F#%’ You, Alexa

A beloved employee of 26 years, probably the most creative gift giver I’ve ever known, gave me an Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas.  The echo dot is the new version of the echo, and it utilizes Amazons “Alexa” voice recognition service.  For those who are unfamiliar with this product, I’ve included a link at the end of this paragraph, but think a blue tooth enabled hockey puck size speaker, connected to the internet, that when spoken to, can give you the weather, sports scores,   New or anythingyou could look up on google.  

The 26 year length of service of my beloved employee give some hint of my age; I don’t consider myself an “early adopter of tech”, but I keep up and do love it, so I admit to being pretty smitten with this gift three days ago.  In fact, that evening I took it out of the box.  Set up was pretty easy   Plug it in; download the Alexa app on your phone; follow the instructions on set up.  It connects to your wi fi, and you can set some parameters as to what news you would like when you ask for news.  You don’t have unlimited choices in this area, but they cover the range of “so liberal that socialists in Sweden would be shocked” to so conservative even Putin’s compassion causes a little tear in the corner of his eye.  Set up took maybe 10 minutes – I’m pretty pleased.

“Alexa”, (she ‘wakes’ up when you say her name) I said.  “What’s the weather?”   In a “I’m your hot high school teacher who still is professional” kind of voice, Alexa says, “In Mayberry today, the current temperature is 52 degrees.  Later in the day the high will be 71 degrees, with a low of 49.”    My “thank you” gets no reply so I gather manners weren’t something programmed in by the millennial aged coders.   Shocker.  Like a “you’re welcome” would be a lot to ask.  Anyway, I noted that Alexa will pair with any Bluetooth enabled audio speaker so I paired Alexa with my Bose Mini Sound link.  It appeared in the app that Alexa could “wake up” or turn the speaker on, but a “Alexa, wake up (speaker)(Bose)(audio)(music)” instructins All failed so I immediately assumed I either read it wrong or it didn’t work, which all had the same result to me.  So, I walked the 26 inches to the speaker and ….turned in on.  “Alexa, play ‘you don’t own me’ by Leslie Gore (mostly because I love that commercial?   Have you seen it?  This is not the nest part of the commercial but you get the idea.  https://youtu.be/aqAFGPmECBwhttps://youtu.be/aqAFGPmECBw). 

So, over the next couple of days, I’m starting to dig Alexa.  Ok, so she can only read connect to a limited number of apps, and she can only access a google calendar and there some glitch where you can sync your google calendar with your other calendars but it doesn’t sync with the google site just the app so Alaexa seems to think I’m retired with nothing to do.  Ok, Alexa is definitely not the AI computer on star track where Scotty would say, “computer, get me some haggis, a Guinness, the computations to fly cross the galaxy in the shortest distance possible and a date with the hot polish chick in communications, but, I’m seeing promise. 

So, two days later I have company for Christmas Eve and I wanna show off my new toy so, I know my friend likes the funk musician, Bootsy Collins, so I say “Alex, play Bootsy Collins”.  Much to my surprise, there is a country singer by the name of Bootsy Collins.  “Alexa, play the OTHER Bootsy Collins”. A different artist comes on but still not the right Bootsy.  I know the acting world does a better job of making sure there’s only one Brad Pitt, but apparently musicians are substantially more laid back about it. So, knowing Alexa can only play Amazon Prime music, I find the Bootsy Collins channel on Amazon Prime but it will only play on my phone, not through the Bose Speaker.  DAMMIT.  I ask Alexa to play the Bootsy Collins streaming channel, but NOW she says “I dont understand the question”.  “NOW, you’re gonna get pissy?” I ask her.  Like simon says, if you don’t say “Alexa” first, you get the same reaction as lecturing a teenager.   silence. Except she couldn’t go to her room.

