Inconsiderate Watertown

So Watertown has a current, massive project to resurface and reengineer Pleasant Street. We live right off of Pleasant Street, on Howard Street. Directly behind our home is a former train right-of-way which is used by the town. It is bad enough in the winter when the town uses the lot to store snowplows even though they just built a big honkin’ $1m+ DPW lot a mile or so away. But since the Pleasant St. project began, they have been using the lot as a temporary store for construction equipment and dirt storage. When I say "dirt storage", I don’t mean anything long term. Throughout the day, dump trucks bring many loads of dirt and rocks, loudly and messily dumping into the lot. What is strange is that OTHER trucks come throughout the day as well, taking dirt away. It seems to me they could save a step there by never unloading the dump trucks in the first place, but hey, why bring logic into this?

Anyway, I’ve been pretty passive on this nuisance, in fear of turning into some kind of NIMBY crazyman. But there is presently a front end loader loading up a dump truck at 11pm. Every time the loader goes back for a new scoop of dirt it’s reverse beep goes off. And then there’s the big crash when the dirt reaches the dump truck.   I immediately called the DPW, presumably getting their answering service, to file a complaint.  They took my information and I will be expecting a call back tomorrow.  This is unacceptable.  It’s bad enough my back yard and deck are effectively unusable between 7am and 5pm on most days due to noise and dust, but now the neighborhood has to tolerate being woken up by this noise at 11 at night?

Attn: Arsenal on the Charles

Parking has become a pretty crazy problem here at the Arsenal. Nobody seems to know whether the problem is increased load from the tenants, or from outside pressure (people using the FREE garage then taking the 70 bus to Central, etc), but it is now not uncommon to be unable to find any parking in the complex if you arrive late.

Today, the Arsenal had security officers with clipboards posted at all the garage entrances, making people roll down their windows, asking them “We want to make sure the people using the garage work in the arsenal”, and then waving them through. What, exactly, does this accomplish? Why would it be so hard to distribute parking passes to all the tenants? It can’t be that expensive to print up a few hundred hang tags for employee cars… Instead, you have this security crew assigned to create traffic and test peoples ability to lie. I wasn’t even asked what company I worked for, I was just told “We want to make sure the people parking here work here”. This would be much more frustrating if I didn’t walk or take the bus on most days…

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

Huge Halloween

Last night I got home from work after stopping by CVS to get some candy for the trick or treaters.  I put out the pumpkin I carved the night before and also dug some Halloween decorations out from the basement.  Quickly, the kid Frankie came from across the street dressed as a young Padawan. 

He was our only trick or treater.


The Girard Plague(tm)

Had a little get together for some various college friends this weekend in Hopatcong…   I’ve done this for the past few years, and everyone seems to enjoy it, especially when the weather is as gorgeous as it was this weekend past.  We just chilled out on the Party Barge, Regency Edition, swam, ate, and drank.  This party is always complicated because the boat really is the limiting factor, as it only seats 14 including the driver.  We were pretty much at capacity this year, which means I might seriously have to look into renting a second boat next year…  Which should make invitations less complicated but increase the planning required.


were among the attendees, and they came with a bit of a cold.  Unfortunately, I seem to have picked up that cold, and it is really kicking my ass (but I’m still glad they were able to come to the party)…   I’ve been out of work for the past two days, but I’m starting to come around…  I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be fighting off the congestion, and I probably won’t walk to work, but I’m starting to get a little stir-crazy in the house.

The couple buying the condo below us closed today, so it is our first evening with neighbors in two months.  I’ve gotten so used to having the run of the place, it will take a little getting used to.  They seem cool as hell, though, so I’m not anticipating any troubles…

Various Weekend Bits

and I spent most of the weekend hanging out around the house and plowing through the massive unpacking chores ahead of us..  Corinna finally had the opportunity to get the bedroom mostly in order, so the boxes of clothes are mostly gone and things are starting to find their “right place”.  I continued to sort through my stuff, trying to pare down stuff…  I’ve come across even more stuff to give away.. 

Eventually I’ll post a master list of stuff, but if you have the need for a Netgear 8-port 10/100 switch or a SMC 8-port 10/100 wired NAT firewall/router, or a PS1 without any cables or controllers, which I believe still works, but I haven’t touched it in years…  let me know. 

I ordered my TV, it’d be awesome if it came before the weekend, but I doubt that will happen…


Dad was up this weekend, both for a visit and to bring back Hawkeye.  It had been awhile since he had been up to Boston, and he had the honor of being the first overnight guest in our new house.  The house is still a complete mess, with boxes all over the place, but at least now all of our stuff is in the house now (and out of storage or my parents’ house).  Now it’s just a matter of unpacking it all and putting things in their place.  I’m trying to get rid of as much crap as I can as I unpack things, especially a lot of the geek cruft I’ve accumulated over the years…  I have several boxes which are just full of cables, and that’s just ridiculous!

Anyway, I got home from work a little early to meet with the RCN technician who was there to install the two CableCARDs into my new Tivo Series3 HD.  It took about 45 minutes, some of which was the technician waiting for someone at dispatch to pick up the phone and activate the cards…  You would think they would just do that before sending out the tech, but that would make sense.  Anyway, after the dispatch guy putzed around for like 20 minutes they were eventually up and running with almost all of the channels, but Discovery HD, HDNet, and HDNet Movies had no picture or sound.  I made an executive decision to neglect to mention this to the tech and deal with someone over the phone instead.  This morning I read on the Tivo Community Forums that those three channels were the only members of the HD Tier, so I assumed that the HD Tier was not activated on my account.  Sure enough, a quick call to RCN resolved that (in theory, I’m at work so I can’t test it.. :P).  Now I just have to get an HD television… :P

After the tech left my dad called and said he was mired in traffic on 90..  Pretty unusual, since most people are leaving Boston around that time, but who can predict traffic around here…  Anyway, Dad arrived around 5:30pm, and Corinna got home for work soon afterwards..  After a quick tour of the new place, we hit up the Summer Shack in Cambridge for dinner..  I normally might have preferred the downtown location, but I was pretty hungry and it was a home game for the Red Sox, so it tends to get a little hairy down there…  Dinner was awesome, and afterwards we headed back to the house and took a walk along the Charles before settling in for the night.

Saturday was pretty busy, we left the house pretty early to head over to the Museum of Science.  We weren’t actually going to the museum, though, instead we were picking up a Duck Tour there.  We got there around 11am, but they were already sold out until 3pm, so we ended up heading over to Harpoon Brewery for one of their tastings.  It was a pretty good time, even if I’m not the world’s biggest beer fan.  I did manage to get a case of their draft root beer, which is delicious.  The Duck Tour was OK, but I think it was pretty redundant for someone who’s lived in Boston for 6+ years..  I did learn a bit about Charlestown, which I had never really explored much…   I made some BBQ chicken and grilled veggies for dinner and we watched a movie which was terrible.  Never watch this movie, and reprimand


for making me write about it.  I now realize they hate me with every fiber of their being.  Little did they know that not only did they attack me, but their car bomb also took out

and my father.

My dad left Sunday morning, but before he did I made some french toast and bacon for breakfast…  It came out pretty good, I used half a baguette I had lying around for a few days, so it was good and stale and really sucked up the custard.  After dad left there was much napping and eventually we saw Crazy Love with the film club.  It was a small turn-out, but it was a good time.  The movie was almost unbelievable, just a crazy story..  We had a good time afterwards discussing the film and other randomness.. 

turned up towards the end, he was passing by on his way to play pool with

at Flattop’s.  After we finished chilling with the film club peeps we popped over to Flattop’s to say hi to the two of them, which was cool…