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Gizmos Galore

Week of September 26, 2005


            News today is serious stuff.  If it’s not the war it’s a protest, plane crash, terror strike or hurricanes that are matched in wind-power only by gusts from elected politicians.  It’s getting so a guy can hardly find a light topic.

            Thank heaven for the British, who have enough time on their hands to calculate the value of that nation’s “gizmos.”  It’s about one percent of their gross domestic product, and although the story in the Christian Science Monitor didn’t disclose the total for the United States I suspect we’re with our Brit brethren dollar for pound.

            I have never considered myself a big gadget guy but the Monitor story makes me wonder.  For one, the article mentions electric garage door openers, which I consider a necessity.  It also lists the “electric knife that only comes out at Christmas;” I have one of those but my Christmas tree only comes out at Christmas too.  Is it a gizmo?

            I suppose it’s a matter of opinion, but I agree “flip flops with a bottle opener crafted into the soles” qualify.  (My otherwise dignified wife wears flip flops that light up when she walks and have become her signature footwear.  She’s on her second pair.)

            Popcorn makers, fitness trampolines, and bread makers, also mentioned by the Monitor, seem too mainstream for gizmohood.  A toaster that brands “I love you” on every slice fits the bill, as do electric fingernail buffers, microwave omelet makers, foot spas, and the “Lavnav,” a light that “makes the toilet safe and easy to see at night.”  Not to mention easier to hit, which is probably its real purpose.

            I wouldn’t be caught dead with a doohickey or a gewgaw but I guess I do have a few gizmos.  My favorite, when it works, is a coffeepot with a built-in grinder.  Pour whole beans in the top, water in the back, set the timer, and you have freshly ground coffee waiting in the morning.  It’s a bit noisy but I just figure it doubles as an alarm clock.  I look at it as my total wake-up system.

            They’re also fragile; I’ve had two and each lasted about six months.  Still, I’m itching for a third. 

            Less used is a back massage device I bought my wife for Christmas a few years ago.  Unused, actually, as was the vibrating neck massage pillow she once bought me.  Sometimes a hands-on approach is best.    

            Most of my gizmos are tools of some sort.  The best of these is a pressure washer that could strip the bark and first few rings off a redwood.  When I first brought it home I washed everything that stood still and a few things that didn’t:  the deck, driveway, sidewalks, garbage cans, yard furniture, cocker spaniel …  OK, I let the dog pass even if he is the main reason everything else needed cleaning.

            My garage is also home to a post leveler that tells you simultaneously if a fencepost is vertically and horizontally level.  I don’t set a lot of posts, but if I ever do I want them straight.  I also have an “EZ Hold II,” which is a rubber strap attached to a handle.  I assume it holds things easily and is an improvement over the EZ Hold I.  Whatever it does it was a freebie when I bought a socket at the state fair that is guaranteed to fit any size bolt.

            Professor Richard Elliot of England’s Warwick Business School told the Monitor it’s the idea of a gizmo rather than its function that matters.  Given how many gadgets gather dust in most homes he may have a point.  I’m not sure what idea might be behind the “face steamer,” but it’s as good a theory as any.






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© 2005 Brent Morrison