What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Friday, October 14, 2005

On setting the clocks

We must have had a power interruption yesterday. As a result, I spent a surprising amount of time last evening resetting clocks throughout the house. As it turns out, we have a ton of clocks around here. Luckily, a good percentage of them run on batteries. But even with that portion removed from the resetting process, it took me a while to reset them all.

Because I am prone to doing strange things, I counted all the clocks. There are nineteen on the walls, shelves, and in various devices. A lot of them are gratuitous appliance clocks. (Why do microwaves need twenty-four-hour clock/date displays? Who microwaves food for days at a time?) Many of the wall and shelf clocks were gifts or magazine subscription freebies that we just “found a place for”. We have six clocks in the bedroom alone. It is possible to view a timepiece from every angle, corner, and position. I had never noticed that before. There is even one in our bathroom with my face on it (See: On taking a ceramics class posted 5/23/05). That one never has the right time on it. Contrary to popular belief, my face does not stop clocks. It just slows them down considerably.

At the conclusion of my clock setting experience, I concluded that there is no good way to set a digital clock. Manufacturers have adopted a wide variety of sophisticated methodologies. They all suck. The clock hanging in the hallway uses a “mode” button and a “set” button to allow you to move forward or backward from hours to minutes to months to days to years in two speeds with six buttons on the back of the clock. This would work well if I had six fingers on my right hand and could simultaneously press all the buttons in the correct sequence with nanosecond precision. Since I was not blessed with such superhuman dexterity, it requires an awkward double handed action that usually means I overshoot the correct settings at least twice.

Digital clock designers have tried to avoid this “overshoot” problem in several ways. Some clocks have a fast and a slow button. In fast mode, the numbers fly by in an unreadable blur. In slow mode, they crawl painfully. I need a medium mode. I can’t get my finger off the button quickly enough in fast mode, but the slow mode causes my eyes to glaze over and I sink into an unresponsive catatonic state. In both instances, I miss the correct time and have to go around again. One of our digital clocks uses a fast forward button, but a slow backward button to correct for overshoot. This would work well, except that for some inexplicable reason when you use the “slow backward” button, it also resets the am/pm. Setting this clock requires some mental gymnastics. If I overshoot the time, I have to make sure that I go twelve hours and some minutes past. Then when I use the back button to correct the minutes, I magically leap twelve hours back and wind up at the right time of day. Setting this clock has a sort of HG Wells feel to it. I think I will use this clock as a mental benchmark for myself. When I can no longer figure out how to set it, it will be time for me to turn in my “old guy who knows how to do stuff” badge.

My son’s radio alarm clock has the best time setting arrangement. It has four buttons. The buttons are forward (fast/slow) and backward (fast/slow). This works well. Unfortunately, at some point, I inadvertently hit a combination of buttons that changed it to the twenty-four-hour/military mode. Since the instructions are long gone, I can’t figure out how to change it back to the twelve-hour display. Instead, I told him that it was a subtle threat about the possibility of military school if he didn’t keep his room clean. He didn’t buy it.

My wife always sets the time on her alarm clock about twenty minutes ahead of reality. She says that it ensures that she isn’t late for work. I have always countered that the same thing can be accomplished by just setting the alarm twenty minutes earlier while setting the clock for the proper time. She gives me a “you just don’t get it” look. I, of course, just don’t get it.


Blogger Glory said...

"...Contrary to popular belief, my face does not stop clocks. It just slows them down considerably..."

This was my hearty chuckle of today.

13/10/05 9:27 PM  
Blogger HCaldwell said...

It would be funnier if it weren't so true. That clock has never kept the right time and I only have myself (my face) to blame. I think I put a picture of it here once. It is a hideous creation.

14/10/05 1:08 PM  

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