As noted, I needed a new alarm clock to replace the previously new alarm clock, which replaced the less-than- new alarm clock. Are you with me so far?

When the Memorex piece-of-crap went south, I got a cheap alarm clock, and soon learned that you have to pay extra to be awakened with soothing sounds. The cheap one made the most horrid noise I’ve ever heard; I do not expect to hear that sound unless I’m a stoker on the Titanic and the watertight doors are closing. It reminded me of every strange motel room in which I’ve ever awoken. (Motel alarm clocks are an entirely different subject; the only thing we leave behind in the motel room is the setting of the alarm. You always pity the person who had to get up earlier than you – poor fellow, up and out and at ‘em – and you feel vaguely contemptuous of the people who rose later. Wastrel. Why, daylight’s burnin’.)

Since the painful alarm would not do, I got a new new one last week.  It’s iPod enabled, so I can hear my favorite custom wake-up again. Unfortunately, it has an alarm activation sequence slightly less complex than setting the self-destruct sequence for the Nostromo.  It should be simple. It’s not that hard. First you push the ALARM SET button, and you should get our old friend, Mr. Blinking Twelve. But no. You press SOURCE to select iPod or FM tuner. Repeatedly pressing this button just makes the iPod option flash on the display, though, and you figure you’ve done something wrong. So you turn the device OFF.

And the display face lights up. This is the first indication that the device was designed by the American Union of Nonintuitive Interfaces. These guys get a lot of work nowadays. You start again. SOURCE. You get the flashing iPod option. Ah hah: here’s another on/off button; let’s try that. It turns everything off and powers down the unit. That's an option you've never had on an alarm clock before; if we had world enough and time, we could consider the possible scenarios in which one would want to power down the alarm clock. None come to mind.

Start again. Clean slate. Consult the manual. Take it step by step.

Press SOURCE. You get the flashing iPod option. Apparently it’s supposed to be that way. You press SOURCE again. You are not granted the choice of choosing the FM option. Well, given the state of commercial radio, perhaps that’s just as well. You soldier on: next step is to press the SET button repeatedly until ALARM1 or ALARM2 is displayed. You press the SET button, and are presented with options for changing the time of day. (The time-of-day controls are nested, intuitively, in a section of the control panel called “ALARM.”) You press SET until you get to the next step: turning the alarm ON or OFF.

This is somehow distinct from the OFF button in the Alarm manual control, and the overall device on/off button on the other side of the clock.

You select ON.

The manual says: "Press the SET button to confirm the setting. Repeatedly press the SET button” to set the time you wish to be drawn from the waters of Lethe, as well as the volume, alarm type, auto mode timing, and volume. Which brings us to step 7:

“Confirm that you can hear the iPod or FM tuner.”

How? The iPod isn’t playing. Next instruction:

9. Slide the alarm switch to TIMER PLAY.

Because that’s what says “ALARM” to everyone, doesn’t it. TIMER PLAY. Sounds like the name of an upperclassman in an 80s frat comedy. Hello, Nerdlinger, I'm Timer Play III. Perhaps you've heard of my daddy the Senator.

Suffice to say that three attempts to set the alarm and have it go off were unsuccessful. In each instance the iPod option on the display continued to flash. According to the manual, this either meant that the device was muted, or that “Source is set to iPod and the alarm is set to Timer Play.” In other words, the blinking either indicates that something is wrong, or something is right.

Feeling like an idiot, I looked at some customer reviews:

I spent 15 minutes trying to set up this clock radio -- what a horrible waste. There is nothing intuitive about the interface. Even following instructions, (and I'm usually pretty good at this type of stuff), I couldn't make the thing function properly -- and that was before i ever got to the ipod functionality. I'm going to return the thing. Whoever "designed" this should take a lesson from old fashioned clock radios -- design them for intuitive use.

Ah. And again:

If in the middle of the night you want to glance at the time you will need to press the sleep/snooze/backlight button to check. Since you will now be awake you might as well try to solve more of the puzzling manual.

If you are weak at "free thinking design" or string theory, you may spend a few days before you realize that the vague instruction manual may well have been written by your college Calculus text book team. They assume that you were there when the decision to use one button to manage several options was approved. Like a car where the accelerator is also the brake pedal (depending upon how many times you tap it), this radio is a recipe for disaster in the form of missed alarms, as well as the need to wake from sleep to press a button to check the time.

I would avoid this model - and I will be returning this unit.

So it’s not just me, then. I would exchange it for a similar model from the same company, but the reviews note that the display is so bright the owner had to cover it with cardboard to sleep.

Gah. I’m going with the Sony.

Your random YouTube find: you know that layer of fluid that cushions the brain from the skull? I'm guessing it's thicker in India. Or it was, in 1965.




Of course I did more than curse at the alarm today – (G)Nat had the day off from school, so I was home. She had a friend over. I blogged and did other work-type things, pausing every 17 minutes to let the dog outside. He wanted to pee, but every time he went outside in the -15 below temps, he thought better of it, and barked to come in. Once inside, it only took a few minutes for the dog-clock to reset, and then it was the same drill. Open the door and closing the door every 17 minutes had the effect of lowering the temp in the house by five degrees every time, and that made the heater lick on; after a while I realized this was costing me money. PEE! I CAN'T AFFORD THIS!

Now it’s time to return to buzz.mn, so I’m off; see you there. The Comics will have to wait until tomorrow, I'm afraid. But it'll be worth it: three pages of Superboy, girl-conflicted window-enterer.