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JANUARY 22, 2008    

Work or play

Today's mail gave me two options: fix my crappy water heater—again—or watch a movie.

Replacement manifold for water heaterThe big box stuck inside the screen door held an entire manifold/thermocouple assembly for my Whirlpool water heater. As part of a settlement in a class-action suit involving these water heaters, which have a bad habit of needing their pilot lights relit frequently (sometimes daily), I got new parts to install. Oh boy.

Since I recently replaced the thermocouple itself I guess I'll wait 'til that one craps out before taking the whole thing apart to put in the new assembly. My friend Wally had earlier suggested that I just call and get this assembly rather than replacing the thermocouple, but I didn't follow his advice.

Netflix movie The Yesmen in sleeveTo counterbalance the hour or so I'll spend on the basement floor with the water heater, I can watch my first Netflix selection, The Yes Men, that also arrived today.

I saw the film at a Design Inquiry conference in Maine a couple of years ago, and have recommended it to many friends since then. Maybe next week I'll organize a movie night and invite them all to see it. It's one of those fun documentaries that makes a serious point—how we easily accept "authoritative sources"—without beating you over the head with it.

As I tried to figure out how to open the Netflix envelope I understood why it had come up in a recent Interactive Media class as an example of poor usability. You have to tear it open carefully without destroying it, since you need it later to return the video. This simple act seemed more stressful than necessary.

On the other hand, the movie synopsis printed on the otherwise plain sleeve makes a lot of sense. Gives you useful information without adding excess packaging.

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