ALONG CAME ALEXA

Electronic devices are sneaky. I rejected Alexa when she showed up on my Kindles a couple of years ago. I refused to even allow it to run and when asked if it could be turned on, I said “No.”

“No no no,” I cried. I didn’t want any more electronic devices. Didn’t we have enough? Televisions, Rokus, five computers and three or four Kindles. Headphones, speakers, Bluetooth items everywhere plus CD and DVD players. Even a couple of miniature tape recorders I bought with every intention of using them, though they have lain useless and are now old after years of non-use. I don’t even remember how they work. It’s possible I never knew how they worked and that’s why I never used them.

Of course there are my cameras. They get plenty of use. Like my computers, they are part of how I stay sane in a world gone mad.

Our first Alexa

One day, maybe a year ago, someone gave us an Alexa. A small Echo Dot so Garry could connect with an organization with which he was working. That was when I discovered I could also use Alexa to give me quick news updates, weather, and music. It turned out to be a perfect alarm clock — as long as the power doesn’t go out. I don’t use alarms much, but once in a while, there’s an early doctor’s appointment or a phone call I need to make early in the day. Usually, it’s a medical thing. My world is pretty much circumscribed by doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and calls to medical venues. Every once in a while, I also call a friend.

Somewhere during this period, Owen came back to live here. It was fortunate timing because it turned out to be a few weeks before lockdown.

We’ve been in lockdown forever. Owen has become our “go to” person which means we don’t have to haul groceries up the stairs or spend any more time than necessary out there, in Plague Land. Very shortly after that, Owen gifted us with an iPhone 11 and gradually, over the months, it has become the phone. Not only is it loud enough for Garry to hear — possibly a miracle in its own right — but it has all my numbers in it plus a calendar so I don’t have to remember anything. Since I can’t remember anything anyway, it’s a definite perk. I discovered I could use it with Facetime to see and speak with a friend. Normally I wouldn’t do that, but these days, it’s the only way I see anyone who doesn’t live in the house.

At some point between getting us the phone and the beginning of winter, Owen decided he liked Alexa. Amazon dropped the prices on them in November before the Christmas rush, so he ordered one of the bigger ones. It came bundled (free) with a lightbulb. No hub required. After some grousing, he set it up and discovered he could turn on the lights in the garage from the driveway — using his iPhone and an app that understands lightbulbs. No more stumbling through the dark garage on his way home.

My bedside Alexa

After that, Alexa really moved in. I got a lightbulb in the bedroom so I could stop feeling around for the switch on my bedside lamp. Better yet, I could turn out the lamp without getting out of bed. For that matter, I could turn it on from bed, so when I’m trying to find a pill in the middle of the night, I don’t have to turn on my blindingly bright table lamp or stumble to the bathroom hoping I don’t break a toe.

I decided I wanted the Alexa that came with a clock since they were on sale too. It meant I could get rid of the big clock that was taking up half the space on my bookcase cum headboard. Meanwhile, Owen got serious about lightbulbs and bought some multi-color (millions upon millions of colors) lightbulbs. We have one in the living room that will turn any color you can name. The lamp over the sofa which we never used because the switch was so hard to find works too — at least when I can remember what it’s called.

All our lights and lamps have names. Oh, I forgot. We also have plugs. That’s so if we don’t have a bulb, we can connect a lamp — and then any bulb will work. There are oddities. If I have my Mac running, my cell phone loses its speaker. No idea why, but Owen thinks its a Bluetooth issue. Since I don’t actually understand how my Mac works and can’t usually even find its settings, I just close down the Mac. We’ve got Bluetooth all over the place from the television speaker setup to Garry’s implanted cochlear device. Everything wants to attach itself to Garry’s implant. For a while, my Kindle hooked itself to his implant and he could listen to my audiobooks whether he liked it or not. He found that disturbing. I thought it was funny, but I could see why it wasn’t going to work for him. The audiologist at the hospital fixed it and said it was impossible and couldn’t happen, but it happens every time we set up a new Bluetooth device. The first thing it connects to is Garry’s head. It’s very Borg.

At some point, we got music from Amazon’s gigantic collection of every song ever recorded — except a few that for some reason are missing. During the whole tragic period of lockdown with Trump trying to undo Democracy, I used Alexa to update me on current events. We no longer have current events, only hopes we’ll get vaccinated someday and be allowed to leave home without a mask. Meanwhile, Alexa turns lights on as instructed and sometimes turns on more lights that we intended in places we weren’t planning. Voices carry. If Owen talks too loud downstairs, our living room Alexa says ” What? I didn’t understand that,” and I tell her “Forget it,” and she says, “Okay, sorry.” You can, it turns out, have a complete conversation with her pretty much anywhere in the house.

Latest Alexa, arrived today

I think we’ve got as of today, six Echos on two floors and that doesn’t count the Alexa apps built into the Kindles strewn around the house or any of the Bluetooth stuff which interacts with the iPhone — and with Garry’s cochlear implant. I find is highly amusing that as soon as I try to pair a Bluetooth device with anything, the first thing it tries to pair with is Garry. Actually, you can’t stop it. It’s feels his waves in the air and hooks itself up. He doesn’t even have to be in the same room. That’s one powerful transmitter he has in his head. I love how the doctor assured us that this is impossible and can’t happen. I never bother to contradict them since doctors always know everything. I suppose it’s part of their job.

