“Alexa, play something that doesn’t make me think about taxes, death, or zombies.”

A shot of an Amazon Alexa with the tagline, "Alexa, play something...that doesn't make me think about taxes, death, or zombies."

I thought I would be the last person to invite Alexa into their home. Then I bought one for Mom. She is 91 and has memory issues. I saw Alexa as a solution to help her remember to take her pills. I set the pill reminders then showed Mom how to ask Alexa virtually any question. No, Mom will most likely have a hard time remembering Alexa’s name which is the required verbal preface for any request or question you shoot her way.

Alexa kicks Siri’s ass. She is not as hard of hearing as her older AI sister is and Alexa also appears to have had a bit more schooling.  I gave up on Siri months ago:

“Siri, how do you say ‘quid pro quo’ in Russian?”
“Hmm…I’m not quite sure about that but here’s something on the Web about the Russian pro squid fishing industry that might be of help…”

I printed out a long list of sample questions and requests for Alexa and went over them with Mom:

“Mom, you can ask her the weather, remind you of your favorite son’s birthday, get stock quotes, play music, create a shopping list, a to-do list, find out what happened on this day in history, figure out how many tablespoons are in a gallon,…you can even have her do mathematical equations for you…”

“Go ahead, ask her what 397 divided by 22 is.”
“Hello, Alexa…[long pause]…How are you today?”
I could tell she was uncomfortable talking to inanimate objects.
“No, Mom, skip the niceties – just dive in with your question.”
“What is 397 divided by…”
She looked at me and whispered: “divided by what?”
“Anything. It doesn’t matter. It’s just to show you what you can ask her.”
Her confused look said it all. Oh well, at least she will get the pill reminder alerts.

Alexa may not have impressed Mom but she did impress me. I bought an Amazon Echo for myself. I can create to-do lists, shopping lists, play music and more. One of my favorite tasks is giving her multiple timers while I am cooking:

“Alexa, set an 8-minute timer for agitating the muriatic acid mixture.”
“Alexa, set a 2-day timer for evaporation of the crystals.”
“Alexa, set a 20-minute time for mixing the iodine and red phosphorus.”
“Alexa, set a reminder to add the 150 grams of ephedrine.”
“Alexa, give me a one-day boiling timer.”

The real find is that she plays ambient sounds for extended periods. I am an insomniac. Yes, I employ melatonin and lavender oil but I also break some major sleep rules: Several years ago, I started the bad habit of sleeping with the television on. The currently polarized, political environment is not very conducive for relaxed sleep so, I resort to channels like National Geographic, The Science Channel, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel and PBS. Then one night, I woke up to an episode of Dateline, a program that seems to drone on forever with an overload of commercials; when the commercial is over, the program resumes – only it seems to rewind one-third of the way through the story; the result is a never-ending story – usually a courtroom trial. I sat up in bed:

“Hurry up and get this fucking trial over with! We know the husband is guilty! My goodness…”
Vicky: “WHAT? Put it back on PBS – there are no commercials.”

I gravitate towards the ancient Egyptian’s & alien being’s construction projects. I also am soothed by the trackings of Sasquatch in deep, Northwest forests. Hitler’s program of stolen artworks is also interesting though this subject usually calls for full attention…

Last night, I woke up at 1:00 am and realized the TV program – I think it was How Lawn Chairs are Made – was not helping my sleep. I read earlier that evening that Alexa plays Sleep Sounds:

“Alexa, play the Sleep Sounds: Ocean Waves.”
Beautiful, ocean sounds and pounding waves filled my bedroom. I bunched my pillow into my favorite position, closed my eyes and imagined I was floating on a raft in the deep, blue ocean.

