Say Cheese

A short collection of whine.

I needed to replace my clock radio because the buttons have stopped working. The radio plays, the clock tells time, and the alarms sound at the appointed hour but the snooze and the alarm set and the time set buttons all do no more than make satisfying mechanical clicks. They don’t change or set anything.

For Sale: good clock radio for someone on a rigidly fixed schedule who likes to listen to 94.3 FM. Click the Paypal button. ==>

The most amazing online store offered an RCA RC40R Dual Wake Clock Radio with Large Green LED Display by RCA with all the features I want:

Product Features

  • Auto time set for seven different time zones, six more than I live in.
  • SmartSnooze converts all top buttons as snooze button when alarm has been activated to confuse me when I want to turn the radio back on.
  • Dual wake features two different alarm settings for two different users: radio or buzzer and turns off one when the other activates.
  • Programmable snooze; Programmable sleep
  • Graduwake ramp-up alarm makes waking from a deep sleep easier and annoys the neighbors until you do.
  • AM/FM clock radio with a large LED 1.4″ display for clear viewing
  • Graduwake Ramp-up alarm eases your awakening
  • Programmable Sleep feature plays the radio for up to 2 hours before automatically turning off the radio, allowing you to gently fall asleep to music while your neighbors enjoy techno.
  • Programmable snooze feature turns off the alarm or radio for an extra 9 minutes of sleep or for 1-30 minutes

35 customer reviews gave it 3.4 out of 5 stars. Not bad for $19.99. Did I mention it’s an RCA? And that it has a Graduwake ramp-up alarm?

I was about to click the Buy Now button when the most amazing online store piped up that

There is a newer model of this item:

The RCA RC141 Dual Wake Clock Radio costs just $20.89 and is also In Stock.

Product Features

  • Automatic time set
  • Large 1.4-inch LED display
  • FM radio with digital frequency readout
  • SmartSnooze – multi-button snooze activation
  • Wake to radio or alarm

I’ve seen this marketing technique before in the ice cream wars put less of the juicy stuff in the tub and charge more for it. And the airlines deciding to charge for the overhead compartment space where babies could previously sleep free. Now we’re going to suffer with squalling babies down in the rows with the rest of us.


The optometrist ordered me a new set of specs on my VSP vision plan. It’s a lousy plan but, as he says, “it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.”glassesThe new replacement glasses arrived a few days after I left so Anne had to mail them to me. They look nice. They don’t look through nice, though.

The optometrist had to send the first set he received back to the vision plan to correct an unspecified error. I don’t know what was wrong with the originals but I do hope the replacements have someone else’s prescription because I can’t see through them. Either the new Rx was ground incorrectly, the pupillary distance is wrong, or the optometrist got the wrong numbers from the refraction.

I’m wearing last year’s glasses as I write this and hoping that the Aviator sunglasses I ordered at the same time are correct. They should be in the mail any day now.


Speaking of shipments, !@#$%^ Comcast has done it again.I spent more than half an hour on the phone with !@#$%^ Comcast because I got back here to find no cable TV. We had a little power outage. Not unusual. Both cable boxes dropped out. I hope that’s unusual. One required reset from their end, necessitating a call all by itself. One would not power back on, necessitating a replacement.

There’s no excuse for that. I told the customer service rep (she offered to send a tech out but said it would cost me $30 to FIX THEIR EQUIPMENT) that I’d better not have to call them every time the power goes out. She didn’t care.

Comcast ShipmentShe ordered one shipped. It didn’t come overnight so I was out of service but it did get here. In two boxes. Two very large boxes.

I don’t have a DVR in South Puffin so to “time shift” requires setting up both the VCR and tuning the newly replaced digital box. For a reason I don’t understand I got the Special Audio Program on both Criminal Minds and CSI. The voiceover kept saying this was for blind peeps and I could turn it off except there is no SAP setting on the recorder I used and I don’t get SAP from any live broadcast, either from Dish or Cable on the TV. Both VCRs played it back on the tape though.

I’m thinking it was !@#$%^ Comcast. Good I didn’t order the special X-Ray vision glasses they were advertising, too.

That Irritating Site Over ===> There

MyTwitSpace gave me a series of error messages that my Firefox browser was too too old to conform to MyTwitSpace and that I would have to upgrade Firefox to continue using the site. Of course, the I.E.6.0 I maintain for such occasions worked just fine. I’ve had trouble with that site ever since but, up until this morning, the I.E. plug-in for my new  Firefox 3.5.5 worked fine there.

Until this morning.

I tried to post the usual teaser about Tiger Woods’ difficulties in my MyTwitSpace blog and the !@#$%^ page doesn’t work despite the Firefox upgrade. Then it crashed I.E.

Twice.

If the site remains this difficult to use, I will not much longer maintain my MyTwitSpace space. Readers can find me in FaceBook or here in the permanent home of the No Puffin Persective.

The Game of Telephone

“I have a cupcake in my briefcase,” I heard Missy say.

Missy and her husband Biff are here in South Puffin for a couple-three weeks of fishing. Missy loves her bling which dangles and jangles and actually seems to attract fish when she leans over the transom. She still has her job with the state but Biff is out of work for the first time in about 20 years. Naturally, they each brought a cellphone.

In the game of Telephone, according to the Wikipedia, “the first player whispers a phrase or sentence to the next player. Each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next. The last player announces the statement to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first. The game is often played by children as a party game or in the playground.” Or by the Congress.

