Monday, September 26, 2011

My Dictates the Best!

With the exception of this paragraph, every word in this post was "written" using a dictation program. But just in case the explanation for this experiment does not come across clearly below, I wanted you to know that I am intentionally publishing it as is, with no editing or correcting, to test out the program. So if I seem even more incoherent than usual, it's not my fault! NOTE: After finishing, I went back and added parenthetical "translations" for things I clearly remember saying that the program got wrong)

It's been well documented that I don't like to write. As much as I enjoy the attention, the accolades, and the little extra money, actually sitting down to write is not something I make time to do. I know good part of it is they really feel selfish. To me there a lot of other more important things I should be doing rather than sitting in the basement typing away. Then there's the act of typing itself. With hands mangled from a variety of accidents and incidents, I'm basically a mobster (human lobster). So when I heard about a dictation program that would type for me as I spoke, I jumped at the chance.

Look before you leap is all I have to say. The 1st problem I countered with $150 program was that when (it wouldn't) run with the current operating system I have for my Mac. So rather than try to figure out how to upgrade from Buffalo to Leopard to lie in (Lion!) I decided to bite the bullet and buy a MacBook Air (holy shit, not only did it recognize the name, it formatted it properly!). Two days and 1000 votes (bucks) later I have a Macbook.  Problem two came when I realize that in their book (Airbook) does not have a distress drive (disc drive), so to me good 4 hours figure how to sync it with my other computer.

Problem 3K Massie (came as I) try to sit down and use it. In addition to the errors such as you're seeing here, sitting in a room talking to yourself is not conducive to writing. It might be great for fire off a couple e-mails, but I found the creative process is definitely halted when one must actually put his thoughts to spoken words. This terrible type or I am, I am much better at keeping up with my thoughts than this program.  For this program to work effectively, you really have to speak in slow measured bursts. For example, this sentence was read at a rate that would make Ben Stein seem exciting. But when I read the same sentence at normal speed it looks like this: for example the sentences read a rate that would make them sign some exciting. See the difference?

Lastly, there's the fact that I refuse to refer to myself as an author, since I'm self published, which makes me wonder if I could I even call myself a writer if I don't actually write?

Again I'm not badmouthing the program – ha ha - get it? bad mouth? dictation software? It is just not working the way I was hoping - or better yet, I'm not working the way I was hoping. So looks like I'm going back to the old-fashioned way: my 2 finger tap dance across the keyboard. Meaning if you're looking for my next book, check back in 10 years. Or, as my dictation program might say, tobacco deniers!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bad Things Aren't Supposed to Happen to Us

The picture above is of me, my brother, and two of our oldest (and still closest) friends, Chrissy Feltovic and Mary Callahan. I'm not sure what Mary is doing, she's either laughing or frightened by something behind Chrissy's back. But either way, it's typical Mary: always in the picture, but never one to seek the spotlight. Unlike the rest of us, who, along with Chrissy's sister Nicole, were  constantly fighting to be the center of attention while spending nearly every moment of our childhood together. But that was the only real fighting we did - for no matter how heated our games of Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, and Spud got, the five of us always stuck together. Quite literally at times, as our “bases” had what we called Electricity. 

For the uninitiated, a "base" is the designated safe spot in a game (a front porch, a large rock, or even a lamp post) where if you were standing or touching it, you couldn't get tagged, out, caught, etc. And Electricity allowed us to work together to rescue a slow-running teammate who couldn’t reach the safety of base by creating a human chain. As long as one person kept so much as a toe on base, anyone holding their hand (or the hand of the person holding their hand!) received the full benefits of base.

Once, one of us (probably me) got tired of being “It” and tried to disrupt the flow of Electricity by busting through the line and breaking the chain, but a rule was quickly created that made such moves illegal. The logic being that anyone doing so in real life would be electrocuted, so therefore it couldn’t be allowed in the game.

