Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting more done with Dictation: a Review of Dragon Dictate for Macintosh

I became extremely busy lately. Even though I have reclaimed time spent recording the “Sex is Fun Show,” life as an interesting way of re-tasking idle moments. Jade and I have to run our children to various clubs and sporting events 6 days per week and work, it seems, has become a relentlessly demanding beast. But because we have created a relationship with those that have read my book, my articles, and listened to our podcasts, this blog has become very important to me and Jade and I want to continue contributing to it.
I am an exceptionally fast typist and have been since I was very young. It was in about the 3rd grade where I realized I was a touch typing and no longer needed to use my eyes to search for keys. By the time I took a typing class in the 5th grade, my speed and accuracy exceeded every other student in the classroom. Now I type at nearly the speed of thought, and though that may have something to do with the vast degree of typos in my average article submission, my speed has kept me from using dictation software or dictating for a human transcriber. But, I have an hour each day where I'm alone with my thoughts and as long as I keep my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road, I can use this time to contribute to the blog without stealing time from my family, my career, my friends, or making sweet-sweet love to Jade.
So I got myself a copy of Dragon Dictate software and I installed it on my MacBook Pro. The installation process was relatively straightforward. Of course don’t believe in reading manuals and l most things I install on my computer I expect to be performed using nothing but intuition. Therefore, my only setback was that I did not realize there were 2 DVDs in the box and instead of beginning with the installation disk,I was attempting to install off the libraries disk which it asks for later in the installation process. The headset is relatively comfortable and plugs in via 2 mini connectors through a USB dongle. I believe that you can use any microphone and headphone as long as it is plugged through this dongle, though I have not felt the need to attempt trying a different headset.
Once fully installed, the program guides you through a training mode where it learns to understand your dialect, accent, and nuances of your voice. This is done by reading text that appears on the screen and highlights as you read each word. I did like that the text was essentially a user guide to Dragon software as it taught me quite a bit about voice recognition technology. I certainly preferred that to being forced to read some unrelated story as though I was going to be taking a reading comprehension test afterward. Just as I was getting into the guts of the manual, the program stopped and told me that it listened enough and could accurately turn my words into text. So I popped open my mail application and sent out a few instructions to my underlings and minions.
I had very low expectations as my current experience with voice recognition is often telling my phone to, “find the nearest gas station.” and instead it would map the closest store that sold, “Playstations.” Why would anyone need that kind of information in the first place? But the program works quite flawlessly with a surprising degree of accuracy. It does allow you to speak quite naturally except for punctuation and various proper nouns. It works in every application that I've attempted to use it in and this includes nearly every application I own that accepts text entry. The only thing I found tricky is that I have to consciously think about where I would like pauses and commas to be placed, whereas ending sentences with the appropriate punctuation is something I already got used to from medical dictation.
How well does it work? You tell me...
This is the ultimate test. I am now halfway to work and I'm using the microphone in the car for the 1st time. My laptop is sitting in the passenger seat and I have dimmed the screen to full darkness so that I'm not tempted to allow my eyes to stray off the road. When I get into the office I will post whatever the software has decided to write, with the only editorial exception of capitalizing Jade’s name which it never seems to realize is a name.
Reich Kidder and tell him your thoughts on anything he writes at cape-her life.com
Dragon Dictate Photo
Company: Nuance
Product: Dragon Dictate 2.0 Mac.
Price: $199
Best Price on Amazon: $142.76
Product Score: [4.5]-:-[5]
What could they have done to get [5]-:-[5]?
Make the software understand punctuation based on sentences structure, natural pauses, emphasis and pitch so that I feel more like I’m having a conversation than dictating. Be better at realize the difference between proper nouns and nouns.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Contest Winner!

We have a winner! Thanks to Andie for her submission to our contest for the My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Software! She completed the mission and created a page for The Kapers made with content found on the internet. I think my favorite element has to be the bra flower holder. It reflects my love of gardening as well as my love of sexy under garments!

I have continued to play around with this software myself a bit and am discovering new ways of using it that sort of mesh with the more traditional scrap booking techniques. I have also noticed that Mymemories.com offers regular free downloads and has five pages of free kits, embellishment packs, or digitial paper packs. Another thing I learned about this software is that the downloadable elements they sell as add-ons to the original my memories suite also work with photoshop and other digital photo editing programs. This site is quite versatile!

