Category Archives: family and friends

Too much tech?

We here at Visbuzz love technology, and advocate for digital inclusion. We provide an extremely simple way for people who don’t use computers to make and receive video calls to and from their family, friends and health care professionals. Visbuzz can make a huge difference to the lives of people who use it, particularly if they feel lonely or isolated.

In contrast to those individuals who don’t use computers or smart phones, are those of us who may use technology using it too much?

For Lent, I decided to give up playing games on my phone. I thought that it would be a good idea, and I had been noticing that the amount of time spent on various different versions of bubble this and candy that could be better used, and it would give my hands and eyes a bit of a break from the small screen. In giving up the games,  I have realised that I used the them as a distraction much more than I thought. This has led to many moments of ‘well, what do I do now?’.

In search of other more peaceful, creative and in the moment activities, I have found a number of different ways to fill this time and would like to suggest some, either for you to move away from that hand held technology, or simply as nice things to do with your time.

Colouring in: A brilliant way to spend some time.. You can use pencils, pens, paints, crayons, chalks and charcoal. You can use books for children, books for adults or print some templates from the internet (if you don’t have a printer at home your local library should be able to help).  There are also ‘mandalas’ which are used to accomplish relaxation and focus your mind. They are simple geometric shapes with no beginning or end.

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An example of a mandala.

Getting close to nature: Going for walks and taking in the surroundings can be very therapeutic and calming. Looking at trees, and up to the sky can give you a very different perspective on life. Why not try being more hands on – even the most un-green fingered individual can achieve a wonderful feeling growing some cress on the windowsill and then adding to an egg sandwich! If you feel you are up for even more of a challenge, you could get yourself a window box or  clear a part of the garden to create your own growing piece of art.

So, switch off those electronic games, and go and do something different instead.

Myageingparent.com provides us with 10 fun tips for grandparents at Christmas

Christmas is a great time for families getting together and different generations bonding over wonderful traditions. However, for the generations with the biggest age gap it can be difficult to find common ground and for them to find an activity that they will both enjoy. Here’s a few ideas for when the dinner has been eaten, the presents opened and the Queen’s speech watched on Christmas day or any of the surrounding dates.

Gifts they can both enjoy

If you are picking the present from your child to their grandparents try and choose something that they both might enjoy such as some of the ideas below. A simple game, or toy like a yo-yo, may be fun or sweets are likely to go down well!

Introduce each other to their childhood games

As with the yo-yo, there are likely to be games played by the grandparents in their youth that today’s children will enjoy. On the other side of the coin, Grandma may enjoy having a go on a game app on the tablet, or joining in with a game you play at home.

Do some of the Christmas cooking together

Maybe this could be the start of a new tradition, so while mum or dad take care of the main bits of the Christmas meals, Granddad and grandchild can prepare the dessert or one element of the main course. Just make sure the main cook is not too inconvenienced!

Put on a performance

For the more musical or theatrical perhaps Grandma can direct or star in a play or musical display with the grandchildren. A simple play about Christmas, re-enacting a favourite story or singing a few carols will provide some honest entertainment before everyone has their traditional nap.

Make some Christmas crafts

Christmas provides a great opportunity to get the arts and crafts kit out. See if Granddad wants to help to make some decorations or drawing some festive scenes. If it is in the days running up to the main event, they could create some Christmas cards to be exchanged on the day.

Take a favourite DVD

Films such as Frozen or other Disney favourites appeal to all ages. Have a family viewing of the little ones’ favourite film and watch Grandma become the latest fan of the animated classics.

Go for a ride out

This is one which can benefit from the help of care at home services. If there is another person to help out with the domestic tasks, then it is perhaps worth stepping out and seeing a local tourist attraction such as zoo or aquarium.

Complete a jigsaw puzzle

Here is one classic activity enjoyed by young and old. Bring a few puzzles of different levels to the Christmas Day gathering and see what they can achieve when they put their heads together.

Get the photo album out

It will be interesting and educational to show the youngest family members pictures of the family ancestry, especially ones which show the grandparents in their younger year.

Go for a walk

A nice brisk Christmas Day walk can help everyone digest the big dinner and the change of scenery will have benefits to everyone’s mood and health.

