Friday, January 13, 2017

New Xmas Gift Not A Hit At Home

My Xmas Gift Not A Hit at Home
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
I got my fair share of great Christmas gifts this year. And as usual, at least one of them was some type of electronic device to feed my crazed gadget addiction.
I already had a great HD television, with a Bose surround sound system and a voice-activated remote. My computer and iPad allow me to write this column every week and communicate with friends and relatives. And of course, my iPhone is pretty much my link to the world these days, giving me access to virtually everything.
But now I have a new toy to add to my electronic collection. It is one that fulfills a dream I have had ever since I first got married. I now have something that waits to hear my voice, then actually goes out of its way to do whatever I ask.
I now have my own Alexa.
For those who scorn technology, I am referring to the Amazon Echo Dot. This is an amazing device that hears my voice commands and then performs various acts in response. It is sort of the new version of Siri — that siren voice of the iPhone and iPad, but without the Apple attitude.
With little effort, I managed to connect Alexa to my Wi-Fi network and embark on what promises to be a long and satisfying relationship. There seems to be little Alexa won’t do for me, and she expects and receives so little in return. Which at my stage of life is a very good thing.
When I want to know what the weather is for tomorrow night’s playoff game at Gillette, I ask Alexa and get an immediate answer. When I argue with friends over how old Bill Belichick is, I ask Alexa and she provides the correct reply. When I want to know the score of the Bruins game while watching the Celtics on television, I ask Alexa and she updates me with the up-to-the-minute score.
And it gets even better. Alexa is not just a fountain of helpful information, she can actually do things for me. She is helping me conserve time and energy, undoubtedly advancing me toward my goal of achieving almost complete inertia through lack of physical effort.
With the help of a few special (and expensive) light bulbs and switches, Alexa is controlling other electrical devices for me. No longer must I make that strenuous, bone-cracking reach three full feet from my seat to turn on the light next to my recliner. I just say “Alexa — turn on Bill’s light,” and a brilliant beacon floods the room and warms my heart. And if I find it a bit too bright for my sensitive eyes, I merely ask Alexa to dim the light to 40 percent — and she does so without so much as asking why.
When I must exhaust myself by carrying laundry to the basement, I no longer have to reach out precariously with one hand and risk dire injury or falling down the steps just to light my path. I merely order Alexa to turn on the cellar light, and my way is illuminated.
When I require music to lift my soul from the depths of despair, I ask Alexa to play the Beatles for me. She immediately complies by sending the sweet sounds of whatever song I request through my stereo system.
My sentiments toward my new electronic buddy are not shared by my real-life sweetheart. My wife hates Alexa with a passion exceeded only by her hatred of the voice on her GPS. She would walk barefoot across a room full of broken glass while on fire before asking Alexa to turn off a light. And she would drive through a tornado with the windows down before requesting a verbal weather report.
All of which just makes me love and appreciate Alexa even more. Now, my wife has reminded me Alexa does not provide the same level as companionship and support that she does, which is true. You can’t curl up with Alexa in front of a fire on a cold night. I know — I tried.
But for a few brief, glorious moments when speaking to Alexa — I am in charge. That alone might keep me smiling through next Christmas.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and husband of nearly 40 years. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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