do cosmetics as well. As a matter of fact I recently implemented
a steering committee and they’re helping me with increasing our product line. We would love to begin carrying some apparel and jewelry and actually some things that are designed by blind women. I think we’re going to try to partner with other companies to get our brand out there. With Abigail, we call her Abbi. If a company has something that would be appealing to our demographic we would obviously want to have the Abigail brand on that particular item and then we would offer it up through the store. Some of the things that we’re thinking about doing, one thing in particular, the white Cane. We know that
there’s a lot of controversy over adapting them. My philosophy on the white cane is it is a personal choice. I love my white cane. I go everywhere with it but
I also wanted something that was sort of, that spoke to me. So I got a cane from Ambutech. Instead of the red section at the bottom it has a green section. So one of the things I was thinking about for Abigail Style was having a blingged out white cane. Not the entire cane but maybe just the handle with some crystals or the emblem. There’s so many different ways you can go with it. You know just to have fun. Women like to be pretty, they like to feel pretty so why not have a cane that represents that. I have one that’s green and yellow.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Oh, is it the whole cane or just the bottom?

SM:
I just have the bottom section is green and I think my handle is yellow or it might be vice versa. Even the tip, the tip is a different color. Now the rest of the cane I kept it white but you can design it the way you want to.

TR:

Starting a business for anyone can be a fantastic idea.
For people with disabilities who experience 50 to 70 percent unemployment,
generating income from a business venture can greatly enhance their lifestyle.

That business could be a side hustle, a part time gig supplementing other earnings or income.

This venture, for Steph is more than that.
She’s really going for it – working with the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services for
several years to develop what has become Abigail Style.

SM:

they require that you have a business plan and you know all these different things and they will help you out you know financially with them as sort of
like a matching gift type deal. The person I was working with felt that the blog by itself wasn’t a business, but in my mind in my heart and soul it was. I just couldn’t get it to how they wanted it to be. But now that I’ve brought in these other people, I have a business plan I’m constantly revamping it, we can see how it is what I envisioned it to be and is gonna be bigger.
their IT we
What had to happen we had to narrow the focus because before it got to where it is today you know I was sort of all over the map. It makes sense now and it’s making sense to the customers because they realize they know that it’s Bold Blind Beauty. If they want to purchase something through the E-commerce store they go to Abigail Style, but they’re doing it through Bold Blind Beauty.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Outside of the fact that you created that character around it why didn’t you just call the store Bold Blind Beauty?

SM:
Yeah I had wanted to do that but when I was setting it up I already had the .com for the blog and I couldn’t do that for the store. Now I could have done some other things but in my mind at the time I was thinking Abigail is the icon and she’s the reason for the store and again I was working with the bureau and they were telling me you know the business you have to have something you have to make money. So in listening to them I went and main the store Abigail Style after this character Abigail when I just should have went according to what my heart was telling me in the first place.

[TR in conversation with SM:]You’re right the whatever product that is exactly what it is so I started on one path once I got to a certain point I realized OK I have to put two things
Either way you make it work.

You kind of said how you were trying this trying that and now you’re getting more where you it’s starting to kind of narrow down and you’re really starting to focus in and get a better sense of the direction and where you’re going. Would you change that if you could go back or is there anything about the process where you think it was helpful. It seems like you just kept going and you figured it out.

SM:

You’re right. The word process is exactly what it is. So I started on one path once I got to a certain point I realized ok I have to tweak some things .

At one point, I forgot to mention, because the bureau was helping me I had implemented an image consulting business because that’s what they wanted
but it wasn’t what I wanted it was what they wanted. And I had to come home after a year, a whole year was put into this with the business plan and everything and after a year I sat down and thought about it. I scrapped it and went back to doing what I was doing and I tweaked it.

I think the moral is to go with your heart, but don’t stop. Just keep going. Just adjust as you need to. You’ll figure it out.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

If I tell you it’s not if it’s not right. The I.D.R. now is it to strive for perfection it’s just do the best I can with what I have. But they’re doing it through both
Yeah, I think we stop ourselves a lot and I know I’ve done that in the past and that’s one thing I realize. It’s best to just keep it moving, man, just do! Whatever it is just do!

