Hey Siri, tell me more!

This morning I was heading to a meeting 35 minutes away. I wanted to get some last-minute research done. Luckily I have my iPhone set up for hands-free communication.

This is the conversation I wanted to have:

Me: Hey, Siri – tell me about X corporation.

Siri: Ok M’lord…

[I should note at this point that Siri has a very old fashioned view of who I am. She used to call me “Buttface” but that got old quick]

Siri: Ok M’lord, here is what I found…

And then at this point, I expect to go into a dialog with Siri in which she speaks aloud basic info about the people and company I’m working with by summarizing data from sources I commonly visit like Wikipedia, LinkedIn, News and stock market reports, and I can reply with “Hey Siri, tell me more!” to get more info.

After all, Siri ain’t no spring chicken: she’s been around for several iPhones now. That’s decades in techno years.

Sadly, no such luck. Siri has nothing like this capability. Oh, she can speak aloud the most basic of current weather info while I’m driving, and she can read me my latest emails—but only if they’re short. Otherwise, she stops halfway through and prompts me to send a reply.

But she can’t summarize info for me. She can’t fill my car ride with spoken info that would help me prepare for my day. She can’t really act like the assistant I need. I want useful info, summarized and spoken aloud (or not, at my choice). The info she does deliver is in the form of a web search, shown on a screen I can’t look at while I’m driving.

Me: Hey Siri — If I could afford to look at web search results on my phone, I wouldn’t be talking to you in the first place!

Siri: I’m sorry, Buttface, I didn’t understand that.

Me: Oh, so now you call me Buttface?

Siri: Ok, m’lord, from now on I’ll call you Buttface.

It’s this kind of interaction that makes me a bit impatient with automated voice interaction. So I decide to switch to Google Now. “Hey Siri – Launch the Google app.” At least that works.

Me: “Ok, Google, What’s the news?”

Google Now:

Google Now

Me: Oh, good lord. You just defined the word “News” for me. Thanks, Google. I don’t suppose “Put Cortana on the phone” will get me anywhere.

Guess I’ll have to wait and try Facebook M.



Dr. Dre’s “Compton”

Compton – get it on iTunes

I didn’t really start listening to Hip Hop/Rap seriously until I was considerably older than the people in that stupid article that made the rounds a while back. You know, the one that said people stop listening to new music once they hit their 30’s. Hell, so much of what I listen to now wasn’t even on my radar in my 30’s. Not that I like everything coming out now, but I’ve never been one to like everything current. Sometimes it takes some distance, you know?

Anyway, I picked up Dr. Dre’s new (and final?) album, Compton. Apart from the very unfunny “skit” on one song involving a murder—and I just skip right past that. No sense in listening to that crap more than once—the rest of the album is fan-freaking-tastic from start to finish. I swear some of it’s the best-produced, most detailed music I’ve ever heard in Hip-Hop.

I know Dre’s done awesome work over the years, though I’m particularly partial to his more recent, mature work. The earlier stuff is mostly too Gangsta for me (though I like most of 2001). What can I say? I grew up in a different space, and some of the more aggressive, misogynistic lyrics bother me a lot more than the violent/drug lyrics that seem more societal commentary.

But Dre’s a contemporary of mine, age-wise. Adult Contemporary Rap, they should call it. He’s matured, and my tastes just keep getting broader and broader.

Highly recommended, even if you’re not a huge fan of the genre.

QueryTracker is excellent!

After a shamefully long absence, I re-upped my subscription to QueryTracker — for writers seeking an agent (which is a rather Sisyphean task), it’s a great way to find agent contacts that match your project, and also to keep track of where you’ve submitted your work. The site also does a rating system and has a back-end database so you can see how long on average it takes agents to give various types of responses.

Does it work? Will it help me find a book agent? I have no idea. I’ll let you know if anything comes of it. But it’s very well done, and had a recent site redesign. It’s quite nice to look at and to work with, and at the “Pro” level it only costs $25 a year. For that small amount, it’s well worth supporting the guy who takes care of the site. Clearly he puts a lot of work into it.

phone call for doug benson

Here’s a great phone message that was meant for Doug Benson, stoner comedian known for “Super High Me,” “Getting Doug With High,” “Doug Love Movies” and other works of comedy gold:

If you know him, pass it on. Nate loves you, and he says he’s a great guy!



This is the “me” version of Doug Benson:


and here’s stoner comedian Doug Benson:

“Doug Benson by Gage Skidmore” by Gage Skidmore – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

He’s a bit older than me, but my picture is more recent.

Well, sure, it’s a super unique name, right? There are only about 200 of us in the U.S. over the age of 13.

There are about 250 Bill Clintons. I imagine they get a lot of phone calls from cigar aficionados.


book club questions: HARRISON TWEED


book club 2

  1. Lacey’s story is revealed slowly throughout the book, and her full blood relationship to Harris is not explained until the end. What do the final revelations explain about Harris’ concerns and motivations throughout the novel?
  2. Harris’ parents are barely present, but the impact of their decision to leave him over each summer is fundamental to Harris’ fears and character development. How does your understanding of his parents change by the end of the book?
  3. There are many misdirections and plot reversals throughout the book, and Harris often speaks or acts out of an incorrect understanding of what’s going on. How does his confusion relate to the reader’s experience?
  4. The author does not explicitly state whether the visions Harris experiences are real or hallucinations. As a reader, what do you believe? How does leaving this up to the reader impact the way you experience the book?
  5. Harris’ “inner voice” is very different from the way he interacts with others. How would you describe Harris based on his thoughts vs. his interactions?
  6. Harris’ thoughts are often fragmented as if the reader is inside his head, rather than using devices such as italics or explanatory words such as “he thought.” What effect did this have on you as a reader?
  7. How does the author balance the fantastical or hallucinatory elements of the story with the rough physical experiences Harris goes through?
  8. All of the main characters keep secrets and motivations hidden throughout most of the book. Compare that to real life.
  9. Discuss how the author uses cloth as a symbol. What other symbols or themes does the author explore?

Cool Moms Book Club

Last night I took a 15-minute stroll down the hill to join about 15 awesome people at the Cool Moms Book Club for the end of their latest book discussion. The moms and their kids (boys around 13 years) read my book HARRISON TWEED!

It was great fun for me to hear their feedback (all of it very positive, definitely thoughtful and meaningfully critical), answer questions about the book and the writing process, and read a short excerpt.

book club 1

And of course, dessert—including theme-appropriate marshmallows amid several bits of book-inspired cloth. The host wore tweed, naturally!

book club 5

I’m very fond of young Harris and hope to see him continue his adventures as he enters high school. Meanwhile, the discussion showed the book being enjoyed by both a young adult audience as well as their moms!

book club 2

I was very impressed by the thoughtful comments as well. Seems like the Book Club Questions I put together for the event were helpful. Definitely interested in doing more events like this, and I was thrilled to be the invited guest!

Have a  book club or other group? Want to read this book? I’d be happy to get the book to you in iBooks or Kindle form and speak to your book club if you’re in the Bay Area, or over Skype. It’s fun!