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, December 30, 2017

Alexa, are you Listening to me?



I have started out so many new years with written declarations and goals for the coming months, but for some reason known only to The Shadow, this year was different. (If you know who The Shadow was congratulations, you’ve passed the age requirement test for reading this blog entry.) I wrote down nothing for 2018 Resolutions. Nada. But I do believe in having them. And I believe in having all my bills paid by January first and writing those last minute donation checks to charity when I can afford it. Both of those are checked and off the list in my head. I do believe in declaring that I’m going to lose all that weight I gained between Halloween and the last day of the year. Checked and we’ll see how long that promise to myself will last. My track record predicts I’ll make it to my bi-annual doctor’s appointment in April before that goal falls by the wayside. I do believe in setting goals for self-improvement and that we need that January first reset button to kick us in the butt because we humans are slackers when we’re doing stuff for ourselves. At least this human is. 

For the past eight or nine days I thought I’d die of boredom. If I talked to anyone it was one of those foreign scammers trying to get me to go to my computer and give them remote access so they can gobble up all the passwords to my bank accounts while pretending to save me from hackers. I do enjoy acting like Dolly Dumbbell that has them thinking they’ve hooked their fish before I press the button on my phone that cuts them off mid-sentence and blocks their number from calling again. But I’m not sure if those blood suckers count as human contract. 

I did have human contact last week by text, e-mail, Facebook and blog comments. While that’s very nice it’s not the same has hearing a voice or exchanging hugs in person. And I worry. It’s what I do best. I worry that someday I’ll think all the human contact that come through computers and devices aren’t real, with real people sending them. I mean already we find ourselves trying to have two-way conversations with our “intelligent personal assistants"---Siri and Alexa. That tells me we’re getting closer to someone creating a nanny app that keeps old people from getting lonely. (Remember the Saturday Night Live spoof “commercial” for the Echo Silver for the Greatest Generation?) It could/would be so easy to believe “friends” that are Wi-Fi enabled are real or that actual friends who use devices and computers to communicate are not real. 

Have you ever gotten annoyed with Alexa? I do it on a daily basis when she says, “Sorry, I don’t know that one.” Her tone of voice is so dismissive and I have to remind myself that Alexa is not a real person. It’s probably some software engineer with a peach-fuzzy chin that I need to direct my annoyance at when Alexa does something like recommend spinach and salmon sandwiches when I asked her how to fry fish. By the way, I didn’t really want to know how to fry fish; I like testing Alexa’s knowledge base and two times out of three when I asked if the world is round, she knew the correct answer but the last time she said she wasn’t sure. Yup, I managed to badger and bully Alexa into doubting her language processing algorithms. I told you I was bored. But it's kind of scary human-like that you can trick a computer into processing the very same information differently just by repeating it. Moms do that all the time, “Did you break that window?” “No!” “Look at me! Did you break that window?” No, Mom! “Jimmy, don’t lie to me! Did you break that window?” “It was an accident!” I guess that's not exactly the same thing, but humor me anyway.

Back to New Year’s traditions: One of my favorite movies to watch on the last night of the year is a 2011 comedy romance titled New Year’s Eve and it centers around the ball dropping at Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It gets stuck and the woman in charge of the drop steps forward and makes a touching speech and I’ll finish this blog entry by quoting it here. They're words we’d all do well to take into our hearts and try to live by: “…As you all can see, the ball has stopped half way to its perch. it's suspended there to remind us before we pop the champagne and celebrate the new year, to stop and reflect on the year that has gone by, to remember both our triumphs and our missteps, our promises made and broken, the times we opened ourselves up to great adventures... or closed ourselves down for fear of getting hurt, because that's what new year's all about, getting another chance, a chance to forgive. To do better, to do more, to give more, to love more, and to stop worrying about what if... and start embracing what will be. So when that ball drops at midnight, and it will drop, let's remember to be nice to each other, kind to each other, and not just tonight but all year long.”  

