O, Oh, Oh!

I’m amazed at how many people — even people in the trade, who publish hymnals and other church materials — can’t seem to distinguish between “Oh” and “O.” Here’s the rule: don’t use “O” unless you know why.

I Translated Some Hebrew

I’m doing this project in 2011, where I try to re-acquire some of the Hebrew I’ve forgotten in the five years since seminary. This morning, I translated some narrative (the easiest kind) and I got through four whole verses in just thirty minutes. (Yay!) I had to guess at about half the word endings (is that feminine? maybe it’s first-person plural?) but I only had to punt on 3 verbs. I’ll look them up later.

How CEOs Speak

In (of all things) a discussion of last night’s SOTU address, Megan McArdle describes listening to CEOs talk to financial analysts on earnings calls. I never used to do that; all the times I’ve heard CEOs talk to me it was because I was one of their underlings. But one thing certainly seems to be the same, no matter whom the CEO is talking to:

The absolute favorite tactic, however, is the management reorganization. You may be in a saturated market where your second-rate franchisees are slowly destroying your brand, making it impossible to attract higher-quality franchisees . . . but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed by creating a new Chief Strategy Officer under the CEO, and giving that officer oversight of marketing, research, and HR. Perhaps a much larger competitor whose cost structure allows them to undercut your prices by 32% has entered your niche, but can they really withstand the fearsome might of your ISO 9000 certification and your new cross-functional product teams? The government regulators who just outlawed your three top-selling products and made two-thirds of your capital plant obsolete may be powerful–but not as powerful as your revolutionary sales force compensation scheme!

MacSpeech Dictate – a User's Review

I’ve been using MacSpeech Dictate for about half an hour, once or twice a week, since early spring. My experience is that it is great out of the box and has gotten better as I’ve learned to use it.

The hardest thing about using voice-recognition software is to not watch it guess. I do best reading material (from a book, for example). To compose, I have to turn my head away from the screen, or I … start … speaking … in … single … words.

When I look away and just talk, MacSpeech Dictate does much better. I’ve found that, when I’m reading from another source, I do best when I speak in complete sentences, or at least long phrases. Then I go back and fix whatever it guessed wrong.

I was impressed at MacSpeech Dictate‘s vocabulary. It routinely guesses words that the Mac’s spell-checking doesn’t know. (I remember being impressed when it guessed “Tertullian.”)

I was also impressed that they keep any eye on what people say about it on Twitter. A shocking number of software companies aren’t so clueful.

MacSpeech Dictate does what it claims to do, and does it well. For that reason, I’d give it five stars. But I won’t. I’ll give it four, or more honestly 3.5. Here’s what I don’t like about MacSpeech Dictate.

  • It’s poorly-documented. It’s skimpy, and seems in places to be wrong. (But it’s so skimpy maybe it’s just missing the facts I need.) Why not give me a PDF or URL with extra information about how to do something tricky, like using voice commands to select text?
  • It’s not Spaces-friendly. I’d like to be able to use my other apps in the middle of dictating, but MacSpeech Dictate comes with me wherever I go and jumps in front of my windows. Thanks a bunch.
  • It’s nearly impossible for me to use the voice commands to select and modify text. Sometimes, it even misunderstands “forget that” and “go to end” misunderstood — still, after months of use!

Because the voice selection/modification features aren’t useful to me, I find the recognition window indispensable. But it has UI problems of its own:

  • the transparency won’t adjust down to zero, i.e., become opaque. Why? What good is transparency anyway? just make the whole thing spaces-friendly.
  • the font is too small, and likewise the color of the window. (I know, black HUD-style UI’s are the new black.) Let me choose font size and black-on-white text. Steve Jobs can get away with “do it my way” but you aren’t Steve Jobs.
  • let me double-click a word to fix it. The software works best when I give it long phrases. But if I see a problem and double-click it, the text-entry box acts like a choice button. Why not let me use the choice button you already put there, and have the text-entry box act like a text-entry box?
  • why not highlight the differences between the various guesses? If the phrase in question is 10 words long, and the only difference is between the words “sent” and “cent” and “sense” and “incense”, why not display the differences in bold, or in different colors? Take a look at the Filemerge utility that comes with the Mac’s developer tools for inspiration.

iconv is the heat

I’ve been looking for a software tool that would convert foreign characters into a poor substitute.

Call me Ugly McAmerican. I don’t care.

My language has been worn down — I would say, “polished” — like a river rock to the point where it doesn’t have a million characters or funny accent marks or any of that stuff. Now, I don’t mind if your language uses them. I don’t even mind if we have a common encoding. What I do mind is that none of my tools work with your stupid common encoding. When grep and sed and diff and ruby all know what to do with your ?q???????, give me a call.

In the meantime, I plan to go on working in ASCII as much as possible. Then, when necessary, I’ll use tools to convert ugly-quotes to pretty ones, or turn ... into ellipses, etc.

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