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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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On the other hand

September 24th, 2013 · 19 Comments · General, Health

Several people suggested using a dictation program to write blog entries while my hand is healing. So this is an attempt to do just that.

I cranked up Apple’s Siri voice software this afternoon to see whether it can handle this kind of situation. This is the first time I’ve used Siri for anything other than making a phone call or other very simple task. So let’s see how it works.

First an update.

After the incident Yesterday I was back at Queen’s to see a doctor who specializes in hands. He removed the large coffee ["coffee"?? That is a Siri-ism, a nonsense word appearing out of Siri;s brow==what was it supposed to be? I think maybe I said "puffy".] I called the “lobster claw” bandage that was put on in the emergency room on Friday which had fully wrapped up all three fingers and the various other bites, scrapes, and bruises.

The first photo shows that emergency room bandage before it was removed.

He examined the wounds and pronounced that I will indeed live. He said my finger with the missing part should not require additional surgery, so that was good news, but it will take “a while” to heal. I didn’t ask what “a while” translates to. I guess I didn’t want the answer.

Much better The big puffy bandage was replaced with small dressings on the injured fingertips, which seems like a major advance. I am supposed to change these dressings a couple of times a day, at least until the healing process progresses. The smaller bandages make it a little easier to type, even while avoiding use of the injured fingers. Perhaps there’s hope after all.

Which gets back to Siri. The voice recognition actually worked better than I expected. It’s a little cumbersome, and if I speak too fast it loses track and can’t follow, or just makes more mistakes. I don’t know if it can be trained to insert formatting commands such as to insert a photo or indent a block of text. I’ll have to research whether it recognizes sufficient commands to to that sort of thing.

About half of this text was written via Siri. Some paragraphs had few errors. Some sentences became garbled nonsense. And it all had to be edited and corrected. Still, for the first experiment, I would call it a qualified success.

But the blogging issue isn’t just technical. Before I could rely on Siri, I would have to retrain my brain to think out loud instead of sending a train of thought directly to my fingers and the keyboard, which is what I’m used to. Going to verbal input seems to require using a different neural network. I’m sure it’s a transition that could be made, but would take some real work. Like learning to sign my name or button my shirt with my left hand. Job retraining.

The other problem is also mental. Since Friday morning’s injuries, my attention has been focused inward. Getting through each day has pretty much absorbed my available energy. Routine tasks take more time and, more importantly, attention. Nothing can be taken for granted. So I have just had trouble getting into a blogging mindset the past few days. Hopefully that will begin to change soon.

Thanks for sticking around during the process.

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19 Comments so far ↓

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  • Pat

    Glad the lobster claw is gone. What a frightening sight!

  • Ken Conklin

    Ian wrote “But the blogging issue isn’t just technical. Before I could rely on Siri, I would have to retrain my brain to think out loud instead of sending a train of thought directly to my fingers and the keyboard, which is what I’m used to. Going to verbal input seems to require using a different neural network. I’m sure it’s a transition that could be made, but would take some real work.”

    We’ve all seen those old movies where the business executive is dictating a letter while his secretary writes it in shorthand, to be typed later. Or occasionally the executive speaks into a machine which has a dictabelt for later transcribing. So in the old days, executives had the skill of thinking out loud; i.e., putting thoughts into fully perfected spoken words before any writing was done. Some politicians today still have that skill; although others seem to need a teleprompter to show them the written words for them to speak.

    As I think back to when wordprocessing programs first became available on computers, I remember that for about a year I continued composing my essays the same way I always had — using a pen or pencil to write my essay on paper, make corrections and improvements by writing on paper until my essay was finished, and then doing the typing. It took me quite a while, and a lot of cajoling from a friend, before I started composing essays directly on the computer instead of using pen/paper first. The new way of composing did indeed require a “different neural network.” And I still regret losing the almost spiritual feeling of seeing my ideas flowing out of my pen onto the paper — a feeling much stronger when using an old-fashioned fountain pen that the newfangled ball-point pen.

    So now we have identified three very different ways to create a typewritten composition; which seem to have three different cognitive/emotional states of mind: (a) Express ideas in more or less polished final form orally, to then be written or typed by a human secretary or by a computer (like Siri); (b) Express ideas by using a pen or pencil to write them onto a piece of paper, until the composition is perfect, and then typing it; (c) Express ideas by using fingers to type them directly into a computer, and then use the computer’s power to make corrections, insertions, rearrange paragraphs, etc. Switching from one to another mode of composition does indeed require real work, sort of like thinking in a foreign language without first thinking in English and then translating.

    By the way, I hardly ever make a preliminary outline anymore. I just start typing, knowing that the computer will allow unlimited insertions, additions, rearranging, etc. The act of composing still leads me to discover new ideas, regardless whether the composing is done with pencil/paper or done with a computer. About 35 years ago I wrote an article to explain how and why teachers, writers, actors, and artists learn from what they do:
    http://tinyurl.com/oupstd3

  • ohiaforest3400

    That index digit is more than just a little shorter, it’s a whole joint shorter. I thought your earlier remark meant you had lost the tip or the nail but this is something else altogether that will really require a change in typing method.

