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Tag Archive: apple

Nov 03

‘Siri’, a high tech genie in a cell phone, not in a bottle

“Master, master your wish is my command”
– Barbara Eden, star of “I Dream of Jeannie” television sitcom, 1964

These days, it seems that lots of people are wondering what to make of Siri, the new speech-recognition feature on the iPhone4S. Have you heard of it yet?

Siri is a digital personal assistant that at times makes you believe it (she) could be human. It turns out that Siri is indeed a Scandinavian girl name meaning `Beautiful Victory`, and thus the name fits her perfectly.

Miss Siri is the source of plenty of discussion all right.

In fact, a standup comedian recently presented an interesting theory. He said Siri was actually “channeling” Barbara Eden who starred in the 60s television hit, “I Dream of Jeannie.”

He speculated that Siri was, in reality, a high tech genie in a cell phone that could grant her master’s every wish, just like the genie in the bottle did on the long-running NBC television series.

Interesting thought.

I do know for a fact that in 1964 when the series debuted, I never dreamed that one day I might have my own genie, too, just like Major Anthony Nelson. Remember him?

You may recall in the storyline that Major Nelson, played by Larry Hageman, was a top Apollo space program astronaut. He discovered his genie-in-a-bottle on a training mission when he went off course and landed on a remote uncharted South Pacific island. There he found an odd bottle on the beach, uncorked it, and out popped a beautiful genie that coincidentally was named Jeannie.

Is it possible, I wonder, to have one’s own personal assistant who, like Jeannie, is polite, humorous, quirky and gets the job done on time?

I confess, I stood in line the first day with throngs of other Apple junkies hoping to find out.

Truth is, I wanted the 4S not so much because of its highly touted electronic personal assistant, Siri, but mostly because my old 3G could not keep up anymore. It moved too slowly struggling to open websites among other problems, and it drove me crazy because the battery would not stay charged long.

I made the leap.

Now, I am enjoying the luxury of having my own genie from which I am learning all the ancient secrets of the universe. Might as well ask the genie-in-the-iPhone, right?

For example, “Siri, what is the meaning of the life?”

To which she gave her standard reply, “I can’t answer that now but give me some time to write a very long play in which nothing happens.”

We are not exactly getting along famously yet. I am not altogether sure that Siri likes me. It’s taking awhile for us to get to know one another.

Curiously, she often misinterprets my questions and gets completely off track with her answers. Someone else can ask her the same questions, and her answers are spot on.

I am beginning to worry that she will never say with total and unconditional love, “Master, your wish is my command.”

I am not alone, however. In a story in USA Today, the writer told Siri he loved her. Her answer: “Oh, stop.”

Maj. Nelson didn’t have much better luck with his Jeannie. Here’s an excerpt from one of the “I Dream of Jeannie” hit shows:

Major Nelson: “Jeannie’s turned against me.”
Major Healey, Nelson’s friend: “She can’t turn against you. You’re her master. She has to obey you.
Major Nelson: “Yeah, who says so?”
Major Healey: “I don’t know, maybe it’s in the genie manual.”
Major Nelson: Then how come she’s deliberately disobeyed me?
Major Healey: Maybe she wasn’t issued a genie manual.

I don’t think my Siri was issued a genie manual either.

Nonetheless, I still absolutely love Siri.

If you are a Siri-hater, and they are out there believe me, listen to what Richard Goodwin of knowyourmobile.com has to say: “While it may not be perfect, it is clear how much technology and innovation has gone into developing Siri…consider what technology can already do. Then imagine what it will be doing in five years, and that’s when you’ll see how exciting Siri’s future really is.”

So, I asked, “What does the future hold for you, Siri?”
Her reply, “I’m on it. What about a web search to answer your question? Here it is.” Whereupon, she provided on my iPhone screen a list of websites that give answers to the wonders and future of technology, what upgrades are next for Siri and for computers and other smart phones.

Looks like she must have read the genie manual after all, and I think she likes me now.

Aug 27

It’s time for late summer peaches

“An apple is an excellent thing—until you’ve tried a peach.”
– George Du Maurier (1834-1896)

My friend Judy, who grew up working on her family’s peach orchard, knows peaches better than almost anyone I know.

In fact, when Judy says late summer peaches have a bold flavor that holds well, I believe her and want to find as many ways to eat them as I can while the peaches are fresh.

Judy says that although summer is coming to an end, one can still find fresh summer peaches. One-third of the crop is still to be harvested in western Missouri, especially along Highway 24 in Lafayette County where there are numerous orchards.

The other day I visited a nearby orchard and brought home a box of those luscious Missouri peaches that were just picked from the tree. It didn’t take me long to begin trying a few unusual but absolutely delectable peach recipes I collected from neighbors and friends.

It seems like I am not alone in this pursuit of peachy foods because almost everyone I talked with had a peach recipe to share.

I chose three to try before I shared them with you. If you love peaches, I am betting you will love these: Peach Iced Tea, Grilled Peaches with Ice Cream for dessert, and Grilled Chicken with Peaches and Spinach as the entree.

