My First Alexa – And Getting It To Work on Hotel WiFI

Remember this scene from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home? They’ve gone back in time, Scotty tries to work a computer by talking to it? Funny stuff. Science fiction then, science fact now thanks to major advances in voice recognition technology.

For legacy users like myself, it requires a bit of a mental reset. I’m someone who is so used to opening a new tab in a browser and typing a few words and looking at the result. It’s just in the past year that I started getting into using Siri on my i-devices.

I’ve been very curious about Amazon’s line of Alexa-enabled devices since the first reviews started coming out – was it a year ago? I wasn’t sure how useful it would be to me in Manila or Hong Kong – a lot of it seems to be tied into being an Amazon Prime member, which I’m not. I was also very curious about the sound quality if I was going to use the Echo as a bluetooth speaker for music.

(Amazon Echo 2nd generation)

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Spike in Texas

I don’t intend to post a day by day, blow by blow description of my current trip to the U.S. Things are going well and I need to remain focused on the tasks at hand. But a few brief things to bring you up to date, just in case you were wondering what happened to me.

This is my second time in Texas, but the first time I never left the airport, I was only transiting, so really this is my first time here.

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What the Fortune Teller Told Me and What I’m Doing

(I wrote most of this on Monday. Finished it late Wednesday night. Publishing on Thursday.)

Most people know that fortune tellers are con artists. It doesn’t matter. They’ve been around for centuries and when they’re good at their craft (and it definitely is a craft), at the very least it’s entertaining.

On Sunday night, my wife and I went up to the Temple Street Night Market. I love coming here. It’s always the same and hopefully it will never change.

First, you make that right turn from Jordan Road onto Temple Street and there are a couple of cheap shops selling just about any hair care product you can think of.

Then you get the four streets of stalls, selling any and every kind of cheap crap that they think someone will buy. I picked up a couple of USB cigarette lighters for US$6 a piece. No fluid, no gas, charge by USB, flick them on and a coil heats up enough to light a cigarette (but not large enough for a cigar), rechargeable, windproof, dozens of styles.

When you get to the garage, the south side has Nepalese people selling all sorts of crafts and religious statues. Along the west side are stands selling sex toys and personal grooming items. The east side has fortune tellers and stands set up for people to come along and pay some makeshift band so they can do karaoke-style Cantonese opera. The north side has more fortune tellers. Then there’s the park.

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Photography: Seven Days

I got tagged on this Facebook “seven days” thing.

Seven days.
Seven black & white photos of your life.
No people, no explanations.
Challenge someone new each day.
I was challenged by …
I challenge …

I couldn’t go out and shoot anything new because my priority at the moment remains my job search. This meant I had to dig into my archives. The “no people” part was especially challenging since I love shooting musicians and street photography is generally shots of people.

I did come up with seven photos. Now that I’ve posted them all on Facebook, I thought I’d share them here.

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Headphones I’m Using Now, Music I’m Listening to Now

Headphones are another addiction of mine – an addiction that I have (mostly) conquered. I used to buy several sets a year. (Most of them have long since been sold off.) I bought so many that the guys in one of the headphone shops in the top floor of the Wanchai Computer Centre knew me well.

I wouldn’t say I’m an audiophile. Some of my ability to hear high frequencies is gone with age and I have tinnitus (probably a result of doing rock concert security back in my college years).

On the other hand, I have a good idea of what music should sound like, or at least how I want it to sound. I listen to a broad variety of genres. And thanks to the increased storage capacity of the iPhone 7+, I’ve now been filling up that storage capacity with Apple Lossless files rather than MP3’s, more than 3,000 songs so far.

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My Hong Kong Airport Adventure

I know I don’t come off looking too great in this story but I’m going to share it anyway. (In my defense, I will state that my job search is still unresolved and I was leaving Hong Kong thinking that it could be a very long time until I return. I was distracted and feeling semi-depressed.)

Monday night was my night to fly back to Manila from Hong Kong. Over the course of the past six months, my routine has gotten pretty fixed. I always take the last flight out from Cebu Pacific – it gets me back to Manila after midnight, so usually the traffic has died down a bit and I can get home pretty quickly. I leave our apartment in Wanchai relatively early so that I can take my time in the airport.

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Hong Kong – Wan Chai Restaurants

For the past 5 months, I’ve been dividing my time equally between Manila and Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, my office is in Wan Chai, our flat is in Wan Chai, and I very rarely drag my butt out of Wan Chai. My wife works in Wan Chai as well. She gets a dinner break at 9 PM each night that’s just 45 minutes, so we have to eat in places close to her work.

What’s great about Wan Chai is there is such a wide range of restaurants and cuisines. You can go old school Hong Kong for relatively little money or you can drop a month’s salary on fine dining (no, I still haven’t been to Fook Lam Moon), and plenty of choices in between.

I thought people might find it useful to get my guide to places I’ve eaten in the area. I did a similar piece once but that’s more than 4 years old so hope you don’t mind an update.

After living in Sai Kung for 5 years and Lam Tsuen for 2 years, being back on Hong Kong island and having hundreds of places within a 15 minute radius is spoiling me like crazy. When we were living in the New Territories we had to get in the car for just a can of coke or a pack of smokes. The convenience of having so much within walking distance almost makes up for the tiny apartment.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive listing. Open Rice lists well over 1,000 restaurants in Wan Chai district. In this post I’ve mentioned roughly 70 places.

Spoiler alert: My #1 favorite spot at the moment is a relatively new tapas place called El Cerdo.

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You Always Think It Only Happens to Others (Until It Happens To You)

If I haven’t blogged in awhile, that’s because I’ve been primarily focusing my energy on my job search.

But three months into my job search, I’m absolutely nowhere. I didn’t expect I’d find a new job within three months – though it would have been nice – but I did expect that I’d be getting somewhere by now. And the fact is, I’m not.

In the last three months I’ve reached out to almost everyone in my network in Hong Kong, and some people have been exceptionally helpful. I’ve had coffee with 15 or 20 headhunters, who always tell me the same thing – “Wow, your background is incredible. I’m sure you’ll find a great job. But I don’t have anything for you right now. Let’s stay in touch.”

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