Spring 2011 #2

There is nothing more vexing than a teapot that doesn’t pour. (What must it feel like to be such a wretched pot? Knowing in the depths of your ceramic heart that you are fundamentally inept in life’s single calling?) Early on Monday morning we accidentally discovered something quite bizarre: my computer pours tea with a style that makes our best blue Wedgwood green with envy. A perfectly formed stream of hot tea pouring from the corner of my NetBook as we frantically tried to rescue it from misadventure was the strangest and funniest sight!

I had been showing Little One her beautiful online Father’s Day masterpiece, featured in last Sunday’s post, explaining how lots of our friends had seen and loved her very special writing. She was enthralled and excited, and embraced me in a spontaneous hug at once delightful and disastrous. If a cup of tea had been toppled right into the keyboard in a moment of silliness (of which there are many…) or disobedience (not quite so many, but still abundant…) it may have been more difficult to adjust to this catastrophe. But it was an innocent disaster; and we could only laugh.

It didn’t take too long for the merriment to die down, and the stark reality of being not merely voiceless but now computer-voiceless sunk in. Voice, Typing, Email, Facebook, Skype – my links to the world all gone in an English Breakfast baptism. It was a nasty feeling.

I’ve not heard the miracle of my flat, clunky, computer generated ‘MyVoice’ for a week, and I dearly miss it! MyVoice is an amazing technology. Almost a year ago I made some 2000 voice recordings through ModelTalker, an American research group, and they created MyVoice – a software package that synthesises my own voice and allows me to ‘speak’ anything I can type. It is simply amazing. Back when I made these recordings I was still speaking very well, with the aid of an excellent Voice Amplifier that was built into the arm of Bugger, the power wheel chair. None the less, the recording software provided by ModelTalker is extremely particular; and if it didn’t like the volume or diction of a particular phrase it would be rejected, and the same phrase had to be recorded over and again until it was just right. It took many weeks; but I am ever so glad to have MyVoice. It is an astonishing gift, appreciated especially in our home I think. Most mornings I ‘read’ the day’s scripture passage with my Favourite Wife; and it is great fun to speak up unexpectedly with friends, producing some astonished reactions. I recently used it to read from the Bible at my mother’s funeral service; for that alone I am deeply grateful.

The post-diluvian sense of powerlessness and disconnection was mercifully short lived: in our affluent, technological world it didn’t take too long to sort out a temporary fix. Our son made the hour and a half drive the very same day with with our daughter’s borrowed Mac, thus launching the dizzying learning curve entailed in changing operating platforms. Then the research began, lugging this rather large MacBook from store to store, looking for advice on the perfect upgrade from my now-defunct but previously unsatisfactory NetBoook. I questioned friends, read web reviews late into several nights, and finally by week’s end placed an order for a rather high-end device that will soon arrive.

A strange paradox has emerged: Silence is Noisy. My silent, voiceless week has been the loudest in a long while. I’ve been internally deafened by the endless stream of comparisons between one model and another, Mac verses Windows, dollars against performance. In the same week we have also been finalising plans for ‘The Colosseum’ (our new accessible bathroom) with architect appointments, fittings to choose, and builders making their pre-tender inspections; all heightened by the background dissonance of mastering this borrowed (but excellent) laptop for all the necessary communication. 

Technology: wonderful and worrisome. How ironic that enforced silence leaves me yearning for peace.



ModelTalker, worth a look if you may be loosing your speaking voice. The programme is currently in beta version, and is available free of charge.

One thought on “Oops…

  1. Ann

    Roderick, I have followed your conversations about this at the forum, so believe you know what you want, at the very least.

    And, yes! This form of communicating through a machine is very time consuming, while being such a blessing of convenience. Hours are spent reading ratings and reports prior to any major purchase. I hope your next machine never is baptized by immersion or by sprinkling!

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