The Danger of Storing Your Stuff in the Cloud

The Danger of Storing Your Stuff in the Cloud

Big Tech tells us that we should all be saving all of our important documents to the cloud. It’s efficient, they say. It’s cheap, they say. Do not be fooled. Saving all your stuff to the cloud could lead to disaster. And I know a thing or two about making disastrous decisions. Heck, I went to law school. Now I’m a humor writer. See what I mean?

Big Tech tells us that we should all be saving all of our important documents to the cloud. It’s efficient, they say. It’s cheap, they say. Do not be fooled. Saving all your stuff to the cloud could lead to disaster. And I know a thing or two about making disastrous decisions. Heck, I went to law school. Now I’m a humor writer. See what I mean?

I consider myself a foremost expert on computers, technology, and cyber security – even if both my technophile children might laugh hysterically at that assessment. Compared to my cats, I’m a veritable Einstein.

In fact, over the years, countless people have turned to me for advice on a variety of topics – however, if I’m being honest, rarely on issues involving computers, technology or cyber security. Mostly it’s about “Taste this milk. Does it taste sour to you?” and related expiration date questions.

Admittedly, I was not one of the early tech adaptors. I still have my complete collection of 8-track tapes. I can’t figure out why I don’t have any friends on my My Space page. And I still text using complete sentences and proper punctuation – but in my defense, I mainly do that just to annoy my kids.

I have no idea what my point was. Oh, right. I’m not always on the cutting edge of the latest technology trends. But there comes a point when I feel a need to issue a clarion call of caution. I’m talking about the trend towards storing all our computer files, photos, videos and other important documents “in the cloud.”

Google, Microsoft, and just about every cellular carrier tell us to store everything in the cloud. It’s so convenient. For example, if you lose your phone, don’t worry. All your photos, contacts, even your calendar will be safely backed up in the cloud.

If you ask me, storing your stuff in the cloud doesn’t always work. I have tons of stuff I’d love to store there  because my garage is running out of space. Take my old clothes from my college days. My wife insists I give them away, complaining that all they do is take up closet space. But I just can’t part with my old outfits. Who knows when my old purple corduroy bell-bottom pants will come back in style – and I will lose the 35 pounds I gained since I last wore them in 1975?

I’ve learned that the cloud won’t accept any of my stuff. Not even my old Big Mouth Billy Bass singing fish I re-gifted to my wife for Christmas in 1999. (She would not speak to me for three days after that mistake.)

Despite hours and hours of trying, I can’t figure out a way to upload any of my old outfits to the cloud – not even my 1983 Members Only faux-leather jacket.

Despite hours and hours of trying, I can’t figure out a way to upload any of my old outfits to the cloud – not even my 1983 Members Only faux-leather jacket.

No, it turns out that the only stuff you can store in the cloud is digital stuff, like Word documents, excel spreadsheets, photos, and music, like my priceless collection of the Very Best of Engelbert Humperdinck. (It’s an acquired taste.) Everyday, millions of people upload important files to the cloud. But how can they be sure their files will be safe?

Think about it. Do you even know what’s in the cloud? I’ll tell you: Water vapor – specifically, tiny water droplets that form on tiny particles, like dust, that are floating in the air. Hell, your average cloud isn’t strong enough to hold a floppy disk, let alone 100 million terabyte files. They’ll all just fall right through – and eventually land back on planet earth, leaving a horrible environmental catastrophe. And who’s going to clean up all those corrupted files? Not me, fella.

Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that the cloud can somehow support all these gazillion files. The security is virtually non-existent. There are no heavy-metal doors with ten-digit security codes or thumb print recognition features required to gain access to your vault. In fact, there are no vaults of any kind. I recently took a Delta flight to New York. (The chicken parmesan dinner tasted like cardboard, but that’s a topic for a future column.)  Our 757 flew right through the clouds for almost an hour. I never saw a single layer of security in any of the cloud formations we passed by, not even the really puffy cumulus ones.

And clouds are often wet – especially when it rains. Think about the damage that could be inflicted on your priceless photos of your daughter’s middle school play (where she performed the starring role of the third pine tree from the right) if they got exposed to the cloud’s moisture. Even worse, what if the region where your files are stored in the cloud goes through a dry spell, with say, five days without rain – and no clouds? If the clouds evaporate, there go all your documents. Hope you won’t miss that hilarious video of your wife falling into the wedding cake that you posted to the cloud, now that the cloud is suddenly gone. Poof.