See the full article here

Yo Yo

Playing in the woods.

Today we share a post from The National Trust and their Outdoor Nation Blog posted on August 15, 2014.

It’s not just children who need play, argues Fiona Harrower, Visitor Experience Manager at Hatfield Forest.

Virtually all of my favourite childhood memories involve playing outdoors.  Even now, when I’m meant to be grown-up, I still can’t resist a puddle or balancing along a fallen tree.

Den building at Hatfield. © Fiona Harrower

For the last couple of years we have celebrated the national Play Day at Hatfield Forest with one goal: to encourage play with no play equipment.  With a thousand acres of woodland and grassy plains to explore this should have been a realistic challenge.

Or at least you would have thought so.

But I’ve noticed that many of our visiting parents are desperate for a trail to follow, a map to highlight where to play, actual trees and logs signposted as okay to play on.  Whereas their children, when allowed to just play freely, are quite happy to find their own spots, make their own games and use their imagination.

So our role is to teach the parents how to play in the outdoors, as the kids are experts at it already.  With a large number of veteran trees, we have an added challenge of balancing the promotion of natural play with the conservation of Hatfield Forest.

The 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 campaign has helped us to promote our no need for play equipment message, by giving us a tool to spark families’ imagination.  The scrapbooks, and even more so the stickers, are a big hit.  Our top play activities at Hatfield Forest are tree climbing, den building, making grass trumpets, exploring inside a tree and making mud pies.  We hold Wild Wednesdays throughout the summer holidays and have over 150 children participating each week.

Pie making during Mud Week! © Fiona Harrower

But play isn’t limited to Wednesdays only; it’s something we promote every day.

Play is one of the simplest ways to get kids outdoors.  The health benefits are clear.  Ask a child if they want to go on a five mile hike and you may get a moan, but spend hours running through long grass, climbing trees and building dens and they won’t notice they’re ‘exercising’.

Play is a universal way of connecting people to the outdoors.  It’s something children intrinsically know what to do.  We just need to give adults the permission to play too.

Tackling Loneliness

In the first project of its kind in the UK, Visbuzz is working with Halton Clinical Commissioning Group and Halton Borough Council to install Visbuzz units in the homes of some of the area’s most isolated and vulnerable residents. The project also involves training volunteers from the CCG, local authority and local community groups such as The British Red Cross and Wellbeing Enterprises in how to use Visbuzz effectively in the users’ homes.

This is an amazing opportunity to influence positively the lives of isolated and lonely individuals. In previous posts I have discussed the importance of social interaction, meaningful contact and face to face communication and this project brings together all of these aspects, with a view to collecting and collating evidence to further support work in this field.

Loneliness is not simply a matter of connecting with people, it is about connecting with the people that matter.

For those of you who are new to Visbuzz, our vision is a world in which loneliness does not exist. Visbuzz connects you face to face easily and simply with those who are important to you; just by touching their picture. We have used the most up to date technology, making Visbuzz as simple to use as possible. Visbuzz allows you to connect to your loved ones through a computer tablet with one touch, reducing loneliness and increasing wellbeing.

Not only can Visbuzz help those who are isolated, vulnerable and lonely, but Visbuzz can also give their carers, family and friends, peace of mind and reduce their worry levels.

Loneliness can affect all of us at one time or another, and is not just someone else’s problem. Together, we can go further towards a world in which loneliness does not exist.

Is loneliness affecting you or someone you love? What ways have you found to combat loneliness? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom of this page.   

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Steve writes for myageingparent.com

Steve has written an article for www.myageingparent.com where he discusses the creation and benefits of Visbuzz. See the article below, and at http://www.myageingparent.com/keep-touch-using-technology/

Keep in touch using technology with Visbuzz.

