Join the Blakely family for a typical day in the not-too-distant future, and see many ways the New Neighbors may change your world.

 6:00 a.m.  The alarm

It’s Monday morning, and Diane Blakely is sleeping comfortably in her bed.  At exactly 6:00 a.m., a gentle voice coming from a small electronic display beside her bed wakes her.  It’s Angeles, her personal assistant.  “Ms. Blakely, good morning,” she says, in her usual, excited tone of voice.  “It’s Angeles.” 

 “Angeles.  Uh, hi.  Good morning…  What time is it?”

 “It’s six o’clock.  I’m waking you a bit early this morning because it’s raining and the kids will need a ride to school.  Sorry about that!”

 “Not your fault.  What’s on the agenda today?”

 “Well, as you know, the big meeting with Allied is at nine, then you have a budget checkpoint with Susan at eleven, and the design review with the Allied project team is at 3:00.  Mr. Blakely gets home from Seattle at four, and your guests start arriving for the party at seven.  Welcome to Monday!”

 “Anything else I need to know about?”

 “Let’s see:  you have three new e-mail messages this morning - nothing urgent – and one meeting cancellation: your 1 p.m. with Jonathan Banks.  I’m trying to move him to tomorrow afternoon.  Roger says the problem with your printer was caused by Lauren’s new game software.  He fixed it during the night.  And don’t forget your online meeting with your new financial advisor at lunchtime – he says he’s going to save you a bundle on your taxes and on Pete’s tuition – all at the same time!”

 Diane rolls out of bed and looks out the window at the wet patio, then back at the smiling face on the alarm display.  ‘Coffee,’ she thinks, ‘if only she could make coffee…’

 6:20 a.m.  The alarm (2)

Meanwhile, twenty minutes later, in room 428 of the SeaTac Hilton, Peter Blakely’s cell phone rings with a wake-up call from his personal assistant, Christine.

 “Yeah, Christine.  Good morning.”

 “Good morning, Mr. Blakely!” she begins.  “The good news is you’re going home today!”

 “Oh-oh.  If there’s good news, there must be bad news.”

 “No sir, no bad news.  You have seven new e-mails.  The two urgent ones are printed out and waiting for you under your door along with that deposition you asked me to summarize.  Three others I was able to take care of directly, and the other two can wait until you’re back in the office.  And your flight is showing on time.”

 “Great.  You know, there’s a chance I can get out of here a couple of hours early, and fly back down with Mike and Bruce.  Could you check the flights and see what options I have?”

 “Certainly, Mr. Blakely.  I’ll leave you a voicemail with the information.”

 “OK, great, thanks.  Talk to you later.”

 “Bye.”

 7:10 a.m.  Breakfast at the Blakely home

Diane and the three Blakely children, Pete, Lauren, and Logan, are running through their school-day morning ritual that requires them to be out the door by 7:15.  Most days Pete rides his bike to school, and Lauren walks with her little brother to their school down the street.  But on rainy days, Diane drives them all on her way to the graphic design agency where she works. 

 As usual, the two older children are halfway through breakfast, while Logan has still to make an appearance downstairs.  Diane walks over to the foot of the stairway and calls up to him.

 “Logan!  We’re leaving in five minutes!”

 Oui, mama, je y vais!”  Mrs. Blakely turns to Lauren, still trying to decide whether to be amused or annoyed. 

 “What did he say?”  she asks.

 “He says he’s coming,” Lauren answers.  “Mom, this is so not funny.”

 “I don’t know; it’s kind of cute.  And he seems to be learning quite a bit already.  He’s only been taking classes for two months.”

 “Yeah, I know, and his accent is better than mine after three years of French class.  How is that fair?”

 “Come on, Lauren, he’s eight years old – kids that age are good with accents.  And his teacher is a native speaker – yours never were.”

 “But he’s learning it over the Internet!  Give me a break.”

 “Well, brace yourself, honey, because it’s worse than you think.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays he takes piano, and he’s already playing songs in Level 2.”

 “I don’t see how that’s even possible.  Especially for the squirt.”

