Techno Tale

By:

Good morning, Drew. It’s a beautiful sunny day. Drew’s in his Tesla Roadster, driving Alice down to Englewood, her blond hair streaming in the wind. Next thing you know—boombadaboom—flat tire. Like a bad dream. Which it is. Boombadaboom. Drew sits up in bed. Awake now. Boombadaboomboom. Not a tire. Japanese taiko drums. Blasting from the […]


Good morning, Drew.
It’s a beautiful sunny day. Drew’s in his Tesla Roadster, driving Alice down to Englewood, her blond hair streaming in the wind. Next thing you know—boombadaboom—flat tire. Like a bad dream.

Which it is.

Boombadaboom.

Drew sits up in bed. Awake now.

Boombadaboomboom.

Not a tire. Japanese taiko drums. Blasting from the Polk Audio speakers.

Boombadaboomboom.

Touches the keypad. No more drums.

Big Bang, by Portland Taiko.

Thanks to a server and a network, Drew awakens every morning to the sound of drums. Gets out of bed. Touches the keypad.

“…morning edition from NPR.”

Off. Bathroom. Shower and shave. On.

Drew watches TV in the shaving mirror, a Sony LCD behind semi-silvered glass, shining through. (Stole the idea from Vegas resorts.) He shaves with a straight razor, the kind you strop. In some ways, he’s very old-school.

And there’s DeNiro.

Taxi Driver.

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the…”

Off.

It’s just too weird.

He throws on a T-shirt and, what the hell, shorts. Having dressed for the office, he grabs the keypad and pads down the hall into the living room.

Stops and looks around.

Alice is coming today. Tonight. This is the big night. The dinner he’s pinning his hopes on.

Let’s say he was Alice. What would he think—what would she think about the guy who lived in this place?

Living room.
Bamboo floors.
Low-volt halogen track lights on an S-curve monorail.

The furniture firmware is your basic no-nonsense, mid-century modern—the kind of chairs and sofas Frank Sinatra would like to sit on. Most of it followed him here from California: the black-leather Barcelona couch (a knockoff of the Mies van der Rohe classic), the black-leather Venni recliner (a knockoff of the Paul Volther Corona chair—which he got at Living Walls, replacing the chair destroyed in shipping), a glass-and-wood Noguchi coffee table. Maybe it’s in fashion, maybe it’s out of fashion. The look was imprinted on his mind as a kid; the cool house he promised himself.

Sony HDTV plasma flat screen—one of 16 scattered through the condo. They come in various sizes; this happens to be 50-inch diagonal.

Alice would think…

This guy’s got money, decent taste, leans heavily to the modern and shiny, no table legs with animal feet—a look he decided on and stuck with, not cruising the H channel every week. It’s a bachelor pad, at least for the last 13 months or so. Not too neat, but neat enough.

The look—it is what it is. You go into battle with the condo you have. Besides…

“What’s your favorite movie? Ocean’s 11, right?
“The original, right?”
“No, duh. Yeah. The Frank Sinatra version, not the George Clooney version. That’s your favorite. Right?”
“Right.”

She’s been here before. Said she liked the look. That’s not the problem.

Sound?

Starts moving again, pacing around in the living room.

What’s the most romantic music he can think of?

Touches the keypad.

L.A. punk starts blasting.

“Someone clean to chew on…”

Ooops.

Your Phone’s Off the Hook, by X.

Let’s try…

“Well, it’s a marvelous night for a…”

Cover of Van Morrison’s Moondance, by Michael Bublé.

Better. But…

“The summer wind c ame blowing in…”

The Summer Wind, by Frank Sinatra.

Best.

Off.

It’s going to go great.

Relax, take it easy.

Take a breath.

He looks out the window.

A smart window—electrochromic coatings, making the glass adapt to the light outside. Pre-release product—still testing it. Post-release, they’ll pay him to write about it. Green technology, saves energy.

