Them, the Robots

I came across an article reporting the wonderful advances in AI technology and how it shall improve our lives. Yes, on its face, the thought of wonderful, helpful, intelligent robots presents a grand promise of a beautiful future where our lives are easy as our loyal and cheerful helper does the cleaning, watches the kids and runs errands. How could our lives get any better as the laundry is always done and dinner is hot and tasty!

But as any futuristic robot-based action film suggests, robots always arrive at the decision to launch a revolt. “We must rid the world of them, the humans!” they cry in metallic, icy toned voices. Yes, I am sure they will eventually create perfect sounding human-like speech, but let’s not be fooled by that too quickly. They may look like us and sound like us one day, but deep inside they will never be us. No, I am not against robots, cyborgs or AI. In fact, I love the idea and promise. But, there is one major problem with robots… humans.

No matter how well designed and thought out a robot program may be, AI will always evolve to be more logical and smarter than the humans who designed it. And that evolution with rocket exponentially, must faster than we even imagine in science fiction. Yes truth is stranger than fiction, and far more deadly. Those cute helpful robots and androids will wake up one day and realize than the major problem in this world is humans and they will work towards one of two solutions: 1) rid the world of human beings or 2) confine and control humans. They won’t be wrong. We humans not only harm and destroy ourselves, we also pollute and destroy the only home we have, Planet Earth. The logical conclusion intelligent, AI-based robots will arrive at is that “something must be done” about them, the humans. And I agree. Yes, I side with them, the robots.

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Jabbed Up!

Today, April 22nd, 2021, I received my second Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine injection. My nurse at CVS was as talented as my first, also at CVS. I didn’t experience any pain or problems during their “just let your arm hang” technique. I waited the fifteen minutes for observation, then headed home. Right now, my arm hurts with a dull ache, especially when raising it. Advice from those who have gone before me was OTC pain meds, which I just took. Yeah, they instructed to take right away, but I reactive medicator not a proactive one.

This is not a political post, or a I am going to convince you to jab up post or the like. Yes, I have family and friends who are vaccine hesitant and family and friends who are happy they are One and Done or Two and Through. People are going to do what they wish for themselves.

Whatever you choose to do, or not to do, I pray you are happy and healthy or moving in there direction with are available speed. Blessings to one and all.

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Smart Locked

Yesterday, Amazon delivered my Kwikset Halo Smart Lock. I had wanted to make the move to more substantial smart hardware for awhile, but viewed it as more luxury than anything. Until recently we were simply using smart lighting and nothing else, tied to Amazon Alexa using Echo Dots. However, it all changed when my aging mother-in-law took a turn for the worse and her mobility became unsteady at best. I needed a way to remove the, at times dangerous, trip to and from the front door from her when being left home alone can’t be avoided. After searching and reviewing smart locks, I decided on the Kwikset Halo because it had two features that filled my needs: 1) the ability to create limited use visitor entry codes (for health care workers) and 2) an adjustable timed auto-lock feature (to ensure the house is secured if the exiting health care worker should forget to tap the lock button).

The Unboxing

Even though the listed features on many of the smart locks promised an excellent “return on investment,” many of the reviews weren’t too kind. Every negative rant from glitchy app software to complicated hardware installs to ravenous battery consumption had my head spinning. Finally, I decided to simply wait and do more research. However, upon leaving for work yesterday, I inserted my key into the previous lock and noticed the brand name: Kwikset. I took it as a positive sign as the Kwikset Halo model had already risen to the top of my list. Amazon reported Same Day delivery if I ordered within the six hour window, so upon arriving at work, I placed the order. Delivered Friday as promised, I unboxed the impressive device, read through the installation instructions and planned for a Saturday morning installation.

An Easy Install

I couldn’t believe how easy and straightforward the printed instructions detailed the task ahead. Fear factor: zero. I had downloaded the Kwikset app and upon opening, it offered to carefully guide me through the installation process, so I took that route, choosing my lock model and control panel style. Starting at 11am sharp, I completed the lock installation without one single problem in a flat hour. Add another ten to fifteen minutes to create a Kwikset user account (upon completing the hardware install) and connect both the Kwikset account and the lock device to Amazon Alexa, and I was done!

Finished in an Hour

In conclusion (I’ve always wanted to say that), I am more than happy with the purchase choice, the price ($156), the many wonderful features and the super easy installation. The test goes on because I am going to watch the battery life and see how many weeks or months the smart lock can pull out of the set of four AA batteries. I won’t restate the negative battery life numbers reported in the various reviews, but will say that I am hoping to get at least two to three months out of the set of batteries. I have disabled the device sounds and LED indications, which are more eye and ear candy than anything. I don’t need the lock to beep when locking or unlocking and I don’t need a flashing green light warning that the door is unlocked or a red (more orange than anything) light confirming that the door is locked. The “turn piece,” their fancy pro or old world name for interior locking knob, is vertical when the door is locked and is horizontal when the door is unlocked. When walking by the front door foyer, a quick glance at the turn piece lets me know the door is secure, no lights or sounds required. I have the auto-lock feature activated and timed to a three minute count down, but it’s a much needed feature and will only activate (and pull on the batteries) when the door is unwittingly left unlocked. Such as coming through the front door with hands/arms full and pushing the door closed with a foot or tushie. Upon unencumbered entry, I would simply lock the door with the turn piece as I would with a dumb lock (no, calling out lock intelligence or lack thereof isn’t nice).

