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Sidewalk Thoughts: Stupid Smartphones - Siri-ously

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columns Dickinson,North Dakota 58602
The Dickinson Press
Sidewalk Thoughts: Stupid Smartphones - Siri-ously
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

I have been doing some more research on the iPhone. I found out that the phone is so smart because there is this woman that lives inside the phone and she is an amazing personal assistant. Her name is Siri.


Siri actually stands for Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface. (Strangely she has a voice but not a "face.") Siri also means "beautiful woman who leads you to victory" in Norwegian. Really, the Norwegians have one word for a seven word phrase that you are never going to use in your entire lifetime.

I truly do not mean to be doing any improper ethnic profiling, but when I think of Lena, I don't picture a beautiful woman that could lead me anywhere. (Truly, no offense to my many friends that are of the Norwegian heritage. Besides, I really like lefse!)

I have been doing two types of research. I have done some online and some field work on Siri. My research has caused some conflict for me. I'm thinking one of the problems I have is that I have a different definition of a personal assistant and I can't really see me becoming BFF's with an annoying woman's voice in my phone.

I found out that one of Siri's amazing talents is that you can talk to her and she will take notes for you, make lists for you, and remind you of appointments or activities on your daily calendar. For example, you can say, "Add toilet paper to my Walmart list" and she will do that for you.

But, is she going to drive through Dickinson's road rage traffic to Walmart? Is she going to circle the Walmart parking lot five times looking for a decent spot all the while dodging cars that are going the wrong way, semi trucks that are taking up a third of the lot or weave through the overnight campers that take up another third of the lot? Is she going to grab an inferior brand of toilet paper because your favorite brand is out of stock? Is she going to stand in the checkout line for 30 minutes only to pay 77 cents more this week than it cost last week?

Now to me, someone who would do all those things is what I would call a personal assistant. If I understand this stuff correctly, Siri would have merely added toilet paper to my Walmart list. When I got to Walmart and pulled up my Walmart list, toilet paper would indeed be there. I am debating in my mind how much time I would save by telling Siri to add the item to my list compared to me writing down TP in my Walmart notebook.

The last time I took my son to Walmart he barely got down the first aisle when he informed me that his phone was going to die any minute along with his Walmart list. With a huge smile and with great satisfaction, I pulled out my Walmart notebook and a pencil and quickly wrote down his list for him before the phone went dead. His comment was, "You are really enjoying this aren't you?" Ahhhhh, indeed I was!

Another outstanding Siri feature is her ability to establish relationships. Well, not her personally, since you can't even ask her if she has a good looking brother with a sexy voice. I believe her answer to those types of questions is, "We were talking about you, not me."

Anyway, so smart Siri will remember people for you when you tell her to so that maybe some personal bonding can go on between you and your phone.

For example, you tell her your mom's name, she remembers it and at anytime you just have to say, "call my mom" and she will dial her up for you. That is provided you call your mother "mom" and not by her first name such as Mary, which is also your sister's, your friend's, your aunt's and your co-worker's name.

Again, I question the time factor. I have a good relationship with my mom, so I have my mom on speed dial. I am thinking that by the time I activate Siri, tell her to call my mom, answer her question if she wants me to call my mom on her home phone, cellphone or car phone and Siri annoyingly tells me that she can do that for me, I could have been talking to my mom for 5 minutes already. Certainly by the time Siri actually dials the number, I could have written down everything I needed to pick up for my mom at Walmart the next time I go.

Another outstanding Siri feature is that you can ask her questions and she will search the web to find the answer. Oh and the questions can't have any depth to them. You can't ask Siri what is love because she will search Webster's online dictionary and give you the definition. You also can't ask her "what is the meaning of life?" because she will answer 42!?!?

The other evening my mom, dad, and nephew were having supper together. Somehow we started talking about how many ounces in a cup. My mom immediately told us 8. The rest of us being skeptical about anything not backed up by Internet proof decided to ask Siri. She of course offered to find out that information for us. While Siri was searching the vast intelligence of the Internet, my mom said, "I am positive it is 8." Siri did indeed come up with a list of websites. My nephew began to click and scroll, click and scroll, and even tried a conversion calculator that turned out to be metric. Meanwhile, my mom says, " I have been baking for over 60 years, believe me when I tell you there are 8 ounces in a cup." After 10 minutes of checking website after website my nephew found the definitive answer, which of course was 8. My mom relished every word of being able to say, "I told you so."

I am beginning to believe that Siri stands for Supposedly Intelligent, Really Irritating. When my son was home for Thanksgiving, I was still in my fieldwork stage of research. I asked him to tell me about all his wonderful Siri experiences. You can imagine my surprise when he told me that he disabled her. I asked what he had done to her. I thought maybe he asked too many questions or too hard of questions and blew up her mind. But he went on to explain that he actually shut her (up) off.

Although he did say he uses Siri for texting while he was driving. I found that piece of information encouraging. I am all for Siri helping out in the texting and driving department. I have to say I was curious as to why Nik didn't use Siri all the time for texting. Wouldn't saying your text message be easier than tapping it in? He explained that he got irritated every time he would dictate a text to Siri and say "exclamation point" she would put in "excavation point."

I shudder to think if I told Siri to text my best friend and tell her she is a nut.