My apartment is almost ready to be smart

For the past six years I have endlessly coveted over Phillips Hue lights. One of my good friends has them in his apartment, and I ask him about it every six weeks or so, delving into research that I've done over and over before, and watching three or for video reviews. I've found alternative products, both by long standing companies and new companies that joined the smart-space through crowdsourcing. I've done research. I mean, I have done the research. 

And it never felt right. I purchased a strip of LED lights for my room, but they weren't smart. I manually operate them with a small remote that I lose regularly. My lamps don't talk to my phone, and I don't have a home security system that notifies me when someone opens my front door. 

The switch to smart homes in inevitable, there's no denying that. Sure, people still love reading hardbound books, and drawing on very thin slivers of compacted wood. And printers seem to be running on some sort of technology invented in the 1920s. But, it will happen. I want it so badly, but I've been waiting for the right time. In higher income areas homes and apartment buildings have smart home systems already integrated when built. And the cost of smart home devices is dropping rapidly, and will continue to drop.

Earlier this year Apple made HomeKit much more accessible to developers. Prototyping and developing products that have HomeKit integration doesn't require specific license (at least until they want to sell them), which means in the coming months and years there will be a massive increase in smart home devices entering the market. 

Another thing that happened in 2017 is that my sister got married. Her husband and her both owned an Apple TV 3rd gen. So, one was passed down to me. I had wanted an Apple TV for a while, but I never quite felt like the investment was worth it. Admittedly, I complained a lot while setting it up - logging in to many different services was a pain. I ran into a lot of errors and problems updating, but once I got it set up I fell in love. I seamlessly AirPlay my MacBook Pro to my TV to use it as an external display, easily can queue YouTube videos, and have content from 8 different streaming platforms in one app. I know it's not the only device that can handle tasks like this, but the seamless interaction between everything is honestly a pleasure to experience.

This small change made a big difference in my leisure time, and it got me thinking about smart devices again. Google Home, Amazon Echo, and HomePod all seem to be devices heading in the right direction, but each one leaves me wanting more. I've been holding out on buying a speaker for my living room, and I think if Siri gets the major update that is constantly around the rumor corners I'll dive in without hesitation. Right now none of those devices feel worth the investment. The last thing I want to do is spend $150 on a device that won't provide the experience I am hoping for. Even with Amazon's new line of Alexa enabled products, I still feel like Alexa integration into our lives is forced. I admittedly hardly ever use Siri on my iPhone or Apple Watch. 

So this is where I am at: today I invested in smart outlet adapters by iHome. Soon I will set my heater on a schedule controlled by my phone to turn on and off at times deemed appropriate. And I have been looking into Samsung's SmartThings home security system for a little peace of mind.

HomeKit devices are starting to flood the market, and it's a good thing for consumers. It means that in the very near future the competition for smart home devices will dramatically increase. If anyone was going to start investing in smart home devices, the time is very soon. But...maybe not now. I want my "artificial intelligence" assistant to be a bit smarter before I'm ready to commit. In the mean time I'm starting small. I wirelessly use my TV as a display for my MacBook, My toes are warm in the cool Southern California mornings, and my bedroom lamp turns on when I get near my apartment. 

Chicago Forever

An endless friendship, a new marriage, a cloud-like view. 

I set a goal about one year ago like everyone does when they're twenty-four and confused. That goal was to visit more places and take to take pictures of those places. I redid my website and made plans to visit San Diego for the first time. It was a trip I will forever remember, and always cherish. I've visited new cities and have had amazing experiences before, but something about this weekend in San Diego with a dear friend of mine made me feel exhilarated. It accidentally snowballed into a trip to Seattle followed up by a flight to Alberta Canada where I visited Banff National Park. Since then I've continued to seek out these lasting memories in beautiful places, and I'm eternally thankful for the opportunities that have come my way.

I got a FaceTime call from my sister and she told me that her boyfriend had proposed - it was a beautiful moment that I will always cherish. The wedding was to be in Chicago, a place I had visited my family in many times before - a place that is my home in a sense. I wanted this trip to Chicago to be different than each time before, so I started making plans to explore the city in ways I have never had the time to do.

I spent a full day exploring with my best friend, Angelique. Her friendship is one of those special friendships that defy time and space. It's the type of friendship that should be studied, taken apart, and extracted from in order to help humanity better understand the universe. I've heard that when you're close with someone for seven years, your relationship will last forever. It's been seven years since I first met Angelique, and I know in seven more we'll still be manipulating time and space. 

I didn't go to a single wedding until I was several years into my twenties. Several cities, weddings, and dance moves later they're one of my favorite pastimes. I watched my sister walk herself down the aisle. I watched my sister start something beautiful with an amazing man. I watched her through my tear-filled eyes, smiling, holding our mother in my arms, as she created something beautiful in front of everyone she holds dear.  She is one of my best friends, my mentor, my example. I strive to be like her in so many ways.

I will be back to Chicago many times, and it will always be a city I love. I love it for its old buildings, and the small front porches, and the public transit, and the people that will forever be in my life. I have so many memories there, and they will forever be a part of who I am.

Thank you, Chicago, for holding so much of my heart.  

Until next time. 

kevin-3662.jpg
angelique1-3482.jpg

Huntington Gardens

In another life, I was a botanist, and my love of plants ruined my marriage and kept me emotionally distant from my family. Probably. In this life, I am single and clean the pores on my Monstera Deliciciosa every Sunday morning. I've named my desk plants after movies I especially enjoyed. And I'm single. 

I grew up with a beautiful cat that somehow always knew when I was sad. Like every single person who ever owned a cat always says, my cat thought like a human; he just knew. To this day I long to have another pet that I can take care of and nap with, but the lease for my apartment holds me back. So, I've begun to adopt plants. They're my family, and I love them. 

Because of this, my love of botanical gardens has blossomed in the last year. I can't get enough of large gardens. I think living in Los Angeles has contributed to the love of being surrounded by life. In a city that is a hub of culture and chaos I find it can feel somewhat plastic at times. 

My very good friend Joshua recently visited and we had the opportunity to walk around the Huntington Gardens on a cool, overcast day. It was the sort of experience that continues to take your breath away over, and over again. We gasped aloud in synconization too many times to count, and laughed at ourselves even more. 

Rose gardens, and Japanese gardens, tea houses, sculptures, and several estates filled with art. The architecture was mesmerizing, but my favorite part was watching my friend explore next to me. It was really wonderful to explore the 120 acres with someone who appreciated the energy the plants shared.

I plan to keep adding to my family for the time being, and maybe one day I will leave my own garden behind that will take the breath away from many others.

 

Gardens, I love you. You too Joshua.