Thanks to everyone who expressed interest in the contest. I am certain I will have more to say about this software in the future. In the meantime, I hope Andie enjoys her prize. Anything she sends me that she wants to share will be posted here. As I continue to practice and get past my technology short-comings, I will post a few more pages too!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Tooth Fairy

I think I might be the worst tooth fairy ever! This task was added to my “mom” job description about 6 years ago, and I have to say, I have had a hard time implementing those duties into my daily activities since that time. My oldest has “lost” all but two of his teeth after they fell out. The first one he swallowed, the next few fell out at school and even though he was sent home with something his teacher adorably named “the tooth taxi,” the taxi never actually arrived. By the time he actually had one to stick under his pillow, he didn’t even believe in the tooth fairy anymore. Each time he lost a tooth and then “lost” the tooth, he panicked that the tooth fairy would not come. Each time I helped him craft a letter to the tooth fair explaining what had happened, tucked him in to bed assuring him she would indeed still come, and then with the best of intentions I gathered 8 shiny quarters and waited for him to fall asleep. The first time, he would not fall asleep. I swear I was sitting on the couch considering using toothpicks in my eyes to keep them open so the tooth fairy could come and the morning would be happy and exciting. When he finally fell asleep, I was exhausted, but still awake, and managed to shove his quarters under his pillow. I completely forgot to take his note. In the morning, because he is a very bright child, he questioned the fact that there was money under his pillow, but the note he left was still there. I suggested to him that the tooth fairy new I liked to scrap-book so maybe she left the note for me. That worked. Once.

The next several times he lost a tooth, I again helped him craft his note. However, that boy does not fall asleep easily. I, on the other hand, fall asleep as soon as I sit down to watch something. In the morning, the boy would come in and wake me up (at least an hour before anyone in the house needed to be up) and insist that the tooth fairy had not come. In a panic, because I knew he was right and I was cheating him of part of the magic of childhood, I would fly out of bed and tell him he must not have looked hard enough. I would tell him to wait in my room while I made a quick excuse to keep him there for 45 seconds so I could run down to the laundry room, grab 8 shiny quarters and make sure they were well hidden in my hand. Then I would come back and get him and tell him we would go look together. We would go into his room and I would slide my fist filled with quarters under his pillow and explain to him that I was feeling around for whatever the tooth fairy might have left him. I would then drop the quarters and lift up his pillow and make the poor child believe he had just not noticed that the tooth fairy had indeed paid him a visit. Of course, because he never actually had a tooth to leave under the pillow his note would still be there and I would again explain, very excitedly, that the tooth fairy wanted me to scrap book his note. Seriously, how terrible am I at this job that in order to keep him “believing” I had to convince him he just didn’t look hard enough.

Yesterday, my daughter lost her first tooth. She didn’t swallow it, but it fell out in the car and I was sure we weren’t going to find it, so again I would be helping one of my children write a letter explaining how they misplaced their lost tooth. Luckily, we found it and when we got home we put it in a plastic bag for safe keeping. She carried it around all day and showed it to everyone we encountered, but it was still safe and made it under her pillow at bed time. In the meantime, my son also lost a tooth. His second one of the week as a matter of fact, and he pointed out to all of us as my daughter was explaining her hopes and dreams of a tooth fairy visit, that the tooth fairy had not shown up for him just three days earlier. Again, I point out that I AM THE WORST TOOTH FAIRY EVER!!!! Of course, it had been a LONG day (and a late night the night before) so it took everything I had to stay awake after I tucked both of them in so they would not be disappointed. Thankfully, it was a Saturday night, so I had three other adults to help keep me awake long enough for the tooth fairy to do her frakking job!

After I tucked the little people in, I went to my laundry jar and thanked Kidder Kaper (in my mind) for leaving quarters in his pockets when he takes off his pants. I gathered 16 shiny quarters and waited for them to fall asleep. I got my last bit of proof at how crappy I am at this part of my job when my daughter sat up after I shoved her quarters under her pillow. I quickly ducked down next to her bed and waited for her to lay back down. Ten minutes later, I was able to crawl out of her room, and feel like a perfectly adequate parent, that I had not yet ruined the magic of childhood for one of my children. Yet I cannot help but feel that she has several teeth left to lose, so I have plenty of time to fail miserably.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hurt Feelings

Something has been bothering me. It has been bothering me a lot, yet I can’t figure out why. There is a part of me that feels like I am being petty, a part of me that feels like I am being mean, and still a part of me that feels like I am having a completely reasonable reaction to the way I perceive I am being treated.

