My wife sent me an email today

I’m at work and my wife is on a day off.  I think she planned to garden today.  All I really know is I received this email around noon.

The phone woke me up, I listened to the long stress filled story about the lawnmower, got out of bed, threw my clothes on, went into the garage and no truck.  ??? I mentally review the plan and I’m sure the truck must be here.  I wish for a coffee but I’m in a hurry, someone else might get the lawnmower so there’s no time.  I find the truck on the street in the front, get it unlocked, drive to rona and park.  yay!

Went inside, found the mower, listened to the story again (from the retailer point of view), paid for it, had it loaded into the bed and no straps.  I wish for a coffee. I drove home 15k all the way. 8th street closed I detour to bucks for a coffee and some beans, cuz I deserve a treat and we’re out of coffee.  I’m in line behind two women who are channelling the skunk through their hairdresser.  One is disguised as a leopard on her legs and I snigger to myself thinking that even though I am straight out of bed I am not so ridiculous and they’ve clearly tried hard yet failed miserably.

The first one orders a small caramel macchiato with sugar free syrup and skim milk and a low fat veggie sandwich and pulls out her phone to review text messages.  She does not move along the counter. The second orders a  tall caramel macchiato with the sugar free syrup, and make sure of it please, and skim milk with a low fat turkey bacon sandwich and a peanut butter cookie. She pulls out her phone while the clerk rings her bill.  She can’t pay until she sends her text, and now she can’t pick her cookie up because she’s sending another one.  Now there are ten people lined up behind them and the first one complains to the barista that’s it’s an awfully claustrophobic location.  I excuse myself quietly because after all even the most misguided deserve a nice visit to the coffee shop.  I reach over a phone to get my coffee, walk around the first woman and nudge her out of the way to get a stopper stick and finally make my way out the door and got the truck unlocked.  What I really wanted to do was tell the first bitch to get the fuck out of the way and the second to get her shit together and talk to her peeps when she sits down after I smash both of them into a wall. I get in the truck.  whew, only a few blocks to go, I haven’t even sipped my coffee yet but I’ll save it until I get myself home.  I get back out and take the parking ticket off the windshield.  Fucking skunk head leopard bitch, it’s all her stupid fault.

Home… yay!  I let the dogs out (2) and called mother.  I listened to the story again, and a dog starts to cry very loudly.  omg, is that our dogs???  It sounds like two – what the heck has happened?? Who is hurt?? I put the handset down rush outside and Oaks has locked himself in the garden and he’s loudly unhappy about it.  I let him out and then I can’t find Molly.  I look in every corner of the yard thinking she’s hurt herself and can’t get up.  No Molly.  I come back inside say goodbye to mother, check upstairs, downstairs, main floor, grab a leash and a coat and go back outside.  I check the yard again, calling the whole time.  I walk to the front, I walk around the block, no Molly.  I come inside to get the truck keys and I go to back yard.  Damn, I curse myself, the truck is in front because it has a lawnmower in the bed.  I hear a whimper… the garage door is open a sliver and inside is Molly.

How the hell did she get herself into the garage?? I must not have closed the door when I first checked for the truck this morning and she’s got herself locked in there.  Damn.  I tell you this story so you understand why it’s all your fault. You should have put the truck back in the garage last night.  And you will have to pay my parking ticket to make up for it.  And the dogs go in the garden to hunt cuz you have a mouse house in there and they get locked in cuz the gate is broken. 

Please book the truck in and get that steering issue fixed.  No way am I driving it like that.  I kept thinking a wheel was falling off. Oh yes, and I drove the whole time practically laying on my back peering timidly out the side windows because I couldn’t get the seat adjusted.  You have a sore back because you lay down to drive.  It’s time to sit up.  And you could even reach the signal light if you sat up.

I’m afraid to get out of my chair but i need a cloth to wipe the coffee off my chin.  

Skype Translation Halfway There

I watched the Microsoft video on Skype’s new Translator feature.  According to Microsoft it is a big leap in voice translation, thanks to the move to deep neural networks for speech recognition.  The video shows a German and an English speaker having a Skype call and Skype translating and synthesizing the speech in their respective native language.  All very cool and as the video states all very Star Trek.

It made me think about the speech recognition technologies I presently use.  Anyone who has access to such services has probably at one point shared a laugh with a friend or coworker over the latest voice to text faux pas.  Who hasn’t heard “Hey, look at what <insert service provider / technology brand name here> thinks you said”  They can be as hilarious as auto-correct mistakes on your cell phone.

I sure hope that the new Translator feature performs more reliably.  Can you image watching the the screen and seeing the reaction of the person you are talking to when Skype translates your  “mountain biker and trails” to “mountain biker entrails”.  In English you can easily see the mistake, but in German it is not so obvious -> “mountainbiker und wanderwegen” becomes “mountainbiker eingeweide”.

What struck me the most in the video was the apparent lack of progress in speech synthesis.  It sounds like they are still using the same voice engine that shipped with Windows XP.  This alone makes me look slightly askance at the new feature.  A sexy new thing like real time voice translation really deserves a better speech engine than that.  Something that sounds a bit more lifelike.  It really is not that much better sounding than the phone based technology we had in the 1980’s. Anyone else remember trying to program a Heathkit HERO robot to talk? No, just me?  Well, never mind then.  Cool stuff in the 80’s, lame today.

Passing the vehicle torch

After 14 years of faithful service I have to retire the Dakota.  Not because it is no longer reliable or because something else has caught my eye.  I’m afraid it is an SGI decision.  A couple of weeks ago I lent it out to someone who managed to crease the drivers door.  Nothing to terrible but enough that the door needs to be replaced as opposed to being repaired.

The trouble is a combination of age and miles.  14 years and 400,000 kilometers are just too much for it to hold enough value.  The $3400 repair bill is making SGI cringe at the idea of fixing it.

We saw this coming.  The body is starting to show signs of rust in all the doors and wheel wells, the rear bumper already has rusted through in spots, and the handling is just loose enough to make you thing it may be ball joint time again.  We were going to replace it anyway in a couple of years with a spanky new “welcome to retirement” vehicle.  It just runs SO well I really wanted to drive it as long as I could.  Doesn’t burn oil, always starts.  Great little truck.

Since that kind of money is not available right now we have gone with an intermediate vehicle, a 2003 Silverado in great shape.  The new truck looks like we can get an easy 5 years out of it before we spring a new(ish) one.  At the end of it all I am only out of pocket $3,000 and have a rust free truck with half the miles.  Not a bad deal even if it was unplanned.