Poof! The Magic Dragon!

Those among you who are writers or who have ever done any editing or writing know that one tends to rearrange the odd bits and pieces of sentences one puts together as time goes by and inspiration strikes. That’s what I’ve done here, not necessarily to improve this piece of writing, but to demonstrate my frustration with my best efforts to take care of myself.

Ever since I had shoulder surgery in November, it has been impossible to type. It’s been impossible to do anything with my right arm, including drive a car, wash the dishes, put on my $996 sling, or clean the cat litter.

Finally Amazon had pity on me and sent me a $49 coupon for Dragon Naturally Speaking, which was cheap enough for me. I’d nearly bitten at $139 two weeks earlier. When the package from Amazon arrived, I ripped it open, ran through the installation, went through all the required training sessions so the Dragon learned how I talked/croaked, and started to dictate this blog entry.

The first thing I wanted to do was make the display in my word processor a bit larger and easier to read by using its zoom command. So I calmly and clearly dictated the proper Dragon command:


This is where the editing I mentioned earlier comes in. Everything I’ve written so far I wrote after I tried to set the zoom setting to 125%. Now I will show you exactly what Dragon Naturally Speaking typed for me when I told it to set the zoom setting to 125%:

set soon to 125

select resume to 125

set assume two 125

set soon to 125

Those are the exact lines it printed for me, rather than zooming. Then I gave up. The last line above them that I just typed is the first time it has ever printed the word “zoom” when I told it to. Victory! I just had to look up how to make it print an exclamation mark. I finally zoomed myself.

However, DNS has done pretty well with my general typing otherwise in this blog. I’ve been able to keep my right arm in my lap and use my left arm for everything. My physical therapist will be very happy to hear that tomorrow.

Before I purchased DNS, I tried some other dictation software that I found on the Web, some free stuff that had good recommendations. I tried to use it but it was the week I was writing about pretzels, and things didn’t go very well.

In fact, things were worse than with that zoom command. Unfortunately, in my frustration, I did not record the results. It was a ridiculously complicated pun, probably best forgotten, undoubtedly unnecessarily reproduced here. After numerous false starts and stops, deep fat fryers, plump young friers, and plump old friars, I ended up with:

Pretzels were invented by friars who baked them. They just as easily could have been invented by bakers who fried them.

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I tried out those sentences in DNS. Except for unnecessarily capitalizing the word “friars,” it cranked them out perfectly.

Speaking of deep fat frying, I was a bit worried about opening the DNS package. “Ignite, ignite, ignite,” it read, no fewer than eight times, in some sort of marketing ploy to inspire me to the heights of creativity. “Ignite Fun At Your PC.” “Ignite Convenience.” “Ignite Control.” This just sent me scrambling for the fire extinguisher to hose down the package before I opened it. Fortunately, CDs are waterproof.

Perhaps I am straining at gnats and swallowing camels as the Bible says. Hah! That actually came out as “straining at bats.” As you can see, I am having way too much fun with this software.

I have other bats to strain and I hope this Dragon will help me strain them, although dragons are usually associated with slaying rather than straining. Once again, the metaphor gets pushed beyond its natural boundaries.

By other bats I mean I have other things to write rather than this blog, things to get done before my arm is ready for me to do them. For example, I write the obituaries for Bates College, something I enjoy doing, believe it or not, because I write a little profile about every person. I’m also working on a novel. So I need either both arms or a microphone.

And now that DNS understands my conversation, I just have to get it to understand my commands. “Sit.” “Roll over.” “Zoom.” “Good boy.” Hey, we’re getting somewhere.


5 thoughts on “Poof! The Magic Dragon!

  1. I spent a couple of years managing international marketing for Dragon, when it was still the property of its original developers, Jim and Janet Baker, before they sold it in an all stock deal to a company that bilked them and left them with nothing. As I recall, and this was more than 16 years ago, you had to issue some command in order to get it to recognize that the next thing was a command, not text to be typed out. Does it still work that way? I hope it does make a difference for you. When it’s working it can really be quite marvelous.

    • Yep, I remember your Dragon days, as well as your pre-Dragon days dragon collection. The software is owned by Nuance these days, and supposedly can handle all kinds of Microsoft word commands. I think it’s just my strangled croak-squeak that’s throwing it off. My iPhone doesn’t understand me either.

  2. Oh, Chris! this is just fabulous! After a long day of sitting at the computer, I read this and have been laughing out loud! We think of you more than you know, and hope this “Dragon” thing ultimately will be helpful and useful!! On my way to handbell practice!
    Love to you, Jane

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