Here is how things work in our family. All four of us like to have people over. On an average Friday night, as dinner is being prepared, my children ask “Are Lorax and FKS coming over?” On a holiday weekend in the summer they wonder, who has been invited for the weekend with their children to hang out by the bonfire and where do we get to put our sleeping bags? Over Christmas break, we all look forward to the traditions of gatherings almost every night of the break to fit in celebrations with family, the tree trimming party, exchanging presents with friends, and several other get togethers we find reasons to hold at The Kaper Kompound. To be honest, it is absolutely our preference to entertain our friends and family at our house. Most of our friends know this about us and it works for them as well as it works for us.

Our close friends, many of whom spend most of their free time at our house because they know that is our preference, occasionally plan things out and about. When they do, they always invite us. They give us plenty of notice so, if necessary, we can arrange for a sitter. If a sitter isn’t necessary, they give us plenty of notice so we can tell them what dates work for us considering we are working around four schedules instead of one or two and they want to include our children. We completely appreciate that, and that consideration they give us leads to really fun times.

We are so lucky to have a close circle of friends who share our interests, our open mindedness, and our passion for living a life less ordinary. We are also lucky enough to be relatively personable, so we can meet people easily. As we spend time with them, we can quickly determine if there is potential for a close friendship or if there is nothing more than acquaintance potential. Once we make this determination, we enjoy integrating our new friendships with our existing friendships and this has led to an amazing spiderweb of friends that mix REALLY well for both a family friendly scavenger hunt for home-made treasures in the woods as well as fun times in the hot tub on nights when the kids are spending the evening with grandma and grandpa.

So this brings me to the heart of my problem. In our circle, we are often the common denominator that unites people with others they might not have met. This is a good thing! Friendship is a treasure and if we can be the catalyst that starts an amazing friendship, that makes us feel great! I could list many examples of friendships that we can ultimately claim we started by making the initial introduction. The benefit we gain from this is we are often included in these friendships in some way. One way is the new chemistry that they bring to a party we have after these new friendships have developed. They have a different kind of confidence that is notable and benefits our gatherings. Another way is that they return the favor and introduce us to new experiences we may not have had without meeting them. These are things that we LOVE! However, I have noticed a couple of negatives, and I can’t quite put my finger on why or how they make me feel bad.

I don’t think either Kidder or I have any problem with the friendship that is developed outside of us. What I have realized bothers me is when some friends make strong efforts to further develop friendships with our friends and then exclude us repeatedly. I start to feel excluded when “my” friend invites “my other friends” who I introduced them to out for the evening, yet they never invite me. I feel excluded when “my” friends invite “my other friends” to a party they are having and they don’t invite me. I feel excluded when “my other friends” invite “my” friends to an evening out and they decline until they find out more of “my other friends” are going to be there, and then they accept the invitation.

I have felt these kind of exclusions lately and they make me feel bad. They hurt my feelings and they make me wonder if these “friends” are really my friends at all. It leads me to think that to some people, I am only useful for the parties I can offer them. They are always ready to say yes when I am sending out an invitation to our party, and even become upset if they discover we’re having a party and they weren’t invited (as is often the case even with the best of intentions in the generation of Facebook). Sometimes it seems that other than getting invited to our party they don’t even consider us. While we almost always prefer to host the gathering (because it is easier for us considering the kids, the dog, and the extra space we have) I want to be invited to the fun things “my friends” are planning, at least once in a while. I don’t like to know that “my friends” go out of their way to include “my other friends” that I introduced them to, in their fun plans, but never bother to send me an invitation. Like I said, it hurts my feelings.

This has been on my mind extensively for at least the last week. I have tried to let it go, but each time I sit down to try to write a post for this blog, the only thing on my mind is this topic. I am not a fan of creating controversy, and this post feels like it is going to do just that. Because I can’t seem to let it go, I have decided it is just time to put it out there. I would love any input anyone has on this topic. Am I being petty? Am I being mean? Am I being naive in continuing to try to maintain a friendship with someone who isn’t putting any effort into maintaining a friendship with me? What do you think? Do you have any advice for me? How would you handle this situation? I can’t wait to hear....

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sex is Fun Podcast: SiF #300 - Why Sex is Fun

Sex is Fun even without Kidder Kaper! Godspeed to the Sex is Fun Podcast!!!

Sex is Fun Podcast: SiF #300 - Why Sex is Fun: As Laura Rad and Gay Rick take over as hosts, they discuss with Coochie what the name “Sex is Fun!” means to them. The gang talks about some of the limits of the name and why being sex-positive is important. Is the gang about to get too nerdy and alienate folks? They wrap things up by talking about goals for the show moving forward.