17 May 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project


They Don't Make 'Em What They Used To

Time passes.  Things deteriorate.  They have to be replaced. 

I am generally oblivious to household goods.  Just as I had to be alerted to the existence of the tea making device lauded in a previous blogitem, I generally don't notice the existence or condition of things around the house.  Furniture?  Don't I already have a chair?  You get the picture.  Even so intimate a device as an electric blanket is subject only to the same spasmodic consideration as a leaky roof.  No matter what its condition when one is going to sleep, there's nothing to be done right then.  And somehow in the daytime it no longer matters.

But I do think about energy saving, and an electric blanket, notwithstanding my theories on microwave heating, is a very efficient device since it heats you rather than the indifferent space that surrounds you.  Last fall, with the departure of Katrina and the approach of winter, this was much on my alleged mind.  So, on one of the very rare occasions when I found myself in a store* I resolved to purchase** a replacement electric blanket.

Apparently they no longer exist. 

There is a substitute product, however, called a "warming blanket," that seems to perform the same function.  It has a small control panel with a digital readout and a knob, and a neat "preheat" feature which would be better if they spent a few seconds thinking about how it should work, but never mind.  The point is:  electric blankets, i.e., blankets that have heating elements that create warmth by dissipating electric energy, have become warming blankets, which have heating elements that create warmth by dissipating electric energy.

What is the point of changing the product nomenclature?  Aren't ALL blankets, at least those not used in cryogenic therapies, "warming" blankets?  Isn't "electric" a better designation for a blanket that uses electricity?  Doesn't it more effectively disambiguate its essential nature from that of ordinary blankets that impede convection, conduction, and radiation in a more passive manner?  Are these all rhetorical questions?

No!  They're real questions, to which an answer exists.  It is that we're afraid of electric blankets!  By "we" I mean everyone except you and me.  Apparently there have been studies whose perhaps-statistically-significant results have tentatively implied that using an electric blanket may possibly increase the incidence of some dread disease, most likely one sort of cancer, or perhaps some other sort.  Whoops. 

Fortunately these studies don't apply to warming blankets!

*Committing, I am ashamed to admit, premeditated acts of shopping.  Mitigating factors:  They had seasonal chocolates unobtainable elsewhere, and I was accompanied by an accredited female.

**I'll explain how this works some day.  It's not as easy as you may think.

Richard Factor