Microsoft Voice Command for the X1

Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X1 – the appropriately abbreviated SEX1 – can do most everything. OK, it’s struggling slightly on watering the garden and I must confess that I had to help it out slightly with explaining what steps Jacob Zuma can still take to avoid seemingly unavoidable prosecution for being naughty with money. But aside from horticultural dampening and the legal minefield facing our President in waiting, it’s pretty awesome.

Thus, when it was suggested to me that it could possibly be made to be slightly more awesome, I snorted in a rather rude and derisory fashion. Aside from a hosepipe attachment, this was surely as good as it got, right?

Wrong.

Step forward, Microsoft’s Voice Command 1.6. I’ve been having the time of my life since I popped this little app on my phone. Because yes, I know you can get phones with voice dialling, but this is a bit different.

Users can go beyond today’s limited voice options by using speaker independent phonetic speech recognition and text-to-speech technology. Instead of requiring users to pre record all of the names of their contacts, the software is designed to recognize the commands users say without any training, resulting in effortless, hands-free communication.

So yes, it’ll call the wife if you ask it to. But then, you can ask also it what time it is, what date it is; it will chat to you about your upcoming appointments – even tell you who will be in your next meeting or you can ask it to play Favourite Worst Nightmare  by Sheffield’s finest Arctic Monkeys* and it will launch into Fluorescent Adolescent recorded live at The Leadmill.
Which is pretty cool.

There’s a lot to learn on the X1 and I don’t think I’m getting anywhere close to complete knowledge just yet, but every step I take, I’m getting more impressed.
Now, does anyone have a beta version of Sprinkler for Windows Mobile?

* by literally just saying “play Favourite Worst Nightmare”…

Heathrow alternatives – the Runwet

On a day when the big news in the UK was the Government’s long overdue approval for a third runway at Heathrow airport, a pilot in New York went out of his way (literally) to show how Gordon Brown et al could have saved £9 billion by simply utilising the River Thames as an alternative landing area.


Greenpeace: Nearly right. But… not. Now, go and have a wash.

I guess a few of the bridges may get in the way, but one must consider the advantages of a centrally-located landing area, ease of access to public transport (especially water taxis) and the picturesque views of London landmarks for passengers as they come in to land.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, on the starboard side of the aircraft, the Houses of Parliament and on the port side, County Hall and the London Eye.
Thank you for flying British Airways.
Lifejackets are located under your seats. Brace for impact.

This water-based option also provides the opportunity to open aquatic runways – or “runwets” as I like to call them – in smaller cities and towns*. Beautiful Cambridge might have to shift some of the punts off the tourist-laden Cam, but it would save that horrible cross country road trip to Luton and provide direct access to college for overseas students.

Further north, the planes could land on the crunchy crust of pollution that sits proudly atop the waters of the Mersey in Liverpool. It could be called the Paul McCartney Mersey Runwet, to go with the John Lennon Airport, situated so inconveniently out of town.

    
Cambridge and Liverpool – diverse runwets in the UK

If you think about it, runwets would be self-perpetuating. As more planes are able to take off and land from runwets worldwide, CO2 emissions will increase, global warming will accelerate, ocean levels will rise and there will be more space for more runwets. Pretty soon, the whole planet will be one big runwet and Kevin Costner will make a hugely expensive flop of a film about it.

Just remember – you read it here first. As usual.

* There will be no option to land at a runwet in Bloemfontein, as there is no water anywhere in the Free State. Fact.

Breaking news…

From BBC News Online:

People who drank more than seven cups of instant coffee a day were more likely to hallucinate than those who took just one, a study found.

Thanks for that, Durham University. I’d never have guessed.
I’ll put it in my folder labelled “Startling and Important Scientific Research” along with:

Pope “more likely” to be Catholic, and
Bears “more likely” to shit in the woods

Oh – and that paper about disappearing teaspoons from Melbourne.

Why can’t I get a research project like that?

Is Zuma appealing?

Well, not to a lot of people as our future President anymore, since fraud and corruption charges were re-instated against him yesterday, following the National Prosecuting Authority’s successful appeal against Zuma’s previous appeal to get the charges against him dropped was overturned.

It remains to be seen whether, having considered the NPA’s successful appeal against Zuma’s successful appeal against the NPA, whether Zuma will now appeal (possibly successfully) against the NPA’s successful appeal which overturned Zuma’s previously successful appeal against the NPA. If he were to successfully appeal, it seems likely that the NPA would appeal that decision. Well, why not?

It’s pure comedy, isn’t it? And add to that the improbable names of Zuma’s lawyer, Kemp J Kemp, and the NPA’s spokesman Tlali Tlali (which isn’t pronounced like you think it should be) and it gets even sillier.  

Many, including FF+ leader Pieter Mulder, are now calling for charges against Zuma to be dropped and some sort of “agreement” to be reached. (I wonder where he got that idea from?)
One only has to look at the effect yesterday’s judgment had on the exchange rates to see that this case has much wider-reaching implications than the freedom (or otherwise) of our dear Msholozi. It’s harming the country and something needs to be done to halt the damage before it’s too late.
For many people, the ideal solution would be JZ stepping down as the ANC leader and presidential candidate before the election in Autumn. That’s not going to happen though. Too many people stand to gain too much to allow something as trivial as fraud and corruption charges and the wreckage of what was once South Africa’s shining reputation to get in the way.

