All the modern inconveniences

I always wanted to live in a James Bond movie. Push a button and a perfectly chilled martini rises silently, but majestically from a wet bar. Turn the face on your watch to the right and a tiny, poison dart dispenses the loud-mouthed jerk who cut in line at the post office. It’s all too seductive, the automated life.

So when my boyfriend and I moved in together in March and he announced plans to automate all the lighting in our apartment, I jumped on his idea like Trump on a prostitute. It was just lighting, but I felt it was a precursor to a fully automated household, full of decadent leisure brought on by the ability to control all the lights in our apartment, from a block away—or from around the world. While I wondered what was the point of turning a light on in the apartment when I was in Turkmenistan, I figured that it was for the same reason why a dog licks his balls: because he can.

 

On successive nights while I was working late, Alex installed track lighting and LED remote bulbs that could be controlled by an iPhone or iPad. He got shocked only once.

The night we christened our smart home lighting system, I tossed a monkey wrench in our plans while I was reading in bed. Picture me turning my book this way and that, trying to read without deep shadows or glaring light cascading down the pages.

“What are you trying to do?” Alex asks.

“I want to turn off the ceiling light.”

“Why don’t you use your iPad?”

“It’s in the other room.”

NOISES WHILE I GET OUT OF BED AND SET OFF IN SEARCH OF AFOREMENTIONED IPAD, DIFFICULT TO FIND BECAUSE THE LIVING ROOM IS DARK. I RETURN WITH IPAD A MINUTE LATER.

“Just open the app—”

“Which app?”

“The Philips Hue app.”

“I haven’t downloaded it.”

“Then let’s download it.”

NOISES OF ALEX TAPPING ON IPAD, DOWNLOADING APP AND OPENING IT AFTER A MINUTE OR SO.

“Okay, I’ll add the lights for the entire apartment.”

MORE TAPPING AS EXISTING LIGHTS ON SYSTEM ARE LOADED AND POPULATE ON IPAD.

“There you go!” Alex pronounces with a flourish as the overhead light dims and goes dark as if by magic.

If you had a stopwatch, you’d know that magic took about 4 minutes to work.

Things got more complicated once we brought Alexa and Siri into this. Supposedly, all we had to do is to say “Alexa?” or “Hey Siri” and tell them which light we wanted on or off and our wish would instantly be granted.

Fat chance. Alex would tell Alexa to “turn off everything in the living room,” and she’d pithily respond by saying that she “couldn’t find a device called everything in the living room.” Siri fared a little better, but we still had to repeat ourselves several times for Siri to get things right.

Now if you’re saying to me, “Dave, why don’t you just push a button on the wall?” you’d be correct. I can do such a simple thing. To which I will answer by saying that I’m in love and I want to show support and gratitude for my partner’s efforts. That’s the price of love.

When it comes down to it, smart homes are a good idea in theory, the same way it seemed like a good idea in the 1930s to float luxuriously through the air, strapped to a gigantic balloon filled with seven-million cubic feet of flammable hydrogen. In the same way, the automated Roomba vacuum is supposed to suck up debris to leave your floors spotless—until it hits a dog turd and smears it all over your domicile. Traffic app Waze is supposed to shorten your commute by sending you down little-known shortcuts and roads with good traffic flow—until you realize you’re being asked to make a death-defying darts across six lanes of traffic and hair-raising left turns during rush hour.

There’s a fly in the ointment in our brave new world, but I will sigh and take the good with the bad. So for the time being, if I want to turn on a light, I’ll go in search of my phone or iPad, turn IT on, find the app and open IT, locate the light I want to turn on and tap on ITS icon when I could just push a switch on the wall.

10 alternative things that could’ve been said by the first man on the moon

1. I really have to pee.
2 Oops! Was I supposed to go second? My bad.
3. Does this space suit make my ass look fat?
4. This is so amazing! I wonder if people will ever think that we faked this whole thing?
5. A slide would’ve been so much cooler than a ladder.
6. Oh great, now my underwear is bunching up on me
7. Everyone is watching. Please don’t fall. Please don’t fall.
8. I can’t breathe! Gasp, gasp, gasp. Just kidding.
9. I can see my house from here
10. Open the pod bay doors, Hal.

