Siri vs. Filofax

So, I’ve had my new iPhone 4s about a week now and I am loving it more than I think I have ever loved an iProduct.

The new iCloud feature is great and every time I use the new 8 megapixel camera I’m stunned at how crisp and actually pretty good my lame little cell phone pictures are becoming.

But the star of the show has got to be Siri.

Dictating reminders to “her” and having changes to my schedule be as easy as the push of one button and a quick  verbal command is truly changing the way I go about my day.

Since it has historically taken me less time to jot a note, list or appointment down in my Filofax than to open up an app on my phone and awkwardly type it on that damn touch keyboard, my tendency was to default to paper first and add stuff to my phone later as a backup.

With Siri, however, the tables have turned. It is now far faster and easier to access Siri and have her create my reminders, lists and appointments than it is to write it down.  As is making changes to those things. Even with an erasable pen.

As Siri and I develop even more of a rapport;  as she “learns” about my habits and becomes even faster and easier, what will become of my precious Filofax?

In a word….nothing.

Every morning I sit down with my Filofax over a cup of tea and review my schedule & tasks for the day, as well as take a look at the general progress of my week. I also record some details like the weather, my mood, any health issues I’m having, and I typically jot down a line or two regarding what I most want to work on that day (re-framing my attitude, staying positive, watching my self-talk, etc).

While I could theoretically input all of that with my iPhone over tea (no doubt in less time, since Siri also interacts flawlessly with the Notes app), I don’t see myself doing that.

Pen on paper is part of my ritual. It’s not just a means to an end (organization), it’s the scent of the paper, the sound of the nib scratching on the page, the mindfulness of the act of writing. The way my handwriting looks. The feel of my favorite pen.

Tapping buttons with the pads of my fingers will never bring me to center

And while I have a deep and abiding fascination with all things gadget, speaking my day to a piece of silicon and plastic – no matter how elegant or cool it is – will never bring me the joy that creating myself on the page does.

No matter what the day, week, month or year brings, my iPhone will always look essentially the same.  There will be no evidence of what I experienced, learned, endured, triumphed over.  You won’t be able to see me in it. With the flick of one setting I can be wiped clean from it…as though I never even existed…and sell it to someone else.

But my Filofax is different. The leather wears as it tumbles through the years with me. You can flip through it and see the shakiness in my writing the day I was so stressed out.  The tear stains rippling the paper the day my heart broke. The goofy sticker that made me smile. The inspiring fortune taped to the page after a take out lunch with my best friend. The quote I found that gave me hope on a bad day. The epiphany I jotted down while I was stuck in traffic that reminded me that life is about the journey not the destination.

The little hearts scribbled in red pen like a giddy 16-year-old the day I fell in love again.

All of those things  simply cannot be captured digitally…they are miracles. They are us.

Siri may be amazing, and as AI technology advances I have no doubt that interfacing with an “intelligent assistant” will indeed be the fastest, most efficient means of planning, organizing and keeping track of one’s day.

But there is a reason paleolithic humans left red ochre hand prints behind and not merely scratches counting how many mammoths they killed on a given day.

Life isn’t as simple as what we do….we are not Human Doings after all…we are Human Beings. Doing is so much easier than being sometimes, isn’t it? We can quantify what we do. Track it. Check it off. Not so with who we are.

Siri may have dual processors, but what she lacks is heart,  a spirit and uniqueness of  mind.

So  I’ll use Siri as my assistant for doing, but my Filofax is what will continue to help me leave red hand prints along the way on my path of being.



iThing, I Think I Love You

If you read my last post, you know that I recently upgraded to the new iPhone 4s.

You’ll also be pleased to know that I managed to finally get that whole “drunken gibberish password debacle” sorted out and now not only do I have an iPhone 4s, I can actually use the thing.

Since I was only upgrading from an iPhone 4 (which I had dutifully performed the software update to iOS5 on already), I wondered if upgrading to a mere ‘S’ model was a waste of my hard earned money and I should just sit tight and wait for the iPhone 5 like the rational people.

But…you know me, rationality is generally not a factor (and neither is patience for that matter).

I’m sure you’ve already perused the ever-growing reviews online about the iPhone 4s, so I won’t bore you with technical breakdowns, specifications or comparisons to the iPhone 4. What I will bore you with is my own personal impression as a user.

First off, when they say the ‘S’ in these S upgrades is for speed, they mean it. The thing BLAZES. I read somewhere that this new processor is something like 7 times faster than the old one. Believe it. I really didn’t think it would be noticeably faster, but I was wrong. From boot speed to app downloads to the camera, its really amazingly fast.

