Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming backwards: searching for retrograde items to replace commonplace tools that were once so functional you barely noticed they were there but that have been replaced with computerized junk so complicated you can’t even begin to figure out how to make it work — or even if it does work. Current case in point: the Nest.
My son kindly bought me one of these formerly extremely kewl thermostats as a birthday present. And at the time it was awesomely kewl, the product of a band of ambitious young Turks. You could tell it what time you wanted to jack up or down the house’s temperature; or you could tell it to watch for you and to turn off when you’re not around. So, say, you could set it for 80 degrees on a 110-degree day, and it would keep the temperature around there while you were in the house, but if you went out for a few hours, it would shut itself off until you came back, saving you large amounts of money.
Then Google bought Nest.
Well, even if you didn’t mind the presumption that here’s another way for Google to spy on you, the problem is that Google decided to break the Nest. A year or so ago Google force-fed programming into the thing (you have no choice in the matter: the software downloads automatically and unbidden), and that program is just simply incomprehensible. You can NOT figure out how to make it work.
Lately I’ve been waking up every morning at 2:00 a.m. sharp, in a fit of discomfort: thinking I’m having hot flashes!
Hot flashes? At 71? Really?
Through the wee-hours stupor, I realize the heater’s running. In a daze, I climb out of bed, stumble down the hall, and turn the damn thermostat back off. And I wonder: is this a senile error? Did I not turn it off last night? I’m SURE I turned it off. The house was colder than a bigawd when the dogs and I huddled together in the bed at 10 p.m. How can it be back on?
Well, of course, “back on” unbidden is the Nest’s nature. And there seems to be no way to tell it off, OFF, goddammit STAY OFF! The Nest will turn itself back on when it deems proper: at about 65 degrees. Thank you very much for arrogating my decisions unto Thyself, dear Google.
Peeved after I see this month’s power bill — about $30 more than it should be, even though it’s effin’ freezing in here when I’m not having the 2 a.m. “hot flash” — I google “nonprogrammable thermostat.”
What should come up but a simulacrum of the good old Honeywell round thermostat!
Unfortunately it’s not the real good old thermostat, because it’s not a mercury thermostat. That was the reason they took real thermostats — the ones that used to…you know, function? — off the market. We might hurt ourselves with that mercury. And God knows we’re all too stupid to figure out how to recycle it properly.
User reviews are middling. At Home Depot, the Honeywell racks up a 4 out 5 possible stars, with 14% hating it. At Amazon, though, a full 20% bash it with one-star reviews. Since on average you can expect to see 9% negative, this comes under the heading of bad reviews. By and large the main complaint (except for the guy who got an empty box in the mail) is inaccuracy, but as I recall the old real Honeywell mercury thermostat left something to be desired in that department…it’s pretty easy to adapt to, though. Only 59% of Amazon reviewers love it up with 5 stars; most of those folk seem to be the nostalgic type, pining for gear that has escaped digitization.
On the other hand…i prob’ly fall into that category… 😀
So, what we have here, so far, are four tools so laden with electronic frou-frou that they barely operate:
• A shiny double oven, about $2,500 worth, whose highest and best use is to store pots and pans.
• A thermostat that thinks it knows your mind better than you do, and will not brook any argument.
• A car whose steering wheel is so packed with buttons to operate doo-dads that you have to take your hands off the wheel to honk the horn. Makes sense, eh? No one would ever think of honking a horn when some emergency was under way… A car bearing 28 computers, which working in concert will track your every move, operate your telephone, tell you which way to turn (not always correctly), and god only knows what else. But it’ll cost you $1,000 to fix a door that quits operating.
Hilariously, a few days ago Samsung sent me an urgent message with instructions about what can and cannot be washed in the washer — your comforter, for example, topmost among the NOTs… And with a new dial stick-on emphasizing that you cannot wash sheets in any cycle other than the “bedding” cycle. Which is just as well, one figures, since that’s the only cycle that releases enough water to launder so much as a pair of nylon panties…
Well, now we have a very fine wash machine, a throwback to the 1970s, whose agitator actually sloshes the laundry around in a whole tubful of water.
The dishwasher, a Bosch, has started to make ominous growling noises. I suppose that will be the next to go, soon to be replaced by yet another over-engineered device that doesn’t work. Kitchen appliances, including the Bosch models, are now engineered to crap out in 7 years. The other day SDXB reflected that he’s been in Sun City for 13 years now. He moved out there shortly after I moved into this house, in the wake of a dispute with a nefarious neighbor. So…that dishwasher is well into its dotage.
Just like its human…which also growls a lot.