Virtually there (via robots)

Shelbot, left, and Leonard going to see Steve Wozniak at their university.

Sure, they laughed when it showed up on “The Big Bang Theory,” in 2012.

But who’s laughing now?

In “The Cruciferous Vegetable” episode, Sheldon  decided he needs to  extend his lifespan, and the best way to stay healthy was to stay at home, away from the risks of everyday life and any stray viruses, etc. (sound familiar?). So he creates his Mobile Virtual Presence Device, which his friend penny calls the “Shelbot,”

Making his way in the world with a mechanical proxy looked wacky at the time, but put it in the COVID show, and it becomes at  least a remote possibility.

Not so remote, in fact — except for how it operates. People in robotics know them as Virtual Presence (or Virtual Telepresence) Devices. And they’re up and rolling. You can buy one from Amazon or B&H right now.

They’re remote-controlled robots on wheels – like a Segway with interactive video screen, usually some sort of tablet.   The screen shows  real-time video of the person behind the machine; the person “driving” the robot remotely can roll around his or her robot’s space, talk to, or look more closely at, anything he or she wants from the safety/comfort/virus-free home environment.

Double 2
Think of  a Segway with a tablet-head.  (PHOTOS COURTESY DOUBLE)                

The best ones are able to rotate 360 degrees, have a guidance system so they don’t bash into things (like other VPDs at JazzFest, or other people’s carts at the supermarket), and have the ability to be personalized (Shelbot sported one of Sheldon’s nerdy T-shirts on a hanger).

A lot of this technology has been used in  education —  allowing home-bound children to actually participate in the classroom. Using the VPD, they can participate like most of their classmates, participating in conversations, story time, going from  classroom to classroom, interacting with other students -=- it turns out that  the other students really begin to treat the robots like they are part of the class.

OK, they can’t open doors and they can’t manage stairs, but they’re a step beyond ZOOM, yes?

Tech companies have already jumped on the various ways their inventiions

A Double Virtual Telepresence Device interacts with a fellow worker. No need for social distancing! can be used  in this pandemic crisis.

OhmniLabs, one of the big players in telepresence devices, is sending robots to hospitals to connect quarantined COVID  patients with their families, and donating them to care organizations to enable virtual visits with seniors who are isolated at home. Double Robotics has reported increased demand and is working with a skeleton crew to  fill urgent orders.

Of course, right now, the VPDs are high-demand and, well, out of the range of a lot of us – models from the main companies, like Double Robotics, Ohmni, Padbot and Beam, run anywhere from $2,100 and going to $5,000.  I’ve seen older models on sale for as little as $150 (though I wouldn’t vouch for the sellers). You could snag one with that incentive check that came in the mail… but you might want to save that for face masks and sanitizer.

Then again, if you had one of these robots, you wouldn’t need any of that. Just pull up to the Piggly Wiggly, activate the automatic door opener, and let your ‘bot — kitted out with a wire basket ’round its neck — roll in.

You can sit outside and ask  the supermarket employee, “Hey,  would you please get that Cap’n Crunch down off the shelf and put it in my basket?”

Crazy?  Maybe.

But in times like these, the definition of crazy could change any second…


Color me desperate


Should I or shouldn’t I?

I couldn’t/can’t stand looking at myself in the mirror anymore.  My hair needs not just to be cut, but it’s turned all manner of  trashy orange  shades, as it is wont to do. All I can think of is that photo I saw at Belle’s grooming salon, an image of a mop-like, tawny-furred  dog with an orange Donald Trump comb-over.

I cannot live like this.


So today I put on my mask and my gloves. I went to CVS and bought  permanent hair coloring. All-over color and highlights in 30 minutes!

Of course I want to look like the babe in the photo on the box.

Of course I know I won’t.

I just don’t want to look like Donald Trump.Or, more  nightmarish still, to have all my hair fall out  when I towel it dry.

I’ve hidden it from my husband. so don’t tell him. He might yell.

But maybe I do need someone to yell.  My tonsorial projects have turned out about the same as my cooking forays (minus the visit from the fire department, that is).

