A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Hooptedoodle #202 - When Technology Goes Bad

Hmmm - one for the laboratory
As a household, we at Chateau Foy seem to have a tendency to collect gizmos - I believe I have referred to this before. Visitors are sometimes surprised to find that, in common with hospitals and the lavatories in motorway service stations, we have hands-free soap dispensers. In two bathrooms and the kitchen there are battery-powered hand-soap machines. I admit that I greeted the arrival of these things with a weary snort, since I was not certain exactly which problem they were intended to solve, but some years later they are still going strong and I have grown to like them. Well, let's say I have found that the positive hygienic aspects of not having to handle a grubby old bar of soap outweigh the occasional hassle of having to address the problem of a flat battery or an empty refill bottle with wet hands. Most surprising of all, Dettol (the purveyors of these devices) have stuck with the original design, and have not taken the obvious step of changing the shape of the refill bottles every few months, which would require replacement of the whole thing - you may know of many other manufacturers of similar gizmology who have failed to rise above commercial temptation in this way - makers of plug-in air fragrancers have famously perfected the art of planned obsolescence, for example.

I almost digressed there - anyway, well and good: the electronic handwashers are OK - chalk another one up for the gizmos, and be grateful - remember that there are people in the Third World who are so poor that they have to wash their hands without the help of such leading-edge technology. No wonder there is so much disease around.

Alas, one of our machines has developed some kind of headache. I have never really thought about how these things work, but a simple experiment has revealed in the past that, while placing a hand under the spout will produce a measured splot of liquid soap, it does not work with, say, a wooden spoon, so anyone with wooden hands is going to be at an unfair disadvantage in our house. Thus I deduce that the device uses some kind of infra-red detecting diode as a switch - as I say, I have not really thought about it, though you may be impressed that I got as far as trying the wooden spoon.

The kitchen machine is misbehaving - there have been embarrassing puddles. At first we wiped them up and did not discuss the matter. However, I have now discovered that switching off the room light activates the soap dispenser - I realised this when I turned off the lights to leave the kitchen and I could hear the idiot soap pump working. So that explains the puddles, but it is an intriguing malfunction. I have been reading about the various adventures of quantum particles of late, so I must be careful not to read too much into this - maybe I should offer a prize for the most unlikely explanation? On the face of it, the dispenser appears to be confused - not only is it activated by detecting infra-red, it has also shifted its attention to the visible spectrum, though it is the removal of the supply of photons which fires it up. It will happily sit quietly in the dark or the light, and switching the light on is met by total indifference.

I am proud to report that I have resisted the temptation to test to see if it is affected by flashlights, or by placing a bucket over the device - though if I had more time I might have, of course.

I have a faintly disappointing suspicion that a fresh battery might cure the headache - I haven't tried it - where would be the fun in fixing it? No doubt we'll fix or replace the soap machine quite soon, because (interesting or not) in its present state it is not much help.

A picture of a defective security light
Infra-red detectors seem to be temperamental - our outside security light has worked pretty well for many years, I am pleased to say - its primary purpose is to switch on a friendly light at the end of the driveway when you step out of your car - our garden is a notably dark place at night, and it would be possible to fall over all sorts of things, or even to disappear forever, without this light. The fault with the security light is that it constantly errs on the side of over-enthusiasm - in addition to welcoming human motorists, it also welcomes small animals (of which there are many), flashes of lightning, bushes waving in the wind and any vague surge in the electricity supply anywhere in the house. That's all OK - we forgive it, because it does its main job reliably and usefully.

I am still in the middle of an open-ended campaign of hospital visiting (my mum appears a lot better in the last few days, I am delighted to note - thanks to all who got in touch - though I don't think she'll be home before Christmas), so don't really have the time to fiddle around with soap dispensers, and especially not with Blogger, but I'd be interested in any proper Professor Stink theories about the deranged soap machine, and would be thrilled to hear of your own favourite gizmo failure - the greater the resultant domestic catastrophe the better.


  1. Oops! Missed that about your mum. Hopethings get better on all fronts.
    As to the techno soap, I'd bin it and buy the real thing because I'm a bit of a technophobe. Faiiling that, why not just admit defeat and get a bottle with a plunger?

    1. Sounds like you've on a par with my Mrs, she's loves a gadget or two, they always end up either in a boot fair, or my preferred place....the bin! Glad you're Mum's on the up!

    2. Latest weirdness is that soap machine ejected a pile of soap in the middle of the night, with no known explanation. I thought I'd switched it off, but I have problems with O/I switches - too many choices...

  2. For an American, what is the distinction a "hooptedoodle" and a "twaddle?"

    1. Hi Jonathan

      Twaddle is just a colloquial synonym for nonsense or rubbish, I think - at least that is how I intend it - most of my posts are twaddle.

      Hooptedoodle is a term coined by John Steinbeck in (I think) "Sweet Thursday" to delineate interludes in the story which were only there to add decoration, and did nothing for the main plot - just a self-indulgent digression which might (on a good day) offer some entertainment. Steinbeck was, of course, American...

      I read somewhere that Hooptedoodle is recognised as a pretentious term used by English Lit undergrads who wish to demonstrate that they have read at least one book - the whole tone of the description was so contemptuous that I resolved on the spot that this was for me - I take a pride in my pretentiousness, and will plug the Hooptedoodles without mercy!

      Cheers - Tony

  3. Hmm..late night leaks and embarrassing pools.. due to it's age,I would think about booking it in for a Dettol Dispenser prostate test..

    1. Good idea - as long as I don't have to visit the thing in hospital.


To avoid spam and advertising material, comments are moderated on this blog, and will appear once I have seen them.