[Editor’s Note: Mr. Jones, I don’t think you understand how “the cloud” works. When they talk about the cloud, they are not talking literally about clouds in the sky. They’re referring to “cloud computing.” In this context, the cloud is simply the Internet—more specifically, all the things you can access remotely over the Internet. So, when something is “in the cloud.” It just means it’s stored on Internet servers instead of your computer’s hard drive.]

I also don’t get this fanatic Second Amendment demand to fight for the right to arm bears. For God’s sake, they don’t even have opposable thumbs. How will a bear fire an AK-47?

I also don’t get this fanatic Second Amendment demand to fight for the right to arm bears. For God’s sake, they don’t even have opposable thumbs. How will a bear fire an AK-47?

Um, oh, I see. Never mind. That was a lame topic anyway. What I really wanted to discuss is the Second Amendment. What is all the recent brouhaha about, anyway?

In a careful reading of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, I cannot think of any logical reason why the Founding Fathers felt it was important to enshrine the RIGHT TO ARM BEARS! I mean, seriously! Bears are dangerous enough as is, without granting them unfettered access to assault weapons. And without proper training on how to use a firearm, God only knows the havoc a crochety grizzly with a bad temper could wreak.

But when I bring this issue up, I usually get a deer in the headlights reaction. People look at me like I’m crazy. Let’s see who has the last laugh when they get mowed down in a hail of bullets from a pissed-off black bear toting an AR-15. Don’t say you weren’t warned, buddy.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021

How to Create Your Own YouTube Channel in 386 Easy Steps

How to Create Your Own YouTube Channel in 386 Easy Steps

I recently launched my own YouTube channel. It will be a smashing success, just as soon as I convince Oprah to endorse it and Elon Musk to invest in it – or buy me out for $3 billion.

I recently launched my own YouTube channel. It will be a smashing success, just as soon as I convince Oprah to endorse it and Elon Musk to invest in it – or buy me out for $3 billion.

Recently I launched my very own YouTube channel. Why did I decide at the age of 65 to undertake such a daunting new challenge? Simple: I’m an idiot. To fully understand why I did this, I need to go back eleven years, to 2009. That’s when, on an otherwise uneventful August day, I did something unbelievably reckless: I listened to my wife.

She suggested I write a humor blog. Being an obedient husband, I did just that. 11 years, 450 articles and a few thousand frosted cinnamon pop tarts later, I’m still writing. I’d have been a millionaire by now, if only someone had offered me a million bucks – to stop writing. But no one did, so I’m still at it.

Not sure what my point was. Oh right, never listen to my wife. A few months ago, she had another brainstorm: “Hey, honey? Why don’t you start your own YouTube channel? Bring your favorite humor articles to life.” Being a slow learner, I did just that.

I spent sleepless nights pondering a name for my channel. I decided on – now this may surprise you – View from the Bleachers. Having perused the nearly 60 million YouTube channels out there, I noticed there is a serious shortage of juvenile humor content. I figured I’m just the person to fill this void.

This venture has made me a wiser man and I feel it incumbent upon me to share that wisdom. First, if you are even remotely toying with the notion of starting a YouTube channel, DON’T DO IT! If you are a glutton for nitpicking, critical feedback and flame comments from strangers who are easily offended about everything, then sure, go for it. However, to retain any shred of self-esteem, I recommend stamp collecting as a hobby instead.

If you’re still intent on pursuing your own YouTube channel, there are a few tidbits you need to attend to as you embark on your journey toward fame and fortune… and eventual disappointment and despair.

Step One: What is Your Channel About?

First things first. You need to decide on your focus. What do you want to communicate? Is it teaching orangutans to sew a quilt from jungle leaves? Helping inept husbands create gourmet meals without torching the kitchen? Or perhaps something even more futile, like teaching teenage texters the importance of punctuation.

Step Two: Get Your Equipment

Now that you’ve crystalized your message to the world, it’s time to blow your savings on the rudimentary gear needed to produce your incredibly fascinating video series on the history of Paper Mache. You need: a high-def camera, large green screen background, quality lighting and stands, lavalier microphone (a must-have), tele-prompter device (to scroll the script), video editing software program, an agent to promote you, an accountant to launder your vast earnings in the Caymans, and an attorney in case you get sued for copyright infringement. 