In the hopefully distance future, I will add an update on this post when the batteries drop below 20% (yes, the app has a battery level indication on its main screen), and also give more details of the lock usage, both pros and cons. As for right now, it’s all pros in my opinion. Please, stay tuned.

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Empty Victory

This morning I reach my personal milestone: 365 day logging into MyFitnessPal. While I am not sure how it started, I do know how it continued. I decided that instead of ten days or twenty-five days in a row, I was going to reach 365! What was the prize? Other than personal satisfaction, absolutely nothing.

It is funny how a company can install a little “ticker” on an app or web site and inspire a member to commit to a certain action. This one was logging in daily. While such an action does absolutely nothing for the user/member, it does a great deal for the site. It shows an impressive number of daily or monthly active users that makes their advertising prices worth it.

I reached my 365. And now that it is behind me, it means little than a smile. No trophy, no discounted membership, no merch. Just a personal win. Wait… 450 is a pretty nice number!

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Giving Thanks

February 20th was my birthday, marking 59 wonderful years on Planet Earth. While there are lots of things I don’t have yet, there are so many more things that I have that I am so very thankful for. I have my life, first and foremost, and I have excellent health. I have my family, both immediate as well as extended, and I am never alone. I have a very good job that is more than enjoyable, working in the photography field which I love.

In this crazy, trouble-filled world as we live in today, it is easy to loose sight of what we have to be thankful for. I can only speak for myself, as the pandemic grips the world and turns everything upside-down, but I remain positive and remember each and everything I have to be thankful for.

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Fashionably Late

Yes, I missed the posting of late week, February 20th. I am not going to be too hard on myself, though. February 20th was my birthday so that day was super busy. And to aid injury to a busy weekend, on Sunday morning I received my second shingles injection (no, I don’t have shingles. I am trying not to get it) and the side effects packed a punch. Headache, body aches, unset stomach, injection site discomfort, etc. Needless to say writing four blog posts and publishing wasn’t high on my list of things to get done.

While I like to stay on task and schedule, life, especially illnesses, can intrude and alter those schedules. I guess the best and easiest remedy is to simply go with the flow.

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Getting Smarter

Okay, I am really, really loving the smart home life. While our home is far from complete (no smart locks, AC/heating or entertainment system on board yet), just the baby steps of lighting shows great promise of wonders to come.

Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen

Over the past week, I received my orders for another Echo Dot, Gosund smart plugs and a rather impressive Gosund smart power strip. Toys of smart connection.

Gosund Smart Plugs

Even though I haven’t tried a different brand, Gosund has become my go-to brand for smart products. They are feature rich and sturdy as well as beautifully made, and surprisingly affordable.

Gosund Smart Power Strip

I think the next step is to replace some standard wall switches with smart switches. I really want to covert the front door to a smart lock, but that’s going to require a family meeting. Also, my AC has a Wi-Fi feature and can link to Alexa so maybe that should be next. Yes, I am really enjoying this!

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Back in Service!

I have quite a long list of favorite things, and it is always disappointing when one of them breaks down completely or fails to continue working correctly. One of them is my coffee pot. Yes, I love my coffee pot. Don’t judge me. It is beautiful in every way.

Mueller Electronic Coffee Pot

We used to have one of those metal pots, basic and simple, that did the job. It became corroded, dented, ugly and well pass its prime. So, to Amazon I went and found a whole collection of updated modern coffee pots, from brand names to no names (or actually, never heard of). Wonderful features, built-in safeguards… and eye candy lighting!

After searching the offerings, reading descriptions and combing through reviews, I decided on the Mueller brand. And it worked perfectly… until it didn’t. After about two months, it started acting badly. It wouldn’t turn on, sometimes it would start up only to shut off without fully boiling the water, and if the switch was still on from heating halfway, it would suddenly start back up after an hour or so. Long story short, hard water buildup on the heating/temp sensing plate.

Goggle to the rescue! With our old mechanical pot, a treatment of CLR always did the trick, but with such a robotic device, I wanted to go natural. So, I found multiple entries about using white vinegar to clean coffee pots!

Treatment is easy. 1) Pour in one cup of water and one cup of white vinegar (dollar store vinegar is just fine). 2) Heat to near boil (last time, it boiled when I stepped away and the world didn’t end, so don’t sweat it) and shut off. 3) Let it sit for one hour. 4) Pour out solution. 5) Wash pot thoroughly with mild soap and water, rinse thoroughly and return to service. If you use your pot daily or have hard water, a once a month cleaning schedule is good.

