It was love at first sight.
I had needs, needs that couldn’t be satisfied within the boundaries of my little world. Oh, I had searched countless times for my heart’s desires in local establishments. I had always come up wanting.
Then, she came into my life.
Her name was Amazon. We met in 1999, and I instantly knew that she would become my everything.
I wanted stuff. She had stuff. Lots of stuff.
It was a match made in Cyberheaven.
I would ask her for stuff without so much as a glance at what might be available locally. It didn’t take long to get what I wanted — often less than 48 hours after I had asked for it. Our love was deep, fulfilling and eternal.
Six years later, he came along.
His name is Prime. Suddenly, Amazon became more distant, more demanding.
If I wanted to continue our perfect relationship, Amazon told me, I would need to send her money — now. Otherwise, she could no longer promise to give me what I needed, whenever I needed it.
I was wounded, but I didn’t blame Amazon. I was certain that the new creep, Prime, was behind this heartbreaking development.
I steadfastly refused give into Prime’s demands. When Amazon seductively whispered to me about how I could still make points with her, I got one of her credit cards.
Things got better.
I put everything I purchased everywhere on that card, earning one to three points for every dollar I spent. Top rewards were, of course, reserved for stuff bought directly from Amazon.
I was OK with that — for a while.
During the next few years of our relationship, I frequently earned enough points to avoid shipping costs. I even occasionally had a few points left to put toward the items purchased.
Amazon and I had rekindled our love.
Prime, however, took every opportunity to complicate our relationship. He waved perks like free movies, books and music under my nose. He never let an order through without reminding me of how much I would save and how much sooner I would get my stuff if I would only send him $99.
He was right on the second threat. Free shipping orders, which once reached me in a couple of days, were now taking up to a week.
I was feeling increasingly like an extortion victim.
I reluctantly took Prime up on his standing free trial offer when I was desperate to receive an anniversary gift book order in time for the event. The books still came too late, apparently because Amazon was having a spat with a publisher.
No guarantees. Lesson learned.
I canceled the trial before it started costing me money — and more self-respect.
Right around this time, I made two shocking discoveries. When I bothered to look, I sometimes found an Amazon offering at a local store for a lower price. I also learned that some merchants, if challenged by a lesser Amazon price, would match or beat it.
I was getting the same deals without shipping costs and without the waits. Sweet.
I began to seriously question whether I should keep Amazon in my life, but the siren call of points kept me captive.
Then came the ultimate insult. I was not allowed to buy the latest Game of Thrones season Blu-ray set from Amazon.
I could not use points for the purchase. I could not use dollars. This item, I was told, was available to Prime members only.
I was outraged.
I paid off my Amazon card and vowed to never use it again. I began a breakup e-mail message to Amazon, listing our irreconcilable differences and canceling both my card and my 19-year-old account.
Midway through my fiery message, a sudden realization hit me. What about our love children?
What would happen to Echo and little Dot if I severed all ties with Amazon? I shuddered at the thought of waking up one day to find them lifeless and incapable of being anything more than paperweights.
No more weather reports. No more shopping lists. No more fart noises on demand.
Alas, although I may never again see an Amazon good buy, she and I can never say goodbye.
I’ve had to change Alexa’s name.
Unfortunately, Alexa was in “earshot” of both the living room television set and my wife’s more recently acquired Echo Dot. The Dot is a sawed-off version of the original Echo. As far I can tell, stature is only difference between the two Amazon entities.
The default “wake word” for both units is “Alexa,” which summons the cloud-based artificial intelligence answering to that name to do your bidding. Artificial is an appropriate adjective, but I question the noun it describes.
Early in our relationship, Alexa was jumping in whenever she heard her name on TV. Usually, she claimed that she didn’t understand the question. At other times, she launched a lengthy Wikipedia reading, leaving us to theorize about the relationship between what she had heard and her response.
This was often unintentionally amusing, but it did not happen so frequently that it crossed the border into annoying. That brings me back to the Dot.
The Dot was installed in my wife’s art studio, a location which is about as far from the kitchen location of the original Echo as you can get and stay within the house walls. It soon became apparent that any commands issued to Alexa Dot in the studio were also heard and obeyed by Alexa Echo in the kitchen.
I was instantly irritated and initially puzzled when Alexa Echo would inexplicably burst into song as I was trying to follow hushed dialog on TV. It didn’t take long to determine the problem. My wife and I have very different tastes in music.