And so, it comes down to a settlement to allow the charges to be waylaid or put aside or dropped or something. Safety first. It’s a wholly unsatisfactory way of doing things, yes, but it might just save the country. Or it might not. Thank goodness I don’t have to make these sort of decisions and have people like Julius Malema to do it for me.

In other more important news, that statue mystery turned out to be some artist wanting to “mix art and nature”. Boring.

Although I will in future follow the correct procedure and obtain permission from the relevant organisations, I will continue to place sculptures in different locations in South Africa and abroad to raise awareness and provoke debate.

Yeah – whatever. Now go and get a proper job.

And, in a poke in the eye for Victorian maritime engineering, Port St Mary lighthouse has been washed away by a big wave.  

A combination of a high tide and strong winds over night dealt a fatal blow to the 19th Century light that has been there since the breakwater was built, between 1882 and 1886.

I could sit here by the fireside and relate a myriad of tales from my childhood, many of which would be about that lighthouse. But that would be rather dull for you and a lot of them would be made up anyway. So I won’t.

Oudekraal statue mystery

A statue has appeared on the rocks on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard and the local newspaper and residents are getting unduly excited about it.


Statue

Alien. Tribute. Mime artist. Religious statement. Mummy. A gift from God.

These are just some of the suggestions offered by baffled onlookers as to what could be gracing rocks beyond Camps Bay Beach.
A large white statue, in the form of a man with his hands outstretched, has for the past few days stood on the rocks just outside the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Victoria Road near Oudekraal.

Let’s take a closer look at those possible options, shall we?

Alien: Completely plausible. A little disappointing after all these years of waiting to find that visitors from another world have finally made first contact and then instantly frozen, arms outstretched, on a rock just off the South African coast, but you can’t have everything, now can you?
Tribute: What? This was a newspaper reporter interviewing you about the weird statue on the rocks there, not your psychiatrist asking you to say the first word that comes into your head when he says “Björn Again”. Idiot.
Mime artist: Er… it’s been there since Tuesday. David Blaine might try a stunt like that, but there would be a million cameras and paramedics there. And me, throwing rocks at him. Therefore, I’m putting this one down as unlikely.
Religious statement: Again, I find myself a little confused by this suggestion. But then, I find myself a little confused by religion.
Mummy: Doesn’t look like my mummy. And sure, this is Africa, but we’re about as far from Egypt as you can be and still be in Africa. No.
A gift from God: Brilliant. This must be it. And it’s just what we always wanted. Yes, this lovely white bloke on some rocks near the sea more than makes up for the misery of famine and disease across the continent, war and attrition in the Middle East, global warming, that tsunami he sent down a few years back and Gordon Brown. We should be writing our thank you notes right away.

Of course, this rampant speculation could all be avoided if only the local hotel’s financial controller, Heather Blackie, had seen a statue on top of a car as she was driving home on Tuesday. But wait! Read on!! What’s this????

The hotel’s financial controller, Heather Blackie, saw a statue on top of a car as she was driving home on Tuesday.

And then, the moment when readers realise that Heather Blackie should have been a detective, rather than a financial controller:

Blackie said she didn’t think anything of it at the time, but when she saw the statue out on the rocks she made the connection.

It must have been a moment of pure genius. Enlightenment. An Epiphany, appropriately enough.
You can almost see/hear/smell the cogs grinding away in Heather’s brain.

Strange white statue on rocks… Oh Christ, did I leave a note for the maid about the ironing?… Strange white statue looks similar to the strange white statue I saw on top of that car on Tuesday… I wonder if there’s any chocolate in my handbag?… Hang on!  Maybe it’s the same statue!… Oh cool – 3 squares of Fruit & Nut – and not too fluffy… [sounds of chocolate being devoured]

The local authorities aren’t happy though:

Paul Sieben, head of Table Mountain National Parks marine division said permission had not been given to place any structure on the rocks, about 300 metres from the road.
If permission had been sought for it, it wouldn’t have been granted, Sieben said. Any structure proposed for below the high-level mark needed to be subject to a complete environmental impact assessment.

Paul – are you forgetting that this is a gift from God? Lest we forget, he is omnipresent and omnipotent. He can do magic. He can even override the need for a complete environmental impact assessment. But he does it without paying the committee shedloads of cash, unlike like everyone else.

But I have to leave the final words on this fantastic figurine, this rock-bound riddle, this… this… “strange white statue” (thanks, Heather), to Bernard Schaefer, Camps Bay resident (and member of it’s community policing forum): Noting that the rocks on which the statue stands are completely surrounded by water, he deduced, Blackie-style:

Someone with a boat must have done it.

Brilliant, Bernard. Mental agility such as yours cannot be quantified by the lowly means which we possess on this planet. We are truly not worthy.
Did you put it there? Are you God in disguise? But with a boat?