The one-way hourglass

The demands of those who would manage our energy are occasionally absurd. For instance: for years, manual-transmission Corvettes have incorporated something called Computer Aided Gear Selection, which is a gizmo that, once you’ve started off in first gear, twiddles the shift gate so that your first upshift is to fourth. This was done for one reason only: to buy an extra point or two on the EPA fuel-economy test, city portion, and thereby escape the dreaded Gas Guzzler tax. (The Vette scores well in highway fuel consumption, owing to tall and taller overdrives.) Actual Corvette buyers hate it, of course, but ultimately it’s a tradeoff: save the thousand bucks or so in tax, and use $20 of the savings to buy a kit to bypass the gizmo altogether.

But what if there’s no tradeoff? What if one factor cannot be offset in any way, shape, size or form? And yes, there is such a factor, as Mark Alger explains:

The office where I work — the Patch Factory — uses devices (HP Color Laser Jet printers) which were produced under the Carly Fiorina regime and bear the Energy Star label. That is, they are engineered to serve the agenda of the EPA and not to meet the needs of the human beings who paid for the machine with bits of their lives. The machines thus, in myriad subtle ways, steal more bits of their users’ lives in service to the aforementioned agenda.

For example, they are programmed to enter a sleep cycle after a set period of time. The period can be adjusted, but it is limited to a maximum of 8 hours. Thus, the machine is frequently in sleep mode when it is needed. And the user must therefore wait for the machine to wake up, warm up, calibrate and adjust — in short, all of the functions it should perform in downtime so as to be ready to serve human needs.

And, because the machine is starved for power, it must stop work periodically to re-adjust its condition, rather than performing diagnostics and corrections on the fly.

This is a waste of time.

I have a LaserJet in my office. Its behind-the-scenes machinations don’t bother me, particularly, but then there’s only the one, and it’s called upon to do relatively little work: most days, it’s asked for a hundred pages or fewer. Were it expected to produce thousands, I might start yelling at the grey box to get on with it already, fercrissake.

But that’s the point: there is no substitute for time, and any device or regimen that wastes it has its priorities seriously screwed up. In a just universe, all those years in which we had to endure a 55-mph speed limit would be subtracted from our terms in purgatory.


  1. Mark Alger »

    1 December 2007 · 11:31 am


    Thanks for taking the TIME to do a trackback. One could wish they weren’t so esoteric to use.


  2. CGHill »

    1 December 2007 · 11:56 am

    Movable Type is supposed to be able to find the links automagically and send the TBs on its own, and sometimes it even works correctly.

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