Friday, January 28, 2011

Common Symptoms of Contaminated Power

by Drew Martin

I have always liked the peripheral, tangential and unintended joys of things. When I was a kid, I loved sitting on top of our old bench-like wooden cabinet record player (with it silent) and looking out our big picture window (just above it), especially to watch cars trying to make it up the steep hill, diagonally situated in front of our house, in snowy-icy weather. I like the swishing of washing machines, the hissing of steam radiators, the warmth of bedside reading lamps, the beautiful red glow of electric heating coils. Just as the staff of the New York Times do not go to work every day to make a product to protect floors and carpets from puppy pee and poop, the side affects/effects and alternative lives of things are typically unintended.

One of my favorite objects to look at in my house is a Panamax M5100-PM. It was purchased three years ago with an oversized flatscreen television in order to "eliminate common symptoms of contaminated power (including loss of detail, pops, hisses, hums and visual noise)."

I had always assumed electricity was smooth and constant (a steady 110 volts in the US), except for occasional surges, like some warranted electric wrath of Zeus throwing lightning bolts our way, but it is actually quite unpredictable and jerky. Electricity coming into one's house my case it's between 118 - 125 volts. The Panamax is an inconspicuous black box (but kind of cool looking) that has a digital volt meter display (pictured here) with three, soothing, glowing bluish-white Arabic numbers. You plug the box into the wall, and various electronics into it. I have no idea if it actually protects against surges and other such disturbances but even if I did not have valuable electronics hooked up to it, I would still keep it plugged in because I find it very meditative to watch the numbers bump up and down with a mind of their own. I like to think about what the wavering electricity might sound like...perhaps a kid's kazoo or a trans-galactic theremin.