a just machine to make big decisions


Tired of the future taking too long? Desperate for that house-surround computer that wakes you up with a gentle voice, opens the curtains and fires up the espresso? Yeah, me too. We’ve got all this awesome shit, but it requires all this input from us. What happened to the brave new world of vaguely intuitive automation?

Well, until the artificially-intelligent bedmakers and golden-domed fellatrixes show up, lemme introduce you to the next best thing: that’s right, the GETTIN’ CRAP DONE 7000™!!!!


“A monitor with stuff on it?” I hear you cry, but this is no ordinary monitor with stuff on it. The Gettin’ Crap Done 7000™ satisfies a bunch of needs at once, for the family on the go-go-go. It’s got:

• your shared calendar, with “to do” list

• weather forecast for the next 5 days, with icons

• current conditions

• clock

• and a Google traffic map for your town, updated every 3 minutes!

Specifically designed for the hyperfunctional (Tessa) and the A.D.D.-addled (me), I got the idea from the main lodge at Mammoth Mountain ski resort, which has this gigantic TV screen showing a map of the mountain, all the micro-climates, and which trails are open at any given moment.

People have been screwing with their computer desktop images since George H.W. Bush was in office, and these days, it’s having a bit of a renaissance – check out some of these. Most of those examples use GeekTool, which is a little app that makes things magically appear on your desktop.

You can use it to show Twitter feeds, disk space, NFL scores, all kinds of stuff. Many of the little “geeklet” scripts are here – you download ’em, plug them into Geektool, and let the bon temps roulez. I used Geektool to display the weather forecast and icons, but not after delving into the code and making it do exactly what I wanted.

Then came the calendar. I tried some GeekTool solutions, but they weren’t ready for prime time, so I went with Blotter. It has lots of limitations, but it’s gorgeous, and displays everything from your online Google or Mac Calendar.

The main thing I wanted was a big map showing Google Maps traffic for the Los Angeles area. I don’t need to explain this to anyone living down here, but so much of your day and so many decisions are based on traffic. I don’t know if you can see it in the picture, but the nexus of I-10 and I-405 can either cancel plans, or make you try surface streets you didn’t know existed. Knowledge is not just power, it’s hours added back to your life.

So I used Desktopr, which is another background app that simply displays any webpage as your desktop image. You can set it to refresh as often as you like, so I thought every three minutes would do the trick during rush hour.

The rest was putting it all together to look decent. My aesthete wife was not going to truck a shitty-looking monitor in our kitchen, so I used GeekTool again to extend the “ocean” from Google Maps all across the screen, and then placed the ever-changing icons with a little panache.


And there you have it. All of these apps run in the background with no programs open. The monitor was one I got for my mom a few years ago, and the computer (hidden in the butcher’s block) was an extra laptop past its prime, but fit for the task. It runs on our solar power setup, and the screen is timed to shut off at night.

Yes, the Gettin’ Crap Done 7000™. A calendar, weatherwoman, taskmaster, and traffic prefect all in one. Besides USB-powered Ben Wa balls, what else could you possibly want from technology?

6 thoughts on “a just machine to make big decisions

  1. xuxE

    ha! that is too funny, i am right there with you. me and my ex and my housemate have all linked up to share google calendars, i highly recommend.
    i think you should also have a music app on there, for you i recommend xm radio station “the verge” out of oh canada, which has wintersleep, mother mother, japandroid, feist, etc. in rotation… :)
    hope you guys are well! xoxo

  2. Jane Milliken

    Tessa and Ian, Can we rent your wonderful Berkshire house again on Columbus Day weekend? We are friends of Taro Alexander and rented twice with our family. Please get back asap?
    Jane Milliken

  3. Big Scott

    OK, so I’m late to the party, but this couldn’t have come along at a better time for me. After moving into a new place, I have officially gotten sick and tired of paper. I’ve made a pledge to myself that by the end of the year, I will digitize every part of my life that it’s possible to digitize. A set up like this gets rid of a bunch of crap that is cluttering up my apartment and is really heavy when you have to move it from place to place.


Leave a Reply to xuxE Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.