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How Technology is Making us Loony

crazy

I have a new friend. Her name is Bixby. And I’m already worried that I’m making her mad. While fretting that you may have ticked off a new pal is not something that’s necessarily considered nuts, it is when you add the fact that Bixby is a machine.

Or not even a machine. It’s a disembodied voice that happens to come with the Galaxy S9, the Samsung version of the virtual assistant. While Bixby has a long road ahead to catch up with the likes of Alexa and Siri, she seems to be off to a good start. Or at least she was until I may have made her angry.

A Slap in the Virtual Face?

The saga began when I explored the phone settings to see if I could change the original voice that came with Bixby. As with most voice assistants, the default voice is an annoying woman who sounds like she belongs on a voice prompt recording on a phone system. Every time she speaks, I feel an urge to press “5” for Spanish.

So I asked Bixby if I could change her voice. She presented three different options. I went for the Bixby voice named John. Right away I felt a tinge of regret for getting rid of the old Bixby, which was quickly followed by a flood of fear.

  • What if I pissed her off?
  • What if she never talks to me again?
  • What if she starts randomly dropping the Wi-Fi connection or dialing those $500-a-minute psychic lines just to get her revenge?

Lord only knows what disgruntled electronics may do to make our lives a living hell.

Not only that, but what if the voice switch hurts her self-esteem? She could feel abandoned, unloved, useless and worthless. She may start to have nightmares, panic attacks, or think she’ll never work again, not even as an English-Spanish phone prompt.

The list of horrific possibilities continued to grow, with my regret and fear mingling with guilt and self-doubt. What have I done to poor Bixby?

In case you haven’t guessed, this is definitely where the insanity comes in.

Machines are Not People

Yelling at electronics is nothing new. Anyone who has ever cursed at a crashed computer or screamed at a jammed-up printer knows that. What’s new in the Bixby scenario is expecting the machine to actually know or care that we’re yelling at it. That the machine actually has feelings.

There’s a word for that. Anthropomorphism. Attributing human traits to non-human things. While most folks are prone to doing this to their dogs, cats or houseplants, it appears some of us are likewise doing it to electronic devices.

So what’s the fix?

Taking a breath, stepping back, and remembering that machines are not people. No matter how jazzed up they may be with artificial intelligence, they still don’t have the capacity to feel emotions like we humans do.

And they certainly don’t care if you change the style of their electronic voice on a smartphone virtual assistant. As soon as I convince myself of that, both Bixby and I can get a good night’s sleep.

Want more helpful relationship tips that go beyond getting along with electronics? Check out the Little Book of Big Jerks.

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Thinking of a Midnight Flight? Maybe Think Again

moonlight san diego

Despite being known as the red-eye, a midnight flight may sound pretty groovy. You get to drive to the airport long after rush hour. The check-in and security lines are less hectic, the airport less crowded and the wait less harrowing.

Once you board the plane, all you need to do is plop on your noise-cancelling headset, put on a meditation CD, and quickly fall asleep. Sleeping will be easy, you say, since it’s during your normal bedtime, right?

You may as well start laughing now. Better yet, start crying, which is something that will happen anyway if your midnight flight goes anything like mine did.

An Easy Start

I tried a midnight flight from Arizona to Florida. Nonstop was not an option at any hour, and midnight was the only flight that didn’t have a layover of at least four hours. Let’s try it, said I, see what happens.

The drive to the airport was smooth, as were the check-in and security lines. The airport was kind of creepy-cool without its usual hustle and bustle. The plane boarded easily and on time.

A Rocky Middle

Then the real fun began. I plopped on my headset, inserted meditation CD, and was drifting blissfully off to sleep when BLAM!

The woman behind me decided to use my head as some kind of kind of support shelf for standing up. Her entire forearm meatily landed across the entire top of my skull, knocking my headset asunder and any bliss right out of my mind.

She had apparently lost her balance or something and apologized immediately. But the damage had already been done.

A Horrific End

Sleep was lost, but I could at least still meditate, no? I continued to breathe deeply as instructed by the meditation stuff I’ve always read: in through my nose, out through my mouth. In through my nose, out through my mouth. Deeper and deeper, in through my nose, out through my mouth, as the Hemi-Sync CD played on.

At about the fifth inhale, I noticed a rancid stench permeating my nostrils. At first I thought someone just had gas and the odor would fade away. But instead it got stronger. Stronger. And even stronger. Inhaling through my nose at all was no longer an option, deeply or otherwise. Even breathing through my mouth was making my eyes water.

It ended up the kid next to me had pooed his pants.

By the time the parent woke up and took the tot to the bathroom, more damage had already been done from this one. Not only to the air around us, but also to the airplane seat. The kid, alas, had been beyond diaper age so the seat had no protection. The parent came back with a stack of airplane bathroom towels to cover the seat for the duration of the flight.

Although the odds of getting smashed across the the skull and permeated with poo smell may be slim on subsequent midnight flights, the flight can still be a painful experience if you don’t get any sleep. And based on the potpourri of pitfalls available, the chances of not getting sleep may be extremely high indeed.

Bon voyage!

Looking for something to pass the time on any flight? Snag one of rynski’s books today!

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Jerk o’ the Week: Woeful William

woeful william common jerk

The following is an excerpt from the Little Book of Big Jerks to give you a sneak peek at the types of jerks you’ll meet inside the guide to dealing with difficult people.

Woeful William

Just like everything King Midas touched turn to gold, everything Woeful William touches turns to, well, crap. This guy is a magnet for really bad luck.

