Flying Cars

I wrote a post a few days ago about living in the future that seems to have arrived. There is one aspect of that vision that has not been as advertised – where are the flying cars?

Based on this TED talk they may be closer than I thought, albeit this is not strictly a flying car, but a plane than can drive. The problem that I see, which is not addressed in the video is the lack of rear visibility. Reversing would be al but impossible, so I assume it has a back-up camera.

Published in: on 28 November, 2011 at 7:19  Leave a Comment  

The Tune in Your Head

On Friday we went to see the new Muppets movie; a delightfully amusing film. The audience was not full of children, but consisted of people who were old enough to recall the original show. I left the cinema with the Mahna Mahna song going round and round head. It was only driven out by the omnipresence of Christmas music.

Today, I found the odd story of the song’s origin in Slate magazine

Slate Magazine’s Article

Now, you too can have that song in your head, without the balancing joy of having seen the film. For those in the UK, it will not even be an option until the New Year when it opens there.

Published in: on 27 November, 2011 at 4:03  Leave a Comment  


The UK has not done well with the US burger chains that moved across the pond. The UK has McDonalds and Burger King, the largest and least good of the many options that are available in the US. I have written previously about In N Out. A few weeks ago I was in Vacaville and saw a chain of which I heard, but not tried.

The burgers were excellent, and the chips (US Fries) were even better. There was a sign inside that named the farm from which the potatoes had come.

The only problems lies in the name: Five Guys. If I say I had Five Guys for the first time, it sounds less like a statement about fast food and more as though I had a wild night in 1970s San Francisco

Published in: on 26 November, 2011 at 15:53  Comments (1)  

Confidence or Arrogance

A few more screen shots from questions asked of my iPhone 4S, presented without further comment.




Published in: on 26 November, 2011 at 11:50  Leave a Comment  

Living in the Future

When I was a child Science Fiction films showed a future with video phones and computers that responded to voice commands. My iPhone 4S has these features; I am living in the future. 

The voice commands allow me to place phone calls to people in my address book, either by name or by my relationship. I can tell the phone to “call my wife” and it will place a call. Apple provides full support for Mormons as you can specify multiple people as being your wife. If I instruct the phone “Tell my wife that we need milk”, the phone sends a text message with the requested contact. 

The phone will respond with its own voice. If you configure the phone to use US English you hear a female voice; when set up for UK English the voice is male. I have no idea why Apple decided to switch genders.

In addition to the previously mentioned voice commands, there are a plethora of other ways that the phone can handle your instructions. Some of them less useful than others; as can be seen by this screenshot from my phone.


One of the problems of having the future arrive is it leaves me wanting other elements of those visions; teleportation being number one on the list.

Published in: on 25 November, 2011 at 11:39  Comments (1)  

Why Ask If You Already Know The Answer

God may move in mysterious ways, but he is a model of predictability compared to airlines.

I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 to check in for my flight back to the US. There were a set of automated check in machines. The touch screen offered a choice of two airlines, Cathy Pacific and American Airlines. I selected American and was told that this airline did not do self-service check-in. Why have these machines and offer an option that does not work?

A few weeks ago, I had booked a return flight from California to Texas. Due to a change in plan, I needed to cancel the flight and book just a one-way journey back from Texas. Having helped the airline by freeing up a seat that they could sell to someone else, I was charged $50. The airline actually wanted more money to fly me from Texas to California than they wanted to fly me from California to Texas and back.

Published in: on 22 November, 2011 at 21:18  Leave a Comment  

Who am I when I am a Brit in the UK

Amazon does a much better job than most at coping with people who travel between UK and US. It does not require me to use the UK version when I connect from an address in the British Isles. The UK site shares a password, address book, and payment details with the US. This was useful today when I needed to buy an item from the UK site for delivery to my mum.

Wishlists are not shared, so my extensive set of wants on is not reflected on the UK site. Purchase history, which I presume is a major driver for Amazon recommendations, is also not shared. My US recommendations are varied, my UK ones are page after page of Doctor Who related items, with a lone West Wing DVD several pages in to break the theme.

Published in: on 15 November, 2011 at 11:18  Leave a Comment  

There is no Fifth Destination

I love playing with new technology, after all I am geek at heart. The iPhone 4s includes software called Siri, that responds to voice commands. It is by far the best voice recognition software that I have yet to encounter. That praise, however, is like describing The Island as Michael Bay’s best movie – true, but that still does not make it The Godfather.

Siri does it right most of the time, but when she fails she can miss the mark by some distance. I was dictating a text to let my wife know that I was at San Francisco airport. My phone rendered that as San Francisco apple psychic. Clearly in this case, my Apple phone was less than psychic. I could understand it taking an uncommon word and rendering it as a more frequently uttered one. However, even in San Francisco people don’t talk about fruits with mental powers as often as they use the word airport.

Prior to Siri, I could not get the phone to dial my wife with voice commands, it would either try to phoning one of several Egyptian contacts or play some seemingly random song. That problem is now fixed by Siri knowing the phrase “Call my wife”.

My car’s voice recognition is on a whole other level, I have long since given up on issuing voice commands. The straw that broke the camel’s back being its response to the “Go Home” command which is supposed to get the GPS to calculate the route back to our house. Instead it responded by saying “Displaying Campgrounds” and adding icons for same to the map.

Mind you, I suppose I should be grateful that even Siri that uses my name in responses has yet to say “Sorry, I can’t do that Dave”

Published in: on 14 November, 2011 at 12:55  Comments (1)  

The Flag Part Two

I wrote my last post a few hours before heading back to the UK. In the few short hours since then, I have seen another example of flag orientation error. I had a flight from San Jose to Los Angeles. The drive went well and security was a breeze, so I had time to kill. I visited The Brit bar in the airport. It has the left side of the flag as part of its sign. The upper half had the narrow white stripe and the top, thus was upside down. Showing a certain lack of attention to detail. The lower part of the flag was the other way round and correct.

It also takes a little more than a fake red telephone box and a suit of armor outside to make a British bar. Guinness on tap is not sufficient. The Raiders and 49ers jerseys also dilute the British feel. I think I shall see some rather more genuine British bars in the next week.

Published in: on 13 November, 2011 at 17:36  Leave a Comment  

Honour the Flag

For a nation that takes such pride in its own flag, Americans seem oblivious to how other people may feel about their own flag. Twice in recent weeks I have seen presentations in which the flag of the United Kingdom was shown upside down. This was not a deliberate error, as when I notified the authors of the mistake they expressed surprise that there was a wrong way to show the flag.

For any Americans reading this blog, I hope that this graphic makes it clear that there is a correct orientation for the flag of the United Kingdom.

UK Flag Right Wrong

Note that the red diagonal is not centred on  the white. The wider part of the white should be at the top on the left hand side.

It is not just presentations in which this insult to a nation is perpetrated. In Transformers 2, the UK flag is inverted. The shot is long enough that I spotted this error in the one and only time I saw that film. To put the error into perspective; the insult to the British flag pales into insignificance compared to the affront to the entire movie-watching public that Transformers 2:Revenge of the Fallen represents

Published in: on 13 November, 2011 at 9:03  Leave a Comment