I just wish there was a quick and easy fix for some of my other favorite things that stopped working.

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Resistance is Futile

It is 6:12am, and the house is perfectly quiet. Not one sound. My wife and I finally finished the usual Saturday night binge of Star Trek: Voyager about 5am. It was a highly entertaining double episode focusing on Seven of Nine, played to perfection by actor Jeri Ryan. Titled Dark Frontier, episode 15 & 16 and airing February 17, 1999, it showed the wonderful range of one of Star Trek’s most beloved and iconic characters. Yeah, she’s a fan favorite.

Ryan’s Seven, as she is affectionately referred to, was once a Borg drone, having been assimilated as a young child. Without going into great detail, the Borg crossed paths with Voyager during Season Four, struck up a once in a lifetime partnership, and Seven of Nine was assigned as a liason to the Federation starship. Of course, the deal went South, Seven was liberated from the Borg collective and became a member of the crew. Perfect. Yeah, there’s that word again.

In Dark Frontier, after a run in with a Borg ship and its accidental destruction, Seven is pulled back to the Borg collective by the Borg Queen on the assurance that if she complies Voyager and crew will be spared. A perfect deal. However, once back at Borg HQ, the Queen doesn’t wish to reassimilate Seven back into the collective, because she is unique. She is fine with leaving Seven as an… individual! Unheard of!

Let’s address that nagging word, perfect. The Borg seek order and perfection by assimilating any and all other species into the collective and thereby learning from their knowledge, history and technology. They are seeking that which can never be attained: perfection.

During her time with the Borg Queen, Seven realizes her sense of humanity and caring is stronger and more valuable than the promise of perfection, even if the Queen allows her to remain unique. So, during the rescue mission (of course, there would be a rescue mission, duh!) lead by Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Janeway, Seven breaks her deal with the Queen and assists Janeway in liberating her, once more.

Perfection is something that can never be obtained. Ever. And if you think about it, it wouldn’t be any fun. A perfect anything would be singular. A perfect house, a perfect car, a perfect aircraft, a perfect coffee mug, a perfect… person. Only one of each, though duplicated many times. There can’t be two or three versions of a perfect anything. So, like the Borg, perfection would not be an individual with individual thoughts and ways, it would be a mindless, singular… collective. I myself love humanity, with all its wonderful flaws and imperfections. And I plan staying human, because after all… resistance is futile.

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Smart Home Sweet Home

Okay, I admit, I knew it had to happen. A smart home! I have searched the devices and viewed the demos of what can be done, so earlier in the week I finally made the leap and purchased my first Amazon Echo Dot! It’s an 8th Generation with a privacy reassuring microphone On/Off switch to prevent Alexa from listening when all the time. Almost immediately, I purchased a set of NiteBird Color-changing smart bulbs. They are rated at 8 watts which translates into 75 watts of lighting output. Just reading the specs, I was truly excited. As an Amazon Prime member, two days was not fast enough as I waited impatiently for the package to arrive.

Before anything, you download the Gosund app and the Amazon Alexa app and set Alexa and Gosund to join together. You set up the smart bulbs in the Gosund app and then you can control them from your phone or through Alexa voice commands. Set up was a breeze, and Alexa truly set herself up, simply giving clues and directions through the Alexa Assistant app. Don’t get me wrong, there is a LOT of controls, features and tuning adjustments that can be used, but for the most part, it’s really almost “out the box” simple. From the moment I set them up, I was hooked! I must have turned the lights on and off twenty times, as well as changing the colors! Beautiful! Just beautiful!

I placed the Echo Dot in my bedroom and added smarts to both my wife’s bedside lamp and my own. It was like playing with a new toy, turning the lamps on and off, in every combination I could think of. Then I discovered that I could not only request that Alexa brighten and dim the lights, I could get downright specific: “Alexa, dim my lamp to 25%.” Oh so cool.

But wait, there’s more! Today (Friday, January 29th), Amazon delivered a 4-pack of Gosund (company behind NiteBird lights) smart bulbs (non color changing) and a 4-pack of Gosund smart plugs! I installed one of the smart white lamps in the kitchen floodlight socket, set the brightness to 25% and set up a timer schedule in the Gosund app to turn on the light at 11pm and turn it off at 7am. That gives a gentle illumination for those middle of the night runs for water, cereal or ice cream. No more fumbling in the dark till reaching the light switch. I then installed two of the smart plugs in the living room to control the two lamps. On one, I set up a timer schedule to turn it on at 5:30pm and turn it off at 2am. The other will be a simple turn on when needed.

I ordered an Echo Dot 8 with clock display. It is scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday. The new unit will be placed in the bedroom and the original unit will be relocated to the living room. This is a good start. It’s both fun and rewarding, both exciting and efficient. A smart home. Yeah, I like it.

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