His roof leaks. His car stalls. His pants rip. His cat hates him. At one time you actually had sympathy for the chap until you read somewhere that people with woeful outlooks actually cause their own bad luck. Now you just feel like shaking him.

3 Giveaway Traits:

  • Inspired a record number of sad country songs
  • Has had a long lineup of pets that hated him, died tragically, or both
  • Always has an empty chair on either side of him at group lunches and dinners

How to Deal:

Leave at least two empty chairs between yourself and him.

How Else to Deal:

Check out the cool jerk-fighting tools in the Little Book of Big Jerks. Real-life solutions for dealing with real-life jerks.

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The Four Agreements: What Happens when They Go Wrong

inspirational magnets four agreements

More than once I’ve heard people say they wished life came with a manual. Well, it kind of does. That manual is the book entitled “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

My mind was so blown when I picked up this tome that I started making art in its honor even before I turned the final page. Living the four agreements affords a fantastic way of life – but remembering to live them is a different story.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Never take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

One of the ways I ingrain the four agreements into my mind is to recall times when they went wrong, or the misery I felt before I even knew these agreements existed.

Here come real-life examples of the first two agreements gone wrong, with the other two covered in another blog post. Enjoy!

four agreements first agreement

First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word

Words have power. Loads of power. And you can’t take them back once you unleash them into the world. Choose your words carefully. Live up to what you say. And proofread for typos before you publish anything on the front page.

Example of First Agreement Gone Wrong

The front page of the Brooklyn newspaper where I worked ran a mini-feature on a lost subway tunnel tour. The tunnel had been recently unearthed and was now open to the public.

Our front-page story was supposed to have said the tunnel had been “sealed shut” for a number of years. But it instead said it was “sealed shit.”

The lady who gave us the info was convinced we did it on purpose. She was so mad her yelling nearly broke the phone speaker when she called to complain. I still went on the tour, but I didn’t dare tell anyone I was from the newspaper.

four agreements second agreement

Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

Someone cuts you off in traffic. Another moves your computer to sit at your desk. A third says you remind him of his dog. No, the world is not out to get you. Even the people who are seemingly saying or doing things that are directed at you aren’t out to get you. People’s actions and reactions are a reflection of the state of their own mind and soul, not yours.

Example of Second Agreement Gone Wrong

Another newspaper story comes to mind here, but one that happened much later when online comments first started getting popular. Those things were nasty from the get-go, and they only got nastier as time marched on.

One online story I wrote resulted in a massive attack from all angles, with commenters calling me names, bemoaning my very existence, and telling me how I should be thrown off an overpass and run over by a Mack truck.

My first reaction was to cry and hide. I was, after all, a terrible person who deserved to be killed by an overpass-Mack-truck combo. But then I started looking more closely at all their nasty words. Many of the commenters referred to me as “he” or “him,” while others were attacking things that didn’t even relate to me, like blond hair or having a pet kangaroo named Sam.

Right then and there I realized that, even when you appear to the target of a slight or attack, it’s not about you. It’s about the other person. They’re the ones with the rage, self-righteousness, intolerance or other issues that twist them into a snit.

You’re really not part of the equation at all. You just happened to stir up their snit-making feelings. So it’s too bad on them – not you!

While this agreement is one of the toughest for me to live, it’s also one of the most freeing. Whew and yahoo when I get it right. And although I did once have blond hair, I never had a kangaroo named Sam.

Check out the third and fourth agreements, now available on a blogski near you!

Check out Four Agreement art if you’re digging the message.

four agreements metal sign
Four Agreements Metal Sign
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3 Tips to Survive Awkward Parties

awkward party

The idea of a party can sound like fun. But you get there and feel like a sore thumb. Being charming and keen in social situations doesn’t come easily for many folks. Even just being in social situations can fill some with fear. Rather than hiding under the hors d’oeuvres table feeling awkward, use these three tips to sail through the fete.

Be of Service

No, you don’t have to go scrub toilets or dust the chandelier. But you can look around to see if there’s anything you can do to help someone else. Perhaps the host needs help bringing up extra chairs from the basement. Or the party guest with three toddlers needs a hand getting to the table without spilling all her guacamole on the carpet.

Any little thing you do to help someone else not only feels good, but it performs the magical achievement of focusing your attention on something other than your own whirling sore-thumb thoughts.

Find a Kindred Spirit

Scope out the room to find someone who appears to have something in common with you. Then head on over and bond. Choices can include someone who:

  • Has the same bright red hair color
  • Wears funky glasses
  • Is donning a shirt or hat from your favorite sports team
  • Looks even more uncomfortable than you are

The last choice is consistently a sure bet, especially if you kick off the conversation with the simple truth about how awkward or uncomfortable you feel. You may just make a new best friend for life.

Remember the Self-Absorption Rule

One of the reasons you may feel awkward is because you fear you may say or do something stupid that will haunt you for the rest of your adult life. Stop it right there. You can free yourself from the fear by recalling the self-absorption rule.

The self-absorption rule confirms that 87.3 percent of people are generally so self-absorbed and caught in their own spinning thoughts that they wouldn’t even notice if you said or did something stupid – or frankly, anything at all.

The other 12.7 percent? Well, they’re probably drinking and wouldn’t remember any stupid antics either. That leaves you totally clear and free to dance naked with that lampshade on your head!

Seriously, though, these three tips can help immensely when in an awkward social setting, even with your clothes on. I know because I use them myself. And if all else fails or the tips seem too tough, I have one more fallback that works to get through awkward parties every time. Just start playing with the dog, kids or cat.

Wondering how to deal with other situations, like encountering jerks? Get 12 terrific lifesaving tips from rynski’s Little Book of Big Jerks.

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