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The author Elizabeth Bear, whose blogs I follow, sometimes makes note of what she refers to as “tyops” — typographical errors that she runs across while proofreading which strike her as noteworthy for one reason or another.  I ran across one today editing some “voice recognition” stuff at work:  “typothyroidism.”

It’s interesting to see what speech recognition software does with some of these doctors’ dictation.  Typically,  when you combine the accent of an English-second-language dictator from, say, India or the middle east or southeast Asia with the fact that most dictators hate dictating and talk as fast as humanly possible to get it over with as quickly as possible, it comes through the speech recognition engine looking like a train wreck.  This is true even of native English speakers who have worked up a good head of steam and sail through about a page and a half’s worth of typing in about 2 minutes. Speech recognition software has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go to compete with the speech recognition engine hardwired into the brain of a well-trained medical transcrip … erm … make that “medical language specialist.”

The last day of November has wound to a close.  My dad’s been gone over two months now.  It seems a lot longer than that.

The grey kitty has been sneezing.  She’s not alone.  I’ve been having a flare of my allergies.  I put mine down to cotton being harvested and ginned, which two activities throw a huge amount of dirt, plant particles and cotton fibers into the air, 99% of it coated with a witch’s brew of agricultural chemicals — insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, defoliants . . .  About 3.2 million acres of cotton (4.3 million bales*) were harvested in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains last year.  Couldn’t find a figure for this year, but it would be roughly the same.

In case you’re interested, below are a series of links to videos that take the cotton from the field through the gin (or you can just skip the next two paragraphs and go straight to today’s earworm . . .). The first video is a little long, but it points up all the intricacies of the process of taking the cotton out of the fields and how finely tuned the equipment is for doing the job.  The first shot is of the truck that the stripper dumps its load of stripped cotton into, which is then taken to the module compressor to be pressed into long rectangular modules at the edge of the field.   Then we have all about the stripper and how it  works to pick the cotton.   At the end, we have the truck loading the modules of cotton to take them to the gin.  I would also point out the haze of dust on the horizon and that all these machines have enclosed, air-conditioned cabs.

The new thing is round modules instead of rectangular ones.  This video and the previous one were taken about 20 miles southeast of where I live. These next two videos were taken about 90 miles southwest of me at one of the many co-op gins.   The round modules are unwrapped and fed into the gin equipment.   Here’s where the seeds are stripped from the fiber — these machines are based on the principle of the cotton “gin” that Eli Whitney patented.  Toward the middle of the film, you see the ginned cotton being compressed into bales*.  There’s a reason all the people in this video are wearing masks.

Today’s earworm comes to you from Irving Berlin by way of ‘”ol Blue Eyes.”  It’s a rather haunting little waltz with poignant lyrics, typical of Berlin.

* a bale of cotton weighs about 500 pounds.
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