Dragon Dictate in action, creating todayʼs post

Software poses an interesting problem. Without it our personal computers (and for all of those cooler than myself, other digital devices) would be worthless. On the other hand, somehow the software ingenious geeks produce seems almost invariably, spookily to work in ways completely counterintuitive to the rest of humanity. And softwareʼs so glitchy!

I spent some time this morning using MacUpdate to get my installed software into the most current versions. As I done the very same thing just last Friday, there were only a few programs lagging behind the times. Keeping current is supposed to keep your software more stable and predictable, and it usually does. But sometimes it doesnʼt.

The case in point is the program Iʼm using to create this text, Dragon Dictate, which I originally purchased back in February 2010 as MacSpeech Dictate when the Macintosh product had not yet been acquired by Dragon. Although dictation software is incredibly tempting and miraculously capable, and although Dragon Dictate is supposed to be incredibly accurate*, it is probably the quirkiest program with which I deal. (And The Lovely One apparently agrees, her boss having gone to using Dragon Dictate for Windows to create some of the many things he needs her to “type up” for him — sheʼs muttered about the miserable dictation software more than merely a few times in recent weeks, evidently almost preferring to listen to his recorded voice and do the word-processing herself.)

Although itʼs only a minor quirk/irritation, Dictate annoys me the most by forcing me to use its own text-editing window instead of permitting me to dictate directly into, say, Scrivener. (My other most frequent irritation with the dictation software being entirely my own fault when it fails to recognize either my own vocabulary — i.e. that “quixotically” in the footnote below**, which it failed to recognize again here — or my speaking too fast or too unclearly.) This speak-directly-Dictate issue shouldnʼt bother me because I work in Scrivener on the blog only to export HTML to import into my WordPress window in my browser. Taking that one other step to copy and paste what Iʼve said into Dictate into Scrivener should be minor. And it would be except for one thing: when dictating a possessive or contraction the text inserts an ugly typewriter-ish straight apostrophe instead of the elegant, typographical curly apostrophe that I prefer and wish you to see here in the blog. It takes a Find-and-Replace step to change the straight to the curly.

The Dragon version of the software to which I was upgraded about a year ago, has an even harder time than the original MacSpeech version attempting to insert text when Iʼm working in other programs. I used to be able to dictate quick e-mails, but with Dragon Dictate even such short messages end up confused, with text inserted in peculiar places, particularly if Iʼve had to try to correct or fix what it thought I had said. In the programʼs own text-editing environment, I can usually edit and correct at will — at least, until sometimes the program freezes and quits (a good thing in those otherwise calamitous occasions: the text-editing autosave feature usually has me right back where the freeze occurred when I restart the program).

The Recongition window, offering some alternatives

Dragon Dictate is designed to let one edit regularly and even frequently. The Recognition window shows not just the text the program actually is inserting but a variety of possible alternatives so that the dictator can quickly fix what the program has misheard simply by commanding the software to “Pick four” or whatever would be the correct number. (And at least with me, the program mishears frequently.) Sadly, even that quick correction can cause all kinds of havoc when not working in the Dragon Dictate environment — the cursor seems to jump around wildly and even at random, overwriting and inserting text in totally inappropriate ways and places, even when the dictator simply says, “Pick three.”

Dragon Dictate includes features for dictating in Microsoft Word, which makes one hopeful of being able to escape the programʼs own environment. Unfortunately, and wisely, I pretty much loathe Word, preferring naturally Scrivenerʼs wonderfully more flexible and comprehensive environment. In fact, I havenʼt even used Microsoftʼs omnipresent bloatware for anything since the first weeks after buying this computer. I almost immediately adopted the OpenOffice-based NeoOffice*** software for all my word processing — until I discovered Scrivener. 