SM:
And it’s ok if it’s not right.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

Right!

SM:
The idea now isn’t to strive for perfection. It’s just do the best I can with what I have.

TR:

Although she’s never started a business before,
Steph has worked in different businesses and corporations.

She made use of her technical experience and setup the blog and e-commerce sites herself.
Yet she realizes, she doesn’t have to do it all alone.

That can be really good advice for anyone.

Since we’re talking advice…

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Give some fashion advice for the summer. (Laughs!)

SM:
White is always in – that’s my favorite color for the summer. Everybody who knows me knows I love black. Even in the summer I love wearing black, but this year I have one pair of white jeans so I can wear that at least one time a week… I love them. Strappy shoes sandals. I’ve been seeing a lot of velvet. Like velvet handbags, velvet shoes. And thy’re for summer which is kind of interesting because I’ve always thought of velvet as sort of a winter time type material.
I like trends, I follow trends but I’m not really into trends I am more about styles.

TR:

Listening to Steph’s experience building Bold Blind Beauty & Abigail Style
you can pick up some valuable lessons applicable to more than just business.

Choosing to accept a request to volunteer time and participate in a presentation on
the subject of fashion and beauty care for women with vision loss
directly led to the development of Bold Blind Beauty and the business component.

Her passion for the subject inspired her to really pursue the opportunity.
She put in time to do the research and then all that came after.

She made mistakes. So what? She persisted!
Through that she learned that pursuing her own goals can create a circular flow of goodness.
She inspired others and that flowed right back to her when she needed it the most.

many of us sit on our dreams and never really work towards realizing them.

It doesn’t have to involve starting a business.
Maybe it’s pursuing a new career, hobby or relationship.

Whatever it is…

SM:

I think the moral is to go with your heart, but don’t stop. Just keep going. Just adjust as you need to. You’ll figure it out.

TR:
Not everything is easy to figure out.

Fortunately, Subscribing to this here podcast is simple… even I can do it!
We’re on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio, Sound Cloud.

And for the final word…

SM:
the website is Boldblindbeauty.com

It’s about walking boldly with confidence, transcending barriers changing the way we perceive one another.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

That sounds like a good way to finish it off right there Steph.

SM:
giggles!

[Audio: Reid MY Mind Outro]

TR:
Peace!

Hide the transcript


Disclaimer: The white cane icon “Abigail B. (Abby)” is copyrighted and was specifically created for, and is the property of, Bold Blind Beauty and Abigail Style, LLC and is not a replacement for the nationally recognized white cane icon.
Abigail (Abby) and her backstory are a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Reid My Mind Radio – Talking Nomad Food & Feedback

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

A bit more on our last episode’s guest Jim Paradiso, the Blind Nomad. Since we’re going to discuss some of the feedback received from the episode I thought it made sense to include some conversation around food!

If you haven’t’ listened to that episode titled Fears of a Blind Nomad you should do that before listening to this one.

Better yet, scroll down to the different ways you can subscribe to the podcast!

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good family.

Today’s sort of a first for Reid My Mind Radio.
We’re going to talk about some feedback from the last episode Fears of A Blind Nomad.
Which will include a bit of food talk. Get it!
Talk about Feedback… food talk!
Ok, I like making connections.
[Audio: All You Can Eat, The Fat Boys]
[Audio: RMMRadio Theme]

TR:
I think most people want feedback on things they produce. If you write a book, you want to know whether or not readers enjoyed the story, found the information useful or gained some insight into something they never knew about. What you wouldn’t want is a barrage of comments that are meant to be hurtful or just straight criticism as opposed to constructive critiques.

I don’t usually get too many comments on episodes. There are often a few Likes on Sound Cloud and Facebook and Twitter, but not much more.

