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For the last few years, engineers have tried to reduce the number of buttons and knobs on electrical appliances. It's a good idea. For example, my father-in-law's 5-year-old TV set came with a remote that has over 70 buttons. It's not easy to figure out which combination of cryptically-labeled buttons gets the TV to work, but it's dead simple to press the wrong button and mess everything up. My father-in-law has taken to keeping the remote control hidden. If I want to watch TV when he's not around, I have to kneel in front of the set and press the tiny black rectangular buttons put there for idiots who either lose the remote control unit, don't know how to use it, or have destroyed it in a fit of frustration.

That's why I like my Good Point electric pencil sharpener. It doesn't have any buttons and it's more entertaining than TV. Be honest ­ which would you rather listen to: an anchorman talk about a clutch of ducklings found inside an abandoned tractor tire, or the synesthetically delicious sound of a spinning helical steel blade grind your wooden pencil to a fine point? And which would you rather watch: a sitcom about young coastal urbanites with glamorous jobs they never attend to, or tiny corkscrew-shaped wood shavings eject into a smoke-tinted plastic receptacle? What's more, while TV sets may one day come with odor synthesizers, I doubt the olfactory experience will come close to the pleasure of withdrawing the pencil from the sharpening hole and savoring the smell of newly-released aromatic oils and resins previously trapped within the wood.

Not only does the battery-powered Good Point delight the senses, its small size and footprint mean you can always keep it on your desk. It's four porous rubber feet provide just the right amount of friction to prevent the unit from sliding when performing a one-handed sharpening maneuver, yet they'll compliantly break traction should you want to slide the sharpener to a different location. I can understand why the Good Point comes with an instruction manual ­ a few people might need to be told how to install batteries and empty the pencil shavings receptacle ­ but I can't figure out why the following procedure is included:


1. Push pencil vertically downwards into sharpening hole. Avoid pressing hard.

2. Hold pencil firmly while pencil is being sharpened.

3. After sharpening, remove pencil. Motor will stop automatically.

Does anyone need to know how to use an electric pencil sharpener? You've got a pencil, it's got a hole. If you need to be told how to proceed, then it's probably safer for everyone that your pencil stays blunt. -- Otto Matik

Good Point: US$10. Royal Consumer Business Products: +1 (908) 526 8200, Fax +1 (908) 704 6571.

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