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Sometimes It’s The Simple Answer

Posted by on Sep 22, 2010

I like to think of myself as a pretty smart guy. I accumulate a lot of information and knowledge, which helps me in many areas. Unfortunately, I often recognize that one can think of themselves as being so intelligent that they can do some of the dumbest things. I have two stories for you.


Simplicity
by Niklas Plessing

The first involves my car. I noticed one evening when I came home that the light on the roof of my car didn’t come on when I opened the door. That freaked me out because it’s pretty dark in my garage in the evening and we don’t have a light in there. I determined the next morning that I was going to figure out what the problem was.

I got my tools, went to the car, got out the manual and went to work. I knew where the fuses were, so I pulled out the pliers so I could grab those fuses and went to work. In about 30 minutes I’d looked at half the fuses, those that I thought addressed the light issue, and I couldn’t find a thing wrong. At that point I determined that maybe the bulb had blown; I didn’t test that first because I don’t have any replacement bulbs had that been the case.

The thing is, I’ve had my car about 4 years now, and truthfully I don’t know where everything is inside. I got in, started driving, and I only look at stuff when something strikes my mind. I look up at the light and I notice there are 3 buttons there; I’d never seen any of these before. None of them were pushed in, but one of them said “lamp”. I pushed that one in and the light came on. I closed the door and it started dimming like it’s supposed to do. I opened the door and it worked again; ugh! All that time when all I had to do was push a button. No idea how it got turned off, but there you go; it’s worked ever since.

A few days ago I went to a friend’s house because she had a computer problem. I didn’t remember what the problem was until I got there and she told me again, but I’d brought all my tools and some programs to check the sucker out, just in case I needed them.

She said there was no sound and that they’d been missing it for almost 2 months. I picked up the speakers, cheap Dell speakers, and they looked fine. I checked the connection behind the computer; all was good. I checked all the volume controls on the computer and made sure everything was turned all the way up.

Then I opened up Windows Media Player and started up a song. I heard something, and it was one of the songs playing. But the sound was really weak. I went to a different song and we could hear it, but it was low. We went through all the processes again, and the sound was still low for everything. We opened her iTunes and played a couple of songs there also; same problem.

However, the sound seemed to have increased in some fashion; that was odd. I looked at the speakers again. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t any type of volume control on them; who ever heard of speakers without volume control in today’s world. Then I took a good look at both speakers. One of them had a raised part that the other one didn’t. I thought the volume control might be under that, so I grabbed the one speaker and tried lifting it up. It wouldn’t come off, but the volume went up. I realized that was the volume control; duh! I had once again taken almost 30 minutes to figure out a problem that could have been solved in less than a minute. These folks, however, hadn’t figured it out in 2 months, so at least I was better than they were.

All of this reminds me of the apocryphal story of the U.S. and Soviet space programs. The U.S. was trying to figure out how to write in space, so they spent millions working on technology for pens to work in zero gravity. The Soviets used a pencil; problem solved.

Sometimes the correct answer is sitting there in front of us and we miss it. Of course, that’s not as funny as going through the rest of the steps, but it would save some time. Something to think about on a rainy Wednesday; at least it is here.

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17 Comments »

Patricia:

Good one Mitch. I am so not a problem solver so I would still be trying to figure it all out. At least you got there in the end.
BTW it’s spring here in the southern hemisphere and we have had a beautiful sunny day. More to follow tomorrow 🙂
Patricia Perth Australia

September 22nd, 2010 | 10:24 AM
Mitch:

Yeah, it’s about to warm up where you are, Patricia, whereas here it’s about to start getting cold. Well, at least after this week, as it seems for once that we’re trying to hold onto summer a while longer.

September 22nd, 2010 | 12:37 PM

I have gone my whole life without hearing about the Soviet pencil thing, but since Sunday I have heard it from 3 unrelated people. Weird.

September 22nd, 2010 | 12:25 PM
Mitch:

That it weird, almost like buying a new car. lol

September 22nd, 2010 | 12:38 PM

Keith, that is not weird! That is coincidence at its best!! You might like to read http://www.beliefnet.com/Holistic-Living/2003/10/Coincidences-Clues-From-The-Universe-By-Deepak-Chopra.aspx

You can either laugh at it or probe further as I did both, and find a new insight.

