Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wristwatch prices for Space Aliens

Dear Space Alien, let me explain the price of wristwatches, a truly baffling topic, even for Earthlings.

For more on watches, a lot more, go here on your spaceship’s computer.

Let’s start with my own watch (the small one in the photo), a Sharp Opti-Glo that I bought eight years ago in Boston for $19.95. It is so named because when I find myself in the dark (as I often am), I push on its crown and its face lights up.

It is modest with its round, off-white face and large numerals. It has a brown stitched band, which has seen better days. Its face also signifies in small letters that it is waterproof to 100 feet. I’ve never put it to the test, although I have worn it eight, damp Oregon years without its losing a second.

Sure, it’s had a new band and two battery replacements along the way. I installed a new battery as recently as August. The upkeep has probably cost me as much as the original price of the watch.

So it was with some consternation that I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the watch was losing about five minutes a day.

Well, I said to myself, (Earthlings have this habit of talking to themselves), “That’s not bad for $19.95 plus two batteries and a band over eight years.”

And with that I was thrown into a “new watch” frame of mind.

When it comes to wristwatches, we Earthlings do have our options. A lot of options.

Here’s where things get weird, Dear Alien.

Macy’s has been running a full page of women’s wristwatches that range from $45 to $95. Some have “peace sign dials.” The peace symbol is very much in fashion these days. That in itself is worth a modest price bump.

Also in fashion, alas, is war. On this subject I direct any Alien questions to our Leader, who has done serious thinking and deciding about war of late. Be sure to ask him whether "just war" is relative — depending which side you are on and whether you survive.

Back to the watches in the Macy’s ad.

Some are “multi-functioned,” which means they have alarms, show dates and days of the week and such. Time, like a diamond, is multi-faceted here on Earth. We waste it, we shorten (and lengthen) it, we lose it, and we conquer it.

By the way, one distinct option is to buy a watch encrusted with diamonds. For some, the diamonds are more important than the watch.

Macy’s also advertises an Emporio Armi for $295. This one is definitely for us guys. Note “Emporio.” We will meet macho “master” watches in a moment.

Also note the term “chronograph” creeps into the ad’s copy.

At some point, watches merit being called “chronographs” or "chronometers." (Among some wealthy Earthlings, the term “watch” may be just too plebeian. With “chronograph” they get what they pay for — name wise. Technically a chronograph must include a stop-watch function, but who cares?)

Expensive watches also take on exotic French names. When aristocratic-sounding names appear prominently on watch faces, prices take off.

Take for example the Ballon Bleu De Cartier, which is in a “Collection starting at $3,950.” The tag line on the ad says “Time for Elegance.” The ad would have us believe that anything costing less measures inelegant, even shabby, time. I certainly wouldn’t call time measured by my Sharp Opti-Glo the “Time of Elegance.”

Somehow I manage.

And speaking of taking off, Rolex offers “The Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II," which a New Yorker ad calls “The Pilot’s Watch." “The GMT-Master II is recognized as invaluable to professionals and serious travelers around the world.” This watch (pictured in the above photo) is so invaluable, apparently, that the ad doesn’t mention its price. (No wonder; they sell on Amazon for $8,895.)

Similarly, there is no price attached to the Movado “Master Automatic,” (note the “master” for both the Movado and the Rolex), the TAG Heuer Grand Carrera, or the Vacheron Constantin (very old and very Swiss, according to its ad).

For reasons known only to Madison Avenue's wizards of persuasion, a New York Times ad for the Jaeger-LeCoultre “Master Grande Ultra Thin” displays the watch’s price: $7250. And, though "master"-ful, because it has no stop-watch function, it doesn’t even qualify as a chronograph.

At $7250, you can take it or leave it.

So, dear Alien, if you are still with me, you may be wondering what I'll pay to replace my Sharp Opti-Glo.

Sadly, Sharp not only has stopped making Opti-Glos but has ceased making wristwatches.

That little conundrum led to a small watch-purchasing blunder. I went on-line and, with a click of a key, bought a $25.98 Timex with a rectangular face and a brown band. That includes, shipping.

Because the Timex wouldn’t arrive for 10 days, the interval gave me time to ponder my Sharp as it fell farther and farther behind the other watches and clocks in the world.

On a chance, I took it to Rite-Aid, where I buy my batteries and where I happen to know they have a battery tester and friendly clerks with time on their hands and minuscule screwdrivers. I pried open the Sharp's back, and the eager young clerk and I probed the battery with the tester’s prongs. The needle barely budged.

Weak, very weak.

Then we noticed two other batteries buried away in the Opti-Glo. Could one be for the Opti-glo light? Never mind. They too were weak. For $10 (including a $5 mail-in rebate) I bought three batteries.

