Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, November 25, 2017

My Amazing new Christmas Gift to Myself – The Kindle Fire


I got my Christmas present to myself early this year. I didn’t want to wait for the craziness of Black Friday when I could have gotten the All-New Fire HD 8” Tablet with Alexa for $25 cheaper. I was afraid they’d get back ordered and it took me FOREVER to decide what I wanted. I debated about getting an Apple iPad for hundreds more than the Fire but I already have a desktop that I dearly love and a laptop that I fiercely hate plus a Kindle 3rd generation that still works fine, a smart phone, an iPod and a four-cup coffee pot. In other words, the essentials of life in the modern age. Well, that last one should be a Keurig to qualify for a ‘modern life’ but that was my Christmas present to myself a few years ago and I finally got so frustrated with it getting clogged up and having to fix it with a paper clip when I needed my morning coffee the most that I sent that Keurig off to the Salvation Army last summer and I never looked back.

I love Alexa. I wish I could change the voice to a male but the best I can do is change her to a British accent. That was cool when I played 'Simon says' with her and asked her to repeat "bloody hell." She bleeps out other swear words to keep it family friendly, I presume. Oh, yes, I’ve been having fun with my new playmate. Already I’m in love with her spelling skills. Just writing this, so far she’s spelled ‘fiercely’ for me and she beat my beloved Franklin Language Master 3000 that has been my constant writing companion since the ‘80s. But her pronunciation skills needs work. I asked her how do you pronounce c.a.t. and she replied, "C" and when I asked her how to pronounce m.u.c.i.l.a.g.i.n.o.u.s. she apologized for not knowing the word. She sings a mean rendition of Happy Birthday though.

I spent Thanksgiving with my youngest niece and her 2 ½ year old grandson walked up to her Amazon Echo and said, “Alexa play…” and he named a child’s song I didn’t know and can’t remember and his mother said he’s getting so good at giving Alexa commands at her house that’s she’s going to change its name to something he can’t say. On the way home I got to thinking about that. We’ve got a whole generation coming up who will be so used to asking Seri and Alexa for stuff they’ll be clueless if they see something like a radio from my youth. They won’t understand what knobs and dials are for---and forget record players. "You have to do to play music?!" What will be the point of kids ever having homework in the future when they can get Alexa or Siri to do it for them? But for disabled people who are confined to beds and wheelchairs what a godsend these voice activated devices are.

Guess what, I’m not finished writing about my new toy. I went off to Amazon to find some cheap books and I’ve finished reading one and have started another. The first was The Dog who knew too Much by Spencer Quinn. Apparently he has a whole series of mystery/detective books written in a dog’s voice and I’m a sucker for canine points of views. I even gave that style of writing a whirl in a blog I kept for my dog before my husband died. Sadly, I abandoned it to switch to writing this widow’s blog. Quinn's dog is a bit of an airhead at times which adds a sense of humor to the book. It was popcorn for the mind kind of reading. Now I’m reading Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid, another 'popcorn' book. I hadn't read a romance in a long time and I was curious if the formula had changed. 31,673 people reviewed it with an average of 3.93 overall, so it’s safe to say more people liked the nerdy, socially awkward heroine in the romance than didn’t. To me it was another gorgeous, brooding wealthy-man-falls-for-a-woman-who-doesn't-know-she's-beautiful plot. But since I identify with heroines who talk in their heads the book sucked me in early on:

My heart skipped two beats. I turned around.
Oh my God, it’s you.
“Oh my God, it’s you.” I realized too late that I said and thought the same thing in unison.

