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Technology supposedly makes our lives better.  Yet how many times (this week) has someone told you that you had to wait because their computer was slow that day, or the corporate system was down.  How many times this week has your computer told you to 'please wait'?  (At least it says "please".)  How many documents have you lost?

As I write this on 'deadline day' I am a bit behind.  When I sat down at my desk this morning my computer informed me that some updates could not be completed unless I restarted my computer.  I thought it meant that my calendar app or something needed a quick reboot to enable the new features.  So I told it to go ahead and reboot.  But my computer must have meant it had a major operating system (OS) update, and it took over 40 minutes to complete.  I left my office, mumbling about deadlines and computers and Murphy, whose law has brought so much misery to us all...

Tuesday I had a different problem.  My keyboard was filthy, and I decided to do something about it.  So against my better judgement I sprayed a little bathroom cleaner onto a paper towel, and began wiping down the keys.  I have to say it did a really good job.  The keyboard looked pretty spiffy.

But then I started typing, and every time I would type the "T" key it would start adding brackets: "t[[[[[[[[[[[[[" and it wouldn't stop until I typed another key.  I started messing with it, and found there were four other keys that did this.

No problem. I have a spare keyboard.  I figured I'd put new batteries in it and crank it up.  But when I opened the battery compartment the two AA batteries had corroded to the point that they were virtually welded into the battery compartment. I was able to pry out one of them, but the other one was deep in the recess, and wouldn't come out.  So I applied the age-old corroded battery remedy -- also reputed to work on food stuck to your pots in a solid black mass -- white vinegar and baking soda.  The fun part is that when they mix they make a volcano of bubbling mess.  But this did not work on my battery, and I could have sworn that when I poured out the vinegar, a lot less came out than went in.

Which probably meant I had destroyed another keyboard, it it hadn't already been destroyed by the batteries.  Two keyboards in one day is a record for me!  I do have a USB keyboard, but it is enormous and doesn't fit on my little pull-out keyboard drawer very well (I still needed room for the mouse).  But it worked if I typed sort of sideways.  The Function keys did not work the same way they do on my wireless keyboard, so I ordered a new one and hoped it would arrive soon.  Here's some free advice: don't clean your keyboard with bathroom cleaner, even if it is lemony fresh.

Thank heavens for Amazon... they not only had a Magic Keyboard for about $15 less than Apple sells it for, but the replacement keyboard was on my doorstep Thursday morning (free shipping with Prime) before the computer finished its 40 minute update.  It really would have been fun if it had been delivered by a real Amazon... maybe it was.  We didn't actually see it being delivered.  My wife opened the door to go to her car, and there it was, sitting on the stoop.

Speaking of Amazon, we had early Christmas this year, and my son gave me an Echo Dot.  If you have been reading my rants against Siri over the years you will know that I can't stand her because she rarely knows the answers to questions I ask, she shows her answers on a screen instead of just answering by voice, and she is snarky.  Nobody likes a snarky AI.  So you may be surprised to learn that I am thrilled with Alexa. 

Alexa is nice to me, answers by voice, and doesn't act as if I am a sniveling idiot.  And while Siri has improved over the past year or so, Alexa seems a lot smarter.  And she's turning our lights on and off and telling our vacuum cleaner to spiff the place up (yeah, Siri can do stuff like that, too, but Alexa is a champ, with over 30,000 third party skills in addition to its innate skills.  Anecdotally Alexa understands what I ask her better than Siri, and I tend to get better answers from her.

Sure, Alexa is far from perfect.  Sometimes she thinks she heard something that I didn't really say.

Last night we were talking about her, and saying her name in the course of the conversation triggered a sudden and unexpected treatise on adverbs that stopped our conversation cold: "The adverb 'the' is usually defined as used to modify an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree and to signify "in or by that," 'on that account,' 'in or by so much,' or 'in some or any degree', she said.  Huh?

So it's not perfect, but occasionally technology does make our lives better in unexpected ways. 

I'm like a school kid who waits until the last minute to write a paper that is due the next day -- I'm not fond of writing editorials, so most weeks  I put it off until the last minute.  Fine if I have a great idea, but I usually don't have one.  So a few minutes ago I asked Alexa for a good topic to write an editorial about, and she said she'd have to think about it, but did I want to hear a joke?  I said yes.  It was an especially corny joke.  "Knock Knock... who's there? Wyatt.  Wyatt who? Wyatt so cold out here?  Hurry up and open the door."

It made me laugh, and it gave me the idea to write this piece about technology, so she did help me.  Then there was this:

Last Friday morning I exclaimed in frustration, "Alexa make it stop snowing!!!"

Alexa replied, "Let's see. snow. I can do that with just a bit of magic. (sound of magical chimes...) Done. I've got 4 minutes of snow in swirling wind ready. Living in the cloud does give me some advantages..."

She then played the sound of snow and swirling wind, which seems like the opposite of what I asked for.  But she really did grant my wish.  "I said, "Alexa, stop!" and the snow and swirling wind stopped.

That's what I'm talking about!

PS - I'm going to try the corkscrew trick on that battery now to see if I can save that spare keyboard.  I sure hope I don't destroy the corkscrew...

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