Mississippi River Flooding

Several weeks ago, the Mississippi River was rising to historic levels in Missouri, Illinois and other states.  Since I lived downstream, it was cause for concerned.   I lived in a small town on the Mississippi River protected by levees.  My apartment is little over a mile from the river on flat terrain.   Though the forecast was not predicted to be as high in 2010, it was going to be close.   There was going to be major flooding and with that, there is aways a possibility of the levee breaking.

At first, they forecast the crest to be in the top three ever.   Every time I heard the siren once the river rose to major flood stage, I stopped whatever I was doing to listen if it was an emergency vehicle siren or if it was a continuous one indicating a possible levee failure.  The only thing that worried me was, what would I do if the levee failed – especially since I cannot swim.    If the levee broke, the river would flow miles on the flat terrain.

Anyway, the river finally crested and it was not near as high as they forecast.  The crest was not even in the top 10.   Though this happened a couple of weeks ago, this was an unusual winter flood.  I sure hope does not mean the river will be a problem in May when the river is almost always in flood stage.   Oh well, life goes on.


Posted in General

Shopping Lists and Technology

Over the years, my shopping lists have evolved from scrap pieces of paper to using a smartphone.  When I first purchased my smartphone I was able to create my shopping list on it using a stylus and a note taking app.  Made it easy to use since I was able to cross it out as I picked out the item.  A disadvantage was using in one hand to hold the phone, getting the item, and cross the item off my list.  It was awkward at times and was always afraid of dropping the phone.   I did not want to lay the phone on the cart because it would be a tempting target for some thief.

Then I purchased the Amazon Echo.  I found the echo was perfect for creating shopping lists.  It was simple calling out the items you need as you use them or as you are going through the cabinets to see what you were out of.  The only real disadvantage was using the list when you got to the store.  Sometimes the echo app was slow opening the list.  If using IFTTT to get the shopping list via email, it would be slow in receiving it or unable to access because the phone could not receive a signal inside the store.   Again, there was the problem of holding the phone, picking the items, and crossing the item off the list.  It was still so awkward to use – but it worked better than scrap paper.

Then I purchased a smartwatch, a gear s2 classic to be specific.  Was looking through IFTTT recipes to see if there was a better one for shopping lists and I saw a text message one.  Since the gear can pick up text messages, I decided to give the IFTTT recipe another try.  Now before leaving for shopping, I checked the echo for the shopping list.  By the time I got to the store, I received the messages and was able to use the list on my smartwatch with ease.   The only disadvantage so far is not being able to cross items off the list.   I can live with that.

Technology – how can we live without it these days.

Posted in General

Recipes for the Echo

I have been reading in different Amazon Echo forums about users wanting is the ability to use recipes.  It would be great to have a recipe read to you that can be paused as needed while preparing a meal.   The following is my suggestion of how it could be done.

First you must download audio files for different recipes from different websites or create your own. Be sure to read the sites’ terms to make sure there would not be any copyright violation. Fortunately, most will allow for personal use.  Another way is to create your own recipes audio files.  There are various ways of creating your own from using text to speech if you do not want to use your own voice or just reading it yourself and record. Each recipe must have its own mp3 file.

Once you have a collection of recipes, you can create a menu which would work like chapters. For example. create a mp3 and name it beef,  then, add the titles of all your beef mp3 recipes to it. When you command the echo to play beef. It will read all the titles of your beef recipes until you hear the one you want, for example, if you want beef casserole but not sure what you called or just browsing. first command the echo to play the beef audio file.  When it reads beef casserole, just pause or cancel and command the echo to play the beef casserole audio file. Do the exact same steps for other categories like pork, chicken, finger food, snacks, desserts, etc…

Once the mp3 files are created, upload them to your Amazon Music Library account.  It is as easy as that.

Posted in General

Amazon Echo

Today, there are so many different devices on the market that is making me lazy.  Where were they when I was younger?  My apartment was connected with TCP connected bulbs where I can turn them on/off anywhere in the world using a smartphone app.  I mean it is so easy to sit on the recliner and turn the lights on/off as needed,  It is great and it was all the convenience I needed.   A few months later, I purchased a wifi thermostat just so I can adjust the temperature from the recliner.  Again, I thought it was all the convenience needed – or so I thought.

Then back in 2014, Amazon came out with a new device called the Amazon Echo.  It was a black tube with speakers and micrphones shaped like and about the size of a pringles can.   The sole purpose of it was to make it easier to do things around the house such as turning on/off lights, play music, answer questions, create shopping lists, play the latest news/weather, and more with just a voice command.  When I first saw it advertise at Amazon, I did not give it a second thought.  I felt there was no need for it.

In June, 2015 came around and I read some more reports about the Amazon Echo.  The price when up but had to reserve one while it was still in beta.  After reading more about it, I reserved one.  Two weeks later,  I wished I had purchased it sooner, it was great!   The only problem was, the TCP connected lights could not connect to it, they were not compatible.  In fact, there were only two light bulb brands the Echo was compaible with.

I was disappointed  and started looking for other solutions.  Try Wemo wall switches but, did not have neutral wires on any of the wall switches.  Try Wemo bulbs, but they were not compatible.   The only solution I could find was using Wemo insight switches for all the lamps and other devices like the tv.

A couple of weeks later there was an announcement the Wink was now compatible with the Amazon Echo and since the TCP connected bulbs was compatible with the Wink, it was perfect! And it was great!   Now every light in  the apartment can be turned on via voice.  One disadvantage is when there are guests, they will use the wall switches.  Once the switches are turned off, they must be turned back on before using the  Echo.

At this time, unfortunately, it is still not compatible with the wifi thermostat,  However, I can honestly say I cannot live without it.   I have gotten used to asking about the weather every morning.  I have gotten used to telling it to add items to my shopping list.   I have gotten used to telling it to turn on the lights as I walked in the door.   I have gotten used to telling it to turn off the lights and tv as I am walking out the door.

I have just gotten used to it.

Posted in General, Technical

Happy New Year

Another one down and a new one to start.  Was up at midnight, went outside and watch some fireworks.  Heard a lot of gun shots too.  Just hoped they were not too close to where I live.  What goes up, must come down.

Unfortunately, the new year could start with flooding.  For the next few weeks, the river is going to get high, possibly breaking more records.  I live about a mile behind the levee and if it breaks, my home will get flooded.  Wonder if it is too late to learn to swim  😦

Posted in General