Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Alexa..Alexa...Alexa...can you hear me...hear me...hear me?


I started talking to Alexa, Amazon's AI assistant, when I purchased a new Fire TV box that was bundled with Echo Dot. I didn't really know what an Echo Dot was until it arrived and I set it up next to my easy chair where I watch television. My first question for Alexa (at the urging of Amazon Customer Support that I'd called to help me set up my Echo Dot) was, "Alexa, where is Chuck Norris?"

In reality, I don't really care about Chuck Norris, but she answered, "If Chuck Norris wants you to know where he is, he'll tell you. But when he does, it will be too late."

Okay, an AI with a sense of humor. But what else can she/it do? I asked her to play independent rock music and she sampled some songs from Amazon Prime Music. I asked her to turn on Netflix on my Fire TV and she complied. That saved me about three clicks on the remote. I then ask her to pause and eventually play whatever I am streaming on my Fire TV.  Again, this saved me from reaching over an pressing a button on my remote.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Don't let the year hit you on the way out

I will not miss 2017. It has not been my favorite year. I'm hoping 2018 will be better. I like the even numbered years better for some reason. Perhaps it is because I was born in one.

I turn 60 in 2018.I'm still not sure how I feel about that. I have honestly never thought about turning 60. I thought about turning 30. And then about turning 40. I gave a little bit of thought to turning 50. But 60 just wasn't on my radar. But now it is jitterbugging in my face.

On the plus side, 60 puts me a little closer to retirement. I am definitely weary of working. Having taken off a week for Christmas, I am very conscious of the energy it takes to shift from being home into the work persona. I am longing for the day when I no longer have to think about work.

I wonder, though, what I'll do when I retire. Didn't seem to be a problem on my week off. Time slipped away quickly.  Most of it was consumed by basic things you do around the house: make breakfast and lunch for my kids, empty and fill the dishwasher, take out the garbage and recycling, repeat.


Friday, December 08, 2017

Bulbs in the socket but not all my lights are blinking


I've written in the past about my love/hate relationship with Christmas lights and decorating my house. Usually by the week after Thanksgiving I've unpacked crates of lights and headed up to my roof and undertaken the arduous task of clipping lights to the gutter and trying not to slip off the roof or electrocute myself.

This year I decided to only put up lights in places that didn't require going up on the roof. And the world did not end.

It's not that I don't enjoy the beauty of Christmas lights. But thinking about the labor required to put them along my gutters just made me depressed. I've invested hundreds of dollars in lights but there never seemed to be enough. And even if I tested them before I put them away for the year, it never failed that once they'd come out of storage, passed another test a section would inevitably fail once I'd attached them to the roof.

Then there was the complicated system of extension cords, timers and outside power outlets. And there are the blown breakers. I also have bags of spare bulbs I've accumulated over the years. Regardless of what the light manufacturers say, all of the other lights don't stay lit when one burns out and you have to test each bulb in a patch of lights that have gone out in order to find the bad one.

Even just putting lights on my deck railings and my shrubs and trees took a great deal of effort and a few trips to the store for more lights (despite all of the lights I own for the roof most of the sets had burned out sections and I just could deal with the mind numbing process of trying to find the bad bulbs).

But still we have enough lights out to stave off the neighborhood shaming for not decorating for Christmas.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Humbug


Saw "The Man Who Invented Christmas" this weekend.  It is the story of the internal struggle Charles Dickens went through when he was writing A Christmas Carol. I left the movie theater with a kind of "embrace your inner Scrooge" feeling.

Apparently, Dickens had many inner demons he struggled with. And A Christmas Carol became his personal tale of his rocky path to redemption.

The beauty of A Christmas Carol to me has always been that tipping point where Scrooge transforms from the dark, dismal miser into a man who once again has hope. Dickens does a wonderful job of revealing the journey that the man went through that turned him into the cold, heartless figure of Scrooge and then chips away the blackness to give him a second chance at life.

I don't know enough about Charles Dickens life to know how much of the movie was based on truth and how much was artistic license. But I know enough about writing to know that the characters you bring to life are often parts of your own psyche. It doesn't stretch the imagination to think Scrooge was a part of Dickens that he struggled with. And according to the movie, Dickens wasn't quite sure if Scrooge was capable of redemption. Fortunately, Dickens was able to give his demons the benefit of the doubt and let Scrooge turn his life around.

I hope it was an epiphany for Dickens. It's a message that we need in our current times where politics have turned our culture upside down.

I think Tom Robbins said it best when he stated, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." Of course then Sees Candy ripped it off and used it in their advertising for awhile.

But the sentiment rings true.

God bless us, every one!