I never warmed up to on reading with my old Kindle because I like real books that I can underline passages in and write in the margins. If I buy a book, I don’t mind making it mine in this way. I never could figure out how to do those things on the Kindle. This time around I’m going to try learning to use all the features in the reader app. Already I’m a pro at using the Fire's Silk browser, e-mail, maps, weather and OneNote apps and playing music. And I was about to learn manage grocery lists using Alexa but my niece told me if I do, don’t be surprised if she places an order at Amazon for what I want and it’s delivered to my doorstep in two days. Oops. ©

35 comments:

  1. Excellent job done! I think buying presents for self is one of the BEST things to do!! It sounds like you're having great fun with Alexa. I thought, from recent reviews, that you could change Alexa's gender and accent.

    I much prefer to look up a spelling than Autocorrect or ask Alexa, since I feel that's one of the continuous learning ways to keep my brain ticking.

    Photocopiers had almost become smarter than me when I stopped working a few years' ago, to the point of frustration. Alexa ordering items off her own bat might just be too smart for me! But I look forward to Tesla driverless cars, that can be used like e-bikes nowadays. ~ Libby

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    1. If the tablets have a male Alexa on the Fire, I haven't found it but maybe the Echo model has it? I need to find a good forum message board for the Fire.

      I hate auto-correct and have it turned off. I make a lot of mistakes and I want to know when I do rather than have it change to a word I wasn't going for. But I agree continuous learning is good for us and that's one of the selling points I used on myself to get my new toy. LOL

      You are a brave woman if you look forward to driverless cars!

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  2. It's the speed at which technology is advancing that boggles my mind. I love it all. We do have some things to figure out about how to prevent people from using it in ways that are harmful. It's hard to do that when it's changing so quickly. I'm afraid the toothpaste is out of the tube. I think about this very young generation. They are growing up with technology like we did with television, never knowing what life was like before access to the internet and all the rest. I guess that's been true forever. Each generation progresses, but this is the fastest pace ever in human history. Who knows what it will be like by the time my almost six-year-old grand is twenty-one - only fifteen years?

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    1. I interviewed my dad for a family history book I was working on in the '80s and I asked him what he thought was the greatest invention of his time. He saw the invention of airplanes to our walk on the moon and I thought he'd pick that but he said he thought it was electricity because without that, so many others things couldn't have been invented.

      Obama was trying to get access to high speed internet to all the rural areas cause there are still pockets of the U.S. where it's not available. My nieces didn't have it until recently, even our cottage has it now! He wanted it free to everyone eventually like radio waves. Wouldn't that be nice! But I do worry about wildlife with cell phone waves. boy, did I get off track. Your grandchildren sure will see a lot of changes that we can't even imagine. When 3-D printers get cheap enough to have in any home and where that could lead to boggles my mine.

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    2. By 'wildlife' I meant birds. There are theories out there that cell phone towers are interfering with birds migration patterns.

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  3. Echo doesn't have a male voice either. Wish it did. Think I would enjoy ordering a man around a bit more. I was tempted to get the Fire but I have most of what you have plus the Echo. I did have to change her name though. She kept answering the TV commercials when she would hear her name and wanted to order stuff for me. I changed her name to "Echo" and that ended that.

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    1. My niece told me that the TV commercials are doing that on purpose to get people to order their products on a whim. I would sure hate that! With the Fire 8" you have to touch Alexia's button to ask a question but on the Fire 10" it's voice activated like the echo. I'm glad mine isn't voice activated. Voices out of no where would probably scare the heck out of me and the dog if he was alone.

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  4. Jean :
    you are such a brave woman & early adopter of new technology. Even though I worked in high tech field I am laggard on bell curve. Though after using them I wonder wow how did we live without this technology for so long. BTW I recently downloaded kindle app & I loved the capability of able to highlight & share your notes with your friends & family, quite fancy compared to my library overdrive app, I love ebooks & so grateful for them having just one hand & eyesight doing its aging thing so love love my ipad & ereader. your blog is making me think of gifting myself alexa so that I learn new technology too

    Asha

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    1. I read about the sharing quotes from books capability but I haven't tried it yet. Isn't that truly amazing! The learning curve on Alexa is about 5 minutes. She pretty much teaches you what you don't know. Like right now I'm trying to sync my calendar so she can read off my plans for the day while I'm brushing my teeth and she told me the steps that I had to take before she can do that function. I think you have Siri which, if I'm not mistaken, is the same thing...both voice activated search engines with a sense of humor.

