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Silver Threads: Instant clock management and other techno wonders

One Sunday about 40 years ago, my mother was sitting in the choir at church, getting ready to sing the hymn that came before the preacher said the benediction, when the big back doors of the sanctuary sprang open and about 15 or 20 people started filing down the aisles, looking for places to sit.

They’d forgotten we’d all gone on daylight saving time that morning, and arrived exactly one hour late for the service. They hadn’t sprung forward, and they sure tickled everybody else in the congregation.

I got to thinking about this on Sunday, when I woke up, looked at the clock, and grumbled that it was already 10 a.m. My husband, fortified with breakfast and deep into the print edition of The Times-Picayune, told me that he had set the oven and microwave clocks up an hour, so I went about changing the small alarms on bedside tables, then flipped my cell phone open — and, voila, it was already in line with DST. (The same thing has undoubtedly been true every spring of the 20 some-odd years I’ve had one, but senior memories falter, so I was surprised again this year.)

How does it do that, I thought, techno geek that I am not, and then decided — once more — that it must have something to do with the network of which my phone is a part. Ditto for the computer and my e-reader, both perfectly in tune with the new order of things.

Wondering “how does it do that?” made me think of an old joke: Someone was describing the function of a thermos bottle to a youngster. “If you put hot things in, it keeps them hot; if you put cold things in, it keeps them cold.”

But how, marveled the kid, “does it know the difference?” You might expand this to wonder how a cell phone network knows the difference between springing forward and falling back?

I’m not nearly as stupid as I sound, dear reader, else I wouldn’t be advertising it in this column, but I had a rough weekend, technologically speaking.

It all began when I put new ink cartridges into the printer hooked to my computer. Desperately needing to print a document, I scanned the page necessary to align them, and ran it through. Perfecto! But when I tried to print from Microsoft Word, I was informed, on the computer screen, that the alignment hadn’t been done. A dozen “alignments” later, I still couldn’t print and was running out of paper.

Some months back I had called Cox cable to talk about difficulties with my CVR setup. The woman on the phone said to unplug the cable box, wait 30 seconds, and then plug it back in. I did and the thing worked fine. Deciding to try the same remedy on the printer, I unplugged it for 30 seconds and upon re-plugging was in business. I bragged about this for days.

Then the cable box began to give trouble again. Confident of my ability to “cure” this ailment too, I investigated the wall behind the television set and found that two things are plugged into it — probably my cable and the TV itself. Since I couldn’t remember which was which, I unplugged them both and counted slowly to 30, plugged them back in, and discovered that I’d cured the cable and screwed up the TV. (Meanwhile, my husband was contentedly channel surfing on the 18-year-old set in the bedroom.)

I tried, dear reader, not to have to impose on the geek squad (two teenaged grandsons) down the street, but “The Good Wife” was about to come on and so a distress call was made.

Of course he fixed it, quicker than you could say, “I hate these new-fangled TVs!” and then turned his attention to the gadget I’ve bought to recharge my e-reader when I’ve not got access to an electrical outlet. That quickly began working for him, too; I think there’s a conspiracy.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at



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