 “You ought to go in and watch them sometime, it is pretty impressive.    Every kid has his own teacher; it’s amazing.  And best of all, Logan likes it and I don’t have to worry about him after school before I get home from work.”

 Just then, Logan bursts into the room.  Bonjour mes amis!  Etez vouz pres?  Allon!”  Lauren glares at him for a brief moment, then turns back to her mother.

 “MOM!”

 7:15 a.m.  The family commute

At exactly 7:15, the four of them jump into the car, and immediately are joined by Angeles, who has recently certified as a “co-pilot” with Diane’s automobile association.  Her face appears on a small display next to the car’s radio and she smiles at the other passengers.

 “So far so good on the commute this morning,” she announces. “The ‘24’ is clear all the way to Berkeley.”

 “Thanks, Angeles.  I needed a break this morning.”

 They drop Logan off, then head over to Lauren’s school.  Lauren pauses for a moment before making the dash through the rain into the school building.

 “Thanks for the ride, Mom,” she says.

 “My pleasure, sweetie.  And good luck on the biology quiz.  Did I tell you your PC is fixed?  But no games until your homework is done.”

 “OK, no problem.  See you later!”

 Diane turns to Pete as they pull away.  “OK, pal, your turn.  Don’t forget to check with the counselor on SAT dates.”

 “No problem, Mom,” replies Pete.  “I think I’m going to sign up for the online college prep course too.”

 “I think that’s a good idea.  If the instructors are as good as your Algebra tutor it could really make a difference in your SAT scores.  This online thing is really inexpensive compared to the classes, plus you get individualized instruction.”

 “Yeah, and they work around my schedule.  That’s what I like.  But you know what?  I’m more interested in the career guidance part than in the test preparation part.”

 “You’re kidding.  But Pete, you have lots of time to pick a major.”

 “Yeah, I know.  But when you almost lost your job to that guy in Jamaica, I realized that half the careers I think I’d like may not be there when I graduate.”

 “Good point.  ‘That guy in Jamaica’ is named Paul, and he’s really talented.  I understand how hiring people like him is saving our clients a lot of money and winning the firm a lot of business.  But it almost cost me my job, and I saw several of my friends lose theirs.  I think you’re pretty smart to be planning for that now.  But Pete-” Diane pauses.

 “Yeah?”

 “When you’re the best, there’s always room for you.”

 “Right, Mom.  I’ll keep that in mind.”  Pete rolls his eyes.

 “OK, you’ll be home when Logan gets home at 5?”

 “Yeah, I have another Algebra session after school and I’ll just do it at home.”

 “OK, great.  Dad and I should both be home by 5:30 because we have Aunt Becky’s birthday party tonight.”

 Just then, the radio-display comes back to life and Angeles’ face appears on the screen.

 “Angeles,” says Diane, “what’s up?”

 “Change of plans, Ms. Blakely,” Angeles announces.  “Allied can only meet this morning if you go to their offices instead.”

 “Oh no, they’re in the City, aren’t they?”

 “Yes, they are – they’re on Pine, just off Market.  And the bridge is all backed up because of the rain.”

 “How’s BART this morning?”

 “Like clockwork.  If you pick it up at the Rockridge station and get off at Embarcadero, you’ll be there in twenty minutes.  But you’ll have to stop by the office on the way to the station to pick up the samples.  You should have plenty of time.  Shall I confirm?”

 “Yes, that sounds fine.  And could you let Susan know that I might be a little late for the budget review?”

 “I’ll take care of it, Ms. Blakely.”

 Diane turns back to her son in the car as they pull into the school parking lot.  “OK, Pete, have a good one.”

 “Thanks, Mom; you too.  What’s for dinner anyway?”

 Diane smiles.  “I can’t decide between braised lamb chops with a fresh herb salad and whipped garlic potatoes or warming up leftover chicken from last night in the microwave.”

 “Ha ha.  That chicken was good.  Can we have french fries again?”

 “Just for you, and cake and ice cream at the party.  But I’m choosing the music.”

 “Aw, Mom, you’re not going to do that disco days thing again are you?”

