Friday, December 8, 2023


One side effect of getting older is that you have fewer epiphanies. 

I'm sure I'm like a lot of people when it comes to personal writing. I jot ideas down, maybe start a story or a diary or something like that, and then I stumble across whatever I started a decade later and feel like some time-traveling version of myself wrote me a letter. It used to be sort of fun to see how my thinking had evolved, but now that I'm older, the only thing that surprises me is that I could have written some of this stuff a week ago and felt the same way.

The post below was something I apparently nearly-finished in August of 2017. I've annotated it because, well, why not?

When it comes to adopting new technologies, I'm almost always a laggard. I didn't get my first computer until sometime in 1997, and I only recently got a smartphone. I think I do a pretty good job getting the most out of these things once I own them, but I'm almost always the last of my friends to buy Thing X because I'm cheap and I'm immune to shownership. Only a few innovations have really made me happy. [2023 me: this is all still true].

3. Nook... stuff. Yes, the original Nook reader aged badly, but it got me back into catching up on the news while riding the train, helped my kid learn to read, and enabled me to finally finish Ulysses, among many self-improvement goals. I would be surprised if the Nook readers and apps were able to stay viable among all the Kindle tablets and apps. Until the Kindle comes with better interactive books or Anna learns to read, though, I'm remaining a Nook loyalist. [Kindle's product line is far superior now, and Anna knows how to read. I'm *still* a Nook adherent, though, although I usually just read books on my phone unless I'm reading in the sun].

2. Tablets. When these things started to pop up, I didn't get the appeal. They seemed to do less than a laptop, and were less convenient than a smartphone. The only reason I bought my first was because the prices were so low for a Nook tablet. My opinion after owning one has changed 180 degrees, though. My Samsung Tab S8.4 has been the perfect mix of convenience and functionality. I work on it on the train, watch movies on it in bed, teach my kid to write and do math with it, and just about everything else. I should just ditch my TV and the rest of the video stuff. Double thumbs up to being able to connect my Samsung S to the TV with an HDMI cable. [I'm still a fan of tablets, although the fact that I can jot nicer handwritten notes on my Samsung Galaxy Note than any tablet has dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. Funny side note: my Tab S8.4 blew off the top of my car a few years ago while I was driving to the train station. I knew exactly what happened while it was happening, but still couldn't find the thing! Some bum probably stumbled across it after buying a few nips at the liquor store and is probably using it to watch Home Alone right now].

1. The Roomba 880.
I remember telling my friends that I was strongly considering buying one of these things. The consensus response was that I was going to waste my money, that these things are expensive and don't pick up anything. I have asthma and dust allergies, though, and my wife and I vacuumed the house maybe twice a year. In fact, I've been fined by multiple landlords for being negligent about the carpets. I came to terms with the reality that I was just not a vacuumer and that I needed a better way, so when Consumer Reports issued a glowing summary about the Roomba 880, I put it on my wish list.

The thing has exceeded my wildest expectations. It's surprisingly heavy for a thing that's the size of a large pizza, and it takes a ***long*** time to complete a room. But when it's done, all I can think is "wow!" Our carpets have seriously never looked better. It is not for people with low self-esteem: the 880 has some sort of way of detecting that it is vacuuming a particularly dirty section of your floor, and then it loops over that section again and again and again until it's clean. If your floors are really dirty, it'll just keep vacuuming until it can't hold any more dust or dirt. This is embarrassing: you'll keep emptying the storage bin and recharging the thing until you reach a "#@!% it" point where you realize that cleaning your neglected carpets is a marathon, not a race. After three or four months of running it in the master bedroom, it still can't finish the room without becoming engorged beyond capacity.

And I'd be lying if I didn't say that I loved the noises it makes. In a fit of inspiration, the Roomba engineers designed it to emit Atari 2600-esque sound effects when it starts (a beep-beep-beep 'lets get started!') and when it finishes (a heroic 'we did it!' ditty). More than a few times, I've just sat with my kids on the bed watching the Roomba do its magic. It's like watching tulips emerge after a long winter.

iRobot recently came out with the 980. I'm not shelling out the big bucks for another one of these things until it shampoos or steams the carpet, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious.

[Six  years later, I still love the Roomba, but it toils in less glorious environs. Cristin and I now support the immigrant economy by having cleaners decide if the main sections of our house are worthy of inhabitants. The Roomba's not yet retired: COVID forced me to relocate my office to the basement, and 880 keeps me company. Like King Kong Bundy working the indy circuit after his glory days in the WWF, the Roomba continues its diligent work in relative obscurity, earning its keep by vacuuming cobwebs, dead spiders, and the occasional carcass of a mouse. There's a more interesting blog post about how I feel about the whole housekeeping thing. For this posting, it's enough to say that if I were to start a new posting about about my favorite innovations today, I'm ashamed to say that I'd probably still put the Nook, tablets, and the Roomba at the top of my list.]


The Roomba 880 vacuumed up after this match.



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