Experimentally, I began this post in Scrivener, my favorite word-processing software — dictating rather than typing. Everything worked fine for about sixty words, and then the peculiar insertions and overwrites began. So I copied the good part of what I had said over to Dragon Dictateʼs text-editing window and tried to go from there. Unfortunately, a wild hare tempted me to try another word-processing program, coincidentally-out-of-the-past, OpenOffice, which was upgraded as a part of this morningʼs MacUpdate session, only to have the same dictation-editing issues commence almost instantly. And somehow when I tried to copy back to Dragon Dictate I lost the initial piece of what I had begun in Scrivener. 

Maybe that loss wasnʼt a tragedy. As I had begun to simply ramble, I took the missing text in stride and just started over with what youʼre reading here.

Sometimes, I suppose, the text a reader encounters results not so much from consciously chosen but from accidental and necessary, glitch-driven revision.

* (and with training and keeping my eye on what the dictation software chooses to insert, I find it usually is accurate — “usually” meaning that I only have to replace/edit one, or a few, out of every twenty to thirty words; for example, changing Dictateʼs “usually has” before the dash directly above and quixotically, as I had thought Iʼd reset the preferences a week or so ago to keep numbers as words up to one hundred, changing the “twenty” above from digits, the “50” the program had inserted automatically becoming the word as I edited “twenty” — evidently the reset preferences kicked back in)

** The parenthetical remark in the first note above was originally dictated as a part of the sentence where its asterisk appears. I was going to just cut it out altogether, but the observation seemed useful as evidence. And now, ironically, the whole has, quixotically, an irregularly circular structure, except for adding the following third footnote.

*** (strangely, although I did try using Open Office for a while, I find I prefer — and returned to — NeoOffice, even though itʼs directly derived from the Oracle program) 

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Free as a Bird (Not)

The poster for our production. It was one thing in which I participated productively yesterday.

Rainʼs moving in…

Of course, the radar has shown that rain closing in all morning, but the front wall of the rainfall has curved around Our County, encompassing Dubuque and a big region south of Interstate 80, but not us. Yet. The forecasters continue to insist it is coming; it will probably be here by the time I get this item composed, edited, illustrated and finally posted for today.

My summer job has ended. Like so many college students I enter September temporarily unemployed. My GOV still needs to be returned to the main office, and that event is currently scheduled for sometime late next month. So Iʼll earn a day or two daysʼ income taking it back and getting debriefed. Unfortunately, The Lovely One will have to take a day off work to drive me home afterwards. Or else I will have to locate other help lest I remain stranded in Urbandale…

Until that trip, I no longer have the ten-hour days encompassing my time and energy.

Fortunately or un-, my time is not yet quite my own. Our play* is busy in rehearsals, currently four nights each week (soon to become five), and I also have some duties during the day to fulfill (now that Iʼm “free”). Like finding some costumes, acquiring or manufacturing sound effects, helping to locate props, and assisting in set construction.

I also need to apply formally to work as a substitute teacher in districts nearby, and at least in Our Town that means about a dozen pages of various forms to complete along with credentials to locate and copy. So thereʼs plenty to do to keep me busy.

But I still find time, fatuously, to create and post material to the blog, like this. And I still want to take time to work on real writing and even give myself a chance to read some things for pleasure. This morning I composed a letter to my brother Stephen, long-overdue, and vague bits and pieces of what I had to tell him kept churning through my mind to become this post. However, now that Iʼm trying to put those same fragments of thoughts into print, Iʼm not sure I really have much to say. So at least this post will be brief.

And maybe I will get this into the electronic æther before the rain arrives.

Thanks for reading…

* I hope some may remember that Janet and I are directing One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest for the Grand Opera House in Dubuque. Auditions were held August 7 and 8, with actual rehearsals beginning on the 11th. The performances will begin September 23 through October 2.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Apologetic Punkʼdee

Sometimes oneʼs own foolishness can provide the meat for a blog post. Well, thatʼs true at least in my case. And hereʼs the post, today, to prove the axiom. (I could have entitled this one, “Stepping in My Own Droppings.”)

And some wonder why I picked Wakdjunkaga as a pseudonym/alter ego…

…or Facebook Follies

Over the weekend I got punked* via the internet. No, my identity wasnʼt stolen (at least not yet), but I got tricked into making a terribly false post on Facebook. About Michele Bachmann.

