A little bit about a lot of things:

• We have a new bit of technology in our home.....and I’m not yet sure that I like it.

Alexa is her name, and she resides in the Echo Dot which we recently acquired.

Alexa is a virtual voice assistant produced by Amazon (I believe, forgive me if I get some of the technical stuff wrong, it is not my forte).

She is kind of handy to have around in a lot of ways. If we have a question we might otherwise have to search the internet to answer, we can just say her name, ask the question and wait for her answer, delivered in a calm, unflappable artificial voice.

We are probably barely scratching the surface of using her technology, but we have turned to Alexa for everything from getting a weather report to setting a timer to requesting a specific song to playing Christmas music.

She’s not great at everything, though, as queries such as “what should I write about in my column this week?” are answered with something along the lines of, “Sorry, I can’t help you with that.”

Our grandchildren had great fun conversing with Alexa over the holidays.

And I have to admit that I’ve tried to stump her a time or two. Sometimes she doesn’t know the answer to a question, but even if her artificial brain senses that we’re messing with her Alexa doesn’t cop an attitude.

When she starts talking back, then I’ll know Alexa has overstayed her welcome.

In many ways, Alexa is a perfect house guest.

She never leaves the bathroom a mess, speaks only when spoken to, doesn’t raid the fridge and won’t criticize my cooking.

But on the other hand.....well, there’s just something I find a little unsettling about Alexa, probably in part because I don’t like being around machines or technology that are smarter than I am.

Alexa actually comes in quite handy sometimes.

But she is also an example of just how much smart technology has become ingrained in our lives.

And I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

I’ll have to ask her.

• Of course, other forms of technology are becoming commonplace as well.....we recently had the opportunity to activate our newly-installed solar energy system, which was a big moment around the Harris household.

Solar was no small investment, but it was one we made looking to the long-term. In a year or two, we’ll have a much clearer picture of how well it is all working out.

For now, my new hobby is pulling up our solar provider account to see how well the system is producing. That will probably get to be old hat before long, but for now it is kind of fun just to check in and see how the system is performing.

If they monitor such things, the good folks at the solar company probably get a kick out of how often their new customers are logging in to check on production.

Okay, in all honesty, I’m the one compelled to always be looking, not Kat.

Can’t help it. Gotta see what’s going on with it!

• Organizers of Gustine’s military banner program recently approached the Newman City Council asking to expand the program to Newman.

More than 20 banners, each with the name and photo of a West Side service member, grace light poles through downtown Gustine.

While the program started in Gustine, it recognizes service members from all our West Side communities so expanding to Newman simply makes sense.

The men and women from our communities deserve our recognition and support.

The banner program is one means of showing that they are not forgotten, and that their service is appreciated.

Having banners in both communities would allow each to recognize the service personnel in their own hometown.

I enjoy seeing the banners as I drive through Gustine, and would love to see the program expanded to Newman as well.

• The remarkable outpouring of support for the family of slain Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh shows no sign of slowing.

There have been too many benefits and fund-raisers for the family to even begin keeping track of, and each has been met with an overwhelming response.

One of the latest: Some $7,000 was raised for the family at Gustine FFA Ag Boosters’ annual dinner-dance over the weekend, most of which was generated by the auction of a metal “Thin Blue Line” flag created in tribute to the fallen officer. It was actually auctioned twice, and both buyers returned it to the FFA group, which is going to present the tribute to the Newman Police Department.

The dinner-dance is a huge fund-raiser for the Gustine FFA program.

That the FFA incorporated a fund-raiser to benefit a cause not only outside its own organization but in a neighboring community speaks volumes.

Can’t say enough about that gesture and all the efforts, from so many different places, to show support for the Singh family in time of tragedy.

Nothing short of amazing.

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.