Bl**dy Alexa

** Apologies to anyone named Alexa, this isn’t aimed at you**

 Now don’t get me wrong I love my Echo Dots, I have them pretty much in every room in the house, mainly so I can blast out music usually Taylor Swift as I am still girl crushing on her ( it will be a year come December that I started this relationship 😂😂😂). Since HRT was commenced back in August music has become a very important part of my life. Thank god Mr Myasthenia also has a penchant for Talyor Swift. He would necessarily put her music on himself but he has heard it pretty much every day for months and now knows several tracks off by heart and will happily sing along! Now he is totally busted 😂😂😂

As is usual for me I have gone off on a tangent, I mean what on earth does the above paragraph have to do with Bloody Alexa? Well me and Alexa ( Googles AI assistant ) have a love hate relationship. I have lost count how many times I have called her a c*** for not understanding what I have just said. I understand that she struggles if the TV is loud and she is figuring out which voice is giving her an instruction or if there is a loud background noise like a microwave or washing machine on spin. It isn’t at those times I lose my sh*t with her. It is times like today when in the kitchen and there is no background noise and I say “Alexa put coffee pods on the shopping list”. She acknowledges and puts them on the list. Then seconds later comes out with she doesn’t recognise my voice and that she needs to know who I am.

I tell you it feels like a massive slap in the face when she says that. I am the one that bought the Echo Dots, set them up and taught her Luddite husband how to use them and yet she claims not to recognise my voice. I get it I totally do because my voice does change every day and throughout the day. This is the one thing that PoTS and possibly EDS can’t explain and it is more likely my Myasthenia Gravis symptoms or whatever neurological condition is going on effecting my ability to speak.

Some days I find it almost impossible to speak, the only way I can describe it is that my tongue stops working forming the words or when it does attempt to form the words it moves very slowly so it is lagging behind. It is a very bizarre symptom and one I have had every since my illness reared it’s ugly head in 2007. I know EDS is genetic but until 2007 I could manage it along with the PoTS and low blood pressure. Other days it can be an issue just getting enough volume for Alexa to be able to identify that someone is speaking to her. It is very frustrating that really besides my husband it is only Alexa that acknowledges my speech issues. I can’t predict when I will have speech issues, as they are intermittent and going to the gp when everything is working normally is a waste of time. I really need to record myself when I am having issues or when Alexa has decided not to recognise my voice / understand my instructions.

Now I am not saying that once in a blue moon Alexa doesn’t recognise my voice, it happens at least once a week and on a bad week it will be multiple times. She struggles daily interpreting my instructions. On occasion I will have got stuck asking her to do something, the word is in my brain but is refusing to make it to my mouth. I find Alexa is very quick to switch herself back off when you take longer than a normal person to ask a question or issue an instruction. It seem’s a bit ablelist to me to expect everyone to be able to speak to Alexa within a set XX amount of seconds time frame. Not all of us have an easy time talking. I know towards the end of the day I can start to slur my words as I am just too tired to form the words properly. When Alexa doesn’t get what I am saying on a bad day it rams it home how bad my speech issues can be.

Most of the time Alexa’s inability to recognise my voice is laughed off, especially when it is followed by a stream of expletives from me. I know people with Scottish accents find they also have issues when trying to interact with AI. I have a west country twang but nothing that would make it impossible for Alexa to understand me – I believe. AI really does need to be improved so that it doesn’t stop people with accents, speech impediments or disabilities from being able to use it. 

The way that technology has evolved in my lifetime is amazing. I love using my Echo Dots. I set daily reminders for me to take medication, ask for weather reports, set timers and obviously play music on it. We also use it to record a shopping list as we find that we are getting low on a particular item. Friends have recorded voice messages and then sent them to us. That is particularly good fun! I also use the announcements in the Alexa app to get my husbands attention if he hasn’t heard me shouting from upstairs. I have freaked him out several times by dropping in on the Echo Dot that is in a particular room and speaking to him directly through it. So it has helped me enormously with many different things that I struggle with. It has been a really positive experience on the whole, it is just the issues with my voice that have detracted from the experience. I still wouldn’t be without them though. Even if most days I utter “Bloody Alexa”

Podcasts

 Something very different this week mainly because I am more than a one trick pony and even I get sick of blogging about the disaster zone that is my health from time to time!

For the last few years I have been dipping in and out of listening to Podcasts. I really believe they are a very underused piece of kit for the chronically sick / disabled for the days when you are stuck in bed or nights when you are lying their awake unable to sleep. All you need is a smart phone, tablet or computer and within moments ( depending on your internet speed ) you can be listening to people talking about whatever subject tickles your fancy! 

