Cause for Alarms

A headline in this morning’s news feed announced , “Flaming Condoms are the Newest Threat to Southern Israel!” Just wanted you to be aware.

Now that I have your attention, let’s turn to a timelier topic. Big Ben, the iconic clock and tower at the north end of London’s Palace of Westminster, has been silent for almost a year now. In case you missed the news, Ben’s Great Bell and Quarter Chimes no longer toll – for another three years in fact – while much-needed repairs are made to the clock mechanics behind his massive face. At least the damage was simply wear-and-tear, and not the result of flaming condoms.

For Londoners, I have to believe the muting of Big Ben took some getting used to. Imagine, heard on miles of city streets, the Great Bell bonging every hour on the hour, and the Quarter Chimes playing every fifteen minutes (a stuck-in-your-head repeating melody of twenty notes). Now take all that away; replaced by uncomfortable silence. I’m sure city-dwellers subconsciously depended on Ben to remind them they had, say, thirty minutes to get to the office, or fifteen minutes left in the lunch hour, or no minutes before church (better start running). How will these people cope for the next three years?

In the absence of Ben, Londoners surely turn to alarm clocks more than they used to.  Not comfortable relying on their own senses (or the sun’s position in the sky), the English probably carry “Baby Ben’s” if you will – whether mobile phones or other portable devices.  I expect the additional chorus of beeps and chimes and other musical bites make a ride on the Tube even more enjoyable, as you’re left to wonder whether your neighbor’s getting a phone call or simply late for an appointment.

Alarms have come a long way since the basic digital LED box-clocks of old.  I wish those old bedside Ben’s were gone forever, but a visit to any Walmart or Radio Shack proves they’re more prevalent than ever.  My wife used to own one of the more potent models – with an enhhh…enhhh…ENHHH screech capable of levitating me out of a deep sleep, my pulse racing faster than an Indy car.  I’ll hear that murderous alarm even after I’m six feet under.

The colorful Beddi

Today – mercifully – we have several alarm clocks designed not so much to levitate but rather to ameliorate your transition into the conscious world.  Beddi – a “designer smart-clock” – is a sleek enough bedside companion.  Along with charging your phone, Beddi controls the dawning of your bedroom lights or the gradual amplification of your favorite playlist or even the pleasing aroma of your coffeemaker.  You choose how you wish to wake up.

The cute Kello

Kello is the spitting image of a toaster, but it’s really a partner for your body clock, with sleep-training modes to wake you a little earlier each day, or guided breathing exercises to help you nod off faster each night.  Kello also offers music in place of an alarm and can restrict the number of times you can whack the snooze button.

The sadistic Pavlok

Some people demand a little more, uh – torture – to get themselves up and out of bed.  Ruggie is exactly what it sounds like – an innocent-looking rug placed just to the side of the bed.  Ruggie is all about blasting music in louder and louder bursts, and the only way to shut the blessed thing up is to stand – full body-weight – atop of its fleeced surface for at least thirty seconds.  Then there’s Pavlok, a wearable alarm clock programmed via smart phone app.  Pavlok begins with a beep or a vibration (my advice – get up NOW) – but left to its own “devices” matures into a pulsing, zapping electric shock when you still don’t respond.  Pavlok is also happy to electrocute for trivial pursuits like biting your nails, smoking, or too much time on the Web.

Don’t know about you, but I have no interest in meeting Pavlok’s inventor.  Mr. Shock Clock is one messed-up sadistic soul, and probably has a host of other torture devices at the ready.  Like flaming condoms.

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

Here we go again, time-travelers. This Sunday at 2:00am a good portion of the world will effortlessly move backwards one hour as we roll off of Daylight Savings Time (DST). It’ll be dark outside earlier (no more “summer nights”) and it’ll still be dark when most people wake up. Slam the door on summer – our days will feel shorter for the next eighteen weeks.

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The rules of DST have changed over time (ha), at least here in the United States.  The concept itself was borrowed from the Germans as a way of conserving fuel, and began in 1918; the same time the U.S. adopted “standard time zones” (Pacific, Mountain, etc.).  At first it was a federal mandate in conjunction with wartime activities.  Several years later DST was abandoned entirely.  Then it was turned over to the individual states to adopt (or not).  Finally, DST was given formal guidelines in 1966 as part of the Uniform Time Act.

DST still feels like an experiment with no satisfactory results.  In 1974-1975 the U.S. tried DST for an entire year, but went back to the on-off approach when concerns were raised about kids heading off to school in the dark.  In 1986 DST was extended from the half-and-half calendar to include the entire month of April.  In 2005 DST was extended again to the first Sunday in November -to accommodate trick-or-treating on Halloween.  That last modification was only eleven years ago, for a concept that has been around for a century.  Any bets the rules of DST will change again?

Arizona (outside of their Navajo lands) and Hawaii may have the last laugh.  Both states leave their clocks untouched while the rest of us move backward and forward year after year after year.

Whether or not DST continues, this much is true.  On Sunday I will be resetting two alarm clocks (my wife’s actually auto-adjusts but doesn’t understand post-2005 DST), three wall clocks, three temperature gauges, two thermostats, two car clocks, and several appliances and watches.  Any of these products could be designed to auto-adjust (like phones and computers) but maybe their creators don’t trust the DST rules won’t change yet again?

A word of advice about Sunday’s change.  Proceed with caution when you head out on Monday.  Not only will it be darker, but your body clock – which can’t be adjusted with a button – will be slightly out of kilter.  Strange things happen the day after clocks adjust, including more accidents between cars and people (if certain Department of Transportation reports are to be believed).

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Last thought.  Today’s word is mnemonic, which refers to any means of making the retention of information in the brain easier.  MNEMONIC is also an acronym for “Memory Needs Every Method Of Nurturing Its Capacity” (I like that).  That brings to mind a couple other mnemonics.  The Great Lakes can be remembered with HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior).  The bass clef in music (the notes A,C,E,G) can be remembered with “all cars eat gas”.  And of course, DST has its own mnemonic to determine which way the clocks adjust.  Remember: “Spring forward, Fall back!”

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.