Dec 23, 2010

Update: Something Idiotic

When I started this blog, it was with the idea that I should document my writing projects, missteps, triumphs etc. I have discovered problems with this concept.

I haven't had any triumphs of late. I don't want to think about my missteps, there just too present and recent…*Sob*. Ahem. And my project hasn't changed yet, I'm still working on the medical romance WIP, which I had a full request for on August 31, 2010. This means that I'm going to end up speaking about other things, if I make any sort of regular posts.

There is a good chance most of the non-writing things I talk about will be idiotic. Because they will probably be stories taken from my life, which is frequently idiotic.

Having said that, I can't think of any topical stories to tell. Idiotic or otherwise. Oh sure, I could tell you the story about the time cicadas tried to kill me, or the time a gigantic-spider-mammoth scaled my canopy bed and threatened to cut me with his switchblade if I didn't buy some magazines he was selling, or that one time it at band camp… Okay, that one's a lie. I never went to band camp. The rest? All true.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, idiotic things… Stay tuned.

And Dragon? I still love it. Even if the package is orange and green together *SHUDDER*. Probably has some lizard skin/fire connotation to the design, but it is just hideous. Orange, yick.

Dec 19, 2010

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Product Review

So, in honor of my new dictation program, I have decided to dictate my blog post for this evening. This is my one-day review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home Edition.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have great difficulty reading anything out loud. This means that no matter how I try, if I am reading something, it never comes out in a conversational manner. Because of this, I can verify that the program doesn't understand as much when you're not speaking in full sentences, without pauses. If it has less words to evaluate at one time, it understands less.

It also has a very strange selection of slang it recognizes. And it isn't consistently good with homonyms.
Example: I can say: w00t and it spells it this way, complete with 0's instead of O's. This is fun for dictating chats, but surprising.
Example: She would like to go to the store to purchase two apples and two bananas, to.
I didn't modify that sentence after speaking it. It got most of the to's correct, save for the last one. It almost never gets too-also correct.
Example: You're the best one to tell your story.
I didn't modify that sentence and it got the yours right.
Example: which woman is the which?
That one didn't come out at all, and I didn't modify it to tell it to capitalize the first which, or tell it that the second should've been the kind for Halloween.
Example: Our attendance depends on whether or not the weather cooperates.
Right. If you say it as one sentence it understands, but if you have any pauses it will get the homonyms wrong.
Example: there my favorite aunt and uncle.
Wrong. It didn't capitalize, and it picked the wrong there.
Example: have you been to their house before?
Right. Again, it is not capitalizing the sentence for some reason.
Example: they're going to have to hurry up.
Right, but this was my fourth attempt at coming up with some kind of sentence with "they're" in it the program would understand. So, I would say, of all the homonyms I have tested tonight, this one gives it the most trouble. Also, it didn't want to capitalize this either. (Edited to add: Apparently I forgot that I already did 'they're' a few lines above. I should have been coming up with a 'their' and reading my work, but ... )

You have to teach it to cuss, it doesn't come complete with much blue language out-of-the-box. I try not to use that kind of language when I'm writing, but sometimes it is going to come up in dialogue. I can tell when I use curse words, it has an inkling of what I said, but it keeps putting in other words at first… Truck duck struck luck muck… I'm sure you catch my meaning… When I notice it has put in the wrong word, I select it, and then it pops up a little dialog box for me to choose from other words it thought I might've said. What I actually said is almost always at the top of the list, first choice. Is it crazy that I feel a little bit judged by this program? I'm kidding, but I'm not. It seems to know what word I wanted to use, but it attempts to get me not to use that language. Prudish program. Ha ha!

This brings up something I've noticed about my powers of speech: I am little more than a talking monkey. My vocal storytelling ability leaves much to be desired.

My sentence construction sounds much more intelligent when it is written out by hand than just words out of my mouth. At this point, I'm not sure whether this will make my stories seem more personal – more like you're hearing somebody actually tell you a story – or if it will just make me seem like an uneducated hick. By far, I think this is the biggest drawback I've discovered so far to dictating fiction. The problem is mine, it's not a problem with the program.

My story isn't flying off in a great whoosh of inspiration. I'm still going to use it because it's winter, my hands are frequently cold, and so long as I think about what I want to say before I say it, then it gets the words on the page easily. Lazily. And who doesn't like getting to be lazy? My muse likes blankets, but is not such a fan of gloves.

In addition to typing what I tell it to, there is an interesting bonus that I hadn't expected. Although the voice and inflection frequently leave something to be desired – it is just the standard female computer voice – this program will allow me to hear my writing out loud without me having to do the reading. Dyslexia sucks. This is a good workaround for that aspect of the disorder which I never overcame.

As a side note, it's pretty great when you are searching for information. I can tell it where to search for something, whether I want it to be in the help files or online, and it will go find what I need. There is also something called the MouseGrid, which divides the screen into nine blocks like a Rubik's cube. All of these blocks have a number. I say the number, and it re-creates that same block formation within the small block area I selected, like Russian dolls. Until the pointer is over the part of the screen I wanted, and then I say CLICK, and it clicks it.

It has scrolling functions. You can tell it to go up or down, and when you've got it going in the direction you want, you can tell it to go faster or slower, or to stop. It also will allow you to place the pointer in a certain place, then click and drag so you can highlight several lines of text at a time without ever touching the mouse.

Composing this extra-long blog post has taken about forty-five minutes. However, most of that time was my indecision over word selection, the examples I used for homonym trouble, and numerous revisions of what I wanted to say. It wasn't because I needed to revise what the program understood, but that I needed to speak more like a human, less like a monkey.

Dec 17, 2010

Dragon software

Early Christmas present arrived today: Dragon software. I'm extremely excited about it.

Vista comes with voice recognition software, but it's not good. It's not very bright, but I will give it kudos for being fun to use if you are not trying to do something serious with it. I hummed and sang silly songs to my Windows VRS, and since you extend syllables in singing, it never ever typed what I sang, and of course it made up its own words for whatever I hummed. Which led to some fun word constructions.

I found that if I sang stuff that rhymed, often whatever it typed up rhymed. It was all a big glob of words, but when I went through and threw in returns and capitalized letters, and erased the strange symbols that got thrown into the mix, I came up with some not terrible and kind of fun verses. It was kind of like performance art, though my family tells me that they're pretty sure it means the computer is possessed... or has achieved awakening.

Anyway, I can't do that anymore. I have software for typing, and I have visions of it taking off in a great woosh of inspiration, and that I will have this book finished by tomorrow! Yes, I AIM HIGH.

What is more likely to happen: Tomorrow I will still be trying to train it to understand my manner of speaking. You have to read along with text to teach the program. This is not a big deal for most people, but I'm dyslexic. I've got great reading comprehension, but if I have to read out loud, something happens between the words going in my eyes and out my mouth. It's a mess. It's not pretty. It's word salad. I'm pretty sure my computer is now going to have a speech impediment and I'll still not be done by the end of the MONTH, let alone tomorrow.

Will keep posted on how it goes. Until then, please enjoy my computer's poetry... that was composed Pre-Dragon:

     It has skidded from a sin
     The terror a fad and its crazy had no choice
     But nothing in the sense of awe that tells me of you
     My hand in the hand that would want to rule the world