Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sod’s Law in Action

Recently, I experienced such a classic dose of Sod’s Law that I thought I’d share it with you as a means of differentiating it from Murphy’s Law.

My American friends will only be familiar with Murphy’s Law, as Sod’s Law has no jurisdiction in the US – or at least it didn’t when I lived there. Murphy’s Law, despite its misuse, is a simple design principle observing the fact that if something can go wrong then, eventually, it will.

For example: you take your new yacht on an extended voyage (or, for you people of lesser means, take your old yacht). If it is possible for the rudder to fall off, at some point, if you take enough trips, it will. That’s Murphy’s Law; Sod’s Law is more like my experience with the pedometers.

My wife and I carry pedometers. This is something you will just have to accept. We have been doing this for so long that I cannot recall a time I did not have a pedometer with me. In the early days of this experiment, we gave several varieties of pedometer a try and found most of them to be rubbish.

Cheap but not very good.
After a number of tries, we hit upon the Omron-III, available at our local Argos. We each bought one, and they are brilliant.

Expensive, but good.
The Omron-III counts your steps, your distance, the (theoretical) number of calories burned and stores seven days’ worth of data, all in a conveniently pocket-sized gadget. And the batteries last a very long time, which is a definite advantage but also means that I have to read the instructions every time I replace one because I can’t remember how I did it the last time.

As it happened, the battery in mine ran out last autumn. I replaced the battery but the device began shorting out, showing erratic numbers and then going blank. I tried resetting it but nothing worked.

I was going to buy a new one, but then I remembered I had a spiffy new Smart Phone that did, gosh, everything, so I did a quick search for pedometers and, sure enough, there were a plethora of them.

Just a sampling of all the pedometer apps available.
After some research, I settled on one that was a pedometerphile’s (make sure you read that correctly!) dream: it recorded steps, calculated distance, allowed you to write notes about your daily walks (for what reason, it never said) and stored data – not for a mere seven days – but forever. It was magic! The only problem was, it didn’t actually record all my steps.

On my own, I would never have known this, but I often had someone walking next to me with an Omron-III and, at the end of our walks, I would find myself shorted by several hundred steps. Even so, this wouldn’t have bothered a normal person, but my wife and I have a sort of competition over our daily steps—with 10,000 steps a day being the desired goal—and my dodgy phone pedometer dropping steps (but c’mon, it was free, what do you expect?) didn’t help my cause any.

Still, I persevered; through The Move, through the Holidays and into the New Year, but it finally got the better of me and yesterday I became Officially Fed Up and proposed to Do Something About It.

First, I spent some time searching for the old Omron-III on the off-chance that I might be able to fix it. I recalled bringing it with us from the old flat but its current whereabouts remained a mystery, even though I poked through all the likely hiding places and peered into things that were cunningly stored inside of other things.

So, impatient to get an accurate count of my daily steps, I went out and bought a new one. Or, at least, I tried. Argos, where we bought the old ones, now sold a different model of the same brand. I bought it, thinking it would be an updated version with even more bells and whistles but it turned out to be the Omron-I, which did nothing but count steps—no storage, no daily steps or calories burned. Again, this would not have bothered a normal person, but going back to basic pedometry after experiencing the Omron-III would be like reverting to a dial-up modem after enjoying WiFi. (you older folks, explain “dial-up modem” to the youngsters).
Your basic model -- no bells, no whistles.

Of course I didn’t find out my new Omron was not as good as my old Omron until I got it home. And so, with mounting impatience, I ordered a proper Omron-III from the internet vendor everyone loves to hate, and even paid seven pounds and 21 pence for next day delivery.

As soon as I pressed the BUY button, I looked up at my In-Out tray, where I keep a lot of miscellaneous items, and there was my old Omron-III sitting right in plain sight. (This is Sod’s Law.) A quick check confirmed the problem—I had put in the wrong battery. (This is Murphy’s Law.)

So now I have access to a perfectly functioning Omron-III, a brand new Omron-III (thanks to my £7.21 it is already sitting on my shelf), an adequate Omron-I and more free, but suspect, Smart Phone pedometers than you can shake a BT WiFi Hub at.

I think, with all this at my disposal, I should be able to accurately record my steps to the pub, where I am heading now because I certainly need a drink.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not sure if I am legally supposed to do this, but it's probably a good idea anyway. Omron, in no way, influenced my review of their product by giving me any compensation or free pedometers or anything. (But if they want to, I'd really appreciate it.)


  1. You could, of course, sell both the Omron I and one of the Omron IIIs (how do you type Roman numerals, btw? I can't find them on my Kindle), on said internet site, or indeed that other internet site, and get some of your money back. Although if you did, it would almost certainly be the case that the one you keep would then break.

    Would that be Sod's Law or Murphy's Law?

    1. Thanks for the advice, but I think I will keep them both as a back-up. As you point out, if I did send one back, the one I kept would break, and that would be a combination of Sod's Law AND Murphy's Law.