Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not a toy ... a game changer

Of course we all know that there has been a lot of buzz about Siri, Apple's iPhone 4S's sassy personal assistant and latest innovation, or toy, depending on your perspective. There have been a lot of posts in the last few days, showing off some of the frivolous things you can do with Siri.
Rosie from the Jetsons: Assistant extraordinaire
May be able to teach Siri a thing or two
But I see it differently. I'm excited, but not for myself. After all I have an Android phone, which will remain Siri-less. Sure, there are a few apps out there that might approximate Siri's functionality, but I'm excited because it represents leaps and bounds forward for my husband Larry's ability to use his iPhone.

I'm sure that many of you have been texting for years. But until the iPhone 4 arrived on our doorstep 6 months ago, there was no texting for Larry. For those of you not in the know, Larry is blind, and the only phones that he could use were "dumb" phones and certainly there was nothing "smart" about the phones he's had. There was no feedback other than a few beeps and it required a lot of faith that he might actually got through to me when he wanted to - a basic that most of us take for granted. 

There was no using a contact list, the voice activated dial often resulted in "did not understand" or just a yawning silence, because it couldn't match the name in its database, which was frustrating on so many levels.

Enter the iPhone 4. Larry can now do almost everything. With Apple's VoiceOver, its text-to-speech software that is part of both the iOS and OSX operating systems, he can use contact lists, calendars, set alarms, check email, tweet, and listen to music, all on the fly. These are things we've all taken for granted for quite some time.

Apple computers that have been released over the last few years have been equipped with VoiceOver. In our household, we've come to affectionately know VoiceOver's voice as Alex, who we've come to know and love (actually, sometimes it's a love-hate relationship as he gets rather finicky at times). On the iDevices, Samantha is his counterpart. On the iPhone 4S, Samantha works with Siri.

Using this phone, Samantha will continue to work, telling Larry about things that Siri can't quite figure out, while Siri can help with everyday tasks, quickly and efficiently - a good personal assistant if you ask me. Siri brings a new dimension to phones. Best of all, unlike the other text-to-speech apps out there, Siri will understand the difference between what Samantha might be talking about, and what Larry might be saying, and not get confused along the way. 

Again, Siri is not about all fun and games. She's an assistant - a tool. But this is why we can hardly wait to get the iPhone 4S. Despite the naysayers, Siri is not a toy; she's merely in her infancy. As she grows up, I believe she will only get better over time.

And finally, we still have fun with Siri:

You too can try VoiceOver on your own iDevice or Mac. If you are running Leopard or later (the later versions are better):

  • Any Mac computer/laptop running Snow Leopard or Lion (although Leopard will work too, just not as well):  Toggle on/off - Command+F5
  • iPod Touch (v 3 or later), iPhone 4/4S, iPad or iPad2:  Settings+General+Accessibility. 

Tip: Swipe to go through the different elements and double tap to launch apps or select elements.

Now try it with your eyes closed. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What makes it all worthwhile?

It's rather humbling to have to go back to the drawing board.

I've been posting a daily Diabetes Mythbuster on my whiteboard at work every day for a few days now. I scored a couple of questions and at least one quizzical look on the first day, but that glimmer of interest died quickly.

Perhaps I'm being too subtle. Perhaps I'm just impatient. Perhaps people think I'm just as crazy as the cat lady who lives down the street from them.

But that won't stop me. I'll continue my little advocacy project (because I am stubborn like a dog with a bone) and cook up some new ideas. (Hmm, here's an idea - food cupcakes might get their attention!)

I will make myself heard. It's just a matter of figuring out a way to be seen as a passionate colleague with some interesting stuff to share (and maybe some cupcakes).

Maybe just one person will learn something or maybe the information I share will help just one person. That's all it will take to make it all worthwhile.

And if they think I'm like that crazy cat lady, that's okay. I can live with that.

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.
                                                                          ~ Winston Churchill

Monday, October 17, 2011

The diabetes puzzle

Continuing my Diabetes Mythbuster mission, today's message is that there is more than just the "bad kind" and the kind everyone's grandmother has. 

I'm no doctor of course, so if you would like more information, there are some great real sources out there.

Check out the website which has some great information about all of the types.

However, who knew there were so many types - Types 1, 1.5, 2, 3, LADA, Gestational, MODY, Insipidis and more(!) And certainly, with this in mind, one can appreciate the puzzle that our doctors and specialists have to sort out when patients come to them with a host of symptoms.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Let 'em eat cake

Sometimes I feel like a minnow in a big pond of bloodsuckers (okay, admittedly it was a rough week at the office). I work for a government agency, where I have only a small voice, but what I do have is a huge whiteboard and I'm not afraid to share my message on it.

So I thought I'd try to get the message out to my colleagues about World Diabetes Day, and along the way, dispel some of the myths that are rampant about diabetes. I knew that my whiteboard would be the perfect venue for the cause.

Then, Friday morning, the very first day of my new mission, not just one, but two(!) friends at work brought me cake! Which is so awesome because it means they were listening to me when I told them that I could eat anything I wanted.

Jamie and her whiteboard
Day 1 of her diabetes advocacy mission
Diabetes Mythbuster #1:  Let 'em eat cake!! People with Type 1 Diabetes can eat what we like. We just choose what we want to eat and when to eat it. (Insert poorly drawn cake here) Can I eat this? Heck yes!! 
So my very first day of diabetes advocacy was a hit with the perfect myth to bust, and might I suggest for the rest of them who don't want to listen to this minnow - let 'em eat cupcakes!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On your mark, get ready...

I'm back and I'm giving this blogging thing a go once again.

I haven't been blogging for the better part of a couple of years now; so instead of boring my good readers with the ins and outs of what's happened in the meantime, I'm going to hold my breath and jump in the deep end - sink or swim. 

For those of you who are discovering my little space here in this very crowded web, why have I called my blog Flying Furballs? To me, this idea captures the very essence of the randomness of this blog. You never know what is lurking just beneath the couch... and for the very brave in my home, you're sure to find some furballs. 

They say, write what you're passionate about - so here's my list in no particular order:
  • Family and 'fur-people'
  • Life and everyday challenges that come along with said life
  • Diabetes Online Community (a.k.a. the DOC)
  • Advocacy - especially Diabetes and accessibility
  • Snippets and pure randomness - things that just amuse me (you'll find a lot of this)
  • Cupcakes (little bit of bolus-worthy nirvana)

So here we go!

"Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
                                                                                                                      A.A. Milne