October 2014

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Home Automation

Sometimes I look around and the world seems to be the same as always. In fact, if you told me I had woken up and it was now 1970, I would believe you. Other than automobile styles, homes and buildings are absolutely the same. Planes and ships look the way they always did, and people dress pretty much in an androgynous universal style—jeans and tees.

I want things to be 21st century, more advanced and technologically challenging. They are, of course, in invisible ways. It’s all about how we use a television, phone, digital apparatus, and employ software more than ever. It’s also about how we store information and get it through online research. The medical world has been revolutionized as are many industries in terms of manufacturing processes. We have reduced toxins and emissions, controlled waste, and utilized synthetic fuels.

But guess what. Our kitchens and bathrooms are low tech. Many people have the same faucets as they did 70 years ago. They might be a tad rusty, but they work. How can this be? How did hygiene and food preparation get left so far behind?

There are “smart homes” nowadays and ways to control one’s environment with just a touch. We just don’t do it. We think it’s for the distant future. Well, the future is now. Your lights go on as you drive up the street with your handy iPhone. Later, when you get inside the house you can turn on music, the coffee maker, or whatever else you like.

Now you can also flush your toilet without moving a muscle, just hovering over the right spot. You can turn on a faucet without straining yourself with one little tap. Ah! Technology is all about laziness and ease. It may seem like it’s time saving, but when you are dealing in milliseconds, it really isn’t. Even though they are still selling new versions of older models, you can buy new appliances and fixtures in keeping with a more modern world. You wouldn’t ever think of using a ten-year-old TV or giant cell phone with an antenna. You would dream of buying a used 15-year old computer with a separate screen and hard drive. You went for a Kindle Fire and a tablet, so why not new modern faucets?

We all draw the line somewhere I guess. And yet we use faucets more than keyboards. Automation should be routine by now and yet how rare it is in residential and commercial spaces. Sure, timers have always turned on the sprinklers and nightlights. They have started the toaster as you arise. But this is small stuff. Updating kitchens and baths seems so obvious. Perhaps that’s why it hasn’t been done.

It’s not as expensive as you think. A good regular non-touch faucet is pricy anyway. Maybe you like the look and feel of the levers and pulls. So much décor is retro these days. I, myself, like the idea of progress and hands-free water fills the bill. Maybe a little more publicity is warranted and I am now trying to do my part!

Parental Mobility at Its Best


I’m not sure how parents (or kids) ever survived without mobile phones.  Mobile phones, texting and modern technology in general catch a lot of flak these days.  It’s time to set the record straight!

“Back in the olden days, we used to actually talk to people face to face,” you’ve probably heard a grandparent say at least once.  There was a time when business deals were sealed with a handshake too.  But those days have come and gone.

Today, parents need to be able to communicate with their children from afar.  Life is hectic.  It’s nothing to have your children strung from one end of town to the other.  One is at gymnastics, one’s at soccer and yet another is hanging out at a friend’s house.

Life can be dangerous too.  One miscommunicated meeting spot or a discrepancy in the pick up or drop off time can put the children in harm’s way.  I remember an event in my own life when my mum didn’t show to pick me up from soccer practice.  Al of the other kids had been picked up and there I was…all alone.  I didn’t know what else to do but to walk home.  It was…a long, long way.  In the meantime, my mother arrived at the soccer fields at what she thought was the set pick-up time.  Of course, when I wasn’t there, she panicked.  At the end of a very long night, we finally connected but if you were to ask my mum, mobile phones are a must for a fair go at keeping up with children these days.

For sure, we can’t forsake the value of a good face-to-face conversation.  It is true that it’s becoming a rare commodity at the dinner table or any family event that no one is texting, talking or playing a game on their mobile phones and that everyone is simply enjoying one another’s company.  But rules can be set for such occasions.  Wishes can be voiced for a “no phone zone”.  The use of mobile phones for families can and should be monitored but certainly not abandoned.

When to give a child or teen his or her own mobile phone is a matter best evaluated on an individual basis.  Some children/teens are more mature than others and some have more of a need for one.  If you do a lot of coordinating pick-up times with a child, you may want to consider a mobile phone for him or her.  You can also customize the privilege such as buying a prepaid mobile phone with a certain amount of minutes allotted.

Another option is to give the use of a mobile phone on a trial basis and keep a close eye on how he or she is doing with it.  Never feel bad for being snoopy!   A parent’s job is to be snoopy.

There are a lot of things to consider about mobile phone use within families.  There are rules to be set and rules to be followed.  But you need only to hear one story where a mobile phone saved a life or even saved the day to realize that they are a matter of parental survival in this day and age.