A Facebook page I have permitted on my Newsfeed posted a link to a Twitter feed this past Saturday morning. 

No, as you may observe below, AATPʼs original post did not mention anything about satire.

The Facebook page, “Americans Against the Tea Party,”  has a definite agenda in its online presence, determinedly in opposition to Dextremism and narrow-minded nonsense of that rigidly Rightist sort, but in general, although utterly opinionated, their posts have been sincere for the nearly a year that I have received their updates. I clicked their link to the Twitter remark Saturday, and found this:

Now I am no Twitterhead. The entire concept of “following” folksʼ 140-word pronouncements strikes me as the pursuit of the illusion of information as opposed to acquiring (and, we hope, attempting to understand) actual information.** To me, although I wondered about the abbreviation of the junior Congresswomanʼs name (and therefore cited my source when I repeated the “quote” as “@MicheIBachmann,” copied directly from the tweet), the remark seemed only slightly (d)extreme for the recent victor in the infamous Iowa Republican Straw Poll. In fact, except for the use of “tsunamis,” a pretty lengthy and unusual word for her, the remark seemed to fit snugly within her record of gaffes and ridiculosities pretty well.

So, believing that I was alerting the world to further pseudoChristian, fully fundamentalist/Dextremist folly, I reposted the “quote.” And a few of my Facebook comrades “liked” my observation that Ms Bachmann was more than merely crazy eyes.

Unfortunately (for me), I was deluded. AATP had  posted a “satirical” link, as they admitted themselves a little later:

Ha ha. So truly amusing. I got tricked. Punked.

Being but discontinuously online, I had no clue about my error until a friend from the Right bothered to tell me Saturday evening that the post was “from a satire site.” Although I felt blushingly ashamed, I was wrong (and he was more than right). Thus my thanks to him for bothering to politely and firmly point out my nonsense.

My correction

And my apologies to Ms. Bachmann (although sheʼll never know theyʼre here, Iʼm sure) after she has created a public record that could so easily include the horrible (but satiric) tweet.

* …Perhaps I should spell that “punkʼd” or something like that?

** Not that Facebook posts (which are now limited to fairly brief number of characters — which I have violated repeatedly and been forced to edit/reduce my remarks) are really all that worthwhile.

(All images today are accurate and unedited captures from Facebook and Twitter.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Best Laid Plans?

“Looking out my garage door…” at the Trailblazer in the rain (actually the sun is coming out).

Yesterday, almost from the predawn moment I arrived at my government Trailblazer to fetch it home for the dayʼs activities, rain poured from thick, dark skies, persisting all morning, as thunder revved and rumbled all around the atmosphere. Craggy shafts of lightning startled the gray world almost regularly but unpredictably. Although The Lovely One* dutifully headed off for work in her poor, padiddled** Toyota Corolla in the driving downpour, your humble blog host dryly elected to alter my penultimate plans for my seasonal job and leave checking out what few EAB traps I might have accidentally skipped, during the Great Takedown this past month, until the next day — meaning this day, today.

Instead, I sought shelter in our garage, with the big door wide open on the deluge, and packaged my collected hangers into groups of ten and boxed them up. I also worked laboriously to clean dirt and acquired glue from about a dozen or fifteen spreaders (all the rest I had judged clean enough to just pitch in the tangled agglutination of such items in a box in the GOV). Then I gave my faithful pole a final (at least I hope itʼs final) cleaning before starting in to vacuum and scrub the good old GOVʼs pretty dirty interior. The rain had ceased about 11:00, so I wasnʼt risking a wetting from the storm as I dragged our faithful shop vac outside to scour the carpeted and other parts of the vehicleʼs cabin. I knew that chore would be extensive (and not just because I had gotten a lot of dust and stuff into the GOV; it wasnʼt any too clean when I began this job back in April), but two and a half hours was a little more than I had anticipated on just that part of the vehicle clean-up.

