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.

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