 “You’ll have to wait and see.  Just remember, Aunt Becky was born in 1955.  So we need appropriate music…”

 Pete makes a face, then grins. “Dinosaur music, my favorite.  Bye Mom.”

 “Bye Petie.  Knock ‘em dead today.”

 “Absolutely.  See you.”

 9:37a.m.  The doorbell at the Blakely home

At 9:37, a woman pulls up to the Blakely house in a big yellow van, and walks up to the porch carrying a small package.  When she presses the doorbell, Angeles’ face appears on the small screen next to it.

 “Hello,” Angeles says with a smile.  “May I help you?”

 “Oh, hello,” says the woman.  “I’m Theresa from Next-Day Delivery.  I have a package for Peter Blakely.”

 “Oh, good, that must be the book he ordered from the Online Bookstore.”

 “Yep, that’s what it is.”

 “Could you please leave it in the box next to the bench there?”

 “Sure thing, and could I get your name?”

 “I’m Angeles.”

 “OK, great.  Thanks.”

 “Thank you.”

 10:02 a.m.  At the airport

Peter’s meeting at the firm’s Seattle office goes smoothly, and he has Christine switch his flight to the 10:40 a.m. into Oakland.  The airport seems a little busier than he’d been expecting, and he walks a bit faster as he glances at his watch.  ‘10:00,’ he says to himself, ‘should be OK.’

 He approaches the counter and only has to wait behind one person to check in.  As he approaches the kiosk a woman’s face appears on the screen and greets him like an old friend.

 “Good morning, Mr. Blakely,” she says with a smile.  “I see you are on our 10:40 flight to Oakland.  Is that right?”

 “That’s the one I was hoping for,” he replies.  ‘Face recognition,’ he thinks.  ‘Eerie, but it definitely has its advantages, too.’

 “You normally prefer an aisle seat near the front, is that right?” asks the woman.  As she speaks, the airplane’s seating chart appears on the screen.

 “Actually, today I am traveling with two other people and we would like to sit together, if possible.”

 “Yes, it looks like a Mr. Barclay and a Mr. Porter have already checked in and made that request for you.  I have you in 7B, right between them! Will that be all right?”

 “Ha, the middle seat.  Two of my best friends, you know?  Sure that’s fine.”

 Peter notices the couple at the kiosk next to his going through the same procedure, but in Italian.  The kiosk speaks 20 languages, and he’s still making do with English.  He makes a mental note to look into Spanish lessons again.

 “OK, Mr. Blakely, you’re all set.  Your frequent flier number is already recorded.  I need to ask you some security questions and you’ll be on your way to gate S20…”

 11:45 a.m.  A big thank-you note

Diane walks out of the Allied building with a big smile on her face and a spring in her step.  She pulls her cell phone out of her purse and dials Angeles’ number.

 “Angeles, it’s me.”

 “Oh, Ms.Blakely, how was the meeting?”

 “We nailed it!  It couldn’t have gone better.”

 “And you got the order?”

 “We got it all right.  My first project is funded!  I can’t believe it!”

 “Congratulations, Ms. Project Manager.  Have you told Ismail?”

 “No, that’s why I’m calling.  I want to send him an e-mail right now.  Have it say, ‘Hey, Coach, we did it!  Allied came through with the funding and we start immediately.  I can’t thank you enough for all your help.  I’ll call you tomorrow morning California time and we can chat.  All the best, Diane.’”

 Although Diane got her degree in Graphic Design almost twenty years ago, she quit work when Pete was born and didn’t re-enter the workforce until about five years ago.  She started at the agency as an administrative assistant, then was quickly promoted to design specialist.  But she seemed stuck there, no matter how hard she worked.

 Then, about six months ago, the partners decided to move most of the specialist jobs to lower-wage countries.  They didn’t want to lose Diane, though, and although her job was going away, the agency signed her up for a career development program.  Ismail, her personal coach, interviewed her, her co-workers, her boss, and even a few clients she was working with.  Then they had weekly online coaching sessions for three months to assess her performance, set development goals, and map out a career strategy.  Based on the plan, and with great support from her boss, the partners decided to give her a shot at managing a major project – Allied.  But she had to convince the client to go with their proposal, and this morning that is exactly what she did.

