Thursday, August 23, 2007

Today's scribblings arrive by courtesy of a speech recognition program. This, in itself, gives me much to grumble about but more of that later. There is, of course, a reason why I am using this rather unusual method of text input. I'm sitting here, yakking into a cheap and uncomfortable headset perched unsteadily atop my sparsely greying dome because my right arm is in a cheap and uncomfortable sling and I have been forbidden to use it by a stern yet well-meaning lady of the medical profession.

I am, in point of fact, suffering from an unfortunate repetitive strain injury of the wrist. Now, I know my readers (both of them) and so I know what you're thinking now. Stop it.

For a couple of reasons I have been out of the office for a little while and have had some time on my hands. There's only so much walking the dog and daytime television that a man can stand and so I've had to find some other things to occupy my time. I rather like to make things so I've tried to use that time constructively.

In fact my injuries have been caused by an overindulgence in my hobbies of drawing and woodcarving. As a result of much diligent application over the preceding three weeks I have, to show for my efforts, a wooden carving of a horse's head approximately 1 foot high; several pen and coloured pencil drawings of dragons; a sore arm and an irritated wife. This latter, rather unwelcome, situation is a result of my current inability to fully participate in the activities of housework or packing for and driving to our family holiday in the Lake District of England.

Speech recognition: oh dear, oh dear. Now everything started quite well because the program I'm using has in its name the word Dragon, and I like dragons. Trouble is, it starts to go downhill from here on. Firstly, having installed Internet Explorer seven I find that the programme does not automatically update itself with the latest patches on the manufacturers website. This has necessitated a phone call to technical support and the ensuing download of 1 GB patch file for which I am still patiently waiting.

In the meantime I decided to get on with "training" the package to recognize my dulcet tones. The promotional "blurb" which comes with this particular package sets great store by the accuracy and ease-of-use of this software. It is hardly necessary, we are told, to train it-it's that good straight out of the box. So I expected my clear and concise delivery of the Queen's English to present no problem. Unfortunately, of course, the (inevitably American) software is expecting the President's English rather than that of the Queen. My first attempts contained so much garbage inaccuracy and misspelling that they actually resemble a George W. Bush speech. And to borrow a word from said President I'm afraid I rather "missunderestimated" the magnitude of the task of training. It's taken most of the afternoon and been quite frustrating but I finally seem to be getting somewhere.