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July 2001 - Blinking Lights

You really must write to me after this edition and tell me what gets you excited and sitting on the edge of your chair at the beginning, begging for more.

You see, the problem this time round isn't so much the subject, I've got one of those, it's just that I'm sitting here having a great deal of difficulty working out how to start the whole thing off whilst making it sound interesting.

Actually, the contents of those first couple of paragraphs have probably put most of you off already. I wonder how many have already dropped by the wayside and are now reading some other part of the Web, oblivious to the wonders they are just about to miss?

You, however, discerning reader, have stayed and I can assure you that you will be well rewarded.

It's just that I've been trying to work out an exciting beginning for this edition for a few days now, but just can't come up with anything worthy of the excellent middle and end which you are about to discover.

Regular devotees will already be reading in the sure and certain knowledge that Nick Harvey's Comment will be of it's usual excellent quality, but what of my newer readers?

How do I entice you on and on through paragraph after paragraph of this wonderful epic without a startling front page?

That's the problem you see. The obvious beginning is a straight statement of the facts, but facts can be very boring. Hence the motto attributed to some newspapers - never let the truth get in the way of a good story!

So, having exhausted all the other possibilities, I suppose we'd better get down to the facts, the whole facts and nothing but the facts.

A couple of week ago, a friend of mine asked me if I'd use my electrical expertise to check over a brand new chip fryer that they'd just gone out and bought, as they didn't want to just plug it in and start using it.

There, I warned you it would be boring didn't I? There's nothing like a nice, boring fact to send the reader off to read something interesting elsewhere.

This is the whole problem you see, how to make a chip fryer into the big production number that you've all come to expect from this exciting piece of prose.

It's all about to improve though, just like I promised it would. That's because chip fryers and the internal electrics associated with them are the subject for in-depth analysis for this edition of Comment.

However, I'm afraid I'm about to hit one of my favourite targets again though; designers. The designers of chip fryers to be precise on this occasion.

Now I've got a chip fryer as well. Mine's a Tefal. On the front of my Tefal is a little light which comes on when the heating element's on to tell you that things are warming up inside.

When the heating element goes off because the fat's at the right temperature, the light goes off as well, a very logical arrangement in my opinion.

So anyway, my friend had bought this model from the Russell Hobbs range and was proudly reminding me at regular intervals that it's cost had turned out to be a tad lower than that of my Tefal model.

In spite of all this verbal battering with an electrical retailers' price list, I decided it would be wise to thoroughly check out the fryer before leaving her to blow herself up after I left.

Not wishing to go in search of a quarter of a gallon of cooking oil, I refuse point blank to call it a litre, I thought I'd just switch it on momentarily and see if the inside got warm okay.

So I plug it in, switch it on and check that the little light has come on. It has NOT! Must be the 10amp fuse in the plug which is duff!

Now 10amp isn't one of the commonest of fuses, so I end up putting the 13amp one out of the electric fire in the thing. Still the little light refuses to illuminate. I put the 13amp fuse back in the electric fire and that still works, so it must be a problem with the fryer itself.

I check the wires in the plug and put the original fuse back in. Still no little light.

Sitting there a little puzzled, I eventually lift the lid to discover that the inside of the fryer is pleasantly warm. Ah, obviously a duff bulb I think, so I whip the bottom off the fryer to investigate the internal intricacies.

Nothing wrong with the light according to my meter, so where do we go next?

I was having the instruction booklet, rather than the price list, read to me by this time. "It says here" she said, "that the light comes on when the fat is up to the right temperature".

"Oh dash it" I said, never being one to use anything stronger in front of a lady of sensible sensibilities. Why can't they make it standard as to whether the light is on or off when the heating element is actually operating?

And this is my point. What prat designs chip fryers, some of which have the light on when the element's on; and some have the light on when the element's off. Total stupidity!

The daft thing about the whole business is that THIS fryer is a much cheaper model than mine, but must have more complicated wiring inside to achieve this back-to-front way of doing things.

I mean, it's easy to take a wire after the thermostat to the light as well as the element, but to have the light coming on when the element's off means a more complicated system altogether.

If the men at Russell Hobbs did it the simple and logical way, their cheaper fryer could be even cheaper than it is and grab more market share than Tefal, making them much happier businessmen.

It's almost the same with fuse boxes.

Ah, yes, just in case you're confused about where fuse boxes come into it all, we've just reached that glorious point in this month's edition, where I change the subject, or at least the sub-plot, for no apparent reason.

We've moved on to memories of an office move of many years ago now. I really should have explained that before I suddenly changed direction, I do apologise.

Being a bit of a techie, I liked lots of power sockets in my offices, well twenty-four to be precise. That stopped me needing to uses trees of adaptors in every socket.

Under the electrical regulations, it gets complicated if you want to plug in more bits and pieces than you've got sockets for, so the sparkies at work fitted my new office out with a socket for each appliance.

Problem was, all my staff were moving to a different part of the building with me, so in total, we needed an extra seventy-four sockets to keep within these wonderful regulations.

The next bit of the regulations though, tells you how many sockets you're allowed to have on each ring main; and we were starting to exceed that as well.

This is where the fuse box comes into the plot, because we needed a new one in order to fit all the extra sockets. So the nice sparkies fitted one; nice and tidy, right next to the original one for that floor of the building.

Now, honest folks, all I wanted to do was turn on the fuse box so the sockets in my new office would come alive and I could connect up the base station for the whizzo-bongo new portable phone that the salesman was asking me to try out.

All I did was push the switch down, like the one on the fuse box next to it. How was I to know I was turning off the file server?

Everyone else had already moved, it was only me being a bit slow getting round to it. So they'd already switched the power on, and got all their equipment running off the new sockets.

This new (expletive deleted) fuse box was one of the new "up for on and down for off" models. And it was fitted right next to an old model!

So there were two fuse boxes, side by side, one with the switch up and one with the switch down, but both turned on. At least, it was turned on again, after I realised. Thankfully it only took them about half an hour to get the file server back up and running again.

Now which prat of a designer came up with this particular bit of total confusion I wonder?

It's just like the lights on the fryers, total madness. How do they expect a highly intelligent person like me, who doesn't need to read the instruction and therefore doesn't bother, to get things right if they keep changing them?

Utter madness, that's what I call it. I reckon the designers ought to be put in the electric chair for it all.

The trouble is though, that nobody would know how to switch the chair on. And if they did manage it, they wouldn't know whether the light comes on when the frying commences, or when it's complete.

Well, there you go you see, it DID turn out to be interesting eventually, didn't it? I told you the middle and end would be good, and I was right as usual. A pity about the poor quality beginning though.

I'll try to produce a higher standard commencement for the August edition, due as usual, on the first day of the month. I hope you enjoyed this edition in any case.

Till next month then, don't forget to keep the chips hot. Right, I'm off, where's me torch?

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