Waiting all day for rain. It was supposed to start at 1. In the morning the temps faded and the sky grew grey and restless - ah, here it comes. Thunder and rain and great bright peals. But it cleared again, and the weather apps said "looks like rain around 1." In the afternoon it was clear and hot. The weather app said "drizzle around 7, then rain after nine." Three drops fell. At 10 PM the weather app said light rain would start around 2 AM, so I decided I would not run the sprinklers. Checked the app; "mostly cloudy" all night.

Not a word of apology. Nothing that says "not out fault! We were going with what we were told. The storm, like the passions of the crowd, found itself spent, and drifted away muttering with diminishing discontent." Weather is the ultimate unaccountable force. You can't blame it; you can't sue it; you can't yell at it for not showing up. But you do wish that all this technology and all these crisp, well-designed apps with their maps and overlays and time-lapse films and ALERTS sent right to your phone to say "IT IS RAINING" were more accurate than an old man in the parlor squinting at the window and muttering "I got a pawrful ache in my weather bunion."

Behold, the Dream Machine.


It was the height of home tech for a day or so; it is archaic. It sat on the nightstand and played my good-morning wake-up song, "Wake Up and Sing," which got me going for a few years. You could plug your iPod into it, and it would turn it on and play what was queued. It also had . . . MEGA XPAND. You know what that means, right? Sound got BIG. It had five station presets and a snooze bar, and it was hell, I mean hell, to set.

Because you could have a buzzer wake you up. Or and iPod. Or radio.That was Alarm A. There was also Alarm B with the same set of options. It was a sophisticated version of the devices you still find in hotel rooms - when you try to set the alarm you find it's set to 5:30 AM and no radio station was selected, and it just screams static and half a station when it goes off. I always pity the hotels that invested in fancy radios that had all kinds of presets to let you wake to jazz or classical or pop or whatever; it was like seeing a charging caddy for the old iPod interface on a cruise ship, and thinking they'll have to change 10,000 cabins now. Because the interface has changed.

That's what doomed this thing, I suppose; the interface changed. I use an old iPod Mini, first gen, a beautiful white device with a tiny color screen. You could put photos on it! They were the size of postage stamps, but there they were, big as life - if you were a Lilliputian. When I took it out of the caddy today I checked to see if there were pictures, and there were: Daughter going off to Kindergarten. Daughter with school friends. I showed her the device and said it used to play "Wake up and Sing."

Aww, she said. I remember that. Then: didn't you get sick of it? No, no more than I get sick of my Andromeda Strain wake-up, which has woken me up on and off for seven, eight years. It's a constant, and I like constants.

She got out her phone, which did not exist when I bought the DREAM MACHINE, and took a Snapchat video of the old iPod Mini with a picture of herself eleven years ago.

The phone has replaced every single button on that clickety interface; the LED display has been replaced by high-res graphics; I can set it with my voice. If I have a wireless signal, that is. Lately the signal downstairs has been dropping to one bit per hour, and sometimes less than that. The wifi base station, to use a geographical analogy, is in Maine; the TV is in Los Angeles. So I needed an extender. Wifi Helper. Got an Apple Express, which has a complicated set-up procedure:

1. Plug in

2. Wait for light to turn green

3. That's it

But I had to find the optimal place to put it, and that meant walking around with laptop running a wifi signal snooper. First I nuked all the settings and the existing network set up a new one, then reconnected all the devices to the new network. <gomervoice> Shazaaaaaam </gomervoice> and I had a good signal. Got the Amazon Fire working, and while browsing through its options I remembered that I'd been uploading everything to my Amazon Prime storage account, and there were home movies. From 2009. Christmas. Daughter on the sofa, happy with her Nintendo DS. Jasper Dog totters into the frame, looking around.

It would sad if it seemed like yesterday, but it doesn't. It seems like a long time ago, and for that I'm glad.

The Dream Machine is from those times. I don't know it anymore and it serves no purpose. At the time I bought it I suppose we all knew there would be centrally-controlled repositories of music and broadcasts we could control by our voice, because, well, Star Trek. Every new thing happened gradually and was accepted right away, integrated into the day without another thought. I used to sit at this very spot with a clunky laptop that was tethered to the wall with a cord to get internet, and Toddler Daughter had to limbo under it when she passed.

But I can't imagine the next thing. Only better versions of today. Better VR, better home automation, better cloud storage with voice-activated retrieval, better gesture-enabled navigation, better interactive holographic projections. I wrote a story many years ago about contact lens that had cameras in them; it seemed obvious at the time, and now Sony's doing it. We may have gotten to the point where there will be no big surprises, because we expect that everything is possible.

It was easier to dream about a near future when these things would be ours. Now we've finished the appetizers and are scowling at the kitchen, wondering where the entree is.


Click was a tabloid picture mag - brash and snappy. They ran a feature detailing everything women shouldn't do on a date. We continue:

From the list of don'ts, a big one - if it's your first day. Do not finger his ear on the first date.

Well, know, I wouldn't say that. Humiliation is a strong word and if you're a real tamale he might enjoy waking into the club wearing you like a scarf.

Cholly! How's tricks? Whatchupto these days?

Man, I don't like any of her friends at all.





Let us now go back to the first decade of the previous century.

Once you hit 40, it's all over:


Useless fluid for puny children. Deliciously palatable? Right. Kids will ask for it by name! Yinol, they'll cry with eager pleasure.

We're well past the era of cod-liver-oil torture; it was a thing in comic books and the like when I was growing up, but that was a reflection of the author's childhoods. Or perhaps I just read old comics. I think Grandma bought us a Katzenjammer Kids reprint because she'd liked it when she was young. We had no reference for the art; how did we know it was old, not just different? But we did.

As I've said before in discussions of words like "Radio" and "Cyber," anything that suggested the rise of a fascinating new technology got applied to the strangest things. Like Radio Laundry. Or:

In this case X-Rays are Sea-Monkeys who have evolved into bipeds, and clean your stove for you. Or just have a party when you're done.


There's a word for it, and it's called ADDICTION.

His wife came up with the recipe.

Violet developed a recipe which blended the traditional, brittle English butterscotch with soft, American caramel and they sold the toffee as Mackintosh's Celebrated Toffee. The toffee's success enabled Mackintosh to expand the business beyond Halifax by 1894. Indeed, it was so successful that it "ultimately transformed popular understanding of the term ‘toffee’, previously a description of any sugar or boiled sweet".

It was a disruptive candy! And it's still made.


Cars pass the door. So it's not like it's in the countryside.


It was designed by Emery Roth and finished in 1903. The architect's name is familiar to anyone who studied the growth of modernism in the post-war era; Emery Roth and Sons was the first that built many of the classic Miesian skyscrapers, felling block after block of - well, of Belleclaires. But this one still stands, and it's still a hotel.

It's carbolated! And hubba hubba, check out the sex-appeal sales pitch.

"Tooth Soap" doesn't sound right to modern ears. For obvious reasons.


Coffee: it hurts many people deeply.

They've been trying to get us to switch to Postum for a century. And still I say: good look with that.

Do you get the idea that the amount of consumer goods was not as bounteous as we enjoy today?

It's Hy-Jen, as in Hy-Jenic. Get it? Because you're tired of those toothpaste that leave you with that dull, gritty, infected feeling.


"Photyne" must have been some special process. Now it's a baby name.

Finally: they did put a lot of stock in the magical powers of Malt.

I don't know how you could resist: it wasn't just free of lumps, but germs.

Oh, er, ahem:


I'll be announcing the rewards in a few weeks. They'll be different! No mugs or T-shirts or red baseball caps. That'll do; see you around.



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