Not to be defeated, I go back to my music app on my iPhone, find the Bootsy collins streaming channel and hit play.  Nothing from the Bose.  I realize the pairing of the Alexa with the speaker must have knocked off the pairing of my phone. I try to change it in utilities, but Alexa keeps snagging it back.  I’m seriously “ex wife” pissed and frustrated by now.  “F#%! YOU! ALEXA”.   Silence.  So I unplug her.  Still, no music.  I realize I have to turn her back on, disconnect the speaker from her Bluetooth and I do.  Still no music.  F#%! YOU, Alexa.   Silence. I’m really not understanding why these programmers don’t code her to respond to her name and a curse with with, “It’s not my fault, you idiot” or better yet,  “NO, F#%! YOU!!!! At least I’d feel like I had some closure.   “Let’s try vinyl, my friend said”,obviously wanting to de escalate the rising tension between me and Alexa.  I’m not even going to try to tell you what happened when we tried to stream a movie

This morning, I tried my phone and the Bose- music first try.   WOW.  “Alexa, what’s the temperature”, so I could dress for my walk. Alexa says  “The Phok Koo Chinese restaurant is open from 9-3 on Christmas Day”.    Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh

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Uber for Dogs?

Imagine my surprise the other day when the following e mail hit my smartphone. 

WOW!   Uber rides for dogs?!?!   AMAZING!  I don’t currently have a dog, but there’s a large number of them in the neighborhood, so I thought I’d ask around.

The first local I saw was a pleasant older Golden Retriever so I stopped and asked her what was up with the Uber for dogs. “Yeah, I’ve heard of it”, she said non chalantly.   “We’ve been flying on our own for years but this?……   We’re actually pretty excited about it. A bunch of us dogs were talking about it around the doggie station after some pretty vigorous sniffing.”

“Really?, I asked.  “What’s the concensus?”   “Well,” she drawled, “the poodles and the bichon frise were excited about more regular trips to the groomer but wanted to know if Uber served wine.”   “No, I don’t think so”, I said.  “At least they never have me”.    “They were particularly excited about finding some nicer salons, though”, she said.

“The terriers were a little miffed about some of Ubers new rider rules, especially no sex in the car and no unwanted contact with drivers. The Weimeraners were concerned about small cars but thought Uber Plus and Premium would work”.

“How do you pay, can ya’ll get credit cards?”   She laughed.  “Most of us don’t, but all of us are much more spoiled than kids.  We have an easier time getting ahold of our owners credit cards than an honors student from college on spring break in Cancun.  In fact, I flew there once for some frisbee beach thing and even as a dog, my card had a higher limit than most of those kids. I did hear a rumor about a Tibetan Mastiff who cost $1.6 million dollars who had their  own Visa Black card, but you know you can’t trust dog gossip.”  

“What do your owners think”, I asked.   “OMG, they are so excited about it.  She got really animated. ” It’s like getting out of chaffeuring your kids but without the cost of insurance and worrying about us killing ourselves driving when texting.  We can now Uber to the dog walking park, to dog friendly restaurants to have brunch with our dog buddies, to the vet, to the groomer, and to doggie day care. (God, I hate that term. What am I, 3 months old?) Mine is hoping for Lyft soon because you can tip on the Lyft app and my owner is kinda pissy about my carrying cash. I kinda understand though cause she thinks I lost $300 once because I didn’t want to admit on my first Uber ride, I ditched the park, went to a casino, lost  $200 on blackjack and got wasted on Mai Tai’s. I was really late getting back cause I had to sober up before she saw me.  The other hundred bucks was to get the driver to overlook a little urination thing in the backseat, but Mai Tais do that to me.  He said it was ok, most of his college kids were worse and three of the college kids bit him.  That’s why he now likes driving dogs better”

“Have any of ya’ll used there service yet?, I wondered out loud.  “What’s the experience been?

“Kinda all over the map”. she said.  A pit bull said he was leaving a doggie stripper park in the North Area, and that UBER App claimed  the closest vehicle was 30 minutes away but he was pretty drunk and you know how people judge pit bulls.  He swears some drivers won’t come get him.  Shame, even though he has a drinking s stripper problem, he’s a teddy bear.  One of my best friends said he put in a ride request, then sent a text to the driver asking where he was, then a second text asking if he was here yet, then a third asking what was taking to long, then a fourth asking what kind of service this was and then said he was banned the next day.  He though they were biased against dachshunds.  I did mention they were kinda ‘yappy’ , but he’s so sensitive about that.  I did hear later he bit the driver”.  

Just then she looked behind me and darted off. I turned around to see a dozen cats with “Cat Rides Matter” posters headed in our direction. I took off too.