Previous “Stories in Pictures” posts

Siri and the Kilomile

Friday, May 10th, 2019

When I first took up serious distance running in 2001, I also began a log of each of my runs. I first measured my routes ahead of time by driving them with a car, and later with tools like MilerMeter (formerly GMap-Pedometer). Much more recently, the Apple Watch’s GPS has made it especially easy to know how far I’ve run, with no manual measuring required. At some point in the past few years, I also created an ongoing tally of my lifetime distance run.1

Obviously, I’m a nerd for running data. So I was amused when I learned about the distinctly non-metric measurement called the “kilomile”. A kilomile is simply a thousand miles, and while I’ve run almost seven of those in my adult life, friend-of-the-site Kelan C. managed an entire kilomile in just the year of 2018 alone.

Reviewing my running logs, which of course include annual totals, I saw that I had just missed a kilomile in the year 2017. That year I ran 980.4 miles, and if I’d known how close I was, I’d certainly have gotten off my ass a few more times in December. In 2019, I decided I’d conquer this goofy goal.

Once I began this effort, I soon found myself repeatedly checking my progress. To do that, I just need to know what number day of the year it is, then multiple that by the ~2.74 miles2 I need to average each day. That tells me what my total distance so far should be. For example, if I’ve run at least 27.4 miles by January 10th, I’m on or ahead of pace. Simple.

But why keep things simple, when one can instead make an overly-involved spreadsheet? I wanted to see more exact numbers, and also avoid repeating the same calculations constantly. Here’s a quick look at what I came up with:


I’m slightly behind schedule, but I remain confident.

The biggest issue with this is that we don’t generally know what number day of the year it is. Thankfully, that’s where computers can help. Calendar math is the foundation of lots of computer code, and it’s simple for machines to do. A Google search will get you to a site like EpochConverter which tells you that May 10th is the 130th day of the year. And surely my helpful virtual assistant Siri can tell me as well, right?

Long-time readers likely already know the answer to the above question. Some of the most popular posts on this site have covered the failings of Apple’s virtual assistant. From callousness, to over-promising and under-delivering, to outright sexism, Siri has had its issues.3

And yet, for some reason, I continue to try to make Siri work for me. It has improved over time, and because it’s always being updated, hope springs eternal. Maybe it shouldn’t though. Please enjoy this a story of futility in three images.

A Story of Futility in Three Images

First I asked Siri “What day of the year is it?”:

Answer: It's Monday, May 6, 2019

OK, that’s accurate enough, even if it’s not what I was after.

Next, I tried to get what I was after by some basic math, by asking “How many days are left in this year?”:

Answer: It's three hundred sixty-four days

I…uh…what?! This answer could only make sense in very early January, yet it seems to be the standard response to this question, no matter when it’s asked. Try it yourself.

Finally, I tried asking a very specific question: “How many days until 2020?”:

Answer: It's three hundred sixty-four days

Can’t, or won’t, Siri?

Compared to some of the previous failings I’ve noted, this one is somewhat obscure. Still, that second answer really got to me. Siri ought to be able to do this basic calendar math, but if it can’t, it certainly shouldn’t provide that kind of nonsense.

Update (May 15th, 2019): Don’t miss the follow-up post, “More on Siri and Numerical Days of the Year”.


Footnotes:

  1. 6,954.61 miles and counting! ↩︎

  2. That’s 1000 miles / 365 days, to get exactly 2.739726027 miles per day. I’m comfortable rounding up, because 0.000273973 miles is about a foot and a half.↩︎

  3. Early on, I referred Siri with feminine pronouns, as it had only one female voice. More recently, I’ve taken to calling Siri “it”, both because it has male and female voices, and because it of course doesn’t actually have a gender. ↩︎

A FedEx Story in Two Pictures

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Yesterday, October 19th, I spotted the following note on a neighbor’s door:

Note reading: Dear FedEx - As I work, I am not home during the day. PLEASE do not deliver before 5 PM I have called & requested this. Thank you. Jennifer Apartment 5
Good luck with that…

I imagine most folks have known the pain and annoyance of a missed package. I can certainly identify. However, I can’t wrap my head around the idea of requesting that FedEx simply not attempt delivery until after 5 PM. Perhaps FedEx should consider an evening delivery service, but as it stands, they do their deliveries throughout the day. That’s just the way it works.