    Not to sound mercenary, but BD’s people — or their insurance company — owe you some money and, if necessary, I hope you find a lawyer to help you get it.

    • Ian Lind

      Not as bad as you say. It’s not a whole joint lost. Enough nail is intact with enough “base” to look like it will survive as well.

      • ohiaforest3400

        Glad I overestimated the injury (less lawyer contact is almost always better anyway!). It may have been because the little photo of your hand was, at the time, linked not to a larger version but, instead, to a January ’13 Feline Friday gallery (fixed now). Must have been another casualty of your limited digital dexterity, LOL!

  • Merry Lee

    I hear you on “writing” verbally. Completely different.

    I’m wondering if you or Siri put in the punctuation. I’m betting on you.

    Glad you didn’t have to have those horrid rabies shots.

  • CiCi

    Your remark about brain wiring may be right on the money. I have spent most of my days on a keyboard for the majority of three decades, and now I often catch myself fingering phantom keys when I’m thinking away from the computer. Actually it was my spouse who first noticed it – it was second nature to me.

    The good news is that I also had my index finger smashed pretty badly several years ago, which left it unusable for anything for almost a year, but it didn’t take more than a few weeks to master the art of 9 finger typing. Didn’t slow me down a bit. We humans are wonderfully adaptive creatures.

    You will be back in top form before you know it.

  • Tim

    Perhaps this might help prevent those excruciating events of Writers Block? Just start shouting and it will all come out!

  • R Ferdun

    Oof. Note to self. Don’t stick hand in big dog’s mouth.

  • Garfield

    Now you know what it feels like to write an otherwize passable drunken e-mail from Argentina at night (specifically that one you and a couple other people received from me in January of 2010, if you may recall it from its moronically atrocious spelling, discoordinated logic and missed fumbles):
    - crippled by a very foregn Latino keyboard that couldn’t produce anything even as simple as the letter “y” correctly, no matter what I attempted;
    - crippled in the darkened out lobby of a budget Bueno Aires backpackers’ hostel in which any additional lighting would have helped nada beause most of the ivory-on-ebony lettering on the keys had long ago been absorbed into the atmosphere;
    - crippled physically by a fascinating but fierce 40 kilometer walk all over the massive east side of Buenos Aires that rendered me a slumping slurred hulk with no Siri, no medical care and no energy to plod up to bed, just a free internet to somehow cheer my spirits;
    -crippled so much at that moment by being in hand-to-hand combat with my keyboard that – just like you now – my non-relationship with my keyboard was at that point the only subject at hand was, itself, my dysfunctioning keyboard.

    (Note to self. Don’t say HAND in this situation.)

    The Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland has a large circular kraal in it on the upper slopes containing a very popular population of meekrats with nothing separating them at all from the human public but a modest one-foot wall – but also a small sign: “We’re cute. But we bite!”

  • Ck

    It definitely looks better but I bet it is still very painful. Small dog Is doing much better and actually wanted to play today. We still don’t go to the beach. We haven’t put her collar back on and I still cannot pick her up with out it being painful for her. But she is happy and wagging her tail.

  • Charles Smith

    Yikes, Ian, glad recovery is proceeding. As a carpenter for 40+ years I can attest that injuries to fingers are *extremely* painful due to the abundance of nerve endings. I think you may be bravely under-reporting the pain.
    Dogfights and dog bites happen in a flash. Very weird experience. It was more difficult because both owners were present.
    Current VR software is much better than what was available 10 years ago. Not much consolation, I know….

  • cwd

    What is Siri? What does it do?

    One of my best friends from college named one of her daughters Siri.

  • Reality Bites

    The real takeaway to all this, of course, is that sometimes forceful intervention is necessary to defend the vulnerable from aggression, any cloying tendency toward aloof presumptions of peace-loving moral superiority in a world of reason and negotiability notwithstanding.
    And an effective form of vicious animal deterrent/neutralizer sure can come in handy.

    • ohiaforest3400

      RB, are you subtly (or not so subtly) challenging Ian’s position on the need for and type of intervention in Syria? Perhaps we should wonder what would happen to the little dog (civilians not allied with the Alawites) if the world (including Ian) stands by while Big Dig (Assad, other Alawites, and their allies) shreds it?

      • Reality Bites

        In general terms, it no doubt feels good to polish one’s self-image while viewing the beautiful jungle from the safety and comfort of 20,000 feet.

        But not everyone can be above it all, and sometimes things bite.

  • Burl Burlingame

    What do you say? Siri, take dictation?

    • Ian Lind

      I used Siri on my iPad. When it is “on”, a little microphone symbol appears on the keyboard (the on-screen keyboard). Hit that key, and it types whatever you say.

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