We were great at making rules, but all honesty we didn't have a whole lot of them to follow. We were lucky in that our parents gave us every opportunity to explore and grow on our own. They made sure we were safe(ish), but not sheltered. As long as we were home by the time the streetlights came on, we were free to do whatever our young hearts desired. Of course as we got older, some of our hearts started desiring each other, but even that was done in a playful sort of way. 

And now we’re all grown up with kids of our own. But sadly, society has made it difficult to raise our kids the way we were raised. The world no longer feels as safe. Neighbors no longer seem so kindly. And streetlights no longer come on at a preset time, if at all. But my friend Mary is one of the brave ones. She and her husband are throwing over-caution to the wind and letting their two young boys skateboard down the sidewalk, build igloos in the snow, and melt crayons on light bulbs the way we once did. To do so, they had to overextend themselves to buy a nice house in a safe neighborhood with great schools so their kids could have the best. They committed to working long and hard during the week so they're kids could play just as hard on the weekends.

But life has thrown Mary and her husband, Jimmy Kelleher, a curveball. Jimmy was recently diagnosed with MSA, and after only a year, his symptoms  have made it impossible for him to continue working,  driving, and playing with his kids with the same energy that he once did. To tell you the truth, I'm too afraid to look up MSA to see what the exact prognosis is, but I know it's not good. What I do know is MSA means multiple system atrophy, and it’s a disease similar to Parkinson's but much less treatable. In fact there is no cure.

It's often said that for parent, the death of a child is the absolute worst thing to deal with. But knowing you may not be around to watch your children grow up has to come a close second. Jimmy is a great dad, a loving husband, and a loyal friend, and not being able to provide for all the people in his life has to be the most difficult part of all of this for him.

And to that end, the old neighborhood gang is teaming up with Mary's family to host a benefit to help raise some much-needed money. You should know right up front that the money will not go to help find a cure for MSA. It will not be used for research or scholarships. The money will go to help pay the mortgage and settle some bills, with hopefully enough left over for some Christmas presents. Our goal is a relatively small one, but we hope that the money raised will not only help alleviate some of the financial burden, but also the emotional one Jimmy has been carrying over no longer being able to provide for his family’s needs. We hope that Jimmy recognizes that this is not charity. It is payback for all the wonderful things he has done for people in need. The money we raise will truly have been earned by Jimmy the same as if he were punching the clock. 

But even so, Mary and Jimmy were reluctant to go the benefit route when we first brought it up to them. As I mentioned, Mary is not one to seek attention, and both are very private people when it comes to personal matters, so the fact that they would even consider letting us do a fundraiser made it clear to me how desperate things had become. 

When I said we grew up playing games, I meant it literally. Those games taught us how to deal with life as adults. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. It's not always fair. But even so, some things just weren't supposed to happen to us. Bad things were not supposed to happen to us. Bad things happen to the people you read about in the papers, or watch on the news. Bad things happen to cousins of coworkers. Bad things happen to strangers, and leave you thinking, “Oh how terrible…” before resuming your own life.

But a bad thing has happened to one of our own, and as much as we want to, we can't change the rules. We can't demand a do over, or holler, “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!” We can't take our ball and go home. Life for Jimmy is no longer a game, but we are hoping that the powers of Electricity are still as strong today as they were back then. And we need you all to join the chain, to come together and reach out to help our friend enjoy the safety of base.


Here is the link to the facebook page: Benefit for Jimmy Kelleher and the info from the page: FRIENDS AND FAMILY OF JIM & MARY (CALLAHAN) KELLEHER 

TICKETS: $25 per person - Price includes Beer, Wine & Food

--- Great Raffle Prizes ---
--- Good Food ---
--- Music & Open Mic ---
--- Silent Auction ---

Jimmy Kelleher has been diagnosed with multiple system atrophy (MSA) 
A progressive neurodegenerative disorder that has taken away his 
independence and the family’s financial security. 
To learn more about MSA go to:

If you are unable to attend, please consider sending a donation, no amount is too small. Donations are being accepted via CASH, Check - payable to Mary Kelleher or PayPal to:

For tickets contact Tim Callahan@203-996-4511 or Robby Reed@203-605-6183