 1:09 p.m.  The doorbell (2)

Once more, a figure approaches the Blakely house and presses the doorbell.  This time it’s a middle-aged man in a blue suit struggling to carry a large black briefcase.  Once more, Angeles answers the door.

 “Hello, may I help you?” she asks.

 “Yes, Ma’am,” says the man in the suit.  “George Stuckey’s the name, and I have a special offer for this household.  Are you the lady of the house?”

 “What sort of offer are you referring to, Mr. Stuckey?” Angeles asks, ignoring his question.

 “The Gift of Information, right at your fingertips, from the most trusted source in America – Collegiate Encyclopedias.”

 “Encyclopedias?” Angeles asks.  “You mean, the book kind?  I didn’t know they still made those.”

 “They make ‘em, and I sell ‘em,” proclaims Mr. Stuckey.  “Real, live, printed and bound encyclopedias.  You can touch them.  You can smell them.  You can read them in bed.”

 “I suppose that’s all true, at least when you’re at home,” concedes Angeles.  “But isn’t the challenge keeping them up to date?”

 “Well, sure.  But what I’m selling today is the very latest, hot off the presses, 2012 edition.”

 “But it’s only 2011.”

 “Exactly!  They won’t be last year’s model for two years!”

 “What I’m afraid of is that they’re last year’s model already.”

 He ignores her comment.  “And they are 100% made in the U.S.A.  I guarantee that.”

 “But I live in Ecuador,” Angeles informs him.

 “No problem!” Mr. Stuckey assures her.  “We’ll ship anywhere!”

 “I guess what I mean is that it shouldn’t matter so much where they’re made.  Don’t you think ‘free enterprise’ is about people who buy things and people who sell things having free access to each other, regardless of where they live?”

 “Don’t think I follow you there, honey,” the man admits.  “But I think we all agree with the need to protect our jobs.”

 “You mean your job.”

 “Well, yeah!  Speaking of which, are you interested in making a purchase or not?”

 “I don’t think so, Mr. Stuckey.  I think we’re pretty happy with the online, up-to-date, multi-media version.  But thanks for coming by.”

 “Well, Miss, I respect your opinion.  I really do.  But I think you’re making a big mistake here, and when the world figures that out, there aren’t going to be enough encyclopedias to go around.  That’s when you’ll wish you’d made this investment.”

 “Thank you, Mr. Stuckey, and good luck.”

 “Good day to you too.”

 2:45 p.m.  The After-School Learning Lab

Every afternoon at 2:30, the bell rings at Logan’s school and the kids flood out into the hallways, the playground, and the parking lot outside the school.  Some are headed home, others to various sports activities or after-school child-care facilities. 

 This year, Logan and about forty other students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades are enrolled in a pilot program called the After-School Learning Lab.  Every day after school, the children help the Lab director set up two adjoining classrooms with portable “learning appliances” and small electronic piano keyboards, all with headphones, small displays, and wireless connections to the school’s main computer.

 Each day, half the kids take music lessons on the piano keyboards while the others learn Spanish, French, Arabic, or Mandarin on the learning appliances.  Today is Language Day for Logan.  He takes his seat and puts the headphones on.  Within a couple of minutes, his teacher’s face appears on the screen and the lab begins.

 “Bonjour, Logan,” says Renee, live from Morocco.  

 “Bonjour, Mademoiselle Renee,” Logan replies.  Comme t’allez vous?”

 “Bien, merci; et toi?”

 “Tres bien ici, merci.”

 The pleasantries exchanged, they quickly review the last lesson and then go over the new vocabulary words.  Logan sees the words on the screen and hears Renee – a native speaker – pronounce them.  Then they make sentences using the new words.  After that, Logan joins a small discussion group where he and other kids at the same level practice conversation, sing songs, and play games using the language they are learning.  Finally, he spends time on his own, doing games and exercises on the computer at his own pace.  He checks in at the end of the day with Renee to recap what he’s done and to discuss any problems or questions.

