This past Friday and Saturday I went to an all-day yoga conference. Basically I need a certain number of continuing education hours to renew my registration with the Yoga Alliance as a yoga teacher. Some of the sessions I went to were really good, and some were just so-so, but still lots of interesting info. It totally screwed up my weekend though, because chores that I usually do on Saturday either had to get squeezed into Sunday, or they didn’t get done. I got to the yoga conference early on Friday morning and stopped by Monorail Espresso. I was going to get a cup of coffee, but that seemed like a very hyped-up, non-yogic type of beverage. So instead I got a hot green tea. As I walked into the front atrium at the convention center, though, I realized I shouldn’t have bothered; almost every yoga was holding a venti coffee cup (large, for non-coffee-speakers). When I commented on it to one of the fellow attendees, she laughed. “Yeah, but it’s in Seattle,” she said. “That pretty much guarantees lots of coffee.”
She had a point.
The conference was downtown Seattle in the convention area. It’s so pretty!
In other news, Piper boycotted her prescription kidney food diet from the vet and started just not eating and trying to steal our people food instead. She was losing weight and literally refusing to eat anything, so Mike and I bought her some food that isn’t kidney food, but has really high quality ingredients. The result is that meal time is her new favorite time of day and she can’t wait to get cans of her “new” food.
I had a really great moment a week ago. You know how there are a million times in your life when you feel unappreciated and under-valued? This was the opposite of one of those times. First I have to start out by saying that I have serious self-checkout skills at basically any grocery store. I know you’re thinking, Come on… how hard is it to use the self-checkout lane? I’ll explain some of the difficulties. Warning: I honestly have no basis for whether this is interesting to anyone besides engineers. Mike was interested, but again that tells me nothing about the general population. So, to start out with, there are different types of self checkout systems at different stores that are running different types of software. I’m going to talk about the kind at my local organic grocery store, because I don’t have the time (and none of you have the interest) for me to talk about more than one system. Besides this is the system that figures into my story.
In the Seattle city limits, you can’t get plastic bags in grocery stores at all, and if you want paper bags you have to pay for them. So most people use reusable bags. And these reusable bags are where everything falls apart from a self-checkout perspective, because the bags themselves have a weight that the system doesn’t expect since you just set the bag down without scanning anything first. What this basically means is that 95% of people who go through self checkouts at this grocery store have to have a cashier to help them because the system gets mad that they have more things in the bagging area than they have scanned.
I have discovered that each reusable bag weights 0.17lb. I have also discovered that when you scan an item and set it in the bagging area, there is a tolerance on the weight of the item based on percentage of the weight of the item. For instance, if you scan an item that weighs five pounds, and the system allows weight discrepancies of up to 10%, the system will be ok if the item you put in the bagging area weighs anywhere from 4.5 to 5.5 lbs. If you scan an item that weighs one oz (think something like chapstick), there’s a much smaller total amount of error allowed (i.e. 0.1 oz instead of 0.5 lb). So what does all this mean? A couple of things.
First, the key is to scan something that weighs two pounds or more as the first item, so that you can set your reusable bag (only 0.17 lb) and the heavy item down in the bagging area at the same time. Because the weight of the reusable bag is less than the the tolerance of the heavy item, the system is typically fine with this.
Second, it means that when you scan a heavy item, you have a lot of leeway, but if you buy a cart load of chapstick, you’re likely to be in trouble. For small items you need to make sure they’re actually making contact with the scale (i.e. not at the edge of the scale where readings are sometimes weird).
Third, if you put something small like chapstick on top of other items that don’t have their weight evenly distributed (i.e. like a bag of apples), it’s very likely that the system will get confused, think you didn’t bag your chapstick and get mad at you. (In case you haven’t noticed yet, there are many things that make the system mad and very few that make it happy.)
There are also a bunch of other tips and tricks, but I have the feeling everyone has already reached their capacity of supermarket geekiness for the day, and I’ve already written enough for everyone to be confident that I have spent a great deal of time understanding these systems and how the code on them works.