  • Many of us worry about older relatives and ageing parents, especially if we live far from them and can’t easily pop in for a cup of tea or a quick chat. I felt just this way about my mum. I also felt guilty because I knew my mum’s loneliness was causing health problems, but I couldn’t see how things could change.Visbuzz 4
  • Loneliness has a real impact, not only on those concerned about ageing parents, but also the organisations and people who provide care and services to them. I am learning what many health professionals already accept; loneliness often leads to depression and physical illness, particularly in older people who may be less able to sustain their mental or physical wellbeing. If they are frail or have other conditions, it makes it harder for them to socialise, or be active
  • Some estimates suggest that 30% of GP call-outs are to elderly people, whose real need is for company. They need not live in a remote location; loneliness can be just as acute in our inner cities, where an older person may not know the people across the landing or next door
  • Since my Dad died a few years ago, my mum had become less mobile, less interested in travelling, or doing anything which interrupted her usual routine. Our family is spread around the country and, although we all did our best, no one could be with her all of the time. She is fiercely independent, wanting to stay in her own home, but the combination of isolation from her family and living alone meant she became lonely and her emotional and mental health began to suffer
  • Faced with the prospect of years of trying to balance the needs of my family, my business and my independent mother, I tried many ways to help her and also to reduce my guilt at not being able to be with her all the time. Carers and ccommunity workers cater for her physical needs, but it was her psychological and emotional needs I wanted to provide for. She wanted to be included and connected to those who mattered most to her. But how?
  • I noticed that regular visits from family resulted in great peaks of happiness, but then, once the family departed, deep troughs of unhappiness and depression. In reality, no visits at all may have been an appropriate way to keep her health stable. But we could not contemplate not seeing our mum, so we continued to visit regularly and my mum’s health deteriorated. She fell more often and her general health was wors,e which meant more hospital visits. She was often short tempered, especially with my brother, whom she saw most often, because she felt unwell much of the time. She became increasingly cantankerous . As this was happening, so my sense of guilt and worry deepened.  My two siblings felt the same. How could we make our mum happy AND keep her emotional and mental health stable?
  • It was obvious that finding a way to reduce her isolation would improve her general health, so I looked at several possibilities. These included Skype and Facetime. However, signing on to both of these is complex for people who are not used to working with computers and they were difficult for my mum to use. She found it hard to remember the processes to follow and was easily confused and frustrated
  • There was another problem too. My mum has arthritis in her hands and so using a keyboard, mouse or electronic keypad is difficult for her. That meant that none of the existing phone or PC programmes for video calls really met her needs. I tried setting up Skype on a computer in her home, which I controlled remotely. However, she disliked this arrangement, as she felt it interfered with her independence, as she had no control over accepting the video call or not. That was when I realised that it was up to me to find a solution as part of the package of support that was already available to her
  • The solution had to increase contact with my mum without taking away her independence. Also, it had to make sense for the whole family. I invented a way that my siblings and I could connect to my mum using a tablet computer. For my mum, using it is as simple as touching the screen. It has really enhanced my mum’s life, increasing her happiness and reducing her susceptibility to illness and bouts of depression
  • For my mum, the tablet computer is just like a picture frame, a part of the furniture and not a scary piece of technology
  • Research suggests that it takes 3 to 4 weeks to create a new habit, so I made sure I went to see my mum regularly for the first month, and we used the device together to speak to my sister and brother. This way she became accustomed to using the one touch device (I call it Visbuzz) and I was always there to help if she needed me
  • She soon became confident with Visbuzz. She could see that she controlled the technology, not the other way round, and that there was nothing to be worried about.  During this time my mum commented that she was having a little trouble with the arthritis in her hands and wasn’t always able to touch the screen with accuracy or firmly enough to use it comfortably, so I introduced a stylus to make the touch screen as accessible as possible
  • Now we can see her daily, we can include her in family gatherings, she can join us at mealtimes without travelling and without having any complex technology to worry about
  • Sometimes the things we need to solve problems are not out there. If they exist at all, they might not be available in our area, for example, voluntary organisations offering befriending services are not nationwide and statutory services may recognise the problems associated with loneliness, but simply don’t have the capacity to offer older people the company and support they want
  • So it’s up to us to think of ways around challenges like this. I have looked at how to address the challenges of modern living through the technology we now have. If you think of something that can help your ageing parent, the likelihood is it will help others as well, so don’t be afraid to come up with your own solutions
  • Many people are in the same situation with their parents as my siblings and me. We would love to hear about your experience. so please share them with us on our forum

Steve is the founder of Visbuzz. He has been a company CEO/MD for over 20 years and is an experienced coach and facilitator.  He works with senior team members in growing businesses to help them become better leaders making better decisions and achieving better results. Steve supports a number of charitable organisations and is also actively working towards ending loneliness If you’d like to know more about Visbuzz, either visit www.visbuzz.com, or call us on 03337 729637

The benefits of face to face contact

There are so many ways to communicate now that we have a choice of how to connect with different people. You can still write a letter, (and oh how nice it is sometimes to receive hand written personal post), send an e-mail or use a telephone.

