Archive for category Journaling

Giving in to Voice Recognition

For the last 38 years I’ve kept a journal.   It started back when I was thirteen, paused when I hit 15, and started “for good” at age 16.   Up through 1985 it was pen and paper, then I started to use word processing.

From 1985 to 1989 I used a word processing program called “Paper Clip” with my Commodore 64, which I had hooked up to both a printer and an old black and white TV as a monitor.  I still have that old computer, disk drive and “Paper Clip” program.   I believe I have the old floppy disks (the 5+ inch variety), but I have no clue if it would be possible to transfer those files to Word.

Last summer I started the task of typing up my old journals.   I am a fast typist.  In 7th grade I took typing and had homeroom in the typing room so I practiced a lot.   Back at Patrick Henry Junior High in Sioux Falls in 1973 I was one of only three guys in my typing class.   The reason the girls outnumbered us 10 to 1 was because typing just wasn’t a skill boys were expected to learn.   Most guys took more shop courses (wood working, metals, drafting, etc.) while the girls took things like typing.   You see, guys would likely end up in an office with a dictating machine, while the girls would be the secretaries who would have to type up the work.   Why would a boy want to develop typing skills?   A male secretary would be, well, weird.

I’d love to say I enlightened enough to oppose sexual discrimination back in the 8th grade, but the truth is I loved to write even back then.    I wanted to type.   I was going to be a journalist, preferably a sports writer.  My hero was Sid Hartman, an insider for the Minneapolis Tribune (now the StarTribune) who wrote daily columns about the goings on inside the Twins, Vikings, Gophers and North Stars (the hockey team of that era) club houses.   I could imagine myself following sports for a living.   So I learned to type, and I was one of the fastest in the class — my typing teacher was thrilled to have a boy learn to type and be so good!   In junior high, otherwise lost years for me academically, typing was my best subject.

I remember writing about the Ali-Foreman fight, various football games, and handing my “column” (I’d get to school early so I could write) to friends and have them comment and often argue about my effusive praise of Fran Tarkenton or prediction that Bert Blyleven would be a superstar.    I learned and wrote on an Underwood manual typewriter, and still remember those drills to strengthen the little fingers, slapping the carriage return bar, and making sure that I didn’t type past the little mark representing the one inch bottom margin.

By college I had my own Royal Electric typewriter (I still have it, though I have no idea if I could get a ribbon for it), and for long papers I would go into my dad’s office to use his secretary’s IBM selectric.  That was a sweet machine, and I fantasized about owning a Selectric.  It had a backspace button that automatically whited out a mistake — and if you backspaced ten or so times, it would remember which letters to white out.   It was sleek and easy to type on.   I hit 100 WPM with no errors at one point.

Of course, I never bought a Selectric.  Shortly after college the technology revolution brought the PC age, and at age 25 I got my Commodore 64.   That’s also when I shifted to typing my journals.

Last summer I started retyping my old journals, getting 1973 to 1975 complete.   But as I look at the stacks of paper representing journals between 1975 and 1989 and consider the aches and pains of constant typing, I realize that I lack the time to quickly type them all up.   I’m also not sure my hands and wrists could take it.   So today I went on line and ordered voice recognition software.

The typist in me has been resisting that, the same way I resist texting.   I don’t have that many skills in life, but typing is one of them!   To be sure, most of my writing will still be done via keyboard.    I think through my fingers.   To me typing is the process of writing, I don’t do well with a pen and paper, or by talking it.   I could never create blog entries with voice recognition software, my fingers on the keyboard are integral to the creative process.  But copying already written material?  Yeah, I can see just reading it aloud.

I also have “dream journals” to copy.   These were made from 1986 to 1990 and contain thousands of dreams.   I would become what I called “dream aware” (I’ve since learned the official term is lucid dreaming) and then do experiments, waking up to jot down the ideas I’d type up (on my Commodore 64) the next morning.

