Adventures in Interconnection

Back in February I ordered a pair of 15 foot 1/4″ cables from Monoprice to use for the radio programme as well as recording my guitar.  When I opened the box, the cables seemed a bit bulky, but I didn’t put much thought into them.  I used them for several weeks, bunching up the slack underneath the coffee table.  One night, after the radio show was over, Corinna and Rory started busting my balls about how long the cables were.  I had to admit they did seem just a touch longer than 15′.  So we busted out a tape measure and found that my 15′ cables were actually 50′.

Bank error in my favor?  I’d normally agree, but being I really only needed the cables to run the few feet from my mixer to the living room amplifier, it was a little ridiculous. Embarrassed that I didn’t realize this right away, I quickly resolved turn the two cables into four.  One pair of shorter patch cables (as I had originally ordered) and a long pair of extensions.  I also realized that my original estimate of 15′ was actually too long, so I decided on 10′ and 40′ lengths for the cables.

Fast forward several months to me actually getting off my ass to do this work.  A week or so ago I ordered all of the interconnects I actually needed, and a few days ago I measured and cut the cables to length, and began assembling them.  Or at least I had planned to.  It turned out that the insulation on the cable was too thick to fit through the jack housing.  Furthermore, my soldering iron was a piece of shit.  So I set everything aside until I could make a trip to the electronics shop.

This morning I made my pilgrimage “You-do-it” Electronics, home of everything a nerd needs for projects such as these. I picked up an alternate set of connectors, some sexy colored heat-shrink tubing to color code the cables and extensions, a nice Weller soldering iron, a new pair of dikes, and a bit of random stuff that has nothing to do with this project but which one is susceptible to buying at Nerd Mecca.  Once I got home with the right gear and parts, building the cables was a piece of cake.

My weekend project is done, I’ve acquired some new tools, breathed in some lead…  So far, so good!

Review: Stop and Shop EasyShop

The Stop and Shop on Pleasant Street (right on the Watertown/Waltham line) has introduced the greatest improvement to grocery shopping since the barcode scanner.  They call it EasyShop, and while I won’t say it makes shopping fun, it seriously decreases the pain.

When you first arrive at the store, there are a bunch of little handheld barcode scanners with color LCD panels on their backside, all locked up in a little kiosk.   You scan your discount card and and one of the scanners unlocks for you.   There are plastic and paper bags at the kiosk for your use as well.  Then, as you shop, you scan the items you wish to purchase and bag them right away, in your cart.  It tells you the price of anything you scan, giving you an option to add it to your order or forget about it.  It keeps a running tally of everything you’ve bought, and you can remove anything from your order with a button press and a scan.   For produce, they’ve set up little self-weigh stations that allow you to enter the produce code and print a barcode label.

Once you have everything you need, you head over to one of the self-checkout lanes and scan a little “I’m Done” barcode, then return the scanner to a rack.   After scanning your discount card again your entire order is instantly transferred to the self-checkout register and all you have to do is pay and you’re done.  This is so fundamentally better than any of the previous attempts at “self-checkout” systems, which too often relied on scale platforms after the register to keep track of the weight of things you’ve scanned at an attempt to ensure you aren’t taking more than you’re paying for.   In my experience, about 60% of the time these scales malfunction requiring one of the employees to come over and swipe their card.

There were only a few suggestions I had for the system:

  1. Right now, to checkout using EasyShop, you have to use the general self-checkout lanes, which are often being used by people not using EasyShop.  So you sometimes still have to wait around for the person in front of you to deal with all the usual frustrations with self-checkout.  It would be nice if they had one or two EasyShop only lanes.  Since there’s no need for a conveyor belt or such, these could be much smaller.
  2. As far as I can tell, in order add produce to the order you have to print out a barcode label using their printer.  When I’m using my cloth reusable bags, I often just keep one bag for produce and don’t put my produce in the clear produce bags they offer.  This means that not only is it wasteful for me to have to print out one of these barcode labels for each vegetable I buy, but once I’ve printed and scanned it, I have nothing to stick it to, since the produce isn’t in one of the plastic baggies.  It’d be nice if there was an option that allowed me to be less wasteful.
  3. It’d be neat if they could come up with some way to help keep the tops of the bags open in my cart while I’m shopping. 

All in all, though, these are minor suggestions, and I’m sure they will refine the system as time passes.  Some people may be annoyed by the occasional “cha-ching” the scanner-phaser emits as it notifies you of a super-deal (a.k.a. advertisment)!  This only happened to me 2 or 3 times in a 30 minute shopping trip and I quickly learned not to even look down when the cha-ching sound struck.

I noticed that the deli at this same Stop and Shop has a little computer kioskto input your order into…   Next time I need some deli supplies I’ll be sure to give it a swing and report back to you

Our Fake Christmas (Tree)

and I have never had a Christmas tree here in Boston..  Our last place was way too small, and beyond that, we leave for the last two weeks of December each year, so we not only aren’t around to enjoy it, but also aren’t around to take care of a real tree.   But since we purchased our new house and have some more elbow room, we decided to get a fake tree to get a little pre-game Christmas cheer going on… 

I’m not a huge fan of fake trees, in fact, I protested for years when my family switched to fake trees until they switched back…  But buying a real tree for our house and having to take it down and dispose of it BEFORE we leave for our Christmas holiday..  Well that is just crazy…

So we began looking for a good fake tree, which turned out to be much more difficult than I had imagined..  We went to Sears to learn that all their trees were pre-lit except for one, and any of the trees that looked remotely real were $200+.  We then swung over to Target, and they too only had pre-lit trees, which was frustrating.  I’m interested in using some of the new LED lights on our tree, since they use much less power than traditional lights and I suspect they are far more durable than the notoriously awful mini-lights…   But if the tree comes pre-lit, I would have to dispose of those lights, not to mention I suspect I’m paying premium price for the lights on the pre-lit tree..  So I retreated to the Internet…

I found lots of options online for non-lit trees, and settled on a model from Christmas Trees Galore.  Obviously I didn’t see the tree in person, so I can only hope it looks good once it’s been delivered and we set it up, but it was $100 less than many of the trees we were looking at and I’m not paying some factory worker to put lights on my tree…

A whole lotta nuttin….

Well, I didn’t do much today…. I helped my mom out with various stuff, and that’s about it… I waited around for quite awhile tonight for Chuck and John to come over, but I guess they ended up being too busy with their (John’s) Christmas shopping…

Chris had asked me to come over today, but I told her I couldn’t cuz they were coming over, and now I feel dumb. :) I will probably hang out with Chris tomorrow, so we can exchange gifts and stuff…

Shopping fun in Ledgewood!

As planned, Chris came over around 5pm this evening, and we headed out to Ledgewood so she could do the Christmas shopping for her folks. We looked around in the Ledgewood mall, and we weren’t satisfied with the selection. We decided to head over to a few stores in the Roxbury mall (which is like 1000 yards away), but first we grabbed some dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s. I had only been there once before, and the meal was pretty good, but my usual stomache problems soon surfaced…. I should get that checked out some time….

We then headed over to the other mall, and she got everything that she needed, which was good. We came back to my house around 9:30pm, and she helped decorate the tree with my family… Lotsa fun, I haven’t really had a chance to do that since I left for RIT (as far as I can remember, at least)….

I wish I had the opportunity to spend more time with her…. We always have lots of fun, and even though we have had our disagreements and problems in the past, she still means alot to me… I look forward to spending more time with her over this break (even though she has a pretty packed schedule).

nighty night…. :P