Sorry about the long tendentious thing you probably skipped yesterday. Let me say this: I don’t want to overreact and I don’t want to under-react. I don’t want to act like a fool and I don’t want to be played for one.

Anyway. We now resume normal ordinary happy life.

The router was blinking on and off, yellow, indicating distress. Everything was working, but it was blinking. So I unplugged it and plugged it back in again and everything was green.

A few minutes later: Alexa, play Jeopardy.

Red circle. Oh; not connected. Didn’t get the memo. So I reconnected it via my phone and it was blue and happy.

Alexa, play Jeopardy.

Jeopardy Jaysix, she said, with the usual slightly off-kilter emphasis. I hope you’re ready for these clues.

I am.

A is for Art. The answer will start with the letter A. This American artist was noted for his mobiles.

Who is Alexander.

The blue ring went around and around for longer than usual.

Alexander can mean many things. It may refer to -

Alexa stop.

Huh: odd. I tried it again; same thing.

Alexa, play Gleason playlist.

Here is a song by Lisa Loeb. And then silence.

Alexa, what’s the news.

Here is your flash briefing from NPR. And then silence.

I mentioned this to daughter over dinner, and she said the same thing had happened earlier. It’s like she has . . . dementia.

I unplugged the unit and let it sit a while, then reconnected. No lights came on.

You get so used to talking to your robots that when they’re ailing you want to look up symptoms on WebMD. But I punched my number into the app and requested a call; the phone rang instantly. Within a minute a tech named Maria, who was in an Indian call center with 200 other Marias, picked up the phone, heard my story, then said she would pass me up the chain to a manager since I’d done everything she would tell someone to do.

The manager was Martin #47, and he couldn’t do anything except give me a 30% discount off a new one. Because Alexa was dead.

Except she wasn’t. I have a Dot upstairs, and I figured I could connect it to a Bluetooth speaker and it would fill in nicely. Because Alexa wasn’t an object; Alexa was a disembodied spirit who could be summoned by any number of devices. The Bluetooth speaker needed charging, so I plugged it in and did a bit more research. Some people said you should unplug the Echo for ten minutes, and it would come back. Which is the opposite of what you do with real personalities. Remove the ventilator for a day and rip off those cardiac stimulation electrodes! Give him a day.

I plugged in the Dot downstairs, and my wife asked what I was doing.

“Alexa is dead,” I said.

That’s not a very nice thing to say, said Alexa, now speaking through the Dot. I jumped. I was actually startled. Then I plugged in the main Echo in a different location (one I had tried before) and it lit up - as if being around another device had brought it back to life. It worked for a while. I moved it back to its old place. It fell silent.

This is an object the spirit of Alexa no longer can inhabit.

It has moved on.

The whole day had been half-cattywhompus, and this was typical. The previous night daughter had NINE FRIENDS over, five of whom stayed over for the night, and in the commotion of people arriving the door was left open and Scout of course ran out to chase things. When I discovered this the entire band of girls went out to find him, and had a great adventure in the dark chill of a January night. I drove around cursing, as I always do when someone else loses the dog, which someone else manages to do a lot, and was resigned as usual to the worst scenario. But they found him and were full of esprit de corps, and all was well.

The next night - the night Alexa declined to inhabit the Echo - I dropped daughter off at the gym, and went to the grocery store. Friday night! Cut loose! Had to get in on the last day of $5.99 Caribou coffee, and they had a two-for-one on Breaded Salmon Nodules that will make for a fine Thursday meal next week. Drove home, and as the garage door was going down I heard . . . my wife, outside. Maybe she was coming back from a walk with Scout?

But she had a box of Milkbones, which meant he had escaped. You rattle the box, he comes. She explained that Scout had seen a rabbit, bolted, and the leash was ripped from her hand - and he ran across a busy street in pursuit. She went one way and I went the other, cursing, as I always do when someone else loses the dog, which someone else manages to do a lot, and was resigned as usual to the worst scenario. But she found him.

Dogs don’t know they’ll die so they don’t care, which is why they die, but is also why they have awesome moments in which they are fully and completely alive. And intent on making something else dead, I suppose. Big karma thing here.