With the New Year, we each get a fresh start, a second chance. Are you listening, Alexa? Maybe I’ll start by being nicer to you. © 

 * Above photo: Orson Wells, the radio voice for The Shadow in 1937-38. The video below is the spoof commercial for an Amazon Echo Silver for old people.


33 comments:

  1. Ok Ok maybe I did break the window!

    Excellent post Jean, I loved the message in the speech you quoted and agree there are a lot of wise words that we all should follow.

    The SNL skit is hilarious, I may have to get an Amazon echo silver for myself.

    Happy New Year Jean.

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    1. Isn't that spoof commercial funny and I think it is because we can all see ourselves or someone we know in it.

      Happy New Year to you and Cindy, Jimmy, and everyone who comes here to read my blog.

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  2. Oh yes, I knew of the Shadow. For months I tried to cloud my parent's minds so they couldn't see me. Never quite got it right and think I strained my brain.
    Loved Echo Silver. I do enjoy my non silver version though.

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    1. "The clouded mind sees nothing." Funny. No, I don't think you got that right. LOL

      I am resisting getting an Echo to go along with the one in my Kindle Fire. It's like taking an imaginary friend to a whole new level. But, seriously, our generation knows the difference. I wonder about the long term results of little kids growing up with them. They won't know how to find information any other way, to research.

      I'm resisting the

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  3. Alexia not in my house; Siri is, and often doesn't understand what I want - but she tries!

    I don't generally watch movies, but if I did, 'Love Actually' would be up there for NYE. I recently found out it had a sequel (released last year, I think) and was stupidly pleased to find out that Laura Linney's character (the one with the brother with mental issues) was happily married (to dream boat Patrick Dempsey from 'Grey's Anatomy'). ~ Libby

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    1. I just watched the trailer of "Love Actually." Looks like my kind of movie. I'm going to look for it for New Years Eve. I can probably do 3-4 that night. I'm a Hugh Grant fan as a bonus.

      For me, my problem with Alexia is I don't talk fast enough or I should say spell fast enough. I'm always asking her how to pronounce words or the reverse---I ask her how to spell words or define them.

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    2. If you do watch 'Love Actually', you'll be interested in UK's PM (Hugh Grant) speech to the visiting USA Prez, in light of current politics. I re-watched it yesterday and restrained myself from leaping up and yelling 'Bravo!!'. Or, just watch that clip on Youtube. ~ Libby

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  4. I want an Echo Silver! I laughed out loud!

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    1. I've seen it 3-4 times and I still laugh. One of the best from SNL.

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  5. Best wishes for a happy New Year!
    Lian

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  6. Loved this post. The kids gave Alexia to us for Christmas. Maybe they were looking for a baby-sitter... or maybe a granny-sitter. :) The SNL Echo Silver commercial is hilarious.

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    1. They are fun to play with but have some great and practical functions. I wonder how much we'll use them when the newness wears off.

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  7. Happy New Year Jean. I hope that you'll have a wonderful, healthy and better year with your government. ha,ha,ha.
    Also the new year gives us with a stronger friendship my friend in Michigan.

    " HAPPY NEW YEAR "

    Cruisin Paul

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  8. I've only had my Fire for a week, so I haven't gotten 'into' Alexa just yet. LOL

    I believe in new years resolutions, but I don't beat myself up when they eventually fall by the wayside. ;)

    Happy new year, my friend! I'm VERY REAL!!!

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    1. Ask her about your social security check. LOL I don't beat myself up either if I don't make my resolutions all come true but, as they say, if you only get half way there that's better than never having set off on the mission in the first place.

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  9. I'm gonna go over to Ronni's blog and see what she has to say about that skit. Made me laugh out loud!
    What influenced your decision to bring Alexa into your home?