10 minutes later, I thought about living in an oceanfront home and how many $1,000 paintings it would take to purchase a $3 million home. I could ask Alexa but that will interrupt the mood and probably wake Vicky. Then I imagined the annual property taxes on such a home and figured my painting sales wouldn’t even cover that figure. But I will press on and find a way! But then, there is so much upkeep for an oceanfront home. Yearly painting/staining, replacing shingles, sealing windows, replacing rusted light fixtures. The weather also takes a serious toll on your automobiles. Vicky and I need a two-car garage. And not just a carport but a well-sealed, weatherproof garage. That will add to the price tag and limit the number of potential properties. Then there are hurricanes to deal with. Living in Florida and Puerto Rico, I have been through my share of storms but living oceanfront increases my potential problems. And then there is storm surge. Most serious hurricane threats require the evacuation of homes along Florida’s Northeast coast. Most household items can be replaced but what do I do with all of my paintings? Gone forever…all thanks to hurricanes and the resulting storm surge – if anything is left from the wind damage. Climate change promises more active hurricane seasons and a rise in sea levels that is even worse than a temporary storm surge. Large populations will be forced to leave their homes. An economic impact will follow as a result and people who don’t even live near the ocean will be affected. Climate change will also bring long drought periods. Farmers will be devasted by the loss of crops. The stock market will continue to fall, job figures will shrivel, poverty will increase. These same problems will have a global impact with immigration and border disputes increasing. Armed conflicts and wars will grow in number. Global economic woes will affect our country tremendously and the stock market experiences a crash as history has never witnessed. The dollar is worthless and people resort to trade – if they have anything to barter with. Basic necessities of life are all that citizens worry about. Crime soars. Violent gangs form. One such gang includes Republican, oceanfront homeowners displaced from their seaside addresses. They are mad as hell that no one forewarned them about the rising sea levels. They own AR-15’s – enough for even their children to carry – and terrorize the urban soup kitchens looking for food. Local utilities are no longer able to operate and combined with the loss of clean water and sufficient nutrition, disease is rampant everywhere. The trend is to hide from people – not seek safety in numbers. A large migration happens towards forests, mountains and even arid unpopulated areas. Death is everywhere. More so than any war to date has brought us. The first zombie is discovered near Chillicothe, Ohio. It’s not news because there are no newspapers, no Internet, no radio stations, no TV stations. State-controlled Fox News Network was the last TV source to survive until our ally with the Kremlin dissolved. But no one owned TV’s so what did it matter anyway? News travels mouth to mouth and the zombie story is written off as a myth until more zombies are discovered, most of them in locations further south. A pollster with nothing else to do discovers a migration pattern: the zombies are headed south. And the real danger is that this breed of zombies is not the normal wimpy variety: they move fast – faster than living humans; they studied at prestigious Ivy League schools and their Keto diet of human blood and flesh – along with occasional dandelion greens keeps them in ultimate health. They have more muscles than Arnold Schwarzenegger. And unlike Arnold, their English is perfect and well-annunciated. Vicky & I live in a tent beside a natural spring somewhere in Alachua County, Florida. We hear reports of zombie sitings but so far have not made contact with any. With the lack of a television, I had no sleep for weeks. One morning, I somehow fell into a deep sleep in the tent while Vicky cooked our breakfast of roasted squirrel topped off with an acorn & hearts of saw palmetto pesto. Because every vandalized CVS Pharmacy we came across was out Boston Contact Solution, Vicky could not wear her contact lenses and never saw the zombie that stealthfully pounced on her nor was I even aware of the one who killed me. When I wake up, the eerily familiar site of The Pearly Gates is 50 yards away on the same cloud I am laying on. The gate guardian – who I assume is St. Peter – does not look like one of those old dudes with long, white hair and a long, white beard one sees in a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings movie. No, he is short and dumpy with a gold chain around his neck. He looks like he belongs at a timeshare sales meeting – not at the front door of Heaven. I recognize him as Lev Parnas. “You are Mr. Leedy?” he asks me. I nod the affirmative. At that moment, I notice a slimy red tail with a pitchfork-like shape on its end protruding from his plaid, double knit Sansabelt pants. “Big mistake,” he smiles, ” Don’t see you on list. You go to…”

This ocean sounds thing was too much. I’ve got to get rid of this!

“Alexa, stop Sleep Sounds: Ocean Waves and play Sleep Sounds: Crackling Fireplace.”
“Playing, Sleep Sounds: Crackling…”
NO! Alexa, DO NOT play Sleep Sounds: Crackling…”

I awoke in my favorite bunched pillow position. Daylight creeped through the cracks of the blinds. Just where I was when I was dreaming of floating. The ocean waves softly pounded the imaginary beach and I felt relaxed and well-slept yet with the foggy feeling that I worked very hard the night before.


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