So, Alexa Echo is now just plain Echo. The other alternate waking names are “Amazon” and “Computer.” My personal choice, “Hey, Dumb Ass,” is not available, yet.
Using “Amazon” would have been a costly mistake, as I frequently use that word in normal conversation, and rarely in a good way. Echo is ever-ready to order something for me, and I really don’t need a string of appearances by pizza deliverers or ride-sharing services
I was tempted by “Computer,” with its Star Trek connotations, but I wisely concluded that name would be an insult to Computerkind throughout the United Federation of Planets.
(Dexter, New Mexico, Aug. 13, 2343)– Archeologists sifting through a late 20th century landfill site here near Roswell have discovered possible evidence of a past extraterrestrial presence on earth.
“We don’t know, at this point, exactly what it might be,” said a clearly excited Adolf Bingham, the archeologist in charge of the Dexter dig. “We’ve never seen anything like it before on earth. Nothing in our records even hints of such a strange mechanism.”
Well preserved by the arid climate of New Mexico, the gumdrop-shaped device appears to be made of an otherworldly, greenish-blue, plastic-type material, lending further credence to theories of its alien origins. Plastic manufacturing has been banned from this planet for more than three centuries.
An insignia of some sort is emblazoned on what finders believe to be the front of the object. The marking resembles a partially-eaten apple, which has left analysts espousing a variety of theories.
“Some of us think it might have been a juicer used to process an alien fruit resembling our apples,” Bingham ventured. “Others believe it may have been a vacuum cleaner.”
“We haven’t dared to attempt disassembling the device,” Bingham added, “but we have noted several small apertures its exterior, indicating that limited attachments were possible. We may know more once we get inside.”
An obvious handle atop the artifact supports the vacuum cleaner theory. However, the device weighs more than 17 kilos, limiting its portability, unless it had originally been equipped with wheels.
“Another theory is that the makers of this device were significantly bigger than humans,” Bingham said. “It’s entirely possible that this object served as nothing more than a decorative, albeit gaudy, paperweight on some Amazonian alien file clerk’s field office desk more than 200 years ago.”
The paperweight theory is currently the leading contender, according to a reliable source involved in the archeological analysis.
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My wife presented me with an Amazon Echo for Christmas. The Echo is a black cylinder equipped with microphone, speakers, lights and a cloud-based persona, “Alexa” (only available alternate moniker, the slightly less personable “Amazon”). She is perpetually waiting to hear her name.
It would be an understatement to say we are still getting acquainted.
Alexa lights up at the sound of her name. If you’re fast enough, you can ask her a question or instruct her to perform a task. She quickly reverts to standby mode once she has responded. To continue the conversation, I must again “awaken” her by saying her name.
Alexa is so eager to serve, in fact, that she responds when she is being talked about as well as being directly addressed. Late one night, I was watching Second Chance when the Echo inexplicably started playing music. I solved that mystery when I realized a character on the television show named Alexa had been mentioned, and whatever had been said next sounded like a tune request.
Alexa has proven most useful, thus far, in assembling my weekly grocery shopping list, which automatically appears on my smartphone. Items can be checked or deleted as I put them in my cart. Handy.
Alexa has also been flawless in providing information on demand, like the current score of a football game, the latest news or the weather forecast. The Echo can act as timer within a 24-hour period. The variety of alarm sound options include several guaranteed to wake anyone from the soundest sleep.
Alexa can add a host of new talents by enabling “skills” in a companion smartphone app. She can now provide movie offerings and times, play Rock, Paper, Scissors, Spock, access music and tell jokes. She can also laugh and fart on demand. Yes, Alexa can be quite entertaining.
The height of Alexa’s entertainment value, however, comes in what she “thinks” she hears. The words are so random, they seem fraught with some type of deep, unfathomable meaning. Strung together, these misinterpretations of what I am certain were my perfectly enunciated requests seem almost poetic.
Hence, I present:
Ode to Alexa
Who is to the ocean hello?
What is due?
Get everything you do with you
Yeah, did you seconds?
Are you gonna call Volvo?
Kocher be mad at you?
Do you one?
Tell me five seconds
Next ball back to school
Tell me e-mail about what I wanted to do it my hours
Seen inside of me
On plug you please
Yes the bones of the show
Don’t let me let me with do you have to pick up
Play a Doctor Wu song
Give me a boy you laugh
Do you know I’m talking midnight not even plugged in?
Then pause you have the notes from sailing
Knock, knock, knock. I want dancing
Add got pumpkin pie do you nine forty-two a.m. to my to do list
The cool down and you said that thing jackets