And it’s a beautiful view.

A bright, sunny day, just like the dream.

Nothing but blue sky. Sarasota Bay, random scatterings of sailboats.

Thanks to his line of work, Drew could just as easily be looking out at the sailboats in San Diego harbor. He happens to like Sarasota, so this happens to be the view. Clients everywhere; he can work anywhere. The joys of being a knowledge worker. Silicon Valley taught him much.

Knowing when to cash out.

The importance of coffee.

The…
Coffee.
Brain food.
Must have coffee.

Drew snaps out of his fugue state, looks away from the window, does the zombie walk straight to the kitchen.

And there’s his Saeco Talea Ring Plus Super Auto Espresso Machine, a programmable high-end, streamlined baby. Black, like the Batmobile.

Grind, brew…

It’s a very nice kitchen, but it still feels like enemy territory. Except for his Batmobile coffee machine, everything in it was her idea—she who must not be named, namely the ex-wife who left, 13 months ago, and now has her own cooking show.

Roararrrrgggghhh.
The cappuccino train comes in.
Pop.
The bagel is done.

Drew sits, sips and eats at the bar counter at kitchen’s edge—keeping the dining room table clean for tonight. Looks at the kitchen. Shudders. It still feels like a very enemy territory. But it’s a very nice kitchen.

Stainless steel double sink, very practical. Stainless steel also for the major appliances (actually that was his idea—she wanted wood): Viking gas range (two stoves, open burner, grill, dual fuel sources) and a Sub Zero refrigerator (actually a side-by-side fridge and freezer—two drawers and a door for each; the fridge has a glass window). Black granite countertops. Some stuff is reachable, but most of the designer pots and pans and obscure Japanese ceramic knives are stuffed away in drawers (she liked drawers). An all-in as opposed to all-out design approach. The kitchen is a chef’s dream from the daughter of a chef. It’s a kitchen to die for, and he doesn’t cook. Unless you count the coffeemaker, the juicer and the microwave.

Drew looks at the dining room table where the battle begins tonight. Right now there’s nothing on the glass. It looks just a little too virginal.

Chews, sips.

Now comes the part of the day when he plans the day. Strategy. He whips out his BlackBerry.

Plan your day.
OK. After that …
Sort e-mail, priority calls.
Write.
Put article to bed.
Send.
Cook dinner.
Alice arrives.
Romantic dinner with Alice.

This could present a problem.

She took one look at the kitchen and …
“Oh, God, this is such a great kitchen. You cook, right?”
“Oh, yeah.”
“I love guys who cook.”

Like an idiot from an old sitcom, he told Alice he could cook. Sorta promised he’d cook her dinner tonight. Yeah, definitely a problem. But he’s got that covered. Just finish the article. Then get ready.

Goes into the living room, hunkers down at the coffee table where a fully loaded laptop already resides—just happens to be a Sony Vaio, but one of many. In theory he could work in the home office. In theory, he has a stand-alone Mac G-5 with a dual screen set up—a stand-alone, not connected to the home network for security reasons.

But granted the nature of his job (writing about cool tech products for national magazines or the companies that make the products), his condo is flooded with a constant churn of tech toys. (In all manner of standards—Drew’s not one of those Mac vs. Windows fundamentalists.) His theoretical “home office” is now the hell room, crammed with monitors, CPUs in boxes, laptops, cell phones, PDAs and MP3 players. It’s an elephant’s graveyard of iPods, Treos, Palm Pilots—even a Newton. In this corner, a fossil record of Macs, Compacs, Dells and HPs. In the next corner, a stack of DVD players, both interlaced and progressive, in descending evolutionary order—with a pay-for-play DIVX system, crushed on the bottom like Mac the Turtle.

So he writes on the coffee table.

Or tries to.

