…and I don’t usually bother with hating–it’s too much work, so I just practice avoidance (such as in my non-relationship with anchovies)…but that said: because I can’t avoid using computers, I HATE machines that think they’re HAL or the MCP, and try to impose their notions on what I’m doing. Over the past two months, I’ve wasted more time ferreting out and undoing the mistakes made by arrogant AI that goes behind my back to change the specifications I’ve made for my manuscript. Not good, when there’s a deadline at stake. This was not a case of GIGO–I set up my desired formats, SAVED them, and every time I went back to the document, the computer had changed my settings. I finally ended up playing both ends against the middle, by pitting HAL against the MCP. But it looks like I’m going to have to go deeper and make “permanent” changes to default templates for as long as I’m working on this project. Things were a lot easier fifteen years ago, before they came up with the supposedly “intuitive” bells-and-whistles. The system wasn’t broken until they tried to “fix” it. Honestly, I’ve got a toaster that has more genuine intuition than this circus masquerading as a computer.
I’ve been wearing a new hat: Computer Voice Speech Therapist. After several days of working with the Microsoft voices David and Zira to improve their diction, I need listeners for Chapter 1 of Irish Firebrands.
System Requirements: a PC with David or Zira text-to-speech narrator, and a version of Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader with Read Out Loud. I will be posting an Adobe PDF file for download from a separate page on this blog. The manuscript will not be visible (it will look like blank pages), because the spelling and punctuation changes that were made to adjust breath control and pronunciation make the text difficult to read. Listeners may adjust their own Read Out Loud options for volume, voice, pitch and words per minute. Listener suggestions for ways to correct diction irregularities are welcome.
For new Read Out Loud users: Be aware that these are computer-generated voices, not human readers. David and Zira are new-generation narrators, so they sound more lifelike than most, but they still have problems with rhythm, elision, emphasis and pronunciation. Hazel, a British voice, is also more natural-sounding, but she makes different errors that will need to be corrected in a separate version of the manuscript. The voices LH Michael, LH Michelle, Microsoft Anna, Microsoft Sam, and Toshiba Male are not suitable. Please only use David or Zira to listen to this chapter.
If your ears would like to volunteer, please comment below.
I follow Dr. Doyle’s Editorial and Critique Services blog, which recently served up a blast from the past (http://drdoyleeditorial.com/2013/03/13/tales-of-the-before-time-from-paper-to-pixels/).
I mentioned in an early post that I became a touch typist on my mother’s manual typewriter at the age of ten. I produced a 50-page “novel” shortly thereafter (no wonder I have arthritis in my hands and fingers), and the Smith Corona Electric behemoth I got when I first went off to college ended up traveling around the globe (Illinois to Germany, to Maryland; then Alaska, Hawaii and back to Virginia) before it gave up the ghost.
The first time I used a computer was in 1977, at the National Security Agency. (Yes, I was a spy. No, I don’t have to kill you, now. The statute of limitations has expired, you lucky dog.) It was the size and shape of a large chest freezer, and we had to reprogram the machine by writing BASIC line code every time we wanted output to a printer that outweighed a baby elephant.
My first household computer was a Coleco Adam, which still required magnetic tape for memory and line code programming in order to do anything that remotely resembled Artificial Intelligence. It output to a dot-matrix printer that I wore out and had to replace the tractor feed. After that I graduated to a Radio Shack Tandy with a 5 1/4-inch floppy drive; later upgraded to another Tandy with a 3 1/2-inch floppy, and subsequently acquired an external modem. A Packard Bell with an internal modem, a 3 1/2-inch floppy and a CD reader, arrived in 1997 and lasted 6 years (despite being hit by lightning), to be followed by a Compaq with a 3 1/2-inch floppy, a CD R/W, and a dial-up modem that had to be replaced after five years, and which was supplemented during the next five years by an E-Machine laptop and a Toshiba laptop, both with wireless cards and CD/DVD R/W drives. All three were used in the production of Irish Firebrands. My new “Holstein-Frisian” CPU has more memory than several chest freezers at NSA.
