Any Thoughts on Speech Recognition Software?

You may have noticed a bit of a drop-off in in-depth posts round here lately. Part of that was ye holidays, part of it’s the seasonal blahs (when the sky’s gray for the billionth day in a row, productivity drops and brooding rises), but there’s also the fact that when the weather makes an abrupt change from dire to delightful, the wrists don’t react well. They want a break. I don’t want to give it to them, because there’s too much interesting stuff to write about. Luckily, these days, they can have their break without mucking up the blogging. It only requires finding the proper speech recognition software.

That’s where you lot come in. Some among you must have favorites. What should I get as my software secretary, my Archie Goodwin or Ms. Lemon, the software that will efficiently take my dictation and (hopefully) set my brain free? Of course, software probably hasn’t achieved those heights yet, so I’ll settle for something that doesn’t make me want to strangle it every ten seconds. Thank you in advance for your recommendations, my darlings!

Right. I Want to Try Something.

There’s a Welsh phrase I love very much: “Like killing snakes.” Means “very busy.” I’m like killing snakes right now. The start of the Winter Writing Season is always like throwing a grenade into the middle of my life, and this time, I decided to go nuclear, what with starting the Geokittehs blog with Evelyn, joining Freethought Blogs, offering to do some of the social media work for Burien Little Theatre, and participating in the Skepticism 101 panel at GeekGirlCon. And I’m not going to tell you the major cell phone carrier I work tech support for, but I’ll put it like this: we’re getting the iPhone 4s, which means they’ve closed the vacation calendar, opened up overtime slots, and are basically expecting us to be like killing snakes at a snake farm in which some mad strange person has been giving the snakes fertility drugs.

As I said, busy.

And that won’t leave as much time as I like for in-depth research for meaty geology posts. Not that we won’t have meaty geology posts. We will, at least a few. I’ll also be highlighting my beloved geobloggers as the weeks go by, because they deserve to be known and you’ll be happy to know them. But I’ll also need topics I can do as a hit-and-run. Which brings me to a somewhat pathetic cry for help.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to provide me with quotations. I loves me some quotations. Give me your favorite geology and/or science quotes. Bring me the ones that inspire you, get right down into the core of you and light a bright little fire. And what I shall do with those quotes is use them as a jumping-off point for posts. Who knows what will come of them? Who knows what I will make of them? Only way to find out is to place them in my hands and see where they take us.

But that’s not all!

Perhaps there’s a subject you’d like me to pontificate about. Perhaps you’d like my opinion on some matter. Perhaps you’d like to show me something outrageous and see if it gets up my nose far enough for the Smack-o-Matic to come off the wall. Believe it or not, I’m not nice all the time. You might like me when I’m angry. You can have a look through the archives, now that our own Jason Thibeault has managed to migrate them over, and see. I figure a good rant’s like a brisk run: good for the blood on occasion. We might want to engage in one at some point.

And if you have pictures of some very delectable geology you’d like to throw my way, I could do up a nice showcase of same. Perhaps you want to tell me a little about your field work, or a particular bit o’ geology you know and love. Write me up a paragraph or two, send me a photo, and we’ll display it here. Yahoo knows me as dhunterauthor. I’m not at all hard to find.

That should maintain this establishment’s reputation for quality whilst I’m also engaged with trying to lock some fiction into a full nelson and get it pinned to the page.

Thank you in advance, my darlings, for your kind assistance.

And while we’re on thanks, go over and show Jason some love. He worked his heart out getting the archives online here, whilst he was also responding to others’ pleas for help, and he deserves a tanker truck full of his preferred beverage. Muchas gracias, Jason!

Attention, Writers: Help a Pregnant Lady Out by Yammering About Writing

My dear heart sister NP is expecting her first bebbe roundabout August. Q: How much blogging can a new mother do? A: Bugger-all. So she’s seeking a few good writers to help out:

That said, I’d like to appeal to you, my dear coffee-stained readers, and ask if any of you would like to step in and post a few guest posts for while I’m preoccupied cuddling my precious little Bean. Dana of En Tequila Es Verdad already has access as a co-blogger, so I’m sure you’ll be able to enjoy at least one tequila-stained post from her over the course of my absence, but surely there are others of you who have contemplated writing about writing? Or about your faith? Or coffee, for that matter?