WHEN THE ELECTRICITY CAME TO FLORIDA
The death of the electric car has been greatly exaggerated. They killed the EV, yes. (One of the reasons I’m glad I left California.) But not all electric cars.
The Tesla Roadster is alive and well.
You just can’t kill the Roadster.
This

This?
Dead stop.
He’s stuck.
This never happens.
They didn’t approach him; he approached them. This article was his idea.

He bought a Tesla Roadster, just last week. (Test drive with Alice, if you want the cute back story.) Drew didn’t leave all his green, tree-hugging impulses behind in California. He bought one, why not write about it? Sure, they said. Write about it.

Now he’s stuck.
This never happens.

Ordinarily, he’s a writing machine. It’s Alice. She’s coming for dinner; he promised to cook the dinner. After writing and sending the article, he’ll have hours to think about it, and it’s making him nervous. Ordinarily, he doesn’t get nervous. That day back in Lalaland, when the guy snapped and started walking through the office with a Walther PPK like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, he wasn’t nervous. Today, he’s nervous.

Today, Drew does what he never does.
He procrastinates.
He screws around.
He goes into the home theater when he should be working.

“See you later, copper.”
“I’m no cop.
“If you are, it’s entrapment already.”
“I’m hip.”
“Buddy, you don’t look hip.”

Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel.
Back to Taxi Driver.

Now, a word about Drew’s home theater.

Everything in it is state of the art. What that means to Drew is not what it means to Joe User. He makes his money writing about tech, filling the hell room with a constant churn of new devices. What Drew buys for himself is never just good enough.

The Sony HDTV flat screens—that’s OK for playing-in-the-background media access. When it’s sit-down-watch, this is the standard.

Video output source: Runco DLP-VX2cx with cinewide autoscope—digital, front-projection technology, bleeding edge. The screen has a 2.40 to 1 aspect ratio. Audio output source: The sound plays from seven full-range speakers at strategic points. Kudos to Advanced Audio Design for setting it up.

The input source: the Kaleidescape System—the 3U Server. (A dedicated system—not Mac or Windows, this is its own animal.) This is the box where he puts all the media data—all the CDs and DVDs are safely back in their jewel cases. (Drew hates messing around with physical discs—a stupid way to transport 1s and 0s). The Kaleidescape functions as jukebox and movie library.

Obviously, the input source can also be feed from satellite or cable. Obviously, Drew can access any content, anywhere.

Another box, the AMX Netlinx 4000, functions as controller for all media devices on the home network (both hard-wired and Wi-Fi). This is the box used by Jack Bauer, the Defense Department and Disney World. It also runs the network’s non-media devices—lighting, the motorized windows, locks and the HVAC, etc. It’s the brains of the system.

User interface: Drew talks to the system’s brain with a touchpad—the MVP 8400 8.4 inch color touch-panel he carries, or from various wall-mounted units. The touchpad talks to the system via Wi-Fi—and also talks back, showing him movie summaries, DVD covers, whatever. A two-way conversation.

And now the movie is over.
He runs back to the laptop.
To write.
The trick is, just write.
About the Tesla Roadster.

Fully electric. Zero to 60 in four seconds. 135 mpg equivalent. Over 200 mpg.

Stats mean nothing. You’ve got to feel it.
He doesn’t feel it.
He can’t write.
To write, he has to ride.

He runs to the door, the hall, the elevator—out of order—runs down the stairs and into the parking garage.
He pulls the tarp off his Tesla Roadster.
That car in the dream was no dream.
Here it is.
Gleaming red, like a candy apple.
He has to ride…

But it occurs to him that he already took that ride—whipping around on the back roads by S.R. 72 with Alice.

He replaces the tarp, and runs back up the stairs.
Writes and sends the article.

And now it’s time to make the dinner.

First, he lays the stuff out—fish, vegetables and various components like an exploded bolt diagram on the granite-covered counter-top island.

What’s on the menu?