Really, the ‘S’ can stand for whatever you want it to with this phone – speed, Steve,  or even sh*t this phone is awesome.

I know people are kvetching about the fact that there were no changes to the form factor.  Really??!!  I’m no fashionista, but I do tend to buy more than one case for my phone – different colors, sparkly vs matte, even the occasional character (aka Hello Kitty) – and since they tend to run around $20 to $35, I personally was THRILLED to find no external changes. This means I can go out and get that Angry Birds case I’ve been eyeing when it goes on clearance instead of starting my case collection from scratch. Again.

Buying a new phone without having to pony up for all new accessories too… Where do I sign?

As for me, I think the ‘S’ stands for Siri.  I used to have the app, back when it was just another app in the iTunes store and I loved it. I used it several times a week and found it to be far, far superior to other similarly themed apps which shall remain nameless (but that rhyme with “wagon”). To be honest, the fact that they took away my Siri and made it exclusive to the iPhone 4s was the main reason I coughed up the money to upgrade.

That and the fact that I’m a gadget whore.

Suffice to say, when I got my phone up and running (for reals, not drunk up and running), the first thing I did was play with Siri, and as a former user who already loved it, having it fully integrated now is pure, unadulterated genius. It’s like the old “Voice Control” but on ‘roids. Really, really good ‘roids.

She can manage your calendar. She reminds you of stuff. She can “learn” who the important people in your life are and text, email or call them by whatever you call them. Now I use Siri, not several times a week, but constantly throughout the day. I can’t believe how beyond useful this thing has become.

“Remind me to go pick up blah, blah, blah when I leave work” and it will cue me when I pull out of the office parking lot. You read that right. It can remind you of things when you arrive at a location or when you leave one.

“Do I have any appointments on x day at y time?” and it will check my calendar for me.

“Schedule a meeting with yada, yada, yada, tomorrow at 2pm” and she does!

I say ‘she’ because the English US voice is female. I was mildly bummed that I couldn’t use the male English UK voice because he only apparently works in, say it with me, in the UK. But I can live with it. I don’t need my personal digital assistant to sound like a hot guy…I just need it to keep track of my life.

Yes, you can ask her pointless things like, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood” (the answer by the way is 42), what the average penis size is for an American male (which got a reply of, “I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that”) or whatever entertaining thing you can come up with for hours upon end, but I’m here to tell you that when the novelty wears off you will be amazed at the USEFUL things she can do for you.

Here are just a few ways I’ve already come to rely on Siri:

1. “Wake me up at…” – As my alarm clock every morning. While I have always used the built in Clock app as my morning alarm, in my job different days have different schedules so I had a lot of custom alarms set. Now before I go to bed I just tell Siri to wake me up at whatever time the following day requires.

2. “Send an email to…” – My one beef with the iPhone over, say, a Blackberry has been the lack of a real keyboard.  Simply stated, I suck at typing on the little touch keys. But now I just tell Siri to compose my emails and text messages and voila, no more fodder for the auto-correct blunders websites.

3. “Remind me to…” – Three words, Re.  Mind.  Ers. Unbefreakinglievable how much better the already pretty cool iOS5 addition of the Reminder app becomes when you add Siri to the mix.  No typing required, you just hold the iPhone 4s up to your face (with it on, obviously), listen for the Siri tone and say, “Remind me to…” and a reminder will be set for you. I make SO much more use this tool now that I don’t have to type my reminders out.  And, if you are using iCloud, your reminders will show up everywhere. No excuses for missing anything now!

4. “Where the heck is…” – Last night I was invited to an event in a town I had never even heard of. Before responding, I wanted to know what I was getting myself into. So I asked Siri. She showed it to me on a map, provided me with driving directions and told me what the weather was forecast to be when the event was being held. She even found me several pet friendly hotels close by.

5. “When is …” – Yes, it will remind me of when my next dentist appointment is, but you can also query when your next meeting with So and So is and if you suddenly realize you are in no way prepared for it,  you can have Siri reschedule it.  You can ask when someone’s birthday is (then set a reminder so you don’t forget it again), when Daylight savings time begins or ends, what day of the week Chanukah falls on this year. You get the idea.

I think what impresses me the most is that you talk to Siri just like you would a person standing next to you. Naturally. In common vernacular.  And it understands, not only what you say but also what you mean. I don’t know how (and frankly I really don’t care) but it is far and away the easiest most intuitive bit of technology I have ever used.

To beat a well-worn phrase into the ground, it just works. Siri works right out of the gate, but even after only a couple of days it is learning. About my voice, inflections, my key people, their nicknames, etc.