So, all the way back to the beginning. I was in my organic grocery store, and had two reusable bags and a basket full of difficult to handle items (like dental floss, chapstick, bags of vegetables of unevenly distributed weight). As I stepped up to a self scan register, I noticed the attendant watching me as I scanned my bottle of olive oil and bagged it with the first of my reusable bags. And then I scanned a bag of yams and bagged it with the second reusable bag. I continued, keeping small items in the middle of the scale, and touching the bag directly and continued through all of my purchases. At the end, I still hadn’t had need of the attendant to come and pacify the angry system on my behalf, and the attendant stepped up to me.
“Excellently done,” he breathed as he shook his head in disbelief. “Just excellent.” I have to say that good performance reviews at my job typically have not felt as satisfying as that bit of praise from an unknown attendant. I have literally spent the past decade mastering self checkout lanes, and no one has ever recognized my extreme adeptness in this area except this one attendant. Anyway, that was a really long story. Maybe if they ever make self-bagging an olympic sport I will be able to compete. I can almost hear the announcer now. And Karena is already bagging the tomatoes! Was it a wise choice to tackle those before scanning the rice cakes? We will see! The clock is ticking… she’s just starting her second bag now. In goes the peanut butter. Ooh! Almost a flub with that loaf of bread. It looks like she just got it on the scale before the system errored out. That’s my Olympic sport. I’ll leave skiing and snowboarding (and skeleton’ing!!) to others.
Mike and I went out to an Indian restaurant tonight for dinner and got in an extremely animated conversation about where to put a chair. It’s a perfectly harmless and unassuming chair, but when we got it two years ago Mike wanted it in the basement and I wanted it in the living room. Mike won and I lost, so it’s been down there ever since. And for some reason, Mike started complaining about it down there tonight and wanted to move it into his office. I took this opportunity to remember that I was still bitter over losing that argument two years ago, and insisted that if the chair was going to be moved it should go upstairs in the living room. In some ways Mike and I love animated discussions where we both expound on our opinions and try to convince each other of something. So we basically spent our hour at the restaurant arguing over who deserved to choose the chair’s location, why Mike had gotten his way for two years and still insisted on having his way again, why I wanted a chair in a spot where it clearly didn’t belong, whose idea it was to get the chair in the first place, and what the original intended location of said chair was. We vaguely noticed that our server was fairly quiet and not very conversational, but we were so involved in our conversation that we didn’t notice too much. It wasn’t until we were walking out that we realized he thought he was witnessing a heated argument. We literally started laughing in the parking lot and couldn’t stop. That server must have wondered why (if we were going to fight) we couldn’t at least find something more meaningful to argue about than a chair! 🙂
Speaking of disagreements, here’s another one Mike and I had recently. I got some purple potatoes from our weekly Imperfect Produce box (my new replacement for CSA’s… so cool! Check them out!). Anyway, I thought they were gorgeous, and made Mike a shepherd’s pie with mashed purple potatoes on top.
Mike really struggled to eat it. The potatoes taste the same, but he doesn’t like eating food that is weird colors. He had the same problem when I got purple green beans and when I got red and yellow carrots. I cannot relate to this. I totally understand that white potatoes are the primary ones that have been bred, but purple potatoes are just as valid as white potatoes. To Mike’s credit, he really tried, but he wasn’t as excited about Shepherd’s Pie as he usually is! Maybe part of the problem is that I eat purple food all the time so it seems like a normal color (i.e. eggplant, purple cabbage, plums, beets). I don’t think Mike really eats anything purple. Any thoughts? Valid color for potatoes or not? For food in general?
I feel like now I’ve talked about two disagreements that Mike and I had so I want to talk about something we agreed on. We saw this Maclaren valet-parked in front of the mall downtown over the weekend, and we both agreed that it was amazing!!
In other news, it SNOWED over the weekend! And not a dusting. Snow that actually lasted overnight into the next day.
I’m hoping for good weather this weekend as the marathon training is continuing! Have a good week everyone! Spring is coming!