 Music Days follow a similar procedure.  His music teacher is a 45-year-old woman from Estonia who has been performing and teaching for almost thirty years.  Logan had dropped his weekly piano lessons last year after about two years of struggling through them.  He likes Music Days better, though, because, in his words “the pianos are cooler, the teacher is nicer, and I don’t have to practice outside the lesson.”

 2:55 p.m.  The doorbell (3)

A little before 3:00, a little girl in a green uniform walks up to the Blakely house and presses the doorbell.  Once again, Angeles appears on the screen to answer the door and instantly recognizes Logan’s friend from down the street.

 “Oh, hi Katy,” she says.

 “Hi.  Is Mrs. Blakely home?”

 “No, Katy, she’s at work, and the kids aren’t home from school yet.”

 “Oh, well, I’m taking orders for Girl Scout cookies, and Mrs. Blakely usually buys some.”

 “I know, she told me.  She’d like two boxes of thin mints and two boxes of shortbread.  Is that OK?”

 Katy makes a note.  “Two boxes of thin mints…two boxes of shortbread.  OK,” she says with a satisfied smile.

 “She pays you when you deliver them, is that right?”

 “Yup,” says Katy.  “That will be in about three weeks.”

 “OK, wonderful, Katy,” Angeles replies.  “Anything else?”

 “Would you like to buy some?” Katy asks, hopefully.

 “Oh, Katy, I would, but I live in Ecuador!”

 “Hmm,” Katy replies, not sure where exactly Ecuador is.  “OK, well you can buy them from someone else there.  It’s OK with me.”

 “Thanks, Katy.  I knew you’d understand.”

 3:00 p.m.  The design review

The morning meeting with Allied went so well that Diane can’t wait to get the project team together and get going on things.  At a few minutes before 3:00, she walks down to the small conference room, which is equipped with a conferencing PC.  She clicks on the conferencing software and enters her meeting code.  Within a couple of minutes, Anna – a colleague in the same Berkeley office Diane works in –enters the room and sits across the table, while Paul, Isabel and Anand join via the PC.

 “Hi everyone,” Diane begins.  “The meeting this morning couldn’t have gone better, so I want to begin by thanking all of you for really excellent preparation.”

Each member of the group acknowledges her comment, and she goes on.

 “The bottom line is we have the order and the schedule is as tight as ever.  So we’re going to have to move fast and coordinate things pretty closely.”  She watches as the team nods in unison before continuing.

 “As we expected, our job is a piece of a larger new brand introduction that Allied is planning to launch this Spring.  We get to design the new package graphics for the Americas.  We’ll need to coordinate with three other agencies: the package structural design agency, the brand strategy agency, who are also doing all the advertising and website design, plus with Allied’s Marcom team.  I’ll send you all a copy of my notes and the Allied handouts in a minute.”

 “First, let’s talk about our roles.  Anna, I’d like you to take the lead on copy, with Isabel handling the localization for Canada and Latin America.  Paul, you get the color palette, fonts, and images.  Anand gets to design the RFID tag – UPC information, recycling information, and, guess what, Anand?  They’re giving you 128 bits for service data!”

 Anand let out a whoop of excitement.  “At last!” he exclaims.  “Look out, world!”

 Diane continues. “I’ll be responsible for all the project administration tasks and for client relations.  Now, let’s take a five-minute break and I’ll send you all a copy of the project materials.”

 That said, she walks out into the hallway and approaches the office digital copier.  She places a stack of papers in the input tray and touches a small, oval button with her right index finger.  Instantly, a man’s face appears on the small display next to the menu screen.

 “Hi, Diane,” the man says.  “What do we have today?”

 “Hi, Gabe,” she replies, as she presses the green button and the pages start feeding through the machine.  “This one’s hot, and a little complicated.  I need to send these materials out to the project team.  Can you print a normal copy for Anna, here on this machine, plus one for Anand in the office in Delhi, and fax one to Isabel at her home in Veracruz.  But send a high-resolution version of the color pages in an e-mail to Paul in Jamaica.  And also send Isabel an e-mail copy in Spanish later this afternoon.”

 “No problem.  What’s the complicated part?” Gabriel asks with a grin.

