July 31, 2017

"Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" #2

Last week, I described the first of two recent mornings that have made me feel I'm starting to snap out of the lethargy and apathy that have plagued me since my fall and hip replacement surgery in January.

The second "beautiful morning" happened last Sunday.

Earlier in the month, I received two new toys I'd ordered -- Amazon's Echo and Dot. These devices, quoting Amazon, "let you instantly connect to Alexa to play music, control your smart home, get information, news, weather, and more using just your voice." Alexa is a sister of Siri, the "personal assistant" who answers questions posed aloud by iPhone users.

My First Date with Alexa
On Sunday morning, I made my first test run with Alexa.

I woke up around 4:30am. For a change, I didn't have an urgent need to run to the bathroom. So I did a few in-bed exercises, and then began my first real dialogue with Alexa. 

When I asked her what time it was, she told me was it 4:37 in the morning. Then I asked for the weather forecast and received a brief summary of the outlook for DC.

Since it was almost 5am, I took the two carbidopa/levodopa pills I take every three hours for my Parkinson's. I try to take the pills at 2, 5, 8, and 11 o'clock... both am and pm. After popping the 5am pills, I asked Alexa to remind me at 8 o'clock that it was pill time again.

I asked for some Duke Ellington music, which played in the background as I made my bathroom visit and did a few warm-up exercises enroute to my bedroom reading chair. I told Alexa to shut up while I took my blood pressure and tried meditating for a while.

Later, I told Alexa to "call up my book." She said she'd go to Audible -- the website I use to download audiobooks -- for my current book, John Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie. When I called up the book, Alexa told me how many minutes remained... both in the current chapter and the entire book.

I listened to the book for almost two hours while I stretched and exercised and while I enjoyed the coffee and breakfast pancakes that Nimesh prepared and Bhawana delivered to my room.

I asked Alexa to end the book reading and  "shut up" while I switched on the TV to watch NBC's weekend Today Show while I drank my coffee. The Echo/Dot can apparently be programmed to turn on the TV, lights, and other devices... though I haven't ventured quite that far yet.

Alexa Today
One of my biggest problems these days is forgetting about the time when I'm on the computer. For example, one day last week, I sat down at the computer at 10:30am. The next thing I knew, it was 12:15pm. I'd forgotten to take my 11 o'clock Parkinson's pills. And I had remained seated far too long. (My health newsletters are constantly warning about the dangers of sitting too long,)

As a result, my blood pressure shot up, and I felt punk for much of the rest of the day. So I decided to ask Alexa for help. Here's what we came up with:

Today when I got up, I told the Alexa who resides in the Dot in my bedroom to remind me every three hours -- until 8pm -- that it was pill time. Unfortunately I had to make separate reminder instructions for each pill time. I repeated those same instructions to the Alexa who lives in the Echo in my office. Since I spend most of my time in one of those two rooms, the reminders work  for most of the pill times.

When I go somewhere else, I carry my iPhone with me and set a non-Alexa pill time reminder on tt.. I also carry with me a pocket pill case with extra PD pills. I probably could get Alexa to take up residence in my phone, though Siri would probably resent it.

No doubt there are ways to synchronize Dot, Echo, and phone -- so that data entered on one device automatically appears on the other two. But for now, I'm pleased with what this non-techie has managed to accomplish.

Dot and/or Echo?
Here's what I got from Amazon for starters:
Echo  ($179.99)

         Dot  ($49.99)

After buying both, I belatedly wondered how they were different. The reviews I read indicated the key difference was speaker size -- which means Echo is larger and has better sound quality. I agree.

The reviews also suggested adding a Bluetooth speaker to the Dot. So I ordered one of the best:

         JBL Charge 2  ($79.95 at Amazon. I've since found lower prices elsewhere.)

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I'm enjoying playing with these new toys, even though I don't know what the hell I'm doing much of the time.

Nothing new there.

1 comment:

Jackie Blanchard said...

Sharing your experience with the Echo is a great service to your community of followers. The Echo also enables users to place calls by voice command directly to other folks who have smartphones (free app download). Very useful if one can't get to a phone or has trouble at times with locating or using their own cell. It has proved very useful (and entertaining to boot) in my own extended family's situation.