I personally thought Fears of A Blind Nomad touched on a lot of issues and would stir up some sort of an emotion in the listeners. I especially thought those adjusting to blindness would have things to say. I’m not sure why but that’s not often the case. I sometimes hope that a topic would stir up some conversation around these issues that those adjusting to blindness have to grapple with. Then again, I’m sure people aren’t that comfortable having such conversations in public.

Fortunately, as a member of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind which is a peer network of people impacted by vision loss, I asked for some direct feedback.

Some reacted to the ideas, others reacted to Jim and some went beyond.

One commenter wrote:
> I wouldn’t want a newly blinded person to think that they, in six months have to accomplish the amazing stuff that he accomplished. Rather, I would hope that they would take > away that anything they dream of, anything they want to do is possible, despite their perceived limitations.

I agree! In fact, there are certain things that make Jim equipped for living that nomad lifestyle.

Learning a new environment is more challenging to some than others.

Everyone isn’t a trail blazer. Some people do great following a path, a set of instructions while others shine in carving out a way.

Adapting to the local culture is a must. many of us are used to a certain lifestyle that we expect everywhere we go.
Food, for example, can be a challenge. For some!

JP:
The two of us had breakfast. It was $1.25 for both of us.

TR in conversation with JP:
What kind of breakfast would $1.25 get for two… what would that be?

JP:
Well it’s a big cup of they call it Horchata tea, which is a herbal tea they make down here. They serve it in a large beer mug. He had, I don’t know, some sort of a bread that they fry with something in it. I had a couple of empanadas. You know it’s a substantial breakfast. It’s not starvation food.

TR in conversation with JP:
Yeah, yeah!

JP:
It was what he wanted.
The other day I bought him breakfast and it was a full meal. I mean it was rice and soup and meat and everything else and it was $1.25.

TR in conversation with JP:
In the states, people are wondering if you’re having eggs and home fries or omelets or something like that! (laughing)

JP:
The other day I was walking down the street and … I’ll eat anything by the way, I don’t care what it is. They put it in front of me I’ll eat it. I don’t care. So I’m walking down the street and they got something that smells really good on the grill.
It was a buck so I gave her a buck for it. It smelled really good!

It was cow’s stomach.

TR in conversation with JP:
Oh wow!

JP:
With Barbecue sauce!

TR in conversation with JP:

Anything with barbecue sauce is probably good! (Laughing)

JP:
(Laughing ) It wasn’t!

The other thing is they serve guinea pig down here.

TR in conversation with JP:
Oh wow!

JP:
The way the serve it is… they take the fur off it. They cut it down the middle, remove its guts and then they shove a stick up its ass and they throw it on a barbecue grill. It has head and nails and teeth…

TR in conversation with JP:
Oh wow!

JP:
…and they throw it on the barbecue and they cook it that way, they grill it. And again it smells really good.

TR in conversation with JP:
(Laughing)

JP:
I had this thing three different ways and I still don’t like it. It’s like eating a rat.

TR in conversation with JP:
Uh! Don’t tell me you tried that too?

JP:
Of course I tried it… I told you I’ll eat anything, I don’t care. If they serve it here I’ll eat it.

TR:
Honestly, I was sort of surprised to hear that at least one person felt the piece has a whiff of super Crip. I was upset. Not at the commenter but the idea that I may have put
forward that sort of imagery.

That term refers to one of two kinds of stories in the mainstream media when it comes to people with disabilities;
the poor helpless person who can’t survive without the able bodied person in their life
The over achieving;
– Athlete with a disability
– The musical prodigy
These are just two examples. The problem with the super Crip is not that these individuals seek to accomplish these things, it’s promoted as an impossible standard others with disabilities should strive towards. Living a “normal” life as in going to work, raising a family never seems to be enough.

I don’t look at Jim as a super Crip at all. We all have unique talents and qualities that make us perfectly equipped for something. It’s our job to figure that out.

Jim never set out to be this nomad. He chose the lifestyle partially because of a lack of options.

Traveling may not be your thing. Maybe because of real or perceived fears or lack of desire.
Some find it uncomfortable due to physical limitations.

