Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The Dragon and I are just beginning to become acquainted.

I resisted the idea of voice recognition software. My way of writing involves a fair amount of back-and-forth  about word choice. I'm not as bad as Flaubert, who supposedly rolled on the floor, gnashing his teeth, searching for just the right word. However, I do like the sensation of trying out words, rather than composing entirely in one's mind and dictating the result. When I'm writing poetry, I actually have to do it longhand because it is such a slow process.

The Dragon for me is a byproduct of carpal tunnel surgery. Because my problems with carpal tunnel syndrome involved years of piano playing and typing, my surgeon suggested getting voice recognition software in order to reduce typing and therefore to reduce some repetitive motion. "Save your hands for the piano,"  he said.

Coincidentally, I am looking at a news article which says SAT reading and writing scores have dropped to a 40 year low this year. The College Board, which administers the test all college-bound students must take,  estimates that only 43% of SAT takers in this year's freshman class were well prepared for studies at four-year colleges. Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, said when “when less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, (the preparation) system is failing.”

My Dragon is quick, accurate, can spell correctly. Even if it did make Mr. Caperton "Mr. Coppertone" before I corrected it.. 

Sometimes, playing a really good, responsive piano, I get the impression that I am dealing with a frisky animal which is anxious to please.  My initial impressions of Dragon are the same. I think it is trying hard, even though I know that a team of clever engineers has tweaked it and tweaked it until it could pretty much type what the user spoke.

 Imagine, however, if some of those students making such miserable scores on the SATs were able to compose their essays with a voice recognition program.They could give the impression of being literate when in fact they are not.

In such a hypothetical case, you might even call voice recognition software a an attractive nuisance.

As for me, I am willing for a while to try being a talker rather than a writer.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Another Side of Mother

            She could only play one song on the piano: “Home, Sweet Home.” But she played it with both hands and an Alberti bass.
            As a little girl, she liked to draw and write poetry.
            She played in a ukulele and harmonica band in grammar school.
            She knew all the words to “The Prisoner’s Song.”
            She kept a scrapbook on the Status of Women for her WSCS Methodist group long before anyone ever talked about feminism.
            Her purse smelled like chewing gum because she kept treats for a child who grew bored at church.
            She would have been valedictorian of her high school class except for me.
            As it was, she was voted the Flappingest Flapper.
            She ran away to marry Daddy when she was 17 years old on August 4, 1935. They were married 50 years.
            She named me for her sister Elizabeth and for a Civilian Conservation Corps boy named Michael who was allowed to walk her to church. She said she just liked the name and didn’t care whether it was a girl’s name or a boy’s name. Elizabeth had too many syllables, so it was shortened to Lysbeth. She called me both names when I was in trouble.
            When I repeated a racial epithet I had heard at school, she said in her scariest voice “I don’t ever want you to say that word again.” I still can’t say it.
            The strongest word I ever heard her use was “Criminy.”
            She was little, but she was brave and physically strong. She could lift boulders. And she could be fierce, a quality I have admired all my life.
            She listened to Roosevelt’s third term inaugural address on the radio. She cried when he died. She hardly ever cried.
            She never really got over my brother Lindle’s death.
            She only had one cookbook.
            She drew the line at cleaning fish.
            She didn’t care for off-color jokes. She couldn’t really tell a joke because she always garbled the punch line.
            She read every Erle Stanley Gardner mystery ever written.
            When my sophisticated college boyfriend said he thought she had good taste, I was astonished. I didn’t know she had any taste at all.
            I overheard her having a political discussion with a smart lawyer. “You can’t beat City Hall,” she said.
            She had three older sisters with college degrees, but she had us instead. When I asked her what she would have studied in college, she said “Why, History, of course.”
            On my 76th birthday this June 8, she phoned me up and said “I just wanted to tell you that I think we did a good job with you.”
           (Frances Ensor Benedict, May 16, 1918-September 2, 2012)