Well, this is your opportunity to chime in!

Not only will you get the chance to share your thoughts here, but you’ll get great linkage to your own blog/site, which is always good. Cross-promotion is fun, isn’t it?

If you’re interested, please let me know. Even if you’re not sure exactly what you’d write, but you know you’d like to participate, let me know. Over the next few weeks I’ll be collecting posts from readers and will schedule them to go up on my blog.

I’ll be doing my duty. This is my heart-sister we’re talking about. She shouldn’t have to worry about blogging on top of caring for my new nephew. But I can’t shoulder the load by myself, not with a cantina to run. So, you writers in the audience, here’s your chance to babble about writing, the universe, and everything (which, of course, is writing, right?).

Blocked? No need to be. NP’s got plenty o’ topics for ye:

  • Do you “write what you know”? If not, what do you write? Regardless of whether you write what you know or not, how much research do you do in a given writing week?

  • If you have or will have a digital reader, will you still peruse brick-and-mortar bookshops? Will you still relish the weight of a book on your lap, or the smell of ink and paper when you open your favorite paperback for the thousandth time?

That’s the random stuff. There’s the crafty stuff – talk about your genre, your take on POV, myth and metaphor, adjectives and adverbs, or whatever else strikes your fancy. Post a poem, or an excerpt. Tell us about your favorite characters. If you’re a blogger, talk blog. Give the advice you wish you’d had to newly-minted scribblers. Talk about your life as a writer.
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This is your prime opportunity to yammer about writing (or faith, or coffee) to a willing audience for once. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!

I surely don’t plan to. Come join me for some coffee-stained writing, and do a new mother a kindness to boot.

(Postdated for stragglers)

I Am On a Mission – Which Means Passing the Buck to You

So, my stepmother emails me yesterday with a two-part mission: first, I am to convince my father to purchase her a new computer. Even after implementing many of the fixes you all recommended, and for which she is incredibly grateful, her current machine, to put it mildly, sucks leper donkey dick.

My old dad is not impressed with the idea of throwing more money at electronics. But apparently, I have some sort of influence over his wallet. Interesting idea, that. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

The second half of my mission is to determine if the iMac all-in-one is worth its purchase price.

How the fuck should I know? I’m one of those loyal PC users. Mac strikes me as over-priced, over-hyped, and only really worthwhile if you’re heavily into movies and graphic art – or so my artsy-fartsy friends tell me. I wouldn’t know. I’m a writer – all I need my computer to do is play video clips, music files, and process words. Lots and lots of words.

After spending the last year dealing with the bloody iPhone, my tolerance for Apple products is zilch. It wasn’t that high to begin with – I’d spent far too many hours trailing my roommate around to various Apple stores trying to get her damned laptop functioning again after its latest epic fail. (Then again, this is a woman who beats the living shit out of every inanimate object she touches, so it’s probably not the laptop’s fault.) My old HP Pavillion, purchased refurb many years ago, is still chugging along just fine. Before that, I had an HP desktop so old it didn’t even have USB ports, and the only thing that ever quit on it was the internal battery. You could say I’m partial.

So I must beg your input. She wants something affordable that won’t blow up in a year. She’s sick of viruses. She’s desperate enough to go Mac. Should she?

Mac vs. PC – fight!

Help Me! I’m Buried Under Politics

Which means I haven’t had time to cruise the intertoobz looking for really delicious non-political fuckery to take the Smack-o-Matic to. Got links to something delicious? Religious buffoonery, IDiocy, something completely different but just as outrageously stupid? Who needs a paddling? Bring ‘em on!

We could all use the break. I’ll start with tailbones. Heh.