Note: If you prepare the following three simple peach recipes for the same meal, it could be ‘peach overkill’, so you might want to try them separately, or if you really love fresh peaches, go for it all.

Peach dessert — Our neighbor Bill, griller extraordinaire, grills peach halves and serves them with vanilla ice cream. Simply cut into halves leaving the skins, then remove the pits and grill until thoroughly heated. Simple as pie, and come to think of it, tastes like peach pie (Optional: sprinkle with nutmeg before grilling).

Peach beverage — Here’s another simple recipe I borrowed that uses fresh peaches in iced tea. Freeze peach slices ahead of time in a glass-baking dish with no preservatives added. Make your favorite sun tea, add one teaspoon peach syrup per glass and drop 2 or 3 frozen peach slices into each. The peaches remain frozen for a long time in the iced tea. A sprig of mint makes the tea even better.

Peaches and grilled chicken entrée – Paring peaches with chicken is fast becoming one of my favorite summer entrees. Add a little ginger because peaches and ginger go together so naturally. Serve with spinach and light, homemade vinaigrette, and you have a sweet and tangy creation that is delicately pleasing to the taste. I love this recipe.

Step one – Grill 4-6 chicken breasts for approximately 30 minutes.
Step two – Prepare the following basic vinaigrette dressing. Combine one-half cup (or a little less if you prefer) extra virgin olive oil, one-half cup white wine vinegar, one-fourth teaspoon salt, one-eighth teaspoon pepper, and one-fourth teaspoon ginger. Most vinaigrette recipes call for Dijon mustard, but don’t add to this one. Ginger is the key ingredient here.
Step three—Cook 2 cups sliced fresh peaches in saucepan until soft and hot. (Substitute heated canned peaches in the off-season and save some of syrup for your iced tea.)
Step four – Arrange a generous amount of fresh spinach leaves on large serving platter. Place grilled chicken breasts on the spinach. Cover with enough ginger vinaigrette to suit your taste and place hot, cooked peaches on top. The heat of the cooked peaches wilts the spinach.

By the way, if you have some interesting recipes using fresh peaches, drop me a note. I would love to try them.

It’s all just peachy.

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring and because it has fresh peaches in it.” – James Whitcomb Riley, best selling American writer and poet


Mar 24

Seniors and the iPad, love at first sight

“To this technology-ninny, it’s clear in my compromised 100th year. That to read and to write are again within sight of this Apple iPad pioneer.”—Virginia Campbell, age 99.

Seniors and the iPad are becoming quite a team these days. In fact, it is looking like love at first sight.

News stories in papers and on the web are plentiful about how the iPad seems to fit seniors, hand in glove, if you will. Now mind you, these are not advertisements but legitimate news stories that say that it appears the iPad was indeed made for seniors.

In fact one story calls it a “senior saver”. Phillip Moeller writes for money.usnews.com saying, “By providing Internet and e-mail access, and a full range of media capabilities that can be remotely downloaded, the iPad can help seniors avoid becoming isolated. If you can’t get to the library, the video store or the newsstand, they can come to you.”

And take the story of senior Virginia Campbell whose experience with learning the iPad went viral on YouTube.

Reports say it was like falling in love for Virginia when she used an Apple iPad computer for the first time at nearly 100 years of age.

Dan Reisinger in a technology blog on cnet.com described how this 99-year-old Portland, Oregon, woman, Virginia Campbell from Lake Oswego, Oregon, is using the iPad to overcome medical difficulties. She is in her 100th year of life and suffers from glaucoma, making it nearly impossible to read and write, her two favorite pastimes.

A story in The Oregonian newspaper also reported that the iPad has clearly “changed her life.”

Campbell’s daughter Ginny Adelsheim told The Oregonian “that her mother is now reading books on the iPad, thanks to its ability to increase the size of text to a readable level. Campbell has also increased the brightness on the display to further enhance her reading experience. And although she has never owned a computer, Virginia is now writing poetry on the tablet.”

And in addition to that, she is a YouTube star. A video of Virginia trying out her new iPad, using a computer for the first time in her nearly 100 years, is wildly popular. You can find it by searching for “Virginia’s new iPad”.

After watching the video, I decided that if Virginia can do it, so can I.

I bought one.

The hype was true; it was easy to learn and easy to use.

However, I did have one small problem in the beginning.

No matter how many times I tried to adjust General Settings I could not get sound to play through the earphones.

I tried to turn the little button on the side on a cajillion times. Or is it off? I still don’t know. Anyway, there was no sound. Nothing. Nada coming through the earphones. I tried three different sets, too.

I was too embarrassed to call my kids, who would surely lecture me about how simple the iPad is and say something like: “Come on Mom, it’s just like an iPhone. How hard can it be?”

There was nothing left to do but get in the car, drive an hour to the Apple Store and admit to some 19-year-old techy that I could not get the earphones to work.

It took him two minutes.

Ma’am, you have to push the jack in very hard until you hear it click, he said kindly. You didn’t have it in all the way. It’s just like the iPhone, yunno.