High-tech

Lileks: Nothing says love like an internet-connected thing

The list of things I will not be getting my wife for Valentine’s Day is quite extensive. A pony who can stomp out “I love you” in Morse code with its hoof. A trip in a private jet to Paris, where we will ascend the Eiffel Tower and watch a specially commissioned fireworks display that decorates the skies of the City of Light with red hearts. A replica of myself, in chocolate. A hot-air balloon ride where we clink glasses of Champagne while listening to Pavarotti.

Also, a personal, app-controlled, USB-rechargeable beverage mug.

Oh, what a tiresome brute with whom she’s cast her lot, ye say. But hear me out. For a moment, I considered it. The mug, I mean. (Pavarotti, it turns out, wouldn’t be on the balloon ride personally because he is dead.)

I saw the mug at a big blue-and-yellow-hued electronics retailer, and I was intrigued. It promised that one’s coffee would never go cold again. We had, as a species, conquered the last frontier. Your coffee would not only stay hot, it would maintain the precise temperature through the duration of your drinking experience.

How, you ask, how is such a thing possible? You enter the desired temperature, and the saucer keeps a keen eye on things, warming up as needed. But how? Is there a dial on the side of the cup? No, of course not. It’s done with an app on your phone.

Why do you look so confused?

“You mean the mug connects to my phone?”

Of course. What doesn’t?

“OK, but why?”

To ensure coffee perfection. You tell it what you want, and the app instructs the saucer what to do.

What happens if the internet goes down? Does my coffee suddenly evaporate, and the cup has an error message at the bottom: 404, beverage not found?”

I do not know; I’ll have to read the manual.

“What happens if I forget my password to my coffee cup?”

I assume you use the usual password recovery process, whereby you request a reset, get an e-mail, reset the password and, depending on how you feel about security, you set up a two-factor identification for your coffee cup. It’s a fairly fast process, so your coffee won’t lose more than a couple of degrees before you can get access to your account and increase the temperature.

“Gee. What an improvement. If only the coffee cup would send me notifications.”

But it does! You can set it up so it can alert you when the battery is low, or the temperature is outside of your desired parameters, or the Bluetooth connection has been interrupted. I’m sure you can set the preferences so if you go downstairs with your phone in your pocket, and the cup is upstairs, you will not get an alert or e-mail that says the phone has lost contact with the coffee cup. Although I can imagine a situation in which that would be helpful.

“Really? You can? What’s the matter with you?”

Did I mention the price? It’s probably less than you expect. The 12-ounce cup is $129. That’s $121 more than the cup I use. Granted, it’s a dumb mug, but it doesn’t tap me on the shoulder all the time to tell me its contents are getting cold.

I wonder if the inventors thought they were liberating people from a cupboard full of mismatched mugs. One need only have this one, washed each day, recharged overnight, ready for the morning. No more cluttered cupboards!

I understand that desire, in a way; we end up with more mugs than we need, and it’s hard to win them out because they each have their own meaning, their own attachment to a person or time. Can’t toss any mug Daughter bought. Can’t toss that one — I bought it in New York in 1987. That one? Stay your hand, that’s a Christmas present from 1993! That one’s from Father’s cupboard; I shouldn’t use it, because I am not a World War II Navy vet, but I don’t think this qualifies as stolen valor.

And so on. Every time you reach in the cupboard and pull down a mug, it brings a story with it. The idea that I’d sweep them all out for one buff-black internet-enabled app-connected coffee cup — well, it’s ridiculous.

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day to my beloved wife, and I hope you enjoyed the internet-enabled flower vase that sends you text updates when the flowers need water. Yes, it probably has a security flaw that will let hackers take control of our lawn sprinkler system and empty our bank account, but I’m pretty sure the firewall will keep the vase from taking over the internet-connected furnace.

By the way, if the flowers look droopy or the vase is empty, it might mean the app needed to be updated and you didn’t do it. What’s that, dear?

No, I don’t know how we lived without it before. I guess we had to use our eyeballs, and that would mean looking up from our phones. I know: practically medieval.

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MAGASIR

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