Automating the house

Otherwise known as Electric Dreams, 2020.

My wife presented me with an early Christmas present this afternoon.   This is Friday, my new Amazon Echo 8.  I’ve been spending the afternoon and evening setting it up, connecting it to the different sections of the house that are ‘automated’, controlled by either smart light bulbs, or the cameras that monitor the outside and inside of the house, for our protection.  Too, I’ve been able to connect it to my Spotify for music purposes and I’ve been really pleased that it quite seamlessly interacts with it to play Christmas music as well as my other playlists.

I’ve installed it in the kitchen, where I think it’s going to be quite useful.  While it’s not a search engine type device, it does have the ability to access the Internet and seek out recipes, it can access news and sports scores, as well as give me information on things like the stock market, and keep me entertained while I’m cooking, baking, even cleaning the kitchen (yeah, well maybe).

It amuses me that a movie from 1984 so easily predicted what might happen with computers and ‘smart’ devices.  If we allow them to make things easier, we’re going to spend less time making the effort to better ourselves.

But right now, this thing is interesting.  Gonna play with it some more.

What if pets had thumbs?

We’re not in the midst of what I call the ‘silly season’ the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, where people are gearing up to celebrate the holiday, and spending an inordinate amount of money both at the grocery store and either online or at retailers to make their holiday as festive as possible.  Granted, with COVID still being a problem (and seemingly getting worse by the day) we all could use a little light-heartedness every now and again to lift our spirits.

Me, I’ve always wondered what my cat would do if his thumbs were opposable.  He’s the product of barn cats that my co-worker’s parent’s had in their barn, and while he does happen to have thumbs, he can’t use them.  Apparently, someone else had a similar thought and penned a blog post about it several years ago.  I read it recently and thought it worth both linking and reposting here.  Enjoy!

What If Pets Had Thumbs?

What if cats had thumbs?

Believe it or not, some cats do have “thumbs”! Cats with extra toes and fingers are called polydactyl cats, and sometimes an extra finger can look just like a thumb. This genetic mutation is generally harmless, and cats can’t use this “thumb” in the same way that we do. So what if cats had thumbs they could use? Here’s what I’d like cats to use their thumbs for, and what they’d actually do with them.

What I’d like cats to use thumbs for:

  • Clean their litter box. An opposable thumb would allow cats to grasp the litter scoop, carry the pan and sweep the floor. Scratch that idea. Let them flush the toilet.
  • Food prep and measurements. It takes a thumb to slice and dice and grasp a measuring cup or dispense food. Of course, I’d have to mark the cup and verify they didn’t double-dip. On second thought, this might not be such a good idea. Then again, celebrity cat chefs would be pretty awesome.
  • Walk my dogs. I know this sounds far-fetched and probably wouldn’t work in every furry family, but my dogs revere and respect my cats. So much that I believe if Itty Bitty Kitty (that’s her real name) could carry a leash, she could tag-team safe, responsible walks. The dogs would oblige Bitty Kitty and prance alongside at a sensible pace. That’s something I’d love to see.
  • Take selfies. Cats love to admire their regal selves. Give them a thumb and you’ll get more selfies than a Kardashian. Better increase your data plan.

What cats would use thumbs for:

  • Comb their fur. A thumb is a foundation for combing. No more waiting for lazy humans to stroke their luscious locks.
  • Program supercomputers; take over the planet. Forget Artificial Intelligence and aliens conquering our species, this is humanity’s true threat. If you see cats sprouting thumbs, better head for the hills.
  • Hitchhike. I see a world with millions of cats thumbing for rides, causing congestions and highway havoc, heading for nature parks. That is until cats program cars and robots to transport them around town.
  • Pinch people. That takes the risks of being a veterinarian to new levels. Ouch.
  • Open cat scratch services and kneading parlors. If they can’t program robots, they’d start making money performing these high-demand feline services on each other.
  • Rate movies and food. Thumbs up or down. It’s a big deal. Six-toed cats would be in high demand as celebrated critics. Four-thumbs up is twice as good as two.
girl using phone with dog

What if dogs could text?

I can’t disregard dogs during this thumb festival. If dogs had thumbs, they could text. Duh. The real question is, what would they text you?

  • First of all, I don’t think dogs would type much. They’d rely heavily on emojis.
  • Second of all, I suspect their syntax would be awful. Think Yoda mixed with Dug from Up. I’d constantly be seeking philosophical insights from my pet’s poorly phrased posts. Emojis.
  • I think dogs would primarily text nouns and love words. And heart emojis.
  • You’d be constantly interrupted at work with questions such as: Where are you? When will you be home? Is it time for you to come home yet? Are you here yet? Are you almost here yet? You know, emojis are better.
  • The real danger is if my dogs learned to text restaurant deliveries. I’d be broke and they’d be fat. Penniless and plump is not how I want to go out. Hide your phones.