One commenter said:
> the fear of not knowing what was ahead or how I would manage would keep me pretty much on a short chain, the fear of it I guess. I will never be a world traveler, I do not have the desire to do that, but it made me look differently about things I would like to do but have not done yet.

She went on to explain how she left her comfort zone to begin online dating. I can remember a time when that was thought to be a very risky thing to do.

Challenging our comfort zones, I think that really is what Jim is encouraging. And at least one commenter summed it by writing:
> Coming to terms with vision loss can be a tough road to travel. Stories like Jim’s challenge us to continue the journey with renewed determination.

What’s wrong with challenging ourselves?

We can’t all be nomads.
Although one gentlemen poses that as people who are blind, to some extent we may already live the life of a nomad.

“Like the nomad” he wrote;
> who enters a strange land with less than perfect knowledge of the terrain and topography
we as people with vision loss have to ask similar questions and use our skills to ascertain information.

We share the need to orient ourselves both in and outdoors.

We can share access issues;
– In a foreign land the nomad if unfamiliar with the language, can’t really do much with local printed information.
– Interpreting gestures or customs presents a challenge, not because of sight but rather unfamiliarity.

For some, a real need to ask for assistance would deter them, but as the comments’ author wrote::
> Such a position could sadden and inhibit the nomad – as I think it saddens and inhibits so many persons with vision loss – but it does not need to do so…

He proposes that asking for assistance can become a way of making connections and accepting help becomes a way of starting relationships.

For Jim, forming these relationships give him the chance to offer his help and the community while giving him purpose.

As one commenter wrote;
> a blind person’s world can be small unless that person is blessed with a personality to want to expand…

How we choose to interact with people like how we interpret Jim’s story is very much based on individual perspective. Our life experiences, identity and other factors really come into play in how we process what we hear.

Not everyone has the ability to interact with strangers or make friends with ease.

If we work with the idea that being blind already has an element of being a nomad, then I think we can agree that adventures can be found in our neighborhoods or in any aspect of our lives that we choose.

It’s about challenging ourselves.

For one gentlemen who is 70 and has been blind for 20 years now; he finds adventures by traveling to unfamiliar restaurants alone. He wrote:
> Every walk is an opportunity to talk to someone new and share a conversation with a young girl, a guy from Africa or an old lady from Poland. I truly believe a blind person must strive to create the world they want to live in.

Just like a nomad!

Unlike the nomad, there’s no need to search for this podcast;
Subscribe on any podcast platform…Apple, Google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio
Follow the podcast on Twitter @reidmymindradio
I’m at tsreid on Twitter

I told you we’re out here!

[Audio: RMMRadio Outro]
Peace

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Reid My MindRadio – Fears of a Blind Nomad

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Jim Paradiso at the Inca Ruins
When I heard about Jim Paradiso, I had to find out more. He’s a Blind Nomad… I had to hear his story. Turns out it’s so much more than that… he’s forcing you to challenge what you think is possible. That is, if you believe!

Take a listen and let me know; do you believe?

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good fine people.

I have a lot to say about this episode so I’m just going to get right into it.

Well of course after the intro…

The best way to kick this one off…
[Audio: Been Around the World, Notorious BIG]
[Audio: RMMRadio Theme]

JP:
By the way what I’m about to tell you is true and I don’t give a damn if you believe it or not!

TR:
Any story that begins like that, well, you know it has to be good. whether it’s true or not, that’s for you to decide.

That voice you just heard is Jim Paradiso.
you can call Jim, a nomad!

A modern day nomad refers to people; often those with an online virtual business, where one’s income isn’t tied to a brick and mortar location.
Earning 60K for example and living outside of the US on various continents can really stretch that dollar.

That’s not exactly Jim’s situation. He’s been living a version of this lifestyle for over a year now and is currently in Loja, Ecuador.

According to Jim;

JP:
The adventure is the journey

TR:
With that said, let’s begin with the journey that lead Jim to Loha Ecuador.

