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control Bob
BY BOB SMITH

This past Sunday was snowy and cold, so I decided to space-out watching football all afternoon. First, I gathered the choice parts of the Sunday New York Times – the Book Review, Arts section, the magazine, Automobiles, and Week in Review. Solid, semi-serious reading. Next, the New York Post for comic relief – stories full of blood, sex, political graft, and combinations of the above. Rounding out the reading pile was the Asbury Park Press – good for the Jumble, and to see if any local politicians have gotten themselves mired in New York Post-worthy peccadilloes.

Most important, I assembled the electronic devices I’d need to ensure full control over my environment. First, the entertainment controls: the Samsung TV controller, the Denon controller for the receiver that distributes sound to speakers around the room, and of course, the silver Cablevision device. To watch a cable show, you first power-up the TV, receiver, and cable box by pushing the appropriate “on” button located near the top of each controller. Then you use the Cablevision controller to change channels, and the Denon device to change the sound volume. – unless you’re watching a show through Netflix or some other Internet-based service like HBO GO.

Because my system is wired wrong, and I don’t have the electrical engineering degree needed to sort it out, my amazing Denon surround sound speakers don’t transmit Internet audio. But you still must have the Denon receiver powered up to continue receiving a TV video signal. So for Internet-based programs, you turn Cablevision power off so no cable-based sound comes through the Denon speakers, and instead use the Samsung controller to adjust the sound that’s now coming only through the tinny speakers on the TV. Simple, right?

Then there’s the gas fireplace. This controller is straightforward, with two settings that work like the Human Torch character: flame on/flame off. It also has a thermostat to select an approximate room temperature the unit will maintain by activating an electric blower. I’ve never figured out how to adjust this temperature setting downward, so the fireplace constantly tries to keep our family room at a toasty 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it gets cranked up, you could melt marshmallows within eight feet of the hearth. On football Sundays, we call this the “red zone.”

To counter the red-zone effect, we have the white Casablanca controller, which turns the ceiling fans on or off, and adjusts their speed. You can also use this to reverse the blades’ direction, so if you’re feeling chilly, you have the fans rotate downward to recirculate fireplace heat within the room. And if you want to see if the dog, or anyone else hiding upstairs, may be susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning, you rotate the fans so they pull the heat upward.

Entertainment: check.
Environment: check.
Next, communications: in case someone calls during the game, and I actually want to talk to them, I also include the cordless house phone in my couchside array. Because our telephone service is provided by the cable company, the caller’s name and phone number is displayed on my TV screen, so I can readily ignore any unwelcome calls, such as telemarketers. That includes the cable company itself, which at least once a month tasks some unfortunate drone with calling to ask if I want to upgrade my service. I could lease a high-end Ferrari if I canceled my current subscription, and used that money more wisely, so I always decline. (Of course, I have a little fun first: “Are you watching the game right now?” “No.” “Me neither, thanks to you.” HANG UP.)

Finally, I have my smartphone on the table. It’s not shown in the accompanying photo because I was using it to take that picture – which is one of its most useful features. If in the middle of the game you feel an urge to take a snapshot of your feet in dingy gray/ once-white gym socks, there it is. Bang. Instant gratification. Then you can message it to anyone you like. Bang. Instant gross-out.

It’s also good for taking calls from people you ignored when their name and number flashed on the TV screen. After all, if someone really needs to talk to me, they’ll follow up with a call to my cellphone. I simply explain that I missed their call to the house because I was out buying batteries for my controllers.

So there I was ready to control my world: video source, volume, channel, picture-in-picture, flames on or off, ceiling fans up or down, phone calls taken or ignored, toes waiting to be sent into the ether for snarky commentary, all the news that’s fit to print, and all the news fit to wrap fish. I had it all.

I fell asleep ten minutes into the game. But I had powerful dreams.