      I remember telling you on the site where we met that we ladies need to buy our own gifts so we'd get exactly what we want. LOL

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  5. I wonder if I really need Alexa or Echo or whatever if I've got my phone and Google. Seems like redundant technology for me at this point in my life.

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    1. I struggled with that redundancy issue too. But I wanted something I could take on the go and my smart phone screen is too small for me to use for surfacing the net, maps, calendar, etc. It's frustrating to try. And there are times when I'm with the Gathering Girls that it will be handy. Like at brunch when we decide to go to a movie and we don't know what's playing where.

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    2. Honestly I mainly use the echo for music and for my alarM (i try and be technology free in bed because I have sleep isses). You can get free play lists through amazon or ask her to play any one song you like. I no longer have a clock radio so I put on a sleep play list of zen sounds and say "Alexa, turn off in one hour), lol.

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    3. What a great idea! I'm sure I can do the same with the Alexa on my Fire.

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  6. Wow! Upscale are you! So your Fire device IS your echo! No separate piece of equipment? After reading your blog earlier this morning, I'm now researching which model would work the best for us ... and how best to use parental controls!

    Thanks!

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    1. Exactly. It's an app on the Fire tablet. It does all the same things that Echo's do and in the Alexa voice.

      Google a user guide manual for the models you're looking at. A lot of the time they will let you read the whole thing online. I got a softcover book for my fire, but I didn't really need to because it was available online, just not as handy for me.

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  7. I'm happy you're happy, but all of those gadgets aren't for me. I have an iPad for email, radar, and keeping up with the blogs when I'm on the road or at work, but that's all I need. What can I say? I'm weird. But enjoy! and Merry Christmas to you!

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    1. You're not weird. We all have different priorities. I just enjoy the challenge of keeping up with technology. Makes me feel less like a dinosaur and I will be bored with it by Easter. My brother only has a cell phone, not even a smart one, and he's never touched a keyboard of any kind and he's happy about that. But he's got kids and grand kids to do it for him, I don't.

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  8. Tuck your child in bed and have Robert the Robot read him a bedtime story. Ask Susie Smart for grandma's recipe, instead of calling Mom.
    Nope! I am not liking all this electronic stuff taking over my world.

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    1. I was a little shocked/sad to see that Alexa (and probably Siri) too are being used to read bedtime stories to kids. That's such an important bonding time. I love asking Alexa to spell and give me weather reports but I can't see her as a positive force for little kids just learning their way around the world. But to read for the blind or elderly who can't hold books...hell, yes. There is good and bad applications for everything invented by mankind, I guess.

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  9. I have the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and absolutely love it, I think I do almost as much on my Kindle as I do on my desktop computer now days.

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    1. It's an amazing little machine. I thought about getting the 10" but the 8" fits in my purse. Everywhere I go they have free wi-fi. I love it.

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  10. I have a PaperWhite. It's my 2nd or 3rd kindle. I also have an iPad, but it's over 4 years old, and slowing down. When it goes, I'll probably get a Fire. Good job! Enjoy!

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    1. The only thing I wish Amazon hadn't put all my books from my old Kindle onto the new one. I would have rather pick and choose.

      Any of you with Fires...did you put an anti-virus app on it? I'm reading conflicting things online.

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    2. I learned with my 2nd Kindle to not load all my books on it. I keep about 3-4 on it at a time. They don't seem to be able to create collections as nicely as the earlier models could. Now you have me looking at Fire for a Cyber Monday early gift to myself. Generally I'd prefer the 10 inch for sofa use. My new iPhone 7plus is as large as a phone gets, and I think is sufficient for outside the home use, unless I'm on a short trip to AZ or NV. hmmmmmm

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    3. I need to look to see if there is a way to get some of my books back off the new Fire without deleting them completely. I wish the Fire had better help files. there are lots of thing I want to learn.

