Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Great Dictator

I'm continuing to experiment with Blogger's dictation feature. I've been advised to sit with my wheelchair seat tilted up and back as much as possible in order to relieve pain in my back, legs, and feet. Unfortunately, however, when I do this, it becomes difficult or impossible to use the computer keyboard and mouse. Therefore, I'm using my smartphone, Blogger's android app, and the app's dictation feature as a way to continue to blog even without using the keyboard or the mouse. It takes a bit of getting used to, I must say. Sometimes the voice recognition software will mistake one word for another or will fail to capitalize a word when I would like it to. If I keep at it, however, I suppose I'll get used to it after a while. My brother Bill has promised to install Dragon Dictation software on my desktop computer so that I can blog, write, or operate the computer as much as possible by using voice commands. I don't know if I'll be able to simply speak into the air and order the computer to produce a cup of Earl Grey tea the way Captain Picard did on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it's fun to imagine and to realize that idea may be closer to reality than we thought.

I'm also trying to recover my old habit of reading for pleasure. This is also something I can do while the chair is tilted back. It's an embarrassing thing for an English major and former librarian to say, but somewhere along the line I lost the habit of reading for pleasure. I think it was the result of years of work as a cataloging librarian, a job I eventually came to despise. After being surrounded by books all day long, the last thing I wanted to do was to read more books when I got home. Also, I think I couldn't face the silence when I came home to my otherwise empty apartment in the evenings. This feeling was especially acute when I knew my parents were dying of cancer. I didn't want to be alone with my thoughts and my grief, so I turned on the television or surfed the Internet to create the illusion that I had company or activity in the apartment. Now, however, I'm becoming much more comfortable with the idea of silence, and I'm rediscovering the joys of reading.

Recently I reread Gregg Taylor's first Red Panda novel, The Crime Cabal, and really enjoyed it. Then I decided to read Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, a series of children's fantasy novels loosely based on Welsh mythology. I read one of these books years ago when I was in grade school but never got to read the entire series. I'm making up for lost time. I'm now about halfway through the second book in the series and I plan to complete the series in short order. Then for a change of pace, I think I'll read Wayfaring Strangers, Fiona Ritchie's account of Scottish and Irish immigrants to the United States and their enormous influence on the development of American Old-Time, bluegrass, and country music. I have many varied interests, and I'm trying to learn to move between them without thinking about whether or not they're consistent. Ralph Waldo Emerson was in many ways a pompous, blithering gasbag, but I do recall one useful thing he said: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

One benefit of getting older is the realization that you can read what you want, watch what you want, or listen to what you want without worrying about whether or not it's "cool" or consistent or fashionable. When we are young, we often think about what other people think of us and if we are reading the right sort of books, watching the right kind of movies and TV shows, or listening to the right kind of music so that the cool kids, whoever they are, will approve of us and think that we're also cool. Eventually, however, we realize we can stop worrying about what's cool and simply like what we like and enjoy what we enjoy. Ideas of what's cool are constantly changing, but the things in life that give us true joy and pleasure seldom do and are much more important.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Test post

This is another test post of Blogger's  dictation feature. The first post seems to have frozen up on me and I can't delete it or publish it. It seems to be stuck in some sort of electronic limbo. Let's see if this post is more successful.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Restart, Reboot, Reset, Re . . .

Niall rolls up to his blog, blows away the dust, sweeps away the cobwebs, taps it gently, and says:

"Hello? Is this thing on?"

Well, after what could be one of the most epic blog fades in history, I've decided to restart this crazy blog thing. I really have no explanation for my absence (except possibly a serious addiction to Facebook). My previous blog post was in August. Late Summer faded into Fall, Fall faded into Winter, and now Winter has faded into Spring. April showers and all that, dontcha know.

Usually after Christmas I go into a kind of blue funk that lasts through January and February, but usually in March and April I feel myself coming back to life. I wouldn't exactly call it Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) but sometimes it sure feels like it. I feel as though I really don't have very much to say that's interesting, either about myself or about the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church or any of my other passions or interests. What has been said about the Catholic Church has usually been said better and in a more timely fashion by writers far better than I. I've thought about shutting the blog down or at least moving to another blogging platform for a new look and a fresh start. For now though, I've decided to keep the blog where it is and keep going.

Now that Spring is here, however, I feel the itch to do some writing, and I thought perhaps it would be best to start small with some new blog posts. I have been working a tiny bit on some unfinished fiction projects that have lain dormant for a long time, and perhaps I'll have more to say about that later. My renewed interest in writing isn't helped by the fact that I'm frequently hampered by pain in my lower back, legs, and feet that seems to be getting steadily worse. About the only things that really help are prescription pain relievers and sitting with my wheelchair seat tilted back at an angle. Unfortunately with the wheelchair seat tilted back, it's impossible to use the keyboard and mouse. However, I'm thinking about possible solutions including using a lap tray and wireless keyboard or even dictating my stories to at least get them out of my head.

It also didn't help that in the last few days I discovered my computer was infested with malware, spyware, and for all I know, under-ware, that made it nearly impossible to use the internet without millions of annoying ads and pop-ups appearing. Desperate for a solution, I had to call HP, renew the warranty on my now aging desktop machine, and get a couple of technicians to take over the computer  remotely and purge it of all the offending unwanted software. A whole afternoon and at least $50 later, the computer is now malware free, at least for the moment. The whole experience has made me skittish about using, and especially downloading, anything from the internet, at least for the time being. It made me nostalgic for the days of manual typewriters or the pre-internet days of the late '80s and early '90s where each computer was a standalone machine and one could use it without fear of being infected by something evil.

So that, Dear Reader (if I have any regular readers left), in a few brief paragraphs, is a summary of where the blog is today. I will do my utmost to be a more regular and faithful correspondent. Until next time, friends.

Your humble and obedient servant,
Niall Mor