The Grand Tour

A few people have asked me over the years, how do I test so much stuff? As a tech reporter since 2001, and a ventriloquist for a traveling circus before that (not really), I have become quite adept at filling out online forms for FedEx return shipments, stacking boxes in a wonderful cubical arrangement so they do not tip over, and drinking coffee. In my spare time, when I am not whipping out a box-cutter like Batman in a dark alleyway, I sit at a computer and read Gizmodo articles while pretending to work so my wife thinks I’m busy.

Sometimes, when I get really bored reading about the survival gear Bigfoot would use on an Alaskan expedition or how amateur photo sleuths are total morons, I write about gadgets. This week, I covered the connected car of the future while simultaneously researching the early recordings of The Flaming Lips and eating a bunch of low-salt nuts at my desk. (You do not want to buy a keyboard from me on eBay under any circumstances.)

But I thought I would take you deeper inside the bubble. It’s a place of wonder and mystery, like stepping into an alternative universe, aka McDonalds. We’ll take a quick scan around my home office where the magic happens, visit the mud room, and even walk out into the yard. I only ask that you take your shoes off first and: please, absolutely no flatulence of any kind.

1. Home office

I spend most of my time here. There’s a feeding tube that comes down from the kitchen, which I slurp on in between frantic typing sessions. (By the way, I am saying “typing sessions” instead of “writing sessions” because I usually have no idea what I am trying to say on first pass. Honestly, it’s mostly gibberish. Think: President Obama without a teleprompter.) There was this one time when the Herman Miller company said they were going to send me an Aeron chair to test out, but that did not pan out, so I am rocking a Wal-Mart no-name brand. As most of you know, I’m deeply in love with this Chromebook Pixel loaner, so I have it connected to an external monitor (testing), speakers (testing), keyboard (testing), and mouse (testing). The monitor is sitting on a plush leather desk mat (testing). I do own the desk – so I got that going for me.

2. Living room

Most of you probably have a living room where you enjoy time with the family, catch a movie, or relax after a long day. Mine is a rat’s nest of cables and gadgets. Seriously, it’s wonderfully cluttered. This might be hard to believe, but all of the gear has a distinct purpose. I just finished reviewing the DISH Hopper (or, as we like to say around my house even though we’re Minnesotan, the Hoppa), so that’s sitting on the floor waiting to be packed up. I have some amazing Boston Acoustics speakers, a Denon stereo, and a large box of Frosted Flakes cereal sitting on a TV stand.

3. Kitchen

Not much here except food and my own kitchen equipment. There are times when I get in a coffee-maker to test, which is like winning the lottery and solving world peace in the same day. There’s also some good news involving Whirlpool that I can’t share with you (crap, just did). In retrospect, the kitchen is a bit of an untapped area for me as a journalist, and not just because I’m completely inept at anything involving food except eating it. There is a long list of things I have not tested here: no microwaves, no refrigerators, no blenders. Ironically, it is usually the first place I start unpacking things like routers, smartphones, and my Chipotle dinner.

4. Mudroom

The fun starts and ends here. For some of you who have sent me stuff, it mostly ends, sorry about that. I store all of my boxes in this deep cavern of eternity, waiting for the day when I finally get fourteen seconds to send back a laptop or, say, a large kitchen appliance. And you thought the living room I described earlier was cluttered! This room is Total Chaos. There are people who have gone back into the mud room and shown up, more than a little confused, at the local mall. It’s like a vortex of time with better lighting. But, it is also highly organized. Somehow, I know exactly why each and every box is in here and from whence it came. But that BLT sandwich? Oops. Forgot that was in here.

5. Garage

You know the mudroom I just mentioned where a bunch of boxes I keep in long-term storage are waiting for the day when I finally pack them up? Yeah, so the garage is the overflow. I know that sounds sort of ridiculous, but I tend to get a lot of stuff. There’s a grill that just came in, waiting for the day in Minnesota when it is finally not winter. I have a few tools in from Sears. Oh, and a Buick.

6. Yard

Ah, this is my second office. I live in the country and do a fair amount of off-road vehicle testing. It’s one of the favorite things I do. I tested a Polaris Indy snowmobile a few weeks ago and plan to get busy with a Yamaha Grizzly ATV soon. There’s a pond in front of our house where I might test a kayak at some point in the future (does anyone make one that absolutely will not sink?). I also have big plans for a small plot of land behind a fence (garden) and I may even construct a small home for myself, depending on whether the rest of the people living here put up with all of the stupid gadgets. And, who knows? There’s even a farm field. Maybe I’ll get a tractor in. John Deere, you have been warned.


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