JP:

I was talking to a friend, he was moving to Vilcabamba and I’d never heard of Vilcabamba and I said it sounds like a good name so I left to go to Vilcabamba. Which is a fifteen hour ride on a bus from. Manta to Vilcabamba. So it took me four weeks to get there.

I get into Cuenca and of course with me now I’m traveling alone for the first time. And I’m up in this Hostel, I said well OK, so I posted on FB { I’m in Cuenca, what’s there to do for a blind man traveling on his own?

TR:
Ok, , the fact that Jim is blind for most people probably makes the idea of him living a life as a nomad and traveling in unknown places, is maybe;
Very frightening?
Unbelievable?

Well, then let’s pause on the journey through Ecuador for a moment and hear what some may think is an unbelievable adventure of Jim’s vision loss
and the series of preceding events .

JP:
I had an aneurism Thirteen years ago on my left eye. And they tried to fix it and they screwed up the eye entirely. Then three years ago I woke up one morning and I had an aneurism in the other I. And I went through ocular injections and everything else that went with it and I had a bad reaction to the ocular injections which caused me to have a stroke.

so I was living with a girlfriend who decided she didn’t want to be with a blind man.

I ended up homeless. I was a month from being blind enough to qualify for Social Security. I was unemployed and Basically I was living on the couch of a motor home
that belong to a friend of mine who was in a retirement community.

So I get a phone call from my brother who was living in Ecuador and he said Well Linda is looking for a manager for a B&B would you like the job? I said, well what’s the pay. Room and board and fifty dollars a week.

Ok, I could be homeless in a motorhome in Florida or I could be homeless on a beach in Ecuador?
kind of a no brainer to me.

TR in conversation with JP:
and I’m sure fifty dollars is different in Ecuador than in Florida.

JP:
It doesn’t make any difference as long as you got food and shelter who cares about the rest of it. I live very inexpensively because that money doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.

I went for a pedicure because I couldn’t see my toe nails and I was catching them on my socks and when she cut the calluses off the bottom my feet so when I went for a walk on the beach I ended up getting third degree burns on the bottom of my feet.

I picked up a flesh eating bacteria and I had to be medivac the act from Ecuador to the United States after two operations down here and five days in the hospital.
The flesh eating bacteria that I picked up is usually fatal within seventy two hours and the only cure for it is amputation; actually they call it debridement which really is amputation. They have to remove all of the bacterial growth because it doubles in size every nine minutes.
Once I got back into the United States they put me in the teaching hospital in Shands of which this was the second case they had in fifty years of this particular virus. They amputated two toes and debride most of my foot and then they had to regrow it in an oxygen rich environment.

This took ten weeks and then they put me in a nursing home for a month. Rehab they call it but it actually was a nursing home.

While I was there I had an abscess on the back of my head so I went to the doctors when I had my foot looked at and they slants the abscess and said this isn’t right so they sent me to a Dermatologist.
Well when they slants it they gave me MRSA – which is another flesh eating bacteria. While I was at the doctor’s they said oh I don’t like these moles on your back let me have them biopsied. Well as it turned out I had skin cancer. They had to operate on my back and removed the skin cancer. Which I thought we were just going to remove a mole but they ended up doing 19 stitches on each side and trenched both sides of my back. Then they had to put me on different antibiotics in order to kill the MRSA they gave me and then when they removed that they discovered it was a tumor. Then they had to remove that. And that was in six months.

At that point I was afraid of dying.

When I finally got settled with Social Security Disability, I Flew back to Ecuador.

TR in conversation with JP:
Why?

JP:
Because my kids wanted to put me in a retirement villa.

TR in conversation with JP:
How many kids do you have?

JP:

Again that’s an odd story…

I have four kids but they’re not mine.
TR in conversation with JP:
Oh Ok!

JP:
My ex-wife’s two kids from her previous marriage.
And I have her ex-husband’s two kids from his previous marriage.

TR in conversation with JP:
OK that’s a new situation!

You have her ex-husband’s kids? (laughing!)

JP:
They all consider me dad and I was always there for them.

By the way, have you ever heard a story this ridiculous?

