"...beat me on the bottom with a Woman's Weekly"

...gotta love Victoria Wood, even (especially?) in parody.

I have had a fantastic xmas break. Lots of mild over-eating, fine food, fine drink, toys and great company, and of course the deep joy of having got presents right (I think).

Just wrapped up the tail end of Boxing Day with my sister (after everyone else had pooped out and gone to bed) finding things to laugh at on YouTube. She's been having a hard time this year - putting my rough 2011 into perspective! - and we'd had a helpful but saddening serious conversation... capped off with videos of (amongst other things) cats leaping through boxes, "is this offensive?", "hell no!", inappropriate muppet parodies, and a glorious dual-homage to Victoria Wood and Russel T. Davies.

Yeah, all told I think we Robertshaws will be welcoming 2012 with open arms. One thing and another 2011 has not been entirely kind to us. Could have been worse, and things are headed in good directions (albeit painful ones in some cases) but it's been one of the less happy years in memory all round.

So far though the year-capping holiday has been a real antidote to all that. It's never all smiles: 3x kids under 6 under one roof is hard work and (for three of the six adult clan members) kids are a taxing (and hugely rewarding) novelty... the balance though has been recharging, rewarding and memorably lovely.

Personally I've been hugely enjoying the nostalgia this year - which is new for me - my nephew and I spent all afternoon building a gigantic Lego set, then this evening my brother and I immersed ourselves in unexpected net-nostalgia when I found this place*.

An unexpected boon of my new freelance lifestyle has been being able to enjoy a longer festive visit to Yorkshire: having time to catch up with more folk, and really enjoy the family... all signs that 2012 will be better...

* One of the many many things Mum seems to be enjoying about being a Grandmother, is having time and energy to play even more than she managed as a young working mother (which was already a lot) and Lego falls squarely in that sphere. So I find myself in the privileged and happy position of teaching my Mum to play with Lego, and so finding an archive of instructions for the mountains of bricks I bequeathed them is invaluable

Perplexing Siri

So I've not used Siri much - for all that it's the headline feature of my phone, I find the camera more useful, and I'm a bit... British, and self conscious about talking to my devices... at least when people are around.

Still there's something compelling about having a real world device that I can talk with naturally, and which understands me (albeit limitedly) It makes my inner sci-fi geek giddy! So now and then something grabs me and I try it out. The last thing I played with for any length of time was the spooky but fascinating Wolfram Alpha aeroplane trick which - disappointingly - then refused to work when I wanted to show it to my Ex over dinner the other night (happily he has a 4S too and understood how fickle Siri can be - it is still in Beta after all...)

Today I stumbled on another thing, less spooky but more useful than asking about planes overhead. I was writing my Niece's birthday card and (since I can never remember the post code) wanted to look up my brother's address. In the privacy of my own home and with the phone right there I held down the home button and said "what's my brother's address" Siri asked me my brother's name, then asked if I wanted it to remember he is my brother, then supplied his address. Neat! I thought. OK so (in spite of the fact that the word "brother" is in my brother's address book card) there's some learning involved in that function. Fair enough.

... and (it being Sunday) off I went asking Siri for credentials from as many family members as I could think of, all went swimmingly until I reached my Aunt:

Me: "What is my Aunt's address?"
Siri: "What is your Aunt's name?"
Me: "Anne Robertshaw"
Siri: [displaying "Robertshaw"] ... thinks ... "do you want me to remember that Patrick Robertshaw is your Aunt?"
Me: [sigh] "cancel"

fair enough I thought, "Anne" can be misheard as "an", and faced with an apparent ambiguity Siri's little brain picks the primary Robertshaw from its database and (naturally) pulls up me! Fail.

So, I think, on with the experiment:

Me: "What is my Uncle's address?"
Siri: "What is your Uncle's name?"
Me: "Colin Robertshaw"
Siri: "Calling Anne Robertshaw, which number?"
Me: [incredulous sigh] "cancel"

I'm a bit baffled by this. If it can hear "Anne" in the context of placing a call, how come not in the context of assigning metadata to address book entries? Still more perplexing is its refusal to recognise Colin's name as anything other than an attempt to call his sister! (I tried several times.)

I'm not complaining. I live in the future, and while I may not have a flying car or a robot housekeeper, I do have a quite amazing pocket computer which (mostly) understands natural spoken word commands... but the name thing has me baffled and amused. So I thought I'd share.


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