Salmon en croute. (Puff pastry crust, keeps the salmon moist, he said.) Bouquetere of vegetables. (That probably means “bouquet” of veggies, but he took Spanish.) Brown rice? That’s called …

He’s starting to sweat.
Time to call…

Ray Arpke, the chef from Euphemia Haye who’s going to talk him through it.

This little FlipScreen next to the fridge—a recent addition—12.1-inch LCD monitor, crisp and clear. He flips it down. Links to Ray, who’s talking to a rig he set up at his house. (Restaurant’s closed tonight, so he has a little time.) A cheap Panasonic camcorder on a tiny little tripod allows Ray to see Drew. The laptop on Ray’s end came with its own camera eye, built right in. Low-res.

But it’s good enough.

“You look nervous.”
“No. Well, yeah.”
“It’s not too late to bail. You can still do catering and tell her you cooked it.”
“She’d know. Women always know.”
“Then tell her you lied.”
“No. See, if I cook the dinner now, then I wasn’t lying then. It’s like … reverse-engineering reality.”
“Whatever. You still want do this?”
“Yeah.”
“Great. Now let’s begin at the very beginning.”
“Like the song. Cool.”
“Take the sauté pan.”

He looks at the counter. Picks up the pan with the “sauté pan” post-it note. Then removes the note and holds up the pan.

“Great. Now put the pan on the stove. Any burner.”

He does.

“I’m scared, Ray.”
“It’s OK.”
“Now what do I do?”
“Turn on the range. The button on the left. Your other left.”
“OK.”
“Now add a tablespoon of butter.”
“To…”
“The pan.”
“Oh, yeah.”

Ray talks him through it, like the classic scene from a thousand WWII movies where the pilot’s dead and the guy on the ground tells the kid how to fly the plane.

Somehow, via remote, video teleconferencing, he cooks the dinner. Technology is personal again.

“Thanks, Ray.”
“No problem.”

End.

Various clean-up and table-setting duties. A 15-minute window. Easy.

Beep-beep-boop.

The doorbell rings. Digital, natch. Sample of the ringtone on 24. He touches the keypad, and the door unlocks.

Opens the door. There’s Alice.

She reminds him of Rosanna Arquette. Since hitting puberty in the 1980s, he’s always had a crush on Rosanna Arquette. This may not be your thing, but it’s his.

“Alice.”
“Hey.”
“Welcome to the rabbit hole. God. Did that sound kinda…you wanna do that again?”

She goes back out.

“Alice. Hey.”
“Hey. God, it smells so good in here. You cooked this?”

He shrugs.

“I had some help from a chef I know. Ray Arpke.”

The sorta truth is now true truth. Heh-heh.

Candles on the table, very cool plates, the whole nine yards. (He went to a site, saw the picture and copied it.)

She’s impressed.

“Wow.”

She looks at him. Suspicious or impressed. It’s hard to read.

She sits. He serves.

“To dinner.”
“To dinner.”
Clink.
They wind up in the comfy leather couch.
“Oh, this is great.”
He touches the pad.
The lights dim.
Another touch.
“The summer wind
Came blowing in…”
She melts.
Technology is your friend.

Marty Fugate interviews his fictional hero at Platinum at www.sarasotamagazine.com.

RESOURCES

Furniture, Etc.

Living Walls Furniture & Design
1311 Main St.
Sarasota, FL 34236
(94!) 957-4411
www.livingwalls.com

www.jetsetmodern.com
www.apartmenttherapy.com
www.eurofurniture.com

Kitchens and Such

www.luxurykitchens.ca
www.subzero.com
www.vikingrange.com

Home Theater and Networking

Advanced Audio Design
4915 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
(941) 925-2673
www.advancedaudiodesign.com

Kaleidescape 3U Server
www.kaleidescape.com

Tech Toys

www.playboy.com/style/gadget
www.wired.com/wired/archive/gadgetlab
www.sony.com
www.popsci.com/popsci/photogallery

On the Road Again

Tesla Roadster
www.teslamotors.com