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:***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” »

The Secret to Decoding a Job Description

The Secret to Decoding a Job Description

decoding a job description - cartoonI don’t like to brag, but in the past year alone, I’ve submitted my resume to more than 500 employers, all of whom had one thing in common: they all shredded my resume after deciding that my stellar qualifications would make other employees look bad.  I have, in the process, unlocked the key to what head-hunters are really asking for in their job descriptions.

The first step to getting an interview is knowing the critical skills employers are seeking. This is crucial so you can position your skills properly, by which I mean totally make things up. Don’t worry that you have no eJava, Javascript, or C++ programming experience when applying for that programmer position at Microsoft. That’s beside the point. Your job is to get in the door.

Recruiters don’t actually want to make it easy for you to understand what the position requires. They insert into every job description a long list of trendy but vague buzz words designed specifically to obscure what the work really entails. This is done to enhance the interview experience, providing prospects with the opportunity to explain how they can perform a job that no one at the company actually understands.

Now, thanks to me, you no longer have to play their devious game. With this simple job description decoder guide, you can peel back the flaky crust of ambiguous nouns and adjectives to bite into the chewy center of what they’re really looking for.

When the job description says: “Must have excellent communication skills” …

When decoded, what it really means is: You must be able to communicate only by means of TLA’s (Three-Letter Acronyms) and condense complex strategic marketing plans into email burps no longer than the 140-character count limit of Twitter.

When the job description says: “Must possess an innate ability to work independently” …  Continue reading “The Secret to Decoding a Job Description” »

Alexander Graham Bell’s first phone call – using Skype

Alexander Graham Bell’s first phone call – using Skype

Alexander Graham Bell - historic callOn March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made perhaps the most famous phone call in history, from his Boston laboratory, summoning his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, who was in the next room, with the following words: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” A phrase so short, the entirety of the message could have fit into a tweet.

Little could the Scottish-born scientist know that less than 130 years later men and women the world over would be using an iteration of his primitive device to play Words with Friends when they should be working and teenagers would use it to type random letters like LOL to their best friend Meagan for no apparent reason.

Bell was a pioneer of the greatest societal-changing bleeding-edge technology of his era. One can only imagine, then, what his very first phone call might have been like, had he had the advanced technology of Skype internet video calling available for this momentous occasion. The following is a dramatic reenactment of how many scholars believe the call might have gone.

BELL: Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.


BELL: I said, Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.

WATSON: I’m sorry, Mr. Bell. I can see your lips moving, but I’m not hearing anything. 

BELL: Oh, dear. I can see you, Mr. Watson, but I cannot make out a word of which you speak.


BELL: I can see that you’re trying to impart a message, but alas, I am not able to detect the sounds emanating from your lips.

WATSON: Still nothing. Sorry, sir. By George, I’ve an idea. Perhaps you’re muted. Might that be the problem?

BELL: Oh, that’s much better, Watson. Can you hear me?

WATSON: Yes, Mr. Bell. I hear you ju$% fi# $#(%$ $%!  Um, as I was say- [The audio drops suddenly.]  Like I … unable to #$&% …you’re … &$##(*!@

BELL: What in the Lord’s name are you trying to impart, my dear Watson? I am hearing all sorts of ruckus, and I am barely able to comprehend a word you utter! Continue reading “Alexander Graham Bell’s first phone call – using Skype” »

Windows 10 Introduces Wide Array of Exciting New System Errors

Windows 10 Introduces Wide Array of Exciting New System Errors

Windows 10Microsoft is proud to introduce Windows 10, the latest version of our operating system for PCs and tablets. To help you get to know our new system better, here are answers to some questions you might have. 

Why is it called Windows 10 when your last operating system was Windows 8?

Lots of people have asked this question. Some folks think that that because Windows 8 was such an unpopular disaster we wanted to put a little numerical distance between it and our new system. But that’s not the case at all. In fact, we were working on a system that would have been called Windows 9, but unfortunately several of our engineers were killed during the beta testing, so we had to shelve it and start again from scratch.

Will Windows 10 fuck up my computer as fast as Windows 8 did?

Yes, indeed. Everything about our new operating system is faster and more powerful than the previous version, including its ability to render your PC or tablet completely unusable within seconds after you install it.

Does Windows 10 feature the Start button that was missing from Windows 8?

Continue reading “Windows 10 Introduces Wide Array of Exciting New System Errors” »

The joy of buying a new computer

The joy of buying a new computer

joy of a new computer - frustrated manI recently bought a new laptop because my old one was having problems. From my purchase experience, I want to pass along the following helpful piece of advice: NEVER EVER BUY A NEW COMPUTER.

Limp along with your Apple Lisa for as long as you possibly can – because once you buy a new computer, your nightmares have just begun. The following is a 100% true retelling of my experience.

I chose to shop at one of the major Big Box retailers. I will change their actual name in this column so as to protect their identity. I walked into WORST BUY, and the salesperson Brad was quite helpful. He directed me to a perfectly adequate laptop. It had keys with letters and numbers in exactly the right locations. He told me that it had a 1.33 gigahertz dual processor with 2 GB of memory, 32 GB of storage, and a Windows 8.1 64-bit something or other. I had no idea what he was talking about, but it came in blue. I like blue. So I bought it.

Then I asked Brad if they could transfer all my data from my old computer to the new one – you know, email contacts, calendar appointments, embarrassing photos of my girls naked in the bathtub when they were two years old, saved so I could show them at their future weddings – you know, important files.

For the very reasonable fee of $150, they could transfer it all. So I said “sure.” Brad then passed me over to their tech team, the name of which, again, out of respect for their privacy, I will disguise. After only a 20-minute wait, I was greeted cheerfully by a member of their Greek Squad team named Nick, who was extremely helpful and said the job would be done overnight. So when they finished the overnight job four days later, I returned to WORST BUY to pick up my new computer. When I got home, I discovered just how helpful they had actually been, and by “helpful” I mean they had somehow managed to lose ALL OF MY DATA.

Continue reading “The joy of buying a new computer” »