Friday, 7 December 2012

Synthesized news reports and a whole lotta sandwiches

MONDAY: I’ve been so busy carrying on with life, working on jewellery and writing projects while working extra hours at my job and keeping up with a hectic social life, that I’ve been spending my lunches reading rather than writing. But I must mention today’s surprisingly delicious sandwich made of things that needed using. My sandwich, on a surprisingly nice Asda sunflower roll, consists of houmus and cream cheese with chopped red pepper and spring onion, but also with a little nudgeon of leftover Stilton, too small to use in its own sandwich and at the extremely ripe stage. I diced it into small bits and sprinkled it on the houmus along with several torn basil leaves and a spicing of fresh ground and Cayenne peppers. And it works! Hallelujah!

TUESDAY: I have another new sandwich today: Polish cheese with Polish mustard on a lovely light and fresh granary breadcake. I suppose the cheese isn’t actually Polish, as it seems more Swiss or Emmental in character because it’s full of holes. But I bought it in my local Polish grocery, where all the cheeses are sliced off the wheel and the Polish clerk told me only that this was his most popular. I still don’t know its name. But I already feel intimate with it. It’s a nice cheese.

WEDNESDAY: I believe I’ve hit upon the best houmus sandwich yet. On a wonderfully light granary breadcake bought at a source I’ve just discovered, I’ve put a little Philadelphia cream cheese, regular houmus, chopped pointy peppers and spring onion, two sliced cocktail olives, a generous seasoning of fresh ground black and Cayenne peppers, and a very healthy handful of basil leaves Yum. This hits the spot. Yum yum is all I can say.

FRIDAY: What a wonderfully unusual lunch. Not only am I sitting in the Winter Gardens with opera singers performing in front of me, but I’m having an experimental sandwich: Caerphilly cheese on a granary breadcake with fresh ground black pepper and lemon zest. On one side of the sandwich I’ve put fresh thyme and on the other side fresh tarragon, and on half of each side I’ve got smashed raspberries. I’ve decided I like the tarragon raspberry quarter the best, although one could leave off the tarragon and/or the raspberries. I think I shall name this the Opera.

THE FOLLOWING TUESDAY: Lunch is a leftover spicy bean burger dressed with a bit of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, a slice of red onion, and some leaf. Cold, it reminds me of a meatloaf sandwich --although most of my life’s experience with that classic American sandwich is the vegetarian meatloaf version. Quite surprisingly, I’m suddenly feeling a lot younger…

TUESDAY A MONTH LATER: It’s been weeks since I’ve posted a new blog. I am still alive, I think – I’m just very busy with everything else, which of course includes Life. But today I must write about something other than my delicious sandwich (sage and onion vegetarian slices and cream cheese on a fresh granary breadcake with sundried tomato, chopped pointy pepper, and a leaf of Red Gem lettuce).

In the Winter Garden where I normally eat my lunch, there is an exhibit today on synthetic speech presented by the Creative Speech Technology Network or CreST. I was invited to play with an electronic choir “singer” using an Xbox controller. It was a lot of fun and reminded me of my ancient Casio analogue monophonic synthesizer I played in a band in the early 1980s before graduating to first a polyphonic Roland and then a digital Yamaha. With the Xbox controls I could adjust the pitch, vibrato, and even the vowel that was being articulated.

Another exhibit allowed the user to create a story for a short comic strip and customize a synthetic voice to read it out loud, with options for the type of character (sex, age, etc.) and the emotion being expressed. This is an idea for the narration of audiobooks and other voiced text media.

This got me thinking once again about where the world is going. Consider the fallibility of computerized subtitles that enable one to watch TV with the sound off. In my local pub where this is often the case, a news story about Superstorm Sandy said that 3.5-metre baps were expected to hit the New England coast. Imagine a highly wavering child’s voice filled with rage shouting this news to you. This could be what we have to look forward to in the future of news reports: no human reporters necessary.

At least the political news reports can’t become any more absurd…

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