Sep 21, 2016

Ok Google and Siri

Google speech-to-text logoI like talking to my phone, specifically using voice to text software.

While driving, I can speak a text to my sister and Google will have it (most times) word for word correct - punctuation aside. When I just finished reading a story on my phone, and don't want to review it on my dinky keyboard, I can say it out loud and then add the periods. Picking out my clothes in the morning, I ask my phone about the weather and it tells me it while I'm moving hangers.

Recently, I started getting back into using DuoLingo - a foreign language teaching app. Some of the exercises include saying phrases out loud to your microphone and the app checks your pronunciation. I'm not learning Spanish from scratch - I studied it in high school and uni - and I've had teachers from different areas. My accent is a bit mixed.

So sometimes it's frustrating when the app thinks I said something wrong when I know I didn't. The fix is to usually slow down my speech and really enunciate, speaking clearly and struggling to really pronounce my 't's.

(Here in the Midwest, our "ts" often sound like "ds". I remember talking to a foreigner about a waterfall, and he had to stop me to ask what 'wader' was.)

tap to speak on Samsung Galaxy phone
Yes, Google capitalizes first letters.
Once I noticed it with the DuoLingo, I became aware of all my speech interactions with JARVIS. I use the same adjustments to my speech, though less extreme, when talking out texts.

Personally, I think this is fascinating. I'm changing my speech pattern for my phone. I speak slowly. I make sure to distinguish between sounds. I pause longer between sentences, to break up 'phrases' as google understands them. Sometimes, I even change my vocabulary to avoid longer words I think my phone will have problems with.

Deep into my edits of Stars, and the prevalence of computers in this story, I can't help but wonder if, as we talk to computers more and more, human speech patterns evolve to make those conversations easier to comprehend. And what those changes are.

A reduction in vocabulary? More small word phrases? A loss of rambling? Slower conversations? Will we speak punctuation marks? "Are we still on today - question mark - tell me by noon - full stop"

I'm curious - do you guys do this too? Notice and change your language as you interact with technology? If so, what? 

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Sep 18, 2016

Lady of the Lake

I'm on a King Arthur kick - have been for awhile actually (I totally blame the BBC show Merlin) - and so downloaded Lady of the Lake by Walter C. Scott via Google Books.

I couldn't finish it and I blamed my phone. With my font settings, I couldn't fit a full verse on my screen and that's just no way to read epic, romantic poetry.

So I borrowed it from the library and gave it another whirl, cuz I really wanted to get to the part about Avalon.

Cover and first page of Sir Walter Scott's romantic poem The Lady of the Lake.

I realized several things sitting on the Metra, reading this.

1) It is easier to read poetry on paper. I went through it faster, and the little notes in the back were super helpful.

2) This is not, actually, about The Lady of the Lake of Avalon from Arthurian legends. It's based on historical events in the Scottish highlands and the 'lady' is a exiled noble-sorta-person whose hand is up for grabs.

3) Epic poetry is super, super hard to both read and understand. I'd read a line, be confused, and have to go back and read the previous verse. I would read, but not comprehend, and did a lot of rereading. Also, archaic language. The whole process of reading was very different from a fiction book - it wasn't a fun ride, it was an active reading experience similar to reading magazine articles about trends in my profession. 

Number 3 is the main reason I stopped reading this - for a second time. Determined to at least 'finish' it, I tried to find a novelized version to pick up (there isn't one????) and then visited Wikipedia. Where I learned that I didn't just miss small things, I had a wrong understanding of who characters were and the plot.  

It makes me ashamed as a reader, but also reinforced the idea it was good I stopped. 

How many of you have completely misunderstood poetry?
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Sep 4, 2016

Best Read of August - Jennifer Government

August was a rare, fast reading month for me. Probably cuz my two week road trip consisted of audiobooks and a laptop that quit on me Day 3 so I reached for the books more often. I still think my sister's copy of Queen of Darkness has a few grains of sand between pages.

My fave last month however was Jennifer Government by Max Barry.