I installed a podcast app from Google play that cost about £1.00, you can find free ones as well such as BBC Sounds etc. The app I have  is an American based app but I have found that by using the search bar I can pretty much find any podcast that I might like to listen to.

So what is a podcast?

For the uninitiated it is just like a standard talk radio show on whatever subject takes your fancy. There are literally Podcasts to suit every person, sports, drama, Music, comedy, documentaries, crime, history, travel, crafting. You name it someone has probably done a podcast on it. My favourites are the True Crime genre or documentaries. During lock down I got cheesed off with The Archers the long running radio drama on BBC radio 4. I hated the monologues they did and I have to say I haven’t probably listened to it since May. In some circles that admission would get me shot at dawn, especially The Archers group I belong to on Facebook. I would be accused of no longer being a fan but a dabbler. I am not alone with changing my listening habits, many in that group have also admitted that they are no longer regularly listening.

For a better explanation of what a Podcast is use this  link

Podcasts I have enjoyed

I really love True Crime podcasts, I don’t know why but I find them particularly gripping. They can range from miscarriages of justice and the attempts to have sentences overturned to investigations into cold cases. I guess I like the human aspect of it, the ones i have listened to haven’t been sensationalised they have been sensitively handled and really make you think. Episodes can be as short as ten minutes and as long as 70 minutes. So there will be multiple episodes in a season / series.  I like listening to them when I am resting in bed or unable to sleep.

I have particularly Enjoyed the  following podcasts and have included the links to the shows where it says here

Shreds – available from BBC Sounds a miscarriage of justice in the UK here

Death in Ice Valley – available from BBC Sounds, an unidentified body, who is she?here

Pretend – some of that is true crime. It is based on people who claim to be something they aren’t. Series 3 was good as it was an in depth investigation into a cult ( cults also interest me). here

Lisk – Long Island Serial Killer here

Cold – Journalist investigates the cold case of missing Susan Powell. This one is particularly disturbing here

In the dark – I am currently listening to season 2 after enjoying season 1.

The Teachers Pet – currently unavailable in Australia due to the risk of interfering with the trial. A very good piece of investigative journalism.  here

The Night Driver – Janine Vaughan disappeared 19 years ago what happened to her – here

Lets Talk about Sects – a look into sects and their charismatic leaders here

How to find Podcasts to listen to

Podcasts are becoming more mainstream, many magazines and newspapers quite regularly feature the “best of ” lists for genres of podcasts. Because I know I like true crime podcasts, I just googled top 50 / top 100 true crime podcasts. That way I get a little synopsis of each podcast so I know what it is about and whether or not it will interest me. 

I am not into gore or listening to descriptions of autopsies so by using these collated lists I can whittle down those that maybe of interest. I then jot down using my samsung notes on my mobile (cell) phone the names of all the podcasts I would like to listen to and I have been slowly making my way through the list. I always have my phone with me so having the list on there rather than on a piece of paper that I would lose, means that I can update my list or remove podcasts that I have listened to or get rid of ones that just didn’t do it for me.

I find podcasts are also good for high pain days when I have to lie in bed and not do anything. Sometimes I am just not well enough to watch the TV, so having the alternative of a podcast gives me something to “do” whilst not doing very much at all. In fact over the last few weeks I have got so into the podcasts that when season 4 of The Crown was released I waited a whole week before watching it. Which for me is unheard of as normally I would have finished the season within the first three days of it being released.

Sometimes I wish some one would video my face as I am listening to the podcast in bed as on occasion I am stunned at what I am hearing. Particularly with the season two of In the dark The Curtis Flowers story. I know we have miscarriages of justice in the UK and people have accused the justice system of being corrupt. But Bloody hell as a Brit listening to what has been going on with this case, honestly MIND BLOWN at the level of corruption, abuse of power, failure to investigate, fabrication / distortion of the facts. It is horrifying. How can anyone who is without resources in the USA actually get a fair trial? Mind you the same can be said of the UK if you don’t have the resources then you don’t get the best lawyers / solicitors. 

Shreds is a fantastic example of everything I have just had a go at the American justice system about but it took place in the UK, in Wales. It is a horrific story of a botched police investigation , leading to the incarceration of many innocent men. The head of the police force involved ( at the time) is clearly delusional in the way he continually says the the Police did an excellent job and the right people are in prison for the crime, despite the MOUNTAINS of evidence to the contrary.

I think in another life I might have been an investigative journalist or possibly worked in the legal profession, maybe that is why I enjoy this genre of Podcast so much.