Artificial toddlers

The dog is camped near the breakfast nook watching her other Human eat his lunch. We have a rule around here. She may watch us eat, but she must not bark, groan, or beg while doing so. I am a stickler about this rule. The human currently eating his lunch? Not so much. I am the fun-sucking, rule-enforcing, human mom who tries to make Lilly behave herself.  When you’re a mom, it comes with the job.

And so, you could say that she has us both figured out. In a lot of ways, owning a beagle is like having a human toddler who never grows up. Beagles test both your sanity and your boundaries on a daily basis. They are loud. They are stubborn. They spend the bulk of their days eating, sleeping, pooping, and looking for naughty things to do. You have to be a little crazy to share a home with a beagle.  But then, I guess the same could be said about most of the toddlers I’ve met. This is why God makes them cute.

A couple of weeks ago I attended South by Southwest EDU in Austin, Texas. It was fascinating. Technology has changed everything since I was a new teacher decades ago learning to thread a film strip projector.  I felt a little like Rip Van Winkle as I manipulated a beating heart using 3D technology and made a surgical incision in virtual reality. Another vendor was demonstrating personal robots or”Lovots” that use artificial intelligence to gauge human emotion and bond with the humans who take care of them. If you really want to scare yourself silly and seriously question where we are headed as a species, watch this:

It’s a whole new world, my friends. A whole new world. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that humans have created machines that bond emotionally with humans. I know.  It’s a lot to digest.

For now, I think I’ll just stick with beagles who beg.






Baggage rules

There are times when simply admitting that you’re an idiot is your best course of action.

I remember when standing in baggage claim waiting for your suitcase, the one with the piece of red yarn tied around the handle, to bump onto the carousel was still part of traveling. Now, everyone carries their bags on to the airplane. I learned a hard lesson about what not to put in an overhead bin a few years ago when I yanked a much-too-heavy suitcase out of one and it landed on my head. I actually saw stars. After that, I got a smaller carry-on bag that I could stow under the seat in front of me. Much safer. Fewer stars. This carry-on works well for me unless I forget to double-check the baggage rules when I make a flight reservation.

Then, admitting that you’re an idiot is the best course of action. That’s what I did when I realized that I was only allowed to carry a bag on to one of two flights I had booked for the trip home. The airline employee at the gate was a woman about my age. I didn’t get ornery or make excuses. I didn’t yell, sob, or tell her how to do her job. I just looked her square in the eye and said, “I apologize. I’m clearly an idiot. Charge me if you must.” She was sympathetic. She told me she didn’t want to charge me.  I told her it was okay, Really.

It was 6 a.m. Both of our days were just starting. Hers would be filled with customers. Some nice, some not so nice. Mine would be spent traveling from one end of the U.S. to the other. By the end of the day, we’d both be exhausted for different reasons. Finally, after thinking it through, she leaned in toward me and whispered, “how about if I charge you half of what I should?” I thanked her. Then, I thanked her again as she scanned my boarding pass.  She winked. I smiled. We’d both broken the rules and were really fine with it.

This is because, while women of a certain age might all carry a certain amount of baggage, we’ve pretty much stopped worrying about what the world thinks of us.  When we love someone, we say it. When we want the extra dessert, we order it. And when we screw up, we admit it. We don’t always read the fine print or follow the rules or be as careful as we once were, but guess what? There’s a certain amount of freedom that comes with not giving much of a rip.

I met a good woman this week.

She lightened my load in more ways than one.