We now also have the ability to speak face to face with a video call through computers, laptops, tablets and phones.

With a video call, you can catch the non-verbal cues of communication that can be missed through a letter or a telephone call. We can see body language, the emotions portrayed on the face, an infectious smile or a sadness that needs soothing.

According to Professor Albert Mehrabian’s work on communication,

7% of the message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.
38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.
This means that if we communicate by letter or e-mail, we lose 93% of the message being portrayed – who hasn’t re-written that e-mail umpteen times because you don’t want them to misinterpret your meaning… With talk on the telephone we get more of the message, but still lose 55% of the message – the part that is portrayed through facial expression.

The benefits of a video call also mean we can join in. We can see little Sally playing the recorder, help Christopher with his crazy maths problem, see the scarf Nan knitted, and share the moment. Face to face communication helps people feel more included in the lives of others, and in turn enhances their own.

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Our 2014 resolutions – three weeks in

So as we approach January 21st and 3 weeks in to 2014, it is an opportunity to look at how our resolutions are going, or not…. Have you managed to be kinder, to eat less, drink less and exercise more? If you have, well done and keep going – you will already be feeling the benefits and will be well on your way to realising the outcomes you desire.  If you have only managed one of these things, then that’s good too – don’t give up.

I have come to the conclusion though, having thought about goals and milestones, that the key is not when we set them, or if we are managing to maintain them, but that we have them, and we keep going. Irrespective of our little failures, keep going.

If you are not getting to the gym as much as you’d hoped, or you are still giving in to the temptation of those left over chocolates from Christmas, I’m here to say it’s ok and you do not need to give yourself a hard time. I also wanted to let you know that it’s not too late. You do not need to start your healthier eating on a Monday, or your month of kindness on the 1st January. You can do it any time – today, or tomorrow, or even next week. The important thing is that you want to do it.

We also do not need to make life immensely difficult for ourselves, small changes can be the easiest to maintain – add fruit to your breakfast and lunch, add a smoothie to your afternoon routine, take fruit into work for colleagues instead of biscuits, walk round the block at lunchtime with a colleague – not only do you get out of the office but you can catch up with their news as well.

You can start your acts of kindness close to home – give someone a lift to work, invite the new person to lunch, take the neighbour’s dog for a walk, make an extra portion of your evening meal and take it round to your elderly neighbour. You haven’t missed the window of opportunity for change – it’s here and now.

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How can mHealth actually help me?

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“mHealth” is a key word that has been flying around cyber space for some time now with large corporations outlining how it will increase profits and decrease government expenditures, but what I really want to know is how can it benefit me and my family?

Indeed, the Federal Communications Commission’s mHealth Task Force has found that wireless and remote access to health records and electronic prescriptions alone could make $29 billion over the next decade. Undoubtably, on an enormous scale, mHealth is going to help healthcare systems worldwide improve the service to millions of people, but what about in my home and for my loved ones? What difference can be made?

Visbuzz has created a unique device that personalises communication that can be applied to improving healthcare. The mobile software system connects the primary user to the people that matter most to the, including, perhaps, their doctor. At her bedside the primary user has her complete support system; friends, family, doctor, nurse and therapist, all of whom can provide care and love any time of the day. This innovative method of communications is a well-needed replacement to the current and traditional care-home environment. Visbuzz identified unmet needs in the market where isolated individuals needed easy access to their loved ones without the difficulties of using complex technology. Results have been positive from the pilot studies that healthcare organisations across the UK are embracing the solution, as well as individuals with personal needs of their own.

