Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Review of the Capello CD Alarm Clock

When I received a CD alarm clock for Christmas, I was really quite pleased. I had been dealing with a CD alarm clock that had been deteriorating for some time and it was time for an upgrade. As a rule, I enjoy practical gifts. I like to get socks. I like to get boxers. And so I was quite excited to put my new alarm to use. This was a well-thought gift from my wife, and I was grateful for it.

The CD Alarm Clock from Capello has everything you could want from one. It has a clock--with brightness settings. It has a snooze button. It has a sleep button, though I've never quite figured out what those do. It has two alarm settings. It has three wake up sounds: clock radio, annoying buzzer, and CD. Very good. This is what I wanted.

I myself like the CD setting. If I did not, I would have only wanted a clock radio or perhaps just a basic alarm. Some people might like to listen to the radio or that buzzer when they waken, but I prefer to choose the song I want to hear. Easy enough. This alarm allows me to do that.

Unfortunately, this is where the product utterly fails. The alarm does awaken you to the sounds of your CD, and on the song you selected, but it does so at maximum volume! Yes, when the alarm rings, you will be blasted out of bed to the sounds of 2Pac's "California Love" or the theme to Rocky.

Before I go further, I am quite aware that this is a first-world problem. Fair enough. But what is the point of even having an America if in this America you cannot select the volume setting you would like to wake up to? The second we start allowing the machines to pick the volume of our music...well, friends, I don't have to tell you what's next.

If I was single, this wouldn't be so bad. When "Welcome to the Jungle" rips me from bed, clutching my chest in a desperate attempt to quell a potential heart attack, I would most certainly be awake. Do not let it be said that this alarm clock does not wake you up. However, I am not single.  Nor do I wish to be. See, when this alarm sounds, it not only wakens me in a panic. It wakens my wife. And my five-year old daughter, who often sneaks into bed. And the dog. And probably the next door neighbors. Now the instructions claim that the alarm will "gradually" increase in volume, but I must have a wildly different definition of the word "gradually" than the Capello company. There is nothing gradual about this.

This brings me to my next issue with the clock. I've given up on the CD part of the alarm. My marriage and sanity demand it. As such, since I cannot wake up to a song of my choosing, I wake up to the annoying buzzer. The buzzer may get many people out of bed on the first ring, but it does not do so for me. Which means I am using the snooze button.

My experience tells me that most snooze buttons go for 10 minutes. I don't know if it is an industry standard, but it sure seems like it. But Capello knows better. They have set their snooze to last 5 minutes. Does this mean I get up with the first snooze? Of course not. I hit it again. Once I've committed to using the snooze, I want my ten minutes. I believe most would feel the same.

Lastly, the snooze button on this CD alarm clock is placed strategically among the CD buttons. Which means that when I am fumbling in the dark for snooze, my fingers often drift to the play button on my CD player. In theory, this should not be a big deal. When I do use the CD playback function, I do so at a reasonable, marriage-saving volume level. Every music playback device I have owned will resume playing at the volume level previously selected during the last listening period. Now this can sometimes lead to awkward moments if you were rocking out in your car to something cool and hip when you left and return to a Kesha song, but overall it works well. But Capello knows better. When you resume playback with their device, it once again returns the volume to its highest setting. Which means that if I am not careful in the morning, and my clumsy fingers hit play, then I am once again waking up the room.

With that, I cannot recommend this CD alarm clock. As a buzzer alarm clock, if you don't mind the 5 minute snooze, it works OK. As a CD player, it works well. But as a CD alarm clock--an important distinction--it works very poorly. Therefore I see no suitable rating but a one star.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review of "Huckleberry Finn Grows Up"

As most know by now, I am a huge fan of Mark Twain and his literary child Huck Finn. I recently wrote a review to a sequel to the original for Amazon and Goodreads, and thought I would share it here as well, as I think I actually did a decent job of it.

Huckleberry Finn Grows Up 
When it comes to 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' sequels and spinoffs, I’ve pretty much read them all—and there are quite a few. Of course, Twain made his own attempts—some finished, one nearly so, others abandoned at various stages. There was a pair written in the 1930s by Clement Wood ('Tom Sawyer Grows Up', 'More Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'). The 100th anniversary brought us 'The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Greg Matthews, and the last decade has brought a rash of spinoff books, focused on side characters such as Huck’s Pap, Jim’s wife, and Becky Thatcher. Other authors even attempted to finish the work Twain started with 'Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians'. One by one I’ve devoured them. So when I heard about Sam Sackett’s 'Huckleberry Finn Grows Up', naturally I was inclined to check it out.

Attempting to follow Twain’s masterwork is a tall order for anyone. The end of the Twain original promises “howling adventures” for Huck as he “lights out for the territory.” Naturally, this is the path that most sequel writers have followed--to varying degrees of success. In this book, yes, Huck does go west. But Sackett does something different. The boyhood adventures of Huck are gone and in the territory, Huck becomes a man.

What becomes apparent during this opening section is that the idea of Huck having “howling adventures” in the territory was only a fantasy. In fact, Twain himself seemed to reach this conclusion during his aborted attempt to write a sequel—the attempt ended shortly after Twain implied that a female character had been raped. The facts as Twain saw them unfolding during an adventure in the territory negated his attempt at creating a fantasy. There would be no true sequel to 'Huck Finn' written by his creator.

Sackett avoids these complications by using his vast knowledge of history to carve out a credible path for Finn to follow. The adventures may not be howling, but historically, they ring true. Using clues and markers of Huck’s personality from the original text, Sackett writes a sequel to 'Huckleberry Finn' as if Huck was indeed a real person. Adding force to this idea, as a framing device, it is purported that the text comes from writing that Huck himself left.