I bet a lot of people right about now — OK, yeah, mostly women — might need to be talked off the ledge as far as hair is concerned.

COVID  is not pretty.

Yes, these are tough times.  For living. For health.

For personal grooming.

Should I or shouldn’t I?





Scientists gave us the flea bomb to get rid of the nasty pests in our homes.

They gave us the neutron bomb to get rid of the nasty people on our planet.

So how about scientists  put their efforts into something similar in this situation.

How about a FLU-TRON bomb.


Like “War of the Worlds,” sort of.  The earth was being taken over by an alien species, until  some bacteria finally emerged to kill all the aliens everywhere, People of the earth were saved! And that  wasn’t even on purpose.  Here, we could unleash something to kill the viruses and save us all.

Don’t say, “Yeah, but that was science fiction.” Raise you hand if this … situation … doesn’t feel like something straight out of  HG Wells’ mind.

So how about it?

We know, for example, that COVID doesn’t have a chance against a good washing with soap and water. How about a launching a mega hose or pump bottle into space and spraying earth down with a massive zap of Ivory? Just 20 seconds, BOOM, we can all go back to food-shopping.

christo copy
The artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in 1995.

Or … or … We know that for some reason, COVID doesn’t do well in warm weather. We could maybe get Christo to  wrap the earth   for a day. You know, a tent-like art installation around the our poor old planet in something, maybe transparent, so we’d have like a greenhouse (just for a day!!) and would bring COVID to its horrible little knees.

Or maybe that’s kind risky….

I’m sure you can all come up with good ideas for a planet-wide attack.

Anyway, I’m hoping scientists are already working on this. We obviously have the technology, examples to work from, and (please God), the funding.

So fingers crossed that we’ll soon experience a shortage of Ivory.

Peace, and stay 6 feet apart.


Shelter for a storm

tent copyIt rained.  LOUD.

Don’t you just LOVE loud rain?

Anyway, I’d put up my handy-dandy $59.95 Ozark Trail 4-Person Instant Dome Tent (see above) a couple of days ago, so i’d have a place to vacation. I bought the thing probably eight years ago, and I can put it up by myself in less than five minutes, thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, I obviously put it up just in time.

The sheets of rain started whipping down and I was ready: grabbed some blankets and some stuff to read  — “Siddhartha” and “In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe,” (because who knew what kind of mood the deluge might insp

ire) — and  ensconced myself inside my little flame-resistant nest. 

The sound of the raindrops, each one it seemed, banged a little harder all around me. The birds sang, and a white-throated sparrow hopped closer to see what was going on (like when you’re on a Jeep on a safari, you become part of the vehicle and the animals don’t worry about you).

I did find a couple of, um, small leaks in the tent.

They were dwarfed by nature’s 360-degree rainshow.

Another COVID-kinda day….

“Clean” gets murky

Help me here.SANITIZER copy

It (yeah, “it“) says you just need to wash your hands a lot, with soap and water, for 20 seconds. Then you’ll be COVID safe.

So can someone explain to me what all this fuss is about hand sanitizer and bleach etc?

I mean, can’t you just use soap on all those virus infested surfaces and  let Ivory do its thing?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  says “clean hands often, including immediately after removing gloves and after contact with an ill person, by washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used.”

So it sounds like hand sanitizer is a backup,  actually, an acceptable alternative to soap and water.  If so, why keep going with this manic search for disinfectants?If you can’t find sanitizer, then why doesn’t a nice big blast of SOAP AND WATER work?

Obviously, I’m just one of the gobsmacked millions trying to figure out WTF is going on,  trying to get one or two actual hard facts.

I’ve posed the question to the CDC and will pass along its response. 

But if anyone out there wants to comment here, I’d be most grateful. 

Stay tuned — and six feet apart.


A picture’s worth more now

My phone camera was full up. Not one … more … photo, it said, digging in its little android  data heels,  until you get rid of some.

Yeah, annoying. But again in these times, the pause and reset button was a lesson for which i can now be grateful.

