Introducing Author Dorothy Rosby, Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked Off About

Introducing Author Dorothy Rosby Stacey GustafsonI’d like to introduce Dorothy Rosby, speaker and syndicated humor columnist whose work appears regularly in publications in the West and Midwest. We met at an Erma Bombeck workshop and instantly clicked. Her friendly personality, cheerful attitude and wiliness to help cemented a friendship. I’m pleased to promote her upcoming book, Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About: Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time.

The pandemic created an interesting challenge for a book release. Here’s the story behind the title of her new book, Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About: Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time.


The Book Formerly Known as Ewww

If there were an award for bad timing, I’d nominate me. My latest book of humorous essays was finally set to come out—in the middle of a global pandemic. And that’s not the worst of it. It had a shockingly unsuitable title for this moment in history: Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Worry About, Humorous Essays on the Hazards of Our Time.

Before COVID-19, people laughed when I told them the title. After COVID-19, several people actually said, “Ewww.” That’s not the reaction you want when you reveal the title of your new book.

But there I was, holding the proof copy in my hands, steps away from finally unleashing on the world, when there appeared on the scene a “hazard of our time” I hadn’t thought to include. In a book claiming to make light of the hazards of our time, a global pandemic might be conspicuous by its absence.

I’m sick of COVID-19 and I’m sick of the book.Introducing Author Dorothy Rosby Stacey Gustafson

I pouted for a few weeks, debated what to do, hoped the pandemic would disappear and pouted some more. Then I woke up one morning and decided I don’t much care anymore whether it’s a good time to release a book or not, no matter what its title is. I’m sick of COVID-19 and I’m sick of the book. And everyone who knows me is sick of it too. I’ve been working on it for three years and telling them it’s “coming soon” for at least that long. If I don’t get it out there, no one will ever believe me again.

In an uncharacteristic effort to be reasonable, I did decide to change the title though. And this was no easy thing. For me, coming up with a title is almost as hard as writing a book. And I really liked my title, if only because it was done.

I thought about following Prince’s lead and calling it The Book Formerly Known as Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Worry About but that was too long. I considered naming it something more positive like How Alexa Comforts Us During Trying Times, but that’s a little like calling Gone with the Wind science fiction.

I may have been a tad over dramatic when I named the book.

Finally, I realized that, as is often the case, I may have been a tad over dramatic when I named the book in the first place. It contains essays about intrusive technology, clutter, spammers, scammers and lots of other nuisances of modern life. No mention of zoom meeting hackers and toilet paper shortages because I didn’t see those coming when I was writing the book. I now see that as a giant failure of imagination on my part.

After a great deal of deliberation, I changed the title to Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About: Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time which is more accurate if less interesting. And for better or worse it’s now available wherever books are sold. I still like the old title better, but the new one beats Ewww by a long shot.

Want to read an excerpt?

 Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About: Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time?

Racking, Wracking and Cyberslacking

I was racking my brain, trying to come up with a clever phrase to open this essay. As you can, see, I didn’t. But that’s because I got off track when I started to wonder if, instead of “racking” my brain, I might actually be “wracking” my brain. Either way, it was painful.

There was a day I would have consulted my trusty dictionary to answer such a question. But dictionaries are for people who don’t need reading glasses—or need them and can find them. The rest of us can now go to the internet and consult a search engine. The print is larger and, for me, it’s faster than finding my glasses.

After a quick search, I learned that I was most likely racking (stretching out, as with an ancient torture device) rather than wracking (ruining or destroying) my brain, which is lucky because I still need it.

I’ve been able to find answers to some of my most pressing questions on the internet, and some of them may even be right. For example, I found the cost of all the gifts listed in the “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” though not why anyone would want ten lords a-leaping.

And I learned what’s “corned” about “corned beef.”

And I learned what’s “corned” about “corned beef.” In case you’re wondering, the meat is cured by covering it with large kernels of salt that are called “corns of salt.” And “corned beef” does sound better than “kerneled beef.”

I was curious about what the majority of consumers call that bubbly beverage that comes in aluminum cans. And no, I don’t mean beer—or champagne. As far as I know, champagne doesn’t come in aluminum cans, but you could Google it to be sure. I typed in the phrase “soda or pop” and voila! Someone has thoughtfully created a map labeling each state: “pop,” “soda,” or “other,” which seems like a funny name for a beverage.

Awhile back I was tempted to use a cliché I’d heard about lemmings following each other off a cliff to their deaths. But I know nothing about lemmings and was therefore not sure if they actually do follow each other off cliffs. Maybe I’d misunderstood; maybe it was not “lemmings,” but “lemons” that follow each other to their deaths.

I turned to Bing the All Knowing and learned that the Norwegian lemming population level regularly rises to unsustainable levels, which causes it to crash. This abrupt drop has given rise to the myth of lemming mass suicide. I found no such information about lemons.

I don’t heed that old advice given to writers

It’s probably clear by now that I don’t heed that old advice given to writers: “Write what you know.” If I would have, I’d have run out of material a long time ago.

Why should writers stick to what we know when we’ve got Google, Webopedia, Bing, Baidu, Ask, Dogpile, Duck Duck Go, Yippy Search and more? (I personally don’t use all of those. In fact, I’d never heard of some of them until I did a quick internet search for internet search engines.)