 “You must not have seen the last page yet,” she replies.

 “Oh no, Diane’s world-renown illegible handwriting!”

 “Indeed,” she affirms.  “You’re going to have to transcribe that.”

 “Your wish is my command!”  He pauses for a few seconds.  “And…done!”  Anna’s copy of the package starts appearing in the copier’s output tray.  “I am also sending the transcription of your notes to your e-mail account, Diane.  Do you want a printed copy now as well?”

 “No, thanks,” she says.  “I’m the one person that doesn’t have a problem with my handwriting!  Thanks, Gabe”

 “My pleasure, Diane.”  And the screen goes blank.

 3:30 p.m.  After-school Tutor

“Hey Pete!” calls out his best friend, Tony.  “Let’s go over to Brenda’s house!”

 “I can’t – I’ve got another Algebra session.”

 “Again?  What’s with that?”

 “No, it’s cool,” Pete answers.  “The guy is great – he walks you through things, gives examples, all that.  We’ve done three sessions since last week, and today I got a 19 out of 20 on the quiz.”

 “So why do you still need a tutor?”

 “Because the next section on theorems is really tough, and because my parents are both liberal arts types, and because my friends are all math morons.”

 “Ouch.  No respect for poets.  Where did you find this guy anyway?”

 “Mr. Reston set it up.  I think the District has a whole directory of tutors available.  Any subject, any time.  All you need is an Internet connection.”

 “And rich parents.”

 “No way, it’s cheap.  My tutor is a math professor at a college in India and tutors kids in the U.S. after school.  They make like nothing and he still earns more as a tutor than he does as a professor.  But he makes it easy to understand Algebra without making me feel like an idiot.  Like, I may make it to the University after all.”

 “You know, I should get a tutor for chemistry,” Tony thinks out loud.  “If I get a ‘C’ in there it will be a miracle and my parents will still kill me.”

 “Just go up to the counselor’s office and sign up.  You could start tomorrow.”

 3:53 p.m.  Checking in from Canada

Peter is just packing up his briefcase to leave when his phone rings.  It’s his friend, Jacques, who runs the firm’s office in Montreal.

 “Jacques,” says Peter.  “I thought you’d be here when I got back.”

 “That was the plan,” says Jacques, “but a big storm came through this morning and they closed the airport.  It’s open again, though.  In fact, I just parked the car and I’m headed for the terminal shuttle now.”

 “Great, we can get together on the Johnson case in the morning.  Did you- “

 “Hold on, Peter,” interrupts Jacques.  “It’s strange, but the bus stop seems to be trying to tell me something.”

 “You OK, Jacques?” Peter asked.

 “Oops, apparently I have left my headlights on.  Now how did they know that?”  He looks around.  “Someone is always watching, never forget it.”

 “Your guardian angel, maybe?”

 “Big Brother, you mean!”

 “Hey, whoever it was saved you from a dead battery.”

 “Yeah, they’re up to something all right…”

 5:05 p.m.  The dimmer switch

Peter is smiling as he drives home from the office.  He got in two hours early from Seattle and will arrive home about a half hour earlier than he’d promised Diane.  This week her sister Becky turns 50, and most of Diane’s family is coming over for dinner and birthday cake.  Peter figures maybe he can help out with the final preparations - add a leaf to the table or something like that.  Just then his cell phone rings.