Calling on the Computer Gurus

My stepmother’s computer could use a diagnosis, if anyone’s so inclined:

Seems like I am constantly getting the little grey box stating Microsoft has encountered an error and must shut down, blah, blah. Then my internet window will just disappear. Then if I am not on the internet, no window opened, a “voice” will come over my speakers, some ad. If I open Internet Explorer, I right click to start without add ons. It seems that is the ONLY way I can stay on a site without it closing. I have compressed, de-fragged, removed unnecessary programs, spyswept, and virus scanned constantly and I have no virus’, no spyware that is not quarantined and I am still having problems. I still have 89% space on my computer, so it is not as if that is a problem, but if I have more than 2 applications running, then I have a bubble that shows up that says my virtual memory is low and to close not needed applications. The guys who built my computer state that my Norton Systems works uses a lot of memory when in use but my computer should handle it. What a pain.

‘Tis indeed. Any ideas? I wouldn’t ordinarily beg like this, but damn it, she can’t send me photos of the kitten, and he’s growing fast. The situation is critial. This is the last I saw of my baby brudder:

Need more kitteh. Help!

Muchos gracias in advance!

I Wonder if PZ Will Let Me Steal His Guest Bloggers

PZ’s been off playing in the Galapagos Islands, leaving Pharyngula in the capable hands of a bevvy of guest bloggers. He’s just announced his imminent return, and I’m happy, but…

I was really starting to enjoy the variety of viewpoints.

And the long posts on various aspects of biology.

I’d grown rather fond of them, in fact. And I don’t know if they have blogs of their own. The pain of separation looms.

Unless….

I can lure them over here.

Lessee. What inducements can I offer?

  • A forum in which anything and everything can be discussed.
  • Some of the most amazing commenters in the blogosphere.
  • Post at your own convenience: daily, weekly, monthly, whatev.
  • Your very own sign-in, not this mere minion stuff.
  • Unlimited free (virtual) drinks.
  • And have I mentioned the quality of my commenters?

Is it enough? Only time will tell.

LisaJ, MAJeff, Danio, Sastra: I hereby invite you to En Tequila Es Verdad. Mi casa es su casa. Email me at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com if you’d like a room over the cantina.

Soliciting Opinions

I feel like I’m getting stuck in a rut. Religion, politics, politics, religion, tiny bit o’ science, pinch o’ writing, religion, politics, lather, rinse, repeat.

Beating up on right-wing fuckwits is losing its lustre. The more I beat, the longer the queue gets. I’m beginning to think they like it, the sick little masochists.

So I’m opening a thread here. Get your opinions heard. What brings you to this blog? What do you want more of? What topics would you like me to tackle? What candidates do you have for the Smack-o-Matic? Do you want me to hold up more of my navel lint for your inspection, or would you rather I keep personal life bullshit out of it? Does it even matter to you lot what I yammer about, or is my brilliance so astounding that you’d read my grocery list and count it the high point of your life?

(Yes, my tongue was firmly in my cheek at that last. Couldn’t you see the bulge?)

Just give me some bloody ideas. Throw me red meat. Send links, if you’ve got ‘em. This blog isn’t for me – it’s for you. So tell me what you want. Even if all you want is religion-politics-politics-religion etc., that’s just fine – there’s certainly no shortage of material. I just want to make sure all my darlings are getting what they need.

As long as you don’t ask me for porn, we’re all good.

Pimping Out My Co-Blogger

Cam Lee, aka Chaos Lee, has hired me as his pimp. I accepted the request with alarcrity.

I’ve been reading his stories and listening to the evolution of his novel for well over a decade now, and it’s about bloody time some of his writing goes public.

He’s going to kick the collective asses of Warren Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, and any other author you care to name whose books leave you gasping, “That was the most fucked-up thing I’ve ever read in my entire fucking life.”

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life wishing I could be even a fraction of the writer he is. My work seems plodding and pedestrian compared to the constant mindfuck that spills from his pen. He brutalizes words into singing for him. Setting, mood, theme, plot and character all end up twisted like a hangman’s noose in a hurricane.