After four days, I can declare that the Sharp is back on time. So I’m into two working watches for $35.98, which is less than one percent what I would pay for a Cartier Ballon Bleu De Cartier. For the price of the Rolex I could supply 342 people in some remote, timeless hamlet with Timexes — assuming that they would want them.

I realize, Dear Alien, that I have utterly failed to explain why two watches would cost a small fraction of what one with a fancy-sounding name would. The fact is that watches do the same thing (keep time) — but differently (solar powered, Quartz, mechanical) and with different names and associations (peace, pilots, elegance etc.)— and at exceedingly different prices.

All of this is shockingly irrational, but very, very human. You wouldn’t understand.

With time, I may be able to explain why an Earthling needs more than one watch.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Typewriter site snags Chinese porn — maybe

Each day blogging brings new surprises.

I have another site, Back Space Typewriters, which is devoted to these grand old "word processor/printers." I don't post on Back Space much, but the site does draw comments for, and from, an esoteric group.

Because the occasional submitted remarks aren't fit for the eyes of typewriter collectors — true innocents — I screen messages from twisted correspondents — or porn-spewing robots.

Earlier this week, I had to decide what to do with this:

交友聊天找e爵,熊貓貼圖區,ut 聊天室,杜蕾斯成人,成人小說,正妹,成人文章,成人圖片,熊貓貼圖,jp成人,交友戀愛小站,色情遊戲,情色視訊,情色視訊,aio交友愛情館,成人視訊,tt1069同志交友網,成人影片,成人貼圖,男同志聊天室,0951成人頻道下載,交友104相親網,成人圖片區,ut男同志聊天室,18成人,成人韭南籽,視訊交友,交友104速配網,情色文學,交友覓戀會館,情色小說,情色貼圖,色情小說,美女,色情,成人,嘟嘟成人網,交友戀愛進行室,85cc成人片觀看,85cc成人片,

Could this really be about the vintage Smith Premier I bought last summer in, of all places, Coos Bay? The typewriter was one of the last made without a shift key. Instead it has two keyboards. Perhaps the writer liked having two keyboards, one for lower case and one for upper.

Then again, the keyboard might invite comparison to massive Chinese-language keyboards with hundreds of keys.

Or he (or she) may have wondered about Coos Bay itself and how I found myself there. (You don't want to know.)

I have to confess, my Mandarin is a little rusty, so, ever curious, I pasted the characters into one of those translation sites, and here, verbatim, is what I got:

Makes friends chats looks for e jue, the panda pastes the chart area, the ut chatroom, Du Leisi the adult, the adult novel, the younger sister, the adult article, the adult picture, the panda pastes the chart, the jp adult, makes friends the love minor stop, the pornographic game, the sentiment color regards the news, the sentiment color regards the news, aio makes friends love hall, the adult regards the news, Comrade tt1069 makes friends the net, the adult movie, the adult pastes the chart, the male comrade chatroom, 0951 adult channel downloading, makes friends 104 intimate

Could this be what passes for erotica in China? Take a closer look at the original. "同志交友網," caught my eye right away.


Conclusion: who needs porn filters with language barriers like these?

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Biblical citations give football a black eye

Much has been made of celebrity quarterback Tim Tebow’s “message” eye shadow patches.

I must not have been paying attention when the Florida player, a devote Christian, put “John” on the right eye shadow patch and “16:33” on the left for millions to see last January in the BCS Championship game.

Or maybe I skipped the game. I can’t recall.

But I did watch Alabama trounce Florida on Saturday. Tebow was at it again — Biblical-wise. And. again, he chose John 16:33.

I confess the eye shadow message was as riveting as the game.

What’s it mean when you can’t watch a simple football game without having some in-your-face biblical passage thrown in your face?

The passage, by the way, is this (make of it what you will):

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.

Does “trouble” equal “’Bama”? Tebow was hardly of “good cheer” following the game. He openly wept at the worldly outcome.

Clearly the NCAA needs to put an end to this eye-shadow non-sense. If this is a free speech issue, where does it stop? Or does it?

Once upon a time, black athletes might well have written “Black”…“Power” on the little billboards under their eyes.

Or, heaven forbid “Peace on”…”Earth.” Or “Love”…”your enemy.”

What’s to prevent a political message: “Vote for”….”Obama” or “McCain” etc.? or “Nix Health”…”Reform.”

Or how about “Drink…Bud”?

And why not allow bumper stickers on helmets too?

No, this needs to stop, now.

Why is it taking so long? Are attorneys lining up on the sidelines?

By the way, I checked to see how that final score of Saturday’s game translates into chapter and verse in the Book of John. The score was 13-32. I was hoping for gridiron epiphany. Here’s what I got:

If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.”

Where's Howard Cosell when we need him?

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