As the holidays approach I have a lot of time to think. While other members of my family shop, I am often told to “stand over there and wait.” I can do this with the best of them, but it means I am am often alone with my random thoughts. 


TECHNOLOGY: I recently read an article that asked, “What happens when the computers around you all but disappear?” The article went on to describe a world with: “Tiny sensors built into walls, household products, what you're wearing, and perhaps your own body will make computers invisible to the eye, but responsive to a gesture, voice, and perhaps your movement as you walk into a room.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/baig/2017/11/13/what-life-like-when-computers-disappear/843489001/)


This is called “ambient computing” is slowly creeping into our everyday lives. For example, our family recently took advantage of a program by DTE Energy. “An energy specialist will come to your home to provide a personalized Home Energy Profile that shows you where your home uses the most energy and identifies things that you can do in every room to save energy.” As part of this they install free products like new showerheads and LED lightbulbs. 


The coolest thing they installed was a free Ecobee thermostat. You can use it like a traditional thermostat or use an app on your smartphone to do the settings. We have an Amazon account, so the Ecobee links to that and the Alexa voice service. Now when I wake up in the morning I just say, “Alexa tell Ecobee I'm cold,” and the temperature gets upped two degrees. Then I ask for the weather, joke of the day, when the next Lions loss is scheduled, and anything else I want to know. Crazy as it sounds, having a talking thermostat makes us wonder how we ever survived without one.  (https://www.newlook.dteenergy.com/wps/wcm/connect/dte-web/home/save-energy/residential/incentives+and+programs/home-energy-consultation)


PAST TECHNOLOGY: Thinking of technology, if you young old-timers want to have some fun, when a whippersnapper strolls by listening to music coming from their phone over mini earbuds, flag them down and try to explain 8-Track tapes to them. 

As you may recall: “8-Track was a magnetic tape endless-loop cartridge format for music, created in 1964. The cartridges were huge, as were the players, but at the time they were cutting edge. Today's “yoots” will think you are making this up. 

Just FYI, the Museum of Obsolete Media tells us: “In the US, 8-Tracks were phased out of retail stores in 1982, but some titles remained available from record clubs until as late as 1988. (You may have to explain record clubs, too.) The last mainstream release on 8-Track was Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits.” (http://www.obsoletemedia.org/)


PAPER CATALOGS: Even with technology on the march, it's good to know some  old-school things are making a comeback. I read where many companies are bringing back paper catalogs, or what we used to call wish books. “In an era of explosive growth for online buying, retailers and shoppers are showing renewed interest in a humble purchasing device that uses paper instead of pixels. There is something special about holding a beautiful book of imagery in your hands.” 

Want to entice the kidlings away from their devices? Throw a big paper catalog on the floor and watch them gather around. (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-catalogs-return-20171123-story.html)


TERMINOLOGY: Speaking of gathering (smooth transition, eh?), I love new words and one that caught my attention is “irruption.” Right now: “A large flock of migrating snowy owls, known as an irruption, has made its way into Michigan, with numbers unlike anything seen in some parts of the state in recent years. They'll stay a full Michigan winter if they feel there is sufficient food around, with no interest in heading further south where things might be easier.”



I thought this was a perfect word for the holidays. Project SNOW Storm, a group that track owls, notes: “Every once in a while, for reasons that are not fully understood, snowy owls come flooding down... in an unpredictable invasion.” And they don't feel the urge to leave if there is free food.  Sort of sounds like your relatives during the holidays, doesn't it? (http://www.projectsnowstorm.org/what-is-an-irruption/)


FINNS: Another word was in the business news this week in an article about Detroit's comeback  – sisu. Cadillac has many residents with Finnish roots, so I thought it was interesting. “Sisu is a word the people of Finland use to describe their national character.  While no exact translation to English exists, think of it as a combination grit, tenacity, resilience, bravery and fiery drive.  Courage and resourcefulness in the face of adversity.  A white-knuckle determination to achieve no matter the odds.” Note: You may need sisu when faced with an irruption of relatives. 



SKIS: Ski season is upon us and many Cadillac skiers are looking forward to hitting the slopes. If you are looking for a gift for the skier in your life, do I have a deal for you. An Italian company, Foil Skis, has launched the limited edition Oro- Amaranto Skis featuring certified Amaranto wood with 14-karat gold plated bindings. They come complete with a travel bag hand-stitched by leather craftsmen in Italy. These skis only cost  $42,000, so you may want to buy pairs for your whole family. 


In case you don't think this is much of a bargain, compare with Foil's Oro-Nero model (made with 8000-year-old Bog Oak combined with 14 karat gold plated bindings, poles, and inlays) at $50,000. I just saved you $8 grand per pair. No need to thank me. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2017/12/03/jackie-chans-14k-gold-purple-heart-wood-snow-skis-for-50000/#1c8333d63411 and http://www.foilskis.com/)


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNew.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews. Also, remember the special Holidays page at: https://www.neffzone.com/holidays/