On being … eclipsed

By Ingrid Sapona

I’ve always liked analogies. I think they’re a useful tool for analyzing things. To craft a good analogy you need to carefully think about different aspects of the things you’re ultimately comparing. The clearer you see it, the better you’ll be able to draw a comparison to something else. I also find analogies can be a useful way of helping others see what you see. A thought-provoking or clever analogy can bridge the gap between different sides because it can help both sides see the underling commonalities.

The August solar eclipse was a big story for many here in North America. It wasn’t a big deal for me personally, in part because here in Toronto, the coverage was about 70%. I did find a number of things about it interesting though. For example, the fact that power grid operators in North America did quite a lot of planning leading up to the event to make sure that there were enough energy resources to compensate for the drop in solar power.

I’ve also found stories friends relayed in the wake of the eclipse interesting. Sailor friends of mine who weren’t particularly excited about the idea of the eclipse decided, nevertheless, to head out for a sail that afternoon to experience the eclipse. Afterward they both commented on how surprising – almost eerie – the change was. Part of it, they agreed, was due to the temperature change – but it was also about the change in the colour of the sky. 

Another friend, who lives on the west coast, made a day of it with her family. They travelled to someplace in Oregon where the coverage was 100%. When she returned, she said it was hard to explain how profoundly moving she found it. 

It’s been nearly six weeks since the eclipse, so I thought it odd when I saw the word in a headline last week. Curious, I began reading. Turns out the article was about Trump’s vitriol aimed at NFL players who “take the knee*”. I wasn’t interested in the story of Colin Kaepernick’s actions last season, nor do I care about the lingering impact of it on him or the game. So, like many folks, I found it ridiculous that Trump weighed in on the matter at all. 

Of course I get that there are elements of news to the story. There are freedom of speech issues and race issues intertwined in the story – both incredibly important topics. But, Trump’s bombastic claim during a political rally that NFL owners should fire the players is not an attempt to raise those issues, much less to start serious dialog about them.

To be honest, I don’t even think his bombast is intended to insight or inflame people – though I think it does both. There’s been lots of discussion about why he behaves as he does. Some think it’s impulse control (a lack thereof, that is), others think it’s because of psychological issues. Personally, I think a huge element of it is intentional subterfuge – keeping people focused on a ridiculous comment so no one pays attention to what others in his administration and family are doing.

The article described Trump’s tirades and twitter storms as eclipsing all other news. That, I think, is the sad truth. Indeed, on the day North Korea’s foreign minister said his country considers Trump’s tweet that North Korea’s regime “won’t be around much longer” a declaration of war, the lead story on two US television networks was Trump’s attack on NFL players – a story that was already two days old, not to mention trivial by comparison.

Just as we have no control over a solar eclipse, Trump’s behaviour is out of our control. Given that we’re all mere bystanders to the Trump eclipse, there are steps we can take to help us get through it. The first is to not let your gaze wander into the light, as doing so will blind you to what’s really going on. Indeed, we must not forget that much is still going on behind the shadow Trump is casting and that we won’t know what it all is until he moves on. We must also be prepared to deal with the changes in atmosphere and our surroundings while Trump’s shadow looms because – god willing – eventually his shadow will recede and the sun will return.

*Is it just me or do you find that expression odd? It sounds like something you’d say if you’re describing some guy getting hit in the groin – not someone down on one knee. Anyway…

© 2017 Ingrid Sapona


On being … the deciding feature

By Ingrid Sapona

There are a lot of useful household appliances. If I were ranking them, I’d say the refrigerator is the most important. (After all, without one, I couldn’t possibly have cheese on hand!) For me, the washing machine is a close second. I’ve never been keen on hand washing even my most expensive delicates – I can’t imagine washing bedsheets, towels, and what have you, by hand.

The other day I threw a load of laundry in. I was barefoot as I headed toward the washer to unload it. I felt something wet on the floor. When I looked down, I saw that I had stepped into a huge puddle. My heart sank, as I figured it had to be from the washing machine. I quickly got a bath towel to wipe up the water. That’s when I noticed the puddle was about two feet away from the washer. The area next to – and under – the washer was bone dry. Strange…     

I decided to try another load, this time watching for water. Not so much as a drop. Very strange… Since then I’ve done a few more loads and so far, so good. But, the puddle seemed a warning sign, so I began shopping for a new washer.

When I started looking, the only thing I knew for sure was that I want a top loading machine. (Besides the cost differential, I’ve heard some negative things about front loaders and I’ve never had a problem with my top loader.) Beyond that, I really didn’t know what “features” to look for. 

I started by looking on-line because I knew I’d be able to see the specs for each model. Also, I like the comparison feature on different websites. You can choose a half dozen different models and the program produces a list that lets you tell, at a glance, how they compare. The websites also have reviews, which I thought might be helpful.

I started my search in earnest. I selected a few models that looked similar to my current machine and I hit “compare”. Up came a list of 65 points of comparison. (65! I counted them!)  About half the items are things you might expect to see when talking about washing machines. For example, a yes or no list of features like: Delicate Cycle? Extra Rinse Cycle? Cycle Status Light? Power Cord Included? Delay Start? And End-of-Cycle Signal? 

But, as I went down the list, I couldn’t believe I was still comparing washers. Who looks for washers that have Bluetooth capability? Or washers that are Wi-Fi compatible? If you consider those things must-haves for a washer, then you’d be appalled to hear that NONE of the washers I looked at work with Apple HomeKit or Nest, nor do they work with Amazon’s Alexa, or Iris. (Who – or what – is Iris? I Googled it and the only thing I found were references to the eye and the flag!) I realize most of these “features” have to do with creating a “smart home” – but honestly, I don’t need a smart washer. Given that I’ll be manually loading the clothes in, I figure I can stand there the couple extra minutes it takes to turn it on.

As for the reviews, there’s really no way to make sense of 5000+ reviews. When someone gives a model 1 star (out of 5) because the machine broke after one wash, I figure they got a lemon – it doesn’t mean every one of that model breaks after one load. And when one review says the machine is very loud, but the very next review says it’s the quietest washer they’ve ever had, what are you to make of it? 

The on-line perusing helped me narrow in on the features I’d like. Then it was time to look at some models in person, so I headed to a big box store. The displays gave the length, width, depth, and height for each. But, none of them gave information about the height with the lid up. That’s a critical measurement for me because my dryer rests on a sturdy, non-adjustable metal frame over the washer. So, I borrowed the salesperson’s tape measure.

I ended up measuring all the top load models on display and – as unbelievable as it seems – only one of them might fit. And, it’ll be a squeaker – it’s within a quarter inch of the height measurement I took. I couldn’t believe it. After all that comparing and thinking about what features I want (not to mention, whether I could live with a “dumb” washer), it all boils down to one thing – whether the damned model fits the space I have for it!

Honestly, I wish appliance makers and builders would get together and set some sizing standards and then stick with them for a few decades. Until they do, I’m sure the deciding factor for many appliance purchases isn’t even on the list of “features” the companies boast about – it’s the age-old question of whether it fits. Kind of crazy, don’t you think?

© 2017 Ingrid Sapona