Photo by Natalie Perea

I had mentioned in a previous post that we’ve been playing with personal assistants like Google Home and Alexa. I also mentioned that I would probably be getting a HomePod.

I got one. About a month ago.

I really like HomePod. However, my use case for the HomePod is different than the Google Home products. I use it in my home office as a speaker. All I really ask it to do is play music and it sounds great.

I should probably ask Siri (HomePod) to do things other than play certain music. You know, for science. But I just haven’t yet.

My one gripe with having so many Siri devices in a small area is that whenever I would say “Hey Siri …” multiple devices would light up. Sometimes my Apple Watch or iPhone would respond. I fixed the issue (I think) by turning off the “Listen for Her Siri” option in settings (Settings > Siri & Search). It’s been working much better since then.

So far, I’m loving HomePod. It makes a great speaker for my office.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster

I’ve got a thing for jigsaw puzzles. I don’t really know why, but I do. The problem is that I don’t like terrible jigsaw puzzles, but I feel compelled to complete them no matter how bad they are. I think my family knows this and they troll me with it.

I’ve got a small stack of jigsaw puzzles that I like. There are some Star Wars, Pixar, and video game based jigsaw puzzles that I really like. For Christmas this year, my wife bought the kids some really bad jigsaw puzzles. This includes this terrible Bits and Pieces-Pizza Pie - 1000 Piece Round Jigsaw Puzzle.

Recently my wife bought a square padding card table with the sole purpose of doing jigsaw puzzles on. When we got home, my youngest and her picked out the terrible pizza puzzle (linked above) to work on. They we super excited about it. They even got the entire border done. However, as soon as that was done, they abandoned the puzzle. Since then I’ve been on my own. This isn’t new. This happens all the time. I’ve done a handful of puzzles that I absolutely hate just in order to complete them.

I’m about halfway through the latest puzzle. I was hoping to finish this puzzle by now. There are times when I sit down to work on the puzzle and just can’t do it. Today I sat down and listened to an episode of The Talk Show and it made working on the puzzle so much easier to deal with. I actually made some excellent progress. Maybe podcasts are my way of powering through bad jigsaw puzzles.

This puzzle is terrible. Please send help. I need to get it done in order to move onto a better puzzle.

Books Read in February

Photo by Syd Wachs

Here are a list of books that I’ve read in February. I’m still going strong and reading plenty of books. My goal for the year was 20 and I’ve already read 17 books. If I keep this up, I’ll pass the goal next month.

This has already beaten last year’s count. Last year’s goal was 12 and I managed 14.

One a sidenote, I missed a book in my January list. I had finished Phasma late in the month and forgot to record it.

February’s books are:

Fewer books this month

There are fewer books on this month’s list. The reason for that is that I didn’t read any short stories/novellas that I thought were full length books. There’s nothing wrong with short stories and novellas, but they inflated my numbers a bit.

Wider variety this month too

I’ve read a wider variety of books this month. That mostly means less Star Wars content. I still read through two Star Wars comics. They were both excellent. But I’ve been reading more of what I typically read.

What are you reading now?

I still have three books going at a time. It’s still a Kindle book, audiobook and comic. I think that’s a good balance. I often listen to audiobooks on my walks. And I read comics and kindle books at other times of the day.

The comic I’m currently reading is Shattered Empire. So far it’s really good. I’m almost done with it and should finish it this weekend.

I’m reading Shift on my kindle. I had read through Wool Omnibus last Summer and really enjoyed it. This is the second novel in that series (which is actually a prequel).

Lastly, I’m currently listening to Artemis. If you enjoyed The Martian, I think you’ll like this one too. I’m not finished with it yet, but I really enjoy Andy Weir’s writing style.

Most/Least favorites of the month?

My favorite book this month was either Anansi Boys or The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye.

I’ve only read one book by Neil Gaiman before (American Gods). I really enjoyed that book and liked this one too. Apparently both are in the same series/universe?. I like Neil Gaiman’s style of writing. I’m not sure why I haven’t read more of his work.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is the 5th in that series. I’ve liked that series from the beginning. I know the author has changed since the beginning, but I still like the series.

My least favorite book this month was The Lincoln Lawyer. After reading the book, I discovered that I had read this book before. It must have left one heck of an impression that I didn’t remember reading it. Oh well.

