California’s Plastic Bag Ban


plastic-bag-be-green-1Today in California, our former-turned-reelected governor Jerry Brown signed a law that will ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores next year, with convenience stores and pharmacies following suit in 2016. The idea behind the ban seems to be twofold: reducing litter and saving the environment.

That’s fine and well even though I’m not a tree-hugging hippie.

But what I am is someone who works in a grocery store who has a few stories to tell and some points to consider, so let me go ahead and break stuff down for you.

Nobody Can Remember The Ban
My fair city has had the plastic bag ban in effect for at least three years. That said, you would think that consumers would have already gotten used to bringing their own reusable bags into the store with them.

Nope. I’d say that around nearly half of our customers can’t seem to remember that the law was passed back in 2011 and therefore, have no reusable bags to put their groceries in. At that point, we have to ask if they would like to purchase paper bags (10 cents each), a reusable plastic bag (16 cents each), or even one of our reusable bags that sell anywhere from 99 cents to $4 depending on the material they are made from. They also have the option of using free boxes ala Costco should we have any on hand but those can be clumsy and not easy to carry.

Unless they are using the free boxes, their total goes up by however many bags they purchase and believe me, I hear about it. I know of one customer in particular who is absolutely adamant about not buying any kind of bag and when you ask him if he would like to, he goes on a diatribe that runs the gamut: unions, local government, Illuminati, you name it. He would rather die than spend pocket change for one bag – his exact words, not mine. I’ve since remembered his face and know not to ask him anymore but this is just one of the many negative responses we get.

Some Simply Don’t Know
There are cities surrounding the one I call home that have not yet banned plastic bags and on occasion, we get customers from those cities (or out of state, for that matter) shopping at my store. When asked if they need bags, the response is usually the same.

“Oh shit, that’s right. I’m in Long Beach.”

That quote implies that even those out of the city know about the ban yet most within the city don’t. Go figure.

Then there are those visiting or on vacation from other states or countries who look at you with strange eyes if you ask them if they would like bags. The expressions on their faces could be easily translated into, “Well duh, I want bags. This is a grocery store, isn’t it?” Then when we give the spiel about our city not using plastic bags, the reaction is almost always the same: “Well, that’s stupid.”

Sorry, not my idea. Write a letter to City Hall.

A Bacterial Hotbed
As I said, some customers remember to bring their reusable bags which is fine and well. (An aside: if you have reusable bags, put them on the conveyor belt before your groceries so that we have something to put them in. Otherwise, I will start bagging your stuff in paper or plastic bags that we will charge you for, or just let your items pile up until I get your bags. Thanks.) But just because they’ve brought in reusable bags doesn’t mean that they are being exclusively for groceries – or clean for that matter.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff inside bags while filling them with groceries: dirty clothing, used paper towels or facial tissues, receipts, toys, foodstuffs, etc. But the fun is only beginning.

I’ve also put groceries in bags that were moldy, dirty, smelly, covered with blood stains from leaking packages of meat, and, perhaps the worst of all, one that smelled like the customer’s cat urinated inside of it. Granted, we’re not there to pass judgment or give opinions but after bagging the items in this particular bag I had to walk away to get some fresh air and wash my hands. It was utterly disgusting. The customer didn’t seem to mind the smell at all as they grabbed their stuff and left, all smiles.

And just think: grocery store baggers are sticking their hands into these bacteria-infested bags for the sake of a few measly bucks, exposing themselves to who knows what the hell is inside those bags. Yes, it’s a minimum-wage job. Only those who have dedicated their lives to working in such an environment are making what one would consider good money. I fall into the former category, not the latter.

So yeah, most customers don’t wash their bags which is disgusting considering that food is going into them. They just let the funk of 40,000 years continue to fester inside them.

Shoplifting Is Harder to Determine
If a customer doesn’t want to pay for a bag or use a box, then chances are they will walk out of the store either carrying their items or rolling them out in a shopping cart. It’s an everyday occurrence, especially for the people who work in the offices behind the store. The problem here is that a customer who is carrying their items or is rolling them out of the store in a cart looks exactly the same as a thief who just picked up an item off the shelf or filled their cart with things and is leaving the store. It’s become so common to see it happening that it’s harder to determine who’s a shoplifter and who isn’t, and we can’t accuse anyone of anything unless we know for sure. In short, stuff can just walk out the door and we’d have no clue if it was paid for or not.

