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Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 and the failure to channel my inner dictator

March 30, 2009

I should know something about what is wrong with my hands–CTS, neuropathy, or radiculopathy–by mid-April, and I can hope some kind of relief will be in sight from there.  In the meantime, typing wracks my hands, writing by hand is tiring, and speaking on the phone brings on headaches.  So Saturday we overhauled my work station, which now sports a big screen and a more ergonomic keyboard.  These are very nice things, but while my hands are still flaring up, they make no real difference in the pain relayed to my nerves when I type.  My husband and my friend Pat both had great experience with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but Version 9 was a total failure for me.  I spent more keystrokes editing its mis-takes on what I said than I’d have spent typing.  But Version 10 was touted to be vastly improved in its ability to pick up more voice types–maybe even my Slow-White-Chick-from-Schenectady frequency.  So my husband bought it for the upgrade price, figuring if I couldn’t use it, he’d keep it for himself. 

It’s his.

I trained the Dragon, went through the stupid tutorials, read Dogbert into it, and spoke forth speech for it to type.  Here is what I said:

So what’s a slow white chick supposed to do to get you to understand her?

Here is what Dragon typed:

So what those little white chicks supposed to do to get you to understand for

That much editing takes more keystrokes than typing it correctly the first time; and, it skipped the question mark, even though I enunciated, “question mark.”

On another try, this is what I said:

What is the capital of Albany anyway?

Here is what Dragon typed:

What is the capital will anyway?

At least this time it got the question mark.  One more try for the scaly amanuensis.  I read Proverbs 10:2 from the KJV, just to see how it would do with my 17th-century vocabulary:

Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.

How hard could that be? 

Robert tend to charges of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness deliverance from death.

As far as I’m concerned, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 is deaf in both eras.

I tried a few more times, with unimproved results.  I decided to delete and utterly uninstall the program.

I need to stay on the computer, but it’s harmful right now.  I can manage short sessions.  I’ve learned in counseling training that it is helpful to change multiple habits when trying to change one.  I’ve had to change my habit of checking my email and the news rather compulsively, like every time I walk by Workstation Galactica here.  I search for information I don’t need and forget it immediately afterwards anyway.  But I was getting sweaty palms walking past my study.  Computer addiction is common.  I had to change other habits to get through it.

Changing the way I do things isn’t easy.  I’m actually very spontaneous, as long as nothing upsets my routine.

I started slowly, with small things.  I scrambled eggs for breakfast in my wok instead of making an omelet on the panini grill.  Courage, Camille!  I programmed a new walking course on my treadmill.  It’s amazing, the things we can survive.  I launched a couple of handwritten blog posts.  I wrote with the fountain pen a friend gave me before I would have asked a Martian, “What’s a blog?”

By the second day of these radical changes, I could walk right by my computer without stopping to check whether we’d lost any cities in the past six minutes.  The sense of liberation was overwhelming.

I shared my progress with my sister, who urged me to take up the the habit of laughter.  I’ve had the habit, but it sort of comes and goes when I hurt.  My sister, a two-time cancer survivor, is a world-class laugher.  We both believe in laughter, but she expresses her belief more heartily than anyone I know.

I had a lapse this morning, after four brilliant days.  I wasn’t going to check the news; it’s just too many painful keystrokes for the benefit received.  But I briefly checked the Yahoo! headlines to see whether I’d missed the vaporization of Denver.  What a relief.  It’s one of the comforts of our era that you can tune out the world for a few days, return, and nothing has changed.  It’s always been that way, of course.  But now we’re privy to the remotest details of things having the remotest significance.  Someone named Miley is still bad-natured; some analyst still thinks the new president is clueless about economics and tax policy; and another immured cat is rescued by a heroic delivery guy.

It occurs to me that we would be a better-informed republic if all the reporters had to use fountain pens.



  1. Vic permalink
    March 30, 2009 1:36 pm

    Having slain the Dragon, scrambled the egg, dismissed the Mylie, and deconstructed real-time-presidential-economic-information-overload, it sounds like you’ve accomplished enough for a day. Retrogression is progess when progress is off course. Vive le stylo-plume!

  2. March 30, 2009 1:40 pm

    I was hoping you would think that….

  3. March 30, 2009 1:43 pm

    Well this made my 5:30 monitering of the blogosphere much funnier and more enjoyable. I wonder if Dragon Speak is somehow involved in Google’s translation gadget — that would explain a lot. BUT, though things are so rarely vaporized, I think this post shows that occasionally something nice does happen on the internet :-)

  4. March 30, 2009 1:44 pm

    Yes, it’s wonderful and so very encouraging to remember that there are real PEOPLE out there, too! :)

  5. March 31, 2009 6:08 am

    I’m getting neuropathy in my hands, and I’ve been an software developer for over twelve+ years.

    I can remember ten years ago there was quite a buzz about how far Dragon had come in voice recognition. Talk of re-writing applications for it. But once you started using Dragon…it had the same problems you have mis-interpreting the spoken word. The same problem you’re having today. Even if you sit there forever and train it for your voice.

    It’s better than nothing, but communication between two people isn’t all literal interpretation of spoken words to heard words. You fill in the gaps with meaning…even if someone slurs, has a speech impedement, or mumbles.

    I’m unsure Dragon would even do well with George Takei from Star Trek (that guy enuciates everything very clearly).

    Anyways, better than nothin, don’t expect awesome tho

  6. March 31, 2009 6:19 am

    Thanks; you help me feel understood. I hope you’re able to continue developing software, and I hope you get into voice recog–we need you!

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