Monthly Archives: June 2017

Dear Mr. or Ms. Amazon

Dear Mr. or Ms. Amazon,

First off, this is not a complaint letter. I imagine you get a lot of those. No, this is more a question and a couple suggestions. And don’t worry, I’m not a kook. I’m an Amazon Prime Member!

Anyhoo, I recently purchased an Amazon Tap, the digital home assistant that goes by the name Alexa.

She’s great! Much better than my Google Home that I also purchased (I have a gadget problem). I like that Google Home can tell me what a whale sounds like and has the correct definition for the word “irony” (the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect). But the base unit HAS TO BE PLUGGED IN!! Why not also require that you connect through a rotary telephone? Am I right or what?!

Back to Alexa. As the Tap is portable, I often bring it to my backyard spa to enjoy the dusk sunset. Have you ever though of teaching Alexa bird calls? Just an idea.

The day hadn’t been going great, so I wasn’t in the most groovy mood. In fact, I was pissed. So I wasn’t in the mood to hear John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Road (Not Alexa’s fault. That was just the last playlist on Pandora.).

Anyhoo, I asked Alexa to play to play one of the baddest-assed songs I know, Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold. (Side note, I interviewed Nugent once on gun control. The Motor City Madman nicknamed me Scottily Wottily.).

In the spa, I told Alexa simply: “Play Stranglehold.” I’ve done it so often, I know that’s all the instruction she needs.

Except this time, as I made the request, a plane buzzed nearby overhead. (I live near the Van Nuys Airport, one of the busiest general aviation hubs in the world, handling 217,000 plane movements in 2015.

The plane and my words must have co-mingled, because Alexa heard something that made her reply: “That’s kind of you to say. Thank you.”

So now I’m wondering: ‘What did she hear?’ Worse: “Was that just a polite thank you, an uncomfortable response to a creepy come-on?” When I told her “Sorry,” she said “No worries.” But, honestly, it sounded a little rote, like she was saying it just because she had to.

So, two-part question: Have you considered programming Alexa to answer this question: “Alexa, what do you think I just asked you.”

I’m dying of curiosity. I’ve tried to replicate the incident. Even tried to come up with a similar phrase that might evoke another electronic blush. The closest I could come to “Play Stranglehold” was “Stay dangle gold.” But she didn’t know what that meant.

So, part II: Would be to please have your tech people let Alexa know I really am sorry? I may have been naked when I said it. Do I have to register with some sort of electronic predator list?

Anyhoo, that’s it. Keep up the good work. I hear you’re making Alexa sweep now. One  tip: Do NOT let her watch those Terminator movies.

Spank my behind…er, Thanks for your time. (Siri can be a real smartass).

Sincerely,

Scott Bowles

p.s. Ever notice your logo (especially for your Amazon Video service) looks like an erect penis approaching the vaaginal ‘O?’ Was that on purpose, or the work of a disgruntled graphic designer?

 

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You Comey at the King, You’d Best Not Miss

 

As a lifelong reporter, my father lived in notepads. All journalists do.

Dad, however, did some serious scribbling. You wouldn’t say he took copious notes because that would be a disservice to dad and the word. It doesn’t come close to dad’s style.

He must have had thousands of notebooks. He kept every one. He numbered every page. On the cover of every pad, he would create a table of contents: pages 4-12, notes on Cobo Hall redesign. Pages 74-96, an interview with Doug Fraser.

Most miraculously, his handwriting was legible. Almost female in its neatness. Former reporters told me when I joined the paper that dad was the paper’s unofficial librarian. If journalists needed to get background on, say, the Cobo redesign, they would go to him before the paper’s library. He was faster. They talked of him diving into a mountain of notebooks, emerging with the request.

Dad believed he never got to the New York Times because of the attention he paid to note taking, culminating in a confrontation with Sen. Ernest Hollings from South Carolina. Hollings made the mistake of wavering in an interview with dad about getting out of the Vietnam War, a view that got him skewered by his hawk supporters.

When Hollings called a hasty press conference to deny ever making the statement, dad showed up — with his notepad. He called Hollings a liar from the press pit. “Well I’ll be goddamned if I’ll have a reporter call me a liar at my own press conference,” Hollings snapped. “I’ll knock your block off.” Dad rushed the stage, was ushered out by security and made the wires, a story I still have.

