Thursday 27 October 2011

Awesome New Thing: #8

I'm taking the easy way out on this one... Just read this article

The best combination of pure awesome and that famous British "quirkiness" ever.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Are we really that different?

My husband recently bought an iPhone 4S and I couldn't wait to play with Siri, the new virtual assistant who was supposed to issue reminders, verbally send text messages and much more.  We spoke of Siri before buying the phone and both of us called her a "her". "She will do this..."; "I'll ask her to remind me of that..."   

You can imagine our shock and horror (ok, maybe it was just borderline surprise) when Siri first spoke in a man's voice!  A male Siri!?  What on earth?   Soon after, I heard from a friend in America who was still calling his Siri a "she" and then it hit me - the US Siri is a woman and the UK (and apparently the French also) Siri is a man. 

What's this about?  Are we really that different that some marketing or development executive decided that British consumers want a male assistant and American ones want a female?   Surely this took more work to develop the two voices, so why bother?

I did a bit of research and found most studies on the topic of robot voices say that female voices are more pleasing and easier to understand. Some research puts this down to hearing the mothers voice in the womb.  Other theories related to the use of female voices in robots and computers hark back to World War II, when women's voices were used in airplane cockpits because they stood out among the male pilots. Also, since telephone operators have traditionally been female, many people have become accustomed to getting assistance from a woman's voice. 

This all makes sense to me, so why is the UK (and France) any different??

Apple refuses to comment on the UK male voice and the only theory I have come across was in the Guardian which claimed the reason for the difference is that 'British people mumble and obey authority, so they need someone authoritative'.  Huh?  I'm not buying into this, so my confusion remains...

Any thoughts from my loyal-ish readers?  (or am I the only one perplexed by this?)

Oh, and if you are in the UK and would perfer a female Siri, you can simply change the language to US English, but this will also change the accent of your new friend.  There is currently no option of getting a female British-accented Siri.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Awesome New Thing: #7

We've had a bit of a lull in the awesome category lately and I apologize for that.  I haven't found a single awesome new thing to share for three weeks now, but I've got a good one today.

Allow me to introduce the very awesome GlossyBox.

You know those Graze boxes that you can have delivered to your home or office that are full of "healthy" snacks?  I used to get those once a week, and loved them, but then the evil Middletons sucked me into the idea of the Dukan diet and Graze boxes are not very Dukan friendly.   I've been missing the special deliveries that made me clap when the postman came in, so was thrilled when I learned about GlossyBox.  The contents of these boxes are calorie and carbohydrate free because the box is filled with make-up!  Yay!

They aren't cheap at £10/month, but they come in a lovely box with a bow and tissue that is fun to open and makes all the other ladies in the office 'ohh' and 'ahh' when you open it. 

Here is my first box:

Dermalogica samples (and bag), full size nail polish, perfume samples and full size Stila eye liner. 
Oh and boys, they haven't forgotten about you - there is a GlossyBox for men too!

Friday 14 October 2011

Thank you Mrs Thatcher

Are you one of those wierdos who likes ice cream right out of the tub?... you know they ones who actually kind of chew ice cream?   If so, then you won't care about this, but if you are like me and much prefer soft serve ice cream (think McDonalds or Mr Whippy), did you know that you have former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to thank for that glorious form of ice cream?

According to a new book, The Book of Celebrity Inventions by Mark Champkins, Mrs (or is it Baroness?) Thatcher, who has a degree in chemistry from Oxford, is responsible for research done into whipping more air into ice cream to make lovely soft serve ice cream that can be distributed through a machine! 

McFlurry anyone??

Monday 3 October 2011

Oh the Places You'll Go: London Edition

Recently, I have had two Facebook "friends" I once knew in high school tell me they were planning on visiting London and asked me what they should do when in town.  I fought the urge to tell them how the rest of the country is where the "real England" is and shared a few bits of pseudo-insider knowledge to save them from Big Ben or Buckingham Palace being the highlight of their London vacation.

Are any of my loyal(ish) readers are planning your first trip to the big city?  Here's my take on a few things...

On the Beaten Track:   Skip the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace - its a strange performance for the sake of tourists only, not a genuine exercise.  Go ahead and do the Tower of London, take your photos of Big Ben and the Parliament Building, even take a ride on the London Eye if you're so inclined, but if you ask me the best thing on the beaten track is Tower Bridge.   I LOVE Tower Bridge.  Check here before you plan a visit and do your best to make sure you are there at a time when the bridge lifts.  Eat some ice cream (there is always a Mr Whippy van around there no matter the weather)  and watch the bridge do its thing.

Off the Beaten Track: You can pay your respects to Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher who argued in favour of worthy causes such as animal rights, separation of church and state, equal rights for women and decriminalization of homosexual acts.  What's so interesting about yet another dead historical figure, you ask? Well, Mr Bentham's remains won't be found in a grave yard or a cathedral even, but on public display at University College London.  Per his request, Bentham's body was dissected in a public lecture and his skeleton is now stuffed with hay, dressed in period clothing and displayed in a wooden cabinet. It even has been listed as "present, but not voting" at some University meetings.   The display is known as the Auto Icon and can be visited at the end of the South Cloisters of the main building of UCL Monday-Friday from 7:30am - 6:00pm

Shopping: Go to Harrods, but skip all the shopping and head for the food hall - it's heaven (and the only reason to bother with Harrods).  Do yourself a favour and also skip Oxford Street (unless you're going at Christmas time and are a big fan of Christmas lights)  I'd suggest you spend your shopping time and money at Spitalfields Market instead.  You will find the best gifts for family and friends and if you're haggling skills are better than mine (which doesn't take much), you can find some mega-bargains too.   Oh and grab a bite to eat at Leon's while you're there - you will thank me, I promise!

Drinking:  If you want to get dressed up and "be seen", Kensington Roof Garden is the place for you.  If you are a bit more casual like me, head to Shoreditch and enjoy a sure-to-be-fantastic night at the Book Club (no reading required... as if I'd go if there was!).  The Book Club has something for everyone's drinking tastes, but don't leave without trying one of the signature cocktails.  Yum yum!

Staying:  Here's where I can't help much since I am lucky enough to just go home at the end of the day, but the folks at would be happy to help you find a hotel in London.  And no, you can't come stay with me!