Enhancing your love's life through technology this Valentine's Day
By Jim Bray
Do you know how you're going to honor your Valentine this year? Sure, flowers are generally considered a good fallback position, but it's hardly an innovative way to tell your special person that you love him/her/it.
Worse, if you're in a long term relationship, you may have tried many ways to show your love on Valentine's Day, and are now running out of ideas. I can identify with that; this will be my wife's and my 42nd Valentine's Day together and even though I traditionally write her a poem and put it into a greeting card of my own design, there are only so many ways you can say "I still love you." So I'm always looking for interesting new stuff, too.
Since it's supposedly the thought that counts, your sweetie may be happy with something small and inexpensive. In that vein, I've been poring over press releases and surfing around to see what tech trinkets are out there that could make your sweetie swoon. Your mileage, like your sweetie, may vary.
If you're a guy – not to perpetuate any gender stereotypes – your girl might appreciate a break from cooking. But if you're kitchen-challenged, you might need some help, and what better way than via recipes that actually walk you right through the creation of your culinary masterpiece? That's the rationale behind SideChef (SideChef.com), an app/online community (available for iOS and Android) that puts people and chefs together with over 1200 recipes you can filter by region, type of dish, dietary restrictions, etc. When I downloaded the free app and signed up for the service, I choose (rather arbitrarily since this was just a test) Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, something I haven't come close to attempting in the past.
The screen gives you a list of ingredients down the left hand side (and you can email them to yourself – or whomever- to put on your shopping list), with step by step pictures and descriptions and a section for comments and photos. Touch the "cook" icon and you're whisked to the next screen at which time you'll see the first step presented - which in this case also included links to short videos showing you how to dice and mix ingredients. It's nearly a no brainer, which in my case came in really handy.
The recipe pictures include the estimated preparation and cooking time and you can scroll through the whole library or arrange them by topics such as "quick and easy" and "desserts." There's also a search feature; I typed in "lasagna" and it came up with three versions, including the classic version and what it called the "ultimate Vegan lasagna," as if there could really be such a thing.
If you really don't want to cook, you could always take your love out for dinner (and wouldn't that be original?) – but remember that Valentine's Day is a busy time for restaurants, perhaps second only to Mother's Day. To that end, you could try something like Open Table (www.opentable.com). They have an app, but you can also access restaurant info from their website. When I surfed by there and put in my home town, it brought up several interesting suggestions, though it by no means covered every restaurant in town.
The company says its service includes over 20,000 bookable restaurants in North America.
And if you're cheap – er, frugal – Ibotta (www.ibotta.com) is a way to shop at some 200 or more of "the biggest retailers" and put cash in your pockets at the same time. The app is also available for Android and iOS and you can use it to shop at such places as Best Buy, Wal-Mart, the Body Shop and many more. You can access coupons for discounts you can use to show your special dude or dudette that you not only think of him or her, but that you're a smart shopper, too. My wife would appreciate that, though she wouldn't for a second buy the part about me being a smart shopper.
Then again, maybe Valentine's Day is your first date and it turns out to be a disaster. If that's the case, there's DateEscape (www.dateescape.com), a way to use technology to bail you out – literally – from the date from heck. It seems kind of sneaky, though. According to the company, it works by letting you set up fake phone calls or text messages that call you away, letting you leave the loser of a lout in the lurch.
The thing lets you record your own incoming call you can play via speaker phone so your soon-to-be-ex-date-partner believes you aren't a lying weasel (you probably want to use someone else's voice for this, though), and you can customize caller settings including the fake caller's name, number, location and even a photo. I imagine if you really want to make an impression you could have the call appear to be from your Mom.
The DateEscape folk say theirs is the "most fully-featured fake call application in the app store," and claim that it "lets you exit with grace, spark jealousy in another, or get out of the next boring obligation early." It sells for a dollar, which means it's a cheap way to be a lying and conniving SOB.
Or you could just get a job in the news media.
Obviously, I haven't been out in the dating world for a long time (1972) and so I imagine a lot has changed – but I can't imagine having used such subterfuge back in the day, even had the technology existed. I'm the kind of guy who'd have just suffered through the date and then not called again – less weaselly but equally effective except that you'd have sat through the awful date. I guess if nothing else, however, if you have your incoming call sound important enough you can not only run away, you could stick the poor unfortunate boor with whatever amount of bill you've rung up already.
And prove you're classy to the end.
If none of these appeal to you, there's plenty of other stuff you can do. A quick web search took me to a site called "Family Life," which offers 25 tips for sweeping your sweetie off his and/or her feet. They range from the simple and inexpensive to the more conventional and pricey – from writing a love poem to planning a romantic getaway sans ankle biters.
Their first point offers a cheap way to kiss up to your kissee, suggesting you write down every kind of kiss you can think of - passionate, on the cheek, etc. - onto separate piece of paper, then put the pieces into an inexpensive red felt bag. When your honey pulls the papers from the bag, you inflict upon him/her or it the type of kiss described.
Sounds like an even nicer kiss-off than DateEscape!
Most of Family Life's suggestions don't cost a lot but they could give you a nice new wrinkle on the traditional Valentine's Day celebration and are worth a view. I'm using one of them this year – a list of 14 (for February 14) reasons that I love her. Best of all, even though I have a work of fiction to my credit, they're all true!
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
We welcome your comments!