I was reading the control panel of the GE Profile range that came with our condo some years ago and discovered a touchpad option labeled ‘Self Clean.’

I’m sure I must have seen it before – it’s right next to ‘Start/Stop,’ which is the only control on the touch pad I ever use, and then only quite rarely (we have a microwave, so who needs an oven?) – but I had never really taken it in.

SELF CLEAN. If only my car had such a setting. And shouldn’t kitchen floors have this option?

I noticed this button because I have very high ‘good cholesterol,’ achieved because I eat a lot of salmon, mostly smoked and ready to eat, but occasionally bought straight from the fish counter in its natural fishy state. Broil enough of it over the years, and even the most casual of housekeepers – if he or she has any olfactory sense – will come to the conclusion that something needs to be done.

In this case: pushing ‘Self Clean’ on the touch pad.

I had never done this and had no idea what to expect. (Are you supposed to put detergent inside the oven first?) I was expecting orange digital instructions, but all I got was a blinking: LOCKING OVEN DOOR . . . followed a few seconds later with a solid: LOCKED.

That’s all it said, although I sensed a ‘Step Away From the Oven’ message, undisplayed but implied.

What it should have said was: ‘Are you sure you want to proceed? Have you read all the warnings? Have you someplace else to live for a few hours?’

And then . . . if you pressed YES . . . it should have issued one final instruction:


A noxious odor quickly permeated the condo that – even with the windows flung wide open – was surely life-threatening.

What are they doing in there, I wondered?

(By ‘they,’ I refer to the hamsters who used to power 5-1/4-inch computer disk drives, but were repurposed to clean ovens when the disk drives were miniaturized.)

And here’s how amazing our world is. To find out just how all this works, I typed self-cleaning oven into Google and clicked ‘I’m feeling lucky.’ As I clicked, I realized Google would probably just take me to some on-line appliance megasite to compare prices and features. But no. Google must have Mind Meld in beta (it reads your mind) because I got this. (And yes, the oven ultimately unlocked its door and was clean as fresh fallen snow.)


Dave Davis: ‘I found this terrific web site that explains everything you’ve always wanted to know about electricity but were too intimidated to ask. I thought it was worth sharing. There are a lot of money-saving tips.’


Your oil stocks have done well (APC up from $56.50 to $105, TXCO up from $4.50 to nearly $12), which is some consolation. But one marvels at the short-sightedness of Detroit – and Washington and (I’m sorry) the electorate.

I had a chance to interview the Secretary of the Treasury in 1974, after OPEC had quadrupled the price of oil to $12 a barrel. Shouldn’t we raise the puny gas tax by a dime a year for a couple of decades – using every dime collected to lower the tax on things we wanted to encourage, like work and investment?

Yes, of course, he said, dismissively (how naïve could I be?); but it’s politically impossible.  (Even President Clinton’s 4.3 cent gas tax hike produced howls.)

Yet if we had done that obvious thing, look where we’d be today.  We would lead the world in fuel efficiency technology – Toyota would be licensing hybrid technology from us – and we would be hundreds of billions of dollars less in debt.

Here’s Arianna’s take on $3 gasoline.  If only our government were self-cleaning.


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