These days in our ‘throwaway’ society one doesn’t really think about longevity in products. Other than appliances like dishwashers or laundry equipment which are designed to last 10 years or so, typically your average appliance may last 5-6 years if you’re fortunate.

A month ago my Boom speaker stopped charging. It’s a Bluetooth-enabled speaker I’ve had since 2013 when I bought one because it did all the things I needed a BT speaker for and it was water-resistant so it could be used in the shower.  Seeing as this is 2021, it managed to live for 8 years of use.  Pretty good for nowadays, IMO.  Unfortunately, the business that made it is no longer IN business, for whatever reason they went bankrupt, and their products are now made by another company.  Not this particular speaker, however, since I can’t find any reference to it on the new company’s website.  The only references to it I can find are reviews that were published in 2012, and someone is selling backstock on eBay, for a ridiculously low price compared to the $150 price point it was originally.  Me being me, I bought two of them from the eBay seller, just in case the ‘newer’ ones aren’t as sturdy as my old workhorse.  Can’t be too careful, right?

Naturally, this incident has caused me to think about all the other appliances and doodads I’ve had over the years that have managed to overcome their anticipated demise date.

  • The Kitchen-Aid mixer that I inherited from my mother-in-law, that was probably made in the 1950s or 60s and is still going strong.
  • The box fan that my parents bought in the 1970s and still works just fine.
  • The Conair hair dryer I got for Christmas while I was still in high school that still runs fine, though more likely it still works because I use it so infrequently.
  • The metal power strip that my parents bought for me when I went away to college in 1983 and has outlived and outlasted dozens of plastic ones we’ve had since.
  • The wood and canvas director’s chairs that I inherited from my parents.  Canvas seats last nearly forever if you don’t allow them to get wet, or if you do, you make sure that you don’t leave them wet so the canvas rots.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  The old adage “they don’t make things like they used to” is spot on anymore.  Certainly one will find solely American-made products seem to outlast their contemporaries, for the most part.  Yes, I know there are many American-made items that don’t last very long, but I challenge you, dear reader.  Go to an antique store and find something that was made in the USA during the period of 1920 to say 1975.  I’ll wager if you were to plug it in (or not if it wasn’t electrical) or use it, it would, by and large, outdistance its 21st-century replacement.

Coming full circle

It’s early Saturday morning, which means my vacation is rapidly coming to a close.  By this time tomorrow I will be tucked into my bed, snuggled under the covers and anticipating (or dreading) going back to work.  I’ve purposefully stayed away from my place of employment so as not to interrupt the flow of work (hopefully) happening in my absence.  I expect things haven’t been going completely hunky-dory.  Certainly they didn’t the last time I went on vacation, and despite my best efforts to be sure my relief had all the tools he needed to get the work done, I expect it’s going to be a wreck when I go back on Sunday.

Needless to say, I haven’t missed being at work all that much.  I do get four weeks of vacation per year and as I’ve said many (many!) times, I’d be content taking two weeks of vacation and just getting paid for the other two weeks.  But my employer prefers that their employees take all of their alloted vacation.  Basically ‘Use it or lose it‘.  So I use it.

This week has not been so much sitting on my ponderous butt, watching TV.  It just so happened that my wife and I had scheduled four medical appointments, and we were on the go for most of the days that I was off.  Monday and Wednesday were the only exceptions, but Wednesday was gobbled up by an emergency dental appointment due to the fact that my wife slightly broke one of her teeth.  So that needed to be attended to.  And was.

Even though I spent some time helping a friend furnish her new apartment, I didn’t necessarily neglect my own domicile.  I ordered 4 large plastic storage boxes from Amazon (actually probably larger than I needed) and have been sorting through some things that I haven’t had use of in several years, that need to be secreted away before something nefarious happens to them.  I have to say I’d be pretty devastated if something did happen to them, and certainly I wouldn’t forgive myself easily.  If at all.  Once I have that attended to, I think I’ll breathe a sigh of relief.  That’s been a long time in coming to get accomplished.  At least when I have need of them again, I’ll know where they are.  I hope.

Anyway, it’s back to work tomorrow.  Only one more week of vacation to take for this fiscal year, then I’ll get another four weeks to agonize over on April 11.  Never ends, does it?

Interstellar Littering

So NASA successfully deposited another lander on Mars today.  Although in the process, they managed also to leave a bunch more debris on the surface of the planet, that will never be used again, certainly not for its intended purpose.  Basically, it’s just tossed aside because it has served its need in getting the lander to the planet.  By my count, we have put seven landers on the planet, along with assorted heat shields, balloons, parachutes, and (so far) two sky cranes which don’t have anything to do with the machines themselves, except for they were absolutely necessary to get the equipment to the planet in one piece.

It’s quite ironic to me that both JPL and NASA are very circumspect about not wanting to introduce Earth microbes onto other planets in our solar system, but they don’t seem to care too much about littering them.  Certainly, the Moon has been turned into a junkyard of sorts over the last 54 years, and near-Earth orbit is practically a shooting gallery of defunct satellites, space junk and it’s a miracle no one’s been killed in a space station from flying debris.  Space Command is currently keeping track of more than 4,000 objects in orbit around the planet, and that’s just the tip of the problem.

I’m all for exploring the solar system, and finding out about ancient life on the other planets that we have here, but do we have to make each one as cluttered as the one we’re currently living on?  Honestly, it doesn’t say much about us as a species if the only thing another space-faring civilization that comes across us discovers is we can’t pick up after ourselves.  I can actually see aliens arriving, dropping a pile of our space junk on the red carpet, and leaving, without so much as a word in their first contact, just a look of disgust.

Update:  Upon reading this again this morning, I feel it’s worth it to say that the United States space agencies aren’t the only ones to blame in this.  Certainly, the now-defunct Soviet Union, its successor Russia; India, China, Japan, the UK and I think South Africa, as well as South Korea, have all managed to put rockets into both low-Earth orbits as well as put landers and rovers on different planetary bodies in the interest of exploration.  In the coming years, I expect it’s only going to get worse, as the exploration of the cosmos steps up, in the expectation that we’re going to be putting people on the Moon as well as Mars.

In any plans though going forward, I would think there should be a serious discussion about what to do with the stewardship of these planetary bodies.  After all, they don’t really belong to us.  Or they will when we’ve treated them like the fictional planet of Sakaar from the MCU Universe, or Arcadia 234 from the movie Soldier.