Publix: Where shopping is occasionally perplexing

I’d wanted to put in that edited strip here with “No Meat Touching” and Heathcliff wearing the Kafkaesque hat but couldn’t find it… anyone have that saved somewhere?

So I was at a Publix somewhere out in suburbia and confusing things happened. There was what appeared to maybe be a high school football or basketball team shopping there, like 20 kids, and they were very much defying conventional logic on how anyone is supposed to shop for groceries… or… well, anything.

When I arrived at the store, there was one older lady sitting at the front who had a Kenwood commercial type handheld radio and was talking to the people from the team(?). Okay then…

I go into the store and start looking for stuff and her kids are just shopping in the most baffling manner. It seemed like each of them had a list that was a printout of an Excel spreadsheet, each line was numbered and they were calling out numbers to each other as they got the items on the list…

The odd thing was, though, they were broken up into four(?) groups who would just descend on a section in a Blitzkreig-esque manner, shove other shoppers and their carts out of the way, unload a whole section into an empty cart, then run to one of the main aisles where they’d pick over that cart then return it and its contents to shelves…. in near totally random order.

Probably half the store’s staff was cleaning up after them including the manager.

On a whim I decided to look for their choice of frequency and found it – GMRS, 462.600 mhz, no PL tone. I waited for a lull in their traffic and hopped on, well, to be a jerk.

“This is WQRZ855*, do you guys have a license to use this frequency?”

There’s this wonderful sound as about five people key up on top of each other like “what?”.

“This is an FCC authorized station, WQRZ855, is your group licensed to use this service?”

The radio goes silent and the group starts kinda yelling at each other then rushes to go check out as if they’ve just been caught doing something far worse than making a mess of a Publix…

They pretty much aborted their shopping at this point and all rushed to the front to go check out… consuming all eight of the open checkout lines, and leaving merchandise scattered everywhere.

The manager, meanwhile, was right next to me when I had this exchange with them over the radio and she just about doubled over laughing while telling me that this group shows up every week and makes a colossal mess of her store and this is the first time they actually listened to anyone.

Why hasn’t she used her managerial banhammer yet?

* Seriously, I’m like one of three people I know of actually having a GMRS license. Why do I have one? Because I’m a nerd, that’s why. Apparently it comes in handy to yell at people.
It’s not hard to get, basically all you have to do is sign up for ULS then log in and buy it. Or… just wait a couple of years, the licensing requirement will probably be dropped because nobody bothers to get licenses. However, you might not want to do that, as there’s a good chance the service will get nerfed and repeaters will be disallowed when that happens, unless you’re a grandfathered in licensed user… who the heck knows.

Fixing the Thomson transfer switch

Poor thing got stuck in generator position and couldn’t go back on line… the problem only became apparent watching the mechanism cycle.
ignore the fact that I say “short of the limit switch”, it should have been “final position”. whatever. brain cheeze.

The limit switch was getting pressed early, causing the robot arm to stop moving with the breaker juuuust on the edge before actually closing. The reason for this was that the locknut got loose on that screw that activates it and the screw backed out a bit.

I readjusted it and tightened the nut. I then used some of the same nail polish I’m wearing in the video on the threads to keep it from backing out again.

Then I sang to it.

Rock over London, rock on, Princeton. Exxon: Put the tiger in your tank!

The Little Cell Site that Couldn’t

It’s not even trying to give me anything beyond 1xRTT tonight. looks like Sprint is finally starting to clean it up though. I spy a new DC power system and what’s likely an LTE upgrade in progress.



Dumbest connectors ever.


These pieces of turd infect some Harris Broadcast products to this day.

Sure, IDC connectors seem like a good idea at the time except… A) they use them on stranded wire, making them failure prone, and B) they put them on cable assemblies that experience vibration from blowers….

It’s a surefire recipe for very difficult to troubleshoot problems.

Same great taste, new package

And none of that Grocery Shrink Ray thing Consumerist whines about either.

I kinda liked how the old theme looked but there were things utterly broken in it … like the line spacing. It never made any logical sense or conformed to my wishes in any way, so I changed to a theme that actually works.

Here, enjoy this secret message that wouldn’t have worked before:



Quick guide to programming the Baofeng UV-5R from the keypad

Well…. I was today made aware that the Baofeng UV-5R dual band handheld radio dropped to below $30 on Amazon, and people are buying them and being, uhhhh, not exactly enlightened by the wonderful instruction manual they come with.

You got the technical writing you paid for, right?


It is not necessary to buy the programming cable. While it makes life easier… you don’t absolutely need it.

