Odds 'n' Ends
Amusing Myself
by Steve Wood
October 12, 2011





11 1/2 inch pork chop dinnerAs I drove into the parking lot of our local grocery store, I was amazed when I saw an add for 11 1/2-inch thick cut pork chops on the electronic sign out front. I knew it had to be an error in the sign programming, but I still stood, waited, and watched for the sign to return to the erroneous ad. While monitoring the sign, I kept trying to visualize an almost foot tall pork chop. After a good ten minutes of sign watching (and watching other shoppers watching me watch the sign), I gave up on the sign ever recycling to the incredible ad.

When I got inside, I did take a look at some pretty good looking 1 1/2" thick cut pork chops, but certainly didn't see any of the behemoths I saw advertised on the sign. And of course, at that point, I began to wonder if my mind was amusing me once again, rather than there being an error on the sign.

When I got done shopping and back out in the parking lot, my suspicion was confirmed that I once again had been amusing myself with my reading disability. The sign indeed did say 1 1/2 inch thick cut pork chops. I'm just glad I didn't inquire about the 11 1/2" pork chops at the meat counter.

Living with a learning disability isn't always as amusing as visualizing foot tall pork chops. But it does have its moments.

When I was teaching, I devised a proofreading system for my regular and special education students that at first included having someone else read their writing back to them. By that point, they were supposed to have proofread their work to themselves, both silently and out loud. When we began to have several classroom computers for student use, we had the kids use the text-to-speech function to read back their work to them.

Not knowing of our proofreading system, our school's librarian and grant writer came to me asking for an idea to include in a special education grant she was writing. She was blown away that we already had a system in place that was perfect for the grant proposal. We threw in a lot of hardware and software goodies to justify the big bucks we were going for, including the Don Johnston assistive writing program Co:Writer.

Some months later, we were amazed when we found our grant had been approved to the tune of $100,000! After some jockeying about who was going to do most of the work involved in fulfilling the grant (moi), I ended up getting to specify about $40,000 worth of hardware and software for my classroom and the school.

Now the kicker to the story is that the readback function is something my learning disability had necessitated long before I switched to teaching special education. A spellchecker can catch all sorts of stuff, but it won't touch "you" for "your," "the" for "there," and a host of my other frequent writing errors. I had stumbled into the strategy of reading my work aloud to catch mistakes while in college. As soon as I discovered text-to-speech in some early, classic Mac OS, I began using it for proofreading my work.

The system isn't perfect, as one can be as goofy listening to ones own work as when writing it. I still rely on my wife to proofread the really important stuff. But my frequent postings on Educators' News and Senior Gardening, along with the odd column I still do here and there, all get spellchecked, silently proofread, proofread aloud at times, and then read back to me via my Mac's text-to-speech function.

I'm just hoping I haven't missed some silly error in this piece! And yes, I think you'd call an 11 1/2 inch pork chop a bone-in pork loin.

About Odds 'n' Ends

Odds 'n' Ends is a new column series to house all the stuff I want to say that isn't related or appropriate to my Senior Gardening and Educators' News sites or any of my previous column series. I kicked off the series with a little rant about our local Walmart's systematic practice of replacing lower cost items with more expensive brands, Can Walmart Make Their Aisles Any Narrower? Last week's effort, A Charity Phone Solicitation, started as a bit of a rant and then evolved into a search for charity web banners for my use on Educators' News and for other writers to use if they're so inclined.

I'm not really sure at this point if Odds 'n' Ends will be a weekly column, as I write something down when it begins to coalesce in my head. It has just turned out so far that I've done a column a week for three weeks now. The columns might actually work as well or better as a blog, but I still like the increased level of control over appearance and a host of other things that I only know how to do on my own web site.

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©2011 Steven L. Wood