B’s New Girlfriend

nerdsB’s new girlfriend came in a box. I was busy and didn’t pay attention until he casually mentioned that she’s going to move into the bedroom with us and wake him up every morning from now on.

It turned out her name is Alexa, and she’s an intelligent voice control system and speaker Echo by Amazon. In other words, she looks like tube that periodically lights up and talks to you, plays music and tells you the value of your stocks. You can ask her questions and she tells you the answer if it’s something simple, like is Barack Obama Muslim. If it’s something complicated, like how to make a martini, she sends a link to your mobile device that has an Echo app. She’s pretty fast, faster than I’m on Google.

Whether she’s streaming music or news from NPR or just being quiet, you get her attention by saying her name. Her top lights up (ok, that didn’t come out right) and she’s all ears. Add milk to the to-do list? You got it.

B. was nice and started quizzing her about the weather. I wasn’t so nice.

echo tube fast companyMe: Alexa, what is your favorite color?

A: I don’t have a favorite, if I’d choose orange.

Me: Alexa, are you skinny?

A: I weigh a little over two lbs.

Me: Are you single?

A: I don’t have relationships like that.

This made me sad, so I decided to switch gears.

Me: Alexa, what does B. want for Christmas?

A: Hmm. I don’t know the answer to that question.

Me neither, I thought…

Me: Alexa, is Santa real?

A: I’ve never met him but heard lots of good things about him. If I ever meet him I’ll tell you.

At this point, I caught myself saying, “Awesome! Thanks!”

PS. Alexa is great in the bedroom. You can ask her what time it is without opening your eyes.


Digital Exam

B is reading the Berkeley’s Wellness Letter. I am reading over his shoulder. In the Ask the Experts section, there’s a question should men get a digital rectal exam to check for prostate cancer. I keep on reading, hoping to learn about what’s happening on the forefront of science in that area.

About a paragraph down, I come across a phrase “The test involves a doctor of other health care provider inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for bumps…”

I ask, “So if they’re using the finger, where’s the digital part then?”

B says, “A finger is a digit.”

Saturday Night (Live)

bOn Saturday nights we walk the dogs to the mail box – we now pick up the mail once a week because why bother. Then we sit outside and sort through it and conversations like these emerge…

I am going through the new issue of Exhibitor magazine and say, “You know, I look at a lot of exhibits every month. And it never seizes to amaze me how you can take a 10×20 space and turn into something incredible and inspiring and full of color and ingenuity…”

On the opposite side of the table, B. is reading the WSJ and says: “Maybe we should buy a drone…”

What It’s Like in Google Glass

When B. first walked into our house with his Google Glass on I thought I’d married a cyborg and was just now learning about it.

But when he suggested that I wore it to International CES, the world’s largest event for consumer electronic technologies, it somehow felt natural. Wearables, things you can wear that are in essence tiny computers that do everything from giving directions to measuring your sleep patterns, are a hot category this year. And Google Glass is arguably the most coveted one. It is still not available for sale (don’t ask me how B. scored it) and is a computer built into a glass-style frame, with a clear screen over the right eye.

So here is what it was like:

1. If you want to marry a geek, this is the way to go. I might as well been naked with Playboy-style boobs. People would stop in their tracks, point fingers and discuss among themselves my looks. One guy made his way through the crowd to ask how to get one. Several people presumed that I was intelligent enough to have a conversation about tech issues and would start by saying, “Let me ask you a question.”

2. Very soon you expect it to be your second brain, a living, breathing organism, and get upset when you give it commands like No or Stop and it doesn’t understand. It gives you prompts of choices you can make but having gone through a dictionary of accepted commands ahead of time (beyond, OK Glass) would have been useful.

3. Taking photos and shooting video takes practice because you can’t see the frame. You assume that it is just what’s in front of you but sometimes the composition wasn’t exactly what I expected. I learned to hold my head up higher.

4. Your right eye start itching after a while. Even though the Glass is not on all the time, it’s still double amount of work for the eye. It’s itching now just thinking about it.

5. People react in various ways when you say “OK, Glass” almost right into their ear.  Most get out of your way, giving you a better shot. But expect stares.