I’m not sure how well voice recognition will work, if I find that I’ll use it more often than expected, or end up hating it — I’ll blog the result when that happens.  And who knows — maybe I’ll balance giving in to this new technology with a purchase down the line of an old Underwood manual typewriter.   I’m sure my fingers (especially the pinkies) have gotten lazy and soft being used to these sensitive PC keyboards.   My fingers could use a good workout!

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Reliving 1976

Lately I have taken bits of time here and there to start transcribing my old journals.   I’m currently in the summer of ’76, which was in some ways idyllic.  I was 16, had a car, worked at a restaurant busing tables and washing dishes, and spent most of my time playing tennis, hanging around with friends, and having crushes on different girls (and a first real kiss).

As I read it Sioux Falls of 1976 comes alive again — hanging around the tennis courts at Frank Olson park, working at the First Edition Restaurant, a full summer including a back packing trip to the Black Hills with my friends Dan and Brad, a super fun high school debate camp at Augustana College (and my crush on Elaine and really a trio of girls from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area).

I can picture myself driving around in the 1963 Chevy Bel Aire, working late nights cleaning the restaurant, spending most days playing in some way.    We didn’t drink, smoke, and certainly didn’t even think of doing any drugs — but played a lot of tennis and had fun.   A clean wholesome but awesome summer.   Instead of texting or even calling we’d drive over to each others houses and see if anyone was home.

I’ve always had a fond view of that summer.  I recall it as sunny every day.  And it was the driest year of Sioux Falls history, only 11 inches of precipitation all year, which was great for a 16 year old having fun, not so good for the farmers.  As I read through my journal I realize it also was amazingly stress free.  My job (30 – 40 hours a week) had me work mostly evenings busing tables and doing dishes.   I could do that work easily — in fact I was complimented as the fastest dishwasher the manager “Walter” had ever seen.   (And I recall devouring half eaten steaks or left over fries that the waiters dumped in the dishwashing bins).

Daytime I was constantly on the move — visiting friends, playing tennis, hanging out.  The days were social and fun, and thanks to my job I had money to go out for pizza, pay for gas for the car, and even get back packing gear for the big trip to the Black Hills.

I’m just starting on this journal transcription project, but I’m impressed by how thorough the journals are.  I described most days in detail, recounting conversations, and events.  As I read it I can picture Sioux Falls circa 1976.  Frank Olson park in my mind is exactly how it looked then (it helps that I don’t know how it looks now).    My parents did not intrude at all in my life that summer; I came and went as I pleased, even when I worked until 2:00 AM, or was gone all day playing tennis or visiting friends.   I had some chores, but they weren’t intense.

In the first part of June I had a crush on a 14 year old named Joanna.   My best friend was going out with her older sister (the family had girls aged 11, 14, 16, 17, and 18, and also a boy aged 13 with whom I also got along well).   A lot of us hung around their house that summer, playing chess, checkers, talking and heading to the park for tennis (or to watch their brother’s ball games).   I have to wonder what their parents thought about us hanging around so much!  Later I’d have a crush on the 16 year old (Kathy) and with her I’d have my first kiss.

I did have some political commentary.  I didn’t like Jimmy Carter, I wanted Reagan to beat Ford in the primaries (he didn’t), and defended North Korea during our backpacking trip after they shot some US soldiers.   I was a jerk at times (refusing to clean up after a shower at a friends’ aunt’s house in Rapid City because I didn’t like being ordered around — Brad should have smacked me), but overall I’m enjoying getting to know my younger self through these words.

I’ll blog about that summer every now and then as I go through the transcription process, perhaps reflecting on what that era was like, or a particular event I happen to transcribe that day.    I suspect there will be a few blog entries comparing the current era to that bicentennial celebration year.   Moreover, as the journal transcription will be slow, and my journals continue through the rest of my high school time, this my be fodder for blog entries for some time to come.

For today, I just want to issue a profound thank you to Scott Erb, the 16 year old boy who in June, 1976 decided his life was fun and interesting enough to record in a detailed journal.   The gift my young self is giving his 50 year old “future self” is priceless.

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