Monday, May 15, 2017

When More Is Not More

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 17, 2017] ©2017
Being defeated by an alarm clock was definitely a new low in my ever-deteriorating relationship with technology.
The iHome Color Changing FM Dual Alarm Clock Radio + USB Charger was actually a Christmas gift from my younger son and his wife. Message to kids: I don’t know how to say this nicely, but henceforth, please do not give me any techno Christmas gifts. Seriously, if it so much as has a plug, I don’t want it.  
And about the Roku you gave me last year. Frankly, I still don’t really understand what a Roku IS. Olof got it set up for me and wrote out the directions in words of one syllable.  I really intended to use it. But by the time I get out the instructions and the Roku remote and start trying to follow them, I usually feel so stressed that I require a glass of chardonnay. Unfortunately, the chardonnay does not make my Roku-instruction-following skills better. So after a certain number of really bad words, I pour myself a second (this time medicinal, to recover from the stress of Roku-induced failure) glass and switch on HGTV.
I often debate whether the loss of whatever meager techno skills I ever had is the result of incipient cognitive decline (well, duh) or that the world has simply gotten to be too technical a place for vast parts of its populace, i.e. anyone over 40. It’s clear to me that I am a word person marooned in a world of icons.  I can never even figure out what the icon is supposed to represent so it’s not exactly helpful in making me operate the gadget.
But about my new iHome Color Changing FM Dual Alarm Clock Radio + USB Charger.  This clock is definitely an over-achiever. Fortunately, you kids intended it for the guest room where you sleep.  What, that nice $10 CVS alarm clock wasn’t good enough for you? OK, apparently not. But I’d like to point out that anyone with the IQ of an amoeba could set the time or the alarm on the CVS thing. It’s a truly intuitive appliance. News flash, techno-designing geeks: more isn’t always more.
First of all, no alarm clock should ever come with THREE cords. That alone just about broke me. OK, so it turns out that one of them is the FM antenna. (Why? Why?) Another is apparently an “aux audio cable” which will allow you to connect an audio device (an MP3 player, I think?)  The third is apparently an actual power source. How mere mortals are ever supposed to figure this out is beyond me. 
I concede that the USB port in the back could be useful in charging your iPhone or “any other USB-chargeable device” (no idea what that would be). If I could figure out the settings, I suspect this clock would do my taxes.
The FM radio sports six “pre-sets” and the clock display can be personalized with adjustable brightness levels.  Personally, I never had trouble adjusting to the non-adjustable brightness level of my CVS alarm clock (which you will have to pry out of my cold dead hands, by the way).
But the truly baffling, over-the-top feature is that the clock itself changes colors. This would frankly drive me bat-s--t crazy. There are six color choices. If you had an engineering degree, you could set it to Fade mode (colors slowly fade in and out continually from one color to the next), Fast mode (colors change quickly from one to another through the color spectrum), or One Color Mode (just choose one color). I can only assume that the first two options are meant to be selected while smoking a lot of now-quasi-legal pharmaceuticals. Is this the new generation of lava lamp?
The different alarm options?  You don’t want to know. At least, I don’t want to know. I can’t even understand them never mind want to rely on them to wake me up for an early morning flight.
I spent an entire evening with the manual trying to get so far as setting the time on the iHome-from-Hell alarm clock before consigning it in exasperation to Olof. My Cal Tech-nuclear physics-trained husband finally got it set up.  When I queried how he had achieved this, he replied dryly, “You read the instructions.”  (Sometimes I really, really hate him.) But he agreed that we should (a) leave the manual underneath the clock on the night stand for consultation, and (b) break out the CVS alarm clock for guests in our own demographic.
There is a part of me that hopes this clock drives the kids nuts when they come down. This could motivate me to figure out how to do the thing that makes it keep changing colors. Hah! Teach YOU to disparage my perfectly good, totally user-friendly CVS alarm clock! Revenge would be so sweet.
CVS alarm clock – intuitive even to lower life forms

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