TR in conversation with JP:
so many people stories that I have heard of do have like one thing on top of the other you know but this flesh eating viruses and tumors, yeah… you’re winning!
– laughs!

TR:
Now, returning to Ecuador Jim met up with a friend.

JP:
He didn’t have any money and I said OK I need someone to travel with because blind people can’t travel alone!

Well I spent three weeks in the Andes and then two weeks in the Galapagos. Then we came back and we went up to Colombia – we spent three months in Colombia. Then we took a cruise and went from Cartagena through Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. And then circled around back and then went hiking in the mountains and Colombia

TR:
That friend Jim was traveling with was 42 and at the time Jim was 60.
Plus he was still recovering from flesh eating diseases,
multiple cancer surgeries and newly adjusting to blindness.

He learned a valuable lesson.

JP:

There are some things that are worse than traveling alone and that’s traveling with somebody else!

So at Christmas I flew back to Manta.
TR in conversation with JP:
So Jim can I ask you… you just
shared all of that … I mean you talked about a cruise and
flying to the Galapagos and stuff so you’re financing that on the Social Security?

JP:
Yeah!

TR in conversation with JP:
OK! And at this point you’re not paying rent or anything like that just traveling so you’re a Nomad.

JP:
Right, I’m a Nomad, I’m homeless.
I’m doing this on $1,127 a month.

So anyways when I got back to Manta I had infected my foot again and I had to stay off it for six weeks which drove me nuts.

So I was talking to a friend he was moving to Vilcabamba and I’d never heard of….

TR:
That brings us back to Jim’s journey.

When we left off, he was on his way to Vilcabamba
and stopped in a Hostel in Cuenca
where he posted the question

JP:
In Cuenca, what’s there to do for a blind man traveling on his own?

One guy suggested why don’t you head up to Ingaperka which is a Aztec ruin in the Andes which would be Eastern Ecuador.

TR:
So off he went to Ingaperka to find the ancient Inca Ruins.

Now if you’re thinking Jim is probably fluent in Spanish
or of course everyone speaks English,
well you’re wrong.
In fact, most people in the town of Ingaperka speak a dialect of the Incas.

JP:
The bus let me off in the middle of this town. I have no clue where I am I finally find somebody that speaks about four words of English.
And she asked me what I was doing and I say I was looking for the ruins. And she says ruins Cinco. I said Cinco kilometers. She says no Cinco minutos. I said where and she say aqui and pointed me to a road and so I walk up the road. I walk into this beautiful state park.

TR:
After receiving a tour of the ruins
well, it’s time for Jim to begin making his way to Vilcabamba.
He catches one bus to Cuenca and another to Loja.
Which is where he of course posts to Facebook:

JP:
What’s there to do for a blind man travelling alone through Loja?

Well this woman posts back well I have these two. English students who
are blind and would like to meet you. They’re sisters. So I meet them for coffee they come in on the arm of somebody crab walking because they don’t travel alone they’re in their thirty’s and they’ve been blind all their life.

They sit down and we’re talking and one of them looks at me and says who are you traveling with? I said nobody.

She Says Do you speak Spanish? I said no she said you can’t do that! I said yeah, I can!

TR:
By now you probably get the impression that the response, yes I can,
that’s something Jim is quite used to saying!

JP:
I’m here!
She takes me over to the elementary school which I’ll tell you is like a prison. Two meter high concrete walls surrounding it with broken bottles over the top of it and they’re all concrete bunkers and it’s just… it’s got mold it’s just… it’s a horrible place.

TR in conversation with JP:
Is that specifically just for blind children or is that…

JP:
Yes, it’s specifically for blind children. And there are residents there and there are day people that come from the city and this is the only blind school for elementary school children in the area. And she tells me that they don’t teach mobility there because they had to cut they cut their budget and the person they cut from the budget was the mobility trainer.

Now my experience with mobility training is I am blind
and I am mobile. There are my qualifications for the position… so now I’m the mobility trainer.

