Remotely interesting - 07.07.2006
Weather or not you believe this.... - 07.06.2006
Dear Scientific Community..... - 03.11.2005
the saambas go missing-in-action - 11.22.2004
i'm baaack! - 10.29.2004

Remotely interesting

07.07.2006 3:26 p.m.

Today's Rant



Hate Mail



Visit DiaryLand

Web site design and content provided by the Department of Homeland Security - Passive Electronic Monitoring Division. � 2004 All rights reserved. If you see or hear any suspicious activity, face your computer monitor and describe the activity in a clear, steady voice. Also, please be sure to keep your monitor screen clean at all times and enable Cookies on your system.

Not-So-Daily Blatherings

Moving into a new home, you always discover the the odd quirks about the place that you don't notice until you start living there for awhile. Like the door that sometimes opens by itself, or the light switch that doesn't do anything, or the guy next door who randomly pounds on your wall every time you play with the light switch that does nothing. That sort of thing.

The place where we used to live was always very dry. The air was somehow devoid of any moisture for some reason, and over time it began to affect us. The dust was annoying, and our skin began to get dry and cracked. One day, I reached over to pet the cat and he suddenly disintegrated into a pile of dust and bones right there on the floor. When I walked to the kitchen to grab a broom and dustpan, I noticed that the cat's water dish was completely empty, which was weird because I was quite certain I had put water in it a few months before. I figured it must have all evaporated, and thats when we realized we had a serious dryness problem.

We decided to to buy a humidifier in the hopes that it would help get some moisture into our air, so I schlepped out to the local big-box store to pick one up. It had been a long time since I had bought a humidifier, and they had since gotten extremely fancy and high-tech. Humidifiers don't need to be high-tech, but I am a sucker for gadgets, so I started looking at the advanced models. My attention was grabbed by one in particular that looked really sleek and modern, with lots of buttons, an LCD readout screen and even a little satellite dish that could uplink real-time air-moisture data to the National Weather Service and warn you of impending tornados in your bedroom. When it comes to spending money, there are a few things in life that you just shouldn't don't do on the cheap � plastic surgery is one of them. Standing in the store that day, I was pretty sure that missile-defense systems and humidifiers were the other two.

But then I noticed something else - For $40 more, they had an upgrade model that featured a remote control. �What kind of lazy bastard needs a remote control for their humidifier??� I thought about this for a moment. We liked remote controls. Currently in our bedroom we had separate remote controls for the television, the playstation, the vcr, the dvd player, the stereo, cd changer and even our electric blanket. These were all different shapes and sizes and were piled on my bedside table, falling over and spilling onto the floor most of the time. They of course required a constantly changing pool of rechargeable batteries which I had to rotate in and out of stock from the charger station on a regular schedule to keep them running. Would one more remote be too much? Of course, if I gained another remote control, I should probably also pick up another pack of rechargeable batteries, and then I would need another charger station so I could keep up with the rotation.....and now that I think of it I should get another multi-plug adapter because I had no where to plug the new charging station...and....Arrrgggh! What am I thinking? I don't need another freakin' remote control!

It's great how technology make things so simple.

I came to my senses and talked myself out of getting the remote control version, and got the regular model instead. I am proud to say it solved our dryness problem, and we never once got surprised by a tornado inside the bedroom. Despite appearances.

So when we moved into our new place, I put the fancy humidifier in the corner of our bedroom out of habit and plugged it in, but nothing happened. I tried turning it on, pressing buttons, pouring more water in, tapping the LCD screen, spinning the little dish on top, flipping the light switch on and off, but it wouldn't do anything. Great, I thought, The outlet doesn't work. I soon gave up and we basically forgot about it. Since we didn't have a dryness problem in our new place, we really didn't need it anyway.

One difference between our old place and our new place was that our old place had central air-conditioning. The place we moved into was built in 1870. Most houses built in 1870 didn't have central air-conditioning, because that was before global warming. This wasn't a problem at first, but after the summer season kicked in we started having a number of sleepless nights tossing and turning in the heat and humidity. We figured if we put a fan near our bed at night, it would solve our problem.

The next day I schlepped out to the local big box store to pick up a fan. It had been a long time since I had bought a fan, but they hadn't changed very much. I found a big, quiet-looking one I liked and was about to get it when I realized something: it had a remote control. �What kind of lazy bastard needs a remote control for their fan??� I thought about this for a moment. We liked remote controls. I went through the same thought-process about them spilling onto the floor, and needing more batteries and a charging station and, aw heck. I really couldn't justify bringing another remote control into our life.

Except this one was different � the remote control for this fan was built-in to the front panel of the assembly. If you wanted to use the remote, you detached the front control panel and walked around with it. But if you didn't want to use the remote, you could just leave the control panel in place and ignore it. I reasoned that I could just leave the remote docked inside the control panel, and just pretend that it didn't have a remote control at all.

Problem solved.

I brought the new fan home and plugged it in next to our bed, and set it up so that it was pointing down onto where we would sleep. I sat on the edge of the bed and, leaning forward, hit the power button....