Every now and then, it’s good fun to let your mind wander and explore outlandish ideas, like what if cats and dogs had opposable thumbs? Share your own musings in the comments below! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go examine my cats for any suspicious articulations. The fate of our species depends on it.

Mar 9, 2016

Pet Health


Suspend that disbelief

Hi, my name is Mark, and I’m a Star Trek nerd.  And geek.  Nice to meet you.

I’ve been watching Star Trek (and truly many different genres of Science Fiction) since the 1970s.  Yes, I’m that old.  Tell your friends.  In all that time, I have watched all the tv shows that the Star Trek universe produced, I actually have read many of the books written by people who like the topic.  I used to be able to speak and understand Klingon.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had the need to do so, and my skills have eroded.  Fortunately, I’m not a big fan of gagh.  Even so, there’s a mantra my wife and I have used many times over the years, although I think someone else coined it.  Suspension of Disbelief.

What that means is, when something is so outrageous in a work of fiction, you take it with a grain of salt or suspend the disbelief that you have to allow the plot to take its course.  It allows the story to continue and come to its conclusion, all without pointing out all the inconsistencies that you find and all the plot holes.

Since I’m on the subject of Star Trek, let’s use that.  If you’ve never watched the show (ok, I pity you), this isn’t going to make a lot of sense. Still, I’m going to continue presuming that you, dear reader, at least have a familiarity with the series and understand the characters I’m going to be referring to.

In the movie Star Trek: First Contact; a Borg cube is on its way to Earth to attack, and conquer the planet, to assimilate, or convert all its inhabitants into copies of themselves, i.e., making them all Borg.   For whatever reason, whenever the Borg attack the Federation (The United Federation of Planets), they always do it piecemeal.  One attack, one ship.  Never do they make an effort to start somewhere else and work their way around to the other planets in the Federation, as it might actually make sense to do that.  They always go for a frontal assault and fail.   Too, they almost always attack where the USS Enterprise is or can get to easily.  It’s almost as if they require the ship’s presence to do what they’re doing.  Naturally, the Enterprise can’t be destroyed or get too beat up, or worse yet lose their primary bridge crew, because if they did, how would the show/movie continue?  Long story short, it can’t.  So the Borg, or whoever is the villain, is going to lose.  Every time.  It’s almost sad that the baddies aren’t aware they will go down in flaming defeat every time.

The current Star Trek series, Discovery, requires a heapin-helping of Suspension of Disbelief.  In the current season, the ship has been brought forward 930 years from where it was, to the 32nd century where an event occurred in their recent past that they’re calling ‘The Burn’.  For some unknown reason, the material required to make their engines work suddenly, and very catastrophically, stopped working.  This caused a cascade effect whereby the majority of the Starfleet was destroyed, and the Federation, as it was known, basically ceased to be.  Star travel went from ships going from Point A to Point B in days to months, or even years in some cases.  To make matters even worse, the communication method that had been used for approximately 1,000 years no longer worked, so information was no longer easy to obtain.

To me, here’s where the SoD comes in.  Not all the entities in the series use the same method of propulsion.  Federation/Starfleet vessels, as well as the member worlds of same, employ matter/anti-matter engines, that utilize a mineral called ‘dilithium’ which is used as a catalyst in the engine to stabilize the M/AM (Matter/Anti-Matter) reaction and make for a smooth ride.  Other entities in the series don’t make use of it, and wouldn’t have been affected by The Burn, but they’re not mentioned at all in the series.  If indeed the Borg had been such a threat in the 24th century, it certainly stands to reason by the 32nd, they’d be so much a presence that there would be hundreds, if not thousands of Borg ships streaking through the quadrant.  And taking over what remained of the Federation.  But we don’t see them.  Nor do we see any Romulans, who certainly had a setback 650 years previous when their star went supernova, taking with it their home planet and its satellite, Remus.  But by the time of Star Trek: Picard, they’ve rebuilt their fortunes to have been able not only to decommission and study an inert Borg ship, but they were also able to build and staff a fleet of several hundred warships when it became necessary to attack and destroy a colony world of synthetic lifeforms.

Suffice it to say, there are a great many plot holes in the current series.  But it will be interesting to see if the writers choose to address any of them.  Or just allow disbelief to run around, unchecked.