Predictive Text: What will I say next?

Aug 14, 2019–I’m the type of computer user who doesn’t require or want “assistance” from typical word processing software, thank you very much. A good example was that annoying paperclip thingie that used to pop up in Windows to ask if you needed help. First thing I did on every computer was turn him off, which they made unnecessarily difficult to do.

I only recently, grudgingly, gave in to spellcheck. The trouble with that obsessive martinet is sometimes I want to spell a word creatively, such as “gnite.” I have to navigate through three drop down menus to turn off the control where the software actively corrects a wrong spelling. Just this week I tried to type in the name “Juan Infante” and it kept changing the last name to “infant.” Don’t think Juan would appreciate being called a babe.

We also become too dependent on spellcheck, and assume it has proofed our work. Not true. Spellcheck does not catch it when you don’t use the write word in a sentence, as I just did. Yet I see no red underline!

Grammar check is even more intrusive. Grammar check is the 8th grade English teacher looking over your shoulder while you write an essay. Yes, the passive voice is used in this sentence. And sometimes it is a preposition that I end a sentence with. Underlining it in green only highlights your passive-aggressiveness, you over-achieving software programmer. You were probably the teacher’s pet back in 8th grade, too.

But the worst innovation of this alien life form that is Artificial Intelligence is the insidious “predictive text.” This is the feature where the phone anticipates the word you will type next, using context from previous words and the first few letters you are in the process of entering.

I hate it. And I hate that I don’t know how to turn it off.

First, if I want to use the word “sumpin,” I want to use the word sumpin. Often I’ll hit send before I see it has magically changed to “sump pump.”

So the textee reads, “That grub at your bash was really sump pump.”

At least that assures I won’t be invited back to their next bash.

The other quirk is that, as a serious writer, I jump through hoops to not use cliches or obvious phrases, like I just did in this sentence. The phone, not being as creative, brings up obvious words that are wrong. This was an actual text I sent to someone celebrating a birthday. There is no greeting more clichéd than a birthday greeting, so you have to work a bit harder to be unpredictable. Smart phones make even this modest task impossible. Smart phone, indeed.

The three auto choices are in brackets [] and the word I want to use is underlined:

“Happy [Birthday… holiday… New Year] Day [to… for… and…] of Birthing. This [is… was… will… ] should be a [good… great… very…] celebration for the [future… family… people] parents, since [they… the… it…] you could not [believe… try… go] have happened [to… with… before…] without [a… the… your] them.”

In a way, this reassures me that, yes, I do still write [a… about… this…] marginally better than a phone app.

I guess that’s sump pump.

Day at the Museum

  Aug 7, 2019–As an elementary science teacher, I was perennially fascinated by the fascination dinosaurs held for all students. I now have a granddaughter who requested a dinosaur theme for her 3rd birthday, and she was talking Triceratops, not Barney. So when I learned there is a museum in the Hill Country that featuresContinue Reading

Art of the interview

July 31, 2019–The “other” part of writing a weekly column is getting interviews. The interview is the raw material of writing, so snagging a good one is essential. And getting the most out of an interview requires both a broad base of knowledge and a compulsive attention to detail. It helps to have some knowledgeContinue Reading

Other Mother: The Virtue of Vinegar

  July 24, 2019–Never thought I’d write about vinegar. Over the years I’ve covered the rise of various beverages in the Hill Country. It started with the wineries and breweries. Next, distilleries began turning out whiskey, vodka, and rum. The most recent libation to bubble up was cider. But now Fredericksburg residents David and LisaContinue Reading

The Secret to All Success

July 17, 2019–Like discovering penicillin and gravity, I accidentally stumbled onto the Secret to All Success while doing something else. It happened while I was driving to town listening to the radio. A story came on about women being allowed to golf at Augusta National for the first time ever. They had just completed aContinue Reading

That’s the Ticket?

July 10, 2019–There is an artist I want to see. She is coming to “a major theater” in “a nearby city,” so I went online to look at seating and pricing. All seats were $29.50. Giddyup. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Like sprinkles at a 4-year-old’s birthday party, costsContinue Reading


July 3, 2019–Time for my sesquiannual purge of ideas that don’t rise to column-worthiness. Finally figured out why I so viscerally hate puns. Because they impede communications. Puns are annoying distractions from whatever you are trying to say. Plus they never end. Try extracting yourself from a conversation with a punster. Father’s Day quote fromContinue Reading

Act like you mean it

  June 26, 2019–I’ve long held the theory that everyone should learn to act. After all, we take lessons to drive a car, cook a soufflé, or play piano. If you think of your body as an instrument, doesn’t it make sense to learn how to use it? Yet many of us are uncomfortable ifContinue Reading

Apollo 11–One Small Step

  June 19, 2019 The 1960s–what a time to be a geek! In one decade you could follow the golden arc of the U.S. space program, from its struggles to leave the launch pad through the triumph of walking on the moon. Every year there was a magical achievement. The first manned flight. The firstContinue Reading

New Vibe on the Fredericksburg Music Scene

June 12, 2019–It was a gazillion years ago, but I was able to accomplish a rare financial feat–to finish college with more money than I started with. How? First, I was an extreme cheapskate. I lived in a one-room apartment with no appliances. I used the space between my window and screen as a refrigeratorContinue Reading