Personalised mHealth looks at each person in their own right with their needs as the foremost important factor in their care. Visbuzz creates an environment where the primary user can connect to those who matter the most, in a place they are comfortable and without the stressors of technology as a burden. These traits have the potential for doctors to implement continuous monitoring, lending insights to lifestyle habits and dynamic physiological changes to improve the health of the primary user. Of course Visbuzz is not just a medical advantage with the use of doctors, research continually finds that recovery is much more likely when the patient is happy and connected to friends and family.

Get back in touch with your loved ones today, talk to Visbuzz.

mHealth: a new vision for healthcare

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Whilst new reports say UK economic growth revised up to 0.7%, the long road to recovery still remains a critical challenge. One area where there is certain room for improvement in within the healthcare market. The 2013/2014 budget for healthcare is £95 billion, and increasing each year, calculating 18% of the total government spending. It is therefore imperative that we look at ways in which we can cut healthcare costs. We are in a spiral of healthcare costs as expectations of patient’s are high and financial resources are tight. However there is help at hand in the form of mobile applications and technology.

The modest costs of implementing mHealth applications could significantly lower healthcare costs across the UK and the world, resulting in happier healthier patients and more financial leeway to look at preventative medicine. Currently only a small amount of government funding has been allocated to mHealth and social health where patients can access healthcare advice and information from their phone and tablets. Being connected to ones doctor using an electronic device and reducing the need for face to face interaction for simple check ups or questions will inevitably reduce the time and costs for the patient and also for the healthcare organisation. A report by The Boston Consulting Group and Telenor Group found that costs relating to data collection in healthcare organisations could be reduced by 24% when using mHealth. They found that mobile devices could be used for remote diagnosis, speeding up of processes, avoiding duplication and saving between 20-30% in administrative fees.

However, there are the cynics about introducing mHealth as a primary method of communication between a patient and their doctor. Willa Field, Chair of the HIMSS Board of Directors, pointed out that elderly people are unlikely to adopt new technology without incentive and there are privacy and security concerns that go on alongside. It is important to recognise these limitations and find a way that will improve the service for all users.

Visbuzz is a mobile technology device built onto a portable tablet with a primary aim to connect people with those who matter most to them. It leaps over the hurdle of questions about incentives, understanding technology, costs and security through being built for one purpose only: to connect to your loved ones. Steve McNulty originally built Visbuzz to speak to his mother on a more regular basis without the complexities of explaining technology and having a high premium price to go with. This unique combination of factors that Visbuzz has to offer will largely contribute to reducing healthcare costs, improving communication and overall wellbeing of the primary user.

Please get in contact today to find out more about Visbuzz and how it can help you and your loved ones.

The Impact of Technology on Healthcare

Mobile communications and multimedia technology are playing significant roles in giving patients responsibility to their own healthcare, which in turn improves adherence to prescribed medications. With regards to mHealth and adherence trends, Aunia Grogan, CEO of Atlantis Healthcare said, “Technology is at the heart of what we do,” in developing treatment adherence. “The strategic use of technology is critical to effectively deliver mass personalisation, ensuring the right patient receives the right message at the right time, in the right way.”

Research has found that non-adherence is an individualised belief of the patient about their illness and their prescribed medications. The first step in changing the behaviour of the patient is to initially reframe the beliefs. Grogan says, “mHealth is increasingly important to channel and deliver relevant and meaningful interventions that can drive long-term behaviour change.” However, she emphasised that for the treatment to be successful, the patient needs to be actively engaged with his or her own recovery. For many patients it can be difficult to access their doctor on a regular basis, increasing the likelihood of their noncompliance due to not being properly informed about their medications. It is important that we use the technological devices we have available for the benefit of patients who have difficulty in accessing healthcare.

A new technological device available on the market now is Visbuzz, a game changer within the communications space. Visbuzz is a tablet application that gives people the opportunity to connect with those who matter most to them without the fuss of technology. Whilst multimedia technology is the driving force behind Visbuzz, the primary user does not need to be competent in technology at all. In fact, to call someone it is as easy as pressing the contacts picture on the screen. This ties in extremely well this improving adherence in those who are reliant upon medication but find it difficult to travel to healthcare organisations. Using Visbuzz, patients can communicate with their doctors to manage their healthcare program and improve their happiness and wellbeing.