TR:
See what I mean by saying yes…
Jim not only said yes to teaching others who are blind to use the
white cane and more, but he has a pretty packed schedule.

JP:
I’m working four days a week from eleven to one at the elementary school. I work five days a week teaching conversational English at a college and I work two nights a week teaching mobility and technology at the high school.
I’m starting a nonprofit… We’ve got a doctor. Who is volunteering his time services to do prosthetic eyes on the kids that have missing eyes plus I have the Go Fund Me going…other than that I’m not really that busy!

TR:
That Go Fund me is a campaign to raise money to purchase white canes,
iPhones or iPads to provide children with GPS capabilities
in order to improve their mobility.

You can find more at:
http://GoFundMe.com/3noxfco

If you’re wondering what are the living conditions for a blind nomad
in Ecuador
Jim says his apartment in Ecuador
would probably rent for several thousand in New York City.

JP:
It’s the studio penthouse with a balcony view of the mountains. Glass all the way around its fully furnished. It has a hot tub, a walk in shower. The bathroom is ten by twenty and I pay $350 a month for it including utilities.

TR:
Jim’s a volunteer! He’s not paid for any of his work.
Well not in the traditional sense!

JP:
What I get from a kid who comes up and hugged me. You know – I’ve got children that actually… they don’t speak the language that I speak and they cannot express themselves on how much they really appreciate me.

I get people hugging me all the time. That’s what I get paid in!

While I still have work to do here I’m not leaving. It’s just different it’s a different lifestyle I found a place where they need me so I’m staying. When they don’t need me any more I’ll go somewhere else.
TR in conversation with JP:
How do you feel today about everything that happened? That whole crazy story you told me.

JP:
I will tell you something that you will very seldom hear from a blind person.

Going blind was the greatest opportunity of my life! Without that none of this would have happened. And that’s how I look at it.

TR:
And isn’t that what it boils down too!
How we choose to look at it!

Jim is actually looking for an assistant volunteer
to join him in Ecuador.
He needs help with some of those things he’s doing like
teaching mobility and technology.

He can provide room and board, but
the candidate needs to pay for their own travel.
Oh, yes, and the candidate must be blind.

Jim can be contacted directly through his Facebook page titled:
Blind Jim Can’t do That!
(Yeh, I can!)

I’m Thomas Reid
for Gatewave Radio,
[JP: I don’t give a damn if you Believe it or not ]
Audio for Independent Living.

TR:
I have never described myself as a journalist.
In fact, I make sure to say, I’m not.
I am a self-described Advocate who uses audio to make a point.
I don’t hide my opinion,
I choose the stories I want to tell and have a real solid perspective.
The idea of a journalist is that they supposedly don’t have that bias.
I don’t believe that at all!
However, A journalist would have done some real fact checking of Jim’s story.

They would have contacted various sources to try and confirm
his account of the events.

I am a New Yorker,
I instinctively don’t believe you!
It’s something I am really trying to rid myself of but it’s so ingrained in my being it’s really hard to separate.

I know there are some who will listen to this and not believe him.

Some will assume he has some residual vision – and say
that’s the reason he can do it.

Jim does have a bit of light perception which allows him
to see shadows out of a part of one eye.

Some will think it’s his nature.
Well, it’s probably fair to say Jim is something of an adventurer.
Before losing his sight he was a professional scuba diver diving throughout
the US and Caribbean.

That included salvage work for insurance companies, body recovery,
owning his own diving school and treasure diving in the Caribbean.

So here’s the thing…

I do believe Jim.

Jim is 100 percent telling the truth about the fears of a blind traveler.

Those fears are not just contained within the person who is blind.

You know that because as you were listening you felt uncomfortable.

You know you did.

I don’t care if you are sighted or
any degree of blind, you felt it!

I felt it! And feeling that way upset me.

I travel alone to different states but I had a fully planned itinerary.

Jim’s story made me challenge how I look at the world
and what I really believe is possible.

During our conversation a woman interrupted Jim and I asked him to explain what happened.

JP:
some woman just walked up to me and said You’re an inspiration to the people down here. I overheard your conversation.