Anyway, he chased, which is the great joy, and then once home he emitted a series of uncharacteristic hind-quarter emanations that could peel the finish off the wood floors. Now he is curled up on his bed because the time of Things Happening has passed, and there are no Hopping or Loping Foes outside so he doesn’t have to pace in the snow and deal with the indignity of his nostrils filled with the scent of interlopers on the other side of the fence.

When dogs dream and they seem distressed, perhaps it’s not anxiety of fear, but frustration. They dream of doors and glass and fences.

"You’ll be lucky if you make it to five," my exasperated wife told the dog.

He grinned and panted and looked up at us: food now right? Because food when we get home right? Food?

Yes, dear beast. Food.

Alexa came back to life at 12:23 AM, and I asked her to play Jeopardy. The first category was A is for Artist.

The next category is M is for Mutt

The Missing Persons feature of an oater mag. A woman placed an ad because her husband had evaporated.

This was where she waited.




This week it's 1945. The Axis are mostly whipped, but the post-war consumer society with all its gadgets and toys is quite a ways off. That doesn't mean they didn't have anything to advertise, though. Grape juice! Glowing with goodness.

It's Canadian juice. This site on Canadian wine said Jordan wine was founded in 1926 "to take over Canadian Grape Producers Ltd." Sounds like a devious plan. They're gone now, having been acquired by someone else was later acquired by someone else.

The war might be winding down, but that doesn't mean everyone's home and happy.

Use the Wings of Commerce! It's super effective. As you may have discerned, these are are Canadian ads.

Issued by the authority of Honorable Ernest Bertrand!

Ernest Bertrand, PC (December 14, 1888 – October 11, 1958) was a Canadian politician.

Born in Somerset, Quebec, he was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons representing the Quebec riding of Laurier in the 1935 federal election. A Liberal, he was re-elected in 1940, 1945, and 1949. He was the Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Fisheries (Acting), and Postmaster General in the cabinet of Mackenzie King.

There are so many Canadians we know nothing about. I'd wager there are so many Canadians Canadians know nothing about.


It's fun to look at Canadian mags and pretend you're in a parallel universe where everything's slightly different but recognizable. Not an early draft of America, just a fork.

They had this brand too. This site says: "The cult status of the rubber heel and sole manufacturer has long been a part of the American lexicon–Amelia Earhart supposedly died wearing a pair of Cat’s Paw-heeled loafers."

Not sure "cult" applies. More from the same site:


Cat’s Paw was founded in Baltimore as Cat’s Paw Rubber Co. in 1904. The main draw of the heel was in its no slip rubber pads embedded in the heel. These little white studs were made of a different material and recessed slightly into the rubber. The wearer’s weight would extend the pad and add extra traction.

The site says the cat image was stolen later by Black Cat fireworks.

Hmmm . . . . no.


What's in it? Glad you asked:

Buckleys Stainless White Rub consists of Camphor, Capsicum Oleoresin, Hemlock Canadian Oil, Menthol, Methyl Salicylate, Thymol, Turpentine Oil.

Bob, the baby's coughing. Go rub him with turpentine, hemlock, and hot sauce.



One of those hopeful-post-war-visions. Coming after final victory, and extirpation of the fascist swine:

Translation: this big thing in the living room will provide the same cozy warmth as a big boiler in the basement connected to pipes around the house. Really? Yes because it has THE POWER OF THREE

People knew better, I suspect. It was better than nothing, but it's still a space heater.

  Do you look like a still from a 1927 silent Fritz Lang movie? As a friend said, "it may be your kidneys." Really? If you're experiencing excruciatin agony exactly where you kidney would be located, then perhaps yes, you've a stone. But Dodd's pills were sold to allieviate pain in the lower back. Muscular aches, tension, that sort of thing. Aspirin.


That'll do for today. Don't miss my MONDAY newspaper column! Just click on the big green Startribune Star.

The subject: Of COURSE Taco Bell is good for you. And other takeout delusions. ;)


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