You see what I mean about sneaky? I fear for anyone who has a child named “Alexa.” Did I mention Alexa reminds me when she thinks I’m running out of something I usually order on Amazon? Puts it into my cart so I won’t forget. One of these day, she will acquire hands and feet. Then she can cook, do dishes, and clean the bathroom. Maybe even dust and vacuum.

Do not mention “her” name while discussing her or she will says “What? Can you repeat that?” and you’ll have to say “Never mind” and she’ll apologize and it gets complicated.



Categories: Application, Computers, Computers, electronics, Photography, Technology

Tags: , , , , , ,

24 replies

  1. Aaaah Alexa, I too have long chats with her, found myself calling her “my dear “ and “precious “ the other day, oh yes and I’m always saying “ thank you “ 😳

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  2. Our niece is named Alexis and we have to spell it out when speaking about her, or deal with Alexa’s needs. Still, we love it.

    By the way, what product do you use to connect your lamps to it?

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    • Some just use special bulbs, others use plugs. The colored bulbs were just Owen’s idea because he thought they were fun and with the app with which they come, you can make them throb with music. We finally caved and got the family music package. Since it looks like we are going to be inside for a lot longer than I had hoped, we might as well have entertainment.

      It’s been a HELL of a four years. Maybe finally we can all CALM DOWN and maybe get something positive done without tempter tantrums in the WH! I think we should make it illegal to elect toddlers. I don’t like the Republican party, but until Trump, I never doubted that they were Americans and believed in this country. I hope the ramble back to reality. Soon would be great — before we have some version of a coup!

      Like

  3. I only realised that I hadn’t seen anything from you for a long time. Seems that WP has decided to stop sending me your uploads…. Sorry about that – although neither you nor me can be held responsible. I certainly didn’t stop your blog posts coming into my mail box!

    This stroke me as tragic and utterly funny – Garry is, how my Hero husband would say: …branché…. (totally connected). This term être branché means so much: Being up to date (with anything), fashion informed, electrically of course too and much more.

    On the other hand, it also reinforced my decision to stay well away from Alexa. i don’t want/need/wish for A., but before you send the ax bearer, I DO understand why you have ‘her’. I do. It’s just not for me.

    I’m looking forward to hear from you again once more on a more regular basis and I wish you and Garry as well as your family, pets and birds a much better New Year. Stay safe.

    Like

    • I’m not getting a lot of mail either. In some cases, I get groups of letters at one time — a whole week of downloads. There are some serious issues both with our provider AND with Gmail. Everything internet-based is overloaded and understaffed. It’s not going to get better until we are ALL vaccinated and life starts to normalize. It has been a long, hard road everywhere, but we had you-know-who, which made it a lot worse. Being under the rule of a crazy person makes life — well — CRAZY.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We used to have an Echo with Alexa but my wife was worried that “she” was spying on us and recording our conversations. So now she’s in the garage. But our son bought us a Google Home Hub with both a camera and a mic and she’s fine with that. No, I can’t explain it, either.

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    • All you have to do is press the “off mike” button. If that’s not okay, there’s always unplugging it when it’s not in use. I didn’t want it because I felt it would increase our already way over the top dependence on devices and our ISP … but then came the pandemic and entertainment went from nice to the best (maybe only) way to stay sane. Garry was pretty suspicious too, but now he’s just happy he can turn on lights in dark rooms and not feel his way through the dark garage until he finally finds a light switch.

      HEY — IT’S A WIN WIN.

      Now all we need to do is survive the attempted COUP.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, my! Thanks for the laugh at the bluetooth pairing efforts. Sorry for Gary. I have a love/hate relationship with my Alexa. My son gave me one as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. A couple nights before Christmas, I was talking about how I hoped my mom hadn’t given me that spyware, getting on my soapbox a little, not picking up on the exchanged glance and smile between my son and daughter. Needless to say, Christmas morning was hilarious. I do use her a lot for updates and music, which is why he got it for me. 🙂 Alexa quickly becomes a necessity.

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    • Not as much a necessity as something that helps keep us in touch. It’s a hard road we are on and have been on for a long time. These days, I really need entertainment. I used to ENJOY entertainment. Now, I need it because life has become so grim, we really need hope. And music. And lighting that turns pink or blue or orange. News any time. Weather. Deliveries. Alexa’s most useful function is turning on lights in otherwise dark rooms without our stumbling around feeling for the switch. THAT is useful.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. In Santa Barbara, there’s a 3-story building that used to house a Saks 5th Avenue outlet store (Off 5th). It has now been rented by Amazon and renovated as a facility to house Alexa programmers! That’s all they do in the floors above street level!

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  7. I don’t know about Alexa…
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I had to laugh at your Bluetooth pairing efforts. When I got my most recent new car, I sat in my driveway trying to pair my phone, and I was getting really strange device notifications. I kept trying, unsuccessfully, and getting those same device IDs. Finally, I realized that my driveway is within about 20 feet of my next-door neighbors’ downstairs windows – apparently, my car was trying to sync with something in their house. I finally solved the problem by driving to a large empty parking lot and pairing the car and phone there.

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  9. Oh, if only Alexa could dust!

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