That element of my work day drew to an end about 3:30 (as I indicated, quite a bit later than I had imagined), and I spent the next ninety minutes beginning my concluding bookwork — checking trap sheets to be sure I had marked off visits to remove the traps at each site (and struggling to recall to myself that I had done so/could remember something about doing so). I also wanted to count various aspects of my trapping.

The hangers grouped in tens in stacks of fifty — with one stack a few short, of course

Statistically, I now know that I have 244 hangers which I have collected over the takedown process (and I know that some trap sites — less than a dozen, but a significant “some” — didnʼt even have a hanger clinging in a tree when I arrived to take down the — in those cases blown away/fallen/vanished — traps). I canʼt count up the spreaders because theyʼre just a nest of tangled metal devices (much like oneʼs Christmas tree lights seem to become in their box from one year to the next, as my immediate supervisor John remarked at our last meeting). I had never counted how many traps I had actually put up (nor how many remained up as I discovered traps in oaks and hackberries and box elders and elms and walnuts and even a mulberry… and which I didnʼt replace if or when I could not locate an ash in that grid; nor did I yet know just how many of those instances occurred), and I figured I could keep count as I checked over the sheets. I wanted to know a full, accurate total on how many traps I had personally put up (even wrongly), and an enumeration of how many I had visited and revisited and finally removed over the course of this past summer.

Reality didnʼt actually measure up to those plans. First, I didnʼt get through everything in the ninety minutes, so Iʼll be continuing to work with the books before I head out to check the possibly skipped traps this morning. Second, I lost count on both the overall number of traps and in particular the ones that originally were placed in other trees than an ash. So those statistics may just never be calculated or result from some activity on my own, not on government time.

If my plans for today go better than my bookwork plans yesterday, I may even get to continue cleaning the GOV late this afternoon. No matter what, I intend to get it finished and reloaded with unused and collected supplies tomorrow and, except for the return of the vehicle to Des Moines, conclude my seasonal employment for this summer.

At least thatʼs my plan. For now.

* I inserted that asterisk as I dictated this post before play practice yesterday. But why? Surely most of my several dozen readers know who The Lovely One is by now…   

— Oh, yes! Now I remember: I finally figured out how to get idiot Dragon Dictate to insert the words for numbers to one hundred instead of defaulting to digits. So now “The Lovely One” appears correctly when I say, “Cap The Cap Lovely Cap One” instead of becoming irrationally “The Lovely 1.”

** Ah, the sweet scent of youthful experience… In my late childhood and teens, a “padiddle” was a one-eyed car (with one headlight out), as Janetʼs vehicle is right now (and will remain until we get it to our repair guy on Saturday).

And third, the rain was much-needed hereabouts. And gratefully received.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Wrapping Up

The trap from our tree, viewed from above, showing: bugs stuck to the exterior, the spreader and the lure depending thereupon. (The hanger is cut off slightly, lying to the left.)


The month of August is nearly gone with just one little post from me to mark this time, way back on the first of the month. Pretty sad record, that.

Whatʼs up?

Work. Plenty of it.

August is the time for all the purple traps for emerald ash borers to come down, and I have been churning around Clinton, Jackson and eastern Dubuque counties every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday all month long trying to get every one of my traps removed and trashed. (Yes, once I have examined the trap to consider each bug stuck thereon this final time, the big purple contraption is nothing but trash — saving the “hardware:” the hanger, which holds the device aloft from a branch, and the spreader, which holds the triangular trapezoid in shape and from which dangle the packets of scent lure which supposedly draw the bugs. In fact, one of the most vital jobs this past month has been lining up or otherwise locating trash bins which will accept all the disassembled and flattened traps — including those at campgrounds and parks, civic and other government offices/facilities and [at least in my case] several cooperative schools and businesses.) And as of today, the job is done. I left the trap in our own front yard for the very last, and after cleaning out the city of Dubuque itself, I came back here and pulled down that one last trap.