If you’re on the part of their route that gets hit during the day, and you won’t be home, perhaps you should consider alternatives. You might have the package shipped to you at work, or request that it be held at a pick-up point. Expecting FedEx to shift their delivery routes to suit one customer’s desires seems a bit unreasonable.

It would seem the package delivery service agreed, though not in so many words. Today, a day later, I found FedEx’s potentially passive-aggressive reply:

A FedEx Missed Deliver
An indirect response

Better luck next time, I guess, Jennifer.

A Tourist Story in Four Pictures

Monday, September 28th, 2015

This is an ad for “Old Town Trolley Tours”, seen on garbage receptacles around town.
ALT NAME

The ad features two children on the trolley, waving back at the camera.
ALT NAME

They’re probably having fun, right? After all, it’s “Boston’s Best Sightseeing Tour”.
ALT NAME

Wait, enhance that. Enhance!
ALT NAME
Oh shit, send in the hostage and rescue team! Go Go GO!

Mini Car, Mega Oops

Friday, May 9th, 2014

A few years back, a nearby shopping center was being renovated. Part of that renovation included improving the parking lot, with a small drainage ditch being dug near the edge. Before the drainage was completed, and before a fence was put around the ditch, there was a torrential downpour. Which leads me to the following pictures, taken as I walked through the aforementioned parking lot:

Car from a distance
You may not believe what you’re seeing. I surely didn’t.

Car closer
Look for the tail lights.

Car right and truly effed
Ouch.

Though I’ve little doubt that the poor Mini Cooper was totaled, and that this was a very, very bad day for someone, I don’t believe there were any serious injuries. As such, when I pass by the now-fenced-in drainage pit, I amuse myself with the thoughts of the driver of the car. Did they first think “This puddle is deeper than I expected!”? Did they then fear they’d driven into a sinkhole, or perhaps believe they were being swallowed to the depths of hell itself? And then, how did they feel after about three quarters of a second, when the car stopped falling and they realized they were relatively fine?

No matter how lousy a day I’m having, I know it’s not as bad as that poor driver’s was. And so it is that I can always be uplifted by a little drainage pit and the memory of what transpired there.

A Valentine’s Story in Four Pictures

Friday, March 7th, 2014

This is some Valentine’s candy.
Ghirardelli Candy

It only costs 99 cents.
99 Cent Price Tag

Of course, it’s purportedly only 0.091 ounces of candy.
0.091 Ounce Tag

Which means this would be a pretty goddamned wretched deal.
$176 a pound!

Previously: A Story in Four Pictures

The MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Adapter

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

The Adapter
This is the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter.

The Adapter, size comparison
This is the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter, shown next to an oversized novelty quarter for size comparison.

The Adapter on its card
This is the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter, attached to a piece of card stock, as it shipped.

The Adapter and its box
This is the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter attached to a piece of card stock, along with the box it came in, and the booklets of information which accompanied it.

The Adapter, its box, and the card it rode in on.
This is the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter attached to a piece of card stock, along with the box it came in, the booklets of information which accompanied it, and the piece of cardboard to which that box was attached (and to which a packing slip is still attached).

The Adapter, its box, the card it rode in on, and the box which contained it all.
This is the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter attached to a piece of card stock, along with the box it came in, the booklets of information which accompanied it, the piece of cardboard to which that box was attached (and to which a packing slip is still attached), and the box in which all that arrived.

The AdapterFor the sake of completeness, this is the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter attached to a piece of card stock, along with the box it came in, the booklets of information which accompanied it, the piece of cardboard to which that box was attached (and to which a packing slip is still attached), the box in which all that arrived, and the not-one-but-two missed delivery slips.

The Adapter
Not pictured: The kitchen sink

A Story in Four Pictures

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

This is a can of shaving gel.
Shave Gel

It features a rust-proof bottom.
A Rust-Proof Bottom

It works pretty well.
It works pretty well

Oh sweet unholy Uranus, what in the hell is that?
What in the hell is that?!