Here’s the quick rundown:

Press Menu, scroll through until you find the options SFT-D, Offset, T-CTCSS, R-CTCSS… make note of the number for each one (you can just press menu then this two digit number to quickly access them afterwards to save a TON of time and button presses). Find the AL-MOD option and set it to SITE, and set RP-STE to OFF. (These latter two only have to be done once; they eliminate a couple of common annoyances with the radio … as in, a couple of “features” that tend to annoy others. Trust Me, I’m An Engineer.)

Common oddities: When you’re in VFO mode (the voice if you have it on will say Frequency Mode), the offset and shift direction are assigned to the individual VFO register – as in, top or bottom of the display – not to the specific band. These radios are not smart enough to remember that the common shift is 0.600 mhz for VHF and +5.000 mhz for UHF. They are also not smart enough to autoselect the proper shift direction on VHF or to not slop right out of the band if set up incorrectly.

If you are programming memory channels, you must have the silly voice turned on or you could get a surprise annoyance if there’s something already saved in that channel.Using the radio simplex: Switch to frequency/VFO mode. Press menu, go to SFT-D, press menu again, use the up/down arrows to set 0, then press exit until you’re back at the frequency display. Go to the menu for T-CTCSS and R-CTCSS and set these if you need a PL tone on transmit or recieve; otherwise make sure they (and the T-DCS and R-DCS) are set to off.Turn off dual watch (TDR) before trying to save things to memory or frustration may occur.Saving a simplex frequency to memory: Once everything’s set up how you want it, go to menu -> MEM-CH (I believe it’s 27, your mileage may vary based on firmware version). Press menu and enter the desired channel number, then press menu again – the voice should say “Receiving Memory”. If it said “Transmitting Memory”, there was already something there — you will need to go to DEL-CH, delete the channel’s contents, then go back to MEM-CH and save again. Exit the menus, go back in and do the same thing, the same channel number will still be set under MEM-CH so you only need to press menu twice and the voice should say “Transmitting Memory”. You’re done.Using the radio for repeaters: Start from VFO mode. Note what I said about the oddities above, it’s probably best to always use the top for VHF and bottom for UHF to avoid having to keep messing with the offset.On whichever side you use for VHF, set OFFSET to 0.600. On the UHF side, set OFFSET to 5.000.

Use the menu for SFT-D to set the proper split for the repeater. On UHF this is always +, on VHF it may be + or -, usually + at and above 147.000 (note that our 147.000 in Princeton has a nonstandard negative offset — in other areas it will almost always be +!)

Set the VFO to the output frequency of the repeater.

If the repeater requires a PL, use T-CTCSS to set it now. Once this is done, key up, it should work! Watch the frequency on the display to make sure it shifted the right direction/amount when you began transmitting.

Saving a repeater to memory: PLEASE NOTE THIS IS DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER RADIO YOU HAVE EVER USED, unless you’re already used to the Wouxun or other Chinese radios. The offset/shift settings WILL NOT be automatically saved. You have to program the memory channel twice!

From VFO mode, set the VFO to the output frequency of the repeater. The offset/shift settings do not matter and will be ignored by the radio. Go into the menu and set T-CTCSS as required for the PL tone on the repeater input. Here in Miami-Dade, most of ours take 94.8. Once you’re set up there, go to the menu for MEM-CH and enter the desired memory channel number. The voice should say “Receiving Memory”. If it says “Transmitting Memory”, go to DEL-CH, delete the channel’s contents, and save it again.

You are now halfway there… 🙂

Exit the menus, set the VFO to the repeater input. Go back into the menu, MEM-CH, pressing menu twice should make the radio say “Transmitting Memory” as it saves it. Now you’re done.

Quick note on the programming cable: If you buy a programming cable for the UV-5R and are going to use it on a Windows 7 64-bit system or Windows 8, try to ensure that the cable uses an FTDI serial chip or a genuine Prolific PL-2303. There are TONS of cables out there that use a counterfeit PL-2303, or a different chip that works similiarly but emulates the PL-2303. Prolific got tired of this happening and added a check to their driver which will cause the serial interface not to start (code 10 error in Device Manager). This problem will never affect you on a Linux or Mac computer.

Those weird fittings on the Andrew pressurization gear

High power broadcast feedlines are usually pressurized with dry air or nitrogen gas to lock out moisture (which would lead to a Very Expensive Problem). The Andrew/Commscope pressurization gear for doing this has weird tubing fittings on it for the air hoses that hook up to the feedlines. I tried doing a job on one of these systems using little brass tubing fittings from Home Depot and it just didn’t all work right, it was a pain in the /dev/ARSE to get everything to stop leaking. Come to find out, well… The fittings are actually a different system – Parker Poly-Tite.They’re apparently most common in dental office equipment and car washes.

Thank you, Dan Houg, for solving this mystery.

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