 "Oh hi, honey!" Diane greets him.  “How was your trip?”
 “Great, I even caught an earlier flight!  In fact, I’ll be home in about five minutes.”
 "You’re kidding, that’s great.  In fact, that gives me an idea.”  Peter senses trouble.  “You know that light over the dining room table?  Tonight when we light the candles on the cake and sing Happy Birthday and everything, wouldn't it be great if we could dim the light a little?"
 "Dim the light, honey?" Peter asks carefully.
 "Yeah, you know," she continues.  "Install a dimmer switch.  They have them at the hardware store; I saw them yesterday.  And you're so good at things like that..."
 Peter quickly evaluates his options.  As a man, he feels a compulsion to protest that this request is irrational.  On the other hand, that last patronizing compliment went right to his male ego (and she is right, of course).  "Well, sure, honey, let's give it a shot."
 OK, technically, Peter has never actually installed a dimmer switch before.  In fact, he doesn't really like any involvement with household current beyond changing a light bulb.  On the other hand, the hardware store does stock the item, and the staff there is really knowledgeable and helpful.  The problem, however, is that customers normally have to chase down a staff person and then stand in line to get help.  And the guests are arriving in one hour and forty-five minutes.  
 But a surprise awaits Peter at the Homeowner's Warehouse store.  When he walks in the door, a smiling face on a computer display seems to be looking right at him. 
 "Hello," the woman on the screen greets him.  "Welcome to the Homeowner's Warehouse.  Can I help you find anything today?"
 "Well, yeah.  I'm looking for a dimmer switch."
 "Great!" she says.  "Dimmer switches are on aisle 17 on the left about half way down.  I'll meet you there."
 ‘OK,’ Peter is thinking.  ‘That's a little strange.’  He walks down to aisle 17, where about three feet from the dimmer switches a smaller display screen is sticking out from the shelf.  The same woman's face is there, smiling at him.
 "Hi again" she says.  "Did you find the one you're looking for?"
 "Actually, I could use a little help", he admits.  "I didn't expect to find so many different models."
 "It can be a little confusing," she consoles.  "But if it's a normal indoor house light, I can help you figure out what you need in less than a minute."
 "Yes, it's a normal indoor light."
 "Do you know what color you want?  We have white, brown, and beige."
 "Beige."
 "OK, is this the only switch to this light or are there other switches as well?"
 "No, this is the only one."
 "Great, that makes it easy.  You need either the #422 in the blue box on the lower shelf, or the #5506 right above it.”
 Peter picks the two boxes up and looks at them.  “I like this one,” he says.  “How tough will it be to install?” 
 “Not hard at all. All you need is a flat-bit screwdriver, and the whole thing should take about twenty minutes.  There are instructions in the box, and I'll also put the web address to our installation instructions on your cash register receipt.  But I can walk you through it now, if you want."
 "No, I’ll try it using the instructions.  But thanks."
 "You're welcome.  Anything else today?"
 "No, that's it today.  I'll be back this weekend on a faucet mission, though."
 "Can't wait!  See you then."

6:00 p.m.  The dinner conversation

Lauren stares at her dad with that look of disbelief and dismay that thirteen-year-olds specialize in.  “It’s weird, Dad.  It’s like spying.  Who knows who is looking through the camera at us?”

Diane interjects, “Peter, you have to admit it’s pretty strange.  And it seems dehumanizing too.  Like putting a human into a dog’s body.”

“Just give it a chance, that’s all I ask.  It’s the best home security for the money.  The robot dog can move around the house and yard and keep an eye on things.  The person running the robot is trained and certified as a professional household manager.  They take care of things when we’re gone, monitor our utilities usage - even keep a maintenance schedule on the car and other household appliances and fixtures.  Plus it’s a good job for them; there’s nothing dehumanizing about that.  And you know we can turn the camera off or restrict the coverage area any time we want.”

“Will she do my homework?”

“Not an option, Lauren.  But she won’t eat it!”

7:00 p.m.  Music for the party

“They’ll be arriving any minute!” Diane calls out.  “I’ll get the music going!”   She walks over to the entertainment center and pushes the red button next to the small display.  Sam, her Personal DJ for the evening, appears on the screen.

 “Hello, Ms. Blakely.  Are we live?”

 “Not quite, Sam, but they’ll be here any minute.  Everything ready?”

 “Absolutely, Ms. Blakely.  I have the top 20 songs in the U.S. from 1955 lined up, plus a large selection of stuff from the years around then for special requests.  Plus a few of my favorites from the 50’s I’d like to share with you too.”

 “Wonderful,” she replies. “This may be some people’s first taste of West African popular music – it will do them good.”

 “You bet.  They may get hooked.  And if not, I have the definitive collection of Chubby Checker classics!”

 “Sam, you are the classic.  Thanks again, and have fun!”