Taking place in a much future world, where the world is essentially ruled by corporations, a Nike employee gets duped into a contract to kill a few kids as they walk out of the store to build up a new shoe's street cred. The poor guy gets tangled up in something much bigger when he outsources the job to the police and then Jennifer Government comes rushing in hoping to pin the crime on the VP who came up with the plan.

This book is incredibly complex. There are six characters to follow, all with their own very unique, very developed story lines and they weave between each other so well. And the book is so snarky in how it critiques modern society - this is definitely a satire on how both the government and corporations work.

What I really liked was watching some characters grow while other stay the same. We see writing advice on character development all the time, but seeing a set of characters whose movement was lateral instead of up or down was fascinating to me. Especially as I love how their arcs ended the most.

This book had me rolling my eyes and really interested in the world (last names are the company you work for, 'non-USA' countries and 'USA countries'). A good read if you want something light-hearted and quick.
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Aug 28, 2016


This week, I have found a crowd I never thought of before but immediately felt welcomed by.

Public transit commuters.

We sit on trains and crack open books. We leave the station and walk fast, weaving between people and jockeying to be on the curb edge. Our outfits are cute, we are going to the office, but practical. Nothing tight. Lots of flats. Backpacks. My favorite was a woman in a loose pencil skirt with brightly colored gym shoes. We don't block traffic.

It all reminds me of how much I disliked tourists in San Francisco, because these people are so not like them it's amazing. And the few I run into on Michigan Ave. Move people. Open your maps in doorways or against the window of a store.

In other words, despite my new 1hr long commute, I'm not minding at all.

Except when I miss my train cuz of drinks with co-workers.

I like to walk along the river from train station to work.

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Aug 10, 2016


I'm sitting at a Barnes & Noble (yes, real book stores still do exist. In fact, did you know B&N will now stock indies?) and something within me is settling. Calming. It's been awhile since I've had the time to sit down and focus on my writing career in any capacity.

Work sucked me dry - I was bored out of my mind, realized projects were moving on without me despite my supposed role in them - so I quit when I got an offer for something much better.

And not just any place - one of the companies I applied to a few time in the months after I graduated and gave up on joining their ranks. Pity my new office will face the Trump building downtown. Double pity that my Aug 8th start date got pushed back two weeks.

I also went on a family road trip and realized my anti-social/introvert tendencies have only increased now that I'm going on a year with no roommate. (Me and my cat match - she's the most anti-social creature I've ever seen.) Don't get me wrong, I loved the 6 cities we hit up, but when I withdrew for inner me time I don't appreciate the family poking and prodding me in an effort to stir up conversation.

We did get nice views in Kentucky.

Probably didn't help that on day 2, my laptop battery decided to no longer charge so I couldn't write during the drives and our hotel rooms were so tiny there was no place for me to set up a typing space. Or that I finished my one book half way through the trip and then flipped through the other 7 my family brought, none of them interesting me.

The urge to get writing hit me strong during the trip - I got a response from an editor about Stars who reached out during PitMad. They're passing, which I'm okay with, and I got some wonderful suggestions for a rewrite & resubmit. The comments are gold and now I want to get started on my 3rd draft.

I didn't write much while Stars was being considered, just polished a few short stories that I should start shopping and realized just how differently I approach novels and short stories. But when I got these edits, I got such a homesickness for Ethiopia.

Odd, yes, but almost every night I would curl up in an arm chair while my landlady crocheted across from me while we drink coffee. I missed the regularness of that writing, the hours spend daily typing in the company of someone who I could ask small questions.  Wanting to write, and not being able to due to my stupid laptop, probably just made me more itchy during our two week road trip.

It was cool seeing books from Thomas Jefferson's library at the Library of Congress.

But here I am, sitting at B&N with a new laptop battery that sucks (1 hr life span?! wonder if I bought the wrong one) and while I haven't started on this new round of Stars I still feel soothed. There's coffee here. And books. And readers. A local author doing a signing in the corner.

I've known since last year that I actively need writing, I've posted about that here before, and so it seems right to finally sink back into it. I've got some time before this new job starts. I'm gonna take advantage of it.
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