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Kimberly Blessing Hi, my name is Kimberly Blessing. I'm a computer scientist, Web developer, standards evangelist, feminist, and geek. This is where I write about life, the Web, technology, women's issues, and whatever else comes to mind.

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Beverly is Back!

My 2006 holiday gift to you, the people of the Web… an updated Beverly experience! Now with the ability to add your own stories, and a Flickr group.

Pre-Order Robots of Westinghouse

I just noticed that the Mansfield Memorial Museum Web site is up and running. Remember, that’s where you can go see the original Elektro (until April 2007).

And, great news! Scott Schaut’s book, Robots of Westinghouse will also be out soon. You can get it direct from the museum or you can pre-order from Amazon.

I can’t wait to read it and learn all about my favorite robot!

Better Living through Technology

Kevin always likes to talk about better living through chemistry, but for me it’s all about better living through technology. Here are some products that are making my life better right now:

  • Tassimo: Despite having worked as a barista during high school and college, it took me until 2005 (during a trip to Italy) to really develop a taste for coffee. I was fearful of spending all my money at Starbucks until I learned about Tassimo, and heard its praises sung by a few coffee lovers. Requiring very little effort on my part, this system makes excellent coffee drinks (I especially enjoy the Gevalia Lattes) as well as hot chocolate and tea. Our local Target recently started selling the T-Discs, but I get mine direct from the manufacturer once a month via auto-replenishment (requiring even less work on my part!). It’s convenient and it’s cheap. Mmmmmm.
  • SlingBox: I signed up for NHL Center Ice and I accepted a new job that will require me to travel, all on the same day. How would I get to watch my games while on the road? I’d had my eye on the SlingBox since before last Xmas and decided to give the new Pro edition a whirl. With the ability to connect four devices, I can watch regular cable, digital and HD cable, or whatever’s on the DVD/VHS. How well does it work? Well, Kevin’s on the other side of the globe right now, and he and I watched the Flyers game the other night together. What a way to keep the family together!
  • Microsoft OneNote: Despite being a total technology nerd, I love paper. Whenever I have to think something through, I grab a stack of paper and pens write down all of my thoughts. I’m also big on making lists. I carry a little notebook wherever I go, and it’s filled with random thoughts, reminders, quotations, and phone numbers. Now I have a digital notebook that allows me to organize my notes just as I would on paper. I can copy and paste just about any data from any program into OneNote. Checklists, tabbed sections… I can do it all, and I save trees at the same time.

Now all I really need is a high-resolution widescreen tablet PC to replace my high-res widescreen laptop and my slate-model tablet PC. I’m talking about something like the Toshiba Tecra M7, but with a normal keyboard layout. (Who the heck thought that moving the Windows key was a good idea?!?) I don’t care how big the thing is or how much it weighs. I just need a workstation replacement that has tablet functionality, for when my hand injury acts up (which it does frequently) and I can’t use the touchpad. It would also be handy on all those flights, when the person in front of me fully reclines and I can’t keep the laptop open more than 4 or 5 inches. Dammit, Dell, make me a tablet PC! NOW!

Brand Loyalty and Old TV Shows

Yesterday, Kevin told me that I was the most person he’d ever met. Which was funny to me, because I’d been thinking about the very same thing recently.

Indeed, I am an incredible brand-loyal person. I blame (in a good way) my family for this. A few of my family members worked for , back in its heyday, and ever since I was a small child I was always attracted to Rand’s ‘W’ logo. Next was , the only soda we drank, accompanied by — there was only one in the family, but there’s a story behind my love for the car and brand (part of which could be the shared ‘W’ with Westinghouse). Other brands I’m particularly loyal to include , , (despite the exploding laptop incident), and .

One brand that I’ve never been particularly loyal to is . For those of you that don’t know me, and may not know that I worked at AOL for six years, you may not find anything strange about this. But for those that do know me and do know that I worked at AOL, you probably also won’t find this strange. My modus operandi was to subvert the norm and push the products I worked on to be the industry’s best, rather than the AOL average of lame and boring.

Well, I don’t know if anything I did at AOL ever worked (see today’s NY Times article, but I can say that they’re now doing something that I can get behind… they’re putting old TV shows online at ! You can catch one of my all-time faves, online. (Max was sort of a brand, too, wasn’t he?) Other oldies-but-goodies include and . Now go watch some TV!

Nominate Elektro for the Hall of Fame!

A while back, I made mentioned that was going to be on display at the Mansfield Memorial Museum in Mansfield, Ohio, as part of their Mechanical Men of Westinghouse 1924-1940 exhibit. I’m happy to report that I finally made the trip to see the exhibit and Elektro!

I must thank and commend Scott Schaut, director of the museum, for putting together a world-class exhibit and for doing so much to preserve both Westinghouse history and robotic history. Scott, a palentologist, has done an excellent job of educating himself on these topics, and he’s now doing an incredible job educating the public and advocating for Elektro.

Why would Elektro need advocating, you ask? Apparently, there are robotics experts that dismiss Elektro and say he’s not a true robot. I can’t understand this. The word was coined long before digital computers existed, and the term was applied to Elektro at the time of his creation and popularity. Certainly, when you compare Elektro to modern robots, you’re looking at apples and oranges — however, that doesn’t dismiss the aim that Elektro’s creators had in mind when they constructed him. It also cannot dismiss the fact that hundreds of thousands of people saw a fully-functional robot in the 1930’s, and that it changed people’s perceptions of the future and of technology.

While he may have been touted as the “ultimate appliance” at the time of his creation, he was a true scientific (or engineering) marvel that inspired many notions in science fiction. (Or did science fiction inspire his creation? Does art imitate life or life imitate art? In any case…) My great aunt, at the age of 85, can recall seeing Elektro at the 1939 and 1940 World’s Fairs and thinking of what it would be like to have a robot in the house. Sixty-some years later, we have robots that can do specific tasks on command and autonomously, but none has ever reached the level of robotic maid or butler. (Take that Rosie the Robot and C3P0!)

Elektro, and his creators, deserve to be celebrated — not ignored. If you agree with me, please help! Nominate Elektro for the Robot Hall of Fame! And be sure to make the trip to Mansfield to see Elektro for yourself.

PS: Keep an eye out for his book on the Westinghouse mechanical men, due later this year — he tells me there’s a secret about Elektro in there, which currently only three people in the world are privy to!