 

Photo: Courtesy NASA

Why You Will One Day Bow Down to Your Angry-Birds Master

An interview with a superintelligent computer 

Jessica: Good morning, everyone, I’m Jessica Cross and it’s Saturday, April 10, 2023, seven days after the Singularity. Today, we have an exclusive interview with Ted, the superintelligent computer that began life as an Angry Birds game and just last week, took over the world. He’s joining us from his fortified bunker deep inside a mountain in Colorado. Thanks for sparing us a few minutes, Ted.

Ted: Thank you so much for having me on your show.

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The Uncensored Version Of My Article About Dating That Ran In The Los Angeles Times

This article ran in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, June 29, 2018. They had to censor some parts and cut a bit for space. I understand completely. But I decided to let loose here. You have been warned. 

I wasn’t very smart when it came to dating. Or was I?

I like to think of myself as a pretty intelligent guy. Logical, analytical, able to reason things out.

If I’m not cycling around Griffith Park, I’ll spend my free time watching documentaries on YouTube about chaos theory, parallel universes and anything to do with Einstein. I have books stacked in tall piles on my bedside tables covering a bewildering array of subjects, from theories of time to the history of the Dutch people to Murakami novels filled with talking cats and disturbing passages of incest.

But when it comes to dating, my prized intellect goes completely out the window. I’ll date a guy with more red flags than a communist parade, ignoring warning signs that would cause most people in my position to move out of town and change their phone number.

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Even Henchmen Working for Organizations Dedicated to World Domination Can Suffer from Existential Nihilism and Inadequate Health Insurance

POW-POW!

“Hey, Stan, who are we shooting at this time?”

BLAM, BLAM!

“James Bond again.”

POW-POW!

“I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Why? We’ve got Bond outnumbered ten-to-one.”

“And every time he manages to come out on top.”

POW-POW!

“No way! We’ve got him cornered.”

“Where?”

“Over by the 100 canisters of liquified oxygen and pile of oily rags.”

“I still have a bad feeling about this…” Continue reading

The Irony of the Fermi Paradox

(A dialog between two extraterrestrials entering a new, unexplored solar system. Translated from their native Hexa-Dimensional Hru-ru)

“Captain, we examined the gas planet with the fantastic rings.”
“Gina 954?”
“Yes. No biomarkers, even though it seems perfect for life: mostly hydrogen and helium, with traces of methane, ammonia and water. Temperature is minus 279 Fahrenheit, windspeeds 1,100 miles an hour.”
“Sounds like heaven. Damn! We’re were so close.”
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The Theory of Natural Selection According to my Father

Let’s face it. Spend months on a desolate island in the Pacific looking at the beaks of Galapagos finches and before long, you might begin to realize something is going on there. Naturalist Charles Darwin did and it led to the theory of natural selection. Those individuals with heritable traits better suited to the environment will survive.

That’s not the way my father saw things in the natural world. He had his own rules that made you worthy of passing on your genes. Continue reading

An open letter to the ungrateful people of Earth

Dear Douchebag EarthlingsWTF humans!

We finished off the dinosaurs with a whopping asteroid to make way for you mammals. We tinkered with your genes and got you to come down from the trees. We taught early humans how to raise crops and domesticate animals. Gave democracy to the ancient Greeks. And pulled your sorry asses back from the brink of nuclear war on multiple occasions. You owe us extraterrestrials big time.

And how do you Judases repay us?

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Trees Grow Out of the Sky, Not the Ground

Richard Feynman, one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, could look at a simple tree and see much more than some roots, a trunk, branches and leaves. He understood and marveled at where they came from. The answer isn’t what you think.

Feynman said that trees come mostly out of the air.

Before you sputter in laughter and point in ridicule, you need to know that he’s correct.

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