I never expected to open up a new device and within 24 hours be able to say to it, “Text my sister and tell her I’m on my way” and have that be that.

Another thing I never expected, was how downright endearing a productivity tool could be.  Now that I think of it, its probably a good thing Siri doesn’t have a male voice, or I might just fall in love…

...I rest my case

Apples and Oranges

This title is going to apply to two topics:

1. A quick comparison between eReading on a Kindle 3 and an iPad 2, and

2. My first impressions of Weight Watchers

Kindle 2 vs. iPad 2 as eReaders –

I love to read. I love books, I love the feel and smell of paper books, I collect certain authors in hard cover, and no matter how awesome you make an eReader I am always going to have paper books. Period.

However, there are undeniably times when having books in electronic form comes in very handy…thus my interest in eReaders.

I had a second generation Kindle and liked it well enough, but didn’t really care for the navigation and the white color of the device was sort of distracting to the page. So when I found myself not really using it that often (and actually preferring to purchase the trashy summer novel in paperback rather than electronic form) I knew it was time to sell it.

Enter Kindle 3. Grey device, more intuitively laid out navigation…sold! I bought one for myself and never looked back. Somehow much more desirable size to carry around (even though it isn’t really that much smaller than its predecessor) and with the price point, there was no need to resist.

Now that I have my birthday iPad however, I find the Kindle once again falling into disuse. There are a million and one reasons why, as a dedicated eReader, Kindle beats the ever-living snot out of an iPad (the weight of the thing being the first to come to mind) but the fact of the matter is this: the iPad does oh-so-much-more than allow me to eRead. So that is the gadget I cart around with me now, rather than the Kindle.

As much of a uber geek as I am, no way I’m lugging around both, know what I’m saying?

Happily, there is always a market for a pristine, latest generation Kindle, so I easily sold mine for full retail to an office-mate.

But back to my practical comparison…

Truly they are Apples & Oranges. You can’t really “compare” them per se, as each excels at different things, but nor is this a full-fledged review of either, so we’ll just go with comparison for now because I’m lazy.

The Kindle 3 is a MUCH smaller, lighter device than an iPad. Holding it in your hand to read is effortless, while the iPad gets heavy after a while unless you rest it on something. This really isn’t an issue for me, as I tend to read seated most of the time and can rest it on my meaty thigh.

The iPad screen isn’t worth a damn outside in the sunlight. I plan to investigate an anti-glare screen protector this weekend and will let you know if that makes any discernible difference. I have one on my iPhone and it works spectacularly, however I don’t do any long-term reading on my iPhone either.

The other side of that coin, of course, is that I can read without having a light on because the screen is back-lit. This is handy for reading in bed or other times you’re in a poorly lit environment.

The Kindle’s eInk technology is really unbeatable if you are going to read outside, say at the beach. Again, not an issue for me since I would personally bring neither device to the beach for fear of sand infiltration and/or thievery. I prefer to either swim, walk, forage for shells, people watch or sleep at the beach, so I seldom read and if I do it is generally a magazine (behind which I hide and pretend to read so that I can perform the aforementioned people watching surreptitiously).

I took the iPad out onto my deck over the weekend to read The Daily (more about that later in the section where I totally gush about how phantasmagorical the iPad is) and struggled to read in the bright sunlight, even under my patio umbrella.

Happily, being more than an eReader, I turned off the screen, cranked up some tunes and chilled with my iced tea undaunted.

It’s been said a zillion times, but now I can tell you from experience – if you want strictly an eReader, go for the Kindle hands down. But if reading electronic documents is only one of the bangs you want for your buck, hold out for an iPad.

Now to the part where I rave about the iPad.

The thing is so incredible…it really is. For media consumption in general, you can’t go wrong. Yes, I have eBooks (or should I say, iBooks) but I also have my magazine subscriptions IN COLOR. Currently just Vanity Fair and Allure but still…no more piles of magazines I don’t know what to do with after I’ve read them. Even the ads are interactive and (dare I say it) fun.

The Daily, a news app specifically designed for the iPad is insanely cool. Yes, you have to pay to subscribe to it ($0.99 per week…yes that’s right, I said per WEEK) but it has new content – you guessed it, daily – and is akin to, but better than, a USA Today type newspaper.  I love it.  Well worth a buck a week in my opinion. It even has a daily crossword & Sudoku. And there are no strings, so if you get bored with it, you simply don’t renew for the following week.

I have games (don’t even get me started on Angry Birds or you will die of old age as I go on and on and on about that particular addiction), I have an app that lets me access and watch whatever cable TV channels I pay for at home. From anywhere with WiFi. Which means I can catch up on Nurse Jackie in Panera as I nosh on my overpriced, foofy lunch.