And you know what happens when stuff starts getting stolen from stores, don’t you? That’s right: prices go up and everybody pays for it.

The plastic bag ban may solve a few issues but knowing what I know, it opens up a gigantic, smelly can of worms at the same time.

(By the way, I never voted for Jerry Brown. I was too young the first time and wiser the second time.)

Advertisements

Just What I Needed


I suck terribly at karaoke. It’s a fact.

But despite that, I have absolutely no shame and therefore I truly enjoy doing it. This would explain why I try to make it a point to get together with current and former coworkers once a month (schedules permitting) and head out to a local bar to sing ourselves silly.

The problem is that because we are regulars and the music catalog is rarely updated, we’ve pretty much done every song we’ve wanted to sing. Now it’s gotten to a point where a few of us bring in our own CDs with karaoke versions of songs we want to sing.

All of this leads to my recent acquisition of a mixer that my neighbor gave to me. He had purchased it for a radio project that never quite worked out so, knowing I like making a fool of myself, he let me have it.

Now you’ll probably wonder how this little box is going to work as a karaoke machine. Well, I’m going to explain it to you.

YouTube as tons of karaoke videos including pretty current ones. If you have Chromecast, you can stream said music videos to your TV which in my case is a 42” Sony HDTV. Once you set up the stream, it takes a little wiring to get things right: audio out from TV into mixer; mixer into equalizer; equalizer into surround sound.

Done and done. Now the only thing I needed was a microphone, the cheapest ones with XLR connections going for around $25 which isn’t that bad. I was willing to spend that much and be perfectly happy with everything.

tempSo that was my goal for today: find a microphone. We decided to head out to a pawn shop in my hometown since we’ve found some pretty amazing deals there on just about everything you can think of: jewelry, musical instruments, even camera lenses back when I used film.

We looked around and didn’t find much of anything. I even asked the guy at the counter if they had any and he referred me to someone else who was busy helping another customer. Ann wasn’t feeling too good so I didn’t want to hang around much longer and we left. I felt kind of dejected knowing I was leaving without what I had come for.

I persuaded Ann into eating at a local burger joint that I used to frequent as a kid. She agreed and ate the bag of fries on the drive back, feeling better as we got closer to home. Never underestimate the power of a greasy spoon, especially one that has been around for so long.

One thing we noticed on the way out there was a ton of garage sales. I mean, tons of them. There had to be one at almost every other street but we didn’t think to stop at any of them being that I was on a mission. But on the way home, we drove by one and decided to stop by. There were a few bikes for sale that Ann thought would be perfect for Anthony (but they wanted too much for them).

We stopped and looked around at their wares, most of which was quality stuff and selling cheap. After Ann got a price for the bike, we walked over to the driveway to see what else they had.

And there they were, among the piles of sparkly sequinned dance outfits and shoes: two Panasonic microphones sitting in an old shoebox. I asked how much they were and braced myself. The adult daughter, who we later found out was the last child living at the home and was selling most of her stuff to move, looked at them and smirked.

“Ummm…$4 for both,” she said.

I quickly reached for my wallet as if I felt someone trying to lift it from my back pocket.

“Here’s $5. I’m good with that. Keep it.” She tried to give me the extra dollar back but I refused. We looked around a little more and ended up taking this haul home.

temp

Two candle holders, a Brookstone lighted lap desk, fountain vase, a set 3 of decorative bowls and of course, two microphones. All of this for $20. Ann and I both scored and could have gotten more if we wanted to do a little demolition and rewiring to accommodate the $250 lighting set they were selling for $20. We decided to pass – too much work regardless of the bargain. An electrician I am not.

We got home and tried everything. Although the battery holder inside the desk is broken, it’s nothing a little piece of duct tape couldn’t hold together and it works perfectly. (This would be great if my laptop still worked.) The fountain has a small crack but it does not affect the performance of the flowing water nor does it leak.

And the microphones?

Although they are not XLR connections, they both work and don’t sound too bad.

My homemade karaoke system is now complete and I was meant to find them today at such a bargain price.