Donald Trump had better pray James Comey doesn’t have nearly the transcription skills — or temper — of my father. Because president carrot top would get his ass kicked.

He still may. Comey’s testimony last week can’t be seen as good news for the administration. But what even counts for good news now? A mushroom-cloud-free day?

Still, it’s  astounding to watch the GOP try to tear down its former top cop. Most peculiar, perhaps, was the counterfeit surprise they expressed about Comey’s presumptions. Why in the world, they wondered, would he take Trump’s spoken desire to see the Russia investigation disappear as nefarious?

Has it come to this? Are we really parsing the language of Mafia wannabes? Nice country ya got here. Shame if something were to happen to it…

Perhaps dad had it right. Some note taking is worth rushing the stage.

Speaking of non-alternative facts:

  • Watermelons contain an ingredient called citrulline that can trigger production of a compound that helps relax the body’s blood vessels, just like Viagra.
  • Ancient Greeks wouldn’t eat beans as they thought that they contained the souls of the dead.
  • The Burj Khalifa is so tall that residents above the 80th floor have to wait 2 to 3 minutes longer to end Ramadan.
  • For those who jumped from the WTC on 9/11, the fall lasted 10 seconds. They struck the ground at just under 150 mph, enough to ensure instant death on impact.
  • Tigers can, and will, take revenge on those who have wronged them.
  • Sweden has their own national font, Sweden Sans, to “unambiguously represent Sweden in the world.”
  • You have to be a retired letter carrier to live in Nalcrest, Florida. Ironically, the town does not have mail delivery service.
  • In 2010, Syria had more tourists than Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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U.S. to Mother Nature: Drop Dead

     That Donald Trump pulled the U.S. from the Paris global warming accord was as inevitable as the rising sea.
     What is surprising is the rationale that punctuated the withdrawal — and that we in the press let it pass for logic.
     We would expect the right to applaud it. Republicans increasingly find themselves on the wrong side of science, from evolution to stem cell research, that will eventually leave it the party of ancient texts. Now the GOP can claim a new acronym: Get Our Planet.
     But what was stunning was the pass afforded the administration. We in the media (and that’s all of us, social media strollers) permitted Trumpeteers to applaud the decision as Trump keeping an election promise.  CNN and MSNBC both featured Trump supporters like talking pimple whitehead Jeffrey Lord, hailing the move as canny American scrimping, which it may indeed be.
     Not once, however, could I find an analyst to ask this question: Did the promise itself have merit? We have reached a political strata where simply keeping your word suffices for integrity. But what if the pledge itself is a crackpot one?
     Say, for instance, that Trump promised to make America great again by returning us to slavery. And, thanks to the bible-thumping populace of the American South, he won — largely on that campaign plank. Would we have “the other side” of a political debate? The one that argues that, sure, Trump may have repealed the 13th Amendment, but at least he kept his word?
     Of course not. We would apply a larger question to the issue. Not ‘Is it legal?’ But ‘Is it right?’
     Yet I continue to look for a reporter who will ask this simple question of a single supporter: America makes up 4% of the world’s population. Yet we account for 32% of the world’s carbon emissions. Whatever your thoughts on the economic unfairness of the accord, doesn’t that mean we owe 8 times the amount on the dinner bill? Judge Judy likes to say “You ate the steak, now you have to pay for it.”
     Didn’t we eat eight steaks?
Now, on to other non-alternative facts, bitches:
  • An elephant’s skin can be up to 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) thick but is so sensitive it can feel a fly landing on it.
  • In Nepal, Mount Everest is known as Chomolungma, meaning “Goddess Mother of Mountains.”
  • In 2005, a psychologist and an economist taught a group of monkeys the concept of money. Soon, the monkeys engaged in prostitution.
  • Today’s average American woman weighs as much as the average 1960s man.
  • The U.S. joined Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations that aren’t part of the Paris agreement to limit carbon emissions.
  • If you deprive a fruit fly or a fish of sleep, it will try to catch up the next day.
  • Butterflies have 4 eyes, bees have 5 eyes, most spiders have 8 eyes and Caterpillars have 12 eyes.

 

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