I started scrolling

Images flashed before my eyes.

The past. Some of it distant, some not.

Here, OMG, imahgesa of the beaiutiful crazy barn where we used to take classes. Pictures not more than two months old.  Try weeding them down — but every one, even the blurry ones — seemed,  important.

And here, pictures from a friend’s wedding. I always meant to send her photos of the two French bull terriers who had attended. But the first photo I saw was from our table, our friends — and in the foreground, a friend who last week died from the virus.

He is smiling , his gray blue eyes the focus — the main source of light — in the picture.

It was hard to look. But then I am glas I did. so glad I found that photo — and several more like it.

I told myu friend. It was her daughter’s wedding. She said she wanted to see the photos. I am grateful to have once again stumbled on a breath-catching discovery.

People say “send me the photos.” I have a hard time sending “the photos.” Caiuse I take a lot, and then, well, I’ve always had a hard time kist picking “your best four or five.

So I remembered i have Dropbox. The supersize one. 2 terrabytes!   For someone like me, Dropnox is a godsend.  I don’t have to decide whether to send the  image of the woman with the intriguing half-smile, and the one with her chasing me with the stick after I’d taken one too many shots. 

I used to visutally trudge through my phone deleting photos, choosing betweeen details I could barely see. I used to bulk load them onto my laptop, which took a lot time, crapped out in the middle, and eventually exploded the laptop.

Now I put the dropbox app on my Samsung Galazy Note and i hit the plus sign to “add files” and Boom. they’re added. In fact. They’re being added as I type this. So I’m sweatily killing off photos when I get to whole bunches of them 


Bad hair rising

Can we talk hair for a minute?

My hair. It’s … it’s … God, how can I describe it?

OK (she typed, closing her eyes for strength):  It’s Donald Trump color, in a Rod Stewart shag.

I know the phone’s in the way. I meant to do that.

I know.

I know.

Kill me now.

Stick hot pencils in my eyes.

I knew this would happen, I called it a couple of weeks ago, when I first saw it turning… orange.

Now it’s full-on.  I may have to resort to drastic measures. I have 3 boxes of some kind of Clairol product in my bathroom cabinet. And I will use them, yes I will. All the boxes, if necessary. Full metal jacket, tonsorially speaking.

And, of course, I have … scissors.

I’m sorry, Kristen at Color Me Krazy in Cornwall. You will have wreckage to deal with someday, hopefully soon. But desperate times call for desperate measures….






The Dr. makes zoom calls

Wasn’t sure I should go into what could be the eye of a hurricane — a Great Big Crystal Run Healthcare Facility — to see my asthma doc. After all, isn’t this where people with COVID go?

Anyway, they’ve set it up like my veterinarian did weeks ago: Sit in your car, they’ll come get you when it’s your turn. They’ll only take some kinds of payment (this is a  key part of your visit, the copay. And actually, I am happy to support these workers).

I decided telemed was the method. So I am zooming with my doctor, when he arrives at the Great Big Crystal Run Healthcare Facility today.

The nurse has already “come in” and done her knowledge-gathering in preparation for my audience with The Doctor. I dusted off my handy dandy CVS sphygmomanometer and took my own blood pressure (four times, till it was where I wanted it) and took my heart rate and when she called I supplied the data. She asked for my weight.  Ha ha. Ha.

Weird, but not as weird as the everything of right now.

Waiting for the zoom link from my doctor. Meantime, I should probably go brush my hair.

(I break for zooming)

Well, that worked. (Sadly, I’m good at zoom.)

My doctor said 40 mg of prednisone a day, which is keeping my breathing under control.  is too much, really. It could work against me in COVIDWORLD.

So I’m going to start this new drug, this once a month (I think) injection that costs just $5000 a pop. (the copay was $3000, but I got a scholarship).

Anyway, I’m going in tomorrow to get it. I’m wearing a mask. Ersatz Hazmat outfit — I’m sure there’s something in my closet, or garage. Maybe I’ll double-mask it.

I wanted them to give me the shot in my car but they said no.

An outing! I can’t wait.