Several days of work remain. I still need to go over the trap sheets in comparison/contrast with the official maps of trap sites to ensure that I didnʼt somehow skip one (or two or…). Iʼll focus on that tomorrow, and because I canʼt remember a couple of key sites, I figure the GOV and I will be on the road for at least some (if not most) of the day double-checking and verifying. And I have a collection of several hundred hangers that I need to put in some kind of order (evidently wired together in groups of ten and placed neatly in boxes. Too bad no one told me to save the boxes I started with, since those, having been emptied, are long gone to recycling). And the good old GOV needs a thorough cleaning inside and out before I repack it with leftover supplies and the preserved hardware to take back to Des Moines sometime in the future.

The gypsy moth trappers are still busy far into September, and I could have worked about a week longer myself, if necessary (it wasnʼt). But come Thursday evening, I am finished.

— So why havenʼt I been at least posting a couple of times each week? My torpid nature, naturally. And The Lovely One and I are very busy in the evenings directing a play — One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest* for the Grand Opera House in Dubuque. We held auditions early in the month, the seventh and eighth (casting over a long, arduous evening on the ninth), and rehearsals began that Thursday. Weʼve been practicing every weeknight since then (with me desperately trying to get both Act One and Act Two blocked before the necessary rehearsals last week — a triple dose of time and effort). Of course, preparations for the rehearsal period to commence began even earlier than auditions.

And so it goes… until the two weekends of performances — September 23, 24, 25, and September 29 and 30 and October 1 and 2.

Time has been (and will remain) at a minimum, a premium. And I had better be off to Dubuque right now for tonightʼs rehearsal!

* You will have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the cast list (at least it will remain visible until showtimes, I hope).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Dirty Work (at and away from The Crossroads)

Thereʼs nothing particularly dirty about this shot (from today). But this is the tree I actually climbed to get the trap about a month ago. It is (I firmly hope) the ONLY tree Iʼll have to climb. (The trap is visible in the photo, but you have to look very closely to discern it in the quite low spot where I rehung the thing and from where I removed it this morning.)

My job is dirty work. I havenʼt mentioned this issue before partly because it didnʼt seem that way back in April when I got started. (I am thinking about “when I got started” as I have begun to take down the traps, beginning with those we first put up.) But even in those (dreamily now?) chilly and rainy days of not-quite-spring-here-on-the-prairie, I was using the “goop” weʼre provided to clean the sticky stuff (Tanglefoot®) on the traps from my fingers and the extendable pole. On a fairly regular basis.

Since those early days, especially as heat has swelled and the dry epoch of summer descended, the roads have become dustbins thick with yellow grit my vehicle plows up into clouds of dense fog-like filth, even as complicated and unreadable medleys of weeds have sprouted (neck-high in some places) in the ditches along those dusty country roads… my work has gotten dirtier. My clothes really require a daily cleaning, partly to remove my own bodily exudation but also the thick layer(s) of accumulated dust and stickiness from traps.

I had thought the worst was two weeks back when temperatures soared to nearly 100° (with — pardon my mentioning it, Tushie Lamebah — heat indices often nearly 120°). And at the end of the aforementioned three weeks of utter aridity. But today, as I began to take down the traps, the filth factor (and the sweat, even though the day topped out just about 92° with the heat index only at 105º) the grimy grunginess hit a new level of ugliness. Taking the traps apart (saving the hardware but eventually folding the purple cardboard into a flat with the glue sides inward* for later disposal) with the glue in a molten state (mixed with bug bodies/parts/guts and windblown dirt) had me cleansing my fingers every single stop.

And the dust puffed in visible waves of billows around me, reverberated from my clothes with every step I took from the back of the GOV to the driverʼs door.

I just wanted to report: my job is dirty work.

And now, as it is not air-conditioned here in the office, I think Iʼll quit and leave this post brief. But dirty.

*  — but only after very, very carefully scrutinizing each peculiar bug — after all, this is the final examination, and I wouldnʼt want to miss anything exciting, however much I donʼt want emerald ash borers around here in my lifetime.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.