This is my recording studio. I’ve taken over our guest room. Can you tell what’s missing? You guessed it: a cat. Also, any chance of success with such a cutting-edge set.

This is my recording studio. I’ve taken over our guest room. Can you tell what’s missing? You guessed it: a cat. Also, any chance of success with such a cutting-edge set.

Step Three: Ask Friends for Input

Accept that you’ll no doubt make several rookie mistakes, like not noticing that your cat was licking its privates in the background through the entire shoot. Invite your friends to give feedback on initial test videos – on what works and what doesn’t. They’ll have no trouble with the latter, offering helpful advice, like, “Slow it down, dude! I can’t understand a word – not that I’m really interested” and “The lighting is way too dim. I can’t see your face – but your bald spot shines through” and “Do you have the slightest idea what the hell you’re doing?”

Step Four: Find New Friends

You’ll soon learn that everyone’s a critic and nothing you create measures up to your friends’ high standards. The most encouraging suggestions I’ve received so far have been: “We can’t all be winners” and “I’m sure you can find a buyer on eBay for all that equipment you blew your money on.” Who needs friends like these? Best to say adios to these dream killers. There are scores of folks eager to friend you on Facebook. Just don’t discuss politics. Trust me.

Step Five: Find a Video Editor

Creating a humor video is 20% humor writing and 80% technical wizardry. I already had a ton of content from my eleven years of writing. All I had to do was read it with some flair, right? Wrong. There is recording (1 hour), editing a five-minute video (five hours), removing all my verbal stumbles (3 more hours on a good take), locating background images, choosing theme music, and honing my acting skills. When it was all done, I noticed I had forgotten to wear pants. I needed a lot of help (in more ways than one).

There are services that will connect you with independent video editors who can do everything you need for incredibly reasonable prices. I found a very capable video editor in Pakistan. Oh, to be sure, he doesn’t understand English, and I can’t speak a word of Urdu, and all my videos end up running in reverse order. But he charges a very fair rate. And he says if I ever make it to Pakistan, he’ll let me ride his camel.

There are literally thousands of videos like this one, promising to reveal the hidden secrets to make your YouTube channel a success. All you need are some web tools to improve your keyword selection, creative social media strategies, and Stephen Colbert to host all your videos.

There are literally thousands of videos like this one, promising to reveal the hidden secrets to make your YouTube channel a success. All you need are some web tools to improve your keyword selection, creative social
media strategies, and Stephen Colbert to host all your videos.

Step Six: Learn How to Maximize Traffic

What good is having your own YouTube channel if nobody knows it exists? That’s why you should google topics like “What was I thinking starting a YouTube channel?” There you’ll find helpful tutorials explaining the 5,000 critical tasks guaranteed to propel your channel to the top 25 million most watched.

You have to learn about keyword maximization, search engine optimization, meta tags, and much more. Thankfully, there are tons of free tools out there to help build traffic to your new channel, just as soon as you upgrade to their Pro version for only $15 / month, or better still, the Platinum package for just $49.95 / month.

There are about 379 more steps, give or take, to optimize your channel’s one-in-a-million chances of going viral. Personally, I suggest just doing all your YouTube videos in the nude – especially if you’re Scarlett Johansson. I’m confident your channel will be trending in no time.

As for me, I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to make my new YouTube channel a tremendous success – unless someone wants to offer me $500 today to walk away. No reasonable offer will be refused.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Subscribe to my new View from the Bleachers YouTube Channel and request notifications to see my latest videos.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020. Edited by Betsy Jones.

The New Rules of Texting

The New Rules of Texting

When it comes to texting, it’s a brave new world. No one under the age of 30 uses punctuation anymore. And why type in coherent sentences, when a confused face, a unicorn, and a wine glass emoji say it all?

When it comes to texting, it’s a brave new world. No one under the age of 30 uses punctuation anymore. And why type in coherent sentences, when a confused face, a unicorn, and a wine glass emoji say it all?

I feel bad. Earlier today, I did something very hurtful – and to my own daughter, no less. I sent her a terribly insensitive text. What was the hostile, insulting thing I wrote? “Hope you’re doing well. Would love to see you sometime soon.”

