Have no fear, dairy fans, Laura Sydell is still on the job! Indeed, she’s all over the whole milk-detecting “smart refrigerator” thing like Judy Miller on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Her bio on Twitter says she’s interested in “looking at the intersection of culture and technology.” Who knew she meant “milk culture”?
The only problem is that her Vitamin-D fortified monomania may be blinding her to the larger world of technology. Have you ever heard the old saw that “if your only tool is a hammer then everything looks like a nail?” Evidently every technological advance is, to Sydell, just another inevitable step on the many-streamered path to our glorious smart-fridge future.
The opportunity arising from the opening up of new wireless spectrum for digital devices? Milk-detecting smart fridge!
Coolest thing she might find at the 2011 consumer electronics show? Duh! Milk-detecting smart fridge, obviously!
She is giving this gallons of coverage. She tweets “Getting ready 2 talk about CES on ATC. So far what interests me most is internet connected appliances:refrigerator, washing machine.” In that two-way on ATC she brings up the whole milk thing right at the beginning to make sure it isn’t edited out for time. Additionally she writes in the synopsis/blog-post that accompanies the audio for this on the ATC website yesterday that “I want my fridge to tell me when I’m out of milk, but,” she adds moovingly, “I don’t know if we are there just yet…”
Courage, Laura! Don’t be a milquetoast!
Listen, I’m as interested in the status of my domestic milk supply as the next blogger, maybe even more than some (looking at you, veganlife.blogspot.com…), but if you think about it for a couple of seconds you’ll realize that this 2% solution to our admittedly nightmarish collective ignorance of our own milk quantities is probably not all it’s cracked up to be, even in theory. What if the smart fridge knows we have gallons of milk but doesn’t know it’s all gone horribly off? What if we have to constantly monitor and recalibrate the accuracy of the M.I.L.K.? (Milk Indicator Level from Kitchenaid) What if the fridge is ignorant of some sort of catastrophically unanticipated increase in our milk requirements, like providing enough nog for the NPR Arts Information Unit staff holiday party? And this is not to mention the privacy issues. What if the Department of Social Services learns about our failure to keep our child’s bones strong through maintenance of an adequate dairy supply?
As fascinating as the topic is, one has to wonder why Sydell keeps milking it. Is there a sour note here? Does she have some udder motivation to constantly call our attention to the national tragedy of our milk ignorance? Your humble blogger has discovered there exists not only a “Sydell” brand goat-milking stand, but also a “Sydell Spa” brand milk-based facial cleanser. Coincidences? You, dear reader, or better yet the NPR ombudsperson, can make that call. (Memo to FOX News: get Juan Williams on this, please! What else does he have to do? Oh wait, I forgot, FOX News doesn’t do actual journalism.)
I suppose it could be personal. Does Laura live several hours from the nearest milk provisioner? Is she exhausted from wasting entire days when she returns home for a nice virgin White Russian only to find that the fiendishly opaque milk carton, when hurriedly opened with that funny little cap they all have now, reveals nothing but her hopes and dreams? Everyone knows you can’t drink those, unless you are newly-appointed house speaker John Boehner.
Or perhaps this is the consumer technology equivalent of what Reagan termed the “soft-serve bigotry” of lowfat expectations. How can any careful observer not be disappointed by the state of consumer technology? I, too, am cowed by the fact that here we are in 2011 and we still have no warp drives, no teleportation, no clean and infinite fusion power, pretty much nothing we were promised by the imagineers of the greatest generation 50 years ago. (Except, of course, that stupid Facebook game that Isaac Asimov predicted in his speculative novel “I, Time-Wasting Fake Farmer” in 1947.)
Maybe, just maybe, if we can do this one stupid thing, if we can just have a refrigerator that can put a cussing update on our cussing Facebook wall to tell us how much cuss-damned milk we have, maybe we can, as President Kennedy promised in his stirring oration announcing the Apollo program, “do the other things” too. Was it Browning who said “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
Alright, dammit, I’m on board! I’ve talked myself into it! From this day forward I hereby dare to believe that one day, in some shining Sydellian Utopia, we’ll even have a fridge that can tell us when it’s time to buy more Half and Half.
Good luck in Vegas, Laura! Those of us who dive for dreams are counting on you!