Lessons in Humility

By: Jackson Hogen

Published: November 13, 2017

Last season I introduced a Realskiers Test Card app, allowing both our regular cast of specialty shop personnel and citizens of all stripes to record their impressions of new skis and send them off to my database in one fell swoop.

The app turned out to be a lifesaver, as test venue after test venue was wiped out by wind and weather, drastically shrinking the number of paper cards that would be submitted after regional trade fairs. The digitally submitted results filled what would have been a gaping hole in my data pipeline.

After registering scores for ten criteria, a tester using the Realskiers app dictates his/her comments.

There are two parts to any test card: numeric scores for various test criteria and a verbal description of the ski’s most noteworthy characteristics. I expected the app to perform brilliantly on the numbers side and it was indeed flawless at recording and adding. I was less sanguine about the app’s ability to recognize speech that would be riddled with obscure brand and model names.

My greatest fears were unfounded. Virtually every verbal submission came through remarkably intact, with one glaring, galling exception.

My own comments were utter gibberish.

I admit I’m not in the habit of consulting with Siri, giving her scant opportunity to learn my apparently peculiar vocalizations. Not that she didn’t try when summoned. She did her best to fathom what words I might be muttering, with results that were brilliant for all the wrong reasons.

Take this passage, which could have been lifted from Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable:

“Decent cruiser get holes well enough at radius turns ugly way to really get it to react quickly is of higher jangles with really powerful Scears Marks and asked him settled in your brawl Jesus is true for the ski but as of her speech comes up short against things.”

Okay, not really good imitation Beckett, but you have to love the “Jesus is true” bit.

Fans of Lewis Carroll might mistake this soliloquy for a stanza from Jabberwocky:

Still very much up in the ski you notice the lake                                                                                  This is you don’t really notice so much that you get from Tuesday to today                                    But it is still relatively quiet at speed and manages itself well enough on edge to                          Be considered for the fitness expert.

A beatnik poet might have scrawled in free verse:

“the soft brace slalley doesn’t have a big hog sleep, although we did have a demo bike for us; it is smooth, doesn’t require a Norma’s power seller ration, doesn’t leak out of the turd too aggressively, but it does hold a beautiful continuous arc.”

At once both cryptic and vulgar, it seems right for the age of sexting.

Pluck out a phrase from several different commentaries and you have the makings of a country song full of verve, mind-chilling incoherence and inspired drivel:

 You’re very content with CA till you see Alabama;                                                                           She’ll love to hear stories of your stuff – we’re going to later.                                                   Particular chick ever in or out of the church                                                                                           So I get you to a crisp                                                                                                                                   Or was this                                                                                                                                                   That SKI needs this for a butter and flow                                                                                               Not be bounced around like a marble                                                                                                   Racing for her birthday or precision accuracy for the ark                                                                   For power through on preschool which is almost here.

Some notes, taken in their entirety, suggest a surreptitious communiqué with a hidden message:

Read the digester let you know 84 and all allergens and take the tips I was with the scohenski shorts or you need upsize it to the 177 Stanwood. longer than most kids any rate the four buddy stable as connection is good God is in every restaurant. has this game but it was more fluidly through the Ranger turns and 88 tomorrow feels.

The perspicacious will note that none of these brimming swill-buckets of verbiage, however presented, provides much information about ski behavior, skiing itself or even snow conditions. Any attempt to define a thread of connection between the recorded word and the subject matter is doomed to failure, as the only unifying trait is inanity.

Eventually, Siri adapted to my manner of speech, although she still produced some near misses that are more fun than the original, such as “Knox that stuff out of the way.” By this test season, she’ll recognize every brand and will probably decipher even my most obscure references. I’m going to miss winsome turns of phrase such as, “Clearly, rest of our furniture or 330 so much so that the overly sharp real skis reminded her of work to catch up time to shower but SKI still show exhibit it, I think.”

Clearly, indeed.

Links to where you can download the Realskiers Test Card app can be found on the bottom of the Realskiers.com home page, along with instructions on how to use it.

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