I feel sick about what I’ve done. As my daughter explained it, I was bullying her and being demanding – both clearly conveyed by my use of a period at the end of each sentence. You read correctly. The  period(.) also telegraphed anger and that I wished to end this text exchange.

How rude of me! After all, my daughter has a lot on her plate with work and grad school. After apologizing profusely and asking if she could ever find it in her heart to forgive me for my heartless affront, I asked her to enlighten me about any other texting rules that perhaps I had been routinely violating without knowing it.

Oh, I’m aware of a few do’s and don’ts. I know you shouldn’t type out novels (but I do it anyway – partly just to annoy my kids). I also learned that the use of ALL CAPS is considered SHOUTING and is frowned upon. BUT I DON’T CARE!! That said, after my daughter stopped reading my 200-word soliloquy about all the things I’m grateful for as her dad, she texted back: TEXTING PROTOCOLS HAVE EVOLVED DAD  GET WITH THE PROGRAM

According to my daughter, and the newly abridged millennial version of Elements of Style, when it comes to texting etiquette, I’m stuck in the Pleistocene Era. Who knew that nowadays it’s “bad form” to use any punctuation when texting? Here I thought I was with the times texting my kids rather than telephoning, when actually I’ve been driving them crazy with my constant barrage of commas, apostrophes, and in-your-face use of question marks.

Apparently, not only is a period interpreted as a command, but also as a blow off. And exclamation marks?! Tread carefully there. Did you know that using a single exclamation mark means you’re being sarcastic? Me neither! I mean me neither. However, two exclamation marks is fine. But stop at two. Because three !!!’s is over-the-top irritating. It means you’re being a drama queen, so take it down a notch, sister!!

The use of capital letters is also something to avoid at all costs, especially if the word is normally meant to be capitalized. Never text “New York” when “new york” (or better still, “ny”) will suffice. Evidently, proper grammar and syntax are indicators you’re a total nerd who is just not woke enough for today’s under-30 crowd.

Let me give an example. Normally, I might be inclined to text my daughter, “Hi, Rachel. Did you have a good day at work? I can’t wait to see you when you come to Camano Island. Call me soon, if you have a chance, okay? Love you!” First of all, the period clearly showed I was ordering her to come home. Then the derisive single exclamation mark made a mockery of my love for her. And all those capitals!! The correctly written text would have looked like this: “hi rachel did you have a good day at work i cant wait to see you when you come to camano island call me soon if you have a chance okay love you”

Better still, eliminate all those time-wasting vowels: “hi rchl dd u hv a gd dy at wrk cnt wt 2 c u whn u cme 2 cmn islnd cll me sn k lv u”

That’s better. But if you really want to be respectful of your kids’ communication preferences, you should eliminate those pesky adjectives, adverbs, and nouns – young people can’t be bothered to read complete thoughts. That’s so 1990’s. They are way too busy checking out Instagram or Tinder to wade through your meandering message.

Young people today are extremely busy. They don’t have time to make eye contact, let alone call their parents. If you really need to get their attention, send a text – but keep it to under eight words, please. They don’t have all day.

Young people today are extremely busy. They don’t have time to make eye contact, let alone call their parents. If you really need to get their attention, send a text – but keep it to under eight words, please. They don’t have all day.

Technically, if you truly want to adhere to the official guidelines of texting civility in this brave new world we live in, bail on the notion of sending your child a text in the first place. After all, you texted her a mere two weeks ago. Back off!! You’re starting to crowd her, dude.

In summary, when texting one of your under-age-30 offspring, remember these helpful DON’T’s:

DON’T drone on and on. Get to the point.

DON’T SHOUT at them with angry periods and in-your-face ALL CAPS.

Wherever possible, DON’T use words when texting. I’m sure there’s a four-emoji chain that can clearly communicate, “I won’t be able to make it to your place before 7pm because I’m stuck in traffic, so could you order us a veggie pizza?”

DON’T expect them to spellcheck their texts. So what if your college graduate’s text auto-corrected to change “I’m putting up my prius for sale” to “I’m putting up my penis for sale.” You should know what he meant.

DON’T text your kids too frequently. Once a month seems slightly excessive but within the margins of millennial social norms.

DON’T force them to wade through yet another adjective-laden tome about your recent home remodeling project. They won’t be spending any time at home when they come to visit you at Christmas anyway, so why are you telling them this stuff?