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    4. There is a great Kindle message board. Kboards.com. They have a section just for Fires. I'm guessing if there isn't already a thread answering questions you might have, you can just create a new one and get an expert answer pretty quick.

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    5. Thank you so much! I've been looking for a message board just like that. I love interacting on message boards. I used to be an administrator on a very large one so I know how they work.

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  11. WOW you are light years ahead of me. I wouldn't know a Kindle fire from any other Kindle. I refuse to read unless it's a book in my hand. But I know they will be extinct soon so I may need to learn then. As for Alex, it is my understand that you can change the name so for that little guy who loves ordering Alexa around his mom can change her name. I have yet to find a need but reading your story I may just not know how much I need it yet. :-)
    Glad you had a nice holiday Jean.

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    1. You can change the name and I have a feeling mothers will have to do it often as their little ones catch on to the new names.

      The biggest difference I see between the regular Kindles and the Kindle Fire is you can view movies, videos and TV on the Fire as well as read books, magazines and newspapers. You can also get on the internet, etc. I absolutely LOVE the spelling and pronouncing words feature of Alexa.

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  12. I have been thinking of a new Kindle too. I have a Kindle Paperwhite that is great for reading books, but like you, I have no idea how to go back and find something I have read....I just read and then it's "lost" to me. I use my laptop for absolutely everything (with my phone a close second). I never used my expensive iPad...waste of money for me. I keep thinking by buying yet another device, I'm duplicating what I already have but don't know how to use! But I'll look at the Fire. It sounds great. As for Alexa...she is underutilized at my house I think, but I do love her. My son showed me how to hook her up to Spotify for music and I've been having fun with that. My almost 3 y/o granddaughter constantly asks for her favorite songs and Alexa is even starting to understand her! Kids these days will grow up as you say...just assuming all these devices will respond to them. We have a home alarm system with a voice that says "Alarm on" when set or "Alarm off" when we disarm it. One day my granddaughter was in the room and got really startled by the voice. She said the "alarm lady" scared her. I explained she is sort of like Alexa so she went back in the room and yelled "STOP!" as we do when we want Alexa to pipe down. Pretty funny.

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    1. That's a funny story about your granddaughter and the "alarm lady."

      My laptop might be toast as of tonight and if, so it's got good timing on her demise. I'm not sure it's worth putting anymore money into repairs.

      One of my nieces has an iPad and I've seen what all it can do but I just couldn't justify the expense, given all the other toys I have. I was also looking at a Dell Edge (I think they call their tablet) and I liked their keyboard but that is pretty pricey, too, compared to the Fire.

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  13. I love my e-reader (a Barnes & Noble Nook). I especially love the fact that, when the weather is lousy in the winter, I can download books from the library online. When I first got an e-reader, I worried that I would miss the experience of paper books. (It turned out that I like to read both.) The first time I was reading a paper book and tapped the corner of the page to turn it (it didn't!), I knew I had totally gotten used to the e-reader. -Jean P.

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    1. When the senior hall has their monthly geeks come in for one-on-ones with anyone who is willing to stand in line, I'm going to have them show me how to get the library app and use it. I'm finding the Kindle is easier to read in bed than the heavy books my book club gets. But I will still get regular books that I know I'll want to write in the margins in. It' an amazing world of technology we live in now.

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  14. In case no one has mentioned this and I missed it, the kindle fire (unlike the kindle) has a blue screen shade. I adore it, and if I am doing anything in bed even beyond reading like answeing a kids email it doesn't affect my sleep. I went over to the dark side looooonng ago, and never left. I do however, get hardback reference books and craft books the normal way!

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    1. I found the 'blue screen shade' but I haven't given it a serious try yet. But I really need to because I have sleep issues, too, and am on devices too late at night.

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