I’m really a dour matron

BY NOW, YOU MUST HAVE NOTICED everyone on Facebook posting side-by-side photos, their own selfie with an art portrait that the app chooses to resemble them. Like all Facebook trends, I was slow to adopt. I assume such quizzes are really designed to trick me into surrendering information about myself, or will cause malware to be added to my device. But, a couple of friends posted theirs and the portraits they were paired with were such good matches that I wondered if Google was actually generating a portrait-looking likeness based on the selfie submitted.

Intrigued, I downloaded Google’s Arts & Culture app, then took my picture and waited while it calculated. Here’s what it gave me:


What? OK, I guess, whatever. I shared it on Facebook (otherwise, what’s the point?). My friends were quick to suggest that I looked nothing like this older, somewhat dour matron. One friend said, try again with a smile! So I did, and I got this:


(No. If you think I look like this one, please get out a microfiber cloth and clean your glasses right now.)

I tried a few more times with different poses, but Google kept matching me with Mrs. Zeigler. And the more I look at her, I can’t really argue with the match: Unremarkable brown hair, blue eyes, resting “bitch” face (my down-turned mouth often makes people want to ask me why I’m sad), and most notably, jowls that have, after five decades, begun their inevitable surrender to gravity’s relentless pull.

I was curious about my doppelganger from another era. I was able to find more about her husband than I did about her – she is listed simply as the wife of John R. Zeigler, who was a Civil War Union Captain in Illinois. He left the war when he was injured in 1864. Both of their portraits were done at the artist’s Chicago studio in 1897, which is interesting, because her husband is listed as having died in 1896, at age 64.

If we assume she was around the same age as her husband, she’d have been around 60-65 at the time her portrait was painted; possibly younger if he married young, where “younger” = my age. Her eyes look a little sad to me, with a faraway gaze. She is a recent widow here, after all. She doesn’t seem to have the wrinkles one might expect of a woman her age (we have that in common). Also, no gray hair? I’d be mostly gray if I didn’t still color mine. I wonder if she allowed (asked?) the artist to take liberties here. My vanity manifests in my use of facial moisturizers and makeup and hair color; without access to such wondrous products of the modern era, perhaps hers surfaced as her likeness was being rendered in oil on canvas.

I suspect Mrs. Zeigler would have looked much different had she been painted with a smile on her face. My smiling selfie looks nothing like her resting gaze. If I ever have a portrait done, I want it to be of me laughing big and loud. And I want my wrinkles airbrushed and my hair brown.

Anyway, there you have it, and now Google has it, too. (Although the app does say they won’t use your photo for anything more than the portrait match.)





I didn’t know I needed this

THE INTERNET GODS sent me this ad:


It’s not just an ironing board, it’s an ironing system. A whole *system*! For pressing clothes! And it’s on sale for just $1,999! And it ships free!

They’re practically paying you to take it.

The product description begins:

Whether you’re ironing table linens or removing wrinkles from a cocktail dress…

OK, hold up. If you are the owner of a $2,000 ironing system, you probably aren’t ironing your own table linens. You’re sending them out, or you’re having the housekeeper do it. I can see maybe touching up one’s own cocktail dress, say if you forgot to ask your housekeeper to do that for you before she left for the evening. Or maybe if you can’t decide what to wear to that charity gala tonight and have searched the dark recesses of your second walk-in closet (the one with all your fancy clothes in it) and dig out something you haven’t worn a couple of years. It might have wrinkles that need removing. And in that case, you would be really happy this system is still set up in the laundry room. From when the housekeeper was ironing the cloth napkins. That is, if you can figure out how to use it:

This easy-to-use ironing system features an LCD display with user-friendly navigation.

In my experience, “easy-to-use” and “user-friendly” are code words for “plan on 20 minutes to view YouTube tutorials.” I can barely program my coffee maker to brew at some future time. If my ironing system has “navigation” it’s probably too complicated for me.

I know what you’re thinking: Will the B3312 model will deliver everything I want and need in an ironing system? Fear not: The manufacturer also offers the B3847 system for just $500 more. Because spending $2,499 on a glorified ironing board seems normal.

If ironing is your jam – or you are, say, a professional seamstress – an investment in a device such as this might make sense for you. But for the rest of us – those of us who even still *do* iron – isn’t a regular old ironing board and mid-level iron enough to successfully do most household jobs? For money like that, you could buy a whole lot of professional dry cleaning. Or, a couple of really nice new cocktail dresses. Even ones that aren’t on sale. And have cash leftover to bid on the silent auction items at that charity gala.

For more things you never knew you needed, here’s a link to that time I went to Williams-Sonoma and analyzed their Thanksgiving table display.


These are remarkable times

How did we even manage to live our day-to-day lives in the last century? Everything was so… difficult! And inefficient! I'm so old, I remember way back to the time when one had to go to the television set to change the channel to one of the two other networks. Cameras and computers were completely separate from the devices on which we placed and received calls, because telephones were attached to walls. Cars did not drive themselves. "Navigation" meant unfolding a paper map and planning your route. Parking meters required coins. One had to visit the bank to get cash, and write checks to pay bills.

I have been an adult since the 1990s, and during my time as one, technology has greatly improved how we accomplish so many tasks. I don't take most of these efficiencies for granted. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Here are several examples that prove our dreams really have come true. Or at least, mine have. A few of them, anyway.

Last week, I spent ten minutes ordering groceries from Harris Teeter's website, then after work I drove into a special lane at the store and a nice young man filled my trunk with groceries and I never had to leave my car. Compared to 30-45 minutes of searching for items in the store and waiting to check out behind that one person who still writes a check and then loading the groceries myself, the $4.95 service fee for their Express Lane shopping is money well spent. And yes, I know home grocery delivery has been available for years (I've used it), but this is the next best thing. If this had been available when my boys were babies, I could have maximized all that driving around I did, hoping they'd stop crying and sleep, and completed grocery shopping at the same time.

When Seth was little, a visionary opened a drive-thru convenience store near where we lived. It was further away than the grocery store, but they had milk, and many other necessities such as Oreos and potato chips. We would go there at least once a week when we had a need for milk. And necessities. Sadly, others did not embrace the genius behind this business model, and it closed after a short time. We were devastated.

Or this: Yesterday at work, I thought to myself, I'm out of cotton balls and face powder and have been meaning to order baking parchment and AA batteries. I ordered these items through Amazon Prime and the delivery arrived in my carport that same day before 9pm for no additional fee beyond the Prime annual membership fee. It has long been the case that if you pay enough money, you can have anything delivered to your home, but when you can have those things brought to your house just as you're cleaning up dinner, that's a win.

Can we all marvel for just a moment that this amazingness is possible through the magic of the internet? From the computer on your desk to the tiny handheld one in your pocket that also functions as a mobile communications device, you can think of something and immediately access the internet to make it happen.

Just when you think it can't get any better, there's this:


That's my view from the parking spot at the back door of my local Chick-fil-A. One can use a smartphone app to order ahead and pay, and a friendly associate brings your food right out to your car. No one loves a drive-thru more than I do, but my closest Chick-fil-A doesn't have one. Now, it's easier than ever for me to indulge in my favorite breakfast treat, Chick-n-Minis. (It's my exclusive go-to since McDonald's removed the Southern Style Chicken Biscuit from their menu without asking me first.)

These are but a few of so many examples. It's true that most of these "marvels" have been around for years in some form or another. It's just that when you step back and think about how we live our daily lives, well, it's just amazing how much and how quickly things have changed (and, I'd say, improved) in recent years.

I don't care what that one presidential candidate says. You can't tell me American isn't great! It is! These are wonderful times to be alive.