September 23rd, 2010 | 1:51 AM
Val:

I have a phrase for this type of problem, Mitch. I call it “getting older.”
😉

September 22nd, 2010 | 5:01 PM
Mitch:

I can’t blame it on that Val, since I’ve pretty much done that kind of thing for a long time now lol

September 22nd, 2010 | 6:32 PM

I know that I am not a smart guy when it comes to my car and my computer and simply call for or go to experts to get whatever problems crop up. My auto garage chaps usually laugh at the fuss I make and do not charge for small corrections and I have learnt a lot of things from them on attending to small matters myself.

Now, I have a problem for which the solution may be simpler than what I came up with. You will no doubt recollect that a lot of my readers were unable to access my blog some time ago as a Russian malware got installed there. I got that cleaned up and switched from MS to a Mac. Most of my readers have now been able to access my blog bar one. I have suggested that he change his search engine but he chose to get my posts by email and he comments by email too.

Another one has just sent me a mail saying that he is unable to comment on my blog and I have suggested that he try with another search engine than the IE that he uses. But since you are more experienced in tackling these problems, is there a simpler way to ensure that all my readers are able to access my blog and also to comment irrespective of what search engine they use?

Most obliged if you could come to my rescue.

See, I have just gone to an expert!

September 23rd, 2010 | 1:41 AM
Mitch:

Rummuser, I just went to your blog and I was able to write a comment on it, which proves that it’s not your blog that’s the problem. I would agree with you that your friend should try a different browser as a test, either Opera or Chrome ( always test with Opera), and if it works, which I expect it will, then it will prove his browser is corrupted. For blogs, if everyone else can comment then it’s the other person’s computer that’s messing up.

September 23rd, 2010 | 2:02 AM
Jennifer:

I like the sowjet pencil story, it’s just a urban legend though. The pen wasn’t developed on NASAs budget. But it delivers an important message.

September 23rd, 2010 | 5:53 AM
Mitch:

Yes it does Jennifer, but I have to admit that I just happened to think of it while I was writing the post, as I hadn’t heard it in years.

September 23rd, 2010 | 10:26 AM
Carl:

Most of the times the answer is simple, the only thing is that we can not see it, as it is very simple and we live in complex world. I remember the time when my 3D animation career have started. The first time I opened the software, I got lost in so many buttons and functions. At that time the guy that used to teach me said, it is very simple, just learn to read the interface, it is all in front of your eyes. After this lesson, I know that I can use any software, because the functionality is just infront of my eyes and on my fingertips.

September 23rd, 2010 | 8:57 AM
Mitch:

I’d probably have to agree with the idea that most of the time problems are easily answered. Yet they don’t always seem so easy when we’re looking at them, do they?

September 23rd, 2010 | 10:25 AM

I just KNEW you were going to say the light button was off!

I helped a woman problem solve her speaker problem once- it was unplugged! Ya never know.

My better 1/2 is a diesel mechanic- sometimes he gets a call from a driver stating that they have no air. He checks it out- oftentimes, they have the two airlines mixed up. Ron reverse’s them, and it’s fixed!

That’s when you pay BIG time for a simple mistake (and a simple fix).

September 23rd, 2010 | 9:46 AM
Mitch:

True Carolee. I need to start looking at the simple fixes first, as I could save myself a lot of time and effort. 🙂

September 23rd, 2010 | 10:24 AM

I like the pencil story, too, whether it actually happened or not. Its lesson applies to almost every area of life.

I’ve had similar experiences to yours — too many to count — in which I could have saved myself a lot of time if only I’d stopped working with my hands and started working with my brain. The most recent incident involved a laser printer that just wouldn’t respond. After hours of checking cables, reinstalling drivers, and doing the same few things over and over, I gave up and called tech support. The guy told me to power down the printer, wait a minute, and then turn it back on. As soon as I did, it began spitting out all those pages I’d been trying to print. Will I remember the next time?

September 24th, 2010 | 8:28 AM
Mitch:

That’s funny Charles, and I’m glad I learned that one pretty early into my computing days. But I’ve done similar things with other computer applications, so we’re in the same place.

September 24th, 2010 | 9:34 AM