Now it’s time to annoy the neighbors.

How Could You?


36975990If you’re one of those who has a ton of pictures on your phone and is afraid to transfer/delete them, this post is for you.

As we speak (or as I type – your preference), I am backing up the 150+ pictures that currently reside on my phone. The 100-150 mark is my usual limit; more than that is just way too many.

With our phones becoming more of a capture-all-of-life’s-moments device and less of a phone, chances are that you have a lot of pictures stored on yours as well. Go ahead and look. There’s probably more than the 150 I’m transferring right now. But it gets worse.

I’ve seen screencaps posted on various Facebook pages that show the image being Number 1,987 of 2,242. If I get paranoid over a mere 150 images, you can imagine how jittery I get when I see something like that.

An aside: if you know how to screencap and upload to Facebook, why not just upload the original image?

But I digress. Man. Seriously. Why do you have so many on your phone? It’s time to TRANSFER THOSE THINGS! And right now you might be asking yourself why I care so much about the images on your phone.

It’s easy: they are your memories. You thought these moments were important enough to capture and save. I’ve seen Facebook posts from friends who have either lost their phones or had them crash or die, thereby wiping out all of their memories they thought were important enough to save. It’s not a fun thing to deal with, think about, or even have me preach about but the reality is that eventually, it will happen. Not might, but will.

This is why I follow Leo Laporte’s advice of the importance of backing up your stuff – images and otherwise – once a week to at least two devices: one local and one off-site. This ensures that your stuff is saved no matter what happens. And it’s a family thing: I also backup everything on their phones, too.

Owning a smartphone is more than just holding a little status symbol in your hand. It does require a little work, especially when it comes to backing up your stuff. And that work means learning a skill which I guess some might be too lazy to do or just don’t feel like learning, and that’s not good because the skill isn’t hard to learn.

If you are particularly fearful of technology, backing up images is practically a no-brainer with either iOS or Android, both of which offer a system of automatically backing up your pictures as you take them. Google gives you a decent amount of 15GB combined Gmail/Drive storage and 100GB a year can be had for a mere $2/mo. iCloud offers 5GB for free and offers larger capacities for a new lower price.

For the more daring, there’s cloud services like Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive. Both of these require the installation of an app which like Drive and iOS, offer automatic uploading that can be set to WiFi-only to save on excessive data usage. Dropbox starts users off with a mere 2GB of storage but can be increased with referral bonuses or purchasing additional storage. (I’m currently at 59GB through referrals and a 48GB bonus earned with the registration of my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet). OneDrive gives you 15GB, the same as Drive but can also be increased with referrals. I’m one of OneDrive’s early adopters and was using it as SkyDrive, so my storage is set at 28GB.

Once uploaded to the ubiquitous cloud, your images are accessible via your device’s app provided you are connected to your network or WiFi. What that means is that it’s safe to delete them from your device and you will have two copies: on your computer at home and on the cloud storage service of your choice. You will have them. They are safe.

wdfMyCloudAnd if you really want to geek out, you can buy a WD My Cloud device which is your own personal cloud storage system.

It’s stored in your home and through the use of an app on your phone, allows you to send your pictures directly to it no matter where you are. Personally, this is going to be my next choice as they offer a huge amount of storage for the price: they start at $150 for 2TB. That’s a lot of selfies.

And guess what? You can still delete them from your phone after uploading.

Oh hey, look! All of my images are now uploaded and viewable on my phone plus can be downloaded to it if necessary!

Success!

I have them all organized in a Phone Pix folder then in subfolders by Year, Month, and Date Uploaded or Event. Not hard, and I know exactly where to look for things. Most services also allow folder sharing where specific users can add or delete files as needed. This is handy when, you know, you go out for Karaoke Night and your friends shoot incriminating videos of you.

With technology being such a big part of our lives, I can’t think of a reason why anyone should have so many pictures stored on their phone. It just takes a little patience to learn and time to transfer, both of which I’m sure most of us have. You could have uploaded/transferred a bunch just by reading this post like I did.

Don’t fear it any longer and risk losing all your images. Isn’t it worth the time to learn something so simple and have everything saved, or simply do nothing and lose it all?

Now I can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do but this doesn’t seem like a tough decision, does it?