To make the difference for one of your family members, contact Visbuzz to understand more about how easy it can be for them to connect to those who matter most.

The Healthcare Revolution – Will you ride the wave?

The healthcare system is undergoing a serious and well needed re-vamp and update using digital and mobile technology. Will you ride the wave of the revolution?

When emails came to our attention in around 1993 I was quick to adopt the new technology, although somewhat alien I could see the potential long-term usage of connecting to people through electronic letters rather than picking up the phone for a quick question. Now, two decades on, there are over 3 billion email accounts and it has quickly become one of the most efficient methods of communication. In 2013 we are continually developing new technological applications to help our everyday lives, and the new big area of development is healthcare. Adopting this new and seemingly alien technology may seem difficult now, but those who do will reap the rewards in the years to come, healthcare professionals and patients alike.

Traditional healthcare organisations use pen and paper to record notes, long waiting lists for simple tests and home visits for check ups. The medical staff are overworked and underpaid, tired and angry at the governments, and are looking at new innovative ways to improve patient care. Leading healthcare organisations are guiding the sector into the future of care through technology and transformation to create a more effective, efficient and reliable healthcare service.

mHealth, as defined by Professor Istepanian as the use of “emerging mobile communications and network technologies for healthcare”, is a common word found amongst healthcare blogs and magazines. People are looking up and smelling the roses about the new advances in healthcare to see how it can benefit themselves and those they love, but it can be difficult to choose out of the hundreds available.

Visbuzz can provide you with a unique approach to personalised care that meets the needs of you and those who are most important. Visbuzz is a simple interface device that brings communication to life through video calling tailored to those that are technologically hesitant. I know the feeling of heavy guilt when I can’t pick up the call from my Mum when I am busy through the day. I know there has to be a balance between your own life and those you care about. Giving freedom and simultaneous control to her through scheduled calling and messaging applications takes away the chance of interruptions in my busy day but also gives her the promise of talking soon.

Take advantage of the hundreds of new devices and technological developments in healthcare and consider using Visbuzz to connect with those who matter most.

The story of Visbuzz


My story begins, as many do, with a vision for a better place for those I love.

The heat of the midday sun shone through the window, burning me crimson as the traffic slowly ploughed on. The radio blared out some old rock hits from the 70’s intermitted between reports of a roadblock on the motorway. I lost count of how many hours I had been sitting there and I daren’t think about the journey home. How I envied those on the other side of the road, blistering along with their roofs down and hair blowing. ‘Perhaps I’ll have next weekend off’ I ruminated. But even as the thought entered my mind, guilt crept over my shoulder and sat heavily in my chest for the remainder of the crawling journey.

Once I had arrived at the house I grew up in, my Mum could see the stress in my face, my body language. Immediately she apologised and said that I shouldn’t have come all this way just to see her. For the rest of the short visit there was an uncomfortable knowing that this was less than ideal for both of us. We both carried guilt. For my Mum it was the thought of dragging me down the motorway most weekends, and for me, the thought of not doing that.

The story’s knight in white armour is Visbuzz, a product I invented initially to connect with my Mum in a way that was straightforward to understand and effective to use. Visbuzz is a tablet with an integrated application for the user, like my mum, to connect with those who matter most. The simplicity of the interface means that for even technology novices this device is easy to use, by simply pressing a picture to call!

Visbuzz dams a hole in the market where there is increasing demand and decreasing support; personalised care in homes for those who need connectivity. With studies carried out all over Britain, results have come back pretty glum. Half of over 65 year-olds do not see their families more than once a month and 1/10 elderly people in the UK suffer from “intense loneliness”. This common finding is both shocking and moving – moving me into action to help my mum and those in her position. Visbuzz is a single-task device that connects people with those who matter most to them.

The story of Visbuzz continues to give everyone the opportunity to have a device that can connect them to the people they love, the communities they know and the professionals that can help.

The story of Visbuzz

My story begins, as many do, with a vision for a better place for those I love. The heat of the midday sun shone through the window, burning me crimson as the traffic slowly ploughed on. The radio blared out some old rock hits from the 70’s intermitted between reports of a roadblock on the [...]


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