* Don’t answer that.
That’s what Gramma used to say, and she was right.
Pig won’t go over the stile, Dog won’t bite Pig, Stick won’t beat Dog, Fire won’t burn Stick, Water won’t quench Fire, Ox won’t drink Water, Farmer won’t sell Ox, Rope won’t hang Farmer, Rat won’t gnaw Rope, Cat won’t kill Rat, and I won’t get home tonight.
That’s “planned obsolescence” for you.
As I remember the joke (but I’m going back at least 35 years with this one, and I’ve slept a few nights since then), it goes something like this:
“Getting anything done around here is like breeding elephants: It takes place at a high level, it’s accompanied by a lot of roaring and screaming, and it takes a year to get any results.”
Well, that’s nothing, compared with birthing a book.
I feel like Rex Harrison’s Pope yelling at Charlton Heston’s Michelangelo up in the scaffolding under the Sistine Chapel ceiling, in the motion picture adaptation of Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy:
“When will you be finished?”
“When I’m done!”
But even painting the Sistine Chapel frescoes took Michelangelo only three years. It’s been more than four years since I first put pencil to paper, more than thirteen months since the last plot hole closed, four months since the first paperback edition was printed, two months since the large print, compact and E-book versions came out – and I’m still not done with Irish Firebrands.
The E-book formatting still needs tweaking to get it to display correctly, I’m tearing apart the text to teach three different E-voices how to read it out loud for the audible version, the galley proof of the new illustrated edition arrived today and I’m roaring and screaming over the new formatting glitches that somehow creep into it with every new version. Not only that, but also somewhere in the dark crypts of my cortex my psyche conceived a vision of the changes that need to be made for a hardback version….
When can I sit down with my own book and just read it for enjoyment?
When it’s finished!
When will it be finished?
When it’s done!
A few days ago I was multitasking (as one does) between two computers — a middle-aged laptop with internet access, and the superannuated offline desktop (“Ol’ Paint”) that I wrote Irish Firebrands on — when I realized that the old CPU was not only creaking and groaning with arthritis, but also that it had begun to show signs of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. After nine years and six months of faithful service, it was time to put the poor old thing out to pasture, before it suffered a thundering apoplexy and descended into full-blown dementia.
Now Ol’ Paint’s cerebrum hums happily in an external hard drive case, and I’m the only one creaking and groaning with arthritis — and at risk for apoplexy, as I wrestle with a new operating system on a CPU that made my credit card hurt, laboring to transfer files, software and peripheral drivers from the the last five computers I’ve owned over the past 25 years. Meanwhile, the lobotomized tower with Ol’ Paint’s cerebellum-motherboard has disappeared into the Black Hole that is my resident son’s suite of rooms, from whence it will someday emerge, a threat to life as we know it — a computer-zombie of spare parts that would make Frankenstein’s Monster blench.
I just discovered … FIRE!
Er … not exactly … what I really did, was invent … THE WHEEL!
Em … or maybe it was … THE INTERNET!
Uh … no … Al Gore says he did that. Well….
I guess I’m just a bit slow getting out of the starting blocks, because … I used the Read Out Loud function in Adobe Acrobat®, for the first time. Microsoft® Sam can proofread and find typos, and he doesn’t get tired. With a little manipulation of the spelling and punctuation in Irish Firebrands, Sam’s diction improved enough, that he even spoke a little Gaeilge. In only one evening, Sam and I turned the front matter and nearly all of Chapter 1 of Irish Firebrands into decent-sounding audible text.
Now, Ma will be able to “read” my novel, just like the talking books she gets from the Library for the Blind.
How cool is that?
March 1 Update: Got that new CPU up and running, and Sam is not one of the available voices. How sad — he was one of only two (that I know of, at least) that could pronounce “Celtic” correctly, without being helped.