I can Tweet, update and moderate this very blog, read up on all my favorite blogs by you guys, check in on Facebook (ok not Facebook…”Friendly” which is the App Store’s version of Facebook for iPad, but you get the idea), email, read work documents (which lets face it, I don’t…but I could if I wanted to), listen to music, watch a full length feature movie, show off a slide show of Sophie or do my banking. I’m sure there are things I’ve left out, because it is pretty overwhelming to think about all the possibilities for this device, but pretty much whatever you can imagine doing, there is indeed an app for it.

So yeah, I’m not that annoyed that reading on it outside in the sunlight sucks.

Oh, another thing I can do on my iPad (this is going to be a segue, so hold on tight) is calculate WW Points or add stuff to my WW Points Tracker for the day.

My First Impressions of Weight Watchers –

See, I told you it was a segue.

I have now been on Weight Watchers (WW for short) for 4 days. Today being day #4.  I must say it sucks a whole lot less than I thought it would.

Since you eat your own food I didn’t have to change my grocery shopping habits (just what I bought) and dare I say it has saved me money already.

Saturday night I went out with my girlfriends and had one glass of wine (4 points) and seltzer with lime (0 points) for the rest of the night…and had as much fun as I always have, but without the day-after headache.  Sunday I skipped my usual movie night with pizza (which I generally put down all by myself, thank you very much) and had air popped popcorn instead (a measly 2 points for an entire bag).

This morning I got up a bit early, went to the grocery store, bought my work food for the entire week and brought it in with me. Again, saving myself not only precious Points, but also even more precious dollars.

I know it is impossible, but even after a mere four days I feel as though I am losing. My pants feel looser. I have WAY more energy throughout the day and much to everyone’s glee (and frankly amazement), I am in a far, far better mood.

I can’t quantify that “feels like I’m losing” comment, as I am holding to the instruction to only weigh yourself once per week, consistently at the same day/time of day, and that ain’t happening until Friday…but I will certainly let you know what it shows then.

Turns out, this isn’t torture at all.  Huh.

And the part I really dreaded, the tracking of everything I put in my mouth, isn’t that bad either. It took an initial time investment to enter what I generally eat (or, what I will be eating going forward) into the favorite food database on Friday night, but that was actually pretty interesting and I did it on my laptop while watching television, so I can’t complain.

This is typically a task I would obsess psychotically too much over, but since there is an iPhone app (sadly not an iPad specific app yet, though you can use the iPhone app on it…it just appears smaller and more pixellated on the large screen) I don’t need to.

The app has a handy Points calculator for seeing what stuff will “cost you” in your daily Points allotment if you choose to eat it, as well as the Points Tracker, which will tell you what you have left for the rest of the day once you do consume something. There is a huge database of restaurant food and brand names, so this part of the process really can’t be an excuse for failure.

Sneakily, they have made fruits and veggies zero Points. My co-worker said this was not the case formerly. So if you’ve used your Points budget for whatever meal you’re on, and you are still hungry but don’t want to blow the rest of your day, you are trained to reach for a piece of fruit (or, as I type this, raw carrot sticks…zero points…HOLLA!!!!) as opposed to that bag of chips.

If I get distracted and power through my bag of carrot sticks the worst that will happen to me is I will end up with very keen eyesight. Not so if I get distracted and blast through an entire bag of chips.

For this half of the post Apples & Oranges is about healthy snacking.

See what I did there?

Also underhandedly, physical activity gains you points. Granted not many, but my morning half-hour jaunt with Sophie gets me 2 Points. Now, were I to go over my daily food Points allotment, I could use those 2 exercise Points to break even. Or, I can bank them for the week and, since Sophie & I walk ever day, I could save them up and have 10 Points worth of wine on the weekend.

Wait until I get back to my strength training three times a week…that’ll help my wine allowance fo shizzle.

So while you’re not paying attention, you are figuring out how to work exercise into your day so that you can drink wine, and relying on fruits and veggies as snacks.


In all seriousness though, it really isn’t a bad program to be on. In fact, you could argue that it is better to be mindful of what we fuel our bodies with just anyway.

I, for one, have certainly not been fueling it very well lately and weight aside, if I can get back into healthy habits, have more energy and FEEL BETTER well then, this will have been well worth the effort.

Maybe by this time next year there will be a Weight Watcher’s ad featuring an awkward blonde girl holding a Filofax, surrounded by dogs with their heads cocked in agony (because she can’t sing to save her own life) in place of Jennifer Hudson!

But if I were you, I wouldn’t hold your breath ; )