Don Messerli’s Blog |

An exercise in self-indulgence.

The $4.99 Clock Radio

Friday Mar 9, 2007

Since I’m in the process of moving, I don’t have all of my stuff here in Nashville yet. One of the necessities I just didn’t have room to lug up here was my alarm clock. It’s a Sony that lets you set two alarms. I like it and don’t plan on replacing it anytime soon.

I was walking through my local Target looking for an alarm clock. Walking past the Dyson Root 6 and trying not to drool, I ended up at the digital clocks. I found a little Sony for $24.99. It was basically a smaller version of the one I have. I didn’t want to spend 25 bucks on something I wouldn’t be using for more than a couple of months. Yes Regine, we could put it in the guest room when I’m done with it. I picked one up and decided to see what other fun electronics they had. Something strange caught my eye, a price marker for $4.99 in the middle of all the higher-priced alarm clocks. My curiosity was piqued.

What kind of clock radio could you possible get for 5 dollars? Some of you might be remembering the 5 dollar milkshake from Pulp Fiction. But an alarm clock is supposed to last more than 30 minutes. I picked up the box and looked at it. It was cute. Sort of looks like a Mac Mini albeit smaller and made out of cheap gray plastic.Clock Box AM?… check. FM?… check. Alarm?… check Numbers?… check. What is missing? I’ll tell you what’s missing. The extra digit in front of the price. I decided to buy one and see if it really worked.

What really amazes me is how anybody, Target or the manufacturer can make any money selling an “FM/AM Clock Radio” for $4.99. If Target pays 50% to the manufacturer, that’s $2.50. There must be more than that in parts here. An LED display, a power cord, a wire antenna, some dials, some buttons, and a speaker. Not to mention the slow boat to get it from China to California and the truck to get it from California to Nashville. Somebody is making very little money here. You know who it is? It’s Sony. They didn’t make one penny.

ClockI took the clock home, plugged it in, set the time, set the alarm. It has kept perfect time and woken me up reliably 4 days in a row. A part of me expects the thing to just stop working one day. But every day it does work is one more day that I’m amazed.

The Best Christmas Present Ever!

Monday Sep 11, 2006

You may wonder why I’m talking about Christmas in September. Two reasons. The first will become self-evident. The second is that I haven’t posted in a while and that added about 2 1/2 months to the delay.

My wife, Regine, gave me what amounts to the best Christmas present I’ve ever received last Christmas. She gave me a trip for both of us to the Formula One Grand Prix of Canada in Montreal. The races was in late June, so I had to wait 6 months to actually get my present, but the wait was well worth it.

We had great seats. Right across from the pits. Renault, McLaren, and Ferrari were right there. We went to practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and the race on Sunday. We took a ton of pictures and had a great time. It was a package tour. The company running the tour was Formula Tours. They are new to the business. Things didn’t run perfectly smoothly; but I’d still recommend them. They had a cocktail party on Friday night and we got to meet Jarno Trulli and Ricardo Zonta of Toyota.

BMW Sauber had a cool setup downtown called Pit Lane Park. It was a recreation of pit lane with interactive displays and demonstrations. They only do it at 6 Grands Prix per year. We are lucky Montreal was one of them.

I even had two celebrity sightings on the trip. I saw my favorite F1 driver, Jacques Villeneuve, walking down St. Catherine St. and Tara Reid in the airport.

When I get a chance, I’ll post a bunch of the pictures we took.

Prairie Home in Miami

Thursday Feb 9, 2006

I’m not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. However; I do listen to NPR. The key is to have enough brains to tell when they’re pushing their liberal agenda, which is 99% of the time. The other 1% of the time, they’re airing A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. I really enjoy this show. It’s like an old-fashioned radio show. When I was a kid, there were still a few of them on the air and I would listen to them late on a Saturday night.

When we found out that they were going to be doing the show from Miami, I knew I had to see the show in person. The show was done at Bayfront Amphitheater which is… you guessed it… next to Bayside Marketplace. Oops! I almost said “Mall”. The weather was less than optimal. It was cloudy and rained a bit. It was as close as we could get to making the Minnesotans feel at home. You wouldn’t know the weather was so bad (relatively speaking) by listening to the show. Keillor told the audience that it was sunny.

The show was very entertaining. But, I experienced the same phenomenon that I do when listening to it on the radio. Just when you really start to get into it, its over. The music was good. Sort of dixieland style. There were two performers from Miami. Bianca Vallejo, an 11 year-old girl who sang a few Cuban songs in Spanish; “Guantanamera”, “Cuando Salí de Cuba”, and “Vacilon que Rico Cha Cha”. I’m not sure if “Guantanamera” is strictly a Cuban song; but it reminded me of that song “One Ton Tomato”.

The other Miami performer was Aymee Nuviola. She had her own band and Keillor kept referring to her as “Aymee Nuviola and her sister”. She did some more Spanish songs. There was a running joke that Garrison Keillor couldn’t pronounce her name. Once, when Keillor asked her help with pronouncing “Calle Ocho”, she responded “Aymee!”.

My favorite parts of the show are always “Guy Noir, Radio Private Eye” and “The News from Lake Wobegon”. They were both very funny at the show. However; the “News” stories were a bit stranger than usual. One of the stories about a woman who gets lost on the way back to Lake Wobegon from Phoenix leads you into the back woods with some kind of Ted Kaczynski character. You think he’s going to kill her or worse and suddenly, he tells her to follow her dreams to Florida, and then it ends. I guess he did the “or worse” part.

You can listen to the whole show here: A Prairie Home Companion


Thursday Sep 29, 2005

Late last year I picked up a really cool toy. It’s called a SqueezeBox from Slim Devices. It’s a small box with a bright LED screen that you plug into your stereo as an input device. You load up their software on a computer (it will run under Windows, Linux, and Mac). I have the server software use my iTunes Music Library.

Using a remote control, you can browse or search your music collection and then the music gets streamed to the SqueezeBox. The one I have is wireless (802.11b - they have a new SqueezeBox2 which is 802.11g). I can listen to my entire music collection* on the stereo in my bedroom without touching a CD!

I plan on getting another SqueezeBox for Regine to use in her playroom (where she does all of her scrapbooking, card making, and rubber stamping).

* Of course, this is only in theory. I have about 600 music CDs and have only ripped about 135 of them into iTunes so far. I figure at the rate I’m going, I’ll rip the last CD on my death bed.

Welcome to my blog

Wednesday Aug 10, 2005

Since what I’ve basically been doing with is blogging. I decided to switch to a blogging software package instead of the PHP I threw together in a hurry. I chose WordPress. Hey, if I don’t like it, I can always change to something else. Now, I just need to figure out how to get my “quote of the day”, “picture of the day”, and Picture Gallery link working.