.....and the humidifier came to life.

The fan came on too, but I was expecting that. I wasn't expecting the humidifier, which had sat dormant on the other side of the room for almost 6 months now. I spun around in surprise to look at it, whirring away like mad behind me. What the hell?? I hit the power button on the fan again, and the humidifier turned off. Hmmmmm. To make sure I wasn't going mad, I brought Saamba into the bedroom to show her. Her face twisted up all screwy-like with a puzzled look.

I thought that outlet didn't work...� she said.

Neither did I.� I replied. �But it seems to work when we plug in a fan over here!

We exchanged worried glances. This wasn't good. Reluctantly, I pulled out my cellphone and called our landlord.

ME:Hey, Kevin. Um, I think we might have an electrical problem.�


The landlord make a sound that landlords make when they get news that the 130 year old house they bought a year ago might have electrical problems. I gave him a brief description of the situation, and then made a mental note to tell him to sit down before I make a call like this ever again in the future.

KEVIN:Uhh...ok, that's not good. I'll make some calls and see if I can get someone to come take a look at it.�

It was the weekend, of course, so that wasn't going to happen anytime soon. By this point Saamba had gotten worried about the prospects of a short-circuit or an electrical fire, and so we unplugged the fan and a bunch of other stuff. We then endured a few more sleepless nights of tossing and turning in the heat and humidity. By early next week the call came through on my cellphone while I was driving in my car.

ELECTRICIAN:Heya. I just spoke to Kevin � he said you might have a problem. I'm gonna come over in a few minutes to take a look at it, but I'm not sure I understand. Could you explain the problem again?

ME:Yeah sure. Well, there is an outlet in our bedroom that doesn't work. We have a humidifier plugged into it, but it hasn't worked for months. But we just bought a new fan, and when we pugged the fan into an outlet on the other side of the room, and turned it on, the humidifier suddenly got power.


ME:I think that maybe there is something wrong. Like there isn't enough voltage running through the wires, but when I turn on the fan it is drawing extra current or something and it is just enough to get the humidifier in other outlet running.


The electrician made a sound that electricians make when somebody who knows absolutely nothing about electricity tells them what they think is wrong.

ELECTRICIAN:What kind of equipment are we talking about here? Is this like... a really BIG fan?

ME:Oh, no. Just your typical house fan. Made by Honeywell, I think. Actually, now that I think of it, the humidifier is made by Honeywell too.......� I paused.

Somewhere, in the back recesses of my mind, a small light came on. Not the standard light bulb you see appear above people's heads when they get an idea, but a much smaller light. Like one of the small lights you might see on a Christmas tree inside a miniature doll-house. It was a general sensation that something you just heard was, somehow ....important. I took my foot off the accelerator and continued to coast down the road while I thought. Why did that just sound important?


.....they are both made by the same company......why is that bothering me? I had a theory slowly forming in the back of my mind, and felt the need to go home and investigate things further. Is that just a coincidence? Or does that mean something? It didn't make any sense, but this nagging feeling was bothering me.

ME:Uhhh, can I call you back in like 15 minutes?

I drove back home and ran into the bedroom, being sure to plug everything back in. I removed the front panel controls from the fan and walked across the room, crouching down in front of the humidifier. I pointed the controls at it and pressed the power button....

I then rolled around on the floor for several minutes, laughing like an idiot.

The first rule of efficiency in modern manufacturing: make everything the same. Despite the fact that I had purchased a humidifier without the deluxe remote control feature, they really manufacture only one type and just market it as different models. The only difference was that for an extra $40, they would have thrown the remote in the box with it. The fan we bought was no different � being from the same company they used the same infra-red remote control circuitry, with the same control codes. The key to this was that, even when the remote control for the fan was docked inside it's housing on the front panel of the fan, it was still operating as a remote which sent a tiny light to a receiver lens above it. When I was pressing buttons on the front of the fan, it was sending signals up into the air � bouncing off our bedroom ceiling - and hitting the humidifier on the other side of the room.

The great news was we now had a remote which controlled both the fan and the humidifier, which means I can be a super-lazy-bastard, and I somehow saved $40 in the process.

The bad news was having to call the electrician and explaining what an idiot I am.

We never quite figured out why we thought that outlet didn't work to begin with, we assume the power switch was broken � but the humidifier switches on and off just fine when we use the remote. We can even adjust the speed and humidity levels if you play with the right buttons. Its like a dream.

Now we can lay in the comfort of our bed, and have complete control of our environment. With a turn of the wrist or the press of a button, we can adjust the lighting levels, heat of our blanket, audio, visuals, speed and direction of wind and yes, even the moisture levels of the air. And when we want to check to see if our neighbor is home, we just play with the light switch that does nothing, and he pounds on the wall.

What kind of lazy bastard needs a remote control for their neighbor??

 1 wrote to say im an idiot.

Next >
< Previous

Webdesigner - dont forget to type something really cool here, ok?