Home Technology For The House That Has It All (Except A Maid)

I consider myself a bit of an early adopter.  If it’s shiny and new and runs on batteries, I’m probably interested in it, if not salivating over it. I’m also a neat freak. And, one of those weird people who loves all things Sur La Table – from stand mixers to slotted spoons, mandolins to mixing bowls.  Which is how I found myself fantasizing about household gadgets I’d love to own, as I stood there scraping dried spaghetti sauce off a plate at my sink this evening.

Some of these exist. Some of them don’t. Some of them sort of do, but the reviews are so terrible I don’t think they’re worth investing in just yet (I’m looking at you, Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner). But either way, here’s what I was wishing for while I washed dishes tonight. . .

-A portable dishwasher that would fit in my small apartment kitchen and cost me less than a month’s rent.

-A shower cleaning roomba that actually worked.

-A carpet cleaning roomba that actually worked (and cost me less than a month’s rent).

-An automated recording of my mother, built into the TV, to nag me to get off the couch and go read a book…particular when I’m  stuck in one of those awful 16 & Pregnant loops on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

-A spider killing device that allows me to stay at least 5 feet away from any arachnids while also never having to actually deal with their little dead bodies.

-A warning meter for when any of the following are running out (preferably with a magical refill-o-getter so I don’t have to go to the store): laundry detergent, toothpaste, deodorant, dish soap, skinny cow ice cream cones (yeah, I’m addicted). Actually, scratch that. Really, it’s the skinny cow cones I’m worried about running out of. The rest of it can wait.

-An extension cord that adjusts to fit the length I actually need at any given point, instead of turning into a space sucking snake of excess cordage or a tug of war fight to get it as far as I need it.

-A clapper for my heater and air conditioning.

-A clapper for everything else (yeah,  I’ve always wanted one of those).

-One of those awesome omelet-making Japanese cook robots (what can I say, their jaunty chef’s hats just tug at my heart strings).

-A recycling bin that carries itself to the dumpster.

-A smell tracker that could figure out where funky smells were coming from (come on, I can’t be the only one with the occasional funky smells emanating from god knows where in my kitchen) and preferably eradicate them on sight. . .or smell.

-Something that can predict when the really scary commercials (yeah, I hate the Saw clown guy) are about to come on the TV and automatically change the channel to something happy. Preferably House Hunters on HGTV, which is my new go-to happy place in TV-Land.

-A device that could make House Hunters magically appear on my TV 24 hours a day.

-A device that pops out new hangers when I need them…why am I always running out?

-A magic door in the back of my closet that leads to the mythical land of…more closet space.

What about you? What gadgets would you wish for from the home improvement genie?

GPS: iPhone Apps Make Getting Lost A Lost Art

I have two different kinds of GPS apps on my iPhone. I also have a glove compartment full of maps my well-meaning dad gave me when I first started driving. Given my unique ability to get lost even when driving through my own tiny 27 mile hometown, I’m sure he figured I’d need the help.

What he didn’t figure was my total lack of directional ability. Frankly, when it comes to reading maps, I’m about as hopeless as Chris Brown at a NOW convention. It just ain’t gonna work.

Usually, I can find my way around town via Google Maps, which I tend to send to my email before embarking on any unknown routes, since I don’t always trust the version on my iPhone to know exactly where I am when I’m already moving. I’ve already had far too many screeching u-turns to catch a left at a stop sign I’d already passed two blocks before the list of directions even loaded. Trust me, a talking (and rapidly updating) GPS device has been on my birthday wish list since the things were invented.

But, until my constant lost lateness wears someone I love down enough to merit them shelling out for a fancy GPS system, I’m sorry to say I won’t know the pain Michelle Slatalla details in this week’s excellent edition of the Wife/Mother/Worker/Spy column in the New York Times. In it, Slatalla mourns the loss of getting lost, and bemoans the fact that once you know exactly how to get where you’re going, you never really get to explore the journey again.

It’s a poignant piece, as most of her writing usually is, and it almost made me glad that despite my constant connectivity, I still have one weakness that even all my wireless technology can’t fix. Maybe my sheer inability to master modern technology’s virtual guarantee that you can go anywhere and never got lost again is actually a good thing. Maybe it means I get to enjoy the journey just a little bit more than all those linear people who understand directions and get places on time. Maybe if I could just stop cursing and sweating about my lateness long enough to stop and smell the exhaust fumes I might be able to appreciate my travels more than all those other drivers clogging up the freeways with their GPS-recommended routes. Or maybe someone should just hurry up and get me a damn GPS device already.

Robot Cooks: Machines Can Prepare Sushi & Rock A Chef’s Hat

Today, The New York Times ran an article about the rise of robotic chefs, including the new granola-bar-delivering Snackbot at Carnegie Mellon University and the omelet-making  Chief Cook bot in Switzerland.  From Japanese restaurants where robots make Ramen to entire conventions devoted to mechanized methods for preparing everything from sushi to sliced veggies, it appears that RoboCop is out and RoboChef is in. (Insert ‘dead or alive, you’re eating with me’ joke here).

Of course, I already have a robot that makes Ramen – it’s called the microwave. But it doesn’t have a jaunty chef’s hat and cute little googly eyes. So I suppose there are worse things modern technology could be churning out. Although, as an avowed foodie, a former foodservice employee and a long-time proponent of the ancient Jewish philosophy of ‘food is love,’ I’m not sure mechanical chefs can ever really replace the flesh and blood kind.

Sure, robots can slice and dice as methodically (or maybe even more so) as the best sous chef. But they can’t take a quick break to dirty dance with a waitress to whatever salsa tune is on the stereo. Or pour a tequila shot between services. Or freeze half to death looking for some long-lost root vegetable in the walk in and then spend the rest of the day complaining about it.  And they certainly can’t taste the food they prepare. Which, as far as I’m concerned, eliminates all the excitement and passion from the cooking process. Not to mention the tastebuds.

So although the gadget-geek side of me thinks a sushi-rolling robot is pretty darn cool, the side of me that loves food – and loves all the madcap behind-the-scenes drama and passion that goes into preparing it (and in most cases, preparing it well) – isn’t such a fan of seeing my chefs du jour replaced by chefs du circuitboard.

Not that I would argue with a robot making my morning toast. I just don’t want any Termibroilers taking over the food world full-force. Although having a chef with machine guns for arms might help cut down on those obnoxious diners who insist on sending their food back fifty times right in the middle of a rush.