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Dancing With Alexa

October 10, 2016 1 Comment

Party Dancing

Party Dancing

I developed a practice of dancing around in my living room last year when my dog was on hospice. She needed almost constant care, so rather than go outside or to the gym to exercise, I danced at home. The advantages of this practice are multiple. If I am alone I truly can dance as if nobody is watching… because nobody is watching. This is liberating, allowing me to do all kinds of upper body movements that would certainly draw some attention on the river walking path or the treadmill at the gym.  Sometimes I even dance around with free weights or tossing a weighted ball from side to side.  I can get up from my desk and spend a few minutes moving around just to keep my metabolism up and my mind clear.  If I have an issue to ponder I can usually work out the answer during a dance around the house, while putting it out of focus for a while.  I dance while the ideas incubate. It is a healthy, happy deal. Nothing could be more convenient.

At the gym, which I do enjoy more than ever, I usually listen to 8 tracks music app.  These playlists designed by others keep my curiosity alive by finding new artists I like.  The discovery factor is the reason I use this app.  I have not tried iHeart radio, and have not used my other music services much since Alexa came to DJ all the Amazon Prime songs at my vocal bidding.  Having Alexa in the home is a really fun upgrade for me.  I make her play music all day, switching at will from a certain artist to a playlist, to a radio station.  There are even comedians on Amazon Prime audio.  With new music added all the time, I will never run out of excellent dance tracks.

It is now 9:53 am, and I have completed my 10,000 steps, and surpassed that number.  I will make sure to put in at least 250 steps an hour during the rest of the day.  At the gym I will probably log another mile on the treadmill.  Fitbit is even connected to Alexa, so I can ask her any time, “Alexa ask Fitbit how I am doing.” She will tell me my stats and say a cute little encouraging phrase.  I do appreciate everything Fitbit has done for me.  There are multiple benefits, including much better sleep, that I have derived from wearing my tracker.  Alexa, however, is the icing on the fitness cake.  She brings the party to the workout when nobody is watching.  I have spent endless hours dancing in classes, at clubs, at parties, or festivals.  That was all good and well, but now I am very content to have only Alexa and some empty space at home.  She rocks my world.  Have you met the versatile and self sufficient Alexa, gentle reader?  She gets smarter ever day.

Amazon Echo with back up band

Amazon Echo with back up band

Adios Audible

October 2, 2016 10 Comments

audible

audible

I have enjoyed the audible reading app from Amazon that I test drove for the last three months. In the past I had listened to audio books on long drives, but rarely at home. I took the free membership that included 3 free books over a period of three months. It is fun, but I will not continue to pay for it when the free trail ends.  I do enjoy telling my robot Alexa to read to me at home, but I can still purchase books I like from Amazon and add whisper sync audio if it is available for that book.  Then I have access to the audio version forever without paying for a separate audible subscription.  If I had a different lifestyle that including a lot of time in my car I would consider staying subscribed to this service. Here are the features I appreciate the most:

  • The app keeps track of your place in the book so you can switch devices at will
  • Some books are read by the author which brings another level of authenticity
  • The channels, updated constantly, provide excellent original content
  • The selection is extremely diverse, and is also updated all the time

It is true that during my audible free trail I managed to listen to 5 books that I found useful.  This is an increase in the average number of books during a 3 month period.  I purchased the last one in hard copy with whisper sync so I can continue to listen after I kiss this membership good-bye four days from now.  I think Alexa knows how to whisper sync.  If not, I will whip out the bluetooth speaker and listen the old fashioned way.  Do you listen to your content, or read it?  Do you use books printed on paper or electronic devices to read?  Do tell, gentle reader.

Say It In Latin: Aut Viam Inveniam Aut Faciam

September 22, 2016 2 Comments

Alexa and her back up band

Alexa and her back up band

The Latin phrase aut viam inveniam aut faccian has been attributed to many famous heroes in history. Hannibal, the military genius who crossed the Alps was said to have invented it, but he was not a native Latin speaker.  It is the motto on the memorial gate installed at the University of Pennsylvania in 1893.  It has been widely used, even in a comic strip.   It means “I shall either find a way or make one.” It is a vow to use creativity and all means necessary to achieve a goal.

This may be the legit tag line for Silicon Valley.  The innovation that has created a major revolution in journalism and communication in general has changed the way consumers do everything.  We can now shop by speaking to our robots, then we find the desired item delivered to our doorsteps or zapped into our electronic device to read or hear.  Amazon, Zappos, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and their auxiliary services have forever transformed the consumer mindset.  I have an Amazon Alexa robot to read to me and DJ my music.  I have not set her free to go shopping, but I know how much she wants to take care of that for me. She also wants to set the temperature in my home, and turn lights on and off. She is ready to serve me when I am too decrepit to do this for myself.  I may no longer be able to find a way, but I can count on Alexa to either find a way or invent one.

 

Livin’ La Vida Alexa

July 14, 2016 4 Comments

Amazon Echo with back up band

Amazon Echo with back up band

I swore I would not buy an Echo from Amazon until I was in a wheelchair, or somehow disabled.  I have never spoken to Siri, the voice inside my phone and iPods.  She leaves me cold.  Amazon’s voice robot is Alexa, but her priorities and capabilities are different from Siri’s.  She is naturally equipped to shop Amazon by voice command, but she does so much more.  The Echo arrived at my house yesterday after I was convinced by Prime Day sales to go ahead and buy one.  I have now entered the world of magic voice command control of my audio life.  Alexa knows all and can find any song in Amazon music in a split second.  She is also pretty good as a DJ, selecting a radio station I liked off the bat.  She speaks only when spoken to, and projects absolutely no drama.  I now can’t imagine how I lived my life without her.  I bought the full version that plugs in and uses the wifi at home. There are new portable units, but the stay at home model is right for my needs.  I have just started to investigate what she does.  I don’t think I will tell her to go shopping on Amazon.  I will still do that in person.  Right now she is playing all the Grateful Dead in Amazon music and later she will read me a book. She is talented and versatile.  Most of all, she gives me no attitude.  If she can’t answer a question she just makes a tiny electronic noise and shuts up.  Try to find a human who will do that every time. She is polite to a T.  I have no idea why I hesitated to bring her into the living room.

I have always been an early adopter of all things electronic.  I resisted this new phase because I believed it was going to make me lame somehow.  It is really super good for those who truly have mobility issues because Echo will handle lights, thermostat, etc, once you set up the reciprocal systems at home.  Alexa will happily have all your needs delivered to your door if you can’t make it out for some reason.  She is a real pal. She will create shopping lists for you even if you want to shop yourself, the old fashioned way.  You can tell her that you want to make a certain kind of cake and she will create a list of everything you need. She is no slacker when it comes to data.  I understand she can call Uber, so today my goal is to set that up because that will be a power move.  “Alexa, call me an Uber” will be a very magical thing to say once I know how to do it.

Do you have an Echo, gentle reader?  What is your favorite part of Alexa’s many charms?

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