I’ve been happy that I’ve been sticking with reading this much so far. I was afraid that it would drop off after the first month.

Books Read in January

Photo by César Viteri

Here are a list of books that I’ve read in January. It was more than I thought I would make it through, but there are a few caveats, I’ll explain below.

I heard you like Star Wars

I’ve been on a Star Wars novel kick for almost a year now. I’m not sure why I’ve gone so deep into it, but I really like reading the content.

Recently, I’ve also started reading Star Wars comic books (mostly volumes/graphic novels). I haven’t read individual issues in a long time. I prefer reading the entire story arc in a single convenient location.

How and why so many?

There are a lot of books on the list. When I grabbed a number of them (for my Kindle) for free, I hadn’t realized that they were more short stories rather than novels. Smuggler’s Run…, High Noon…, The Crimson Corsair…, and Before the Awakening were all more like short stories. I still read through them and enjoyed them.

Why are you including comic books?

I dunno, why not. They aren’t individual issues, they are full length graphic novels. I don’t think I would include individual issues.

When I was growing up, I read tons of comic books. I used to spend days with my friends at the local comic book store. We would read them, trade them, talk about them. It was a big part of my childhood. So why not include them.

What are you reading now?

I currently have three books going. A Kindle book, audiobook and comic. I’m taking a short break from Star Wars content (other than the comic), but I expect that I’ll get back to them soon enough. You’ll just have to wait until next month to find out.

Most/Least favorites of the month?

My favorite book this month was Bloodline. It gave some nice insight on what happened in the Star Wars universe between the end of Empire’s End (post Return of the Jedi) and The Force Awakens.

My least favorite book this month was Brave New World. There were parts of the book that I really enjoyed, but there were a lot that I didn’t. The concept (a dystopian future) was interesting, but it just wasn’t my style or taste. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly I didn’t enjoy, but there was something.

I’m still at it. Reading every day. I’m hoping that I can reach at least one of my 2018 goals.

Alexa vs Google

Photo by Kevin Bhagat

I got my wife a Google Home Mini for her birthday. She saw one on TV and liked the idea. We set it up and we (as a family) really enjoyed it.

Some of my wife’s friends have an Amazon Echo (Alexa) and they liked it. We wanted to see which was better. On Black Friday, we bought an Amazon Echo Dot.

The Google Home Mini was set up in our family room and the Amazon Echo Dot got set up in our kitchen. We started testing them both out to see which we liked better.

I actually wanted to like the Amazon Echo better. We have Amazon Prime (and hence Prime Music), so accessing the music library is already included in the price. But to make things fair, I subscribed to Google Play Music Unlimited.

A lot of the tests leading up to and over the Christmas break included asking Google and Alexa to play us Christmas music. We noticed that the Google Home Mini sounded much better than the Echo. Whenever we said “Hey Google/Alexa play Christmas music” Google would always play a better selection of Christmas music. Amazon kept playing Pentatonix for us. Google would play a wide variety of popular Christmas music.

Google Home was also much better at recognizing my mumbling and doing my bidding. I would often have to repeat requests with Alexa. At one point, I got frustrated with Alexa and said “Hey alexa, you suck” which she actually recognized and said she was sorry.

The kids loved trying out both of them. They would ask Alexa a question and immediately run into the other room and ask Google the same thing.

Our youngest loved playing games with Google Home. He’d ask Google to pick a number between 1 and 100. He’d ask her to make various animal noises. There was a point just before Christmas break where he asked her the summary of a book he was supposed to be reading.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. About midway through December, we gave up on Alexa. I bought two more Google Homes, one mini and a regular? We have them in several rooms on our first floor. The three devices are linked up and we can listen to music throughout the first floor.

So, where’s Siri (and Apple) in all of this? Currently MIA. Apple has announced a device like these called the HomePod. It was supposed to ship in December, but was delayed. This was the one I was waiting for. When it comes out, I would like to get one. I’m just worried about Siri. I really like Siri (mostly because I’m an Apple fanboy), but she/it can be extremely frustrating to use. If/When we do get a HomePod, I’m sure we’ll go through a similar test to what we did with Google Home and Alexa.