Most important of all, DON’T expect a reply – EVER. Your kids have far more important things to do than to keep in touch with their parents.

Be patient. Just wait till they turn forty and have self-absorbed teenagers of their own. Then they’ll be texting you night and day (begging for your parenting advice). And their kids will mock them as so passé. After all, fifteen years from now, who’d be caught texting? That’s so 2020.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Subscribe to my new View from the Bleachers YouTube Channel and request notifications to see my latest videos.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020. Edited by Betsy Jones.

Zoom for Seniors

Zoom for Seniors

Dear Senior Citizen, Welcome to the exciting world of Zoom. If you’ve never had a Zoom video call, don’t worry. It’s easier than beating Betty Smith at BINGO, even when she plays with 10 boards.

Dear Senior Citizen, Welcome to the exciting world of Zoom. If you’ve never had a Zoom video call, don’t worry. It’s easier than beating Betty Smith at BINGO, even when she plays with 10 boards.

Welcome to today’s lesson: Zoom for Seniors. If you’re 65+ and would like to learn how to turn your computer into a videophone, this will be an exciting adventure. However, if you thought you had signed up for Zoomba for Seniors, you’re in the wrong class. And it’s spelled Zumba. You might want to consider our Spelling for Seniors class, as well.

What exactly is Zoom? If you ask my 24-year-old tech-savvy daughter, she’ll tell you it’s a video-telephony and online chat service using a cloud-based peer-to-peer software platform for teleconferencing, telecommuting and social relations. My daughter is a geek. In case her explanation is a tad too technical, let me simplify: with Zoom, you can see and talk to your friends on your computer.

Everybody’s doing Zoom, even Zumba fans. This is thanks in large part to the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shelter in place mandates. If you’re not familiar with the “Coronavirus,” may I suggest our introductory lecture series, What’s Been Happening Since You Crawled Under a Rock. Employers use Zoom to conduct team meetings, professors to deliver classes to their students, and the rest of us to complain to our friends that there’s nothing to do – all without wearing pants.

Zoom is surprisingly easy to use. Let’s first talk about system requirements. I’m not talking about your digestive system, though you could talk to your doctor via Zoom about your acid reflux. I’m talking about required devices: a smart phone, an iPad, or a computer with a web cam. No, a web cam is not for detecting spiders in your house, though I can envision a market for that. A common question I hear from seniors is, “How do I attach my rotary phone’s twisty cord to my Zenith TV’s rabbit ears?”

I now realize there should be some pre-requisites for this course, such as a rudimentary knowledge of life and technology in the 21st century. In short, no, you can’t use a rotary phone. You need one that can connect to the Internet. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “Internet,” how exactly did you find the website for this class?

If you are still using a phone like this and planning to place a Zoom call, let me just say, you’re adorable. However, may I suggest upgrading to a phone that was not in use when Ozzie and Harriet were still the rage on TV.

If you are still using a phone like this and planning to place a Zoom call, let me just say, you’re adorable. However, may I suggest upgrading to a phone that was not in use when Ozzie and Harriet were still the rage on TV.

Next, you will need a Zoom meeting invitation. Anticipating your next question, no, it won’t be delivered by the USPS or UPS or even the USPCA. It will come in an email. The invite will give you a link that you simply click on to join the video call at the appointed time.

What’s so great about Zoom? For starters, you can actually see the person you’re talking to! And the call is free – even if the other person is across the country, across the world, or in your garage, borrowing your power tools without asking. That’s because you are talking over the Internet. I know, it’s almost as amazing as the Ronco Pocket Fisherman you bought your wife for her birthday in 1984.

Another cool aspect is that several people can be on the call at the same time! So if you and your Elks cronies – all 67 of them – want to have a virtual hangout, you can with Zoom. That is, assuming you all have email and a Wi-Fi or broadband connection. Clueless about the terms “Wi-Fi” and “broadband”? Might I suggest you switch to a bird watching class instead?

Zoom has some handy features including “chat,” which lets you type messages to other people on the call. But remember when you type a chat message to Charlie about how Archie cheats at golf, Archie will be able to read your message, too – unless he left his glasses in your garage when he borrowed your power tools.