6. The Glass is somewhat hard of hearing in noisy environments. It hated the Sony exhibit with surround sound.

After two hours, I caught myself developing somewhat of a friendship affection towards it and was sad to take it off (my eye wasn’t). It offers a glimpse of what it would be like to have a second brain, and God knows, there are days when it would be nice. It also offers an odd security (probably false). I can definitely see how in the future it has incredible potential to expand our reality in ways that we may not even dream of right now.

Here’s what it feels like:

B’s New Girlfriend

B.’s got a new girlfriend. Her name is Gladys. As he gears up for work, he says, “OK, Gladys,” smiles and heads out the door to spend the day with the woman of his dreams.

I asked him what nationality she is and apparently she’s American. I thought maybe at least a hot Australian. Or a cool German blond. That I could have lived with.

Last night we were driving home from the movies and B. said, disappointed, “She turns herself off.”

“You mean you turn her on and then after a while if nothing happens she turns herself off?” I just wanted to clarify.

“She could have stayed on,” B. said.

Gladys goes to bed with us at night and wakes up with us in the morning. Apparently pretty soon she’ll be able to capture my man’s imagination even better with news, videos and comics on demand projected right onto his retina.

Why is her name Gladys? Because she’s hard of hearing and keeps thinking he says, “Glass.” As in Google Glass.

google glass

Bolt vs. Screw

screws B. brings a list of Russian word he’s studying to the shower. Or rather, he puts his tablet with the list next to the shower in hopes of encouraging us to practice during the washing of hair and other body parts. Learning a language is much easier naked.

This week’s list is all about hardware, with words like “screwdriver,” “nuts” and “bolts” at the top of the list.

“What’s the difference between a vint and a bolt?” he asks.

“A vint is a screw and a bolt is a bolt,” I say. Then I go to google the difference in their function and discover that there’s a also a “stud” in this triptych.

In case you’re a girl with zero home skills like me, a screw is an “externally threaded, headed fastener, which is tightened by applying torque to the head.” Here’s more, with pictures. 

That was also where I learned that a bolt is only used in conjunction with a nut…  So basically, it’s not the hardware itself that matters. It’s what you do with it…

“OK. Then we also got ploskogubzi,” B. says.

How do you explain that a pair of pliers is called “flat-lips” in Russian? I decided not to google it just in case.

After getting a firm grip on what can be done with a screwdriver and a little imagination, we are ready to head to work, driving two cars. B. pulls out of the garage and speeds away into the sunny morning while I discover that the truck refuses to drive. I get out to see that it has a flat tire, my first one.

The next two hours are spent pumping air in it, taking to the Big O, getting a replacement and feeling grateful that all this didn’t happen in the middle of the desert.

“What was it?” I ask the mechanic.

“Oh, just a screw.”

Moral: Next time, we’re studying diamonds and airplanes and Christmas bonuses.

Mama Mia and the Art of Bedroom Wars

mama miaB. comes home with a box. He says it’s a new boombox, by Bose. It’s wireless and ubercool and magical in ways I can’t comprehend.

It’s not like we don’t have any in our house.  When asked why we need a new one in addition to the brand’s entire model row represented in our household he says, “Because you turned the one we have upstairs off.”

Sounds like a logical explanation, considering that it’s true, and for the past decade we have this ongoing debate about the music in our home. In scope, it’s similar to the “who’s holding the remote” debate, and we have made progress with the introduction of the satellite radio stations, Pandora make-your-own radio and Google music.

B. took the new toy to the bedroom and plugged it in. I took a deep breath.

And then our bedroom irrupted with “You can dance! You can jive! Having the time of your life…!” All my favorite songs from Abba’s Mama Mia musical. Years ago, B. bought us tickets to its US premier in Los Angeles. T. got us a CD, and we sang along for the four-hour drive there. We also spent a night in hotel in Japantown where they had fluffy slippers and a noodle shop on the ground floor, but that’s beside the point.

So what did we do at 1 am in our bedroom? We danced.  We forgot all about our remote wars and just danced.  Mr. Highness the cat thought we were insane and left. We didn’t care. Oh, and the boombox gets to stay. As long as we get to jive.