Sunday, December 25, 2011

Things are getting serious with Siri

The Siri app is all the rage on the newest version of the iPhone (I believe it is No. 4 … out of the 2,456 Apple plans to release by the way). Siri is a voice-activated personal assistant, or as I like to call her, the wife I’ve always wanted.

I tell her to add a chore to my daily calendar and it’s there when I check my phone’s calendar. I ask her where the closest gas station is and she figures out where I am and finds the closest one on a map for me. I tell her to text my husband that it’s his turn to cook dinner and she takes care of it (not the dinner, the text).

Although I’m really hoping the next version of Siri has her making dinner in my kitchen as well. Nothing against my husband’s cooking, but Siri never fails.

Well, in theory she never fails, unless you ask her more probing questions.

“Siri,” I asked, “What is my Christmas present this year?”

She searched for a few seconds then said, “I found a number of gift shops. Twenty-three of them are fairly close to you.” I saved that message to pass along to my husband when he got home.

This time I thought I’d get a little more philosophical. “Siri, what is the meaning of life?”

“According to Douglas Adams’ humorous science fiction novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the answer is 42.”

Who knew it was all so easy? All those years of teenage angst over something that Siri served up in seconds.

I wanted to try something a little more personal. “Siri, do you love me?”
Her answer: “I’m not allowed to.”

Way to go, Siri. Keep it professional while setting appropriate boundaries. Not only are you helpful, you’re also emotionally balanced. I like that in a personal assistant.

I tried out her pop culture knowledge by asking, “Siri, who’s the man?”

She answered, “You the man!”

Although not technically correct, I still liked her spunky answer, not to mention the exuberant exclamation point! I suddenly felt confident in the knowledge that I am THE MAN!

I wanted to try an obscure scientific question, so I asked “Where can I find a rocket scientist?”

“I found a number of them in Jackson, Mississippi,” she responded.

Did NOT see that one coming.

My teenage son came home and told me to ask Siri where I should hide a dead body. After giving him a long, cold stare that communicated “We’ll talk about this later” I asked Siri, “Where should I hide a dead body?”

She answered immediately: “What kind of place are you looking for? Mortuaries, funeral services, metal foundries, cremation services or dumps?”

Okay, that was creepy. It was time to move on to happier, more cheerful ground, like Christmas.

“Siri,” I asked, “where’s the North Pole?”

She deadpanned, “I couldn’t find any places matching the North Pole?”

Whaaaaaaaaat? Siri, you just ruined Christmas for a whole bunch of people. Not cool!

Maybe she was turning sour since I had only asked her to serve me up until this point. I decided to give her a break and ask about her.

“Siri, what gift would you like for Christmas?”

She answered, “This is about you, not me.”

I ask you, what’s not to love?

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and has Siri help with her day-to-day chores in Roseburg. She can be reached at

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Frustration ignites with the oven of melted dreams

Dear Hasbro:

All I wanted to do was make some cookies.

And you promised that it would be “easy,” as evidenced by the name on the box: Easy* Bake Oven. But please allow me to be the first to give you some feedback: there is nothing easy about it.

Lily has been begging me to make cookies with her in her Easy* Bake Oven but we had already used the two pre-packaged mixes that you included with the oven. I went on your website to see about ordering more mixes, but quickly decided I was unwilling to spend the whopping $6.59 you were charging for a 1-pound bag of chocolate chip cookie mix, something that I can make for less than a dollar at home. So I made the decision to use my own cookie dough and refuse to be extorted by you.

Frugal, yes. Easy*, no.

We made the mix with my world-famous recipe (okay, I might be making up the part about “world-famous,” but you’re not REALLY an oven so let’s not split hairs on this issue). The recipe makes three dozen chocolate chip cookies, so I made 30 and left the remaining dough for Lily to use in her two tin dishes for her Easy* Bake Oven.

Apparently the Easy* Bake Oven is programmed to decipher when an alien cookie dough is being used and has a self destruct mode built it. When the first tin dish was inserted into the oven and the 100-watt bulb was turned on, the baking began (and I use the term “baking” loosely here). It was slow going at first…25 minutes in it was just starting to melt. (Meanwhile my 2-1/2 dozen “real” cookies were already done and cooling.)

But somewhere around minute 30 all heck broke loose and the dough started bubbling over. When Lily went in to extract the gooey mess, it had melted on all of the inner pieces, on top of the oven, and even smudged the light bulb on its way out the door.

Am I missing the easy part, here? Certainly I’m not the only letter you’ve received like this. And yes, there will be another letter headed your way asking why in the name of all things chocolate do we need to spend $7.48 for a replacement bulb? Didn’t the entire oven cost just over that? Methinks I smell a rat (over the existing smell of burnt chocolate already wafting through our kitchen, even overpowering my 2-1/2 dozen “real” cookies.)

If I offend you by referring to my own cookies as “real” and not yours, then I at least have done one thing right with this letter.

So here’s what’s going to happen. Now that Lily’s cherished Easy* Bake Oven lies in the bottom of the Douglas County Dump and her tears are dried, you’re going to make things right.

You might think I want a full refund, but that would only be scratching the surface.

I want you to come clean on the fact that you are simply a stupid ploy to get parents to buy something that THEY ALREADY HAVE IN THEIR KITCHEN. Just because you’re smaller doesn’t make you any better, in fact your 100-watt bulb pales in comparison to my 450-degree oven of white-hot heat. Oh sure, it might be safer for our girls to cook with a 100-watt bulb, but I’m not seeing how sticking their tiny fingers into the inner workings of a 100-watt box of heat is any better. Not to overdramatize here, but what started out as a birthday gift has now turned into a house of melting dreams.

Henceforth, I want your product to be called “The Not-So-Easy* Bake Oven of Dashed Hopes” (trademarked in my name, of course). And on the front of the box, I want it to read: “You must purchase our mixes exclusively for this product to work correctly. And it will pretty much drain your child’s college fund to do so. Enjoy!”

*Be forewarned – not even close to easy.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and bakes her own cookies in Roseburg. She can be reached at

Mama Bear

Over the years, my kids have teased me when I’ve thrown my arm across their chest anytime I brake hard in the car. You know what I’m talking...