Monday, March 28, 2016

Things that Go Beep in the Night

All your toys play with themselves behind your back. Don’t get all out of shape, now.  It’s not THAT kind of playing.

When you put Barbie or GI Joe away for the night, they just hang out awaiting your return. But this is the 21st century.

Your toys ring and beep and give you that come hither blink.

When you turn in after turning off the TV, it doesn’t just sit there quietly. It displays a little red light.  Kind of a reminder.  Not that most of us need one.

The cable or satellite box is always on and has the LED lights to prove it. So do your computers and your tablets.

The most versatile of these things is your cell phone.  It’s still having long private conversations when you’re not using it.  Smartphones are sneaky but sometimes you catch them in the act.

Say you go to make a call. You “awaken” the screen and find it’s bragging about “updating” your app, “Melting Chocolate Bunnies” or “Angry Birds” or “iTunes.”  Your phone is playing and not with you.

But it’s not just complicated high tech gadgets.  Maybe you set an alarm for tomorrow morning.  The clock keeps running, of course.  But without actually telling you, it is counting down the time to turn on the alarm you set.

You can’t hear it. You can’t see it. But you know it’s sitting there, counting.

The electronic thermostat is measuring the temperature without telling you: “now it’s 74.3 degrees.  I must turn the heat on until it reaches the pre-set 75.”  “Now it’s 75.2 degrees.  I’d better shut down.”  “Okay, I’ve turned myself off but I’m constantly vigilant.”

They talk among themselves.  Some of them rate you as a caretaker.  In fact, just the other day your iPhone and your PC got into a furious argument about which one you preferred.  But as you know, iPhones and Android or Windows systems don’t really get along. So it’s a good thing that your auto-dimmer turned out the lights and promised to keep them out until the phone and the computer apologized to each other… which they did.  But they didn’t really mean it.

While we’re at it, let’s remember your car alarm.  It’s not as high tech as your self cleaning oven or your tankless water heater.  But it too has feelings.

Nothing feels more rejected and ignored than a car alarm.  It goes off in the middle of the night, no one pays any attention.  Psychologists say this can lead to breakdowns and short circuits.

They recommend you drive your car to an isolated spot and set it off every now and then. Make it feel useful.  Let it know you appreciate it.

Now back to the household stuff.  
What would happen if everything with lights and beepers blinked and beeped at the same time?
Armageddon? Intruder? Spam from India or Kenya with an offer of erectile dysfunction meds or someone who wants to give you a ton of money if only you’ll turn over your bank account number.
Remember, these beeps and lights have a function. Or to put it in question form, why use a three dollar night light when you can use 50-grand worth of electronic equipment to make sure you don’t walk into a doorframe when nature calls at three in the morning?

Shrapnel... IRA/Tax Time Edition:
--At tax time we find out that IRA withdrawals are like payday loans.  Take some money out and buy something.  Then you have to take out more to pay for the IRS for taxes. Next year it’ll get worse.

--In civilized states, there are laws against the gangland-style payday lenders.  When you take out your first, you’ll usually have to take out a second to pay for it and then a third to pay for the second. They won’t send around leg breakers if you don’t pay, they’ll just siphon it out of any assets you have and that are worth anything.

--They don’t tell us about this when they substitute defined contribution retirement arrangements for defined benefit plans.  Think they don’t know?  SURE they know.  But they also know how to make you temporarily pleased… until you’re 59 ½ or older.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

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