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  10. Good luck finding Ronni's blog about the Echo Silver. It was a long time ago but if I'm remembering correctly she disapproved of the elder stereotyping. Someone else recently blogged about Alexia but I can't find the post now and I don't remember who it was. :(

    I didn't really decide to get Alexia specifically. I bought a new Amazon Kindle Fire and she came with it. My old Kindle was a three and the new one is an eight. Difference between day and night. But I love it for spelling.

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    1. P.S. Found it. It was in 'Straight Up, No Chaser's' blog. Find her in my sidebar if you don't follow her.

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  11. I like "Love Actually" and think Emma Thompson is wonderful in it. The opening scene makes you think you've stumbled upon the wrong movie; hang in there. ;-)

    I have Siri on my phone and find her completely useless. All she does is bring up a list of websites where I can go find the answer to my question. I use Google Voice instead. It at least reads me info from the first site it brings up.

    Anyway, Happy New Year, Jean. I'm very glad I found your blog, even though it escapes me exactly how it happened that I did. You are a pleasure to read.

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    1. I'm going to try finding Love Actually on netflix tonight. Two of my bloggers friends can't be both wrong.

      Alexia has brought up websites for me, too, but usually she has an answer. I probably ask simpler questions than you do. I'm betting all these personal assistants will change a lot in the next few years. They are letting second party licensees use the technology to develop for specialized fields.

      I have tried to remember how I connected with different bloggers, too. Mostly I them by reading comments bloggers leave somewhere.

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  12. To Nance and Libby. I rented 'Love Actually' and five minutes into it I realized I've seen it before. I LOVE the monologue at the beginning and the airport scene at the end really makes you feel good. I liked most of the subplots in the movie but not all of them. Libby: my favorite character was Laura Linney's love interest, Karl, Rodrigo Santoro. That eye candy reminded me of the Lowe's cashier I wrote about last month.

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    1. Thank you for the update. ~ Libby

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  13. Beautiful inspiring post...plus the whole Alexa thing cracked me up! I've decided that Alexa is infinity more intelligent than Siri....Siri knows almost no answers to what I ask her and only directs me to websites I could have googled anyway. At least Alexa answers some questions in her own voice and tries to be helpful. But I loved that you badgered her into not knowing if the earth is round. LOL Happy New Year, dear Jean. May 2018 be full of love and laughter and great blogging!

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    1. I think Siri has a better sense of humor than Alexia, but she usually does answer questions without sending me to websites. I've figured her out limit regarding the badgering. Three times and she gives up. LOL

      Happy New Year, Donna. Keep up the good fight.

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  14. Uh, oh, I definitely meet the age requirement. (lol) I haven't watched this movie, but they are certainly wonderful words of wisdom to get things started. People tell me all the time to actually tell my phone what I'm looking for, but I still prefer to type it in. Like you, I actually wrote a post about the need to just speak with someone on the phone every now and then versus the use of social media, but I fear very few people are in agreement. For the most part I'm stuck with giving out hugs over the Internet. Happy New Year Jean! And here is that hug....(lol)

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    1. I'm truly amazed how quickly phone calls are being replaced with texting. I never thought the day would come where that could happen. It's getting way too common.

      I got an actual hug today!!!! It's been at least a month.

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  15. Happy New Year Jean.
    I think I am the only person who doesn't have an echo or Alexa.
    Come on over, Rick loves to give out hugs, he thinks they are medicinal. ((hugs))

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    1. I've read articles that back up Rick on that...that hugs are good for your health and well being. Human touch is one thing people living alone really miss if they don't have it.

      You may not have an Alexia but I'll bet you've talked one the phone. If you get a call from a company and you ask, "Are you a real person?" and they answer I'm a real person using blab, blab, blab technology that's basically a Siri or Alexia.

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  16. OMG, thanks for sharing the SNL spoof. (It's been almost fifty years since I could stay up late enough on a Saturday night to watch SNL.) I laughed so hard at this, I had tears rolling down my face. -Jean P.

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