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We all have our routines, and in this day and age many of them involve the Internet.  Publishing an online newspaper, most of my routines involve the Internet, and I take it for granted, just like I take it for granted that when I flip a light switch a light will go on, or if I push the handle on the toilet it will flush, even if there is a toilet paper shortage because of coronavirus panic.  I use many Internet resources to communicate, look up information, and to actually publish the newspaper.  When the Internet goes down I float in limbo until it comes back.  This week the Internet was not an option in a situation caused by the coronavirus.

One of the great resources we have at the Star is Casey Stevens' 'Thoughts' column on our weekly Opinions page.  This week marks Casey's 117th 'Thoughts' Column.  But it almost didn't happen.  Because Casey doesn't have a computer, and his cell phone is a simple thing without Internet or email.  He uses a computer at his local library for Internet.  No library, no Internet. No Internet, no email.  No email, no column.  How were we to get the column from his brain to the Lansing Star Online?

Well, that brings me to another saying: 'Necessity is the mother of invention'.  Frank Zappa was also a Mother of Invention -- if you don't know who Frank Zappa is, well... Google it!

Casey is the same Casey Stevens that we used to wake up to on WHCU News Radio every morning, a beloved voice in the Tompkins County community.  He thinks I am doing him a favor by publishing his column.  I think he is doing me a favor, not only for writing the column, but because he submitted 116 columns via email a full five days before deadline, every week without fail.  How would he get me #117?

We had to think outside the box. I had a cat that thought outside the box, and as a result she is now living in North Carolina.  Because you don't want your cat to think outside the box.  But it's good for people to do so.

The problem -- no email or Internet access for Casey.  The desired result -- a digital, typed column that could be used in the interface we use to publish the Lansing Star.  I told him over the phone, "Maybe there's some kind of service that you can phone in to?..."  I was stumped.  About a half hour after we hung up a light bulb went off (see, we take it for granted that when we get a brilliant idea a light bulb will go on -- all that conditioning from Saturday morning cartoons, I suppose).  I thought I might have my outside the box solution: I could be that call-in service with tools I already have, but using them a slightly different way.

Casey would call in his column, reading it clearly over the phone, and I would record it.  Speaking clearly wasn't going to be a problem after all his years on the radio.  I would then upload the recording to a service and edit the resulting transcription.

Not long ago I found a fabulous online transcription service called Temi.  You upload a sound file, and Temi transcribes it for 25 cents per minute.  It is fairly fast depending on the size of the sound file.  Actually it is blazingly fast, especially when compared to when I did all the transcribing myself.  And a lot less painful.  So it was only about an hour from the time Casey called to the time I finished editing the transcription and set it up to publish in today's Star.

For those of you who have missed the voice of Casey Stevens for the past 13 or 14 years, here is a little taste from today's  editing of the transcription.  And if you look in the upper left corner you will see that Temi agreed with me about his diction, ranking the audio quality 'high'.

We take modern conveniences for granted until something like the coronavirus comes along and suddenly we can't be in touch with people we care about or need to work with, or even get something like toilet paper that we all took for granted until a couple of weeks ago when it disappeared from the United States (my theory is that it was abducted by aliens).

Empty toilet paper shelvesWhere did all the toilet paper go? Long time passing... (no pun intended) Where did all the toilet paper go? Long time ago... This picture, by Karen Veaner was taken at BJ's Wholesale Club by Karen Veaner about a week ago.

So for all the folks exclaiming on social media that they are bored, this is a time for creative problem solving, as well as all that house cleaning we've been putting off.  Now that's done (the problem solving, not the house cleaning) I'm off to listen to some Zappa.  What's the matter with YOU, Suzy Creamcheese?

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