>On TTS programs

>I have a problem when I go to therapy appointments. You see, although my verbal IQ is in the superior range (meaning, my vocabulary is good) my verbal fluency is “below average.” I have trouble with verbal communication, and I get frustrated. This is especially true in therapy when I’m expected to speak for what feels like long periods of time on sometimes difficult subjects. For many of the things I need to talk about, I just don’t have the words.

The solution is fairly simple. Although I struggle to speak, I can certainly type whatever is on my mind. Leigh and I sometimes have conversations where I type and she talks, sitting side by side (at least, we did in college). But this setup doesn’t work very well in therapy, where my therapist is across from me. I’d rather not pass the laptop back and forth… it’s slow and cumbersome and basically, it’s a pain.

So I set out to find Jtalk, the text-to-speech (TTS) program I used in college but had since deleted from my computer. Turns out it’s no longer available. Kate and I spent forever on the night before my therapy appointment trying to track down a good TTS. The problem was that they all used the same voice (Microsoft Sam), which sounded flat as could be and like he was underwater. It was terrible and hard to understand.

Finally, around 2 am, I found Language Reader. This program uses characters (my favorite is Merlin, the wizard) to talk, and their voices are pretty good. The only downside is that they’re all men.

Oh, and did I mention that, after having stayed up past 2 am to find said TTS, my therapist cancelled on me early the next morning. At least I’m set for next time.

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>A blessed duck

>Sometimes I just stop and think of what a lucky duck I am. I guess I should say that I’m blessed, instead of lucky, because luck implies that it’s sourceless, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it, you know? Oh well. A blessed duck is what I am.

As I write this, I’m sitting out on my back deck which is on the 2nd floor of the back of my house, watching hummingbirds come to the feeders. Bob is out here with me, and we just talked about our days. I have at the table with me my computer, my Diet Coke (now empty), one of my new Disney puzzles that my aunt got for me this weekend, 2 of the 12 cats I got for myself at the craft store that I’ve been wanting (I can only keep 1 or 2 at a time, Mom says, because if Bob realizes how many I have he’ll say I don’t need them and cause a fuss… sneaky cats!), my book from the library, and my cell phone. A whole pile of anxiety-busting goodness.

Today is my wonderful mentor from church’s 61st birthday, and I got to bring her flowers and a card and a Pooh picture I colored to her job at the church today. She was so happy she cried! That wasn’t quite my intention, but I’m glad she liked it, and the flowers were beautiful.

And last night, around 10pm, Leigh called because she was giving Joe tuna and I got to hear him meow. I love Joe’s squeaky little meow. It made my day.

I’m going to go get Elsie to come wander around out on the deck with me. She looks so pretty outside.

Yes, a blessed duck. That’s me.

>A-puzzling we will go

>I like to do puzzles. About a month ago, I got a 300-piece artist’s rendition of my beloved Mickey Mouse. I thought it would be fun for my mom and I to do. Well…. it was, kind of. The thing took us, plus Bob, nearly a month to put together. We did it a half hour at a time, because it was on the floor and made our necks hurt to look at it. I was hoping for this to be a puzzle I could do frequently, but there’s no way I’m taking that sucker apart. It’s going to get puzzle-glued onto some poster board and hung up in my new apartment.

So I had a task for Sarah and I today, regardless of where we went. I wanted to get a smaller puzzle or two. I thought maybe 100 pieces would be good.

She came ’round about 11 am, three youngest nannying charges in tow, and we set out to the park. We stopped at McDonald’s because neither she nor the kids had eaten yet, so we got a picnic lunch of cheeseburgers and fries (not me, though, because I’d already eaten). We sat and ate outside while the 3-year-old freaked out about bugs, the 4-year-old took the tiniest bites ever, and the 19-month-old threw his food around on the ground. Did I mention how cute these kids are? They’re absolutely adorable, and they actually behave pretty well for Sarah. After lunch, I went on the swings for a little while (gosh, it wears my arms out though, and I think I have some trunk instability going on because a swing is hard work for me to sit on for very long). The kids chased each other on the playground, and Sarah and I sat with the baby. Eventually, we let him out of his stroller too, and chased him around. It was hot but lots of fun.

After an hour we headed to Walmart (the closest place around that would have puzzles). I thought Sarah was brave for being willing to take the three little ones in there, but she was up for it, so we went. I got a cats puzzle (took some digging!) and Monsters vs. Aliens, which Mom and Bob and I watched not too long ago and I found hilarious. For $2 a piece, who can beat it?

I came home and relaxed for a half hour then headed into the city for my CET (Cognitive Enhancement Thearpy, a.k.a., the computer portion of the research study I’m in at the University). After some memory work on the computer, I met one-on-one with one of the psychologists doing the study. She wanted me to pick on something to work on during the group sessions of CET, which started this week. The group is all about social cognition and improving it. She mentioned that my attention/vigilence is in the 13th percentile, and that my thinking is very rigid and impoverished (some of the impoverishment is due to medication, though). Anyway, I decided that since my attention is so ridiculously bad, that I’d focus on that for the first few months of the study. I have to write something up about it (note to self…).

I came home and tore into my puzzles. I did the cats one first, which took about 15 minutes, then Mom helped me to do the Monsters vs. Aliens which took about 10. They’re perfect. I can whip them out, put them together, and put them away. Exactly what I was looking for!