Even a simple description of his day turns into something else again:


Today’s been a bit of a paranoid day. When people at work seem to actually know I’m sitting at my desk and not working and looking for ales on whiskey or making voodoo dolls that not-so-coincidentally resemble certain directors at certain corporations. But anyway, I need to find thought suppressants because they’ve become loud. People are hearing them.

The risk here is that not only will the bastards get forewarning, but they might try and steal my brain. And I like my brain. It sponges up the whiskey my liver rejects.

See what I mean?

The above excerpt comes from Cam Lee’s Chaos Hangover, his new MySpace Page, where he’s posted the short story “Halo.” Go read “Halo.” Then go read everything else. And then go demand more.

Because as good as “Halo” is, it’s only the barest tip of a fucking enormous iceberg. Trust me when I tell you it gets a lot more bizarre, dark and mindblowing.

I know. I’ve read. And I’ve never been the same.

What, When You Get Right Down to It, Is a Soul?

‘Tis the witching hour. And I’m going to think out loud here, as input would be most welcome.

One of the things I’m always cognizant of when I’m world-building is influences. I was, alas, raised in a culture that’s heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian ideas, and while I appreciate some of same, I don’t want knee-jerk assumptions creeping into my fiction. I read far too much stuff wherein the author just plucked the low-hanging fruit and didn’t think outside of the culture they’re immersed in. You’ll see some poorly-incorporated elements from “exotic” cultures thrown in any-old-how, just for the sake of appearing different. But when you pick at the surface, you realize it’s all gilt.

The more I scratch at my writing, the more gilt I find. It would be nice if I could just scrape it off and rebuild from the bottom-up, but we’re talking core concepts. I won’t be telling the stories I want to tell if I remove all the gilt. So the problem becomes, how do I turn it solid gold?

Take souls, for example.

The major concept in my series, the foundation upon which the rest of the edifice is built, is the Ahc’ton K’san Torveneh: Souls Who Travel. For years, I just took it for granted that these folks were unique souls who get reborn over and over in service to their people.

But that’s mere gilt. That’s assuming a soul. Even with the little bit of gloss a physicist friend added – the concept of the soul as an other-dimensional entity with a propensity for attaching itself to biological forms in this dimension – it’s still just gilt. I never really questioned it before now, but having embraced my atheism and hanging about with science buffs and proud atheists, I’m certainly questioning it now.

And the question is fascinating. What, in fact, do Atheseans mean when they refer to a “soul”?

I can tell you straight up they don’t mean anything religious. The soul isn’t something as solid as a body, and you can’t extract a soul from a body and study it (that I know of – who knows what these buggers will get up to as I explore this question?). But it has a physical reality. It has nothing to do with religion, any more than electricity does. Because it’s so hard to grasp, directly perceive, it’s easy to put it down to something spiritual, but it’s a really real thing with an objective existence.

The Ahc’ton are special because their souls are reborn with identity intact. That’s the whole point of being Ahc’ton: to remember who you were, carry all of the accumulated knowledge of lifetimes with you and put it to good use in new lives among alien species. No other souls travel this way. The soul as a distinct identity ceases to exist once a person dies. If we’re talking an other-dimensional entity, it basically loses the “I” it became when it was attached to the physical body. There’s no eternal life, no consciousness beyond death – except for the Ahc’ton.

So that’s the challenge of the week. I have to go beyond my assumptions, peel off the gilt, and really get into the meat of this thing. If the soul is not something religious or spiritual, what is it? Why does it have this propensity for attaching to a brain? How did the Ahc’ton’s souls end up being discrete entitities with an identity they’ve carried for millennia, when everybody else’s soul goes back to being an undifferentiated something?

It would be so much easier if I could just take the religious view and be done with it, but it’s so much more fun to struggle with the concept of something material, objective, and so far beyond our current science that it just looks like a miracle.

There ye go. Speculate at will, my wise and wonderful darlings.