Some pointers about using Zoom. First, you want to adjust your camera so the other person can see you. As interesting as your ceiling may be – or your boxer shorts – most people prefer looking at your face – and by your face, I mean your entire face, not the top of your receding hairline.

Second, be sure the microphones are ON, unless you all are versed in lip-reading.

Third, know how and when to turn OFF your video. Just as you can see your grandkids or your buddies or your boss on Zoom, they too can see you. So, if you feel the need to pick your nose or get up to grab a beer, wearing nothing below the waist but a pair of black socks and Crocs, consider pausing the video first.

Which brings me to Zoom etiquette. Newbies tend to talk over each other, especially if there are a bunch of you on the call. It’s best to wait until the other person has stopped talking before you begin your diatribe on the demise of the nation at the hands of our youth (your grandkids excepted). Also, you might want to shave. The grunge look doesn’t work for seniors.

For the adventurous Senior, try a group Zoom call. Together you can discuss fascinating topics like, “Anyone having trouble with their dentures?” and “Whatever happened to Carl? He was here a minute ago.”

For the adventurous Senior, try a group Zoom call. Together you can discuss fascinating topics like, “Anyone having trouble with their dentures?” and “Whatever happened to Carl? He was here a minute ago.”

Don’t worry if your first Zoom experience is a bit bumpy. That’s normal. It’s daunting to figure out any new technology, like Zoom or a plasma TV or your 10 ft. inflatable snow globe. That’s why I recommend recruiting your seven-year-old grandson. He can ensure your maiden voyage goes smoothly, helping you log into the session, testing your audio, and reminding you to put on pants.

Finally, just remember, if you’re struggling to navigate a Zoom call with your old pal Benny, you’re not alone. He’s every bit the technology rookie that you are. Benny too is confused why he can’t hear you and wondering whose forehead he’s seeing on his computer screen (um, that would actually be Benny’s). He’ll get the hang of it, and you will too – before the next century, or your money back.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020

Alexa, Tell My Neighbor to Mow His Yard

Alexa, Tell My Neighbor to Mow His Yard

This is the Amazon Echo Dot – about the size of a hockey puck. Just say a command, starting with “Alexa,” and it will play music, tell you the news, or even turn on your alarm system. But there is one thing Alexa can’t do. She can’t drive your car – yet.

This is the Amazon Echo Dot – about the size of a hockey puck. Just say a command, starting with “Alexa,” and it will play music, tell you the news, or even turn on your alarm system. But there is one thing Alexa can’t do. She can’t drive your car – yet.

Consumer technology has come a long way since Al Gore invented the Internet. Amazon has always been a pioneer – first with its mega-store retail website, then the Kindle electronic book, followed by their ingenious TV Fire Stick. But my favorite Amazon innovation has to be the Echo, which revolutionizes the way people do things, from turning off lights to entertaining your kids. And it is all done with a simple command starting with “Alexa.”

I recently received this handy gadget for Christmas. It’s been a God Send. It’s hard to believe I used to walk all the way over to the radio to change the music, rotating the dial over and over until I found an acceptable station. Exhausting!  But thanks to Amazon, now all I have to do is tell my Echo, “Alexa, play Polka music”, and presto, I am instantly basking in the dulcet sounds of the Beer Barrel Polka – and driving my wife out of the living room. (Not a polka fan. Go figure!)

Initially I used my Echo solely to play music or tell me the weather forecast for places I never planned to visit (“Alexa, what’s the forecast for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia?”). Over time, I discovered she can do so much more. For example, I just asked, “Alexa, tell me a random fact”, to which she replied, “All manhole covers are round, because a square one could fall into the hole.” If I were a manhole manufacturer, that factoid could have saved me millions in R & D. 

I once blew an entire afternoon, just asking my new technological BFF endless random questions:

 ‘Alexa, how much do you weigh?’

‘Alexa, what’s your favorite dinosaur?’

‘Alexa, how do I get rid of a dead body?’

‘Alexa, what sound does an elephant make?’

‘Alexa, who you gonna call?’

‘Alexa, beam me up.’

‘Alexa, my name is Inigo Montoya.’

‘Alexa, what’s the first rule of Fight Club?’

‘Alexa, is there a Santa Claus?’

‘Alexa, can you sing in auto-tune?’

‘Alexa, who shot the sheriff?’

‘Alexa, I am your father.’

