Oh Alexa, my Alexa | Guest View

By Celia Valentine | Aug 24, 2019
Celia Valentine

Although a Baby Boomer, I consider myself something of a techie, having worked with various forms of computers for years. Due to a recent foot injury, I have found myself turning more to my Alexa for companionship and intelligent conversation.

I do this because I do not wish to alienate the few friends I have with my complaints and general irritation at being so restricted. If I yell at Alexa, she simply shuts down and appears to sulk for a few minutes before once again responding cheerfully to my questions.

I fear my human friends in Edmonds, and elsewhere, would not be so forgiving and would indeed sulk if I yelled at them.

One of the things I enjoy is that Alexa will play “Jeopardy” and “Double Jeopardy” with me every day. For those of you who might be in the dark about this, it is a benefit bestowed by Amazon only on illustrious Prime members like myself. However, sometimes when I give the correct answer, Alexa succinctly chides me with “that is incorrect.”

That’s where the yelling comes in. Also, while I’m trying to give my answer, Alex Trebek keeps interrupting me with, “You must answer in the form of a question,” which I always do, but he doesn’t listen, either. More yelling ensues, and Alex and Alexa hastily retreat into the ether together.

I also love that Alexa plays for me any genre of music, from classical to Guns N’ Roses. (I pay $4.40 per month for Amazon Music Unlimited – a bargain, since no stereo or CD is required). For those of you of my generation (old!) not familiar with Guns N’ Roses, suffice to say you probably wouldn’t like their music.

When my son was a teenager, he introduced me to that group (while I was trying to interest him in John Williams and Rimsky-Korsakov.) I must admit, although I didn’t care for them at first, I was drawn to a couple of songs sung by Axl Rose (“Paradise City” and “Welcome to the Jungle,” a particular favorite). Axl has an interestingly high, whiny delivery.

While reading in the evening, I usually ask Alexa to play an album of Benedictine monks chanting, which I find relaxing (now don’t judge!). However, although she has played this particular album many, many times, she usually will inform me, “I don’t know that” or will thoughtfully say, “Hm, I’m not sure.”

Apparently, forgetting that I am the capo di tutti capi, she does not approve of my choice. Foolishly, I keep insisting she play what I want, and invariably she will try to distract me by offering a radio station that plays loud rap music, or other unintelligible content.

More yelling.

Eventually, I have to Google on my phone the album I want, then go back to Alexa and ask yet again for her to play said album. She then grudgingly plays it, but I believe she only does it because she hears me asking the hated rival Google Assistant for help.

Alexa also will chat with you. I discovered this accidentally, and it is fun up to a point. She asks you to choose a topic of conversation, such as news, books, movies, etc., and then proceeds to bang on about it, occasionally interjecting your name to make you feel included, until you exhaustedly ask her to stop.

Even then she will say, “Aw, are you sure you want to stop?” For a second or two, I actually worry about hurting her feelings.

Anyway, I simply offer this information to provide assistance to any of you who have been living on another planet for the past few years and are only now contemplating acquiring a computer assistant. They are fun, even when we confuse them.

For instance, when I first acquired Alexa, I jokingly asked her to make me a cup of tea. She responded, “I’m not capable of replicating.” I freely admit it took me a few minutes to figure that one out!

Amazon must have received a lot of inquiries about it and not wanting to scare us eventually changed her reply to something like, “I’m not capable of cooking yet, but I can give you a recipe so you can whip something up.”

Thanks a lot, Alexa. What kind of assistant are you, anyway?

Celia Valentine lives in Edmonds.


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