Back in the old days, if I wanted to know Barbie’s full name (Barbara Millicent Roberts) or the birthstone for August (peridot), I had to check an encyclopedia—or just make it up. Now I go to Google the Omnipotent where, for all I know, someone else made it up.

And there are other dangers. One day while I was happily wandering around the World Wide Web searching for the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, I landed on a trap. Suddenly a bright red box popped up on my screen with the ominous message, “Your computer has been blocked. Your browser might have been hacked. Suspicious activity detected.” Then there was a “ding, ding, ding” like I’d just breached security at a nuclear power plant.

In a panic, I called the number at the bottom of the screen and a very polite-sounding gentleman answered. I was just about to give him my credit card number when I experienced a rare bout of common sense. It occurred to me he may not be as nice as he sounded. I’m not either, so I told him, “Never mind. I don’t think you can be trusted.” Then I hung up, shut down my computer and came back later. All was well.

Danger of wandering around on the Web

There’s another danger of wandering around on the Web, and this one is more insidious. For me, searching for information on the internet is like following a butterfly. I land here, see something else that catches my fancy, follow that, land there and so on and so forth until the afternoon is gone and I can’t remember why I started searching.

I once wrote an essay about the foods served at Super Bowl parties. That’s always been more important to me than the game, no matter who’s playing. But when I searched for “Super Bowl food,” I discovered there were more than three million results. Do you know how long it takes to read three million results? Neither do I. But I almost missed the Super Bowl party trying to find out.

And a few months back, I went to the Web wondering if I could freeze butter. I’d picked some up at the grocery store, brought it home and discovered I already had a pound in my refrigerator. Fortunately you can freeze butter and, as it turns out, raw egg whites and tomato sauce. But don’t freeze cooked egg whites, cheese or macaroni, at least not if you want to eat them someday. I know that because I followed a link and then another one and another one. Meanwhile my extra butter was melting on my kitchen counter.

I recently went online to find out how many tiles there are in a Scrabble game. In case you were wondering, there are ninety-eight letter tiles and two blank ones. We have a scrabble game, but I haven’t seen it in years, so I decided it would be faster to search online than it would be to locate my own game. And it was faster, even when you take into account that I got sidetracked following a link to a story on seventeen ways to cheat at Scrabble.

Avoid doing actual work at my computer

Researching trivia has replaced walking back and forth to the refrigerator as my favorite way to avoid doing actual work at my computer. As I write, questions pop into my head and most of them have nothing to do with what I’m working on. For example, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Knowing that it’s approximately 252 is useful when Tootsie Pops play a role in what I’m writing, but up until this moment they never have.

Worse, I’ve wasted time researching when I could have been working or even licking an actual Tootsie Pop myself.

If you’re thinking it couldn’t have taken that long, you’ve apparently never blown an afternoon following one link and another and another until you’ve completely forgotten what your original question was.

Let me demonstrate. Let’s say I want to make a better meatloaf. Before I type the word “meatloaf” into the search bar, I have to get past my newsfeed. I seldom do.

There’s a story about what I should never do to an avocado (bake it), why they have shoulder buttons on women’s coats (to hold your purse in place), and how to pronounce Princess Eugenie’s name. I’ve never given this a thought, but now that you mention it…I click on the link and see a photo of Princess Eugenie wearing what looks like a satellite dish on her head. I love hats; I’m less fond of satellite dishes.

Why do royals wear such goofy hats?

Suddenly, I’m overcome with curiosity. Why do royals wear such goofy hats? I type the question into the search bar and an explanation appears, but I don’t read it because my attention is caught by a sidebar: “The best haircuts for older women.” Now there’s news I can use. I start scrolling. I’m at thirty-two—the haircut, not the age—when my attention is snagged by another sidebar, “Why you shouldn’t add milk to scrambled eggs.” I don’t, but I can’t help wondering why I shouldn’t. It’s a free country after all. I click on the link and up pops a story and photo of scrambled eggs. Dang, I’m hungry. What should I make for dinner?

I have just whiled away an hour, and I still don’t know how to pronounce Eugenie, why she wears those bizarre hats, what my next haircut should be or how to make a better meatloaf.

So if you want to know how, I’d suggest you don’t look it up.

There’s a silver lining though. When children of long ago had questions, their mothers often sent them to the encyclopedia. “Look it up,” they said, and obedient children did as they were told. More clever children realized their mothers didn’t know the answer but were too embarrassed to admit it, so they gave up and ran off to play. And foolish children asked older siblings who purposely misled them. That explains why, to this day, many adults think camels store water in their humps and chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

Things have changed. Today’s children look up information without being told to. And why not? Asking Siri or searching the Internet is so easy even an adult can do it. And we do—all day long.

BIO for Dorothy Rosby

Dorothy Rosby is a speaker and syndicated humor columnist whose work appears regularly in publications in the West and Midwest. She’s the author of three books of humorous essays: Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Worry About, Humorous Essays on the Hazards of Our Time; I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better and I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch, Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. She’s working on her fourth book and hoping to give it a shorter title—something like It’s Finally Done or Best Seller.




@dorothyrosby (Twitter)

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