[Admit it. If you own an Amazon Echo, you just tried issuing some of these commands, didn’t you?]

Alexa had an answer for every query I posed. I mean seriously, how did mankind survive before Alexa was born? Of course, sometimes, Alexa’s response can be a bit unsettling. I just asked, “Alexa, how long will I live?” Her response: “The average lifespan for a hippo in the wild is approximately 40 years.” Did she just insult me?  [Admit it. You just tried that command too, didn’t you?]

But Alexa can do so much more than just play music, tell lame jokes, and occasionally insult you. You can connect her to appliances so you can turn them on from your phone – rather than walking the 20 arduous feet needed to do it yourself. You can also connect Alexa to devices like a robot vacuum. Now, instead of using the robot vacuum app on your phone to tell it to commence vacuuming, you can tell Alexa to tell your robot vacuum’s app on your phone to tell the robot vacuum instead.

You can even connect Alexa to your Amazon Prime account and command her to find movies and TV shows just by saying their name: “Alexa, find the movie, The Notebook” (not that, as a man, I would ever actually watch that chick flick, mind you). And to think there was a time when human beings had to use a remote control and type the name of the movie letter by letter. How barbaric.

I learned that I can use Alexa to find a good Indian restaurant (just kidding, I would NEVER do that – I hate Indian food), schedule a reminder, or plan a vacation. It seems that there is almost nothing Alexa can’t do. Almost….  I recently asked Alexa to give me a million dollars, and she rudely replied, “Hmm, I seem to have misplaced my wallet.” Such a tease. [And you did it again, didn’t you? Don’t lie!]

Alexa sure would have come in handy for Captain Kirk on the bridge. Might have saved a few planets or conquered the Borg. All without flicking a single switch!

Alexa sure would have come in handy for Captain Kirk on the bridge. Might have saved a few planets or conquered the Borg. All without flicking a single switch!

Last week, I installed the Man-Support upgrade onto my Echo. It costs a little extra, but it’s worth every penny. Now, when my kids ask for money, I just consult my electronic in-house attorney: “Alexa, should I give my kids more money?” to which she says, “I strongly advise against that.” Then I tell my kids, sorry, Alexa has spoken.

If my wife and I have a disagreement, I just turn to Alexa: “Alexa, who’s right, me or my wife?” Alexa: “On this matter, your wife is wrong.” And if my wife asks me to make dinner for a change, I consult Alexa as well. She is quick to respond, “Your wife is being unreasonable. Offer to do the dishes.”

I can’t wait for the next series of updates, so that I can start issuing Alexa even more helpful commands like “Alexa, do the dishes for me.” Or perhaps “Alexa, please find my keys.” Or “Alexa, please make our kids call us once in a while.” 

Of course, with technology this sophisticated, it’s just a matter of time before my wife starts getting wise and asks, “Alexa, did my husband order a set of Titleist golf clubs on Amazon even though I specifically told him we can’t afford it?” If so, I’m screwed.

Apparently, there’s one thing Alexa sucks at – keeping a secret. Guess I better get rid of all these Echo devices right now – before somebody gets in serious trouble.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Don’t Let Email and Facebook Take Over Your Life

Don’t Let Email and Facebook Take Over Your Life

Email addiction - GrouponThere is a growing problem in this country. It’s the bombardment of messages we receive virtually nonstop every single day, thanks to the increasing omnipresence of email, text messaging and social media in our lives.

Today I want to tell you how you can break free from the distraction of – hey look! An email from Ace Hardware. They’re offering 15% off hammers today only. How’d they know I needed a new hammer? Where was I? Oh yes, I was talking about the importance of staying in the moment and not letting outside email distractions cause us to get – Wow! My team is up by 10 at the half.  Thanks for the text, Sis. Go, Buckeyes!

My point is, we need to take back control of our lives and not let our laptops and smart phones dictate how we spend our time. There is nothing more important in life than – Adele’s latest tweet announcing, “I’m back with a brand new single. Watch the video now: http://trib.al/utC***z”.  Wow, that was awesome. She sure has a set of pipes….

As I was saying, too often we bounce from one distraction to the next when what we really should be doing is using our time to appreciate – this important email I just got from Donald Trump claiming that Ted Cruz is an idiot….

Continue reading “Don’t Let Email and Facebook Take Over Your Life” »