Missy actually said “My son got a cupcake for his birthday. I found it in the fridge.”

The game of telephone has become the game of cellephone.

Everyone in America today has at least one. It is impossible to walk down the street without tripping over Biff yelling into his hand or cupping his earbud to hear a friend at the beach or instruct a partner in Pipeline-istan. If people are far away or speak a different language, Biff knows they can understand him better when he yells.

I hate cellephony.

But it’s cheap! Every cellphone company in this country advertises the best network and the lowest rates. The average $39.99 cell bill last month cost the consumer $103 and change.

But it’s reliable! T-Mobile blamed a software glitch for the outage that left about 5% of its customers unable to send or receive calls or text messages last week. Of course, no cell carrier mentions the millions of individual dropped calls unless some other network does the dropping.

But it’s perfect for people watchers! I love to eavesdrop on conversations; cellphones make too too it easy to listen to just one side.

The game of cellephone we play doesn’t bring more cumulative error, rumor, and gossip than, say, Facebook or television or the blogosphere because our errors are personal, not viral. In the end, though, it’s all about me. Or thee. All I want is for my call to go through when I push send. All I want is to be able to tell if it is Missy or Biff who answers. All I want is to hear the words they say. After all, the simple copper line attached to a Bakelite™ speaker and microphone and the magneto my grandfather cranked did that with amazing accuracy and 99.72% uptime.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get a bite of that cupcake. I hope it’s chocolate.

Spinning the Entire Planet

This column looks at media spin.

First, the backstory: ExxonMobil, the most profitable company in the history of mankind, made an $11.68 billion profit this quarter on the back of General Motors which lost $15.5 billion.

“America’s oil and natural gas industry earns less than many others…” That’s the televised gospel according to “the people who bring you oil and natural gas” (that would be API, the American Petroleum Institute).

Hello? Are they on the same planet you and I inhabit?

Oh. Wait.

The API planet spins backwards!

Naturally they do have statistics to back up their claim, shown in their television ad in the form of a handy bar chart of earnings per dollar of sales in the First Quarter, 2008:

Pharmaceuticals 25.9
Beverage and Tobacco 17.8
Computer Products 13.7
All Manufacturing 7.6
Apparel and Leather 7.5
Oil and Natural Gas 7.4
Food 5.0
Furniture 3.0

[In the interest of full disclosure, I own some ExxonMobil stock.]

CEO Rex Tillerson announced that my company is, out of the largest profit in corporate history, paying one of the smaller dividends (~2%) in corporate history. On the other hand, Mr. Tillerson buys back shares like mine with all their extra cash and raised my dividend a whopping nickle while the investment he makes in production and exploration plummets.

That stock buyback at about $80 per share sucked up some $8 billion of the quarterly profit. They bought $30 billion in stock last year and have (so far) reduced the number of shares outstanding by about 400 million shares. I can see no reason that it helps me when Mr. Tillerson takes the stock out of play. It helps someone, though. At the current rate, ExxonMobil will buy back all of its shares and become a totally private company in just 14 more years.

Huh.

Just to show I am not playing favorites, Royal Dutch Shell’s second-quarter earnings were nearly as high as Exxon’s with a profit of $11.56 billion. That was 33% higher than Shell’s profit of $8.67 billion in the same period last year. Shell is half the size of Exxon.

Wow. $11.68 plus $11.56 billion in three months. Profit. Just two companies.

Profit that usually goes to the shareholders.

API states it is the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. Their 400 corporate members are the producers, refiners, suppliers, pipeline operators and marine transporters, as well as service and supply companies. They represent the largest major oil company to the smallest of independents. They spin the news for companies like ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, and more. By the way, Royal Dutch Shell has a stock buyback program. Chevron has a stock buyback program.

ExxonMobil did beat its own record for the highest profits ever by a U.S. company but the $2.22-per-share profit announced still led to a $3 decline in the share price.

I originally thought that Mr. Tillerson might have wished API had not spun the profit as such a small number.

That wasn’t right.

Mr. Tillerson, unlike every CEO in American history, wants his stock price to fall. The lower the price and higher the profits the more stock ExxonMobil can buy back.

See how well spinning backwards can work?

Vamping Us

The undead are popular this year. Moonlight, the CBS Friday night crime drama with a vampire as the lead detective, drew a 2.1 share last Friday. That may have been the episode in which our hero came back to life and then reverted to his nighttime habits, but the show is popular every week.

Vampire Power. David Pogue in the NYTimes calls it “the juice consumed by electronic gadgets even when they’re turned off (also called phantom loads, standby power or leaking electricity). They just sit there, plugged in, sucking electricity, at a cost to you and to the environment. According to the Energy Department, vampire gadgets account for about 25 percent of total residential electricity consumption in the U.S.”

Say what?

OK, I admit that we have a teevee or two, more than our share of VCRs that show the time rather than blinking, and a couple or seven electronic phones. We also have a refrigerator and two freezers along with a water pump to pump the water in and a sump pump to pump it out, an electric mattress pad, and an electric stove.

This household burns through 666 KW-Hrs per month or so. Vampire power measured in watts is 25% of that kilowatt load? So those blinking green lights would account for 167 KW-Hrs per month? 167 KW-Hrs??? I don’t think so.

This sounds more like the Far Green in action. I need proof. Like actual, measured data, instead of being vamped by hyperbole.



Congress is planning to announce a possible investigation into something. Whew. That ought to keep them out of trouble for the entire term.