I have people walking up to me on the street constantly doing that.

TR in conversation with JP:
How does that feel?

JP:
I don’t think I’m anything special.

I think everybody has it within themselves just that I choose to do that my question to people is Why don’t you choose to do it.

There are so many people out there that don’t want to leave their house and it bothers me.

TR in conversation with JP:
Why?

JP:
I’ve met so many blind people in my. Limited time being blind. And most of them tell me that they have limitations on everything they do.

You know they tell me it’s OK that you can do this but I can’t and then they give me a list of reasons why they can’t.

TR in conversation with JP:
What are some of those reasons?

JP:
Oh I could get hurt I could fall down. I could get lost.

So what’s the big deal you don’t think I get lost you don’t think I fall down you don’t think I get hurt?

TR:
I think it’s fair to acknowledge that the emotions behind these thoughts are real. But Fear you may have heard
is an acronym for False evidence appearing real.

You know what else is real!

Our perspective!
And we can actually control that!

JP:
I survived cancer. I’m blind. I survived the flesh eating bacteria What are you going to do to me that God hasn’t done already? It’s true! What fear do I have now. They told me I was going to die on three different occasions.

TR in conversation with JP:
you know you’re going to go at some point.

JP:
Right, we’re all gonna go some time!
I’d rather go out swinging then go out crying.

There is nothing holding you back but yourself.
I was at a Blind I Can meeting I can do is what they call it…

And they were talking about having an outing and they were talking about going out to lunch.

I mean, what is going to lunch proof for a blind person. Everybody eats!

They asked me what my idea of a good outing was…

There’s a place in Florida in Orlando called Machine Gun America. It’s automatic weapons… what the hell could possibly go wrong!

TR in conversation with JP:
Laughing!… I love it!

JP:

Make yourself feel alive.

You’re dead, nobody’s told you!

TR:
Jim, like many who lose their vision later in life, especially over the age of 55, never even had real mobility training.

JP:
My mobility training consisted of twenty minutes.

I learned everything on the internet and by myself reading books so when
they finally picked up my paperwork they put me through … they put me in front of a mobility trainer who told me that in familiar surroundings I was Ok, but I needed work in unfamiliar surroundings.

So I was hiking staying at an Echo lodge called Ukuku in Columbia it’s outside of Ibagué.

It’s a two kilometer hike up a mountain across three rivers. To get to this and the last river you crossed There’s a log and you got to balance on a log to cross the river.

Now do you know the proper caning technique for crossing a log bridge?

TR in conversation with JP:
Laughing… No I do not!

I think mine would be to straddle the log and then slowly go across. That would be my technique.
But that’s just me!

JP:

So I had to call back to the person who was in charge of the mobility training and I said, hey Tom what’s the proper caning techniques for crossing a log bridge?

TR in conversation with JP: To the avenue.
Oh my gosh! Did they have any advice for you?

JP:
Oh hell no.

TR:
But don’t get it twisted,
Jim isn’t some sort of blind Evel Knievel.
(If you’re younger than 40 Google him!

Jim is practical about his travel.

JP:
I have a theory. It’s really simple when I get to a town if I check into a Hostel I get the business card of the Hostel, put it in my wallet.

If I get really lost I take the business card and I give it to a cab driver and I ask the cab driver donde esta aqui… where is this? And he takes me there.

TR:
That practical advice goes beyond travel…

JP:
I’m trying to convince people that just because you have a problem doesn’t mean you can’t get your ass out and do something.

I listen to people tell me they can’t get a job. Well, go volunteer and get some experience!

TR:
I’m hoping to speak with Jim again.

And who knows maybe that will be in person, in Ecuador.

There are links on Reid My Mind.com to both the Go Fund Me and his Facebook page if you want to communicate directly with Jim.

I usually close with my reminder for you to subscribe to the podcast…

well today, I’m closing out with part of a favorite quote taken from Jim’s Facebook page.

Maybe someone will find it helpful… I think Jim may have.

Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

Peace

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