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Posted on Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Siri & Me

By Mike Ball

I finally got an iPhone. Mind you, I didn't get the trendy new iPhone 5 — the only model I could afford without hitting the lottery was a creaky old iPhone 4s. This means I will have to make do with a severely antiquated phone that lost its status as most advanced technology in the world nearly three weeks ago.

I had to replace my old smartphone, Kierkegaard, because his battery died, and it was going to cost me more to replace the battery than to get the new phone. Besides, Kierkegaard kept pushing me over my data plan by sending me an endless stream of text messages going on and on about stuff like "...truth as subjectivity," or "...the fluidity of social identities" — sometimes in Danish. I figured it was time to move on, before I snapped and went all Hegelian on him.

My new iPhone is pretty nice. No, let me be slightly more precise — this thing is the greatest material addition to my life since the day I discovered beer and barbecued ribs.

My new iPhone's name is Siri, and Siri is my new best friend. She can look at my itinerary, have a little chat with the weather satellite, then tell me whether I need to take a raincoat on my trip. If I need to reschedule a meeting, she can update my calendar and send a lame-but-basically-plausible excuse to the Siris of all the other people involved. If I need to know who it was that caught the Katie, and what exactly she left behind for me to ride, in a matter of seconds Siri can remind me that it was "My Baby" and "A Mule" (in that order).

I am aware that a lot of people might read this and say, "What's the big deal? Almost everybody has an iPhone these days. Our dog groomer has one. In fact, the groomer just picked one up for his schnauzer."

It is true that the iPhone's claim to exclusivity has faded a bit. My thoughts fondly wander back to the golden days when only the coolest and most affluent people could own an iPhone. You could recognize these people by the smug look on their faces, the snow white ear buds in their ears, and the cheap second phones they all carried so they could actually make and receive phone calls.

So far, my life with Siri has been a nonstop whirlwind of discovery. When you push the round button below the screen, dozens of cool looking little square pictures appear. When I tap on one of these square things, stuff happens. Sometimes I get my email. Sometimes I get a doppler radar map of the weather in the area around Springer, N.M. Sometimes I get to watch a 22-minute YouTube video of some young guy in a wife beater T-shirt and boxer shorts, sitting in a Barcalounger with a Siamese cat in his lap and eating Froot Loops.

The email, weather map, and Froot Loop Film are what is known in the smartphone biz as "apps." I discovered these back when I first got Kierkegaard, and I decided back then that "app" must be short for something like "app-arently you have a lot of time on your hands to download this kind of crap."

Most of the "Featured Apps" you can get are games involving rocket powered lasers and zombies. My favorite app, though, is called "Apple Maps." This is a cool little program that figures out exactly where you are and then shows you on a map. If you take your fingers and kind of pinch across the screen, you can instantly find out what continent you're on.

If you want to learn how to get somewhere, you can just ask Siri. She'll launch Apple Maps, pinpoint where you are and where your destination is, then plot a route to get there. Then she'll kind of bug you to get moving; "Go north one quarter mile and turn right. I said, 'go north.' One quarter mile north and turn right. Get going. Seriously. Look, if you're not going to go north, why the hell did you ask me in the first place?"

Now, I've heard some iPhone users gripe about the accuracy of Apple Maps. OK, I admit that Siri's routes can occasionally take you from Detroit to Indianapolis by way of Bangladesh. But to all those complainers I say, "Where's your sense of adventure? Bangladesh is beautiful this time of year."

At least, that's what Siri says.

Mike Ball is the Erma Bombeck Award-winning author o "What I've Learned So Far..." and the books What I've Learned... So Far Part I: Bikes, Docks & Slush Nuggets and What I've Learned... So Far Part II: Angels, Chimps & Tater Mitts. The books are now available in all eBook formats on Smashwords.



Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 2:12 a.m.

Mike: I laughed a lot at this - great satire. Couple quick things: 1. Did I miss it or did you not comment on actually using it as a "phone"? I know that's boring but it seems a great irony on the word "smartphone". 2. iPhone may be great but beer and ribs make life worth living.

Kyle Mattson

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

Hard to argue with your send point 1bit. Great, now I'm craving ribs...

Mike Ball

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 2:16 a.m.

1. You can use it as a phone?!? 2. When you're right, you're right.

Peter Nelson

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

I don't understand - an iPhone 4s costs $99 plus a contract of ~$60-80/month, and the iPhone 5 costs $199 plus the SAME contract price. So why did you need to "hit the lottery" to afford another $100, when you just signed a contract for at least $1500 over the next 2 years?

Mike Ball

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

Peter, I didn't mean my reply to sound so dismissive - I apologize! Your math is right, and you are absolutely correct about how the monthly contract adds up to some real cash, and we tend to focus all out attention on the few dollars up front. It's like slowly boiling a frog in a pan of water - he doesn't notice until he's medium-well done.

Mike Ball

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 1:48 a.m.

It's just a joke, Peter.