 As the music starts to play, Diane surveys the room with a smile.  She looks adoringly at the dimmed light over the dining room table, while Peter looks back at her with an exaggerated look of pride on his face.  “Aw, shucks, ma’am,” he says.  “It was nothing.”

 7:05 p.m.  The doorbell (4)

When the first guests arrive at 7:05 and walk up to the porch, a strange thing happens.  Diane has programmed the doorbell for “offline auditory-only response”.  They push the little button, and…the doorbell rings.

 The guests arrive, the food is delicious, the music is a hit, and the party is a big success.  Diane’s whole family is there, except her brother, Tim, who calls in and talks to everyone and wishes Becky a happy birthday.  After everyone leaves the kids get ready for bed while Peter and Diane clean up.

 “Great party, honey,” Peter says, then adds with a wink, “especially the lighting.”

 9:45 p.m.  The dentist appointment

At the end of each day the Blakely family gathers for a few minutes to coordinate schedules for the next few days.  Tonight’s gathering is a routine exercise until Diane mentions Pete’s dentist appointment the following afternoon.

 “Mom, what dentist appointment?” he asks.  “I have soccer tryout tomorrow!  Can’t I go in another day?”

 Diane rolls her eyes and looks at Peter.  “Any way you can call Dr. Bradshaw’s office first thing in the morning and try to reschedule it?  I’m in meetings from 8:30 on.”

 “No need,” Peter replies.  “When I was in last month they had a notice up that they were moving to a 24/7 reception service.  I’ll call them right now.”  He dials the number and explains the situation.

 “No problem,” says the receptionist.  “We can fit him in on Thursday at the same time, if that works for you.”

 “That would be perfect.  Thanks!”

 “You’re welcome, Mr. Blakely.  Good night.”

 11:38 p.m.  Mom update

Just past 11:30, the phone rings and Peter picks it up.

 “Hello?”

 “Hello, Peter, it’s Mercedes.  Sorry to call so late.  I just got off the phone with your mother.  Don’t worry, she’s fine.”

 “Good, what’s going on then?”

 “She had a dizzy spell this evening, after watching the news.  The doctor just switched her to a new medication for her blood pressure, so it’s probably that.  I’m taking her off the new drug for a couple of days and we’ll see what Dr. Foster wants to do.  Your mom asked me to give you a call and explain it all to you.”

 “Mercedes, do you think she’s just trying to do too much?” Peter asked.  “I mean, she still does her own shopping at the grocery store, and she goes for walks almost every day.”

 “Peter, that’s the best thing for her.  She’s not well and she’ll get worse over time.  That’s the harsh reality.  But in the meantime she should be as active as she can.  She knows her limitations, and we monitor her weight, her blood pressure, and any physical symptoms throughout the day and night.  Help her to live well, that’s the best gift you can give her.”

 “OK, Mercedes, that makes a lot of sense.  I’ll call her in the morning.”

 “If you can get through.  She often plays bridge all morning on that companion service package you signed her up for.  She won three out of four games this morning.”

 “And nearly bored someone to death with stories about her successful attorney son.”

 “She’s proud of you, Peter.  And you should be proud of her.”

 “I am, I am.  Thanks, Mercedes.  Let’s keep in touch.”

 “Of course.  Goodnight.”

 11:50 p.m.  The alarm (3)

Diane and Peter finally crawl into bed just before midnight.

 “I’m glad you’re back, Sweetie,” she says.  “It’s just not the same when you’re gone.”

 “I’m very glad to hear that,” Peter replies.  “There are still some things that can’t be done from a distance.”  He reaches over and takes her hand.

 “Oh, right – that reminds me.”  Diane reaches over and hits the message button on the alarm display.  “Angeles, great news.  Val’s Market just announced a new online shopping and delivery service, and I’d like to try it out.  Next week when you do the menus, could you go ahead and do the shopping on line and have it delivered while someone is here?  Hey, it was a good day, and thanks for all your help.  But if you can find me an extra fifteen minutes of sleep in the morning, I’ll find a florist in Quito that will deliver roses right to your door.  Good night!”

 “Sorry, sweetheart.  What did you say?”